Essential Black Panther Vol. 1

First Published: May 2012

Contents: Jungle Action #6 (September 1973) to #22 (July 1976), and #24 (November 1976); and Black Panther #1 (January 1977) to #10 (July 1978)

Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Jack Kirby, and others

Key First Appearances: Erik Killmonger, Venomm, Mister Little, Princess Zanda, N’Gassi,

Overview: Coming in on a 12:30 flight, we are taking a journey to the land of Wakanda on the African continent. A country built on Vibranium, a rare and powerful element that makes this small country one of the most important ones in all of the world, which in turn brings a lot of threats and dangers to the land. This is Essential Black Panther!

For years, we’ve known of the Black Panther as a supporting character. First introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four, he was a member of the Avengers for many years. Now, we see Black Panther return home, to handle the responsibilities of leading his country.

This collection is broken up nicely into two distinct runs. In the first run, writer Don McGregor, with art from the likes of Rich Buckler and Billy Graham, gives us two great storylines that show the range of the Black Panther character. The Panther’s Rage storyline has Black Panther fighting off a challenge to his throne by Erik Killmonger. The story runs across Africa, from deserts to jungles to waterfalls and caves, Black Panther stands up to the challenges of Killmonger and Venomm to protect his land.

The second storyline from McGregor has T’Challa returning to the United States with his girlfriend Monica Lynne, only to encounter the racist threats of the Ku Klux Klan. This is a powerful story arc on a subject that doesn’t get enough coverage in comics.

The second run in this collection comes to us from the mind of Jack Kirby, so sit back and enjoy the run. During his return to Marvel in the mid-1970s, Kirby was given complete control over his projects and went balls-to-the-wall with everything he did, with titles like Captain America, The Eternals, 2001, and Devil Dinosaur. But my favorite run in this period is his work on Black Panther. He takes Black Panther on a wild journey, chasing after King Solomon’s Frog that can travel through time or bringing in his cousins to protect Wakanda from the radioactive Jakarra. These may not be the greatest Black Panther stories, but they have to be the most fun Black Panther stories.

What makes this Essential?: These are some must-read stories for the Black Panther character, but I don’t know that this is the best collection to read these stories. I would have liked to have seen the Black Panther’s first appearance reprinted in this collection, or even his origin story. You can track those down in other Essentials, but it would have been nice to have them in this book, too. The final five issues of the 1977 run (including Jack Kirby’s final three issues!) are not included here. You cannot even find them in an Essential. I truly believe that Black Panther should have been done in two Essential volumes, to include all of these missing issues.

My other issue is the printing process for this collection. With a character that where’s a black costume, reprinting the story in black and white makes these stories hard to read at times. This is one of those rare times when I wished I had read all of these stories in a color edition.

With all of that said, I do really like these stories. This was the first time that Black Panther got to stand on his own as the lead character in a title or in his own self-titled book. The current success of the character would not be possible without these stories laying the groundwork to establish T’Challa as an A-list hero.

Footnotes: Jungle Action started as a reprint comic. Jungle Action #5 starts the Black Panther run in the title, reprinting Avengers #62, which told the Black Panther’s origin (see Essential Avengers Vol. 3). Jungle Action #23 was a reprint of Daredevil #69 (see Essential Daredevil Vol. 3). The covers to issues #5 and #23 are included in this collection.

The 1977 Black Panther series ran for 15 issues. Kirby stayed on the book through issue #13. The series was cancelled, but the storyline was finished up in Marvel Premiere #51-#53. Those issues of Black Panther and Marvel Premiere can be found in the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: any of the following choices. There are so many great options when it comes to tales involving the Black Panther.

