Ghosts #48

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

 #2

Ghosts #48

ghosts 47

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Only the most ardent Marvel zombie would refuse to admit that of all the possible comic book genres published by both DC and Marvel, DC at least led in the horror division. Marvel published many a horror title, but with a few exceptions, they featured reprints from the 1950s and early 1960s. Most comics of their line rarely lasted over a year.

            DC’s horror titles featured new stories with rare exceptions. Ghosts differed even from the DC fare in two ways: until its last few issues it did not have a “host” introducing the stories or otherwise having a framing segment to introduce and finish a tale (other than text boxes on the first and last panels) and until issue #75 (April 1979), it claimed its stories were true!

            Ghosts was published from September-October 1971 until issue #112 (May 1982). (Boy is my spell-checker going berserk over the first two words of that last sentence…).

            Neither the Grand Comics Database nor the DC Comics Database state who did the cover or wrote any of the stories…

 ***

Showdown with a Specter”, Terry Hensen (a)

            In 1968 Villem Kruger and his family visit his grandfather’s diamond mine abandoned decades before. When Villem moves away stones blocking the mine – he releases the ghost of a worker killed in the mine. The ghost vows to destroy the descendant of the evil Kruger. Villem’s son Jon offers to take the place of his father for the ghost’s revenge.

            The ghost explains he cannot take Jon’s life as he was adopted and not a descendant of Grandfather Piet Kruger . As the father of an adopted child I am rather irked by this…

            The ghost decides since Villem adopted a child and raised him with so much love that the child was willing to sacrifice himself for his father, Villem does not have the evil that was in his grandfather and spares the family. As the father of an adopted child the ghost redeemed himself from his narrow-minded statement from the paragraph before…

 ***

The Phantom Head”, Buddy Gernale (a)

            July 1505: Michelangelo is haunted by a floating head – every painting and sculpture he tries to complete has the head of the ghost. If he does not complete the portrait of Cesara Borgia by the end of the week, Borgia will likely take Michelangelo’s head! Even the pope cannot help!

            The ghost stops visiting Michelangelo after his disappointing visit to the pope and all is well.

            The painting of the floating head is found 288 years later and identified as the head of King Louis XVI, who was decapitated during the Revolution!

 ***

The Girl Who Inherited a Ghost”, Gene Ureta (a)

            In France in April 1957, the mother of painter Gaston Poulard is angry at him for marrying Californian Becky. Rightly so – Becky is a gold digger who is after the mother’s fortune! Becky stands by during the mother’s fatal heart attack; holding the mother’s heart medicine. The mother’s ghost haunts Becky – throwing plates at her and chasing her through the house!

            Mrs. Poulard sends a letter to a ghost hunter, Henry Thorson-Jones (they don’t call him a ghost hunter per se, but you know …) to rid the house of the intruder. The ghost tricks the hunter into pushing Becky down the staircase, killing her. Thorson-Jones discovers the letter sent by Mrs. Poulard was NOT his wife, but his mother – written and mailed after her death. The intruder written about in the letter … was Becky!

 

Text feature: The Jigsaw Ghosts. Written (presumably) by Murray Boltinoff.

            Guests at a resort in northern Britain in 1904 see the top half of a woman floating through their room. The servants see the bottom half of the woman walking through their quarters. It seems a prior owner chopped his wife in half, and …

            In 1923, a visiting minister wakes to find a disembodied girl’s hand tugging on his. Later he discovers the prior owner chopped off his daughter’s hand and hid her body in the wall of that room…

            New owners of a Providence, Rhode Island home in 1960 heard footsteps in a sealed-off section of their home. Opening the unused room revealed fresh footprints leading to a chest. Inside the chest were the prior owner’s last will and testament and a pair of boots – whose footprints fit exactly with the fresh prints on the floor …

            This text feature was in the place of a letter column.

 

 Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

             Images used are copyright their respective holders and and reproduced here under the “fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

 

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Our Army at War #294

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#1

Our Army At War #294

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_294

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Our Army At War premiered in August of 1952 and lasted 302 issues until February 1977 when the title was changed to Sgt. Rock to reflect the popularity of its main character. Sgt. Rock would last until July 1988 with issue #422.

            Our Army At War is known for its main character, Sgt. Frank Rock of Easy Company. Although a character nicknamed “The Rock” debuted in GI Combat, Sgt. Rock as we know him debuted in this comic in 1959. He was created by Robert Kanigher.

