Saturday, January 25, 2014

All Monsters Attack / Godzilla's Revenge (1969)

All Monsters Attack is the tenth movie in the Godzilla series. Ishiro Honda, director of the original Godzilla (not to mention Rodan, Mothra, Destroy All Monsters, and a host of other kaiju, or giant monster, movies), returned to direct this one. I just wish I could say it was as good as some of those others.

Besides that trailer being misleading as a whole, half those shots aren't even in the movie.

The film follows Ichiro, an annoying young boy troubled by the least intimidating gang of bullies you've ever seen. They don't even push him around that much, they mostly just tell him what to do. For example, early on there is a guy painting on a billboard, and the bullies tell Ichiro to honk the horn on the guy's motorcycle that is sitting nearby. He refuses and runs away like a wimp. Also, he refers to the main bully by the monster name of "Gabara."

It's hard to even tell which ones are the bullies. Ichiro is in the solid blue and Gabara in the red.

Ichiro's parents are both always working, often leaving him to come home from school to an empty apartment. As a way of escaping the unpleasant real world, he imagines himself traveling to Monster Island.

Pictured: The power of imagination!
That, or the effects of powerful hallucinogens.

That's right--this movie takes place in the 'real world' and all the monster scenes only exist in an annoying kid's imagination. There he encounters Godzilla, his son Minilla, and lots of stock footage from other Godzilla movies.

Ichiro talks to Minilla and learns that he has his own Gabara, a blue ogre-like creature that knocks him around just because. Godzilla doesn't help him because he wants his son to learn to defend himself.

Fat chance of that happening anytime soon.

Normally I deride child abandonment, but you can't blame Godzilla for not wanting to hang around his son--Minilla is probably the stupidest monster out of all these movies, and definitely the most annoying. He constantly squeaks like a pig being raped, and his only offensive ability (other than making all living things want to die just by being around) is to emit radioactive smoke rings:

I feel you, Godzilla.

In between talking to Minilla and watching him get his ass handed to him by Gabara--

--the two of them witness clips of Godzilla battling other monsters taken straight from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla. Of course, no one calls attention to the fact that Godzilla's appearance changes with each next fight.

You get Godzilla vs. Kamacuras:

Godzilla vs. Kumonga:

Godzilla vs. Ebirah:

Godzilla vs. jets (humans trying to invade Monster Island, Minilla says):

Even Godzilla vs. the giant condor from Sea Monster--they were really stretching to pad out this movie: 

There are also brief shots of Manda, Anguirus, and Gorosaurus taken from Destroy All Monsters and King Kong Escapes.

Back in the real world, we keep hearing about a pair of bank robbers that have evaded the police and are thought to be hiding out in the area. Ichiro at one point goes exploring in an old dilapidated building and finds a wallet. If you can figure out who it belongs to, you are too smart for this movie.

The robbers of course don't want anybody to see the wallet and find out where they are, so naturally they follow Ichiro and kidnap him, taking him back to the abandoned building. So what does he do? He dreams his way back to Monster Island. It seemed to me that there were bigger things to worry about than whether Minilla (or 'Minya,' if you watch the English dub) ever got away from Gabara. Then again, Ichiro can't even imagine fights that he didn't already see in earlier Godzilla movies, so he's clearly not the brightest kid.

Eventually, with Ichiro's help, Minilla beats Gabara.

I'm still trying to figure out how.

This finally helps Godzilla overcome his embarrassment of his son (the hidden character arc of this movie), and he shows up to tell Minilla that he isn't a complete failure after all. But Gabara, understandably pissed at being shown up by such a little @#*$&, makes the mistake of getting back up and attacking Godzilla, and we finally get some new monster action.

Gabara puts up a good fight with his electric hands, but Godzilla shows him who's boss.

Meanwhile, one of the robbers has gone out to steal a car so that they can make their getaway. Ichiro takes advantage of the situation to set up some traps in the building for the robbers (did he see Home Alone too?). When they come after him, he uses what he learned from Godzilla and Minilla to fight back (a robber with a knife is paralleled with Gabara through quick cuts, the spray from a fire extinguisher is paralleled with Minilla finally breathing a full-on atomic beam, etc.) and of course they end up getting captured. Happy ending, right? The movie can finally be over?

Hold on a sec--what about the bullies?

