Johnathan Presents: Another Review of Showcase Presents, By Johnathan

A while back I did a mass-review of all of the Showcase Presents books that I had purchased. Well, I just keep on buying those things - due to my overpowering weakness for the Silver Age - and so it's time for more of that.

Showcase Presents: Adam Strange

All of the old stories about Adam Strange getting zapped to Rann via Zeta Beam so that he can kick alien ass and score with alien ladies (well, lady). I'm pretty fond of the little pre-adventure that Adam always gets into whilst getting his ass to the site of the incoming beam. Also fun: the sheer amount of trouble that the Rannians get themselves into ("Adam Strange! In the month that you were away we were conquered by robots! Again!"). Finally, a true statement: Adam Strange has the best helmet in comics.


Showcase Presents: The Atom

Good fun. Ray Palmer gets into all sorts of scraps as a tiny man. Like Green Lantern, this comic made an attempt to pass itself off as hard science fiction, with plenty of super-scientific explanations for stuff like shrinking physicists, but readily flew off on crazy tangential plotlines to keep things interesting. The three basic plots of a Silver Age Atom story: 1) Ray Palmer shrinks in order to help his main squeeze Jean "will be evil someday" Loring solve a case so that she can become a successful lawyer and prove herself and then quit the law and marry Ray. 2) Ray Palmer encounters something weird whilst going about his daily business; shrinks. 3) Ray Palmer shrinks and travels into the past via his scientist pal's Time Hole. While in the past he fights injustice with a passion that makes lovers of causality cringe. Take that, historical figures! Take that, history!


Showcase Presents: Batman, Volume 2

Rachelle gave me this one for my birthday, whilst simultaneously foiling my plot to borrow Volume 1 from her by lending it to every other person in Halifax (this is a lie. It was just lent to Tiina [the Tea Devil]). I don't know if the first volume was a great as this, but I hope so. Featured were both the first appearance of the original Blockbuster, with his hatred for Batman yet love for Bruce Wayne, and the crazy-great saga of the Outsider. The Outsider, for those of you who have avoided 30 or 40 years of spoilers, was actually Batman's butler Alfred, who everyone thought was dead but who was only mostly dead and who was turned into a lumpy psychic monster by a well-meaning scientist. Ever since I read about this fantastic mishmash in Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of Supervillains I wanted very much to read it, what with Robin getting turned into a coffin and all, so thanks again, Rachelle!


Showcase Presents: The Flash

Good solid Silver Age tomfoolery. Nothing other that the extremely unlikely origin of Kid Flash really sticks out in my memory, but rest assured that it's full of crazy crimes and stupid plots and all of the rest of the good stuff. I grew up with Wally West as the Flash, but i gotta say that Barry Allen was a helluva character.


Showcase Presents: Green Arrow

A lot of the comics that are collected in this one are actually from the late 50s, so they have a really neat feel to them, like the Batman comics of the same era. You can almost see the Comics Code symbol hovering over every character's shoulder, watching; judging. Anyway, Green Arrow and Speedy fight the crime and drive around in a great car (it launches them with catapults!) and meet at least two clowns who use wacky clown arrows to make folks laugh and then to fight crime in a crazy clown fashion. Plus, remember the Batmen of All Nations? Green Arrow has some too! Dudes from all over the world show up for a convention in his honour and bring their lava arrows and so forth - it's a hoot!


Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter

Haven't finished this one yet, but I'll tell you what my favourite thing about it is: that J'onn J'onzz isn't really a super-hero in his first batch of adventures, he's just a detective who happens to be an alien and have all kinds of crazy powers. I really wish that someone nowadays would write some comics focusing on that aspect of the Manhunter's personality. It seems like all of the J'onzz character development lately has had the effect of making him really alienated (ha!) from humanity, while in those early stories he had a whole lot of charm. I don't know. I just want a comic about a hard-boiled private eye who can turn invisible and is scared of fire and sometimes has a hound dog to hang out with. Oh! Also, his brother T'omm J'onzz shows up at one point!


Showcase Presents: Shazam!

