Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

First Published: December 2006

Contents: Man-Thing story from Savage Tales #1 (May 1971); Man-Thing stories from Astonishing Tales #12 (June 1972) and #13 (August 1972); Man-Thing stories from (Adventure into) Fear #10 (October 1972) to #19 (December 1973); Man-Thing #1 (January 1974) to #14 (February 1975); Giant-Size Man-Thing #1 (August 1974) and #2 (November 1974); and Man-Thing stories from Monsters Unleashed #5 (April 1974), #8 (October 1974), and #9 (December 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Mike Ploog, Tony Isabella, Gray Morrow, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Rich Buckler, Val Mayerik, and others

Key First Appearances: Ted Sallis/Man-Thing, Ellen Brandt, Jennifer Kale, Andy Kale, Thog, Joshua Kale, Dakimh the Enchanter, Howard the Duck, F.A. Schist, Wundar, Richard Rory, Ruth Hart, Foolkiller

Story Continues In: Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2

Overview:  Ted Sallis is a research scientist trying to re-discover the Super Soldier formula, the long lost serum which led to the creation of Captain America in the 1940s. Working in a remote lab in the Florida Everglades, Sallis believes he has recreated the formula. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other people and governments that want that formula, some of whom would kill to get their hands on it. Confronted by spies, Sallis flees into the murk, and injects the formula into himself prior to crashing his car into the swamp. Between the formula and the swamp, Sallis’ body is transformed into what could best be described as a Man-Thing — it has the shape of a human, but made out of swamp material.

The Man-Thing has vague memories of who he once was, but nothing coherent. He reacts to the emotions of people around him, in particular fear. We quickly find out that whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch. He becomes the protector of the swamp, which also happens to contain a Nexus of All Realities, which allow travel between Earth and other dimensions. Man-Thing becomes the protector of the swamp and the Nexus, and encounters many Marvel characters passing through the Florida Everglades.

The bulk of this book is written by Steve Gerber early in his career, and the supporting characters introduced here would make numerous future appearances in later Marvel books written by Gerber. And in a book like Man-Thing, where the title character does not speak, a writer needs a good supporting cast to help advance the story. Howard the Duck is the most famous introduction made by Gerber, coming from Duckworld through the Nexus of All Realities. He would move into his own self-titled book of the 1970s. Richard Rory is a down-on-his-luck guy that can never seem to get the girl. Rory would travel with Gerber to The Defenders, before moving on to the various She-Hulk titles of the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, Jennifer Kale is a teenage girl with an affinity to magic, and makes appearances every few years in a variety of titles, from Howard the Duck to Ghost Rider.

What makes this Essential?: The release of Savage Tales #1 was Marvel’s first attempt to introduce a horror/monster book into the Marvel Universe proper. (Other appearances in that first issue of Savage Tales included Conan and Ka-Zar.) Debuting around the same time as DC’s Swamp Thing (see The First Thing below), Man-Thing remained a steady feature throughout the 1970s and 1980s. For that reason, sure these early stories could be considered as Essential. I do find that the best artwork in this volume came from the various magazines, and I will once again state my plea that Marvel should find someway to reprint the magazines in one collection. 

The First Thing: Man-Thing was originally conceived by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas; Thomas fleshed out the character’s story, then handed the story to Gerry Conway to plot. As a result, Thomas and Conway, along with artist Gray Morrow, are credited for the creation of Man-Thing in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971). A second story was done by Len Wein, but Savage Tales was cancelled after just the one issue. It was a year before the story saw print, incorporated into the Ka-Zar story in Astonishing Tales #12 (June 1972). Meanwhile, down the street at the DC Comics offices, the first Swamp Thing story appeared in House of Secrets #92 (July 1971). This Swamp Thing (originally Alex Olsen) took place in the early 1900s. The next Swamp Thing appeared in Swamp Thing #1 (October-November 1972), this time featuring Alec Holland becoming the Swamp Thing. Both of the Swamp Thing stories were written by Len Wein. While there are a lot of similarities in the origins between Man-Thing and Swamp Thing, Len Wein has stated in interviews that they are two distinct characters. The story paths for both characters have followed different paths, taking them further and further away from a very familiar origin story.

