Why did Marvel have 'split books' and DC had 'back ups'?

Why was this? Possibly Marvel split books had equally popular heroes thereby more democratic than Detective's Batman and Martian Manhunter or Batman and Elongated Man? I think I've answered my own question here, errr ... Okay:  which format did you prefer?

Could DC have had a split book - Hawkman and Atom was one, but the format never really took off - unless I've overlooked something. What characters would have been worthy of equal-billing?

Could Marvel have had back up strips - there was Tales of Asgard in the back of JIM/Thor, but I think that was it. What minor Marvel heroes could have been a back up, rather than a co-headliner?

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@Kirk G: not in the silver age, sorry.  Hank Pym had his backup feature in the 1990s.

There was ONE Ant-Man back-up episode... in IRON MAN #44 (Jan'72).  It was by Roy Thomas, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito.  Apparently it was a try-out.  6 months later, Ant-Man returned in MARVEL FEATURE #4 (Jul'72) by Roy Thomas, Mike Friedrich & Herb Trimpe.  The "try-out books"-- MARVEL FEATURE, MARVEL SPOTLIGHT, MARVEL PREMIERE, were all 3 originally intended to mirror DC's SHOWCASE, with approx. 2-3 issues per character to test reader popularity.  But then Marvel's under-manned over-expansion got to everybody, and editor Roy Thomas decided it would be "easier" to simply let the "try-out" features continue past their intended ends.

THIS is why Ant-Man ran into such horrific problems, as presumably, Herb Trimpe was only supposed to have done 3 issues.  The next 3 were by Craig Russell, but, Russell's 2nd episode was hit by a "Dreaded Deadline Doom", because (insanely) he filled in on one episode of Dr. Strange (in MARVEL PREMIERE) and wound up blowing the deadline on Ant-Man!

Similarly, when Dr. Strange was revived, Barry Smith only did 2 episodes... the next several in a row, each one had a different penciller!!  (Gardner Fox wrote 4 of those-- he wound up having a different penciller on EACH of his 4 episodes.)

This is NO way to run a comic-book company...!   :)

I almost said "except Marvel Girl, who only had a one-issue feature." And then I thought what about Prof. X? Do people consider him one of the original X-Men? Do I need to address that? That got me into the weeds and I decided life was too short.

Henry R. Kujawa said:

Captain Comics:

"all the original X-Men had brief origin stories as back-ups from issues #38-57"

NOT quite. Marvel Girl only got a "feature" that spotlighted her powers, not an actual origin story as the other 4 members of the group did. I remember that last installment had art by Roth & Grainger. It made me dearly wish Grainger had inked ALL of those Roth issues so casually massacred by Vince "scratchy lines" Colletta.

I was amazed when I realized Sam Grainger was the only member of the creative team who actually came back for the mid-70's revival.

Wow, Luke...that's an incredible summary!  Great research! (Sometimes I think we read more importance into some odd bounces that were more happenstance than any planned intent.)

 

As for Marvel Girl only getting a single featurette, I noted that when it came out too... but then I quickly recalled that she JOINED THE TEAM in the very first issue (X-men #1) and so perhaps it was felt she had been adequately covered... as far as how she came to join the team. (On the otherhand, it might have been sexist too!)

Yep, I read Prof. X as a member of the team right from the start, but bit by bit, his early backstory had come out in X-men 9 and 12-13 and various flashbacks.   (Not that his story didn't take some substantial revisions and additions in the era of the NEW Uncanny X-men (#151 or so)  and #117-118 as I recall.

True enough about the Perfesser, Kirk -- we learned about has past bit by bit, as you point it. The loss of his legs, his stepfather and stepbrother, his life as an adventurer, his time in Israel, his service in the Korean War (!), his first meeting with Magneto (he already knew him in The X-Men #1), his romances with various women (Moira MacTaggert, Amanda Voight, the Israeli woman) and more besides was to dribble out over the years.

Somewhat the same happened with Jean Grey. All we knew about her for years was the little we learned in The X-Men #1 when she came to the school (although I think we heard about, but didn't see, a sister around issue #24 or 25). Chris Claremont wrote a story much later where she had been traumatized by being in the mind of a schoolmate who was killed (apparently her powers developed before adolescence), so Professor X was called in to help, and he locked off her telepathy until she was old enough to handle it. We also didn't learn about Scott's brother until the late 1960s, and the death of his parents (actually, just his mother) had to wait until the introduction of the Shi'ar and the Starjammers.

