Schiff Came First!

 

Originally Published in

The Comics Buyers’ Guide #1181

July 5, 1996

 

Jack Schiff has often been accused of simply mimicking Mort Weisinger's Superman line, copying whatever innovations Weisinger came up with, regardless of whether or not it was appropriate for Batman.  It was not that simple, however. Let's look at the actual dates involved:

Imaginary Stories:

"The Second Batman and Robin Team" Batman 131 (April 1960)                           

"Mr and Mrs Clark (Superman) Kent" Lois Lane 19 (August 1960)

Time Travel: 

"It Happened in Rome" Batman 24 (Sept 1944) 

"Autograph Please" Superman 48 (October 1947)

Kid Sidekicks:

"Introducing Robin the Boy Wonder"  Detective 38 (April 1940, on sale in February)    

"The Protection Racket" (introducing Jimmy Olsen on radio) (April 15, 1940)

Secret Headquarters:

"The Wizard of Words" Batman 12 (August 1942)

"Super Key to Fort Superman" Action 241 (June 1958)

Female Counterpart:

"The Batwoman" Detective 233 (July 1956)

"The Supergirl from Krypton" Action 252  (May 1959)

Faithful dog:

Krypto in "The Superdog from Krypton" Adventure 210 (March 1955)                        

"Ace the Bat-Hound" Batman 92 (June 1955)

Here, Weisinger actually did strike first, but the two stories are so close together there couldn't be a direct influence.  Both were probably prompted by the success of Rex, the Wonder Dog and the Lassie TV show

First visit to another planet:

Batman, Interplanetary Policeman" Batman 41 (June 1947) 

"Case of the Second Superman" Superman 58 (June 1949)

First bizarre and ludicrous transformation:

 "The Invisible Batman" Detective 199 (Sept 1953)

"The Spectral Superman" Action 188 (January 1954)

First robot cover:

 Batman 70 (May 1952)       

Action 173 (October 1952)

First "pixie":

"The Mysterious Mr Mxyxtplk" Superman 30 (Sept 1944)           

"Batman Meets Bat-Mite" Detective 267 (May 1959)

This is a clear first for Superman, but, to be fair, it should be pointed out that Jack Schiff was the editor of Superman at the time Mr Mxyztplk was introduced.  Weisinger was still in the service!

Many fans do not consider science fiction gimmicks to be appropriate to Batman, but they have a long tradition in the series, going back into the early forties.  I think both Finger and Schiff thought that fans would appreciate the "fish out of water" aspect of such stories.  While DC management did pressure Schiff to use more and more of those gimmicks in the early 60's, Weisinger was hardly the innovator. He stole from Schiff more often than the other way around.

 

When Julius Schwartz was put in charge of the Batman titles he simply ignored Batwoman, Bat-Mite and the other gimmicks. There was no massive bloodbath, no replacing Batman with a teenage version of himself. Nobody was turned into a clone or a homicidal maniac.  It wasn't until Detective 485, that some blood thirsty hack writer decided to bring Batwoman back solely for the purpose of killing her.  Tying up loose ends, I suppose.

 

Batman, under Schwartz, had a "New Look".  A few of those New Look stories were drawn by Carmine Infantino, but for the majority of them, the new "realistic" art was drawn by the same person who had done the previous cartoony art: Sheldon Moldoff.  The main difference that I could see was that Batman no longer had a square chin.

 

Still. my reaction to Detective 327 at the time was that, whatever it was that Julie Schwartz did change, it was exactly what the feature needed. I suspect, that since then, every comics editor taking over a series has dreadmed of being in Schwartz's position and making exactly the right changes to revitalize a book- realizing only when it was too late that they just weren't Julie Schwartz.

 

On the other end of the 60's , I'm really getting sick and tired of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams getting credit for the work of Frank Robbins and Irv Novick. Beginning in Batman 204, Robbins and Novick jettisoned the camp antics which had pervaded the TV show years and began concentrating on stories featuring Batman in solo action against regular crooks and solving mysteries. With the help of an anonymous colorist who began coloring all the Batman stories as if they took place at night, the Dark Night Detective was born. O'Neil and Adams didn't show up until December 1969 (Detective 395).  It was in that same month that Robbins and Novick sent Robin off to college and moved Bruce Wayne into a Gotham City penthouse (Batman 217).  Yeah, Adams drew great and O'Neil wrote some great stories but the transformation would have happened without them.  They just came along for the ride.