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CSBG Archive

I Can’t Cover What I Am – Superhero Comics Transitioning Into a New Format

In this feature, I spotlight comic book covers that follow a specific theme. Here is an archive of all the cover themes we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today, let’s take a look at covers of superhero comics that are transitioning from a superhero format to a new format.

Enjoy!

I already examined perhaps the most famous example of this phenomena in an old Snark Blocker piece that you can read here, where the Shield and Archie Andrews co-existed on the cover of Pep Comics for a number of months until Archie took over full-time.

Here now, let’s look at how More Fun Comics changed from a superhero title into a humor title!

For a number of years, More Fun Comics (which was the longest running title at DC at the time, predating Detective Comics, Adventure Comics and Action Comics) was, like mostly all DC titles, a superhero title (it originated as a humor title before transitioning to a traditional adventure/sport stories comic before becoming a superhero comic with the debut of the Spectre in More Fun Comics #52).

As of issue #93, the book contained stories starring Spectre, Johnny Quick, Doctor Fate, Aquaman and the character who usually got the cover of the comic, Green Arrow…

The next issue, though, saw a new feature debut (it did not even take anyone’s place in particular, DC just hacked off four pages of filler to make room for a new four-page feature) with the comedic detective duo, dim-witted twins Dover and Clover.

They were popular enough that they soon were featured on the cover, as well…

Around the same time, in Adventure Comics, which starred Sandman (and featured Starman, Hourman, Manhunter and Shining Knight), DC debuted the comedic character of Genius Jones…

More Fun Comics #101 was the last issue to feature just a superhero character…

Then Dover and Clover got a cover appearance…

and it was clear to DC that these new characters had some staying power.

And, amusingly enough, Green Arrow was none too pleased about getting squeezed out of his cover spot…

However, as that cover notes, DC had also just debuted a popular new character with the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, Superboy!

So the next few covers dealt with that “problem” – Dover and Clover were popular, but so was Superboy! So DC just put them BOTH on covers for awhile (with Superboy getting a solo cover for #105 and Dover and Clover getting #107)…

Then someone at DC must have had a brainstorm in early 1946. Why not just trade comics? So with Adventure Comics #103, Superboy and the superhero characters moved to Adventure Comics (displacing a bunch of superheroes like Sandman)…

and Genius Jones would come over to More Fun Comics!!

The move worked out very well for Adventure Comics, as that titled lasted well into the 1980s (and it kept Green Arrow and Aquaman in print by riding Superboy’s coattails while pretty much every other minor Golden Age character went defunct) but it did not work as well for More Fun Comics.

By #121, Dover and Clover and Genius Jones lost their cover spots to a new featured called Jimminy and the Magic Book…

Even this new spotlight feature couldn’t keep the book going much longer, and with #127, DC’s longest-running comic was canceled.
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While DC was trying to keep More Fun Comics afloat with a new featured character, Timely Comics was dealing with the same situation with their Captain America Comics, which used to be one of the highest-selling comics in the whole country!

But now 70-plus issues in, sales were down and Timely figured that they would try something different.

So after Captain America Comics #73…

the book became Captain America’s Weird Tales with #74…

#74 was the last issue featuring Captain America, with #75 just being a straight horror title…

The experiment did not work, and #75 was the last issue of the series.
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EC Comics had a similar situation with their Moon Girl character.

First she starred as a superhero…

then the book became a crime comic…

and finally, a romance comic!!

Check out this past installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed to learn the likely reason for both Captain America’s Weird Tales AND all the Moon Girl changes.
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A more successful transformation took place with Lev Gleason’s Daredevil Comics.

Daredevil Comics starred, well, Daredevil, a superhero with a really cool costume and a cool name (such a cool name that Stan Lee quickly nabbed it for the Marvel character of the same name in the mid-60s). Erik Larsen has recently made Daredevil a recurring character in the pages of Savage Dragon!…

After a number of solo adventures, Daredevil gained a group of teen sidekicks, the Little Wise Guys (who were, like Simon and Kirby’s ultra-popular Boy Commandos, knockoffs of the Dead End Kids)

The Little Wise Guys were soon popular enough that they began to get covers all to themselves…

And within a year or so they were the regular co-stars of the book, with #32 being the last issue to feature just Daredevil in the title…

as #33 debuted the Little Wise Guys sharing the title drawing…

Still, Daredevil appeared on the cover action shot with them most of the time, until #46 seemed to signify a change in the way things went…

as after appearing on #47 and #48′s cover, Daredevil was absent from #49…

and then appeared on only TWO covers until #67…

And #67 would be Daredevil’s LAST cover appearance in his own comic book!!!

