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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Showcase #100 - May 1978

Comics Weekend "There Shall Come A Gathering" by Paul Kupperberg, Paul Levitz, and Joe Staton.

This anniversary issue of one of DC's most influential titles, Showcase, hits the ground running with a gaggle of heroes aboard the JLA Satellite when some rather distressing news comes in:
...I love how, even amidst this literally world-shattering crisis, Kid Flash has time to flirt with Wonder Girl. And in kind of a creepy way, too.

Anyway, in classic superhero comic style, the various heroes break up into teams to combat the problem. Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Adam Strange try and stop who or what is moving the Earth through space, and they are met by an army of robot warriors who are bent on stopping them.

Down on Earth, the Metal Men try and save lives, and in the time stream Rip Hunter checks out the problem there. Lois Lane goes on TV and issues an on-air plea for Superman's help (its not going to work, Lois; Superman was never in Showcase!). She is met by The Challengers of the Unknown and The Creeper, who want to use GBS-TV's powerful transmitters to broadcast an SOS.

Back in space, Flash, GL and the other are given assistance by Space Ranger, who helps them fight off their robot attackers. They find their way to what seems like the alien overlord, and destroy it, yet--the Earth keeps hurtling through space!

Meanwhile, at the offices of O'Day and Simeon, Detectives, the messed-up time stream brings a bunch of disparate people together:
As a comic nerd (redundant), I love this page--you've got The Inferior Five, Tommy Tomorrow, Anthro, Bat Lash, Firehair, and even Binky and His Buddies, all in same page. Crisis on Infinite Earths got a lot of fanboy praise for squeezing in all the various corners of the DCU together, but Kupperberg, Levitz, and Staton got there first.

Bat Lash, Tommy Tomorrow, and Angel decide to try and help out any way they can, so they take off to see what they can do, leaving Sam (the Ape in Angel & The Ape) to keep everyone else entertained.

Finally, we get to see what Aquaman's been doing:
...little did Aquaman know how much the mysterious Dolphin would enter into his life. But that's another story. (By the way, do those little kids look familiar to you? More on that in a moment)

In Metropolis, the Teen Titans help the Metal Men keep the peace, and that involves stopping various rampaging hordes of baddies who are spilling out of the time stream. That includes Vikings and Nazis(!) which Aqualad dispatches with a quip:
Out in space, our heroes are given further assist by some really big guns: The Phantom Stranger and The Spectre! The Spectre, summoned by the Stranger via a seance, quite literally tries to push the Earth in the other direction, but eventually fails.

Back on the planet, the various teams of heroes find their way to the same place, some sort of living hunk of rock. Angel and Lois Lane head in, via a small tunnel carved out by Tommy Tomorrow. They make their way to the hub, which houses a vast computer run by some sort of alien life form who wants to destroy the Earth, as well as other worlds.

Angel is trying to determine which wires to rip loose, when a white gloved hand guides her to a specific one, before disappearing. The power system crumbles, sending the life support bubble the alien was living in hurtling into space:
...the ever-lovin' end!

Aside from the fact Aquaman plays such a small role (understandable, considering the small army of characters writers Kupperberg and Levitz were working into this story), this is one of my all-time favorite superhero stories: its enormously fun, has a million different locations, a lot of humor, and moves at a breakneck pace.

Joe Staton, always one of my favorite artists, does a great job here. He was the perfect guy to bring off this story, since he excels at both lighthearted adventure and big, epic space opera.

This book also features a two-page text feature by Paul Levitz, giving short histories of every Showcase character and just where they were fit into the story. Some characters, like King Farraday, Manhunter 2070, and Fireman Farrell literally have one-panel walk-ons, and are easy to miss; so this little key at the end comes in handy for the obsessive fan, like myself.

Speaking of obsessive, some of you will no doubt recognize the kids Dolphin is saving on page 20:
Yep, that's Sugar and Spike! When I first noticed it, I doubted it was supposed to be S&S because they had never appeared in Showcase, which was the prerequisite for being included in this story.

I decided to ask my pal and Patron Saint of the Shrine (and co-writer of this story!) Paul Kupperberg about it, in an email titled "The Most Obscure Thing I Will Ever Ask You About." Paul wrote back in the affirmative that, yes, that was Sugar & Spike:

"Yes, Virginia, that was an (uncredited) appearance by Sugar & Spike, thrown in by Joe for his own amusement! Originally, when Paul and I plotted it, the idea was to restrict appearances to characters who had been in Showcase and gone on to their own features or titles. We actually thought we were doing Joe a favor by keeping the number of characters down, but It was Joe who threw in everybody else who ever appeared in Showcase! Who knew he was a masochist!"

Paul even sent me Joe Staton's original cover sketch:

As if all this wasn't enough, here's one more thing before we go--check out this odd little object:
This is a 3D diorama made by a fan and given to Paul Kupperberg. It consists of cutting up several copies of Showcase #100 and turning them into this sculpture. I admire the sheer tenacity it must have took to create this, even if looking at it makes my head hurt.


Josh Hill said...

this looks like a really fun comic! and Staton draws some fine women, too :)

R Duncan said...

Cool. I assume Showcase 100 was included in your Spectre blog.

Joe Slab said...

Thanks for this piece rob! Showcase #100 is one of my top all time comic book stories as well even though I no longer have my original copy.

Wings1295 said...

Love comics like this, just fun and enjoyable stuff. Miss those days!

And all the bonus stuff you included makes this one hell of a fun post, too!

pblfsda said...

Paul Kupperberg must have some fine memories of Sugar & Spike. They also turn up as Cassie Sandsmark's first babysitting assignment in WONDER WOMAN #113(09/96). Paul edited that whole three-year John Byrne run. I've read through some of the backlog of his "And Then I Wrote..." blog but I don't seem to remember him ever mentioning them, or creator Sheldon Meyer. He does mention that 3-D display in his 100th post. Thanks for letting us see it.

rob! said...

Josh--I agree, I always loved the way Joe drew women. Its not typical "good girl" art, but there's something...

Rick--I assume you mean my Phantom Stranger blog? If so, yes, I did cover this book there.

Joe--Yep, me too. I love this issue.

Wings--Yep, I was really thrilled to add all the extra stuff. It all came together quite nicely, thanks to PK.

PBLFSDA--Well, as Paul says, it was Joe Staton's idea to add S&S, so it just be a coincidence. That said, I know Paul has a real love humor comics, so I'm sure he had no problem seeing them show up in the various comics he's been associated with.

matthew jones said...

I love Showcase #100 as well. A real fun comic, and a chance to see nearly every character who appeared in Showcase. You can't go wrong with a comic featuring a cameo by Fireman Farrell. Oh yeah, and it was great to see Aquaman an Sugar and Spike on the same page.