The early Bronze Age was the age of "The Exorcist" and "Jaws," Hammer horror films and the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Horror sold and sold big, and if comics can be counted on for anything it's spotting a pop culture trend and milking it dry. Thus, on any given week circa 1973 or '74, there were dozens of comic book covers showing superheroes attacked by vampires, zombies or werewolves, doubling over in pain as witches stuck pins into voodoo dolls, aging in mere moments into dessicated corpses...and lots of other fun stuff. ("Hey Kids! Comics!")

With some characters the horror fad made for an awkward fit: even the creepiest monster couldn't drum up much dread in the bright world of Superman, for example. A prolonged storyline with Spider-Man growing two extra sets of arms and battling a "living vampire" was more oddball than scary.

Batman was a different story: he was originally designed as a "weird figure of the night," after all, and in the Bronze Age he returned to those roots, sticking to the shadows, trailing a long cape Dracula himself would envy, sporting those spooky long bat-ears. It seemed comparatively logical, almost inevitable, that a night owl like Batman would occasionally encounter the supernatural as he prowled the dark streets of Gotham.

It also helped that Batman was, at his core, a non-believer. A trained scientist and detective, a man of reason, Bruce Wayne had no place in his ordered brain for the supernatural. As a hero who employed fear tactics himself, his first reaction to "monsters" was always "how can this be explained rationally, and why is someone perpetrating this hoax?" Over time, Batman would encounter ghosts, vampires, werewolves, haunted houses and once, perhaps even the devil himself. But somehow at the start of the next adventure we found him as skeptical as ever.

Like all kids, I was drawn to scary things, and Batman delivered.


This truly weird tale from Brave and the Bold #108 always stuck with me.

The whole premise is odd; Batman and Sgt. Rock on the trail of Adolph Hitler in the 70s! And it just got odder...Rock knows Bruce Wayne's secret identity, for one thing. Why? Because they'd worked a case together World War 2! Only Bruce hasn't aged a day, while Rock's an old man. And dig that crazy shot of Bruce Wayne smoking a pipe for the first time since the 40s! Throw in great art by Jim Aparo and you've got one of those wonderful little gems that used to come our way almost monthly in "the good old days."


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