Boo$ter Gold: The Big Fall


By Dan Jurgens, Mike DeCarlo, John Verpoorten, & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0075-5 (HB)

After the cosmos-crunching Crisis on Infinite Earths re-sculpted the DC Universe in the mid-1980s, a host of characters got floor-up rebuilds for the tougher, no-nonsense, straight-shooting New American readership of the Reagan-era. Simultaneously, a number of corporate buy-outs such as Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and The Question joined the DC roster with their own much-hyped solo titles. There were even a couple of all-new big launches for the altered sensibilities of the Decade of Excess such as the superb Suicide Squad and a Shiny, Happy Hero named Booster Gold.

A true icon of capitalist brand-aware America, the newcomer has suffered numerous setbacks and relaunches, before finally finding his proper place as the guardian of DC’s timestream and continuity. This engaging hardback and eBook compilation covers his early days, re-presenting Booster Gold volume 1 #1-12 (spanning February 1986 to January 1987), and offers fascinating bonus background material as well as a backwards-looking revelatory Introduction from Dan Jurgens.

The blue and yellow paladin appeared amidst plenty of hoopla in his own title – the first post-Crisis premiere of the publisher’s freshly integrated superhero line- and presented a wholly different approach to the traditional DC costumed boy-scout.

Created, written and drawn by Dan Jurgens with inks by Mike DeCarlo ‘The Big Fall’ introduces a brash, cocky, mysterious metahuman/obnoxious golden-boy jock who has set up his stall as a superhero in Metropolis. Unlike any other costumed champion, BG actively seeks corporate sponsorships, sells endorsements and has a management team in place to maximise the profit potential of his crusading celebrity…

Accompanied everywhere by sentient flying-football-shaped robot Skeets, the glitzy showboat soon encounters high-tech criminal gang The 1000 and their super-enforcer Blackguard. This earns him the unrelenting ire of sinister mastermind The Director and the shallow approbation of models, actresses, headline-hungry journalists, politicians and the ever-fickle public…

In issue #2’s ‘Cold Redemption’, Blackguard is aided and abetted by thought-casting mercenary Mindancer as the Director’s campaign of malice leads to another close call for Booster. Soon after, his highly public private life takes a tawdry turn in ‘The Night Has a Thousand Eyes’ when opportunistic starlet Monica Lake begins briefing the ravenous media on her “relationship” with the Man of Gold. He is unable to refute the claims since he was knee-deep in hired thugs and super-villains at the times she claims to have shared with him…

That cataclysmic combat in #4 results in a tremendous ‘Crash’ when urban vigilante The Thorn drops in to help scuttle the 1000’s latest scheme, but once the dust settles Booster finds himself in real trouble as business manager Dirk Davis is so busy licensing his boss for a comicbook that he fails to head off an IRS audit.

It appears Booster Gold has no official record and has never paid a penny in taxes…

Happily, in ‘Face Off’, our hero saves an entire stadium of ice hockey fans from avaricious terrorist Mr. Twister, earning himself a reprieve from the Federal authorities, after which an alien refugee crashes in Metropolis’ Centennial Park in #6’s ‘To Cross the Rubicon’. This sets up Man of Gold to finally meet Man of Steel for the long-awaited origin saga…

Michael Jon “Booster” Carter was a rising sports star in the 25th century who fell in with a gambling syndicate and began fixing games for cash pay-outs. When he was caught and banned from competition, he could only find menial work as a night-watchman in The Space Museum. Whilst there, he struck up a friendship with automated tour-guide and security-bot Skeets, and devised a bold plan to redeem himself.

Stealing a mysterious flight ring and force-field belt plus energy-rods, an alien super-suit and wrist-blasters, Booster used the Museum’s prize exhibit, Rip Hunter’s time machine, to travel to the fabled 20th Century Age of Heroes and earn all the fame and glory his mistakes had cost him in his own time…

Superman, already antagonistic because of Booster’s attitude, is ready to arrest him for theft when the almost-forgotten alien attacks…

They all awaken on a distant world, embroiled in a vicious civil war and personally still at odds. As a result of ‘The Lesson’ and a vicious battle, Superman and Booster both accept some uncomfortable truths and agree to tolerate each other when they return home. Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Dirk Davis and company PA Trixie Collins hire hotshot scientist Jack Soo to build a super-suit that would enable Booster to hire a camera-friendly, girly eye-candy sidekick…

More questions are answered in 2-parter ‘Time Bridge’ when the 30th century Legion of Super-Heroes discover evidence that their flight-rings and forcefield technology were being used by a temporal fugitive named Michael Carter. Dispatched to 1985 by the Time Institute, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy and Brainiac 5 arrive soon after the fugitive Carter and become involved in his very first case. The Director and shape-shifting assassin Chiller were planning to murder and replace Ronald Reagan but, in the best superhero tradition, Carter and the Legionnaires misunderstood each other’s intentions and butted heads…

The plot might have succeeded had not Skeets intervened, allowing Carter to save the day and get official Presidential approval. Ronnie even got to name the new hero…

Back in 1986, the long-building final clash with the Director opens in #10 with ‘Death Grip of the 1000’ as Dirk’s daughter is kidnapped and he’s coerced into betraying Booster, just as the nefarious super-mob unleash a horde of robotic terrors on Metropolis to wear out the Man of Gold and catalogue his weaknesses…

After Trixie is also abducted in ‘When Glass Houses Shatter’, the 1000 increase the pressure by setting blockbusting thug Shockwave on Booster, resulting in the utter destruction of the hero’s corporate HQ and home before a frenzied and frenetic final clash in ‘War’, which leaves a proud owner of an extremely pyrrhic victory…

To Be Continued…

Supplementing these blockbuster battle frenzies, ‘The Making of Booster Gold’ takes us back to the beginning and reveals how the series came about, reprinting Jurgens’ original series proposal, first character and costume studies, augmented by models of Skeets and premium give-aways, assorted press release materials and house ads, and the editorial pages from #1.

Even more enticing is ‘The Secret Origin of Booster Gold #6’, detailing how John Byrne’s reimagination of Superman in Man of Steel caused some frantic rewriting of the published BG issue. The hidden benefit of that is five pages of unused pencils that had to be scrapped to accommodate the new reality offer an intriguing “What If?” to end proceedings here…

As a frontrunner of the new DC, Booster Gold was a radical experiment in character that didn’t always succeed, but which definitely and exponentially improved; as the months rolled by the time traveller grew into one of DC’s best books.

Perhaps not to every Fights ‘n’ Tights fan’s taste, these formative fictions are absolutely vital to your understanding of the later classics and have a dated charm that may well suit you, too.
© 1986-1987, 2019 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Superman Family volume 1


By Otto Binder, Curt Swan & Ray Burnley, Jerry Coleman, Ruben Moreira, Al Plastino, Don Cameron, Ed Dobrotka & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0787-8 (TPB)

Stress-alleviating Fun is in pretty short supply everywhere these days, but if you’re a comics fan susceptible to charming nostalgia, this item – readily available in paperback, but tragically still not compiled in any digital format yet – might be a remedy for those old Lockdown Blues…

When the blockbusting Man of Tomorrow debuted in Action Comics #1 (June 1938) he was instantly the centre of attention. However, even then the need for a solid supporting cast was apparent and quickly catered to. Glamorous daredevil girl reporter Lois Lane premiered with Clark Kent and was a constant companion and foil from the outset…

Although unnamed, a plucky red-headed, be-freckled kid worked alongside Clark and Lois from Action Comics #6 (November 1938) and was called by his first name from Superman #13 (November-December 1941) onwards. The lad was Jimmy Olsen and he was a major player in The Adventures of Superman radio show from its debut on April 15th 1940: somebody the same age as the target audience in place for the hero to explain stuff to (all for the listener’s benefit) and the closest thing to a sidekick the Man of Tomorrow ever needed…

When the similarly titled television show launched in the autumn of 1952, it became a monolithic hit. National Periodicals thus 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.

As the decade progressed, the oh-so-cautious Editors at National/DC tentatively extended the franchise in 1957, just as the Silver Age of Comics was getting underway and it seemed there might be a fresh and sustainable appetite for costumed heroes and their unique brand of spectacular shenanigans. Try-out title Showcase – which had already launched The Flash (#4 & 8) and Challengers of the Unknown (#6-7) – followed up with a brace of issues entitled Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane in #9 and 10. Soon after, she won a series of her own – in actuality her second, since for a brief while in the mid-1940s she had her own solo-spot in Superman.

This scintillatingly addictive monochrome tome chronologically re-presents those experimental franchise expansions, encompassing Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1-22, (September/October 1954 to August 1957) and Showcase #9 (July/August 1957), plus the very first Lois Lane solo strip (from Superman #28 – May/June 1944) as a welcome bonus.

