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I don't recall if it's been said here before, but fans of the DC "Silver Age" who only come to these stories by seeing them in the Archives
really miss out on the entire experience of reading the original comics. Instead of the rapid fire one-right-after-the-other sequence of stories reprinted in
the hardbound reprints, there was a more restrained and leisurely pace in reading (and waiting for) the individual books when they first came out. But
that's not all. In addition to the old letter columns, the model kit advertisments, the public service announcements, the educational features and the
occasional gag cartoons that were also included in these comics, there were the enticing and beautifully designed house ads
that used to enthrall many an eight or ten year old at the time with news of what would soon be appearing at their local newsstand. A
significant percentage of the interior pages of National's comics were given over to these promotional pieces which all had the same signature style, and
the full page ads could make a kid practically bolt upright from his chair on first viewing.
For your curiosity and pleasure, I'm going to present a number of these interesting pages from those bygone years.
First, the surprise announcement for the debut of The Flash in his own magazine, which appeared on
newsstands in December, 1958:
Green Lantern #1 premiers in 1960:
As the Schwartz superhero revival began to pick up speed, you can imagine how excited fans were to see this
ad for a brand new "coming attraction" earlier that same year:
Even as readers wondered what surprises would come next, halfway through the story in Justice League of America #3
, they came upon the surprise news of a strange new hero, drawn by Joe Kubert, of all people.
This is one of my favorites:
And from 1961 here's the promotion for the Atom's first tryout appearance in Showcase:
More of these to come..
In addition to the various editors who wrote the copy for these pieces, and the artists who drew the covers featured in them, we musn't overlook the man
who illustrated the text in many of these ads, DC's ace letterer Ira Schnapp. He's the one who also created the title logos for the covers of the
superhero revivals, and his warm and creative display lettering motifs were as much a part of National's "silver age" comics as the work of the
artists, writers and editors who gave us the stories. When you see those beautiful, stylistic designs- the streamlined, block-lettering-in-movement of
The Flash, the fiery background of Green Lantern
, the tall, elegant, modified Roman font of Hawkman, and the shield and
stars emblem of Justice League of America- you're looking at his sterling work.
There were a number of interesting things that a sharp-eyed reader could pick up from reading the original comics. For instance, a 1963 Statement of Ownership
in Lois Lane indicated that the previous twelve issues of that magazine had sold an average of490,000 copies per issue- if you can believe
And speaking of readers "picking up" something, there was this amazing announcement from the editor in the letters column of
FLASH FANS! Write us a clever, original, critical letter and we'll award the ones we like best the original artwork pages that appear in this magazine.
Be sure to write clearly, neatly, and give your name and address. Send to: FLASH GRAMS, c/o National Periodical Publications, 575 Lexington Avenue, New York,
This was, of course, in the days before such art was rightfully returned to their creators. But any young kid at the time who had enough initiative (and
smarts) to write an intelligent letter to Julius Schwartz might have been well-rewarded indeed. Ironically, that single act of his was responsible for the
eventual survival of much of Carmine Infantino's silver age artwork, because most of all the DC art that wasn't given away was destroyed. And the
current value of a twelve-page Infantino Flash story from that era? Somewhere in the neighborhood of
$10,000-$15,000, I would think, depending on who inked it.