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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #408

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COMIC LEGEND: When Julie Schwartz and Carmine Infantino took over the Bat-titles, the book was near cancellation.

STATUS: I’m Going With a Tentative False

Okay, so if the Batman TV series didn’t save the book from cancellation, could the saving have come a bit earlier in time?

Jack Schiff was the editor of the Batman titles in the 1950s and early 1960s. Since DC’s highest-selling book was Superman, Schiff was pressured to bring the fantastical elements that categorized Mort Weisinger’s Superman stories into the pages of Batman and Detective Comics.

As a result, despite his personal beliefs (he felt the ideas were dumb), Schiff had a lot of monsters and aliens and stuff like that…

And the sales on the book were definitely soft (as you can see from the last cover, Schiff even had to bring in a dog character because the Superman books had introduced a dog for Superman).

In 1964, editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino were brought aboard the Batman titles and besides adding a yellow oval around Batman’s logo, the pair also made the books a lot more traditional superhero tales, bringing back most of Batman’s classic villains as regular adversaries. In essence, their stories were very similar to what you’d see on the Batman TV series, just in comic book form. Their revamp proved quite popular…

Schwartz and Infantino have both said that they were told that they had six months to bring the sales of Batman and Detective Comics up or the books would be canceled. Jack Schiff disagreed with this assertion, saying that while yes, sales were down, they were never in cancellation range.

Our problem is that the numbers we have do not include 1963 or 1964, so it is difficult to prove for SURE if Schiff is correct or not.

However, if you look at the sales numbers on both books in 1962, Batman was selling over 400,000 copies and Detective was selling in the mid 200,000s. Both figures were WELL ahead of cancellation numbers, although they were both trending downwards from previous years. I think people misunderstand the relative popularity of a book selling 265,000 in 1962. Yes, it wasn’t setting the world on fire, but 265,000 was a VERY solid number for a comic book.

I totally believe that the sales went down notably in 1963, I just find it extremely hard to believe that they went down enough to merit cancellation. Even if sales on both books HALVED, they would both be above cancellation range, especially Batman. Cancellation range for long-running titles at the time would be somewhere close to 100,000. The comic book companies typically had a quicker trigger on newer titles, though.

So I’m willing to believe Schiff and think that what Schwartz and Infantino were told was, in effect, that they had six months to turn the book around or they would try another approach or something like that. I mean, yes, if the sales CONTINUED to drop, the books would obviously eventually be canceled, I just do not believe based on the numbers that we do have that the titles were ever in clear and present danger of being cancelled.

Thanks again to John Jackson Miller’s excellent sales research site, Comichron, for the numbers that we DO have.

Here are the numbers, by the way:

1961
Batman 485,000
Detective Comics 325,000

1962
Batman 410,000
Detective Comics 265,000

1965
Batman 453,745
Detective Comics 304,414

EDITED TO ADD: Commenter Hank suggests an interesting theory that I find believable, which is that DC used the threat of cancellation to try to get Bob Kane to re-negotiate his contract (as they preferred to have other creative teams doing the book besides Kane’s ghost team). It is worth noting that DC eventually DID succeed in re-negotiating Kane’s contract at the end of the decade (when sales plummeted from the Bat-mania sales levels), so that theory is quite reasonable. Thanks, Hank!
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Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to Carmine Infantino and Julie Schwartz!

Did Julie Schwartz come up with the idea for Wonder Woman to change into her costume via twirling her lasso?

Did Carmine Infantino once try to fire Nick Cardy for ignoring a cover instruction?

Did Julie Schwartz once have to write a comic story in a day because of an mistaken cover instruction?

What bizarre introduction did Mike Ploog have with Carmine Infantino?

Did Penciler Sid Greene really work depictions of Julie Schwartz into a large amount of his Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures comics?

How did Walter Simonson and Chris Claremont turn an unpublished Carmine Infantino John Carter of Mars story into an issue of Star Wars?

Did Elliot S! Maggin quit DC for awhile over Julie Schwartz changing the ending (and thus, the meaning) of one of his stories, to the point where Maggin actually blacked out his name on the story?
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On the next page, how did Batman’s popularity in 1966 lead to Gardner Fox finding a way to cram him into an issue of Justice League that Batman clearly was not meant to appear in?

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111 Comments

Actually, I just read that Julius Schwartz had stated in his autobiography that Batman was a low seller, and was in danger of cancellation at the time. Just for the record, I have not read his book, this was cited in another book, from his book.

Has this multi-page format for the column been around for a while and I just noticed it now? Not a fan of it.

Actually, I just read that Julius Schwartz had stated in his autobiography that Batman was a low seller, and was in danger of cancellation at the time. Just for the record, I have not read his book, this was cited in another book, from his book.

Right, Schwartz has said that the book was in danger of cancellation. I don’t think he is correct.

I mean, shockingly enough, the guy taking over the book says that things are terrible and he turned them around and the guy who was removed from the book says that the book wasn’t doing as bad as they all say, so obviously they’re both motivated by personal interest, so I think it is better to look at the actual numbers and the actual numbers don’t seem to indicate that the book was in danger of cancellation, even if 1963 saw a precipitous drop.

