The Last Suicide Squad Movie Review (part 2)

In my last Suicide Squad blog I talked about the history of the Squad and a synopsis of the plot.

Let’s dig deeper:

I think most critics were put off by the fumbling opening of the film. It soured them to the rest of the movie.

Our heroes – er – villains were introduced in a very comic-booky sequence. Amanda Waller sat in a restaurant with men who may or may not have been her superiors. She plunked down a dossier of each of her recruits.

Deadshot! The screen fills with his stats. Then the movie flashed back to show the character and a bit of his background (in this case, his relationship with his daughter and eventual capture by Batman).

Harley Quinn! The screen fills with her stats!

Et cetera and so on…

Works for a comic book, not for a movie. It was as bad as an obvious info dump in a science fiction novel. “As you know Bob, we are on the first manned mission to Mars!” “Yes, I know, why are you telling me this?”

***

            You know what would have worked? They could have taken this entire twenty-minute introduction and put it online two weeks before the movie opened, either as a free download or on Youtube. Wherever.

Then they could open the movie twenty minutes in: with the bad guy doing his thing in Midway City and then showing the Special Forces dragging the Squad from their cells and on to their mission.

Of course if you missed the preview you might be a little lost at first. “How can we introduce all these characters in one movie and get to know all their personalities without the previews?!” “Aaa-chooguardiansofthegalaxy …!”

Then again, if you wanted to go see the movie, you probably would have found the preview online. In this day and age do people still wander into a theater not knowing what they want to see? “Oo, this looks interesting Margaret; let’s take a chance and spend a week’s income to see THIS movie!”

It could have started a trend: Watch this mega-preview first!

And they then could have added in all these scenes rumored to be on the cutting room floor that made the movie darker or funnier depending on who you believe.

***

            There are hundreds of reviews of “Suicide Squad”. Most of them were published on my Facebook wall by frenzied fans. I agree with parts of them and disagree with parts of them. Some random thoughts:

***

            Harley Quinn was fun and not as eye-rolling as the previews led me to believe she would be. A psychopath? Sure, but at least it was toned down from her comic book-y levels. And there was one moment that was wonderful. She slipped out of character for a few seconds. When the rest of the Squad caught up to her, she held up her head, pasted on the smile and was back to her psychotic self. That’s about as close as she came to three dimensions.

And she did steal every scene she was in. It helped that she was usually near the center of every the shot…

***

            Much as been made of Jared Leto’s Joker. He was on-screen for less than ten minutes total and got second billing. Unlike what some have writ, I do not think he stole every scene he was in. But is WAS a unique interpretation of the Joker. Crazy? I suppose, but no more so than villains we have seen on TV’s “Daredevil” or “Constantine”.

The actor is purportedly miffed that his best lines remain on the cutting room floor. I believe it: his Joker is a homicidal drug-dealing gangster running a nightclub. Will Smith’s wife also did that on “Gotham” with about the same body count. Leto’s Joker leans more towards Nicholson’s crazy than Ledger’s Lord of Chaos. In fact, in the few lines he had I thought “What if Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow played Al Pacino’s role in “Scarface”? Relax, Leto fans, I’m comparing him favorably to Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp and Al Pacino fer crissake!

Leto may or may not be back in the DC Movie Universe as the Joker, depending on the articles you read. He will have to be replaced by a DC villain who is psychotic and runs Gotham’s Underworld. Maybe the Penguin? A shame, but frankly the Joker is overused anyway.

And you don’t keep an actor who doesn’t WANT to play the character anymore! It would be like hiring someone who actively dislikes Superman to direct another … movie … Oh, yeah. I guess we WILL see Leto’s Joker soon…

***

            Will Smith was kept on a short leash and did very well with Deadshot. Granted, that of all of the Squad, he had the most characterization to sink his teeth into; but he avoided the “too cool to fool” hipness (dare I say, being Fresh?) of, for example, “Independence Day”.  Of course, a list of the things wrong with “Independence Day” would fill up a flashdrive…

He was given star billing, although Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Leto got most of the press. He did a good job.

***

            Amanda Waller – more evil than even the bad guys – and Captain Boomerang – sowing seeds of rebellion and approaching Waller’s boundaries without ever crossing them – were the characters most like the comic book. The second series, of course.

 

SPOILER

            Slipknot? He was never given a preview at the beginning of the movie and introduced about a half-hour into the film. When they DID introduce him to the team, all but the most non-savvy movie-goers knew what was going to happen to him.  He might as well have been wearing a red shirt from the original “Star Trek”. His fate was so telegraphed it made the first “Jurassic Park” seem taut and suspenseful. Little things like this are why movies get bad reviews. They should have given him a preview and put him in the lineup of the movie posters, something…

END OF SPOILER

 

“Suicide Squad” wasn’t as dark as I thought. Even when Amanda Waller showed her VERY dark side, I wasn’t shocked by it.

It is relative: “Superman, The Man of Steel” being dark is shocking; “Suicide Squad” being dark is expected.

***

            So I liked it, I didn’t love it; I may or may not see the inevitable sequel. I will see “The Magnificent Seven” again. The original, not the remake. Dun dun-dundun, dundundun-dundun-dun; dun dun-dundun…

 

 

Original Material Copyright Michael Curry 2016

 

The Last Suicide Squad Movie Review

A cast of bad guys – outright villains, misfits, killers and sociopaths each with a unique mind-set and world view – are gathered by a morally ambiguous government agent to rid a town from an evil worse than even their own members. Along the way they bicker, fight and some of them die. But eventually they become a team!

