Markley’s Fevered Brain: Showcase on Showcase

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

For well over two years now I have complained about DC’s New 52, but to be fair, they are doing some great reprints of their past material that I have not discussed. DC has an ongoing series of massive paperback reprints under the Showcase Presents banner. For fans of the pre-New 52 DC, like myself, these Showcase collections are great trips down memory lane to a time seemingly forgotten but still loved by a few of us. The Showcase Presents are trade paperback collections with over 500 pages (in most cases) and they reprint large chunks of DC Comics from their vast vault. These are a great way to sample DC’s past as most all of them are less than $20 and for the page count, these are a bargain. The only negative is they are in black and white instead of color. DC is still doing their classic material in color in the Archive series, but that has slowed down to four books a year and the price has increased to $75 a volume making them for a select few, whereas these Showcase volumes are for everyone.

First, a brief history of the title Showcase and DC Comics. Originally, Showcase was a comic from the mid-1950s and, like the title suggests, it was a showcase for new characters and titles. There were numerous one-shot stories that lead to ongoing series later on, such as Hawk and the Dove, Creeper, Enemy Ace, Bat Lash, Angel and the Ape, Phantom Stranger, and many more. But more commonly there would be multiple issue runs, traditionally three issues, with one character and, if sales justified it, the character would get their own book. Within these miniseries with in a series (before there were miniseries) were the launching pad for such famous characters as Flash, Green Lantern, Adam Strange, Atom, Metal Men, Space Ranger, and many others. The series was revived at one point in the 1980s and continued with the premise of showcasing new characters, such as the All-New Doom Patrol, Power Girl, and others. Then in the 1990s it was revived again as a showcase for new talent, some of who went on to become quite famous. In the last few years, DC has once again revived the title as a series of “phone book” reprints that spotlight the rich DC history. I am going to discuss just a handful of these books although there are nearly 100 different volumes so far.

Showcase Presents Bat Lash

Showcase Presents Bat Lash


Bat Lash is an example of a handful of Showcase Presents DC did that were shorter than the other collections and thus cheaper. This volume runs 240 pages and collects all the Bat Lash material from his first in appearance in 1968 through 1982. It is of note because in the collection there is Bat Lash’s first appearance in Showcase as well as all seven issues of his own title, plus various other appearances. Bat Lash was based rather loosely on the old TV show Maverick, and told the story of a good looking young gambler who would rather love than fight (although that rarely worked) and features amazing art by the late Nick Cardy. While Bat Lash has only a cult following, these stories are some of my favorites that DC has ever published. Well worth checking out.

Showcase Presents Doc Savage

Showcase Presents Doc Savage


Showcase Presents Doc Savage stands out as a collection for a couple of reasons. The first is it reprints the Marvel’s Doc Savage magazine from the 1970s, complete with pin-ups, articles and everything else. Secondly, since these stories were originally in black and white this reprint looks great and you do not lose anything in the transition (that is the loss of the color). Plus, these are some of the best Doc Savage stories ever done.

Showcase Presents Ghosts

Showcase Presents Ghosts


Ghosts was a long-running DC Comic starting in the 1970s and, as the titles suggests, each comic is filled with ghost stories. The stories are similar to what Gold Key was doing with Boris Karloff Presents and The Twilight Zone comic, in these are short horror stories designed to tingle your spine. The stories range from classic ghost stories to urban legends, but each tale is a very good read. As the title went on, it became more and more dependent on Filipino and European artists (like its sister titles House of Mystery and House of Secrets) and took on a generic look, but these early issues feature some excellent work by Mike Kaluta and others. This first trade is well over 500 pages and collects the first 18 issues of the original comic.

Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank

Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank


Haunted Tank was a long running feature in the pages of GI Combat. It told the story of four soldiers that were “helped” by a civil war general (who was a ghost) who guided these soldiers through all sorts of adventures. The stories were written by Robert Kanigher, but the art was by the amazing Russ Heath for many, many years, and Sam Glanzman after that. These are war stories with a supernatural tint, but the storytelling and the art is some of the best ever done.