            Easy Company was the unnumbered regiment he commanded. It saw action in every European theater. Easy contained African-American members – an anachronism for more enlightened times. Some members were given nicknames such as Bulldozer (the second-in-command), Wildman, Jackie Johnson, Little Sure Shot, Ice Cream Soldier and Four Eyes.

            Our Army At War also earns its place in comic book history for the first appearance of Enemy Ace in #151 (February 1965) – the flying ace of WWI who proved very popular as an anti-hero.

            But by July 1976 the Enemy Ace feature was gone and Sgt. Rock and Easy Company dominated the comic.

***

“A Coffin for Easy”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), F. Redondo (a)

            Easy Company runs out of ammunition and prepares to face a troop of Nazis with bayonets. Monks in a hearse drawn by two horses approach – it is Mlle. Marie and her brother Jules, who bring ammunition in the coffin!

            Mlle. Marie, Rock and Easy fight off the Nazis. Rock reveals their mission – find and destroy the secret oil pipeline in the village of Aix. This is the village in which Mlle. Marie’s brother Jules lives! Her brother is a … er … brother in Aix’s church.

            While searching the church, Rock finds the oil pipeline following an underground river. Jules rings the church bells to warn the villagers to evacuate before Easy detonates the explosions. The Nazis investigate and Jules is killed in the battle.

            Rock, Easy and Mlle. Marie make it to the hills as the pipeline explodes, collapsing the village in the river and killing off the Nazis stationed there. The church bells ring one last time as if to honor Jules’ sacrifice.

***

Bob Kanigher’s Gallery of War: “A Pair of Boots”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a).

            Near Warsaw, Pvt. Fritz Vorst Wermacht-is issued boots that are too painful for his feet. He stops to eat and shoos away two cardinals trying to eat his crumbs. He kills a Polish officer and steals his soft leather boots. He tries to assault a village girl and kills her when she tries to run away. He is killed hiding in a farmhouse during a mortar barrage. The two cardinals he shooed away nest in his empty boots (boots, shoos, get it?).

 

 

Take Ten (Letter page): comments for OAAW #289. Walter Green of Wading River, NY (positive), Terry Chadwick of Phoenix, AZ (positive), Wade Sears of Calgary, Alberta (mostly positive, but critical of the lack of Commonwealth soldiers – UK, Canada, Australian, etc. and questioning the accuracy of Nazi tank tactics.), James Parker of Clarksville, TN (negative – questioning the time setting of the story in #289 being only 8 months before the end of the war. The editor explains that the stories depicted are not chronological) and Robert LaChine of Chicago, IL (negative). E. Nelson Bridwell answered the letters.

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

            Images used are copyright their respective holders and and reproduced here under the “fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

 

DC Comics advertisements (July/August 1976)

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

Part Three: But First, a Word from Our Sponsor…

 

            There have been ads in comic books as long as there have been comic books. Some of the ads have become part of our pop culture – more memorable than most of the comic book characters themselves. Sea Monkeys, anyone?

seamonkeyscomicad

            During my prime-time comic reading, I quaked in fear at the Deadliest Man Alive – Count Dante’! 

Count Dante

             I wanted X-Ray Specs and to learn to throw my voice and go on the Tilt-A-Whirl at Palisades Park (free admission with my Superman coupon) and to win valuable prizes selling Christmas cards and what the hell is Grit?

            The 33 DC comics with the Bicentennial heading contained either 32 pages or 48 pages – not counting the covers (which would add four more pages). Counting those four, all the comics contained 17 pages of the same ads. They might not appear in the same places – an ad from page 12 of one comic would be on page 23 of another – and some reprint titles would have house ads at the bottom third of the page ending a chapter or a story. I will tell you about those variations when I talk about the specific issues. But otherwise the ads were all the same. The centerfold (the middle four pages) of the 32-page comics were all ads, which was traditional for DC at the time.

            I’ll use the first Bicentennial Comic – Our Army At War #294 as the template.

