Scott and Dan hit up the comics racks from 67 years ago…
This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are hitting the 1950s for the first time ever! We’re selecting comics that came out the week of May 24, 1956.
Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of May 17, 1986. Click here to check it out.
(Keep in mind that comics came out on multiple days, so these are technically the comics that went on sale between May 21 and May 27.)
So, let’s set the scene: Despite worries about his health, President Eisenhower was poised to cruise to a second term as Democratic candidates Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver beat up on each other. The Stevenson/Kefauver race heralded a new age in politics: The two held the first televised presidential debate May 21, 1956, before the Florida primary, which Stevenson won. By the time of the California primary the following month, Kefauver was running on fumes and after getting trounced in the Golden State, he threw in the towel. (He ended up as Stevenson’s running mate. Eisenhower’s No. 2, meanwhile, was a miserable guy named Richard Nixon.)
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring James Stewart and Doris Day, was tops at the box office. Also in theaters was The Searchers, starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford. Despite themes that are problematic by modern standards, the film is considered one of the greatest Westerns ever.
But the big Hollywood story was off the screen: Marilyn Monroe, who had recently been filming Bus Stop, was dating writer Arthur Miller, causing a media feeding frenzy. They would wed in June at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, N.Y.
On TV, the top-rated shows were The $64,000 Question, The Ed Sullivan Show and I Love Lucy, in that order. All were on CBS. NBC, meanwhile, debuted its peacock logo May 22, to show off the quality of its color broadcasting. It would later be animated.
Baseball was the undisputed National Pastime and the 1956 season was one of the game’s most memorable. On May 24, the New York Yankees — en route to yet another World Series championship — led the American League by 3 games, with the Cleveland Indians in second. Mickey Mantle finally came in to his own, with a stunning Triple Crown season. The defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers were sitting in 4th in the National League this week but the Bums would return to the Series for another rematch with the Yanks.
Mantle and the Yanks weren’t the only story in sports, however: Althea Gibson on May 26 became the first African American to win a tennis Grand Slam event, taking the women’s singles title at the French Championships (later known as the French Open).
And, finally, last but certainly not least, a new day was dawning in the world of music and popular culture — Elvis Presley was well on his way to becoming the King: Heartbreak Hotel — out since January — was the biggest song in America, the first Elvis hit to reach No. 1, and his self-titled debut album ruled the charts. Earlier in May, he released the follow-up hit, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, which topped out at No. 3. On May 25, he wrapped a U.S. tour with his first visit to Detroit. Elvis had entered the building.
Where I’ll be, I’ll be so lonely, baby/Well, I’m so lonely/I’ll be so lonely, I could die
Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension
Detective Comics #233, DC. Batwoman Begins! The story goes that DC introduced Kathy Kane to give Batman a love interest in order to distance itself from Wertham-fueled paranoia that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were lovers. Just goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Scott adds: I have always been a huge fan of Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman. I love that costume, slightly similar to Batman’s but definitely distinctive and all her own.
Howdy Doody #38, Dell. Of course Howdy Doody had a comic! He was enormously popular with the kids!
MGM’s Lassie #29, Dell. Of course Lassie had a comic! She was enormously popular with the kids! Did you know it’s the seventh-longest running prime-time show in TV history?
Mystic #51, Atlas. Comics had been reined in by the Comics Code Authority but there was still some wiggle room for seamy storytelling. Just dig this cover by Wild Bill Everett.
Superboy #50, DC. Clark Kent has a youthful identity crisis with three tales — “The Boy Who Stole Superboy’s Identity!,” “There Is No Superboy” and “The Super Giant of Smallville!”
Western Roundup #15, Dell. All your shiny Western heroes in one place! That’s Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Johnny Mack Brown, Bill Elliott, Rex Allen and Jock Mahoney.
Journey Into Unknown Worlds #49, Atlas. Russ Heath delivers a very of-the-moment cover starring scary alien robots!
G.I. Combat #39, Quality. Before it became a DC mainstay! That’s a Dick Dillin/Chuck Cuidera cover.
Patsy Walker #66, Atlas. About two decades before she’d become Hellcat!
Adventures of Mighty Mouse #130, Pines. Here he comes to save the day!
Scott Tipton, contributor-at-large, 13th Dimension
Action Comics #218, DC. Don’t be fooled, this is not Titano the Super-Ape. No, this is just a run-of-the-mill Kryptonian ape sent to Earth by a buddy of Jor-El’s. For real.
Strange Adventures #70, DC. Will the real Dr. Pluto please stand up? Please stand up? Please stand up?
Journey into Mystery #38, Atlas. An exceptionally moody cover here by Sol Brodsky.
— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of May 17 — in 1986! Click here.
— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of May 10 — in 1975! Click here.
Primary sources: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, the Grand Comics Database.
May 24, 2023
Some intriguing stories among these.
May 24, 2023
Some great stuff here.
Also, THE SEARCHERS is THE greatest western ever made and Elvis eventually hit #1 with “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”.
May 24, 2023
Kinda sorta. The charts were more divided then. He hit No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100, but No. 1 on the country chart and the store sales chart. No matter what, it’s a great song!
May 24, 2023
I loved the original BATWOMAN and BATGIRL of the ’50s. What a great story when Kathy showed up in that issue of Brave and the Bold.
May 25, 2023
Wish I could go back in time and check out all these comics and many others at the local newsstand.