OK, this page thing is dumb, stupid, idiotic and needs to be done away with now. I may stop coming here over this. I have stopped using a lot of sites because they switched to that stupid method of presentation. I’d hate to leave you, I like your column but this is too annoying.

I’m okay with the page thing.

As for the Batman sales, is it possible that they were at the cancellation level because, unlike Superman where DC owned it outright, Kane was entitled to a greater share of royalties and, therefore, the book wasn’t as profitable?

Another vote for the 1-page format.

Interesting to see how even during the low period above, Detective was selling more than double its best New 52 sales. A good reminder that comics still have a lot to do in terms of regaining a long term readership.

in all fairness when comparing sales then to sales now, comics are a LOT more expensive now. also, they’re direct market only now (i always felt that was a mistake on the publisher’s part. i got into comics through spinners in the supermarket myself)

also +1 on 1 page, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

I also read that a couple years after the show ended and right before the comic got less campy DC figured Batman ran its course and Bob Kane was fine with them discontinuing him since he made his money.

As for the Batman sales, is it possible that they were at the cancellation level because, unlike Superman where DC owned it outright, Kane was entitled to a greater share of royalties and, therefore, the book wasn’t as profitable?

It’s certainly possible, but the major aspect of Kane’s deal with DC was the guarantee of work (that Kane, of course, farmed out to others), not so much the royalties. Royalties, after all, would only be paid if the book sold a certain figure, and if the books were selling poorly, then it wouldn’t really be a factor, ya know?

Jeff Nettleton

March 1, 2013 at 10:57 am

“OK, this page thing is dumb, stupid, idiotic and needs to be done away with now. I may stop coming here over this.”

Seriously? You’re more concerned about format than content?

So, big question; what was the cancellation level for DC in the 60s and how was that number derived? Seems like that would be important information here to give some context to your assertions.

Another vote against the new format – can’t really see what the advantage of it is. It’s just annoying. Can we change back please.

RE: “Is it possible that they were at the cancellation level because, unlike Superman where DC owned it outright, Kane was entitled to a greater share of royalties and, therefore, the book wasn’t as profitable?” I just read another source that speculates that may exactly what was happening: DC threatened Kane with cancellation in order to renegotiate his contract.

Sexton Hardcastle

March 1, 2013 at 11:02 am

I have left many a site due to navigation issues, so yes, format is very important.

Detective was selling more than double its best New 52 sales. A good reminder that comics still have a lot to do in terms of regaining a long term readership.

Another reminder is that comics were returnable in that era. Hard to compare across decades.

So, big question; what was the cancellation level for DC in the 60s and how was that number derived? Seems like that would be important information here to give some context to your assertions.

Fair question, Jeff, I’ll edit that into the piece, but short answer, you’d have to be close to 100,000 for a long-running book to be in cancellation range (and by close I mean under 125,000). Newer books they had a quicker trigger on.

What I don’t see mention of is the fact that in 1964, the character was running the risk of being canceled and that year’s REVAMP of the character saved him. The costume redesign, the overhaul of the art style, the new Batmobile, Robin looking a little older (late teens instead of early teens) and a return to detective stories instead of nonsense (not that it was “dark” again, but that it was more down-to-Earth) and that’s what “saved” Batman, according to people like Les Daniels.

RE: “It’s certainly possible, but the major aspect of Kane’s deal with DC was the guarantee of work (that Kane, of course, farmed out to others), not so much the royalties. Royalties, after all, would only be paid if the book sold a certain figure, and if the books were selling poorly, then it wouldn’t really be a factor, ya know?”

To clarify, based on the other site I went to, it wasn’t royalties they wanted to renegotiate. It was Kane’s page rate, which was very high for the industry at the time.

I just read another source that speculates that may exactly what was happening: DC threatened Kane with cancellation in order to renegotiate his contract.

Interesting theory, Hank. Thanks, I’ll edit that in there, as well.

What I don’t see mention of is the fact that in 1964, the character was running the risk of being canceled and that year’s REVAMP of the character saved him. The costume redesign, the overhaul of the art style, the new Batmobile, Robin looking a little older (late teens instead of early teens) and a return to detective stories instead of nonsense (not that it was “dark” again, but that it was more down-to-Earth) and that’s what “saved” Batman, according to people like Les Daniels.

I mentioned that Schwartz and Infantino’s take on the book was a return to traditional superhero tales, right?

But anyhow, yes, that’s the main thing at hand. Schwartz and Infantino say that they saved the book from cancellation with their revamp. Schiff says that they saved the book from low sales with their revamp. Based on the numbers that we do have, I think Schiff’s recollection is a lot closer to the truth.

Schiff really does come off as a tragic figure in this tale. When you hear him speak about the old days, he really wanted to do basically the same stuff Schwartz and Infantino did, he just wasn’t allowed to, and instead saw himself get fired and replaced by a revamp that was what he wanted to do in the first place (Schiff’s take is believable as it it true that he brought back classic villains a bit in the early 1960s where he could, mostly Annuals).

