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
During the nearly yearlong period (June, 1971 through April, 1972) that DC Comics published most of their books in a giant-sized, 25-cent format, Justice League of America presented a particular sort of challenge for its editor, Julius Schwartz. The problem arose from the fact that the new, larger format called for a certain amount of reprint material — generally, 13 to 15 pages’ worth — to fill out each issue. And whereas for Schwartz’s other books, such as Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman, there was a ready archive of suitable old stories featuring the titular stars, the same wasn’t true for JLA, which from the beginning had been devoted to issue-length tales of more than 20 pages. Such stories weren’t going to work as backups in the new format without being either cut in half or severely abridged, neither of which options seems to have appealed to the veteran editor. Read More
In October, 1971, Avengers #95 brought us what might be the most unusual installment yet in the ongoing epic of the Kree-Skrull War. From one perspective, concerned primarily with the progress of the war and the Avengers’ role in it, it could quite reasonably be deemed the least consequential chapter in the entire saga. From a different point of view, however — namely, that of the Inhumans — it might be the most significant of all.
That’s because Roy Thomas and Neal Adams took advantage of the opportunity Avengers offered not only to wrap up the story they’d begun telling in their most recent previous collaboration — the “Inhumans” strip in Amazing Adventures — but also to deepen the Inhumans’ mythos; especially that part of it wrapped up in the personal histories of the two royal brothers, Black Bolt and Maximus, whose animus had been the driver of most of the narratives Marvel Comics had produced concerning that hidden race ever since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced them back in 1965. Read More
It’s summertime! The most wonderful time of the year — especially if you’re a fan of DC’s original super-team, the Justice Society of America, and the year happens to fall within the range of 1963 to 1985 — ’cause that means it’s time for the annual team-up between the JSA and their pals in the Justice League of America. 1971 brought the sixth of these events that I’d personally enjoyed since becoming a comic-book reader, and the ninth published overall. And judging by the cover heralding this year’s team-up — more specifically, the two columns of floating heads flanking the dramatic central image by Neal Adams — 1971’s iteration of this beloved tradition was going to offer us something new: for the first time, the featured rosters of the two teams would be identical. We were going to get two Supermen, two Flashes, two Green Lanterns, and so on — all for the price of one. (Of course, as heralded by that “only 25¢ Bigger & Better” slug at the very top of the cover, the “price of one” had just gone up a substantial amount. But more about that in a bit.) Read More
The fourth issue of Jack Kirby’s Forever People brought us the second chapter in the five-part story arc which would prove to be the centerpiece of this ultimately short-lived series. But, published as it was on the first day of June, 1971, the issue was also the harbinger of a new era for its publisher, DC Comics — marking the end of the 32-page comic book at the company (at least for the next eleven months), as the standard-size comic’s page length was increased to 48 pages, and the price raised from 15 to 25 cents.
I don’t actually know whether this particular issue was the very first 25-cent DC comic I myself saw or bought — unlike the occasion of DC’s last price hike, I have no clear memory of the specific comic that presented me with the sensation of “sticker shock” that surely must have accompanied my discovery of the change. (And it was a change I would have been utterly unaware of until I was confronted by it at the spinner rack; DC had given no hint this was coming in the past month’s books, and I was not yet plugged into any fan networks, formal or otherwise, that might have broken the news.) But Forever People #4 could have been the first — it was in DC’s first batch of 25-cent releases, for sure — so I’m going to use its release as a platform for discussing the change. Read More
With this issue of DC Comics’ flagship title, the “Sand Superman” saga that writer Denny O’Neil and penciller Curt Swan had initiated with the iconic Superman #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) moved into its climactic final phase. In the previous chapter (published in #238, incidentally, as #239 was a giant-sized reprint issue), the Man of Steel had been brought to his lowest ebb yet. While he’d ultimately managed to save the day in that episode, the victory had been a close one; with his powers still seriously depleted from multiple encounters with his mysterious sandy doppelgänger, our hero mused to himself in the story’s final panel: “I’m a pretty poor excuse for a Superman these days… and that must change! I’ll regain my former might — and soon! — or die trying!”
