Superman’s Greatest Team-Ups


By Mike W. Barr, Cary Bates, E. Nelson Bridwell, Gary Cohn, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Paul Levitz, Dan Mishkin, Denny O’Neil, Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Murphy Anderson, Rich Buckler, Dick Dillin, Don Heck, Alex Saviuk, Jim Starlin, Joe Staton, Curt Swan, Rick Veitch & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0486-9 (HB/Digital edition)

From the moment a kid first sees his second superhero, the only thing they wants is to see how the new gaudy gladiator stacks up against the first one. From the earliest days of the comics industry (and according to DC Comics Presents editor Julie Schwartz it was the same with the pulps and dime novels that preceded it) we’ve wanted our idols to meet, associate, battle together – and if you follow the Timely/Marvel model, that means against each other – far more than we want to see them trounce their archenemies in a united front…

The concept of team-up books – an established star pairing or battling (usually both) with less well-selling company characters – was far from new when DC awarded their then-biggest gun. DCCP was launched in the publicity-drenched weeks preceding the release of Superman: The Movie: a regular arena to have adventures with other stars of their firmament, just as the Gotham Guardian had been doing since the mid-1960s in The Brave and the Bold.

In truth, the Action Ace had already enjoyed the serial sharing experience once before, when World’s Finest Comics briefly ejected the Caped Crusader and Superman battled beside a coterie of heroes including Flash, Robin, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Dr. Fate and others (issues #198-214; November 1970 to October/November 1972) before the original status quo was re-established.

This is something of a companion volume to the previously published Adventures of Superman: José Luis García-López volume 1, in that it also publishes team-ups from DC Comics Presents, but these are stories he didn’t illustrate. Instead. a host of talented individuals devised fun, thrilling and even amusing adventures represented here by material from DCCP #5, 9-10, 12, 14, 19, 28, 30, 35, 38-39, 45, 50, 58, 63, 67, 71 and 97, spanning January 1979 to September 1986. The stories are augmented by covers by Ross Andru, Dick Giordano, Dick Dillin, Jim Starlin, Rich Buckler, Steve Mitchell, George Pérez, Frank Giacoia, Gil Kane, Ernie Colón, José Luis García-López, Eduardo Barreto, Rick Veitch & Bob Smith.

We begin with Sea King Aquaman who is embroiled in ‘The War of the Undersea Cities’ (by Len Wein, Paul Levitz & Murphy Anderson) when his subjects re-open ancient hostilities with the mer-folk of undersea neighbour Tritonis, home of Superman’s old college girlfriend Lori Lemaris. Fortunately, cooler heads prevail when Ocean Master is revealed to be meddling in their sub-sea politics…

Next, Marty Pasko, Joe Staton & Jack Abel expose the ‘Invasion of the Ice People!’ (#9, May 1979) wherein Wonder Woman assists in repelling an attack by malign disembodied intellects before a 2-part tale commences with ‘The Miracle Man of Easy Company’ (Cary Bates, Staton & Abel, #10, June)…

When a super-bomb blasts Superman back to World War II it results in a momentous meeting with indomitable everyman soldier Sgt. Rock and a battle that changes the course of the war.

Cover-dated August 1979, DCCP #12 offered a duel between the Action Ace and New God Mister Miracle in ‘Winner Take Metropolis’ – by Steve Englehart, Buckler & Giordano before Levitz finishes a time-travel epic not actually included here. That ambitious continued epic saw the Legion of Super-Heroes stop Superman saving a little boy from alien abduction to preserve the integrity of the time-line. It didn’t help that the lad was Jon Ross, son of Clark Kent’s oldest friend and most trusted confidante…

Deranged by loss, Pete Ross here risks the destruction of all reality by enlisting the aid of Superboy to battle his older self in ‘Judge, Jury… and No Justice!’ (Levitz, Dillin & Giordano from October 1979 cover-dated DCCP #14, whilst March 1980 saw Batgirl help solve eerie mystery ‘Who Haunts This House?’ (by Dennis O’Neil, Staton & Frank Chiaramonte) before we catapult to #28 and the concluding chapter of a cosmic epic which involved Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, and the debut of intergalactic brute Mongul.

Here the aftermath of the affair sees Supergirl join her Kryptonian cousin in scouring the cosmos for the vanished tyrant and ancient doom weapon ‘Warworld!’ (Wein, Jim Starlin & Romeo Tanghal). Unfortunately, once they found it, Mongul unleashed all its resources to destroy his annoying adversaries and in the resultant cataclysm the mobile gun-planet was demolished. The resultant detonation blasted Kara Zor-El literally out of existence…

Issue #30 (February 1981) saw Black Canary plagued by nightmares starring her deceased husband, but upon closer investigation Superman proved that diabolical Dr. Destiny was behind ‘A Dream of Demons!’, whilst some semblance of sanity returned in #35 (July) as Superman and Man-Bat hunted for ‘The Metamorphosis Machine!’ (Pasko, Swan & Vince Colletta) which might save chiropterist Kirk Langstrom’s baby daughter from death. All they had to do was beat murderous maniac Atomic Skull and his minions to the device…

DC Comics Presents #38 (October) united Man of Steel and Fastest Man Alive as an extra-dimensional tyrant attempted to foment a high velocity war between Earth’s fastest heroes in ‘Stop the World – I Want to Get Off Go Home!’ (Pasko & Don Heck), after which #39 catapulted Superman into the weirdest case of his career as he and Plastic Man trailed ‘The Thing That Goes Woof in the Night!’ (Pasko, Staton & Smith) to a Toymakers Convention where third-rate super-villains Fliptop and Dollface were trying to rob freshly reformed, barely recovering maniac Toyman…

Firestorm the Nuclear Man stole the show in #45 (May 1982) as Gerry Conway, Buckler & Smith teamed him and Superman against terrorist Kriss-Kross – who took over the nation’s electronic military defences to implement ‘The Chaos Network’.

The anniversary DC Comics Presents #50 (October) features ‘When You Wish Upon a Planetoid!’ by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, Swan & Kurt Schaffenberger, which saw a cosmic calamity split Superman and Clark Kent into separate entities…

Courtesy of Mike W. Barr, Swan & Dave Hunt, Robin and Elongated Man joined the Action Ace in #58 (June 1983) to foil devious tech-savvy bandits employing ‘The Deadly Touch of the Intangibles’ after which overnight sensation Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and the Man of Steel battled debase extradimensional tyrant Black Opal in #63 (November 1983).

Scripted by Mishkin & Cohn, ‘Worlds to Conquer!’ was illustrated by Alex Saviuk, Colón, Smith & Gary Martin, capitalising on the contemporary fad for fantasy, with an Earth-raised magical alien princess helping save humanity from roaming space-warps, super-criminals and her personal pantheon of mystic miscreants…

Cover-dated March 1984, DCCP #67 proffered traditional seasonal fare from Wein, E. Nelson Bridwell and veteran Superman dream team Swan & Anderson. ‘Twas the Fright Before Christmas!’ finds maniacal original Toyman Winslow Schott seeking to sabotage festivities and a debilitated Man of Tomorrow teaming with a hairy bearded guy in a red suit…

Hunt substituted for Anderson in #71’s ‘The Mark of Bizarro!’ (July 1984) as Superman joins his zany doppelganger to save square planet Htrae and embattled Earth from a bizarro version of power-parasite Amazo. Ultimately, it comes down to Bizarro employing his wits to win!…

We close with the final story in DC Comics Presents’ run.

In 1986 DC celebrated its 50th year with the groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths: radically overhauling its convoluted multiversal continuity and starting afresh. In the aftermath of making many planes into one singular universe, all Superman titles were cancelled or suspended pending a back-to-basics reboot courtesy of John Byrne. The process allowed opportunity for a number of very special farewells to the old mythology…

One of the most intriguing and challenging came in the last issue (#97, September 1986) wherein Steve Gerber, Rick Veitch & Smith offered a creepy adieu to many of Superman’s greatest foes in ‘Phantom Zone: the Final Chapter’…

Tracing Jor-El’s discovery of the Phantom Zone through to the imminent end of the multiverse, this dark yarn built on Gerber’s potent miniseries The Phantom Zone, revealing the dread region of nothingness was in fact the sentient echo of a dead universe which had always regarded the creatures deposited within it as irritants and agonising intruders.

Now, as cosmic carnage reigned, Aethyr, served by Kryptonian mage Thul-Kar, caused the destruction of Bizarro World Htrae and deification/corruption of Fifth Dimensional pest Mr. Mxyzptlk, as well as the subsequent crashing of Krypton’s Argo City on Metropolis.

As a result, General Zod and his fellow immaterial inmates were liberated to wreak havoc upon Earth – but only until the now-crystalline pocket dimension merged with and absorbed the felons before implausibly abandoning Superman to face his uncertain future as the very Last Son of Krypton…

Designed as introductions to lesser-known DC stars, these tales are wonderfully accessible to newcomers and readers unfamiliar with burdensome continuity. They provide an ideal jumping on point for anybody who just wants a few moments of easy comic book fun and thrills.

These short, pithy adventures were and remain a perfect shop window for DC’s fascinating catalogue of characters and creators. DC Comics Presents delivered a breadth and variety of self-contained and satisfying entertainments ranging from the merely excellent to utterly indispensable. This book is a perfect introduction to the DC Universe for every kid of any age and another delightful slice of captivating Costumed Dramas from simpler, more inviting times…
© 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 2021 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Tails of the Super-Pets


By Jerry Siegel, Robert Bernstein, Otto Binder, Leo Dorfman, Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton, William Moulton Marston, Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, Jim Mooney, Pete Costanza, John Forte, Ramona Fradon, Sheldon Moldoff, George Papp, Harry G. Peter, Sy Barry, Stan Kaye, George Klein, Charles Paris & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1779513397 (TPB/Digital edition)

Once upon a time, comics embraced whimsy as much as angst, spectacle, sex and violence – so much so, that superheroes had pets for partners. Now there’s a movie about super-pets. You don’t have to like the notion, but plenty of us do.

Once upon another time, in the far future, a band of super-powered kids from dozens of alien civilisations took inspiration from the legend of the greatest champion of all time and formed a club of heroes. One day, those Children of Tomorrow came back in time and invited that legend to join them…

That’s how the tomorrow teen superstars started, courtesy of writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino in early 1958. The monumental assemblage’s popularity waxed and waned over decades and they were regularly reimagined and rebooted, but that core dream of empowered children was evergreen and proliferated. As their fame grew, the squad diversified, adding a Legion Espionage Squad, an evil Legion of Super-Villains, a Legion of Substitute Heroes ad infinitum…

DC had long exploited the attractions of bestial stars of fang and claw. Many Golden Age heroes had animal assistants and allies (like Dr. Mid-Nite’s owl Hooty, Airwave’s parrot Static and canine champions Elmo (Doll Man), and Thor (the Dan Richards Manhunter) among too many to mention. Streak the Wonder Dog actually ousted the original Green Lantern from his own comic book.

