Monday, February 8, 2010

DP01-AR1 Original Period reprints part 1 of 4

.....When Marvel Comics was experiencing a renaissance in the early 1960's it was during a period of restricted and spotty distribution. As their audience increased they found that the demand for those early stories was enough to support entire titles and by 1966 began regular, sequential reprint titles. They continued this practice through 1981, with some titles continuing beyond that. Eventually the trade format became more versatile at reaching new markets and dedicated reprint titles became extinct except for one-shots and miniseries.

.....DC had by 1966 published a number of Annuals for Superman, Batman and some others which collected often-requested stories, a practice that was probably intended to extended their shelf life (it is less obvious when an Annual is due to be returned from a newsstand than it is for a monthly comic). Previously they would pad a comic by running reprint stories as back-up to new main features. The popularity of their Annuals prompted them to launch a regular series, 80-Page Giant , which ran a little more than a year before carrying its numbering over to the established titles. For instance, Justice League of America #39(11/65) was also #G-16, an eighty-page issue of reprints, while the issues immediately before and after were standard 32-page issues of new material. #G-17 was an eighty-page issue of Batman and so forth. At the end of the decade the format shrank to 64 pages. The numbering was discontinued in the summer of 1971 when it was becoming obvious that the prices for standard 32-page comics would soon have to increase from 15 cents to 20 cents. As a stop-gap measure to lessen the blow, or distract from it, DC introduced the "Bigger And Better" format: 48 pages for 25 cents with roughly the amount of pages of new material one would find in a standard 32-page comic plus reprinted stories. DC had never suffered the distribution restrictions that its owners had imposed on Marvel in the late 1950's and the only editor not playing fast and loose with continuity was Julius Schwartz. Aside from the same recurring, "When did Lex Luthor first appear?"-type questions, there was no substantial demand for old material.

.....After spending the late 1940's to early 1950's jettisoning super-heroes and beefing up on licensed properties (comics based on Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, radio shows like Mr. District Attorney and various movies and personalities of the day) the success of reintroducing super-heroes through Showcase meant a scramble to produce original characters. Initially that meant Schwartz and Gardner Fox making updated versions of the Golden Age heroes from National and All-American, and acquiring the characters published by Quality as intellectual property. Later it meant hiring a large number of creators from Charlton in an uncharacteristicly massive turnover in personnel. This led to an explosion of imaginative and provocative characters like Hawk And Dove, Creeper, Brother Power, Swamp Thing and others, many of whom didn't sit well with the middle-of-the-road audience DC had worked hard to cultivate since the McCarthy era. Only Swamp Thing, introduced in the 1970's, made it past ten issues (24, in fact). Then, as the price change loomed, DC acquired the Fawcett characters and now had an enormous back-catalog to draw on: their own original Golden Age characters, those from Quality and Fawcett and the new characters who were too colorful to sustain their own titles in the conservative '60's but too colorful for 1970's writers to resist using as guest stars. There was enough potential reprint material for DC's major titles to remain in the "Bigger And Better" format continually for a year. After a year or so at 32 pages for 20 cents, DC upped the ante with a "100 Pages" format (really 96 pages plus covers), with which DC had experimented during the "Bigger And Better" year.

.....Sooo...what does this have to do with the Doom Patrol? During the Original Period, Doom Patrol (the series) never had an Annual, an 80-Page issue or even ran reprints of its own stories. In 1968 the series ended with the team dying, so guest spots were more trouble to explain than they would be worth. Yet, the 1970's called for funkier characters. It's no coincidence that twenty years later the Vertigo editors would go back to that decade's well repeatedly for intriguing premises that flared briefly and went out without fulfilling their promise (i.e., Shade, Black Orchid, Prez, the Kirby Sandman, etc.). The DP would eventually get their new lease on life as well, but as the decade opened they were a source for reprints.

.....These four posts form a (possibly) complete list of Doom Patrol reprints of the Original Period preceding the Gypsy Period 1. Please note that all of these have been made redundant by the more complete Archives listed in the Trade Survey (see DP08-AT). The only reason for listing these is to provide historical perspective before beginning the individual reviews for Gypsy Period 1. What is listed below is the only Doom Patrol available for nine years.

  1. House Of Secrets #93(08-09/71) is the first issue after the 'Alex Olsen' Swamp Thing story and also the first of the title in the "Bigger And Better" format. Rather than a DP story, this is an Alex Toth story "The Curse Of The Cat's Cradle", all eight pages, that ran in the back of My Greatest Adventure #85(02/64). I only mention it here for completists, as it would not be in the Archives.

  2. Batman #238(01/72) I mentioned earlier that DC experimented with the 100-page format at this time, and this is a prime example. During the 1960's, Batman was a title that would normally become an 80-Page Giant issue twice a year, and a 64-page Giant by the end of 1969. The last Giant Batman was #233(07-08/71)/#G-85. The "Bigger And Better" format ran from #234(08/71)- #242(06/72), except for #238. Just like the majority of the 80-pagers from the 1960's, this carried an alternate title/number. It was DC 100-Page Super Spectacular #DC-8. Unlike them, it had a wraparound cover, one by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, featuring the many characters inside with the Doom Patrol standing (or sitting, in Niles' case) prominently on the front. Oddly, each of the characters (or groups, for the DP and LSH) are identified on the cover by their names in small, white block letters. It was an example of DC's subconscious identity crisis at this time. They knew better than anyone that covers sold comics, yet the characters on the cover are named, almost as if they expected the reader to simultaneously not know who they were and shell out more money than usual for them. Among other things, this issue reprinted the first DP story from My Greatest Adventure #80(06/63) in its entirety.

  3. The Brave And The Bold #102(06-07/72) This was the last "Bigger And Better" format issue for this title. The new, lead story teamed Batman with the Teen Titans, including Mal Duncan. Mal would join the DP as Vox more than thirty years later. The reprint back-up story combines two DP back-ups: "Robotman-- Wanted Dead Or Alive" (originally 8pp) from Doom Patrol #100(12/65) and "The Robot-Maker Must Die" (originally 10pp) from Doom Patrol #105(08/66). These two are combined to form a 14-page story with the editor's code B-1380. The editor for this issue was Murray Boltinoff, who also edited the Original Period Doom Patrol.

.....The next section focuses on the temporary revival of the Doom Patrol series.

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