comic book fever
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DESCRIPTIONGEORGE KHOURY's “love letter” to his personal golden age of comics, 1976-1986, covering all the things that made those comics great—the top artists, the coolest stories, and even the best ads! Comic Book Fever captures that unique era, with new articles, interviews, and images from: Neal Adams, John Romita, George Pérez, Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore, Denny O’Neil, Jim Starlin, José Luis García-López, The Hernandez Brothers, The Buscema Brothers, Stan Lee, Jack Davis, Jack Kirby, Kevin Eastman, Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Frank Miller, and more. It covers Uncanny X-Men, New Teen Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Love and Rockets, Crisis On Infinite Earths, Superman vs. Spider-Man, Archie Comics, Harvey Comics, Kiss, Star Wars, Rom, Hostess Cake ads, Grit(!), and other milestones!
A Celebration of Comics1976 to 1986
A Celebration of Comics1976 to 1986
3 Introduction by Alex Ross 4 Celebrate the Spirit of 1976 6 Big Jims P.A.C.K. 8 The Ballad of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team 9 The Harvey Funny Books 14 The Marvel Team-Up Series 17 Sidebar: DC Comics Presents 19 ICON: John Romita 23 SIdeBAR: Spidey Super Stories 26 The Groovy Marvel Fireside Books 27 Forever YoungArchie Comics 29 Pryde (in the Name of Love) 30 Mutants! 32 SIdeBAR: Wolverine 37 SPOTLIGHT on dave Cockrum 41 The Alternate Realites of What If? 44 Grit: Americas Greatest Family Newspaper 47 Colorful Heroes 52 Street Ball 54 Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali 59 The Treasury editions 61 Superman Vs. Spider-Man 66 The Hostess Cakes Comic Book Ads 68 SIdeBAR: Crazy for Krazy Straws! 70 SIdeBAR: Brain Freeze 71 Snyderman 73 SIdeBAR: Snyderman & Kubert 75 The Metagalactic Mind of Jim Starlin 81 The Neverending Story of Star Wars 83 SIdeBAR: danis Story 85 The Comic That Rocked the World 87 How the KISS Comic Came to Be 91 Alice CooperMarvel Premiere #50 92 The Mile High Club 94 SIdeBAR: The Code of the direct Market 96 Promotional and educational Comic Books 97 SIdeBAR: With Our Compliments 98 SIdeBAR: Oh Yeah!Kool-Aid Man 99 dollar Sized delight 101 ElfquestIndie Trendsetters
111 The Kaleidoscopic World of Colorforms113 ICON: Neal Adams 119 SIdeBAR: Neal Adams and Charlton 122 The Advent of the Limited Series124 CLASSY CLASSIC: The Untold Story of the Justice Society126 The Anniversary Issues127 Saints & Sinners129 The Spaceknight Rises132 The Next Big (and Tiny) Things (or Not)133 The Genesis of Firestorm134 The Human Fly135 ICON: John Buscema141 SPOTLIGHT on Sal Buscema145 Los Hermanos Hernandez 148 SIdeBAR: Hermano Mayor157 The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe 159 SIdeBAR: dCs definitive directory160 Spider-Mans Secret162 The New Teen TitansActing Their Age173 deluxe Baxter-Paper editions174 DaredevilThe Artists Without Fear178 NexusFor the Love of Comics182 Strawberry Shortcake 184 SIdeBAR: Star Comics185 Dynamite! The Greatest Kids Magazine189 eliot R. Brown: Photographer of the Superstars191 Walt Simonsons Odinson195 How G.I. Joe Got His Groove Back 197 SIdeBAR: Masters of the Toyverse199 ICON: Jos Luis Garca-Lpez205 Sshhhh Its a Secret Wars209 Crisis on Infinite Earths 212 SIdeBAR: Crisis Controlled217 ICON: John Byrne223 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles233 Alan MooreInnovator235 CLASSY CLASSIC: Good Night, Sweet Prince237 epilogue: Street Cred
Fever!Designer/Associate EditorEric Nolen-WeathingtonWritEr/EDitorGeorge Khoury /
W elcome (or welcome back) to the pivotal comics era of 19761986. Contained herein are the people, comics, and artifacts that made our childhood feel larger than life, and shaped the comics industry into the pop culture staple that stands tall today. Each chapter and sidebar in this book tells a story, and together they form a much larger story about the evolution and maturation of the comics medium. The book is designed to look and feel as close to an actual comic book as possiblefrom the stories about the comics themselves, to the stories about the biggest comic book ads, on down to the letters page.
Above all, this book is written for everyonethe lifelong fans and the comic book novices alike. And its meant to be shared. If you ever wanted someoneyour spouse, your child, a friendto understand your affection for this medium, this book is the place to start.
COMIC BOOK FEVER is published by TWOMORROWS PUBLISHING. OFFICE OF PUBLICATION: 10407 BEDFORDTOWN DRIVE, RALEIGH, N.C. 27614. Copyright 2016 by George Khoury and TwoMorrows Publishing. TwoMorrows Publishing: 919-449-0344, www.twomorrows.com. All rights reserved. First printing. Price $39.95 per copy in the U.S. Every similarity between any of the names, characters, persons, and/or institutions in this book with those of any living or dead person or institution is intended, and every such similarity which may exist is purely purposeful. Printed in China.
This book is dedicated to my friend Jason Hofius
Special thanks to Eric Nolen-Weathington and Alex ross for their invaluable
contributions to this book!
Boy, i cant wait to read Comic Book Fever!
But first things first...
4From sea to shining sea, 1976 was a year best remembered for the gigantic fashion in which America as a nation celebrated the bicentennial of their independence. The hopeful juncture provided Americans with a wave of much-needed optimism that ushered a return to national pride after the dark days of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and other crises of the era. It reminded the young country of its heritage and commitment to excellence, freedom, and liberty for allwithout exceptions. In just two hundred years, our diverse nation united to triumph over many obstacles and accomplish the seemingly impossible through force of will and ingenuity. In 1976, all looked up to the United States as a stellar example of perseverance and progress.
Being that comic books came of age as an art form during World War II, it was only fitting that the industry distinguished the bicentennial with a multi-tude of special issues and patri-otic covers honoring the occa-sion with a touch of pomp and circumstance. And, really, there are few things more native and true to the United States than apple pie, jazz, baseball, and, of course, comics and superhe-roes. What better time, then, for Jack The King Kirbys return to Marvel Comics and the uni-verse of characters that he helped moldand in particular, the most recognizable patriotic hero of them all, a character he co-created with Joe Simon at the onset of World War II, Captain America!
Kirby, a World War II veteran and a cornerstone of the industry, authored tales of sheer power and spirituality while defining the dynamic visual storytell-ing of action-laced superhero comics. From his boundless artistry spun arrest-ing characters, indescribable wonderful new worlds, and epic stories that were full of determination and nobility. The staggering amount of books collecting his memorable comics and the staying power of classic figures like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the New Gods, and a thousand others stand as a testament to his ability. For the bicentennial, Kirby produced two patriotic classics starring his co-creation Captain America: The Madbomb and Bicentennial Battles.
