40 years ago, 'DC Comics Presents' let Superman present the rest of DC

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  • Thursday, 25 Oct 2018

'DC Comics Presents' saw Superman teaming up with a score of DC and non-DC characters, from The Flash to the Challengers of the Unknown. Photo: DC Comics

Fed up with frequent reboots, renumbering and rebirths, and wish there was a better way to manage these necessary sales boosters? Well, the answer resides in a defunct series that was launched exactly 40 years ago.

For those old enough to recall, there was once a cool team-up title named DC Comics Presents (DCP), which paired Superman with the bravest and boldest.

Unlike the present trend of spin-offs and launching new titles, DCP’s approach was more akin to an incubator where new characters were tested, obscure characters reintroduced, and concepts tinkered with.

Considering that they had a “fail safe” presence in the Man of Steel, readers didn’t feel ripped off even if the story sucked!

Four decades later, the spirit of DCP lives on in new guises and formats, but in tribute to the impact of the original DCP, we revisit some of its most memorable offerings.

Speed Force

It was the pairing of Superman with the Flash in DCP #1 and #2 that kickstarted the title’s nine-year run. With two inconclusive races between the Flash and Superman (in Flash (Vol.1) #175 and Superman (Vol.1) #199), this “non-competitive” team-up digressed from the usual “Who’s fastest” debate to having them work together in a race to ... the end of time!

DC comics Presents #1. Photo: DC Comics
DC Comics Presents #1. Photo: DC Comics

Super wonder union

In DCP #32 Superman and Wonder Woman kissed and even partnered to be with each other. While this “forbidden love” angle is constantly rehashed in the Superman mythos, this standalone take does offer a unique insight from Lois Lane’s point of view.

Teen Titans go!

While the lead team-up of DCP #26 featured Superman and Green Lantern, it’s the 16-pager “free insert” in this issue that makes this a Holy Grail for collectors.

The insert previewed the launch of (then revamped) New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.This issue also marks the first official appearance of Raven, Cyborg and Starfire.

You saw it here first!

The Teen Titans title also served as a springboard for other notable names such as Mongul (# 27), Ambush Bug (#52), Superboy Prime (#87) and Superwoman aka Kristin Wells (Annual # 2).

Superman and Wonder Woman first kissed in DC Comics Presents.
Superman and Wonder Woman first kissed in DC Comics Presents.

He-Man of Steel

By the power of Greyskull! This rare DC-Mattel collaboration unites the Man of Steel and the He-Man of Eternia. It is also argubaly He-Man’s first comic book appearance as well.

No holds barred

The genius of DCP was that there were no limitations/boundaries when it came to character pairings and time zones. The Mattel collaboration proved that it could work outside the DC Universe as well, paving the way for Superman to team-up with the likes of the Joker (#41 and #72), Bizzaro (#71), Forgotten Villains (#78), Clark Kent (#50 and #79) and even ... Santa Claus (#67)!

Character diversity aside, there was also no time barrier, as Superman has gone back in time (to team up with Sgt Rock and the Blackhawk), into the future (Legion of Super Heroes) and even to the end of time with Flash!

Rubbing his Super-shoulders

Unless you are in the Justice League or a fellow Kryptonian, chances of sharing character time with Superman is usually quite remote.

The DCP platform, however, enabled Superman to “notice” less popular heroes like the Forgotten Heroes (#77), Arion (#76), Freedom Fighters (#62), Amethyst (#63), Kamandi (#64), Madame Xanadu (#65) and even the Legion of Substitute Heroes (#59)!

A special preview in DCP also featured the first appearance of the Teen Titans.

Whatever happened to ...

What I liked most about DCP was that it offered closure for certain B- or C-grade characters with a cult following.

Beginning with DCP #25, the back-up slot featured the likes of Air Wave, Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter, Golden Age Sandman, Crimson Avenger, Golden Age Atom and Rex the Wonder Dog.

Outstanding creator teams

The title’s editor – the late Julius Schwartz – was very generous with the creative teams on DCP. Among the comics luminaries who have worked on this title are Len Wein (X-Men), Jim Starlin (Infinity Gauntlet), Marv Wolfman (Teen Titans) and George Perez (Crisis On Infinite Earths)!

Special mention also goes to the Superman/Challengers Of The Unknown tale in DCP #84, which was drawn by Jack “The King” Kirby, and Alan Moore’s Superman/Swamp Thing story in DCP #85.

Grand Finale

After 96 issues of team-ups, it was left with Superman to end the title on his own, via an “Untold Pre-Crisis” tale involving Krypton and the Phantom Zone.

If Superman beats He-Man, does that mean he is the true master of the universe?
If Superman beats He-Man, does that mean he is the true master of the universe?

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