Friday, September 14, 2007

Communication from Earth Brennert

I think it’s fair to say that when I first posted this splash page from the Australian edition Batman #2 I had no inkling I’d be upstaging myself by posting a signed copy from Brave and the Bold #182 within a few months - but then again, I also didn’t expect to receive an email with the subject heading “Communication From Earth Brennert” from none other Alan Brennert himself!

No doubt about it - the biggest fanboy moment of the year in the junkyard!

Alan happened across my blog and sent me a short note expressing thanks for the kind words, and that he was flattered to have his work compared favourably with Alan Moore, and that “Interlude on Earth-Two’ was due to be re-published in a new trade paperback (Batman: Secrets Of The Batcave, which has just been published a week or so ago). He also mentioned he’d keep an eye out for the Australian editions.

I was so chuffed to hear from Alan that I made a mental note to look out for a copy of Batman #2 as I did my usual rounds of scrapping through junkyards, defiling crypts and rummaging through dead letter offices - and sure enough I chanced upon a cheap copy soon afterwards. I was happy to pick it up and send it off to Alan, and he very kindly offered to send me a signed comic in return.

You never know what you’re going to get with a signature - I’ve seen plenty of neat and tidy dedications, but have also cringed at off-the-cuff scribbles and indecipherable smudges, or worse, thick texta marks indiscriminately placed over an image – in other words, I’ve seen plenty of covers disfigured by rushed and ill-considered signatures.

Of course, Alan was all class! As you can see above, signing the splash page (one of my favourite Jim Aparo splash pages!) on the panel border makes it a great piece of work to look at, and it now holds pride of place in my little burgeoning gallery of Fanboy Artifacts.

Compared to other collectors I have very few such pieces of signed or original comics-related mementoes – a couple of personally-signed comics by Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis; an original Batman page by Jim Aparo; a Love and Rockets lithograph signed by Gilbert Hernandez; a signed Sheldon Moldoff illustration of the Golden Age Batman; and a sketch from Michael Gilbert would be the highlights.

Naturally I wasted little time in emailing a scan to a few friends to bask in the glorious warmth of their envy… reckon I got sunburnt by a few of them…

Alan also sent me a hardcover UK Batman Annual which reprinted some of his work, and I’ll detail that one in a later blog.

Coda: A few evenings ago I met up with a local KGManiac for our semi-regular dinner and exchange of comics. On the back of my recommendation on the blog this fine fellow exercised good judgement and tracked down a copy of Brave and the Bold #182 for himself, and brought along his copy to show me. Unaware he was doing so, I had also brought along my newly-signed copy… Talk about one-upmanship! The irony was even more acute when we inspected his copy and found it came complete with indiscriminate pen scribbles in the margins of the first page…

Friday, September 7, 2007

Superman # 8

Superman #8, 1984
Cover artists: Ross Andru and Dick Giordano

Superman: A Mind-Switch In Time!
Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt
(Superman #380, February 1983)

Superboy: The Day That Lasted Forever!
Paul Kupperberg/Kurt Schaffenberger
(The New Adventures of Superboy #38, February 1983)

Superman: Whose Super-Life Is It Anyway?
Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt
(Superman #381, March 1983)

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane: Who Murdered Me?
Tamsyn O'Flynn/Bob Oksner
(The Superman Family #222, September 1982)

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen: Caution: Physical Fitness can be Hazardous to Your Health!
Martin Pasko/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella
(The Superman Family #214, January 1982)

This is an example of how K.G. Murray would often ‘get it right’.

The first three stories are related – the plot of the first story involves a mind-switch between Superman and Superboy. The story continues in the following issue of Superman, but also spins off into a crossover with the Superboy series in which we see the mind-switch from the perspective of Superboy. By rights this Superboy story should have been scheduled for an issue of The New Adventures of Superboy, but by including it in this issue of Superman in between the two Superman chapters, the K.G. Murray editors presented the story in the order in which the US readers would have read the saga a year earlier.

It’s true that by the 1980’s continuing story arcs were being routinely presented in single issue form in the Australian editions, but including a crossover issue in an ongoing story arc was going beyond the call of duty. Not a bad compensatory move given the delayed presentation of the material!

And the final two back-up features are appropriate too – short self-contained Superman-related features culled from the back pages of a US Superman anthology series. (Now I can’t honestly say the art team of Jose Delbo and Joe Giella ever got my heart racing, but hey – it’s just a side dish after a good hearty meal. And as a friend of mine said last time I used that metaphor: “Nothing a good burp wouldn’t fix!”)

