13 Classic DC COMICS Runs That Need Book Collections

Bring these back!

We brought you a number of stories this week that showed that DC is once again reaching into its back catalogue for some vintage collections. (Such volumes have generally taken a back seat during much of the pandemic.)

Anyway, the news reminded me of a pair of columns we ran a few years back by our pal Anthony Durso — 13 Classic Comics Runs That Need Book Collections (click here) and 13 MORE Classic Comics Runs That Need Book Collections (click here).

You dug those then, so the time feels right for a follow-up — 13 DC COMICS Runs That Need Book Collections. Reality being what it is, I think it’s highly unlikely most of these will happen (unless they end up as movies or TV shows) but so be it. We can all dream, can’t we?

 By ANTHONY DURSO

Steel the Indestructible Man. This Gerry Conway and Don Heck creation originally ran for five issues (1978). It was later established that Steel (Henry Heywood), later known as Commander Steel, was a member of the Earth-Two World War II era All-Star Squadron. Later still, he was, um, grandfathered in, as the grandfather of the modern day Steel (Henry Heywood III) a member of the Earth-One Justice League Detroit). Another grandson (Nathan Heywood) eventually took over the role in Geoff Johns’ Justice Society of America relaunch. Three versions of Steel have shown up on the Legends of Tomorrow TV series.

A collection could include Steel the Indestructible Man #1-5, All-Star Squadron #8-9 (which rework the unpublished Steel #6), Justice League Annual #2 (the introduction of Henry III), Justice League of America #244, 245 and 260, and ‘Justice Society of America #2 (the introduction of Nathan Heywood).

Plastic Man. In 1966, DC Comics launched a Plastic Man series, featuring the character (created by Jack Cole) that it had acquired from Quality Comics. Or actually, his son. Years later (1986 to be exact) it was established that the adventures of THIS Plastic Man took place on Earth-12 (also home to the Inferior Five). Son of Plas continued until Issue #10, when the title was cancelled.

DC revived the title (but not Plas II) in 1976, picking up the numbering from the original series, and that version also ran for 10 issues, ending with #20 in 1977. A complete collection of these 20 issues would be a nice look back at the Stretchable Sleuth, featuring work by legendary creators like Arnold Drake, Win Mortimer, Gil Kane, Jack Sparling, Steve Skeates and Ramona Fradon.

Bronze Age Revival Teen Titans. In 1980, DC launched The New Teen Titans. It was a HUGE hit. Which was kind of surprising, because the first Teen Titans series had been revived (with Issue #44) in 1976 and cancelled (with #53) in 1978. But these are the issues I was introduced to when I was trading comics on our front porch with a neighbor kid. They’re also the issues that feature Teen Titans West (Hawk and Dove, Lilith, Beast Boy, the original Bat-Girl and Golden Eagle); the Joker’s Daughter (and her REAL father Two-Face); Dr. Light; the Sizematic Twins; Bumblebee; Mal; and Gabriel’s Horn (the TT’s disco/headquarters/hangout). The issues were included in the Bronze Age Teen Titans Omnibus, but these deserve to stand on their own.

Many of these characters/concepts have since been mined for other media. In addition to these 10 issues, a collection should also feature the Teen Titans appearance from The Brave and the Bold #149. 

Blue Devil. Created in 1984 by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Paris Cullins, Blue Devil was the story of stuntman and SFX specialist Dan Cassidy, who becomes trapped in the Blue Devil exoskeleton suit he created for a horror movie. Needless to say, hijinks ensue.

Blue Devil was on my pull list for much of its 32-issue original run. It never took itself too seriously as Blue Devil crossed paths with the likes of Zatanna, Green Lantern, the Omega Men, Metallo, Firestorm and assorted monsters and demons. Three volumes (or an omnibus) could handle his preview first appearance (in Fury of Firestorm #24), his 31 issues (plus the annual) as well as his crossover appearances in Fury of Firestorm #47, DC Comics Presents #96,  Booster Gold #10 and Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #24.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. DC released a collection of its ’80s character Amethyst as part of its Showcase Presents series back in 2012. But that paperback series was strictly black and white. Amethyst should be IN COLOR.