Footnotes: Parts of (Adventure into) Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1 are also reprinted in Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1.

This Essential does carry a Parental Advisory warning, but it is buried on the lower portion of the back cover. This is definitely not an all-ages book.

If you like this volume, try: looking into the life and career of Gray Morrow, the artistic co-creator of Man-Thing. Over the course of his long career, Morrow did work in nearly every genre for nearly every publisher at some point – Classics Illustrated, horror magazines and comics, newspaper strip, among others – but he was most closely associated with the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. Start your search with the retrospective Gray Morrow: Visionary, which was released in 2001 as his career was coming to an end.

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

First Published: December 2006

Contents: Captain America #127 (July 1970) to #133 (January 1971); Captain America and the Falcon #134 (February 1971) to #156 (December 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Gary Friedrich, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Leila Taylor, Boss Morgan, Jack Monroe/Bucky

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Captain America and the Falcon. This volume features an all-star list of comic greats, as Stan Lee and Gene Colan wrap up their long run on the book, and familiar Marvel Bullpen creators like Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., and Sal Buscema get their chance to take on star-spangled super-hero.

Our duo continue helping out Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, and S.H.I.E.L.D. with a variety of familiar foes, such as the Red Skull, Hydra, and the Grey Gargoyle. Heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers make cameo appearances, as New York City is the hub for all Marvel super-heroes.

Now, one of the struggles for our title character is to find something to occupy his time when he is not in costume. Sam Wilson works as a social worker in Harlem, and now has a steady girlfriend in Leila Taylor. But what can Steve Rogers do? Well, with good intentions, he joins the New York City Police Department. He works with Police Commissioner Feingold to set it up, but they agree to tell no one of Rogers’ other identity. Of course, this leads into all kinds of crazy excuses that Rogers must come up with to explain missing his shift, much to the annoyance of Rogers’ sergeant, Brian Muldoon (who bears a solid resemblance to Jack Kirby, one of Captain America’s co-creators).

The volume concludes with a face-off with the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950s. We find out that the government tried to introduce a new Captain America during the early days of the Cold War. William Burnside is an avid Captain America fan, and while researching his hero, he discovers the super soldier formula long thought lost. He undergoes plastic surgery to have his face shaped to look like Steve Rogers. Bringing in a young Jack Monroe that shares Burnside’s beliefs, the two teamed up as Captain America and Bucky. But their version of the super soldier formula causes psychotic breakdowns in the heroes, and the government is forced to put the two into suspended animation. Reanimated in the early 1970s, the 1950s Cap and Bucky come to blows with our Cap and Falcon. Our fearless heroes triumph, and the 1950s heroes are put back on ice. (In later years, Jack Monroe would return to Captain America’s side, adopting the Nomad costume identity in the 1980s. For more on Nomad, come back for Essential Captain America Vol. 4!)

What makes this Essential?: This volume really has me on the ropes. I don’t want to write a negative review about it, but I don’t know that I can write a positive review either. Given the incredible talents of the creators involved with the volume, one might expect the stories to be more epic in nature, or even more memorable. I don’t believe they were phoning it in during this era, but this is one of those books that felt like priority 1 was to just get a book out each month. This is a very good read for the Captain America fan, but I believe the casual Marvel Universe fan will find it disappointing.

Footnotes: Captain America Special #1 (1971) and #2 (1972) are reprint issues. collecting previously published stories from Tales of Suspense and Not Brand Echh. The covers for the two issues are in this volume.