A lot of new readers probably won’t notice there’s multiple pages to these articles and will only see the first 1/3 of the article. I only noticed because I’m used to there being 3 different legends each week. So I guess that’s the one thing the new format accomplishes. Maybe there was a need for less people to read the 2nd and 3rd legend each week. Mission accomplished.

As far as the “page thing” goes, I thought this was an abreviated post, with only one legend… didn’t even notice there was more than one page. I’m off to read them now.

Tell me more about this … True-or-False Sorcerer.

Wow, not a fan of the “three separate pages for one article” thing. Whenever a site presents things in a slideshow format, I never go past the first item: it’s only because of how good Legends Revealed always is that I even bothered with pages 2 and 3 of this one. Hopefully this was a one-time experiment, and not the new scheme forever…

Amazing how many complain about as simple a thing as clicking TWICE to read everything, yet pay nothing for the pleasure and contribute nothing but complaints. People who can’t be bothered to go to a second page because they’re lazy shouldn’t be listened to. Ungrateful much?

Nice timing on this one considering it’s Adam West day in Seattle today!

When I click on pages 2 and 3 they won’t load. So another vote for back to one page from me.

I can’t say I am a fan of the multipage format when it takes 2 minutes for the next page to load.

About the new format; for some reason it takes several minutes for Comics Legends to complete loading (no other site I go to does this, and I have a 6mbps connection). So imagine how I feel when it now takes several minutes for me to load EACH SECTION of Comics Legends. It was 3 minutes of waiting for the second story to load before I started typing this, and it finally loaded when I was almost done typing it.

So no, I am not a fan of the new format. I do not know why my loading time is slow only on this site, and while I love reading these columns, I can’t take what will inevitably take me 10 minutes all told to load the 3 parts of the column to read.

There has never been and there will never be any good reason to split any article on the internet into multiple pages. Period. (It isn’t as if advertisers are actually getting more sales or even click-throughs from it, even. The whole practice is more than vaguely dishonest and scammish on the part of the sites that use it.)

I’m having problems seeing page 2 and 3, so the new format doesn’t work for me either. I think this has to do with the way Brian “advertises” this column via Twitter, but please, return to the original format.

Jeff Nettleton

March 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

Here’s what I don’t understand. The “I’ll leave” comments appear to be from people who have previously enjoyed the site, yet now are threatening to leave because they don’t like the formate change. If the quality and style of the articles are the same (and they sure seem that way to me) then that seems like an extreme and petty reaction.

Guys, it appears the site is having server issues. Your impatience is almost hilarious in its ability to be overly whiny.

Since there have been responses to various other comments about the Legends addressed this week but not the new format, I assume that this is something that this is just the way it’s going to be from now on.

This feature has long been one of my favorite things not just on this site but on the entire internet to the extent that I even bought the books. Even so, nothing chases me away from reading anything online than having to click through an article several times just for the sake of a couple of more ad hits.

“Amazing how many complain about as simple a thing as clicking TWICE to read everything, yet pay nothing for the pleasure and contribute nothing but complaints. People who can’t be bothered to go to a second page because they’re lazy shouldn’t be listened to. Ungrateful much?”

But then you could also say you can’t critique a TV show unless it’s pay-per-view because you normally only pay for the broad cablevision service and not for the specific show (just as most people do pay for Internet use). Or critique something you got from the public library. I think most people are just stating a preference, offering constructive criticism. There are a couple of people who mentioned leaving but the bulk of posters haven’t and I suspect most people who prefer the old format plan to stick around regardless. I know I will.

That being the case, you do raise one fair point: I do want to thank Brian for continuing to post this excellent column each week and his well-written other columns on other days of the week.

Add me to the list of people who hate the multi-page format. It took a few minutes to go from one to another, but beyond that, I started reading this column thinking there was only one Legend and I missed something.

I know this means more page views which also means more $$$ to line Jonah’s pockets, but just remember, format changes are what put sites like Newsarama into the toilet eventually… don’t follow in their footsteps.

Yeah, one page please.

The other day I read Phantom Stranger #28 from the mid-70ies. In the letter pages the editor pretty much said
as much that the title was in danger of getting the axe.

It was selling around 115.000 copies at that time.

The other day I read Phantom Stranger #28 from the mid-70ies. In the letter pages the editor pretty much said
as much that the title was in danger of getting the axe.

It was selling around 115.000 copies at that time.

1970s comics could afford to stick around with slightly lower sales because of the price increase, but yeah, that sounds basically about right.

According to one online source, Batman fell from more than 500,000 sales in 1960 to less than 117,000 in 1963.

Interesting, Ted. What source is that? If there’s clear information saying it really dropped that far, I’d gladly change the status on the legend.

My online source was Comichron.

CBR, please do a fund drive like PBS or hire less freelancers instead of this pagination stuff on articles recently. It’s kind of a sleazy way to get more page views.

My online source was Comichron.

Really? Miller has a whole page for the sales on Batman and he doesn’t mention it there. Do you have a link to where he mentions it?

