Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3

worldsfinest3First Published: March 2010

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #146 (December 1964) to #160 (September 1966); #162 (November 1966) to #169 (September 1967); and #171 (November 1967) to #173 (February 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Edmond Hamilton, George Klein, Sheldon Moldoff, Jim Shooter, Cary Bates, Leo Dorfman, and others

Key First Appearances: Batman Jr., Superman Jr., Bizarro Batman

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4

Overview: Sure, there’s a movie coming out next month that is going to pit our two heroes, Superman & Batman, against each other. Anyone can tell a fight story. The real challenge is to tell a story that has the two heroes teaming up to counter some threat that requires both Superman’s brawn and Batman’s brains. And that what we get here with Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3.

Now as with the previous volumes in this series, these are one-and-done type stories with little to no carry-over from issue to issue. Although not officially a Superman book, this title was overseen by the Superman editor Mort Weisinger, and most of the art is done by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan. So you see a lot of characters pop in from the Superman universe, more so than from the Batman universe.

There is one new concept that would stick around in various forms for the next decade or so. That concept would be Superman Jr. and Batman Jr., the offspring of our featured heroes. In these stories that take place sometime in the future (despite Batman not aging), our stars have married their co-stars (Lois Lane and Kathy Kane, respectively) and started families. With fathers who are also famous super-heroes, it’s only natural that the boys wear identical costumes to their parents, whether they are 3-years-old or 13-years-old. And no kid is ever a perfect angel, so expect these boys to get into trouble – the kind of trouble that would require a super-hero or two to bail them out.

One concept was introduced that we need more of in comics – Bizarro Batman! Again, if you are going to have Batman appearing in a Superman book and facing mostly Superman foes, then it is only natural that a Bizarro Batman makes an appearance. Sadly, he only made a few appearances before fading off into character limbo. But he was around long enough to help Bizzaro create a Bizzaro Justice League. Ponder that thought some while you wait for the next collection!

Why should these stories be Showcased?: It’s Superman and Batman. Seriously, I have to imagine that DC turned some kind of profit on each of the Showcase Presents volumes that involved one of the characters. In fact, I would be entirely happy if DC would only publish future Showcase Presents volumes involving one of these guys (but I know that is not going to happen!). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here – the stories presented in World’s Finest Comics are the best Superman and/or Batman stories from this era (late 1964-early 1968). Yes, Batman was getting better in this time, but I still believe his best appearances are in this run. Take a look at the book and let me know what you think.

Footnotes: The story from World’s Finest Comics #147 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

The story from World’s Finest Comics #169 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

World’s Finest Comics #161 and #170 are reprint issues, and are not included in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: the DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories trade paperbacks released in 2005 and 2010. One of the common types of stories from DC’s Silver Age of comics was the imaginary story. At that time, many of the DC writers and editors were former science-fiction story writers and editors who had made a career out of telling imaginary stories. With an anthology title like Strange Adventures or The House of Mystery, you could tell all kinds of imaginary stories from issue to issue, but it was no big deal.

But when you start trying to tell stories involving Superman or Batman, suddenly these become quite important. Some of these stories would completely contradict the overarching story of the character, so it couldn’t be told. Just imagine what would have happened if Bruce Wayne had been raised by Ma and Pa Kent following the death of his parents?

Other stories would take the characters in such radical directions that it would disrupt the natural one-and-done nature of each comic. What would happen if Lois Lane married Superman? Could they have children? Would they have his powers?

Gradually, as the Silver Age gave way to the Bronze Age, and the next wave of writers, artists, and editors took over the guardianship of the characters, the imaginary stories faded away. Yes, they would be brought back from time to time, even into modern times with many of the works by Grant Morrison or Alan Moore. It’s important to recognize these stories, even if they can be somewhat cheesy. This first trade collects primarily Superman stories, although there are some stories featuring Batman, the Flash, and Captain Marvel. The second trade is strictly Batman stories.

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3

First Published: June 2008

Contents: Batman #189 (February 1967) to #201 (May 1968); Batman stories from Detective Comics #359 (January 1967) to #358 (May 1968)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Mike Friedrich, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff, Gil Kane, Chic Stone, and others

Key First Appearances: Barbara Gordon/Batgirl

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4 and Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1

Overview: “Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed.” Strap in, old chum, as we travel the 14 miles into Gotham City. Wait, that’s the wrong Batman series from the 1960s. I was referencing the Batman TV series. Surely the TV series had no impact on the comic books, right? Wrong! Sit back and enjoy the ride with the third volume in the Showcase Presents Batman series. There’s not a moment to lose!

