Showcase Presents The Losers Vol. 1

First Published: March 2012

Contents: The Losers stories from G.I. Combat #138 (October 1969), and Our Fighting Forces #123 (January-February 1970) to #150 (August-September 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, Ross Andru, John Severin, and others

Key First Appearances: Ona Tomsen

Overview: In his play The Tempest, William Shakespeare wrote, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” That easily describes the situation for the members of the Losers – a group of soldiers that have lost their original units. These orphans come together in a special unit that gets assigned the missions that no one else in their right mind would ever volunteer for.

The Losers consist of four soldiers, all previously featured in their own stories by writer Robert Kanigher for the various DC war titles.

  • Captain Storm is the former commander of a PT boat, which was destroyed in battle and the crew lost. Storm lost his lower left leg in an earlier battle and uses a wooden leg to get around.
  • Johnny Cloud, a Navajo pilot who is the sole survivor of his squadron and appears to always fly the final flight of any plane.
  • Gunner and Sarge, a two-man team from the trenches who always appear to be the last two standing from any firefight.

The four men, originally brought together by the Haunted Tank, primarily take on missions in Europe. However, getting assigned missions in the Pacific and Africa is not out of the picture. The Losers are given assignments, and each man goes into the battle thinking that this will be their final mission. When they survive the mission, they realize that the Losers find a way to fight again another day.

As the title develops under Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and John Severin, the story starts to become an ongoing narrative from issue to issue. On one mission, it appears that Captain Storm is killed in a bomb explosion. He is soon replaced by Ona Tomsen, a female member of the Norwegian Resistance Unit who views herself as a loser, being the sole survivor of her village. Thankfully Storm returns to the team, after a brief foray as a pirate, thanks to amnesia from the explosion.

 

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The concept of the Losers is perhaps more important than the specific characters themselves. The concept (and the characters) are revisited quite frequently over the years, whether it is continuing their original story or assigning the concept to a new group of characters, as seen in the 2002 Vertigo series. The stories are just long enough to tell a decent tale, without getting caught up in repeating the same story formula issue after issue.

If you like this volume, try: Jack Kirby’s take on the Losers. Kanigher and Severin’s run with the Losers came to an end with Our Fighting Forces #150. Beginning with the next issue, Kirby did a 12-issue run with Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Sarge, and Gunner. Like so many other Kirby books in that era, the initial reaction appears to be less than positive, with long-time readers not appreciating Kirby’s approach. Over the years, fans have flocked back to this run as one of Kirby’s last great DC arcs. The entire run was reprinted in 2009 has a hardcover edition.

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4

worldsfinest4First Published: November 2012

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #174 (March 1968) to #178 (September 1968); #180 (November 1968) to #187 (September 1969); #189 (November 1969) to #196 (September 1970); and #198 (November 1970) to #202 (May 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Cary Bates, Neal Adams, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan, Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin, and others

Key First Appearances: Supernova

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

Overview: It’s interesting to compare and contrast Superman and Batman. They often get portrayed as total opposites – one shining brightly in the light of the sun, the other hidden in the shadows of the night. One who has been given powers to rival that of a god, the other just a mortal man who pushes himself to the limits of human performance. But these guys are still so similar, they could be twin brothers from different mothers (both named Martha). They’re orphans that would give up everything to have one more moment with their parents. They both strive to make the world better in their own ways. These are two of the world’s finest heroes, and this is Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4.

As with the previous volumes, these tend to run as one-and-done stories, with little to no continuity running between issues. We do get a shift in the narrative of the stories as we transition into the Silver Age. Writer Denny O’Neil brings a new approach to the storytelling, mirroring his work in Justice League of America and Batman. The art steps up a notch, too, as artists like Dick Dillin and Ross Andru create a more life-like look at Superman and Batman.

We still get plenty of cameos from all corners of the DC Universe. Whether it’s employees of the Daily Planet or residents of stately Wayne Manor, this title welcomes everyone in. We get multiple appearances by the classic villains such as Luthor and Joker, which is really the reason why we keep reading these stories, truth be told! The one new character introduced is Supernova, a new partner for Superman when Batman decides to work with Green Arrow. Supernova as a character name will surface again over the years, most recently with Booster Gold.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: There are certain titles from both DC and Marvel that should be no-brainer must-own collections in your library. Obviously, the various team-up titles come to mind first, and is it a coincidence that the two DC team-up titles feature Batman and Superman? So obviously you want to include in your collection the team-ups between Batman AND Superman.

