Report what comic books you have read today--and tell us a little something about it while you're here!

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A trip to the library, and I came home with 1602 and DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, Vol. 2, featuring Batman & Robin.

Yeah, I'm late to 1602. but that's what libraries are for.* It's a wonderful project and clearly a prestige one. I confess it was a little hard for me to suss out the identities of all the displaced characters, and I was a bit disappointed that the whole thing hung on a time-displaced Captain America. It seems almost every time Captain America is placed in a What If?-type tale, the setting is that the world has devolved into a fascist dystopia and he has to fight against it. I wish writers wouldn't keep rehashing that trope.

DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, Vol. 2, featuring Batman & Robin includes the stories in which Alfred writes fan fiction that posits Bruce Wayne has married Kathy Kane and they have a son, Bruce Wayne Jr. These stories don't hold up well. Robin is jealous of being replaced, but he takes on the Batman identity and trains Bruce Jr. to be "Robin II."

All of the men spout the sexist nonsense that Kathy shouldn't be crime-fighting. One horrid story has Batman hide Kathy's costume to keep her from going out. Resourcefully, she tailors a Batman outfit to fit her and joins them in the field. Unfortunately, the cowl and mask don't quite fit and at one point fall off, exposing her face ... which instantly leads everyone in sight to exclaim "That's Kathy Kane, Bruce Wayne's wife -- so Wayne must be Batman!" barf photo barf.gif

A more interesting story has Batman growing up bent on revenge against Superman because he mistakenly believes Superman killed his father. It's pretty dark for a story from way back when.

Another is an episode of Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, in which Batman has been carrying a torch for Lois (he even has a secret shrine in the Batcave, but we aren't supposed to think that's creepy). Of course, Batman adheres to guy code and keeps it to himself. He gets his shot because the ever-jealous Lois gets bent out of shape over how much time Superman is spending with Wonder Woman (at the time in her Diana Rigg out-of-costume days) and breaks up with him. Wayne woos her, marries her and then tells her she's married to Batman. Superman doesn't like it, but realizes he had his chance and blew it. Nice art from Curt Swan marred by muddy inks from Mike Esposito. I've almost always seen Mike Esposito paired with Ross Andru; seeing him on a really good artist makes me realize why I never liked the Andru/Esposito team on Amazing Spider-Man, which they were when I first started reading comics in earnest.

The final imaginary tale is from Batman (Vol. 1) #300, "The Last Batman Story -- ?", set some 30 years in the future in which a semiretired Batman and an adult Robin take on a criminal cabal called Spectrum. It's a pedestrian story written by David V. Reed, elevated with art by Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano.

* I still marvel at the fact graphic novels and hardback and paperback collections of comics are even in libraries. When I was a kid, you rarely saw them, and the few that libraries had were inevitably stolen. 

“A trip to the library, and I came home with… DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, Vol. 2, featuring Batman & Robin.”

Here’s something I posted about that collection two years ago:

I read this second (and, sadly, last) collection of “Imaginary Stories” over the weekend. The first, “The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman” from Batman #122 (March 1959), is not technically an Imaginary Story at all. It is a dream, Dick Grayson’s, but it fits well with the next six stories (which are not, strictly speaking, “imaginary” either). These are tales written by Alfred the butler about a possible future when Bruce Wayne marries Kathy Kane and retires, and Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne, Jr. become “The Second Batman and Robin Team.” I read some of these as a kid (reprinted in 100-Page Super-Spectaculars), but I didn’t read them all. I didn’t even know how many there were. The answer is “six” and they’re all collected under these two covers.

The next story, “The Clash of Cape and Cowl!” from World’s Finest Comics #153 (November 1965), is a proper Imaginary Story. In it, Bruce Wayne’s father is killed while working on an anti-kryptonite serum for Superboy, young Bruce jumps to a wild conclusion and sets about on a life of revenge against the one who he believes killed his dad but who actually didn’t. He even goes so far as to reveal his own secret identity to Lex Luthor, but he gets what’s coming to him in the end.

In “The Bride of Batman!” from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #89 (January 1969), Superman doesn’t listen closely enough to the Beatles’ song “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” and he, well… you figure it out. This story actually as a happy ending.

I wasn’t reading DC comics in 1978, but “The Last Batman Story…?” (Batman #300) presents an interesting look at the near future (not just Batman’s, ours) with artwork by Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano. It’s an interesting story in its own right, but it’s the two-page epilogue that really makes it.

“I still marvel at the fact graphic novels and hardback and paperback collections of comics are even in libraries. When I was a kid, you rarely saw them, and the few that libraries had were inevitably stolen.”

Yeah, that coulda been me.

Not really, but when my mom and dad went with my brother to college freshman orientation back in 1973 they had no choice but to take me along. They dropped me off at the college library, which was fine with me. Browsing their periodicals room, I was shocked, pleased and surprised to discover, among the Lifes and Times and National Geographics, they had bound volumes of MADmagazine going all the way back to the beginning! (I thought they were missing the first volume, but I didn’t realize at the time those early issues were comic books, not magazines.) I coveted those volumes as much as I have ever coveted anything in my life. When I went to college (a different one than my brother attended), among the first things I did was to check the library for bound copies of MAD magazine, but my college didn’t have them. (They were probably stolen.) Just as well... I wasn't cut out for a life of crime.

"Hey, man... when I was a kid, I stole books." - Detective Ron Harris, Barney Miller.

...SHAZAM! #6 ~ Is the writing team on this the exact writing team for at least the story of the movie? I suppose  this must have been planned as the movie was planned ~ Making this/the comic perhaps the most closely following each other such venture of all time?! The exploring of the question of Billy's father introduced in the movie sold this to me ~ As a sixth issue, this seems unresolved ~ Was the first arc #1-4???

  Was the concept of all of Billy's foster siblings being the Marvel Family introduced in that immediately post-New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE back-up??? I never finished it/got the last issues let alone the book. Were there any Shazam! titles or features in the era in between the arc's ending and the new title? Has the concept that the figure Billy turns into was once, anyway, referred to as " Captain Marvel " ever been referenced ~ or even hinted/joked about - in-story?????????

  I suppose the fact that Warner Bros. bothered to make a Shazam! movie at all is owed to the 70s-successful TV series - and whatever lingering worth the memory of the 40s version may yet carry/be seen as.

  I think I have read that the reported " at one time, CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES outsold SUPERMAN may be total sales over a year, from the time that CMA was published bi-weekly. True??? I've thought that, in the years that DC has owned the character, they've tended to treat him as a " retro-like the good old days-innocent " character for the younger market, " nicer " than the norm for superheros at that rime.

“Is the writing team on this the exact writing team for at least the story of the movie?”

Geoff Johns wrote the serialized origin story and is now writing the current series.

“Was the first arc #1-4???”

The first storyline is still unfolding.

“Was the concept of all of Billy's foster siblings being the Marvel Family introduced in that immediately post-New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE back-up???


“Were there any Shazam! titles or features in the era in between the arc's ending and the new title?”

Not that I know of. I don’t think so, but I could be mistaken.

“Has the concept that the figure Billy turns into was once, anyway, referred to as " Captain Marvel " ever been referenced ~ or even hinted/joked about - in-story?????????”

In the comic book, yes, but not in the movie.

“I think I have read that the reported " at one time, CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES outsold SUPERMAN may be total sales over a year, from the time that CMA was published bi-weekly. True???”

I don’t think so, despite the fact that virtually every article about the original Captain Marvel mentions that Captain Marvel once outsold Superman. Applying Occam’s Razor, this factoid arises from the annual circulation figures required by the U.S. Post Office. Generally, these figures are reported by individual series, but Fawcett lumped the sales of all their titles together, giving the perception that Captain Marvel outsold Superman when compared head-to-head. But unless you believe that Captain Midnight, Bulletman, SpySmasher and Nyoka the Jungle Girl also outsold Superman (and sold the exact same number of titles as each other), you should take those reports with a grain of salt.

...Thank you, Jeff. Can you cite the " Captain Marvel " reference/s ?????

It was when Billy and Freddie were brainstorming names for Billy's heroic persona (Thundercrack, Mr. Sparklefingers, etc.). They briefly conidered, then rejected, "Captain Marvel." (I forget the reason they gave, if any.) In the current version of the comic as well as the movie he is known as "Shazam."

I remember that in the movie Batman Forever, which was slightly less horrible than Batman and Robin, Dick Grayson considered the name Nightwing.


Okay, listen up because this is important.

Captain Marvel #58 through Marvel Spotlight #3 (eight issues) is the best run of Captain Marvel stories ever.

And that includes the Starlin run.

But, unless you have read the original issues (when they were new or as backissues), chances are you’ve never read these stories because they have never been reprinted in their entirety until this volume.

Marvel Premiere Classic v43 (2010), The Death of Captain Marvel, also included issue #34 (in which he contracted the cancer which killed him) as well as Marvel Spotlight #1-2… presumably because it was a first and second issue, but it was actually the sixth and concluding chapters of an ongoing story which began in #58.

Issues #58-62 and Spotlight #1-2 introduce characters and situations which will be referenced in “cosmic” stories for many years to come, including Mar-Vell’s lady love Elysius, Stellarax, Tartarus, Gaea, Chaos and Dionysius. ISAAC, the super-computer which runs Saturn’s moon Titan, has been corrupted by a failsafe program written by Thanos. The characters above were created in the “lifebaths” (another “cosmic” concept) by ISAAC. Drax serves as an uneasy ally of Mar-Vell’s.

