Remembering My 100-Page FAKES! (DC Comics Spectaculars That Never Were)

Well over a year after posting my last 100-Page FAKE!, it occurs to me that I probably never made any official announcement that the series was kaput. I did mention their demise here, but otherwise I never really got around to bidding a proper farewell.

The series began in May of 2018, designed as a proudly fannish attempt to concoct a bunch of 1970s DC Comics 100-Page Super Spectaculars that never were. I announced the series’ transition from the original DC Comics-centric 100-Page FAKES! into the less-restricted (but ultimately still DC-centric) Spectacular Comics 100-Page Specials in April of 2020. I then concocted four monthly issues of Spectacular Comics, with the fourth and final issue posted on July 24, 2020.

At that time, I think I still intended to continue slappin’ these things together. But a few factors combined to make me re-think that intent, and ultimately abandon the concept entirely. The fake books were very time-consuming to create, and they became even more time-consuming when I liquidated my digital comics stash entirely. The final efforts were constructed from a mix of public-domain comics pages available on line and scans of comic books in my collection. Even with all of that, I might have continued doing them if a format change at Blogger hadn’t made the process so much clunkier to accomplish. The inconvenience was more than I was willing to bother messin’ with. Sayonara, FAKES! and Spectaculars.

But I’m glad I did them. They were a cool way to connect with my inner adolescent, the 12-15 year-old kid who loved DC’s 100-pagers in the ’70s, and wished there had been more of them. I wrote a history of DC’s (real-life) 100-pagers, and I felt I wanted to expand on the real world a little bit. Here are links to every one those fabrications:

Adventure Comics # 435
The Shadow # 6
Rima The Jungle Girl # 1
Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains # 4
The Brave And The Bold # 111
Detective Comics # 446
Justice, Inc. # 1
The Sandman # 1
The Phantom # 67
All-Star Comics # 58
Metal Men # 45
DC Special # 16 (Super-Heroes Battle Super Gorillas)

E-Man # 11

Secret Origins # 1

The Six Million Dollar Man # 1

Adventure Comics # 436

Secret Origins # 2

Detective Comics # 447

The Brave And The Bold # 118

Super-Hero Grab Bag # 1 (with The Seven Soldiers Of Victory)

Rima The Jungle Girl # 2

Adventure Comics # 437

DC Special # 14 (Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains)

Detective Comics # 448

Wanted: The Secret Society Of Super Villains # 1

The Shadow # 5

Detective Comics Special Edition

*MARVEL WEEK [in memory of STAN LEE]:

*Sub-Mariner # 72 [a DC-Marvel hybrid]

*Giant-Size Spider-Man # 3 [with Doc Savage]

*Marvel Feature # 1 [with The Defenders]

*Astonishing Tales # 1

Adventure Comics # 438

Adventure Comics # 439

Adventure Comics # 440

Adventure Comics # 441

Adventure Comics # 442

Adventure Comics # 443

Rima The Jungle Girl # 3

Detective Comics # 449

Detective Comics # 451

Adventure Comics # 444

Detective Comics # 452

Adventure Comics # 445

Detective Comics # 453

Adventure Comics # 446

Detective Comics # 454

Adventure Comics # 447

Detective Comics # 455

Adventure Comics # 448

Detective Comics # 456

Adventure Comics # 449

Adventure Comics # 450

Adventure Comics # 451

World’s Finest Comics # 245

Sensation Comics 100-Page Super Spectacular [starring Wonder Woman]

Green Arrow & The Black Canary 100-Page Super Spectacular

Adventure Comics # 452

Detective Comics # 457

The Brave And The Bold # 119

Batman # 262

Batman # 263

The Sandman # 2

The Sandman # 3

The Sandman # 4

The Sandman # 5

The Sandman # 6

All-Star Comics # 59

The Sandman # 7

Shazam! # 36

The Phantom # 68

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 1

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 2

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 3

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 4

From the Spectre to the Phantom, with a cast of multitudes: BatmanAquamanSpider-Man, the original Captain Marvelthe ShadowSupermanSuperboythe Justice Society of AmericaE-ManDaredevilDoc SavagePlastic ManWonder Womanthe Silver SurferBlue Beetlethe Lone Rangerthe Seven Soldiers of Victorythe SandmanRima the Jungle Girlthe Six Million Dollar ManSpy SmasherDial H For HEROMetal MenCaptain Americathe Bat SquadKa-ZarDick TracyBatgirlTorchyBulletman and BulletgirlDr. StrangeHawkmanBlackhawkBlack Canarythe Vigilantethe Creeperthe DefendersHydromanthe Elongated ManWildcatthe Doom PatrolDoll Man and Doll GirlIbis the Invinciblethe Boy CommandosSub-MarinerHot WheelsCaptain ActionZorroDetective ChimpJonny QuestGreen Arrowthe Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Astra, Girl of the Future, plus many more. It was mostly about DC, but it included properties DC licensed or acquired from QualityCharltonFawcettMattelIdealJerry Lewis, and The Chicago Tribune, and it included MarvelECComicoMighty ComicsFoxMLJLev Gleason, more from Charlton, and other purveyors of four-color fantasy. 

I regret I never got around to using Vampirella. But I did what I could, until the time came to move on. They weren’t real. But they were Spectacular.

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

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THE OLD 52: Imagining A New Pre-Crisis DC Comics

I don’t remember any of the details (like whose idea it was or where the idea appeared), but some time back, someone in one of the online DC Comics groups I frequent challenged fellow fans to come up with a Pre-Crisis DC Comics New 52. That is, a hypothetical slate of 52 comic book series set in the DC Comics continuity that existed prior to the 1985-1986 mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths, a series which wiped out the multiple universes that had been DC’s playground up to that point. Worlds will live! Worlds will die! And the DC Universe will never be the same!

The idea here was to create a new DC line-up based in the old DC continuity. One of DC’s latter-day relaunches was called The New 52, so this would be the new Old 52, drawing on characters and concepts that DC had before the Crisis. I liked the idea, and started jotting down possibilities. I wound up with way more than just 52.

I mean, way, way more than just 52.

Rather than attempt a self-edit–because really, what fun would that be?–I figured I’d just list the whole mess right here:

Action Comics

Action Heroes

The Albatross

Adventure Comics

All-American Western
All-Star Comics

All-Star Squadron

Ambush Bug

Angel And The Ape
Aquaman
The Atom
Bat Lash

Batgirl
Batman

Beowulf: Dragon Slayer
Beware The Creeper

Black Lightning

The Black Orchid

The Black Spider
Blackhawk
The Blue Beetle

Blue Devil
The Brave And The Bold

The Bronze Tiger

Bulletgirl
Captain Atom And Nightshade

Captain Thunder
The Challengers Of The Unknown

Claw The Unconquered

The Crimson Avenger
DC Comics Presents

DC’s Imaginary Stories

Deadman

The Demon

Dial H For HERO

The Doom Patrol

Doorway Into The Unknown

Dr. Fate

Firestorm

The Flash

Forbidden Tales Of Dark Mansion
Freedom Fighters

G.I. Combat

Green Arrow And The Black Canary
Green Lantern
Hawkman

Hercules Unbound

Hourman
House Of Mystery

The Human Target

Ibis The Invincible

Inferior Five

Jason’s Quest

Jimmy Olsen

The Joker

Jonah Hex

Judo Master

Justice League Of America

Kamandi

Kid Eternity

Kobra

Legion Of Super-Heroes

Lois Lane

The Maniaks

The Martian Manhunter

‘Mazing Man

Metal Men
Metamorpho
Mister Miracle
Mystery In Space

Nemesis
The New Gods

Newsboy Legion

Ninja The Invisible

Nubia Of The Amazons

OMAC
Our Army At War
The Peacemaker

The Phantom Stranger

Plastic Man 

Plop!

The Question

Ragman

Rima The Jungle Girl

Robin
Rose And The Thorn

Scribbly And The Red Tornado

Secret Origins

The Secret Six
Secret Society Of Super-Villains

Seven Soldiers Of Victory
Sgt. Rock

Shade The Changing Man
Shazam!