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex


Jonah Hex debuted in All-Star Western #10 and a legend was born. Jonah was a Civil War vet with horrible scars and made his living as a bounty hunter. These early stories, originally by John Albano and later Michael Fleisher (who defined the character) are the very best of the spaghetti western mixed with gritty art. The stories ranged from sad tales of Jonah’s past to ultra-violent gunfights with bad guys, bad girls, and everything in-between. Jonah Hex was the Punisher before there was a Punisher. I love these original stories, due to their over-the-top storytelling to the ever changing artists who always seemed to capture the filth of the world Jonah lived in. If you have never read these tales, do yourself a favor and try the first volume and a second volume is coming in the spring. As a quick aside, please do not be put off of Jonah Hex by the movie of the same name, they have next to nothing in common.

Showcase Presents The Losers

Showcase Presents The Losers


The Losers comprises a group of DC war heroes that never seemed to be able to support their own books. Gunner and Sarge (and Pooch), Capt. Storm, and Johnny Cloud were considered to be out of luck and they could not catch a break. Yet these stories tell tales that are both filled with adventure and heart break. Once again the stories are written by Robert Kanigher and the art is by Ross Andru and then for many years by the highly underrated John Severin. Like the Haunted Tank above (and Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace), these are war stories totally unlike Marvel’s Sgt. Fury, as these guys feel the effects of war and it is not pretty.

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger


The Phantom Stranger originally was a comic from the mid-1950s, but in the late 1960s DC revived it with the horror craze going on at the time. They added Doctor 13, the Ghost Breaker, and together the Phantom Stranger and Dr. 13 would play cat and mouse in an ongoing series of stories that were both suspense and horror. Like the Sea Devils below, the real reason to get this book is the art. The first few issues were drawn by Neal Adams and he was replaced by the also highly underrated Jim Aparo. For my money, this was some of Aparo’s best work. His art came alive off the pages and his covers were just amazing. The stories at times were a little corny or hard to accept, but the art was great. Aparo was a great draftsman who never got the acclaim I think he deserves. Every month he cracked out creative stories with straight forward storytelling and creative designs. He was a truly unique artist who deserves much broader appeal. Along with Tales of the Batman: Jim Aparo (two hardcover volumes collecting his work on the Brave and the Bold), I think every fan of great art of should have the first Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger on their shelf.

Showcase Presents Sea Devils

Showcase Presents Sea Devils


Sea Devils is the story of four underwater adventurers. To be fair, the stories are not all that great, but the art by Russ Heath makes this book a must have for any comic fan. This volume collects the Showcase issue of Sea Devils (1960s) as well as the first sixteen issues of their own title. I am not going to go into detail as these stories do not deserve a lot of attention, outside of the breathtaking art by Heath. It also serves to remember these stories were done at the time when TV shows such as Sea Hunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea were popular so it is understandable why DC did a comic about undersea adventures.

Showcase Presents The War That Time Forgot

Showcase Presents The War That Time Forgot


The War That Time Forgot collects all of the classics Army vs. Dinosaur stories from the pages of Star Spangled War Stories. These stories stand out to me as fond memories, as how can any kid resist army soldiers fighting dinosaurs? While the concept seems to be limited, the team of writer Robert Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito were able to somehow make each issue feel new and original. A classic DC war book unlike any other.

For decades DC did a number of romance comics. The only one they have collected to this point is Young Love. This first volume reprints issues #39-56. Within the 544 pages are tales of heartbreak and love lost (and at times found) by some of the greatest creators from the 1950s including John Romita, Don Heck, Gene Colan, and many others. It is fascinating to read these stories (that were aimed at teen girls) and to see how different a world it was then. Plus, almost every story ends with a happy ending.

In addition to these volumes I have listed here, there are numerous volumes reprinting in order stories featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin, Justice League of America, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Trial of the Flash, Blackhawks, Doom Patrol, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Secrets of the Sinister House (which I highly recommend because it also reprints the early issues which were gothic romance stories with fantastic art by Jeff Jones), Sgt. Rock, Showcase (the original title), Tales of the Unexpected, and many, many more. Any of these volumes, whether listed here or spotlighted above are well worth your money and are a bargain at the price and page counts.

Everything written in this blog is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts of Westfield or their employees. I want to take a moment and wish everyone a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year. Comments, positive and negative, are welcome at MFBWAY@AOL.COM.

Thank you.

 

USER COMMENTSOne Response

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!

  1. Gary Says:

    I love the Showcase Presents volumes. They are definitely worth the bang for their buck, even if they are black and white reprints. Classic stories and heroes from DC’s heyday and none of this rebooted crap their overcharging for today. I only wish DC would publish them more frequently. Check out Marvel’s Essential trades for similar classic Marvel runs!