George Rears "The DC Explosion"--Big things were happening for me in 1978. After spending four years in West Berlin, Germany, my dad was moving the family back to New Jersey.
Pretty soon I'd be able to buy comic books and baseball cards everywhere, and even start collecting Slurpee cups. Almost as cool as that, was this hot news trumpeted all over DC Comics that Spring. The DC Explosion, beginning June 1. Twenty-five pages of comics for just fifty cents!
As I was leaving Berlin, I started picking up these new 50 cent books. And I loved them. Cool back up features. The Human Target, The Atom, The Ray, OMAC...I was just at an age were I appreciated the history and the tapestry of the DC Universe. No longer would I settle for just my regular dose of Justice League-related titles, now I could have it all. We were promised all these great things...and then the world came crashing down.
I moved back from Berlin that summer, and started sixth grade in Willingboro, NJ. I was disappointed to find out that not as many kids read comics stateside as they did overseas. I was disappointed that Slurpees were not doing super-hero collector cups anymore. I was also disappointed that kids stopped using lunch boxes in 6th grade: My Mom bought me a cool Avengers lunch box, which I took to school dutifully every day--despite abuse from the pre-teen fashion police. How was I supposed to know that lunch boxes weren't cool in sixth grade? I often think being big for my age caused me more anguish (You're too old for that), but in reality it probably kept me out of fights.
So anyway, living back home wasn't this Utopia I had imagined, but I still had comics! Those glorious DC Explosion comics. All was right in the world. Until Month Four. I couldn't believe it. All the books were forty cents. Some books were just flat out gone. No Freedom Fighters! No Secret Society of Super Villains! No Steel! No Black Lightning! No Firestorm! It seemed like the only books left were the old mainstays.
It seemed like comics had regressed back to 1974, when I had started collecting. In many, ways they had. There was essentially the same number of titles out as back then, but now they didn't seem to have the heart. I didn't know then that a snowstorm the past winter (when I was still in Europe) had caused a massive drop in comic sales that forced Warner executives to end the experiment. But one thing I did know: many of the writers and artists seemed to be doing uninspired work. The stories didn't seem as magical, and the art seemed less dynamic. It would take two years for DC to recover.
As for me, I eventually got back on track. By seventh grade I was taking a bag lunch in, and even made friends with a Marvel Zombie. By Eighth grade, life was getting better. Ironically, DC once more raised the price to fifty cents, and added back-up features. By the time the New Teen Titans arrived, life was back on track.
I guess it is odd to think as comics as a metaphor for life, but I guess it was only fitting that Crisis on Infinite Earths came out during my Senior year in High School, and that at age 36, there occurred a mid-life Identity Crisis. I’m really worried about the upcoming Final Crisis. Really Worried.