The film was called “The Dirty Dozen”.

***

            Regular readers of this blog know I rarely go to movies on the first week.  By the time I see a movie so has most of the rest of the world.

That has its advantages: smaller crowds, shorter lines; but – most importantly – by the time I get around to reviewing the movie most of the spoilers have already been spoiled! But I will still try to warn you in advance.

I saw “Suicide Squad” with low expectations. The critics savaged the film. The only ones who seemed to like it were the same cheerleaders that thought “Batman vs Superman” was the epic of their generation.

You might even say I went to the movie expecting to dislike it: Movies based on DC’s superheroes have been very dark of late. And I like neither dark superheroes nor dark superhero movies.

So imagine how I felt when they announced a movie featuring DC Villains and based on a comic that is, by this time, sloshed with the uber-violent fare typically vomited upon the comic-book-buying public.

The usual group of … Hmm, what would the collective noun be for the fans of dark DC – the films of late, most of the “New 52” comic … ah, got it!

The usual goth of DC Dark fans have drooled over every preview and picture since the movie was announced.

I kept quiet. I chose to neither get excited over the movie nor to actively say I was not going to see it. But truthfully? Had my friend not invited me to an afternoon matinee, I might never have seen it.

I liked the movie! It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a perfect movie. No movie is perfect.

Okay, Godfather I & II are perfect … but you know what I mean.

***

            Let’s go back and do a primer on what the Suicide Squad is …

The Suicide Squad debuted in the comic book the Brave & the Bold #25 in 1959.  It had only four members, including Commander Flag, but they were all normal humans – although all were experts in their field (astrophysics, etc.).  They fought the bug-eyed monsters typical of the era – intelligent dinosaurs, aliens, beings from the center of the earth, etc. They appeared in only six issues.

The Suicide Squad disappeared until 1987, when they showed up in their own magazine. This group was firmly ensconced in the super-hero genre. As with the movie Amanda Waller gathered a group of bad guys to fight global threats. Waller said in issue #1: “the administration needs something they can disavow if things go wrong. That’s us.” Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and the Enchantress among others were in that first issue. It lasted 66 issues.

Back to the movie …

So we have the evil (and we see her being truly soulless in a few scenes) Amanda Waller gathering a group of villains to fight worse bad guys led by a morally bankrupt soldier.

It’s “The Dirty Dozen”. Before that it was “The Magnificent Seven”; and before that it was “Seven Samurai”.

In fact, one of the previews shown in my theater was the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” with Denzel Washington, et. al. Tip to DC Entertainment: Don’t remind us of a legendary film, even a remake (which itself has BIG shoes to fill), before showing us your movie… Do you REALLY want us to compare them?

We have old Batman villain Deadshot, “new” (the last thirty years is hardly “new”, but I am an old fart) Batman villains Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, Flash rogue Captain Boomerang, El Diablo (a villain who debuted in 2011 in the Suicide Squad comic. This was DC’s third character named El Diablo. The first was a GREAT Weird Western star that should have gotten more page time in the 1970s), the Enchantress – who started life in 1966 as a macabre hero until the character was completely rebooted in 2011, and Firestorm baddie Slipknot.

Along the way we meet Katana, a samurai-sword wielding hero used as Flag’s back-up in case any of the bad guys get uppity.  Her sword contains the souls of everyone the sword has killed, including her husband. She talks to her husband. That’s about all we know of her in the movie. Coincidentally, her comic book debut was in Brave & Bold #200, the same comic book that debuted the Suicide Squad 20+ years earlier.

SPOILER

The Enchantress was in the group, but very quickly defected. It seems the chief bad guy is her brother. Blood is thicker than … gallons of blood.

END OF SPOILER

In the movie they were gathered to fight off future threats to earth. What if the next Superman was a bad guy? How can we fight an evil Superman?

With bullets, boomerangs and a baseball bat, apparently.

But how will they be able to control this group of killers?

In the best Amanda Waller way: threaten them! “We know about your daughter. We will reduce your sentence. And ALL of you have implants at the base of your skull that will blow your head off if you disobey.”

Dry shave!

Sorry, Dirty Dozening again…

This time it is not an alien threat but a demon from earth’s past. He and his sister are in Midway City (the home of DC’s Hawkman, although he is never mentioned) building a machine to take over the world.

So our heroes – er – villains take on the demonic duo.

Along the way they bicker, fight and some of them die. But eventually they become a team!

 

More thoughts next time.

Corporate whore department: If you are interested in the original Suicide Squad, Katana or the Brave and the Bold comic book -read my free ebook available at Barnes & Noble! http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

 

Original Material Copyright Michael Curry 2016

 

DC Comics Right in your Mailbox!!

DC COMICS RIGHT IN YOUR MAILBOX!!

Over the July 4th weekend I binge-read DC’s “Ghosts” (don’t judge). I came across the house ads asking readers to subscribe to their favorite issues.
I noticed something.
I had seen it before in my comics from the early 1970s, but since I had a stack of comics ranging over a seven year period, I decided to compare the ads.
Each comic had a number. Action Comics, for example, was #1. And it stayed at #1 through the decade. Say that in a Casey Kasem voice…
Where did the numbers come from? Apparently it was divided into genres and listed alphabetically; except for Forever People and Flash. Perhaps Forever People was just slid into the line-up replacing a comic that started with a D, E or F.
Superman’s titles were first. Those were the single-digit comics.
DC’s other stable of stars made up the tens, starting with Batman (hard as it is to believe in this day and age, Superman outsold Batman for many decades – vastly outsold Batman, in fact…).
Horror titles made up the 30s and love stories were the 40s (how the Shadow snuck into that number scheme …).
War titles were in the 60s and adventure or other the 70s.
Whither the 50s? Was it their comedy or teen line? Titles that they stopped publishing in the 70s like Jerry Lewis, Scooter, Binky and Debbi?

