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 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.

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5

greenlantern5First Published: April 2011

Contents: Green Lantern #76 (April 1970) to #87 (December 1971-January 1972) and #89 (April-May 1972); and Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories from The Flash #217 (August-September 1972) to #221 (April-May 1973), #223 (September-October 1973), #224 (November-December 1973), #226 (March-April 1974) to #228 (July-August 1974), #230 (November-December 1974), #231 (January-February 1975), #233 (May 1975), #234 (June 1975), #237 (November 1975), #238 (December 1975), #240 (March 1976) to #243 (August 1976), #245 (November 1976), and #246 (January 1977)

Key Creator Credits: Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, Mike Grell, and others

Key First Appearances: Appa Ali Apsa, John Stewart, Itty, Jason Woodrue/Floronic Man

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4 and Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol. 1

Overview: In early 1970, the Green Lantern title was given over to the next generation of comic book creators: Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. O’Neal had been writing comics for a few years and was already the writer for Justice League of America and Detective Comics. Adams had been doing a lot of work in the Superman titles and had just recently finished a memorable run with Roy Thomas on the Uncanny X-Men. Together, the two joined together on what has become one of the most important story arcs in the history of comics. This is Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5.

The first move made was to bring in Green Arrow as a partner, providing a voice for social commentary within the title. Green Lantern finds himself in the doghouse with the Guardians for not heeding orders. Green Arrow challenges the Guardians, as they are losing sight of who or what they need to be doing in their role. The Guardians send one of their own, Appa Ali Apsa, to join Hal and Ollie on Earth. The three load up into a beat-up pickup truck, and head out on the road to discover America, starting off the “Hard-Travelin’ Heroes’ storyline. Along the way, Black Canary joins the guys on their adventures.

Along their journey, the heroes find a lot about America that they don’t like. The stories in this run deal with race relations, pollution, overpopulation, drugs, big government and more. While O’Neil was doing some similar type stories in the Justice League book, he was able to get into the details of the issues, using Green Lantern and Green Arrow to take opposing sides of the various arguments.

The most memorable story in this era is a two-part arc in issues #85 and #86. The heroes are discovering that drugs are becoming an epidemic across the country. They take a rather noble stand, viewing themselves as above the problem, only to discover that Green Arrow’s former sidekick, Speedy, has become a junkie. The heroes are able to get Speedy the help he needs, and they realize that the problem with drugs is not limited to one’s race, gender, or income.

The next issue features the introduction of John Stewart into the Green Lantern mythos. Hal Jordan’s backup on Earth, Guy Gardner, is severely injured, and Appa uses his powers to find a new backup. The ring takes them to Stewart, a young black architect who has a different view on the world. He agrees to serve as a backup but is rarely used again until the mid-1980s, when Hal Jordan stepped away from the Corps prior to Crisis.

Sadly, the sales for Green Lantern were struggling, and the book came to an end. The final parts of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow story were finished up as a backup in The Flash. Beginning with the story in The Flash #220, Green Lantern goes back to being a solo act and officially rejoins the Green Lantern Corps with the full use of his ring.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Do I really need to tell you why these stories should be showcased? If there is any question in your mind, you should just go lay down for awhile and let that feeling pass. The O’Neil-Adams run collected here are some of the most powerful stories ever told, and they highlight the potential for comics to be tools for social change. I honestly believe that Neal Adams work shines brighter in black and white, giving you the opportunity to really study his art. This is a must-own arc that should be in every collection. I would not fault you in the least if you prefer to have this in color, or in a hardcover or absolute collection. Just make sure you have this in some form in your library.

Footnotes: Green Lantern #88 is a reprint issue, although it does contain a previously unpublished Alan Scott story.

Due to declining sales, the Green Lantern title came to an end with issue #89, and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow storyline became a backup feature in The Flash. However, DC brought back the Green Lantern title during the DC Explosion of the mid-1970s, picking up the numbering with #90. There was a brief four-month window where Green Lantern was featured in both the Green Lantern title and as a backup in The Flash.

If you like this volume, try: the Blackest Night story from 2009. This could very well be Geoff Johns’ best Green Lantern story, and definitely the most impactful story that he oversaw at DC to date. Johns takes the concept of the colored rings wielded by the likes of the Green Lanterns, Sinestro, and Star Sapphire, and develops entire new lines of Lanterns with red, orange, blue, indigo and even black lantern rings. Only those black lantern rings are going out to long-dead heroes and villains, raising them from the grave to seek out and kill the Green Lanterns. This story took over DC Comics throughout that year, with mini-series and crossovers to go along with the main series being told in Green Lantern and the Blackest Night mini-series. This has been collected multiple times, as a trade paperback, hardcover, and absolute. You should have no troubles tracking down this story.

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5

JLA5

First Published: February 2011

Contents: Justice League of America #84 (November 1970) to #106 (July/August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Mike Friedrich, Dick Dillin, Len Wein, Neal Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Assemblers (Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress, Wandjina, Jack B. Quick), Merlyn, Starbreaker, Nebula Man, Kathy Sutton

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

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 6

Overview: With apologies to Hanna-Barbera, “In the great hall of the Justice League, there are assembled the world’s greatest heroes, created from the cosmic legends of the universe — Superman! Batman! Wonder Woman! Aquaman! Flash! Green Arrow! Green Lantern! Hawkman! Black Canary! Atom! To fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to serve all mankind!”

This volume can be broken down into two sections, based on the two writers (Mike Friedrich and Len Wein) who script all but one of the stories in this collection. We saw in the last volume that Dick Dillin took over the art duties, which began one of the longest runs of any artist on a Justice League title. Artist Neal Adams does most of the cover work in this collection, helping to set the tone for each issue before the book is even opened.

Mike Friedrich was a fresh face in the industry in the 1970s. He was a long-time letter page writer who leveraged his ongoing correspondence with editor Julie Schwartz to start selling short stories and fill-in stories. Justice League of America was Friedrich’s first ongoing assignment for DC. His stories tended to stay in the formula long-established by Gardner Fox and then Denny O’Neil and utilized the roster put in place by O’Neil. Friedrich did make some addition to the cast of characters in the DC Universe. In his second JLA issue, he introduced the Assemblers, a group of heroes that seemed to resemble Marvel’s Avengers. (Call it an homage, seeing that Marvel had already introduced in the pages of the Avengers the Squadron Sinister/Supreme, which those characters were an homage back to the Justice League.) He also introduced the villain archer Merlyn, who would be a minor character for many years until being brought to the forefront with the Arrow TV show in the last few years.

The addition of Wein takes the title to new heights. Beginning with issue #100, he starts a three-part JLA-JSA team-up that also brings back the legendary Seven Soldiers of Victory, who have been trapped in limbo for years. The heroes are revived, but not before a hero makes a final sacrifice. How do you follow that epic? Easily, you send the Justice League to Rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween parade. For good measure, Len Wein writes himself, along with his wife Glynis and future JLA writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart, into the story. If Rutland sounds familiar, it became a nexus between comic book companies in the 1970s. (Check out my write-up for Essential Avengers Vol. 4 for more details.)

As with previous volumes, one of the highlights is seeing the new members elected into the JLA. Towards the end of this volume, we see the Elongated Man, a long-time friend of the Flash, and the Red Tornado, re-assembled and now living on Earth-1, join the league. There was one other vote in this collection, as the heroes debated and finally agreed to offer a spot to the Phantom Stranger, who makes his first appearance in this title. Only the Phantom Stranger didn’t stick around to hear the results of the vote. The Phantom Stranger would make numerous appearances in the title in the years to come, helping the League out of a tough situation or by just providing ominous warnings.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a hodge-podge collection of issues, but it really does work. I think it is in this era, particularly when writer Len Wein takes over, that the full potential of this title takes hold, and this truly does feel like a book worthy of the plug, “World’s Greatest Super-Heroes!” Everything that you want to see in a JLA collection is here – new members joining the team, new villains being introduced, and multiple JLA-JSA team-ups. We also get to the point in the series where it stops being a collection of one-and-done stories, and there is more of an ongoing narrative that continues from issue to issue.

Footnotes: Justice League of America #85 and #93 are Giant-size reprint issues. collecting previously published stories. The covers for these two issues are in this volume.

Justice League of America #91 and #92 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

Justice League of America #103 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice original graphic novel from 2002. Released in late 2002, writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns (who were then writing the monthly JSA book) craft a fresh story bringing the two legendary teams together for the first time in the modern age. (Remember, the JLA-JSA team-up tradition came to an end with Crisis!). Artists Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino make the characters jump out from the page, truly capturing the individual personalities of each of the characters. The two teams have gathered together for a Thanksgiving dinner, but suddenly find many of their teammates possessed by the embodiments of the Seven Deadly Sins. The unaffected members of the two teams must work together to free their friends as well as figure out who is the true foe they are going up against. This was originally released as a hardcover book, and the softcover edition came out the following year. The complete story was recently included in JSA Omnibus Vol. 1, which came out in 2014.

