Friday, July 27, 2012

Irristable But Unknown

Friday Comic Book Day.

For the next two weeks I will be on automatic pilot. Last year I used the time off, to show you a Dan Barry Vigilante story every day. This time, I hesitated. I could do a run of Dan Barry's work for Gang Busters, to further showcase why DC should put out a book on this very influential artist. Then I thought: what about a series of posts covering little known DC series that should be collected? The problem with DC's approach to collecting their past is, that they are very succesful with their Showcase series. Showcase was the title that kickstarted the Silver Age of comics, the resurgeance of superheroes. This try-out book was first used to try new books about firefighters andother such concepts. At a certain point, it was decided to use it as a training ground for a new version of the Golden Age hero The Flash. That was such a succes that The Flash was soon moved to it's own book and Showcase became an official try-out book for new series. Many of thegreat series of the sixties and late fifties ere started there, Including The Challangers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby and The Atom by Gil Kane. So calling a book series that collects the best of DC heroes Show Case Presents is quite clever. And it doesn't even have to limit DC to the first Silver Age superheroes. In the Showcase series, stories have been collected on The Phantom Stranger, Sgt. Rock, Jonathan Hex and even titles such as House of Mystery or Young Love. But is does seem that this characterbased approach means there can't be any series collected that are pre-Sowcase. The occasional story does finds it's way if it is included in a reprint that is being reprinted, but on the whole all the magnificent work that was being done in the fifties is ignored. All through the fifties all DC books still had the anthology format, with many different stories in any book. Most of those had regular characters, some have been forgotten in the mists of time, other have gotten a legendary status. Names such as Detective Chimp and Johnny Quick have been mentioned on the DC boards every now and then. But even then, there is much, much more.

Th other succesful DC reprint project (although it seems to have been suspended) is the hardback, full color reprinting of seminal titles from their start. But those almost always begin in the frties and only a few have reached eve the late forties - the period when DC in my view started to become interesting artisticly. I know there are people who find the origins of their heroes more important, but for me the earliest artwork is often offputting. Even the Plastic Man series doesn't begin to become interesting to me until after the war.

So I envisioned a series of posts showing you the best of the forgotten filler series. Sergeant Foley of the Fighting Fifth, with artwork by Joe Kubert and Dan Barry.NightHawk by Leonard Starr, Ghostbreaker by Leonard Starr, Detective Chimp by Carmine Infantine, Hopalong Cassidy by Gene Colan, Roy Raymond by Ruben Moreira... I soon ralized there were too many of them and I would not be able to show you enough of every one.

So instead I opted for one series, the aforementioned Roy Raymond by Ruben Moreira. Moreira was an artis who had worked as Burne Hogarth replacement on Tarzan in the fifties. He did his best work in the fifties on several series such as The Shining Knight and short stories in Gang Busters, Mr. District Attorny and the various 'science fiction' and 'mystery' titles.

Roy raymond was a fantasy series as well, or at least in a genre that was very popular in the fifties, a 'debunker' of mysteries. Like Ghostbreaker before him, he went around to solve socalled impossible mysteries by science. That made use of the DC editors favorite way of plotting - having the hero solve a puzzle by using some sort of scientific sounding knowledge. It was their way of making the comics a bit educational and better that the rest of the rubbish that was published elsewhere. The character Roy Raymond has a tv show called Impossible But True, where he is offered unsolvable mysteries and then he goes about solving them anyway. I like this kind of stories (at least better than say, the similar stuff in The Martian Manhunter stories) and the art is drop dead gorgeous. Since Moreira did the bulk of his work in the fifties and in a genre that was not much respected afterward, he has been a bit fogotten. Maybe this run will correct that a bit. But what I would really like to see is some sort of Fifties Showcase book, like Marvel has their own Atlas Era series (avoiding the uncommercial word 'fifties'). It's what I call: Before Showcase. Samples of this series are very hard to come by, since they appeared in their flagship title Detective Comics and DC is rightfuly very protective of the other stuff that's in there. So a sampling is all you'll get. The more reason to all go out and ask for a book.

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