Just ramblin’ about the past.

§ September 22nd, 2023 § Filed under collecting, dc comics § 17 Comments

I miss being able to flip open a comics ‘zine and seeing a pure and simple news blurb like this:

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like reading about scandals and shenanigans in the comics industry as much as the next guy, but it’s…just nice where the item is entirely “this dude got a job on this comic.”

And whatta comic it was:

I bought this new off the rack in 1981, where 12-year-old me was still learning about the back continuity of DC’s heroes. And Tales of the Green Lantern Corps went deep into the history of that particular franchise. Between this, reprints of older stories in DC’s digests, and seeing that Golden Age/Silver Age GL team up against Krona on the early Nickelodeon show Video Comics, I knew pretty much everything I needed to know about Green Lantern.

I really ate up that stuff as a young Mikester, trying to find out about the histories of all these characters. It’s probably why I really appreciated Roy Thomas’ work on DC’s Golden Age characters at the time, as that fan feared no footnotes, exposited every exposition. I loved it all. Now, going back as Old Mikester, approaching it as storytelling versus an educational textbook, that early ’80s Golden Age material doesn’t go down quite as smoothly, but I’ll always appreciate the lessons of Roy ‘n’ pals.

Those aforementioned digests helped a lot too, reprinting from DC’s vast back catalog in themed releases…”here’s the Justice League one, here’s one with a bunch of secret origins, here’s one with Batman villains.” I grabbed those whenever I could. Even if they weren’t necessarily “educational” in the sense of explaining pertinent details of the past, it was still fun to see these tales of yesteryear, and even so E. Nelson Bridwell (or someone) usually had a small text piece providing historical context for the contents.

Sometimes the digests were like mini-graphic novels, like this one which included this whole “Batman – Murderer!” storyline. Or this whole “Warlord versus his arch-nemesis Deimos” one.

And then, going back to supplying some background to their currents series, there’s that one pictured to the right…a digest focused on the Justice Society, released shortly after the debut of of Roy Thomas’s Golden Age-centric All-Star Squadron, It not only featured an origin of the Justice Society, but also included the first Per Degaton story, a character that would again rise to some prominence during the ’80s.

Look, I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up when I started writing this post…it’s just that seeing that ancient news blurb made me nostalgic for a simpler time as a comic collector. One where I actually did wonder who was going to write/draw what title, and one where I still eagerly awaited any glimpses into the past either via reprints or flashbacks.

news blurb from Comics Feature #9 (1981)

17 Responses to “Just ramblin’ about the past.”

  • Chris G says:

    I wish the current market would bear reprint books along the lines of the digest. It’s great that current books get collected and reprinted but it would also be nice to pick up a book that was just Hal Jordan/Alan Scott teamups or times Superman met historical figures or whatever.

  • Yeah, I can remember buying 80pg.(sic) Giants and finding an old reprint in the back and feeling like I had a peek into something big that I had missed…

  • Chris says:

    In Australia in the 70s and early 80s, DC comics weren’t commonly available (a5 least not the big guns like Batman and Supes, Sgt Rock, Firestorm, Warlord andAll Star Squadron were weirdly enough). There’s was a republished here called Murray that would put out these large bw mags that were a grab bag of DC history. Earlier issues were pretty random, I remember a favourite of mine contained two Legion of Superheoes stories from the 70s (Cockrum era) a 60s Doom Patrol and a 1940s Seven Soldiers of Victory! At the time I had no idea of the vintages of the stories, to me they were just good (if a little weird to a kid used to Marvel Spider-Man) comics. As I said, all bw, but about 1.5 more in height/width to the normal colour comics. Around the late 70s they transitioned into concentrating on individual comics rather than a mixed bagged. They were how I was first introduced to The New Teen Titans, Dial H for Hero and Perez era Justice league. They ran to about 100 pages I guess and were priced about the same as a normal colour comic at the time (approx 50 cents). There were also similar Marvel bw reprints as well, and Marvel bw reprints in digest size.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    A rambling comment on a rambling post, but I’m so old I can remember when I finally learned Batman’s origin — on the inside front cover of BATMAN vs THE HULK. Can you imagine that now, a big comic fan NOT knowing about Crime Alley?

