It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s …. a Bicentennial Banner blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#30

Action Comics #461

actioncomics461

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Bob Oksner

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            Action Comics? Really? You need me to give a background of Action Comics? Okay, okay … Issue # 1 was cover dated April 1938 and featured the debut of that literary iconic trope – the superhero. He was and is called Superman. He was not a masked crime fighter inspired by the pulps like Crimson Avenger, but more in line with the pulp’s Doc Savage or Hugo Danner (the prototype superhero from the novel “Gladiator” by Phillip Wylie) in that he was a perfect human specimen. Only a bursting shell could pierce Superman’s flesh; he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky!

            Rather than a Doc Savage clone, he wore a colorful costume and cape ala the pulp detectives of the day. He was a hybrid of these two styles of hero and transcended them both.

            Superman was on the cover of the first issue (in the iconic pose of his smashing a car to bits) and did not appear on the cover again until #7, and then again not until #10.  But based on the sales of the issues on which he WAS the cover feature, the star of this anthology comic was obvious. After #13 he was on the cover (even if it was just a blurb) on every issue until the 1980s, when it changed to a weekly format.

            Action Comics also saw the debut of Lois Lane and Superman bad guys Lex Luthor, Brainiac and the Parasite as well as other DC/National heroes such as Zatara, Vixen (although she should have debuted in her own comic cancelled in the DC Implosion) and Supergirl.

***

“Kill Me or Leave Me”, Cary Bates ( w ), Curt Swan (a), Tex Blaisdell (i)

            This story is continued from the previous issue and continues in the next, concluding in the issue after that (where Superman, with amnesia, witnesses the signing of the Declaration of Independence – the comic that was actually on the stands on July of 1976 as opposed to the cover date). Still, with a little manipulating it could have had the Bicentennial banner, yes?  I owned the next two issues after this when they were published.

 karb-brak

            Villain Karb-Brak is convinced Steve Lombard is Superman and attacks him. Superman, meanwhile, saves a Senator from flame-thrower-wielding terrorists and hies to the Galaxy Building just in time to save Lombard. They battle.

            As in the previous issue, Superman gets feverish around Karb-Brak, who touches Superman and causes the gym in which they fought to explode! Superman saves Lombard and Karb-Brak. Karb-Brak, in his human identity of Andrew Meda (get it?) walks away.

karbbrak

            Karb-Brak reveals his origin: He is banished from his home planet in the Andromeda galaxy because he is allergic to everyone on the planet – a planet of super-powered beings. But the planet of his exile – earth, obviously – has a being whose powers are similar to his own. When Superman approaches, he becomes allergic. If he does not eliminate Superman, he will die.

            With Lombard no longer on his list of Superman’s secret identity, Karb-Brak goes to suspect #2: Clark Kent. Using his psi-machine, Karb-Brak mentally manipulates Clark’s friends and other citizens of Metropolis into falling in love with Kent. They fawn over him, want pieces of his clothing and treats him like a 1970s rock star. Kent is chased into a park and attacked by Karb-Brak, where Clark accidentally hurts bystanders while protecting his identity. His guilt and concern hold him back as Karb-Brak continues the assault.

            The crowd cheers on Clark Kent – they now realize he really is Superman – and he fights back. The psi-machine worked too well. Karb-Brak returns to his psi-machine to make the public cheer him instead of Kent. Superman knocks out Karb-Brak, and uses the psi-machine to make the public forget his dual identity and the fight in the park.

            Karb-Brak is now too weak to fight Superman and gives him an ultimatum: stay on earth and I die or leave earth forever and let me live – which will you choose, hero, which will you choose?

***

The Toughest Newsboy in Town”, Elliot S! Maggin (w), Curt Swan (a), Tex Blaisdell (i)

            This is a solo Perry White story. Perry was the editor-in-don’t-call-me-chief of the Daily Planet – Clark, Lois and Jimmy’s boss. He first appeared in November 1940 in Superman #7. Before that time, Lois and Clark worked for George Taylor of the Daily Star. The explanation of the switch was never given at the time, but retconned in the 1970s as part of the Earth-One and Earth-Two lore.

            After Easter dinner, Perry’s gathers his four grandchildren to tell them of his amazing exploits.

            In 1934 Perry was hawking papers when a man gave him a quarter for a two cent edition! Perry recognized him as missing toy company heir Victor Larson. Perry followed Larson to his office where he kept a man named Doctor Norton hostage. Victor ran up gambling debts with the mob and is in hiding; Norton has designed an atomic bomb and Larson is trying to torture the plans out of him. Perry jumps through the window and eventually knocks out Larson. Poor Norton dies of a heart attack in the meantime. Perry writes his first story (the atomic bomb angle was nixed) and got a job reporting for the Daily Planet instead of selling it.

            One newspapers headline (partly covered) touts “Giordano wins art …” The editor of this Earth-One Daily Planet was not named in this story – was it George Taylor?

