For Your Consideration: DC’s Batman and Superman in World’s Finest: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 2

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger

by Robert Greenberger

Batman and Superman in World’s Finest: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 2

Batman and Superman in World’s Finest: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 2

The Silver Age may have arrived with the second Flash’s arrival in Showcase #4, but it was a years-long transition across the DC Comics line of titles, not an overnight event as happens today. You can witness that shift in tone and increasing canonical content in the pages of the entertaining Batman and Superman in World’s Finest: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 2. The mammoth package contains World’s Finest Comics #117-158, spanning from May 1961 through June 1966.

World's Finest Comics #117

World’s Finest Comics #117

At the outset, the series was being edited by Jack Schiff, who was also handling Batman and Detective Comics. Schiff was an old school editor who understood each issue had to grab the young reader with a compelling image and dilemma, forcing the dime out of his pocket. As a result, there were some high concepts complete with endless aliens, mysterious transformations, and threats to the team of Superman, Batman, and Robin.

Most of the stories didn’t even reflect events in the Superman books being edited by Mort Weisinger, who was rapidly evolving the mythos and adding titles with regularity. Instead, he had veteran writer Jerry Coleman harnessed to produce 14-15 page stories each issue, backed by Green Arrow and Aquaman stories.

World's Finest Comics #128

World’s Finest Comics #128

One benefit to the shorter page counts was that Schiff could then get the tales illustrated by many of the finest illustrators working for the company at the time. While no one person was a regular artist, you could count on Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, Stan Kaye, and Jim Mooney for slick-looking pages. Every now and then Schiff managed to get work from Curt Swan, George Klein, and John Forte. There’s been some dispute in art circles as to who handled the covers, with some arguing Dick Dillin penciled the majority of Schiff’s work here, others say it was other artists.

Every now and then, others would be tapped to pen a tale so there’s work from Ed Herron and Dave Wood before Bill Finger stepped in to write a few, starting with one that reused the Crimson Avenger name, without any connection to the Golden Age crimefighter.

World's Finest Comics #123

World’s Finest Comics #123

Sparingly, Schiff did work in familiar foes so issue #123 pitted Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk against the trio of heroes. In addition, while the Joker was largely gone from sight, he collaborated with Lex Luthor for fresh criminal activity in issue #129. Professor Carter Nichols and his time travel tricks made a few appearances in #132 and #138, sending the heroes to other eras.

Few new villains appeared in Gotham City during the 1950s, but the second Clayface, Matt Hagen, was one of them and he was here.

World's Finest Comics #141

World’s Finest Comics #141

Then came May 1964 cover-dated comics. Julie Schwartz introduced the New Look to the Bat-titles and Schiff was given other assignments so Weisinger got World’s Finest. He instantly gave the series to Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan and while Batman’s sleek new appearance took an issue or two to arrive, its clear things were different. Issue #141 gave us the Robin and Jimmy Olsen team in one of my all-time favorite stories from my childhood. An issue later, Weisinger introduced the Composite Superman, a human accidentally imbued with the super-powers of the entire Legion of Super-Heroes, immediately cementing this series to the other titles.

Although Schwartz eschewed anything from Schiff’s era, Weisinger actually collaborated Clayface with the new super-foe Brainiac in issue #144, an odd combination for the time (and the first cover to show the yellow circle on Batman’s chest).

World's Finest Comics #151

World’s Finest Comics #151

Weisinger gave us imaginary stories featuring the young sons of Superman and Batman in several issues while also introducing the Galactic Gamblers Rokk and Sorban. Issue #151 has the distinction of being one of the first stories from fan turned writer Cary Bates, with Bates providing the cover concept and rough layouts for Hamilton from which to script. Similarly, Hamilton partnered with Weisinger’s assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell in a tale celebrating the team’s 1000th case.

World's Finest Comics #156

World’s Finest Comics #156

An issue later, Weisinger then gave us the inevitable Bizarro Batman to collaborate with Bizarro as the world’s worst team. And the final issue in the collection adds to the Brainiac legend with the introduction of Brainiac A, said to be the first Brainiac.

By the time that issue came out in early spring 1966, the Batmania craze was well underway and the impact on DC’s output, including this title, will be keenly felt. But for now, this collection has superb artwork and some truly good stories while you watch evolution happen a page at a time.


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