Friday, June 28, 2013

Making a Splash: DC Comics 40 Years Ago This Month, June 1973

Hey, hey, hey, Groove-ophiles! The Summer of 73 was one of the best ever for Young Groove (as I rapped about on the Marvel Splashes post here). Lots of time in the swimming pool, lotsa visits with/from my cousins, cool music on the radio, and an awesome array of comics, natch! While Marvel-mania was in full swing, DC was pulling out all the stops, too! Len Wein and Dick Dillin brought back the Freedom Fighters in JLA, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams gave us their ultimate Joker tale (and Neal's most iconic Batman pic), King Kirby was going nuts on Kamandi and The Demon, and Dave Cockrum's art gave the Legion of Super-Heroes a new lease on life! Old faves like Novick, Kubert, Swan, Beck, Heath, and Glanzman were showing us how great comics should look, while new guys like Chaykin, Simonson, and Wrightson were blazing new trails. And what about the fellas from the Philippines like Nino, Alcala, and DeZuniga? Wow!! But hey, why am I rappin' when you could be gettin' all googly-eyed? Onward!!

Our Army at War #260

Superboy #197

Witching Hour #34

Weird Western Tales #19


  1. I really liked DC's tongue-in-cheek Shazam series, but, apparently, most comics fans wanted their action heroes played straight. (And adults would watch TV shows and movies that combined action-adventure with comedy, like James Bond, Our Man Flint, Batman, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E., but they did not read comics.) The Freedom Fighters had their own series for fifteen issues in the Groovy Age, but, like most of the stuff that DC inherited from Quality Comics, they never quite caught on. DC tried a Plastic Man comic in 1966-67 (another tongue-in-cheek series that, evidently, nobody liked but me), and again in the 1970's. Both runs lasted ten issues. Blackhawk had a good run from WWII to the late 1960's, but then was cancelled, and later revivals never made it. Of the former Quality comics, G.I. Combat may have had the longest uninterrupted run. BTW, the Grim Reaper-like host of "Weird War" evidently never went through Army basic training or Marine boot camp. I could just see a drill sergeant yelling, "How is it everybody else in this man's #@*! Army has a rifle or carbine, and you have a @#%*! GUN!?" ;)

  2. Some people seem to give Frank Miller credit for ditching Batman's camp comedy style and establishing the Dark Knight image. "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" shows that O'Neil and Adams had already returned the character to his Dark Knight roots by the early 1970's.

  3. Wow! I didn't realize all that happened in the same month. I remember the Batman issue (still one of my all-time favorites), and that was the first Kamandi issue that I had been able to track down. The JLA/JSA team-up was always something to look forward to in the summer, and I was also a fan of the various DC ERB books, so I was sad to see the last John Carter and Pellucidar stories that month.....and the first issue of Plop!.....and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.....and Shazam! (another one that took a while to get to my neck of the woods).....thanks for the memories, Groove.

  4. Neal Adams, not "Neil". Funny enough, it was spelled "Neil" in the credits of one of the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA stories as a back-up in The Flash. -- Jeff Clem

    1. AArgh! I can't believe I did that! Probably from my bad habit of referring to the Denny and Neal team as Denny O'Neil Adams. Bad, Groove!! Must...fix...

  5. Great memories for me! I first started buying DC comics in the autumn (the fall, as you say over there) of 1973, as they had only started to appear in local shops over here in the UK. I had the JLA, Superboy, Worlds Finest and Witching Hour. Over here if the comic had September cover date, it would be on shelf here in the September. But it was hit and miss, one month a title would appear then disappear for an issue or three, so it was hard to follow stories. But, I particularly remember the Superboy issue for Timber Wolf and all the other members of the Legion. I never really knew that Batman, Superman were comics as I had only had seen Marvel comics up to that point in my life! DC began to appeal to me more than Marvel. I did like the old Marvel stories by Kirby, Ditko and Lee, but I loved the DC universe, because it was set in the present then, 1973!

  6. Ah, U.S. comics' last hurrah as a major social force was in the early to mid '70s. They were still selling hundreds of thousands per copy (monthly or bi-monthly), they were easily accessible (at newsstands, supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores, book stores, etc.), they had many successful genres in the mainstream (horror, humor, romance, war, western, and super-heroes, to name a few), and they had a variety of artists who were WELL-TRAINED and who could have easily worked as illustrators for the 'slicks.' Yes, the dip in sales had already begun, but when Direct Sales was seen as the quick fix to save the industry (which it was) it also created an inbred fanbase which continues to this day at about 250,000---not in the millions.

    1973 was a great year in mainstream comics! These stories hold up well. It was a 'groovy' era, indeed!

    Chris A.

  7. Ah, that's real art for you! Thank you for posting these!

  8. Is it just me, or is the art from '73 just plain better than today? I'm not just talking about Neal and Nester, but across the board.

  9. It's not just you,it seems to be an unfortunate reality. I'm pretty sure a lot of the present day artist really care about their craft,but illustrators from decades ago seem to have had that certain drive for individuality,although their were some similar styles,most added a unique something that simply drew one in.Maybe they were working under Bulldog editors,I don't know.



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All other commentary and insanity copyright GroovyAge, Ltd.

As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1970s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!