Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4

worldsfinest4First Published: November 2012

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #174 (March 1968) to #178 (September 1968); #180 (November 1968) to #187 (September 1969); #189 (November 1969) to #196 (September 1970); and #198 (November 1970) to #202 (May 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Cary Bates, Neal Adams, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan, Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin, and others

Key First Appearances: Supernova

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3

Overview: It’s interesting to compare and contrast Superman and Batman. They often get portrayed as total opposites – one shining brightly in the light of the sun, the other hidden in the shadows of the night. One who has been given powers to rival that of a god, the other just a mortal man who pushes himself to the limits of human performance. But these guys are still so similar, they could be twin brothers from different mothers (both named Martha). They’re orphans that would give up everything to have one more moment with their parents. They both strive to make the world better in their own ways. These are two of the world’s finest heroes, and this is Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4.

As with the previous volumes, these tend to run as one-and-done stories, with little to no continuity running between issues. We do get a shift in the narrative of the stories as we transition into the Silver Age. Writer Denny O’Neil brings a new approach to the storytelling, mirroring his work in Justice League of America and Batman. The art steps up a notch, too, as artists like Dick Dillin and Ross Andru create a more life-like look at Superman and Batman.

We still get plenty of cameos from all corners of the DC Universe. Whether it’s employees of the Daily Planet or residents of stately Wayne Manor, this title welcomes everyone in. We get multiple appearances by the classic villains such as Luthor and Joker, which is really the reason why we keep reading these stories, truth be told! The one new character introduced is Supernova, a new partner for Superman when Batman decides to work with Green Arrow. Supernova as a character name will surface again over the years, most recently with Booster Gold.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: There are certain titles from both DC and Marvel that should be no-brainer must-own collections in your library. Obviously, the various team-up titles come to mind first, and is it a coincidence that the two DC team-up titles feature Batman and Superman? So obviously you want to include in your collection the team-ups between Batman AND Superman.

The stories in this collection mark the turn from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. Denny O’Neil and friends bring a more sophisticated approach to the story-telling. We even get a few Superman team-ups sans Batman, including one of the earliest races against the Flash. This is a must-own collection, and probably the best of the four World’s Finest collections.

Footnotes: The stories from World’s Finest Comics #195 and #200 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

The story from World’s Finest Comics #176 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

World’s Finest Comics #179, #188. and #197 were reprint issues and are not included in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: the Worlds’ Finest series that was part of DC’s New 52 line. Overseen by writer Paul Levitz, Worlds’ Finest (and note the placement of the apostrophe!) tells the tale of Power Girl and Huntress traveling from their home, Earth-2, over to Earth-1 and setting up residence. Stranded from their family, friends, and finances, the costumed heroines must find their way in the new world. This is a great spin on the Superman/Batman dynamic, highlighted by the incredible art from the likes of Kevin Nowlan, George Perez, Scott Kollins, and more. This series is readily available in trade paperbacks, and many of the back issues can still be found in the bins.

 

Showcase Presents Sea Devils Vol. 1

seadevils1First Published: July 2012

Contents: Showcase #27 (July/August 1960) to #29 (November/December 1960); and Sea Devils #1 (September/October 1961) to #16 (March/April 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Russ Heath, Bob Haney, Jack Adler, Irv Novick, Hank Chapman, and others

Key First Appearances: Biff Bailey, Dane Dorrance, Judy Walton, Nicky Walton

Overview: Meet the Sea Devils – Have flippers, will travel! In the spirit of other Silver Age common heroes such as the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils are a group of divers who are more at ease under the water than above the water. Biff, Dane, Judy, and Nicky comprise the Sea Devils, who seek out new challenges or missions every other month.

The stories vary from traditional “find a missing treasure” to those dealing with aliens or mystical creatures. Many times, the stories are broken up into segments to give each Sea Devil the chance to shine on their own. And over the course of the series, having served on so many dives with each other, the group develops the mental ability to communicate with each other underwater, which definitely aids in the storytelling of each issue.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: OK, this is going to rank up there (or down, depending on one’s perspective) on my list of least-favorite Showcase Presents volumes. The one redeeming feature of this book is the beautiful Russ Heath art, which kept me going through much of this book. But this title still suffers from the same issues that a title like Challengers of the Unknown faced – telling a unique story that showcases the characters skills each issue. The stories in Sea Devils are very repetitive in nature, and I often got sidetracked trying to determine if I had already read a particular story. If you pick this up, do it for the Heath art only.

