Super DC was a forty-page monthly comic published by Top Sellers (AKA Thorpe & Porter) in the UK from June 1969 to July 1970. It reprinted American DC Comics strips alongside home-grown text features, puzzles, letters pages, etc. The strips were in black-and-white, culled from titles such as Action Comics, Detective Comics, Superboy, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane.
With a total of only fourteen issues it was not a major success, but it did spawn an annual version that was in full colour! But apparently not the colours in which the strips originally appeared, a likely reason being that different printing processes required different methods of colour separation, so it was easier for the British publishers to just recolour the strips.
Super DC Bumper Book was published in probably the latter half of 1970. According to the front end-papers (below), it’s copyright © 1970. To make sure they caught the lucrative Christmas market, annuals tended to be published around September of the year preceding the year on the cover, except that this one doesn’t have a year on the cover — which was probably a deliberate choice because that way it takes longer for the book to go out of date — but even so, probably 1970. But I could be wrong.
The artist of this end-paper piece, as with most of the art in the book, is uncredited, but look — Robin was included twice; just behind Batman, and again on the second page, swinging on a very short length of rope that’s attached to nothing.
But, no, wait! A closer inspection of the second Robin shows that he is very shiny where the rest of the page is matte… It’s a little rub-down Letraset transfer of Robin, quite possibly added by me for some reason. Maybe to confound my future self? If that was the reason, then well done, past me — you got me!
I received my copy of Super DC Bumper Book when I was around ten years old, I think, so that would have been 1976. I don’t actually remember getting it, but I’m fairly sure it would have been at a school bazaar (or jumble-sale, as they’re called in some parts of the world). Such events were a pretty good source for annuals, as I recall. Annuals were made of stronger stuff than comics so they had a greater chance of lasting long enough to be donated to a charity rather than just thrown away by a misguided parent while the kid was at school.
So… What’s actually inside this hardcover Super DC Bumper Book? Well, it quite closely followed the Super DC comic in format, complete with the first feature, a news page…
Direct Currents (1 page). Yes, a news page in an annual. You want a feature about the Batmobile in the Batman TV series? You got it! A “Star Pic” about Raymond Burr who played the title character in the TV show A Man Called Ironside? Okay… That’s there too. And who can resist an article about, um, airplane tyres. Or a single-paragraph feature about… bagpipes. (Wait, what?)
Superman: The Revenge of Luthor! (13 pages). Reprinted from Action Comics #259, December 1959. Script by Jerry Siegel, art by Al Plastino (I know I said that almost all the art in the book is uncredited, and it is: for all the strips in this book I checked the DC Comics wiki). In this opening tale, Superman catches a red kryptonite meteor and somehow it causes Superboy (his younger self) to appear. They don’t get on. Also, Lex Luthor kidnaps Lois Lane (she’s been kidnapped so many times that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Superman’s enemies give out Green Shield Stamps). In the end, it all turns out to be a dream.
A Killing Job (Text story, 3 pages). Uncredited. I don’t know, gangsters or something. I might have read it back in the day, but I can’t be bothered now. I gave it a quick once-over and didn’t spot any familiar character names.
Batman: Prey of the Alien Hunters (12⅔ pages). Reprinted from Detective Comics #299, January 1962. Script by Jack Miller, art by Jim Mooney. Batman and Robin the Boy Hindrance get transported to an alien planet and are forced to be the prey in a televised hunting game run by aliens who all speak English. There are dinosaurs and a guy with stretchy arms: I loved this one as a kid!
Cap’s Hobby Hints (⅓ page). Uncredited. Apparently this hobby hint was submitted by Dennis Bova of Fair Oaks. Thanks, Dennis!
The Friendly Soul (1 page). Credited to “Sepps” but almost certainly written and drawn by comics historian Denis Gifford. Readers of this blog might remember that I encountered The Friendly Soul when I took a look at Marvelman #294, but I couldn’t recall where I’d seen the strip before. Well, here’s the answer! In this one, the unnamed eponymous character meets a muscular friend and wishes to acquire a similar physique. I remember being very impressed with this when I first read it because of the panel in which the muscly man breaks the fourth wall — I don’t think I’d ever seen that before!
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: The Lone Wolf Legionnaire Reporter! (13 pages). Reprinted from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #106, October 1967. Script by Jim Shooter, art by Pete Costanza. Jimmy Olsen, who is sometimes the stretchy superhero Elastic Lad, is transported into the 30th century by the Legion of Superheroes who need his help. He’s not happy to find out that they want him for his reporting skills, not his superheroism. It seems that the Legion’s monthly newspaper is approaching deadline and they need Jimmy to write some stories for it. Yes, they have a deadline even though they possess a time machine. Not one of them is smart enough to see the solution there.
Liner of the sea / Liner of the sky (Feature, 2 pages). Uncredited. Stuff about the QEII and the Boeing 747. Sure, we understand that annuals were expensive to produce and padding them out with articles saved a few half-crowns here and there, but at least some of them attempted to include articles that had some connection with the annual’s subject matter.
DC Laugh In (1 page). Generic cartoons (not even superhero-related!). Uncredited, but it looks like they were all drawn by the same artist.
Superman v Samson (Text story, 3 pages). Uncredited. Superman chooses to wrestle a large man called Samson because mobsters in the crowd speculate that Samson would beat him, and he doesn’t want to lose face or something. It’s a ruse to expose Superman to kryptonite, which by all accounts seems to be one of the most abundant elements in the universe. Anyway, guess who wins?
Superboy: The Super-dog that Replaced Krypto (13 pages). Reprinted from Superboy #109, December 1963. Script by Jerry Siegel, art by George Papp. The story opens with Superboy’s dog Krypto being upset because he’s been replaced by another super-dog, Swifty. Krypto narrates a flashback in which we see ordinary dog Swifty influenced by evil inhabitants of the Phantom Zone to mix some chemicals that will give him super-powers so that he can usurp Krypto and I honestly can’t believe I actually typed that sentence. In the end, the status quo is restored, because it always is.
To the Rescue (Feature, 1 page). Uncredited. The Superboy story is bizarrely interrupted to give us a feature on the Lifeboat service. No idea why they didn’t just print this after the Superboy story finished.
When Cars Like these Went Racing (Feature, 3 pages). Uncredited. Batman has a car, right? So here’s a feature about car racing at the end of the 19th century. Unassailable logic there, lads.
DC Laugh In (1 page). Uncredited. More cartoons, same artist again.
Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane: Courtship Kryptonian Style! (16 pages). Reprinted from Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #78, October 1967. Script by Leo Dorfman, art by Kurt Schaffenberger. Now, this one I remember reading back in the day. Lois Lane and Lana Lang decide to emigrate to the shrunken bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor which Superman keeps in his Fortress of Solitude because they’re upset with Superman being unable or unwilling to make a commitment to either of them. So they get into a rocket piloted by a guy called Vitar who’s dressed like a genie and Superman shrinks them with his shrink-ray. In Kandor, they’re greeted by the Superman Emergency Squad, a sort of police-force who wear costumes identical to Superman’s, possibly in tribute to Superman (or perhaps it’s similar to the way that all Jedi Knights dress as though they live on desert planets even when they don’t), plus there are Kandorians who look identical to Superman’s human friends (by which I mean Clark Kent’s co-workers, because people in superhero comics aren’t allowed to have friends outside of work) and who — if needed and if convenient for the plot — will at a moment’s notice leave the bottled city and take the human’s place. See, when they leave the city the Kandorians gain super-powers just like Superman’s. I’m going to stop now because no amount of explanation is going to help make this story any clearer.
Super DC Museum (Feature, 1 page). Another interruption in the middle of a story! This is a feature on pistols and is credited to Mick Anglo Ltd. London W.C.1. Mick Anglo is the creator of Marvelman and was well-known as a editor and book-packager, and it’s highly likely he was behind this entire annual.
Batman: Baby, it’s Cold Outside! (Text story, 3 pages). Batman and Robin the Boy Howdy get frozen by Mr Freeze. Spoiler: they win in the end.
The Friendly Soul (2 pages). Uncredited, but we know it was Denis Gifford. Best bit is on page two when the Soul makes a reference to something that happened “on the last page” (meaning the previous page, not the actual last page, even though this is in fact the last proper page of the annual).
So that’s just about it for Super DC Bumper Book, except for the back end-pages. I must have run out of Letraset because the second Robin doesn’t appear this time around…
… but as you can see, my childhood address does appear, scribed by my own hand, and with “Europe, Earth, Milky Way” added for extra security just in case there’s another, identical Earth out there that’s home to some alien identity-thieving doppelgänger who might be tempted to make a claim on my comics.
The book’s original owner, Raymond Hayden, inscribed his name in pencil at the top of the first story and only made one mistake. I have no idea who he is (I do remember one kid with that surname who lived nearby, but his first name wasn’t Raymond).
I remember wondering why Raymond hadn’t erased the errant D — it’s in pencil, after all. Perhaps he didn’t own an eraser.
Now, forty-something years after the book came into my possession, I’m wondering why I never erased Raymond’s name… perhaps I didn’t own an eraser either.
There were at least two more similar books in the series — I say “at least two” because I have two others: Batman Bumper Book and Superman Story Book Annual… I’ll be taking a look at them in the not-too-distant future!
(Comics legend Lew Stringer has a great feature about Super DC comic over on his always-awesome blog — do yourself a favour and check it out!)