The genesis of this set was previously looked at here, as part of a longer piece on Presentation Boards:
As we will see momentarily, this board is more advanced that most as it uses artwork that would see issue in 1967. Many of the boards were merely mockups created from previous issues that were altered to show a conceptual idea. The set title though, was still to be tweaked by changing the "C" to a "K". There is some artwork known for the wrapper as well; not sure if this was used for the actual release or frankly if it's even artwork but I think it is due to the uneven inking:
Most references call this a test release but I think it made it to a second stage as there are too many indicators of a retail issue. While test wrappers are known (and would be one of the first of their kind), I have found pictures of packs and boxes scattered throughout the web. Here is a nice flat from a prior Heritage auction:
It's clearly a 1967 issue based upon that production code. Here a few more shots of boxes and the like, giving credence to the "more than a test" theory:
That little beauty is from comprehensive Spiderman blog with over 8,000 collectible shown of America's favorite webslinger (wow!).
Another reason I lean toward a limited release is that you cna find these with relative ease compared to true test issues. They are more properly in the "scarce" category I think and prices for nice, raw books have fallen to about $35-$40 from $75 or $80 of late, although a new find could also explain the drop.
The artwork is stellar which makes a lot of sense as it was done by Wally Wood and Gil Kane, with stories by Roy Thomas. Wood effected many of MAD's comic book parodies in the 1950's and is considered to be one of the finest comic book artists of all time while Kane and Thomas worked on many of the comic books that were parodied. In fact a study of Wood, edited by Bhob Stewart, notes that "some nervous corporate lawyers" put a halt to the series. Considering how much effort had been put into the set, there must have a huge threat of litigation to make Topps pull back.
Each book was eight pages, including front and back covers. As seen on this uncut Tarsam book consigned to Probstein123, there was only one panel shown per page:
I thought I would do a visual checklist of the sixteen covers, since they have all popped up on eBay of late and are not well known otherwise:
As Topps proved with Wacky Packages, parody and satire can be accomplished without copyright being infringed, so the legal issues Topps was afraid of could instead have been related to the back covers. Here's a better look at the back of Tarsam:
No funny title, just a direct steal of Popeye. Here's some more, the GI Melvin and Aorta ads probably caused the Topps legal team some serious heartburn:
Really killer stuff, too bad it got squelched. And remember the MAD connection? Here is a final parting shot courtesy of www.madcoversite.com: