Friday, November 30, 2012

Galactus' Vacation to the Balmy DCU

"Galactus' Vacation to the Balmy DCU" from Darkseid vs. Galactus: The Hunger GN (DC/Marvel, 1995) by John Byrne
John Byrne has a deep love for Jack Kirby's work, and this DC/Marvel crossover shows it. My favorite thing isn't Galactus trying to eat Apokolips. It's not Silver Surfer vs. Orion. No. It's Galactus in his original sleeveless, pantsless costume! Summery!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Honeymoon of Horror

"Honeymoon of Horror" from Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2 (DC, 1971) by Tony DeZuniga
What do you get when you combine romance comics and horror comics? Some pretty beautiful art pieces by Tony DeZuniga, apparently (for the first couple issues). After the fourth, the book was renamed Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, which makes even less sense. Given the popularity of the Vampire-kissing genre, I'm surprised DC doesn't have a title like this in the New52. I, Vampire really isn't about kissing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Awkward Moments Between Superman and Supergirl

"Another Awkward Moments Between Superman and Supergirl" from The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #13 (DC, 1983) by Paul Kupperberg, Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner
Daring? New? Not sure those claims are true. Aside from the Ambush Bug issue... maybe. I bet the series wouldn't even have gotten to 23 issues if it wasn't for the Supergirl movie that was in the works. Then again, "Daring" was cancelled before the movie came out. And was of about the same quality.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

King Faraday: Doing It Right/Doing It Wrong

"King Faraday: Doing It Right/Doing It Wrong" from Danger Trail vol.1 #2 (DC, 1950) by Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, and Danger Trail vol.2 #3 (DC, 1993) by Len Wein, Carmine Infantino and Frank McLaughlin
Two splashes for the price of one today, showing "I Spy" King Faraday falling through the air in stories separated by 43 years of DC history. Clearly, the superspy has lost a bit of his mojo since his original appearances.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Your Mark

"Making Your Mark" from Damage #1 (DC, 1994) by Tom Joyner, Bill Marimon and Tom McSweeney
Around this time, DC had come out with new, youthful versions of various Freedom Fighters, including the Ray and Black Condor, so I was sort of disappointed when an apparent Human Bomb analog wasn't given that venerated name. The Human Bomb was my favorite Freedom Fighter! Worse would come. Though Damage did eventually serve on a version of the FF, he wasn't the Human Bomb's legacy EVEN THOUGH Damage was something of an uber-legacy character thanks to Vandal Savage's DNA manipulation. Here's the full list of Damage's genetic parentage according to Wikipedia: Atom (Al Pratt), Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Wildcat (Ted Grant), Hawkman (Carter Hall), Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol), Hourman (Rex Tyler), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Doctor Mid-Nite (Charles McNider), Starman (Ted Knight), Miss America (Joan Dale), Johnny Quick (Johnny Chambers), Liberty Belle (Libby Lawrence), Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz - John Jones), Flash (Barry Allen), Aquaman, Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and Atom (Ray Palmer). I call that overkill. A paternity subplot gone mad.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Who Knew the Spectre Would Grieve So Much for the Flash?

"Who Knew the Spectre Would Grieve So Much for the Flash?" from Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (DC, 1985) by Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Jerry Ordway
I'm sure there were those who felt your pain, Spectre! I personally wasn't terribly unhappy with the original Crisis doing away with 50 years of continuity (such as it was), probably because I didn't have that much invested into it. By then, I'd been reading a few DC books, occasionally, for what, three years? So I guess I was like one of DC's new New52 readers, coming to DC at a time of change to see what they'd do with it. Of course, I don't think the original Crisis was as subtractive as the Flushpoint. While a few properties were torn asunder and rebuilt over the next few years (Superman and Wonder Woman, most prominently), the loss of the multiverse meant tons of extra-dimensional characters moved to the mainstream DCU, so we gained far more than we lost. It creates a world that with heroic tradition going back decades, same as the publisher's comics themselves. I guess I'm trying to articulate why I don't have the same sense of excitement about the New52. Instead of expanding, the world and the timeline have collapsed. And this time, I DID lose a universe I felt I'd invested in for some 25 years. So I'm blaming in part on my mindset, but DC's strategy is still lacking. Crisis was a celebration of what went before; the New52 is a condemnation of it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