Well, the next time he encounters them Ichiro finally decides not to back down, resulting in the most awkward fight ever put on screen. The two of them grab at each other's shirts and spin around in a series of weird speed up--pause--speed up--pause strobe images that would make even Zack Snyder say "what the hell?" until finally Gabara falls to the ground, crying like a wuss over his hurt elbow. Happy ending, right? The movie can finally be over?

For some reason, the movie keeps going for one more little bit. Remember that guy painting the billboard from near the start? Well, he's still there, with his motorcycle still sitting nearby. Ichiro, proving that just because he was a victim of bullies doesn't mean he didn't deserve it in the first place, goes over and starts honking the horn on the motorcycle like they wanted him to earlier. The guy painting the billboard starts yelling at the little shit to get away and ends up falling to the ground, nearly drowning himself in paint. The bullies start to laugh and Ichiro runs off, telling his father, who is a train conductor or something, and whose train just happens to be passing by, to apologize on his behalf. I like to think the billboard painter didn't accept the apology and went on to brutally murder Ichiro, but the movie ends there. It's just as well--even with a running time of under 70 minutes, this movie couldn't have ended soon enough.

Okay, let's look at what does work with this movie. The Japanese version starts with a weird theme song called March of the Monsters that fits the movie pretty well:

The American version however, begins with a version of a piece called Crime Fiction, by Ervin Jereb, a totally bitchin' theme that doesn't fit the movie at all:

The rest of the music isn't bad either. It's much lighter than most Godzilla movies, reflecting this entry's kid-centeredness, but it's still pretty cool. Here's a sample:

Toho's special effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya, who had worked on all their monster movies up to this point, was ill during production on All Monsters Attack, leaving Honda to direct the new effects scenes as well. He didn't do a bad job, but Tsuburaya's absence may have been a reason for reusing so much footage from other movies.

As far as the monsters go, the Godzilla suit used for the new footage is the same one created for Destroy All Monsters, and it still looks good here (unless you listen to my dad, who described him as looking like Cookie Monster).

A quick Google search produced this image, so he clearly isn't the only one who sees it.

Gabara is a bit more divisive among fans. He's so weird that you probably decide whether you like him or not as soon as you see him. 

I guess it makes sense that he is as weird as he is since he was thought up by a kid as weird as Ishiro, but we'll get to that in a moment. Personally, I like Gabara quite a bit. Other than King Kong and the Frankenstein monsters, he's the only monster in the Tohoverse I can think of that is bipedal and doesn't have a tail of any kind. His strange humanoid form, evil visage, electricity powers, and mocking, laugh-like roar win him my approval.

The model work in this movie is restricted to just some areas of Monster Island. Most people probably think that landscape stuff is really easy to do--just toss some fake plants around--but there is a lot more to it than that, and there are no issues with it here.

There is one other sort-of-major character I didn't mention before because he doesn't really matter, but he did get a laugh from me at one point, so in the spirit of this movie being all over the place I'll introduce him here. An old guy named Shinpei, who designs toys and is a friend of the family, lives in an apartment next to Ishiro's. He kind of acts as a surrogate parent for Ishiro, feeding him and putting up with his bullshit and whatnot.

Anyway, I mentioned the thieves stealing a car, right? Well, Shinpei finds the car parked outside the abandoned building and looks at it closely, saying "I've seen this car somewhere. Where is it?" Then he jerks up and says "Wait! This is my car!" That leads to the thieves being located by the police.

That's it for the good. Now for the bad. I recommend ordering a pizza or something, because this is going to take a while.

I already talked a little about Minilla. For those wondering, his name in Japanese is Minira, as in 'mini' 'ra,' 'ra' being a common suffix for monster names, including Gojira. So Mini-ra is a mini Gojira. Obviously, it doesn't work so well with Mini-lla in English, but that's what we're stuck with.

Go die, you piece of shit.

Minilla is annoying and stupid enough in the Japanese version, with his permanent dumbass grin and general insipidness, his voice sounding like a muffled woman, as if they wanted you to know it was somebody in a shitty costume, in case you couldn't tell. Whatever. But the English dub gives him a dopey voice that sounds like a stoned version of Barney, as if they wanted you to know it was a shitty movie, in case you couldn't tell. Seriously, it'll make you want to kill everything. I'm not even going to try to find a clip because I don't want to be responsible for setting someone off on a murder spree.

As if Minilla wasn't bad enough, he's the perfect monster for Ichiro to imagine as his double on Monster Island, meaning Ichiro is just as bad.