This run (plus Spotlight #3, the beginning of a new story) is written by Doug Moench and drawn by Pat Broderick. After a few covers for other series, this is Broderick’s first regular assignment… and he nails it. Moench moved the setting to Denver, and I always thought Broderick’s Captain Marvel looked a bit like Clint Eastwood. The series was cancelled with issue #62 due to low sales, but Moench and Broderick were working three months ahead. Editor Roger Stern took the contents of what was intended to have been #63, commissioned a new cover, and published it as Marvel Spotlight #1, reasoning that that titles was intended to “spotlight” characters without a regular series, which Captain Marvel now was. Issue #2 completed the current storyline and #3 began a new one, introducing plot elements which remain unresolved to this day.

Months passed, and the material intended for Captain Marvel #63-65 became Marvel Spotlight #1-3. Then Marv Wolfman suggested that he write a Captain Marvel story for Steve Ditko to illustrate. When it came time to script the story, Wolfman was unavailable, so that task fell to Archie Goodwin and became Marvel Spotlight #4. The Captain Marvel story that appeared in #8 has an even more convoluted behind-the-scenes story; suffice it to say that it was co-plotted by Mike Barr and drawn by Frank Miller. This was Frank Miller’s second commissioned story, but it sat in a drawer for years. In fact, his third commissioned story appeared in print before either his for or second.

Marvel Spotlight was cancelled with issue #11, but there was a Captain Marvel story scheduled to run in issue #12. It eventually saw print in Marvel Super-Heroes #3 (1990). This Masterworks includes Marvel Spotlight #1-4 and #8, as well as Marvel Super-Heroes #3 and the never-before-published covers intended for Captain Marvel #63 and Marvel Spotlight #12. Also included in an article from F.O.O.M. #9 and the volume is rounded out by an obscure (yet often-reprinted) five-page Drax and Thanos story from Logan’s Run #6 which serves as a coda (or, because it originally saw print in 1977, it could be read first as an introduction which leads directly into #58, a Drax issue).

The volume concludes with The Death of Captain Marvel which, if you’ve never read it, this presentation gives it some context. I’ve already said that Captain Marvel #58 through Marvel Spotlight #3 is the best run of Captain Marvel ever; Marvel Spotlight #1-3 and #8 and the bonus features are just icing, providing behind-the-scenes insight.


I was reading Flash 182, in the Flash Bronze Age Omnibus volume 3. Ross Andru has taken over from Carmine Infantino on art at this point, but this -- after the two-part Samuroids story written by Frank Robbins -- again has John Broome as writer. The plot is simple -- Abra Kadabra has mind-controlled the whole city into giving him their money. He's even mind-controlled Flash, who doesn't escape the hypnosis until Abra makes him kneel at his feet like a dog, the the humiliation shakes him out of it. So...not a great story, by any stretch of the imagination. 

But it does have this panel, from before Abra hypnotizes a magicians' convention to commit crimes for him. The line "We're all honest magicians" just cracked me up. That's one field where honesty isn't in the job description. 

THE NEW INVADERS (2004: I wasn’t particularly interested in reading this series. I read “Once an Invader” when it was initially released and decided not to follow it into its own series beyond the “zero” issue. As I have learned with the Defenders, there are some iterations of the team it is safe to ignore in my own personal continuity. The New Invaders is one of them. It’s not even the proper Invaders (although some real Invaders do play roles), which makes it easier to ignore. Judging from the discussion on pages 51-55 of Richard Mantle’s “Complete Invaders” discussion, I am not alone in this assessment. The series lasted only nine issues. The last issue contained comments from the entire creative team (the only such editorial interaction in the entire series). Their comments were heartfelt, and I truly believe they were creating a series that they themselves believed in. Writer Allan Jacobson commented, “It’s a tough market, and apparently the world wasn’t quite ready for this particular version of the Invaders. Truer words were never spoken. I bought this series recently in order to fill up space in themed box, and it serves that purpose quite well.

NEXT: A much better Invaders series is on the horizon.

MMW MS. MARVEL: I saw the Captain Marvel movie in March and it inspired me to re-read the original series. As usual, I felt the need to “get a running start” at it by re-reading the entire Captain Marvel series (and Inhumans) first. I’ve read Ms. Marvel (once) before, but I didn’t read it when it was current. As I recall, I read The Death of Captain Marvel first, then I filled in all the holes in my Captain Marvel collection (which was most of the series). Then I read Ms. Marvel. Ms. Marvel has another distinction, too, in that it is one of the few series I ever sold or traded after reading it. I just wasn’t that impressed.

But I wasn’t impressed with the original Nova series, either (which I also collected as backissues), when I first read it, although when I re-read it a couple of years ago I appreciated it more. That didn’t happen with Ms. Marvel. The most interesting thing was, first, reading 24 year-old writer Gerry Conway’s editorial in the first issue, then reading 61 year-old Gerry Conway’s introduction in which he cringes about what he had written in that editorial 37 years earlier.

Volume one reprints issues #1-14.

Jeff, did you read Spider-Man Life Story #4 yet? Got it yesterday.

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