Monday, April 23, 2007

Giant Batman Album # 31

For all their idiosyncracies and often baffling editorial decisions, the K.G. Murray editors would often also ‘get it right’. Take for example Giant Batman Album #31:

Giant Batman Album #31, September 1975
Cover artists: Nick Cardy, Dick Sprang, Charles Paris

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: Ally Babble and the Fourteen Peeves!
Bill Finger/Dick Sprang
Batman #30, September 1945
Batman #257, August 1974

Robin The Boy Wonder: Dick Grayson Detective!
Jim Mooney
Star Spangled Comics #111, December 1950
Detective Comics #444, January 1975

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: Twenty-Ton Robbery!
Don Cameron/Dick Sprang
Batman #26, December 1944-January 1945
Batman #258, September-October 1974

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: Bullet-Hole Club!
David Vern/Dick Sprang/Charles Paris
World's Finest Comics #50, February-March 1951
Batman #254, January-February 1974

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Duped Domestics!
Alvin Schwartz/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson
Batman #22, April-May 1944
Batman #255, March-April 1974

Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder: The Strange Costumes of Batman!
Edmond Hamilton/Dick Sprang/Charles Paris
Detective Comics #165, November 1950
Batman #259, November-December 1974

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Man Who Couldn't Be Tried Twice!
Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff/Ray Burnley
Batman 118, September 1958
Batman 218, January-February 1970

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Man from Robin's Past
Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff/Charles Paris
Batman #129, February 1960
80 Page Giant #8, March 1965

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: Rackety-Rax Racket!
Don Cameron/Dick Sprang
Batman #32, December 1945-January 1946
Batman #257, July-August 1974

The contents are mainly drawn from various 100-Page editions of the regular Batman series (and one from Detective Comics). These miscellaneous stories were being plundered to fill out the various issues of Giant Batman Album, a series which had continued long after the demise of the US Batman Annual and 80-Page Giant series which had in large part provided the template and contents for the Australian series. The 100-page issues of 1971-1975 (known as 100-Page Super Spectacular) typically featured a new lead cover story along with reprints as back-ups.

The new compilations left the K.G Murray editors with an obvious dilemma – what to use for the cover? The likes of Hart Amos and Peter Chapman had long departed, yet in such instances their skills and experience would have come in handy.

As it was, they were left to their own devices to conjure a new cover. So what they did was cut-and-paste a new cover image from the available material. In this instance, the main Batman figure is from the splash page to "The Strange Costumes of Batman!". The rest are from from Batman #258 (Cavalier); Batman #259 (strange costumes/Robin); Batman #255 (Alfred); and Batman #257 (Ally Babble).

The covers for Giant Batman Album #’s 30 and 32 were similarly contrived.

Personally, I love these covers - they are not standard facsimiles of US editions, yet they are comprised of ‘authentic’ art from the ‘real Batman artists’. You know as soon as you see one of these covers that there’s going to be some wonderful vintage comics between the covers, and there’s a palpable element of anticipation and surprise as to which stories will be reprinted.

On occasion, Giant Batman Album would reprint the cover feature of a regular Batman comic eg. Giant Batman Album #26 (Giant Batman Album #27 is a special case which I will discuss in a future blog) but most often the lead feature would be reprinted in a regular K.G. Murray title, and the vintage strips collated for the Giant Albums. There was even an instance of a US Batman cover redrawn for cover duty on Giant Batman Album #19 (which I believe was likely earmarked for use on a Colossal Comic – but that’s a story for another time!)

The cover designs after Batman Album #32 (the “Giant” in the title having been dropped effective this issue, along with the vintage masthead and the old Planet Comics logo) fell into two camps – full size images sourced from regular Batman comics, or reduced images conventionally arranged in 4 rectangular boxes on the covers (which must surely qualify as the missionary position of cover layout designs!) There was one or two with slight variations on this schema, but as the series began to revolve around contemporary stories, the vintage Giant-style covers were to become as much a thing of the past as the stories with which they are associated.

Quite apart from the sources, the selection of predominantly Sprang-illustrated tales is what really raises the profile of this issue. I doubt there are many DC volumes even today which have as many Sprang Batman stories as this one, apart from hardcover Archives volumes.

One of the stories reprinted in this issue, "The Man from Robin's Past", does not appear to be culled from a contemporary 100-Page issue. I believe this was ‘leftover’ from the Secret Origins 80 Page Giant #8, March 1965 pending an appropriate venue for reprinting. Again, kudos to K.G. Murray for waitng for an appropriate time and place, even if it was 10 years later – like I said, sometimes, they just got it right!

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