Tales of the Implosion: Part 2

When it was reported that Marvel was planning to cancel an entire slate of titles, in particular titles whose cancellation would dramatically reduce the diversity of the Marvel line, the comparisons to the DC Implosion from 1978 came fast and furious.  That mass cancellation due to line-wide poor sales occurred just after DC's much ballyhooed DC Explosion, the latest and biggest of a series of expansions to the DC line to try to catch up with Marvel, which had started pumping out a ton of titles (and this was back when Marvel was still publishing just one X-Men book).  To get an idea of what will happen to the books and characters canceled, I decided to take a look at what happened to the titles axed in the DC Implosion.  The first part of the three-part series looked at titles that never even made it to their first issue and titles that managed to come back from cancellation.  Here in part two, we'll look at books that were merged into other titles.

Tales of the Implosion: Part 1         Tales of the Implosion: Part 3

Features that Went Elsewhere

Some characters found themselves a new home within DC's expanded slate of giant-sized dollar anthology books, keeping their publishing continuity at least somewhat intact.

All-Star Comics

All-Star Comics started as an anthology title featuring the most popular features from the other titles that All-American Publications and National Comics were publishing at the time (the summer of 1940).  With issue 3, All-Star's editor, Sheldon Mayer, and one of his writers, Gardner Fox, introduced a brand new feature that teamed up many of the characters that had been published in solo stories in the first two issues.  This group, the Justice Society of America, was the first team of comic book superheroes in history.  The JSA became the main feature of the anthology and, starting in 1947, the sole star of the title.  This would continue until 1951, when the JSA would be dismissed from the title after issue 57 as it was renamed All-Star Western and turned into a western anthology that would run until 1961.

The series canceled in the Implosion was the reprise of the All-Star Comics title, which was resurrected in 1976 as a team book for the JSA, with numbering reset to 58.  The book ran until issue 74, which ended with a blurb promising the death of a JSAer in the next issue.

Fortunately, the team joined the lineup to the dollar anthology, Adventure Comics, a few months later in February, 1979, revealing that it was the Golden Age Batman who would perish.  The JSA feature would last only six issues before Adventure was converted back to a regular-sized comic starring Plastic Man and a new version of Starman.  The final JSA issue features an often-referenced story giving the untold story of why the team disappeared in the 1950s, riffing off McCarthyism.

The JSA would settle for guest appearances in other titles, including annual team-ups with the Justice League of America in their title, for several years until they were removed from active appearances in 1986's Last Days of the Justice Society of America.  They would return and eventually claim their own starring title in 1991, enjoying a short-lived renewal until they were decimated by the Zero Hour event in 1994.  This pattern of return and decimation continues to this day, which finds the team currently out of print but with their return hinted heavily by DC, perhaps in 2018.


Aquaman had been in near-continuous publication from his introduction in 1941, bouncing around various anthologies for 21 years before finally earning his own title in 1962.  This lasted 56 issues until 1970, when the book was canceled and Aquaman continued his nomadic lifestyle once more.  In 1977, Aquaman 57 hit the stands with the cover blurb, "In his own magazine at last!"  The renewed book would see the groundbreaking death of Aquaman's son, Arthur Jr.  The title would end yet again with issue 63.

After its cancellation, Aquaman would join the Adventure Comics lineup with issue 460.  This would last until Adventure changed formats with 467 as described above.  Aquaman would resume his nomadic existence, including starring in a pair of limited series titled Aquaman, until finally earning another solo book, the short-lived but much-loved Shaun McLaughlin-written Aquaman volume 4.  Several more Aquaman series would follow.  The current Aquaman series is volume 8 of the title.

Batman Family

Batman Family was an anthology title started by DC that published stories featuring Batman's extended cast of characters and was part of a wave of "Family" titles DC put out in the mid-1970s (including Superman Family, Super-Team Family, and Tarzan Family).  Every issue featured stories starring Batgirl and Robin, either as a team or in separate individual stories.  Other characters that received features in the anthology, many of them reprints of older stories, include Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Man-Bat, and the Huntress.

Batman Family ended with issue 20.  Robin, Batgirl, and Man-Bat moved to Detective Comics, which became a dollar giant anthology with issue 481 in January, 1979.  (Note: as astute reader John Joshua points out, this is a bit of a simplification.  Detective Comics was actually doing poorly in sales and was facing cancellation, but DC decided to combine the titles in such a way that Detective essentially became Batman Family except with Detective's name and numbering.  Thanks for keeping us accurate, John!)

Man-Bat would last as a feature until Detective 492, after which he really wouldn't appear very often outside of guest appearances.  Robin would continue until Detective ceased being a dollar anthology after issue 495.  He would bounce around the DC Universe, eventually becoming leader of the New Teen Titans team and also eventually trading his Robin identity to become Nightwing.  As Nightwing, Dick Grayson would achieve his own title, several volumes of which have run more or less continuously to this day.  Batgirl would become the ongoing backup series in Detective when it gave up the dollar anthology format.  This would continue until Detective 520.  Barbara Gordon would famously be crippled in The Killing Joke and spend many years as Oracle, the DCU's IT department.  From the cancellation of Batman Family, it would take Barbara Gordon 33 years to finally get her own solo series as Batgirl.  To add insult to injury, two other different characters (Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown) would take on the mantle of Batgirl and receive three volumes of solo series in the intervening years.  Starting with the New 52, Barbara Gordon would take back the Batgirl identity and finally get her own series, Batgirl volume 4.  She is now starring in Batgirl volume 5 as well as Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.

Black Lightning

40 years after first publishing Superman, DC Comics produced their first comic starring an African-American superhero when Black Lightning 1 premiered in 1977.  Created by Tony Isabella with visual assist from Trevor Von Eeden, Jefferson Pierce was an Olympic decathlete born with electrical powers who moved back to Suicide Slum in Metropolis to become principal at Garfield High School, the school he attended as a student. Trying to clean up the school from the rampant gangs and drug pushers that had taken it over, Pierce receives help from a student who is in turn executed by a gang member.  This pushes Pierce into taking more direct action and, aided by a tailor friend/mentor of his (Peter Gambi, brother of Paul Gambi, the tailor who makes all the costumes for the Flash's Rogues Gallery), adopts the costumed guise of Black Lightning, taking on the powerful gang, the 100, as well as the man ruling Suicide Slum at the time, Tobias Whale.

Of course, the story behind the story is not that clean.  DC originally had plans for their first black superhero solo book to star The Black Bomber, a white, racist Vietnam veteran who becomes a black man at night and fights crime that way.  Somehow the world was saved from this incredible misstep as Isabella was asked to make something of the character and he instead invented Black Lightning, an act that by itself should earn the gratitude of comics fans everywhere.

Isabella wrote ten issues of Black Lightning before handing the book over to Dennis O'Neill.  O'Neill's Black Lightning would only see one issue before the title was cancelled.  From there, the character moved to World's Finest (which had become a dollar anthology a year prior) with issue 256.  O'Neill depowered Black Lightning, making him a straightforward athletic vigilante.  This feature would continue until World's Finest 261, when Black Lightning would be replaced in the anthology by Aquaman.

Black Lightning, after a few guest appearances and stories here and there, would eventually resurface as a member of The Outsiders, a team that ran for many years in the 80s and 90s.  He's appeared sparingly in recent years, but has resurfaced with a new miniseries written by Isabella, spurred on by the character's new television series on the CW.

Doorway to Nightmare

Doorway to Nightmare was a slight twist on DC's "mystery" (which for them was code for supernatural/horror) format.  Madame Xanadu was introduced in issue 1 by the team of writer David Michelinie, Val Mayerick, and Michael Kaluta. Unlike other DC mystery books stars who served purely as hosts, she would take part in the stories presented, though never as the main character.  Madame Xanadu read tarot for strangers stumbling upon her shop in Manhattan.  Her readings would always uncover that the stranger was being plagued or threatened by some occult influence, and the story would revolve around eliminating the threat of the occult influence, which would eventually find its way into Madame Xanadu's collection kept in the back of her shop.

Doorway to Nightmare lasted only five issues before succumbing to the Implosion.  Madame Xanadu would shift to The Unexpected, a DC "mystery" title since 1968 that in 1979 became a dollar anthology book to allow DC to consolidate most of its horror/suspense storytelling into a single book.  Madame Xanadu would appear in The Unexpected for four issues before getting a single issue of her own series.

She would continue to pop up from time to time over the years, earning a bit of a resurgence during DC's New 52 reboot, when she would become a member of two different supernatural teams, the Demon Nights (set in the past) and Justice League Dark (set in the present).

House of Secrets

House of Secrets was introduced as a DC "mystery" title in 1956 and had varying formats over the years, including as a launch point and starring vehicle for characters like Mark Merlin, Eclipso, and Prince Ra-Man the Mind Master.  The book would be cancelled in 1966 with issue 80, but then resurrected in 1969 as a more straightforward horror anthology hosted by a fat man named Abel, whose brother Cain hosted stories over at the House of Mystery.  Abel's house would eventually be revealed to be the titular House of Secrets, giving an actual structure to go with the longstanding name.  The anthology format would continue for almost a decade, introducing Swamp Thing in a one-off story that would spin him off into his own series along the way.

House of Secrets was cancelled with issue 154, at which point in time it was merged into The Unexpected.  Cain would continue hosting stories in The Unexpected through issue 214.  He would eventually reappear as a supporting character in the Sandman series as well as its spin-off, The Dreaming.  House of Secrets would appear as a title under the Vertigo imprint in 1996, featuring the house but not the host.  It would run for 25 issues before being cancelled itself.

The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour was started by the legendary Dick Giordano in 1969 and ran continuously until its 1978 cancellation.  Hosted by three witches, Cynthia, Mildred, and Mordred.  Together, they would introduce and narrate suspense/horror stories each issue, serving almost as a Greek chorus to the tale.  Each story featured in the series almost always ended, began, or somehow featured midnight, the titular witching hour.

When The Witching Hour was cancelled, the witches moved to The Unexpected, where they would continue as hosts through issue 216.  Neil Gaiman resurrected the witches for The Sandman, where they are revealed to be an aspect of The Kindly Ones (other aspects of which include The Fates and The Furies).  Vertigo resurrected the title The Witching Hour, but not the format nor the hosts, for a limited series in 1999 by writer Jeph Loeb and artists Chris Bachalo and Art Thibert, as well as an anthology one-shot in 2003.

I'll be back next time with Part 3 of this series, looking at titles that completely died.

Tales of the Implosion: Part 1         Tales of the Implosion: Part 3

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog, NerdlyManor.com.  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.

Tales of the Implosion: Part 2 Tales of the Implosion: Part 2 Reviewed by JL Franke on Friday, January 19, 2018 Rating: 5
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