Beek's Books - an ongoing collection of comic book reviews
 The DC Challenge! (DC)
a 12-issue "maxi-series", priced at a then-obscene $1.25 each
- Written and drawn by: Evanier, Colan, B.Smith, Wein, Patton, DeCarlo, Moench, Infantino, Levitz, G.Kane, Janson, M.Barr, Gibbons, Farmer, Maggin, Jurgens, Mahlstedt, Kupperberg, Staton, Mitchell, Conway, Hoberg, Giordano, Thomas, Heck, Mishkin, Swan, Austin, Wolfman, Bates, Giffen, Hunt, Spiegle, Woch, Lightle, Cowan, Mandrake, Andru.
- Editor (a job clearly deserving of credit in this case): Bob Greenberger

Rating: good, Content: [super] [sci-fi] [all ages]

This series was printed in color, but I sold my copies before I got access to a color scanner. Hence, the poor b&w art samples.

 People are pontificating these days about the 10th anniversary of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So I thought I'd review a somewhat different 10-year-old mini-series: The DC Challenge!

 Mark Evanier's idea for it was intriguing: Take about a dozen writers and twice as many artists, and team them up at random. The first team would set up a situation, introducing unexplained story elements and mysterious plot points, ending with an "impossible" cliff-hanger. It was up to the next team to (A) figure out a solution to the cliff-hanger, (B) play around with the plot some more, then (C) screw the next writer with another cliff-hanger. In the end, they'd all get together and figure out a solution to the whole mess. Those were the rules.

 There were a few more guidelines to help make it more interesting. The writers weren't allowed to use the characters they write for in their regular assignments. This led to the use instead of quite a few off-the-wall characters from DC's past (to name them all would spoil the fun... so I'll just say two words: Space Cabby), especially since doing so helped with rule (C), above. {grin} And in addition to a cliff-hanger, each writer left the following writer with a title for the next chapter, which they had to somehow make appropriate.

 It was, in a sense, a last "hurrah" of the pre-Crisis DCU. Conceived and begun well before Crisis, it clearly takes place in the Multiverse, with several Earths, Wondy's invisible plane, and Supes & Bats as best buds. But because it took so long to produce (the writer of issue #X couldn't even begin thinking about his plot until he'd read #X-1), it was still coming out after Superman had been fully Byrned. (Ironically, they got letters complaining that the story was officially not-in-continuity... as if there were a DCU continuity in 1986 for it to take place in!)

 And (like the pre-Crisis DCU) it was fun on a grand scale. You don't need to know the old Multiverse to enjoy it... just accept that Superman can zip between planets at will, that the JLA is a group of the world's greatest heroes who have a monitoring satellite, etc. and you'll be fine. Reading the whole series in a single stretch added to the rollercoaster effect... though I suppose it deprived me of the fun of trying to figure out how to solve the various cliff-hangers, since I could skip to the next issue without a 30.5-day wait. The fact that it was taking place in a throw-away continuity (one that was already dead and gone, in fact) gave them the freedom to toss planets around, screw around with much of history, and other devil-may-care stuff. They even created a brand new Earth-where-Nazis-won-WWII just for the, uh, Heck of it.

 The text pages at the end were (sometimes) almost as fun to read as the actual comic, where the previous writer commented on this issue, and explained how he would have solved the cliff-hanger. Evanier's story of how it all came to be is priceless.

 In Beek's Books #1, I reviewed The Narrative Corpse, a similar concept done by a much larger group of "alternative" creators. The Narrative Corpse may have been a greater artistic achievement, but for entertainment value, DC Challenge! beats it easily. One reason is that the individual creators had the space (23 pages instead of 3 panels) to really get into and develop the story. Another is that they stuck with the spirit of working with what their predecessors had given them, rather than just dumping it and heading in their own direction. (Ironic, that the creators of mainstream superheroes did better in this regard than the indy folks.) But the main reason is that this was done to be fun, rather than to demonstrate how pretentiously artsy-fartsy they could be. And with copies of DC Challenge! to be found in quarter bins, it's considerably cheaper than the coffee-table-priced The Narrative Corpse. (By that I meant, "priced like a coffee-table book", but come to think of it, you could almost buy the coffee table itself for the price of The Narrative Corpse.)

 Oh, and there's a tie-in to other "Beek's Books" reviews. Check out the first ad between pages 8 & 9 in issue #9, the one for the digital VW Bug watch. There's no credit on it, but if it wasn't drawn by Howard Cruse (creator of Stuck Rubber Baby and Dancin' Nekkid with the Angels, well, then I'm... the mastermind behind the events of the DC Challenge! HAHAHAHAHA!

We rated with RSAC [discuss] This book can be discussed in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe
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