In the 1950s, Rex the Wonder Dog had his own long-running, astonishingly daft but beautifully illustrated title, with the majority of issues also featuring beloved hairy gumshoe Detective Chimp. Moreover, every newly-popular western star (and a few war heroes) who took the place of the declining superhero population had weaponised dogs, birds and especially horses to aid and augment their crusades for justice.

However, not all mystery men and women faded away. Wonder Woman and Batman and Robin weathered the hostile environment, and the Superman franchise grew exponentially -thanks to a hit movie, landmark TV series and continued radio and newspaper presence.

…And one day someone at National/DC said, “you what else kids like? Animals…”

That led to a slow trickle of empowered animals popping up across the Kryptonian end of DC’s landscape, and a few other incidental animal antics in the lives of many superheroes who survived on the coattails of the “Trinity” – particularly Aquaman (who’s cruelly underrepresented here, since his whole schtick was underwater “stupid pet tricks”…)

If you are a purist, there’s a lot you won’t like here – not the stories: those are still immaculately conceived and delivered, but the running order (not chronological, leading to some jarring moments, especially for Supergirl who seemingly goes from orphan to adopted back to the institution), and possibly the fact that – technically – many of the critters romping here were not in the actual Legion of Super-Pets (or in fact the forthcoming movie, which remakes the brilliant beasts into a “League”). I guess that just means we can look forward to a 75-year Celebration archival edition just for Krypto in 2025….

Here Endeth the Lesson: let’s talk about fun now.

What we do have on offer today is a joyously bright and bold compendium of charming adventure and repercussion-free thrills comprising mad moments from Action Comics #261, 266, 277, 292, 293, Adventure Comics #210, 256, 293, 322, 364, Batman #125, Superboy #76, Superman #176 and Wonder Woman #23, spanning 1947-1968 and adorned where applicable with covers by Curt, Swan with Stan Kaye & George Klein and H.G. Peter.

I’ve rambled on and indulged myself because there’s no introduction or context-delivering text so you can start well-briefed with the truly delightful Supergirl short from Action Comics #277 (June 1961) Crafted by Jerry Siegel & Jim Mooney, ‘The Battle of the Super-Pets!’ finds her cat Streaky typically envious of attention the teenager pays to sneaky ingratiating mutt Krypto. When Superman suggests they compete for her attentions to prove who’s best (no, really!), they choose the most unlucky locale for their arena…

That’s followed by Siegel & Mooney’s debut tail (sorry, not sorry) from Action Comics #261 (February 1960) which introduces the homeless earth stray, revealing how Streaky becomes, at irregular intervals ‘Supergirl’s Super-Pet!’…

The next tale is where we should have started as Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955) introduces ‘The Super-Dog from Krypton!’

After the Man of Tomorrow had made his mark as Earth’s premier champion, his originators took a long look and reasoned that a very different tone could offer a fresh look. What would it be like for a fun-loving lad who could do literally anything?

The answer came as Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster – after years of agitating the publisher – unleashed the concept of Superboy: fleshing out doomed Krypton, Kal-El’s early years, foster parents and a childhood full of fun and incident. The experiment was a huge hit and the lad swiftly bounced into the lead slot of Adventure Comics and – in 1949 – his own title: living a life forever set 20 years behind his adult counterpart.

Encountering crooks, monsters, aliens, other super kids, school woes and the suspicions of girl-next-door Lana Lang, Superboy enjoyed an eventful, wonderful life which only got better in Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955), as Otto Binder, Swan & Sy Barry introduced a waywardly mischievous and dangerously playful canine companion who had survived Krypton’s doom due to a freak accident. Krypto had been Kal-El’s pet on Krypton and used by Jor-El in desperation as a test animal for the space rocket he was building.

The dog’s miraculous arrival on Earth after years heralded a wave of survivors from the dead world over the latter part of the decade: all making Superboy feel less lonely and unique. Every boy needs a dog…

One of those latter additions debuted in Superboy #76, (December 1958) wherein by Binder & George Papp introduced ‘The Super Monkey from Krypton!’: one of Jor-El’s lab animals who had escaped and hidden in the baby’s spaceship. Hey, the world was ending: who had time to police lab specimens?

Dubbed “Beppo”, the super-monkey spent months in Earth’s jungles before accidentally finding Smallville and making life uncomfortable for toddler Clark Kent…

Set after she had been adopted and become a public hero rather than clandestine secret weapon, Action Comics #292 and 293 (September & October 1963) saw Supergirl acquire a mysterious new animal accomplice in the first two chapters of a trilogy by Leo Dorfman & Mooney. The extended storyline began when the typical (albeit invulnerable) teen got a new “pet”. ‘The Super-Steed of Steel!’ was a beautiful white horse who helped her stave off an alien invasion, but the creature had a bizarre and mysterious past, revealed in ‘The Secret Origin of Supergirl’s Super-Horse!’ as his being a magically transformed centaur from ancient Greece. Sadly, the resolution of this this tryptic (‘The Mutiny of Super-Horse’) is not included here…

Briefly digressing, what follows is a short saga of a non-powered animal marvel as Batman #125 (August 1959) details ‘The Secret Life of Bat-Hound!’ by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris. For no reason I could possibly speculate upon, Ace the Bat-Hound debuted in Batman #92 (June 1955), by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris: a distinctive German shepherd temporally adopted by Bruce Wayne when John Wilker (Ace’s owner) was abducted. A skilled tracker with distinctive facial markings, the pooch inserted himself into the case repeatedly, forcing the Dynamic Duo to mask him up whilst they sought his abducted master and foiled a criminal plot. Like Krypto, Ace reappeared intermittently until Wayne stopped borrowing him and just adopted the amazing mutt.

Here, the original creative team have Ace narrate how that adoption happened in ‘The Secret Life of Bat-Hound’ (Batman #125, August 1959), and include his crucial part in capturing the nefarious gold-obsessed Midas Gang…

William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter convey us to Princess Diana’s childhood as Wonder Woman #23 (June 1947) reveals – via home movies of her seventh birthday – how mighty space-hopping marsupials migrated to Paradise Island and changed Amazon battle tactics forever in ‘Wonder Woman and the Coming of the Kangas!’ after which Adventure Comics #256 (January 1959) details  ‘The Ordeal of Aquaman’ as he is trapped in a desert and saved from dehydrating doom by his faithful octopus Topo in a smartly inventive yarn from Robert Bernstein & Ramona Fradon.

The Supergirl tale in Action Comics #266 (July 1960, by Siegel, & Mooney) sees ‘The World’s Mightiest Cat!’ Streaky inadvertently contribute to the isolation of an orphan boy with a reputation for tall tales before Krypto and the Maid of Might make everything right whilst Adventure Comics #293 (February 1962) delivers a gripping landmark thriller from Siegel, Swan & George Klein.

‘The Legion of Super-Traitors’ posits human Legionnaires abruptly turning evil, prompting Saturn Girl to recruit a Legion of Super-Pets comprising Krypto, Streaky, Beppo and Comet to save the world from mind-controlling alien brains in floating glass jars – and yes, I typed all that with a reasonably straight face…

After the human Legion won their own regular series, the animal brigade were ratified and rewarded with their own branch, and Adventure Comics #322 (July 1964, by Edmond Hamilton, John Forte & Moldoff) saw them expand their roster in ‘The Super-Tests of the Super-Pets!’: a sheer bonkers slice of fun-filled futurism wherein the animal companions were left to guard Earth as the biped players pursued the elusive Time Trapper.

When Chameleon Boy’s shapeshifting (and fully sapient) pet Proty II applied to join the bestial bunch, they gave him a series of extremely difficult qualification tasks …which they breezed through…

A long-neglected tale follows as ‘The Revenge of the Super-Pets!’ (Superman #176, April 1965 by Dorfman, Swan & Klein) sees the a beast brood join the Human of Steel in a time travel jaunt that solves a legal mystery and explains how the growth of modern animal rights began!

Wrapping up with a more dramatic romp from Adventure Comics #364 (January 1968), ‘The Revolt of the Super-Pets!’ is by Jim Shooter & Pete Costanza: a gripping two-parter that depicts how the crafty rulers of planet Thanl attempted to seduce animal adventurers Krypto, Streaky, Beppo, Comet and amorphous telepathic blob Proty II from their rightful – subordinate – positions with sweet words and palatial new homes.

Of course, the aliens had a cunning scheme in play, but failed to realise these were not dumb animals…

Brilliantly reviving the beguiling innocence of the Silver Age for new, fun-seeking generations, this article of animalistic arcana is an unadulterated frolic to stir the elderly like me and enchant the newest DC disciples. Fetch!
© 1947, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1968, 2022 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Super-Friends: Saturday Morning Comics volume 1


By E. Nelson Bridwell, Denny O’Neil, Ramona Fradon, Kurt Schaffenberger, Ric Estrada, Alex Toth, Joe Orlando, Bob Smith, Vince Colletta with Dick Giordano & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9542-4 (HB/Digital edition)

Once upon a time comics were primarily created with kids in mind and, whilst I’d never advocate exclusively going back to those days, the modern industry has for the longest time sinned by not properly addressing the needs and tastes of younger fans these days. Happily, DC has latterly been rectifying the situation with a number of new and – most importantly for old geeks like me – remastered, repackaged age-appropriate gems from their vast back catalogue.

A superb case in point of all-ages comics done right is this massive (and frankly, rather expensive) tome. And don’t stress the title: it may celebrate the joys of past childhood shows but this book is definitely a great big Sunday “settle back and luxuriate” treat…

The Super Friends: Saturday Morning Comics volume 1 gathers the comic book tales which spun off from a popular Saturday Morning TV Cartoon show: one that, thanks to the canny craftsmanship and loving invention of lead scripter E. Nelson Bridwell, became an integral and unmissable component of the greater DC Universe.

It was also one of the most universally thrilling and satisfying superhero titles of the period for older fans: featuring the kind of smart and witty, straightforward adventures people my age grew up with, produced during a period when the entire industry was increasingly losing itself in colossal continued storylines and bombastic, convoluted, soap opera melodrama.

It’s something all creators should have tattooed on their foreheads: sometimes all you really want is a smart plot well illustrated, sinister villains well-smacked, a solid resolution and early bed…

The TV show Super Friends ran (under various iterations) from 1973 to 1986; starring primarily Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and a brace of studio-originated kids as student crimebusters, supplemented by occasional guest stars from the DCU on a case by case basis. The animated series made the transition to print as part of the publisher’s 1976 foray into “boutiqued” comics which saw titles with a television connection cross-marketed as “DC TV Comics”.

