RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week — in 1976!

Scott and Dan hit up the comics racks from 48 years ago…

This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are selecting comics that came out the week of Feb. 7, 1976.

Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Jan. 31, 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 Feb. 4 and Feb. 10.)

So, let’s set the scene: A deadly outbreak of swine flu hit the Army’s Fort Dix in New Jersey on Feb. 5 and, after investigation, the Ford Administration later urged all Americans to be inoculated. The subsequent rollout of the vaccine, however, was a debacle, beset by bureaucratic and governmental gridlock, as well as fears of the vaccine itself. The first jabs were not released until the fall. (The fiasco, by the way, did not give rise to the modern antivax movement. This was an issue specific to the situation.)

The anxiety and uproar was a significant news event throughout 1976, but it did give us a memorable Saturday Night Live sketch that October starring the Killer Bees (with guest Eric Idle).

On Feb. 6, meanwhile, Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for his role in a 1975 shootout that killed two FBI agents, was arrested in Canada. He was later convicted and remains in federal prison to this day, despite pleas for clemency.

Remember when the winter and summer Olympic Games were in the same year? I liked that. On Feb. 4, the opening ceremonies of the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, were held.

Sad news for Charlie Brown fans: Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, best known for composing much of the music on TV specials such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, died on Feb. 6 of a massive heart attack at the young age of 47. His best known piece is “Linus and Lucy” — often referred to as the Charlie Brown theme.

It was an incredible time at the cinema: The top-grossing movie of the week was the astounding One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next, which made an even bigger star of Jack Nicholson. I also highly recommend Ken Kesey’s novel, which is told from Chief’s point of view. Also in theaters was the electric Dog Day Afternoon.

But how’s this for a stunning ’70s triple play: Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert DeNiro and Jodie Foster, was released this week. It’s inspired filmmakers, writers and comics creators for decades — including Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s phenomenal Batman: Year One.

On TV: the Six Million Dollar Man vs. Bigfoot — co-starring Andre the Giant as Sasquatch! The second ep of the two-part kitsch classic topped the Nielsens for the week. Another big hit: Rich Man, Poor Man — one of the earliest TV miniseries; it made a star of Nick Nolte.

There were also a couple of new kids on the sitcom block: Laverne & Shirley premiered in late January and was an instant smash, this week landing at 4th in the ratings.

Strong showing on the Billboard 100: The singles charts were led by Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and there were plenty of groovy tunes among the leaders. Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby was at No. 2; the fantastic, unintentionally campy You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate was at No. 3; and, the treacly, jam-knitting-needles-in-your-ears I Write the Songs by Barry Manilow was at No. 4. (I’m not a Manilow hater but good lord.)

Every kid I knew, however, loved the song at No. 8 — Rhythm Heritage’s Theme From S.W.A.T. I didn’t even watch the show but I dig it as much as anyone. (The radio version was actually different from — and far superior to — the TV version.)

Topping the album charts was Bob Dylan’s Desire, featuring the tremendous Hurricane.

Duh-nuh-nuh, duh-nuh-nuh, duh-nuh-nuh, duh-nuh-nuh, duh-nuh-nuh-nuh…

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

Batman Family #5, DC. Before it was a word, I shipped the Dynamite Duo so hard, my Mego Robin and Batgirl were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Scott adds: The Dynamite Duo was always the reason I bought Batman Family every month.

Batman #275, DC. The finale of a four-part story where Batman combats the Underworld Olympics, a criminal competition pitting teams from various continents. Sounds fun if this is the 1950s but in the ’70s, it just didn’t work. You won’t hear me say this very often: not a particularly good period for Batman.

Planet of the Apes #19, Marvel. This is the one where they adapt Batshit Crazy on the Planet of the Apes.

Marvel Feature #4, Marvel. Red Sonja illustrated by Frank Thorne. Nothing else to add.

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

The Amazing Spider-Man #156, Marvel. Ned Leeds and Betty Brant tie the knot, until uninvited guest the Mirage shows up! Great, classic Spidey goodness.

Captain America #197, Marvel. Maybe the Kirbyest Kirby cover that ever Kirbyed.

The Joker #7, DC. The Joker’s solo series was just about the weirdest book out there.

Dan adds: It really was. The gist of every issue: The Joker is a murderous psychopath you kind of root for but who always has to be caught in the end because of the Comics Code. Helluva formula to try to fill every two months, but dang, it was entertaining.


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Jan. 31 — in 1986! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Jan. 24 — in 1970! Click here.

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

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I personally loved that period of BATMAN. I especially loved the covers by Ernie. It was the first time where I was able to get each month in a title so I could keep up with a “to be continued…” story. I also had the Viewmaster edition of the 6 Million Dollar Man episode. I got the Batman Family too but was always disappointed that BATMAN was never in anything but the reprint stories.

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  2. Great set up, brings back lots of memories. Captain America 197 is a big one for me, it’s my first Cap comic and my intro to the great Jack Kirby. Wonderful issue bought off the spinner rack of course.

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  3. Hot Chocolate…now there’s a band from my High School years! “You Sexy Thing” is a good song but their funk masterpiece was “Every 1’s a Winner”…which has been resurrected from obscurity by Hollywood – most recently in HBO’s “Winning Time”

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  4. I remember these! Yeah, I liked it when the Olympics were both on the same year schedule. OMG ’76 was the Bicentennial! (“What was that?” says little kids who will be around in 2076.) And somewhere I have every issue of The Joker. Yes! Excellent mag!

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    • Oh, we are going to get a refresher before 2076. 2026 is the Semiquincentennial (250 years since the Declaration of Independence for those of us who can’t even pronounce that word), and there are all kinds of plans in the works to make it a big one across the country.

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  5. I thought it was neat that The Joker answered the letters from readers in the series’ letters column.

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    • I don’t think I knew that! How funny! 🙂

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  6. This is just before I started buying comics- I have Joker #1 for some reason – loved Batman Family too – Robin and Batgirl were a great team (and the cover where they’re getting married is one of the all time best). As a side note, I love love love the DC cover designs of this era – with the band across the top. I guess everyone always loves what they are first exposed to, but it appealed to my sense of order. 🙂

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  7. Fun year in school, got to dress up every Friday in colonial wear. Loved my tri-corner hat.
    Had that Spider-Man comic, didn’t think much of the villain Mirage.

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  8. Besides the Batgirl and Robin stories in BATMAN FAMILY, my 3rd favorite feature was the Bureau of Missing Villains.

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