The period 1964 – 1967 had a few distinct influences, which worked their way into a variety of DC books at the time.
The one whose name inspired my title for the section was Batman. I use the change to the New Look Batman as my starting point. The character was given a major renovation, complete with a new costume and new Batmobile. Robin was aged a few years, Alfred was killed off and replaced by Aunt Harriet. There was a solid attempt to make Batman a serious detective again, and most of his goofier villains were jettisoned.
Unfortunately, this whole movement got derailed by its own success. The New Look Batman drew the attention of Hollywood, and the Batman tv series went into production. From moving back towards being the “dark knight,” before this period was over Batman got far sillier than it had been before.
Many other heroes jumped on the New Look, so far as costumes went. Rip Hunter, Time Master and his crew had already adopted matching uniforms, but new garb would be in the offing for the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils, and the Blackhawks. And the two trends, towards more serious tales, followed by over the top absurdity, flowed through the various books as well.
The other major influence during this time was James Bond. The whole spy game, with gimmicks and gadgets, as well as criminal organizations with acronymic names, popped up in many different titles. Hawkman would fight C.A.W., Aquaman faced O.G.R.E., and even Jimmy Olsen became Agent Double 5. DC’s old Cold War spy, King Faraday, made a return as well, but it was a brief, half hearted effort.
The Superman books did not fare so well during this time. There were some enjoyable stories along the way, such as the Superman/Flash race, but by and large the tales in Action, Jimmy Olsen, Adventure, Lois Lane, Superboy and Superman pale in comparison to the years before. The major exception was the Legion of Super-Heroes strip, which would build its own exciting universe.
Wonder Woman had her own ups and downs during these years. She would get her own sort of New Look, although it would be an attempt to bring back the character to the Golden Age. It didn’t work too well.
A number of heroes from the Justice Society of America would get featured, either in pairs or solo tales, and the Spectre would be launched into the first ongoing book set on Earth-2. And stalwart teams such as the Metal Men and Doom Patrol would be joined by the Teen Titans.
While Justice League heroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman, and the Martian Manhunter continued to appear, most of the new heroes from this time reached into the realm of the unusual. Metamorpho, Animal Man, Immortal Man and the Enchantress, as well as Robbie Reed, who would Dial H for Hero, all made their debuts in these years.
While Sgt. Rock and the Haunted Tank rode out the period in their World War 2 adventures, other war features did not fare so well. Johnny Cloud and Gunner and Sarge would lose their strips, and some new ones, such as Captain Storm, Fighting Devil Dog and Captain Hunter would have short runs. Two strips dealing with World War 1 fighters would debut. Balloon Buster starred an American, but Enemy Ace broke the mold by featuring a German pilot as the star.
While Space Ranger and Adam Strange fell by the wayside, weirdness hit the science fiction books as well, with the debuts of the Green Glob, Automan and Ultra, the Multi-Alien.
I cut this period off right at the end of 1967, just before the debut of Deadman. The next era, which I call “It’s a Happening!” featured a number of short lived books with a sort of hippie flavour, as well as a strong trend towards horror stories.