Go die, you piece of shit.

This is but one of millions of cases where producers mistakenly assume that kids want stories with kid characters, or other cutesy characters, like comic relief animals. You see it in superhero sidekicks (you don't read Batman for Robin), '80s cartoons (how I hated Snarf in Thundercats), etc. Imagine a movie focusing on the most grating of those unnecessarily-shoved in characters (Snarf probably comes close) and you have All Monsters Attack.

Our lead is a doofus-faced runt who wears the shortest shorts legally available, not to mention being a total pussy. To be honest, I didn't think he was the worst of actors, part of it is just the character he is playing, but that doesn't make him any less annoying. Just seeing his face makes me want to punch my computer. All he does is mope around, feeling sorry for himself. Plus, he's extremely disrespectful, like when he disparages Shinpei's toy inventions, or the weird scene where he jumps on a car that is for sale.

He kinda bounces up and down in that position for a while…yeah...

When the guy selling it comes out to tell him to stop yanking on the door handle or he'll break it, Ichiro says the car is "already broken," and goes on to mess with the antenna. If the guy didn't make him go away, I bet he would have shattered all the windows and slashed the tires. 

And then there's the ending, where he almost kills the billboard painter. I get the message about standing up to bullies, but it seems that Ichiro just ends up joining them.

Another big problem with this movie is the blatant use of stock footage. This wasn't the first movie to do this (Monster Zero reused footage from Rodan), but when three-fourths of the non-Minilla monster scenes are lifted straight from other movies, it's a little much. Unfortunately, this movie signaled a shift in the series in the use of stock footage, going hand in hand with a lower budget.

Then there is the whole 'real world' part of it. Again, no one wants to see a monster movie where the monsters don't really exist. Honda does a good job of setting the real world apart from the world of the other movies, but that doesn't mean he makes it interesting. The movie is about a kid that is by himself all the time, and that means it's kind of boring.

The story doesn't help. I don't have a problem with the message being promoted here, but it isn't handled very well, and the movie, short as it is, is just too long for the content. It ends up dragging. Even the monster scenes are inherently less interesting when you know they aren't really happening.

Finally, we have the odd title: All Monsters Attack. All the monsters do seem to attack Godzilla in randomly strung together scenes, I guess that much is true, but it's still very misleading. The American one isn't any better: Godzilla's Revenge? While it's an awesome title in abstract, not only is the movie not about Godzilla, but he doesn't get revenge on anyone.

All right, this review has gone on longer than this movie deserves. Is it a bad movie? Well, technically, not really. It coherently tells a complete story. But that story isn't very interesting at all, and the movie ends up failing on every front.

As a Godzilla movie: None of the monsters actually exist, so the events of the movie don't actually continue the series, and we've already seen most of the monster footage before. Gabara is arguably interesting, but feels wasted here, and Minilla is the real monster star, which is the last thing a Godzilla fan ever wants to hear.

As a kids' movie: I saw this movie as a kid, and it bored the hell out of me. I did like that I could just fast-forward to the Monster Island stuff and watch Godzilla fight one threat after another in rapid succession, but I still hated the fact that all the monster stuff was in a kid's head. Plus, I had seen the movies most of that footage was from already. Other than that, I thought it was one of the most boring movies ever and didn't understand why it was even made.

As a movie for adults: There is absolutely nothing here. I could see misguided parents thinking it would be a good movie for kids to learn a lesson from, but if they actually watched it I think they'd change their minds.

I disagree with those that say this is the worst Godzilla movie, but it's definitely near the bottom. It doesn't make me angry the way some of the others do (it's no Godzilla vs. Megalon, at least I can say that), but it's still a big, disappointing waste of time. I strongly recommend skipping this one.

I want to leave on a relative high note though, so here's another shot of Minilla getting electrocuted:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown, Vol. 1

Vol. 1 of Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown collects the earliest appearances of the Challengers in Showcase #6 (Jan/Feb 1957), #7 (Mar/Apr 1957), #11 (Nov/Dec 1957), #12 (Jan/Feb 1957), and Challengers of the Unknown #1 (Apr/May 1958) through #17 (Dec 1960/Jan 1961).

Four men--fearless jet pilot Ace Morgan, master skin diver Prof Haley, circus daredevil Red Ryan, and Olympic wrestling champion Rocky Davis--miraculously survive a plane crash. Realizing that they are "living on borrowed time" and that they no longer fear the unknown, they decide to band together to investigate strange events and battle deadly menaces from beyond the scope of normal human knowledge as the Challengers of the Unknown!