#69 would also be the last time Daredevil appeared in the title drawing…

with #70 becoming just the Little Wise Guys…

with #97, their name became more prominent…

and in #113, their name became even MORE prominent…

The book lasted until #134.

I covered the Daredevil disappearance in an old installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed.
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Paul Tobin made a great suggestion of Atlas Comics’ (what Marvel was before they were called Marvel) Venus, which had about four different formats in her 19 issues after debuting in 1948.

When it started, it went for an almost Archie-esque humor style…

then it went for a romance comic format….

then science-fiction…

and ended with horror…

Pretty trippy!

Thanks for the suggestion, Paul!
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Our pal buttler gave a great suggestion of Harvey Comics’ Black Cat.

The book began as a superhero comic…

before becoming, of all things, a western comic for awhile!!! The name even changed to signify the change!

A very short while later it went back to being a superhero comic…

but soon it became a science fiction/horror comic…

even changing the name to signify it…

and soon, Black Cat was just the NAME of the comic. She was not a featured character…

until, abruptly, the book DID star her again, only back as a Western! I love that the mystery part is still in the title!

that did not last long, as it went back to being a horror/science fiction anthology…

only with an odd name change…

After a few issues, it returned to being a superhero comic for its last three issues before finally ending…

That was quite a run!

Thanks to buttler for the suggestion!
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Okay, that’s it for this time around! Can YOU think of any other good examples of a superhero comic book transitioning into a comic book about something else? And remember, it has to be an actual transition. I’m not talking about stuff like how Kid Eternity abruptly turned into a pirate comic called Buccaneers. There was no transition there, the book just changed. I mean books like the ones featured above, where the comic book company tried to gradually change the comics from one format to another. If so, let me know!

And feel free to suggest other recurring comic book cover themes over the years (outside, of course, of “covers where Superman acts like a dick,” as I think someone else has that covered pretty well…;)…)!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for the covers!

49 Comments

My favorite example of this type is the Atlas / Marvel “Venus” comic book. Nineteen issues of humor / sci-fi / romance / hi-jinks / horror, etc. They just couldn’t make up their mind. You can scan through all the covers, here… http://www.atlastales.com/sT/280

Marvel comics presents going from an anthology staring solo x-men to just wolverine, to a wolverine ghost rider book

My favorite example of this type is the Atlas / Marvel “Venus” comic book.

Great call, Paul! Thanks, I’ve edited that one in!

I think Pep Comics may be the most notable example of this actually working. And I have to put a mention in for one of my favorite comics of all time, Daredevil’s sister series Boy Comics. It had a couple transitional periods. First Crimebuster got pushed off the cover by Iron Jaw and Sniffer in an attempt to turn it more into a humor book and then later, the series was turned into a boy’s adventure series with #107, a move forced in part by the fact that, with the advent of the CCA, Crimebuster’s name could no longer appear on the cover because they couldn’t use the word “crime.” So they had to go with his civilian identity Chuck Chandler on all the covers, including the last issue, #119, where they actually have a big Chuck Chandler logo in addition to the Boy Comics logo, probably presaging a full switch to the new title of Chuck Chandler instead of Boy Comics. Like Captain America’s Weird Tales, though, the comic was canceled before it could fully change titles.

http://www.comics.org/issue/12705/cover/4/

Dover and Clover should be next on the “trademark renewal” wheel, right?

Maybe Dover and Clover will make a cameo appearance in the Batman/Scooby-Doo episode of Batman:Brave and the Bold, Bill.

One of the last example , if not the last , of a comic book keeping variations of the same title but drastically different approaches/um , ” sub-titles ” was the Archie title best remembered as ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE (how it began and how it ended) which , from the late 60s to the lat

…( Continuing from where I had to cut off…) to the laet/mid-70s switched from its ” monster and spaceman jokes ” ( Introducing both Sabrina and Captain Sprocket to the Archieverse , incidentally . ) to…Well , I let you find out for yourself !!!!!!!!!!!
Suffice to say , for one thing , it involved switching from Dan DeCarlo covers to Gray Morrow covers ! ( I mean , sure , Gene Colan drew an Archie story once . But…)
FTM , the lesser-known Archie title originally known as SABRINA’S CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY went from Stan Goldberg to a Grey ‘morrow as well !
Oh , and while it , basically , anyway , kept its original title , what about , for Marvel , MILLIE THE MODEL ?
Early on , Millie was a redhead , then , she was a blonde , under Dan’n'Stan ( + Stan !!!!!!!!!!! ) , with these versions being , kind of , especially after the Code I suppose , ” Archie-esque titles where the characters are , technically , adults “…And then , during the ” golden age of Marvel ” mid-Sixties , changed to a more ” serious ” romance-intrigue blend , in story and art , then , just as Marvel’s late-60s expansion was knocking , changed back to cartoon-style about late ’67 !

