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Old 08-26-2019, 08:42 AM
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Comic Book Tryouts


Back in the Silver Age (when I was a kid) DC had Showcase and other places to try out new characters and see if they could support a comic book. Marvel tried out new characters in their sorta general anthology titles -- Any Man/Giant Man started out in Tales to Astonish and Thor in Journey into mystery, for instance. They later set up Marvel Spotlight explicitly for testing new characters.



But sometimes they gave trial runs of characters elsewhere.

Supergirl got a tryout in Superman #123 from August 1958 . In "The Girl of Steel" Jimmy Olsen gets a wish granted, to create a female counterpart for Superman. He wishes her gone when he realizes she's not such a great idea. The created Supergirl looked very much like the one introduced in Action comics #252 in May 1959, right down to the yellow hair, but when they reprinted the story later they changed her hair color to reddish and her costume to green and orange, maybe because they thought their readers would be confused between this first Supergirl and the later "real" character. (Of course, Supergirl got REALLY confusing as the 21st century approached, but that's another story.)

https://superman.fandom.com/wiki/The_Girl_of_Steel

https://babblingsaboutdccomics3.word...wishing-stick/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supergirl

Captain America -- Before he was revived in Avengers #4, they gave Cap a sorta tryout in Strange Tales #114 (nov 1963) , where he fights Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) (Because, you know, the chief method of interacting between comic book characters is the dustup). It turns out to really be an old villain, The Acrobat, dressed up in a Captain America suit, with a round shield. Musta been interesting for Jack Kirby, who created the Golden Age Captain America and drew him then to do it again here (and in Avengers #4 in March 1964)

https://comicvine.gamespot.com/stran...m/4000-110871/

https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Avengers_Vol_1_4


Conan the Barbarian -- Before he got his own comic, Marvel gave Conan -- or at least something so similar to him that you'd have to check the VIN to be sure -- a tryout in Chamber of Darkness #4 in 1970. Barry Smith, who would be the first Conan artist (in both the Conan comic book and in Marvel Tales #1, which , not being a comic book, could have a little nudity -- "The Frost Giant's Daughter" -- which they ran in the regular comic a bit later with the nudity covered up)


Exactly why they did these trials isn't clear to me. The regular runs with the characters started so soon afterwards that they must have been in the works at the time. Did they ever do any sort of surveys to see how well these characters "tested"? What if they tested badly? Why did they only do these tryouts for a couple of cases (which looked like sure things from the start), and then go on and simply ran other characters with no tryout at all, sometimes throwing them right into their own comic?
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:28 PM
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I think the simplest explanation is marketing.
New Guy #1 is coming out next month.
This month, he will do a guest appearance in Old Guy #101.
Hopefully, millions of Old Guy fans will start buying New Guy.

Alternatively:
Old Guy's author has writer's block, and a deadline breathing down his neck.
He walks across the hall, and says, "May I use New Guy in my book? There will be a misunderstanding, they will fight a bit, then they will make friends at the end, and nothing will happen that will interfere with your storylines."
New Guy's author says, "Sure. We need publicity anyway."
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:43 PM
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It turns out to be a complex story for the case of Conan. I woulda thought it was just a simple "run the sample Conan story and see how it flies. use the same artist!" But see this piece:

https://www.tor.com/2011/08/10/conan...mic-book-form/
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:49 PM
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Another example of a character who had a "tryout" is Wolverine. He was originally created to be a one-shot opponent for the Hulk, appearing in The incredible Hulk #180-181 in 1974. The next year, a slightly reworked version of the character was one of the mutants recruited in Giant-Size X-Men #1.
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Old 08-26-2019, 01:06 PM
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They definitely could see how the one-shot character is received. Sales would be part of it (though it took awhile to get the numbers) as would letters to the editor. They could have something ready to go if sales are good -- or, if surprised by the reaction, they could rush something out. Note that Batman showed up in Detective Comics in March of 1938 and had his own book in May of 1939.

