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.

Superman in the Fifties


By Robert Bernstein, Otto Binder, Jerry Coleman, Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton, William Woolfolk, Wayne Boring, Al Plastino, Curt Swan, Win Mortimer, Kurt Schaffenberger, Stan Kaye, Ray Burnley, Sy Barry & various (DDC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0758-7 (TPB/Digital edition)

In the early years of this century, DC launched a series of graphic archives intended to define DC’s top heroes through the decades: delivering magnificent past comic book magic from the Forties to the Seventies via a tantalisingly nostalgic blast of other – arguably better, but certainly different – times. The collections carried the cream of the creative crop, divided into subsections, partitioned by cover galleries, and supplemented by short commentaries; a thoroughly enjoyable introductory reading experience. I prayed for more but was frustrated… until now…

First in a trilogy of trade paperbacks – the others being Batman and Wonder Woman (thus far, but hopefully Aquaman, Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter are in contention too, as they have become such big shot screen stars these days) – the experiment is being re-run, including even more inviting wonders from the company’s amazing, family-friendly canon.

Gathered here is an expanded menu of delights adding to that of the 2002 edition, and even rerunning Mark Waid’s original context-stuffed Introduction.

The stories originated in Action Comics #151, 162, 223, 232, 234, 236, 239, 242, 247, 249, 252, 254-255; Adventure Comics #210; Showcase #9; Superman #65, 79-80, 96-97, 118, 125, 127, Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #8; Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #13, 19 and World’s Finest Comics #68, 74, 75 which span the entire decade as the Adventures of Superman TV show propelled the Man of Tomorrow to even greater heights of popularity.

Supported by the first of a series of factual briefings, the collection leads with Part One: Classic Tales, opening on ‘Three Supermen from Krypton!’ Written by William Woolfolk and illustrated by Al Plastino (one of a talented triumvirate who absolutely defined the hero during this decade), it originated in Superman #65, (July/August 1950): a classy clash revealing unknown facts about Superman’s vanished homeworld. It also provided the increasingly untouchable champion with a much needed physical challenge after a capsule containing three comatose Kryptonian lawbreakers crashes on Earth and the inmates suddenly discover they have incredible powers…

Woolfolk and paramount art team Wayne Boring (peak of that triumvirate) & inker Stan Kaye probed outer space to provide another daunting threat in ‘The Menace from the Stars!’ (World’s Finest Comics #68, January/February 1954). However, all was not as it seemed in this quirky mystery, as a brush with a Green Kryptonite-infused asteroid gave the Man of Steel amnesia. Happily, before he could inadvertently expose his secret identity, another sudden impact set things aright…

Bill Finger, Boring & Kaye crafted ‘The Girl Who Didn’t Believe in Superman!’: a fanciful yet evocative human interest tale typical of the era and sorely missed in modern, adrenaline-drenched times. Cover-dated March 1955, the tearjerker from Superman #96 shared the tribulations of a blind child losing hope and is followed by a previously unseen entry.

‘It!’ debuted in Action Comics #162 (November 1951 by Finger, Boring & Kaye): an early alien-menace-with-a-moral yarn depicting a destructive rainbow-hued enigma terrorising Metropolis until the Man of Steel deduces the thing’s incredible secret.

Superman #97 (May 1955) carried Jerry Coleman, Boring & Kaye’s canonical landmark ‘Superboy’s Last Day in Smallville!’, revealing the previously unseen rite of passage by way of exposing a crook’s decades-delayed masterplan, after which Action Comics #239 exposes ‘Superman’s New Face’ (April 1958) – courtesy of famed pulp writer Edmond Hamilton, Boring & Kaye. When an atomic lab accident deforms Superman to the point that he must wear a full-face lead mask, there is – of course – method in his seeming madness…

The  first section closes with a tale from one of the many spin-off titles of the period – and one that gives many 21st century readers a few uncontrollable qualms of conscience. Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane was one of precious few comics with a female lead, but her character ranged erratically from man-hungry, unscrupulous schemer through ditzy simpleton to indomitable and brilliant heroine – often all in the same issue.

Most stories were played for laughs in a patriarchal, parochial manner; a “gosh, aren’t women funny?” tone that appals me today – but not as much as the fact that I still love them to bits. It helps that they’re all so beautifully illustrated by sublimely whimsical Kurt Schaffenberger. ‘The Ugly Superman!’ comes from #8 (April 1959), revealing how a costumed wrestler falls for Lois, giving the Caped Kryptonian another chance for some pretty unpleasant Super-teasing. It was written by the veteran Robert Bernstein, who – unlike me – can cite the tenor of the times as his excuse.

As the franchise expanded, so did the character roster and internal history. Part Two: The Superman Family is dedicated to our hero’s ever-extending supporting cast, leading with ‘Superman’s Big Brother!’ (Superman #80, January/February 1953). Scripted by Hamilton and limned by Plastino, it sees a wandering super-powered alien mistaken for a sibling, before an incredible truth comes out. It’s followed here by previously unreprinted tale ‘The First Superman of Krypton’ (Hamilton, Boring & Kaye, Action Comics #223, December 1956) with Superman finding video records from his birthworld and learning how – and why – his father Jor-El briefly enjoyed powers under a red sun…

Next comes the introduction of a genuine new family member. After the Man of Tomorrow made his mark as Earth’s premier champion, his originators took a long look and reasoned that a different perspective could provide a fresh look. What would it be like for a fun-loving lad who could do literally anything?

Answers came as Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster – following years agitating their publisher – unleashed Superboy: inventing and/or 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 spot 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, the Boy of Steel enjoyed an eventful, wonderful life which only got better in Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955), as Otto Binder, Curt Swan & Sy Barry introduced a wayward, mischievous and dangerously playful canine companion who had survived Krypton’s doom due to a freak accident in ‘The Super-Dog from Krypton!’.

