Batman: The Strange Deaths of Batman


By Gardner F. Fox, Cary Bates, Cary Bates, Bob Haney, David V. Reed, Gerry Conway, John Stanisci, Chuck Dixon, Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella, Curt Swan & Jack Abel, Jim Aparo, John Calnan & Tex Blaisdell, Rich Buckler & Frank McLaughlin, Sal Buscema, Greg Land, Drew Geraci & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2174-4 (TPB)

Compiled on the coat-tails of DC’s Batman R.I.P. publishing event (which ran May to November 2008, and with repercussions inspiring recent events in the ongoing mythology), this delightfully eccentric collection celebrates the recurrent demise of the Gotham Guardian by digging up a few oddments and some genuine valuable artifacts to amuse, enthral and amaze.

The wonderment begins with the quirkily eponymous ‘The Strange Death of Batman!’: a highly experimental mystery originating in Detective Comics #347 (January 1966) literally moments before the Dynamic Duo became household names all over the globe thanks to an incredibly popular TV show. Crafted by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella, it features a major contender for the title of Batman’s daftest super-foe – The Bouncer – but still delivers action, drama and an intriguing conundrum to challenge the reader…

It’s followed by ‘Robin’s Revenge’ (World’s Finest Comics #184. May 1969) wherein Cary Bates and artists Curt Swan & Jack Abel recount the Imaginary Story (see DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories for a definition if the term is somehow unknown to you) of Batman’s murder and the dark path that loss takes the Boy Wonder down. Hapless Superman acts as stand-in guardian but is helpless to forestall inevitable further tragedy…

‘The Corpse that Wouldn’t Die!’ is a superb tale guest-starring The Atom taken from team-up title The Brave and the Bold #115 (October/November 1974). Written by Bob Haney and magnificently drawn by Jim Aparo, it details how the Gotham Guardian is killed in the line of duty and how the Tiny Titan occupies his brain to reanimate his corpse and conclude the case that finished him…

Next is an extended saga from Batman #291-294 (cover dates September through December 1977) written by author David V. Reed and illustrated by John Calnan & Tex Blaisdell. Over four deviously clever issues ‘Where Were You the Night Batman Was Killed?’ sees hordes of costumed foes the Caped Crusader has crushed assemble to verify the stories of various felons claiming to have done the deed. This thematic partial inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s “Last Batman Story” kicks off with ‘The Testimony of the Catwoman’ followed by testimony from The Riddler, Lex Luthor and The Joker before satisfactorily concluding in a spectacular grand manner.

‘Buried Alive!’ by Gerry Conway, Rick Buckler & Frank McLaughlin (World’s Finest Comics #269 June/July1981) finds Superman and Robin desperately racing against time: hunting for a madman who entombed the Batman, after which ‘The Prison’ written and inked by John Stanisci, with Sal Buscema pencils, is a moody character piece featuring post-mortem reflections of Talia, Daughter of the Demon Ra’s Al Ghul as originally seen in Batman Chronicles #8, Spring 1997. This odd yet engaging tome terminates with a frilly, fluffy fantasy from Nightwing #52, (February 2001) as Catwoman imagines a morbidly mirthful ‘Modern Romance’ courtesy of Chuck Dixon, Greg Land & Drew Geraci.

Themed collections can be a rather hit-or-miss proposition, but the quality and variety of these inspired selections makes for a highly enjoyable read and the only regret I can express is that room couldn’t be found to include the various covers that fronted these tales. Include those in a new expanded edition and you’d have a book to die for…
© 1966, 1969, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1997, 2001, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman volume 1


By Gail Simone & Ethan Van Scriver, Amanda Deibert & Cat Staggs, James Bischoff & David A. Williams, Ivan Cohen & Marcus To, Sean Williams & Marguerite Sauvage, Ollie Masters & Amy Mebberson, Gilbert Hernandez & John Rauch, Rob Williams & Tom Lyle, Neil Kleid & Dean Haspiel , Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5344-8 (TPB/Digital edition)

Beyond all dispute or doubt, Wonder Woman is the very acme of female role models. Since her premier in 1941 she has dominated every aspect of global consciousness to become not only a paradigm of comics’ very fabric but also a brilliant and vivid visual touchstone and mythic symbol to women everywhere. In whatever era you observe, the Amazing Amazon epitomises the perfect balance between thought and competence and, over those decades, has become one of that rarefied pantheon of literary creations to achieve meta-reality.

For decades, the official story was that the Princess of Paradise Island was conceived by psychologist and polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston as a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model who would sell more funnybooks to girls. Thanks to forward-thinking Editor M.C. Gaines, an introductory guest shot for the Amazon in All Star Comics #8 (cover-dated December 1941 and on sale from the third week of October), served to launch her one month later into her own series – and the cover-spot – of new anthology title Sensation Comics. We now know Wonder Woman was in fact a team if not communal effort, with Moulton Marston acting at the behest of his remarkable wife Elizabeth and their life partner Olive Byrne.

An instant hit, Wonder Woman won an eponymous supplemental title (cover-dated summer 1942) some months later. That set up enabled the Star-Spangled Sensation to weather the vicissitudes of the notoriously transient comic book marketplace and survive beyond the Golden Age of costumed heroes beside Superman, Batman and a few lucky hangers-on who inhabited the backs of their titles. She soldiered on well into the Silver Age revival under the official auspices of Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, but by 1968 superhero comics were in decline again and publishers sought new ways to keep audiences interested as tastes – and American society – changed.

Barring a couple of early fill-ins by Frank Godwin, the vast majority of outlandish, eccentric, thematically barbed adventures they collectively penned were limned by classical illustrator Harry G. Peter. When Marston died on cancer in 1947, his assistant Joye Hummell carried on writing stories until DC replaced her with a man – in fact a “real Man’s Man” – Robert Kanigher…

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young, impressionable Princess Diana. Fearful of her besotted child’s growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued from bondage by the goddess Aphrodite on condition they isolated themselves forever from the mortal world, devoting their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However with the planet in crisis, goddesses Athena and Aphrodite instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global liberty. Although forbidden to compete, closeted, cosseted teen Diana clandestinely overcame all other candidates to become their emissary: Wonder Woman.

On arriving in the Land of the Free she purchased the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, which elegantly allowed the unregistered immigrant to stay close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick care-worker to join her own fiancé in South America.

The new Diana soon gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, further ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. The Princess little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but supremely competent Lieutenant Prince…

Back then, the entire industry depended on newsstand sales and if you weren’t popular, you died. Editor Jack Miller & Mike Sekowsky stepped up with a radical proposal (a makeover in the manner of UK TV icon Emma Peel) and made comic book history with the only female superhero to still have her own title in that marketplace. Eventually the merely mortal troubleshooter gave way to a reinvigorated Amazing Amazon who battled declining sales until DC’s groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths, after which she was radically rebooted.

There were minor tweaks in her continuity to accommodate different creators’ tenures, until 2011 when DC rebooted their entire comics line again and Wonder Woman once more underwent a drastic, fan-infuriating but sales-boosting root-&-branch re-imagining. Perhaps to mitigate the fallout, DC created a number of fall-back options such as this intriguing package: the first of three to date…

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman began as an online “digital first” series before being collected (months later) as a new standard print comic reprinting three post/chapters per issue. Crafted by a fluctuating roster of artists and writers, the contents highlighted every previous era and incarnation of the character – and even a few wildly innovative alternative visions – offering a variety of thrilling, engaging and sincerely fun-filled moments to remember.

The comic book iteration was successful enough to warrant its own series of trade paperback compilations which – in the fullness of time and nature of circularity – gained their own digital avatars as eBooks too.

This first full-colour compilation collects Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1-5 (October 2014 – February 2015), displaying a wealth of talent and cornucopia of different insights, starting with Gail Simone & Ethan Van Scriver’s ‘Gothamazon’, detailing how a mythologically militaristic Wonder Woman uncompromisingly, permanently cleans up Batman’s benighted home when the Gotham Guardians are taken out of play…

Amanda Deibert & Cat Staggs’ ‘Defender of Truth’ pits the Amazon against man-hating sorceress Circe to deliver a lesson that never gets old before ‘Brace Yourself’ from James Bischoff & David A. Williams reveals how little Princess Diana spent her formative years testing her growing abilities – and the Queen’s patience and love…

In ‘Taketh Away’ Ivan Cohen & Marcus To tackle an interesting issue by addressing the religious implications of a pagan-worshipping hero in Judaeo-Christian America whilst delivering an action-packed mystery and super duel with old enemies Cheetah and Doctor Psycho, before Sean Williams & Marguerite Sauvage explore her media profile as crime buster, role model and singer/lead guitarist with global rock sensation ‘Bullets and Bracelets’.

‘Morning Coffee’ by Ollie Masters & Amy Mebberson offers a quirky, manga-inspired duel of wits and ideologies with infallible thief Catwoman after which Gilbert Hernandez & colourist John Rauch go incontrovertibly retro for a blockbusting Silver-Age celebration of maidenly might as Wonder Woman, Mary (Shazam!) Marvel and Supergirl smash robots, aliens, supervillains and each other in cathartically cataclysmic clash ‘No Chains Can Hold Her!’

