DigestCast #14 – Year’s Best Comics Stories of 1984

DigestCast is back! Shag and Rob discuss BEST OF DC BLUE RIBON DIGEST #61: YEAR'S BEST COMICS STORIES OF 1984, featuring Swamp Thing, Superman, Sgt. Rock, Blue Devil, The New Teen Titans, and more! Plus YOUR Listener Feedback!

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27 responses to “DigestCast #14 – Year’s Best Comics Stories of 1984

  1. Although I am a HUGE fan of the Digests and think that the Years Best Comics Stories issue was a wonderful treat each year, this PARTICULAR installment is my least favorite of the series (even including the Superman, Team, and Batman specific Years Best issues). YOUR podcast made this issue so much better than reading it actually was!

    Of the 8 stories I only enjoyed 5 of them.
    The New Teen Titans, Swamp Thing, Sgt. Rock, Colossal Boy and the Green Lantern stories were great – although I will admit that the Swamp Thing tale suffered by the reprint restrictions of the printing process for the digest format.

    I thought that the IDEA for the Superman story was nice and I think I would have enjoyed it as an 8 page story, but it was too long and drawn out for an ending that I knew was coming.

    I like Blue Devel as a character and have read a few Devil stories that I thought were great and fun but this story wasn’t as enjoyable as others. Right now I’m asking Shagg to ‘edit up’ a Blue Devil digest – 100 pages of the stories that HE would pick for HIS Blue Devil digest!

    The Atari Force story was beautiful – but that was all it was.

    Regarding Nicola Cuti’s plea for letter to print in future digest, there WERE letter columns in issues 65, 66 and 70. Just to let you know I DID have to look that up in each issue – I LOVE the digests but I don’t have them ALL memorized.
    (Only the Super Friends Issue, the first YBCS issue, and DC Special #2 The Flash And His Friends are the ones I have committed to memory) – the rest I just recall fondly!

    Shagg – I too bought the Archie’s Super Hero Comics Digest Magazine issues 1 & 2 from eBay as soon as Rob talked about them so I’m very glad that I’ll finally be able to dig in and enjoy it for the next episode of DigestCast. And the GREAT thing is that with your recording schedule I’ll get to listen to the issues after I get my vaccine to end the pandemic! YEA!

  2. This was a great show. I still retain this Digest, and I’m sure I had many of the original issues as well. I won’t comment too much on the stories themselves — other than “Who Is Donna Troy?” is one of the finest comics stories ever published. And it’s too bad that future editors couldn’t have seen that and left well enough alone. Sometimes my head canon is best left to do exactly what DC seems to do – just disregard anything I don’t like — as in all future attempts to knot up this character so badly, she’s almost unusable. Who is Donna Troy? This is Donna Troy. Hard stop.

    As far as an Earth-2 podcast that brings in Roy Thomas into the discussion? Given Fire and Water’s super powers, this might be what it takes to get DC to finally do a respectable collection of All-Star Squadron. Just let me know when you do it, so I can get Ryan Daly’s microphone cut off for a day or so. Just sayin’, Ryan, we love you.

  3. Thank you for admitting you physically are challenged in reading digests. Aging eyes and fading images and words on yellowing paper make it exceedingly difficult for me to follow along with some of these. That’s why I love those treasuries! Big print for bad eyes!

  4. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. It’s a bit now. I got to say it. Anatomy lesion. Kind of glad Snyder came back and made Alec Swamp Thing again. Sorry. Was not a fan of him being a being who thought he was Alec. Worse in the Tv show since Alec was a likeable odd ball. Still it was well written. Not sure when I started reading this. Since it was around the time of the movie. Maybe a bit before it. But, cool bit with the poster bit. I think I already responded to The Super Man story the last time this was made as a Podcast on y’alls feed. Moving on The Sgt. Rock story looks cool. Sadly the Artist for got to make Rock look like Joe Kubert.

    Since that look is prefect for Rock. Yeah I know it was only done that way so Joe could have a cheep photo ref. I.e. he probly looked in a mirror to get a face right. But, kind of works for a main look for him. Kind of like how Jerry Ordway made Super Man look more Italian. So he didn’t look like Bruce Wayne. As for the villain though the look is all wrong. If I had read this issue I think I would have heard Christoph Waltz’s voice for him. I kind of like that he died smiling as just that sick of a person.

