Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DC Comics Trends Througout the Silver Age

Superheroes represented about 45% of DC's output during the Silver Age, while war comics made up somewhere around 13% of the total. But those overall numbers mask significant changes in their publication over time, and so I thought it might be interesting to do a year-by-year look at each category or genre of comics to see how things changed over time.

Some notes on categories; the ones chosen are simply my best guess as to where each comic fits best. For example, I put Challengers of the Unknown in Adventure, while Metal Men got lumped in with the Superheroes. I classified House of Mystery and House of Secrets as "horror" although of course they weren't very horrifying. HoM is considered Superhero from 143-173, during the Martian Manhunter/Robby Reed era. One comic is absolutely misclassified; I put Blackhawk in the war category rather than adventure. My bad, but I'm really looking more at changes over time, and Blackhawk didn't change much until the very end. I carefully classified the issues of Showcase and Brave and Bold individually.

Here's what DC's output looked like in 1955:

Category #
Adventure 19
Comedy 22
Crime/Detective 18
Funny Animal 68
Horror 12
Romance 20
Science Fiction 18
Superhero 81
Teen 18
War 42
Western 35

As you can see, Funny Animal was right up there with Superhero comics; that would not last long.  For 1956 and thereafter, I'll add a column showing the change in each category since the prior year:


1956 Adventure 19 0
1956 Comedy 29 7
1956 Crime/Detective 18 0
1956 Funny Animal 56 -12
1956 Horror 21 9
1956 Romance 24 4
1956 Science Fiction 18 0
1956 Superhero 86 5
1956 Teen 18 0
1956 War 45 3
1956 Western 45 10
Funny Animal started to decline, while Western picked up nicely.


1957 Adventure 24 5
1957 Comedy 36 7
1957 Crime/Detective 18 0
1957 Funny Animal 50 -6
1957 Horror 30 9
1957 Romance 32 8
1957 Science Fiction 18 0
1957 Superhero 88 2
1957 Teen 18 0
1957 War 72 27
1957 Western 26 -19
In 1957, DC inherited a couple of titles from Quality Comics, including Blackhawk and GI Combat, as well as Heart Throbs for the Romance line.  Funny Animal continued to decline, and Western gave back all it had gained the prior year, and more.

1958 Adventure 27 3
1958 Comedy 35 -1
1958 Crime/Detective 18 0
1958 Funny Animal 40 -10
1958 Horror 32 2
1958 Romance 36 4
1958 Science Fiction 20 2
1958 Superhero 94 6
1958 Teen 8 -10
1958 War 72 0
1958 Western 25 -1
Continuing declines in Funny Animal and a sharp decrease in Teen titles as Leave it to Binky and Buzzy were cancelled.  You will note that Superhero still had only gained 13 issues a year or about one a month; the dizzying climb upwards for that genre was just about to start.

1959 Adventure 28 1
1959 Comedy 32 -3
1959 Crime/Detective 3 -15
1959 Funny Animal 27 -13
1959 Horror 36 4
1959 Romance 33 -3
1959 Science Fiction 20 0
1959 Superhero 104 10
1959 Teen 6 -2
1959 War 72 0
1959 Western 21 -4
DC's Crime and Detective titles were mostly licensed properties like Mr District Attorney and Big Town, both of which had gone off the air by then; the New Adventures of Charlie Chan was cancelled early that year, emptying the category for the duration of the Silver Age.

1960 Adventure 22 -6
1960 Comedy 24 -8
1960 Funny Animal 17 -10
1960 Horror 36 0
1960 Romance 38 5
1960 Science Fiction 20 0
1960 Superhero 113 9
1960 Teen 9 3
1960 War 48 -24
1960 Western 18 -3
War dropped pretty significanty, and the overall number of comics declined quite a bit.  DC was experiencing some financial pressure in 1960, which would eventually result in the price increase to 12 cents at the end of the next year.  IIRC, the decrease in the War genre was not caused by any cancellations, but by DC switching most of their war titles to bi-monthly from monthly.

1961 Adventure 28 6
1961 Comedy 18 -6
1961 Funny Animal 8 -9
1961 Horror 36 0
1961 Romance 38 0
1961 Science Fiction 20 0
1961 Superhero 125 12
1961 Teen 6 -3
1961 War 48 0
1961 Western 10 -8
By this point, Funny Animal and Western, two of DC's top four lines in 1955, were limping along with essentially one title apiece, (Fox and Crow and Tomahawk), which would remain the case for most of the 1960s.