The vintage all-ages entertainment (courtesy of dedicated creative team Otto Binder, Curt Swan & Ray Burnley) begins with ‘The Boy of 1000 Faces’ in which the ebullient junior journalist displays his phenomenal facility for make-up and disguise to trap a jewel thief before heading to timber country and solving the ‘Case of the Lumberjack Jinx’ and latterly masquerading as ‘The Man of Steel’s Substitute’ to tackle public requests too trivial for his Kryptonian chum.

‘The Flying Jimmy Olsen’ opened the second issue with a daring tale of sheer idiocy as the lad swallows an alien power-potion with staggering disregard for the potential repercussions (a recurring theme of those simpler times) after which ‘The Hide and Seek Mystery’ displays his crime-solving pluck as Jim hunts down more jewel thieves. Then, the boy becomes ‘Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Ex-Pal’ to expose a cunning conman.

The red-headed rascal became ‘The Boy Millionaire’ in #3 when a wealthy dowager repaid a kind deed with a vast cash reward. Sadly, all that money brought Jimmy was scammers, conmen and murderous trouble. After that he heads to Tumbleweed, USA to cover a rodeo and somehow is (mis)taken for ‘The Fastest Gun in the West’ before meeting the highly suspect eccentric who is ‘The Man Who Collected Excitement’.

‘The Disappearance of Superman’ perplexes Metropolis in #4 until his valiant pal solves the mystery and saves the Caped Kryptonian’s life, whilst – as ‘The Hunted Messenger’ – Jimmy cheats certain death to outwit gangsters before replacing a regal look-alike and playing ‘King for a Day’ in a far off land threatened by a ruthless usurper.

In issue #5, ‘The Boy Olympics’ shares Jimmy’s sentimental side as he risks his job to help young news vendors from a rival paper and is almost replaced by a computer in ‘The Brain of Steel’, before beguiling and capturing a wanted felon with ‘The Story of Superman’s Souvenirs’…

The cutthroat world of stage conjuring finds him competing to become ‘The King of Magic’ in JO #6’s first tale, after which the diminutive lad endures a punishing diet regime – hilariously enforced by Superman – to cover the sports story of the year in ‘Jockey Olsen Rides Star Flash’. The last tale sees Jimmy bravely recovering ‘100 Pieces of Kryptonite’ that fell on Metropolis, rendering Superman helpless and dying…

Jimmy Olsen #7 finds the boy teaching three rich wastrels a life-changing lesson in ‘The Amazing Mirages’, after which a magic carpet whisks him away to write ‘The Scoop of 1869’ before the lad’s boyhood skills enable him to become ‘The King of Marbles’, catching a crook and even more headlines…

In #8, pride in his investigative abilities and a slick conman compel him to uncover his pal’s secret identity in ‘The Betrayal of Superman’, after which he becomes ‘Superboy for a Day’ sort of) and wows the chicks when a sore throat transforms him into ‘Jimmy Olsen, Crooner’. Issue #9 opens with him disastrously switching jobs to become ‘Jimmy Olsen, Cub Inventor’: a TV quiz mastermind in kThe Million-Dollar Question’ and pilot of a prototype Superman robot in ‘The Missile of Steel’.

In #10, the canny lad turns the tables on a greedy hoaxer in ‘Jimmy Olsen’s Martian Pal’ and suffers amnesia in ‘Jimmy Olsen’s Forgotten Adventure’, before going back to nature as ‘Jungle Jimmy Olsen’, whilst the next issue sees him acting – after a stellar accident – as ‘Superman’s Seeing-Eye Dog’; dumping the neglectful and busy Man of Steel for a more appreciative comrade in kJimmy Olsen, Clark Kent’s Pal’ and – accidentally – exposing a corrupt boxing scam as ‘T.N.T. Olsen, the Champ’.

He helps out a circus chum by becoming ‘Jimmy Olsen, Prince of Clowns’ in #12, thereafter uncovering ‘The Secret of Dinosaur Island’ and falling victim to a goofy – or just plain mad – scientist’s bizarre experiment to reluctantly become ‘The Invisible Jimmy Olsen’. In #13 he tracks a swindler via a half dozen namesakes in ‘The Six Jimmy Olsens’ before criminals then targeted the cub reporter’s secret weapon in ‘The Stolen Superman Signal’ and the lad is himself subjected to a cruel but necessary deception when the Metropolis Marvel perpetrates ‘Jimmy Olsen’s Super Illusions’…

Issue #14 opened with a time-travel western tale as the lad instigates ‘The Feats of Chief Super-Duper’, after which a scientific accident seemingly imbues the bold boy with Clark Kent’s personality and creates ‘The Meek Jimmy Olsen’, before the cub is lost in the American wilderness and outrageously mistaken for ‘The Boy Superman’…

JO #15 finds him demoted and at a dog-show where his infallible nose for news quickly uncovers ‘The Mystery of the Canine Champ’, after which an injudiciously swallowed serum gives him super-speed and he reinvents himself as ‘Jimmy Olsen, Speed Demon’. Thereafter, a strange ailment forces him to dispose of his most treasured possessions in kUnwanted Superman Souvenirs’…

A scurrilous scammer in #16 offers to regress the kid’s consciousness and help him re-live ‘The Three Lives of Jimmy Olsen’, before a series of crazy coincidences compel identity-obsessed Clark to convince Lois Lane that Jimmy is ‘The Boy of Steel!’ Yet another chemical concoction then turns the lad into a compulsive fibber… ‘The Super Liar of Metropolis’.

The next thrill-packed issue featured ‘Jimmy Olsen in the 50th Century’ wherein the lad is transported to an era where history has conflated his and Superman’s lives, whilst in ‘The Case of the Cartoon Scoops’, he rediscovers a gift for drawing – and the curse of clairvoyance – before an horrific accident turns him into ‘The Radioactive Boy’…

In #18, humour is king as ‘The Super Safari’ finds young Jim using a “magic” flute to capture animals for a circus, whilst ‘The Riddle Reporter’ sees him lose scoops to a masked mystery journalist before having to nursemaid his best friend when a criminal’s time weapon turns the Man of Steel into ‘Superbaby, Jimmy Olsen’s Pal’…

In #19 ‘The Two Jimmy Olsens’ introduce a robot replica of the cub reporter whilst in ‘The Human Geiger Counter’ the kid becomes allergic to the Action Ace, after which a brain injury convinces him he is ‘Superman’s Kid Brother’. The next issue opened with ‘Jimmy Olsen’s Super-Pet’ as a prized souvenir hatches into a living, breathing dinosaur. Misguided efforts to save a small-town newspaper then culminate in kThe Trial of Jimmy Olsen’, after which Superman secretly makes his pal ‘The Merman of Metropolis’ in a convoluted scheme to preserve his own alter ego.

Issue #21 reveals an unsuspected family skeleton and a curse which seemingly transforms reporter into pirate in ‘The Legend of Greenbeard Olsen’. Ingenuity – and a few gimmicks – then briefly turn him into junior hero ‘Wonder Lad’ whereas plain old arrogance and snooping are responsible for the humiliation resulting from ‘The Wedding of Jimmy Olsen’ to Lois Lane…

A month later, the lady at last starred in her own comicbook when – galvanised by a growing interest in superhero stories – the company’s premiere try-out title pitched a brace of issues focused on the burgeoning Superman family of features.

Showcase #9 (cover-dated July/August 1957) featured Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane in a trio of tales by Jerry Coleman, Ruben Moreira & Al Plastino: opening with the seminal yarn ‘The Girl in Superman’s Past’ 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 all costs.

Naturally, Miss Lane invites Miss Lang to stay at her apartment and the grand rivalry was off and running…

‘The New Lois Lane’ sees Lois aggravatingly turn over a new leaf and stop attempting to uncover his secret identity just when Superman actually needs her to do so, before the premier concludes with the concussion-induced day-dream ‘Mrs. Superman’ with Lois imagining a life of domestic wedded super-bliss…

When Lois Lane finally received her own shot at solo stardom, it was sadly very much on the terms of the times. I shamefacedly admit to a deep, nostalgic affection for her bright and breezy, fantastically fun adventures, but as a free-thinking, liberal (notional) adult of the 21st century I’m simultaneously shocked nowadays at the patronising, nigh-misogynistic attitudes underpinning many of the stories.

I’m fully aware these stories were intended for young readers at a time when “dizzy dames” like Lucille Ball or Doris Day 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 indisputably crazy, downright insulting and tantamount to child abuse…

Oddly enough, the 1940s interpretation of the plucky news-hen was far less derogatory: Lois might have been ambitious and life-threateningly precipitate, but at least it was to advance her own career and put bad guys away… as seen in the superb 4-page vignette which closes this volume.

Back-up series ‘Lois Lane, Girl Reporter’ debuted in Superman #28 (May/June 1944): a breathless fast-paced screwball comedy-thriller by Don Cameron & Ed Dobrotka wherein the canny lass fails to talk a crazed jumper down from a ledge but saves him in another far more flamboyant manner, reaping the reward of a front page headline.