The stories in this collection mark the turn from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. Denny O’Neil and friends bring a more sophisticated approach to the story-telling. We even get a few Superman team-ups sans Batman, including one of the earliest races against the Flash. This is a must-own collection, and probably the best of the four World’s Finest collections.

Footnotes: The stories from World’s Finest Comics #195 and #200 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

The story from World’s Finest Comics #176 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

World’s Finest Comics #179, #188. and #197 were reprint issues and are not included in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: the Worlds’ Finest series that was part of DC’s New 52 line. Overseen by writer Paul Levitz, Worlds’ Finest (and note the placement of the apostrophe!) tells the tale of Power Girl and Huntress traveling from their home, Earth-2, over to Earth-1 and setting up residence. Stranded from their family, friends, and finances, the costumed heroines must find their way in the new world. This is a great spin on the Superman/Batman dynamic, highlighted by the incredible art from the likes of Kevin Nowlan, George Perez, Scott Kollins, and more. This series is readily available in trade paperbacks, and many of the back issues can still be found in the bins.

 

Showcase Presents Sea Devils Vol. 1

seadevils1First Published: July 2012

Contents: Showcase #27 (July/August 1960) to #29 (November/December 1960); and Sea Devils #1 (September/October 1961) to #16 (March/April 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Russ Heath, Bob Haney, Jack Adler, Irv Novick, Hank Chapman, and others

Key First Appearances: Biff Bailey, Dane Dorrance, Judy Walton, Nicky Walton

Overview: Meet the Sea Devils – Have flippers, will travel! In the spirit of other Silver Age common heroes such as the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils are a group of divers who are more at ease under the water than above the water. Biff, Dane, Judy, and Nicky comprise the Sea Devils, who seek out new challenges or missions every other month.

The stories vary from traditional “find a missing treasure” to those dealing with aliens or mystical creatures. Many times, the stories are broken up into segments to give each Sea Devil the chance to shine on their own. And over the course of the series, having served on so many dives with each other, the group develops the mental ability to communicate with each other underwater, which definitely aids in the storytelling of each issue.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: OK, this is going to rank up there (or down, depending on one’s perspective) on my list of least-favorite Showcase Presents volumes. The one redeeming feature of this book is the beautiful Russ Heath art, which kept me going through much of this book. But this title still suffers from the same issues that a title like Challengers of the Unknown faced – telling a unique story that showcases the characters skills each issue. The stories in Sea Devils are very repetitive in nature, and I often got sidetracked trying to determine if I had already read a particular story. If you pick this up, do it for the Heath art only.

 

If you like this volume, try: the Great Pacific series from Image Comics. Admittedly, once you get past Aquaman and Sub-Mariner, there are not a lot of water-based characters or comics around. (And I am setting myself up, as I am sure I am about to be flooded with book suggestions that I am overlooking here. But I digress….) So Great Pacific ran for 18 issues between 2012 and 2014. In the story, a young oil heir Chas Washington settles on the Great Pacific garbage patch and proclaims it as a new nation. But that makes a lot of people unhappy, ranging from nations to his own family. Writer Joe Harris and artist Martin Morazzo create a visually spectacular story that makes one consider the ecological impact we as humans are putting on our planet. The entire series has been collected into three trade paperbacks, so it should be easy to track down and dive into.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4

First Published: December 2011

Contents: Wonder Woman #157 (October 1965) to #177 (August 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, and Irv Novick

Key First Appearances: Egg Fu, Doctor Psycho

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

Overview: Merciful Minerva! Wonder Woman finally faces off against the one foe she cannot stop. The mightiest foe of all time – the dreaded, all powerful DC Comics Editor. Because the pen is truly mightier than the sword. Welcome to Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4.

The volume starts off with an Egg Fu story that covers all of issue #157 and part of the #158. But what drives this collection is the second story in issue #158. The crew of the Wonder Woman title (Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito) makes cameos as DC decides to streamline Diana’s supporting cast. Many of the supporting characters, such as Wonder Tot, Mer-Boy, Birdman, the Glop, and others, are cast off into limbo. Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor, and Hippolyta survive, and the editors promise that beginning with the next issue, Wonder Woman would return to her Golden Age beginnings.   

True to their word, beginning with Wonder Woman #159, we see a retelling of the origins of the Amazons, and how Diana came to be created. We see the challenge of the Amazons, which would determine who would leave the island to go live in Man’s World. We see Col. Steve Trevor crash near Paradise Island, and how Diana nursed him to health before returning him to the United States, where she took over the identity and life of Lt. Diana Prince, a nurse in the army.

