Friday, January 5, 2018

Ol' Groove's Countdown: 10 Groovy Age Comics That Need To Be Collected

What it is, Groove-ophiles! All those far-out trade paperbacks Ol' Groove got for Christmas got me thinking about how many collections representing the Groovy Age there are floating around out there. I love collecting them, although I have most of the originals, because it keeps me collecting, but it's also pretty awesome to be able to grab a tpb off the shelf instead of digging through my thousands of single issues (I'm saving those for the grandkids to read, anyway). As I said on my Christmas post, it's a dream come true to be able to fill my shelves with all those cool collections.

Of course in looking at what I have (and what I still need), I notice that there are a lot of cool Groovy Age comics that still haven't been collected. Some of them need to be...some of them, due to ownership and copyrights, may never be collected--but you never know. After all, when I started The Diversions, who'd have ever thunk we'd have collections of Deathlok, Black Panther, Skull the Slayer, The Joker, and even E-Man? Anywho, here's a short version of my wish list of Groovy Age Comics That Need To Be Collected...


10) Denny O'Neil and Mike Grell's Green Lantern: O'Neil had helped keep Green Lantern going in the back pages of The Flash after GL's landmark mag had been cancelled in 1972. An exciting new artist named Mike Grell joined Denny on the GL back-up starting in Flash #237 (August 1977) and drew the feature in most issues through #243 (May 1976). New publisher Jeneatte Kahn gave the greenlight (no pun intended) for Denny and Mike to reunite GL with Green Arrow in their own mag once again with GL/GA #90 (also May 1976). They turned out some very cool stories together, giving our Green Team's adventures a more sci-fi style, but with enough down-to-earth grit to keep things balanced. O'Neil and Grell worked together through issue #100 (October 1977), with Grell coming back for issues 106, and 108-110. O'Neil stayed on the title through most of the Groovy Age, with artists Alex Saviuk and Joe Staton penciling. While Ol' Groove certainly digs the Staton-illoed issues, 'tis the Grell-illustrated stories I'd love to see collected the most.


9) Claw the Unconquered: Created by David Michelinie and Ernie Chan, Claw the Unconquered is a very cool twist on Conan the Barbarian. Michelinie's hook was that our hero, who's actual name was Valcan) possessed a demonic hand (hence the "Claw" name) that he could only control by wearing a mystical gauntlet. (The clawed hand was inspired, natch by Michael Moorcock's Elric and his sword Stormbringer). Midway through the series, an up-and-coming artist named Keith Giffen took over the art chores. The series amped up the "cozmik" side of this fun sword and sorcery series, calming the "Conan rip-off" crowd a bit, by incorporating some sci-fi elements, including the revelation that the series wasn't set on earth, but on a far-away planet called Pytharia (home of another Michelinie co-creation Starfire, who is in my top 20 for a tpb collection). Claw the Unconquered ran for only twelve issues (February 1975-May 1978), so if DC ever does collect the series, it wouldn't hurt Ol' Groove's feelings if they not only include the two completed-but-never-published 1978 issues, but the gorgeous Jack C. Harris/Thomas Yeates revival/back-up from Warlord issues 48-49, May-June 1981).

8) Claws of the Cat/Tigra the Werewoman: Greer Nelson was created as part of Marvel's push to gain a female audience for their superhero line (Women's Lib was making their romance line look a bit old fashioned, to understate the case). Claws of the Cat ran only four issues (August 1972-March 1973), but Greer's comicbook career really spiked when she was transformed into Tigra the Werewoman  in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (April 1974) courtesy writer Tony Isabella. Tigra then got a cover story in Monsters Unleashed #10 (December 1974), and eventually her own series in Marvel Chillers issues 3-7 (November 1975-July 1976). With stories by the likes of Isabella and Chris Claremont and art by folks like Marie Severin, Wally Wood, Bill Everett, Jim Starlin, Alan Weiss, Will Meugnoit, Sal Buscma, George Perez, John Byrne, Mike Vosburg, and Ernie Chan, Greer's story (including her guest appearances in Marvel Two-In-One #19, Fantastic Four issues 177-179 and 181-184, Marvel Team-Up #67, and Marvel Premier #42) is most definitely worthy of the tpb treatment!

