I have never read a GEN 13 comic. On the other hand, I started reading FANTASTIC FOUR in their very first issue, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. So I figured, let me see what the GEN 13 /FF crossover by Kevin Maguire and Karl Story is like.

Okay, the plot is pretty thin, but it had an air of a vintage Stan Lee story, bringing some level of nostalgia, and it did wrap up in this single issue (albeit a $5.95 prestige format book). There was even a surprise guest appearance by Spider-Man.

But, as I said, I’ve never read an issue of GEN 13, so haven’t seen any of these characters before. And after reading this, I’m still not sure who they are or what their powers are. Yes, there’s one guy called Burnout, who seems to be their version of the Human Torch; he was the easy one to figure out. And there’s this guy named Grunge who turns his hands into replicas of The Thing’s hands. (Is that his power?)

Then there are the three girls. One of them, with whom Johnny Storm is stereotypically smitten, dresses like a schoolgirl and floats in the air. (Is that her power?) The other two, one of whom is named Fairchild (though I’m not sure which one of them), seem to have powers, but I’m not sure what they are. The redhead in the VERY short dress – is that her superhero costume?

I’m sure that Gen 13 readers who’ve never read an issue of FANTASTIC FOUR might wonder the same thing about the FFers, since the Invisible Girl never does turn invisible and, while we kind of see Mr. Fantastic using his power, readers are left to figure out he’s the Marvel version of Plastic Man.

What’s the point? So many people in the business bemoan the fact that they can’t attract any new readers. You can’t do it by leaving them wondering “Who are these guys,” “What are their powers,” and even “What are their names?”

You want your readers — your CUSTOMERS — to buy another issue? You’ve got to remember that every issue is somebody’s first. You have to reintroduce the characters and the basic premise every time. Your challenge as a writer or artist is to find interesting ways to do so. And that’s certainly true in a special crossover like this.


BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
1. Diving into chemicals at the Monarch Card Company turned the Red Hood into what better-known villain?
2. A Mother’s Day card reading “Christmas cheer now am here” would be postmarked where?
3. Yes, running on clouds was possible for which Flash foe?
4. Oswald Loomis joined forces with what two villains to become “the Terrible Trio”?
5. Later called ADVENTURES INTO TERROR, what Golden Age title featujred Powerhouse Pepper by Basil Wolverton?
6. Duela Dent first confronted Robin by claiming to be whom?
7. Though Reverend Mike enabled him to walk again, he was killed when Ross Everbest took on what guise?
8. Rival of Richie Rich had his own book for four issues; then returned as a co-star with Richie in a title that lasted 48 issues.
9. In what heroic guise did Earth-X hero Chuck Lane battle Nazis?
10. Vertigo’s Tarot Deck pictured what character that would fit into this week’s theme?
11. Impy and Impet were aliases taken on by what natives of Poppup?
12. A submarine was turned into what by Mr. Mxyzptlk on a 1960s SUPERMAN cover?

BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. April Dancer was the name of the Girl From U.N.C.L.E.; she was played by Stefanie Powers.
2. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” is the source of the title of the 1997 Matthew Perry / Salma Hayek film.
3. Daylight Saving’s Time begin on the first Sunday in April and ends on the last Sunday in October.


A JLA MINI-REVIEW… OR THREE

JLA VERSUS PREDATOR by John Ostrander, Graham Nolan and Randy Elliott is the latest spin on the theme. This time, a cadre of Predators, bred by the Dominators to mimic the Justice Leaguers’ powers, takes on the World’s Greatest Heroes. It’s a fairly straight-forward action tale with clean, crisp artwork and an ending that is not unexpected by anyone who’s read Silver Age JLA stories.

Extra points to this one for the single panel intros/explanations of the super-heroes (unlike the GEN 13/ FF book I lambasted above). Though pretty much anybody reading a comic book would know who Superman and Batman are, introducing J’onn J’onzz, the Atom, and the rest to the casual reader is always a good idea.

