Our first entry in today’s 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is the perfect gift for the fan of mainstream comics history on your shopping list. Forty years ago last summer one of the most traumatic events in the lives of young comic book readers occurred. DC Comics, just a couple of months after launching a bold initiative that saw their books expanded to include more story pages at a higher price was ordered by the corporate execs at Warner Communications to slash their publishing output by 40%, cut their regular books back to the standard 32-page size and lay off several members of their editorial staff. This came to be known as “The DC Implosion,” a takeoff of their ad campaign proclaiming “The DC Explosion.”
In Comic Book Implosion, Keith Dallas and John Wells have assembled an oral history using new interviews, combined with contemporaneous news reports and interviews from the comics fan press (which was quite vital at the time), and sales reports and house ads from the comics involved. They have done a tremendous job creating a definitive record of what was a major turning point in the history of the American comic book.
It’s a fascinating look inside the comic book business of the 1970s, which was in a serious decline and was very close to dying out completely. Not only does this book capture this turmoil in detail, it also sets the record straight on a woefully mis-reported event in comics history.
About ten years ago one of the many comic book news sites ran a very long article to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of The DC Implosion, and it was a remarkable piece in that it was so filled with misstartments, misiniformation and even a basic misunderstanding of when the event happened, that it took years to correct all the errors in fact that had arisen from it. Folks who were ignorant of the true history cited this online article and spread a wealth of wrong info around the web in record time. The piece in question turned out to have been written by someone who hadn’t even been born when all this took place…and it showed.
That’s a major reason that this book is so important. Another is that it reveals hard facts about a time when the comics industry was in great peril. In the 1970s we lost several major comic book publishers as Dell and Gilberton shut down completely, Charlton, Harvey and Gold Key went through periods of using all reprints, and eventually all shut down, Atlas Comics came and went in little more than a year and DC and Marvel watched sales plummet to the point where both companies undertook massive reductions in the amount of titles they published in 1978. Marvel actually cancelled more books that DC did, but they didn’t do it all at once, so it wasn’t as noticeable.
Comic Book Implosion is highly-recommended for anyone interested in comic book history. It’s a great read, filled with tons of information and detail and even has side-chapters on DC’s infamous “Cancelled Comics Cavalcade,” a couple of limited-run xeroxed collections of stories that DC had commissioned during the 1970s which had never been published (they also have a handy guide to the stories from these collections that did eventually see print). Dallas and Wells do a tremendous job of establishing the context and consequences of this fateful and drastic business move. It’s also lavishly-illustrated with photos of the key players and plenty of examples of the comics in question, including eight pages in full color.