DigestCast #2 – Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #11: Year’s Best Comics Stories

It's the second episode of DIGESTCAST and Shag and Rob take a look at BEST OF DC BLUE RIBBON DIGEST #11 (April 1981), the Year's Best Comics Stories - 1980! Featuring a wide range of comic genres, such as Weird Mystery, Western, Sci-Fi, War, and Superhero! With appearances by Superman, Batman, Sgt. Rock, Deadman, Jonah Hex, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and more! The star-studded collection of creators inside include Walt Simonson, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Praise Be His Name), Dan Spiegle, Ross Andru, Curt Swan, Dick Giordano, Joe Kubert, J.M. DeMatteis, Len Wein, Paul Levitz, Michael Fleisher, and more! Finally, we wrap up with YOUR Listener Feedback!

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38 responses to “DigestCast #2 – Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #11: Year’s Best Comics Stories

  1. That Jonathan Kent story was partly carried over from New Adventures of Superboy #5. It took me years to get the second part.

    Those supermarket checkout slots are hella expensive, and it makes sense for Marvel to co-opt Archie rather than try and start from scratch.

  2. Loved the episode as this digest was one of the very first comics I ever bought (Rexall Drugstore), but I have to disagree with you guys on the Jonathan Kent story. Yes, it may be hokey but it’s heartfelt. Even as a kid I liked the idea that Pa Kent got to see his son as Superman if only for 1 day. I always hate it when the powers that be decide the Kents have to be dead in the current continuity of the moment. I’d love to see Ma and Pa interacting with the new Superboy, for example.

    FYI: Rob, it seems that there were more than 1 volume of the Sgt Rock digests. A couple are actually for sale via Amazon:

    1. Sgt Rock’s Prize Battle Tales (Blue Ribbon Digest 18) 1979
    2. Sgt Rock’s Prize Battle Tales (Blue Ribbon DIgest, Vol. 2, #7) 1981
    3. Sgt. Rock (Blue Ribbon Digest, vol. 3 # 18) 1982

    I’ve never had these so I don’t know what stories they contain. Is there a listing anywhere online of all the DC Digests that were published over the years?

    Finally, I am so happy you are going to cover the Strange Sports Stories digest. I remember getting it just because I loved that cover so much. This issue was as close as I ever came to doing anything sports related. The story inside served as the inspiration for one of my favorite Brave & the Bold episodes too!

        1. As usual, I was a little sloppy with my terminology–yes, I was referring to the 2005 digest as being the “only” Sgt. Rock collection, not the ones from the 70s and 80s.

  3. I can totally understand not covering those Archie Digests. I can imagine you won’t have enough time after you podcast about all the Richie Rich Digests. Irona is hot……..or that may be a mechanical breakdown.

    1. The Archie digests are great gateways to get kids into comics. They usually contain stories from various decades & are lots of fun.

      Has anyone ever heard of a podcast focusing on the Big Little Books? I really liked that format as a kid & even collected some of the old Dick Tracys from the 1930s & 1940s.

  4. When guest starring on Scooby Doo, Batman and company had the same cast as the 1968 cartoon: Olan Soule as Batman, Alfred Pennyworth, and the Mayor, Casey Kasem as Robin and Chief Clancy O’Hara, Larry Storch as the Joker, Jane Webb as Batgirl and the Catwoman, and Ted Knight as Commissioner James Gordon, the Narrator, the Penguin, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, the Scarecrow and Simon the Pieman, according to IMDB.

  5. Man, I love this show. Not much to add, but it’s nice to see Hex getting some love.

    Good note on this serving as a back issue library for those that missed the initial printing, Rob. It’s easy to forget that stuff now that we live in the future.

  6. Very fun episode and I would like to personally thank you guys for getting the ball rolling on marvel comics and Archie joining forces to put out digest comics I can’t wait to find them at my supermarkets check out

    1. I would also like to add if in a year from now I do not see them on the supermarket shelves I will hold the two of you responsible for this

  7. Rob interrupted me during this episode (shocker), so I never got to state my three favorites:
    1) Pinball (Tales of Gotham City)
    2) Jonah Hex
    3) Sgt Rock

    These stories really spoke to me!

  8. I not only had this digest, I had many of the stories as well! So delighted to have you review it! And as usual, I have a bunch of comments.

    I love the Action Comics story. While I understand that the Starshine plot and the alien wish gas is absolutely ludicrous, I love the Pa Kent aspect of this story. At this point, Superman’s inability to cure the Kents from the ‘tropical disease’ they had was one of his greatest failings. To see how happy Superman was to interact with his Pa again was fantastic. And that moment between Lois and Pa in the second half which is just fantastic. She teases that she had already figured his secret identity herself. If you don’t get some warmth from seeing Clark hanging out with his dad then you are heartless.

