The "DC Explosion" and "DC Implosion" were two events in 1978 – the first an official marketing campaign, the second a sardonic reference to it – in which DC Comics expanded their roster of publications, then abruptly cut it back. The DC Explosion was part of an ongoing initiative at DC to regain market share by increasing the number of titles they published, while also increasing page counts and cover prices. The so-called "DC Implosion" was the result of the publisher experiencing losses that year due to a confluence of factors, and cancelling a large number of ongoing and planned series in response. The cancellations included long-running series such as Our Fighting Forces, Showcase, and House of Secrets; new series introduced as part of the expansion such as Firestorm and Steel: The Indestructible Man; and announced series such as The Vixen, which would have been the company's first title starring an African-American woman. Former flagship series Detective Comics was also considered for cancellation. Some of the material already produced for these cancelled series was used in other publications. Several of the completed stories were "published" in small quantities as two issues of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, whose title was a reference to DC's Golden-Age Comic Cavalcade series.
The DC Explosion was a 1978 marketing campaign in which DC touted its increasing number of titles in the previous few years and increased story pages in all of its titles, accompanied by higher cover prices. The Explosion campaign itself lasted three months from its debut in comics cover-dated June 1978 until the revamp in comics cover-dated September 1978. The actual implosion at the company then followed with cancellations and a reduction in the number of titles.
Since the early 1970s, DC had seen its dominance of the market overtaken by Marvel Comics, partly because Marvel had significantly increased the number of titles that it published (both original material and reprint books). In large part, the DC Explosion was a plan to overtake Marvel by using its own strategy. DC's expansion actually began in earnest in 1975, when the company debuted 12 titles in the spring and summer, followed by four more titles by the end of the year. DC added 14 titles in 1976 and four more in 1977.
However, DC experienced ongoing poor sales from the winter of 1977 to the winter of 1978. This has been attributed in part to the North American blizzards in 1977 and 1978, which both disrupted distribution and curtailed consumer purchases. Furthermore, the effects of ongoing economic inflation, recession, and increased paper and printing costs, led to declines in both the profitability of the entire comic book industry and the number of readers. In response, company executives ordered that titles with marginal sales and several new series that were still in development be cancelled. During these meetings, it was decided that DC's long-running flagship title Detective Comics was to be terminated with #480 — until the decision was overturned following strenuous arguments on behalf of saving the title within the DC office, and Detective was instead merged with the better-selling Batman Family.
As a result of the Implosion, 17 series were cancelled abruptly. Fourteen other titles were cancelled in 1978, for the most part "planned" cancellations announced in DC promos and in the final issues of the comics themselves. The following titles were cancelled due to the Implosion, with the following as their final issue:
- All Star Comics #74 (Sept. cover date) — issue #75 later published in Adventure Comics #461 (Jan.–Feb. 1979) and 462 (March 1979); the feature continued there until #466
- Army at War #1 (Nov.) — war title
- Batman Family #20 (Nov.) — merged into Detective Comics as of issue #481 (Dec. 1978–Jan. 1979)
- Battle Classics #1 (Sept.) — reprint title
- Black Lightning #11 (Sept.) — issue #12 later published in World's Finest Comics #260 (Dec. 1979–Jan. 1980)
- Claw the Unconquered #12 (Aug.–Sept.)
- Doorway To Nightmare #5 (Sept.) — merged into The Unexpected
- Dynamic Classics #1 (Sept.) — reprint title
- Firestorm #5 (Oct.) — issue #6 reworked into The Flash #294–296 (February–April 1981); the story was published in the trade paperback Firestorm: The Nuclear Man (2011)
- House of Secrets #154 (Oct.–Nov.) — merged into The Unexpected
- Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth #59 (Sept.–Oct.) — the "OMAC" back-up stories by Jim Starlin appeared in The Warlord #37–39 (Sept.–Nov. 1980)
- Our Fighting Forces #181 (Sept.–Oct.)
