Superhero comics were big business during wartime, with circulation numbers reaching six figures for popular titles like Captain Marvel, but in the following years their popularity began to wane until only a few were left standing. However, on this day in 1956 a new hero with a familiar name seemed to burst straight off the cover and reinvigorated the entire genre for a new generation.
Created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, Barry Allen was a police scientist with a reputation for being slow and late, until one day a lightning strike doused him with chemicals and he gained the power of super-speed. Donning a red and gold costume with the iconic lightning bolt, Barry Allen took his name from the comic book hero he’d read as a child, and became The Flash.
You'd never have known the Black Canary was going to be so important. On June 11, 1941, a new character appeared in Flash Comics. She wasn't introduced in the "Flash" strip that gave the anthology it's name, or the co-headliner "Hawkman." She made her debut in a six-page "Johnny Thunder" story, by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.
Canary is introduced as a femme fatale to play off of the hapless Johnny. She's a criminal, but she only steals from other criminals, putting her in a morally gray area that makes Johnny a little uncomfortable, and for which his magical Thunderbolt genie (who was always smarter than Johnny himself) has even less patience.
It's not an exaggeration to say that Carmine Infantino is one of the most significant and influential figures in the history of comics. On the surface, it's easy to point out his role in the creation of Barry Allen, Wally West, Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, Deadman, Elongated Man, the Human Target, Detective Chimp, and many more as a sign of his influence. But on a macro scale, his streamlined, mid-century modern style determined the aesthetic of what would prove to be the renaissance of the superhero genre in the Silver Age, and his bold editorial direction would usher in comics' next great era, the Bronze Age. Indeed, without Carmine Infantino, comics as we know them would not exist.
We’re more than three years into the Disney era of Star Wars. Since 2012, when Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion and change, we’ve seen a new canon take the place of the old Expanded Universe, with two seasons of the animated Star Wars: Rebels; the release of the most successful movie in the franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens; multiple new novels and short stories; and the launch of a new line of Star Wars comics from Marvel. But Jedi and Sith have tangled in the Mighty Marvel Manner before. Marvel was the original publisher of Star Wars comics.
Starting in April 1977 --- a month before the original film’s release --- and running until June 1986 for 107 issues and three annuals, the original Star Wars comic book was many things: zany comedy, thrilling adventure and, in its final years, a meditation on soldiers in peace time, all written and drawn by some of the greatest writers and artists in the industry. But before all that, it was a logistical problem.
Numerous artists have had a crack at DC Collectibles' Batman: Black and White series over the years. The long roster of creators to have their styles translated into sculptures is filled with both classic and current favorites, though there is always room for that roster to expand. While we've seen some of the true masters of the form take their crack at the series, one of DC's brightest silver age stars is only now seeing his style make the leap. That's true of the characters included in the statue series as well. Where once Batman: Black and White was solely focused on the Dark Knight, recent years have seen the line grow to include the rest of the Bat-cast, such as the Joker, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, and now Robin as well.
Announced this week (via MTV), the Batman: Black and White statue series will soon see Carmine Infantino's Batman and Robin join the team. Previously, we'd seen the likes of Dick Sprang, Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli and Neal Adams get statues based on their immediately recognizable styles, but Infantino's interpretation of Batman had largely gone unappreciated in the line. Now, not only will his Batman be celebrated, but his Robin, too.
Now that Supergirl's a big hit on TV, it's only a matter of time before they start riffing on some of the classic Supergirl stories of the comics, right? I mean, Flash had Jay Garrick showing up in a pie-tin helmet to re-enact the cover of "The Flash of Two Worlds," and Arrow had... well, I'm sure there was some Green Arrow story they did a TV version of between fighting Batman villains and having the best match at SummerSlam.
Point being, it's all but inevitable that they'll turn their attention to some specific moments from the source material. And when they do, I hope it's the story where someone actually says the phrase "What use could we possibly have for 12-inch Supergirls?!"
Like a lot of people who started reading comics at an early age, I learned a lot of things from superheroes. Most of it was trivia, like all the Army slang that you can pick up from back issues of GI Joe --- and a lot of it was completely wrong, like that thing about only using 10% of your brain --- but comic books have always been full of weird little facts that creators decided to build entire stories around. Like, say, the time that Batman devoted his considerable resources to finally battling the most pressing scourge of 1964: Elephant Crime.
No, not crime involving elephants, like, poaching or illegal ivory smuggling. This is crime committed by elephants. And that's not the weirdest thing about this story.
As the genre of superhero comics has become increasingly event-driven over the last thirty years, the need to push each event as more important than the last has increased with it. Every new event promises, somehow with a straight face, that “nothing will ever be the same again.”
There are, in fact, comics that actually affect everything that comes after them one way or another — Action Comics #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, Uncanny X-Men #132 — but they rarely come with much fanfare, or with empty and overreaching promises. One such comic debuted on this day in 1961: Flash vol 1 #123, “The Flash of Two Worlds.”
As much as I love Batman, and I think the record will show that I love Batman a whole heck of a lot, I haven't really been looking forward to sitting down and cracking open the new Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years hardcover. Last year's Superman anniversary hardcover was a disaster of revisionist history, 300 pages that would have you believe that one of the world's greatest superheroes did nothing for seven and a half decades but cry. With that in mind, I had no idea what DC Comics was going to do with Batman. If you'd asked me to bet on it, I would've put good money on a prediction that they'd craft a narrative that acknowledged Batman only as a scowling vigilante, consumed with vengeance and every bit as crazy as the villains he fought.
But it turns out I didn't have to worry. The Batman hardcover is exactly what it says it is -- a celebration of Batman across different eras, with a roster of stories that highlights one of the character's true strengths: How well he works across different kinds of stories.
We make a regular practice at ComicsAlliance of spotlighting particular artists or specific bodies of work, as well as the special qualities of comic book storytelling, but because cartoonists, illustrators and their fans share countless numbers of great pinups, fan art and other illustrations on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, DeviantArt and seemingly infinite art blogs that we’ve created Best Art Ever (This Week), a weekly depository for just some of the pieces of especially compelling artwork that we come across in our regular travels across the Web. Some of it’s new, some of it’s old, some of it’s created by working professionals, some of it’s created by future stars, some of it’s created by talented fans, awnd some of it’s endearingly silly. All of it is awesome.
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