We long-time X-fans really had to wait for reveals in those days!

If I might be forgiven for summing up and adding some points to my above argument:

(1) Marvel didn't fully embrace a split book format until 1964. At Marvel the format was preceded by Strange Tales's "Torch"-"Torch/Thing"/ "Dr Strange" combination. That came about through "Dr Strange"'s expansion from a 5 page back-up strip to 8 pages in 1963 and then 9 early in 1964. (In fact, a split cover appeared on Strange Tales #123 two months before the Hulk's feature started in Tales to Astonish #60 and three before Captain America's feature started in Tales of Suspense.[1] However, when TTA and TOS became split-books Marvel quickly incorporated the names of both features in TTA and TOS into the mastheads, whereas it held off doing this in the case of Strange Tales until 1966 (and in fact moved away from including Strange on the cover for a period after S.H.I.E.L.D. introduction in 1965). Early on the split-books often had split covers, but the TOS and TTA shifted to alternating the covers between the features in 1965 (TOS first). Strange Tales began doing this in 1966, a bit before Strange's logo was incorporated into the logo.

(2) DC did split some superhero titles similarly, and in fact in some cases - Action Comics, Detective Comics - starting earlier, but this is easy to miss because (a) we think of Action Comics and Detective Comics as Superman's and Batman's titles, Elongated Man never snagged the cover of the latter from Batman, and when Supergirl did that of the former from Superman this was often disguised by the inclusion of Superman in the images (b) DC's second features sometimes had significantly fewer pages than their lead ones (but not always) (c) DC didn't incorporate feature logos into the relevant titles' mastheads, except in the case of House of Secrets from #75 (the issue went on sale Sep. 1965, so I would think DC was there imitating Marvel's example) (d) DC rarely split covers[2], and didn't regularly alternate the covers between co-features in a title for as long a period[3].

(3) DC's second features in Action Comics and Detective Comics were a hangover from the older multiple-feature approach. The introduction of "Eclipso" into House of Secrets as a co-feature in May 1963 preceded Marvel's adoption of the split format ("Dr Strange" had started in Strange Tales the month before, but was a 5 page back-up feature at that point).

(4) It seems clear that the split format was adopted for TOS because Marvel needed a slot for Captain America and had a title cap (as the Captain said), but Marvel had apparently also resisted giving the title wholly over to Iron Man. (It might be relevant that Marvel's former-anthology superhero titles were monthlies, whereas DC's eponymous superhero titles were either bimonthlies or ran eight times a year, not counting reprint giants[4]) Marvel could have replaced Giant-Man's feature with the Hulk's, but it may be when the latter was introduced into TTA Marvel didn't have the confidence that he could carry a book by himself (I think his early cover-treatment there suggests this), or that it hadn't given up on Giant-Man and the Wasp's feature yet.

(5) I've read that the short back-up features in some of Dell's titles, such as "Brothers of the Spear" in Tarzan, were due to mailing rules, but the examples I know of are from an earlier date and I don't know if mailing rules considerations played a role in Marvel's use of back-up features. If they did, and the second features in the titles had to star different characters to the first to qualify for the desired rate, why was it OK for "Tales of Asgard" to star Thor, and why did Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk never have second features?

(6) Some of what went on at Marvel may have been partly dictated by how many pages the creators involved were able to handle.

(7) The Atom & Hawkman, which Dandy mentioned, was likely a response to poor sales on the part of the characters' eponymous titles and ran for seven issues (continuing The Atom's numbering) in 1968-69. Three issues (#39 [the first], #42 and #45) teamed the characters; of the others, two were split 14/9 in favour of the Atom and the other two 12/11 and 13/11 in favour of Hawkman. The two characters appeared together in the cover images of #39, #40, #42 and #45; #41 was split; #43 and #44 just had Hawkman.

 

I think the upshot is the ultimate answer to Dandy's question is "Marvel had a issues cap, was smarter about packaging and more determined to make every feature really worthwhile".

 

[1] Note that the start of the Hulk's feature was preceded by a guest appearance in Giant-Man's feature in the preceding issue, i.e. the month after the first Strange Tales split cover. Likewise the start of Cap's feature was preceded by a guest appearance by Cap in Iron Man's.

[2] Dave's example of Action Comics #339 went on sale in May 1966, so it may have been modelled after Marvel's split covers, which Marvel by then had stopped using. Incidentally, the history of split covers at Marvel goes back further than its use on Strange Tales and the split-books, e.g. misc. issues of Gunsmoke Western. Also compare the split cover on The Incredible Hulk #4 (1962).