I’d mirror the Showcase collection, which included her preview first appearance (Legion of Super-Heroes #298), Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #1-12 (the maxi-series), Amethyst Annual #1, DC Comics Presents #63, and Amethyst #1-11 (the ongoing series). But since it’d be an omnibus I’d also add Amethyst #12-16 (finishing the run), Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld Special #1 and Amethyst (Vol. 2) #1-4. 

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade. Back in 1978, DC Comics was gearing up for the “DC Explosion” with a launch date of June 1. This was an attempt by DC to introduce a new number of titles onto newsstands. However, various circumstances would soon force DC to cancel these new titles as well as other books that predated the Explosion. The end result became known as the “DC Implosion.”

For copyright purposes, many issues and in some instances just covers that were completed but would never see the light of day were bound into two ashcan issues of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade and distributed in-house. These became much sought-after comics on the back-issue market, due to their scarcity. While many of the stories included in CCC were eventually used elsewhere (Black Lightning #12, Firestorm #6, Prez #5 for example), it’d still be a kick to have this presented in a modern format with a historic perspective.

The Inferior Five. While Marvel had Not Brand Ecch as its parody series in the swinging ’60s, DC had… The Inferior Five. Created by Jack Miller, E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando, the I5 consisted of Merryman, the Blimp, Awkwardman, White Feather and Dumb Bunny. The sons and daughter of Earth-12’s Freedom Brigade (a thinly veiled spoof of the Justice League) were incompetent nincompoops who bumbled their way through every mission.

A complete Inferior Five collection would include their appearances in Showcase #62, 63 and 64 and their own series (Issues #1-10Issues 11 and 12 were reprints of their first two Showcase appearances). You could also toss in their guest appearances from Showcase #100 and The Oz-Wonderland Wars #3 if you want to be a completist.

The Secret Six. The Secret Six (created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Frank Springer in 1968) were DC’s answer to the Mission: Impossible team. Each issue featured operatives August Durant, Carlo di Rienzi, Mike Tempest, Crimson Dawn, Lili de Neuve and King Savage under orders from the mysterious Mockingbird. The series ran for seven issues – and was axed before Mockingbird’s identity (which was one of the six) could be revealed.

The series was revived by Martin Pasko and Dan Spiegle as part of Action Comics Weekly in 1988 as two separate series of eight-page features (#601-612 and then #619-630). While the original Mockingbird’s identity was revealed as August Durant, the mysterious persona was adopted by Carlo di Rienzi upon Durant’s death). A new team of operatives served Mockingbird in this revival, all of them having some sort of enhancements to help in their missions. You could probably split these into two separate volumes (old and new) but I think it’d read better under one cover as an omnibus.

Air Wave. There’s a wealth of untapped potential in backup strips from the Bronze Age. Hal Jordan’s cousin (also named Hal) was a pretty popular back-up feature in Action Comics during the ’70s (even teaming up on a few occasions with Aquaman and the Atom, the other A-named heroes that had backup slots in Action).

An Air Wave collection would feature his appearances from Action Comics #488, 511-516, 524-527, and 533-535, as well as his guest roles from Green Lantern #100 and DC Comics Presents #55.  

Time Warp. DC’s forgotten sci-fi anthology ran for five issues as a Dollar Comic in 1979-80. With covers by Mike Kaluta, Time Warp featured “doomsday tales and other things” from the likes of Denny O’Neil, Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, Don Newton, Dick Giordano, Tom Sutton, J.M. DeMatteis, Paul Levitz, Bob Haney, Mike W. Barr, Bob Rozakis, Jim Aparo, Gil Kane, Joe Orlando, Michael Netzer and more. A Who’s Who of the comics industry during the Bronze Age.

While a few stories have been reprinted in other collections (The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 and DC Through the 80s: The End of Eras), most have been untouched and the series is ripe for a second-look revival collection.

Starman (Prince Gavyn). When Adventure Comics returned to its regular-size format (having been a Dollar Comic from #459-466), it became a “split book” divided between the adventures of Plastic Man and Starman. This new version of Starman was “created” by Paul Levitz and “designed” by Steve Ditko. Prince Gavyn (of Throneworld) escaped an assassination attempt by his sister Queen Ciryssa and discovered with the help of the mystic M’ntorr that he was a mutant with cosmic powers.

