DC ran more back-up stories than Marvel in the 70s/80s. The Marvel ones that spring to mind are the brief revival of “Tales of Asgard” in Thor in the early 80s and “Tales of Atlantis” in Sub-Mariner in the 70s. The episode depicting the sinking of Altantis in Sub-Mariner #63 comes to a memorable climax, with the king who has triggered its destruction facing his end in his deserted tower as the city is destroyed. The Supermegamonkey website has the page. The story was by Steve Gerber and Howard Chaykin.

My favourite of DC’s backups is “The Private Life of Clark Kent”, which eventually moved into Superman Family. It was about Clark interacting with ordinary people rather than supervillains. Sometimes the stories were humorous, sometimes they shot for a poignant note.

Many of the back-ups in Julie Schwartz-edited titles in the 70s were drawn by Dick Dillin, whose work I always like seeing.

The DC Explosion was a plan to increase the size of DC’s titles and add back-ups. This format was used for some issues briefly, but the plan fell through. However, DC revived the plan when it restored its titles to a larger size in 1980.

But in the 80s DC’s back-ups often seemed to be second-tier productions, behind the lead features in quality: or so it seems to me. There were some that graduated to their own titles: “Firestorm” (his feature was revived in The Flash before he again received his own title), “Arion, Lord of Atlantis” (originally a back-up in Warlord).

One back-up series that seems a very good idea to me now is “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” in Green Lantern. I thought it was hit-or-miss at the time, but I now think it served the lead feature well by introducing GLs like Ch’p and gave the creators opportunities to do stuff that was different.

George Perez did the opening instalments of “Firestorm” in The Flash.(1) (Pat Broderick started on the feature on the final The Flash instalments.) The Martin Pasko/Keith Giffen/Steve Gerber “Dr Fate” stories from The Flash were brilliantly drawn and compelling. Curt Swan did the first "Superman 2020" stories in Superman #354-#355.(2)

DC Comics Presents ran the “Whatever Happened to…?” series about forgotten characters, but I haven’t seen too many of those. The best I saw might be “Whatever Happened to… the Crimson Avenger?” from #38, in which the Avenger learns he’s dying and goes into action a final time.

Does anyone have any favourites?

(1) Jim Starlin pencilled the Typhoon three-parter that followed. Typhoon was originally going to appear in Firestorm #6 but the title was cancelled. The unpublished issue (with art by Al Milgrom) was included in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1, and the GCD tells me it appeared in a 2011 collection. 

(2) Also the first of the three "Bruce (Superman) Wayne" stories, which depicted what would have happened if Kal-El had been adopted and raised by the Waynes. The three stories waste the premise, I fear, but Swan's art gives the first one class.

This post displace the thread Odd places to get - and not get - funnybooks . from the homepage.

You need to be a member of Captain Comics to add comments!

Join Captain Comics

Votes: 0
Email me when people reply –


  • For a little while Thor hosted an "Origin of the Inhumans" back-up. It was interesting, but Thor was a weird place to put it.

    When the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern was canceled, the Emerald Gladiator became a back-up in Flash. I remember thinking how sad it was that a big name like Green Lantern had been reduced to a back-up feature. Especially since GL was my favorite DC character when I was a kid. But he eventually got his own book back, so all's well.

  • ...DC then of course had more of a tradition of short , punchy , stories , and of course company was based upon the two (or three) bread-and-butter official anthologies (Even tho the two were of course built totally around one character) - ACTION and DETECTIVE (and ADVENTURE) , of course .

  • I really liked the Huntress backups in Wonder Woman, the Firestorm and Dr. Fate backups in Flash that you mentioned, and the Adam Strange backups in Green Lantern.  

    Atom and Aquaman alternated in the back of Action Comics in the 80s. Possibly Air Wave, too -- I know he was somewhere. 

    I've been reading the dollar issues of World's Finest recently, which was basically a buck full of backups -- and the Bridwell/Newton Shazam! series was probably the best of the bunch.

  • The Private Life of Clark Kent stories tried to keep Superman entirely out of those tales, but I think they cheated a bit when Clark used his superpowers. But my favorite was this one from Superman #292 (October 1975): "Hey, You--With The Glasses--I Don't Like Your Face!", written by Martin Pasko, penciled by Curt Swan, inked by Al Milgrom.

    Morgan Edge sends Clark to a bar to meet an informant -- and is quickly irritated and yells at Clark when he acts like he won't set foot in a bar. Then, while Clark is at the bar waiting for the informant, a knuckle-dragging patron challenges him to a fight! Since Clark can't let the guy punch him out -- and break his hands in the attempt -- he stalls with every stupid dodge he can come up with, including the classic "You wouldn't hit a guy wearing glasses, would you?" Funny stuff.

    (And the lead story in that issue isn't too shabby, either: "The Luthor Nobody Knows!")

  • I like that one too. Another good one by Pasko is "The Last Headline!", in which Perry faces losing his job due to a mandatory retirement rule. It surprised me when I realised Pasko wrote his instalments a couple of years before his run on the main feature.

    Retelling an origin and making the story powerful sounds to me like something difficult to do, but Elliot S. Maggin really managed with that Luthor story.

  • In retrospect, the Superman stories by Pasko, Maggin, Bates, et al, were pretty good. It was the next generation of writers who didn't know what to do with Superman.

  • Marvel also had those origins of the X-Men stories.

  • I've not read all the Silver Age issues of X-Men. It seems to me it got indefensibly bad, and the back-ups were better than the lead stories when the latter were at their nadir.

  • Another one for the Huntress stories,I was always a bit of an Earth 2 geek anyway but I thought they were really well written and drawn,a bit of an under appreciated classic.

    The whatever happened to back ups I've been reading recently they can be hit and miss but are mostly entertaining,I think Star Hawkins was my favourite so far.

    Also the Batgirl back up in the early 70's Detective comics was quite good but was scrapped in favor of her incredibly boring detective boyfriend.

  • Actually, the "origins of the X-Men" series wasn't all that good. Scott's story involved a lame villain called Jack O' Diamonds that shouldn't have given either him or Prof. X a moment's pause, except for writer's fiat. Iceman's origin essentially had him fighting Cyclops the whole time. And Jean only got one entry, which explained her powers but gave nothing on her background. Beast's story, however, was what I hoped all of them would be like -- the realization of his powers, of being different, of how he coped in a "normal" environment. That sort of thing resonated best with the audience, I would think.

    Oh, and Warren had a brief heroic life -- complete with gas gun and costume -- before being recruited. That was kinda interesting.

    Luke Blanchard said:

    I've not read all the Silver Age issues of X-Men. It seems to me it got indefensibly bad, and the back-ups were better than the lead stories when the latter were at their nadir.

This reply was deleted.