You are all likely aware of the fact that Superman was the headliner DC Comics Presents, the much hyped the team-up book launched in 1978. You may even recall house ads from back in the day, showcasing other DC ‘team-ups’ to show the historical importance of the new series. What those ads failed to mention was that Superman had starred in a team-up book earlier in the decade.
Most people know World’s Finest Comics as the Superman/Batman title. Those two characters had shared covers (along with Robin) since the title’s inception as World’s Best Comics. Oddly enough, they didn’t share any adventures until 1954, when they were brought together by necessity. According to Julius Schwartz’ foreword to the DC Greatest Team-Ups, the two stars were brought together to save space (not outer space, just pages) as the formerly giant sized book was turned into a regular 10 center. For more than 15 years, Superman and Batman teamed-up to save the world from an assortment of absurd alien threats.
When Julius Schwartz took over the title in 1970 (with a two-part Superman/Flash race), he must have felt that Mort Weisinger's old recipe was getting stale, and he decided to turn it into Superman’s very own Brave and the Bold. Over the next 16 issues (with one reprint issue thrown in there), we got to see Superman with everyone from Hawkman to the Teen Titans. Are these the greatest team-up stories ever? No, but they are kind of fun and quirky – with some of DC’s young writing talent trying to find different ways for Superman and his guest start to defeat an assortment of absurd alien threats. Let’s take a look at some of them.
I’m going to start with World’s Finest #201, which brought Superman together with Green Lantern. Both Supes and GL try to deal with an extraterrestrial threat, and wind up tripping over each other. For some reason, a Guardian shows up and convinces them that only one can be the true protector of Earth. OK – so they go to Earth-2 and enlist Doctor Fate help (huh?) and he devises a contest to determine a true champion (seems like a Superman/Flash rehash). Anyway, as it turns out that was no Guardian; it was Felix Faust trying to dupe our heroes. It’s a so-so Denny O’Neil story, with various JLA cameos. I’m a big Dick Dillin fan, but his collaboration here with Joe Giella is very inconsistent.
Next up is World’s Finest #204, co-starring Diana Prince. If you’re like me, you love this era in Wonder Woman’s career. While this is yet another ‘topical’ story by O’Neil, it certainly is a must have for any Diana Prince completist. It’s also the first of the 25 cent Giants, featuring Golden Age reprints. This one has a tough to find Captain Comet story drawn by Murphy Anderson and a fairly generic George Papp drawn Green Arrow tale.
One of the nuttier (and therefore immensely enjoyable) issues from this era is World’s Finest #205. It seems that the Teen Titans have relocated to an idyllic town and are dedicated to keeping it crime free and stuck in the 50s. We see some rather odd behaviour, such as racial slurs towards Mal and Mal’s acceptance of said slurs that makes the reader start scratching his or her head. It seems that the Titans are not quite themselves and Superman arrives to investigate. The simple explanation is that alien machinery somehow transferred the thinking of a local racist/misogynist, Richard Hanley, onto the entire town. This is a Steve Skeates tour de force, as he had been recently bumped from the Teen Titans title and seems to be getting quite a bit out of his system. According to his recent interview in Alter Ego, the Richard Handley character was not so loosely based on DC scribe Bob Haney, who apparently took a more traditional approach to life (and his TT scripts) than did Skeates. We’ve also a rather entertaining Fox/Sekowsky sci-fi story from Strange Adventures #111 and a Frazetta Shining Knight reprint. I know that many people love this old Frazetta stuff, but I find that his work just doesn’t fit into the ‘6 Panels per page’ world. It’s a bit too stiff (that’s what she said).
World’s Finest #207 is the 2nd of 3 Batman team-ups we see during this stretch. That’s incredible, when you think that Superman only showed up once in 130+ Brave and the Bold team-ups. Len Wein wrote this tale (and brought along his favourite enchantress, Zatanna for a cameo) that focuses on Superman’s vulnerability to magic. This is another one of those ‘Dr. Light trying to kill off a JLA member’ stories that were interspersed through the early Bronze Age. I really loved the Tarantula reprint included here – now, that’s what I call a rarity. There’s also an early 50s sci-fi tale that will be of particular interest to Gene Colan fans.
Stay tuned for my next installment, when I’ll look at 6 more Superman team-ups, more great and not-so great reprints and the letter hacks of the day.
For more random comic book talk – visit my blog Seduction of the Indifferent