Saturday, January 9, 2010

Even The Silliest Stories...

Can tell us something. Consider this tale:

Now of course the notion of anybody living in a glass house is rather absurd; there is the obvious problem of privacy. In the story, a crooked developer of steel houses is trying to drive his glass-house competitor out of business with thugs. Eventually the steel house is revealed as unsuitable as it attracts a lightning bolt, which causes devastation to the structure.

Crazy story, it's true. But it's reflective of its era, the immediate post-WWII period. After the war ended, there was a tremendous pent-up demand for housing. Very few new homes had been constructed during the Depression or the war years. Now all those servicemen had returned home from Europe and the Pacific, and they were getting married and having kids, sparking the great postwar baby boom. They needed housing, and developers rushed to fill that need. Levittown, and many more suburbs like it, sprang up all over the landscape.

You can say similar things about this story:

Most people snort at the idea of Ace, the Bathound, although as I mentioned here he was valuable enough that he appeared on many Batman and Detective covers of that era; surely more than any character other than Batman and Robin themselves. Why did Bathound arrive in June 1955?

Again, it reflected what was happening in society. During the depression, many people had moved to the big cities, where the few jobs that were available could be found. Now that suburbia had sprung up (and America experienced an era of greater prosperity), people began buying dogs for their kids. You can see signs of it all over pop culture, if you look hard enough. Not only did Superboy get his own dog a few months earlier (Krypto), but the long-running TV show Lassie began in 1954. Remember Old Yeller, the Disney tear-jerker? DC had a long-running comic entitled Rex, the Wonder Dog that lasted from for 46 issues from 1952-1959.

What about the plague of aliens that arrived during the Jack Schiff era? The 1950s were filled with reports of flying saucers, of alien invasions, with movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still, or The Blob, or Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. To a certain extent, I think this was caused by the expanding field of rocketry; as we began to look outward, we realized that other worlds might be doing the same thing.

A lot of these things look crazy or zany from our lofty perch in the 21st century. But they reflect their times.


  1. I think you have a typo in the 2nd-to-last paragraph; I don't remember a 50's horror movie called "The Blog" ;)

  2. I really liked this entry. Thank you.

    The post war era 1945-1955 is a fascinating and under appreciated era of cultural change.

  3. Good catch, Snard! The Blog is a 2000s horror movie, and I'm caught in it! ;)

  4. Maybe the plague of aliens should be called "the Donenfeld era" instead of "the Schiff era." Schiff later claimed that he fought the introduction of sci-fi in Batman, but was overruled by editorial director Irwin Donenfeld. But in fairness to Donenfeld, DC was in business to sell comics, and invaders from space seemed to be the popular fad at the time.