  • The first choice has to be the Christopher Priest run of Black Panther from 1998 to 2003. This originally started out as part of the Marvel Knights imprint, but moved over into the main Marvel publishing group with issued #13. You cannot mention Black Panther without mentioning Priest’s name. So much of what we think of with T’Challa, Wakanda and all things Black Panther were introduced in this series. The entire series was recently collected in four Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection trade paperbacks.
  • The Black Panther series that followed the Priest run is great too. There is a period around 2007 when Reginald Hudlin was writing Black Panther and Dwayne McDuffie was writing Fantastic Four. During the Initiative storyline, Black Panther and his then-wife Storm were serving as members of the Fantastic Four, replacing Reed and Sue. There are a lot of fun stories in each title, and the time-traveling Brass Frogs make a re-appearance.
  • Finally, it would be hard to imagine anyone not having viewed it yet, but the 2018 Black Panther movie is a must watch. If you have not seen this movie, stop reading this blog and go watch it. If you have seen the movie, finish reading the blog and then go watch it again. This may be one of the most visually-stunning Marvel movies to date, and it is both a critical and box-office success.

Essential Daredevil Vol. 6

First Published: November 2013

Contents: Daredevil #126 (October 1975) to #146 (June 1977); Daredevil Annual #4 (1976); Iron Man #88 (July 1976) and #89 (August 1976); and Ghost Rider #19 (August 1976) and #20 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Archie Goodwin, Bob Brown, John Buscema, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, Gil Kane, George Tuska, and others

Key First Appearances: Heather Glenn, Brock Jones/Torpedo, Blake Tower, Bullseye

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 5

Overview: By now, I think we all know the Daredevil story. Blinded as a youth, Matt Murdock’s other senses have been heightened, allowing him to do spectacular feats beyond that of a normal man. Whether fighting crime on the streets at night or defending clients in court during the day, he is the Man Without Fear – Daredevil! This is Essential Daredevil Vol. 6.

Now at this point with the collection, Daredevil has been in business for over 10 years. Maybe it’s time for a change, to shake things up for the characters. For starters, let’s get the law firm of Nelson & Murdock out of their fancy offices. Instead, we are going to have them open up a storefront legal clinic in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen, where anyone can walk in off the street to discuss their legal problems. Let’s also introduce a new girlfriend, Heather Glenn, for Matt. A free spirit that makes you question what color the sky is in her world. (Given that this is a black & white collection, the answer should be white, but you never quite know how she might answer that question.) But just when things are getting comfortable between Heather and Matt, who should return but former romantic interest and secretary Karen Page.

Maybe we can add some new faces to the rogues’ gallery? In shoots Torpedo – but is he a hero or a villain. Or both?Then there is the new assassin known as Bullseye. He never misses regardless what the weapon is in his hands. But fans like the old foes too, so let’s bring in the likes of the Owl, Cobra, and Mr. Hyde. And being the in the Marvel Universe, you know you will have to cross paths with some other heroes, such as Iron Man, Black Panther, Namor, and Ghost Rider.

But Daredevil still shines brightest when he is a hero for the common man. Stopping a runaway bus, finding a lost boy in the big city, dealing with crooked cops, and the other challenges that come up from time to time. Going toe-to-toe with the villain of the month may sell comics, but protecting his city defines the man.

What makes this Essential?: I’ve got mixed opinions for this collection. Part of me says this is essential simply for the character introductions. Heather Glenn would be a long-time romantic interest for Matt. The Torpedo was a C-List hero but became a key part of the ROM book. District Attorney Blake Tower would become a fixture in many Marvel books, such as Amazing Spider-Man. Bullseye would become one of the most important Daredevil villains of all time, especially given the events during the Frank Miller run.

But…. these stories just seem very average. Marv Wolfman writes the majority of the stories in this collection, but I don’t feel like this is his best work. This was doing the era when Wolfman was also serving as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, so it makes sense that this title may not have had his full attention. I want this to be a stronger title, given the list of creators attached to these issues.

Footnotes: Ghost Rider #19 & #20, and Daredevil #138 are also reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Brian Michael Bendis’ legendary run on Daredevil in the early 2000s. I’ve previously recommended the Miller run, the Kevin Smith run, and the Mark Waid run with the Man Without Fear. It makes sense to cover the Bendis run, as he takes Matt Murdock and friends in a whole new direction. Bendis really makes this a psychological examination of what makes the hero, dragging him down to his lowest point ever. The Kingpin returns as the main protagonist for Daredevil, as well as the Owl and Bullseye. The highlight of the run is Matt Murdock being outed as Daredevil and forced to defend his name in court in a desperate attempt to maintain the dual identities. This series has been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and omnibus editions, so it should be easy to track down.