It interested me in my own OCD way. What were the numbers of other comics and why weren’t they listed? Were comics that only lasted two issues (like Man-Bat) given a subscription number at all? Anyone know?

I left some blanks on my numberings to keep Word’s Auto-numbering from making me do more work. I’m lazy that way…
Most of this information is from the ads taken from my “Ghosts binge”. If I took ads from a Google search, I will so note.

February 1972 (Google search):

ad 1972

Comics that were mailed as a subscription from the Silver and Bronze Age are easy to spot in the secondary markets – they were folded in half long-wise before mailing. Collectors still cringe at the idea…

Note these are gathered into sections by genre. The Superman titles are gathered into their own section.

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest

10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13. The Forever People
14. Flash
15. Green Lantern
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle
18. The New Gods
19. Teen Titans
20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

40. Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love
41. Sinister House of Secret Love
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Heart Throbs
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. All Star Western

75. Tarzan
76. Korak

July 1973: The cancellation of Kirby’s Fourth World books accounted for some of the holes. There were also some title changes, but the list is essentially the same. What a selection!
Notice Shazam and Wanted were given single digits to fill in the gaps. However, this was accompanied by an ad for Prez, and Prez himself is making the offer in the ad. Prez the comic book is not available as a subscription.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8. Wanted
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle

20. Wonder Woman
21. Supergirl
22. Secret Origins

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. Demon
37. Swamp Thing

40. Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (a change in name but not number)
41. Secrets of Sinister House (ditto)
42. Weird Mystery Tales
43. The Shadow
44.
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Love Stories (a change in title lasted for six more issues)
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. Weird Western Tales (Jonah Hex changed the format and title)

75. Tarzan
76. Korak
77. Weird Worlds
78. Kamandi
79. Sword of Sorcery
80. From Beyond the Unknown
81. Strange Adventures
March 1974: Note the ad says the 100-pagers are wrapped flat. It presumes the other ones are still folded.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action

2. Adventure
3. Superman Family
4. .
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. .
37. Swamp Thing

42. Weird Mystery Tales

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

75. Tarzan

78. Kamandi

Where was Weird Western Tales?

February 1976: the subscription ad only offered 16 comics, but the numbering is unchanged. And note the old-fashioned-even-at-the-time illustrations of the Caped Crusaders; I’ll bet they are over a decade old at this point.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
3. Superman Family
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14.
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33.
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

48. Young Love

61. Our Army at War

75. Tarzan

Why just these 16 comics? There were dozens more being published – the war comics from the 1973 and 1974 lists were still being published, as were Weird Western Tales and, at this time (early in the year) the six “Adventure Line” comics.

December 1978: Just after the massive DC Explosion guaranteed DC’s place of dominance in the comic book field (who’s giggling?) Note some of the new titles – Warlord, the excellent Men of War. Interestingly, Superfriends – with its notable inclusion of Superman – was given #8, replacing Wanted. Note also the lack of Detective Comics as a choice. At the time, it was facing the chopping block of cancellation!

(from a Google search)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
5. Superboy/Legion (note the addition of the Legion)
6. Superman
8. Superfriends
10. Batman
11. Brave and Bold
14. Flash
16. Justice League
18. Green Lantern (by now GL is back but given #18 instead of its old #15)
20. Wonder Woman
22. DC Comics Presents
30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
34. The Unexpected
35. The Witching Hour
44. Secrets of Haunted House
45. Jonah Hex
61. Sgt. Rock (renamed from “Our Army At War” but with the same number)
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Unknown Soldier (renamed from “Star Spangled War Stories”, same number)
64. Weird War Tales
66. Men of War
69. Warlord
70. Weird Western Tales (this title’s first appearance in a subscription ad in many years)

The Dollar Comics were listed separately …

2. Adventure Comics
3. Superman Family
7. World’s Finest
52. Batman Family
60. GI Combat

So … where are all the titles from the DC Explosion … ? What did they know that we didn’t? Well, at least what did we not know for another month or two?

I wonder who decided which comics went into the ads. Would it have helped a flailing title to include it? Or would it be too much trouble for the sales department to keep track of subscriptions to cancelled comics?

I found a subscription ad from the 1960s on Google. This was from 1966-1968, as Superhip debuted in 1965 and both Bob Hope and Fox & Crow were cancelled in 1968. Note some of the wonderful comics available – Metal Men, Blackhawk …

ad 1960s

And notice Showcase is no where to be found on any of the ads. Not a one. Why?

I searched a few comics from the 1980s and did not find many subscription ads except for things like this (these are Google-found ads, btw). Note these ads do NOT list comics available from DC, but focus only on one or two specific comics.

superman subscription detective subscription
So maybe subscription numbers was purely a Bronze Age thing …

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Artwork and Layout from the ads are copyright their respective holders and used here under the Fair Use Act as commentary and critique.

Detective Comics #461: the Dark Knight Bicentennial Banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#29

Detective Comics #461

Detective_Comics_461

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            The first issue of Detective Comics was published in March 1937 as an anthology comic book specializing in hard-boiled detective stories akin to the pulp magazines that were its inspiration. Despite retooling and renumbering for publicity and sales’ sake, the comic has been in publication ever since!

