Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "golden-age"

Book Review: Batman Archives, Volume 2

Batman Archives, Vol. 2 Batman Archives, Vol. 2 by Bill Finger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book contains nearly 300 pages of Golden Age reprints of Batman stories from Detective Comics #51-#70 with each story being 12 pages long.

The book features a great introduction by crime writer Max Allan Collins who breaks down the history on each comic and what it's going for. Collins is also able to offer some cogent comparisons with Dick Tracy.

Then we're for a total of 20 different stories which are solid quality. Of the twenty stories in the book, we have the first two stories with Two Face, three stories with Penguin (including the first two), and three with the Joker.

And the rest of the book is no slouch either. There's a great amusement park story which is plenty of fun: pirates, a story featuring black marketeers with a fight on board a Nazi Zeppelin. There are some strange crime tales like a man who has 24 hours to live and starts killing off his heirs, a criminal gang hijacking police radio to send criminal messages, and a phony mentalist that actually gets the ability to read minds. I also loved, "The Three Racketeers."

The war rhetoric stars to heat up. Batman wants everyone to do their part, urging criminals shooting at him to conserve on bullets and the Joker flies away in a stolen bomber but assures Batman, "I'll send the Bomber back so it can drop a few eggs on the Japs." The Joker may be a homicidal maniac, but he's a patriotic one!

Robin continues to be outstanding, less of the traditional sidekick and more of a true partner. The villains put Batman to the test and Batman comes through every time.

These are simply superb stories. There are minor points to critique. The second Two Face Story is a little too over the top. The story featuring a Raffle Rip off named Baffles is merely okay. And the gesture of having the entire city conspire to deceive the parents of an understudy actress is sweet, but comes off as more of a Superman thing to do with an ending that's a little forced. It's interesting to see someone argue that Gotham City isn't so bad though as we live in the "Gotham is hell" age.

Overall, these stories are absolute fun. The rough edges of the early comics have been cleaned up and what remains is one of the best Golden Age characters of them all. Whether in the Archives or the Batman Chronicles, these are must-read stories.

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Published on October 17, 2013 23:00 Tags: batman, golden-age

Book Review: Batman Chronicles, Volume 2

The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 2 The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 2 by Bill Finger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 2nd Volume collects Batman stories from Detective Comics #39-#45 which were relatively short 13 page stories as well as stories from Batman #2 and #3, which were larger magazines dedicated to Batman and contained 3-4 stories each and then a Batman and Robin story from New York World's Fair Magazine.

It's worth noting that these are truly Batman and Robin stories. The Boy Wonder continues to bring color, life, and fun to each adventure, saving Batman's bacon a few times with the Dark Knight returning the favor.

The stories themselves are mostly okay. The first concept for Clayface appears in Detective Comics #40. Batman and Catwoman make a couple of appearances each including one joint appearance in Batman #2 which features the Catwoman and the Joker. The other stories are a mix of pulp fiction style stories with a few mysteries thrown in complete with list of clues and suspects for young readers to solve.

A big focus of Batman in these early years was to teach kids that criminals were not worthy of admiration, which is why Robin routinely beats several older criminals at a time as he did when Batman and Robin took on a crime school set up to teach boys the ways of crime. This message was never more clear as the intent than at the end of Batman #3 when a written statement from Batman appears encouraging readers to eschew a life of crime.

The sad irony in this is that many Batman stories with their focus on cool villains may almost seem to cut counter to this old fashioned message. However, in this book, the message comes through loud and clear, and thanks to the plucky boy wonder, it comes through with style.

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Published on December 04, 2013 18:00 Tags: batman, golden-age

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age All-Winners, Vol. 4

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age All-Winners, Vol. 4 Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age All-Winners, Vol. 4 by Bill Finger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This final of All Winners Comics collects Issues 15-19, 21 and Vol. 2, Issue 1 collecting issues from 1945 and '46 and the series 1948 revival.

