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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Actually, the reason Marvel had split books was entirely economic.

In the late 1950s, Martin Goodman sold his own distribution arm and signed on with a contractor -- that promptly went out of business. Without a distributor, Goodman would go out of business, but the only one who could carry his books was the one affiliated with National Periodic Publications -- now formally named DC Comics. DC allowed the contractor to carry Timely Comics, but limited them to 8 books a month. By using bimonthly titles, Goodman was able to have more than eight titles, but he was still limited to 8 a month.

So when the decision was made to give Captain America his own strip, he had to be roomies with Iron Man in Tales of Suspense. When the Hulk was given a strip, it had to share space with Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish. When Nick Fury was given a spot, it was at the expense of the Human Torch (who was already sharing with Dr. Strange) in Strange Tales, and when Sub-Mariner got his own series, he pushed Giant-Man out of Astonish altogether.

This situation pertained until 1968, when Goodman managed to get another distributor, and that created the Marvel Explosion of that year. All the split books separated into their constituent parts, and several other books were launched as well, such as Silver Surfer. We fans at the time were initially elated, until it became obvious that the quality was seriously eroded. But soon enough hiring caught up to the increased workload.

That's the reason for the split books, but it doesn't explain why the stories were split evenly between the two, as opposed to DC's approach of two-thirds for one and then a backup. 

I think the answer to that is that Stan wasn't sure which characters would be most popular, So he gave them each equal attention and even split the covers. That created pretty compressed images for each hero, which might've been confusing to the casual fan, but it made sure everyone was represented. 

Hawkman and Adam Strange split Mystery in Space before Hawkman got his own title (which Adam never did). For about the same amount of time, Hawkman also split with Atom, in a book where they shared the tile--but, again, never split the cover like Marvel did.

I'm not thinking of too many DC backups right off that would've worked in a larger size with another hero. It might've been fun to see Animal Man split Strange Adventures with Deadman after they introduced him, rather than cut AM. Metamorpho would've been a good candidate to team with someone in a split book too. But that would be after he lost his own book, so he might not have had a strong reputation.

They often were running reprints as those back-ups, either of characters or standalone stuff, as a cost-saving move. So they may not have wanted to revive someone as a back-up or split a book.

They could've tried Tommy Tomorrow and Manhunter 2070 in a split book. They were both off in the far-flung 21st century.

Or maybe B'wana Beast and Congorilla! That smells like a hit to me.

-- MSA

"In the late 1950s, Martin Goodman sold his own distribution arm and signed on with a contractor -- that promptly went out of business."

Sounds like a really stupid thing to have done, doesn't it?

Over the years, I've read more about it.  Apparently, Goodman's accountant convinced him to do what he did, apparently, because the guy was promised kickbacks from the new distributor!

It's similar (in my mind) to how Goodman's accountant (same guy or a different one???) told Joe Simon & Jack Kirby that Goodman was doctoring the books to avoid paying them contractually-agreed-on royalties on the sales of CAPTAIN AMERICA.  In that case, the accountant was a secret partner in another publisher, who hoped S&K would switch to "his" company.  Instead, they went to DC...

More recently, I read how the new distributor Goodman signed with had been under Federal investigation and wound up shut down on RACKETEERING charges!!  Way to go, Goodman!!!  :)

...And , when Marvel moved towards more super-heroes , with the 8-a-month limitation , they already had these established anthology titles going , so it was not making the Hulk a back-up in GIANT-MAN or Cap a back-up in  IRON MAN .

  Actually , at least with most of them , Marvel sorta slowly transitioned from the anthologies being anthologies to the heroes being lead charactes with some non-series stories in the back to double-feature titles - (With some period where the single character was longer ~ Weren't G-M's front stories in TTA 18 pages for a while ???) - They weren't established as , as I outlined above , single-character titles , so the additional cvhange of making " equal " splitbooks might not have seemed so radical .

Don't know if 'hit' is the right word ... rhymes with it though.


Mr. Silver Age said:

Or maybe B'wana Beast and Congorilla! That smells like a hit to me.

-- MSA

I have to question the assertion that Marvel or Stan split the covers evenly.

As I recall, Dr. Strange virtually always got short shrift or a narrow strip across the bottom or to one side of the cover.

And when Nick Fury started up, I think SHIELD got cover space exclusively, right up until the point where Ditko left. (with the exception of one cover)

I think the Cap/I.M.  and Hulk/G.M split was more even, and when Subby started, the policy of alternating covers was in play.

