Thursday, May 31, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #18 - Nov. 1981

DC pulled out the stops for the first digest collection of what was one of their best-selling, most popular books, The New Teen Titans.
It's amazing, when you look back on it, at the creative consistency Marv Wolfman and George Perez brought to NTT--the book, even though it featured some of DC's oldest characters, had a distinctive point of view, and they never seemed the same after their run in this book. They seemed more real, more like fully realized people.

But this book culls from various incarnations of the team, featuring some of DC's best talent:

• "Reunion!" by Wolfman, Carmine Infantino, and Romeo Tanghal, which is an all-new NTT story 
"Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho" and "Citadel of Fear" by Neal Adams (story and pencils) and Nick Cardy 
Skis of Death" by Bob Haney, Gil Kane, and Cardy

...all in all, a nice package, and its even got a classic, breaking-the-fourth-wall cover like the comics of old. Gar Logan reads digest comics, too!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #14 - Oct. 1981

sgNow here's an interesting theme! I guess someone in DC editorial, wanting to give Superman a break for a month, realized that they had published approximately ten million UFO-themed stories, and all they needed, apparently, was an incredibly grim new cover by Joe Kubert.

Seriously--this scene looks like Hell on Earth. Maybe it's a good thing there isn't anything nearly as intense on the inside:
"Battle Between the Two Earths" by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, and Murphy Anderson
"I Flew A Flying Saucer" by Otto Binder, Infantino, and Bernard Sachs
"Riddle of the Walking Robots" by Ed Herron, Infantino, and Joe Giella
"Genie in the Flying Saucer" by Fox, Gil Kane, and Bernard Sachs
"Warning from Another World" by Herron, Henry Sharp, and Giella
"Secret of the Flying Buzz Saw" by Fox and Russ Heath
"The Flying Saucers That Saved the World" by Binder, Sid Greene(penciling!), and Giella
"Earth Hero Number One" by Fox, Kane, and Anderson
"Earth is the Target" by John Broome, Greene, and Sachs
"The Flying Saucer Boomerang" by Binder and Infantino
"Flying Saucers Over Mars" by Joe Millard(?), Infantino, and Giella
...and everybody's favorite spaceman Adam Strange in "The Mechanical Masters of Rann!" by Fox, Infantino, and Anderson

There's also a small cover gallery, reprinting the covers of the two issues of Strange Adventures most of these stories are pulled from.

Hmm...maybe one story of UFOs setting people on fire would've been cool.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #17 - Oct. 1981

sgHey, Superman and Superboy got digests, why not the Maid of Steel, too?

Before I get into the stories included, let's talk about this cover for a second. First off, it's goregous--bright and happy, Supergirl looks majestic and heroic.

I remembered reading once, around the time that Supergirl got killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths, that had she been written and drawn that well all the time, she wouldn't have been such a sales loser, therefore probably sparing her being killed off in the first place!

This cover reminds me of that comment, since it's such a nice piece(by the unbeatable team of George Perez--doing his first digest cover--and Dick Giordano), and if only Kara had looked this good all the time.

Stories include:
"The Great Supergirl Mirage" by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney
"The World's Greatest Heroine" by Jerry Siegel and Mooney
"Supergirl Goes to College" by Leo Dorfman and Mooney
the very un-Supergirl-story-sounding "The Crypt of the Frozen Graves" by Steve Skeates and the odd art team of Tony DeZuniga and Bob Oksner
"Trial of the Madman" by Cary Bates, Art Saaf, and Vince Colletta
"Princess of the Golden Sun" by Elliott S! Maggin, Saaf, and Colletta, which ends with Kara admonishing her cousin: "You know, cousin...sometimes you can be a real drag!"

Now that takes guts. I thought only Batman talked to him like that.

Monday, May 28, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #13 - Sept. 1981

sgStrange Sports Stories? Now we're getting to the really esoteric stuff(tho you'd think they would've gone with a horror or "weird" collection for the thirteenth issue)!

Behind the incredibly-silly (yet-incredibly-cool) cover by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano is a collection of two genres that don't taste great together, superheroes and sports!:

"The Great Super-Star Game" by Bob Rozakis, Dick Dillin(ye Gods, did the man ever sleep?) and Frank McLaughlin. This story actually has members of the JLA--Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, plus Robin, Kid Flash, Uncle Sam, and Plastic Man--agreeing to play a game of baseball against various super-villains, including multiple mass-murderer The Joker.

Sure, it's in the service of saving thousands of innocent lives(don't ask), but just watching The Joker play catcher is worth the ninety-five cents alone.

The remaining stories aren't quite as bat-s**t insane, so therefore not quite as much fun:
"The Challenge of the Faceless Five" by Cary Bates and John Rosenberger(though this story does feature a team of faceless basketball players, so it's probably a perfect follow-up to the lead story)
"Man with The Golden Gloves" by Denny O'Neil, Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano
"Volley of Death" by Frank Robbins and Giordano
"A Tall Tale of Ten-Pins" by Robbins, Curt Swan, and Bob Oksner
"Man Who Leaped Over the Earth" by Elliott S! Maggin and Giordano
"Hockey Mask of Death" by Robbins and Rosenberger
"Warrior of the Weightless World" by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella
"Gridiron Nightmare" by Robbins, Swan, and Giordano
...and a text piece by Rozakis, where he sadly does not divulge what prescriptions he was on when he wrote "The Great Super-Star Game."

