Showcase Presents Rip Hunter, Time Master


First Published: August 2012

Contents: Showcase #20 (May-June 1959), #21 (July-August 1959), #25 (March-April 1959), and #26 (May-June 1960); and Rip Hunter… Time Master #1 (March-April 1961) to #15 (July-August 1963)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller, Ruben Moreira, Mike Sekowsky, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Nick Cardy, William Ely

Key First Appearances: Rip Hunter, Jeff Smith, Bonnie Baxter, Corky Baxter

Overview: “Have time sphere, will travel” appears to be the motto for one Rip Hunter. Surrounded by his partner Jeff Smith and their friends Bonnie Baxter and her younger brother Corky, Rip takes his time sphere primarily into the past, whether it’s a 1,000 years or a 1,000,000 years, to answer the unknown questions that puzzle modern researchers.

Each story follows a basic formula — Rip Hunter is given a reason to travel into the past to solve a mystery. Grabbing speech conversion discs that they wear to be able to communicate with anyone they encounter, Rip and his team travel in the time sphere to the time in question. Rip and one of the team – sometimes Jeff, sometimes Corky, occasionally Bonnie – set off to investigate while the other team members try to keep the time sphere hidden. In most cases, Rip and his partner gets into trouble, and have to call on their teammates to rescue them. Along the way, the solve the mystery and return back to the 1950s without ever altering the time line.

The best part of this title is the variety of artists that worked on this series. Whether it’s the likes of Mike Sekowsky; Ross Andru and Mike Esposito; Nick Cardy, Alex Toth, or Joe Kubert, there is so much talent in this book that really stands out in the black and white format.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I like the concept of Rip Hunter and his time sphere. I’m hit and miss on the rest of the supporting cast. But I don’t think it works as a regular comic series. These stories quickly fell into a predictable formula, which probably worked well when you were reading the title every other month. I think Rip Hunter is a great character to bring into a story to provide another character with a way to time travel in their story or title. here are numerous reasons why I should not like this book. I am not a huge fan of Carmine Infantino’s art style. I find the formulaic stories from this era too predictable. This is more a science-fiction book than a super-hero book. With all of that said, I really loved this Showcase. Adam Strange felt alive and full of energy. Gardner Fox builds a new universe of characters, and creates an ongoing continuity with the storyline, with past stories and characters coming back in later stories.

Footnotes: Showcase #20 and #21 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Showcase Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow show. Now airing its second season, Legends of Tomorrow features Time Master Rip Hunter plucking a team of lesser heroes (and villains) to stop the likes of Vandal Savage and Damien Darhk from changing the timeline. The characters were all first introduced on the other CW shows, such as Arrow or The Flash, but probably can’t carry their own show. Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) stars as the Time Master captaining the time ship known as the Waverider. This is a fun series that I’ve been able to watch with my family.

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

First Published: May 2009

Contents: Martian Manhunters stories from Detective Comics #305 (July 1963) to #326 (April 1964),  Martian Manhunter stories from House of Mystery #143 (June 1964) to #173 (March-April 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Key First Appearances: Zook

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to the Silver Age adventures of the Manhunter from Mars. This book can be broken up into two distinct sections, marked by which title the Martian Manhunter’s stories were appearing in each month.

Picking up where Vol. 1 left off, we have the ongoing adventures of the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics. J’onn J’onzz would pose as an Earthman, Detective John Jones, working with colleagues such as Captain Harding and Diane Meade. These are all one-and-done stories, in particular when we get to Detective Comics #326. The idol-head of Diabolu is unearthed, and it releases an evil onto the world with each full moon. The first evil released in an energy-absorbing creature. To switch into his true identity, Detective John Jones ducks behind a car during a fight. Soon afterward, the creature destroys the car before it is destroyed. The police department all believes that Detective Jones was killed by the creature, and Martian Manhunter decides to go along with that theory, rather than trying to come up with an excuse or to reveal his dual identity.

