Thursday, March 18, 2010

DP02- 01 Showcase #94(08-09/77) [c]

.....[continued from part b]

.....Every so often in their lives people happen across a tidbit of information that is simply intriguing in its own right-- not world -changing, but intriguing. Then, realizing that it is intriguing because it seems odd or unusual and unlikely to be widely known, it then occurs to them to somehow work this tidbit of information into their next casual conversation so that they might seem more clever merely by knowing it. It is only after doing so that they learn that they appear much less clever for having thought that a tidbit of information unrelated to any other topic had any place in a casual conversation.

.....So, the next time you're attending a formal, black-tie dinner engagement and someone mentions the 1977 Doom Patrol revival in Showcase be sure to mention...

.....All three issues of Showcase were "Vol. 16" in the indicia, although the title didn't indicate volume numbers when it was discontinued in 1970. That was a practice that DC adopted starting with 1972 cover dates and discontinued as of the 1984 cover dates. Unlike the more common usage of volume numbers in comics, to distinguish between one or more title with the same name, during these twelve years (01/72-12/83) the volume numbers designated the year of publication. The original run of Showcase , for instance, was 1956 to 1970 inclusive, or 15 years. By ignoring the years of nonpublication the revival becomes volume 16 in 1977 and volume 17 in 1978.

.....All three issues were 32 pages of 'guts' plus slick paper covers, the standard format since the fifties. They had 35 cent cover prices, 17 pages of story and were approved by the Comics Code Authority. The bar code numbers were 0-70989-30676-[xx], where the 'xx' matched the cover month (i.e., 09, 11 and 01).

.....The three story titles are: "The Doom Patrol Lives Forever!" (J-4743) in #94, [untitled] (J-4858) in #95 and "Defection!" (J-4937) in #96.

.....All three issues had covers by Jim Aparo (C-500, C-545 and C-582), who had no other connection to the feature. Also having no connection to the feature are the announced art team! During 1976 to 1981 DC ran a one-page editorial feature called "Daily Planet" with a different 'issue' for every week of releases. There would be some popular feature (Bob Rozakis' "Answer Man" column, a word puzzle or a Fred Hembeck comic strip) but most of the space was devoted to a brief list of the current week's releases and brief 'articles' about the next week's. Volume 77, Issue 21 (for the week of May 23,1977) had the headline, "DOOM PATROL LIVES!" and uses a differently cropped (wider) example of the cover art for an article on Showcase #94. Sounds good, but after that things are a little To begin with, the dateline for the article is "DC, New York". The three panels with Matt Cable do take place "on the outskirts of Washington, D.C." but they're hardly worth mentioning. Also, the story takes place primarily in Midway City, known to be in the midwest (probably Michigan) and not New York. The other, even more confusing possibility is that it mentions the publisher as a location (which is in New York). The second minor goof is the over-simplified plot summary, that Robotman "has rounded up three new heroes to replace the comrades he lost years ago". In the actual story Robotman discovers the already assembled group and is skeptical about them using the name "Doom Patrol". The third goof is much more serious. It correctly identifies Kupperberg as the writer, but says, "Ed Davis and Joe Rubinstein will be handling the art chores". I don't know where they were handling them, but it wasn't in Showcase #94. About three months earlier they both worked on a ten-page story for DC Super Stars #14(05-06/77), "The Secret Origin Of Two-Face-- Double Take!" (J-4579), also edited by Paul Levitz (thank you, GCD!) but I can't find anything to suggest that they worked together with any regularity. The whole arc was pencilled by Joe Staton. In fact, Staton went on to do the next three issue arc (Power Girl) and the double-length story in the 100th issue as well.

.....All three issues have a text page feature called "Critic's Corner"-- that's singular possesive, as in 'the corner of one critic'. It's intended as a letters' page and eventually becomes one in issue #96 (L-797) with Paul Levitz responding to the letters. While they're waiting for the mail to come in they run a brief history of Showcase (L-704) by Levitz in #94 and biographies of Paul Kupperberg and Joe Staton (L-750), also by Levitz, in #95. Also in #95, they forego the Daily Planet page and run a 'Publishorial' by Jenette Kahn and complete the page with "DC Profiles#19: Julius Schwartz".

