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Mid-1960s DC Comic Books

Here are some random interesting (to me) DC comic book covers from the mid-sixties that freaked me out as a little kid, for one reason or another...

1965 comic book / SupermanLike many kids of the 1960s I heard the plug for "Superman magazines" at the end of The Adventures of Superman TV series that was being rerun during the afternoons.


One Saturday after our (seemingly) weekly haircut I asked my dad if he would buy us some "Superman magazines" so he took my brother and I across the street to Edmund's Drug Store at the Plaza Shopping Center and bought us each a comic book. I picked out 80 Page Giant Superman Annual #6 (JAN 1965), I was 8 years old.

The most amazing thing TV's Superman ever did was tie a crowbar around someone's neck but this comic book super-guy was all over the place. The Bizarro World, interplanetary creatures, and this bondage cover stuck in my head for years. That reptilian machine tossing Superman around like a rag doll probably scarred me sexually but I was hooked.

 

1965 Action Comics with SupermanAction Comics #324
MAY 1965

After devouring that annual I sent away for a one-year subscription to Action Comics and the comic to the left was the first issue I received.

The striking cover by Curt Swan and George Klein was my first introduction to anything mystical, that image was creepily seductive. The Supergirl story it illustrated in the back of the book was pretty twisted as well, so far removed from the pedestrian nature of the black and white Superman I was more familiar with.

Over time I understood how these images worked on a visceral level, decades later that helped me thrive in a career as a movie poster artist. These clean, high-concept illustrations with strong silhouette value told a story all their own (often literally in those instances where the cover had almost nothing to do with the story inside). If you think about it, a movie poster tries to achieve the same effect. After absorbing thousands of these comic book covers over the years it became instinctual when I was working as an artist to find that sweet spot the way these images did.


1965 Justice League withSupermanJustice League #36
JUNE 1965

This was the first issue I bought of a series that beckoned me from the comic's rack, wherein Superman was teamed with a bunch of other characters I was starting to cultivate an interest in through the house ads DC ran that made every issue seem more exciting than the last.

I can still remember reading this comic book while sleeping over at my grandmother's. In it, the Justice League become afflicted by crippling disabilities in order to fight a monster that ultimately proved to be Batman. The whole concept was perplexing, not to mention the idea of a world where so many superheroes were bumping into one another.

Again magic and the supernatural were at play here, as it was in an inordinate number of the Superman family plotlines.

 

1965 Batman # 173Batman #173 AUG 1965

This cover haunted me from a newsstand on a rainy summer day in some out-of-town drugstore window - but I had no opportunity to buy it. By the time I made it to our local store the next issue of Batman was already out and I never discovered what happened (until years later) in this sinister scenario. I have no idea why I found this cover so engrossing, maybe the voyeuristic aspect and the criminal's nondescript costume.

1966 Batman comic bookAll of the Batman covers looked dark and strange to a 7-year old me; issues with the Batmobile coming to life and attacking Batman or that creepy clown sneaking up on Robin. So I hadn't yet taken the plunge.

 

1966 Brave & Bold comicsThe Brave and the Bold # 68 NOV 1966

I was especially fond of comics that brought superheroes together, more for your money, right? Of course, Marvel refined the superhero team-up to a fine art by making each meeting a battle royale, no matter the flimsy excuse. It worked for them. With Marvel it was all about brute force, with DC there were usually psychological or mystical forces at work.

In the mid-sixties DC most often paired their heroes for virtuous reasons. One of the costumed guys would turn into some misshapen monster and the other had to find the antidote... or there was some sort of contest, like a race between The Flash and Superman.

When DC heroes did face off angrily against each other, and it was rare, they were more treacherous and deceitful than their Marvel counterparts - Superman unmasking Batman in public, Batman blackmailing Superman, Jimmy Olsen and Robin betraying their betters, or one hero selling out the other in an act of (seeming) cowardice.

My young mind found it odd that someone could have a best friend and still want to utterly destroy them, time and time again... but it did prepare me for life in Hollywood.

This Brave & Bold comic in particular disturbed me (I was 9 years old). As a fan of the TV show that started in January of that year, seeing a mutated Batman and this other freakish character Metamorpho was too far out for me. It didn't help that Mike Sekowsky drew the utterly implausable story. He was one of those artists I would soon appreciate but at the time I hated his clunky style. Still, I must have read this book a hundred times and I still have it so what does that say?


1966 Showcase DC comicsShowcase #61 APR 1966

Showcase was intriguing, I was fascinated with the idea that a comic book could migrate from one concept to another after one, two or three issues. Especially after this cover. How are you going to come back around after smashing the southern hemisphere over The Spectre's head?

I couldn't wait to discover what new ideas were coming in the months ahead but for the next year it was one lame issue after another. The Inferior Five, (one more Spectre that I never saw), B'wana Beast, 1965 Action Comics with SupermanThe Maniaks, Binky - until Steve Ditko's puzzling creation The Creeper in #73.

Ditko was a severe departure from the DC house style and I wasn't sure what to make of him. The writer/artist had just migrated over from Marvel, those comics left me cold in 1966, but Ditko's densely packed storytelling and blitzkrieg art style won me over, especially with his next creation The Hawk and Dove two issues later.

 

1965 Action Comics with Superman

Bat Lash #2 JAN 1968

Not only was this a riveting image, I remember reading it on a snowy day around Thanksgiving in 1967.

Nick Cardy's superb cover tells its story with simplicity and verve; there were no better practitioners of the art, he possed a virsatility that few other comic artiust could touch.

A surprising comic book because it was so superbly written and illustrated, it even holds up today.

 

1968 SupermanSuperman # 204 FEB 1968

Before artist Neal Adams came along DC comics had a silky smooth house style with a marshmallow-y quality to it. Neal Adams changed all of that.

I distinctly remember standing in Woolworth's (the most famous one in the world where the Greensboro sit-ins took place, exactly 8 years earlier than this cover date), the 2 comic book spinner racks were by the back entrance, on what is now February 1 Place. It was on a cold snowy day that I stared at this cover and perused the interior art, wondering what happened to Superman comics.

I was expecting the safe contours of Curt Swan inked by George Klein, they had been drawing the covers and most of the interior art since I picked up my first Superman comic book three years earlier.

I hated this stark cover by Neal Adams (of course I had no idea who illustrated it at the time) and the interior art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito really turned me off. It was a drastic repackaging. Adams had drawn 3 Superman comics covers before #204 but this was the one that made me take notice.

I was resistant to everything Neal Adams drew at first but was oddly mesmerized at the same time... before long I followed wherever he led and bought whatever magazine or comic that contained his artwork. Funny how that works.

1965 Action Comics with SupermanDC never was able to fully adjust to a post-Adams world, despite whole-heartedly embracing his more realistic, advertising agency approach.

No one since has had as much impact on the industry, comics began to expand to include younger talent that reinvented the genre in the most amazing ways. It was a very fortuitous time to be a collector... the comics were growing up at the same time I was.

At this point Adam's covers were becoming looser artistically and more dramatic, like this one (Action #363 MAY 1968) from a few months later.



Forever People #2
MAY 1971

1965 Action Comics with SupermanThis image from Jack Kirby's Forever People was a real mind blower for me.

It was a crisp cold March afternoon, I was reading this very panel when I heard the crack of a nearby gunshot - my first thought was, "Damn Kirby is good! It's like I really heard that..."

Then it sank in, it was real. I ran to the front window and discovered the woman who lived across from us, from her front stoop high on a hill, had just gunned down her husband in the street. He was lying in the middle of the road dead beside his car's driver's doord. I was friends with the lady, we would talk, so what did I do? I ran over there to see her, much to my parent's horror.

Eventually the cops came, the coroner did his thing, everyone left and I went back to reading my comic. After dinner all of us kids ran out to take Polaroids, posing in the chalk mark that had, hours earlier, outlined the now gone corpse. Our gun happy neighbor got off for self-defense and moved away a few months later. With her new boyfriend.

Life's happy endings, just like in the comics.

 

MID-1960s DC COMIC BOOKS

Superman comics 1965
The first issue of Superman comics I ever owned.
These covers told an easy to digest storyline with clean images and a minimum of text.

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