The writing and art for the first four issues was far from great in Issues 15-18. The first three issues featured stories with the Sub-mariner, Captain America, and the Whizzer. The Human Torch who was the other member of Marvel's big 3 was left out due to printing restrictions during the war, but returned in Issue 18. The Sub-Mariner's face had become ridiculous with a shape that was a lot like a slice of Pizza. The stories with the most potential in these first few issues were actually the Whizzer which could have been a lot of fun if they weren't hastily wrapped up in 8 pages.

But, the reason to read this book was Issue 19 which featured Marvel's first superhero team: The All-Winners Squad with Captain America, Namor, the Human Torch, the Whizzer, and Miss America together in one adventure. In a way that illustrated that even in 1946, Marvel was quite different from DC, this first adventure begins with the Human Torch accusing Namor of false-dealing and Namor and the Torch's sidekick Toro storming out in a huff. Yeah, that's the Marvel way of having a superhero team.

Like many of the All Star Comics and Leading Comics stories, the All Winners Sqaud followed a pattern where individual heroes would have an adventure and then team back up at the end. The Sub-mariner/Toro adventure was probably the highlight of the issue as Namor was particularly anti-social and the two had contrasting powers. The overall adventure was fun, solid, but could just as easily been a Seven Soldiers of Victory story or All Star Squad.

There was no Issue 20 and Roy Thomas speculate on why in his always-enlightening introduction, but Issue 21 features another All-Winners Squad adventure. This time the Squad faces a scientist from the future who plans to depopulate 20th Century earth to make way for his own people. In some ways, this calls to be mind the Silver and Bronze Age encounters with Kang the Conqurer.

This story requires a little more suspension of disbelief as the Futureman sets to go to each continent. We have to believe that the All Winners Squad will find him in time, but it's the Golden Age of comics and believing is what it's all about.

All Winners went out of business and relaunched in August 1948 without the squad but with stories from each of the big three: Namor, Captain America, and Human Torch, as well as a new comer the Blonde Phantom. The Namor story was a nice little detective episode and Namor's face was not so unnaturally triangular anymore. The Cap story was fine and a lot of fun. It was the type of lighter golden age fare that Batman and Superman enjoyed but I'd never seen from cap between fighting Nazis and the Horror comics. The Torch story was just a standard crime affair. In his introduction, Roy Thomas states that the Blonde Phantom was meant to compete with Wonder Woman and he compared her to a female Batman. To me she looks more like a combination of Quality's Phantom Lady and Will Eisner's Lady Luck. Either way, she wasn't headliner material.

Overall, this is a mixed book. The early story are unremarkable and show the dearth of quality available during the war. The All Winners Squad stories are firsts for the Marvel universe and well-worth the read. And Volume 2, Issue was a noble attempt to keep Superheroes alive that sadly didn't work out.

The Roy Thomas intro is exhaustive and educational, so overall, it's a collection worth reading.

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Published on December 18, 2013 17:49 Tags: captain-america, golden-age, human-torch, submariner

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America, Vol. 3

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America, Vol. 3 Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America, Vol. 3 by Joe Simon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 9-12 of the Golden Age Captain America. It also includes a contrast of styles. Issues 9 and 10 were the last for creators Jack Kirby and Joe Simon and Issues 11 and 12 were the first two under the hand of Young Stan Lee as at least editor and perhaps writer.

The Simon-Kirby books were marked by a series of short tales that were a mix between horror and espionage. Under Stan Lee,the stories became more like the superhero stories that were being put out by DC and its predecessor companies, and also a bit longer. One of my highlights is Captain America #12 which rather than featuring three small stories, they featured two full length adventures covering a total of 40 pages. Keeping in mind this was a monthly magazine, that wasn't bad for a dime. All the Captain America stories are typically great.

