And so I'm back (from outer space) to share more comics goodness with you, dear readers. Some of you have been asking for less themes and more randomness, so, as always, I shall bow to the whim of the people. Today: a feature you may have seen on some of your back issues. Is it truly a reason to love comics? Find out inside.
123. Go-go checks
We've seen the go-go checkerboard pop up before in this column--thanks to gorilla witches, zoot suits, witch doctors, Jerry Lewis, Mike Sekowsky, and the like--but it hasn't gotten its own spotlight before!
What is the dreaded secret origin of these fascinating go-go checks? A classic Oddball Comics column tells us:
Those "Go-Go Checks" on the covers of many mid-1960s DC comic books were the creation of onetime DC Editorial Director Irwin Donenfeld. In an interview published in TwoMorrows' COMIC BOOK ARTIST, Donenfeld explains,
"In those days, comics were on the newsstands with vertical slots for the magazines. I wanted to have something that showed DC Comics were different than anything else. So I worked it out with Sol Harrison and out that checkerboard across the top. So wherever these magazines were displayed, you could always see a DC comic from way back. It was to distinguish us from anybody else."
Comic Book Spinner Rack tells us what the go-go checks are and where we can find them:
Known as Go-Go Checks, the checkerboard pattern that ran across the top of every issue for a year and a half was not simply a reflection of the era's pop-art movement. Since some newsstand racks displayed comics vertically, revealing only the upper portion of a book, the pattern was intended to make DC's comics stand out and thus, theoretically, increase sales. "What a ridiculous thing," Carmine Infantino declared. "It was the stupidest idea we ever heard because the books were bad in those days and that just showed people right off what not to buy." But Donenfeld disagreed: "I was trying to find a way of making DC Comics pop out on the newsstand. It wasn't a bad idea; it just didn't work the way I wanted it to. It didn't add anything, but I thought it might." In fact, total sales for the entire DC line during this period were at their peak for the 1960s, sales for Batman-related titles increased dramatically, and DC was outselling all of its competitors. The checks were most likely cancelled as a waste of precious cover space, and interestingly, sales did begin to stall about a year later.
Here's a go-go check checklist, courtesy of the Spinner Rack:
Action Comics #333-352Adventure Comics #341-358Adventures of Bob Hope #98-106Adventures of Jerry Lewis #93-101All-American Men of War #114-117Aquaman #26-34Atom #24-32Batman #179-193Blackhawk #218-234Brave and the Bold #64-72Capt. Storm #12-18Challengers of the Unknown #49-57Detective Comics #348-365Doom Patrol #102-112Falling In Love #82-92Flash #159-171Fox and the Crow #96-104G.I. Combat #117-124Girls' Love Stories #117-128Girls' Romances #115-126Green Lantern #43-54Hawkman #13-20Heart Throbs #100-108House of Mystery #157-168House of Secrets #77-80Inferior Five #1-3Justice League of America #43-54Metal Men #18-26Metamorpho #5-13Mystery in Space #106-110Our Army at War #165-183Our Fighting Forces #98-108Plastic Man #1-5Sea Devils #28-35Secret Hearts #110-120Showcase #61-69Star Spangled War Stories #126-133Strange Adventures #185-202Sugar and Spike #64-71Superboy #127-140Superman #185-198Superman's Girl-Friend Lois Lane #63-75Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #91-103Swing with Scooter #1-7Tales of the Unexpected #94-101Teen Titans #2-10Tomahawk #103-111Wonder Woman #161-171World's Finest Comics #156-167Young Love #54-62Young Romance #141-148
And here's a collection of some of my favorite go-go check-endorsed covers:
Are go-go checks really so great as to be a reason to love comics? Clearly, I think so. They're total comics kitsch-- a masthead for books that held crazy stories and wild ideas. If you dig up a comic with the checkerboard pattern at the top, you've found a damn fun comic.
The go-go checks have appeared here and there since their primary era faded. Usually, it's in a throwback to the old days, like this Radioactive Man cover from Bongo. The people bringing the checks back must be looking back on them not as a silly footnote in comics history, but as a little slice of fun from good days gone by. That's how I choose to see them, too. How about you?