Monday, December 28, 2020

“Super Friends” comic guest stars: good, bad, and original

Super Friends was a Saturday morning fixture for more than a decade, with new seasons every fall from 1973 to 1985 except 1974-76 and 1982; new episodes were produced in 1983 but didn’t air till later. 

I had a front-row seat almost the entire time.

A comic book based on the series was published from 1976 to 1981, 47 issues in all. I began collecting with #19 in 1979, then tracked down many of the 18 back issues, and ultimately got a subscription—the first and only time I subscribed to a comic book. 

The comic was interesting to me for a number of reasons:

  • it sometimes included guest heroes who never appeared on the animated series—and were not even popular characters in mainstream DC comics
  • it sometimes included villains who never appeared on the animated series
  • it sometimes featured villains created for the comic who never appeared on the animated series or in other DC comics, though at least one did later cross over into “regular” continuity
  • it introduced the Global Guardians, who also joined continuity

Statistics (covers only)

heroes who also appeared on show:

The Atom

Green Arrow (one appearance, 1973 season)
Hawkman

Hawkman

Plastic Man 
(one appearance, 1973 season)

heroes who did not appear on show (not counting Global Guardians except Green Fury, who later became Fire):

Red Tornado

TNT and Dyna-Mite
(tied with Black Orchid for the most obscure guest star)

Swamp Thing
The Demon
Man-Bat (though a villain at the time)

Black Orchid 
(tied with TNT and Dyna-Mite for the most obscure guest star)

Supergirl
(inside: Weather Wizard, enemy of the Flash)

Green Fury

Green Fury

pre-existing villains who also appeared on show:

Toyman (enemy of Superman; note: different version of Toyman appeared on show)
Cheetah (enemy of Wonder Woman)
The Penguin (enemy of Batman)

The Penguin

The Riddler (enemy of Batman)

Mirror Master (enemy of the Flash)

Bizarro (enemy of Superman)
Solomon Grundy (enemy of multiple heroes)

Grodd (enemy of the Flash)

Scarecrow (enemy of Batman)

Toyman

Sinestro (enemy of Green Lantern)

pre-existing villains who did not appear on show:

Poison Ivy (enemy of Batman)
Human Flying Fish (enemy of Aquaman)

Grax (enemy of Superman)

Time Trapper (enemy of the Legion of Super-Heroes)

Chronos (enemy of the Atom)

Queen Bee (enemy of the Justice League)
Hector Hammond (enemy of Green Lantern)
(inside: Kanjar Ro, enemy of the Justice League)

original villains (none of whom appeared on the show):

World Beater 
(also appeared in #45 and #46; see below)

Skyrocket

Greenback

Menagerie Man 
(also appeared in #33; see above)

Kingslayer 
(introduced in mainstream continuity in 2016)

Overlord 
(also appeared in #39 and #43)
(inside: Green Lantern, Mera, Aqualad, Nubia, Green Fury)

Warhead

Futurio (Overlord)

Green Thumb

Futurio-XX (Overlord)

The Conquerer

This leaves 17 covers that fell into none of these categories.

Quick lists

heroes who also appeared on show:

The Atom
Green Arrow
Hawkman
Plastic Man

heroes who did not appear on show:

Red Tornado
TNT and Dyna-Mite
Swamp Thing
The Demon
Man-Bat
Black Orchid 
Supergirl
Green Fury

pre-existing villains who also appeared on show:

Toyman *
Cheetah *
The Penguin
The Riddler *
Mirror Master 
Bizarro *
Solomon Grundy *
Grodd *
Scarecrow *
Sinestro *

* members of Legion of Doom

pre-existing villains who did not appear on show:

Poison Ivy 
Human Flying Fish
Grax 
Time Trapper 
Chronos 
Queen Bee
Hector Hammond

original villains:

World Beater 
Skyrocket
Greenback
Menagerie Man 
Kingslayer 
Overlord 
Warhead
Futurio (Overlord)
Green Thumb
Futurio-XX (Overlord)
The Conquerer

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Justice League superhero pairs in DC logo box, 1990-92

Over two series and two-and-a-half years, on certain Justice League covers, DC Comics placed a pair of superheroes posing playfully at top left (below the logo). In all, thirteen heroes were featured.

