Happy holidays! After an unexpected year off (curse you 2021!), George from Meanwhile at the Podcast returns for our annual Christmas gab bag discussion. This year we discuss the following Christmas related comic books:
Super-Sized Alf Holiday Special (1990, Marvel Comics)
DC Special Series #21, “Super-Star Holiday Special” (1979, DC Comics)
Hot Wheels #6 (1971, DC Comics)
Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1 (2011, DC Comics)
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol Holiday Special (2002, Airwave Comics)
52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).
Week 18, Day 1
Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, and Edogawa Sangaku arrive at the House of Mystery to find their colleague, Tim Trench, wearing the Helmet of Fate. When Terri touches Tim, his body turns to water, leaving the Helmet in a puddle.
Week 18, Day 2
Charlie is awarded the Order of the Crescent for helping to stop the suicide bomber by Black Adam and Isis. Renee was supposed to have been present as well, and her absence offends Adam. Adam finds a drunk Renee with a Kahndaqian woman. When Adam tries to give Renee the medal, she swats it away, angering him. He picks her up by her throat, and Renee tells him, quietly, “… just do it…”, but Isis intervenes. Charlie tells them they are focusing on the suicide bomber instead of why she was at the wedding in the first place: they should be going after Intergang.
Week 18, Day 3
Detective Chimp has tracked Ralph Dibny to Marseilles, France, and has brought the sealed Helmet of Fate with him to enlist Ralph’s help to unravel the mystery. Ralph tells him it’s time to call in the Shadowpact.
Week 18, Day 4
Clark Kent is in Cincinnati, OH, to cover Booster Gold’s funeral. While there, Skeets encounters a young man who seems “vaguely … familiar” to it. He is Daniel Carter, who, according to Skeet’s scans, is a direct ancestor of Booster’s. Skeets tells Daniel to contact it to talk about his future.
Week 18, Day 7
The Shadowpact and Ralph have assembled in Giza, Egypt, the “shadow of the helm’s birthsite”, to scry what has happened recently to the helmet. The Helmet begins talking to Ralph, telling him that it can give him the “answers you seek” if he is prepared to “make every sacrifice I ask of you”. Ralph announces he is ready, and walks off with the Helmet. The Shadowpact look on puzzled, and Enchantress says, “Is it just me, or does he think that the Helmet was talking to him?”
This might be my favorite issue yet. In fact, I want to do a spotlight episode on the podcast on this issue! So many things to cover and explore….
First, here’s another cover I love. It has a very pulpy paperback cover feel to it, especially with the large Helmet of Fate looming over everyone and the scratchy letters, “Calling Dr. Fate”, in the bottom corner. Plus, Sinclair’s coloring of the Helmet here is gorgeous with the way light bounces off the metal — it’s not a spit-polished helmet by any means; that helmet has some history to it!
I also love the way they roll out the credits in the first few pages. Usually, they presented in a banner-like way across the pages, but this issue, they’ve placed the credits on pages framed to the walls or on mirrors in the House of Mystery. It helps direct our eyes to the other items on the walls, giving us a brief look into this group of occult investigators, the Croatoan Society: Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, Edogawa Sangaku, Tim Trench, and formerly Ralph Dibny. Ok, this was a new group created in this very issue (as far as I can tell), but the way they are written, it seems like they’ve been working in the DCU for a while. And their base of operations is the House of Mystery! How did this not turn into a series (or at least a mini)?! Given that this is the Sangaku character’s first appearance, I found this bit of trivia, so you know the collaborators on this issue are having some fun, especially because nothing came out after this issue regarding the character. Oh well.
Renee is reverting to type, unable to cope with killing the young girl from the previous issue (and I don’t blame her!), but it’s the way she taunts Black Adam, knowing what he could do to her — that she wants him to do it — that is heartbreaking. I’m glad that they’re showing the consequences of Renee’s actions, i.e., she isn’t instantly over it. But how long will this continue to haunt her?
I love that Ralph is the detective that Detective Chimp seeks out regarding the Helmet of Fate, a “locked-room mystery with a severe touch of the weird”. It adds a dimension to Ralph that I don’t know has ever been explored, but I’m also not well read on the Elongated Man’s adventures. Unfortunately, we do find out that Detective Chimp is a member of the Republican National Party.
