Archive for February, 2019

Posted Thursday, February 28th, 2019 by Barry

DC Universe Christmas TPB (2000)

DC opened the new millennium with a gift-wrapped Christmas trade in both cover and manner. Readers traverse holidays from the Golden to Modern Age of comic books in 160 pages.

As diverse as the stories, the characters chosen for the Tanenbaum tome are even more so. From the old west with Bat Lash to World War I Enemy Ace to wayward West waif Impulse back from the future.

Story wise are Frank Miller’s first take on the Dark Knight, “Santa Claus – Dead or Alive!”

Flash stars in the first of two “Present Tense” stories.

“The Story of the Fir Balsam” is a Golden Age story from Sensation (Mystery) Comics (1941) issue 14 involving Nazi spies.

Superman shines in “The Gift.”

One holiday tale that always pops up is “A Swingin’ Christmas Carol” featuring The Teen Titans. The original Teen Titans. Complete with hip and mod slang for the times. Those times were the 1960s; 1966 to be exact.

Darkseid appears in the second “Present Tense” story, guest starring Santa.

Captain Marvel Adventures (1941) issue 69 is been reprinted featuring “Billy Batson’s Xmas!”

“Alone for the Holidays” proves Robin will always have family.

DC Universe Christmas TPB (2000)

DC Universe Christmas TPB (2000)

The Legion of Super Heroes star in “Star Light, Star Bright…Farthest Star I see Tonight!”

“The Present” teams Green Lantern and Green Arrow again.

“Night Prowler!” is from House of Mystery (1951) 191.

“The Harley and the Ivy” is a lush retelling from The Batman Adventures Holiday Special.

Sandman and Sandy take readers back to the Golden Age of comic books again with “Santa Fronts for the Mob.” The story originally appeared in Adventure Comics (1938) issue 32.

“An Eye for Detail” showcases old west dandy Bat Lash.

Enemy Ace takes a break from the hell of war in “Silent Night.”

Impulse plays Santa’s helper in “No, Bart, This is No Santa Claus.”

Finally, Superman closes out the book with what could possibly be DC’s first super-powered driven Christmas story in “Superman’s Christmas Adventure” from 1940.

Posted Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 by Barry

Batman Noel (2011)

Often listed in the top-10 best Batman stories, Noel is a lushly illustrated Christmas Carol.

Batman Noel (2011)

Batman Noel (2011)

Lee Bermejo is a true artist. In every sense of the word. From his staccato narration to the loving brushstrokes that create a yester-world not glimpsed for two centuries. A work Charles Dickens would enjoy himself.

Batman is the Scrooge. Bob is one of the Joker’s henchmen. His son is Tiny Tim and the Joker is, well, the Joker. Catwoman is the Ghost of Christmas Past and Superman the Ghost of Christmas Present. Jacob Marley is represented by a generic Robin.

Fans of the Batman: Arkham Origins video game were offered the Noel Bat-suit as one of the skins available for play.

Dickens’ original novella was first published in 1843 in a London scrutinizing its own traditions. So popular was the story when it was released Dec. 19, it sold out by Christmas Eve. To this day, A Christmas Carol has never been out of print.

Like Dikens’ work, Bermejo has crafted a perennial tradition with this elseworld’s work.

Posted Saturday, February 23rd, 2019 by Barry

Vintage Superman Ad

Vintage Superman AdHaving conquered print and radio, the Man of Steel turned his attention to a new medium.

The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves, aired from 1952-58, prompting a plethora of merchandise. Even more than what came before. Madison Avenue was finding television was proving to be a very profitable medium.

National Periodicals allowed the Superman likeness and logo to be plastered on almost everything. Here is a comic book page from the 1950s advertising a gaggle of gifts any red-blooded youngster could want. Included are: a Superman watch, Superman Official Magic Kit, Superman Muscle Building set, Superman lunch box and a couple other items I can’t identify.

An odd collection of items especially the magic kit considering that’s one thing Superman is powerless against.

Posted Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 by Barry

Flash (1987) 87

Flash (1987) 87

Flash (1987) 87

Wally West earned the red union suit he sped through the post-crisis DCU wearing.

He has been part of the Speed Force since Flash (1959) 110. Originally a guest in his uncle-by-marriage’s book, Wally became a back-up feature. Later he would be one of the original Teen Titans.

When Silver Age-mentor Flash, Barry Allen, died (not really) in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally assumed the Scarlet Speedster’s mantle. By issue 87 Mark Waid was at the book’s helm. Under his guidance Wally sped through two holiday stories; the first in issue 73.

