I don’t think I’ve ever bought a collection of a reprint title. But here’s DC’s tribute to a shortlived series of the early Seventies, and I could not resist. Well, I used to grab the slightly differently titled Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains whenever it made its way into the local newsagents here in the UK, but only managed about four issues. Here we get all nine, plus a bonus tenth based on a contemporary reader’s suggestion of an all-woman special.
There’s far too much in here to review the whole thing – long posts on DC and Marvel giant issues get a terrible response, either because they’re so long no one gets to the end, or the books are so pricey, few people can afford them. Well, this is a big buy at £32/$39, but if you’re due a gift and someone needs a suggestion, or have the spare cash and feel you deserve a treat (you really do!), it’s highly recommended. But I will keep to just a (likely large) handful of random comments to give you a flavour of the book.
Wanted was edited by comics legend E Nelson Bridwell, whose knowledge and love of DC history was boundless. Where companion book Secret Origins had a theme dictated by the title, Wanted’s name allowed a lot more wriggle room. So ENB went wild and picked little-seen stories from every corner of the company’s library which, by this time, also encompassed the Fawcett and Quality characters.
Want to meet Doll Man’s enemy The Man in the Iron Mask? Who knows, but you’ll probably like the sumptuous, imaginative art of Alex Kotzky, a new name to me but perhaps not to US readers, as he drew the newspaper strip Apartment 3-G for decades.
I also like that writer William Woolfolk had equal opportunity henchpeople – the molls not only help with the robberies, they aren’t required to be gorgeous.
The first appearance of the Clock King shows why this Green Arrow no-mark was destined for Justice League Antarctica… this is not a guy who was made to look rubbish purely for a gag story decades after his debut. Mind, Oliver Queen isn’t much smarter…
DC’s Puppet Master showed up earlier than Marvel’s but the Fantastic Four bad guy had the better visual… the Green Lantern foe is just an ordinary looking fella, but would you look at his unique mode of attack. And oh, Carol…
One of the general joys of these Golden and Silver Age reprints is the language. Sure, I’m used to the ridiculous Noo Yoik slang of Green Lantern Alan Scott’s pal Doiby Dickles, but even the smallest bit player, whether, cop, dockyard worker, office grunt or gangster has a bit of personality. For example, the Vigilante tale begins with train loaders having a right old moan…
This story stars the Dummy, a regular Greg Sanders foe who shares a pretty grim distinction with another bad guy in this volume, Wildcat enemy the Yellow Wasp… points for anyone who knows what that is!
And once more, we see how much early writers loved language, OK, Joe Samachson is a tad wordy, but how can you not love ‘homicidal homunculus’? The strip also gives us the likes of ‘plum ornery coyote’ and ‘hornswoggled’, while the banter between Vig and Stuff ‘the Chinatown Kid’ is a treat.
The first appearance of Solomon Grundy is interesting as a reminder of how Alan Moore nodded to it in his reimagining of Swamp Thing.
And while Dr Fate’s encounter with the fish-headed Nyarl-Amen features the most annoying letterforms ever in the treatment of the E, the artwork by Howard Sherman is just magical.
Kid Eternity’s introduction to Master Man is as educational as ever.
I’m always surprised that the strips got away with using the recently dead – Knute Rockne left this mortal coil just 18 years before this strip appeared, while cowboy co-star Will Rogers had been gone just 14. As for Master Man himself, his origin is as concise as it’s creepy.
As for the death traps, John Rotor has that covered – can Hawkgirl and Hawkman possibly escape?
Honestly, there’s so much goodness in the reprints from #1-#9. As for the projected #10, it features… well, take a look!
There’s also a superb Catwoman tale, The Sleeping Beauties of Gotham City, which contains the seminal Selina seminar.
I love the extra issue idea, but the decision to have #10 match the updated trade dress is baffling.
Never mind, this book is a delight from start to finish. The only thing that could have made it better would have been an opening essay from ENB himself, but he’s up in heaven…hey, perhaps Kid Eternity could summon him?