An alternate Earth mash-up by Rob Williams & Tom Lyle sees the classic Justice League and Thanagarian shapeshifter Byth face the ‘Attack of the 500-Foot Wonder Woman’ whilst ‘Ghosts and Gods’ (Neil Kleid & Dean Haspiel) finds the Golden Age Amazon and trusty aide Etta Candy united with restless spirit Deadman to foil the schemes of immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul.

The comic cavalcade concludes on a far more sombre and sinister note as ‘Dig for Fire’ by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman discloses how Diana invades Hellworld Apokolips to rescue two Amazon sisters only to discover amidst the horror and degradation that true evil is not the sole preserve of depraved New God Darkseid

Augmented by spectacular covers-&-variants from Van Scriver & Brian Miller, Phil Jimenez & Romula Farjardo Jr., Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Carrie Strachan, Adam Hughes & Lawrence Reynolds, this fascinating snapshot of the sheer breadth and variety of visions Wonder Woman has inspired in her decades of existence is one to delight fans old and new alike.
© 2014, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Steel: A Celebration of 30 Years


By Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, Christopher Priest, Grant Morrison, Mark Schultz, Mateo Casali, Steve Lyons, Scholly Fisch, Matt Kindt, Chris Batista, Denys Cowan, Arnie Jorgensen, Doug Mahnke, Darryl Banks, Scott Cohn, Ed Benes, Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Patrick Zircher, June Brigman & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-2173-6 (HB/Digital edition)

All superhero sagas seek to forge fresh legends and mythologies for and around their protagonists and antagonists. A select few (like Thor, Wonder Woman, Hercules, Fables or Robin Hood) can shortcut the process by borrowing from already established communal story traditions. Steel always leaned into the latter: adapting and reiterating the folklore of actual historical personage John Henry: a 19th century African American Freedman known as the “steel-driving man” who worked building railroads and died proving human superiority and tenacity over technological innovation.

This epic compilation – part of a dedicated series reintroducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of DC icons – offers snapshots of a modern black Thomas Edison (or more accurately Tony Stark) who is equal parts impassioned justice seeker, dynamic defender and modern Hephaestus. Through groundbreaking appearances as part of the Superman Family, and standing on his own two jet-booted feet in the ever expanding DCU, it features material from Adventures of Superman #500, Superman: The Man of Steel #22, 100, 122, Steel (volume 1) #1, 34, JLA #17, Justice League Unlimited #35, Steel (volume 2) #1, Action Comics #4, Suicide Squad #24, and The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1, and like all these curated collections offers introductory essays preceding time-themed selections. We open with Part I: 1993-1998 – The Forging of a Hero by Steel co-creator Louise Simonson prior to her, Jon Bogdanove & Dennis Janke’s tantalising teaser ‘First Sighting’ as seen in Adventures of Superman #500. In the aftermath of catastrophe a new threat imperils the streets of Metropolis and a battered but mighty figure stirs from the rubble muttering “Doomsday”…

Steel’s story began with landmark publishing event The Death of Superman: a 3-pronged story-arc depicting the martyrdom, loss, replacement and resurrection of the World’s Greatest Superhero in a stellar saga which broke all records and proved that a jaded general public still cared about the venerable, veteran icon of Truth, Justice and the American Way. After a brutal rampage across Middle America, a mysterious marauding monster had only been stopped in the heart of Metropolis by an overwhelming and fatal effort on Superman’s part. Dying at the scene, the fallen hero’s body was subject of many legal battles before it was ostensibly laid to rest in a tomb in Metropolis’ Centennial Park. As Earth adjusted to a World Without a Superman, rumours began to circulate that, like Elvis, the Man of Tomorrow was not dead. The aforementioned ‘First Sightings’ revealed how across America four very different individuals appearing, saving lives and performing good deeds as only the departed defender could…

In Superman: The Man of Steel #22 (July 1993), Simonson, Bogdanove, Chris Batista & Rich Faber introduced construction worker Henry Johnson – who had been saved by Superman in the past – who felt compelled to carry on the hero’s mission. After witnessing first-hand street kids murdered by super weapons in the hands of “gangbangers” he built a high-tech suit of armour to facilitate his crusade as. Whilst outraged urban inventor attended disasters and began cleaning up the streets of Metropolis as ‘Steel’, he relentlessly searched for those who used deadly new “toastmasters”: a weapon Irons had designed in another life…

Tracking the munitions enabled him to save the life of a fortune-teller and brought him into savage conflict with White Rabbit – a new criminal major player in the city challenging the secret control of Lex Luthor – but his life only got more complicated the morning after, when Psychic Rosie went on TV claiming Steel was possessed by the unquiet soul of Superman…

To see how that  situation was resolved check out Reign of The Supermen collections but here – following the defeat of the Cyborg-Superman – our ironclad iconoclast underwent a partial refit in Steel (volume 1) #1, as writers Simonson & Bogdanove and artists Batista & Rich Fabee ‘Wrought Iron’ with Johnson resuming his previous identity as John Henry Irons and returning to his hometown and family in Washington D.C. ready to settle the problems he had originally fled from.

Welcomed back by niece Natasha, he and she are almost killed in another gang war and toastmaster crossfire, so John Henry begins a sustained and convoluted campaign against his former corporate employers Amertek, White Rabbit and the lying SOBs who allowed his junked superweapons program (AKA the BG60) to be sold to criminals. His first task is to upgrade and reforge his briefly retired armoured identity…

After an epic career as a reluctant superhero, John Henry and Natasha relocate to Jersey City as Christopher Priest, Denys Cowan & Tom Palmer reboot proceedings. In ‘Bang’ he reinvents himself as a maker of medical hardware and prosthetics working for a barely disguised supervillain. With all concerned leaning heavily into the perceived notion of Steel as a second-rate substitute, Priest consequently crafted one of the funniest and most thrilling superhero series of the decade and one long overdue to be featured in its own collection.

Steel was becoming increasingly popular and was rewarded with membership in the new sensation-series – the reconstituted Justice League. Here in his April 1998 induction from JLA #17, Grant Morrison, Arnie Jorgensen, David Meikis & Marl Pennington show ‘Prometheus Unbound’ as the ambitious neophyte supervillain attacks the entire League in their moon base Watchtower. As recent recruits Huntress, Plastic Man, fallen angel Zauriel and covert information resource Oracle join the regular team invite the world’s press to their lunar base, this unwise courtesy inadvertently allows the insidious seemingly unstoppable mastermind to infiltrate and almost destroy them.

The heroes – despite initially succumbing to Prometheus’ blitz-attack – strike back, aided by unlikely surprise guest-star Catwoman and the last-minute appearance of New Gods Orion and Big Barda proffering yet more hints of the greater threat to come. Although playing a significant part in the win, Steel is not really a star here but at least proves he can play well with the big dogs…

Priest then provides fascinating insight to his take on Dr. Irons and his tenure’s overt concentration of racism and comedy in an essay segueing neatly into Part II: 2000-2011 – Forging the Future prior to adventures in a new millennium.

In Superman: The Man of Steel #100 (May 2000), Mark Schultz, Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen offer a ‘Creation Story’ as John Henry and Natasha set up shop in Metropolis with their (she’s a SuperGenius too and ultimately also became an mecha-outfitted superhero) “Steelworks” facility, helping Superman reconstruct his Fortress of Solitude from recovered Kryptonian and Phantom Zone raw materials. The artificers are unaware that an old enemy is sending new menace Luna and her Cybermoths to plunder their achievements…

Despite their always being the best of friends, Superman: The Man of Steel #122 (March 2002) notionally succumbs to the inevitable in Superman v Steel’ by Schultz, Darryl Banks & Kevin Conrad as Irons battles crippling anxieties after accepting a potential trojan horse weapon – the Entropy Aegis – from Darkseid and using it as the basis of new armour. With monsters trying to reclaim it and Superman begging him not to use it, frayed tempers snap…

As well as an ill-received – and unjustly derided – cinema iteration (really! – check it out with more forgiving modern eyes), Steel made the jump to television numerous times. The best was his tenure in the Cartoon Network Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated shows and the comic books they spawned. Next up here is Mateo Casali, Scott Cohn & Al Nickerson’s all-ages romp ‘The Cycle’ (Justice League Unlimited #35, September 2007), with John Henry and Natasha in the Watchtower before leading the team against reawakened elder gods The Millennium Giants

Having grown overlarge and unwieldy once more, DC took a draconian leap as its continuity was again pruned and repatterned. In October 2011, publishing event Flashpoint led to a “New 52”: radical yet mostly cosmetic changes that barely affected the properties reimagined. Just before that kicked off, John Henry got a stirring “hail and farewell” in Steel (volume 2, 2011) #1. ‘Reign of Doomsday, Part 1: Full Circle’ by Steve (Doctor Who) Lyons & Ed Benes opened a Superman Family mass-crossover as the marauding monster returned to crush all S-Sheild superstars, starting with John Henry before moving on to The Outsiders and others…

Concluding chapter Part III: 2012-Present – The First Black Superman opens with a treatise and career appraisal of “DC’s Iron Man” by Bogdanove, after which the techno-warrior is reimagined by Morrison, Rags Morales, Rick Bryant & Sean Parsons in Action Comics (volume 2) #4, January 2012. ‘Superman and the Men of Steel’ sees a young Man of Tomorrow starting out as a vigilante, pursued by Military Consultant Lex Luthor and losing to the latter’s Kryptonite fuelled cyborg Metallo until a technologist working on the Steel Soldier program dons the armour he’s building to save the embattled young hero…

From the same issue, ‘Hearts of Steel’ – by Scholly Fisch, Brad Walker & Jay David Ramos – concludes the 3-way war and provides insight into the valiant newcomer, before Suicide Squad #24 (volume 4, December 2013) taps into publishing event Forever Evil with ‘Excuse the Mess…’ by Matt Kindt, Patrick Zircher & Jason Keith. As Earth is infiltrated by invaders from an alternate reality, conscripts of Amanda Waller’s penal unit (Thinker, King Shark, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and Harley Quinn) rebel when the world’s supervillain community unites to crush the heroes. Opposing the rebellion and fighting to keep a living WMD from them are an Unknown Soldier, vigilante Warrant, Power Girl and Steel

In 2015, as the New 52 experiment staggered to a conclusion, a series of company-wide events offered speculative glimpses at what might have been. Following 2014’s Futures End came Convergence in April 2015: a series of character-derived micro-series referencing key periods in the amalgamated history of DC heroes. Crafted by Simonson, June Brigman, Roy Richardson & John Rauch, Convergence: Superman: Man of Steel #1-2 depicted ‘Divided We Fall’ & ‘United We Stand’ as assorted cities from varied publishing epochs of continuity are imprisoned under domes by Telos, slave of Brainiac and ordered to fight each other until only one survives. Referencing their 1990s iteration, Irons, Natasha and nephew Jemahl armour up beside maniacal villain The Parasite to battle the abrasive superteens of Gen 13

We end by turning full circle as Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove & colourist Glenn Whitmore share undisclosed secrets from the first appearance of Steel, as finally revealed in The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1 (November 2022).‘Time’ expands on ‘First Sightings’, taking readers back to the moments Doomsday ripped through Metropolis and showing how “Henry Johnson” saved lives as he ran towards the life or death battle to aid Superman however he can…

With covers by Bogdanove & Janke, Dave Johnson, Howard Porter & John Dell, Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen, John Cassaday & Richard Horie, Zach Howard, Alex Garner, Morales & Brad Anderson, Steve Skroce & Jason Keith, Walter Simonson & Dave McCaig, these tales span cover-dates January 1993 to November 2022; a period where black heroes finally became acceptable comics currency – at least for most people – and this too brief collation of groundbreaking yarns only begs the question: why isn’t more of this wonderful stuff already available?
© 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2022, 2023 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Batman Adventures volume 1


By Kelly Puckett, Marty Pasko, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Brad Rader, Mike Parobeck, Rick Taylor, Tim Harkins & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5229-8 (TPB/Digital)

Batman: The Animated Series aired in America from September 5th1992 until September 15th 1995. Ostensibly for kids, the TV cartoon show was devised and designed by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski (with writer Paul Dini). Its success utterly revolutionised the image of the Dark Knight, resulting in some of the absolute best comic book tales in his decades-long publishing history as the series spawned a print spinoff and eventually a niche genre.

Employing a timelessly elemental and primal visual tone (dubbed “Dark Deco”) TV episodes mixed iconic elements from all comic iterations of the character and, without diluting the power and mood of the premise, perfectly honed the grim avenger and his team into a wholly accessible, thematically memorable form even the youngest of readers could enjoy, whilst adding shades of exuberance and noir style that only most devoutly obsessive Batmaniac could possibly find fault with.

The comics version became a cast-iron certainty for collection in the newly-emergent trade paperback market which stormed into and out of shops in the mid-1990s. Here the first ten titanic all-ages exploits (October 1992 to July 1993) from The Batman Adventures comic book are rediscovered and gathered with tales in a smashing, straightforward sampler of Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy.

With colourist Rick Taylor, and letterer Tim Harkins on duty throughout, the moodily magnificent action opens with ‘Penguin’s Big Score’ by writer Kelly Puckett, and artists Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett. Each story was divided into three chapters and ‘Charm School Dropout!’ sees the Bird of Ill Omen taking tips on how to rehabilitate his nefarious reputation from The Joker, whilst in ‘Top of the World, Ma!’ the Foul Fowl’s new standing as a philanthropist has all Gotham agog. The sinister scheme is finally exposed by Batman in climactic third act ‘Power of the Press’, but the hero has no idea the real winner is the Clown Prince of Crime…

For #2, Puckett, Templeton & Burchett deliver ‘Catwoman’s Killer Caper’, kicking off with a gem heist before – at Joker’s insistent urging – sultry Selina Kyle visits England’s Tower of London to swipe ‘The Family Jewels!’ In hot pursuit, the Gotham Gangbuster pops across The Pond to quell ‘Panic over Londontown’ and solve an apparently impossible theft in ‘Midnight Madness’ …but not before the Harlequin of Hate snatches the real prize…

The crafty conniving culminates in ‘Joker’s Late-Night Lunacy!’ (#3 by Puckett, Templeton & Burchett), with Gotham’s airwaves hijacked and Commissioner Gordon kidnapped by the larcenous loon and made himself literally unmissable viewing in ‘A Star is Born!’

‘I Want My JTV!’ depicts District Attorney Harvey Dent make it onto the Joker’s inhospitable guest list, but Batman is still one step ahead of the game and lowers the boom in explosive finale ‘Flash in the Pan!’

Writer Marty Pasko and penciller Brad Rader joined inker Burchett for a gripping 2-issue terror tale guest starring Robin as ‘Riot Act’ describes ‘Panic in the Streets’ after a strange plague caused citizens to lose the ability to read. Even with complete chaos gripping Gotham the Teen Wonder’s ‘Help on the Wing’ results in a huge step forward but when ‘Robin Takes a Fall’, the hidden culprit reveals himself before the drama intensifies in #4 with ‘Riot Act: Johnny Can’t Read!’ as The Scarecrow steps up his campaign to teach slackers of the modern world a harsh lesson. In fact, the Dynamic Duo are well aware of the ‘Hi-Fi Hijinx’ at the root of the problem and, with the help of a repentant henchman, crush the crisis in ‘Those Who Can’t Do!’

A crafty change of pace finds Bruce Wayne is arrested for murder in ‘The Third Door!’ as crafted by Puckett, Rader & Burchett. The cunning locked-room mystery opens with ‘The Party’s Over’ as the prime suspect details the facts of the case to young Dick Grayson, before being locked up with a mob of dangerous thugs in ‘Crime and Punishment’, leaving the wonder kid to ferret out the real killer in tense conclusion ‘War and Peace’

After a mere half-dozen superb stories the comic book adventures took a step towards total perfection when then-rising star Mike Parobeck assumed the pencilling duties. Although his professional comics career was tragically short (1989 to 1996, when he died, aged 31, of complications from Type 1 Diabetes) his gracefully fluid, exuberant, kinetically fun-fuelled animation-inspired style was a revelation. Parobeck revolutionised superhero action drawing and sparked a resurgence of kid-friendly comics and merchandise at DC and everywhere else in the comics publishing business.

Here his tenure began with ‘Raging Lizard!’, which sees shady pro wrestler Killer Croc confront a long dark night of the soul. In ‘Requiem for a Mutant!’ Croc’s scheduled to fight Masked Marauder – a grappler who humiliated and broke him in their last bout. Batman meanwhile is searching for Mandrake: a Chicago mobster planning on taking over Gotham City by ousting reigning crime czar Rupert Thorne in ‘Eye of the Reptile!’

Naturally all those trajectories converge in the third act for a major throw-down ‘Under the Waterfront!’

TBA #8’s ‘Larceny, My Sweet’ begins with the hunt for an unstoppable thief who can ‘Break the Bank!’ with his bare hands, whilst TV reporter Summer Gleeson divides her time between chasing scoops and being romanced by a dashing stranger in ‘Love’s Lost Labours’. Sadly, when the Gotham Gangbuster crushes the crime-wave he also exposes monstrous old muck menace Clayface and accidentally ends the affair of ‘Beauty and the Beast!’

Next issue ‘The Little Red Book’ everyone’s chasing holds all Thorne’s dirty secrets and Commissioner Gordon is presiding over a ‘Gangster Boogie!’ With the cops and entire underworld looking to win out over ‘The Big Boss’, it takes all Batman’s energy and wits to bring the diary to DA Dent for the beginning of ‘Rupert’s Reckoning!’

Ending the all-ages action is ‘The Last R?ddler Story’ which details ‘Nygma’s Nadir!’ as the perpetually frustrated Prince of Puzzlers considers retirement. Dispirited and despondent because the Caped Crusader always solves his felonious games, the villain grudgingly accedes to a faithful hench-person’s pleas to give it one more try in ‘Days of Wine and Riddles!’

How upset would Eddie Nygma be if he knew Batman isn’t even aware of him, absorbed as he is in apprehending infamous trio Mastermind, Mr. Nice and The Perfesser in ‘Triumph or Tragedy…?’

Breathtakingly written and iconically illustrated, these stripped-down rollercoaster-romps are quintessential Bat-magic: treasures every fan of any age and vintage will adore.