            It is the comic book that DC Comics took its name from. So really the company is called Detective Comics Comics. I know, nowadays it’s called DC Entertainment. Fine. I still sometimes refer to it as National. I’m old.

            The most obvious claim to fame of Detective Comics was the debut of Batman in #27 (May 1939). But Detective also featured the debut of Robin, Commissioner James Gordon, the Martian Manhunter, Simon and Kirby’s Boy Commandos, Batgirl (the 1960s version), Walt Simonson’s Manhunter, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, the Crimson Avenger, ManBat, and Batvillains the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face,  Killer Kroc, the Calculator, and Blockbuster.

            Sadly, despite some incredible stories and art, Detective Comics at the time of the Bicentennial was at its nadir. Within two years there will be serious talk of cancelling their namesake comic. Fortunately it merged with Batman Family into a Dollar Comic and survived the DC Implosion. Batman’s immense popularity in the coming years made the idea of cancelling the magazine laughable. It’s still out there, renumbered as part of DC’s “New 52” publicity stunt, but still one of only six of the thirty-three comics published under the Bicentennial banner still published as an active title.

***

“Bruce Wayne – Bait in a Trap”, Bob Rozakis and Michael Uslan ( w ), Ernie Chua/Chan (a), Frank McLaughlin (i)

            This story is continued from the previous issue and concludes in the next. I owned that third issue when it was published.

            Captain Stingaree believes Batman to actually be three different men; as part of a corps financed by Bruce Wayne. He kidnaps Bruce Wayne and alerts Commissioner Gordon and Alfred to that factby exploding a dummy in Wayne’s clothing on the front steps of police headquarters.

bruces clothes

            Batman appears (to the delight of a stunned Alfred) and vows to “rescue” Bruce Wayne. Batman later explains that he easily escaped a holding cell meant to keep in a frivolous playboy, not a dark avenger of the night! Mud from the kidnap scene leads Batman to Gotham’s sewers. Stingaree blocks the exits and unleashes swarms of rats to attack Batman. He escapes, but the next chamber is flooded and he and a scuba-equipped Stingaree fight it out, both falling unconscious and whisked to a drain leading to the Gotham river (eww…).  Stingaree awakes first and hauls Batman off to his lair.

underwater fight

             Bruce Wayne appears at police HQ and tells Gordon and Alfred that Batman rescued him. But … but…

            Stingaree, only now discovering Wayne’s escape, approaches the captive Batman and unmasks him – revealing him to be Batman #2: Robert Courtney! We readers who did not read part one gasp in astonishment and say, “Umm, who?”

            All will be revealed in the next issue. Granted it’s been nearly 40 years but I don’t want to spoil the ending. If you REALLY want to know, email me. Or look up the ending online…

***

The Moneybag Caper”, Denny O’Neil ( w ), Pablo Marcos (a), Al Milgrom (i)

Trench Tec 461

            St. Louis private investigator Tim Trench appeared in three issues of the “all new” Wonder Woman (#179-181 – not counting a later reprint issue) helping her and I-Ching during her non-powered Diana Rigg phase. He had two solo stories in Detective Comics (460 and 461) and did not appear again until 2006 when he was killed off in 52 #18. His Wikipedia entry also says he was a member of the Hero Hotline, but the Hero Hotline, nor the Grand Comics Database or DC Comics Database, mention this.

            He was a two-fisted old-school private dick. You could almost hear the saxophone music playing in the background of his two solo stories. He was such a caricature he could only be described in metaphor. If he was a brand of toilet paper he’d be taken off the market – he was rough and tough and wouldn’t take crap off of anyone…

            Tim enters his office to find one of Big Willy Cline’s hired goons. But wait, this isn’t a hit – the goon, Manooch, says Cline has a job for Trench! Since his “bank account is lower than a snake’s belly”, he says he might be interested.  Seems Big Willy tried to double cross the other gangs and got caught. He offers Trench 500 big ones to see him safely to the airport.

            A car tries to run over Trench, Cline, and Manooch. Trench knocks a blind man out of the way but too late to save Cline, who is shot by a man in the car. Trench shoots back – killing the driver and the shooter. He socks it to Manooch, who dove out of the way before the car hit. He was in on it!

            Meanwhile, the blind man walks away with the $500 cash. That’s okay: Trench didn’t earn it anyway…

 

 

Batman’s Hot Line: letter column giving universal praise for issue #457, “No Hope for Crime Alley,” a story that has become a Bronze Age classic. All five letters praised the story – the first three writers calling it a masterpiece. Adam Castro of New Rochelle, NY, David B. Kirby of Richmond, VA, Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI, Louis A, Latzer of St. Louis, MO and Elizabeth Smith of Tacoma WA contributed. The latter was the only letter writer to also praise #457’s back-up Elongated Man story.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #30: Action Comics #461

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

World’s Finest Comics #239: Bicentennial banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#26

World’s Finest Comics #239

World's_Finest_Comics_239

Published nine times a year, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (unsigned – very unusual for him). Inked by John Calnan

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            World’s Finest Comics began life as 1939 New York World’s Fair Comics and 1940 New York World’s Fair Comics. Those were one-shot anthologies released by National Comics featuring their star attractions – in 1939’s issue that meant Superman, Slam Bradley, the Sandman and Zatara. 1940 starred Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) in the same book, although in separate stories, along with stories of Hourman, Slam Bradley, Johnny Thunderbolt and Red, White & Blue. The comics were so successful the company decided to make it a continuing quarterly comic called World’s Best Comics with #1 dated Spring 1941. As another company already was publishing a Best Comics, National changed the title to World’s Finest Comics with #2 (Summer 1941) to avoid their getting a taste of their own litigious medicine.

