Friday, July 12, 2013
CHRISTMAS IN JULY
in my birth month of December 1951. Priced at a whopping-for-the-
era fifty cents, it contained 196 pages of comics with a seasonal
cover. Judging from the cover shown here, issues featuring Captain
Marvel, Captain Marvel Junior and Tom Mix were included in the mix.
I had assumed these were unsold comics bound together, but a quick
check with The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide reveals the comic
books were printed at the same time as the originals. I don’t know
how many contents variations can be found in copies of this issue.
If you know, please enlighten me.
I’ve never owned or seen any issue of Xmas Comics, but I did have
an issue of the similar Gift Comics. I bought it from Jerry Bails
at a Detroit Triple Fan Fare before I moved to New York to work at
Marvel. I don’t have this comic book anymore, but I’m pretty sure
it was the 1949 edition with 324 pages of comics for its original
cover price of fifty cents.
Keep watching this bloggy thing as we close in on the conclusion of
these looks at vintage comic books from my birth month. Just a few
more to go.
My comics reading continues to range all over the years. From my
local library system, I borrowed and read Batman: Dark Victory by
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in its 2001 trade paperback edition [DC;
$19.99]. It’s a sequel to the 1996-1997 Batman: The Long Halloween
and shares a flaw with that earlier work. I’ll get to that flaw in
Batman: Dark Victory is gruesomely entertaining. A serial killer
known as the Hangman is executing former and current policemen and
the suspects include Holiday (from The Long Halloween), Two-Face,
the Calendar Men and various members of crime families. Along the
way, Loeb and Sale also deliver family troubles for Jim Gordon, a
mystery about Catwoman’s involvement with these killings, a whole
bunch of Bat-villains and, in the later chapters of the story, the
introduction of Dick Grayson and Robin. There’s a lot of content
to this story, which originally ran 14 issues, but it never feels
padded or rushed. It’s just right and I liked it a lot.
The flaw? As with The Long Halloween, Batman takes a year to bring
this case to a close. The world’s greatest detective takes a year
to see justice done to the Hangman and, with every month, the price
for this failure is more bodies. I’m on record as disliking DC’s
portrayal of Batman as all-knowing and, in a sense, all-powerful.
Not to mention insane. But, while the Batman of this story seems
to be in full possession of his facilities and with his anger well
under control, it takes him an awful long time to catch the killer.
Yes, it’s relatively early in his career, but it still seemed like
he could have done better. Call this a minor flaw and don’t let it
prevent you from checking out this fine Batman thriller.
I’ve been reading Catwoman - the series that ran from January 2002
to October 2008 - from start to finish and am enjoying it more than
any previous or later Catwoman titles. It’s so good that you should
scoop up the “New 52" Catwoman comics and just toss them into
a wood chipper or something. With this series as an example of how
good a Catwoman comic can be, how could DC have gone so very wrong
with that new series?
Writers Ed Brubaker and Will Pfeifer crafted a Selina Kyle who was
complicated and deep and wholly wonderful. She was a protagonist
who readers could cheer when she won her victories and feel pain with
when she suffered losses. Her stories, her East End locale and her
supporting cast all felt very real. Her villains were as scary as
they come. This Catwoman run is one of the all-time great comic-
book series. It deserves to be collected into one of those big-ass
The only time this Catwoman run is less than wonderful is when it
gets caught up in one of DC’s dopey events. Even then, it manages
to fare better than most of the other DC titles which got dragged
into the company’s big dopey events.
If I ever do a sequel to my best-selling 1000 Comic Books You Must
Read, figuring out which issues of Catwoman to include with be one
of my biggest challenges. Find these comic books on the back-issue
market. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve also been reading issues of Hulk/Incredible Hulk from the very
late 1990s and early 2000s. It’s been a chore, since I didn’t find
them particularly entertaining until Incredible Hulk #34 [January,
2002], the first issue written by Bruce Jones.
With terrific art by John Romita Jr and Tom Palmer, issues #34-39,
which is as far as I’ve gotten, knocked my socks off. Bruce Banner
is on the lam with the Hulk accused of killing a child. There are
shadowy government agents. There are sinister secrets waiting to be
exposed and explained. There are entire issues in which the Hulk
is an unseen presence. It’s one of the most different takes on the
character I’ve ever seen and I like it a lot.
For many years now, I haven’t made it a habit to read many comics
reviews. I don’t recall reading anything about fandom’s reactions
to the Jones run. I do recall a friend telling me it was a really
awful run and I guess I took him at his word. But I gave the first
issue a try and, well, I’m planning to read the Jones run through
to its conclusion. I’m looking forward to it.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella