Friday, January 1, 2010

The World's Most Dangerous Comic Book

I have never been a fan of Mark Millar's work, but you have to give the man credit for being successful in the comic book industry. He even managed to turn a rejected pitch for a Secret Society of Super-Villains revival into a popular creator-owned title, which in turn spawned a movie deal. The only thing that serves as a minor irritant for me about his good fortune is that he unwittingly(?) co-opted the name of one of my favorites comic books in the process.

To the general public, Wanted is now that movie with Angelina Jolie. There are more than just few in that crowd that would associate the title with Millar's comic. But to me, Wanted is a seminal DC reprint series of the 1970s, edited by E. Nelson Bridwell. And quite frankly, neither Angelina Jolie or Mark Millar are going to change that.

Subtitled "The World's Most Dangerous Villains", Wanted got its start in two issues of DC Special, #8 and #14. I guess those over-sized collections sold rather well, as a spin-off regular series followed in 1972. Wanted only ran for nine issues, but taken with the two proto-specials, they provide eleven comics full of super-villainous goodness. Or do I mean badness?

The really interesting thing about Wanted was that the regular series often spotlighted Golden Age superhero stories. This was no small thing back in the 1970s, especially since the book was a standard 32 page comic. I'm sure the 1940s tales were attractive partially because they were shorter, and more could be crammed into a single issue. That doesn't lessen the novelty factor of seeing a book that cover-featured Starman and Wildcat for one issue, or the original Green Lantern and Kid Eternity on another.

The villain assortment for Wanted was also a point of interest. While it was launched with big names, and occasionally brought out the likes of a Joker/Penguin tandem or Captain Cold, it was just as likely to give exposure to the likes of the Dummy or the Nyarl-Amen fish men. Believe me, that is just as much fun to write as it is to read! You never knew quite what you might get in Wanted.

The series ultimately shuffled off into cancellation limbo, probably done in by market resistance to reprints and its own dedication to obscurity. DC let their rights to the title languish for decades, which meant that it had become available as a trademark for Millar's Image book. I guess there is a certain justice to that, since DC's series wasn't even the first to bear that title. There had been a Golden Age Wanted well before DC ever considered publishing such a comic. I guess Billy Preston was right, and it does go round in a circle.

The 1970s Wanted is a mostly forgotten treasure of the back issue bins. Seek it out for old-fashioned superhero fun!

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