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31 Things I Love About Comics

February 23rd, 2005

I’m late to the party, but wanted to post in response to a recent piece that appeared on Hembeck.com. Artist Fred Hembeck highlighted a cartoon listing the one hundred things he liked about comic books and related ephemera. A number of people took up the inferred challenge to create their own lists, and many posted them on Valentine’s Day.

I tried to come up with my own hundred items, only to run into a couple of obstacles: 1) I don’t read many new comics these days, aside from the occasional Dark Horse trade paperback, and 2) an awful lot of them would relate to Superman, which would make for repetitive reading.

Fact is that I really don’t love modern comics. My tastes run mostly to Silver Age (and older) DC books. For some years, I kept up with the post-Crisis Superman, but complained that it wasn’t giving me what I wanted. Then I realized that if I wanted to read a Silver Age-style story, there are literally thousands I’ve never seen, and many of them are being reprinted in trade paperbacks. Trade paperbacks are cool because they can contain an entire multi-issue storyline, plus they’re easier to store.

I rifled through my four long boxes of comics to get some ideas for a list, but had a hard time coming up with more than a couple dozen. However, since I did the “research,” I might as well post the results.

31 Things I Love About Comics

  • 1] The Marvel Family. Captain Marvel trumps even the mighty Superman as my favorite hero, but even he didn’t come into his own until he regularly teamed with Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel.
  • 2] Villains whose names end in “o”: Amazo, Starro, Despero, Titano, Sinestro, Metallo, and oh, so many more.
  • 3] Star Wars Tales issues #1-20. This anthology book from Dark Horse played fast and loose with “official” continuity, and included a lot of humorous takes on beloved characters. Therefore, it could not be suffered to live. (It’s now a much less interesting collection of canonical stories about the third-stringers of the galaxy.)
  • 4] Lois Lane #59, which tells of Lois’ trip to the planet Krypton, pre-cataclysm. Naturally, the matrimony-mad Lois battles Superman’s future mom Lara for Jor-El’s affections, future be damned. And in the back-up story, Batman takes time from his obsessive quest for justice to help Superman play a mean practical joke on his girlfriend. Ah, old comics at their improbable, backwardly misogynistic best.

  • 5] 100 Page Super-Spectaculars. These ’70s books featured one new story and numerous reprints from throughout DC’s vast history. Much of my knowledge of Golden and Silver Age characters was originally gleaned from them.
  • 6] Adam Strange, the starfaring Man of Two Worlds. Struck by the Zeta Beam, this daring archaeologist was teleported to the planet Rann, where his Earth smarts helped Rannian super-science overcome an endless supply of would-be conquerers.
  • 7] The Legion of Doom, from the Superfriends cartoon. For years, the Justice League spent many a dull Saturday morning adventure battling environmental do-badders. What a thrill to see them challenged by a baker’s dozen of their greatest villains!
  • 8] An immortal line of dialogue from the first Christopher Reeve Superman film: “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” A close second (from Superman II) is “General, would you care to step outside?”
  • 9] The Micronauts. This late ’70s/early ’80s toy tie-in by Marvel painted a vast canvas of intergalactic conflict which was surprisingly adult.
  • 10] Turok, Son of Stone. Not the modernized warrior from the ’90s, but the Indian brave who found himself in a lost valley full of “honking” dinosaurs. Most of the Gold Key comics heroes (including Mighty Samson, Tragg; and Magnus, Robot Fighter) were highly entertaining.
  • 11] Lois Lane (Erica Durance) from the Smallville TV show. Enjoyably written and performed…and smokin’ hot.
  • 12] Egg Fu, the evil, Cold War computer inexplicably constructed to resemble a giant egg with a face, sporting a prehensile, Fu Manchu mustache. Arguably, Wonder Woman’s most devilish (or should that be “devilled?”) foe.
  • 13] Justice League of America #118-119, “Takeover of the Earth Masters.” While perhaps not that notable in retrospect, this tale of a massive assault by alien Adaptoids was the first JLA book I ever read, when every plot contrivance was fresh and every danger real.
  • 14] The Green Lantern Corps, policemen of the cosmos. At least before they were dismantled, resurrected, killed, reborn, etc.
  • 15] Truer Than True Romance, a trade paperback collecting old DC romance comics, rewritten with hilarious, post-modern dialogue.
  • 16] “Who Took the Super Out of Superman?” This four-part tale from Superman #296-299 was a rarity in its day, a truly epic story in which the Man of Steel’s life was split in two, and he explored whether to remain a hero or live an earthly life as Clark Kent. The final fight between Supes and nine of his arch-foes was a real page-turner.
  • 17] The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. While I buck comic fan trends by not despising the movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s Victorian-era superhero team-up, the original books are far superior. Plus, one could spend a lifetime trying to identify all of his obscure, literary references.
  • 18] Hellboy learning to love pancakes.
  • 19] Villains who are half-man, half-dinosaur: Spider-Man’s spiked opponent Stegron, and Sauron, the mutant pterodactyl who fought the X-Men.
  • 20] Star Wars Infinities. “What if?” versions of the classic movies. If you’ve ever wanted to see Yoda pilot the Death Star, here’s your chance.
  • 21] Superheroines in fishnets. Okay, so fishnets are impractical in a fight. Still, I don’t think one has to look far to see the appeal of Zatanna and the Black Canary.
  • 22] Mr. Mind, the World’s Wickedest Worm. This astronomical annelid was one of Captain Marvel’s trickiest opponents.
  • 23] World’s Finest #206. This was perhaps my favorite single comic book growing up, and I’ve read it countless times. A collection of Superman and Batman’s intergalactic, interdimensional adventures. Who says that Batman is out of place in outer space?

  • 24] Writer Alan Moore’s work for DC, notably Watchmen and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Moore understands the core of the superhero myth better than anyone else I’ve ever read.
  • 25] The Metal Men. This team of self-aware robots whose bodies could duplicate the properties of particular metals was highly enjoyable and occasionally educational, especially if you really needed to know the boiling point of mercury.
  • 26] Lego Spider-Man.
  • 27] Wonder Woman in “Villainy, Incorporated.” This lengthy adventure was the apotheosis of the Golden Age superheroine in all her lesbian/BDSM glory. Some folks may be in denial about the overt sexuality of those ’40s stories, but William Moulton knew what he was doing. The Amazing Amazon defended the Amazons of Paradise Island from an army of female criminals. Bondage fun–on a massive scale–ensued.
  • 28] The Silver Age Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery: Heat Wave, Captain Cold, the Top, Mirror Master, the Trickster and Gorilla Grodd. I loved the adversarial, love/hate relationship that Flash shared with his recurring foes. (You may notice a certain theme in my list; that’s because the villains tend to be the more interesting characters.)
  • 29] Krypto, the Super-Dog and the Legion of Super-Pets.
  • 30] Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker. While Warner Bros. Animation produced many well-written, stylish adaptations of Batman and Superman, this is their greatest, albeit most disturbing work. The Batman of the future squares off a resurrected Joker, and we find out just why Robin retired. (Shudder.)
  • 31] Those freaky ’60s Spider-Man TV cartoons in which the webslinger battled giant vines in alternate dimensions. They were best when the animators forgot to use the correct backgrounds, and it appeared that Spidey had just landed on thin air!

I may think of a few more, and I’ll add them at another time.

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