by The Metropolis Kid
This week we take a little time out to shed a little light on DC's publishing history with regards to the rise of their 80 Page reprint books in the early 1960s, and to look at what Legion material was contained within those books. If this post interests you, you may also enjoy the Digest Sized Legion of Super-Heroes post.
By 1960, DC
had been running on full steam with characters like Superman and Batman for
over 20 years, and Marvel hadn’t even entered the Silver Age with their
properties Fantastic Four (1961) or Spider-Man (1962) yet. Meanwhile DC, on
the heels of their Silver Age Superhero resurgence courtesy of the 1956
makeover of the Flash, had ramped up their Silver
Age superhero output. The Superhero genre had taken a sharp decline in the late '40s, giving rise to the popularity of the Western, Crime, and Horror comic genres that flourished in
the Atomic Age from 1947-1956. This time period is oft debated, and I think it,
like most comic eras, are more dependent on individual characters than the
industry or company as a whole, but that’s a discussion for another time.
So with the revitalization of the Superhero genre, DC introduced the “Annual” concept in 1960. They began printing 80 page books
collecting stories mostly from the Atomic, and early Silver Age. They began with Superman and his cast of supporting characters. These newly coined 80 Page Annuals were actually on a semi-annual
release schedule, with Superman seeing two 80 Page Annuals published a year from 1960 to 1963.
In 1961 DC began to broaden their Annual publishing material, and in addition
to the two new Superman Annuals (Superman Annual #3 & #4), they also introduced two Batman
Annuals as well as a Secret Origins Annual. In 1962 they diversified their Annual offering even
further, adding a Lois Lane
and a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 80 Page Annual to the lineup, in addition of course to the two Batman and
Superman Annuals. This trend continued, as DC ended up publishing 22 of these 80 page
annuals through the beginning of 1964, at which point the series received an overhaul and a
That new name and series of course was none other than the 80 Page Giant series. Each issue showcased a specific character
and typically reprinted five to seven classic stories from the mid-50s to mid-60s. Issue #1 of 80 Page Giant appropriately starred
Superman, as this issue was originally advertised in comics a few months prior
as Superman Annual #9. When DC instituted the 80 Page Giant series, they
abandoned the Annual altogether, and since 80 Page Giant #1 took the content that was slated for
Superman Annual #9 and ended that annual series, we actually wouldn’t see DC return to
the annual format until they released a Superman Annual #9 nearly 20 years later in
1983! 80 Page Giant ran for 15 issues, featuring all reprinted material, and
each cover caring the issue number in the G## format. The self-titled series
ended with G15 Superman and Batman, before it underwent another transformation.
The G## would continue on the cover, but now the 80 Page Giants would be special giant-sized
reprint issues that ran through popular ongoing titles. For example G16 was Justice League #39, an 80 Page Giant that reprinted early exploits of the
Justice League, including their first appearance in the pages of Brave and the
Bold #28. This numbering scheme lasted until 1971, eventually dropping the "80 Page Giant" heading from the cover, as the page count dwindled from 80 pages to 64, and ended with G89 which was Justice
League of America
This 80 Page format included the front and back cover in the
page count, and had very limited advertisements. Most of the ads were in the
form of ¼ page house ads below the final panel of the story, or were written as
full one page comic stories, so even if it was an ad, you were still getting
some comic reading, and I'll admit even today I'm still a sucker for that advertising gimmick.
Since trade paperbacks didn’t exist in the 1960s, this was
really the only way that you could get your hands on past Superman and Batman
stories. These stories were easy for DC to collect, as 99% of stories at this
time were one and done 12-20 page stories. So readers would get 6 or 7 stories
for the small price of a quarter. It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t
just order a trade of those early Silver Age Superman stories, and this format
offered newer readers a chance to read some of the classics from DC’s more recent publishing history. Now at the time the thought process was that readership rolled over every 5-7 years, meaning reprinting 5 year old material probably found a whole new audience. Of course there was much more to offer in DC's rich 20-30 year back catalog of publishing history, and thanks to DC staffer and historian E. Nelson Bridwell, that would be realized in the form of DC's next line-wide venture into giant-sized reprint comics, the 100 Page Super-Spectaculars. But that series history will have to wait to be explored at a another time.
A lot of the stories reprinted in these 80 Page Giants are
still fan favorites today, being collected in volumes such as Best Joker
Stories or The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told.
If you keep your eye on eBay, it’s surprising how cheap you can score a
number of these 80 Pagers from the early 1960s. I’ve picked up a few of these in VG
condition over the past few years for under $5 including the shipping, not too bad for these
classics. The Silver Age, especially at DC, I think is too often dismissed as
an era of silly imaginary stories that lack direction or relevant content.
While that may be the case in some instances, the stories that are usually reprinted
in these were classics then, and still hold up today, and even though they may have a littler town, are still essential due to the concepts they introduced that are still prevalent today. Obviously the reason you're reading this is due to your passion for the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the most popular Silver Age inventions, which of course led to their debut from Adventure Comics #247 being reprinted many times over the years, including its first reprinting in the pages of the 80 Page Superman Annual #6.
As far as the Legion is concerned, below is run-down of the stories starring the Legion of Super-Heroes that saw print courtesy of either the 80 Page Annuals or 80 Page Giants.
*Superman Annual #4 Features the 2-page feature “The
Origin and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes”
*Superman Annual #6 Reprints "The Legion of Super-Heroes" from Adventure Comics #247 (first
place it was reprinted)
*Superman Annual #8 Reprints "Prisoner of the Super-Heroes" from Adventure Comics #267
*80 Page Giant G-11 Reprints Superboy #86
*Action Comics #334 (G-20) Reprints “The Three Super-Heroes”
from Action Comics #267
*Superboy #129 (G-22) Reprints “Superboy’s Big Brother”
from Superboy #89 + text stories “How Mon-El left the Phantom Zone” &
“Superboy’s Time Trips.”
*Superman #193 (G-31) Reprints “The Death of Superman” from
*Action Comics #347 (G-33) Reprints “Supergirl’s Super
Boy-Friends” from Action Comics #290 + has text features “Supergirl’s Legion
Adventures” & “More About Supergirl’s Super-Friends”
*Action Comics #360 (G-45) Reprints “The World’s Greatest
Heroine” from Action Comics #285
*Superboy #147 (G-47) New Story “The Origin of the Legion” +
Reprints “The Boy with Ultra-Powers” from Superboy #98, “The Legion of
Super-Traitors” from Adventure Comics #293, “Supergirl’s Three Super-Girl
Friends” from Action Comics #276, “The Secret of the Seventh Super-Hero” from
Action Comics #290, and “The Legion of Super-Villains” from Superman #147
*Superman #222 (G-66) Reprints “Superman’s Lost Brother”
from Superman #80. This is a pseudo-Mon-El appearance. This character of
Superman’s lost brother was a trial run and an adult pre-cursor to the
character that would become Mon-El and first appear in Superboy #89 eight & a half years
*Adventure Comics #390 (G-69) Reprints “When Supergirl
Played Cupid” from Adventure Comics #390.
*Adventure Comics #403 (G-81) Reprints “The Stolen
Super-Powers” from Adventure Comics #304, “The Secret of the Mystery
Legionnaire” from Adventure Comics #305, “The Return of Lightning Lad” from
Adventure Comics #308, and “The Super-Sacrifice of the Legionnaires” from
Adventure Comics #312.
*Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #140 (G-86) Reprints the story
“The World of Doomed Olsens” from Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #72.