Child-friendly Golden Age comicbook revival Shazam!- the Original Captain Marvel had been adapted into a successful live action series and its Saturday Morning silver screen stablemate The Secrets of Isis consequently reversed the process by becoming a comic book.

With the additions of hit comedy show Welcome Back Kotter and animated blockbuster Super Friends four-colour format, DC had a neat little outreach imprimatur tailor-made to draw viewers into the magic word of funnybooks.

At least that was the plan: with the exception of Super Friends none of the titles lasted more than ten issues beyond their launch…

This massive mega-extravaganza (part 1 of 2) collects Super Friends #1-26 (spanning November 1976 to November 1979), includes promo comic Aquateers Meet the Super Friends and reprints material from Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-41 and C-46. It also opens with a lovely and moving introduction from illustrator Ramona Fradon (Aquaman; Metamorpho the Element Man; Brenda Starr, Reporter).

The fun begins a crafty two-part caper by the wondrous E. Nelson Bridwell and illustrators Ric Estrada, Vince Colletta & Joe Orlando. ‘The Fury of the Super Foes’ finds heroes-in-training Wendy and Marvin – and their incredibly  astute mutt Wonderdog – studying at the palatial Hall of Justice, even as elsewhere, a confederation of villains prove that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… if not outright intellectual theft.

Having auditioned a host of young criminals, The Penguin, Cheetah, Flying Fish, Poison Ivy and Toyman are creating a squad of sidekicks and protégés to follow in their felonious footsteps. At last Chick, Kitten, Sardine, Honeysuckle and Toyboy are all ready and willing to carry out their first caper…

When the giant “Troubalert” screen informs our heroes of a three-pronged attack on S.T.A.R. Labs’ latest inventions, the champion team split up to tackle the crises, but are thoroughly trounced until Wendy and Marvin break curfew to help them. As a result of the clash, Chick and Kitten are brought back to the Hall of Justice, but their talk of repentance is a rascally ruse and they secretly sabotage vital equipment…

Thankfully, Wonderdog has seen everything and quickly finds a way to inform the still-oblivious good guys in issue #2, but too late to prevent the Super Friends being briefly ‘Trapped by the Super Foes’…

Aided and abetted by inker Bob Smith, the incomparable Fradon became penciller with #3, as ‘The Cosmic Hit Man?’ sees 50 intergalactic super-villains murdered by infernal Dr. Ihdrom, who blends their harvested essences to create an apparently unbeatable hyper-horror and utterly overwhelm Earth’s heroic defenders. However, he falls victim to his own arrogance and Wendy and Marvin’s logical deductions…

‘Riddles and Rockets!’ sees the Super Friends overmatched by new ne’er-do-well Skyrocket whilst simultaneously trying to cope with a rash of crimes contrived by King of Conundra The Riddler. Soon a pattern emerges and a criminal connection is confirmed…

Author Bridwell (Secret Six; Inferior Five; Batman; Superman; The Flash; Legion of Super-Heroes; Captain Marvel/Shazam!) was justly famed as DC’s Keeper of Lore and Continuity Cop thanks to an astoundingly encyclopaedic knowledge of its publishing minutiae and ability to instantly recall every damn thing! ‘Telethon Treachery!’ gave him plenty of scope to display it with a host of near-forgotten guest-stars joining the heroes as they host a televised charity event whilst money-mad menace Greenback lurks in the wings, awaiting his moment to grab the loot and kidnap the wealthiest donors…

The Atom (Ray Palmer) plays a crucial role in stopping the depredations of an animal trainer using beasts as bandits in ‘The Menace of the Menagerie Man!’ before a huge cast change is unveiled in #7 (October 1977) with ‘The Warning of the Wondertwins’…

You know TV is very different from comics. When a new season of Super Friends aired, Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog were abruptly gone, replaced without explanation by aliens Zan and Jayna and elastic-tailed space monkey Gleek. With room to extrapolate – and in consideration of fans – Bridwell explained the sudden change via a battle to save Earth from annihilation whilst introducing the newest student heroes’ in memorable style…

At the Hall of Justice Wendy and Marvin spot a spaceship hurtling to Earth on the Troubalert monitor and dash off to intercept it. Aboard are two siblings from distant planet Exor: a girl able to transform into animals and a boy who can become any form of water from steam to ice. They have come carrying an urgent warning…

Superman’s alien enemy Grax has resolved to eradicate humanity and devised a dozen different super-bombs and attendant weird-science traps to ensure his victory. The weapons are scattered all over Earth and even the entire Justice League cannot stretch its resources to cover every angle and threat. To Wendy and Marvin the answer is obvious: call upon the help and knowledge of hyper-powered local heroes…

Soon Superman and Israel’s champion The Seraph are dismantling a black hole bomb whilst Elongated Man and titan-tressed Godiva perform similar service on a life-eradicator in England. Flash (Barry Allen) and mighty-leaping Impala dismantle uncatchable ordnance in South Africa. Hawkman and Hawkwoman join Native American avenger Owlwoman to crush darkness-breeding monsters in Oklahoma whilst from the Hall of Justice Wendy, Marvin and the Wonder Twins monitor the crisis with a modicum of mounting hope…

The cataclysmic epic continues in #8 with ‘The Mind Killers!’ as Atom and Rising Son tackle a device designed to decimate Japan, even as in Ireland Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Jack O’Lantern battle multi-hued monstrosities before switching off their technological terror.

In New Zealand, time-scanning Tuatara tips off Red Tornado to the position of a bomb cached in the distant past and Venezuela’s doom is diverted through a team-up between Batman and Robin and reptile-themed champion Bushmaster, whilst Taiwan benefits from a melding of sonic superpowers possessed by Black Canary and the astounding Thunderlord…

The saga soars to a classic climax with ‘Three Ways to Kill a World!’ in which the final phases of Grax’s scheme finally fail thanks to Green Arrow and Tasmanian Devil in Australia, Aquaman and Little Mermaid in the seas off Denmark and Wonder Woman and The Olympian in Greece.

Or at least, they would have if the Hellenic heroes had found the right foe. Sadly, their triumph against Wrong-Place, Right-Time terrorist Colonel Conquest almost upset everything. Thankfully, the quick thinking students send an army of defenders to Antarctica where Norwegian novice Icemaiden dismantles the final booby-trap bomb.

However, whilst the adult champions are thus engaged, Grax invades the Hall of Justice seeking revenge on the pesky whistleblowing Exorian kids. He is completely unprepared for and overwhelmed by Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog, who categorically prove they’re ready to graduate to the big leagues…

With Zan and Jayna enrolled as the latest heroes-in-training, Super Friends #10 details their adoption by Batman’s old associate – and eccentric time travel theoretician – Professor Carter Nichols, just before a legion of alien horrors arrive on Earth to teach the kids that appearances can be lethally deceiving in ‘The Monster Menace!’

‘Kingslayer’ then pits the heroes against criminal mastermind Overlord who has contracted the world’s greatest hitman to murder more than one hundred leaders at one sitting…

Another deep dive into DC’s past resurrected Golden Age titans T.N.T and Dan, the Dyna-Mite in ‘The Atomic Twosome!’ The 1940s mystery men had been under government wraps ever since their radioactive powers began to melt down, but when an underground catastrophe ruptures their individual lead-lined vaults, the Super Friends are called in to prevent potential nuclear nightmare…

The subterranean reason for the near tragedy is tracked to a monstrous mole creature, and leads to the introduction of eternal mystic Doctor Mist, who reveals the secret history of civilisation and begs help to halt ‘The Mindless Immortal!’, before its random burrowing shatters mankind’s cities. Bridwell built a fascinating new team concept that would come to support decades of future continuity…

Super Friends #14 opens with ‘Elementary!’; introducing four ordinary mortals forever changed when they are possessed by ancient sprits and tasked by Overlord with plundering the world. When the heroes scotch the scheme, Undine, Salamander, Sylph and Gnome retain their powers and become a crime-fighting team – The Elementals…

The issue also contains a short back-up illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger & Bob Smith. ‘The Origin of the Wondertwins’ at last reveals how the Exorian genetic throwbacks – despised outcasts on their homeworld – fled from a circus of freaks and uncovered Grax’s plot before taking that fateful voyage to Earth…

Big surprises come in ‘The Overlord Goes Under!’ (Fradon & Smith) as the Elementals begin battling evil by joining the Super Friends in crushing the crook. All the heroes are blithely unaware that they are merely clearing the way for a far more cunningly and subtle mastermind to take Overlord’s place…

‘The People Who Stole the Sky!’ in #16 is a grand, old-fashioned alien invasion yarn, foiled by the team and the increasingly adept Wonder Twins whilst ‘Trapped in Two Times!’ has Zan and Jayna used by the insidious Time Trapper (nee Time Master) to lure the adult heroes into deadly peril on planet Krypton in the days before it detonated, and future water world Neryla in the hours before it’s swallowed by its critically expanding red sun.

After rescuing the kids – thanks largely to Superman’s legendary lost love Lyla Ler-Rol – the Super Friends employ Tuatara’s chronal insight and Professor Nichol’s obscure chronal methodologies to hunt the Trapper in a riotous yet educational ‘Manhunt in Time!’ (art by Schaffenberger & Smith), by way of Atlantis before it sank, medieval Spain and Michigan in 1860CE, to thwart a triple-strength scheme to derail history and end Earth civilisation…

SF #19 sees the return of Menagerie Man in ‘The Mystery of the Missing Monkey!’ (Fradon & Smith) as the animal exploiter appropriates Gleek: intent on turning his elastic-tailed talents into a perfect pickpocketing tool, after which Denny O’Neil (writing as Sergius O’Shaugnessy) teams with Schaffenberger & Smith for a more jocular turn.

