Congratulations to all in March! You may have noticed that there was no February column – this is because February is a) short, at 28 days, and b) awful. Really. This is the month when cold weather and Valentine’s Day immerse the world in a pit of despair that can only be overcome by the onset of spring. Seriously, that’s all I can do in February to shake the fists of the Universe and beg for death, let alone have to write anything.
March, however, is trying to make up for it all by filling itself with holidays and celebrations: Easter, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, spring baseball practice and Texas Independence Day. Many of them, as you will notice, give you the opportunity to drink until you are dumped. Fortunately, March is also the month of the fight against rectal cancer, which should provide some incentive to consider less appetizing parts of your health.
But we are not here to discuss our rectums or the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are here to talk about comics because the first issue of Detective Comics, which introduced America to Batman and is now the longest continuous comic book in American history, was published in March 1937.
At the time, comics were another beast. For the most part, these were collections of previously published material, usually comics, that were often used as publicity stunts, i.e., if you sent enough coupons for porridge, the company sent you a copy of “Funnies On Parade”.
That all changed in 1934 when Eastern Color published Famous Funnies # 1, a 68-page comic book priced at a 10-cent newsstand. It was available even in the Great Depression, which devoured sandwiches, and Famous Funnies began making a profit of $ 30,000 per issue, warning other publishers about the possibilities of a new medium.
Which leads us through my usual workaround to “Detective Comics # 1,” published in March 1937. It began as a comic book anthology, like most of its contemporaries, and focused on detective stories. One of the first star characters, Slam Bradley, was the work of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, who a few years later created Superman.
We need to pause to reflect on what a strange name Slam Bradley was. Can anyone return this? There’s a basketball superhero title that just begs to be written with that on your head. Anyone get DC Comics on the phone and submit it.
Returning to the topic: Batman was featured in “Detective Comics # 27” and became a star, by the time the cover logo became “Detective Comics Featuring Batman”. I don’t need to explain how much Batman has become a phenomenon, but if you honestly need the details, show someone this article and if they start shaking and foaming at the mouth, ask further. Make sure and tell them how awesome you think Calendar Man is.
Anyway, “Detective Comics” is still in print, and the Batman franchise is a major selling point, and occupies an important place in American pop culture. He was born when comics were cheap reprints of old newspaper strips, he gained momentum during the Golden Age when everyone was beating Hitler, and he is a player in the modern comics era who is an intricate wealth of intersecting plots that cannot be explained in less than 45 minutes.
Dave Kifaber is a graduate of Gettysburg College and a regular contributor to Adfreak.