Deadman was amongst a range of unusual properties for DC Comics and Marvel, co-created by Arnold Drake including Doom Patrol and Guardians of the Galaxy. Deadman's debut in Strange Adventures #205 in 1967 alongside Carmine Infantino shows high-wire circus performer Boston Brand who called himself (and dressed as) Deadman before his transformation into a superhero, because he thought that his audience was hoping to watch his death during his performance. This issue even somehow slipped a drug storyline past the Comics Code Authority censors for the first time, when such things were forbidden, mentioned as "snow" with the excuse being given that this was part of a wholesale transaction by criminals as opposed to being actually injected or injected by someone. Deadman would go on to be a staple of DC Comics, especially when taken on by Neal Adams, who became associated with the character more than anyone. There is a circus poster for performer Major Mite, the Mightiest Midget, who only made his official first appearance in Deadman Volume 2 twenty years later. Of late, Guillermo del Toro has taken interest in producing a film about Deadman. But here is where it all began. There's a Strange Adventures #205 CGC 5.0 from Heritage Auctions going under the hammer today, with bids currently it totalling $119.
Strange Adventures #205 (DC, 1967) CGC VG/FN 5.0 Off-white pages. The origin and first appearance of Deadman. First appearances of Vashnu, Tiny, and Lorna. Carmine Infantino and George Roussos cover and art. Overstreet 2022 VG 4.0 value = $142; FN 6.0 value = $213. CGC census 11/22: 93 in 5.0, 685 higher. CGC Grader Notes: tear with crease bottom of front cover, cover tanning, creasing to cover, spine stress lines to cover, staining to cover.
Bleeding Cool's Mark Seifert previously wrote of the history of Deadman; in a 2000 interview reflecting on his career, Arnold Drake recalled of the creation of Deadman, "Jack Miller said he had a book that was in trouble, and would I come up with some kind of a superhero. I was tuned in to what was happening around us at that time. One of the things was a movement of young people toward Asian philosophies, Asian rituals, etc. So here I was in the middle of a Zen-Buddhist movement and I thought, "Maybe I can use that for my main character," and I came up with this notion: the Deadman, who is able to enter other people's bodies. I introduced the idea that some power somewhere made it possible for him to do this. My intention was to get much more involved in that aspect of it and get some concept of what this power was like, and the structure of the machine that the power used around the world. What I had in mind was comparing two civilizations, our world, and that other world, and to indicate that I thought they were probably pretty much alike. There were baddies in heaven just as there were on earth. That was the way I wanted to go with it, but I never got a chance to. We had a disagreement. I was to have received a major page-rate increase, and the boss man reneged on that deal. So I walked away."
Drake was replaced by artist/writer Neal Adams, and according to Carmine Infantino, this resulted in a sales controversy. "Of course, after a point, I watched the numbers go down, you know? We had put that thing up to 57, 58% of sales and we had printed up to 300,000 copies, and all of a sudden, the numbers are diving from 58 every month and then down to 55, 53, 52, 48, and you couldn't read them. His writing was bad. I made no bones about it. I told him. Now I'll tell you an interesting story there. He had a big fan. Some guy who worshipped Neal. And he came to me one day, this was a few years ago, and he said, 'You know why Deadman failed? You blew it." I said, "Well, tell me what I did wrong." He said, 'Well, we found out that over 400,000 copies were stolen of the Deadman book." I said, "Uh-huh. That's very interesting because we only printed 275 to 300,000.' So you get all kinds of theories."
Average yearly sales figures reported Statements of Ownership documents printed in the comics themselves reveal that Infantino's recollection of the numbers is likely generally correct, though it's difficult to conclude that Adams's scripting eventually caused the end of Deadman's run on the title. In 1967, the year that Deadman debuted, the reported average circulation of the title was 146,600 — or 51% of 287,500 (the average of Infantino's 275,000 to 300,000 print run range claim). Adams took over scripting in mid-1968 (having started penciling and inking the series earlier), and the 1968 reported average circulation of 165,190 had climbed to 57.5% of the print run. But the 1969 reported average circulation of 141,179 dropped to 49% — as the title had reverted to reprints. Of course, all of this means that Strange Adventures #205 was likely one of the lowest circulation keys of the mid/late 1960s for DC Comics.