Pure, unadulterated delight!
© 1992, 1993, 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Batman: The Golden Age volume 1


By Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Whitney Ellsworth, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6333-1 (TPB/Digital edition)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Vintage Comic book Perfection… 10/10

Next year marks Batman’s 85th Anniversary and we’ll be covering many old and new books about the Dark Knight over the year. However, why not pre-load the noir wonderment with this perfect compilation of how it all began. It’s not too big – like an Omnibus edition – or too small – like a measly pamphlet comic book – and would therefore make an ideal gift for the fan in your life (and we all know I mean you, right…)?

Batman: The Golden Age re-presents the Gotham Guardian’s earliest exploits in original chronological order, forgoing glossy, high-definition paper and reproduction techniques in favour of a newsprint-adjacent feel and the same flat, bright-yet-muted colour palette which graced the originals. There’s no fuss, fiddle or Foreword, and the book steams straight into the meat of the matter with the accumulated first year and a half of material featuring the masked mystery-man, plus all those stunning covers spanning Detective Comics #27-45, Batman #1-3 and the Dynamic Duo’s story from New York World’s Fair Comics 1940. That cumulatively covers every groundbreaking escapade from May 1939 to November 1940.

As Eny Fule Kno, Detective #27 featured the Darknight Detective’s debut in the ‘Case of the Chemical Syndicate!’ by Bob Kane and as yet still anonymous close collaborator/co-originator Bill Finger.

A spartan, understated yarn introduced dilettante playboy criminologist Bruce Wayne, drawn into a straightforward crime-caper as a cabal of industrialists are successively murdered. The killings stop when an eerie figure dubbed “The Bat-Man” intrudes on Police Commissioner Gordon’s stalled investigation to ruthlessly expose and deal with the hidden killer.

The following issue saw the fugitive vigilante return to crush ‘Frenchy Blake’s Jewel Gang’ before encountering his very first psychopathic killer and returning villain in Detective Comics #29. Gardner Fox scripted these next few adventures beginning with ‘The Batman Meets Doctor Death’, in a deadly duel of wits with deranged, greedy general practitioner Karl Hellfern and his assorted instruments of murder: the most destructive and diabolical of which was sinister Asiatic manservant Jabah…

This is my cue to remind all interested parties that these stories were created in far less tolerant times with numerous narrative shortcuts and institutionalised social certainties expressed in all media that most today will find offensive. If that’s a deal-breaker, please pass on this book… and most literature, pop songs and films created before the 1960s…

Confident of their new villain’s potential, Kane, Fox and inker Sheldon Mayer encored the mad medic for the next instalment and ‘The Return of Doctor Death’, before Fox & Finger co-scripted a 2-part shocker debuting the first bat-plane, Bruce’s girlfriend Julie Madison and undead horror The Monk in an expansive, globe-girdling spooky saga. ‘Batman Versus the Vampire’ concluded the tale with an epic chase across Eastern Europe and a spectacular climax in a monster-filled castle in issue #32.

Detective #33 featured Fox & Kane’s ‘The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom’: a blockbusting disaster thriller which just casually slips in the secret origin of the grim avenger, as mere prelude to intoxicating air-pirate action, before Euro-trash dastard Duc D’Orterre finds his uncanny science and unsavoury appetites no match for the mighty Batman in ‘Peril in Paris’.

Bill Finger returned as lead scripter in issue #35, pitting the Cowled Crusader against crazed cultists murdering everyone who had seen their sacred jewel in ‘The Case of the Ruby Idol’ – although the many deaths are actually caused by a far more prosaic villain. Inked by new kid Jerry Robinson, grotesque criminal genius ‘Professor Hugo Strange’ debuted with his murderous man-made fog and lightning machine in #36, after which all-pervasive enemy agents ‘The Spies’ prove no match for the vengeful Masked Manhunter in DC #37.

Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) changed the landscape of comic books forever with the introduction of ‘Robin, The Boy Wonder’: child trapeze artist Dick Grayson – whose parents are murdered before his eyes – thereafter joins Batman in a lifelong quest by bringing to justice mobster mad dog Boss Zucco

After the Flying Grayson’s killers were captured, Batman #1 (Spring 1940) opened proceedings with a recycled origin culled from portions of Detective Comics #33 and 34. ‘The Legend of the Batman – Who He Is and How He Came to Be!’ by Fox, Kane & Moldoff delivers in two perfect pages what is still the best ever origin of the character, after which ‘The Joker’ (Finger, Kane & Robinson – who also produced all the remaining tales in this astonishing premiere issue) launches the greatest villain in DC’s pantheon via a stunning tale of extortion and wilful wanton murder.

‘Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters’ follows as an old adversary returns, unleashing laboratory-grown hyperthyroid horrors to rampage through the terrified city whilst ‘The Cat’ – who later added the suffix ‘Woman’ to her name to avoid any possible doubt or confusion – plies her felonious trade of jewel thief aboard the wrong cruise-liner and falls foul for the first time of the dashing Dynamic Duo.

The initial issue ends with the ‘The Joker Returns’ as the sinister clown breaks jail to resume his terrifying campaign of murder for fun and profit before “dying” in mortal combat with the Gotham Guardians.

Following a superb pin-up (originally the back cover of that premier issue) of the Dynamic Duo by Kane, tense suspense and all-out action continues in Detective #39 and Finger, Kane & Robinson’s ‘The Horde of the Green Dragon’ – “oriental” Tong killers in Chinatown – after which ‘Beware of Clayface!’ sees the Dynamic Duo solving a string of murders on a film set which almost sees Julie Madison the latest victim of a monstrous movie maniac…

Batman and Robin solved the baffling mystery of a kidnapped boy in Detective #41’s ‘A Master Murderer’ before enjoying their second solo outing in a quartet of comics classics from Batman #2 (Summer 1940). It begins with ‘Joker Meets Cat-Woman’ (Finger, Kane, Robinson & new find George Roussos) wherein svelte thief, homicidal jester and a crime syndicate all tussle for the same treasure. with our Caped Crusaders caught in the middle.

‘Wolf, the Crime Master’ then offers a fascinating take on the classic Jekyll & Hyde tragedy after which an insidious and ingenious mystery ensues in ‘The Case of the Clubfoot Murderers’, before Batman and Robin confront uncanny savages and ruthless showbiz promoters in poignant monster story ‘The Case of the Missing Link’.

‘Batman and Robin Visit the New York World’s Fair’ comes from the second New York World’s Fair Comics. Finger, Kane & Roussos followed the vacationing Dynamic Duo as they track down a maniac mastermind with a metal-dissolving ray, after which Detective Comics #42 again finds our heroes ending another murderous maniac’s rampage in ‘The Case of the Prophetic Pictures!’ before clashing with a corrupt mayor in #43’s ‘The Case of the City of Terror!’

An unparalleled hit, Batman stories never rested on their laurels. The creators always sought to expand their parameters, as with Detective #44’s nightmarish fantasy of giants and goblins in ‘The Land Behind the Light!’. Then, Batman #3 (Fall 1940) has Finger, Kane, Robinson & Roussos rise to even greater heights, beginning with ‘The Strange Case of the Diabolical Puppet Master’: an eerie episode of uncanny mesmerism and infamous espionage…

A grisly scheme unfolds next as innocent citizens are mysteriously transformed into specimens of horror, and artworks destroyed by the spiteful commands of ‘The Ugliest Man in the World’ before ‘The Crime School for Boys!!’ registers Robin infiltrating a gang who have a cruel and cunning recruitment plan for dead-end kids…

‘The Batman vs. the Cat-Woman’ lastly reveals the larcenous lady in well over her head when she steals for – and from – the wrong people…

The issue also offered a worthy Special Feature as ‘The Batman Says’ presents an illustrated prose Law & Order pep-talk crafted by Whitney Ellsworth and illustrated by Robinson.

The all-out action concludes here with a magnificent and horrific Joker jape from Detective Comics #45 as ‘The Case of the Laughing Death’ displays the Harlequin of Hate undertaking a campaign of macabre murder against everyone who has ever defied or offended him…

With full Creator Biographies and comic covers by Kane, Robinson & Roussos plus all the other general action ones by Fred Guardineer & Creig Flessel (crafted before the superheroes took over the front page forever), this is a stunning monument to exuberance and raw talent. Kane, Robinson and their compatriots created an iconography which carried the Batman feature well beyond its allotted life-span until later creators could re-invigorate it. They added a new dimension to children’s reading – and their work remains captivatingly accessible.

These primal stories set the standard for comic superheroes. Whatever you like now, you owe it to these stories. Superman gave us the idea, but writers like Finger and Fox refined and defined the meta-structure of the costumed crime-fighter. Where the Man of Steel was as much Social Force and wish fulfilment hero, Batman and Robin did what we ordinary mortals wanted to do. They taught bad people the lessons they deserved…

These are tales of elemental power and joyful exuberance, brimming with deep mood and addictive action. Comicbook heroics simply don’t come any better. More than anything else, this book serves to perfectly recapture the mood and impact of a revolutionary masked avenger and, of course, delights my heavily concealed inner child no end.
© 1939, 1940, 2016 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

A Very DC Valentine’s Day


By Cecil Castellucci, Amanda Conner, Andy Diggle, Paul Dini, Ray Fawkes, Phil Hester, Kyle Higgins, Collin Kelly, Alisa Quitney, Jackson Lanzing, Peter Milligan, Ann Nocenti, Steve Orlando, Jimmy Palmiotti, James Robinson, Mark Russell, Mairghread Scott, Tim Seeley, Simon Bisley, Ben Caldwell, Aaron Campbell, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Mirko Colak, Andrew Currie, Javier Fernandez, Julio Ferreira, Julius Gopez, Sanford Greene, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Frazer Irving, Kelley Jones, Nic Klein, Emanuela Lupacchino, Guillem March, John McCrea, Jaime Mendoza, Inaki Miranda, Robson Rocha, Thony Silas, Cam Smith, John Timms & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1401287665 (TPB/Digital edition)

After generations of incorporating seasonal occasions, milestones and themes into their regular chronology, in recent years comics publishers have started releasing special issues and compilations to single out those sale-enhancing moments. For DC, that process really began during their New 52 reboot…

Regrettably eschewing their own vast back catalogue of magnificently-limned genre romance material (still… maybe one day, hey?) the home of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman released all-new anthologies exploring the many roads to and ways of loving.

