Monday, May 14, 2007

Review of Showcase Presents, By Johnathan

Showcase Presents has lately been presenting some pretty awesome stuff, in the form of 500+ page reprints featuring comics of the 60s and 70s and I've been doing my part by buying a whole lot of them. It's time, I think, to pony up some reviews.

Showcase Presents: The Elongated Man

This was the first of these black-and-white beauties to cross my path and I was pretty glad that it had. It featured Ralph Dibny's start as a rival/partner to the Flash, followed by his marriage to Sue Dearborn and their subsequent travels around the world. Ralph's a very atypical 60s DC hero in that his identity is known to the world (and in that he's married instead of being in an extended engagement or flirtation). He and Sue encounter all manner of mysteries while being socialites, some of which are quite charming. Ralph also hits people with a disturbing array of pliable body parts. These early stories are a great illustration of the fact that even though the Elongated Man may have the same power as Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man, the way that he uses it is all his own.

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Superman Volumes 1 and 2

This is some pretty great Silver age ridiculousness right here. You've got Superman obsessing over his secret identity, kryptonite simply everywhere, more mermaids than you can shake a stick at, Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Clark Kent looking like Steven Colbert and plenty of aliens. Plus Volume 1 was one of the first of these bad boys out and so only cost $9.99.

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Superman Family

This reads pretty similarly to just plain Superman, only with more Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy: a) has lots of different jobs. b) foils lots of gangsters. c) occasionally betrays/ is betrayed by Superman for dramatic effect. d) frequently develops superpowers - in one of the coolest stories he uses some of Superman's trophies to put together a super-powered crime fighting suit, then develops a 'best-buddies' relationship with a paper boy (who collects souvenirs of his exploits and summons him via a signal-pen).

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Green Lantern

Another $9.99 wonder. With this one I got an interesting look at just how different comic book series used to be from one another. The Elongated Man dealt with really intimate little mysteries, while Superman lived in a world that hovered between soft sci-fi and fantasy, genre-wise. Green Lantern was by no means hard sci-fi but it drew from some of its conventions (and of those of the classic space opera) to create a comic that took itself a bit more seriously. Some good, solid, fun comic yarns here.

Showcase Presents: The Brave and the Bold

Bob Haney writes Batman and guest. This was a terrific read, with lots of Haney lunacy. The guests included Metamorpho (good), Plastic Man (dismal), The Metal Men (terrific - everyone goes to a robot convention) and Deadman (two times!). The best issue involved Batman having Wonder Woman and Batgirl pretend to fall in love with him as part of a plat to catch Copperhead, then when the time came to nab him they really had, such is the power of the Bat-charisma. Copperhead escaped in the kerfuffle, but was nabbed later on. Duh.

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Justice League of America, Volumes 1 and 2

Good solid Silver Age fun. The JLA whomp some aliens, Starro the Conquerer, more aliens, Dr. Light, and some aliens. Snapper Carr is surprisingly endearing, J'onn J'onzz is surprisingly pudgy. He also tends to use his "Martian Breath" almost to the exclusion of all of his many other powers, possibly to distinguish him from Superman.

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Teen Titans

Another Bob Haney masterwork, featuring the sidekicks of various Justice League members. The Titans answer calls for help from teenagers across the world and so end up dealing with giant monsters, inter-dimensional invasions and submarine pirates. Also notable is Haney's mastery of contemporary slang (assuming that sixties-teens used 'fab', 'ginchy' and 'gear' in every other sentence) and creative use of nicknames (Kid Flash = 'Twinkletoes', Aqualad = 'Gill Head', Wonder Girl = 'Wonder Chick'). All this and the Mad Mod!

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes

My thoughts on this topic are already known.

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: Metamorpho the Element Man

Bob Haney strikes again! This time out he's penning the adventures of Rex Mason, whose brush with an ancient meteor/artifact gives him a hideous appearance and the ability to change into any element found in the human body. This one's got great art, as well as my favourite Silver Age supporting cast: Simon Stagg, Rex's boss, famous scientist and so close to being a super-villain that his private security forces dress like Cobra Commander; his daughter Sapphire Stagg, Rex's fiance; Java, a formerly-frozen Neanderthal given a modern brain by Stagg - Java's in love with Sapphire and occasionally tries to bump Metamorpho off but is a colossal coward and so never succeeds; and Urania Blackwell, the Element Girl, Metamorpho's female counterpart. One sad thing: Metamorpho, like Aztek, had his comic canceled before its time and so you'll never learn just who it was that was plotting against the Element Man toward the end of his series.

JOHN APPROVED

Showcase Presents: The Phantom Stranger

I'm still reading this one, but so far it's great. The basic format involves a supernatural setup, followed by the appearance of both the Phantom Stranger and Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost-Breaker to lend a hand. The two squabble over the existence of the supernatural, then tell stories to illustrate their points. Then they solve the mystery. At the end of the story the Phantom Stranger disappears, which really ticks off Dr. Thirteen, and it seems to be cumulative, because in the last story I read he pretty much just punched the Phantom Stranger in the face as soon as he showed up. Also notable: four teenagers keep showing up and their names are Spartacus, Attila, Wild Rose and Mister Square.

JOHN APPROVED

Well, that's it for now. I'll almost certainly be getting more of these things and when I do I'll write about it on the Internet. I'm so cool.

2 comments:

ben & the groovy time-flappers. said...

I actually own original copies of a couple Metal Men B&B stories -- including the robot convention. Just wacky, wacky hijinx.

Of the Showcases, I ended up with the Green Lantern one, the Phantom Stranger, and Legion (obviously). Legion and the Stranger are more favourites, although GL has some interesting points - notably because Pieface manages to be very much an Anti-Jimmy Olsen. I'm curious to pick up the Metamorpho and JLA ones-- particularly the latter, as I'm in the middle of reading Morrison's JLA run and really loved his take on the Key.

Did you ever end up reading the Bizarro Comics/World anthologies? I think you'd dig 'em.

Johnathan said...

Yeah, if Pieface weren't named Pieface he'd be intensely cool. He also gets married partway through the book - to a total babe, which ain't standard sidekick behavior.

I also compared and contrasted Showcase Presents: the JLA and the Morrison run - it was a rewarding experience. Mr. M. did his homework.

Bizarro comics am the worst. Me am hate them almost as much as me am love 'What the *bleep* do We Know', which am fine movie with many valid points.

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