Krypto had been baby Kal-El’s pet on Krypton before being used by desperate Jor-El as a test animal for the space rocket he was building. The dog’s miraculous arrival on Earth more than a decade later heralded a wave of survivors from the dead world over the latter part of the decade: all making Superboy less lonely and unique. Every kid needs a dog…

Fresh additions follow, beginning with ‘The Story of Superman, Junior’ (Action Comics #232, September 1959, by Coleman, Boring & Kaye) which sees the Man of Tomorrow adopt a super-powered lad whose space capsule crashes outside the city. However, Johnny Kirk is human, vanished from Earth years previously and his strangely familiar origin and eager inexperience poses an existential threat after the hero adopts him…

Cover-dated December 1958, Action Comics #247 details how an insidious criminal scheme to expose the hero’s secret identity prompts an extreme face-saving solution in Binder & Plastino’s ‘Superman’s Lost Parents!’ before we reach the landmark which, more than any other, moved Superman from his timeless Golden Age holdover status to become a vibrant part of the DC Silver Age revival. It came in in Action Comics #252 (May 1959) as ‘The Supergirl from Krypton!’ introduced cousin Kara Zor-El, born on a city-sized fragment of Krypton, which was somehow hurled intact into space when the planet exploded.

There had been a few intriguing test-runs before the future star of the ever-expanding Superman universe finally took off, but now the stage was set.

Eventually, Argo City turned to Kryptonite like the rest of the detonated world’s debris, and her dying parents – observing Earth through their scopes – sent their daughter to safety as they perished. Landing on Earth, she met Kal-El, who created her cover-identity of Linda Lee: hiding her in an orphanage in small town Midvale so she could learn about her new world and master her new powers in secrecy and safety. This time the concept struck home and the teenaged refugee began her lengthy career as a solo-star from the very next issue.

This section ends with another popular animal guest-star who was also one of the most memorable recurring super-foes of the period. ‘Titano the Super-Ape!’ debuted in Superman #127 (February 1959): a chimpanzee mutated into a Kryptonite-empowered King Kong analogue after being launched into space by rocket scientists. The chimp’s devotion to Lois and big hatred for the Man of Steel were unchanged in the aftermath, and as a skyscraper-sized giant ape with kryptonite vision, he became too dangerous to live. Thankfully, the Action Ace found another way in this beloved masterpiece by Binder, Boring & Kaye combining action, pathos and drama to superb effect.

Part Three: The Villains highlights our hero’s greatest enemies, leading with a team-up of The Prankster, Lex Luthor and extra-dimensional sprite Mr. Mxyztplk in a tale more mirthful mystery than moment of menace and mayhem. Devised by Hamilton, Boring & Kaye from Action Comics #151, December, 1950) ‘Superman’s Super-Magic Show!’ is followed by ‘The Creature of 1,000 Disguises!’ (Action Comics #234, November 1957) by the same team, with the hero plagued by a shapeshifting alien whose idea of fun is juvenile, frustrating and potentially catastrophic.

Superman #118 (January 1958) sees an uncredited writer & Plastino detail ‘The Death of Superman!’  as a fake Man of Steel tricks Lois in an attempt to secure damaging evidence after which Binder, Boring & Kaye reveal ‘Superman’s New Uniform!’ (Action Comics #236, January 1958) as a deadly plot by Luthor to destroy his arch enemy.

Binder & Plastino introduced both the greatest new villain and most expansive character concept the series had yet seen in Action Comics #242, (July 1958) as ‘The Super-Duel in Space’ saw evil alien scientist Brainiac attempt to add Metropolis to his menagerie of miniaturised cities in bottles.

As well as a titanic tussle in its own right, this tale completely changed the mythology of the Man of Steel: introducing Kandor, a city full of Kryptonians who had escaped the planet’s destruction when Brainiac captured them. Although Superman rescued his fellow survivors, the new villain escaped to strike again and again. It would be years before the hero restored the Kandorians to their original size.

Action Comics #249, (February 1959) sees Luthor deliberately irradiate himself with Green K to avoid capture in Binder & Plastino’s ‘The Kryptonite Man!’, but his evil genius proves no match for our hero’s sharp wits, used with equal aplomb in ‘The Battle with Bizarro!’ (Action #254, July 1959) by the same creative team. This story actually re-introduced the imperfect duplicate, who had initially appeared in a well-received story in Superboy #68, from 1958. Even way back then, sales trumped death…

The Frankensteinian doppelganger was resurrected thanks to Luthor’s malfunctioning duplicator ray and Bizarro’s well-intentioned search for a place in the world caused chaos, exacerbated when the lonely monster used the device to make more of his kind. The saga was continued over two issues – an almost unheard of luxury back then – concluding with outrageous empathy in ‘The Bride of Bizarro!’ (#255, August 1959).

Final section Part Four: Superman’s Pals stems largely from that epochal television show, which made most of the supporting cast into household names., but begins with an early exploit of the “World’s Finest Team” from World’s Finest Comics #74, January/February 1955. The great friends’ solidarity is upset after a shapeshifting alien orchestrates a manic rivalry but ‘The Contest of Heroes’ (Finger, Swan & Kaye) is not what it seems…

Superman #79 (November/December 1952) has Hamilton & Plastino depict how a corrupt publisher seeks ‘The End of the Planet!’ but is outfoxed by the dedication of the reporters he made jobless whilst ‘Superman and Robin!’ is a classic bait-and-switch teaser from WFC #75 (March/April 1955), wherein a disabled Batman can only fret and fume as his erstwhile assistant seemingly dumps him for a better man. I’m sure Finger, Swan & Kaye knew that no-one would believe that they had really broken-up the Batman/Boy Wonder team, but the reason for the ploy is a killer….

The Adventures of Superman television show launched in the autumn of 1952, adopting its name from the long-running radio serial that preceded it. It was a monolithic hit of the still young medium and National Periodicals began tentatively expanding their increasingly valuable franchise with new characters and titles. First up were the gloriously charming, light-hearted escapades of that rash, capable but naïve photographer and “cub reporter” from the Daily Planet. The solo-career of the first spin-off star from the Caped Kryptonian’s ever-expanding entourage began with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1, which launched in 1954 with a September-October cover date. Here, ‘The Stolen Superman Signal’ (#13, June 1956, by Binder, Swan & Ray Burnley) perfectly displays the lad’s pluck and aura of light-hearted whimsy that distinguished the early stories when  criminals target the cub reporter’s secret weapon: a wristwatch emitting a hypersonic sound only the Action Ace an hear…

The Planet’s top female reporter also got her own comic book thanks to TV exposure, but it took another three years for the cautious Editors to tentatively push that boat out again. In 1957, just as the Silver Age was getting going, try-out title Showcase – which had launched The Flash  in #4 & 8) and Challengers of the Unknown (#6 & 7) – followed up with a brace of issues entitled Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. Soon after they awarded the “plucky News-hen” a series of her own. Technically it was her second, following a brief mid-1940s string of solo tales in Superman.