7) Man-Bat: Created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams, Man-Bat started as an anti-hero/adversary for The Batman in Detective Comics #400 (April 1970). The alter-ego of Kirk Langstrom had a pretty interesting history during the Groovy Age. Making many appearances with his fiancé-then-wife Francine in a variety of Batman stories (Detective Comics 402, 407, 416, 429, Batman #254, Brave and the Bold #119), two issues of his own comic, back in Detective for a two part back-up story (issues 458-459), a regular spot in Batman Family (issues 11-20), and back to Detective for another back-up spot to burn off the BatFam inventory (issues 483, 485, and 492). Toward the end of the Groovy Age, Man-Bat also appeared in Super-Friends #28 and appeared in Brave and the Bold (#165). With cool stories by Robbins, Bob Haney, Gerry Conway, Bob Rozakis and more and art by Adams, Robbins, Aparo, Steve Ditko, Pablo Marcos, Al Milgrom, Marshall Rogers, Michael Golden, Don Newton, and more, Man-Bat would make a gorgeous (and hefty) collection.


6) Rose and The Thorn: The reason Kid Groove bought Lois Lane comics  (issues 105-130, August 1970-February 1973) was to get to the magnificent Rose and The Thorn back-up strips. Inspired by the Golden Age villainess of the same name, Bob Kanigher (with artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito) created a cool, sophisticated Earth-1 version of R&T who battled a crime-mob called "The 100." Kanigher and company wisely kept the veddy inteddesting split personality of the villainous Earth-2 Rose and Thorn, giving us a mysterious grim-and-gritty hero long before The Punisher or Wolverine were ever a twinkle in anyone's eye. Besides the Andru/Esposito art team, Kanigher also teamed with illustrators like Gray Morrow, a young Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, and Don Heck. R&S made one last Groovy Age appearance in Superman #336 (March 1979), this time written by Len Wein and pencils by the great Curt Swan. Who wouldn't wanna read these treasures?

5)  The Best of Marvel Premiere: Yep, Marvel's version of DC's Showcase ran for nearly a decade and a total of 61 issues (November 1971-May 1981) with the first 58 comin' at us during the Groovy Age. For the "best of" collection, of course you'd have to include the oft-reprinted debuts of Warlock, Dr. Strange (well, return in his case), and Iron Fist (issues 1, 3, and 15). If Ol' Groove was the editor, I couldn't resist including John Byrne's Iron Fist debut from ish 25, too. Then comes the fun stuff: Legion of Monsters from ish 28, Woodgod from #31, Monark Starstalker from ish 32, issues 35-37 featuring 3-D Man, Weirdworld from ish 38, Seeker 3000 from ish 41, issues 43-48 with Paladin, Jack of Hearts, Man-Wolf, Ant-Man (yeah, that one's in the Ant-Man Epic Collection, but we need it here, too), Alice Cooper from ish 50, Caleb Hammer's (sadly) only appearance from ish 54, and Dominic Fortune from ish 56 (of course Dominic Fortune needs his own collection, too--another tpb wish in Ol' Groove's Top 20 wish list). It would, indeed, be a big ol' volume with tons of amazing art by guys like Kane, Windsor-Smith, Giffen, Chaykin, Ploog, Nino, Sutton, Perez, Byrne, Day, and DeZuniga and awesome authors like Thomas, Lee, Mantlo, Chaykin, Moench, McGregor, Kraft, Micheline, and Gillis). You know it's a great idea to collect these babies. Do it, Marvel--then we'll talk about a similar Marvel Spotlight edition...