Beginning with issue #134, the title of the comic changed to Captain America and the Falcon. This remained the title until issue #222, which can be found in Essential Captain America Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain America movies from 2011 and 2014. In all fairness, this may seem like a cheat. Maybe I am struggling to find another book to recommend based on the events of these comics. But at this point, if you are reading Volume 3, you probably have also read Volumes 1 and 2, which gives you 8 years worth of Captain America stories. So you understand who the character is and how he should be portrayed. So jump over to the movies. The 2011 Captain America: The First Avenger film portrays our hero’s origin, using the story from Captain America #255, which is viewed as the definitive Captain America origin, during the Roger Stern-John Byrne run in 1980 (see Essential Captain America Vol. 7). Jump ahead to the 2014 Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and we see Captain America working with S.H.I.E.L.D., which we have seen a lot in these Essentials. Look at the opening to Captain America #153, as Captain America comes home and finds Nick Fury sitting in the dark. That scene was later mimicked in the movie. Chris Evans visually personifies Captain America in the flesh, even more so than Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. The Captain America films have done an excellent job of aligning the movie character to that of the comic character, They are worth the re-watch to appreciate how faithful they were to the comics.

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Justice League of America #37 (August 1965) to #60 (February 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky

Key First Appearances: The Key, Royal Flush Gang (10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of Clubs), Amos Fortune, Shaggy Man

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 4

Overview: From their secret headquarters in Happy Harbor, we rejoin the Justice League of America in their third Showcase Presents volume. When the volume starts, the league stands strong at 10 members – the original seven plus Green Arrow, Atom, and Hawkman. Surprisingly, when this volume ends, the membership will still remain those 10 members. But more on that later, let’s get into the stories.

At the point, Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky had developed a set pattern for the title. There would be eight new issues each year, plus one reprint issue. And for two issues each year, the Justice League would team up with their friends in the Justice Society, which usually resulted in some crisis that involves the two teams working together. This volume gives us three JLA-JSA team-ups, so it’s well worth reading.

What makes this volume interesting to me is the new villains introduced here. The Key would become a long-time foe of the League in all of its incarnations, and his power and story gets updated over the years. My personal favorite foes, the Royal Flush Gang, show up led by Amos Fortune. Various iterations (or should I say, suits) will return from time to time to challenge the League, with or without Fortune.  Finally, Shaggy Man stumbles into the picture, and would make occasional appearances later on.

Now, going back to the membership. Surely being asked to join the Justice League would be highlight of any hero’s career. However, the League receives their first “No”, when an offer is extended, but rejected, by Metamorpho in issue #42. Metamorpho agrees to be an honorary member. In issue #51, Zatanna makes her first appearance in the pages of Justice League, as she finally tracks down her missing father (see Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 1). However, it would take the JLA another 110 issues before Zatanna is made a member.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really think this is a good starting point if you want to dive into the history of the Justice League. The storytelling and the artwork have leveled out, and you know what you will get from month to month. The lineup remains constant, but it does vary from issue to issue as not all 10 members show up for each case. And we see other characters make cameo appearances, which finally gives the reader a feeling that DC is developing a large shared universe of characters.

Footnotes: Justice League of America #39, #48, and #58 are 80-Page Giant reprint issues. collecting three previously published stories. The covers for these three issues are in this volume.

Justice League of America #42 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Metamorpho Vol. 1.

Justice League of America #60 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. This is an incredible story set in the days of DC’s Silver Age. One of the biggest issues I have with the comics from this era is that the characters very rarely crossed over with each other. We never saw Aquaman or the Sea Devils when Superman went to Atlantis to visit Lori Lemaris, The Green Lanterns were seemingly unaware of Hawkman and the other Thanagarians. The Blackhawks fought a lot of the same types of foes as the Challengers of the Unknown. Sure, we had some minor crossovers, such as the Batman & Superman pairing in World’s Finest or the creation of the Justice League. With the New Frontier project, Darwyn Cooke brought everything and everyone together into one large story arc set in the 1950s. Following the end of World War II, many of the world’s Golden Age heroes went into seclusion due to the paranoia brought on by the Cold War. But the challenges of the 1950s brought out a new generation of super-heroes ready to face the world. Cooke’s artwork showcases the optimism of the 1950s super-hero, while his writing gives us a modern day take on times past. This story has been collected in multiple formats – I would suggest getting the Absolute edition, just to see the artwork on a larger page. However you read this story, do it! You won’t be disappointed.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

