Comics of March 1974

Bonus Topic: Cover-Dating Defined!

Superman #273 (March 1974) / Wizard with the Golden Eye! / Superman walking away defeated from a crowd hoisting up the wizard Gunther Jacoby
Cover to Superman #273 © 1973 DC Comics. Script: Julius Schwartz?
Pencils, Inks: Nick Cardy. Letters: Gaspar Saladino. Colors: Unknown.
Superman, logos, and other elements
TM/® DC Comics.

I was going through some comic books cover-dated March for a short, colorful edition of this here March of Comics 2009, and it turns out I might have spoken too soon when I talked about my very first comic book.

A digression for the unaware: What is cover dating? If you read a weekly magazine — Time or People or Sports Illustrated — you may notice that the date on the cover is about a week after the day it hits newsstands or shows up in your mailbox; monthly publications are usually dated one or two months ahead. This came about so that weekly magazines in particular didn't instantly seem like "old news" by having their date of release printed on the cover. Since comic books were originally sold right alongside other periodicals, they adopted the same convention; for a while some even dated issues three months ahead.

DC, Marvel, and Archie, the three extant companies who've been publishing since the days when most comics were sold on newsstands and spinner racks, all still post-date issues by two months in the indicia (that strip of tiny text providing copyright and mailing information, etc.), but only DC still prints dates on the cover. It means that we get, say, Halloween issues in October that are dated December, but the practice doesn't seem to be going away. Since it comes into play in a couple of paragraphs, I should add that titles published bimonthly or eight times a year doubled up months so that all were accounted for, although usually only the later month was listed on the cover; for instance, March-April 1974 would be in the indicia but the cover date would be April. Now back to our regularly scheduled post.

My grandparents' business in Wildwood, like many at the Jersey Shore, was seasonal, and they had a winter home in Florida. I have countless good memories associated with their condo in Tamarac — the legendary Will Eisner's neighborhood, I later found out, although I had no idea who he was at the time — but a perennial is reuniting with the stash of comic books we kept there. Only getting to read them once a year was great anticipatory nostalgia, and one of them still vividly in my mind, Superman #273, turns out to have been cover-dated March 1974. The great Nick Cardy drew the cover, and without even looking it up I'm sure that the lead story was written by Elliot S! Maggin. But I did look it up on The Grand Comics Database (which is easier than lifting boxes to pull out the issue) and thus am reminded that the back-up story is a Maggin winner, too; I know at least a few people who'll smile from just two words of dialogue: "Evening, Morty." One of them is my old compatriot Stefan Blitz, who runs the überblog Forces of Geek.

Quickly searching for other issues from that month, I see that Justice League of America #110 illustrates my earlier point about cover-dating, since the cover says April yet the copy hypes "The Murder of Santa Claus, 1973!" What first issues or favorite covers do you remember from your childhood?

Action Comics #433 (Mar. 1974) / 'The Man Who Was Buried on Page 64' / Superman being dragged through the sky by invisible people Detective Comics #439 (Feb.-Mar. 1974) / 100-Page Super Spectacular / 'Night of the Stalker!' / Batman staring down criminals who flee and shoot at him
Justice League of America #110 (Mar.-Apr. 1974) / JLA standing around boxes previewing the contents The Brave and the Bold #111 (Feb.-Mar. 1974) / 'Death Has the Last Laugh' / 'The Strangest Team-Up in History
Covers to, clockwise from top left, Action Comics #433, Detective Comics #439, The Brave
and the Bold
#111, and Justice League of America #110 © 1973 DC Comics. Script: Unknown. Pencils: Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Cardy. Inks: Cardy, Dick Giordano, Aparo,
Cardy. Letters: Gaspar Saladino. Colors: Tatjana Wood. Elements
TM/® DC Comics.

Related Posts: Comics of March 1985; Comics of March 1996

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