Sunday, October 21, 2012

Deadman Lives Again And Again!


After the demise of his own feature, Deadman proved to be such a compelling and interesting character that he kept popping up all over the DC Universe. I previously looked at his appareance in Kirby's Fourth World, but even before that happened he guest-starred with The Justice League of America. This is very weird tale which unfortunately the cover completely spoils since Deadman taking over Aquaman's body is supposed to be a surprise in this story about the League battling the Sensei and the Demonfang, the league of assassins. This story written by Mike Friedrich,  features some pages drawn by Neal Adams which frame up the main story by the regular art team of Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.


Next Deadman shows up in the distinctly unusual Haneyverse in The Brave and the Bold. No one expects continuity to matter in a Bob Haney story and that's surely case with this one. Though this story appeared after the Forever People event, there's no mention made and no hint of any change in the status quo of Deadman. He merely assists Batman break up a gang which supplies new identities to criminals. But he falls in love and that does pose a complication. Good solid story, great art by Jim Aparo under this handsome Nick Cardy cover, but little happens to move the Deadman saga along.


A few years pass before Deadman shows up in The Phantom Stranger. What is notable with this issue is that Deadman's creator Arnold Drake writes this story drawn by Mike Grell. Jim Aparo handles the cover art. It's a solid tale and Deadman is presented here a ghost who is overcome by his desire for revenge, so much so that he will allow innocents to suffer to accomplish it. This story seems to ignore all the  stuff developed in the later Deadman adventures, and might be a hint of what Drake would have done with the character had he continued on him. His Deadman is a potent personality for sure.


When Deadman shows up alongside The Phantom Stranger again, the story of the Sensei and that of his twin brother Cleveland Brand, his early love Lorna and friend Tiny is picked up. There seems to be an attempt by Paul Levitz, the writer here to bring a conclusion of sorts to the loose threads dangling for several years at this point in DC Universe history. It all happens very quickly and is is drawn with a sharp edge by  Fred Carillo. Jim Aparo is on board as usual for all the covers of the Stranger's comic.



The next two issues are the final two of The Phantom Stranger. Deadman's saga is pushed back in order to bring to resolution to some threads dangling in the Stranger's own book. An evil sorcerer named Seine plots to bring the Nether Gods to Earth and kidnaps the Stranger's former girlfriend Cassandra Craft to make the plan happen. Deadman is called upon to help but he and the Stranger do not get on well at all. The Phantom Stranger even suggests they are different types of apparitions, but it is this very difference and their ability to overcome it which ultimately proves to save the day. The story of the Phantom Stranger does  come to some sense of an ending, but final panels of the book ironically show Deadman frustrated and left behind. His story will continue.


The next stop is the Haneyverse once again in 1977 as Batman again calls upon Deadman to help him solve a case in The Brave and the Bold. This is another solid gangster story by Haney drawn with typical craft by Aparo, but adds little to the Deadman saga.


And finally (for my purposes at least) The Phantom Stranger and Deadman hook up one more time in 1978 in the pages of DC Super-Stars to battle the Nether Gods once again. This story is set at Halloween in Rutland, Vermont, the site of many a comic book happening. Deadman and The Stranger actually appear in two separate stories before teaming up to save the day a third time. Deadman battles Gargoyles who are hatching their young in order to overrun the Earth (a plot very much reminiscent of the delightfully creepy TV movie Gargoyles) and the Stranger must battle the machinations of his longtime foe Tala.

Deadman also appeared in in a Lois Lane story at about this time, as well as a run in Adventure Comics. I don't have those books readily at hand and they haven't been collected to my knowledge.

Deadman has remained a  part of the DCU since his debut. He's never been a sales leader, but he can almost always be counted on for a good story. In the case of Boston Brand, death becomes him.

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