Thursday, April 19, 2018

Flash Facts: Evil Elongated Man?

Flash and Elongated Man are some of the best of friends in the DC Universe, but even friends fight here and there. 

After all, Flash and Elongated Man fought way back when the stretchable sleuth first appeared in the Flash's comic...but it was all just a misunderstanding.  Ralph Dibny wouldn't go truly evil...would he?

Flash 252

With a "Double Dose of Danger" in Flash #252 (August, 1977) by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin (under a cover by Rich Buckler and Jack Abel), you might be inclined to rethink that thought.

Sue Dibny (Ralph's wife), came to Barry and Iris Allen for help, as her husband had disappeared after going undercover as a hood and disappeared quickly from their hotel room.  Barry explains to Iris he took Ralph away at super speed (while Ralph was drinking his Gingold, which gives him his stretchy powers) to capture the Chene Gang, which was pilfering Central City at that moment!  The two went to catch the gang, and caught one member, with the rest being holograms (or so they thought....as half of the money was still gone!).  Ralph investigated, and (in his criminal identity) found a twin, which had the rest of the money, and this pair planned another robbery at the airport.  Flash came to interfere, but ended up having to face the Molder....who was turning items into taffy (or at least as stretchy as taffy), but....why?

Flash 253

"Don't Mess With The Molder!" was the second part of this story, from Flash #253 (September, 1977) by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin, covered by Rich Buckler and Jack Abel.

After the Molder melted Flash down (on live TV no less, worrying both Iris and Sue), the Molder melted the member of the Chene Gang too, to escape with the loot, and take a rest in a junkyard.  Meanwhile, Iris broke into the hospital and exposed the Flash "protoplasm" to electricity, which was enough to help Barry reform his body, then the two went home, after Barry went to collect some fungus from South America.  Readers found out the origin of the Molder...that the super speed charged Gingold warped Ralph's mind, so Barry went to collect a fungus that attacked the plant the Gingold was based on, hoping that may cure Ralph by temporarily neutralizing his powers.  Flash had to fight off Russian spies who were threatening Sue to get the Molder to do their bidding...where he got help from the Elongated Man (as Flash had injected him with the fungus formula, which restored Ralph's normal memories, then a little later, took his powers away for a bit). 

The mystery of the Molder is solved!

But What About The Crisis?

Inexplicably, the Molder showed up during a panel of the Crisis On Infinite Earths #10 (January, 1986) facing Hawkwoman and Tin of the Metal Men...stretching things a bit, theories came about that this was another Molder from an issue of Brave and the Bold featuring Batman and Plastic Man (#76, from February-March, 1968) wearing Ralph's evil costume.....or could have been a time-tossed Dibny from when he was the Molder, but who knows? 

Something to think on....

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Superman and Batman Face Brainiac and Clayface

Superman and Batman were considered the World's Finest team....and, who could face them other than the most dastardly of foes?

Well, one such team up of their individual villains was very interesting, as it paired two of the heroes most popular villains of the age...but also two who likely had the least of a reason to meet...Brainiac and Clayface.

Before going into their team-up, a little of their individual history...


Brainiac

Vril Dox premiered in Action Comics #242 (July, 1958) by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, being an alien menace that came to Earth, with plans to shrink Earth cities and keep them as a part of his collection, which would lead to "The Super-Duel In Space" with Superman.

As Superman tried to get aboard Brainiac's ship, but was unable to due to Brainiac's Force Shield, Superman returned to Metropolis and was taken when Brainiac shrank that city.  Flying out of the bottle Brainiac kept it in, the smaller Superman had to take refuge in another bottle as he was being chased by Brainiac's pet monkey, Koko, and thus, Superman discovered the shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor which Brainiac had captured before Superman's homeworld of Krypton exploded; Superman did get his original size back, put Brainiac into suspended animation for a time, and took the small city of Kandor to his Fortress of Solitude, where he promised to restore the city to its original size (which he eventually did).

Brainiac, furious with Superman for costing him his cities, returned, threatening to destroy the Earth in Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #17 (May, 1960), exposed Superman to a combination of Red and Green Kryptonite in Action Comics #275 (April, 1961), then shrinks Superman and the Daily Planet staff (who get out of trouble with the help of Congo Bill and Congorilla in Action Comics #280 (September, 1961).