 

 

Superman in Action: letter column for Action Comics #457 (which introduced Pete Ross’ son Jon). Brian Scott of Streator, IL (positive), Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (positive), Mark Schneider of Concord, Mass (negative as to the Superman feature, but positive on the Green Arrow back-up), and Dan Cardenas, San Luis Obispo, CA (positive) contributed.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #31: Adventure Comics #446

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

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

World’s Finest Comics #239: Bicentennial banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#26

World’s Finest Comics #239

World's_Finest_Comics_239

Published nine times a year, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (unsigned – very unusual for him). Inked by John Calnan

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            World’s Finest Comics began life as 1939 New York World’s Fair Comics and 1940 New York World’s Fair Comics. Those were one-shot anthologies released by National Comics featuring their star attractions – in 1939’s issue that meant Superman, Slam Bradley, the Sandman and Zatara. 1940 starred Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) in the same book, although in separate stories, along with stories of Hourman, Slam Bradley, Johnny Thunderbolt and Red, White & Blue. The comics were so successful the company decided to make it a continuing quarterly comic called World’s Best Comics with #1 dated Spring 1941. As another company already was publishing a Best Comics, National changed the title to World’s Finest Comics with #2 (Summer 1941) to avoid their getting a taste of their own litigious medicine.

            It was a successful anthology featuring separate tales of Superman, Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin), Johnny Thunder, Red, White & Blue, the Crimson Avenger, and others; but always featuring solo tales of the company’s Big Two: Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin).

            Sales in superhero comics slumped over the years, causing cancellations of most magazines and cutting of page counts in the survivors. There was only room for one feature in World’s Finest now, who should it be? Should either Superman or Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) be relegated to a back-up strip? Or ousted altogether?

            The powers-that-were came up with a brilliant idea – team up their two biggest stars in one story! Thus the Superman/Batman Team (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) was born in issue #71 (July 1954).

            Except for a brief time in the early 1970s (issues #198 – 216) – where Superman instead teamed up with other DC characters in an imitation of The Brave and the Bold, the magazine remained a vehicle for the Superman/Batman team. Robin? By this time Robin had grown and was more or less on his own. Robin appearing in World’s Finest after the switch back to Superman/Batman was rare. He did team with Superman in one of the non-Batman issues: #200 in fact…

            With issue #244 (May 1977) World’s Finest returned to its anthology roots by becoming a Dollar Comic and featuring additional stories starring, among others, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, the Creeper, the Vigilante and Shazam/Captain Marvel.

            The comic reverted back to “normal” size with issue #283 (September 1982) and lasted until issue #323 (January 1986).  By this time Batman was budding into his “brooding sociopath” persona with which came a dislike of Superman, his “old friend”. The editors and writers gleefully took advantage of the rift between the two characters for the next twenty years.

            World’s Finest was revived as a mini-series in 1990 and the title Superman/Batman ran from 2003 – 2011 for 87 issues. Batman/Superman – the flip made quite likely to boost sales – is a “New 52” title. World’s Finest itself became a “New 52” title with DC’s reboot of their line featuring stories of the Power Girl/Huntress (and Robin, don’t forget … oh never mind) team.

            As an anthology in its Golden Age, World’s Finest featured the “best” of National Publications, so no new heroes or supporting characters of note debuted. The comic did introduce two durable villains: the Scarecrow and the Composite Superman (a man with Superman’s costume on the right side and Batman’s on the left, with all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes … you read that correctly…).

***

“The UFO That Stole the USA”, Bob Haney ( w ), Curt Swan and John Calnan (a), Jack C Harris (Asst. Ed.)

            People who started reading comic books only since the 1980s missed out on the glorious writing of Bob Haney. I regret never having had the chance to meet him and shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his work – especially his long runs in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest Comics. He died in 2004. Websites are devoted to his range of work.

            Oh sure he has his detractors – even his biggest fans (like me) cringe at some of his quirks – his apparent hatred of Plastic Man, for example. But mostly he is criticized for his utter lack of continuity. His work stood so much in its own bubble it was designated as being in its own alternate universe – designated as Earth B. Haney’s job was to tell a story – and if regular continuity or character canon had to be changed or ignored, it was. If a factoid had to be put in that only appeared in that issue and never again to appear in that character’s history, so be it. Bruce Wayne was a US Senator for a time. He had more wards after Dick Grayson (most of them were imprisoned or killed) and never mentioned again. These were called Haney-isms.

            But they were fun, and kept the story going. Face-palm moments? Oh to be sure. But I’d rather read a comic written by Bob Haney than most anything released today. He made comics fun to read. That was the whole point, isn’t it?

***

            Superman and Batman investigate a rural farm outside of Gotham City. Where one half of the farmhouse stood is now a huge smoking pit, the house neatly cut in two. The farmer and his wife hysterically babble about their horse and someone stealing fish and are taken to a hospital. Superman investigates the pit – it goes down for miles and before he can reach bottom notes that the tunnel is hotter than the core of the sun (Wait, wouldn’t that turn the earth to a cinder? Shut up.)!  Whatever did this is obviously of extraterrestrial origin (Well, not necessarily … I said shut up.).

Worlds-Finest-239-03

            Batman enlists a police sketch artist to draw the farm couple’s rants. He draws a spaceship destroying their house and stealing their fish pond and horse.

            They return to the farm to find a crowd of UFO “crackpots” including a boy who finds a clue – a map identifying other possible targets. Also in the crowd is Gold of the Metal Men, disguised as a human. The heat from the pit melts his disguise and the crowd, thinking him an alien, pushes him into the pit! (Wait, if it’s hot enough to melt Gold’s disguise, why aren’t the crowd blistering and getting hot? Because gold melts at a lower … I said shut up!). Superman rescues him before he melts away.

            Why is Gold there? He is a UFO buff, you see. A fact never revealed before or again in Metal Men lore. It is this issues’ Haney-ism.

            ( What kind of bull– … Shut up, I said!)

