1972 was a pretty significant year for comics. While notable changes were underway among the publishers, one major milestone occurred outside of the industry and yet its repercussions were felt for decades. That event was the birth of yours truly.
DC was a very big year for DC, as change was truly in the air. The greatest irony in the National vs. Fawcett battle arose in 1972, as DC published a book headlined by the Big Red Cheese but couldn’t call it Captain Marvel. DC had also recently acquired the rights to the Edgar Rice Burroughs properties, and launched Tarzan, Korak and Weird Worlds. For the most part, Jack Kirby’s great Fourth World epic came to an end (Mister Miracle kept going for a little while longer), but two other great and more commercially successful Kirby titles were launched: Kamandi and The Demon. 1972 also saw the introduction of Jonah Hex as well as the first issue of the ongoing Swamp Thing series. After years of avoiding the axe, not even the O’Neil/Adams team could save Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which was cancelled with issue #89. Also feeling the axe's blade was Teen Titans. Reprints were everywhere as DC really started to tap into its rich history.
If 1972 was a big year at DC, it was even bigger at Marvel. A major changing of the guards took place as Roy Thomas replaced Stan Lee as Editor in Chief. Marvel tried to dominate spinner racks by introducing a gazillion of new titles including Defenders, Tomb of Dracula, Marvel Team Up, Luke Cage, Marvel Premiere, Chamber of Chills, Combat Kelly, The Cat, Doc Savage, Gunhawks, Journey Into Mystery, Jungle Action, Lil Pals, Marvel Triple Action, Night Nurse, Red Wolf, Shanna the She-Devil, Supernatural Thrillers, Werewolf By Night etc… You get the idea. There were somfirst appearances of note during the year including Jack Russell, Ghost Rider, Luke Cage and non-Him Adam Warlock. On the villainous side of the ledger, we met Wendigo and Hammerhead. As you may have noted, there are lots of books with a horror/mystery feel to them, but Marvel wouldn’t jump on the black and white magazine bandwagon in full force until the following year. Strangely enough, it was a pretty mediocre year in many of Marvel’s core titles including Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk.
At Warren, Creepy and Eerie had settled into a nice groove by 1972. Sure, they no longer features some of the great artists that made the early years so fantastic, but also gone were the constant reprints. A 2nd generation of artists had moved in and this included Mike Ploog, Tom Sutton, Frank Brunner, and Rich Corben. Warren had also tapped into the rich vein of overseas talent including Estaban Maroto and Luis Garcia and Auraleon. For the most part, it was same old, same old. The Spirit was still more than a year away. Both Skywald and Eerie Publications continued to crank out their rather oddly entertaining horror titles.
Charlton kept chugging along in 1972 with plenty of horror titles as well as some licensed properties. The Action Heroes were dormant and E-Man was still a year away. Some of the new series launched in 1972 included the fan favourite Midnight Tales, a few Flintstones related titles and mags dedicated to heartthrobs Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy. Like its competitors, Charlton seemed quite happy focusing on horror books, but it would be another couple of years before it added a handful of new horror titles.
In the zero sum world of comic book publisher, Gold Key had to find a way to fill the void left by the departure of the ERB titles. They had some success with Brothers of the Spear and Jungle Twins, as both lasted 17 issues. They also tapped in the Barbarian market, with Dagar the Invincible, which enjoyed an 18 issue run. For me, Gold Key’s real strength during the 70s was its family of horror titles. Once of their best, Grimm’s Ghost Stories made its debut in 1972, and enjoyed a 54 issue run.
Think things never change at Archie? Well, there were some subtle shifts in 1972 that are certainly worth noting. If you do a quick scan of some of their titles, you’ll notice that some of them are even getting in on the horror/mystery action. Truth be told, it all started with Josie and the Pussycats in late ’71 but really hit its stride in 1972. I actually think that this change had as much to do with the success of Scooby Doo as the horror trend in comics. The most interesting title launched in 1972 was Chilling Adventures in Sorcery As Told By Sabrina. This rather strange series was combined horrorand the Archie house style. It paved the way for the wonderful Gray Morrow edited Red Circle horror books. I'll do a piece on those titles one day.
So there you have it, a quick overview of a pretty busy year in comics. For more funnybook talk, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent