Continuing from last week’s column, here’s an overview of some highs and lows of Superman’s forgotten team-ups from World’s Finest.
World’s Finest #208 features a rather dramatic Neal Adams cover that doesn’t 100% tell the story on the inside, but that’s half the charm of DC covers. Superman does indeed do some heavy duty pulling; he not moving the planet through space, but merely putting the continents back in place, not the whole world. It’s another so-so story focusing on Superman’s ‘magic’ issues. If memory serves, Mr. Wein had Zatanna pop up in this one too. The real treat in this one are the reprints. First, we get a Robotman story. For those unfamiliar with the original Robotman – it’s definitely worth checking out, as Jimmie Thompson’s Robotman is one of the most charming strips of the Golden Age. Finally, we get a rare treat – a Ghost Patrol story from Flash Comics. It’s extremely silly, but it’s a good opportunity to see Caniff school influence on Carmine Infantino.
Issue #210 is features another memorable Neal Adams cover – although the ‘faceless’ gag was done for issue #167 by Curt Swan and by Adams himself for Justice League of America #89. It’s another one of those ‘trapped in another dimension ruled by a psychotic monarch’ stories that we’ve seen so very often. It’s mostly nonsense, but Elliot S! Maggin’s script ends on a high note as Ollie is convinced that Superman fabricated the whole adventure to convince him not to run for mayor. The King reprint from 1941 is an example of the very static strips that filled many early Golden Age books. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but it is interesting to see how much comic book storytelling evolved during the 40s. The Black Pirate story is a much more interesting, and showcases Shelly Moldoff’s styling pencils and layouts. It’s another letters pages filled with familiar names, including Jerry Bails who notes that the prior Tarantula story was penciled by Ed Smalle.
With World’s Finest #211, Batman shows up for his third and final team-up. Once again, we’ve got troublesome aliens. At this stage, I’ve lost count of how many races of aliens have appeared in the pages of this title. There are two very fun elements with this story. First, we get a tip of the hat to the very first Supes/Bats team-up and secondly, a Superman robot makes a rare 70s appearance. The reprint is the Harlequin’s first appearance. It might be of interest to DC history buffs, but there’s not much energy in the actual Kanigher/Hasen story itself.
J’onn J’onzz fans may be interested in tracking down a copy of World’s Finest #212, as a Martian Manhunter sighting was rare during this time period. I know that many people go nuts for Nick Cardy covers, but I think this one is pretty weak. We leave Earth for a while, as Superman tries to assist a rather mentally unstable J’onn. The Dillin/Giella team is at its best and worst here – great robots and terrible facial expressions. For a much better WF story featuring out favourite Martian, check of issue #245. A couple of Golden Age oddities are represented here – with the very obscure Grim (formerly Gay) Ghost by Fox and Purcell, and rather fun Airwave story with George Roussos art. This is the end of an era, as it is the final 25 cent copy. No more reprints, my friends.
I love a good Atom story. The one from World's Finest #213, however, isn’t really one of them. The cover, once again, only tells part of the story – as you’re led to believe that the Atom is doomed because Superman is squeezing the cord. Actually, both Superman and the Atom wind up fighting a new type of alien – but these ones live in innerspace. It’s a fairly standard story – but one highlight is a conversation about the ethical dilemma of how to deal with these submicroscopic creatures. There’s also some really awkward dialogue about Clark’s noisy neighbour, the ‘rock drummer’. For a much better Atom story, check out World’s Finest #236.
World's Finest #214 is the final issue of the Superman Team-Up era is a personal favourite of mine. I’m nuts for the Vigilante and I love it when he makes a rare cover appearance. For some reason, Clark is sent out west to cover a rodeo, where he and Vig encounter someone with some lycanthropic problems. One thing we do learn is that Batman (who makes an appearance) can tell someone’s a werewolf by the size of their sideburns. It’s a decent little story with a slightly tragic, but noble end. After this, we enter the era of the Super-Sons – which is a story for another day.
As far as overall quality goes, these issues aren't exactly Watchmen but they do serve as an interesting footnote in this long running title's history. As you can tell, the choice of Golden Age reprints is all over the place, but I for one appreciate the variety. It's nice to be able to check out an obscure 40s series, without having to fork over the big buck for an original copy. Most of this stuff will never be reprinted (although the lack of a Robotman Archives is a crime - but I digress...), so it's nice to have these books as an option. Another real treat is to see how many letter hacks eventually cranked out stories for DC. Martin Pasko, Bob Rozakis and Mike W. Barr all made regular appearances on the letter page. I guess the Superman Team-Up experiment didn't work - but DC would take another crack at it 6 years later - possibly inspired by a certain movie that was packing movie houses.
For more ravings about old comics, stop by Seduction of the Indifferent