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SHOWCASING THE SILVER AGE OF COMICS!
By Ed Sanchez

After the controversy over "indecency in comics" (prompted by Frederic Wertham's book "The Seduction of the Innocent"), the backlash against the comic industry slowly subsided, and DC comics decided to revamp and reintroduce some of its most popular creations. In a title that would go on to feature an unprecedented array of 1st appearances and origins, Showcase Presents is perhaps the most important Silver Age comic title ever published. While many other series enjoyed greater popularity by blazing new trails in comic book story telling, only Showcase could claim to be the beginning of the Silver Age of comics.

With Showcase #4 (October 1956), famed editor Julius Schwartz rolled out the 1st appearance of Barry Allen as the Flash, and with it ushered in a new age. Like many of the re-introductions that followed, this Flash wasn't the Flash of old, but instead, a new character with the same powers. Gone was the silver helmet (modeled after the Greek god of speed, Hermes), replaced by a slick full body all red costume with yellow "lightning speed" trimmings emphasizing the character's trademark velocity. The strip was produced by Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Kubert, who like fellow DC creator Julius Schwartz, are sometimes overlooked in the shadow of Marvel's Stan Lee as the fathers of the Silver Age.

Legendary super-talent Jack Kirby was next up in #6 with the origin and 1st appearance of the Challengers of the Unknown, which are considered by many to be a prototype of Marvel's Fantastic Four. The Challengers have the distinction of being the 1st Silver Age super-hero team, as well as the 1st original-concept super-hero strip coming from DC in this era. The next landmark for the title was an appearance by Lois Lane in issue #9, marking the first time a character appearing in the title went on to have their own series (Lois Lane #1 premiered a few months later). Issue #17 featured the 1st appearance and origin of Adam Strange by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, and issue #20 featured the 1st appearance and origin of Rip Hunter, Time Master.

Showcase's next big event was the origin and 1st appearance of the Silver Age Green Lantern by Gil Kane (in issue #22). Like the Flash before him, this Green Lantern had the same powers as his Golden Age predecessor, but sported a new costume and alter ego (Hal Jordan in this case). Also like the Flash, the Green Lantern would go on to become one of DC's most enduring characters, joining Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as DC's finest. The 1st appearance of the Sea Devils by Russ Heath followed this in issue #27. It was the formula for this title to premiere a strip and then replace it a few issues later with a new feature, often spinning off the more popular strips into their own titles. The anthology format has been often imitated over the years, but never with the success of Showcase.

Issue #30 featured the origin of the Silver Age Aquaman. Next up was Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson's strip featuring the 1st appearance and origin of the Silver Age Atom, another re-introduction of a Golden Age great. The Atom strip appeared in issues 34, 35 and 36 before giving way to the 1st appearance of the Metal Men.

Over the course of the title's 22 year run, a whole host of characters either had a Silver Age 1st appearance or origin featured. Just take a look at this list: The Spectre (#60), Inferior Five (#62), The Creeper (#73), Anthro (#74), Hawk & Dove (#75), Bat Lash (#76), Angel & The Ape (#77), Jonny Double (#78), Dolphin (#79), Phantom Stranger (#80), Nightmaster (#82), Power Girl (#97), and others. Also, not to be outdone by the upstarts at Marvel, issue #63 and 65 featured Hulk and X-Men parodies, respectively.

An interesting aside is issue #43, which was a first of a different kind. Showcasing Ian Fleming's Dr. No, this was the first American comic book to feature James Bond. The strip was originally drawn for Classics Illustrated, but instead ran as part of the UK Classics Illustrated series (#158A) and was reprinted in Showcase.

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