Before that Golden Age threat, however, there’s one last issue of the junior member of the Superman Family. Jimmy Olsen #22 begins with ‘The Mystery of the Millionaire Hoboes’, as the lad tracks down the reason wealthy men are masquerading as down-and-outs, before exposing the evil secrets behind ‘The Super-Hallucinations’ afflicting the Man of Tomorrow and ending with ‘The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen’ wherein resident affable crackpot genius Professor Phineas Potter evolves the boy into a man from 1,000,000AD. That cold, but surely benevolent being has a hidden agenda in play and is able to bend Superman to his hyper-intelligent will…

These spin-off supporting series were highly popular top-sellers for decades: blending action, adventure, broad, wacky comedy, fantasy and science fiction in the gently addictive manner scripter Otto Binder had first perfected a decade previously at Fawcett Comics on the magnificent Captain Marvel and his own myriad mini-universe of associated titles.

As well as containing some of the most delightful episodes of the pre angst-drenched, cosmically catastrophic DC, these fun, thrilling and yes, occasionally deeply moving all-ages stories also perfectly depict the changing mores and tastes which reshaped comics from the safely anodyne 1950s to the seditious, rebellious 1970s, all the while keeping to the prime directive of the industry – “keep them entertained and keep them wanting more”.

I know I certainly do…
© 1944, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors


By Martin Pasko, Elliot S. Maggin, Cary Bates, Len Wein, Curt Swan, John Rosenberger, Irv Novick, Dick Dillin, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dick Giordano, Jose Delbo & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3494-2 (PB)

The Princess of Paradise Island originally debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter in a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and – on forward-thinking Editor M.C. Gaines’ part – sell more comic books.

She catapulted into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. An instant hit, the Amazing Amazon won her own eponymous supplemental title a few months later, cover-dated Summer 1942.

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young, impressionable Princess Diana.

Fearful of her besotted child’s growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition that they forever isolated themselves from the mortal world and devoted their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However, with the planet in crisis, goddesses Athena and Aphrodite instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty. She would be chosen by triumphing over all her sisters in a grand tournament. Although forbidden to compete, Diana clandestinely overcame all other candidates to become their emissary – Wonder Woman.

On arriving in the Land of the Free, she purchased the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, elegantly allowing the Amazing Amazon to stay close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick but poverty-stricken care-worker to join her own fiancé in South America. Diana soon gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, further ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy yet supremely competent and capable Lieutenant Prince…

That set up enabled the Star-Spangled Siren to weather the vicissitudes of the notoriously transient comicbook marketplace and survive the end of the Golden Age of costumed heroes along with Superman, Batman and a few lucky second-stringers who inhabited the backs of their titles.

She soldiered on well into the Silver Age revival under the canny auspices of Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, but by 1968 superhero comics were in decline again and publishers sought new ways to keep audiences interested as tastes – and American society – changed.

Back then, the entire industry depended on newsstand sales and if you weren’t popular, you died. Editor Jack Miller & Mike Sekowsky stepped up with a radical proposal and made a little bit of comic book history with the only female superhero to still have her own title in that turbulent marketplace.

The superbly eccentric art of Sekowsky had been a DC mainstay for nearly two decades, and he had also scored big with fans at Gold Key with Man from Uncle and at Tower Comics in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and war title Fight the Enemy! His unique take on the Justice League of America had cemented its overwhelming success, and in 1968 he began stretching himself further with a number of experimental, young-adult oriented projects.

Tapping into the teen zeitgeist with Easy Rider style drama Jason’s Quest proved ultimately unsuccessful, but with the Metal Men and the hopelessly outdated and moribund Wonder Woman he had much greater impact. Sekowsky would subsequently work the same magic with equally stalled icon Supergirl

The big change came when the Amazons were compelled to leave our dimension, taking with them all their magic – including Wonder Woman’s powers and all her mystic weaponry. Now no more or less than human, she opted to stay on Earth permanently, assuming her own secret identity of Diana Prince, dedicated to fighting injustice as a mortal, very much in the manner of Emma Peel and Modesty Blaise.

Blind Buddhist monk I Ching rather rapidly trained her as a martial artist, and she soon became embroiled in the schemes of would-be world-conqueror Doctor Cyber. Most shockingly, her beloved Steve was branded a traitor and murdered…

Sekowsky’s root and branch overhaul offered a whole new kind of Wonder Woman, but as I’ve already said fashion ruled and, in a few years, without fanfare or warning, everything that had happened since Wonder Woman lost her powers was unwritten. Her mythical origins were revised and re-established as she returned to a world of immortals, gods, mythical monster and super-villains with a new nemesis: an African (or perhaps Hellenic?) American half-sister named Nubia

Such an abrupt reversal had tongues wagging and heads spinning in fan circles. Had the series offended some shady “higher-ups” who didn’t want controversy or a shake-up of the status quo?

Probably not. Sales were never great even on the Sekowsky run and the most logical reason is probably Television.

The Amazon had been optioned as a series since the days of the Batman TV show in 1967, and by this time (1973) production work had begun on the original 1974 pilot featuring Cathy Lee Crosby. An abrupt return to the character most viewers would be familiar with from their own childhoods seems perfectly logical to me…

By the time Lynda Carter made the concept work in 1975, Wonder Woman was once again “Stronger than Hercules, swifter than Mercury and more beautiful than Aphrodite”…

But as Diana returned to mainstream DC continuity, the readers and fans expected her to fully reintegrate, leading to this early and impressive example of a comics miniseries which ran in Wonder Woman #212 through 222 (cover-dates July 1974 – March 1976), detailing how the Amazing Amazon rejoined the JLA.

Scripter Len Wein and artists Curt Swan & Tex Blaisdell got the ball rolling with ‘The Man Who Mastered Women!’ as our Hellenic Hellion thwarts a terrorist attack at New York’s United Nations building… where Diana Prince now works as a translator. In the aftermath she surprisingly meets old friend Clark Kent.

Over the course of the conversation she realises her memories have been tampered with and suddenly understands why her JLA colleagues haven’t called her to any meetings… She had resigned years ago…

Although her former comrades beg her to re-enlist, she declines, fearing her memory lapses might endanger the team and the world. After much insistent pleading, she relents enough to suggest the League should covertly monitor her next dozen major cases – in the manner of Hercules’ twelve legendary tests – until she proves herself competent and worthy, for her own peace of mind, if not the JLA’s…

Once they grudgingly agree, she leaves and Superman begins the surveillance, observing her flying to Paradise Island in her Invisible Plane. Correctly deducing she has been subjected to Amazonian selective memory manipulation, Diana confronts her mother and learns of her time as a mere mortal… and of Steve’s death.

Although the past has been removed by her well-meaning Amazon sisters, Diana now demands that every recollection excised be returned…

Back in Man’s World, a crisis is already brewing as costumed crazy The Cavalier exerts his uncanny influence over women to control female Heads of State. Ultimately, however, his powers prove ineffectual over Wonder Woman…

As a result of that case, Diana Prince changes jobs, going to work as a troubleshooter for dashing Morgan Tracy at the UN Crisis Bureau, and her first mission isn’t long in coming…

Wonder Woman #213 was crafted by Cary Bates, Irv Novick & Blaisdell, detailing how an alien robot removes all aggression from humanity in one stroke. As the Flash helplessly observes, however, ‘The War-No-More Machine!’ also quashes all bravery, determination, confidence and capability. The species faced imminent – if long and drawn out – extinction.

Happily, Diana, a teenaged girl and a murderous criminal are all somehow immune to the invader’s influence…

Elliot S. Maggin, Swan & Phil Zupa then disclose Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s undercover observations after a lost Amazon gem in unwitting, unscrupulous hands almost starts World War III and the Princess of Power must avert nuclear holocaust triggered by a ‘Wish Upon a Star!’

The superb and vastly undervalued John Rosenberger pencilled Bates’ tale of the ‘Amazon Attack Against Atlantis’ (inked by Vince Colletta) as Aquaman watches Wonder Woman unravel a baroque and barbaric plot by Mars, God of War to set Earth’s two most advanced nations at each throats, after which #216 finds Black Canary uncovering the Amazon Sisterhood’s greatest secret in ‘Paradise in Peril!’ (Maggin, Rosenberger & Colletta).

The tale concerns an obsessed multi-millionaire risking everything – including possibly the collapse of civilisation – to uncover exactly what would happen if a man sets foot upon the hidden Island of the Amazons…

One of Wonder Woman’s oldest foes resurfaces in ‘The Day Time Broke Loose!’ (Maggin, Dick Dillin & Colletta) and Green Arrow is caught in the crossfire as the Duke of Deception attacks the UN with temporally torturous images and hallucinations designed to create madness and death on a global scale.

Produced by Martin Pasko & Kurt Schaffenberger, issue #218 offers two short complete tales. Firstly Red Tornado reports on the ‘Revolt of the Wonder Weapons’ as an influential astrologer uses mind-control techniques to gain power and accidentally undermine Diana’s arsenal, after which The Phantom Stranger stealthily witnesses her foil a mystic plot by sorcerer Felix Faust which animates and enrages the Statue of Liberty in ‘Give Her Liberty – and Give Her Death!’