            Inside front cover: Hostess Cupcake ad: “Superman Saves the Earth” – there are websites dedicated to these classic Hostess ads. DC, Marvel, Harvey and Archie comics had dozens of them featuring every popular character you can think of – the Joker starred in three, Josie of “…and the Pussycats” fame? 19! This one is typical – aliens meet to discuss the fate of the earth. Because it is so primitive and backward, humanity must be destroyed! Superman takes the aliens to a grocery store and introduces them to Hostess Cupcakes. The aliens love the cupcakes and spare the earth (the aliens are obviously of great intellect – in this writer’s opinion the original Hostess Cupcakes are tangible proof of the existence of God…). A species that can create such spongy cake and creamy filling deserves a chance! Whew … good thing the aliens decided this in 1976 and not after Hostess went bankrupt … we’d be doomed!

superman saves the earth

            A few DC Comics exchange this Superman ad with one starring the Joker called “The Cornered Clown”. He is trapped in a building cordoned off by the police. He tosses them Hostess Fruit Pies to distract them as he escapes out the back. Despite such tasty treats, the police are not fooled and are waiting to arrest him. Now if he had only thrown glazed doughnuts he might have succeeded. I will let you know which comics feature the Superman ad and which feature the Joker ad.

cornered clown

            Page 5: a full-page ad for Charms Blow Pops.

            Page 6: two half-page ads for selling social security plates (checkbook-sized holders with your number and an American eagle emblazed above it) – this was before identity theft was prevalent, obviously; and an ad for Slim Jims.

            Page 11: a full-page ad for Grit. Grit is still around, you know. It’s not a newspaper anymore; it’s a glossy magazine, but still around. Did anyone out there sell Grit for big money and prizes?

            Page 12: a full-page DC house ad for its latest tabloid-sized Limited Collector’s Edition comics C46 (Justice League of America) and C47 (Superman Salutes the Bicentennial) – see Part Two – the Leftovers for more about these comics.

limited collectors ad

            Page 15: two half-page ads selling Isokinetics (an exercise technique – are they implying that readers of comic books are out of shape? Well, we ARE, but I resent the implication…) and another ad for the social security decorative plates/holders from page 6.

            Page 16: a full-page ad for NCG Merchandise’s comic book binders.

            Page 17: a full-page ad for Action Lure to catch more and bigger fish (comic book fans fish? Really?)

            Page 18: a full page of house ads – a half-page ad for the Amazing World of DC Comics #11 (the Super-Villains issue – I have this one!) and a half-page DC Comics subscription form

            Page 21: a full-page ad from the US School of Music – a self-taught guitar program

            Page 22: a half-page ad for New American Physique and a half page of 10 S. Schwarz & Company ads of various sizes: learn vehicle decor customizing, hobby coin company sales, Universal Inc. muscle growing technique, custom bicentennial t-shirts for sale, Jack Hunt (comic book back issues), the famous X-Ray Specs, Estell (comic book back issues), Abracadabra Magic Tricks, Debt Relief solutions, and Discount Comics (comic book back issues).

            Page 23: a full page public service ad for Justice For All Includes Children. This is #5 of the series. Superman instructs children on their rights and duties as citizens. Here he advises the kids not to crash a party. Trespassing is illegal and could be dangerous!

Justice for all includes children, 5

            Page 27: a full-page ad for “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” reproduced in Part One of this series.

            Page 28: 14 ads from S. Schwarz & Company of varying sizes: “Space 1999” models for sale, learn karate, Robert Bill (comic book back issues), Richard Alt (comic book back issues), Pacific Comics (comic book back issues), weight lifting techniques, stamps for sale, Howard Rogofsky (comic book back issues), muscle building techniques, baseball card holders (called “lockers” – now we would call them deck holders), CCCBA (comic book back issues), techniques to grow taller, live seahorses for sale, and then several small ads designed as “classified newspaper” ads for: earning money stuffing envelopes, selling t-shirt iron-on decals, secret agent pens for sale, gliders for sale, earn money addressing and mailing envelopes.

            Page 32:  a full-page ad for muscle building (from the same company as one of the smaller ads on page 28).

            Inside front cover: a full-page ad for Monogram flying airplanes.

monogram

            Back cover: Spalding gloves (with as-always-excellent Jack Davis art!)

spalding

***

            Eyes spinning yet? I haven’t even begun to review the 33 comics yet! I’ll start with #1: Our Army At War #294…

             All comic covers, advertising, characters and images are the property of their respective copyright holders and reprinted here for your entertainment and review under the Fair Use Doctrine as commentary, criticism and … sometimes … parody.