In a time when multi-issue story arcs and 200-page superhero graphic novels were not yet commonplace, Kirby reclaimed the reins of the monthly Captain America series with the saga entitled Madbomb, his longest sequential story for the character. With impeccable timing the tale unraveled in Captain America
CELEBRATE! the SPIRIT of 1976
Jack The King Kirby.Photo The Jack Kirby Estate
erica, Falcon M
arvel Characters, Inc.
6double troubleMattels Big Jim toy line was inspired by the success of Hasbros original 12" G.I. Joe. Big Jim and his adventure- and sports-themed accessories debuted in 1972, becoming one of the first toys to have a line of dedicated playsets (sold separately, of course), including the infamous sports camper, The Beast. To showcase their goods to boys, Mattel created a special eight-page Big Jim: All-Star mini-comic book featuring the character demonstrating his athletic prowess.
In 1976, Mattel added a new series to Big Jim called P.A.C.K. (an acronym for Profes-sional Agents/Crime Killers), which turned the characters into a team of international opera-tives. P.A.C.K.s designers crafted these toys to embrace the spirit of comics and recruited the services of the biggest names in the indus-try. Because the figures and their ads had such a heavy Jack Kirby influence, Mattel hired the King himself to illustrate the packaging.
I know that there were a lot of Kirby fans at Mattel, says Steve Sherman, Kirbys assistant during the time. A lot of the He-Man stuff was based on Jacks Marvel work. He had an associa-tion with Mattel because he had done the series of card games with Tarzan, Superman, and the Lone Ranger. [I know] for sure he didnt design the Big Jim dolls. Oddly enough, Jack really didnt care too much for these jobs. The money was goodbetter than comicsbut Jack really liked doing stories. Advertising art was kind of a cramp for him because he didnt like to re-do stuff.
This time around Mattel raised the ante for their giveaway comic book by contracting Marvel to put it together. The artists who took on this high profile assignment were John Buscema and Joe Sinnott, Marvels top penciler and top inker. [Note: No writer is credited in the book.]
Whatever [Marvel] sent me I did, says Joltin Joe Sin-nott. John Buscema had penciled it. I got it in the mail, of course. It was no big deal. I inked it and sent it back to Marvel.
I dont know who [assigned the book]. Im sure [it was]
Original art for the opening page of the Big Jims P.A.C.K. giveaway comic.Big Jim and all related characters Mattel
8A BALLADTHE BALLAD OF THE GIJOEADVENTURE TEAMAs the Vietnam War came to a close in the early 70s, Hasbro moved its once almighty G.I. Joe line away from its military begin-nings. Rebranded as the G.I. Joe Adventure Team, the 12" action toys were the first to feature their infamous (and patented) Kung-Fu Grip. To further demilitarize the line and cash in on other successful toy fads, 1975 saw Eagle Eye Joe (the figure with the creepy moveable eyes) recruit two colorful super-humans: Bulletman, the Human Bullet; and Mike Power, the Atomic Man.
In the same vein of Megos already famous super-hero dolls, Hasbro created their own champion and named him Bulletmannot to be confused with identically named (and similarly clad) Fawcett comic book hero of the 1940s. This shiny hero had a metal (chrome) helmet and arms, and wore a costume made out of red fabric. With a little elbow grease and imagination, kids could even make the figure fly by placing a thread through the metal hoops on the back of his uniform, and tying each end of the string (at an angle) to something solid. Thanks to Hasbros constant commercials on chil-drens television, the ludicrous Bulletman became an unforgettable toy.
Atomic Mike was Hasbros apparent response to losing out on the toy license to the Six Million Dollar Man (which ended up being the top toy of 1975) to Kenner. Mike Powers backstory was that of a man dissatisfied with being disabled, who built himself atomic body parts and an atomic eye. The toy was a dead ringer for the aforementioned bionic television star. He featured a transparent plastic leg and arm, flashing eye, and an atomic hand that could rotate a propel-ler (to achieve the illusion of flight). While not as successful as the Six Million Dollar Man, Atomic Mike was a popular Christmas item in 1975.
In 1977, Hasbro retired the far-out Adventure Team to make way for an ill-fated, futuristic Super Joe. In another change, the 12" figures were shrunken down to Mego pro-
portions (88"). These blunders proved fatal; the new Joes bore little resemblance to the popular comrades-in-arms who preceded them. The killing blow was dealt by Kenners Star Wars line released the same year, and the toy of choice in the boys market for years to come. Rightly so, Super Joe was a super flop and the line quietly faded away until its 1982 revival.
Atomic Mike and Bulletman join Eagly-Eye G.I. Joes Adventure Team!G.I. Joe Hasbro
9No boy or girl was meant to live on superhero comics alone. There was once a time where real funny books, ones filled with laughs, roamed the spinner rack side by side with fantasy, adventure, horror, romance, western, war, drama, and superheroes titles. For many of us, the journey into comics began with beloved characters such as Casper, Richie Rich, and Hot Stuff, who delivered the good times like no one else.
Founded in 1941 by impresario Albert Harvey, Harvey Comics became known for its licensed comics and horror line in its formative years. By 1952, the company began restructuring itself when it entered an arrangement with Famous Studios (Paramount Cartoon Characters) to pub-lish a treasure trove of kids titles featuring characters like Casper the Friendly Ghost and Little Audrey. The New York outfit went on to produce an eye-appealing line of whole-some childrens comics. The company splendidly captured the lushness of high-quality cartoons and placed it inside a ten-cent comic.
As fate would have it, humor is where Harvey found its calling. Prompted by its good for-tune, the publisher acquires the rights to Casper and the rest of the Paramount Car-toon Characters stable in 1959. Afterward, Harvey stood tall as the predominant publisher of kids comics, thanks to their vibrant char-acters, guiltless humor, and everyday kindness.
Just as the deal with Famous Studios went through, a young
SMILE AWAYthe H A R V E Y Funny Books
A Warren Kremer-drawn Richie Rich proudly displays Steve Muffattis original
art for the cover of Little Audrey #29 (1953).Richie Rich, Little Audrey Classic Media
man named Sid Jacobson began earning his editorial stripes as an assistant to Perry Antoshak at Harvey. Within a couple of years, the New York University graduate and former jour-nalist became the companys sole editor for the next four decades. He would help set and oversee the tone for the highly successful line, and took naturally to assuming responsibility and leadership. Right from the start, Sid worked alongside the crme de la crme in the industry, from Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on Captain 3-D, to Harvey all-stars Ernie Coln and Howard Post. Jacobson realized he had found his calling in comics, and it was a job that he loved.
The father of the then-new Harvey World look was Steve Muffatti (191068), a former animator at the legend-ary Fleischer Studios and Paramounts Famous Car-toon Studios. The illustra-tor came to the company and established an appeal-ing artistic house styleone that magically infused an animated cartoon look into the humor books and their kid stars. The drawings looked deceptively simple, but they were highly stylized and ener-getic. The other Harvey artists would follow his lead. Imme-diately upon his arrival at com-pany in 1952, the master anima-tor worked his magic on Little Audrey, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Paramount Animated Comics, and,
later, many of Richie Richs earliest stories. His influence ran full circle in the Harveytoons cartoon shows that brought these exciting charac-ters to the rapidly growing television market.