- Secrets of Haunted House #14 (Oct.–Nov.) — revived a year later with issue #15 (August 1979); the title continued until issue #46 (March 1982)
- Showcase #104 (Sept.) — the Deadman story for #105 appeared in Adventure Comics #464 and the Creeper story for #106 appeared in The Creeper by Steve Ditko (2010)
- Star Hunters #7 (Oct.–Nov.) - a planned Adam Strange back-up story later appeared in World's Finest #262
- Steel: The Indestructible Man #5 (Oct.–Nov.) — #6 story reworked for All-Star Squadron #8–9 (April–May 1982)
- The Witching Hour #85 (Oct.) — merged into The Unexpected
- Aquaman #63 (Aug.–Sept. cover date) — cancellation announced in March 1978. Aquaman story from #64 was published in Adventure Comics #460 (November 1978)
- Challengers of the Unknown #87 (June–July)
- DC Super Stars #18 (Jan.–Feb.)
- Freedom Fighters #15 (July–Aug.) — cancelled a few months before the Implosion to make room for other titles in the DC Explosion; storyline was to be concluded in issues #16-18 of Secret Society of Super Villains, which was itself cancelled (see below)
- Karate Kid #15 (July–Aug.) — cancelled a few months before the Implosion to make room for other titles in the DC Explosion; final story published
- Metal Men #56 (February–March) — storyline concluded with the Metal Men being recognized by the United Nations as citizens of the world and not property
- Mister Miracle #25 (Sept.) - cancellation announced March 1978.
- Return of the New Gods #19 (July–Aug.) — feature concluded in Adventure Comics #459-460
- Secret Society of Super Villains #15 (June–July) — cancellation announced March 1978. The characters next appeared in Justice League of America #166–168 (May–July 1979), which picked up where issue #15 left off. The stories from Secret Society of Super Villains #16 and 17 were finally published in Secret Society of Super Villains Vol. 2 (2012)
- Shade, the Changing Man #8 (Aug.–Sept.) — cancellation announced March 1978. The "Odd Man" story by Steve Ditko appeared in Detective Comics #487. Both the Shade and Odd Man stories were published in The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 (2011)
- Shazam! #35 (May–June) — merged into World's Finest Comics with #253
- Super-Team Family #15 (Mar.–Apr.) – #16 (Supergirl and the Doom Patrol team-up story published in The Superman Family #191–193)
- Teen Titans #53 (Feb.)
- Welcome Back, Kotter #10 (Mar.–Apr.) – final story published in Limited Collectors' Edition #C-57
Cancelled Comic CavalcadeEdit
About 30 titles were affected. Much of the unpublished work saw print in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, a summer 1978 two-issue ashcan "series" which "published" the work in limited quantity solely to establish the company's copyright. The title was a play on DC's 1940s series Comic Cavalcade. Some of the material already produced for the cancelled publications was later used in other series. The two volumes, composed of some of these stories along with earlier inventoried stories, were printed by DC staff members in black-and-white on the office photocopier. A total of 35 copies of each volume were produced, and distributed to the creators of the material, the U.S. copyright office and the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as proof of their existence. Considered a valued collectible, a set of both issues was valued as high as $3,680 in the 2011–2012 edition of the Comic Book Price Guide.
The contents ranged from completed stories to incomplete artwork. The covers featured new illustrations; the first one showed the cancelled books' heroes lying either unconscious or dead on the ground, the second showed the cancelled heroes being kicked out of an office by a bespectacled man in a suit. The first issue carried a cover price of 10 cents, while the second carried a cover price of $1.00, but the publications were never actually offered for sale.
