Aquaman #46 (Jul.-Aug., 1969)

When I look back fifty years, attempting to recollect my early comics-buying experiences, I can readily remember all of the places where I regularly purchased my books, circa 1969.  In order of (probable) shopping frequency, they were the Tote-Sum* convenience store on Triangle Drive, the Short-Stop* on Northview Dr., a second Tote-Sum on Forest Ave., and the Ben Franklin Five-and-Dime on Meadowbrook Rd..  I have some sense memory of each of those long-gone places — how they were laid out, the lighting, the location of the Icee machine behind the checkout counter, and so forth.  By and large, however, I don’t have memories of buying specific comic books; for example, I have no idea at which store I bought either Avengers #65 or X-Men #57, the two comics I’ve blogged about here most recently.

But I do remember where, and maybe even when, I bought the subject of today’s post.  I’m quite certain that I purchased it at the Triangle Drive Tote-Sum, and I’m fairly sure it was in the evening, after dark.

Why do I recall buying this particular comic book, and not others I picked up at around the same time?  Well, it wasn’t due to artist Nick Cardy’s cover illustration, as compelling (though also, as we’ll soon see, ultimately rather misleading) as it was; or even to that illustration’s promise that within the comic’s pages, the titular hero’s months-long quest to find his kidnapped wife Mera would reach its end at last.

Rather, it was due to the fact that it was the first comic book I saw that reflected the price increase for “standard” size comic books that went into effect across the industry at that time — as the cost of a single issue rose from twelve to fifteen cents — a twenty-five percent increase.**   

I was too young to have been reading comics at the time of the last general increase in 1961 (which also happened to be the first general increase since the comic-book format became standardized in the 1930s), when the price had jumped from ten to twelve cents.  So this was an entirely novel experience; and for my part, at least, completely unexpected.  For those reasons, this three-cent jump has stuck in my mind better than any other comics price increase I’ve seen over the subsequent years and decades, despite the fact that — even adjusted for inflation — it’s the least substantial of any of them.

A message from the good folks at National Periodical Publications (i.e., DC Comics), appended to the end of Aquaman #46’s letters column, offered the company’s explanation for the change:

Even if you weren’t around for this particular price hike, the odds are good that, if you’ve been reading comic books for more than a couple of decades, you’ve read one or more messages similar to this one,*** and will find it familiar in the essentials:  Our costs for paper, printing, etc., have gone up.  You, too, pay more for stuff (sodas, hot dogs, and other such staple consumables of American youth) than you used to.  We promise we’ll make up for this price hike by making our comics even greater than they already are, as hard as that might be for you to imagine.  And so forth.

Marvel Comics raised their prices in May of ’69 as well, and as you’d expect, they also felt obliged to provide a word of explanation.  Unlike DC, whose letters pages were the purviews of their individual editors, they already had a forum for “Marvel” as an overall entity to address readers — namely, the monthly column by editor-in-chief Stan Lee that ran in every comic’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page.

It’s interesting to note the ways in which the two messages from the leading publishers were similar, and also how they were different.  Like “The Editors” at DC, Lee noted the fact that prices were going up for everything, and stressed the publisher’s ongoing commitment to quality.  But he also suggested that the main reason for the hike was that Marvel had “regularly increased the payments that we make to artists, writers, printers, etc.”  In other words, our company is trying to do right by Jolly Jack, Rascally Roy, and all the rest of your favorite Bullpenners.  (In contrast, the closest that DC came to mentioning creators was to state that they were now paying more for the impersonal commodity of “art”.)  That subtle appeal to the “family feeling” Lee and company worked to inculcate in Marvel’s fans, along with the jokey wrap-up (hey, we’re actually making it easier for you to buy our books!), exemplifies the difference between Marvel and DC in their approach to reader relations during that era.

But — enough about my fifty-year-old sticker shock.  There was a whole comic book behind that 15-cent price tag on the cover of Aquaman #46, after all; and it was, in fact, quite a good one — well worth the extra three pennies.

