Dave Gibbons

Batman Versus Predator (1991)

Batman Versus PredatorBatman Versus Predator, in case the title doesn’t give it away, is bad. It’s real bad. It could be worse, sure, but it’s real bad.

It doesn’t open terribly—sure, the Kubert Brothers art is pretty bland from go, but the subject matter is at least sort of interesting (compared to where it goes later). And writer Dave Gibbons (who doesn’t just overwrite the comic, he badly overwrites it) has some style for the opening. He juxtaposes the Predator attacking some old guy and his dog with the Gotham City championship boxing match. The former isn't important (other than it's a little weird the Predator is attacking a junkyard watchman), but the latter turns out to be the whole comic. See, the Predator isn’t initially interested in hunting Batman or even (armed) criminals or (armed) cops. It’s out to take out the championship boxers.

Because they’re champions. Says so on the news. The Predator watches a lot of news in Batman Versus Predator and repeats sound bytes to make dialogue. Because Gibbons is incapable of writing an action sequence without a bunch of stupid recycled sound bytes the Predator has picked up somewhere. At one point, it seems like the comic would be at least somewhat better without their constant addition. But then, once the Kuberts never get any better—they can’t make the Predator versus the criminals interesting, they can’t even make Batman versus the Predator interesting, though it’d probably be hard to do given the big showdown is in the woods surrounding Wayne Manor. But there are times when it doesn’t seem like Batman Versus Predator isn’t going to be a complete waste of time.

Sadly, all of them are in the first issue (of three). And by the end of the first issue, it seems kind of unlikely the book is ever going to turn around.

Most of the comic, overall, is about the crooked businessmen and gangsters who run Gotham (and the boxers) getting wiped out by the Predator. It kills them because… it knows they’re swinging dick criminals and it came to town to hunt some white collar looking criminals. Then it takes on Batman and puts him down for the count—there’s this terribly ineffective device where Gibbons and the Kuberts have a single panel showing Batman getting home all cut up at the bottom of pages while above the main action with the cops or crooks or whatever plays out.

Because Jim Gordon’s got a big part. Not sure why he doesn’t try to take out the Predator himself as the Kuberts draw him just as buff as Batman, which is considerable because they’re Batman is super buff. So big and buff it’s like, obviously you need some meaty muscle guy like Ben Affleck for that part.

But you wouldn’t want to see Batman Versus Predator: The Movie with Batfleck or anyone else, because the only thing the comic succeeds at showing is how bad it would be. Even though it’s about two “characters”—Batman arguably has less personality than the sound byte spouting Predator here—who are known for their wonderful toys, there’s not much competition.

You’d think after fighting aliens since the fifties or whenever they first showed up in a Batman comic, Bats would have some better ideas than he comes up with here. Nope. There are a couple times in action scenes where it’s like… why did that work? The Predator is scared of cars?

The big action finale has Batman in special armor, which looks like the suit from the end of Batman Forever, though I don’t think the Kuberts got a thank you, and then he has a sword at some point. Because armor and swords and whatever.

Batman Versus Predator is pretty dumb, even for a comic called Batman Versus Predator. I’ll bet if you bought this comic back in 1990 thinking it would resemble Watchmen in some way because of Gibbons, you were pissed as all hell. Though, as someone who bought it back in the day—at age twelve—I recall being shameless about it.

I shouldn’t have been shameless. I should’ve acutely felt the shame.

