RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week — in 1975!

Scott and Dan — along with special guest Paul Kupperberg — hit up the comics racks from 45 years ago!

This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are joined by Bronze Age mainstay Paul Kupperberg, whose part-memoir/part how-to I Never Write for the Money… But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check, is in the final hours of its already successful Kickstarter campaign (click here). We’re selecting comics that came out the week of Sept. 30, 1975.

Why Sept. 1975? Because that’s when Paul — best known for his DC and Charlton work — was first published as a comics writer.

By the way, last time in RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Sept. 23, 1985. Click here to check it out.

(Keep in mind that comics came out on multiple days back then — as has become the case now. So these are technically the comics that went on sale between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3.)

So, let’s set the stage: Gerald Ford was president — and in some circles he would become best known for being savagely lampooned on Saturday Night Live, which would debut Oct. 11. All In the Family, deep into its run, was still dominating the top of the Nielsens. You had two great choices at the movies: Three Days of the Condor and, even better, Dog Day Afternoon, were both in theaters. David Bowie’s Fame topped the Billboard 100 and the best-selling album was Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, whose title song is the band’s best.

Right on.

Paul Kupperberg, Charlton and DC mainstay and writer of the forthcoming I Never Write for the Money… But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check

Scary Tales #3, Charlton. I’m going to fudge my first pick by a couple of days for Scary Tales #3 (on sale date Sept. 25) because it featured my first published story, the five-pager Distress. I read a lot of the Charlton horror titles anyway, largely due to the level of artists I was surrounded by in this issue, including Tom Sutton’s painted cover of the hostess, the sanguine Countess R.H. Bon Bludd, as well as two tales by Steve Ditko, and the artist on my story, fellow newbie Mike Zeck. As with many Charlton titles, readers bought them for the artists and stayed in spite of the scripts.

Action Comics #454, DC. If there was one constant across my comics reading lifetime, it was Superman. Other characters could come and go, but the Man of Steel was always on my reading pile. Having grown up on the retrospectively surrealistic Superman stories of the Mort Weisinger era, I could enjoy even the silliest of the Julie Schwartz-edited stories. This is as representational an issue of the era as you can get, including a cover of Superman in a life-threatening Chomp! Gulp! fast food frenzy, a scheme by the Toyman, a story by Superman stalwarts Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Tex Blaisdell, and a Martin Pasko/Jose Delbo Atom back-up.

Dan adds: Fantastic cover. Love the triple golden arches.

Hercules Unbound #2, DC. There was a bit of magic floating around DC Comics in the mid-1970s and his name was Wally Wood. After setting the standards for science fiction comics at EC and humor for Mad Magazine, Wood worked for a variety of publishers, landing for a short while at DC, mostly for his old EC colleague, artist/editor Joe Orlando. One of those Orlando-edited titles was Hercules Unbound, starring the mythological hero in a post-apocalyptic future, written by Gerry Conway. Wood inked over the pencils of 27-year old Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

Dan adds: DC is planning a collection of the whole series. Click here for details.

Korg: 70,000 B.C. #4, Charlton. Korg was a live action Hanna-Barbera TV kids’ series about a Neanderthal family during the Ice Age. I probably watched an episode or two of the show out of curiosity, but I have vivid memories of the comic for its art (and story and painted covers) by one of mainstream comics’ most quirky illustrators, Pat Boyette. Pat spent most of his career at Charlton Comics, which was famous for paying the lowest rates in the business but leaving artists like him (and Tom Sutton and Steve Ditko and others) alone to do what they wanted.

Comix International #2, Warren. Jim Warren started publishing black-and-white horror magazines in the early 1960s, sidestepping the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority and attracting some of the top talent in comics, including Archie Goodwin, Joe Orlando, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Alex Toth, Reed Crandall, Al Williamson, and others to his Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella magazines. Though past their hey day, Warren knew how to make use of his library of material and offered packages of reprints like Comix International, with classic stories by Rich Corben, Bernie Wrightson, Wally Wood, Esteban Maroto, and others. Maroto was from Spain, by the way, hence the “international” in the title.

Savage Sword of Conan #9, Marvel. I read a lot more Marvels than it would seem from this list, but September 1975 contained five Tuesdays (which was then New Comic Book Day), so the company must have had a “skip week,” leaving Savage Sword of Conan #9 as one of few options from the House of Ideas. But that works; I’d been a fan of Conan since before Conan became a comic book character and enjoyed what Roy Thomas, Barry Smith, Gil Kane, John Buscema and others had done with the strip. Along with illustrations by Tim Conrad, this issue featured the mighty Pablo Marcos on both the Conan lead story and King Kull back-up. Win-win.