JOHN ROMITAComic books have shown that only the true masters, the icons, of this craft leave an everlasting lasting mark on it. John Romitas glorious body of work is a testa-ment to this sentiment. Shortly after joining Marvels staff full-time in 1965, the Brooklyn native began rendering his now-classic run on The Amazing Spider-Man. As an indispensable member of editor Stan Lees small crew, the versatile illustrator also provided art correc-tions, paste-ups, and most noteworthy, indoc-trinated newer artists to Marvels method of storytelling during their expansion years. By 1973, he deservedly became the companys official art director, a position from which he oversaw that the quality of all interior art and covers remained true to the standards of the House of Ideas. Alongside his duties as their principal character designer, his indelible influ-ence and stamp (and touch-ups) can be viewed throughout Marvels output during his tenure.
The good-natured Romita looks at the mid-1970s as a benchmark in his long illus-trious career, a period of true personal satis-faction. Working alongside his lovely wife Virginia and their youngest son John Romita Jr. in the Marvel offices, he practically had the whole world in his hands. I never thought I was making enough money, states the affable artist, but that was a personal thing. [laughs] The thing is [because I was on staff] I never did a lot of jumping around to popular books. I was like Stans ace-in-the-hole. I was like a bullpen guy, and whenever he needed help on a book, I would jump on it. It didnt make a lot of money for me, but I certainly got exposure, and I got a chance to show off my versatility. So I was lucky.
It was also the time that I realized that a good comic artist is not an artist as much as hes a storyteller, and when I realized I was a storyteller, I stopped worrying about doing beautiful work. The first ten years I was in the business, I
John Romita at his drawing board in his office at Marvel.Photograph respective owner. All characters Marvel Characters, Inc.
was trying to become Milton Caniff and Carmine Infan-tino and everybody else. Stan led me to realize that I was a storyteller, and it didnt matter what my artwork looked like because the stories were carrying the books. And I believed that, because I always thought I was without a style, a nondescript guy. I thought I was generic, you know? And when I realized I was a storyteller, I didnt have to worry about my artwork anymore. All I had to do was tell a damn good story.
Romitas cover art for Power Records 12" 33 1 r.p.m. Amazing Spider-Man L.P.Spider-Man Marvel Characters, Inc.
To a young and impressionable 80s kid, there was something irresistible about the X-Men. But during the Silver Age of the 1960s, that wasnt the case. Despite the best efforts of creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men seemed to be nothing more than a hiccup in the Marvel Universe, and they barely limped into the 1970s. For the X-Men nothing came easy; they didnt receive the instant accolades and widespread approval given to the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and Spider-Man. But their time eventually came, thanks to the legendary run of stories that began with their rebirth in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975) by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum. From there, and into the mid-1980s the X-Men title was guided by the vision of writer Chris Claremont and his artistic collaborators Cockrum, John Byrne, Paul Smith, and John Romita Jr., who together finally turned the X-Men into a perennial best-selling comic book series.
It all began when then-Marvel President Al Landau expressed the notion of wanting to see an international superhero team to Publisher Stan Lee and then-Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas in a meeting. Thomas, a former X-Men writer with a soft spot for the mutants, right away envisioned the X-Men as a perfect platform to grant Landau his wish. Bringing in writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum to helm the revival, Thomas directed them to form an X-Men roster that stood radically different and colorful next to their prede-cessors. To this new team, Wein brought a Canadian mutant character named Wolverine whom he had just introduced the year prior in the pages of Hulk; the Irish mutant Banshee and Japanese mutant Sunfire, both Roy Thomas co-creations and early X-Men acquaintances/one-time adversaries, were also brought into the mix. The rest of Professor Charles Xaviers new team were composed of striking, original characters that included the beautiful Afri-can weather-powered Storm, the steel-skinned Russian Colossus, the acro-batic German teleporter Nightcrawler, and the Native American powerhouse Thunderbird. The groups leader was the original X-Man called Cyclops, who served as bridge between the past and present teams. No one, not even Marvel Comics, expected this to be the book that would set the comic world afire.
Right in the thick of the well regarded Roy Thomas and Neal Adams run on X-Men, a teenage Chris Claremont began working in Marvels small office as a gofer in 1969. Claremont recalls, When Roy and Neal did their run on the X-Men, the sales jumped tremendously. The problem was the reporting system was so limited and antiquated that Marvel didnt find out about it for eight months. So, by the time in the fall of 1969 when Marvel realized they had a potential hit on their hands, Neal had gone back to DC, Roy had gone on to other books, the X-Men as we know it had been cancelled. But thats why they rescinded the cancellation and kept it going as a reprint for the next four years until they could figure out how to restart it. And that led to Roy and Len basically brainstorming with Dave and coming up with the new team, because the idea in 1974 was, Weve already done the five white kids from the Upper West Side kind of situation. Lets try and introduce some international flavor to the series so that if we have any foreign markets, well have characters that might appeal to them. Like Storm, like Nightcrawler, like Colossus, like Banshee.
Marvel Characters, Inc.
Before all the bling and the tats, before the Air Jordans, the ESPNs, and the razzle dazzle, before everyone (and anyone) was all in your face basketball was a gamethe same game brought into being by YMCA gym teacher James Naismith in 1891. In the glory days, it was solely about the hoops. The men let their game do their talking, and their skills was the show. That was classic old school basketball. To the kids of the 1970s, nothing epitomized the sport better than master cartoonist Jack Davis memorable Street Ball strip, a glorious full-page comic ad for Spalding, starring ABA and NBA gods Rick Barry and Julius Dr. J Erving.
During the mid-1970s, sports equipment maker Spalding ran their Street Ball advertisement promi-nently on the back cover of many comics. It was such a colorful sight that no one ever forgot it, and thus has become one of the most memo-rable comic book ads of all time. Although the ad was written by an advertising agency, its undeniable charm comes from Jack Davis gift for storytelling. In the 1970s, the veteran EC comics artist was one of the most in-demand, prolific, and recognizable superstar illustrators in the United States; his art was a staple on popular publications [TV Guide, Time, Sports Illustrated] and gigan-tic marketing campaigns of the era. The Street Ball assignment came to the artist courtesy of his then-
representative at Gerald & Cullen Rapp, one of the premiere illustration agencies. Jack Davis remembers, My rep handles all of that [and particular photo reference], but he knows that I like to draw sports, and so, when something comes in like that, they turn it over to me.
For a sports fan like Davis, Street Ball is characteristic of the exuber-ance that hes always been known for, but it also captures the inviting nature of the game of basketball. I played basketball in high school. I was captain of the basketball teamnot very good at it. Ive always loved sports, and I enjoy drawing it. It changes now; Im not up on that [or the sneakers], but back then I was.
The approval process behind the strip was relatively simple according to Davis. He explains, Back then I had a fax machine, and they called it an Exxon Qwip, and it was on a roll, and I would put it on a roll and send [sketches] to the rep, and the rep would then send it back to me, Okay, go ahead and do it, and thats how we worked. Although the behind-the-scenes process of creating comics is pretty unglamorous, the proof of the pudding is in the results of the fine work that this Davis strip delivers in spades.
For NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, one of our protagonists and one of the games best shooters ever, the strip was something that he remembers all these years later. The New Jersey native and
Trading cards for the stars of Street Ball.Trading cards respective owners
During the 1970s, there was no figure more beloved or celebrated than that of Muhammad Ali, a boxer known for his refreshing honesty and sharp wit as well as his physical prowess and graceful moves. The man born as Cassius Clay, a 1960 gold medal Olympian, became a heavyweight champion at 22 and came fully into his own when he converted to Islam and adopted the name of Muhammad Ali. Always true to his beliefs and convictions, he refused his manda-tory Army draft selection during the controversial Vietnam War in 1967. In the prime of his career and convicted for draft evasion, the champ lost his title and boxing license, and, sadly, was denied his livelihood (for almost four years) when every state in the country categorically black-listed him from obtaining another permit. Adamantly, Ali fought for his case and became a key critic against the war until, ultimately, he emerged victorious with his reinstate-
ment into professional boxing, and the Supreme Courts reversal of the verdict against him.
Entering the 70s, Ali became a larger than life figure. His epic battles in the ring against the likes of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Ken Norton, among others, was the stuff of legends. Outside of the ring, the beloved fighter
soared to the stratosphere of pop culture as one of the defining fig-ures of the era. Everyone, chil-dren and adults, around the world knew him. Becoming an industry unto himself, the cultural icon and Madison Avenue favorite entered the media ring with his own book (1975s The Greatest: My Own
Story), movie (1977s The Greatest), animated television show (1977s I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muham-mad Ali), toy (1976s Mego Muhammad Ali line), and much more. By 1978, no man or obstacle could stop him. The Greatest had done it allall except take on Superman,
THE THRILLA In OUTA SpACE
nO RADIO . . . . . . . FOR THE FATE OF THE WORLD . . . . . . . nO HOME TV
TUES. JAn. 31, 1978
SUPERMANMETROPOLIS GREATEST SUPERHERO IN THE WORLD
ALILOUISVILLE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
1960 OLYMPIC CHAMPION
THE WInnER TO FACE HUnYA OF BODACE
Get your ticket! Promotional item for the 1978 Superman vs. Ali treasury.Superman DC Comics
SPIDER-MANThe impossible happened in 1976 when Superman and Spider-Man went toe-to-toe in one of the most magnificent comic books the world has ever seen. Nowadays every season brings a so-called event
in the comics industry, but this disco-era dance was the real deal. Not only did it serve as a peace pipe between bitter rivals DC Comics and Marvel Comics, where
each placed their most prominent character on the marquee, but to sweeten the pot, this gigantic 92-page story was published in a treasury edition [an oversized 10" x 13" book], comics most glorious format. Delivering the goods with undeniable zest were
the stellar talents of writer Gerry Conway, penciler Ross Andru, and inker Dick Giordano.
If timing is everything in life, then a young 20-something Gerry Conway arrived at DC Comics just in time for the whopper of all assignments. Having been courted away for his formidable talents and accomplishments at Marvel, where among many things he succeeded Stan Lee as the writer of Amazing Spider-Man, and ulti-mately became Marvels editor-in-chief (in 1976), the tal-ented wnderkind became a fount of creativity at DC Comics and an undeniable asset in stemming the tide of the companys dwindling sales.
Gerry Conway remembers, I was in a very advantageous position because I had just come over to DC like a month or so before, and [DC publisher] Carmine [Infantino] didnt operate from a straightforward business point of view. He operated from a schoolyard point of view. [laughter] For example, I think the main reason he hired Jack Kirby was not because he thought Jack Kirby was going to do great material that was going to turn DC around, but because he wanted to put a finger in the eye of Marvel, and he figured that he was going to get away from Marvel somebody that in his mind was crucially important to Marvel and that, without Jack, Marvel would not be able to continue. How he was going to use Jack, he didnt necessarily know. He didnt necessarily have a strat-egy in mind. In the same way, when I came over, he saw me and he was looking at, Oh, Gerrys writing Spider-Man, Thor, and Fantastic
THE CLASH OF THE CENTURY
Promo ad for the Superman Vs. Spider-Man book. Superman DC Comics. Spider-Man Marvel Characters, Inc.
business. Its kind of like watching your favorite TV shows and seeing the characters do a commercial where they know theyre doing a commercial. I always played it like, Superman knows hes hawking Hostess Fruit Pies in this.
To some, the Hostess ads are cheesy relics of a bygone era that served no greater purpose than pushing Hostess Cup Cakes, Twinkies, and Fruit Pies. But to the comic book- loving kids of the era, these were such an unforgettable source of delight that not finding one in a comic would turn a kids world upside down. As well as these candy-coated commer-cials being an extra page of sequential art to read, they also served as the perfect introduction to comics characters that were completely brand new to the unenlightened. Sometimes, in terms of sheer entertainment, those innocent little Hostess ads were even more accessible than the featured stories them-selves. These are the types of memories and experiences that made these strips and their harmless gags priceless.
The success of this advertising campaign comes in large part to Hostess understanding that comics are a kids game at heart. Characters like Aquaman, Spider-Man, Archie, Casper, Bugs Bunny, and all the other featured players of these advertisements were conceived and designed to provide loads of enjoyment to children. Between these innocent and sweet ads, the baseball cards, and their luscious line of classic snack cakes, Hostess engaged the full attention of practically every child in American for years with their brand of good-natured cheer. Hostess taught us all that the sweetest things in life come from whats inside.
The children of yesteryear spent most of their summers outsidewhether we wanted to or notand the blazing summer sun had us all running for cover. Thank-fully, a cold Arctic blast came in the form of the refreshing ICEE drink. Omar Knedlik, ICEEs creator, made a beautiful frozen-beverage machine that brought together a carbonated mixture of high fructose corn syrup, flavoring, and icethe ICEE. And the rest, as they say, is history.
One could be sure to procure one of these frosty beverages at the neighborhood 7-11, the home of the Slurpee (created under license using ICEE machines). And as if the ICEE wasnt enough of a treat on its own, 7-11 sweetened the deal by offering colorful plastic cups featuring comic book characters.
The inaugural 1973 collection featured 60 different cups based on characters from DC Comics. Determined kids looked high and low, braving heat and humid-ity in their quest to complete a set of these plastic grails. Later on, 7-11 and Marvel teamed-up for two promotions: 60 cups in 1975 and 40 cups in 1977.
Aesthetically, the 1977 editions are the most spectacular to behold. Instead of featuring a solitary character with little or no background, these featured lovely panoramic vistas that captured the excitement of Marvel. They were real works of art, the benchmark of this short-lived event. Sure, these items look like cheap no-thrill plastic cups to people now, but they meant the world to a kid in the 70s. A brain freeze was a small price to pay for ice-cold slushy deliciousness and a killer non-dishwasher safe trophy.
