Showcase Presents Doc Savage Vol. 1

docsavageFirst Published: July 2011

Contents: Doc Savage #1 (August 1975) to #8 (Spring 1977)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Ken Barr, Tony DeZuniga, and others

Overview: In 1930s New York City, on the 86th floor of a skyscraper that may or may not be the Empire State Building, you can find the offices of Dr. Clark Savage, Jr. Affectionately referred to as Doc Savage, he is the ultimate example of the best that a man could be. Trained as a physician, scientist, inventor, researcher, and more, Savage is the modern renaissance man. With the help of his loyal friends, Doc Savage takes on challenges that no other mortal man could do, as evidenced by his sworn oath: “I will travel the world, helping those who need help, and punishing those who deserve punishment.”

Originally conceived as a pulp character in the 1930s, Doc Savage has been a part of pulp culture for many years. Originally designed for cheap paperback novels, Savage has also appeared in a movie, on the radio, and naturally in comics books. For this collection of magazine stories from the mid-1970s, Doc Savage and his crew cross the globe on one adventure after another. Along the way, his friends bicker among themselves, we meet Doc Savage’s cousin, who also is also equally bronze in nature, and Doc Savage triumphs over evil at every opportunity.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is an interesting collection, which I am glad it finally got to see print. These stories benefit having been told in a magazine format. Most stories run for 50 pages or more, and the stories get a chance to develop without having to reach a cliffhanger moment every 20 pages if this was in a traditional comic book. Writer Doug Moench has a solid understanding of the characters and manages to portray Savage as a larger-than-life hero but not all-powerful like a Superman. The art from Tony DeZuniga really shines through in this format. Track this collection down if you have any interest in Doc Savage.

Meet the Fabulous Five: Doc Savage kept himself surrounded by a team of associates that would assist him on his cases. While each of the men is the best in their respective fields, you get the feeling that Doc Savage always knows more about their chosen professions.

  • Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett “Monk” Mayfair, an industrial chemist.
  • Brigadier General Theodore Marley “Ham” Brooks, an accomplished attorney.
  • Colonel John “Renny” Renwick, a construction engineer.
  • Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts, an electrical engineer.
  • William Harper “Johnny” Littlejohn, an archaeologist and geologist.

Footnotes: These Doc Savage magazines were published by Curtis Magazines, a division of Marvel. The rights have bounced around from various publishers over the years. When this collection was published in 2011, the rights were held by DC Comics. DC included Doc Savage in a then ongoing First Wave project that used a lot of pulp heroes from the 1930s.

If you like this volume, try: diving into the back issue bins to find some Doc Savage comics. The character has been published over the years by DC, Marvel, Gold Key, Millennium, and most recently Dynamite Comics. Or track down some of the pulp novels of Doc Savage, either the old original volume or new modern takes on the Man of Bronze. To explore more on everything Doc Savage, check out the Bronze Gazette website run by my friend Terry. They publish a quarterly magazine as well as cover Doc Savage conventions and other appearances of Clark Savage.

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4

marvel2i1vol4First Published: January 2012

Contents: Marvel Two-In-One #78 (August 1981) to #98 (April 1983), and #100 (June 1983); and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #6 (1981) and #7 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Tom DeFalco, Ron Wilson, David Anthony Kraft, Alan Kupperberg, David Michelinie, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: American Eagle, Champion

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 3

Overview: He’s the hero of millions, but still the #1 target of the Yancy Street Gang. That’s right, we’re back with another collection of adventures of Ben Grimm, better known as the Thing. This is Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4.

As we have seen in multiple team-up collections, the hero of the book (The Thing) meets up with another character that they generally would not be interacting with much in order to stop a villain that they generally would not be interacting with much. That’s how we get issues such as Thing + Machine Man vs. Ultron, or Thing + Captain America vs. MODOK, or my favorite Thing + Sandman vs. Miller Lite.

The issues in this book are mostly one-and-done. We do get a couple of multi-part stories, as well as plenty of references to events going on over in the Fantastic Four book. But this book can easily be read without needing to consult dozens of other comics from this era.

Sadly, Marvel Two-in-One came to an end during this volume. For the oversized final issue, creator John Byrne came in to revisit a favorite story he did more than four years ago, in Marvel Two-in-One #50. In that issue, the Thing teamed up with the Thing (on an alternate Earth). For issue #100, the Thing revisits that alternate Earth and teams up with Ben Grimm. It made for a nice character study to say goodbye (but not for long) to the Thing’s team-up title.

What makes this Essential?: My rule with this blog has been that all of the team-up collections are must reads. I stand by that statement, but…. I’m a little disappointed with this collection. It’s still very good and enjoyable, but it doesn’t match the quality level that we found in Volume 3. The stories seem rather average here when looking back to the Project Pegasus and Serpent Society stories. We do get some memorable issues, but no great stories. 

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #99 is not reprinted in this collection. This issue features a team-up with the ROM, who Marvel no longer controls the publishing rights for to include in reprints.

Who’s Who:
Marvel Two-In-One #78 – The Thing & Wonder Man
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #6 – The Thing & American Eagle
Marvel Two-In-One #79 – The Thing & Blue Diamond
Marvel Two-In-One #80 – The Thing & Ghost Rider / Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 3.
Marvel Two-In-One #81 – The Thing & Sub-Mariner
Marvel Two-In-One #82 – The Thing & Captain America
Marvel Two-In-One #83 – The Thing & Sasquatch
Marvel Two-In-One #84 – The Thing & Alpha Flight
Marvel Two-In-One #85 – The Thing & Spider-Woman  
Marvel Two-In-One #86 – The Thing & Sandman
Marvel Two-In-One #87 – The Thing & Ant-Man
Marvel Two-In-One #88 – The Thing & She-Hulk
Marvel Two-In-One #89 – The Thing & the Human Torch
Marvel Two-In-One #90 – The Thing & Spider-Man
Marvel Two-In-One #91 – The Thing & the Sphinx
Marvel Two-In-One #92 – The Thing & Jocasta
Marvel Two-In-One #93 – The Thing & Machine Man
Marvel Two-In-One #94 – The Thing & Power Man and Iron Fist
Marvel Two-In-One #95 – The Thing & the Living Mummy
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 – The Thing & Champion
Marvel Two-In-One #96 – The Thing & the Marvel Universe
Marvel Two-In-One #97 – The Thing & Iron Man 
Marvel Two-In-One #98 – The Thing & Franklin Richards
Marvel Two-In-One #100 – The Thing & Ben Grimm

If you like this volume, try: The Thing series that started following the cancellation of Marvel Two-in-One. John Byrne, who was overseeing the Fantastic Four title during this era, was asked to take on Marvel Two-in-One. While Byrne found Ben Grimm to be an interesting character, the stories he had in mind did not necessarily need a guest star each month. So the decision was made to bring Marvel Two-in-One to an end, and relaunch the book as The Thing with a #1 issue. The series ran for 36 issues and can be broken down into three arcs. The first arc covered the first ten issues, looking into Ben’s past and his relationships with his teammates and Alicia. The second arc went from issue #11 to #22, as Ben chose to stay on Battleworld following the end of the original Secret Wars. The final arc from #23 to #36 has Ben back on Earth, but not part of the Fantastic Four. Instead, he spends time traveling around the country and spends some time as a professional wrestler. The first and second arcs have been recently reprinted in The Thing Classic trade paperbacks, although many of the original issues should be easily found in back-issue bins.

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 6

jla6First Published: February 2013

Contents: Justice League of America #107 (September/October 1973) to #132 (July 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Dick Dillin, Elliot S! Maggin, Cary Bates, Gerry Conway, Martin Pasko, and others

Key First Appearances: Freedom Fighters, Libra, Golden Eagle

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5

Overview: The Justice Leauge is back in their sixth (and sadly last) Showcase Presents volume. The run goes out with a bang, as we get multiple JLA-JSA team-ups, new character introductions, and pivotal moments in DC history.

The volume starts out with the JLA and JSA teaming up on Earth-X, with the introduction of the Freedom Fighters. While the members all date back to the Golden Age, the coming together as the Freedom Fighters on Earth-X was a brand new concept. In this world, Germany won World War II and this group of heroes (Uncle Sam, the Ray, Phantom Lady, the Human Bomb, and Doll Man) is working together to free America. Following this introduction, the Freedom Fighters would move onto their own ongoing title.

This volume gives us the second appearance ever of John Stewart as Green Lantern. Hal Jordan was out of action (he slipped on the soap in the shower and knocked himself out) so the ring went to Stewart to serve in his place. It would be three more years before we see Steward in action again. Also making his first appearance in this volume was Golden Eagle, who would go on to become a member of Teen Titans West.

We get introduced to the villain known as Libra, who’s gimmick is to steal half of a hero’s powers. After his initial appearance here, he was not used again until he came one of the main bad guys in Final Crisis in 2008.