            It was a successful anthology featuring separate tales of Superman, Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin), Johnny Thunder, Red, White & Blue, the Crimson Avenger, and others; but always featuring solo tales of the company’s Big Two: Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin).

            Sales in superhero comics slumped over the years, causing cancellations of most magazines and cutting of page counts in the survivors. There was only room for one feature in World’s Finest now, who should it be? Should either Superman or Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) be relegated to a back-up strip? Or ousted altogether?

            The powers-that-were came up with a brilliant idea – team up their two biggest stars in one story! Thus the Superman/Batman Team (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) was born in issue #71 (July 1954).

            Except for a brief time in the early 1970s (issues #198 – 216) – where Superman instead teamed up with other DC characters in an imitation of The Brave and the Bold, the magazine remained a vehicle for the Superman/Batman team. Robin? By this time Robin had grown and was more or less on his own. Robin appearing in World’s Finest after the switch back to Superman/Batman was rare. He did team with Superman in one of the non-Batman issues: #200 in fact…

            With issue #244 (May 1977) World’s Finest returned to its anthology roots by becoming a Dollar Comic and featuring additional stories starring, among others, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, the Creeper, the Vigilante and Shazam/Captain Marvel.

            The comic reverted back to “normal” size with issue #283 (September 1982) and lasted until issue #323 (January 1986).  By this time Batman was budding into his “brooding sociopath” persona with which came a dislike of Superman, his “old friend”. The editors and writers gleefully took advantage of the rift between the two characters for the next twenty years.

            World’s Finest was revived as a mini-series in 1990 and the title Superman/Batman ran from 2003 – 2011 for 87 issues. Batman/Superman – the flip made quite likely to boost sales – is a “New 52” title. World’s Finest itself became a “New 52” title with DC’s reboot of their line featuring stories of the Power Girl/Huntress (and Robin, don’t forget … oh never mind) team.

            As an anthology in its Golden Age, World’s Finest featured the “best” of National Publications, so no new heroes or supporting characters of note debuted. The comic did introduce two durable villains: the Scarecrow and the Composite Superman (a man with Superman’s costume on the right side and Batman’s on the left, with all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes … you read that correctly…).

***

“The UFO That Stole the USA”, Bob Haney ( w ), Curt Swan and John Calnan (a), Jack C Harris (Asst. Ed.)

            People who started reading comic books only since the 1980s missed out on the glorious writing of Bob Haney. I regret never having had the chance to meet him and shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his work – especially his long runs in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest Comics. He died in 2004. Websites are devoted to his range of work.

            Oh sure he has his detractors – even his biggest fans (like me) cringe at some of his quirks – his apparent hatred of Plastic Man, for example. But mostly he is criticized for his utter lack of continuity. His work stood so much in its own bubble it was designated as being in its own alternate universe – designated as Earth B. Haney’s job was to tell a story – and if regular continuity or character canon had to be changed or ignored, it was. If a factoid had to be put in that only appeared in that issue and never again to appear in that character’s history, so be it. Bruce Wayne was a US Senator for a time. He had more wards after Dick Grayson (most of them were imprisoned or killed) and never mentioned again. These were called Haney-isms.

            But they were fun, and kept the story going. Face-palm moments? Oh to be sure. But I’d rather read a comic written by Bob Haney than most anything released today. He made comics fun to read. That was the whole point, isn’t it?

***

            Superman and Batman investigate a rural farm outside of Gotham City. Where one half of the farmhouse stood is now a huge smoking pit, the house neatly cut in two. The farmer and his wife hysterically babble about their horse and someone stealing fish and are taken to a hospital. Superman investigates the pit – it goes down for miles and before he can reach bottom notes that the tunnel is hotter than the core of the sun (Wait, wouldn’t that turn the earth to a cinder? Shut up.)!  Whatever did this is obviously of extraterrestrial origin (Well, not necessarily … I said shut up.).

Worlds-Finest-239-03

            Batman enlists a police sketch artist to draw the farm couple’s rants. He draws a spaceship destroying their house and stealing their fish pond and horse.

            They return to the farm to find a crowd of UFO “crackpots” including a boy who finds a clue – a map identifying other possible targets. Also in the crowd is Gold of the Metal Men, disguised as a human. The heat from the pit melts his disguise and the crowd, thinking him an alien, pushes him into the pit! (Wait, if it’s hot enough to melt Gold’s disguise, why aren’t the crowd blistering and getting hot? Because gold melts at a lower … I said shut up!). Superman rescues him before he melts away.

            Why is Gold there? He is a UFO buff, you see. A fact never revealed before or again in Metal Men lore. It is this issues’ Haney-ism.

            ( What kind of bull– … Shut up, I said!)

            Since the map the young boy discovered is made of a metal not found in this solar system, Superman heads to space to find the planet of its origin. Batman discovers that the metal did NOT come from the aliens’ home planet, but was mined elsewhere.  Batman drives to a nearby space observatory to radio Superman – if he finds the metal’s home planet, he will be accusing the wrong planet’s inhabitants!

            But the aliens shoot at the Batmobile from the sky, knocking Batman out. He is saved by Gold and taken to a hospital. Superman and Gold, aware that the aliens may be watching and listening, pretend to Kervorkian Batman by pulling his plug and killing him (ala the cover)!