For a lot of kids in the 70s, heaven opened its pearly gates the day that Ivan Snyder launched his Superhero Merchandise mail order business in 1975. To say the New Jersey businessman was ahead of his time is an under-statement. He believed in the power and commerce of comics when most dismissed them. The entrepreneur understood that childrenand children in spiritloved superheroes and all their related merchandise. Snyder wanted to make childhood dreams come true by delivering wonderful super-hero goodies right to the doorsteps of his customers. With Snyderman, every day could be Christmas Day.
It all began in the early 1970s when Snyder, a certified public accountant, was executive vice-president at Marvel Comics. The budding executive felt the House of Ideas was missing out on the merchandising potential of their charac-ters, so in 1972 he initiated a licensing division to explore additional revenue streams. As a result, Marvel discovered a bevy of licensees, among them the Mego Corporation, ready to produce toys and wares based on their properties. To sup-port these new ventures and busi-ness associates, Snyder had Marvel devote a promotional page within their magazines, which spotlighted and offered most of these goods by way of their mail order division. Unfortunately, James Galton, the companys then-new chief executive, felt the mail order venture had no place in his vision for the company in 1975. The ambitious Snyder took a leap of faith and purchased Marvels mail order division to start his ven-ture, the biggest gamble of his life.
The New Jersey family man founded Superhero Enterprises, Inc., a mail order company, and started advertising regularly within the pages
Ad for a Spider-Man web shooter dart gun, along with the actual toy. Spider-Man Marvel Characters, Inc. Snyder-man Snyder Ventures.
of Marvel comics in 1975. The astute merchant marketed his goods straight at the consumers who wanted them: comic book readers. The company also produced the Superhero Merchandise Catalog, a comic-sized magazine that brilliantly paraded the products with content provided by Marvel staff-ers. The voluminous response to the early listings made Snyder realize that he was going to need a much larger facility to process orders.
I actually started the business in the basement of my house,
blown themselves to pieces recently, and there were other heroes who had died heroically. I just didnt want to do that. My own father had passed away maybe six months before of cancer, and thats what keyed it in. It was just cheap therapy on my part.
Cancer was a heavy subject for comics, and the author was very mind-ful of not trivializing and sugar-coating the ordeal. Instead of using this new mature format as an ode to unrestrained violence and chaos, this became the rare Marvel superhero story that tran-scended childish theatrics and served as a life-affirming emotional treatise.
Mar-Vells death is not cheapened at all by the sequential format. News of his cancer comes at the worst pos-sible time in his life, precisely when he has found love and happiness in the arms of the lovely Elysius on planet Titan. His tough Kree side outwardly accepts the grim news, but his compassionate side spends those last moments amongst friends. Neither his optimism nor the most brilliant minds in the cosmos could save him from the deadly disease. At deaths door in a coma, he faces his nemesis Thanos, and it is then that he finally accepts his fate and makes peace with the self-realization that his life will begin anew in the hereafter. In death, Captain Marvel and Thanos together find the solace they never had in life. The fitting conclusion reminds me of the words of Mark Twain, Death, the only immortal, who treats us alike, whose peace and refuge are for all. The soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.
Well, the odd thing was that, aside from [Editor-in-Chief ] Jim Shooter, there was also a new breed of assistant editors at Marvel, and when I turned in the Captain Marvel
plot, which Jim loved, a number of the other editors, I wouldnt say all of them, started lobbying that it was no good. There was not enough of a fight there. They thought it was kind of trivial. They didnt think it was worthy of one of their characters dying in this fashion. Fortunately for me, Jim said, I like it. Go with it. Dont pay any attention to what these guys are saying. And it all worked out pretty well in the end.
No one writes cosmic characters with the flair and nobility Jim Starlin does. His particular voice on the likes of Thanos, Captain Marvel, and Warlock is so distinctive and naturalistic that it is almost pointless to follow him. They have become his signature characters.
The irony is that from day one he never had a definite plan for any of them; these sensational stories just sprung organi-cally from his imagination. Set free as an artist, this story-tellers mind still races today with the same vigorous fury.
To tell you the truth, I never think about whos reading these books. Im doing what I want to do. The stories are for me. I dont follow anything on the Web about them, and I go to very few conventions. I think there should be sort of a Chinese wall between the writer and his audience because if you get too engrossed in what the audience wants, you start playing to their expectations, and nothing makes a book duller than playing to the expectations.
Captain Marvel receives the kiss of Death in The Death of Captain Marvel.All characters Marvel Characters, Inc.
The 1970s were the golden age of American rock-and-roll magazines. Everywhere you looked there was a titillating periodical championing the energy and spirit of the music: Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, and all their high-flying competitors. And in this decade, no band was more visible in these publications than Kiss.
The original Kiss lineup consisted of the Demon (Gene Sim-mons), the Catman (Peter Criss), the Space Ace (Ace Frehley), and the Starchild (Paul Stanley). The New York band withstood a shaky debut to become a multi-platinum selling power-house in the mid-1970s. Their sell-out rock shows and thrill-ing antics became the stuff of legend in schoolyards. With their astounding painted faces, shiny costumes, fire-breathing pyrotechnics, smoking guitar solos, and blood-spitting the-atrics, the hard-rocking four-some were tailor-made for comic books.
Marvel Comics under-stood that music magazines and Kiss were a lucrative business; it was clear the publics appetite for them was insatiable. But when the bands management pitched Stan Lee the notion of pro-ducing a comic book featur-ing the band at the height of their popularity, the House of Ideas got cold feet. The powers-that-be at Marvel simply felt out of their comfort zone with this rock n roll business.
As the details of the deal were hammered out, Marvel Publisher Stan Lee selected Steve Gerber as the writer and editor of this Kiss project. The ambitious comics creator took great delight in taking on this assignment despite knowing next to nothing about the band or their music. In typical Gerber fashion, the passionate Marvel staffer was all in emotionally, and absorbed everything related to Kiss during his research. He learned to admire their showman-ship, their tenacity, and even their music.
To illustrate Marvel Comics Super Special #1, Gerber recruited the supremely talented Alan Weiss. Both writer and artist, co-plotters of this rock and roll odyssey, were given
ROCK ShowTHE COMIC THAT ROCKED THE WORLD
Alan Weiss and Gray Morrows cover for Marvel Comics Super Special #1, released June 30, 1977.Dr. Doom Marvel Characters, Inc. Kiss Kiss
In the days of Slurpees and Twinkies, when 30-cent 17-page comic stories were the norm, DC publisher Jenette Kahn launched a new line of 80-page publications called Dollar Comics, which, naturally, sold for a buck. Instead of raising the prices on DCs regular monthlies, a well-meaning Ms. Kahn had the novel notion of creating a higher price point by increasing the page counts on selected books to increase profit margins for DC and retailers. In 1977, the line originally consisted of long-running titles such as Worlds Finest, G.I. Combat, The House of Mystery, and Superman Family. These thick books stood a quarter-inch taller than the standard monthly and bore an enormous DC banner to clearly emphasize the new price point. To properly set sail to the Dollar Comics program within Kahns DC Explosion campaign, superstar Neal Adams provided the brilliant cover art to the early wave of new releases featuring all-new interiors done by other DC creators.
