Showcase Presents The Doom Patrol Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The Doom Patrol Vol. 1

First Published: April 2009

Contents: My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963) to #85 (February 1964); and The Doom Patrol #86 (March 1964) to #101 (February 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Arnold Drake, Bruno Premiani, Bob Brown, and others

Key First Appearances: Niles Caulder/The Chief, Cliff Steele/Robotman, Rita Farr/Elasti-Girl, Larry Trainor/Negative Man, General Immortus, the Brotherhood of Evil (the Brain, Madame Rouge, Monsieur Mallah), Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Steve Dayton/Mento, Garguax, Garfield Logan/Beast Boy, Jillian Jackson,

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Doom Patrol Vol. 2

Overview: Let’s take three outcasts, who find themselves with special abilities as the result of accidents. None can fit into society, and have no where else to go. Let’s organized them behind the leadership of a wheelchair-bound genius. Is this the X-Men? No, this is the Doom Patrol!

Let’s start with our heroes:

  • First there is Robotman. Cliff Steele was race car driver who was involved in a deadly crash. With his body shutting down, a skilled doctor (Niles Caulder) removes Cliff’s brain and places it inside a steel body. Robotman has been the anchor point for every incarnation of the Doom Patrol.
  • Next up is Elasti-Girl. Rita Farr was an Olympic athlete and a Hollywood movie star. While on location in Africa, Rita is exposed to some mysterious gases, which gives her the ability to grow or shrink her body, but it’s an ability she cannot control. Giving up her career, she goes into hiding until she is recruited by Niles Caulder to join his team.
  • Let’s look at Negative Man now. Larry Trainor flew through a radioactive field while test piloting a jet. Filled with a mysterious energy, Larry can send a black negative form out of his body, which can fly and move objects at will. That negative form can only be outside of Larry’s body for 60 seconds, or he risks dying. Because of the radioactivity, Larry must wrap his body up in protective gauze, so he does not expose those around him to the radiation. He too is recruited by Niles Caulder.
  • Finally, the Chief. This is the Niles Caulder that has appeared in everyone’s story. A genius confined to a wheelchair, Caulder directs his team to help humanity any way they can, even though humanity wants very little to do with them.

Initially, the Doom Patrol fought many of the same foes over and over, month to month. We get a lot of appearances by General Immortus, a man whose seen way too many birthdays in his long life. The team also matches up with Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, whose body can morph into any item that can be classified as one of those three objects.

As the book progresses, new heroes join the team, such as Mento (secretly Steve Dayton, the sixth richest man in the world) and Beast Boy, a green-skinned teenage boy who can transform himself into any kind of animal. But as the team grows, so does the threat level, with more powerful foes like the Brotherhood of Evil,.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I was really surprised about how much I ended up enjoying this volume. The plots of the stories can be somewhat kooky, but the interactions between the characters really feels like a 1960s Marvel Comic. Despite an explosive finish to their title, which we will discuss in more detail with Showcase Presents The Doom Patrol Vol. 2, these characters have stuck around in various incarnations for 50 years. When Arnold and Bob developed Beast Boy, I really think that was done to add some youth to the title. I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined he would become such a critical character for DC in the Teen Titans. Anyway, I would say track down a copy of this book, especially if you are a fan of the Silver Age Marvel Comics.

Footnotes: So you have a group of heroes with odd powers, led by a man confined to a wheelchair. Sure sounds like the X-Men, right? For many years, numerous commentaries have noted the similarities between the two teams. The Doom Patrol first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963). The X-Men debuted in the first issue of their book three months later. There is no hard evidence to show that Marvel was trying to swipe away the concept from DC. And three months would barely be enough time to get start a “stolen” concept from script to publication in 1963, especially given Marvel’s limited distribution options. I think it’s safe to say that creators in the comic book industry like to get together and talk shop, and that some common ideas are shared over a public discussion, then fully developed on their own in the respective company offices. (Something similar to this happened in the early 1970s, as Man-Thing and Swamp Thing were introduced around the same time from the two companies.)

MIA (Missing Issue Alert): In the final issue in this collection, Doom Patrol #101, the Challengers of the Unknown appear in the last panel. This was to set up a crossover with Challengers of the Unknown #48, the first of a two-part story which would be finished in Doom Patrol #102. However, the Challengers issue was not included, either in this volume or in Showcase Presents The Doom Patrol Vol. 2. And the Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown line has yet to reach issue #48. So you may need to hit the back-issue bins to find this comic to complete the story.

