Secret Origins Special (1989)

Secret Origins Special

I always forget how much Neil Gaiman threw himself into the DC Universe when he’d write in it. This Secret Origins Special is all about Batman’s villains; a TV investigative journalist has come to Gotham to do a special. Gaiman seems to enjoy writing those scenes–the ones with the behind the scenes, the Batman cameo, the anecdotes about living in Gotham City and the DC Universe in general. He doesn’t do well with the characters though, not the TV reporter and his crew. These framing scenes have art by Mike Hoffman and Kevin Nowlan. They do better at the start than they do the finish. By the finish, they’re getting tired and the detail from the opening isn’t there anymore.

Alan Grant writes the Penguin’s origin story, which isn’t a straight origin. There’s something modern to all of the Secret Origins here. Penguin’s grabbed a childhood nemesis–who just happened to grow up to be a gangster too–and Batman’s trying to find the guy while the Penguin’s torturing him. It’s an okay script, not great, but the Sam Kieth artwork is gorgeous. Kieth does action, he does Batman, he does Penguin, he does gangsters–he does kids. The best part of it is the tenderness Kieth shows when he’s doing the kids. I always forget Kieth really does know what he’s doing.

A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.
A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.

Gaiman handles the Riddler’s origin, which ties in a lot to the framing plot. The TV crew goes to interview him. Bernie Mireault on pencils, Matt Wagner on inks. Gaiman’s enthusiastic but misguided. Lots of monologue from the Riddler, but never particularly interesting. The details about the giant objects used in Gotham’s advertising in the past is more interesting than the Riddler teasing the TV crew with the truth. The art’s solid though and gets it over the bumps.

Then there’s the Two-Face story. Mark Verheiden writing it, Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano on the art. Broderick’s pencils are full of energy and light on restraint. It’s a messy story and a fairly cool one, focusing on Grace Dent (Harvey’s wife) and her side of the story. Verheiden doesn’t write the TV crew well and Grace Dent’s a little too slight, but it’s a solid enough story. The art is brutally violent and full of anger. Everyone looks miserable and angry about it.

Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.
Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.

The issue would’ve been better with stronger art throughout from Hoffman and Nowlan and either more or less from Gaiman. The TV crew ceases to be characters after the introduction, like one of the stories came in a page or two short and Gaiman was padding it out. But the Penguin story is good, the Riddler story could be a lot worse and is technically strong, the Two-Face story is super-solid mainstream DC eighties stuff. It’s good stuff.


Writer, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Mike Hoffman, Bernie Mireault and Pat Broderick; inkers, Kevin Nowlan, Matt Wagner and Dick Giordano; artist, Sam Kieth; colorists, Tom McCraw and Joe Matt; letterers, Todd Klein, Albert DeGuzman, Mireault and Agustin Mas; editor, Mark Waid; publisher, DC Comics.

Revolution on the Planet of the Apes 5 (July 2006)


Swell, Templeton brings in Kent Burles (from the Adventure series) for the backup. Burles’s art is still bad. Worse, Templeton’s script doesn’t have any action, so Burles is doing talking heads. It’s incomprehensible.

But it does explain there are multiple lawgivers (which doesn’t make much sense) and there’s something with the development of ape society. It’s pretty crappy; I expected more from Templeton’s writing.

The feature story has Sam back on the art, which isn’t a good thing. This issue’s about diversion–ties to the movies, ties to the Marvel black and white magazines. O’Brien sticks to the humans for this one, which doesn’t make much sense. They’re all unsympathetic and many of them are just plain evil.

It makes for an unpleasant read, which is better than a stupid one though. When it gets to the backup story, the issue is just plain stupid.

Thankfully, the series’s almost finished.

Dark Horse Presents 126 (November 1997)


It’s another big issue of Presents and a decent one.

Brereton’s The Nocturnals looks real nice and reads well. He introduces a bunch of characters, but the protagonist’s plot is compelling. It’s often very funny.

Schutz has a one page thing (art by Mireault and Bottenberg); it’s okay, if not special.

Hedden and McPhillips have an excellent story with Snipe, about a monster hunter on a talk show. Great art, great script.

Watson’s Skeleton Key is… fine. It’s a page.

On the other hand, Weissman’s Phineas Page is only a page too; it could have been a feature story. Awesome little strip.

Reprinted from Europe, Manoukian and Roucher’s Metalfer starts. Superb art, confusing, kind of dumb story. It might get better.

Strnad and Edwards cover Starship Troopers. Nice art, competent writing for filler.

DeMos and Gillis close with a story a guy obsessed with holes (the shape). It’s quite good.


The Nocturnals, Part Two; story and art by Dan Brereton; lettering by Sean Konot. Last Time I Dreamed; story by Diana Schutz; pencils by Bernie Mireault; inks by Rupert Bottenberg. Snipe, Snipe – Hunter for Hire; story by Rich Hedden; pencils by Hedden; inks and lettering by Mike McPhillips. Kitty, Skeleton Key; story and art by Andi Watson. Phineas Page, The Bookshelf Phantom; story and art by Steven Weissman. Metalfer, Part One, The Horde; story and art by Stan Manoukian and Vince Roucher; lettering by Clem Robins; translated by Benoit Grenier. Starship Troopers, Flashback; story by Jan Strnad; art by Tommy Lee Edwards; lettering by John Workman; edited by Dave Chipps. A Hole in the Head; story by Jeff DeMos; art by Scott Gillis; lettering by Konot; edited by Bob Schreck. Edited by Jamie S. Rich.

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