Wednesday, January 3, 2018

TIME BUBBLES: Comics on sale 40 years ago this week (Jan. 2-8, 1978)



Hey, there Bubblenauts! Welcome back for another trip to newsstands of old, to see what four-color wonders beheld our younger selves. This week, we're going back 40 years, to the first week of January, 1978! 

And while comics books have been a Wednesday staple for decades, back in the disco era when comic book specialty shops were still largely uncharted retail territory, comics books hit newsstands in corner stores nationwide twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, what we'll be looking at here are comics that went on-sale on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and Thursday, Jan. 5, 1978. The 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.

Back in January 1978, I had just hit double digits, having celebrated by 10th birthday in late November. I don't recall that was getting a regular weekly allowance at this point, and, thus, was mostly relegated to $2 worth of comics at a time, an extravagance funded by my grandmother, largely as a way t keep me occupied during weekend visits to her house. Most comics (unless noted otherwise, below) sold for 35¢ at the time. According to the online inflation calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that's $1.38 in 2018 dollars. So, what amounted to my $7.89 weekly don't-bug-grammie gift netted me 5 comics books — less if I went for a 50¢ or 60¢ giant ($1.97 and $2.37, respectively, in 2018), or blew half my budget on the then-new oddity of a dollar comic (equal to $3.95 today!) And that latter possibility was the closest thing to the cost of comics today. These days, I can get exactly two comic books for $7.89, and only if one of them is one of the few DC Comics is still selling for $2.99!

Anyway, the big whoop in early January 1978 was something brand-new — a Spider-Man with breasts! Yes, I kid you not. Marvel graced us with an actual, honest to goodness Spider-Woman! I remember seeing this comic book on stands at the time. But I thumbed up my pubescent nose at it and gave that stinker a w-i-i-i-i-de bearth. 

"Spider-woman?!?" I thought. "What was she bitten by, a radioactive cootie?"

Today, I've change me tune, of course, and I do in fact own a copy of SPIDER-WOMAN #1 — albeit one purchases about three decades later. I never bought an issue of Jessica Drew's first title new off the stands, but have since filled in most of the run. I still need issues 12, 20, 21, 24, 33, 44, 49, and 50 to complete the set.

So, lets take a look at that book, and what it was competing for to snag by entertainment dollar, shall we?


SPIDER-WOMAN, No. 1
Marvel Comics — 32pgs for 35¢

On-sale January 3, 1978 

Spider-Woman got her start in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #32 (on-sale November 9, 1976) in a tale by writer Archie Goodwin, with layouts by Sal Busceme and finished art by DC Silver Age stalwart Jim Mooney, best known for his long tenure on Supergirl.

According to Stan Lee, he ordered creation of the character out of fear some other company (i.e. DC Comics) might launch a SPIDER-WOMAN character and lay copyright claim to the name, potentially leaching sales from Marvel cash cow, Spider-Man. It was not an altogether impossible idea. Stan himself had laid claim to the Captain Marvel and Daredevil names of defunct, but uber-popular in their day, comic book characters. And Marvel had sparred with DC over the names Wonder Woman and Wonder Man, and Power Man and Power Girl.

In her first tale, Spider-Woman was not bitten by a radioactive spider, in the manner of her more testiculared namesake, but was, instead, an actual spider evolved to human form — apparently doing a species swap from arachnid to mammal along the way. Although her debut appearance was drawn by Buscema, the look of the character is said to have been designed by Marie Severin, longtime Queen of the Marvel Bullpen. I always thought the costume was striking, although I can’t explain why, exactly. Her most recent noir-ish spy outfit was a cool enough, but no other togs have even matched the original. Of course, it was not until decades afterward that I would see how Spider-Woman looked in her very early appearances — same costume, but with her hair tucked away under the cowl. Letting the locks flow free was definitely an inspired choice.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #32 — On-sale
November 9, 1976. The first appearance
of Spider-Woman, it will set you back
at least $90 in a decent Very Fine-minus
grade, and as much as $130 in Near Mint.
As the legend goes, the character was supposed to be a one-off, designed solely to block DC (or anyone else) from attempting to lay claim to the copyright.

Anyway, despite the questionable choice of non-coiffure, and the insect-creature origin — maybe she should have been called Woman-Spider — sales were reportedly brisk and, following a cameo in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #29 (April 5, 1977), writer Marv Wolfman featured Spider-Woman in issues #30-33 (including masthead status in #30). But finding the evolved spider origin too far-out, even by 1970s sci-fi standards, Wolfman called an audible and retconned the whole thing to be false memories planted by HYDRA in an always-actually-human character, now named Jessica Drew  — the first name for Wolfman's actual daughter, the surname for YA fictional sleuth Nancy Drew.

Wolfman would only remain eight isues at the helm, but Carmine Infantino, co-creator of the Barry Allen Flash — and, from 1971 to 1976, publisher of DC Comics — would remain on the art chores all the way until #19 (July 3, 1979). The title itself would last 50 issues, to February 22, 1983.  Writers following Wolfman included Mark Gruenwald (#9-20), Michael Fleisher (#21-32), J. M. DeMatteis (#33), Chris Claremont (#34-46), and Ann Nocenti (#47-50). Following Infantino on pencils came Frank Springer (#20-22), Trevor Von Eeden (#23-24), Steve Leiahola (#25-26, 28, 30-46), Jerry Bingham (#27), Ernie Chan (#29), and Brian Postman (#47-50).

Now, despite my protestations above, I have to admit I did not buy SPIDER-WOMAN #1 mostly because I never saw it on the stands. I probably would have bought it just on the basis of it being a #1. I definitely saw some issues afterward, by cannot now recall which one I spotted first. Still, the truth is that I turned my nose up as Spider-Woman less because she was a she than because I presumed she was a rip-off. And not in the current social justice manner, but in that I presumed she was be totally unoriginal. In fact, I distinctly remember seeing a cover with Spider-Woman letting go with one of her bio-electric blasts and thinking, “Pffffhg, Spider-Man can’t to that.” Yes, instead of thinking, “Hey, maybe this character, despite the name, is different and distinct from Spider-Man. I should read a copy and find out how,” I thought something more akin no, “Man, this is totally ruining Spider-Man.” 