4) DC's The Shadow: I know that there was a hardcover reprinting the Denny O'Neil and Mike Kaluta issues, but that was way back in the late 80s, and there's more to DC's Groovy Age Shadow than just those extraordinary tales. The whole Shadow series (twelve issues, July 1973-May 1975), written by O'Neil and Michael Uslan with art by Kaluta, Frank Robbins, and E.R. Cruz is a superior, all-too-short-lived Groovy Age classic series and we need those issues (along with the two guest appearances in Batman [issues 253 and 259]) collected asap! The weed of not collecting these treasures bears bitter fruit!

3) Doomsday +1 and Rog 2000: Some of John Byrne's earliest work, done, naturally, for Charlton, appeared in the amazing Doomsday +1 series (co-created/co-written by Charlton great Joe Gill, issues 1-6, April 1975-February 1976--the rest of the series is reprints) and Rog 2000 written by Nick Cuti from the back of E-Man (issues 6, 7, 9, and 10). Yeah, this would be a much thinner volume that the ones Ol' Groove has suggested so far (even if you throw in the "seventh issue" that was published in Charlton's pro-zine Charlton Bullseye issues 4-5), but man, it would be groovy. The stories are unique and fun--very 1970s Charlton in the best way. And while Byrne's early art isn't as polished as it would grow to be, it was so filled with verve, vigor, ingenuity, and originality that it boggles the mind while simultaneously reminding us all of how this all-time super-star created such a stir back in the Groovy Age.


2) Steve Englehart's JLA: When Groovy Age superstar Steve Englehart left Marvel (after spinning unforgettable Captain America, Avengers, and Dr. Strange series) in 1976 to go off and write novels, DC enticed him to stay in comics long enough to author a legendary run on Batman in Detective Comics (469-476); he also wrote an incredible string of issues of Justice League of America (issues 139-146, 149-150, November 1976-October 1977) that for some reason haven't yet gotten the tpb treatment yet. 'Tis a mystery, indeed, why a run of stories that has inspired a cartoon adaptation (issue 140-141's Green Lantern/Manhunters epic became legendary on the Justice League cartoon), a sorta-spin-off series (yet another version of Manhunter), a definitive JLA origin (#144), and even a kind of sneaky Marvel/DC crossover (everyone knew that issue #142's Willow was really Mantis from the Avengers). On top of that all the stories (except the first one) are 34 page epics, so these stories are like a string of annuals or specials. And of course, Groovy Age JLA artist supreme Dick Dillin drew 'em, so you know they're gonna look great. What the heck is DC waiting for?

1) PLOP!: Does this one surprise you, Groove-ophiles? (If you're a long time Groove-ophile, it probably doesn't.) Kinda-sorta DC's answer to Mad, but with a macabre twist that made it kind of a Mad version of other classic EC mags like Tales from the Crypt, Shock SuspenseStories, and Weird Science, but filtered through DC's own horror/mystery mag sensibilities, complete with horror hosts Cain, Abel, and Eve. Created by accident almost by Steve Skeates, Sergio Aragones, and editor (and former EC artist) Joe Orlando, PLOP! was filled with darkly humorous twisted tales that thrilled, chilled, and tickled the funnybone in a mostly uncomfortable way. It was a unique and highly original mag that is mostly forgotten but would probably sell like crazy if collected today. Almost every talent from DC did at least a page or cover or something for PLOP: Bernie Wrightson, Curt Swan, Frank Robbins, Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Sheldon Mayer, Alfredo Alcala, Jack Olek, George Kashdan, Nick Cardy, Basil Wolverton--and that's just the first four issues! An omnibus collecting all 24 issues (June 1973-August 1976) in time for Halloween would be amazing, wouldn't it?


There you have it, Ol' Groove's Top Ten Picks for the tpb treatment! Yeah, yers trooley has a lot more ideas, but these are my top picks (at the moment). I'd sure like to see at least half of these turn up in time for Christmas 2018 (and in time for all those bee-yoo-tee-ful Amazon gift cards that help me buy my favorite comicbook tpb collections). So, what's on your list, baby?