Before we get into the specifics of this issue’s contents, however, I hope you’ll allow me to bring you up to date on the series’ ongoing storyline.  As you may recall from an earlier post, a new creative team on Aquaman — consisting of writer Steve Skeates, artist Jim Aparo, and editor Dick Giordano — had hit the ground running in May, 1968, launching the multi-part “Search for Mera” story arc in their very first issue produced as a group, #40.  But because I’d been less than overwhelmed with the only issue of Aquaman I’d previously read, I didn’t get around to taking a look until the third installment — at which time I was probably hooked by that issue’s iconic cover, illustrated (as were all Aquaman covers during this run) by Nick Cardy, the series’ former regular artist.

Though I was coming in late, Skeates and Aparo efficiently got me caught up with a single half-page flashback on page 3…

… and once I’d read that issue’s entire story (in which our hero’s arch-foe Black Manta turned out to be yet another dead end in his desperate search), I was on board for the duration.

The storyline took something of a left turn in Aquaman #43, as the Sea King’s junior partner Aqualad occupied center stage for most of the issue.  Back in issue #40, Aqualad had been wounded during his and his mentor’s first attempt to track down Mera’s whereabouts.  Later, while still on bed rest in an Atlantis hospital, he’d attempted to get up, slipped, and struck his head against a wall.  In issue #42, we learned that he’d become violent as a result, and was being kept sedated, as he was continually trying to escape.  Apparently, the Atlantis medical team didn’t give him a strong enough dose — because as issue #43 begins, he’s already blown outta there, and is now heading for the realm of the Sorcerers, which is where he’d taken his initial wound.  Aqualad, alas, is suffering from partial amnesia, and believes Aquaman is still being held prisoner by the Sorcerers.

Instead of finding the Sorcerers, however, he ends up waylaid by a group of purple-hued, scaled warriors, who capture him and take him back to their city, where he’s forced to fight their champion in an arena.  Unknown to Aqualad, he’s come upon the dying land of Eldfur, whose people have been all but exterminated over the years by a predatory sea monster, the Bugala.  The Eldfur elders are hopeful of finding a fighter who may be able to triumph over the monster where their own young warriors (mostly dead now) have failed, and so they’re delighted when Aqualad defeats their champion. On the brighter side, at the very same time that the sea-going Teen Titan is accomplishing this feat, his amnesia clears up — but this hardly helps him in his current predicament, as his Eldfur guards toss him back in his cell.

Meanwhile, Aquaman’s wanderings in search of his abducted wife have led him to a strange underwater city, filled with what first appear to be giant statues of people dressed in garb recalling that of the ancient Greeks.  But, as Aquaman learns from Phil Darson, an amateur undersea explorer who just happens to be in the area, they’re actually alive, and are simply moving too slowly to be readily perceived.  It’s an interesting science-fictional concept; but since Aquaman never interacts with them in any way, it’s also something of a throwaway — and one could be forgiven for considering the comic’s cover (depicting our hero about be squashed underfoot by one of these colossi) to be a bit misleading, if not an outright tease.  (Of course, that’s actually a criticism that could be leveled at most of the covers in this run of issues; but more about that a bit later on.)

Phil Darson’s brief appearance in the story seems rather perfunctory as well — though he does provide the Sea King with an important new clue, as he casually mentions that scientists of the surface world have recently been experimenting with technology that can artificially create sudden whirlpools, of the sort that accompanied Mera’s abduction.  But even though Darson wouldn’t play any further role in the current storyline, he would at least return in a future issue (#49) — which is more than you can say about those slow-moving giants.

And while all this is going on, back in Atlantis, an earthquake briefly rocks the sunken city — and Aquaman’s trusted adviser, the scientist Vulko, speculates that it may only be the first of a series of tremors that “could mean the end of Atlantis as we now know it!”