    Ah the LSH seems cool. Wow sorry, but….. Giffen, and Larry Mahlstedt are masters. They saved the art on this comic in my mind. Sorry, but I was never a fan of Mr. Tuska’s work. His Avengers run hurt my eyes when I got the hand me downs from my birth Father. But, this looks good. Em yeah people act like this. I’m not Jewish. But, I’ve had relatives. Not my Mother or Father. They were cool, but other relatives when I dated people that were… not of the same race. It… em. They acted a bit like this, but got over it as quick. Not as oy. But, not as in their face, but the feel was there. Note these weren’t my parents, but other relatives… that were a bit…. oy. And I never got married. So I can imagine oh look her’s this new Gal we never met our son is dating… their married. Wait what? No telling us their engaged? Nothing. No hey their planning to be be married. Just here’s the new wife.

    So yeah this can happen. Maybe the Mom was being over the top so the Father would be ok. As wanting to defend Yera. After all She’s way over the top. And maybe He was thinking calm down Honey. Geez. And when She excepts her. He is just so relived his wife is being less of a Karin. He loses what ever oy issues he had.

    Nothing to say on the GL issues. Nice butt on the guy. And what he does as a hero. Right before he retires. Yep Gil’s art was great. And he was great way up into the 90s. Wizard used one of his Cheetah peace’s for some article and it was still great. The B.D. story is fine. If they had dated this would have saved Z from dating Johnny. That would have been better. Also hiow is he gona call her? She never gave him her number. Opps. I see some Ditko in the art. Maybe Paris was going for that. This is not my fav look for Z. Like her better in the 70s Gray suit. Or oddly the DC superhero’s high look. The…action figure was cheep so I bought it.

    Never watched the cartoon. But, the toy fits well on my shelf. With Z next to Captain Rikker. nd it’s Beard Rikker at that. Though I think of this costume as Goerge Perz just doing one of those only he can make it work costumes. Paris does a good job. Sorry it’s just she’s a grown a** woman in public with a fake bug on her head. Like Diana, Black Canery. Or some one didn’t pull her to the side and go… gurl. Why? Just why? Ad then she has the 70s caller in the 80s! I see why she went back to the fish nets. Probly she faught Enchantress and Julie Moon couldn’t stop laughing at her. And this is a woman with a green Witches hat.

    Z is cute and a great character. But, Kitty Pride wouldn’t ware this costume. Shadow Cat would even look at this thing with the bug head peace and Elis Calor and just nope out of it. And this is a woman who’s best out fit was a jacket and Jazzercize bottoms. I’m just saying. The Titians’ story looks well drawn. I’ve heard over the years how it starts the oh crap back story for her, but look at her Pre Hanny. She was a time displaced Diana that came alive from home movies Hipalota made. Along with Wonder Tot. So Hanny making her, her own person saved her. Hanney was odd ball, but he made her less weird and this tried to help.

    Though glad it got fixed latter. Criss had Hurt her and LSH as characters. Her being Diana’s little sister was a lot less oy than this, but they had to make it work. And they tired. Em Atari force. I’ve seen better stories in that book. Dart or Pack Rat stories would have been better. Or Heck Black Jack. Ah well.

    So next time ya’ll are doing Archie heros? Cool. I like them. Even their return in the 90s. I bought an issue in collage. So could be fun. Hey the Hood will be i it? Cool. Liked him in Impact. Though Jaguar was my fave of that. Though the Shield would be the most noteworthy. Since it had Mark Waid on it. Before his Cap run. Yeah this isn’t it, but still could be fun to hear ya’lls thoughts on ot. Oh did I mention I have a U tube page? That’s Liz Anne Oswalt on U-tube.

  5. I’m still listening to the podcast, but in case I forget, that ‘doesn’t look like Zatanna’ woman in the Superman story is Dolphin, who Kane drew in the Forgotten Heroes story a few months previously.

    And I’m pretty sure the Answer Man once said ‘Ziuko’ is pronounced ‘Zooko’.