The Marvel Masterworks collects reprints the whole book with its back up features which doesn't add anything other than for diehard completists. They're pretty tame. We're given four stories featuring newsman Headline Hunter, and two superheroes named Father Time and the Hurricane who believe that being a good superhero means ripping your shirt off for no reason. The Hurricane was another attempt to answer DC's Flash. The reason for Father Time remains foggy. The big weakness of these stories have been the limited space. They only had 5-7 pages to tell them and even the heroes had to rush. In Captain American #11, a woman is shocked that her cousin tried to kill her. The Hurricane (moving fast as always) interrupts with, "Let's forget it about Florence, what are you doing tonight?") There were certainly artists and writers that could make these short stories work. They just weren't working for Marvel predecessor Timely.

The one exception and one really delightful extra appears in Captain America #12 in the Stan Lee story with The Imp, a very cute kids superhero story told in Dr. Suessesque style rhyme.

Overall, the book's upside includes works by true comic greats Jack Kirby and Joe Simon at their prime and some fun stuff by young Stan Lee. The weak extra between detract a little, but not enough to make this book anything other than a Must-read for Captain American and comic fans.

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Published on January 14, 2014 18:09 Tags: captain-america, golden-age

Book Review: Wonder Woman Chronicles, Volume 3

The Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 3 The Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 3 by William Moulton Marston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book collects Wonder Woman Stories from Sensation Comics #15-#18, Wonder Woman Issues #4 and 5, and Comics Cavlacade #2.

Most but not all of Wonder Woman's Adventures tie into the war, but William Moulston Marston manages to do it with aplumb as Wonder Woman's efforts lead her to have to battle Japanese scientists who have developed a formula to turn women against their men in hopes of starting a male-female civil war. She also has to uncover the secret of a talking lion to foil some spies. In addition, in the highlight of the book from the Comic Cavalcade story, Adolf Hitler decides Wonder Woman is too dangerous and declares her Wanted: Dead or Alive. Whlle many heroes hunted Nazis, it was certainly a special case for the Nazis to hunt down the heroine.

The full issues were generally good with each story building on each other. Issue 4 once again featured four interlinked stories, this time focusing on the reform of Paula, the former Wonder Woman archfoe who becomes a full fledged free Amazonian. Issue 5 only the first and last stories were interlinked as war time paper shortages began to limit issue lengths.

On the non-War front, Wonder Woman battled the Mole Men in Wonder Woman #4, and in Issue #5 she took on Dr. Psycho, a powerful mind controlling super villain which was actually one of the better golden age villains.

The book is extremely well written, but again something kids should be cautious about as Marston's own kinks and beliefs come into play as well as a dose of Greek religion.

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Published on February 22, 2014 09:43 Tags: golden-age, wonder-woman

Book Review: Golden Age Submariner Volume 1

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Sub-Mariner - Volume 1 Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Sub-Mariner - Volume 1 by Bill Everett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're looking for pre-US entry into World War II heroes fighting Nazis, this collection is for you.

This book collects Issues 1-4 of the Golden Age Submariner comic with each comic being 60 pages long.Unlike other books, which were filled with back up features, each issue featured two Submariner stories and one Angel story.

The Sub-mariner had been around for a while and actually was the last of Timely's big three to get his own book. The Sub-mariner was an erratic character who would go from being a friend of humanity in one issue to attacking them in the next, to deciding to fight Nazis, and then deciding the whole war thing was kind of stupid.

Bill Everett really comes up with a memorable story for Issue 1 as the Nazis attack Atlantis and killing the Emperor (later ret-conned to a severe injury that put into a severe coma). While in the real world, attacking Russia was the Nazi's big tactical mistake, it's safe that bombing Atlantis had to be the Nazi's biggest blunder in the Marvel universe as Sub-mariner declares war right back on Germany. The first three issues are packed with Sub-mariner fighting the Nazis with Issue 3 featuring Sub in a great mystery adventure story with Nazis and Irish druids that time forgot. Issue 4 features more traditional mystery/light horror stories. All of them are very well-written and the art is a notch above most golden age stories.

What makes Sub-mariner so interesting is that he's not really an anti-hero but he's very alien in his values and priorities. He's not an assassin but he has little compunction about destroying an enemy, particularly Nazis. He's also concerned with Atlantis more than surface dwellers. In the second story in Issue 1, Sub-mariner, captures Nazis who'd stolen radium from a hospital in New York but returned the radium to the sea to save his own angel.

