Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 6

First Published: January 2016

Contents: Batman #229 (February 1971) to #244 (September 1972); Batman stories from Detective Comics #408 (February 1971) to #426 (August 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, Dick Giordano and others

Key First Appearances: Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul, Ubu, Doctor Moon, Matches Malone

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back to the sixth (and sadly final) volume of the Showcase Presents Batman series. I am your host, Jerry – a reader of a lot of comics and a tardy blogger who is way overdue to get another one of these reviews posted.

Let’s dive in, because this is the volume we have been waiting for. We’ve got Denny O’Neil writing many of these issues, and we have Neal Adams drawing many of those same issues. Let’s take the concept of the League of Assassins (created by Adams in the Deadman stories in Strange Adventures) and bring it to the Batman books. But we need a leader of the League… a figurehead… maybe a Demon’s Head. Enter Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia.

Over a series of non-consecutive issues across both Batman and Detective Comics, Batman is drawn into a battle that appears to be centuries old. Ra’s al Ghul has big plans for the world, and those plans do not involve Batman. To complicate matters, Talia has a romantic interest in Batman. Throw those in together, and you get some explosive stories, going from the streets of Gotham City to the remote peaks of Nanda Parbat. Keep your Lazarus Pit handy, because someone is not walking away from this fight.

In between these classic al Ghul stories, this volume gives us a mix of mostly solo Batman stories. (Robin could usually be found in his own back-up feature in Batman, while Batgirl had her own back-up feature in Detective Comics.) We do get two visits from traditional Batman foes, with Two-Face and Man-Bat. Otherwise, this collection features a lot of detective stories, with Batman having to solve a mystery or follow the clues to a solution.

There is one new addition to the Batman mythos – the creation of Batman’s Matches Malone identity. Malone was a mob boss killed by Ra’s al Ghul. Batman seized upon the opportunity and kept Malone’s death a secret. He would dress up as Malone to infiltrate criminal hangouts to obtain information that he wouldn’t normally be able to get if he came strolling into the room as Batman. The Matches Malone identity will be used a lot over the years by many writers, and it adds a new approach to Batman’s quest to rid Gotham City of crime.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This was a hot and cold book for me. The stories are either INCREDIBLE or average. Reading through this book, I grew to look forward to the O’Neil-Adams stories, and I learned to dread the Robbins stories. (Not to bash on Frank Robbins here. I like his stuff, just not on Batman.) In this era, you were given a lot of different versions of Batman – super-hero, detective, crime fighter and more. If you like Batman to have a lot of different roles, this is a great collection. If you want one particular take on Batman, this might not be the book for you.

Footnotes: Batman #233 and #238 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection. 

Batman #237 features the Batman and Robin attending the Halloween parade in Rutland, Vermont. For more information on Rutland, see Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the Batman by Neal Adams omnibus from 2016. Yes, if you have been reading this blog for some time, then you have already read two-thirds of this book. You’ll get the Adams stories from Batman, Detective Comics, The Brave and the Bold, and World’s Finest. You even get reprints of the two Batman Power Records that Adams did. My personal opinion here, but the only downside of this collection is that it contains Batman: Odyssey. It’s a beautifully drawn story, but it needed a strong writer and editor to bring that title together. Regardless of my opinions on Odyssey, the other stories deserve to be viewed on an oversized white page with modern color printing. If you look around, you should be able to find it for less than cover price, and it will look so good sitting on your bookshelf.

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.