Over time more titles, including some special anniversary issues and annuals, would be incorporated under the Dollar Comics banner. Despite its modest success, the con-cept and the DC Explosion push werent strong enough to save the comics publisher from the DC Implosion of 1978.
Neal Adams and Continuity Studios produced this promotional strip targeted at the comic distributors and retailers.All characters DC Comics
1 9 7 7ALL NEW STORIES, AND ALL FOR A DOLLARDC $1.00
Batman and Robin from the 1976 Super DC Calendar, and (next page) The Art of Neal Adams volume 1 (1975).All characters their respective owners
it certainly wasnt true of Joe Kubert. But it kind of holds you in place and makes you think you are maybe successful
even, if people give you money for drawing any-thing. And so they werent really used to a trained artist coming in. I did illustration before that; I did a syndicated strip that lasted for three-and-a-half years; I did big foot stuff; Archie comics; I did a lot of advertising stuff; certain advertising illustra-tion. I was kind of a prodigy in my way, and I was a monster of a learner.
By the time I moved around through all of those things and came back to a point where I actually needed to do comic books once again, and they let me in that time, well, I was a finished illustrator. It was like, Who is this guy? What planet did he come from? They had no idea. People in comic books didnt even read the comic strips. They were in this dark world of repression that began in 1953 with the Congress attack-ing comic books, and the leftover people in comic books felt they would survive maybe one more year and then they would be out of business. It was a dreary time.
To give you an example, outside of people who came into comic books through the side door, through another direction, there is nobody that is within five years my junior, or five years my senior. It was a dead time. I may be able to extend it to seven years on either end. It was a bad time for people to come in. Maybe Mort Drucker was the one that came in before I did. The only people who came in after that are people who did other things, like Denny ONeil is somewhere near my age, but was a reporter to begin with. Jim Steranko was a magician, so he came in
kind of through the side door. But, essentially, it was a blank era in comics between 1953 and, say, 1963.
Unflappable, the confident whiz took on all manner of assignments that the DC editors threw his way: The Adven-tures of Bob Hope, The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, The Spectre, fill-in stories, short stories, and covers. When Adams took up the reins of Deadman (in the Strange Adventures series) as the artist and eventually the writer, the cult title proved to be a visceral experience, unlike anything else in the stable of cookie-cutter books produced at DC Comics. With its radical stylized layouts, dramatic angles, and energized photo-realistic figures, the Deadman stories filled readers with excitement and enthusiasm, and spearheaded a shift in the nature of sequential storytelling.
Neal Adams was also largely responsible for moving the Batman image away from the farcical 1966 Batman televi-sion program and restoring him as the crime-fighting badass he was always meant to be. The Adams association with Batman began in the team-up book The Brave and the Bold, where the dynamo teased late-1960s comic readers with his darker rendition of the Caped Crusader. Soon enough editorial picked up on the fans outcry for this intense and
No one knew how to throw a party in comics better than the folks at DC Comics! Thats a fact, happy people. If you dont believe me, I implore you to look at their magnificent milestone issues from the 80s: The Brave and the Bold #200 (1983), The Legion of Super-Heroes #300 (1983), Detective Comics #526 (1983), Action Comics #544 (1983), Superman #400 (1984), Superboy #50 (1984), Batman #400 (1986), and all the rest of the anniversary issues during this decade.
These benchmarks were full of special guest heroes and villains, but the roster of stellar talent that DC assembled for these festivities was truly unique. Luminaries such as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Arthur Adams, Frank Miller, Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, and more were the icing on the anniversary cake.
In an era of the four-color printing process, DC also went out of their way to roll out a fifth ink unto the celebratory header: gold. It may not seem like a big deal now, after all the holograms, die-cuts, and 3-D covers of the early 90s, but the special added touch made kids of the era cognizant that such feats of longevity are something to cherish. While extra-length comics may have been a scheduling night-mare for both the production and creative teams, these specials were perennial chart-toppers in the days when adding content was the only gimmick readers wanted.
Anniversaries should be celebrated, and DC truly gave their readers a reason to jump and shout for joy. Seriously, who doesnt love double-sized or triple-sized comics? Who doesnt love surprises and special guest-stars and special creative teams? And what better way is there to celebrate an anniversary than to spend a lazy Satur-day afternoon reading a gigantic thriller alongside a tasty beverage and some favorite munchies. What a party!
PARTY ON!THE ANNIVERSARY ISSUES
Photo Greg Preston. Rom Hasbro, Inc..
If the walls at Marvel Comics could talk, they would hap-pily admit that the company would not be where it is today without the artistic gifts and prowess of four cor-nerstones: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, and John Buscema, the man who wrote the book (with co-writer Stan Lee) on How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way in 1978.
Born in 1927, the Brooklyn-born John Natale Buscema was an artistic wunderkind enamored with drawing and the illustration of the old masters. He broke into the still primitive comics industry in 1948, and steadily worked for a multitude of publishers through the 50s before succumb-ing to the grim financial realities of an industry in freefall. The ambitious illustrator entered the field of commercial art and advertising where he acquired a whole new set of techniques to add to his repertoire.
While his early comics work may have been invisible to most, it was not so to Stan Lee, the editor who gave Buscema his first staff position back in 48. Naturally the craftsman had reservations about reentering the comics field, but in 1966 a surging Marvel Comics pleaded with him to come back, and the allure of working at home ultimately sealed the deal. Not having kept up with the comics scene during his absence, Buscema had to figure out how to give readers the dazzling storytelling to which they had grown accus-tomed at Marvelbut just how was he going to do that?
I learned everything about comics from the books that Jack [Kirby] did, said the late Big John Buscema to this humble writer in 2000. I devoured them. They were all so fabulous.
In Strange Tales #150, Buscemas maiden voyage, Kirby set the storys pace by breaking it down for Buscema to finish, so the newbie could get his feet wet and see his process up-close. After a short trial and error period on Tales to Aston-ish, the Brooklyn native began to grasp the dynamic tones of Kirbys mythmaking work, and he used the Kings comics as a travel guide to how far his own stories could soar.
By 1967, Buscema was ready, which he demonstrated with his exquisite line work on The Avengers (with writer Roy Thomas), his first signature series. What really stood out about John Buscema to me was his figure work, and way with expressions, recalls Jerry Ordway, an extraordi-
nary comic book artist in his own right. I recall taking a chance on buying Avengersa dollar only went so far in 1968because of that great bickering shot between Hawk-eye and Goliath on the splash page. I also noticed that he had both pencilled and inked the issue, and that it looked so much better than previous issues I had looked at and not purchased. That opened my eyes to his work, and made me realize how much the inkers could ruin his pencils. I became a huge Avengers fan, and followed Johns work after that, whether he inked it himself or not. Lucky for me, Tom Palmer became the inker, and they quickly became my favorite art team.
(above) John Buscema, 1978. (next page) A 1975 Buscema poster.photo Jackie Estrada
JOHN BUSCEMAICONJOHN BUSCEMA
Buscema drew this Hulk origin for a poster that was used as part of a Coca-Cola promotional campaign.Hulk Marvel Characters, Inc.
