Tom Scioli has good taste in comics. That should probably be obvious if you look at the influences that have filtered down through his work on titles like Transformers vs. GI Joe. While most of his favorites might seem pretty obvious, though, there are a couple of others that you wouldn't necessarily know about unless you happened to run into him at a con while he was whiling away some downtime reading through a back issue. Which is exactly what happened to me a few years ago when I saw him reading Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #115.
Despite my love of Silver Age Superman Family stories, I'd never read this Bronze Age classic, but when I heard the premise, I knew I had to go find it immediately. Because this is the story where Darkseid tries to kill Lois by giving her a magic typewriter that can predict the future.
We've seen an awful lot of reboots over the past few years, and when it comes to giving a long-running character a new #1, there are a lot of choices you can make. The obvious one, of course, is to give readers a back-to-basics approach that makes things a little more accessible and lets new fans get in on the ground floor. Or, if you're aiming for the hardcore fans, you could pick something from past continuity and bring it back, casting it in a new light to reward and intrigue long-time readers.
Or, if you're Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger kicking off The New Adventures of Superboy in 1980, you decide to open your first issue with some complete and total weirdness that references the obscurest pieces of old continuity and ends up with a story about an extra birthday candle, an eight year-old with a big decision to make, and a couple of aliens who long only for the sweet, sweet embrace of death.
All right, look. I have made my share of jokes about Aquaman over the years. Heck, if you really want to get down to it, I've made several people's share of jokes about Aquaman, to the point where I may have been personally responsible for the Great Aquaman Joke Shortage of '14. But honestly --- I mean honestly --- they're just sitting right there and you can't really blame me for going after the low-hanging fruit every once in a while.
Which brings us to Adventure Comics #262 and "One Hour To Doom," a classic of the Silver Age where Aquaman, King of the Seven Seas, founding member of the Justice League of America, and one of DC's most inexplicably enduring characters, attempts to apprehend a seafaring criminal only to find himself stopped at every turn by the fact that sometimes, he is not actually standing in the water.
It might be easier to visualize those stiff poses and flat coloring that make up the art, but it's that sweet, sweet dialogue that really serves as the hallmark of the Silver Age. It's all bold proclamations about whatever's happening right this very second --- often with sentences that would take way longer to say out loud than the event they're meant to be describing --- capped off by as many exclamation points as you can get away with in a single word balloon. But for all of its memorable quirks the dialogue of the era makes for some pretty fun reading.
Like, for instance, in 1959's "The Colossal Super-Dog," in which every single line in the story is the best line in the story.
So hey, you know how Jimmy Olsen sometimes runs into a mystical jewel called the Star of Cathay that sends his consciousness back in time to his past life as famous 13th century merchant and explorer Marco Polo, who also had a super-powered pal in the form of a genie named Korul? If you don't, that's fine, I'm pretty sure there are only five or six people who are obsessed with Jimmy Olsen to the point of paying attention to his past lives, and at least two of them work for ComicsAlliance.
The point is, that was a strange piece of DC's Bronze Age continuity, but maybe the weirdest thing about it was that it wasn't the only time Jimmy Olsen got sent back to a past life. So I guess the question I really wanted to ask was: You know how Jimmy Olsen used to be Spartacus?
I've been writing about weird old comics on the Internet for well over a decade now, and there are two things that you really need to take away from that. First, I am old, and never have I felt the inexorable march of time grinding me to dust more acutely than when I think of it in terms of back issues. Second, I've learned a lot about all the different ways that a comic can be weird. Sometimes it's that they're tackling a bit of strange subject matter, or throwing together two (or three) genres that don't quite mesh together. Sometimes it's the approach, the bizarre swerves that drag a character out of their normal comfort zones. And sometimes, it's the fact that it's a comic that exists at all, in defiance of all logic.
If you're anything like me you're probably a little mystified by the current state of the Superman books. As fun as those stories might be, trying to figure out how the younger Superman of the New 52 era has been replaced by his older counterpart from the previous version of DC Universe --- you know, the one who had a mullet, was made of blue electricity for a year, and once got beat to death by a bone monster --- is pretty confusing even for someone like me, let alone the more casual fans who might be drawn in by the idea of Superman punching out Rorschach or whatever else is coming down the pipe.
But that said, and comics being comics, it's not exactly something without precedent. Back in the '60s, there was a story where an older Superman showed up to meet his younger counterpart, and then immediately tried to murder him with trickery and poison. And I think it's safe to say that he didn't really think that one through too well.
Last week, Archie Comics announced that a new Josie and the Pussycats comic was on the way, and there are a lot of different directions the creators could take it in. They could head back to the original premise of a scrappy, up-and-coming but relatively unknown high school band, they could pick up on the movie's premise of the Pussycats as world-famous celebrities, or they could even do what the cartoon did back in the day and send them off to space.
Or, I suppose, they could put the focus back where it was in the early '70s, when they were constantly battling against Lovecraftian horrors and trying to cleanse the Earth in purifying flame.
I have to be honest with you, folks: As much as I like the Justice League of America, and as much as I love Silver Age DC Comics in general, I find those classic JLA stories from the early days to be pretty hard to get through. Maybe it's the function of having a larger cast to deal with, or maybe it's that the kind of big, world-threatening baddies that require a whole team of superheroes have a different kind of charm than the weirdness that you get from an issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, but even at their most ridiculously bizarre, they are not really my thing.
But with DC recently putting out the first year of Justice League stories as part of its line of Golden and Silver Age hardcovers, I decided to give it another shot, and this time, I finally got to Justice League of America #7 and "The Cosmic Fun-House." And when I talk about the JLA "at their most ridiculously bizarre," this is exactly what I'm talking about.
If there are two things I find fascinating in the world of comic books, it's bizarre crossovers and Archie comics where everything turns weirdly serious. They're the things I look for when I hit the back issue boxes at conventions, and while I usually have to settle for getting those two fixes separately from stuff like those Life WIth Archie comics from the '70s where Betty gets attacked by a bear, every now and then, I'll find something that fits both. And every now and then, it's even weirder than I expect.
Case in point: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet Archie, in which... well, you can probably guess what happens just from that title. What you might not guess, though, is that it involves a kidnapping at gunpoint and a giant floating interdimensional cow head.
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