In the parlance of comic book fandom, the Bronze Age is the period beginning just after the Silver Age (about 1970) and ending just before the "Modern Age" (1980 to the present).

For Batman, the Bronze Age began soon after the cancellation of the live-action TV show in 1969. Editors at DC were determined to banish the specter of "camp" and return the character to his origins as a shadowy, spooky figure. Beginning with Batman #217 and the story, "One Bullet Too Many," the clutter that had accumulated for decades was swept away for a fresh start. The Batcave and all its assorted bat-devices were locked up and left behind as Batman (now "The Batman") relocated to a penthouse apartment atop the towering Wayne Foundation in downtown Gotham. The highly stylized and gadget-laden Batmobiles of the past were replaced by a low-key sportscar with only a painted bat-head on the hood to suggest its owner's identity. It was rarely driven anyway, as Batman's new residence put him near the center of the action; usually he could simply leap from his apartment and swing on a rope to wherever he needed to go.

The Joker and the rest of the rogue's gallery were out of the picture, at least for a while. Even Robin was gone, Dick Grayson having been sent upstate to Hudson University where he had his own adventures in a series of back-up tales. Batman operated alone and relied on his wits, solving mysteries and fighting street thugs in back alleys. He had become again what he had been in the beginning; a lone wolf, a mysterious figure haunting Gotham by night and striking fear into the hearts of evil-doers.

Artwork on the Batman books underscored the change in direction. From the 40's through the 60's, Batman had been drawn wearing a cowl with short "bat-ears" and a calf-length cape. Now the ears were long and razor-sharp, and the cape wrapped around him like Dracula's. Depending on who was drawing, or what Batman was doing at the time, the cape could go down to his ankles or billow out behind him as large as a sail. The new Batman was rarely seen in daylight, keeping to the shadows and swooping down on criminals like a force of nature.

For kids of the was an exciting time. Batman was an alluring alternative to the all-powerful Superman or the flashy Marvel characters with their array of odd powers. He was down-to-earth, human, a fellow who survived, and excelled, on his wits and abilities...abilities we could aspire to even if we never crossed paths with a radioactive spider or gamma rays. And in the hands of artists like Neal Adams, Jim Aparo and Irv Novick, he was very close to being what those other guys could never be...real. My young eyes marvelled at the sight of Superman flying through a super-nova or the Hulk tossing around army tanks, but this guy Batman looked like a flesh-and-blood, living man in a spooky outfit.

But Batman had other incarnations in the Bronze Age, as well. Outside the comics, he appeared in the Saturday morning cartoon show, "The Super-Friends," smiling and friendly as he'd been in the old days. Meanwhile, the live-action series starring Adam West was airing in syndicated markets around the country, acquainting a whole new generation of kids with the likes of the Riddler and the Penguin and "Holy This" and "Holy That." It was this more kid-friendly Batman who dominated merchadising of the period; Mego gave us 8-inch action figures of the Dynamic Duo and their four most famous (TV) enemies, plus a Batmobile, Batcycle and playsets of the Batcave and the Wayne Foundation. Batman's image appeared on walkie-talkies, radios, bedsheets, t-shirts, alarm clocks and school supplies.

Then, as now, television and toys reached more people than comics. Youngsters attracted to Batman by these tie-ins must have been confused to encounter the Robin-less, spooky Darknight Detective then haunting the books. Perhaps as a result, Silver Age trappings began creeping back in. A flashy new convertible Batmobile appeared, looking suspiciously like the model driven on "The Super-Friends." The colorful villains of the 60's TV show were featured in more stories, and Robin came home from college a bit more often.

By the time the Bronze Age ended in 1979 a lot of the old clutter was back in place and as the 80s dawned it came racing back in full force. A new Robin arrived, and one-time lone wolf Bruce Wayne was a domesticated "dad" again with his new ward, Jason Todd. Long-running subplots dealt with corporate intrigues at the Wayne Foundation as well as Bruce/Batman's romances with Vicki Vale, Selina (Catwoman) Kyle and the sort-of villain Nocturna. One story followed Batman and Catwoman for a night on the town that ended with them sharing a plate of spaghetti like the Lady and the Tramp! Batman had lost his edge, and the stage was set for artist/writer Frank Miller to reboot the character once again with The Dark Knight Returns, a 1986 miniseries that reimagined Batman as an aging, embittered warrior in a very dark Gotham indeed. Although presented as merely a "possible future" for Batman, and not part of official continuity, DKR -- and the acclaim it received -- created a new blueprint for the character that's still followed today. Unlike the Bronze Age model, this new Batman is obsessive, frequently brutal, emotionally distant from the other "Bat-Family" characters and, as far as his fellow heroes are concerned, not entirely trustworthy, or even mentally sound.

For those of us lucky enough to grow up with him, the Bronze Age Batman was a true hero working for justice, not a nutjob looking for personal vengeance or trying to work out his inner demons. He was driven but not obsessed, heroic but not a goody-two-shoes, a loner but with a family of supporting players he didn't mind showing affection for. Bronze Age Batman was a master escape artist, a genius inventor, an accomplished martial artist and of course, "the world's greatest detective." But he was also a human being, someone who could be -- and sometimes was -- physically injured, emotionally involved and, at least temporarily, even outwitted. His victories came from hard work and persistence; he was the kind of guy you could look up to, not someone to pity or fear.

This site, then, is my dedication to the Batman of my childhood; the imaginative stories, the spooky art, the gloriously huge 100-page Super-Spectaculars and giant tabloids. And yes, the Super-Friends in all their goofy glory and those exciting live-action adventures of Adam West Batman that I raced home from school to watch every afternoon.

It's my hope that in this little corner of cyberspace, at least, the Bronze Age can live on.

- Nightwing of Kandor

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