The idea of sports comics is an old one, and DC was trying to revive it with their early-70s Strange Sports Stories comic, but it didn't work. I think by the time we hit the mid-70s, most kids that still read comics weren't exactly, er, good at sports, so they sure as heck didn't wanna read sports comics. You didn't see too many high school quarterbacks kicking back with an issue of Detective Comics, now did you?

That said, there is some nice work in these stories--the ones pencilled and inked by Dick Giordano are especially nice, and DC certainly did put some their top-tier talent on these stories, so they did give it the old college try!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #16 - Sept. 1981

sgA collection of Superman anniversary stories? Celebrating such milestones as the 23rd anniversary, the 36th anniversary(what is that, the Mylar anniversary?)? Ok, DC, if you say so...

Stories include:
"The Origin of Superman" (10th anniversary) by Bill Finger and Wayne Boring
"The Super-Key to Fort Superman" (20th) by Jerry Coleman, Boring, and Stan Kaye
"The War Between Jimmy Olsen and Superman"(21st anniversary, and my money's on the Kryptonian) by Alvin Schwartz, Curt Swan, and George Klein
"The Conquest of Superman" (23rd anniversary) by Finger, Swan, and John Forte (tho the story is credited to George Klein)
"The Trial of Superman" (25th anniversary) by Edmond Hamilton and George Papp
"The Superman-Batman Split" (30th anniversary) by Cary Bates and Neal Adams
"Make Way for Captain Thunder" (36th anniversary) by Elliott S! Maggin, Swan, and Bob Oksner a text piece by the always reliable ENB.

Before we go, though, let's discuss the cover by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano for a second--Batgirl gets invited, but not Wonder Woman? I guess Lois, undoubtedly in charge of the party, wasn't about to let that super-powered hussy come to her boyfriend's party.* And instead of sitting around smiling, howabout somebody arrest the super-criminal?

*I know, this cover is just reflecting the characters in this book's stories. Just go with me on this.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #12 - Aug. 1981

sgDefinitely an off-beat choice for a digest collection, The Haunted Tank feature from G.I.Combat did feature some great art and story, and this four-part story was a great choice to be collected:

"Introducing the Haunted Tank" by Bob Kanigher and Russ Heath
"Easy's First Tiger" all by Heath
"Mission: Dead End" by Archie Goodwin and Sam Glanzman
"Battle Ghost" by Goodwin and Glanzman(sounds like a law firm)
"Day of the Goth" by Goodwin and Glanzman
"Another Time, Another Place" is way out there--it's a sci-fi/war story, written by Bob Haney with art by Neal Adams, with a good old-fashioned, EC-esque twist ending
...and then one more Haunted Tank tale(?), "The Final Victor" again by Goodwin and Glanzman

Nice covers by Joe Kubert, too!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #15 - Aug. 1981

sgWow, Superboy sure was popular!

As the cover indicates, this book features ten--yes, ten--adventures of the Boy of Steel:
"The Laughingstock of Smallville" by Bill Finger and Al Plastino
"Lana Lang's Super Birthday" by Alvin Schwartz and Creig Flessel
"The Saddest Boy in Smallville" by Leo Dorfman and George Papp
the two-page featurette "Superboy's Secret Hideaways" by E.Nelson Bridwell, Bob Brown, and Wally Wood
"The Boy Who Betrayed Clark Kent" by Robert Bernstein and Papp
"Pete Ross' Super Secret" by Otto Binder and Papp
"The Old Maid of Smallville" by Bernstein and and Plastino
"The Day Clark Kent Got a Haircut"(man, they were desperate for stories that day) by Bernstein and John Sikela(?)
"The Dog Catcher of Smallville" by Binder and Papp
"The Ordeal of Chief Parker" by Jerry Sigel and Plastino
"The Rock n' Roll Riddle of Smallville" by Cary Bates, Brown, and Murphy Anderson

...and if that wasn't enough Smallville-ania for you, there's a text page by ENB about some of the other denizens of the town! Man, when's Carl "Moosie" Draper gonna show up on the TV show?

And is it me, or is the Superboy on the cover(by Andru and Giordano, 'natch) really, really bulked up?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #11 - July 1981

sgOne of my favorites, so much so that I'm presenting the full wraparound cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. As a kid, I was a sucker for any collection of classic JLA stories--heck, I still am.

This book collects a great three-part JLA/JSA crossover, also starring the (then) forgotten Seven Soldiers of Victory, from Justice League of America #s 100-102 by Len Wein, workhorse Dick Dillin, Joe Giella, and Dick Giordano. The stories--"The Unknown Soldier of Victory", "The Hand That Shook the World", and "And One Of Us Must Die!" involve the JLA and JSA celebrating the JLA's "100th meeting" (nice tying it in to the 100th issue, Len!) when Dr.Fate, who knows his business, tells the assembled heroes of a bad guy named The Iron Hand who's planning on destroying Earth 2.

The story then connects back to old cases handled by the Seven Soldiers of Victory, so the heroes break up into teams(of course!) to head into different dimensions to set things right. It's here they meet up with the "forgotten" heroes, like The Crimson Avenger, the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripsey, the Earth-2 Green Arrow and Speedy, the Vigilante, and the Shining Knight.

