Saturday, January 27, 2018

TIME BUBBLES: Comics on-sale 40 years ago this week (Jan. 23-29, 1978)

And here were are — you may safely unbuckle and de-bubble, comic book fans, we have arrived safe and sound 40 years ago, at the fourth week of January, 1978.

As always, we remind you that comic book stores were not yet a thing (for the most part) and comics still had to ply their way at common newsstands, arriving twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

On-sale dates herein are taken from Mike's Amazing World of Comics, a great resource you should definitely check out if comics are at all your thing.

But before we begin, one quick note to observe that most comics in 1978 were 32 pages and sold for 35¢. That equates to $1.38 in 2018 dollars. So, a pretty great deal considering the cheapest comic books you can find today go for $2.99 a pop. January 1978 also saw a few 48-page comics issued by Gold Key and Harvey Comics that sold for 50¢, as well as a few from Marvel and DC that required 60¢ to place in the "Own" pile. Those prices equate to $1.97 and $2.37, respectively, in modern money. So, still a way better value for dollar than anything you can buy today. The only real parity comes at the $1 price tag, which is about the same as $3.94 today. That’ll get you most 32-page DC Comics in 2018, but scored you an 80-pager in 1978. All Marvel Comics are 32 pages for $3.99 these days, but back then, that $3.94 would land you a 64-page magazine-sized comic book.

Oh, and one more note before we begin our tour — you may wish to check out our most recent Time Bubble trips:

• To the first week of January, 1978 (40 years ago), when we took a look at what comics were on sale alongside SPIDER-WOMAN #1.

• To the second week of January, 1968 (50 years ago), when we witnessed the first appearance of Guy Gardner in GREEN LANTERN #59 and mulled what comics he had to compete with for buyers’ attention. And,

• To the third week of January, 1958 (60 years ago), to review everything on sale alongside SUPERMAN’S GIRLFRIEND, LOIS LANE.

So, what is the big whoop for this outing? Well, a bright and shiny new #1 graced the shelves, courtesy of mighty Marvel! Let’s take a look, shall we?

Marvel Comics — 32pgs for 35¢

On-sale Tuesday, January 24, 1978 

Created by The King himself, Jack Kirby, the android super-hero made his dazzling debut in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Marvel’s short-lived attempt to cash in on the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film adapted and expanded, with help from the author, from an Arthur C. Clarke short story, “Sentinel of Eternity.”

That story, originally called just, “The Sentinel,” actually failed to place in a BBC contest into which Clarke entered it in 1948. It finally saw print in the Spring 1951 issue (which, as it turned out, was the only issue) of the Avon pulp mag. TEN STORY FANTASY.  
Why Marvel thought a 2001 comic would fly off shelves eight years after the movie is anyone’s guess, but as you might guess, it didn’t last long — just 10 issues, from September 1976 to June 1977. The series was preceded by Kirby’s adaptation of the film, published as an oversized “treasury special,” on July 27, 1976. Word on the web is that publishing the film adaptation, at least, was a condition Kirby set for re-jumping ship back to Marvel from DC. So, if Kirby wanted to do and ongoing, and Marvel had the license, why not let him, I guess. 

In the ongoing series, Kirby tries his best to explore the concepts from the film while introducing a few of his own far-out ideas. But there was a certain repetitiveness to the issues until #8 (on-sale April 26, 1977), when Kirby introduced a character he dubbed Mister Machine — real name:  Z2P45-9-X-51 — and began to follow a more traditional, continuing plot line. 

In what the cover to #8 trumpeted as, “An origin to top them all,” all the robots in the X-51 series went rogue after encountering one of the 2001 monoliths and becoming sentient as a result. All were subsequently destroyed, all save one, who had his auto-destruct sequence removed by his creator, Dr. Able Stack. Stack died in the process however, so Mister Machine, took on the human identity of Aaron Stack and went on the run. The final two issues dealt with Mister Machine’s efforts to stay one step ahead of destruction at the hands of the Army. 

Renamed Machine Man for his solo series, the android-on-the-run storyline continued, with the solo series hitting stands about seven months after the 2001 series got the ax. With Kirby again at the helm, writing and drawing, and Mike Royer on inks, the MACHINE MAN series can almost be viewed as a continuation of The King’s run on 2001.

But the series got canceled at #9 (Sept. 26, 1978). Machine Man would then appear five months later in THE INCREDIBLE HULK issues #235-235 (Feb. 13 to April 17, 1979), suffering a catastrophic system shutdown at the hands of the mean, green goliath — and, also, writer Roger Stern. 

MACHINE MAN the series would then return with #10, on May 1, 1979, this time with Marv Wolfman scripting and Steve Ditko on the art boards. Ditko would remain to series’ end at #19 (on Nov. 4, 1980), but Wolfman would give way to Tom DeFalco with #15. 

I could say a lot about the MACHINE MAN series, but perhaps the best word on the topic is this November 2016 review in THE COMICS JOURNAL of MACHINE MAN BY KIRBY & DITKO: THE COMPLETE COLLECTON, a 440, $40 tome that gathers the entire series, plus the HULK issues. Sadly, the Marvel trade paperback does not collect the three X-51 issues of the 2001 series, probably because, while Marvel retained rights to Kirby’s original creation of that one character, the company lost license to all other aspects of the 2001 intellectual property. It’s kind of like how Marvel no longer has rights to THE MICRONAUTS, apart from characters created specifically for the comic book that were not in the toy line, like Bug. So, don't hold your breath waiting for that Marvel MICRONAUTS omnibus.

Anyway, as Greg Hunter, author of the review states, “both the Kirby and the Dikto issues read as the work of cartoonists whose sensibilities were not of the current era.” Between these two past masters of visual comics craft, and the comparatively modern sensibilities of Wolfman and DeFalco, the book is, Hunter writes, “. . . more like a transmitter, catching signals from the past and future of super-hero books, than a proper super-hero comic.”

Machine Man would later get a nifty four-issue limited series in 1984 written by DeFalco, with art by Herb Trimp and Barry Windsor Smith in #1-3, and BWS alone in #4. The character would then lay fallow for about 15 years, before getting 12 issues starting July 14, 1999, titled X-51: THE MACHINE MAN. That series is about what you’d expect of a 1990s era Marvel comic.

As to subsequent appearances of Machine Man in the MCU, and his current status — I’ll let you look that up. Like all Marvel continuity of the last 20 years, it’s so convoluted it makes by head hurt. 

Now, should you seek out this issue, most sources will tell you to expect to pay a decent amount in high grade, from $28 in Very Fine-minus to $40 in Near Mint. The remaining Kirby issues retail for between $10 and $15 in high grade, while issues #10-17 go for $7–$10. Issue #18 books for $21-$30 because it features Alpha Flight and ties into their appearance in UNCANNY X-MEN issues #139-140. The final issue also retails for $21–$30, due to it having the first appearance of the villainous Jack O' Lantern, who eventually became the second Hobgoblin.

