Batman Vol. 1 #251, 1973, DC Comics, Cover by Neal Adams.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, with this BONUS edition from the Seventies, a decade when squeaky spinner racks were full of comics costing 20-25 cents, and were still printed on cheap, pulp paper that yellowed with age (but with that great comic book smell!).
Why a BONUS edition? Because this Retro Cover is also a featured DC Comics Facsimile Edition releasing this week.
Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams were at the end of their successful collaboration to return Batman to his dread detective roots, leaving the increasingly ridiculous and poor-selling Camp Crusader of the 1950s and 1960s behind. Both DC and the creative team had resisted creating stories about the Joker and other colorful Batman villains for years, thinking they needed more time and distance from the previously lightweight and goofy stories, and driven by O'Neil and Adams' desire to bring more grounded storylines and gravitas to a character that had been in real danger of cancellation in the mid-1960s.
In addition to this being the Joker’s first appearance in comics in years, it was also the last full-length Silver Age Batman story penciled and inked by Neal Adams. It is considered one of the best, if not the best Batman/Joker stories in comics history.
The cover design features a metaphorically large Joker towering over Gotham (actually a realistic rendition of a New York City streetscape), a graphic device used often in comics and by Adams (see Detective Comics #400).
Adams uses a dramatic angle to create tension, and expert foreshortening of the anatomy on the Joker’s arms and hands to push the captive Batman out towards the reader, as effective an approach to 3D as you can get without the funny glasses.
Out of all the iconic covers Adams created for issues of Batman and Detective Comics, Batman #251 has become his most recognized, if only because of how much it is still being marketed on t-shirts, enlarged plaques, posters, puzzles, etc. …and now to a new generation of readers as DC’s latest Facsimile Edition, on sale Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at a cover price of $3.99.