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.THE PLAY'S THE THING
Shakespearean Superheroes!

SOCKAMAGEE! Well reader, I think you'll agree that I've got this incredible dial of mine working at full power. It's an amazing device, isn't it? Today, I seem to have dialed B for BARD (dig the new logo above!) ... as in the world's greatest writer, the one and only William Shakespeare!

How does Shakespeare fit into a blog about comic books, you ask? Comic books are mostly about pictures, it's true, but they're also about words, words, words! And if Superman and Batman are undisputedly the World's Finest team (and they are), then the Bard of Avon is undisputedly the World's Finest Writer. And on several occasions, the two have crossed paths.

For example, the bust of the Bard pictured right. Does it look a little familiar? Hmmm? Do you know where it comes from, and what it does? You're about to find out... hold on tight reader, here we go -- Shakespeare in comic books! Que Batman TV show theme music! Rev Batmobile! GO!


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HEADLESS SHAKESPEARE

Access to the Batcave!

To get into the Batcave, TV Batman used to pop open good old headless Shakespeare, flip the hidden switch inside, and slide down the Bat-pole! This piece of pop trivia has spawned a comic book publishing company called (what else) Headless Shakespeare Press! Click the pop-top Bard to go to their web page. Do it later -- for now ... read on, McDuff!

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CI #134
CI #128
CI #99

BEST OF THE BARD
Three For The Ages!

The "best" of the Bard: Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s earliest tragedies and perhaps his best-known play; Macbeth, the story of a medieval lord who usurps the throne of Scotland; and Hamlet, the most popular and frequently staged of all Shakespeare’s plays. These classic Classics Illustrated books contain complete adaptations of the actual plays -- read on for a sampling of how lines from these and other plays influenced our favorite superheroes!


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TORCH INSPIRED BY BARD
''Men all in fire walk up and down the streets!''

"A common slave, you know him well by sight,
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches joined; and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remained unscorched. ...
Transformed with their fear, who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets."

--Julius Caesar; Act I, Scene III.


According to Steranko's History of Comics, this scene from "Julius Caesar" inspired Carl Burgos to create the Human Torch in 1939. "The Torch is the purest and most exclusive manifestation of the comic hero," Steranko wrote. "Like a blazing archangel, he seems to embody almost theological overtones; his essence being one of God-like omnipotence."


HE KEEPS RECALLING LINES
Green Lantern, Shakespearean Scholar!

You might think that since Hal Jordan Green Lantern is a jet pilot, he isn't into the Bard -- but you'd be VERY wrong! Actually, Hal is the greatest Shakespearean scholar in the entire DC Universe! Hard to believe? Here's the proof, from Green Lantern #64. Read along for two glorious pages as a "giddy" GL "keeps recalling" lines from Shakespeare's Tragedy of King Richard the Second, Act 5. Scene 3 and 6. The way he skips around, he must have the entire play memorized. Way to go GL! (ART: Mike Sekowsky, STORY: Denny O'Neil)
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ASM #347 by Larsen/Emberlin
Doc #2 by Banks/Stelfreeze
Nexus: ES #2 by Steve Rude

TO BE OR NOT TO BE
''Alas poor Yorick ... I knew him, Horatio!''

In Hamlet, Shakespeare's longest play, Hamlet contemplates the death of his friend Yorick, a court jester he had known as a child, by holding his skull in one hand and lamenting to his friend Horatio, "Alas poor Yorrick. I knew him, Horatio!" (Act 5. Scene 1.) For some reason, this line is often misquoted as 'Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well,' a misquote evidenced by the non-scholarly Venom as he holds "Spidey's" skull aloft. The well-educated Doc Savage, of course, is quite aware of the REAL quote, as is the brooding ruler of Ylum, the mighty Nexus -- whose first name, coincidentally, is Horatio!



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''ONE MAY SMILE AND SMILE

...And Be A Villain!''

"O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables, meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain."

--Hamlet, Act 1. Scene V.


These lines from "Hamlet" were applied to the Creeper (Ditko version) by Denny O'Neil (him again!) in "...And Be A Villain!" from Detective Comics #418. ART: Novick/Giordano, STORY: Denny O'Neil (Hmmm... I'm beginning to think this O'Neil guy is a Shakespeare fan!)



ALAS POOR GHOST
Hauntingly Shakespearean!

Clark Kent encounters a ghostly headless Superman on this Hamlet-inspired cover of Action Comics; the impish Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream roams the night creating pandemonium for children curious enough to enter the House of Mystery; and Neil Gaiman's Sandman showcases a story inspired by The Tempest.

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Action #406 by M. Anderson
HOM #186 by Adams
Sandman #75 by Vess


IN BRIGHTEST DAY, IN BLACKEST NIGHT

Who SAYS comics ain't Shakespeare!?!?

Green Lantern recites the comic book equivalent of a Shakespearean sonnet, then one of the Guardians of the Universe prompts GL to flash a quote that ends our look at Shakespearean Superheroes! Super-Shakespearean Trivia: This famous line was never spoken as dialogue -- it is the TITLE of one of the Bard's plays! Art by Mike Sekowsky; story by Denny O'Neil, who is obviously a Super-Shakespearean Scholar in his own right!
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THE END

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