Friday, December 11, 2009

The DC Hotline-1976-77--a Checklist

In the mid-sixties, National Comics began utilizing a lightning logo'd yellow box labeled DIRECT CURRENTS to plug upcoming comics. "DC," get it? The title and logo were revived in the seventies for a column in issues of THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS. Later on it was done up as a mail-order newsletter. In between those last two incarnations, however, was THE DIRECT CURRENTS HOTLINE!

You called the number, originally once a week but later less often, and you were regaled by one of your favorite creators with hard to hear news and information about upcoming comics and related topics via the miracle of...taped messages. A few years later this might have been a pay call but the Hotline was free!

I called regularly at first and, like the packrat I am, collected all the information on a telephone pad! What follows here, then, though undoubtedly incomplete and subject to both my bad penmanship and the often indecipherabile recordings of the writers and editors involved, is a checklist of what was actually reported on the legendary DC HOTLINE. Remember--in those prehistoric times, what might seem like simple news here wasa ctually early scoops before they even hit the fanzines!

Mon, Nov 29--Marty Pasko spoke, hawking DC SUPERSTARS and presenting the news that SUPERBOY would be appearing in ADVENTURE and that AQUAMAN's title was returning.

Mon, Dec 6--Denny O'Neil reported that SUPERMAN FAMILY and HOUSE OF MYSTERY were now $1.00 titles and then plugging his KUNG-FU FIGHTER.

Mon, Dec 13--Joe Orlando spoke of JONAH HEX, SCALPHUNTER, BLACK LIGHTNING and creators Sergio Aragones, Ed Davis, Gray Morrow, Howie Chaykin and Alan Weiss

Mon, Dec 20-Publisher Jennette Kahn plugged the new line of $1.00 comics as having Neal Adams covers and then wished all of us fans a Merry Christmas.

Mon, Dec 27--Jack C. Harris (now one of my Facebook friends) mentioned that Inspector Henderson was a regular in BLACK LIGHTNING and plugged upcoming team-ups of Batman and Deadman as well as Kamandi and Omac.

Mon, Jan 4--Sol Harrison asks for the fans help in getting the comics to the newsstands, plugs tthe SUPERMAN movie contest and wishes us all a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, Jan 11--Answer Man Bob Rozakis (another Facebook buddy now) pushed Ditko's SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN, his own TEEN TITANS and an upcoming DC SPECIAL about dinosaurs.

Thursday, Jan 20--Marty Pasko was back plugging SUPERMAN projects and giving us a heads-up on the one-shot 5 STAR DC SUPER SPECTACULAR. He then offered get well wishes for us to quickly recover from the flu (??).

Tue, Jan 25--Future DC publisher Paul Levitz with lots of Legion news including a funeral, a wedding, an epic and a JLA team-up!

Sun, Feb 6--Gerry Conway was new to DC then and appeared to promote his projects including the revival of CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN with Swamp Thing, Deadman and Rip Hunter. He also spoke of "Atom's Quest (??)", the revived MISTER MIRACLE and NEW GODS titles and the oversized SUPERMAN VS WONDER WOMAN set in WWII.

Wed, Feb 16--Jack C. Harris back to summarize SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, a title that would never really get the respect it was due until many years later.

Thur, Mar 3--FBook pal Mike Gold with major news on the announced SUPERMAN movie! The lead had been cast and it would be an unknown actor named "Richard Leeds!" Hey, that's what I wrote down. Maybe he said Christopher Reeve and it crackled a bit too much or maybe he was so unknown that Mike actually got it wrong. Who knows? Anyway, the director was announced as OMEN director Richard Donner with a script by "a 007 screenwriter(??)". The good news for fans was that it was to be played straight, filmed worldwide and have a huge special effects budget!

Sat, Mar 27--Joe Orlando again, this time with news of an upcoming "Giant" monthly LSH title, a new JSA origin and info on upcoming issues of SHOWCASE, MEN OF WAR, MISTER MIRACLE and AQUAMAN.

Fri, Apr 8--Denny O'Neil plugs an upcoming Batman vs Ra's Al Ghul title, becoming the first person I'd hear say that name aloud so I noted the correct pronunciation. He also plugged a new BATMAN novel and an upcoming GL/GA storyline.

Tue, May 3--Paul Kupperberg (who was at many local cons back in those days and, you guessed it, is now a Facebook friend) makes an appearance to promote AQUALAD in ADVENTURE, THE NEW DOOM PATROL and POWER GIRL in the revived SHOWCASE title.

Tue, May 24--After all these execs, writers and editors, we finally get an artist! The late Marshall Rogers talked of two upcoming projects with Steve Englehart--the new MISTER MIRACLE and the DETECTIVE COMICS series that went on to define Batman for that era. Who knew?

Tue, June 21--Al Milgrom explains his new editorial duties at DC on titles including KARATE KID, WEIRD WESTERN, Kamnadi and LSH. He also introduces THE HUNTRESS and xplains that she will be appearing in the newly super-sized BATMAN FAMILY title.

Sun, July 24--Jennette Kahn returns for one final message, thanking us for calling and explaining that the Hotline was soon to be replaced by the DIRECT CURRENTS newsletter. Along the way, she hinted of new dollar comics and new heroes like Firestorm.

Then it was over. Again, I'm not sure if I just skipped weeks or if they just quit updating it on a weekly or regular basis but it was fun while it lasted. Interesting to note the different accents of the creators, many of whom were recognizably from the East Coast. Most did as good a job as possible, undoubtedly reading from a prepared script into a less than stellar microphone that sometimes had real issues on playback. Thanks guys!


  1. Anonymous9:05 PM

    Great post, Steve. Even wrote about it on my blog.
    Just one thing: do you think you could shrink the titular picture at the top of the page? It's too big and takes so long to load up.

  2. So cool! I wonder/hope DC has those recorded somewhere...

  3. I would have to say that you missed some of the weeks because I know that I recorded more than one message over the lifespan of the Hotline.

  4. Great memories are stirred by this post Steve; I too called that hot-line on many occasions. Ah, the days before the internet.

  5. Never hurts to ask, TerrorTony. Revised smaller logo it is!

  6. So, how did Denny O'Neil pronounce Ra's Al Ghul?

  7. To answer some of your "??":

    Jan 20, 1978: At that time, a Russian flu pandemic actually spread around the world, and it was affecting those younger than 25 years of age.

    Feb 6: "Atom's Quest" was a series of stories in "DC Super-Team Family 11-14" where the Atom teamed up with numerous DC Heroes on a quest to find his missing wife.

    March 3: The "007 screenwriter" (actually rewriter" of the Superman movie was most likely Tom Mankiewicz. And in regards to a different actor playing Suerman, I recall hearing in the "Big Pull" podcast #30 that Jeff East, who played young Clark Kent, was originally cast to play the Man of Steel for the entire film (when the movie was helmed by a different director), and the studio replaced both the director and the lead when they were not happy with the "sci-fi nature" of the film (which may explain why the Krypton sequence in the beginning is so different from the other half of the film.

    Okay, maybe that last one triggered more "??"...

  8. thank you. this really brings back the memories. i was 14 and in the 9th grade when the hotline began. i did not recall it going on for this long. i do recall it being shut down because of the enormous amount of calls which caused a great many problems for ma bell. these were good days. thanks for the additional info.

  9. i also recall with great fondness the dc house ads that appeared in the back of their books under the daily planet extra banner.