Forever People #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972)

In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:

There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.

A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments.  The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February.  As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before.  If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over. 

As indicated by the cover of Forever People #9, one of Infantino’s strategies was to leverage the company’s recent (if relative) success with Comics Code-approved horror to boost sales of its titles in other genres.  And so we have a primary cover image in which Kirby and inker Mike Royer have given us a straight-up riff on Frankenstein, with the series’ titular stars relegated to a column of floating heads to its left.  If you weren’t already familiar with Forever People, how would you know it wasn’t a monster comic?*

Of course, that image wasn’t the only thing that set the cover of FP #9 apart — there was also the top-side slug and graphic promising an appearance within of the series’ first guest star since Superman back in issue #1: Deadman.

Cover to Strange Adventures #205 (Oct., 1967). Art by Carmine Infantino and George Roussos.

Cover to Strange Adventures #216 (Jan.-Feb., 1969). Art by Neal Adams.

Fifty years after the fact, it’s admittedly hard to parse the precise motivations of Carmine Infantino in directing Kirby to introduce Deadman into his Fourth World mythos.  Did he really believe that the character he and Arnold Drake had co-created back in 1967 would boost sales by his very presence, after not being able to sustain a series of his own?  (Deadman’s original run in Strange Adventures had concluded in 1969 with issue #216, following twelve installments.)  Or was he more interested in giving the ghostly superhero — who, despite being by this time more closely associated with the feature’s second artist (and eventual writer) Neal Adams, Infantino may still have considered his baby — a creative and commercial boost of his own, courtesy of Jack Kirby’s prodigious imagination?

Perhaps it was something of both.  About the only thing we can be sure of in regards to Infantino’s directive to Kirby to feature Deadman was that the King was unhappy about it.  As one of his assistants at the time, Mark Evanier, later recalled for an interview in The Jack Kirby Collector #6 (July, 1995):

Jack was asked by DC to put Deadman in New Gods.  He didn’t want to, he had New Gods already plotted ahead, he didn’t want to do other people’s characters at all, and he didn’t like Deadman.  I remember he thought it was impossible to do a good character with that name.  In the whole DC universe you couldn’t have picked a character Jack would less have wanted to put into his book, except maybe Fox and Crow. (laughter)  So he decided to put Deadman in Forever People where it was a little less offensive.

About a decade after that interview, Evanier elaborated on Kirby’s antipathy towards Deadman for author Ronin Ro’s book, Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution (Bloomsbury, 2004):

He didn’t like losers, he didn’t like dead people, and he chose not to dwell on failure and defeat and death in his work.

Nevertheless, Kirby had been given a job; and consummate professional that he was, there was no way he wasn’t going to give it his best shot…

If my younger self hadn’t been the kind of comics fan who always read the publishers’ “coming attractions” columns — “Direct Currents”, in DC’s case — I’d likely have been mystified by Deadman’s remark about his work not being finished. But since I was that kind of fan, I’d already read this:

Cover to Justice League of America #94 (Nov., 1971). Art by Neal Adams.

Well, yeah — I was pretty sure.  Even though I hadn’t actually read Strange Adventures #215, in which the spirit of murdered circus aerialist Boston Brand finally caught up with his murderer, the Hook, I knew what had happened in it.  Plus, I’d read Justice League of America #94 (Nov., 1971), which featured Deadman’s most recent appearance prior to Forever People #9.  In that comic, scripter Mike Friedrich had built on what Neal Adams had established in his final Deadman stories for Strange Adventures, showing that the Society (aka League) of Assassins to which the Hook had belonged was still out there, still masterminded by the evil Sensei, and still very much a threat.  JLA #94 had shown that Deadman still had a role to play in what felt like a large, ongoing narrative; sure, he’d solved the mystery of his murder, but that didn’t necessarily mean that that story was truly over.  At least, that’s how my fourteen-year-old self saw it.

Mark Evanier, on the other hand, seems to have seen things differently.  He felt that DC had made a mistake in resolving the plotline of Deadman’s hunt for his killer back in 1969 — that said hunt was in fact intrinsic to the character’s appeal.  Evanier was able to convince Kirby that, to make Deadman successful again, they were going to have to reintroduce the hero’s quest for the Hook.  And Evanier was sure he’d found a loophole that would allow them to do so without their having to completely override previous continuity (a loophole we’ll be getting to shortly, never fear)…

In 1995, Evanier remembered the circumstances of how he and his fellow assistant. Steve Sherman, received their “Synopsis prepared by” credit:

Because Jack didn’t want to even look at the old Deadman comics, at his request Steve Sherman and I prepared a storyline for Forever People.  Jack read it and said, “This is great, this is fabulous, you guys did a great job!” and then he didn’t use any of it. (laughter)  But he felt since we had been assigned to plot #9 and #10, he should give us a credit.  He left us off #10 accidentally, so he stuck it on #11.  It’s a really generous credit considering he didn’t use a word we came up with.

The robbery victim isn’t particularly keen on being referred to as “an old magpie” by Big Bear (she calls him a “hair bear” in retaliation), but she comes to appreciate the Forever People as, over the next several pages, they stop the thieves and recover her cash.  When the police finally arrive on the scene, she makes sure they know who the real bad guys are:

Trixie explains that the dress dates from the Jazz Age, when she herself “was a flapper who floored the males!”

Back in Trixie’s apartment, the Forever People express their gratitude to her for renting them rooms, and promise they’ll soon find a way to pay for them; right about then, “Doc” Gideon shows up at the landlady’s open doorway…

The group moves into a curtained alcove, and takes seats around a table for Trixie’s seance.  Fortuitously for Gideon, he’s seated next to Serifan, who has the blue cartridge he covets…

Cover to Strange Adventures #215 (Nov.-Dec., 1968). Art by Neal Adams.

The “loophole” that Mark Evanier found that would allow Kirby to re-open the closed case file of Boston Brand’s murder had to do with an inconsistency in which hand the killer’s hook had been said and/or shown to be on, over the course of Deadman’s run in Strange Adventures.  In the hero’s introductory appearance in SA #205, the hook had indeed been said to be on the murderer’s right hand, just as Trixie Magruder claims in the scene above.  But later, Neal Adams’ cover for the series’ penultimate episode in issue #215 had very clearly shown the hook to be on the assassin’s left hand.  There was a definite discrepancy in the published record; no doubt about it.

But, as has been entertainingly detailed by my friend Brian Cronin in his “Comic Book Legends Revealed” column on CBR.com, there wasn’t just one discrepancy to be accounted for.  Over the course of the two final Deadman stories in Strange Adventures, writer-artist Adams flipped the hook from one hand to another multiple times — and in at least one panel, forgot to draw the metal prosthesis at all, depicting “the Hook” as a guy with two perfectly normal hands.  The way I see it, if you’re going to justify your claim that Deadman didn’t actually find his killer in SA #215 based on some drawings showing a hook on a left hand, you need to account for all the other drawings which show it on the right, or which leave it out completely.  Otherwise, it makes sense to relegate the flip-flops in Adams’ stories to what they obviously actually were — i.e., simple errors of carelessness.

While I’m at it, I’ll note that Trixie Magruder’s role in revealing the truth to Deadman doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, either.  Setting aside the fact that she’s a brand new character who was never seen in SA #205’s origin story, nor in any other comic featuring the employees of Hill’s Circus (not to mention the fact that a character who did appear in those stories, Vashnu, seemed to have the small outfit’s “fortune teller” slot locked up) — hey, maybe she was standing just out of range in all those Strange Adventures panels, y’know? —  how in the heck could she know that the guy Boston Brand caught up with in SA #215 had a hook on his left hand?  The “big reveal” scene had occurred in the secret lair of the Society/League of Assassins, somewhere in the vicinity of Hong Kong, and had no other witnesses besides Deadman and the bad guys.  It’s not like it would have been in the Metropolis papers.

