A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson
I’m very excited to see DC Comics taking a step beyond the usual Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman/The Flash/Green Lantern/Justice League Omnibus collections and start issuing Omnibuses starring some of DC’s more esoteric heroes and features.
SUICIDE AIN’T PAINLESS!
Apparently, sales were great on last year’s Suicide Squad: The Silver Age Omnibus featuring NOT the characters from the major motion picture, but the original comic book Suicide Squad/Task Force X. Their adventures were set post-WWII, with soldiers fighting dinosaurs and other giant monsters on South Pacific islands and other exotic locales. These stories (originally from the pages of The Brave and the Bold #25-27 and #37-39 and Star Spangled War Stories #110-111, 116-121, 125, and 127-128) retroactively became a part of the modern-day Suicide Squad backstory by having the original Col. Rick Flag of this SS become the father of the Rick Flag who anchors the action team of the modern-day Suicide Squad, which is run (some might say “dictated”) by Amanda Waller.
This early version of the Squad was originally published in the late 1950s and early ‘60s and reflects the more action-only storytelling of the Silver Age. Robert Kanigher wrote the vast majority of these stories, which were (mostly) illustrated by the then-very-popular Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The trio produced literally hundreds of DC war tales together during this era, and when war comics started falling out of favor, the trio moved on to oddball superhero series like Metal Men; Rip Hunter, Time Master; Sea Devils; and Wonder Woman.
Later, Andru moved to Marvel, where he drew the earliest adventures of The Defenders before being associated almost exclusively with Spider-Man in both Marvel Team-Up and a five-year run on Amazing Spider-Man. That makes him one of the earliest artists to have worked on both Superman and Spider-Man. He is also the first artist to depict the Punisher, working from John Romita Sr.’s original designs in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.
The striking cover design and the cover artist (Michael Cho) of the Suicide Squad: The Silver Age Omnibus both look like they will carry over to at least some of these upcoming collections, so these books will “pop” when displayed alongside more modern collections. At least I hope so — some of these “new” Omnibus covers seemingly haven’t been illustrated yet, but at least the upcoming Adam Strange cover has also been brilliantly illustrated by Michael Cho.
DOOM DE DOOM DOOM
The first new esoteric DC Omnibus is Doom Patrol, collecting the original run from 1963. The Doom Patrol was created by writer Arnold Drake and artist Bruno Premiani. Other people factoring into the creation include writer Bob Haney and editor Murray Boltinoff. The story goes that Haney was called in by Drake when the first issue script was running late, and that first issue (only) was co-scripted by the pair. Boltinoff was the series editor, and it was usual DC policy that editors were not included as “official” creators. However, Boltinoff (and artist Premiani) both famously appear in the final issue of this Doom Patrol run (in issue #121), pleading for readers to help save the Doom Patrol (most of which actually die in this issue).
The ploy didn’t work, and the next batch of DP creator/revivers (there have been a bunch!) had to actually resurrect most of the original characters from the dead over time, to join with the inevitable “new” members that were introduced with each new revival. I believe we are close to a baker’s dozen of Doom Patrol revivals (or creative turnovers) over the last four or five decades. Other creators for the original series include Bob Brown, who did a lot of covers for the later part of the series, except for the moody cover of the last (original) issue of the series which was by Joe Orlando.
The classic Doom Patrol consisted of four main characters: The Chief (Niles Caulder), Robotman (Cliff Steele), Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr), and Negative Man (Larry Trainor). They never really liked each other much, which was an unusual storytelling element for that early era. Their main foes were General Immortus, the shape shifting Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, and the Brotherhood of Evil, which included the Brain (an actual brain), the intelligent gorilla Monsieur Mallah (an actual gorilla), and Madame Rouge, who, besides the power to stretch, had a malleable face, which allowed her to impersonate various people. The most important supporting DP character was Beast Boy, who later became more popular in the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans series as Changeling (among other names). Early issues of that series occasionally featured surviving Doom Patrol members.
There is a lot of fan discussion about the similarities between the original Doom Patrol and the original 1960s X-Men, since both debuted around the same time in 1963. It shouldn’t take you more than two minutes on Google to find something — and it’s much more substantial than two “old” guys in wheelchairs. (Maybe I should do that column someday…)
Getting back to the actual Doom Patrol Silver Age Omnibus, it collects the relevant stories from My Greatest Adventure #80-85, the original anthology title where the DP first appeared… and then they took over the title completely, so the Omnibus also collects Doom Patrol #86-124. (That’s according to the official DC solicitation, whose writer probably didn’t know that the real last issue was #121, and #122-124 were years-after-the-fact reprints — including the covers! (So it makes no sense to include those covers in the Omnibus either.) Sheesh! Man, it’s almost 20 years later, and I am still fact-checking DC’s solicitations, like I occasionally did when I worked there in the 1990s.) Weirdly, DC has yet to show us the (hopefully) new cover to this Omnibus. Solicitations have included the original cover to Doom Patrol #86 (which is kinda weird as it isn’t even the first Doom Patrol cover; the cover to My Greatest Adventure #80 is). Regardless, this 1,056-page (yipes!) Omnibus is scheduled to be in comic shops in late June.