Art from SPIDER-WOMAN #1,
Page 13, drawn by Carmine Infantino
and inkd by Tony DeZiniga.
As it turns out, Wolfman was way of readers like me, and he actively resisted the temptation to have Spidey himself appear in the book. In fact, the natural crossover — natural for marketing reasons, if nothing else — did not happen until #20, after both Wolfman and Infantino were gone. He also tried to give the stories more of a macabre bent, as he tried to make the book something more than “Spider-Man with boobs.” He would later admit, however that he “just never found a handle” on the character 

Gruenwald would continue the plotlines in the spirit of Wolfman’s declared direction, although she would continue to inch in a more traditional direction for the spandex set. Gruenwald would also retcon the fact that nobody in the comic seemed to like Jessica Drew as a bi-product of a previously unknown (even to her) fear-inducing pheromone she emitted. 

From February 22, 1979, to January 5, 1980, the comic was bolstered by a SPIDER-WOMAN Saturday morning cartoon, produced by Marvel subsidiary DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which aired on ABC. The show, would have been on the air roughly concurrent with issues #15-26 of the comic book, not that you’d have known such a thing ever existed from the covers. Which may be just as well, as TV is won’t to do with its adaptations when the adaptors know little about the source material, and care even less, the was a pretty wide disparity between it and the comic book series. For one, while to comic dealt a great deal with occult forces and explored Jessica’s feelings of isolation, the tv show had Jessica (voice by Joan van Ark) as a magazine editor saddled with a teenage nephew. It also had a propensity for inventing powers never seen before or since, all of which resembled things a human might do if bitten by a spider (as Spider-Woman was on the cartoon) in much the same way I resemble how Brad Pitt might look, if he had grown up in Maine. 

The cartoon lasted on season of 16 episodes and, as we’ve mentioned, the comic bowed out at its 50th issue. In the end, the character had proven so popular that Marvel decided to kill her off in her final issue. But at least the entire team gave her a bravurah send-off with a rare photo cover, taken by Eliot Brown.

SPIDER-WOMAN #50 — On-sale
February 22, 1983. A photo cover that
featured much of the creative staff, with
Marvel secretary Lynn Lockman posing
as the title character.
Gruenwald, who had by that time had ascended to the editor’s chair, has said the death was intended to be permanent. However, the fan press of the era reacted with a howl not unlike the “spider shriek” Jessica sometime used on her cartoon, and about a year later, Gruenwald, had Roger Stern revive Spider-Woman in THE AVENGERS.

Despite the revival, Jessica Drew was little seen during much of the later ‘80s and the ‘90s. Other characters came and went using the Spider-Woman name. Jessica eventually reclaimed her legacy and has been a perennial midlist title for Marvel, although her most recent series, which had her play a superspy while juggling her responsibilities as a new single mom, only lasted 17 issues. Still, if for her next series Marvel was to add up all the comics she’s headlined over the years —including all incarnations, ‘tho mostly Jessica — and start her out with a legacy number, we’d be buying SPIDER-WOMAN #114.

Not bad or a Spider clone.

And just for the record, ComicBookRealm.com lists SPIDER-WOMAN #1 at $40 in Near Mint condition, It also claims you can land it for $12 in Fine condition and $2.80 in Good. However, my experience is that prices fall of a cliff in anything less than Very Fine-minus. And there's almost nothing from the Bronze Age that you can't snag on eBay for $2 or less in mid-grade. For that reason, I'll only list the NM to VF– range of retail for the other books, below. A Very Fine-minus Spider-Chick #1, FWIW, is said to sell for $28.


And also on sale January 3, 1978:
   
GODZILLA, No. 9
Marvel Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Yup, the King of Monsters once had his very own Marvel comic book series, one that lasted 24 issues, from May 1977 to April 1979 — nearly the entire length of my personal Golden Age of comics, when I was between the ages of 9 and 12. I didn't buy this series then, however. In truth, I don't recall seeing it on local stands that often. This issue, like all in the run, was written by Doug Moench — who'd go on to a well-respected run on BATMAN — and, like all but a couple, drawn by Herb Trimpe, who landed this gig after losing his long-running INCREDIBLE HULK job to Sal Buscema in late 1975. [$11.20 – $16]


THE HUMAN FLY, No. 8
Marvel Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

The greatest super-hero of them all, because he was real! I remember seeing The Human Fly ride atop an airplane and, despite how heavily it was hyped (on the TODAY SHOW, if I recall correctly) shrugging it off with a so. Being changed to a plane was not much of a party trick to a kid raised on Superman, et. al. Still, I did buy every Human Fly issue I saw on the stands. The title did not sell all that well, apparently, as it only lasted 19 issues, from May 1977 to November 1978. Some say the reason was because of Frank Robbins quirky art. But I found his style very expressive, and like him here and, even moreso, on THE INVADERS. Later issues were drawn by another Golden Age great, Lee Elias. The entire run was written by Bill Mantlo of MICRONAUTS, ROM, and ROCKET RACOON fame. [$3.50 – $5]


JONAH HEX, No. 11
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

DC's most successful western her0 (more of an anti-hero, really) got his start in ALL-STAR WESTERN #10, on-sale December 7, 1971. That title of that series would get changed to WEIRD WESTERN TALES two issues later, with Hex solidly in the roster. But he was clearly the most popular dude in the posse, and by #18 (April 5, 1973) Hex's own logo would on the cover over the actual title of the mag. That would remain the status quo through #38 (October 14, 1976), when Hex would graduate into his own series, with the first issue on-sale December 14, 1976. Although created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga, the Hex series would be written by Michael Fleisher for its entire 92-issue run, all the way to May 30, 1985, when Hex would get his title truncated to just HEX for an 18-issue run that transported him out of the Old West and into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This issue was drawn by Rich Buckler, in his only work on the series. [$28 – $40]