The Angel was the sub-mariner's back up character and while I'm not usually a fan of the character, his appearances is this book are probably the best I've seen as the twenty-page format helps to turn out a quality story. These remain strictly in the Mystery/Horror genre. The best Angel story I've read is in here with issue 3's "The Angels Draw a Comic Strip," featuring an utterly insane villain enslaving a staff of a comic book with the Angel undercover as a comic artist. I will admit it's still a mystery as to why he wears the costume. He says he's a private detective and I guess a blue unitard with wings is what fits in.

Beyond the two stars, there are some interesting text stories including one by a young Stan Lee. Overall, this is just a great volume and with it now in paperback, it's very well-priced. So i strongly recommend.

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Published on August 15, 2014 19:36 Tags: golden-age, submariner

Book Review: Golden Age USA Comics, Volume 2

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age U.S.A. Comics, Vol. 2 Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age U.S.A. Comics, Vol. 2 by Syd Shores

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've reviewed a lot of Golden Age comic book collections, but few have left me scratching my head as much as this book, which collects issues 5-8 of Timely's USA Comics.

The fact is that no single feature appears in all 4 issues, though a few appear in 2 or 3.

The highlight of the book is, without a doubt, the full length Captain America stories in Issues 6-8 and adventures of the Destroyer in Issues 6 and 8. The cover for Issue 7 is particularly iconic with Bucky parachuting in with Captain America firing a machine gun at the enemy. Ah, now that's what boys want! :)

Beyond that, the book is a hodgepodge of weirdness. There's the usually amusing Jeep Jones. The bizarre and varied adventures of Sergeant Dix, the non-sensical weirdness of three strangely dressed "Victory Boys." The utterly bizarre Blue Blade who (as World War II demanded) fought the Axis shirtless and with a sword. We have two new "Secret Stamp stories" which has the Secret Stamp moving beyond his typical repertoire of ferreting out spies that refuse to buy stamps. And then there's the lead character least likely to be revived by Marvel any time in the future. ("Japbuster" Johnston.) There's also a few one shot stories. I liked, "Death in the Coral Sea" in Issue 6 which centers on American sailors trying to survive a sinking.

Overall, these aren't the best Golden Age stories, but it gives you a flavor of the era: The mix of great stories, patriotism, stories that are offensive by modern standards, silly stories, stories so bad they're good, and stories so bad they're bad. You'll find a little bit of everything in this book.

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Published on May 06, 2015 22:28 Tags: captain-america, golden-age

Book Review: Superman Chronicles, Volume 6

The Superman Chronicles, Vol. 6 The Superman Chronicles, Vol. 6 by Jerry Siegel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Superman Chronicles continues its journey through the Man of Steel's early years, collecting Issues 10 and 11 of Superman, Action Comics #37-#40, and Superman Stories from World's Finest #2 and #3.

The stories are all by Jerry Siegel, but the art chores are down by four different artists with Leo Nowak being the best of them.

My favorite stories in there include, "The Invisible Luthor" which involves Luthor making things disappear and holding the city for ransom. The art on this one is superb.

Action Comics #37 features an attempt by the city to reform police with new Commissioners, but each new Commissioner is killed until someone has the idea of appointing Clark Kent.

Action Comics #38 features people committing crimes under radio control.

In Superman #11, there's the Corinthville Caper which has Clark and Lois heading to investigate a story of giant animals and finding more than meets the eye.

Action Comics #39 has a seemingly invulnerable radioactive criminal whose crimes are blamed on Superman. It's interesting that in some ways the early golden age Superman has a few themes in common with the oft-misunderstood Marvel characters of the 1960s and 1970s

There are also some weak stories in here, "The Yellow Plague" from Superman #11 has the Man of Steel going to an India tribe to find a cure from the stereotypical natives and Action Comics #40 has Superman playing nursemaid to the daughter of a billionaire.

