DC Comics

Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Part Eighteen — Superheroes

80 Years Episode 18 Website LogoTHIS IS IT! THE BIG FINALE! And oh what a good one we’ve got for you! I’m joined by The Irredeemable Shag to talk about a book that not only showcases a plethora of DC superheroes, but characters from just about every DC genre I’ve covered. It’s Showcase #100, a 36-page spectaculary by Paul Kupperberg, Paul Levitz, and Joe Staton!

We cover the issue, give our critique, and then wrap up by having a quick talk about new comics and finding your joy. So check it out as we take this miniseries home.

Thanks goes out to everyone who co-hosted on the show and everyone who listened and wrote in. It’s been a lot of fun. Let’s do it again sometime!

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Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Episode 17 — Westerns

80 Years Episode 17 Website LogoMy look at the history of DC Comics through its many genres reaches its penultimate episode with the last non-superhero genre but the very first it published (literally), which is Westerns. While giving an overview of the many cowboys and frontiersmen that DC published since 1935, I take a look at New Fun Comics #1, which featured a story starring cowboy Jack Woods on its cover before heading over to a 1950s Nighthawk story and then Jonah Hex #48.

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Comics Prehistory: Superman #410

Superman 410As I make my way through these very early days of buying comics, I see more and more how my purchases were influenced by other media.  The two issues of Transformers that I just looked at are prime examples.  Superheroes are another, as much of my early knowledge of the spandex set came from seeing them on television shows such as Super-Friends or Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  Another source was, occasionally, my dad, who liked Superman and was a fan of the Christopher Reeve films (at least Superman and Superman II).  That, of course, led to my purchasing all four issues of Superman: The Secret Years, and it led to my buying Superman #410.

This was another trip to Amazing Comics, sometime around my birthday in 1985 because while this issue came out that May, I remember seeing this and Superman #411 on the shelves at the same time, so it must have been right before Bob took the comic off of the main shelves and put it on the spinner rack near the door, which is what he did for all of “last month’s comics.”  It was a practice that he held onto for years and while I do have fond memories of comic book spinner racks and would love to own one someday, they do have an odd associate in my mind with comic book leftovers.

Okay, tangent over–or at least point of tangent, which is that my dad took me to the local comic store and said that he thought the cover to Superman #410 looked cool, so I decided to buy it.  Drawn by Klaus Janson, who at that point was known for his work with Frank Miller, the cover is certainly a dramatic one–Clark Kent is walking away from a screen where Superman is saying “I categorically deny the story Clark Kent wrote about in the Daily Planet–it is nothing but a pack of lies!”  If I may criticize it briefly, I will say that Superman does have a bit of a fat face and Clark’s suit looks two sizes too big, but the drama of Superman’s pronouncement and then the cover of the paper saying “CLARK KENT FIRED” was enough to pull me in and still makes me want to read the issue.

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Superman saves a satellite.  Or does he?

What’s inside is the first of a really great three-part story arc that is one of those excellent late Bronze Age/pre-Crisis Superman stories.  We open with Superman saving a nuclear-powered satellite from falling to earth and blowing up, and then cut to Clark writing about it for the paper.  But the thing is, that satellite resuce never actually happened and once that is discovered, Superman finds himself being forced to deny the story, which gets Clark fired.  Superman, of course, is confused because he knows what he saw and knows what he did, yet when he flies to the place where the satellite fell from orbit, it’s still there.

Is he going nuts?  No.  This is all the machinations of Lex Luthor, who is messing with Superman’s mind from the confines of his lair, and he will just copntinue to do so until the end of issue #413, where he gets away because Brainiac recruits him to join a team of villains in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 (Superman #413, by the way, is an issue I bought years later because it was an unofficial Crisis crossover).

