Bonus Book #13 – Maxwell Lord (1989)



Bonus Book #13 – Maxwell Lord (February, 1989)

“Hostage!”
Writer – David Levin
Art – Dean Haspiel
Letters – Jon D’Agostino
Colors – Matt Webb
Edits – Joey Cavalieri
Executive Edits – Joe Orlando

Today is our final Bonus Book… boy, how time flies!  After thirteen installments, DC Comics decided to abandon the gimmick… and judging by our last few “Bonus Book Bio” pages, did so with very little fanfare.


Well, I guess we can hand it to ’em for giving readers all those extra pages for no charge, right?  I know I wouldn’t complain… kinda reminds me of folks who were losing their mind at DC’s most recent price-hike (to $3.99 across the board).  So much passive-aggression online, mocking DC for their inability to “Draw the Line at $2.99”, completely ignoring the fact that DC did give us a few years of three-buck books… while Marvel’s been edging up closer and closer to the $4.99 across-the-board mark for years now!  Now, I’m certainly not “carrying DC’s water” or nothin’… I think they’re almost 100% dunderheads running the place now, but, credit where it’s due… ya know?

Anyhoo… this final extra was included with (the already over-sized) Justice League International #24 (February, 1989).


Before hopping in… tomorrow’s piece will be much different in both tone and length than what I’ve been doing, for it is Super-Blog Team-Up and I’ve got something special planned!  The day after that, however, we’ve got a “Bonus” Bonus Book to check out… and after that… well, I’m not sure quite what’s on the agenda just yet!



We open at the Justice League’s New York Embassy, where Booster Gold is on Monitor Duty.  Well, he’s supposed to be, anyway… he’s actually more interested in the tiny television set he swiped from elsewhere in the building.  Ya see, Batman decided that having a television feed wrapped up in the monitoring system would prove to be a distraction… and, ya know, is Batman (even back in the 80’s) ever wrong?  Course not.  Anyhoo, Maxwell Lord pops his head in to see what’s what (and to see who swiped his “Watchman” mini-TV)… and tells Booster that he’s rotting his brain or something, and suggests he read to pass the “down-time” at the monitors.  Booster and Beetle ask Max to do them a solid and buy them a new TV set… it’ll only set him back fifteen-grand.  Unsurprisingly, Max ain’t down with that.



Max takes his leave, he has business elsewhere.  Outside the Embassy, he hops into a limousine… and finds himself locked in!  The driver, either a masked-man with a weird speech pattern or a robot (with a weird speech pattern) tells him to just relax and enjoy the ride.



Max, knowing he doesn’t have all that much choice, just halfheartedly sulks in the backseat until they reach their destination.  He is delivered to… I dunno, Cuban revolutionaries?  They’ve got a very Castro-flair to their outfits.



A woman greets her new hostage, and informs him that they’ve been hired to nab him in order to access all of the secrets of the Justice League… I guess that tabloid hasn’t come out just yet.  Max is really dismissive of his captors, and immediately asks if they “got any caviar”.  Yeesh… this isn’t all that great, is it?




The baddies call the Embassy, and inform Booster Gold that they’ve got their man held hostage.  What’s more, they want half-a-bill before they’ll release him!  Blue Beetle overhears the exchange and expresses sympathy… for the kidnappers.  Ya get it?  Max is a pain in the ass!  Get it?



Back wherever, Max is seated in a room making small-talk with a guard.  We learn that the kidnappers are mercenaries… which, duh.  Max goes on to sweet talk the fella, even offers him an opportunity in his operation.  Before this dude can answer, however, there’s a shift-change.  And so, Max begins his spiel again.



The lady captor, and the brains of the operation, calls into her superior.  We find out that without Max’s express authorization… that half-a-bill cannot be released.  Whoops.



She charges into Max’s room to tell him they need his authorization… only to find her two guards arguing over which one of ’em is the best.  Looks like Lord talked these geeks into circles.



The League gets another call… the kidnappers have cut their demands in half… they only want a quarter-bill for Max’s safe return.  Booster tries to keep them on the line long enough for Beetle to trace the call, but it’s no avail.



The lady captor calls back in to their boss to let him know they’ve lowered their asking-price… hopeful that a mere two-hunnid-fitty-million might not need Max’s authorization.  The boss is pretty ticked off, claiming they’ve just killed their profit margin.  The woman and her goons… are fired.



She charges back into Max’s room… only to find herself staring down the barrels of her goons’ guns.  Ya see, Max has hired them… doubled their salaries, even!  The lady captor asks if there’s room for her in his organization.



And… oh my stars, what in the hell is this?  This might be the ugliest panel I’ve ever seen in a comic book.  I mean, great googly-moogly, how did this even happen?!  I… I’m not sure I can move passed this.  Yeah, DC’s Editorial was completely checked out at this point in the Bonus Book Program!  Eeesh… my skin’s crawlin’.