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

ddcp_superman_1First Published: November 2009

Contents: DC Comics Presents #1 (July-August 1978) to  #26 (October 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Steve Englehart, Denny O’Neil, Cary Bates, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Murphy Anderson, Dick Dillin, Joe Staton, and others

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

Overview: Comics, like any other medium, loves to duplicate a success. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so I’ve been told. If Company A has a character selling well, then Company B will create a similar character. (Or in more modern times, if Company A has a best-selling character in one book, then that character will soon be featured in two or more books.)

So it should come as no surprise in the late 1970s that DC Comics introduced DC Comics Presents, a team-up book that would be anchored by Superman. DC had found success by focusing on Batman in the pages of The Brave and the Bold. Heck, World’s Finest Comics was a Batman-Superman team-up book. Over at the distinguished competition, Marvel doubled it up with two team-up books featuring Spider-Man (primarily) and the Thing. I guess the only question to ask here would be why it took DC so long to get this book started? While I haven’t found a definitive answer to that, I’m sure that the then upcoming release of Superman: The Movie might have prompted DC to get another Superman title on the newsstands.

DC Comics Presents brought in a lot of the creative talent that helped shape DC Comics in the 1970s. The title found a cast of regular co-hosts (mostly fellow members of the Justice League) that would cycle in and out frequently over the course of the run of the book. Perhaps in a nod to the quirky stories Bob Haney would deliver over in The Brave and the Bold, we do get the one issue in this collection where Superman is blasted back in time to World War II, where he teams up with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. As with any team-up book, the premise that would bring the characters together was sketchy a lot of times. In this era, the norm was 17-page stories, so many of these are quick reads.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I’ve said for years that team-up books should be required reading for all comic book fans. But I would recommend starting with the other books of this era first, such as The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up. This title always seemed to me unnecessary – given how powerful Superman was in this era, why does he need the help of <guest star of the month> to solve the particular problem for that issue? I have this same issue with Superman in the Justice League of America title in this age, too. The team-ups can be a lot of fun, but the premise of the stories are generally weak.

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #26 is one of the issues from this series most in-demand in the back issue market, but with nothing to do with the Superman story. In this era, DC started placing 16-page previews of upcoming titles in various books. In this issue, a preview of The New Teen Titans #1 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This serves as the first appearances for Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire, so it has stayed in demand for many years with collectors.

Who’s Who:
#1 – Superman & Flash
#2 – Superman & Flash
#3 – Superman & Adam Strange
#4 – Superman & Metal Men
#5 – Superman & Aquaman
#6 – Superman & Green Lantern
#7 – Superman & Red Tornado
#8 – Superman & Swamp Thing
#9 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#10 – Superman & Sgt. Rock
#11 – Superman & Hawkman
#12 – Superman & Mister Miracle
#13 – Superman & Legion of Super-Heroes
#14 – Superman & Superboy
#15 – Superman & Atom
#16 – Superman & Black Lightning
#17 – Superman & Firestorm
#18 – Superman & Zatanna
#19 – Superman & Batgirl
#20 – Superman & Green Arrow
#21 – Superman & Elongated Man
#22 – Superman & Captain Comet
#23 – Superman & Doctor Fate
#24 – Superman & Deadman
#25 – Superman & Phantom Stranger
#26 – Superman & Green Lantern

If you like this volume, try: Action Comics #584 to #600 from 1987 and 1988. Following Crisis on Multiple Earths, DC brought in fan favorite John Byrne to reinvent Superman for the new DC Universe. Following the initial Man of Steel mini-series that gave us the back history of Clark Kent and Superman, the books returned to a normal monthly publishing schedule. In Action Comics, this became a team-up book, with various heroes meeting up with Superman. Done by Byrne, there are a lot of fun match-ups that stand out from this run. While there is not just one collected edition for these issues, there is a series of eight trades, Superman: The Man of Steel, that collect all of the Superman stories from this time in publishing order. Alternatively, the individual issues can be generally found in discount bins at shows or local comic shops, so that might be a fun run to hunt down on your own.

