At the start of the 70s, the Super-titles consisted of Action Comics, Superman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Superboy and Adventure Comics (starring Supergirl). These were all being edited by Mort Weisinger, except Superboy which he’d left in 1968. Weisinger was also editing World’s Finest. Superman also appeared in Justice League of America.

 

Weisinger left his titles in 1970, and they were handed to different editors. The styles used varied. Action Comics was given to Murray Boltinoff, and Superman to Julie Schwartz, but they used the same art team (Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson) and one of the same writers (Cary Bates). Before too long Schwartz took over Action. By the 80s Julie Schwartz was editing everything Superman-related except World’s Finest and Justice League of America.

 

Supergirl graduated into her own series, and Adventure ceased to be a Super-book for a while. Later Superboy’s feature was temporarily moved back there.

 

In 1974 Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl and Lois Lane were merged into Superman Family. Initially Jimmy, Lois and Supergirl alternated in the lead slot and were backed with reprints. Later the reprints were dropped and the title carried a mix of features. In 1982 the title was cancelled and Supergirl got a new title, The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (later just Supergirl).

 

The Legion of Super-Heroes had been appearing in the back of Action, but lost its place there when Weisinger departed. In 1973 Superboy was converted into a Legion title. The comic’s official title eventually became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. In 1979 Superboy was dropped and the title became Legion of Super-Heroes.

 

Along the way the solo Superboy feature was revived for Adventure Comics, and then moved for a short period into Superman Family. In 1979 he got his own title, The New Adventures of Superboy.

 

When Weisinger left World’s Finest it was inherited by Schwartz and converted into a Superman team-up title. On Schwartz’s departure it became a Superman and Batman book again, although some of the stories were super-sons tales. Bob Haney wrote the Superman/Batman feature into 1979 and gave it its own distinct feel, although his writing is not to everyone's taste. After Haney left the title was more pedestrian.

 

In 1978 a new Superman team-up title, DC Comics Presents, was introduced. The title didn’t use a regular creative team, so all kinds of things appeared there.

 

Many of the Lois, Jimmy and Supergirl stories of the 70s and 80s have a second-team feel, although such writers as Cary Bates and Elliot S. Maggin also worked on them. I’m fond of the Leo Dorfman/Kurt Schaffenberger Jimmy Olsen stories from Jimmy Olsen and Superman Family, which depict Jimmy as very capable and have a light touch. After Superman Family's cancellation Lois appeared in back-ups in Supergirl's comic.

 

Some features spent some time as back-ups in Superman’s main titles and some time in Superman Family. Some of the "The Private Life of Clark Kent" and "The Fabulous World of Krypton" stories were very good. I like the "Mr. And Mrs. Superman" series, about the married Clark and Lois of Earth Two in the 50s. A very amusing Krypto series by Bob Toomey appeared in Superman Family. Superman Family also ran some decent Superman stories by Gerry Conway. The back-ups in the Super-titles of the 80s were often weak.

 

Beginning with World of Krypton in 1979 DC also published a few Superman mini-series. World of Krypton, about the adventures of Jor-El, wasn't very good, but The Krypton Chronicles, about the history of Krypton traced through Superman's family, has great charm. Steve Gerber and Gene Colan did a surreal and downbeat The Phantom Zone mini.

 

A post on what went on in Superman’s own feature to follow.

 

 

 

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Breaking up the Superman titles among so many different editors smacks of a panic move by DC brought on by dwindling sales and the sudden absence of Weisinger's iron hand. Seems to me DC missed a golden opportunity when Jack Kirby came on board. Before letting him loose on his own titles, I would have asked Kirby for one year as plotter/artist on Superman. Jack could have developed new concepts and characters for the Superman family that other writers could run with once he had moved onto his own group of titles.
Just to clarify my point on Kirby and Superman - I always viewed Kirby's Jimmy Olsen assignment as pretty trivial. "Hey Jack, while you're working on New Gods can you bang out a few issues of Superman's Pal...?". Whereas, it would have been a major statement to the comic book world if Jack had been asked to reinvigorate the company's flagship title. And if Superman was Kirby's sole focus for a year, prior to moving onto the Fourth World, who knows where he may have taken the Man of Steel. At the very least we might have avoided the whole Goody Rickles storyline!
According to Kirby's account, Carmine Infantino offered him Superman when he invited him to DC, and he turned him down, taking Jimmy Olsen instead. As Kirby told the story, he asked Infantino what his worst selling book was.(1) My recollection is Mark Evanier says he was concerned with not kicking anybody off his assignment.

Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen stories introduced the Project (which post-Crisis became Project Cadmus), the Evil Factory, and the 70s version of the Newsboy Legion, but they weren’t much used by the Superman books afterwards. (The Project played a role in a Superman Family story. A Newsboy Legion back-up story appeared in Jimmy Olsen #150. Inter-Gang was used in at least one mid-70s Superman story, but there it was just a high-tech mob.)

Kirby big contribution to the Super-books at the time was Morgan Edge, the new owner of the Daily Planet. Kirby’s version was evil, an agent of Apokolips.(2) This Edge also appeared in the other Super-books, but Lois Lane #118 revealed evil Edge to be an Evil Factory-created clone. The real Edge reclaimed his life in Jimmy Olsen #152. Subsequently Edge was portrayed as Clark's very demanding boss.

(1) The Comichron website doesn’t have a paid circulation figure for Jimmy Olsen in 1969. Presumably it didn’t report. In 1968 it was DC’s sixth-best selling title, and had higher average sales than Action (but it only came out nine times a year - eight issues and a reprint giant - whereas Action at that point came out thirteen - twelve issues and a reprint giant starring Supergirl, the back-up feature). In the period profitability depended on the percentage of circulated copies sold, and sales were dropping at the end of the decade (although Weisinger’s titles remained top-sellers relative to those of other companies), so Jimmy Olsen may have been less profitable c.1970 than this implies.
(2) “Apokolips” would be a great name for a really devastating lipstick.
I'm watching the second season of the Justice League cartoon with the girls now...TONS of Kirby stuff.
Seems like the Kirby influence on Superman has become more pronounced as the years have gone by. Probably due to fans turning pro and tapping into the stuff they read as kids.
In the comics and the cartoons, Darkseid became a Superman villain. Kirby's work lived in the 90s "Superboy" series and the Guardian is back again!
doc photo said:
Seems like the Kirby influence on Superman has become more pronounced as the years have gone by. Probably due to fans turning pro and tapping into the stuff they read as kids.

Kirby was probably more of a "writer's writer", in terms of his ideas, so his stuff was appealing to creators especially. The Superman cartoon really ran with his ideas. Maybe his DC stuff was to weird for the mainstream, but creative people obviously loved it.
doc photo said:
Just to clarify my point on Kirby and Superman - I always viewed Kirby's Jimmy Olsen assignment as pretty trivial. "Hey Jack, while you're working on New Gods can you bang out a few issues of Superman's Pal...?". Whereas, it would have been a major statement to the comic book world if Jack had been asked to reinvigorate the company's flagship title. And if Superman was Kirby's sole focus for a year, prior to moving onto the Fourth World, who knows where he may have taken the Man of Steel. At the very least we might have avoided the whole Goody Rickles storyline!

As noted above, it was Jack Kirby's choice to take Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen rather than one of the flagship Superman titles, but I gather that DC wasn't desperate enough to give him carte blanche with one of those they way they later did with John Byrne. (Whether DC should have with Kirby, or shouldn't have with Byrne, is another conversation.)
I've heard the story of Kirby not wanting to cost anyone their job by taking on Superman, which is probably true, but at the same time it allowed Kirby to avoid dealing with the baggage of a thirty year old character and the micro management that very well would have come along with it.
And yet Kirby's Superman was redrawn by Al Plastino to conform to their standards so why give him the main title for all that ?
doc photo said:
I've heard the story of Kirby not wanting to cost anyone their job by taking on Superman, which is probably true, but at the same time it allowed Kirby to avoid dealing with the baggage of a thirty year old character and the micro management that very well would have come along with it.

Philip Portelli said:
And yet Kirby's Superman was redrawn by Al Plastino to conform to their standards so why give him the main title for all that ?

That's a small example of the micromanagement Kirby would have had to put up with if he HAD taken the main title. Given that he left Marvel in part because of their crazy ways, it was just as well that he didn't take a main Superman book.
Sometimes Al Plastino, sometimes Murphy Anderson. The GCD tells me the heads were sometimes touched up in Lois Lane in the period too.

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