Shazam’s Squadron Of Justice
Showcase

Slam Bradley

Son Of Vulcan
The Spectre

Spy Smasher

Stanley And His Monster

Star Hunters
Star Spangled War Stories

Starfire
Strange Adventures

Sugar & Spike

Suicide Squad
Super-Team Family

Supergirl

Superman

Swamp Thing

Swing With Scooter

The Teen Titans

Thriller

Tomahawk

The Trident

The Unknown Soldier

The Vigilante

Vixen
Warlord

Weird War Tales

Wildcat

The Witching Hour

Wonder Woman

World’s Finest Comics

Young Love

Zatanna


As a Silver and Bronze Age kid, my specific yearning is for the DC Universe as it existed in the ’60s and ’70s, but I also included some ’80s titles, as well as the 1960s Action Heroes that DC bought from Charlton Comics in the ’80s. Given my druthers, this line would also include some licensed titles, from The Adventures Of Jerry Lewis through TarzanThe ShadowHot Wheels, and Captain Action. Plus the former Charlton book E-Man, which DC never published nor had rights to publish, but what can I say? I like E-Man! But that’s all well outside the parameters of this exercise.

In my imagination, these are written and drawn by creators like Nick CardyJim AparoTony IsabellaTrevor Von EedenMurphy AndersonNeal AdamsDenny O’NeilSteve EnglehartMarshall RogersTerry AustinJoe KubertNestor RedondoMichael UslanBob RozakisCurt SwanRamona FradonBob HaneyMike GrellSteve SkeatesDick GiordanoSal AmendolaPaul LevitzMark EvanierDan SpiegleJack KirbyLen WeinGerry ConwayJose Luis Garcia LopezAlex TothMike W. BarrDon HeckWally WoodDon NewtonGray MorrowMike SekowskyDick DillinMartin PaskoRoy ThomasJerry OrdwayKurt SchaffenbergerArnold DrakeIrv NovickGeorge PerezDave CockrumFrank RobbinsRich BucklerBerni WrightsonGene ColanMike KalutaJoe OrlandoBob OksnerE. Nelson BridwellMarv WolfmanJoe StatonWalt SimonsonArchie GoodwinCarmine InfantinoDick SprangMichael NetzerGil KaneSteve DitkoMarvel Comics stalwarts John Romita and John Buscema, latter-day lights such as Steve Rude and Darwyn Cooke, and a long list of more. Many of these creators are no longer with us. But if one is going to fantasize, one should shoot for the stars.

A few points to clarify. Starfire is the ’70s DC sword and sorcery heroine, not the 1980s Teen Titan. The Albatross was an aborted 1975 back-up series that would have been written by Martin Pasko, who hated the idea and did his successful best to sabotage it. Ninja The InvisibleVixen, and Captain Thunder were all era-appropriate DC books that were proposed but never realized, with the latter writer Roy Thomas’ idea for an Earth-1 reboot of the original Captain Marvel as an African-American hero. 

Batgirl, the Black Orchid, Black Spider (a Batman villain), Bronze Tiger, Bulletgirl, Dr. Fate, Hourman, Nemesis, Nubia, the Question, Robin, Rose and the Thorn, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Shazam’s Squadron of Justice, Slam Bradley, and Wildcat (I’m thinking this would be the Earth-1 Wildcat) were DC properties that never starred in their own pre-Crisis DC books. The pulp-reminiscent Crimson Avenger was chosen here as a substitute for The Shadow.Jason’s Quest and The Maniaks had appeared in DC’s Showcase in the ’60s. There was never a book called DC’s Imaginary Stories, nor a Charlton characters team-up series called Action Heroes, but there should have been. I also wanted to have genres beyond my superhero favorites, hence the inclusion of humor, horror, science fiction, Western, war, and romance titles. If I could have justified throwing in a 100-Page Super Spectacular, I woulda, but even flights of fancy need some sense of tethering.

(The need for tethers didn’t prevent me from listing The Trident, a World War II-set comics series I submitted to DC in the ’80s. The perks of having your own blog. The Trident came about when I asked myself the question, “What if Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had created a two-fisted black superhero in the ’40s?,” and then attempted to answer that rhetorical query. You’re free to ignore the Trident; DC certainly did.)

So that’s the director’s cut of my Old 52, imagining a new pre-Crisis DC Comics. It’s not worth the effort to try to whittle this down to a mere 52, and I betcha everyone from Sargon the Sorcerer to Super-Turtle to the Mind-Grabber Kid is queuing up to expand the line after successful appearances in Showcase. Bigger worlds live. Nobody dies. A new old DC universe. Just imagine.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For T (Comics Edition)

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

Robin the Boy Wonder! Wonder Girl! Kid Flash! Aqualad! I was six years old in 1966, and I I was certainly a fan of ol’ Robin from his heroic appearances on my favorite TV show Batman. The others were unfamiliar to me prior to my introduction to DC Comics’ junior superhero group The Teen Titans. I didn’t even really know Wonder Woman or The Flash yet, and I first encountered Aquaman around the same time as my first issue of Teen TitansThat would have been Teen Titans# 6, cover-dated November-December 1966.

But I for damned sure knew Robin. Batman and Robin! I think I saw a house ad for Teen Titans # 1 before ever noticing the Titans on the spinner rack. I was absolutely fascinated by DC’s house ads during this era, colorful come-ons that teased and enticed with glimpses of everything from Batman and Superman to Starman and Black CanaryDial H For HEROThe SpectreBob HopeJerry Lewis, and Scooter. I don’t remember whether or not I ever owned a copy of Teen Titans # 1; I think maybe I did buy it as a back issue in the ’70s, but if so, it’s long gone now. Either way, though, its cover captivated my young mind, and I wanted it.

In this time frame, my parents frequently allowed me to pluck a comic book of my choice from the rack at Sweetheart Corner, a grocery store in North Syracuse. That’s how Teen Titans # 6 came into my possession. Robin was on the cover! Of course. 

And I loved it. This issue guest-starred Beast Boy from The Doom Patrol; my only previous exposure to The Doom Patrol was another irresistible house ad, depicting a team-up of the Doomsters and that Scarlet Speedster, The Flash. My next Teen Titans was # 11 (September-October 1967), which guest-starred The Green Arrow‘s sidekick Speedy (and opened with a scene revealing the Titans’ bulletin board, featuring pinned letters from Earth-One’s version of President Lyndon Johnson and that other Fab Four, The Beatles).

Seeing Speedy with the Titans prepared me for the team’s TV debut in the fall of ’67, as The Teen Titans became one of the rotating guest features on the new Saturday morning cartoon series The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure. This show aired on CBS, but the Boy Wonder was still contractually obligated to appear with his caped crusadin’ mentor over on ABC, thus elevating Speedy to full Titandom, at least on Saturday mornings.

I bought Teen Titans comics when I could. Writer Bob Haney‘s willful abuse of the English language in pursuit of his outta-touch idea of hip teenspeak can be kinda painful to read now, but I was all in as a young’un. The art by Nick Cardy was terrific, and would become even better as the series continued. Cardy may be my all-time favorite comics artist, and I first encountered his work in Aquaman and Teen Titans

(Even beyond his overall skill as a draftsman and visual storyteller, Cardy drew some of the prettiest girls in comics, including Wonder Girl and early ’70s Titans addition Lilith.)

DC’s Teen Titans comic book lasted 43 issues, succumbing to cancellation at the end of ’72. It was brought back for another ten issues in the late ’70s, but the latter series was not my cuppa. In the early ’80s, writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez managed a popular and critically-acclaimed revival as The New Teen Titans, and that series (which also brought back Beast Boy, renamed Changeling) made the Titans into A-listers from that point forward.

The New Teen Titans was a great book, and it was key to getting me back into comics after I graduated college. The six-year-old superhero fan from 1966 had grown up…but I resisted growing up too much.

1966 was a big year for me and my superheroes. I liked superheroes before actors Adam West and Burt Ward donned capes and masks to bop the bad guys as TV’s Batman and Robin, but it was certainly Batman that knocked that interest into overdrive. My previous affection for Superman comic books grew into a full-blown obsession with all sorts of superdoers patrolling the spinner racks and magazine shelves. I discovered Marvel Comics in there somewhere, starting with Sub-Mariner and The Incredible Hulk in Tales To Astonish

I first encountered The Mighty Thor in the pages of The Avengers # 13, the same time and place where I first met Captain AmericaIron ManGiant-Man, and The Wasp. We were vacationing at my grandparents’ house in Missouri, and my sister Denise and cousin Cheryl came back from a walk with that comic book in hand. It was an old comic book, published at the end of ’64 (postdated February ’65, as comics were wont to do), probably coverless. Okay by me. Any book you ain’t read is a new book.  