    (And exactly how many people named “Chris” are regular commenters? Is there enough to form the Justice Legion of Chris?)

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Yeah, I don’t know when comics (especially DC) became scared of their history. One of the real joys back in the late Bronze Age of the early 80s (my Golden Age) was seeing all these footnotes, or reading all these references, and realizing the characters had lives and events that stretched back and were there for me to discover. Over the past, what, 20-25 years, it feels like they’ve taken the “every comic is someone’s first” to an extreme and relaunch at the earliest instant. But I’m a Legion fan, so what do I know? ;-)

  • Thom H. says:

    Yeah, I think DC was worried about confusing readers with past versions of their characters, especially after the various Crises were supposed to streamline things.

    More recently, there’s the idea that Comics Should Be Taken Seriously for some unknown reason (movies?). Like, Superman can fly to distant space but only to get PTSD, not to grab some crystal flowers for his date with Lois.

  • JohnJ says:

    For me, the most interesting comics in each month’s solicitations for DC and Marvel are which comics get Facsimile editions. like the new DC listings have Batman #4 from 1940, Doom Patrol #99, Adventure Comics #160 and the original Wonder Woman #1. Seeing these old books, originally 10 cents and now $3.99 or more at least demonstrate how to write complete one-issue stories. I’m done with following a story through a dozen issues of books I’m not interested in.

  • Chris K says:

    Another Chris reporting in…

    My absolute favorite reprint project from this era was the ADVENTURE COMICS digest, which was a treasure trove of great material: chronological Legion reprints (with annotations by Paul Levitz), Skeates-Aparo Aquaman, Fox-Anderson (and later, Neal Adams) Spectre, Grey Morrow Zatanna… all new to me, and all great. Unfortunately, I was only ever able to find it semi-regularly, and I’m still missing issues.

    My dream reprint project from DC (for an audience of me only, basically) would be a straight-up reissue of this run, but at regular comic-size, since my eyes can barely handle the digest reductions anymore (which is the main reason I haven’t tracked down the missing issues; I’d almost be willing to pay the high prices they go for these days, but not if I can’t read them!)

  • googum says:

    That Blue Ribbon digest with the Warlord? About the coolest damn thing ever. They got like most of 10 comics in that one! Or the high-points, anyway.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Mike Sterling

    Great topic for a posting…and so much to unpack. But I think the comics ‘zine and you both buried the lead–which was the awesome Brian Bolland cover art on those Tales of The Green Lantern Corps issues. I don’t think I knew who Brian Bolland was before this mini-series, but I certainly tri d to pick up anything he drew after seeing these …including Camelot 3000, Killing Joke and JLA no. 200.

    Also, if memory serves, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps was only DC’s third foray into mini-series, being published on the heels of Untold Legend of the Batman–which boasted John Byrne’s first DC pencil job (inked by the great Jim Aparo), and World of Krypton.

    I think, indirectly, Archie Comics is to be thanked for coming up with the whole digest-sized reprint comics concept, which DC ended up using as well. I agree with Cassandra Miller, Chris K., and others that those Adventure Comics digests in particular had great content…including some new stories in them of the Challengers of the Unknown, as I recall, and classic Silver Age Aquaman, Legion of Super-Heroes, etc , etc. Also great news covers by Keith Giffen, Gil Kane, Ed Hannigan, etc.

