And yes, Mighty Samson #32 was released in a three-pack, I didn’t mention that in the body of the post.

§ December 19th, 2022 § Filed under publishing § 20 Comments

So one of the funnybooks I acquired in that recently-purchased collection was this:


I didn’t pay it much mind at the time, because “oh hey it’s another Mighty Samson comic, no biggie.” But taking a closer look it has this blurb at the top of the front cover:


…my initial thought was “is this a comment on the fact that Mighty Samson was, against all odds, still running?” But no, this is in fact a series called Gold Key Champion, one that I really can’t recall seeing before (or I did see before, at some point at the previous place of employment, and just don’t remember).

Well, sort of a series, anyway, as it ran two whole issues, of which the Might Samson installment was the second. And as I was pricing it up, I saw the note in the Overstreet Price Guide that it was “half-reprint,” which intrigued me. A look at the Grand Comic Database entry shows that the cover story “The Night Glowers,” illustrated by Don Heck, is new to this publication. Said cover appears to be new to this comic as well.

This comic was released in 1978, between issue #31 in 1976 (which has new material) and #32 in 1982 (reprinting issue #3 from 1965, but with a new cover by Dan Spiegle). I am presuming this new Don Heck-illustrated story was maybe…unused inventory that was put in this Gold Key Champion comic, published to see if there was still a market for these Samson comics? He wasn’t the artist when the series left off, so I don’t know if he’d drawn the story for publication in 1976, or was hired to draw either a new or inventory script for the ’78 release. I’ve no idea, but I can imagine those Mighty Samson completists suddenly alarmed that there’s this other comic outside the main series with new work.

Issue #1 of Gold Key Champion, by the way, features Lost in Space (the Space Family Robinson original-to-comics version, not the “Danger Will Robinson!” TV one – here’s an explanation). Again, it’s half-reprint, with a new story by Gaylord Du Bois and Dan Spiegle, and I also don’t know if this was produced specifically for this book or if it was leftover inventory. Du Bois and Spiegle were the creative team when Space Family Robinson Lost in Space ended with #37 in 1973, so was Du Bois’s story in GKC1 sitting in a file cabinet somewhere for Spiegle to come back and draw five years later? Did they both come back to do a new story? Or was the whole thing ready to go in ’73 and not published ’til 1978? I’m guessing the last.

Anyway, wasn’t that all interesting? …Okay, I know, but I thought it was neat and wanted to ponder a bit about this comic here.

• • •

Don’t forget, I’m still taking your 2023 comic industry predictions! Where are we headed? What’s going to happen? OH MY GOD WHY IS EVERYTHING ON FIRE? Feel free to leave them in the comments to this entry and I’ll cover ’em in January 2024! (And I’ll start going over your 2022 predictions in just a few short weeks!) Thanks, pals!

20 Responses to “And yes, Mighty Samson #32 was released in a three-pack, I didn’t mention that in the body of the post.”

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    In fact, it *was* interesting. But I’m also very weird.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Perhaps Mark Evanier might have answers to your “Gold Key Champion” questions.

    It is interesting to learn that Don Heck did a bit of work for Gold Key.

    Assuming that Dynamite still holds the license to the Gold Key characters, I wish they would just hire Don Glut to write some more The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor stories–and maybe some new Tragg and the Sky Gods, and Dagar the Invincible stories as well. And if there’s any unused inventory art from the Seventies by the late, great Jesse F. Santos, publish that as well!

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    This was not Don Heck’s only work for Gold Key. He also drew a few issues of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

    Today’s bit of comics history: For awhile, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was not only Gold Key’s best selling comic, it outsold anything published by Marvel.

  • Andrew says:

    The dialog ‘you’re going to make me angry’ said by a big buff guy makes me wonder if they weren’t trying to give it Incredible Hulk TV show recognition.

    true story: my sister (who got me to stop reading Harvey by insisting I pick up a three pack of Action/Flash/JLA… Action had a character saying “Superman is the PITS”… ‘it’s the pits’ was her catch phrase at the time.. hence why I guess I’ve been a DC fan, not a Marvel fan) had exactly one comic – Gold Key’s Star Trek #40 which I used throughout high school to trace the size of a comic book for my homemade comics. I just looked it up and comics.org lists “Star Trek” as a Western… which actually is sorta kinda correct, I suppose… which makes me think the page was created by a true fan who knew the show’s history.

