DC’s Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains

By Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, William Woolfolk, Ed Herron, John Broome, Gardner F. Fox, Alfred Bester, Don Cameron, Joe Samachson, Mort Weisinger, Ken Fitch, David Vern Reed, Sheldon Moldoff, Jack Burnley, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Lee Elias, Mort Meskin, Joe Kubert, Howard Sherman, Pete Riss, Paul Reinman, Alex Kotzky, Bernard Baily, Jon Sikela, Harry G. Peter, Murphy Anderson, Nick Cardy & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0173-8 (HB)

We talk of Gold and Silver Ages in comics and latterly for the sake of expediency have added other mineral markers like a Bronze Age, but no ever talks about the period between 1964 and 1977 as a specific and crucial time in funnybook history. But it was…

During that period, economic pressure compelled DC and Marvel to increasingly plunder their own archives and fill expensive pages in their primary product to maintain hard-won spaces on newsstands and magazine spinners. Some readers moaned about reprints. Some didn’t notice and most didn’t care. But for all those little proto-geeks like me, it was being given the keys to the greatest kingdom of all.

Once you grasped that the differently drawn stuff with clunkier buildings and cars – and more men in hats – was from the past, and not something happening “now”, it simply added to the scope and scale of what you were reading: hinting of a grand unknown past you were now party to. Moreover, the sheer quality of most twice-printed tales was astounding.

I wasn’t around for Lou Fine or Basil Wolverton or Jack Burnley the first time, but reprints made me a devotee. You young whippersnappers with your interwebs and archive collections don’t know how lucky you are.

Marvel especially made a service out of a necessity: keeping their older material in print via big packages like Marvel Collectors’ Items Classics and Marvel Tales to ensure reader awareness of their unfolding universe. Those and DC’s 80-Page Giant specials were true gateway series for comics junkies who wanted a peek at the past… particularly the mysterious and alluring “Golden Age” where all the really incredible stuff must have happened…

In 1968 DC started taking reprints seriously by creating a specific title. DC Special began a succession of themed and carefully curated issues at a time when superheroes had entered another decline. In its first run – from fall 1968 to November/December 1971 – it featured issues dedicated to the careers of Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert, horror stories, teen comedy, western, crime, and two issues featuring Strange Sports Stories, as well as an “all-girl” superhero volume, the Viking Prince and Plastic Man. Issues #8 (Summer1970) and #14 (September/October 1972) were both entitled Wanted! The World’s Most Dangerous Villains: an unrepentant, unashamed celebration of costumed good guys thrashing costumed bad guys…

This spiffy hardback and digital collection sadly excludes those try-out experiments but does collect all the subsequent contents of the spin-off title that followed – #1-9 spanning July/August 1972 to September 1973 – and adds a tenth issue just for thrills and giggles.

It kicks off with a gloriously outré debut as #1 reintroduced ‘The Signalman of Crime’ who used signs and symbols to baffle lawmen. He came – and went – in Batman #112 (December 1957) courtesy of Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris and is followed by a classy Green Arrow yarn from Ed Herron & Lee Elias. ‘The Crimes of the Clock King’ were first found and foiled in World’s Finest Comics (#111 July 1960). Rounding out the first sally is ‘Menace of the Giant Puppet’ by John Broome, Gil Kane & Joe Giella (Green Lantern volume 2 #1, August 1960) wherein the Emerald Gladiator faced the superscience-wielding Puppeteer.

Gold was struck in #2 as Batman #25 (October/November 1944) yielded Don Cameron, Jack Burnley & Jerry Robinson’s‘Knights of Knavery’: an epic clash which saw crime rivals The Penguin and Joker – temporarily – join forces against the Dynamic Duo, after which John Broome, Infantino & Giella detail how ‘The Trickster Strikes Back’. The air-walking felon plunders Central City until the Scarlet Speedster finally outwits him, as first seen in The Flash #121 (June 1961).

Wanted #3 provided exclusively Golden Age greatness, beginning with The Vigilante yarn from Action Comics #69 (February 1944). Devised by Joe Samachson, Mort Meskin & Joe Kubert, ‘The Little Men Who Were There!’ pitted the Prairie Troubadour against diabolical Napoleon of Crime The Dummy, after which warrior wizard Doctor Fate frustrated an invasion by ‘The Fish-Men of Nyarl-Amen’ (More Fun Comics #65 March 1941, by Gardner F. Fox & Howard Sherman) and Hawkman crushed ‘The Human Fly Bandits’ thanks to creators Broome & Kubert as seen in Flash Comics #100 (October 1948).