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 4

First Published: July 2009

Contents: Justice League of America #61 (March 1968) to #83 (September 1970)

Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin, Denny O’Neil, and others

Key First Appearances: Red Tornado (II), Black Canary (II) (see I Hope I Die Before I Get Old)

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

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

Overview: Meet the new Justice League — same as the old Justice League. With this volume, we finally see a change in leadership on the team. Not from heroes assembled but in the creative team. Longtime writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky bring their run on the title (which actually started in The Brave and the Bold #28) to an end, handing off the duties to young writer Denny O’Neil and veteran artist Dick Dillin. As a result, the type of stories that were told in Justice League of America shifted to match the changing world in which it was published in.

Let’s get the givens out of the way. We get three JLA-JSA team-ups in this collection. We do have some changes to the line-up, as Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter take leaves from the team, and Black Canary joins the team. Green Arrow takes on a new costume, and the stories tend to start using a smaller set of characters instead of all ten members per issue.

In a surprise twist, we see the Justice Society admit a new member, in what would be Fox’s final issue of this run. The Red Tornado was created by T.O. Morrow, with the intention of inserting him into the team and then destroying them. Despite stopping the JSA, the combined might of the JLA proves too much for the Red Tornado to overcome. Realizing that their foe has been manipulated, the Justice Society nominates Red Tornado for membership. As we will see in the next collection, Red Tornado’s time as a JSA member is short-lived, as he soon relocates to Earth-1 and is eventually offered membership with the Justice League.

The JLA does have some minor changes to the membership in this volume. Founding member Martian Manhunter takes an official leave from the team to return with his people to the New Mars colony. Truth be told, he hadn’t been used much in the last several years as Superman and Batman became more featured members in the League. The Martian Manhunter would make the occasional appearance during the Bronze Age, but would not return to the League full-time until the JLA-Detroit era. Around that same time, Diana was stripped of her Wonder Woman title, abilities, and costume, leading to her white jumpsuit era. The League put her on leave and eventually allowed her to re-join once she had proven her capabilities. (Seriously, she was a founding member; she served as their secretary and housekeeper; the only female willing to hang out in a cave with these guys; and they want her to “re-apply” for membership?)

One of the most important changes in the history of the Justice League came with issues #77 and #78. Batman’s long-time foe, the Joker, tricks long-time friend Snapper Carr into revealing the secret location of the JLA’s Secret Sanctuary, otherwise known as the cave. Faced with trying to find a new place to meet and store their trophies, the League looks to the skies – specifically 22,300 miles above the Earth. The JLA Satellite is introduced as the new, more secure headquarters for the team. Members can access the satellite via transportation tubes set up in major cities around the world, or via a trip through space to reach the satellite. The satellite would serve as the Bronze Age headquarters for the JLA, until being destroyed during the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This book marks the first major transition in the JLA’s history. To date, the adventures of the JLA had all been done by Fox and Sekowsky. But early in this volume, we see Dillin take over the art duties, followed by O’Neil taking over the writing duties. While Fox wrote stories following the traditional comic book story-methods that had worked well for 30 years, O’Neil brought a new approach to the story-telling. He was also writing Wonder Woman at this same time. O’Neil took Wonder Woman out of the League (and the book) and quickly replaced her with Black Canary. Following that, he quickly developed a relationship between Black Canary and Green Arrow, one which has lasted for decades (on and off). He took the Justice League from the cave in Happy Harbor to a satellite circling the Earth; they also lost their mascot, Snapper Carr, at the same time. And his stories started dealing with world issues such as food shortages and pollution, and not just the villain-of-the-month. I think more credit needs to be given to O’Neil for forcing the Justice League title to make the jump from the Silver Age into the Bronze Age.

I Hope I Die Before I Get Old: At the end of Justice League of America #74 (September 1969), Black Canary decides to relocate from Earth-2 to Earth-1, following the death of her husband Larry Lance. She was quickly accepted into the JLA as a member. However, flash forward to 1983, in issues #219 and #220 during the 20th team-up of the JLA-JSA, it was revealed that the Black Canary that came from Earth-2 to Earth-1 (Dinah Laurel Lance) is actually the daughter of the original Black Canary (Dinah Drake-Lance). This was done as a retcon to explain how the Black Canary could have been active in both World War II with the Justice Society and in the 1980s with the Justice League. As a result, many sources now cite Justice League of America #75 as the first appearance of the second Black Canary. (Issue #75 is also the first JLA issue where Green Arrow is sporting his new costume and goatee, perhaps another indication that the title has moved into the Bronze Age.)

Footnotes: Justice League of America #67 and #76 are 80-Page Giant reprint issues. collecting three previously published stories. The covers for these two issues are in this volume.

