Back when CBGXtra.com hosted the Ask Mr. Silver Age Forum, I made a practice of reviewing most of the volumes of Showcase Presents as they came out. Since the great migration to the Captain Comics board, I’ve neglected that “service.” Next year I resolve to do those reviews again, but as a sort of catch-up, here are some brief reviews and recommendations for the SPs that came out in 2012.
Showcase Presents Ghosts Vol. 1
When editors Joe Orlando and Dick Giordano started their “mystery” titles they favored new young writers and artists to tell their tales. According to an article in Back Issue magazine, Ghosts was created by editor Murray Boltinoff so that writer Leo Dorfmann could have a place to tell his ghost stories. Combined with lackluster art, this gets a pass.
Showcase Presents Young Love Vol. 1
The reason this is interesting is to see what John Romita’s art looked like between Captain America in the 1950s and Amazing Spider-Man in the 1960s. Of course he drew pretty girls in a Comics-Code-approved way, and Robert Kanigher wrote some interesting heart-breaker stories, but for most of now as when these were published, this is a pass.
Showcase Presents The Losers Vol. 1
This series was the Justice League of DC’s war books, combining characters who had lost their own series into a team. Kanigher excels at odd war stories, and these are some of his best. Also, 300 plus pages of John Severin artwork! This one is a definite buy.
Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron Vol. 1
I didn’t buy this one because I have all the originals and I’ve read them a couple of times, so I didn’t need a black and white reprint. Roy Thomas and a bunch of excellent artists telling “mystery men” stories in However, if you haven’t read these stories before, this is definitely worth a borrow.
Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1
This is a great collection that includes nearly every appearance of the Spectre from his revival in the 1960s through his “spirit of vengeance” period in the 1970s up through some Brave and Bold team-ups in the 1980s. Also, Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo. At more than 600 pages, it’s a bargain at any price, so this is a definite buy.
Showcase Presents Sea Devils Vol. 1
Another Kanigher title, this started out as a straightforward adventure series featuring the typical four-person team of the Silver Age. It quickly went to the fanciful stories of sea gods, mermaids and nutty adversaries that populated his version of Wonder Woman. If you like that type of story, and I do, this is a fun read. Also, more than 300 pages of beautiful Russ Heath artwork, where he drew about as sexy a Judy in a wetsuit as the Comics Code would allow. I recommend buy it, but for many it’s worth at least a borrow.
Showcase Presents Showcase Vol. 1
This is an odd but welcome choice for a SP. Most of us already own or have read the stories of Flash, Challengers of the Unknown, Lois Lane and Adam Strange in this volume, but it’s the only place so far for reprints of Space Ranger and some one-shots that never went anywhere. Still, the early issues of Showcase are historically important, so this is worth a borrow at least.
Showcase Presents Rip Hunter, Time Master Vol. 1
I had been hoping for this collection for a long time. I’d never read any Rip Hunter stories and had high expectations. Now that I’ve read this, my best review is that if you enjoyed all of those Silver Age Superboy and Superman time travel stories, you’ll enjoy these, too. If you bought the previous Showcase Presents Showcase volume, which reprints the first four stories of Rip and his Silver Age team of 4, that’s probably all you need. Borrow.
Showcase Presents Tales of the Unexpected Vol. 1
1950s science fiction by Whitney Ellsworth/Jack Schiff was different than 1950s science fiction by Julius Schwartz, so this is pretty darn different. These stories and art are stories from when the Comics Code was the strongest, so they’re pretty dull. Still, there is some good art from Jack Kirby and Leonard Starr. Otherwise, pass.
Showcase Presents Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld Vol. 1
My daughter loved this series when it came out, and so did I, at least the original 12-part mini-series. Reading them in a collection, without color, is a different experience, and the second, ongoing series was just a rambling mess. Good artwork by Ernie Colon isn’t enough. Pass.
Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4
This volume represents the waning years of the Silver Age Flash. The first half has the usual entertaining stories by Fox, Broome and Infantino. Then it changes, first with art by Andru/Esposito, then stories by Frank Robbins, who did better on Batman. Highlights include the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West and the running subplot of whether he should tell her his secret identity after they were married. But the best reason to buy this volume, and I do recommend it, is because it reprints the famous Mopee origin of The Flash! I’d never read it before, and it was a revelation, I tell ya.
Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4
This is another late-Silver-Age transition volume, as Mort Weisinger’s editorship came to an end and others tried to make the dull Superman-Batman team-ups interesting. Toward the end of this collection, the non-Batman team-ups begin and they are a little bit more fun. There is some beautiful Neal Adams artwork, but most is Andru/Esposito, who seemed to take over every DC series at one time or another. Borrow.
I hope these tiny reviews were helpful. I’ll resolve to do more timely and detailed reviews in 2013!
Some quick follow-up to my pal Hoy's incisive commentary:
* I think I'm already on record a number of times as saying that SP: GHOSTS was extremely lame. If even a mystery anthology fan like me was bored to tears by this thing, then it really has to be low-grade stuff. Avoid.
* I dunno that I'd ever get around to reading an entire SP volume of romance comics. I did make it through SP: SINISTER HOUSE, but only the first batch of stories were romance, and even then they were more in the gothic vein, so their plots ventured somewhat into the supernatural (plus, they had really nice art).
* Haven't seen SP: THE LOSERS show up at the library yet. I'll probably check it out, although I'm already pretty far behind on my war comics reading.
* Like my pal, I've already read ALL-STAR SQUADRON in the original, so no need to pick these up again. I do feel bad for the new readers, though, since there is a TON of background material that Thomas included in his text/letter pages that probably didn't get included in the reprint package.
* I've also read all the AMETHYST stories, and like Hoy, I have fond memories of the Ernie Colon stuff, but the rest of it was pretty awful... like they were consciously trying to figure out how to ruin what had been a superlative maxi-series.
*I'll definitely pick up SP: THE SPECTRE, if and when the library ever gets it. I'm not that big a fan of the character, but many of these stories are smack dab in the heart of the Silver Age, with Julie Schwartz's A-team producing the stories, and I've only read a handful.
* I think I've got every issue that's in SP: WORLD'S FINEST vol 4 already, so no need to pick it up. I'll have to check on the contents of SP: FLASH vol. 4... I've got most of them, and those I don't aren't likely to be stuff I'm really desperate to read again (e.g., the "Barry-San" two-parter where he travels to Japan).
* The rest of these things are at least worth a flip test, though I dunno that I'd be able to make it through an entire volume of Space Ranger or the Sea Devils or Rip Hunter. Short bursts, yes, but 500 pages worth? I dunno...
I dropped reviews for a number of these this year:
Showcase Presents: The Losers vol. 1 - I thought it was pretty good.
Showcase Presents: The Spectre vol. 1 - Good, but uneven.
Showcase Presents: Sea Devils vol. 1 - I wasn't really into this one.
I read but didn't review Showcase Presents: All Star Squadron and Showcase Presents: The Flash vol. 4, but they were both decent.