Sunday, September 15, 2013
The Big Blue Boyscout Battles The Big Red Cheese!
This is a pretty neat volume collecting some of the clashes between Earth's Mightiest Mortal and The Man of Steel. Pitted against one another in the marketplace in the Golden Age of comics and later in the U.S. courts when DC famously sued Fawcett, these two titans have been at one another for nearly the whole of comic book history. Ironically it was DC which revived Captain Marvel and after many moons he and his family were ensconced within the larger DC tapestry.
The two heroes first clashed a few years earlier in a classic Justice League-Justice Society crossover when Earth-S was officially introduced to the pre-Crisis DC Universe by E. Nelson Bridwell and Marty Pasko. Dick Dillin supplied the artwork as usual, and Ernie Chan gave us the great cover above. This issue is not collected in this volume, but you can find out more about it here.
Nearly all the stories in this new collection are drawn by Rich Buckler, a mainstay artist at DC during the Bronze Age, and a reliable and sturdy storyteller. I've always been partial to Buckler's work which because of his reputation as a swipe artist doesn't sometimes get the attention it deserves. Dick Giordano ably inks Buckler's work here save for one story by John Calnan. Gil Kane does the amazing chores on the last story.
This 1978 story of a mad Martian named Kromag is a humdinger. Gerry Conway writes it and it bounces back and forth from Earth-1 to Earth-S building up steam as Marvel and Superman clash in full-blown cinematic fashion. Black Adam and the Sand-Superman are on hand to assist the main villain and both Supergirl and Mary Marvel provide much needed assistance.
It's sprawling and sometimes brutal fight, well designed by Buckler really leaning into his Neal Adams-side to fill up the oversized pages it originally appeared in. Above is a look at the original for the punchfest cover.
This two-part 1981 tale is wonderful romp, again bouncing around as Mr.Mxttlplk and Mr.Mind join forces with King Kull to take on Superman and whole Marvel Family. Roy Thomas writes a sweet story which builds neatly on the previous meetings between Supes and Cap, both in the earlier giant story and the JLofA story as well. The mystery Marvel is real treat.
This one from 1982 is again plotted by Roy and pits Superman against Black Adam, who still holds a grudge from their earlier clash. Billy Batson is on hand in spades, though in a most original way which points in some way to the eventual transformation of the Marvels after the Crisis which sadly wiped away the Multi-verse concept for many moons.
This 1984 annual plotted by Roy again with substantial help is a rockem' sockem' spectacular with Gil Kane offering up some of his most dynamic pages ever. The action rarely slows and never stops as the Marvels and some Supermen team to battle the malicious and murderous "General Sivana" (not content to be a mere "Captain"). There is even a call back to the 70's TV show when "The Elders" give a nearly defeated Captain Marvel some much-needed guidance.
This next story is sadly not included in this collection, though I think it well should be.
Superman's first fight though with Captain Marvel was a stealth affair. When a young boy named Billy Fawcett suddenly finds himself on a new world in 1974, he at first thinks he's traveled to the future, but then he sees Superman fighting crime and wonders if he's on another world entirely. He says the magic word "Shaboom!" and his alter ego Captain Thunder takes to the skies, but surprisingly to help the hoodlums. It seems Captain Thunder was changed by his arch-enemies The Monster Society and becomes evil when the change happens. With some help from Superman this situation is rectified and Billy and Thunder return home.
I've long wanted to read this charming story by Eliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan and finally got the chance a few days ago, after locating the tale in a Superman trade. This story along with its creamy Nick Cardy cover should've been included in the Superman Versus Shazam! trade featured above. It's a natural.
This weekend has me hankering for more Captain Marvel action. I'll have to dig out my copy of Showcase Presents Shazam! for more stories.