With groovy gifs of each one!
By WALT GROGAN
Between the summer of 1973 and the summer of 1978, DC produced 17 table-top dioramas on the back covers of their tabloid-sized reprint series, Limited Collectors’ Edition, and one for the successor, All-New Collectors’ Edition.
While I’m sure plenty of older DC fans may have seen the back covers featuring the dioramas, I think it’s a safe guess that very few had the tenacity to assemble more than one, and even fewer have seen them all put together! Using my trusty scanner, a LaserJet printer, and plenty of 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock, I slightly resized all 18 to fit.
I made some subtle changes primarily to the color of the tabs so that they would blend in a bit better on the frame.
Much like the originals, the biggest problem was cutting them out of the cardstock. Back in the early Seventies, armed only with a pair of children’s safety scissors, I was just not dexterous enough to make the sharp turns and close cutting needed to make these devils look much like they were supposed to. Even sharper scissors were not much of a match!
I decided that now as an early sexagenarian, the time had come to give it another try and put together all 18 dioramas — yes, even those featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
The first five (#C-21 through #C-25), as well as a Rudolph diorama later in the run, contained additional pieces to form the scene and several were horizontal in format rather than the standard vertical, so they’re not all uniform. But that’s what kept them so interesting. With a pair of incredibly sharp scissors, a trusty X-Acto blade, some perseverance, and what I’m sure was not a minimum of cursing, I began my quest!
Note: I had to do a fair amount of clean-up on the dioramas due to the condition of my copies and you’ll notice some bleed-through as I added covers on the back of the backgrounds for identification.
Here we go — a omplete gallery of DC Comics treasury edition 3-D dioramas:
#C-21 (Summer 1973) — Shazam!
As a major Captain Marvel fan, I really love this one! And it didn’t hurt that it was based on C.C. Beck’s artwork. My only quibble with it was the placement of the extra piece — the BOOM cloud with lightning bolt. It was placed too high, which caused the frame to cover most of the cloud. I moved the BOOM cloud down so it can be better seen:
#C-22 (Fall 1973) — Tarzan
I really like this one and I’m not the biggest Tarzan fan. The addition of the branch between the frame and the background is a winner! The Grand Comics Database suggests that this may be by Sam Glanzman. Whoever did it, did a nice job!
#C-23 (Winter 1973) — House of Mystery
This Sergio Aragonés-produced piece starring Cain from the House of Mystery shines with an additional tombstone piece that sits between the foreground and background. And this is the only diorama that requires an extra part that doesn’t come with it — a piece of string to wrap around the dragon’s head as a leash that connects to Cain’s hand! This is a definite contender for the best diorama!
#C-24 (Christmas 1973) — Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
The savior of this (possible) Sheldon Mayer diorama is the extra piece. Rudolph and the word balloon are much too large and overly obscure the background. It is not one of my favorites.
#C-25 (April-May 1974) — Batman
This is another contender for best diorama and I’m sure it’s 13th Dimension head honcho Dan Greenfield’s favorite. The Neal Adams piece really shines with the addition of the Batman cutout, giving it that extra layer! It’s an incredibly moody and scary piece!
#C-27 (June-July 1974) — Shazam!
Next up is another nice Shazam! diorama, this time by Bob Oksner. Billy Batson and the lightning cloud give it some extra stability and the movement is marvelous!
#C-29 (Aug.-Sept. 1974) — Tarzan
This Joe Kubert diorama is good and stable but the frame’s Tarzan image is just a bit too large. Yet it still works!
#C-31 (Oct.-Nov. 1974) — Superman
This one, based on the art of H.J. Ward, is nice, simple, and effective! Plus you’ve gotta love that Earth-Two Superman symbol!
#C-32 (Dec. 1974-Jan. 1975) — Ghosts
Sadly, this Ghosts piece is my least favorite of the dioramas and is attributed to Sam Glanzman. Sorry, Sam! The extra pieces were a nice touch but the frame image is overwhelming and is not sized properly to the background, which is a bit too short to fill the frame.
#C-33 (Feb.-March 1975) – Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Here’s another Rudolph, by Sheldon Mayer, that could have been better. The idea is great but Rudolph and the rocket are much too large.
#C-35 (April-May 1975) — Shazam!
Here’s another simple, yet effective diorama — this time featuring Captain Marvel from the TV show Shazam! For the longest time, I didn’t know who drew this but once you know it’s Mike Grell, you can spot his stylistic idiosyncrasies. Plus props for drawing Jackson Bostwick in comic book form!
#C-37 (Aug.-Sept. 1975) — Batman
I’m a big fan of Jim Aparo and his realistic approach. Here he takes on Batman and several of the Caped Crusader’s most notable rogues. It actually would have made for a good story if the Batsignal had either been taken over by this quartet or if Commissioner Gordon had decided to cut to the chase and just let Batman know whom he needed to apprehend. (Note from Dan: Actually, THIS one is my fave!)
#C-38 (Oct.-Nov. 1975) — Superman
You can’t beat a patriotic diorama with a photo of the Statue of Liberty! Who wouldn’t want to go for a ride with The Man of Steel around Lady Liberty?!? (By Curt Swan and Bob Oksner.)
#C-39 (Oct.-Nov. 1975) — Secret Origins: Super-Villains
I love face-off covers, so naturally this diorama should be a favorite, especially since the Big Red Cheese is featured. It’s weird that artist Dick Giordano chose to place the Flash and Cap next to one another since their costumes are so similar. I wish a little more care had been taken on the design because the frame isn’t sturdy due to the lack of a connection from one side to the other. I had to connect Batman and Joker and Superman and Lex Luthor to give it a bit more strength.
#C-42 (Feb.-March 1976) — Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
This is my favorite of the Rudolph dioramas! It has an extra piece but more importantly, the design works so well as a diorama! Cheers to artists Sheldon Mayer and Tenny Henson!
#C-45 (June-July 1976) — More Secret Origins: Super-Villains
Here’s another slightly disappointing design even though the idea is cool. The speed lines have nothing to work off of, so as the image is rotated it’s just a wee bit boring. Art by Dick Giordano.
#C-48 (Oct.-Nov. 1976) – Superman vs. The Flash
It’s hard to believe now, but back in the Silver Age, the various DC heroes didn’t hang around all that much (other than in Justice League of America or team-up books). It was generally due to different editors wanting to keep their characters close to the vest, so it was always a treat when one would show up in someone else’s book. A Superman-Flash race was always exciting and, here, it’s fun to see who is cheering for the Man of Steel and who’s cheering for the Scarlet Speedster! Plus you have to dig DC President Sol Harrison as the starter (is he a hero or villain?). Art by José Luis Garcia-López and Bob Oksner.
All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-60 (Aug. 1978) — Rudolph’s Summer Fun
Here’s another patriotic one as Rudolph flies around the Statue of Liberty! Notice how the Statue’s eyes shift position from the front cover to the back cover. It’s the last diorama and the only All-New Collectors’ Edition to feature one!
With that, I’m placing Sergio’s House of Mystery diorama in First Place with Neal Adams’ Batman piece coming in a close Second!
And here’s a 13th Dimension lagniappe — my label for the treasury box holding my DC Limited and All-New Collectors’ Editions!
— The TOP 13 TREASURY EDITIONS That Need To Be Re-Released — RANKED. Click here.
— The Brilliant Majesty of the BATMAN-RA’S AL GHUL Treasury. Click here.
A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.