The series ran from #467-478 and Starman also appeared in DC Comics Presents #46 in a “Whatever Happened To…?” segment. Prince Gavyn appeared in one panel of Crisis on Infinite Earths where he was killed off. However, it was eventually revealed that he survived, as his story became intertwined with the Will Payton Starman in the Jack Knight Starman series. While DC has given a considerable amount of collected editions to Jack Knight (and rightfully so), Prince Gavyn is still waiting for his one volume.

Dial ‘H’ for Hero. DC revived it’s wacky Silver Age concept (formerly featuring Robby Reed) in Adventure Comics #479-490, with a preview appearance in Legion of Super-Heroes #272. After the run in Adventure, new H-Dialers Chris King and Vicki Grant found a home as a backup in New Adventures of Superboy #28-49, after which they guest starred in DC Comics Presents’ #44.

A new feature of this version of Dial ‘H’ was that the heroes and villains in the stories were created by reader submissions, with the creators earning an in-story credit AND a promo T-shirt! In fact, rights issues MAY be what’s preventing this series from being collected. But if that’s not the case, it’s a fun series featuring the work of Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino (with some covers by George Perez) that should be on a bookshelf.

Binky. DC’s answer to Archie Andrews. Leave it to Binky originally ran for 60 issues, from 1948-58. But it’s the revival (launched with Showcase #70 in 1967) that I’m interested in seeing collected. That run spans 21 issues (#61-82) and would be perfect for a trade. If Archie and the Riverdale gang can still command interest, surely there’s a little bit of room for Binky and His Buddies.

MORE

— 13 Classic Comics Runs That Need Book Collections. Click here.

— 13 MORE Classic Comics Runs That Need Book Collections. Click here.

Anthony Durso is the owner of Retropolis Tees and the custom toy-package website The Toyroom.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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8 Comments

  1. I’d love to see Arion, Lord of Atlantis in TPB form, along with the mini-series that followed the regular series.

    Unfortunately, some of the titles I’d like to see most were licensed, but we recently got that gorgeous Captain Action hardcover so hope springs eternal.

    Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis/The Adventures of Jerry Lewis: Classic comedy along with some gorgeous artwork by Bob Oksner (with a few issues by Neal Adams) and stories by Arnold Drake.

    The Adventures of Bob Hope: Again, there was always some laughs, especially in the latter ones by Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner with Neal Adams.

    Hot Wheels: Only six issues, but exciting stories penciled by Alex Toth (with backups by Ric Estrada) and stories by Joe Gill and a solid script in the last issue by Toth himself.

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  2. The 1980’s Blue Beetle series needs a color run. That was some good stuff! And how about Bat Lash with that great Nick Cardy art? A color run of that would be great, too! And FIRESTORM! The 80’s run would be great! That’s never been collected. And then how about Volume 6 of Deathstroke The Terminator? And a Volume 2 for The Vigilante? There’s a TON of stuff that DC really needs to put out!

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  3. Love these ideas. Perhaps especially Blue Devil, who deserves to be remembered from his “weridness-magnet” stories that were fun and absurd. As a nitpick, the Prince Gavyn Starman DCCP issue was DC Comics Presents #36 (not #46) and it was a full-length Superman team-up story, rather than a shorter back-up segment like other “Whatever Happened To…” that ran in DCCP at the time…

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    • A lot of the stories originally prepared for TIME WARP were also burned off in MYSTERY IN SPACE #111 – 117 when the title was revived in 1980. These weren’t branded as TW, but including them in a collection would make sense.

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  4. Plop! That’s what we need collected. Seriously, DC, give us a collected Plop!

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  5. There have been some great DC runs and series deserving collection. I’ve seen a lot of stuff (Bronze Age Superman, Black Orchid, Amethyst) I’d buy in a heartbeat, but you have to add the Evanier/Spiegle Blackhawk run, including the “Detached Service” back-ups, with art by a host of comics greats.

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  6. Bat Lash gets my vote based on what I’ve read and seen in other articles on 13th Dimension. Awesome site! Looks like Bat Lash was last collected in b&w in 2009.

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