I can't tell you how confusing that was to my young, inexperienced mind as I attempted to find books from the prior few years at yard sales, used books stores, and barber shops.  This was especially true if the book you had or were looking for was missing it's cover.  These coverless books were more common in the 60s than anyone might realize, due to trading, swapping, loaning, etc. 


(And there was even an under-the-table scheme by the Mob to rip off covers and return them for credit, but sell the guts of the comic packaged in a plastic bag with another one or two issues for about the same price.  So, they got credit for returning the book, and then made even more money by selling it again under the table to smaller outlets!   I think this is one thing that brought investigation to the distribution of comic books and magazine to the attention of the authorities.)

Marvel/Stan had the knack of creating good team ups - Iron Man and Cap were fellow Avengers - so that was a good spin off from The Avengers. What kid wouldn't want to read that? Hulk and Subby were anti-heroes so they 'fit'. Hulk and Giant Man not so good - perhaps the latter would have had better success in JIM with Thor? Dr Strange/S.H.I.E.L.D. - again not your regular super-hero or team book, but i lasted until they got their own titles so they must have had an audience of some kind.

I think a Black Panther/Wyatt Wingfoot book would have been interesting. Torch should have been in a split book with Rick Jones - I actually think Rick could have carried his own strip.

Kirk G said:   As I recall, Dr. Strange virtually always got short shrift or a narrow strip across the bottom or to one side of the cover.

My theory is this was due to Stan's initial plan for Dr. Strange. With Doc, I think Stan was going for an under-the-radar, in-crowd vibe. In Strange Tales #110, the splash page reads "quietly, without fanfare". We were supposed to hear about The Master of the Mystic Arts in hushed whispers.
Strange Tales #110 is a "hot" book at the moment, and the Slab flippers are up in arms about having to buy a Marvel key without the star on the cover.
Unfortunately, Dr. Strange got into the cover rotation too late, and #146 is the only Ditko drawn full cover of the run.

EBAL, the Brazilian publisher of DC Comics during most of the 1960s and 1970s, actually built split books - or more properly, flip-side books - out of the revival of "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" in the late 1970s by pairing them with Flash issues of the same time period.  Neither cover was more prominent than the other.

DC could easily have built their own flipsides or split books.  Showcase or First Issue Special would be particularly good choices for the format.  Aside from that, you could have, say, Swamp Thing with Phantom Stranger or Madame Xanadu.  While Huntress was technically a back-up in Wonder Woman for a long while, I believe she was actually more popular than Diana.  She was certainly prominent enough in the covers.  Call that a split book.   G.I. Combat was more of an anthology, but I think a split book with Sargeant Rock and the Unknown Soldier could work as well.  Aquaman and the Atom have comparable popularity and enough of a common sci-fi feeling for them to work as sharers of a book.  Challengers of the Unknown and Doom Patrol, too.  Hawkman and Adam Strange.

As for Marvel - Hank Pym _had_ a backup in Avengers for a little while, didn't he?  Falcon and even Diamondback had theirs in Captain America for short periods, too.  Captain Mar-Vell would probably work best as an Avengers also-runs than he did as a main character.  Darkhawk, of all people, had a back-up for a while IIRC.  Eric Masterson would be a natural backup for Thor.  Come to think of it, I happen to think that Captain America, too, works best as an accessory to the Avengers.  Namorita could be a backup for Namor, of course, as could Stingray.  

Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I seem to recall a handful of DC style backup stories in the late 70s / early 80s, none too memorable and I'm thinking they were mostly inventory fillers.  Maybe around the time page counts jumped from 17 to 22 pages?  I recall one with Jarvis in Avengers, one with the Vision somewhere (Avengers or Marvel Tales maybe), and one in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man with the White Tiger (but I think this one was by Roger Stern, who was writing PPTSSM at the time and it tied in to the main story).  Anyone else remember this too?

Of course the X Men had a back up feature with the solo/origins tales.

Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas: While Huntress was technically a back-up in Wonder Woman for a long while, I believe she was actually more popular than Diana. 

That reminds me that, when I bought Superman's girl friend Lois Lane, I enjoyed the Rose and the Thorn strip far more.

A split book for Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow may have worked - have to order more green ink though.

Daredevil might have made a good split book with Giant Man

Can't think of many Marvel characters as back ups though. Scarlet Witch? Triton? Angel?

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