Detective Comics #461 (1976)

Ahh, 1976. A good year for the country, but a bad year for comic books. ’76 may have been the nadir for comic sales and interest, Coming out of the brutal crushing of Atlas/Seaboard Comics in ’74, and with many of the finest creators in comics leaving the industry, the industry fell into a malaise that it took awhile to bounce back from. I’ve mentioned before in this blog that it was only the runaway success of Marvel’s Star Wars adaptation that kept the House of Ideas alive during thi time, and it could be argued that the same could be said for DC and the Superman movie.
 
It’s easy to see why these comics didn’t inspire kids in those years (though they certainly inspired me – more proof that I’ve always been someone who listened to the beat of his own drummer) by looking at a comic like this one. Detective 461 was cowritten by Bob Rozakis and future screenwriter Michael Uslan, and illustrated by the less-than-sterling team of Pablo Marcos and Ernie Chan (who at that time was using the name Ernie Chua for some unknown reason). Both Marcos and Chan did good work elsewhere – Marcos did nice work on Tales of the Zombie around that time, and Chan would do a nice job inking Conan – but here their styles just do not mesh. Chan’s dark linework overhelms Marcos’s more illustrative inks, and things just do not look good.
 
As for the story, it involves a villain called Captain Stingaree who looks and acts like a pirate, but not only does he not sell bootleg DVDs, but he doesn’t even captain a pirate ship and steal booty, whatever booty is. (well, I know what booty is, and I don’t think DC could publish comics with booty calls in 1976) Pretty much the only interesting scene is one where Batman follows Captain Dungaree into the sewers, where he’s attacked y a swarm of rats. Imagine how cool a scene like that could have been if it was illustrated by any of a dozen great horror rtists. Here, however, it just another dull, boring scene in a dull, boring comic.
 
Plastered across the cover is a bright red, white and blue banner across the top that reads "DC Comics Salutes the Bicentennial" and the number 29. The gimmick there was that readers could collect 25 of the 33 banners plastered across the covers of comics that were released in April 1976, and send in for.. no, not a miniature American flag or a poster of Superman and a bald eagle, or soemother patriotic object. No, readers could get a Superman belt buckle. Now I know that a lot of people like to tie Superman to America, trying to hold him as the avatar of American values, buut how cheezy is that, tying a comic book character to a genuine event like that? Heaven knows that good companies like Disney never tried to tie the mouse to an event like that.
 
Sarcasm, folks, sarcasm.
 
So, umm, a very bad comic book from a very bad era.
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