EP0067: Heroes of the Public Domain: Spider-Queen

A look at the public domain hero with Spider powers who came before Spider-man.


Host: She’s not amazing, spectacular or sensational, but she is the first ever web slaying superhero. We’ll tell you all about it as we look at Spider Queen, a hero of the public domain, straight ahead.
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EP0066: Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby (Review)

Learn the original 1970s origin of escape artist Scott Free. (No, we didn’t make up that name, Jack Kirby did.)

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Graham: Meet the world’s greatest escape artist as we review Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby, straight ahead.
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EP0065: The Flash: The Silver Age, Volume 3

The Flash meets the Reverse Flash for the first two times while villain from the 1960s battle to win top ranking in the prison newspaper.

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Graham: Meet the Reverse Flash for the first time as we take a look at The Flash: The Silver Age Vol. 3, straight ahead.

[Intro Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham

Graham: The third volume of Flash Silver Age comics features some milestones but a little bit less than in previous volumes. Probably the first one that happens. This book, I should say, collects issues 134 to 147of the Flash, running up to about September of 1967. The first big thing that happens is in Flash number 135, when the earth is being invaded from another dimension and Wally West gets a new costume. His original Kid Flash costume was just a mini Flash costume. A bolt extends from Barry’s chest and changes his costume into the traditional Kid Flash costume, which I think is just a great look. Barry says that the costumes being the same could create confusion and it didn’t really do it too much because you could always tell from a perspective, as long as you made it clear that Barry was bigger, draw him bigger, you could tell who was who but you don’t always look at people from that particular perspective. So, now with the new costume, and they actually drew a few panels where Wally was in the foreground and was bigger, just because of his placement in the panel but you could still tell it was Wally. So, it was a nice change. One thing I don’t like about it is because you have the bolt of energy extending from Barry’s chest to change the costume, he delivers a page long technobabble incomprehensible explanation of why it happened, which has to do with the interdimensional alien invasion and super weapons. It just bogs down the story. It would just have been a lot simpler and made a lot more sense just to have Barry say, “By the way, I’ve been thinking our costumes, you need your own look. I came up with this design. What do you think?”, and if he likes it, just super sew it up, be a lot simpler. But at any rate, it does introduce that classic look for Kid Flash.

Issue 139 introduces the Reverse Flash, one of the most dangerous and deadly Flash villains. He is a man from the 25th century, who, his favorite historical character is the Flash but not for fighting crime or virtue, that part he doesn’t like. He just likes it that he goes really fast, which I think explains why some people like superheroes. Not for their values but just because they do cool things even if they don’t really like the superheroes’ virtues. So, what had happened was that a time capsule was sent into the future and it was found and Eobard Thawne ran off with the Flash costume that the Flash had put in the time capsule. The goofiness of the origin comes from the fact that Thawne’s claim was that there were super speed wave patterns that were on the costume from 500 years previously that he was able to amplify with 25th century technology. I mean it’s a really silly idea for giving him powers. The story is good once he gets powers and really tries to find a way to compete with the Flash and the Flash travels back in time. It’s a really fun epic story.

I think the second story is better in issue 147, the second Reverse Flash story. He finds a way to…because he also goes by the name Professor Zoom, he finds a way to get powers through element Z and he comes up with a plan for a criminal activity that involves making the element man return to his life of… The Element Man really has been trying to reform, and so there is this sort of battle for his future and for his life between the Flash and the Reverse Flash that really is just a nice touch for this issue. I also like the cover for the issue because you have the Flash and the Reverse Flash on the cover on different sides of a wall racing towards Element Man and it’s a callback to issue 133 and so you know you drew an iconic cover when people are paying homage to it 2 years late…just two years later. It’s not one of those ones where they wait 10 or 20 years but that was great.

The introduction of Heatwave came in issue 140 and essentially, he’s introduced as a former circus fire-eater, who for his own personal reasons, decided to engage in a life of crime and Heatwave actually came on the scene as the Flash was about to capture Captain Cold and save him from being captured. They went back to Captain Cold’s lair and exchange…and split up the loot but then they divided over a difference of opinion with them both being in love with the mystery woman that Captain Cold’s in love with.