Brainiac's origin is finally revealed in Superman #167 (February, 1964) by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein, with "The Team Of Luthor And Brainiac".  Luthor discovers that Brainiac was really a robot created by the Computer Tyrants of Colu (and given a humanoid Coluian son, Vril Dox II, to complete the illusion...and later allow someone to start the lineage that let to the Legion of Super-Heroes' Brainiac 5, though this is not mentioned here).  Luthor helps free Brainiac from his interstellar prison, and while working with him, increases Brainiac's intelligence from 10th level to 12th on the planet Lexor (a world under a red sun where Luthor is a hero).  The villains defeat Superman by using a "coma ray" on him, and, after being captured by the Superman Emergency Squad (Kandorians who help as a squad of "little Supermen"), are found guilty in Kandorian court, but released so long as they take Superman out of his coma.  This leads Brainiac to his team-up with Clayface...  

Clayface

Matt Hagen first menaced the Dynamic Duo in Detective Comics #298 (December, 1961) under the guise of the shape-changing Clayface...a being able to morph into anything at will in "The Challenge of Clayface" by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris.


Matt Hagen got these powers after accidentally finding (then bathing) an underground grotto filled with strange chemicals.  During this first story, Clayface's powers were limited in time, and Matt would have to get away to the grotto to restore them, but was captured by Batman and Robin one time after his powers wore off, ending up in jail...

....but with Batman and Robin having no clue as to how Hagen got his powers.


Clayface returned after getting out of jail and going back to the grotto in Detective Comics #304 (June, 1962) being stopped by Batman being armed with a freeze ray, then again, when Batman finds the pool and takes a dip himself in Detective Comics #312 (February, 1963) wherein Batman also blows up the entrance to the pool, returns again with a synthetic version of the formula, but also has to contend with the Joker (upset this new villain is stealing his press) in Batman #159 (November, 1963).

Escaping from prison, Matt Hagen again becomes Clayface with the help of his synthetic chemicals, this time proving too much for Batman and Robin to handle in World's Finest Comics #140 (March, 1964) with "The Clayface Superman" by Dave Wood, Jim Mooney and Sheldon Moldoff.

While battling Clayface, Batman and Robin get help from Superman, at least until Clayface changes into Superman, and battles the Man of Steel to a draw, barely escaping.  Batman and Robin try using Kryptonite on Clayface in this form, but it only works until Clayface changes into something else (then back into Superman form when he has escaped).  Superman uses Red Kryptonite on Clayface, which is more effective, destabilizing Clayface long enough for his powers to run out.  After this, Clayface also needs a new home, as the Bat-titles are about to get a new look, and his type of science fiction crime is no longer welcome in Batman and Detective Comics....

The Team-Up

This leads to "The 1000 Tricks of Clayface and Brainiac" in World's Finest Comics #144 (September, 1964) by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein, uniting these two villains against the World's Finest heroes!

First, Brainiac returns to Earth, and destroys a prison, freed many criminals, including Matt Hagen., then goes to Metropolis to cause trouble at the Daily Planet, including coating Jimmy Olsen in Green Kryptonite dust (which means Superman can't work with Jimmy).  Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are searching for Hagen (who is exposing himself to the synthetic chemicals to change into Clayface).  Batman and Robin come to Metropolis, where Batman gets the idea of taking Jimmy to help him (including revealing his identity to the lad), while Robin helps Superman.

The two new partners are more of problem when facing the foes, causing both Robin and Jimmy Olsen to doubt themselves (with Jimmy nearly revealing the secret of the Bat Cave to Clayface, as Robin also is very unhelpful to Superman).  

This situation is made even worse as Brainiac gets the upper hand on Superman, as Clayface does on Batman after each team has a second confrontation with their foes....

....then Brainiac decides to team-up with Clayface to increase the menace, but, with some quick thinking by the Robin-Olsen team, the villains are defeated!


After

Brainiac and Clayface II met in Clayface II's next appearance, that of Action Comics #443 (January, 1975), which also included villains such as Merlyn, Grodd and Chronos, all to face the Justice League, then the two were also involved in the Crisis On Infinite Earths, especially #12, where Clayface II met his end, and Brainiac's ship was invaded by Adam Strange, Captain Comet and the rest of the Forgotten Heroes, which included Dolphin and Rip Hunter.

Stranger still, both Brainiac and Clayface had multiple versions, most of Brainiac's version manifesting during the Convergence, and a glimpse of four of the people who were Clayface showing up in Secret Origins (though there are even more!).



Better still, find out more on each of them, with the tradepaperbacks of Superman vs. Brainiac from 2008, and Batman Arkham: Clayface from 2017, sadly, neither of which include their team-up.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Superman Pays His Taxes

In one of the stories of Superman #114 (July, 1957), under a cover by Al Plastino, is "Superman's Billion-Dollar Debt", by Otto Binder, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye.