And if you want Machine Man's first appearance in 2001 #8? Expect to shell out $56–$80. But if you can snag the 35¢ price variant (comics were still 30¢ at the time), then you'll do well to pay anything less than $250.

And now, let’s take a quick run-through of all the other options you had on the stands, this week in 1978. All issues are 32 pages for 35¢, unless otherwise noted.

On-sale Tuesday, January 24

Gold Key Comics

The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote made their debut in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes theatrical short, “Fast and Furry-ous,” which came out on Sept. 17, 1949. Wile E’s first appearance in comics actually predates his film debut, at least of a sort, with a character called Kelsey Coyote antagonizing Henrey Hawk in Dell’s LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES COMICS #91 (March 29, 1949). The Road Runner took much longer to make the transition, first getting his shot of newsprint glory nearly a decade later, appearing in quick succession alongside his flea-bitten adversary in FOUR COLOR #918 (June 10, 1958) and on his own in BUGS BUNNY’S VACATION FUNNIES #8 (June 19, 1958). 

The FOUR COLOR issue depicted the first meeting of the desert duo, and introduced a Road Runner family never seen on screen, including his wife Matilda and thee newly hatched sons. Matilda would soon disappear from the scene, but the kids would appear throughout the Runner’s comic book, er . . . run. This story also established that the Road Runner can indeed speak beyond his trademark, “Meep! Meep!” although he’s apparently one of the lower demons of hell, as he and his kids only speak in rhyme. The comics also established that the Road Runner did indeed have a name, although “Papa Beep” may have been more a nom de guerre that anything actually listed on his birth certificate.

Two more FOUR COLOR outings would follow (#1,008 on May 26, 1959, and #1,046 on Sept. 24, 1959). Papa & Wile would then graduate to their own solo series, BEEP BEEP, which ran from #4 on Dec. 22, 1959 to #14, out June 7, 1962. The cover read BEEP BEEP THE ROAD RUNNER, but the official title listed in the incidia was just BEEP BEEP. The series came to an end when Dell split from Western Publishing, which packaged the books. After the divorce, Western retained the Warner Brothers license and issued its own series, now officially called BEEP BEEP THE ROAD RUNNER, under its Gold Key brand. 

In some series it took over, Gold Key continued the Dell numbering, but Road Runner got a new #1, on Aug. 1, 1966. The series lasted to #105, out March 15, 1984, although Western moved it over to the Whitman label with #89 (Feb. 7, 1980). The Whitman issues were distributed solely in 3-pak bagged editions in department stores and, as such, tapered off in frequency, with just two issues published in 1982, three in 1983, and one on 1984. Before Western discontinued traditional newsstand distribution due to low sales, it issued comics through both channels, and issues #27-88 exist in both Gold Key and Whitman versions, the cover label being the only real difference. However, the relative scarcity of most of the latter Whitman-only issues has impacted pricing on the open market. Issues #91-93 go for $120 in Near Mint, while issues #102-105 trade for $40. This one, however, trades in the higher grades in the far lower range of $11.25–$16.

Marvel Comics

It’s basically a Thing solo story in, “Day of the Death-Demon,” as plotted by Len Wein and Keith Pollard, scripted by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Pollard, and inked by Joe Sinnott. Wein was just the third regular writer on Marvel’s flagship title, following Roy Thomas and The Man himself, Stan Lee. But his run was relatively short-lived, starting at #180 (Feb. 22, 1977 — also, incidentally, my first FF — and lasting to #194 (excepting only #182 by Mantlo, #189 with a Lee reprint, and #190 by Marv Wolfman). Issue #194 also was scripted by Matlo and co-plotted by Pollard, who would stay on, penciling Wolfman's stories to #206 (missing only #202, done by John Buscema). The stories of this era were okay, but FF would remain an occasional purchase for me, chosen only when I couldn’t find anything better on that trip to the Pik-Qwik newsstand. The title would not become a regular must-have for me until #232, when John Byrne began his classic run. [$8.50–$12]

DC Comics

GL had not really been back in print for all that long at this point. The title had been canceled at #89 back on Feb. 22, 1972, due to low sales. This seems counter-intuitive today, given the high value placed on the “Hard-Traveling Heroes” saga of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams that closed out the series’ original run. There are two prevailing theories for why the book sold so poorly. One is that the casual reader, of which there were many back then, did not actually like Adams’ artwork, as the pagers were overly rendered with far-out panel layouts, making them hard to read to anyone beyond hardcore fanboys. Meanwhile, those fanboys who were absolutely rabid for the stuff were led at the time by some of the first professional back-issue dealers, some of whom discovered they could score issues for pennies on the dollar by buying them directly from the distributor warehouse. Thus, a large percentage of the comics never even made it to the newsstand, while the unscrupulous distributor self-reported the books back to DC as unsold, having pocketed their percentage.
The series was revived with #90 (May 4, 1976), again with O’Neil writing, but with then-newcomer Mike Grell on the art chores. The series restarted as it had ended, with GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW on the cover, even though the official title remained, simply, GREEN LANTERN. Poor Ollie would not get his own name in an indicia until his first mini-series in 1983.

Thisish features, “Earth — Asylum for an Alien,” by O’Neil, who would remain with the title all the way past #123 (Sept. 27, 1983) — when GA got kicked off the book — to #129 (March 27, 1980). Then we would get, in succession, Bob Rozakis, Mike W. Barr, Bob Toomey, Paul Kupperberg, Marv Wolfman, and Laurie Sutton, before Wolfman would return and settle in for a 20-issue run, the high point of which would be the introduction of The Omega Men in issues #141-142 (March 19, and April 23, 1982) — a group then heavily tied in to the work Marv was doing over on THE NEW TEEN TITANS. 

The art in this issue was by Alex Saviuk and Dave Hunt, and that was kind of underwhelming to me, which is why I probably skipped this issue at the time, although I did occasionally buy GL/GA when I happened to see an issue on the stands. Not a top seller at the time, the book had a lower print run than other DC series, and, as such, often wouldn’t show up at the newsstands I haunted in central Maine for months at a time. So, it’s possible I never even saw this book when it came out, missing the opportunity to pass it over for other things this week, as I probably would have. Saviuk is by no means a bad artist, and I enjoyed his debut on this title in #100, but he was new at the time — that introduction of Air Wave in #100 being only his second pro work I know of, after a tale in HOUSE OF MYSTERY #255 (Aug. 18, 1977). Hunt meanwhile, was, at least at this point in his career, and uninspired inker, I thought.  [$9.75–$14]

Marvel Comics 

I was aware of Howard at the time, but not from his own title, which I don’t recall ever actually seeing on newsstands in my area. Either they never made it up my way due to the lower print runs (compared to other hit titles), or else there was one kid in town who loved the book and always managed to beat me to the newsstand. When I bought my comics at Joe’s Smoke Shop in Winslow, there would be multiple copies of each issue on display, but by this point I was mostly hitting the Pik-Qwik in Skowhegan — a little convenience store near where my grandparents lived. I would stay with my grandparents over the weekends and my Gram would usually give me $2 on Friday or Saturday to buy comics with. I used to think she did it because she loved me. But I'm pretty sure it was just a way to keep the li'l fidget-freak quiet for a few hours. I don’t recall there ever being more than one or two of any given issue on the stands at the Pik-Qwik, and, as comics went out for sale on Tuesdays and Thursdays back then, it was not unusual for me to miss an issue because someone else bought it first. 