From Showcase #9 (June/July 1957) ‘The Girl in Superman’s Past!’ is by Coleman & Plastino, introducing an adult Lana Lang as a rival for superman’s affections and beginning decades of sparring that led to many a comic-book catfight…

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #19 (March 1957, by Binder, Swan & Burnley) contributed comedy classic ‘Superman’s Kid Brother’ as major head trauma convinces the cub reporter that he is also superpowered and cruel circumstance keeps that misapprehension alive long past the point where his life is endangered…

The last tale in this section – and the volume – is ‘Superman’s New Power!’ by Coleman, Boring & Kaye from Superman #125 (November 1958). Here an uncanny accident grants the Man of Steel new and incomprehensible abilities with catastrophic consequences…

Also including an extensive cover gallery by Plastino, Boring, Swan, Win Mortimer, Kaye & Burnley, and extensive creator Biographies, this is a wonderful slice of comics history, refreshing, comforting and compelling. Any fan or newcomer will delight in this primer into the ultimate icon of Truth Justice and The American Way.
© 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Crisis on Infinite Earths


By Marv Wolfman & George Pérez, with Jerry Ordway, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo & various (DC Comics) 
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5841-2 (HB/Digital edition) 978-1-56389-750-4 (TPB) 

Once more I’m compelled to dash out another swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the passing of one of our industry and art form’s most prolific and irreplaceable master creators. George Pérez died on May 6th from the complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 67 years old.  

His triumphs as penciller, writer and an always in-demand inker made him a force to be reckoned with and earned a vast number of awards in a career spanning almost fifty years. Pérez worked for dozens of publishers large and small; self-published his own creations, redeemed and restored many moribund characters and features (like the (New) Teen Titans), Nightwing and Wonder Woman) and co-created many breakthrough characters such as The White Tiger (first Puerto Rican superhero), The Maestro, Deathstroke the Terminator, Terra, The Monitor and Anti-Monitor.  

He will be most warmly remembered for his incredible facility in portraying big teams and cataclysmic events. Pérez probably drew every DC and Marvel superhero of his era, with major runs on The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, The Justice League of America, Legion of Super-Heroes and numerous iterations of Teen Titans as well as stints on The Inhumans, X-Men, JSA, All-Star Squadron, Thunderbolts and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. He will be immortalised for the comic book series covered below. A fuller appreciation will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

In 1985 the Editorial Powers-That-Be at DC Comics were about to celebrate fifty years of publishing, and enjoying a creative upswing that had been a long time coming. A crucial part of the festivities, and purported attempt to simplify five decades of often conflicting stories, was a truly epic year-long saga that would impact every single DC title and reconstruct the entire landscape and history of the DC Universe, with an appearance – however brief – by every character the company had ever published. Easy-peasy, Huh? 

Additionally, this new start would seek to end an apparent confusion of multiple Earths with similarly named and themed heroes. This – it had been decided – was deterring (sic) new readers. Happily, since then (primarily thanks to movie rom-coms like Sliding Doors) we’ve all become well aware of string theory and parallel universes and can revel in the most basic TV show or kids cartoon proffering the concept of multiples incidences of me and you… 

Way back then, the result of those good intentions was a groundbreaking 12-part miniseries that spearheaded a vast crossover event: eventually culminating in a hefty graphic novel collection (plus latterly three companion volumes reprinting all the crossovers). 

The experiment was a huge success, both critically and commercially, and enabled the company to reinvigorate many of their most cherished properties: many of which had been in dire need or some regeneration and renewal. Many fans would argue that DC have been trying to change it back ever since… 

Plotted long in advance of launch, threads and portents appeared for months in DC’s regular titles, mostly regarding a mysterious arms-and-information broker known as The Monitor. With his beautiful assistant Lyla Michaels/Harbinger he had been gauging each and every being on Earths beyond counting with a view to saving all of Reality. At this juncture, that consisted of uncountable variations of universes existing “side-by-side”, each exhibiting differences varying from minor to monumental.  

Building on long-established continuity collaborators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez – aided and abetted by Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Jerry Ordway – began by tweaking things fans knew before taking them on a journey nobody anticipated… It transpired that at the very beginning of time an influence from the future caused Reality to fracture. Rogue Guardian of the Universe Krona obsessively sought to unravel the secret of creation and his probing cause a perfect singular universe to shatter into innumerable self-perpetuating cracked reflections of itself… 

Now, a wave of antimatter scythes through the Cosmic All, eradicating these separate universes. Before each Armageddon, a tormented immortal named Pariah materialises on an inhabited but doomed world of each Existence. As the story opens, he arrives on an Earth, as its closest dimensional neighbours are experiencing monumental geo-physical disruptions. It’s the end of the World, but The Monitor has a plan. It involves death on a mammoth scale, sacrifice beyond measure, a gathering of the best and worst beings of the surviving Earths and the remaking of time itself to deflect cosmic catastrophe and defeat the being that caused it… 

Action is tinged with tragedy as many major heroic figures – from the nondescript and forgotten to high, mighty and grand – perish valiantly, falling in apparently futile struggle to preserve some measure of life from the doomed multiverse. 

Full of plot twists and intrigue, this cosmic comicbook spectacle set the benchmark for all future crossover events, not just DC’s, and is still a qualitative high point seldom reached and never yet surpassed. As well as being a superb blockbuster in its own right and accessible to even the greenest neophyte reader, it is the foundation of all DC’s in-continuity stories since 1985, the basis of a TV phenomenon and absolutely vital reading.  