1962 Adventure 32 4
1962 Comedy 18 0
1962 Funny Animal 7 -1
1962 Horror 24 -12
1962 Romance 39 1
1962 Science Fiction 20 0
1962 Superhero 141 16
1962 Teen 6 0
1962 War 50 2
1962 Western 6 -4
Superhero makes another big jump; the decline in horror titles was again due to DC changing some titles from monthly publication to bi-monthly.  Teen comics were now reduced to the Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

1963 Adventure 24 -8
1963 Comedy 18 0
1963 Funny Animal 6 -1
1963 Horror 22 -2
1963 Romance 44 5
1963 Science Fiction 27 7
1963 Superhero 147 6
1963 Teen 6 0
1963 War 51 1
1963 Western 6 0
Pretty modest changes in 1963.  Sci-fi ticked up a bit due to temporary changes including the Strange Sports Stories series in Brave and Bold and Tommy Tomorrow tryouts in Showcase.

1964 Adventure 18 -6
1964 Comedy 18 0
1964 Funny Animal 6 0
1964 Horror 15 -7
1964 Romance 50 6
1964 Science Fiction 20 -7
1964 Superhero 172 25
1964 Teen 4 -2
1964 War 56 5
1964 Western 6 0
Strong gains again for DC's superhero line, which had more than doubled since 1955.  Romance continued its steady upward momentum, while War comics reached their highest mark since 1959.  The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was cancelled (well after the TV show), which left DC without a Teen title for the first time since the 1940s.

1965 Adventure 18 0
1965 Comedy 18 0
1965 Funny Animal 6 0
1965 Horror 12 -3
1965 Romance 50 0
1965 Science Fiction 20 0
1965 Superhero 182 10
1965 Teen 0 -4
1965 War 57 1
1965 Western 6 0
Not much change there other than the continuing domination by the Superheroes. And with Batmania around the corner, that was not going to change.

1966 Adventure 12 -6
1966 Comedy 18 0
1966 Funny Animal 6 0
1966 Horror 11 -1
1966 Romance 50 0
1966 Science Fiction 18 -2
1966 Superhero 195 13
1966 Teen 4 4
1966 War 56 -1
1966 Western 6 0
By now over 50% of DC's publications were Superhero, and I am sure that if we take circulation into account it was well over 70%.  Teen comics returned with Scooter.

1967 Adventure 9 -3
1967 Comedy 26 8
1967 Funny Animal 6 0
1967 Horror 6 -5
1967 Romance 50 0
1967 Science Fiction 9 -9
1967 Superhero 197 2
1967 Teen 8 4
1967 War 44 -12
1967 Western 6 0
Financial pressures were again rearing their ugly head, with a lot of titles headed towards the chopping block.  Comedy was the (temporary) gainer as DC tried titles like the Inferior Five and the Maniacs (in Showcase).  Superhero titles showed only a modest gain.

1968 Adventure 22 13
1968 Comedy 23 -3
1968 Funny Animal 1 -5
1968 Horror 10 4
1968 Romance 51 1
1968 Science Fiction 0 -9
1968 Superhero 200 3
1968 Teen 11 3
1968 War 36 -8
1968 Western 10 4
Sci-Fi dropped off DC's radar in 1968, as Strange Adventures began featuring Deadman.  Superhero titles increased for the thirteenth consecutive year, but again only by a smidgeon.  Adventure showed temporary gains due to short-lived titles like Anthro, Secret Six, Bomba the Jungle Boy and Captain Action.

1969 Adventure 14 -8
1969 Comedy 19 -4
1969 Funny Animal 0 -1
1969 Horror 25 15
1969 Romance 50 -1
1969 Science Fiction 7 7
1969 Superhero 168 -32
1969 Teen 36 25
1969 War 31 -5
1969 Western 15 5
Financial pressures writ large there; the Superhero line finally collapsed, with DC switching resources to Horror and Teen.  The Horror titles would work, while the Teen fad failed.

7 comments:

BK said...

thanks for this resource. I find it facinating.

frasersherman said...

Very interesting, but why would Captain Action constitute adventure rather than superhero? Costume, secret identity, powers--it would seem he had all the trappings, surely.

Anonymous said...

nice idea, thanks for sharing...

Anonymous said...

Captain Action was definitely a super hero comic.

Anonymous said...

It must be hard to classify some comics, because genres overlap. Blackhawk could be considered a war comic (they were a paramilitary unit), or adventure. (It was also briefly a super hero comic.) Super hero comics are adventure stories, and many are science fiction. Plastic Man and Inferior Five could be both super-hero and comedy.

Four-Color Kid said...

Very interesting analysis!
I have no problem with CAPTAIN ACTION classified as an adventure series.
Some series can be classified in many types after all.

Great job! and thank you for sharing.

Simayl said...

Very interesting, a comparison of editors would prove interesting I am sure.

Great post!