[3] The titles I can think of where it could be said to have alternated the covers are House of Secrets when it was shared by Mark Merlin and Eclipso (##61-73, 1963-65; the covers swapped back-and-forth between the two features but not regularly) and then Prince Ra-Man and Eclipso (##74-80, 1965-66; if one excepts #76 and #79, the two issues in which they fought one another, Prince Ra-Man had a run of three covers and then Eclipso had a run of two), Mystery in Space when it was shared by Adam Strange and Hawkman (##87-90 in 1963-64 [#90 was a team-up issue]; over these four issues the two alternated on the covers), and Mystery in Space when it was shared by Space Ranger and Adam Strange (##92-99 in 1964-65; if one excepts the covers of the team-up issues #94 and #98, on which both appeared, the covers alternated between the two from #93-#99). I owe the Hawkman/Adam Strange case to Mr SA's mention of it.

[4] The early Silver Age exception was Blackhawk (if it counts as a superhero title), which had been a monthly at Quality and initially continued that frequency at DC. (In its waning days it went bimonthly.) The Flash and Green Lantern both started as bimonthlies and went to eight-times-a-year schedules with their tenth issues. Aquaman, The Atom and Hawkman were bimonthlies throughout their runs. Wonder Woman dropped down to bimonthly status from an eight-times-a-year schedule in 1967.

 

Thanks Dave, Henry for the kind words.

 

Information drawn from DC Indexes and the GCD. (corrected)

I don't think anyone answered your question yet. Apparently ST 110 is valuable because it contains the first appearance of Dr. Strange. If you "slab" the book you have no idea he's even inside. His 5-page first appearance is buried in the back of the book.

Kirk G said:

I don't understand.  Why do you say Strange Tales #110 does not feature the star on the cover.  Human Torch is right there.  Are you saying that because Dr. Strange begins as the second feature, he should have appeared on the cover?

Thanks, Kirk.

Inspired by Dandy's discussion, I just posted a new one here which follows the page counts on the split books throughout their runs.

Captain Comics:

"what about Prof. X? Do people consider him one of the original X-Men?"

As John Wayne said in BRANNIGAN...  "I wouldn't!!"

The team goes into action.  Prof. X doesn't.  The team wear COSTUMES.  He's in a business suit.  Also, in the tradition of Jack Kirby "kid gangs", you have the "kid gang" and you have the "adult mentor".  Example:  THE NEWSBOY LEGION with The Guardian.  Nobody would ever consider The Guardian a member of The Newsboy Legion-- right?  Same with the adult mentor (whose name I forget) who led / advised THE BOY COMMANDOS.  He sure wasn't one of the "boys".

I mean, due to their fanaticm regarding secrecy, most people have no idea there is even any connection between Prof. Xavier and THE X-MEN.  (Maybe he should have changed his last name to help distance himself from there... how many "X"s do you usually run across anyway?)

Luke Blanchard:

"why was it OK for "Tales of Asgard" to star Thor"

It was obvious from the get-go that "Thor"  had been around for CENTURIES before we met him.  But on the letters pages, there was a building moviement growing of fans wanting the answer to the mystery, "If Donald Blake BECAME Thor, what happened to the ORIGINAL Thor?"  This was not answred, oddly enough, until long after the TOA back-up ended. It was done as a 2-parter (more or less) following the 4-0part "Mangog" story, which, it has been suggested, was designed to genuinely DESTROY Asgard and pave the wave for something else...

OTOH, Professor X does save the day an awful lot in those early X-Men issues!
 
Henry R. Kujawa said:

Captain Comics:

"what about Prof. X? Do people consider him one of the original X-Men?"

As John Wayne said in BRANNIGAN...  "I wouldn't!!"

The team goes into action.  Prof. X doesn't.  The team wear COSTUMES.  He's in a business suit.  Also, in the tradition of Jack Kirby "kid gangs", you have the "kid gang" and you have the "adult mentor".  Example:  THE NEWSBOY LEGION with The Guardian.  Nobody would ever consider The Guardian a member of The Newsboy Legion-- right?  Same with the adult mentor (whose name I forget) who led / advised THE BOY COMMANDOS.  He sure wasn't one of the "boys".

I mean, due to their fanaticm regarding secrecy, most people have no idea there is even any connection between Prof. Xavier and THE X-MEN.  (Maybe he should have changed his last name to help distance himself from there... how many "X"s do you usually run across anyway?)

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