Friday, June 19, 2020

SPECTACULAR COMICS 100-PAGE SPECIAL # 3

Inspired by DC Comics' 1970s 100-Page Super SpectacularsSpectacular Comics 100-Page Special is a monthly series of fabricated 100-page comic books slapped together from various sources, celebrating comics from the '30s to the '80s. It's not real. But it is Spectacular.



I was tempted to make this month's issue of Spectacular Comics an all-Dennis O'Neil issue, in memory of the comics writer who meant so much to me. I got as far as pulling a number of O'Neil's '60s and '70s works out of my comics storage files, including some Wonder Woman, Green/Lantern/Green Arrow, Beware The Creeper, Superman, and Justice League Of America, plus a mostly-prose Batman story that O'Neil wrote (and for which Marshall Rogers provided gorgeous illustration), before deciding I wanted to retain the variety aspect of Spectacular. Those O'Neil works will likely be seen in future issues.

But I did want to bookend this issue with stories by O'Neil. We begin with a 1971 story from World's Finest Comics, during the brief period when the book became a Superman team-up title (like The Brave And The Bold, which featured Batman with various co-stars, [some of whom were not Sgt. Rock], and like the subsequent Superman team-up series DC Comics Presents). Early '70s DC was kind of my Golden Age, considering that I was 10 to 14 years old in that 1970-74 time span. This team-up of Superman and Wonder Woman was chosen here to represent O'Neil's work on both characters in their own titles. I'll probably have a two-part O'Neil Wonder Woman story next month.

And, of course, we have to close with The Batman. 1972's "At Dawn Dies Mary MacGuffin!" is prime O'Neil Batman. When talking about his stories, O'Neil often used the word "MacGuffin," a term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, referring to the convenient thing--a person, place, object, whatever--that is at the center of a tale but has no intrinsic value otherwise; it's a plot device, like the Maltese Falcon. So it's fitting that O'Neil wrote of Mary MacGuffin, whose kidnapping sets the story in motion. The art on this one is just gorgeous; we speak so often of artist Neal Adams when we talk about this period of The Batman, but we should also give some attention to the late Irv Novick, who I'm pretty sure penciled a lot more of O'Neil's Batman stories than Adams did. Add inker Dick Giordano (who embellished both Adams and Novick) and editor Julius Schwartz, and you have the names of the five people most responsible for rehabilitating the image of The Batman after the campy '60s TV series had run its course.

Following O'Neil's seminal Bat-work, my favorite run of Batman stories was really the late '70s stories by writer Steve Englehart with artists Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. Rogers is represented in this issue of Spectacular with some Marvel Comics work, collaborating with Craig Russell on a Dr. Strange story written by Chris Claremonte. Let's throw in a 1952 adventure starring the original Captain Marvel, writer-artist Dan Reed's 1982 revival of 1960s Charlton Comics Action Heroes The Blue Beetle and The Question, and a terrific 1986 story by Doug Wildey from the first issue of Comico's excellent Jonny Quest series.

Superman and Wonder Woman in "Journey To The End Of Hope!," World's Finest Comics # 204 (August 1971)
Dr. Strange in "To Steal The Sorcerer's Soul!," Marvel Fanfare # 5 (November 1982)
"Captain Marvel and the Famine Foiler," Captain Marvel Adventures # 130 (March 1952)
The Blue Beetle and The Question in "The Enigma!," Charlton Bullseye # 1 (June 1981)
Jonny Quest in "The Sands Of Khasa Tahid," Jonny Quest # 1 (June 1986)
The Batman in "At Dawn Dies Mary MacGuffin!," Batman # 241 (May 1972)

Apologies for using a different issue of Captain Marvel Adventures in the photo header. I wanted to include the World's Mightiest Mortal in that picture, but the issue I have on hand is simply too fragile to be of any use here. Instead of getting flakes of yellow pulp all over everything, I grabbed a different Captain Marvel story off the internet to use in this month's Spectacular.

Everything is copyright the respective rights holders, and shown here only in sample pages. I share a peek at the whole book with my paid patrons. Spectacular Comics will return in about a month, with contents to be determined at the last minute. That's how I roll. Does that seem arbitrary? No. It's Spectacular.

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