Howard was near the end of his run at this point, however. Launched to great fanfare and investor speculation on Oct. 28, 1975, the title would prove unable to meet that genpop hurrah, and would get the ax a little more than a year from thisish, at #31 (Feb. 20, 1979), although two subsequent issues would come out in 1985, and 1986. This issue, a STAR WARS parody entitled, “Star Waaugh!” was by series creator Steve Gerber, with art from Val Mayerik, who also did #22 and would return for the final encore edition, #33, on June 24, 1986.  [$4.25–$6]

IRON MAN, No. 109
Marvel Comics 

“Moonrise,” pits ol’ shellhead against the Russian hero (or villain, from our perspective) Darkstar, and two of her comrades who make their debut here — Vanguard and Crimson Dynamo. It was a tale by Bill Mantlo, with art from Carmine Infantino and Fred Kida.

I was an occasional buyer of IRON MAN during the Manto run, which lasted from #98 (Feb. 22, 1977) to #115 (July 25, 1978). I believe #99 was my first issue, and I’m pretty sure I missed this one when it came out. I may have passed over it (I got it decades later as a back issue), but I’m pretty sure I would have bit at the time had I seen it. IRON MAN would either later enjoy wider distribution, or else that other kid who always got the Pik-Qwik before me lost interest in this title, and I would become a regular buyer with #113, rarely missing an issue until just after inker Bob Layton departed at #153 (Sept. 15, 1981). During the Layton era, which started at #116, IRON MAN was one of my absolute very fav. comics of the entire late-Bronze and Copper Ages.   [$10.25–$12]

Marvel Comics 

And here’s another series I swear to you I never saw on newsstands when I was a kid. Or at least if I did, the experience never registered in my memory.
As we all know, J.C. is a Civil War vet mysteriously transported to new conflicts on the face of our nearest planetary neighbor, then teeming with all kinds of aliens, from beguiling princesses to four-armed, green-skinned warriors. Created by Tarzan daddy Edgar Rise Burroughs, Carter's adventures were first serialized in the pulp mag. THE ALL-STORY, between February and July, 1912. 

So far as I can tell, J.C. made his comic book debut in an origin tale adapting the first Burroughs story, “A Princess of Mars,” in Dell’s THE FUNNIES #30 (on-sale March 14, 1939). The story was by Burroughs’ son, John Coleman Burroughs, with art by Jim Gary. With #34, Burroughs the Younger took over the art chores as well.

Many sources say this run reprints newspaper strips, but every other source I find claims the excellent but short-lived John Carter newspaper strip, written and drawn by John Coleman Burroughs and syndicated by United Features, did not make its debut until Dec. 7, 1941. Readers of the era can be forgiven for overlooking this debut, of course, as there were one or two other things going on the news that day. 

Anyway, I’m going to tell you the comic book came first. The artwork was used in Dell’s JOHN CARTER OF MARS "big little book." That has a 1940 copyright date. Based on the preponderance of similarities and discrepancies in the panels, I became convinced when researching this column that the BLB was reprinted from the comic book stories in THE FUNNIES, not the other way around. This was confirmed when I took the question to the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook, where Buddy Lortie pointed me to an issue of the ERBzine, which proved my supposition. Yes, the 1940 BLB outing reprints panels from the John Carter stories in THE FUNNIES #30-39. So, most of the online comic book resources out there, including the usually dependable Grand Comics Database, are wrong. The J.C. stories in THE FUNNIES are not comic strip reprints.

Anyway, Dell would later give Carter his own solo shot in three issues of FOUR COLOR, including #375 (Jan. 4, 1952), #437 (Oct. 3, 1952), and #488 (June 30, 1953). These issues must not have sold that well, as Dell would never end up promoting J.C. to his own title. In fact, John Carter would not get his own series (though technically, the FOUR COLOR issues were published under his name), until 1964. And even that was just three Gold Key issues reprinting the earlier FOUR COLOR outings. 

Instead, John Carter would not get his shot at Tarzan-level fame until this Marvel series, which ran from March 22, 1977 to #28, out July 24, 1978. So, it was short-lived glory, although the run did include three giant-sized annuals, the last circulated on the same day as the final issue. And there was some genuine glory, as the series won an Eagle Award for best new series. Based in Britain, the now-defunct Eagles were basically the Eisners, before there were Eisners, although they tended to focus on more mainstream product the Eisners often turn up their noses at. 

Thisish, featuring an origin story Carter's main squeeze, in “The Story of Dejah Thoris,” by writer Marv Wolfman, with art by Dave Cockrum and Rudy Nebres. This would be Cockrum's only outing on pencils for the series, although Wolfman, who launched the series with Gil Kane, would remain until #15, when he’d jump to Planet DC, although he would return for Annual #3. 

The big whoop of the series — apart from #1 and the limited distribution 35¢ pricing variants on #1-5 — is #18, which features the first artwork at Marvel by Frank Miller, who’d soon go on to light the world afire in DAREDEVIL, a couple of years hence. This issue, however, trades in high grade for between $7–$10.

Marvel Comics

MARVEL PREMIERE did not initially feature premiers, or even rotating features. After Adam Warlock — previously known as “Him,” so I guess it was a premier of sorts — in the first two issues, starting Nov. 23, 1971, this bi-monthly series featured Doctor Strange in issues #3-14, and Iron Fist in 15-25. And, yeah, #15 was Danny Rand’s first outing, so that’s a premiere, too. Still, it wasn’t until #26, when Iron Fist graduated to his own series, that MARVEL PREMIERE turned to the format of DC’s SHOWCASE series, as promised by its title. Subsequent features (although, again, not all actual premieres) included Hercules (#26), Satana, the Devil’s Daughter (#27), The Legion of Monsters (#28), The Liberty Legion (#29-30), The Man-Brute Called Woodgod (#31), Monarch Starstalker (#32), The Mark of Kane (#33-34), The 3-D Man (#35-37), Weirdworld (#38), and Torpedo (#39-40), before this issue’s debut of Seeker 3000. 

