The DC Comics Adventure Line!
In late 1975 issues of DC comics had the following full-page house ad:
“First DC gave you the World’s Greatest Super-heroes” and a line-up of some of their most-popular characters: Flash, Black Canary (an odd choice, but the line-up needed a hot blonde), Captain Marvel (another odd choice since his comic was about to go on hiatus for 1976 – but would soon be revived as a Saturday morning cartoon, hence his inclusion), Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (another odd choice as at the time he was relegated to Flash as a back-up feature) and Deadman (perhaps the strangest choice of all – his solo feature, although legendary, was long-since cancelled by then).
“Then DC introduced top quality mystery tales” and a line-up of characters from their horror line – the one genre DC can truly say they did better than Marvel (perhaps war titles, too, but Marvel didn’t release many war or horror comics that weren’t reprint titles by this time and you will ALWAYS get an argument from the more ardent Marvel zom-er-fans about ANY genre): Abel of House of Secrets, Mordred of The Witching Hour, The Phantom Stranger, Cain of House of Mystery, the Spectre, Eve of Secrets of Sinister House and Swamp Thing.
“NOW DC presents fantasy at its best in our all-new ADVENTURE line” and a rendering from each of the seven new comics available: Justice Inc., Claw, Tor, Stalker, Warlord, Beowulf, and Kong. “Now on sale in their own ACTION-PACKED magazines!”
These comics were published under the DC banner and weren’t really part of a “line” or “imprint” – a unique subspecies of comic from the same publisher. That sort of branding wouldn’t become popular for many years to come – Milestone, Epic, Vertigo, etc. Even the X-Men were given its own line of comics under the Marvel banner.
DC did do a branding of sorts in the next year or so with its DC/TV line – Superfriends, Isis, Shazam and Welcome Back Kotter all published with a variation of the DC logo in the upper left-hand corner to mark these comics as unique in the line-up. No such variation was seen in these so-called “Adventure Line” comics.
Only two characters that debuted under the Adventure Line had any staying power – that is, new adventures could still be found in comic books years after their debut: Warlord and Claw. The Avenger in Justice Inc is and always shall be a strange exception to the mix – his pulp adventures began when Superman was only “a year old” and Batman had only been around for four months (can you imagine if Batman only lasted for four issues as the Avenger did…). His comic book adventures have been published by various companies to this day (Dynamite’s Justice Inc is on the stands right now) and the odd inclusion of a gun-toting crime killer in a group of sword/spear/club-wielding Conan clones will be discussed in the blog reviewing those issues.
That’s not to put the line down. DC put their A-list talent on these comics. The credits read like a list of who’s who in comic-book-dom: Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, David Michelinie, Ernie Chan, Alfred Alcala, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, and of course Mike Grell. The stories and art were well done!
Oh at times there was garbage too, particularly with the last few issues of a run, but overall the quality was good to fair (sometimes great!) compared to other comics released at the time.
I’ve loved all these comics since their debut and I hope you enjoy the next seven blog posts reviewing them!
Original Material copyright 2015 Michael G Curry