Now, according to lore, the TV series producers went to DC Comics looking for help. The show needed a new female character to help attract female viewership. Based on a suggestion by William Dozier, DC artist Carmine Infantino whipped up a design for Batgirl, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon, Gotham City librarian, and daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon. Making her debut in Detective Comics #359, Batgirl quickly became a fan favorite and a core member of the Batman Family.

Reflecting the success of the TV show, the comics in this volume started featuring many of the colorful characters to challenge the Dynamic Duo. Lots of Penguin and Joker and Catwoman stories here! And even though they never made it to TV, Blockbuster and Scarecrow get some page time in this collection.

While we start to see some signs of an over-arching storyline starting to develop under the guidance of editor Julie Schwartz, these stories remain primarily one-and-done and could be read in any order once you read Batgirl’s first appearance at the start of this collection.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is the volume everyone wants when you think of Batman in the mid-1960s. You get the million dollar debut of Batgirl. You get the second appearance (and the first in Showcase Presents) of Mr. Freeze. Batman’s rogues’ gallery of colorful characters (pun intended) is all here: Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, Mad Hatter, Blockbuster, Scarecrow, Killer Moth, and more. As a fan, I would be hard-pressed to find something missing from the Batman mythology that is not contained somewhere in this volume. This may be volume three in the series, but I would rank this #1 on my must-own list.

Footnotes: The stories from Detective Comics #359, #363, #369, & #371, and Batman #197 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

The Robin story from Batman #192 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Batman ’66. This series is based completely on the 1960s Batman television show. The characters in this comic bear a passing resemblance to the characters from the show – such as Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Cesar Romero as the Joker. Others may look slightly askew, such as Commissioner Gordon or Chief O’Hara. The writers and artists vary from story to story. This series is available first as a digital comic, and then two stories are collected later as a print comic. The print comics have been collected into multiple trades and hardcovers, so this should be very easy to find in any format. If you are a fan of the TV show, which was finally released on DVD in 2014, or if you are a fan of the Batman stories collected in this Showcase Presents, then Batman ’66 should be on your pull list.

Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2

First Published: April 2008

Contents: Legion of Super-Heroes stories from Adventure Comics #322 (July 1964) to #348 (September 1966); Superboy #117 (December 1964), #124 (October 1965), and #125 (December 1965); and “The Origin and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes” pages from Superman Annual #4 (1962), Adventure Comics #316 (January 1964) and Adventure Comics #365 (February 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Otto Binder, Curt Swan, Jerry Siegel, Sheldon Moldoff, George Klein, Jim Mooney, John Forte, Edmond Hamilton, Jim Shooter, and others

Key First Appearances: Spider-Girl, Heroes of Lallor (Beast Boy, Duplicate Boy, Evolvo Lad, Gas Girl, Life Lass), Timber Wolf, Magnetic Kid, Glorith, Computo, Duo Damsel, Color Kid, Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, Princess Projectra, Doctor Regulus, Kid Psycho

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3

Overview: From across the vast reaches of the known galaxy, the most powerful teenagers gather together to protect the universe. With unique abilities across the members, these teenagers are united to peace and prosperity to all beings. This is the Legion of Super-Heroes. Sit back and enjoy the ride, as we have a fun set of stories in this second Showcase Presents volume.

Part of the charm of the Legion is the ever growing line-up, as new heroes are introduced to join the clubhouse – from Timber Wolf to Ferro Lad to Karate Kid to Princess Projectra. Not everyone is truly Legion material, but not to worry as the Legion of Substitute Heroes always has a spot open for them. And sometimes you let the wrong person in, as the Legion found out with the introduction of Nemesis Kid.

One of the Legion’s greatest threats to come is introduced in a rather humble beginning. The murderous living computer Computo (accidentally created by Brainiac 5) shows up, intent on killing off all life. During the course of the battle, Triplicate Girl makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect her teammates.

