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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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

Continuing a look back at DC Comics' 100-Page Super Spectaculars in the 1970sBegin with Part 1, move on to Part 2, then Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6, and we keep on keepin' on right here:

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!
Speaking of classic characters that DC licensed from other rights holders, 100-Page Super Spectacular # 19 was, to me, an unexpected treat: a reprint of an extended Tarzan newspaper run by the great Russ Manning. Manning had drawn the wonderful Magnus Robot Fighter comic book for Gold Key in the '60s, but I may not have ever seen his Tarzan work prior to this. The timing was right for me; I'd been seeing Joe Kubert's stunning work in DC's ongoing Tarzan title, seeing the occasional Johnny Weissmuller or Gordon Scott Tarzan movie on Saturday afternoon TV showings, and catching reruns of the TV series starring Ron Ely (who was then my favorite screen Tarzan), so my interest in Lord Greystoke's adventures was at its peak. I think I started reading some of Edgar Rice Burroughs's original Tarzan novels around this time, too.

For this thirteen-year-old, the summer of 1973 presented a seemingly endless supply of renewable magic at the spinner rack. Batman # 251 offered the murderous return of The Joker in "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!" by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano. The annual meeting of the Justice League and the Justice Society re-introduced the Quality heroes--Black Condor, The Ray, Uncle Sam, Doll Man, Human Bomb, and the pulchritudinous Phantom Lady--in their first-ever new DC Comics appearances. DC's adaptation of The Shadow debuted. Secret Origins # 5 reprinted the first appearance of The Spectre. And, plucked from the rack at Ramey's Grocery Store in Springfield, Missouri, there was 100-Page Super Spectacular # 20, starring my favorite hero Batman, and filled with nothing but 1940s stories. It was the first all-Golden Age Super Spec. Heaven!

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!

Could they?


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