 

While we don’t get any new members in this collection, Red Tornado does modify his appearance into his more traditional look with the stripes. Getting away from the more robotic look was the first step on his journey to becoming more human. And the volume’s most memorable moment came not in battle but with a wedding between the long-time friend of the League Adam Strange and his beloved Alanna.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This may be my favorite volume in the series, but I will also admit I am biased to these stories. These are some of the first comics I ever read, and Dick Dillin has been my definitive JLA artist for years. The writing duties seem to rotate around between Bates, Maggin, and Conway, but it works here. The stories take on a narrative quality, encouraging the reader to pick up the title each month.

Footnotes: Justice League of America #110 to #116 were 100-page books published bi-monthly. Each issue would feature a new story, a reprint of a prior JLA story, and a reprint of a Golden Age story from a Justice Society member. Only the new stories are included in this book.

If you like this volume, try: the Elseworlds story Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. This story presented a future look at DC Universe, where the characters have aged and the children have taken over roles from their parents. A new generation of heroes has developed, but they don’t hold the same moral views as the prior generation of heroes. So the older heroes, such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, must don their costumes again to bring the heroes in line as well as stop yet another scheme from Lex Luthor. This is a brilliant story that almost demands multiple readings to pick up on everything. Heck, you need a second or third reading just to catch all of the Easter Eggs that Ross has left hidden in the backgrounds of every panel. If you have the chance, pick this up as an Absolute that includes the notes detailing who’s who in every panel.

Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 3

ghostrider3First Published: November 2009

Contents: Ghost Rider #51 (December 1980) to #65 (February 1982); Marvel Two-In-One #80 (October 1981); Ghost Rider story from Marvel Super-Heroes #11 (October 1992); and Avengers #214 (December 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Michael Fleisher, Don Perlin, Jack Sparling, Herb Trimpe, Alan Kupperberg, Luke McDonnell, and others

Key First Appearances: Asmodeus, Hamilton Slade/Phantom Rider, Red Fowler

Story Continues In: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 2

Story Continues From: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 4

Overview: Ghost Rider is back in action with another Essential volume reprinting his original series from the early 1980s. Stunt rider Johnny Blaze travels the American West, going from one gig to the next, doing his best to stay out of trouble as well as keeping the demon Zarathos from taking control of his soul.

Without a lot of supporting characters from issue to issue, many of these stories are one-and-done as Ghost Rider finds himself in a different location each issue. It’s not to say that Johnny doesn’t run into some familiar faces along the way. We get crossovers with the Thing, the Avengers, the Arabian Knight, Werewolf by Night, and others.

 

What makes this Essential?: I’m sure there is something I am missing here, but I just don’t get Ghost Rider. I understand the origins of the character. I can see how some people would be attracted to this character. But from what I have read so far in these Essential volumes, I find it disappointing. The stories and the art seem very average. I have read more contemporary Ghost Rider stories and found them much more interesting. My only thought is that these Ghost Rider issues filled a niche in the market and the followers were extremely loyal and vocal to keep Ghost Rider around. 

Footnotes: Marvel Two-In-One #80 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the original Marvel mini-series, Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions. This was originally planned on an oversized special to coincide with the 1980 Summer Olympics. But when the United States pulled out of the games, Marvel shelved the project and resurrected it two years later as a three issue mini-series. In Contest of Champions, the Grandmaster engages in a game against the entity representing Death. He wants to get his brother, the Collector, resurrected, and wages his own life if he should lose. The two participants choose teams of heroes from around the globe and make them square off against each other. While Ghost Rider is not featured in this series, the Arabian Knight and the Thing are both participants in the game. This series has been reprinted multiple times, making it easy to track down in some format.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2

supermanteamup2First Published: July 2013

Contents: DC Comics Presents #27 (November 1980) to #50 (October 1982); and DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Irv Novick, Paul Kupperberg, and others

Key First Appearances: Mongul, Waldo Flynn, Alexander Luthor, Lois Lane-Luthor

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Overview: Superman can be a tricky character to write. As silly as that may sound, give it some thought. In the Bronze Age, Superman was an all-powerful character. Outside of magic or kryptonite, what threats are there to stop or slow down a guy like Superman? Quite honestly, given his powers and abilities, why would Superman ever need to team up with any other hero? That’s a good question, one which was answered each and every month in the pages of DC Comics Presents.

The stories in this volume are a mix of different stories, with one-and-done issues with offbeat co-stars (the Joker, the Masters of the Universe, Dial H for Hero) to multi-part stories (Shazam Family).