I’ll also just add that whilst I wouldn’t class this issue - nor this series for that matter - as especially scarce or sought after, it would still be quite a challenge to try and put together a full run of all 20 issues from scratch. Some of these 1980’s issues can appear to be quite common and readily available through the usual channels, but in reality can be infuriatingly and stubbornly elusive when actively sought.

The Justice Society in Australian Adventure Comics

All Star Adventure Comic ceased publication at the end of 1975, along with other long-running K.G. Murray titles such as Tip Top Comic Monthly, All Favourites Comic and Wonder Comic Monthly. They were replaced in 1976 by new titles based on their lead features, such as Superboy, Batman and Wonder Woman, all under a new Planet Comics logo. Continuity between the new and old titles was maintained by both the mix of contents, and the continuation of the previous series numbering.

However, Australian comics stands were soon carrying another ‘All Star’ title – the revived US All-Star Comics. This series was restarted with a cover date of January-February 1976, and picked up the numbering from its Golden Age incarnation. It also once again featured the Justice Society of America.

These stories were not reprinted by K.G. Murray, but I have it on good authority (the peerless memory of Mark Cannon!) that the series was distributed in Australia for much of its run – certainly after #67, cover-dated September-October 1977 (ok, so it’s possible that Australian stands didn’t actually carry an “All Star” comic in 1976, but it’s still an irresistibly neatly dovetailing coincidence that the end of All Star Adventure Comic circa December 1975 was followed by the revived All-Star Comics #58 coverdated January-February 1976 - right!?)

After the “DC Explosion” imploded, the Justice Society stories were relocated to Adventure Comics, in which they appeared for 6 issues between #’s 461-466, all cover-dated 1979. I understand (again courtesy of Mark) that these issues were not distributed in Australia, but each of these stories were reprinted in the K.G. Murray incarnation of Adventure Comics.

This is how they slice up:

Prologue/Only Legends Live Forever (Part 1)
Adventure Comics #461
Adventure Comics #2

Only Legends Live Forever (Part 2)
Adventure Comics #462
Adventure Comics #2

The Night of the Soul Thief!
Adventure Comics #463
Adventure Comics #2

To Everything There is a Season…
Adventure Comics #464
Adventure Comics #4

Countdown to Disaster
Adventure Comics #465
Adventure Comics #6

The Defeat of the Justice Society!
Adventure Comics 466
Adventure Comics #7

In other words, the 6 US Adventure Comics stories appeared in 4 Australian issues.

It’s a shame that the famous cover to Adventure Comics #462 was not reprinted. It’s understandable that the cover to Adventure Comics #461 was given the nod, especially as it heralds the new JSA series and also reflects the variety of contents in the issue and series. I note that the cover to Adventure Comics #462 is also left out of the recent Justice Society Vol. 2 TPB (for some reason the All-Star Comics covers are reprinted, but the Adventure Comics covers are omitted!)

As you can see above Adventure Comics #2 is a bumper JSA issue, carrying three of the JSA stories, including both parts of the death of E2 Batman storyline, but note that a couple of the splash pages are omitted. Again, I’m sure this was done to give the impression of a single uninterrupted long story, but I would have preferred to see the splash pages instead of two full-page advertisements for stamps making up the page count.

I have yet to fully review the contents of the other Adventure Comics issues, but I’m beginning to believe there was no #5 published. I’ve checked with a few collectors, and no one can recall ever having seen a copy. And given that all the relevant Justice Society stories are accounted for…

Admittedly it’s a bit more difficult to make a call on this one than it is for Super Heroes Album #18 because of the sheer variety of the contents in the 6 known issues – considering they feature everything from The Flash, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern from the US Adventure Comics issues, to reprints from series such as The Shadow, Detective Comics, Strange Adventures and Batman Family, it is difficult to gauge what could be deemed as ‘missing’… In fact, #7 includes a reprint of “A-Man--The Hero with Animal Powers” originally from Strange Adventures #190, July 1966 and later reprinted in Adventure Comics #415, February 1972, but given both of these US prints had Australian counterparts in (All Star Adventure Comic #44, April 1967 and World's Finest Comic Monthly #93, January 1973 respectively), it suggests that filler material was being brought in to fill page counts… So all things considered, let’s just say I’ll be pleasantly surprised to find #5 turning up.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Giant Batman Album # 19: A Colossal Compilation

Giant Batman Album #19, October 1969

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Death of Batman!
David Vern Reed/Bob Kane/Lew Schwartz/Charles Paris
(World's Finest Comics #58, May-June 1952)

