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The Greatest 1950's Stories Ever Told (DC Comics) Paperback – October 1, 1997
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The superhero tales are mostly very good. The "Super-Batman" is certainly one of the better team ups in World's Finest, the Green Arrow two parter features art by Jack Kirby and one of the most solid stories of that somewhat lackluster title. The Wonder Woman story is a bit more so-so with Steve Trevor being extra-creepy in a revised origin for Diana Prince.
Outside of superheroes, the book features westerns, science fiction, fantasy, comedy pieces, horror comics, one spy comic, and one romance and one war comic. The Westerns ranged from forgettable to pretty good. The most bizarre one was with a character named Johnny Thunder (not the same as the Justice Society character of the same name) a school teacher whose father wanted him to be a Deputy Sheriff. Instead, our hero pretended to be a school teacher and helped his father fight injustice as Johnny Thunder, leading his father to be ashamed of his son. What was the reason for this? Maybe, that could be explained in the intro rather than complaining about McCarthy in the intro.
Tommy Tomorrow was entertaining silver age style science fiction while Captain Comet was boring. Both Shining Knight and Viking Prince were both enjoyable. The Viking Prince piece was notable for having DC incorporate Thor and his hammer into a story, seven years later before the Norse gods became a Marvel thing. The comedy pieces were cute and worth a chuckle. I did wish they could have reprinted some Adventures of Jerry Lewis or Adventures of Bob Hope comics. The horror comics in Phantom Stranger and Johnny Peril seemed to be typical of tehe era. The Spy comic featuring King Farraday was one of the highlights of the book as a nice action thriller. The romance comic was good but I felt that as a genre wasn't well-represented and deserved more than one story. The war comic featuring Sergeant Rock was a great World War II story. Rock does a good job in the era before DC's greatest war characters (such as Haunted Tank) would come along.
Beyond that, the book featured a couple miscellaneous Adventure comics. Given that the Blackhawks stories were published throughout the 1950s, it's hard to believe that the best DC could find was the oddball tale included in this volume. This also features the first Challengers of the Unknown Story from Showcase #6. The Challengers with their lack of individual personality can be a little bit boring. However, the first story is actually a lot of fun and certainly worth including the whole 24-page story.
Overall, this book is not a perfect collection of 1950s DC comics but it contains of good comic reading with generally strong stories from well-known series that it highlights as well a lot of forgotten series that are worth a read.
THE GREATEST 1950s STORIES EVER TOLD highlights a decade of uncertainty for DC Comics, and the entire comic medium in general. The ageing of their former audience, the shifting of entertainment to television, and political and moral pressures forced the majority of the costumed heroes out of the spotlight, to be replaced by a crazy mix of adventure, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, war, and romance comics. Towards the end of the decade, DC moved back on track, revamping their shelved Golden Age heroes with more of a modern, science-fiction angle. That successful gamble signaled the beginning of the Silver Age of comics.
All of the above-mentioned genres are represented in this collection, and I have to say that the selection is excellent. Included are Showcase # 6, 8-9, and 23; Adventure Comics # 159, 245, and 253; World's Finest Comics # 77 and 64; Star-Spangled Comics #113; Detective Comics #228; Sugar and Spike #3; Congo Bill #6; Strange Adventures #28; Western Comics #72; Wonder Woman #99; Blackhawk #109; The Fox and the Crow #14; Superboy #22; Brave and the Bold #3; Sensation Comics #107; Batman #81; Phantom Stranger #1; Action Comics #238; All-American Western Comics #121; Girls' Love Stories #27; Our Army at War #87; and Jimmy Olsen #32. In addition to the heroes indicated by the issue titles, the book also provides appearances from the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Nighthawk, King Faraday, Tomahawk, Captain Comet, Green Arrow & Speedy, the Shining Knight, Jon the Viking Prince, and Sgt. Rock.
This is a very worthwhile book that deserves reprinting. In fact, DC should pick up this line again, with both more heroes and more decades. The intro is very informative as to the creators involved with these comics, as well as the various pressures put upon the comic medium at the time. It shouldn't be too hard to find a copy, as it hasn't been out of print for very long.