Today’s first entry in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide is a terrific collection of old-school supehero comics from DC Comics’ Golden and Silver Age archives. I first told you about this cool hardcover back in April. It’s the perfect gift for the comics cfan who longs for the days when comics were more fun and less gritty than they are today.

DCs Wanted: The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains
by various writers and artists
DC Comics
ISBN-13: 978-1779501738
$39.99 (discounted at Amazon)

Wanted: The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains collects all nine issues of the 1970s comic of the same name, which was one of the many reprint titles cooked up around that time when DC and Marvel were cranking out as many comics as possible in an effort to grab market share and crowd each other (and any smaller publishers) off the newsstands. Right before a paper shortage caused prices to rise and smaller publishers to fail, DC and Marvel were attempting to glut each other out of business.

DC created several themed all-reprint comics when they reverted to 32 page comics that sold for 20 cents (that is a long story that I don’t have room to tell you here), and Wanted was their all-villain book, published alongside other reprint titles like Secret Origins and Strange Sports Stories. These books were edited and curated by E. Nelson Bridwell, DC’s secret weapon when it came to his vast knowledge of comic book history and his impeccable taste in choosing which stories to reprint. Bridwell does not get enough credit for stoking the flames of comics fandom and instilling a love for Golden Age comics in a generation of comics creators and historians.

With Wanted, Bridwell didn’t take the easy route and just put Batman or Superman in every issue. He plumbed the depths of DC, reintroducing members of DC’s rogue’s gallery that hadn’t been seen in decades, and exposing a new generation to the formative works of such comics greats as Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantion and more.

While the book did cover-feature a few heavy-hitters in its original run–Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash are on some of the covers–more than equal time was given to more obscure DC heroes like Starman, Doctor Fate, The Vigilante, Wildcat and Hourman. They even cover-featured two really obscure characters that DC had purchased from Quality Comics, Doll Man and Kid Eternity.

Some of the Villains are pretty obscure, too. We do see Batman fight The Joker and The Penguin, but those two are teamed up in one single story. We also see the Caped Crusader take on The Signalman, who at that point had only appeared twice since the one story reprinted here. Other Villains showcased in this book include The Prankster, Soloman Grundy, Clock King, The Mist, The Dummy and Mister Who (not to be confused any doctors who came later). This book will educate newer readers of the scope of colorful evil-doers in the DC Universe.

As I pointed out, the stories are drawn by a murderer’s row of iconic comic book artists. In addition to the artists listed above, we also get to see work by Gil Kane, H.G. Peter, Jack Burnley and Lee Elias and stories written by Robert Kanigher, Gardner Fox, Alfred Bester, William Woolfolk, Jerry Siegel, John Broome, Bill Finger, Ed Herron and more. Plus they included the beautiful split-scene covers for the original series by Nick Cardy and Murphy Anderson.

Like I said, I love this book. They even give us a hypothetical tenth issue with an all-female villain line-up. I don’t have this entire series in my collection, and it’s fantastic to finally have them all in one volume. I should mention that it’s also a collection of short-form stories. Most in this book run between seven and 13 pages, and they manage to cram in more plot than a year’s worth of today’s comics. In terms of pure comics glee, this book is a home run.

I can whole-heartedly recommend Wanted: The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains for anybody who loves classic superhero comics with colorful villains, crisp storytelling and great art. It’s not a perfect collection, but it’s a lot of fun.

Also of note is that, while you can order this from any bookseller using the ISBN code, Amazon has it for significantly less than the suggested price.