Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Crossing Over

This blog has become highly focussed on old British comics. Which is fine, but I wanted it to be a bit more general. So here's a thing about new, American comics. Cos I read those too.

Oddly there seemed to be a lot of character crossovers on sale last week. Crossovers are not a thing that happened much in UK comics.
They only tended to happen in annuals, specials or these "Comics Library" thingies.
I suppose it made them feel more special when they did happen.
However crossovers have become a constant feature of the comic shop shelves since the mid 90s. I still fondly remember being genuinely excited at seeing two characters from disparate universes meeting. I don't think many of them were any good, mind. Batman/Judge Dredd was ace but I can remember nothing about Catwoman/Vampirella. Apart from boobs.
Some day I'll write about Superman Meets Bugs Bunny and Mars Attacks Image cos those are some seriously weird books. So what have we now?
Grendel vs The Shadow is lovely. I'd forgotten just how much I liked Matt Wagner's work in general and how much I enjoyed Grendel in particular. Time travel shenanigans deposits the author-turned-assassin in the 1930s home of the dark avenger and Grendel realises it would be even easier to  rule a criminal empire where the gangsters are so untrained. But there is one man who aims to stop him.
The Shadow, if you're unaware, was a character created by Walter B Gibson in 1930 originally for a radio drama which swiftly became a very popular series of pulp fiction novels. Lamont Cranston was a rich man-about-town by day but a masked crime-fighter at night. He was Batmanning about before Batman. 

The Shadow also turns up Justice Inc. by Michael "The Boy Who Loved Batman" Uslan and Giovanni Timpano. Eerily similar time travel shenanigans sends Doc Savage back to the 30s too. Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, is of a similar vintage to Lamont and is super-smart super-strong and has a fortress of solitude in the Arctic. Supermanning about before Superman. It also features The Avenger, about whom I know nothing but a quick glance at Wiki tells me he is also pulp fiction adventurer created in 1939. The issue itself tries to cram in a bit too much stuff to be properly satisfying but looks like it could be going somewhere good.
Elsewhere, Kevin Smith continues to atone for his crimes against Batman by writing (with Ralph Garman) an actually fun crossover based on TV versions of its stars. Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet issue 4 (art by the great Ty Templeton) is out now and continues to be as ridiculous and entertaining as the regular Batman '66 comic.
While we're on the subject, Batman '66 issue 14 is also currently out and has an interesting crossover from another series. The plot has Batman inventing a robot.... excuse me... a BATrobot to fight crime for him while he goes on holiday. And, in the manner of the TV show window cameos, Batrobot is interrupted while climbing a building:
It's Lost in Space's Doctor Smith! Dude really hates robots. It's written by Jeff Parker and drawn by a rotating art team and you really should be reading it.

And while we're on the topic of comics based on 60s TV shows, issue 2 of a Steed and Mrs Peel (cos they can't call it The Avengers...) mini-series by Ian Edgington and Marco Cosetino is out. Diana Rigg looks a lot like Abbie Chase on the cover. I only bring it up here because of a panel of Mrs Peel driving to a village called Silver Sands which takes her powder-blue Lotus Elan past a sign for two other fictional villages.

I love seeing references to British comedy shows in American comics. Tubbs and Edward are in an issue of Transmetropolitan. There's an issue of Hitman with a Mrs Miggins Pie Shop.
Also out is Transformers vs G.I. Joe issue 2. I missed issue 1 so I bought that first. And it is terrible. I admit I've never been a big fan of either franchise (and will happily ignore the current movie series) but this had a charmingly retro look to it at first glance. The pages are even printed to look yellow through age. The dialogue by Tom Scioli and John Barber is however unreadable and the art, also by Scioli, is so bad it makes my eyes hurt. I didn't finish it. Look at this:
That's almost Shia LeBeouf level bad. Happily I then read the best crossover of the week:
It's odd but as a kid I never cared for Scooby Doo. I did grow up in the Scrappy years, mind. However Scooby Doo is great now! The cartoon Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated is really interesting and fun and Scooby Doo! Team Up is one of my favourite comics right now.

So far the series has teamed the gang up with cartoon versions of DC superheroes. We've seen them meet the "Brave and the Bold" version of Batman and the Teen Titans as they are in "Teen Titans Go!" In this issue they meet the Super Friends - the 70s Hanna Barbera version of the Justice League. It's full of fun little touches like the gang dressing up as the cartoon's gimmicky sidekicks as seen above. Love the joke about what happened to Marvin, Wendy and Wonderdog.

It's written by Sholly Fisch and drawn by Dario Brizuela and it is delightful.
Supergirl (who was never in Super Friends) is introduced with her 70s look too to match the aesthetic.
They even gave Brainiac his pet space monkey! I love it when comics remember Brainiac had a pet space monkey!
Amongst other fun things: Velma using Bizarro logic...
Sinestro being beaten by using Geoff Johns' retconning... But best of all....

TOPO! Oh my Grodd I love Topo! He's grown a bit, mind.
Chances are you've no idea about Topo. It's one of those wacky silver age things that serious comics people don't talk about any more. Like Bat-Mite or Comet the Super-Horse. Except no one ever brings Topo back. Till now.
Topo was Aquaman's octopus friend. Now that may sound like the worst thing imaginable but he was surprisingly useful. Viddy:

Topo is the best, you guys! THE BEST! I should probably stop now and have a little lie down.

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