Sunday, October 18, 2015

Suggestion Unboxed -- DC's Black-n-White Magazines



Doug: Welcome to the fruits of your labor, readers. Today we start a week's worth of discussion topics suggested by you during our request for topics, posted last Wednesday. We really appreciate everyone's contributions.

Dougie: If DC had published a line of b/w magazines like Marvel's Dracula Lives, Savage Sword of Conan, Planet of the Apes, etc. which features would you have liked to see? And by what creative teams?




21 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

Like I said in the initial suggestion box post last week, this one really got my wheels turning. What surprises me is that DC never decided to pursue a black & white magazine line - maybe because they thought they already had the market covered with their various anthology titles, like the two Houses (of Mystery and Secrets), Weird War Tales, etc.?
Anyway, one obvious one that came to mind for me is a Warlord magazine, to act as sort of a counterpart to Savage Sword of Conan. I think Grell would have had a ball doing stories for a magazine like this, and making them even more 'adult' than the regular four-color Warlord series.
It would have also been cool if DC had just done a generic b&w magazine like Marvel Preview/Bizarre Adventures, that just had any kind of stories (super-hero, SF, horror, sword & sorcery), just longer.

Colin Bray said...

Perhaps this is an obvious one but Batman in the early Detective pulp style, perhaps with a dash of extra horror thrown in.

And I choose Nick Cardy to draw it - hitting the classic DC style with extra atmosphere points.

Colin Bray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Humanbelly said...

Although their long-running horror comics were always better, IMO, DC would have had a tough time putting anything up against Marvel's block of Universal Pictures-based monster magazines (short-lived though they were). And didn't Warner sort of have the corner (heh-- that rhymes) on regular B&W horror mags at that time? But-- what might have worked, and I would have LOVED to have seen, would have been a mag or three featuring DC's on-going supernatural characters that had trouble maintaining a toe-hold in the 4-color format. Deadman and Phantom Stranger immediately come to mind as being wonderfully suited to the noire style of those B&W mags-- and could certainly benefit from being freed up from the comics code. Swamp Thing could actually have supported a B&W as well as the regular comic for awhile there, I bet. Much like the Hulk.

And although the genre was slowly on its way out-- I wonder if a B&W DC war magazine could have had a profitable run? Again, the freedom of the format would allow for the telling of some harder, deeper stories w/out becoming overly jingoistic.

As far as licensed (movie/TV) properties? That's a tough one. Y'know-- ALIEN's been adapted a lot for comics-- but that franchise also has an innate B&W feel to it. . . and was it ever done as an ongoing series of any sort? Ripley may be an under-realized, under-appreciated character/property for an on-going title, y'know? (Or has that indeed been done?)

HB

Anonymous said...

Well, for starters DC could have put out further issues of the magazines they actually did publish - Jack Kirby's Spirit World and In The Days of the Mob. The one issue of Spirit World is fantastic, a distinctively Kirbyish take on mysterious world/parapsychology/conspiracy theory type stuff. Definitely could have been popular in the 70s.

The black and whites were an early (pre-direct market) attempt to reach an older audience, so DCs regular characters were probably too "comic-book" to work - a horror anthology might been their best bet, but whether they could have competed with the Warren mags is debatable.

I like HB's idea for a war title, but then I'm a bit partial to that kind of thing anyway (John Severin and Russ Heath rule). But I think Warren's Blazing Combat didn't last very long, so that's not a good precedent; you probably need the kids to keep war titles afloat.

-sean

Redartz said...

I agree with HB regarding the horror titles, especially Swamp Thing. A horror anthology could have been attempted, with the likes of Russ Heath, Alex Toth, Wrightson and Adams (yes, Warren had the corner on that market, but it would have been interesting to see).

Again, HB calls it well on a war title. Yesterday's hero Joe Kubert could have been given free reign on Enemy Ace, Sgt. Rock, and others.

One area that DC could have tried would have been in science fiction; Marvel's short-lived Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction was enjoyable but never really got off the ground. I could see DC doing something along the lines of the "Mystery in Space" anthology comic they revived in the early 80's, but heavier in tone...

Martinex1 said...

I like HB's Phantom Stranger and Deadman suggestion. I would have liked to see some kind of weird space exploration magazine, perhaps starring Adam Strange. I always thought he was underutilized and his stories should have been more....strange. Have the Zeta Beam take him to different worlds. As far as the creative team, I would have liked to see Bill Mantlo jump the Marvel ship and join Neal Adams.

As far as movies go, perhaps an adaptation of the horror movie Phantasm and expanding on that world. I agree with the above in that Nick Cardy would be great for some of this. I would have also liked to see DC handle the adaptation of The Thing and continue the story, perhaps with Bernie Wrightson.

Martinex1 said...

Redartz I think we are on the same wavelength with the space mysteries...a missed opportunity.

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, totally agree that Deadman, Phantom Stranger and Swamp-Thing are natural fits for b&w magazines; to that list I'd also add the Spectre. Another character that might have been cool to use in the magazine format is Martian Manhunter - he could have been featured in both noirish detective stories (set in the '50s and '60s) and spooky SF stories (with J'onn doing things like preventing the schemes of malevolent aliens from invading/infiltrating Earth and so forth).

And speaking of licensed properties, DC had the license for the Shadow back in the '70s, so a b&w magazine featuring that character would have been totally awesome (and depending on the artist(s), it might have lasted longer than the regular comic book series). Again, that's one I'm surprised didn't actually happen, since Marvel had a Doc Savage b&w magazine for a while.

William said...

I think a western like Jonah Hex would have been a good fit for a b&w magazine. Especially since it also dealt with some weird horror type elements. (In fact, I'm surprised they didn't do it).

If they wanted to go more mainstream, they could have done something like "The Joker" in that format, (instead of the 4-color comic they gave him). It would have been a great place to tell of some of the darker encounters between him and Batman. Along the lines of "The Killing Joke". Or encounters with other heroes and villains, of the DCU as well. (Or run-ins with the GCPD, etc).

Another good one would have been along the lines of Marvel's "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" b&w mag. DC could have done their own version of that starring characters like Richard Dragon, and the Bronze Tiger, etc.

Humanbelly said...

Oh! I wonder, William, did the TV show KUNG FU ever get licensed out to comics? That would have been a terrific catch for DC at that time, cashing in on both the popularity of that show AND the martial arts craze AND the surge in B&W magazine-format popularity. And that's another good franchise that would have translated well, I bet. (Hmm-- might even add the show to our Suggestion Box list, for that matter--) (Did everyone else's buddies also tend to refer to the main character- Cain- as "Kung Fu", as though that were the poor guy's actual name?)

And yeah, Jonah Hex would have been a solid choice-- good call.

Edo, I almost listed Martian Manhunter as well. Even though J'onn's a 5-star powerful superhero, and is himself far from a "gritty" personality, there's something innately shadowy about him that lends itself to B&W, I think.

In terms of jumping onto licenses while they're hot-- doesn't it seem like DC tended to play catch-up ball with Marvel? If DC even played at all? Granted, Dell & Gold Key pretty much had that market cornered forever-- but once they were gone it does seem like Marvel did the better job of getting their hands onto available properties.

HB

Dr. Oyola said...

Some others have mentioned these, but for B&W mags I think all of the following would have been great possibilities:

Adam Strange in Strange Space Tales - with an on-going Adam Strange story backed up a series one-shot thriller/mysteries. (and maybe an occasional Bizarro story!)

Jonah Hex in Weird West

Swamp-Thing and Phantom Stranger stories in a title I can't come up with.

I am not familiar enough with DC artists of the time to make suggestions though.

Humanbelly said...

I wonder if DC weighed any of these possibilities? 'Cause boy, we do seem to have quite a consensus here on what we ourselves would have chosen. You'd have to think that DC's editorial folks would have at least had many of the same little sparks of inspiration. . .

'Course, could they have been overwhelmed with all of the DC Explosion/Implosion consequences during that time-frame? And maybe launching a totally new project like this would have brought shrieks and wails and tears in the board room from the production staff?

HB

Anonymous said...

Yeah I second Edo's recommendation of a Shadow B/W mag; pulp heroes like him would have been a natural fit for such a magazine. I'm surprised they didn't try to get more licensed characters from those eras.


- Mike 'ebony & ivory' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Totally agree with Mike's point about pulp heroes being a natural fit for the magazine format. And I just remembered that DC also had the license for the Avenger (Justice, Inc.) who's also a perfect character for a b&w magazine (he could have appeared as a back-up feature in the Shadow magazine I proposed above).

William said...

Yeah, HB, "Kung-Fu" would have been a good property to license back then. Especially for a b&w (adult) magazine.

As for your question about calling Cain "Kung-Fu" I think I just used call him "Grasshoppa". :)

Doug said...

I thought of many of the suggestions made above. Another character that struck me as relevant to the format was Zatanna. She could have been in an anthology with the Phantom Stranger and either the Spectre or Deadman. Of course, many of DCs late 80s/early 90s Vertigo subjects would have been right at home back in the B&W mags of the Bronze Age.

Oh, one more -- Man-Bat. Perfect.

Doug

RobAnderson said...

My own first thought was also Phantom Stranger, though I'd also add the back-ups -- Frankenstein, and especially Black Orchid!

R. Lloyd said...

I'd like to see Jim Aparo draw a black and white Batman magazine. He seemed to have so much to offer but was constrained by the limitations of the comics at the time. Looking at his art I believe he would have been allowed to experiment with new techniques to illustrate Batman.

Joe Kubert would be a close second on his Tarzan and Sargent Rock. The meticulous detail he put into both books would shine in a black and white publication.

Jose Garcia Lopez, no matter what he worked on, would have been all the more better if he could utilize the grey tones and washes that were done in those magazines at the time. I can only imagine what his version of Batman would be like.

DC was too conservative at the time to attempt the things that Marvel was doing at the time of the B and W mags. Marvel appealed to a more sophisticated audience and DC, at the time believed that all comics were for kids only in the 1970's.

Dougie said...

Interesting to see everyone on the same lines as my own suggestions:

Shadow of the Batman- Haney/Aparo for b/w Gothic adventures and some horror. Back up features would include Deadman by Adams and Black Canary by Toth.

Track of the Swamp Thing- a straight-up monster mag by Wein/Alcala with back-ups for the Demon (Etrigan) and Spawn of Frankenstein.

Weird Worlds- Chaykin's Iron Wolf; Atomic Knights; Adam Strange ( either one by a young John Byrne. I imagine Tales of The Warlord could fit here too.)

Dougie said...

I blogged about this idea myself, a few years ago.http://somefantasticplace-dougie.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/black-and-white-and-read-all-over.html

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