I know it’s October and I should be finishing up the Wally Wood EC book I started or the volumes of Creepy and Eerie Archives I got from the library, but I just couldn’t resist reading this pair of books from the library. So let’s jump right in! Continue reading World’s Finest Trade Post: Lois, Clark & Robo-Batman
I found myself with another pile of trades from the library recently and figured I’d write about all four of them. Two of the experiences were great, the others? Not so much. Let’s start with the good!
I’m a big proponent of anthologies in comics. At their best, they’re a great way to both test new talent and also give those with a lot more experience the chance to write or draw a character they don’t otherwise get to spend much time with. Sensation Comics Volume 1 does both and to great effect. This is one of DC’s digital-first books that allows creators to just go wild telling whatever kind of Wonder Woman story they want to from any of her many eras. It was nice to see the pre-New 52 costume so many times for this fan of that bygone era! Continue reading DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others
Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44
While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.
The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!
The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).
This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.
Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.
Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.
There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!
Director and documentarian Jon Schnepp asked the question many of us have been wondering since the 90s: What happened to Tim Burton’s Superman Lives? Back then, word got out that the Batman Returns helmer would put his stamp on the Man of Steel with star Nicolas Cage. Most of us didn’t hear much else aside from the film’s eventual demise, Kevin Smith’s recollection of writing the film’s first draft and later design images that would find their way online. Enter The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened?
As the film got rolling producer Jon Peters hired a slew of people to work on the project. Smith and two other screenwriters worked on the script, Burton invested himself in the story and a variety of costume designers and artists started working on the ever-changing visual elements.
But, even with so many people working hard on the film, it ultimately fell apart. The doc doesn’t necessarily place the blame on any one individual person involved, though its hard not to put Peters’ name up there with some of the chicanery he pulled. Ultimately, though, the answer to the question posed in the title comes down to some simple facts: Burton’s weird vision made the studio nervous. That same vision also would have cost a bunch of money to bring to life and the studio eventually decided to go another direction that lead to Superman Returns.
Even so, this doc isn’t really about why Superman Lives didn’t get made, it’s about all the work that went into it while the creative people involved thought they were making it. