The Comics

The Comics – The 40th Anniversary Issue of Superman

The Comics were a central part of my reading as a kid. Whether it was in the papers or off of the racks at the Blue Front in Ann Arbor, following the exploits of my favorite super heroes was a vicarious adventure.

When you were younger were you DC or Marvel? Archie or Dick Tracy? Or were you really considered off the deep end as a fan of MAD Magazine?

Comic books were as much a part of growing up as were the DJs we loved. Saving up enough to head to our favorite comic store for the latest issue may have paralleled picking up the then current hit list from our favorite radio station.

We’re told that the children of the 60s lived in what is now being called “The Silver Age” of American comics. For some of us, tastes evolved away from superheroes and in the direction of crime, romance and horror. By the 70s, underground comics were in full bloom, with artists like R. Crumb creating concert posters and even the logo for the famed Detroit music magazine, Creem. Crumb is still remembered for his Fritz the Cat series, which appeared in several magazines between 1965 and 1972.

And who can forget the Sunday funnies? With two significant newspapers in Detroit, I often found myself buying both on Sunday, just for the funny papers.

Comics were an escape in a world that didn’t yet have video games or ubiquitous superhero franchises all over television and the big screen. Hard core fans read and wrote to the “Letters” columns that became a conduit for fan feedback and for editors to alert readers to forthcoming plot points. Some letter writers became famous in their own right. T. M. Maple was said to have written over 3,000 letters between 1977 and 1994. I sent many a note with accompanying picture of myself wearing MAD magazine apparel in hopes of getting published. It never happened.

Now days, comics have morphed into “Graphic Novels”. They have “Show Runners” similar to the people who manage the progress of hit TV series. If a character is losing popularity, a fresh face may be brought in to rehabilitate it. DC Entertainment head, Geoff Johns, famously did this with the Aquaman character years ago, culminating in a successful movie featuring the underwater superhero.

The more famous strips end up in multi-volume compilations. Peanuts, The Far Side, Don Martin’s work for MAD and Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes are notable examples.

Any trip down memory lane for members of a generation may well include returning to that corner of your attic where you’ve saved your comic collection. The plots may feel less exciting than the CGI fueled action fests that flow over us at the theater. But there’s also a note of nostalgia for the days when Lex Luthor was the worst villian we knew and Superman could always save the day.

Today In History:

1960: At Joe Boles’ home studio in Seattle, the Puget Sound instrumental group the Ventures recorded ‘Walk – Don’t Run.’

1961: In Chicago, Dee Clark recorded ‘Raindrops.’

1965: Bob Dylan released the album ‘Bringing It All Back Home,’ which showcased his switch from acoustic to electric guitar.

1974: The Eagles released their third album,’On The Border.’

1978: Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, fell to his death during a performance while walking a cable strung between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was 73.

1981: RCA began selling its Selectra Vision laser disc players.

1994: Singer Dan Hartman died of a brain tumor resulting from AIDS at age 43.

1994: Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz died of heart failure at age 94.

1997: At a Beatles memorabilia auction in Tokyo, a collector paid $84,146 for Paul McCartney’s original birth certificate. His custom-made bass guitar went for $200,000, and a grey suit worn on stage by John Lennon sold for $35,000. Lennon’s son Julian bought his father’s black cape and the Afghan coat he wore in the picture on the cover of ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ album, then donated them to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

2001: William Hanna, co-creator of Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, Tom & Jerry and Scooby Doo cartoons, died at the age of 90.

2006: Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler‘s upcoming throat surgery forced the band to cancel their latest tour,and led to rumors that Tyler was battling throat cancer.

2017: Former Boston drummer Sib Hashian died at the age of 67.

Happy Birthday to:
(1913) Karl Malden (d. 2009)
(1920) Werner Klemperer (d. 2000)
(1923) Marcel Marceau (d. 2007)
(1930) Stephen Sondheim
(1931) William Shatner
(1933) WJR legend J.P. McCarthy (d. 1995)
(1936) Roger Whittaker
(1941) Jeremy Clyde
(1943) George Benson
(1943) Keith Relf (The Yardbirds)
(1948) Andrew Lloyd Webber
(1948) Wolf Blitzer
(1952) Bob Costas
(1957) Stephanie Mills
(1976) Reece Witherspoon

Today’s Quote Worth Re-quoting:Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”  ~Dr. Seuss

One for the Road: Today in 1975, The Doobie Brothers, “Black Water” was at number one. Our rendition comes from a series of concerts the band performed to benefit the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Thanks for listening!

Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit