The "DC Explosion" and "DC Implosion" were two events in 1978 – the first an official marketing campaign, the second a sardonic reference to it – in which DC Comics expanded their roster of publications, then abruptly cut it back. The DC Explosion was part of an ongoing initiative at DC to regain market share by increasing the number of titles they published, while also increasing page counts and cover prices. The so-called "DC Implosion" was the result of the publisher experiencing losses that year due to a confluence of factors, and cancelling a large number of ongoing and planned series in response. The cancellations included long-running series such as Our Fighting Forces, Showcase, and House of Secrets; new series introduced as part of the expansion such as Firestorm and Steel: The Indestructible Man; and announced series such as The Vixen which would have been the company's first title starring an African-American woman. Former flagship series Detective Comics was also considered for cancellation. Some of the material already produced for these cancelled series was used in other publications. Several of the completed stories were "published" in small quantities as two issues of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, whose title was a reference to DC's Golden-Age Comic Cavalcade series.
The DC Explosion was a 1978 marketing campaign in which DC touted its increasing number of titles in the previous few years and increased story pages in all of its titles, accompanied by higher cover prices. The Explosion campaign itself lasted three months from its debut in comics cover-dated June 1978 until the revamp in comics cover-dated September 1978. The actual implosion at the company then followed with cancellations and a reduction in the number of titles.
Since the early 1970s, DC had seen its dominance of the market overtaken by Marvel Comics, partly because Marvel had significantly increased the number of titles that it published (both original material and reprint books). In large part, the DC Explosion was a plan to overtake Marvel by using its own strategy. DC's expansion actually began in earnest in 1975, when the company debuted 12 titles in the spring and summer, followed by 4 more titles by the end of the year. DC added 14 titles in 1976 and 4 more in 1977.
However, DC experienced ongoing poor sales from the winter of 1977 to the winter of 1978. This has been attributed in part to the North American blizzards in 1977 and 1978, which both disrupted distribution and curtailed consumer purchases. Furthermore, the effects of ongoing economic inflation, recession, and increased paper and printing costs, led to declines in both the profitability of the entire comic book industry and the number of readers. In response, company executives ordered that titles with marginal sales and several new series that were still in development be cancelled. During these meetings, it was decided that DC's long-running flagship title Detective Comics was to be terminated with #480 — until the decision was overturned following strenuous arguments on behalf of saving the title within the DC office, and Detective was instead merged with the better-selling Batman Family.
On June 22, 1978, DC Comics announced staff layoffs and the cancellation of approximately 40% of its line. Editors Al Milgrom and Larry Hama were two of the employees laid off.
As a result of the Implosion, 17 series were cancelled abruptly. Fourteen other titles were cancelled in 1978, for the most part "planned" cancellations announced in DC promos and in the final issues of the comics themselves. The following titles were cancelled due to the Implosion, with the following as their final issue:
About 30 titles were affected. Much of the unpublished work saw print in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, a summer 1978 two-issue ashcan "series" which "published" the work in limited quantity solely to establish the company's copyright. The title was a play on DC's 1940s series Comic Cavalcade. Some of the material already produced for the cancelled publications was later used in other series. The two volumes, composed of some of these stories along with earlier inventoried stories, were printed by DC staff members in black-and-white on the office photocopier. A total of 35 copies of each volume were produced, and distributed to the creators of the material, the U.S. copyright office and the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as proof of their existence. Considered a valued collectible, a set of both issues was valued as high as $3,680 in the 2011–2012 edition of the Comic Book Price Guide.
The contents ranged from completed stories to incomplete artwork. The covers featured new illustrations; the first one showed the cancelled books' heroes lying either unconscious or dead on the ground, the second showed the cancelled heroes being kicked out of an office by a bespectacled man in a suit. The first issue carried a cover price of 10 cents, while the second carried a cover price of $1.00, but the publications were never actually offered for sale.
Cancelled Comic Cavalcade contained the following material:
Among the new series planned, but never published:
Secondary features were planned, but the titles in which three were to appear were cancelled before the stories were published; the reasons why the two that were planned for Adventure Comics were left unreleased are unknown:
The expansion was optimistically dubbed 'The DC Explosion'. Nothing seemed to work, however, and cutbacks were initiated that insiders ironically dubbed 'The DC Implosion'.
The Warner Publishing powers-that-be told Kahn and company President Sol Harrison to cancel the plans for bigger books and cut the line to 20 32-page titles at 40c each.
By that time, me and Al Milgrom had gotten imploded out of DC in what they called 'The Great Implosion'.
"Just to make it official – Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, Vol. 1, No. 1, Summer 1978, DC Comics, Inc.
With the devastating DC Implosion, a majority of the thirty-one titles terminated in 1978 were canceled in the middle of storylines. Therefore, staff members "published", in extremely limited quantities, two volumes of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade.
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The Deserter...was given his own ongoing title at the 11th hour, only to perish amidst the other cancellations. The origin of tormented Civil War deserter Aaron Hope (by Gerry Conway, Dick Ayers, and Romeo Tanghal) appeared only in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1.
Bucky O'Hare, Ms. Mystic, Sorcerer, and Starslayer were each developed for DC in 1977 and 1978 but they all then remained in the hands of their creators.
Starslayer, a new comic book created, written, and drawn by Mike Grell debuts in July from Pacific Comics. The series was originally offered to DC Comics but was shelved in 1978 at the time of the "DC Implosion.