JUGHEAD, No. 274
Archie Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Juggie appeared in the first Archie story in PEP COMICS #22 (on-sale October 15, 1941), and, as the worlds most popular teen slowly took over the MLJ publishing company and remade it in his own name, Jughead naturally graduated to his own title, which hit stands November 30, 1949. However, it was initially only as ARCHIE'S PAL, . . . The series did not get shortened to just JUGHEAD until #127 (October 1, 1965). Archie was arguably at its peak in the late '60s and ear;y '70s, and this issue is typical of the era. But all things must end and this series bowed out at #352 (April 7, 1987). It was quickly replaced by a new series, starting June 2, which lasted 214 issues in its own right, to July 19, 2012. Counting the current re-imagined Jughead series, Archie's pal as racked up 582 issues. Not a bad run at all, and better than most super-heroes. Under a Stan Goldberg cover this outing, we have four Juggie tales drawn by Samm Schwartz.  [$4.90 – $7]


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, No, 153
DC Comics  — 48pgs for 60¢

"Earth's First and Last Super-Hero" introduces us to Ultraa, the first hero of Earth-Prime — the world you and I live on — a reality otherwise devoid of super-powered beings. This issue, which came at the start of a long 66-issue run by writer Gerry Conway, which lasted from #151 in November 1977 to #216 in April 1983. Thisish was also a rare fill in for regular JLA artist Dick Dillin, prepared by Golden Age great George Tuska, who was still producing work as late as 2009, the year he died. Given an origin much like Superman's, Ultraa decided our world was not yet ready for super-heroes, and relocated to Earth-1, appearing in JLA #s 158, 169, 170, and 201. But life there was not so kind to him, and he spent time working as a busboy before going off to live among Australian aborigines. If the Post-Crisis era, Ultraa was rebooted as a native of planet Almerac, betrothed to sometime Superman paramour, Queen Maxima. More recently, the character was rebooted once again by Grant Morrision, picking up on his mulitversal roots, as a self-aware comic book. [$12.60 – $18] 


KID COLT, OUTLAW, No. 223
Marvel Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Kid Colt was, at this point, the oldest series in the Marvel universe, having begun as KID COLT, HERO OF THE WEST way back on June 25, 1948. The became an outlaw within three issues however, and managed to evade the law in his trademark cowskin vest through the entire Atlas era, when publisher Martin Goodman was chasing trends, canceling series, and reassigning titles at the drop of a 10-gallon hat. What made the kid's tenure all the more amazing, his series had been in reprints since #141 (October 7, 1969). Alas, the trail would not run much farther, however. The series would last just six more issues, to #229, on-sale January 2, 1979. Under a new Gene Colan cover, this outing reprinted tales by Roy Thomas and Denny O'Neil, both drawn by Dick Ayers, from #136 (June 1967)   [$12.60 – $18]


KULL, THE DESTROYER, No. 26
Marvel Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Culled from the short stories of Conan creator Robert E. Howard, Kull began his run as KULL THE CONQUEROR on March 16, 1978. The title changed to KULL THE DESTROYER with #11 (August 21m 1973). From here however, whether it be as a conqueror or a destroyer, Kull would fight on for just three more issues, ending his run at #29 (July 4, 1978). This issue was by writer Don Glut and penciller Ernie Chan, who had been on the series since #21. Marvel also gave Kull three issues in a b&w magazine format in 1975, as well as two issues of a new mag. in late 1982. In more recent years, Kull has found a home at Dark Horse Comics, appearing there as recently as January 2012.  [$7 – $10]


LAUGH, No. 324
Archie Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Laugh began as SPECIAL COMICS on January 1, 1942. It quickly became HANGMAN COMICS with #2 and BLACK HOOD COMICS with #9 (January 1, 1944), finally transforming into LAUGH COMICS with #20 (November 7, 1946) as Archie Andrews was finalizing his takeover of MLJ's super-hero line.  But this was actually the second LAUGH comic, and the second time the Black Hood got supplanted by the then-burgeoning teen-humor genre. Earlier, the Hood appeared as the cove feature of TOP-NOTCH COMICS. That series became TOP-NOTCH LAUGH COMICS from #28-45 (April 1942-March 1944). Finally, with the Hood fully excised from the line-up, that title became LAUGH COMIX for three issues — note the X, although the humor was far from X-rated — and then SUZIE COMICS for the rest of its run, through June 1954. At any rate, the editors must have felt they could get more mileage out of the LAUGH logo. And they did, with LAUGH COMICS running all the way to #400 (February 10, 1987), although the "COMICS" part of the title got cut with #75 (April 23, 1956). Archie then made a third run at LAUGH, which lasted 29 issues, from April 14, 1987 to May 28, 1991. [$6.30 – $9]


LIFE WITH ARCHIE, No. 191
Archie Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Launched July 1, 1958, LIFE WITH ARCHIE stayed alive for 286 issues, all the way to June 4, 1991. The title often featured longer stories that the usual Archie fare, sometimes transporting the characters to far-flung locales. Later on, it took an occasional turn into alternate realities, featuring Archie and the gang as secret agents, or super-heroes. This issue continues an adventure-themed bent of the era, quite unlike anything else seen in the Archie universe at the time. In "The Falcon Strikes" by writer Frank Doyle and artist Stan Goldberg, Archie and the gang trying to track down a Falcon used to snatch payroll deposits from various businesses in Riverdale. The title was then revived in a magazine format in 2010 that lasted only 37 issues, but culminated in the media-grabbing death of Archie Andrews. And, of course, the title lives on, more or less, with a wink and a nod in the zombie thriller, AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. [$7.00 – $10.00]


