Batman: The War Years 1939 – 1945
How long have you been reading Batman comics? 20 years? 30? Heck I can say with all seriousness that I’ve read the Caped Crusader’s adventures for about 40 years and that’s still not as impressive as the actual span of time these stories exist in.
May of 1939 saw if not the first then definitely the most well-known superhero the world would ever know. And if you’ve read his exploits for most of your life, as I have, you’d notice that he’s undergone many changes. The costume gets altered many times, he gains and loses allies and friends, heck he’s even died a few times, but one thing remains the same. Throughout all those years he has been and still is “The World’s Greatest Detective.”
The US Waited
When I received Batman: The War Years 1939 – 1945 I was blown away. This coffee-table sized, hefty tome, clocking in at 304 pages gives us 20 full length adventures and a slew of covers detailing six years of Batman and his involvement in WWII. Like the United States DC comics stayed out of the early days of WWII. As Hitler and Mussolini gobbled up Europe and Japan attacked China the US waited. Having given so much to Europe only 20 some years before in WWI it was felt by many that our involvement was not a good idea. But during that time the entertainment of the day began to include more spies, saboteurs, and other war-time motifs. And Batman was no different. Having been a gritty crime book since it’s inception dark and pulp stories were Batman’s stock in trade. By issue 33 of Detective Comics (November 1939) Batman would take on an interesting amalgamation of the Axis leaders and then in issue 37 (March ’40) the bad guys were “foreign agents”, though no country was specified it was obvious where the tone was leading.
Defending the Populace
And even in April of 1940 when the introduced Robin and a lighter tone, with wisecracks thrown between the two during fight scenes, talk of war would creep into the pages. Villains using radioactivity and stealing war-related items all, in retrospect, leading up to that fateful day in 1941 when after the Japanese bombed the US at Pearl Harbor the nation would enter its second world war.
Batman didn’t serve overseas like Sgt. Rock or Captain America but he did keep the home fires burning “defending the populace and war industries from Axis agents” along with several other DC characters. And as the war developed DC was more than happy to write stories with our actual enemies as the villains.
A History Lesson
Throughout the war Batman would lend his covers and stories to the war effort and though now that would seem hokey or “too political” it was a different time. Pre-Vietnam pre-Watergate our country looked at its government differently, and though there were still divisive issues, involvement in the war being one of them the nation stood together and looked outward. When you read a book like this, when you see how seemingly innocent and pure everything seemed it makes you pine for an era most of us have no real memories of. I like this Batman, I like the way he took on trouble head on, with a wisecrack or two. And I love what author Roy Thomas and Chartwell Books bring us in Batman: The War Years 1939 – 1945. It’s a history lesson not only of comics but of a nation.
Batman: The War Years 1939 – 1945
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Chartwell Books (October 8, 2015)
There are two other titles in this series available from Chartwell books: Superman: The War Years and Wonder Woman The War Years. Look for all three in your local comic shop, on Amazon, and in your local bookstore.
About the author:
Roy Thomas became writer/assistant editor for Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in 1965 after a very brief stint as assistant editor of DC’s Superman titles. From 1965-1980 and/or during the 1990s he wrote for Marvel The Avengers, The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Sub-Mariner, Avengers West Coast, The Amazing Spider-Man, et al.–including The Invaders, a comic which spun near WWII-period adventures of Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner. In the ’70s he was the first writer and editor of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian, The Savage Sword of Conan, and Red Sonja, whom he again authored in the 1990s. At DC Comics in the 1980s he wrote All-Star Squadron (a super-hero comic set in 1941-42), Shazam!, Secret Origins (retelling WWII-era origins of DC’s heroes), Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, and other top series. He served as a Marvel editor from 1965-80, as Marvel’s editor-in-chief from 1972-74, and as a DC editor from 1980-86.
Since 1999 he has edited a professional Alter Ego magazine (130 issues so far and counting) and has worked with Stan Lee on the scripting of the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip. He currently also writes online strips of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.. For the German publisher Taschen he has written the humongous book 75 Years of Marvel: From Golden Age to Silver Screen, (released in late 2014) and is also writing an equally huge book about Marvel’s Stan Lee. Besides winning numerous other fan and pro awards in the comics field over the years, he was elected to comics’ Eisner Hall of Fame at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con.