No longer having a secret identity to manage, the Martian Manhunter takes his exploits over to the pages of House of Mystery. The initial stories all involve J’onn battling the latest threat to be released by the Diabolu idol-head on the first night of each fool moon. (What the Manhunter does for the other 29 days each month is never really explained.) Eventually, that threat is eventually brought to an end, when the idol-head is finally found and destroyed. The Martian Manhunter than relocates to Europe, taking over the identity of a wealthy playboy who happens to work for an international criminal organization, known as VULTURE. The Manhunter works in secret to stop VULTURE’s every initiative, while trying to unmask the Hooded One, the mysterious leader of VULTURE.

The one character that bridges the two titles along with our title character is Zook. In Detective Comics #311, aliens from another dimension invade Earth but are stopped by the Martian Manhunter. As they flee to their own dimension, they leave behind their pet, Zook, who is semi-intelligent and learns to communicate with J’onn. He becomes an unofficial sidekick, helping out J’onn on a variety of adventures. Like any other character created in this time, Zook has numerous abilities at his disposal. He can change his core temperature in either direction, becoming incredibly cold or incredibly hot. His antenna allows him to track anyone he has ever met before, and he can manipulate his body to work his way through any opening.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: It pains me to write this because I have been a huge fan of the Martian Manhunter for years. I loved his return to the Justice League in the 1980s (see below), and the way Morrison used him in JLA was brilliant. But these solo stories from the mid-1960s? Not good. I cringe up when I think back to reading this collection. The stories are bland and predictable. It really feels like they were writing for a target audience (7-10-year-olds, more than likely) with a short-attention span (as stories are recycled every few issues). In some cases, it almost feels like the goal was just to fill the six to eight pages per issue and move on. Even when the feature moved to the pages of House of Mystery, and they started developing some semblance on an ongoing story, the holes in each story are more prominent than ever. I can’t recommend this book unless you are compelled to complete a collection like I am.

Footnotes: The Martian Manhunter’s final appearance in Detective Comics was #326. In the next issue, future JLA-teammate Elongated Man took over the backup spot in the book. (Detective Comics #327 is also notable as the “start” of Batman in the Silver Age. Carmine Infantino took over art duties of the Batman story and introduced the yellow background to the bat logo on Batman’s costume.) Following his exit from Detective Comics, the Martian Manhunter took over the feature role in House of Mystery. He even got to be the cover feature for a year. House of Mystery #156 added a new feature, Dial H for Hero, and bumped J’onn J’onzz from the covers. Both features were bumped from House of Mystery completely following #173, as the title switched formats to become a horror anthology.

If you like this volume, try: diving into the back-issue bin to find Justice League of America #228 to #230. Having been absent from the DC Universe for more than a decade, the Martian Manhunter returns to Earth, and his JLA colleagues, with an invasion force of Martians trailing after him. The Justice League and the Martian Manhunter are able to stop the threat, but at a great cost. The satellite is severely damaged, to a point where it is no longer usable. Various members of the team walk away, as they are exhausted mentally and physically from the unending fighting. And once again, the Martian Manhunter finds himself stranded on Earth. This story arc effectively brought an end to the Satellite-era for the Justice League. While a two-part JLA-JSA story followed this (using characters not involved in the Earth-Mars War), Justice League of America Annual #2 was released, which featured Aquaman disbanding the team when the other principle founders (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern) all cite other reasons for not being able to commit to the JLA on a more regular basis. As that era ends, a new JLA team is formed around Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. Yes, this would become known as the JLA-Detroit era of the team. What makes this important is that since the start of the JLA-Detroit in 1983, the Martian Manhunter was a part of every incarnation of the Justice League, up until the New 52 reset in 2011. The Earth-Mars war issues have never been reprinted, so you will have to hunt to find and read this story.

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 2

First Published: January 2008

Contents: Aquaman #7 (January-February 1963) to #23 (September-October 1965); Aquaman stories from World’s Finest Comics #130 (December 1962) to #133 (May 1963), #135 (August 1963), #137 (November 1963), and #139 (February 1964); and The Brave and the Bold #51 (December 1963 – January 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Ramona Fradon, Jack Miller, Nick Cardy, and others

Key First Appearances: Mera, Fisherman, Aquababy

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the underwater adventures of Aquaman, King of the Seven Seas. With his sidekick, Aqualad, they do their best to protect the oceans (and the Earth) from alien invasions, mad Greek gods, and magical imps. The early stories continue to be one-and-done tales.