Chaos and comedy ensue when the team tackles vegetable monsters unleashed when self-obsessed shlock-movie director Frownin’ Fritz Frazzle uses Merlin’s actually magical Magic Lantern to make a “masterpiece” on the cheap in ‘Revenge of the Leafy Monsters!’…

Bridwell & Fradon return in #21 where ‘Battle Against the Super Fiends!’ has the heroes travelling to Exor to combat super-criminals who can duplicate their power-sets, after which ‘It’s Never Too Late!’ (#22, O’Shaugnessy, Fradon & Smith) reveals how time bandit Chronos subjects the Super Friends to a chronal-delay treatment rendering them perennially too late to stop him – until Batman and the Wonder Twins out-think him…

The Mirror Master divides and banishes teachers from students in #23 but is ultimately unable to prevent an ‘SOS from Nowhere!’ (Bridwell, Fradon & Smith) to the Flash. This episode also spends time fleshing out the Wonder Twins’ earthly secret identities as Gotham Central highschoolers John and Joanna Fleming…

With” O’Shaugnessy” scripting, ‘Past, Present and Danger!’ sees Zan and Jayna’s faces found engraved on a recently-unearthed Egyptian pyramid. Upon investigation inside the edifice, the heroes awaken two ancient exiles who resemble the kids, but who are in truth criminals who fled Exorian justice thousands of years previously. How lucky, then, that the kids are perfect doubles that the villains can send back with the robot cops surrounding the pyramid… once they’ve got rid of the Earthling heroes…

Enjoying promotion through treachery, the habitually harassed “Underling” has seized power at last in Bridwell’s ‘Puppets of the Overlord’, and uses forbidden technology to mind-control the adult and junior heroes. Happily, international champions Green Fury (later Fire), Wonder Woman’s sister Nubia, Tasmanian Devil and Seraph can join Green Lantern and Queen Mera of Atlantis in delivering a liberating solution, after which this splendid selection of super thrills pauses with #26 as Bridwell, Fradon & Smith bring back some old friends and enemies for ‘The Wondertwins’ Battle of Wits!’ as a scheming former Bat-foe enacts an infallibly murderous plot…

Rounding out the frenetic fun is a features section that includes the Alex Toth cover from Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-41,and new material from sequel C-46: a comic strip collaboration with Bridwell on introductory tale ‘Super Friends’ which was a star-studded framing sequence for a big reprint issue of Justice League classics.

The wonders are further augmented by Toth’s comprehensive pictorial essay on creating ‘TV Cartoons’ (with contributions from Bob Foster), plus his ‘The JLA on TV’ model sheets, and designs of The Hall of Justice’ by Terry Austin. Toth was the lead designer on the characters’ transition to TV animation.

The extras go on with mini-comic Aquateers Meet the Super Friends – a 1979 promotional giveaway included with every purchase of Super Friends Swim Goggles. An uncredited framing sequence (which looks like a Continuity Associates project that Dick Giordano & Frank McLoughlin had a hand in) segues into ‘The Greatest Show on Water’ – an Aquaman short originally published in Adventure Comics #219, December 1955.

That’s followed by ‘ “Super Fans Letters” Letters Pages’ from Super Friends #1-3, offering potted histories of DC heroes and villains, ‘The Super Friends Subscription’ house ad from #26 and Alex Ross’ painted cover from 2001 book Super Friends!

With covers by Fradon, Smith, Schaffenberger, Colletta, Ernie Chan and more, this initial compendium is superbly entertaining, masterfully crafted and utterly engaging. It offers stories of pure comics gold to delight children and adults in equal proportion. Truly generational in appeal, they are probably the closest thing to an American answer to the magic of Tintin or Asterix and no family home should be without this tome.
© 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 2001, 2020 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 1 


By Neal Adams with Bob Haney, Leo Dorfman, Cary Bates & various (DDC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0041-1 (HC): 978-1-4012-3537-6 (2003 PB) 978-1-4012-7782-6 (2018 TPB edition)   

I’m doing this far too frequently, these days, but here’s a swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the sudden passing of one of our industry and art form’s last true titans. Neal Adams died on the 28th of April. As well as a creator and innovator who changed the entire direction of comics and sequential narrative, he was a tireless activist and advocate whose efforts secured rights for workers and creators long victimised by an unfair, stacked, system. A fuller appreciation and more comprehensive review will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

Neal Adams was born on Governors Island, New York City, on June 15th 1941. His family were career military and he grew up on bases across the world. In the late 1950s he studied at the High School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, graduating in 1959. 

As the turbulent, revolutionary 1960s began, Adams was a young illustrator who had worked in advertising and ghosted some newspaper strips whilst trying to break into comics. As he pursued a career in advertising and “real art”, he did a few comics pages for Joe Simon at Archie Comics (The Fly and that red-headed kid too) before subsequently becoming one of the youngest artists to co-create and illustrate a major licensed newspaper strip – Ben Casey (based on a popular TV medical drama series). His first attempts to find work at DC were not successful… 

That comic book fascination never faded however, and as the decade progressed, Adams drifted back to National/DC doing a few covers as inker or penciller. After “breaking in” via anthological war comics he eventually found himself at the vanguard of a revolution in pictorial storytelling… 

He made such a mark that DC chose celebrate his contributions by reprinting every piece of work Adams ever did for them in a series of commemorative collections. We’re still waiting for a definitive collection of his horror comics stories and covers, but will probably never see his sterling efforts on licensed titles such as Hot Wheels, The Adventures of Bob Hope and The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. That’s a real shame too: the display a wry facility for gag staging and small drama… 

Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams was the first of 3 tomes available in  variety of formats and editions featuring the “Darknight Detective” – as he was dubbed back then – and featuring every cover, story and issue in original publication order. 

Here then, ‘From Me to You: An Introduction’ gives you the history of his early triumphs in the writer/artist’s own words, after which covers from Detective Comics #370 (December 1967, inking Carmine Infantino) and the all-Adams Brave and the Bold #75 (January 1968), Detective #372 (February), B&B #76 (February/March), Batman #200 and World’s Finest Comics #174 (both March) serve as tasters for the first full-length narrative… 

The iconoclastic penciller first started seriously making waves with a couple of enthralling Cape & Cowl capers beginning with World’s Finest Comics #175 (April 1968): ‘The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads!’ Scripted by Leo Dorfman and inked by long-term collaborator Dick Giordano, the story detailed how an annual – and friendly – battle of wits between the crimebusters is infiltrated by alien and Earthly criminal groups intent on killing their foes whilst they are off-guard… 

WFC #176 (June) featured a beguiling enigma in ‘The Superman-Batman Split!’ – written by fellow newcomer Cary Bates. Ostensibly just another alien mystery yarn, this twisty little gem conceals a surprise ending for all, plus guest stars Robin, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl and Batgirl, with Adams’ hyper-dynamic realism lending an aura of solid credibility to even the most fanciful situations. 

It also ushered in an era of gritty veracity to replace previously anodyne and frequently frivolous Costumed Dramas… 

More Dynamite Covers follow: Batman #203 (July/August) leads to Brave and the Bold #79 (August/September); heralding Adams’ assumption of interior art chores and launching a groundbreaking run that rewrote the rulebook for strip illustration… 

‘The Track of the Hook’ – written by Bob Haney and inked Giordano – paired the Gotham Guardian with justice-obsessed ghost Deadman: formerly trapeze artist Boston Brand who was hunting his own killer, and whose earthy, human tragedy elevated the series’ costume theatrics into deeper, more mature realms of drama and action. At this period Adams was writing and illustrating Brand’s solo stories in Strange Adventures…  

The B&B stories matured overnight, instantly became every discerning fan’s favourite read.  

Covers for World’s Finest Comics #178-180 (September through November) segue sweetly into Brave and the Bold #80 (October/November 1968) where ‘And Hellgrammite is his Name’ finds Batman and The Creeper clashing with a monstrous, insect-themed super-hitman, again courtesy of Haney, Adams & Giordano, whilst #81 saw The Flash aid Batman against an unbeatable thug in ‘But Bork Can Hurt You!’ (inked by Giordano & Vince Colletta) before Aquaman became ‘The Sleepwalker from the Sea’ in an eerie tale of mind-control and sibling rivalry. 

Interwoven through those thrillers are the covers for World’s Finest #182 (February 1969, inking Curt Swan’s pencils), #183 (March, inking over Infantino), Batman #210 and Detective #385 (both March and all Adams). 

B&B # 83 took a radical turn (and is the only story herein without a cover since that one was limned by Irv Novick) as The Teen Titans try to save Bruce Wayne’s latest foster-son from his own inner demons in ‘Punish Not my Evil Son!’ (Haney & Giordano) but the next team-up was one that got many fans in a real tizzy in 1969. 

First though comes the fabulous frontage for World’s Finest #185 (June 1969) after which ‘The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl’ recounts a World War II exploit where Batman and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company hunt Nazi gold together, only closing that case 25 years later. 

Try to ignore kvetching about relative ages and which Earth we’re on: you should really focus on the fact that this is a startlingly gripping tale of great intensity, beautifully realised, and one which has been criminally discounted for decades as “non-canonical”. 

Detective Comics #389 (July), and World’s Finest #186 (August and pencilled by Infantino) precede Brave and the Bold #85. Here, behind a stunning cover, is arguably the best of an incredible run of action adventures… 

‘The Senator’s Been Shot!’ unites Batman and Green Arrow in a superb multi-layered thriller of politics, corruption and cast-iron integrity, with Bruce Wayne being appointed as a stand-in for a law-maker whilst the Emerald Archer receives a radical make-over that turned him into a fiery liberal gadfly and champion of the relevancy generation: a remake that still informs his character today, both in funnybooks and on TV screens… 

Wrapping up this initial artistic extravaganza come covers for Detective Comics #391 and 392 (September & October 196), completing a delirious run of comics masterpieces no ardent art lover or fanatical Fights ‘n’ Tights aficionado can do without and confirming the unique and indisputable contribution Adams made to comics.s.
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 2003, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. 

The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold volume 2: Help Wanted


By Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, Dan Davis, Dario Brizuela, Ethen Beavers & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3524-6 (TPB/Digital edition)

The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format reflecting the era’s filmic fascination with flamboyantly fanciful historical dramas. Devised and written by Bob Kanigher, #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, feudal mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was alternated with Robin Hood, but the adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like Showcase.

Used to premiere concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories as well as the epochal Justice League of America, the comic soldiered on until issue #50 when it found another innovative new direction which once again caught the public’s imagination. That issue paired two super heroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up. It was followed by more of the same: Aquaman with Hawkman in #51, WWII “Battle Stars” Sgt. Rock, Mme. Marie, Captain Cloud & The Haunted Tank in #52 and The Atom & Flash in #53.

The next instant union – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved into The Teen Titans and after Metal Men/The Atom and FlashbMartian Manhunter appeared, a new hero debuted in #57-58: Metamorpho, the Element Man.

From then it was back to the increasingly popular power pairings with #59. Although no one realised it at the time, that particular conjunction – Batman with Green Lantern – would be particularly significant….

A return engagement for the Teen Titans, issues spotlighting Earth-Two stalwarts Starman and Black Canary and Earth-One’s Wonder Woman and Supergirl soon gave way to an indication of things to come when Batman returned to duel hero/villain Eclipso in #64: an early acknowledgement of the brewing TV-induced mania mere months away.