*****
JLA: SEVEN CASKETS by Dan Brereton is about ancient entities rising to take over the Earth. This is particularly suited to Brereton’s art style, since all his characters tend to have a ghoulish look anyway. Though full of spooks and spirits, the core JLAers are the only ones involved in battling the problem.

A brief mention of the DCU’s mystical heroes is made, but they are dismissed with the comment that they are busy or just hard to get in touch with. The entire world is in danger, so just what would be more important? If done back in the 70s, this story would have included a guest appearance by the Phantom Stranger making all sorts of ominous comments.

One unintentionally (I presume) amusing bit in the story: The heroes discover a map of the Earth as it was twenty million years ago. Aquaman remarks, “The continents, land masses, they’re almost alien.” The King of the Seas must not own a globe because North and South America are clearly recognizable right in front of him!

*****

Finally, there’s the three-part JLA: ACT OF GOD by Doug Moench, Dave Ross, and George Freeman. This one far surpasses either of the others, both in art and story. A strange pulse of light wipes out the super-powers of every hero on Earth, leaving only those with man-made weapons and honed skills to fight crime. The villains, notably Flash’s Rogues Gallery members and their ilk, take advantage of this fact, much to the distress of their now non-powered foes and the remaining heroes.

I found the story engrossing and the characterizations interesting and well thought out, though I did find the dissolution of Superman and Lois’s relationship a bit abrupt. There’s a lot going on, with a lot of characters moving in and out, but it all works. (Amusingly, the mystically-powered heroes are again mentioned and dismissed as “missing.”)

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one turn up as a trade paperback in the not-so-distant future. If you can’t find the three issues, be sure to pick it up in book form.


EVEN MORE REVIEWS

BATMAN/ SCARFACE: A PSYCHODRAMA by Alan Grant and Charlie Adlard has the barest of appearances of the Dark Knight, but that really doesn’t matter because this is really the story of the wooden dummy who, when teamed with The Ventriloquist, has designs on being the crime boss of Gotham City. And except for a couple of poorly- executed transitions, it works well.

Grant weaves an interesting tale and Adlard’s art is serviceable, though his Penguin sports the “beakiest” nose I’ve seen in a long time. When a complete “story” that runs four or five issues in the regular comic books can cost you upwards of $10, I guess the $5.95 for this isn’t so bad.

*****

On the other hand, spending $24.95 for the hardcover BATMAN: HARVEST BREED is a bad idea. While I like George Pratt’s art, not all of his pictures are worth a thousand words. In fact, some of the pages of this story could use a few more words to explain to the reader what is going on.

In stark contradiction, there are fourteen pages which feature lots of thin, scratchy white lettering reversed out of four-color art. Some of it is absolutely illegible. Not so long ago, the level of production values at DC would never have allowed this to get past the color separations stage, let alone into print. I’m presuming that nobody does press checks at the printing plant these days, and I guess nobody looked at the proofs and said, “Hmm, this could be a problem.”

Frankly, this reads like it was originally a non-Batman story into which the Dark Knight was superimposed as the hero to justify doing it as a high-priced book. In a regular format, I’d have expected the Phantom Stranger or one of the Vertigo characters starring in it.


FROM THE EMAILBOX

Did you plan to have your fiftieth SBC column coincide with your fiftieth birthday?
 Howard Margolin [Doctor OHM@aol.com]

That would have required quite a bit of planning, Howard. It’s just a coincidence… or maybe there are cosmic forces at work that we can only guess about?

In any case, I’ll have passed the half-century mark when I see you all next week.


TRIVIA ANSWERS:
1. The Joker
2. The Bizarro World
3. The Trickster
4. The Prankster
5. JOKER COMICS
6. The Joker’s Daughter
7. Foolkiller
8. Jackie Jokers
9. The Jester
10. The Fool
11. Impossible Man and Impossible Woman
12. A giant banana

 


 

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