Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 2

First Published: February 2007

Contents: Green Lantern #18 (January 1963) to #38 (July 1965)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Gil Kane, Gardner Fox, Murphy Anderson

Key First Appearances: Doctor Polaris, Tattooed Man, the Shark, Black Hand, Katma Tui, Evil Star, Goldface

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Green Lantern of Sector 2814. In his down time, Green Lantern unmasks to become Hal Jordan, a test pilot for Ferris Aircraft and in love with his boss, Carol Ferris.

Now that the character has been firmly established in the DC Universe, we start to explore more into the life of Hal Jordan. We see more of Hal’s brothers, Jack and Jim. We get another team-up between Green Lantern and his Justice League colleague Flash and see the developing friendship between Hal and Barry. A new Green Lantern is introduced with Katma Tui, who became the replacement Green Lantern from the planet Korugar in Sector 1417.

New villains are introduced in this volume. Some like the Shark and the Tattooed Man seem to be anchored in the Silver Age; others like Black Hand and Doctor Polaris have remained fresh and relevant across multiple decades. But no volume would be complete without Green Lantern’s primary foe, Sinestro, wielder of the yellow power ring.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This title is getting better, but these are still not the best stories told of the character. The new villains introduced here (Black Hand, Doctor Polaris, Tattooed Man) helped expand the Green Lantern character beyond just fighting someone else with a power ring. The highlight of these issues are the covers. During this era, the covers were drawn first, and then a story was created based on the cover image. Many of these covers have become iconic images of Green Lantern. Overall, I think this is a nice volume to own, but it is not necessarily a must-own volume.

If you like this volume, try: Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold, which collects the six issue mini-series from 1997 by Mark Waid, Tom Peyer, and Barry Kitson. These stories re-examine the early team-ups between Green Lantern and the Flash, as well as shows the growing friendship between Hal and Barry. Much like the Silver Age comics, these are based on, the stories are fun adventures across time and space. Familiar faces from both characters’ books make appearances (Kid Flash, Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, Iris and Carol, Green Arrow, and others). This has been reprinted once as a trade paperback, but I believe the individual issues can still be found in back-issue bins.

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1

First Published: October 2006

Contents: Showcase #80 (February 1969), The Phantom Stranger #1 (May-June 1969) to #21 (September-October 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Neil Adams, Mike Friedrich, Jim Aparo, Mike Sekowsky, Len Wein, Robert Kanigher, Tony DeZuniga, Murphy Anderson, and Gerry Conway

Key First Appearances: The Phantom Stranger*, Dr. Thirteen*, Tala, Cassandra Craft, Tannarak

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

Overview: Meet the Phantom Stranger, a man with a mysterious background forced to live in the shadows of the supernatural and unexplained. No one knows where he came from or how he came to be.

The Phantom Stranger first appeared in a six-issue self-titled anthology in 1952. Those stories are reprinted in Showcase #80 and the first three issues of the 1969 series. Similarly, Dr. Thirteen first appeared in the pages of Star Spangled Comics, but his early stories are collected in these first issues as well.

Beginning with issue #4, new ongoing stories featured both characters, either together in the same story or in solo stories. These early issues have Dr. Thirteen at odds with the Phantom Stranger, trying to prove that he was a fraud. Dr. Thirteen eventually comes around to accept the Phantom Stranger as an ally, even if he may not fully understand him.

Two longtime foes are introduced in this volume, Tala, Queen of Evil would challenge the Phantom Stranger over and over, while the sorcerer Tannarak would be a thorn in his side. The psychic Cassandra Craft was brought in a potential love interest for the Phantom Stranger. In an effort to protect Cassandra (or maybe a fear of commitment), the Phantom Stranger faked his own death to let her move on with her life.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Read this for the art – most covers were done by Neil Adams, and many issues featured work by Jim Aparo. As much as I like the character of the Phantom Stranger, I believe he works much better as a supporting character, such as his appearances in the Justice League of America. I find this to be an average collection.

Footnotes: In the backup story of The Phantom Stranger #14 (July-August 1971), Dr. Thirteen battles a mysterious creature from the murk that bears a striking resemblance to the Swamp Thing. The story was written by Len Wein, with art by Tony DeZuniga. Call it coincidence or accident, at that same time on the newsstand, House of Secrets #92 (July 1971), the Swamp Thing made his first appearance as a mysterious creature from the murk. That story was written by Len Wein, with art by Bernie Wrightson.

If you like this volume, try: tracking down Secret Origins #10 (January 1987). In 1986, DC launched an ongoing Secret Origins series to detail the new origin stories of characters following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Most issues were double-sized and featured two characters, often a Golden or Silver Age character in the first story, and a modern age character in the other. For this issue, the entire issue was given over to the Phantom Stranger, with four possible origin stories. Each story featured a different creative team: Mike W. Barr & Jim Aparo; Paul Levitz & José Luis García-López; Dan Mishkin & Ernie Colón; and Alan Moore & Joe Orlando. The last story has been reprinted in the various editions of DC Universe by Alan Moore collections. The other stories can only be found in this issue, so it is worth finding.

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.