I’m not a fan of the multi-page format BUT if its a necessity, then so be it. I enjoy this column enough to deal with a few extra mouse clicks. Keep up the great work Mr. Cronin!

I hate this new multipage format. Please don’t keep it.

I don’t like the format, but I’m not leaving. Hey, I indirectly contributed a legend!
Not being a Batman fan during the Silver Age, I found the heightened emphasis on him in JLA very annoying.
Schiff does get a raw deal because there was a lot of good stuff under his tenure. Good, old-fashioned straight mysteries, and some ingenious criminal scams (“The Man Who Could Change Fingerprints” is a favorite). But he’ll be forever linked with the monsters.

Brian, I hate having to read through all of these comments complaining about the format. Can you autohide comments with “hate” or “format” in them like you do for your voting posts?

Wow, DC had “Zero Hour” way back in ’66? Do the two events have a connection? Or have there been other Zero Hours in the DCU?

Personally, while I prefer the single page format, I can live with the multiple page format. I like the “Legends” too much to let a simple click of the mouse rob of me of some good reading. I’m not that lazy.

I’ve read Les Daniels. He’s good, but often spotty in accuracy.
“True or False Sorcerer” has Felix Faust busting out of jail but creating a duplicate of himself in the process. And when the spell wears off the duplicate will fade out and take the world with it. Both Fausts are convinced they’re real and can’t determine the phony, so they bring in the JLA.

I’ve read Les Daniels. He’s good, but often spotty in accuracy.

Daniels was great, but it is fair to say that he was a bit of a believer in the “If the legend becomes fact, print the legend” philosophy.

I actually thought there was only ONE legend last week because of the new format! I only noticed now that they were 1 per page so I went back to re-read last week’s column after this one.

Hate the new format. Please go back.

Bob Kane made this statement in his autobiography Batman and Me. I don’t believe it, but I believe he believed it.

I prefer the numbered pages format, myself. Far more convenient.

Bob Kane made this statement in his autobiography Batman and Me. I don’t believe it, but I believe he believed it.

Thanks, J.L.

Am I the only one who noticed a spelling mistake on the comic book page with the Elongated Man? He says “I–The Elongated Man–AN NOT even a member of the JLA.” It’s supposed to be “AM NOT”

I like the new format for one reason only. I often send links to friends when I read something that I think will interest them. With the one-page format, I can link them directly to the legend I want them to read, instead of having to tell them to scroll down to the second or third legend.

As for “Schiff even had to bring in a dog character because the Superman books had introduced a dog for Superman,” I don’t know about that. Ace debuted only a month or two after Krypto, so I doubt that one’s popularity influenced the other. Also note that Rex the Wonder Dog started about three years before both of them. DC was trying to get in on the dog-hero fad that Rin-Tin-Tin and Lassie started in the movies and on TV.

It’s a fair point, Bob, to suggest that they were all cashing in on the dog craze. So yes, in that instance, it was less a matter of Schiff being forced to follow Weisinger’s Superman so much as both Weisinger AND Schiff were forced to follow a general “dogs are hot right now. Add a dog to your comic” order.

Correction: when I said “the one-page format,” I meant to say “the one-legend-per-page format.”

Now, he does say DC didn’t publish sales results, but the last results, 1962, support the “Batman was in trouble
thesis:

http://www.comichron.com/yearlycomicssales/1960s/1962.html

That’s the thing, though, Ted, I definitely agree that the figures support “Batman’s sales were in ‘trouble’,” but I don’t think that it supports “Batman was in danger of cancellation.” Batman goes from 502,000 in 1960 to 485,000 in 1961 to 410,000 1962 to….117,000 in 1963? That really doesn’t follow, does it?

It is clear that Batman’s sales were in trouble, which is why they fired Schiff and brought in Schwartz and Infantino. But there’s “the book’s sales are dropping, let’s try to correct this” and there’s “if we don’t improve the book in the next six months, we’re going to cancel it.” The former is believable but I think that the latter is too much of a stretch.

“Whenever a site presents things in a slideshow format, I never go past the first item”

Wow people are lazy. Admittedly I’m used to all 3 on a page but it’s a minor adjustment to get used to clicking a number for the next article. I’m guessing the new format makes tagging individual legends as separate posts easier and may have something to do with indexing for search functions. In any case not a big deal from the users end.

I do find it odd the gave sales info for Metal Men and Sea Devils, but not Batman. I wonder how much their ad rates were based on circulation. That could mean Batman was too expensive to continue printing, the way Heroes was too expensive to continue airing.

I LOVE the new multi-page format! It’s the best thing ever! Please don’t change back!

(Actually, I couldn’t care less. I’m happy either way, but the complaints are kind of surprising.)

I’d always heard that the slump in for the Batman titles came *after* the TV show, and that the subsequent serious revamping of the character by Neal Adams and various writers, notably Denny O’Neil, was done to reverse plummeting sales.

