Thursday, December 03, 2009

Three Of The Best

I wrote about one of these comics back in February 2007, but I've decided to revisit and update it, but hey, why not use some old text?

First up is an absolute classic. Titled 'The Phantom Zone' and published in October 1982, this 96 page giant reprints the entire Phantom Zone mini-series by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan, in glorious black and white! It rarely gets better in comics books - Gerber and Colan - and this one comic is proof why we Australians were utterly spoiled when it came to reprint comics. The American originals cost $0.60 each - that'd be an investment of $2.40 for the entire four issues. In colour. And, as we all know, Gene doesn't look anywhere near as sweet in colour as he does black and white, in magazine format to boot. So this was a cheaper, and, in my own opinion, a better way to obtain the story.

You can say what you want about the physical quality of the 1970s and '80s Australian reprint comics, and some of it might well be valid, but this issue of Superman The Comic is what they were all about. Everything that was cool about these reprints is perfectly summed up in these gigantic reprints. This issue also has a sealed section as well, just like a filthy porn section in an otherwise decent magazine.

According to the Australian DC reprint site, this book came out in December 1979, meaning that I more than likely wouldn't have been able to afford to buy it from the newsagents. We grew up poor and in 1979 $1 was a decent chunk of change. It could get me about 10 to 20 American comics, usually without covers, although I did manage to buy the entire run of Iron Fist once for roughly $2 the lot, from a second hand store that I used to ride 30 minutes to reach, or walk about 90 minutes. Or it would buy me 20 books from the local library when they'd do their book sales. They sold books for 5 cents each, any book, but only in the winter months. The trick was getting them home dry, meaning I'd buy about $1.50 worth and ride my bike home, one handed, looking like I'd either swallowed a sheep or was heavily pregnant. That's where I got my copy of All In Colour For A Dime - which I still have - and a pile of 1960s Alter Egos, which the dog promptly ate, barring one which the cat pissed on. Sorry Roy. Oh yeah, they're long gone. Faced with such stiff opposition buying a new comic off the racks was virtually a no-no, unless it was something special. I expect I'd have seen it and passed - the little digest sized Marvel reprints (which I'll start writing about soon) could be bought for about 40 to 50 cents each back then.

The book's contents are nothing short of amazing. Talk about bang for your buck! The Americans never got books this great. This comic reprinted material from the following American originals:
Superman Family #190 (the entire contents)
All-New Collector's Edition C-62
DC Special Series #5 (Two Great Superman Classics intro)
Superman #13
Superman #300
Superman Annual #1 (Map of Krypton)
Superman Annual #2 (How the Super-Family Came from Krypton; With Best Wishes from your Super-Pal, Superman)
the 1955 Kellogg’s Premium Superman Giveaway
Superman #245 (Superman Presents a Collection of Special Features)
Superman Family #172 (The Superman Family Album)
Superman #197 (Clark Kent’s Other Jobs)
Action Comics #334 (The Origin of Super-Horse)
Action Comics #347 (Supergirl's Boy Friends)
80 Page Giant Magazine #3 (When Superman Kissed Lois Lane)
Superboy #175 (The Superboy Legend)
Superman #45
Action Comics #395 (The Secrets of Superman's Fortress) and a handful of material that hasn't been sourced yet.

Better still, as if it could get any better, there was a sealed section. Sealed sections only appeared in magazines like Cleo, Playgirl and the like - centerfolds with mild nudity, but nudity all the same. Did it show if Kal-El indeed was a super man? Certainly the cover of the sealed section would suggest so - that's as racy an image as you're likely to see on a sealed section. Talk about phallic! Does this mean that this comic broke the final taboo? Of course not. The sealed section had oodles and oodles of super facts, ya dirty person you! Details about Superman's life and origins. Krypto! Comet! Supergirl! All clothed! Ummmm...Maps! You name it and it was probably in there. This is what comics were all about.

I doubt that anything in America came close to delivering this kind of material at such a low price. Granted a good 2/3 of the book was printed in glorious black and white, but the 64 page reprint from Superman Family #190 was printed in colour, albeit on cheap quality newsprint (as was the wont of the time) and hey - 128 pages of classic art from the likes of Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Bob Brown, Jim Mooney, John Forte, Pete Costanza, Kurt Schaffenberger and Al Plastino plus stories by Jerry Siegel and Gerry Conway (amongst others), a competition for both a three-in-one stereo and a state of the art cassette player, photos from the Superman movie and the sealed section - well what more could you want from your $1.

Now this one is the big one. The cover bears the boast that it's, "The Largest Comic Ever Published" and it might just be right. I've seen phone books thinner than this. Published in 1982, this would have to easily be one of the most impressive Australian DC reprints ever issued. It contains an amazing 26 separate stories. In order, they are:
DC Comics Presents #14 (Judge, Jury... And No Justice)
Action Comics #406 (The Ghost that Haunted Clark Kent)
Action Comics #509 (The Great Space-Travel Hoax)
Superman Family #204 (The Coupon Caper)
Superman Family #208 (Lois's Dream Scoop)
Superman Family #183 (The Day Lois Lane Walked All Over Superman)
Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #122 (The Day Lois Lost her Mind)
Superman Family #207 (The Exposé Exposé)
Superboy #180 (Prince of the Wolf-Pack)
The New Adventures of Superboy #19 (The Scrambled Egg-Hunt)
The New Adventures of Superboy #7 (This Planet Is Condemned)
The New Adventures of Superboy #12 (The Day of the Alien Scoop)
Adventure Comics #210 (The Super-Dog From Krypton)
Action Comics #344 (Supergirl's Super-Pet)
The New Adventures of Superboy #17 (It's a Dog's Life)
Action Comics #467 (A Superman's Best Friend is His Superdog)
Secret Origins #2 (The Supergirl from Krypton)
Superman Family #205 (The Earthquake Enchantment)
The Brave and the Bold #147 (Death-Scream From the Sky)
Superman Family #201 (Hang-Glide To Nowhere)
Superman Family #202 (The Reporter Nobody Knows)
Superman Family #171 (Jimmy Olsen, Boy Wonder)
Superman Family #199 (The Blackmailed By-Line)
Superman #270 (The Viking From Valhalla)
Action Comics #507 (The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent)
Action Comics #508 (The Secret World of Jonathan Kent)

There's a name for these volumes now: Showcase and Essentials. You see, Australia were producing these comic books decades before the Americans caught on. And they were damn cheap. Where else could you spend $2.20 and get such a huge volume featuring Curt Swan, Alex Saviuk, Joe Giella, Pete Costanza, Jim Aparo, Win Mortimer, Al Plastino, Romeo Tanghal, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dave Hunt, Bob Brown, Kim deMulder, Bob Oskner, Murphy Anderson and even Vinnie Colletta! And it includes one of Jim Mooney's best ever stories, Supergirl's Super Pet, featuring the debut of Streaky, the Super Cat. This was all housed beneath a Curt Swan penciled and Neal Adams inked square bound cover.

It doesn't get any better than these.

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