Firmly establishing herself as a hero, Wonder Woman battles the familiar foes such as the Cheetah, Doctor Psycho, and Angle Man – why wasn’t Angle Man sent to limbo?!?!? Towards the end of this volume, less emphasis is made that these are Golden Age stories, but rather they are set in the Silver Age proper. For example, the final issue in this volume, #177, features a team-up between Wonder Woman and Supergirl. That issue teases us with a promise of Wonder Woman going in a new direction in the next issue, but that is a story best saved for a future volume, we hope!

Why should these stories be Showcased?: So, of the four Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volumes to date, this is probably the most readable of the bunch. That said, it’s still not a very good collection of stories. Once the DC Editorial hits the giant cosmic reset button in issue #158, the stories become simpler without the convoluted character histories. The stories focus on Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, with the occasional visit to Paradise Island to see her mother. The caption boxes tell us that these are Golden Age stories being told in the current (Silver) age. We get to see more familiar villains, such as Cheetah, Giganta, and yes, Egg Fu.  Diana Prince’s military rank fluctuates from issue to issue between lieutenant and captain, with the occasional issue where she is still a military nurse. Towards the end of this volume, once Ross Andru leaves the book, the stories start to feel more like Silver Age stories, current with other books of that era. I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book. But if you feel the need to possess one of these Wonder Woman collections, this is the one you should own.

Footnotes: Among the characters wiped away in the reset in issue #158 is Wonder Girl, the teenage version of our title character. However, Wonder Girl still continued to be an active and key member of the Teen Titans. For more on that complicated character, please see my review of Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1,

If you like this volume, try: the Wonder Woman TV series from the 1970s. For so many people, this version of Wonder Woman was their first encounter and remains the best representation (to date) of everyone’s favorite Amazon. Starring Linda Carter and Lyle Waggoner, the series ran for three seasons. The first season was set in the World War II era of the 1940s, following the earliest adventures of Wonder Woman. For the second and third season, the series was reset to place the characters into the 1970s. (Trying to set a TV show thirty years in the past was getting expensive for this type of show!) Carter’s take on Wonder Woman remains legendary but don’t expect riveting television here. The shows remain campy and are full of plot holes. You don’t have to own these – check out the series on Netflix or some other platform, or check the ME-TV programming guide. It’s worth seeing at least once.

Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1

showcase_presents_enemy_ace_volume_1First Published: February 2008

Contents: Enemy Ace stories from Our Army at War #151 (February 1965), #153 (April 1965), and #155 (); Showcase #57 (July/August 1965) and #58 (September/October 1965); Enemy Ace stories from Star-Spangled War Stories #138 (April/May 1968) to #145 (June/July 1969), #147 (October/November 1969) to #150 (April/May 1970); #152 (August/September 1970), #158 (August/September 1971), #181 (July/August 1974) to #183 (November/December 1974), and #200 (June/July 1976); Enemy Ace stories from Men of War #1 (August 1977) to #3 (November 1977), #8 (August 1978) to #10 (November 1978), #12 (January 1979) to #14 (March 1979), #19 (August 1979) and #20 (September 1979); Enemy Ace stories from Unknown Soldier #251 (May 1981) to #253 (July 1981), #260 (February 1982), #261 (March 1982), and #265 (July 1982) to #267 (September 1982); and the Enemy Ace story from Detective Comics #404 (October 1970)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher, Frank Thorne, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Ed Davis, Neal Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Baron Hans Von Hammer, Black Wolf

Overview: Flying across “no man’s land” during the height of the Great War (later renamed as World War I), Baron Hans Von Hammer leads the German forces in the air. Flying his easily-recognized crimson Fokker triplane, the “Angel of Death” fights a noble battle against his opponents in defense of Germany. This is Showcase Presents Enemy Ace.

Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace is a loose adaptation of the Red Baron story, who was an actual German pilot during the Great War. von Hammer comes from a noble family, complete with their own family flag. He has not friends, save for his personal servant that spends most of his time polishing the trophies earned from each of von Hammer’s kills. When he needs a break, von Hammer goes hunting in the Black Forest, where he is joined by his kindred spirit, the Black Wolf. They both hunt alone in life but appreciate each other’s company when reunited in the woods. brothers from a Kansas farm enlist in the Army at the onset of World War

In the air, von Hammer follows a strict guideline when engaging the enemy. He refuses to fire on an opponent that is out of ammo, even turning on the pilots in his own squadron if they break that rule. His ruthless reputation precedes him at all times, with his familiar plane bringing fear to those on the ground and in the air.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The art from Joe Kubert, followed later by Howard Chaykin and John Severin, definitely make this a volume worth looking at. My problem is the formulaic stories used for the first two-thirds of this collection. These stories were written as a one-and-done, and no thought was ever given to the idea that they would later be collected into a complete collection like this. The stories are repetitive, with the nationality of the opposing pilot being the main difference from issue to issue.

