The thing about Dick Briefer's Golden Age Frankenstein comics is that if you start reading them from the beginning, there's just enough in there from the novel to make you think that he's doing a straight up adaptation of Mary Shelley. There's familiar stuff about Victor deciding to conquer death and stitching up a bunch of corpses, charging them up with lightning, and then the Monster's escape out in to a world that will never understand it, right down to the villagers with the pitchforks. It's three pages that make you think you know exactly what's going on.
And then, on page four, the Monster breaks into a zoo, punches out a lion, and rides off on an elephant, and that's when you realize that Frankenstein is on a whole other level of being completely bonkers.
Last weekend marked the official Batman Day, and while I hope I've made it clear over my years of writing about comics that I strive to keep Batman in my heart the whole year 'round, I think we can all agree that it's nice to take some time and talk about the many wonderful things that he's done in his 76 years of crime-fighting. The thing is, you always hear about the same stuff. It's always "Dark Knight" this, and "Year One" that, and "that time he fought Bane and got knocked out of comics for like two years because of an actual professional wrestling move."
Don't get me wrong, those are important events, sure, but they're a tiny, tiny fraction of what Batman has done, and I think it's time that we honor some of the more unloved --- but just as deserving --- examples of heroism from his considerable career. Like, say, that time that he saved Gotham City from having all of its metal stolen by a giant green hand from another dimension by proving that aliens should be able to speak foreign languages.
Like pretty much everyone else who owns a Wii U and a pretty healthy amount of nostalgia, I've been devoting a whole lot of time to Super Mario Maker lately. It's great, but while it does a fantastic job of making the actual process of building the levels really fun and intuitive, seeing all the stuff that everyone else is coming up with really makes you want to step up your game and do something that goes above and beyond just getting Mario to the goal.
As a result, I've been looking around for inspiration in some of the... less beloved corners of Mario's history, something that led me to the Nintendo Comics System and the Super Mario Bros. comics that Valiant published way back in 1990. And folks, those things raise a whole lot more questions than they answer.
For a character who's so definitively aspirational, Superman sure has given us a whole lot of dubious messages over the years. I mean, yes, he represents the best that we can be and reminds us that if we do good to each other, every man can be a Superman, but there's also stuff like the regrettable wartime propaganda. And, y'know, that time in the early '80s where there was a story that was all about how cigars can give you super-powers.
Okay, okay, not you. The person who actually gets the super-powers is Perry White, because it turns out that the best thing for you when you're in the hospital is to light up a cigar --- but only if Superman gives it to you.
Like a lot of people who started reading comics at an early age, I learned a lot of things from superheroes. Most of it was trivia, like all the Army slang that you can pick up from back issues of GI Joe --- and a lot of it was completely wrong, like that thing about only using 10% of your brain --- but comic books have always been full of weird little facts that creators decided to build entire stories around. Like, say, the time that Batman devoted his considerable resources to finally battling the most pressing scourge of 1964: Elephant Crime.
No, not crime involving elephants, like, poaching or illegal ivory smuggling. This is crime committed by elephants. And that's not the weirdest thing about this story.
Last week, when DC launched a big sale on Batman Adventures, I did what I always do in that situation and told everyone to buy and read all of them immediately, because they are the best Batman comics of the '90s. But as good as they might be, there's one issue that stands out, one that rarely gets mentioned despite feeling like it ought to be a pretty big deal: Batman Adventures #25, which features the first meeting of the Animated Series Batman and Superman.
And it's also, as reader Geoff DeSouza put it when he asked me about it, "one of the best weird comics ever."
All things considered, Steve Ditko has had a pretty strange career. I mean, he co-created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and Squirrel Girl, and went solo to create the Question, Blue Beetle, and Shade the Changing Man, and even nowadays, he's still going, quietly producing creator-owned work from a studio in Manhattan. But that stretch in between is where it really gets weird. In the '80s and '90s, he did everything from Mr. A to Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos. And then there was the Missing Man.
In a career that was full of characters so odd that one of them was even called Odd Man --- and he lived up to the name, I assure you --- the Missing Man might have been the weirdest. And as the name implies, it's not what's in the stories that's so weird, it's what's not.
It's never the wrong time to read a Jack Kirby comic, but with the King's birthday coming up in two weeks, now is a better time than most. Of course, the big problem there is trying to narrow it down --- Kirby's career did, after all, span six decades and involve some pretty prolific major work --- but really, when you want to read Kirby comics, you want to go for the big stuff.
And there's nothing bigger than Darkseid finally launching his attack on Earth, a battle so titanic that it took the combined forces of the Justice League and their most diabolical villains to repel it. It's the most titanic battle possible, on the grandest, most cosmic scale!
Except for the part where, you know, it doesn't actually happen.
I haven't really watched any of DC's current television offerings, but to be honest, I'm actually pretty impressed with what I've heard. It seems like they're really going for it in a way that Smallville only ever did in its final season, going right to these big, weird superhero stories right out of the gate. I mean, if you'd asked me a year ago, I would've told you that there was no way we were ever going to see a telepathic talking super-gorilla show up on the CW's version of The Flash, and yet, here we are, living in a world where Gorilla Grodd is starring on a live-action TV show.
With that in mind, I'm guessing that we're only one, maybe two seasons away from TV's Green Arrow meeting up with Xeen Arrow, the hundred foot-tall alien Green Arrow from another dimension, a character who may in fact be Jack Kirby's strangest co-creation.
If you've read one Astro Boy story, then the odds are pretty good that it's 1964's "The Greatest Robot On Earth." It's considered to be a high point not only for Astro Boy, but for Osamu Tezuka's career, a massive, sweeping story full of Earth-shattering fight scenes and a villain who, despite his horrible acts, isn't entirely evil. It was even revived as the basis for 2003's Pluto, one of the greatest comics of all time, where Naoki Urasawa retold the story as a murder mystery from an entirely new perspective. It is, by any measure, one of the all time greats.
But let's be real here: Why would anyone ever talk about that comic when the very next volume has a story where Astro Boy fights Lord Satan in an amusement park full of robot deathtraps?
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