    As to Walaka of Earth Two’s comments, I think that whoever came up with the whole 80 pg. Giants concept (Mort Wisenger? Ed Hamilton, Julius Schwartz?) in the Silver Age paved the way, and then Carmine Infantino extended that idea by printing reprints in the back of early Bronze Age DC comics as well as by creating the titles Secret Origins and Wanted–which reprinted selected Golden and early Silver Age stories. The fact that Len Wein and other up and coming young writers were tapping into Golden Age characters in the early ’70s–including the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the newly created Freedom Fighters (using G A. Quality Comics characters) in those great JLA/JSA annual team-ups also played a role in tapping into nostalgia for reprinting G.A. material.

    I also agree with Chris K. that DC should reissue those Adventure Comics…but in standard size, or, even better, in treasury size (for about $10 or $15 a pop)…or instead of Black Label, these could be “Blue Ribbon Label” but published in the same format and at the same price point as Black Label Books.

    I totally agree with everything John J. Wrote. Facsimiles are the way to go for me…modern DC –and Marvel–is just too hackneyed… with constant reboots, generally poor writing and art, no continuity, etc., etc. DC ought to be going for the Penguin Classics deal that Marvel just inked. Keep all the great old stuff in print as facsimile editions and curated collections.. there’s over eighty years of material!

    @ Chris:

    I’m really curious about those Australian black and white eprints published by Murray..can you send Mike Sterling any cover art of some of those anthology issues you wrote of so he might post it? Did they feature new cover art by DC staffers or Australian freelancers, or just reprint various DC Comics covers?

    Finally, can we just take a minute to appreciate that great George Perez JSA digest cover? Notice, too, that Perez drew the Earth-Two Batman..this is possibly the only time that he ever drew the Earth-Two Batman ( who had already been killed off before that digest reprint issue cane out). Also, I think we owe a debt to E. Nelson Bridwell and Roy Thomas for being super-fans who ultimately made comics better–even if opinions may be divided as to how great a read All-Star Squadron is …at least Thomas cared enough to shape Earth-Two’s retroactive continuity respectfully while trying to remain true to the characters…and also by creating legacy characters with the introduction of Infinity, Inc.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “(And exactly how many people named “Chris” are regular commenters? Is there enough to form the Justice Legion of Chris?)”

    Should that be the Chris League of America?

    “Brian Bolland ”

    I love his Judge Dredd art- esp covers- so much! No one else can draw Dredd like Bolland!


    I used to love the digests as a kid- they’re a bit hard to read nowadays!
    Marvel had a few of those too, in reglar paperback book format, and the same style/size as the DC & Archie ones.

  • DavidG says:

    Like one of the Legion of Super Chrises I too grew up on Murray comics reprints of DC comics. Here’s one I owned at one point:


    They were great – much cheaper than the US imports, and 60 to 100 pages. I read a ton of Kirby, plus lots of LSH, Batman etc. 12 year old me was often confused by the sudden switch from Swan to Grell Legion in the same issue, and it was impossible to follow stories from issue to issue, they seemed to be completely random. But I had a 3 foot high pile of them that I read to death. It was a shame when they suddenly disappeared in the mid 80s. I suspect the growth of specialist comic book shops killed them.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ DavidG:

    Is the character that’s part of the Murray Comics logo supposed to be a wombat wearing a hat or a fat cat or what …?

  • DavidG says:

    I believe he was supposed to be a cat:


  • Sean Mageean says:


    Thanks for the clarification…I went to the link…pretty interesting… especially seeing the cover gallery with several Australian characters…Captain Atom, Cat Man, Shadow…which had nothing to do with the American characters of the same name. The Golden Age/Atomic Age Sir Falcon comics also look intriguing.

  • DK says:

    Lots of “Chris” posters because they are all following the blog from parallel dimensions.

    You see, Chris is on Infinite Earths.

    Anyway, those Digest sized reprints were essential for my edification as a budding DC fan through the gateway of the LSH, which had a trillion characters and decades of history to learn about.

    Gonna be a DC fan the hard way, fellas. THIS IS MY VOW.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Link to a recent Roy Thomas interview: