Welcome, readers, to this third installment of "Cover Stories!" I'm your humble host, Jon B. Knutson!
This week, I look at three covers featuring the theme, "Are You Talkin' To Me?" These three covers, as you see, feature the cover character talking directly to the reader!
Here we see that Simon and Kirby were always innovators (as if there was any doubt!) on this great Sandman cover from Adventure Comics!
"There is no land beyond the law where tyrants rule with unshakeable power. 'Tis a dream from which the evil wake to face their fate -- their terrifying hour!" That wonderful bit of poetry was a regular feature of Sandman stories, with it most often found as the Sandman's calling card, left pinned to unconscious criminals.
To some of you, you may be wondering what's going on with the Sandman's costume, having only been familiar with the costume that included a gas mask, green suit, and purple cape! Well, while the gas mask, etc. was the original costume, when Simon and Kirby took over the series, they redesigned the Sandman almost completely from the ground up, not only coming up with this purple-and-yellow costume, but also adding boy sidekick Sandy and a nifty "Wirepoon" gun that facilitated swinging around the city!
Of course, modern day readers know Sandy as Sand, the silicon-powered leader of the JSA! But how many of you (other than fans of Roy Thomas' All Star Squadron) realize that the Sandman's costume is eerily similar to a contemporary of his in DC's pages, the Tarantula! Roy did much more with the Tarantula in AS-S (including giving him a much better costume) than was done back in the golden age, but I digress.
So, you're probably wondering what the heck the story was that went with this cover? Well, so am I! Golden Age Adventure comics are definitely out of my price range! Fortunately, this story has been reprinted not once, but twice! It was reprinted in Forever People (original series) 5 as well as Adventure Comics 495 (one of the digest issues). Doubly unfortunately, I don't have either of those issues, either! If anyone at DC is reading this, how's about a Sandman Archives, okay?
Adventure Comics 84 was cover-dated March, 1943, and was a whopping 68 pages! The cover was naturally by Simon & Kirby. The cover story was "Crime Carnival," written by Jack Kirby with art by Kirby (pencils) and Simon (inks). Joining the Sandman in this issue was Starman in "The Doom from the Skies," the Shining Knight in "Riddle of the Rodeo", Genius Jones in "The Adventure of the Runaway Calculating Machine," Manhunter in "The Adventure of the Animal Assassins," and Mike Gibbs, Guerilla (yeah, I've never heard of him, either) in "The Last Time They Saw Paris."
Hey, it's deja vu in this second cover... in which Batman talks directly to the reader! A very cool cover... and guess what? It's yet another comic I've never read, at least so far as I remember! It amazes me, because I seem to remember reading just about every other Batman comic that came out at that time, too! The cover is by Mike Kaluta, and as the cover promises, the story is entitled "This Murder Has Been Censored!" and it was written by Denny O'Neil with pencils by Irv Novick (who passed away recently, sadly) with inks by Murphy Anderson. The editor on Detective at this time was the legendary Julius Schwartz, and you've got to wonder if he remembered that Adventure Comics cover mentioned above, when this particular cover was being planned. Of course, this wasn't the first time one of Julie's books used this gimmick (see below).
The backup feature in Detective at this time was Jason Bard, a Vietnam veteran turned private eye, and a mainstay in the Batman titles from the very late 1960s to the 1980s. Jason Bard, featured in this issue in "Crime on My Hands!" (written by Frank Robbins, penciled by Don Heck), was at one point engaged to Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon, and during the time when James Gordon had stepped down from being Commissioner in Gotham City, Bard offered Gordon a partnership in his agency! I remember seeing Jason Bard during Crisis on Infinite Earths, when he and most of DC's other non-costumed detectives had a brief involvement in things, but I don't know if he's appeared anywhere recently!
Getting back to the Caped Crusader... this was one of the great periods in Batman comics, in my humble opinion, when they were still riding high on the re-imagining of the Darknight Detective (mostly thanks to Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams), portraying Batman more like a creature of the night as well as a detective! Several Batman stories from this era were reprinted in "The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told" and "Batman in the Seventies" trade paperbacks, but sadly, this story wasn't included in either one of them! And, given how long it'll take for DC to get to it in the Archives, it'll be a while before a reprint sees the light of day!
Now, this cover should definitely ring a bell with you... as it was one of the Julie Schwartz covers used as part of their "DC Comics Presents" tributes to the editor who was known as "B.O." - for "Be Original"! How could anyone at the newsstand fail to pick this issue up?
Well, obviously, I did fail to pick this one up... but gimme a break, I was only four years old at the time! It's an issue I did once have as a back issue, though. So, you'd think having read it before, I could tell you all kinds of stuff about the story, wouldn't you?
Well, I can tell you that the cover is by Carmine Infantino, with inks by Joe Giella, and that the story "The Flash Stakes His Life--On YOU!" was by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella. I can tell you that the back-up story is "The Day Magic Exposed the Flash's Secret Identity," in which Flash learns Abra Kadabra comes from the future.
But about the cover story itself? I'm drawing a blank here, friends! And it's very frustrating, too! But I'll tell you what... if I come across a copy of this comic sometime in the near future, I'll make sure to re-review it here, okay?
I hope you'll join me for next week's "Cover Stories," in which I'll present a pair of covers from comics that were published in an alternate reality! Yes, it's the first installment of "Comics That Never Were," and I think you'll get a kick out of them! If you want to comment on this column, you can write me directly at .