  • Three of those characters (Flash, Elongated Man, Power Girl) made repeat appearances with a different partner. 
  • Two (Elongated Man, Power Girl) made repeat appearances in a different (arguably worse) costume.
  • Two pairs appeared only once: Flash/Power Girl, Elongated Man/Power Girl. (Dont feel bad, Power Girl; some characters did not appear at all.)
  • Three pairs were established buddies (Beetle/Booster, Fire/Ice, Flash/Green Lantern); the rest were more unlikely combos.

The first two pairs appeared on covers of Justice League America, the rest Justice League Europe.

Here is a collage gallery of each pairs first appearance:


Sources:

Justice League America

  • Blue Beetle/Booster Gold - #36, 3/90
  • Fire/Ice - #37, 4/90

Justice League Europe

  • Metamorpho/Captain Atom - #13, 4/90
  • Elongated Man/Rocket Red - #18, 9/90
  • Flash/Power Girl - #20, 11/90
  • Aquaman/Crimson Fox - #40, 7/92
  • Flash/Green Lantern - #41, 8/92
  • Elongated Man/Power Girl - #43, 10/92

Monday, December 21, 2020

Syfy interview with "Batman & Bill" directors

I only recently came across a snappy 2019 interview with Batman & Bill directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce on Syfy (the brand formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel) about the documentary. 


Commentary:

Like a justice-seeking hero from the comics he adores, Nobleman chased the real story like it was a 60 Minutes exposé in hopes of restoring Finger’s legacy, in of all things a children’s book…

Imagine that! A children’s book that requires hard work and aims big! (But I get where this perspective is coming from. All authors of books for young readers do.)

Syfy: When did you guys first meet Marc Tyler Nobleman, and determine his Bill Finger quest would make a great doc?
Sheena M. Joyce: We met after a screening at the New York Film Festival, and we hit it off.

They respectfully left out how Don discreetly alerted me that my fly was down. I was practically a parody of making a totally avoidable bad first impression. 

Sheena: …Marc was trying to get Athena [Bill's granddaughter] to mount this lawsuit [against DC Entertainment]

This is not quite accurate. From the first time Athena and I talked, I encouraged her to pursue justice for her grandfather’s legacy, but was not specifically advocating for a lawsuit, which can, of course, take years and cost lots (both financially and emotionally). If she ultimately chose to take legal action, I would have supported it. But I preferred a less contentious approach—namely negotiation—if possible, and am confident I was not alone in this feeling.

Sheena: We were there when Marc first met Athena…

As Ive noted before, Athena and I first met in person on March 18, 2007, in Florida, a year before any talk of a documentary and three years before I had a book contract. I next saw her two years to the month later, in New York. Six months after that, I met Don and Sheena, also in New York. The scene in the film of me going to Athena’s house was in 2011, which was, I believe, the first time I’d seen her since 2009. 

Once a nonfiction writer who meticulously doublechecks and documents sources, always a nonfiction writer who meticulously doublechecks and documents sources!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

“Batman & Bill” makes multiple lists of best documentaries

Streaming recommendations features have likely become even more popular since the pandemic started. Here are a few sites that have kindly included Batman & Bill on best-of lists within the past year (always among humbling company):


  • Marie Claire (11/26/20; 20-item list)
  • Android Authority (9/1/20; this 12-item list may change as films come and leave the service)
  • Daily Dot (7/8/20; 12-item list); fuller review (6/30/20); “a must-watch for comics fans, and a gripping real-life story for the rest of us”
  • Mental Floss (1/10/20; 25-item list); unlike the lists above, this one is not limited to Hulu docs, making it an even bigger honor to be on it
  • The Cinemaholic (12/28/19; 15-item list); technically, this posted before it was widely known that we had a pandemic on our hands, but I recall that people streamed before COVID, too

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thank you again, Maryland State Arts Council

In times of strife, we turn to art. For the second time during the pandemic, my work has been supported by the Maryland State Arts Council. Thank you, MSAC!


Learn how the Maryland State Arts Council positively impacts Maryland and the arts in general.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"10 Real Life Heroes Who Helped Bill Finger Get Credit" (Screen Rant)

On Screen Rant, Tim Davis has posted an unranked list of people who helped Batman co-creator Bill Finger receive official credit in 2015 (41 years after Bill died and 76 years after Batman debuted). 


The list:

11. (honorable mention) Bob Kane (with a nod to Thomas Andrae); mention is fine, honorable doesn't track
10. the one I live with (see below)
 7. Jerry Robinson/Carmine Infantino
 4. Travis Langley
 3. Alethia Mariotta

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bob Dole Institute of Politics interview about "Thirty Minutes Over Oregon"

Audrey Coleman, the museum director of the Bob Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, kindly interviewed me about Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story (on Veterans Day, no less).