This was a time when feminism was finally making inroads into American culture and Pasko, Swan & Colletta slyly tipped their hats to the burgeoning movement in a wry and fanciful sci-fi thriller. Thus, WW #219 sees Diana preventing a vile incursion by the dominating males of Xro, a ‘World of Enslaved Women!’, with stretchable sleuth Elongated Man covertly traversing the parallel dimensions in Wonder Woman’s wake.

With the epic endeavour almost ended, scripter Pasko added a patina of mystery to the affair as the Atom watches Diana tackle ‘The Man Who Wiped Out Time!’ Illustrated by Dick Giordano, Wonder Woman #220 found temporal bandit Chronos eradicating New York’s ability to discern time and time pieces: a plot foiled with style and brilliance by the on-form, in-time Power Princess.

The only problem was that during that entire exacting episode Hawkman had been simultaneously watching Diana tackle another potential disaster hundreds of miles away…

The Feathered Fury’s report details how Crisis Bureau operative Diana Prince was targeted by Dr. Cyber and Professor Moon – old enemies from her powerless period – who combine a hunger for vengeance with a plan to steal a UN-controlled chemical weapon in ‘The Fiend with the Face of Glass’ (illustrated by Swan & Colletta).

How she could be in two places simultaneously was revealed by Batman, who wraps up the twelve trials in ‘Will the Real Wonder Woman Please… Stand Up Drop Dead!’ (illustrated by Jose Delbo & Blaisdell), detailing how a beloved children’s entertainment icon has been subverted into a monster feeding off people whilst replacing them with perfect duplicates…

With covers by Bob Oksner, Nick Cardy, Mike Grell, Dick Giordano & Ernie Chan, this is a spectacular slice of pure, uncomplicated, all ages superhero action/adventure starring one of comics’ true all stars.

Stuffed with stunning art and witty, beguiling stories, here is Wonder Woman at her most welcoming in a timeless, pivotal classic of the medium: one that still provides astounding amounts of fun and thrills for anyone interested in a grand old time.
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Batgirl volume 1


By Gardner Fox, Cary Bates, Mike Friedrich, Robert Kanigher, Frank Robbins, Denny O’Neil, Elliot S. Maggin,Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, Frank Springer, Mike Sekowsky, Bob Brown, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Win Mortimer, Irv Novick, Don Heck & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1367-1 (TPB)

Today comics readers are pretty used to the vast battalion of Bat-shaped champions infesting Gotham City and its troubled environs, but for the longest time it was just Bruce, Dick, Alfred – and occasionally their borrowed dog Ace – keeping crime on the run. However, in Detective Comics #233 (July 1956 and three months before the debut of the Flashofficially ushered in the Silver Age of American comicbooks) the editorial powers-that-be introduced heiress Kathy Kane, who sporadically suited-up in chiropteran red-&-yellow for the next eight years.

In Batman #139 (April 1961) her niece Betty started dressing up and acting out as her assistant Batgirl, but when Editor Julie Schwartz took over the Bat-titles in 1964 both ladies unceremoniously disappeared in his root-and-branch overhaul.

In 1966 the Batman TV series took over the planet, but its second season was far less popular and the producers soon saw the commercial sense of adding a glamorous female fighter in the fresh, new tradition of Emma Peel, Honey West and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., especially when clad in a cute cape, shiny skin-tight body-stocking and go-go boots…

Of course, she had to join the comics cast too, and this Showcase edition re-presents her varied appearances as both guest-star and headliner in her own series, beginning with her four-colour premiere. Hopefully, with the Batwoman TV show now inspiring a new generation of screen-based fans, it won’t be long before the material in this tantalising monochrome tome will be rereleased in in new – full-colour – print and digital editions…

In ‘The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl’ (Detective Comics #359, January 1967) writer Gardner Fox and art team supreme o Carmine Infantino & Sid Greene introduced young Barbara Gordon, mousy librarian and daughter of the Police Commissioner, so by the time the third season began on September 14, 1967, she was well-established.

In her small screen premiere she pummelled the Penguin, but Batgirl’s comic book origin featured the no-less-ludicrous but at least visually forbidding Killer Moth in a clever, fast-paced yarn involving blackmail and murder that still stands up today and which opens in fine style this massive compilation of the early years of one of the most successful distaff spin-offs in the business.

Her appearances came thick and fast after that initial tale: ‘The True-False Face of Batman’ (Detective #363, by Fox, Infantino & Greene) was a full co-starring vehicle as she was challenged to deduce Batman’s secret identity whilst tracking down enigmatic criminal genius Mr. Brains. Next, BG teamed-up with the Girl of Steel in World’s Finest Comics #169 (September 1967) wherein the independent lasses seemingly worked to replace Batman and Superman in ‘The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot’: a whimsical fantasy feast from Cary Bates, Curt Swan & George Klein.

Detective #369 (Infantino and Greene) somewhat reinforced boyhood prejudices about icky girls in classy thriller ‘Batgirl Breaks Up the Dynamic Duo’ which segued directly into a classic confrontation in Batman #197 as ‘Catwoman sets Her Claws for Batman!’ (Fox, Frank Springer & Greene). This frankly daft tale is most fondly remembered for a classic cover of Batgirl and whip-wielding Catwoman squaring off over Batman’s prone body – proving that comic fans have a psychopathology uniquely their very own…

Gil Kane made his debut on the Dominoed Daredoll (did they really call her that? – yes they did, from page 2 onwards!) in Detective #371’s ‘Batgirl’s Costumed Cut-ups’: a masterpiece of comic-art dynamism that inker Sid Greene could be proud of, but which proffered some rather uncomfortable assertions about female vanity that Gardner Fox probably preferred to forget – and just check out the cover of this book if you think I’m kidding.

Batgirl next surfaced in Justice League of America #60 (February 1968), wherein the team barely survive a return match with alien invader Queen Bee and are temporarily transformed into ‘Winged Warriors of the Immortal Queen!’ (Fox, Mike Sekowsky & Greene), after which in the June-July The Brave and the Bold (#78) Bob Brown stepped in to draw her for Bob Haney’s eccentric crime-thriller ‘In the Coils of the Copperhead’ wherein Wonder Woman vied with the fresh young thing for Batman’s affections. Of course, it was all a cunning plan… at first…

That same month another team-up with Supergirl heralded a sea-change in DC’s tone, style and content as the girls were dragged into ‘The Superman-Batman Split!’ (World’s Finest Comics #176) with Bates providing a far darker mystery for the girls and boys (including Robin and Jimmy Olsen) to solve. With this yarn artists Neal Adams & Dick Giordano began revolutionising how comics looked with their moody, exciting hyper-realistic renderings…

Although Barbara Gordon continued to crop up in the background of occasional Batman adventures, that was the last time the masked heroine was seen until Detective Comics #384, (February 1969) when Batgirl was finally awarded her own solo feature. Written by Mike Friedrich and illustrated by the phenomenal team of Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson, ‘Tall, Dark. Handsome …and Missing!’ began an engaging run of human-scaled crime dramas with what all the (male) scripters clearly believed was a strong female slant, as seen in this yarn wherein librarian Babs develops a crush on a frequent borrower just before he inexplicably vanishes.

Batgirl investigates and runs into a pack of brutal thugs before solving the mystery in the second chapter ‘Hunt for the Helpless Hostage!’ (Detective #385), after which the lead story from that issue rather inexplicably follows here.

‘Die Small… Die Big!’ by Robert Kanigher, Bob Brown & Joe Giella is one of the best Batman adventures of the period, with a nameless nonentity sacrificing everything for a man he’s never met, but Babs is only in three panels and never as Batgirl…

Adventure Comics #381 (June 1969) made far better use of her as she goes undercover and is largely at odds with the Maid of Steel whilst exposing ‘The Supergirl Gang’ in a tense thriller by Bates & Win Mortimer. Batgirl shared alternating adventures in Detective back-up slot with Robin, so she next appeared in#388 which also welcomed newspaper strip star Frank Robbins to script ‘Surprise! This’ll Kill You!’: a sophisticated bait-and-switch caper which sees Batgirl impersonate herself and almost pay with her life for another girl’s crimes. Spectacularly illustrated by Kane & Anderson, the strip expanded from eight to ten pages, but that still wasn’t enough and the breathtaking thrills spill over into a dramatic conclusion in ‘Batgirl’s Bag of Tricks!

Although tone and times were changing, there was still potential to be daft and parochial too, as seen in ‘Batman’s Marriage Trap!’ (Batman #214, by Robbins, Irv Novick & Giella) wherein a wicked Femme Fatale sets the unfulfilled spinsters of America on the trail of Gotham’s Most Eligible Bat-chelor (see what I did there? I’ve done it before too and you can’t stop me…).