Within two issues (following Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamorpho/Metal Men), B&B #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and a lion’s share of team-ups. With the late exception of #72 and 73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom), it was thereafter where the Gotham Gangbuster invited the rest of DC’s heroic pantheon to come and play…

Decades later, Batman: The Animated Series – masterminded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini in the 1990s – revolutionised the Dark Knight and subsequently led to some of the absolute best comic book adventures in his 80-year publishing history. It also led to a spin-off print title…
With constant comics iterations and tie-ins to a succession of TV animation series, Batman has remained immensely popular and a sublime introducer of kids to the magical world of the printed page. One fun-filled incarnation was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which gloriously celebrated the team-up in both its all-ages small-screen and comicbook spin-off.

Shamelessly and superbly plundering decades of continuity arcana in a profusion of alliances between the Dark Knight and DC’s lesser creations, the show was supplemented by a cool kid’s periodical full of fun, verve and swashbuckling dash, cunningly crafted to appeal as much to the parents and grandparents as those fresh-faced neophyte kids…

This stellar trade paperback and digital collection re-presents issues #7-12 of the second series – The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold – in an immensely entertaining all-ages ensemble suitable for newcomers, fans and aficionados of all ages originally seen between July and December 2011. Although absolutely unnecessary to the reader’s enjoyment, a passing familiarity with the TV episodes will enhance the overall experience as will knowledge of the bizarre minutiae of 1960s and 1970s DC lore…

Scripted throughout by Sholly Fisch, and following the TV format, each tale opens with a brief prequel adventure before telling a longer tale. TA-NB:TB&TB #7 opens with the Caped Crimebuster and aforementioned 1960s Teen Titans triumphing over the Time Trapper as prelude to main feature ‘’Shadows & Light’. Illustrated by Rich Burchett & Dan Davis, it reveals Batman’s earliest days and a momentous meeting with Gotham’s original guardian. Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott wanted to see what the new kid could do offered a teaching experience beside his JSA colleagues…

Aquaman leads off in ‘Under the Sea!’ but soon he and the Dark Knight are on a quest to liberate accursed ghost Captain Fear: battling mythological sea perils and sinister super bandit Black Manta.

‘3:10 to Thanagar’ co-stars Hawkman and begins with them and The Atom defeating shapeshifter Byth, with the majority of the yarn detailing how transporting him back to interplanetary jail is derailed by an armada of evil allies trying – and failing – to break him free.

‘Help Wanted’ offers a delightful and truly heartwarming deviation from standard form as a professional henchman details the tribulations of the gig economy as tenures with Toyman, Clock King and Ocean Master end early, thanks to Superman, Green Arrow, Aquaman and others. What the reformed family man will never know is how his own wife, son and Batman colluded to redeem him…

With art from Dario Brizuela, ‘Out of Time’ finds the Caped Crusader, Geo-Force and Cave Carson unearth an ancient earthquake machine under Gotham, compelling Batman to head back to 1879 to destroy it before it starts eating bedrock. The case brings him into partnership with bounty hunter Jonah Hex and into contention with immortal maniac Ra’s Al Ghul before the day and all those tomorrows are saved…

Wrapping up this jaunty journal of joint ventures, ‘Trick or Treat’ – with art by Ethen Beavers – offers a Halloween appetiser as Batman and Zatanna investigate a break-in at the House of Mystery. After freeing Cain & Abel, the heroes track clues and deal with Doctor Destiny and Mr. Mxyzptlk before deducing the only possible culprit and getting dragged into a colossal clash of mystic heroes and villains…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV-addicted kids, these mini-sagas are also wonderful, traditional comics thrillers no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, well-rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a fabulously full-on thrill-fest confirming the seamless link between animated features and comic books. After all, it’s just adventure entertainment in the end; really unmissable entertainment…

What more do you need to know?
© 2011, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Aquaman: The Death of a Prince Deluxe Edition


By Paul Levitz, David Michelinie, Paul Kupperberg, Steve Skeates, Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Mike Grell, Jim Aparo, Don Newton, Carl Potts, Juan Ortiz & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0095-3 (HB)

Aquaman is one of that hallowed handful of costumed champions to survive the superhero collapse at the end of the Golden Age. For most of that time he was a rather nondescript and genial guy who – when not rescuing fish and people from sub-sea disasters – solved maritime crimes and mysteries.

The Sea King was created by Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris, debuting in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941) in the wake of and in response to Timely Comics’ antihero Namor the Sub-Mariner. Strictly a second stringer for most of his career, Aquaman nevertheless swam on beyond many stronger features; illustrated by Norris, Louis Cazaneuve, Charles Paris, and latterly Ramona Fradon who drew almost every adventure from 1951 to 1961.

When Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s taste for costumed crimefighters with the advent of a new Flash in 1956, National/DC updated its band of superhero survivors, especially Green Arrow and the Subsea Sentinel.

As the sixties opened, Aquaman was a back-up feature in Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics, but made his big leap following a team up with Hawkman in Brave and the Bold # 51 and his own try-out run in Showcase #30-33. After two decades of continuous nautical service, the marine marvel was at last awarded his own comic book (cover-dated January/February 1962).

With his own title and soon featuring in groundbreaking must-see cartoon show The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, our Finned Fury seemed destined for super-stardom, but despite increasingly bold and innovative tales presented with stunning art, his title was cancelled as the decade closed. Towards the end, outrageously outlandish crime and sci fi yarns gave way to grittily hard-edged epics steered by revolutionary editor Dick Giordano and hot new talents Steve Skeates & Jim Aparo that might arguably be the first sallies of comic books’ landmark socially conscious “relevancy” period…

This compelling follow-up compilation features material released after a 3 year hiatus following cancellation in 1971. Offering potent dramas heralding a new era of costumed capers primarily from a fresh generation of creators, it gathers material from Adventure Comics #435-437, 441-455 and Aquaman volume 1 #57-63 (spanning September/October 1974 to August- September 1978) and is available in hardback and digital formats,.

Way back in Aquaman #18, (December 1964 and not included here) the marine marvel – also called Arthur Curry – met extradimensional princess Mera, who became ‘The Wife of Aquaman’ in one of the first superhero weddings of the Silver Age. Talk about instant responsibilities…

In quick-smart time along came a little Aquababy – eventually and occasionally called Arthur Jr. – and the undersea nuclear family became a given constant for years…

We open with revelatory Introduction ‘Confessions’ from scripter, editor and publisher Paul Levitz, and a fact-filled pin-up of ‘The Aquafamily’ by Gerry Conway & Jim Aparo, first seen in Adventure Comics #444. Then it’s drama all the way with #435’s ‘As the Undersea city Sleeps’ by Steve Skeates & Mike Grell, offering a quick reintroduction with the Atlantean monarch battling a mysterious subsea sleeping plague caused by old enemy Black Manta. After that, ‘The King is Dead; Long Live the King’ (#436) sees the monarch uncover a rash of robot duplicates infiltrating the city and summoning massive monsters before #437 finds Levitz & Grell setting the scene for larger events to come with Aquaman undertaking many mini-missions on ‘A Quiet Day in Atlantis’…

Cover-dated September/October 1975, Adventure Comics #441 opens extended epic “The Sea King in Exile” with ‘The Pirate who Plundered Atlantis’ by Levitz, David Michelinie and triumphantly returning Jim Aparo detailing how an invasion by modern-day undersea buccaneers is repelled by the Sea King and Mera, tragically unaware of a longer game in play…

More pieces fall into place when NATO General Horgan warns that a hijacked nuclear materials transporter is going to be sunk – over Atlantean farms – to prevent terrorists using the cargo for dirty bombs. That’s when Aquaman takes charge in ‘H is for Holocaust’ – by Levitz & Aparo – after which the Sea Lord stays topside to crush ‘The Dolphin Connection’(Levitz, Michelinie & Aparo) when old enemy The Fisherman trains cetaceans to deliver drugs to the French underworld. All the surface duty does not play well in Atlantis, however, and a grass roots (kelp roots?) political movement makes startling inroads in its demands to elect a new stay-at-home ruler…

The unthinkable happens in Adventure 444 as Levitz, Gerry Conway & Aparo show Aquaman blackmailed into stealing an Atlantean superweapon by his villainous brother Ocean Master before being smoothly ousted and replaced by new king Karshon in ‘And Death before Dishonor’…

Exiled and setting up home in the old “Aquacave”, Arthur, Mera and the toddler determine to make the best of their new life, but are soon abducted by ‘Toxxin’s Raiders’ (Michelinie & Aparo): subsea primitives who need a true champion to destroy the beast haunting their village. It’s a huge mistake all around…

The Sea Exile then learns that ‘The Manta-Ray Means Murder!’ (Levitz, Martin Pasko & Aparo) as Aqualad and Aquagirl– currently busting surface-world  smugglers – are attacked by Black Manta, simultaneously exposing a deadly plot just as their mentor arrives to lower the boom and uncover the villain is gun-running to Atlantis…

Issue 447 sees Levitz, Pasko & Aparo detail a ‘Prelude to Armageddon’’ as Aquaman tracks Manta’s shipments and falls foul of the Fisherman, unaware of a silent partner dictating the flow of events. Full disclosure and a classic conclusion come in ‘Crown, Crisis and Cataclysm’ (Levitz & Aparo) as master manipulator Karshon is revealed as a deadly former Green Lantern foe who turns assured victory into crushing defeat through sheer overconfidence…

Reuniting Skeates & Aparo, Adventure Comics #449 features ‘The Menace of the Marine Marauder’ as a surface science criminal usurps the Sea Sentinel’s telepathic power to control sea creatures. Plundering shipping – specifically a crucially needed vaccine – until Aquaman and Mera step up, he’s just an interlude before Michelinie & Aparo detail ‘The Watery War of the Weather Wizard’ in #450, with the Flash rogue becoming the latest larcenous loon to underestimate the King of the Seas.

…And in the background, Aqualad is lured away by a seeming madman claiming the junior sea crusader stole his son and sets out on a personal quest that will change his life forever…

Issue #451 reveals ‘The Secret of the Sinister Abyss’ as Arthur Jr. is inexplicably abducted by faithful octopus companion Topo and swiftly-pursuing Aquaman stumbles into another sea bed civilisation – the Idylists -  and a rapidly regenerating new iteration of extraterrestrial terror Starro the Conqueror.

On defeating the starfish clone, Aquaman talks to the pacifist sea-voyagers it imperilled and learns they are seeking a lost brother who can be their champion: his partner Aqualad…

Big things were happening for the Sea King as his Adventure tenure was giving way to a resurrected solo title. Issue #452’s ‘Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams’ (Michelinie & Aparo) sees Aquaman and the Idylists confronting the occupiers of the pacifist city and discovering Black Manta is offering it as a homeland and refuge for lost and hopeless surface men…

His methods are far from altruistic and his only successful convert to water-breathing – Cal Durham – has serious doubts, but Manta won’t be deterred. and when he captures them and Aqualad, he forces them to fight each other to the death to save Arthur Jr.