In 2018, three one-shots – Young Monsters in Love #1, Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1 and Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special #1 – were tangled together as a celebratory tome which might entice less traditional fans…

We begin with Young Monsters in Love #1, which hit stores on February 7th 2018 carrying an April cover-date. It opens with a tale of Man-Bat wherein Kyle Higgins, Kelley Jones & colourist Michelle Madsen expose the bestial inner monologue of Kirk Langstrom’s “Nocturnal Animal”’ as the self-mutated science renegade seeks to rekindle his romantic relationship with ex-wife Francine

Tim Seeley, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Cam Smith also explore that theme of stability lost as Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. reviews his centuries-long relationship with “The Bride” in ‘Pieces of Me’ whilst Clark Kent and his son Jon learn a few hard truths about love and loss in ‘Buried on Sunday’. It’s a potentially shattering lesson for the Man of Steel and Superboy who seek to ensure that Solomon Grundy does not wallow in the eternal despair of bereavement as sensitively detailed by Mairghread Scott, Bryan Hitch & Andrew Currie…

Disgruntled Teen Titan/peripatetic ghost buster Raven discovers ‘The Dead Can Dance’ on a long-deferred Prom Night(mare) by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing & Javier Fernandez, after which Paul Dini & Guillem March expose the cruel traumas of elementary school bullying when Deadman saves a lonely boy crushed and nearly killed by the annual purgatory of card-giving in ‘Be My Valentine’

Swamp Thing loves and loses another frail and fragile human contact in the beautifully eerie ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ by Mark Russell & Frazer Irving, before Steve Orlando & Nic Klein push the parameters of amour and self-sacrifice when queer cop Maggie Sawyer seeks to stop a potential bloodbath as Monsieur Mallah & The Brain (of the Brotherhood of Evil) seek a way to further their impossibly complex relationship by looking backwards in ‘Visibility’

Andrew Bennet (I, Vampire, by Alisa Quitney & Stephanie Hans) then experiences painful revelation when forced to accept a new role for his ever-maturing disciple in ‘The Turning of Deborah Dancer’, whereas EtriganThe Demon – brutally challenges the entire infernal host to reach Jason Blood’s lost love in ‘To Hell and Gone’ by Phil Hester &Mirko Colak.

Amidst the madness of WWII, the warped wooing closes with a distressing brush-off letter to the Creature Commandos’ man-made vampire in ‘Dear Velcoro’, by James Robinson & John McCrea.

Heralding a shift from dark dilemmas to costumed courting – courtesy of the contents of Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1 (originally cover-dated April 2013) – our soap-opera sagas start with Catwoman reminiscing over her first meeting and troubled history with Batman in Ann Nocenti, Emanuela Lupacchino & Jaime Mendoza’s ‘Think it Through’

Aquaman & Mera uncover unrequited love and reunite unquiet separated spirits in ‘The Lighthouse’ (by Cecil Castellucci & Inaki Miranda) before Batgirl Babs Gordon lets her guard down with a certified bad boy in Ray Fawkes & Julius Gopez’s ‘Dreamer’.

Superhero teammates Apollo & Midnighter revisit their first “ mad moment” mid-mission in ‘Seoul Brothers’ by Peter Milligan & Simon Bisley, whilst paragon legacy hero Nightwing makes all his old mistakes again with new foe/ally/love interest Ursa in ‘Another Saturday Night’ by Kyle Higgins & Sanford Greene…

One of the biggest and most touted draws of the New 52 was the sidelining of Lois Lane and shocking romantic entanglement of Superman and Wonder Woman. Here, Andy Diggle, Robson Rocha & Julio Ferreira depict the ultimate power couple in the early, exploratory stages of that relationship and learning via a shocking game of ‘Truth or Dare’ …until spiteful sirens and a possessed god of love violently object…

The final third of this torrid tome sees lunatic love bandit Harleen Quinzel hog the limelight and steal the show with an extended epic from the Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special #1: released on February 11th 2015 and once again cover-dated for the month of All Fools…

Written by Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, and collaboratively illustrated by John Timms, Ben Caldwell, Aaron Campbell, Thony Silas and colourists Paul Mounts & Hi-Fi, ‘Just Batty Over You’ offers an hallucinogenic rollercoaster ride of passions and perplexing playfulness as The Joker’s former main squeeze espies and is enthralled by super-sexy Bruce Wayne who is a prize in a charity dating auction…

She determines to make him hers and the abduction part goes off pretty much as required. However, complicating the scheme is Harley’s own meandering grip on reality, Bruce’s many jobs and secrets, so very much over-applied and shared narcotic inducement, hench-folk who can only see the billionaire’s vast dollar-value and the perpetual interference of briny costumes activists The Carp and Sea Robin, who really want everybody to heed their message of marine environmental crisis…

Daft, delightful and delivered with perfect timing and elan, this lustful lark caps a supremely frothy and inconsequential diversion to charm casual and fully committed thrill seekers in equal amounts.
© 2013, 2015, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Scooby-Doo! Team-Up volume 2


By Sholly Fisch, Dario Brizuela, Scott Jeralds & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5859-7 (TPB/Digital edition)

The links between kids’ animated features and comic books are long established and, I suspect, for young consumers, indistinguishable. After all, it’s just adventure entertainment in the end…

Although never actual comics workers, animation titans and series-writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears co-originated dozens of cartoon shows which ultimately translated into multi-million comic book sales, joy and glee for generations and a subtle reshaping of the world’s cultural landscape. They popularised the superhero concept on TV, through shows like Superman, The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show and Thundarr the Barbarian, consequently employing former funnybook creators such as Doug Wildey, Alex Toth, Steve Gerber, Jack Kirby and other comics giants. For all that, they are most renowned for devising mega-brand Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

Over decades of screen material, Scooby-Doo and his two-legged sidekicks Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Freddy became global icons, and amidst mountains of merchandise and derivatives generated by the franchise was a succession of comic book series. They started with Gold Key (30 issues beginning December 1969 and ending in 1974), through Charlton (11 issues 1975-1976); Marvel (9 issues 1977-1979); Harvey (1993-1994) and Archie (21 issues, 1995-1997). The creative cast included Phil DeLara, Jack Manning, Warren Tufts, Mark Evanier, Dan Spiegle, Bill Williams, and many, many others.

In 1997, DC Comics acquired all Hanna Barbera properties for its Cartoon Network imprint, which was for a very long time the last bastion of children’s comics in America. It produced some truly magical homespun material (such as Tiny Titans, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!) as well as stunning interpretations of such television landmarks as Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, Ben 10 and vintage gems such as The Flintstones and Scooby Doo…

In 2013, the pesky mystery-solving kids fully integrated with the DCU via a digital series of team ups that inevitably manifested as comics books and graphic novels. Compiling online chapters #13-24 of Scooby-Doo! Team-Up, which were then released as #7-12 (December 2014-May 2015) of a physical comic book, this second captivating compendium consists of a wild parade of joint ventures from writer Sholly Fisch, blending the best of both worlds – animated screen and folding paper…

Lettered throughout by Saida Temofonte we kick off with ‘Scooby-Doo, When are you?’, visualised by Scott Jeralds & colourist Franco Riesco as, way back when, Professor Alfred Einstone‘s new time machine plucks the plucky kids of Mystery Inc. back to the Stone Age. Unable to return the future kids stay with the professors neighbours Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, but it’s not long before they are all embroiled in scary hijinks after a trip to the theatre leads to a clash with The Phantom of the Operrock…

After joining forces to expose a property scam and prove rich businessmen  are evil in very era the visitors are sent home thanks to the power of super alien the Great Gazoo, but he slightly overshoots them…

With hues by Wendy Broome, the amazed investigators are ‘Future Shocked’ to materialise far ahead of their own time in the home of George Jetson and his post-atomic family, just in time to save George’s job as a Space-Age Specter targets Spacely Sprockets and bitter rival Cogswells Cogs. With the profit motive not applicable to this case, Velma soon deduces who’s really behind the ghostly goings on before a lucky coincidence finally restores our time travellers to their own milieu…

In modern day Metropolis, the Daily Planet is plagued by Great Caesar’s Ghost in ‘Truth, Justice, and Scooby Snacks’ courtesy of Fisch, artist Dario Brizuela, and colourist Franco Riesco. Knowing his limits, Superman calls in the gang to help Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White solve the baffling case and unmask a sneaky super-villain behind everything.