LITTLE ARCHIE, No. 128
Archie Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Following the Saturday morning advent of Scrappy-Doo, we can deluged with infant (and oftentimes infantile) versions of favorite characters. There was Muppet Babies, Flintstone Kids, and even A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. But Archie Comics beat them all to the way-back machine, launching LITTLE ARCHIE on July 17, 1956. The series would last 180 issues, to November 23, 1982. Early issues were much loved for the stories and art of Bob Bolling — and were also well-read, given that fewer than 100 copies of #1 are thought to still exist — but by 1978 the title was running on inertia, and even the Grand Comics Database has no idea who contributed to thisish. [$8.40 – $12]


MARVEL SUPER ACTION, No. 7
Marvel Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

During the 1970s, Marvel was straight-up stank with monthly reprints of its Silver Age series. There was MARVEL TALES, which reprinted Spider-Man, MARVEL'S GREATEST COMICS, which reprinted the Fantastic Four, and MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION, which re-ran The Avengers. SUPER ACTION started out reprinting Captain America — this one gave us an encore of Cap #105 from June 1968, under a new cover by future Cap superstar Mike Zeck. But the title soon gave up Cap for Avengers reprints with #11 (September 18, 1979) taking over for the recently canceled TRIPLE ACTION. The series ran in that format through #37, on stands August 18, 1981. [$8.40 – $12]


MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, No. 38
Marvel Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

A Thing team-up comic from the start (on October 9, 1973), the concept followed a successful try-out in the final two issues of MARVEL FEATURE — #11 on June 19, 1973, and #12 on August 14. Basically, The Thing was one of the few heroes of the era not Spider-Man, or certain Avengers, who was getting starring treatment in two books each month. This issue paired Aunt Petunia's ever-lovin' favorite rock pile with Daredevil — a pairing that also happened in #3 — in the first of three issues written by Roger Slifer, who bounced around several Marvel titles in the late '70s and early '80s before getting his longest continuous run on the first 13 issues of DC's OMEGA MEN. Penciller Ron Wilson would draw 47 issues of this title in all, from #12 (August 12, 1975) though the final outing, #100, on February 22, 1083. Most often, 2-in-1 teamed The Thing with B-listers, but it generally worked. The high point of the series is generally considered to be "The Project Pegasus Saga," which ran from #53 (April 3) to #58 (September 4, 1979), and teamed Big Ben with, in succession, Quasar, Deathlok, Giant-Man, Thundra, Wundarr, and The Aquarian. Marvel would recycle the 2-in-1 title in 2007 for a 17-issue series that was more of a flip-book than a team-up title. And, of course, it just this month launched a new version, with a new #1, again starring The Thing, this time more-or-less permanently teamed with The Human Torch, as the search for the long-missing other half of the Fantastic Four. [$4.90 – $7] 


SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE, No. 11
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Launched on January 2, 1975, and lasting five issues, this series was then revived as a bi-monthly title with #6 on March 1, 1977. It sold well enough to survive the infamous DC Implosion that would come along just six months, or so, after this issue hit stands, getting an upgrade to monthly status in mid-1979 and surviving to #46, on stands December 10, 1981. The series tends to draw higher-than-average back issue prices today, largely, I think, because it was not hoarded by collectors of the era the way super-hero comics were. Under a cover by Michael Wm. Kaluta, thisish sports two genre stories: "Picasso Fever!" by newcomers Scott Edleman and John Fuller, and "Destiny," by veterans John Albano and Jack Sparling.  [$14 – $20]


SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN, No. 6
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

I wrote about the under-appreciated late-career masterpiece of Spider-Man co-creator, and Doctor Strange sole creator, Steve Ditko in this Time Bubble column that covered the character's debut issue, which hit stands March 8, 1977. At this point, the bi-monthly series, which featured story and art by Ditko, with dialogue by Michael Fleisher, will have just two issues left, as it would get the ax with #8 (May 2, 1978) just short of the DC Implosion. The character would get a longer life as a Vertigo imprint title by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo, spanning 70 issues, from May 1990 to February 1996. And, of course, the character's terror-inducing power vest lives on today as part of DC's Young Animal imprint, now worn by SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL. Call me old-fashioned, but my preference has always been for the original Dikto version. [$7 – $10]


WEIRD WAR TALES, No. 62
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Although WEIRD WESTERN would find success subjugating it's own logo to cover features Jonah Hex, and then Scalphunter, this title would not make an attempt at recurring features until late in its run, with G.I. Robot, and The Creature Commandos. And even then it never really seemed like it had confidence enough to really commit to either feature. At this point in its campaign, however, it was still strictly a genre anthology. Thisish gives us two 8-page epics in, "The Grubbers," a Nazi v. vampires tale by Roger McKenzie and a pre-superstar status Howard Chaykin, and an Old West horror story, "You Only Die Twice!"  by George Kashdan and Frank Redondo. This series laste 124 issues, from July 1, 1971, to March 24, 1983. So, it, too, sold well enough to survive the Implosion. DC has revived the title twice, as a 4-issue Vertigo limited series in 1993, and as a one-shot comic in 2010.  [$11.20 – $16]


January 3 also brought one magazine-sized comic, although it wasn't anything I ever saw at the time:

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, No. 27
Marvel Comics  — 64pgs for$1.00 (b&w)

Of all its attempts with the larger, more adult-orientated magazine format, Marvel had the most success with this series. Launched on June 18, 1974 (), it would last 235 issues, to May 23, 1993. For comparison's sake, Marvel's regular Conan comic barely outdid this sister-mag, as it managed 275 issues, from July 21, 1970, to October 19, 1993. At this point, the mag is still put out under Marvel's Curtis Magazines imprint, as it would be until #60, which matched the tenure of write Roy Thomas. Because SAVAGE SWORD as not subject to the self-censoring Comics Code Authority, it was a hot place for hot illustrators, and has become something of a cult favorite. This particular issue boasted a 45-page tale, "The Children of Jhebbal Sag," illustrated by Marvel mainstay John Buscema and inked by Tony DeZuniga.  [$12.60 – $18]