The next issue finds the Sea King, acting upon the clue given him by Phil Darson, taking his search for Mera to the surface world.  Beginning with an American coastal city (seemingly chosen at random), our hero isn’t even out of the water before he witnesses a gangland shooting on the docks.  Finding himself too late to help the victim, Aquaman resolves to go to the police to report the incident before getting on with his personal business.  But the killer, having double-backed to the scene of his crime, fears that the dying man may have given the Sea King sensitive information, and begins taking potshots at him.  Fleeing, Aquaman manages to elude his armed pursuer by diving through a building’s basement window, but knocks himself unconscious on a metal pipe in the process.  When he comes to, he’s discovered by a young woman (never named) who has no idea who he is (jeez, aren’t all the Justice Leaguers supposed to be famous?), but agrees to help him get his information to the police.  For his part, Aquaman is anxious to get back to the ocean; not just because he wants to resume his search for Mera, but because he’s already been out of the water for almost an hour, and any further delay could mean his death.

Meanwhile, the killer has reluctantly reported back to his boss that a witness to his silencing of the “stoolie” has escaped; and the boss, who recognizes Aquaman from the killer’s description of the witness, immediately puts a price on his head.  By the time Aquaman leaves the young woman’s apartment, the word is out on the streets; and thus our hero is forced to battle through a gauntlet of gunsels, ultimately reaching the life-saving water just in the nick of time.

Aquaman then begins to swim away from the city, resolving to let the local police handle the situation while he takes his search for Mera to another city, further up the coast.  In the end, however, he can’t shrug off a sense of responsibility to see the unfinished business through, and returns to the city — where, of course, he’s once again beset by armed hoodlums. This time, however, replenished by the waters of the sea, he’s once again at his full strength, ready to take on the whole mob — and that’s good, because unknown to our hero, yet another crook< Reynolds, has overheard Aquaman’s new female friend deliver his message to the police; and this lowlife has subsequently kidnapped her, figuring she can lead him to Aquaman, and the cash reward for his death.

Meanwhile, also unknown to Aquaman — as well as to virtually everyone else in the story — Aqualad has been taken out from the Eldfur village, given a spear, and been set to face the Eldfur’s bane, the dreaded Bugala, alone.

Yes, it was quite the set of cliffhangers with which Skeates and Aparo ended issue #44…

…and you can rest assured that there was no way that my eleven-year-old self was going to miss that next issue.

Of course, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you can easily imagine what happened next.

I missed Aquaman #45.

So, in May, 1969, when I at last turned past the cover of Aquaman #46, and gazed upon its opening splash page,**** I was very much at sea (so to speak):

Wait a minute… Mera is back?! When and how did that happen?  You’re darn right I want an explanation!

And, of course, I got one — though the storytellers’ cleverness in re-presenting key events from issue #45 (this time from Mera’s perspective, rather than Aquaman’s) would be lost on me until I picked up that comic as a back issue several years later.  But since there’s no good reason why you should be similarly deprived, here’s a recap of “Underworld Reward, Part 2”.

Making quick work of the crooks gunning for him at the docks, Aquaman dons a trench coat and fedora and hits the mean streets noir-style, looking for clues.  In a bar, he overhears the opportunistic Reynolds tell the mob’s bagman, Harlan, that he’s keeping a woman prisoner back at his place who he’s sure knows the secret of Aquaman’s whereabouts.  Realizing that this must be the same young woman whom he’d earlier enlisted to help him, Aquaman tails Reynolds back to his hideout, and proceeds to rescue his new friend, making quick work of both Reynolds and his accomplices.  Then he heads back to the bar, where he accosts Harlan and forces him to tell him the whereabouts of his boss — the man who’s put the price on his head.

Meanwhile, many miles away at the bottom of the ocean, Aqualad is in the battle of his life against the Bugala — and it’s not going great.  He’s lost his spear, for one thing.  But at least he still has all his limbs, so that’s something.

Once he’s arrived at the location given him by Harlan, Aquaman passes through a hole in the wall of an abandoned subway tunnel and comes upon the secret headquarters of the syndicate boss.  There, a fight breaks out, and Aquaman knocks the boss into some mysterious machinery, inadvertently turning it on.  A scientist on the mob’s payroll immediately panics, telling the Sea King that, if the machinery isn’t brought under control, it’ll explode and take the whole place with it; unfortunately, when the man tries to shut the equipment down, he’s electrocuted.  Aquaman flees the scene — but before he can get very far, a blast blows him through a plate glass window into the ocean; for, as both our hero and his readers now understand, the whole headquarters complex has been built under water.

