Monday, August 6, 2012

World's Finest Through the Groovy Age

Time to follow another fab-a-mundo mag THROUGH THE GROOVY AGE, Groove-ophiles! This time we're checking out DC's long-running (1941-1986) World's Finest Comics. WF is best known as the mag that featured Superman/Batman team-ups, and for most of its history, that was true. However, during the Groovy Age, that wasn't always true. The Groovy Age was a time of experimentation, y'know, and World's Finest saw its fair share of it during that hallowed time!

When the Groovy Age began, WF under editor Mort Weisinger was settled into its Silver Age ways of teaming Superman and Batman (and Robin) up against everything from petty crooks to extraterrestrial do-baddies with a good mix of classic Superman and Batman villains tossed in for good measure. Written mostly by budding young authors Cary Bates and Jim Shooter, these stories kept the innocent charm Weisinger mags were known for, but with a subtle hipness other more mature authors had a hard time pulling off. On the art side, Curt Swan and Ross Andru kept things chugging along. Slick and professional but not very inspiring.


For two issues (175-176, May-June 1968), though, Neal Adams provided the art. Now THAT was exciting. Short lived, but exciting. Weisinger did have Adams provide several more covers, though.




Robert Kanigher and Bob Haney contributed some wild stories during this period. In issues 186-187 (August-September 1969) Superman and Batman did some time traveling, finding themselves on the wrong end of the Salem Witch Hunt, while Haney had the World's Finest Duo squaring off against the Mafia in issues 194-195(June-August 1970) !




Big changes came with issue #198 (November 1970) . Julius Schwartz took over the editorial reins with that ish, kicking Batman out and turning WF into a Superman team-up mag in the vein of Batman's Brave and the Bold. JLA artist supreme Dick Dillin took over the art chores while young and with-it authors Denny O'Neil, Steve Skeates, and Mike Friedrich provided the words. While this format lasted only about a year-and-a-half, it did well enough to inspire DC Presents, the Superman team-up mag that ran from 1978 through the mid-80s. Check out these cool team-ups! (And notice Batman did sneak in on occasion.)















The "next big thing" was the ca-razee Super-Sons semi-series (WF #'s 215-6, 221-2, 224, 228, 231, 233, 238, 242) by Bob Haney, under new editor Murray Boltinoff (Dillin still provided the pencils, btw). According to Hany and Boltinoff, the Super-Sons weren't "imaginary" or on an alternate earth. No, they said the Super-Sons were the real sons of Superman and Batman and that they were alive and kicking in the "today" of 1973. Controversy ensued, of course. No one could figure out when the World's Finest Duo got married and had kids--much less why, IF married, they continued to court other women (all of Bruce Wayne's ladies and Lois Lane, natch). Boltinoff and Haney figured all'a that rigamarole was on the writers and editors of Superman, Action, Batman, and Detective to explain. That didn't satisfy fandom, but what they hey, the Super-Sons made for some silly, fun stories.

The Super-Sons stories rotated with the return of the regular Superman/Batman team-ups of yore. Haney and Dillin handled those issues, too. In fact, Haney and Dillin remained the creative team throughout Boltinoff's run, which ended with issue 242 (September 1976). (For you completists out there, Curt Swan, Lee Elias, and Pablo Marcos did a handful of fill-ins for Dillin during that run).



The next "big change" for WF was really big! First, Denny O'Neil took over as editor with issue #243 (November 1976). Then, with ish 244 (January 1977), WF became an 80 page Dollar Comic. This meant that, not only would we continue getting quality Superman/Batman team-ups (from folks like Haney, Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez, Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, George Tuska, O'Neil, Murphy Anderson, Dillin, Rich Buckler, and Joe Staton.), but we'd also be deluged with tons of new super-hero tales. The first Dollar Comic WF line-up was added Green Arrow, Black Canary, the Golden Age Wonder Woman, and Vigilante by writers and artists like Gerry Conway, Jack C. Harris, Bill Kunkel, Tony Isabella, Gray Morrow, and Mike Nasser (Michael Netzer). Jack C. Harris took over as editor with nary a blip with issue 247 (July 1977). With issue 249 (October 1977) Steve Ditko's Creeper replaced Vigilante.