However, when Red Kryptonite turns the Action Ace into a monster and the reporters pitch in to help, their temporary technologically-induced superpowers accidentally end up in Scooby and Shaggy. Good thing Superdog Krypto is around to help…

Another classic Hanna Barbera feature returns as ‘Quest for Mystery!’ sees the ghostbusting teen in competition with boy adventurer Jonny Quest and his monster-hunting family. When the cursed Keeler Ruby is stolen and a mummy marauds through a museum, sinister mastermind Doctor Zin is unmasked after Jonny’s genius dad Dr. Benton Quest is abducted. Of course, even Zin’s Island of Monsters proves inadequate against Shaggy and Scooby’s talent for inducing fortunate accidents…

When warring nations seek to sign a peace treaty, the spirit of warrior King Leopold disrupts the ceremony and spy agency International Sneaky Service consults Freddie, Daphne and Velma for a solution. With Scooby and Shaggy in tow, the kids get on the case with top ISS operative Secret Squirrel (and Morocco Mole!) to unmask an old enemy disrupting peace for profit in ‘I Spy Something… Boo!’

The never-ending chase closes for now with a return trip to Batman’s hometown and clash with ‘Gotham Ghouls’, with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy setting a trap for the gang. Happily, it’s just a means of securing their assistance against a spook singling the bad girls out for personalised torment. However, once the kids start looking, they soon see that the haunting is not supernatural in nature, and it’s not one persecuting phantom, but two…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV kids of a certain vintage, this fast-paced, funny and superbly inclusive parcel of thrills deliciously revisits the charm of early DC in stand-alone mini-sagas no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, entertaining, well-rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a terrific tome offering perfect, old fashioned delight. What more do you need to know?
© 2015 Hanna-Barbera. All Rights Reserved. Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, Secret Squirrel and all related characters and elements are ™ and © Hanna-Barbera (s15). Superman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and all related characters and elements are ™ & © DC Comics.

The Black Canary: Bird of Prey


By Bob Kanigher, Gardner Fox, Denny O’Neil, Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella, Murphy Anderson, Alex Toth & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0908-6 (TPB)

Black Canary was one of the first of relatively few female heroes to hold a star spot in the DC universe, following Wonder Woman, Liberty Belle and Red Tornado (who actually masqueraded as a man to comedically crush crime – with a couple of kids in tow, too!). The Canary predated Merry, the Gimmick Girl – remember her? No, you don’t – and disappeared with most the majority of costumed crusaders at the end of the Golden Age: a situation that was not remedied util her revival with the Justice Society of America in 1963.

She was created by Bob Kanigher & Carmine Infantino in 1947, echoing the worldly, dangerous women cropping up in a burgeoning wave of crime novels and on the silver screen in Film Noir tales better suited to the wiser, more cynical Americans who had just endured a World War and were even then gearing up for a paranoiac Cold one…

Clad in a revealing bolero jacket, shorts, fishnet stockings and high-heeled pirate boots, the devastating shady lady who looked like Veronica Lake even began life as a thief…

This superb collection capitalises on the character’s recent screen incarnations, gathering her admittedly short run of tales from Flash Comics (#86-104, August 1947-February 1949), Comics Cavalcade #25 (February/March 1948), plus two adventures that went unused when the comicbook folded: one of the earliest casualties in the wave of changing tastes which decimated the superhero genre until the late 1950s. Those last only resurfaced at the end of the Second Great Superhero Winnowing and were subsequently published in DC Special #3 and Adventure Comics #399 (June 1969 & November 1970 respectively).

Also intriguingly included are two stellar appearances from Brave and the Bold #61-62 (September & November 1965), teamed up with JSA team-mate Starman as part of a concerted yet ultimately vain editorial effort by Julius Schwartz to revive the Golden Age squad of champions then comfortably situated on parallel world Earth-2.

Best of all is the re-presentation of a 2-part thriller from Adventure Comics #418-419 (April-May 1972) following her migration to “our” world to replace Wonder Woman in the Justice League of America.

After years languishing in a hard-to-find or afford Archive edition, these treasures have thankfully migrated to the paperback and digital forms found here. I trust you are suitably grateful and will purchase and peruse accordingly…

In the heady, desperate days of post-war uncertainty, continuity was meagre and nobody cared much about origins. All that mattered was pace, plot, action and spectacle. As we’ll see, even when the Black Bird got her own strip, where she came from was never as important as who she faced…

Flash Comics #86 was just another superhero anthology publication, suffering a slow sales decline wherein perennial B-feature Johnny Thunder had long since passed his sell-by date. Although a member of the Justice Society of America, Johnny was an old-fashioned comedy idiot; a genuine simpleton who just happened to control a genie-like Thunderbolt.

His affable, good-hearted bumbling had carried him through the war, but changing fashions had no room for a hapless (adult) hero anymore. When he encountered a seductively masked female Robin Hood who stole from crooks, the writing was on the wall. In this introductory yarn, ‘The Black Canary’ tricks him and T-Bolt into acquiring an invitation to a crime-lord’s party, lifts the ill-gotten loot and leaves Johnny to mop up the hoods. It was lust at first sight…

Nothing much was expected from these complete-in-one-episode filler strips. Hawkman and The Flash still hogged all the covers and glory, and although young artists Infantino & Joe Giella gave it their all as they learned their craft on the job, writer/editor Kanigher was often clearly making it up as he went along…

The next Johnny Thunder instalment in #87 featured ‘The Black Canary Returns’ with the Blonde Bombshell again making the big goof her patsy by leaving a perilous package in his inept hands. When mobsters retrieve the purloined parcel and secret documents it contains, Johnny follows and, more by luck than design, rescues the Canary from a deadly trap.

She returned in #88 – sans domino-mask – using trained (black) canaries to deliver messages as again landing in over her head. Once more forced to use the big sap and his magic pal to extricate herself, she nevertheless retrieves ‘The Map that Wasn’t There’ from a pack of human jackals.

Flash Comics #89 held the last Johnny Thunder solo tale – so it’s not included here – but she returned in full force for #90 as Johnny Thunder and the Black Canary officially team up to thwart a photographic frame-up and blackmail plot in ‘Triple Exposure!’

The partnership evolves in #91 as gangsters use rockets and ‘The Tumbling Trees!’ in their efforts to trap the svelte nemesis of evil – and just to be clear: that’s her, not Johnny…

The strip became Black Canary with the next issue. She even got to appear on the Lee Elias cover with Flash and Hawkman. Johnny simply vanished without trace or mention and his name was peremptorily applied elsewhere to a new cowboy hero as the rise of traditional genre material such as westerns relentlessly rolled on…

In ‘The Huntress of the Highway!’ however, feisty florist Dinah Drake is being pestered by arrogant, obnoxious but so-very-manly private eye Larry Lance, only to realise the wreath she’s working on is for him. Doffing her dowdy duds to investigate, she is just in time to save him from a wily gang of truck hijackers.

And that’s all the set-up we got. The new status quo was established and a pattern for fast-paced but inconsequential rollercoaster action romps took off…

To celebrate her arrival, the Canary also appeared in catch-all anthology Comics Cavalcade – specifically #25 (February/March 1948) where she flamboyantly finishes a ‘Tune of Terror!’ inflicted on a rural hick trying to claim an inheritance, but encountering nothing but music-themed menace…

A word of warning: Kanigher was a superbly gifted and wildly imaginative writer, but he never let sense or logic come between him and a memorable visual. The manic Deus ex Machina moment where a carpet of black canaries snatches the eponymous avenger and victim out of a death-plunge is, indeed, utter idiocy, but in those days, anything went…

Back in a more rational milieu and mood for Flash Comics #93, the ‘Mystery of the Crimson Crystal!’ sees the Canary tracking down a conman who bamboozled gullible women into parting with their fortunes for spurious immortality. On the home front, the utterly oblivious Larry has pressured shy Dinah into letting him use her shop as his detective office. Of course, the oaf has no idea his mousy landlady is the lethal object of his crime-busting desires…

The rather pedestrian ‘Corsage of Death!’ in #94 sees them save a scientist’s ultimate weapon from canny crooks, whilst ‘An Orchid for the Deceased!’ finds her framed for murder in an extremely classy Noir murder mystery before #96 combines equestrian robbery with aerial combat as gem thieves risk innocent lives to solve ‘The Riddle of the Topaz Brooch!’

Finally finding a formula that worked, Kanigher had Larry and the Canary investigate textile thieving thugs involved in ‘The Mystery of the Stolen Cloth!’ and murdering stamp-stealers in #98’s ‘The Byzantine Black’, as Infantino’s illustration grew ever more efficient and boldly effective.

‘Time Runs Out!’ in #99 ups the drama as ruthless radium-stealing gangsters trap the duo in a giant hourglass, before #100 again utilises baroque props and plots as they track a model-making gang of burglars and are unexpectedly caught in ‘The Circle of Terror!’

Just as the stories were building momentum and finding a unique voice, the curtains were beginning to draw closed. ‘The Day that Wouldn’t End!’ in #101 sees Canary and gumshoe uncover a sinister scheme to drive a rich man mad; Dinah’s shop becomes an unsuspected tool of crafty crooks in ‘The Riddle of the Roses!’ and ‘Mystery on Ice!’ finds the capable crime-crushers suckered by a pack of thieves determined to steal a formula vital to America’s security.