            Keep in mind the actual creators probably only received a fraction of their creative worth at the time of their creation … but that is a whole other story …

 

Original Material Copyright 2015 Michael G Curry

DC Salutes the Bicentennial (part two)

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

Part Two: The Leftovers

 

            Collect 25 of 33 DC comic book headings with the special Bicentennial cover and a free Superman belt buckle will be yours all yours!

            Even back then I wasn’t too thrilled to get the belt buckle. But the comics? They, not the buckle, were the goal.

            These were comics cover dated July and August 1976, which meant they were released in April or May of that year.

            At my count there were 48 series released by DC those months. Earlier in 1976 DC cancelled some series that I loved (like Phantom Stranger and Stalker) and that fall they would release an explosion (I know, I know, I was uncomfortable using the words “DC” and “explosion” in the same sentence…) of titles – some of which sound familiar even to casual or modern fans (Welcome Back Kotter, Isis, Starfire, Superfriends, Ragman and the revival of Green Lantern). Warlord started its classic run in February 1976 but took a hiatus during the summer and was brought back that fall. Shazam and House of Secrets both released issues in March and then September – a six-month hiatus. Young Love had them all beat – releasing an issue that January and not another until December of 1976.

            In July and August (I will hereafter use the cover dates), along with regular-size comic books DC also released three of their Limited Collector’s Editions. These were large-size comics (tabloid-size: a regular comic unfolded and turned on its side). At that point these comics featured all reprints. They were #45 (Secret Origins Super-Villains), 46 (Justice League) & 47 (Superman Salutes the Bicentennial). #47 was particularly notorious for featuring Superman only on the cover. The interior stories featured reprints of the Revolutionary War character Tomahawk.

            In July 1976 DC released Amazing World of DC Comics #12, a “fanzine” featuring interviews and coming attractions. This issue focused on science fiction-ish comics (Green Lantern, the Legion, Earth After-Disaster, etc.) and featured a nifty Mike Grell cover.

Amazing_World_of_DC_Comics_Vol_1_12

            DC also released Charlton Bullseye #5 in July with art by Alex Toth and John Byrne (in separate stories), but it wasn’t really part of the DC pantheon. It being ignored made some sense. But still – why not? I guess they wanted to make collecting the headings easier, not harder.

            These larger comics and fanzines were harder to find for the average kid and I understand why DC did not include them in the 33.

            But why not the others? Why didn’t every issue of the line feature the Bicentennial heading? No amount of my internet trolling can find the answer. Does anyone know?

            It’s not because the issues missed were too expensive. Yes, some were fifty cents, but so were some of the 33. Some of the comics left out weren’t exactly the best-sellers, but neither were some of the 33.  Sales may have had a bigger impact than I let on – some of the comics left off the list were real stinkers.

            Which July and August 1976 DC comics did not have the Bicentennial heading?

            Swamp Thing #23. This was the last issue of this iconic series. It was also the first issue I owned of Swampy’s adventures, ironically. It ended on a cliffhanger and Hawkman was touted to appear in #24, and even mentioned on DC’s “Daily Planet” – a one-page house ad made to look like a newspaper hyping upcoming issues. The cover and some page lay-outs of issue #24 can be found online. Is the complete story somewhere in DC’s dark basement?

sw24

            Witching Hour #64. Only the most die-hard Marvel troll would disagree that, although Marvel frequently out-did DC in the superhero department, DC did some fine horror-titles. Still, this was one of their lowest sellers.

            Flash #243. What!? Flash was third only to Superman and Batman back then – the concept of a “trilogy” with Wonder Woman was a modern-era creation – a poll of Justice League members in the late 1970s didn’t even place her in the top five. Why wasn’t Flash given a Bicentennial heading? Sure, it wasn’t their best selling comic, but … Flash no, Plop yes? Wha…?

            Perhaps it was because of DC Super Stars #5. It had a bicentennial cover and featured Flash reprints. Too much of the Scarlet Speedster, perhaps?

            Kobra #3. This was a great series, but sold dismally for its seven issues despite a unique premise (especially for DC) – twin brothers who shared a telepathic link. Injure one, the other feels it. Too bad one of them is the leader of a murderous cult bent on world domination. Great pulpy fun!

            DC Special #22. New stories of the Three Musketeers and reprints of Robin Hood from Brave & Bold.

