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CSBG Archive

The 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History – Day 5

Okay, in case you didn’t see the introduction, the concept is that each day up to and including the 31st of July, I’ll be posting six of the most memorable moments from DC Comics’ 75-year history. On the 31st, you folks will get a chance to pick your Top 10 out of the 100 choices. I’ll tabulate the votes and I’ll debut the Top 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History starting on August 8th. In the meantime, feel free to post suggestions for moments you think should be featured either at our Twitter account (twitter.com/csbg), our Facebook page (facebook.com/comicsshouldbegood) or just e-mail me (bcronin@comicbookresources.com)!

Here’s the next six moments! And click here for the master list of all the moments posted so far!

NOTE: Each day of moments will almost certainly contain some spoilers for past comic books, plus each day might include content that originally appeared in “Mature Readers Only” comics, so be forewarned!

Today, as a special challenge, I picked six moments that did not involve death in any way!

23. Wonder Woman wins the contest to go to Man’s World! (All-Star Comics #8)

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William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter deliver the iconic origin of Wonder Woman.

24. Batman – ladies’ man (Batman #244)

Perhaps the perfect representation of what Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams saw as their take on Batman, international man of mystery.

25. Silk Spectre and Nite-Owl discover the power of costumes (Watchmen #7)

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In one of the most notable sequences in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre find that while they were unable to have sex when they were in their secret identities, after a night of superheroing, well…things went differently…

26. Barry Allen has a little accident (Showcase #4)

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Robert Kanigher, Julie Schwartz and Carmine Infantino deliver one of the most famous origins of the Silver Age. So famous that John Broome later just re-used it for Kid Flash’s origin!

27. Batman fights the Mutant gang leader for the first time (Batman: The Dark Knight #2)

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Batman attacks the Mutants in his Batmobile/tank, but he can’t help but want to get in there and fight man to man, and this beautiful slash page by Frank Miller captures that feeling perfectly.

28. Morpheus and a demon have a contest (Sandman #4)

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In this early issue of Sandman, Neil Gaiman (and artists Mike Dringenberg and Sam Kieth) has Morpheus go around and re-collect his magical items he had lost in his years of imprisonment. To regain one of his items, he has a contest with a demon from hell. This exchange was so famous that it was even turned into an online political ad in 2008 (with Obama taking Morpheus’ lines and Hillary Clinton taking the demon’s lines).

52 Comments

The third best part of that Sandman page is in the bottom right corner how one of the demons reacts to Dream’s final gambit with a “Slurb” sound effect.

Stephane Savoie

July 20, 2010 at 6:13 am

I know we’re not supposed to pick apart some of the anachonisms, but I had to chuckle at “America, the last citadel of democracy, and of equal rights for women”

Let me guess…. Brian’s all time favorite issue of Batman is #244?

Well, that Batman #244 must have been quite the issue.

man you could fill the whole list with TDKR moments.

Today, as a special challenge, I picked six moments that did not involve death in any way!

So, tomorrow is all death moments? :P

(Also, I’ll note that the last moment involves Death’s brother, so it’s not totally unrelated to death.)

Hillary Clinton would have been the vastly better choice for President.

Matter-Pooper Lad

July 20, 2010 at 7:18 am

Wasn’t that Neal Adams Batman the first time comics showed a hero’s chest with nipples? Woh. Getting realistic.

Before that, heroes didn’t have hair on their chest, either. Imagine that!

Well, compared to certain countries were women are stoned to death for adultery (and we can’t complain because it’s “their culture” or something), America is indeed a bastion for equal rights for women (not THE bastion, but A bastion, surely).

23. Wonder Woman really does have a fantastic origin. It always amazes me how much story Golden Age creators were able to cram on a couple pages.

24. I am a big Batman-Talia guy. They are both complicated characters and this is probably their big moment. O’Neil and Adams leave just enough ambiguity that the scene is endlessly interesting as the relationship has evolved.

25. I love how Moore and Gibbons switch from the 9 panel grid to an 18 panel grid for top two-thirds of the sex scene page. It really does a nice job of giving the reader a subjective sense of what the characters are feeling.

26. I recently read the first Showcase edition of The Flash. It is amazing how differently Barry Allen was portrayed in the actual Silver Age than my post-COIE expectations of him. The dude was an amazingly lazy and an indifferent cop. The first time we see him, Barry is slacking off by reading comics at work.

27. Frank Milller’s Batman has remained far more consistent than critics of ASBAR would have you believe.

28. This was the moment where I was into SANDMAN for the long haul. Gaiman and Keith totally undermined my expectation of a Big Fight. Then, they brought something totally inventive.

This is the 2nd Watchman & DKR scene and the 3RD Batman 244 scene nominated! And we’re only on day 5?

There’s a lot of room for improvement, but Rene is correct: when we consider the status of women in most places in the world, America is pretty close to gender-equality– and Rene isn’t even getting into the worst affronts to women’s humanity currently going on in the world.

And for that matter, again compared with the rest of the world WWII-era America was still a leader in the rights of women.

The ideal is still not yet achieved but women are better off in America and other liberal democracies than they are in most countries.

love the batman Talie moment. for it shows that Batman is not resistant to love and Talia is batman one true love. the origins of flash and wonder woman were interesting . and thought would have to wait a little longer for some sandman and watchman moments on this list.

Given that I’m currently taking part in another discussion where young women are being attacked, insulted and condescended to for stating publicly that they have no desire to bear children, you’ll all pardon me if I take claims that America is “pretty close to gender equality” with a shaker of salt.

Frasier Crane

July 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

Could anybody help me find the Obama as Sandman ad.? Cheers

Matter Popper-Lad said: “Wasn’t that Neal Adams Batman the first time comics showed a hero’s chest with nipples? Woh. Getting realistic. Before that, heroes didn’t have hair on their chest, either. Imagine that!”

Well, I don’t know about that, but younger readers might thing that Logan is under the cowl instead of Bruce Wayne!

Anyway, that’s Miller at his prime. What a build up for the fight!

Given that I’m currently taking part in another discussion where young women are being attacked, insulted and condescended to for stating publicly that they have no desire to bear children, you’ll all pardon me if I take claims that America is “pretty close to gender equality” with a shaker of salt.

And men get criticized all the time for not liking sports or for making less money than their spouse or for wanting to be stay-at-home dad. So America is pretty close to gender-equality in that BOTH genders get attacked, insulted and condescended to for stating publicly that they are bucking traditional gender expectations.

As good as the Sandman scene is, I can’t believe that “Hope” would have been such a showstopper like that.

The demon should have responded “Reality” or “real life.” Nothing crushes hopes so often as that.

Right Michael, but Rene is talking about “honor killing” a practice which more often than not equates being surviving a sexual assault with adultery and equates adultery with a capital offense that stains the honor of the men in the family– women are being executed for being assaulted in many parts of the world and there are institutions that support this practice. In some cases these women are recruited as suicide bombers because– as that will restore their family’s “honor.”

That’s the context that Rene and I are talking about: conditions of women world wide.

No one should be condescended to for their choices about whether or not they want to start a family, but the point is that in all liberal democracies, women do have that choice and condescending words are not the same as acts of violence.

Andrew Collins

July 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

I like the hairy-chested love god Batman as much as the next fanboy, but even I don’t see 3 classic moments all coming from that one storyline, much less the one issue. The Watchmen scene is another one I never would have thought to include, but I have less qualms with two or more Watchmen moments being included. I can also think of a few Rorschach moments deserving of their place on any list like this…

Re “women are better off in America and other liberal democracies than they are in most countries”: Women are better off in other liberal democracies than they are in America.

You gotta love Shirtless Batman.

I had no idea that Sandman scene inspired an Obama ad. That’s hilarious!

What’s better is I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Obama got the reference. He just seems in touch with that sort of stuff.

So who played Agony and Ecstasy when Hilary got defeated?

Dean, it’s absolutely true. Silver and Bronze age Barry is completely different then the “Saint Barry” portrayal particularly used by Mark Waid(not that it was a bad thing, Waid’s Brave and the Bold miniseries made me an avowed Barry and Hal fan). In the Silver Age he’s incredibly lazy, as you said, but also kind of a flirt. He’s not as bad as Hal, but who is? However, the one thing that has remained consistent is that he is tremendous dork.

Wonder Woman has a really amazing origin, but I feel like it’s missing the popular awareness that is present with the rest of the Big 5. You know, Batman: pearls in the alleyway, Superman: rocket shooting away from a destroyed Krypton, Green Lantern: Abin Sur handing the power ring, Flash: The lightning bolt. She really needs a Year One or Secret Origin type book to bring the iconicity of her origin out more.

DKR is great, but I’ll take shirtless Neil Adams Batman over him any day of the week.

No. 28 is proof of Gaiman’s awesomeness!

Michael P. – Sure, there is a minority of social conservatives in the US that would love to regress women’s rights by a few decades, but why judge America by a small portion of its population just because they produce a lot of angry noise? I mean, is there a lot of difference, in any substantial way, in the everyday lives of women in America as compared to Europe or Canada?