This book was so important to me, and I read it and re-read it many, many times. I have no idea of when I next saw the mighty God of Thunder in a comic book–by the time I got another issue of The Avengers, Thor was no longer an Avenger–but even the one appearance was sufficient to instill wonder and awe in this six-year-old. And if I didn’t see Thor in the funny pages, I could see him on TV; Thor joined Captain America, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, and The Hulk as one of the rotating stars of The Marvel Super-Heroes, a series of (barely) animated short cartoons that aired weekday afternoons, beginning in September of ’66. The year of the superhero!

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS

My introduction to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was most definitely second-hand. If there were issues of Tower Comics‘ 25-cent giant T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents on the rack at Sweetheart, I missed ’em, and I didn’t get around to seeing any of them (and their sublime Wally Wood artwork) until snagging a couple of back issues in the ’70s. No, instead I saw two parodies first. The second of the two was from Marvel Comics, as seen in the humor book Not Brand Echh. I didn’t come aboard the Brechh train until its fourth issue, so I missed seeing NBE # 2’s cracked-mirror version of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. facing Dynamo and NoMan of The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (that would be Knock Furious, Agent of S.H.E.E.S.H. facing Dynaschmoe and Invisible Man of The Blunder Agents). But I did see it when it was reprinted in Not Brand Echh # 10–“The Worst Of Not Brand Echh“–in the summer of ’68. I have all of the Not Brand Echhs in a hardcover collection now.

My first vicarious exposure to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was in a DC Comics humor title: the bad guys in H.U.R.R.I.C.A.N.E., as seen in DC’s The Inferior Five # 1 in 1967. We covered that in a previous Everlasting First. I wish there were a hardcover Inferior Five collection I could buy now.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

The classic TV anthology series The Twilight Zoneended in 1964, so four-year-old me should have had no business watching it. Maybe it was still in reruns a little after that? Not that I would have been any braver to face the show at six or seven years old. I remember that creepy opening, and I remember the show scared the livin’ chicklets outta me. Ooh! I particularly remember one episode where a mystic scarab or something caused some poor geezer to crumble into dust before my terrified eyes. Brrr! This never happened on Batman. Robin! ROBIN! Save me, Boy Wonder!

Or, y’know, you could send Wonder Girl to save me. That would be fine, too.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

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Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Annotated)

Following up on my recent post The Notebook Notions: Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, here’s a slightly expanded look at what DC superstars would appear as guests in each issue of this imaginary twelve-part series.

When editor Murray Boltinoff and writer Bob Haney planned out what would happen in The Brave And The Bold in the ’60s and ’70s, I would presume they picked a guest star first. My fancies here started out that way for the first seven chapters; for the four final chapters, I switched to story idea first, as I expanded on the notion of all of this as an inter-related serial. Chapter 8 was a last-minute add-on.

I rejected a few ideas along the way. “World’s Finest!” would have been a gathering of the Superman family (Lois LaneJimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, plus the Man of Steel himself) and the Batman family (Robin and Batgirl), a nod to the Superman Family and Batman Family series DC ran in the mid ’70s. “A Piece Of The Outer Space Action” was originally a DC Comics Presents idea, teaming Superman and Green Lantern in a story concocted specifically so the villain could channel Donovan while protesting, “Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on me, see?” I am too cute for casual description, but my mind couldn’t see that as a Batman story. A Justice League of America story called “The Trial Of Dr. Light!” was actually among my many failed DC submissions, and it didn’t fit here, nor did Batman solo stories “Nightmare Resurrection” and “The Day I Met The Batman.” I considered “Bounty Hunter’s Back In Town,” reprising a one-off hired assassin created by Haney for The Brave And The Bold # 101, and “When Gotham Freezes Over,” continuing Mr. Freeze‘s quest for revenge from “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.” The latter story would have to be told in this series, but could be chronicled within the events of the later chapters.

Among the other guest stars I considered for this hypothetical B & B exercise: Jimmy Olsen, Blue BeetleThe Crimson AvengerThe Martian ManhunterThe Challengers of the UnknownDolphinKid EternityDoll Man, and The Seven Soldiers Of Victory. Now, let’s have a look at the twelve chapters I decided to include.

BATMAN & AQUAMAN:
“The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze”
The only chapter I’ve ever completed, and I’m crazy, stupid proud of it. I think this can stand alone as a purple prose Batman pulp short, but it also serves as the spark for this series.

BATMAN & WONDER WOMAN:
“Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears”
My satisfaction with “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” led me to think about expanding that storyline. Picking up on Steve Trevor‘s cameo in the Mr. Freeze story made Wonder Woman a logical candidate to guest star in Chapter Two, for which I wrote a teaser intro. I also wanted to incorporate the amoral Ruby Ryder, whom Haney created for The Brave And The Bold # 95, one of my favorite issues. Ryder appeared in several subsequent issues of B & B, and I think she’s the only B & B-specific supporting character Haney ever re-used.

BATMAN & SHAZAM!
“Between Arkham And Eternity”
The billing says “Shazam, ” but we’re referring to The World’s Mightiest Mortal, the original Captain Marvel. I became a fan of Captain Marvel in the early ’70s, and ol’ Cap was likely the guest star I would have most wished to see in The Brave And The Bold. In an interview many years later, B & B artist Jim Aparo agreed that he would have enjoyed drawing Captain Marvel (or, even better, Cap’s younger pal Captain Marvel Junior) in B & B, and didn’t know why that never happened. I suspect licensing concerns may have complicated things: DC was still just leasing the character from original publisher Fawcett Comics at the time, and wouldn’t get around to owning the character outright until the ’90s, I think.

BATMAN & THE SANDMAN
“Bring Me No Dreams”
Golden Age comics greats Joe Simon and Jack Kirby reunited for the 1974 one-shot The Sandman # 1, starring a new titular character with no connection to the previous DC hero of the same name. It was very goofy, very out of place in the milieu of ’70s superhero comics, but it had an energy that was sorta kinda fun. From what I’ve read elsewhere, I gather that some glitch in sales reports led DC honchos to the erroneous conclusion that The Sandman # 1 was a smash hit on the spinner racks, prompting an order to series. Neither Simon nor Kirby stuck around for the unexpected second issue, leaving the reins to writer Michael Fleisher and artists Ernie Chua and Mike Royer. Kirby returned with the fourth issue, and Neil Gaiman much later incorporated the character as a tangent to his own acclaimed Sandman series. Writer Len Wein provided my favorite use of the character in 1983’s Justice League Of America Annual # 1.

BATMAN & RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL
“Welcome To The Jungle”
As comics sales seemed destined to dwindle to a vast and empty void throughout the ’70s, DC publisher Carmine Infantino scrambled to find ways to scrounge up sales, trying different formats, different genres, any damned thing that might stick. One half expected a new DC title called The Kitchen Sink. Jungle girls (particularly the iconic Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle) had been popular in comics in the ’40s; Marvel Comics started its own latter-day Sheena counterpart Shanna The She Devil in 1972. Rima the Jungle Girl was a public domain character, from the 1904 novel Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. Artist Nestor Redondo rendered Rima as a strikingly beautiful character in the DC comics version, while still avoiding the cheesecake good girl art style of the classic Sheena. Batman and Rima would be an odd team-up indeed, probably involving time travel, and (if I were writing it) definitely featuring Poison Ivy as the big bad.

BATMAN & ?
“The Phantom Of Gotham City”

No, it ain’t The Riddler (though maybe I should make him the villain of the piece, just ‘cuz). The mystery guest-star concept of “Batman And ?” was first used in The Brave And The Bold  # 95 (the same issue that introduced Ruby Ryder), and reprised for The Brave And The Bold # 150. At this time, I have no intention of telling you who my Super Secret Mystery Guest Star would be. I will say that I’m playing fair with the selection itself: it’s a DC Comics character, one who was part of DC continuity in the mid ’70s milieu I’ve chosen for this Brave And Bold project. And ’70s B & B letter columns indicated that there had been requests for this character to appear as B & B co-star, requests that were never answered…until NOW! Sort of. Fans familiar with Silver Age DC continuity might find a clue in the “Phantom” part of this story’s title. That’s all you’re gettin’ outta me about it today.