OK, I’ve formally lodged my complaints; now, on with our story…

Following the Frankenstein trope to a “T”, “Doc” Gideon’s creation is both uncontrollable and unstoppable…

Showing that he’s well aware of what he’s doing here — and well aware that the reader will be aware, as well — Kirby lampshades his riff on Frankenstein by having Gideon’s monster emerge onto a busy Metropolis street close to a movie theater showing The Castle of Frankenstein (not the title of any actual real-world film, as far as I know; perhaps Kirby was paying tribute to the magazine of that name, published 1962-1975).

But, as he did with Vykin, the creature is able to turn Mark Moonrider’s own “megaton touch” power against him, sending him flying (hey, let’s see Frankie try to top that).  Serifan is able to use a cosmic cartridge to intercept Mark before he goes splat against a wall — but in the meantime, the creature escapes.

That’s the last we’ll see of “Doc” Gideon, who, having accomplished all that Kirby’s plot requires of him, is evidently of no further interest to the writer-artist.

After the police see Gideon safely carried away, the plainclothes detective on the scene calls in to MPD HQ: “I think we’ve got a new case for ‘Terrible Turpin!’” — a nod to the Metropolis police sergeant featured in the most recent issue of New Gods, just a couple of months before.

Meanwhile, Gideon’s creature has gone underground, finding refuge in the network of pipes supplying gas to the city…

We’re going to go ahead and jump forward in time two months to discuss the conclusion of this story in Forever People #10 (as well as the revelation of the “diabolical new machination from the Kirby “scream machine”) — but first, we have to finish up with Forever People #9.  That’s because despite DC’s 25-cent/48-page format being on its last legs, it was still in use when this issue was released,; and so, while there’s no “Young Gods of Supertown” featurette for us to peruse here (“Monster in the Morgue!” having completely taken up the 26 pages allocated to Kirby-as-editor for new content), there is the usual Joe Simon-Jack Kirby reprint to take note of:

This tale, which was originally presented in Adventure Comics #74 (May, 1942), would be the last such S&K Sandman yarn to appear in Forever People, simply because #9 was the last issue of FP that would be published in the larger, more expensive format.  As of May, DC’s standard-size comics would all revert to their previous length of 32 pages, though now at a 20-cent price point — five cents higher than the same size comic had cost buyers one year earlier.

Tucked away in the midst of three pages of ads (which, in Forever People #9’s case, fell in between the 19th and 20th pages of the lead story), attentive readers found the following explanation of the coming change:

This particular missive may be my favorite of the earnest messages that always accompanied price changes at both DC and Marvel (until they didn’t… anybody out there remember what year that was?), if only because Carmine Infantino apparently expected us to believe that all nine DC editors actually wrote it together.

It’s also interesting in that it sounds more confident in its explanation as to why DC had raised its prices and page-count almost a year earlier than in laying out just why they’re (mostly) rolling back those changes now; I mean, “the economic situation has changed again” may be accurate (when wouldn’t it be?), but it’s also pretty vague.  On the other hand, I guess I can understand why the DC brass wouldn’t have wanted to write: We had to do this because you all started spending more of your comics money on Marvel and our other competitors’ books than on ours, you little jerks. 

In any event, it’s worth comparing this statement to Marvel’s corresponding Bullpen Bulletin, issued the previous October to explain their own 25-to-20-cent downshift after just one full month at the higher-priced 48-page format.  Like DC, Marvel had offered vague language about “economic reasons far too complicated to go into”, rather than a more direct remark along the lines of:  We figured out that trying to fill all those extra pages with new material the way we’d planned was going to be too damn expensive.  Or, as some believe to have been Marvel publisher Martin Goodman’s true motivation through the whole business: We’re gonna really stick it to DC by suddenly undercutting their prices, gang. 


And now, on to Forever People #10.  We’ll linger at the cover just long enough to note that there’s no ersatz Universal movie monster or other specifically horror-genre-invoking imagery on this one (not counting Deadman himself, at any rate), so maybe Carmine Infantino’s interest in pursuing that strategy only lasted a month.  On the other hand, the Forever People themselves are definitely still being shown in a subordinate role on the cover of their own comic book.

The title of this issue’s story is “The Scavengers”, and Kirby spends the first few pages of his narrative introducing us to the bad guys of the title — an international criminal organization devoted to locating and acquiring unusual items on behalf of their clients, by any means necessary.  We meet the group’s Director, who, immediately after having discussed an assignment to purloin a full-size Egyptian pyramid with a reluctant operative, takes a call that turns out to concern some folks we know…

Kirby had introduced the concept of the “Follower” over a year ago, in Mister Miracle #2.  There, it was shown to be a life-like robot that could mirror the actions of whoever was controlling it.  But as indicated by Mark Moonrider and Serifan’s dialogue above, the technology can be adapted for other purposes as well…

OMG!  The Director has a hook on his right hand!  Has Kirby re-opened the Boston Brand murder case, only to almost immediately close it again?  Stay tuned…

As for Mark Moonrider’s statement to Serifan about gathering their group together — per their promise to Trixie Magruder in the previous issue, the other Forever People have headed out to find gainful employment; and so, over the next few pages we follow Serifan as he retrieves Beautiful Dreamer from a photographer’s studio where she’s modeling swimwear, and Big Bear from his new gig as a chauffeur.  Meanwhile, back at the boarding house…

Considering that the Followers are New Gods tech, it seems more than a little odd that it’s Mark who’s dumbfounded that someone has made off with the thing, and Deadman who quickly concludes that well, duh, it did exactly what it’s been programmed to do by following its abductor.  Almost as odd is the fact that Followers aren’t built with some kind of “off” switch to prevent just this sort of thing from happening.  But, hey, whatever.

In the next moment, the rest of the Forever People arrive (including Vykin, who doesn’t seem to have found a job yet, or if he has we’re not told about it).  But rather than show us what they decide to do next, Kirby cuts to the headquarters of the Scavengers, where the Follower is tested by having a big tough guy fight with it.  Unsurprisingly, the Follower lays out its opponent with one punch, but this just weirds the Director out all the more…

According to Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby was unhappy with the notion that, as originally conceived by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, Deadman didn’t have a physical body — that to effect any kind of change in the physical world (to punch somebody, for instance), he had to possess the body of some other, living person.  This dissatisfaction led to the idea of having Deadman acquire a new, super-powerful body via the previously established concept of the Follower.

While it’s not hard to understand how Kirby — a creator whose characters never seem to be in their natural state unless they’re leaping, flying, or punching, or at least poised to do so — had difficulty in relating to a superhero whose most distinctive characteristic was that he had no physicality of his own, the King’s solution took the risk of turning Deadman into yet another acrobatic bruiser in a costume, a la Captain America, the Guardian, Sandman, and others (albeit one who couldn’t himself be killed — at least not easily — as we’re about to witness)…

The “mechan-apes” are indeed pretty tough, but are nevertheless ultimately vanquished by the might of Big Bear — a feat that does not go unobserved..

The “fully automated robot circus” unleashes another deadly “performer” on Vykin and Big Bear — this time, it’s a mechanical “super knife-throwing act“, which Vykin eventually takes down via the superpower that makes him “a mystic network of technical attunement!” — a gift that allows him to find the killing machine’s kill-switch just in the nick of time…

When it appeared in June, 1972, The Demon would be the first color comic book Jack Kirby had produced for DC since his return to the company in 1970 that didn’t have anything to do with the Fourth World mythos. Its existence arose from the fact that he King had parted ways with Jimmy Olsen earlier in the year and, needing another assignment from DC to fill his contracted number of pages, took on Carmine Infantino’s request to try his hand at creating something in the horror-monster character vein.  In retrospect, one can hardly help seeing the blurb announcing the new series’ debut as an early harbinger of the death of the Fourth World (at least in the form of an ongoing epic chronicled by Kirby) — but at the time, The Demon was just another new Kirby book, as far as the readers (and, according to Mark Evanier, Kirby himself) knew.

As one of those original readers back in 1972, I wish I could remember my initial reaction to my first glimpse of the demon we’d soon come to know as Etrigan — but I’m afraid I don’t.  I’m sure I must have been at least a little intrigued — it was Kirby, after all, as well as an evidently supernaturally-themed character, and I was very much into those — but I suspect that my response, whatever it was, was greatly overshadowed by my more visceral reaction to the Forever People story that had preceded it.  And that reaction, I remember clearly, was decidedly negative.

As you might guess, that had to do mostly with Kirby’s handling of Deadman.  I’ve already mentioned most of the elements that irked my younger self way back when (and which still annoy me at least a little to this very day, if I’m going to be honest), but here’s one more biggie:  Deadman’s dialogue.

Arnold Drake had given Boston Brand a distinctive voice in his first appearance — one which seemed appropriate to his identity as the hard-bitten star performer of a ramshackle traveling circus, and also helped set him apart from the mass of DC superheroes, most of whom generally spoke in a more conventional, if not outright formal speech pattern; and Drake’s successors, both in his Strange Adventures series as well as in Deadman’s other appearances, had thus far kept that voice consistent.  But Kirby’s Deadman — practically from the first lines he utters in FP #9, and definitely from the panel on page 13 where he uses the word “shall” not just once, but twice — rarely, if ever, sounds like the guy readers had already come to know.

I’m by no means one of those who disparages Kirby’s dialogue-writing ability as a matter of course; and, in fact, I think he could have given us an acceptable version of Boston Brand’s established manner of speaking, based on his track record with other “tough guy” characters, such as the aforementioned Dan “Terrible” Turpin.  But I suspect that Kirby may never have actually known what Deadman had sounded like in every one of his prior appearances; unfortunately, that’s the sort of thing that happens when you leave it up to your assistants to research an unfamiliar character, and then work from what they tell you, rather than from your own first-hand knowledge.  While I’m generally sympathetic to Kirby in terms of the position he’d been placed into, having been directed by his boss to shoehorn a preexisting character he didn’t care for into his own personal, highly complex epic (and, while he was at it, revitalize that character as a viable property) — certainly I’m more sympathetic today than I was back in 1972, when I didn’t know any of this behind-the-scenes stuff — it’s hard not to think that maybe Kirby might have done at least a little better by Deadman if he’d just taken the time to, y’know, read a few of his earlier stories.

Anyway, as I was saying: the story’s take on Deadman was probably the main reason I found Forever People #9 and #10’s two-parter to be one of the least satisfying narratives yet to appear in any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World books — but it wasn’t the only reason.  My other major complaint was that spending two whole issues on Deadman, “Doc” Gideon and his monster, the Scavengers, et al, had delayed any progress being made on what I considered to be the real story of Forever People — the ongoing chronicle of these young gods’ struggle against Darkseid and the other forces of Apokolips on Earth, especially in relation to Darkseid’s efforts to obtain the Anti-Life Equation.

I would likely have been even more bummed out about that aspect of Forever People #9 and #10 had I suspected that there was going to be only one more issue of the book, period — and thus, only one more chapter in the chronicle of that aforementioned struggle.  But for more about the unexpectedly sudden conclusion to the saga of those crazy kids from Supertown, and the outcome of their final showdown with Darkseid, you’ll have to check back in four months.


Actually, though, while we’re not going to discuss any other aspect of Forever People #11 in this post, we are going to touch briefly on that issue’s letters page, as it included readers’ responses to the first part of the Deadman duology in Forever People #9.  According to Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman (who managed the “Buzzing in the Boom tube” lettercol for Kirby), the vast majority of letters they’d received so far were “raves”, with only four negative missives from “Deadman purists” having arrived by the time they wrapped work on the column.

But however well Kirby’s revamp of Deadman may (or may not) have been received by fans, it doesn’t appear to have met with much approval in the DC offices  As recounted by Ronin Ro in Tales to Astonish:

At DC, executives expected him [i.e., Kirby] to give Deadman a new costume and make him a big success.  When they saw what he’d done, some ran around the office yelling, “Oh, my God, Kirby has changed Deadman!  We can’t have this!”

Such an attitude was obviously unfair; but even if DC’s dismay could be considered justified, the deed had already been done.  Kirby had changed Deadman, for better or worse, and DC couldn’t just ignore that fact.

Or could they?

Cover to Brave and the Bold #104 (Nov.-Dec., 1972). Art by Nick Cardy.

Deadman’s first two appearances following the release of Forever People #10 did not, in fact, make any mention of Deadman resuming the search for his killer, or of his acquisition of a solid body via the Follower.  On the other hand, both of those stories (which appeared in Brave and the Bold #104 [Nov.-Dec., 1972] and World’s Finest #223 [May-Jun., 1974]) were written by Bob Haney, who routinely ignored continuity whenever it pleased him; so perhaps we shouldn’t place too much significance on that fact.

Cover to Phantom Stranger #33 (Oct.-Nov., 1974). Art by Jim Aparo.

Boston Brand’s next appearance, on the other hand, was a somewhat different matter; coming in Phantom Stranger #33 (Oct.-Nov., 1974), it was written by none other than Deadman’s co-creator Arnold Drake.  While there was no sign of the Follower in Drake’s script, Deadman was nevertheless unambiguously portrayed as being on the hunt for his murderer, the Hook.   Based simply on this one story, it certainly appeared that at least one of Kirby’s major changes had stuck.

Cover to Phantom Stranger #39 (Oct.-Nov., 1975). Art by Jim Aparo.

At least that was the case until Phantom Stranger #39, published one year later, which saw Deadman return to join his fellow supernatural superhero in an adventure that pit them both against the League of Assassins’ Sensei —  once again the mastermind of the organization to which Boston Brand’s killer, the Hook, had belonged.  The plot threads abandoned by DC following JLA #94 four years earlier had to all appearances been picked right back up, just as though those intervening Forever People stories (not to mention the 33rd issue of Phantom Stranger itself) had never even occurred.  What had happened?

Evidently, what had happened was the author of the PS #39 tale, Paul Levitz.  This young writer (and I do mean young; Mr. Levitz has existed on this terrestrial sphere a mere nine months longer than your humble blogger, which means he was only eighteen years of age when PS #39 came out) was of the new generation of fans-turned-pro who cared about continuity every bit as much as Bob Haney didn’t.  Levitz also appears to have been among those readers who (like yours truly) would have preferred that Neal Adams’ solution to the Brand murder mystery be left alone — none of this “wrong hand” business — but because continuity was important, those stories that didn’t “fit” that scenario had to be accounted for somehow.

First page of Paul Levitz’s article in Amazing World of DC Comics (Sep.-Oct., 1975)

In the eighth issue of DC’s in-house fanzine The Amazing World of DC Comics (cover dated Sep.-Oct., 1975). Levitz’s byline appeared on an article called “The Haphazard History of Boston Brand”, which explained that both the Forever People sequence and Arnold Drake’s earlier Phantom Stranger tale had somehow taken place prior to the last three Deadman stories in Strange Adventures.  This obviously created a whole set of new questions — if Deadman hadn’t yet encountered the League of Assassins when he met the Forever People, why did he think he’d already found his killer?  How did he ultimately resolve the right-left hand question?  What the hell ever happened to the Follower?  But readers could fill in the remaining gaps via their own imaginations, if they were so inclined; Levitz’s main self-assigned job, that of unsnarling Deadman’s tangled continuity, had nevertheless been accomplished… at least until Crisis on Infinite Earths came along in 1985-86 and made it all rather a moot point.  After that reality-redefining event, there was plenty of room to doubt that those Forever People stories had ever “happened” at all, and thus, no reason to worry about Deadman’s brief detour into the Fourth World, or to fret over the fate of the Follower…

Cover to Bug! The Adventures of Forager trade paperback collection, published 2018.  Art by Mike Allred.

…none of which stopped the brothers Allred, Mike and Lee, from having a go at tying up those decades-old loose ends anyway, in the fourth issue of their six-issue miniseries Bug! The Adventures of Forager, published by DC in 2017-18 under its Young Animal imprint.

If you’re unfamiliar with this work, it’s a loving (if less than wholly reverential) tribute to Jack Kirby, which, though centered on the New Gods character Forager, manages to include appearances by virtually every hero the King ever wrote and.or drew for DC (prior to 1984’s toy-line-promoting Super Powers, at any rate); it even features the original Blue Beetle, whom Kirby drew pseudonymously in a syndicated newspaper strip near the beginning of his career, when the character was owned by Fox Feature Syndicate.  (Now that’s what I call a deep cut.)

Cover to Bug! The Adventures of Forager #4 (Nov., 2017). Art by Mike Allred.

In Bug! #4, the Allreds have Forager slip into a “reality shard” where he encounters a Follower-inhabiting Boston Brand.  The creators, it must be said, play rather fast and loose with Levitz’s chronology — the inclusion of Tatsinda, a Neal Adams creation introduced to the Deadman mythos in a three-part backup series that ran in Aquaman #50-52 (1970), would seem to place this episode sometime after the conclusion of the Deadman series in Strange Adventures (in Levitz’s timeline as well as in order of publication) — but this is for Young Animal, so it’s probably not technically in DCU continuity anyway (though who can tell for sure, these days?).  Nevertheless, it’s fun to see the Allreds explain, some 45 years after the fact, the reasons why Deadman chooses to abandon the Follower (along with the limitations he notes in the panel shown at right, it’s unsuitable for sneaking around to look for clues — at least when compared with his previous invisible and intangible spirit-form) — as well as to explain how, with the help of Forager and Manhunter (the 1st Issue Special #5 version, that is), he returns to his old human body-possessing ways.  They even provide a clever in-universe explanation for Adams’ left/right/no-handed Hook art errors way back in Strange Adventures #215 and 216, which I’d say is going well above the call of duty.

Anyway, the entire Bug! miniseries is a very enjoyable read, highly recommended to any Kirby fan who doesn’t mind a little irreverence, and — what’s that?  You say you’ve read every blog post I’ve ever written about Kirby’s Fourth World books and you don’t recall my ever mentioning a New Gods character named Forager before?  Well, no, you wouldn’t — because he wasn’t actually introduced until New Gods #9, which came out in April, 1972, just a couple of weeks after Forever People #9.  We haven’t discussed that comic on the blog yet — although we will, in just two short weeks from now.  I hope to see you then.


We’ll close this post with an acknowledgement of something the more sharp-eyed of our regular readers have doubtless already noticed — namely, we have a new header image.   Replacing the iteration that’s been in service since April, 2020, the new header reflects the realities of our fifty-year-old sliding timescale by featuring comics that will be hitting their golden anniversaries over the next couple of years.

Just for grins, as well as to satisfy the curiosity of anyone coming to this blog for the first time anytime after March, 2022, here are the two previous versions of our header, presented sans typography, menus, etc..

First up is the original banner, which appeared on all posts and pages from July, 2015 through March, 2020:

…followed by our just-retired April, 2020 – March, 2022 edition:

… and finally, just to make the trilogy complete, a “clean” view of our latest variation on a theme, expected to last us until March, 2024, or thereabouts:

After March, 2024?  I reckon only time will tell…

In addition to the sources linked or cited in the text above, the following article was also consulted in the preparation of this post:

John Wells, “But I Still Exist! Deadman after Adams”, Back Issue #48 (May, 2011), pp. 3-13.

 

*The approach taken by Kirby on this cover has obvious similarities with that he used for Forever People #2, released over a year previously, in which the young gods of Supertown took a back seat to the “evil power vampire” Mantis.  But Mantis’ design didn’t scream “old horror movie” in quite the same way the mad doctor and his unliving creation did on the cover of FP #9; in addition, the superheroic figure of Infinity Man was part of the main image, even if in a subordinate role to the vaguely-monsterish bad guy.

43 comments

  1. Forever People #9 contains one of my favorite Jack Kirby moments.

    I had seen the New Gods show up in the mid-1980s in the Super Friends cartoon series, and in the late 1980s got to read the characters in the Cosmic Odyssey miniseries and issues of John Byrne’s Superman run. However, since there were really no trade paperbacks in those days I did not have an opportunity to see the original Jack Kirby stories.
    In the early 1990s, when I was in high school, I finally got to read some of the Kirby books. I found copies of Forever People #4 and #9 for affordable prices at a comic book convention. Putting aside the fact that it took me some time to get used to Kirby’s scripting, I did enjoy these issues, and I thought the artwork was great.

    The stand-out moment for me was Beautiful Dreamer trying on her landlady Trixie’s old flapper dress, and Serifan using one of his Cosmic Cartridges to “atomically re-shift” the dress into that stunning outfit. You can only imagine the impact this scene had on my teenage mind. In one word: “Wow!” Or, as Kirby himself put it: “She’s a groove!”

    It’s no wonder I later ended up starting a Beautiful Dreamer themed convention sketchbook, and why I will always disagree with anyone who tries to claim Kirby could not draw beautiful women.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. frednotfaith2 · April 2

    Reflecting that particularly in ’63-’65, when much of Marvel was a Kirby-verse, guest stars from other titles were very regular in the titles drawn by Kirby, although that may have been more due to Lee’s insistence than Kirby’s desire, eventually coming to a sort of Big Bang with Fantastic Four Annual #3, the wedding of Reed & Sue, in which nearly every prominent Marvel character of the time shows up, albeit with a few notable absences. Afterwards, for the remainder of his tenure at Marvel, guest stars (mainly referring to characters who regularly appeared in another series) became very rare in stories drawn by Kirby, and likely only when Lee insisted on it for a particular story. Even cameos became very rare. During those years, in the FF the only guest stars to appear were Thor, Spider-Man and Daredevil in one issue that tied in with a Daredevil vs. Dr. Doom story in DD’s mag, and then Sub-Mariner in Kirby’s very last FF story before his departure and which ended on a cliffhanger. I don’t count the robot versions of any characters that appeared in FF #100. Seems when left to plot on his own, circa ’66-’70, KIrby’s stories tended to be largely isolated from the rest of the Marvel universe, and it was much more so the case when he returned in the late ’70s. Even his Captain America & the Falcon and Black Panther runs were mostly as separated from the rest of Marvel as were Conan the Barbarian and Killraven.
    Strikingly, when Ditko was also left to do his own plotting during his last year and a half or so on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, Ditko also eschewed using guest stars from other mags, his last instance of doing so, to my recall, being the ASM King-Size Annual #2, which was essentially a team-up with Dr. Strange. Very curiously, Ditko’s cover for that issue had nothing to do with the story, being basically a sort of Spider-Man poster, with no visual reference to Dr. Strange at all, leaving that to the Lee’s cover blurbs. And to my recall, the story seems entirely out of continuity with whatever was currently going on in both Spider-Man’s and Dr. Strange’s current series. Kirby & Ditko appeared to be on a similar wavelength by late 1965 of wanting to keep the main series they were working on separate from whatever else was going on in any other series, but Ditko more staunchly so, even to the point of not integrating the two series he was most famous for.
    Of course, I realize Kirby wanted to do his own thing, tell stories in his own manner without worrying about another writer’s continuity or what someone else might be doing with a particular character elsewhere, or even about how a previous writer characterized a character he was writing now. Kirby’s late ’70s versions of Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson and T’Challa were very different from the sane characters as written by Englehart & McGregor, or even as written by Lee & Thomas. Which to me was a bit disorientating when I read them new off the racks. It was also a bit weird in knowing that Kirby had once defined the mainstream of Marvel Comics but now he was very much an outlier.
    All leading to understanding how Kirby likely felt peeved at being ordered to integrate into the dramatic epic of his own making a character he’d had nothing to with previously and whose very concept he took strong exception to. Especially as I’d guess Kirby had thought he’d be free from such top management interfering in his stories, telling him what characters to include in his stories. But no matter what his private feelings, he was still going to obey orders yet do it in his own way, which ultimately didn’t really please anyone. However, Infantino was a nut if he really expected Kirby to give him what he wanted.
    It’s also nutty that DC persevered so long with the 25 cent issues. Were they really so out of the reality loop that they actually expected the vast majority of comics purchasers to buy their mags for a quarter each while their main competition was selling their fare for a nickel less? Sure, DC had plenty of loyal fans who would keep purchasing their favorite DC titles, but I’m also sure that in 1971 and ’72, the vast majority of comics buyers were impulse buyers who would get whatever looked most intriguing as based on the cover and who would note, “oh, all these DC titles are 25 cents but the Marvel ones are 20 cents and I can either get 4 DCs or 5 Marvels for my dollar. I think I’ll get 5 Marvels.” I wasn’t regularly buying comics just yet, but when I was, starting just a few months later, the cost of a title was a consideration for me, along with how much money I had in my pocket. During the era when most comics were “still 20 cents!”, and even when they went up to 25 cents, I left a lot of 35 and 50 centers that I wanted on the racks because I didn’t have enough money on me to purchase them, at least not without leaving a few 20 or 25 centers that I also wanted on the racks. And Marvel was also already much better at telling the sort of stories that would compel readers to want to get the next issue, even when a story didn’t end on a cliffhanger. So I think, although I wouldn’t know for sure, that Marvel had been building a more loyal fan over the previous decade and DC’s blunder was the thing that finally allowed Marvel to pull ahead and stay ahead for years to come. A bit ironic that Kirby was largely responsible for helping to build Marvel’s loyal fanbase but not to the extant that he could transfer that entire fan base to DC when he switched companies and that it was during his tenure at DC that Marvel finally became the top dog in the comics industry. Maybe his 4th World series would have been allowed to carry on much longer if not for the negative impact of that price hike.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jmhanzo · April 4