Justice League of America #64 did not feature any members of the Justice League. While this was the first of a two-part JLA-JSA team-up, the story focused on just the Justice Society portion of the story.

Beginning with issue #68 (August 1968), artist Dick Dillin drew part of or all of every non-reprint issue of Justice League of America, with one exception (#153), until his death following issue #183 (October 1980).

If you like this volume, try: JLA by Morrison and Porter from 1997. Following Legends in the mid-1980s, a new Justice League was introduced, affectionately known as the “Bwah-ha-ha-ha” era. In the earlier years, it was a great run on the series. As it developed, it spun out into many other titles such as Justice League Europe, Justice League Task Force, and Extreme Justice. Truth be told, they became a lot of mediocre titles, so DC made the move to re-invigorate the franchise. Superstar writer Grant Morrison and upcoming artist Porter were given the keys to the castle and begun what is an epic run on the title. The threats were greater, more global in nature. The heroes were stronger and smarter, much bigger than their counterparts. The team once again took their headquarters into space, establishing the Watchtower on the moon. This book was highly influential within the comic book community. While others might not agree with me, I can see the threads and concepts and larger-than-life approach of JLA taking us to The Authority, which that led us to The Ultimates, and so on. DC has been collecting these of late in hardcover collections, and numerous trades have been released over the years, keeping these stories easily accessible.

Showcase Presents Blackhawk Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Blackhawk Vol. 1

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Blackhawk #108 (January 1957) to #127 (August 1958)

Key Creator Credits: Dick Dillin, Charles Cuidera, Sheldon Moldoff, Dave Wood, and others

Who is Blackhawk?: Blackhawk, the leader of the team; Stanislaus, the team’s second-in-command; Chuck, the team’s communications specialist; Hendrickson, the team’s sharpshooter; André, the team’s demolitions expert; Olaf, a jack of all trades; and Chop-Chop, a sidekick of sorts for Blackhawk. 

Overview: Meet the Blackhawk military squad. Initially created during the early days of World War II, the men of Blackhawk continue their fight during the Cold War era. Working from their hidden Blackhawk Island in the middle of an unnamed ocean, the Blackhawks are called on to stop rogue armies, super criminals, and monsters from the underground.

Each issue featured three stories, each generally eight pages long. In most cases they follow familiar formulas to wrap things up by the fifth panel of page eight. While the various characters get the occasional feature, the star of the book is obviously Blackhawk himself, who seems to be smarter and braver than all of the other members.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really had a hard time with this volume. There are very few known writing credits for these stories, and maybe that is for the better. There are many times where the character’s ethnic characteristics are overly exaggerated to be borderline racist. In particular, the handling of Chop Chop, the Chinese ex-patriot that speaks in broken English with stereotypical comments. I realize I am applying 2015 standards to comics created nearly 60 years ago. The book is important to show the historical origins of the group, but there are much better stories to read of the Blackhawks from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Footnotes: Blackhawk was originally published by Quality Comics, with its debut in Uncle Sam Quarterly #1 (Fall 1941). The title was renamed Blackhawk with issue #9 (Winter 1944) and ran until issue #107 (December 1956), when Quality Comics ceased operations. Immediately, four titles were licensed out to DC Comics to publish (Blackhawk, G.I. Combat, Heart Throbs, and Robin Hood Tales). DC kept the numbering as well as the creative team on Blackhawk, immediately releasing issue #108 (January 1957). This Showcase begins with the start of the DC run of the title. Eventually, all of the Quality Comics properties were sold to DC, giving the publisher the opportunity to integrate characters such as Plastic Man, Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, and others into the DC Universe.  

If you like this volume, try: tracking down the first few years of stories from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Bear with me on this one! Some of the more interesting aspects of this Showcase was the time spent on Blackhawk Island, with their collection of their own weapons – tanks and planes and boats. In the early 1980s, Hasbro was preparing a new line of G.I. Joe toys, and contracted Marvel Comics to produce a supporting comic book to coincide with the toy line launch. The G.I. Joe comic was a smash hit, and the first two issues remained wall books for many years in comic book stores. Working with Hasbro, writer Larry Hama helped to develop characters and vehicles which would be used in both the comics and the toy line. The original G.I. Joe comic ran for 12 years at Marvel, and the property has been revived twice in the last ten years, first at Devil’s Due Publishing and later at IDW Publishing. The early issues of the Marvel line have been reprinted multiple times in multiple formats, by Marvel and IDW, so track them down. Yo Joe!