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:
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.
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!?
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