  6. Interesting groups of stories here! Nice to see DC showcasing all the sides of things.

    I’ll start of by saying that I found it a little funny that both The Anatomy Lesson and the Superman story have like 2 seconds of recap while the Blue Devil story got a panel by panel review. Hmm …

    Swamp Thing: I discovered the Anatomy Lesson after it came out but remain floored by it. Yes, I believe Swampy suffocates Sunderland in his moss. But there is great suspense which builds throughout the issue as we see Swamp Things body slowly rejuvenate while Sunderland gloats about his building. It is interesting to read the letter column after this issue filled with people who are yelling about Moore changing the essence of the character and how they will never forgive Moore for making Swamp Thing a murdering plant. It just goes to show that reboots can work if the stories are good.

    The elemental stuff comes in with the American Gothic storyline. Constantine hints that he knows what Swamp Thing is. That comes to a head when he meets the Parliament of trees just before issue 50.

    And crazy that #34, the sex issue, is in the next Best Of! The Digests teaching kids all sorts of stuff!

    Legion -Levitz definitely knew how to check in on the characters and give us these little stories. I remember them more in the Baxter series. Several issues had back-up stories featuring Bouncing Boy, the original 3, etc. There were even a couple of issue with only vignettes like these. It was the power of the Legion then. They all seemed to have individual personalities, goals, etc.

    As for Gim’s mother being unkind to Yera, I will remind Shag that Yera had infiltrated the Legion while working with Imskian terrorists. This led to the real Violet being in a sensory deprivation tank for about a year. As President of the UP, you better make sure your kid isn’t marrying someone who still is part of a murdering rebelling group. My guess is she trusted her son (hence the gift bought beforehand) but needed to test Yera’s mettle.

    We’ll see how Shag reacts when his kids bring someone home. (I remind all my daughter’s suitors that I have extensive knowledge of anatomy and access to drugs that can kill without a trace).

    Anyways, thanks for the great peek at this digest!

    1. Since you mentioned Colossal Boy’s mother, I’ll chime in here to correct the mistake that was also made in the episode: in this period, she was the president of Earth, not of the United Planets.

  7. Really enjoyed episode #18 of DigestCast! (That’s how many legitimate episodes there are in my head canon, and nothing you say will change my mind…).

    Enjoyed the conversation, as usual, even though I never had this particular digest; in 1985 I was well into my first big break with comics, so I wasn’t picking up anything, much less digests. However, in 1984 I was still picking up a few things, so I read the Teen Titans and Legion story. And then much later, I read “Anatomy Lesson” as well. I can confirm that those three at least, are indeed very good stories and worthy of inclusion in any ‘best of’ list. Some of the others sound good as well: I know about the Superman story and am quite interested in reading it, and the GL Corps story sounds good as well. One thing that sharpens my interest in both is that Gil Kane did the art in both. For me, any suggestion of Kane ‘losing it’ as he aged is ridiculous. Personally, I think he just got better as the years passed, and my favorite art by him is from the ’70s and ’80s – by a very long shot.

    As to the next episode: yes, a thousand times over! I actually mentioned my hope that you’d cover one or both of the Archie superhero digests in a comment way back in 2017. Guess I should have done a rundown of its contents as well – maybe you guys would have covered it earlier. I had the one you’ll be covering back in the day and now, and I’ll definitely be pulling it out for a re-read before your episode drops. I also have it scanned, so if you need individual pages for the image gallery, or the whole book, drop me a line at the e-mail that I think you guys can see, or reach out to me via facebook.
    And on my name, which seems to confound everyone, yeah, Ed is fine. That’s what most non-Croatian speakers call me anyway.

      1. Nothing exotic. It’s just ‘Ed’ with an ‘o’ added. However, the vowel sounds are short, so the ‘o’ isn’t drawn out in that way it is in English when a word ends in an ‘o’ sound. If it helps, it’s pronounced the same way the Japanese pronounce it – you know, it’s what Tokyo used to be called (and in my opinion, they never should have changed the name).