One possibility is that they might have lost 1-2 newsstand distributors in 1963 that carried only a part of the DC lineup, and the larger circulation titles would have taken a bigger hit than the smaller ones. It might also be why they didn’t release circulation numbers for 1963, as they would have been skewed if some of their larger buyers suddenly stopped (most likely regained or replaced after a year or two, from the 1965 numbers). Perhaps the military stopped carrying comics in their PX/Sea Stores during that period?

Remember that periodicals typically have small ad-like inserts that give their periodical data in them. Metal Men and Sea Devils might have had those listings found by the makers of that info page, when others didn’t (say, if someone scanned the issues for that year for some archive and didn’t include the ad pages, resulting in the data being missing). Anyone got the Detective Comics and Batman issues to look for them?

***************

As for the new format, it’s fine as it is, and if someone thinks it takes LONGER to load, they’re crazy.

It would sometimes take me 5-10 minutes to load an “all as one page” CBLR page, from all the images. Something about loading multiple pictures at once seems to exponentially increase load time instead of increasing linearly – especially the big honking scans that tend to be comics pages here.

Where the issue lies is that NO ONE WAS TOLD IT WAS COMING. I almost missed the last 2/3 of the first week of the new format’s CBLR, until I noted the “NEXT 1 2 3″ part as I was starting to type a question asking where the last two legends were. Now, I wish I’d brought it up last week, from all the people crying this week could have noticed it.

You need to edit these two to include that they are a new format with multiple pages, and indicate the change at the top of the next 3-6 weeks, so people who might have missed the changeover catch it (and go back to read the ones they missed).

I am not a fan of the multi-page format because I often read some comments and then head back up into the article to see something they reference. With the articles on separate pages, it makes it much more difficult.

“I — the Elongated Man — am not even a member of the League”.

Now there’s a piece of naturalistic dialogue!

I can’t say I’m a fan of the new format, but it certainly won’t stop me reading (and enjoying) Comic Book Legends.

I am actually a fan of those early 60’s Batman books.I loved the Batman Family characters that were featured in those books.Though there were many appearances of monsters that strecthed the imagination,even for a comic book.There were alot of villian appearances though..The Joker,Clayface,The Peguin,Terrible Trio and more.I loved Bat-Hound,Batwoman,Bat-girl and Bat-Mite.They showed up fairly often in the 3 Batman titles(Worlds Finest was often a place where the Bat Family would show up).There are 2 great covers from that period which showed a Super-Batwoman.They were both excellant covers.Curt Swan if I remember correctly. But the New look Batman came and along with the tv show,re-energized the titles.I am a staunch old-school Batman guy.BUT,my favorite DC hero(ine) will always be Barbra Gordon,Batgirl.

I never realised that the nineties Zero Hour was presaged by this. And Eric Henry – the actual quote is “I — the Elongated Man — *an* not even a member of the JLA!” Not only is it not naturalistic, but it doesn’t even make grammatical sense!

LEADER DESSLOK

March 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm

To be honest, I can’t remember who said this or where I read it (I’m trying to organize my files better–HONEST) BUT I read somewhere that Batman’s sales weren’t as bad as they told Kane. According to Jack Schiff, sales were on the rise once they cut back on the aliens and the transformation stories and brought back the super-villains. Supposedly, and this is a BIG CAVEAT because I don’t remember the source, the DC editors told Kane Bats was going to be cancelled UNLESS he got behind the NEW LOOK treatment Schwartz and Infantino proposed, This sounds very likely and makes a lot more sense than some of the other stuff I’ve heard.

Also, Kane didn’t “farm out” work to Finger and Moldoff. The deal was that DC was supposed to make sure that Kane’s Studio always got a script. Kane worked more directly with Schwartz for the first few years until he was certain Schwartz could draw a Batman that pleased him. He didn’t have to do this with Moldoff.

The question I have, and I’m only interested in someone who might actually know, is that an awful lot of Finger’s DC-Batman stories (after 1941) were drawn by Kane or one of his personal ghost\assistants. From what I read, DC wasn’t like Marvel where the artist and writers got together and discussed scripts. All scripts were worked out between the editors and the writers. Does anyone know if Kane had a standing order or request that he got first choice with Finger scripts?

Andrew Kolvek

March 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I believe that one series that would not be cancelled due to sales(though never great) was Wonder Woman. Part of the agreement with the Marston family(who actually licensed the character to DC) was that it would be perpetually published. I think this was in effect until not recent history, when DC finally bought the character.

And this whining about page turns in the article? Does everyone need to have their hand held for everything? Shut up, you babies.

Travis Pelkie

March 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Brian, does it make you sad that no one read last week and saw the new format then? I felt like a jerk then for complaining about the new format.

It’s not that big a deal to me, despite my complaint last week. I might have to open 3 different tabs with each legend on them, LIKE AN ANIMAL!, but that’s no big deal. The content is always interesting, and free, so hey, I’m on board.

I suspect part of what’s slowing some people’s connections down is that big honkin’ Valiant Harbinger Wars ad. Harbinger Wars: it’s on sale soon.

Anyway, for some comments on the content, not the format….

There was a collection of the JLA:Zatanna’s Quest a few years back with that Detective story in there. Didn’t think about it that the first story in the book didn’t really fit and was therefore a retcon, or why it was retconned either, but that’s pretty cool stuff.

