Tagged: World’s Finest Comics

Ed Catto: World’s Finest Anticipation… and Trepidation


There’s something about team-ups that fascinate fans. And on the big screen, movies like Frankenstein Meets Dracula to Godzilla vs. King Kong, and AVP: Alien vs. Predator were all “can’t miss” affairs. Well, I actually did miss the last one, but it you get the idea.

317514-18006-124029-1-world-s-finest-comicAs I write this, the newest superhero blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premieres tomorrow. I’m sure the debut has been analyzed to death by the time this column is out, but there’s some strange things going on. And I wanted to analyze it all before the starting gun officially went off and pop culture runs full speed down the track.

One peculiar thing is that I can’t believe I’m not more excited about this movie. If I were to go back in time (ala last week’s column) to tell my 10-year old self that there will one day be a blockbuster movie starring Batman and Superman –together – he’d never believe me.

For years, comic fans delighted to Batman and Superman teaming up in the pages of World’s Finest Comics.  That was one of those comic series with a heart that was hitting its super-stride just as I was really getting into comics. In the late sixties, World’s Finest released a bunch of classic issues in quick succession:

  • World's Finest 169-00fcIn World’s Finest #168, Batman Superman and Robin fought the Composite Superman. He was a creepy bad-guy sporting a half-Superman, half-Batman look with Kryptonite skin. And he had all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes characters. He was one bad guy that gave me nightmares.
  • Batman and Superman struggled to change the Batmobile’s flat tire while Supergirl and Batgirl snickered at them, hidden behind a fence in issue #169. How could that be? A must-read!
  • Issue #175’s powerful Neal Adams art detailed Superman and Batman’s annual contest. But that particular year, the tradition would be interrupted by two criminal clubs bent of revenge of the World’s Finest Duo.
  • Superman and Batman had a King Arthur adventure in issue #162. This story contributed to my life-long interest in all things Arthurian. Of course, in this story, each of the Knights of Round Table had a different super power. I don’t think Mallory ever could have envisioned that plot twist.ad_wf170oct1967
  • Issue #170 was an 80 Page Giant – a real treat back then –representing seven classic World’s Finest
  • World’s Finest #184 was a shocker, even though it was an “imaginary tale”. Batman dies and Robin seeks revenge!

And I’ll never forget that 1968 double page spread ad for CBS’s new Saturday morning cartoons. There were Superman, Batman and Robin. I clearly remember wondering if they’d all be in one adventure, ala World’s Finest. Spoiler alert – they didn’t team-up.

It’s easy to forget that in the mid-80’s, John Byrne’s Superman reboot and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns presented fans with an idea that was radical at the time – what if Batman and Superman weren’t friends? By now, it’s baked into the mythology and not a radical idea at all, but back then it was almost sacrilegious. But after forty years of the World’s Finest team-ups, we all knew it was time for a change in the status quo.

For this Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, there is a lot of anxiety in Geek Culture and beyond. Before the movie debuted, the 13th Dimension wondered what effect early negative reviews will have on the cinematic plans for the DC heroes and Forbes had written about how Warner Brothers had destroyed the Superman brand.

On the other hand, let’s compare and contrast this to the other big super hero team-up. In Monday’s episode of CBS’s Supergirl, the Flash is scheduled to drop in for an adventure! With his incredible speed powers, he can travel through time, across dimensions and between networks!

This reminds me of when Oscar Goldman was hopping between networks to spend time with both of his bionic friends. The Six Million Dollar Man was on ABC and The Bionic Woman, having been cancelled by that network, was picked up by NBC.

I’m not hearing any anxiety about this TV team-up of Flash and Supergirl. In fact, it’s more reminiscent of a favorite cousin coming to visit during the holidays. It will be fun and you just can’t wait. There’s no overthinking involved.

But the brands of these heroes are different. The cinematic Superman and Batman are dour and serious, while their television counterparts have picked up the mantle of fun and hope. In fact, you may have seen this wonderful open letter a mom wrote to Supergirl stars Melisa Benoist and Chyler Leigh after meeting them at the recent C2E2 comic convention. She talked about what an inspiration these women are in their roles, and especially as they deal with issues of adoption and the effects on families. Carrie Goldman’s article is worth a read.