Despite these determined words, however, when we turn past Neal Adams’ simple but dramatic cover for #240 to the story’s opening pages, we find that the Man of Tomorrow’s status remains pretty much the same as it was, well, yesterday: Read More
As regular readers of this blog know, I went through a brief period at age 12, lasting roughly from the fall of 1969 through the spring of 1970, when, for one reason or another, I became disaffected with comic books. By June, 1970, my interest in them was again on the increase, but I wasn’t quite all the way back yet; and one unfortunate consequence of this was that I failed to buy Justice League of America #82 off the stands when it was released that month. Why was missing this one comic such a big deal? Simply because it featured the first chapter of that year’s two-part team-up between the Justice League of America and their counterparts on “Earth-Two”, the Justice Society of America — an annual summertime tradition at DC Comics ever since 1963, and one in which I’d faithfully participated ever since 1966. That mean that not only had I been buying and enjoying these mini-epics for most of the time I’d been reading comics, but for a significant chunk of my life, period. Four years is a pretty substantial period of time when you’re only twelve years old, after all. Read More
The second half of 1969’s iteration of DC Comics’ annual summer event teaming the Justice League of America with their Golden Age predecessors, the Justice Society of America, sported a cover that was — for this particular twelve-year-old’s money — considerably more exciting than the previous issue‘s. That cover had featured a row of JSAers looking on passively while some nameless kid ripped up a lamppost; this one, pencilled and inked by Neal Adams, heralded the first meeting between the Superman of Earth-One (the one currently appearing in multiple DC titles every month) and the Superman of Earth-Two (the one who’d ushered in the whole Golden Age of Comics in the first place in 1938’s Action Comics #1) — and from the looks of things, it was going to be a, shall we say, rather contentious meeting. That I would buy this comic book was never in question; but I have a hard time imagining anyone who was even a casual reader of DC superhero comics seeing this book in the spinner rack in July, 1969, and not picking it up. Read More
Throughout my fifty-four years of reading comic books, it’s hard for me to think of another cover that was as much of a pleasant surprise on first sight than Neal Adams’ cover for The Brave and the Bold #85. This goateed, grimacing tough guy, aiming an arrow out in the general direction of the viewer that didn’t look the least bit “tricky”, but rather looked quite deadly — this was Green Arrow?
The thing is, I actually already liked Green Arrow. Not that he was one of my very favorite characters, or anything like that; in fact, I’m fairly certain I’d never even read a solo tale featuring DC Comics’ Emerald Archer at this point, though that may have been mainly because I’d never really had the chance. (GA had lost his regular backup slot in World’s Finest in early 1964, a full year-and-a-half before I began buying comics; and though there’d been a few of his tales reprinted here and there since then, I’d missed them.) But I enjoyed seeing him in Justice League of America, perhaps at least in part because of his underdog status. While I generally favored JLA tales that focused on the team’s heavy hitters — Superman, Batman, etc. — I also appreciated those stories that allowed the “lesser” heroes their time in the spotlight, the way that Justice League of America #57 did for Green Arrow. I didn’t even mind all that much when the storytellers (writer Gardner Fox and artists Mike Sekowsky and Sid Greene, in this case) subjected the Battling Bowman to such silliness as the scene below, where GA, facing four armed criminals, takes the time to set up a trick shot because… it’s just more fun, I guess? Read More
For the first year or so of the Justice League of America’s existence, the stories of DC’s premier superteam followed a fairly strict formula. Beginning with the team’s three tryout issues of The Brave and the Bold in 1959 and 1960, the tales told by writer Gardner Fox, penciller Mike Sekowsky, and editor Julius Schwartz played out according to a prescribed pattern; the team members (Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman — and, from JLA #4 on, Green Arrow) would come together at (or at least near) the beginning of the story; then they’d encounter or discover a menace; then they’d split into teams to battle different aspects of said menace; and then, finally, they’d come together at the end to secure their ultimate victory over the menace. Also as part of the formula, at least for the earliest adventures, Superman and Batman took no active role in the central team-up chapters, and sometimes didn’t even show up for the group scenes at the beginning or end; this was due to editor Schwartz deferring to the preferences of editors responsible for those heroes’ own titles, Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff, who didn’t want DC’s two marquee characters overexposed. Even after the restrictions on using the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader eased up somewhat, there were issues when they were entirely absent (“on assignment” in Dimension X, or something else of that sort), and neither of them appeared on a cover until JLA #10 (March, 1962). Read More