Reasoning that the explosion that just occurred was a minor one, not large enough to destroy the entire undersea fortress in the way the scientist described, Aquaman assumes that another, bigger blast is on the way.  He begins swimming furiously, trying to put as much distance between himself and the coming explosion as possible, but then is trapped by a sudden whirlpool — much like the one that trapped him, Mera, Aqualad, and Aquababy at the beginning of the whole saga:

Wow — what a way to end an issue, huh?  And now that you’re all caught up, we can pick up right where we left off, with page 2 of issue #46:

Mera’s reverie begins with the now-familiar scene with which this story arc began, of her and her family being suddenly overtaken by the mysterious whirlpool just outside Atlantis — but then, it quickly moves on to show us things we haven’t seen before:

Mera’s recognition of her prospective captors as exiled Atlantean criminals brings into the saga, for the first time, the notion that her abduction might be an inside job.

Also beginning on this page is an inconsistency in the coloring of Mera’s hair which will continue annoyingly throughout the rest of the story — sometimes it’s candy-apple red, other times a sort of fuchsia, and at still other times (as on this page) some admixture of the two.

Yet one more thing worth noting here is that Mera always calls her beloved husband  “Aquaman”, even in her unspoken thoughts.  Though the Sea King’s “real” name had been established as “Arthur Curry” as far back as 1959 (in his Silver Age origin story, published in Adventure Comics #260), it was virtually never used during this era.

But to return to our story (and Mera’s):  Aquaman heard his queen’s call and tried to respond — but as we’ve seen in prior accounts, he was quickly knocked unconscious by a blow from one of the Atlantean renegades.  By the time our hero recovered, Mera’s captors had carried her far out of his sight:

Narkran, a character created by scripter Steve Skeates, had been introduced in the second issue of the present story arc, when Aquaman left his realm in said character’s hands for the duration of his quest.  Subsequent issues had shown the deputy ruler becoming more and more authoritarian in his governance, leading to a growing atmosphere of tension among the Atlantean populace — but this is the first inkling we’ve had of Narkran actually having had a hand in Mera’s kidnapping.  As will steadily become clearer as this issue progresses, however, what have up until now appeared to be several distinctly separate plot threads are actually quite thoroughly intertwined.

Eventually, the sub surfaced within a cave, and a weakened Mera was tossed into a water-filled cell:

Say, does that silhouetted criminal boss in the last panel look familiar?  He should — he’s the same unnamed mob boss who’s been behind all the sinister shenanigans in the two preceding issues.  That means that when Aquaman thought he was temporarily abandoning his search for his wife to deal with the murder-laced mysteries in the coastal city, he was actually red-hot on the kidnappers’ trail.  It’s an ironic twist which, in addition to weaving yet another seemingly separate strand into the story’s central plotline, helps divert attention from the rather incredible coincidence that the very first surface city that Aquaman decided to investigate turns out to be the very one where Mera is being held.  (Though I suppose you could make the case that this city is actually the closest one to Atlantis, as the shark swims, which could account both for the criminals choosing it for their base, and for Aquaman beginning his search there.)

Finally, the boss himself confronted Mera — telling her that his men had taken Aquaman prisoner as well, and unless she cooperated with them by using her hard-water powers to help them commit piracy, they would pump the water out of her husband’s cell and let him die:

Mera was 99% certain that her captors were lying — but with Aquaman’s life on the line, she couldn’t bring herself to accept even a 1% chance that they were being truthful.  And so, with only moments left before her fifteen minutes were up, she ultimately agreed to their demands.

Afterwards, her captors left her alone to wait…

On the next page, it’s revealed via another “editor’s note” that the mechanism for opening Mera’s cell was inadvertently activated by Aquaman, when he knocked one of the mob boss’ henchmen into it during the big fight scene in issue #45.  More irony!

Mera began running through the stone passages of the undersea fortress, looking for an exit, but found two armed hoods instead.  The succeeding sequence gives Skeates and Aparo the opportunity to demonstrate that the queen of Atlantis is not the least bit dependent on her hard-water super-powers when she needs to take down a couple of bad guys:

“Women loved this issue,” according to Steve Skeates (writing in the seventeenth issue of the fanzine, The Aquaman Chronicles); and Mera’s intrepidness throughout the story — but especially in the scene of kick-assery shown above — makes that assertion entirely plausible.

After dispensing with the two thugs, Mera ran on until she found the chamber where the submarine that brought her here was docked.  She then dove into the water and escaped into the open sea; though, once she was free, however, she wasn’t sure what to do next, remembering that there was still a slight chance that Aquaman was being held prisoner within the fortress.  And then…

Readers in May, 1969 who — unlike me — had read the previous issue would likely realize that the final panel of page 12 calls back to #45’s page 20, in which Aquaman glimpsed Mera but assumed he was “seeing things” (as would most readers).  And those same readers would also recall what almost immediately followed:

In this version, however, we see what wasn’t shown before — namely, Mera using her hard-water powers to form protective spheres around both her and her husband, shielding them from the worst of the blast.  After carrying them both to safety, however, Mera discovered that the injured Aquaman wasn’t able to catch his breath:

And so, we’ve come around full circle, back to the conclusion of issue #45 / beginning of issue #46.

Now, as the ambulance carrying Aquaman and herself arrives at the hospital, Mera’s flashback comes to a close — and the story shifts scenes to Atlantis, where we find Dr. Vulko reporting in to Narkran about the recent earth tremor — and witness Narkran’s surprising (and rather disturbing) response:

Narkran abruptly dismisses Vulko, and the scientist makes his exit thinking troubled thoughts about the deputy leader’s growing tyranny.

And he’s not the only member of the series’ supporting cast who has concerns on that subject; for, as the story now shows us, Aqualad’s girlfriend Tula, better known as Aquagirl, is entertaining similar misgivings while she wanders the streets — until something else attracts her attention:

As I mentioned in my Aquaman #36 post many months back, Aquagirl should probably be accorded the rather dubious honor of being my first real comic-book crush.  I believe that there were several factors that may have contributed to her particular appeal for my prepubescent self.  To begin with the most obvious: as drawn by both Jim Aparo and her co-creator Nick Cardy, Tula was a very pretty girl.  But in addition to that, she came across as decidedly younger than most of the other “girls” — Batgirl, Supergirl, Marvel Girl, etc. — whom I’d encountered in comic books thus far, which made her seem more “accessible”, somehow.  She was also a brave and independent young woman, as evidenced in the scene shown above (and in succeeding pages).  And finally, there was of course her two-piece outfit, which showed off more skin than virtually any other superheroine’s costume of the time, and which likely piqued my, um, interest, even at the tender age of eleven years (and ten months).

In 1969, you’d have likely figured out that the black-haired fellow, Mupo, was the leader of the young revolutionaries even if he hadn’t introduced himself to Tula as such.  He’s the one with the long hair, beard, and hippie medallion, after all.

With the introduction of Narkran’s not-so-loyal opposition, Skeates has at last brought in the final major plot element of his story arc — and one which will play a dominant role in the remaining chapters, now that the “search for Mera” itself is technically over.

The five-sided Maarzon ring — which initially appeared to be as vital a clue for Aquaman’s quest as was “the one-armed man” in TV’s The Fugitive, or “the Hook” in DC Comics’ own “Deadman” — turns out to have been a red herring all along.  But since that’s a standard device in fiction (particularly in the mystery genre), one can hardly fault Skeates for employing it.  I certainly don’t recall feeling let down by this resolution in any way as a young reader.