Superman and Batman: World’s Funnest (November 2000)

Superman and Batman: World's FunnestDave Gibbons does the most art on World’s Funnest. It’s not exactly the standard Dave Gibbons art, either, it’s Dave Gibbons doing Silver Age and it’s awesome. What writer Evan Dorkin taps into with World’s Funnest is the experience of being a Batman and Superman fan in the late eighties and early nineties; it’s practically a companion piece for those Greatest [insert DC character here] Stories Ever Told. The hardcover ones with beautiful reprints of the old stories, which weren’t cool in any modern sense, but you had to do the work to appreciate them because you want to be a good fan. You want to understand. And Dorkin’s trip through the DC multiverse is all about understanding, both the multiverse and the way it presents to the reader. Even though the first eighteen or so pages are all set in the Silver Age, Dorkin’s observations about the tropes make it all very modern. It never feels wrong to the characters, but it’s rather self-aware, from injured villains to Robin’s constant need for approval; Dorkin could’ve stopped World’s Funnest with a Silver Age riff and done something awesome, but then he keeps going.

Mxy and Bat-Mite battle for Infinite Earths; art by Dave Gibbons.
Mxy and Bat-Mite battle for Infinite Earths; art by Dave Gibbons.
I didn’t know what to expect from World’s Funnest. I missed it when it first came out, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to open it to discover an impressive list of creators. Unfortunately, it’s an alphabetical list of creators. So I sorted them out in order of their contributions.

First up after Gibbons is Mike Allred, who also comes first alphabetically, so he’s a terrible example. Oh, wait, I probably need to at least acknowledge the premise of the comic, which I wasn’t familiar with either. Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite battle across the DC multiverse and its various time periods and dimensions within universes. Dorkin doesn’t get into the science, which is both awesome and surprising. I can’t believe they got away with some of this stuff.

Allred handles the Phantom Zone, but an Earth–2 Phantom Zone? Like pre-Crisis Earth–2 Phantom Zone. Or maybe just a Silver Age Phantom Zone. Again, Dorkin’s not interested in the locations for narrative purposes, just for homage. It’s a violent, pseudo-cynical homage, but it’s never mean-spirited. World’s Funnest is enamored with the comics it comments on. With the possible exception of some nineties references.

Mxy isn't sure what to make of the Marvel Family, art by Jaime Hernandez.
Mxy isn’t sure what to make of the Marvel Family, art by Jaime Hernandez.
Then Sheldon Moldoff handles the actual Earth-Two visit, Stuart Immomen and Joe Giella on Earth-Three. Frank Cho’s got some lovely art for the Quality Comics universe. Jaime Hernandez does Captain Marvel’s universe, which is a hilarious visit for the battling imps. Dorkin never directly contrasts the different universes, but lining them up and inspecting each does reveal a lot of amusing details. Scott Shaw gets Captain Carrot, Stephen DeStefano does some fumetti, then Jim Woodring gets to do the trip to the Fifth Dimension.

Now, it’s hard to imagine not being familiar with Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite as a DC Comics reader, but it gets more possible with each passing year and each rebranding and each reboot. Dorkin approaches the story with just the right mix of nostalgia and commentary; there isn’t time for introducing the various worlds though–which might actually make World’s Funnest a great primer for DC Comics history. There’s a familiarity curve to the comic book. A daunting one.

Not even Darkseid can keep a straight face during WORLD'S FUNNEST; art by David Mazzucchelli!
Not even Darkseid can keep a straight face during WORLD’S FUNNEST; art by David Mazzucchelli!
After Woodring, David Mazzucchelli does an amazing Jack Kirby trip to Apokolips. I didn’t think it was Mazzucchelli when I was reading it. I’m even more impressed now and I was rather impressed while reading it. Dorkin and Mazzucchelli match Kirby’s enthusiasm and outlandishness without letting it go absurd. Darkseid’s one of the best supporting players in the comic.

Jay Stephens does “Super Friends,” Glen Murakami and Bruce Timm do a storyboard for the animated series, then along comes Frank Miller to do a Dark Knight bit. It’s freaking amazing. And really good art from Frank too; I think the good art from Frank Miller in 2000 was what surprised me the most about it. Doug Mahnke and Norm Rapmund do the nineties flashback, which is the closest the comic gets towards being nasty about its reference points. Then Phil Jimenez does an awesome Crisis section, very Perez. Ty Templeton does a few pages of general universe transporting before the Alex Ross finale. It’s only a few pages, a few panels, but it’s awesome to see what a “Batman: The TV Show” Bat-Mite would’ve looked like (albeit in superior lighting to the show).