 

If you like this volume, try: the Great Pacific series from Image Comics. Admittedly, once you get past Aquaman and Sub-Mariner, there are not a lot of water-based characters or comics around. (And I am setting myself up, as I am sure I am about to be flooded with book suggestions that I am overlooking here. But I digress….) So Great Pacific ran for 18 issues between 2012 and 2014. In the story, a young oil heir Chas Washington settles on the Great Pacific garbage patch and proclaims it as a new nation. But that makes a lot of people unhappy, ranging from nations to his own family. Writer Joe Harris and artist Martin Morazzo create a visually spectacular story that makes one consider the ecological impact we as humans are putting on our planet. The entire series has been collected into three trade paperbacks, so it should be easy to track down and dive into.

Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1

spectreFirst Published: April 2012

Contents: Showcase #60 (January/February 1966), #61 (March/April 1966), and #64 (September/October 1966); The Brave and the Bold #72 (June/July 1967), #75 (December 1967/January 1968), #116 (December 1974/January 1975), #180 (November 1981), and #199 (June 1983); The Spectre #1 (November/December 1967) to #10 (May/June 1969); Spectre stories from Adventure Comics #431 (January/February 1974) to #440 (); DC Comics Presents #29 (January 1981); and Spectre stories from Ghosts #97 (February 1981) to #99 (April 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox, Murphy Anderson, Bob Haney, Neal Adams, Michael Fleisher, Jim Aparo, Jerry Grandenetti, Ernie Chan, Ross Andru, Paul Kupperberg, and others

Key First Appearances: Azmodus, Gwendolyn Sterling

Overview: With his debut in More Fun Comics #52 (February 1940), the Spectre remains one of DC’s oldest characters. Developed by Superman c0-creator Jerry Siegel (with an attributed assist by artist Bernard Baily), the Spectre was originally Detective Jim Corrigan. The good detective found himself the target of hoodlums, who placed him in a barrel filled with concrete and then drowned. However, Corrigan’s spirit is denied entry to Heaven, and must return to Earth to eliminate evil. During this era, the Spectre would serve as a member of the Justice Society of America.

This volume picks up the Spectre’s story in the middle of the Silver Age. The Spectre, along with the rest of the Justice Society, have returned to action in the pages of The Flash and Justice League of America. DC editor Julie Schwartz wanted to see if the Spectre could stand on his own, so he gave the character a try-out in the pages of Showcase, followed soon by appearances in The Brave and the Bold. The interest was there to warrant the Spectre getting his own series, but that only ran for 10 issues.

When we see the Spectre again, it is now in the Bronze Age, and the haunted hero is now a feature in Adventure Comics. These stories show the dark potential of the character, as the Spectre exacts brutal punishments to those committing evil acts. This run lasted around a year, before the pages in the book were given over to Aquaman.

The volume concludes with multiple other appearances of the Spectre in team-up books and as a backup feature in Ghosts. However, although not collected in this book, our hero could still be found making appearances in Justice League, All-Star Comics, and All-Star Squadron.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a mixed volume in terms of the types of stories collected. You get the superhero aspect with the various team-ups, the angel of vengeance in other stories, and would-be horror anthology host in others. So there might be some type of story that you can find in here that you will enjoy. But reading these in consecutive order, the character seems under-utilized most of the time. It’s not until much later, specifically the 1990s, where I feel like a writer and artists finally found the full potential of the character.

Earth(-2) Angel, Earth(-1) Angel: So which DC Earth do the Spectre stories take place in? For the stories that involve the Justice Society members such as Wildcat, those take place on Earth-2. For his team-ups with Batman, Superman, and the Flash, those take place on Earth-1. As for the rest, well, I think that is up to the reader to decide. The Spectre seems to not be bound to any one Earth in particular, especially when the story is scripted by Bob Haney.

Footnotes:  The Brave and the Bold #75 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold: Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1.

The Brave and the Bold #116 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold: Batman Team-Ups Vol. 3.

