Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review- SHOWCASE PRESENTS TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED VOL. 1

I forgot to take a picture of the spine and I don't feel like digging this back out to take one. Sorry OCD folks! 

SHOWCASE PRESENTS TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED VOL. 1 (DC, First Printing, 2012; Softcover)

Collects Tales of the Unexpected #1-20 (cover dates February/March, 1956- December, 1957)

Writers: Jack Miller, France E. Herron, and other, unidentified writers
Artists: Bill Ely, John Prentice, Howard Purcell, Charles Paris, Leonard Starr, Ruben Morera, Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, Sheldon Moldoff, George Papp, Nick Cardy, Bernard Baily, George Roussos, Jim Mooney, Jack Kirby, and Bob Brown

Tales of the Unexpected is one of those Cold War-tinged, watered down for the Comics Code Authority Twilight Zone-esque light fare anthology series. Alien invasions, ghosts, magical objects (lamps), timestream slips (i.e. broadcasts from the future), living paintings, and other concepts used here were also used so many times in other stories that it is almost impossible to ascertain where they originated.



Issue 9's The Day Nobody Died is the closest thing to a Pre-Code macabre style story. George Roussos was an excellent artist in the 1950s, employing endless solids which are stunning in black and white. His work here is so close to Alex Toth that I had to do a double take and go back to the table of contents to be sure. Roussos would have a decades long career in the industry, although he has no defining run on any title for fans to remember him by. I call guys like him comic book journeyman, as they turned it solid work year after year but never made it “big”. Jim Mooney is another artist who did great work here and, like Roussos, was a journeyman. Mooney is better remembered, though, as he inked Spider-Man on and off over the years.

If you've read one of these '50s titles then you have read them all, although this one boasts a better than average roster of artists. Take a gander at that list above. A lot of Golden Age greats were still doing solid work, such as Sheldon Moldoff (creator of Hawkman), Bernard Baily (co-creator of The Spectre), and of course Jack Kirby (co-creator of every great 1960's Marvel hero except for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange).

Kirby's artwork is in a transition phase here between the rawness and energy of his 1940s work and the refinement of his Silver Age work. Of note is #16's The Magic Hammer, where Kirby tells the story of a man who finds the magic hammer of Thor and uses it for evil. This was five years before he created the character for Marvel's Journey Into Mystery #83. While it is hip and trendy to downplay Stan Lee's contributions to Kirby's co-creations, I have to side with the Kirby Kult about Thor. You can't dispute that Kirby had the idea cooked up. Lee may have added supporting casts to the series, but the rest of Thor is pure Kirby. Look at this panel from the story. It is the exact same pose that he would draw Thor in on the cover of his first appearance!



Leonard Starr is one of the all-time greatest comic book or strip artists. This was toward the end of his career as a comic book artist, as he was about to graduate to the big time with his nationally syndicated strip Mary Perkins On Stage. If you have never read that series you should check it out, as it is brilliant.



I enjoy reading stuff like this before I go to bed, when the house is quiet and the kids are sleeping. I would be all over a Volume 2 of this, although four years have passed and this line of books is pretty much dead in the water. This would make a great line of Archives, although the market has shown that the audience for material like this is small. Oh well.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- These 500+ page black and white phonebooks are a bargain. Condescending fans call them coloring books, whereas I prefer to refer to them as poor man's Artist Editions.
Linework restoration: There is no way that DC is going to do restoration on 510 pages of story at a $19.99 MSRP. That means that the film for this stuff is in perfect shape, as there are no line dropouts, no murkiness from scanned printed comics or any other imperfections.

#12's The Indestructible Man was altered when it was reprinted in House Of Secrets #96, and the altered header with series host Abel giving the introduction is present here.
Paper stock: Good weight pulp paper.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. There are reports of these falling apart, although I haven't had any of my Showcase Presents books fall apart.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover. I find it interesting that DC leaves the interior covers blank, as they are normally printed with advertisements for other books available from the publisher. 

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