.....There were several hundred words about historical context and the hell that was the seventies that have been wiped out and replaced with what you've read above. I've been editing it into something more coherent and less rant-y that would make a nice supplement to the review for #95 ( as in, #95[a]= review, #95[b]= editorial, unlike the [a], [b] and [c] format used for this issue). What I will leave you with is the revelation that prompted it:

.....One of my other hobbies is recorded music. One thing it has in common with comics is that 1955 was a year in which both industries established self-imposed standards. Comics had the CCA. Music had Billboard Magazine's Top (and later Hot) 100 singles chart. Using a secret formula as closely guarded as Coca-Cola's, they sought to create the huckster's equivalent of The Unified Field Theory. This new chart would determine the commercial success of a song by taking into account the relative influence of sales figures from outlets previously considered largely unrelated to each other: singles sales, jukebox plays, cover version royalties, radio airplay, sheet music sales, etc. These all had separate charts for years, some having several from competing publications all claiming superior expertise and more accurate sources. Shortly after Billboard introduced its new chart, they were quickly forgotten. Looking through old charts frequently challenges what many people think they know about American pop music. I found something that didn't surprise me much at all. If you look at the two decades that precede the Doom Patrol revival you'll see that the first (1957-1966) saw 213 songs reach Number One. The second (1967-1976) had 233, suggesting slightly more turnover. Once you look further into the charts, at the total number of weeks each top hit had a chart presence, from debut to peak to fall, you see an alarming intransigence. I started out looking up the top ten songs on the public's mind when Showcase #94 shipped. I chose the week preceding its announced date, the 'week of' and the two following. The top song, Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke", remained #1 the weeks before, during and after shipping. [Coincidently(?) when Grant Morrison tried to flesh out the characters' lives outside the team he gave Cliff an affection for old jazz records; the Sir Duke to whom Wonder is referring is Duke Ellington.] For any song to spend a month at #1 means little; later that year Debbie Boone stayed at #1 for 10 weeks. But the week after shipping, the #2 song dropped to the #10 position and the songs that had been #'s 3-10-- every one, in order-- rose one spot each exactly, maintaining their relative positions. In case you're wondering, it's common for three or four songs to move in a cluster, yes, but for the entire top ten to stay almost exactly in place? That's very unusual... and very, very bad. It hints at cultural fascism, a reluctance to consider new things at best and an inability to tolerate challenges at worst. Needless to say, this might have been the worst possible time to reintroduce the Doom Patrol, or many of the other cult favorites being given features immediately before the DC Implosion. In fact, by the end of 1979 both Marvel and DC had eliminated most of the titles they began since 1975 but relatively few of the ones that were already being published as of 1972.

.....My plans for the next few posts are:
  1. #95 [a] = the review of Showcase #95
  2. #95 [b] = more on the contemporary music scene
  3. #96 [a] = the review of Showcase #96
  4. #96 [b] = discerning hints towards plans for the group from letters and editorial content at the time
  5. Super-Team Family #16 = a primer on the DC Implosion with links to more detailed resources, to explain why this issue never existed; I'll be adding some of my own info about Marvel's own mass cancellations the following year
  6. Supergirl Part 1 = without the original issues to draw on for the next story I'm going to leave a plot summary paraphrasing other sources, which I'll link to and/or cite; this was the story intended for STF but instead was reworked into a three-part serial for Superman Family
  7. The next three posts will be place holders for the issues of Superman Family mentioned above, in the hopes of finding inexpensive copies I can review individually later.

.....On the outside chance that the above wasn't enough minituae for one sitting, you can find related information about this arc by using the internal search 'mini-Google' box in the upper left-hand corner of this page. Enter "DP02-AA" for a synopsis of the entire revival period or "DP07-AA" for a synopsis of the much later John Byrne Period, which begins with a possible explanation for Robotman's design overhaul at this time. Enjoy, and feel free to comment on your own recollections of this period, if any.