Footnotes: “Ghost of the Killer Skies” from Detective Comics #404 was reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5.

While he is referred to as the “Angel of Death” or the “Hammer from Hell”, von Hammer is never referenced as the “Enemy Ace”. That is just the name of the feature and not his call-sign.

If you like this volume, try: Jacques Tardi’s book, It Was the War of the Trenches. Quite honestly, there are not a lot of comics based in World War I. With many of the great comic artists and writers coming of age during the World War II era, so many of the war comics are focused during the second war. But the first war is just as brutal, as epically captured in this book by Tardi. The book focuses on the struggles of the French and German forces, moving back and forth across “no man’s land” bunkered in trenches filled with sewage and rotting corpses. This is not an easy book to read, certainly not for the faint of heart. Tardi is no fan of war and points out that the only ones who want war are the military leaders and the munitions manufacturers. The soldiers in the trenches, regardless of their uniforms, do not want to be there, and will do anything (literally risking life and limb) to get out of there and return home. Enemy Ace paints a sanitized view of the war, with a certain nobility and rules to be followed when dueling in the sky. It Was the War of the Trenches shows the real view (and costs) of the war.

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.

Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 1

showcase_presents_sgt_rock_volume_1First Published: November 2007

Contents: Sgt. Rock story from G.I. Combat #68 (January 1959); Sgt. Rock stories from Our Army At War #81 (April 1959) to #117 (April 1962)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, Irv Novick, and others

Key First Appearances: Sgt. Frank Rock, Ice Cream Soldier, Zach Nollan, Bulldozer, Jackie Johnson, Wildman

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 2

Overview: During World War II, there is an Army squadron that is sent on various missions across Europe and Northern Africa. These missions are critical to the success of the war effort, but they ask a lot of the soldiers to complete the task. While the squad may be led by the Skipper, the true commander of these soldiers is Sgt. Frank Rock, the strongest man in the U.S. Army. This is Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 1.

Sgt. Rock is a fairly simple man. He goes where ordered, he leads the soldiers of Easy Company, and he completes the missions. He doesn’t want to be in the war, but he does it because this is his role in life at this point. He would gladly give up his stripes to a better candidate, but he knows that for right now, he is the man for the job.

Many of the stories deal with Sgt. Rock having to care for a rookie private recently assigned to Easy. This young soldier is afraid of the war or doesn’t understand how or why Rock does what he does. So Rock shares stories about previous soldiers assigned to Easy who faced similar situations, and how they came through it. Often, these young soldiers come through when faced with combat, inspired by the actions and the words of their sergeant.

By the end of this volume, we have been introduced to most of the cast of characters for Easy Company, such as Bulldozer, Ice Cream Soldier, Jackie Johnson and Wildman. There are still a few to be added in later volumes, but the core group is in place here.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really appreciated this volume the more I read of it. First and foremost, the artwork by Joe Kubert is just spectacular. You should get this book just for his artwork. The stories can get repetitive but the artwork carries me through. I just really like to see the progression of the creative team (Robert Kanigher and Kubert) across this collection. We start out with Rock leading a nameless, nondescript Easy Company, with all of the stories focusing just on his story. But as the story progresses, the other characters are introduced and then brought back over and over, and the title becomes more of a group book. It opens up the story-telling opportunities once we have familiar characters that can be re-used from issue to issue.

Footnotes:  While this volume collects the earliest adventures of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, it does not collect the first appearance, which was in G.I. Combat #56 (January 1958). His second appearance in G.I. Combat #68 is included in this collection.

If you like this volume, try: the 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Beyond the dramatic opening scene of the U.S. troops landing at Omaha Beach, it shows a squad sent on a mission to retrieve a soldier. The squad must walk across parts of France, facing German forces along the way. While there is no direct link between Sgt. Rock and Saving Private Ryan, there were many times when reading these stories that I thought back to the movie. This is a powerful movie, and I try to rewatch it each year in that period between Memorial Day (last Monday of May) and the D-Day anniversary (June 6).