DC's First Masked Hero

"DC's First Masked Hero" from The Crimson Avenger #1 (DC, 1988) by Roy & Dann Thomas and Greg Brooks
Though excessively wordy, Roy Thomas' work on Golden Age characters was a great love of mine through the 80s. The Crimson Avenger was DC's first masked hero, predating Batman by a matter of months, obviously a character in the pulp mode. Though he would later wear spandex, the mini-series takes him back to his origin as a fedora-wearing masked man just going to a fancy dress party when he is called into heroism. I also love how Thomas uses 1938's War of the Worlds broadcast as backdrop, as it would have coincided with the Crimson Avenger's first appearance on the stands. DC should really collect Roy Thomas' Golden Age origin stories from Secret Origins and All-Star Squadron AND include this mini in it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jack Ryder's Dreams

"Jack Ryder's Dreams" from The Creeper vol.1 #4 (DC, 1998) by Len Kaminsky, Shawn Martinbrough and Sal Buscema
The original Creeper book was called Beware the Creeper, and a (mostly) unrelated Vertigo version also used the title, but otherwise, the Creeper appeared in two series which didn't warn us to be wary in the title. The first and some pretty stylish artwork by Shawn Martinbrough (above), lasted 12 issues, and focused on a Hulkish war between Jack Ryder and the Creeper persona. I guess Ryder couldn't really complain given that his last previous appearance had him die, dismembered, at Eclipso's hands! It looked like it was going to reveal a new origin story, but was cancelled before it could. In the mid-2000s, the Creeper did get a new, post-Infinite Crisis origin, set in Batman's early years.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turtle Boy vs. Darkseid

"Turtle Boy vs. Darkseid" from Countdown to Final Crisis #2/Week 50 (DC, 2008) by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins
I promise this will be the only splash from a book with Countdown in the title. I also don't particularly want to discuss how terrible, messy and in the end IRRELEVANT the weekly Countdown series was . It didn't so much lead up to Final Crisis as it contradicted it. So let's bask in the insanity of the above match-up between a giant, mutated Jimmy Olsen and an equally Godzilla-sized Darkseid. Because Countdown had this at least.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Standing Against the Infinite

"Standing Against the Infinite" from Cosmic Odyssey #4 (DC, 1988) by Jim Starlin, Mike Mignola and Carlos Garzon
I am NOT a fan of Jim Starlin's later (or perhaps just his DC) work, and Cosmic Odyssey had a tripping-balls plot, contradictions with Fourth World mythology, and terrible characterization, but damn, Mike Mignola artwork! So pretty.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cosmic Boy Is Around

"Cosmic Boy Is Around" from Cosmic Boy #1 (DC, 1986) by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Ernie Colon and Bob Smith
After Legends, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl were temporarily trapped in the 20th century where they realized their whole Superboy-related history had now never happened. The Time Trapper story would continue in LSH and the Legionnaires 3 mini-series, so it's a bit of an anti-climax, but I do love the Ernie Colon art, AND it made me want to see Night Girl more regularly. They're such a nice, secure superhero couple!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Vibe Piper of Empire City

"The Vibe Piper of Empire City" from C.O.P.S. #3 (DC, 1988) by Doug Moench, Bart Sears and Pablo Marcos
C.O.P.S. (Central Organization of Police Specialists) was a comic book tie-in with a toy line and cartoon series, which managed to last 15 issues thanks to writer Doug Moench, and in the case of those issues I picked up, covers and sometimes interiors by Pat Broderick. The series also featured early DC work from Bart Sears who would go on to put his stamp on Justice League Europe and later, Eclipso, before moving on to Valiant. This kind of book must be the most thankless kind of assignment - they're not all going to be G.I. Joe or Transformers - but making it last more than a year deserves some respect at least.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Barren Earth

"The Barren Earth" from Conqueror of the Barren Earth #3 (DC, 1985) by Gary Cohn and Ron Randall
The only time I bought Warlord was to support the Barren Earth back-up, which had a smokin' hot lead and an interesting techno-fantasy world to explore. The story ended in the pages of a 4-issue mini-series, and the whole thing was well outside the DC Universe. Can't the New52 work it back in? Or does Earth HAVE to survive as a civilized place for century upon century?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