    I want to go on record as not saying anything mean about Don Heck’s late 70s Flash art; please pat me on the back. :)

  • Donald G says:

    No, Gold Key was an imprint of Western Publishing. Western Publishing was the publisher of record on the Indicia. Comics.org isn’t classifying the Gold Key Star Trek comics as cowboy and Indians western, but as being published by Western Publishing.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    The whole subject of comic book artists whose careers began in the Golden Age and/or Atomic Age but who kept cranking out comic art well into the late Bronze Age and/or Copper Age is a contentious one.

    I can recall being an opinionated teenager(now I’m an opinionated middle aged man…so things haven’t really changed too much!) and not liking the art of many older artists because it didn’t fall into the Neal Adams/John Byrne/George Perez/Frank Miller realms of coolness…but with the passage of time and a bit more comics history and a bit more humanity one sees that many of the old timers were coming from the Milton Caniff school of illustration (Don Heck included) and weren’t super keen on drawing superheroes. So, my opinion of Don Heck’s art has increased over the decades. Some of Heck’s best early art can be found in Pre-Code Horror comics which keep escalating in value; he’s also pivotal to the early Marvel Age with Avengers, Iron Man, etc., art. I do recall enjoying his work on Gerry Conway’s Steel for DC Comics, right around the time of the DC Implosion. I also think Heck’s JLA run, mostly inked by Romeo Tanghal, is quite good—and goes to show the importance of a great inker.

    I think late period Don Heck on The Flash is preferable to late period Carmine Infantino on The Flash–although Infantino in his prime was a really talented artist.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Turan: THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was not only Gold Key’s best selling comic, it outsold anything published by Marvel.”

    WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

    Sean Mageean: “Gerry Conway’s Steel”

    That was good, but short-lived series!

  • philfromgermany says:

    Mighty Samson is such a great title. I don’t usually like “Oh so crazy”-Comics like Axe Cop etc, but Samson is mindmelting! It has pterodactyl-jetplane hybrids and other brainblasts! Highly recommended!

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    “Turan: THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was not only Gold Key’s best selling comic, it outsold anything published by Marvel.”

    WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.”

    This is surprising only if you presume that 1) the history of comics has always been a battle between DC and Marvel, with all the other companies being of no consequence, and 2) superhero comics have always been the only comics that matter, and no one but a few miserable losers ever read any other kind. And, of course, many comics fans today presume just that.

    Anyway, here are the numbers for 1967:
    https://www.comichron.com/yearlycomicssales/postaldata/1967.html
    As you will see, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. comes in at #11, while the highest ranking Marvel title is SPIDER-MAN at #14 (below another Gold Key title, TARZAN). And note that all of these are well below ARCHIE (#5).

    The second-best selling Marvel title is FANTASTIC FOUR, at #17–below BETTY & VERONICA. THOR is third, at #21–below WALT DISNEY’S COMICS & STORIES, DENNIS THE MENACE, and TREASURE CHEST (primarily sold in Catholic schools, though one drug store in my home town sold it). You have to scroll past three more Archie comics, UNCLE SCROOGE, and THE FLINTSTONES to find the next Marvel comic, DAREDEVIL. LIFE WITH ARCHIE outsells THE AVENGERS, and BUGS BUNNY outsells X-MEN (which just barely outsells SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON).

    Getting back to the original subject of this post, we find MIGHTY SAMSON outselling AQUAMAN, GREEN LANTERN, THE ATOM, and WONDER WOMAN.

    Actually, you can push all these numbers back by one if you count MAD as a comic. It was selling over a million copies an issue, way over anything DC was doing.

    To sum up: The actual history of comics is not what the kids today think it is.