Flash Comics closed with #104, making way for new titles and less fantastic thrills. ‘Crime on Her Hands!’ ended the Canary’s crusade on a high, however, with an absorbing murder-mystery involving a college class of criminologists. She wouldn’t be seen again until the return of the Justice Society as part of the Silver Age revival of costumed mystery men, when awestruck readers learned that there were infinite Earths and untold wonders to see…

Nevertheless, the sudden cancellation meant two months’ worth of material was in various stages of preparation when the axe fell. The “All-Girl Issue” (yes, I know, but it was actually progress for the times, so please just go with it if you can) of reprint series DC Special (#3) subsequently printed one of the Canary yarns in April 1969. Bernard Sachs inked Infantino as ‘Special Delivery Death!’ finds Lance framed for murder and both Dinah and Black Canary using their particular gifts to clear him. Adventure Comics #399 (November 1970) printed the last story as ‘Television Told the Tale!’, revealing how a live broadcast tips off the Blonde Bombshell to crime in the making…

Once the Silver Age revival took hold, superheroes were everywhere and response to Earth-2 appearances prompted DC to try-out a number of impressive permutations designed to bring back the World’s first team of costumed adventurers.

Try-out comic The Brave and the Bold #61 (August-September 1965) offered a brace of truly titanic tales by Gardner Fox & Murphy Anderson, pairing the Canary with Ted Knight, the Sentinel of Super-Science called Starman. The deliriously delights began with ‘Mastermind of Menaces’, as vile techno-wizard The Mist returned, using doctored flowers to hypnotise his victims into voluntarily surrendering their wealth. When he utilised Dinah’s flower shop to source his souped-up blooms, she, husband Larry and visiting pal Ted were soon on the villain’s trail…

Mystery and intrigue gave way to all-out action in #62’s ‘The Great Superhero Hunt!’ as husband-and-wife criminals Sportsmaster and Huntress stalked superheroes for kicks and profit. By the time Feline Fury Wildcat became their first victim, Ted and Dinah were on the case and ready for anything…

These latter classic tales alone are worth the price of purchase, but this splendid tome still has the very best to come as Adventure Comics #418 & 419 provide a scintillating 2-part graphic extravaganza by Dennis O’Neil & the legendary Alex Toth.

Originally an Earth-2 crime-fighter, Dinah was transplanted to our world by the wonders of trans-dimensional vibration after husband Larry was killed (see Justice League of America #73-75 and assorted JLA compilations).

Beginning a possibly rebound romance with Green Arrow, Dinah struggled to find her feet on a strangely different yet eerily familiar world. In ‘Circle of Doom Parts 1 & 2’ she accepts a job teaching self-defence to women. The bereaved troubleshooter has no idea her pupils are hirelings of vicious criminal Catwoman and the martial arts moves she shares will lead to her death and the liberation of a deadly menace…

Augmented by detailed biographies of the many people who worked on the character, this admittedly erratic collection starts slow but builds in quality until it ranks amongst the very best examples of Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy. Why not see for yourself?

© 1947, 1948, 1949, 1965, 1969, 1970, 1972, 2021 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Batman: The Bat and the Cat – 80 Years of Romance


By Bill Finger & Bob Kane, Jack Schiff, Len Wein, Alan Brennert, Darwyn Cooke, Jeph Loeb, Ed Brubaker, Tom King, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos, Irv Novick, Joe Staton, Tim Sale, Jim Lee, Sean Phillips, David Finch, Mikel Janín, Joëlle Jones & many and various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9585-1 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Romance for All Seasons… 8/10

There’s a hideously misogynistic adage from my ancient childhood that I can’t get out of my head after reading this compilation of tales celebrating the second longest love story in comic books…

“Man chases Woman until She catches Him.”

Once you’ve stopped scowling/screaming/vomiting, I ask you to consider whether, in this one specific instance, there might be kernel of truth to be gleaned here.

A sultry, sneaky, powerful thief has been alternately vamping and thumping a stiff-necked, doctrinaire, high-minded myrmidon for eight decades now and that relationship is still going strong: perpetually running hot and cold and generating plenty of sparks and engrossing entertainment for all of us voyeuristic fans.

As much promoting the Batman/Catwoman wedding publishing event as celebrating 80 years of tantalising sexual tension and masked roleplay, this carefully curated hardcover and/or digital compilation gathers material from Batman (volume 1) #1, 3, 15, 324, 392, 615; The Brave and the Bold #197; Solo #1; Catwoman #32; Batman (volume 3) #24, 44, 50 – as well as offering a gallery of breathtaking covers – and opens sans preamble or editorial comment with ‘The Cat’ by Bill Finger, Bob Kane & Jerry Robinson from the Dark Knight’s first solo-starring issue, released in  Spring 1940.

Third story in that landmark was ‘The Cat’ – who later added the suffix ‘Woman’ to her name to avoid any possible doubt or confusion – who plied her felonious trade of jewel theft aboard the wrong cruise-liner, rapidly falling foul for the first time to the dashing Dynamic Duo. Even then she tried to escape the consequences of her actions by vamping the big boy scout… with no appreciable result…

The larcenous lady returned in the Fall for #3 in Finger, Kane, Robinson & George Roussos’ ‘The Batman vs. the Cat-Woman’: clad in cape and costume but once again in well over her masked head by stealing for – and from – all the wrong people…

She graduated to full villain status in Batman #15 (February/March 1943, by Jack Schiff, Kane & Robinson) as ‘Your Face is your Fortune!’ exposed the Feline Fury taking on a job at a swanky Beauty Parlour to gain intel for her crimes, but inadvertently falling for Society Batchelor Bruce Wayne…

There were decades of stories before Batman #324 (June 1980) but Len Wein, Irv Novick & Bob Smith’s ‘The Cat Who Would be King’ is significant as it reveals a growing intimacy leading to something more as the Dark Knight remorselessly battles Catman for a mystical remedy to the disease inexorably killing Selina Kyle…

Next up is an alternate universe yarn, where The Brave and the Bold #197 (April 1983) sees Alan Brennert, Joe Staton & George Freeman reveal how in 1955 the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman clashed with the Scarecrow before finally sheathing their claws and getting married in ‘The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne!’

Doug Moench, Tom Mandrake & Jan Duursema then detail ‘A Town on the Night’ (Batman #392, February 1986) as a newly-reformed Feline Avenger futilely seeks to get her masked man to take her on a date in Gotham City, after which Solo #1 (December 2004) expands on the theme for ‘Date Knight’ by Darwyn Cooke & Tim Sale. Of course, Selina is back to her wild, wandering, pilfering ways now, which she thinks adds a slice of spice to the affair…

Extracted from extended epic Hush (chapter 8 from July 2003, if you’re counting), Batman # 615 – ‘The Dead’ by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee & Scott Williams – is pretty incomprehensible on its own, but is significant for one single interaction between the Cat and the Bat…

Catwoman #32 from August 2004 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Stefano Gaudiano and reveals how the on-again, off-again relationship gets very serious indeed in ‘Only Takes a Night’ before we jump to August 2017 and Batman volume 3, wherein issues #24, 44 and 50 give us the highlights of the whirlwind romance that declares ‘Every Epilogue is a Prelude’ (Tom King, David Finch Clay & Seth Mann) and enquires ‘Bride or Burglar’ (King, Mikel Janín & Joëlle Jones) before finally presenting ‘The Wedding of Batman & Catwoman’ (by King, Janín and an army of guest creators.

Also included is a gallery of classic covers for tales which didn’t make the final cut here, and some wedding dress designs, to tantalise and keep all the romantics on edge for the next 80 years…

Fun and thoughtful, whilst reviving a few lesser-known yarns, this is a solid serving of froth and cake to delight fans of Costumed Dramas. And who doesn’t love a wedding, right?
© 1940, 1980, 1983, 1986, 2003, 2004, 2018, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Black Canary Archives volume 1


By Bob Kanigher, Gardner Fox, Denny O’Neil, Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella, Murphy Anderson, Alex Toth & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-734-4 (HB)

Black Canary was one of the first of relatively few female furies to hold a star spot in the DC universe, following Wonder Woman, Liberty Belle and Red Tornado (who actually masqueraded as a man to comedically crush crime – with a couple of kids in tow, too!). She predated Merry, the Gimmick Girl (remember her?) and disappeared with most of other superheroes at the end of the Golden Age, to be revived with the Justice Society of America in 1963.

She was created by Bob Kanigher & Carmine Infantino in 1947, echoing the worldly, dangerous women cropping up in the burgeoning wave of crime novels and on the silver screen in film noir tales better suited to the wiser, more cynical Americans who had just endured a World War and were even then gearing up for a paranoiac Cold one…

Clad in a revealing bolero jacket, shorts, fishnet stockings and high-heeled pirate boots, the devastating shady lady who looked like Veronica Lake even began life as a thief…

This superb full-colour hardback collection was released in 2001 to capitalise on the character’s small screen debut in the first Birds of Prey TV series. It gathers her admittedly short run of tales in Flash Comics (#86-104, August 1947 – February 1949), Comics Cavalcade #25 (February/March 1948), plus two adventures that went unused when the comicbook folded: one of the earliest casualties in the wave of changing tastes which decimated the superhero genre until the late 1950s. Those last only resurfaced at the end of the Second Great Superhero Winnowing and were subsequently published in DC Special #3 and Adventure Comics #399 (June 1969 & November 1970 respectively).

