It's Valentine's Day, and that means that our thoughts here at ComicsAlliance are turning inevitably to our favorite romances from comics. Well. Maybe that's not the right word, since I'm not sure that a high school love triangle between an indecisive klutz and two girls who would be better off without him really qualifies as romance, but you get the idea. Love is in the air, and when Betty and Veronica are involved, that's naturally going to include a little bit of competition.
That's certainly to be expected, but sometimes, it gets a little too intense. Like, say, that one time back in the '90s when Veronica turned to the darkest sorcery in order to win Archie's heart, and Archie wound up in the hospital.
You know how every now and then, you'll see a cover on an old comic, and it'll stick with you even if you don't actually read the issue? That happened to me with Detective Comics #365. Ever since I spotted it on the wall at the comic book store where I used to work, I've held on to that image of that Carmine Infantino image of Batman and Robin attacking a house shaped like the Joker's face, a brick facade shaped into the ramshackle rictus of their arch-nemesis, with guns emerging from his eyes and mouth.
It's an amazing image, but it wasn't until I saw it floating around Tumblr the other day that I realized I should actually read the comic --- and it turns out that it's one of the weirdest stories with one of the most fun ideas that I've ever seen in a Silver Age Batman comic.
Last week, I wrote about "Manhunt on Land," an Aquaman story where he drove around in a pickup truck full of fish to track down a sea crook who had taken to land for the express purpose of avoiding being dragged back to jail by Aquaman. That in and of itself is a solid premise, but what really makes it interesting is that it was a strange little rarity of the Silver Age: It was actually a crossover with a Green Arrow story in the same issue.
Sadly, the second half doesn't have the immediate hook of a pickup truck that's also an aquarium, but it's definitely a story worth talking about --- not just because of the unusual crossover element, but because it has one of the most shocking endings I've ever read. And for the Silver Age, that's saying something.
If you read through enough back issues of Detective Comics, you'll run across a guy who seems an awful lot like a rough draft for Maxie Zeus. The only difference is that instead of fighting Batman, this guy decided that it would be a good idea to try and recruit the Martian Manhunter, who has all of Superman's powers plus the ability to read your mind and turn invisible. And it works out about as well as you'd think.
The thing you need to understand about Riverdale is that people there don't react to things with the normal levels of emotions.
I mean, that's pretty obvious, right? The entire town --- the entire universe in which that town resides --- is built around the idea that this one teenager is so irresistibly alluring that it has resulted in a 75-year love triangle with dozens of characters caught in its orbit, and even if you're going by the upcoming TV show's version of Archie and his abs, that kind of all-consuming conflict is a little difficult to believe. In Riverdale, overreacting is just, you know, reacting. Which is how you get stories like the one where Veronica Lodge gets hit by a snowball and then very seriously threatens to murder an entire town.
When you think about characters that are well-suited for saving Christmas, it's hard to come up with one more perfect for the job than Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle. Not only has he been making some pretty significant appearances under the tree for a solid thirty years, but of the four brothers who make up the team, Mikey's the one who's full of childlike wonder and the sense of fun that allow one to be swept up by Christmas magic.
That's probably why he's the character who ended up starring in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Christmas issue back in 1985, in which he befriends a kitty cat, brings joy to a bunch of orphans, and actually Saves Christmas. Which, you know, also involves hijacking a truck and crashing through at least two NYPD roadblocks. Saving Christmas can be complicated, folks.
Sakura Tsukuba's Sweet Rein tells the story of Kurumi, a teenage girl who discovers that she's a Santa Claus when she encounters Kaito, a wispy and beautiful boy who is also sometimes a reindeer, and who is quite literally bound to her with an invisible rein that compels him to obey her commands. Also, they are in love.
It is, without question, the single most bonkers premise I have ever encountered in a lifetime of reading Christmas comics, and I've saved the second volume for an entire year waiting to read it. And folks... it does not disappoint.
The weird thing about Santa Mythology is that while we're all pretty solid on what he does now --- you know, the North Pole, the elves, the sleigh and the toys, all that good stuff --- the origin story is a lot harder to pin down. I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that our modern idea of Santa Claus has been cobbled together from sources as disparate as a the life of a 4th-century saint, an advertising campaign for Coca-Cola, the stories of Thor's dad, and a series of stop-motion animated specials, but still. It leaves a lot up in the air.
Which is how you end up with stuff like "Santa's First Christmas Trip," in which we get an origin for the jolly old saint that takes the basic premise of "hefty toymaker delivers his wares to children" and goes right off the rails to banditry, frostbite, and the unanswered mystery of Santa's little brother.
After roughly four million installments of this column, it's probably pretty clear that I have a deep and abiding love the stranger side of old comics. That's one of the reasons that we're living in the best possible time to read comics, in an era when there are folks out there with a focus on digital preservation and archiving, which has given rise to an entire cottage industry of books like I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, and Boody that put the focus on to the forgotten heroes of eras past. The latest entry into that shelf full of bizarre anthologies is Super Weird Heroes, an anthology curated by Craig Yoe, and folks, it kicks off with a doozy.
See, the book opens up with one of many heroes who took the name "Atlas." What sets this guy apart, though, is that unlike all these other Silver Age long-underwear characters all of his super-powers are real! For... certain values of real.
Thanksgiving is just over the horizon, and that means that it's time once again for the annual bout of anxiety about spending time with your relatives. If it gets bad this year, though, maybe you can take a little comfort in knowing that even Supergirl has problems dealing with her family when they come to town .
It's not Superman who's the hassle --- although you really have to think that the conversation about him just dropping her off at an orphanage an hour after she landed on her new home planet had to be awkward, and for better or worse, Argo City's utter cosmic destruction headed off any difficult conversations with her parents well before they could be a real problem. No, it's her conniving older sister Kranna who's so hard to deal with.
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