In the late 1950s, science fiction was a big deal, so it made sense when DC editorial director Irwin Donenfeld asked two of his editors, Jack Schiff and Julius Schwartz, to each create a new sci-fi hero: one from the present and one from the future.
Schiff chose the future hero and created Space Ranger, who was a fun Silver Age concept, but ultimately not that big a deal. But Schwartz, along with artist Murphy Anderson and writer Gardner Fox, created Adam Strange, an interstellar hero who endures to this day.
Promo comics are amazing. Since they're created for a wide audience that goes far beyond the normal readership, they always feature characters who have been boiled down to their most basic, accessible forms, but they're always at least two steps removed from what they should probably be doing. I mean, even if you boil them down to their most essential elements, the Justice League probably shouldn't be relying on a guy with a really nice drill to help them defeat a supervillain, and Batman doesn't usually fight crime by helping a small child overcome his allergies.
But that's part of what makes them great, and it only gets better when you're not exactly sure what's being promoted until you're about halfway through the comic. So today, I invite you to join me for 1992's Batman: A Word to the Wise, in which the Caped Crusader is called upon to extoll the virtues of literacy, a department store, and --- if I'm reading this correctly --- the entire nation of Canada.
Debuting in the pages of Hawkman #4 by Murphy Anderson and Gardner Fox this week in 1964, Zatanna is a magician in a science fiction world; a magic user in a shared universe built upon Superman's otherworldly power and Batman's human ingenuity. She is both a “real” magician and a performance magician, as much at home with a genuine mind-wipe as she is with a dove up her sleeve.
Comic covers are meant to get their message across in a single striking image, with the implication of movement provided only by the reader's imagination. We see the single frozen moment; our brain tells the story. Yet some talented digital artists have discovered that there's some fun to be had in animating these images and providing just a little more movement to the moment. We've collected some of our favorite examples of animated comic covers from the past few years, from an endlessly recursive Batman to a lolling Hobbes; from a struggling Spider-Man to a spinning Justice League.
Costume design is one of the great strengths of the superhero genre, a way to establish distinctive visual shorthand for a character and reveal key details about concept, purpose, and personality. But which is the best superhero costume of all time? This month, we’re asking you to decide, by voting up your favorites and voting down the rest. When we have your votes, we’ll compile a list of the greatest super-costumes of all time.
For day three, it's the magic hour; five of the finest, flashiest, most flamboyant witch-and-wizard costumes in the business, ranging from the Gothic Lolita look of Runaways' Nico Minoru to the fishnet-and-top hat classic stage magician (with fishnets) look of Zatanna --- and not forgetting the weird robes and curlicued collar of Doctor Stephen Strange himself.
I love crossovers. Even when they don't really work that well or make a whole lot of sense, it's almost always interesting seeing how characters that don't usually hang out bounce off of each other -- and it's especially fun when you've got a character like Superman. That guy's such a well-known, well-defined cultural institution that there has to be a huge temptation to see how he interacts with pretty much anyone else, even if you don't actually have the rights to do the real thing.
But really, that's the magic of comics. Even if you can't get the genuine article, you can always file off the serial numbers and do your own version and get the same effect. Sort of. And that's how Superman ended up spending a good chunk of the '70s hanging out with Captain Strong, a thinly veiled stand-in for Popeye the Sailor Man who was addicted to alien seaweed.
An artist who played an integral role in the superhero renaissance of the late '50s and early '60s, and whose line lent a smooth and elegant air to every character he touched, Murphy Anderson is one of the true living legends of the comic book business. This week sees the artist's 88th birthday.
Anderson began his career in comics in the mid 1940s, and worked on titles for a number of different publishers over the next decade, including Timely/Atlas, Ziff Davis, Pines, and the company that would prove to be his primary home for the next four decades – National/DC Comics. In the 1950s, DC increased his assignments and he became a fixture of the company's sci-fi and superhero titles, pencilling a number of different features and providing inks for many of the early Silver Age's most enduring and influential stories, working over artists such as Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Mike Sekowsky.
As much as I tend to enjoy Superboy stories for their sheer kookiness, I've never really been a big fan of the concept. For the most part, they tend to just be standard Superman stories with Metropolis swapped out for Smallville and a slightly different girl with an alliterative name giving him a headache...
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