And the Internet is the gathering place of choice for weirdos and angry people that would never state their oppinions out loud in real life. Online discussion bashing women for not dedicating their lives to bearing children is hardly evidence that this position is anything less than a fringe one in America.

A couple of things: I’d say the moment from the same issue of Sandman, where Morpheus simply walks out of Hell, telling a threatening Lucifer that he’d have no power over the denizens of his realm if they couldn’t dream of Heaven, is even more memorable. But it’s a nice problem to have.

Secondly, Obama is career lawyer and politician. If you “wouldn’t be at all surprised if Obama got the reference” you’re still drinking the Kool Aid most people seem to have thankfully put down. “In touch with that sort of stuff?” ’80s Vertigo comics can’t help him get elected, so no, he wouldn’t get it. He isn’t the great evil too many people make him out to be, but he is, and has been since he came to prominence, simply a politician with very little record or accomplishment who was mistakenly thought of as being “different” and somehow concerned about something other than being elected. The American people were thirsty, and they drank sand.

Talleyrand-

It’s a pretty well known bit of trivia that Obama is a comic book fan and collector. He’s known to be especially fond of Spider-Man and Conan comics. Whether he also reads Sandman is another issue entirely.

Part of the reason there were so many comics featuring him during the election and during his first months in office is because many comics creators viewed the president as one of their own.

Part of the reason there were so many comics featuring him during the election and during his first months in office is because many comics creators viewed the president as one of their own.

Not really. More like most comic creators and fans skew liberal, Obama had a huge rabid cultlike following and a through the roof Q rating, and releasing anything featuring him at the time was the equivalent of printing money.

@ Captain Flash:

I grew up on the Cary Bates-Irv Novick version of The Flash. They were fine comics, but Barry was extremely stiff. The only relatable thing about him was his comic collection. To be honest, his death was a huge relief. Reading the Silver Age stuff is a revelation in that regard.

@ T.:

Do you really think comic fans are that political as a general rule? I have always gotten the sense that, while broadly anti-authoritarian, most comic fans do not really have a strong political identity. That is figures on the far left (i.e. Alan Moore) and figures on the far right (i.e. Frank Miller) can be equally adored as long as they are both preaching traditional sources of authority.

Most comic creators skew liberal. Not sure about comic fans, I believe they’re the same as the general population in that regard.

And I’m not sure Frank Miller is far right or just far crazy. His political positions are hard to pigeonhole.

Captain Flash

July 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Dean, yeah, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Cary Bates era stuff. I think that the death of Iris, combined with the joyless nature of those comics, killed Barry Allen long before COIE ever happened. The appeal of the character, in my mind, is that even more than Batman, he’s the normal guy in the JLA with a loving wife and family and a working-class job he loves, but he’s also the one who has the crazy stuff like cities of gorillas and magicians from the future happen to him. No one wants to read about a dour widower who has lost the wish-fulfillment fantasy aspect that is probably more central to the essentially ridiculous concept of The Flash then any other character.

Tracking: Still haven’t hit a sequence I haven’t read, 21 I’ve got the originals.

Now it’s just gotten silly on the Batman #244. Not that it’s not a memorable sequence, but that you’ve broken it up into three parts. Will there be an option along the lines of “I’m voting for whichever of the three bits gets the most votes because otherwise it will wind up artificially low because it’s split 3 ways?”

@ Captain Flash:

In hindsight, it seems like DC Comics allowed themselves to be defined by the competition during the Bronze Age.

Marvel declared themselves the “hip” comic book company in sixties and, for the most part, DC bought into the idea that they had been the “square” one. Maybe that was true within the companies themselves. It is just that looking at the product itself 40 years later that the relative hipness of Marvel is a bit hard to discern. They clearly have different styles, but it is hard to call one cooler than the other. By the time I was a kid, Marvel was actually much cooler. DC abandoned a lot of what made them distinctive and interesting in favor of a watered down version of what Marvel had been doing.

I mean, who wants to see Barry Allen bang through recycled Spider-Man stories like “Dead Love Interest”?

I think there’s more to being a bastion (rather than perhaps a citadel) to gender rights, or even of democracy, that just having those rights. For a country to be a bastion of gender rights, at least to me, it must also uphold, defend and promote those rights throughout the world. I do not believe that gender equality has ever been a priority in US foreign policy, especially considering that the US is and remains a close ally with one of the worst (if not the worst) abusers of women in the world – Saudi Arabia.

I have to agree with Rene again.