And hitting stands January 5, 1978, to also vie for my attention this first week of January, 40 years ago: 

BATMAN, No. 298
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

"The Case of the Crimson Coffin," is by David Vern Reed, and drawn by John Calnan and Dick Giordano. DVR is little known today, but he had a long run on BATMAN. Originally a pulp magazine writer (real name David Levine, with DVR one of about six pseudonyms), he was hired to DC in the early 1950s by his pal, DC editor Julius Schwartz, who had started his career as an agent for sci-fi authors. DVR wrote for several DC titles, including 16 issues of BATMAN between #56-85. Among his contributions was the creation of Deadshot. He then returned to sci-fi and fantasy prose, but came back to comics in in the early 1970s, settling in BATMAN in 1975. His second tenure ran from #267-304, excepting only three issues, and included the great "Where Were You on the Night Batman was Killed?" serial from #291-294, in which various villains attempt to take credit for the apparent death of Batman, holding a mock trial to determine which of them actually did the deed. On the whole, however, DVR eeschewed super-villains and preferred bizarre noir-ish mysteries. DVR is also infamous for a tasteless story he wrote for THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS #10, published January 15, 1976, just a year or so after the death of Batman co-creator Bill Finger, in which Reed statarized Finger as a drunk who always missed deadlines while pleading for an advance. Why the animosity? It's rumored that many of DVR's pulp stories were actually penned by Finger. Additional irony: Longtime DC writer John Broome has claimed DVR was an inveterate pot fiend.  [$17.50 – $25] 


GRIMM'S GHOST STORIES, No. 43
Gold Key  — 48pgs for 50¢ 

A staple of Western Publishing under its Gold Key label since November 4, 1971, this title had hitherto been a regularly size comic. But with this issue, the anthology jumps to a larger 48-page format. To go with its beefed up package, the title also got a makeover, with a new logo that minimized the "Grimm" brand and incorporated the face of the old witch narrator, using a shot taken from the cover of #34. The new format would only last two issues however. It may have been an experiment in keeping up with DC giant-size books, such as JLA, but more likely it was one of those stunts often seen in comics publishing, undertaken to disguise a price increase, as the title was 30¢ before the change and 35¢ with it returned to a 32-page breadth with #45. The new logo, however, would stay until the end of the title's run, with #60, on-sale April 9, 1982.  [$9.80 – $14]


KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH, No. 56
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Although nowhere near as celebrated by modern fandom as the New Gods and Darkseid, Kamandi was unquestionably the most successful book Jack Kirby produced for DC in the early 1970s, and the only one not to get cancelled out from under him. Heck, it even outlasted his return to Marvel. Nominally a pastiche on PLANET OF THE APES, the story of the last human boy in a post-apocalyptic world of mutant, anthropomorphic animals holds little power over readers today — the recent KAMANDI CHALLANGE was a sales dud — but it fell right into a '70s sci-fi monster groove. Kirby would write and draw the title through #37 (October 2, 1975), then remain as penciller for three additional issues after getting replaced on the keyboard of his own creation by writer Gerry Conway. who would remain until #44 (May 4, 1976). Shortly afterward, with #49, the title would get demoted to bi-monthly status, lasting just 10 more issues until cancellation at #59 (June 29, 1978), when sales were low enough that DC bean counters didn't need a nudge from Warner's executives to pull the plug. Latter writers on the series (inluding back-up tales) included Martin Pasko (#43, 45), Paul Levitz (#44), David Anthony Kraft (#44-46), Denny O'Neil (#45-48, 50), Elliot S! Maggin (#49), Steve Englehart (#51), Jack C. Harris (#52-59), and Jim Starlin (#59), while the roll call of post-Kirby draftsmen included Chic Stone (#41-43), Pablo Marcos (#43-44), Keith Giffin (#44-47), Michael Netzer (#45-46), Ernie Chan (#47), Dick Ayers (#48-59), and Josef Rubinstein (#59).  [$12.60 – $18]  


MISTER MIRACLE, No. 23
DC Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

While The Last Boy on Earth was not part of The King's Fourth World oeuvre, Mister Miracle certainly was And he was also the most New God most in keeping with traditional super-hero tropes. That may be why he was Kirby's second-most successful '70s creation for DC, after Kamandi. The original series lasted 18 issues, from January 1971 to November 1973. It was revived with #19, on-sale June 23, 1977, according to writer Steve Englehardt, most in order to give him something to do before he departed the states for an extended trip overseas. Paired with fan-fav artist of the era Marshall Rogers, the Englehardt would last only until #22, to be replaced as of this issue, and to the end of the run at #25 (May 2, 1978) by Stever Gerber and Michael Golden. Scott Free would then go into comic book limbo, but or a few guest spots here and there, until after DC's universe-resetting Crisis, at which time he popped up as a member of the new Bwa-ha-ha Justice League, later graduating to a new solo series that lasted 28 issues, from January 1987 to April 1991. He'd get another seven issues in 1996, after which a new version of the character would pop up in 2005 in a four issue series tied to Grant Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS storyline. These days, Scott Free is back, and in the midst of a celebrated 12-issue series by the newest darling of fandom, Tom King.  [$8.40 – $12] 

And now we come to that section of the new releases for the first well of January, 1978, that posed absolutely no danger of competing with Spider-Woman for my comics buying dollar. Even at 10 years old, I considered all of the following to be "kiddie books" — what I felt my grandfather thought he was referring to when he spoke about my collection of "funny books." These types of comics, I knew innately, were produced solely for babies, retards, and girls.

Hey, don't look at me like that! Remember, it was 1977 — "retard" was still a word that was perfectly acceptable for use in polite conversation. And, being a 10-year-old boy, I knew full well at the time that all girls were retards. Here's what they read (when not reading Archies, that is). 