Not even a singular guest-shot by positive role-model Batgirl can redeem this peculiar throwback – although the art rather does…

From Detective #392, October 1969 and by Robbins, Kane & Anderson, ‘A Clue… Seven-Foot Tall!’ is another savvy contemporary crime-saga which introduces a new Bat cast-member in the form of disabled Vietnam veteran and neophyte private eye Jason Bard (who would eventually inherit Batgirl’s spot in Detective Comics). Here and in the concluding ‘Downfall of a Goliath’ Babs and Bard spar before joining forces to solve a brutal murder in the world of professional basketball.

Issues #396 & 397 (February and March 1970) see Batgirl face the very modern menace of what we’d now call a psychosexual serial killer in chilling, enthralling mystery ‘The Orchid-Crusher’ and ‘The Hollow Man’: a clear proof of the second-string character’s true and still untapped potential…

The anniversary Detective #400 (June 1970) finally teamed her with Robin in ‘A Burial For Batgirl!’(Denny O’Neil, Kane & Vince Colletta) a college-based murder mystery referencing political and social unrest then plaguing US campuses, but which still finds space to be smart and action-packed as well as topical before its chillingly satisfactory conclusion ‘Midnight is the Dying Hour!’ (Detective #401).

With issue #404, Babs became the sole back-up star as Robbins, Kane & Frank Giacoia sampled the underground movie scene with ‘Midnight Doom-Boy’, mischievously spoofing Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory studio in another intriguing murder-plot, diverting to and culminating in another branch of Pop Art as Batgirl nearly becomes ‘The Living Statue!’

In ‘The Explosive Circle!’ (#406, with Colletta inking) the topic du jour is gentrification, as property speculation rips Gotham apart, but not as much as a gang of radical bombers, leading to the cry ‘One of Our Landmarks is Missing!’ The next issue (#408) saw the vastly underrated Don Heck take over as artist, inked here by Dick Giordano on ‘The Phantom Bullfighter!’ wherein a work-trip to Madrid embroils Batgirl in a contentious dispute between matadors old and new, leading to a murderous ‘Night of the Sharp Horns!’

Inevitably, fashion reared its stylish head in a strip with a female lead, but Robbins’ wickedly clever ‘Battle of the Three “M’s”’ (that’s Mini, Midi and Maxi to you) proved to be one of the most compelling and clever tales of the entire run as a trendsetting celebrity finds herself targeted by an unscrupulous designer, leading to a murderous deathtrap for Babs in ‘Cut… and Run!’

Clearly inspired, Robbins stayed with girlish things for ‘The Head-Splitters!’ (Detective #412) and Heck, now inking himself, rose to the occasion for a truly creepy saga about hairdressing that features one of the nastiest scams and murder methods I’ve ever seen, ending in a climactic ‘Squeeze-Play!’

Babs reunites with Jason Bard for an anniversary date only to stumble onto an ‘Invitation to Murder!’ (another celebrity homage; this time to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) – a classy fair-play mystery resolved in ‘Death Shares the Spotlight!’

When a cop-killing tears apart the city, Babs’ father Commissioner Jim Gordon takes it badly in ‘The Deadly Go-Between!’, but militant radicals aren’t the only threat as seen in concluding episode ‘A Bullet For Gordon!’: heralding a far greater role for the once-anodyne authority figure and leading to his integral role in today’s Bat-universe.

Robbins & Heck also revealed a shocking secret about the Commissioner that would build through the remaining Batgirl adventures, beginning with ‘The Kingpin is Dead!’, concerning a “motiveless” hit on an old gang-boss all cleared up in spectacular fashion with ‘Long Live the Kingpin!’ in #419.

‘Target for Mañana!’ has Babs and her dad travel to Mexico on a narcotics fact-finding mission only to fall foul of a sinister plot in ‘Up Against Three Walls!’, before the series took a landmark turn in ‘The Unmasking of Batgirl’ as a charmer breaks her heart and Babs decides to chuck it all in and run for Congress in ‘Candidate For Danger!’

Detective Comics #424 (June 1972) features ‘Batgirl’s Last Case’ as “Battlin’ Babs” overturns a corrupt political machine and shuffles off to DC, leaving Jason to manage on his own…

That wasn’t quite the end of her first run of adventures. Superman #268 (October 1973) found her battling spies in the Capitol beside the Man of Steel in ‘Wild Week-End in Washington!’, courtesy of Elliot S. Maggin, Swan & Bob Oksner before repeating the experience a year later in ‘Menace of the Energy-Blackmailers!’ (Superman #279, by Maggin, Swan & Phil Zupa.

This eclectic but highly entertaining compendium concludes with one last Supergirl team-up, this time by Maggin Swan & Colletta from Superman Family #171 (June/July 1975), wherein a distant descendent of the Empress of the Nile uses magic to become ‘Cleopatra, Queen of America’, overwhelming even Superman and the Justice League before our Cape and Cowl champs finally lower the boom…

Batgirl’s early exploits come from and indeed partially shaped an era where women in popular fiction were finally emerging from the marriage-obsessed, ankle-twisting, deferential, fainting hostage-fodder mode that had been their ignoble lot in all media for untold decades. Feminism wasn’t a dirty word or a joke then for the generation of girls who at last got some independent and effective role-models with (metaphorically, at least) balls.

Complex yet uncomplicated, the adventures of Batgirl grew beyond their crassly commercial origins to make a real difference. However, these tales are not only significant but drenched in charm and wit; drawn with a gloriously captivating style and panache that still delights and enthrals. This is no girly comic but a full-on thrill ride you can’t afford to ignore and which deserves to be revived with all the bells, whistles and respect the characters and stories rightfully command…
© 1967-1975, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Catwoman: Nine Lives of a Feline Fatale


By Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Edmond Hamilton, Leo Dorfman, Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Doug Moench, Ed Brubaker, Frank Springer, Lew Sayer Schwartz, Kurt Schaffenberger, Irv Novick, Tom Mandrake, Michael Avon Oeming (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0213-2 (TPB)

It feels odd to plug a book that is so obviously a quick and cheap cash-cow tie-in to a movie (and a bad movie, at that), but this Catwoman volume from 2004 has a great deal to recommend it. For a start it is quaintly cheap ‘n’ cheerful. The references to the film are kept to an absolute minimum. The selection of reprints, purporting to signify nine distinct takes on the venerable femme fatale are well considered in terms of what the reader hasn’t seen as opposed to what they have. There are also some rare and stunning art pieces selected as chapter heads, too, from the likes of George Perez, Dave Stevens, Alan Davis and Bruce Timm.

The stories themselves vary in quality by modern standards, but serve as an intriguing indicator of taste in the manner of a time capsule or introductory Primer. Track the feline fury from her first appearance as mysterious thief ‘The Cat’ (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane & Jerry Robinson: Batman #1 1940), through ‘The Crimes of the Catwoman’ (Edmond Hamilton, Kane/Lew Sayer Schwartz & Charles Paris: Detective #203 1954), to the wonderfully absurdist cat fight with Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane (#70-71: 1966), as described by Leo Dorfman & Kurt Schaffenberger in ‘The Catwoman’s Black Magic’ and ‘Bad Luck for a Black Super-Cat!’

A victim of 1960’s TV “Batmania”, ‘Catwoman Sets Her Claws for Batman’ sees her battle Batgirl in a cringingly painful outing from Batman #197, by 1967 by Gardner Fox, Frank Springer & Sid Greene) but at least it can be regarded as the nadir of her decline from sexy object of pursuit to imbecilic Twinkie. From here it’s onwards and upwards again…

In the nonsensical ‘The Case of the Purr-Loined Pearl’ (Batman #210, 1969), Frank Robbins, Irv Novick & Joe Giella slowly (and oh, so terribly gradually) begin her return to major villain status, after which Doug Moench, Tom Mandrake & Jan Duursema devise ‘A Town on the Night’ (Batman #392, 1986), showing one of her innumerable romantic excursions onto the right side of the law before ‘Object Relations’ (Catwoman #54 1998), shows us a ghastly but brief “Bad-Grrrl” version of the glamorous super-thief.

Mercifully, we then get to the absolutely enthralling ‘Claws’ (Batman: Gotham Adventures #4 1998, by Ty Templeton, Rich Burchett& Terry Beatty), produced in the spin-off comic based on the television cartoon but probably the best piece of pure comic book escapism in the whole package. The volume closes with another revision of her origin ‘The Many Lives of Selina Kyle’ (Catwoman Secret Files#1 2002), by Ed Brubaker, Michael Avon Oeming & Mike Manley.