Created by writer Doug Moench and artist Tom Sutton, the Seeker 3000 was a mile-long ark ship that kind of presaged the premise of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA by about nine months, expect that instead of searching for Earth, the crew was traveling away from it, in search of a new home. Also, instead of thousands of people on board, there were six. Plus, there were clones, a super-advanced computer system known as the Censys, and a person who ran the warp drive via telepathy. Plus, one of The Six gets his consciousness trapped in the Censys. So, the concept was only part Battlestar Galactica, with the other part being every sci-fi trope you can think of. 

Still, not all big ideas lead to big things and this one-shot was the only voyage for the Seeker 3000 and her crew. At least until 1998, when Marvel put out a four-issue SEEKER 3000 mini-series by writters Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton, which was supposed to be the lead title in a new sci-fi imprint that never materialized.

Following the one outing or Seeker 300, Premier finished out its run with Tigra (#42), Paladin (#43), Jack of Hearts (#44), Man-Wolf (#45-46), Ant-Man (#47-48), The Falcon (#49), Alice Cooper (#50), Black Panther (#51-53), Caleb Hammer (#54), Wonder Man (#55), Dominic Fortune (#56), Doctor Who (#57-60), and Star-Lord (#61).

To my mind, the entire series is justified by the official debut of the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man, courtesy of David Michelinie and John Byrne, which blew me away then and remains to this day one of my all-time top “desert island” comics. That book trades these days for $112 to $160 in high grade. This one? For $5.50–$8.

Marvel Comics

Ah, for the old days, when you could get a more or less complete story in any one comic book — two, at most — and your favorite super-hero teaming with some lesser light could still be seen as a treat, both real and rare. MTU launched on Dec. 21, 1971, with a three-issue arc pairing Spider-Man with The Human Torch, before turning the dial to team Spidey with just about anyone and everyone. This one put Spidey in the swamp for an adventure with Man-Thing entitled, ”The Measure of a Man,” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. This pairing, which was simultaneously lighting the world on fire over in THE UNCANNY X-MEN, had an equally good, though less celebrated 12-issue run here in MTU, starting with #59 (April 26, 1977), which featured Yellowjacket and the Wasp. The run continued with Spidey and The Wasp (#60), Human Torch (#61), Ms Marvel (#62), Iron Fist, in a tale that is continued from the last issue of his solo series (#63), Daughters of the Dragon (#64), Captain Britain (#65-66), and Tigra (#67), before thisish. Afterward, they’d conclude with Havok (#69) and Thor (#70). [$6.25–$9]

DC Comics

Oh, how I loved this comic as a kid! It began Feb. 19, 1976, with connections to the Fourth World and Darkseid that never really paid off, but I missed those early issues anyway. I came on board with #8 (April 5, 1977) attracted by a cover that had Kid Flash (TEEN TITANS was another Late Bronze fav.) battling The Trickster and Gorilla Grodd, who was holding the limp body of some super-hero I had never seen before. That dude, as it turned out, was Captain Comet, and I was soon captivated by his battles against a core SSOSV team that included The Wizard, The Reverse-Flash, The Floronic Man, and Blockbuster, along with the beautiful and mysterious not-Carol Ferris Star Sapphire. The two-part tale in this and the previous issue, written by Gerry Conway and drawn by the team of Mike Vosburg and Robert R. Smith, was my introduction to Earth-3 and the Crime Syndicate of America. LOVED IT!

Sadly, the next issue would be the last. After teasing an epic three-way crossover battle between this and two of my other favorite titles as a kid, THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS and The Justice Society of America (by way of ALL-STAR COMICS), the actual battle would never see the light of day. Technically, it all fell apart just before the infamous DC Implosion, but the utter devastation of losing all of those much-loved titles (along with TEEN TITANS) will always be intertwined with the Implosion in my mind. [$7–$10]

Marvel Comics

This issue, by Bill Mantlo, with breakdowns by Sal Buscema and finished art by Dave Hunt teams Spider-Man with The Angel, just 2 ½ months after the end of THE CHAMPIONS series at #17, on Oct. 18, 1977. That had been another favorite series. I tell ya, as a I kid, I just couldn’t seem to win for losing when falling for new comic book series. 

Mantlo took over the Champions' series from Tony Isabella at #8 (July 20, 1976) and finished out the run. Here we see Peter Parker traveling cross-country to cover the break-up of the team. Definitely not the kind of thing that’d happen today. These days, J. Jonah would just be, like, “Gimmie the wire report and be done with it. No way I’m paying to fly Parker to Los Angeles for a story that’ll be all over the cable stations and stale as collusion by the time he files his first photo!” 

The Champions are all gone when Petey arrives, however, and we only see them in flashback, save Angel, who’d stuck around the shoddily constructed bill of goods the team had called their headquarters. After all, he’d paid for it, such as it was. As it turns out, Angel’s Champion-cum-X-Men teammate, Iceman, has been possessed by former Champion nemesis Rampage, who, injured in a previous battle with the team, has trapped Iceman in one of his battle suits. Angel and Iceman would next end up with The Defenders, making them the hard-traveling Green Lantern/Green Arrow of the MCU.

This title, meanwhile, went through a series of identity issues. At launch (Dec. 28, 1976), it was officially THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-Man in the indicia, but carried a PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN logo on its cover. And, yes, that was a lot of words for a series title. But with #49 (Sept. 23, 1980), the indicia got in line with the cover. Then, with #134 (Sept. 22, 1987), both cover and indicia reverted to just THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, with a logo that mirrored the original AMAZING SPIDER-MAN book. And so it remained, though the logo style changed three times, until series end at #263, on Sept. 23, 1998.   [$9.75–$14]

Marvel Comics 

This is a series that commands higher that average prices today, in part because it was not exactly targeted to an audience overly concerned with maintaining their copies in Mint condition. Comics are made to me read, and read ‘em they did! To death, if need be! 

The series was launched as a young readers’ title, in cooperation with PBS program THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. Part of the Children’s Television Workshop, TEC was king of a cooler, hipper version of SESAME STREET, with more singing and fewer puppets. Among its stars were the incomparable Rita Moreno, and the living legend, Morgan Freeman, decades before he ever saw Shawshank, or drove Miss Daisy. I tell you here and now, however awards Freeman may win, or however many public accolades me may receive, his single greatest role will always be that of Easy Reader — not only because he made be believe reading is cool, but because he was a black man who made me believe reading is cool. That was important growing up in Maine, which is 99 percent white. Now, because Maine is so unicultural — or at least was when I was growing up — I didn’t have racism beat into my head. It wasn’t a thing simply because there was not “other” there to push back against. Still, I certainly could have grown up thinking of people who did not look like me as something separate and apart, and maybe even a little bit less than me. But between Easy Reader, Meadowlark Lemon, and Fat Albert — not to mention Black Lightning and Tyroc — I got into my teens having to have racism explained to me. Seriously, I didn’t even understand it as a concept. 

