In March, 1972, the lead story of Mister Miracle #8 had ended with a “Coming!” blurb promising that the very next issue would introduce readers to a “lovable old rascal” named Himon — billed not only as the man who’d mentored the series’ titular hero in his craft of escape artistry, but as an updated take on the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist. With Ron Moody’s Oscar-nominated performance as Fagin in the 1968 film adaptation of the musical Oliver! still relatively fresh in the pop-cultural memory, readers might have been forgiven for expecting Mister Miracle #9 to be something of a romp — a tale one might read while listening to the movie soundtrack’s renditions of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” or “I’d Do Anything” playing in the background.
On the other hand, readers who’d been following the “Young Scott Free” back-up feature in the last few issues of Mister Miracle might suspect that such a level of jauntiness would be incongruous (to say the least) in the context of our hero’s upbringing on the hell-planet of Apokolips. But even those readers might not be prepared for the reality of “Himon!” — probably the darkest and most brutal episode of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic yet to appear, although one that still ends on a strong note of optimism and hope. Read More
In its design, the cover of New Gods #9 mirrors that of Forever People #9, the other Jack Kirby comic published by DC in April, 1972. Both covers feature a dominant image that excludes the comic’s titular stars, who are shunted off to a narrow. left-side border; both utilize a considerable amount of black in their color schemes, as well. This striking similarity seems unlikely to have been a coincidence.
In his indispensable book Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (TwoMorrows, 2021), author John Morrow posits that, in both cases, the intent was to boost sales by making the books look less like superhero comics and more like something in the horror-mystery genre, which was then a successful niche for DC. Morrow suggests that this was part of a move by the company’s publisher, Carmine Infantino, to take a heavier hand in setting the course for these two titles, both ostensibly under the editorial control of Kirby. (Another known indicator of that heavier hand was Infantino’s directing Kirby to include Deadman as a guest star in issues #9 and #10 of Forever People, regardless of Kirby’s disinterest in the character.) Read More
In addition to being a fine piece of artwork by Michael W. Kaluta, the cover of Batman #242 represents a minor milestone of sorts; outside of those for a small handful of giant-sized all-reprint issues, it was the first cover since October, 1969 for either Batman or its companion title, Detective Comics, not to have been drawn by Neal Adams. (That particular month, not so coincidentally, was the same one in which those titles’ editor at DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, introduced the Caped Crusader’s “Big Change” — a return to a moodier, more grounded approach to the hero that was largely inspired by what Adams had been doing over in Brave and the Bold for the last year or so.) Read More
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. Read More
In March, 1972, the format change that DC Comics editor Joe Orlando had brought to the company’s House of Mystery title at the beginning of his tenure had been in place for four years. This format — which emulated the approach of the horror anthology comics of the early 1950s to the extent possible under the strictures of the Comics Code Authority — had proven very successful, leading to similar revamps of other DC titles (House of Secrets and Tales of the Unexpected) as well as the launch of brand new titles cut from the same rotting gravecloth (Witching Hour and Ghosts). Even DC’s arch-rival Marvel had been moved to try its hand at the “mystery” anthology comics game (though so far without much success).
Through it all, House of Mystery had kept to the course charted by Orlando in 1968, centered on a mix of short stories of supernatural horror (generally featuring twist endings), interspersed with a page or two of macabre cartoons, all “hosted” by Cain the Caretaker. To the extent that anything had changed in the last four years, it was largely in the makeup of the talent roster that produced the title’s content. Even so, it was still possible to pick up an issue and be completely surprised — as was the case with the very comic we’re looking at today. Read More
In March, 1972, the eighth issue of Mister Miracle picked up right where #7 had left off. Having voluntarily returned to the dark god-world of Apokolips with the aim of formally earning his freedom through trial by combat, our titular hero, aka Scott Free, had been taken into custody by the forces of Granny Goodness — as had been his friend, ally, and fellow former inmate of Granny’s “orphanage”, Big Barda. But while Scott was taken away to the mysterious Section Zero to face an unknown fate, Granny ordered that Barda “be returned to the female barracks”.
And that’s just where we find Big Barda on the first page of MM #8 — though the precise manner of her arrival is probably not quite what Granny had in mind… Read More
As I wrote last month in my post about Tarzan #207, I firmly believe that it would have been all but impossible for an American child of my generation to grow up not knowing who Tarzan was. Korak, son of Tarzan, on the other hand… well, maybe not so much. Sure, the scion of the Lord of the Jungle had been around since 1914, when he appeared as the infant Jack Clayton in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel The Eternal Lover. But he’d made a much smaller imprint on popular culture, at least as a solo adventurer, only appearing in a single film, the 1920 serial The Son of Tarzan; as far as most moviegoers (or movies-on-TV viewers) were concerned, the Ape Man’s kid was a boy named, er, “Boy”. Seriously, unless you were a reader of the novels, about the only way you’d know the name “Korak” was from comics — and even there, the poor guy had to work to stake his claim. Read More
I’m not sure if it would have been possible for an American kid of my generation to grow up not knowing who Tarzan was. Even if you never once heard the name “Edgar Rice Burroughs”, you’d inevitably learn to recognize that author’s most famous hero by sight, as his loincloth-clad form swung by on a vine — or by sound, per his distinctive, (literally) trademarked yell.
Your humble blogger was no exception in this regard. Still, I may have been in a minority among my peers in at least one Tarzan-related area: I never saw a single Tarzan movie in my formative years, despite their showing up regularly on television. How come? I’m not 100% sure, but I figure it was probably because of my dad. Read More
As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, we haven’t featured an issue of DC Comics’ Green Lantern title here since #86, way back last August. If you happen to be one of those readers, you might well wonder what’s been up with that, considering that I’ve written about every other issue in the Denny O’Neil-Neal Adams “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run from the first one I bought (#80) onwards.
The reason’s a pretty simple one; on this blog, I only write about comic books I got new off the stands fifty years ago… and I didn’t get either GL #87 or #88 upon their initial release (in October and December, 1971, respectively). My decision not to purchase #88 is, I think, still essentially supportable; it was an all-“vintage” issue (though not all-reprint, as I’ll explain presently), and technically not part of the O’Neil-Adams “GL/GA” canon at all. (For what it’s worth, at age fourteen I had yet to develop the collector’s mentality that would have me pick up an otherwise undesirable comic book so as not to “break the run”.) But Green Lantern #87? My opting not to pick that one up out of the spinner rack (or, having already picked it up, to put it back without buying it) is one I ruefully kick myself for to this very day. Read More
Following two episodes set either on the ocean waves or on the god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips (the latter also being set many years in the past), in the eighth issue of New Gods writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby brought the action back to the city of Metropolis for the first time since issue #5. In doing so, he was required to pick up plot threads that had been left dangling ever since that issue, published six months earlier, as well as to re-introduce a significant new supporting character not seen since then. Of course, Kirby being the master storyteller he was, he could throw you right into the middle of the action — as he does on the very first page of #8 — and you’d find yourself acclimated almost immediately, even if you’d never read any previous issue of New Gods, let alone remembered the details of issue #5: Read More