Friday, May 15, 2015

Who's The Balloon Buster?

I think the 'Balloon Buster' logo is lifted right from the cover of his earliest appearances in All-American Men of War.
After limping off with a potentially mortal wound to the gut in the pages of The Unknown Soldier #267 (Sept. 1982), Steve Savage, The Balloon Buster was given a trio of minor appearances in 3 very special publications that DC Comics released between the years 1985-1987, in celebration of the company's 50th anniversary.  The first of these appearances was in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC UniverseWho's Who was a 26 issue mega-series containing illustrated profiles of just about every character the company had published in its half-century history.

Each character was assigned to an artist - some of these artist/character pairings made for an eye-opening surprise, such as Brian Bolland on Lady Blackhawk, while most took advantage of a previous association between the feature and the illustrator and made perfect sense.  In the case of The Balloon Buster's profile entry in issue #2 (April 1985), Joe Kubert on art made perfect sense.  Apart from a couple of tiny cover illustrations in recent appearances in The Unknown Soldier, Kubert hadn't done any significant work on the character in 20 years, but nothing was lost during their long separation, and Steve Savage looks great.  Except for Russ Heath, I couldn't think of a more appropriate artist for the entry.

There are no surprises in the text, by either Marv Wolfman or Len Wein (Who's Who's writing credits were unclear entry by entry), though despite some conflicting information in earlier Balloon Buster stories, Steve Savage's home town seems to be definitively established as Mustang River, Wyoming.

This is a fantastic piece - it's Joe Kubert - and does the character justice. 


Savage next turned up in a cameo in Who's Who's sister title, Crisis on Infinite Earths, issue #9 (Dec. 1985).  It was this 5 panel appearance that first turned me on to the character, and I reproduced those panels in the blog's very 1st post.

Following Crisis's reality & time warping finale, a new, streamlined chronology of the DC Universe's historic events was laid out in the 2-issue prestige format title, History of the DC Universe, written by Crisis author Marv Wolfman.  A beautiful 2-page spread (gorgeously illustrated by George Perez & Karl Kesel) in the 1st volume is devoted to WWI, Steve Savage & Hans Von Hammer, The Enemy Ace.  I'm kind of surprised today to see each WWI ace treated to equal page real estate and given the same prominence, considering the much larger role Enemy Ace had played in DC's war line to that date.  Reading this 20, or so, years ago for the 1st time, and after doing a little independent research, I was astonished to find how few stories Balloon Buster had actually appeared in, as opposed to Von Hammer.  I'd like to think this 1 page appearance raised Balloon Buster-awareness enough to send a few other collectors to their comic shop's back issue boxes.

I (badly) reproduced Savage's 1 panel from History of the DCU in the aforementioned introductory post to this blog, but have thought better to include here the full spread - which pit, one last time, The Balloon Buster against The Enemy Ace.


This is -snff- the penultimate Balloon Buster post for I'm The Gun.  Steve Savage had only 1 more appearance, to date (that's a hint, DC Comics!).  This appearance came more than a decade after these other few reminders that the character even existed, and was written by someone who took some pretty startling liberties with Steve Savage's history.  It will be a bittersweet experience for me to have a look at (of all titles) Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #7 (1997) in a near-future post.

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