The 1980s saw radical revisions of Superman. DC decided to remove the multiverse in a bid to simplify its comics line. This led to the rewriting of the back story of the characters DC published, Superman included. John Byrne rewrote Superman, removing many established conventions and characters from continuity, including Superboy and Supergirl. Byrne also re-established Superman’s adoptive parents, The Kents, as characters. In the previous continuity, the characters had been written as having died early in Superman’s life (about the time of Clark Kent’s graduation from high school).
In need of a new secure headquarters, the Justice League moved into an orbiting satellite headquarters in Justice League of America #78 (February 1970). The Elongated Man, the Red Tornado, Hawkwoman, Zatanna, and Firestorm joined the team, and Wonder Woman returned during this period.
Len Wein wrote issues #100–114, in which he and Dillin re-introduced the Seven Soldiers of Victory in issues #100-102 and the Freedom Fighters in issues #107-108. In the fall of 1972, Wein and writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart crafted a metafiction an unofficial crossover spanning titles from both Marvel and DC. Each comic featured Englehart, Conway, and Wein, as well as Wein’s first wife Glynis, interacting with Marvel or DC characters at the Rutland Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont.
Beginning in Amazing Adventures #16 (by Englehart with art by Bob Brown and Frank McLaughlin), the story continued in Justice League of America #103 (by Wein, Dillin and Dick Giordano), and concluded in Thor #207 (by Conway and penciler John Buscema). As Englehart explained in 2010, “It certainly seemed like a radical concept and we knew that we had to be subtle (laughs) and each story had to stand on its own, but we really worked it out. It’s really worthwhile to read those stories back to back to back — it didn’t matter to us that one was at DC and two were at Marvel — I think it was us being creative, thinking what would be really cool to do.” Justice League of America #103 also featured the Justice League offering membership to the Phantom Stranger. Len Wein commented on the Phantom Stranger’s relationship with the JLA in a 2012 interview stating that the character “only sort of joined. He was offered membership but vanished, as per usual, without actually accepting the offer. Over the years, other writers have just assumed [he] was a member, but in my world, he never really said yes.” Libra, a supervillain created by Wein and Dillin in Justice League of America #111 (May–June 1974), would play a leading role in Grant Morrison‘s Final Crisis storyline in 2008.
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.
Barry Allen’s adventures continued in his own title until the event of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Flash ended as a series with issue #350. Allen’s life had become considerably confused in the early 1980s, and DC elected to end his adventures and pass the mantle on to another character. Allen died heroically in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (1985). Thanks to his ability to travel through time, he would continue to appear occasionally in the years to come.
Paul Levitz returned to write the series with #284. Pat Broderick and Bruce Patterson illustrated the title for a short time before Keith Giffen began on pencils, with Patterson, and then Larry Mahlstedt, on inks. The creative team received enhanced popularity following “The Great Darkness Saga“, which ran from #287; #290–294; and Annual #3, featuring a full assault on the United Planets by Darkseid. Comics historian Les Daniels observed that “Working with artist Keith Giffen, Levitz completed the transformation of Legion into a science-fiction saga of considerable scope and depth.”
The Legion celebrated issue #300 (June 1983) by revisiting the “Adult Legion” storyline through a series of parallel world short stories illustrated by a number of popular Legion artists from previous years. The story served to free up Legion continuity from following the “Adult Legion” edict of previous issues.
In 1980, Teen Titans relaunched as The New Teen Titans, aging the characters to young adulthood. Original members Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash were joined by new characters Cyborg, Starfire and Raven, as well as the former Doom Patrol member Beast Boy, as Changeling. The group had several encounters with the original Titans of Greek mythology, particularly Hyperion.
The team’s adversaries included Deathstroke the Terminator, a mercenary who takes a contract to kill the Titans to fulfill a job his son had been unable to complete. This led to perhaps the most notable Titans storyline of the era. 1984’s “The Judas Contract,” in Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 and Teen Titans Annual #3 featured a psychopathic girl named Terra with the power to manipulate earth and all earth-related materials. She infiltrates the Titans in order to destroy them. “The Judas Contract” won the Comics Buyer’s Guide Fan Award for “Favorite Comic Book Story” of 1984, and was later reprinted as a standalone trade paperback in 1988. Robin adopts the identity of Nightwing, while Wally West gives up his Kid Flash persona and quits the Titans. It also featured the introduction of a new member in Jericho, Deathstroke’s other son.
In 1979, The Unexpected converted to the Dollar Comics format and incorporated House of Secrets and The Witching Hour. Each “Unexpected” story would always include the word in its last panel. After the merge, this was only true of the Unexpected section; there would then be complete, ad-free issues of The Witching Hour, hosted by its witches, and The House of Secrets, hosted by Abel. The Witching Hour feature was alternated with Doorway to Nightmare starring Madame Xanadu, which appeared in issues #190, 192, 194, and 195.
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).
Each issue of Ghosts carried multiple stories of the supernatural. The stories were prefaced by a short description introducing the premise and ended with a summation of how a mysterious justice was dealt to the evildoers of the tale. The first issue of this series carried the singular title Ghost in its indicia, but everywhere else, including advance promotional house ads and even on its own cover, it was the plural Ghosts, as even the indicia would read from #2 on. Limited Collectors’ Edition #C–32 (Dec. 1974–Jan. 1975) reprinted stories from Ghosts #1, 3–6 and featured new material by Leo Dorfman and artists Gerry Talaoc, E. R. Cruz, and Frank Redondo.
The Swamp Thing character first appeared in House of Secrets #92 (June–July 1971). After the success of the short story in the House of Secrets comic, the original creators were asked to write an ongoing series, depicting a more heroic, more contemporary creature. InSwamp Thing #1 (October–November 1972) Wein and Wrightson updated the time frame to the 1970s and featured a new version character: Alec Holland, a scientist working in the Louisiana swamps on a secret bio-restorative formula “that can make forests out of deserts”. Holland is killed by a bomb planted by agents of the mysterious Mr. E (Nathan Ellery), who wants the formula. Splashed with burning chemicals in the massive fire, Holland runs from the lab and falls into the muck-filled swamp, after which a creature resembling a humanoid plant appears. Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, who co-created Man-Thing for Marvel Comics a year and a half earlier, thought that this origin was too similar to that of their character, and Wein himself had written a Man-Thing story that was published with a June 1972 cover date, but he refused to change the origin in spite of some cajoling by Conway, who was his roommate at the time. Marvel, however, never took the issue to court, realizing the similarity of both characters to The Heap.