It doesn’t work and the boy dies…

The tragedy catapults the hero back into his own revived comic book with Aquaman volume 1 #57 (August/September 1977) where Michelinie & Aparo’s ‘A Life for a Life’ follows his vengeful wake to a brutal – but not final – clash with Manta, hurtful estrangement from Aqualad and a new scheme involving the Fisherman and latest abductee General Horgan…

Anthological Adventure Comics #453 (September/October 1977) overlapped the renewed bi-monthly with a solo sidekick feature as Paul Kupperberg, Carl Potts & Joe Rubinstein asked ‘Aqualad, Who is Thy Father?’ Believing himself an orphan his entire life, the youthful warrior is strident in his demands to learn of the Idylist who sired him, but is setting himself up for even more betrayal and heartbreak before Aquaman #58 sees Michelinie & Aparo peer ‘Through a Past, Darkly’ to review Aquaman’s origins as the Fisherman strikes at the lighthouse where the Sea King was reared. The tale is backed up by Mera short ‘Return to Disaster’ (Kupperberg, Juan Ortiz & Vince Colletta) as the distraught mother learns her son is not quite dead and travels to her home dimension Xebel in search of a remedy but finding instead only chaos and tyranny…

Adventure Comics #454 (November/December 1977) finds Aqualad paying for ‘Sins of the Father’ as Kupperberg, Potts & Dick Giordano reveal not why but who killed his progenitor Thar, before Aquaman #59 (December 1977-January 1978) rings in a new year with ‘Prey Perilous’ by Michelinie & Aparo. Here Fisherman and The Scavenger clash over a sunken spy ship’s secrets and Aquaman endures unwanted NATO interference before justice is done, whilst in the back Mera battles dictator Leron over ‘The Kingdom of Doom’ (Kupperberg, Ortiz & Colletta).

The Adventure Comics run ends with #455 (January/February 1978) as Kupperberg, Potts & Giordano use ‘Legacy’ to give  Aqualad his answers and line up all the disparate plotlines for Aquaman #60.

Crafted by Michelinie and stunning new illustrator Don Newton (with inks by veteran John Celardo) ‘Scavenger, Ravager, Plunderer, Thief’ brings together the NATO elements and assorted supervillains as hidden mastermind and potential global overlord Kobra reveals his latest deadly scheme whilst Mera crosses ‘The Edge of Nowhere’ (Kupperberg, Ortiz & Colletta) when she learns all her efforts have been for nothing…

Issue #61 guest stars Batman and Green Lantern as Michelinie, Newton & Bob McLeod expose ‘The Armageddon Conspiracy’ as the true contents of that sunken spy ship threaten all life on Earth and Aquaman shows his real power and nature…

After a stellar run and powerful groundbreaking stories, the series abruptly ended, once again a victim of economics as comic books again endured a mass sales downturn. However, it all ended on an emotional high as Aquaman #62 sees Kupperberg, Newton & McLeod deliver ‘And the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ with bereaved Mera and Arthur savagely separating over their son’s murder and the Sea King taking out his feelings on handy wannabe supervillain Seaquake as he attempts to make his rep by tectonically trashing Atlantis. A painful reconciliation with Mera is then threatened in final issue #63 as Ocean Master strikes again, compelling Aqualad to also hastily forgive, forget and rejoin the fold for one last clash in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ by Michelinie, Newton & David Hunt.

This a superb treasury of lost wonders, packed with stellar stories sublimely illustrated by comics masters worthy of far more attention than they’ve received. Surely, there’s no better time than now to balance those scales, adventure fans…
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Aquaman volume 2


By Jack Miller, Bob Haney, Dave Wood, Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1712-9 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Festive Fluid Fun and Thrills… 8/10

Aquaman was another rare superheroes to survive the collapse at the end of the Golden Age: a rather nondescript and generally bland looking guy who solved maritime crimes and mysteries when not rescuing fish and people from sub-sea disasters.

He was created by Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris in the wake of Timely Comics’ Sub-Mariner, launching in More Fun Comics #73 (1941). Strictly a second stringer for most of his career, he nevertheless continued long beyond many stronger features, illustrated by Norris, Louis Cazaneuve and Charles Paris, until young Ramona Fradon took over the art chores in 1954, by which time Aquaman had moved to a regular back-up slot in Adventure Comics. She was to draw every single adventure until 1960.

In 1956, Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s imagination and zest for costumed crime-fighters and, as well as re-imagining many departed Golden Age stalwarts, DC also updated its isolated survivors. Records are incomplete, sadly, so often we don’t know who wrote what, but after the initial revamp better records survive and this second collection of the King of the Seven Seas poses far fewer creative credit conundrums.

Although now the star of his own title, Aquaman continued as a back-up feature in World’s Finest Comics until 1964 and this monochrome chronological compilation includes those tales (issues #130-133, 135, 137, 139), his Brave and the Bold team-up with Hawkman (#51) and the contents of Aquaman #7-23, comprehensively covering December 1962 through September-October 1965: a period that led directly into the King of the Seven Seas becoming one of DC’s earliest TV stars as part of the animated Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure.

The major writers from those years were Jack Miller and Bob Haney and – although some records are lost and a few later scripts remain unattributed – recognizing artists is far less troubling. The World’s Finest yarns were Fradon’s last: captivatingly clean, economical lines bringing to unique life charming little adventure and mystery vignettes which always were and still are a joy to behold.

Thereafter, apart from a memorable and brief return to co-create Metamorpho the Element Man, she left comics until 1972 to raise her daughter.

We begin with ‘King of the Land Beasts’ (WFC #130, by Haney & Fradon) is a typically high-quality teaser about an alien Aquaman whilst ‘The Sea Beasts from Atlantis’ (Aquaman #7 by Miller & Nick Cardy) pitted the Sea Lord and Aqualad against sub-sea monsters and a plot to overthrow the government of the lost city, abetted if not quite aided by mystical sea imp Quisp.

‘The Man Who Controlled Water’ (World’s Finest # 131, Miller & Fradon) saw them tackle a scientist who could solidify liquids into fearsome weapons, whilst in issue #8 of their own magazine, Miller & Cardy revealed ‘The Plot to Steal the Seas’ with the oceanic adventurers battling far out of their comfort zone to thwart marauding aliens.

Dave Wood scripted quirky thriller ‘The Fish in the Iron Mask’ (WFC #132) wherein faithful octopus Topo is possessed by a sinister helmet and ‘The Secret Mission of King Neptune’ (Aquaman #9, Miller & Cardy) seemingly brings the heroes into bombastic contention with the God of the Oceans – but is he all he seems?

World’s Finest Comics #133 briefly introduces ‘Aquaman’s New Partner – Aqua-Girl’, but Miller & Fradon’s creation was strictly a one shot deal, whereas ‘War of the Water Sprites’ (Aquaman #10, Miller & Cardy) introduced an evil band of Quisp’s fellow imps who eerily presaged a tale of the JSA decades later…

Miller & Fradon’s ‘The Creatures that Conquered Aquaman’ (WFC #135) is another alien invasion extravaganza whilst Aquaman #11 features the landmark introduction of the Sea King’s future wife Mera in Miller & Cardy’s extravaganza ‘The Doom from Dimension Aqua’, whilst #12 present two shorter thrillers from Haney, ‘The Menace of the Land-Sea Beasts’ – with mutated jungle animals wreaking sub-sea havoc – and ‘The Cosmic Gladiators!’, wherein the seaborne sentinels are press-ganged into an intergalactic cage-fight contest.

Miller provided the penultimate World’s Finest outing ‘The Day Aquaman Lost his Powers’ in #137 and Haney scripted a manic tale of team-up terror for superb veteran artist Howard Purcell in ‘Fury of the Exiled Creature’ (The Brave and the Bold #51, December 1963-January 1964) in which the fearsome Outcast of Atlantis turns mutational powers against not just Aquaman but also new DC superstars Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

Aquaman #13 then sees Mera return in the Miller-penned ‘Invasion of the Giant Reptiles’ as the tide-crossed lovers unite to defeat criminals from the future. Fradon & Miller wrap up his World’s Finest tenure in high style with #139’s taut thriller ‘The Doom Hunters’, leaving Cardy as sole Aquaman artist. His work gradually became more representational and realistic, although Miller’s ‘Aquaman’s Secret Powers!’ still held plenty of fantastic fantasy as a dying derelict curses the Sea King with incredible new abilities, whilst the second tale in #14 – ‘The Tyrant Ruler of Atlantis’ – finds the temporarily deranged hero seizing the throne of the sunken city. Within scant months he would be legitimately offered the crown…

Miller wrote the next four issues, beginning with sinister scientific tragedy ‘Menace of the Man-Fish’, #16’s ‘The Duel of the Sea Queens!’ – as Mera battled an alien siren who set her tentacled cap for Aquaman – and #17’s ‘The Man who Vanquished Aquaman’, wherein the god Poseidon abducted Mera.

All this romantic tension and concentration was for a purpose. The next issue featured ‘The Wife of Aquaman’ wherein the Sea King marries his extra-dimensional beloved in one of the first superhero weddings of the Silver Age. Talk about instant responsibilities…

None of the remaining tales have a credited scripter, but that doesn’t affect their wonderful readability nor Cardy’s better-every-panel artwork, beginning with #19’s ‘Atlanteans For Sale’ as new bride Mera slowly goes bonkers due to her husband’s neglectful super-hero schedule. Cue the arrival of merman man-candy Nikkor who insinuates himself into her affections… and the throne!

This surprisingly adult tale is followed by #20’s ‘The Sea King’s Double Doom’, as an old friend and shape-changing monster both hit Atlantis at the same time. Coincidence? We think not…

Super-villain the Fisherman debuts in #21’s ‘The Fearful Freak from Atlantis’ with the Sea King transformed into a sea monster, whilst ‘The Trap of the Sinister Sea Nymphs’ introduces Mera’s wicked twin sister before this splendidly engaging volume concludes on another groundbreaking high-note with issue #23’s ‘The Birth of Aquababy’. Unfortunately, the happy couple’s newborn child displays uncanny powers (and yes, you nit-picking gossips, it was nine months later… exactly nine months).

