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Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978

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A recounting of the infamous "DC Implosion" in 1978 as the company's line of comic books and staff were slashed in response to horribly low sales.


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A recounting of the infamous "DC Implosion" in 1978 as the company's line of comic books and staff were slashed in response to horribly low sales.

30 review for Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    Comic Book Implosion chronicles the DC Explosion of the late 1970s, the addition of 20+ new titles, and the subsequent implosion. If you were reading DC Comics in 1977 or, like me, have read numerous back issues from that period, you'll recognize this ad: The DC Explosion was a big event designed to launch new titles and increase DC's place in the comic book market. Instead, because of a lot of factors, it was a disaster and DC wound up slashing 40% of its titles. Comic Book Implosion gives the in Comic Book Implosion chronicles the DC Explosion of the late 1970s, the addition of 20+ new titles, and the subsequent implosion. If you were reading DC Comics in 1977 or, like me, have read numerous back issues from that period, you'll recognize this ad: The DC Explosion was a big event designed to launch new titles and increase DC's place in the comic book market. Instead, because of a lot of factors, it was a disaster and DC wound up slashing 40% of its titles. Comic Book Implosion gives the inside scoop from people in the industry at the time. While not as gripping as an issue of The Brave and The Bold from that time period, it was an interesting account. Every time I read something about the comics industry, I'm surprised it has lasted this long. Various pros give insight during the preparation, execution, and eventual failure of the DC Explosion. I knew of the Explosion and subsequent implosion from various accounts over the years but more of the nuts and bolts are laid out here. It's kind of depressing seeing the roster of titles plummet. While the story is kind of dreary, the book is loaded with art from the time period, both published and unpublished. Joe Kubert's original cover for Superman vs. Muhammad Ali is included, as well as tons of stuff that landed in the legendary Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. Some of the aborted plans had a lot of potential, like Vixen's solo book. I knew about that but I had no idea Airwave was originally planned to be Green Lantern's sidekick until editorial mandate decreed Green Arrow stay in the book. I also didn't know that an unpublished Kamandi story revealed that Jed from the red and yellow Sandman was the boy who would become Kamandi in the mainline DC universe, which I like quite a bit better than Kamandi becoming Tommy Tomorrow post-Crisis. Speaking of Muhammad Ali vs. Superman earlier, I also didn't know Neal Adams was boning DC publisher Jenette Kahn (Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn!) around that time. The book had a happy ending, at least, with the rise of the New Teen Titans and DC's resurgence. While it was by no means a riveting tale, Comic Book Implosion is an interesting look in a turbulent time in DC comics history. Three out of five stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    An intriguing account of the late 1970s DC Explosion, the accompanying Implosion of June 1978, and the aftermath. This is largely an oral history, with Dallas and Wells pulling together a variety of first-person accounts about this period in DC Comics history. Most of the history is culled from publications and interviews of the time, or soon after. But the authors also include many contemporary accounts where creators -- some of which were teenage comic-book fans at the time -- look back on wha An intriguing account of the late 1970s DC Explosion, the accompanying Implosion of June 1978, and the aftermath. This is largely an oral history, with Dallas and Wells pulling together a variety of first-person accounts about this period in DC Comics history. Most of the history is culled from publications and interviews of the time, or soon after. But the authors also include many contemporary accounts where creators -- some of which were teenage comic-book fans at the time -- look back on what DC Comics meant to them and their reader experiences during this time. For those interested in comic-book history, especial mainstream and DC history, this book is a valuable contribution.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Milky Mixer

    As a comic book fan, history lover, and DC Comics fan specifically, I really enjoyed this book. Told documentary-style in "quotes" from all the relevant creators and caretakers of the time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe Kucharski

    The comic book Bronze Age ranges between the early 1970s to mid-1980s. During that time there was a shift away from established routines as well as veteran creators. Marvel in the early 80s jumped at the chance to be bathed in cosmic rays. James Rhodes suited up as Iron Man; Daredevil became a brooding ninja; Thor cast away his human identity; the X-Men mourned the death of a founding member. DC Comics, however, was as stagnant as Slaughter Swamp looking to arise from the financial nightmare int The comic book Bronze Age ranges between the early 1970s to mid-1980s. During that time there was a shift away from established routines as well as veteran creators. Marvel in the early 80s jumped at the chance to be bathed in cosmic rays. James Rhodes suited up as Iron Man; Daredevil became a brooding ninja; Thor cast away his human identity; the X-Men mourned the death of a founding member. DC Comics, however, was as stagnant as Slaughter Swamp looking to arise from the financial nightmare internally whispered as the “DC Implosion,” a mocking reference to the near-overnight cancellation of titles and dismissal of staffers and freelancers. During the Bronze Age, DC moved and schemed like Lex Luthor in an attempt to once again achieve dominance, or at least relevance, in the market and rise above their juvenile output into creating significant, lasting fun. In 1978, however, DC Comics was nearly a victim of a kryptonite bullet. Prior to the rise of an independent comic book store market, comic book sales were solely gauged through newsstands. Remember those “Hey Kids! Comics!” spinning racks in the local ShopRite or 7-Eleven? Yup. Comics. Most newsstands didn’t care about comics as their return rate was paltry compared to higher-priced magazines such as Time, Sports Illustrated, and, the other attention-grabber for teens in the Seventies, Playboy. To battle for better positioning on those coveted shelves or racks, in 1978 DC Comics planned for an explosion of titles in order to saturate and dominate. The plan was to release close to 14 new titles and expand the page count with all other monthlies. The “explosion” lasted all of three months before DC’s parent company, Warner Books, demanded instant cutbacks. Hence, the “implosion.” Keith Dallas and John Wells’ Comic Book Implosion from TwoMorrows Publishing is a fantastically-detailed look into this time period. Published within is an oral history from many creators who were involved with DC Comics. Packed with photos, art, and publication timelines, the book captures the crazy state of comic book publishing at the time. Honestly, it’s amazing that DC comics were produced at all with shoddy printing techniques, unreliable distribution, and, let’s all say it, forgettable content. With the arrival of Jenette Kahn as publisher, DC made significant attempts to reclaim some of their former glory, all of which was being controlled with a Thanos-tight grip over at the House of Ideas. Marvel had better creators, better art, and better characters. DC was more diversified with horror, fantasy, and war comic offerings but their superhero state solely relied on their Superman-Batman-Wonder trinity. Flash and Green Lantern made up their secondary line along with diverse newcomers Firestorm and Black Lightning, but that was it. Any of their other established characters, who in future years would all boast long series runs, were relegated to back-up stories: Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, Aquaman, Atom, Martian Manhunter, Swamp Thing. Dallas and Wells get deep in their breakdown of reasoning and excuses. My own monthly comic routine didn’t kick in until the mid-to-late eighties, even though I was practically taught how to read through the comics my grandfather would purchase for me from one of those spinner racks at the corner store. Admittedly, my eyes belonged to Marvel. The over-the-top heroics of Captain America, the threats against The Avengers, the relatable daily life of the Amazing Spider-Man. And Batman. C’mon, Batman was, and still is, cool as hell. Superman? Wonder Woman? Flash? Boring, dull, and irrelevant. As a comic collector, I eventually gained a number of DC titles from the late Seventies, which ran the “DC Explosion” house ad. Over time I heard of the forgotten DC Implosion and gathered enough info to understand its role in history. With Comic Book Implosion I learned I was merely Krona discovering the vastness of creation. The book is deep, informative, and perhaps a touch dry. Unlike other recent books detailing comic’s history, such as Sean Howe’s beautiful Marvel Comics: The Untold Story as well as Slugfest by Reed Tucker, Comic Book Implosion is not catered to the casual fan who might have (and may Atlantis help that causal fan) enjoyed Aquaman or perhaps heard of a movie called Avengers: Endgame. Comic Book Implosion is for that hardcore geek who groks Enemy Ace, Deadman, and I… Vampire. Comic Book Implosion is deep – it meticulously lists creator credits for all the un-published Explosion titles – yet could have presented a stronger narrative. As a fan, I would have enjoyed more personal accounts from other professionals at the time, or from fans who became professionals. Yes, Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek provide clever enough soundbites, but if you are able to interview full-on comic geeks like Busiek and Waid, man, let them rip away with more tales. John Byrne, for instance, has a brief tale of an early DC encounter that never happened. However, he was working as a freelancer during that time. I would love to hear other relevant stories from cranky old John. The book ends with the sensational of The New Teen Titans (helmed by two former Marvel vets), but DC’s modern-day success only starts there. The book could have touched even slightly-more into the world-shaping Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series as well as the revival of titles such as Swamp Thing, that would be the impetus for the creation of Vertigo Comics, a lasting and unique imprint. Comic Book Implosion tells the rough tale of a difficult time that is hardly flashy. Or, truthfully, all that significant. Comic sales have always risen like Phoenix or plummeted to cataclysmic levels, like today’s barely-surviving industry. The DC Implosion was one such tale. Maybe not entirely unique, but entertaining as hell. ‘Nuff Said, True Believer. Read this review and a whole lot of other fun ones at Joe's!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Comics Alternative

    http://comicsalternative.com/critical... http://comicsalternative.com/critical...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Keith Davis