Gad-zooks!

Okay, okay… let’s press on.  The League gets another call to pick up Max… this time, however, Booster and Beetle decide to pull a fast one and make some demands of their own.  They’ll take Max back… for fifteen-thousand dollars!



We wrap up with Max returning to the Embassy… to find Booster and Beetle watching their $15,000 television.  Wonk, wonk, wonnnnnnk.



There’s that saying about writing… it’s hard to successfully write “scary” and/or “funny”.  This story is proof-positive of the latter.  Thing of it is, I can’t say that Booster, Beetle, or Max were written out of character, or anything… I just don’t feel like the gag “landed”… just fell flat.  A lot of the dialogue and exchanges felt “right”… but, in that seventh-season of a sitcom way, like we talked about… the last time we had a Justice League International-flavored Bonus Book!  It’s as though doing a Giffen/DeMatteis impression superseded the need to write a decent story.  What we get here… was, I dunno… “cute”, I guess?  At least the “gag”, flat as it might’ve felt, wrapped around?


Our writer, David Levin, has rather a strange comic book origin story.  While he found much of his success elsewhere (he’s a director and producer… did some work for MTV’s Rockumentaries as well as a lauded film on the 9/11 attacks).  In comics, however, Levin is notable for having written what is arguably the rarest DC comic book of all-time.



Superman: This Island Bradman, was privately-commissioned (for a reported £10,000) by an English property tycoon named Godfrey Bradman in order to celebrate his son, Daniel’s Bar Mitzvah.  This bugger was so official, it was drawn by Curt Swan… and even got an indicia!  This was a real comic book!  My inner-completionist weeps!



Per Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking (TASCHEN, 2010) only 200 copies of this b(r)adboy were put to print!  Sooo… if you’re ever trawling the cheap-o bins, and happen to come across this one… snag it!  That would definitely be a fun one to take a look at!

From 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking (TASCHEN)



Across the table, sits our artist.  We met Dean Haspiel the other day, and while I appreciated his art in the Detective Comics Bonus Book… I did not like this in the slightest.  Even if we take that panel out of the equation, this just didn’t look all that great.  Perhaps, and this is 100% me projecting, this was just the fulfillment of a contract?  I mean, it was the last one of these… maybe it was just a “get ‘er done” sort of scenario?


Overall… the Bonus Book program didn’t quite go “out with a bang”… but, then again, how many cancelled comic book things actually do?





(Not the) Letters Page:

6 Comments

  1. So because of this post I realized something. My copy of JLI #24 (which I obtained more than a decade ago) is missing this Bonus Book. Who would do something like that to a comic?! Anyway, for years I just assumed the second story in this issue WAS the Bonus Book though I always wondered why there was no "cover" and why it was 17 pages instead of 16. Luckily, the digital version DOES include this story, but, ironically, the collected edition doesn't.

    • It's funny you mention that! A few weeks back when I had to track down the ALL-STAR SQUADRON and BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS Insert Prevues, I was SO worried that I'd get 'em bought, only to find the Preview-Pull Out's… pulled out! Especially with how cheap I got 'em! That is weird that this one isn't part of the collected edition though!

  2. I got kind of curious about that Superman custom comic. I was able to find a number of stories speculating about how many copies still exist and what they've sold for over the years. I even found one article about how the man who commissioned the book had destroyed his son's comic book collection while renovating their home and thought having the kid drawn into a Superman comic for his Bar Mitzvah would make up for that. (It didn't.)

    https://www.sellmycomicbooks.com/superman-1988.html

    I also found scans of the original art online and — since this comic dates from the good old days when lettering was done on the art board — I was able to read it.

    Turns out it's a lost classic worthy of Alan Moore. A family's heritage leads them to explore Kabbalah. The eldest son is a Superman fan and before long he is experiencing visions of the hero in his everyday life. He discovers Superman has attained the status of a tulpa, an entity that according to Buddhist tradition becomes substantial solely by the act of imagination. The story ends with the family questioning not only their own religious beliefs, but the existential nature of reality itself as the world collapses into two dimensions.

    Nah, David Levin's story is actually about a bunch of aliens pulling the human zoo trope. It takes Superman seven pages to break everyone out. But, to be fair, a page of that is spent on introductions.

    https://comics.ha.com/itm/original-comic-art/complete-story/curt-swan-and-angelo-torres-superman-bradman-birthday-custom-cover-and-mitzvah-partial-story-this-island/a/7076-92326.s

    • Oh man! Thank you for those links… I was VERY curious what the custom book was going to wind up being about! The Kabbalah and Tulpas? DEFINITELY didn't expect none'a that! That is some wild stuff!

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