More than any other work in a truly stellar career, Crisis on Infinite Earths is the magnum opus George Pérez will be remembered for: It might not be fair, but it’s inescapably true… 
© 1985, 1986, 2001, 2008, 2015 DC Comics. 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.

Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years.


By Jerry Seigel & Joe Shuster, Don Cameron, William Woolfolk, Whitney Ellsworth, Jerry Coleman, Robert Kanigher, Cary Bates, John Byrne, Jeph Loeb, Phil Jimenez, Katheryn Immonen, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Ed Dobrotka, Sam Citron, Al Plastino, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, Ed McGuiness, Matthew Clark, Renato Guedes, Frank Quitely & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4703-4 (HB/digital)

The greatest romance in comics is undoubtedly the first one. Whether as humble Clark Kent or the magnificent Man of Steel, the eternal relationship between a feisty female reporter and Superman is the first and longest-lasting couple dynamic in comic books

When the Man of Steel debuted in Action Comics #1 (June 1938) he was instantly the centre of attention, but even then, the need for a solid supporting cast was understood and cleverly catered for. Glamorous daredevil journalist Lois Lane premiered right beside Kent – rival, companion and foil from the outset.

This stunning compilation – part of a dedicated series introducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of venerable DC icons – is still available in hardback and digital formats, even if DC have decided not to give her an 80-year update like so many of her near contemporaries, offering a sequence of snapshots detailing how the original “plucky news-hen” has evolved right beside the Man of Tomorow in that “never-ending battle”…

The groundbreaking appearances selected are preceded here by a brief critical analysis of the significant stages in Lois’ development, beginning with Part I 1938-1956: Girl Reporter…

Most early tales were untitled, but for everyone’s convenience have been given descriptive appellations by the editors. Thus, after describing the foundling’s escape from exploding Planet Krypton and explaining his astonishing powers in nine panels, with absolutely no preamble, the wonderment begins in ‘Superman, Champion of the Oppressed’ and ‘War in San Monte’ from Action Comics #1 & 2 (June and July 1938 by Jerry Seigel & Joe Shuster) as the costumed crusader – masquerading by day as a reporter – began averting numerous tragedies.

As well as saving an innocent woman from the electric chair and roughing up a wife-beater, the tireless crusader worked over racketeer Butch Matson – consequently saving his suave and fearless colleague from abduction and worse since she was attempting to vamp the thug at the time!

The mysterious Man of Steel made a big impression on her by then outing a lobbyist for the armaments industry who was bribing Senators on behalf of greedy munitions interests fomenting war in Europe…

The next breathtaking instalment sees the mercurial mystery-man travelling to the actual war-zone and spectacularly dampen down the hostilities already in progress, after which (in #6) canny chiseller Nick Williams attempts to monetise the hero – without asking first. ‘The Man Who Sold Superman’ (Action Comics #6 1938, by Seigel & Shuster) had Superman’s phony Manager even attempting to replace the real thing with a cheap, musclebound knock-off before learning a very painful lesson in business ethics…

In those turbulent times, the interpretation of our dogged data-fiend was far less derogatory than the post-war sneaky minx of the 1950s and 1960s. Lois might have been ambitious and life-threateningly precipitate, but it was always to advance her own career, help underdogs and put bad guys away, not trap a man into marriage. At his time, she was much more Nellie Bly than Zsa Zsa Gabor.

After proving a worthy rival and foil to Kent and his alter ego, Lois won her own solo feature beginning in Superman #28 (May/June 1944). Examples included here begin with ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Bakery Counterfeiters’(Superman #29, July/August 1944, by Don Cameron, Ed Dobrotka & George Roussos), which finds her turning her demotion to the women’s cookery pages into another blockbusting scoop after uncovering a crafty money scam at a local patisserie…

In Superman #33 (March 1945), Whitney Ellsworth & Ed Dobrotka detailed how a typically cruel prank by male colleagues and cops turns into another front-page scoop as ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Purloined Piggy Bank’ has her help a little kid and unmask big time jewel thieves before ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: The Foiled Frame Up’ (Superman#34 May 1945 by Ellsworth, Sam Citron & Roussos) sees her ferret out political corruption by exposing grafters seeking to discredit Daily Planet Editor Perry White…

Originally seen in Superman #58 (May-June 1949), ‘Lois Lane Loves Clark Kent’ is by William Woolfolk, Wayne Boring & Stan Kaye: a beguiling teaser finding our “Girl Friday” (that’s a movie reference: look it up) consulting a psychiatrist because of her romantic obsession with the Man of Steel. The quack tells her to switch her affections to her bewildered, harassed workmate!

Part II 1957-1985: Superman’s Girl Friend takes us into the world of consumerist domesticity and when Lois Lane – the oldest supporting character/star in the Superman mythology if not the DC universe – finally received her own shot at a solo title, it was very much on the terms of the times.

When the Adventures of Superman television show launched in the autumn of 1952, it was an overnight sensation and National Periodicals began cautiously expanding their revitalised franchise with new characters and titles. First to win promotion to solo-star status was the Daily Planet’s impetuously capable if naïve “cub reporter”. His gloriously charming, light-hearted, escapades began in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 (September-October 1954): the first tie-in titan in the Caped Kryptonian’s ever-expanding entourage.

It took three years for cautious Editors to tentatively push the boat out again. In 1957, just as the Silver Age of Comics was getting going, try-out title Showcase followed up the launches of The Flash in #4 and Challengers of the Unknownin #6, delivered a brace of issues entitled Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane.

Soon after, the she had a series of her own. Technically it was her second, following her brief mid-1940s solo back-ups in Superman, but this time that caped guy was always hanging around…

In previous reviews I’ve banged on at length about the strange, patronising, parochial – and to some of us, potentially offensive – portrayals of kids and most especially women during this period, and although at least fairer and more affirmative instances were beginning to appear, the warnings still bear repeating. Don’t even dream of any characters of colour at this time, unless they look like contemporary cinematic sultans and sheiks…

At that time, Lois Lane was one of precious few titles with a female lead, and, in the context of today, one that gives many 21st century fans a few uncontrollable qualms of conscience. Within the confines of her series, the valiant, capable working woman careened crazily from man-hungry, unscrupulous bitch, through ditzy simpleton to indomitable and brilliant heroine – often all in the same issue.