The highlight in this volume is the multi-issue arc that starts this collection. Superman is introduced to a new villain in the universe, Mongul, and it takes the combined help of the Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and the Spectre to stop him. Mongul would become a mainstay in the DC Universe in the years to come and plays a key role in one of the greatest Superman stories ever, “For the Man Who Has Everything…” (Superman Annual #11).

 

One of the final issues in this collection is the first DC Comics Presents Annual, which involved the Superman of Earth-1 teaming up with the Superman of Earth-2. The two heroes must travel to Earth-3, where roles are reversed and the heroes are actually villains. So the two Supermen find themselves teaming up with the one hero of Earth-3, Alexander Luthor. This Luthor would play a key role many years later during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Rather than have me write up some kind of reason why you should own this book, I want to throw the challenge your way, dear reader. Tell me why these stories should not be showcased? Send me a note at essentialshowcase@gmail.com. I will be the first to admit when I’m wrong, and maybe I am overlooking something here. Maybe I am blinded by my love for the team-up concept. I could read this title, along with The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up, all day long. As a cheap black & white reprint collection, this seems like a no-brainer to have on your shelf. Loan it to your friends or your kids or your friends’ kids. These books are awesome, and I stand by my opinion!

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #46 features Superman teaming up with the Global Guardians, which were made up of heroes from other countries around the world. These heroes all made their appearance in the Super Friends comic book, which was released to support the Saturday morning cartoon. There was some debate as to whether or not that comic was part of the DC Universe proper. While it made reference to ongoing storylines in other DC books, it really wasn’t until this issue of DCCP that it was firmly considered to be part of the DC Universe. The members would go on to varying degrees of success – Green Fury would be renamed Fire and Ice Maiden would become Ice before joining Justice League International.

Who’s Who:
#27 – Superman & Martian Manhunter
#28 – Superman & Supergirl
#29 – Superman & Spectre / Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1
#30 – Superman & Black Canary
#31 – Superman & Robin
#32 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#33 – Superman & Shazam
#34 – Superman & the Shazam Family
#35 – Superman & Man-Bat
#36 – Superman & Starman
#37 – Superman & Hawkgirl
#38 – Superman & the Flash
#39 – Superman & Plastic Man
#40 – Superman & Metamorpho
#41 – Superman & the Joker
#42 – Superman & the Unknown Soldier
#43 – Superman & the Legion of Super-Heroes
#44 – Superman & Dial H for Hero
#45 – Superman & Firestorm
#46 – Superman & the Global Guardians
#47 – Superman & the Masters of the Universe
#48 – Superman & Aquaman
#49 – Superman & Shazam
Annual #1 – Superman & Superman
#50 – Superman & Clark Kent

If you like this volume, try: the Superman animated series from the late 1990s. Running for 54 episodes over three seasons, Superman tied in perfectly with Batman: The Animated Series, as the two shows were set in the same universe. Many characters crossed over between the two series, and the success of both would lead to the Justice League animated series. In Superman, we were given a Man of Steel that closely resembled the John Byrne Superman post-Crisis. But the designs of the backgrounds were firmly set in the world of the Max Fleisher cartoons. There is not a better representation of Superman anywhere. DVDs of this series are readily available, so even if you missed it the first time, you can still track it down.

Essential Moon Knight Vol. 2

moon_knight_2First Published: October 2007

Contents: Moon Knight #11 (September 1981) to #30 (April 1983)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alan Zelenetz, Greg LaRocque, Steven Grant, and others

Key First Appearances: Morpheus, Detective Flint, Stained Glass Scarlet, Black Spectre

Story Continues From: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 3

Overview: He’s back! Moon Knight returns in his second Essential volume, reprinting the stories from his first ongoing series.

During this run of issues, the Moon Knight titled transitioned into a direct market only title, meaning that fans could only find the book at comic book retailers and not on the spinner rack at your local convenience store. The direct market status came with some benefits to the discerning readers. The comics were ad-free and were eventually upgraded to a better paper quality. In addition, Marvel could start to tell somewhat more mature stories in this format.

Most of the stories are one-and-done, but there are the occasional multi-part stories. We are introduced to a pair of foes that would be regulars in Moon Knight’s rogues gallery – Morpheus and Scarlet. I think the development of the supporting characters in the book helps enhance the title character.

The best stories are found towards the end of the book, and the end of artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s run on the title. In particular, issue #26 with the “Hit It” story works on multiple levels, striking a powerful blow at the reader.

