Not too long ago, I waxed poetic here about the wonders of Treasury sized comics. This week, I’m shifting to the other end of the spectrum and taking a look at some great comics that are short on stature, but big on fun. Here’s a look at some rather interesting examples of digest sized books from the Bronze Age.
Starting in the late 70s until well into the 80s, DC put out a ton of digest-sized books. Some of my personal favourites include the three Jonah Hex books and the digest-sized issues of Adventure Comics. If I had to pick a single DC Digest to use as an example of how much fun these could be – I’d have to go with Best of DC #5 from 1979. This one features a fantastic wraparound cover by Andru and Giordano. The cover features the various heroes featured in the year’s best stories, and the back is a shot of DC staffers (a legend is include inside, so you can see who’s who). What we have here is a collection of stories, and while I’m not sure they are actually the best of ’79, they are all good picks. Included in this volume is a memorable Superman/Sgt. Rock team-up, a great Deadman story with gorgeous JL Garcia-Lopez art, and the great “Curse of Crime Alley”, which is possibly my favourite Don Newton-drawn Batman story. There are a few candidates for best covers of the year – and I’m not so sure I agree with any of their selections. This is a nice little piece of DC history – a snapshot from 30 years ago.
Gold Key was a pretty big player in the world of digests during the 70s, including the long-running Golden Comics Digest, which featured licensed funny animal characters, with some Turok and Lone Ranger thrown in for good measure. I’m a bigger fan of Mystery Comics Digest, which ran for 26 issues and featured stories from the various Gold Key mystery titles. I was thrilled when I finally tracked down a copy of issue #26, the final issue of the series. They are not easy to find. This issue features reprints from the 1969-70 era of Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and it is, admittedly, a bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality. That being said, there are a ton of stories crammed in here with some nice work by Tom Gill, Dan Spiegle, Jeff Jones and Win Mortimer. The relative simplicity of the stories and artwork lends itself quite nicely to a digest sized page. These are definitely worth grabbing if you ever see them.
Even more obscure is Fiction Illustrated, a short-lived title put out by Byron Preiss’ Pyramid Publications. From what I can gather from the introduction, this was an attempt to create a new format for comic book storytelling. Preiss had hopes that these would wind up of the shelves of mainstream bookstores. Obviously, it did not revolutionize comics, but it serves as an interesting footnote in comic book history. Preiss selected Tom Sutton to help with the first issue; consisting of two stories starring noirish private detective Shlomo Raven. While this is certainly a treat for fan of Tom Sutton’s work (and if you’re not yet, you should be), the stories leave a lot to be desired. They are 40s obsessed parodies filled with terrible puns and one-liners. Kenneth Smith’s lettering does not lend itself all that well to the smaller page. There is, however, a rather humorous foreword by Harvey Kurtzman (who must have noted the sub-Mad level of funny). This is one that is worth grabbing if you see it on the cheap.
Stayed tuned for Part 2, where I’ll feature an oddball Tarzan, a Swamp Thing you may have never seen before and a Vision in black and white.
For more random comic talk – stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent
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