The comic was clearly intended to appeal to the family demographic that made I Love Lucy a national phenomenon and Doris Day a saccharine saint, with many stories played for laughs in that same “father knows best” or  “gosh, aren’t women funny?” tone that appals me today – but not as much as the fact that I still love them to bits.

It honestly helps that they’re mostly sublimely illustrated by the wonderfully whimsical Kurt Schaffenberger.

During the 1950s and early 1960s in America, being different was a bad thing. Conformity was sacrosanct, even in comic books, and everybody and thing was meant to keep to its assigned and intended role. For the Superman family and cast, the tone of the times dictated a highly-strictured code of conduct and ironclad parameters: Daily Planet Editor Perry White was a stern, shouty elder statesman with a heart of gold, Cub Reporter Jimmy Olsen was a bravely impulsive unseasoned fool – with a heart of gold – and Plucky News-Hen (what does that even mean?) Lois was brash, nosy, impetuous, unscrupulous and relentless in her obsession to marry Superman, although she too was – deep down – also in possession of an Auric aorta.

Yet somehow, even with these mandates in place the talented writers and artists assigned to detail their wholesomely uncanny exploits managed to craft tales both beguiling and breathtakingly memorable: frequently as funny as they were exciting.

I must shamefacedly admit to a deep, nostalgic affection for her bright, breezy, fantastically fun adventures, but as a free-thinking, (notionally) adult liberal of the 21st century I’m simultaneously shocked nowadays at the jolly, condescending misogynistic attitudes underpinning too many of the stories.

Yes, I’m fully aware that the series was intended for young readers at a time when “dizzy dames” and matronly icons played to the popular American gestalt stereotype of Woman as jealous minx, silly goose, diffident wife and brood-hungry nester, but to ask kids to seriously accept that intelligent, courageous, ambitious, ethical and highly capable females would drop everything they’d worked hard for to lie, cheat, inveigle, manipulate and entrap a man just so that they could cook pot-roast and change super-diapers is just plain crazy and tantamount to child abuse.

I’m just saying…

Showcase #9 (cover-dated July/August 1957) featured Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane and opened with the seminal yarn ‘The Girl in Superman’s Past’ (by Jerry Coleman & Al Plastino) wherein Lois first meets red-headed hussy Lana Lang: childhood sweetheart of Superboy and a pushy conniving go-getter out to win Lois’ intended at any and all costs. Naturally Miss Lane invited Miss Lang to stay at her apartment and the grand rivalry was off and running…

Then ‘The New Lois Lane’ (Otto Binder, Ruben Moreira & Plastino) aggravatingly sees Lois turn over a new leaf and stop attempting to uncover his secret identity just when Superman actually needs her to do so…

Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #1 (March/April #1958) then confirms all stereotypes in Binder & Schaffenberger’s ’The Fattest Girl in Metropolis’: wherein a plant growth ray accidentally super-sizes our vain yet valiant reporter. Imagine her reaction when she finds out that Superman had deliberately expanded her dimensions… for good and solid reasons, of course…

In ‘The Kryptonite Girl’ (Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #16, April 1960), Siegel & Schaffenberger were responsible for another cruel lesson as Superman tries to cure Lois’ nosy impulses by tricking his own girlfriend into believing she has a radioactive death-stare. Of course, as all married couples know, this power develops naturally not long after the honeymoon… I love these stories, but sometime words just fail me…

As contrived by Leo Dorfman & Schaffenberger, a personality-altering head blow then causes Lois to try tricking her Man of Steel into matrimony in ‘The Romance of Superbaby and Baby Lois’ (#42, July 1963). Sadly, whilst conniving, she employs a stolen rejuvenation chemical which cause them to de-age below the age of legal consent…

Happily, the late 1960s, Feminism and the general raising of female consciousness rescued Lois from demented domesticity, and by the time of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #106 (November 1970) she was a competent, combative, totally capable go-getting journalist every inch the better of her male rivals. It’s a shame more of those stories aren’t included in this collection.

However, ‘I Am Curious (Black)!’ by Robert Kanigher, Werner Roth & Vince Colletta showed the lengths she would go to get her story. Unable to truly grasp the nature of being African American, she borrows Kryptonian tech to become black for 24 hours, and realises how friends, acquaintances and even fellow liberals respond to different skins. She even asks Superman if he would marry her in her altered state…

Big changes and modifications were set in place for Part III 1986-1999: Lois and Clark.

When DC Comics decided to rationalise and reconstruct their continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths, they used the event to regenerate their key properties. The biggest shake-up was Superman, and it’s hard to argue that the change was unnecessary. The old soldier was in a bit of a slump, but he’d weathered those before. So how could a root and branch overhaul be anything but a marketing ploy that would alienate real fans for a few fly-by-night chancers who would jump ship as soon as the next fad surfaced?

Superman’s titles were cancelled/suspended for three months, and boy, did that make the media sit-up and take notice – for the first time since the debut Christopher Reeve movie. But there was method in this corporate madness…

Man of Steel – written and drawn by John Byrne and inked by Dick Giordano – stripped away vast amounts of accumulated baggage and returned the hero to the far from omnipotent, edgy but good-hearted reformer Siegel & Shuster had originally envisioned. It was a huge and instant success, becoming the industry’s premiere ‘break-out’ hit, and from that overwhelming start Superman re-inhabited his suspended comic book homes with the addition of a third monthly title premiering the same month.

The miniseries presented six complete stories from key points in Superman’s career, reconstructed in the wake of the aforementioned Crisis. Man of Steel #1 revealed a startling new Krypton in its final moments before following the Last Son in his escape, through his Smallville years to his first recorded exploit and initial encounter with Lois.

Byrne was a controversial choice at the time, but he magnificently rekindled the exciting, visually compelling, contemporary and even socially aware slices of sheer exuberant, four-colour fantasy that was the original Superman, making it possible and fashionable to be a fan again, no matter your age or prejudice. Superman had always been great, but Byrne had once again made him thrilling and unmissable.

Included here is ‘The Story of the Century’ from Man of Steel #2 (October 1986) wherein fiery lead reporter Lois Lane puts all her efforts into getting the landmark exclusive first interview with Metropolis’ mystery superhero, only to be ultimately scooped by a nerdy, hick new hire named Kent…

We then skip to anniversary issue Action Comics #600 (May 1988) for an untitled segment courtesy of Byrne, Roger Stern, Schaffenberger, Jerry Ordway of a mammoth ensemble piece. Codified for easy access as “Lois Lane”, the tale depicts the jaded journalist – fresh from beating up and arresting a gang of thugs – rendezvous with rival Kent to discuss Superman’s possible romance with Wonder Woman…

As years passed, Lois and Clark grew beyond professionalism into a work romance, but the hero kept his other identity from her. That all changed after the Man of Tomorrow narrowly defeated mystic predator Silver Banshee and decided there would no more ‘Secrets in the Night’ between him and his beloved (Action Comics #662, February 1991, by Stern & Bob McLeod).

Having finally married her man (in 1996) Lois and Clark settled down into a life of hectic wedded bliss, but trouble was never far from the happy couple.

Created as part of the Girlfrenzy publishing event, ‘Lois Lane’ from one-shot Superman: Lois Lane #1 (June 1998 by Barbara Kesel, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti) sees the relentless reporter heading to Canada to singlehandedly bust a child-snatch ring and illicit genetics-mutation lab…

In Part IV 2000-Present: Twenty-First Century Lois, the era of domesticity was marred by many external problems, such as Lex Luthor finagling himself into America’s presidency. ‘With This Ring’ (Superman #168, May 2001 from Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuiness & Cam Smith) details how Lois and Batman infiltrate the White House to steal the gimmick Bad PotUS has been using to keep the Man of Steel at bay, after which ‘She’s a Wonder’ (Wonder Woman #170 (July 2001, by Phil Jimenez, Joe Kelly & Andy Lanning) offers a pretty but relatively slow day-in-the-life tale.

Here Lois interviews the impossibly perfect Amazon cultural ambassador to Mans’s World – and potential romantic rival – providing readers with valuable insights into both.

Greg Rucka, Mathew Clark, & Renato Guedes & Nelson then craft ‘Battery: Part Five’ (Adventures of Superman #631, October 2004) as Lois’s devil-may-care luck finally runs out and the Caped Kryptonian arrives seconds too late after she becomes a sniper’s target.

Slipping back into comedy, ‘Patience-Centred Care’ comes from Superman 80-Page Giant 2010, where Katheryn Immonen & Tonci Zonjic show how even the Action Ace can’t cope with a bed-ridden wife who won’t let flu stop her nailing a story…

Part V 1957-1985: Imaginary Tales then takes a step sideways to highlight the many memorable out-of-continuity stories the Superman-Lois relationship has generated. ‘The Wife of Superman’ was part of an occasional series running in early issues of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane. Probably scripted by Seigel and definitely drawn by Schaffenberger, this third outing (from #23, February 1961), revisits a possible future wherein Lois is worn to a frazzle by two unmanageable super-toddlers and yearns for her old job at the Daily Planet…

From a period where Golden Age stories were assumed to have occurred on parallel world Earth-Two, ‘Superman Takes a Wife’ comes from 40th Anniversary issue Action Comics #484 (June 1978). Here Cary Bates, Curt Swan & Joe Giella detail how the original Man of Tomorrow became editor of the Metropolis Daily Star in the 1950s and married Lois. Thanks to villainous rogues Colonel Future and the Wizard who had discovered a way to make Superman forget his own existence, only she knew that her husband was once Earth’s greatest hero…

When I was a nipper, Superman had outlandish adventures and was a decent regular guy. His head could be replaced by a lion’s or an ant’s and he loved playing jokes on his friends. His exploits were routinely mind-boggling and he kept a quiet dignity about him. He only shouted to shatter concrete, and not to bully villains. He was quietly cool.

And in All Star Superman he was again. Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely produced a delightful evocation of those simpler, gentler times with a guided tour of the past redolent with classic mile-markers. Superman was the world’s boy scout, Lois was spending her days trying to prove Clark is the Man of Steel, Jimmy Olsen was a competent young reporter dating Lucy Lane and all of time and space knew they could always rely on the Man of Tomorrow.

As seen in All-Star Superman #2 and 3 (February and May 2006), ‘Superman’s Forbidden Room’ and ‘Sweet Dreams, Superwoman’ sees Lois takes centre stage as a plot to kill Superman forces the hero to acknowledge his feelings for her. The result is an astonishing trip to his Fortress of Solitude and a hyper-empowering birthday gift she will never forget… Wrapping up the recollections is an astounding Cover Gallery to accompany the works already seen in conjunction with the stories cited above, with covers by Shuster, Swan & Stan Kaye, Schaffenberger, Murphy Anderson, Byrne, Kerry Gammill & Brett Breeding, Leonard Kirk & Karl Story, Ed McGuiness & Cam Smith, Adam Hughes, Gene Ha, José Luis García-López, Quitely & Jamie Grant.

These extras comprise Superman #51 (March/April 1948) and Action Comics #137 (October 1949), both by Boring & Kaye; Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #1 (April 1958) by Swan & Kaye; issue #25 (May 1961) by Schaffenberger; #80 (January 1967) by Swan & Neal Adams and #111 (July 1971) by Giordano.

Later classics covers include Superman volume 2 #59 (September 1991) by Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding; Superman: The Wedding Album and Beyond (1995) by Jurgens & Ordway; Superman volume 2 #157 (June 2000) by McGuiness & Smith; Superman Returns Prequel #4 (August 2006) by Hughes; Superman Confidential #2 (February 2007) by Tim Sale and Superman Unchained #1 (2013 variant cover) by José Luis García-López.