            Since the map the young boy discovered is made of a metal not found in this solar system, Superman heads to space to find the planet of its origin. Batman discovers that the metal did NOT come from the aliens’ home planet, but was mined elsewhere.  Batman drives to a nearby space observatory to radio Superman – if he finds the metal’s home planet, he will be accusing the wrong planet’s inhabitants!

            But the aliens shoot at the Batmobile from the sky, knocking Batman out. He is saved by Gold and taken to a hospital. Superman and Gold, aware that the aliens may be watching and listening, pretend to Kervorkian Batman by pulling his plug and killing him (ala the cover)!

Worlds-Finest-239-14

 

            Actually Superman substituted a dummy Batman, threw Gold into the atmosphere where as thin gold foil he could block the alien scanners (but Gold wouldn’t have the mass to cover the entire … I’m warning you!) and whisked Batman to his Fortress of Solitude where they compare notes.

            They find the alien spy satellite and triangulate the home planet. Superman takes off to exact revenge. After he leaves, the house, the pond and the horse are returned intact (But how could the house be made whole if it was sliced … That’s enough!) The aliens meant no harm, but how to tell Superman that? Gold spins into space where Batman sends a message via Morse code to Superman (but the mass thing again … Zip it!).

            Meanwhile, Superman has already deflected a deadly beam shot from the alien planet. When he gets Batman and Gold’s message, he confronts the aliens. No, they meant no harm to Earth – they were merely testing their weaponry for their attack upon their enemies on the planet of Pyra. Oh well, that’s okay then, says Superman. He flies into space and redirects the deadly beam back to Pyra. He explains that the beam is now so diluted it will only stun them. This is also apparently acceptable to our heroes…

            He warns the aliens never to experiment with weapons meant to destroy another civilization on Earth again. The aliens cheerfully agree: “You are an intelligent and all-powerful being. We bow to your wishes!”

            Ah Bob Haney, god rest your saintly soul…

            (But … sorry, story’s over!)

            And while we’re at it, it is always good to see Curt Swan art … he is never anything less that perfect! (I agree … it’s too late to suck up now)

 

From the World’s Finest Fans: letters for WF #236, guest starring the Atom. A positive letter from David Trenton of New York, NY, J. Charles Backman of Sterling Heights, MI criticized the incorrect use of Morse code in that issue, John Baker of Baltimore, MD asked about where the headshots on the cigar-band cover came from (from various back issues and promo drawings) and Fred Schneider of New York, NY wrote a positive letter.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #27: GI Combat #192

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

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

 

Celebrating the 200th issue of … every comic book ever!

200 and counting!

My 200th blog. That may not be a big deal for writers who blog every day – they’d hit 200 by July of their first year of blogging. But it’s a big deal for me! That’s a lot of writing!

Ironically I am in the middle of a blog series commemorating the comic books released by DC comics during the US Bicentennial of July 1976. If you collected 25 of the 33 comics published with the Bicentennial banner cover and you will get a free Superman belt buckle.

A comic book reaching its 200th milestone is a big deal. Probably more so nowadays with the constant rebooting and relaunching of titles, it is not likely we’ll see many comics go all the way to number 200. It still happens, though: Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man released its 200th issue on June 2014.

#200 anniversary issues were usually a larger-than-normal-sized comic (with a larger price tag of course) and a special story or the rip-roaring conclusion of a story arc. But that was usually in the bronze age and beyond. Earlier comics (before 1970) usually didn’t care about their 200th issue.

Some of these comics didn’t even mention their 200th anniversary issue other than their standard numbering:

Action_Comics_200

Action Comics: January 1955

Adventure_Comics_200

Adventure Comics: May 1954

Detective_Comics_200

Detective Comics: October 1953

House_of_Mystery_v.1_200

House of Mystery: May 1972. Great cover by Neal Adams here.

Strange_Adventures_200

Strange Adventures: May 1967

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

Star Spangled War Stories: July 1976.

This in particular was a real shame at a missed opportunity. Dated July 1976, the 200th anniversary of the USA and this landmark was not even mentioned in a cover blurb, only the letter column gave it some attention.

Compare that to Captain America #200 with an August 1976 cover date:

 Captain_America_Vol_1_200

Others included:

Blackhawk_Vol_1_200

Blackhawk: September 1964

Millie_the_Model_Vol_1_200

Millie the Model: February 1973

and Superman: October 1967 and Wonder Woman: June 1972 (reprinted below)

Older Archie comics were not known for celebrating their 200th issues:

869981

Archie: June 1970

Betty & Veronic

Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica: August 1972

Laugh Archie

Laugh: November 1967

Pep

Pep: December 1966

Jughead

Jughead: January 1972

Life with Archie

Life with Archie: December 1978

betty-and-me

Betty & Me: August 1992

 

Cotber 72

October 1972

 

May 2005

May 2005

Again, this could be a Bronze Age or later thing … in fact, only Betty & Me from 1992 gives the anniversary even a cover blurb.

Harvey comics? Only three of the comics they published made it to 200: their two main stars Richie Rich and Casper. And … Sad Sack!

Richie RichJuly 68Casper

But other Harvey comics? Wendy the Good Little Witch made it to the 50s in number of issues, Little Dot over 100…

The big two – Marvel & DC – being mostly in the superhero vein, were the ones who celebrated 200th anniversaries the most. Three characters – Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash – had two eponymous comics hit #200.

Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_200Wonder_Woman_Vol_2_200

Superman 200Superman_v.2_200

Flash_v.1_200Flash_v.2_200

 

Other DC comics that hit #200:

Batman_200

Batman: March 1968 (note this early celebration, but this was at the end of the Batman TV show craze …)

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_200

Green Lantern: May 1986

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_200

Our Army At War: December 1968

Superboy_Vol_1_200

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes 200: February 1974. Featuring the marriage of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel and starring all members, the Substitutes, the Wanderers and others!

GI_Combat_Vol_1_200

GI Combat: March 1977

Hellblazer_Vol_1_200

Hellblazer: November 2004

Superman_Family_Vol_1_200

Superman Family: April 1980

 Unexpected_200

Unexpected: July 1980

World's_Finest_Comics_200

World’s Finest: February 1971

Young_Romance_Vol_1_200

Young Romance: August 1974

(note these last two also had no real focus on their 200th issue)

***

 Marvel comics had their share of 200th anniversaries, too; aside from Captain America in August 1976:

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Amazing Spider-Man: January 1980

Avengers_Vol_1_200

Avengers: October 1980

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_200

Fantastic Four: November 1978. This issue featured the “final” battle between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom. Doom was killed at the end of this issue, true, but came back (as nearly all comics villains do) some issues later.

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_200

Incredible Hulk: June 1976

Kid_Colt_Outlaw_Vol_1_200

Kid Colt Outlaw: November 1975

Thor_Vol_1_200

Thor: June 1972

ConantheBarbarian200

Conan the Barbarian: November 1987

Daredevil_Vol_1_200

Daredevil November 1983

Iron_Man_Vol_1_200

Iron Man: November 1985

Marvel_Tales_Vol_2_200

Marvel Tales: June 1987

SavageSword200

Savage Sword of Conan: August 1992

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Spectacular Spider-Man: May 1993

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_200

Uncanny X-Men: December 1985

What_If-_Vol_1_200

What If: February 2011

X-Factor_Vol_1_200

X-Factor: February 2010

X-Men_Vol_2_200

X-Men: August 2007

Other publishers: Looney Tunes: September 2011

 Looney_Tunes_Vol_1_200

and Charleton:

October 1972

October 1972

And more …

Spawn from January 2011 and Tarzan from June 1971…

And let us not forget one of the longest running comics of all time…

 

Adventures of the Big Boy

February 1974

And finally …

cerebus_200

 

 

My personal favorites?

 JLA_v.1_200

Justice League of America: March 1982. This comic featured all members of the JLA – the original team members were hypnotized into assembling pieces of a mcguffin that will bring one of their original villains back to full power. The subsequent members try to fight off the originals. Each battle is its own chapter with a different artist. In beautiful art by Joe Kubert, for example, Hawkman fights Superman. The Phantom Stranger/Aquaman/Red Tornado battle is the only artwork by Jim Aparo in Justice League of America. Lots of great art throughout.

 Brave_and_the_bold_200

Brave & Bold: July 1983. The final issue of my favorite comic of all time. Let me cheat and use the review from my free ebook: The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book.  Available here.

Batman & Batman (Earth Two), Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Dave Gibbons.  …

               Earth-Two, 1955 (the year B&B began): After a series of robberies, Batman and Robin finally defeat Brimstone. Earth-Two 1983: Hate is all that has kept Brimstone alive. His hatred of Batman is so great; when he hears of Batman’s death, his mind passes into his Earth-One counterpart where another hated Batman still lives! Earth-One 1983: Brimstone causes riots in Gotham and eventually traps Batman in the same lava “hell pit” Batman escaped 28 years before! Can Batman escape – er – again – in time to save Gotham, catch Brimstone and find out who the heck Brimstone is? Well of course he can, but he never figures out Brimstone’s Earth-Two secret. And he never will.

               “Batman and the Outsiders”, Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Jim Aparo. Batman and the Outsiders protect Mikos from his own terrorist subordinates – who vow to kill Mikos (under his own orders) for the glory of the cause!

               Oft-requested Batmite finally appears in Brave & Bold in a one page comic.

               For the first time since Nemesis, new characters were introduced – Halo, Geo-Force and Katana.  They are the first new B&B superheroes since Metamorpho, who is also a member of the new Outsiders.

               One last team-up and one last try-out.  The try-out was a success: the Outsiders going on to their own series (replacing Brave & Bold on DC’s roster along with New Talent Showcase) and lasting for several years afterward. Later incarnations link the Outsiders (still featuring the resurrected Metamorpho) as a splinter group of the Teen Titans.  Appropriately, both groups began in Brave & Bold. The third incarnation harks back to the Batman-formed play-by-their-own-rules meta group.

               It was trendy at DC for a while to introduce new groups by mixing new characters and old. At times it worked brilliantly (the Teen Titans); at times it was an utter failure (the Justice League of America). The Outsiders were another success.

 ***

Have I missed any? Most assuredly: Dell 4-Color, other Looney Tunes comics, etc.  I hope I didn’t leave out your favorite! But Happy 200 everyone!

 ***

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book copyright 2014 and reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Otherwise, original material copyright 2015 by Michael Curry

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

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#22

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

Superboy_Vol_1_218

Published 9 months of the year, thirty cents, July

Cover artists: Mike Grell

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Superboy, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, debuted in More Fun Comics #101, January 1945.  It was the first new comic book character to have a measure of success after the initial Golden Age/pre-WWII rush of superheroes – the fact it was a spin-off of one of the most successful comic book characters before or after World War II helped its success a bit, I would imagine.

            The character moved to Adventure Comics in April 1946 with issue #103.  Three years later he was given his own magazine starting with issue #1 dated April 1949 while still headlining Adventure Comics.

