Monday, September 8, 2008

Dinosaurs, Demons, and Dick Benson, Oh My!

I remember getting a stack of comics in the spring of 1975 (Li'l Groove could never buy just one). Nothing really special (except for the fact that DC had finally followed Marvel's lead and upped their cover prices to 25 cents an issue--gasp!!) until I spotted...the ad. It was a simple full-page ad showcasing DC's super-heroes, their mystery characters...and a bunch of characters who were just beginning to pop up, plus a few more that looked really far-out. The ad said they were part of DC's fantasy/adventure line. Yeah, I made up my mind I'd have to get 'em all!

Side note: What the heck was Dick Benson, aka the Avenger, star of Justice, Inc. doing in there? A crime-fighting Pulp Hero of the 1930s isn't exactly Tolkien, is it? The world may never know... Anyway, here are the covers to each debut issue in the order they appeared in the ad:

Now, that's not the order the mags actually appeared on the spinner-racks, mind ya. Beowulf #1 came out in January, followed by Justice, Inc. #1, Claw #1, and Tor #1 in February, then Stalker #1 and Kong #1 came out in March. Warlord brought up the rear, not appearing until First Issue Special #8 in August.

Why was Warlord so far behind the rest? I haven't been able to find that out, but I do know that then-DC-publisher Carmine Infantino insisted that Warlord debut in First Issue Special to prove that comics really could spin-off from that title, knowing full well that the Warlord was gonna get its own title, regardless. (Up to that time, none of the features in FIS ever got their own book, so I guess Mr. Infantino figured a teensy bit of jivin' couldn't hurt. Btw, the only other title to spin off from FIS was the Return of the New Gods, and that was after Infantino left DC.) Now, I said all of that to say this: Warlord didn't get his own mag until November of 1975! Ironically, after all the dust settled, Warlord was the ONLY success to come from the fantasy/adventure line (not to mention the only successful FIS try-out). Dig the behind-the-scenes skinny on Travis Morgan's origins from Warlord creator Iron Mike Grell, himself here.

Except for Warlord, the whole fantasy/adventure scene turned out to be a bummer for DC, in spite of having some truly groovy talent on those mags. Michael Uslan wrote and Ricardo Villamonte handled the art on Beowulf. Justice, Inc. was written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Jack Kirby (except for the first issue, which was drawn by Al McWilliams, for some reason...). The dynamite team of writer David Michelinie and artist Ernie Chua (Chan) gave us Claw. Naturally, Joe Kubert was the brains behind Tor (mixing all-new story and art with reprints). Stalker was brought to life through the combined efforts of writer Paul Levitz and artists-par-excellence Steve Ditko and Wally Wood. Even Kong sported high-caliber talent with horror writer Jack Oleck scripting and Alfredo Alcala handling the art chores (for the first few issues, at least).

I guess the fad for dinosaurs and fantasy, spurred no doubt by the TV success of Land of the Lost and Planet of the Apes kind of died down, taking most of these mags with it. Beowulf only lasted six issues, as did Tor. Kong went extinct after five issues. Justice, Inc. and Stalker went under after just four issues. Claw actually lasted 9 issues before facing cancellation in 1976, then came back for three more issues in 1978. The best of the bunch, Warlord, lasted a whopping 133 issues! Not bad for a comic that was cancelled after the second issue, huh?

Wow. That's a lotta rappin' on account of just one ad! But Ol' Groove's just scratched the surface, baby! You can bet your last pair of bell bottoms that each of these savage strips will spend some time under my mellow microscope for upcoming installments of "If You Blinked You Missed..."!

Later, 'gator!


  1. That is one of my all-time favourite house ads (the full page Man-Bat ad and Ditko's Shade ad are also short listed)

    Here's the crazy thing - I much prefer the Alden McWilliams Avenger to the Kirby Avengers. The pile of stones is to your left - I'll try not to cry.

  2. I still can't believe I posted so much about one ad, but it is a great ad! (The Man-Bat ad you mention is posted in the Man-Bat/Demon thread, btw.)

    Ain't gonna be throwin' any stones at'cha for diggin the McWilliams Avenger over the Kirby one; in all honesty, the McWilliams version is closer to the novel, after all!

  3. That's kind of like the other artists on O'Neil/Kaluta's THE SHADOW. It's as if those were the only issues published, and the ones in between illustrated by Frank Robbins (issues 5, 7, 8 and 9) and E.R.Cruz (10-12) never happened. But I enjoy those issues just as much as the O'Neil/Kaluta issues.

    Likewise, the O'Neil/McWilliams story JUSTICE INC in issue 1 is just as good as the Kirby/O'Neil stories in issues 2-4.

    In both cases, O'Neil's scripting gave the series consistency, despite the vast change in art, on both series.



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