In terms of creators, a (then) true teenager took over the writing duties of the Legion in this volume. Legendary comic creator Jim Shooter begins his long run with the kids of the future in Adventures Comics #346. Shooter’s Legion run is often cited as one of the more influential runs with the characters. We will get more of the Shooter stories in the next Showcase volume.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: For the most part, the Silver Age stories from DC Comics do not hold up. However, with the Legion of Super-Heroes, this volume surprisingly does stand the test of time. The stories are fun adventures that can go anywhere and everywhere in the course of 15 pages. We’ve gotten past the need to re-introduce characters and their powers each month, and just get into the telling of the story. There are several key Legionnaires introduced in this volume, which makes for interesting reading to see how they began compared against how they came to be used later.

Footnotes: The Legion Flight Ring makes its debut in Adventures Comics #329 (February 1965).

If you like this volume, try: the 2005 reboot of The Legion of Super-Heroes by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. Over the years, the Legion has had their story rebooted numerous times. Sometimes it’s a soft continuation of where things left off, and other times it takes the Legion in a completely different direction. With this relaunch, if felt like a modern refresh of the original LSH, in terms of number of Legionnaires as well as a general positive approach to the story. From issues #16 to #36, the title was renamed as Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. With issue #37, it went back to just Legion of Super-Heroes, as Jim Shooter returned to the teenage heroes where he got his start. Personally, I would stick to the first 36 issues, which have all been collected across six trade paperbacks. That said, I see these issues in back issue bins, so it may be a fun hunt to track them down at conventions.

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2

First Published: June 2007

Contents: Batman #175 (November 1965) to #188 (December 1966), Batman stories from Detective Comics #343 (September 1965) to #358 (December 1966)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff, Murphy Anderson, Robert Kanigher, and others

Key First Appearances: Poison Ivy, Tiger Moth, Blockbuster, Outsider, Cluemaster, Doctor Tzin-Tzin

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the Silver Age of Batman comics. Once again, these stories are generally one-and-done stories, although some plot lines may run over several issues from time to time.

Picking up where the first volume left off, we finally find out the identity of the mysterious Outsider that had been plaguing Batman and Robin for the past year. Once that case has been resolved, loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth is able to return to service at Wayne Manor, and dear old Aunt Harriet quickly fades into the background.

The highlights of the stories in this volume include the new villains that are introduced to Batman’s Rogues Gallery. The deadly Poison Ivy makes her debut, appearing in two issues. (Strangely, she then went into hibernation, as she didn’t become a prominent Batman foe until the late 1970s.) Similarly, Blockbuster made a handful of appearances but did not become prominent for several years.

The creators of the comics give a nod of the hat to the popularity of the Batman TV series with Batman #183. A hood posing as an injured Batman tries to get Robin to take him back to the Batcave. Robin recognizes the fake, as this Batman does not have the yellow chest symbol. So Robin takes him to a fake Batcave that the duo had set up. Robin suggests that the faux Batman rest up by watching the popular TV documentary that shares their exploits. The hood is eventually revealed when the real Batman shows up.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: When I was a kid, I would search for comics at whatever store my parents would be shopping at that day. I would go through the spinner rack trying to decide what comics I would want to take home with me, based on the cover image and what characters would be in the book. I would often go with the team books like Justice League of America or The Avengers just because it would offer me so many heroes for my 35 cents. Once I had identified which comics I wanted, I would then peruse other comics, to absorb as much of the material as I could before it was time to check out.

Using that same criteria, I would probably mark this as a book to buy and take home with me. This volume gives us plenty of Batman team-ups, with Robin, Elongated Man, Atom and others. We get the classic Batman villains such as Joker and Riddler, plus the introductions of Poison Ivy and Blockbuster, both who would cause Batman trouble for years to come. Finally, this volume gives us the conclusion to the Outsider mystery which started in the stories found in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 1. This may not be the greatest collection of Batman stories, but you get your money’s worth with the stories in this volume. Sadly, it will cost you more than 35 cents to buy this collection.

Footnotes: The Robin story from Batman #184 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

The Batman story from Detective Comics #343 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Elongated Man Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Batman: The Strange Deaths of Batman, a trade collecting various Batman stories depicting the death of the Caped Crusader. The first story is Detective Comics #347, which is collected in this Showcase. My favorite arc is from Batman #291 to #294, where a mock trial is held when multiple villains are trying to take credit for killing Batman. Ra’s al Ghul serves as the judge, Two-Face is the prosecutor, and claims are heard from Catwoman, Riddler, Joker and Lex Luthor on how they killed Batman. The stories cover a 35-year span, so this is a good way to see a variety of characters, and how Batman has changed over the years. The trade was released in 2009.

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.