It's Bat-Mite by Alex Ross. Really.
It’s Bat-Mite by Alex Ross. Really.

And it’s funny. All of it’s really funny and really smart about how it’s being funny. Dorkin doesn’t have one joke not connect, even the handful I might not have fully appreciated. It’s a lovely tribute to a lot of comics and a lot of comic creators. I’m embarrassed not to have read it until now.

CREDITS

Last Imp Standing!; writer, Evan Dorkin; artists, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred, Sheldon Moldoff, Frank Cho, Jaime Hernandez, Scott Shaw, Stephen DeStefano, Jim Woodring, David Mazzucchelli, Jay Stephens, Frank Miller, Phil Jimenez, Ty Templeton and Alex Ross; pencillers, Stuart Immomen, Glen Murakami and Doug Mahnke; inkers, Joe Giella, Bruce Timm and Norm Rapmund; colorist, Chris Chuckry and Mazzucchelli; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Judge Dredd’s Crime File 5 (December 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #5Some real good art from Dave Gibbons closes this issue of Crime File. His story is the least in terms of writing–Wagner’s script is rushed–but it’s very cool to see young Gibbons on Dredd. Unlike the rest of the issue, which has good (though awkwardly not great) art from Barry Mitchell, Gibbons even keeps the Ian Gibson chin for Dredd. It’s just not so cartoonish.

Mitchell has some great panel composition and layouts, but his judge figures seems out of place. They seem a little too small, a little too static for the panels, which are rather detailed otherwise. Still, he knows how to tell a story and it works.

There are four stories in this Crime File. The first might be the best–irresponsible kids bouncing around the city in giant plastic pinballs–though the showdown between Dredd and a psychic insurance criminal is pretty cool in the second. Mitchell does better with Mega-City One from the rooftops than the streets (it feels too reserved).

It’s a solid issue. Very readable, some good Dredd punchlines, even if Wagner and Grant (who co-writes on one of the stories) aren’t trying very hard.

CREDITS

Writers, Alan Grant and John Wagner; artists, Dave Gibbons and Barry Mitchell; colorist, Janet Landau; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 9 (July 1984)

Judge Dredd #9It’s something of a lackluster issue.

The opening resolves the Cursed Earth storyline, but it’s the final chapter and probably should’ve somehow been fit in with the rest of the Cursed Earth issues. Especially since it’s extremely anticlimactic, though Mills does attend the character relationships he’s developed.

Then Wagner takes over with Dredd on trial, followed by Dredd as a fugitive, followed by Dredd redeemed, followed by Dredd versus a conspiracy. The compiled nature of the series comes through way too much–every few pages it stops and starts, sometimes going in a wildly different direction.

And Wagner’s characterization of Dredd, who’s shouting off one-liners, seems too forced. Wagner’s characterizations of the rest of the cast is similar–he’s rushing. There are some occasional high points, like Dredd’s showdown with a robot duplicate, but otherwise it’s a problematic outing. The constant Dredd in danger cliffhangers get tiresome really fast.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 8 (June 1984)

Judge Dredd #8The resolution to the Las Vegas cliffhanger is a little lame. Dredd just happens to get there in time to challenge the sitting judge and there just happens to be a good resistance movement in place to help out. The whole subplot–the mob being the corrupt judges of Vegas–is weak anyway.

But then Mills does a long flashback of Tweak (the alien) and his full story. It’s a nice diversion, leading to some nice character moments in the present action, as well as some affecting ones in the flashback. It’d be the highlight of the issue, if not for the finale.

There’s a contrived battle scene in Death Valley. Dredd and company versus war robots. The setup stinks and the actual sequence is fantastic. Great pacing and writing also make up for the art getting too confused.

