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
A half century ago, when your humble blogger picked the object of today’s post up out of the spinner rack and eyeballed the cover for the first time, I was awfully curious as to who — or what — that wraithlike, red-tinged figure descending into Aquaman’s body might turn out to be. At the same time, I wasn’t the least bit curious about the identity of the cover’s artist — since, with the exception of the usual left-hand column’s worth of floating JLA heads rendered by Murphy Anderson, the cover was the obvious work of Neal Adams. And as Adams had either pencilled, inked or provided complete art for more Justice League of America covers than any other artist in the three years since his very first (for issue #66 [Nov., 1968] ), that was no surprise at all.
But interior art by Adams in an issue of JLA? That was unexpected; nevertheless, on turning past the cover to the book’s opening splash, that’s exactly what my fourteen-year-old self beheld: Read More
With this issue of Superman, the story arc begun eight months earlier in the iconic #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) came to a close — and the revamp of the Man of Steel inaugurated in that issue by writer Denny O’Neil and editor Julius Schwartz was at last complete. But before we dive into issue #242’s “The Ultimate Battle!”, written by O’Neil and illustrated by his usual artistic collaborators, Curt Swan (penciller) and Murphy Anderson (inker), we’ll need to back up one month to take a look at issue #241’s “The Shape of Fear!”, by the same creative team — which not only leads right into #242’s concluding chapter of the “Sand-Superman saga”, but also follows directly from the previous chapter in issue #240 — which, of course, also happens to be the last issue we posted about on this blog.
As you may recall, that installment had ended with a moment of great personal triumph for Superman, who, though his powers had been thoroughly leeched from him by his mysterious sandy duplicate, had yet managed to save both himself and I-Ching (the mentor of Diana Prince, as seen regularly in Wonder Woman) from a vicious attack by the Anti-Superman Gang. But as we’ll soon see, the note of optimism with which that chapter ended is about to turn decidedly sour… Read More
Panel from Detective #411. Text by Denny O’Neil (and, presumably, Julius Schwartz), art by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano.
Last month we took a look at Detective Comics #411, featuring the first appearance of Talia al Ghul, and the first mention of her father, Ra’s. As we noted at the time, despite that story giving the appearance of being one chapter in an extended story arc dating back to the first appearance of the League of Assassins in Detective #405, with the next installment already lined up for the very next issue of Batman, #232 (per a blurb in the story’s final panel), that wasn’t writer Denny O’Neil’s original intention at all. Rather, as he’d later tell fellow Bat-writer Mike W. Barr in an interview for Amazing Heroes #50 (July 1, 1984), Talia was created specifically “to serve the needs of that plot and that story [i.e., Detective #411’s “Into the Den of the Death-Dealers”], with no thought that she would ever appear again, or that she would have a father, or any of that stuff.” But somewhere in between the writer’s original conception and the story’s final published form, someone — perhaps Detective and Batman editor Julius Schwartz — had another idea; and the League of Assassins story arc, rather than concluding tidily with its third installment (fourth, if you count Detective #408’s “The House That Haunted Batman!”), instead became just the prelude to what was ultimately a much more influential saga, that of Ra’s al Ghul, “the Demon’s Head”.
A half-century after the fact, I’m at something of a loss to explain why I stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man for almost an entire year, after my subscription ran out with issue #85 in March, 1970. Regular readers of this blog may remember that my younger self went through a period of being considerably less interested in comic books than I previously had been, a period that began in the fall of 1969 and extended through the next spring. But my subscription had actually carried through the bulk of that time span, as it had for my other favorite Marvel comic of the time, Fantastic Four; and I was back to picking up FF, at least occasionally, by June, 1970. Somehow, though, even as late as February, 1971 — well after I’d resumed buying Avengers, Daredevil, and other Marvel standbys on a semi-regular basis — I was still avoiding becoming reacquainted with May Parker’s favorite nephew.
Until Amazing Spider-Man #96, that is. This one brought me back into the fold. Read More
There’s an interesting story behind Detective #408’s lead Batman feature (and cover story), “The House That Haunted Batman!”. Or perhaps we should say, in the interest of total accuracy, that there are four of them.
Back in 1998, in the 1st issue of Comic Book Artist, editor Jon B. Cooke published “The Story That Haunted Julie Schwartz”, a collection of interviews with four of the personnel who’d been involved with producing this classic Detective story: editor Julius Schwartz, writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and penciller Neal Adams. The funny thing about it, though, was that in spite of the interviews’ brevity (the entire article ran only two pages) the four veteran comics pros’ recollections differed in certain details, lending the whole enterprise a Rashomon-like quality.
This much, at least, the quartet could agree on: Quite early on in their professional careers, longtime friends Len Wein and Marv Wolfman wrote a Batman story together which they hoped to sell to Julius Schwartz. Somewhere along the line, Neal Adams took an interest in the as-yet-unbought script and ended up drawing it in his spare time, on spec — a remarkably generous gesture, considering how busy the artist was (not to mention what his time was worth). Ultimately, despite the irregularity of the process, editor Schwartz did indeed buy the completed 15-pager, and scheduled it for the next available issue of Detective Comics. Read More
According to the Mike’s Amazing World of Comics web site, Robert Kanigher scripted 2,707 comic book stories in his five-decade career, the vast majority of them for DC Comics. But despite the fact that I’ve been reading DC comics myself for over five decades — three of which overlap with those during which Kanigher was working — I’ve never really felt like I had a handle on the guy. 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
When last we left the non-costumed, non-codenamed, but nonetheless quite formidable supervillain T.O. Morrow — at the conclusion of the first half of 1968’s Justice League of America-Justice Society of America summer team-up extravaganza — he’d just managed to kill all the current members of Earth-Two’s JSA (some of them for the second time that issue), and was preparing to head back to his home world of Earth-One to similarly wipe out the JLA — secure in the knowledge provided by his future-predicting computer that the only way he could be stopped was if the Red Tornado intervened; and since the Red Tornado was 1) his own android creation, and 2) also dead, he was sitting in clover, as the saying goes. Read More
The topic of today’s post is, I believe, one of the most important single comic books in the evolution of Batman to appear during the character’s nearly eighty-year history — probably ranking in the top five or so such comics. Chronologically speaking, it’s certainly the most important Batman comic that DC Comics had published since 1964’s Detective Comics #327, the issue in which editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino debuted a “New Look” for the Caped Crusader — and I think that a strong case can be made that there wouldn’t be another single Bat-book quite so significant until the publication of the first installment of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight, in 1986.
That’s because “The Track of the Hook”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Neal Adams, serves as the clearest point of origin for the most thorough overhaul ever of one of comics’ most iconic heroes — an overhaul that has often been called a return to the character’s original 1939 roots, but is probably more accurately viewed as an approach based on what comics writer Denny O’Neil once described as “remembering how we thought it should have been” [emphasis mine]. It was an approach which returned an air of mystery, a touch of noir, to Batman and his milieu — one which did indeed recover visual and thematic elements that had been present, or at least implicit, in the character’s earliest published adventures, but which explored and elaborated on those elements in a more sophisticated fashion than readers had ever seen before. And it all started with Brave and the Bold #79, and the art of Neal Adams. Read More