It's one of those epic adventures that was the JLA's stock in trade, and it's great to have it all collected here. Somehow Dick Dillin managed to draw a story starring approximately one thousand characters (not only does it have the three teams, but Wein threw in Metamorpho, The Elongated Man(not yet a JLA member), and Zatanna!) and not go completely insane.

As a bonus feature, also included is "Triumph of the Tornado Tyrant", from JLA #17, by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs, which ties in nicely to the significant role The Red Tornado plays in the earlier three-parter.

The inside back cover features an ad for JLA #192, also prominently featuring The Red Tornado(kismet!), and features a gorgeous George Perez cover. Great Guardians, this one of the best DC digests ever!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #14 - July 1981

Ah, what a great theme for a digest? Who has a better rogues gallery than the Dark Knight? In fact, I can only think of one other character in the whole DCU that could even support such a theme.*

Behind the great cover by Andru and Giordano of Bats being vexed by his baddest baddies(and the Penguin) is a great collection of tales: 

"This One'll Kill You, Batman!" by Denny O'Neil, Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano
the classic "Half an Evil" by O'Neil, Neal Adams, and Giordano
"The Malay Penguin" by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin 
"Riddler on the Move" by O'Neil, Ernie Chua, and Giordano 
"The Curious Case of the Catwoman's Coincidences" by O'Neil, Novick, and Giordano 
Plus each story is followed by a one-page origin story for the villain in question, and there's a two-page spread of even more of Batman's villains, like Mr.Freeze, Killer Moth, Catman, Scarecrow, Ra's Al Ghul, Clayface, and Hugo Strange, drawn by a young Denys Cowan and inked by Giordano.

Wow, in just this book alone, you've got Batman tales by Adams/Giordano and Rogers/Austin! Truly a collection worthy of the Dark Knight Detective.

*The Flash, 'natch 


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #10 - June 1981

sg100 Pages of amazing adventure at the Earth's Core!

DC decides to reward The Warlord, one of their most popular titles, with a digest collection. The Warlord was an odd title--as its creator Mike Grell suggested, it exitsed its own little universe(though unofficially, I think) and it never had anything to do with the rest of DC's publishing line.

This was trade paperback-esque collection, in that it reprints a complete multi-part story, collectively called "The Deimos Saga", comprised of:

"Arena of Death" (Warlord #3), story and art by Mike Grell
"Duel of the Titans"
(Warlord #4), by Grell
"The Secret of Skartaris"
(Warlord #5), by Grell
"Home is a Four Letter Word"
(Warlord #6) by Grell
"The Iron Devil"
(Warlord #7) by Grell
"Tower of Fear"
(Warlord #10) by Grell
(Warlord #15) by Grell and Joe Rubinstein
"Wolves of the Steppes"
(Warlord #17) by Grell and Vince Colletta
(Warlord #20) by Grell and Colletta
"The Beast in the Tower"
(Warlord #21) by Grell and Colletta a fun little bio page of Grell on the inside back cover.

This book is probably the closest you'll ever get to feeling like DC is simply printing someone else's book--there's no mention, or ads, for anything other than Warlord and no mention of any other creator than Grell. Indeed, with some of the intense violence and pretty-dang-revealing costumes:

...Grell's book always felt like it was an independent book that accidentally had a DC bullet dropped on its, every single month for twelve years.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #13 - June 1981

Sure, it's more Superman, but its reprints(mostly) from his brief non-Batman-team-up issues of World's Finest, so that gives DC the chance to throw in some guest stars. It says something about the kind of stern stuff superheroes are made from, that mortals like Batgirl and Green Arrow can be floating miles above Earth and look happy about it.

Stories include:

• "A Prize of Peril" co-starring Green Lantern, by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin, and Joe Giella 
"The Fury of the Kryptonian Killer" co-starring Supergirl, by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein 
"World of Faceless Slaves" co-starring Green Arrow, by Elliott S! Maggin, Dillin, and Giella 
"Menace of the Energy Blackmailers" co-starring Batgirl, by Maggin, Swan, and Phil Zupa(?) 
"Who's Minding The Earth?" co-starring Aquaman, by the great Steve Skeates, Dillin, and Giella

...I have two questions after looking over the collection. First, just how fast was Dick Dillin? He drew JLA for over a decade, never missing an issue. How the heck did he have time to draw some issues of World's Finest?? Second, just what must have Dillin been thinking when he had to draw this panel from O'Neil's "A Prize of Peril":


Sunday, May 20, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #9 - May 1981

sgThey could've called this one Secret Origins of Off-Brand Super-Heroes, since the line-up of characters is so diverse and mostly B-List, but I think that's the fun of collections like these--for once, you're not stuck with reading how Jor-El and Lara sent baby Kal-El to Earth for four hundredth time.

