Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown—Volume 1

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Art: 8/10

Classic art, classic stories

Personally not a fan of the Challengers

Comic Info

Comic Name:  Showcase/Challengers of the Unknown (Volume 1)

Publisher:  DC Comics

Writer:  Dave Wood/Jack Kirby/Ed Herron

Artist:  Jack Kirby/Bob Brown

# of Issues:  21

Release Date:   2006

showcase #6 cover 1st challengers of the unknown

Showcase #6

Reprints Showcase #6-7, 11-12, and Challengers of the Unknown (1) #1-17 (January 1957-January 1961). Ace Morgan, Prof. Haley, Red Ryan, and Rocky Davis escape death in a dangerous wreck and realize each moment after the accident is a gift. With that resting in their minds, Ace, Prof, Red, and Rocky team-up together as the Challengers of the Unknown and set out to explore the strange worlds that exist around them. Constantly threatened with death, the Challengers find themselves saving the world on borrowed time.

Primarily written by Dave Wood, Jack Kirby, and Ed Herron, Showcase Presents: The Challengers of the Unknown—Volume 1 introduced the characters and featured illustrations by Jack Kirby and Bob Brown (a few issues in this comic are uncredited due to lost writing credits). The first Challengers series ran for eighty-seven issues with some breaks in publications. Like all of the Showcase Presents, the issues are presented in black-and-white.

The Challengers of the Unknown feel like obvious precursors to the Fantastic Four.  Despite having no powers, they have a similar feel and face similar obstacles.  This collection introduces the Challengers and the format of their stories (something that really doesn’t change during the run).

challengers of the unknown #10 cover

Challengers of the Unknown (1) #10

The Challengers of the Unknown is a blend of sci-fi and fantasy pretty typical of the ’50s and ’60s. The stories are all single issues and the Challengers really didn’t have any reoccurring enemies until Multi-Man appeared in later issues in this collection. The comic also didn’t cross over with any of the traditional superheroes at this point like Batman or Superman. The Challengers were isolated in their own world and really don’t show any sign of being in the DC Universe in this volume. The one-shot style issues just feel like really bad episodes of The Outer Limits or something and lack a direction (which was typical of the time).

I can’t say I love the Challengers of the Unknown. The characters are all rather bland and indistinct (even in later issues I’ve read, I’ve never had much of a feel for Prof, Red, Rocky, and Ace). The other problem is that they all kind of look alike. This becomes doubly tough in the Showcase Presents format that is black-and-white. All the characters have the same color hair…no coloring. Unless they say the names of the characters, you’re lost as to who you are reading about.

Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown—Volume 1 is a good collector for either fans of the Challengers or those who are fans of classic sci-fi comics. The series seems pretty monotone with really repetitive stories. I did enjoy the later Challengers of the Unknown mini-series from 1990. It is a much better read and is a better introduction to the Challengers than their first appearances in this collection.



Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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