Cancelled Comic Cavalcade contained the following material:
- Black Lightning #12 (later printed in World's Finest Comics #260), cover to #13
- Claw the Unconquered #13-14
- The Deserter #1
- Doorway to Nightmare #6 (later printed in The Unexpected)
- Firestorm #6 (later adapted as back-up stories in The Flash #294-296 (February-April 1981), original version published in the Firestorm: The Nuclear Man trade paperback in 2011)
- Green Team: Boy Millionaires #1-2 (were to have followed a try-out in 1st Issue Special #2)
- Kamandi #60-61 ("OMAC" back-ups would appear in The Warlord #37–39 (September–November 1980), while the Kamandi stories were published in Kamandi Challenge Special in 2017)
- Prez #5 (later published in the 2016 trade paperback Prez: The First Teen President)
- Shade, the Changing Man #9 ("The Odd Man" story would appear in Detective Comics #487 (December 1979–January 1980))
- Showcase #105 featuring Deadman (later printed in a slightly edited form in Adventure Comics #464) and #106 featuring the Creeper
- Secret Society of Super Villains #16-17 (later published in Secret Society of Super Villains Vol. 2)
- Steel #6 (later reprinted with edits in All-Star Squadron #8–9 (April–May 1982))
- The Vixen #1
- covers for Army at War #2, Battle Classics #3, Demand Classics #1-2, Dynamic Classics #2, Mister Miracle #26, Ragman #6, Weird Mystery Tales #25-26, Western Classics #1-2
Among the new series planned, but never published:
- Bucky O'Hare, a Larry Hama creation which was eventually published by Continuity Comics in 1984
- Demand Classics (reprint series) with "Flash of Two Worlds" planned for #1
- The Deserter (a Western created by Gerry Conway with pencils by Dick Ayers and inks by Romeo Tanghal)
- Ms. Mystic, a Neal Adams/Michael Netzer character later published by Pacific Comics and Continuity Comics
- Sorcerer, a David Michelinie/Bob Layton character later used as the basis for the Deathmask series published by Future Comics in 2003
- Starslayer, a Mike Grell creation later published by Pacific Comics and First Comics
- The Vixen would have been the first comic book series starring an African-American superheroine; the character later made her first appearance in Action Comics #521 (July 1981). A back-up feature with the Harlequin II (Duela Dent) would have begun with #2
- Western Classics (reprint series)
Secondary features were planned, but the titles in which three were to appear were cancelled before the stories were published; the reasons why the two that were planned for Adventure Comics were left unreleased are unknown:
- "Manhunter from Mars" in Aquaman
- "Vigilante" in Aquaman
- "Captain Comet" in Secret Society of Super Villains
- "Metal Men" in Adventure Comics
- "The Man from Neverwhere", a creation of writer Roger McKenzie for Adventure Comics, "some sort of elvish/magical/time-travel superhero mishmosh of a concept"
- "Adam Strange" in Star Hunters. Story published in World's Finest Comics #263 (June/July 1980)
- Kahn, Jenette (September 1978). "Publishorial: Onward and Upward". DC Comics. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2009.
- Daniels, Les (1995). "New Markets, New Formats: Comics Change With the Times". DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. p. 178. ISBN 0821220764.
The expansion was optimistically dubbed 'The DC Explosion'. Nothing seemed to work, however, and cutbacks were initiated that insiders ironically dubbed 'The DC Implosion'.
- Beard, Jim (July 26, 2007). "Cancelled Comics Cavalcade: 30 Years Later with Paul Kupperberg". Comics Bulletin. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014.
- Kimball, Kirk (n.d.). "Secret Origins of the DC Implosion Part One". Dial "B" For Blog. Archived from the original on December 22, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2009.
- Rozakis, Bob (November 30, 2012). "BobRo Archives: The DC Implosion". BobRozakis.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014.
The Warner Publishing powers-that-be told Kahn and company President Sol Harrison to cancel the plans for bigger books and cut the line to 20 32-page titles at 40c each.
- Cronin, Brian (July 27, 2012). "Comic Book Legends Revealed #377". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 9, 2014.
- Stroud, Bryan D. (April 7, 2010). "Al Milgrom Interview". The Silver Age Lantern. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012.
- Irving, Christopher (January 19, 2010). "Larry Hama: All About Character". NYC Graphic Novelists. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
By that time, me and Al Milgrom had gotten imploded out of DC in what they called 'The Great Implosion'.