      “It’s also nutty that DC persevered so long with the 25 cent issues. Were they really so out of the reality loop that they actually expected the vast majority of comics purchasers to buy their mags for a quarter each while their main competition was selling their fare for a nickel less?”

      Part of it was the more longterm issue of appealing to the newsstand vendors. A lot of vendors didn’t like comics as they took up real estate that could be used for magazines that sell at a higher price point and thus make the vendor more money.

      An issue of Time didn’t take up much more room than a standard comic book, but it sold for 50 cents instead of 20 cents. It doesn’t take an economics major to know that you make more money selling a more expensive product.

      That’s why DC and other publishers kepty experimenting with other formats, as the classic “standard” comics format was in full decline in the 70s. Tabloids (Treasury Editions), digests, 100 Page Giants, etc. were all efforts to figure out how to get people to be willing to spend more money per unit for a comic book so that newsstands actually wanted to stock them and promote them.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · April 3

    I didn’t read this one back in the day. Don’t know why, as I was a huge FP fan, a huge Kirby fan and a huge Deadman fan, but I didn’t. And how I know I didn’t read it is because I found the image of Kirby’s version of Deadman so jarring, I’m sure it would have upset me just as much fifty years ago as it does today and you just don’t forget trauma like that. While we’re all so used to Neal Adams,’ version of the character with its clean lines and more realistic-looking features, Kirby’s version of Boston Brand looked like it was made out of clay and left out in the sun too long. In other words, he didn’t want to draw the character and it shows. I wonder if that’s party why he made such wholesale changes to the character’s mythology…giving him a body…reopening the search for the Hook…maybe he figured that this would teach Carmine a lesson. Leave me alone to do my thing or I’ll change the whole DCU. Probably not, but still.

    I wonder what Evanier and Sherman’s original synopsis was? Have they ever said? I’m assuming it’s wholly different from what Jack came up with, but it would be interesting to know, since it seems he knew little about the character before receiving the assignment.

    Anybody else think Trixie MacGruder looks like a dimestore Agatha Harkness? Just a thought.The coincidence of Doc Gideon living in the same apartment as the lady the FP kids help out and that he’s listening in just as Serafin happens to mention the ONE THING he needs to make his experiment successful, is an incredible one in a bajillion shot that comics are famous for.

    I look forward to discussing the arrival of The Demon with you all. I have few memories of Jack’s original vision for the character, but he’s been horribly used in the years since, so it will be fun to get everyone’s take. Thanks, Alan!

    Liked by 3 people

    • frednotfaith2 · April 3

      I’ve had that sort of sensation too, Don, of reading a comic featuring a character I like but written or drawn by someone other than the writer or artist I’m most familiar in handling that character but being so drastically changed in some manner that I just felt “this is wrong!” Admittedly, sometimes that involved my becoming familiar with the “new” version first and much later reading the original version in reprints or getting those back issues. Then there are those examples of Kirby coming back to characters he had co-created but ignoring the evolutions of the characters in the years since he had last depicted them, most famously with Captain America and the Black Panther.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Alan Stewart · April 3

      You’re welcome, Don. I have to say, I’m curious to know what you made of the Kelley Jones rendition of Deadman from the late ’80s, considering that you found the Kirby version so hard to take! (I’m assuming that you’ve seen it, but just in case you haven’t… https://www.comics.org/issue/47228/cover/4/ )

      Like

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · April 3

        I had NOT seen that one before, Alan. Due to a variety of factors I kind of fell out of comics reading in the 80’s and totally missed that. On the basis of one cover, I find it jarring as well.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Fred Key · April 5

          Geez, that looks laughably horrible.

          Liked by 3 people

          • frednotfaith2 · April 6

            I vaguely recall seeing that cover before, although I’m familiar with Kelley Jones’ are on Gaiman’s Sandman. Gotta say, Jones’ Deadman doesn’t look like any other version I’ve ever seen, but it definitely looks like something only Jones would come up with! A rather ghastly visage for the ghostly hero.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Alan Stewart · April 6

            The series may in fact be a good read; however, I’ve never been able to get past Jones’ visual interpretation of Boston Brand to find out. It’s just too far removed from how I see the character. That doesn’t make it “bad”, of course — it’s just not to my taste.

            Like

  4. Marcus · April 3

    I bought this when it came out. I wasn’t all that familiar with Deadman, having seen him only in Brave and Bold #86 and JLA #94, so any changes Kirby made to the character were no big deal to me. He didn’t look quite right to me though without all the black in his costume as drawn by Adams.
    I wasn’t surprised that the changes were dropped in Deadman’s next appearances, as they were written by Bob Haney, so I wasn’t expecting any kind of continuity and I wouldn’t expect to see Deadman possessing Batman’s older, brain damaged brother anywhere else other than another Haney story.
    I was unaware of the behind the scenes reasons for Deadman showing up in Forever people, so thanks for telling us about it. Very interesting stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brian Morrison · April 4

    I didn’t buy this one back in 1972 – not because I didn’t want to but because there just wasn’t a copy of it in the spinner rack. This was three months after I had decided that I was going to buy and collect all the superhero comics that DC were publishing so I certainly would have bought it if I had seen it. I finally got a copy about 10 years ago and wasn’t very impressed. I preferred the Sandman golden age reprint story to Kirby’s new one.
    It’s funny how, after 50 years your memory plays tricks on you. I could have sworn that the first time I knew that DC were reverting to 32 page comics was when I saw August issues on the spinner rack but after seeing it printed again in the blog I can clearly remember reading the text box from Carmine Infantino and his editors explaining the change. I was so disappointed. As I’ve commented before, I loved the 48 page format with reprints of stories that (living I the UK) there was no way that I thought I would ever be able to find or buy the originals. I know I will be in a minority with this but I still regret the passing of the format all these years later. It was a large part of my reason for deciding to become a comic collector. I still have all of my comics from this era and they are amongst my favourites.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. jmhanzo · April 4

    “The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February.”

    It’s interesting that Kirby gets dinged for the cancellation of the Fourth World titles by some fans, while Neal Adams doesn’t get any heat for X-Men and Green Lantern being cancelled during his runs.

    I’m sure there’s more that Jack could have done to make the Fourth World a success — putting the debate over his dialogue aside, maybe Jack was introducing too many new characters at too rapid a pace and the books were too interconnected considering distribution was very spotty and the back issue market wasn’t available for people to catch up yet. What he did with an interconnected line of books would actually be the template for superheroes once the DSM was established, but maybe it was too much, too soon.