If that synopsis sounds interesting to you, then it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll enjoy this volume. Rampaging robots, giant monsters, alien invaders, super-powered villains--they're all here.

The Showcase issues each contain one story, written by Dave Wood and drawn by Jack Kirby, while the Challengers issues are drawn by Kirby (notably inked by Wally Wood for a few issues) and written or co-written by Kirby with Wood or Ed Herron, until Kirby's departure after issue #8. The writing duties then alternate between Herron and Arnold Drake for the remainder, with Bob Brown as artist.

As usual for the time, the characters don't get much in the way of personality. Ace is the leader, just because. Red sometimes comes across as less mature than the rest. Rocky is the muscle, although none of them shy away from the more violent jobs. And Prof is…Prof. Basically, they're all the same, just with different backgrounds. Even then, their areas of expertise rarely have any effect on the events of the story.

The Challengers are joined in about every other story by June Robbins (whose name changes to June Walker for a few issues before changing back) beginning with their second appearance in Showcase #7, where they name her an honorary member after she helps them defeat runaway robot Ultivac. She doesn't have much character either, although it's worth noting that she is just as useful a member of the team as any of the others (the time being what it was, they still tell her to stay behind sometimes, although of course she doesn't listen).

The stories tend to be pretty similar, with either the Challengers investigating a report of, or encountering themselves, a weird creature or phenomenon of some kind. Sometimes it'll be a criminal having gained some strange power or stolen something that could potentially be very dangerous. Often, there is more to things than there initially appears to be, like a monster turning out to be a missing scientist who took an experimental formula, or what seems to be a threatening character turning out to be a friendly one that helps against bad ones. One of the stories introduces Multi-Man, who would go on to fight the Justice League.

Almost all the stories stand entirely alone, and there aren't any that really stand out as particularly good or interesting. They did get a bit less exciting to me toward the end after the initial interest of the concept had worn off.

The art is a different story. I'm normally not the biggest Jack Kirby fan, but I always like it when he draws weird creatures, and there are a lot of those here. There was also one sequence he drew here that struck me as particularly effective: 

I love the creepy shot of Ultivac looking in the window, and you can really feel the energy when his giant hand punches through the wall. One thing Kirby was really good at was creating a sense of scale, and these panels really showcase that. It's more than just drawing something big next to something small--there's the sense of perspective in the panel where it reaches in, and in the last panel there is a sense of movement that matches the difference in scale between the hand and the smaller figures. The hand feels like it's drawing back without any concern for the minuscule people trying to stop it while the guy on the left is putting all his strength into trying to pry it open. I also love the scientist flailing his arms in abject panic. It's great.

Here's another effective example of scale: 

And a similar panel by Bob Brown that just doesn't have the same impact:

This is not to say that the Bob Brown issues are bad. He is nowhere near as dynamic as Kirby, but I didn't like his issues any less. In fact, here are some panels where he does pull off scale in an effective way:

While we're at it, and since I love monsters (if you've come this far, you probably do too), let's look at some of the other creatures that can be found in this volume.

From one of the Wally Wood-inked issues:

A Cthulhu-esque creature:

One of the weirdest things I've ever seen, could've walked in from Ultraman:

And finally, tentacle-limbed aliens riding bat-winged, spotted horses with Monoclonius heads:

Other than the creatures, there isn't much to talk about with the art unless you are a Jack Kirby or Wally Wood fan. Wood's inks look great here, and Jack Kirby is Jack Kirby.

There is one other thing to point out about the Challengers. 

Anyone familiar with the Fantastic Four would immediately notice that Prof looks like Reed Richards and Rocky Davis looks like pre-Thing Ben Grimm. Red Ryan could even stand in for Johnny Storm. It seems that Kirby barely changed the designs when he co-created the Fantastic Four a few years later. Even their solid purple uniforms would essentially become the FF's blue uniforms, and the FF were originally more explorers into new frontiers of science than traditional superheroes--just like the Challengers. There was even an issue in this volume from after Kirby left where Red kept picking on Rocky (a suggestion of introducing more personality to the characters that didn't end up going anywhere). I wonder if Kirby saw that before he and Stan Lee established the Thing/Human Torch rivalry.

