Monday, August 10, 2015

Guest 100-Word Reviews - Four DC anniversary books, Favorites Then and Now

Doug: Edo Bosnar is a good sport, and one not to be deterred by my silly word games. Just when we all thought (did anyone still really care?) the 100-Word Review had gone to blog heaven, Edo stepped up to the plate and performed not one, but FOUR 100-Word Reviews on some books of his choice. Thanks, friend! Onward...

Edo Bosnar: For a while, in the early 1980s, DC really put out all the stops for their various anniversary issues. The last three reviewed here in particular are really nicely packaged, with engaging stories and a number of artists, and absolutely no advertisements. They really were special issues in every sense of the word. I also included a personal favorite from 1978:

Showcase #100 (May 1978) 
Writers: Paul Kupperberg and Paul Levitz
Art: Joe Staton

Think of this as a dry run for Crisis on Infinite Earths. The intention was to have every character who ever appeared in Showcase to make an appearance in this issue, if only for a single panel. They all get together to deal with a menace that is apparently ripping apart the fabric of time itself (which is why the historical, .e.g. Bat Lash or Anthro, and futuristic heroes, like Space Ranger, appear). It gets a bit silly at places, but it’s still an engaging story with a satisfying conclusion – in which two unlikely, non-powered heroines basically save the day.

Detective Comics #500 (March 1981) 
Writers: Alan Brennert, Len Wein, Mike Barr, Walter Gibson, Paul Levitz and Cary Bates
Artists: Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo, Walt Simonson, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Tom Yeates, Joe Kubert Carmine Infantino and Bob Smith

While the focus is obviously on Batman in the seven stories included in this book, there’s one each featuring Elongated Man, Hawkman (who had back-up stories in Detective in the 1970s) and Slam Bradley, who debuted in Detective’s first issue and continued to appear in it until almost 1950. The latter story also has guest appearances by a number of back-up characters like Captain Compass, the unfortunately named Pow Wow Smith (yes, he’s Native American) and Christopher Chance. A special treat is a Batman prose story in the middle written by Walter Gibson, creator of pulp action hero The Shadow.

Justice League of America #200 (March 1982)
Writer: Gerry Conway
Art: George Perez, Brett Breeding, Pat Broderick, Terry Austin, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Frank Giacoia, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert

This is just so much awesome between the spectacular wraparound cover by Perez. The would-be alien conquerors from the JLA origin story are back: they take mental control of the founding members, who seek out the meteors in which the aliens originally arrived, now hidden all over the world, so they can resume their diabolical plan. The newer members go out to stop them, with each confrontation drawn by a different artist/artists. The original JLAers always manage to  prevail, but they come to their senses eventually, and ultimately the days is saved through superior teamwork between members old and new.

Superman #400 (October 1984)(cover by Howard Chaykin)
Writer: Elliot S! Maggin
Art: Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Frank Miller, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, Wendy Pini, Michael Kaluta, Kelly Adler, Klaus Jansen, and Jim Steranko
Also included: An introductory text piece by Ray Bradbury, and tribute pin-ups by a number of other notable artists, including Wil Eisner, Mad Magazine’s Jack Davis, Leonard Starr (of Little Orphan Annie fame) and Moebius

Under the title “The Living Legends of Superman,” this one consists of a number of brief stories set in the future (sometimes in alternate realities) that examine what Superman has come to mean to human society. This is essentially Maggin’s love letter to his favorite character, but it never gets sappy or overly sentimental. The sections drawn by Kaluta and Pini are particularly interesting, since neither of them normally drew superhero stories. The last section, written and illustrated by Steranko, examines the progress of the illustrious Superman lineage into the far future and, well, up to the end of time.


dbutler16 said...

Great choices, Edo! I own, and have relatively recently re-read, all except for Showcase #100. I thought they were all very enjoyable, especially JLA #200 (though I don't like how Aquaman needed help to win his battle). The Superman #200 had a very good story, though the art was of course uneven, and I got introduced to Slam Bradley.
Looking at these covers, especially Detective Comics #500, reminded me of another great DC anniversary issue from the early 80's - The Brave and the Bold - #200. Unfortunately the last issue, but at least it went out with a bang.

R.Lloyd said...

I remember the Superman 400 issue. I purchased a portfolio with many long gone artists who paid tribute to the man of Steel. I loved that issue. I wish I had saved it because it was so special. I loved the Chaykin cover and it upsets me he uses his talents to create projects like Black Kiss. He should be painting book covers and making good comics...not that other material.

R. Lloyd said...

If you ever get the chance to see the Superman 400 portfolio it has black and white prints from many artists like Jim Steranko, Howard Chaykin, Frank Miller, Jack Davis and many more. All of them ( if you can buy it on EBAY or Amazon) are ready to be framed and displayed.

Humanbelly said...

Personally, I enjoy the 100-word reviews, Doug! They don't always spark a lot of commentary, which I suppose is the only gauge you really have to go by, but they're really a cool thumbnail take on whatever issues the reviewers happen to put in the spotlight.