With issue 87 Wally is attempting to spend Christmas Eve with loved ones. Silver-Age holdover Abra Kadabra is the foil in Flash’s plans.

Issue 87 is a good example of how to continue an ongoing story arc while celebrating Christmas.

Posted Monday, February 18th, 2019 by Barry

Scooby-Doo (2010) 66

Scooby-Doo and gang encounter a foursome of presidential ghosts in this, a true President’s Day Special. While the cover boasts a bold proclamation, the story itself – released Feb. 10, 2016 – never mentions the federal holiday.

The lead, and only original story, “All the President’s Ghosts” showcases the spirits of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and George Washington. Those meddling kids and their dog solve the mystery in 10 pages leaving ample room for two more features.

Scooby-Doo (2010) 66

Scooby-Doo (2010) 66

The remainder of the book features already printed material. Reprinted from Scooby-Doo (1997) issue 131 is “Velma’s Monsters of the World.” Acheri, the Indian legend of a murdered little girl, is related. Shaggy dons a Santa suit owing to the color red is the only protection from her wrath.

“You Want Frights With That?” is pulled from Scooby-Doo (1997) issue 111.

Scooby-Doo was first affiliated with President’s Day Feb. 19, 2001, when Cartoon Network aired an eight-hour marathon of Scooby-Doo, Where are You! from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

President’s Day, originally cited as Washington’s Birthday, is celebrated the third Monday of February. It is the occasion to honor the incumbent president and all persons who have served as president, not just our founding father.

The food most traditionally associated with the day is cheery pie, owing to Washington’s legendary act of chopping a cherry tree down and throwing himself under the bus when confronted.

Posted Saturday, February 16th, 2019 by Barry

Archie Giant Series Magazine (1954) 144

Archie Giant Series Magazine (1954) 144

Archie Giant Series Magazine (1954) 144

Archie and the gang from Riverdale celebrated Christmas 1966 with a traditional Archie’s Christmas Stocking. The book offered eight stories and included various pin ups.

First up is “Just Be Claus” featuring Reggie chucking snowballs at Moose.

Jughead proves two wheels are better than four – at times – in “Go Power.”

Li’l Jinx spells the Archie gang for two pages in “Early & Late.”

“The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.” is the centerpiece of the book. Told in two parts, the tale is an obvious homage to the then airing The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Li’l Jinx is back for her second and final appearance in “Fun in the Snow.”

“The Gift” proves to Reggie it is better to give than to receive.

Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Archie team up for “Handlebar Happiness.”

Reggie returns for the final story in “Gift Tift,” learning he can’t spoil a good gift.

Pin ups and one-page cards take up the remainder of the book.

Though given a seasonal solicitation, the series was part of the rotating title listed in the header. Christmas issues were offered in issues one through six, 10, 15, 20, 25, 31, 137, 144, 150, 158, 167, 179, 190, 203, 216, 228, 240, 452, 464, 476, 488, 500, 512, 524, 535, 546, 557, 567, 579, 592, 605, 617 and 630. To add to the confusion, numbering skipped issues 36 through 135 and 252 to 451. This was replaced in 1992 by Archie’s Holiday Fun Digest running 12 issues.

Posted Thursday, February 14th, 2019 by Barry

Scooby-Doo (1997) 117

Simply put issue 117 is Mystery Inc. meets Valentine’s Day.

“Kingdom by the Sea” is a romantic tale of unrequited love lost in the mists of time and the sea.

“Ravenous” is the first of two Poe-inspired stories, this one in verse. Shaggy is the protagonist as a feverous dream causes him to worry about his friends.

Scooby-Doo (1997) 117

Scooby-Doo (1997) 117

Finally, “The Tell-Tale Heartburn” puts a new twist on the 1843-short Gothic fiction tale. Unlike the original villain the new culprit does commit the crime for greed.

Over the previous 50 years – yes, Scooby and those meddling kids have been around that long – have experienced their share of romance. Mostly flirtations and, as with the lead story, unrequited (pun intended) puppy-love within the gang.

Since the franchise was revitalized in 1998, the various incarnations have offered tongue-in-cheek speculation as to the inter-group relationships. Freddy has proclaimed his love for Daphne over and over in both Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010-13) and even more unabashedly in DC’s most recent comic book take Scooby Apocalypse. Daphne has returned affections, only at different times, most notably in Mystery Incorporated.

Both have shown jealousy when the other has expressed interest in other persons.

Shaggy and Velma were on-again, off-again in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, much to Scooby’s dismay. Shaggy also found a kindred soul in the feature-length animated Scooby-Doo! And the Alien Invaders.

