Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DP01-AR3 Original Period reprints part 3 of 4

.....During 1974 many of DC's major titles converted to the '100-Page' format (96 pages plus covers) fo 60 cents. Flying under most people's radar, the recently cancelled Supergirl and Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane were folded into the similarly flagging Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen and collectively became Superman Family. As 1975 began, the major titles reverted to the standard 32-page format which immediately increased in price from 20 to 25 cents. Superman Family, however, was reduced to 64 pages for 50 cents. Although this seemed like twice the pages for twice the price, the fact that Marvel and DC were both reducing the page count of story material (to sell more advertising) in their standard comics but running nearly the same number of ads as in their double-sized books meant that these "Giants" came close to giving three times the material for twice the price. Superman Family apparently struck some readers as more than the sum of its parts because by the end of 1975 it was joined by (in succession): Batman Family, Super-Team Family, and Tarzan Family (converted from Korak ). The formula became rotating new lead features followed by related reprints.

.....By spring of 1976 all four titles were scaled back to 48 pages for the same price while DC's standard format titles underwent yet another price increase to 30 cents. All but Super-Team Family found their rhythm from that point on. While the others had a roster of characters and relatively consistent creative teams for the new lead material, Super-Team Family had a number of editors, no permanent feature, oscillated between new and reprinted material (both Golden Age and Silver Age) and even the teams could be either established groups or newly formed partnerships. In retrospect, had there been better planning and editorial coordination at DC it could have been a Showcase for team books, never lacking for new lead material. Between its first issue, #1(10-11/75) and the first 48-page issue, #5(06-07/76), DC launched four team titles. They revived All-Star Comics (with the JSA) and Metal Men and began two new titles: Freedom Fighters and Secret Society Of Super-Villains. If they had tied the features in Super-Team Family to the team books they were releasing at the time, possibly running a new short story ahead of each title's release, it might have created an implied bond among their new titles and even shared readership even without explicit story cross-overs. They came close to that in the next year, which saw revivals of Teen Titans, Challengers Of The Unknown, New Gods and Showcase (beginning with Doom Patrol). Although there were no New Gods stories there were reprints of both DP and Titans and three new Challenger leads that carried over into the revived title.

.....The Doom Patrol had not been seen in any form for three years when their reprints began, and the details of those reprints are below:

  1. Super-Team Family #7(10-11/76) A new, unsigned cover (C-288) recreates a scene from Teen Titans #31(01-02/71), an early Mal Duncan appearance (he gets two whole word balloons) that starts off the issue. It's followed by a full-page ad (L-510) announcing the title's return with new stories beginning with #44(11/76) "on sale August 19th", "And introducing-- The Guardian!" (it's Mal wearing Jim Harper's costume and shield without the helmet). The letters' page, "Team Talk" (L-509), has two pages of letters about issue #5 and an unsigned editorial response announcing the next issue will begin new Challengers stories and DP reprints. The lower third of the cover has the blurb, "Meet The World's Weirdest Heroes-- The Doom Patrol!", with the implication that you are not expected to know them. Below that are three small full-body portraits of Larry, Cliff and Rita in action. The reprinted story is the first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil from Doom Patrol #86(03/64) (L-515). In addition to Brain, Monsieur Mallah and Madame Rouge there is the robot ROG (no relation to the John Byrne character; see DP07-AA) and Mr. Morden who would later become Mr. Nobody during the Morrison run. The issue ends with a full-page ad (L-511) for next issue's Challengers serial "On sale the last week of September!". Hey, there's Father Davis!

  2. Super-Team Family #8(12/76-01/77) The new Challengers lead begins (J-4396) and the Doom Patrol reprints are mentioned as a blurb on the cover-- no illustrations (C-316). Team Talk is now one page (L-556), devoted to retelling the Challs' revised origin from 1963. The rest of the book reprints the main story from Doom Patrol #87(05/64), another Brotherhood story, replacing Morden with Giacomo. He and Madame Rouge are captured by the story's end. Of note is that Rita sees Larry's unbandaged, translucent-skinned face for the first time. Although the Robotman back-up story that originally ran in #87 is not reprinted here, we do get the one page DP origin recap from #86 that was not included in the previous Super-Team Family. The recap gets a new code (J-4435) but not the main story, implying that they are considered a unit for the purposes of this issue. The next issue is "on sale Nov.25th!"

  3. Super-Team Family #9(02-03/77) The DP are again only a blurb on the cover (C-354) meant to announce the new Challengers story (J-4429). Team Talk (L-587) has no letters; it runs an unsigned article on substitute Challengers during the original series. There's a short Green Arrow reprint from 1958 with no further attribution (J-4493) [it's from Adventure Comics #254(11/58)]. It wasn't announced in the previous issue, mentioned on the cover or credited in the text page, so it appears to be a last minute addition to accomodate the DP reprint, Part 1 of "The Incredible Origin Of The Chief"(J-4492) from Doom Patrol #88(06/64). Rather than reach backwards to the also-never-reprinted and shorter My Greatest Adventure stories, someone decided to continue reprinting the nominal Doom Patrol issues in sequence even if it meant splitting the first issue-length story since their debut. The next installment would be "on sale last week in January".

  4. Super-Team Family #10(04-05/77) The DP aren't even blurbed on the cover (C-399). The new Challengers story (J-4491) runs three pages more than in previous issues. Those three pages and two pages of padding leading into the DP reprint serve the same purpose as the Green Arrow story did last issue. The first page of padding (J-4611) uses the cover art of Doom Patrol #88 reworked into a title page (even though Parts 2 and 3 each have their own 2/3 splash and title). The second page is constructed from six panels taken from four different pages previously reprinted in the first installment last issue, but with relettered captions and dialogue. Then Parts 2 and 3 are reprinted intact but with renumbered pages. The Team Talk page (L-633) runs three letters about the new Challengers stories including an anonymous one from a real address (I checked; thank you, Google Maps!) asking for new DP stories as well. The unsigned response includes the following: "...there are no plans for new DOOM PATROL stories as of now, yet who knows? Things change around here faster than we can keep track of them. Perhaps, if reader reaction to the DP is strong enough we might just surprise you!" Four months later that new DP story was on the stands.

.....The indicia for these issues includes the editorial staff, in addition to the president and publisher. All four list Joe Orlando as managing editor, Vince Colletta as art director and Paul Levitz as editorial coordinator. Also in common is Jack Adler as production manager, a title that is renamed 'vice president of production' as of issue #10. A new credit is added when the Challengers lead begins: the story editor. Tony Isabella was the story editor for #8, and Dennis O'Neil took over for issue #9, but there was no credit at all for #10 either in the indicia or the story itself. (In fact, after #8 there were no further credits for colorists or letterers.) It's a safe assumption that this credit is exclusive to the new material and that the Doom Patrol reprints were tended to by either Joe Orlando or Jack Adler or both. As art director, their depiction on the cover of #7 was probably the province of Vince Colletta.

.....One last note on the Team Talk page is that the book would change format once again with the next issue. Still 48 pages, it will now feature double-length all-new stories of team-ups written by Gerry Conway and edited by Paul Levitz. It will also sport a 60 cents price tag, although that was not announced in issue #10. Those last five issues (11 through 15) would keep that identity and format right up to its cancellation (and beyond; see the Superman Family note in DP02-AA).

.....Next entry is a summary and brief note on reprints since the 1970's.

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