by Wayne Markley
Many years ago, well about 50 at this point, my favorite comics books were Green Lantern, Dial H for Hero (Well, House of Mystery featuring Dial H for Hero), and Flash. Lately I have been thinking about how often I have conversations with people about how good the books were “back then,” and this could mean anything from the ‘30 to the ‘90s. I also see interviews with the heads of the major comic companies complaining about reprints (mainly the $1 books Marvel has done for years and DC recently started) selling so well, and better than many of their regular books. The obvious reason the reprints books sell so well is nostalgia and the price; $1 is far more appealing than $3.99. The the second most common complaint I hear working at the retail store is books are two expensive and the folks they are so far behind in their reading. (But that is for another blog.) So I thought with this blog and I would briefly look at how you can read the classic material, or the modern material, of my favorite three books from my childhood, Green Lantern, Flash and Dial H for Hero.
First off we have Green Lantern. The Green Lantern I grew up with was the classic Silver Age GL, written by John Broome and drawn by Gil Kane. I loved the space drama and the idea of a ring that could control everything with your mind. I also loved Gil Kane’s art at the time, depending on the inker. I was fascinated by all of the other Green Lanterns, particularly Tomar-Re. Plus the Guardians were so cool and, of course, the Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott). I remember being a kid and getting Green Lantern #76 (now co-starring Green Arrow) and hating the new art by some guy named Neal Adams. I know; I was a fool. Since then, Green Lantern has gone through so many changes it would take five blogs to look at them all. So this is just a few suggestions if you are interested in Green Lantern. For an overview of all of the GL there is a book called Green Lantern: A Celebration of 75 Years. This is a 400 page hardcover with stories from the entire history of Green Lantern and is a nice sampling of ALL the changes in GL history. If you are interested in the time period I loved, the ‘60s, there are four collections called Green Lantern: The Silver Age which collect GL appearances from Showcase and the first 48 issues of his own book, plus a few issues of the Flash. (In the 1960s, once a year GL and Flash would team up). For the period that turned me off GL (and in retrospect is one of the best and most influential comics in history) there is Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard Traveling Heroes Deluxe Hardcover. This is a collection of GL/GA #76-87 and four issues of Flash that had what would have been issue #88. This is a very nice collection in full color and, while a bit preachy at times, holds up well. There is also a lot of collections of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern. Johns redefined the whole world of Green Lantern and introduced the concept of the multi-colored powers; Green, Yellow, Orange, etc. There are at least ten different collections by Johns but perhaps the most important is Green Lantern: Blackest Night; a cosmic epic that greatly expanded the whole world of GL. There are numerous other Green Lantern collections as the character has a rich history (with others being the Green Lantern, not just the first Silver Age GL, Hal Jordan). If you are looking for more modern stuff, DC just collected Grant Morrison’s run on the boo. Once again, this is a different take on the character but still very good. Overall, almost any of these collections is worth checking out.
Next we have the Flash. Like Green Lantern, there was a Golden Age Flash and then the character was brought back in the late 1950s in the pages of Showcase and got his own book starting with #105, starting where the Golden Age Flash book ended, with #104. It is no surprise that I loved the Silver Age Flash that was written by John Broome, Gardner Fox, and others. As with GL, there is a Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years which is an overview of all the Flash’s career over the last 75 years, and there have been a number of different Flashs. (Like Green Lantern, the man in the costume has changed over the years). If you are looking for my favorite period there are four volumes of the Flash: The Silver Age which reprints the Showcase appearances and Flash #105-163. Or you can read the books that redefined the character. First, there are six volumes of The Flash by Mark Waid. This collects some of the most influential Flash stories as Waid redefined the character and introduced the concept of the speed force and the character of Impulse. These volumes reprint Flash #62-128 and a number of annuals, specials, and crossovers. There are also six collections of The Flash by Geoff Johns. Yes, him again. These trades collect issues #164-225 and a number of crossovers, specials and miniseries. And if you want to read the most current version of the Flash, there are ten volumes collecting the first 63 issues of the current series written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by various. My personal favorites are still the Silver Age stories just because of their innocence and simple charm and Carmine Infantino’s art is so perfect. But I have to admit that Mark Waid’s run is good and is really the most influential in the history of the character. You would be hard pressed to get a bad Flash collection.
Finally we have Dial H for H.E.R.O. This is a little different than Green Lantern and Flash as there is not a lot of collections you can get, and Geoff Johns has not re-written the character’s history yet. The H Dial allows a person to transform into a different hero every time you dial H.E.R.O. (there are time limits between dials). The dial first appeared in the pages of House of Mystery #156 in 1966 joining the Martian Manhunter, the former lead character in the book. Dial H continued to be featured in HOM until issue #173. There have also been a number of revivals of the H Dial in the ‘80s, ‘00s, and twice in the last five years. The current series is a 12 issue maxiseries (it was six but was expanded to 12) written by Sam Humphries and is part of DC’s Wonder Comics. This current series has been collected in one trade so far with the first six issues and is due out in the next few weeks. There is a second trade with the second half of the series due next year. All of the earlier material has either never been collected or is out of print. There is a nice collection of all of the House of Mystery stories in a black and white Showcase collection that is sadly out of print. There is also one collection of Will Pfeifer and Kano’s 2003 series, which is the best run of the character, but alas it only reprints the beginning of the series and is also out of print. One reboot that you can still find is Dial H, a series written by China Mieville with art by Mateus Santolouco, Alberto Ponticelli, and others. The current Dial H for H.E.R.O. is grown out of the 1960s character and books, but it lacks the charm and innocence of the old Robbie Reed stories I loved. But these are a very good read even if it does not hold the nostalgia for me.
I must say the books I loved as a kid are long gone as comics and the way stories are told has changed greatly over the years. Fortunately, a lot of what I loved as a kid is still available in really nice collections. Both Green Lantern and Flash have very similar histories, in both character development and creators. And all three characters, GL, Flash, and Dial H for H.E.R.O., all have had a number of restarts over the years and all three have had periods where the lead character is replaced by someone else. Also, all three characters are still being published today.
What are your favorite childhood charters? Are you a fan of Green Lantern, Flash or Dial H? Which time period do you like? I would like to know. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. As always, all words I have written are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. Let me end by saying…