The book takes a big turn with issue #11, as we are introduced to Mera, an exiled queen from another dimension. She has the ability to manipulate hard water in both defensive and offensive attacks. Aquaman is instantly smitten by this red-haired beauty, and the two are inseparable, often to the detriment of Aqualad.

This volume introduces the first of Aquaman’s Rogues Gallery. (And yes, it is hard to even type that without snickering just a little bit.) While his list of familiar foes pales in comparison to that of Batman, Superman, or Flash, Aquaman finally gets into the bad-guy business with the introduction of the Fisherman. (Please stay tuned for Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 3, as we finally get to see the likes of Ocean Master and Black Manta appear.)

This volume concludes with the birth of Arthur Curry, Jr., otherwise known as Aquababy. With a wife and son at home, that leaves very little time for Aquaman to be hanging out with Aqualad. Hopefully we can resolve that issue in the next volume, too.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Let’s start with a positive – this is a much easier collection to read compared to Volume 1. It’s still not a great read, especially early on in this volume. What makes this volume interesting is that this is the first character where DC actively started moving a character forward into an ongoing storyline. Mera is introduced in issue #11. Aquaman and Mera are married in issue #18, with his JLA teammates in attendance. Aquababy is born in issue #23. (Remember, Aquaman was a bi-monthly book, so everything is on the up-and-up.) We also see a similar progression with Barry Allen in the pages of The Flash, but Aquaman was the first.

Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #51 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Aquaman series by Peter David from the 1990s. David wrote the 4-issue Aquaman: Time and Tide mini-series in 1993, which explored Aquaman’s origins in relation to David’s previous work, The Atlantis Chronicles. Based on the success of the mini-series, DC launched a new ongoing Aquaman series in 1994. David would write this title for nearly 4 years. This is the notable storyline where Aquaman lost his hand to a piranha attack, and replaced it with a harpoon. The Aquaman presented here is the angry ruler of Atlantis that should be respected and feared, which helped distance the character from the Super Friends version that could only talk to fish. As good as this series is, DC has failed us (to date) with no trades collecting this run. The Time and Tide story can be found in trade, but you will need to dive into the back issue bins to find the ongoing series issues.

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 1

First Published: February 2007

Contents: Aquaman stories from Adventure Comics #260 (May 1959) to #280 (January 1961), #282 (March 1961) and #284 (May 1961); Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #12 (October 1959); Showcase #30 (January-February 1961) to #33 (July-August 1961); Aquaman stories from Detective Comics #293 (July 1961) to #300 (February 1962); Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #55 (September 1961); Aquaman stories from World’s Finest Comics #125 (May 1962) to #129 (November 1962); and Aquaman #1 (January-February 1962) to #6 (November-December 1962)

Key Creator Credits: Ramona Fradon, Robert Bernstein, Jack Miller, Nick Cardy,

Key First Appearances: Tom Curry, Atlanna, Aqualad, Quisp

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol. 2

Overview: Meet Aquaman, King of the Seven Seas. Able to breathe underwater, use his telepathic ability to summon and direct sea life, and super strong, Aquaman serves as the protector against crime above and below the water surface.

This volume begins with Aquaman working solo, but with a loyal companion in Topo, an octopus. But every good DC hero needs a teen sidekick to work alongside, or be placed into harm’s way, or just used to help advance a story through dialogue. Enter Aqualad, a boy exiled from Atlantis, and a seafaring duo are formed, one so strong that no wife or child could ever split them up, right? Right?

Following in the tradition of Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, Aquaman is blessed by his own annoying imp with magical powers known as Quisp. Quisp means to help Aquaman and Aqualad out with their adventures, but most times ends up causing more trouble. 

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a hard collection to get through. As I have noted time and time again with comics from this era, the Silver Age stories are very much a product of their times and do not stand up when reading today. The stories seem simple, with more holes in the plot than a sunken pirate ship. The art is serviceable – Ramona Fradon and Nick Cardy each had long (and much better) runs with other DC characters. If you are going to read this book, do not try to read it straight through. Read a story or two, and then put it down for a day before resuming. You’ll thank me later.

