Things were looking pretty grim for the Caped Crusader in the fall of 1963. The familiar Caped Boy Scout image that had seen him through the Superhero purge of the Fifties1 had started working against him driving sales so low that all of the Bat-titles were facing cancellation. Fortunately Batman was given a last-minute reprieve in the form of new editor Julius Schwartz – the same fellow who had successfully relaunched the Flash and Green Lantern into Silver Age versions.
Julie made some changes – after learning that a simple bat shape was too generic for a trademark he added yellow oval to make it a more complete – and more marketable – logo. Most importantly he instituted a “New Look” for the bat-books by bringing on board comics superstar Carmine Infantino as the penciller for Detective Comics starting with issue 327 “Mystery of the Menacing Mask”. ‘
There were other changes and improvements:
- Bat-themes associates (Bat-mite/Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound) were shown the door.
- Costumed super-criminals were conspicuously close to a year ”
- Aunt Harriet replaced Alfred the Butler
- The bubble-top Bat-Cadillac was replaced with a convertible sports car model
- The Bat-signal was replaced by a telephone hotline similar to the one connecting the White House with the Kremlin in real-life.
….but the biggest change was in the stories themselves. Instead of Gotham City serving as the crossroads for every itinerant alien in a saucer or stories featuring bat-uniforms constantly changing colors, shapes or themes Detective Comics now featured (wait for it!) DETECTIVE STORIES! Plot-drived who-dunnits that challenged your intellect and bore up under repeated readings, all of which pulled me into the superhero comics world in major way.
At approximately eighteen months in duration the New Look was a very short phase and was sadly replaced by a camp version reflecting the ABC Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Oddly enough the television show was based on the 1950’s “goofy” Batman image that Schwartz had worked so hard to purge. At we got through eighteen months of a more realistic version and who knows – would Neal Adams have gotten permission for his darker more realistic version of Batman in 1970 if the New Look had never happened? Who knows?
This sketchbook image happened yesterday after I spent an hour or so reading a hardbound collection of Carmine Infantino’s New Look pencils. I have so many favorites when it comes to Batman artists: Dick Sprang, Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers….but in the end Mr. Infantino is my favorite.
1: See upcoming post: “Seduction of the Stupid”