Why Did DC Cancel Jack Kirby’s Horror Magazine After the First Issue?


In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, learn whether Jack Kirby’s horror magazine was canceled before DC even learned how much it sold.

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and eighteenth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. Click here for the first part of this installment’s legends. Click here for the second part of this installment’s legends.

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DC canceled Jack Kirby’s horror comic book magazine, Spirit World, before knowing how much #1 sold.

Appears to be True

In 1964, Warren Publishing began publishing Creepy, a black and white magazine in the style of the old E.C. horror comics of the 1950s…

By releasing the comic book as a black and white MAGAZINE, Warren was able to avoid the pratfalls of the Comics Code Authority, so the books could be as gory as the market would bear. Initially released as a quarterly series, it soon went bi-monthly and was joined by a sister title, Eerie…

The funny thing about the late 1960s at Warren was that they weren’t even making THAT much money and yet DC and Marvel were SO jealous of them. Non-Code approved, nominally adult-oriented comics sold on the magazine racks? That was so compelling to both companies.

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Meanwhile, Jack Kirby had famously landed at DC from Marvel Comics in 1970 and while Kirby wasn’t given much of a better financial deal from DC, the hope was that at least he would have more freedom with his DC work and, for the most part, that WAS true, but Kirby soon learned that some of his more ambitious ideas weren’t going to work at DC. Kirby, who had previously basically run his own comic book company in the 1950s with Joe Simon, envisioned himself doing similar things under DC’s umbrella, like a line of adult-centric full color magazines based on a variety of different genres.

You can almost imagine it being one of those things where Kirby is saying one thing while all DC is hearing, “So….black and white horror comics magazines like Warren?”

And so DC approved two black and white magazines (well, blue tint, at least) for Kirby, one about the mob and the other, a horror title called Spirit World.

You could tell how much DC was into the project when they had Neal Adams redo Kirby’s cover for the first issue…

Kirby drew the whole thing himself, with Vince Colletta on inks. Kirby worked in some striking collages into the issue, like the woman who envisioned the Kennedy assassination…

but she was unable to get anyone to believe her before Kennedy was killed…

There were some other outstanding collage pieces in there that just make you wish the whole thing was in color…

DC seemed to not have given the project a whole lot of promotion and its distribution was awful, as Mark Evanier explained to Jon B. Cooke in TwoMorrows’ Jack Kirby Collector #13, “Independent News [a branch of the same company that owned DC] was one of the biggest distributors in the world at that time, but the comic book division did not control distribution. The first issues [of Mob and SW] got very bad distribution. Steve and I went down to the warehouse in L.A. We never saw an issue on the newsstands in L.A., so we went down to the warehouse to pick up copies. They had not even left the warehouse. DC actually later on sold them in ads in the comics because those issues had not gone out to whole states.”

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Back in those days, you wouldn’t get sales figures for a while on a series, so that’s why when a company greenlit a book, you would work on a couple of them ahead of time and Kirby had the second issue of Spirit World (and the Mob book) done when DC announced that #1 was all the series would have. Evanier recalled in TwoMorrows’ Jack Kirby Collector #6, “I think they canceled the books and decided not to print the second issues before they even had any sales figures on #1.”

I think he is almost certainly correct, as the timing really seems to support it being canceled out of hand.

The material Kirby did for Spirit World #2 were later published in various DC anthologies.

Marvel, by the way, ALSO started doing black and white comic book magazines in 1971, starting with Savage Tales…

In the latest Movie Legends Revealed – Did Roald Dahl hide an X-Rated joke in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

OK, that’s it for this installment!

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