One of the greatest advantages of these big value black-&-white compendiums was the opportunity they provided whilst chronologically collecting a character’s adventures to include crossovers and guest spots from other titles. When the star is as long-lived and incredibly peripatetic as DC’s King of the Seven Seas, that’s an awful lot of extra appearances for a fan to find…

DC has a long and comforting history of gentle, innocuous yarn-spinning with quality artwork. Ramona Fradon’s Aquaman is one of the most neglected runs of such accessible material, and it’s a pleasure to discover just how readable they still are. When the opportunity arises to compare her wonderful work to the exponentially improving superhero work of such a stellar talent as Nick Cardy, this book becomes another fan’s must-have item. More so when all the stories are still suitable for kids of all ages.

Hopefully the current editorial administration will soon get around to revisiting them in new archival chronicles and digital editions, but until then why not treat yourself and your youngsters to a timeless dose of whimsy and adventure? You won’t regret it.
© 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Aquaman volume 1


By Robert Bernstein, Jack Miller, George Kashdan, Bob Haney, Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, Jim Mooney & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1223-0 (TPB)

Big year for comics anniversaries, and we can’t let this guy go unmentioned. Sadly, most of his back catalogue is still unavailable unless you track down aging compendia like this bulky gem. Although unavailable in digital formats, one of the greatest advantages of these monochrome tomes is the opportunity they provide whilst chronologically collecting a character’s adventures to include crossovers and guest spots from other titles. When the star is as long-lived and incredibly peripatetic as DC’s King of the Seven Seas that’s an awful lot of extra appearances for a fan to find…

One of the few superheroes to survive the collapse at the end of the Golden Age was a rather nondescript and generally bland looking chap who solved maritime crimes, rescuing fish and people from sub-sea disaster. Aquaman was created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris in the wake of Timely Comics’ Sub-Mariner: debuting in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941) with fellow born survivor Green Arrow.

Strictly a second stringer for most of his career, Aquaman nevertheless continued on far beyond many stronger features. He was primarily illustrated by Norris, Louis Cazeneuve and Charles Paris, until young Ramona Fradon took over the art chores in 1954, by which time the Sea King had settled into a regular back-up slot in Adventure Comics. Fradon was to draw every single adventure until 1960 and indelibly stamp the hero with her unique blend of charm and sleek competence.

In 1956, Showcase #4 finally rekindled the public’s imagination and zest for costumed crime-fighters. As well as re-imagining Golden Age stalwarts, DC undertook to update and remake its hoary survivors. Records are incomplete, sadly, so often we don’t know who wrote what, but the initial revamp ‘How Aquaman Got His Powers!’ (Adventure Comics #260, May 1959) was the work of Robert Bernstein who wrote the majority of the subsea capers at this time.

From that tale on the hero had a new origin – offspring of a lighthouse keeper and a refugee from the undersea city of Atlantis – and eventually all the trappings of the modern superhero followed: Themed hideout, sidekick and even super-villains! Moreover, greater attention was paid to continuity and the concept of a shared universe.

The 49 adventures gathered here encompass that early period of renewal, taking him from wandering back-up bit-player to stardom and his own comic book. Writers from those years included the aforementioned Bernstein, Jack Miller, George Kashdan, Bob Haney and perhaps other DC regulars, but the art was always by Fradon, whose captivatingly clean economical line always made the pictures something special.

The initial stories are pretty undemanding fare, ranging from simply charming to simply bewildering examples of all-ages action to rank alongside the best the company offered at the time. ‘Aquaman Duels the Animal Master’, ‘The Undersea Hospital’, ‘The Great Ocean Election’, ‘Aquaman and his Sea-Police’ and ‘The Secret of the Super Safe’ kept the hero in soggy isolation, but via an early crossover, Aquaman made his full entrance into the DC universe.

DC supported the popular 1950s Adventures of Superman TV show with a number of successful spin-off titles. Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #12 (October 1959) featured ‘The Mermaid of Metropolis’ wherein the plucky news hen (and isn’t that a term that’s outlived its sell-by date?) suffers crippling injuries in a scuba-diving accident. On hand to save her is Aquaman and a surgeon who turns her into a mermaid so she can live a worthwhile life without legs beneath the waves.

I know, I know: but just accepting the adage “Simpler Times” often helps me at times like this. In all seriousness, this silly story – by Bernstein – is a key moment in the development of one-universe continuity. The fact that it’s drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger – one of the most accomplished artists ever to work in American comics – makes it even more adorable, for all its silliness; and you can’t make me change my mind…

‘Aquaman Meets Aquagirl’ (Adventure Comics #266, by Bernstein & Fradon) gave a little more information about lost Atlantis whilst testing the waters (sorry!) for a possible sidekick. Remember, in those days the Sea King spent most of his time expositorially dialoguing with an octopus so with Adventure Comic #267 the editors tried a novel experiment.

At this time the title starred Superboy and featured two back-up features. Aquaman tale ‘The Manhunt on Land’ saw villainous Shark Norton trade territories with Green Arrow’s foe The Wizard and, in a rare crossover – both parts of which were written by Bernstein – the two heroes worked the same case with Aquaman fighting on dry land whilst the Emerald Archer pursued his enemy beneath the waves in his own strip ‘The Underwater Archers’, illustrated by the great Lee Elias.

In the next issue ‘The Adventures of Aquaboy!’ we got a look at the early years of the Sea King, and following that permanent sidekick Aqualad was introduced in ‘The Kid from Atlantis!’ In quick succession came ‘The Menace of Aqualad’, ‘The Second Deluge!’, ‘The Human Flying Fish!’, ‘Around the World in 80 Hours’, ‘Aqua-Queen’ and intriguing mystery ‘The Interplanetary Mission’.

Originally seen in Adventure Comics #275 – a few months after the debut of the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28 – this story concerned a plot to secure Kryptonite from the sea-floor. Although Superman did not appear, nets of shared continuity were being gradually interwoven. Heroes would no longer work in assured solitude. It was back to business as usual for ‘The Aqua-thief of the Seven Seas’, ‘The Underwater Olympics’, ‘Aqualad Goes to School’, ‘Silly Sailors of the Sea’ and ‘The Lost Ocean’: a typical mixed bag which served to set the scene for a really Big Event.

In Showcase #30 (January-February 1961) Jack Miller & Fradon expanded the origin of Aquaman in full-length epic ‘The Creatures from Atlantis’, wherein extra-dimensional creatures conquer the sunken civilisation. From this point on fanciful whimsy would be downplayed in favour of character-driven drama. The saga was followed by tense thriller ‘One Hour to Doom’ in Adventure Comics #282. Inked by Charles Paris, this was Fradon’s last art job for nearly a year and a half, whilst a second Showcase issue by Miller saw the first Aquaman job for comics veteran Nick Cardy who would visually make Aquaman his own for the next half-decade.

‘The Sea Beasts from One Million B.C.’ (Showcase #31, March/April 1961) is a wild romp of fabulous creatures, dotty scientists and evolution rays presaging a new path for the King of the Seas. Jim Mooney drew ‘The Charge of Aquaman’s Sea Soldiers’ for Adventure #284, before the series shifted to a new home, replaced by Tales of the Bizarro World.

Before that, however, there was another Showcase spectacular. Miller & Cardy pulled out all the stops for ‘The Creature King of the Sea’: an action-packed duel against a monstrous villain with murder in mind. The hind end of Detective Comics #293 (July 1961) then welcomed Aquaman & Aqualad, who took only six pages to solve the mystery of ‘The Sensational Sea Scoops’. All this time Cardy – who had initially altered his drawing style to mirror Fradon – had been gradually reverting to his natural, humanistic mode. By the time of fourth Showcase outing, ‘Prisoners of the Aqua-Planet’ (#33) appeared, the Sea King was a rugged, burly He-Man, and his world – no matter how fantastic – had an added edge of realism to it.

Detective #294’s ‘The Fantastic Fish that Defeated Aquaman’ coincided with a guest-spot in a second Superman Family title. Drawn by Al Plastino, ‘The Monster that Loved Aqua-Jimmy’ (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #55) is another child of its time that hasn’t weathered well, but the big kid in me still regards it fondly and I hope that others will afford it the same courtesy. Meanwhile, back at Detective Comics #295, our heroes defied ‘The Curse of the Sea Hermit’ (scripted by George Kashdan), before next month exposed ‘The Mystery of Demon Island!’

To accompany the more realistic art, and perhaps in honour of their new home, the stories became – briefly – less fantasy oriented. ‘Aqualad, Stand-In for a Star’ (Miller & Batman stalwart Sheldon Moldoff) was a standard hero-in-Hollywood crime caper, after which Cardy drew both ‘The Secret Sentry of the Sea’ (#298) and ‘Aquaman’s Secret Teacher’ (#299): a brace of yarns encompassing security duty at a secret international treaty signing and the Sea scions teaching an old blowhard a lesson in tall-tale telling…

The next month saw another milestone. After two decades of continuous adventuring the Sea King finally got a comic book of his own. Aquaman #1 (January/February 1962) was a 25-page fantasy thriller introducing one of the most controversial supporting characters in comics lore. Pixie-like Water-Sprite Quisp was part of a strange trend for cute imps and elves who attached themselves to far too many heroes of the time, but his contributions in ‘The Invasion of the Fire-Trolls’ and succeeding issues were numerous and obviously carefully calculated and considered…

‘The Mystery of the Undersea Safari!’ (Detective Comics #300) was the last Aqua caper before he moved again, this time to World’s Finest Comics. However, prior to that residency commencing, his own second issue appeared. ‘Captain Sykes’ Deadly Missions’ is a lovely-looking thriller with fabulous monsters and a flamboyant pirate blackmailing the Sea King into retrieving deadly mystical artefacts.

The World’s Finest run started in fine style with #125’s ‘Aquaman’s Super-Sidekick’ (Miller & Cardy) and Aquaman #3 provided full-length thrills and more exposure for the lost city in ‘The Aquaman from Atlantis’: a tale of traitors and time-travel. WF #126 then saw the heroes foil thieves with ‘Aquaman’s Super Sea Circus’ as – for better or worse – Quisp returned in #4’s ‘Menace of the Alien Island’.

A more welcome returnee was Ramona Fradon who took over the World’s Finest strip with #127’s ‘Aquaman’s Finny Commandos’ before the next issue saw ‘The Trial of Aquaman’ close in his favour just in time to endure ‘The Haunted Sea’ in his own fifth issue, and encountering ‘The Menace of the Alien Fish’ in WF #129.

This bumper volume concludes with Aquaman #6 and ‘Too Many Quisps’: a case of painfully mistaken identity and a sentiment difficult to disagree with… but still beautifully illustrated by Mr. Cardy.