It is, essentially, everything I wanted a Superman story to be when I was a kid, and exactly what i expect out of this time in the Man of Steel’s career.  Lex has an underground lair with henchmen and is planning supervillainy?  Check.  There’s romantic subplots with Lana and Lois?  Check.  Clark is secondary to Superman?  Check.  Granted, I would come to really love the FCTC-era Superman and I do consider that version to be my favorite iteration of the characters, but the “Oh, this would only happen on pre-Crisis Earth-1” feel of this particular issue is part of its charm.  Plus, it’s just a great setup and doesn’t feel like Cary Bates or Julius Schwartz were burning off stories prior to Alan Moore and then John Byrne.

Even the Curt Swan artwork, which I will admit I am hot and cold on at times, works well here.  Swan is inked by Al Williamson, whom I am most familiar with from Star Wars comics of the era, and his links, though pretty loose at times(although this may be due to the reproduction on the digital comic, which makes some of these old newsprint comics look like they are on baxter paper and it doesn’t always work), give Swan’s artwork more grace and fluidity than I’m used to seeing.  Then again, I’m not the most accurate judge of Swan’s art, considering I don’t have a lot of issues he actually drew.

But honestly, this is one of thosecomics that makes me with I had started collecting earlier than 1987, and that i had been experiencing the ed of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Modern Age as it happened.  This was still a time when a little kid could pick up books and follow them even if he had little to no sense of continuity.  Although even a sense of continuity could not have helped my next book.

Next up:  Secret Wars II #6

Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Episode 16 — War

80 Years Episode 16 Website LogoWith three episodes to go in the series, I’m joined by Luke Jaconetti from Earth Destruction Directive (among other podcasts) to talk about DC’s long history of war comics.  Over the course of our conversation, we take a look at a classic tale starring Sgt. Rock and Easy Company as well as the Creature Commandos and The War That Time Forgot in Weird War Tales #100.

Here’s where to listen:

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Comics Prehistory: The Brave and the Bold #182

Scan0001I suppose it’s kind of funny to say that comic #1 in your collection (read: the first comic you purchased and still have) is only #1 on a technicality.  I own a copy of The Brave and the Bold #182 and have owned this comic since 1981; however, I honestly do not remember buying it.

My hometown’s local comic shop, Amazing Comics, opened in 1984 and the first comic book I ever bought there was an issue of Superman: The Secret Years.  But a few years later, probably around 1988 or 1989, my parents were cleaning out the attic and my friend Tom and I were helping them clean off some old stuff that they were going to give to a local church.  Most of these items were pretty typical–clothes and old toys, for instance.  In fact, several of the old toys were Fisher-Price Little People sets that nowadays would fetch about $40-$50 on eBay if my parents had the foresight to put those back in the attic.

Anyway, among those old toys was an American Tourister luggage set that my parents probably had owned since they were married in 1971, a pea-green hard-cased set that was actually pretty cumbersome to store and had been replaced with the type of suitcases that can be placed inside one another.  Tom and I were asked to open each of them up, dust them, vacuum them, and leave them on the back deck to air out before we put them in the car.  We did so, taking a break from actually playing with the Little People (because even though we were 11 or 12, it was toys we hadn’t seen and that’s what you do whenever you see toys), and when I opened up what used to be the toiletries and cosmetics suitcase, which is what I used to pack when I was very little and would spend nights at my grandmother’s, I found The Brave and the Bold #182.

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In the splash page, Batman gets a frightening surprise and Jim Aparo gives us some great cape.

It was obviously my comic book and I had obviously brought it with me when staying at my grandmother’s one night, but I cannot say when I actually bought it.  The cover date was January 1982 and the publication date, according to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, was October 22, 1981, so the comic predated the opening of the comic book store and that meant that my father probably bought it for me when he took me to Greaves Stationary on Main Street because he was buying cigarettes and while he chatted up the people behind the counter, I perused the comics and picked this one out.  The fact that I hadn’t lost it–I remember owning at least one issue of The New Adventures of Superboy as well as one or two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man but what issues they were and when I got them is lost to time–is only by the grace of my forgetting it in a suitcase.