It would have been simpler to create a new Supergirl comic in the time frame you mention. Remember, she was introduced in Action Comics as an eight-page feature. It wouldn't take much time to rush out a story that length and put on a new cover.
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Old 08-26-2019, 01:10 PM
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Three characters who got their start as villains later turned good and joined the Avengers (Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch).
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Old 08-27-2019, 01:26 PM
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I read that creating a new comic book title is somewhat more expensive than normal which was supposedly the reason characters like Thor, Iron Man and others premiered in horror/suspense comics that were already running.
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Old 08-27-2019, 01:46 PM
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Three characters who got their start as villains later turned good and joined the Avengers (Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch).
Approximately 17 billion characters who got their start as villains later turned good and joined the X-Men.
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Old 08-27-2019, 02:09 PM
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I read that creating a new comic book title is somewhat more expensive than normal which was supposedly the reason characters like Thor, Iron Man and others premiered in horror/suspense comics that were already running.
It's no more expensive than any run of comics, but you have no idea how popular it'll be until the issues come out, so the chance of failure is great. Better to run a test in an existing book and see what the reaction is.
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Old 08-27-2019, 02:33 PM
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They definitely could see how the one-shot character is received. Sales would be part of it (though it took awhile to get the numbers) as would letters to the editor. They could have something ready to go if sales are good -- or, if surprised by the reaction, they could rush something out. Note that Batman showed up in Detective Comics in March of 1938 and had his own book in May of 1939.

It would have been simpler to create a new Supergirl comic in the time frame you mention. Remember, she was introduced in Action Comics as an eight-page feature. It wouldn't take much time to rush out a story that length and put on a new cover.
I note that March 1938 to May 1939 is over a year -- 14 months. In the examples I cite above Supergirl had a gap of nine months between conception and being "born.

Captain America had only Four Months

The "Conan" tryout in Chamber of Darkness in April 1970 and the Conan comic came out in October, eight months later. From the write-up I cite above, Roy Thomas said that he didn't actually have a Conan comic in mind when he scripted the tryout, because they were still arguing over cost to use the character.

I don't know how long a comic production schedule is. I can accept that there was time to evaluate Supergirl and Conan between tryout and appearance, but that four month gap for Captain America seems way too short. I suspect they knew they were going to add him to the Avenger mix. (He didn't get his own feature until November of 1964)
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Old 08-27-2019, 03:09 PM
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I don't know how long a comic production schedule is. I can accept that there was time to evaluate Supergirl and Conan between tryout and appearance, but that four month gap for Captain America seems way too short. I suspect they knew they were going to add him to the Avenger mix. (He didn't get his own feature until November of 1964)
Well, it was enough time to abort if the test run had a wildly negative reaction, at least.
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Old 08-27-2019, 03:31 PM
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I read that creating a new comic book title is somewhat more expensive than normal which was supposedly the reason characters like Thor, Iron Man and others premiered in horror/suspense comics that were already running.
During that period (the early 1960s), Marvel's comics were actually distributed by National Periodical Publications (owners of DC Comics at that time). This was a deal that Martin Goodman, Marvel's owner, had negotiated back in the 1950s (when the company was called Atlas Comics), in an effort to save money.

Under the very restrictive terms of the distribution agreement, Marvel was limited to publishing only 8 comics per month. That was the primary reason so many of Marvel's early heroes appeared in anthology books, and even shared books with other heroes for a time. They had more heroes than they had available books, and debuting a new series would have forced them to cancel an existing one. So Iron Man and Captain America both appeared in Tales of Suspense, while the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner shared Tales to Astonish, and the Human Torch and Dr. Strange shared Strange Tales. That's also why so many of the series were published bi-monthly for awhile, so that different books could come out in alternate months.

It wasn't until years later (1968 or so, I think), that Marvel was able to get out from under that restrictive distribution deal, and then they were able to greatly expand the number of series they published. That's when all the heroes pretty much got a book of their own, and the anthology series more or less vanished.
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Old 08-27-2019, 11:05 PM
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It's no more expensive than any run of comics, but you have no idea how popular it'll be until the issues come out, so the chance of failure is great. Better to run a test in an existing book and see what the reaction is.
The story I've heard is: back in the day, a publisher launching a new magazine had to pay for a postal permit to be able to mail/ship issues at a discounted rate, so it was often more efficient for a publisher to have a new feature take over the numbering from an existing title rather than start from issue one. The only caveat was that the title change had to have some continuity between the previous title and the new one. The classic example is All-Star Comics, home of the Justice Society of America, becoming All-Star Western in the late 40s.
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Old 08-27-2019, 11:10 PM
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Also, unlike today, when a comics company will cancel and relaunch titles willy-nilly to get a sales boost from a first issue, newsstand operators used to prefer titles with higher numbers, as they implied stability and longevity.
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Old 08-28-2019, 10:23 AM
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One could argue Firestar, who appeared next to Spider-Man and Iceman on a Saturday morning cartoon. Didn’t show up in Marvel canon until 4 years latter, and only really joined the fold with a mini-series a few years after that.
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Old 08-28-2019, 10:34 AM
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One could argue Firestar, who appeared next to Spider-Man and Iceman on a Saturday morning cartoon. Didnít show up in Marvel canon until 4 years latter, and only really joined the fold with a mini-series a few years after that.
Similarly, Harley Quinn was originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. While she apparently made some appearances in comic books starting in 1993, those first appearances were in books that were considered part of the continuity of the animated series, rather than mainline DC canon -- she apparently didn't appear in DC's main canon until 1999.
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Old 08-28-2019, 12:12 PM
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Similarly, Harley Quinn was originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. While she apparently made some appearances in comic books starting in 1993, those first appearances were in books that were considered part of the continuity of the animated series, rather than mainline DC canon -- she apparently didn't appear in DC's main canon until 1999.
Harley Quinn is an odd case, being an animated character incorporated into regular continuity from the cartoons.

There already was a Female Joker character named "Harlequin" in the 1970s and 1980s. Duela Dent originally claimed to be the Joker's Daughter, and her face looked pretty similar (although her origin and relationships changed many times). She never really caught on, though. (and there were three other DC "Harlequin" characters, as well -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequin_(comics) )

But Harley Quinn was a completely new and different take on the concept.
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Old 08-28-2019, 07:39 PM
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Similarly, Harley Quinn was originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992...
That reminds me of Batgirl being created in the 1960s Batman TV series...
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Old 08-28-2019, 08:26 PM
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That reminds me of Batgirl being created in the 1960s Batman TV series...
Or Jimmy Olson being created for the Superman radio serial.
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Old 08-29-2019, 09:10 AM
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Moondragon was first introduced as "Madame MacEvil." She had a brief, but memorable run in the battles against Thanos. (In the link, bubbles are standing in for Kirby Krackle.)
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Old 08-29-2019, 08:50 PM
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Howard the duck was introduced as a one shot in a issue of swamp thing created by Steve Gerber.
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Old 08-29-2019, 09:02 PM
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Howard the duck was introduced as a one shot in a issue of swamp thing created by Steve Gerber.
Man-Thing. Swamp Thing is DC's marsh monster.
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Old 09-10-2019, 10:29 PM
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Back in the Silver Age (when I was a kid) DC had Showcase and other places to try out new characters and see if they could support a comic book. Marvel tried out new characters in their sorta general anthology titles -- Any Man/Giant Man started out in Tales to Astonish and Thor in Journey into mystery, for instance. They later set up Marvel Spotlight explicitly for testing new characters.

But sometimes they gave trial runs of characters elsewhere.


Captain America -- Before he was revived in Avengers #4, they gave Cap a sorta tryout in Strange Tales #114 (nov 1963) , where he fights Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) (Because, you know, the chief method of interacting between comic book characters is the dustup). It turns out to really be an old villain, The Acrobat, dressed up in a Captain America suit, with a round shield. Musta been interesting for Jack Kirby, who created the Golden Age Captain America and drew him then to do it again here (and in Avengers #4 in March 1964)

https://comicvine.gamespot.com/stran...m/4000-110871/

https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Avengers_Vol_1_4


Conan the Barbarian -- Before he got his own comic, Marvel gave Conan -- or at least something so similar to him that you'd have to check the VIN to be sure -- a tryout in Chamber of Darkness #4 in 1970. Barry Smith, who would be the first Conan artist (in both the Conan comic book and in Marvel Tales #1, which , not being a comic book, could have a little nudity -- "The Frost Giant's Daughter" -- which they ran in the regular comic a bit later with the nudity covered up)