NEW TERRYTOONS, No, 49

Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Dell Publishing had a NEW TERRYTOONS title that ran eight issues, from April 1960 to December 1961. It "New" might be presumed to be tacked on because St. John Publishing had put out nine issues of TERRYTOONS COMICS from 1952-1953. However, after founding animator Paul Terry retired and sold the studio to CBS, it entered a new era, producing cartoons for television, rather than film. The first five Dell issues featured one of the premiere creations of the new era, Deputy Dawg, on the cover. However, for the final three, it reverted to troublemaking crows Heckle & Jeckle, stalwarts of the studios cinematic golden age. After Dell (publisher and distributor) split from Western Publishing (which actually packaged the books) Western (having retained most of the character licenses of the line) revived the title with a new #1, starting on July 26, 1962. Heckle & Jeckle ruled the roost here as well until #44 (March 4, 1977) when Mighty Mouse (als0 a pre-new character) took over the cover spot, but for one more H&J outing on #47. But by the point of this month's issue, the gig was almost up. The title would end with #54 on November 2.   [$9.80 – $14]


PORKY PIG, No. 80
Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Even when I was  kid, Porky Pig was considered one of the lesser lights of the Looney Tunes pantheon. His only really good cartoons, so far as I was concerned, were the ones where he was paired with a scardy-Sylvester Cat, or playing second fiddle to Daffy Duck. But there was a time when Warner Bros. was all about the pig. After 24 outings in Dell's FOUR COLOR series, starting with #16 (out on January 1, 1943), Porky graduated to his own title, which started with #25, on October 14, 1952. That series ran to #81, out February 6, 1962. After the Dell/Western split, Pokey got a new #1 under Western's Gold Key brand, which hit stands November 1, 1964. That series ran an amazing (to me anyway) 109 issues, all the way to April 5, 1984. Yes, it's hard to believe today, but there was a time when you could find a damn Porky Pig comic on the stands right news to hew Wolfman & Perez era NEW TEEN TITANS!  Oh, and for what it's worth, don't go looking for PORKY PIG #99, if you're in a mind to complete the run. For whatever reason, Western simply skipped that issue number. However, if you are a completist #39-93 came out in both Gold Key and Whitman brand variants.  [$7 – $10]


RICHIE RICH, No. 165
Harvey Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

If you think Marvel floods the stands with Wolverine comics today, or DC the same with Batman, you weren't around to witness the absolute comic-tsunami that was Harvey's Poor L'il Rich Boy. January 1978 saw the release of nine — count 'em, NINE! — Richie Rich comics. And that wasn't even the most excessive month during the decade. Over the years, Richie Rich starred in more than 50 different ongoing titles, more than any other comics character.  Of course, one way Harvey was able to pump out that much material was by reprinting the same stuff over and over again. This issue, for example, is made up entirely from the contents of RICHIE RICH MILLIONS #33, from November 1968. Richie got his start rather humbly, as a back-up feature in LITTLE DOT #1, out on July 1, 1953. It took until August 15, 1960 for newsstands to be graced with the first RICHIE RICH #1. The series lasted until #254, on October 1, 1990. Harvey immediately followed up with a new #1 in December of that year, but by then the company was on the ropes and it only lasted 28 issues, to August 1994. [$7 – $10]


RICHIE RICH SUCCESS STORIES, No. 80
Harvey Comics  — 48pgs for 50¢ 

Yet another of the infinite Richie Rich series. This title lasted from July 23, 1964, to #105, out on June, 17, 1982. This series, always in a slightly larger format until #91 (October 4, 1979) was the third Richie title, following the titular flagship, trailing only RICH RICH MILLIONS (June 1961) and RICH RICH DOLLARS AND CENTS (June 1963).  [$9.80 – $14]






SAD SACK AND THE SARGE, No. 130
Harvey Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Arguably Harvey's first break-out character, Sad Sack actually began life as a single-panel comic strip created by George Baker, a real-lie Army sergeant. Originally appearing in YANK, THE ARMY WEEKLY, the panels had no words, but got their point across of the inept soldier. They were, in many ways, reminiscent of the WILLIE AND JOE cartoons of WWII army soldier Bill Mauldin, except that where Mauldin's panels carried a wistful "war is hell," theme, Baker's were more of a jokey, "war is hell with this guy around," bent. After the war, Baker's cartoon ran as a comic strip, eventually losing the pantomime in favor of a more traditional approach. Harvey began publishing SAD SACK COMICS in July 1949, and bought the rights to the character from Baker outright in 1957, just prior to release of the movie of the same name starring Jerry Lewis. Harvey's main SAD SACK comic book ran 287 issues to July 1982, becoming more and more kid friendly as it went along. The character also got a number of spin-off series (a lot, though not nearly as many as Richie Rich), including this series, the third Sad Sack title after 1955's SAD SACK'S FUNNY FRIENDS — my which time the transition from satirical commentary to kiddie hi-jinks was complete. SAD SACK AND THE SARGE might was well have been titled GOMER PYLE AND THE SARGE, although it came first, launching July 15, 1057, and lasting 155 issues to May 20, 1982.  [$3.50 – $5]


SPOOKY, No. 158
Harvey Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Said to be a cousin on Casper, bit otherwise known as "the tough little ghost," Spooky sported a derby hat that was comics' stereotypical haberdashery of anyone who, like Spooky, sported a Brooklyn accent. The character first appeared in CASPER, THE FRIENDLY GHOST #10 (on-sale April 24, 1953), and proved tough enough to headline his own series starting September 15, 1955. Spooky manged to sport a few spin-off series of his own, including SPOOKY SPOOKTOWN (June 1961 to #66, August 1976), TUFF GHOSTS STARRING SPOOKY (April 1962 to #43, July 1972), and SPOOKY HAUNTED HOUSE (July 1972 to #15, November 1974). However, as the steam began to run out of the Harvey machine, Spooky was one of the first casualties. Although many of the company's titles limped along into the early '90s, SPOOKY got dead for real with #161, on June 26, 1980. Given that's just three issues after the one picture here, it's clear to see SPOOKY was on a bit of an irregular schedule at the end. Normally a bi-monthly title, SPOOKY saw just two issues published in 1977 and 1978, followed by one, each, in 1979 and 1980. [$6.30 – $9]