If you like this volume, try: The Doom Patrol Omnibus by Grant Morrison and Richard Case. In the mid-1980s, following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC relaunched The Doom Patrol, returning the team to it’s traditional roots and characters. However, after 18 issues, DC opted for a change, and gave the book over to a very young Grant Morrison, a Scottish comic book writer best known for his work on Judge Dredd. His work had finally caught the attention of DC, and they had already started him on Animal Man. Beginning with issue #19, Morrison took over Doom Patrol and flipped it on it’s head. Ditching most everything but Robotman, Doom Patrol went on an eccletic ride for four years under Morrison’s direction, making the strange the norm. By the end of Morrison’s run, DC had moved The Doom Patrol under the Vertigo banner. Morrison’s run has been reprinted multiple times in trades, and most recently as an omnibus.

Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Essential Avengers Vol. 6

First Published: February 2008

Contents: Avengers #120 (April 1972) to #140 (October 1975); Giant-Size Avengers #1 (August 1974) to #4 (June 1975); Captain Marvel #33 (July 1974); and Fantastic Four #150 (September 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, John Buscema, Bob Brown, George Tuska, and others

Key First Appearances: Nuklo, Bova

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Overview: In preparation for this review, I consider some alternatives to make my point here. My first thought would be to increase the font size to a larger style, but I hate that when other sites do it. I CONSIDERED WRITING THIS ENTIRE REVIEW IN ALL CAPS, BUT I DON’T WANT TO COME ACROSS THAT I AM YELLING AT YOU, MY LOYAL READERS. Maybe I should attach a sound file with trumpets blaring, or I figure out a way to roll out a red carpet. See, the reason for these possible changes is to help convey just how EPIC is this collection of the Essential Avengers!

Writer Steve Englehart and friends put together a series of memorable runs over multiple issues. This really felt like a heavy hitters lineup for the team, led by Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision. In this collection, the Avengers have their first encounter with Thanos; in a crossover with the Fantastic Four, we see Quicksilver and Crystal tie the knot in a ceremony delayed by Ultron; and we discover the secret origin of the Vision, in a story that goes back to the very first issue of Marvel Comics in 1939.

The highlight of this volume is the story of Mantis. In the lead-off story where the Avengers battle Zodiac, Mantis discovers that Libra is her father. She learns that she was raised by the Priests of Pama, which takes the Avengers to Viet-Nam where they encounter the Star-Stalker. From there, long-time Avengers foe Kang kidnaps Mantis and Moondragon, as both have been identified as potential candidates to become the Celestial Madonna. That leads the Avengers to travel through time and space after their teammate. During the battle with Kang, the Swordsman is killed, and Mantis realizes that he was the love of her life and not the Vision. Mantis discovers more of her origins, and finally embraces her role as the Celestial Madonna. In a ceremony overseen by Immortus, Mantis marries a Cotati reanimating the body of Swordsman, and the couple merge and depart to space. (It should be noted that the wedding was a double ceremony, as the Vision and the Scarlet Witch finally say their “I Do’s”.)

The volume concludes as some new faces become probationary members of the team in Avengers #137. Having graduated from the X-Men and moved on to a solo career, the blue-haired Beast shows up for a series of adventures, but it won’t be until the next Essential before he earns his Avengers identification card. Also, Moondragon joins the team, making for a good consolation prize for losing out on the Celestial Madonna sweepstakes.

What makes this Essential?: This volume can best be summed up with one name – Steve Englehart. The writer had taken over writing duties on the Avengers in the previous Essential volume, and this collection sees Englehart work in all of the stories that he was really wanting to tell. He uses a core line-up of Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Mantis. (It should be noted that long-time Avenger Captain America was knee-deep in his own book at that time, and could only make the occasional appearance in the Avengers. By the way, Captain America and Falcon was being written by Englehart.) Mantis, a creation of Englehart and Don Heck, becomes the focus of the Celestial Madonna story in this volume. Towards the end of the run, Hank McCoy (a.k.a the Beast of the X-Men) Joins up, but this is the blue-furred Beast. Hank McCoy had undergone a further mutation in the pages of Amazing Adventures, written by — wait for it! — yes that’s right, it was Steve Englehart. So long story short, you need to be a big fan of Englehart and his epic vision for the Avengers to really appreciate this volume. I first read these stories out of order, as I picked up the back issues to fill out my Avengers collection over the years. Being able to re-read this story in order via the Essential allows me to better appreciate what Englehart did here.