Catwoman is a timeless icon and one of the few female comic characters that the entire real world has actually heard of, so it’s great that the whole deal is such a light, frothy outing, as well as having some rarity appeal for dedicated fans. Go get her, Tiger!
© 1940-1955, 1956-2002, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: The Man of Steel volume 4


By John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Paul Levitz, Jerry Ordway, Greg LaRoque, Erik Larsen & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0455-6 (TPB)

Here’s a classic compilation – and series – which has inexplicably been allowed to drop out of print and is thus long overdue for re-issue. At least this one’s still available in digital editions…

In 1985, when DC Comics decided to rationalise and reconstruct their continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths, they used the event to regenerate their key properties at the same time. The biggest gun they had was Superman and it’s hard to argue that change came none too soon.

The big guy was in a bit of a slump, but he’d weathered those before. So how could a major makeover be anything but a pathetic marketing ploy that would alienate the real fans for a few Johnny-come-latelies who would jump ship as soon as the next fad surfaced? The popular wisdom amongst fans was that this new Superman was going to suck. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Superman titles were cancelled or suspended for three months, and yes, that did make the real-world media sit up and take notice of the character for the first time in decades. But there was method in the corporate madness.

Beginning with 6-part miniseries Man of Steel – written and drawn by mainstream superstar John Byrne and inked by venerated veteran Dick Giordano – the experiment was a huge and instant success. So much so, that when it was first collected as a stand-alone graphic novel in the 1980s, it became one of the industry’s premiere break-out hits. From his overwhelming re-inception the character returned to his suspended comicbook homes with the addition of a third monthly title premiering that same month.

Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics (which became a fan-appeasing team-up book guest-starring other heroes of the DC Universe) were instant best-sellers. So successful was the relaunch that by the early 1990’s Superman would be able to sustain four monthly titles as well as Specials, Annuals, guest shots and his semi-regular appearances in titles such as Justice League.

It was quite a turnaround from the earlier heydays of the Man of Steel when editors were frantic about not over-exposing their biggest gun. With Byrne’s controversial reboot a solid hit, the collaborative teams tasked with ensuring his continued success really hit their stride with the tales collected in this fourth volume.

First published between July and September 1987 and re-presenting in paperback (if you can find it) and eBook formats (if you can’t) the contents of Superman #7-8, Action #590-591 and Adventures of Superman #430-431, this epic tome also includes two critical issues of Legion of Super-Heroes (#37-38) and the wonderment is necessarily preceded here by Introduction ‘Superman or Superboy?’ which outlines the dilemma that occurred after the Man of Tomorrow’s recent retcon eliminated his entire career and achievements as the Boy of Steel…

This event provided a classic back-writing exercise to solve an impossible post-Crisis paradox whilst giving us old geeks a chance to see a favourite character die in a way all heroes should….

The drama kicks off with ‘Rampage!’ by Byrne and inker Karl Kesel (Superman volume 2 #7) as a petty colleague sabotages an experiment at a Metropolis lab and accidentally transforms his boss Dr. Kitty Faulkner into a super-strong rage-fuelled monstrosity. Thankfully, Superman is on hand and possessed of a cool head…

Adventures of Superman #430 then sees the Action Ace ‘Homeward Bound!’ – courtesy of Marv Wolfman & Jerry Ordway – in pitched battle against metahuman bandits the Fearsome Five whilst in Action Comics #590 Byrne & Dick Giordano explore ‘Better Living Dying Through Chemistry’, wherein a bizarre toxic accident turns ambulatory waste dump Chemo into a giant Superman clone. Happily, its old adversaries The Metal Men are on hand to aid in the extremely violent clean-up…

Legion of Super-Heroes #37 (August 1987, by Paul Levitz, Greg LaRoque, Mike DeCarlo & Arne Starr) then sets the scene for ‘A Twist in Time’ as a team of Legionnaires heads back to Smallville to visit founding member Superboy only to find themselves attacked by their greatest ally and inspiration…

The tale continues in Byrne & Kesel’s ‘Future Shock’ (Superman #8): a strange squad of aliens appear in his boyhood hometown. Mistaking Superman for Superboy, the Legionnaires attack and after the inconclusive clash concludes begin to piece together an incredible tale of cosmic villainy that has made suckers of them all…

When a kill-crazed Superboy shows up the tale shifts to Action #491 where Byrne & Keith Williams reveal a ‘Past Imperfect’ as the youthful and adult Kal-El’s butt heads until a ghastly truth is revealed leading to Levitz, LaRoque & Mike DeCarlo’s stunning and tragic conclusion in Legion of Super-Heroes #38 where the manipulative reality-warping mastermind behind the scheme falls to ignominious defeat at the hands of ‘The Greatest Hero of Them All’

Back on solid ground and his own reality the one-and-only Superman then battles a new kind of maniac malcontent in ‘They Call Him… Doctor Stratos’ (by Wolfman, Erik Larsen & “India Inc.” from Adventures of Superman #431): delivering a crushing defeat to a weather-controlling would-be god to wrap up the never-ending battle for another day…

The back-to-basics approach perfected here lured many readers to – and back to – the Superman franchise, but the sheer quality of the stories and art are what convinced them to stay. Such cracking, clear-cut superhero exploits are a high point in the Metropolis Marvel’s decades-long career, and these chronologically-curated collections are certainly the easiest way to enjoy one of the most impressive reinventions of the ultimate comic-book icon.
© 1987, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman Annual 1986


By Cary Bates, Elliot S! Maggin, Grant Morrison, Pete Milligan, Curt Swan, Barry Kitson, Jeff Andersen, Mike Collins, Mark Farmer, Mike Grell, Brian Bolland & various (London Editions)
ISBN: 978-0-72356-763-9 (HB)

Before DC and other American publishers began exporting comicbooks directly into the UK in 1959, our exposure to their unique brand of fantasy fun came from licensed reprints. British publishers/printers like Len Miller, Alan Class and Top Sellers bought material from the USA – and occasionally Canada – to fill 68-page monochrome anthologies, many of which recycled the same stories for decades.

Less common were strangely coloured pamphlets produced by Australian outfit K. G. Murray: exported to the UK in a rather sporadic manner. The company also produced sturdy Annuals which had a huge impact on my earliest years (I suspect my abiding adulation of monochrome artwork stems from seeing supreme stylists like Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson strut their stuff uncluttered by flat colour…).

In Britain we began seeing hardcover Superman Annuals in 1950 and Batman Annuals in 1960. Since then a number of publishers have carried on the tradition. This particular tome comes from the mid-1980s when a number of young British creators were perfecting their skills and looking for work in the home of the Brave…

Thankfully though the UK Annual format remains: offering a delightfully eclectic and inescapably nostalgic mix of material designed to cater to young eyes and broad tastes.

Released in the Autumn of 1985, this hardback gem opens with a frontispiece montage of the Man of Steel by a host of US luminaries before contemporary comics reprint (taken from Superman #392, February 1984) ‘If a Body Meets a Body…’ (by Cary Bates, Elliot S. Maggin Curt Swan & Dave Hunt) finds the Action Ace scouring the world for his childhood sweetheart Lana Lang. Complicating the issue is the abductor, alien superhero Vartox and a champion more powerful and experienced than the fraught and frantic Man of Steel.

What could possible have triggered this unexpected aberration?

This is followed by an original prose yarn written by then-up-&-comer Grant Morrison and liberally illustrated in full-colour by Barry Kitson & Jeff Anderson. When the Metropolis mob want to get rid of Superman, they back a mad scientist who tries psychological warfare with ‘Osgood Peabody’s Big Green Dream Machine’. Any guesses how that works out?

Returning to strip reprints, ‘This Legionnaire is Condemned’ is by Bates, Mike Grell & Bob Wiacek and originated in December 1976’s Superboy and the Legion of Super-Hero #222. The tales sees new member Tyroc seemingly terrorising 30th century Metropolis with his reality-bending sonic screams, but of course there’s a rational reason for all the cunningly conceived catastrophes…

‘Testing Time for Superman’ is another text adventure, courtesy of Pete Milligan, Mike Collins & Mark Farmer with the overworked Action Ace multitasking alien threats and romantic interludes with Lois Lane, after which a stunning Brian Bolland pinup (from Superman #400) segues into pages of ‘Super Puzzles’ and a bombastic final act from Bates, Swan & Tex Blaisdell as ‘Superman’s Energy Crisis’ (Action Comics #454, December1975) sees the Last Son of Krypton battling a new Toyman just as his powers are mysteriously fading away…

Smart, no-nonsense, solid superhero shenanigans have always been the watchword of Superman Annuals and this one is no exception.
© 1985 DC Comics Inc, and London Editions Limited. All characters © 1985 DC Comics Inc.

Adventures of Superman: José Luis García-López


By José Luis García-López, Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Elliot S. Maggin, David Michelinie, Len Wein, Denny O’Neil & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3856-8 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Super Special Stocking Stuffer… 9/10

It’s a fact (if such mythological concepts still exist): the American comicbook industry would be utterly unrecognisable without the invention of Superman. His unprecedented adoption by a desperate and joy-starved generation quite literally gave birth to a genre if not an actual art form.

