Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bring On The Badder Guys!


The Secret Society of Super-Villains has to have been one of DC's most loopy concepts. Gerry Conway, fresh from his tenure at Marvel was welcomed and encouraged mightily at DC and he and Pablo Marcos whipped up a dazzlingly fun fondue of a comic featuring some of DC's creepiest  and in some cases most monstrous villains. A bunch of perennial baddies decide to link up and strike against the world. They are organized by Manhunter, the presumably dead hero recreated by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson. As it turns out Jack Kirby's Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips are around almost every corner and the Manhunter ain't exactly what he seems. Throw in a near forgotten superhero from DC's vintage past and you have a heady meal for any comic book fanboy.


Captain Comet was created in 1951, a superhero for the time but out of his own. He was a "mutant", a man 100,000 years ahead of the rest of us and willing to use his gifts to help the relative primitives around him. He had a dandy stint in Strange Adventures, but eventually disappeared for decades until he turned up to battle the Society. In a book named for the villains, the hero is the one who lacks titular status and Comet does yeoman work. DC seemed really interested in pushing both the Society and Comet as they often appeared in other titles right along with the regular gig in SSoSV.

The villains tagged for inclusion in the story are some truly monstrous types. The always irritable Gorilla Grodd is large and often in charge, with fellow Flash villains Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, and Captain Cold also on hand. The wild and scary looking Copperhead is in several issues along with a baddie named Hi-Jack who uses a card motif. Black Sapphire is also around to represent the female persuasion along with Sinestro who flies in from outer space just for the original meeting. That meeting was set up by Manhunter, or more specifically a clone of the original Paul Kirk who has gathered together the villains to combat a greater evil. A quick glance at the first several covers (see below) and you can tell the greater threat was Darkseid and his monstery minions (Kalibak and Mantis) relatively fresh from their defeat in the pages of Jack Kirby's classic Fourth World books a few years before.

The first story arc by Conway and David Kraft with artwork by Pablo Marcos shows the war against Darkseid's latest schemes. The fifth issue has Rich Buckler in his full-Kirby mode inked by Vinnie Colletta, which gives the story a sense of what Kirby might've done had they tapped him for this series. It seems DC had plans for the New Gods, having the month previous to SSoSV's debut brought the heroic Fourth Worlders back in the finale of First Issue Special. But those plans came to very little. Then the SSoSV series is totally redirected.


Another refugee from Kirby's Fourth World, Funky Flashman (a Stan The Man lookalike for sure) tries to take over and the book becomes a who's who of villainy with appearances by Lex Luthor, the Trickster, Matter Master, Felix Faust, Captain Stingaree, and more. The Society starts gathering up sorcery-laden knickknacks while Captain Comet alongside Black Canary, Hawgirl, Kid Flash, and the Creeper tries to put a halt to it. The action comes fast and furious as the book careens wildly for several issues.

The Society lasted a solid fifteen issues, with an unpublished sixteenth, appearing in the legendary Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. The talent in this series is pretty impressive with writing by Conway, Kraft, and Bob Rozakis and art by Marcos, Rich Buckler, Dick Ayers, and in  later issues Mike Vosburg. The original kick-off to the series was showcased in an issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics  featuring a slightly different gaggle of villains including the wildly ugly Clayface and some exciting artwork by Ric Estrada.

Below are the covers of the issues contained in this trade. All or some of the stories from these books will make any Bronze Age fan's heart beat a little faster. This is deep fun stuff, the cream of what made DC's  Bronze efforts so entertaining, a time when DC was however briefly my favorite comic book company. Ah, those were the days.











Actually the solicitiations I read for this book suggested all of the SSoSV  run was contained in one volume. Sadly only half. The rest of the exciting issues (covers seen below) will be in the follow up I assume, which I hope hits the stands soon.














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5 comments:

  1. Rip, this tpb arrived at my door from Amazon last Thursday and I love it! I became a regular SSSV readers along about issue #5, and loved the Kid Flash issues especially. So far I've read the first issue in the trade, and was very pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Pablo Marcos's art. I generally do not care for his inks. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book, and the coming release of the second volume.

    Doug

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    1. There was a time when for a few years DC Comics was more fun than a bag of cats. The SSoSV was a big part of the zany mix, and I well remember making DC my favorite company (in my head at least) but alas the great implosion took out most the books I enjoyed.

      Marcos is senstive to inking and Bob Smith is an ideal choice for his work. Vinnie Colletta (as much as I like him) was not.

      This volume really made me appreciate the final chapter of the Darkseid storyline with Buckler and Colletta doing a great homage/swipe of Kirby, akin to a lost Fourth World chapter.

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  2. Loves me some JLA, especially Aquaman, so this post rocks!

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    1. The comic was to my mind at the time and seems so still the counter-JLofA book. In JLofA we got to see what the heroes were up to and in SSoSV we got to see where the baddies hang out.

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  3. I had 9 original issues of this series: quite an achievement, considering the spotty and erratic distribution of DC in late-70s West Central Scotland. I liked the random assemblages of heroes and villains. My particular favourites were the Crime Syndicate issues; I hadn't read the second summer Crisis yet and it was a glimpse into a glamorous but unattainable Silver Age. Then I discovered mail order back issue sellers!

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