Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

Carmine and the Cat: Changes at DC in late ’67

Late in 1967, DC announced that big changes were in the works.I’m pretty sure I didn’t care much. I was perfectly satisfied with the comics I was getting; I’d be happy to buy new ones too but I knew my finances probably wouldn’t allow it. And I’d already seen plenty of new stuff in my nine-year-old life: Dial H for Hero, the Green Glob, the Inferior Five, Green Lantern leaving Coast City, Deadman, the Blackhawks turning into superheroes, new writer Jim Shooter — DC giving me new things seemed like the norm.

I only cared the bare minimum about the people creating the stories. I hadn’t registered when Roy Thomas took over Avengers from Stan Lee. I knew Jim Shooter was writing the Legion of Super-Heroes but only because Mort Weisinger kept mentioning it in letter columns. Comics were magical to me in my pre-teen years; the idea I might like a series more (or less) if the creators changed never occurred to me.

For that reason, the announcement in the Flash #175 letter column (cover dated December, 1967) that Carmine Infantino was moving up to editorial director didn’t mean a thing to me. I knew he drew Flash, my favorite hero, but it didn’t occur to me him not drawing Flash was why the book suddenly looked so wrong.Infantino’s sleek art fit the Flash perfectly. Ross Andru just couldn’t cut it (though E. Nelson Bridwell turned in a solid script for that issue). Neal Adams did fine drawing Elongated Man ——but Gil Kane the following issue didn’t pull it off.

Infantino moving from a writing desk to an administrative desk was a loss to DC’s art but had more long-term impact behind the scenes. It was Infantino who fired Gardner Fox, John Broome and Arnold Drake for asking about pensions and benefits; it was Infantino who talked Kirby into jumping ship from Marvel and gracing DC with his Fourth World stuff.

I assume the first example would have happened regardless of who was in charge but maybe not the second. I’ve read that Infantino liked Kirby and admired his work so maybe a different boss-man wouldn’t have made the overtures (though of course that didn’t save the Fourth World when the books failed to become become the new Fantastic Four).Mister Miracle Forever People 1

Infantino did keep providing covers like this one for the return of Catwoman to the Bat-books.But the interior art on that issue  was the competent but uninteresting Frank Springer. Which leads us into the second part of this post, the return of Catwoman. As I mentioned in a previous installment of my Silver Age reread, Catwoman vanished from the Bat-books in 1954; even after Julie Newmar made her one of the main villains on the TV show, she still didn’t appear in Batman or Detective Comics. She did show up in Lois Lane in 1966 —— got a brief appearance as a crime-file card in Action #344— and showed up in World’s Finest #169 impersonating Batgirl while Supergirl’s old foe Black Flame impersonated the Maid of Might.Except they turn out to be Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite (in his last appearance until the late Bronze Age) playing another of their magical joke contests on Superman and Batman. The Schwartz books still stayed clear of Ms. Kyle until the very end of Detective #369.

(Infantino makes her sexier than Springer, even if she’s absurdly skinny). This led directly into the Batman issue above in which Catwoman tries winning Batman’s heart by proving she can kick criminal butt way better than Batgirl. Batman and Batgirl both smell a rat, however, noticing that the crooks Selina busts are all pulling cat-related crimes, such as robbing a winery that uses catawba grapes. could it be she’s not as reformed as she claims?

It’s nice to see Catwoman back but reducing her to an obsessive stalker whose prime interest is Batman’s love doesn’t do her any favors. Nor does that green version of the TV costume; the Lois Lane cover with its pantsuit version of Selina’s 1950s mask-and-skirt outfit worked a lot better. DC apparently agreed: after one more new costume Selina switched back to the 1950s look and kept it until the late 1980s.

While Catwoman appeared in three more stories over the next year and a half, she then vanished from the Bat-books for five years. I suspect this had less to do with Selina herself than DC’s desperate desire post-Adam West to avoid anything that reminded readers of the OMG Soooo Campy TV show; Batman’s other arch-foes didn’t do much better. But for now, the Feline Felon is back in the game.

#SFWApro. Art top to bottom by Andru, Adams, Esposito, Kirby, Infantino, Springer, Kurt Schaffenberger, Curt Swanx2 and Infantino.

 

8 Comments

  1. I’ve searched for sources on the ‘veteran writers asking for benefits’ episode and apart from finding a few references in interviews with, e.g. Arnold Drake, the info is sketchy on:
    * when exactly it happened and what exactly happened?
    * who was involved (was it just Gardner Fox, John Broome and Arnold Drake or were other writers/artists complaining; and did they approach the likes of I. Donenfeld & Liebowitz higher up as well as/rather than Carmine Infantino?). I agree Infantino would be the logical choice to seek redress, being their editorial line manager…
    Did Infantino in his book (I haven’t read it) say he fired Fox, Broome and Drake &/or go into detail on the matter?
    Fraser, is there something good you can link to?
    We know SOMETHING happened: suddenly three key writers departed (extremely key in the case of Fox and Broome); it’s been discussed, e.g. Drake acknowledging it afterwards.

    I’d say one of the reasons DC struggled in the next five years leading up to Marvel passing them in sales was their inability to fully replace Fox, Broome & Drake and fully integrate the new younger wave of writers into boosting sales in this uncertain era of declining newsstand presence and sales crash post-Batman TV show. Atom, Hawkman, G.Lantern & Aquaman losing their titles; Flash going bi-monthly would suggest this failed.
    Of course there were many other and more important factors eg the disastrous 25 cent experiment where Marvel pulled a fast one after 1 month and became No.1; Infantino was arguably unsuited to be publisher; affidavit fraud; etc etc.

    1. The closest thing I could find (there might be something in one of TwoMorrow’s books but they don’t index) is a quote from Brian Cronin (https://www.cbr.com/comic-book-legends-revealed-257/) “he was on his way out of DC at the time (part of the exodus of veteran DC writers over a mixture of new blood coming in in editorial and most likely some ill will over the veteran writers threatening to unionize – along with Drake, Bill Finger and Gardner Fox ended their DC tenures at around this time, as they would later describe as being effectively blackballed from the company – although do note that none of the writers were specifically blacklisted or anything like that. Fox, for instance, still could have had work at DC, just not on the same terms he used to have, so he felt it was not worth it). ” I hesitate to say that’s definitive though.

      I agree that lack of talent was sometimes a factor: after Fox left Justice League it floundered until Len Wein became writer. Then again, we have O’Neil/Adams on Green Lantern and radical reboots like Wonder Woman where the change in writership was the least of the issues. I imagine I’ll be saying more about this as I keep rereading into the 1970s.

      Articles back in the 1970s also put some of the blame on Warners buying DC up — comics sales were so good when the Batman TV show was at its zenith they imagined DC was a cash cow. When that proved wrong, they treated the company as a money pit and focused on cutting their losses.

      1. Thanks for the info, it’s a What If regards DC at this time.
        Should they have gone and totally aped Marvel (that terrible Fox/Andru issue of The Flash I mentioned before, with the ‘big head’ cover and the Trickster, suggests not!), ramped up the relevance, or just concentrated on entry level younger audience fare which the Superman family of titles appeared to do?

        Happy new year Fraser and to all on AJS.

    1. Fraser said: “…another topic I’ll tackle as the Silver Age moves on.”
      On that note, regarding the topics begun above, I’ll keep my powder dry on further comments until you reach the late Silver and early Bronze Ages. You seem to be whizzing through the re-reads so you’ll get to 1969/70 pretty smart-ish, within the next month or two?
      Will you go as far as the 25-cent/48 page era?

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