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Masterminds of Crime!
David Vern Reed/Curt Swan/Charles Paris
(Batman #70, April-May 1952)

Superman and Batman: The Mightiest Team in the World!
Edmond Hamilton/Curt Swan/John Fischetti/Stan Kaye
(Superman #76, May-June 1952)

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Flying Bat-Cave!
Bob Kane/Lew Schwartz/Charles Paris
(Detective Comics #186, August 1952)

Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder: The Joker's Millions!
David Vern Reed/Dick Sprang/Charles Paris
Detective Comics #180, February 1952

Plus the following fillers: The Batman Whirly-Word Game (1 page); Little Pete (2 pages); Jerry the Jitterbug (1 page)

Giant Batman Album #19 is one of the earliest wholly Australian compiled issues in the series. Previous Giant Batman Album’s were effectively facsimiles of US Batman Annuals or 80-Page Giants with modified covers and contents (#14 is the notable early exception). However, this issue was conspicuously not compiled from contemporary US sources.

The cover is an Australian original based on the Irv Novick cover for Batman #201, May 1968. My guess is this cover image was originally mooted for an issue of Colossal Comic, which had been routinely featuring cover images based on US Batman and Detective Comics covers for a couple of years by the time this issue appeared on the stands (I’ll cover the latter Batman Colossal Comic covers in a forthcoming blog entry).

Also similarly to Colossal Comic, the main contents were drawn from a cluster of 1950’s pamphlet issues published by K.G. Murray. The five stories listed above appeared previously in Batman #’s 27 (1952), 31 and 32 (both 1953). To the best of my knowledge, they have not appeared in an issue of Colossal Comic, so it is quite possible they were earmarked for whichever issue was to intended to bear the redrawn cover to Batman #201.

All purely speculative on my part, but consider also that “The Death of Batman!” and “The Masterminds of Crime!” were each reprinted shortly afterwards in US editions, and by extension in Giant Batman Albums (#’s24 and 26 respectively); that “The Flying Bat-Cave!” had already been reprinted just two issues earlier in Giant Batman Album #17; and that the oft-reprinted “The Mightiest Team in the World!” had also just seen print in a US edition (World's Finest Comics #179 aka 80 Page. Giant G-52, October-November 1968) and in Australia as Superman and Batman Album #4, March 1969, and it is evident that the K.G. Murray editors putting this issue together were paying little heed to the contents of other issues in their line in considering the contents of this special issue.

The original title for “The Death of Batman!” was “The Murder of Bruce Wayne!” The title seems to have been changed specifically for the original Australian Batman reprint in Batman #32, January 1953. At least I’m unaware of any US version with this new title. So it appears this was reprinted directly from the Australian pamphlet edition.

Curiously, the cover for Batman #32 is a modified version of the cover for the US Batman #64, April-May 1951 - the text on the movie sign is altered to reflect the new lead story. The cover story “The Candid Camera Killer!” had previously appeared in Super Adventure Comic #17, October 1951. I guess that the ‘leftover’ cover for US Batman #64 was deemed readily adaptable for the purposes of a new Batman issue which needed a cover. “The Murder of Bruce Wayne!” originally appeared in US World's Finest Comics #58 and featured a typically generic cover which had also already been used on Super Adventure Comic #31, December 1952. “The Candid Camera Killer!” did make it into Colossal Comic #47, November 1968.

Some sources credit Curt Swan as penciller on “The Masterminds of Crime!” The reprint in Batman #238 credits the art to Win Mortimer. There are the tell-tale signs of Swan's middle fingers in the art, but having said that, it doesn’t look like typical Swan art to me, which may or may not have something to do with Charles Paris inking – certainly not a regular art team!

“The Joker's Millions!” is a classic Batman comic which I remember from the Batman vs. The Joker paperback from Signet Books. It was also reprinted in Batman: The Complete History by Les Daniels and Chip Kidd, Chronicle Books, 1999. The text in this book credits the writing to "probably... Bill Finger or Walter Gibson...". The David Vern Reed credit is from online sources. As far as I know it is not currently in print in any of DC’s Batman-related collections, which is really a shame, but I understand it has been adapted for the Animated Series.

After this issue Giant Batman Album continued to be based primarily on US Giants for a few more issues, until the format started to morph due to various factors, as discussed in previous blogs (see entries on Giant Batman Album #26, Giant Batman Album #27, Giant Batman Album #31 and Giant Batman Album #32).

And a thank you to my UK correspondent for helping out with my queries on Batman #32.