Um, Aquaman, I think that’s your cue.  Time to take your long-lost wife into your arms, and…

Oof.  “I think we’ve spent just about enough time on small talk”?!  I’d have to say you blew that one, buddy.  Luckily for you, however, Mera appears to be the forgiving sort…

Oh, yeah!  I almost did forget, Aqualad is still fighting the Bugala!  Just like he has been ever since issue #44.  I’m not sure exactly how long that’s been in comic-book time, but the poor kid must be pretty winded by now.  Here’s hoping he can hang on two more months (real world time) until issue #47!

As I said earlier in this post, I consider Aquaman #46 to be quite a good comic book; and I thought the same back in May of ’69.  In fact, once one disregards the three-cent rise in price, there’s everything to like about this issue, and nothing to dislike, with one notable exception — the cover, which I found somewhat disappointing when the book first came out, and still do.  That’s mostly because, like every other Aquaman cover from #43’s on, it’s very well drawn, but (in my opinion) also at least a little bit misleading.

After all, as was noted earlier, Aquaman didn’t come anywhere close to being squashed by a giant foot in #43.  And even though he did have to sweat his sixty-minutes-out-of-water limit for several pages in #44, he was never tied up and tantalizingly suspended over water by gangsters.  As for #45 — sure, he did end up unconscious on a beach in that issue, but what’s with the woman with her head in her hands in the background?  I guess she’s supposed to be the same young lady that our hero inadvertently caused to get kidnapped and then had to rescue in that issue, but still.

Most to the present point , there’s no horned-helmeted warlord on view anywhere in issue #46.  (Not to mention that the cover shows Aquaman in an active role and Mera in a passive one, while the story features precisely the opposite; that’s not the sort of thing that would likely have annoyed me as an eleven-year-old, I’m sorry to say.)

In issue #48’s letters column, correspondent Gary Skinner of Columbus, Ohio took editor Dick Giordano to task for this particular cover, stating:  “I am willing to allow a slight rearrangement of a scene for cover impact, but deception is not the answer.”  Giordano’s response was as follows:

Giordano seems to be saying here that the helmeted fellow on the cover is supposed to represent Narkran.  I don’t think that I thought this explanation quite passed muster when I first read it many years ago, and I find it even less convincing today.  Even if the editor didn’t know what, precisely, was going to happen in issue #46’s story when he assigned the cover to Nick Cardy, he surely knew what Narkran looked like (the character had been around since #41, after all) and he could have given Cardy better direction for his likeness.  Of course, if Cardy had drawn the back of Narkran’s curly black head, it would have been much easier for we readers to guess who was responsible for Mera’s abduction.  You can easily see why they wouldn’t want to do that; but you can also see why somebody (e.g., Garry Skinner) would call what they did instead a “deception”.

In Giordano’s defense, however, he didn’t have complete autonomy when it came to the design of his books’ covers.  As a DC editor, his boss was Carmine Infantino — a man who’d been one of the publisher’s top freelance artists for many years before being made an executive at the company.  Infantino had been responsible for the design of the covers across DC’s line for some time already when Giordano — who was himself also an artist, of course — came over to DC (at Infantino’s instigation) from his previous employer, Charlton Comics, in 1967; and the two men frequently didn’t see things eye to eye.  As Giordano would relate to Jon B. Cooke some thirty years later, in an interview for Comic Book Artist:

The covers to Aquaman were one of the sticky points between Carmine and myself. I had no objections to Nick [Cardy] doing the covers but I had a feeling about covers that they shouldn’t lie, a feeling that Carmine didn’t have. In order to get by my objection, he set up a system where Nick would come in after I left because I was living in Connecticut – I had to leave at about 4:30 or 5:00. Both Nick and Carmine lived in the city and he would have Nick come in and they would lay out a cover going over the artwork for the book and I’d come in in the morning and find a finished cover. They were great covers – creatively, they were great but they just lied!

After a few years, the working relationship between Giordano and Infantino deteriorated to the point that the former resigned from his editorial position at DC, returning to a full-time career as a freelance artist (while also forming a new studio, Continuity Associates, with fellow artist Neal Adams).  So, I should probably cut the guy a little slack after fifty years.  It’s just that my eleven-year-old self really wanted to see the King of the Seven Seas throw down with that guy with the cool horned hat, back in May, 1969 — and I never got to, dammit.  But, y’know… water under the bridge, and all that.  Time to move on.