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Robin reminds Batman that he’s all grown up.

The Brave and the Bold, most comics fans will remember, started as an adventure anthology book and then became a superhero team-up book, eventually evolving into a Batman team-up book that ended with issue #200 and was “replaced” by Batman and the Outsiders.  The team-up in this issue is with “Robin, The Ex-Boy Wonder” and is called “Interlude on Earth-Two.”  Written by Alan Brennert with art by Jim Aparo, the story begins on Earth-2 with the adult Dick Grayson, aka Robin, teaming up with Starman Ted Kord to figure out how Hugo Strange, a man long thought to be dead, is creating crazy storms around Gotham City.  Meanwhile, back on Earth-1, Batman finds himself in a graveyard in a similar storm and after dodging a lighting strike sees is own grave.  Only it’s not his own grave; it’s the grave of the Batman of Earth-2, who had died a few years earlier in an issue of Adventure Comics.

Batman, after scaring a random couple who think they’re seeing a ghost, heads to the headquarters of  the JSA where he’s accosted by Robin, who thinks he’s breaking in before he realizes who he’s looking at.  The two recap who Hugo Strange is and then find themselves being attacked by relics from the Batcave:  Catwoman’s Pantherjet, and an old Batmobile, for instance.  Someone else joins their team as the old Batmobile attacks them and that is Kathy Kane, aka Batwoman, who Bruce remembers died years ago on his earth but is semi-retired on Earth-2.

Realizing that the artifacts that are attacking them are real, the Bat-team deduces that the only possible place that Hugo Strange could be attacking them from is the Batcave and they head there, which is where they have to fight the T-Rex that’s so famous as well as a Batman android.  Eventually an old and decrepit Hugo Strange shows himself, holding Starman’s cosmic rod (it had disappeared at the beginning of the issue), which he’d been using to control everything he’d been throwing at the heroes.   He tells Batman, Robin, and Batwoman how he had survived the fall that everyone thought had killed him back in Detective Comics #46 (and thanks to The Original Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Vol 1 for that info) and then Batman attacks him, telling Strange that it’s not that he wants to destroy Gotham, it’s that he wants to die.  Batman tells him that he doesn’t have the guts to kill himself and eventually Strange admits it and uses the cosmic rod to turn himself to ash.  The story ends with Starman, who is nursing a broken arm, using the cosmic rod to send Batman back to his earth.

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Hugo Strange sends a Batman robot after our heroes and Robin has to “kill” his mentor.

By the way, there’s a Nemesis story in this comic but: a) I never read that as a kid, and b) I covered it back on episode 3 of 80 Years of DC Comics: Action-Adventure, so you can learn all about it there.

Alan Brennert is one of Rob Kelly’s favorite comic book writers and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that he wrote three of my all-time favorite Batman stories, including this one.  I’ve heard this covered on a couple of podcasts before and the two things that always come up are that the version of the Earth-2 Robin costume with the yellow pants and the green mask that covers most of his face are not everyone’s favorite and that through most of the story, Robin is resentful that the Earth-1 Batman is there and acts like kind of a prick.

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At the end of the story, Hugo Strange meets his end. Batman is kind of responsible, but we’re going to gloss over that.

When I was a kid reading this story, Robin’s resentment didn’t necessarily register with me and re-reading it now, I actually like the resentment.  Batman of Earth-2 died in Adventure Comics #462, which only came out three years prior to this, so in comic book time it’s very possible that not much time had passed between the death of the Earth-2 Batman and this particular adventure, although there were two JLA/JSA crossovers between now and then, so this is not the first time that the Dick Grayson of Earth-2 is encountering the Bruce Wayne of Earth-1.  However, while I don’t know if I’m being entirely accurate, this is probably the first time in a long time that the Robin of Earth-2 has been part of a Batman and Robin team.  Furthermore, Batman does boss him around quite a bit like a junior partner, and it actually is a nice bit of foretelling of how the Dynamic Duo of Earth-1 will have their tension boil over in the pages of The New Teen Titans and Batman of the Outsiders just prior to Dick becoming Nightwing.  Plus, I’ve always liked this version of the Earth-2 Robin’s costume.  I can’t explain why, because it would never really work if it were used in a movie or anything.  Maybe it’s the way it’s drawn by Jim Aparo because his artwork is amazing throughout the story and a reminder of why for years his Batman was “my” Batman.