This was an ok story. I have to admit that I don’t care much for the initial design for Heatwave. It’s a really unimaginative costume. Unlike the others that were done in the story, you know, you get to see these origin story. There’s these iconic looks of people like Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang and Mirror Master. It is just pretty much a white jump suit with a mask on it. Not really imaginative at all and the story doesn’t do a whole lot for me but it does introduce an important character.

Some other highlights of the book. In issue 135, some disabled boys actually figure out Kid Flash’s identity. It’s a story that highlights the strengths and the abilities of people with disabilities and is one of those stories that tries to help teach kids to respect and understand what they have to contribute.
Then, one of the funnier ideas in this book is that the Mirror Master is sitting in prison and decides to break out because he’s been biting his tongue but there is a jailhouse poll for who is the most effective criminal and he broke out because he was ranked number three behind the trickster and Captain Cold. At the end of the…and essentially his plot involves using mirror versions of himself to distract the Flash and they kind of serve as bodyguards and it’s a fun concept. Once he gets back in prison at the end of it, he has now dropped to number six falling behind Abra Kadabra, Captain Boomerang and the Top,. Wow, he ranked behind the Top and the Trickster, really…The people who write jailhouse newsletters with this fall, I guess, selling the sensibility of people who ended up in prison but this is a hilarious concept, really fun the way it’s carried out.

Then you have a Gardener Fox written story issue 137, The Vengeance of the Immortal Villain and this has Vandal Savage picking off members of the Justice Society on Earth 2, who one by one and capturing them. Barry and Jay end up coming to the rescue but he’s able to use his machine to manipulate them to get them to fight over who will capture him until they finally settle it. This story, at the end it does see the Justice Society agreeing to reestablish itself and start meeting again. I guess, so that by staying in closer contact maybe you won’t have these old foes coming and kidnapping you. Of course, this would also set the stage for the Justice League of America/Justice Society of America crossovers.

The Puzzle of the Phantom Plunderers an issue number 142 as the backup story after the Prankster story is interesting. Essentially, you have these interdimensional villains who are tapping into the Flash’s powers to commit crimes on their world. The Flash ends up on their world and ends up imprisoned as a menace and he has to capture them or risk being punished for their crimes. It’s a fun story, some good concept and some imaginative drawing on the aliens.

Number 143 is the Trail of the False Green Lanterns and there are clones of Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, who are evil and committing crimes for Dr T. O. Morrow, who we mentioned in a previous Crisis on the Multiple Earths review and this one is a fun story, you know, it’s visually hard to keep track of but I think for a reason. I’m really kind of unclear as to why the Green Lanterns became evil clones but it’s still a fun team up and just a really pleasant one to read.

Number 145 is The Weather Wizard Blows Up a Storm. What makes this one interesting is that when the Weather Wizard is going to send his bizarre weather, it’s really just totally random as to when it’s going to happen but there is a kid who is actually able to predict this and it’s an interesting set up and a nice little twist as to how he’s able to do that, even though it’s not totally unpredictable. Then the backup story in that issue is The Girl from the Super-Fast Dimension, where the Flash runs into a woman from another dimension who normally can’t be seen by anybody else because she’s moving too fast through our dimension for the human eye to see and the Flash gets her to slow down so that she can be seen and so she can interact with the world but then there are some problems that come up as a result of that. Again, it’s clever, high concept stuff, traditional 60s science fiction. I should also mention that there is a recurring theme, at least three backup stories, where Iris’s dad, Professor West gets an inkling that Barry might be the Flash. Probably one of the more interesting ones is that Barry was always showing up late and it’s not a situation where he actually knew he was late but rather he arrived, his watch said he was on time but he was ten minutes late and there was an explanation about the use of super speed around that. It was pretty interesting.

I think overall the rest of the book, the stories were mostly not bad but I think that they were, in some ways less interesting than previous volumes. It’s important to keep in mind that we’re more than 30 issues in to the modern day run of the Flash and it is a challenge to keep coming up with creative new stories, particularly when you’re going with plot-based stories as opposed to character based and this was really the focus of the D.C. Silver Age. So, there are some repetitive concepts some that are little too over laden with technobabble. And there were a couple that I didn’t much care for. I thought the Prankster story in this book was bad. He was just kind of randomly going around doing stuff without much of a point or a reason why. And then there was the Mirror Master story which got…you know, I like Silver Age goofy but there is a line between goofy and stupid and the issue where the Mirror Master switched places with the Flash’s legs, that one was just silly and did not really work. It was dumb story in my opinion and I’ve been a fan of most of the Mirror Master stories and I think most of the stories in this book are good but they are not the extreme level of awesome that I would assign to the previous volumes of the Flash. Still, they’re worth reading and if you’ll love the Silver Age or love the Flash, there’s a lot to enjoy here but it’s not quite as good as previous volumes. Still, even not being quite as good, it will earn a rating of classy as opposed to the rating of very classy I gave for the previous volume.
There’s a lot of fun comics in here. There are the key milestones with Professor Zoom, as well as getting to see the first appearance of the Kid Flash costume were cool. Plus I think the Vandal Savage story is great and it sets the stage for so much fun and excitement that would come with the Justice League of America/Justice Society of America crossovers.

Alright, that’s all for now. If you have a comment, send it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

EP0064: Batman, Volume 5: Rules of Engagement

Catwoman and Batman are engaged but they have to settle some old business and also a double date with Superman and Lois Lane.

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Graham: Batman and Catwoman go into the desert on a secret mission and then they go on a double date with Superman and Lois Lane. Find out more as we take a look at Batman Vol 5: Rules of Engagement, straight ahead.
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EP0063: Super Sons, Volume 2: Planet of the Capes

Superboy and Robin team up to train and then travel to an alternate universe, and then they get their own lair.

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Graham: The Super Sons travel to another dimension and get a brand spanking new headquarters. Find out all about it as we take a look at Super Sons: Vol 2: Planet of the Capes, straight ahead.
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EP0062: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor: The Sapling: Branches

The most forgettable member of the Silence returns in the conclusion of the Sapling saga.

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Graham: The doctor encounters a world with all the marks of Time Lord interference and then he and Alice have to have a final confrontation with the scream as the story of the sapling comes to an end as we take a look at Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor The Sapling Volume 3 – Branches, straight ahead.
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EP0061: Supergirl, Volume 3: The Girl of No Tomorrow

Supergirl battles a bunch of villains we don’t care about, gets a new status quo, and then goes to Mongolia to have a trilingual adventure.

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Graham: Supergirl’s powers surge out of control as she faces the Fatal Five as we look at Supergirl: The Girl of No Tomorrow, straight ahead.
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EP0060: The Torch

The Torch is dead, but he’s an android so how does that work? It’s the best Mad Thinker story ever as Toro and the Torch return.

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Transcript below:

Graham: How can an android be dead? Get ready to flame on as we take a look at The Torch by Mike Carey, straight ahead.

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham.

Host: Most people know Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four as the Human Torch. However, he was not the first character in Marvel Comics to bear that name. Actually, the original Human Torch, presented first on the front cover of Marvel Mystery Comics number 1, was an android. An android named Jim Hammond. During the Golden Age of comics, he fought crime in a wide variety of different Marvel magazines and he also made a brief comeback along with Namor and Captain America in the mid-1950s. The 1970 series, the invaders told of how Namor, Captain America, and the human torch along with other heroes, such as the Union Jack Nazis during World War Two. The torch came out of the Avengers Invaders mini-series which featured the death of the Human Torch. However, as the villain of this story, the Mad Thinker, points out how does an android die?

