What I thought of Batman #21

The ongoing car-crash that is DC’s Rebirth (DC’s attempt to integrate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen into the mainstream DC Universe and blame it for everything ‘dark’) continues with Batman #21, a comic that makes the Watchmen link very, very obvious from the off.

That’s Saturn Girl of the Legion of Superheroes who has been locked up in Arkham Asylum since the Rebirth reboot started.She’s a telepath from the future so has knowledge of the 21st century and can read minds, so she knows (we think) what’s coming. As for the reader what’s coming is a bloody unsubtle reminder of what DC are doing with Watchmen.

Yeah, that isn’t subtle. Neither are the pages on 9-panel grids as Batman watches the same hockey game Saturn Girl was, which also adds as a meta-commentary on the nature and voyeurism of violence in comics. Of course Watchmen had very little violence in it, though what their was was either repulsive or there to make a point about the nature of violence in comics was never reflective of the nature of violence in reality. Here the point seems to be muddled, not to mention blaming Watchmen for the violence in comics after its publication.

A brush with the Psycho Pirate’s mask sees Bruce Wayne encounter his father, the Batman of Flashpoint.

Bringing the Flashpoint Batman back for a glimpse reminds us of The New 52,one of  DC’s previous attempt to reboot its universe in a ‘gritty’ way. it’s also blamed for generally poor sales and the company struggling before leading to Rebirth last year.Anyhow, after contacting The Flash, Batman ends up in a fight with the Reverse-Flash as it’s hinted that a ‘power’ (Dr. Manhattan?) brought him back from the dead.

So we get a few pages of Thawne beating up Batman (MORE VIOLENCE!!) before Thawne finally wins thanks to The Flash being late. Picking up the Comedian’s badge does this to Thawne…

That does look like a Dr. Manhattan style ”BZZT’ there. Unfortunately for Thawne he comes back a tad worse for wear.

The story picks up in The Flash #21 due out next week but it’s clear DC are pushing on with the integration of Moore and Gibbons work into the DC Universe even if its clear they don’t seem to really have got or understood Watchmen, or what Moore and Giibbons were doing with their work. I don’t blame writer Tom King as he actually does a pretty good job in working with a shitty stick to create a pretty reasonable superhero tale, but the entire idea seems seedy.

I don’t think the higher-ups of DC get how integrating Watchmen changes the meaning of it, but they are counting the praise for that work rubs off on titles like this. It’s a bit like the Fearless Girl statue in New York and the controversy around that. This is just simply another example of late capitalism of course, but as a sales tactic it’ll work as already on Ebay issues of Batman #21 are being advertised at stupidly high prices.

So I’ll take a hit for the team and carry on to the next part in The Flash to see what happens next…

What I thought of Superman #199, World’s Finest #198, #199 and Adventures of Superman #463

As a kid I grew up with The Hulk and The Flash as my favourite superheroes, I grew out of liking The Hulk, but have always loved the Flash, and I especially loved it when the Flash would race Superman for the title of Fastest Man Alive. Sadly though being skint and/or stupidity I sold these issues years ago but Comixology has a Flash sale on, so I grabbed these issues for a bargain price of 69p each.


Superman #199 has a fantastic Carmine Infantino cover, and I especially like Batman failing to support his supposed best mate, but imagine being a kid in the 60’s and 70’s and seeing this cover? It’d be impossible not to buy this.

The premise of the issue is that mobsters are betting on either hero so they follow them around timing their speed, but we find that the United Nations have asked the pair to run a race to aid them.


As both men can travel faster than light a course is designed for them to make it a real race.



Rival mob gangs have plans to sabotage the race so that the Flash and Superman both fail, so although the heroes are doing a lot of great work for charidee mate, the mobsters have bet billions on the outcome of the race. Eventually the day of the race arrives, and Superman and The Flash get their marks and race.





There’s a strange moment that looks odd to 21st century eyes when the heroes go through Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

superman199-5As the race continues natural hazards come thick and thin such as hurricanes and flying chunks of Kryptonite that in the DC Universe of the time, seemed to be as common as rickets. Eventually the mobsters break out their cunning plans and yes, this is real.


Do the baddies stop the heroes? Course not, but it’s enormous fun in that wholesome and slightly staid way DC were back then, but this isn’t the end of the heroes rivalry.


The second race between the heroes isn’t on Comixolgy’s sale as far as I can see, but this is, and isn’t that a glorious Neal Adams/Carmine Infantino cover? This time things seem more modern thanks to Denny O’Neill’s script and the vastly underrated Dick Dillon art. Essentially some bad guys are mucking around with time and that brings in Green Lantern’s Guardians to ask Superman for help.


Thanks to some Guardian SF gibberish Superman and The Flash have to run through space to stop these creatures, and the pair decide to make a race of it.


The pair race through stars, alternate realities and eventually find the Arachnoids as the story spins into the next issue.


A pretty average Neal Adams cover fronts up the second part of the story as the pair of heroes attempt to save the universe, Can they do it?