Essential Warlock Vol. 1

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972) and #2 (May 1972); Warlock #1 (August 1972) to #8 (October 1973); Incredible Hulk #176 (June 1974) to #178 (August 1974); Strange Tales #178 (February 1975) to #181 (August 1975); Warlock #9 (October 1975) to #15 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #55 (March 1977); Avengers Annual #7 (1977); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown, Gerry Conway, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and others

Key First Appearances: David Carter, Jason Grey, Ellie Roberts, Eddie Roberts, Brute, Magus, Matriarch, Autolycus, Pip the Troll, Gamora, In-Betweener, Gardener

Overview: Do you remember Him? That’s Him with an uppercase H, as in a proper name. He first appeared many moons ago in Fantastic Four #67, then was brought back for four issues in Thor. He’s an interesting guy but he needs a better name. How does Warlock sound? Even better, let’s make it Adam Warlock. This is Essential Warlock Vol. 1!

Warlock has been found by the High Evolutionary, who takes in Warlock as a new project. Embedding the Soul Gem in his forehead, Warlock is sent to Alternate-Earth (which is located on the far side of the sun from Earth in the same orbit) to become a hero for a heroless world. Warlock befriends a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world, and that way eventually leads the group to the White House. There we find that the President is actually the Man-Beast in disguise, who is looking to take over the world.

Warlock tries to stop the Man-Beast but it can’t be done before the cancellation bug brings his book to an end. So the final battle takes place over in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. The green giant finds himself on the Alternate-Earth and encounters Warlock being held prisoner by the Man-Beast. Warlock makes the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – to stop the Man-Beast but is resurrected a few days later in a new, more powerful form.

When Warlock returns to his own title, after a quick run in Strange Tales, he starts to find a new set of friends, as well as new enemies. Now traveling the galaxy, he meets Gamora and Pip the Troll, who end up tagging along on his adventures. He also meets Magus, a would-be god in the future who just happens to be Warlock. Our hero must destroy his future self in order to save the universe of today.

Now, this collection would not be complete without mentioning Thanos, the big bad heavy of the Marvel Universe. Warlock and Thanos have been linked together for a long time, and it starts with the issues in this collection. Thanos finds that he must work with Warlock to defeat Magus’ army, but once that battle is done, they go their separate ways. Thanos hatches a new plan to rule the universe, and it takes the combined efforts of Warlock and his crew, along with Spider-Man, the Thing, Captain Mar-Vel, and the Avengers to stop Thanos for good — for now at least.

What makes this Essential?: This collection makes for an interesting look at religion. With the initial arc from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the writer was inspired by the then-current Jesus Christ Superstar musical. Sharing a name with the first man in the Bible, Adam Warlock is sent to Earth (albeit Alternate-Earth) to help save the people from a false prophet. During the Jim Starlin arc, Warlock must battle a future version of himself who has been set up as a god across the universe. Given the teases for Warlock in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I anticipate the demand for this book to increase as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Footnotes: Incredible Hulk #176 to #178 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 5.

Marvel Team-Up #55 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3.

Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series from 1991. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, Thanos has acquired all six infinity gems and mounted them onto his glove. Seeking to win the affection of Death, Thanos kills half of the galaxy, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The remaining heroes are given a chance to stop Thanos, but they are unable to prevail. Transcending into a god-like being, Thanos leaves his body unprotected, and his reported granddaughter Nebula steals the glove and restores the universe to how it was before. When things have settled, the recently returned Warlock takes possession of the glove, which led into a new ongoing series titled Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 2

showcase_presents_metal_men_volume_2First Published: September 2008

Contents: Metal Men #16 (October-November 1965) to #35 (December 1968-January 1969); and The Brave and the Bold #66 (June-July 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Mike Sekowsky, Otto Binder, Gil Kane, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 1

Overview: Those wacky robots that could only come out of the Silver Age, the Metal Men, return for more action. Behind the creative genius of Dr. Will Magnus, the Metal Men battle evil robots, travel across space, and protect the Earth from any threats. The issues in this collection follow the same formula as the previous volume, where the team fights the threat of the month. There are some stories that carry over into the next issue, but most of these are one-and-done comics.