TOM & JERRY, No. 304
Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Originally created by Hanna-Barbera for M.G.M. for a series of cartoon movie shorts in 1940, and still running strong with animation giant Chuck Jones produced a series of shots from 1963 to 1967, the arch-rival cat-n-mouse duo first came to comics as a back-up feature in Dell's  OUR GANG COMICS (the gang later best known as The Little Rascals then being an MGM property) starting with the first issue, out June 30, 1942. But as the Gang's fortunes faded, and the popularity of Tom and Jerry grew, they slowly began to take over the title, which became OUR GANG WITH TOM & JERRY as of #40 (September 30, 1947), and finally TOM & JERRY COMICS as of #60 (May 17, 1949). The last Dell issue was #212 on April 16, 1962. Western Publishing then continued the series under its Gold Key brand on August 9, 1962, with its first three issues titled TOM AND JERRY FUNHOUSE, before reverting to simply TOM AND JERRY. As Western struggled to maintain its comic book line in the face of an industry-wide sales decline, it transferred T&J over to its Whitman label with #329 (April 10, 1980) before finally pulling the plug with #344 on April 5, 1984. The Whitman books were marketed more to department stores than newsstands, and tended to have a lower circulation. In fact, #332 (out on October 16, 1980) is thought to be one of the rarest and hardest to find of all Western comics, from Dell, Gold Key, or Whitman. As such, it lists in most price guides for $500. Not bad for a kiddie comic!  [$7 – $10]


WALT DISNEY CHIP 'n' DALE, No. 51
Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Relative latecomers to the Disney stable, the hyper chipmunks first appeared in prototype from in a 1943 Pluto cartoon, and officially in their own right on a short that hit theaters November 28 , 1947. The made their comics debut in Dell's FOUR COLOR series with an October 13, 1953 issue (#517) and after two more outings won their own series, which lasted until #30 (March 29, 1962) when Dell and Western split. Western did not get around to reviving the series under its Gold Key brand until October 1967, giving in a new #1. The series transitioned to the Whitman label with #65 (February 14, 1980) and limped along to the end, with just four issues published annually from 1981 to 1983, and just two in 1984, with the final outing #83, hitting stands May 3 of that year. This issue features one new story drawn by Kay Wright backed by two from #22 of the Dell series, from 1955. Personally, I always preferred Warner Bros. Goofy Gophers, or even Jay Ward's Go-Go Gophers, although I know those are a different breed of lawn rodent. [$6.30 – $9]


WALT DISNEY DONALD DUCK, No. 193
Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Mickey's foulmouthed waterfowl friend made his debut in a pair of 1934 theatrical shorts and came newspaper in comic strip form by 1938. In comics, 134 of those strips were reprinted in #4 of Dell's first FOUR COLOR series (on stands January 1940). Donald saw his first original comics book story in #9 of the second FOUR COLOR run (August 14, 1942). Following 24 additional FOUR COLOR outings, Donald got his own series. Today, it has been claimed that Donald is the fifth most-published character in comic books, after Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. I don't know if that's true, and must count his appearance in other series and overseas comics, if it is. But among those  comic book stalwarts, Donald definitely holds a record with the most publishers circulating his adventures. His series came out under Dell (#26, September 1952, to #84, June 1962), Western/Gold Key (#85, September 1962, to #216, December 1979), Western/Whitman (#217, January 1980, to #245, May 1984), Gladstone (#246, October 1986, to #307, March 1998), Gemstone (#308, October 2003, to #346, December 2006), Boom Studios (#347, 2009, to #367, June 2011), and IDW publishing, from May 2015. The Gemstone and Boom series were retitled DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS, while IDW's version started with a new #1. Meanwhile, Disney itself published 38 issues of DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES from 1990-1993, while Gladstone put out 28 more under that name before Gemstone revived the legacy numbering. For what it's worth, all of the stories in this January 1978 issue were reprints from the Dell era, from 1955, 1959, and 1962.  [$11.20 – $16]


WALT DISNEY MICKEY MOUSE, No. 181
Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢

Although Mickey is unquestionably the mouse who roared in other media, in comics, it's always been all about the ducks. Still, to this point in his career, Mickey was keeping pace with Donald. Mickey, or course, made is debut in the cartoon short "Steamboat Willie," on November 18, 1928. His newspaper comic strip made its introductory bow on January 13, 1930. He appeared in comics form in books form David McKay Publishing as early as 1931, although many of the early outings may no be as recognizable to modern readers as being in an actual comic book format. MICKEY MOUSE MAGAZINE launched in June 1935 and lasted 60 issues to September 1940. This, Mickey did not start making regular appearances in Dell's FOUR COLOR line until #27, on July 16, 1943. After 27 more one-shots, Dell gave the mouse his own book, starting with #28, on October 21, 1952. That lasted until #84, on April 12, 1962. Western's Gold Key line then took over the title starting on August 23 of that year, and kept it going until #218, out March 29, 1984, having put it under the Whitman brand as of #205 (February 7, 1980). So, by this January 1978 issue, which reprints stories from 1956, the title was closing in on the end. Like other Whitman titles, it was published in fits and starts, with just five issues in 1981, one in 1982, none in 1983, and two, both issued in March, in 1984. Afterward, Gladstone would continue the numbering with #219 in October 1986, and keep in alive until #256, in April 1990. The legacy numbering would continue as MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS in 2003, a title that would run until #295 in 2006, then get picked up by Boom Studios in September 2009, finally ending at #309, in June 2011. As with Donald, the time between 1990 and 2003 was filled by a MICKY MOUSE ADVENTURES series published by Disney, which in this case ran just 18 issues, from 1990 to 1991. IDW re-launched Mickey with a new #1 in July 2015, but it was the first of IDW's Disney books to go on hiatus, with its most recent issue (#21) appearing in June 2017.  [$8.40 – $12]


