Certain Poor Shepherds

Gale-force winds have been blowing for days. After the computer-game marathon movie, Hobbit 2 and a long day in sleety Aberdeen hunting for comics, I want to spend the next two days sleeping, eating and watching Basil Rathbone as wartime Sherlock Holmes . Before that, however, today’s post looks at two festive comics, one from the present and the other from the past.

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DC’s Super -Star Holiday Special was a Dollar Comic cover-dated April 1980. That suggest it was on sale in January of that year but probably not in this country. It’s the first all-new Xmas story collection I can remember from DC, all linked by the theme of a Christmas star. It also indicates that the war and “mystery” books were still strong sellers by the end of the 70s. Curiously, aside from Tomb of Dracula, Marvel never really made its mark in either genre. Conversely, Claw, Stalker, Richard Dragon and Karate Kid were mayflies whereas Conan became a phenomenon and Shang Chi outlived the chop socky boom.

The Fawn and The Star: Jonah Hex, hunting down asome varmints, saves a baby deer from being shot. In the process, he recalls a Xmas meal where his Ma and Pa cooked and served his foundling raccoon, Roy. Michael Fleisher’s story of the monstrous bounty hunter is darkly humorous and pencilled by the venerable Dan Adkins.

Wanted: Santa Claus, Dead or Alive: I think this is Frank Miller’s first Batman work and I see a Marshall Rogers influence. Denny O’Neil’s pulpy hands are all over the humdrum script, with the patsy Santa “Boomer Katz” and Batman’s comical reference to his “mental mug file”.

The House of Mystery: an untitled segment by Bob Rozakis and Adkins again/ Some Xmas-themed Twilght Zone tales from horror hosts Cain, Abel, the Three Witches and the robed, aloof Destiny. His Cosmic Log struck me as unintentionally funny.

The Longest Night: a Sgt Rock story by Kanigher and the venerable Dick Ayers, this time. A corny, predictable war tale with religious overtones.

Star Light, Star Bright, Farthest Star I See Tonight: characteristically unwieldy Levitz title but gorgeous Garcia Lopez/Giordano art. Superboy leads a Legion squad on a quest to find the Star of Bethlehem and in the process, they unite three races in survival on an alien world. An in-continuity tale sees the LSH tower being rebuilt after the onslaught of Omega and perhaps the first reference to Colossal Boy’s Jewish faith. I miss the Legion already.

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The comic contains  an ad for Adventure Comics with Ditko’s Starman ( a rather festive fellow but surely an “homage” to Starlin’s Mar-Vell) . The back cover depicts the beginning of the “Human Adventure” with Star Trek the Motion Picture.

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I had already read the Batman and Legion stories in issue 3, volume 2 of the beautifully- painted, b/w mag The Super Heroes back in December 1981.

It strikes me that two modern Marvel writers could revive the LSH: the first is Jason Aaron who assembled a sprawling cast of mutant teens in Wolverine and the X-Men. With mordant humour, he also revived absurd Marvel menaces like Krakoa and Master Pandemonium. Aaron would be at home with the more wacko elements of Legion Lore like Matter-Eater Lad or Evillo.

The other contender is Jonathan Hickman, who in the last year has delivered a widescreen hard sci-fi iteration of the Avengers, featuring LSH parodies, the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. Hickman is not behind the wheel for the festive Avengers Annual 2014 however.

avengers annual

Kathryn Immonen and David LaFuente present the ungrammatical “The Most Loneliest Time of the Year”, which is charming but somewhat hard to follow. Captain America spends Xmas in Avengers Tower with trespassing teen Zamira, who manifests the “voices in her head” like Bizarro-Avengers. I wish this had actually been the new Muslim Ms. Marvel’s debut.

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If Thor and Hawkeye had been included, this would be the movie line-up- which is as it should be.  MY Avengers, with Jan, Wanda and Vizh, have been defunct since the Busiek/Davis days, about a decade ago. This is an amusing Chistmas comic but wilfully impenetrable to moviegoers.

Hope you have a peaceful Xmas and New Year. See you back here in around a week’s time for a DC Xmas Tabloid; then a Batman 100-page Super-Spec and then, finally, the long-mooted 80 page giants of the 60s.

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners 

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One comment on “Certain Poor Shepherds

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Have a great Christmas and a super 2014, Dougie.

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