Worlds-Finest-239-14

 

            Actually Superman substituted a dummy Batman, threw Gold into the atmosphere where as thin gold foil he could block the alien scanners (but Gold wouldn’t have the mass to cover the entire … I’m warning you!) and whisked Batman to his Fortress of Solitude where they compare notes.

            They find the alien spy satellite and triangulate the home planet. Superman takes off to exact revenge. After he leaves, the house, the pond and the horse are returned intact (But how could the house be made whole if it was sliced … That’s enough!) The aliens meant no harm, but how to tell Superman that? Gold spins into space where Batman sends a message via Morse code to Superman (but the mass thing again … Zip it!).

            Meanwhile, Superman has already deflected a deadly beam shot from the alien planet. When he gets Batman and Gold’s message, he confronts the aliens. No, they meant no harm to Earth – they were merely testing their weaponry for their attack upon their enemies on the planet of Pyra. Oh well, that’s okay then, says Superman. He flies into space and redirects the deadly beam back to Pyra. He explains that the beam is now so diluted it will only stun them. This is also apparently acceptable to our heroes…

            He warns the aliens never to experiment with weapons meant to destroy another civilization on Earth again. The aliens cheerfully agree: “You are an intelligent and all-powerful being. We bow to your wishes!”

            Ah Bob Haney, god rest your saintly soul…

            (But … sorry, story’s over!)

            And while we’re at it, it is always good to see Curt Swan art … he is never anything less that perfect! (I agree … it’s too late to suck up now)

 

From the World’s Finest Fans: letters for WF #236, guest starring the Atom. A positive letter from David Trenton of New York, NY, J. Charles Backman of Sterling Heights, MI criticized the incorrect use of Morse code in that issue, John Baker of Baltimore, MD asked about where the headshots on the cigar-band cover came from (from various back issues and promo drawings) and Fred Schneider of New York, NY wrote a positive letter.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #27: GI Combat #192

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

Celebrating the 200th issue of … every comic book ever!

200 and counting!

My 200th blog. That may not be a big deal for writers who blog every day – they’d hit 200 by July of their first year of blogging. But it’s a big deal for me! That’s a lot of writing!

Ironically I am in the middle of a blog series commemorating the comic books released by DC comics during the US Bicentennial of July 1976. If you collected 25 of the 33 comics published with the Bicentennial banner cover and you will get a free Superman belt buckle.

A comic book reaching its 200th milestone is a big deal. Probably more so nowadays with the constant rebooting and relaunching of titles, it is not likely we’ll see many comics go all the way to number 200. It still happens, though: Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man released its 200th issue on June 2014.

#200 anniversary issues were usually a larger-than-normal-sized comic (with a larger price tag of course) and a special story or the rip-roaring conclusion of a story arc. But that was usually in the bronze age and beyond. Earlier comics (before 1970) usually didn’t care about their 200th issue.

Some of these comics didn’t even mention their 200th anniversary issue other than their standard numbering:

Action_Comics_200

Action Comics: January 1955

Adventure_Comics_200

Adventure Comics: May 1954

Detective_Comics_200

Detective Comics: October 1953

House_of_Mystery_v.1_200

House of Mystery: May 1972. Great cover by Neal Adams here.

Strange_Adventures_200

Strange Adventures: May 1967

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

Star Spangled War Stories: July 1976.

This in particular was a real shame at a missed opportunity. Dated July 1976, the 200th anniversary of the USA and this landmark was not even mentioned in a cover blurb. Compare that to Captain America #200 with an August 1976 cover date:

 Captain_America_Vol_1_200

Others included:

Blackhawk_Vol_1_200

Blackhawk: September 1964

Millie_the_Model_Vol_1_200

Millie the Model: February 1973

and Superman: October 1967 and Wonder Woman: June 1972 (reprinted below)

Older Archie comics were not known for celebrating their 200th issues:

Archie: June 1970

Betty & Veronic

Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica: August 1972

Laugh Archie

Laugh: November 1967

Pep

Pep: December 1966

Jughead

Jughead: January 1972

Life with Archie

Life with Archie: December 1978

betty-and-me

Betty & Me: August 1992

               Again, this could be a Bronze Age or later thing … in fact, only Betty & Me from 1992 gives the anniversary even a cover blurb.

Harvey comics? I didn’t want to troll the internet looking for the hundreds of titles they published to see how many made it to 200. The main characters Richie Rich and Casper each had dozens of titles between them. I only checked their eponymous comics – both of those reached 200.

Richie RichCasper

But other Harvey comics? Wendy the Good Little Witch made it to the 50s in number of issues, Little Dot over 100, but Richie Rich and Casper were the only ones I found that made it to #200. Keep in mind I didn’t look very hard…

The big two – Marvel & DC – being mostly in the superhero vein, were the ones who celebrated 200th anniversaries the most. Three characters – Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash – had two eponymous comics hit #200.  Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_200Wonder_Woman_Vol_2_200

Superman 200Superman_v.2_200

Flash_v.1_200Flash_v.2_200

 

Other DC comics that hit #200:

Batman_200

Batman: March 1968 (note this early celebration, but this was at the end of the Batman TV show craze …)

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_200

Green Lantern: May 1986

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_200

Our Army At War: December 1968

Superboy_Vol_1_200

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes 200: February 1974. Featuring the marriage of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel and starring all members, the Substitutes, the Wanderers and others!

