The history of DC Comics' 100-page Super-Spectacular comics is fascinating. These comics were apparently seen, by turns, as a worthwhile venture, a replacement for traditional Giant comics, a failure, a success, the hope for the future of DC, and a catastrophic failure. However fortunate or unfortunate the publication of these comics were for DC, they remain a delightful trove of treasures for comics collectors and readers.
Publication of these comics began in 1971, and there were irregularities from the very start. The first issue was numbered #4, and was dated only 1971 (no month). AFAIK, no one has ever dated the issue to a specific month (though it's not unreasonable to speculate that it was published at the same time as, or soon after, publication of DC's 48-page, 25-cent comics, cover-dated August 1971). This issue fell into DC's line of mystery comics (e.g., House of Mystery, House of Secrets), sporting a macabre Wrightson cover and reprinting stories from early DC mystery comics. A remarkable characteristic was the absence of paid advertising; readers were getting two pages of reading for each cent of cover price.
The next issue (#5) was a romance issue. Again, there was no month date. The stories appear to have been retouched to modernize hairstyles and fashions. To this date, sources of many of the reprinted stories remain unknown to fandom at large. This entire issue was reprinted in a facsimile edition ca. 2001.
Number 6 was (finally!) a superhero issue, reprinting the classic "Crisis on Earth-One" and "Crisis on Earth-Two" from Justice League of America #s 21 & 22 (as well as other stories). Again, the only date was the year, 1971. The cover, a wraparound by Neal Adams, is classic. I remember seeing this issue for sale as a new issue, and desiring it, but not being able to justify the 50¢ cover price (I later bought it as a back issue). The entire issue was reprinted in a facsimile edition ca. 2004.
With #7 (actually, DC-7) came the first shift in publishing direction for this series. For some ten years, DC had been publishing Giant issues (first with 80 pages, later with 64) filled with reprints, and had eventually incorporated those Giants into the numbering of the series being reprinted, while also continuing the numbering of the Giant series, so that issues were carrying two numbers (e.g., Justice League of America #93 was also Giant G-89). Following this model, 100-page Super-Spectacular DC-7 was also Superman #245. Also, this issue had a month date (Jan.) on the cover. This one, I did buy on publication (it would have broken my string of consecutive issues of Superman if I hadn't), but I sure did hesitate over the price. I also hesitated over the fact that only two stories in the issue (37 pages) were Superman stories; the rest were unrelated characters.
The pattern of double-numbering issues continued for the next six issues, as follows:
DC-8 = Batman #238 (Jan.)
DC-9 = Our Army at War #242 (Feb.)
DC-10 = Adventure Comics #416 (Mar.) starring Supergirl
DC-11 = The Flash #214 (Apr.)
DC-12 = Superboy #185 (May)
DC-13 = Superman #252 (June)
Then, the first cancellation occurred. It seems to have been a sudden decision, as I remember there being a "next issue" promo (for the next Super-Spec, not for the next monthly Superman) in DC-13. Without notice to readers, and without explanation, that "next issue" would not be published for more than six months.
When publication did resume, the Super-Spectaculars were no longer cross-numbered with issues of the corresponding series; instead, each issue carried only the "DC-#" number, making the Super-Spectaculars their own monthly title. Still 50¢, still without paid advertising, these issues continued to give readers more for their money than any other comics available. The issues from 1973 were:
DC-14 (Feb.) starring Batman
DC-15 (Mar.) starring Superboy
DC-16 (Apr.) starring Sgt. Rock
DC-17 (June; May was DC's famously misguided "skipped" publication month) starring Justice League of America (and including for the first time in a DC comic a reprint of a 1940s Justice Society of America story)
DC-18 (July) starring Superman
DC-19 (Aug.) starring Tarzan
DC-20 (Sept.) starring Batman
DC-21 (Oct.) starring Superboy
DC-22 (Nov.) starring The Flash
At this point, the title was canceled, but sales of the 100-pagers must have been looking up, because DC made an interesting move to expand the 100-page line. Starting in September 1973 (IIRC), with issues cover-dated Jan. 1974, DC converted four titles to 100-page Super-Spectacular bimonthlies. In addition, one comic each month was published as a 100-pager on a non-repeating basis. At this point, the all-reprint policy gave way to inclusion of new story pages (generally, 20 new pages), and paid advertising was introduced. The four regular Super-Spec titles were Detective Comics, Batman, Young Love, and Young Romance. The irregular Super-Specs were:
Shazam! #8 (Dec.)
The Witching Hour #38 (Jan.)
Superman #272 (Feb.)
Justice League of America #110 (Apr.)
Based on things I've read elsewhere (notably, a "publishorial" by Jenette Kahn a few years later in which she explained the disadvantages of publishing at prices far lower than competing newsstand publications), I believe this was intended to address the problem of distributors and retailers deciding comics were too much trouble for too little revenue. I believe this was an experimental move by DC, and that initial results would determine whether or not DC would commit to the next stage of the plan....
...And in January 1974, with issues cover-dated May, DC did commit. Maintaining the new story pages and paid advertising, and raising cover price to 60¢ per issue, DC converted eight more titles (for a total of twelve) to 100-page Super-Spectacular bi-monthlies (six per month). In addition, a seventh 100-pager per month was published, rotating through several titles that remained in 32-page format for other issues. The twelve regular 100-page titles were:
The Brave and the Bold
House of Mystery
Justice League of America
The Superman Family (continuing numbering from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, and absorbing Supergirl and Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane)
Tarzan (absorbing Korak, Son of Tarzan)
World's Finest Comics
The titles that had rotating 100-page issues (six-month rotation, two issues each) were:
Our Army at War
As an aside, there's something here that I find interesting. For the calendar year 1974 (cover dates May 1974-April 1975), every single issue of every title in which Batman was a regular character (Batman, Detective, B&B, JLA, World's Finest) was published in 100-page format. In one of the two towns where I was then buying comics, the 100-page issues were not distributed during 1974 (though I remember buying Detective #438 in that town in 1973, so the decision must have been made rather suddenly). This means that, for a whole year, anyone wanting to buy a Batman comic in that town could not. I'm betting this isn't what DC executives had in mind.
From the evidence, one can conclude that this strategy did not deliver for DC the revenues that were hoped for. At the end of the calendar year 1974 (after cover date April 1975 for bimonthly comics), publication of 100-page Super-Spectacular comics abruptly stopped. I imagine DC had signed contracts with distributors and printers that held them to 100-page publication for that year, and that as soon as they fulfilled the contracts, they returned to the traditional 32-page (and occasional 64-page) format. At the same time, DC moved into a very conservative, very traditional, very unexperimental period. Storylines become trite and predictable. Characters returned to static states. Top writers and artists fled DC. Before long, upper management at DC was changed. It seems like the failure of the 1974 100-page publishing initiative knocked the wind out of DC for years (it seems to me they recovered only when the direct market improved sales across the industry).
And that is my subjective recollection of the DC 100-page Super-Spectacular comics. This was fun. I hope it's something like what you (Dementia5) were hoping for.