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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 10

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at D. Curtis Johnson’s Chase!

Enjoy!

Chase was a short-lived DC Comic from the late 1990s written by D. Curtis Johnson with art by JH Williams and Mick Gray (back when Williams was simply a great artist and not the greatest artist in mainstream comics).

The series followed the adventures of Cameron Chase, newly hired agent for the Department of Extranormal Operations. Chase would investigate possible superhuman sightings plus go on various other superhero-related missions.

The breadth of the DEO canvas was vast.

What Johnson did best with the series was both create a strong, vibrant lead character in Cameron Chase, then surround her with people that she could play off of, all the while giving the book a realistic touch, making the superheroics in the book seem all that much more grander.

And, of course, he had JH freakin’ Williams on pencils, which doesn’t hurt when you want to do some strong character-based storytelling!

Here’s a bit from issue #2, where we intercut Chase’s arguments with her boyfriend (who moved to New York with Chase when she got her new job at the DEO) with her current mission, working with the Suicide Squad…

In #3, we see Chase on the mission – Williams really shines here with the re-designs he does of the Rocket Red Brigade. He takes the approach that the Rocket Reds, post-USSR, would be a good deal less impressive-looking, and it really works.

A striking aspect of Johnson’s work was how well he used DC continuity – he was actually pretty darn respectful of the toys he was using, and he used some characters that had been in limbo for some time (the Suicide Squad and, in this issue #4, Booster Gold…)….

Chase’s background hides a story of a father who was a superhero himself, and was murdered by a supervillain.

In issue #6, Chase breaks the news to her sister when they’re forced to talk to each other after the elevator they’re riding in stalls during a blackout…

Man, Williams tells stories so well. What a great artist.

Finally, in issues #7-8, Chase is tasked on finding out Batman’s secret identity. Speaking of continuity nods, look at how Johnson acknowledges how there is ANOTHER notable DC hero in Gotham City…

As you can tell, the book looked AMAZING, and Johnson had a James Robinson on Starman approach to both DC history but also character-based work. All wrapped in one of the few strong, independent female leads out there.

This was a very good series, and it sadly lasted only 10 issues (#1-9 plus a #1,000,000 issue).

With Williams being such a famous artist nowadays, DC might actually be able to sell enough Chase TPBs for it to be worth their while to put them out! I hope they do some day!

29 Comments

Chase is a great series. Wonderful work from Williams III and it seemed to have so much potential at exploring every corner of the DCU while still telling it’s own story.

Also, one request for this feature Brian (and I hope this doesn’t sound ungrateful or demanding) but when you add cool comics to the master list, could you also specify the issue numbers? I only ask because the Top 100 Comic Book Storylines master list was incredibly useful when hunting through back issues, because I could check that one page on my iPhone while in the store and see immediately exactly which issue numbers of which titles to hunt for.

I know you usually mention the issue numbers in the individual article itself, so this is basically laziness on my part, but it would be a really useful resource to have them all in one place (if possible).

I think it’s worth mentioning that Chase didn’t really like the superhero community at all, in large part because of what happened to her father, but also because she had a power (dampening of other’s metahuman abilities) of her own, which she couldn’t control and manifested itself only at times of extreme stress. That explains the resigned expression in the page in which the Suicide Squad is introduced, for example.

One of my all-time favorite series. I just wish there had been more of it.

Chase was a fantastic series that ended far too soon. I was so happy when Marc Andreyko started using her in Manhunter, as she was a perfect fit.

good series for i remember how chase proved to be a woman who would take no gruff as for a trade maybe dc will remember it now that williams is so hot. though it may fall into the dare not reprint due to royalties issues

Matthew Johnson

January 11, 2010 at 7:38 am

Much of the continuity of this series got carried on (and wrapped up) in John Ostrander’s Martian Manhunter series.

I’ve always wondered, were the two characters on “House” named Cameron and Chase inspired by this series? It seems unlikely, but also too odd to be a coincidence…

And of course Cameron Chase herself showed up as an important supporting character in Andreyko’s Manhunter – even including a confrontation with Trapp himself!

Those pages are really beautiful. This book often gets recommended in the same breath as Starman and Hitman. Since I didn’t like those, I assumed I wouldn’t like this either, but these pages (art and dialogue) are changing my mind. For one thing, the coloring has aged a lot better on this book!

I believe those sixties/seventies characters were revealed to be “The Justice Experience”, and as already mentioned above came up again in the Martian Manhunter series, were it was revealed J’onn, in disguise, was one of the heroes on that team.

The DEO has continued to be a part of the DC universe since then, hasn’t it?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 11, 2010 at 8:59 am

What’s especially interesting about Chase is how well it exemplifies the way short-lived pop influences can be transcended with good writing. It’s not hard to see that the series got a greenlight in part because of the popularity of shows like The X-Files and, more generally, that mid-to-late 1990s mainstreaming of conspiracy theory culture.

But D. Curtis Johnson, J.H. Williams III, and Mick Gray made the comic not only about sharp, well-defined characters, but also about relatively pragmatic and interesting situations that didn’t rely on a borrowed sci-fi subgenre or short-term, in-the-moment plotting.

This series was so much smarter than it needed to be, the best sort of labor of love: one that gets the best work possible out of its creators.

This series is notable for totally stealing the “Acro-Bat” concept that I invented in fourth grade for *my* Batman ripoff character. Curse you, Johnsonnnnnnnnnn!

