Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reprint This! Update on Showcase Presents

By now, I think everybody knows about DC's line of big, black-and-white reprints, Showcase Presents. By taking a warts-and-all approach to archiving the company's Silver- and Bronze-age material, they've made great chunks of their past available in a convenient format for the first time ever. In doing so, they've allowed audiences to reevaluate hidden treasures (both Bat Lash and Enemy Ace turned out to be even better than hoped), while also showing that certain blasts from the past really weren't worth the effort (try the third, overwrought, volume of Justice League of America if you must, or the insanely repetitive War That Time Forgot).

Unfortunately, one of the company's recent releases, Eclipso, falls in the latter category. This collection is only about 300 pages long and I still couldn't finish it. The series, created by Bob Haney and Lee Elias, originally ran in the anthology title House of Secrets from 1963-66. It has some notoriety for a handful of episodes drawn by Alex Toth, but even those can't elevate the material. It concerns a peace-loving friend of humanity, scientist Dr. Bruce Gordon, who got into a fight with a witch doctor in the Pacific and was scratched by a black diamond. Now, whenever there's an eclipse, Gordon dons a ridiculous leotard and funny hat and becomes Mr. Hyde, or, I mean, the Incredible Hulk, that is, Eclipso. It's an unbearably simplistic and repetitive adventure story, with by-the-numbers plots that wouldn't pass muster on a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon from the period. Toth's episodes at least look the best, but the bulk of the book is drawn by Jack Sparling, and it is some pretty ugly work. These are comics which can very safely be avoided.

Well, even though Eclipso isn't to my taste, DC has done a terrific job in packaging his exploits. While most of the Showcase line brings you about 500 pages of comics for around $17, this is the second in a little sub-line that has been termed "Skinny Showcases." These are ideal for shorter-run characters like Eclipso, who do not have as much material as the A-list stars, but maintain a following nonetheless. These have a smaller page count - around 300 pages - for just ten bucks. Even though I didn't care for the material myself, the package and the price point makes it a great bargain, and I'm pleased that DC will be using it again in the spring with the release of Dial H for Hero, a 1966-68 adventure series by Dave Wood and Jim Mooney.

DC releases about one Showcase Presents volume a month, most recently the second collection of The House of Secrets, focussing on the early 1970s incarnation of the book as a horror anthology. Upcoming in the line are DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups, a third collection of Wonder Woman, the early 1970s Secrets of Sinister House, a third volume of World's Finest and the Dial H for Hero book mentioned above. The long-overdue Suicide Squad, originally solicited two years ago, has re-emerged on Amazon with a June 2010 release date.

Read more of what I've written about the DC Universe at A Journal of Zarjaz Things.

Read other reviews of Showcase Presents Eclipso:

RKB at Pigs of the Industry
Jon the Crime Spree Guy at Central Comic Zone

These are the only reviews I've seen for this book. If you've reviewed it, let me know and I will link to it here!

In other news from the last month, DC has a pair of interesting projects coming in the spring. They're doing a collected edition of their incredibly fun oversized Wednesday Comics, with the pages shrunk to a little more manageable 11x17, and with the pages arranged so that each storyline will become its own 12-part chapter. They're also repackaging the first twelve issues of the excellent Losers series by Andy Diggle and Jock into a single collection - they had previously been released as two trade paperbacks - in anticipation of the feature film adaptation. That will be in theaters in March, and the new collection on shelves in February.

DC's also been publishing these pretty nice omnibus collections of Jack Kirby's work for the company, work that's probably due one of those nice little updates like I did for the Showcase line above, to be honest. Anyway, if I've counted right, there are eight out there now, and the ninth, reprinting a big chunk of the 1940s Newsboy Legion series, is due out in March.

Speaking of Kirby, of course you know his biographer and friend Mark Evanier is, with Sergio Aragon├ęs, one-half of the team behind the delightful Groo the Wanderer. Back in June, I mentioned a Groo Treasury, which was planned for October from Dark Horse. Well, October came and went without it. Mark confirmed, at the Marvel Masterworks Message Board, that Dark Horse has been sourcing better-quality films of some of the earlier material. The book has been postponed and will be resolicited when it is ready to go.

IDW has tentatively scheduled the first three of their Archie reprint books for next summer. As we've mentioned before, these are not the same as the near-monthly line of hardcover, chronological archives that Dark Horse is starting up. These include a "Best of Dan DeCarlo" collection in May, followed by a look at the 1946-48 period of the newspaper strip in June, and least promisingly, a run of the mid-1960s Pureheart the Powerful superhero material in July.

Fantagraphics has announced that they'll be releasing a series of Golden Age anthologies edited by Greg Sadowski. There are six books in the series, and they'll presumably be scheduled from 2010 through at least 2012. They include collections of Alex Toth, Basil Wolverton, Jack Cole and Dick Briefer, along with anthologies of forgotten horror comics and rare work from the EC Comics regulars.

Over at Down the Tubes, John Freeman has posted details about the third in Reynolds & Hearn's Century 21 collections of classic Gerry Anderson strips. Seems I was mistaken in assuming this book, entitled Escape from Aquatraz, is a Stingray-only collection. Like its predecessors, it collects work from several different series by Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy, Ron Turner and others. It's due in British stores later this month, and a fourth book, which Steve Holland reports as being titled Above and Beyond, is planned for the spring.

Lastly this time, well, I got my hopes up that Rebellion and Diamond would have stopped butting heads, since the comic shop supplier is, as mentioned last month, planning to distribute both of the British company's December offerings to the American direct market. Unfortunately, fans interested in the two January releases will have to buy them from other sources, because Diamond's skipping them again. They both sound very much worth it: the second in a series of four hardback collections of the massive ABC Warriors "Volgan War" epic (the first of which was reviewed last month over at my review blog) and the most recent set of Strontium Dog stories, "Blood Moon." Wherever you track them down, they're sure to set all your thrill-circuits buzzing!

That's all for this month! See you in December!