So, anyway, Marvel loaned The Electric Company use o Spider-Man free of any licensing fee, and the show used him — always silent, speaking in word balloons, and always in costume — in skits that taught young viewers the power of words. The 29 individual segments began with the first episode of The Electric Company’s fourth season, in 1974. Twelve segments were recorded for use that season, 16, for the 1975-1976 season, and one for the final season that ended in 1977. The final two years of the show ran in repeats until 1985, keeping Spider and his one true super-power, that of super-reading, which any kid could learn to master, in front of impressionable youngsters for just about the entire breadth of Generation X.

 The accompanying comic book first hit newsstands on July 16, 1974 — a little before Spidey’s live action debut, as played by puppeteer and dancer Danny Seagren. Aimed at readers aged 6-10, the series lasted 57 issues, to Nov. 24, 1981. I never bought it though. Even when I was an active watcher of The Electric Company, and square in the middle of the target demographic, I was far enough ahead of grade level in reading skill that I thumbed by nose at this series as baby stuff, something on par with RICHIE RICH, or ARCHIE. So, thanks Morgan! Without your early influence, this series just might have been a challenge to me! 

Thisish, the only one of the series, so far as I know, to guest-star The Hulk, sports three stories by Jim Salicrup, with art by Win Mortimer and a combination in inking by Don Parlin and Mike Esposito. In addition to The Hulk, this issue also has a story featuring The Incomparable Kangaroo. Talk about missed opportunity! If Squirrel Girl can have her own title, why not The Kangeroo? (lolz)  [$14–$20]

DC Comics — 48 pages for 60¢

And, this, THIS was my all-time favorite series as a kid. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. I was just NUTS for the Legion. Still am. My first issue, as I recall, was SUPERBOY #218 (April 20, 1976), in which Tyroc joins the team. I’d miss a few issues here and the, sometimes several at a stretch, due to the vagaries of newsstand distribution, and the necessity of being dependent on parental, and grand-parental largess to fund my growing comic book habit. But with #230 (May 19, 1977) I would manage to get every issue as it came out. And I totally LOVES the 60¢ giant (later 50¢) formant that followed with #231 and lasted to#245 (Aug. 24, 1978).

This issue was actually a reprint of, “The Outlawed Legionnaires,” and “The Legion Chain Gang,” from ADVENTURE COMICS issues #359-360 (June 29 and July 27, 1967), both written by Jim Shooter, with art rom the the classic Superman team of Curt Swan and George Klein. As I recall, the issue stated the reprint was needed due to scheduling issues, but TPTB obviously knew about the need far enough in advance to commission this nifty Jim Starlin cover.

Thisish was not my first exposure to the Silver Age Legion, but it did cause some small amount of confusion for me. I had first encounterd the Silver Age Legion in DC SUPER-STARS #3 (Feb. 17, 1976). Although that issue was published before my Tyroc issue of SUPERBOY, I found it after. I got most of my comics from 1977 to 1980 at a convenience store called the Pik-Qwik. But nearby there was a corner store call Belleveau’s Market that did not have a newsstand (at least that I recall), but did keep a box of discounted recent comics on in a cardboard box on the floor near the cash register. I suspect these were remaindered comics the owner got from some source or other, as they were never more than a year or two old, and were all in like-new condition. The box was usually mostly Charlton’s, and this is where I discovered E-Man. But there were also occasional DC Comics and Gold Key adventure comics. (I don’t recall ever seeing any Marvels, or kiddie comics). and this box is also where I met the Dingbats of Danger Street and found this SUPER-STARS issue of Legion reprints. That issue had reprinted the Adult Legion story from ADVENTURE COMICS #354-355 (Jan. 31 and Feb. 28, 1967), also by Shooter, Swan, and Klein. When I read that issue I was, like, “Okay, so when the Legion members get older, they all adopt different, less conservative costumes. I can dig it.” 

By the time I got to this month’s reprint, I was old enough and sophisticated enough to know I was reading a story originally published many years in the past, but still wasn’t quite connecting the dots to my earlier reprint issue. So, I was, like, “Wait. So they actually started out in the grandpappy costumes, then changed to what they wear now, then went back to the original costumes? That’s weird.” Still, I loved the two issues reprinted here and was much disappointed when, many years later, I would mostly complete by ADVENTURE run of the Legion only to discover that Invisible Kid never really took on the leadership role he assumed here, that for the balance of the Silver Age run he was mostly a non-entity.  [$11.25–$16]

TARZAN, No. 11
Marvel Comics 

Ah, the Lord of the Jungle. The Edgar Rice Burroughs character first appeared in an October 1912 issue of the pulp mag. ALL-STORY. So, John Carter actually predates Tarzan by about nine months. Still, seems 1912 was a pretty fertile period, creatively, for ol’ ERB. Tarzan first swung into the newspapers in comic strip form on Jan. 7, 1929, by Hal Foster, with a Sunday page originally done by Rex Maxon, following on March 15, 1931. Both were distributed by United Features. He would come to comics via strip reprints starting with United Features’ TOP TOP COMICS #1 (March 1, 1936). His first solo outing, so far as I know, was in issue #20 of United Features SINGLE SERIES line, which hit stands on July 1, 1940. But this was a reprint of a reprint, of sorts, running Hal Foster Sunday pages from Nov. 6, 1932 to Jan. 28, 1934, originally run in issues of TIP TOP. 

Tarzan’s first story that was original to comics (again, to the best of my knowledge) was in Dell’s one-shot series, retroactively known by collectors as FOUR COLOR, with issue #134 of that series, on stands Dec. 31, 1946. The story was written by Robert P. Thompson and drawn by Jesse Marsh. Marsh would go on to become highly associated with Tarzan, as well as Gene Autry, before dying young at age 58 in 1966. Thompson I know less about, but I’m fairly certain he’s not the same Robert P. Thompson who, as of 2016, was writing SPIDEY and POE DAMERON comics for Marvel. 

Tazan then got a second FOUR COLOR outing in #161 (July 15, 1947), before graduating to he own series, which we discussed here, when we visited January 1958.

Marvel’s Tarzan comic followed DC, but the House of Ideas, perhaps because it did not want to be seen as trailing DC on anything, started the jungle king out with a #1, out March 22, 1977 — about three months after the end of the DC run. The series was short-lived, however, lasting just 29 issues, to July 24, 1979. It could be that Tarzan was deemed just too quaint and old-fashioned in the late Bronze Age, as the entire comics industry came to be Super-Heroes or Bust. In theory, the series should have been a hit, given that it was done by the CONAN team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema. But, to be honest, although some fans thing Conan was a big enough deal that they like to date the start of the Broze Age with his #1 on July 21, 1970, by 1977 the barbarian also was getting pretty stale. 