            Star-Spangled War Stories #200.  Another baffling omission. Our Fighting Forces gets a Bicentennial banner but not SSWS? Featuring the Unknown Soldier, this book focused more on WWII spy thrillers than DC’s other war books (another genre at which DC arguably excelled over Marvel). The Unknown Soldier was (in my opinion, if not sales) second only to Sgt. Rock, with the Haunted Tank a close third (it was actually the other way around – Rock, then the Tank, then the Unknown Soldier).

            And the July 1976 issue was #200! Two. Hundred. Captain America #200 was published in August of 1976 and Marvel milked that for all it was worth.

            This issue featured not only the Unknown Soldier but also Enemy Ace.

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

            Did its letter column even mention the wonderful synergy of cover date/issue number and content (what a better way to celebrate America’s birthday than by watching the Unknown Soldier cold-cock a Nazi on a moving train)? Boy did DC drop the ball on THIS one…

            Super-Team Family #5. Part of the “family” series of books – this one featured reprints of teams and team-ups with a few new tales scattered about. Soon they would change format to feature new tales of the Challengers of the Unknown. Later they would change formats again to feature new team-ups – the first four issues of the new format focusing on the Atom’s hunt for his kidnapped wife. An excellent story arc that needs to be gathered into a trade paperback! Issue #5 features all reprints, including the Batman-Eclipso team-up from Brave & Bold.

            Hercules Unbound #5. DC’s version of the man-god awoke after centuries to Earth-After-Disaster. Later issues had superb art by Walter Simonson.

            Metal Men #46. A series long past its prime that would limp along for another year or so, although I thoroughly enjoyed its last two years of issues. They featured Walt Simonson covers and interiors, with some interiors by current Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton and covers by legendary Jim Aparo.

            Plastic Man #13. Plas was originally a character with Quality Comics during the Golden Age and purchased by DC along with the Blackhawk, GI Combat, the heroes who would eventually become the Freedom Fighters, etc. Plas’ first DC comic lasted ten issues in the 1960s and this revival (beginning with issue #11) also lasted ten issues – folding in 1977. Great art by Ramona Fradon throughout this second run. This issue was written by Steve Skeates!

            Superman Family #177. All right, enough! They left out a Superman book. A. Superman. Book! With sales flagging, the Superman division of National combined three of their books – Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane and Supergirl into one book rotating the three stars. A new story for one of the stars and reprints for the other two. Of all the “family” books this was the most successful – publishing into the 1980s. 

            Wonder Woman #224. The (still) beautiful Lynda Carter-starring TV show was a big hit at this time, but despite that, until the mid-1980s, the Wonder Woman book was always a bit of a sales bomb – middling at best. National tried to boost her sales – just years before they stripped her of her superpowers and turned her into more Diana Riggs than Diana Prince, and in later years there were excellent stories featuring art by the legendary Gene Colon (in the issues before #300). But despite low sales they kept the series going so they wouldn’t lose their copyright on the character. DC eventually bought the character outright in the late 1980s which was also when her fortunes started to turn and the character become the iconic powerhouse it is now. Coincidence? Um, sure… Anyway, this issue features art by Curt Swan, doing a rare non-Superman-related title. The next issue is of more interest – Wonder Woman fights off “black lightning” on the cover. Not the inspiration for Tony Isabella’a character debuting within a year, but an interesting coincidence.

            Did I miss any?

***

            Why not put Bicentennial banners on all their books? And why decide on 33? What was the significance of that number or those particular issues?

            Choosing which of the 33 would have been a tough choice, and any book selected or rejected could have been debated and argued. I hope that was the case and the editors or whoever was involved didn’t just pick books from the top of the list.

            Why not include low-selling books to help its sales – like Swamp Thing? They had the next-issue blurb as the last panel; so why not boost sales for one last issue?

            Why not push up the publication of Starfire, or better still, Ragman – which debuted with a September cover date – and introduce them to new readers who may have otherwise passed on the books.