Man, that last Venus cover is pretty grotesque yet awesome. What’s not awesome is the “slap the Jap” blurbs on top of the old Daredevil comics. Wasn’t there a category for now-offensive but then-acceptable comics at this blog? Mistakes of a past history?

…As far as those late-end GA Captain America issues go ( Given that , of course , they are long-established in Marvel continuity to have happened to ” another ” Cap , and featured a female assistant , with – ” Another ” one , of couirse , as well . – Bucky having been written out at that point . ) , I have wondered if I will ever get to read them:-(?:-(…??
And , especially since that one Cap-featuring issue has always been described as featuring Cap in Hell to fight the Red Skull , I wonde to what extent Marvel ” recognizes ” these stories , that one and the other late ones as well .
Until recently ( with the Handbook for the early issues of Timely’s comics and The Twelve ) , it always seemed to me that Marvel tended to take a ” sceptical ” look , as it were , as to how much the stories chronicled in Forties Timely comics , aside from the ones that had been straightforwardly acknowledged in 616 by a reprint , ” actually happened ” .
Perhaps this was at part , at least , because of the reported tendency for Timleys during World War II to demonstrate fairly strong bloodthirstyness towards Axis soldiers , even ” ordinary ” ones who might be considered ” not as much to blame ” , with the Torch and Subby gloating as they burned alive or drowned them ?
As well as the relative unrealism of this , ” superheroes winning WWII ” ( Though Marvel , bless ‘em , still holds to that ” Hitler was ACTUALLY burned ailve by the Human Torch ” thing in their continuity – Do they have him doing that to Eva Braun , too ? ) , DC – was it Roy Thomas ? – dealt with the ” Why didn’t the US superheroes just stop WWII in its tracks already ? ” question via that Spear Of Destiny thang , in their back story…

…I wrote the ” Anonymous ” above , I just negleted , etc….Glad it went up , anyways !!!!!!!!!

There’s Green Lantern’s sidekick Streak the Wonder Dog, who became more popular than the hero and who took over the covers.

I’m surprised Geoff Johns hasn’t had Dover and Clover disemboweled by Kite-Man by now.

Harvey’s Black Cat was another one. Her comic went from superhero to Western to mystery to horror and finally back to superhero again.

Good call, buttler! Added it in!

Are there any recent examples of this? The way I understand comics, if a title was slowing down nowadays it would just get cancel or rebooted with a #1 on the cover.

This post also made me wonder about why such things happened with old comics. Was it due to the anthology format that ended up with several different genre of stories between the covers of one title? Was it perhaps due to the “done in one” format of the stories back then that resulted in people picking up random issues here and there and the publishers not knowing why a title or another was slowing down would tweak things until a title was no longer recognizable by someone who bought a few copies mere months ago? Its makes you wonder.

(I’m just speculating, go easy on me.)

…That #30 cover is something…Especially considering that , according IIRC to an article I read in ALTER EGO recently , that cover is not reflected/explained inside :-(!!!!!!!!!!!
Are those two ” Thrill ” Code-era covers by Joe Simon ? Alone ?
BLACK CAT was published as late as the 90s , and the last time I looked the latter-day Harveys had sites dedicated to her:
http://www.blackcat.com ( Is it ” Black Cat COMICS ” ? )
and another character who , when published by Harvey , lasted a LEETLE longer:
http://www.sadsack.com !

…Oh , and for an example of a title that had switched from a non-superhero format to one , then switched back again , there is DC’s HOUSE OF SECRETS and HOUSE OF MYSTERY in the mid-Sixties…

…It’s
http://www.sadsacknet.org
and
http://www.blackcatcomics.com
” sadsack ” dot-com appears to have been snapped up by one of those squatters…

I like the apparent Superboy nod to the classic Superman-car cover image. I don’t think of the Golden Age as having self-referential homages like that.