Stories include:
"Birth of the Atom" by Gardner Fox, Gil Kane, and Murphy Anderson
"Battle of the Tiny Titans"(Part 2 of previous story) by Fox, Kane, and Anderson
"Swamp Thing" by(who else?) Len Wein and Berni Wrightson
"The Million-Dollar Debut of Batgirl" by Foz, Carmine Infantino, and Anderson (tho the CBDB says the inker was really Sid Greene, according to Julius Schwartz's records)
"The Kid From Atlantis" by Robert Benstein and Ramona Fradon
"The Origin of Green Lantern's Oath" by John Broome, Kane, and Anderson
"The Super Dog From Krypton" by Otto Binder and Curt Swan
"The Origin of Dr.Fate" by Fox and Howard Sherman
"Green Arrow's First Case" by Ed Heron and Jack Kirby
The Origin of Speedy in "The World's Worst Archer" by Bernstein d Lee Elias

...The Atom, Swamp Thing, Batgirl, Aqualad, Krypto, Dr.Fate, Green Arrow, and Speedy--now there's an assemblage of diverse superheroes! Wonder if they had anything to talk about at the photo shoot for the cover(btw--nice homage to the classic first JLA/JSA team-up by Andru and Giordano)?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #12 - May 1981

sg"You wanted more Superman", DC said, "and we're giving him to you!"

Behind the handsome, beautifully-executed cover by Andru and Giordano, is a collection of Superman stories where he broke the bonds of time and space and ended up protecting Sarah Conner(or something like that):

"Bus-Ride to Nowhere"(man, I've been there) by Cary Bates, Curt Swan, and Murphy Anderson
"The Sun of Superman" by Bates, Swan, and Anderson
"The Starry-Eyed Siren of Space"(Lisa Nowak? Thanks! I'm outta here!) by Bates, Swan, and Anderson
"Planet of the Angels" by Denny O'Neil, Swan, and Anderson
"Superman...You're Dead...Dead...Dead!" by Leo Dorfman, Swan, and Anderson
"The Secret of the Space Souvenirs" by ? and Al Plastino the usual text piece by ENB, that ends with "go on...have fun!" Indeed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #8 - April 1981

sgOnly eight issues in to DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest, and already the Legion get their second collection. As a kid, I never really got into the whole Legion concept; but clearly I was one of the few since LSH was one of DC's most popular titles in the early eighties, and only got moreso when the team of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen took over.

Stories include:
"Escape of the Fatal Five" by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein (Adventure Comics #365)
"Fight for the Championship of the Universe"(!) by Shooter, Swan, and Klein (
Adventure Comics #366)
"No Escape From the Circle of Death" by Shooter, Swan, and Klein
(Adventure Comics #367)
"Lost: A Million Miles From Home" by Cary Bates, the late great Dave Cockrum, and Mike Grell (Superboy #202)
"The Fatal Five Who Twisted Time" by Bates and Cockrum (Superboy #198)

...the inside cover features the covers of the three Adventure Comics issues reprinted, instead of the usual text piece by ENB. They're reprinted small and in b/w, which is a darn shame since all three covers were by Neal Adams, which should be viewed as big as possible!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #11 - April 1981

sgAh, it's that time of year again--time for the year's best comic book stories! Once again DC shows their largesse by giving the reader 32 extra pages, for no extra cost!

Behind the we're-all-in-this-together cover by Andru and Giordano(I love Jonah helping Sgt.Rock--it makes total sense those two would hang out) are the following stories:
"The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan, and Frank Chiaramonte (Action Comics #507)
"Pinball--A Tale of Gotham City" by Jack C.Harris and Dan Spiegle (Detective Comics #494)
"Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker...!" by Len Wein and the boffo art team of Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano (Batman #321)
"Brief Encounter" by Mimai Kin(?), Trevor Von Eeden, and Carl Potts (Time Warp #5)
Superman and Deadman in "The Man Who Was The World" by Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez(yesss!) (DC Comics Presents #24)
"A Bridge Called Charlie" by Bob Kanigher and Frank Redondo (Sgt.Rock #337)
The Legion of Super-Heroes in "Star Light, Star Bright...Farthest Star I See Tonight" by Paul Levitz, Garcia Lopez, and Giordano (Super-Star Holiday Special 1980)
"The Vow of a Samurai" by Michael Fleisher and Tony DeZuniga (Jonah Hex #39)
"Bruce the Barbarian" by J.M.DeMatteis and Vicatan (The Unexpected #205)
"The Secret World of Jonathan Kent" by Bates, Swan, and Chiaramonte (Action Comics #508) a two-page text feature by ENB about how they selected the stories, and where he cheerfully admits all the stories combined fell one page short of what they needed, so ENB is writing an extra-long text piece, "which", he says "you are now reading."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #7 - March 1981

sgOk, ya goldbricks! Time to move 'em out! We've got a new digest to fill, and we're gonna do it before the jerrys do! Bulldozer! Ice Cream Solider! Get yer...

Ok, sorry, I'll stop. Gee, writing Sgt.Rock dialogue is tougher than I thought.

Anyway, as you can see, this is another collection of hard-bitten, war-ravaged action, exploding from the pages of...(wow, it's hard to stop once you've started!)

Behind the beautiful Joe Kubert cover, the stories include:
"4 Faces of Sgt.Rock" by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert
the classic "Burma Sky" by Archie Goodwin and Alex Toth
The Haunted Tank in "The Target of Terror" by Kanigher and Russ Heath
The War That Time Forgot "in" "The Big House of Monsters" by Kanigher and Heath
Enemy Ace in "The Bull" by Kanigher and Kubert
and The Unknown Solider in "A Sense of Obligation" by David Michelinie and Gerry Talaoc

...all in all, a solid collection of classic DC war stories, told by some of the best in the business.