During the Golden Age, the Human Torch had a sidekick known as Toro and this is been fleshed out so his full name is Tom Raymond who also had flame powers and he joined forces with the Torch in his fight against evil. Tom Raymond died but when Bucky Barnes got control of the Cosmic Cube for a while, he undid that. Unfortunately for Toro, his wife had moved on and he has no place in the world as the story opens. Both Toro and the body of the Human Torch are set to be examined by the Mad Thinker who has been hired by Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) in order to build a weapon and his idea involves building a weapon involving flame and so he has the Torch’s body stolen and kidnaps Toro but he’s got his own planes and mind.

I’ll go ahead and discuss this kind of in segments. The main characters of this, Toro is an old character. He’s got a lot of reason to be sympathetic. He’s kind of lost in this new world and doesn’t really know his place in it with nowhere to go and just nothing to do. You do feel for the guy. At the same time, while his present is very uncertain, what he thought he knew about his past is challenged. He definitely goes on a journey and I think at the start of the story I didn’t much like him but as the story goes on, we really get to know him better and also see the type of the impact he makes on the Torch. The Torch, is part of the experimentation by the Mad Thinker, has many of the emotions and values, sort of, thought centres in his programming neutralized and so he actually starts out when he awakens, being just really a machine and he has to really rediscover what it was that made him seem so human-like as the Human Torch. And as the book goes on, really the relationship between Toro and the Torch becomes a lot more interesting.

I also have to say I love the Mad Thinker in this. He is just a superb villain. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this well written. He’s devious, he’s got plans within plans and he even though he’s at first in the early part of the book, he’s hired by Advanced Ideas Mechanics and later on he is hired by a group of Nazis, who are running an underground city where the third rock continues to thrive, dominated by android citizens in New Berlin but the Mad Thinker really has his own agenda and there’s an intelligence, a cunning and a ruthlessness about him that makes him formidable as a villain. I think he’s almost written as practically Dr Octopus standards though not quite that over the top in the ego department but really he is just incredibly well written. In addition to that, you get some guest stars, Fantastic Four appear with Reed Richards in particular landing a role. Namor shows up and he’s under some mind control so he ends up fighting the Torch, which was a really big thing during the Golden Age.

The art in this, I think, is really good. The book has Alex Ross’s name on it but he just co-plotting this and he did the covers. He did not do the interiors. The interiors were done by Patrick Berkenkotter and I think he does a good job. They don’t have a full-on painted feel to them but the characters have a lot of life to them, some really nice details, everything is done pretty well. If I had one complaint, it would be that he drew Reed Richards, in some cases, with these really thick muscular arms, which is not part of Reed Richards design at all. And I think the story is really good. It provides some entertaining moment. The villains are always double-crossing each other so you never quite know what’s going to come next. You have some really good setups as well as some good turns with probably a couple sections in this eight issue story. If there was any concern, it’s mainly just the obscurity of the Torch. I think you can read this book with very limited knowledge of the Torch just from say what we’re describing in this podcast episode and you’ll be fine but you’ll get more out of the story, the more that you like the Torch and the more that you’re aware of the character.

Overall I think this is a nice book. It really shows what can be done when a comic book company looks to some of its less well-known characters and really gives them a story that showcases their potential and that’s what The Torch does so I will give The Torch a rating of classy. It’s got really good art, some good riding and some pretty interesting character moments.

Alright, that’s all for now. If you do have a comment email to me classic classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and follow me on Twitter at classycomicsguy and be sure and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

EP0059: The Flash: The Silver Age, Volume 2

Barry Allen and Wally West continue their groundbreaking adventures as they travel through time and battle epic villains like Captain Boomerang for the first time and a team up with the Green Lantern.

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Graham: The Flash is tied to a giant boomerang, twice and Kid Flash travels back to pre-historic times, twice. We’ll talk about it, straight ahead in The Flash: The Silver Age Volume 2.
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EP0058: Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2

Come back to the late 1960s as the JLA/JSA battle strange black spheres and the sinister Dr. T.O. Morrow.

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Host: Get ready for universe spanning crisis as we take a look at Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume Two, straight ahead.
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