    Stan Lee actually commented in an interview that he would have advised Jack to slow things down and let readers develop a relationship with the principle characters first before introducing newer ones (he also said he thinks Marvel would have given the titles longer to catch on and succeed, feeling the books would have been a bigger hit with Marvel).

    That said, even with all that factored in, he had a some tough obstacles in making these books work:

    1) The price increase to 25 cents was hitting the entire DC line very hard and Jack had essentially just jumped to a sinking ship.

    2) Now that Goodman wasn’t under DC’s distribution company, he went back to his old tactics of flooding the market with more books (many of which were Kirby reprints), which made it harder for new books to find an audience since newsstands can only carry so many titles — and since Marvel was on the rise and DC was on the decline overall, their new titles were favored.

    3) During Kirby’s New Gods run, Marvel printed TWICE the number of Kirby books that DC did via reprints — if the adage that the audience turns over every five years as tweens outgrow the hobby, that means kids had a choice between Kirby on more famous characters like Fantastic Four, Thor, etc. and the new Fourth World heroes. Basically, Marvel was putting out Kirby books with greater brand recognition that are more readily available at a cheaper price.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bob Beerbohm · April 4

      No offense meant, but I think I can ascertain from what you write here you have most likely not read my 25,000+ word two parter “Secret Origins of the Direct Market” in Comic Book Artist #6 1999 and #7 Spr 2000 edited by Jon Cooke published by TwoMorrows. You have a number of misperceptions I address in CBA #6 and #7.

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      • jmhanzo · April 4

        I’ll try to look for them. I’m basing my thoughts off of TwoMorrows’ Comic Book Implosion and other such retrospectives.

        Like

      • jmhanzo · April 5

        Sorry, I got confused and thought you were responding to my other reply. My response is mostly based on this blog post: https://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/effect/2019/12/04/looking-for-the-awesome-23/

        Liked by 1 person

        • frednotfaith2 · April 5

          Taylor’s article seems the most reasonable, as based on a number of factors. Having turned 10 in June 1972 and really starting to buy more comics than before, the main Kirby reprints I was getting was Marvel’s Greatest Comics and a bit later the Thor reprints in Marvel Spectacular, and I loved those but didn’t really think that much about whatever happened to Kirby (I wasn’t buying any DCs then, although later I took note of his Kamandi (“hmm, why does this guy resemble Ka-Zar so much, or even Thor without his helmet?”) and OMAC, which my brother Terry got and I read when he was through. Really wasn’t until the ’80s when I started reading The Comics Journal that I really got at least the gist of a lot of the behind the scenes conflicts that impacted the “funny books” I was collecting. By then, I was old enough and somewhat wise to the ways of the world enough to not be particularly surprised. Might have been a bit shattering even to my 14 year old self but not so much my 20 year old self.

          Liked by 2 people

          • jmhanzo · April 6

            Yeah, it feels like it covers a lot of the bases. Even if speculators were enough to kill the Fourth World on their own, it does seem like the price hike that was hurting DC linewide would still impact his title, as would competing against himself with Marvel’s reprints.

            One reason I’m not totally convinced that there was enough speculation to outright cause the cancellation of the Fourth World titles is that outside of Kamandi, very few of Jack’s titles were mainstream successes in the 70s (they’re my favorite comics of all time, so I’m not dogging my hero here). The Demon lasted 18 issues, OMAC lasted only 8, the Eternals lasted 20 (counting the annual), etc.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Bob Beerbohm · April 4

    There are hundreds of others world wide on the web who also eloquently comment on any given creator’s intents based on their personal perceptions of the world around them. After more than half a century buying & selling vintage American comic books dating back to 1842, I decided some time ago to focus my research energies in to the ‘business’ side of comic book row.

    If I may, nd no spam flame trolling intended, articles such as this which focus more so on perceived creative intent(s), tend to exclude and semi deny real world realities. You idly speculate on ‘why’ Kirby 4th world, or Neal Adams comic books, a couple others, were canceled.

    The truth of ‘why’ I shared in to the comics world in TwoMorrow’s Jon B Cooke edited Comic Book Artist #6 and #7 1999/2000 in a 25,000+ word two parter titled, “Secret Origins of the Direct Market”. The results of decades of research in to how the distribution systems worked, altered, evolved, etc over the decades ever since periodical publishers began to get organized on a national level in early 1865 as American News Company

    Am getting closed to completing what will be presented in Comic Book Store Wars as it relates to the origins of what we came to call the Direct Market

    The concept of massive speculation by hundreds of rabid (mostly younger) comic book fans of certain artists, certain special appearances, etc, is still some thing little understood by most comic book people. I began my own spec endeavors in 1968 buying 200 of each most DC and Marvel #1 titles. This only increased as the paid circulation of RBCC increased. And many were reporting the concept of “regional” scarcity hitting their areas ergo seeking missed out on by then “back” issues.

    As the number of comic book “comicon” conventions kept increasing – I set up at my first one taking a Greyhound Bus from Fremont Nebraska to Houston Texas for week end June 16-18 1967 where I turned 15 there – avenues to re-sell such speculated upon treasures kept getting easier. There were many of us setting up at shows by 1969 1970 1971 1972 but only a few of us truly die hards set up at most all the shows nationwide then transpiring by 1970.

    Jack Kirby’s New Gods and his Forever People were heavily speculated upon. Just those two. Mister Miracle and Olsen not so much. The ‘proof’ is in Mister Miracle not being canceled until Jack lost interest

    Earlier on Neal Adams has burst on to the comics world scene which saw huge fandom interest in his Deadman, but also his X-Men, Spectre, and, of course, Green Lantern Green Arrow with the first two 76 and 77 the truly scarce (by demand) issues.

    By GL/GA #78 speculators were going in to the 900 or so nationwide ID distributor wholesale outlets buying with cash most all the copies they could afford and/or lay their hands on. As each issue came out garnering more and more national media coverage, especially 85 and 86 Speedy junkie issues, sales being reported to Carmine and NPP exec offices told them sales were (supposedly) going down!

    Yet from GL/GA #78 onwards till “the end” of the Adams run with #89, availability at shows via unopened cases was a bit rampant at times. Affidavit return fraud at its more evil

    Same holds true for Kirby’s New Gods and Forever People. Heavily speculated upon across the nation. There upwards of a thousand of us “organized” comics fandom types nationwide buying up in what was ultimately the final nails in the post Batman TV show fad craze coffin.

    Now, what also accelerated putting more nails in to a macro NPP < DC business coffin was when Marvel's new owners Perfect Film and Chemical (who bought Martin Goodman out in June 1968), a CIA front firm (being investigated by some of us), agreed with National Periodical Publications to raise from 20 to 25 increasing the page count package since the earlier 32 page 15 20 model was by then dying on the vine

    Martin Goodman stayed on with the new owners for four years post sale. Ostensibly (I think) to teach them how to publish as well as distribute (which had become the weak link in the chain).

    Knowing he was leaving soon in 1972 retiring for good (he then thought), Goodman opted to lower back to a 20 cent 32 page package. As a Result Thru 1972 is when Marvel FINALLY over took DC in net reported sales.
    Not because of superior "quality" of story & art
    Simply because 5 Marvels for a buck was obvious better read deal then 4 DC for a buck

    As I share in Comic Book Store Wars, there is much more going on at the same time. Such as the debut of Zap Comics out in San Francisco unfolding through 1968. Creator owned, royalty paying, better ones being reprinted and creators sharing 50-50 in such profits. April 1968 is when Print Mint began taking Zap Comics with Crumb, Griffin, Shelton, Moscoso, etc, Gilbert Shelton's self published out of Austin Texas Feds N Heads, Bijou out of Chicago, so many others

    Jack Kirby would have been watching this creator owned royalty paying energy birthing in the then Next Generations. It was because of how creators such as Kurtzman, Kirby, Ditko, (and many many others) were long treated is what gave birth to what we came to call the Direct Market.

    Whoops, i see I may have gotten a bit carried away thinking back to when it was all unfolding as new energy.

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    • jmhanzo · April 4

      But would that speculation impact the title nationwide, rather than just certain areas of the country where such speculation was rampant? Wouldn’t DC notice that the book was selling well in some of the country and then have significantly lower numbers in areas where this speculation was happening? Or did they not have access to state-by-state numbers?

      Like

    • Alan Stewart · April 4

      Bob, thanks for joining the discussion. As long as you’re here, I hope you don’t mind my asking:

      Do you happen to know exactly *when* in 1972 Marvel surpassed DC in sales? I see this information shared as established fact all over the place, online as well as in print, but virtually every source I’ve consulted uses only anecdotal verification. I’m asking because I’d like to make note of the occasion on the blog, and would prefer to be as specific (and factually accurate) regarding the date as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jmhanzo · April 5

        Bob’s always sharing interesting stuff on Facebook. Love hearing his perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · April 4

      An addendum to my previous reply to your comment: I did find this document shared in your Comic Book Store Wars Facebook group, which indicates that Marvel’s surpassing DC in sales occurred in the second half of the year. The ad/flyer/whatever itself seems to date from the summer of 1973, based on internal evidence. https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=236496371962096&set=a.100503572228044

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bob: thanks for all the info put on FB & elsewhere. In your experience, did DC suffer more than Marvel from affidavit return fraud, speculation and suchlike?
      To everyone: IMO although his reign involved some interesting experimentation with format, creative teams and genres (diversifying with Treasury, 25, 100 pages etc; horror; O’Neil & Adams’ GL/GA/Gothic Batman; Kirby), Infantino’s tenure was a “beautiful disaster.” To wit: Silver Age stalwarts like GL lost their books; 25c strategy backfired & overtaken by Marvel; so many titles moved to bi-monthly; Kirby(!); habit of cancelling books before they had a chance to find an audience.. and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Fred Key · April 5

    Kind of surprised that Kirby didn’t like losers, because he created a lot of them himself (Dingbats of Danger Street, anyone? Well, I liked them…) The Scavengers seemed like a great idea, a but different than all those many other evil international organizations. Anyway, excellent post as always!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · April 6

      Thanks, Fred!

      Liked by 1 person

    • jmhanzo · April 6

      I don’t think Jack considered them losers. As long as you had fighting spirit, you weren’t a loser.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fred Key · April 6

        Wouldn’t Deadman count as a winner, then? Even death didn’t stop him!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Alan Stewart · April 6

          Exactly — which is why I wish Kirby had actually read a few of the “Deadman” stories by Adams, et al. Maybe he’d have changed his mind!

          Liked by 1 person

          • jmhanzo · April 8

            Honestly, I think it was more than it was someone else’s character. I remember reading a quote from Kirby (can’t remember the source) that he didn’t like working on an existing character because it restricts his creative freedom — the reader already has a picture in his mind of the character and will tell you you’re wrong if you deviate. With a new character, no one can tell him he’s doing it wrong.

            Which I guess you sorta proved when you talked about how disappointed you were in Kirby’s version, LOL! X-D

            He didn’t even like returning to characters he created — he didn’t want Captain America or Black Panther when he returned to Marvel, they were assigned to him. (And sure enough, plenty of readers told him he got his own characters wrong…)

            Liked by 2 people

  9. JoshuaRascal · April 9

    Some observations on the 25 cents versus 20 cents comic book price war during 1971-1972 and victory of lower price over more content that others may or may not agree with…

    It tells me that the mothers of America were still buying the comics for their little ones and were still a decisive factor in determining the content and marketing of comic books in our great republic in the early 1970’s. Comic books were still considered reading material for children. Adults were making the purchasing decisions for their children. Price mattered, content less so but content did matter given the comic book uproar in the 1950’s. Comic books were still being mass marketed on newsstands as they had been since the 1930’s. Direct sales and the specialty market was years away.

    For the comic book reader, content matters more than price. What else explains today’s comic book market? There are probably far more adults than children reading comic books today. The price of today’s comics are far higher than that of the early 1970’s even adjusting for inflation. Print runs and sales are minuscule compared to the early 1970’s. Comic books are a specialty item sold in specialty shops (comic book stores). In the 1970’s, comic books were marketed as disposable mass consumption items, not as something to be collected and saved for resale.

    In 1972, being at least a few years older than others here, my life had gone through a major change. I was no longer living at home but had moved out and had relocated to the big “U”, I was a college student in 1972. I was working and making money. However, I had not outgrown my comic book habit. I was not buying comic books based on price like a thrift conscious shopper in a supermarket but on what I liked and wanted to read. I was buying old comic books from the early 1950’s that were considerably more expensive than 25 cents a copy. I’m sure there were many more like me. We represented a different sort of comic book consumer that would eventually lead to the direct sales and collector’s comic book market.

    On Kirby’s Fourth World, in retrospect, it is now apparent to me that DC wasn’t committed to it, not too impressed with it, forced Kirby to make changes, and after a brief run discontinued the Fourth World and reassigned Kirby to do other things. So it went.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jmhanzo · April 11

      The one thing I hear from guys who lived through this time is that the price difference mattered more in bulk — they didn’t buy comics one at a time, they bought them several at a time. It was the difference between getting 4 comics for a buck or 5 comics for a buck.

      Liked by 2 people

      • frednotfaith2 · April 11

        I recall having to pay a one cent tax for each 20 comic, so if I just happened to have five quarters on me, I’d be a penny too short to get six 20 cent comics, and a nickel too short to get five 25 cent comics. And back in those days, as a 9-11 year old in 1972-’73, I was most buying comics with whatever spare change I had in my pockets — it was very rare that I had actual dollar bills on me. Admittedly, I was already hooked on Marvel comics as early as 1969 or so, so if it had been Marvel that had stuck with a price of 25 cents for a year while DC held their price down to 20 cents, I might have gritted my teeth but still purchased the Marvel titles, albeit fewer of them. Truth to tell, as I wasn’t buying that many comics until the summer of 1973, I might not even have noticed that DC comics cost 5 cents more throughout much of 1971 and into the first several months of 1972. During the months in 1971 when Marvel went from 15 to 25 then down to 20, I don’t recall personally purchasing any comics at all so I was pretty much oblivious to the price shifts. Of course, I did take notice of the steadily increasing prices during the remainder of the ’70s, although fortunately I got a bigger allowance as I got older.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Stu Fischer · April 12

    With regard to D.C.’s throwing in the towel on the 25 cent super-sized regular books, I note that the “all editor notice” has the following passage: “But we didn’t want to charge more and not give more. A dilemma. We solved it by adding 16 extra pages to each of our comics. SURE THE MATERIAL IN THEM WASN’T NEW–BUT THEY WERE AND ARE GOOD STORIES–THE BEST WE COULD CULL FROM OUR LIBRARY.” (Emphasis added).

    Alan, you made some jokes about more direct comments that “the editors” could have made, but the comment I put in caps, which actually was made, fits very well into your joke comments. The statement is extremely defensive and could be more directly rephrased as “You schmucks don’t know quality and value when you see it! These weren’t just leftover hamburgers, they were fine wines of a classic vintage. But you were too dumb to realize it, so you aren’t getting it anymore! I hope you enjoy your extra nickel.”

    I’ve always felt that the inclusion of very old reprints in 1971-72 books was a huge mistake. With the possible exception of the reprints in the Kirby books, which probably were most likely to have reader interest because they were early Kirby works, I suspect that the average comic book reader back then (i.e., not someone that would wind up reading this blog) could not care less about decades old stories that were very different from the style of 1971-72 comics and felt that spending an extra nickel for retread material was a waste of money for unwanted stories. I note that Marvel reprint titles, like the ones mentioned with 1960s Kirby stories in them, were reprints from just a few years earlier and were still relevant to current characters and their situations.