Credits on the TARZAN series included, as writer: Roy Thomas (#1-11, #13-14 Annual #1), David Anthony Kraft (#12, #15-21) and Bill Mantlo (#22-29, Annual #2-3); on pencils: John Buscema (#1-18, Annual #1), and brother Sal Buscema (#19-29, Annual #2-3); and handling inks: John Buscema (#1-2), Tony DeZuniga (#3-6, #11), Rudy Mesina (#7-8, #12-13), Alfredo Alcala (#9-10), Klaus Janson (#14-19), Bob Hall (#20, #24-26), Rudy Nebres (#21), Jim Mooney (#22), Pablo Marcos (#23), Ricardo Villamonte (#27-28), P. Craig Russell (#29), Steve Gan (Annual #1), Fran Matera (Annual #2), and Joe Sinnott (Annual #3)   [$5.50–$8]

DC Comics 

Created by comics legend Joe Kubert, the Unknown Soldier first entered World War II in STAR-SPANGLED COMICS #151, on stands April 21, 1970. The character proved popular enough that his name was appearing in the masthead by #160, and with #183 (Aug. 20, 1974) the Star-Spangled logo began to get minimized as it was increasingly supplanted by his own. Finally, with the appearance of the new circle & stars DC bullet cover brand, DC when ahead and just changed the title of the mag. to THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, starting with #205 (Jan. 18, 1977). The title would survive the DC Implosion in the summer of 1978, and survive to #268, on July 22, 1982. That was only the end of his regular series, however, and the soldier would enjoy limited series runs in 1988 and 1997, as well as 25 issues of a new series under the Vertigo imprint, starting in 2008.

Thisish, a “Deadly Reunion” with Mademoiselle Marie, was written by Robert Kanigher (who would handle most of the soldiers adventures), and drawn by Dick Ayers and Romeo Tanghal. I bought the bulk of the 1977-1982 run of the series from Friendly Frank (is he still around?) back in the early ‘90s. It was only of those “FN or better, 90% VF/NM” deals, and as I recall, at least 10% of the issues I received were indeed mid-grade, with the bulk on the low end of Very Fine. If I’m being honest, I still haven’t read them. I’ve slowly been acquiring the few issues from the front end of the run I need to do one straight-through reading, and still need issues #208-213.   [$14–$20]

WHAT IF, No. 8
Marvel Comics — 48 pages for 60¢

If ever there was a series that blew my preteen brain on a regular basis, this was it. Luckily, I knew most of the early Marvel oeuvre thanks to the MARVEL ORIGINS and SON OF MARVEL ORIGINS books (sadly lost to a house fire in late August 1980), so I had a solid background in the continuity that was being bent here. What amazing me is how many of those once-far out, alt.reality ideas later made their way into mainstream continuity.  

“What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?” — Done it.  

“What If the World Knew Daredevil Was Blind?” — Done that, too.  

“What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor?” Yup, that’s a thing now. 

“What If Someone Else Had Been Bitten by the Radioactive Spider?” — Hell, at this point, who hasn’t been?? 

Thisish features the Daredevil What if, by writer Don Glut and the art team of Alan Kupperberg and Jim Mooney. In it, we learn, as was often the case, that the result of the proffered query was almost never a happy story. 

Thsish also has a cute back up story by Scott Shaw! That asks, “What If the Spider Had Been Bitten by a Radioactive Human?” In it, a Watcher-like Roy Thomas narrates as spider Webster Weaver becomes the ‘Mazing Man-Spider!
What If would last 47 issues, to July 17, 1984. It would then get revived for a longer 114-issue run, from February 1988 to September 1998. There have since been at least nine WHAT IF limited series, generally tied to line-wide events, the most recent of which was WHAT IF: AGE OF ULTRON in 2014. [$7–$10]

On-sale Thursday, January 26, 1978

DC Comics 

Ya, know, I never saw this title on the stands at the time. And, yes, I know, that is getting to be a familiar refrain, but comics distribution really was a crap shoot back in the late 1970s. Of course, to this day there have never been more than a half-dozen comic book specialty shops in all of Maine, and, when they first came into being, the closest was nearly 2 hours from where I lived. So, direct distribution was not deal, either.

Anyway, the Challs were created by Jack Kirby with scripting by Dave Wood, and got a try-out run in SHOWCASE, starting in #6 (Nov. 6,1956), After then appearing in SHOWCASE issues #7 and #11-12, the team graduated to its own series, actually beating The Flash to that much vaunted finish line. The Challs own series ran in bi-monthly issues (meaning it was never a top seller) from Feb. 11, 1958 to #77, on Oct. 1, 1970. The last new story had appeared in #74, however, as the final three issues were all reprints. Then in late 1972, when DC publisher was trying to flood Marvel off the newsstands, while also driving a final nail into the Gold Key coffin, he lumped the Challs into the tide of short-run reprint revivals he issues, and the world say CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN issues #78-80 (Dec. 19, 1972, to March 20, 1973). 

This, however, was a genuine attempt at a revival, launched with #81 on March 22, 1977. Now with Lady Challenger June Robbins an official member of the team, the series was quite good I thought, when acquiring it years later via back issues. But it didn’t catch and was one of those early Jeanette Kahn-approved titles to suffer the indignity of not even living long enough to die in the DC Implosion. It was probably the winter blizzards of 1977/1978 that did the title in, and the last issue (#87) hit stands March 23, 1978. This one is the penultimate issue, and I’m sorry to say that, by all accounts, not even the triple treat of Deadman, Swamp Thing, and Rip Hunter could save this series. (Of note, when Rip appeared in #85, it was his first appearance in the DCU since the cancellation of his own mag. way back in 1965! So, guesting characters who had not graced comics in 12 years may not have been the best way to entice new readers, I guess. 

All seven issues of the run were written by Gerry Conway, aided by wife Carla on the final issue, with pencils by Michael Netzer (#81-82) and Keith Giffen (#83-87), and inks by Bob Wiacek (#81), Josef Rubenstein (#82), and John Celardo (#83-87). 

The Challs later for limited series treatment in 1991 and 2004, while a new team of Challnegers ran 18 issues, from December 1996 to May 1998. DC has been teasing that a second new set of Challengers is slated to debut sometime in 2018, spinning out of the pages of its DARK KNIGHTS: METAL event.  [$8.50–$12]

Gold Key Comics — 48 pages for 50¢

And here’s from the, What-the-Hell-Is-This? File, comes GOLD KEY CHAMPION? So, what the hell is it? According to the 2014 TwoMorrows book, AMERICAN COMIC BOOK CHRONICLES: THE 1970s, by Jason Sacks, Keith Dallas, and Dave Dykema, the short-lived series was intended as a catch-all to clear out unused inventory. The “Now 48 Pages!” screamer might seem on a #1, as the line implies the book had previously been something else, but Gold Key was busy mirroring Marvel & DC at the time, briefly bumping many of its titles to BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY, RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, and TUROK, SON OF STONE, to 48 pages for 50¢. This probably seemed a good idea at the time, as the 48-pages then peddled by Marvel & DC sold for 60¢. But I know as I kid I tended to turn mu nose up at even the adventure books from Gold Key, deeming them to be of only marginally better quality than the Charltons. 