Footnotes: Captain Marvel #33 is also reprinted in Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2.

Avengers #127 and Fantastic Four #150 are also reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7.

If you like this volume, try: the first series of The Ultimates. Hot on the heels of the successful Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, Marvel turned to Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch to develop an Ultimate version of the Avengers. Trimming the team down to it’s 1963 roster of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Giant Man, the Wasp, and Captain America, Millar and Hitch created an EPIC spin on the historic narrative. Yes, changes were made to make the group more contemporary – most notable is Nick Fury portrayed as an African-American that happens to look a lot like Samuel L. Jackson, long before that actor was cast in any Marvel Studios role. Conversely, The Ultimates became a template that Marvel Studios could use as they began to shape the Phase One series of movies. This initial series ran for 13 issues, albeit over two years time, and has been collected in numerous trades and hardcover collections. There have been various sequels to spin out of this, but the original story remains the best by far.

Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 2

First Published: April 2008

Contents: Challengers of the Unknown #18 (February-March 1961) to #37 (April-May 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Brown, Arnold Drake, Ed Herron, and others

Key First Appearances: Cosmo

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 1

Overview: A plane crash brings four men together, when they realize that they cheated death by walking away from the wreckage. Rocky Davis (Olympic wrestling champion), Prof Haley (master skin diver), Red Ryan (circus daredevil), and Ace Morgan (fearless jet pilot) team-up to form the Challengers of the Unknown, and their adventures continue in this second Showcase Presents volume.

Once again, the book follows a predictable formula from issue to issue. Most issues featured two stories – one with honorary Challenger June Robbins and one without June. Whether it was aliens from space, creatures from the Earth, or killer robots from laboratories, the Challengers stood up to anything thrown their way.

Only one new character is introduced in this volume, as the Challengers come across an alien animal that they adopt as a pet. Named Cosmo since he came from the stars, Cosmo would make the occasional appearance, including in one issue where his rightful owner came to Earth looking for his pet.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really want to like this book, but I just can’t. The creators had a story formula and stuck with it issue after issue after issue. The Challengers face off against threats from outer space, giant robots attacking the city, and the return of Multi-Man every four or five issues, and the story locations would just happen to require the use of their special skills. Come on, truthfully, how many stories can involve both skin-diving in the ocean AND climbing mountains? Even though the guys are living on borrowed time, at no point do we ever feel like the guys will not survive the latest adventure. It pains me to write this, but I think this is a volume that does not need to be on your bookshelf. I wish DC could skip ahead to the issues where the Challengers start interacting with other members of the DC Universe.

If you like this volume, try: the Silver Age event from DC Comics in 2000. This has never been collected, so plan on digging in some back-issue boxes to track this down. Most credit is given to Mark Waid as the overall architect of the project, but most of DC’s top talent of that time was involved in some form or fashion. The story was started with book titled simply Silver Age. Agamemno, a villain from space, enlists the help of Lex Luthor and other villains in swapping places with their heroic counterparts. The story then split off into nine one-shot books from books popular during the 1960s (Justice League of America, Challengers of the Unknown, Teen Titans, Dial H for Hero, Flash, Doom Patrol, The Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, and Showcase). For the Silver Age: Challengers of the Unknown book, the Challengers travel to Ivy University to help Atom defeat Chronos. The Silver Age books were done to look like were released in the 1960s, complete with the checkerboard cover, an old DC Comics logo, This was a fun project to look back fondly on DC’s Silver Age of comics.

Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2

First Published: January 2007

Contents: The Brave and The Bold #88 (February-March 1970) to #108 (August-September 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Haney, Neal Adams, Ross Andru, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, Bob Brown, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the Batman team-ups from The Brave and the Bold. Once again, Bob Haney weaves a unique take on Batman, finding unusual ways to bring Batman together with the likes of Green Arrow, Deadman, and the Metal Men.

A couple of books highlight this volume in particular:

  • The Brave and the Bold #98 featured Batman meeting up with the Phantom Stranger. While that match-up, in particular, is not huge, it does mark Jim Aparo’s first take on Batman. Aparo was a rising star at DC at this time, having gained notice for his work on Aquaman and The Phantom Stranger. Aparo would then go on to handle the art on nearly 80 of the next 100 issues of The Brave and the Bold.
  • The Brave and the Bold #100 (February-March 1972) featured Batman “teaming up” with Robin, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern. In all actuality, Batman had been shot and needed the other heroes to solve a crime for him while he recovered. This was published around the same time as the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline was coming to an end in the pages of Green Lantern (see Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5 for that full story).

