Every October, I like to scour my own archives for the spookiest back issues available, but this year, one found me. It's like something out of a scary movie --- I went to my barber for a haircut and, mixed in with the regular magazines in the waiting area, they had an issue of The Brave and the Bold. It was one that I'd never read before, a terrifying team-up between Batman and the Spectre where they confront a mad sorcerer who wields the eldritch power of the Dragon God.
And when I looked up from reading it, I discovered that the barber shop had closed down... ten years ago this very night!
Digital comics make for a pretty fantastic holiday gift. They're easy to buy, you don't have to leave the house to get 'em, and you can send 'em to friends and family across the country for free without having to fight your way through crowds at the post office. So as the time winds down before Christmas finally gets here on Friday, DC and Comixology have launched a "DC 101 Sale" --- and whether you're picking up some last-minute gifts or just looking for something for yourself, it's well worth checking out.
The usual problem --- well, "problem" --- with these "101" sales is that they're usually full of stuff that you've already read, but this time, there are some fantastic deep cuts on sale that you shouldn't miss, all of which are dropped down to a mere six bucks. But if you want the single best deal in the entire collection, then you need to get Tales of the Batman: Len Wein.
When Aquaman debuted on this day in 1941 in More Fun Comics #73, in a story by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, he was not the first aquatic superhero—Marvel's Namor the Sub-Mariner had him beat by about two years—but thanks to nearly seventy-five years of more or less continual publication, a choice spot as a founder of the Justice League, and starring roles on Super Friends and The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, he is surely the best-known underwater adventurer in comics. This fame, however, has proven to be a double-edged sword (trident? harpoon?) for the king of the seven seas.
Aquaman ran as a feature first in More Fun Comics, then Adventure Comics and World's Finest Comics before finally landing his own title in 1962. Not many superheroes survived the post-Wertham interregnum between the Golden and Silver Ages—Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman being notable exceptions—but Aquaman (and his long-time co-feature Green Arrow) survived the superhero drought unscathed, perhaps because he was a pet creation of editor Mort Weisinger, or perhaps because he kept his head down as a modest supporting feature in a string of anthology titles who didn't even appear on a cover until nineteen years after his first appearance (not even in his own title, but in the first appearance of the Justice League in Brave and the Bold).
Many of comics’ most popular heroes have been around for decades, and in the case of the big names from the publisher now known as DC Comics, some have been around for a sizable chunk of a century. As these characters passed through the different historical eras known in comics as the Golden Age (the late 1930s through the early 1950s), the Silver Age (the mid 1950s through the late 1960s), the Bronze Age (the early 1970s through the mid 1980s) and on into modern times, they have experienced considerable changes in tone and portrayal that reflect the zeitgeist of the time.
With this feature we’ll help you navigate the very best stories of DC Comics’ most beloved characters decade by decade. This week, we’re taking a look at Aquaman.
We make a regular practice at ComicsAlliance of spotlighting particular artists or specific bodies of work, as well as the special qualities of comic book storytelling, but because cartoonists, illustrators and their fans share countless numbers of great pinups, fan art and other illustrations on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, DeviantArt and seemingly infinite art blogs that we’ve created Best Art Ever (This Week), a weekly depository for just some of the pieces of especially compelling artwork that we come across in our regular travels across the Web. Some of it’s new, some of it’s old, some of it’s created by working professionals, some of it’s created by future stars, some of it’s created by talented fans, awnd some of it’s endearingly silly. All of it is awesome.
I've already checked out of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 18 months in advance, so every announcement about the upcoming Zack Snyder film and its attendant roster of spinoffs and franchises has been idle curiosity. Until, that is, it was announced that the KGBeast would be making an appearance.
As longtime CA readers may recall, the Beast is one of my all-time favorite villains. Originally created by the team of Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo in a four-part story called "Ten Nights of the Beast" that ran in Batman #417 - 420, the KGBeast was an assassin for hire who battled Batman in one of the most over-the-top stories of all time. And while I can hardly believe I'm saying this, he's kind of the perfect villain for David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder's version of the cinematic DC Universe.
Here's a weird thing about this career that I've found myself in: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a few disparaging remarks about one Andrew Bennett, the weepy star of DC's I... Vampire, and the next day I got an email from one of my childhood heroes asking, jokingly, what I thought of the Andrew Bennett story that he'd done in the pages of Brave and the Bold. The writer was Batman: Year Two's own Mike W. Barr, and the issue in question was BATB #195, where he and artist Jim Aparo sent Bennett on a team-up with the Caped Crusader to deal with a sudden wave of vampire crime in Gotham City. To be honest, it's really one of those perfect superhero comics for Halloween. It's fun, it's exciting, and as you may have guessed, it's more than a little weird.
Largely because it takes the World's Greatest Detective to figure out that all this vampire crime might have something to do with Gotham's newest business, Club Dracula.
This week sees the start of DC Comics' big The Multiversity event series, and if the related books on sale over at ComiXology -- ostensibly to get everyone up to speed -- are anything to go by, then that thing's going to be chock full of weirdos. Seriously, I already knew they were going to be throwing Captain Carrot in there, and for some reason people can't get enough of that one story where Batman becomes a Dracula, but there are some deep cuts in there, like that one Chuck Dixon comic where the Justice League are all cowboys, and this weird thing from the '90s called Kingdom Come, where Superman fights Cable.
And then there's Kamandi.
But should Kamandi start crossing over into the main DC Universe, it won't be the first time. For that, you have to go back to Bob Haney and Jim Aparo's Brave and the Bold #157, for a story where Kamandi was sent back in time, and ended up being brainwashed, made invulnerable, poisoned with snake venom, joining up with the mob and punching Batman in the face. It... It's a weird one.
As much as I love Batman, and I think the record will show that I love Batman a whole heck of a lot, I haven't really been looking forward to sitting down and cracking open the new Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years hardcover. Last year's Superman anniversary hardcover was a disaster of revisionist history, 300 pages that would have you believe that one of the world's greatest superheroes did nothing for seven and a half decades but cry. With that in mind, I had no idea what DC Comics was going to do with Batman. If you'd asked me to bet on it, I would've put good money on a prediction that they'd craft a narrative that acknowledged Batman only as a scowling vigilante, consumed with vengeance and every bit as crazy as the villains he fought.
But it turns out I didn't have to worry. The Batman hardcover is exactly what it says it is -- a celebration of Batman across different eras, with a roster of stories that highlights one of the character's true strengths: How well he works across different kinds of stories.
I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, but there's definitely one thing that I think it did right. Burton's Gotham City, redesigned for the screen by Anton Furst, is absolutely beautiful. The Academy Award-winning production art direction is stylish, terrifying, visually engaging and arresting on a level that the rest of the movie has a hard time living up to, creating a world that looks like Batman could exist there.
It's also one of the movie's lasting influences on the world of the comics. Ever since Furst and Burton unveiled their version as a backdrop for the Joker blasting Prince from a boombox while trashing an art museum and Batman blowing up a chemical plant with his remote-control car, Gotham has adhered to their vision of the city, transforming from the bustling stand-in for New York that it was before and becoming its own unmistakable entity. And in true comic book fashion, the comics accomplished this by blowing everything up and starting over.
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