What makes this Essential?: These are really good issues, and they translate well into the black & white format. As I mentioned before, I’ve never been a fan of Moon Knight. To me, he seemed to just be Marvel’s version of Batman, albeit with multiple personalities.

But I read an interesting theory in the preparation of this review that made me rethink my position. As seen in this volume, some cover art is done by Frank Miller, who was bringing his legendary run on Daredevil to a conclusion in this time frame. Soon after, Miller started doing some work for DC, including Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Now, the Batman that most people think of when we hear the character’s name most often is the Frank Miller-influenced Batman that came out of those two stories. And since Miller worked on Moon Knight before he worked on Batman, you could (maybe) make the case that Batman is actually DC’s version of Moon Knight. It may be a stretch, but it’s an idea I want to think some more about.

Anyway, buy this book, whether it is for the character, the Doug Moench stories, or the beautiful Bill Sienkiewicz artwork.

If you like this volume, try: Daredevil: Love and War from the 1980s Marvel Graphic Novel line. This is an incredible Daredevil story from Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz that often gets overlooked. The Kingpin has kidnapped a psychiatrist in hopes of helping his wife Vanessa recover. Daredevil must stop the Kingpin and rescue the psychiatrist, as well as the psychiatrist’s wife, who is being held by a psychotic killer on behalf of the Kingpin. This is a beautiful book that is best viewed as the Marvel Graphic Novel, in order to get the proper scaling for the pages. I’ve been on record that I was NOT a Sienkiewicz fan when he took over the art on New Mutants. I hated his work and only stayed with the book because I actually had a mail subscription to the title. But Love and War was 180-degree turn for me in my opinions of Sienkiewicz. I suddenly got his art and thought it was incredible. Please check out this story however you can find it.

Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4

flash4First Published: October 2012

Contents: The Flash #162 (June 1966) to #184 (December 1968)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Ross Andru, Frank Robbins, Cary Bates, and others

Key First Appearances: Julie Schwartz

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 3

Overview: DC Comics published 124 Showcase Presents volumes over the last 10+ years. These volumes covered much of the Silver Age and Bronze Age covering all aspects of the DC Universe. If I had to narrow down my reading adventures to just one volume that best represents the potential of DC Comics, it would be this volume, which has a little bit of everything in the collection. This is Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4.

On the surface, this is a fast-paced (pun intended) superhero comic book. You have a true hero, in and out of the red tights, who fights a never-ending battle against a colorful assortment of costumed villains. But The Flash goes beyond the superhero concept. This is a great science fiction title, as the title hero can travel between dimensions. As always, the stories are filled with science facts, making it a learning tool for the reader. Finally, this may be a stretch, but the romance between Barry and Iris is true and would match up to the stories found in Young Love.

This volume contains so many memorable moments that helped shape the DC Universe. We get the wedding of Barry and Iris, which is nearly interrupted by Professor Zoom. We get one of the earliest races between the Flash and Superman, trying to determine who the fastest man alive is. Another Earth is visited, and we finally see a face to go with a familiar name from the credits page. As always, there are some Kid Flash short stories, we get a crossover appearance by Green Lantern, and so much more.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really like how this title was always moving forward when other titles were happy maintaining the status quo. This volume sees Barry and Iris finally tie the not, and Barry reveals his secret identity to his wife. Over in the Superman books, a Superman-Lois marriage would only be considered as an imaginary story. I do like these stories, even following the shake-up in the mid-1960s when Broome, Fox and Infantino left the title. Newcomer Cary Bates would have a long run with the Flash’s friends and foes.

Welcome to Earth-Prime!: The Flash comic helped re-introduce the Justice Society characters as still alive and well, but living in an alternate world designated as Earth-2. In issue #179, we are introduced to a new world that would become known as Earth-Prime. On this world, there are no superheroes. In fact, superheroes are only found in the comic books. The Flash travels to New York City to meet DC Comics Editor Julie Schwartz, who is the one person on this Earth most likely to believe the Flash’s story and help him return to Earth-1.

Footnotes: The Flash #169 and #178 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection.

If you like this volume, try: the Superman vs. The Flash trade paperback collection from 2005. DC fans for years had debated over which hero is the fastest man alive, Superman or the Flash. Beginning in 1967, we saw a pair of races in each of the characters’ main titles (Superman #199 and The Flash #175). Neither race was conclusive, so it led to future races across multiple books. This trade collects many of those race stories from the Silver and Bronze Ages. The book sports a spectacular Alex Ross cover. So want to know who is faster? Read this trade and find out for yourself.