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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars, Part One


Just imagine: you're 11 years old, you're a fan of comic books and superheroes, and one day, you stumble across this on the spinner rack.

"100 Action-Packed Pages,""World's Greatest Super-Heroes!" Only fifty cents! If you have two quarters on you, you've already fumbled them out of your pocket and handed them over to the guy or gal at the cash register, and flown home faster than any stunned onlooker could even exclaim, "Look! Up in the sky...!"

In 1971, I was that 11-year-old. I couldn't fly home with my new treasure--I bought it in a Greyhound station, en route from Syracuse to summer vacation in Missouri--but it was a glimpse of glory nonetheless.

The DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars were so cool, providing eager young fans like me with an opportunity to read and enjoy reprints of adventures from the DC Comics archives, going back as far as the late 1930s up through the then-recent decade of the '60s. The Golden Age reprints were my main interest; I loved the '60s stories, sure, but the stuff from the '40s? That was exciting, and mostly new to me--undiscovered territory. The Super Specs mixed old and older in an irresistible package, all in color for five dimes. Inflation? Vanquished as easily as the mad scientist Luthor punched through a wall by the Man of Steel.

Although my first Super Spec was listed as issue # 6, there were only two Super Specs prior to this, a Weird Mystery Tales mystery and horror collection and a Love Stories romance book. I don't recall whether or not I ever saw those first two, but the World's Greatest Super-Heroes! book was the first Spec in my sphere, and I devoured it. I read it and re-read it again and again. I didn't realize that Neal Adams' gorgeous wrap-around cover was an homage to the cover of All-Star Comics # 16 from 1943, but Adams' cover has itself become something of an iconic image on its own.

The lead-off treat in this book was the two-part "Crisis On Earth-One" and "Crisis On Earth-Two" epic from 1963, the very first meeting between The Justice League of America and The Justice Society of America. The annual JLA/JSA meetings had been a cherished summer event for me since 1967; with this reprint, I effectively got a bonus JLA/JSA adventure that year, as I read the new crossover in 1971, and also discovered its origin from back in '63. When I started buying back issues within the next few years, I would eventually acquire all of the JLA/JSA books, and I also now have most of them in trade paperback reprints. But this Super Spec was my first opportunity to look back at how it all began.

The Spectre was next. A previous Comic Book Retroview detailed my love for The Ghostly Guardian, and the reprint in this Super Spec was my first exposure to the grim, vengeful Spectre as he was portrayed in his earliest adventures in the '40s. It was a far, far cry from the cosmic Spectre adventures I'd read in the '60s, and I was thrilled by this merciless, pulpy avenger. Johnny Quick, The Vigilante, and Wildcat offered further Golden Age goodness, and the Super Spec concluded with a Silver Age '60s Hawkman story (with gorgeous Joe Kubert artwork). What a book! What a value!

(And, as if all that weren't already plenty and then some, this comic book bonanza also included a [presumably] comprehensive checklist of DC lead characters, from 1938 to date. The checklist even offered information on each character's first appearance, so eager little neophytes like yours truly could learn that Plastic Man debuted in Police Comics # 1 in 1941, or that The Doom Patrol was introduced in My Greatest Adventure # 80 in 1963. See? You can learn stuff reading comic books!)

So this 100-Page Super Spectacular was a treasure trove, a great big gaudy gift from Comic Book Heaven. In my seventh-grade English class that fall, I listed "DC 100-Page Super Spectacular" as my favorite book. No, you get a life. And it had to be a one-off, right? There was no reason to expect that DC would do something like this again, no likelihood that this gift would keep on giving. Right? Right?

But in late fall, before '71 ceded ground to the election year of 1972, a sequel appeared. My family and I were on our way to an evening at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Mike's house, and we stopped along the way at Sweetheart Corner grocery store in North Syracuse. And there, on the spinner rack, was another 100-Page Super Spectacular, this one starring Superman, with his guests Air Wave, The Atom, an American Indian hero called Super Chief, another Silver Age Hawkman story, and some young guy called Kid Eternity, who hadn't even rated a mention in that theoretically comprehensive DC characters checklist I'd read in the summer. But who cared about that?! Two quarters acquired. Two quarters spent. It was mine. All mine! This was the start of a beautiful friendship.

We'll be covering Kid Eternity in greater detail in the next edition of The Everlasting First. But the Super Specs themselves? We have much, much more to discuss when Comic Book Retroview resumes.

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