IRS Agent Jason Hawker comes after Superman for failure to pay his taxes, which Superman figures he doesn't owe, as he donates all his money to charity.  Hawker claims not so....and Superman tries to collect various treasures to pay his debt, failing as he does so.  But, there was a solution....Superman's dependents, which are all the inhabitants of Earth, who he has saved countless times.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Action Comics 1000 Will Be Here Soon

Quite a bit of history led up to Action Comics #1000.

It started with a #1, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, back in June, 1938, who even got to be special stars of issue #554.

It went through 9 previous centennial special anniversary issues, all of which featured a Superman with red trunks!

#100  #200  #300 #400  #500  #600 #700  #800 #900

As well as so many issues in between....

It premiered villains like the Parasite and Faora Hu-Ul of the Phantom Zone, as well as Superman's cousin, Supergirl, who had 4 Giants in Action Comics devoted to her!

Outpaced Detective Comics, to take the lead of DC Comics' issues.

What will happen in the next 1000 issues?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Key To Superman's History

Unlocking a little mystery of Superman, starting with a few facts related to his home, the Fortress of Solitude, as well as solving the mystery and defining the differences between the Golden Age/Earth-2 Superman and Silver Age/Earth-1 Superman, by telling where the first adventure of the Silver Age Superman is.....

The Super-Key To Fort Superman

In a story by Jerry Coleman, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, Action Comics #241 (June, 1958) introduces readers to Superman's Fortress of Solitude, a desolate area in the arctic, which is place where he can go to relax, as well as conduct experiments (including samples of Kryptonite), keep keepsakes for his friends, follow up on his hobbies and keep trophies and souvenirs, which includes an interplanetary zoo. 


This is a well protected place, but, Superman's friend, Batman, found a way to sneak in, to play a prank on Superman, and remind him of the anniversary of the day Superman first arrived on Earth from Krypton.


This key issue has been reprinted many times, most notably in the Superman Annual #1 of 1960, as well as in the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives #1 of 2004, more or less making this the first appearance of the Silver Age Superman (the arctic Fortress is one of the defining characteristics of the Earth-1 Superman, as is soon to follow additions to the Superman family, like Brainiac and the city of Kandor which Superman would store in the Fortress as well, and Supergirl and her home of Argo City). 

But, this story focuses on Superman having a rich past, so, it obviously isn't the start of the Silver Age Superman, so, let's continue the look back to find a few more distinguishing characteristics....and the true first appearance.

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen

It was the Silver Age that saw Jimmy Olsen to be more involved in Superman's life, and that started with Jimmy getting his own title with Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 (September-October, 1954).

Jimmy got first used his signal watch, which he could use to call Superman in this issue, as well as the introduction of the Flying Newsroom, which allowed Jimmy to quickly get into the action (or trouble), so he could capture photos of breaking news...and later issues introduced things like Jimmy's own super-hero identity of Elastic Lad, as well as Morgan Edge and the beginnings of the battle for control of the Fourth World with Orion and Darkseid.


Jimmy was just the photographer, it was Clark Kent and Lois Lane who usually put words to the pictures, and Lois got the start of her solo adventures as well, a few years later, starting with Showcase #9 (July-August, 1957), which, after a second featured appearance in Showcase, led to her own title as well. 

Just a few issues prior to Lois' focused debut, was Showcase #4 (September-October, 1956), with the premiere of the Silver Age Flash Barry Allen, and a few years after that, the concept of Earth-1 and Earth-2 was introduced in Flash #123 (September, 1961) with the return of the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick (and, soon after that, the return of the Golden Age Justice Society, the counterparts of the Silver Age Justice League of America).

World's Finest Comics

One of the Silver Age Superman's friends in the Justice League of America was Batman, and their regular team-ups began with World's Finest Comics #71 (July-August, 1954), as their two features in this magazine merged into one.   Before that, the only time the two teamed up in this comic were for the symbolic covers that they had, suggesting Superman and Batman (as well as Robin) were friends, but only teasing readers.

These team-ups predated their founding of the Justice League of America (along with Flash Barry Allen and four others: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern, and their first published battle against Starro the Conqueror), but their friendship had begun even before that.


It was in Superman #76 (May-June, 1952) that Superman and Batman learned each other's identities (a crucial point in the story of the Fortress, as Batman used that knowledge to torment Superman), and this issue was also counts as the first appearance of the Silver Age Batman (as well as Robin), though it was not the first meeting of the Silver Age Superman and Batman....that happened in a flashback tale told in World's Finest Comics #94 (May-June, 1958)

Superboy

Superman recalled events of his earlier life in Superboy #1 (March-April, 1949), which was a title devoted to the adventures of Superman when he was a boy living in Smallville with Ma and Pa Kent, facing a younger Lex Luthor, and keeping his secret from Lana Lang.