DC Comics Presents #29 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: The Spectre series from 1992. The series ran for five plus years, and it was written entirely by John Ostrander. The series focused on the Spectre serving as the embodiment of the Wrath of God, dealing out punishments for murders of any kind. Ostrander is a former theology student, and his knowledge and experience were reflected in the story topics found over the course of the series. The first 22 issues of the title were recently reprinted in trade paperbacks, but you will need to hit the back issue bins to track down the remainder of the series. Well worth the hunt!

Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 1

showcase_presents_sgt_rock_volume_1First Published: November 2007

Contents: Sgt. Rock story from G.I. Combat #68 (January 1959); Sgt. Rock stories from Our Army At War #81 (April 1959) to #117 (April 1962)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, Irv Novick, and others

Key First Appearances: Sgt. Frank Rock, Ice Cream Soldier, Zach Nollan, Bulldozer, Jackie Johnson, Wildman

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 2

Overview: During World War II, there is an Army squadron that is sent on various missions across Europe and Northern Africa. These missions are critical to the success of the war effort, but they ask a lot of the soldiers to complete the task. While the squad may be led by the Skipper, the true commander of these soldiers is Sgt. Frank Rock, the strongest man in the U.S. Army. This is Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 1.

Sgt. Rock is a fairly simple man. He goes where ordered, he leads the soldiers of Easy Company, and he completes the missions. He doesn’t want to be in the war, but he does it because this is his role in life at this point. He would gladly give up his stripes to a better candidate, but he knows that for right now, he is the man for the job.

Many of the stories deal with Sgt. Rock having to care for a rookie private recently assigned to Easy. This young soldier is afraid of the war or doesn’t understand how or why Rock does what he does. So Rock shares stories about previous soldiers assigned to Easy who faced similar situations, and how they came through it. Often, these young soldiers come through when faced with combat, inspired by the actions and the words of their sergeant.

By the end of this volume, we have been introduced to most of the cast of characters for Easy Company, such as Bulldozer, Ice Cream Soldier, Jackie Johnson and Wildman. There are still a few to be added in later volumes, but the core group is in place here.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really appreciated this volume the more I read of it. First and foremost, the artwork by Joe Kubert is just spectacular. You should get this book just for his artwork. The stories can get repetitive but the artwork carries me through. I just really like to see the progression of the creative team (Robert Kanigher and Kubert) across this collection. We start out with Rock leading a nameless, nondescript Easy Company, with all of the stories focusing just on his story. But as the story progresses, the other characters are introduced and then brought back over and over, and the title becomes more of a group book. It opens up the story-telling opportunities once we have familiar characters that can be re-used from issue to issue.

Footnotes:  While this volume collects the earliest adventures of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, it does not collect the first appearance, which was in G.I. Combat #56 (January 1958). His second appearance in G.I. Combat #68 is included in this collection.

If you like this volume, try: the 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Beyond the dramatic opening scene of the U.S. troops landing at Omaha Beach, it shows a squad sent on a mission to retrieve a soldier. The squad must walk across parts of France, facing German forces along the way. While there is no direct link between Sgt. Rock and Saving Private Ryan, there were many times when reading these stories that I thought back to the movie. This is a powerful movie, and I try to rewatch it each year in that period between Memorial Day (last Monday of May) and the D-Day anniversary (June 6).

Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1

First Published: August 2009

Contents: Eclipso stories from House of Secrets #61 (July-August 1963) to #80 (September-October 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Haney, Lee Elias, Alex Toth, Jack Sparling, and others

Key First Appearances: Dr. Bruce Gordon/Eclipso, Professor Simon Bennett, Mona Bennett, 

Overview: Dr. Bruce Gordon is examining a black diamond when a solar eclipse occurs. The filtered light from the eclipse hits the black diamond, and Gordon is changed into Eclipso. Eclipso is a typical 1960s DC villain, who wants to take over the world without the overly malicious violence. Eclipso can fire energy rays from his eyes via the black diamond, and seems to always have henchmen available for this latest plot. After some period of time following the eclipse, Eclipso reverts back to Gordon, and he is left trying to clean up the mess that Eclipso made.