There's an Actual Dragon in It

"There's an Actual Dragon in It" from Connor Hawke: Dragon's Blood #5 (DC, 2007) by Chuck Dixon and Derec Donovan
I thought that since the Green Arrow portion of our experiment would favor Ollie, I'd throw Connor a splash through his mini-series. Connor Hawke came at a time (specifically, Zero Hour) when DC was really building the legacies of its top tier heroes. The Flash had long been Wally West, Green Lantern was Kyle Rayner, and we'd had Reign of the Supermen, Knightfall, Artemis as Wonder Woman, etc. which created lasting legacy characters beyond those events. So when Green Arrow "died", it seemed inevitable that one of his illegitimate children would come out of the woodwork and take up his name. Not since GL John Stewart had a high-profile name been given to a non-white character - Connor's mom was half-Korean, half-Black - but that did seem to cause problems for artists and colorists, and at times, it seemed like Connor's features and coloring were more Caucasian than others. Dragon's Blood restored his ethnic background, but also introduced mild superpowers like regeneration, speed and strength from bathing in dragon blood - perhaps a necessary step to differentiate him from the original Green Arrow who had returned from the dead - but this was pretty much ignored by other writers. Poor Connor.

And like everything else that made DC's heroes "old", he was wiped from the face of creation by the Flushpoint.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lions vs. Elephants

"Lions vs. Elephants" from Congo Bill vol.1 #2 (DC, 1954) by Nick Cardy
Hey, Congo Bill used to be a big deal. Even got his own movie serial. And that was before he ever got the magic ring that made him exchange minds with the golden ape we call Congorilla. Though his series lasted only 7 issues, he'd been a regular feature in various DC books, including More Fun where he debuted, and Action Comics, until the Silver Age forced him into that more fantastical role. I think he got a better deal than, say, the Blackhawks. And the Congorilla stories continued for a couple years in Action before moving to Adventure. He's an explorer! He gets around!

After that, though, not much. By the 80s, he was considered obscure enough to score a place in the Forgotten Heroes, and in the 90s, they tried to give him a "DC Dark" treatment with a Congorilla mini-series that corrupted his sidekick Janu, and by the end of the decade, they tried again, this time with the Vertigo imprint. It would take 10 more years for the character to return, and I'm sad to say, it was as part of the Cry for Justice Justice League. Just before the DCU rebooted, Congorilla went back to Africa to serve as one of the continent's protectors. Maybe he'll show up in Batwing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


"Swordfishfighting" from Comic Cavalcade #21 (DC, 1947) by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter
So there was a time when Wonder Woman not only starred in her own book AND a side-book, Sensation Comics, but also a THIRD. The Comic Cavalcade anthology in fact featured stories by other early DC stars who also got lots of exposure elsewhere - Green Lantern and the Flash. Obviously, that wasn't all, not at the original 96-page size. Cavalcade had the Ghost Patrol and Red, White and Blue and Hop Harrigan and the Black Pirate and Johnny Peril and... what, you want me to name a bigger star? Ok, and the ATOM!

In 1949, with issue 30, the book turned to funny animals as the superheroes' star waned, and featured the Fox and the Crow, Doodles Duck, Blabber Mouse, Goofy Goose, Nutsy Squirrel, and... what, you want me to name a bigger star? I CAN'T!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Eater of Souls

"The Eater of Souls" from Claw the Unconquered vol.1 #10 (DC, 1978) by David Michelinie, Keith Giffen and John Celardo
In the 70s, DC tried to capture a little of Marvel's Conan success with a number of sword & sorcery comics, none of which were particularly successful except Warlord, I guess, but Claw was definitely the closest in look to Conan. The twist, a cursed demon hand. Originally conceived by Michelinie and Ernie Chua, Keith Giffen took up the reins very early in his career with #8, drawing it to the end of its run and beyond (the last two issues, 13 and 14, saw limited print later in Canceled Comics Cavalcade). His story would wrap up in a short Warlord back-up. Prior to the bargain bin, I'd only seen Claw in Who's Who (by Giffen), but a version of him would join Primal Force, yet another would get a mini-series at Wildstorm, and the original(?) would finally appear alongside Gail Simone's Wonder Woman in a story arc that also included other 70s fantasy stars like Beowulf and Stalker. Might he now show up in Sword of Fantasy?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chronos Meets his Destiny

"Chronos Meets his Destiny" from Chronos #9 (DC, 1998) by John Francis Moore, Paul Guinan and Steve Leialoh
Walker Gabriel, the second Chronos, was another of those offbeat and thus short-lived series that used the DC Universe as a grand playground. I've really got to re-read its dozen issues some time because I seem to remember it being timééé-wiméééééé. I mean, dude has to wipe his own existence from history and gets to break the Vertigo partition when Destiny of the Endless takes an interest. Plus, Chronopolis? Yeah. Putting it on the list for sure. Walker was last seen during Final Crisis in Morrison's Limbo, but if there's a character who could make his way out, it's him.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Egg Fu Disturbia