For a quick recap, the primary team consists of the six robots created by Magnus, each containing a responsometer which helps animate the robots and provides them with a unique personality.

  • Gold, who leads the team in the field.
  • Mercury, who wants to lead the team in the field.
  • Iron, the strong man of the team.
  • Lead, nearly as strong but not as smart.
  • Tin, whose courage is his strength.
  • Tina, who believes a robot can love a human.

In addition, the team is joined by another female robot, Nameless, which we saw Tin put together in the last volume. Nameless appears throughout most of the volume, promising that one of the fans will get to name her in the letters column. While some names are given in issue #21, the Nameless name seems to stick. Unfortunately, Nameless disappeared (without explanation) when the book went in a new direction beginning in issue #33.

But going back to issue #21 for a minute, this is a quirky but important comic. First, we get cameos from Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, which helps to firmly establish these heroes as part of the DC Universe. Next, the Metal Men take the initiative and seek out a mission, as Dr. Magnus is indisposed throughout the issue. (He spends 22 pages making out with the romantic interest of the month, much to Tina’s chagrin.) The fact that the Metal Men can act independently comes into play at the end of the book.

I’ve made mention twice now about the end of the book. Beginning with issue #33, the title shook things up, whether to increase sales and/or provide a new take on the characters. Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos take over the art duties, while Robert Kanigher continues to script the adventures. The Metal Men find themselves on the run. Dr. Magnus is in a coma and is unable to lead the team. In his place, his brother Col. David Magnus, who works for an unnamed branch of the military, takes over control of the robots. This initial arc ran three issues, which brings us to the end of the collection. Guess I will need to hit the back-issue bins to see how the rest of this story plays out.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I want to like this more. I want to like this as much as I liked Volume 1. But this one just doesn’t match up for me. The stories feel very repetitive after awhile. We have no new characters introduced in this volume. They still just have just the one main arch-enemy in Chemo. The highlights of this volume came with the pair of Gil Kane issues towards the end of the collection. I’m still a fan of the Ross Andru art, and that has always been a good reason for me to pick up a book. But I don’t think you need to go out of your way to include this book in your library.

Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #66 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Metamorpho Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the three-issue story arc in Superman/Batman #34-36 from 2007. Lucius Fox has hired the Metal Men to help protect WayneTech, after a string of attacks. The Metal Men are joined by a new female robot, Copper. Of course, in a title like Superman/Batman, you might expect some Superman foes to show up, which they do with Metallo and then Brainiac. The art in this arc is done by Pat Lee, who was most known for his work on the Transformers comics of the early 2000s. He gives the Metal Men a unique look that matches their various personalities. This was collected in 2016 in Superman/Batman Vol. 3 trade paperback, so it should be easy to track down if you can’t find the original back issues.

Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1

werewolf1First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #2 (February 1972) to #4 (June 1972); Werewolf by Night #1 (September 1972) to #21 (June 1979); Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974); Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974); and Marvel Team-Up #12 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Mike Friedrich, Doug Moench, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Jack Russell/Werewolf, Lissa Russell, Phillip Russell, Buck Cowan, Tatterdemalion, Raymond Coker, Topaz, Tigra,

Story Continues In: Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2

Overview: Jack Russell is your typical teenage boy growing up in southern California in the 1970s. He’s just turned 18, he can’t stand his stepfather, and his mom is always nagging him about something. But turning 18 brings on a change to Jack Russell, as he finds out that he carries a recessive trait thanks to his birth father, who he never really knew. Turns out dear old dad was also a lycanthrope, and now Jack is too. Not familiar with the lycanthrope term? Let me save you the time of looking it up and clue you in on the more common term – a werewolf! This is Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1.

So now at the start of each full moon, Jack Russell undergoes a transformation into a werewolf. He retains very little of Jack’s memories and values, reverting more to a wild animal looking for the hunt and trying to escape the city for the forest. For three days, Jack must worry about the setting of the sun and the rise of the moon, when his transformation kicks in. He’s constantly looking for a cure and often falls into traps because someone offers him the solution to his monthly hairy situation.

I think we can all agree that being a werewolf is not the easiest of curses to deal with. For starters, you go through a lot of shirts – good thing you live in SoCal as the weather generally works in your favor. You try to protect your family members, like your sister. When people realize your secret, they create schemes or plans to make that work for their own personal gain.