Although the open is rough, the issue turns out quite well.

B 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; pencillers, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; inkers, McMahon, Dave Gibbons and Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, John Aldrich, Gibbons and Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

2000 AD 16 (11 June 1977)

144906All in all, not a bad issue.

There’s actually danger in Dan Dare, for example, and a couple good pages in M.A.C.H. 1. A little makes a big difference with 2000 AD, apparently.

Invasion isn’t terrible. It’s mostly action, with Pino doing decent work on a shootout between the protagonist and a bounty hunter. Very busy pages, but competently done.

Flesh comes to what seems to be a shocking conclusion. Absolutely phenomenal art from Sola on a rampaging dinosaur, more than making up for the lame, big-headed human villain.

Even Harlem Heroes is okay (for it). There’s a team of ugly cyborgs the Heroes have to play. Not terrible.

Like I said, Dare has something new–Moore gives it an actually suspenseful cliffhanger. Plus recaps Dare’s origin.

Wagner writes both Dredd and M.A.C.H. 1, which probably explains why the latter’s so much better than usual. Dredd’s okay enough too.

CREDITS

Invasion, Bounty; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Carlos Pino; letterers, Peter Knight and J. Swain. Flesh, Book One, Part Sixteen; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Ramon Sola; letterer, Bill Nuttall. Harlem Heroes, Part Sixteen; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Five; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterers, Knight and John Aldrich. M.A.C.H. 1, Capitol; writer, John Wagner; artist, P. Martinez Henares; letterer, Aldrich. Judge Dredd, Robot Wars, Part Seven; writer, Wagner; artist, Ron Turner; letterer, Tony Jacob. Editor, Pat Mills; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 15 (4 June 1977)

144905It’s another weak issue.

Mike Dorey’s art is real lame on Invasion, but the writing’s worse. Finley-Day actually relies on a huge truck of acid to solve the problem.

Flesh is weak too; Sola’s art is distressingly underwhelming. It might just be too rushed–all the art this issue is rushed in some way or another–dinosaurs driving cars should be funny.

More Harlem Heroes. Tully explores the way ties are resolved in the game. It’s getter even harder to care about the fake sport.

Moore’s Dan Dare is really contrived. He does indicate, however, there might be an origin recap, which would be nice.

M.A.C.H. 1 has awful art from Marzal Canos. Peter Harris’s goofy story involves bloodthirsty yeti and a dope-dealing Dalai Lama.

Dredd, as usual, is the winner. Wagner’s got some funny stuff amid the robot rebellion. Sadly, McMahon is light on the robots’ details.

CREDITS

Invasion, The Doomsdale Scenario, Part Three; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Mike Dorey; letterer, Jack Aldrich. Flesh, Book One, Part Fifteen; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Ramon Sola; letterer, Bennsberg. Harlem Heroes, Part Fifteen; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Four; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Peter Knight. M.A.C.H. 1, Yeti; writer, Peter Harris; artist, Marzal Canos; letterer, Tony Jacob. Judge Dredd, Robot Wars, Part Six; writer, John Wagner; artist, Mike McMahon; letterer, Jack Potter. Editor, Pat Mills; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 14 (29 May 1977)

144904Good grief it’s a bad one.

The only good story is the Dredd one. Wagner packs way too much action into its pages; even though Ian Gibson tries hard, he’s too rushed. But it’s still a solid story.

The Invasion story isn’t terrible, but it’s got a frantic pace too. And it’s dumb–the peaceful nuclear research planet is called Doomsdale. Not sure what, if anything, Finley-Day could have been thinking.

Flesh is awful. Boix’s art isn’t bad, but Gosnell’s writing is the pits.

For Harlem Heroes, Tully concentrates on the team turning around a game. It’s a combination of inane–comics aren’t the best medium for a sporting event–and incomprehensible. I guess Gibbons does okay.

Awful Dan Dare. Moore’s writing isn’t good anymore.

