Reading: Adventure Comics #467-478 / Jan 1980 – Dec 1980

Aquaman borrows a cover idea from Adam Strange

Aquaman borrows a cover idea from Adam Strange.

DC Super-Hero Spectacular was a giant-sized “Dollar Comic” DC had planned but the book never made it past the planning stages. Not much is known about it but was to have featured Plastic Man, who was imminently close to the début of his own Saturday morning cartoon. When Adventure Comics was downsized from a Dollar Comic, Plas was moved there to share the comic with a new guy, Starman.

In an odd parallel, Wonder Woman had been removed from the previous run of Adventure Comics with the intention of giving her a feature in DC Super-Hero Spectacular. As there would have been four slots for that comic, the other two features are unknowns. Potentially Starman was one as, so far as I understand it, his development predated the decision to put him in Adventure Comics.

Reading Starman, one gets the impression that there was a lot of thought put into it. Steve Ditko is credited as “designer” as well as penciler so I imagine that Wein (editor) and Levitz (writer) were hoping he would create a distinctive visual world for Starman as he did for Dr. Strange and some of the earlier characters he’s known best for. Romeo Tanghal, as inker, adds a lot of warmth and dimensionality to Ditko’s work — something he was beginning to lose as time went by.

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Starman was a soap opera with a big cast and a unique love triangle. Starman loves Merria. Merria loves Starman. The Empress loves Starman, too. But the Empress sentenced Starman’s alter ego, Prince Gavyn, to death — hence, he wears a mask. Oh yeah, the Empress is his sister.

Plastic Man from the start is drawn by Joe Staton and Bob Smith. The first two stories were written by Len Wein who was followed by Martin Pasko for the rest of the run.

Personally, Starman was the attraction here. Ditko and Levitz were a good team. The Plas series was ok but… silly rather than funny.

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Raw Sewage the Rock Star gets the crowd out of the disco while Plasticman takes care of the bomb in the mirror ball.

The lettercol over these issues indicates a few interesting things:

  • • the $1 sized Adventure Comics didn’t sell well. This incarnation apparently didn’t either since it lasted only a year. Part of the mission of the “dollar-sized” Adventure Comics was to have a book in this format that didn’t rely on either Superman or Batman — something that DC from the outset was hoping to prove. It’s safe to say they proved it. It couldn’t be done. Was this part of the reason DCS-HS never happened? DC “knew” it couldn’t sell?
  • • Plastic Man’s first two adventures were written in reverse order. The 2nd published adventure was edited by Ross Andru so he would’ve likely been the editor of DCS-HS.
  • •Andru had recently changed jobs at DC so that might have played a part in the decision not to go ahead with a new dollar comic — not enough editors to cover Andru’s workload and this new comic. Also, does this mean that Wein would’ve been the regular writer of Plas in DCS-HS?
  • • in response to a letter from Steve Cohen (who’s concerned whether the news that Aquaman is returning to Adventure means Starman or Plastic Man are being kicked out), it’s noted that there’s some thought about moving Starman to a different book to make room for someone else. No indication who that might be or what book Starman might move to.
  • • There’s a reference that Wonder Woman’s letter col is discussing Sensation Comics returning as a team-up mag for WW. I suspect that was only wishful thinking for the readers.

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Aquaman and Cal Durham

Aquaman came onboard for the last 4 issues and continued from his run in World’s Finest Comics (another Dollar Comic). Notable things here are:

  • • the creative team is Dick Giordano (both pencils & inks) and J.M. DeMattis (writing his first series for DC. Before this, he’d only done shorts for the anthology mystery & war books).
  • • In an odd scene in the first adventure, Aquaman reminds the villain that he’s been a crimefighter since those new kids, Firestorm and Black Lightning, were in diapers and that Aquaman is the best. No ego here.
  • • Aquaman gets the cover for 2 issues and gets a full 1/3 for the other 2 issues. Since Aquaman was the best known of the three features, I suppose it makes sense. For all that Plas had a TV show (it ran 2 seasons — 1979-1981) and that the reason he got a series in Adventure was to capitalize on it, Aquaman had SuperFriends that ran for pretty much all of the 70s.

478 was the last issue. Although each series’ ending indicates where the character will be seen next, there’s no indication otherwise that Adventure is cancelled. There’s no “next issue” box — space for it was made on the lettercol but the text is a plea for a children’s charity. Which makes one think that the decision to cancel was done pretty quickly.

Notable ads:

New Teen Titans #1
I know this got my attention. I was a big Titans and Doom Patrol fan before this. Add Perez and that cemented the deal.

Wonder Woman: an ad showing her next 3 issues
What caught my eye was in the 3rd issue, the Earth-2 Huntress was to be the backup. That series was the only reason to buy WW for the next few years. WW was an awful comic otherwise.

The Answer Man has a full page in some issues
One of the things I remember that added shock value to the Answer Man was that it was often the only source which confirmed the cancellation of a series. Given that distribution was often spotty, missing an issue of a comic wasn’t a guarantee of cancellation and not knowing for certain caused stress (at least it caused ME stress 🙂 ).

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