As for the story, I love it because Brennert’s writing is really tight and he makes several callbacks to storylines way in the past (as evidenced by my having to use a comic book encyclopedia for reference) but doesn’t overwhelm things with contrivance or continuity.  In fact, he gives what could be a very heavy story about dealing with one’s grief, or having to unexpectedly confront feelings that you thought you’d worked through.  Plus, he plays the angle of the old, decrepit villain trying for one last victory very well, even if Batman kind of goads Hugo Strange into offing himself (it’s kind of “suicide by cop” if you break it down.

I would spend much of the early part of my comic collecting career loving alternate earths stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths. and I think this comic book is responsible.  I’m also happy at how well it holds up, especially when I’m pretty sure that a number of comics I’ll be reviewing for this series won’t.

Coming Next Month:  The Marvel Comics adaptation of Return of the Jedi

 

Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Part 13 — Fantasy

80 Years Episode 13 Website LogoMy look at 80 Years of DC Comics continues with a review of the fantasy genre of comics, one that spans much of the company’s publishing history. I start off in the 1950s with a classic Kanigher-Kubert Viking Prince tale from Brave and the Bold #3 and then fast-foward to the 1980s for the 16-page Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld preview story “Duel in Dark Magic,” which appeared in Legion of Superheroes #296. Finally, I tackle one of Neil Gaiman’s classic Sandman comics, where he gets some help from Charles Vess on art and William Shakespeare himself in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from Sandman #19. Plus … listener emails!

Here’s where to listen:

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Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Episode 12 — Horror

80 Years Episode 12 Website LogoJust in time for Halloween, it’s a look at DC’s horror offerings! I take a look at some classic 1970s horror with stories from Ghosts and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (a story by none other than Jack “King” Kirby himself) and after a very quick look at an issue of John Constantine: Hellblazer, finish up with the first story in American Vampire #1.

Here’s where to listen:

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Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Episode 11 — Science-Fiction

80 Years Episode 11 Website LogoIf there’s one genre that DC is known for as much as its superheroes, it’s science fiction. A staple of the company since it’s very early days, it has spawned thousands of stories, and in this episode I take a look at 80 years of DC Comics’ science fiction. What’s covered, you ask? Don Drake on the Planet Soro, Tommy Tomorrow in “Columbus of Space,” Adam Strange in “War on Earth and Rann,” a story called “Killing Time” from Mystery in Space, Hex #11, and the Warren Ellis/Colleen Doran graphic novel Orbiter. Plus, interludes from Real Fact Comics that show us all what a wonderful future the Golden Age had in store for us!

Here’s where to listen:

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In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 58

IC 58 Website CoverOur three-part chopper pilot and donut dolly romance story comes to an end as does Doug Murray’s run as the writer of The ‘Nam with issue #51, “Stone Age,” which has art by Herb Trimpel.

Plus, in a Halloween-themed extra feature, I take a look at “A Spectre Stalks Saigon” from an issue of DC Comics’ Ghosts from the 1970s, which includes some historical context of its own.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

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Pop Culture Affidavit Presents: 80 Years of DC Comics Episode 10: Star Trek

80 Years Episode 10  Website LogoIt’s time to beam aboard and join me as I take a brief look at one of DC’s most successful licensed properties comics: Star Trek. In this episode, I take a quick look at Star Trek (1st series) #33, an issue billed as a “Twentieth Anniversary Special” that has the Excelsior as captained by James T. Kirk and his former Enterprise crew meet up with the crew from … the Enterprise?!

Here’s where to listen:

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