Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Demanded by whom? The oddity of DC at the end of ’67

Something was clearly going on with the comics DC put out in December, 1967 (cover dated February of the following year) but I’ve no idea what.

That month more than a dozen books included a brief reprint identified as a “Demand Classic” but I don’t think any of them were in response to reader demand. DC had, of course, been mining its history (as had Marvel) since the first Superman annual in 1960.

Annuals and the later 80-Page Giants, however, curated reprints with an eye to what readers would want. What Flash fan in 1965 wouldn’t snatch up a reprint of “Flash of Two Worlds” if they’d missed the original, for instance? To say nothing of those villainous mug-shots at the bottom of the cover.

Other annuals specialized in a theme: famous first, deadly villains, or the Batman Family.The Demand Classics, however, seemed to be mostly random stories from old anthology comics, hardly as carefully selected.

Mort Weisinger had been using reprints in backup slots — for Supergirl in Action Comics or for one of the stories in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, say — for a year or so, sometimes labeling them a “Hall of Fame Classic.” The Demand Classics, however, showed up in books by multiple different editors so something bigger was involved. The books involved used as much new material as normal so unlike Weisinger the editors weren’t cutting costs or saving themselves work.

Readers of the Murray Boltinoff-edited Bob Hope #109, got a reprinted “Liz” backup story from Leave it to Binky #51 along with a full length Bob Hope story (drawn by Neal Adams, no less). I’ve no idea who Liz was; I’m guessing a typical comics teen a la Patsy Walker, but I can’t find any source to confirm it.

In Boltinoff’s Challengers of the Unknown #60, we get a Challengers reprint, logically enough.Doom Patrol, however, has one of the random stories, a Tales of the Unexpected reprint about a man who gains superpowers from magical wigs.

Then there’s the Julius Schwartz books, Atom #35 had “Last Day on Earth,” in which a man who sacrifices his life on Earth and shrinks into a subatomic universe to be with the subatomic woman he loves. Obviously Schwartz put some thought into picking a story that fit with the series.

Batman #199 has a Robin backup, which also seems appropriate.

Detective #372 has an Strange Adventures reprint about a detective solving a case involving time travel.Flash #176 has a Mystery in Space reprint with nothing thematically relevant to a book about a super-speedster.Hawkman #26 has a story about a scientist who gives himself the power of flight and uses it against alien invaders.Justice League of America #60 has a Captain Comet story. Not relevant, but it was my first encounter with that 1950s superhero. I’d never even heard of him before.Under George Kashdan, Blackhawk #239 had a four-page war story backup.Kashdan’s Brave and the Bold #76 has a Robin backup that I quite like. It pits the Boy Wonder against 50-50 Finley, a mob boss who gives everyone who crosses him a 50-50 chance to live — but Robin spots that Finley’s rigging the game (one of those grifter Bat-villains I’ve written about) and outwits him.

The backup in this month’s Strange Adventures, edited by Jack Miller, is a random anthology story.Weisinger participated too. While this month’s Superman had a regular reprint, the reprints in Lois Lane and World’s Finest were both labeled Demand Classics, respectively a Lois reprint and a Superman reprint with Batman guest-starring. The reprints in some of Weisinger’s stable the following month (Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, World’s Finest) are the only subsequent “Demand Classics” I’ve found. Reprints after that — like I said, Weisinger ran a lot of them — are just reprints.

So what was up with all that? Was it a dry run for the mix of new material and reprints DC would try across the line in 1971? Was someone thinking that if reader response was favorable, DC could shrink the amount of new material? Were they planning to repeat the experiment but sales didn’t justify another go-round? I’m curious … but I have no answers.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan/Sheldon Moldoff, Neal Adams, Bob Brown (x2), Gil Kane, Infantino, Neal Adams, Infantino, Dick Dillin, Murphy Anderson, Dillin, Adams x3, Swan.



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