When Jack Kirby abandoned Marvel in 1970, he arrived at DC Comics with his head full of new concepts. These concepts were not confined to the characters he’d long had percolating in his brain—characters he’d deliberately kept away from Marvel—they also included exciting new ways of presenting comics in a variety of media. Kirby thought big, and felt that the future of comics didn’t lie with the traditional flimsy pamphlets: he foresaw collected editions of comics; fancy hardcovers; glossy magazines… The latter of these would occupy part of his time in mid-1971.

Kirby wanted his comics to reach a far wider audience than anyone had so far attempted, and with that in mind, he pitched several magazine ideas to the DC management. Kirby’s notion was that, as magazines, his new titles would appeal to adults who were reluctant to buy regular comics. To this end they would be packaged editorially in the same way as traditional, popular, general audience magazines like Playboy, say, Time, or Rolling Stone: full colour covers, glossy pages, contents pages, editorials, features, puzzle pages, gag strips, etc., and, most importantly, colour comic strips. Kirby thought comics worked best in colour and was seemingly no great fan of black and white comics.

Spirit World #1 by Jack Kirby

Spirit World #1

These were bold ideas. At the time Warren and Skywald were publishing several magazine format comics—but in black and white. Marvel had published a single issue of a b&w Spectacular Spider-Man magazine in 1968, before deciding that colour was necessary for the second and final issue. A second stab at the market, with Savage Tales magazine—again in b&w—was immediately canceled. I’d imagine DC wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of pursuing the magazine route, but Kirby’s contract allowed him to do pretty much what he wanted and so two magazines did finally see print—albeit in Kirby’s non-favoured monotone—with several more completed but killed prior to printing. Marvel finally returned to magazine publishing later in the 1970s and flooded the market in an effort to drown Warren, and even lowly Charlton Comics put out a line of magazines focussing on licenced properties such as Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man. DC never tried again following the failure of Kirby’s books, but then it should be remembered that both Marvel and Charlton had long experience in publishing magazines away from comics and so had resources and expertise available to them that perhaps DC lacked.

Sadly, it’s doubtful that many in the adult audience Kirby was chasing ever actually saw the resulting magazines as news vendors weren’t sure where to rack them—if, indeed, they ever made their way out of the distributor’s warehouses at all. The magazines, while certainly cut from a different cloth to the regular comics of the day, weren’t obviously adult, and yet they weren’t particularly appealing to kids either. DC seemed so embarrassed by them that they distanced themselves by putting them out under a Hampshire Distributors banner with no sign of a DC logo anywhere.

In the Days of the Mob by Jack Kirby

In the Days of the Mob #1

In the Days of the Mob, a magazine recalling the days of Prohibition, gangsters, and Al Capone, along with its paranormal-themed sister, Spirit World, appeared on the stands in late-1971, sold very little, and were immediately canceled. Second issues of both had been fully prepared but didn’t see print until later in the 1970s, when the contents of Spirit World #2 were used up in a couple of DC’s mystery titles, and a single Mob story appeared in the house-fanzine Amazing World of DC Comics #1.

This ignominious fate was a great shame, as Kirby’s magazine experiment resulted in some very good comics indeed…

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