This one's a lot of fun. They got C.C. Beck, the original artist for the character, to draw the DC comics revival, so everything looks fantastic. The stories are a bit child-oriented and entirely insane - my favourite character was Sunny Sparkle, the Nicest Kid in the World, who has it really tough because everyone loves him so much at first sight that they give him ridiculous and extravagant presents (and apparently name ponies after him). He just keeps donating the stuff to charity and declaring that he'll become a hermit when he grows up. I think that Sunny Sparkle Come Down Off the Mountain, with a tangled beard and a crazed look in his eyes and hordes of glassy-eyed, gift-bearing acolytes, is number 3 on my list of "characters that I wish would make an appearance in DC continuity", right after Carbon Monoxide Gangster and Parade Hater Horace. As for Shazam!, it's pretty great but it peters out at the end as the series hits hard times, but not before Dr Sivana goes on a crazy crime-spree road trip and Billy Batson and Uncle Dudley have to hop in their camper van and chase him all over the country. Whee!


Showcase Presents: World's Finest

I just got this one today, so I haven't read much of it, but what I have taken in is fantastic. Silver Age Batman and his pal Superman were each at least as concerned with keeping their secret identities safe as they were with, say, fighting crime, so when they got together all bets were off. Rachelle did a pretty great post about one of the messed-up adventures that resulted from this here. It's all Batman dressing up like Superman and then pretending to be Clark Kent while Superman's dressed up like Batman and also being Clark Kent and all to mess with Lois Lane's head... it's almost Shakespearian at times. Plus Superman and Batman are one of the most fun BFF pairs in comics, even without considering the subtextual homoeroticism - that's the icing on the cake!


I totally asked for many more of these things for Christmas, so there's certainly going to be more of these reviews, yay.

Review of Some Robots, Part 4, By Johnathan

It's that time again: time to make critical assessments of fictional robots that were created forty years ago. We must be silent no longer! This time we're going to look at the Gas Gang - a group of evil robots based on... gases. When you get right down to it, this is an odd idea, even for The Metal Men. Let's take a look:

As you no doubt guessed, the Gas Gang were built by Doc Magnus, during a period of time that he spent as a robot, which I'm sure that we can all relate to. Since the strange space gasses or whatever it was that transformed him that particular time also made him evil (as so often happens), he set the Gas Gang on his beloved Metal Men.

I'm pretty fond of the Gas Gang because they're just total assholes. A lot of other Metal Men foes were world-conquering tyrants or twisted scientific geniuses or were in love with Tina for some reason, but the Gas Gang is mostly concerned with beating the holy hell out of the Metal Men. They're refreshingly uncomplicated, the robotic equivalent of spinach salad.

They also die oddly:

That's right, the Gas Gang - beings composed primarily of gas - are evaporated out of existence. Which, uh, seems... weird. Is there a new state of matter between gas and plasma that nobody's taken the time to tell me about? Super Gassey? Xtreme Gas? Gas Plus Plus? Whatever it's called, the Gas Gang go down like chumps.

Gas Gang Roll Call!


I always think of Chloroform as the leader of the Gas Gang, but this is possibly because he attacks first. I've got to say I've got some issues with Chloroform's design. I mean sure, he's got a great face, but he also doesn't have any arms. Arms that would be useful in a fight against robots. Robots that don't breathe and therefore can't possibly be affected by chloroform gas. Right?

Oh. I'm wrong. The Metal Men breathe, apparently. And chloroform makes you laugh before knocking you out, a fact that the Metal Men crew were quite impressed by, as seen here:

See? Arms are useful! The above image actually marks Chloroform's first appearance, on a one page collection of factoids.

Anyway, my real problem with Chloroform is that he looks like a nutmeg grater that my grandmother owns, like Evil Robot Doc Magnus had originally started work on a gang of robots called the Spice Squad (Nutmeg! Cinnamon! Pepper! Oregano! Onion Salt!) but then realized that that was lame. Rar! I am Chloroform! I have no arms! I'm riddled with holes! I dispense gases that should have no effect on shape-changing uber-bots! I'm kicking your asses! Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame.

Nonetheless, nostalgia for that nutmeg grater compels me to say JOHN APPROVED.


By contrast with Chloroform, I do very much enjoy Oxygen's design. He's got cute little limbs and an adorable hose arm. His angry little pressure gauge face is just precious. Plus, I need him in order to live. However, he shouldn't be able to do this:

Iron reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form rust, right? Well, tin, gold and platinum don't do that! They're known for it! Rar! Johnathan smash! Johnathan get worked up about scientific inaccuracy in forty-year-old comic and bitch on the internet! Johnathan sulk in comfy chair for a while!

