This is a “Gonna Make a Change,” which takes a look at the odd evolution that comic book series used to make. You see, nowadays, when a comic book series wants to re-tool, comic book companies simply cancel the book and start a brand-new series (heck, change a creative team and books will often reboot). In the old days, however, comic book companies felt that they had too much capital invested in the higher numbers and wanted to avoid starting over with a new #1. So we got to see some weird changes over the years.
Today, we look at how Detective Comics basically subsumed Batman Family in the late 1970s!
In the late 1970s, DC did a major expansion of titles in a campaign that they dubbed the “DC Explosion” at the time…
However, by the end of 1978, for a variety of reasons (including a bad economy) DC ended up canceling almost all of these new comics plus a bunch of other books. They ultimately 65 different books by the end of 1978. This tended to be informally referred to as the “DC Implosion.”
The following titles were canceled in just 1978 alone…
All Star Comics
Army At War
Claw the Unconquered
Doorway To Nightmare
House of Secrets
Our Fighting Forces
Secret Society of Super Villains
Secrets of Haunted House
Shade, the Changing Man
Steel: The Indestructible Man
Amazingly enough, initially one of the names on that list of canceled 1978 books was Detective Comics!
Sales on Detective Comics had been sluggish for some time. The book was dropped from a monthly to a bi-monthly series. It had actually saw a marked increase in sales from Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’ run on the book that raised the sales on the book early in 1978, to the point where, overall, the series ended the year barely outselling Batman (when you only have six issues a year, a major bump in the first two issues affects the whole year’s sales average a lot more than normal). However, that residual effect soon collapsed and by mid-1978, the sales on the book were in cancellation range.
So #480 was to be the last issue of DC’s titular comic book series…
After it was canceled, though, the book was saved in a rather ingenious fashion. Someone at DC (most accounts I have seen credit then-DC PR director Mike Gold) suggested, “Hey, what about Batman Family?”
Batman Family had been launched in 1975…
It was a popular books spotlighting the various Batman supporting characters. With #17, it became one of DC’s “Dollar Comics,” giant-sized comics with lots of stories in them…
The theory was, then, since Batman Family was selling well, why not just make Detective Comics Batman Family?
And that is what happened.
Batman Family ended with #20…
and then essentially just became Detective Comics with #481…
So DC got to keep their popular Batman Family series and not have to cancel one of their longest-running titles (and the title that the company was named after!).
Within a few issues, Detective Comics took the title spotlight back…
And within a year, the Dollar Comic angle was dropped and the book was just Detective Comics again.
Sales went back down again, but high enough for the title to keep going and DC never seriously considered canceling it again (the New 52 relaunch doesn’t count, obviously).
Okay, folks, if you have suggestions for comic book series that went through notable format changes that you’d like to see me spotlight, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In their feature spotlighting the odd evolution series sometimes undergo, CSBG shows how Detective Comics essentially subsumed another Batman title!