The institute promotes public service, civil discourse, and bipartisanship inspired by the legacy of Senator Bob Dole.

Audrey: "Both WWII history and your book's central question about courage, fighting, and unity are the foundation of our mission."

(Sorry for my Zoom face. If that is not
already a term, it should be.)


Thank you again, Audrey!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

First official credit for various DC Comics superheroes

Superman debuted in 1938. Batman in 1939. Wonder Woman in 1941. And starting with each of their first appearances, writer/artist creators were credited in-story. (But not always all the creators. Exhibit B. Exhibit WW.)

With respect to creator credit, what ended up being the DC trinity ended up being exceptions rather than rules. The majority of DC superhero characters who debuted in the Golden Age (1938-1956) and Silver Age (1956-1970) of Comic Books did not receive a “created by” credit from the get-go. 

Once you get into the Bronze Age (1970-1984), mileage began to vary. Some characters (Black Lightning, Booster Gold) were explicitly credited while others (Mister Miracle, Swamp Thing) weren’t. By “explicit,” I mean some variation of the words “created by” were used. The creators of Mister Miracle and Swamp Thing were credited as writers and artists, but not identified as creators. 

I’m referring in particular to characters who headlined their own title as opposed to characters who first appeared as part of a team (Power Girl, Katana) or as a supporting character (Vixen, Lobo). Those characters typically would not receive a creator credit till they got their own series or mini-series, and sometimes not even then (Red Tornado, Elongated Man).

Sometimes a creator credit appeared once, or for one mini-series, then not again for a while. There is also an inconsistency—though the logic is surely delineated in a contract unseen by the public—to when regularly credited characters get credited outside their own books. In some group titles or crossovers, the creators of certain characters are present and accounted for, but in other instances, creator names are as visible as Clark Kent when Superman is on the premises.

A handful of A-list characters still do not have creator credits:

  • Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Flash (Barry Allen)
  • Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
  • Green Arrow
  • Black Canary
  • Supergirl
  • Batgirl

Below is a roundup of first known creator credits for many of the rest of DC’s most popular characters. Farther below are comic book pages (and their corresponding covers) doing the honors of announcing the creators themselves.


Winner of the longest spell from creation to credit: Aquaman! (Actually, he’s the runner-up to Batman. Writer Bill Finger co-created Batman in 1939 and was not credited till 2015—76 years later. And when artist H.G. Peter, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne are finally credited for Wonder Woman, she will take the top spot.)

The credits in their natural habitat:


Dr. Fate debuted 1940, credited 1978


Aquaman debuted 1941, credited 2003


Martian Manhunter debuted 1955, credited 1988


Atom debuted 1961, Hawkman debuted 1964,
both credited 2010


(Atom’s inaugural credit appeared
in two titles the same month)


Zatanna debuted 1964, credited 1987


Metamorpho debuted 1965, credited 1986


Plastic Man debuted 1966 (DC), credited 1980


Deadman debuted 1967, credited 1989


Swamp Thing debuted 1971, credited 1982


Shazam debuted 1973 (DC), credited 2019


Firestorm debuted 1978, credited 1978


Nightwing debuted 1984, credited 2011

* The Dr. Fate creators are cheekily if obliquely referred to as “original archivists.”

** Only original Aquaman artist Paul Norris is credited. Original writer Mort Weisinger is not.

*** Oddly, in Martian Manhunter #4 (1988; the first series he headlined), the creator of his logo (Alex Ray) is credited, but not the creator of the character himself. 


**** The 1987 one-shot was the first comic Zatanna headlined. In 2014, in Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell, the Zatanna credit was amended to add Murphy Anderson.


***** Plastic Man debuted in Police Comics #1 (1941), then got his own title in 1943, both published by Quality Comics; in Plastic Man #1, the sole credit is “By Jack Cole.” Later, DC acquired the character. DC first published him in 1966, but without credit, which is why I start the credit countdown clock at that year.

****** In 1989, Deadman was credited to Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino. The next time the credit appeared, in Wednesday Comics in 2009, it included only Drake. (At least five Deadman series or one-shots came out between 1989 and 2009; none gave credit.)


******* Nightwing’s secret identity Dick Grayson (and original superhero identity Robin) debuted in 1940.

Thank you on infinite earths to the immeasurable John Wells and Bob Hughes for taking the time to help me compile this information. 

If any readers find any mistakes—or would like to suggest characters to add—please let me know in the comments.
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