One wonders what the Internet would have looked like if it had existed when these comics were making their rapid format changes.

No wonder Hyper Time failed. Who would want to admit that Dover and Clover existed?

The most recent example I can think of was the original run of Thunderbolts which changed from the original supervillains-turned-superheroes book to an odd superpowered ‘Fight Club’ book for the last six issues (and had faux sports magazine style covers for the last five).

Neat stuff.

There are a few that don’t seem to be showing up for me, I’ll have to check again later.

And Paul Tobin shows up, cool.

What’s interesting is that I think some of us figure that until the EC stuff, comics creators weren’t really credited too much, but we see on the Daredevil covers that the publisher and editors got their names right on the cover, and on the Adventure issue, Simon and Kirby are credited with a Sandman story. Neato.

And it’s Erik Larsen. E-N, not O-N. I wouldn’t bring it up if you hadn’t misspelled it on the post about Steve Rude also. (Of course, so did Steve on his blog…) Just a reminder on that: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/10/10/steve-rude-auctions/

Am I the only one reminded of TinTin’s Tompson Twins with Dover and Clover? Twin detectives, kind of bumbling. Would TinTin have appeared in the States by the early ’40s? I mean, it’s more likely that it’s just an odd little coincidence, but it is interesting to ponder.

Thanks, Travis, fixed it.

My understanding is that it had to do with publishers claiming a new title was the same comic as an older one to save money buying new magazine-class postage licenses.

I like that Timely books actually said ‘A Marvel Comic’ on the cover for a time. I know they had a series called ‘Marvel Comics’ (or ‘Marvel Mystery Comics’) early on. Was the Marvel name something they just kept reviving periodically?

Archie’s ‘Mad House’, that was mentioned here by Asperger was ‘The Mad House Glads’ when I first read it. Yet another Archie-style series with a teenage rock band. I really liked it and I was disappointed when the title went back to the traditional Mad House format.

Marvel had a lot of science-fiction and horror-type anthology series that became super-hero titles in the 1960s. Tales To Astonish, Journey Into Mystery, Tales Of Suspense, Strange Tales– but I guess everybody already knows about those.

Someone should acquire the rights to Moon Girl and publish a new limited series. Every issue could be a completely different genre, each with a slightly different title. I suggest Moon Girl rather than the Black Cat to avoid any trademark disputes with Marvel.

Star Spangled Comics started out as a superhero anthology, the focus of the covers moving from the Star-Spangled Kid to the Newsboy Legion to Robin. Then it became a western of sorts, with Tomahawk taking over the covers from Robin. And it ended with Dr. Thirteen, Ghost-Breaker replacing Tomahawk.

Not sure if this counts, but All-Star Comics abruptly changed both the title and the genre, becoming All-Star Western with issue 58, dropping the JSA altogether.

I loved how they transitioned Moon Girl into a romance comic.

Aye – it’s not even “Moon Girl” in the title (though it would appear to be from a quick glance – it’s “A moon, a girl… ROMANCE”.

Yeah, that’s what makes it the best title transition ever! What a clever way of doing it!

The Black Cat saga is exhausting.

I’m with Mario in wondering if there’s any post-Golden/Atomic age examples of this happening – do those transitions from fantasy/horror to super-hero comics at Marvel in the early ’60s really count? As far as I know, the latter switched formats abruptly from one issue to the next, rather than gradually changing over the course of several issues.
And I really like Mary Warner’s Moon Girl suggestion…

Have you noticed the More Fun #93 cover says Green Arrow and SPEDDY ?!

…Yes , and , aside from the switched it went through during the
” Mad House Glads ” period , MADHOUSE had something like three issues , issued under Archie’s Red Circle sub-line , under the bold-lettered title , that were flat-out 70s anthlolgy horror comics under the editorship of Grey Morrow who also did art for them ( Thus my comment ) .
Likewise that ” Sabrina…Sorcery ” title becamea straight RED CIRCLE SORCERY-Morrow Red Circle for a few issues . It ended then , I believe , unlike ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE , which returned to its original title/format ( The last few issues’ covers are amusing for their obviously trying-tobe-trendy heavy emphasis on jokes relating to those newfangled video game thingers ! )
The Mad House Glads were the Mad House Mads the first few issues – Frankly , I have assumed that Bill Gaines/MAD ( Which was owned by WB/DC by then , IIRC .) got on the phone with them , especially considering the frosty relationship – hatred ? – that the Goldwaters ( of Archie ) and Gaines alway have seemed to have with each other !
Archie appears to ignore the Mads/Glads these days , about the only one of their old series they DO overlook – To much of a Dan DeCarlo creation , I suppose ? Hnnr hyyyck yuuk . I honestly don’t know .
Remember , when DC re-started up ALL-STAR COMICS in the middish 70s to feature the All-Star Squadron , they started it at #58 to honor the JSA’s previous run , ignoring the in-between ALL-STAR WESTERN run .
I have often thought that that was the end of the old-style ” continuing numbering ” approach to numbering and the beginning of the modern , urmm , ” fancifal ” approach !

