Just Look at This Unsung BATMAN Splash Page by DON NEWTON

A great way to pull you into a story…

Man, I dig a really great opening splash page, especially one that takes you by surprise.

Case in point: 1980’s Detective Comics #494, with a riveting first shot by Don Newton (with Bob Smith inks):

There’s just so much to take in here: The Batmobile is virtually flying through the rain-soaked streets, so Batman is already firing on all cylinders. The Batsignal flashes brightly against the dark sky. If you’re familiar with New York City, the cityscape feels an awful lot like the East Village, with its low-rise buildings and rare Manhattan gas station.

But what really makes it are the neon lights — the faux Admiral TV ad, the obscured billboards for Sony and Toyota, the hotel and bar signs. That sense of place is so important to any story, but especially Batman in Gotham City in the pre-Anton Furst days when the Darknight Detective’s home turf was more clearly an NYC analogue, even if the geography was intentionally jumbled. (Side note: The white Batman logo in the upper right is darn nifty, too.)

It’s a great way to start a comic, especially when you consider that the title promises not the Joker or Two-Face but obscure Z-Lister the Crime Doctor.

Check out the cover as a contrast:

That’s a Jim Aparo joint. Now, I’m a big Aparo fan but it’s entirely fair to call this cover routine. It’s perfectly fine but it doesn’t scream “buy me.” On the other hand, when you turn the page, you get what amounts to a second cover howling, “READ ME — even if this is about the Crime Doctor!”

By the way, this is also a case where the remastered version is very nice but the original newsprint clearly enhances the feel of the image:

So, if you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes you can by its splash page. Because this also happens to be a zippy little yarn by Michael Fleisher.


— Just Look at This Unsung BATMAN Splash Page by JOE STATON. Click here.

— 13 SPLASH PAGES: A DON NEWTON Birthday Celebration. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I’m a huge Don Newton fan. I think he’s one of the greatest unsung Batman artists of all time….thank you so much for shining a much deserved spotlight on him.

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    • Dan, Thanks for a great Don Newton item. I became a fan of his spectacular work on Charlton’s Phantom, and remember feeling thrilled when he moved over to DC and Batman. I believe I recall reading that he was a high school teacher during his Charlton days, and (understandably) kept his art gig a secret. His work gave me much delight, and I appreciate your highlighting this great splash! Alan

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  2. Interesting that it’s mistakenly credited to “Dan” Newton instead of “Don” and apparently it was never fixed.

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  3. Love Don Newton’s work. I was crushed when I read Dick Giordano’s Meanwhile announcing his passing. The first time I know of a creator I was a fan of passing on.

    I know at some point, Dick Sprang praised Newton’s Batman. Accolades from one master to another.

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  4. DETECTIVE COMICS #494 has a special place in my heart. The dollar size comics were not available in my small town drug store. Went to the big city 25 miles away and we stopped at this little plaza with a BEN FRANKLIN store and a Drug Store that did have the bigger size comics.
    494 was the first Detective Comics I ever bought. And the art by Don Newton was thrilling.
    I was able to talk my parents to stop there again a few weeks later and was able snagged Detective Comics #495 and World’s Finest Comics #265.

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