Wednesday, February 28, 2018

They Might Be Giants! (1963) ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post!


Well, fellow babies, this week's "Comical Wednesday" post is not a segment of my recent, ongoing "Letters, I Get Letters" series. That'll be back sooner or later, though, so don't worry.

Today's post is the first of a (relatively) light-on-text, heavy-on-illustrations series that looks at the many comic book annuals (a/k/a "giants" or "specials") that came out at such a rapid clip during my formative comic-book-reading years. Kind of a roller coaster ride through the mind of a boy aged (roughly) six to ten years old.

Today we deal with the sensory overload I experienced during the year 1963.

The first comic book character I formed an affection for was Batman, and I'm pretty sure that the first "giant" I was ever made aware of was the Giant Batman Annual #5, from the summer of 1963, pictured in the DC Comics house ad shown above. I've included the ad rather than an image of the book itself because I never actually got to own or even read the damned book until several years later.

At that very young age -- six-and-a-half or so -- I knew (and could read) the word "giant," of course, but didn't realize that the word "giant" in the title of Giant Batman Annual referred to the increased page count of a so-called "annual" comic book. (Hence the twenty-five cent price tag in an era when most comics were twelve cents apiece.) I mean, look closely at that cover shown above! It calls itself Giant Batman and then shows a Batman who's giant-sized! I was six, fer cryin' out loud. What a way to confuse a kid that age!

(Another thing I didn't realize until much later was that the somewhat misnamed Batman and Superman "annuals" came out twice per year, every six months or so!)

Comics in my early childhood didn't often contain issue-to-issue stories that changed very much about their characters' status quo, so at first I didn't realize that the stories in these annuals were reprinted tales from a few years earlier.

My first Giant Superman Annual was #7. My favorite story in the issue was probably the one that told of a teenaged Clark (Superboy) Kent's meeting with a teenaged Bruce (Batman) Wayne. But the whole book was exciting to me, and it's here that I learned that the character of Superman had been around, like, forever. Twenty-five years! An eternity!



And right around the time that The Flash #138 (my initial exposure to that character) came out, the first and only issue of the Giant Flash Annual hit the stands. I basically OD'd on the character of Barry (Flash) Allen in the summer of '63! I absolutely loved the character. (For more of this relatively one-sided "love affair," go here!)


This is one of my all-time favorite annuals. Not only did it provide a plethora of early Silver Age Flash classics, it also reprinted a Golden Age Flash story! So there was another Flash (a/k/a Jay Garrick), one from the far-off 1940s? Boy, I was learning a lot that summer!

And this? This was a special feature showing how... Well, see for yourself!


I can't recall if my sister Kathy bought this second Giant Lois Lane Annual, or if I did. I mean, Lois may have been Superman's girlfriend, but she was still... well... a girl! I know, I know, she was a woman, but at six years old, I was hardly able to recognize and verbalize such minute non-sexist distinctions. But I found the stories contained therein to be quite enjoyable. And it was a kick for me to see Lois Lane briefly dress up like Batwoman in the issue!


I do recall that it was indeed my sister who bought the very first Marvel comic I ever read, Fantastic Four Annual #1 (as told here, and here!). Something about the packaging, the scripting, the artwork, and so forth was just... different... somehow. But this was my intro to the Marvel Universe, which was still a spindly colt, as it were. It was also my first glimpse of Spider-Man.


And folks, all this and we're still in 1963!!! And keep in mind that these are only the annuals we're talking about. Rest assured, I was reading a lot of stuff besides these giant-sized comics. As soon as I could read -- somewhere around the age of four, by my estimation -- I read just about everything I could get my grubby li'l hands on (and not only comics, no matter what I've implied here and elsewhere).

Right around the time of my seventh birthday (late 1963), Giant Superman Annual #8 appeared. As you can see by the illustration, this issue contained some incredible stories, like a tale that told of Superboy's first meeting with an other-dimensional sprite named Mxyzptlk (pronounced "Mix-yez-pitel-ick," although during my earliest years, I pronounced it "Mixy-zup-tulk" in my mind), a story about how Ma Kent made Superbaby's (and later Superboy's) costume out of the blankets left in the rocket that brought him from Krypton to Earth, the background on how Lois Lane first started wondering if Clark Kent could be Superman, and others!


Wow, what a way to end the year!

To Be Continued...

And thanks for your time!

8 comments:

  1. haha I could see how a kid would mix up giant. I would have. Oh Batman grows huge. What? He doesn't? Rip off. They sure contain some of the great stories and tidbits by the sound of it. The Fantastic Four battles a giant naked Submariner. Spidey is always a win.

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    1. Oh, but they did actually have a story about a giant Batman. Looking at the cover confused the hell out of me at that tender age.

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  2. SUPERMAN HAD A FIRST WIFE??

    I love seeing these covers. I owned only a few comic books growing up, and there's one I always regret losing track of (not sure if someone tossed it or if I simply lost it in multiple moves): a giant-sized Wonder Woman comic. The thing was probably sixteen inches in length and proportionally wide, and it had Diana's origin story. I'd never paid much attention to Wonder Woman up to then, and I read and reread that book so much that it practically fell apart. I can still picture the artwork on certain pages, forty years later.

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  3. I don't recall the "first wife" story (although I own it!), but comic books used to be like episodic TV was in the 1950s and 1960s. You could do almost anything during a story if you returned things to their status quo by the end of the story. So Superman could have met someone, fallen in love, married (or almost married) her, and then it turned out to be a hoax, or she was an alien or robot, or she came down with a rare disease and died immediately, never to be mentioned again, etc.

    And as far as the over-sized Wonder Woman issue, was it this one, or maybe this one?

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    1. The first one! Wow, what memories that brings back.

      You have me laughing about the whole Superman's wife process. I can see that happening, all within the span of a few pages.

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    2. I was pretty darned sure it was the first choice, the reprint of Wonder Woman #1. The reprint of Sensation Comics #1 didn't actually have her origin.

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  4. I think I had that giant Batman from '63, but not the others. Although, I had plenty other Superman's and most of the rest of the DC cast of characters. I got into Marvel later on.

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    1. Same with me. I've posted here before about how I "found" Marvel, but I started with DC's Batman and Superman!

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