Why not move the publication of Green Lantern #90 up one month? The original run of the Silver Age Green Lantern ended with #89 – which was also the last issue of the iconic Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams “hard riding heroes” epic. This moniker was given to the “arc” much later. Denny O’Neil again wrote the revived title with Mike Grell as the new artist. The series lasted into the 1990s. You KNOW the issue was in the can by the time of the bicentennial promotion.  Its cover declared, “At Last! The Return of the Greatest Comic of Them All!” Not great enough to merit a Bicentennial heading obviously…

            Or would that be “too much” publicity? A big bicentennial promotion PLUS adding two new comics to the shelves? Oh, no, no, no, no…

            C’mon! If Marvel had done it, they would have done it better– as was usual with their business acumen of superhero books in the 1970s. Youngsters would be frothing at the mouth to get their hands on Kobra or Plastic Man and eagerly snapping up the new titles Starfire, Ragman and Green Lantern. Newsstand owners would be shooing kids off with brooms as the brats tore the headings off to GET THAT BELT BUCKLE!!!

            But these 12 comics above were not among the 33 chosen to represent DC’s Bicentennial celebration. We may not like it, but we have to accept it.

***

            My reviews of the chosen 33 will start soon, but first, a word from our sponsor…

 

            All comic covers, advertising, characters and images are the property of their respective copyright holders and reprinted here for your entertainment and review under the Fair Use Doctrine as commentary, criticism and … sometimes … parody.

            Keep in mind the actual creators probably only received a fraction of their creative worth at the time of their creation … but that is a whole other story…

 

 

Original Material Copyright 2015 Michael G Curry

DC Salutes the Bi-Centennial (part one)

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

Part One: An Introduction

 

“DC Salutes the Bicentennial”. Does that ring a bell? July 4, 1776 is the most important date in our country’s mythos. Most people born before 1970 remember events on and around July 4, 1976 – the Bicentennial!

            I was 11 years old on July 4, 1976 – turning 12 that November. On the day itself we were out of town at a funeral, but I remember seeing plenty of fireworks in the distance as we drove through the night. CBS television had a “Bicentennial Minute” every evening through the first part of the year – a notable star or politician described what happened 200 years ago that day. President Gerald Ford had the honor of describing the monotonous – er – momentous events of July 4, 1776: our founding fathers voted approval of our Declaration of Independence (it wasn’t signed until several weeks later).

            By then I was already firmly entrenched in my nerdiness – I watched “Star Trek” and read the novelizations, my favorite TV shows were science-fiction-y and usually of the Saturday Morning variety. By this time next year “Star Wars” would dominate my culture. Can you imagine a world before Star Wars? Hardly seems possible, doesn’t it?

            Within two years my brother will join the Air Force and give me his record collection – including several albums by a British mop-topped quartet. This would start a love affair that has yet to diminish. Not just “With the Beatles” (heh-heh), but with rock music, too. In later years I discovered my beloved Badfinger and the Moody Blues.

            But in the first part of 1976 my loves were foremost comic books and related merchandise – superhero action figures, albums, etc.

            I lived near Sparta, Illinois, home of World Color Press. They printed DC, Harvey & Archie comics. So those were the comics my friends and I read – usually given to us free by World’s employees. Marvel was foreign to us – although World Color printed Marvel, they weren’t in the free bundles given out to employees. 

            My dad, by the way, did not word at World Color, but he did carpool with a lady whose husband worked there. “You have kids? Here!” Every few months we were in heaven when dad brought home a bundle of funny books.

            Marvel comics were available in supermarkets, though, but why buy comics when we can get them for free? Otherwise those characters were known only through their TV cartoons. By that I mean Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. I was in my teens before I even knew who Iron Man or Thor was. I was in college before I knew what an X-Man was – hard to believe that, too, nowadays, isn’t it?

            So when I say I read comics as a kid – I mean DC comics. Archies went to my sister and Harvey (Casper and company) went to my youngest sister. A good division.

            National Comics (they wouldn’t officially call their releases DC Comics until cover-date February of 1977 – which means somewhere around November of 1976 – I’ll explain what that means later) celebrated our nation’s 200th birthday in a big way! Here is a house-ad that appeared in DC comics:

DC house ad

            In case it is hard to read:

            “DC Salutes the Bicentennial with a Great Free Offer! Look for our July and Aug(ust) covers which have the RED, WHITE and BLUE headings and are identified by a right-corner number 1 through 33.

            “If you send us at least 25 different cover headings, we will send, FREE, a METAL SUPERMAN BELT BUCKLE! (in antique silver finish!)

            “Example: … Cut and Send Top of Magazine!