    Personally, I had no problem with the hearts and flowers messages from D.C. and Marvel of rising costs requiring an increase in prices. It really is basic economics and inflation raising production costs, particularly in the inflation-ravaged 1970s. It was being honest, and I thought it nice back then (and now) that they wrote to the reader about it. However, D.C. I think was very disingenuous with their “all editor notice” when the notice said “While we are forced to cut back, it means that we can eliminate the reprint material–and reduce our price by a nickel.” In other words, it appears to say, “well fortunately for those that hate the reprint material, we are being forced to eliminate them to reduce our price.” Yeah, forced because many comic book buyers decided that they did not want to spend an extra nickel on reprint material.

    In the “all editor notice” D.C. seemed to promise that they would be adding pages of new material in the 20-cent books, which they claimed no one else did. Did that actually turn out to be the case? I know that when Marvel cut back its size for regular books and settled on 20 cents, they did add an extra two pages of original material to each book, for a total of 21 pages, as opposed to the 19 pages in the last 15-cent books (and even the 20 pages in the books from my first years of reading Marvel in 1968-70). Of course, when all books were 15 cents and even 12 cents in my first years of reading them, D.C. often had up to three pages more of new material than Marvel did.

    While I’m at it, I can’t believe that Marvel was so stupid back in 1971 to think that they could raise the number of original pages in a book to match a rise to 25 cents and solve the problem of losing money. It’s only common sense that artist page rates and the cost of publishing additional pages would destroy any savings you needed to get (unless the additional pages were revenue gathering advertising pages of course). It makes me wonder if those Martin Goodman conspiracy theories are true.

    By the way, it does not bother me that Carmine Infantino printed what he claimed to be an all-editor notice. I don’t know whether I thought that all of the editors really wrote it when I read it in 1972 (I was naive back then), but today I know that it is common to have letters reviewed by everyone whose signature it is going out under, so all of the D.C. editors very well could have at least reviewed the content and had a chance to offer suggested changes.

    OK, next I’ll write my comments on the book itself (Forever People #9, as you know I don’t read your comments on later books until their actual anniversaries).

    Liked by 2 people

    • JoshuaRascal · 20 Days Ago

      “I note that Marvel reprint titles, like the ones mentioned with 1960s Kirby stories in them, were reprints from just a few years earlier and were still relevant to current characters and their situations.”

      Marvel did take a shot at reprinting their 1940’s superhero stories back in the day. In 1966, they put out a 25 cent comic book called “Fantasy Masterpieces”. It lasted 11 issues under that title. The first two issues were reprints of 1950’s monster stories, but #3 through #11 reprinted Superhero stories from the 1940’s. After #11, the title of the book was changed to “Marvel Superheroes” and the stories from the 1940’s stopped. Given that the superhero stories from the 1940’s only lasted nine issues, it was obvious that the effort was not deemed a success. I don’t think Marvel ever attempted to reprint their 1940’s superhero stories again. At least not as comic books. On the other hand, Marvel has reprinted their superhero stories from the 1960’s and later years ad infinitum in all manner of formats, print and digital.

      Other than the occasional Giant-sized annual during the 1960’s and maybe Superhero books during the 1940’s, Marvel’s first attempt at a double size comic book published on a regular basis with all new material for 25 cents was the bi-monthly “Silver Surfer” back in 1968. That was scaled back to a regular comic book after seven issues. So in 1971, Martin Goodman was well aware of what was involved with publishing double size 25 cent comic books with all new material since he had already made at least one serious attempt at it earlier.

      What was Carmine Infantino thinking? What was Einstein’s definition of insanity.

      Liked by 2 people

      • frednotfaith2 · 20 Days Ago

        In 1974, Marvel published The Human Torch, which mixed solo Johnny Storm stories from the early ’60s with original (android) Human Torch stories from the ’40s. The series only lasted 8 issues and was my first taste of Golden Age comics, which didn’t exactly whet my taste for more. Most just struck me as intensely dumb. Not that the more recent Johnny Storm stories were all that much better, although they were of some historical interest to me for the first appearances of the Wizard and the Trapster, aka Paste Pot Pete. Aside from the early weird tales stuff that continued to bubble up in various mags, nearly all of Marvel’s other superhero reprints by 1974 were of material from 1966 or later, well past the early weirdness of ’62 – ’64 of some series, although some early material, including back to the Golden Age, was used as filler in a few Giant-Size mags. I think Marvel’s bean counters got the message by 1975 that most of their fanbase had little interest in Golden Age material, certainly not enough to long sustain any title dedicated to reprinting them. But a lot of readers did like material from the mid-to-late Silver Age.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Stu Fischer · April 12

    Regarding the story itself in Forever People #9, what I remember most about it from 1972 was finding out that Deadman had gotten revenge against the wrong guy with a hook! There actually were two assassins, one with a right hook and the other with a left hook (that way I guess D.C. wasn’t “boxed in”, hardy har har). But hey, if there could be a Boston Brand and a Cleveland Brand wearing the same suit, why not two assassins, each with a hook on the other hand?

    Seriously though, back in 1972 this news just made me feel sorry for Boston Brand but, as far as I was concerned, I was a big fan of the original Deadman series (sorry Jack) and it did not bother me at all that there were now more Deadman stories in the future. I probably was surprised that this happened in a Jack Kirby Fourth World book though. This issue was the first Fourth World book I think that has nothing to do with Apokolips whatsoever.

    While the Deadman angle is what I remember most from the book, I probably did not think much of the derivative, tired Frankenstein monster storyline. I think even less of it now. One of the primary things that King Kirby is remembered for are his monsters, both his characters and his stories. Having Kirby write a story like this is like forcing a college professor to teach a first -grade class. What a waste. I’ll have more to say on the awful treatment of Kirby by D.C. when I finally get around to writing my comments on his last Jimmy Olsen issue, but it must have been dispiriting and annoying to have management interfere with the editorial control he thought he had.

    On the other hand, I think that Kirby did himself a great disservice in his 1970s work by seeking to segregate his storylines from other books. To me, he really seems to be a bit of a prima donna here, although I certainly sympathize with him about having to drop the return of Deadman into Forever People. I too hated his Captain America and Black Panther work in his Marvel return because he disregarded what other writers had done in the interim.

    However, what this issue did show that I really liked from Kirby is his dialogue for the Forever People. I remember when I saw the first issue back in 1970, I thought (yes, even back then) that this was going to be a group of hippie- dippy types that were going to be stereotypical (although I did not know that word back then). To his credit, Kirby never had the Forever People talking inanely like the Teen Titans did or college students did in so many D.C. and Marvel books. Perhaps the fact that they were aliens made a difference–although they were aliens that seemed to be largely well versed in U.S. history and culture. Anyway, in this issue the Forever People come through as being earnest, kind and naive, but not clueless and one-dimensional. I didn’t like the fact that they changed Trixie’s dress on Beautiful Dreamer though. Sure it was an improvement, but it wasn’t her dress and Trixie was none too happy about the change to her memento.

    Anyway, I didn’t look at Forever People #10 yet, and won’t until June, so I think that I’ll stop here. Thanks Alan as always for an entertaining read!

    Liked by 2 people

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  14. Cornelius Featherjaw · 20 Days Ago

    And here I thought it was going to turn out that the monster was made from parts from Deadman’s killer. What was the deal with Deadman saying “Doc” Gideon’s actions summoned him, then?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · 20 Days Ago

      It’s a little vague, but I believe the key is Deadman’s remark on page 9 about Gideon “tampering” with the “mysticism of Rama Kushna”. My interpretation of that is that Gideon’s experiment was successful in breaching the life-death divide, just not the way he intended; i.e., instead of animating his creation, he yanked Boston Brand’s spirit back from the Great Beyond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cornelius Featherjaw · 19 Days Ago

        Ok, I suppose that makes sense. Still, it’s quite the coincidence that out of the millions of dead people, Boston Brand just happens to be the one brought back. And, as I believe you mentioned in the article, didn’t Deadman already decide to stay on Earth and fight the League of Assassins? Not that Kirby cared about Deadman’s prior continuity, of course.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: Mister Miracle #9 (Jul.-Aug., 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books

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