Before we get too deeply into this installment, let me point you all toward TreasuryComics.com. Rob Kelly’s fantastic site is THE resources on these editions as far as I’m concerned. When I googled a date for one of the books, I found his exemplary site. Fantastic work, Rob!
With that in order . . . the trail to this week’s flashback is a tangled one. You may remember that last time out I talked about earlier multi-media ages of comics, including 1978. Earlier this week on Blog@, our own Caleb Mozzocco linked to story from Publisher’s Weekly about the “The Evolution of the Comics Media Tie-In.” Having just written about something comparable, I checked out the article and . . . found that it took the idea all the way back to a couple of years ago.
Okay, so, maybe people don’t realize the breadth and depth of the media tie-in. One of the first that occurred to me was the use of the Treasury Edition, those giant, beautifully over-sized volumes (typically in the neighborhood of 10” x 13”) that we used to be able to find on magazine racks at grocery stores, Woolworths, and the like. These weren’t exclusively developed as media tie-ins, but they frequently represented characters that were also in television and film, or operated as pre-trade-paperback collections of previously published mini-series that, wait for it, were media tie-ins. In the ‘70s. Yes, that article had problems.
At any rate, Kelly’s site tells us that the “classic 70s treasury edition made its debut on October 24th, 1972 when DC released Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” That’s right, kids. Not Superman, not Batman, but RUDOLPH. The Son of Donner laughs at you, Son of Krypton! So then, 1972 . . .
1972 at a Glance or Two: The biggest movie of the year was The Godfather; not only did it make more than twice as much money as the second-highest-grossing film, it’s the freaking Godfather. In second was The Poseidon Adventure, followed by Cabaret and Deliverance. On TV, big shows included All in the Family, Sanford and Son (Lamont, for the record, is a big dummy), and Hawaii Five-O. Hit songs included “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis. Jr (number five for the year, kids), Lean on Me by Bill Withers, and Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. (Columnist’s Note: Surveying some of the easy listening drag on the top 100 hits of the year, it’s no wonder that hip-hop, punk, and disco would erupt in the next 18 months; something HAD to happen).
Treasury Editions: Being a small child in the late ‘70s (born in 1973), I loved both the Treasury and Digest editions. Two that I had (and still have) were actually released right next to one another in 1977. #17 featured a collection of Hulk tales that pitted him against Man-Thing, the Leader, Rhino and . . . Havok. Havok?! That’s right; Hulk and Havok go at it in a pretty awesome story. #18 was The Astonishing Spider-Man collection; it had four issues of Marvel Team-Up and trumpeted on the cover “Marvel’s TV Sensation!” (That, folks, is a Media. Tie. In.)
The Spidey book may have been the first thing with the X-Men in it that I ever owned; I know that my first actual issue was #125 from 1979. Aside from Xavier’s students, this one also had team-ups with Ghost Rider, Iron Fist and Werewolf by Night. Eclectic to say the least. Nevertheless, the X-Men story, wherein they help a weakened Peter Parker take on Morbius, was pretty awesome for its day. The X-Men only appear in street clothes in the issue, which is actually kind of neat and definitely a weird way for me to have “met” those characters.
I also had quite a few of the licensed books, such as the 1978 Battlestar Galactica edition (“Marvel Super Special” #8) , which collected the individual issues that covered the pilot film. I still have that one, as well as all three “Star Wars” installments (actually, “Super Special” #1-3). The first treasury from 1977 was actual issues 1-3, the second was 4-6, and the 3rd, produced in 1978, was . . . all six in one. By 1980, they skipped the pretense and put all of Empire together for “Special Edition #2”.
As I said, I still have most of these (and others). I guess I was an unusual small child in that I took great care of my books, but the way in which the books were bound and printed actually made them fairly durable. The over-sized format, which would also be the home to the first Marvel/DC crossovers and Superman’s famous fight with Muhammad Ali, died out in the early ‘80s, but did mount something of a comeback last decade with books that included the Alex Ross/Paul Dini team-ups.
How about you, readers? Remember these? Have them still? What say you? They were a fond memory for me, an easy way to get a lot of stories and bask in a “big screen” experience. They were treasury editions, and they’re your Friday Flashback.Did you have any old Treasury editions? What about the more recent comeback of the format?