Friday, August 12, 2005

This Comic Is Good - DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories

A few months back, I said here, in reference to DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, "Who made a deal with the Devil so that we got something so freaking cool?!!?!?"

And having read the book, my question still stands.

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First off, how cool is that cover?

Secondly, the introduction by Craig Shutt was quite good. I like it when comics have introductions by guys who know what they are talking about, and know how to express it well.

The opening tale is one by Otto Binder and CC Beck which just blows your mind. It tells the story of the world going to atomic war, with Captain Marvel trapped in the middle!

This story was so hot the paper sizzled!

I can only imagine what it must have been like to read a comic so bold in 1946!!

There is a good story featuring the reveal of what would happen if Bruce Wayne's parents WEREN'T killed when he was young (I did not like that his parents ended up dying when he was a young MAN ANYways. Seemed silly). The fact that he STILL ended up becoming Batman was a real hoot.

The story of Batman and Robin getting new identities after their IDs were revealed was pretty hokey.

I also was not a fan of the "a bit too much" story of Superman marrying Lois Lane, Lana Lang and Lori succession!

I liked the story of Superman and Batman as brothers (especially the weird ending, with Batman ending up in the Legion of Superheroes!!!).

The Flash story where Barry Allen imagines if he didn't have a secret identity was good, especially the bit that I always loved about how Barry grew up reading Flash comics. Metafiction in the 60s! Awesome!

My three favorites, though, HAVE to be the epic "Death of Superman" story, where Luthor finally defeats Superman, but ultimately pays the price for his crime by the reveal of Supergirl (who, at the time, was not known to the rest of the world).

It held such an emotional punch.

I really loved the part where Luthor is confident that the Kandorians will make a deal with him, presuming everyone is motivated by looking out for themselves. CLASSIC scene.

The remaining two great ones are both marred slightly by sketchy behavior (which, as everyone knows, was sorta par for the course in the comics of the time).

The first, a really well-executed tale of Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl getting married, is slightly marred by the fact that Supergirl's plan to break the news to Jimmy that she is really Supergirl by trying to seduce him AS Supergirl, so when she reveals that SHE is Supergirl, he will take the shock well. In addition, as Shutt mentions, we have to buy into the conceit that Jimmy never realizes that Linda is wearing a brown wig the entire time that they are married.

Jimmy has some worrisome bragging problems in the story, but ultimately, he comes out pretty well, as he holds true to his marriage vows.

But most of all, I really enjoyed the chemistry between the two. By allowing themselves the freedom of the imaginary story, they really allowed a real, mature, realistic relationship to blossom.

Quite impressive.

The last, and possibly most famous, story of the bunch, is the Superman Red/Superman Blue story.

The problem that slightly marred THIS tale for me is the basic premise. The people of Kandor get together to bitch out Superman for not accomplishing enough.

Can you believe the NERVE?!?!

They give him six months to basically solve all of mankind's problems, or else they demand he switch places with the Kandorians, and let one of THEM try to do what he couldn't.


However, the rest of the tale is just blanket optimism. Superman ends up splitting into two to get better results, and MAN, from then on, every panel has something awesome in it.

More awesome things happen in a PAGE of this story than most comics have happen in multiple ISSUES!!

And then, just to throw a mindfreak at us, at the end, they ask the reader to answer, "Which Superman (Red or Blue) ended up with the better life?"

Finally, the last, coolest aspect of the collection is the multitudes of little covers from OTHER imaginary stories, ones that they DIDN'T end up using...and there are some real doozies.

DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories - I cannot imagine a better book for you to spend twenty bucks on (as I am sure you cannot imagine a dorkier ending to this entry).

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Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

What popped into my mind when reading this column today (right after, "I have to get a copy of that book!") was the difference between comic storytelling back in those classic days and now.

In both the Golden and Silver Age, stories tended to be told completely in one issue (and some issues even told more than one complete story). The idea and characters were what drove the story. Characters were generally static and did not grow or change, but there was a definite sense that the story and the character were tied together, and that the story would not work with a different character in the lead. Thus, imaginarey stories were possible inside the regular run of a book, because each issue did not necessarily need to tie back to the ones before it and forward to the ones that followed.

When the Marvel Age came, that changed, and stories became more organic in length. They ran for as many issues as they needed to in order to be told properly. Sub-plots were introduced and the threads of continuity became more apparent.

In the modern age, the story is dictated in a lot of titles by the marketplace. Books are plotted in convenient "how many issues to then collect it into a trade paperback" manner, and in some cases, the storytelling and character development suffers for it. Sub-plots don't generally appear anymore, and when they do, they are tied to the main plot in such a way as to wrap them up when the main arc comes to a close. Continuity exists, but the lines can be conveniently cut when necessary. And yet, some modern books thrive as a place for the development and discussion of some great ideas, more so than any of the eras before them. The characters change and grow, they are impacted deeply by the plot of the story, and they deeply impact the stories themselves.

I wonder what the next comic book age will be...

8/12/2005 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first read the "Death of Superman" story in a Blue Ribbon Digest story from about 1980. That story is excellent.
The scene where Luthor is sentenced by the Kandorians is the best scene in any comic ever.

8/12/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

I'd get this (and might eventually), but I'm kind of annoyed that they reprinted "Death of Superman" and "Superman Red-Blue" - not because both aren't great stories, but they've been reprinted many times before and are already in good books I have. I would have liked to see less overlapping and some other wacky gems that haven't been so overexposed.

8/12/2005 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

It's a fair point, Nik.

I, too, have read those two stories a LOT of times over the years, and I guess I would have liked some different picks...but on a "is it good" level, I gotta say that those stories DO rule...hehe.

8/12/2005 08:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck T. said...

The imaginary stories from DC had some good bits, but I miss reading them on horribly printed little digest formats. How are kids going to learn their Legion of Super Heroes continuity now, from the streets?

8/17/2005 05:21:00 PM  
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