Monday, July 18, 2011

Adventuring Through the Groovy Age (and Beyond!): Why Ol' Groove Loved Adventure Comics

What it is, Groove-ophiles! Y'know, Ol' Groove has mentioned many, many times how much he loved Adventure Comics during the Groovy Age. It's one of my all-time fave titles, and that's a fact. Today, I'd like to rap about why Adventure was such a far-out mag. You cool with that? All right!

A lot of folks might look at Adventure's history and think, "Man, that mag was a loser! They never found their groove...they were always changing it, messing with it, throwing stuff to the wall to see if it would stick..." That may be true. But to Ol' Groove's (admittedly twisted) mind, that's what made Adventure so great! I dig variety the most--and variety is what Adventure had the most. Follow me as we ADVENTURE THROUGH THE GROOVY AGE!

When the Groovy Age began, Adventure was trucking along with the Legion of Super-Heroes, as it had been since the early 60s. Jim Shooter stories. Curt Swan art. Neal Adams covers. Awesome stuff--but for some reason, the Legion was losing its following...

So with ish 381 (March 1969), Supergirl traded out with the Legion, with her moving to the front of Adventure while the Legion moved to the back of Action (on and off, that is)...

Supergirl did well enough that after 44 issues, she moved into her own title. When she left, Adventure took an admittedly aimless but pretty cool all-new anthology turn with strips like The Adventurers Club, Captain Fear, and Vigilante, and short horror, fantasy, and sci-fi strips by guys like Sheldon Mayer, Alex Toth, and Gil Kane. That lasted from ish 425-427 (September 1972-January 1973).

In Adventure #428 (April 1973), DC tried another super-heroine as a headliner, this time a brand new, hauntingly mysterious lady by the name of The Black Orchid.  She eventually moved to the back of Phantom Stranger, which made room for...

...The Spectre. DC's best ghostly hero made his legendary return in Adventure 431 (in October 1974, appropriately enough). This is the legendary Michael Fleischer/Jim Aparo run you've always heard of, where The Spirit of Vengeance meted out justice by doing things like cutting bad guys in half with giant scissors, or turning 'em into wood and cutting them up with a chainsaw. During this time, Aquaman also made a comeback as a back-up...

...Until he took over the front of the mag with issue 441 (June 1975). The back-ups during this era included a Golden Age Seven Soldiers of Victory story being drawn by "modern" DC artists like Howard Chaykin, Mike Grell, and Ernie Chua.

Aquaman did well enough that he got his own mag back. When he left Adventure, Superboy replaced him, returning to Adventure (after he'd been replaced with the Legion back in the Silver Age--complicated, ain't it?) with issue 453 (June 1977).

With Adventure Comics #459 we saw the mag transform into a 68 page, ad-less Dollar Comic. What a cornucopia of super-doings this era gave us! The Flash! Wonder Woman! Deadman! New Gods! Elongated Man! Green Lantern! The Justice Society! And oh, yeah, Aquaman again!

Adventure Comics went back to a standard-length comic with issue 467 (October 1979) with two new features: a brand new Starman (with art by Steve Ditko) and the return of Plastic Man.

That lasted until the end of the Groovy Age, when DC added another eight pages to their mags (a la The DC Explosion). Guess who joined Starman and Plastic Man? Yep, Aquaman!

After the Groovy Age, Adventure kept on evolving. Ish 479 (December 1980) saw the debut of a brand new version of Dial "H" for "Hero"...

With issue 491 (June 1982) Adventure transformed into a digest-sized comics with new (Shazam! and Challengers of the Unknown) and old (reprints of the Legion, Spectre, and of course, Aquaman) comics.

Adventure finally bit the dust with ish 503 (June 1983), but was revived again in early 2009 and starred Superboy, the Legion, and the Legion Academy. Still experimenting! I guess it'll bite the dust again this fall when DC does its "New 52". That's a shame. I was curious to see how long it would take for Aquaman to take over again!

7 comments:

  1. I actually have some of these issues. I got Adventure 425 years ago for the Toth piece in it. I recently got some late 70's issues for Deadman and the JSA stories. They are well worth it! Great stories and great art! The Spectre stuff is cool as well. I'd like to see the Black Orchid stuff. I think of all of DC's 70's stuff, this comic is definitely one of the coolest!

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  2. I echo that call for more Black Orchid. You gave us one story back in Nov 2010, Groove, but that just whetted the appetite for more!

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  3. Black Orchid coming up in August, Groove-ophiles! Stay tuned!

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  4. This was a fun look at the Groovy Age history of Adnveture Comics! It actually looks like it served as a springboard for several characters to get their own mag, so it was pretty successful from that perspective. I'm a big Legion fan, but the Adventure era I remember best is the one with this digest size comics. I love those cute lil comics, and the reprints there were a good way for me to get caught up on DC history.

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  5. I too had some of those issues back in the day. In fact, the Supergirl issue you cover-highlighted actually had her going undercover, wearing one of those masks & costumes. She wasn't the only undercover agent, you understand.

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  6. While doing a search for some Vigilante info, I came across this article - love it! Maybe you can help me restore my memory...I THINK it's an issue of Adventure with Aquaman as the main feature that has a Vigilante backup where, for some reason, he turns into a huge housefly - with his regular size head!!! Maybe my mom did too many drugs while I was in utero, but I SWEAR I read something like this...anyone have any clues? Thanks for the great article...and your help!

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  7. Whatever your mom did, Glenn, she must've done something right, 'cause your memory is great! The story you're is, indeed, from the Aquaman-headlined Adventure Comics #442 (August 1975)! The Vig tale was a chapter in the Seven Soldiers of Victory back-ups--the very back-ups I mentioned Thanksgiving week in my Dr. Mid-Nite post--and, as luck would have it--the very back-ups I'll be spotlighting next week!

    So, not only is your memory right-on, but your timing is pretty far-out, as well!

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