    The Joker story is just great and was part of the Joker’s Greatest Stories from back in the 90s. As you say, the art is just fantastic. There are a ton of panels that I can still easily see in my head. Two moments stand out. One is when he kills his henchman. First he does the fake-out ‘bang flag’ from the gun like he isn’t going to kill the thug. But then it turns out to be a spear gun. Lastly, the ‘fake hand’ moment at the end is great. The complete madness on Joker’s face when he says ‘I can’t believe you fell for the oldest trick’ is beautiful art.

    The Deadman story …. I am shocked, SHOCKED, that there was a Deadman story where he is complaining to Rama Kushna about his mission only to agree to keep going on at the end. *yawn* I forget, was there an upshot of him cursing the heavens??

    I would have loved to ask JM Dematteis if Bruce the Barbarian was somehow a riff on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I can imagine the elevator pitch ‘A horrific version of Walter Mitty where his visions are real’. Practically writes itself!

    I wonder if the Hex story was cashing in on the popularity of the Shogun book by Clavell or the mini-series of the book with Richard Chamberlain. Also, do either of you think there is a whiff of The Searchers movie here?

    Lastly, I love that Legion story. Sappy and wonderful.

    Thanks for doing this!

  9. Wow. Rob defending the Legion from Shagg? Further proof that I’ve fallen into an alternate universe…

    Also, I think I’ve found the word that Shagg says differently like Will Shatner does with the word “sabotage”. Pretty sure he pronounced it as “BethleHAM”. I’m curious to see if Shagg pronounced Sub-Mariner as “Sub-MaREENer” or as “Sub-MAHrinner”.

  10. First off, thanks for reading my story of woe aloud. I feel as if a 35 year-old weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

    Secondly, great episode! I’m going to dust off my Optimus Prime voice and fly the flag for Transformers fans on the network. Boxes transform and roll out!!!

    I didn’t have this issue, and I don’t remember any ads for this one, either. I do recall ads for the previous issue where the heroes are at the awards ceremony. The Year’s Best issue following the one you cover here was my first, and introduced me to the GREATEST Batman story ever told, “To Kill a Legend” from ‘Tec #500. Oh, and Starfire stripping nekkid from NTT #8. Wowzers.

    One of the greatest Joker stories was indeed the one included here. I bought that issue of Batman right off the shelf. How could I not? Rob was right, that JLGL (PBHN) cover was the bee’s knees, and the story is a perfect slice of Batman. Plus, I loved it when college-era Robin stopped by for a team-up. And yes, add Simonson to the list of artists who could draw a good Teen Wonder Robin: Perez, Marshall Rogers, Aparo, Don Newton and Giordano also come to mind.

    I had the Action Comics chapter of the Pa Kent story. And here we go with Chris defending Curt Swan again. Pull up a chair kids. Yes, JLGL’s art is lyrical and dynamic. But Swan’s art has a quiet dignity, especially for personal moments like those in this story, and he never “lost his touch” like some of his peers, namely Infantino and Don Heck, who immediately come to mind. He was still outshining many of DC’s artists of the time. Few can compare to JLGL from any period.

    I just picked up a new copy of George Perez’s Batman portfolio at Lexington Comic Con last weekend for a mere $10! I had it years ago, but it disappeared in one of our moves. It contains covers from Batman: Year Three and Lonely Place of Dying, plus several new plates, including the hot-air balloon one Shag mentioned.

    I never read that Tales of Gotham story, although I remember the series. I may have made too broad a statement on Knightcast by saying Gotham wasn’t so bad before Miller, but he definitely took that ball and ran with it. This sounds like a real compelling story.

    As for Rock saluting the German, it reminds me of the Byrne Enemy Ace story from 1989’s Christmas with the Super-Heroes when Von Hammer salutes a list of fallen American soldiers after bring provisions to an enemy hospital.

    Again, great show fellas! I think I know what sound clip Rob will use on the next episode!


    1. I, too, feel the need to defend the “Robots in Disguise” every time Rob denigrates them. I feel I need to hold back, or I’d do little else!

      Unrelated to the above, how interesting that you guys covered that Deadman story right now, as I JUST finished reading it as part of a collection of Superman JLGL (pbhn!) stories. Usually, I’m learning about the stories as you guys tell me about them.

      Enjoyed as always!

      1. By the way, about being laid back (or not)… I really have a deep and abiding disdain for the Michael Bay live-action TF movies, so far from being grateful, perhaps I’m less laid back than other fans….

  11. Let me get this straight… Rob likes a Legion story, and Shag thinks the ladies are under-dressed? Are we sure this isn’t Bizarro-Cast?

    Do you think Bruce The Barbarian was the inspiration behind Bruce Almighty?

    Although I don’t have this issue and had to make due with your recaps, I mourn the loss of Flip. That said, I’m glad the mobsters didn’t get a hole in Juan.

    Also… those JLGL pages are gorgeous. When is DC going to give us a JLGL Omnibus?

  12. Thank you for another entertaining episode, gentlemen. I will certainly keep an eye out for the new Marvel digest in my grocery store this summer.

    I find it interesting that Archie will be sharing the grocery store aisle with Marvel while sharing the airwaves with DC on the CW. Sounds like Archie might be playing both sides of the fence. Between Marvel and DC, I wonder which is Betty and which is Veronica?

