Monday, April 14, 2008

World’s Finest #279

World’s Finest #279, May 1982, DC Comics
writers: Keith Pollard, Joey Cavalieri, Bob Rozakis, E. Nelson Bridwell
artists: Keith Pollard, Mike DeCarlo, Trevor Von Eeden, Larry Mahlstedt, Alex Savuik, Frank Chiaramonte, Don Newton
letterers: John Costanza, Adam Kubert, Phil Felix, Milt Snapinn
colorists: Gene D’Angelo, Tony Zuiko, Jerry Serpe, Adrienne Roy
editor: Mike W. Barr

Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, April 11, 2008.

If I’d been born ten years earlier, I’m convinced that World’s Finest would’ve been my favorite comic book series. If I remember correctly, it was on a sunny summer morning and I was eleven years old when I first began taking comics seriously -- as a habitual lifestyle rather than a casual hobby -- so, had I been born in ’69 instead of ’79, I would’ve encountered World’s Finest #279 very early into my collecting career. Think about it: four stories starring five of DC’s stable superheroes, only for a dollar. (Of course, I say only for a dollar now, recognizing the fortune a buck would’ve been to a kid in ’82. Still, when I started collecting in the early ‘90s, regular thirty-pagers cost a dollar and usually only featured one story, and managed to find the 100 cents then. What would I have scrounged together for a monthly anthology? Ah, but I digress . . .)

The best part of World’s Finest is its characters’ campy camaraderie. Consider the first page, which shows Batman training Superman in hand-to-hand combat. When a crime alarm interrupts their session and Supes asks to tag along, Batman replies, “Superman, old buddy, I was hoping you’d join me!” Now, I understand that these corny colloquialisms are what inspired Frank Miller to take the world’s finest heroes’ relationship in a different direction, but I don’t see the harm in maintaining this light-hearted fare, particularly since the divisiveness of Miller’s Dark Knight continuity is arguably responsible for the dark state of DC’s current direction. (Seriously, if headliners like Superman and Batman always got along, would writers even consider subversive tactics by the likes of second-stringers like Zatanna? Or, since mind-wiping really is as old school as Bats calling Supes “buddy,” would the Justice League even throw a fit over it?) Incidentally, the newly organized “Army of Crime,” boasting a roster of villains with inherent ranks like Major Disaster and Captain Cutlass, have been abducted Gotham’s elite so Bruce Wayne and his spit-curled bodyguard go undercover to crack the kidnapping ring. You see, that’s friendship.

Speaking of mind-wiping, in this issue’s second story, Green Arrow tackles a religious cult that has brainwashed his friend’s daughter. The Emerald Archer first confronts the zealots on the street, but when Ollie Queen decides to take them on legitimately, he discovers that the counter-group he befriends is actually a front to weed out the cult’s enemies. This tale has interesting roots in current events, as authorities attempt to sift through the facts surrounding pedophilic polygamist cults in Texas and Arizona, and while I don’t find Cavalieri’s script as socially demanding as Denny O’Neil’s take on the character, the consistency of civil consciousness is an appreciated thematic vein that runs through this era of Green Arrow’s history. (When the mess with Connor Hawke is finally cleared, an Arrow/Black Canary sojourn across America would be fantastic, considering our country’s current challenges. You listening, Winick?) I mean, I know it’s rude to point, but that’s basically Green Arrow’s super-power. Only fitting that he points that thing toward the folks that really need to hear the point.

(Still, this social servitude is Arrow’s only real distinction at this point in his evolution. Think about it -- he works at the Daily Star, and he has an Arrow-cave, an Arrow-mobile, etc. He even comments on his new lock-pick, “It may be arrow-shaped, but at least that’s all it is . . . Batman probably named his the Batpick, or the Bat-lock-debolter . . .” Considering these two vices, Ollie is the world’s finest all rolled into one!)

Hawkman’s adventure this issue is a swash-buckling space romp, as his search for Shayera lands him in the crosshairs of alien pirates! He almost takes the foursome out single-handedly, but they trick him with a projection of his beloved Hawkgirl -- dastardly fiends! The Marvel Family’s story is a little more grounded, as Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel, Jr. deal with an old man determined to live as long as possible. In fact, he has attached a device to his cardiac and respiratory functions, so that if either fail, respective missiles are launched either into the atmosphere or into the very Earth’s core. Of course, the speed of Mercury and the wisdom of Solomon help the Marvel men thrust these WMDs on a collision course in space, while Mary actually saves the old codger with CPR -- oh, and a visit from Asklepios, the Greek god of healing. Yes, writer E. Nelson Bridwell manages to convert a Golden Age Captain Marvel, Jr. classic starring Sherlock Holmes into a mystery about the varied appearances of “impossible people,” culminating in a guest spot from Kid Eternity. Although this twist seems mired in a little (undoubtedly retconned by now) continuity, I appreciated the mention of that old campy yarn. It reminded me of what Morrison’s trying to do in Batman right now.

Yes, it is possible to make the old seem new again. It is possible to make an embittered old geek like me feel like it was his first day of collecting comics all over again. It actually isn’t that hard, which is probably why many of DC’s and Marvel’s attempts at “innovative,” well marketing storylines seem so labored nowadays. They aren’t called the world’s finest for nothing . . . if only we on this side of the printed product weren’t the only ones to remember that.


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Anonymous said...

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