I love it how the cover for ADVENTURE COMICS #103 is actually an homage to ACTION COMICS #1! Could this be the earliest example of a comic book cover homaging another comic book cover? At least in superhero comic books? Mr Cronin! Maybe something worth researching?

Neat post! It’s awesome to see all the format changes laid out end to end like that. :-)

While I can see where some people might see that Adventure cover as homaging Action #1, it seems to me it’s more just a “joke” that this kid can lift a car without a jack.

Maybe given that since he’s just a kid still, he isn’t hurling it over his head, but otherwise it doesn’t seem too much of an homage to me.

it seems to me it’s more just a “joke” that this kid can lift a car without a jack.

well, it’s a jokey homage, then! the other clues that rang bells in my mind are the inclusion of the reaction guy in the corner (complete with bug-eyed look and [funny-looking] flapping tie), the type and model of the car, the issue being superboy’s first appearance in that book, the artist being joe shuster. it’s shuster homaging himself!

another clue is the loose tire. when you look at both covers one after the other -

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/adv103.jpg

http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/action-comics/1-1.jpg

- the homaging is clearer!

It’s tricky, adam, when you try to pinpoint “homage” covers. A number of covers by this point had been re-used, but is re-using a cover concept necessarily an homage? Or was DC just re-using something they knew was a good idea, figuring the current readers would have missed the earlier cover so they wouldn’t even notice?

In this instance, it seems to clearly be an homage, but I don’t know if earlier re-used cover ideas were or not (All-Star Comics re-used covers a few times, for one example).

Omar has it right. Getting a second class mailing permit was a long process in those days, and you had to pay fees for each new title of course. So no matter how many times those titles changed on the covers, it would still say “Black Cat,” “Moon Girl,” “Captain America Comics,” etc. on the indicia. I can’t imagine how many people really subscribed to comics in the 40s, but it was obviously important to the publishers. Subscriptions were also the only constant sales figures from month to month, so they were necessary to justify advertising rates, and represent a more reliable profit than having to accept an unpredictable number of newsstand returns.

“Moon Girl” eventually became EC’s “Weird Fantasy” with #14. Can’t recall if that was the title where the Post Office made EC stop with the title changes and renumber the book from #1, or one of the other horror titles.

Made me wonder which modern comics would make most interesting transitions like this…

About newer examples of focus change within a title, one could point out Cerebus and Love & Rockets, former started as Conan/fantasy parody and ended up in strange places, the latter phased out the wacky scifi hijinks of the early issues.

There was also the way DC tried to transition the original SWAMP THING from a horror comic to a superhero comic for the last two or three issues of its run, and there’s also the Golden Age Spectre, who was eventually eclipsed in his own title by his “humorous” sidekick, Percival Popp the Super-Cop.

I’ve read where it was Gene Colon that drew the cover of the last Captain America comic. Issue #75.

“Star Spangled Comics started out as a superhero anthology, the focus of the covers moving from the Star-Spangled Kid to the Newsboy Legion to Robin. Then it became a western of sorts, with Tomahawk taking over the covers from Robin. And it ended with Dr. Thirteen, Ghost-Breaker replacing Tomahawk.”

It was a war comic for a couple of issues, as well. Then DC rebooted the numbering starting # 3! So it has the odd distinction of hitting 132 issues twice.

Wonderful article Brian, and well done contributors.

I’d never seen those last issues of Swamp Thing, DC Guy (though I did read what must have been their conclusion in Challengers of the Unknown). What a lousy logo. And interesting to see a Mongol lookalike:

http://www.comics.org/issue/30091/cover/4/?style=default

I imagine this has already been suggested, but Marvel did quite alot of transistions for their various horror/sci-fi comics wherein featured superheroes took over the title (Captain America, Thor, Hulk, maybe some others).

How about “Superboy” becoming “Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes”, and finally just “Legion of Super-Heroes”?

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