Since the last installment of the Bizarro Back Issues column was a request explaining one of those memorable Silver Age covers that only got weirder once you cracked it open and read the actual story, I thought it might be a good idea to see if there were any other comics people had always wondered about. I put out the call, and to be honest, the last thing I expected was to find out about something I'd never heard of before, but then @saintwalker88 suggested a story that I knew would be amazing before I even read it.
Because this is the story of the Arkham Asylum Softball Team and their game against Blackgate Prison.
Last week, one of the questions that came in for my Ask Chris column came from someone who was curious about how Batman celebrated New Year's Eve, and really, that's a pretty interesting question. I mean, we have plenty of comics, cartoons and even one goofy-ass movie about how he spends Christmas, but stories that address whether or not he watches the ball drop and toasts a cup of kindness are significantly harder to come by. Fortunately, we have Batman #247, a classic from the Bronze Age that addresses exactly this question.
As it turns out, Batman spends his New Year's Eve punching out criminals. What the hell did you think he was going to do?
Last week, I mentioned that Lost in the Andes, Fantagraphics' amazing new book Donald Duck stories by Carl Barks, had one of the weirdest Christmas stories I've ever read. And for me, that's saying something: Christmas comics are one of the few things I go out of my way to collect regardless of who the creators are and who puts them out. I love the darn things, and over the years, I've read hundreds of 'em, going back through my favorites every year.
And even with all that, The Golden Christmas Tree might just take the fruitcake. After alll, most of the other Christmas stories I've read don't involve a harvest of tears or someone turning into a woodchipper.
If you're a regular ComicsAlliance reader, then you already know that I'm pretty fascinated by the weirder comics of the past, but at Christmastime, my thoughts turn to more heartwarming tales. As soon as that calendar flips over to December, 'tis the season for Santa Claus, presents, the occasional talking Christmas tree that Wonder Woman rescued from the Nazis by holding a door shut and talking about how it felt like being spanked. I mean, yeah, they're still pretty weird, but they've got that Christmas spirit!
Case in point: "A Christmas For Shacktown," the title story in the latest Fantagraphics collection of Disney Duck tales by the legendary Carl Barks. At 32 pages, it's a sprawling epic (By Barks' standards, anyway) that hits those beautiful Holiday themes of altruism and the spirit of giving. Although to be fair, it does get a little closer to cannibalism than most other Christmas comics.Our story begins as Donald Duck's three nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, are taking a shortcut home from school through Shacktown, the hard-luck side of Duckburg where Calisota's poor gather together in sub-Dickensian poverty. Now, you'd think that a city built around the most successful businessman in the history of the world would be prosperous enough that even the bad neighborhoods would be doing all right, but apparently McDuck industries isn't the proven job creator that you might expect. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably because its owner keeps three cubic acres of cash in a gigantic bin on top of a nearby hill, but I'm no economist. That's a different Chris Sims.
When it comes to Christmas comics, you can't really get around the fact that some characters lend themselves to holiday stories a little easier than others. Superman is essentially built around peace on Earth and goodwill to men anyway, Batman's themes of family and sacrifice are perfectly suited for a bittersweet Christmas tale, and Spider-Man shopping for presents is almost always a good recipe for seasonal comedy.
And then there are the characters that don't quite fit. Like, say, the Punisher, whose tendency to run around brutally slaughtering murderers and other criminals doesn't exactly fit well with good cheer and eggnog.
You may not have heard about it since Warner Bros. is keeping it pretty quiet, but there's a new movie about Superman coming out this week. That means that it's once again time for a new group of people to try their hand at bringing Superman to the big screen, and if there's one thing we've learned from past movies, it's that this is a darn near impossible task. Even in the best of circumstances, even if Clark Kent himself steps up to play the lead role, they're always going to get something wrong.
It probably goes without saying that here at ComicsAlliance, we've been thinking a lot about shocking returns this week, and not just because they'e a pretty well-worn plot device. We've had some first-hand experience with it over the past few days, and I'm not gonna lie: They can be pretty surreal. Of course, we only have the return of a website to talk about, so I can't even imagine how strange it would be if, say, an entire planet came back from the dead one day.
In a lot of ways, Superboy is one of DC's best stabs at capturing the kind of wish fulfillment character that Captain Marvel perfected. It's one of the simplest ideas in comics, taking all the powers of Superman and compressing them down into a pint-sized package that also went to school and was secretly way cooler and smarter than any of his classmates who probably didn't even know about the Bottle City of Kandor. You
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