Anyway, I hope you’ll come back for a visit in July, when we’ll take a look at Aquaman #47 — which, in addition to being the penultimate installment of the “Search for Mera” saga, also (unfortunately) happens to be the very last issue of Aquaman that I would buy new off the stands, for many years to come.  See you then.

*If you didn’t grow up in Jackson, MS or its environs in the Sixties or Seventies, just think “7-Eleven”.

**For the record, Aquaman #46 wouldn’t have been the first fifteen-cent comic book I’d ever seen, or even owned.  Back in 1961, when virtually every other comics publisher had raised their prices from ten to twelve cents, Dell Comics had made the jump all the way to fifteen (though only temporarily, as it turned out).  I never actually bought a 15-cent Dell comic as far as I can recall, but a copy of Four Color #1214 (Aug., 1961) did manage to find its way into my house some time before I actually started purchasing comics in 1965, as originally related in this blog’s premiere post.

***DC had actually established the template for these explanatory messages with their first price increase in 1961.  A full page letter appearing on the inside front cover of all DC comics released in December of that year tracks very closely with the May, 1969 iteration; in fact, save for using a different salutation (“Dear Boys and Girls” rather than “Dear DC Fans”), and a few necessary numerical differences (the cited prices of sodas, etc.), the first, second and closing paragraphs are virtually identical.  (The 1961 letter’s third paragraph alludes to Dell’s going to 15 cents at that time, and so doesn’t have a 1969 analogue.)

****The credits box on this page includes the rather cryptic note of attribution, “inked by an inker”.  At this time in his career, Jim Aparo almost always inked as well as lettered his own pencilled pages; but, according to both the Grand Comics Database and Mike’s Amazing World, this particular story was embellished instead by Frank Giacoia.  Why wasn’t the veteran inker credited?  My research hasn’t turned up a definitive answer, but it seems likely that he considered this a bit of moonlighting from his regular gig at Marvel (where he’d done most of his work for the last half-decade or so), and chose on this occasion to stay anonymous rather than work under a pseudonym, as he had on other occasions (e.g., as “Frank Ray”).  UPDATE 6/3019:  Information received on Facebook after this post was originally published, from Mark Evanier and others, suggests that — since Aparo would have lettered as well as pencilled his pages before they were inked — he may well not have known who the inker would be at the time he lettered that credit box.  In the end, this seems a more likely explanation than Giacoia wanting to remain anonymous, especially considering that the artist had other work published by DC around the same time which was credited.


  1. IRA Henkin · May 1, 2019

    Great article, as ever

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mwgallaher · May 2, 2019

    The bigger question to me is why Aparo didn’t ink the issue in the first place. Jim’s technique was to do the panel borders and lettering first, so it’s not surprising that his letters were there even though he didn’t ink, but he also penciled and inked a full page at a time, he didn’t pencil a full issue and then go back to ink it. So this must have been planned. Maybe they were just running behind and needed to accelerate things by pipelining the work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · May 3, 2019

      mwgallaher — yes, that’s an interesting question. I didn’t get into this in the post, but the two following issues, #47 and #48, each have shorter lead stories — 16 pages, rather than 23 — with the remaining pages in each featuring reprints. Dick Giordano answered a reader’s question about this in #49’s letters column saying that “personal problems” on Aparo’s part made it impossible for him to draw 23 pages for #47 and make deadline, so the final chapter of the “search for Mera” arc was split into two parts. I wonder if those same “personal problems” might have also had something to do with Aparo not having time to ink #46.


