Adventure Comics #459-466
The Dollar Comics

Adventure Comics 459 cover by Jim Aparo

In 1978, when the DC Explosion happened, Adventure Comics changed its format to a “dollar comic” with 4 regular features, 2 rotating features and no ads. The regular features were:
* The Flash
* Wonder Woman
* Green Lantern (who was at this time sharing a comic with Green Arrow)
* Deadman (who hadn’t been solo for close to 10 years — well before I started reading comics)

I thought it was a great idea. Especially the idea of rotating features (which my imagination filled with all my favourites 🙂 ) and Deadman — a favourite character of mine.

The rotating slots for the first issue were Elongated Man and The New Gods.

The New Gods was a two parter, wrapping up the epic from their freshly cancelled title. I’m not clear whether these stories were already prepared for their comic or if they were prepared knowing they would be published in Adventure. A listing of what stories were intended for cancelled comics appeared in a later issue and New Gods wasn’t mentioned.

The Elongated Man story in the first issue seems rushed and it has 5 (!) writers according to the GCD: Len Wein; Paul Levitz; Mike Gold; Ann Delary-Gold; and Steve Mitchell.

In the 2nd issue (#460), the rotating slot was to be “The Man Called Neverwhere” by Roger McKenzie and Don Newton. But it didn’t happen.

I’m wondering if Neverwhere was originally hoped for #459, ran into problems, delayed for an issue and Elongated Man was rushed into production to fill the slot? These presumed problems could’ve also been an incentive to abandon the series. Who knows? I’m guessing.

I’ve heard speculation that there was likely a script for the first Neverwhere story, but no art.

The Man Called Neverwhere has never been published anywhere so far as I know. I don’t believe it was part of Cancelled Comics Calvacade.

Instead, the 2nd issue gave us Aquaman, who was announced as a new regular feature, replacing Green Lantern (Aquaman’s comic had recently been cancelled — in fact, his opening storyline would’ve been Aquaman #64). In later issues, when a reader asks why didn’t Wonder Woman get dropped instead, it’s explained that WW outsells GL by a wide margin (her TV show was still running at this point).

While it’s never stated, the reader’s expectation is that Neverwhere will begin in the 3rd issue (#461) with an unannounced other feature since the New Gods will have finished.

Wikipedia lists the Metal Men as intended for the $1 Adventure at some point but that never happened. We got a surprise in that 3rd issue instead.

A new permanent 5th feature — The Justice Society (who just had their comic abruptly killed in the Implosion). The inside front cover is the original cover for #461 — with no JSA — offered as proof for how last minute the decision to add the JSA was. Hey, I was buying All-Star. The JSA is my favourite team! I was thrilled to have the JSA show up!

Continuing a theme, the opening story lines of the JSA were intended for their comic –> “The Death of Batman/Night of the Soul Thief” would’ve been All-Star Comics #75 & 76.

And with the JSA added, Levitz gives up being the editor, as DC was not allowing editors to write their own books (or vice versa), and Ross Andru comes into the job.

Levitz had another incentive to give up being editor. The way compensation worked, Levitz writing a story for Adventure was extra cash for him whereas being Adventure’s editor would have been considered part of his day job.

So by the 3rd issue, there were no rotating slots. So much for one of Adventure Comics’ big appeals.

These five features lasted until #465 when the Dollar Comics took on ads and Wonder Woman was dropped to compensate for the reduced pages for stories. Are we to assume the Flash’s comic was outselling WW’s? 🙂

The LoC mentions that she’s been transferred to Adventure’s “new companion mag”. Presumably, this was the never launched dollar comic that was also to be edited by Ross Andru and was to feature Plastic Man (who transferred to Adventure Comics with #467). Anyone have any guesses what the other two features for that comic might have been? I’m guessing more leftover inventory from the Implosion. I have heard that a space series that might NOT have been Starman was under development for it.

466 is the last dollar sized issue. There’s no real mention that this is the case other than a note that Aquaman will be in World’s Finest and the JSA will be around somewhere. There’s not even a mention as to what the next issue will be or if there will be a next issue.

So, Why Was Adventure Comics Cancelled?

Later on, it’s revealed that as a dollar comic, Adventure wasn’t selling well.

According to the Ownership Statement, 285,420 was the print run nearest to filing (#463) and total paid copies were 131,076 or about 46%. The quantities seem low for 1979 but the ratio is pretty good. Plus, given that the comic is 2.5 times more expensive than most other comics, a low print run shouldn’t mean as much — the profit per issue is higher.

By comparison, around the same time, Superboy & The Legion had a print run of 500k, sold 219k or 44%.

Where I can see problems is that Adventure was an expensive and time-consuming comic to produce — 4 stories vs. 1 in a regular comic for similar results.

But Were The Stories Any Good?

Deadman is the real star of this series, IMHO. Len Wein with art by Aparo and later Garicia-Lopez. The plots aren’t exceptional but Wein makes up for it with some solid characterization. That’s craft. And ya gotta love the art.

The JSA are a close second. They hit the ground running with ‘The Death of Batman/Night of the Soul Thief” 3 parter. The story itself is problematic but it had spectacle. I’m not a big fan of Staton’s art. He does story telling well but he can’t be paired with just any inker.

The JSA got better with a Wildcat short that introduced Charlie Bullock, a kid who saves Wildcat. It feels like Charlie is being set up to be a protege for Wildcat but that story thread has never been picked up on by later writers.

There’s a really nice done-in-one where the JSA are tracking down a lost, deadly poison with a timed release that will wipe out Gotham. In an odd bit at the end of the story, Mr. Terrific comes waltzing in, ready to rejoin the team and go meet the JLA for their annual team-up. Elsewhere, there’s an ad for JLA announcing that one of the JLA or JSA has been murdered. Who could it be, Sherlock? It would’ve been nice to see Mr. Terrific in action one last time in this issue before being rubbed out in JLA.

And Adventure finishes with one of the most quoted JSA stories, “The Man Who Defeated The Justice Society”. In a flashback to the fifties, the JSA get hauled in front of a Congressional Committee and backed into a political corner. Rather than submit to the committee’s further abuse, the JSA disband and wait out the rest of the 50s.

Third place is a tie between GL and Aquaman.

Everyone else I’d put down as jockeying for last place. Flash and WW were particularly bad in some issues.

Some More Trivia:

–> According to the LoC, only four stories were originally intended for other comics:
* JSA, “The Death of Batman/Night of the Soul Thief” (would’ve been All-Star Comics #75 & 76)
* Aquaman, “The Hunt” (would’ve been Aquaman #64)
* Deadman, “Requiem for a Deadman” (would’ve been Showcase #105)

–> Cat Yronwode writes a letter in #462 (loves Staton’s art. Votes for Ragman for the rotating slot).

From Adventure 466. Art by  Jose Louis Garcia Lopez

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