            Flash forward to April 1958 and Adventure Comics #247 (good things happen in April, it seems…). In the 30th century, youthful superheroes, all inspired by the adventures of the previous millenium’s Superboy, formed a club called the Legion of Superheroes. Three members went back in time and asked Superboy to join their ranks. The group returned in issue #267 of December 1959. By issue #300 (September 1962), the Legion grew so popular they were given their own series, although usually always with Superboy in attendance.

            The Legion continued in Adventure Comics, Action Comics and Superboy until 1973. In issue 197 of Superboy the Legion became part of the comic’s title, as Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes (although it would be still categorized as just Superboy for some time). By #231 the title became Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, then Legion of Superheroes with #259 when Superboy was booted from his own magazine.  Comics starring the Legion have been revived several times and their continuity endlessly changed and rearranged in the decades since.

            The fans of the Legion are … well, legion. Facebook pages, APAs, fanzines and other fan-based appreciation societies flourish. At the time of this blog, DC is slowly bring back the Legion after the cancellation of two of their comics from the “New 52” line-up. I’ve loved the Legion since my first issue (#209) and try to catch most of their revived titles. Overall the stories have been very good – some of them even excellent – but nothing seems to recapture the glory days of their Adventure Comics run; although to be frank, the run in which this Bicentennial issue is a part is my personal favorite…

            Nearly every Legion story are available in reprints – either in comics form, trade paperback or hardback. This comic was reprinted in Legion of Super-Hero Archives #12.

            Long Live the Legion!

***

“The Secret Villain the World Never Knew”, Cary Bates ( w ), Mike Grell (a)

            This is Cary “Mr. Surprise” Bates at his best, so this will take a while…

            Three rejected Legion applicants leave the Legion HQ. Quake Kid learns the hazards of flirting with Infectious Lass (who I always found to be incredibly sexy .. perhaps it is the charm of forbidden fruit…) while the third is still in shock that he was rejected.

Tyroc  

          Meanwhile, the applicant that was accepted, Tyroc, prepares to land on the HQ roof. Inside, Brainiac 5 recaps Tyroc’s origin and first meeting with the LSH from issue #216 to Light Lass, Colossal Boy and Element Lad who were on mission in space (again with the mission in space…) and have yet to meet Tyroc. Tyroc joins his new teammates…

218_1

            … only to be attacked by Zoraz, who burns his way into the headquarters. Zoraz activates and uses the four Legionaires’ powers against them (Colossal Boy grows so fast he smacks himself unconscious against the ceiling, etc.).  Tyroc causes an explosion that Zoraz absorbs, sets fire to the HQ alarm and escapes while Tyroc is recovering from the sonic onslaught.

            Superboy and Cosmic Boy arrive and explain Zoraz’s origin to Tyroc. He once raided the Legion Cell Bank (our second lesson in cloning – Secret Society of Supervillains #2 also gave us a footnote-lecture on cloning this month) and stole samples from each Legionnaire! Thus, as the new member, Tyroc has the only power Zoraz cannot counteract!

            While patrolling theie headquarters, Tyroc and Shrinking Violet pass an air vent in which sits a shadowed figure – who vows to find a way to wipe out the new guy!

218_3

            That evening, Zoraz attacks Star Boy and Dream Girl during a romantic interlude and defeats them. Tryoc tries to save them, but Zoraz creates a vacuum in the gymnasium voiding Tyroc’s sound-based powers. Tyroc escapes by smashing a hole in the wall to sweet air and freedom! Zoraz gets away, but the shadowy figure in the air vent returns and says he now knows how to finally defeat Tyroc!

            Tyroc is called to a meeting where the defeated Legionnaires are now fine and dandy! What gives? Zoraz was actually Sun Boy and (alternately) Superboy! It was one last test for Tyroc (the LSH trick/test new applicants a lot – look at Superboy and Star Boy’s initiations …)

            But then Zoraz appears! The Legionnaires think it is Sun Boy and tell him the joke is over. Zoraz unmasks – it is the rejected applicant! Absorbency Boy! He can absorb residual energy left behind by superheroes. So in the Zoraz costume, he has the powers of Sun Boy AND Superboy! Yikes!

218_6

            Absorbency Boy/Zoraz challenges Tyroc to a battle for Legion membership (one hopes the Legion would still reject AB if he won…). Tyroc blasts him with a pitch only Superboy can hear. The inexperienced Absorbency Boy reels at the painful sound and Tyroc knocks him out. Later that day, Tyroc is sworn in as the newest member of the Legion of Superheroes. Presumably Absorbency Boy goes back to testing paper towels. Not quite – they turned him into Earth Man, one of the Legions deadliest villains and eventually joining the Legion. He died in the Legion’s last pre-New 52 book as heroically as this modern comic age allows…

Tyroc joins

            The “morgue” of the clone bank contains the names of several Legionnaires, and also Cary Bates, Allen Ladd and John Boy.

            This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.

            This story is reprinted in Legion of Superheroes Archives #12 and Showcase Presents the Legion of Superheroes Vol. 5.

 

Supertalk: the letter column was handled by Jack C. Harris but still done in the Boltinoff “sound bite” style (see The Brave & The Bold) for issue #215. Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive, but disliked some of the new costumes). The following letter writers out and out hated the new costumes: Marie Munas of La Mesa, CA, Katie Raisler of East Lansing, MI and “A Worried Fan”. Scott Gibson of Evergreen, CO liked the costumes and the current stories, Sarah Finnegan of Washington DC spotted a story flaw regarding Ultra Boy’s powers, Barry Charles of Louisville, KY asked for a return of the Fatal Five (and they would in the next issue, per JCH) and David Hanson of Swartz Creek, Michigan finished off the letter page with the ubiquitous “Long Live the Legion”!