First Published: November 2006

Contents: Ghost Rider #1 (September 1973) and #2 (October 1973); Marvel Spotlight #12 (October 1973) to #24 (October 1975); Son of Satan #1 (December 1975) to #8 (February 1977); Marvel Two-In-One #14 (March 1976); Marvel Team-Up #32 (April 1975), #80 (April 1979), and #81 (May 1979); Satana stories from Vampire Tales #2 (October 1973) and #3 (February 1974); Satana stories from Haunt Of Horror #2 (July 1974), #4 (November 1974), and #5 (January 1975); Marvel Premiere #27 (December 1975); and Marvel Preview #7 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gary Friedrich, Herb Trimpe, Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Chris Claremont, John Romita, Sr., Gene Colan, Esteban Maroto, and others

Key First Appearances: Daimon Hellstrom/Son of Satan, Satana, Dr. Katherine Reynolds

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Overview: Are you ready for something different? If so, then dive into this volume as we follow the adventures of the offspring of Satan.

First up is Daimon Hellstrom, a learned scholar who specializes in the occult. However, when the cases get dangerous, he changes into his Son of Satan persona. Armed with a trident and possessing the power of the Darksoul, the Son of Satan fights many of the lesser demons of Hell looking to gain favor with Daimon’s father. Daimon’s story ran through Marvel Spotlight before he graduated into his own short-lived title.

Also debuting at the same time is Daimon’s sister, Satana. The two siblings were separated as kids following their mother’s death, and raised completely different. Satana embraces her heritage more than her brother. Satana feeds on the souls of men, which she absorbs by kissing them. When she finishes, the man collapses dead and a butterfly is released. Satana’s story jumped around between various Marvel/Warren magazines, before it comes to an end in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. Is this the end of Satana? Time will tell….

What makes this Essential?: I’ve got mixed opinions on this book. Most Essentials follow a character through the run of their book, and will include any additional appearances in other titles. So while this is titled the Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1, it could better be named as Essential Son of Satan & Satana. But I don’t know if that volume would have sold. So, for following the adventures of these two characters, this is a serviceable volume if you are fans of the characters. I found the Satana stories more interesting, being a mix of illustrated tales and prose pieces. 

But personally, after seeing the Satana stories from Vampire Tales and Haunt of Horror, I would much rather see Essential Marvel Horror collect the entire run of those magazines in a volume. There are a lot of Marvel/Warren magazines that have not been reprinted, and the Essential line would be the perfect place to present them again. 

Footnotes: Ghost Rider #1 & #2, and Marvel Spotlight #12 were also reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #14 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #32 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Marvel Two-in-One #80 and #81 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the Rachel Rising series from Terry Moore. For me, the highlight of this entire volume is ‘The Kiss of Death’ story from Vampire Tales #3. Gerry Conway’s script is good, but the artwork by Esteban Maroto steals the show. This story is breathtaking, and worth the price of the Essential just to read this story. For those unfamiliar with his work, Maroto is a Spanish artist that did a lot of work for the various horror magazines of the 1970s. He helped design the metal bikini for Red Sonja with her debut. He also did an Amethyst mini-series for DC and an story in an X-Men: Unlimited issue for Marvel. Maroto’s female forms are exquisite, ranking up there for me with the likes of George Perez, Phil Jiminez, Adam Hughes, and Terry Moore. Since the early days of Moore’s Strangers in Paradise series, his female characters have jumped off the page, laughing and loving and living. In 2012, Moore launched his first horror series with Rachel Rising, about a young woman waking up one morning dead, but she remembers who killed her. Over the series, other friends die but remain alive; deals with the devil are made, and a mystery dating back hundreds of years is slowly revealed. This is some of Moore’s best work ever, and you are missing out if you’re not picking it up every six weeks. The early issues are collected in trade paperbacks to bring you up to speed with one of the best (and creepiest) books on the market today.

