By Jacobus Dixon

It was bad enough having to contend with Captain Marvel, but now Superman-DC (the nickname given to comics from National Allied Publications and Detective Comics Inc. as they unofficially merged) had to deal with Captain America as well. One was a living childhood fantasy; the other was a super-idealized form of what happens when you mix nationalism and super heroics. Yeah, Superman’s great, but he’s a grown up while Captain Marvel is actually still a kid doing amazing things. And it’s fun watching Batman and Robin take on the Joker with nothing but their manpower and wits, but Captain America is fighting the real threat of German spies. While both Batman and Superman are certainly not devoid of neither childhood fantasy nor real world danger (or at least as real as it gets in terms of comic book writing), those subjects did not feature as strongly in their stories. So how did they contend with characters that used them as a solid foundation?

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The way I’m writing this makes it sound like Batman and Superman were waning in popularity. They weren’t, they were still super popular and profitable, it’s just that Captain Marvel and Captain America were also popular and profitable. And Harry Donenfeld, like many businessmen, wanted to maintain his comfortable niche in the world of comic book magazines. Fortunately for him, children (which had become the demographic that comic companies had begun to target) aren’t that hard to impress. They like a good thing, but when that thing is double insanely they can’t help themselves (actually now that I think about it, so do most adults). Pairing Batman and Superman in the same magazine was that doubling down. The first time they had done this was in 1940’s issue 2 of the New York World’s Fair Comics. However with Captain America making monthly appearances in addition to Captain Marvel’s second title, Captain Marvel Adventures, Superman-DC needed these appearances to be more frequent. So the New York World’s Fair Comic was renamed World’s Finest Comics in June of 1941 and turned into a quarterly title.

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Now Superman and Batman were not the only characters featured in the mag. There was John Zatara the magician, there was Slam Bradley the private eye, and more. But this was the only magazine that had both Batman and Superman stories in the same issue. It was like getting ice cream with both caramel and chocolate on it. A reader just couldn’t say no to that. Superman, Batman, and Robin are featured prominently on these covers in poses that you would expect celebrities to strike in People or Life magazine. It’s almost as if they know they’re famous and their slightest appearance is enough to drive fans wild.

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However…it’s not enough to break the fourth wall by being aware of their celebrity. As it is with celebrities in general, the best shots of them are when they’re in the midst of casual and mundane activities. It drives fans wild with the idea of these immortal figures are doing the same stuff that they do. It establishes a connection. The fact that Superman, Batman, and Robin are playing baseball accomplishes this. It also gives a very American flavor to the leisure activities that they engage in. “Hey what do Superman, Batman, and Robin do for fun?” “Why, they play baseball, like all good American guys.” These are the best of what America has to offer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have a good time. And this image is iconic because it was the first to capture a moment of intimate leisure that would have readers like them like pals as well as admire them for their battles against criminals and injustice.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics.  Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.

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