Thrift Store Finds: The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #10 (DC Comics)

This week, we’ll be looking at The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #10, a digest-sized collection of comics published by (you guessed it!) DC Comics in 1981.

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Cover price is .95 cents… I paid $4 dollars.

I know what you’re thinking: $4 bucks is kind of a big purchase for me book-wise, you’re right! When I’m at thrift stores, I mainly stick to lower priced paperbacks. I found I couldn’t resist this one, mark-up be damned.

DC Comics got out of the digest business in the mid 1980’s but for years, digest sized presentations of their comics were a regular feature at newsstands and grocery stores across the country. These days, Archie Comics is the last company standing in regards to the digest… and there’s a very definite reason for that. Most Archie comics are meticulously drawn in a house style pioneered by cartoonist Dan DeCarlo. Comics drawn by the company today match DeCarlo’s style from the 1960’s. This gives Archie Comics a wealth of back catalog from which to draw for their current digests.

The art and writing for superhero comics has always been a bit more faddish – trends and artistic styles come and go with the times. A Superman comic from the 1960’s looks almost nothing like a modern day Superman comic, save for some cross-generational touches (the “S” shield, the cape, and so on). While Archie can seemingly reprint stories forever with consumers being none the wiser, most of DC’s back catalog has been rendered quaint by time.

This Best of DC Digest is subtitled Secret Origins of Super-Villains and contains six stories focusing on the baddies of the DC Universe. The majority of these stories look to be drawn from DC’s Silver Age of comics but although creator credits are given, the digest doesn’t give any notation of where and when the stories come from. I found this to be somewhat annoying but it makes sense given the time this book was published that this information would not have likely been at the forefront of reader’s minds. Some Googling does reveal the sources of these books and I’ll include them in my appraisals, but as far as I can tell, the first comic story in the collection is original to this digest.

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The Origin of the Penguin, written by Michael Fleisher with art from Romeo Tanghal and Ted Blaisdell. Oswald Cobblepot’s origin has been changed about a dozen times since this story was printed and it’s pretty easy to see why. I don’t know that The Penguin will ever be considered a great villain but here he’s basically a goofy momma’s boy.

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The next story, Aquaman, Coward-Kind of Atlantis (Aquaman #29, written by Bob Haney, art from Nick Cardy) brings The Oceanmaster, one of Aquaman’s two arch-enemies to comics.

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Here Comes Captain Boomerang (The Flash #117) introduces one of the Scarlet Speedster’s most recurring rogues. I’ve always liked Captain Boomerang, with his kicky scarf and hat combo.  These old John Broome/Caramine Infantino stories retain quite a lot of charm.

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By that same token however, The Shark that Hunted Human Prey (Green Lantern #24, also written by Broome with art from Gil Kane) features one of my least favorite GL villains. I never understood why an intergalactic police officer fighting a man-shark mutant? Couldn’t the authorities call in The Atom for this one? Or Aquaman? Mutated man-sharks are a perfect Aquaman situation.

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Probably the best tale of the bunch is The Shadow Thief of Midway City (The Brave and the Bold #36). I’ve always liked Joe Kubert and he’s perfectly suited to this slightly barbaric take on Hawkman. The Shadow Thief is legitimately a cool villain with a neat gimmick.

Green Arrow vs. Red Dart is the oldest of the stories published in this digest (World’s Finest #95, art by George Papp) and features the original GA, when he looked more like a Robin Hood clone. It was so unbelievably dumb, I didn’t bother scanning any panels.

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The final story in the digest is Power of the Parasite (Action Comics #340, written by Jim Shooter, art by Al Plastino). I didn’t realize The Parasite is, in the grand scheme of DC Comics, a relatively new addition to Superman’s gallery of baddies.

The book ends with Villainous Double Dactyls, a fun three-page poetic exercise where… well, let E. Nelson Bridwell tell you what it’s all about.

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I was interested in picking this book up mainly because I almost never see superhero digest on offer anywhere, old or new. The format is designed to be somewhat disposable but I’ve always liked it; you’re getting a bunch of comic stories in a size that practically fits in your back pocket. I suppose in this day and age, the tablet computer will have replaced any need for the  digest but as a footnote in comics publishing history, I find this to be a cool addition to my collection.

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One Response to “Thrift Store Finds: The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #10 (DC Comics)”

  1. I had this as a kid! This one and the digest sized Adventure Comics #500. They’ve been stuck in my mind for 30 years. Good looking out!

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