GI_Combat_Vol_1_200

GI Combat: March 1977

Hellblazer_Vol_1_200

Hellblazer: November 2004

Superman_Family_Vol_1_200

Superman Family: April 1980

 Unexpected_200

Unexpected: July 1980

World's_Finest_Comics_200

World’s Finest: February 1971

Young_Romance_Vol_1_200

Young Romance: August 1974

(note these last two also had no real focus on their 200th issue)

***

 Marvel comics had their share of 200th anniversaries, too; aside from Captain America in August 1976:

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Amazing Spider-Man: January 1980

Avengers_Vol_1_200

Avengers: October 1980

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_200

Fantastic Four: November 1978. This issue featured the “final” battle between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom. Doom was killed at the end of this issue, true, but came back (as nearly all comics villains do) some issues later.

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_200

Incredible Hulk: June 1976

Kid_Colt_Outlaw_Vol_1_200

Kid Colt Outlaw: November 1975

Thor_Vol_1_200

Thor: June 1972

ConantheBarbarian200

Conan the Barbarian: November 1987

Daredevil_Vol_1_200

Daredevil November 1983

Iron_Man_Vol_1_200

Iron Man: November 1985

Marvel_Tales_Vol_2_200

Marvel Tales: June 1987

SavageSword200

Savage Sword of Conan: August 1992

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Spectacular Spider-Man: May 1993

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_200

Uncanny X-Men: December 1985

What_If-_Vol_1_200

What If: February 2011

X-Factor_Vol_1_200

X-Factor: February 2010

X-Men_Vol_2_200

X-Men: August 2007

Other publishers: Looney Tunes: September 2011

 Looney_Tunes_Vol_1_200

And let us not forget one of the longest running comics of all time…

 Adventures of the Big Boy

In my internet searching on this comic I’ve not been able to find a cover date.

And finally …

cerebus_200

 

 

My personal favorites?

 JLA_v.1_200

Justice League of America: March 1982. This comic featured all members of the JLA – the original team members were hypnotized into assembling pieces of a mcguffin that will bring one of their original villains back to full power. The subsequent members try to fight off the originals. Each battle is its own chapter with a different artist. In beautiful art by Joe Kubert, for example, Hawkman fights Superman. The Phantom Stranger/Aquaman/Red Tornado battle is the only artwork by Jim Aparo in Justice League of America. Lots of great art throughout.

 Brave_and_the_bold_200

Brave & Bold: July 1983. The final issue of my favorite comic of all time. Let me cheat and use the review from my free ebook: The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book.  Available here.

Batman & Batman (Earth Two), Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Dave Gibbons.  …

               Earth-Two, 1955 (the year B&B began): After a series of robberies, Batman and Robin finally defeat Brimstone. Earth-Two 1983: Hate is all that has kept Brimstone alive. His hatred of Batman is so great; when he hears of Batman’s death, his mind passes into his Earth-One counterpart where another hated Batman still lives! Earth-One 1983: Brimstone causes riots in Gotham and eventually traps Batman in the same lava “hell pit” Batman escaped 28 years before! Can Batman escape – er – again – in time to save Gotham, catch Brimstone and find out who the heck Brimstone is? Well of course he can, but he never figures out Brimstone’s Earth-Two secret. And he never will.

               “Batman and the Outsiders”, Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Jim Aparo. Batman and the Outsiders protect Mikos from his own terrorist subordinates – who vow to kill Mikos (under his own orders) for the glory of the cause!

               Oft-requested Batmite finally appears in Brave & Bold in a one page comic.

               For the first time since Nemesis, new characters were introduced – Halo, Geo-Force and Katana.  They are the first new B&B superheroes since Metamorpho, who is also a member of the new Outsiders.

               One last team-up and one last try-out.  The try-out was a success: the Outsiders going on to their own series (replacing Brave & Bold on DC’s roster along with New Talent Showcase) and lasting for several years afterward. Later incarnations link the Outsiders (still featuring the resurrected Metamorpho) as a splinter group of the Teen Titans.  Appropriately, both groups began in Brave & Bold. The third incarnation harks back to the Batman-formed play-by-their-own-rules meta group.

               It was trendy at DC for a while to introduce new groups by mixing new characters and old. At times it worked brilliantly (the Teen Titans); at times it was an utter failure (the Justice League of America). The Outsiders were another success.

 ***

Have I missed any? Most assuredly: Dell 4-Color, other Looney Tunes comics, etc.  I hope I didn’t leave out your favorite! But Happy 200 everyone!

 ***

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book copyright 2014 and reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Otherwise, original material copyright 2015 by Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Brave & Bold #128 – a Bicentennial team-up!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#19

The Brave and the Bold #128

B&B128

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Jim Aparo

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

             I beg your pardon in advance for this crass hype, but I’ve already done the work on this one.

            All information gleaned from my new ebook: The Brave and the Bold – from Silent Knight to Dark Knight, an index of the DC comic book. Available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords websites.

 brave-and-bold-cover

            The Barnes and Noble link is here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

            The Brave & the Bold ran for 200 issues from 1955 through 1983. During its run, the best writers and artists in the business introduced us to comic book icons, some of which are still published today: the Justice League of America, the Teen Titans, the Suicide Squad, the Outsiders, The Viking Prince, the Silent Knight, Metamorpho, Katanna, Nemesis, Wonder Girl/Donna Troy, the silver age reboot of Hawkman, the revival of Green Arrow (he changed costumes and grew his beard). Those were just the good guys. Starro, Amazo, Bork, Copperhead, Shadow Thief, Matter Master and the Manhawks also made their villainous debut in B&B.