Also intriguingly included are two stellar appearances in Brave and the Bold #61-62 (September & November 1965), therein teamed up with JSA team-mate Starman as part of a concerted but ultimately vain editorial effort by Julius Schwartz to revive the Golden Age squad of champions situated on parallel world Earth-2.

Best of all is the re-presentation of a 2-part solo thriller from Adventure Comics #418-419 (April – May 1972) after she successfully migrated to “our” world and replaced Wonder Woman in the Justice League of America.

Regrettably, all these treasures can only be found here. Incomprehensibly, DC have allowed this entire imprint of reading gold lie fallow for years, both in print and digital formats. Hopefully, events in their cinematic analogues will entice them into reviving the Archive line… and adding to it…

In the heady, desperate days of post-war uncertainty, continuity was meagre and nobody cared much about origins. All that mattered was pace, plot, action and spectacle. As we’ll see, even when the Black Bird got her own strip, where she came from was never as important as who she faced…

Flash Comics #86 was just another superhero anthology publication, suffering a slow downturn in sales, and perennial back-up feature Johnny Thunder had long since passed its sell-by date. Although a member of the JSA, Johnny was an idiot; a genuine simpleton who just happened to control a genie-like Thunderbolt.

His affable good-hearted bumbling had carried him through the war, but changing fashions had no room for a hapless (adult) hero anymore. When he encountered a masked female Robin Hood who stole from crooks, the writing was on the wall. In this introductory yarn, ‘The Black Canary’ tricks him and T-Bolt into acquiring an invitation to a crime-lord’s party, lifts the ill-gotten loot and leaves Johnny to mop up the hoods. It was lust at first sight…

Nothing much was expected from these complete-in-one-episode filler strips. Hawkman and The Flash still hogged all the covers and glory, and although young artists Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella gave it their all as they learned their craft on the job, writer/editor Robert Kanigher was often clearly making it up as he went along…

The next Johnny Thunder instalment in #87 featured the immediate return of the Blonde Bombshell as she again makes the big goof her patsy, leaving ‘The Package of Peril’ in his inept hands. When mobsters retrieve the purloined parcel and secret documents it contains, Johnny follows and, more by luck than design, rescues the Canary from a deadly trap.

She returned in #88 – sans domino-mask now – using trained black canaries to deliver messages as she again finds herself in over her head and is forced to use the big sap and his magic pal to extricate herself before retrieving ‘The Map that Wasn’t There’ from a pack of human jackals.

Flash Comics #89 held the last Johnny Thunder solo tale as ‘Produce the Crime!’ sees the cheerful chump accidentally busting a gem-smuggling scheme without any help from the Girl Gladiator – but she did return in full force for #90 as ‘Johnny Thunder and the Black Canary’ officially team up to thwart a photographic frame-up and blackmail plot in ‘Triple Exposure!’

They resumed the partnership in #91 as gangsters used rockets and ‘The Tumbling Trees!’ in their efforts to trap the svelte nemesis of evil – and just to be clear: that’s her, not Johnny…

The strip became Black Canary with the next issue. She even got to appear on the Lee Elias cover with Flash and Hawkman. Johnny simply vanished without trace or mention and his name was peremptorily applied elsewhere to a new cowboy hero as the rise of traditional genre material such westerns relentlessly rolled on…

In ‘The Huntress of the Highway!’, feisty florist Dinah Drake is being pestered by arrogant, obnoxious but so-very-manly private eye Larry Lance, only to realise that the wreath she is working on is for him. Doffing her dowdy duds to investigate, the Blonde Bombshell is just in time to save him from a wily gang of truck hijackers.

And that’s all the set-up we got. The new status quo was established and a pattern for fast-paced but inconsequential rollercoaster action romps took off…

To celebrate her arrival, the Canary also appeared in catch-all anthology Comics Cavalcade – specifically #25 cover-dated February/March 1948 where she flamboyantly finishes a ‘Tune of Terror!’ inflicted on a rural hick trying to claim an inheritance, but encountering nothing but music-themed menace…

A word of warning: Kanigher was a superbly gifted and wildly imaginative writer, but he never let sense come between him and a memorable visual. The manic Deus ex Machina moment where a carpet of black canaries snatches the eponymous avenger and victim out of a death-plunge is, indeed, utter idiocy, but in those days, anything went…

Back in a more rational milieu and mood for Flash Comics #93, the ‘Mystery of the Crimson Crystal!’ has the Canary tracking down a conman who bamboozled many gullible women into parting with their fortunes for spurious immortality. On the home front, the utterly oblivious Larry had pressured shy Dinah into letting him use her shop as his detective office. Of course, the oaf had no idea his mousy landlady was the lethal object of his crime-busting desires…

The rather pedestrian ‘Corsage of Death!’ in #94 sees them save a scientist’s ultimate weapon from canny crooks, whilst ‘An Orchid for the Deceased!’ spectacularly finds the Avian Avenger framed for murder in an extremely classy Noir murder mystery before #96 combines equestrian robbery with aerial combat as gem thieves risk innocent lives to solve ‘The Riddle of the Topaz Brooch!’

Finally finding a formula that worked, Kanigher had Larry and the Canary investigate textile thieving thugs involved in ‘The Mystery of the Stolen Cloth!’ and murdering stamp-stealers in #98’s ‘The Byzantine Black’, as Infantino’s art grew ever more efficient and boldly effective.

‘Time Runs Out!’ in #99 ups the drama as ruthless radium-stealing gangsters trap the duo in a giant hourglass, and #100 again utilises baroque props and plots as they track down a model-making gang of burglars and are unexpectedly caught in ‘The Circle of Terror!’

Just as the stories were building momentum and finding a unique voice, the curtains were beginning to draw closed. ‘The Day that Wouldn’t End!’ in #101 sees Canary and gumshoe uncover a sinister scheme to drive a rich man mad, Dinah’s shop becomes an unsuspected tool of crafty crooks in ‘The Riddle of the Roses!’, and ‘Mystery on Ice!’ finds the capable crime-crushers suckered by a pack of thieves determined to steal a formula vital to America’s security.

Flash Comics disappeared with #104, making way for new titles and less fantastic thrills. ‘Crime on Her Hands’ ended the Canary’s crusade on a high, however, with an absorbing murder-mystery involving a college class of criminologists. She wouldn’t be seen again until the return of the Justice Society as part of the Silver Age revival of costumed mystery men, when awestruck readers learned that there were infinite Earths and untold wonders to see…

Nevertheless, the sudden cancellation meant two months’ worth of material was in various stages of preparation when the axe fell. The “All-Girl Issue” of reprint series DC Special (#3) subsequently printed one of the Canary yarns in 1969, with Bernard Sachs inking Infantino as ‘Special Delivery Death!’ finds Lance framed for murder and both Dinah and Black Canary using their particular gifts to clear him. Adventure Comics #399 printed the last story as ‘Television Told the Tale!’, revealing how a live broadcast tips off the Blonde Bombshell to a crime in the making…

Once the Silver Age revival took hold, superheroes were everywhere and response to Earth-2 appearances prompted DC to try-out a number of impressive permutations designed to bring back the World’s first team of costumed adventurers.

Try-out comic The Brave and the Bold #61 offered a brace of truly titanic tales by Gardner Fox & Murphy Anderson, pairing the Canary with Ted Knight, the Sentinel of Super-Science known as Starman. The deliriously cool cases began with ‘Mastermind of Menaces’, as vile techno-wizard The Mist returned, using doctored flowers to hypnotise his victims into voluntarily surrendering their wealth.

When he utilised Dinah’s flower shop to source his souped-up blooms, she, husband Larry and visiting pal Ted were soon on the villain’s trail…

Mystery and intrigue gave way to all-out action in #62’s ‘The Great Superhero Hunt!’ as husband-and-wife criminals Sportsmaster and Huntress began stalking superheroes for kicks and profit. By the time Feline Fury Wildcat became their first victim Ted and Dinah were on the case and ready for anything…

These latter classic tales alone are worth the price of purchase, but this splendid tome still has the very best to come as Adventure Comics #418 & 419 provide a scintillating 2-part graphic extravaganza by Dennis O’Neil & the legendary Alex Toth.

Originally an Earth-2 crime-fighter, Dinah was transplanted to our world by the wonders of trans-dimensional vibration after husband Larry was killed (see Justice League of America #73-75 or many assorted JLA compilations). Beginning a possibly rebound romance with Green Arrow, Dinah struggled to find her feet on a strangely different yet eerily familiar world. In ‘The Canary and the Cat! Parts 1 & 2’ she accepts a job teaching self-defence to women. The bereaved Blonde Bombshell has no idea her pupils are hirelings of vicious criminal Catwoman and the martial arts moves she shares will lead to her death and the liberation of a deadly menace…

Augmented by a fond remembrance from co-creator Carmine Infantino in his Foreword and detailed biographies of the many people who worked on the character, this admittedly erratic collection starts slow but builds in quality until it ranks amongst the very best examples of Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy. I hope you get a chance to see it…
© 1947-1949, 1965, 1969, 1970, 1972, 2001 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.