Thursday, October 11, 2018

Comic Book Implosion and Supergirl

As a comic book reader of a certain age, I knew that I had lived through the DC Comics Implosion of the 1970s. As an amateur comic historian, I thought I had something of a grasp of what it all was about. But I knew I didn't quite get it. For some reason, I always shunted the Implosion to the mid-70s rather than the later years of the decade. I needed to learn more.

So when the book Comic Book Implosion came out earlier this year, I made a mental note to seek it out. It was on a short 'to buy' list as I saw it waiting on the shelf of my LCS for me to get when the appropriate big sale came around.

Turns out blog friend Mart Gray, of the great Too Dangerous For A Girl review site, made my waiting for a sale moot, sending me a copy to read. And this definitely was a fascinating look at that slice of time.

I definitely knew the term DC Implosion was a riff on the marketing term 'The DC Explosion'. And yes, I am old enough to remember seeing this Joe Staton ad in books and wondering where I would be able to read more Big Barda (having discovered her in the Englehart/Rogers Mister Miracle) and Hawkman.

The book gathers a number of sources - interviews, articles, and publicity pieces - and snips and rearranges them more chronologically so that you understand how the Implosion unfolded. It turns out it all had to do with cover price and shelf life. As a kid growing up then and in a family that was frugal (out of necessity), the difference between a 50c comic and a 35c comic was a big deal.  So to see how those pennies crushed this endeavor and ended a whole swath of comics was fascinating to read.

But this is a Supergirl blog. So did this impact her?

Supergirl as a whole wasn't effected by the implosion. She was ensconced in the Superman Family dollar book, a title which seemed to be financially secure even in those trying times.

But one thing that did catch my eye was this tiny panel on one page.

At the time of the implosion, DC had an ongoing syndicated newspaper comic strip titled World's Greatest Super-Heroes. This was another of those things that I heard about back then (maybe even saw an ad in a comic itself). Alas, it was not part of the 'funnies page' in my local paper. I got to read Spider-Man and Rex Morgan M.D. but never got to read a Marty Pasko written ongoing. What a shame. I even would have forgiven the art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta!

But look at the ad for the strip. While the comic concentrated mostly on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, it promised to bring in other characters, including Supergirl, the Maid of Steel! How cool would it have been for Supergirl to have made it into people's homes back then!

At least by my research, she never made it into the strip. That's another shame.

The back end of the book looks at all the issues and stories and plans completely shelved by the quick ax of the Implosion. Check out the cover for the never released Shade the Changing Man #9. Folks here should know I love Shade. I would love to read this. Others have told me it appears in a Shade trade paperback out there somewhere.

Many of these issues were put into a booklet for the DC pros back then titled Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. I can't understand why DC doesn't put that out to the general public now. I know I would buy it!

Anyways, if you are a DC fan and a historian, I'd recommend this book if you can find it cheap. It is a quick and interesting read chock full of information. Thanks again Mart! I owe you one!


Anonymous said...

Real, REAL interesting. Thank you for sharing this, and Martin for his kindness.

It's unfortunate how many characters got screwed due to circumstances and ill timing. Did I heard Power Girl and Vixen's solos were planned? What a waste.

A pity about the comic-strip. DC missed a good chance to increase their B-Listers' -including Supergirl- profile.

That Shade pannel is definitely Ditkonian.

John (somewhere in England) said...

This is fascinating. I'd never heard of the DC Implosion until now but I do remember that Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes expanded for a while and then contracted again. Karate Kid's own comic was cancelled around the same time.

Martin Gray said...

You're welcome, Anj, you've done so much for me.

Isn't it a fascinating piece of work? I'd recommend it to anyone who lived through the period, has heard of the DC Implosion and wondered about it, is interested into comics economics... or just likes gossip about comic personalities!

Anonymous said...

Another team affiliation for Supergirl lost, sigh...


H said...

Such a shame. This was the best era for stories and variety of titles as far as I'm concerned. From what I remember, the weather was the big issue there- a particularly harsh winter in New York that hurt distribution.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Paul Kupperberg was the writer for The World's Greatest Superheroes comic strip from 1982 to 1985 (when it ended), so it's somewhat curious that he didn't include Supergirl at some point. Maybe he intended to but never got around to it. I wonder if it would help to know the date on that publicity picture.

But whatever the reason, leaving Supergirl out is something that DC does very well. She never appeared in the original Superman newspaper strip (1939-1966), even though, from the mid '50s on, many stories were adapted from the comic books. Kara was also absent from Filmation's 1966 Saturday morning cartoon "The New Adventures of Superman". There was a Superboy segment on each show, but no Supergirl. And Weisinger was a consultant!

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I had no idea that the Odd Man was created as a backup for Shade the Changing Man. I read and enjoyed a couple of Odd Man stories in Detective Comics in its dollar comics phase. He was brought back recently as a supporting character in the backup stories in Mother Panic, another great oddball creation.

Martin Gray said...

Speaking of Paul Kupperberg, he’s a panellist on the latest Word Balloon episode I heard, talking about writing the Superman Family with Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway, Peter Tomasi and host John Siuntres. The World’s Greatest Superheroes gets a mention.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

Definitely have to seek out that Ditko omnibus now!