Anniversary issue #250 (January 1978) was a time-travel blow-out by author Gerry Conway teaming Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary,  and the Golden Age Wonder Woman. Crisis before Crisis anyone?

With ish #253 (July 1978), the ads were dropped, making WF a full 64 pages of comics and more comics. Wonder Woman had jumped over to Adventure Comics making room for E. Nelson Bridwell and Don Newton's wonderful Shazam! strip. In ish #256 (January 1979) Black Lightning (under a variety of creators) replaced the Creeper. Then Hawkman replaced Black Canary (who'd team-up and/or rotate with Green Arrow) with ish 257 (March 1979), and believe it or not, ish 258 (May 1979) was to have been the final Dollar Comic issue of WF, with all but the Superman/Batman feature migrating to a new Dollar Comic called Five Star Super-Hero Spectacular.




That never happened. WF #259 (July 1979) was still Dollar-sized, still edited by Harris and still ran all those super-hero strips. However, the ads were back, knocking the comics page count down to about 51 pages. The Atom appeared in ish #260 (September 1979), Aquaman became a regular feature (replacing Black Lightning who'd moved to Detective Comics) with ish 262 (January 1980), and Adam Strange temporarily Zeta-Beamed his way into Hawkman's spot in ish 263 (March 1980)--this is also the issue in which it was revealed that the Super-Sons were a computer-generated hoax.



With the final Groovy Age issue of World's Finest, #265 (July 1980), Cary Burkett took over writing the Superman/Batman feature, while Aquaman's slot (who was moving back to Adventure Comics) was taken over by Red Tornado.

Post Groovy Age, the Dollar Comic format remained until issue #282 (May 1982). World's Finest, itself, lasted until issue #323 (October 1985), another casualty--along with the long-time friendship of Superman and Batman--of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.


11 comments:

  1. A bit outside the groovy era, but I've always had a soft spot for World's Finest, as #311 was one of the first comics I can remember buying, seduced by the promise of Batman and Superman IN ONE COMIC!

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  2. Far out Groovster! Wow! You really put alot of work into today's giant sized blog! Loved all these as a kid/teen. Especially the Neal Adams covers, wacky crazy adventures & villians. One of my all time favorites has to be Black Lighting & Shazam by the late great Don Newton! Keep up the Awesome job Groovy One!

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  3. So many of these Silver Age covers are burnt into my memory as a kid.World's Finest #201: Superman, Gr.Lantern & Dr.Fate was one issue I reread so often.Who could forget the "Super Sons" and attempting to figure out who their mothers were suppose to be? Those DC Dollar issues from the 70's were such a bargain...miss those days!

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  4. I love this comic, you have got to love the Super Sons!

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  5. What can I say -- I want to read all of them!

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  6. I loved the Dollar-Sized WF issues. One of my earliest comics was WF #253, although naturally, I've picked up back issues.

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  7. World's Finest was always a fave of mine, but unfortunately you didn't mention my all-time fave issue--#218! The story featured a criminal who WASN'T caught by the heroes and incredibly groovy art by Mr. Dillin and the incomparable Dave Cockrum! All that AND a far-out cover by Nick Cardy for only 20 cents!

    Tim

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    1. Gonna have to post that one one'a these days, Tim!

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  8. World's Finest #263 explained away the Super Sons, and WF #250, IIRC, tried to explain and reconcile the different origins of the Superman-Batman team. Between World's Finest #94, Superman #76, the Superman radio show, and Justice Society appearances in All-Star Comics, DC ended up with four different versions of how Superman and Batman first met.

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  9. I have read 13 of these comics! Love Haney & Dillin; the Bureaux of Missing Heroes and Villains; Muto and the Joker; Batman joining the Legion of Super-Heroes ; the Revenge Squads; Thomas Wayne Jr; and one of my all-time favourite covers: Superman and Dr. Fate. Superb.

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  10. Holy cow....my want list just doubled based on the covers alone!!!

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