This book being from Summer to Early Autumn 1941, there are quite a few stories of sabotage and intrigue. Two separate spy rings appear in Superman #10 in back to back stories. The most interesting one was in Zimba's Gold Badged Terrorists where an entire suburb disappeared.

There did seem to be a bit of a tonal issue as Superman was a bit rougher in this book than he had been some of the previous volumes. In many ways, Superman in this book feels like a throwback to the Superman earliest Golden Age stories as Superman is a bit more menacing than he has been for the last couple of volumes.

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Published on June 04, 2015 23:19 Tags: golden-age, superman

Book Review: Batman Chronicles, Volume 4

The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 4 The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 4 by Bill Finger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book collect Batman stories from Detective Comics #51-56, World's Finest #2 and #3 and Batman #6 and #7, covering material from May-November 1941. These are very strong stories and there's a nice variety. There are two stories featuring signature Batman villains, but also Batman taking on river pirates, old west mysteries, a mystery set in timber country, and of course a good share of good old urban mysteries.

Some highlights of the book:

Viola Vane (Detective Comics #53): Bruce Wayne and a friend get into an argument over whether everyone in Gotham are heartless. Batman gets a chance to show the city has heart when he saves a wanna be actress who has been fibbing to her parents about the success of her career (she's actually a waitress.) Batman gets the city to set her up as a successful actress with jewels and furs. In many ways, this seems more like a typical Superman story rather than Batman. However, when some criminals muscle in on her and try to rob her that adds a nice twist.

The Scarecrow is introduced in World's Finest #3 (that's odd because World's Finest rarely has such fine material.) The story establishes many facts such as his occupation and name. However, the character's use of guns and violence is unusual and something that would be later abandoned.

The Joker has a very solid story leading off Batman #7 when he gets a bunch of practical jokers to start committing crimes for him. little by little. The twisted nature of the Joker is definitely on display in this story as he slowly turns them from regular practical jokes to a life of crime. Though the story is maybe a little over the top in telling kids that practical jokes leads to homicidal mania.

Perhaps, the most important change in the book is the focus of the relationship between Batman and the police. In issue 6, he helps a young patrolman with a tough beat defeat criminals and internal police corruption. Batman #7 features a very solid story, "The People vs. Batman" where Bruce Wayne is framed for murder and it's up to Robin to get the killers and eventually Batman is broken out of jail leading Commissioner Gordon to deliver a speech to the jury on Batman's virtue. In context, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense as to why he would be making this speech in this context, but it's awesome speech. Not only is that, it shows a shift in the characters with Batman being appointed an honorary member of the Police force resulting in Batman and Gordon working close together for decades to come until the relationship would be redefined in the 1980s. That alone makes this a must-read chapter in the Batman story.

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Published on August 07, 2015 17:57 Tags: batman, golden-age

Book Review: Superman Chronicles, Volume 8

The Superman Chronicles, Vol. 8 The Superman Chronicles, Vol. 8 by Jerry Siegel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collection collects Superman Stories from Action Comics #44-#47 and Superman #14 and #15.

This book may be the best representative in the Chronicles of the very best of Golden Age Superman. The stories in this book vary greatly from a battle royale with Luthor in Action Comics #47 (where Luthor acquires super strength and near invulnerability) to Superman battling in an undersea kingdom, saving the day for a suicidal zookeeper to trouble at an amusement park. The variety here is very rich and all the stories are Superman golden age at their best.

The Luthor battle is the clear highlight of the book but I also find Superman #15 where Superman fights a pseudo Japan and a pseudo Germany in separate stories. Superman avoided direct involvement in the war and these stories illustrate why. Superman taking on a nation wouldn't be fair and would tend to undercut the nation's war efforts. Superman doesn't do that, but these stories do provide a kind of, "What if?" analysis.

Also, the cover of Superman #14 with the American Eagle on Superman's shoulder in awesome and one of the best comic book covers I've seen from the 1940s. It's right up there with Captain America punching Hitler.

Overall, this was the strongest volume of Superman Chronicles yet.

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Published on August 08, 2015 22:52 Tags: golden-age, superman

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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