The pop art origins of Poison Ivy in Batman #181, up for auction

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The connection between the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and comic books has long been a controversial issue. Both Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol appropriated the art of comics for their own work. Warhol went further in some respects, with his unauthorized 1964 experimental film batman dracula, and his infamous 1966 photo shoot of himself and Nico as Batman and Robin. But it’s little discussed that comic book creators were aware of the phenomenon as it unfolded and sometimes reacted to it in various ways. This was the case for the debut of Poison Ivy in a story written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Sheldon Moldoff for Batman #181. The first appearance of a long time popular character who has seen that popularity increase even more lately due to his connection with Harley Quinn, there is an affordable copy of Batman #181 (DC, 1966) CGC GD- 1.8 Off-White to White Pages Auctioned This Week February 6-7, 2022 Sunday & Monday Comics Select Auction #122206 from Heritage Auctions.

Inside page of Batman #181 featuring Poison Ivy, DC Comics 1966.

While the character may be partly inspired by the 1844 Nathaniel Hawthorne story Rappaccini’s daughterit also has contemporary origins from its debut in 1966 in Batman #181. The story opens with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson attending “a sensational Pop Art spectacle”. Robert Kanigher was well aware of these shows, having attended the premiere of Roy Lichtenstein Leo Castelli Gallery exhibited at Lichtenstein’s invitation in 1962. But the thing that catches Bruce and Dick’s eye at the exhibit seems more inspired by an Andy Warhol phenomenon of the time. The couple notice the portraits of the three “public enemies” of the moment, who are, in Bruce’s words, “three of the most beautiful women in the world – and the deadliest”. To the delight of the assembled paparazzi, Poison Ivy bursts into the gallery to proclaim that she deserves the top spot on this list, and it’s only a lack of publicity that keeps her from doing so.

This opening scene appears to be inspired by Andy Warhol’s concept of “superstars,” which had begun to attract mainstream media attention the year before. It’s also perhaps no coincidence that Warhol and Nico (who was one of those superstars) did their Batman-inspired photoshoot that same year. The comic book inspirations (and even the Batman inspirations in particular) of the Pop Art movement were certainly no secret at this time, and it seems possible that Kanigher decided that a small twist was fair game in the case. of this story. An important key to DC Comics whose star has risen dramatically in recent times, there is a Batman #181 (DC, 1966) CGC GD- 1.8 Off-White to White Pages Auctioned This Week February 6-7, 2022 Sunday & Monday Comics Select Auction #122206 from Heritage Auctions.

Batman #181 featuring the first appearance of Poison Ivy, (DC, 1966)
Batman #181 featuring the first appearance of Poison Ivy, (DC, 1966)

Batman #181 (DC, 1966) CGC GD- 1.8 Off-white to white pages. First appearance of Poison Ivy. Includes Batman and Robin. Cover of Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson and centerfold pin-up. Sheldon Moldoff, Joe Giella and Sid Greene. CGC notes, “Cover detached.” Overstreet 2021 GD 2.0 value = $136. CGC 1/22 census: 26 in 1.8, 2116 more.

View certification for CGC Certification ID 1974513010 and purchase evaluator notes if available.

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Posted in: Comics, Sponsored by Heritage, Vintage Paper | Tagged: batman, dc comics, poison ivy, silver age

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