RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week — in 1978!

Scott and Dan — joined by animator James Tucker — hit up the comics racks from 42 years ago!

This week for RETRO HOT PICKS, Scott Tipton and I are joined by James Tucker, super-animator and producer on such projects as Batman: The Brave and the Bold and the two Batman ’66 animated movies.

We’ll be selecting comics that came out the week of Dec. 16, 1978.

Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Dec. 9, 1971. 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 Dec. 13 and Dec. 19.)

So let’s set the scene: President Carter was in the middle of his first term, though the recent midterm elections presaged Ronald Reagan’s 1980 rise. The big movie release this week? Why it was Superman: The Movie — still my fave superhero movie of all time. (It debuted in D.C. on Dec. 10 but went wide Dec. 15.) All in the Family, by this time running on fumes, topped the Nielsens with the Bunkers visiting Gloria and Mike in California, only to learn that the younger couple had separated. Otherwise, the big hit those days was the goofy antics of Laverne & Shirley. The treacly You Don’t Bring Me Flowers by Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond led the Billboard 100 while Billy Joel’s 52nd Street was the best-selling album. (The No. 2 album? Steve Martin’s comedy classic A Wild and Crazy Guy.)

Freak out!

James Tucker, Warner Bros. animator and producer Batman: The Brave and the Bold and the Batman ’66 animated movies

Marvel Team-Up #79, Marvel. This was the best of the lot that particular week in December. There was no better art team in the mid-to-late 70’s for my money than John Byrne and Terry Austin and, while many justifiably put their run on Chris Claremont’s X-Men as their best work, I really have a fondness for the handful of Marvel Team-Up issues Claremont authored with Byrne pencils and various inkers. But Issue #79 inked by Austin was one of my favorites: It features Spider-Man teaming up with Red Sonja in a crazy, breezy romp that includes a cameo by Clark Kent (foreshadowing Byrne’s ’80s run on the Superman titles!).

Scott adds: If you’d asked me as a kid “What’s the perfect comic?” I’d have said this. A Spider-Man/Red Sonja teamup that in all defiance of logic makes perfect sense. Claremont and Byrne at their best.

Batman #309, DC. Irv Novick was one of the ’70s Batman artists I liked a lot, especially if Dick Giordano was inking his work, which always kicked it up a notch. So the best part of this book was actually the final page, when it was announced that Irv was going to be returning as the new artist on the book. Not soon enough to help this story, which features one of Batman’s least interesting villains of the ’60s and ’70s — Blockbuster — in a supremely dour Christmas-themed story about Batman’s race against the clock to find an attempted suicide victim. This is the kind of story that begged for Neal Adams’ realistic renderings and flair for the dramatic to really sell the intended pathos, which in this instance falls flat under the uninspired visuals. I do think that perhaps the somber tone of this issue must have stuck in my head and was something we tapped into when we were conceiving the Christmas episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, “Night of the Secret Santas!”.

Dan adds: Len Wein was just beginning his terrific Batman run and while I don’t remember many of the details, I do remember the poignant ending. I’m just starting 1976 in my epic Batman/Detective re-read and am really looking forward to this era — especially, as James points out, when Irv Novick becomes the regular penciller again.

DC Comics Presents #7, DC. As a comic-buying kid in the ‘70s, I bought Brave and Bold, Marvel Team-Up and DC Comics Presents mainly because, being a kid on a budget, those books offered more bang for my buck since they all featured two or more heroes in every issue. DC Comics Presents was a visual delight when Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez was on art duties in the beginning of the run. The appeal dropped precipitously when he wasn’t. Alas, this issue he wasn’t. Dick Dillin’s pencils were always competent, though not spectacular unless, again, Dick Giordano was the inker. But still, like with most of my ’70s DC Comics reading, something always sparked my imagination and was later summoned as inspiration when producing BTBATB. In this case it was the appearance of the Weaponers of Qward, who added some much needed spice to the story and would later show up as the villains in our episode, “Cry Freedom Fighters!” featuring the superhero group (surprise!) the Freedom Fighters.

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

Adventure Comics #462, DC Comics. Adventure Comics was where Justice Society fans like me used to go for the only place to see what was going on over on Earth-Two, and man, did they deliver, with some really shocking tales like this one, telling the last stand of Bruce Wayne to save his city, even after his bitter split from the JSA.

Dan adds: I knew Earth-Two’s Batman had been killed before I actually read this story and it added a dimension (no pun intended) to DC’s Multiverse that I really appreciated. These days, so much is done for shock value. This, on the other hand, was a straight-up story that could only be properly told on Earth-Two — with a compelling aftermath felt for years, especially in books like The Brave and the Bold.

Howard the Duck #30, Marvel. This comic was my first exposure to Howard the Duck, and it took me a few re-readings before I really got the joke and realized the series was a satire and not serious super-hero action like everything else I was reading. From that point on, I was hooked.

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-62: Superman: The Movie, DC. Because Superman came out this week! As much as I loved this behind-the-scenes issue, which I thumbed through over and over, I would have LOVED to see a film adaptation in treasury size. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be thanks to a short-sighted deal with original screenwriter Mario Puzo.

Famous First Edition #C-61: Superman #1, DC. Because Superman came out this week! As great as it is to have an oversize copy of Superman #1, I would have LOVED to see a film adaptation in treasury size. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be thanks to a short-sighted deal with original screenwriter Mario Puzo.

Spidey Super Stories #39, Marvel. Even Thanos showed up in this title!

The Flash #271, DC. I only knew this from the house ads. But I remember always thinking, “Man, that’s gotta hurt!”


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Dec. 9 — in 1971! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Dec. 2 — in 1983! Click here.

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

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Superman is one of my very favorite movies. I saw it first run when I was 10, and I took my family to the theater in 2018 to see the 40th anniversary screening… and for the first time, I was struck with how odd that intro with the curtains, and the fake comic book was. I guess they were saying Krypton exploded in 1938? I can understand the fake comic’s not showing Clark, Supes, or the rest of the cast prematurely, but why introduce the Daily Planet like that? It doesn’t even come up again till about halfway through the movie. And do they ever show the rotating planet on the building in modern day? Isn’t there a helipad there?

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  2. What was the deal with Mario Puzo that you referenced?

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  3. It’s so wrong that Brando and Hackman got top billing. WB wasted $$$ to get Brando. He was not the reason that movie worked.

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    • He wasn’t the reason the movie worked but he was the reason they were able to attract top stars like Gene Hackman. They wanted people to take the movie seriously before it even came out rather than think of it as kids’ stuff. Hence Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard, etc. Getting Brando gave the project instant credibility and made people sit up and take notice. I’d say it was worth it as a marketing tool. Naturally, Reeve should have gotten top billing but he was an unknown and Brando and Hackman were huge. Remember, this was the first superhero movie with bona fide big stars. These days, all the superhero movies get big stars.

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      • Even before Brando or Gene were attached it was screenplay writer Mario Puzo signing to write the original draft that got the whole show rolling. His reputation from work on films like The Godfather was the first step towards believing a man could fly.

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        • Yeah, but even Hackman himself said that he did it because Brando was in it. Puzo gave it legitimacy, even if much of his script was tossed. Brando gave it weight.

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    • I must respectfully disagree. You’re looking at it from the perspective of 40 years remove, when the movie has an established legacy. But without Brando signing on back then the movie likely wouldn’t have come into existence in the first place, it certainly wouldn’t have attracted the studio backing and momentum that it did. Brando might not have appeared on screen that much, but his gravitas added an immeasurable value to the studio and to audiences in the 70s and he’s one of the core reasons for the movie becoming a reality in the first place.

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  4. It may have been good news to Batman fans that Irv Novick was becoming the regular penciller on Batman, but it was bad news for Flash fans. The Flash issue you highlight, #271, marked the first issue after Irv Novick moved on ending his incredible run on Flash which dated back to 1970.

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    • Couldn’t agree more, C. Hall. Batman already had so many great artists and it was incredibly disappointing to see Irv leave the Flash title.

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  5. As a massive fan of Superman: The Movie, I had that Superman collector’s album AND the Famous 1st Edition, and like you, I pored over those books over and over and over again as a child. Thank you so much for the nostalgia trip!

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  6. i JUST got that MTU 79 (again, after giving away half my comics stupidly) because its prob the most creative/best art of the Byrne MTUs – he does a panel or two of homage to Thorne too…

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  7. I’m with you on that Flash issue. I saw that cover in house ads in all the DC comics at that time and I’ll admit, it caught my attention every single time. Yet I’ve still managed to go all these years without actually reading it. I believe DC is including it in the “Death Of Iris West” collection coming out next summer, so I’m finally going to get that chance.

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