Trying to help Gordon is his girlfriend, Mona Bennett, and her father, Professor Simon Bennett. They are aware of Gordon’s condition, and do their best to help him control the transformations, trying to protect him from the all-too-numerous eclipses that occur in the DC universe.

Towards the end of the run of these stories, Gordon/Eclipso teamed up with Mark Merlin/Prince Ra-Man, the co-tenant of House of Secrets with Eclipso.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: While this volume gives us the usual assortment of quirky Bob Haney stories, plus art from Alex Toth, I don’t know that this is a necessary volume. When this run ended, it was eight years before Eclipso surfaced again. He was used sporadically for 15 years as the villain of the month, until he became a major threat in the early 1990s. What we think of the character today has very little to do with the stories collected in this Showcase. If DC had collected more of Eclipso’s appearances beyond the House of Secrets run, this might have been a more interesting collection.

Footnotes: House of Secrets came to an end with issue #80 in 1966. Three years later, DC brought back the title, but now used as a horror anthology, picking up the numbering with issue #81.

If you like this volume, try: digging in the back issue bins to find the DC Annuals from 1992 to read Eclipso: The Darkness Within storyline. This has never been reprinted in a collection, so you will need to search for the individual issues. The series featured a beginning and ending bookend books, and then travelled across various DC titles of the time. Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 was unique, as the books shipped to comic book stores featured a plastic black diamond attached to the front cover. Of course, this led to damaged comics, the awkwardness of storing the comic, and the cheap glue that led to the diamond coming off of the cover. If you are looking to find the story, these are the annuals to track down: Action Comics Annual #4; Adventures of Superman Annual #4; Batman Annual #16; Deathstroke the Terminator Annual #1; The Demon Annual #1; Detective Comics Annual #5; The Flash Annual #5; Green Arrow Annual #5; Green Lantern Annual #1; Hawkworld Annual #3; Justice League America Annual #6; Justice League Europe Annual #3; L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual #3; The New Titans Annual #8; Robin Annual #1; Superman Annual #4; Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1; Valor #1; and Wonder Woman Annual #3.

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 3

First Published: January 2008

Contents: Aquaman #24 (November-December 1965) to #39 (May-June 1968); The Brave and the Bold #73 (August-September 1967); and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #115 (October 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Nick Cardy, Bob Haney, and others

Key First Appearances: Ocean Master, Tula/Aquagirl, Black Manta, Vulko, Scavenger

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 2

Overview: Here we are with Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 3, or as I like to think of it, Showcase Presents Aquaman Family Vol. 1. In the same ways that characters like Superman and Batman developed a supporting cast, many of whom had identities starting with the words “super” or “bat”, Aquaman finds himself in a similar situation with his supporting cast. We’ve had Aqualad for years, and the last volume gave us Aquababy. Now with this collection, we get Aquagirl to give Aqualad someone to hang out with. And much like some of the Superman Family- or Batman Family-type issues of the era, we are treated to some ho-hum issues of the Aquaman Family working together to solve some undersea calamity.

In addition to Aquagirl, we are finally introduced to Vulko, an Atlantean who would become Aquaman’s trusted advisor. Vulko has become a mainstay in Aquaman comics for many years – whether bringing Arthur up to speed after a long absence from Atlantis or sitting on the throne as king when Aquaman finds himself ousted from his home.

But the highlight of this collection is the completion of Aquaman’s Rogues Gallery. The two villains most associated with Aquaman make their first appearance in these issues. We find out that Ocean Master is Arthur’s half-brother, which creates a new set of struggles for Aquaman, who has very little blood relatives in his life. It’s hard to love your family when they are trying to kill you every other issue! We also meet Black Manta, an angry man that wants nothing more than to take down Aquaman. Both of these foes have become mainstays not only in Aquaman’s universe but in the DC Universe proper. Another minor villain is introduced in the Scavenger. Truthfully, you probably have read stories featuring Scavenger. He’s just not that memorable of a character.

This majority of this collection is written by Bob Haney and art by Nick Cardy, two names that are very synonymous with 1960s DC Comics. We do get a rare non-Batman issue of The Brave and the Bold, as Aquaman teams up with his fellow Justice League member, the Atom.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a hit-and-miss collection for me. When the stories are good, they are great! Some of these issues make me believe that Aquaman could be a top-tier character. But then you get a not-so-good story, and those sink to the bottom faster than the Titanic. It’s almost like they found an unused script from a few years prior and decided to run with it. I’m not trying to bash those issues. I’m sure someone out there really enjoyed them.