Ten's over, Easy! Move 'em out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #10 - March 1981

sgIf Secret Origins of Super-Heroes worked, why not give the Super-Villains a turn?

The cover blurb is pretty funny: "Revealed At Last! The Origin of the Penguin!" Yeah---kids were just screaming to find out the origin of The Penguin. Other than that, this is a slam-dunk cover--fun as all get out; it looks like the Most Exciting JLA Cover That Never Existed.

Stories include:
"The Origin of the Penguin" by Michael Fleisher(!), Romeo Tanghal, and Tex Blaisdell
Ocean Master in "Aquaman, Coward of the Seven Seas" by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy
"Here Comes Captain Boomerang" by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Murphy Anderson
"The Shark That Hunted Human Prey" by Broome, Gil Kane, and Joe Giella
"Shadow-Thief of Midway City" by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert
"Green Arrow Vs. Red Dart" by ? and George Papp
"Power of the Parasite" by Jim Shooter and Al Plastino

The oddest feature of this book, hands down, is "Villainous Double-Dactyls" by E.Nelson Bridwell, featuring short poems(well, poem-ish) about each hero/villain combo. Try this little gem:
Zoomery Boomery
Australian George Harkness
As Captain Boomerang
Signed up to serve
But to crime he turned his
Only to have The Flash
Throw Him a curve

...can you imagine being ENB, sitting in his DC office somewhere, saying to himself, "I'm getting paid to write a poem about Captain Boomerang."

I guess the one question to ask about this book was, why no Wonder Woman/Cheetah story? We've got Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and GL in here, she's the only big name missing. I would say throwing in The Red Dart as a representation of a Green Arrow villain is stretching it, to say the least.

Monday, May 14, 2007

DC Special Series #24 - Feb. 1981

sgDC wasn't content to release one digest-sized issue of DC Special Series--this one, another collection starring "Flash and His Friends!", came out the same month as the previous DSS issue. Jeez, was DC trying to get bulk mail rates or something?

And once again, we're left with the odd site of Green Lantern, major DC star and Bravest Man on Earth, being relegated to "...and Friend" status to the Flash. That had to hurt, but clearly DC was stretching the whole concept further than Ralph Dibney--Dr.Fate, Dr.Mid-Nite--friends of the Flash? Sure, they chit-chat at JLA/JSA meetings, but its not like they go see movies together(Dr.Mid-Nite wouldn't be able to see them anyway).

Ok, Ok...let's get to the content!:
"The Pied Piper's Double Doom!" by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella (guest-starring The Elongated Man)
"The See-Nothing Spells of Abra-Kadrabra!" by Fox, Infantino, and Sid Greene (guest-starring the original Flash, Dr.Mid-Nite, and Dr.Fate)
"Trial of the False Green Lanterns!" by Fox, Infantino, and Giella, inventive stories all, like most of the 60s Flash stories were. I guess you could do worse than being called a Flash "friend."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

DC Special Series #23 - Feb. 1981

sgTwo digest series apparently weren't enough for DC this month, since they decided once again to convert the catch-all DC Special Series title into a digest--and even more odd is that it's less pages than the standard digest comic(at least they knocked the price down)--why, for Rao's sake? They didn't have another reprint or two they could stuff in here?

Anyway, as you can see, this book is dedicated to tales from the late, great World's Finest comic, a book I always loved as a kid--not only did you get Superman and Batman together, but there was always a couple of other cool features, too, as this digest reflects:
Superman and Batman in "The Composite Superman" by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, and George Klein
Green Arrow in "Menace of the Mechanical Octopus" by France Heron and Jack "King" Kirby
Aquaman in "The Day Aquaman Lost His Powers" by ? and the always-great Ramona Fradon
Superman and Batman in "The Has-Been Superman" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan, and Jack Abel a helpful list of all the various features that had appeared in WF up until that point, compiled by Robert Greenberger. Apparently someone named "Drafty" appeared in the first fourteen issues of World's Finest, which was almost as long as Aquaman did. Draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #6 - Feb. 1981

sgDC decided to branch out a little and reprint some non-superhero material--and lots of it! 17 stories?!? Too bad its all from the mostly anemic Ghosts book, not the cooler, somewhat-edgier House of Mystery. Oh well...

Stories include:
"Death Held the Lantern High" by Leo Dorfman and Alfredo Alcala
"The Phantom Hangman" by George Kashdan and Rico Rival
"The Most Fearful Villain of the Supernatural" (ungainly title, that) by Kashdan and Lee Elias
"Death Weaves A Web" by Kashdan and Ernie Chan
"The Yawning Mouth of Hell" by Dorfman and a fine art job by Jerry Grandinetti
"The Most Haunted House in England" by Dorfman and J.Noriega
"The Specter Wore a Badge" by Martin Pasko and Rubeny
Dr.Thirteen in "And The Corpse Cried Murder!" by Len Wein and Tony DeZuniga
"The Spirit in the Ring" by Kashdan and J.Lofamia
"A Phantom In The Alamo" by Carl Wessler and Sam Glanzman
"Dark Destiny" by Wessler and Chan
"The Eye of Evil" by Dorfman and Frank Redondo
"The Ghost and General Ike"(!) by Murray Boltinoff and John Calnan
"The Specter from the Blog" by Dorfman and Glanzman (does he wear a badge?)
The Phantom Stranger (ah, now the good stuff!) in "Image in Wax" by the unbeatable team of Wein and Jim Aparo!
...and then we end anti-climactically with "Omen From the Beyond" by Boltinoff and Rubeny much as I like horror comics in general, its tough getting through this collection, simply because there are so many stories that look and read so similarly that you start nodding off about halfway through. DC of course wasn't allowed to do anything too horrible in their horror comics, so you're left with a lot of ghost stories where somebody gets mildly scared, and that's it.

But at least The Phantom Stranger made an appearance!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #9 - Feb. 1981

sgWho could not buy a book with a cover like this? Commissioner Gordon--shooting Batman?! Here's my ninety-five cents, Mr.Newsstand Vendor, sir!

This was one of DC's first attempts at what would of course eventually become a staple of their business--the story-driven collection. This is essentially a trade paperback in digest form, since it collects sucessive issues of Detective Comics (#s 444-448, to be exact) to present one multi-part story:
"Bat-Murderer" by Len Wein and Jim Aparo
"Break-In at the Big House" by Wein and Aparo
"Slaughter in Silver" by Wein and Aparo
"Enter: The Creeper" by Wein, Ernie Chan, and Dick Giordano
"Bedlam Beneath the Big-Top!" by Wein, Chan, and Giordano "Angel--Or Devil?" by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, and Giordano and a multi-page schematic of the new Wayne Foundation building (remember that era?) drawn by none other than Terry Austin!

It's hard to beat Jim Aparo doing Batman, and this story is loads of fun, told with high style. And, again, a grabber of a cover!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #5 - Dec. 1980

sgOne of the classic motifs of comic book collections was "Secret Origins", where you could basically slap any disparate group of reprints together, and as long as they were origin stories you had a theme! I don't know who first thought of adding the word "Secret" to the concept of the Origin story, but it helped make the reader feel like they were getting inside information, which is always exciting.

For the first time, a DC digest book features a new story, this being "The Secret Spell!" by Gerry Conway, Romeo Tanghal, and Vince Colletta, which is the origin of Zatanna and Zatara. I think it's a safe beat this was an inventory story lying around and DC thought why not put it in a digest? Zatanna had a brief solo run in Adventure Comics, maybe this was originally intended for that.

The other Secret Origins are:
"The Origin of the Justice League" by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs (a classic!)
The Demon in "Unleash The One Who Waits" by Jack Kirby (definitely an off-beat choice!)
"Earth's First Green Lantern" by Fox, Gil Kane, and Murphy Anderson
Deadman in "Who Has Been Lying In My Grave?" by the late, great Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, and George Roussos
"The Origin of Wonder Girl" by Marv Wolfman and the unusual art team of Gil Kane and Nick Cardy
...along with a text-piece all about the Zatanna origin and the storyline starring her that ran across several titles in the mid-60s, culminating in Justice League of America #51.

You can see by running Demon, Deadman, and Zatanna tales, there was a definite mystical bent to this collection. Maybe DC thought they couldn't sell it without the bigger name superheroes in there as well, but it might've been neat if they had added Swamp Thing, The Phantom Stranger*, or The Spectre origin stories to have an all-supernatural collection.

*Though of course, The Phantom Stranger has never had a "Secret Origin."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #8 - Dec. 1980

Yes, more Superman!

They just don't make comics like this anymore, where you have your hero dressed as an Indian Chief, a genie, a weird Flash/Superman hybrid...basically looking like a total goof. Hmm, maybe not everything from the Silver Age of Comics was great.

Ah, enough negativity! Let's get on with the super-riffic content:

• "The Five Other Identities of Superman" (oddly, it was originally published as "The Day Superman Became the Flash"...I wonder why the tacked-on title change?) by Edmond Hamilton and Al Plastino 
"The 1,000 Lives of Superman" by ? and Wayne Boring 
"From Riches to Rags!" by Leo Dorfman and Plastino 
"The Super-Genie of Metropolis" by Robert Bernstein and Plastino 
"Blind Clark Kent!" by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan, and George Klein 
"Clark The 'K'" by Siegel, Swan, and Klein (a pretty obscure reference, if you think about it) 
"The Super-Cop of Metropolis" by Siegel, Swan, and Klein 
"The Shocking Secret of Super-X!" by Bates, Swan, and Anderson 
"Who Stole My Superpowers?" by Jim Shooter, Swan, and George Roussos 
• ...and the text-feature "Does Superman Need Clark Kent?" by ENB. (I bet the answer is yes!)

The most interesting tale is the first I think, where Superman gets to see what its like to be Batman, The Flash, The Atom, Aquaman, and Green Arrow! I guess the Comics Code would've prevented him from being Wonder Woman for a day...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #4 - Oct. 1980

sgAh, finally--the bravest of all the Green Lanterns get his own digest collection--no more of this "Flash + 1 Guest" crap for Hal Jordan!

