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Planet Comics

Planet Comics Logo

In June 1973, Australian DC reprints began appearing under a new "Planet Comics" imprint, with few other overt changes in style or content. However, the new logo signalled significant ongoing changes behind the scenes.

Second Planet Comics Logo
The second planet: The 1975 logo typically included the series name.

Murray Publishers was acquired in 1972 by Australian Consolidated Press (ACP), the publishing arm of the Packer empire. In 1974, Kerry Packer took control of ACP following his father's death. (ACP is now owned by Publishing & Broadcasting Limited (PBL) and remains Australia's largest magazine publisher.)

Parallelling these organisational changes, a shake up of the reprint titles had began in 1972, followed by the Planet Comics logo in 1973—a substantial image and marketing development after 25 years of black and white "Colour Comics".

Around December 1975/January 1976, a second Planet Comics logo was introduced, with further incremental developments in content and major title changes.

The Bronze Age

Changes at DC Comics during the early 1970s also affected the Australian reprints. Of particular importance were the stylistic changes typical of the "Bronze Age" of comics. The trends toward book-length stories, shorter comics, continuing plots and an expanding number new titles forced changes to the Murray anthologies.

The New Gods Panel
Hidden gem: Many of Kirby's "Fourth World" stories ran years later in the back of other titles. (Mighty Comic 108, August 1975)

Relaxation of the US Comics Code Authority resulted in a resurgence of horror comics (such as Swamp Thing) and increased social relevance in stories (such as the Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow). The DC Universe also expanded in 1973 with the incorporation of Fawcett and Quality Comics characters.

Jack Kirby's move to DC in March 1971 revitalised the Superman family titles, and led to a brief flurry of "Fourth World" (New Gods, Forever People and Mister Miracle) and other new titles such as The Demon; OMAC; Sandman; and Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth. In a growing trend, many of these new titles were distributed in original edition in Australian Newsagents.

This was also the period when the "direct market" began to appear in the US. Entrepreneurial collectors bought directly from wholesalers and on-sold to other collectors. The backroom deals became systematised and publishers began to directly target collectors with an increasing number of titles.

Many of these new DC titles were available on Australian newsstands in original editions, including Green Lantern; Metal Men; Karate Kid; Secret Society of Super-Villains; Shade, the Changing Man; Super Team Family, All Star Comics, as well as non-super-hero titles such as Warlord, Plop, Jonah Hex and GI Combat. However, most of the Superman and Batman family of comics remained unavailable and formed the core of the Australian reprints.

Superman Presents Supergirl Comic 1, April 1973
A title of her own: A reprint Supergirl series began around the time of her first US series. The first ten reprint issues include Adventure Comics and earlier tales. (Supergirl 1, April 1973)

Some of the US series previously reprinted in Australia were cancelled (such as Aquaman and Teen Titans), while others significantly changed focus (such as Adventure and Superboy). New titles were introduced and began to be reprinted, notably Supergirl. Paradoxically, Australian titles for Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen began around the time those US titles were merged into Superman Family.

During the 1970s, DC produced many reprint giants. Back-catalogue stories increasingly came from this source, reducing the appearance of older stories that had never been reprinted in the US.

Size Matters

The Planet Comics imprint appeared at a time of reducing page count and increasing price, and the new image may have been a marketing strategy to revitalise dwindling sales in the face of increasing costs.

Superman in colour
Comics in colour: Colour Batman and Superman series in the 1970s were a rare excursion out of black and white. (Superman 1, 1976)

The imprint soon experienced further changes in price and page-count. For the first time since the mid-1960s, 100-page reprint comics appeared on the newsstands, costing at first 40 cents, escalating to 50 cents, then 75 cents and finally 85 cents by 1980.

Around 1976, new 32-page Batman and Superman titles with colour interiors were also introduced. This change may have been intended to compete with the increased ownership of colour television in Australia.

Shuffling and Renaming

Throughout the first half of the 1970s, a series of incremental changes saw the reprint line radically overhauled. By the time the Planet Comics logo disappeared in 1980, only Superman Supacomic and Mighty Comic remained of the long-running 1960s anthology titles.