        And Croatia isn’t very big, but Dubrovnik is about as far away in Croatia as you can get from me up here in Zagreb – and it still takes a while to get down there despite some pretty furious motorway construction in the past decade and a half. And man, I hope you’re not planning on taking any cruises until this whole Covid situation is well and truly over…

  8. I somehow missed this issue, which is a shame, because it was a few years later that I finally got a copy of NTT #38, “Who is Donna Troy”. This is Dick’s last great story as Robin, because in the very next issue, he gives up the red, green and yellow forever! Thankfully I found that one on the stands in real time.

    I also bought the Action Comics issue right of the stands. This was one of the first comics that really made me appreciate the people behind the comics. Portraying Superman’s creators as two young dreamers who imagined him out of thin air is almost historically accurate, if you don’t include the influences of characters like Doc Savage, Gladiator, etc. But they still managed to coalesce all of that into a figure never before seen…just like in this story. Wonderful.

    Great discussion fellas!


    1. Oh, and I think it was me who began beating that drum about DC NEVER giving the classic Kent Nelson/Dr. Fate his own series. They tried everything else, but never the actual guy folks actually fell in love with, which is just nuts.

      Chris Williams, El Conquistador

  9. Zatanna and the House of Mystery is a wonderful book, I reviewed it at Too Dangerous For a Girl. Put it on your Christmas list, Rob.

    The Anatomy Lesson was indeed a Big Moment. I knew Alan Moore from his British work and had been tipped off by a friend of his in British fandom that he was taking over Swamp Thing several months previously, so I was looking forward to this – and I was knocked out. And what a treat to have a character named Sunderland, which is a city near where I grew up.

  10. What a great collection of stories. If the other editions of Year’s Best are as good as this, then I may have to check the series out.

    I also would like to add my endorsement to Shag’s In-Stock Trade recommendation. Zatanna and the House of Secrets served as my daughter’s introduction to the character, and she loved it. In addition, I appreciate the fact that DC’s current line of middle grade and young adult graphic novels have spotlighted so many interesting female characters, such as Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Raven, Oracle, and Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl.

  11. Gentlemen and Liz Anne, podcasters and commenters, you have said everything I would have said about both these stories and this episode covering the digest they came wrapped in. And that’s great, because I have no time this week to write one of my typical long winded comments. This network never stops taking care of me.

    Just know that this was a lot of fun, Rob and Shagg, and I needed it. If I were your probation officers, I would count this toward the community service sentences you’ve each earned stalking comics creators over the years.*. Thank you!

    I am available as a character witness, but only for fictional characters.

    1. Oh, I guess I do have something to say. This is one more awesome Pat Broderick image with Firestorm nowhere in sight. It’s the RagMan entry all over again. Sorry, Shag.

  12. Great episode, gentlemen! I’m always happy whenever a DigestCast comes out and it was great to hear it covered one of my favourite types of digest, the Year’s Best Stories series. When I was a kid, these digests usually were my introduction to a lot of the characters featured. What a better way to introduce Swampy than with The Anatomy Lesson! Comics for kids! The previous year’s Year’s Best Stories is one of my personal favourites of all time. I’ve got such good memories of the Year’s Best Stories so I’m glad to hear you guys liked this digest as a whole.

    I’ve been listening to all your shows for so long, it made me recently buy some Blue Devil issues (the one featured in this digest) and the entire run of Atari Force. I’m really starting to become a Blue Devil fan! I blame Shagg.

    I never had the second issue but I still have the first issue of Archie’s Super Hero Special from when I was a kid (plus a Madhouse digest, as well)! Maybe that could be the next next episode? Issue 2 THEN issue 1?!

    Thanks again for another excellent episode! Keep up the great work!

  13. Weirdly, I am not a fan of the Action Comics issue reprinted in this digest. It’s not a bad story. The art is rather good. I just have this weird thing about “if there was no Superman we would have to create him” stories. Meta commentary is fine, but there’s a line and this story falls right across it. Not overly so, like Grant Morrison has the tendency to do, I don’t know. Maybe I’m broken. It’s possible.

    Late Bronze Age Superman is such a mix bag anyway. It was this weird mix of really good stories that seemed to be trying to bring Superman into a more (then) modern sensibility but peppered with eighties versions of sixties plots. Most of them are enjoyable, but I have a hard time reading a bunch at a time because it just gets to be too much. Oddly enough Marv Wolfman was one of those writers that was trying to modernize Superman and yet I didn’t dig on this story.


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