Following up from last week’s columns, here are the top 5 reprints DC needs to get onto bookstore shelves ASAP! These are all true classics that deserved to be shown a little more respect.
Again, if any of these have recently been published or solicited, my apologies. I'm trapped in a pre-Crisis time vortex.
5. Adventures of Rex, the Wonder DogCould you imagine just how cool a Showcase Presents this would make? I know that old school characters have become punch lines over the years, but these are really, really fun stories. These are stories that are well crafted, self contained and featuring creative and exciting artwork. Sure, they are a bit silly but is that really such a bad thing? Finally, these are stories you can actually read with your children. Although Alex Toth was the initial artist on the strip, it's really Gil Kane's baby - and he does a wonderful job of adapting Robert Kanigher's and John Broome's inventive strips for the four color world. In the 1950s, DC was struggling to find its identity and experimenting with many different genres, and I think they were very successful with this fun series that lasted until the end of the decade. I cannot understand how this hasn’t been reprinted yet.
4. Golden Age RobotmanLong before Cliff Steele became a member of the Doom Patrol, another Robot Man patrolled the DCU. This character was created by Jerry Siegel, but really found a nice groove when Jimmy Thompson took over the strip. It’s a lot of fun, driven by Thompson’s creative visuals – which really stand out from most of DC’s output during that era. The strip ran (between Star Spangled Comics and Detective Comics) for over a decade, so there are plenty of stories from which to choose, if DC decided to do a ‘Best Of’. I’d be upset if they didn’t include at least one story featuring Robbie, the Robot Dog.
3. VigilanteI cannot understand why DC never got around to launching the Vigilante Archives. Mort Meskin has a legion of fans that would scoop it up in a heartbeat. Like Robotman, Vigilante ran as a back-up for well over a decade, but has received very little attention in the reprint world. It’s a shame, because this is one of the finest strips published by DC in the 40s and 50s. Perhaps it’s because the character’s always been a bit of a square peg in the round hole of the DCU – but still, these stories deserve a wider audience. We need this, if only for the chance to gaze upon the greatness of Meskin for a reasonable price. I’ve tried collective the back issues – and it’s not easy on the wallet.
2. The Lazarus AffairIn my opinion, this is possibly the greatest Batman arc of all-time and it’s a crime that it hasn’t been reprinted. Usually DC hops on the Hollywood bandwagon and releases a string of TPBs with even the most tenuous link to whatever Bat-Movie is in theatres. How did they miss the opportunity to put this at the same time as ‘Batman Begins’? This story arc, that ran in Batman #332 to #335, is rarely brought up in ‘Batman’s Greatest’ type discussions, but I can’t think of anything I’ve re-read as often as The Lazarus Affair. What makes this one so special? How about a little Ra’s Al Ghul? How about Catwoman in her purple Golden Age costume? How about the return of King Farraday? How about the sexual tension that’s about as thick as a 100 Page Super Spectacular? Of course, all of these elements are mixed together into a wonderful mélange by Marv Wolfman and drawn by the awesome team of Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin. Novick certainly deserves to be counted among the top Batman artists, and I would use his great pencils here as proof. Of course, the Jim Aparo covers are even better! As an added bonus, we are treated to an ongoing solo Catwoman feature drawn by Don ‘Effin Newton! It has a real ‘James Bond’ feel to it and proves that Batman can do ‘international intrigue’ if handled well. It would make for a very nice, slim volume that would look great on my bookshelf.
1. Johnny Thunder in All-American WesternTwo words: Alex Toth. This is perhaps the greatest western strip of the Golden Age and it showcases Alex Toth’s talent for storytelling more than any other series, with the possible exception of Zorro. Johnny Thunder’s stories (mostly written by Robert Kanigher) are entertaining and very creative. The triangular relationship between Johnny Thunder, Sheriff Tane and his son John, the pacifist schoolteacher adds a nice layer of drama. It took me years, but I finally pieced together a full run of these books – but I would be first in line if DC ever decided to come to its senses and give this series the TPB treatment. There are thousands of Toth devotees out there, and we’re all waiting on this one.
Honorable Mentions: Amethyst, Detective Chimp, Secret Six, Overland Coach, Congo Bill, Nighthawk, Night Force and many others that do not come to mind this rainy morning.
For more random talk about old funnybooks, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent