“In the beginning there was the word, and the word was <SHAZAM!>” – John 1:1, New Testament, Biblical quote (altered, obviously)
One of the things I absolutely love about comic books is the intricate history, not just the current ‘in-cannon’ history of the stories themselves, but the history behind the stories, the history of the characters, and their creators. What started in newsstands and drug stores eventually evolved into bestselling graphic novels, and smart phone downloads.
In this (retro) installment of ‘Spoiler Alert’, I’ll be discussing the initial appearances of many of the world’s most famous super heroes between both MARVEL and DC comics! Furthermore, I will be delving into the differences between their initial appearances and today. One big difference between DC and Marvel over the years is that DC characters almost always started out in their own separate worlds and eventually crossed over into the same continuity, whereas Marvel characters have always been a part of the same world from day one. However almost all these characters started out in a series that was not titled after them.
Back in the day, it was not uncommon for single comic issues to have Multiple (complete) stories rolled into one, whereas today you’re lucky to get One story in a single issue, since most stories are stretched between several issues and later collected into a trade paperback, so most of today’s comics are the equivalent of a chapter. Anyone who already knows a bit about comics knows that Superman first originated from Action Comics 1 (1938) and Batman made his debut in Detective Comics 27 (1939), while Marvel’s Spider-man (created by New York comic gods STAN <the man> LEE and Steve Ditko) first swung into the pages of ‘Amazing Fantasy’, Issue #15, in 1962. But did you know that Wolverine first appeared in the Incredible HULK?! (Issue 180, 1974)
Real quick note about DC and Marvel. The two competitive companies are akin to Microsoft and Apple in that both are very similar in a lot of ways, both have been known to copy one another, there are a few differences in the way they get things done, but it all comes down to the fact that both of them pretty much do the same basic shit. A key difference right now would be that Marvel’s live action films are kicking ass left and right (Iron Man, Spider-man 2, X-Men: First Class, Daredevil, THOR, ‘The INCREDIBLE’ HULK, etc), in comparison to DC’s few and far between with a few notable exceptions (The DARK KNIGHT Trilogy), even though they have just as much potential, but take their animated films and DC is far superior in quality thus far with their new line of PG-13 movies directed to an older audience (Superman Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Batman: Under the Red-Hood, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Doom, etc), also, obviously, with a few notable exceptions (Hulk vs Wolverine).
Also, one cool thing about all these first appearances is that if you can get your hands on one of these issues, (I’m talking first printing) especially the older stuff, it’s going to be worth a lot more than your average comic. For instance, Action Comics #1 recently sold for a whopping $2.6 MILLION!!! It originally only sold for a measly 10 Cents (talk about inflation). But that’s a rare case seeing as it’s not only one of the rarest comics of all time, but it is the original super hero comic of all time! So yeah, if you’re ever perusing a vintage collection of comics in a random flea market keep your radar out for these diamonds in the trash.
Now that we’ve got those honorable mentions out of the way let’s buckle our seat-belts and set our Flux Capacitor for the 1930’s because when it comes to history I like to go chronologically. We’ll be skipping the Victorian and Platinum Ages that led into…
THE GOLDEN AGE (1938-1956)
—“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!” – Superman narrator / radio announcer (from the 50’s TV series)
Continued from Part 3: Leagues, Titans, and Guardians (oh my!)
#4 – “Holy Bat-Comics, BATMAN!”
In the New-52 there are a total of 16 current Bat-related titles, 6 of which actually star the Dark Knight himself, and in 4 of those he’s the leading man (3 of which are solo missions), and best of all, every single one of them is top-notch… as it should be! Batman is simply a great character in every sense, created by the legendary Bob Kane, but it’s astounding, after all this time, how these writers still manage to come up with new and different takes on all his villains, various allies, and numerous adventures, without constantly re-hashing the same damn stuff!
So everyone knows about Year One and the Dark Knight Returns. A lot of people know about The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, and most people who have ever read a Batman comic know about the Killing Joke (after Year One, my personal favorite). But those have been discussed, dissected, and praised into the ground.
I’d like to tell you about 5 Batman stories that you probably have never heard of, much less read before. One of them is an “Elseworlds” story, which was an imprint DC Comics used to tell stories about their characters in completely different situations than you would normally find them, much like Marvel’s “What If…?”. For instance, in an Elseworlds story you might see Batman become a vampire and fight Dracula, or see what would have happened if Kal-El’s rocket ends up being discovered by a young Gotham couple before they ever have a son of their own, a couple named Thomas and Martha Wayne… Another of the stories I’m going to talk about isn’t an Elseworlds story, but it doesn’t really ‘count’ in the Batman continuity, as it takes place 100 years after the Batman first showed up in Gotham. The others take place in completely different periods in Batman’s career, from the beginning to the ‘dark period’ of the 1980’s to more or less the present.
I present my 5 Batman stores you’ve probably never read.
5. Batman: Year 100
100 years after Batman first began stalking the streets and rooftops of Gotham city, and things aren’t so great. Big brother is watching everyone all the time, everything is run by gigantic corporations that own and control governments, and there isn’t anybody standing up for the people in Gotham. The police have the capability, but are largely crooked beyond belief. One of the honest Gotham cops, a Lt. Gordon (the great grandson of the Commissioner) does what he can, but it’s not enough. Then there is a gun fight, and a federal agent turns up dead, and the police are shut out of the case. Nothing adds up from the outside, and Gordon can’t figure out what’s going on. Everything seems strange, especially when you add in the bizarre reports of some kind of creature with giant, leather wings that can’t be killed by bullets, is inhumanly fast, and impossibly strong.
We all know who that sounds like….
Paul Pope writes and draws this entire story, and his artwork is incredible. You see every wrinkle, every fold in Batman’s suit. When he uses gadgets you can see every nut and bolt. The details are great.
The story is a little strange as you get into it, as you don’t really know who Batman is until the end, and while it’s a cool reveal, it’s also a bit of a head scratcher, because it’s hard to believe that this person would still be alive after all this time. Regardless, it’s a really interesting take on the Batman mythology, and in my opinion every bit as valid of a possible future for Batman as the Dark Knight Returns was.