In 2011, DC started collecting Deadman’s various appearances, beginning with 1967’s Strange Adventures #205. That’s surprisingly convenient (even if it has messed with how I build the titles for these write-ups).
Full disclosure: the older a comic is, the more trouble I have reading it. I like Deadman a lot, though, and there aren’t as many options if you want to read the character as there are for some others*. It definitely reads like a comic written in the ‘60s, and it faces some practical visual limitations from the time. But it also has a lot going for it.
Arnold Drake and Jack Miller’s run starts with Boston Brand’s death and resurrection as the ghostly Deadman. In fact, it focuses on his attempts to find his murderer. Everyone hated him, though, so he solves a series of unrelated crimes in the process of vetting all of the criminals who wanted to see him dead. These guys all sound like gangsters and are all terrible to women, so there’s never any doubt about whether or not they’re awful people in '60s storytelling parlance. But so far, none of them has killed Boston.
While Carmine Infantino and George Roussos pencil and ink Deadman’s first appearance, Neal Adams handles the rest of these issues’ art**. What the printing technology of the day limited in detail (although, it’s clear that Infantino and Adams crammed in as much as they could), their linework makes up for in inventive layouts. Infantino’s splash page of Boston on the trapeze and subsequent fall are striking. And Adams leaves a similar impression when he stages fights on the trapeze or atop a moving Ferris wheel. He also scatters in larger, zoomed-in panels with intricate shading and texture. There’s a reason these guys are legends.
If you’re a fan of Deadman or enjoy older books more than I do by default, you should check this collection out. It has certain redundancies and cliches, but that’s to be expected. By the time I hit the end of this first chunk of issues, I was onboard.
*Comic Vine lists 630 total appearances for Deadman since 1967. That’s everything, even background cameos. For comparison, Iron Fist (created in 1974) has 1,798 appearances in their database. Moon Knight (1975) has had 1,010 appearances. And Booster Gold (who first appeared almost 20 years after Deadman, in 1986) has 767. If those numbers seem high, Batman has 13,900 appearances since 1940.
**Roussos originally inked #206 as well, but this collection includes a reprint that had been re-inked by Adams.
- Deadman, Vol. 1 (Strange Adventures #205-213)
Writers: Arnold Drake (205-206), Jack Miller (207-209) | Pencillers: Carmine Infantino (205), Neal Adams (206-209) | Inkers: George Roussos (205), Neal Adams (206-209)