            “Collect then, save them and then send them! Only these issues will be accepted!! Be the first on your block to collect the 25 headings!”

            And them the coupon with DC’s address and disclaimer (excludes wholesalers, employees and their families.)

***

            Note that we are talking about cover dates here, not release dates. Ever since there have been comic books the cover date is about two to three months after the release date. Once upon a time comic books were sold on newsstands …

            Let me back up; once upon a time there were such things as newsstands…

            A comic book with the cover date of July 1945 may have been released and on sale in April or May of 1945. This would “trick” the salesmen into keeping the comic on the shelf longer. “Eh? This-a Superman comic says July, ees-a only June-ah. I beddah not troh it away-ah.” It didn’t work – newsstand owners weren’t stupid – but the tradition sticks to this day.

            So the comics listed were on the stands and selling in April or May of 1976.

            These ads first appeared in the June issues – I checked three comics I had full runs of at that time World’s Finest, Brave & Bold and Justice League of America.  I checked the May issues and earlier and they had no ads for the Bicentennial; they each had ads for the Superman vs Spider-Man Tabloid-sized comic book out that year, however.

superspidey

             So this gave us only one month to save enough money to buy at least twenty-five comics while they were on the stands and then mail it all to DC Comics before the July 4th deadline. On top of saving for the Battle of the Century! Oh the pressure…

            This is nothing new. Kids have been collecting wrappers and box tops as long as there have been wrappers and box tops. This is not even a new thing in comics – ever since the first comics appeared in the 1930s kids were encouraged to cut out an ad or a symbol and cash in!

            But on this scale the only thing that I can think of as equivalent are the Marvel Value Stamps. In the letter pages of various Marvel comics were “stamps” of their characters on their letter pages. The stamps were only an two or three-inches-square and printed on the page as if it were any ad or text. Collect all 100 , purchase the handy-dandy Stamp book, paste the stamps on the inside and collect valuable prizes.

            The prizes consisted of discounts at various upper east coast conventions, free knick-knacks at said conventions, etc. A boy stuck in rural southern Illinois (a redundant term) didn’t find much use for such stamps.

            But a Superman belt buckle!? A Superman BELT BUCKLE!?

            Meh.

            Even at eleven years old … meh.

            It’s true – the prize didn’t thrill me. And twenty-five headings at thirty cents a comic (at the cheapest – some, like DC Super Stars #5 were fifty cents) was $7.50: a princely sum for a pre-teen.

            But forty years later it is another story. Collecting comics is now a fun hobby. They still entertain me – more so than modern comics. I want to read and review all 33 comics on the list. Maybe I’ll send in the tops (and ruin their value, true) and ask for my belt buckle. Oh sure the event ended on July 4th, 1976, but they might still have a few buckles lying around. Maybe DC will run across a box of them when as they pack for their move to LA.

            Writer Tony Isabella inspired me to do this series of reviews. For many years his blog contained reviews of comics released on the day of his birth. He now blogs about the comics released at the same time Fantastic Four Annual #1 was published – the comic that inspired him to want to be in the business. It was a day that changed his life.

            I considered doing comics released on the day of my birth, but nixed it. I don’t have that many and am not that interested in doing that much research. But DC’s Bicentennial issues – comics I have or can get for the price of a current comic? Why not?

            In past blogs I’ve reviewed the Adventure Line series of comics DC released in 1975 https://michaelgcurry.com/2015/01/02/the-dc-comics-adventure-line/, and released a companion/review of The Brave and the Bold comic as an ebook https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/497750. So I’ve had plenty of experience writing about and reviewing my favorite comics!

            So I decided to review the 33 comics with the Bicentennial headings in order of their number – regardless of issue number or release date. I will discuss the plot, art and creators of the particular issue and discuss the comic series itself. I will list the contributors of the letter columns and, if interesting enough, may sum up what they wrote. I will load each review with enough details to bore even the most ardent comic book fan.

            Will you join me on this trip back to July 1976? That’s the Spirit!

            Heh, see what I did there …

 

            All comic covers, advertising, characters and images are the property of their respective copyright holders and reprinted here for your entertainment and review under the Fair Use Doctrine as commentary, criticism and … sometimes … parody.

            Keep in mind the actual creators probably only received a fraction of their creative worth at the time of their creation … but that is a whole other story …

 

Original material copyright 2015 Michael G Curry