"Egg Fu Disturbia" from Checkmate vol.2 #15 (DC, 2007) by Greg Rucka, Judd Winick, Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson
While I didn't read the original series, I did enjoy the second, which featured a mix of characters from Suicide Squad, the JLI, the JSA, and new characters besides, many named after historical DC stars like Cinnamon and Gravedigger. The chess metaphor was pretty well used as well, and the idea of maintaining a balance both in the team and out between humans and metahumans was an interesting one. Where else could I get my fix of Amanda Waller, Mister Terrific, Fire, ANYONE named Mademoiselle Marie, and wait... Egg Fu? Awesome! Oh, and Snapper Carr died in this. Say thank you to Mr. Rucka, everyone.*

*If you're the one Snapper fan I keep hearing about, thank him sarcastically.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Some Targets Are Easier to Hit Than Others

"Some Targets Are Easier to Hit Than Others" from Checkmate! vol.1 #21 (DC, 1989) by Paul Kupperberg, Steve Erwin and Al Vey
The original Checkmate! book is one I had real trouble getting into, despite several tries and an important link to Suicide Squad. It was something that interested me more in concept than in execution, I guess. It perhaps didn't help that this New Format series was first released to comic book stores only at a time when I had no access to such (which would remain true for 2-3 years), and that it spun out of Vigilante (where is started as the Agency), a book equally unavailable to me. Then again, this was true of Animal Man and LEGION, and it didn't stop me from gorging myself on back issues as soon as I moved to a bigger town. My collection has only a few examples of its 33-issue run, including the one above and the Janus Directive crossover with Firestorm, Manhunter, Captain Atom and the Squad (all books I regularly read), of course.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tales of the Acro-Bat

"Tales of the Acro-Bat" from Chase #6 (DC, 1996) by D. Curtis Johnson, J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray
The mid-90s saw a number of really cool, offbeat and thus short-lived series coming out of DC, including the well-regarded Chase, about a Department of Extranormal Operations operative tasked with monitoring superhumans, but who might possibly have powers of her own. It was one of those "tour of the DCU"-type books where anyone and anything might show up, and featured art by fan favorite J.H. Williams III before he was a star. Williams certainly has a fondness for Cameron Chase, and brought her into his New52 Batwoman book, but she should also thank Marc Andreyko who kept her alive in Manhunter, another offbeat book with cancellation issues. Chase's own book lasted only 9 issues, 10 if you count the 1,000,000 issue. But who knows, she might get another shot.

The above splash is an example of creating a new character for the obscure corners of the DCU, something I enjoy tremendously (see the recent Shade mini-series for the same kind of thing). We're always focusing on the same cities and times, but it stands to reason that in a universe where all that is possible, there's more of the same in every nook and cranny. Acro-Bat and the Justice Experience are characters that would have run around in the 60s, filling the void left by the sliding time scale, and gee, I want a mini-series exploring their weird adventures RIGHT NOW.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tyrannosaurus X

"Tyrannosaurus X" from Challengers of the Unknown vol.3 #16 (DC, 1998) by Steven Grant, John Paul Leon and Bill Reinhold
In the late 90s, DC tried to start some non-Vertigo horror books (the "Weirdoverse") to fill the niche left empty by Swamp Thing, Sandman, et al. getting trapped behind a mature readers partition. Among these, a new Challengers title featuring a different cast. I found that disappointing, but I can't exactly argue with ideas like Tyrannosaurus X, can I?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Magic Is Ace

"Magic Is Ace" from Challengers of the Unknown vol.2 #5 (DC, 1991) by Jeff Loeb and Tim Sale
The early 90s revival was craaa-zy, riding the wave started by other weird strips like Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Shade the Changing Man, etc. when DC was reviving some of its older properties as proto-Vertigo books. It also featured some beautiful art by Tim Sale (no surprise there). Loeb apparently had plans for a monthly, or at least a second mini, but the book seems not to have done well enough. Who knows, had things been different, the Challs might have been among Vertigo's first books along with the rest, and become a standard fixture of quality trade paperback shelves at comic book stores. Well, I liked it, and would have bought in. Note that it turned Prof and June into ghosts, beating the Dibneys to it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Birdman of Djiizari

