In the 1970s, merchandisers did not wait long to cash in on popular television shows. Welcome Back, Kotter premiered in the fall of 1975 and by 1976 rabid teenage fans of the show could purchase Kotter board games, action figures and lunch boxes. DC Comics, which was owned by Warner Communications, rode the wave of Barbarinomania and whipped up a comic book adaptation of Kotter, a show distributed by Warner Bros. Television, and published it from November 1976 to April 1978.
Alas, we never got the Horshack / Batman crossover of our dreams, but the title did dream up some delightfully outlandish covers. The cover art came from the hand of Bob Oksner, who had previously drawn comics based on I Love Lucy and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
, MeTV trivia fiends. The work ranges from the outlandish to the, well, appropriately outlandish.
10. Issue 3
"Beat Kotter to a pulp"? This mob goon straight out of Dick Tracy just seems too dark for the Sweathogs. Kotter is not Batman.
9. Issue 9
Mustaches on everybody! This would work better as a Twilight Zone episode.
8. Issue 7
The canoe sank? But Horshack released a skunk? What is happening here? Barbarino looks a bit different on each cover. Similarly, the colorist had some inconsistency with Epstein, as you will note.
7. Issue 5
We don't remember the electric thumb wrestling scene in Julius Caesar. Nor the cheerleaders. Shakespeare's legs are more ghostly than the rest of him.
6. Issue 2
Principal Woodman makes an appearance. Driving his (tiny) car out of his office? Which is a portal to Washington, D.C.?
5. Issue 10
Woodman returns! Now this seems like something out the television show. Just don't ask what's in the bucket.
4. Issue 6
Not sure how an elephant got in the school, but we like the composition. Barbarino looks like Prince Valiant.
3. Issue 4
Now that looks like John Travolta.
2. Issue 8
Nice composition again. This could be something out of Spider-Man. Also, we are quite intrigued by "The Rubber Chicken Contract" and how it related to dangling from a helicopter.
1. Issue 1
Nailed it on the first take. The page is filled with motion, and the characterizations are on point. Barbarino has a girl and a remedial coloring book. Horshack is kicking an apple to the teacher's desk. Epstein is pulling a prank.
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