  3. maxreadscomics · May 13, 2019

    Ah, yes: comic book sticker shock! Mine came later, when the increase from 60 cents all the way up to 75 cents (gasp!) made me wonder if my beloved comics weren’t becoming too expensive to keep up with. Ha! As for this issue, I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard about the “Search for Mera” for decades now, and I gotta say: it looks like it lives up to the hype. Jim Aparo is a favorite artist of mine, after all, and I of course enjoyed his later work on Aquaman’s “Adventure Comics” residenc(ies). Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Hulk #118 (August, 1969) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  5. Pingback: House of Secrets #81 (Aug.-Sept., 1969) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  6. Pingback: Aquaman #47 (Sept.-Oct., 1969) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  7. Pat Conolly · March 13, 2020

    The old 10 cent price was very convenient for me. At that time my little brother and I got a nickel each to buy a small carton of milk at the school cafeteria for lunch, with our sandwiches from home. I pointed out that we could skip the milk and buy a comic each school day, which we did for a while. At least until my brother complained about eating dry peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with no drink, and consequently his teacher finding out about my scheme.

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  8. Pingback: Forever People #4 (Aug.-Sept., 1971) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  9. frednotfaith2 · June 5, 2021

    I never collected Aquaman, but many of those covers are impressive works of comics art. On the other hand, if I’d been a regular reader (and a few years older than 7, as I became in 1969), I might’ve felt rather peeved if however enticing the covers, they mis-represented the story within the actual comic. I could forgive an occasional blunder (which certainly happened often enough at Marvel), and certainly don’t mind a cover scene that is representative of an element of the story even if it doesn’t echo a precise scene within the story (as with the cover to #45). But I certainly wouldn’t be happy if the covers regularly featured scenes that had little to do with the contents or entirely mis-represented the contents. In more recent decades, I know there was a trend to just feature “posters” featuring the title character(s) with no other reference at all to the comic’s contents, not a good solution IMO. More fun, was the approach of Moore & Gibbons on Watchmen of making the cover the first panel of the story within, admittedly not very practical for most comics, but they pulled it off very well in that classic.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Thor #193 (November, 1971) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  11. Marcus · September 25, 2021

    I had been buying comics for over a year by this point, but I didn’t experience the price increase since I was living in Puerto Rico at the time and was paying 15 cents for comics anyway. I do remember debating whether to quit if the price did go up, but they didn’t. By the time the next increase came, I was hooked and it didn’t matter.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Cornelius Featherjaw · November 1, 2021

    My dad has often told me the story of how he picked out an issue of Adventure Comics and had his 12 cents ready, only to be told he needed 15 cents. To make matters worse, at that time products became taxable at 15 cents in our state, so it ended up costing him 16 cents.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Mark · September 22

    I also remember the 12 to 15 cent increase. I had picked out my comic, and went to pay. The shop owner said “15 cents” and I only had 12 cents. B*****d would not let me have it, and I left empty handed and broken hearted.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. frednotfaith2 · September 23

    To my recall, comics had already gone up to 15 cents by the time I started buying them on my own (any previous comics I got were purchased by my parents), but then there was a period of several months when I didn’t get any comics, but when I did start getting them again, they’d gone up to 20 cents, with a penny tax. Afterwards, the price kept creeping up every two years or less, up to 25 cents, then to 30, then 35, up to 40, then 50, then 60 by 1983, tripling in price within 11 years. And by 1986, they’d more than doubled, going up to $1.25. Seemed odd to discover that between the publication of Famous Funnies #1 in 1934 and that of Fantastic Four # 1 in 1961, a period of about 27 years, comics had been a dime, albeit that at least through much of the ’40s, those dime comics had at least twice as many pages so essentially comics readers in 1961 had to pay twice as much to get the same amount of content as in 1941. Then they held at 12 cents from 1962 through ’69, long enough for most kids to take for granted they’d stay put at that price. At least until they discovered otherwise the hard way! There were a lot of comics I wanted to get but just couldn’t because I didn’t have enough money to purchase them, and obviously that was the case for many other comics fans, particularly young ones. By 1986, I was earning enough money to get a lot more comics, even at $1.25 a pop, but I had come to the realization I was buying a lot of comics I no longer enjoyed reading or even had the time to read. Hence, the breaking of my comics habit. Of course, I didn’t entirely quit, but I was getting far fewer than had been the case for the previous 13 or so years.

    Liked by 1 person

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