In anticipation of meeting comics legend Jim Steranko at this year's Cincinnati Comic Expo, I pulled out an old issue of Mediascene. Mediascene (formerly Comixscene and later Prevue) was Steranko's bi-monthly periodical that had features and news on comics and genre movies. It was a pioneer in the comic book news field, treating comics as a serious subject a decade before the Comics Journal and Amazing Heroes came around. The issue on hand is #19, from May-June, 1976. Here are some clippings that present an intriguing look at the industry of 35 years ago!
Mediascene was printed like a newspaper, in two tabloid-size sections. The picture above was the cover to the second section, cover comics news. I was shocked to see not only the picture but the article. The 'Superman vs. Muhammed Ali' comic1 is a now-legendary art job by Neal Adams, in which real-life super hero Ali and Superman join forces. It was just reprinted last year in two separate hardcover editions. So, what happened to Kubert between the above blurb and the book's publication in December 1977?
Legendary letter, John Workman, told 'Comic Book Artist' magazine that Ali's people didn't like Kubert's art. DC Comics sent them samples of other artists to choose from, and the one they preferred was Kurt Schaffenberger. DC convinced them to go with fan-favorite Neal Adams over the dependable but less dynamic Schaffenberger.2 Deferring to the master, Adams has obviously used Kubert's drawing as his cover layout.
Just a snippet of a long article on editorial changes at DC and their new royalty policy. 'Hey, comic creator, thanks for creating a new character that we will print and merchandise in perpetuity. Here's $10. Save it, and in 30 years buy a statue we've made of the same character. And hey, free cake beats profit participation any day.' Still, it was the best deal going. The "Colletta" referred to in the article is Vince Colletta, who had just been named DC's Art Director, a post he would hold for the next three years.Many may scoff at this praise for Colletta, generally derided as an inker, sacrificing quality in pursuit of speed. I've never been a Colletta hater, though his habit of erasing out some pencils was odious. A fresh look was taken at Colletta's work in this book from last year. What interested me is the idea that now that he wasn't on a deadline crunch, his inking would be better. Well, did it get better?
The rumored story was either heavily edited or went unpublished. The only romance book DC had in 1976 was YOUNG LOVE. At the time of this issue of Mediascene, Young Love was in the middle of an 8 month hiatus - 11/75 - 8/76. All the issues carried the code seal, and the book was cancelled the following April.
After DC stopped publishing Tarzan comics, Marvel started publishing them about three months later. So, what happened to the Burroughs' comics company announced in the article? According to a 2010 message board post from Evanier - "It may interest folks that when H-B took the rights away from Charlton, their initial plan was to start a new company called Hanna-Barbera Comics and publish books themselves. They went out and found that the major comic book distributors (mainly Independent, which was DC, and Curtis, which was Marvel) had such a lock on newsstand distribution that it was impossible to get space on the newsstands. A few years earlier, the Edgar Rice Burroughs company had the exact same experience when they took the rights to Tarzan away from DC and tried to start their own company. Like H-B, they ultimately had to admit there was no way to get their product distributed and they sold the package to Marvel...and regretted it."
This blurb mentions four DC books that have been shelved for the moment. MISTER MIRACLE and BLACK LIGHTNING did later appear, but what of the other two? I'm guessing PANZER was a war book, but what could SEXTET have been? The same article mentions a new Seven Soldiers of Victory title that never emerged, as well as the news that Detective Comics was going bi-monthly.
I hope "The Star Wars" works out for Roy and Howie. If the movie tanks, maybe they can make a go of the comic anyway.
In other movie news, Superman is in pre-production. According to Mediascene, Marlon Brando has been signed to play Jor-El. "[DC Comics President] Sol Harrison told us he would like to see either Telly Savales or Gene Hackman appear as Lex Luthor. Burt Reynolds is still not signed for the title role, and as more time passes, his possible involvement in the film diminishes." Oh, Burt and Telly...why oh why did we have to wait until "Cannonball Run II" until you found a project to do together?!?
Finally, the issue ends with a nice two-page spread detailing the opening and curriculum of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. The school recently celebrated its 35th year by changing it's name to The Kubert School. I'm guessing with all the work that went into founding the school, Joe wasn't too upset with losing the Muhammed Ali job!
1Yes, the real title of the comic is "All-New Collectors' Edition" #C-56. But then, you knew that already.
2Workman, John, "Ringside Seat", Comic Book Artist Collection, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2000
MEDIASCENE 19, May-June 1976, published by Supergraphics. Jim Steranko, Publisher and Editor.