Behind the gorgeous, dramatic cover by Dick Giordano, we have a collection of some of Green Lantern's greatest adventures:
"The Planet of the Doomed Men" by John Broome, Gil Kane, and Murphy Anderson (from Green Lantern #1)
"The Power Ring That Vanished" by Broome, Kane, and Joe Giella (GL #5)
"The Secret Life of Star Sapphire" by Broome, Kane, and Giella (GL #16)
"Zero Hour in the Silent City" (great title--somebody make a movie with that title, pronto!) by Broome, Kane, and Giella (GL #12)
"Two Green Lanterns in the Family" by Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Sid Greene (GL #53)
"The Secret Origin of the Guardians" by Broome, Kane, and Greene (the classic GL #40) a text feature all about Green Lantern's greatest villains! Great Guardians, what a great digest!


Monday, May 7, 2007

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #7 - Oct. 1980

Think Superman was already getting too many digests all to himself? DC aparently didn't think so, since as you can see they were already coming up with variations on the "how can we reprint more Superman?" theme. It's funny, when you look at this cover, at how closely it mirrors the later Smallville TV series--Clark meets Lois, Green Arrow, and Aquaman as a boy!

Stories include:

• "Superboy Meets the Young Green Arrow" by Jerry Coleman and George Papp 
"The Super-Clown of Smallville" by Coleman and Crieg Flessel 
"Dark Strangler of the Seas" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown, and Murphy Anderson 
"The Millionaire of Smallville" by Leo Dorfman and Papp 
"Superboy Meets Lois Lane" by Otto Binder and Papp 
"Plague from the Past!" by Dorfman, Brown, and Anderson 
"Lex Luthor, Imp!" by E.Nelson Bridwell and Papp 
"The Kryptonite Kid" by Jerry Siegel and Papp 
"Superboy Meets Supergirl" by Siegel, Curt Swan, and George Klein usual, there's a text piece by E.Nelson Bridwell about the stories. The one area he doesn't touch on is how absolutely crazily, giddiously convoluted these stories were, in terms of bopping around the time stream! That was just part of the fun of pre-Crisis DC, as is the cover by Andru and Giordano. 

Sunday, May 6, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #3 - Aug. 1980

sgAnother digest, another fun, bright cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano!

The Justice Society was an unusual choice I think to headline their own digest so soon; the JSA had just wrapped up their run in Adventure Comics so they were homeless at the time--maybe that's why DC felt they needed to slap Superman and Batman on the cover, to help goose the sales a little (I also like Dr. Fate--acting very un-Dr.Fate-like--doing the old hard sell. I guess The Spectre threating to damn kids to hell if they don't buy this digest was considered too harsh).

Stories include:
"The All-Star Super Squad" by Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada, and the late, great Wally Wood. This story is the introduction of Power Girl, and she was off to a great start:
...and in a code-approved comic, no less!

Hard to believe anything could follow that, but DC tried with "5 Drowned Men", a Golden Age tale by Gardner Fox, Irwin Hasen, Joe Kubert, Lee Elias, and Frank Henry
Then we have the mini-classic "Dr.Fate" solo story by Martin Pasko and Walter Simonson that first appeared in DC's First Issue Special title. Too bad Pasko and Simonson didn't get to continue doing Dr.Fate stories--this is an enormously fun adventure, and Simonson's art--even at this early stage in his career--is wonderful and hits exactly the right tone.

We wrap up with a fun 3-page primer about the differences between Earth-1 and Earth-2. I dunno; I know Crisis on Infinite Earths was meant to make stuff easier to follow, but as a kid I didn't have any problem understanding it, and found these little back-story features a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #2 - June 1980

sgIf I was Green Lantern, I think I'd be a little upset that I, founding member of the Justice League and solo title star for almost two decades, got lumped in as just a "friend" of the Flash and not the subject of my own digest collection. I'm not trying to start something between Hal and Barry, mind you; I'm just saying.

Anyway, The Flash was of course a perfect character to headline his own digest; he was one of the most enduringly-popular members of the DCU, having ushered in the Silver Age of Comics.

Stories include:
"Doomward Flight of the Flashes" by John Broome, Carmine Infantino (a name we'll be seeing a lot of, I bet), and Sid Greene
"Space-Boomerang Trap" by Broome, Infantino, and Joe Giella
"Robberies by Magic" by Gardner Fox, Infantino, and Murphy Anderson
"Kid Flash Meets the Elongated Man" by Broome, Infantino, and Giella
"The One-Man Justice League" by Fox, Infantino, and Giella
"Captives of the Cosmic Ray" by Broome, Infantino, and Giella
...and of course there's a Flash text piece by E.Nelson Bridwell, who could probably knock off these character histories in his sleep.

Topped off with a nice set of covers by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano (those white backgrounds really work, too bad you don't see them much on comics anymore), and this is a solid collection of stories featuring the Scarlet Speedster!

Friday, May 4, 2007

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #1 - Apr. 1980

DC was so gung-ho about their new digests that they decided to start a second title less than six months after the first. In terms of content, they would be indistinguishable, and with even the titles being so similar I can imagine what a headache it must have been for news vendors to order the two different titles and keep it all straight ("I can't keep all this comic book crap straight! I have to order more Slim-Jims!").

As we'll see later on, the Legion of Super-Heroes were huge digest stars--they racked up nearly as many appearances as Superman! I guess DC felt so sure of them that they were chosen to headline this premiere issue.