Just from reading his comics, Frank Miller’s politics are hard to pigeonhole. DKR does satirize a certain notion held by some on the left that perceives all who engage in anti-social violence are somehow the real victims– and so it looks like the work of a right-winger until one remembers that DKR came out in the 1980s when the Rambo movies– which tell a similar story from a right-wing view, were most popular. The other thing is that DKR satirizes the Reagan administration’s foreign policy a great deal.

Give Me Liberty also comes off as an equal opportunity satirist of left and right-
- that said, I largely lost interest in Miller’s work once he lost interest in satire.

Ted- that’s a fair criticism of the U.S. record on promoting women’s rights world wide, but that criticism is just as fairly aimed at Europe as well.

Thanks, Ian!

Ted – I don’t think we should equate America with the American government or its policies. Don’t underestimate the power of American popular culture, with its emphasis on individualism and consumerism over tradition and social duties. Just one example, I’ve read about studies that demonstrate that some villages in India have far less cases of domestic violence and arranged marriages than others. Puzzled, the researchers eventually realized that in the Indian villages with access to American television, the womenfolk started getting “ideas” from what they watched on TV and became far more difficult to bully and intimidate.

@ Rene, Ian Thal:

The thing is that Miller is satirizing Reagan from the Right. It is hardly as though the Soviets are not a real threat. After all, they launch a nuclear missile. It is that the government is too weak to prevent the wide-spread rioting and looting that ensues. It is only the quasi-fascist movement led by Batman that is able to maintain order. It does not make Miller much of a Republican, but he has hardly ever expressed a sentiment that I would describe as liberal.

@Dean –

Personally, I think Frank Miller is more of a weird Libertarian with a huge fetish about the Power of Manhood than a Fascist. Fascists traditionally reject individualism in favor of community, and I think Frank Miller lacks this sort of drive.

Marvel declared themselves the “hip” comic book company in sixties and, for the most part, DC bought into the idea that they had been the “square” one. Maybe that was true within the companies themselves. It is just that looking at the product itself 40 years later that the relative hipness of Marvel is a bit hard to discern. They clearly have different styles, but it is hard to call one cooler than the other. By the time I was a kid, Marvel was actually much cooler. DC abandoned a lot of what made them distinctive and interesting in favor of a watered down version of what Marvel had been doing.

I think DC actually WAS square compared to Marvel at the time based on firsthand accounts of people who experienced comics during that era, but the reason Marvel’s comparative hipness is not as easy to discern 40 years later is precisely because we are looking at it 40 years later, and this distance provided by time allows us to give kitsch and nostalgia value to the DC stuff that readers at the time couldn’t.

I reread DKR last year, Dean– and didn’t see the Reagan-satire to be especially right-wing. Much liberal criticism of Reagan during the 1980s was not so much that the Soviets were not expansionist but that Reagan was a) needlessly sword rattling in a manner that made conflict more likely to happen; b.) engaging in pointless short term military adventures for public relations purposes; and c.) money laundering and arms smuggling to support covert wars in Central America and elsewhere. All of these are satirized in DKR.

I felt Batman was too ambiguous to be labeled as “fascist” (though his in-story critics do so) simply because his insistence on non-lethal force goes against some of the basic principles of fascism– the scene where he orders “The Sons of Batman” to give up their firearms is telling– but it’s also been noted that the superhero genre often skews to the right.

This isn’t to say that Miller is clearly a liberal. He’s satirizing everyone in DKR.

Miler circa 1986 was probably not a right-winger– what has happened in the intervening decades is another matter.

Travis Pelkie

July 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I think Ian got it in his last line

Miler circa 1986 was probably not a right-winger– what has happened in the intervening decades is another matter.

I’m not sure if he’s satirizing EVERYONE in DKR, but in DKR2, he’s certainly going for everyone more (the Question and GA arguments, especially, iirc).

To me, from what I remember, Miller is taking Batman to a logical conclusion and saying that eventually, given the right catalyst, he would take over the streets of Gotham and impose law and order. But iirc, after the immediate danger, he does “give back” control and becomes a (literally) underground figure that helps the cops. So he doesn’t necessarily want to take over, but does want people to be safe, and not go through what he went through.

I’d say DKR has more iconic moments than Watchmen simply because DKR is/was parodied and homaged much more often than Watchmen — I’m thinking especially of Mark Martin’s Gnatrat, but even within the DCU, it seems everyone wants to do their take on Miller’s Bats/Supes fight.

