First Published: March 2009
Contents: DC Comics Presents #52 (December 1982), #59 (July 1983), and #81 (May 1985); Supergirl #16 (February 1984); Ambush Bug stories from Action Comics #560 (October 1984), #563 (January 1985), and #565 (March 1985); Ambush Bug #1 (June 1985) to #4 (September 1985); Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986); Son of Ambush Bug #1 (July 1986) to #6 (December 1986); Ambush Bug story from Secret Origins #48 (April 1990); and Ambush Bug Nothing Special #1 (September 1992)
Key Creator Credits: Keith Giffen, Paul Kupperberg, Robert Loren Fleming, Bob Oksner, and others
Key First Appearances: Irwin Schwab/Ambush Bug, Cheeks, Argh!Yle!
Overview: Sometimes a character is introduced in the background of a story, used to help advance the plot. But sometimes, those background characters become the most interesting part of the book. Case in point, we start by looking at DC Comics Presents #52, which is listed as a team-up of Superman and the Doom Patrol. Those are the stars of the book, but the story is stolen by an odd villain character – a guy in a green bug suit that has the ability to teleport and cause some mayhem. That is how we are introduced to Ambush Bug.
Ambush Bug caught on with readers and started become a foil for the various Kryptonians located on Earth. By the time DC Comics Presents #81 came out, he had garnered enough recognition to warrant the co-star status along with Superman. From there, it’s time to move on into your own mini-series and specials.
However, with those mini-series and specials, the approach takes a 90-degree turn, towards the fourth wall. Within the stories, Ambush Bug is now considered a hero of sorts, trying to find his place in the DC Universe. But at the same time, Ambush Bug starts interacting with the reader, as well as the comic book creators themselves. Conversations are had with Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and Bob Oksner via word balloons. Even longtime DC editor Julie Schwartz gets into the action and the stories as a disembodied head inserted into tales.
Along the way, we find out parts of his origin – we think! We meet Ambush Bug’s sidekick/best friend, Cheeks. We meet the personification of Johnny DC in the stories. and we come across the most nefarious of villains ever conceived, Argh!Yle!, who happens to be a sentient sock. Yes, a sock. Trust me, this book is just one pun after another. You should expect nothing less when dealing with one of the most offbeat characters in the DC Universe.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: Giffen has been a mainstay at DC for years and has contributed greatly to the history of the DC Universe with his work on Legion of Super-Heroes, Justice League, and, yes, even Ambush Bug. (And yes, he’s had his share of issues over that time as well.) Depending how long the Showcase Presents line runs, we may eventually see his work in LSH. I could also see DC skipping ahead and starting a Showcase Presents Justice League line, to go along with their other collections from the 1980s. Until either of those happen, this will serve as Giffen’s contribution to the Showcase Presents line. At his peak, Ambush Bug was a very popular character in the 1980s, so yes it should be showcased like this.
Footnotes: Several times in this book, scripter Robert Loren Fleming makes reference to a previous DC Comics series of his, Thriller, which ran for 12 issues in 1983 and 1984. Thriller was a direct-market only book, meaning that it could only be found in comic book stores. This series has never been collected, so you will need to dive into some back issue bins to track this one down.
If you like this volume, try: the issues of The Tick from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Created by Ben Edlund to serve as a mascot for his local comic book store, the Tick soon moved into his own comic strip and then his own book. The Tick served as a spoof of the superhero comic industry, mocking the latest trends with exaggerated caricatures. Like Ambush Bug, the Tick would often break the fourth wall to interact with the reader. His popularity earned him a Saturday morning cartoon series from 1994 to 1997, and later a live-action TV series from 2001. These issues have been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks and omnibus editions, so they should be easy to track down.