BATMAN & THE BLACK ORCHID
“Who Is The Black Orchid?”
The Black Orchid‘s three cover-featured appearances in Adventure Comics made her a star in my eyes, and I followed her subsequent appearances as a back-up strip in The Phantom Stranger. The Black Orchid’s true identity was a mystery, to crooks and to readers, and I always figured this had to be a job for the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman. In her original ’70s incarnation, The Black Orchid never interacted with the rest of the DC universe, though I think writer E. Nelson Bridwell, bless ‘im, used her–and Rima the Jungle Girl!–in Super Friends.

BATMAN, OMAC & SGT. ROCK
“Our One Man Army At War”
As noted above, this was a last-minute choice, and I began to second-guess it immediately. OMAC–Jack Kirby’s One Man Army Corps–much, much later became a large part of Batman and DCU continuity, though I would ignore all of that here. But I don’t feel any real affinity for the idea either. “One Man Army Corps” put me in mind of DC’s long-running war book Our Army At War, and its star (and frequent Batman B & B co-star) Sgt. Rock. Rock doesn’t work for me outside of a World War II setting, so the only Batman-Sgt. Rock team-up I really liked was the first one, 1969’s “The Angel, The Rock And The Cowl” in B & B # 84, which was set in WWII. (I didn’t see B & B # 162 until years later; it was published in 1980, during the brief period when this cash-strapped college student stopped buying comics altogether. Its Batman-Sgt. Rock story also went back to the ’40s, but it was written by Bill Kelley, not Haney.)

BATMAN & THE SPECTRE
“The Judgement Of Gotham”
One of my favorite characters since I was a kid, the ghostly avenger The Spectre replaced The Black Orchid as the star of Adventure Comics in a new series of stories by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo, stories which became notorious for their grim and gritty revenge fantasies. Brrrr! “The Judgement Of Gotham” was a title in my original notebook notions of half-baked story ideas, and it was intended to introduce my new villain Torquemada, a fire ‘n’ brimstone zealot determined to cleanse Gotham’s sins in a funeral pyre. The Spectre vs Torquemada? A match made in Purgatory!

BATMAN & THE JOKER
“The Death Of The Joker”
One of the many little bits that delighted me in the creation of “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” was my idea of The Joker putting himself into a catatonic state at will, allowing himself an opportunity to re-invent himself according to whatever his mad whims dictate. A line early in “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears” tells us that The Joker had awakened from his slumber, but had been affected by the emotional miasma felt worldwide at that first story’s climax. What if this made The Joker…sane? What if it gave him a soul, a conscience, and an overwhelming sense of guilt over his own murderous actions? What if The Joker felt that, in penance, it was time for him to die?

And what if The Batman disagreed?

BATMAN & HIS GREATEST FOES
“A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot”
The events of both “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” and “The Death Of The Joker” would culminate in “A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot,” a free-for-all finding Batman battling alongside some of his enemies, including The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The PenguinTwo-Face, and Catwoman.

BATMAN & 4 FAMOUS CO-STARS
“Hope In Crime Alley”

Writer Dennis O’Neil‘s “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” (Detective Comics # 457, cover-dated March 1976) is one of the all-time classic Batman stories, a perfect balance of the tragedy that birthed The Batman and the undying hope that belies the story’s title. There is hope, or at least there can be, even in dark circumstances. The original story introduced Leslie Tompkins, a woman who comforted young Bruce Wayne in the moments after he’d witnessed his parents’ murders. Tompkins has been brought back in many, many later stories, but “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” is the only time her character was ever done right. In my opinion. Harrumph.

I can’t say whether or not my own indirect sequel “Hope In Crime Alley” would render Tompkins correctly, but the story would build on the feeling of hope Gotham needs after all that its citizens have been through in the year since Mr. Freeze attempted and failed to conquer death. The “4 Famous Co-Stars” billing was first used for The Brave And The Bold # 100, then referring to Robin, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary. Here, our fab four is Wildcat (opening a youth gym in the Crime Alley neighborhood, to help give direction and purpose to the children of its streets), Plastic Man (using his own experience as a reformed criminal to inspire marginal individuals to better themselves), Robin the Teen Wonder (to help his mentor retain the hope he needs), and Wonder Woman (because…well, that would be telling). Challenges would arise. Despair would threaten. Hope would prevail. The Batman, as always, will make damned sure of that.

And there’s my twelve-part fantasy edition of The Brave And The Bold. And though it’s been said many times, many ways, it bears repeating: B & B seeing you!

In this issue, a future blogger identified as “Carl Cafrelli” suggests Batman be teamed with The Shadow. I do not recall making that request. And no, The Shadow is not the co-star in “The Phantom Of Gotham City.”

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The Notebook Notions: Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD

In the words of some guy who went to China and later claimed he wasn’t a crook, let me make this perfectly clear: I realize I’m never going to write for DC Comics, and that I’m almost certainly never going to write comics at all. I’m not that delusional. Just, y’know, almost. This reluctant concession to real-world common sense doesn’t prevent me from flights of fancy, imagining what I’d do if I had the opportunity and the talent to pursue such dreams. In the early-to-mid ’70s, when I was in my teens, I started jotting my notions down in notebooks. Nowadays, I got a blog.

One of my persistent fantasies has been to write a year-long, twelve-part out-of-continuity DC series. Well, not exactly “out of continuity,” but basically set in the DC Universe as it existed circa 1972 through 1975 or so, when Carmine Infantino was in charge. I was twelve to fifteen years old in this time frame, and I have a fond, lingering attachment to the comics of that era. My favorites were the 100-Page Super SpectacularsAdventure ComicsBatmanDetective Comics, and Justice League Of America.

And then there was The Brave And The Bold.

One of these days, I’ll write an extended song and dance about my love/hate relationship with The Brave And The Bold. At one point B & B was my favorite comic book, a series teaming my favorite hero Batman with various other characters from the DC Line Of Superstars. The artwork in these books was often nothing short of gorgeous, from late ’60s runs by Neal Adams and Nick Cardy into the wonderful Jim Aparo‘s long stint commencing in the early ’70s. Bob Haney‘s stories were imaginative and well-told, but I grew tired of them over time. Haney didn’t change; I did. Haney and editor Murray Boltinoff were determinedly unconcerned with continuity, and in retrospect I realize they were probably correct in that approach. But the B & B Batman didn’t quite seem like the same Batman starring in Batman and Detective, and it bugged me as a teen. I stopped buying The Brave And The Bold.

Eventually. And I came back eventually, too.

And I always wanted to write the book. My original notebook notions contain frequent scrawled story ideas for B & B, notably the germ of my idea for a Batman-Aquaman adventure originally called “The Undersea Crimes Of Mr. Freeze,” later amended and much later completed for this blog as a pulp prose short story called “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.” I’m silly-proud of that story, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Getting back to the fantasy: in this scenario, I’ve signed a contract with DC to write The Brave And The Bold as a twelve-issue limited series set in a modified version of DC’s continuity circa 1974 or ’75, thereabouts. The modifications allow me to use Paul Dini‘s version of Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series, and to refer to Sub Diego from circa 2003 issues of Aquaman. I can use whatever DC characters I want, though I’d likely keep to characters that appeared in DC books during that time; the temptation to use the Charlton line of Action Heroes (which DC purchased in the ’80s) would be resisted here, but Blue Beetle and company would inevitably see…um, action in a companion Justice League Of America 12-issue series in this same continuity. The Carlverse. The Boppinverse! If one’s gonna dream, one should dream big.

So here’s a list of the proposed titles for each issue in this series, beginning with the already-written “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze,” continuing into the partially-written “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears,” and barreling forth thereafter. The fantasy ends here; I doubt I’ll bother to flesh this out any further, but ya never know with me. never know with me. I’ll leave it to the DC Faithful to guess who Batman’s guest stars might be in each issue (though some of my chosen illustrations will presumably provide another clue for you all). In my mind, the artwork on all of these stories is by either the late Nick Cardy or the late Jim Aparo. Or Norm Breyfolgle. Or Jerry Ordway. Or, or….

Anyway. Enjoy this glimpse of what will never be. B & B seeing you!

1.   “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze”
2.   “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears”
3.   “Between Arkham And Eternity”
4.   “Bring Me No Dreams”
5.   “Welcome To The Jungle”
6.   “The Phantom Of Gotham City”
7.   “Who Is The Black Orchid?”
8.   “Our One Man Army At War”
9 .  “The Judgement Of Gotham”
10. “The Death Of The Joker”
11. “A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot”
12. “Hope In Crime Alley”

This one’s not a clue; just a chance to see Jim Aparo’s renditions of more DC superstars.

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THE LOVEABLE LUNKHEAD RETURNS

This was originally distributed privately to patrons of this blog on December 1st, 2018. This is its first public appearance. You can become a patron and support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) for just $2 a month.
A recent online exchange about DC Comics Silver Age characters, cosmic crisis crossovers, and a popular real-life entertainment figure who starred in his own long-running DC Comics title inspired this flight of fancy. 

It was yet another crisis. You’d think such things would be rare, but they seemed to happen every summer, sometimes even more frequently. The world, the universe, multiple universes in danger, and the superheroes must save us. Worlds will live. Worlds will die. The universes will never be the same. Again. And again. And again.

But this crisis was different. This time, they invited me.

I’m usually excluded from these things. I used to be as big a star in our four-color world as any of the big guys. I don’t mean just my (if you must) “real” world counterpart, the comedy legend with the telethons and the movies and the temper, the adoring fans in France, the gurgled cries of LAAAAAAAAAYdeeeeeee! I mean me–the comic-book me–mingling with the Caped Crusaders and the Man of Steel, the Amazon Princess, the Scarlet Speedster. I was the Lovable Lunkhead. I met the prettiest girls. I had amazing, silly adventures, and the kids kept coming back for more, every other month. I did all right: Forty issues with my martini-guzzling ex-partner, and then 84 more–that’s 84!–without him, a total of 124 issues from 1952 to 1971, That was a longer sustained success than most of the superheroes in the freakin’ League, man. I was a king of comedy in the funnybooks.

Funnybooks. Nobody calls ‘em that anymore. No one wants any comic in their comic books. They just want another crisis. The real me was celebrated. Comic-book me was forgotten.

I don’t know what made this crisis du jour unique from the infinite previous crises. Maybe because all the heavy hitters were taken off the table before the action even started, out of commission at the hands of a mysterious grandmaster pitting champion against champion for the fate of all reality. Or something like that—I’ve never really understood the macguffins tossed around in these secret superwar things. I only knew that I’d been called to battle, as had dozens of presumably lesser heroes. It was like sending in the walk-ons during an NCAA basketball tournament. The bench was empty; we were the last hope standing.

I’m not a fighter. I’d tell you I never shied from a fight, but one look at my flailing panic in desperate situations would expose that lie. We chosen champions (such as we were) were supposed to fight each other—God knows why—in order to save the multiverse or some such mishigas. Most of the others were bona fide superheroes and adventurers; they expected me, a comic-book avatar of a popular film comedian, to compete with that? Oy….

My pesky nephew Renfrew and my housekeeper Witch Kraft accompanied me, though Renfrew disappeared immediately—knowing him, I figured the little monster was probably working up a high-stakes gambling pool—while Witchy zeroed in on some hero’s sturdy sidekick to flirt with. Everyone presumed I’d be dusted in the first round; presumed I’d be dusted in the first round. This never happened to Buddy Love, man.

My first opponent was a superhero, a stalwart member of a whole Legion of such people, but get this: his super power? He could eat anything. That’s it, I swear, hand to God. He could eat metal bars, walls, and plants and birds and rocks and things. Especially rocks. Man, even I wasn’t afraid of that. He charged at me, and I bent down to tie the loose laces of my sneakers. Safety first. Mr. matter-eatin’ boy overshot, and went careening into our picnic table, landing face-first into Witch Kraft’s Super Secret Recipe mocha, jalapeño, and sardine potato salad á la mode. Even an ability to eat anything wasn’t enough to spare my opponent the gastronomic indignity of that concoction, and I had won my first round.

Then I won my second. And my third. My fourth…?! Crazy. I would trip and my opponent would knock him- or herself out. Slapstick is my super power. I made it to the final round, and I knew that would have to be the end of the line for me.

Why? Because my opponent in the final was the daughter of that badass Dark Knight guy and the buxom cat burglar who used to cause strange stirrings in his utility belt. Trust me; it was a thing that led to a fling, and a second-generation superhero. Little Miss Batcat was one of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighters ever known. My luck had run out for sure.

She whispered something in my ear before the battle. At first, I was thinking to myself, You smooth Don Juan–if only Dean could see you now! But then I heard what she was saying, and I understood my role.

I came out fuming. Bellowing! Beating my chest and swaggering the swagger of the clueless and doomed. She remained tightlipped, all business, making it look good. I tried to make it look good, but my sheer haplessness hampered my façade. I nearly decked myself, not once, not twice, but three times, oh LAAAYdeee! She rolled her eyes behind her mask, but managed to keep saving me from myself. Finally, I seemed to have gotten in a lucky shot, and she crumpled to the ground, apparently defeated.

I had won.

I HAD WON!

The crowd was speechless, dumbfounded. From behind a cosmic curtain, the hidden orchestrator of this contest emerged, masked and hooded, hopping mad. YOU?!, he cried in anguish. YOU won this double-bag super-duper crossover crisis mega event? YOU? He was much shorter than I would have expected a cosmic criminal mastermind to be. I lost a friggin’ FORTUNE in bets on this! YOU WERE AT A BILLION TO ONE ODDS! The only way I can maybe break even is to destroy the universe and do a reboot…ULP!

The miscreant’s dastardly soliloquy was cut short by a savage blow from my former opponent, the Batcat chick. Yeah, she’d thrown the game, but for noble purpose, giving herself the opportunity to play possum and then get close enough to bring the bad guy down. With the dramatic flourish of a true comic book champion, she unmasked the mastermind as…

…Renfrew? MY NEPHEW RENFREW…?!

That kid just ain’t right in the head. Another get-rich gambling scheme. Ponzi had nothing on Renfrew, lemme tell ya. And rest assured: after Witchy and I got Renfrew home, he wasn’t able to sit down for a solid week.

The crisis was over. The vanquished champions recovered, and even more champions from across the multiverse showed up for the after-party. Hell, I think Dean was there, which was my cue to exit. Always leave ‘em wanting more.

I don’t get to participate in crises. Maybe that’s best. I’m a hero—no, scratch that, not a hero. I’m a comic book star from a different time. Fans look back and think because people laughed I must have been a joke. But I wasn’t a joke. I was an A-list star. Readers loved me, and my comic book ran for almost twenty years. They were good comics, too. It’s a shame so few will ever read them again. So I fade away. There’s no dark and gritty revamp of me. There’s no back-to-basics retread, no breathless hype that everything you thought you knew about the Lovable Lunkhead is wrong. There’s just the memories. I’d thank you for those, but that line belonged to another comedian turned comic book star. Instead, I sing: When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high. You’ll never walk alone.

Oh. And I have a hot date tonight with the Batcat chick. The ladies still dig a guy that can make ‘em laugh. The Lovable Lunkhead rises. The Lovable Lunkhead returns.

***

Thanks to Michal Jacotfor providing the spark.

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Buying Comic Books Since 1966

Except for a brief pause when I was in college, I have been buying comic books since I was six years old in 1966. Over 55 years! I’d read comic books before that–older siblings, don’tcha know, armed with issues of Metal MenTales To AstonishOur Army At WarSuperman, and an 80-Page Giant starring Superman’s girlfriend Lois Lane–but in ’66 the Batman TV series inspired an obsession with superheroes, an obsession I’ve never seen any need to outgrow. And that interest manifested in a need to own superhero comic books.

As a kid in the ’60s, my “buying” of comic books generally meant I would pick a four-color prize off the spinner rack and either Mom or Dad would supply the twelve cents necessary to complete the transaction. The earliest specific purchase I can identify is Batman # 184, plucked from the rack at a grocery store in Aurora, Missouri while on vacation in the summer of ’66. Tales To Astonish # 84 followed in short order, located and acquired at (I think) a feed store in Verona, MO, with a copy of Superboy # 132 purchased in there somewhere, from the same store that sold us the above-mentioned Batman. It’s possible I got the Superboy before I got the Batman. Six-year-old me was less than exhaustive in keeping records of this stuff. Slacker.