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I’ve said it before and I will say it again – any of the team-up books from DC (or Marvel) should be must-own for any fan. This is Batman with some of the greatest art talents of the time (Adams, Aparo, Cardy) providing covers and enticing stories to match the crazy stories being delivered to us by Bob Haney. These stories do not worry about continuity, so try not to take these too seriously. Just enjoy the absurdity of Batman teaming up with Sgt. Rock or the House of Mystery.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
#88 – Batman & Wildcat
#89 – Batman & The Phantom Stranger / Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2
#90 – Batman & Adam Strange
#91 – Batman & Black Canary
#92 – Batman & The Bat-Squad
#93 – Batman & House of Mystery
#94 – Batman & Teen Titans / Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 2
#95 – Batman & Plastic Man
#96 – Batman & Sgt. Rock
#97 – Batman & Wildcat
#98 – Batman & The Phantom Stranger / Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2
#99 – Batman & Flash
#100 – Batman & Black Canary, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Robin
#101 – Batman & Metamorpho
#102 – Batman & Teen Titans
#103 – Batman & Metal Men
#104 – Batman & Deadman
#105 – Batman & Wonder Woman
#106 – Batman & Green Arrow
#107 – Batman & Black Canary
#108 – Batman & Sgt. Rock

If you like this volume, try: the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series. Running on the Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2011, this was a beautiful and fun homage to the Batman team-ups of the 1960s and 1970s. While some team-ups occurred more frequently (Aquaman and Green Arrow), the creators of the series pulled team-ups from all corners of the DC Universe. You would think that the spirit of Bob Haney was supervising the writer’s room for this series. Truth be told, I think I even teared up some with Batman teaming up with the Doom Patrol at the end of that group’s career. The finale of the series tied everything together and made promises that the adventures of Batman will never end. If you have not watched them, or not watched them recently, you owe it to yourself to give this series a look. (There was a Johnny DC book released to support this cartoon as well. While it captured the look and humor of the series, part of the joy with the series is seeing the team-ups animated on the screen. Track this series down for the young Batman fan in your life.)

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

First Published: January 2006

Contents: Avengers #98 (April 1972) to #119 (March 1972); Daredevil #99 (May 1973); and Defenders #8 (September 1973) to #11 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison, Steve Englehart, Barry Windsor-Smith, Rich Buckler, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Bob Brown, and others

Key First Appearances: Imus Champion, Mantis

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Overview: In the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull war, the Avengers have returned to Earth to find that one of their members is missing. Tracking down the Warhawks, the Avengers are reunited with Clint Barton, who has dropped the Goliath act and is now back to the bow and arrows of Hawkeye. With him, they find another former Avenger, Hercules, confused and disoriented. What a way to start the next volume of Essential Avengers!

The disoriented Hercules leads into a storyline that leads into #100 anniversary issue, which brought back every former Avengers – including the Hulk – in a battle between Earth, Asgard, and Olympus. Following that, the Avengers face numerous familiar foes, including the Grim Reaper, the Sentinels, the Space Phantom, and Magneto.

The highlight of this volume is the Avengers-Defenders War, which crossed over between the two titles, both scripted by Steve Englehart. Loki, the step-brother of Thor, and Dormammu, long-time foe of Doctor Strange, manipulate the two super-teams into battle. This has been reprinted multiple times, including in the Essential Defenders books.

The volume concludes as the Avengers make another return to Rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween parade. Once again, chaos ensues as the Collector shows up trying to complete a set of Avengers.

What is interesting with this volume is Englehart advancing the characters into relationships, bordering on a soap opera. The Scarlet Witch and the Vision start a relationship, much to Quicksilver’s chagrin. Mantis shows up, and wants to claim the Vision as her own. The Swordsman has fallen head over heels in love with Mantis, but can’t get the time of day from her. All of this gets resolved in the next volume.

What makes this Essential?: We see another transition in the Avengers title as Roy Thomas steps down as writer, and Steve Englehart comes in as the new scribe of the book. The X-Men – friend and foes – make numerous appearances during a time when their book was strictly a reprint title. Englehart scripts one of the first multi-part crossovers between the Avengers and the Defenders. With the introduction of Mantis, we start approaching the Celestial Madonna storyline that will dominate Essential Avengers Vol. 6. The downside to this volume is the art, which suffers from a lack of consistency. If you liked Essential Avengers Vol. 4, you should probably have this volume as well to continue the run.