- Conway, Gerry; Milgrom Al (2011). Firestorm: The Nuclear Man. DC Comics. p. 176. ISBN 1-4012-3183-7.
- Secrets of Haunted House at the Grand Comics Database
- Ditko, Steve (2010). The Creeper by Steve Ditko. DC Comics. ISBN 1-4012-2591-8.
- Kingman, Jim (October 2016). "Midnight Ramblings: 13 Years in the 'Terrorific' Life of DC's Witching Hour". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (#92): 27–30.
- Nolen-Weathington, Eric (2007). Modern Masters Volume 12: Michael Golden. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 13–16. ISBN 978-1893905740.
- Conway, Gerry; Vosburg, Mike (2012). Secret Society of Super Villains Vol. 2. DC Comics. p. 328. ISBN 978-1401231101.
- Ditko, Steve (2011). The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1. DC Comics. ISBN 1-4012-3111-X.
- "Cancelled Comic Cavalcade: Introduction". DC Comics. Summer 1978. Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2009.
"Just to make it official – Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, Vol. 1, No. 1, Summer 1978, DC Comics, Inc.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
With the devastating DC Implosion, a majority of the thirty-one titles terminated in 1978 were canceled in the middle of storylines. Therefore, staff members "published", in extremely limited quantities, two volumes of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- "Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 (Summer 1978)". Grand Comics Database.
- "Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 (Fall 1978)". Grand Comics Database.
- Grabois, Michael (November 5, 1995). "The Deserter". Mike's Comics Page. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
- Wells, John (October 24, 1997), "'Lost' DC: The DC Implosion", Comics Buyer's Guide, Iola, Wisconsin (#1249), p. 133,
The Deserter...was given his own ongoing title at the 11th hour, only to perish amidst the other cancellations. The origin of tormented Civil War deserter Aaron Hope (by Gerry Conway, Dick Ayers, and Romeo Tanghal) appeared only in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1.
- Wells (1997) p. 134: "After being touted in house ads during the summer, details regarding The Vixen #1 appeared in a 'Daily Planet' text page in Batman #305 and The Flash #267. Ultimately, 'Who Is The Vixen?' was printed only in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2."
- Dallas, Keith; Wells, John (2018). "Part 3: Implosion (1978–1980)". Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 978-1605490854.
Bucky O'Hare, Ms. Mystic, Sorcerer, and Starslayer were each developed for DC in 1977 and 1978 but they all then remained in the hands of their creators.
- Catron, Michael (July 1981). "Grell's Starslayer Debuts in July". Amazing Heroes. Fantagraphics Books (#2): 14.
Starslayer, a new comic book created, written, and drawn by Mike Grell debuts in July from Pacific Comics. The series was originally offered to DC Comics but was shelved in 1978 at the time of the "DC Implosion.
- Starslayer (Pacific Comics) at the Grand Comics Database and Starslayer (First Comics) at the Grand Comics Database
- Response from Roger McKenzie on his Facebook page, January 3, 2014: "As far as I know, Neverwhere wasn't recycled anywhere else at DC. It...along with several other series of mine (and lots of other creators as well) got buried in the "DC Implosion" back then when (I think) about a third of the DC books got axed all at once. As for what Neverwhere was about...who can say after three decades. I'd pitched the name (which Paul Levitz tweaked, by the way!) and *I think* some sort of elvish/magical/time-travel superhero mishmosh of a concept".
- Black, David R. (2000). "The DC Implosion!". Fanzing. Archived from the original on March 8, 2014.
- Kimball, Kirk (n.d.). "Secret Origins of the DC Implosion Part Two". Dial "B" For Blog. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
- Kimball, Kirk (n.d.). "Secret Origins of the DC Implosion Part Three". Dial "B" For Blog. Archived from the original on June 26, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
- Cancelled Comic Cavalcade at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
- Grabois, Michael (September 7, 1995). "Cancelled Comic Cavalcade". Mike's Comics Page. Archived from the original on April 25, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2009.