Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 1

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Batman #164 (June 1964) to #174 (September 1965),  Batman stories from Detective Comics #327 (May 1964) to #342 (August 1965)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff, Bob Kane, France Herron, Bill Finger, Murphy Anderson

Key First Appearances: Aunt Harriet Cooper, Outsider (heard but not seen in several issues. His first actual appearance will occur in Detective Comics #356, collected in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2), Mystery Analysts of Gotham City

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2

Overview: Welcome to the Silver Age of Batman comics. These issues are considered to be the point where Batman and Robin crossed over from the Golden Age adventures to the Silver Age. This is notably shown by the change to Batman’s costume, with the yellow oval added to the chest behind the bat emblem.

While most of these stories are one-and-done, we do see the seeds being planted for monthly continuity in the books. The Mystery Analysts of Gotham City are introduced, a team of detectives and novelists that assist Batman with some cases. The Outsider’s name starts coming up as a mysterious villain pulling the strings of many cases for the Dark Knight. As always, the familiar faces of Batman’s rogues gallery, such as the Joker, Penguin, and the Riddler, make multiple appearances in this volume. Friends of Batman show up, like the Elongated Man and Zatanna, for team-ups that would soon become the norm in the pages of The Brave and The Bold.

Finally, for those fans of the 1966 television series, you may be surprised to learn that Harriet Cooper was a character in the comics before she was introduced on the show. Dick Grayson’s aunt moved in to stately Wayne Manor in Detective Comics #328 following the death of Alfred Pennyworth. (No worries, faithful reader! We will see the return of Alfred in the next volume!) Much like the show, Bruce and Dick must often develop wild excuses to get away from Aunt Harriet to respond to the call of the Bat-Signal!

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Batman is an interesting character. Much like Superman, the character changes to more closely reflect the era around him. The 1940s gave us a detective and the 1950s gave us a sci-fi super hero. With this volume, we see Batman start to become the celebrity of Gotham City, bordering on pop culture icon. This is a night and day difference from the Batman we have seen for the last 30 years in comics and film. If you are OK with Batman cracking jokes and smiling, then pick up this collection. If you want the dark and grim detective, hold off for volumes 4 and 5 down the road.

Footnotes: During this era, Bob Kane is credited for the art in several issues in this era. However, Kane often employed “ghost” artists, such as Sheldon Moldoff and Dick Sprang, to draw pages in the style of Kane.

The Robin story from Detective Comics #342  was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Yes, this gives us a version of the “dark detective”, but it also gives the reader an easy introduction to Batman based in a more current era. Bruce Wayne still tragically loses his parents in Crime Alley, but he is then raised by Alfred Pennyworth, who has a Special Forces background to better protect young Bruce. We see a Batman that physically struggles to fight thugs or give chase while wearing a heavy costume complete with cape. Batman faces down a crime organization led by the Penguin, who is more a ruthless businessman and less a waddling bird-man. This is a great way to introduce Batman to a new reader without the 75 years of continuity baggage behind him.

Showcase Presents The Elongated Man Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The Elongated Man Vol. 1

First Published: July 2006

Contents: The Flash #112 (April-May 1960), #115 (September 1960), #119 (March 1961), #124 (November 1961), #130 (August 1962), #134 (February 1963), and #138 (August 1963); Elongated Man stories from Detective Comics #327 (May 1964) to #371 (January 1968)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Joe Giella, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Sid Greene

Key First Appearances: Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man, Sue Dibny

Overview: Ralph Dibny is an amateur detective and chemist. Curious as to how the India Rubber Men of the circus gain their abilities to stretch their bodies, Ralph finds a common element in their fondness for the Gingold soft drink. The basis of the drink comes from a little known tropical fruit, gingo. Swallowing a highly-concentrated gingo extract, Ralph finds that he can now stretch his body. Quickly developing a special stretch nylon costume, Ralph names himself the Elongated Man and begins his career as a super-hero.

Initially created as a supporting character for the Flash, his popularity quickly led to his own re-occuring stories in Detective Comics. Alongside his new bride Sue, Ralph travelled the country in his convertible looking for another mystery to solve. He quickly ditched his mask, becoming one of the first super-heroes to go public like that. His adventures often crossed paths with other heroes of the era, such as Batman, Green Lantern, and Zatanna.