Williams III’s art was great back in the day. Too bad it didn’t last, but then again, if it did, we might not have had Promethea, Desolation Jones (first arc), Detective Comics: Batwoman today.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 11, 2010 at 11:56 am

@ Bill Reed: True, but you can at least still sue your Jewish Batman ripoff, Sha-Bat.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm

use, not sue. Or not.

Wish I’d been able to pick up the series back in the day. Only got into Chase via her appearances in John Ostrander’s “Martian Manhunter”, which itself is a fantastic comic I hope makes this feature (criminally under-looked and seemingly retconned out).

Loved how J’onn and Chase finally deal with Doctor Trapp’s in that series. Absolutely fabulous character.

Ha, never trust a man with two first names. I guess Marvel’s trope was alliteration, and DC’s was two first names…

Well I am happy with the recognition for Chase. This book was ahead of its time and I have no doubt that if it was released today, Chase would be on everyone’s must read lists for strong storytelling and character work.

ESPECIALLY when she found out who her boss was….

The “Quest for Batman” book is an all time classic and..and.. now I have an urge to plunge inside my longboxes…lol

Do I lose some comic fan cred for not noticing the two first names thing? Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Alan Scott, Barry Allen, John Stewart, Ronald Raymond… though, that’s all I can come up with now.

I discovered this book with issue #8 or 9, and immediately picked up all the back issues. Then I discovered it had just been canceled.

Around the same time, I discovered Chronos, picked up all the back issues…and discovered that had just been canceled as well. Maybe a month or two later. Both of them ended right around DC One Million, and both of them were great series that ended way too soon.

My memory is a little fuzzy, but I thought both Chase and Chronos were supposed to be canceled around the same time. They ended up keeping Chronos because Archie Goodwin had recently passed away and it was one of the last projects he edited. However the book ended because the writer, John Francis Moore, ended up leaving the book. It’s too bad that both these books were so good yet only lasted a year.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Indeed, Kelson, both Chase and Chronos ended with their gimmick-numbered One Million issues. It wasn’t the first time DC used a crossover to close out a title: Underworld Unleashed tie-ins made up the final issues of the earlier series Primal Force and the late-1990s incarnation of Manhunter.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 11, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I only got the first two issues of this one (I was a poor highschool student, not much of a DC man, and soon out of comics altogehter for a couple of years), but one things stuck with me that I’ve never been sure about – in the first issue of the series, at the DEO office when Chase first arrives there, Martian Manhunter is in the background, standing next to a female Martian (well, someone who looks like him but is a woman)…
Who the heck was that?

With Williams being such a famous artist nowadays, DC might actually be able to sell enough Chase TPBs for it to be worth their while to put them out! I hope they do some day!

It’s a crime it hasn’t been!

It’s too bad that both these books were so good yet only lasted a year.

DC did a whole heap of books where they basically threw things at the wall to see what stuck.

Not a lot, but there sure were some interesting books.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm

This book was ahead of its time and I have no doubt that if it was released today, Chase would be on everyone’s must read lists for strong storytelling and character work.

And people would finally stop thinking that Manhunter and Alias were the best books with female characters ever.

Young Heroes in Love also ended with issue 1 Million.

I loved Chase and Young Heroes in Love. Chronos never really did it for me – or lived up to its initial promise.

Creeper ended with issue 1 Million too. Man, lot’s o’ casualties with that crossover!

Heath Rosenbaum

January 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

Maybe someone mentioned it above. Maybe not. Chase also appeared (written by Johnson) in about every Secret Files and Origins at the turn of the century. This included Flash, DCU Heroes, DCU Villains, Guide to the DCU, Young Justice: Sins of Youth, JSA, Joker: Last Laugh, JLA/JSA, and even Batgirl.

There was a continuing story about a traitor at the DEO. It was nice to get some Chase in the package. These stories made up for the often irrelevant lead features.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

It makes sense to me, really — if you’re book’s being canceled, a crossover that lets you cheekily claim to have reached issue #1,000,000 seems like a good way to go.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 12, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Chronos never really did it for me – or lived up to its initial promise.

I liked it, but agree – heck, I’d go further, it never lived up to the promise of the first half of #1.
I was captivated when you had the 40(?) year old Chronos watching the Beatles and then wandering about,meeting up with that girl who he was a rival with – and they were ex-loves of each others life – and the part with city of time and him as an old man watching him as a middle aged man watch him as a youth….

Then it cut to him at student age and did his origin… and then the next few issues were his first adventure through time – which would have been fine, but it never got back to the multiple versions of him at different ages and such, which I’d found really compelling.
(Heck, the first half of the first issue made me think I’d found the new Starman).

I thought it was a fun series, but it could have been a great series.

My problem was two-fold. The early suggestion was that this would be a character who walks the like between good-guy and villain, yet what we actually got was one of the wettest goody goody characters I’ve ever seen.

Also, I love time travel stories and all the possibilities they present. Frank Millers’s Robocop vs Terminator, Back to the Future, The Butterfly Effect and even Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure all showed the kind of fun which can be had with time travel, yet this series squandered those possibilities. IIRC it just started to make decent use of them in the final arc before it was cancelled.

It didn’t help that the art was decidedly mediocre too (though as Animal Man shows that’s not a complete deal breaker on its own)

That should be “walks the line”

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