            It began with swashbuckling features such as the Viking Prince, Silent Knight, the Golden Gladiator and Robin Hood. Five years later it changed to a Showcase-style try-out anthology featuring the Justice League of America, the Suicide Squad, Hawkman and others. Next came something new in comics – regular team-ups of characters throughout the DC Universe: war comics characters, established superheroes, even a meeting of the various youthful sidekicks from the superhero line. The aforementioned Teen Titans were one of their many successes.

            By the time of the Batman TV show any comic graced with the Caped Crusader on the cover outsold any other comic, Brave and Bold included. It wasn’t long before the dollar signs in front of the eyes of National Comics’ owners and editors helped them decide to keep Batman as the permanent star of the comic.

            As a third Batman title, it was criticized even then for being out of the regular Batman continuity. Regular writer Bob Haney wrote in his own continuity bubble – he was even jokingly given his own “alternate earth” where events of his comics happened; events that were mentioned nowhere else in DC’s comics. Bruce Wayne had a brief stint as a Senator. Wayne adopted many more wards than just Dick Grayson (most of them were either killed or sent to prison as criminals…). Wayne’s chief financial rival was the femme fatale Ruby Ryder – who continuously planned the demise of Wayne Enterprises! And she appeared no where else – only in the pages of B&B.

      By its Bicentennial issue the comic was coasting on its once vast popularity.  Quoting From Silent Knight to Dark Knight: “B&B still had good sales* and loyal readers from years past (the sales drop was proportionate to the industry as a whole), and the marvelous Aparo art was always spectacular, giving B&B its distinct look. … It wasn’t the best comic book in terms of sales, story and originality, but it was still good!” Before this point in its history, B&B was at the very top. But once you are at the top, there is only one place to go.

       This issue in some ways reflected that problem…

This is one of the few Bicentennial issues I owned when they were published.

***

Death by the Ounce, starring Batman and Mister Miracle, Bob Haney ( w ), Jim Aparo (a).

            The Shah of Karkan, the world’s richest ruler, is landing in Gotham (of all placed) to sign a peace treaty. Gotham’s finest and Batman scour the city for spies and assassins. While searching a condemned sports arena, Batman sees a body being dumped from the rafters. He is beaten by the shadowed killers, only to discover it is Big Barda and Oberon – the body being “dumped” was Mr. Miracle practicing an escape for his big comeback.

            Things get worse for Batman – his idea of smuggling the Shah in a laundry truck backfires and the Shah is kidnapped by someone called “Gigi”.

 b&b 128-2

(dig this beautiful Aparo art!)

            Via a tapped phone to the president, they fool the kidnappers into thinking they only have a decoy and the Shah is safe in his hotel room.

            Batman enlists the help of Mr. Miracle by besting him in an escape routine.

 b&b 128-3

            Batman, disguised as the Shah, is kidnapped in his bed and taken to an underwater derelict redesigned as a headquarters for Mr. Miracle baddie Apokolypsian Granny Goodness (G.G. – “Gigi” – get it?). She agreed to kidnap the Shah in exchange for one ounce of a youth-restoring potion created by a Dr. Kiev.

            Mr. Miracle, hiding all this time under the bed on which the Shah/Batman slept (the kidnappers lifted the bed through he skylight while the “Shah” slept) frees Batman and the real Shah. They escape and Mr. Miracle detonates left-over gun powder in the derelict ship – destroying Granny Goodness once and for all … yeah right…

 b&b 128-1

            The second of only three appearances by Mister Miracle, and the only issue of B&B that gave even a small nod to Kirby’s Fourth World with an appearance by Granny Goodness (a bit out of character and out of place here, I think) and a few mentions of Darkseid.

            Using Granny Goodness seemed an afterthought – something to link with Mr. Miracle. Any super villain could have been used. Any non-powered villain could have been used. Come to think of it, any guest star could probably have been used. Anybody can hide in a bed – you don’t have to be the World’s Greatest Escape Artist to stow away. The Marx Brothers could stow away.

            Now that would have made a fun comic…

            See what I mean by coasting?

 

Brave and Bold Mailbag (letter column): comments mainly on issue #125 and as always peppered with team-up suggestions, edited and answered by Jack C Harris. B&B’s letter columns read more like movie posters than actual letters – “Fantastic,” says Bob Rozakis of Elmont, NY; “Fair,” Keith Griffin of Mobile, Ala. writes; “Blows!” Michael Curry of St. Louis, MO shouts. This way the editors can mention twenty or more letter-writers in one issue.

            David A. Jones of Horse Cave, KY (positive)

            Jim Dever of Philadelphia, PA, Robert Gustive of Grand Island, Neb., “Hackman” of Santa Martia, CA and Joe Peluso (he contributed five total letters to the comic during its series) all ask for Aparo to draw Flash in his regular series.  I would add Aparo should draw EVERY DC series. JCH says Aparo’s schedule will nor permit it.

            Burt Fowler of Jacksonville, FL thinks Aparo’s Barry Allen looks too much like Aquaman…

Jim Planack of Poughkeepsie, NY, Scott Taylor of Portland, TX, Jerry Rosen of New York, NY, Thomas Russon of Mt. Kisco, NY and John Jesse of Hobart, IN are mentioned.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #20: Blitzkrieg #4

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

 

* Here is a sample of sales figures published in DC’s annual “required by law” financial statement for 1976:

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636