Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Impractical, Unlikely, but Who Cares, I’m Just Making It Up: the Return of the Big Fat Comic

A silly nostalgic post is a’comin’. Be warned.

When I was but a wee squirt in the late seventies, I purchased a comic that left a particularly fond memory. Not for the stories per se, but for the comic’s general content. It was World’s Finest #255.

From '73 to '82, DC produced something Young Harv adored: the big fat superhero anthology book.

That particular issue of World’s Finest, sixty-eight pages long and ad-free, contained a Superman-Batman story, a Green Arrow-Black Canary story, a Shazam story, and a Creeper story. None of these stories were reprints. And the series ran like that every issue.

Fork one of those over to a comic-crazed six-year old and watch the kid's eyes bulge.

DC did the same with Adventure Comics, providing four or five full-length stories of major and B-list heroes in each issue. Dammit, that’s excellent.

Other giant honkin’ multistory books of the seventies included Superman Family and House of Mystery. Sometimes the books were as long as eighty pages. Schweet. One buck for all that comic? All those different stories? They were the Shonen Jump of the seventies.

Okay, okay, it probably wouldn’t work today. I’m not even sure it worked back then. But man, it’s fun to throw around.

Say the Magical Comic Fairy gave you the chance to create a new title for one of the Big Two, and the company wanted a title in the manner of the Big Fat Comics of the seventies.

The schema you must follow is: Two a-list characters have their own stories, one b-lister, and one c-lister. No d-listers. Your Big Fat Comic cannot feature characters who have never carried their own title, however briefly. Marvel Comics Presents was a showcase for pet characters and never-weres, and it was underwhelming. The Big Fat Comic of my dreams would be no such thing. Oh, and team-ups are encouraged. Your lineup will be stable for six months, after which it may be tweaked.

Here’s my Big Fat Comic for Marvel, one I slaved over for six whole minutes:

A-list teamup: Marvel’s new odd couple, the Overexposed Duo, Spider-Man and Wolverine. Make their odd-couple nature a big part of the series. Sure, they’re in the Avengers together now anyway, but what the hell. Ride that gravy train!

”One’s an amnesiac mutant killing machine with a jones for redheads and a chip on his shoulder…the other’s a high school science teacher with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and a beautiful red-haired wife…together, they fight crime…and each other!”

A-list #2: Iron Man. His solo series, both of the regular and Ultimate varieties, come out infrequently. Give him a spot in the Big Fat Comic, dang it! Bright shiny adventures with the shiniest superhero around! Pass the turtle wax!

B-list: Doctor Strange. The perfect hero for this kind of book: he’s popular enough to have his own series from time to time, but not to the degree that he can sustain one through the thin times. The Doctor would pull in quite a few readers on his own, since this would be his only ongoing series.

Plus, he’s way cool.

C-list: Cloak and Dagger. C&D are popular enough that they won’t generate head-scratching from the fans, but not so entrenched that you can’t mess with them and make cool-o stories.

There you have it. A veritable sampler of goodies: One wacky hero team-up with Marvel’s biggest names, one straight-up flashy superhero story, one weird cult-favorite superhero story, and one “street-level” story, to indulge the fanboy’s neverending taste for “grit.”

This Big Fat Comic would be a much better title to market to the outside world than that fiasco All-Star Batman, and dang it, I think it’d be fun.*

Come on, blog-o-spherians…cast your own Big Fat Comics.

How about a DC book with the Flash/Nighwing team, Hawkman, the Martian Manhunter, and Kamandi?


*Please notice that I referenced All-Star Batman without resorting to the "What are you, retarded? I'm the goddamn Batman!" exchange so mocked across the internet. For I am above such petty shots.

Okay, I'm not. I just didn't think of a way to work it in. Except as a footnote.


  • When I was a boy, we used to get 52 page comics for 25 cents...give me fifty-two pages for five bees, we used to say...I remember taking the ferry to the comics shop in Shelbyville, wearing an onion on my belt, which was the fashion at the time...


    I don't think the oversized anthology comic with a diverse selection of all-new material has ever really worked in the long term...but I was a big fan of the oversized books with one or two new stories and an assortment of golden and silver age reprints. I can't see that working today either, but it'd be fun to see someone try.

    By Anonymous RAB, at 6:04 PM  

  • Marvel's just put out a bunch of "Giant-Sized" issues that have one new story and three or four old-timey reprints in 'em. So they're giving it a shot.

    My beloved Big Fat Comic is impractical for the market as it now stands, I know. But dadgumit, it's a snazzy idea!

    By Blogger Harvey Jerkwater, at 8:09 AM  

  • They were the Shonen Jump of the seventies.

    Holy moley! I never thought of this!

    You are so right.

    By Blogger Mark Fossen, at 11:40 AM  

  • Man.. I loved those oversized books.