    In 1977 the average comic book cost 35 cents. The profit margin was razor thin and DC Comics was loosing money. In 1978 they decided to raise the price to 50 cents, increased the number of pages per issue and launched a bunch of new titles. The expansion was heavily promoted as the DC Explosion. Three months later DC cut the price to 40 cents, cancelled close to a third of their publishing line, and began laying off staff. The sudden reversal was referred to as the DC Implosion. It is tempting to In 1977 the average comic book cost 35 cents. The profit margin was razor thin and DC Comics was loosing money. In 1978 they decided to raise the price to 50 cents, increased the number of pages per issue and launched a bunch of new titles. The expansion was heavily promoted as the DC Explosion. Three months later DC cut the price to 40 cents, cancelled close to a third of their publishing line, and began laying off staff. The sudden reversal was referred to as the DC Implosion. It is tempting to see this as an example of a business raising their prices higher than their customer's were willing to pay and suffering the consequences. In reality the reversal occurred too quickly for the impact of the price change to be accurately measured. What really happened was a case of corporate bosses overriding the decisions of lower level managers. DC was a small division of Warner Bros, and while DC's editors were starting their bold expansion plan the corporate directors decided that drastic cuts were the answer. After the mass cancellation, some creators at DC got together and printed up their finished but unpublished work in two volumes titled Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. My childhood interest in comic books ran from 1976 to 1979. While buying my monthly comics at the 7-Eleven or at the pharmacy, I witnessed the explosion and the implosion first hand, but with no background knowledge of comics I did not realize at the time that the price of comics does not usually fluctuate from moth to month and series are not usually launched and cancelled in the space of two to three months. After I heard about Cancelled Comics Cavalcade I started searching the back issue boxes of comic shops trying to find a copy. I had followed some of the cancelled books and wanted to see how the stories ended. Thanks to this book I know that the reason I never found a copy was that only 40 copies were ever printed. Just enough for all the creators involved to get a copy. I was amazed to find that a book had been published about the DC Implosion. It is proof that there is a book out there on every topic you can imagine and quite a few more that you could never imagine.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    I was always curious about the DC Comics Explosion which was the Summer introduction of a bold initiative by the company to expand the page count of their books, add new titles, and feature varied characters across the spectrum of their hero roster. This became known as the "DC Implosion" due for a variety of reasons that the book somewhat details. I almost think there is even more to the story as it is. I use story loosely because the book is 75% quotes from the publisher at the time, writers I was always curious about the DC Comics Explosion which was the Summer introduction of a bold initiative by the company to expand the page count of their books, add new titles, and feature varied characters across the spectrum of their hero roster. This became known as the "DC Implosion" due for a variety of reasons that the book somewhat details. I almost think there is even more to the story as it is. I use story loosely because the book is 75% quotes from the publisher at the time, writers, artists, editors, and even the competition at Marvel like Jim Shooter, Al Milgrom, and others. The best part of the book is where it takes every story and comic that ended and tells you where it eventually ended up whether in Canceled Comics Cavalcade, a back-up in a DC Giant book, in another DC comic, or in some cases never to see the light of day at all. I kind of wish the book was written more like Sean Howe's excellent _Marvel Comics: The Untold Story_ and not made up mostly of quotes, but there it is.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    This is a really good history of the comic book industry from the mid-1970s up to the beginning of the direct market. Although the focus is on DC's infamous "Explosion" and subsequent "Implosion," the book also covers trends going on at Marvel Comics and how the industry as a whole was responding to the decline in newsstand sales across the board. Drawn primarily from interviews and news articles, the book lets the people involved in the comic industry at the time speak, with little editorial on This is a really good history of the comic book industry from the mid-1970s up to the beginning of the direct market. Although the focus is on DC's infamous "Explosion" and subsequent "Implosion," the book also covers trends going on at Marvel Comics and how the industry as a whole was responding to the decline in newsstand sales across the board. Drawn primarily from interviews and news articles, the book lets the people involved in the comic industry at the time speak, with little editorial on intent and meaning. This was pretty refreshing as it allows the reader to take a non-prejudicial eye at the goings-on at the time without reverting into a Marvel vs DC mindset. (Although the direct quotes from Jim Shooter, Marvel's Editor in Chief for part of this time, just reinforces my view that he was such an asshole.) Plenty of trivia, old photos, publishing lists, and art to make this a valuable book for anyone interested in the mid to late Bronze Age of American comic books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Osvaldo

    While declaring itself an "oral history" it really isn't, since its primary sources are not direct interviews with those involved, or even many interviews conducted by others. Instead, it makes use of countless published and online resources both from the mid-to-late Seventies (when the "implosion" happened) up to the recent past, wherein both those involved and those who lived through it referenced it or related events in blog posts or news pieces in industry mags or were commented on in places While declaring itself an "oral history" it really isn't, since its primary sources are not direct interviews with those involved, or even many interviews conducted by others. Instead, it makes use of countless published and online resources both from the mid-to-late Seventies (when the "implosion" happened) up to the recent past, wherein both those involved and those who lived through it referenced it or related events in blog posts or news pieces in industry mags or were commented on in places like The Comics Reader and TCJ. It kind of reads like a comic book industry version of Nicholas Baker's Human Smoke. As such, while the book does a good job of putting together all these disparate sources, as a source it best serves as a kind of locus for where to look to read the contextualized sources for yourself. However, what the book really needs is a point of view - more editorializing that provides a perspective on whose opinions to give more weight to and why. It needs evaluation added to its attempt to build a narrative disparate parts. A clearer sense of why certain voices are included on certain subjects would have given this book both more value and more readability. Structurally, the book is also strange, because despite claiming to be a book about the DC Implosion, the majority of it is focused on what it dubs the "Pre-Explosion" and the the "Explosion" (i.e. expansion of titles and page count/prices). While clearly this context is an important frame for which to understand the implosion and its economics and consequences, this is one of those cases where more summary and editorializing could have made the context have more impact in guiding the reader. In addition, some portions quoted and cited from various mags don't seem to have much to do with either the explosion or the implosion in any directly relevant way. So, while the history of how the Black Bomber became Black Lightning is interesting, it is not clear what it is helping us to see about what was going on. The good thing about the book is how well-cited everything is - as I mentioned above - so it serves as a kind of research aid. Furthermore, I appreciated its reproduction of covers and and lists of which DC titles were being printed at different times and which were cancelled, etc. . . I also liked the bits about DC's Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, which I have always wanted to get my hands on, but now I know it is nearly impossible to do. If you are a DC completist or someone looking for a good starting place for research on the era, then I'd recommend, but as a read comparable to the fantastic Marvel Comics: The Untold Story but focused on a very narrow period of time and subject, it does not come close.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Clay

    I started reading comics in the early 1970's. Near the end of that decade came the vaunted DC Explosion. Though I wasn't much of a DC fan, I did read a few titles and the comic shop I frequented had all kinds of hype plastered around the store. Three months later, without much explanation, the expansion was cancelled and the cancellations even went further into the DC line. It was all a big mystery to me back then. When I was (much) younger, I made a conscious effort to not find out much that wa I started reading comics in the early 1970's. Near the end of that decade came the vaunted DC Explosion. Though I wasn't much of a DC fan, I did read a few titles and the comic shop I frequented had all kinds of hype plastered around the store. Three months later, without much explanation, the expansion was cancelled and the cancellations even went further into the DC line. It was all a big mystery to me back then. When I was (much) younger, I made a conscious effort to not find out much that was going on behind the scenes of Marvel and DC. I figured that knowing the who, what, where, why and infighting would distract me from enjoying the comics I was reading. However, now that I'm older, I like to remember those bygone days, thrilling sagas, and am curious about the reasons behind some of the changes I saw in the industry as a reader. So, when I saw this book, I thought I would now find out the details of the bombastic explanation of all the hubbub surrounding the DC Implosion. Truth be told, there was less bombast than fizzle about the whole affair. On the other hand, this book does delve into what was going on in the industry a few years prior to set up the whole Explosion experiment and what good ultimately came out of the Implosion in the years just after. The story is told from use of quotes taken from contemporaneous interviews in the fan press at the time to remembrances of that era from more current sources. The details are from both creative talent involved and management and (typically current creative talent that were) comic book fans and readers from those days. It took a little bit of effort to get into the style of the book, but soon after, it painted a vibrant picture of what happened, who drove it, and where it all went that ultimately answered the questions my former fanboy self had from those years. Lots of pictures, artwork from that time, and lists of comics that were published and cancelled by year and month for both DC and Marvel.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Richard Gray

    After reading the all-encompassing saga of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story recently, a deep dive into this 2-3 year period at DC Comics seemed like light work. Yet under the deft research skills of Keith Dallas and John Wells, this deceptively slender volume is a fascinating and detailed look at an industry at the crossroads. Following an attempt at a new pricing/content model under the “DC Explosion” branding, the term “DC Implosion” refers to the radical slashing of titles and staff as a resul After reading the all-encompassing saga of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story recently, a deep dive into this 2-3 year period at DC Comics seemed like light work. Yet under the deft research skills of Keith Dallas and John Wells, this deceptively slender volume is a fascinating and detailed look at an industry at the crossroads. Following an attempt at a new pricing/content model under the “DC Explosion” branding, the term “DC Implosion” refers to the radical slashing of titles and staff as a result of perceived low sales in its wake. Pieced together from journals and editorials rather than entirely new recollections (there are some from 2018), this isn’t an “oral history” in the strictest sense. That said, the slender volume is densely packed with quotes and interludes from creators, editors, fans, and sale figures. So many sales figures. You really must be into comics to get into this, and to some extent it does require a broader knowledge of the industry’s publishing patterns over the last few decades. In the end, the book concedes that despite the moniker and comics media coverage, “the DC Implosion was merely a bump in the road.” It did, however, fire a warning shot to signal where the industry would go: direct markets and book stores selling ‘graphic novel’ collections at much higher price points. As Dallas and Wells conclude: “From the nadir of the newsstand era came the burgeoning of the Direct Market and a true epoch of comic book explosion.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Sherman

    Very much in the "good but only if you care about the topic" subject matter. In the late 1970s, DC took on a new president, Jenette Khan, launched several new initiatives and when it came time to raise prices (a regular feature of the decade, and all the decades since), a new idea: instead of a small bump to 40 cents, raise it to half a buck with added pages. More money for retailers and for DC, more story for readers. The "DC Explosion" was on! What could go wrong Warners. They owned DC and over Very much in the "good but only if you care about the topic" subject matter. In the late 1970s, DC took on a new president, Jenette Khan, launched several new initiatives and when it came time to raise prices (a regular feature of the decade, and all the decades since), a new idea: instead of a small bump to 40 cents, raise it to half a buck with added pages. More money for retailers and for DC, more story for readers. The "DC Explosion" was on! What could go wrong Warners. They owned DC and overnight ordered them to cut 40 percent of their titles, turning the explosion into the "DC Implosion" (though Marvel actually axed about as many books in the same period). The book follows DC's creators and managers (and a few fans who've since turned pro) from the early 1970s through the Explosion, the Implosion and the early 1980s, when books such as Teen Titans began turning the company around. It's predominantly collected from interviews and articles of that era, mixed with some occasional reminiscences from later. As someone who was around as a comics fan for this era, great reading. You'll have to decide if it's within your interest range or not.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Not for everyone but a thorough look at how the sausage is made or was made or what to do when you make some good sausage, bad sausage and finally wtf are we talking about sausage for this is about comic books. A little dry bit fascinating and it isn't really about just the DC implosion but the less well known Marvel implosion as well. The state of the comic industry now can be li led to DC in 1978. Really good stuff.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian Stewart

    A solid consolidated retelling of the late 1970's DC implosion, pulled from many sources and interviews over the years. I knew some of this history and enjoyed all the quotes from various people from the industry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nick Tangborn

    Niche! If you care, you care. If not, this ain't your thing. Good deep explanation of a weird time in comics though.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lee

    Kind of a mixed bag of quotes from various sources, but an interesting look into a series of events that I was too young to know about.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    While citing a fascinating story in comic book history, choosing an almost unreadable way to tell it makes it a hard slog. Moments of history of when comic production was halted at DC (and Marvel but their even larger meltdown of comic books was not deemed big enough) and these stories are told in a various quotes that should lead to a good read but there is no narrative most of the time and this makes it lack any flow. Very disappointing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Macpherson

    A collection of mostly previous interviews and news items that described the DC comics Implosion. I wanted to love this book, but I kind of just liked it. It felt a little padded. The afterward had an interesting last line saying that the implosion brought the way to the future of graphic novels and the current world of comics. An interesting thought that the book didn't go about proving.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    An interesting behind-the-scenes story of a major publishing misstep by one of the comics-publishing giants, but it suffers from being a collection of pull quotes run in chronological order instead of presenting the story in narrative form.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott Mollon

    Very good oral history which would benefit from more narritive structure and a little less repetitiveness.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lyden

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Richards

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Manley

  25. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick Zinn

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Greg D'Avis

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael McLarty

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bob Ro

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