The heroes find out the people responsible for the Arachnoids, and it’s the Phantom Zone baddies.



Can the heroes win? Of course they do, but who wins the race is probably a bit of a surprise for what was a Superman team-up comic but it really didn’t matter as these stories were just about giving fans the buzz of seeing heroes play out playground arguments on the paper.

For the last comic on this incomplete list of Superman/Flash races, it’s tie to hit the 1980’s for Adventures of Superman#463, but instead of the Barry Allen Flash this is now the Wally West Flash of DC’s post-Crisis universe, and thanks to some prodding from Mr. Mxyzptlk the pair of heroes have a race.



After Superman acts like an arsehole to the Flash, the race is on.


The pair come across natural obstacles as well as more problems of an impish kind.


These though aren’t the demigods of the previous issues running between galaxies, but are more limited in their powers.


These stories aren’t especially great comics, let alone great examples of superhero comics but they do show how superhero comics developed from the staid 60’s through the groovy 70’s and the more down to earth 80’s, but all hold a sense of fun in what they’re doing and that’s often something that doesn’t happen in most superhero comics these days. These comics are snapshots of history. As said, the question of who’s faster, The Flash or Superman is a kids argument but at the end of the day these are kids comics that all can enjoy because reading these are just joyful nostalgia.

Why The Flash is the best thing on telly right now

One of the very first American superheroes I fell in love with was The Flash and this was one of the first comics I remember reading as a kid. This is the cover to The Flash #163.


But it was this bizarre cover a few issues later that hooked me forever on The Flash as a villain turns The Flash into The Fastest Paving Stone Alive. Seriously.


I love the art of Carmine Infantino who would draw these elegant but sharp lined people and his portrayal of The Flash is still one of my favourite  bits of comic book art I’ll probably ever enjoy. Even when I stopped reading superheroes I still dipped in and out of The Flash because the idea of being the fastest man alive who can run so fast he can run through time itself was, and is, one of the simplest and most fun ideas for a superhero ever.

So when I heard an American television series adapting the Flash from the people who made Arrow I was a bit wary. Not because I disliked Arrow, as I’d not watched the programme because too many superhero adaptations are grim, depressing and don’t capture an iota of the fun of those wonderful Infantino drawn stories from the 1960’s, but I thought I’d give it a chance.

Well, after one episode I was totally hooked. Much of this is down to the light tone, the surprisingly good scripts and effects, but it’s really down to the lead actor Grant Gustin who simply is Barry Allen/The Flash.


It’s not perfect. It is a bit soap operaish in places and sometimes it’s budget betrays its ambition but overwhelmingly the series is a joy even for an old cynic like myself. It’s got The Flash being heroic, but also it’s a programme that celebrates intelligence as opposed to many programmes that assumes it’s audience isn’t paying attention or smart. Yes it can cram a lot into an episode but it moves so quickly that the joins don’t matter but anyhow, all it has to do is get Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen/Flash to smile, act heroically and I’m sold on it again.

It also pays an amazing amount of faithfulness to DC Comics. So far in the nine episodes broadcast we’ve seen Grodd, the Reverse Flash, Captain Cold, Rainbow Raider and Firestorm among many others, including of course the crossover with Arrow which is simply a joy.

This is fun, enjoyable and overwhelming entertaining television that captures and updates the Flash perfectly for television. This is the perfect time to catch up with it as it’s now on it’s mid-season break in the US so if it’s a case you’ve not watched it so far, do it now and get ready for when it returns in the New Year. This really is the best programme around at the moment.

Though no yellow boots. I loved the yellow boots…..

Overstreets World of Comics-Comic book documentary from 1993

This is a cracking find. Overstreet’s World of Comics is a documentary based around the San Diego Comic Convention in 1993 and details the world of comics as they were in those days just before the great comics bubble of the early 90’s went POP! It’s a fascinating watch to see how people thought that comics were going to be a huge investment for the future, and that comics coming from the likes of Valiant were massive investments. They weren’t. The entire market went down the toilet and a number of the companies featured in this film like Topps, went under, and companies like Marvel nearly went bankrupt.

What is striking is how comic focused San Diego was then as opposed to the big pop culture event it is. It’s about the medium of comics and there’s a lovely bit in the film about Golden Age artists like Murphy Anderson, a history of EC Comics, as well as a great interview with Jack Kirby, the man who built the house that Marvel are now exploiting for their films like The Avengers and Captain America.  It is however, Todd McFarlane who hogs a lot of time on the film because at that time Spawn was the biggest selling comic in the world, selling around a half a million to a million copies on average per issue. There’s a certain sad irony looking back at this seeing McFarlane talk with such idealism; something that vanished when the money started flooding in.

The film does have some amazingly tacky music running through it that makes it feel like a health and safety training video you see on the first day of a new job, If you can ignore that then this is a great bit of archive, if only to see Stan Lee say with a straight face that he hates taking from what other people have done….