I do love the way Oxygen looks, though. Plus the little valve that's poking up from his shoulder kind of resembles a grinning face, like Oxygen has a tiny sidekick. "Come, Thread Head, let us improbably rust some things! Take that, aluminum!"




The Carbon Brothers don't get to see much action, which is kind of a shame. Carbon Monoxide actually has a rather clever design, being represented as a Bunsen burner, of the type that offed so many scientists before they discovered the wonders of ventilation. However, he should have absolutely no effect on the Metal Men.

Carbon Dioxide is represented as a chunk of ice and would probably be really effective against some of the more brittle metals like Tin or Mercury, if any of the other members of the Gas Gang had fists with which to punch them. As it is, he's just a minor irritant. Also, he's a solid.



From the same facts page that spawned Boxin' Chloroform. Check it out:

"You're cool, Carbon Dioxide! So cool that I'm going to need multiple skin grafts! Love the hat, though."


Oh lord I love Gangster Carbon Monoxide. Gangster Carbon Monoxide is possibly the best anthropomorphic personification of a gas that I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty. Gangster Carbon Monoxide should have been a Silver Age Batman villain, seriously. They could've defeated him with ionic air purifiers. Post-Crisis he could've turned up in Swamp Thing or something as a champion of the auto industry. Grant Morrison would kill him off somehow but then another writer would get nostalgic and he'd show up in an airtight cell in Arkham Asylum. He'd totally team up with Parade Hater Horace. It would be glorious.



Helium's pretty boring, frankly. He looks like a dirigible, which is thematically appropriate, but all he really does is grow, see?

I didn't even know that that was a property of helium. In fact, I don't think it is. Helium could just as easily been Just Plain Air, which would have been cheaper, at any rate.

In the Gas Gang's second outing (in which they are resurrected by a sane Doc Magnus to combat an insane amalgam of most of the Metal Men) Helium proves himself a bit more useful:

I'm not sure why he chose to inflate the Metal Man-Woman by sticking his nozzle into the only female mouth on the thing but it creeps me out slightly (I am pleased to see that Chloroform Mark II has arms, though). It's a tribute to Doc Magnus' genius that he can invent a robot composed primarily of gas and manage to simulate human perversion, but damn.


A Much Better Review of Advertising, By Johnathan

Oh, heavens. I was wrong. When I wrote the advertising review (see below) this is the only ad that I needed. Take a second and read it:

There. See what I mean? It's a much better ad for my purposes - the i Patrol gets called in by the Mayor of their presumably very small town to lead the Hero Parade (which appears to be celebrating the Mayor and his brothers, if those sashes are hereditary), which is ludicrous. The kids get top hats and canes and ride into history in the best parade ever. This is all great stuff, but I just can't concentrate on it, and all because of one man:

Parade Hater Horace.

I love Parade Hater Horace. I love him so much. I love that he tried really hard to have the Hero Parade cancelled, and that he had the conviction to wear that sweater while doing it. I definitely love any villain that shouts 'Foiled again!" when foiled two or more times.

I wish that Parade Hater Horace was part of DC continuity - he could have tangled with the Flash or been a part of Superman's ridiculous Silver Age mythos. He could have gone nuts and joined up with the Luthor/ Brainiac Axis of Evil during Crisis on Infinite Earths and been killed by Oans or shadow monsters or something. Then he'd have been eased back into continuity by the cool writers - the ones who knew that it was a good idea to bring back Superdog but skip Ace the Bat Hound - and killed off and replaced by his nephew (who would have P4R4D3 down one arm and H8T3R down the other and a 'cool' haircut and 'rad' sunglasses) by the uncool writers - the ones who keep doing that kind of shit to every character ever. Then he could have been reimagined sans continuity by John Byrne and re-reimagined by Grant Morrison or someone. We'd have learned how he was abused by a parade when he was a kid or how a parade stole his woman or how the government programmed him to combat parades because of an ancient prophecy that predicted that a parade would someday put out the sun. In the big fight outside of the Gulag in Kingdom Come there'd be some dude in a yellow shirt beating the tar out of one of the Wonder Twins, as lovingly rendered by Alex Ross. And after he found out about the mind wipes he'd have come back deadlier than ever.


Oh, Horace. What might have been.