Many of these issues are one-and-done, or they might have a story that carries across three issues with each issue covering one night of the current full moon. Right or wrong, there are a lot of foes or characters that only appear once or twice, and never appear again in any other comic.

Now, just because he is based in California doesn’t mean that he is isolated from the Marvel Universe. A trip to Europe in search of clues about his birth father leads to an encounter with Dracula in a memorable crossover between the respective books. Back in California, he meets up with Greer Nelson as she becomes Tigra for the first time. And in the craziest of meet-ups, the Werewolf meets up with Spider-Man in San Francisco, after Peter Parker is sent to the west coast to get pictures of Daredevil and Black Widow.

What makes this Essential?: There were parts of this collection that I really enjoyed. Reading individual issues were good, but reading these issues back-to-back seems to fall apart. The problem I had is that Jack Russell’s condition is triggered by the full moon, which runs for roughly three nights every 28 days, give or take. So as I am reading this, I’m curious to find out what is going on in the 3 1/2 weeks between the end of one transformation period and the start of the next transformation period. (I had this same problem with Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2 when he was fighting a villain that would only appear at the start of a full moon.) If I had been reading this month-to-month, I think I would have appreciated the title more. But reading this as a complete collection, I think it doesn’t hold up.

Footnotes: Werewolf By Night #15 and Tomb of Dracula #18 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #1 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

Giant-Size Creatures #12 featured the first appearance of Greer Nelson as Tigra. However, Greer’s first appearance in comics was in The Cat #1 (November 1972). In this short-lived series, Nelson and another woman were part of an experiment to imbue them with cat-like abilities. Greer used her abilities for good, while the other woman used hers for bad. Guess how that worked itself out? Anyway, in the Giant-Size Creatures issue, we Greer transformed yet again, this time into Tigra. Somewhere along the lines, Greer’s original Cat costume was left in the care of the Avengers. It was later claimed by Patsy Walker, who went briefly by the name of the Cat as well before settling on Hellcat.

If you like this volume, try: the Fables series from DC/Vertigo and created by Bill Willingham. The basic concept of the series is that the fables we are told as kids to teach us morals and values are all true. The characters are real and still alive. In fact, they have migrated from the Old Lands and have set up residence in Fabletown, a hidden neighborhood in New York City. In addition, there is a farm in upstate New York to host the animal characters from the fables. One of the main characters from the series is Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf from ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘The Three Little Pigs’ fame. Bigby Wolf serves as the sheriff of Fabletown, and can switch back and forth between his human, werewolf, and wolf forms. This series ran for 150 issues and is easily found in trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Green Lantern #60 (April 1968) to #75 (March 1970)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Gil Kane, Sid Greene, Gardner Fox, Jack Sparling, Mike Sekowsky, Mike Friedrich, and others

Key First Appearances: Olivia Reynolds

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome to the end of the Silver Age! It’s been a turbulent age, and times are tough. Former jet test pilots are out of work and forced to take jobs as insurance adjusters or traveling toy salesmen. For a guy with one of the most powerful devices in the universe, Hal Jordan’s life sure seems dark at times. This is Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4.

Green Lantern is at an interesting crossroads during this time period. The stories in this era fulfill the primary obligation of getting a monthly book out on time. (And I say monthly, but most DC books in this era came out eight times a year, not 12.) But the there wasn’t any kind of ongoing story from issue to issue. In fact, the creative teams seemed to change quite a bit from issue to issue. You might get a Broome/Kane issue one month, and a Fox/Sekowsky issue the next.

We also face a lack of new characters being introduced in this volume. Instead, most of the stories have Hal Jordan arriving in a location, dealing with the problem of the month, and then moving on. As this volume draws to a close, we finally get a return of some familiar faces with Carol Ferris and Tom Kalmaku, while Sinestro drops in to wreck havoc on the reunion.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I don’t know that I can strongly recommend this volume. Hear me out on this one. The art is incredible as always. I’ve said before that any issues by Gil Kane can give you a proper lesson on comic-book storytelling. The stories themselves are decent, but I don’t know that any of them were memorable. The biggest issue I have with this volume is just that — the issues. This collection only has 16 issues, coming in at just under 400 pages. Yet it still carried the standard cover price of $16.99, the going rate for Showcase Presents volumes at that time in 2009. Now, I get why DC truncated this volume as they did. The first issue of Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5 is #76, which starts the legendary O’Neil/Adams run that ushered in the Bronze Age at DC Comics. DC wanted to get all of those stories in one collection. But if you are going to do that, then either find additional material to put into Vol. 4 or adjust the price down to compensate for the lower page count.