Booster’s funeral provides us with some characters rarely, or only just, seen, as far as I know. In fact, while I recognized two, I had to look them up. Of note are Beefeater, with his punctuated “oi”s, and Odd Man, who first appeared in Detective Comics #487 in a story I read for the first time only a few month’s ago (at the time of this writing).
Finally, we get to see Shadowpact, which is a group that I love, even if the series wasn’t all that great. But we do get a great moment at the end of this issue when Ralph walks off with the Helmet of Fate after its conversation with him, and Enchantress reveals to us that the Helmet hadn’t said anything! So, is Ralph hallucinating or is something sinister at work here (I’m guessing the latter).
So many good elements here, rife with old and now new DC history, with some plot-forwarding as well. I really enjoyed this issue.
The Origin of The Question
by Waid, Bennett, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker
I’ve never been a big fan of The Question. He’s a detective-like character with a pretty basic gimmick, his pseudoderm mask. Oh, and it just so happens he was trained in martial arts by Richard Dragon. Yawn. However, when they changed the Question in the Justice League Unlimited animated series into a conspiracy theorist oddball, that’s when he became interesting. Given what happens to Charlie in 52, I think the passing of the torch to Renee was a good evolution of the concept.
Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.
Best of the Brave and the Bold #5 (cover by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez)
Batman and the House of Mystery, “Red Water, Crimson Death” by Denny O’Neil (writer), Neal Adams (artist), Petra Scotese (colorist), and Murray Boltinoff (editor)
Viking Prince, “The Ghost Ship” by Robert Kanigher (writer), Joe Kubert (artist), and Petra Scotese (colorist)
The Golden Gladiator, “Captive Champion” by Bill Finger (writer), Russ Heath (artist), and Petra Scortese (colorist)
Robin Hood, “The Secret of Sherwood Forest” by Robert Kanigher (writer), Russ Heath (artist), and Petra Scortese (colorist)
This is the fifth issue of a six-issue reprint series spotlighting Batman team-ups, but as you can see, there are also some backup stories from the Silver Age. While those were interesting to read and I particularly liked Russ Heath’s art in the two stories, I’ll focus on the Batman story (originally printed in Brave and the Bold #93).
This might be a weird one to modern Batman fans. It starts off with Batman having a close call with a thug, followed by Commissioner Gordon ordering Batman to take a vacation to Ireland (“You’re no good to me dead!”). Also, Gordon gives Batman a ticket on a steamship–how did that work exactly? After all, it’s Bruce Wayne who is the passenger. After saving a young boy who tried to kill himself by jumping into the Atlantic (because the kid was trying to join his dead grand-da), Bruce opens up his suitcase to find his Batman uniform in it (maybe Customs worked differently back then?), scolds Alfred in absentia, and then he throws it into the ocean (“Until I regain my health, the Batman is dead!”)! Later, a mystery presents itself, and Bruce deliberately ignores it: “No, blast it! I’m thinking like Batman again. I’m Bruce Wayne… and I’m on vacation!”. Ignores it until a ghost wakes him up, he suddenly has his Batman costume on, and the kid he saved earlier is wandering off into the Irish countryside in his PJs. Long story short, a local fishery owner is attempting to convince the island populace that the area is haunted so that he can take over (?). In one of the fights, Batman gets poisoned and the villain offers him a chance (for some reason) by pointing out two beakers, one of which contains the antidote. Logical Batman, however, sees the portrait of the ancestral king on the wall pointing to a test tube nearby, and so he dives forward and drinks the liquid from it that actually does contain the antidote. And for the second time in this story, Batman gets lucky against a guy with a gun to his head when the portrait of the king falls from the wall, killing the fishery owner. Cain, from the House of Mystery, who has been our narrative guide for this story, let’s us know that the spirit of the king caused all of these unexplained occurrences (which we knew already because we clearly see the ghost in several panels).
The story may not make much sense (weird for weird’s sake–but that is a staple of the House of Mystery stories, I guess), but the Neal Adams art is good, as expected. It’s especially good when Adams is drawing Cain.