Footnotes: Avengers #111 and Daredevil #99 was also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 4.

Avengers #115-#118 and Defenders #8-#11 are also reprinted in Essential Defenders Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Avengers: Under Siege by Roger Stern and John Buscema. Running in Avengers #270-#277, the Masters of Evil are back with a vengeance, taking down the Avengers one-by-one. During the onslaught, Hercules is beaten within inches of his life; control of the Avengers Mansion falls over to the bad guys; and even the butler Jarvis is caught up and injured. But falling back to the group’s origins, the Wasp rallies the troops, calling in Thor and Captain America to defeat the Masters of Evil. When fans are asked to name the best Avengers stories, this is easily in the top five for everyone, if not the top choice. This has been collected multiple times and remains in print nearly 30 years after it initially ran in the monthly book.

Essential Defenders Vol. 1

Essential Defenders Vol. 1

First Published: September 2004

Contents: Doctor Strange #183 (November 1969); The Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970), #34 (February 1971) and #35 (March 1971); The Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970); Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971) to #3 (June 1972); The Defenders #1 (August 1972) to #14 (July 1974); and The Avengers #115 (September 1973) to #118 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Ross Andru, Steve Englehart, Bob Brown, Len Wein, and others

Key First Appearances: Valkyrie, Nebulon

Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 2

Overview: Doctor Strange! The Hulk! The Sub-Mariner! More than men, these beings border on being forces of nature. Brought together against their wishes, these heroes unite as one to form the first non-team in comics history, the Defenders!

A loose story line drifted across the three titles of the featured characters, all written by Roy Thomas, over a two year period before the trio of characters came together under the Defenders banner in Marvel Feature #1. Following three appearances in Marvel Feature, the Defenders graduated to their bi-monthly title. What made the team unique is that they didn’t necessarily consider themselves as an organized team. The Defenders did not have an organized charter and rules like the Avengers. They did not have matching uniforms like the Fantastic Four. Rather, they happened to be characters who hung out at Doctor Strange’s home and were pulled together at different times to fight foes (mainly magical characters) that threatened the Earth.

The Silver Surfer joined the “team” in issue #2 and is now considered to be one of the core members of the team. Longtime members Valkyrie and Nighthawk soon appear, and the regular cast of characters is set for the next few years.

The highlight of this volume is the Avengers/Defenders War, which ran for four months across both titles. This was one of the first major crossovers between two Marvel titles that last more than two or three issues. Hawkeye was hanging out with the Defenders at this time, so it made for a lot of interesting match-ups between the two teams (Captain America vs. Sub-Mariner, Swordsman vs. Valkyrie, Iron Man vs. Hawkeye, Vision & Scarlet Witch vs. Silver Surfer, etc.). The format for this storyline became the template for future crossover events for years to come.

What makes this Essential?: For a team that was not officially a team, the Defenders have a long history in the Marvel Universe. Primarily composed of characters best described as “anti-social” or “loners”, the members fought each other as much as they did their foes. There are a lot of times where this title feels more like an extension of the Doctor Strange book, as his villains are the team’s primary foes.

I think if you are a fan of the team or the main characters (especially Doctor Strange) then give this volume a read. If you are coming to this for the Avengers/Defenders crossover, then pick up Essential Avengers Vol. 5 or the Avengers/Defenders War collection.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #183, The Sub-Mariner #22, The Incredible Hulk #126, and Marvel Feature #1 are also reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

The Incredible Hulk #126 is also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 3.

The Avengers #115-#118 and The Defenders #8-#11 are also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 5.

Tom Hagen and the Rutland, Vermont, Halloween parade make an appearance in Marvel Feature #2. For more information on Tom Fagan, see Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the Defenders series from 2001. Created by Kurt Busiek and Eric Larsen, this series once again reunited the core members of the team under a spell — Yandroth manipulated a spell so that Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer must reunite any time the world is in danger. This volume ran for 12 issues when it was then renamed The Order, which ran for six issues. These were numbered #1-#6, but they also continued the numbering from The Defenders with #13-#18. This story mixed a lot of humor into the action. Sadly, this volume has not been collected into any trade collections so you may need to dive into the back-issue bins to track this down.

For a look at the 2008 series The Order, please take a look at Essential Defenders Vol. 3.