  13. Well, that is one great digest and here’s something I’ll never be able to say again. My dear departed Mam worked in a newsagents back then and she’d bring me all the DC imports. The stories in here really are great, I shall have to get this digest. Mind, I may have it in that pile of 16 I bought on eBay… I didn’t pay that much attention.

    The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent is one of my all-time favourite comic stories, there’s so much familial tenderness in there. And seeing Pa Kent meet the love of his son’s life, and give his nod of approval >snif< Good on Shag for standing up for it… mind, he's soooooo wrong about Curt Swan. What Chris said. And while I am a massive fan of JLG-L, in his Superman work he's standing in the shoulders of Curt Swan.

    That Gotham city story may be a departure for how Gotham was presented in the early 1980s but it sounds a lot like the Just a Story sentimental morality tales that introduced Johnny Peril in the 1940s

    We didn't have paddles at school but I did get the strap a few times. And the cane. Only on my hand though, and no more than ten blows.

  14. I would pay $3 to hear Rob do an entire podcast covering a Transformers comic!

    I used to read Sgt. Rock comics as a 10 year old. I was probably too you to read them but boy they were fun!

  15. P.s. When I lived in Texas for part of second and third grade they had a paddle. It scared the heck of me. My dad said if any teacher laid a finger on me he would beat the %]>|@&$ out of them 🙂

  16. I wonder if the superhero content is due to the digest being put together by a certain editorial office (or two), or were Batman and Superman really that much more popular? Or could it even be that the mandate was for the least possible continuity, and only the best known superheroes were really considered because they didn’t require some kind of origin recap. (We still got the Legion and Deadman out of it, however.)

    Anyway, feels like a mystery.

  17. I never got this digest, because I already had most of the original printings of these stories! I loved your review, and Chris has already stepped up for Curt Swan, so I won’t have to. Except to say one thing more; Swan was drawing Action and Superman EVERY month! (Not to mention various other projects, fill-ins, and Hostess ads.) JLGL (PBHN) could barely sustain one book a month. That’s part of the reason all his work is so special to us.
    Regarding other super-hero stories that year, I just meandered through Mike’s Amazing World and it was not such a great year for the long-john set. With two exceptions. Even though the Marvel exodus had started and work by Starlin, Wolfman, Perez, and Cockrum was to be found, they were not focusing on the good, solid, one-and done type of stories that were featured in the digest. Jonathan Kent excepted. However, I think there are two criminally over-looked stories from this year. I have long felt that these stories were unjustly neglected, and I hadn’t realized until now that they were published within a few months of each other. First, “The Assassination of Batgirl” by Cary Burkett and Don Newton from Detective #492 and #492. This was a long story, three parts running 33 pages, so its exclusion from the Digest seems obvious. HOWEVER, this story is a wonderful character study of Barbara Gordon, facing defeat, humiliation, fear, and responding like the hero she was, despite her lack of super-powers. This is a human, smart, courageous Batgirl, which was almost immediately ignored by other writers. The second story is “Mind Over Magnetism” from Green Lantern #134 by Wolfman and Staton. THIS is Hal Jordan. Not your post-Crisis horndog, genocidal, cosmic being, color-of-the-month trend. THIS one. This is a fearless man of will power, surviving in the arctic after his ring is out of energy. You think you don’t like Hal Jordan? Read this story.
    I could probably make a case for the Captain Marvel stories in World’s Finest, but I’m glad E. Nelson, or whoever included so many non-super-hero stories. We tend to forget the variety of comics that used to be!
    One more thing, re: the character of “Starshine.” I was in high school in 1980, and while there were metal-heads, and disco divas, there were also some retro hippies, lamenting that they were only ten years too late. Even a few years later in college there were plenty to be found. For further evidence, you could search for a list of dates the Grateful Dead played in 1980. I bet it was more than 12, and not in little clubs!

    1. Totally agree about that GL story, it’s one of my favourites ever, Hal really showed his determination. Heck, I loved that while Wolfman/Staton run, even with the Omega Men.

  18. OH! I completely forgot to mention the OTHER great multi-part story of 1980! A three part Tales of the Green Lantern Corps back-up in GL #s 130, 131, &132. The titles were “Indictment,” “Evidence, ” and “Verdict.” Collectively known as the trial of Arkis Chummuck. GREAT story!

  19. I was cleaning out my longbox yesterday and came across this issue of Joe (not Bruce) the Barbarian. I don’t remember buying this and don’t think I’ve ever read it. But the similarities seemed striking, as the story looks to be about a boy whose imaginings come to life. Do you guys know about this? I can’t remembered if you mentioned it in the episode, and am too lazy to go back. Here’s a link to the cover: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81c2PXIZ3TL.jpg

  20. The only way I would listen to a Transformers podcast is if Rob hosts it. “So here the boombox dude and the gun one fight the Tonka truck over something, I guess.”

  21. I know one of the Transformers digests reprints the issue that guest stars Spider-Man, would that make it easier for Rob to cover?

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