Scooby himself has been smitten throughout the years even having his head turned as early as episode nine of the original series “The Backstage Rage.”

No matter what love triangles – or geometric contortions – there’s no shortage of affection for Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids. Happy 50th and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Posted Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 by Barry

World’s Finest (1990) 1-3

Post-crisis DC was an exciting era. All the old was washed away in the stroke of the 12-issue maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Not much time would pass before creators began bringing back pre-crisis pieces. Or, pulling back the facade to reveal some cracks already forming. Or, simply harken back with an else-worlds type story. The World’s Finest mini under the microscope is more of a return to the Eisenhower era. Batman and Superman were still friends – of sorts. Not the embattled super willpowers gracing the silver screen.

The Joker is as maniacal as ever, with enough murderous undercurrent to make readers nervous. Lex Luthor sports double chins, more comfortable in a three-piece suit rather than a white lab coat.

The four principle players intermingle in an awkward ballet told in three parts. From beginning to conclusion the story unfolds as slickly as the paper it was printed on.

Luthor and Joker trade stomping grounds, as do Batman and Superman in pursuit of their arch nemeses’. Christmas is a storm front that spills into New Year’s as the story reaches a false crescendo in issue two.

Issue three ties up the loose threads with a bit of pranking done on and by various participants.

Dave Gibbons brought back a sliver of the Silver Age with his script while Steve Rude was anything but with his renderings. This is a story that calls to me on a regular basis. Usually I heed.

Posted Saturday, February 9th, 2019 by Barry

Young Monsters in Love

As a long-time horror fan and one who still appreciates the Universal fore-fathers, Young Monsters in Love promised a tantalizing twist to the 2018 Valentine’s Day.

Kelley Jones’ depiction of Swamp Thing planting a big, wet one on the Frankenstein monster’s bride while the cobbled creation looks on set the mood.

This 80-page anthology is a mixed bag. Ten stories ranging from tale tellers James Robinson to Paul Dini with art by the aforementioned Mr. Jones, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Stephanie Hans, Javier Fernandez, Mirko Colak, Nic Klein, Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie, Razer Irving, John McCrea and Guillem March.

Young Monsters in Love

Young Monsters in Love

Jones is the perfect choice to render the opening Man-Bat story, worthy of a read. Skip the Frankenstein monster’s tale for Solomon Grundy’s as Superman passes along some words of wisdom to Superboy.

Too bad Raven’s – of Teen Titans – story isn’t more like Edgar Poe’s.

Dini does Deadman – gotta love alliteration – proud keeping Boston Brand from spinning in his grave.

Swamp Thing is represented by Russell and Frazer with a flowery tale. Pun intended.

The book is rounded out with some mediocre stories. Maybe the most memorable is the Mallah and Brain taboo romance.

The torrid torch the two carry deals with their dissimilar species, but same sex attraction.

Like the allure of any solicitation, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t take my opinion, try it for yourself.

Posted Thursday, February 7th, 2019 by Barry

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

DC beat Marvel to the holiday punch with the first of the Christmas specials beginning in 1974.

The Marvel Treasury Special was released Nov. 26 of that year on the heels of DC’s Limited Collector’s Edition (C-34) that hit newsstands Nov. 7.

Whereas DC had decades of material to draw from, Marvel had a little over 10-years worth of stories to plumb.

Naturally “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!” led the list.

It was a reprint from Marvel Team-Up issue one starring Spider-Man and the Human Torch battling Sandman. A sappy story that brought out the season in both heroes who allowed Sandman to visit his mother on Christmas Eve.  The good deed does not go unpunished leading both heroes to a continuation of the story in issue two.

The remainder of the book is what the title promised:  a grab-bag.

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

In “Mortal Combat with…Sub-Mariner” is reprinted from Daredevil issue seven. Namor makes land fall to seek out Matt Murdock to serve as his lawyer. The sea prince wishes to sue the surface world for its exploitation of the other three quarters of the Earth.  Murdock’s alter ego is called upon when he refuses to take the case.

Black Widow stars in the next story taken from Amazing Adventures (1970) issue five. An unremarkable story. Maybe the most noteworthy of the book is Neal Adam’s assumption of penciling chores on the Inhuman’s story.

Fantastic Four issues 25 and 26, a two-part tale, finish out the book. The Thing and Hulk go toe-to-toe in issue 25 with the Avengers guest starring in the second part.

Far from the holiday specials to come in the 1990s, but at least setting a precedence for the company.