The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor #18, Gold Key. Call it Gold Key, call it Whitman, this Midwest publisher had been chugging along since the dawn of comics, sticking mainly to kids comics, licensing, and the occult, mystery, and adventure genres; their attempts at superheroes in the 1960s (Doctor Solar, Owlman, and Jerry Siegel’s Tiger Girl) were weak at best. The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor followed said doctor, an adventurer and researcher into the occult, written by Don Glut and featuring art by Jesse Santos. I remember this particular issue because, like stories in earlier DC and Marvel Comics by Denny O’Neil and Roy Thomas, it’s set in the real town of Rutland, Vermont, during its annual Halloween costume parade.

The Great Gazoo #14, Charlton Comics. Sue me. I like The Flintstones and I loved the Great Gazoo, originally voiced on the TV show by Harvey Korman. I’d usually slip an issue or two of Charlton’s Flintstones or Popeye in with my stack of big boy comic books. One of my biggest disappointments while writing for Charlton was learning that those titles were off-limits for story submissions because they were claimed by senior writers. About 30 years later, I finally sold one of those stories to DC’s Cartoon Network Flintstones title: Sherock Stones, Master Detective of Bedrock.

Scott Tipton, contributor-at-large, 13th Dimension

Batman: Stacked Cards, Power Records. I was a big fan of these superhero records, and I remember the voice of the Joker (whoever it was) freaking me out more than a little.

Dan adds: Love, love, love this. Top of my list this week. I first heard the story on a compilation LP and I still listen to it from time to time. But the book version stands out because the art is by the superteam of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. Man, kids in 1975 were spoiled. (Click here for much more on this superb book-and-record set.)

Beep Beep: The Road Runner #55, Gold Key. I definitely bought this off the shelf at the Rexall. Animation writer Michael Maltese penned many of these comics, and he invented the convention that Road Runners speak in rhyming verse, being smart enough to realize that the generally silent Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote cartoons wouldn’t really work in comics.

Walt Disney Uncle Scrooge #124, Gold Key. Another Rexall purchase from my childhood, I read this comic so often that it’s practically in liquid form now. Amazing work by Carl Barks at the height of his powers.

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

Detective Comics #454, DC. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere (and maybe even here), I’m in the middle of an epic Batman/Detective re-read and I’m not too far from this issue. Gotta say I barely remember it, but that’s a big part of the point of the re-read. Anyway, it’s written by David V. Reed — with interior pencils by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (inked by Ernie Chan). JLGL also did the art for the Hawkman back-up. Looking forward to checking this one out again.

The Joker #5, DC. I was an on-and-off reader of The Joker. Knowing he was gonna get caught every issue took some of the tension away. But it was a neat, ahead-of-its-time idea and this issue is a fave with the natural showdown between the Joker and the Royal Flush Gang — a trope revisited later on Super Friends and the animated Justice League series. By the way, have you read the bonkers Issue #10, which wasn’t released until last year? Check this out.

Paul adds: Starring a villain in their own title was still a novel idea in 1975 (Marvel had briefly given Doctor Doom his own feature a few years earlier) when DC launched The Joker. This was writer Marty Pasko’s first issue after three issues by Denny O’Neil and one by Elliot Maggin; Marty wouldn’t return to the title until #10, which was to begin a multi-part storyline. Unfortunately, The Joker was cancelled with #9, leaving Marty’s issue (written with a minor assist from me) unpublished until recently. The Joker never really found its footing or creative direction, but with art by Irv Novick, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Ernie Chan, it was a failed experiment at least worth looking at.

FOOM! #11, Marvel. If I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten every issue of FOOM! and The Amazing World of DC Comics. This issue, obviously, heralds the return of the King to the House of Ideas.


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Sept. 23 — in 1985! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Sept. 16 — in 1974! Click here.

Primary sources: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, the Grand Comics Database.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I had the entire run of FOOM, which I bought at a garage sale for $1 for the lot. I really had no idea of their significance, and gave them away after a couple of years. What a dummy!

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    • Yeah, but we all make mistakes. I sold my entire run of FOOM for a good price on eBay. Was astonished to how much they went up in price.

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  2. That Action Comics one is one of the first Superman comics I ever bought. I’m sure it was because of the awesome cover. Which I’m also sure was thought up before the story was written.

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  3. Can never go wrong reading a Carl Barks UNCLE SCROOGE/DONALD DUCK stories.

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