Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Showcase Presents World's Finest Vol. 2

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #112 (September 1960) to #145 (November 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Dick Sprang, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, Jim Mooney, Dave Wood, and others

Key First Appearances: Composite Superman

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

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

Overview: Sometimes the smartest creations in life is simply combining two great things together. For example, milk chocolate is awesome all on its own. So is peanut butter. Those two by themselves are some of the tastiest sweets in the world. But in 1928, Harry Reese had the brilliant idea to combine the two together. Now, some 80 years later, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is the most popular candy bar in United States. <Excuse me for a moment, I think I need to run to the store to pick up a Reese’s!>

So peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that go great together. We all get that. But you are here to read about comics, right? So let’s take two great heroes (Batman and Superman), merge them together into one title, and we get the Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2.

The stories here follow the same pattern as the previous volume. Something happens that brings the two heroes together. Between Superman’s strength and Batman’s smarts, the heroes find themselves on the winning end of things at the end of each 15-page story. There is no continuity with these stories, so you can read them in any order. The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances along the way, as well as their rogues galleries.

It’s funny that I used the word ‘merge’ in the first paragraph. (Truthfully, not funny, but rather deliberate on my part!) The highlight of this volume involves the introduction in World’s Finest #142 of the Composite Superman, who might be just the greatest DC Silver Age character of all time. Joe Meach was a down-in-his-luck diver (don’t most divers head down eventually?), and Superman helps him out by getting him a custodian job at the Superman Museum. One night while Meach was cleaning up in front of a Legion of Super-Heroes exhibit, lightning hits the Legion figurines, and the electrical energy passes on to Meach. Suddenly, Meach finds that he has all of the powers of the Legionaires. Using Chameleon Boy’s shape-changing ability, Meach creates a hybrid costume that is half Superman, half Batman. Dubbing himself the Composite Superman, he appears to befriend Superman and Batman, but his long term goal is to destroy Superman’s life. Fortunately, our heroes see though his scheme, and stop Meach until he exhausts his powers. The Composite Superman, be it Meach or other characters, will return time and time again to face off against Superman and Batman.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I can think of two good reasons why these stories should be showcased. The first is Batman, and the second is Superman. Seriously, this is a no-brainer. Of course these should be collected. Sure, they are Silver Age stories, but I would contend that the best Batman or Superman Silver Age stories from this time period are in this collection, and not in the Showcase Presents Batman or Showcase Presents Superman volumes. This is a perfect volume to skip around and read the stories that most interest you. I was always fond of the Joker-Lex Luthor team-ups. (DC tried to duplicate that team-up magic with a Clayface-Brainiac collaboration. Yeah, not quite as interesting as Joker-Luthor!)

Footnotes: The story from World’s Finest Comics #141 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Batman & Superman: World’s Finest maxi-series from 1999. Written by Karl Kessel, with art by Dave Taylor, Peter Doherty, and Robert Campanella, the series looks that the Batman/Superman team-ups over a 10-year period. Issue #1 takes place ten years before present day, issue #2 takes place nine years before present day, and so on. This is set in the Post-Crisis universe and reflects events that happened in their comics between 1986 and 1998. In the first issue, the two heroes team-up for the first time, but fail to save a doctor. With each issue, the two heroes re-unite on the anniversary of the doctor’s death. This collection is a solid story, with glimpses into the expanded families of both characters. We get a funny Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk team-up in issue #6 that brings along Robin and Lois Lane. The standout issue in this story is #7. Taking place sometime after the death of Jason Todd and after Superman’s return from his space exile, Superman takes Batman to his hometown of Smallville, Kansas. The two actually spend time talking through their issues and emotions. No super villains interrupt the discussion. In fact, the heroic actions by the two stars are actions that anyone could do in their daily life; Superman assists a woman delivering a baby, while Batman performs CPR on a doctor. A trade paperback collecting all ten issues was released in 2003. I can’t recommend this title, and in particular issue #7, strongly enough – PICK THIS UP!

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

Showcase Presents World's Finest Vol. 1

First Published: October 2007

Contents: Superman/Batman story from Superman #76 (May-June 1952); Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #71 (July-August 1954) to #111 (August 1960)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Dick Sprang, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, and others

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Overview: They are arguably the two most recognizable heroes in comic books. Superman – more powerful than a locomotive; able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Batman – defender of Gotham City, avenging the death of parents by striking back at crime. Each are stars in their own right, having moved from the comics to newspaper strips, radio dramas, and movie serials. At some point, it seemed natural that these two forces for good must cross paths, and that finally occurred in 1952 in Superman #76,  Clark Kent schedules a cruise (because everyone knows that the Daily Planet has a very generous vacation policy), but due to overbooking, he is asked to share a room with millionaire Bruce Wayne. Before the ship can leave port, an explosion on the docks prompts both men to change into their costumed identities. accidentally revealing their secrets to each other. Promising to keep each other’s secret, Superman and Batman work together, making for one of the most important comic book team-ups of all time.

Two years later, the Superman and Batman features in World’s Finest are combined, teaming up the two heroes (plus Robin, the Boy Wonder!) issue after issue after issue. The reasons for the team-ups vary from the reasonable to the absurd – whether fighting aliens or giant robots; traveling through time to the future, or into the past; stopping Lex Luthor on his next scheme to rule the world, or having Batman pose as Superman to keep Lois Lane from discovering Superman’s secret identity.

The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances. From Metropolis, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry cross paths with Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and Batwoman from Gotham City. In later Showcase Presents World’s Finest volumes, we will see a friendship develop between Jimmy Olsen and Robin, leading to a junior World’s Finest team-up.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: If you can think of this volume as a collection of imaginary stories, than this is a fun and interesting volume. If you are a continuity nerd, this book will make your head explode. These are all one-and-done stories, and should never be referenced again in any other story. The plots are absurd, and would never be published into today’s publishing environment. But it’s stories like this that inspired writers like Grant Morrison to create wonderful tribute stories, such as All-Star Superman and Batman: Incorporated.

Footnotes: Superman and Batman (with Robin) had been the stars of World’s Finest Comics since the first issue, which was initially published as World’s Best Comics #1. (The title changed to World’s Finest Comics with issue #2.)  However, these characters were each featured in their own stories within the magazine. In 1954, due to declining interest in comic books, World’s Finest Comics was reduced from a 64-page book to a 32-page book. In order to keep both of the stars of the book featured in the title, Superman and Batman started teaming up together in one story beginning with issue #71, which is where this Showcase Presents volume begins. 

If you like this volume, try: the first story arc Superman/Batman from 2003. Created by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, the Public Enemies story brought back together the World’s Finest team in a monthly comic book. In this volume, President Lex Luthor accuses Superman of treasonous crimes, and calls upon the super-hero community to bring him in dead or alive. Batman and Superman work together to uncover Luthor’s scheme, and to prove Superman’s innocence. Loeb takes an interesting approach to the story, showing us Superman through the eyes of Batman, and vice versa. The art by McGuinness is perfect for this title: Superman is big and bold and his muscles have muscles, while Batman is sleek and dark and mysterious. in 1987. This title ran for eight years, and some story arcs are better than others. For my money, Public Enemies is among the best and is the perfect way to return to the World’s Finest team.