Bob Kane lied and/or distorted the truth about something? NO!!!

As Basara points out, comics have that annual “statement of ownership” or “statement of sales” ad-looking thingie. Is there a reason they didn’t appear for those couple years, or does Comichron use a different method of figuring sales?

Count me as another vote for a one-page format, Brian. :)

I spotted a minor typo in the article. One page 1, after the 1966 JLA cover, it reads “Did the catch the subtle difference?” instead of “Did YOU catch the subtle difference?”

…And of course I made my own typo above. :)

some stupid japanese name

March 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Hey, since 57 other people have cast their vote (as if this is even up for vote?) even though it’s being completely ignored, I am going to vote too.

I think the format should be

David Serchay

March 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

GL’s line about “The Warlock in Dis” was a mistake. It should have been “The Warlock of Ys.” This was followed up on years later in the story in which Zatanna joined the JLA.

It would sometimes take me 5-10 minutes to load an “all as one page” CBLR page, from all the images. Something about loading multiple pictures at once seems to exponentially increase load time instead of increasing linearly – especially the big honking scans that tend to be comics pages here.

The majority of people in 2013 have decent internet service and should not be penalized for the minority (such as yourself) that do not.

Speaking of retcons, it’s funny how Batman doesn’t remember ever meeting Zatanna, seeing as how they’re best friends from childhood and all.

I’m thankful for all the grousing about the multipage format, because it helps reminds me to go back and click on the other pages, seeing as how I’m not used to doing that. I hope people will continue to complain so that I won’t miss out on future legends #2 and #3.

I miss Zatanna’s classic look; her current Katy Perry biker look just doesn’t do it for me.

Although Batman’s sales don’t seem to be that bad in the early 1960’s, remember that unsold comics were returnable in those days. In the recently published American Comic Book Chronicles, Carmine Infantino is quoted as saying that 68% of Batman comics were being returned at he start of the revamp. If Mr. infantino is not mistaken or exaggerating, that is a huge expense to DC . Also, Bob Kanes’ contract was apparently expensive. He could afford to pay Sheldon Moldoff to draw the stories for him and still live off the remaining money. It seems plausible that Batman may have sold well enough but didn’t necessarily make much money for DC.

There had to be a reason for DC to kick Jack Schiff off one of their best known titles and have Schwartz and Infantino change it. They were obviously unhappy with the title’s performance. Companies don’t mess with high profile properties for no reason.

Yes, the sales were down. No one, even Schiff himself, disagrees that the sales weren’t down. It is just a debate between “the sales are down, let’s shake things up” and “if we don’t shake things up, we will be canceling this book in six months.” The former is believable to me while the latter seems like too much of a stretch.

Sir Cronin, just a question–what was the sales unit bracket that might entitle a title to be cancelled? I believe there was this sales/units quota rate that may help us comprehend this discourse because obviously, today’s standards are very different to the yesteryears. Thank you.

Do you mean percentage of produced comics sold? While comic companies hated high rates of returns back then (and they also served as a major sign that a book was in trouble), they were not as big of a deal so much as just pure units sold, as rate of returns could just be adjusted by printing less copies. Pure units sold was the make or break measure when it came to whether a book would be canceled. And for pure units sold, a long-running DC comic book would have to be below 120,000 to merit cancellation in the mid-1960s (newer books tended to have a shorter leash). I am pretty sure that that’s why the figure Ted mentioned earlier was 117,000, as 117,000 would roughly be what it would take to get to cancellation for a long-running DC comic.

John, I haven’t seen Z’s new look, but I doubt it’ll last. She always defaults to the fishnets (not that I mind).

Again, I wonder about the ad rates. If they were returning 68 percent, they may have had a lot of make goods with advertisers. Remember, comics were much more ad dependent in those days. If they were charging higher rates for Batman, that would have cost more.

Just to balance the complaints slightly, I’ll say that I don’t much mind having to click two extra buttons to read the legends.
Yes, it is MILDLY more inconvenient than the old system, but I’m willing to give Brian/CBR the benefit of the doubt, that they probably discussed this change and found it to be a necessary one.
When I see people saying they may stop reading the feature entirely because of the massive inconvenience of the new format, all I can picture in my head is the South Park characters playing WoW. I mean, you realise that turning pages is something people have had to do for hundreds of years, right? And managed to do without complaining? A few short years on the internet, suddenly some people can’t be bothered to move slightly while reading.

@The Shadow “Although Batman’s sales don’t seem to be that bad in the early 1960’s, remember that unsold comics were returnable in those days. In the recently published American Comic Book Chronicles, Carmine Infantino is quoted as saying that 68% of Batman comics were being returned at he start of the revamp. If Mr. infantino is not mistaken or exaggerating, that is a huge expense to DC ”

—————————————————–

Excellent point. I remember an interview with Carmine Infantino where he said average sales back then was about 50% of print run. If Batman’s print run was 450,000 and was getting 50% through sales, that translates to 225,000. It is entirely possible that returns were higher or lower.