    To sum:

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    This may really blow your mind: In 1961, the top-selling comic was UNCLE SCROOGE. The best-selling Marvel comic that year was TALES TO ASTONISH, clocking in at #40, below SUGAR & SPIKE.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    One last observation: We know how well THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. sold because it was one of Gold Key/Western Publishing’s longer-running TV adaptations–22 issues over four years–providing an opportunity for circulation numbers to be published in the annual publisher’s statement of ownership. Most of the company’s TV-based comics had much shorter runs, sometimes only one or two issues, a fact that seems to have had more to do with company policy (Western was famously conservative about committing to new series) than with sales. In other words, we cannot take for granted that GOMER PYLE and THE GOVERNOR AND J.J. were poor sellers. They might actually have been outselling much of the Marvel line.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Turan, Emissary of the Fly World:

    Interesting information! I’d heard that Dell Comics was the top seller for decades, before Gold Key/Western split from Dell. And it makes sense, what with Dell at various times having the Disney characters license, Popeye, Merry Melodies, Tarzan, Roy Rogers, and so on.

    But also, wasn’t Atlas/Marvel’s problem that at some point in the late 1940s or early 1950s it had lost its distributor and Martin Goodman had to rely on National/DC, which was only willing to distribute a handful of Atlas/Marvel comics?

  • Daniel T says:

    “I can recall being an opinionated teenager(now I’m an opinionated middle aged man…so things haven’t really changed too much!) and not liking the art of many older artists because it didn’t fall into the Neal Adams/John Byrne/George Perez/Frank Miller”

    When I was a kid, me and the only other kid I knew who was as into comics as I was thought the only artist worse than Jack Kirby was Steve Ditko.

    Now my estimation of Kirby is STILL increasing–usually after each issue of Jack Kirby Collector comes out, and I think Amazing Spider-Man should’ve been cancelled after issue 38. The work Ditko did for himself is more personal and intriguing than almost all of the 90s-era autobio alternative comics artists.

    But I remain not a big fan of any of Heck’s superhero work. Looking at his earlier work it really stands out how uninterested he was in his DC output.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Well, being critical of my younger self now, I would also say that late period Neal Adams and Frank Miller are very different from the work they produced in their prime. There has been a bit of a shift with Byrne’s style as well. I think Perez still maintained his amazing style up until the end. Jerry Ordway has also remained a consistently great draftsman and artist.

    Jack Kirby was a force of nature! I always thought that Ditko, beyond having studied under Jerry Robinson, brought a lot of tropes from German Expressionst art to his comic making–his characters almost always exude a high degree of angst. It’s really too bad that DC didn’t let Ditko draw some more Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, or Question stories once the Charlton characters had been acquired. And speaking of Charlton Comics, the page rate may have been low, but at least Ditko could create there without being micromanaged.

    Daniel T:

    As for not being a fan of Heck’s superhero work, check out Uncanny X-Men #64 –the first appearance of Sunfire–where Tom Palmer inks over Don Heck and makes the art pop in a quasi-Neal Adams style.
    ___________________________________________

    Also, RIP Terry Hall of The Specials.

  • Andrew says:

    Oh, Donald, I feel like such a goofball! lol Of course I should know better – not sure why my mind saw it that way! Thanks for the clarification! (still chuckling!) :)

  • Sean Mageean says:

    As Star Trek was mentioned earlier in the thread, here’s a link to a kinescope of “Space Command” — a Canadian pre-Star Trek sci-fi show from the ’50s which had James Doohan as one of the cast members. Apparently Shatner also appeared in one episode, but most of the episodes are assumed lost at this point.

    https://youtu.be/N3M3IgG3kpI

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    “But also, wasn’t Atlas/Marvel’s problem that at some point in the late 1940s or early 1950s it had lost its distributor and Martin Goodman had to rely on National/DC, which was only willing to distribute a handful of Atlas/Marvel comics?”