Gold Key’s SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON blasted off soon after the birth of the company, following Western Publishing’s split with Dell, on Sept. 13, 1962. When LOST IN SPACE began on CBS-TV in September 1965, it was pretty obvious it was based on the Gold Key comic, although both owe their genesis to the 1812 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON novel and 1960 Disney film. Because Western licensed material from CBS, it didn’t want antagonize the television giant, so it opted not to sue and instead let it slap a LOST IN SPACE logo on its comic book. That was the case as of #15, on stands Oct. 7, 1965, and remained the case through the end of the series, at #54, on Sept. 15, 19977, almost a decade after cancellation of the television series.  

According to Mssrs. Sacks, Dallas & Dykema, the story in this issue, by Gaylord Du Bois and Dan Spiegle was a story left over after the cancellation of the main series that was then burned off in this title. It is the only issue to carry the LOST IN SPACE logo alone on the cover, without the official SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON appellation. The book is rounded out with reprints from the earlier series.

A second issues of GOLD KEY CHAMPION served a similar purpose using up a file story from THE MIGHTY SAMSON, which had been cancelled at #31, on Dec. 11, 1975. Whether Champion proved to be something less than that in terms of sales, or two issues worth of material was all Western had for inventory, the title never saw a third issue, although both SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON and MIGHTY SAMSON would return as reprint books under Western’s Whitman label, the former for five issues and the latter for one, starting in 1981. [$7–$10]

Gold Key Comics 

Little friggin’ Lulu Can you believe it. At one time popular enough to have lasted 244 issues. Actually, 268, as the title made it all the way to that number, out Dec. 29, 1983. The creation of cartoonist Marjorie Henderson Buell, Lulu Moppet would make her debut as a single panel gag in the Feb. 23, 1935 issue of the SATURDAY EVENING POST. The panel, which replaced Henry after he bolted from the POST for King Features, would run in the magazine until 1944. Lulu got a newspaper comic strip from June 1950 to May 1969, but her real staying power was in comics books. The mischievous miss and her gang made 10 appearance in Dell’s FOUR COLOR line, from #74 (May 15, 1945) to #165 (Aug. 29, 1947). She then graduated to her own series MARGE’S LITTLE LULU, starting with a #1, on Nov. 28, 1947. I never have been able to nail down why Dell would sometimes start a series with #1, and others times pick up at a latter number, counting the FOUR COLOR one-shots as earlier issues of the series. It seems totally random. Anyway, Lulu would weather the Dell/Western divorce and live on as a Gold Key Comic, from #165, on June 28, 1962, to the aforementioned #268. Ya know, Little Lulu and the Unknown Soldier both ended at about the same time, both at #268. Somewhere in the multiverse I bet there’s a LITTLE LULU/UNKNOWN SOLDIER #269 crossover comic. Wouldn’t that be awesome!  [$8.50–$12]

Marvel Comics — magainze, 64 pages for $1

Marvel saw a great deal of success with its black & white, magazine sized run with THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. But less so when it tried to duplicate that magic with the Hulk. Launched Dec. 2, 1976, the mag. would introduce color interior pages and shorten its title to simply THE HULK with #10 (June 13, 1978) in an effort to cash in on the CBS tv show, which made its debut in November 1977. Nonetheless, it would die an ignoble death at #27 (April 14, 1981). So, not even the CBS television show, which ran 82 episodes, to May 1982, could sustain interest in this particular product. 

Thisish features a story by Doug Moench, with art from Herb Trimpe and Alfredo Alcala. He doesn’t really fight the Avengers though, despite the promise of the cover screamer. They do appear in various illustrations, though. There’s also a Ulysses Bloodstone back-up by Steve Gerber and Alan Kupperberg, with Ron Santiago and Rudy Mesina on finishes and inks. [$15.50–$22]

Harvey Comics — 48 pages for 50¢

Well, just as we said Little friggin’ Lulu, here we go with Richie fu*king Rich. We’ve covered the prepubescent playboy before this month, so I won’t detail his history here, except to note there were 10 — COUNTY ‘EM, TEN! — Richie Rich titles on the stands in January 1978. The roll call included: RICHIE RICH, RICHIE RICH & CASPER, RICHIE RICH & JACKIE JOKERS, RICHIE RICH BILLIONS, RICHIE RICH CASH, RICHIE RICH DIAMONDS, RICHIE RICH DOLLARS AND CENTS, RICHIE RICH SUCCESS STORIES, RICHIE RICH VAULT OF MYSTERY, and, I kid you not, even SUPERICHIE. Of course, most of it was reprints. The conventional wisdom that comic book readership turned over completely every three years probably remained true at Harvey far longer than it did anywhere else. So, the company could afford to just keep reprinting the same sat of stories over and over ad infinitum. This series ran from July 4, 1974, to #48, July 1, 1982.  [$5.50–$8]

Harvey Comics

Another of the endless parade of pablum pap that was Richie Rich, this series poisoned young minds from June 20, 1974 to #47, June 13, 1982.  [$5–$7]


Harvey Comics

An apparent attempt to introduce a little bit of a more mature atmo and longer tales for the lobotomized children who skewed to the older end of Harvey’s target audience, this title lasted from Aug. 8, 1974, to #47, June 10, 1982.   [$5–$7]

Gold Key Comics 

Two stories by prolific writer Paul S. Newman and artist Jose Delbo, sandwich a reprint from #61 (Jan. 18, 1968). Turok was maybe Gold Keys’ greatest success, at least so far as its adventure series went. Probably created by Gaylord Du Bois, Turok was a rare original concept in Dell’s FOUR COLOR line, first appearing in #596 (Oct. 28, 1954). After one additional one-shot (#656, on Sept. 15, 1955) the ore-Columbian Mandan Indian trapped with his bother in a lost valley of living dinosaurs, got his own series, with #3-29 (Jan. 26, 1956, to July 5, 1962) published by Dell, and #30-125 (Sept. 6, 1962, to Nov. 29, 1979) under Western’s Gold Key brand. After Western discontinued newsstand distribution entirely, issues #126-130 appeared in discount sore 3-paks adorned by the Whitman label.   [$33.50–$48]

Gold Key Comics

Tweety first appeared in the Warner Bros. cartoon short, “A Tale of Two Kitties,” on Nov. 21, 1942. A version of Sylvester first appeared on screen as early as September 1941 in the Porky Pig short “Notes to You,” but in his finalized, official, but-still-not-named version, he did not come alive until, “Life with Feathers,” a short from March 24, 1945. The two characters were finally — and virtually permanently, in the minds of fans — paired in the May 3, 1947, Academy Award-winning short, “Tweetie Pie.” The duo would go on to co-star in 47 cartoons though June 1964. 

In comics, the pair got their start in comics with FOUR COLOR #406 (May 13, 1952), followed by one-shots on #489 (June 30, 1953), and #524 (Nov. 10, 1953). They were then awarded their own Dell title, which ran from #4 (Feb. 9, 1954) to #37 (April 5, 1962). Gold Key then took over, publishing the series from #38 (Aug. 15, 1963) to #102 (Dec. 13, 1979) After that, the title was transferred to the Whitman label, where it eeked along as occasional new 3-pak fodder until #121, on April 4, 1984. Because of their relative scarcity, some of those later Whitman editions are quite valuable today, with issues #105-107 trading for $60. This one, however, only goes for  [$5.50–$8]

Gold Key Comics 

We’ve covered the history of this series already in our Januay Time Bubble adventures. So, let’s just run down the contents of this outing. Guess what? It’s mostly all reprints. The lead-off Donald Duck story is by Carl Barks, but comes from #270 (Jan. 24, 1963). There are, however, new shorter features, including two pages of L’il Bad Wolf by Pete Alvarado (writer unknown), four pages of Gyro Gearloose, also by Alvarado (script by Vic Lockman), and eight pages of Mickey Mouse by Paul Murry.  [$11.25–$16]

DC Comics 

After a test run in FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #8 (Aug. 19, 1975), Mike Grell’s inner earth warrior Travis Morgan — who I always thought of as the albino Oliver Queen — got his own mag. on Oct. 16, 1975. But the title was nearly stillborn, with a seven-month gap between #2 and #3. Once it got going though, the series provide popular enough (with JONAH HEX rumored to actually have been one of DC’s best sellers during the 1970s, out-pacing many super-heroes), surviving both the DC Implosion and the Crisis on Infinite Earths, to fight on all the way to #133, on stands Sept. 27, 1988. The character even outlived his creator, in a way, as Grell gave up drawing the book after #59 (April 22, 1982), and then the writing, with #71 (April 21, 1983).  [$4.25–$6]

DC Comics 

The clock first tolled for this horror anthology on Dec. 19, 1968 and it chugged along for a good decade. This issue features, “Beware the Killer Cactus,” six pages written by Carl Wessler, and drawn by Dick Ayers; “World’s Weirdest Hobby,” a four-pager by George Kashdan and Gerry Talaoc; and, “Who Will Kill X-13?” a six-page tale by Wessler and Tenny Jenson. But the hour was almost up for this title. After #85 (July 27, 1978), and the advent of the DC Implosion, this series, along with THE HOUSE OF SECRETS, would get folded into a new, dollar-sized version of THE UNEXPECTED. Even when that title dropped to a regular 32-pager for 40¢ at #196, it would still tout itself as carrying “Terrifying Tales from The Witching Hour and The House of Secrets,: which really didn’t mean anything any more. [$9.75–$14]

DC Comics 

And finally, we arrive at the anniversary issue of WFC. The issue teamed three of the title’s four features — Superman & Batman, Green Arrow & Black Canary, and Wonder Woman (of Earth-2) — into one, massive 56-page epic, entitled “The Reality War.” The story by Gerry Conway, was illustrated by George Tuska and Vince Colletta. The Creeper, meanwhile, stayed safely ensconced in his own feature, written and drawn by Steve Ditko. 

Titled WORLD’S BEST COMICS for its first issue only, on stands Feb. 10, 1941, the quarterly (and later bimonthly) WFC featured Superman and Batman (with Robin) together on the cover from the very beginning. However, these were often fanciful pairings and never reflected the book’s contents. It did not seem to occur to anyone at DC to team their two top characters in one adventure together on any kind of regular basis until #71 (May 26, 1954) when a reduction from 64 pages at 15¢ to the then-standard 32 pages for 10¢, forced a shake-up. Out went everything from the book but Green Arrow and Tomahawk, and rather than lose one of those as well, editor Jack Schiff elected to merge the Superman and Batman features into one story going forward. And so, WFC remained a Superman/Batman team book to the end of its run at #323, on Oct. 24, 1985 — sometimes accompanied by back-up features, sometimes not.

The title joined the ranks of DC’s dollar-sized books with #244 (Jan. 13, 1977). Initially an 80-pager at that price, the page count dropped to 54 pages with #253 (July 20, 1978), and then 48, at #266 (Sept. 11, 1980), before finally returning to the standard 32-page format (then selling for 60¢) at #283 (June 24, 1982).
During its Dollar-Size run, WFC featured the Superman/Batman team in eachissue, rather then separating them back out, as the World’s Finest Team and become a thing by then, having been the basis for this title except for a short period in the early 1970s when DC tried to turn the title into a Superman team-up book somewhat akin to the later DC COMICS PRESENTS series.

Other features to run in WFC between #244 and #282 included: Black Canary (#244-247, #251, #254, #256, #267), Green Arrow (#244-247, #251, #254-259, #263-#266, #268-270, #272-273, #276-281) The Vigilante (#244-248) Wonder Woman of Earth-2 (continued here when her own series returned to the present day to match the change in the television show, #244-252), Green Arrow and Black Canary (teamed into one feature from #248-250, #252-253, #261-262, #274-275, #282), The Creeper (#249-255), Captain Marvel (#253-268, #270, #273-282), Hawkman (#256-258, #262, #264-#270, #272-277, #279-282), Black Lighting (#257-261), The Atom (#260), Aquaman (#262-264), Adam Strange (#263), Red Tornado (#265-270, #272), Captain Marvel Jr. (#269), Mary Marvel (#272), Plastic Man (#273), Zatanna (#274-278)  [$15.50–$22]

Well, that's just about it, kids, everything that came out the same week as MACHINE MAN #1, this week in 1978! The exception may be some Charlton Comics books, which he mentioned here, as the exact release date for each is not known.

Now, you may be asking, did I pick up that first issue of MACHINE MAN? Nope. I came away with just three comics this week for the $2 my grandmother gave me — SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS, SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS.

I was not a regular buyer of WFC, mainly because the price tag ate up half my budget, but the “250th SMASH ISSUE!” tag line Plus, if I’m being perfectly honest, I did find a certain amount of joy in waving a $1 comic under my grandfather’s nose, if only to hear him exclaim, “A dollar?! For a fucking funny-book???”

All right, no need to strap back into the bubble, dear reader. Well be sticking to 1978 for next week’s column, as the final release day of the month featured an extra-special tabloid issue teaming the World’s Greatest Super-Hero with a real life hero known simply as The Greatest! That’s right, fight fans, it’s the fabulous 40th anniversary of SUPERMAN vs. MUHAMMAD ALI!!

See ya then!