Captain Flash

July 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

T., I think you’re right that it’s very difficult to establish which company was “cooler” in the Silver Age, due to the length of time. So whether I read an Essential or Showcase, they both have rather ridiculous moments. I’m thinking particularly of Stan Lee’s unintentionally hilarious use of the term “sloppy seconds,” (did he really not know what it meant?), or the memorable Spider-Man issue where he disguises himself while in full costume by wearing a hat.

For people these days, I do think quite a bit of the appeal of those early DC issues is the kitsch value. However it also has to do with the companies approaches, with Marvel being the “world outside your window,” and character-driven. DC on the other hand, is fantastic and plot-driven. Which goes back to Dean’s point about DC attempting to emulate Marvel, by taking the prototypical plot-driven character in Barry Allen, and turning him into Spider-Man lite.

It’s only harder to see Marvel’s innovation and (comparative) realism now because they’ve become more or less the industry’s standard. We grew with it, we’re so used to it that it’s nothing special to us. But that is a sort of intrinsic proof of how important and innovative and ground-breaking 1960s Marvel was.

We can nowadays be amused by Stan Lee’s sometimes awkward attempts at realism, but I think that is like being amused at an old film of inventors of early prototypes of the airplane. Their inventions and attempts can seem comical to us, but for their time they were the cutting edge.

And now #25 is also the reason I will always chuckle at the song Hallelujah by Leornard Cohen.

By the way, I just want to make sure that even though I say DC was definitely more square than Marvel in the 60s and early 70s, that in no way means they were necessarily of worse quality. Something can be square but incredibly well-done, while something can be hip and be total garbage. For example Marvel in the 90s under the Image artists was definitely hipper than DC at the same time, but the quality was for the most part garbage.

So I’m not saying Marvel in the 60s and early 70s were necessarily better in quality than DC just because they were hipper. That point is definitely arguable and I could see a case being made either way depending on a person’s tastes.

@ T.:

The kitsch appeal is certainly a factor, but I would not discount the overall level of professionalism either. Despite being frequently corny, you can actually read and understand any story in any of those old DC Showcase volumes. That is not something that is always true of modern comics. I am an educated guy who has read comics off-and-on for 30 years. I toss a shocking number of half-read modern comics in the trash, because I just cannot follow what the Hell is supposed to be going on. That is not even talking about continuity baggage. I am talking about being unable to follow anything like a story from the dialog and the art.

Silver Age DCs had every character “on model” in every issue. The lay-outs flowed logically. They were professional. The early Marvels had vastly more energy than the DCs of the same era. Kirby, Ditko and the Marvel bullpen were amazing. They were also distinctive from one another. As that trend has accelerated over time, we have reached a point where no two artists draw the same character in the same way. Everything is over-rendered to the point that it is sometimes difficult to make out what details are important. Writers and artists do not always seem to agree what story they are telling. Those are things that you never, ever saw in old school DC Comics despite their limited characterizations and simplistic plots.

To clarify, I am not one of those “everything was better when” people. Comics have tended to get better rather than worse over time. It is just that little things have been dropped along the way. Say whatever you want to say about old school DC, but their Silver Age roster of artists could all draw facial expressions well enough that you could read emotions. Currently, a fair number of DC artists seem to be capable of anger and something resembling constipation.

That seems like a step back to me.

Dean, I actually agree. I think you misunderstand my original comment. I’m not saying that the kitsch factor of old Silver Age DC comics gives off an illusion of QUALITY to modern audiences, I’m saying that the kitsch factor of old Silver Age DC comics gives off an illusion of HIPNESS to modern audiences. Today’s hip audiences really value irony, kitsch, camp, nostalgia, etc.

The actual quality of the respective companies’ product is a different issue than their hipness.

@ T.

Ok. I understand and agree.

-Wonder Woman’s origin is iconic like Superman’s and Batman’s. Though I never understood the reason for using the mask in the trial- as a member of the Amazons couldn’t she have *demanded* to be given a chance to compete, whether her mother liked it or not? Also, in an island where there have been NO new amazons for CENTURIES, shouldn’t everybody know everybody else by now? And a little domino mask fools them?
-Aww, not more Bat-beefcake! And out of context, it seems like Batman let Talia go BECAUSE HE GOT TO KISS HER. That’s going to look more like a WTF moment than an iconic one in the final listing.
- The Watchmen thing is… pathetic. Moving on.
- Eeh, Old Batman showing he’s still got the chops to fight is nice, but hardly remarkable.
- Flash: Another major hero, another iconic origin.
-The Morpheus thing is another scene that doesn’t impress much out of context. It just looks like they are playing “I’m bigger than you! Nu-uh, I am!” like little kids.

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