If you like this volume, try: the Sinestro Corps War from 2007. Inspired by an Alan Moore story from 1986, writer Geoff Johns brought together several story threads that had been building for two years in the pages of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Longtime Green Lantern foe Sinestro has put together his own corps of yellow lantern wielders. Over the course of the series, the Guardians reveal the legend of the Blackest Night, which set the stage for the future story arc, and even referenced the five other color rings that would play a part in that storyline. The Sinestro Corps War has been collected multiple times in multiple formats, so it should be easy to track down.

Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1

First Published: December 2008

Contents: Strange Adventures #54 (March 1955) to #73 (October 1956)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Otto Binder, Edmond Hamilton, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Bill Finger, Sid Greene, Joe Samachson, Gardner Fox, and others

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 2

Overview: Who wants to go on an adventure today? Specifically, a Strange Adventure? Tighten your belt, grab a hat, and let’s see where the Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1 takes us!

Let’s start with a quick explanation about Strange Adventures. This was an anthology title started in 1950, and would feature four 6-page stories. The themes of the stories were all sci-fi in nature, whether it aliens looking to take over or destroy the Earth, or mind transference between man and gorilla. A story might feature a character gaining temporary powers, which he would then use to solve whatever problem society was dealing with at the moment. There is no continuity between the stories, so these can be read in any order.

What’s great about this collection is the legendary comic talent doing some of their earliest work for DC Comics. Whether it writers like John Broome, Edmond Hamilton, or Gardner Fox, or artists like Carmine Infantino, Bill Finger, and Gil Kane, these are all names that could be on a Mount Rushmore of DC creators.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Strange Adventures as a title ran for 24 years, going from 1950 to 1973. So historically, this is an important part of DC’s history. During it’s run, characters such as Captain Comet, Immortal Man, Animal Man and Deadman would make their debut in this title — but not in any issues collected here. These are interesting tales if you are fans of the 1950s sci-fi stories. And yes, there are enough stories featuring gorillas to make me take a look. But for the casual fan, this may not be the best book. I struggled to finish this volume. Not because the stories were bad. They were just not that interesting to me.

Turning Gold Into Silver: Comic fans love a great debate. Whether it’s simple topics like Betty or Veronica, or more complex query like which character is the strongest. Even away from the comic characters, we tend to argue a lot about the eras of the comics. I’m talking the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, and so on. Does the Golden Age start with Action Comics #1, or does it begin with the very first comics? When did we move from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age? Those are debates for other forums. I have discussed that the generally accepted starting point for the Silver Age is Showcase #4, which featured the debut of the Barry Allen Flash. That issue had a cover date of October 1956. Now scroll back up to the top of the post, and you’ll see the final issue in this collection, Strange Adventures #73, also had a cover date of October 1956. So, in my opinion, you could make the case that this Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1 could be a collection of Golden Age comics. Admittedly, there is not much difference between issues #73 and #74, so it was more of a rolling transition into a new era of comics.

If you like this volume, try: the JSA: Strange Adventures mini-issue series from DC Comics from 2005. This has been collected as a trade paperback. Written by science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and art by Barry Kitson, the story is set firmly in the Golden Age era of World War II. Johnny Thunder decides to try writing stories for the popular science-fiction magazines of the time, by scripting stories about the Justice Society members fighting against monsters and aliens. At the same time, a new villain appears on the scene in Lord Dynamo, and it takes the entire line-up of the JSA to defeat this new threat. This really is a great homage to so many elements – whether it’s the type of stories from the Golden Age, or the fact that so many of DC Comics Silver Age writers came from the sci-fi magazines of the 1940s (Julie Schwartz, Gardner Fox, etc.).