I grew up in a house of comics, states the celebrated comics creator Jaime Hernandez, I was the fourth brother in line, so [my brothers] were already reading comics, collecting comics by the time I came up. They were just there, so of course I loved them. We grew up different from a lot of people in that I thought comics were normal.
In the Hernandez Oxnard, California home, comics were as common as air in an era when most American parents frowned upon them. The close-knit familys admiration for the art form was a common bond that the six siblingsfive brothers and one sisterenjoyed together.
Of the children, the first to reach a fever pitch with comics was Mario, the eldest. The Number One Son recalls, I remember going by my grocery store and seeing comics in the spinner rack, and my mother, to keep me quiet, bought me The Secret World of Private Strong. It was a Jack Kirby comic, and Ive been hooked since then. I was about five years old, and as soon as I got old enough to read and knew what I was doing, I just started collecting comics, anything with Superman in it.
Mario didnt keep his fanatical enthusiasm to himself. The second oldest son Gilbert Beto Hernandez explains, Well, I grew up in the 60s, so I was lucky enough to enjoy what was coming up then. I remember the first Fantastic Four comic when it came out. BarelyI was a little kid
but I do remember it. We read Marvel comics, DC comics, and Archie comics, anything that was comics, pretty muchexcept for romance comics. [laughs]
In those days it wasnt just superhero stuff, affirms Jaime. We had Marvel, DC, Archie comics, Dennis the Menace comics, things like that. Harvey Comics, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Little Dot, Herbie comicsthere were all kinds. And I usually gravitated toward the ones that were drawn the best.
Mario remembers, What was really cool was my mom liked it because she was a comic collector as a kid, so she
saw these new heroes along with Superman and all that stuff she already knew about. She was already a comics geek in her own way, and we just kept buying books. Ive got an addictive personality, so I became a completist, where I had to have every issue of everything. It ran the gamut of what-ever interested us. Classics Illustratedwhatever looked cool to us. If the art looked good, I just went that way with it.
By the time the Marvel Age of comics rolled around in the 60s, the Hernandezes had gone from admiring comics to rendering comics of their own. First it was drawing, tells Mario, and then tracing comics, and then wed pretty much make our own little [stories]. It was kind of a train-ing ground, and the boys did hundreds [of them]. Gilbert always did Captain America, Superman, and stuff like that,
Por Amor GILBERT, JAIME, & MARIOLOS HERMANOS HERNANDEZ
From left to right, Mario, Gilbert, and Jaime Hernandez. Photos by Jackie Estrada.
Teen Titans, a concept straight out of the pages of The Brave and the Bold, became a moderately successful 1966 title under DC stalwarts writer Bob Haney and artist Nick Cardy. The founding members of this super-team were Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl, all junior sidekicks to top-tier DC characters. The kid-friendly funny book ran until 1973, and then was resurrected for a short-lived comeback that lasted from 1976 to 1978, once and for all canceled with issue #53 when the group disbanded. One of the notable highlights of the series was issue #18, featuring early work by a spunky Marv Wolfman (with friend and fellow future comics legend Len Wein). What no one foresaw in that 1968 issue was that it would prove to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
I read and enjoyed the Titans from the early Brave and the Bolds, but no, with rare exceptions I wasnt a big fan of them, says the influential wordsmith Marv Wolfman. I loved Nick Cardys art but never felt the characters talked
or acted like their age, which I think was closer to twelve than the 18, 19, George [Prez] and I had them be. But I had written some of the early Titans, including the origi-nal origin of Wonder Girl story, so I had a fondness for the characters if not the stories. But I wanted something to write that I could control as I had Tomb of Dracula at Marvel. Hence, I suggested doing Titans, whose previous incarnation had been cancelled a year or so earlier, so I could come in and redesign them as I saw fit.
While Wolfman, a lifelong devotee of the comics medium, made his earliest professional impressions at DC Comics, it was Marvel Comics where he would make his reputation. As one of the top writers and editors at the House of Ideas, this man wrote it all: Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Marvel Two-in-One, and more. Tomb of Dracula, with artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, became the centerpiece of his Marvel work, an extensive run regarded as one of the eras greatest creative works. As
THE NEW TEEN TITANS Acting their Age
Teen Titans DC Comics
Daredevil Marvel Characters, Inc.
The ArTiSTS WiThouT FeAr
Daredevil never had a chance. The title had become an afterthought, a book of last resorts if there was nothing else better at the spinner rack. It didnt help matters that the unpopular character even resembled Hot Stuff the Little Devil. With his generic red looks, silly billy club, and run-of-the-mill stories, no one took him seriously until the artistic pairing of collaborators Frank Miller and Klaus Janson hit their stride on the series.
It was a perfect storm in that I think I was the editor Frank [Miller] needed at the time, states Daredevil Editor Denny ONeil. There was eventually some conflict between him and [writer] Roger [McKenzie], and I didnt know who was right. I just
G.I. Joe had their heyday as the most popular play-things for boys in the swinging 60s. But anything that goes up must come down, and the action-hero line was deep-sixed in 1977. It wasnt long before the Hasbro think tank was back at the drawing board staging a comeback for their soldier boys. The company planned to turn G.I. Joe into a major brand again by spearheading a massive marketing, media, and product campaign in 1982 centered on toys, an animated show, and a comic book starring a new team of diverse characters. To say the plan worked is an understatement.
The resurgence of the G.I. Joe team toy line proved to be a financial success for all parties involved. With over 500 dif-ferent action figures, the toys dominated store shelves. The cartoons became a staple of childrens television throughout the decade. But the comics series was where it was at; the stories by writer Larry Hama gave the toy line a soul.
I was an editor at Marvel, and before that [Hasbro] meet-ing happened, they were trying to get somebody to commit to writing that book, says Hama. I had been trying to get writing work. I was a full editor at Marvel. I couldnt get writing work from any of the editors. I had gone to every single editor, and they all said I couldnt write, that I was a guy who drew.
At Marvel and DC Comics, creators are often pigeon-holed creatively for one thing or another. For someone who came up the ranks as an artist like Hama, it could prove next to impossible to get a reluctant editor to even consider their other talents. This creative roadblock led Hama to seek opportunities outside of Marvel to fulfill his ambitions.
It was to the point that I could actually prove to the edi-tor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, that I had asked every single editor, and I had been turned down, recalls the writer. There was a rule that you couldnt write or draw for another company if you were employed at Marvel but since I was able to prove that nobody at Marvel was going to give me any work, I had dispensation. So I started writing for Weezie Jones [now Louise Simonson] at Warren Publishing.
I was writing for Eerie when Hasbro first came to Marvel about doing a G.I. Joe comic. They asked every single writer and editor at Marvel, and they got turned down by every single one because nobody wanted to do a toy license book.
While licensed titles were a valuable source of revenue for comic book companies, few major creators wanted to work on what most considered second-tier material at the time. Many veteran writers and artists flat-out refused these media-type assignments. The projects also carried a stigma
(above) Herb Trimpes cover to G.I. Joe #1, and (left) Larry Hama signing at Jim Hanleys Universe in New York.G.I. Joe Hasbro. Photo courtesy JHU Comic Books.
