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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: Collecting Hidden Giants

This time around, I will be taking a look at a rather obscure, but attainable group of comics that might inspire some of you to become Giant collectors.

Collecting “Giants” has always been a part of our hobby. At first, people hungered for DC’s 80-Page Giants. Some people have spent decades seeking out Fox Giants. During the early 90s, I can recall a huge spike in the prices for DC’s 100-Page Super Spectaculars as, all of a sudden, they became desired by all. Even Marvel’s Giant-Size line has become coveted, but that pesky X-Men book makes a complete run a near impossibility. There is, however, a relatively small group of Giants published by DC between 1975 and 1976 that few may have considered.

The 100-Page era at DC came to a close with books cover date March, 1975 with issues such as Young Romance #204, Flash #232 and Unexpected #162. The very next month, DC published five books in a 64-page format. DC had previously experimented with this size earlier in the decade, but the cover price had jumped from a mere quarter to 50 cents. These books may have slipped under the radar, as DC had a lot of other big events on the go. Their tabloid-sized books were in full bloom and DC was in the middle of launching their short-lived Fantasy line.

While some series stuck with this 64-page format consistently (Batman Family, Superman Family) while others featured only sporadic issues (Brave and Bold #120, Superboy #208). This is what makes collecting these books so much fun. Some titles are not labeled as Giants, but I will include them here as they used the same 64-page format. These include six issues of DC Special, which returned after a 4 year hiatus and the first two issues of DC Super-Stars. After a year had passed, DC dropped the page count to 52-pages, but maintained the same price stage. Those second generation Giants would last until 1978 and overlap with the Dollar Comics era. That’s a topic for another day, though. By my count, there were a mere 38 books published in the 64-page Giant format. Here’s a look at some of my favourites.

Scarecrow completists likely already own a copy of Batman #262 (April, 1975), but everyone else should buy it, too! It’s quite a strong Scarecrow story, written by Denny O’Neil. I’m not a huge fan of Ernie Chan’s pencils, but they are decent here and his storytelling is good. This issue also features a couple of tales from the Fox/Infantino era of the 60s and some of those silly classic cover gags. It’s a good option in terms of starting a 64-page Giant collection.

Kamandi #32 (August, 1975) is a fantastic issue, with a fun original story but the real treat here are in the extras. There’s a four page article on Jack Kirby. The back half of the book is a reprint of Kamandi’s origin from the very first issue of the series. This book is jam packed with great stuff.

World’s Finest #230 (May, 1975) was the only issue from that series published in the 64-page format. If you are like me, you absolutely adore those silly Super-Sons stories. This book also features a late 50s Aquaman story from Adventure Comics #245 (February, 1958) with gorgeous Ramona Fradon artwork and the Challs/Deadman team-up from Challengers of the Unknown #74 (Jun-Jul, 1968) with Neal Adams and George Tuska artwork.

Tarzan #238 is a true hidden gem. Russ Manning fans should note that this issue collects the daily United Features strip written and drawn by Manning. As I understand, this is a re-working (color added, panels removed and some new dialogue) of approximately 6 months’ worth of daily strips. Being derived from the daily format, the Return to Pellucidar story has a different feel and pacing than we’d seen from the DC adaptations to this point. It’s really refreshing to see the Manning version again, and it recalls those glory days at Gold Key. As a curiosity piece alone, this one is worth hunting down.

Super-Team Family #4 (April, 1976) is a wonderful book for people looking to tip their toes into Golden Age waters. It features one of the best Justice Society of America stories of the 1940s. The Revenge of Solomon Grundy originally appeared in All-Star Comics #33 (Feb-March, 1947), and features some early Joe Kubert artwork. Also included is a Batman/Superman team-up from 1958.

There are plenty of other great 64-pagers out there and, even with the 1976 page count drop, the latter-day Giants are worth seeking out. Tracking DC formats and page counts during the 70s can be a bit discombobulating, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

For more classic comic book chatter, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent . For some movie talk, check out the podcast my wife and I recently lauched: Married With Clickers.

10 Comments

I love DC’s Giants, as well as the 100-pagers and the Dollar comics, pretty much any of the oversized stuff. Back when I worked at Half Price Books I would grab any of them I could for cheap. The problem now is most stores have these priced pretty high. I’m just not willing to pay $20 or more for a comic a just want to read. But any time I see any in a bargain bin I pick them up. I’ve been reading through my collection of World’s Finest Dollar comics the past 2 weeks. They’re great.

That Kamandi #32 is very interesting, as you note, for the text biography of Jack Kirby, which also goes into his creative process a bit. The crazy part, though, is that despite spending more than a page going over his entire life and career, they somehow manage to avoid ever mentioning Marvel or any of the comics he worked on for Marvel. Not even one reference. It’s a truly impressive spin effort. You know what they say: the winner writes the history, and when this came out, DC was the reigning winner of the Jack Kirby sweepstakes.

Marvel probably pulls out the bio anytime someone suggests that Kirby helped create the Marvel Universe.

Gorillas wearing Batman caps? I gotta get this.

That’s something I’ve also noted Scott Harris, and which also shows how between “now” and “then” comics grew up a notch.

It wasn’t until perhaps the mid to late 90′s that Marvel and DC would ever really deign to explicitly acknowledge the accomplishments of one another. It was as though they lived in terror of admitting that some good things might have emerged from the competition. DC seemed especially loathe to go there.

Today, as creators switch companies with frequency and alacrity, it is routine to have Marvel and DC cite the significant accomplishments of their creators, in the course ad campaigns or bio pieces, regardless for which distinguished publisher such plaudits were earned.

Damn did I love those Giants.

Scott, yet again you never fail to impress with your insight and love for the medium, Thanx again!

I love these posts, especially when they guide me to single issues that satisfy on their own. I sometimes feel like the only comics fan who prefers one-shots, done-in-ones, and anthologies.

Wow, that picture of the Super Team Family cover brought back a burst of memories; I picked that up early in my comics reading career, and it was my first exposure to the Justice Society and what I later learned was the ‘Golden Age of Comics.’
I was a big fan of all of DC’s oversized books as well: the giants, 100-pagers, the dollar comics. They were such a great deal, regardless of whether they had all new material or reprints.

I loved all those books. The 80-pagers were just a little before my time (though I got quite a few), and the 100-pagers were always my favorites because of the wonderful golden age reprints. Reading stories published 30 years ago? Was that before the car and electric light? ;) (“Comics from 30 years ago” has an entirely different feeling now!) These giants were, while much smaller, a welcome and suitable replacement for the Super Spectaculars.

Ah, sweet memories… Thanks, Scott!

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