Friday, November 16, 2007

Johnathan Presents: Another Review of Showcase Presents, By Johnathan

A while back I did a mass-review of all of the Showcase Presents books that I had purchased. Well, I just keep on buying those things - due to my overpowering weakness for the Silver Age - and so it's time for more of that.

Showcase Presents: Adam Strange

All of the old stories about Adam Strange getting zapped to Rann via Zeta Beam so that he can kick alien ass and score with alien ladies (well, lady). I'm pretty fond of the little pre-adventure that Adam always gets into whilst getting his ass to the site of the incoming beam. Also fun: the sheer amount of trouble that the Rannians get themselves into ("Adam Strange! In the month that you were away we were conquered by robots! Again!"). Finally, a true statement: Adam Strange has the best helmet in comics.


Showcase Presents: The Atom

Good fun. Ray Palmer gets into all sorts of scraps as a tiny man. Like Green Lantern, this comic made an attempt to pass itself off as hard science fiction, with plenty of super-scientific explanations for stuff like shrinking physicists, but readily flew off on crazy tangential plotlines to keep things interesting. The three basic plots of a Silver Age Atom story: 1) Ray Palmer shrinks in order to help his main squeeze Jean "will be evil someday" Loring solve a case so that she can become a successful lawyer and prove herself and then quit the law and marry Ray. 2) Ray Palmer encounters something weird whilst going about his daily business; shrinks. 3) Ray Palmer shrinks and travels into the past via his scientist pal's Time Hole. While in the past he fights injustice with a passion that makes lovers of causality cringe. Take that, historical figures! Take that, history!


Showcase Presents: Batman, Volume 2

Rachelle gave me this one for my birthday, whilst simultaneously foiling my plot to borrow Volume 1 from her by lending it to every other person in Halifax (this is a lie. It was just lent to Tiina [the Tea Devil]). I don't know if the first volume was a great as this, but I hope so. Featured were both the first appearance of the original Blockbuster, with his hatred for Batman yet love for Bruce Wayne, and the crazy-great saga of the Outsider. The Outsider, for those of you who have avoided 30 or 40 years of spoilers, was actually Batman's butler Alfred, who everyone thought was dead but who was only mostly dead and who was turned into a lumpy psychic monster by a well-meaning scientist. Ever since I read about this fantastic mishmash in Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of Supervillains I wanted very much to read it, what with Robin getting turned into a coffin and all, so thanks again, Rachelle!


Showcase Presents: The Flash

Good solid Silver Age tomfoolery. Nothing other that the extremely unlikely origin of Kid Flash really sticks out in my memory, but rest assured that it's full of crazy crimes and stupid plots and all of the rest of the good stuff. I grew up with Wally West as the Flash, but i gotta say that Barry Allen was a helluva character.


Showcase Presents: Green Arrow

A lot of the comics that are collected in this one are actually from the late 50s, so they have a really neat feel to them, like the Batman comics of the same era. You can almost see the Comics Code symbol hovering over every character's shoulder, watching; judging. Anyway, Green Arrow and Speedy fight the crime and drive around in a great car (it launches them with catapults!) and meet at least two clowns who use wacky clown arrows to make folks laugh and then to fight crime in a crazy clown fashion. Plus, remember the Batmen of All Nations? Green Arrow has some too! Dudes from all over the world show up for a convention in his honour and bring their lava arrows and so forth - it's a hoot!


Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter

Haven't finished this one yet, but I'll tell you what my favourite thing about it is: that J'onn J'onzz isn't really a super-hero in his first batch of adventures, he's just a detective who happens to be an alien and have all kinds of crazy powers. I really wish that someone nowadays would write some comics focusing on that aspect of the Manhunter's personality. It seems like all of the J'onzz character development lately has had the effect of making him really alienated (ha!) from humanity, while in those early stories he had a whole lot of charm. I don't know. I just want a comic about a hard-boiled private eye who can turn invisible and is scared of fire and sometimes has a hound dog to hang out with. Oh! Also, his brother T'omm J'onzz shows up at one point!


Showcase Presents: Shazam!

This one's a lot of fun. They got C.C. Beck, the original artist for the character, to draw the DC comics revival, so everything looks fantastic. The stories are a bit child-oriented and entirely insane - my favourite character was Sunny Sparkle, the Nicest Kid in the World, who has it really tough because everyone loves him so much at first sight that they give him ridiculous and extravagant presents (and apparently name ponies after him). He just keeps donating the stuff to charity and declaring that he'll become a hermit when he grows up. I think that Sunny Sparkle Come Down Off the Mountain, with a tangled beard and a crazed look in his eyes and hordes of glassy-eyed, gift-bearing acolytes, is number 3 on my list of "characters that I wish would make an appearance in DC continuity", right after Carbon Monoxide Gangster and Parade Hater Horace. As for Shazam!, it's pretty great but it peters out at the end as the series hits hard times, but not before Dr Sivana goes on a crazy crime-spree road trip and Billy Batson and Uncle Dudley have to hop in their camper van and chase him all over the country. Whee!


Showcase Presents: World's Finest

I just got this one today, so I haven't read much of it, but what I have taken in is fantastic. Silver Age Batman and his pal Superman were each at least as concerned with keeping their secret identities safe as they were with, say, fighting crime, so when they got together all bets were off. Rachelle did a pretty great post about one of the messed-up adventures that resulted from this here. It's all Batman dressing up like Superman and then pretending to be Clark Kent while Superman's dressed up like Batman and also being Clark Kent and all to mess with Lois Lane's head... it's almost Shakespearian at times. Plus Superman and Batman are one of the most fun BFF pairs in comics, even without considering the subtextual homoeroticism - that's the icing on the cake!


I totally asked for many more of these things for Christmas, so there's certainly going to be more of these reviews, yay.

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