Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Showcase, please

Between looking at other folks' comics blogs, looking for fodder for my own comics blogging and struggling to get through a trade collection of the 2006 miniseries Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, I've been thinking about these characters a lot more than usual this past holiday weekend.

So it seems like a pretty good time to talk a little bit about them too.

Uncle Sam was created, well, re-created by Will Eisner in 1940 as a superhero version of the political cartoon staple. I've never read any of his original adventures beyond the few I've seen posted online, but, based on the covers alone, they seem pretty awesome.
Uncle Sam was part of a bundle of Quality Comics-characters that DC acquired and, as was DC's policy with acquiring the comics characters of different companies, (Fawcett, Charlton), when they started using the Quality characters, they gave 'em their own fictional universe within the fictional DC Universe (Earth-X).

The Quality characters appeared in a two-issue JLA/JSA team-up in 1973 as the super-team The Freedom Fighters before, and the eventually graduated to a short-lived ongoing series in 1976.

That series, by Gerry Conway, Martin Pasko, Mike Royer, Ramona Fradon, Dik Ayers, Vince Coletta and others, has not been collected into trade yet—but would make a hell of a Showcase Presents volume.

Over the years I've found maybe a third of the fifteen-issue run in back-issue boxes (it launched before I was born and was canceled shortly after my first birthday), and while the comics I read weren't all that great, the characters themselves are among some of the more dynamically designed, visually interesting and creatively super-powered heroes around. And, from what I've seen, a lot of awesome stuff happened in those fifteen issues.

They fought Wonder Woman, who was working for the UN at the time
(No Uncle Sam, you guys didn't kill her—Nikki Finke says DC Comics did)

They fought an evil Santa Claus and/or evil Santa's elf who made super-robots with the powers of the superheroes they were patterned after(Above: The cover of the comic features a tiny little Superman knocking Uncle Sam and Black Condor's heads together. I can only assume it sold a billion issues at the time)

and there was a two issue arc where they beat-up analogues of Marvel's Captain America and The Invaders characters(Fun fact: This is at least the third time I've published this image on EDILW)

With only fifteen issues, assuming they were each 22-pages each, that's only about 330, which would make for a shorter than usual Showcase presents volume (Although DC occasionally publishes shorter-than-500-page volumes in the line, like the recently released Showcase Presents: Dial H For Hero, which is only about 285-pages). Maybe they could fill it out with the JLA/JSA two-parter that introduced the characters into the DCU and, I don't know, portions of the relevant issues of Secret Origins, like these two?(By the way, Secret Origins would make an awesome Showcase Presents volume too).

DC is getting ready to give the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray a third chance at the current incarnation of the Freedom Fighters in September, and this one doesn't look much more promising than their first two swings and misses (the pencil artist this time around will be Travis Moore, responsible for a couple of uninspired issues of Adventure Comics and JSA All-Stars).

Certainly the company's right to try and exploit those characters for all their worth, but there is a lot of great work by a lot of great characters associated with these characters—maybe not so much the late-seventies/early-eighties stuff (although I'd much rather read a Showcase collection of Freedom Fighters or All-Star Squadron then another issue of Palmiotti and Gray's version), but certainly the Golden Age stuff, which includes Uncle Sam stories by Eisner's studio, and a ton of gorgeous Lou Fine art on Doll Man, The Ray, Black Condor, Uncle Sam and even The Red Bee out there.

By all means let's have another attempt at a Freedom Fighters, but let's also see some trade collections of the Golden Age stuff too...or, at the very least, cheap-o black and white phone book collections of the Bronze Age stuff!

That concludes today's installment of If You Ask For Stuff On the Internet Enough Times Maybe You'll Actually Get It.

10 comments:

mordicai said...

I've always had a thing for Human Bomb; I think I had an old comic with him in it when I was a kid.

Johnny B said...

I liked that 2006 limited series, its sequel, not so much. For what it's worth.

hdefined said...

I don't have a problem with the Freedom Fighters as individual characters, but that assortment of characters makes absolutely no sense as a team.

It would be cool if at least one of them were in the JLA. And it seems logical (to me, at least) to put Uncle Sam in the JSA.

KentL said...

I think the Showcase Presents idea is great! I actually just completed that Freedom Fighters run from the 70s. I loved the handful of comics that I had as a kid, so decided as an adult to find the rest. Took a while.

I'm surprised that DC isn't better at trying to coordinate this stuff. With a new series coming out, why aren't they collecting this older stuff for retailers to put next to the new stuff? Just seems like a missed opportunity to me.

Bobby Wright said...

Superman teamed up with the Freedom Fighters in DC Comics Presents #62, which would be a worthy addition to this Showcase edition as well.

Ryan Roe said...

I've always been intrigued by the idea of Uncle Sam as a superhero leading a team that includes a guy whose superpower is blowing up, but I've never read any of the recent Freedom Fighters books... I keep waiting for a good collection of the older stuff.

Lazarus Lupin said...

I loved the Human bomb. He was one of the first heroes who's powers were more a curse than anything.

Lazarus lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
arts and review

Kid Kyoto said...

Not too into the Freedom Fighters (though the whole idea of heroes in a gueralla war against Nazis is made of win) but I would buy the heck out of an All Star Squadron Showcase. I unfortunatately got into it too late, once Crisis hit the whole book became nothing more than a series of continunity patches. But I'd love to see the original run because again, superheroes vs Nazis.

Caleb said...

I liked that 2006 limited series, its sequel, not so much. For what it's worth.

I've been struggling with a review of the first series for a while now, because I didn't care for it, but in different ways than I usually don't like a comic, so it makes me feel...weird. I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about it.

The sequel seemed like a more interesting plot, but I couldn't read it...I kept trying over and over but the bizarre art was impossible for me to read.


Superman teamed up with the Freedom Fighters in DC Comics Presents #62, which would be a worthy addition to this Showcase edition as well.

So he did! And so it would! Maybe they have enough to land close to 500 pages all tallied up....


but I would buy the heck out of an All Star Squadron Showcase. I unfortunatately got into it too late...

Yeah! I got into it in, like, 2003 or so, which was waaaaayyyyy to late. I buy issues from dollar boxes whenever I find 'em, but that's not an ideal way to read 'em. I sincerely hope someone's working on putting All-Star Squadron together for a Showcase collection as we speak.

KentL said...

"I sincerely hope someone's working on putting All-Star Squadron together for a Showcase collection as we speak."

It was a favorite series of mine as a kid. It would make a good companion to the current Justice Society of America series, especially with them reintroducing the multiverse.