Finally finished with Adam Strange for now, Max continues his trek alphabetically with Ambush Bug, the crazy teleporting oddball character created by Keith Giffen. Read on for a look at Ambush Bug’s earliest appearances to see how this character first splashed on DC’s scene back in the early 80s!
Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of DC & other comics! Join Max each week every Friday as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at email@example.com. You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to comment in the comments section below. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.
Had to get up early today to get a prescription filled and waited in my car while it got ready. To pass the time I listened to some Adam Warrock –check him out at www.adamwarrock.com – and started in on Showcase Presents Ambush Bug. Like I said last time, I have only a slight familiarity with the character as I had a copy of Action Comics # 563 which had an Ambush Bug story in it. I remember it being a very awesome and funny comic and feel its comedy stylings may have influenced me slightly as a child. However, it was virtually the only Ambush Bug comic I had in my collection. So today I dug in and found out what’s the deal behind Ambush Bug.
I do have to say that this book held me up the last time I made an undocumented attempt at reading my library. It’s simply because the Showcase volumes, while very big and comprehensive, are black and white done on cheap paper. Although some of the best comics I have ever read have been in black & white (Stray Bullets, Akira, Bone, Essex County) if the material was previously in color, it would be preferable to have it that way. So that held me up before, but I soldiered on this time. After all, this is probably the only collection of Ambush Bug comics we’re going to get from DC. Plus, I do have some of these issues in color, and can read those along with the collection.
Ambush Bug’s first appearance was in DC Comics Presents #52 published in 1982 which featured the (then) New Doom Patrol. It was written by Paul Kupperberg and drawn by Keith Giffen. To my surprise, Ambush Bug debuted as a villain and a murderer at that! Meanwhile Superman and the Doom Patrol consisting of original member Robot Man and new members Celsius and Tempest, team up to help contain an out of control Negative Woman, another DP member. Ambush Bug takes advantage of the chaos created by Negative Woman’s energy form by getting in the heroes’ way, teleporting about. Superman is eventually able to figure out that Ambush Bug’s teleportation is enabled by miniature bug robots that act as beacons. Once the bugs are destroyed, Bug is easily stopped.
A very neat aspect to this story is that there is a parade going on and while there is a Superman float, there is also a Cerberus float, a character from Elfquest float, a Judge Dredd float—just a very nice and unusual shout out from Giffen to the indie scene in the early 80s. I doubt you’d see that today in a mainstream comic.
Next up Ambush Bug appeared in DC Comics Presents #59 in 1983 in a story called “Ambush Bug II”, where AB follows Superman into the future after he tugs on Superman’s cape—something you should never, ever do. There he is entrusted by Superman to the Legion of Substitute (and not Super) Heroes, who are the regular Legion’s fill in team filled with characters who are practically fourth-string heroes, such as Polar Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, and Porcupine Pete. Naturally, Ambush Bug escapes to cause mad havoc in the future. Hinjinx ensue until Ambush Bug is his own undoing by pulling a “what does this button do?” with a Phantom Zone projector in the Superman Museum. Pretty funny story as the Legion of Substitute Heroes, despite their best intentions, are all but a joke. Combine them with Ambush Bug and you have a pretty silly story.
In Ambush Bug’s third appearance in Supergirl #16 (it was DC’s second attempt at a Supergirl series) the Bug causes trouble for Supergirl, somehow thinking she’s Superman transformed. The breakdowns on art are done by Carmen Infantino with the finishes done by Bob Oksner, and while it’s good to see more Infantino stuff, I’m surprised he worked on an Ambush Bug story. Lettering is done by Andy Kubert! Interesting to see how Andy Kubert got his start, and especially interesting to see Infantino and Andy Kubert work on a book together after they both worked on different eras of Adam Strange stories, which I just finished reading. It’s pretty cool to see the history of DC staff.
Supergirl’s alter ego Linda Danvers is a psychology major—imagine that! She’s also dating an orchestra conductor. However, the concert he’s set to conduct can’t go on because a thief is stealing musical instruments. Ambush Bug gets underfoot, deciding he wants to become a super hero. The results are less than spectacular. However, by the end of the adventure, Ambush Bug has detected that Linda Danvers and Supergirl are one and the same person, though keeps this information to himself.
The appearances get sillier from there on out. After Ambush’s Bug shows up in Supergirl there are a handful of stories featuring him in Action Comics, at first getting underfoot of Superman, having his teleportation powers evolve, and then in another issue of DC Comics Presents featuring Superman and Ambush Bug switching bodies and Bug fighting Cobra while Superman tries to figure out how to use Ambush Bug’s teleportation powers. Ambush Bug has just as hard a time figuring Superman’s powers out too, natch. This is followed by another story in Action Comics where Ambush Bug is just being in a story that blatantly and (appropriately) goofily sets up his first mini-series.
I gotta say I broke out the actual issue of Action Comics #563 so I could see it in color, as it was a comic I had as a kid. I don’t have the same copy I did back then, but re-acquired a copy at Super-Fly. It’s a great story, and seeing it in color makes a big difference. However, I mainly just looked over the issue and read the whole story in the Showcase Presents Ambush Bug. I plan to go back and read the issue cover to cover as the other stories are classic funny too, like Jimmy Olsen drinking his old Elastic Lad serum. The only problem is the serum is stale, so it turns him into a blob. The other story features Mr. Mxyzptlk, though I’ve forgotten it.
The art is vintage Giffen 80s stuff, which I really liked growing up and still appreciate now. Giffen’s art has evolved from what it was in the 80s, and that’s not a bad thing, but he had a pretty distinct style back then, with his style often heavily relying on shadows. Sometimes it has a gritty edge to it, but here there’s a lot of silly stuff too. It’s very well drawn.
That’s it for now. I’ll be definitely reading more in the next few days.
NOTES FROM NOW (8/16/12): None of the pictures in today’s entry, save for the cover of Showcase Presents Ambush Bug are from the actual Showcase volume, as that is all in black & white. While I may provide some scans of the B&W material in Showcase in future entries, I didn’t do any for this one.
Also, as I mentioned Adam Warrock: Adam Warrock along with Mikal kHill from the Thought Criminals will be performing at Super-Fly Comics & Games in two weeks on August 31st, 2012 as part of Super-Fly’s fifth anniversary party! You definitely don’t want to miss that—especially as Super-Fly will be having a super sale! Save the date, and feel free to get in touch with the store for more details!