Stories include:
"The Legion of Super-Heroes" by Otto Binder and Al Plastino (their first appearance from Adventure Comics #247) 
"The Rogue Legionnaire" by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein
"The Legion of Substitute Heroes" by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte (who must have had a stiff drink in hand to get through it)
• Plus the three-part "The Fatal Five!" by Shooter, Swan, and Klein, which is the famous story where Ferro Lad sacrifices himself to save the universe!

...and, like a lot of the digests, topped off with some nice, bright front and back covers by Dick Giordano. What an amazing resource it must have been, to have someone like Giordano on staff to knock out a cover now and again!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Jonah Hex and Other Western Tales #3 - Feb. 1980

While the books were of consistent quality, obviously DC's experiment at giving Jonah Hex his own digest series didn't work sales-wise, as this was the final issue.

The one minus this third volume has is it doesn't have another excellent El Diablo story by Neal Adams. But behind the excellent, unsettling cover (didn't Conan find himself in situations like this a lot?) by Luis Dominguez we've still got a nice collection of stories:

• Jonah Hex in "Killers Die Alone" by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga
A fun four-pager called "Turnabout" by Sergio Aragones and Gil Kane(!!) 
Outlaw in "Draw Death" by Robert Kanigher and Tony DeZuniga 
Jonah Hex in "Face Off with the Gallagher Boys!" by Michael Fleisher with art by Doug Wildey 
A 3-page(!) feature called "Town Tamer" written and drawn by Gil Kane
 Scalphunter in "The Black Seer of Death Canyon" by Michael Fleisher, Dick Ayers, and Frank Springer 
A horror-ish tale "The Night of the Snake" by Denny O'Neil, Gil Kane, and Tony DeZuniga 
Jonah Hex in "The Hangin' Woman" by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga

...and we end with a one-page feature "Frontier Justice" by Mike W.Barr and Mike Nasser. But not before one last nice back cover painting by Dominguez. And so we bid farewell to Jonah Hex, and his tiny, hard-to-read adventures!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

DC Special Series #19 - Fall 1979

sgI absolutely love covers like this, where all the heroes look happy and are hanging out together--I mean, what kid wouldn't want have been in the JLA, hanging out with this fun bunch of folks?

Yet another digest-sized edition of DC Special Series; why a bunch of origin stories couldn't wait to be done in one of the regular digest titles is anyone's guess.

The super-secret origin stories in this issue include:
"The Secret Origin of Wonder Woman" by Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo, and Vince Colletta
"The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" by Edmond Hamilton, Dick Sprang, and Stan Kaye
"The Mystery of the Elongated Man" by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella
"How Aquaman Got His Powers" by Robert Bernstein and the great Ramona Fradon
"Brotherly Hate" (the origin of Lightning Lad, Lass, and Lord!) by E.Nelson Bridwell and George Tuska
Hawkman and Hawkgirl in "The Masked Marauders of Earth" by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert
"The Origin of Robin" by E.Nelson Bridwell, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito
"The Supergirl from Krypton" by Otto Binder and Al Plastino

All in all, a nice collection of origin tales, pulled from a wide cross-section of DC's rich publishing history. And as I said above, Dick Giordano's cover is tops.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

DC Special Series #18 - Fall 1979

sgAt the same time DC was publishing Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest and DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest, they also released a few digests under the umbrella title of DC Special Series.

DCSS was one of the oddest titles DC (or anybody) ever published, since it seemed to be the title DC slapped on any one-shot they wanted to publish but (presumably) didn't want to pay for another mailing permit by starting a new title (oh, how things have changed). Over the course of its twenty + issues, DCSS was a regular sized comic, a digest, and a treasury, which has got to be some sort of record.

Anyway, the first digest-sized issue of DCSS was Sgt.Rock's Prize Battle Tales, another offbeat choice as a digest headliner (unlike, say, Wonder Woman or The Flash). Behind the handsome cover by the legendary Joe Kubert are these tales of rip-roarin' wartime action:

"Target: Sgt. Rock" by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert
The Ski Patrol in "The Big Marker" by Bob Haney and Russ Heath
The Air Corps in "Broomstick Pilot!" by Eddie Herron John Severin
A Weird War tale "Who is Haunting the Haunted Chateau?" by Sheldon Mayer and Alex Toth
The Navy in "Jackpot Target" by Haney and Jack Abel
Enemy Ace in "3 Graves to Home!" by Kanigher and Kubert
The Desert Patrol in "Patrol to Nowhere" by Haney and Mort Drucker(!)
The Tank Corps in "Deliver: One Tank" by Haney and Heath
The Frogmen in "Frogmen Fury!" (what a title!) by Hank Chapman(?) and Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
The Unknown Soldier in "Appoitnment in Prague" by Archie Goodwin and Jack Sparling

...and in addition to all that are true life featurettes, like "Mine Hunters", "War Bluff", and "Battle Album." Also, interestingly enough, this book includes a Table-Top Diorama of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. Hmmm. Since those were a staple of the treasury editions, it's a reasonable guess that this collection was originally intended as a treasury, since a table-top diorama about 6" high and made from flimsy newsprint isn't really all that impressive.

But that's the only part of this book that isn't. Imagine for a mere 95 cents, you got stories with art by Kubert, Severin, Heath, Toth, Andru, and a rare non-Mad art job by Mort Drucker.

Over and out!