Movie and TV adaptations are a big deal. I’m currently enjoying Sundance’s Hap and Leonard, adapted from the Joe Lansdale novels. For me it’s still fresh and astounding to see these characters live as a TV series, even though there have been about a bazillion detectives who’ve made the leap from the printed page to the screen.

And that’s why I have this perplexing anxiety about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. I hope it’s wonderful and everyone –from the creators to the studio to the theaters to the promotional tie-in partners – enjoy great success.

But now that this World’s Finest movie is finally here, I feel like I have to tell my 10-year old self, in classic geek fashion “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.” We’ll see. And I’m eager to hear your opinions, too. What did you think?

Oh, and I’m also worried I’ll eat too much popcorn. But that’s a worry I have with every movie.


Ed Catto: Share and Share Alike


JSA ALL Star OrdwayRecently Paramount and Hasbro announced that they’d be creating a “shared cinematic universe” for several of their toy properties, including G.I. Joe, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., ROM and Visionaries. On one hand this is a reaction to the disappointing G.I. Joe movie franchise, but on the other hand it’s another example of the business world learning lessons from Geek Culture. Call it a shared universe, team-up or a crossover – passionate superfans know and understand the power of this narrative tool.

In the early days of comics, two separate (but related) comic companies, All-American Comics and National Comics joined forces in a sort of Nerd-Glasnost to combine several of their second tier characters into one big adventure. The publication All-Star Comics showcased a club of super-heroes called the Justice Society of America. The concept took hold and captured the imaginations of fans with a tenacity that resonates to this day.

world's_finest_1968_#179_27And a few years later National Comics, when faced with wartime paper allocations, decided that the anthology series World’s Finest Comics would combine the two of the strips in each issue. So for a while Batman and the Superman each had their own individual stories in this comic, but then they were combined into a single team-up story. This way, both heroes could adventure together in fewer pages.

The implication was clear: all these wonderful characters exist together in the same world. At first, they would seldom cross paths with one another. But then the Marvel Universe ushered in a new wave of team-ups and face-offs. In that mythology, heroes like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Thor were practically tripping over one another as they worked (primarily) in New York City to fight the latest threats to civilization as we know it.

Of course, there is historical precedent. The mythology we now routinely consider as the definitive King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table story is actually a patchwork quilt of various stories, legends and heroes. Like the Justice Society of America, they were incorporated into one grand narrative.

FF 73Likewise, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe is notable for co-opting the Robin Hood legends. Robin of Locksley is a supporting character in this medieval “Knights in Shining Armor” saga. But like Fonzie in Happy Days, he would outshine and outlast the primary cast to become one of the most enduring characters of all time.

On the silver screen, Universal understood this concept, and routinely teamed up their big monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, in a series of movies. And they even crossed over with the long running Abbott and Costello series in the classics, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbott And Costello Meet the Mummy.

The crossover mania continues. As recently as this fall, Fox crossed over characters from two dramas on the same night – Sleepy Hollow and Bones. The DC Universe is quite facile with their interlocking TV mythology, as the Flash, Green Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and even Constantine seem to be comfortable dropping in for occasional visits.

Knights of the Round TableAnd in February, the Superbowl continues this tradition spotlighting a meeting of what used to be the best teams from the American Football League and the National Football League. Then they essentially merged into their own shared universe.

Finally, Hollywood is getting it. The overwhelming success of the interlocking adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Avengers, Iron Man, etc.) led the way. It is augmented by ABC and Netflix TV properties like Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and Jessica Jones. We’ll see a DC (movie) Universe that fits together with Batman V. Superman, a giant monster unified mythology with Godzilla vs. King Kong, all sorts of Star Wars movies telling tales from long long ago and far, far away and even a new Universal monster-verse.

Do viewers find it complicated or burdensome? Maybe some do. But so many hard-core and casual fans seem to prefer thoughtful world building. And when the Hollywood folks driving the narratives can remember two important core mandates – tell good stories and treat the audience with respect – it all works beautifully.