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #23: Tarzan Family #4

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

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

 

Four Star Bicentennial Comic blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#15

Four Star Spectacular #3

fss3

Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, forty-eight pages, August

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: E. Nelson Bridwell

            Four Star Spectacular ran for 6 issues from March 1976 until February 1977. It was a reprint series, although some of the stories were redrawn to appease our modern sensibilities. Superboy and Wonder Woman appeared in each issue. As the title suggested, each issue starred four superheroes: half the issues featured four stories and half had three stories with heroes “teaming up” – Hawkman and Hawkwoman in one, Superboy and Krypto in another (although I think that’s cheating a bit: that’s like the Lone Ranger teaming up with Silver…) and in this Bicentennial issue.

***

Undersea Trap” starring Wonder Woman, reprinted from Wonder Woman #101, October 1958, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (a).  

WW101

            Wonder Woman saves Steve Trevor from crashing his airplane into a burning pylon during a race. Steve bets her that if she rescues him three times in the next 24 hours she will have to marry him. The Amazon accepts.

            Aha! Steve reveals he is scheduled to test pilot aircraft all the next day. All’s fair …

            Aha! Then Steve is reassigned to desk duty all that next day. All’s fair …

            During lunch, Wonder Woman saves Steve from being crushed by space debris … one…

            During a dance, Wonder Woman foils a robbery and saves Steve from a bullet … two …

            Steve ferries a general to an aircraft carrier. He crashed into the ocean and is attacked by a shark! Wonder Woman rescues him. Three? Nope! It is 15 minutes after the 24-hour deadline! Doh!

            One presumes the plane crashed after the delivery of the general to the carrier; otherwise he would have been left in the plane in the briny deep and left to the mercy of a hungry shark. So long, old chum!

            This story is also reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: Wonder Woman #1”.

WW showcase 1

***

Superboy’s Workshop. Cut out the provided clown figure, get a little cardboard, a little glue, a pencil and the ability to make a miniature parallel bars and you can make a toy tumbling clown!  Destroying the value of the comic (such as it is) is definitely worth this experiment in perpetual motion.  Whether this one-page craft is a reprint or new for this series is unknown. Art and writing unknown.

***

Superboy in Argo City” starring Supergirl (her logo is at the top of the first page – proving this was published originally as a Supergirl feature, but in this comic Superboy is touted as the star) reprinted from Action Comics #358, January 1968, Cary Bates ( w ), Jim Mooney (a).

action 358

            Superboy heads back to earth after a mission in space (this must be the month for missions in space – both Superman and Justice League of America mention various space missions in its issues…) and stops by a crystal asteroid to create a jewel for a necklace for his mother. He is knocked cold by a space probe gathering mineral samples. How is that possible?

            The probe takes him and the samples to Argo City. Ah! It was a Kryptonian probe – that’s how it could knock out the Boy of Steel. Argo City was blown into space intact from Krypton when the planet exploded leaving survivors, including Superman’s uncle, aunt and cousin – Kara Zor-el! Tweenie Kara races to her father’s probe to find Superboy unconscious. When revived, Superboy has lost his memory!

            Zor-el names him after his deceased nephew Kal-el. Superboy and “Supergirl” fly around Argo City on their jet packs rescuing lost birds and other adventures. A weight ray makes objects weightless: Kal lifts heavy machinery as if he has super-strength!

            Zor-el flies Argo City to a system with a habitable planet. But it is protected by an alien who will accept one sacrifice as penalty for their trespassing. That is the law. Zor-el, blaming himself, offers to go as the sacrifice and walks to the pod that will whisk him to his judgment.

            But Kal-el beats him to the pod! As he leaves with the transport vessel, the alien wipes all memories from the Argonians as the City leaves the system – memories of their trespass AND of Kal-el!

            Somehow, being transported returns Superboy’s memory!  He escapes by flying through the sun to avoid the alien. The last thing he remembers is forging a crystal jewel for his mother.

            “Presently” Supergirl shows the jewel to Superman – who remembers making the jewel but not what happened to it. How did it end up with Supergirl?

            The biggest hole in this story is Superboy’s powers returning. How? If this system had a yellow sun ALL of Argo City would have been imbued with superpowers (this was before Superman became a “solar battery”…), right?

            Superboy’s memory returning to the point at which he lost it is likely, though. That happens with real amnesia victims.

            And this being a “team-up” with Supergirl is a bigger stretch than Superboy and Krypto… hmmph…

            Still, a fun story, which is the point. And it is nice to see Jim Mooney’s art again. His Supergirl was always a cutie!

***

            “Power Ring Peril” starring Green Lantern, reprinted from Green Lantern #32, October 1964, Gardner Fox ( w ), Gil Kane & Sid Greene (a).

GL32

            Tyrant Vant Orl conquered the planet Thronn and entombed its united league of heroes – Energiman, Magicko, Golden Blade and Strong Girl, among unnamed others – in a crystal monolith on the planet’s moon.

            Energiman’s powers work on the same frequency as Green Lantern’s ring. Every time Hal Jordan recharges, Energiman draws a bit of power. Eventually, he sucks GL through his battery and to Thronn’s moon at the cost of Energiman’s life. With his last bit of … er … energy, Energiman tells all to Green Lantern. GL flies to Thronn to confront Vant Orl.

