Secret Origins

The popularity of the 100-page Super-Spectaculars encouraged DC to produce more reprint titles at the beginning of the Bronze Age.  I’ll be posting reviews of my favourite of the period- Wanted– on my other blog. The second series I want to look at here though was also a revamped version of a giant-sized title.

Secret Origins may well be best known for its 80s incarnation when Roy Thomas tried to retell the origins of the Golden Age heroes in sequence, alternating with the post-Crisis versions. When Mark Waid took over the title in the late 80s, it became more diverse and inventive. The Bronze Age version, however, recalled these 60s giants:

I’d glimpsed the second collection in one of my cousin Jim’s Sixties comics (maybe Adventure, Strange Adventures or House of Mystery) but I didn’t read it until it was reprinted in the late 90s.

This first issue was the one and only edition I owned.  DC comics sometimes seemed staid and dull and the familiarity of the material on show here bored me. The same month, at Marvel,  Barry Smith’s final Conan comic debuts, as does Lin Carter’s Thongor; Ploog is drawing Frankenstein; and Jim Starlin pencilled a trio of covers. However, this was the dawn of the Marvel UK Age of Comics and colour Marvels were becoming increasingly scarce.

The cover image of the dread Batman has become  one of my favourites and the slightly washed-out and faded vignettes lend the characters a mythical power. The issue opens with a one-page origin of Superman from  1938’s Action Comics#1. It’s a primitive and wordy page too, like an entry from an encyclopedia. Interestingly, there’s no mention of Ma and Pa Kent and Superman is depicted as the product of a highly advanced and evolved species.

The Batman strip is a two-pager and more recognisably like the comics of the Silver and Bronze Age.  Bridwell comments on the huge metal airship that dominates the splash. You can slo see clearly where Marshall Rogers got his inspiration for the Darknight Detective’s scalloped cloak.

The origin of the Flash, of course, signals the beginning of the Silver Age, since it’s really the first Earth-1 story. The art team of Infantino and Kubert creates a look very different from the airy Futurism of Central City. It’s a grittier, darker strip and it feels closer in spirit to the Forties, posibly because the Turtle Man was a Golden Age villain.

The most interesting aspect of Secret Origins is the inclusion of Kubert’s moody Golden Age Hawkman short, featuring the Ghost. As a kid, I was annoyed by this strip since I’d seen the Silver Age version first and felt cheated.

Nowadays, I’m pleased to see the Gentleman Ghost, particularly on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  It seems strange not to run this story in Wanted (see future posts in “Some Fantastic Place” for the sequel); in any case, no further villains were featured for the remainder of the Seventies series.

Given the incipient energy crisis and paper shortage and the fact that Marvel had been repackaging its Sixties material for about seven years, it seems a shrewd move for DC to reprint some of its back catalogue. The only drawback is that ENB’s own preferences dominate the selection.

Next : the second Superboy Super-Spec!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners and are used herein for purposes of comment and nostalgia.

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One comment on “Secret Origins

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Now you’re talkin’, Dougie – that’s a lot easier on the eyes. Might be nice to have the pictures bigger ‘though, and make them more prominent ‘at-a-glance’. Is that possible? Also, I’d make sure there’s an equal space top and bottom of the images, as they look better framed in this manner. (Never happy me.) Compliments of the Season to you and yours.

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