I don’t know if these were my first comics purchases–and, as noted, they definitely weren’t my first comic books–but they are the first two I can ID with certainty as books I selected myself. (My 1966 Signet Batman paperback may have been my first comic book purchase, though it wasn’t technically a comic book. I scored that one at either Switz’s variety store or J.M. Fields department store back home in North Syracuse, NY, presumably prior to the summer visit to grandparents in Missouri. Unless it was after that, in which case it wasn’t first. Damn my record-keeping skills at six!) 

In North Syracuse, my go-to purveyor of funnybooks was Sweethearts Corner on Route 11. A (very) partial list of comics I got at Sweetheart includes Justice League Of America # 55-56, Fantastic Four # 73, Not Brand Echh # 4, The Spectre # 1, The Avengers # 42, Judo Master # 96, Teen Titans # 11, X-Men # 36, World’s Finest Comics # 162, Wonder Woman # 175, Inferior 5 #1, Doom Patrol # 115, Metamorpho  # 15, Spyman # 1, Green Lantern # 57, House Of Mystery # 173, and JLA # 61 (with “Operation: Jail The Justice League!”). My Aunt Rose bought me a copy of JLA # 57 at a drugstore in Liverpool, the next suburb over from North Syracuse. Every grocery store, drugstore, or other retail outlet with comics on display became a destination for me to increase my stash o’ treasures. Adventure Comics # 368. The Amazing Spider-Man # 48. Action Comics # 356. Aquaman #  30. Dell Comics‘ oddball Super Heroes # 4. A three-pack of King Comics titles at Clancy’s Silver Star. MORE! 

A cover-compromised copy of Superboy # 129 (my favorite individual issue of any comic book when I was a kid) was my introduction to coverless comic books (and yet another possible candidate for my first comic book). Many, many more examples of such contraband would follow. In the late ’60s and well into the ’70s, and even the ’80s, I grabbed these illegal, discounted comics as often as I could, with VanPatten’s Grocery in North Syracuse my biggest supplier.

Summers were a fantastic time for kids who loved comics. The annual team-ups of the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America were obvious highlights. A 1967 trip to Vermont netted me World’s Finest Comics # 168. Before traveling (usually to Missouri again), Mom and Dad would let me pick out a stack of new comics to read on the trip. During an extended time away from Syracuse in the summer of 1968, that same Missouri grocery store took in my 12- and 25-cent payments in exchange for  Marvel Super Heroes # 15-16, Not Brand Echh # 10, Avengers # 56, Avengers King-Size Special # 2, Sub-Mariner # 7, Superman # 207, and DC Special # 1. Extending the ’68 vacation’s route to a California visit, I picked up Adventure Comics # 384 and Aquaman # 41, the latter over the objections of a female second- or third-cousin who didn’t want me to buy a comic book in her presence. (This was an early step in my long history of being occasionally puzzled by the opposite sex. And by, y’know, people. Of any gender.)

Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, summer vacations offered a seemingly endless bounty of comic book purchases, from Astonishing Tales # 2 and a giant-sized issue of The Brave And The Bold in Florida in 1970 through Show-Me State acquisitions of Secret Origins # 5, JLA # 107, and…it’s a long list.  A rest stop at the Greyhound station in Cleveland got me Marvel Feature # 1, the first official appearance of the Defenders. The Springfield, MO bus depot provided DC’s The Shadow # 1. I loved ’em all.

Other than trades with comics-collecting pals, and a bounty of tattered ’60s books passed on to me from my sister’s boyfriend, I don’t remember the what or where of my first back issue purchases. Mighta been at the flea market in Syracuse, or at North Syracuse’s wonderful World Of Books. I was an old hand at back issues by the time I got to the Super DC Con in New York City in 1976. Among other dealers’-room transactions at Super DC Con, I picked up Funnyman # 5, which was one of the oldest complete (i.e., not coverless) comic books in my collection at the time. I still have that one.

Throughout all of this, I continued to buy both new and coverless comics at various stores in the Syracuse area. Page counts varied, prices increased. The familiar 12-cent cost became 15 cents by the end of the ’60s. 15 cents became 25 cents, then slid down to 20 cents before resuming the 25-cent level. Onward and upward. DC had 100-Page Super Spectaculars for 50 cents, later for 60 cents, before that format collapsed. 

I kept on buying comics through high school, and into my freshman year of college in 1977-78. Writer Steve Englehart‘s run on Batman in Detective Comics # 469-476 (which I purchased in installments at Gold Star Pharmacy in North Syracuse and at Liftbridge Bookstore in my college town of Brockport, NY) knocked me out, but it spoiled me for everything that came after that. I hadn’t outgrown comic books. I had just moved on.

I came back to comics after graduating in 1980. It wasn’t an immediate resumption of superdoer fandom, but I’d retained my interest in superheroes (manifested in exulting in Christopher Reeve‘s portrayal of Superman on screen). I stayed in Brockport for a couple of years after attaching the B.A. to my name, and I started visiting a new local store called Comic Book Heaven, “Where Fantasy Reigns But You Never Get Wet.” Frank Miller‘s work on Daredevil and Marv Wolfman and George Perez‘s revival of The New Teen Titans hooked me anew, and I’ve been buying my comic books again ever since.

Living in Buffalo from 1982 to 1987, I was within walking distance of the fabulous Queen City Bookstore, where I regularly stocked up on new issues, and scored a ton of coverless and/or crappy condition ’60s DCs out of the bulk bin. Returning to Syracuse in ’87, I became a regular patron of Twilight Book And Game Emporium, owned by Bob Gray, one of my old comics-trading pals from the early ’70s. When Twilight closed at the turn of the century, I switched to Comix Zone in North Syracuse. I pick up new comics at Comix Zone every week.

A few recent acquisitions from Comix Zone.

What do I buy at Comix Zone? Well! My current pull list includes all of the AHOY Comics titles, plus BatmanThe Amazing Spider-ManBuffy The Vampire SlayerSupermanJustice LeagueAction ComicsDetective ComicsThe Other History Of The DC UniverseMoney ShotFantastic FourFantastic Four Life StoryGroo Meets TarzanThe MarvelsCheckmateShazam!Superman BatmanAmazing FantasyInfinite Frontier, and more. I’m way behind in reading them–I have two very tall stacks of comics awaiting my attention–but I keep getting them, and I enjoy most of them.

I rarely buy comics from any resource other than Comix Zone. Other than the (very) occasional eBay purchase, the only notable recent exception was when DC published a line of 100-page comic books for sale exclusively at Wal-Mart. Hadda have some of those, and it was kind of a kick to buy comic books from a mass-market retailer, just like when I plucked comics off the rack at Sweetheart in the ’60s and ’70s…

…or grabbed an 80-Page Giant (featuring Tales Of The Bizarro World) at the grocery store in Aurora in 1968…

…or snapped up The Brave And The Bold # 78 at a Piggly Wiggly in Kansas…

…and The Brave And The Bold # 91 (featuring artist Nick Cardy‘s absolutely gorgeous rendition of the Black Canary) at the GEM store (Government Employees’ Market) in Syracuse…

…or discovered the Golden Age Plastic Man via DC Special # 15 at a drugstore in the Northern Lights shopping center… 

…or badgered Mom to take me to Carl’s Drugs in Liverpool, for the specific drugs this Carl craved, like Adventure Comics # 428…

…or bought the sultry Vampirella (while also sneaking peeks at Penthouse) at White-Modell…

I actually got this one at World Of Books, but…close enough!

…or E-Man # 10 at a pit stop in Arkansas…

…or The Joker # 1 and an issue of Charlton Comics‘ Yang at a convenience store in Clifton Park, NY…

…or Shazam! # 1 and Howard The Duck # 1, both hoarded by deluded speculators across the country, both purchased by me off the rack, both at Gold Star Pharmacy, the former in 1972 (when Gold Star was still Henry & Hines) and the latter in 1976. Speculation? Comic books are for reading and cherishing, you fools…

…or Detective Comics # 438 from the literal stack of Detective Comics # 438s at Two Guys department store… 

…or Doctor Strange # 50, with art by Steve Englehart’s former Detective Comics collaborator Marshall Rogers, discovered at a candy shop on Victory Boulevard while visiting my girlfriend on Staten Island…

…or my truly crappy-condition Batman # 100, courtesy of an antique shop in Brockport.

