1st Issue Special was a comics anthology series from DC Comics, done in a similar style to their Showcase series. It was published from April 1975 to April 1976. The goal was to showcase a new possible first issue of an ongoing series each month, with some issues debuting new characters and others reviving dormant series from DC’s past. No series were actually launched from 1st Issue Special but the Warlord made his first appearance in the title and the character’s ongoing series was already slated to debut a few months later.
Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a “grim avenger of the night”. O’Neil said his idea was “simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after.”
O’Neil and Adams first collaborated on the story “The Secret of the Waiting Graves” (Detective Comics #395, January 1970). Few stories were true collaborations between O’Neil, Adams, Schwartz, and inker Dick Giordano, and in actuality these men were mixed and matched with various other creators during the 1970s; nevertheless the influence of their work was “tremendous”. Giordano said: “We went back to a grimmer, darker Batman, and I think that’s why these stories did so well…” While the work of O’Neil and Adams was popular with fans, the acclaim did little to improve declining sales; the same held true with a similarly acclaimed run by writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers in Detective Comics #471–476 (August 1977 – April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992. Regardless, circulation continued to drop through the 1970s and 1980s, hitting an all-time low in 1985.
In the late 70’s conventional superheroes returned to the book, beginning behind the Spectre, first a three-issue run of Aquaman (issues #435–437, an early assignment for Mike Grell) and then a newly drawn 1940s Seven Soldiers of Victory script (issues #438–443). Aquaman was promoted to lead (issues #441–452), and backing him up were three-part story arcs featuring the Creeper (#445–447), the Martian Manhunter (#449–451), bracketed by issue-length Aquaman leads. He was awarded his own title and Superboy (#453–458) took over Adventure with Aqualad (#453–455) and Eclipso (#457–458) backups. Following this was a run as a Dollar Comic format giant-sized book (issues #459–466), including such features as the resolution of Return of the New Gods (cancelled in July–August 1978), “Deadman“, and the “Justice Society of America“.
In the early 80’s, George Pérez, Don Heck, and Rich Buckler would rotate as artist on the title. The double-sized anniversary issue #200 (March 1982) was a “jam” featuring a story written by Conway, a framing sequence drawn by Pérez, and chapters drawn by Pat Broderick, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Brian Bolland, and Joe Kubert. Bolland’s chapter gave the artist his “first stab at drawing Batman.” Pérez would leave the title with issue #200 to concentrate on The New Teen Titans although he would contribute covers to the JLAthrough issue #220 (November 1983). The 1982 team-up with the Justice Society in issues #207–209 crossed over with All-Star Squadron #14–15. A Justice League story by Gerry Conway and Rich Buckler originally intended for publication as an issue of All-New Collectors’ Edition saw print in Justice League of America #210–212 (January–March 1983).
Seeking to capitalize on the popularity of their other team books, which focused upon heroes in their late teens/early 20s, Gerry Conway and artist Chuck Patton revamped the Justice League series. After most of the original heroes fail to help fend off an invasion of Martians, Aquaman dissolves the League and rewrites its charter to allow only heroes who will devote their full-time to the roster. The new team initially consists of Aquaman, Zatanna, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, the Vixen, and a trio of teenage heroes Gypsy, Steel, and Vibe. Aquaman leaves the team after a year, due to resolving marital problems, and his role as leader is assumed by the Martian Manhunter.
The final storyline for the original Justice League of America series (#258–261), by writer J. M. DeMatteis and artist Luke McDonnell, concludes with the murders of Vibe and Steel at the hands of robots created by long-time League nemesis Professor Ivo, and the resignations of Vixen, Gypsy, and the Elongated Man during the events of DC’s Legends miniseries, which sees the team disband.
Mort Weisinger retired from DC in 1970 and his final issue of Action Comics was issue #392 (September 1970). Murray Boltinoff became the title’s editor until issue #418. Metamorpho was the backup feature in issues #413-418 after which the character had a brief run as the backup in World’s Finest Comics. Julius Schwartz became the editor of the series with issue #419 (December 1972) which also introduced the Human Target by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino in the back-up feature. Green Arrow became a backup feature in #421 and ran through #458, initially rotating with the Human Target and the Atom. Between issues #423 (April 1973) and #424 (June 1973), the series jumped ahead by one month due to DC’s decision to change the cover dates of its publishing line.
A new version of the Toyman was created by Cary Bates and Curt Swan in issue #432 (February 1974). Martin Pasko wrote issue #500 (October 1979) which featured a history of the Superman canon as it existed at the time and was published in the Dollar Comics format.
The superheroine Vixen made her first appearance in Action Comics #521 (July 1981). To mark the 45th anniversary of the series, Lex Luthor and Brainiac were both given an updated appearance in issue #544 (June 1983). Lex Luthor dons his war suit for the first time in the story “Luthor Unleashed!” and Brainiac’s appearance changes from the familiar green-skinned android to the metal skeletal-like robot in the story “Rebirth!”. Schwartz ended his run as editor of the series with issue #583 (September 1986) which featured the second part of the “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” story by Alan Moore and Curt Swan.
Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, writer/artist John Byrne relaunched the Superman franchise in The Man of Steel limited series in 1986. Action Comics became a team-up title with issue #584 (January 1987). The first Action Comics Annual was published in 1987 and featured Superman teaming with Batman in a story written by Byrne and drawn by Arthur Adams. A DC Comics Bonus Book was included in issue #599 (April 1988).
From May 24, 1988 – March 14, 1989, the publication frequency was changed to weekly, the title changed to Action Comics Weekly, and the series became an anthology. Prior to its launch, DC cancelled its ongoing Green Lantern Corps title, and made Green Lantern and his adventures exclusive to Action Comics Weekly.
The Sandman of the 1970s was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Issue #1 was intended as a one-shot, but five more issues and an additional story followed. After the first issue, the stories were written by Michael Fleisher. The second and third issues were illustrated by Ernie Chua. Inks were by Kirby, Mike Royer and, in the sixth issue, Wally Wood. All covers were by Kirby, and the fourth issue noted his return to the interior artwork on the cover.
This Sandman was originally intended to be the actual Sandman of popular myth, “eternal and immortal”, despite his superhero-like appearance and adventures. The Sandman is assisted by two living nightmares named Brute and Glob, whom he releases from domed cells with the help of a magic whistle. They are nuisances who beg for release, who are intent on hand-to-hand combat, but are implied to be relatively harmless and well-intentioned once freed. Using security monitoring devices, the Sandman can enter the “Dream Stream” or the “Reality Stream” (in which he acts like the superhero he looks like), and he carries a pouch of dream dust with which he can cause anyone to sleep and dream. The Sandman’s main task is protecting children from nightmare monsters within their dreams, especially one young boy named Jed, who lives with his grandfather, Ezra Paulsen, as well as to ensure that children have an appropriate level of nightmares rather than dealing with such anxieties in real life.
With issue #174, EC Comics veteran Joe Orlando was hired by DC to take over as editor of House of Mystery. As the Comics Code Authority was now being challenged by both DC and Marvel over content restrictions, the series returned to its overt horror themes. The first issue under Orlando would be a reprint issue of old horror/suspense stories, as the new direction would truly begin with #175 (July–August 1968). The issue would introduce a new figure to the series, Cain, the “able care taker” of the House of Mystery who would introduce nearly all stories that would run in the series before its cancellation. Cain would also host the spin-off humor series Plop! and later become a recurring character in Blue Devil and The Sandman.
Artist Bernie Wrightson‘s first professional comic work was the story “The Man Who Murdered Himself” which appeared in issue #179 (March–April 1969)
House of Mystery was in the Dollar Comics format for issues #251 (March–April 1977) to #259 (July–August 1978). House of Mystery featured stories by writers T. Casey Brennan (#260, 267, 268 and 274) and Scott Edelman (#257, 258, 260, 264, 266, 270, 272, 273). Orlando’s tenure as editor ended with #257 (March–April 1978).
As of #425 (December 1972), Adventure Comics theme changed from superhero adventure to fantasy/supernatural adventure. That issue debuted one new feature along with three non-series stories, the pirate saga “Captain Fear”. The next edition added a semi-anthology series, “The Adventurers’ Club”. Soon, editor Joe Orlando was trying out horror-tinged costumed heroes, first Black Orchid, then the Spectre. Before long, though, conventional superheroes returned to the book, beginning behind the Spectre, first a three-issue run of Aquaman (issues #435–437, an early assignment for Mike Grell) and then a newly drawn 1940s Seven Soldiers of Victory script (issues #438–443). Aquaman was promoted to lead (issues #441-452), and backing him up were three-part story arcs featuring the Creeper (#445–447), the Martian Manhunter (#449–451), bracketed by issue-length Aquaman leads. He was awarded his own title and Superboy (#453-458) took over Adventure with Aqualad (#453–455) and Eclipso (#457–458) backups. Following this was a run as a Dollar Comic format giant-sized book (issues #459-466), including such features as the resolution of the Return of the New Gods (cancelled in July–August 1978), “Deadman“, and “Justice Society of America“.
The title’s 500th issue (March 1981) featured stories by several well-known creators including television writer Alan Brennert and Walter B. Gibson best known for his work on the pulp fiction character The Shadow. Also used during the 1980s was the use of serialization of the main Batman story, with stories from Detective Comics and Batman directly flowing from one book to another, with cliffhangers at the end of each book’s monthly story that would be resolved in the other title of that month. A single writer handled both books during that time beginning with Gerry Conway and followed up by Doug Moench. The supervillain Killer Croc made a shadowy cameo in issue #523 (Feb. 1983). Noted author Harlan Ellison wrote the Batman story in issue #567.
Writer Mike W. Barr and artists Alan Davis and Todd McFarlane crafted the “Batman: Year Two” storyline in Detective Comics #575-578 which followed up on Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One“. Writer Alan Grant and artist Norm Breyfogle introduced the Ventriloquist in their first Batman story together and the Ratcatcher in their third (#585). Sam Hamm, who wrote the screenplay for Tim Burton‘s Batman, wrote the “Blind Justice” story in Detective Comics issues #598-600.