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Coming... Super Attractions!

Early comic book advertising was a slapdash affair. Ads, if there were any at all, were usually treated like crude after-thoughts, and regarded as little more than filler. Ad "campaigns"? Fogeddabout it! That is, until "Coming Super Attractions," the comic book industry's first-ever cohesive, sustained advertising campaign.

The "Coming Super Attractions" ad series was created by Mort Weisingerand DC's legendary in-house designer Ira Schnapp, designer of the logos for the Superman Xline of books, which Weisinger developed and edited.

The CSA ads all had a slavishly consistent look: they ran under the same banner headline, they used title logos and text instead of images, they all had a black or star-filled "universe" background, and they all advertised titles in the Superman family. But far more important than their look was their APPROACH. We'll be touching on that as we progress, then examining it at length when this CSA series ends.

In an era when comic book ad campaigns of ANY length were unheard of, the ground-breaking CSA series ran for six consecutive years, from 1959 to 1965 -- a testimony to Schnapp's incredible versatility, and Wesinger's skill at writing powerful ad copy.

This issue of DIAL B, we begin a 21-part, comprehensive look at the Coming Super Attractions ad series, and the psychology behind it. We're not collecting the "best" ads -- we're going to try and post ALL of them! More than 100. We may have missed one or two. I'm sure our readers will help fill in any holes. And this series is not just about CSA ads -- there will be plenty of fun surprises along the way -- including revolutionary new uses of Robby's miracle process... ANI-MOTION! We've got a lot to cover, so let's get started right away...

MAY 1959
Here's the first-ever "Coming Super Attractions" ad, which ran in Action Comics #252, May 1959 (the issue where Superman introducing Supergirl to the world). The comic books mentioned are Action Comics #252 (the issue the ad ran in), Adventure Comics #260, and Lois Lane #9. In this very first ad, we see signs of the unusual themes to come. In "The Kents' Second Son," Clark is replaced by another child, and in "The Most Hated Girl In Metropolis," Lois Lane loses her popularity seemingly overnight.
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JUNE 1959
In the second CSA ad (seen below), the modular nature of this campaign becomes apparent. Layout-wise, it's essentially just a headline and three blank boxes, so once you have a few boxes done, you can mix and match them. The ad below has two new boxes, but the box in the middle is a repeat from the ad seen above, with new coloring. Notice that there are NO IMAGES in this ad at all, only those great Ira Schnapp logos!
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JULY 1959
New themes surface in the third CSA ad (below), including a favorite Silver-Age gimmick: people, in this case Lois Lane, being turned into babies. We also see a Krypton-themed story where Superman's parents return in "The Voyage to New Krypton." The book's cover-image, showing Jor-El, Lara and Superboy, is stuck down in the corner and colored monochromatically, making it almost unrecognizable from the book's actual cover.
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The ad below, also from Aug. 1959, shows first IMAGE to be featured prominently in a CSA ad, a wild scene of "Leopard Girl Lois" racing with a cheetah and and a chimp! Sadly, box three has burst its square boundaries and reverted back to its awkward "Reverse-L" shape. And it's just a re-working of box one above into a different shape.
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This CSA ad below looks like a war between logos and titles! Yet even with three logos and EIGHT big, bold and lengthy titles to fit in, master designer Ira Schnapp somehow manages to make it all look good. No wonder there was no room for images. Themes include replacement by a "second son," and societal isolation in a "glass prison."
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SEPTEMBER 1959
Below, another image-less ad with a bit less copy, and more emphasis on the story titles. The awkward overlapping problem affecting the second and third boxes has been solved by making every box a uniformly-shaped square. Themes include betrayal ("double cross"), the sudden acquisition of super-powers by a human (Jimmy Olsen), and bizarre rivals. And another exciting story of Congorilla the Amazing Ape Man. Big whup!
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In the CSA ad below, the logos seem to be getting bigger and bigger! Is a revolt in the air? Will the type strike back? And a new theme is introduced: the public exposure of secrets, as in Batman's secret identity.
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OCTOBER 1959
In the future -- say, about 100,000 years from now -- everyone will have a giant, bald heads. Or at least everyone in the Silver-Age DC Universe will. Hey! How did that image sneek in there? Plus, the theme of "being replaced" returns as Superboy is replaced by new character Space Boy, who turns Superboy into "The Helpless Hero." And the Emerald Archer must answer to an unexpected father-figure when "The Green Arrow Meets Robin Hood."
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What if the "SUPERMAN" serial advertised in the CSA style?
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That's all for this installment of COMING SUPER ATTRACTIONS. Hope you enjoyed it, because there are 20 more just like it coming your way, plus the spectacular grand finale. In this volume of DIAL B for BLOG, there will be a new issue posted every single day, including weekends and holidays. See you next time, reader!

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