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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Strange Sports Stories 1 - Strange Sports Stories begins with baseball against the devil, and learning bowling from dwarves

Strange Sports Stories, which had had a run in Brave and the Bold back in the early 60s, and then been the theme of a handful of DC Special reprint issues, finally launches as a book of its own with the Sept/Oct 73 issue. Each issue of the series would contain two stories (three in issue 2) with the cover image split between them. Nick Cardy does the cover for the debut issue.

The lead story is by Frank Robbins, Curt Swan and Dick Giordano, and deals with the manager of a baseball team. While the entire team is flying to their next game, their plane hits turbulence and starts to go down. The Devil shows up, and offers to save the plane if the team will play baseball against him. He is clearly really desperate for a game.

The manager agrees, and the Devil lands the plane in what is presumably Hell, but which looks like a baseball stadium. He provides crowds and umpires, but plays all the positions on his one man team. Despite this, he keeps the real team from being able to make a run. The story uses the technique that Infantino had used on his Strange Sports Stories back in the 60s, making use of silhouettes. It's still a nice effect.

The manager notices that, despite the powers the Devil is using, he, and the umpires, play strictly according to the rule book. He takes advantage of this, and the Devil's tail, for the climax of the story. They intentionally walk the Devil to first base, and he is not able to be in two places at once, to return to bat again. The Devil tries to get taken out, but they keep his tail on the base, so he winds up forfeiting the game. It does make sense, but it's a really complicated twist.

The second story, by Robbins, Swan and Bob Oskner, is far simpler. It deals with a descendant of Rip Van Winkle who sucks at bowling.

He gets lost in the woods, and winds up running into the same dwarves that his ancestor did. They teach him how to bowl perfectly, but warn him against showing off and trying to bowl a perfect game.

Of course, once the boy returns to the city that is exactly what he tries to do, getting all proud and showing off in front of the girl he likes. So one of the dwarves shows up and ruins his final frame.

As there are no hosts or recurring characters or such, I will just be jumping ahead to final issue of this book, unless I find a story that absolutely demands I cover it.

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