And edo, this is a nice and engaging, themed choice you've made here. I especially like the fact that you've gone with DC's take on these Cavalcade of Stars-type specials. Well done. I don't have a single one of them, so it's a welcome introduction for me (although I may in fact have the JLA issues on either side of the 200th-- but I don't know if I've ever read them. . . ).

Of the ones you've offered us, BRAVE AND THE BOLD catches my interest the most, followed by JLA. Looking at the credits and format and your description, those are the two that appeal to my own desire of having a cohesive "feel" to them. One of the biggest problems with most of these 30-artist/20-writer mega-specials is that they're all about the spectacle of the creator cameos, and become just painfully non-cohesive (and incoherent?) as legitimate stories-- especially when it is indeed one long tale being told by so many guests. Breaking it into an anthology of shorter pieces doesn't really fix that for me, 'cause then the book never settles into feeling "real", y'know? It falls into the realm of, at best, an homage or tribute. . . which can still be an amusing curiosity, but always leaves me feeling like I had a pound of cotton candy for lunch.

That being said, I surely do like Howard Chaykin's cover, there, and his take on what Clark/Kal-el would look like. He comes across (to my eyes) as looking wonderfully mid-eastern/east European--- in fact, he could be Danny Thomas' somewhat handsomer little brother (well, or big brother). (Ooooh, what a great idea for a sketch. . .or for an episode of MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY. . . ! "Danny's Big Super-Brother Visits From. . . Way Out of Town")


Garett said...

I remember having all of these except Superman. Great Showcase cover by Staton!

Redartz said...

Excellent selection of subjects here, Edo! DC had a great run of anniversary issues during this time. I have all four of these books, and of the four liked JLA 200 the most. From the beautiful wrap-around cover to the array of creators to the solid story and art, this comic was a real winner.

Showcase 100 was one of the very few books I kept when I originally sold off my collection years ago. It was a fun story with loads of guests ( they even sneaked in an appearance by Sugar and Spike!).

Superman 400 and Detective 500 were good also, though personally less-favored than the above two books. DC made these anniversary issues an event to remember; back when an 'event' actually meant something extraordinary ( when every issue of a comic is part of an 'event', is it really an event or just an overbloated regular story...).

Edo Bosnar said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I guess you mileage may vary (to borrow a phrase from a blogger at another comics site) on these, but as the title to this post indicates, I liked all of these back when I first read them, and they held up pretty well for me upon later readings as an adult.
By the way HB, I'm not sure if by "Brave and the Bold" you mean Showcase or Detective. Regardless, to some extent, I see your point about anthology issues, and I can say that I like Showcase and JLA slightly more than the other two, perhaps precisely because they each feature a big, epic story. That said, the Superman book, although broken down into a number of separate pieces, has a very cohesive theme running throughout. However, none of them really take place in the regular Superman continuity of the time, so that might not address the "feeling real" problem you mentioned.

Humanbelly said...

Ha-- Showcase, edo-- the Showcase book. My steam-powered work computer (w/ it's bargain-basement wifi hotspot) doesn't let me hop quickly back and forth between the image page and the response page w/out losing what I've typed. . . so I'm often working from a first-glance memory of what the post offered-! And boy, SHOWCASE makes much more sense, as I was trying to figure out how Sugar & Spike managed to work their way into Brave & Bold-! Talk about yer Zany Nick Haneys! (I also don't see Bats coming out on top after the obligatory early dust-up. . . )


Anonymous said...

The only one of these I've read is JLA #200; it's been a while, but I remember it being pretty good. Was that the issue where Green Arrow rejoined the team? DC used to do some good anniversary issues...Marvel were kinda hit and miss in that regard.

Mike Wilson

Ewan said...

Great issue selections, nothing but happy nostalgia here, thanks Edo for posting these! That Superman cover still mesmerizes me to this day, when I started rebuilding my childhood comic book collection some years ago, that was one of the first Superman's I actually picked back up.

Redartz said...

HB- now that would be a perfect example of ' team-ups that never were, but should have been' : Batman and Sugar & Spike! And yes, I think the Darknight Detective would have been no match for the two tots; especially if they could get into all the attractive toys in his utility belt...

Humanbelly said...

Ahhahahahahaaa BOB Haney! BOB Haney!
My corrected corrections even need correcting-!

(Unreliable Source, that's HB---)


Edo Bosnar said...

Mike W., yep, that's the one in which the surly GA rejoins the team.
Ewan, I can relate - while I'm not trying to rebuild my childhood collection, I nonetheless made it a point to get all four of these when I got back into comics. There was just so many good memories tied to them...
HB, Bob, Nick, tomayto, tomawto... :P

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I loooove JLA 200. It's pure fun, and seeing each hero fight tackled by a different artist was too cool. George Perez brought the whole thing to a crescendo, and I don't think any team-book anniversary issue since has equaled it. I haven't read the other 3, but they all look great.

- Mike Loughlin

Graham said...

Well done, Edo. I had all of these (still do in storage somewhere) and they were loads of fun.

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