DC has a long and comforting history of gentle, innocuous yarn-spinning with quality artwork. Fradon’s Aquaman is one of the most neglected runs of such universally-accessible material, and it’s a sheer pleasure to discover just how readable they still are. When the opportunity arises to compare her astounding work to the best of a stellar talent like as Nick Cardy, this book becomes a true fan’s must-have item and even more so when the stories are still suitable for kids of all ages. Why not treat the entire family to a seaside spectacle of timelessly inviting adventure?
© 1959-1962, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

You Brought Me the Ocean


By Alex Sanchez, Julie Maroh & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9081-8 (TPB)

In recent years DC has opened up its shared superhero universe to generate Original Graphic Novels featuring its stars in stand-alone(ish) adventures for the demographic clumsily dubbed Young Adult. To date, results have been rather hit or miss, but when they’re good they are very good indeed…

An ideal example is You Brought Me the Ocean, which reinterprets the origin of modern day Aqualad, concentrating on the comic book character’s Gay credentials rather than his costumed career.

Crafted by Alex Sanchez (Rainbow Boys; So Hard to Say; The God Box; The Greatest Superpower) and Julie Maroh (Blue is the Warmest Color; Body Music) and available in paperback and eBook editions, this dreamily-rendered, salty sea tale details the graduating year of High School student Jake Hyde who lives in the driest part of New Mexico but dreams of deep-sea kingdoms and fantastic marine adventure.

His mother is a constant worrier: always telling him to eat properly, dress appropriately and stay hydrated. Ironically though, ever since his all-but-forgotten dad drowned years ago, she has never let him near large bodies of water… or even allowed him to swim…

Always a loner, Jake’s absolute best friend in the one-horse town of Truth or Consequences (formerly Hot Springs, NM) is Maria Mendez. She has already mapped out their future together and has no idea he yearns for the nautical life and has already applied to University of Miami to study Oceanography…

The Mendez’s are neighbours and a second family, and far more amenable to Jake’s aspirations of leaving New Mexico, whilst his own mother shuts down every attempt to discuss the issue. She’s far more concerned with why Jake and Maria haven’t started dating yet. Sadly, Jake has never – ever – thought of her that way and has resigned himself to going it alone if he wants to realise his ambitions…

One day, things change dramatically as Jake suddenly notices class rebel Kenny Liu. He’s known the strange, outspoken outsider since Middle School, but has stayed well away – painfully aware of the target the outsider’s actions made him. Now though, the bully-defying, openly-Gay swim team star-athlete seems irresistibly fascinating…

And apparently, the interest is mutual…

Life changes forever when Jake agrees to accompany Kenny on a hike into the desert. The far more mature misfit has plenty of solid advice – on Maria, leaving town and life choices – but all that is forgotten when a sudden flash-flood interrupts their first kiss and activates tattoo-like birthmarks all over Jake’s body. Suddenly, he starts to glow and project water-manipulating energies…

With Jake’s world suddenly shaken to flotsam and jetsam, shock follows shock and calamity arrives in its wake. Jake’s attempts to explore his sexuality bring heartbreak and chaos, but even that’s dwarfed when he comes out to his mom and learns the truth about his father and how he is connected to both superhero Aquaman and one of the most dangerous villains on Earth…

Moreover, in the throes of these astounding revelations and an irresistible attraction, it’s too easy to forget that not only metahuman maniacs respond with bigotry and mindless violence to what they deem “unnatural”…

A truly magical treatment exploring the processes of coming out and finding yourself, deftly cloaked in the shiny trappings of costumed heroics, the search for belonging and teen feelings of alienation, You Brought Me the Ocean is an intriguing tale to warm the heart and comes with a contact page detailing Resources available to those affected by the issues herein; personal messages from Sanchez and Maroh and an extensive section of designs and drawings from the illustrator’s Sketchbook.
© 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

World’s Finest: Guardians of Earth


By Denny O’Neil, Mike Friedrich, Steve Skeates, Len Wein, Elliot S! Maggin, Dick Dillin, Joe Giella & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0178-3 (HB)

For decades Superman and Batman were quintessential superhero partners: the “World’s Finest team”. The affable stalwarts were best buddies as well as mutually respectful colleagues, and their pairing made sound financial sense since DC’s top heroes could happily cross-pollinate and cross-sell their combined readerships. This most inevitable of Paladin Pairings first occurred on the Superman radio show in the early 1940s, whilst in comics the pair had only briefly met whilst on a Justice Society of America adventure in All-Star Comics #36 (August-September 1947) – and perhaps even there they missed each other in the gaudy hubbub…

Of course, they had shared covers on World’s Finest Comics from the outset, but never crossed paths inside; sticking firmly to their specified solo adventures within. In fact, they never shared an official comic book case. However, once that Rubicon was crossed in Superman #76 (May 1952), the partnership solidified thanks to spiralling costs and dwindling page-counts. As 52-page titles dwindled to the 32, WFC permanently sealed the new deal and the industry never looked back…

The Cape and Cowl Crusaders were partners and allies from #71 onwards (July 1954), working together until the title was cancelled in the build-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986. All that is, except for a brief period when the Man of Steel was paired with other stars of DC’s firmament.

This mighty compelling compendium re-presents those cataclysmic collaborations from the turbulent 1970’s (World’s Finest Comics #198-214, spanning November 1970 to October- November 1972), as radical shifts in America’s tastes and cultural landscape fostered a hunger for more mature, socially relevant stories. That drive even affected the Dark Knight and Action Ace – so much so, in fact, that their partnership was temporarily suspended: paused so Superman could guest-star with other DC icons.

After three years, another bold experiment reunited them as parents of The Super-Sons before the regular relationship was revitalised and renewed. With the World’s Finest Heroes fully restored, their bizarrely apt pre-eminence endured another lengthy run until the title’s demise.

Without preamble the action kicks off here by returning to a thorny topic which had bedevilled fans for years…

The comic book experience is littered with eternal, unanswerable questions. The most common and most passionately asked always begin “who would win if…” or “who’s strongest/smartest/fastest…”

Here, crafted by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella, ‘Race to Save the Universe!’ and the concluding ‘Race to Save Time’ (WFC #198-199; November and December 1970) upped the stakes on two previous competitions as the high-speed heroes are conscripted by the Guardians of the Universe to circumnavigate the entire cosmos at their greatest velocities to reverse the rampage of the mysterious Anachronids: faster-than-light creatures whose pell-mell course throughout the galaxies is actually unwinding time itself and unravelling the fabric of creation. Little does anybody suspect that Superman’s oldest enemies were behind the entire appalling scheme…

Anniversary issue #200 was crafted by regular Robin, the Teen Wonder scripter Mike Friedrich, with Dillin & Giella doing the drawing – as they did for this entire book. ‘Prisoners of the Immortal World!’ (February 1971) focusses on college-student brothers on opposite sides of the Vietnam War debate abducted along with youth icon Robin and “Mr. Establishment” Superman to a distant planet where undying vampiric aliens wage eternal war on each other.

Green Lantern pops in for #201, contesting ‘A Prize of Peril!’ (O’Neil, Dillin & Giella) which would grant either Emerald Gladiator or Man of Steel sole jurisdiction of Earth’s skies. Sadly, all is not as it seems…

Batman returned for a limited engagement in #202 as the O’Neil-penned ‘Vengeance of the Tomb-Thing!’ sees archaeologists unearth something horrific in Egypt, just before Superman seemingly goes mad and attacks his greatest friends and allies. A superb ecological scare-story, this tale changed the Man of Tomorrow’s life for decades to come…

Current Aquaman writer Steve Skeates waded in for #203 as ‘Who’s Minding the Earth?’ pits Metropolis Marvel and King of Atlantis against parthenogenetic mutant dolphins attempting to terraform the polluted world into something more welcoming to their kind…

More ecological terror underpins O’Neil’s bleak warning in #204 as ‘Journey to the End of Hope!’ finds powerless former Wonder Woman Diana Prince and Superman summoned to a barren lifeless Earth. Here a dying computer warns that a butterfly effect will inevitably lead to this future unless they prevent a certain person dying in a college campus riot. Only time will tell if they succeed as the clash does indeed cost a life despite all their efforts…

Racism, sexism and the oppression of reactionary conservative values then get a well-deserved pasting in #205’s ‘The Computer that Captured a Town!’

Here Skeates deviously layers a Teen Titans tale with a wealth of eye-opening commentary after the team are locked into a mid-Victorian parochial paradise enforced by a dead man and alien tech, until the Man of Tomorrow wades in to set things straight…

WFC #206 (October-November 1971) was an all-reprint giant, represented here by its rousing Dick Giordano cover, after which #207 again reunites the true World’s Finest team as Batman returns to solve a murder mystery in the making and save the Man of Tomorrow in ‘A Matter of Light and Death!’, after which Earth-2 sorcerer hero Doctor Fate aids the Action Ace in thwarting the extraterrestrial ‘Peril of the Planet-Smashers!’ – both courtesy of Len Wein, Dillin & Giella.

Supernatural menaces were increasingly popular as a global horror boom reshaped readers’ tastes, informing (#209) Friedrich’s ‘Meet the Tempter – and Die!’ wherein Hawkman and Superman are seduced into evil by an eternal demon, whilst Elliot S! Maggin’s ‘World of Faceless Slaves!’ in #210 catapults the Caped Kryptonian and Green Arrow into a primordial magic kingdom to liberate the vassals of diabolical sorcerer supreme Effron…

The Darknight Detective returns again in #211, as O’Neil, Dillin & Giella devise a global manhunt for a ‘Fugitive from the Stars!’ Their target is a political refugee whose arrest is demanded by warriors who are a physical match for Superman, but happily, not Batman’s intellectual equals…

‘…And So My World Begins!’ in #212 is O’Neil’s thematic sequel to Justice League of America #71, which saw Mars devasted by race war and its survivors flee to the stars in search of a new homeworld. Here, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz seeks Superman’s aid to rescue the last survivors from life-leeching mechanoids, unaware that a traitor has sold them all out to predatory aliens…

Maggin drills deep into super science for #213 as ‘Peril in a Very Small Place!’ finds the greater universe endangered by a microscopic and insatiable Genesis molecule, demanding a fantastic voyage into the Microverse inside a phone line for the Atom and Superman before this compilation concludes with wild west weirdness from by Skeates, O’Neil, Dillin & Giella. Here Golden Age troubleshooter The Vigilante delivers the silver bullet necessary to save Superman when ‘A Beast Stalks the Badlands!’

With covers by Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Nick Cardy and Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson, this book is a gloriously uncomplicated treasure trove of adventures which still have the power and punch to enthral even today’s jaded seen it-all audiences.

The contents of this titanic team-up tome are a veritable feast of witty, pretty thrillers packing as much punch and wonder now as they always have. Utterly entrancing adventure for fans of all ages!
© 1970, 1971, 1972, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.