Now that’s a course I’d like to take.
These days every major comic book character has had about a dozen reboots in an attempt to combat declining sales and the inevitable staleness that comes with a character frozen in time by their success. I’ve compiled a list of the first major reboots of comic book heroes and the covers that heralded the “New” Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, on and on. This is by no means a complete list, just my favorites.
The earliest reboot I can remember was Superman #233, cover date January 1971, news stand date October 1970. It was actually pretty cool as they promoted Clark Kent from the Daily Planet to working for the evil Morgan Edge as a TV newscaster. They also attempted to eliminate Kryptonite, which had by now become the fallback cliche for every story, while limiting some of Supes’ powers. The reboot effectively petered out within a couple of years.
Batman #227 cover date December 1970 wasn’t exactly a reboot, but its cover made clear that Batman was no longer the shiny, camp Adam West edition. The change had been coming gradually for a couple of years, but with the influence of Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams, Bats went solo and dark in the first ever comics retro act recalling the short lived pre-Robin Batman of 1939 as they redid Detective Comics 31
In many ways, this Brave and Bold 81 cover was the first retro Batman, cover and interior drawn by Neal Adams as Bats faced down a savagely realistic dock worker named Bork. Unlike Superman, Batman never regressed to his pre-reboot self, but continued only growing ever darker with the passing years.
Wonder Woman was undergoing her own change, awakening her sixties Women’s Lib feminism with issue 178 from October 1968, making her perhaps the first ever reboot. Gone was the red, white and blue bikini, replaced by Emma Peel of TV’s Avengers style pants suits, mini-skirts and knee boots. But never fears fans of skimpy costumes, the old suit was back by issue 204 in late 1972.
In early 1970, DC was about to cancel Green Lantern, but Denny O’Neill talked them into letting him and Neal Adams attempt to pump new life into the magazine. The result was the groundbreaking Green Lantern-Green Arrow 76. The new GL-GA team went in search of America ala Easy Rider giving kids like myself a glimpse of the cultural change that was shaking the country. Sound familiar? The book was cancelled with issue 89, but returned years later, sans GA and the social consciousness.
The DC push to make their heroes more relevant was inspired by their upstart rivals over at Marvel. As such, Marvel was many years away from its first reboots. But the rebirth of Captain America, after lying dormant for more than a decade, was a rebirth of sorts in Avenger 4 in early 1963.
Cap was portrayed as a man out of time after literally being on ice since 1945. By issue 113 of his own mag in early 1969, Cap literally killed off his old secret identity of Steve Rogers in an attempt to remake himself. Never fear, Stevie returned shortly, but the angst Stan Lee and Jim Steranko imbued Cap with was worthy of a major reboot.
Marvel’s first reboot of its sixties heroes came in 1975 with the X-Men. The original title had been cancelled in 1970. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum reinvented the book, dumping some of the cornier characters like Iceman and the Angel and adding Storm and Wolverine. The rest, as they say, is history in what was perhaps the most successful reboot in comics history.
By the 1970s, the Fantastic Four and most of Marvel’s classic lineup had gone stale. The original creators, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and a host of others, had all moved on or retired. Young John Byrne took over both the writing and drawing of the FF and breathed new life into the comic with issue 232 in the spring of 1981 beginning a 60 issue run. Byrne didn’t remake the FF so much as brought them back to their roots.
Next up was Thor. After years of shamelessly rehashing Jack Kirby’s monumental work on the book with an ever changing cast of writers and artists, a young Walt Simonson was given the same free reign as John Byrne had on the FF, both writing and drawing the title beginning with issue 337 in the fall of 1983 for a nearly 50 issue run that remade the book spectacularly.
Virtually every comic book under the sun has undergone several reboots in the last three decades, but these were the iconic firsts. Feel free to suggest more and we’ll add them to the roster.
In their day, Seals & Crofts sold a lot of records, but their day passed quickly and they’ve been shuffled off into the dustbin of Rock history, to paraphrase Trotsky. They were dismissed by the critics because they had the audacity to mix a handful of hit songs into their eclectic bag of songs. If they hadn’t, S&C might be acknowledged as among the obscure founders of New Age music.
Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts were backwoods boys from Texas who got into the music business as part of the non-recording road band version of The Champs, who were known for their seminal hit Tequila. Jimmy played sax and Dash drums. But as the sixties faded and The Champs disbanded, Jimmy and Dash had begun both a personal and musical odyssey that would take on them a journey far removed from their Texas roots.
Like many of the spiritual vagrants of the era, the boys stumbled into non-traditional religion, embracing the Bahá’í Faith, whose origins lie in Persia. Their interest in alternative religion led them to alternative music as they began to mix Middle Eastern rhythms with American Pop. Jimmy had switched to guitar and Dash played the mandolin, but with a decidedly un-Bluegrass feel to it. Dash’s use of the mandolin predated Jimmy Page’s more famous forays into the instrument, giving it an almost sitar feel.
The early results, on the long defunct TA label, were intriguing, but too off beat to attract much in the way of sales. Still, the boys persisted, landing a contract with a major label, Warner Brothers. These early efforts are worth listening too as S&C seemed bent on the craft of songwriting over hit making at this stage of their career.
Seasoned road warriors, they built an audience while honing their songwriting until they scored big in 1972 with the album Summer Breeze and the Top Ten hit of the same name. To the casual listener, S&C sounded like a nice middle-of-the-road act, but if you bought the albums and listened closer, the guys were spinning out innovative takes on American and World Music with lyrics layered with soul searching overtones intermingled with odd character studies.
Their 1973 album, Diamond Girl, followed suit with another slick hit mixed in among the more tantalizing gems. In 1974, they stumbled, attempting to proselytize with the neatly written, but ill timed for the Rock market, Unborn Child. A few classic songs are interspersed, but the duo had lost their way. Their next outing, I’ll Play For You, was an out and out attempt at Pop stardom, which they momentarily achieved with the plasticine hit of the same name. But in the process, they lost the indefinable element that had made their music so unique. After a handful of woeful efforts in the late seventies, the pair disbanded, leaving behind only the wisp of their hit songs for the uninitiated. But those of us who were fans, we remember them fondly.
When the compact disc boom arrived in the nineties and every no-name artist from Podunk was getting their music re-released on cd, S&C were shunted aside, WB only grudgingly releasing a greatest hits collection and finally Summer Breeze later in the decade. In more recent years, Rhino and Wounded Bird have finally released their entire catalog on CD, but a comprehensive multi-CD collection with alternate takes has yet to surface.
By balancing a precarious bridge between Progressive, Pop and Country-Rock, S&C earned no champions in the Rock underground. They were too un-hip to be embraced by the snobs of the Rock press of the era such as Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone. Their soft spoken personas and gentle, introspective music was easily drowned out by the Zeppelins and Disco Queens who they competed with on the charts. Seals & Crofts contribution to New Age and World Music has yet to be acknowledged, but I know that their offbeat sounds helped educate my teenaged ear in the seventies as I’m sure it did many others. And for that, I am grateful.
Apache Junction, Arizona Summer 1974 – Album tracks by obscure bands like King Crimson and New Riders Of The Purple Sage would crackle out of our radios in the dead of night, interspersed with regional musicians whose music defied easy categorization, Jerry Riopelle, David Bromberg and John Stewart, he lately of the Kingston Trio, not the late night political pundit, to name only a few. The nascent comedy tracks of Cheech and Chong and The Firesign Theater mixed with NRPS’s Panama Red and Led Zeppelin’s Trampled Underfoot. And while many of the nation’s radio stations were banning David Frye’s radical and hilarious Richard Nixon A Fantasy, KDKB was playing it every night, helping put it on the charts in the Valley.
I was a student at Apache Junction High School, trapped in a desert wasteland thirty miles from civilization. We had no town, no main street to drag. Our friends lived miles away and few of us could afford to own cars. We sat in our islands of captivity like castaways with nothing but the handful of local TV stations in those pre-Cable, pre-Internet days, the radio our main link to the world outside that spoke to our restless teenage brains with the music of our times.
The local top forty stations, led by KRIZ, blasted the Pop hits, Billy Don’t Be A Hero, The Night Chicago Died, drivel that wafted away on the same desert breeze that stirred the thunderheads over the Superstition Mountains at night, producing a bit of thunder and lightning, but only a few sprinkles of dry rain that gave off a pungent, musty smell when it mixed with brown dirt of the desert.
I suppose most of the kids were content with KRIZ and its ilk. Certainly there were some classic artists hitting the airwaves in those days, Elton John, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and a host of others, but I came from an oddball family to whom music was considered akin to religion.
My Dad was an itinerant auto mechanic who packed up the family every year or two in search of a better job. His itchy feet had taken us from Iowa to California to Arizona over the course of my first sixteen years. A back injury on the job had locked him into an ever escalating, near psychotic struggle with the Arizona Industrial Commission. He had nearly died after a surgery in March of 1974 and had descended afterward into a haze of alcohol and pain medication. He and my Mom fought like cats and dogs. My older brother was still at home, God knows why. He was an exceptionally talented musician who had no clue how to make a penny with his music and an aversion to regular employment. He’d grown his hair and beard to the point of being a stand-in for either Jesus or Charles Manson, depending on, I guess, a glass is half full or half empty approach to life.
Mom was a devotee of Country Music. I knew them all, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, The Wilburn Brothers, Skeeter Davis, and my Dad was a Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin-Big Band lover. Brother had been turned onto Rock and Roll by The Beatles and discovered KDKB in his late night ramblings across the radio. I had tried listening to KDKB when I was thirteen or fourteen, but it was beyond me, far too obscure for my untutored ear. But as my fifteenth year turned into sixteen, something flipped in my brain.
A late night documentary about Jim Croce, who had died the previous fall, turned me onto his music in early 1974. This wasn’t Rock and it wasn’t Pop. I’m not sure if KDKB ever played any of Jim’s songs, but once you got past the easy ones like Bad Bad Leroy Brown, his album tracks were my first excursion into music that went beyond what you heard on the radio. It also inspired me to buy a guitar. Seals & Crofts were featured on PBS’s Soundstage in May or June and I fell in love their slightly offbeat, eclectic music. When I found their classic Summer Breeze and Diamond Girl albums on 8 track at a local pawn shop for a couple of bucks, I was in heaven.
In July I saw a broadcast on our local Public Television station of David Bromberg hosted by KDKB’s Bill Compton. In the course of the program, Bromberg not only performed his unique blend of Country-Blues, he also talked about life on the road, offering a relatable human face to music that wasn’t covered in the greasepaint of freaks like KISS. By now I was sold. I had to find a regular source for this offbeat music. Turns out, it was only a twist of the dial away from KRIZ.
Sure, I still wandered back to KRIZ for an hour or two to hear the latest hits every day, but KDKB quickly became not only a source of music you couldn’t find anywhere else, but a friend in the night. And those nights were pretty damned hot and lonely. The days were well over a hundred in that summer of 74 and the nights never got below 80. We didn’t have an air conditioner, but a southwestern invention called the swamp cooler, a freaking big metal box that filtered water through straw mats and blew the semi-cooled air into your house. Why? Because it was a hell of a lot cheaper than AC. So the temperature inside rarely got much below 80 day or night. It acclimated you to the climate, but it was just one more misery.
I would lay there in my bed, always sweating, listening to the radio, turned down low so it wouldn’t wake up my Mom and Dad in the next room. I never could sleep at night, even when I was a little kid. And the voices in the night. Nina Joy was the most memorable. That sultry, laid back insinuation of a woman inside your head, invisible, but more real than the girl who sat next to you in class.
And hell, I even got to listen to KDKB in class. In the fall of 74 I took an art class mornings at AJHS taught by a youngish first year teacher who dialed the radio to KDKB. So I got an additional hour of alternative-hippie music five days a week. The class was small, only about ten of us and we would collectively chuckle when Toad Hall played Martin Mull’s Dancing In The Nude or scratch our heads at the mystery of Jesse Winchester’s Gospel Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt, whose political implications were beyond our sixteen year old minds.