            But Vant Orl also can manipulate the power ring’s energy – he is also on that frequency! Green Lantern covers his ring with a yellow leaf (the ring has a “necessary impurity” and does not affect anything colored yellow, remember…) to regain more control over his ring, defeat Vant Orl and release Thronn’s heroes!

            This story was also reprinted in “Green Lantern Archives #5”, “Showcase Presents: Green Lantern #2” and “Green Lantern Omnibus #2”. 

GL Archives 5GL showcase 2 GL Omnibus 2

 

Four Thought (great title to their letter column for issue #1). Gerald Duit of New Orleans, LA, Arthur Kowalik of Wilmington, DE, David J. Brown of Hammond, IN, and Fred Schnieder of New York, New York all had positive comments and suggestions for reprints. They were especially glad to see solo Superboy since him comic was now a permanent vehicle for the Legion of Superheroes.

***

            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #16: Karate Kid #3.

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

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

 

 

 

Superman #301 – DC Bicentennial blog series continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#9

Superman #301

Superman 301

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez & Bob Wiacek

Editor: Julius Schwartz

           I must admit it is a coincidence that I am posting this blog 77 years to the day when Action Comics #1 hit the stands! But what a wonderful way to celebrate!

           Superman, the comic and the character, was DC’s sales juggernaut in the 1970s, even before the movie starring Christopher Reeve. The annual sales statement “required” of every comic book published showed this magazine was selling 216,122 copies*. A good amount for the time – and today as well!

            Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 cover dated June 1938. One year later – cover dated June 1939 – Superman was given his own comic. It was the first comic book devoted to the adventures of one superhero. The first issue reprinted the serial from the first few issues of Action Comics as well as original material. And for the past 75 years, renamings and renumberings notwithstanding, there has been a solo Superman series published ever since.

            Other than that, c’mon if you don’t know who Superman is, are YOU reading the wrong blog. But for more of a biography, check out my previous blog post spotlighting famous adoptees real and otherwise: https://michaelgcurry.com/2014/11/05/the-most-famous-adoptee-of-all-national-adoption-month-spotlight-on/

***

            “Solomon Grundy Wins on a Monday”, Gerry Conway ( w ), Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Bob Oksner (a)

            The Joker’s Hostess ad appears in this comic.

            Terry Austin and Bob Wiacek’s names appear on a theater marquis. Austin’s distinct artist’s signature appears on a restaurant sign.

            Coincidental continuity worthy of Marvel: Superman mentions the rest of the Justice League are away on a mission in space. Justice League of America #132 (discussed here) begins with the JLA indeed returning from a mission in space!

            A new criminal organization, Skull, who would torment Superman and Metropolis for many years to come, enters – filling the gap left from the now-defunct Intergang.

Grundy GL

            Solomon Grundy, trapped in Slaughter Swamp on Earth 2 by the Green Lanterns of Earth 1 and Earth 2 (Hal Jordan and Alan Scott back in Justice League of America #92), realizes that if his hated enemy Green Lantern has a double on another earth, he might have one, too! Somehow he teleports to Earth 1 Metropolis to search for HIS counterpart (this set a probably-unrealized precedent: The Brave and the Bold #200 featured a villain, Brimstone, who was so outraged at the death of his earth’s Batman that he transported his mind to his counter-part on Earth 1 to battle THAT Batman – obviously you can teleport between earths with raging emotions as well as a cosmic treadmill!). Superman and Solomon Grundy battle, while the swamp takes over the city. Superman disguises himself as an Earth 1 Solomon Grundy and lures his doppleganger to the moon, stranding him there.

roast

             And that was the end of Solomon Grundy … not by a long shot!

Superfriends

 

            All the while, Clark Kent and his new girlfriend/groupie Terri Cross report on the battle. Clark Kent? Actually, it was Steve Lombard hypnotized by Superman into protecting his antagonist’s secret identity.

            The last several issues sought to change the old status quo of the Superman mythos – giving Kent a new girlfriend and giving him (and Superman) more spine and attitude. “This isn’t even a challenge,” he tells some Skull cronies…

Not that Superman #300 needed the extra sales boost, but why not bend the rules a bit and delay the release of that milestone until the July cover date and make it a Bicentennial comic? Marvel did that with Captain America #200!

 

Metropolis Mailbag: E. Nelson Bridwell answers the queries. Letters for Superman #296 were all positive; Jonathan Kuntz, Los Angeles, CA, Adam Castro, New Rochelle, NY, Scott Gibson, Evergreen CO, Ken Regalado, South Pasadena, CA (pointed out some flaws in the story, although was mainly positive), Bob Robinson, Lincoln, NE, and Mark Zutkoff, Timoniom, MD

Metropolis Mailbag Extra: E. Nelson Bridwell. Letters for Superman #297 were mostly positive; Hugh J. Leach, Mason, MI, Jack Gregotz, Mayfield Heights, OH, Roger Thomas Enevoldesen, North Augusta, SC, Ronald M. Fitz, Valparaiso, IN, Mary E. ReCasino, Vernon, CT, FL Watkins, Champaign, IL, Kevin L. Callahan, Brea, CA, and Dave Wilcox, Arlington Heights, IL (a negative letter – E. Nelson Bridwell says this was only one of two negative letters received on this issue. An incredible feat if true…).

