Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Classics - Showcase Presents Showcase #1

I've talked before about the fact that we're living in a Golden Age of comic reprints, and what better proof than DC's series of Showcase Presents collections?

For the cost of five (or seven) new comic books, you get a hefty book loaded with more than 500 black-and-white pages reprinting classic comics.

One of my favorites is the recent one with the symmetrical title Showcase Presents Showcase, which reprints the first 21 issues of the "try-out" title from the late 1950s.

It includes the first appearances of The (Barry Allen) Flash, Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, Lois Lane and Rip Hunter, Time Master. Even without color, what a deal!

The idea of the series was to devote an issue or two to a new character. If it caught on, it could result in a new comics series. If it failed, the company only lost sales on an issue or two, then it was on to the next idea.

I was lucky enough to interview DC editor Julius Schwartz in the late '80s, and I asked him about this historic series. The appearance of The Flash in Showcase #4 marked the return of DC's heroes - only Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman's comics had survived the hero "downturn" of the '50s.

Schwartz didn't edit the first three issues, which featured such immortal characters as the Fire Fighters, King of the Wild and The Frogmen. None of those attracted much attention, and Schwartz talked the management into trying an updated version of a Golden Age hero - The Flash.

He assigned one of the top artists in his "bullpen" to illustrate Robert Kanigher's story, and Carmine Infantino was the perfect choice. A master draftsman with a sleek, futuristic style, design skills way ahead of his time and a great eye for action and character design, Infantino made the series an instant classic.

The character did well enough to return in three more Showcase issues before being spun off into his own title, and paving the way for Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom and eventually, the Justice League of America.

For a longtime fan like yours truly, these collections are a wonderful way to relive classic stories or read others for the first time, all in an affordable and attractive package.

Some of the stories are dated, some are a bit slim, but the issue is loaded with great art (including Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Mike Sekowsky and Al Plastino, to name a few) and great writers, including Gardner Fox, Jack Miller and John Broome.

Lots of fun and highly recommended!

Grade: A


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