Essential Thor Vol. 3

Essential Thor Vol. 3

Essential Thor Vol. 3

First Published: October 2006

Contents: Thor #137 (February 1967) to #166 (July 1969)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Key First Appearances: Ulik, Orikal, Growing Man, the Enchanters, the Wrecker, Mangog, Athena

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 4

Overview: It’s time to go back to Norse Mythology 101, true believers, as we look at the third volume of the Essential Thor series. Get comfortable, because with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby telling these tales of Asgard, we are in for some incredible adventures. You will not want to put this book down

At the end of the last volume, Odin had decreed that Thor should stop his infatuation with nurse Jane Foster. A spell was cast to change Jane’s heart, and she quickly moved on to a new job and a new interest. Jane would be seen very sporadically throughout this volume and the upcoming volumes, but her story with Thor is not yet done.

Instead of Jane Foster, Odin “encourages” his son to turn his eyes upon Lady Sif, who happens to be the prettiest warrior in all of Asgard. Sif is ready to say “I do” but Thor’s heart is still heavy for the love he once had. This turn in direction is also used to start focusing more of the stories of Thor in Asgard proper, with the occasional visit to Earth.

A pair of important foes are introduced in this volume. The first is Ulik, the mightiest of the rock trolls. The trolls are always looking to expand their empire anywhere within the Nine Realms. Thankfully, Thor and his mighty hammer Mjolnir stand ready to push them back. Midway through this volume, Loki returns to confound his step-brother once more. Hiding out from his brother, a common thief known as the Wrecker breaks into Loki’s hotel room. Karnilla, the Norn Queen, casts a spell at Loki but it hit the Wrecker instead, granting him great strength and invulnerability. Definitely strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Thor.  (Years later, the Wrecker will share some of his powers with three other felons to create the Wrecking Crew.)

As the book progresses, we see Kirby’s influence on the book take control – larger panels, double-page spreads, and cosmic stories. Of course, that means another visit from Ego the Living Planet, who is at odds with Galactus, devourer of worlds. Doesn’t get much more cosmic than that, right?

What makes this Essential?: This is a must own Essential. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby hit their creative peak with the run of issues in this volume. While there are some story arcs taking place firmly on Earth (Circus of Crime, the Wrecker), we get more of Asgard and Thor’s place in the universe. Ego the Living Planet returns, and familiar faces from the pages of Fantastic Four come over for a visit, in Adam Warlock and Galactus. Kirby has moved away from the 9-panel pages to go with the larger 4-panel pages or even full page splashes, making the saga of our favorite Norse deity seem that much more grander. I say this should be a must own for the Kirby fans and/or Thor fans.

Footnotes: The Tales of Asgard stories ended in Thor #145. From issues #146 to #152, a new backup from Lee & Kirby featuring the Inhumans began, but those are not reprinted in this Essential. Finally, with Thor #153, Thor finally gets the entire issue for his continuing adventures.

If you like this volume, try:  the Thor, God of Thunder series that launched in late 2012 as part of the Marvel Now campaign. Jason Aaron helms this title, crafting incredible concepts for Thor. His approach to the majority of the stories is to tell them from three points of view from Thor’s timeline: the current Thor of today, Thor as a brash youth from a 1,000 years ago, and an elder Thor, King of Asgard. The main artist for the book is Esad Ribic, whose art reminds me of Bill Sienkiewicz, but the finished product has the grandeur of Kirby.  What I really appreciate about this title is that it has been left alone from all of the other events going on in the Marvel Universe. To date, you can read this title and not feel the need to pick up crossovers or additional miniseries. This title will be coming to an end with issue #25 later this fall, so catch this while you can, before Thor makes his (or her) next transformation. Thor, God of Thunder has been collected in hardcover and trade paperback collections and should be easy to track down.

Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 1

First Published: November 2007

Contents: Superman #123 (August 1958), #139 (August 1960), #140 (October 1960), and #144 (April 1961); Supergirl stories from Action Comics #252 (May 1959) to #282 (November 1961); Supergirl stories from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959), #46 (July 1960), and #51 (March 1961); Supergirl story from Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #14 (January 1960); Supergirl story from Superboy #80 (April 1960); and Supergirl story from Adventure Comics #278 (November 1960)

Key Creator Credits: Otto Binder, Jim Mooney, Al Pastino, Curt Swan, Jerry Siegel, and others

Key First Appearances: Supergirl/Kara/Linda Lee Danvers, Zor-El, Alura, Dick Wilson Malverne, Miss Hart, Streaky, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Invisible Kid, Jerro, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac-5, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Triplicate Girl, Fred Danvers, Edna Danvers

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 2

Overview: Introducing the Maid of Might, Supergirl! When Krypton exploded, one of its cities, Argo, shot off into space on a solid asteroid chunk. Years later, the asteroid was slowly transforming into Kryptonite, which would kill the Kryptonians. Following instructions shared by his late brother, Zor-El launches his daughter Kara in a rocket aimed for Earth. Arriving on Earth as a teenager sporting a costume matching her cousin’s uniform, Kara quickly starts to acquire the same powers that all Kryptonians receive under a yellow sun. Dubbed Supergirl, Superman hides Supergirl in the Midvale orphanage as his secret weapon, giving her time to learn about Earth and her new abilities.

Many of these stories feel like Superboy stories that were rewritten for Supergirl, such as dealing with Kryptonite meteors, uncovering dishonest circus carnies. stopping floods, or disabling runaway robots. Likewise, she also gets counterparts to match Superman’s friends – Dick Wilson is a boy in the orphanage that thinks Linda is Supergirl; Jerro becomes Supergirl’s beau in Atlantis; and Bizarro Supergirl shows up trying to help out, but does everything wrong.

Where Supergirl differs, and makes the biggest jump in her character story, is her encounters with the Legion of Super-Heroes. It takes a couple of visits before she can finally join the team, in Action Comics #276. At the end of this volume, Linda Lee is adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, moving her out of the orphanage and creating a new set of stories to be told in Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 2.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Well, my opinion of the majority of the DC Silver Age should be pretty clear by now. That said, I like these stories. These read better than the various Superman, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane stories of the same era. I also find these more interesting than the Wonder Woman stories of the time. This is a good introduction to a female character, albeit one created as a female duplicate of a popular male character. It will take some time before Supergirl can move out of the large shadow cast by her cousin. This is one volume I look forward to sharing with my daughter soon!

Footnotes: Superman #123 and the Supergirl story from Action Comics #252 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Vol. 1.

The “Mighty Maid” story from Action Comics #260; the “Old Man of Metropolis” story from Action Comics #270; the “Untold Story of Red Kryptonite” story from Superman #139; Superman #140; and the “Orphans of Space!” story from Superman #144 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Vol. 2.

The “War Between Supergirl and the Superman Emergency Squad!” story from Action Comics #276 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Vol. 3.

The “Three Super-Heroes” story from Action Comics #267 and the “Supergirl’s Three Super Girl-Friends!” from Action Comics #276 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1.

The “Lois Lane’s Secret Romance!” story from Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #14 and the “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl’s Pal!” story from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #40 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 3.

The “Jimmy Olsen, Orphan” story from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #46 and the “Girl with Green Hair!” story from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #51 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: tracking down Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade miniseries from 2009. This has been collected as a trade paperback, but it might be easier to find these six comics in a back issue bin. Written by Landry Walker with art by Eric Jones, this is a fun look at the origins of Supergirl, told for the Johnny DC audience. Once again, Kara travels to Earth, where she discovers that her cousin is Superman, protector of the planet. Kara is enrolled in middle school, so she can learn about her new home. She becomes best friends with Lena Thorul, who is secretly the sister of Lex Luthor. Of course, if you wear a big red S on your chest, you should also expect visits from Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk, only in Kara’s case she still has to contend with homework and middle school drama. This is a fun read for all ages and genders!