The comic books of my life. The Wal-Mart books sure looked cool, too, and they were part of that decades-long tapestry of colorful, action-packed wonder.

I’m not a collector anymore. If I don’t like a book, I stop buying it, and I often get rid of a comic book after I’ve read it. I’m a fan. I still have some of the books I bought as a kid, for 12 cents or 25 cents or whatever. The prices are a little higher now; they start at $3.99 to $4.99 and go up from there, though some retailers (including Comix Zone) offer discounts for subscribers. It’s okay. You can’t assign a value to dreams, and comic books remain the stuff that dreams are made of. Screw the Maltese Falcon. Gimme my comic books.

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Superheroes On TV

Batman was not the first superhero I saw on TV. That honor belongs to the Man of Steel, the Metropolis Marvel, Kal-El, the one ‘n’ only Superman. Everyone knew Superman, and in the early ’60s, everyone had watched Superman on TV in reruns of The Adventures Of Superman, the venerable ’50s series starring George Reeves. Concurrent to this, all of the kids in my neighborhood also watched chapters of the old Flash Gordon movie serials, as well as Astro Boy cartoons, both of which were shown every afternoon on The Baron And His Buddies, the popular kids’ show hosted by Syracuse’s own local vampire, Baron Daemon. If you also include the Mighty Mouse and Popeye cartoons we all watched, like, everywhere, then it’s safe to say that all the kids in North Syracuse had plenty of exposure to televised superheroics well before the debut of the Batman TV series in January of 1966.

Nonetheless, it was the success of Batman that paved the way for more superheroes on TV. Prior to Batman, nearly all of the super adventures we saw were old–second-hand entertainment, already enjoyed previously by our elder siblings, or even an earlier generation. Superman was from the ’50s; Popeye from the ’30s through the ’50s; Flash Gordon from the ’30s. Astro Boy was roughly contemporary, but a syndicated import, not, y’know, fresh Amurrican entertainment. At the beginning of 1966, Batman was really the only superhero starring in brand-new televised exploits; he would have plenty of company by the end of that year.

(This new superhero fad had its first effect on advertising. I recall seeing superhero motifs in TV commercials for Bactine and Lucky Stripes chewing gum, and I loved ’em. The images of Stripeman and a flying, bat-caped Bactine container were as much a part of my TV experience in ’66 as The Monkees were.)

Almost all of the new superhero shows would be animated. In September, the new Saturday morning cartoon schedule on CBS included The New Adventures Of SupermanSpace GhostFrankenstein Jr. And The Impossibles, and even The Lone Ranger, starring another character we all knew (like Superman), but who couldn’t be called a superhero because he was, y’know, a cowboy. On weekday afternoons, we were treated to The Marvel Super Heroes, a series of serialized adventures starring a rotating roster of Captain AmericaThorIron ManSub-Mariner, and The Hulk. These were shown in Syracuse on a show called Jet Set, alongside a collection of whatever other cartoon goodies Channel 5 could get its hands on (including Sinbad Jr And His Magic Belt, in which our seafarin’ hero gained super strength via the wonder of his titular magic belt).

There were live action superheroes, too. Most notable of these was The Green Hornet with Van Williams and Bruce Lee, though there were also two comedy superhero shows, Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific. I was aware of Captain Nice, and even owned a Captain Nice comic book, but never managed to see an episode of the show. I did watch both The Green Hornet and Mr. Terrific, but not many people did; all three series were short-lived.

More animated superheroes followed: Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man on ABC, The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure on CBS (the latter including additional heroics from The FlashGreen LanternHawkmanThe AtomTeen Titans, and The Justice League of America), and a variety of other super-doers created for the small screen: Mightor! Super 6! Mighty Heroes! Birdman! The Galaxy Trio! Super-President! Surely, evil must tremble before this assembled might of right!

The cancellation of the prime-time Batman in 1968 signaled the ebb of the public’s interest in superheroes. Although Batman quickly returned in a new cartoon series in the fall of ’68, the costumed hero fad had run its course.

With the plethora of superhero movies and TV shows available now, it’s odd to look back and realize that it did once seem like a fad that had ended. In the early ’70s, Superman and Wonder Woman made (perhaps incongruous) guest appearances on a Saturday morning cartoon series based on the kids from The Brady Bunch; an ABC Saturday Superstar Movie called “Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter” teamed the super sailor-man with other characters from the King Features stable, including Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician; and Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman and Robin united in a new cartoon series called Super Friends.

Me? I was 13 by the time Super Friends debuted in 1973, and it wasn’t at all what I was looking for in televised superhero entertainment. I wanted a gritty new Batman series–no, not “Batman,” “THE Batman!” I wanted something that would reflect the perceived (by me) maturity of the 1970s Batman comics stories by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams; in my mind, Medical Center star Chad Everett was born to play The Batman in a serious crime drama, with British actor Christopher Lee as the megalomaniacal Ra’s al GhulThat’s what I wanted, not kids’ stuff like Super Friends.


Alas, I never really liked any of the live action superhero TV fare of the ’70s. Well, at the time, I confess I did kinda like the atrocious Wonder Woman TV movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby, and the awful late night TV adaptation of the musical It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman. The original Captain Marvel had become one of my all-time favorite comics characters, but I couldn’t warm to his banal escapades in Shazam! Lynda Carter was a freakin’ knockout, but I found her Wonder Woman series to be too campy, and this young man had outgrown camp, see? IsisSpider-ManThe Incredible Hulk? None of these was ever quite what I had in mind.

It took decades before there would be a superhero TV series that would captivate me. I loved Smallville, the tale of the boy who would be Superman, from the moment of its debut in 2001. Nowadays, I have all the superhero TV entertainment I could ever want, from all those DC Comics shows on The CW to Marvel shows on Disney + and Netflix. From feast, to famine, to an endless bounty, all within my lifetime. Up, up, and away.

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Dennis O’Neil

Comics is a visual medium. But no matter how dazzling the individual images, how pretty the pictures, how powerfully the lines have been drawn, the story is what’s at the heart of it all. Without a story, all we have are pinup pages. Maybe they’re great pinup pages. But it’s not really comics without a story. Writer and artist. You need both to create comics.

Sometimes the writer and the artist are one and the same, from Will Eisner to Art Spiegelman to Carol Lay. More often (especially in commercial comics), there is a division of labor. The writer writes, the artists–usually more than one artist–pencil, ink, and letter, and also color if the work’s not for black-and-white publication. When I was a teenager, I decided I wanted to be one of the writers. I wanted to be like Dennis O’Neil.

Dennis O’Neil had been a journalist from Missouri before breaking into comics as a writer in the ’60s. O’Neil initially wrote for Marvel Comics, then for Charlton, and began writing for DC Comics in 1968. It was at DC that O’Neil made his name.

I’m not sure of when I first became aware of O’Neil, nor can I identify which comic offered my first exposure to his work. Maybe it was in Beware The Creeper, or possibly Justice League Of America, neither of which would be among my favorite O’Neil runs. There was also his underrated work on Wonder Woman, chronicling the adventures of a de-powered Amazon Princess. I can tell you I loved his early ’70s work on Superman, the “Kryptonite Nevermore!” run that moved Clark Kent out of The Daily Planet to new duties as a TV newsman. O’Neil brought an unexpected sense of verisimilitude to his portrayal of the Man of Steel. I was 11 and 12, 1971-72, and I thought it was just the greatest thing ever.

It would not be O’Neil’s only claim to greatness. With artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, O’Neil took over Green Lantern in 1970, bringing the titular cosmic hero down to Earth to team with a costumed archer named Green Arrow, an also-ran superhero who’d hung around without much distinction since the ’40s. This dynamic creative team infused Green Lantern/Green Arrow with new energy, excitement, and an embrace of social relevance that drew the attention of mainstream media. Understand: Green Arrow was strictly a second-banana character up to that point; O’Neil and company revamped this Emerald Archer into the model for the popular character we know today. You don’t get to the Arrow TV series or the subsequent successful DC superhero shows on The CW without O’Neil, Adams, and Giordano showing the way. O’Neil also revived The Shadow for DC, wrote the return of the original Captain Marvel in Shazam!, crafted the magnificent Superman Vs. Muhammed Ali one-shot, and much later turned in some stunning work on The Question. He did more work for Marvel, as well. This isn’t even a thumbnail of O’Neil’s c.v.