Recently I read an interview with Jeanette Khan in BI where she stated that Detective Comics was to be cancelled during the DC Implosion. At the last minute it was saved by cancelling Batman Family and transferring those stories to Detective Comics and for a few months the cover read Detective Comics starring The Batman Family. (‘Tec # 481)

Y’know, I’m a quadraplegic who types by holding a wand in my teeth. When I have to click on something it involves moving my entire body from the waist up yet I didn’t blink at the new format. I just clicked on through and read everything. Seriously, man the hell up, people!

Readers were asking above about the reason for DC’s not running data in Batman in 1963-64. I recently ran on Comichron a piece about the Statement of Ownership filings in the 1960s, and how DC was not alone in fouling up how they did them beginning in 1963:

http://blog.comichron.com/2013/02/evaluating-charltons-statements-of.html

There appears to have been a change in the forms that the Postal Service provided publishers withtheir Second Class Permits in 1963. Like other tax forms (and that is what this basically is), the forms get changes every few years, with the government asking for more or different information: this is how the sales figures got added in the first place. Golden Age readers were seeing the Statements, too, without numbers — as were readers of magazines back to the 1870s!

Anyway, in 1963, the government, which had only been asking for final sales, started asking for print runs, numbers of subscribers, and sample copies: we know that from other publishers’ forms. We also know something else: the requirement for the forms to be notarized was dropped. Publishers, previously, had to take their forms to a Notary Public and pay to get them stamped with an official seal; the name of the notary and dates of his or her commission appear in all Statements before 1963. But instead, in 1963, the publishers simply had to do what magazine editors like me were doing in the 2000s: we filled out the form, typeset the copy in the magazine, and then just mailed it to our postmasters. (Who, sadly, did not keep them on file, so there’s no single government clearing-house to find them.)

DC and Harvey both responded in 1963 by mailing the Statements in with no figures at all. DC did run them in Aquaman, Atom, Sea Devils, and Young Romance, using the correct, more detailed forms, and Harvey did, too, in Sad Sack, Little Dot, and a few other books. But in the majority of its titles, DC just ran numberless forms from 1963 to 1965. Perhaps the fact they didn’t have to be notarized gave publishers the feeling that it was okay to go back to the pre-1960 practices — since they weren’t having to pay for an official seal.

At any rate, someone noticed in 1965, as DC went ran a second set of forms in late 1966 with the proper information. (They got it right after that.) Harvey, meanwhile, continued doing it wrong until 1970. It was reporting fewer than 10 subscribers on the books it WAS running numbers in — I suspect no one cared to complain.

The head-scratcher has always been the few titles that ran data. In addition to those four 1963 titles, DC also ran figures in 1964 in a couple of titles it got wrong or ran no forms at all for in 1963: Rip Hunter and Metal Men. The only thing these titles have in common is that they were all relatively weak sellers for DC — were they coming out of a single editor’s office, who diverged from the other editors’ practices in getting the forms typeset? But then why run data in Young Romance and not Young Love, both titles DC had just acquired from Prize Publications? Puzzling.

The picture gets more clear as I get more forms. I’m fairly close to having most of the DC forms ever published and I’m working on the rest of the publishers. I believe now that about 4,300 forms were published in comics and magazines that contained comics between 1960 and today: I have 2,618 completed forms as of this writing, and just the bottom-line sales figure from another 602 forms, so it’s closing in. We may never know why certain publishers acted as they did in certain years, but I should at least know WHAT they did. A large update to my charts is in the works.

As to the cancellation theory, I cannot from the numbers give you any thoughts as to what the threshold might have been — other than that titles like Challengers of the Unknown persisted through the late 1960s at much lower levels — under 200,000 copies. Also note that cancellation was not the only choice publishers then had: they often adjusted frequency. Batman was coming out 8 times a year in the early 1960s: had there been a real problem, going down to bimonthly would have been the next logical step. Instead, in 1966, it bumped up to 10 issues a year. (The TV show premiered on January 12, 1966, so it’s at least possible that change was in response to the series.)

Lastly, just a response to Marvelbunny’s note above — it’s correct that sell-through was only about 50%, but all the figures being cited here are sales figures, not print runs. Returns were already being accounted for elsewhere — and later, they had to print that number too. That information is also visible on my site, once publishers were required to provide it. I have a separate page for BATMAN here: http://www.comichron.com/titlespotlights/batman.html

Slight correction to the above: we don’t know if DC and Harvey filled out the full data in what they mailed in. They may well have; we’ll never see the actual forms. But they simply didn’t publish the data in their magazines, and that may be where the confusion was at the time. The 1963 changes may have had some editors wondering what they were required to publish.

Zatanna’s look:

Somebody in a story once explained while outfits like her version of her mother Sindella’s clothes and that George Perez garb I always liked (the look she had during COIE) were her super hero/sorceress outfits, the fishnets/top hat were always her costume as a professional stage magician. Made sense to me.

