Biff Bam Pop’s Alien Invasion – “Invasion!” (The 1989 DC Comic Book Series)

InvasionLook, it’s a love/hate relationship, this thing I have with event comics. And I know I’m not alone. It’s what allows me to sleep at night.

Sleep. You know, that lovely send off into a velvety landscape, while the radio whispers sweet Coast-To-Coast conspiracy nothings in your ear about fires in the sky and the reptilians from the Alpha Draconis star system hidden secretly among us?

Yes, sleep.

Ok. Back to event comics, those incredibly action-packed money suckers that not so slyly entice you into buying a whole host of crossover comic books, titles you’d certainly not read if it wasn’t for the event imprint on the top of the cover! But you just want to see all of your favourite superheroes together.

The event comics naturally promise that worlds will live and that worlds will die and that the state of the comic book universe will never be the same. And they promise it every summer.

In 1989, DC’s event comic went other-worldly.

The aliens aren’t coming, you see. The aliens came.

And within three 80-page issues, the earth’s greatest (DC) superheroes beat them all back!

Through the absolute success, both in critical acclaim, legacy, and in the sales figures of 1985’s twelve-issue series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics started up what would be a near-yearly endeavor: have their greatest characters star in a new, limited series, going up against the biggest of threats, and use that backdrop to cross-pollinate all of their publications in a hoped-for increase of sales. Emanating from the event, they’d also launch new characters and titles that would surely receive a buzz in fandom – and in comic book copies sold.

1986 saw the release of the well-regarded six-issue Legends series, which gave rise to a whole host of new titles, including Suicide Squad, set to make its feature film debut this August. Not a bad payoff, even if it was a long, long play.

1988 saw the publication of the eight-issue Millennium series and all of its tie-in tales, linking other monthly DC titles to the main event. The buzz was high, even if the story seemed a little lackluster in the end. Although not a true event series, 1988 also saw the release of the four-issue prestige format mini-series Cosmic Odyssey, featuring the greatest of DC heroes and a revamping of a great 1970’s creation in Jack Kirby’s New Gods.

Generally speaking, it became apparent that the one common element in the DC event series was outer space.

Crisis on Infinite Earths is based on some pretty hardcore science fiction. Millennium starred the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians of the Galaxy. It was pretty out there. And with earths mightiest heroes prevailing each and every time, DC’s writers and editors got to thinking: what would the more antagonistic races of the DC Universe think about that?

Invasion 2Written by Keith Giffen (Legion of Super-Heroes, Justice League International, Ambush Bug) and Bill Mantlo (Micronauts, Rom, Rocket Raccoon) and illustrated by Todd McFarlane (Spider-Man, Spawn) and Bart Sears (Justice League Europe, X-O Manowar), Invasion! had the DC Universe’s most powerful aliens…invade earth in order to rid themselves of the perceived superhero galactic threat.

The host of alien aggressors in Invasion! came from a number of DC Comics sci-fi titles, notably Green Lantern, Omega Men, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Here was an Alliance of some of the most notorious creatures in all of creation, even if they were all on the periphery to the DC Universe: The Dominators, who were the leaders of the invading party (and most closely resembling the aliens of our nightmares), the Khund and the Warlords of Okaara, the Thanagarians (of whom Hawkman and Hawkwoman were members – raising fan eyebrows all across the earth), the Gil’Dishpan and the strange Durlan shape shifters to name but a few. Interestingly, the first alien attack was on our outback friends in Australia. A strange place to stage any global-sized invasion, to be sure. But shucks. Who would ever second-guess the calculating Dominators?

Invasion! consisted of three books, affectionately titled: The Alien Alliance, Battle Ground Earth and World Without Heroes. Each was 80-pages in length – a nod to the old showcase-style DC publications from over a decade earlier, so readers got a good bang for their buck. I remember enjoying them enough at the time, totally disregarding the thirty-odd crossover comics the Invasion! story regularly meandered through. Forget all those comics! I needed to keep some change in my pocket for warm, somewhat raw, second period chocolate chip cookies, newly discovered since starting high school. I was enticed by the promise of Todd McFarlane artwork (books one and two), a name that had become a hot property at both Marvel and DC Comics and the powerful linework of Bart Sears (book three), a newcomer to the medium. The end result, however, was seemingly lackluster – with too much detail on too many panels, with colouring that seemed muddy on some pretty cheap paper. You’d never get away with a publication design like that, these days.

Invasion 3Like many event comic book series, Invasion! gave rise to new heroes and new publications. Justice League Europe, featuring the heroic exploits of a bevy of b-listers from across the pond, saw a debut as did the fan-loved L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 series, which detailed the very origins of the group that would one day become the beloved Legion of Super-Heroes. Both of those titles ran for long, if not game-breaking, runs. Even Grant Mossiron got in on the game and tied the beginnings of his acclaimed Doom Patrol run into the Invasion! series. You might say that it also helped to induce his love of the furthest and strangest reaches of the DC Universe – concepts and characters he’d revisit again and again throughout his career.

Invasion!, from both a creative and business perspective had done its job. A few years ago, it was finally compiled in a trade paperback collection, a logical starting point for any fan of the broader reaches of the DC Universe.

Maybe one day, the ultimate plans of the Dominators will finally come to fruition and they’ll take the lead, once again, in a DC event series, butting their massive heads and slight frames against the greatest heroes of earth.

It could happen. Everybody loves the thought of an alien invasion, after all.

Until then, it’ll have to be conspiracy radio, whisking us off to our dreams.

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