by Wayne Markley
DC Comics has a far-reaching and broad library of old comics and stories dating back to the 1930s. Over the years, outside of the major characters (Superman, Batman, etc.), they have not done a great deal with a host of great little known characters. Recently that has changed and, this time, I thought we would take a look at some of the upcoming releases of these blasts from the past.
A few years ago, DC started a line of hardcover books called DC Comics Classic Library. These were mostly reprints of classic material which focused on storylines vs. sequential issues like Showcase and the DC Archives did. DC did a small volume of these classic Libraries. They are beautiful hardcover collections of material from the 60s, such as the Batman Annuals Vol. 1 which reprints Batman Annuals #1-4 which in turn reprint Batman stories from the 40s and 50s. Nothing like collecting a series of reprints. But these are a great way to read books and stories that would cost a fortune in today’s market. Also in this series of reprints was the Flash of Two Worlds. This volume reprints the first five Flash/Golden Age Flash stories with Jay Garrick from Flash comics from the 60s. These are great stories with Carmine Infantino at his best on the art. These are also the stories that led to the revival of the JSA in the modem DC Universe in the 1960s. A great volume was Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore. This reprinted the Superman stories from 1970 that brought Superman out of the 60′s and the Mort Weisinger era and into the modern world. It is a great collection with a strong story by Denny O’Neil and art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. The final volume from the 60s was the classic story from the pages of Adventure Comics and the Legion of Super Heroes, The Life and Death of Ferro Lad.
The DC Comics Classic Library is not devoted only to the 1960s though. They also did hardcover collection of the original Swamp Thing by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson in a volume called The Roots of the Swamp Thing. And in a completely different vein they did the George Perez Justice League of America Stories. As the title suggests, this reprints the beautiful George Perez JLA stories from the 1980s. This is a great chance to see all of the DC Universe as drawn by Perez. Also from the 1980s is Batman: A Death in the Family. This is the story of Jason Todd, who was Robin after Dick Grayson and how he died and the repercussions of his death. It does not reprint the rubbish on how Jason came back from the dead and is now part of the DC Universe. As an aside, I hate when a publisher kills a character only to bring them back a year or two later. Even if it is 10 years later. If a character dies, then let them remain dead.
Another line of reprints that DC has been doing, and deserves a tip of the hat, is the Jack Kirby Library. Jack Kirby was one of the greatest creators in the history of comics and DC has taken on the task of reprinting all of his work for them in beautiful full color hardcover. They have already reprinted all of Jack’s Fourth World series (New Gods, Forever People, Mister Miracle and Jimmy Olsen) as well as his lesser known series such as OMAC, The Losers, and The Demon. And they have done a collection of his complete Sandman stories (with Joe Simon) from Adventure Comics from the 1940s. In the near future, DC is going to reprint one of my personal favorites in the complete Newsboy Legion, also with Joe Simon. These stories originally appeared in the pages of Star Spangled Comics in the 1940s and tell the tale of five scrappy teens living in the mean streets of New York along their mentor, the Guardian. While these stories clearly reflect the time, as do the Sandman stories from the same era, these are a great read and the art is top notch. Also forthcoming from DC is the first volume of the Complete Boy Commandos. More fun from the team of Simon and Kirby. Now if only DC would collect the Kirby Manhunter stories from Adventure Comics and the rest of his Kamandi run.
In the coming months DC will be releasing a new series of books which collect single stories of a specific character from their archives. I do not know if these were intended to be part of the DC Comics Classic Library at one point or not, but I suspect they were. So far DC has announced the Atomic Knights from the pages of Strange Adventures. The Atomic Knights was a goofy science fiction tale of a post-nuclear world were a band of soldiers who where atomic armor to protect them from the threats of the future and they ride giant dalmatian dogs. The best reason to buy this book is the beautiful art by Murphy Anderson. The second in these upcoming collections is the Creeper. This book collects all of Steve Ditko’s masterful work on the Creeper from Showcase and his own title. It is a wild and strange book that is fun to read, unlike some of the recent interpretations of the character. The third volume in these collections is the Viking Prince by Joe Kubert from the pages of the Brave and the Bold from the 1950s. These are all-out adventures stories set in the times of the Vikings with stunning art by Joe Kubert. The fourth, and a little stranger, in these series of reprints is Superboy. There are not the Superboy stories we all have know over the years and loved, but the first solo Superboy stories from More Fun Comics and Adventure Comics in the 1940s. These stories are set in Smallville in the post-World War II era of the late 1940s and early 1950s and tell the tales of Clark Kent leaning what it means to be a hero and a man.
All of these books are a glimpse back to a time where comics were very different. They were self contained stories that were fun to read. DC deserves praise for bringing back so many of these classic stories that most modern fans have no idea ever existed. I am personally waiting for DC to finally reprint the complete Sugar and Spike and Roy Raymond, TV Detective (from Detective Comics). Also, it you are looking for more blasts from the past be sure to check out DC Showcase series that reprint large chunks of comics in sequence but in black and white. They are a cheap and great way to sample a piece of DCs vast library.
In closing I would like to recommend a book that came out a few months ago – the Rocketeer Complete Collection by Dave Stevens published by IDW. This is the complete work that Dave Stevens did on this fun story that Disney made into a movie. The art is breath taking and the story is pure fun. If you can, try and get the deluxe hardcover as it have over 50 more pages of sketches and behind the scenes material. It is highly recommended.