Exactly why they did these trials isn't clear to me. The regular runs with the characters started so soon afterwards that they must have been in the works at the time. Did they ever do any sort of surveys to see how well these characters "tested"? What if they tested badly? Why did they only do these tryouts for a couple of cases (which looked like sure things from the start), and then go on and simply ran other characters with no tryout at all, sometimes throwing them right into their own comic?
I don't think any of these 60s Marvel examples really qualified as "tryouts". Marvel had a very limited line of titles in the 60s. Someone upthread said 8 titles, but I believe it they had 10 titles. Also, you had to remember that Marvel was still publishing a few non-superhero titles in the early 60s (Millie the Model, Kid Colt-Outlaw, Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos, etc). Marvel didn't have the luxury of giving up part of their line for tryouts or showcases.

Since the heyday of Timely Comics in the early 40s, Timely/Atlas/Marvel publisher Martin Goodman had been content to run the company as an industry bottom-feeder copycatting whatever trend was possible. Once Fantastic Four gave Marvel a hit, Stan Lee convinced Goodman to be a trend-setter than a trend-follower for the industry and go into superheroes done in the Marvel style. If Marvel waited to slowly roll out their new characters, it would give other, larger companies a chance to jump in and steal market share.

Marvel fully planned to go into superheroes in a big way, and because it was cheaper to just have those superheroes take over and continue existing titles and keep the numbering. Thor appearing in Journey Into Mystery wasn't a "tryout", and neither were the split-feature titles Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and Strange Tales. Marvel put two features into each of those titles because they had more characters they wanted to launch than they had titles. The double-feature gave Marvel a little flexibility because they could replace one of the features if it didn't work out. The lackluster Human Torch feature in Strange Tales was replaced by Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, and Ant-Man/Giant-Man was replaced by Sub-Mariner in Tales to Astonish.

The only thing that might be considered a tryout would be giving the last issue of the already-canceled Amazing Fantasy to Spider-Man, but that was more of a teaser, as Marvel already new they were going to launch Spidey in his own first issue a few months later.
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Old 09-10-2019, 10:49 PM
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Going to the other Marvel examples cited in the OP, I would posit that the ersatz Cap in Strange Talles was not a tryout. Marvel had already brought back Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, so bringing back Cap was more a matter of when and how then if. I'd say it was more of a ploy to boost sales for the lackluster Human Torch feature in Strange Tales.

The "Conan" story in Chamber of Secrets isn't really a tryout. Marvel knew they would be publishing a sword-and-sorcery barbarian, but didn't know which one, as publisher Goodman was waffling on ponying up for the Conan rights. The story wasn't featured on the cover, so it wouldn't have been a very effective way to judge the idea's popularity. If there was a "tryout" it was most likely Roy Thomas wanting to get his feet wet writing sword-and-sorcery before the actual title launch.
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Old 09-11-2019, 05:52 PM
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Also, people seem to think that a publisher makes decision to start a new character in a solo series after only one tryout issue. There are exceptions, but a lot of characters had multi-issue runs or appeared in multiple issues in tryout series before graduating to their own series.

After Marvel expanded in the late 60s, they decided to launch three tryout series (Marvel Spotlight, Marvel Premiere, and Marvel Feature) in the 70s and published them on-and-off throughout the decade. Ghost Rider started with six issues in Marvel Spotlight. Werewolf by Night had three issues in the same title and Son of Satan had twelve, which was longer than his actual series IIRC.

Marvel Premiere started with Adam Warlock's first two appearances before going on to his own title, followed by eleven issues of Dr. Strange, who then launched into his second series, and then an eleven issue run for a brand-new Iron Fist.

Marvel Feature launched with the Defenders for their first three appearances, then later had a few issues of Thing teaming up with other heroes that spun off into Marvel Two-In-One. Red Sonja also had a seven issue run that was a prelude to her solo series.

These three tryout titles had quite a few characters that appeared for only one issue, some of which were brand new characters, and some of which were to give minor characters a spotlight, but I think Spider-Woman was the only new character from one of these titles to go directly to a solo title after only one issue.
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