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January 22, 2010

From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays: Marvel Superhero Squad, Oz and Superman

The full moon hung overhead. The waves of the sea crashed against the island shore. His over-sized Salamander googly-eyes stared at me. I knew this man was the mayor, but I still dared to say it, “No, H.R. Pufnstuf! Who is YOUR friend when things get rough?

The wind blew. Witchy-Poo (which is the stupidest name for a villain ever) cackled in the distance. He was about to give me an answer…then I woke up! No boys named Jimmy doing a jig. No magic talking flutes who can grow beards. Just me and my computer and a note that read: Write humorous intro for column.

Welcome to another bi-weekly edition of From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week I work up a variety-mix that hasn’t been seen since this side of DJ Hero! We look at Marvel Superhero Squad, comic book gold with Marvel’s take on The Wizard of Oz, and bust out those iPods folks for the old time The Adventures of Superman!

Out On Stands: Marvel Superhero Squad Issue #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Todd Dezago
Artists: Marcelo DiChiara

Some folks may feel like Marvel Superhero Squad can be addicting fun, like that Frisbee-Dog game on Wii Sports Resort.  I have to disagree. I have been having trouble getting into Marvel Superhero Squad. I wanted to like it (it even had Fing-Fang-Foom, whom I adore). I wanted to think the Super-Deformed look was hip like the Kid Robot collector toys I collect. I wanted Marvel to have more kid-friendly titles aside from Marvel Adventures, ’cause I feel like DC has had the upper-hand with a kids line for some time now (although BOOM! Studios is starting to come close with their amazing kids line as well). I just couldn’t do it.

The comic book is based off the animated series of the same name, in which all our favorite Marvel heroes live in Superhero City and fight off the constant army of villains trying to destroy it. Almost every character gets a cameo or part, a la a Super Deformed design (note: what I mean by Super Deformed is taken from a Japanese anime/manga art style, where they market S.D. or Super Deformed versions of their characters, done by taking a character and basically shrinking and compacting everything down into a kid-sized body, while retaining the adult traits). The writing is great if you can deal with or enjoy the concept of Superhero Squad, as well as the art if you like the S.D. look (just because I’m not a fan doesn’t mean you can’t be). The title is good for all ages, specifically aimed at young kids.

Collection of Awesomeness: The Wizard of Oz
Marvel Comics
Eric Shanower
Skottie Young

This project was an example of fantastic graphic storytelling. Marvel Comics, adapting an array of classic novels from Treasure Island to Last of the Mohicans, tackled doing a true adaptation of the classic American novel The Wizard of Oz (for those who have never read the original novel, there are a ton of differences and dark twists that are completely contrary from 1939 MGM musical).

Marvel’s first genius move on this project was hiring Eric Shanower to do the writing.  Many may know Shanower for his writing on Age of Bronze, but he also wrote and illustrated a handful of Oz graphic novels published by First Comics in the mid-1980s (which I fondly remember the advertisements for on the backs of issues of Filmation’s Ghostbusters). Shanower’s adaptation is true to the original novel by L. Frank Baum and hits all the fine points of breathing life into these classic American characters.

Illustrations are no less impressive, with art by Skottie Young (who worked on New X-Men, Venom, and others). Young didn’t attempt to re-do the classic illustrations of  W.W. Denslow, but did what I really feel was the version of Oz in his head, giving us a refreshing look through new eyes, with slight hints of a Burton-esque feel.

This collection contains the entire 8-issue run in a nice hard cover. The mini-series did so well that currently Marvel has re-teamed Shanower and Young for The Marvelous Land of Oz, based on the second novel by Baum. Check it out!

Something to Listen: The Adventures of Superman

Chika-chika remix!!! Usually I lay down a track in this column called “Something to Watch,” however this week I give you “Something to Listen”!

Thanks to the iPod a handful of years back, we are in an age where music and radio talk shows have lived on and have grown larger then they’ve been in years. Pod-casts are still huge and wonderful to listen to (and probably will remain until something replaces the iPod in 2047). Slowly, radio-comedy/dramas have made a little comeback thanks to pod-casts, but really haven’t blown up. There are a ton of amazing radio shows for your entertainment out there folks, and in most cases they are FREE to download since they are in public domain! Seriously, the radio play version of King Kong rocks, or even a 9-episode Doc Savage radio serial is a blast to listen to! So this is just your friendly neighborhood columnist here, being an advocate to check these things out!

Now a handful of comic books from Blackhawk to Archie were made into radio shows, which were like the TV shows of their day. Of course it was unavoidable that the biggest hero of the day, Superman, would make it to the radio waves at some point. Broadcasting new episodes from 1940-1951, The Adventures of Superman gave millions of listeners superhero bliss in swank 15-minute shots every week.

Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, and Jackson Beck supplied the multiple voices and narration for the program (the team would also supply the voice for the Paramount theatrical Superman cartoons). The story starts out like the comic and tells from the origin of our Man of Steel, and goes into his adventures fighting crime. The episodes are packed with adventure, and all your favorites appear (Batman even guest stars in some later episodes).

So if it is for a jog or a drive, or something just to do while waiting, I urge you to take a gamble and enjoy these radio episodes.

That’s it for this time, see you in two weeks!

Drew McCabe



  1. billy

    Good article Drew. I’ve watched the Super Hero Squad show a couple of times and thought it was pretty funny but I don’t think it will translate well in comic book format.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff A. Jones, Drew McCabe. Drew McCabe said: https://comicattack.net/2010/01/ffgtr4/ […]

  3. Drew

    @Billy: Yeah aside from the theme-song I couldn’t get into it too much, things like the Silver Surfer talking like a surfer made me frown. However I did like the random cameos, like in the middle of a battle, Luke Cage walks out a store and looks surprised. The show is stronger then the comic so you’re right at your guess.

  4. InfiniteSpeech

    I want the Oz series in a hardcover and I haven’t checked out the SHS books but I actually think the show is fairly decent.

  5. Hilarious intro dude. And wtf is the frisbee-dog game on Wii Sports Resort? Anyway, Super Hero Squad books sell like hotcakes at my store, so it’s definitely a fad!!

    Thanks for spreading the word on those radio dramatizations. I love those things!!

    And “Age of Bronze” is f-ing brilliant.

  6. Drew

    @Andy: On Wii-Sports Resort there is a game where you throw a Frisbee and your dog catches it and gets points, sounds like it could be a lame time on the outside, right? Really its addicting and is one of the funner games on the Sports Resort.

    You know SHS reminds me of a less cool those Hasbro Mighty Mug Vinyl toys a little bit, and those Mighty Mugs are awesome, I have a ton.

  7. […] Special: “Old Man Logan,” by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, and Dexter Vines (Marvel) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young […]

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