Sindella outfit:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v513/marshal99/comics/zatanna1.jpg

Perez garb:
http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/data/media/44/zatanna03.jpg

I prefer the one-page format. (But I certainly will not stop coming to the site over the multi-page format, as some people are threatening to do!! This is one of the few sites I visit every single day.)

Hey, just keep away from the Newsarama “top 10″ lists that have ten different pages, and I’m good. I don’t get any benefit from this new format, but obviously it helps the site somehow, so whatever.

These were great as usual. I like the new format and hope it continues, however I reckon you should add
“next” and “previous” buttons at the bottom of each page instead of at the top. Cheers!

These were great as usual. I like the new format and hope it continues, however I reckon you should add
“next” and “previous” buttons at the bottom of each page instead of at the top. Cheers!

Next and previous ARE at the bottom of the page, aren’t they?

@Brian. Ummm….I guess they are. I didn’t see them before. Oops. Okay, nm it’s perfect!

@Benn and @Drancron: Actually, “Zero Hour” had its origins even earlier than that. In the early ’60s, there was an attempt to do a series in Green Lantern called the “Zero Hour” stories. These were supposed to deal with cases in which Green Lantern was faced with an emergency with only a few seconds of power left in his ring. The concept ran out of steam fast, though, and was dropped after two stories: “Zero Hour in the Silent City” (GL #12) and “Zero Hour in Rocket City” (GL #15).

@Buttler: “Speaking of retcons, it’s funny how Batman doesn’t remember ever meeting Zatanna, seeing as how they’re best friends from childhood and all.”

Only on the animated series, my friend, only on the animated series.

Re: Zero Hour: And if you go beyond comics, there was the 1957 movie of that name, which was the basis for the comedy Airplane! (the latter even used some of the same dialogue)

I convulsed into laughter when Sterling Hayden comments that “I picked the wrong week to quit smoking” and he’s completely serious.

mongo no like batman.
mongo think he may be good at the fight stuff, but not much thinking to happen
me would rather meet superman
he is a bester thiking guy

@Buttler: “Speaking of retcons, it’s funny how Batman doesn’t remember ever meeting Zatanna, seeing as how they’re best friends from childhood and all.”

Only on the animated series, my friend, only on the animated series.

It was retconned into the actual comic book characters’ history in 2007, starting with Detective Comics #833. But yeah, it started with the animated series.

@buttler: Really? It’s part of comics continuity now? I did not know that.
I wonder if it’s still true in the New 52.

Oh, I doubt it survived the relaunch, but who knows? I’ll bet no one at DC has given it any thought yet.

To everyone asking why the legends are now 3 pages instead of 1: splitting a column like this increases the page views and increases the number of ads that can be shown to everyone. In turn, the site can charge more for advertising.

I’m really getting tired of the single page editions….Please put my name down for the return of the 3 legend pages…..I still cannot find the Charlie Brown one…..If you have a good thing, please don’t change the format…..(See Drudge Report webpage layout)

I’m not a fan of the 3 page deal either, but I’m sure I’ll cope somehow.

The three pager isn’t all that bad, but it sure isn’t my favorite either. Oh well…

Am I the only one who noticed a spelling mistake on the comic book page with the Elongated Man? He says “I–The Elongated Man–AN NOT even a member of the JLA.” It’s supposed to be “AM NOT”

That’s not even the only typo in that speech balloon. He also says “That’s what I like to know!”. The I should actually be “I’d”.

Amazing how many complain about as simple a thing as clicking TWICE to read everything, yet pay nothing for the pleasure and contribute nothing but complaints. People who can’t be bothered to go to a second page because they’re lazy shouldn’t be listened to. Ungrateful much?

Maybe those people “pay nothing for the pleasure and contribute nothing but complaints” because they just have NOTHING TO SAY regarding the article and are just posting comments to provide with feedback about the new page format? What, feedback is only acceptable if it’s positive now?

And for the record, I agree with them. The new format is annoying and a obvious step back from the previous one, though I’m not going to stop reading the feature because of it.

I like the new format for one reason only. I often send links to friends when I read something that I think will interest them. With the one-page format, I can link them directly to the legend I want them to read, instead of having to tell them to scroll down to the second or third legend.

You don’t need a multi-page format for that, that’s what html anchors are for.

There’s an additional wrinkle to this story in TwoMorrow’s recentish “Carmine Infantino” book. Infantino talks about getting the Batman job, saying that DC boss Irwin Donnenfeld called both Schwartz and Infantino into the office. Infantino quotes Donnenfeld as saying to them about Batman:

“It’s crap. You two guys, either you save it or we drop it. You’ve got six months to change things.”

In this particular interview, Infantino doesn’t express any opinion one way or the other as to whether Donnenfeld’s assertion was factually true, but it does change things a bit from other accounts. Two separate firsthand sources claiming that at least Donnenfeld *told* them Batman was in danger of cancellation.

It’s quite possible, indeed probable, that Donnenfeld was exaggerating the direness of the situation for one reason or another, but it casts the story in a different light than it being simply Schwartz puffing up his own accomplishments.

Bah, the above comment is largely rendered moot by page two, and a casualty of the new format – I hadn’t read that one before writing.

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