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

First Published: September 2006

Contents: Incredible Hulk #143 (September 1971) to #170 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Steve Englehart, Herb Trimpe, Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers, Gerry Conway, and others

Key First Appearances: Dr. Peter Corbeau, Hulkbusters, Shaper of Worlds, Wendigo, Gremlin, Zzzax, Bi-Beast

Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 5

Overview: OK, this is the fourth volume in the Essential Hulk line. Do you still need a proper introduction? We all know by heart how Dr. Bruce Banner was exposed to gamma radiation, and as a result becomes a green monster known as the Hulk when he gets angry. I think we can skip the introduction and just get into the story. 

The Hulk is still on the run from the Army. General Ross reveals a new plan to battle our hero with the introduction of the Hulkbusters. Initially designed as aircraft that could attach the Hulk from a distance, the Hulkbusters would morph over time into a full military assault unit with a weapons cabinet that would make the Punisher giddy with excitement.

At one point, the Hulk is finally captured, and is brought to trial for his numerous crimes against humanity. Of course, the Hulk keeps attorney Matt Murdock on retainer, so he is represented in court by the man without fear. The case does not go the Hulk’s way, and Mr. Fantastic finds a way to help the Hulk get out of the courts, even if he remains on the run.

During this era (1972-73), the X-Men title was in reprint mode, so those characters were able to make appearances in other books. At one point, the Hulk encounters Havok and Polaris, as the Hulk is confused by the green hair of Lorna Dane and mistakes her for Jarella. Later on, the Hulk crosses paths with the Beast and Mimic. Sadly, one of those three does not walk away from the fight. Given that we still have three more Essential Hulk volumes to cover, and this is well before the Beast has joined the Avengers, the Defenders, and X-Factor, I think you can figure out the ending of that story.

As if his life is not complicated enough, Bruce and the Hulk have conflicting issues with their girlfriends. Hulk wants to return to Jarella’s side in the sub-atomic world, while Bruce struggles to find a way to stay with Betty Ross. Unfortunately, during one of his periods where Bruce and the Hulk were off-Earth, Betty accepted a proposal and married Glenn Talbot. Later on after the Hulk’s return, the arch-fiend MODOK transforms Betty into the Harpy, the half-bird/half-woman character from Greek mythology. The last thing the Hulk needs is his best girl harping on him for all of his faults, whether it’s his anger control issues or his two-timing with Jarella.

What makes this Essential?: I’m not for sure what to think of this volume. The stories are interesting, but I am not a fan of Herb Trimpe’s art during this era. His Hulk looks more brutish, but does not appear to be much larger than a normal man. Personally, I prefer my Hulk to be overwhelming in size and anger, and I do not get that Hulk in this volume. The new characters introduced in this volume stick around or make a bigger impact with other characters, such as Wendigo with Wolverine and Alpha Flight. This is a volume for a die-hard Hulk fan. As a casual Marvel fan, I don’t think this is essential to own.

Footnotes: The back-up story from Incredible Hulk #147 is also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 2.

Incredible Hulk #161 is also reprinted in Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: the Hulk Visionaries: John Byrne collection, which reprints Byrne’s brief run on Incredible Hulk in the mid-1980s. Flashback to 1985, as John Byrne was wrapping up his run on Alpha Flight. At that same time, Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola were finishing up a year-long story in Incredible Hulk that had our hero jumping around in other dimensions. Marvel essentially traded the creative teams between the two books. Beginning in Incredible Hulk #314, Byrne takes control of the title, and the Hulk is back on Earth, hounded by General Ross and his Hulkbusters. Doc Samson has figured out a way to separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk, but it leaves the jade giant a mindless monster. Free of the Hulk, Bruce Banner and Betty Ross are finally able to be married. And suddenly, Byrne was off of the book, due to creative differences with then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. This volume also collects two other Byrne Hulk stories from this era, an Incredible Hulk Annual #14 and a Hulk feature from Marvel Fanfare #29. This Hulk Visionaries was released in trade paperback in 2008, and should still be easily found.