Within three years of his June 1938 debut, the intoxicating blend of eye-popping action and social wish-fulfilment which hallmarked the early Man of Steel had grown to encompass cops-and-robbers crime-busting, socially reforming dramas, science fiction, fantasy, whimsical comedy and, once the war in Europe and the East embroiled America, patriotic relevance.

In comicbook terms at least Superman is master of the world, having utterly changed the shape of a fledgling industry and modern entertainment in general. There have been newspaper strips, radio and TV shows, cartoons games, toys, merchandise and blockbusting movies. Everyone on Earth gets a picture in their heads when they hear the name.

Moreover, he is a character endlessly revitalised by the creators who work on his never-ending exploits. One the most gifted and intoxicating is José Luis García-López.

An industry professional since he was 13 years old, he was born in Pontevedra, Spain in 1948. By age three he was living in Argentina where he was reared on a steady diet of comics: especially the works of Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Alberto Breccia, Milt Caniff and José Luis Salinas.

During the late 1960s, García-López finally broke into the US comics world, with anthological romance work and anodyne horror tales for Charlton Comics and mystery-suspense yarns for Gold Key, and in 1974 moved to New York City where Joe Orlando got him a crucial intro with DC Comics. That turned into an almost-exclusive 40-year association which not only led to some astounding comics sagas, but also saw the artist become the corporation’s official reference artist for style guides and merchandising materials. His art was DC’s interface with the wider world.

After a few tentative inking jobs, García-López debuted as a penciller/inker on a Hawkman back-up in Detective Comics#452 in October 1975, and a month later began illustrating Hercules Unbound. His sumptuous art could also encompass grim & gritty and he was drafted in to end run on the company’s Tarzan title, and afterwards handed western antihero Jonah Hex as the gunslinger – bucking all industry sales trends – graduated to his own solo title in early 1977.

The artist’s star was on the rise. While filling in all across the DCU – his assorted Superman tales are all in this stunning hardback and digital compilation – García-López was increasingly first choice for major publishing projects such as the Marvel-DC Batman/Hulk tabloid crossover, prestige specials such the Wonder Woman clash collected here and such breakthrough miniseries and graphic novels as Cinder & Ashe, Atari Force, Twilight, Star Raiders, Road to Perditionand countless more. He remains, paradoxically, one of the company’s greatest artists and yet largely unknown and under-appreciated…

This splendid tome gathers the contents of Superman #294, 301-302, 307-309, 347, All-New Collectors’ Edition C-54and DC Comics Presents #1-4, 17, 20, 24, 31, collectively spanning December 1975 to March 1981 and, hopefully, eventually to be joined by a companion DC Universe of… edition one day.

What we have here, though, is a boldly exuberant celebration of the Man of Steel, many with guest stars and all splendidly accessible to veteran fans and casual acquaintances alike.

The wonderment opens with a short back-up from Superman #294.

Scripted by Martin Pasko and inked by Vince Colletta, ‘The Tattoo Switcheroo!’ details how Clark Kent escapes secret identity exposure after being nabbed by gangsters, but such pedestrian concerns are forgotten in issue #301 (July 76) where Gerry Conway & Bob Oksner help prove ‘Solomon Grundy Wins on a Monday!’ as the Earth-2’s monstrous zombie horror sideslips to Earth-1 to wreak havoc in Metropolis, forcing the Action Ace to use brains rather than brawn to win the day.

An issue later, Elliot S. Maggin scripted ‘Seven-Foot-Two… and Still Growing!’ as super scientist Lex Luthor finds a way to diminish the hero’s intellect by enlarging him to the point where his brain no longer connects to his dinosaur-dimensioned body. Thankfully, size-shifting hero The Atom is only a phone call away…

Curt Swan was Superman’s premiere artist for decades: a supremely gifted and conscientious illustrator who made the character his own. He was not, however, superhuman and while he was drawing the then-“longest Superman story ever” for DC Special Series #5 (Superman Spectacular 1977) García-López united with Conway and inker Frank Springer for issues #307-309 (January – March 1977), as the Man of Steel was deluded in ‘Krypton – No More!’ into believing his alien origins to be a comfortable fabrication to ease a human mutant’s twisted mind. Waging a war to save the environment from big business and their multipowered minions Radion and Protector, Kal-El even battles his cousin Supergirl to disprove ‘This Planet is Mine!’ before the true story is revealed, just in time to tackle an alien invasion in ‘Blind Hero’s Bluff!’ with the Girl of Steel returning to battle beside the now clear-headed hero and his faithful dog Krypto

Following that comes one of the most impressive and fun comics sagas of the era as All-New Collectors’ Edition C-54(January 1978), written by Conway and inked by Dan Adkins. ‘Superman vs. Wonder Woman’ takes us back to World War II, as Man of Steel and Amazing Amazon meet for the first time after Nazi Übermensch Baron Blitzkrieg and Japan’s lethal assassin Sumo the Samurai unite to steal a prototype atomic device. Although they should be allies, the heroes are quickly and cataclysmically at odds over the dispensation of the nuke, but once they stop fighting, they still must defeat the Axis Powers’ most fanatical operatives…

From the moment a kid first sees his second superhero the only thing they want is to see how the new gaudy gladiator stacks up against the first. 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 a regular arena to have adventures with other stars of their firmament, just as Batman had been doing since the middle of the 1960s in The Brave and the Bold. It was the publicity-drenched weeks before release of Superman: The Movie and Tim Burton’s Batman (which, BTW, García-López also provided designs for) was over a decade away…

In truth, the Metropolis Marvel had already enjoyed the serial sharing experience before, when World’s Finest Comicsbriefly ejected the Caped Crusader and Superman battled beside a coterie of heroes including Flash, Robin, Teen Titans, Vigilante, Dr. Fate and others (issues #198-214: November 1970 to October/November 1972) before a proper status quo was re-established.

The star-studded new monthly DC Comics Presents was a big deal at the time, so only the utterly astounding and series-unattached José Luis García-López (inked by Adkins) could conceivably open the show.

Silver Age Flash Barry Allen had been Superman’s first co-star in that aforementioned World’s Finest Comics run and reprises his role in ‘Chase to the End of Time!’ and ‘Race to the End of Time!’ from DCCP #1 and 2 (July/August and September/October 1978), wherein scripter Marty Pasko detailed how warring alien races trick both heroes into speeding relentlessly through the time-stream to prevent Earth’s history from being corrupted and destroyed.

As if that isn’t dangerous enough, nobody could predict the deadly intervention of the Scarlet Speedster’s most dangerous foe, Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, who tries to turn the race against time to his own advantage…

David Michelinie then wrote a tantalising pastiche of classic Adam Strange Mystery in Space thrillers for García-López to draw and ink in ‘The Riddle of Little Earth Lost’, wherein the Man of Two Worlds and Man of Tomorrow foil the diabolical cosmic catastrophe scheme of a deranged military genius Kaskor to transpose, subjugate or destroy Earth and light-years distant planet Rann.

Len Wein came aboard to script the superb ‘Sun-Stroke!’ as the Man of Steel and the madly-malleable Metal Men join forces to thwart solar-fuelled genius I.Q. and toxic elemental menace Chemo after an ill-considered plan to enhance Earth’s solar radiation exposure provokes a cataclysmic solar-flare.

With the title on solid ground the artist moved on, but returned with Gerry Conway and inker Steve Mitchell to herald the return of Firestorm in DCCP #17’s ‘The Ice Slaves of Killer Frost!’: a bombastic, saves-the-day epic which brings the Nuclear Man back into the active DC pantheon after a long hiatus.

In #20, Green Arrow steals the show as always in gripping, big-business-busting eco-thriller ‘Inferno from the Sky!’ by Denny O’Neil, García-López & Joe Giella, after which the artist filled in with Conway on Superman #347 (May 1980) as the Last Son of Krypton clashes with a mythic cosmic courier in ‘The Sleeper Out of Time!’

In his peregrinations around the DCU, García-López had particularly distinguished himself with numerous episodes and fill-ins starring murdered aerialist Deadman. One of the very best came in DC Comics Presents #24 (August 1980) wherein scripter Wein reveals the tragic and chilling story of ‘The Man Who Was the World!’ as the grim ghost is forced to possess Superman and save the Earth… but fouls up badly…

Wrapping up this superb Fights ‘n’ Tights festival is ‘The Deadliest Show on Earth!’ (DCCP #31); written by Conway and inked by Dick Giordano, teaming Man of Steel and original Robin, the Teen Wonder Dick Grayson to conclusively crush a perfidious psychic vampire predating on the performers at the troubled Sterling Circus…

These tales are gripping fare elevated to epic regions by the magnificent art of one of the world’s finest artists. How could any fan possibly resist?
© 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: Emperor Joker

By Jeph Loeb, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Schultz, Joe Kelly, Ed McGuinness, Mike Miller, Doug Mahnke, Kano, Duncan Rouleau, Todd Nauck, Carlo Barberi, Scott McDaniel & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1193-6 (TPB)

In the arena of superhero stories, the terms of narrative are often determined more by the antagonists than the gaudily costumed champions doggedly duelling with them. That’s never been more apparent than in tales featuring the Clown Prince of Crime such as this one…

Originally available as a trade paperback and now in a selection of digital formats, this outlandish yarn collectively spans September and October 2000, as originally published in Superman #160-161, Adventures of Superman #582-583, Superman: The Man of Steel #104-105, Action Comics #769-770 and Emperor Joker #1.

