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It’s a gauntlet of gauntlets – World’s Finest Comics #175

July 8, 2010

I’m about to utter a terrible comics blasphemy, one that may cause me to be struck down by a lightning bolt from above.  Are you ready for this?  Are you sure?

I’m not a big Neal Adams fan.

OK, I’m still here.

It’s not that I actively dislike his art.  It’s simply that I can take it or leave it.  It does nothing for me.  It doesn’t excite me, and the only thing that separates him from the pack in my eyes is the fact that I have to pay a premium to add his Batman work to the Blog into Mystery archives.  A lot of the art from the 70’s looks the same to me and I’ve never been able to easily distinguish his from the crowd, something I can do with most other A-list artists.

Of course, I could just be a comics heathen with unrefined tastes.  A Philistine.  I admit that this is a possibility.  And now that all that is out of the way, on to the issue at hand…

This story, which features the schemes of the Superman and Batman Revenge Squads, is titled — oh so imaginatively — “The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads.”  It’s scripted by Leo Dorfman with art from the aformentioned Adams.  The Batman Revenge Squad comes together for their first meeting, and they’re barely able to rehearse their motto of “DIE, BATMAN, DIE” before the anti-Superman counterparts bust in.  After the introductions are made, the Supes-haters unveil their plan of sabotaging the annual Superman/Batman “Duel of Wits.”

You’ve never heard of this contest?  I’ll let the lead villain explain:

Apparently this contest also provides Robin with opportunities to unleash puns that would make Burt Ward proud:


As for the resolution of the story, let’s just say that the ridiculously costumed goons get found out in the end and our heroes bust them up.  Fin.

Now let me climb up onto my soapbox for a minute…I find this comic almost offensive in its stupidity.  The thought of Batman and Superman taking time out from their busy crime-fighting schedules to engage in some costumed grab ass makes me want to throw up in my mouth.  It’s one thing to kick back in your secret identity for a little while — it’s another thing entirely to have public foolishness like this.  Maybe if there was some sort of “raising funds for charity” component the hijinks would be more palatable.  As it is, it makes me cringe.  To put it in current terms, it’s a bit like that British Petroleum exec going off yachting while oil still seeps out into the Gulf of Mexico.  Dumb.  Irresponsible.

It flies in the face of what I imagine these guys to be all about.  Then again, this might be a progenitor of the Elseworlds imprint — maybe this story takes place on “Earth-Stupid” or something.

Most of the time I can roll with the punches when it comes to Silver Age silliness.  Not this time.  For some reason this one got my blood pressure up.  I’m the first to criticize more modern comics for taking themselves too seriously, for being a little too wrapped up in their own stuffy self-importance and for, at times, outright drudgery, but at least I don’t see them reverting to this.

And no, it’s not all Neal Adams’ fault.

On a positive note, this issue does feature a reprint of the Martian Manhunter’s first appearance from Detective Comics #225.  So it does have that going for it.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2010 9:48 am

    Don’t worry, you’re not alone on the Neal Adams thing. I can’t deny I’ve always preferred Jim Aparo’s take on Batman to Adams’ which always seems somewhat bland compared to Aparo’s more rugged interpretation.

  2. July 8, 2010 3:09 pm

    Might I suggest you might feel different about Adams if you’d been a regular reader back then when he first started doing comics, especially at Marvel, where he had the superior inking of Tom Palmer, and more input in plotting, which never made for the witless illogic you often found at DC. Check out (if you haven’t already) his X Men run with Roy Thomas.
    @Herb Trimpe’s Hulk (I like )–plenty of Adams influence shows up in Aparo’s late 60’s work. Look at Aquaman around #50.

  3. July 8, 2010 5:16 pm

    Hi, ne.

    Sadly, I have to admit I like Adams’ work on the X-Men less than I like his work on Batman. While, like Jared, I don’t mind his work on Batman, I really don’t like his work at all on the X-Men. I seem to remember either Doug or Karen on the “Bronze Age Babies” blog complaining about his elongated and distorted figures in the X-Men and I’ve always felt the same way.

    Having said that, I love his work on the Avengers Kree/Skrull War. For some reason, his style seems ideally suited to it.