If you like this volume, try: the Aquaman: Death of the Prince trade paperback from 2011. OK, as of the writing of this post, DC has not released a Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 4, which is a huge shame! Beginning with issue #40, Jim Aparo took over as the series artist, providing a new definitive look to Aquaman and his family. The series ran until #56 in the early 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the series resumed with issue #57, and kicked things up a notch, as evidenced by this trade paperback title. The Aquaman title ran until #63 (thanks DC Implosion!), but Aquaman’s story continued in the pages of Adventure Comics. As I noted in my review for Volume 2, Aquaman was one of the first characters that DC actively developed and pushed forward story lines featuring major life events (marriage, birth of a son, and now death in the family). This is a great volume to track down to read Aquaman’s tumultuous adventures from the 1970s.

Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 3

Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 3

First Published: December 2008

Contents: The Brave and The Bold #109 (October-November 1973) to #134 (May 1977)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Haney, Jim Aparo, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2

Overview: Before it became commonplace to have Batman appear in the early issues of a new title, the guests came to Batman to team up with the Caped Crusader. Welcome back to the Batman team-ups from The Brave and the Bold, as writer Bob Haney and artist Jim Aparo finds incredible ways to have Batman cross paths with the likes of Wildcat, Mister Miracle, and the Metal Men.

The highlight of this volume is the introduction of the Joker as a team-up partner and not just the opposing foe. The Joker stories really stand out, creating a new dynamic that broke the mold for the typical TBATB team-up. The Joker of this era was more of a comedic threat and not a homicidal maniac. Based on his success here, the Joker would become a frequent guest-star as well in DC Comics Presents, teaming up with Superman.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Yes, yes, yes – these stories deserve to be showcased like this. The Brave and the Bold served as a solid way to introduce all aspects of the DC Universe to any reader, be it your first time or your five hundredth time. Nothing is in continuity, so you don’t have to worry about what is going on in Batman, Detective Comics, or any other title of the era. My only gripe – if this can be considered a gripe – is that Volume 3 came out over seven years ago, with no Volume 4 anywhere in sight. The Brave and the Bold ran to issue #200. DC Comics, if you are reading this, PLEASE get the next volume out for this title!

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
#109 – Batman & The Demon
#110 – Batman & Wildcat
#111 – Batman & The Joker
#112 – Batman & Mister Miracle
#113 – Batman & Metal Men
#114 – Batman & Aquaman
#115 – Batman & The Atom
#116 – Batman & The Spectre / Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1
#117 – Batman & Sgt. Rock
#118 – Batman & Wildcat, co-starring the Joker
#119 – Batman & Man-Bat
#120 – Batman & Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!
#121 – Batman & Metal Men
#122 – Batman & Swamp Thing
#123 – Batman & Plastic Man and Metamorpho
#124 – Batman & Sgt. Rock
#125 – Batman & The Flash
#126 – Batman & Aquaman
#127 – Batman & Wildcat
#128 – Batman & Mister Miracle
#129 – Batman & Green Arrow, co-starring the Atom, the Joker, and Two-Face
#130 – Batman & Green Arrow, co-starring the Atom, the Joker, and Two-Face
#131 – Batman & Wonder Woman
#132 – Batman & Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter
#133 – Batman & Deadman
#134 – Batman & Green Lantern

If you like this volume, try: the 2007 The Brave and the Bold series, specifically the first 12 issues, from Mark Waid, George Pérez, and Jerry Ordway. This was a fun reboot of the classic series, with a new spin on the team-ups. Waid created an ongoing story where one guest would carry over into the next issue, teaming up with a different guest. And that different guest would then host the following issue, and so on. Waid has proven many times over that he is a master storyteller with the DC characters, and Pérez & Ordway are two legendary artists, each deserving of a hardcover collection showcasing their careers at DC. This run of The Brave and the Bold series has been reprinted in both hardcover and trade paperback collections, and the individual issues are readily available in the back-issue bins. Track down this run and enjoy the read!