18 comments:

  1. 2 and 10 are the ones I’m most surprised haven’t been collected, especially 2–those are far and away the best pre-Crisis issues of JLA.

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  2. We think alike. I was just yesterday thinking a Rose and Thorn collection would be a great idea after seeing how handsome the artwork of Andru and Esposito was on Suicide Squad. Rog-2000 was collected once by Pacific way back in the 80's, but deserves a modern presentation. I thought we'd get a Doomsday+1 collection a few years back when Byrne revisited the concept for Dark Horse, but alas nothing. The JLA collection by Engleheart is a real humdinger and I'm amazed it's not already out there.

    Rip Off

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  3. You included DC's "Plop"... we only have three issues... Loved the Basil Wolverton covers !!!

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    1. Number One's Steve Skeates/Bernie Wrightson collaboration would make an entire collection worthwhile. Ditto on the Wolverton covers. And he was followed by Wally Wood!

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  4. It was at the tale end of the Groovy Age but I would love to see a collection for Night Force, and a Plop collection was be a lot of fun.

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  5. Interesting list. I agree completely with the Shadow and Man Bat selections.

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  6. I would like to see a collection of Hercules Unbound, from DC. Another (partially)David Michelinie-scripted series, with art by the likes of Garcia-Lopez, Walt Simonson and Wally Wood!

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    1. All 12 issues of the Herc series are in the Great Disaster Showcase edition, but a color collection would be very cool.

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  7. I agree with all of these, esp. no. 8 and 5.
    And I'm also baffled by the lack of any reprint treatment of Englehart's JLA.
    I would add two that I've been wanting to see forever:
    1) Man Wolf (especially the run in Creatures on the Loose and the conclusion in the two Marvel Premiere issues - which is why I would exclude them from your hypothetical best of Marvel Premiere book).
    2) Starfire - the short-lived DC title that you've posted here on many occasions.

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    1. Both of those are in my Top 20, Edo. Great picks!

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  8. I'm surprised that the Englehart era of JLA hasn't been collected yet. That was the arc that got me back into reading it after a year or so away. I have all of the O'Neil/Grell GL/GA issues, but it would be a good collection for sure. The DC edition of The Shadow was my introduction to the character too, but I much prefer Kaliyah and Cruz's version of him to Robbins'.

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    1. The much maligned Frank Robbins. Am I the only one who liked him on everything he did? I loved his Captain America run.

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    2. I thought Robbins was perfect on Batman, The Shadow, and The Invaders, myself.

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  9. Put me down for Rose and Thorn as well. Also, I'd like to nominate Kobra. Even though Kirby's debut is mangled by artistic and editorial interference, the later issues by Giffen, Buckler and Nasser are very cool, very much the sort of experimental work that used to pull me in.

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    1. Issues 5, 6, and 7 of Kobra were superb. Gotta love that artwork by Nasser/Rubinstein.

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  10. Englehart's JLA run will be collected in Volume 2 of the Bronze Age Omnibus, a few months from now. They won't be singled out, though, but rather lumped in with other material (issues 114-146).

    I remember how thrilled I was to see the first issue of O'Neill and Grell's GL/GA book on the rack. Between my tender age and its notoriously poor distribution, I'd missed that O'Neill/Adams run entirely, and desperately wanted to see Hal in his own book. Talk about answered prayers: I got him back, plus Ollie, and drawn by Mike Grell, no less! A few pages in, Mike gave us a peek at a Vulcan GL, and I had a new favorite book!

    The honeymoon didn't last, mind you, but it was fun for a while.

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  11. When I was a kid I found an old comicbook of my uncle's. I think it was called Planet Comics and it had black and white reprints of DC stories. It had a Superman story, a Forever People story and a Rose and Thorn story. The Rose & Thorn one had some guy with a facial deformity and a mask who sacrifices himself for Thorn and she kisses him when he is dying. Anyone know what it was?

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