Superboy was another unique factor in the life of the Silver Age Superman; the Golden Age Superman did not have adventures in costume as a boy, only slowly learning of his powers over time (including an adventure where Superboy crossed over from Earth-1 to Earth-2, to help teach a confused young Clark Kent on that world a little bit about dealing with his Kryptonian powers).

 
But, Superboy #1 was not the first appearance of Superboy, that happened in More Fun Comics #101 (January-February, 1945), where we first saw the adventures of the younger Superman (by extension, this also makes More Fun Comics #101 the first Earth-1 story, as all the other comics of the time dealt with Golden Age characters and members of the Justice Society of America and Seven Soldiers of Victory, as well as many unaffiliated heroes....which were retroactively put into the All-Star Squadron).  Superboy's adventures continued from More Fun Comics to Adventure Comics, where he met a literal Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics #247 (April, 1958), a team of heroes from the future who recruited the lad to join him (and a team which, in the real world, predated the Justice League of America).

Now, More Fun Comics #101 could be considered the first appearance of the Silver Age Superman (as Superboy would later grow up to be Superman), but the earliest chronological appearance of the Earth-1 Superman as Superman was in Superman #46 (May-June, 1947), in a story called "That Old Class Of Superboy's" by Jerry Siegel, John Sikela and George Roussos, wherein Clark Kent checks up on some of his old Smallville classmates (and mentions being Superboy for the first time in a Superman story).  Worth noting as well, Lois Lane is also in this story, which makes this the first appearance of a Silver Age Lois Lane as well....solving the mystery of the beginning of the Silver Age Superman.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Action Comics Centennial 800 and 900

Here are the last two major numerical milestones that Action Comics had to pass to get to the big anniversary issue #1000....

...those of Action Comics #800 and #900!


Action Comics 800

Action Comics #800 (April, 2003) has a painted cover by Drew Struzan, evoking the image of of the cover of Action Comics #1, with Superman taking out that pesky car, is written by Joe Kelly (with art by a small army of artists, with Pascual Ferry, Duncan Rouleau and Lee Bermejo handling the main connection story of "A Hero's Journey").

This issue details the current history of Superman from Kryptonian orphan to Smallville farmboy to Metropolis reporter (in a pretty straightforward fashion than hiding it behind a villain's plot, like Action Comics #500), with intermediate breaks in the art to summarize Superman's history in other media such as radio and TV, and how the world at large perceives the Man of Steel, with art by Alex Ross, Tony Harris, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Bullock, Ed McGuinness, J. H. Williams, Dan Jurgens, Klaus Janson, Kilian Plunkett, Jim Lee, Tim Sale and Lee Bermejo, with inks where needed by Cam Smith, Mario Alquiza, Scott Hanna and Duncan Rouleau

If you look hard, you can even find a representation of the late Curt Swan in the book.....



Action Comics 900

Action Comics #900 (June, 2011) had a main cover by David Finch, and main story of "The Black Ring Finale Reign Of Doomsday" written by Paul Cornell, with art by Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle and Jon Sibal and Gary Frank, with additional stories and covers as well.....

The main story wraps up an epic Superman/Luthor battle that had been running for a while, with Luthor gaining ultimate power (with it, he could be a hero, but he'd have to stop hating Superman, and Luthor just couldn't, losing all that power because he just couldn't accept victory without defeating Superman), while also setting up for the next run of stories with Steel, Superboy, Supergirl, the Eradicator and the Cyborg Superman facing off against multiple Doomsdays!

The additional covers were by Adam Hughes (evoking a famous Neal Adams' cover from Superman #233), Alex Ross (going back to Action Comics #1) and Rodolfi Migliari....

...with stories "Life Support" by Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook dealing with a little help Jor-El got on Krypton, "Autobiography" by Paul Dini, R. B. Silva and Rob Lean focusing on what a Superman can and cannot do;

"Friday Night In The 21st Century" by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank with Lois inviting the Legion of Super-Heroes for dinner, "The Incident" by David Goyer and Miguel Sepulveda having Superman ill-advisedly give up the American Way part of his mantra (forgetting having the freedom to disagree is a part of the American Way), and set up like movie drawboards, a story by Richard Donner and Derek Hoffman with art by Matt Camp, revealing Superman is "Only Human", with the issue capped off by an illustration by Brian Stelfreeze showing "The Evolution of the Man of Tomorrow".

With that, time to get ready this month for Action Comics #1000 and 80 years of Superman!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Brings Showers With Aquaman And Weather Wizard

Looking out for the people of New York faced with a sudden flood...

....Aquaman has to battle the Weather Wizard in the April drawing for the 1978 DC Calendar Of Super-Spectacular Disasters as drawn by Jim Aparo!