This monolithic testament to the most enduring love affair in comics is a guaranteed delight for fans of all ages and a perfect introductory time capsule for all readers of fantastic fiction.
© 1940, 1942, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1972, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2014, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Superman Volume 2


By Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Jerry Coleman, Bill Finger, Robert Bernstein, Wayne Boring, Al Plastino, Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger  & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1041-0 (TPB)

Although we all think of Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster’s iconic creation as the epitome of comic book creation, the truth is that very soon after his launch in  Action Comics #1, Superman became a fictional multimedia star in the same league as Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes.

Far more people have seen or heard the Man of Steel than have ever read him – and yes, that does include the globally syndicated newspaper strips. By the time his 20th anniversary rolled around, he had become a radio star; helmed a series of 17 astounding animated cartoons; been turned into literature by George Lowther’s novel; and spawned two movies, He was a perennial success for toy and puzzle manufacturers and had just ended his first smash live-action television serial. In his future were many more, a stage musical, a franchise of stellar movies and an almost seamless succession of games, bubble-gum cards and TV cartoons, beginning in 1966 with The New Adventures of Superman and continuing ever since. Even Krypto got in on the small-screen act…

However, that’s not all there is to these gloriously engaging super-sagas culled from the Metropolis Marvel’s lead feature in Action Comics #258-277 and the all-star sagas from Superman #134-145 (reliving the period November 1959 to May 1961, and including selected snippets from Superman Annuals #1 & 2) presented in crisp, clean monochrome for this sterling second Showcase Presents collection. Of course, in an ideal world  – or even just a little bit better than this one – we’d be able to see these tales in glorious full colour either on paper or digitally…

During the 1950s, even as his back-story was expanded and elaborated, Superman had settled into an ordered existence. Nothing could really hurt him, nothing ever changed, and pure thrills seemed in short supply. With the TV show supplying live action, the Comics Code-hamstrung funnybook writers concentrated on supplying wonder, intrigue, imagination and, whenever possible, a few laughs as well…

The wholesome intrigue and breathtaking fantasy commence here with Action Comics #258’s ‘The Menace of Cosmic Man’. This sharp mystery written by Bill Finger – illustrated by Wayne Boring & Stan Kaye – focuses on an impoverished European dictatorship which suddenly announces it has its own all-powerful costumed champion: drawing Lois Lane and Clark Kent into a potentially deadly investigation. Action #259’s hallucinogenic thriller ‘The Revenge of Luthor!’ (Jerry Siegel & Al Plastino) delivers a seemingly impossible clash between the Man of Tomorrow and his own younger self which almost led to death for Lois and school sweetheart Lana Lang…

Solo title Superman #134 (January 1960) sees a full-length epic from Otto Binder, Boring & Kaye as ‘The Super-Menace of Metropolis’ has the Caped Kryptonian apparently undertake a concerted attack upon humanity, leading to shocking revelations in ‘The Revenge Against Jor-El!’ before a blockbusting final battle against an unsuspected Kandorian foe in ‘Duel of the Supermen!’

There’s the usual heartbreak for Lois when Superman and Supergirl perpetrate a romantic hoax on the world to thwart a potential alien attack in ‘Mighty Maid!’ (Action #260, Binder & Plastino), as Superman #135 served up three Siegel stories beginning with the Plastino illustrated Untold Tale ‘When Lois First Suspected Clark was Superman!’ before ‘Superman’s Mermaid Sweetheart!’ (Boring & Kaye) reintroduces Clark’s college love Lori Lemaris in another superbly effective, bittersweet tear-jerker, after which Plastino’s ‘The Trio of Steel!’ finds the Man of Steel again battling his most impossible foe in a classy conundrum…

Action #261 revealed the secret history of ‘Superman’s Fortress of Solitude!’ by unravelling a cunning criminal plot against the indomitable hero in a clever yarn from Siegel, Boring & Kaye, after which ‘When Superman Lost his Powers!’(#262, Robert Bernstein, Boring & Kaye) sees the Daily Planet staff trapped in another dimension where the Man of Tomorrow is merely mortal and Lois’ suspicions are again aroused…

Superman #136 began with ‘The Man who Married Lois Lane!’ (Bernstein, Boring & Kaye) wherein the frustrated reporter finally gives in, settling for a superman from the future with tragic results, after which another Untold Tale reveals how the world first learned ‘The Secret of Kryptonite!’ (Jerry Coleman & Plastino) and how, as ‘The Super-Clown of Metropolis!’, Superman is blackmailed into attempting to make a millionaire misanthrope laugh in a smart, character-driven yarn from Siegel & Plastino.

Action #263 introduced ‘The World of Bizarros!’ (Binder, Boring & Kaye) as the ghastly doppelganger uses an imperfect duplicator machine to create an entire race in his broken image, after which Superman #137 – ‘The Super-Brat from Krypton!’ by Siegel, Curt Swan & John Forte – reveals how an energy duplicate of baby Kal-El is raised by criminals to become ‘The Young Super-Bully’ before finally confronting his noble counterpart in ‘Superman vs. Super-Menace!’

In Action Comics #264, a clash with the newly-minted artificial race culminates in the Caped Kryptonian almost becoming ‘The Superman Bizarro!’ in a tense thriller from Binder, Boring & Kaye whilst ‘The “Superman” from Outer Space!’ in #265 (Binder, Swan & Forte) details the tragically short career of Hyper-Man, planetary champion of Earth-like world Oceania, before Superman #138 debuts ‘Titano the Super-Ape!’: a chimpanzee mutated into a Kryptonite-empowered King Kong clone with a devotion to Lois and big hatred for the Man of Steel: a beloved masterpiece by Binder, Boring & Kaye combining action, pathos and drama to superb effect.

‘Superman’s Black Magic!’ (Siegel & Plastino) balanced the epic tear-jerker with a clever yarn seeing the Action Ace instigate a devilish sting to catch superstitious crooks whilst ‘The Mermaid from Atlantis!’ ( Siegel, Boring & Kaye) finds newlywed Lori Lemaris attempt to trick Superman into finally proposing to Lois.