Why should these stories be Showcased?:  The Elongated Man could be considered as a character ahead of his time. Ralph took no measures to protect his identity, and rather embraced his celebrity status. He craved the spotlights and attention they received everywhere they travelled. I wonder if a fresh take on the character in today’s modern-age, with cell phones and paparazzi, might succeed?

But looking at these stories from the 1960s collected in this volume, I think Elongated Man is a great character to have around to support other characters, such as Batman or the Flash, or later when he would join the Justice League of America. When he is headlining his own feature, the stories fall into a predictable formula – Ralph and Sue travel to a new town; Ralph sees a newspaper headline that causes his nose to twitch; he goes undercover to solve the mystery; and he stops the antagonists, often by stretching his body to his limits. Overall, I think this volume is nice-to-have, but it is not necessarily a must-own volume.

Footnotes: According to lore, Julie Schwartz wanted John Broome and Carmine Infantino to create a Plastic Man-type character to interact with the Flash in his comic. Reportedly, Schwartz was unaware the DC owned the rights to Plastic Man, as DC has purchased the rights to the Quality Comics characters when that publisher folded in 1956. DC could have used the character or even just the name “Plastic Man”, as was the trend at DC in the early days of Silver Age to reuse Golden Age character names, in the Flash title. This oversight helped lead to the creation of the Elongated Man.

As of this writing, there has not been a second volume issued for Elongated Man. The back-up stories featuring Ralph and Sue continued for many years, albeit sporadically at times, in the pages of Detective Comics and The Flash. There may not be enough material for a full-size Showcase Presents volume (500-600 pages), but surely a smaller volume, like what was done for Showcase Presents Eclipso or Showcase Presents Dial H for Hero, could be considered to help collect the remaining Elongated Man stories that would not be collected elsewhere.

If you like this volume, try: tracking down the 1992 Elongated Man mini-series. It has not been collected, so you may have to dive into some quarter bins to find this. The story is written by Gerard Jones. The story is fine, but the real reason to pick it up is for the art. The late Mike Parobeck introduced an art style best associated with the DC animated universe of the early 1990s. It looks simple and smooth and full of energy. The look of his characters appears to be a homage to Infantino, but without the square-set jawlines. Whether it is this title, the 1990s Justice Society of America title, or The Batman Adventures title that complimented the animated show, everyone should check out Parobeck’s work.

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 1

First Published: October 2005

Contents: Showcase #22 (September-October 1959) to #24 (January-February 1960), Green Lantern  #1 (July-August 1960) to #17 (December 1962)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Gil Kane

Key First Appearances: Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Abin Sur, Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire, Guardians of the Universe, Qwardians, Tom Kalmaku, Hector Hammond, Tomar-Re, Sinestro, Sonar, Zamarons

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 2

Overview:In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.” With that oath, test pilot Hal Jordan is given a power ring from a dying alien and joins the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps.

Green Lantern debuted in Showcase, which was DC’s “try-out” book for new characters before giving them their own book. Green Lantern quickly moved into his own title, as well as becoming a founding member of the Justice League of America.

This volume collects the early adventures, introducing us to the Guardians and their Green Lantern Corps; Hal’s girlfriend (and boss) Carol Ferris; and numerous villains, such as the Qwardians, Hector Hammond, and Sinestro.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I am torn on this volume. As a legacy character, I do believe that these stories should be collected and available in multiple formats. But when your feature character has a color in his/her name, such as Green Lantern, and his one weakness is anything colored yellow, reading the stories in black & white lessens the impact of the stories. Also, the best Green Lantern stories come much later.

Footnotes: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 1 was the first Showcase volume published by DC Comics in 2005. This edition and the next three released Showcase volumes were priced at $9.99. All other Showcases have been priced at $14.99 or higher.

If you like this volume, try: Green Lantern: Rebirth, which collects the six issue mini-series from 2004 by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. This story arc brought Hal Jordan back into the mainstream DC Universe as the Green Lantern from Sector 2814. This story started Johns eight-year run with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.