One of history's most enduring mysteries has been The Newsstand Narcolepsy of 1963, as thousands of newsstand customers across the nation suddenly collapsed into a state of deep sleep. When the victims were finally roused from their slumber, none of them could remember what triggered their instantaneous sleep.
After doing a little detective work, I think I've finally solved the mystery.
Since cover dates have traditionally been three months ahead of the actual on sale date, a comic book with a cover date of February 1964 on sale in December of 1963 may have been the trigger for the spontaneous snoozing. That comic book could only have been...
Warning: You may experience drowsiness or sudden, unexplained sleep. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while viewing the following cover!
As I was saying, That comic book could only have been
The Amazing Spider-Man #10: The Dullest Cover Ever Created.
Against the vacant, lime-green background, the already underwhelming threat of The Enforcers (basically throwbacks to the gangster archetypes of yesteryear) is made even less compelling. Add to that Spider-Man's kinda goofy, distorted anatomy and the bland-as-bran lettering, and it's easy to see how unsuspecting newsstand customers could have been instantly bored to sleep when catching a glimpse of this cover.
Believe me...I'm a big fan of cover artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but the example above can certainly be considered one of their rare strike-outs.
Making the publication of this cover even more troubling was the discovery of an alternate, and far superior cover design by Steve Ditko (click on the image for a larger view). As you can see, the alternate cover design is much more dramatic and interesting. Better yet, the story's central mystery, the true identity of The Big Man, received the thematic attention it deserved by placing the masked mastermind (as well as a huge red arrow pointing him out) front and center. While the background is still a bit on the spare side, we're at least given some idea of context and setting in this version. In every respect, this cover design trumps the actual published version...and I'd love to find out why it ultimately wasn't chosen by Stan the Man. Anyone happen to know?
Well, whatever the story was behind the two versions of Spider-Man #10, it seems the case of The Newsstand Narcolepsy of '63 has finally been cracked.