This book is my Holy Grail.
In the summer of 1976, when I was 11, this book was in many bookstores at a cover price of $6.95. For a trade paperback now, this price is reasonable, but for a "funny book" in those days, it was out of reach for even my generous grandparents. Comics were about $0.30 and paperback books were about $1.25, just to put it in perspective. Every vacation for a few years I would see it on the shelves of the bookstore in downtown Cadillac, Michigan and drool as I flipped through the pages. There were the origins of every superhero that I cared about, all in one place: The golden age and bronze age Superman, the golden age Batman, whose origin had needed no update; Wonder Woman, golden and bronze age; golden and silver age Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom; and finally the origins of Plastic Man and Captain Marvel.
I have often thought that Alex Ross's perception of the DC universe had to have come from this book. It is the only place I can think of where Captain Marvel and Plastic Man appeared in the same place with the rest of the Earth-1 DC heroes. He often puts Captain Marvel and Plastic Man in stories that seem to take place during the satellite era of the Justice League, despite the fact that at the time those stories were published, Captain Marvel's and Plastic Man's adventures took place on entirely different Earths.
I had seen the origins of some of these characters condensed to one page in a magazine called Dynamite, when I was in elementary school. It was always my favorite day of the month when we got our new issue. But to have all the full origin stories in one place was just too good to be true. I tried to wait patiently to see if the book would ever arrive with my Christmas presents, but it never did. Time passed, but I never forgot this book, especially with the Neal Adams cover. When I saw the package sitting on my doorstep this afternoon, and I opened up the book for the first time, I felt a little more of my childhood restored to me.
After 30 years, I finally found the Grail!