WALTER LANTZ WOODY WOODPECKER, No. 164 
Gold Key  — 32pgs for 35¢

Woody was crated by Lantz and animator Ben "Bugs" Hardaway — who had earlier lent his name to a certain bunny over at Warner Bros. — in a 1940 Universal Pictures cartoon. His first appearance in Dell's FOUR COLOR series came with #169 (September 16, 1947), and his own series began with #16 on November 3, 1952. Dell bowed out with #72 (March 1, 1972) and Westerns' Gold Key line took over on June 28 0f that year, moving the title to the Whitman brand with #188 (January 10, 1980) and finally cancelling it with #201, on December 29, 1983. Harvey Comics made a stab at a Woody Woodpecker comic that lasted 12 issues, from June 11, 1991, to march 1, 1994, and the Walter's red-headed stepchild has not appeared in comics since. Woody's comics of the Gold Key era were particularly inane, I always thought, with Woody drained of the frenzied wackiness that made him special on screen and instead casting him as a doting — and one might argue, doltish — uncle to nephew Knothead and niece Splinter. As with PORKY PIG, Whitman skipped one issue for unknown reasons, never publishing a #192. And while they don't fetch near the same price as TOM AND JERRY'S low distribution issue, Woody #190 and #191 still command upwards of $90, each.  [$6.30 – $9]


Well, that's just about it, kids, everything that came out alongside SPIDER-WOMAN #1 during the first week of January 1978 — 40 years ago this week!

Now, to be fair, I should mention a few Charlton Comics, as well. I get my on-sale dates from Mike's Amazing World of Comics, and Mike only has a Jan. 1 date for the January 1978 Charton's — an estimate given that an exact on-sale date is not yet known. Any of the following titles also hit stands in Janaury, and may well have also competed with SPIDER-WOMAN #1 for buyers' attention.

FIGHTIN' ARMY, No. 132
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢  

Began as SOLDIER AND MARINE COMICS with #11 in October 1954 (who knows what Charlton though #1-10 were), taking on this title with #16 (November 1955). It lasted until #172, out August 7, 1984.  [$6.30 – $9]



FIGHTIN' MARINES, No. 136
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Picked up the numbering t #14 (in March 1955) from a St. John Publishing series begun in 1951, this title lasted until #176, on June 19, 1984. [$6.30 – $9]




GHOSTLY HAUNTS, No. 58
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Originally called GHOST MANOR when it launched in May 1968, it took on this title with #20, in July 1971. This is actually the last issue of the series. As such, it commands a little bit of a higher premium in the back issue market. [$16.80 – $24]
 

GHOSTLY TALES, No. 129
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

Launched as UNUSUAL TALES in September 1955, this book spent five issues as THE BLUE BEETLE — from #50, May 1965, to #54, December 1965. Ted Kord had not come on the scene yet, however, and those issues marked a brief revival of the original Golden Age Beetle. With #55, out in March 1966, the numbers was commandeered for GHOSTLY TALES. As such, the book lasted to #169, out July 10, 1984. Thisish includes a 7-page tale by the E-Man team of Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton. [$15.40 – $22]
 
HAUNTED, No. 35
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Begun in July 1971 and initially boasting some tres cool Steve Ditko covers and stories, this title became known on its cover as BARON WEIRWULF'S HAUNTED LIBRARY with #21, on stands February 18, 1975. The title lasted to #75, released June 19, 1984, having reverted to simply HAUNTED for its final outing. This issue's cover story is by Joe Staton and there is also a one-page inside drawn by Don Newton.  [$7 – $10]
 
THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES, No. 65
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢ 

One of the more popular Charlton titles of the '70s, DOCTOR GRAVES began in March 1967 and actually went on hiatus after this issue until March 1981. It then lasted to #72, out February 11, 1982. And as a last hurrah, it dropped the MANY GHOSTS OF . . . part of the title for a three-issue encore from June to October 1985. This issue's cover is by Steve Ditko, who also contributes a 9-page story written by Steve Skeates.  [$14 – $20]
 
MONSTER HUNTERS, No. 13
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Ran from May 1975 to #18, November 1978. It seemed to have an inordinate amount of sea monster covers. The Steve Ditko cover is new, but his story inside is reprinted from GHOSTLY HAUNTS #34 (August 1973). [$12.60 – $18]
 


SCARY TALES, No. 13
Charlton Comics  — 32pgs for 35¢

Bolstered by the bewitching Countess von Bludd, this title ran from May 1975 to #46, out Jun 27, 1984. The cover story in thisish is new, but otherwise is all reprints. [$10.50 – $15]





And that is it, Bubblenauts, everything on sale the first week of January 1978, as well as a few bonus bits that might have been (but probably it stands later in the month).

Be here next week when we set the Time Bubble controls back 50 years, to the second week of January 1968, to witness, among other wonders, the first appearance of Guy Gardner in GREEN LANTERN #59.

See ya then! 







BOTTOM-OF-THE-PAGE DEPT.
You may be asking, "So, Duke, just what comics did you come away from the Pik Qwik convenience store with this week in 1978 for your $2 — meaning the $2 your grandmother gave you? It's a little hard to say as we had a house fire in late August 1980, and I lost all the comics I had to that point, so of which I have not been able to replace to this day. Still as I recall, the weekly haul was:

BATMAN #298
THE HUMAN FLY #8
• JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #153
SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN #6 

Plus, still on the stands from the previous week:
• ACTION COMICS #482. 
 
 
 
 
 

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