If you think a cross between early Fantastic Four and Jonny Quest sounds like fun or you just like weird creatures, check this one out.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1

Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1 contains Superman #122 (July 1958) through #133 (Nov 1959) and the Superman stories from Action Comics #241 (June 1958) through #257 (Oct 1959).

Each Superman issue during this period featured three unrelated stories, often by different writers and artists, while each Action Comics issue had one Superman story, of similar length to the ones in Superman. As usual for stories of the time, there is very little sense of continuity here.

Among the writers are Jerry Coleman, Otto Binder, Bill Finger, and Jerry Siegel. If you asked me to determine who wrote what just by reading the story, I couldn't. Just about every story has at least one moment that makes you laugh and say "what where they thinking?" I especially enjoy the dialogue given to children (Young Kal-El: "Robot throw ball too hard! Me can't catch it…OWWW!").

Superman has never been the most realistic character, but the stories in this volume take things to a ridiculous level of goofiness. This book is packed to overflowing with moments that made me laugh and say "Whaaat?" From Superman being turned into a humanoid lion to his becoming an "old duffer" with a long, indestructible beard, there is no shortage of crazy stories here. In one story, he plays a trick on Lois by showing her his 'true' face:

What happened to "beauty is only skin deep," Lois?

There's a good one where there is a "day when every father must accompany his son to school--dressed in a costume he wore when he performed a heroic deed." One kid's father decides to go dressed as Superman, and of course ends up being mistaken for the real thing by a group of crooks. As if that weren't enough, Clark Kent is taken hostage and must use his powers to make the crooks think the father is the real Superman until he can find a way to get away unseen. There isn't enough I could say to emphasize how ridiculous this story is, so here are a few panels:

"Winters fainted so realistically, he knocked himself out." Haha, okay. But if that crocodile isn't real, why does it react when the Superman dummy is thrown into the pool? And the pool is filled with real acid!? This museum really cares about authenticity.

A favorite moment comes when Clark is trying to get a good story out of a boring assignment:

Of course, no one looks back later and says, "Hey, Old Bongo is out cold/dead. What happened?"

Here's another good one:

And out of all the women on the planet, this is the one that catches Superman's eye...

The art cycles between Curt Swan, Al Plastino, Wayne Boring, and, for the Lois Lane-centered stories, Kurt Schaffenberger, and, despite how much DC did at the time to make sure their characters were always drawn the same way, they all have pretty distinct styles.

Schaffenberger stands out in terms of the quality of his art. He actually manages to make me like Lois and excels at facial and body expressions. Curt Swan is also really good. Al Plastino isn't bad, but has a more cartoony style than the others.

Wayne Boring is the only one I would maybe describe as bad in certain ways. His storytelling and background work is fine, but his figures are very stiff and often awkwardly postured. Then there's the fact that, although Plastino does it also, he seems to reuse the same Superman positions a lot, as well as the same faces for background characters. He also draws people from a particular angle all the time, where they are seen from the side, facing slightly away from the camera. Chances are they will have the same expression too. That said, it makes those stories funnier for me, so I don't mind him cutting corners like that.

See those two kids at the opposite bottom corners? That's what I'm talking about.

In terms of historical significance, some big characters make their debuts in this volume. Brainiac, Metallo, adult Bizarro and Bizarro Lois (the Superboy Bizarro came first), Lori Lemaris, Titano, Supergirl, and even the bottle city of Kandor all first showed up in these issues, making it a must-read for big Superman fans.

This book is highly recommended to Superman fans and anyone who likes the Silver Age at its goofiest.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Showcase Presents: Blackhawk, Vol. 1

Showcase Presents: Blackhawk, Vol. 1, collects Blackhawk #108-127 (Jan 1957-Aug 1958), the first 20 issues to be published by DC comics after acquiring the title from Quality Comics.

For the uninitiated, Blackhawk is the leader of the Blackhawks, a former WWII fighter squadron that now battles criminals and weird menaces around the world. Most of the seven members are from different countries, and, this being the '50s, are not much more than stereotypes.

As with most titles of the period, each issue of Blackhawk features three unrelated stories. There is next to no sense of continuity here apart from occasionally recurring villains like Killer Shark. This reprint volume usually lists the writers as 'unknown,' with the art by Dick Dillin.