The names of the DJs were legendary, Bill Compton, Toad Hall, Hank Cook and Nina Joy were the mainstays. In our minds they were a merry band of hippies, no doubt smoking dope and sipping from a bottle of Thunderbird Wine as they spun their discs. Nina would even bring her pet, Albie The Wonder Dog, into the studio with her and at the end of one epic broadcast claimed to have done the entire show in the nude. I remember New Year’s Eve 1975 going into 76 which Nina spent in the studio with Hans Olson, a bizarre, talented Blues mucisican. In many ways, Nina remained the invisible woman of the radio, a mysterious outlaw who drove off into the night when she left KDKB and disappeared forever after opening all our heads to the weird music she loved. Maybe it’s better that way.
KDKB was more than just an alternative to the Top Forty stations, they were truly a force and a tastemaker in the Valley. In the summer of 1975, their promotion of Jerry Riopelle’s Take A Chance album put it into the local top twenty. Their championing of John Stewart led to sold out concerts, while the ex-Folkie could barely sell tickets elsewhere in the country. Jerry Jeff Walker’s Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother became an anthem. Rising stars like Bruce Springsteen would sit in for interviews and spin discs. They were coloring outside the lines and not only getting away with it, they were making it into a new art form.
Whatever was happening in the Valley, KDDB was into it. In the fall of 1975 the Apacheland Movie Studio, where Elvis Presley and James Garner, among others, had made movies, had fallen on hard times and had been taken over by hippies who were hiring local bands to entertain the kids in Apache Junction on the weekends. A bunch of cowboys came in one night and busted up the joint. The next day, KDKB was on the air asking for the civic minded to provide protection for the hippies.
We moved away from Apache Junction in 1976, back once again to Iowa and like a rubber ball, found ourselves rebounding to Arizona the following year. I was shocked to click on the radio in that fall of 1977 and discover the chirpy sounds of ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky piping out of the hole in the waveband that had belonged to KDKB. All of the DJs were gone.
What happened? I didn’t find out for almost thirty years. I moved, once again in the late seventies, back to Iowa and this time, outside my Dad’s influence, I stayed put until I met a Canadian girl, married and eventually moved north to Canada. One day a few years ago, I decided to try and lookup my favorite old DJs from KDKB. The story that unfolded was intriguing.
Though the aforementioned colorful disc jockeys were the face/voice of KDKB, the station was owned by one Dwight Tindle, a rich kid who while attending Woodstock, struck up an idea with a friend to start a radio station. He headed west and bought an FM license in Mesa, Arizona in 1971 and promptly hired away the entire crew from Phoenix’s hippie haven KCAC AM headed by Bill Compton. Tindle put his stamp on the direction, but Compton was the creative force who assembled the talent and let it run wild.
But by 1978, Tindle had tired of KDKB and sold it. The break had come though, two years earlier when Compton resigned and the rest of the crew wasn’t far behind him as the format went to Top Forty. Compton was in the process of attempting to startup another Alternative station when he died in a bizarre one car accident in 1977 at the age of 31 when he swerved to avoid a bicyclist. From Radio Free Phoenix.
Toad Hall, whose real name was Gary Kinsey died at age 55 in 1998 of complications from AIDS. He was survived by two children and his ex-wife.
Hank Cook, Henry Cookenboo, died at age 59 in 2004 after a long struggle with MS. He went blind in 1974 from optic neuritis while still on the air for KDKB.
Nina Joy died in November 2015 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but her life is a mystery after she left KDKB. Her death was reported to the KCAC Lives Blog by her sister, but a search does not turn up her obituary. Apparently she lived in New Mexico for most of her life after leaving Arizona. Like most DJs, Nina Joy was a stage name, Nina Joy Nadworny had attended the University of Vermont before getting into radio. I always wanted to contact her and let her know how much her broadcasts meant to me and, no doubt, thousands of others in Arizona in the seventies, but I could never track her down. Though it’s been so far impossible to find out anything about Nina’s life after she left KDKB, she had to be in her late sixties at the time of her untimely death. Radio Tribute to Nina Joy on Radio Free Phoenix
Here’s Han Olson performing a song he wrote about Nina after appearing on her all night radio show.