    Here's my scheme. I'll give it two parts to make it more interesting.

    A-List Team-Up:
    Marvel: Daredevil and Professor X
    DC: Green Lantern and Lex Luthor

    Either way I'd call it "The Brave and the Bald" (with no apologizes to the Lobo/Daredevil title froma few yeats back. This would be way cooler.

    With Daredevil/Prof X you'd have a super-sensory bonanza. You can have the Prof 'see' things through Daredevil. Plus, you have two handicapped heroes, so it will meet needed PC requirements.

    With Green Lantern/Lex you've got the combo of a hero who's already used to taking orders from mostly bald guys, as well as the most conniving bald man of them all. The contrast would be fun.

    Second 'A' List story:
    Marvel: Spider-Man
    DC: Bat-Man

    Because when all else fails, you can never have enough of those two. They already hold a combined 200? 300? titles, so what's one more?

    'B' List:
    Marvel: Dr. Strange
    DC: Dr. Fate

    Dr. Strange because you are absolutely right. Dr. Fate because I'm working a theme to death here..

    'C' List:
    Marvel: Howard the Duck
    DC: Ambush Bug

    Because you should have fun stories that know how to poke fun at comics. (imho)

    Heck, I'd love to see this just to see Ambush Bug and Batman in the same comic again.. (The last being, I believe, JLA: A Day in the Life)

    By Blogger Pope Impious XXIII, at 1:31 PM  

  • I've often thought the Big Fat Comic would be a good format for exploring some of DC's underutilized genres, with "Adventure!" gaining an exclamation point and being an exploration of *all* kinds of adventure.

    With the specified format, I might have to alter things a little:

    "The World War II Comic"
    A-List #1: "JSA" - the JSA sells comics nowadays, but these would all be stories about the JSA (and/or the All-Star Squadron) during the war years. Conceptually, it'd be flexible, though. Maybe one story would have the entire JSA team involved, and another might be a Starman-Mr. Terrific teamup, and another might be a Green Lantern solo story.

    A-List #2: "Sgt. Rock" - Maybe stretching the modern definition of A-List, but he's certainly at the top of the "war characters" heap.

    B-List: "Blackhawk"
    C-List: Hmm, having a bit of trouble deciding here. Could just make it a rotating feature among "Haunted Tank," "The Losers," "Unknown Soldier," et al., with various stand-alone's, too. Or (ooh!) a "Garth Ennis' War Stories!

    For ADVENTURE!, it's harder to fit an A-lister into the concept, but my thinking was, you'd have three adventure series from disparate non-superhero genres (e.g., you might have "Danger Trail" (spy), "Bat Lash" (Western), and "Enemy Ace" (war). And then to anchor the series, the trick would be to have a superhero series... but not. Have a marketable star, but with stories that are more ADVENTURE! than standard superheroics. Like maybe:

    "Elseworlds" - rotating Elseworlds tales featuring alternate Superman, Batman, et al, in settings that support rousing tales of ADVENTURE!

    "Batman, Detective" - Yeah, it's Batman, but these stories would be fairly rigorously in the "detective/Mystery" genre.

    "Green Lantern" - but with a focus on "Space ADVENTURE!"

    "Bruce Wayne" - tales of Bruce Wayne's pre-Batman ADVENTURES!, when he was travelling the world becoming an expert in every damn thing.

    By Blogger David C, at 4:05 PM  

  • Cloak & Dagger are in Runaways again right now. Good fun for the whole family.

    By Anonymous KDBryan, at 6:38 AM  

  • Here goes.

    Team up - either Spiderman and Human Torch or Angel and Thing.

    I used to like when Spiderman had an actual superhero companion instead of being accompanied by his personal problems all the time. I like the idea of an angelic aristocrat with the Thing (who is now rich isn't he? Is Angel poor? That would be cool.)

    A-List #2 - Nick Fury. We need more espionage.

    B-List - Either Thor or Silver Surfer. Are they B-List now? I wouldn't buy their comics on their own but part of compendium - sure!

    C-List - Either Gravity or Rawhide Kid. This would let Gravity develop beyond the miniseries or allow Marvel to jump on the western bandwagon

    Team-Up - Nightwing and Power Girl. Both are classic heroes these days - in the whole doing good for the right reasons not popular consciousness sense. And we could get Dick with a real woman for a change. Take that how you want.

    A-List #2
    Not too sure here. Wonder Woman since she's being cancelled I guess.

    I'd go with the Atom, Martian Manhunter or The Question.

    I have no idea. Someone who died during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

    By Blogger joncormier, at 1:44 PM  

  • Cloak & Dagger and Dr. Strange already shared some anthology-book space, in the revival of Strange Tales Marvel tried during the 90s... it led into The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak & Dagger, I think.

    By Anonymous Steven Goldman, at 10:48 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:48 PM  

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