HOW G.I. JOEGOT HIS
A DC Comics Sold Here promotional poster for comic book retailers.All characters DC Comics
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
At the beleaguered offices of DC Comics, the reality had finally sunk in that the only way to make every-thing right was to embrace change and start all over again to being anew by rattling the foundation. The facts were the facts: the decades of multiple worlds, burdensome continuity, and blandly mass-produced stories had taken a toll on the companys charac-ters, books, and image. In spite of their better-known iconic properties, competitor Marvel Comics had consistently trumped DC in sales, year after year, for over a decade. To the general readership of the early 1980s, DC had become old hat, and their perceived repu-tation was of a company losing touch with modern day audi-ences. To turn things around the outfit looked to the man with the Midas touch: Marv Wolfman, the highly dignified writer of their best-selling title, The New Teen Titans, at the height of his influence at the company.
Today, DC and Marvels sales are pretty much in the same ballpark, says the illus-trious writer-editor Marv Wolfman, the progenitor of Crisis on Infinite Earths. One month DCs up, the next Marvel, etc. Back in the 80s that wasnt the case. Except for George [Prez] and my New Teen Titans book, Marvel was regularly outselling DC. If the average Marvel book was selling 400,000 copies, DCs were averaging 50,000. Titans
UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLDS
ON INFINITE EARTHS
Crisis on Infinite Earths was intended to write over DCs muddled continuity.Flash DC Comics
was selling in the same numbers as a good selling Marvel book. So when I came in with the Crisis idea, it was exactly the right thing to do at the right time. DC needed some-thing special and different and something that would tell every fan that this was no longer your fathers DC Comics.
The confident Wolfman was a man with a plan. He had seen the facts for himself and instinctively knew that the only way to move things forward was to go back to the basics by wiping clean the slate of DC continuity. If successful, the writer understood that the rewards of this gamble would allow for clearer and more concise storytell-ing within future DC books. Much to the dismay of the loyal diehards, this effort became very much about second chances for the distinguished comics company, an opportu-nity to bring in new readers, to raise public awareness, and to change their perceived bland reputation. For the chief mastermind of this daunting project, the time had come to make things right at DC.
I wanted to get rid of continuity, not strengthen it, states Wolfman. DC was suffering from being held in the grip of some ridiculous continuity and, again, except for Titans, Marvel readers were not giving the company a chance. One thing I felt at the time was we needed to say something huge, to indicate everything you knew or thought you knew was no longer true. Although eleven DC fans understood it, I also felt the multiverse was confusing to the Marvel readers, and we needed to get them to try DC and to realize DC had great characters too. Getting rid of the multiverse would shout to the readers that this was new. Because the DCU [DC Comics Universe] was simplified, it was a great starting off point for Marvel readers to try a DC comic for the first time, and since nothing like Crisis had ever been done before, it would say that DC could take the lead in innovation.
In a project of this magnitude and importance, the prac-tical Wolfman couldnt afford sentimentality or self-doubt. For the betterment of DC and the integrity of this bold story, he intrinsically learned to let go. Wolfman explains, As much as I liked the multiverse when it was first intro-duced, I didnt think it added anything two decades later.
For years the DC multiverse served as a favorite story device that allowed for infinite variations of planets and characters, as well as alternate futures to all of the possible
scenarios. It began harmlessly in the 1961 classic Flash of Two Worlds story (Flash #123), when the Golden Age-era Flash met the Silver Age-era Flash, but by the 1980s DC had used the multiverse contrivance ad nauseam. Left behind were confusion, quirky nuances, and uninvolving stories that ingratiated only the DC loyalists, but turned o everyone else. To create clarity, DC writers and editors needed to work together on this humongous undertaking to succeed in making one cohesive universe with a single and proper continuity.
Unfortunately, DC couldnt fully get its act together, notes Wolfman. First, because something like Crisis had never been done, there were many editors and others who felt it was a bad ideaas if letting sales continue to decline was an optionor would never sell. So many editors simply refused to take part until the sales came in on the few books that really tied in with us, beyond the red skies, and they all got a huge bump. Suddenly everyone wanted to be part of Crisis which is why its top heavy with crossovers in its second half.
Secondly, part of my spiel was that at the end of 1985 when the Crisis ended wed rebuild the universe as a single entity. en the next month every book would begin with issue #1 and start all over with a brand-new origin issue for everyone. We could leave out any bad ideas, or ideas we realized were bad, and hopefully everything would now be better. Unfortunately, it never got done, and I had to rethink the ending. Editor-in-Chief Dick Giordano said in his autobiography that not doing it was the big mistake he regretted, but he didnt feel that DC at the time had enough good people to accomplish that.
Obviously today [DC co-publisher] Dan Didio was able to take that ideawe talked about it a lotand made it work for the New 52 revamp. At the same time that the number one idea was shot down, my original ending, where Earth is reborn new and so nobody in the comics would have ever known thered ever been a multiversesince if the universe was reborn at the beginning of time, the split-ting of the universes would never have happenedwas shot down by the other editors.
A poster of George Prezs cover art for Crisis on Innite Earths #1.All characters DC Comics
COMIC BOOK FEVERGEORGE KHOURY (author of The Extraordinary Works ofAlan Moore and Kimota: The Miracleman Companion)presents a love letter to his personal golden age ofcomics, 1976-1986, covering all the things that madethose comics greatthe top artists, the coolest stories, andeven the best ads! Remember the days when every comicbook captured your imagination, and took you to new andexciting places? When you didnt apologize for loving thecomic books and creators that gave you bliss? COMICBOOK FEVER captures that era, when comics offered alldifferent genres to any kid with a pocketful of coins, at localestablishments from 7-Elevens to your local drug store. Inside this full-color hardcover are new articles, interviews,and images about the people, places, characters, titles, moments, and good times that inspired and thrilled us in theBronze Age: NEAL ADAMS, JOHN ROMITA, GEORGEPREZ, MARV WOLFMAN, ALAN MOORE, DENNY ONEIL,JIM STARLIN, JOS LUIS GARCA-LPEZ, THE HERNANDEZBROTHERS, THE BUSCEMA BROTHERS, STAN LEE, JACKDAVIS, JACK KIRBY, KEVIN EASTMAN, CHRIS CLAREMONT,GERRY CONWAY, FRANK MILLERand thats just forstarters. It covers the phenoms that delighted Baby Boomers,Generation X, and beyond: UNCANNY X-MEN, NEW TEEN TITANS, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, LOVE ANDROCKETS, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, SUPERMAN VS. SPIDER-MAN, ARCHIE COMICS, HARVEY COMICS, KISS,STAR WARS, ROM, HOSTESS CAKE ADS, GRIT(!), and othermilestones! So take a trip back in time to re-experience thoseepic stories, and feel the heat of COMIC BOOK FEVER onceagain! With cover art and introduction by ALEX ROSS.
(240-page FULL-COLOR HARDCOVER) $39.95(Digital Edition) $12.95 ISBN: 978-1-60549-063-2
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS PREVIEW, CLICK THE LINKBELOW TO ORDER THIS BOOK!