Marty Manning, an original member of the KCAC and KDKB on air talent, is still alive and was on hand for KDKB’s fortieth anniversary in 2011. He has posted a wonderful video of Toad Hall, a talented musician in his own right, performing a traditional song with his mother.
Dennis McBroom interviewed
Lee Powell. Can’t find out a freaking thing about what happened to him.
I can’t remember the guy’s name, but there was a great Sunday morning Bluegrass-Folk show hosted by a local Bluegrass player which was absolutely hilarious.
There were many other DJs whose names I can’t recall. We thank them all.
Dwight Tindle died of cancer at the age of 56 in 2006. Check out these links for more on his life. Little known is that Tindle bought another FM station in Kings Beach, California neat Lake Tahoe in 1975 KSML which was nicknamed the Secret Mountain Laboratory with the intent of creating another KDKB. Apparently the experiment never took off, but it’s remembered in this odd hodgepodge of a page. Click on all the links. It’s worth a look. Tindle also became involved in the management of Rock bands after he left KDKB, but none hit the big time.
Links about Dwight Tindle
Dwight Tindle, the local radio legend who in 1971 co-founded KDKB — at the time, one of the most adventurous freeform FM rock stations in the country — is at first unimpressed when told about all the interest the mysterious commercial-free broadcast is generating.
“A lot of new stations do that kind of thing when they’re changing formats and want to get some media attention,” he sniffs. “In fact, before we went on the air with KDKB, we broadcast a tape loop of all the weirdest stuff we could find: Zappa, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Captain Beefheart. It was mostly a tactic to tune out the old listeners from the bad beautiful music’ station that used to occupy the frequency and draw in the curious new audience, who knew something different was coming.”
Eric Hauenstein was the co-founder of KDKB with Tindle, but worked behind the scenes on the business end of things. He tells the tale of how he and Tindle put on suits and made their presentations to the trustee of Tindle’s inheritance to get the $350,000 it took to put KDKB on the air. In 2016 dollars, that’s about a cool two million.
Rick “Daniel” Muth was the sales manager. Apparently, Tindle, Hauenstein and Muth were all owners, that to what degree and percentage, only they know.
Bill Compton was seen by the staff as the only layer of insulation between the creative side of the business and the suits housed on the second floor of the old Safeway. Most of the old-timers say Compton had almost absolute veto power over the executive branch. When the occasional “upstairs decision” floated down to the control room and jock lounge, staffers often waited to check with Compton before acting on it. TENSIONS APPARENTLY had been mounting for years before Eric Hauenstein asked Bill Compton to resign in November 1976. Staffers at the time believe that management (which was primarily Hauenstein by this time; Tindle left KDKB in 1974 to tinker with freeform radio in Lake Tahoe) perceived the prime-time news block, the wide-open musical outlook and the ultraloyal air staff as negatives. Hauenstein denies that. “The fact that the programs that were on the air remained on the air as long as they did ultimately was a reflection of my opinion of them,” he says. Others who were close to Compton at the time claim he confronted Hauenstein over a promised ownership share of station stock (a third original owner, Daniel Muth, had already been bought out by Hauenstein and Tindle). Hauenstein denies that, too. There was already a generous bonus plan in place, he says. “Bill participated in the profits of the station,” Hauenstein says. “There wasn’t any showdown over equity.”
Says one old staffer, by now an old hand in the business: “Management does what management does. They knew they were going to have to eliminate the plutonium from the reactor. Bill was fucked, which is what happens in a lot of instances. “Radio stations eat people and shit money.”
The ending of KDKB in its original configuration in 1977, was much like the trashing of The National Lampoon when its founders sold their shares in the business and got out. While the name was still on the masthead, the talent who had made it work were, for the most part, left out of the cash out and were eventually canned. That’s capitalism, both the good and the bad. Without Tindle’s inheritance and vision, KDKB would never have existed and all of our lives would have been the poorer for it. That he took the money and ran was his right. We thank him for what he did, but can still feel that just maybe it could have ended a bit differently. From some of the stuff you come across about the clash of the suits versus the heads at KDKB, the old sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati might be used as a history of the station.
