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The 9 Craziest Moments of the Silver Age Batman Annuals

This week sees the latest release from the “DC Comics Classics Library” line, which — despite its extremely awkward name — has been a showcase for some great stories that haven’t gotten the reprints they deserve. This time around, they’re offering up “Batman Annual” #4 – 7, a quartet of 80-page giants from the mid-sixties.

If you’re not familiar with how Annuals worked 50 years ago, they were essentially giant-sized reprints of a character’s Greatest Hits, and since we’re talking about the height of the Silver Age, “Greatest” usually means “most completely insane.” These stories involved Batman battling sea monsters, growing to thirty feet tall, gaining magnetic powers that made him look like a zebra — basically anything and everything but haunting the night as a grim avenger of crime. So in order to prepare you if you’re planning on picking up the hardcover this week — and you should — I’ve gathered up nine of the most mind-boggling moments from the Silver Age “Batman Annuals!

#9. Batman The Human Fish

The important thing here isn’t that Batman has become “a human ‘fish’” (stuff like that happened twice a month with alarming regularity back in the ’50s), but that he carries the chemicals necessary for such a transformation around with him in his belt. Seriously, who’s packing that thing, Professor Snape?

#8: Venus: The Robot World

During one of Batwoman’s first cases, she and Batman trail a crook to a space-themed cafe, in which Venus is shown to be populated entirely by the robots that would later evolve into Rosie, the Jetsons’ maid. This seems like a pretty odd choice for restaurant decor — especially considering that the decor can be activated to pimp-slap your local masked vigilantes — but considering this is the Silver Age DC Universe we’re talking about, that’s probably the most scientifically accurate portrayal of Venus possible.

#7. Today’s Nature Lesson

That’s what I like about old comics: They’re not just entertaining, they’re educational, too!

#6. Rip Van Batman and the Moon Scorpion

The premise of this story is that Batman inhaled the fumes of an exotic plant, passed out and had a hallucination wherein he’d slept for thirty years (yes, really), hence the killer ZZ Top beard, and then fought some crooks with a grown-up Dick Grayson in a planetarium. Even with all that, though, I can’t get past the fact that his plan revolves around a “moon scorpion,” which just sounds like a bizarre racial slur that never took off.

#5. Batman’s College Yearbook

“Bruce Wayne: Interests: Criminology, Punching. Most Likely to Become the World’s Greatest Detective. Quote: ‘I am the night.’” Way to keep that secret identity going, bro.

#4. Batman’s Super-Powers

When Batman gets struck by lightning — yes, again with the lighting — he ends up gaining super-powers that cause him to glow and that are also killing him, because it’s essentially turned him into a human-sized star that’s going nova before it burns out. That’s science!

Even better, though, is the fact that Batman decides that the best use of his new powers is to find a building that’s on fire, pick it up, throw it into space to put out the flames, and then catch it when it falls back to the exact same spot. Now, far be it from me to tell Batman how to do his job, but that has got to be the most complicated way of putting out a fire I’ve ever seen. Also, I really hope nobody left a beloved pet and/or grandparent in the building before Batman showed up.

#3. Papa Spank!

Batman has a long history of threatening to spank people (check out pretty much any Golden Age Catwoman appearance), but things get a little out of hand when Bat-Mite shows up and is immediately met with the threat of being put over the Bat-Knee.

And it happens more than once.

I’m willing to accept that Batman essentially has three settings when it comes to dealing with problems (Glower, Punch and Spank) and that he’d feel pretty weird uppercutting a two foot-tall “elf,” but by the time it gets a third mention…

…it’s just getting ridiculous. That nervous laugh makes this a line that, if Batwoman hadn’t interrupted, would’ve totally led into “So, uh, do you think he’d be into that? I mean, I wouldn’t, but he seems like he’d totally be into it.” Control yourself, Batman. There’s more to life than spanking elves.

#2. Blowing It All On Gay Parties

Originally, I was going to let this one slide, because “ha ha, words used to mean different things” stopped being a viable source of Internet comedy sometime back in 2003. Even so…

…when they manage to work it into the dialogue on the first and last page of a ten page story, there’s no getting around the fact that the creators knew exactly what they were doing.

And finally…

#1. The Bewitched Batman

If I didn’t know that this was an actual splash page from an actual Silver Age comic, I would’ve thought it was fake, as it is the most over-the-top Silver-Agey image I have ever seen. There’s just so much going on: A) Superman has given Batman super-powers, B) that Batman is using to do the bidding of an evil sorcerer, C) which involves literally fighting City Hall, D) while wearing a court jester costume over his Batman costume.

Truly it can be said: They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

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