But O’Neil’s most important and lasting work in comics was on Batman. No–make that THE Batman. Following the cancellation of the campy 1966-68 Batman TV series, the once-formidable Caped Crusader had become a joke. Batman’s tarnished reputation could only be salvaged with a return to his pulp roots. O’Neil wasn’t the first to consider reestablishing the shadows in The Batman’s world; Neal Adams had started adding noirish visuals to Batman’s appearances in the team-up book The Brave And The Bold, and writer Frank Robbins and artist Irv Novick (inked by Giordano) had already separated Batman from Robin the Boy Wonder by sending the latter off to college, all prior to O’Neil’s first Batman script.

Nonetheless, it all came together when O’Neil began to chronicle the goings-on in Gotham City. Whether working with Adams or Novick (both almost always inked by Giordano), O’Neil’s Batman was undeniably The Batman. From the early ’70s onward, this vision of The Batman as The Dark Knight influenced nearly every subsequent interpretation of the character. O’Neil created a new nemesis named Ra’s al Ghul, revived Golden Age villain Two-Face for the first time since the ’50s, and turned The Joker from the buffoonish Clown Prince of Crime that he’d become back to the murderous harlequin created by Bill Finger (and, I guess, Bob Kane, maybe) in 1940’s Batman # 1. 

Dennis O’Neil saved Batman. The lasting impact of his Batman writing is beyond measure; if not for O’Neil, you can be damned sure that Batman–THE Batman–wouldn’t have become the multimedia juggernaut we now know. It wasn’t just O’Neil, of course. Still, none of it–the movies, the mania, the pop cultural preeminence, none of it–could have ever existed otherwise.

I was blown away by O’Neil’s Batman. I’d been hooked on superheroes in general and Batman in particular by the TV show in 1966, when I was six. As an adolescent and young teen, I read O’Neil’s Batman and exulted in the thrill of a Dark Knight, a Batman I could believe in. 

I was 13 or 14 when I decided I wanted to be a writer. Specifically, I wanted to write comics. I wanted to write Batman. Goddamn it, I wanted to write Dennis O’Neil’s Batman.

I failed at that. And that’s okay. The effort made me better, gradually, over time. Dennis O’Neil was one of my biggest influences as a writer. If you have ever enjoyed anything I’ve written, fiction or non-fiction, for this blog or elsewhere, it all comes from me wanting to be Dennis O’Neil, and Harlan Ellison, and Woody Allen, and Mark Shipper, and Max Allan Collins, and…yeah, it’s a long list. The list starts with Dennis O’Neil.

Dennis O’Neil passed away last week. He was 81. Comics fandom mourns. Gotham mourns. If The Batman also mourns, his emotions remain hidden in the shadows that are his home, his mask and cloak concealing any hint of his thoughts. He sees a signal in the night sky, and knows he is needed elsewhere.

And he is gone. As if he were never there.

Thank you, Dennis O’Neil. My life and my imagination would have been much poorer without you. Thank you. Just…thank you.

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Justice Society Of America: The Movie (a random notion)

Some years back, I had a vague notion of a major motion picture starring comics’ original super-team The Justice Society of America. It was just a series of passing fancies, not something I would have wasted time trying to plot out or conceptualize to any degree. If someone ever attempts to make a JSA movie, there is no plausible chance that I would have any involvement whatsoever. (I mean, y’know, beyond buying a ticket.)

But back to the fantasy. My ideal JSA movie would be set around 1940 or so, prior to America’s official entry into World War II, but with much of the rest of the world already engulfed in that conflagration overseas. The villains would be Axis, because I like adventure stories that involve punching Nazis.


Practical considerations (a factor even in fantasy) would preclude the use of characters like SupermanBatman, or Wonder Woman, plus the original Captain Marvel. We would probably steer clear of some Golden Age characters that share a name with modern heroes–specifically The Flash and Green Lantern–but would be free to use Hawkman or The Atom if we wish.

My vision of this story is slightly more down-to-earth, so I wouldn’t really want to use the most powerful characters. I might or might not want to use Hawkman, but I would use the 1940s Atom, who was a short guy with a penchant for fightin’ but no super powers.

My most integral JSA member is an unlikely one: Ma Hunkel, The Red Tornado (often derisively nicknamed “The Red Tomato”). Yeah, I know she was just comic relief (a brawny homemaker who put on an ad hoc costume to bop bad guys in her working class urban neighborhood), and that she wasn’t really a member of the Society anyway.  But Ma Hunkel is essential to me, more so than any other character we could use; I just like the idea of a headstrong, stubborn Jewish tenement scrapper takin’ on Adolf’s boys and unceremoniously kicking their collective ass. Repeatedly.

(Brief aside: I’ve written elsewhere of my introduction to The Red Tornado, and it’s worth repeating this passage describing what I would do if I were given a chance to write a Justice League/Justice Society crossover: “Although Ma Hunkel never appeared in any of the old JLA/JSA meetings, I would have definitely wanted to include her if I’d had an opportunity to write such a story. I picture a scene of a group of non-powered JLA and JSA members, huddled in hiding while surveying an enemy army, Batman urging caution as he comes up with a plan of attack, only to see ol’ Red Tomato break ranks and dive-bomb headfirst into battle. Green Arrow joins the fight, saying ‘I like this dame!,’ and Wildcat replying, ‘Told ya so!'” Yeah, that’s the Red Tornado I wanna see in a JSA movie.)

Hey, speaking of Wildcat, he would also be an essential JSA member for this film. Another scrapper–specifically a champion heavyweight boxer–I see Ted “Wildcat” Grant as a character connected to his own working class upbringing, possibly from the same general neighborhood as Ma Hunkel. We may as well call it Suicide Slum, and potentially bring in Simon & Kirby‘s hero The Guardian and his kid gang The Newsboy Legion.

I would also ignore comics chronology and bring in The Black Canary as a founding JSA member, the blind hero Dr. Mid-Nite, and possibly The Vigilante, too. Ol’ Vig was never in the JSA–he was in The Seven Soldiers Of Victory and The All-Star Squadron–but the idea of a singing radio cowboy by day/masked crimefighter by night is irresistible to me, and it carries out my long-standing belief that any adventure story can be improved instantly just by adding a cowboy. 

So: The Red Tornado, The Atom, Wildcat, Black Canary, and maybe Dr. Mid-Nite, The Vigilante, or The Sandman (DC’s answer to The Green Hornet). Or maybe wealthy overachiever Mr. Terrific, to ultimately fund our fledgling supergroup, former Fawcett Comics hero Spy Smasher to help combat the Fifth Columnists, and/or Air Wave to rally the public via radio. Let’s add Hourman and Starman (two heroes enhanced by science, the former with chemically-induced strength and the latter with hi-tech weaponry), and reserve some real cosmic heavy-hitter for the film’s climax. Either the dormant ancient Egyptian power of Hawkman or the mystic might of Dr. Fate could be inadvertently resurrected by the Nazis as their evil plan literally blows up in their goose-stepping kissers. And a Society of Justice is formed to defend America and fight for justice. A swell bunch of guys and gals!

I could also see bringing in folks like the aviator Blackhawk or Green Lantern’s cabbie buddy Doiby Dickles as supporting characters. I’m tempted to include the JSA’s comic relief member Johnny Thunder, but his magic genie Thunderbolt would feel out of place, so best to skip Mr. Thunder entirely. Potential sequels could have any Golden Age DC/Fawcett/Quality hero we want, from Midnight to Liberty Belle to Bulletman and Bulletgirl to Merry, Girl of 1000 Gimmicks. And Ibis the Invincible. I’d love to bring Captain Marvel and the power of SHAZAM into the mix, but even flights of fancy require some slight tether to the real world.

And yeah: no script, no plot, no outline here, no grand idea of a superhero movie that needs to be made. And it’s not the Justice Society of the comics, so purists would cry foul. It’s just a notion, and an ill-defined one at that.

But wouldn’t it be cool? Keep ’em flying, JSA!

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