Certainly KDKB wasn’t long for this life in its original format. Disco, Punk, New Wave and the Heavy Metal Hair Bands of the eighties were lurking in the wings. If KDKB had chosen to remain true to its charter, the old crew would have been put out on their ear at some point. American Pop Culture waits for no one.
I remember listening to one of Larry King’s old all night call in radio shows a few years later. His guests were radio station program directors. In the course of the discussion, one of them said, rather vehemently, that he told his DJs that they weren’t in the music business, they were in the advertising business; that the music existed only to sell advertising. That ugly statement has come to take permanent root in the American music business, not only in radio, but with the record company themselves. Product has replaced art.
Regardless of whatever KDKB’s bottom line was, the bottom line in what they gave to us was phenomenal. They served up a university level masters class in music appreciation to a generation of Arizona kids who otherwise, would have had their empty little heads filled with the sounds of Donny and Marie. For that, we thank you all, from Dwight Tindle to the business managers and salesman, secretaries and engineers, the DJs and Albie The Wonder Dog. We only knew the on air talent, but every last one of you was important to the mix. We can only hope the rest of your lives after you left KDKB were as enriched from what you did there as ours were from what you gave us.
Note: The KCAC Lives Blog is the wonderful source for much of the information and photos that appear here. We have commandeered the images of Nina and others in the pursuit of remembering and honoring these amazing people.
If anyone has any memories, photos or information about the KDKB crew they’d like to share, please contact us through the comments section and we will add them to the blog.
In this political season that so closely resembles 1964, I was browsing some headlines from 52 years ago and came across this. In the weeks in-between the Republican and Democratic conventions, the search for the bodies of the three murdered/martyred civil rights was ongoing while LBJ and company were cooking up the Tonkin Gulf incident that would convince Congress to give the administration unlimited funding for a no-win war as the Chinese and Soviets threatened intervention in Vietnam. And Goldwater seemed every bit as whacked out as Trump, though I would come to admire him, to an extent, as a senator in later years for his willingness to buck the party line. The world and the country seemed to be teetering on chaos. But out of all of this, what did I come across? Look closely, scanning to page two, take a look, lost Packer tickets! All I can think of is, did they ever get them back?
Harvey Kurtzman & Will Elder came to fame as the founding writer, editor and artists of Mad Comics and Mad Magazine in the 1950s. In the 1960s they created the ongoing comic strip Little Annie Fanny, a parody of Little Orphan Annie, for Hugh Hefner in Playboy Magazine. Though Annie may be snubbed as lowbrow sex humor by many, it represented the last and longest running work by these two graphic artist geniuses. Here, for the first time, is the complete listing of every installment of Little Annie Fanny ever published. The entire run was available in trade paperback published by Dark Horse, but it has since gone out of print with used copies going for as much as $100 apiece.
From Wikipedia: Each episode of the comic strip was designed and written by Kurtzman and rendered in oil, tempera, and watercolor by Elder. Hefner edited each episode, often requiring detailed changes to ensure that the series remained true to the magazine’s editorial style. Critical reaction was mixed, with most praising the elaborate, fully painted comic, but some dismissing it as falling short of Kurtzman’s full potential.
Art agent and publisher Denis Kitchen, who handles Kurtzman and Eisner’s estates, said that “most Kurtzman devotees would not consider Little Annie Fanny genius work … [and] some would argue the opposite: that it was genius diluted or degraded”. Kitchen placed the onus on Kurtzman’s employer Hefner, who “was often a punctilious taskmaster with a heavy red pen who often had very different ideas about what was funny or satiric” and insisted that each strip “had to include Annie disrobing
Kurtzman worked with several different artists over the years in order to make deadlines, including Jack Davis and John Severin, but Elder produced the lion’s share of the pages. In total, Kurtzman turned out 109 episodes totaling 393 pages from 1962 to 1988, the majority of them in the 1960s. Playboy, which owned the strip, rebooted it in 1998, ten years after Kurtzman’s last installment. It ran only 7 time over three years before Annie was permanently retired.