13 COVERS: A CURT SWAN Birthday Celebration

Superman’s quintessential artist covers the Man of Steel — and the Caped Crusader…



For countless old-school comic book fans, Curt Swan’s Superman is their Superman. I count myself among that uncountable number, but if truth be told, I’m also a huge fan of Curt’s Batman.

I know, I know; it’s something of a controversial subject. You either love or hate a Swan Batman, but for me, I just dig it the most, and always have.

And so, in honor of his birthday – the late artist was born 102 years ago on Feb. 17, 1920 — I tripped down Memory Lane to a time in the late-1950s when Curt did a brief stint as cover artist for both Batman and Detective Comics and was reunited with 13 of my favorites.

And then of course there’re all those glorious Swan World’s Finest covers…

Detective Comics #247. I’m going to go chronological here, so this one’s up first. I dig this one for a few reasons: I was always fascinated by shots of Batman without his mask, and I am drawn to the homey feeling of a fireplace in the Batcave. Curt gets extra points for the bat-emblems on the andirons.

Stan Kaye inks

Detective Comics #259. So dynamic in its simplicity—you can really feel the heat off the villain. I wonder why Calendar Man didn’t just always choose this powerful guise?

Kaye inks

Batman #119. This comic and its cover will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s one of a very few that was handed down to me by my father from his own childhood. Plus, double Batman and a blond Robin!

Kaye inks

Batman #121. I first saw this cover in Batman: From the ’30s to the ’70s and thought it looked so cool. Who knew then that Lex Luthor was moonlighting as “Mr. Zero” in Gotham City when he got bored?

Kaye inks

Detective Comics #265. Another dynamic one. I think it lands on my list mostly for that large Robin, but the Batman shot is pretty cool, too.

Kaye inks

Batman #122. A Curt Swan Batwoman?!?! Yes, please!

Kaye inks

Detective Comics #267. A Curt Swan Bat-Mite?!?! Yes, please! More, please!

Kaye inks

Batman #125. I like everything about this cover; the layout, the figure of Batman, Bruce’s happy face, everything.

Kaye inks

Batman #127. Curt’s final Batman cover, and to celebrate he draws Thor about three years before some guys named Lee and Kirby ever thought to do it.

Kaye inks

World’s Finest Comics #142. All right, all right; here are the World’s Finest covers you’ve been waiting for! Not only is this my favorite Curt Swan cover of all, it’s also one of my most favorite comic stories of all — the debut of the amazingly cool Composite Superman, one of the few villains to ever defeat both heroes and nearly kill them.

George Klein inks

World’s Finest Comics #156. Look, Bizarro-Superman, Bizarro-Batman (!), and Silver Age Joker all drawn by Curt Swan? C’mon! What’s not to love here?

Sheldon Moldoff inks

World’s Finest Comics #168. By 1967, Curt was really breaking out of the somewhat staid layouts of old and going for a new 1960s swingin’ dynamism. I think this cover is a grand example of that. And it just so happens to be the second Composite Superman story (though they did their best to hide it).

Klein inks

World’s Finest Comics #169. Let’s add this all up: Superman? Check. Batman? Check. Batmobile? Check. Supergirl? Check. Batgirl? Checkity-check-check. The sum total is just about everything I like in Silver Age DC comics, and that it’s drawn by Curt Swan is the icing on the cake, chums.



— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite CURT SWAN Stories. Click here.

— A Salute to CURT SWAN: The Definitive SUPERMAN Artist. Click here.

Jim Beard has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.

Check out his latest releases, a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One, Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Thor, three years before Lee & Kirby? So Thor is yet another Marvel swipe from DC?

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      • Kirby did Thor stories before that one. He is, after all, in the public domain. and he has a cool hammer.

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  2. I’ve always loved Curt Swan’s Batman. I’ve long lamented the fact that he did not get to draw Batman for Detective or Batman comics during the Silver Age. I have a fondness for Sheldon Moldoff, but c’mon, Curt Swan would have been amazing drawing those crazy alien and robot stories! Looking at these covers, I realized that I owned every one of them. Although I didn’t think about it at the time, I must’ve been naturally attracted to those Curt Swan covers.

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  3. I like Swan’s Batman too, especially during the 50s, when the Kane house style was still in full effect. His illustrative version is a breath of fresh air, despite my love for the works of Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, etc.

    Swan would duplicate the general layout and action of the punching and punched figures on the cover of WF #168 on the Mego World’s Greatest Super Heroes Fist Fighter aciton figure packaging.

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  4. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. Had most all of those at one time. I miss when the comics were a bit more.. simple, I guess is the way to say it. Now everyone wants to make it a place to make social commentary over anything and everything. Be fun and entertain should be No. 1.

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  5. It’s uncanny how you read minds, Jim! You picked great examples of Swan’s work- ESPECIALLY the World’s Finest covers! I think George Klein’s inks complemented Swan’s pencils every bit as well as Murphy Anderson’s did a few years later.

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  6. Now that it was mentioned, Mr. Zero’s face does look like Lex Luthor.

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