DC's 100-Page Super Spectaculars had begun with mystery, romance, and superhero collections in 1971 (issues # 4-6; no one remembers exactly why the series' numbering began with # 4), then switched to being a format for special issues of other ongoing series (Superman # 245, The Flash # 214, Adventure Comics # 416, etc.) while still also retaining the numbering sequence of the Super-Specs. The format was killed in early '72, then returned as a separate monthly series with 100-Page Super Spectacular # 14 at the very end of that year (though cover dated March 1973). As the spring and summer of 1973 beckoned, readers had no inkling that the series was nearing its end, nor that the format would live on in expanded (albeit short-lived) form thereafter. In the mean time, though, we were still getting 100 pages of DC reprints for half a buck, every single month.
Following the giddy treat of a 1940s Justice Society of America story the previous month, Super Spec # 18 was, inevitably, a let-down. It still offered some of the Golden Age goodness I craved, including a cool 1943 Superman tale called "I Sustain The Wings," and '40s adventures starring the Golden Age Atom, TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite, The Hourman (long one of my favorites), and the first DC appearance of the former Quality Comics hero Captain Triumph. The Silver Age was represented by the revamped latter-day Atom and two more Superman stories, including the three-part non-continuity Imaginary Story "The Amazing Story Of Superman-Red And Superman-Blue!" I would have preferred to have at least subbed out the middle Superman story ("Superboy's Last Day In Smallville!") for another '40s gem, preferably starring a hero we hadn't yet seen in a Super Spec (Bulletman, Mr. Terrific, Liberty Belle, Midnight, Scribbly and The Red Tornado), or even a reliable, familiar face like Plastic Man or The Vigilante. No one ever listened to me in 1973...!
(The Silver Age Atom reprint featured one odd editorial choice, the decision to add the yellow circle around Batman's chest insignia. The yellow circle had originally been added with the debut of Batman's "New Look" under editor Julie Schwartz in 1964, but most [if not all] reprints of Batman's pre-1964 appearances had left the bat-insignia without the taint of retouching.)
|Note also the house ad for DC's then-upcoming new comic starring a licensed property sure to thrill Golden Age fans!|
Behind a Nick Cardy cover, this issue's marquee event was the first appearance of Batman's enemy Two-Face, a two-part story from 1942. The issue ended with Two-Face's third and final 1940s appearance, "The End Of Two-Face!" In between, Golden Age goodies starring Dr. Mid-Nite, Black Canary, Starman, Blackhawk, The Spectre, and Wildcat added up to a flawless Super Spec, and certainly one of my favorites.
The pendulum, alas, would swing away from the '40s for the next Super Spec, which starred Superboy and offered only two bits from the 1940s (my boy Kid Eternity, and one of the three Superboy reprints), though I have to admit I enjoyed reading The Teen Titans' first appearance, and I always liked seeing The Legion Of Super-Heroes. (Also, artist Jim Mooney made Lex Luthor's sister look really cute as a jungle princess in that issue's Supergirl reprint.) After that, The Flash starred in 100-Page Super Spectacular # 22. This was the final issue, at least under that title.
But it was far from the end of these 100-page extravaganzas. The very next month, the eighth issue of Shazam!, starring the original Captain Marvel, took on the Super Spectacular format for one glorious issue. Each new issue of Shazam! had included one classic Cap tale alongside DC's (failed) efforts to revive the character, and the tabloid-sized dollar title Limited Collectors' Edition had published one wonderful collection of vintage Marvel Family stories, as well. For this young Captain Marvel fan, Shazam! # 8 was yet another dream come true, serving up even more of the 1940s superhero action I wanted most. With a thought of the past and an eye on the future, 1973 was the best of times!
But an ad for the next Super Spectacular stopped me short. Detective Comics # 438, cover-dated January 1974. Terrific Batman cover by Mike Kaluta, the artist on The Shadow. The regular 'Tec had just begun a new era under new editor Archie Goodwin, and that seemed promising, with a moody lead Batman story (gorgeously rendered by Jim Aparo), and the first installment of an exciting back-up feature called Manhunter, by Goodwin and artist Walt Simonson. Cool! We'd pause for a 100-page Detective Comics dip into the ol' vaults, and resume the new stuff next month.
But the ad for that cover of Detective Comics showed something I found disconcerting at the time. The promised "EXTRAs" of Green Lantern, The Atom, Robin, and Hawkman indicated a likely paucity of Golden Age material, but it was the featured hero in the middle of those extras that concerned me. Manhunter. Specifically, "The ALL-NEW Manhunter."
"All-New?!" Aw, no...! DC couldn't be thinking of putting new material into the Super Spectaculars!
WHEN COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW RETURNS: Yes. They could.
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