Original Green Lantern Alan Scott headlined in #4, replaying his epic first clash with Solomon Grundy from All-American Comics #61 (October 1944) as related by Alfred Bester & Paul Reinman in ‘Fighters Never Quit!’, whilst the follow-up featured Kid Eternity – who died before his time and was rewarded by Higher Powers with the power to summon figures from history, myth and literature to fight for justice. ‘Master Man’ came from Kid Eternity #15 (May 1949) wherein writer William Woolfolk and illustrator Pete Riss created the hero’s ultimate nemesis and set them duelling by proxy via resuurected heroes and villains…

Contemporary Green Gladiator Hal Jordan returned in #5, battling Doctor Light in Gardner F. Fox, Kane & Sid Greene’s ‘Wizard of the Light-Wave Weapons!’ (Green Lantern volume 2 #33, December 1964), before the original Tiny Titan faced ‘The Man in the Iron Mask!’ in an epic clash by Woolfolk & Alex Kotzky from Doll Man Quarterly #15 (Winter 1948).

Starman opened #6, in a grudge match against arch foe The Mist. Fox & Burnley’s ‘Finders Keepers!’ – from Adventure Comics #77, August 1942 – saw the see-through fiend use found treasure to mesmerise his victims, and is followed by a saga of Sargon the Sorcerer, battling Blue Lama as ‘The Man Who Met Himself’ (Sensation Comics #71, November 1947 by Broome & Reinman). The drama ends on a spectacular high in the Kubert-illustrated Wildcat thriller ‘The Wasp’s Nest!’ from (Sensation Comics #66, June 1947).

Wanted #7 exhumed more Gold, beginning with speedster Johnny Quick’s duel with satanic scientist Dr. Clever who gleans the secret of hyper-velocity in ‘The Adventure of the Human Streak’ (More Fun Comics #76 February 1942 and illustrated by Mort Weisinger & Mort Meskin) after which the 1940’s Hawkman battles spectral nemesis The Gentleman Ghost in Robert Kanigher & Kubert’s ‘The Crimes That Couldn’t Have Happened!’ (Flash Comics #90, December 1947) before Ken Fitch & Bernard Baily reveal how Hourman crushes ‘Dr. Glisten’s Submarine Pirates’ as originally seen inAdventure Comics #72, March 1942.

The Silver Age Flash faces ‘The Big Freeze!’ in Broome, Infantino & Murphy Anderson’s furious fight against Captain Cold (The Flash #114 August 1960) before Fox & Sherman pit a depowered Doctor Fate against transformative terror ‘Mr. Who’ in a stirring saga from More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941).

The original run concluded with #9, which opened with Jerry Siegel & Jon Sikela’s epic and absurdist Superman clash against the diabolical Prankster who claimed to be ‘Crime’s Comedy King!’ in Action Comics #57 (February 1943) after which the adventure peaked in a classic Jack Kirby & Joe Simon Sandman thriller. First found in World’s Finest Comics #6 (Summer 1942) ‘The Adventure of the Magic Forest!’ saw the Master of Dreams and Sandy the Golden Boy crush murderous, nefarious hijacker Nightshade…

The fun continues with a virtual 10th issue compiled in recent times and prompted by a letter from Wanted #9 requesting an all-female outing. It took long enough but the wish is finally granted in ‘A Modern Take: Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains #10!’ which begins with a Catwoman classic.

‘The Sleeping Beauties of Gotham City!’ debuted in Batman #84 (June 1954), scripted by David Vern Reed and limned by Sheldon Moldoff & Stan Kaye, wherein notorious Selina Kyle subverts a beauty contest, not for vanity but for glittering profit, after which Flash Comics #86 (August 1947) provides the first adventure of ‘The Black Canary’ in a swansong for bumbling hero Johnny Thunder by Kanigher, Infantino & Giella.

Wrapping up this sublime “Wants” list is a late clash between the Amazing Amazon and war god Mars by Kanigher & Harry G. Peter. ‘The Girl Who saved Paradise Island!’ comes from Wonder Woman #36, July/August 1949 and features interplanetary conflict and the truly terrifying warriors of Infanta, so be warned…

With covers by Murphy Anderson and Nick Cardy, this tome celebrates the primal simplicity of Superhero comics: no angst, no grey areas and no continued epics, just a whole bunch of done-in-one delights for fans of history and simplicity.
© 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1972, 1973, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.