    As I recall the story from the Sean Howe book, this occurred in 1958 when their previous distributor went bankrupt and Atlas/Marvel signed a 10-year contract with DC to distribute I think 8 titles a month. During the post-Comics Code doldrums in the 1950s this was more than enough for Atlas. But when Marvel titles started picking up the 1960s, it really did hamper their output for a few years. It also led to the Marvel “split” books like Strange Tales, where half of the title was dedicated to Dr. Strange and the other half to Nick Fury. Once Marvel was able to move to a new distributor, all those characters in the split books got their own titles.

    If anything, though, I think the restricted output actually goosed Marvel sales. Notice that half those split book characters saw their new titles cancelled within a couple years.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    “It also led to the Marvel “split” books like Strange Tales, where half of the title was dedicated to Dr. Strange and the other half to Nick Fury. Once Marvel was able to move to a new distributor, all those characters in the split books got their own titles.

    If anything, though, I think the restricted output actually goosed Marvel sales. Notice that half those split book characters saw their new titles cancelled within a couple years.”

    I assume the logic Marvel was using was “If we give the characters now sharing a title their own comics, it will double sales, because the people now buying TALES OF SUSPENSE will buy both IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA.” In that case, it probably worked as planned, given the longevity of those two titles. However, I have often wondered if, in the case of STRANGE TALES, it actually halved sales (not literally halved, but you get the idea). “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Doctor Strange” were such different types of stories that it seems quite possible that many people were buying the comic for only one, not the other. In that case, when the two series became two comics, some of the readers might have gone with only one. That would go some way to explain why both comics were canceled after only fifteen issues.

    (It need not be the only reason. In the case of FURY, quite clearly no one knew what to do when Steranko quit after the fifth issue, and I can imagine that the meandering that followed drove many readers away. There may even have been some who quit after the sixth issue, in disgust as what may be the most dishonest cover in the history of comics.)

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Regarding Strange Tales, I think that after Ditko split, Doctor Strange took a hit–despite Bill Everett, Marie Severin, Dan Adkins, etc. trying to do a pseudo-Ditko.

    Once Strange Tales morphed into Doctor Strange (with issue no. 169–even though later on it came back with Brother Voodoo as Strange Tales no. 169) and Gene Colan and Tom Palmer came on board, their artistic greatness did not try to replicate Ditko’s style, but instead took it down their own dynamic road — but then Roy Thomas
    wanted to re-imagine Doctor Strange as a masked Doctor Fate knock-off, which probably helped tank sales.

    It’s too bad Steranko didn’t continue on Nick Fury, but I guess he was busy writing The Steranko History of Comics volumes 1 & 2 (will we ever get more volumes? …it would have been cool if he had covered the Silver Age as well…) and starting up Supergraphics.

    Apparently Jim Lawrence, who had been writing Doctor Strange for awhile in Strange Tales, also wrote some James Bond newspaper comic strips from the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies–including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” “The Living Daylights,” “Octopussy,” and “The Spy Who Loved Me”–so it seems that he would have been a natural to take over scripting Nick Fury after Steranko split–and Dan Adkins (having studied under Wally Wood) would have been a better art choice than Frank Springer.
    Actually, if Marvel had been able to get Wood to draw Fury it would have been even cooler–but I suppose he was still at Tower helming the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents at the time. Also, imagine if Gil Kane or Neal Adams had been brought on to draw Nick Fury.

    It is interesting that Mighty Samson outsold Aquaman, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Wonder Woman…I guess Western/Gold Key had really great distribution going on as well as benefiting from being descended from Dell
    Comics…as Dell Comics were known as wholesome comics…don’t think Dell ever bothered with having the Comics Code Seal of Approval on its books.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Turan: “superhero comics have always been the only comics that matter”

    Well, I knew THAT wasn’t true, it was war, westerns, and horror for quite some time, after the initial popularity of superheroes wore off, post WW2.

    “In 1961, the top-selling comic was UNCLE SCROOGE.”

    That DOESN’T surprise me.

    Sean Mageean: “And speaking of Charlton Comics, the page rate may have been low, but at least Ditko could create there without being micromanaged.”

    One of my old favorites is an issue of THE MANY GHOSTS OF DR GRAVES that ditko did.

    “Tom Palmer inks over Don Heck”

    Tom Palmer made EVERYONE look better!

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