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Cary Bates Faces Front

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The story of a teenage Jim Shooter being given a job at DC Comics is the stuff of legend. Shooter was 14 years old when he started working at DC Comics in 1966. However, the little known part about this is that he wasn’t the only teen on DC’s payroll.

According to Comics Should Be Good, Cary Bates started submitting covers for the Superman books to DC in 1964 when he was 15 years old and was 17 and writing for DC when Shooter signed on. Shooter would eventually leave DC to become Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, the company Bates is making his return to comics with this week.

Cary Bates might not come readily to mind when you think of comic book legends, but he helped define an American Icon for a whole generation of fans and helmed an era of maturation for the character.

If you grew up in the 1970’s and read a Superman comic book, odds are that it was written in part by Cary Bates.  He was one of the major writers on the character, having written hundreds of stories for the character from the 60s through the 80s.   He and artist Curt Swan became one of the definitive creative teams in comics in general and Superman history specifically.  

Under Bates’ watch, Clark Kent went from being a newspaper reporter to being a television reporter. He was one of the writers who introduced Clark’s work nemesis Steve Lombard and reintroduced Lana Lang to provide a little competition to Lois Lane for Clark/Superman’s affections.

The series started to get a little more continuity as well as more complex plots. While a little behind the angst and the pathos that you’d find in Marvel books at the time, it was a far cry from the slightly silly Superman stories of the sixties.

While he was most known for working on the Superman titles, Bates also had a long and interesting run on The Flash (which includes the infamous “Trial of the Flash” arc) and also worked on Justice League of America and the comic adaptation of the television show, V. He also did some work for Warren’s horror magazines Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella.

Bates’ involvement with the Superman comic franchise ended with the John Byrne reboot in the mid-80s. DC wanted a fresh start in the titles and any creator associated with the pre-revamp Superman was persona non grata.

He was given the job of reinventing the Charlton character Captain Atom for the post-Crisis DC world and the Millenium spin-off New Guardians. He also worked for Shooter on several titles of Marvel’s New Universe line and co-created Video Jack with Keith Giffen from its Epic imprint.

Bates found other work in Hollywood. A consulting job on Superman III led him to work on the Adventures of Superboy TV series, and the movie, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery.

After years away, Bates is back in comics and at Marvel. True Believers is about a bunch of superpowered antiestablishment types that act as muckrakers in the superhero community.  The lead is Mavis Trent, a blogger who digs up—or makes up—dirt on Marvel’s characters. It’s a timely concept from an old-school creator. Will the fans today respond to it?

Also out this week:

Blue Beetle #29:

Blue Beetle is a perpetual entry on our New Year’s Resolution list. John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque created the best teen hero nobody was reading. It was witty, funny exciting and a great read. We did everything we could to get people to pick it up. Not many did. It always seemed to be in jeopardy of being cancelled.

Now, Rogers is gone and being replaced by Matthew Sturges. A change of writers is always an unsteady time for a comic book. Especially at DC on a low selling book, considering that new authors are brought on just to close out books and wrap things up. The solicitation seems to be a brand new direction, but how long will it last?     

Matthew Sturges (W), Rafael Albuquerque (A), DC Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

Skrulls vs. Power Pack #1:

It is the summer of the Skrull at Marvel. In case you haven’t heard, they are the bad guys of Secret Invasion. And it seems that there is a Skrull in every Marvel book you pick up as the company tries to introduce fans to a new book here and there. It seems that there is no new venue for the shape-changing aliens to go into.

Or, at least, not now as the ugly green men crossover into the kid-friendly world of Power Pack. I guess Marvel thinks the Secret Invasion event might be a bit too continuity-laden or too scary for the young tykes. But for the kids who want to read more about the event that have their big sisters and brothers exited there is a new comic of their own to read which features the Skrulls. And they don’t have to read Secret Invasion at all if they don’t want to. 

Fred Van Lente (W), Cory Hamscher (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Reign in Hell #1:

Hell is about to be engulfed in a Civil War. Lord Satanus has his sights set on Neron’s throne. And their fight threatens to engulf the Earth above. DC’s mystical heroes are forced to fight, and the sides they are on might not be the one that they necessarily would choose. The future of DC underworld is decided here.

This long delayed series finally arrives in stores this week. Now, don’t punish DC for its lateness. It has Keith Giffen on scripts and the up and coming artist Tom Derenick on art. So, even if you don’t know Lord Satanus from Santa Barbara, with those two at the helm, the story should be halfway decent.

Keith Giffen (W), Tom Derenick (A), DC Comics, $3.50.  Eight-Issue Miniseries.

Fantastic Four: True Story #1:

I think that we can all agree that the Fantastic Four are fictional, right? And even though they have met everyone from Stan Lee to the Beatles, they remained in the realm of fantasy.

But books such as Dante’s Inferno and Sense and Sensibility also feature fictional characters. Only difference is, they usually don’t wear spandex. But the fictional characters in these novels also are not real to the Fantastic Four.

This week, the fictional characters that are the FF team up with the fictional characters in these famous novels as they travel through these stories to protect the minds of all of humanity. How Jane Austin can help humanity is anybody’s guess.

Paul Cornell (W), Horacio Domiguez (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Serpo:

There are a lot of Hollywood players making their way into comics. Most are writers, directors and producers and are the ones who operate in the realm of genre fiction. They work on sci-fi TV series or comic book movies. So the transition isn’t too abrupt.

The creative mastermind behind this graphic novel is Vin DiBona, producer of the long running America’s Funniest Home Videos TV program. You know? The one with a bunch of people falling down or getting hit with balls in delicate parts of their anatomy? Not an obvious choice.

It tells the tale of a rumored-to-be-true event where 12 humans were kidnapped and made to live on an alien planet. It seems completely implausible, but some people claim it really did happen. This details their story.

Jason Burns (W), Joe Eisma (A), Devil’s Due Productions, $14.99. Original Graphic Novel.

Spider-Man: With Great Power #5:

The latest re-examination of the origin of Spider-Man comes to an end. I liked this series quite a bit, but that’s not surprising based on the creators involved. Spidey’s beginnings are one of the most interesting comic book stories. If further revisits to the tale results in stories this good, I hope Marvel comes back again and again.

Peter Parker has been tempted with fame and fortune, almost more than a teenager could bear. He has been drawn to the dark side of easy money, fast women and dangerous men. He has just realized the dark road he was going down. However, it might be too late to change his course. It turns out Spider-Man’s greatest struggle might have come before he even became a hero.  

Dave Lapham (W), Tony Harris (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

Superman/Batman #50:

The last comic to co-star Batman and Superman, World’s Finest, lasted well over 300 issues and spanned five decades. So, some might say celebrating their latest collaboration’s 50th issue might be a bit premature. But it’s a lot different today than it was in the 40s, and 50 issues are an almost unreachable milestone—certainly one worthy of a celebration.

DC is celebrating this anniversary with an “untold story” set in the past. It appears that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel weren’t the first members of their family to team up. Years before, their fathers, Thomas Wayne and Jor-El, met. And the results of that meeting will have an affect on the future of our two heroes.

Michael Green and Mike Johnson (W), Ed Benes (A), DC Comics, $3.99.  Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters and is a frequent contributor to Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com

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