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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains!

In the early 1970s, DC and Marvel were locked in a battle for newsstand supremacy. DC had ruled the roost for decades, but now that upstart Marvel had been steadily gaining ground for a decade, and was poised to overtake the Distinguished Competition.

One of the tactics both companies employed was to flood the stands with product. DC and Marvel had lots of inventory they could fill reprint titles with, and did. But while Marvel had to rely on monster/sci-fi comics from the 1950s, DC has superhero comics, and lots of 'em!

One of the books they put out during this time was Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains! which, as title suggests, focused on various costumed villains, complete with spiffy new poster-like covers by the great Nick Cardy.

I picked up an issue of Wanted a few weeks ago, and it occurred to me, hey, did Black Manta ever get a shot? Let's take a look:
I don't see much in the way of Aquaman villains, do you? Nope. But here are the heroes and villains covered in Wanted's nine issues: Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Batman, The Flash, The Vigilante, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, The Vigilante, Golden Age Green Lantern, Kid Eternity, Sargon the Sorcerer, Dollman, Starman, Wildcat, Johnny Quick, Hourman, Superman, and Sandman. The villains: Signalman, The Puppet Master, Clock King, Joker, Penguin, The Trickster, The Dummy, The Human Fly Gang, Nyarl-Amen, Solomon Grundy, Master Man, The Iron Mask, The Blue Lama, Dr. Light, The Mist, The Golden Wasp, Dr. Clever, Dr. Glisten, Captain Cold, Mister Who, The Prankster, and The Nightshade. Hard to believe DC couldn't find room for a Black Manta or Ocean Master story in there, huh?

You may be wondering what the point of this post is...after all, this is a super-obscure reprint title from almost forty years ago that came and went. Good question! I guess the reason I put this all together (other than just to look at all those neato Cardy covers) is to take a step back and reflect how good us Aquaman fans have it nowadays. Aquaman is a top-selling book, his creative team made such a splash that they got promoted to DC's--and comicdom's--single-best-selling title, where Aquaman will be playing a larger role. DC has put the Sea King back into their top tier. Heck, there's even a rumor that The Others will be getting their own book, which means Aquaman could potentially be in three monthly titles!

But it wasn't always like that. There have been times when poor ol' Arthur was almost a non-entity in the DCU. So let's all be thankful that if DC ever did a book like Wanted again, you can be damn sure he'd be included!


Ryan said...

Considering how many underwhelming characters there are in this title, it only adds insult to the fact that an inaugural member of the JLA has been snubbed.

As you said Rob, thank god DC brought together a team to reinvigorate Aquaman for the New 52!

Question, can Aquaman's demise from popular culture be pin pointed in a particular year during the 70's?

Earth 2 Chris said...

Oddly enough, while Aquaman was getting the shaft in comics, he was seen every week on millions of TV screens on the Super Friends!

Did Roy Thomas thumb through "WANTED" when writing All-Star Squadron? Both Dr.Who and Nightshade showed up as members of Mr. Mind's first version of the Monster Society of Evil during the title's run.


Joseph Brian Scott said...

This is turning out to be a golden era for Aquaman, but he did have an earlier golden moment in the Silver Age sun when he was making regular appearances in no less than three (3!!) titles: from Jan. '62 until Feb. '64 he was appearing regularly in 1) his own book, of course; 2) the Justice League of America; AND 3) as a back-up feature in first Detective Comics and then World's Finest Comics. All at the same time! This never reached the newstand saturation (heh) of say, Superman, but it was a modest little watery empire not to be sneezed at.

Wings1295 said...

We do have it good, in comparison to the past! And this Wanted series, I never heard of it before! Interesting stuff.

Jorge PR said...

Ryan, I was thinking the same. It's insulting to see such characters like Kid Eternity, Doll Man, Johnny Quick and Hourman, and no Arthur there! And he is a JL founder! Final, utter humiliation!

Somehow though, it made me feel good that Wonder Woman wasn't there either... I know, the other's bad is the fool's consolation.

Earth 2 Chris said...

Titles like WANTED may have served another purpose...retaining copyright on characters long out of print. Johnny Quick and Kid Eternity hadn't been seen in years, and the Kid and Doll Man were originally owned and published by Quality. DC publishing stories of them may have just been a way to keep the lawyers happy.

Aquaman was in no danger of this, appearing regularly enough in JLA and on Super Friends and merchandise to stake DC's claim.


Shellhead said...

Hey Rob,

Where's the review of last week's Justice League? There's an Aquaman splashpage in there that's as good as just about any other I've seen!

Mike said...

I remember as a kid in the early 70s coming to the local drug store in hope of seeing Aquaman in something - anything and usually being disappointed. So, it is great that Aquaman is so popular now.

In the later 70s he did have a good run though in Adventure and then briefly in his own title. Nothing like what is going on today though!

Sphinx Magoo said...

WANTED was my first introduction to many of these obscure heroes and villains. I remember that Mort Meskin-drawn Vigilante story where he goes up against The Dummy... The splash page was so strong that Nick Cardy just redrew it for the cover! And that WANTED #6 cover is just so strong... As a NYC native, I was always a sucker for covers that took place in the subway, and the layout on that one is just amazing!

If I recall, E. Nelson Bridwell was in charge of the stories reprinted, so he definitely chose stories that featured costumed and weird villains rather than the usual suited thugs which always seemed to turn up in older stories. In a way, Bridwell did future writers a big service by reprinting stories and characters that were used later.

Russell said...

I agree with Sphinx above; these titles were wonderful to me because they introduced so many obscure (read: out of print) characters I had never heard of before.

A few other thoughts: besides the copyright possibilities already mentioned, we have to remember that WANTED was a 20 some page mag, and the Golden Age short story length lent themselves to being easily reprinted. Aquaman's villains started appearing in his own magazine, and usually in "novel length adventures" that could not be easily reprinted in WANTED. Now if one of those Golden Age Aquaman vs Black Jack stories had been especially exciting, I'm sure Bridwell would have included it....so maybe we should blame the Golden Age writers for not giving Arthur some legitimate bad guys.

If I remember correctly one of the letter pages of JLA at about this time mentioned that a lot of fans wanted to see Golden Age slash JSA reprints, which is why the 100 Pagers of JLA always featured JSA reprints. WANTED would have just been another vehicle for those.

And lastly, Bridwell is on record as saying Kid Eternity was one of his favorites, so I'm not surprised to see him here. :-)

Phoenix Alvarado said...

As much as I would love to see Aquaman in this book it is pretty cool to think that this reprint series dug up some old heroes and villains. However I do think they could've added Aquaman (and Wonder Woman) in one of the reprints. They had Dollman in there for Christ sakes! Oh well! Like you said it just shows how well Aquaman is being treated today and how lucky Aquaman fans are to be living in this era of Aquaman.