    On the Jim Aparo matter, I agree with you about him being influenced by Adams but I still prefer his take on Batman. I think that, in the end, Adams’ Batman work owed a little too much to reality for my liking.

  4. July 9, 2010 1:09 pm

    I’m familiar with Adams’ Marvel work, but I’m still not a huge fan. This is just one of those cases of personal taste, I suppose, and I realize it puts me outside of the comics mainstream. It might just be a generational thing. I certainly don’t begrudge others liking him, though, and I appreciate many of the things he’s done outside of the creative realm, i.e. helping out older creators.

  5. July 9, 2010 7:34 pm

    When I was a young comic reader and aspiring doodler, Curt Swan bored me to a coma while I couldn’t get enough of Neal Adams. As an adult artist, Curt Swan has risen very high in my appreciation. Neal Adams hasn’t fallen as far as Swan has risen, but I no longer find his efforts heart-stopping. Just “good stuff”.

    Actually, let me fine-tune that…Adams does magnificent covers. Their layout, composition always show dynamic skill. It is his interior art where he seems to become bored and/or rushed. I have an accumultation of offhand anecdotes at conventions and whatnot to suggest it is easily both. A youthful attention span deficit and a constant war with deadlines.

    As for the story, I always found the Revenge Squad concept very lame. Thugs who apparently lack the self-esteem and huevos to seek their vengeance as a Name Villain. They have to join a gang, do the gang sign schtick and generally make more noise than action.

    I don’t have a problem with the heroes having a little fun contest. What makes it utterly ludicrous is how it is front page, headline news. If the crooks had somehow stumbled upon a personal, private wager between the heroes, that wouldn’t choke me so badly.

    • July 9, 2010 8:47 pm

      That’s a fair point about the covers, and one I can get behind. And you hit the nail on the head with the public nature of the Superman/Batman “wager.” The “look at me” aspect of it is appropriate for our modern-day prima donnas like Lebron James, not for heroes worthy of the World’s Finest moniker.

  6. July 11, 2010 5:31 pm

    I think if you compare Adams’ Batman work to what came before–Moldoff, mostly–you’ll begin to understand why Adams jazzed us so much. Aparo came along later, and used many of Adams’ tricks, like the speckled backgrounds. Also, Adams arrived and immediately showed signs of genius, while Aparo’s earliest work was pretty raw; check out the work he did for Charlton.

    • July 11, 2010 7:29 pm

      As I’ve stated before, I don’t begrudge anyone their liking of Adams, and I’m very aware of the reasons why he appealed to a lot of readers. But from my later perspective I just can’t share the enthusiasm. Now, granted, I wasn’t reading comics back in the old days, when everyone had to “walk uphill both ways” so to speak. Perhaps in my (relative) youth I’ve been spoiled artistically, and I just don’t realize how far things have come or appreciate his place in history, but Adams just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe I’ll elaborate in a later post on specific reasons — I suppose I owe that both to Adams and to you fine folks who have left comments. For right now it’s just a visceral thing.

  7. July 12, 2010 3:27 am

    Well, it’s probably the same thing as talking about how much of a breath of fresh air the Beatles were when they first hit the scene. Unless you were there, only having heard the music that came before, you wouldn’t get it. I still remember my jaw dropping to the floor when I came across the cover to Spectre #4 on the racks, or read the B&B #79 story featuring Batman and Deadman. Or turning the page to see what had so shocked Robin in Batman #237.

    • July 12, 2010 9:55 am

      Just to be sure that I’ve been clear — I do get it when it comes to Adams and his popularity. It’s simply that I’m not the biggest fan of his art, and I certainly don’t loathe it. He doesn’t grab ahold of me like other artists. It’s a matter of personal taste, and that’s all. Maybe I’m just too cool and detached across the gulf of years — or maybe my not “being there” gives me a different perspective. I think that you make a valid point about the breath of fresh air, and he was never a breath of fresh air in my world. I realize that this may color my opinions, but I guess that can cut both ways.

      Thanks for the comments (everyone) — there’s nothing quite as much fun as arguing about comics.

      Is now the right time to mention that I’ve never cared much for the Beatles?

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