Superman Family revamp
Signals of change: This reprint of an advertisement for changes to the Superman family gained page 3 prominence in Mighty Comic 84, August 1971.

The coming overhaul was signalled in a single pager on DC's revamp of the Superman line reprinted in Mighty Comic 84. This was page 3: the first thing readers saw when they opened the issue. Although a double page spread later in the issue could have necessitated the filler, the prominent positioning is curious.

The "advertisement" previewed the "Sand Superman Saga" and Superman becoming a TV journalist (Superman Supacomic 150), Kirby's move to Jimmy Olsen (Mighty Comic 90), the new Rose and Thorn feature (Super Adventure Comic 47) and a revamped Supergirl (Supergirl appears in Mighty Comic 84, leading to Superman Presents Supergirl Comic 1).

The shuffle began in early 1972, prior to the introduction of the first Planet Comics logo. With the introduction of the second Planet Comics logo in 1976, the titles were generally renamed to more closely corresponded with the US equivalents (eg, Flash, Superman Presents Superboy Comic, and Wonder Woman).

Kirbys Jimmy Olsen
Olsen takes over: With issue 90,  Jimmy Olsen replaced the long-running Justice League of America reprint in Mighty Comic (Mighty Comic 90, August 1972)

In the 1960s, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen stories shared Super Adventure Comic with Supergirl. In 1972, Supergirl largely disappeared from Super Adventure Comic and finally received her own title in early 1973.

Jimmy Olsen also disappeared from Super Adventure in 1972, when the Kirby's revamp stories replaced the Justice League of America as regular feature in Mighty Comic. Other Kirby "Forth World" stories frequently ran as backup tales to later non-Kirby, Jimmy Olsen stories.

Justice League of America moved first to All Favourites Comics, which had occasionally shared JLA stories in the past. With the introduction of the Planet Comics logo, Lois Lane took over All Favourites until issue 111 and the series was retitled Lois Lane Comic with issue 112 in 1975.

Wonder Woman 128
Delayed premier: The first issue of Wonder Woman continued directly from the series in Superman Presents Word's Finest Comic (Wonder Woman 128, December 1975)

Completing the shuffle, Justice League of America moved to Super Adventure Comic with issue 56 and continued to appear until the final issue, 74. JLA stories then continued in the new Super Adventure Album title.

By the early 1970s, the reducing page count of Superman Supacomic had squeezed out Batman and Superboy. Superman and Batman had largely taken over Superman Presents Wonder Comic, in both solo and US World's Finest stories, and Batman took control of Superman Presents Tip Top Comic from the Teen Titans. The Flash and Wonder Woman shared Superman Presents World's Finest Comic, generally alternating cover stories.

These three titles all ended at issue 127, to be immediately followed by Batman 128, The Flash 128 and Wonder Woman 128. The ongoing "Twelve Labours of Wonder Woman" transferred from World's Finest part way through the storyline.

Giant Jimmy Olsen Album 13
Digging into History: Even without new US 100 pagers, new giant anthologies were created on the same model (Giant Jimmy Olsen Album 13, 1975/6)

Superboy took over All Star Adventure Comic in 1974 until the final issue, number 96. From issue 97, the series was retitled to Superman Presents Superboy Comic, including both solo Superboy and Legion of Super-Heroes tales.

A number of other new series were introduced during this period. The Original Green Lantern (starring Hal Jordan) began around 1973, followed by Green Lantern Album. Super Heroes began in the late 1970s, initially with the Legion of Super-Heroes and later with Justice League of America.

Less History

Most titles continued to include a range of characters, but the reprints were from recent US comics, including the golden and silver age reprints that were being published at that time. 

The continuing giant albums (such as Giant Superman Album, Giant Batman Album and Giant Jimmy Olsen Album) continued to dip into the historical reservoirs. When the US Giants were not available for reprinting, Australian giants were published with an eclectic range of stories.

The trend to reprinting only contemporary stories was to increase with the introduction of the Murray Comics imprint.

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