Origin Stories:  Aquaman is one of the five characters that has been in publication since their debut in the 1930s/1940s; the others are Superman, Batman (and Robin), Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow. The Golden Age Aquaman had no ties to Atlantis and gained his powers from experiments that his parents conducted on him. With the Golden Age characters being assigned to Earth-2, and there being no Earth-2 counterpart to Topo, it is generally recognized that the Earth-1 (Silver Age) Aquaman started in Adventure Comics #229 (October 1956), which is the first appearance of Topo.

Now, this Showcase Presents begins with Adventure Comics #260 (May 1959), 2 1/2 years after the “debut” of the Earth-1 Aquaman. Issue #260 features the new origin of Aquaman, where he is the son of lighthouse keeper Tom Curry and Atlantean princess Atlanna. This appears to be the first issue that connects Aquaman with Atlantis, so it appears to be a good starting point for this Showcase collection. This also matches the starting point used for the Aquaman Archives that DC released in 2003.

Footnotes: Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #12 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: the relaunched Aquaman series by Geoff Johns. While I personally did not care for a lot of relaunches in the new DC 52 universe, the take on Aquaman was much better than many previous incarnations. Geoff Johns had a two-year run on the book, with artists such as Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier, and others. Aquaman’s history was tweaked, making him a member of a group called The Others prior to his joining the Justice League. These issues have been collected in multiple hardcovers and trade paperbacks, and I expect DC to collect Johns’ entire run into an omnibus at some point.

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 1

First Published: July 2007

Contents: Martian Manhunter story from Batman #78 (August-September 1953),  Martian Manhunter stories from Detective Comics #225 (November 1955) to #304 (June 1962)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Key First Appearances: J’onn J’onzz/John Jones/Martian Manhunter, Dr. Saul Erdel, Captain Harding, Human Flame, Diane Meade

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

Overview: Following an accidental teleportation from Mars, J’onn J’onzz finds himself stranded on Earth. Making the most of his situation, J’onzz develops a human identity, Detective John Jones, to assist the local police department in rounding up criminals. Along the way, supporting characters like Captain Harding and Diane Meade are introduced to provide a cast to expand the stories.

During this era, the Martian Manhunter’s powers and abilities would change, depending upon the needs of the story. Among his many powers were superhuman strength; superhuman speed; superhuman senses; a genius-level intellect; superhuman endurance; shapeshifting; invulnerability; vortex breath, invisibility; tactile telekinesis; intangibility; flight; telepathy; and Martian vision. Like Superman and kryptonite or Green Lantern with the color yellow, the Martian Manhunter has a weakness to fire in any form, from the light of a match to one of the numerous fireworks factories in his city.

Also included in this volume is a story from Batman #78, which has a “Manhunter from Mars” landing in Gotham City, and enlisting Batman’s help to capture a rogue Martian. Maybe this served as the inspiration for the character that would be introduced two years later, or maybe it was just a true coincidence.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The Martian Manhunter is a historically important character. He debuted at the tail end of the Golden Age, and has remained a part of the DC Universe ever since. These stories follow a basic formula of Det. Jones receiving an assignment; he uses his powers to track down the bad guy; and overcomes some random appearance of fire to bring the story to conclusion, all in six pages. There is not a log of imaginative stories in this volume. The more entertaining stories involving J’onn J’onzz come much later, beginning with the Justice League series in the mid-1980s.

Footnotes: Despite this volume covering seven full years of stories from Detective Comics, the Martian Manhunter does not appear on any covers during this run. His first cover appearance is The Brave and the Bold #28, which was the first appearance of the Justice League of America. In the early days of the JLA, the Martian Manhunter served as the Superman substitute (and Green Arrow served as the Batman substitute) to avoid overexposure of DC’s main characters.

If you like this volume, try: the Martian Manhunter series from 1998, written by John Ostrander. Sadly, no trades of this have been collected, but individual issues can be found in quarter bins everywhere. Given the success of Grant Morrison’s JLA book, this series launched during the DC 1,000,000 event, so there is a #0 issue and a #1000000 issue before issue #1 was released. The series ran until #36, before succumbing to declining sales. One story arc to look for in particular is the Revelations story from issues #20 to #24. This retold key events in J’onn J’onzz’s (revised) history, from coming to Earth to his first encounters with Green Lantern and Batman. The story arc is capped off with the memorable Oreo issue during the JLI years.