 

 

* Here is a sample of sales figures published in DC’s annual “required by law” financial statement for 1976:

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636

 

 

Next in my blog series of DC Comics’ Bicentennial issues: House of Mystery #243

 

 

***

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

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

 

Justice League of America #132

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#6

Justice League of America #132

JLA_v.1_132

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (the date under his signature is 1975)

Editor: Julie Schwartz

            The Justice League of America debuted in late 1960 in The Brave and the Bold #28. After a three-issue try-out, they were awarded their own magazine a few months later. There has never been a month without at least some kind of version of the JLA published by National or DC – gaps as publicity stunts aside…

            Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman joined together to fight evil. 

            Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky wrote and drew the first several years of the series and the editorial reigns were held by Julie Schwartz.  This was Schwartz’s third try at reviving Golden Age characters – updating them for a modern audience.  The Flash and Green Lantern were rousing successes, so he tried again in the pages of Brave and Bold!  This time he brought back the old Justice Society of America: changed the name to something “more exciting” (someone once said a Society makes them sound like they got together to have tea) and updated the roster with the few heroes available at the time.  There was really no one else around: Adam Strange?  He’s good, but harder to work into a plot than Aquaman, so instead he was a frequent guest.  Roy Raymond TV Detective and Rex the Wonder Dog wouldn’t work, Challengers of the Unknown and the Blackhawks would make things too crowded.  Superboy would be impossible!  Batwoman? Robin?  Nah!  Green Arrow?  Oops, forgot about him – he’d join in Justice League of America #4.

            Eventually Fox and Sekowsky left the writing and art chores to others. Some issues were drawn by Neal Adams! But eventually the art was given to Dick Dillin.  Some fans dislike his art even to this day. I loved it! His are the images I have when I think of the Justice League – not Sekowski’s, not Lopez, not Heck’s, not Lee’s nor anyone who drew the later and latter versions of the group. Dillon is my  … Dylan.

            Plus in this particular issue he draws Supergirl! Oh, yummy …

supergirl

            This image is from the next issue, but still …

            Justice League of America was always a sales powerhouse for DC, with only a handful of magazines selling better (Superman for example). Its dip in sales during the 1970s was proportional with the industry as a whole.

            But even in the dip. Marvel was outdoing DC, in buzz if not in sales. Trying to catch up – something DC started in the mid-1960s and continues to this day – DC kept story threads going from issue to issue in some of their comics; Justice League of America included. This bicentennial issue is a fine example: it is part two of a two-part story, but the thread (Supergirl searching for her cousin) continues into the next issue; her search then becomes its own two-parter.

            As is the case with this magazine, the thread is interrupted by the annual JLA/JSA summer multi-parter. One of Justice League of America’s most unforgivable crime in this vein came in the next year with issues #139: Steve Englehart took over the writing chores for an incredible run of issues, but the annual JLA/JSA summer team-up stopped the story in its tracks. When it returned to the storyline (the Construct attacks during dissension amongst the JLAers), it had lost steam and Englehart was gone by issue #150 with his events and changes to the group’s dynamic forgotten.

***

            The inner front cover features a different Hostess ad from the Bicentennial comics so far. Instead of “Superman Saves the Earth”, we have “The Cornered Clown” starring the Joker!

            The annual sales statement “required” of every comic book published showed this magazine was selling 193,000 copies*. A fair amount for the time – and today as well!

            “The Beasts Who Fought Like Men”, Gerry Conway   ( w ), Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin (a).

             This story is continued from the previous issue. Returning from a mission in space, the Justice Leaguers not involved in the events of the previous issue are attacked over New York City by Queen Bee and her intelligent swarm! They dispatch the swarm, but Queen Bee escapes. Perhaps they can track her whereabouts in their satellite headquarters…

            … whence they are attacked by Green Lantern foe Sonar! Last issue, Sonar developed a “credit card” that would help him control humans as soon as they touch said card! Instead, the cards made humans as dumb as beasts and as a side effect made animals as intelligent as humans! Sonar defeats the JLA but runs away when nearly bested by Supergirl, who at that moment entered the satellite searching for Superman.

            The team splits up; half go to Washington DC to fight Sonar, who are then also attacked by animals from the Washington Zoo.  Sonar is caught after being nearly trampled by an elephant.

            The other half goes to Chicago to fight Queen Bee. During the fight they discover that although Sonar created the human/animal link, Queen Bee controls it! The two villains were unknowingly in cahoots! Queen Bee is also defeated.

            JLA members missing since the last issue are found – except for the Man of Steel!  Supergirl asks the JLA’s help in finding the missing Superman.

 

 

JLA Mailroom: featuring comments on issue #128; Bob Rozakis answered and commented on the letters. Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI (positive), Glenn Rowsam of Oakland, CA (positive – and praises Wonder Woman’s return to the group); DK Thomas of Brunswick, ME, Michael D Dargay of Royal Oak, MI, and Fred Schneider of New York, NY are given brief comments discussing an age-old question argued to this day: is Green Lantern’s oath necessary to recharge his ring?

  logo

            This issue is reprinted in the trade paperback Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Vol. 6.

 

 

* Here is a sample of sales figures published in DC’s annual “required by law” financial statement for 1976:

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636

 

 

            Shameless plugs department: Some of the information in this blog is gleaned from my new ebook: The Brave and the Bold – from Silent Knight to Dark Knight, an index of the DC comic book. Available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords websites. It’s free, so get it now!

 brave-and-bold-cover

           The Barnes and Noble link is here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

 

***

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

Images used are copyright their respective holders 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