Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Days of DC House Ads, Day 365: What we're trying to say here, basically, is just buy DC Comics

Part 1: An Introduction

So, there you go; another year down and a new one to look forward to. And tonight I wrap up "365 Days of DC House Ads." Wow, have I really been doing this for five years? That is almost as old as I am. The math says, yep, I have:
  • 2009: Ben Grimm
  • 2010: Hank McCoy
  • 2011: The Warriors Three
  • 2012: Alfred Pennyworth
  • 2013: DC House Ads
We've had some fun and some laffs and I know I've definitely learned a lot this year about DC's line of fine comical books, from Aquaman to Zatanna, with (inhale) Batman, Captain Marvel, Dolphin, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Gleek, Harley Quinn, I Ching, Jimmy Olsen, Kamandi, the Legion of Substitute Heroes, 'Mazing Man, Negative Man, Orion, Plastic Man, the Question, Ra's al Ghul...S...S...S....I'm sorry, I just can't think of a DC character that begins with "S."

In any case, how to wrap up this feature? I've shown you a bunch of fantastic and favorite DC House Ads, for which we ought to hoist a glass of champagne or Yoo-Hoo or your preferred new Year's Eve beverage to DC House Ad Honchos Ira Schnapp and Gaspar Saladino, who are responsible for a huge percentage of the ads I've spotlighted this year from the Silver Age and beyond. Here's to you, gentlemen!

Part 2: The Bad and the Ugly

But for a change, what about looking at the...well, the Corroded Lead Age of house ads, the early 1970s? Those ads which start to move away from the elaborate lettering and gifted design to substitute a style which...well, it would sell comics, that's for sure, but it just never had the same panache and élan and other words I found in my thesaurus.

Top: House ad for Justice League of America #92; printed in Action Comics #404 (both September 1971); comic cover art: pencils by Neal Adams, inks by Dick Giordano
Bottom: House ad for The Flash #211; printed in Action Comics #404 (both December 1971); comic cover art: pencils and inks by Dick Giordano

The extensive blank space and mechanical typography—not to mention the generic slogans—detract from what little charm Gaspar Saladino's lettering has here, and while it might perk up a reader to look for that month's JLA or Flash, these definitely are not memorable house ads. Even ads that featured larger lettering and more personalized slogans were, during this period, often placed on the page with huge amounts of white space: two ads being placed on a page big enough for three. I'm undecided whether this makes the ads "pop" better or just look lost on the page, but it's definitely less dynamic and compelling than ads that fill the page or a specific space. White space in a comic book? Fill that with something, guys!

House ads for The Unexpected #125 and Sugar & Spike #96; printed in Action Comics #401 (all June 1971). Comic cover art: Unexpected: pencils and inks by Nick Cardy; Sugar & Spike: pencils, inks, and letters by Sheldon Mayer

Multiple book ads of the period also suffered from clashing coloring, odd typography and excessive white yellow space:

House ad for The Joker #1; Justice, Inc. #1; Claw the Unconquered #1; and Tales of Ghost Castle #1 and Beowulf #1 and Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #1; printed in Tales of Ghost Castle #1 (all May 1975)

Let's not even talk about the politically incorrect OH FOR PETE'S SAKE WHAT WERE THEY THINKING

House ad for World's Finest Comics #175 and Justice League of America #62; printed in Batman #201 (all May 1968). Comic cover art: World's Finest: pencils and inks by Neal Adams, letters by Ira Schnapp; JLA: pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Jack Abel

And then there's the house ads that just make you go, "Oh...okay. Thank you."

House ad for DC's Superman titles (1974); printed in Detective Comics #438 (December 1973)

Naw, that's not a good note to go out on. Forget you saw those.

Part 3: The Golden Age

Maybe to wrap up 2013, we should take a look at some of how the DC House Ad really started. Back before the days of splashy graphics and lettered advertisements, you could rely on nice, clean, typography and some mildly enthusiastic hyperbole: if I read this ad right, this comic only costs you ten cents but returns your investment with a value of twenty-five cents! And with only one exclamation point?!?

House ad for More Fun #7 (January 1936); printed in New Comics #1 (December 1935)

Here's an early evolution of the bombastic DC house ad to come. Buy Detective Comics, the comic book that is like a smash in the head with a heavy lead-filled cudgel! To be fair, I feel the same way about this month's issue of Forever Evil.

House ad for Detective Comics #4 (June 1937); printed in Detective Comics #3 (May 1937)

Even the landmark moments of the Golden Age were promoted with a economy of hype. Check out the tiny, tiny fine print of this ad promoting the solo book for one of DC's most popular new characters.

House ad for Batman #1 (Spring 1940); printed in Superman #5 (Summer 1940). Comic cover art: pencils and figure inks by Bob Kane, background inks by Jerry Robinson

Now here's what the original ad for Action Comics #1 shoulda looked like in 1938! But this one's just for the treasury-sized reprint of '74. Don't be fooled into buying it for thousands of dollars!

