September 24th, 2007

The Zombie


September 22 -  So, DC was in trouble.  Marvel's owner, Martin Goodman, had tricked them into critically increasing their page counts - a costly business blunder.  DC was able to scale back their 1972 titles from 64 to 52 pages for a bit of savings, but it wasn't enough.  According to recent comments by Carl Gafford (who, as you may remember from the 21st's entry, had been hired as one of the first two DC "apprentices" in '73), DC may also have been hampered by President Richard Nixon!  Yes, I'm really back to Watergate...but hear me out!  Facing a tough re-election (to say the least), Nixon made a bold, if temporary, attempt to stop runaway inflation by ordering a freeze on prices and wages for ninety days...which, as Nixon needed the good press, turned into about a thousand days in all.  Supposedly only affecting the largest, most influential U.S. companies, this meant that DC, historically the big dog of comics, was stuck with the twenty-five cent cover prices no matter what, while Marvel, the perceived pipsqueak upstart, was pretty much free to do whatever they wanted with their pricing.  It didn't help that Marvel was hitting their stride, pumping on all eight cylinders with Spider-Man, The Hulk, and so forth.  DC threw everything at the problem.  If history had shown that "it" had once sold, then "it" was tried again.  They contracted publishing rights to established characters from other mediums, like Tarzan.  They brought back characters from their own past, like J'onn J'onzz.  They attempted to make their economically-necessary reprinted stories a supposed selling point, calling them "Golden Age Thrillers" (maybe the first time old stuff from the early days of comics were advertised as such?).  They created characters, spun-off characters, re-imagined characters, and gave characters different costumes (thankfully, at least, that move restored Wonder Woman to her traditional, star-spangled glory).  Also, they gave legions of young, untested artists paying work.  Lots of paying work.  This, as I've suggested, seems to have given rise to Crusty Bunker...but, it wasn't long before Marvel, and even Charlton, were also vying for the talents behind the pseudonym.  Many Bunkers got their own titles, or at least memorable runs in established titles.  The infectious innovations first explored as part of that artist's community, which often manifested as Crusty Bunker, were soon pollinating the entire industry.  Then, the industry was turned upside down.  More tomorrow.  Here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Pat Broderick!

The Zombie

A Chip on his shoulder...

September 23 -  DC was in DC-ray (Get it?  It's like "disarray," but with "DC" in it.  Clever, no?  Uh, no.), so Marvel had the breathing room to clean-up their own house.  Just as all of this was playing out, Marvel founder Martin Goodman had triumphantly "retired," selling the entire shooting match to Cadence for a small fortune, with the caveat that his son, Chip Goodman, be retained as editorial director.  This was a bit like leaving a monkey in charge of...well, a comics publishing business.  Although a well-intentioned good guy, from all accounts, Chip just wasn't suited for this job, and everyone but his father seemed to know it.  The senior Goodman stayed around at Marvel until 1974 as a "consultant," but, as soon as he finally split, Marvel's editor-in-chief conspired to give Chipper the boot.  This infuriated Martin Goodman...especially since the "backstabbing" editor-in-chief was his own nephew-in-law, Stan Lee!  I can see Stan's dilemma.  If Marvel was to seize this moment of at last having the upper hand, the Chipster had to go, so, in the end, Stan "mensched-up" and did what his uncle-in-law could not.  Still, the Goodmans were so absolutely, insanely incensed by this transgression that Martin decided to use his fortune, made by selling Marvel, to create a new comics company, with the specific intent to crush the comics company he'd founded years before!  Just as DC was finally settling their own problems (in part, ironically, by canceling titles drawn by some of the hands behind The Crusty Bunkers), Goodman's new line, called Atlas Comics, would lure away the young talents that had been changing the industry, all in a serious bid to utterly destroy Marvel!  The entire comic book ecosystem was about to endure one of its greatest tests ever.  More later.  Here is your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Bob McLeod!