Scott's Classic Comics Corner: DC's Return to Space

Midway through 1979, DC comics headed to outer space. Perhaps inspired by the popularity of Star Wars (as well as the new Star Trek movie) DC launched the two new science fiction titles and introduced space adventures into some of their other series. Let's have a look at how the short-lived space bug of mid-1979 impacted DC:

DC launched a brand new science-fiction anthology series with Time Warp #1 cover dated October-November, 1979. If you’ve never read an issue of this 5 issues series, I urge you to track down a copy and give it a shot. Like any anthology series, some stories are better than others but the overall quality is quite high. It’s also an art lovers dream as there is tons of material by Steve Ditko, Don Newton, Jerry Grandenetti and Tom Sutton – not to mention the gorgeous Mike Kaluta covers. It’s a shame that the Dollar Comics experiment failed.

A couple of months after Time Warp's demise, DC attempted another science fiction anthology, this time in a smaller format, by bringing back the much beloved Mystery in Space. The first issue alone features artwork by Dan Spiegle, Steve Ditko, Marshall Rogers and Jim Aparo. Subsequent issues feature everything from very work Rick Veitch work to latter day Johnny Craig work. Much was made about the re-launch by DC of its flagship science fiction series but, sadly, it only lasted seven issues. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the stories were part of the Time Warp inventory as they are quite similar in tone, although not quite as strong. It would be tremendous if someone at DC saw fit to combine the two series and put out a TPB.

The move to outer space also took hold in some of DC’s more mainstream titles. With Green Lantern #123 (December, 1979), a new era is launched with Denny O’Neil and Joe Staton at the helm. Oliver and Dinah are gone, and Hal starts spending a lot more time in space. The mythos behind the Guardians is really developed during this period. As a child, I devoured the adventures of the interstellar Green Lantern.

The very next month saw the publication of Legion of Super-Heroes #259 (January, 1980), the Legion officially took over this long running title. Gerry Conway’s stories were certainly space-centric, but they really paled in comparison to what Paul Levitz and company would develop a couple of years later. Conway had a rotation of artists, but most of these stories were penciled by the lacklustre (IMHO) Jimmy Janes. Thankfully, there’s at least one issue drawn by the vastly underappreciated James Sherman during this run. In an attempt to show just how space-related they were, they group was often proclaimed to be ‘Super-Stars o f the Far Flung Future’ and ‘The Future’s Star-Spanning Super-Teens’. While this stretch of stories wasn’t really all that different than what had gone before, the separation of Superboy and Legion was a symbolic move by DC and opened the door for a new Legion era.

Adventure Comics had a tumultuous 70s with a revolving door of headliners. Beginning with Adventure Comics #467 (January, 1980) Plastic Man was select to co-star with a brand new character. This Starman was the Prince Gavin version co-created by Paul Leviz and Steve Ditko. This character might have confused a few young readers who remember the Starman from 1st Issue Special, but James Robinson would try to sort all of that stuff out in the 90s.

Outer space was a theme in many of DC books during this short period. The JLA had several satellite-based adventures and even had a crossover that took them to Apokolips during the summer of 1980. In addition, Superman had many space-related team-ups in DC Comics Presents. This trend didn’t last long, though, as by the start of 1981, Mystery in Space and Time Warp were gone and Dial H for Hero had taken over Adventure Comics.

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