Saturday, May 20, 2017

0014: First Gear, It's Alright

In 1981, DC published a free promotional comic in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was called "Batman: Belt 'Em For Safety", and unlike the sort of Radio Shack comics inserted in their newsstand titles at the time this was in black and white, measured about 3½" X 5½" and folded out instead of being in the more conventional saddle-stitched magazine style. If the panels had been rearranged into standard sized comic book pages, it would have been about two pages long. Marvel and DC would both produce a large number of public service comics during the 1980's, many of them far more impressive. In !983 there were three anti-drug comics published using the New Teen Titans, each sponsored by a large corporate interest. So, it made sense that they should approach safety belt issues in a similar manner:

The American offices of Honda Motors was apparently expecting the Helen Slater "Supergirl" movie (in theaters November 21, 1984) to be a star they'd want to hitch all their wagons to (or is that "to which they'd hitch..."?).

While the New Teen Titans public service comics were printed in the same manner as DC's newsstand titles, this comic was printed on the heavier stock paper used for the direct-only titles DC had introduced that year for Infinity Inc., New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-heroes. It enabled the pages to be presented in the borderless, "full-bleed" style visible on page 1 (the third image in this post).

← front cover

← inside front cover

Yes, that's Bob Dole's wife.

The fact that she's presuming the readers will be "getting your driver's licenses soon" makes the target audience for this high school students. I don't know how many people at that age will take their behavioral cues from a Supergirl comic, but with a vocabulary that includes "delirious", "empaths" and "tangible" the grade level seems about right.

← page 1

Future "Shadow" scripter and Paradox editor Andy Helfer provides the dialogue; industry veteran Joe Orlando writes and provides the color. When a friend of Supergirl is rendered comatose by a car crash (he wasn't wearing a safety belt), Superman provides her with Kryptonian technology that enables her to bring her friend back to consciousness to recreating the crash in fantasy scenarios that eventually end with choosing to wear a seatbelt and avoiding the worst of his injuries.

← back cover

After the 28-page story there are four more pages and the inside back cover, each of which has exercises to reinforce facts about driving safety. There was a second issue in 1986, but that one was aimed at a younger audience. I don't know if that was because this edition worked so well that they wanted to expand the audience, if this edition failed and they wanted to start over or if that fact that Supergirl died in Crisis in 1985 meant that they needed to reach an audience that wasn't yet aware of that.

One last note: many years later DC reprinted Crisis on Infinite Earths as an Absolute Edition (an oversized slipcase with added features). That edition included a companion book that cited uses of most of the alternate Earths DC has created over the years. This story and many other non-continuity stories are said to have occurred on Earth-32, for what it's worth.

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Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...