The road to hell, as goes the saying, is paved with good intentions. I don’t recall now, though, if it was ever actually my intention to dig up and post to the interwebs all the covers for the comic books shown stuffed into the racks in this old photo taken at a newsstand in the 1970s.
When I first saw the photograph, by the way — posted then in the Robot 6 section of the CBR (Comic Book Resources) website almost ten years ago now — I fell completely in love with the image due to the deep and unexpected sense of the nostalgia it evoked.
It was simply titled “A Newsstand in 1975.”
I was all of six years old back then, but I can still easily recall now the sight of comic books on corner newsstands all across “Chicagoland,” as some of the locals call it. And compelled by this fond and enduring memory, I enlarged the image and printed out a copy on heavy fine art paper to hang in my studio.
Curiosity Killed the Cat
It actually made me curious, though, as to whether the photo was really taken in ’75 or if someone just guessed. Using even what’s partially visible from one of the covers, I thought that I could fairly easily narrow down not only the year, but maybe also the time of year that the photo was taken.
And so, a few nights before the 2011 Phoenix Comic-Con (I lived in Arizona then), I sat down at the computer to satiate my curiosity. I realized that I would probably never know within which American Metropolis “Herman’s Comics” –– the newsstand’s presumed full name –– was located, but I would at least have an idea of when it was there.
Using the Marvel Premiere centered in the front row as a start point, since I actually had the ten issue Iron Fist run in my collection, solving the mystery of when the photograph was taken didn’t take more than a few minutes. But then my brain went ahead and decided to get curious again.
Because I’m not exactly your typical comic book geek, once I’d found success identifying one of the comics recorded there in the photograph, it wasn’t enough to confirm when the photograph was taken. I then wanted to know every comic that was on the stand at the time. This, however, didn’t extend to the magazines, as my 6-year-old self wouldn’t have been interested either.
Satisfaction Brought Me Back
Based on the list of 42 books that I was ultimately able to make out from the photo (as well as the publication dates for each), and then with a little extra help from a fellow comic book collector who saw my first draft, I narrowed down the time frame that the photograph was taken between February and March 1975.
Comic books, like most other periodicals, go on sale at least a month before the cover date. Several of the books have April dates, which would likely have resulted in them hitting the stands from late February to early March. Amusingly, I turned six-years-old on the 24th of February that year. I loved the photo even more.
In the summer of 2011, I posted the photograph and the list of the 42 comics that I could make out to my old blog, Your Kung Fu Sucks. At the end of the list, though, I acknowledged in jest that it would have been “nice” of me to go the extra mile to dig up all the covers and post them too. But I ain’t that nice.
Nevertheless, curiosity gnawed at me from time to time. So I finally caved to curiosity again and did the extra work that would allow me to see exactly which comics my 6-year-old self would’ve been looking at — were I to have been standing in front of the densely packed wood and metal racks back in 1975. The full-color trip back in time makes me smile. You may, too.
Closing Notes To The Reader
The Spirit (top right corner) was not included due to its being a comic magazine. Otherwise, the order of the comic book covers follows their placement in the photo. Also, Defenders #22 appears twice in the image, the first having been misplaced in front of Werewolf by Night #29. So the latter is shown in its proper spot.
Astute collector’s would also recognize that there are only four DC Comics titles, and no Archie or Harvey titles. Their absence has caused me to speculate that the periodicals rack was actually much longer than what’s captured in the photo. Who the heck would try selling comics in 1975 and not have titles starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and all the other “Super Friends?”
Lastly, the covers have been sized for larger computer screens, as opposed to your phone. So to properly take in all the pulse-pounding goodness, a regular (or “Giant-Size”) computer screen is advised. Seeing them all this way is as close as you’re ever gonna come again to seeing such treasures stuffed into the racks at your… (wait for it) friendly neighborhood newspaper stand.
Paco Taylor is a writer from Chicago. He loves old history books, Japanese giant monster movies, hip-hop, anime, comics, Kit Kats, and kung fu flicks.