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.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

DP01-AR2 Original Period reprints part 2 of 4

.....In 1973, DC briefly published standard format reprint titles. Some were entirely new titles, such as Legion Of Super-Heroes, and Secret Origins. Others had been cancelled in the previous five years and returned where their numbering had left off, except that they now had reprints. These were Challengers Of The Unknown, Metal Men, and Doom Patrol. Those last three each lasted only three more issues and were cancelled again. Had Metamorpho lasted longer in the '60's it likely would have joined them, as these titles were often considered 'of a kind' in contrast to DC's other mid-60's super-hero titles.

.....The three 'new' issues of Doom Patrol are detailed below:

  1. The Doom Patrol #122(02/73) features a reprint of the first Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man story in issue #89(08/64), except for page 13 of the main story and omitting the Elasti-Girl back-up story completely. In their place is a text page, "Meet The Doom Patrol", presumably by editor Jeff Rovin and a non-DP story, "We Battled The Micromonster" from My Greatest Adventure #76(02/63).
  2. The Doom Patrol #123(03-04/73) features a reprint of the second Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man story in issue #95(05/65) but with two pages' worth of panels eliminated. Pages 2 and 3 are combined into one page as are pages 20 and 21. A new text page, "The Men Behind...The Doom Patrol" by Allan Asherman, is added.
  3. The Doom Patrol #124(06-07/73) reprints a Brotherhood of Evil story with Madame Rouge in which she receives the brain surgery that enables her to change identities, but which eventually drives her insane. This comes from #90(06/64) and reproduces the first chapter (7pp) intact and all the material from the second chapter (10pp) blended with another seven pages made of panels from chapter three (originally 8pp) and a new 2/3 page text piece, "The Doom Patrol's Professional Fans" by Allan Asherman.
  4. Each of the three Doom Patrol issues above have covers made with reduced art taken from the covers of the issues reprinted within and framed by head-and-shoulders spot illustrations of each of the members. These mini-portraits were taken from the letters' pages of the 1960's.
  5. The Brave And The Bold #116(12/74-01/75) This was one of this title's '100-Page' issues, edited by Murray Boltinoff and Paul Levitz. While there are no DP stories, there is a three page article called "Heroes Who Wouldn't Die!" by Bob Rozakis. It mentions both the Golden Age Robotman (Paul Dennis?) and our own Silver Age Cliff Steele (but it's the Golden Age Robotman whose face accompanies the cover blurb). Each character discussed is accompanied by an appropriated illustration, and the panel used as an example of Cliff may come from either My Greatest Adventure #80(06/63) or Doom Patrol #100(12/65).

.....Speaking of The Brave And The Bold, the Metal Men seemed to make nearly annual appearances in that title until they were awarded their own series again in 1976, with the numbering continuing where the 1973 reprints left off. In 1976, the Challengers of the Unknown began appearing in new stories in Super-Team Family, eventually carrying over into their own restored title in 1977, again with the numbering continuing from where their 1973 reprints left off. In 1977 the Doom Patrol began appearing in new stories in Showcase and in 1978... well, you can always type in "DC Implosion" to the word-search engine of your choice. There was no issue #125, of course. The actual rocky path to a regular series is summarized in DP02-AA and DP03-AA.

.....Part 3 will focus on reprints in Super-Team Family.

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.