Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quarter Bin #55 "Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, plus Batman: Year Three, The Mighty Thor, and Young Men"

Comics featured in this column were not necessarily bought in an actual quarter bin.  This is a back issues feature.

Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography (DC)
From 1989
via eBay
One of my many hilarious embarrassing moments concerns my original, failed attempt to buy this prestige format one-shot.  It was just before I began reading comics regularly, and I had entered the shop I would frequent for the rest of the '90s.  They had several rows of boxes lined on the floor.  I totally misinterpreted the deal I was going to get.  I spent a long time going through each box.  I had a huge stack.  I thought I had enough money.  I did not.  To this day, The Unauthorized Biography's distinctive cover is my only memory of the comics I discovered that inglorious day.  I've always wanted to read it as a result.

(Apparently the cover mimics one for an autobiography Donald Trump had released at the time.)

Jump ahead twenty years, and the journey is now complete.  As it turns out, it's pretty good.  The story isn't really a straightforward biography so much as the journey a private investigator takes as he compiles his notes for one.  This was the era of Luthor as a ruthless businessman, and as such all the P.I.'s research turns up how he reached that point, from humble origins involving "obnoxiously mediocre" parents.
via iFanboy
Perhaps the most interesting element is actually Clark Kent's supporting role.  Our erstwhile Superman ends up a Jim Rockford type, accused of the murder because he had no other plausible reason for discovering the body of the murdered P.I. other than professional opportunism, or so the cops figure (if anyone ever made another stab at a Clark Kent-based TV series, his adventures as a reporter, not strictly in a romantic sense, would probably make for interesting material; although even as a comic book, I'm surprised this has never been done).

The writer is James Hudnall, who quickly backed away from mainstream comics and has thusly become fairly obscure, which is a shame if this material is at all indicative of his work.  The artist is Eduardo Barreto, who stuck around much longer.  

Batman #437 (DC)
From 1989

The cover declares, "Batman: Year 3" (Part 2 of 4), although it might more accurately be called "Robin: Year 1."  Everyone knows "Year One," the other notable Frank Miller story featuring Batman.  DC decided to keep the story alive by continuing into "Year 2" (featuring Batman as an established commodity) and "Year 3," which was written by Marv Wolfman, who in the midst of his Titans run certainly had come to know Dick Grayson well enough.  Besides the Robin origin, "Year 3" is also part of the "Death in the Family"/"Lonely Place of Dying" sequence, otherwise known as the death of Jason Todd (the second Robin) and the debut of Tim Drake (the third), so that interspersed with the flashback is a story set in the present at that time.

King-Size Thor #2 (Marvel)
Reprint from 1994, originally published 1966

 I picked this up mostly to have another look at the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby duo.  The featured story involves the (Marvel) Norse version of the games featured in The Iliad, which take a typical-for-that-time twist with bad guys (and Loki).  It's not what I was expecting.  Lee is filled to bursting with his usual hyperbolic dialogue, while Kirby is as Kirby does (it'd be little wonder to discover that he thought up the Inhumans and the New Gods thanks to working on material like this).  There are a couple other stories included.  Not worth mentioning beyond that.

Young Men #25 (Atlas, a.k.a. Marvel)
Reprint from 1994, originally published in 1954

Another vintage experience, featuring the Human Torch (original version), Namor the Submariner, and Captain America (combined, they were known as the Invaders) in separate tales.  It is what it is.  The Submariner tale was the most amusing one.  I have no idea why Marvel is so stingy with Namor comics these days.   

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