First 4-part story arc Superman: Arkham begins in Superman #160 with ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World!’ by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness & Cam Smith. The night is broken with hideous screams. Every night.

A black-clad maniac dubbed Superman smashes out of grim asylum Arkham, only to be subdued again and re-incarcerated by warped clone Bizarro before day breaks.

Every night a diminutive and greatly distracted pixie of a man dashes to an appointment only to be hit by a train, or a giant weight or something else gigantic, weighty and somehow non-fatal…

In a sky that rains custard pies hangs a moon with the Joker‘s face. What is going on and when will it all end?

The madness spreads to Adventures of Superman #582 and ‘Crazy About You’ (by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Millar & José Marzan Jr.) where unlikely nun Supergirl is tormented by visions whilst evil billionaire genius Lois Lane sets her incomparable intellect to solving the mystery of the constant Arkham escapee.

A ghastly warped convocation of the JLA resumes their terrorising activities as Superman: The Man of Steel #104 ‘No Axioms’ (Mark Schultz, Doug Mahnke, Tom Nguyen & John McCrea) sees the perennial escapee meet up with inspirational inventor armourer John Henry Irons; a man afflicted with astounding ideas and concepts torturously leaking out of his brain. As he strives to create a suit of Steel to aid the prisoner, Bizarro and the powered-up posse attack…

And elsewhere the little man remembers who he is. Now there’s a ghost of a chance to save and correct Reality…

Forced to toil as ineffectual fast-food peon Super Burger Boy, rebel teen Conner Kent witnesses a war between wonder beings and his clouded thoughts stir in ’SupermanamrepuS’ (Joe Kelly, Kano & Marlo Alquiza from Action Comics #769). As Irons and the prisoner invade the JLA’s moon citadel, the kid’s powers revive too…

When 5th Dimensional trickster Mr. Mxyzptlk finally arrives to beg the Men of Steel’s assistance, they initially assume he’s the cause of the universe’s woes… until he makes them look at the Earth they’ve just come from…

Answers if not solutions are forthcoming in Emperor Joker #1. ‘It’s a Joker World, Baby, We Just Live in it!’ by Kelly, Loeb, Duncan Rouleau, Todd Nauck, Carlo Barberi, Scott McDaniel, Alquiza, Jaime Mendoza & Richard Bonk reveals how the beyond-deranged Harlequin of Hate appropriated the immeasurable power of Mxyzptlk, what he did with it and how his whimsical changes are threating all existence.

As the crisis encompasses a host of transformed and tormented guest stars, the disparate remnants of the former Superman Family launch a desperate last-ditch scheme to save everything, leading to closing story arc ‘The Reign of Emperor Joker’ and beginning with Superman #161.

Loeb, McGuinness & Smith’s ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’ finds Superboy, Supergirl and the Action Ace picking off the Joker’s minions and invading his awesome Hahacienda, only to discover what the Joker has done to his greatest obsession The Batman

The infernal realms are assaulted and overturned in Adventures of Superman #583’s ‘Life is but a (Very Bad) Dream’ (DeMatteis, Millar & Armando Durruthy), resulting in a shocking resurrection and counterstrike before even more unlikely revivals converge on the mad clown in ‘All the World His Stage’ (by Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen from Superman: The Man of Steel #105).

After an inconceivable final battle that rocks all reality, the universe is set aright in Action Comics #769-770’s ‘He Who Laughs Last’ by Kelly, Kano & Marlo Alquiza, but don’t think for a moment that all’s right with the world…

Although not a new plot, this tale of a time and place where compulsively interventionist god the Joker employs Fifth dimensional magic to literally remake creation in his own image just so he can torture the heroes who have so often thwarted him, actually works. Maintaining breakneck pace and peppering the action with in-jokes and sly asides, the narrative of Superman under terminal pressure to save the universe is truly gripping and the eventual denouement actually succeeds in both contextual terms and delivery of a powerful payoff. This is a marvellous piece of comic eye-candy.

Although taken from a particularly grim and humourless period in Superman history, this thinly disguised tribute to the zany genius of Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and those wacky Warner Brothers cartoons reads like a breath of fresh air when gathered together in one collection and comes with closing contrary codicil ‘The Codex Comicon’ from Joe Kelly under his nom de plume Professor B. Zarro.
Thrilling, fun and full of perfect comics moments, this is a book every Fights ‘n’ Tights fan should have.
© 2000, 2007, 2016 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman the Man of Steel Volume 3


By John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0246-0 (TPB)

In 1985, when DC Comics decided to rationalise and reconstruct their continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths, they used the event to regenerate their key properties at the same time. The biggest gun they had was Superman and it’s hard to argue that change came none too soon.

The big guy was in a bit of a slump, but he’d weathered those before. So how could a major makeover be anything but a pathetic marketing ploy that would alienate the real fans for a few Johnny-come-latelies who would jump ship as soon as the next fad surfaced? The popular wisdom amongst fans was that this new Superman was going to suck.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Superman titles were cancelled or suspended for three months, and yes, that did make the real-world media sit-up and take notice of the character for the first time in decades. But there was method in the corporate madness.

Beginning with 6-part miniseries Man of Steel – written and drawn by mainstream superstar John Byrne and inked by venerated veteran Dick Giordano – the experiment was a huge and instant success. So much so, that when it was first collected as a stand-alone graphic novel in the 1980s, it became one of the industry’s premiere break-out hits. From his overwhelming re-inception the character returned to his suspended comicbook homes with the addition of a third monthly title premiering that same month.

Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics (which became a fan-pleasing team-up book guest-starring other heroes of the DC Universe) were instant best-sellers. So successful was the relaunch that by the early 1990’s Superman would be able to sustain four monthly titles as well as Specials, Annuals, guest shots and his semi-regular appearances in titles such as Justice League.

It was quite a turnaround from the earlier heydays of the Man of Steel when editors were frantic about not over-exposing their biggest gun.

With Byrne’s controversial reboot now a solid hit, the collaborative teams tasked with ensuring his continued success really hit their stride with the tales collected in this third volume.

From April to June 1987 and re-presenting Superman #4-6, Action #587-589 and Adventures of Superman #427-429 in paperback and digital formats, the wonderment is preceded by an Introduction from writer/artist Jerry Ordway before the drama kicks off with an all-out battle against deranged gunman ‘Bloodsport!’ courtesy of Byrne and inker Karl Kesel. The merciless shooter is more than just crazy, however: some hidden genius has given him the ability to manifest wonder weapons from nothing and he never runs out of ammo… Marv Wolfman & Jerry Ordway concentrated on longer, more suspenseful tales. Adventures of Superman #427-428) take the Man of Tomorrow on a punishing visit to the rogue state of Qurac and an encounter with a hidden race of alien telepaths called the Circle, in a visceral and beautiful tale of un-realpolitik. ‘Mind Games’ and ‘Personal Best’ combine a much more relevant, realistic slant with lots of character sub-plots featuring assorted staff and family staff of the Daily Planet after which Byrne in Action Comics manufactures spectacle, thrills and instant gratification reader appeal.

‘Cityscape!’, in #587, teams the Metropolis Marvel with Jack Kirby’s Etrigan the Demon as sorceress Morgaine Le Fay attempts to gain immortality by warping time itself…

‘The Mummy Strikes’ and ‘The Last Five Hundred’ (Byrne & Kesel, Superman #5-6) then introduce the first hint of potential romance between the Man of Steel and Wonder Woman, before Lois Lane and Clark Kent are embroiled in an extraterrestrial invasion drama that started half a million years ago and feature rogue robots and antediluvian bodysnatchers.

In ‘Old Ties’ (Superman #6) Wolfman & Ordway reveal the catastrophic results of the Circle transferring their expansionist attentions to Metropolis, before this collection concludes with a cosmic saga from Action Comics #588-589 wherein Byrne & Giordano team the Caped Kryptonian with Hawkman and Hawkwoman in ‘All Wars Must End’, an epic battle against malign Thanagarian invaders, permitting Arisia , Salaak, Kilowog, Katma Tui and other luminaries of the Green Lantern Corps to meet and rescue the star-lost Superman in ‘Green on Green’ before uniting to eliminate an unstoppable planet-eating beast.

The back-to-basics approach lured many readers to – and back to – the Superman franchise, but the sheer quality of the stories and art are what convinced them to stay. Such cracking, clear-cut superhero exploits are a high point in the Action Ace’s decades-long career, and these chronological-release collections are certainly the easiest way to enjoy one of the most impressive reinventions of the ultimate comic-book icon.
© 1987, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.