STRANGE… ADAM STRANGE
Next up (and solicited now for a July ’17 release) is Adam Strange: The Silver Age Omnibus Volume 1 — and this one is only 944 pages with a great all-new cover by Michael Cho. Adam Strange was DC’s most austere “superhero”. Technically, he’s a non-powered adventurer in the old-school adventuresome way. While on Earth (his home), he’s just an archaeologist. But when he’s mysteriously teleported to the distant planet Rann, Adam Strange accidentally becomes the superhero of the planet. With his new ally, the clever and beautiful Alanna, Adam defends Rann against alien invaders, giant monsters, mad scientists, out-of-control robots, and more!
Adam even teams up with the Justice League of America in a full-length crossover adventure (originally from Mystery in Space #75)! The Silver Age adventures of Adam Strange are collected in one giant omnibus, which includes his stories from Showcase #17-19 and 101-103, Mystery in Space #53-100 and 102, Strange Adventures #157, 222, 226, Hawkman #18-19, and World’s Finest Comics #262-263. Most all of the early stories are by Gardner Fox, drawn by Carmine Infantino, and inked by Murphy Anderson.
Anderson also designed the Adam Strange “costume” for a cover of Showcase #17 — Adam Strange’s first appearance — that was ultimately rejected in favor of a new cover by Gil Kane. Anderson’s costume design was retained for the replacement cover and for all of the Silver Age run of the character. For the character’s tryout run in Showcase #17-19, Mike Sekowsky was the artist, but when the series began its regular (and classic) run in Mystery In Space, Carmine Infantino became the long-lasting penciller. Occasional issues were inked by Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella, and Sid Greene.
Jack Schiff became the new editor of MiS with #92 and replaced Infantino and Anderson with new artist Lee Elias. This run only lasted from #92-100. #102 was Adam Strange’s last appearance in MiS and his last regular appearance for a long time. Occasional one-off stories and guest appearances in other titles and miniseries were to follow (several of them included in this new Omnibus), but since then, Adam has mostly been a supporting character in other books. He appears in miniseries like Planet Heist (2004), Rann-Thanagar War (2005), 52 (2006), and Countdown to Adventure (2007), as well as having a regular role in R.E.B.E.L.S. Most recently, in the DC Rebirth era, he’s appearing in The Death of Hawkman miniseries. He’s also had brief appearances in JLA: Another Nail (2004), DC: The New Frontier (2004), and as a regular strip in Wednesday Comics (2009).
LONG LIVE ESOTERIC!
I’m very excited to see not one but TWO upcoming hardcovers devoted to the adventures of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Tentatively scheduled for June is a 376-page Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes hardcover, collecting issues #234-245 from early in the Paul Levitz (occasionally with co-writer Paul Kupperberg) era of LSH. This is also the weird period where the format/page count of the comics kept changing frequently, and a large number of very surprising artists (Jim Starlin! Walter Simonson! Jim Sherman! Howard Chaykin! Mike Grell! Joe Rubinstein! and more!) all pitched in to keep the series on schedule. Speaking of weird formats, this was also the era where there was a tabloid-sized special of the Wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad that was a HUGE deal at the time (All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-55) — but there is no specific mention (yet) whether that is also included in this collection. (Hopefully the compilers didn’t forget about it! That would be embarrassing!)
Maybe even better is the first Legion of Super-Heroes Silver Age Omnibus, currently scheduled for August. This will tentatively include (according to the listing at Amazon) Adventure Comics #247, #267, #282, #290, #293, and #300-328; Action Comics #267, #276, #287, and #289; Superman #147; Superman Annual #4; Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #72 and #76; and Superboy #86, #89, #98, and #117. (These 680 pages are roughly equivalent to the contents of the Legion of Super-Heroes Archives volumes 1-3, except in a much larger format, and most likely without the introductions from the Archives volumes.) These are the earliest Legion of Super-Heroes appearances from the very beginning (the 1958 Superboy story from Adventure Comics #247 by LSH creators Otto Binder and Al Plastino) to the 1965 LSH adventure “The Lad Who Wrecked the Legion” from Adventure Comics #328 by Jerry Seigel and Jim Mooney. Other notable Legion contributors in this Omnibus include Curt Swan, George Papp, Robert Bernstein, Sheldon Moldoff, George Klein, John Forte, Stan Kaye, and Edmund Hamilton.
Lots of good reading in the months to come! Plus, even more down the road. I’ll be back in a couple months with more info, including some very intriguing DC mystery comics anthologies!
KC CARLSON SEZ: My Legion Flight Ring finally ran outta juice, so I’m patiently waiting for the 30th Century to recharge it. Dum dee dum dum…
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. You meaning you and only you.
Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.