Action #266 has the heroic hunk ‘The Captive of the Amazons’ and trapped on another world. The queen wants the Man of Tomorrow for her sixth husband and is prepared to destroy Earth to make her dreams come true…

Superman #139 opens with ‘The New Life of Super-Merman!’ as the Caped Kryptonian and Lori scheme to marry Lois off to a nice, safe multi-millionaire who really loves her in a rather dated and potentially offensive tale by Siegel, Boring & Kaye, whereas ‘The Jolly Jailhouse!’ (Coleman & Plastino) is safe and solid entertainment, providing a light-hearted clash between a would-be dictator and the World’s Most Uncooperative political prisoner… Clark Kent.

‘The Untold Story of Red Kryptonite!’ (Binder, Boring & Kaye) then delivers a dramatic dilemma, a redefinition of the parameters of the deadly crimson mineral, and plenty of thrills with the Man of Steel forced to risk deadly danger and lots of informative flashbacks to rescue a sunken submarine…

Binder, Boring & Kaye produced spectacular 2-chapter clash ‘Hercules in the 20th Century!’ and ‘Superman’s Battle with Hercules!’ (Action #267-268, and separated here by the cover of all-reprint  Superman Annual #1) as Luthor brings the Hellenic demi-god to Metropolis to battle “evil king” Superman. Events turn even more serious when the legendary warrior falls for Lois and marshals all the magical powers of the Olympians to destroy his unwitting rival…

Although later played for laughs, most of the earlier appearances of Superman’s warped double were generally moving comic-tragedies, such as issue #140 wherein  Binder, Boring & Kaye’s ‘The Son of Bizarro!’ sees the fractured facsimile and wife Bizarro-Lois have a perfect, human baby. The fast growing tyke is super-powered but shunned by the populace of the world of monsters.

His simple-minded, heartbroken father has no choice but to exile his son in space where chance brings the lad crashing to Earth as ‘The Orphan Bizarro!’. Sent to the same institution where Supergirl resided, “Baby Buster” is soon a permanent headache for the Girl of Steel until a tragic accident seemingly mutates him. Eventually his distraught father comes looking for him at the head of an angry army of enraged Superman duplicates and a devastating battle is narrowly avoided with a happy ending only materialising due to the introduction of ‘The Bizarro Supergirl!’…

Action Comics #269 tells a clever tale of identity-saving when Lois tricks Clark into standing before ‘The Truth Mirror!’(Siegel, Swan & George Klein), whilst Superman #141 again shows the writer’s winning form in ‘Superman’s Return to Krypton!’ Illustrated by Boring & Kaye, the epic Grand Tragedy shows in ‘Superman Meets Jor-El and Lara Again!’ how an accident maroons the adoptive Earth hero in the past on his doomed home-world. Reconciled to dying there with his people, in ‘Superman’s Kryptonian Romance’ Kal-El finds love with soul-mate Lyla Lerrol, only to be torn from her side and returned to Earth against his will in concluding chapter ‘The Surprise of Fate!’

This bold saga was a fan favourite for decades thereafter, and remains one of the very best stories of the period.

In Action #270 Binder, Swan & Forte provide a whimsical interlude in ‘The Old Man of Metropolis!’ as the Metropolis Marvel glimpses his own twilight years whilst ‘Voyage to Dimension X!’ – Binder & Plastino in #271 – sees him narrowly escape his greatest foe’s latest diabolical plot.

Superman #142 opened with ‘Lois Lane’s Secret Helper!’ (Binder & Kurt Schaffenberger, as faithful Krypto tried to play matchmaker before ‘Superman Meets Al Capone!’ has the time-lost Man of Tomorrow clash with the legendary mobster (Binder, Boring & Kaye) before battling a wandering ‘Flame-Dragon from Krypton!’ with some helpful assistance from his best super-buddies in a sharp yarn from Siegel, Boring & Kaye.

Another prototype team-up featured in Action #272’s ‘Superman’s Rival, Mental Man!’: a clever criminal-sting by Siegel, Swan & Kaye centring around Lois’ unsuspected talents as a comic strip creator, whilst over in Superman #143, ‘The Great Superman Hoax!’ (Bernstein, Boring & Kaye) sees a criminal try to convince Lois that he is actually the Man of Might. ‘Lois Lane’s Lucky Day!’ (Siegel & Forte) then finds the daring reporter busting a crooked carnival – with a little covert Kryptonian help – before ‘Bizarro Meets Frankenstein!’ (Binder, Boring & Kaye) finds the befuddled duplicate invading Earth to prove he is the scariest monster of all time…

Action #273 has Superman turn the table on the pestiferous Fifth Dimensional pixie by invading ‘The World of Mxyzptlk!’– a light-hearted romp from Siegel & Plastino – and in the next issue lose his abilities to Lois in ‘The Reversed Super-Powers!’ (Siegel & Schaffenberger.

Superman #144 led with Siegel, Swan & Kaye’s combative thriller ‘The Super-Weapon!’, after which Siegel & Plastino revealed the Untold Tale of ‘Superboy’s First Public Appearance!’ before going on to describe the terrifying plight of Superman, Supergirl and Krypto as ‘The Orphans of Space!’

Action #275 delivers a classic clash with alien marauder Brainiac, whose latest weapon is ‘The Menace of Red-Green Kryptonite!’ (Coleman, Boring & Kaye) after which Superman #145 opens on a salutary fable by Siegel, Swan & Kaye proving why Lois can’t be trusted with ‘The Secret Identity of Superman!’

Bernstein & Plastino’s ‘The Interplanetary Circus!’ then holds Earth hostage until the Man of Steel agrees to join them, but even after outwitting those interplanetary scoundrels, Superman is utterly flummoxed by the incredible events of ‘The Night of March 31st ’ – a deliciously surreal, whimsical and bizarre mystery-puzzle from Siegel, Swan & Sheldon Moldoff.

This second superb collection concludes with the stirring cover of Superman Annual #2 and a scintillating double-page Map of Krypton by Siegel & Plastino which enflamed the imagination of every kid who ever saw it…

Superman has proven to be all things to all fans over his decades of existence, and with the character undergoing another radical overhaul at this time, these timeless tales of joyous charm and wholesome wit are more necessary than ever: not just as a reminder of great times past but as an all-ages primer of wonders still to come…
© 1959, 1960, 1961, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.