"The Birdman of Djiizari" from Challengers of the Unknown vol.1 #5 (DC, 1958) by Jack Kirby and Wally Wood
I always think of Jack Kirby when I think of the Challengers of the Unknown, despite the fact he only drew the first dozen issues of its 75 ish run, but that's the power of the King! Only a couple years later, he would go on to co-create the Fantastic Four with Stan Lee, which certainly look like they're BASED on the Challs. Rocky the strongman (come on!), Red the hotshot, Prof the scientist, June the girl... Only Ace doesn't really get an FF analog, folded as he is into Ben Grimm. The FF are the Challs if the accident that brought them together working on "borrowed time" had given them powers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Crooked Man

"The Crooked Man" from Chain Gang War #8 (DC, 1994) by John Wagner, Dave Johnson and John Dell
With the rise of the anti-hero in the early 90s, every superhero publisher was trying out variations on the Punisher. So while Marvel's Punisher would kill criminals, Image's Shadowhawk would only cripple them for life. DC's answer was the Chain Gang, gritty street vigilantes who would IMPRISON criminals in their basement. It was a lot better than it sounds, and weirder too thanks to John Wagner's strange and grotesque gangsters (the Crooked Man, above, being on example). Dude was a major Judge Dredd writer, so no surprise there. It's a series that I want to reread some time, if only for the satisfaction of seeing the Gang drag stupid Deathstroke into a cell.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Slash Option (Obvious): Batman/Catwoman

"Slash Option (Obvious): Batman/Catwoman" from Catwoman vol.4 #2 (DC, 2011) by Judd Winnick and Guillem March
The sex scene heard 'round the world in the New52's version of Catwoman. I don't really want to talk about it again. I see Ann Nocenti is now writing the Cat. I didn't stick to her Green Arrow, but she still has some good will left over from her awesome Daredevil run, so I'm trying it. I also like to give a shot to women writing female characters. I realize I didn't like Jo Duffy's Catwoman, but I'm still very interested in women writing female protagonists and what is hopefully some kind of gender authenticity. Of course, some men can't write men, so it's not a foolproof formula, just one that you don't see enough in today's mainstream comics.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


"Whipped" from Catwoman vol.3 #4 (DC, 2002) by Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred
Catwoman's next phase is very different, and is something I really want to sample when I find the time. The animated series aesthetic, hearing good things about Brubaker and later, Pfeiffer, and... Slam Bradley in the supporting cast? I feel like I really missed something by not being a bigger Catwoman fan. I like the IDEA of the character, but every time I've given one of her series a shot (including Gotham Sirens), I've been left wanting. So is the one Selina Kyle series I skipped entirely the one that was done for me?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

It's Catwoman!

"It's Catwoman!" from Catwoman vol.2 #1 (DC, 1993) by Jo Duffy, Jim Balent and Dick Giordano
Though unkindly referred to as the "top-heavy Catwoman", that's probably in hindsight after artist Jim Balent had moved on to bigger things (if you know what I mean). She's not THAT well-endowed here. Though I sampled the first few issues of Catwoman's first monthly, it didn't really grab me, though I had a friend who read it and ONLY it. She made no secret that it was all about the character's sex appeal (yes, she was gay), so Balent may have been on to something. This series would last 94 issues before Selina Kyle was apparently assassinated by Deathstroke (as if!), but she'd return the very next month in Detective Comics, and 6 months later, would have her own series again, though with a drastically different look. Check back in tomorrow for more!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Manning the Torpedoes

"Manning the Torpedoes" from Capt. Storm #14 (DC, 1966) by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick
PT Boat Commander, Captain Storm, spent 18 issues in the mid-60s fighting Ratzies and Japs on the open seas, and the fact he had an eyepatch AND a wooden leg made him the perfect character to lead the Losers a couple years later (also created by Kanigher). The book also featured reprints of inventory war stories from the previous decade. Capt. Storm is a bit of an oddity really, seeing as DC was big on anthology-type titles at the time, and they hadn't premiered a character in his own solo title in probably more than a decade, and he's not even a superhero or SF character! The last feature to do the same was The Sea Devils in 1960, and that was a team book.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Crisis on Earth-C-Minus!

"Crisis on Earth-C-Minus!" from Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #15 (DC, 1983) by Scott Shaw! and E. Nelson Bridwell
A series I picked up only occasionally, but that I like a lot more now than I did as a "too cool for funny animals" teenager, Captain Carrot was filled to the brim with puns, fun art and silly concepts. The most mind-boggling thing, which I found out in the letters' page probably is that Pig-Iron's secret identity if Peter Porkchops, who had his own funny animals series in the 50s! It's all connected, kids, and every piece matters.