House ad for Famous First Edition #C-26 [Action Comics #1] (1974); printed in Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #15 (February 1974). Comic cover art: pencils and inks by Joe Shuster; ad designed and lettered by Gaspar Saladino

Lovely tho' these are, let's look forward, not back, for our last House Ad of 2013, shall we? (slight pause to wait for your affirmative answer) Thanks! I'm glad you agree with me.

Part 4: The New 52

Why don't we wrap up by showing off some house ads for today's new, with-it, what-the-kids-are-readin', everybody favorite DC Comics: The New 52!

Eh, mebbe not.

How about a house ad filled with praise and rave reviews for a contemporary DC comic book event which shook the world of graphic literature in our time?

Click image to Veidt Industriesize

Let's move on, shall we? (no pause at all to wait for your answer)

Part 5: Happy New Year!

Okay, okay, let's try this again. Hey, it's New Year's Eve, isn't it? Before we all get too tipsy, why don't we try out an ad which looks forward to the DC Comics coming out in the next year? Like, say, Houma, Lousiana, and the post-apocalypse, all in the year 1973?

House ad for Swamp Thing (1972 series) #4 and Kamandi, Last Boy on Earth #5; printed in Batman #248 (all April 1973). Comic cover art: Swamp Thing: pencils and inks by Bernie Wrightson; Kamandi: pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mike Royer; ad designed and lettered by Gaspar Saladino

...or maybe let's take a peek at Barry Allen's date book for 1968?

House ad for The Flash #178; printed in Jimmy Olsen #110 (both April 1968). Comic cover art: pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Mike Esposito; ad designed and lettered by Gaspar Saladino

But it's not really a New Year's house ad without a half-naked baby in a top hat, is it?

House ad for More Fun Comics #28; printed in Detective Comics #11 (both January 1938). Comic cover art: pencils and inks by Vincent Sullivan

Hmmm. That doesn't quite meet the requirements for the ultimate DC House Ad of the Year, though, does it? I want something that tells me I must not miss the next issue, that every DC Comic is exhilarating and entertaining, and most important, that DC/National's entire line is worthy of my stash of dimes. Something that tells me...

House ad for the wide range of DC/National Comics; printed in Detective Comics #390 (August 1969); ad designed and lettered by Gaspar Saladino


So, if that doesn't inspire you to go out and buy some DC Comics—and however much I rib them, there are still great comics that they publish—I don't know what will. Some variant covers, perhaps.

So, that leaves us with
  • 2009: Ben Grimm
  • 2010: Hank McCoy
  • 2011: The Warriors Three
  • 2012: Alfred Pennyworth
  • 2013: DC House Ads
  • 2014: ???
What's up for 2014? Well, you'll see tomorrow! Or there'll be heck to pay. Oh, okay...here's a little hint.

See ya next year, folks!


Dean said...

Psst,'Steve Lombard' starts with an S!

Phillip said...

365 explosions? Happy New Year, Bully!

Joseph said...

Thanks for all your hard work Bully! I've loved the 365 days of features since days of little blue eyed Thing!

Taylor said...

another great year, thanks for all the posts, this is still my favorite comics spot on the internet!

Blam said...

Ditto the compliments from everyone else, Bully… There has been one glaring omission in your celebration, however, purely from my own personal subjective me me me P-O-V: a house ad that defined little Blam's own personal Golden Age. It may not be the most exciting page in the annals of National history, but the mere sight of it (indeed just the sight of the great old bullet reading "The Line of DC Super-Stars") takes me back.

Thanks for this great look back and best wishes for a great 365 in 2014, Bullster!

Suzanne de Nimes (suedenim) said...

Great job on this, Bully! And it was very informative, too - I hadn't realized how much DC has pretty much ALWAYS been outperforming Marvel in terms of house ads.

Of course, Marvel's been outselling DC for most of those years too, so perhaps having dynamite house ads isn't really worth all that much....

Suzanne de Nimes (suedenim) said...

Ooh, that ad Blam linked was a very memorable one for me, too! Very mysterious, too - I don't think I ever saw most of those titles until a decade after seeing this ad as a little kid. Though I do remember having an issue of Claw or Stalker, or maybe both?

Bully said...

Blam, you won't believe how long I did have that house ad you linked in my folder, but I never got a proper chance to post it. Thanks so much for adding it!

Blam said...

I ended up with a copy of Claw the Unconquered #3 before my 5th birthday somehow. It was probably a trade with a friend, because I tended to go for superhero comics first (and second and third) with humor next, horror/supernatural rare, and war, high fantasy, and westerns at the bottom of the list — but I also don't recall my parents or grandparents ever denying me something because it looked too scary or grown-up. I do know that the issue both fascinated me and freaked me out.

Robby Reed said...

Wow, no shout out to DIAL B for BLOG, who popularized Schnapp and Saladino and posted almost every ad you've posted here years before you did? And where'd you get the images of Schnapp and Saladino? From DIAL B of course! Bully... Bully...

Bully said...

Mister Reed:

I got the images of Schnapp from Comic Vine (and I found the ID of the artist on Todd Klein's blog; the image of Saladino came from the Marvel Wikia. If they are your original images, I was not aware of that.

And I haven't read your posts on Schnapp and Saladino. I'm certain they were very thorough.