Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Team-Up Books

Remember team-up books? These were super-hero series that would have a regular star, who would in each issue team up with a different character (or sometimes group). Marvel had Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, which featured Spider-Man and The Thing respectively; DC had The Brave and The Bold and DC Comics Presents, which featured their two marquee heroes, Batman and Superman.

Those team-up books are gone now, fallen victim to a market that seems to want longer stories and less variety. Which is a shame, because these team-up books had many advantages: As a reader, you were exposed to new characters, as well as artists and writers that you may not have encountered on their regular books (this was back in the days before creative teams were changed every 11 months). For the companies, they could easily save characters and their logos from trademark & copyright limbo, and the one-off issues and rotating creators meant that inventory stories could be easily slid into the schedule. A win-win for all.

Yes, I know that Marvel Team-Up is back, but its longer stories and rotating casts give iit a very different feel from those old team-up books. And DC is rumored to have a new Brave and the Bold coming out on the other side of Infinite Crisis, but it would seem to be going for a similar take.

As a kid, DC Comics Presents was the first comic that I made a point of getting regualrly (and for many years had a subscription). On a limited budget, I liked the idea of getting a comic that not only featured my favorite character, Superman, in every issue, but also introduced me to a new character every month. Why get a comic with just Superman when you could get a comic that had both Superman and the Elongated Man? It was like getting two comics in one!

I still have fond memories of many DC Comics Presents issues. Some of my favorites were:

#13 & #14: With an adult Superman meeting the Legion of Super-Heroes, then facing off against a possessed version of his own youthful self!

#24: Deadman and Superman never actually meet, of course, which I thought was very cool. Plus the art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez was totally rad, as even my immature 10-year-old tastes could tell.

#26; Green Lantern is possessed (that actually happened a lot in these tales...) and creates AN ENTIRE PLANETOID OF GREEN KRYPTONITE! That is so damn cool! (Also had a free preview insert of The New Teen Titans!)

#27-29: A three parter that introduced Mongul and Warworld, and teamed Superman with The Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and The Spectre. Superman and Supergirl teaming up to take on The Death Star? Cool! Superman accidently 'piercing the veil' into the afterlife? Cool! All drawn by the cosmic master, Jim Starlin.

#50: Superman teams up with Clark Kent? How can that be?!

#59: Keith Giffen gives us Superman meeting The Legion of Substitute-Heroes while trying to corral Ambush Bug. Still one of the funiest comics I have ever read. Ever.

#61: Superman & OMAC. The real OMAC. Drawn by George Perez. Stick that in your Infinite Crisis pipe and smoke it!

#66: Superman and The Demon. Drawn by Joe Kubert. Even my barely formed fourteen-year-old tastes could tell that Kubert rocked.

#67: Superman and Santa Claus versus The Toyman. Genius. Drawn by the best Superman artists ever, Curt Swan, and with a Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover.

#84: Challengers of the unknown, with Jack Kirby and Alex Toth on art. Kirby & Toth!

#85: Alan Moore steps in to give us a Superman story, nominally teaming-up with Swamp Thing.

#87: A Crisis tie-in, with the first appearance of the Superboy of Earth Prime--that's more to stick in your IC pipe!

#90: Freaky, post-Crisis pre-reboot team-up between Superman, Captain Atom, and Firestorm.

Annual #1: Earth-1 Superman & Earth-2 Superman. Plus Earth-3's Ultra Man and the Lex Luthors of All Three Earths! You cannot call your self an Infinite Crisis fanboy if you haven't read this!

Counting the annuals, there were 101 issues of DCCP before DC pulled the plug in favor of the Byrne-revamp and Action Comics becoming (temporarilly) the new Superman team-up book. It's probably the one book that strokes my fanboy memories of the eighties the most. Hey DC--how about a Showcase Presents colelction of DC Comics Presents?

(cover images courtesy of the GCD)


RedheadFangirl said...

Marvel Teamup 14 Spiderman meets Invincible was a great recent team-up release. Many people aren't familiar with Robert Kirkman's Invincible, and it did a great job of summarizing the character-- all the while making jabs at Spidey and the Avengers in a fun way. And it references the classic "Tiger, you hit the jackpot line" with Mary Jane!

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I'd buy a DCCP Showcase collection in a second -- it would take, what, four volumes to collect the entire series?

Dave Carter said...

I did read MTU #14--it was the closest that series has come to the feel of the team-up comics of old.

Dave Carter said...

Yeah, 4 volumes would be just about right for a DCCP Showcase edition (97 issues & 4 annuals).

Though it appears that so far DC is using the Showcase volumes strictly for silver age material. All good stuff, but there's some worthy stuff from the 70s and 80s that could be collected too.