And M.A.C.H. 1… wow. Between Finley-Day’s racist characterizations of Chinese people and Kato’s ugly, busy artwork, it’s an ugly time.

Very bad issue.

CREDITS

Invasion, The Doomsdale Scenario, Part Two; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Carlos Pino; letterer, Jack Potter. Flesh, Book One, Part Fourteen; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Boix; letterer, John Aldrich. Harlem Heroes, Part Fourteen; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Three; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterers, Peter Knight and J. Swain. M.A.C.H. 1, Chinese Formula; writer, Finley-Day; artist, Kato; letterer, Aldrich. Judge Dredd, Robot Wars, Part Five; writer, John Wagner; artist, Ian Gibson; letterer, Potter. Editor, Pat Mills; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 13 (21 May 1977)

144903With a couple exceptions, it’s one of the better 2000 AD progs so far.

Invasion is decent; very nice art from Dorey and Finley-Day has learned how to plot out a rewarding cliffhanger.

A real surprise is Flesh. Without dinosaurs–this issue’s just future men against giant spiders–the comic is a lot better. Great art from Felix Carrion too.

Okay, Harlem Heroes is still lame. The Heroes are finally losing a game (against the Scots), but it doesn’t make the comic any more interesting.

And Steve Moore’s disappointing on his second Dan Dare outing. He spends way too much time with the villains and almost none with Dan Dare. If the villain pages were good, it’d be different, but they’re lame.

Jesus Redondo illustrates a fantastic M.A.C.H. 1. It’s all action and gorgeously done.

And Dredd is good. Wagner gets in some funny moments; Turner’s art’s passable too.

CREDITS

Invasion, The Doomsdale Scenario, Part One; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Mike Dorey; letterer, Jack Potter. Flesh, Book One, Part Thirteen; writer, Studio Giolitti; artist, Felix Carrion; letterer, J. Swain. Harlem Heroes, Part Thirteen; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part Two; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Bill Nuttall. M.A.C.H. 1, Airship; writer, Nick Allen; artist, Jesus Redondo; letterer, Potter. Judge Dredd, Robot Wars, Part Four; writer, John Wagner; artist, Ron Turner; letterer, Potter. Editor, Pat Mills; publisher, IPC.

2000 AD 12 (14 May 1977)

144902Carlos Pino does the art on Invasion. He does pretty well, though Finley-Day’s script has all these analogues to the Nazis. It seems inappropriate and somewhat insensitive.

Flesh has good Sola art and a lame script, as usual, from Gosnell. They should’ve just done it without dialogue. Gosnell even manages to butcher pop culture references.

Harlem Heroes covers the origin of the sport–it’s Scottish. The script’s probably the most imaginative in many progs; it’s still not good.

Steve Moore takes over writing Dan Dare. It’s much better. Dare goes to the future London (a floating theme park) and meets a wolf man. Easily the best Dare so far.

M.A.C.H. 1–from Charles Herring and Mike Dorey–is similarly not terrible. It’s anti-American bluster and very silly, but okay.

Dredd has some goofy dialogue from Wagner, but McMahon illustrates a robot rebellion well. The giant robots are awesome.

CREDITS

Invasion, Death Line; writer, Gerry Finley-Day; artist, Carlos Pino; letterer, Jack Potter. Flesh, Book One, Part Twelve; writer, Kelvin Gosnell; artist, Ramon Sola; letterer, Potter. Harlem Heroes, Part Twelve; writer, Tom Tully; artist and letterer, Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare, Hollow World, Part One; writer, Steve Moore; artist, Massimo Belardinelli; letterer, Peter Knight. M.A.C.H. 1, The Laser Hound; writer, Charles Herring; artist, Mike Dorey; letterer, J. Swain. Judge Dredd, Robot Wars, Part Three; writer, John Wagner; artist, Mike McMahon; letterer, Jack Potter. Editor, Pat Mills; publisher, IPC.

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