Thursday, October 18, 2007

Still the World's Finest


When I was twelve or so, Superman and Batman were my favorite comic book heroes. I read all the DC books with these two. Superman, Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, Brave and the Bold, Justice League of America. I even read Lois lane and Jimmy Olsen because Superman figured in those titles. But the best comic for a fan of the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader was World's Finest Comics, because in that one you got an adventure that featured both heroes as a team.
These days Bats and Supes don't always get along but back then they were the best of friends. They always had each others backs. I prefer those days to the grim and gritty versions of the characters appearing in the current comics. My pal Cliff and I were talking about how much more fun comics used to be. These days, it seems that the two Big companies, Marvel and DC, are constantly trying to re-invent their classic characters, often throwing out years of established continuity and characterization just for shock value. I've just about stopped reading monthly comics, it's gotten so bad.
Luckily DC is currently putting out a wonderful series of reprint volumes called Showcase, named after the old DC anthology title, where many of their Super Heroes had their first appearances. The Showcase volumes are a great deal. 500 pages of comics for $19.95. And often these are reprints of older comics that would be extremely expensive if you tried to buy the actual back issues. These are great for new readers and old, because the new fans can catch up on the early adventures of their heroes and long time fans can read the stories without having to dig through their collections, or if they're like me and got rid of the originals, now they can have these inexpensive and easily stored volumes.
So far my favorite volumes have been The Brave and the Bold, which featured team-ups of many DC heroes and a lot of Neal Adams art, and the Metal Men, which has great art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito and a ton of old fashion SF type adventures of everyone's favorite robot crime fighters.
However this weeks offering, World's Finest, is making a fast climb up the charts. Not only does it feature the earliest team-ups of Superman and Batman, but it has artwork by Curt Swan, who is my favorite Superman artist, and by Dick Sprang, who is at the top of my Batman artist list. The stories are a tremendous amount of fun. Back in the day, Batman and Superman spent most of their time fighting gangsters and regular crooks, not super villains. So stories had to be cleverly plotted and not just slug fests. Oh there is the occasional appearance by The Joker or Lex Luthor, and there are some nifty science fiction style adventures, but for the most part, Bats and Supes spend a lot more time in the real world than they do nowadays. Super heroes used to be catalysts, rather than stars. Stories were often more about the victims than the heroes. Super powers were used sparingly. Think of the old George Reeves Adventures of Superman show. Reeves spent more time as Clark Kent than Superman. That's how the comics used to be too. Writers actually had to come up with stories.
So in case you can't tell, I really really like the World's Finest Showcase. It takes me back to a time when Superman and Batman weren't only the best heroes the world had to offer, they were also best friends. And I like that.

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