Tuesday, August 15, 2017

DC Comics in 1973: "You will receive 15 consecutive issues for $3.00!"

This advertisement hails from the November/December 1973 issue of DC Comics' "Sword of Sorcery."1 Those were certainly the days! You could get, via National Periodical Publications, a 15-issue mail subscription to DC books such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Shazam for just $3.00. That worked out to just 20 cents per issue, which was the newsstand cover price. Which means postage and handling was free. Which was a pretty great deal, right?

Adjusted for inflation, a comic book that was 20 cents in 1973 should cost just $1.10 today. But most issues from DC and Marvel these days cost $3.99, which represents a pretty big spike and, some argue, has made comics much less of an affordable gateway to reading for kids than they were decades ago. The math doesn't seem to lie, in that respect.2

It's interesting to see the range of DC titles from 44 years ago. There was a whole series of Superman-related titles, including separate books for Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The latter was officially titled "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen." According to Wikipedia, "when Jack Kirby began working at DC in 1970, he insisted on this title [Jimmy Olsen] since it was the lowest selling in the publishing line and without assigned talent at the time so he would not cost someone their job. During his run, Kirby introduced many memorable characters, notably the Fourth World's New Gods, Darkseid, Project Cadmus and Transilvane."

Also on the list of comics in this advertisement is "Mister Miracle," a Kirby comic that lasted just 18 issues and would vanish after its February/March 1974 issue.3 "Mister Miracle" has gotten a revival this month in the talented hands of Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles. I highly recommend the first issue, if you're looking for something with some depth and mystery of storytelling.

DC was also still abundant in horror, romance and war titles in 1973, as you can see from the above list. The mystery/horror books ran especially deep, with the likes of Ghosts, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Phantom Stranger, The Unexpected, The Witching Hour, The Demon, Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion, Secrets of Sinister House and Weird Mystery Tales.

Wow! Now I kind of want to go back and check some of those out. It will probably cost me more than 20 cents an issue, though.

1. "Sword of Sorcery" featured the Fritz Leiber characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It ran for just five issues. On Fazing.com, an unofficial DC Comics fan-run magazine, David Luhn wrote the following about the series:
"Sword Of Sorcery began with much fanfare, expectation, and anticipation. With an incredible talent base and a large public wave of interest in this genre, DC Comics looked to cash in. Marvel Comics had proven viability with Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian, a very successful comic book. DC chose to adapt Fritz Leiber's stories of Fafhrd The Barbarian and The Gray Mouser. After a back-door introduction in Wonder Woman 202, the first official issue of Sword Of Sorcery debuted in early 1973. But, after a fantastic beginning in issues 1 through 3, and a promise of real development in issues 4 and 5, Sword Of Sorcery was abruptly canceled. ... [O]nly five issues. However, these are five exceptional issues. This was a truly inspired project that was never fully realized and canceled prematurely. And what did I tell you about that talent base? If you can find 'em, get them. You won't be disappointed."
Luhn details those five issues in his fully essay, which you should check out if you're interested.
2. Here's just one of the myriad articles on this topic. It's a Newsarama article by Vaneta Rogers titled "What Price Is Too High? Comics Retailers Talk Pricing & 2017 State of the Business."
3. That makes me wonder what happened with those $3.00 subscriptions when a book was cancelled before 15 new issues had been published.

1 comment:

  1. Item #9 is Shazam, which restarted publication in 1973, at the time this advertisement was published.

    Why bother paying 20¢ (or $1.10 or $3.99) when today you can read the first reissued edition here: http://www.pankoland.com/sentuki/Shazam-01_1973.pdf

    -- M.F.