There isn't much to talk about in the way of writing. The stories, despite sometimes involving such crazy concepts as a giant hand attacking Blackhawk Island or Blackhawk gaining superpowers, are often predictable and usually feel like they drag along. This is largely due to the fact that, outside of their accents and appearances, all the Blackhawks are basically the same. Characters keep repeating the other characters' names when they talk to them, presumably to help the reader remember who is who. It helps with characters like Stanislaus, who hardly gets any screen time, probably because he doesn't have as distinctive of an accent as most of the others, but everyone else is such a ridiculous stereotype that it would be impossible to mix them up.

Who could Chop-Chop be but the 3-foot-tall Asian guy? Who else would the German guy who says 'der,' 'vot,' and 'iss' instead of 'the,' 'what,' and 'is,' be but Hendrickson? Then there's Andre, the Frenchman who says 'ees' and 'ze' instead of 'is' and 'the.' Yes, it's pretty embarrassing. My favorite was Olaf, the musclebound Swede with the huge chin who often exclaims "Yumpin' yiminy!" and seems to replace random words with 'ban,' as in "I ban go outside," or "I ban hungry. I ban make a sandwich."

My favorite story was the one where the Blackhawks encountered female versions of themselves, also from different countries and with different accents.

Offensive to the max!

The art by Dick Dillin is a little more interesting, only because of the depictions of some of the weirder stuff the team encounters. There are lots of robots, advanced weapons, and occasionally even aliens for them to deal with. Other than that, the art isn't bad, but it is a bit static, with even action scenes usually being presented flat and straight on. Again, it doesn't help that we are looking at the same uninteresting characters the whole time.


As a fan of such things as Jonny Quest, where a group of characters investigate strange occurrences and battle international criminals and weird menaces, I expected to like this more than I did. Most of the right elements are there, it just needed better characters and not to focus so much on their accents. I don't plan on revisiting this volume any time soon, if ever, and I can't really recommend it to anyone else.

Showcase Presents: Superman Family, Vol. 1

Superman Family, Vol. 1, collects the first 22 issues of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (Sept-Oct 1954 through Aug 1957), and the Lois Lane-centric Showcase #9 (Jul-Aug 1957), as well as the first Lois Lane solo story from 1944's Superman #28. These issues are from way before DC had any audience in mind other than young children, so that should give an idea of what to expect here.

Each issue contains 3 stand alone stories, almost all written by Otto Binder, with no sense of continuity between them, even within in the same issue. Despite Jimmy Olsen being the focus of his own comic according to the title, Superman plays a key role in every single story here. Often Jimmy will be trying to get a scoop on a story or capture criminals himself, with Superman having to rescue him once he gets into trouble. The Lois Lane stories involve Lois trying to prove Superman loves her, or having a dream about what it would be like to be married to Superman.

All the stories here are pretty goofy to varying degrees, sometimes involving time travel by Jimmy or Superman with no questions given to possible consequences, or often having Jimmy gaining temporary superpowers. A lot of the earlier ones make attempts at humor that don't really work…at all…but there is so much inherent humor in the stories being told that you don't need more. In a way, the writing is simplistic, with characters doing something just because the story needed it to happen to move along, or making far-fetched assumptions that turn out to be true for the same reason. A lot of the stories have the same basic structure as well. At the same time, there is a lot of creativity here in terms of the solutions to problems, even if they tend to be completely ridiculous.

An example of something happening just because, AND someone making an assumption that just happens to work out.
NOT an example of one of the more creative solutions to a problem.

All the Jimmy Olsen stories are illustrated by Curt Swan. Swan was a relatively dynamic artist for the time in terms of his figures. Rather than reusing the same postures over and over like Superman-artist Wayne Boring tended to do, every Swan drawing feels fresh and original. When his characters are reacting to something, you can tell what they are feeling just by looking at them. He also puts much more detail into his backgrounds than is strictly required for stories like this. In terms of layouts and storytelling, however, he is pretty straightforward, just giving you what you need to know what's happening. There is also a noticeable change in the art from the early issues to the later ones. The figures get cleaner and start looking more consistent as the book goes on, but the backgrounds become somewhat less interesting.

1954--Rougher figures, interesting backgrounds

1957--Cleaner figures, backgrounds are still interesting and detailed, but don't feel quite as developed

These stories are fun, but entirely forgettable. If you are looking for something with lasting impact on any of the characters, this is not where you are going to find it. There aren't even any Superman villains here. Unless you are a huge Superman fan, a Silver Age fan, or someone who finds unintentionally goofy comics funny, I'd recommend skipping this one.