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Essential Seven WTF? Comic Book Covers-The Detective Comics Edition

Recently, I celebrated my new job by heading back to the comic book store for the first time in three years. My poison has always been Detective Comics. Sure, I’ve dabbled in Captain America, flirted with The Avengers, and convinced myself that Action Comics could be interesting, but I’ve always been faithful to Batman’s original title. So, I’m back on the wagon. Or is that “off the wagon,” since I’m referring to succumbing to a vice? I can’t remember, and in any case, this is a moot point, as nerds typically don’t use this analogy to describe comic book and action figure addictions. If we did, we certainly wouldn’t use “wagon” when we could go with “starship” or “landspeeder.” At the very least it would be a small scooter that transforms into a robot. Anyway, I’ve always loved Detective for its long history, consistent writing, and cool covers. However, in the last 71 years, a few covers have made us step back and say “WTF?” Here are seven of them.

7. Detective Comics #24 (1939)

Let’s begin with a Pre-Batman cover. Before the Dark Knight’s debut in Detective #27 and up until issue #34, there were some really cool crime covers. This one, however, is a puzzler. I get that the two kids are wanna-be sleuths, and, through a series of ridiculous adventures, stumble onto a counterfeiting ring. That much makes sense; That’s the kind of story that would have appealed to young boys back then. What I don’t get is why the counterfeiters have placed the kid at the end of the table so he can see their whole operation. Are they going to serve him tomato soup and a grilled cheese? Granted, that basement doesn’t look very big, and the crooks may be distracted as this is the first time that they have seen anything resembling money since the Depression started, but couldn’t they at least turn the kid around? Even the kid has this expression like, “Really, buddy? Here? You’re going to sit me here?”

6. Detective Comics #622 (1990)

In 1990, the last thing most Detective readers expected to see was a Dick Sprang cover. Sprang–one of Bob Kane’s ghost artists in the thrilling ’40s, the kooky ’50s, and the groovy ’60s–was known for his full faces and square jaws. In many ways, his art is forever linked to Batman’s more innocent days of large billboard advertisements and goofy sci-fi adventures. So, it is a bit weird to see a demon Batman wielding the power of the Dark Side to zap a gangster in a pin-stripped suit straight out of the 1940s.

5. Detective Comics #320 (1963)

In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the citizens of Gotham didn’t even blink when strange alien spaceships crashed on the outskirts of town. It happened all the time! In “Batman and Robin—The Mummy Crime-Fighters!” Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson turn green when a device in a downed alien craft explodes in their faces. To cover up their conditions, literally, they adopt the only logical solution and become mummy crime-fighters. In effect, we get a crazy cover with a ridiculous observation from Vicki Vale.

4. Detective Comics #275 (1960)

Why the hell is Batman a magnetic zebra? Are the people in the background scared or are they dancing? Is it just me, or does Robin look like he is actually yelling, “Extra! Extra! Batman has become a sexy giant zebra!”?

3. Detective Comics #277 (1960)

Two issues later, Batman is back to normal, playing with giant crazy color-forms while the citizens of Gotham protest in anger. Is it weird that the one question that I really want answered is not about where the creature came from or where Batman got a puzzle-making tractor beam device or even why Robin has red highlights, but why there is a hill on the outskirts of Gotham with a crevice shaped exactly like a strange jigsaw creature from another planet?

2. Detective Comics #278 (1960)

At this point, the writers had to be sitting around a local bar about 18 beers in: “What if this giant dude was in his underwear and threw a rock at ’em?” “Yeah, how about his name is Steve?” “Who the hell is Steve?” “I don’t know, give me another beer!”

1. Detective Comics #322 (1963)

Seriously? I know that comics from the 1960s were known for their goofiness, but WTF?


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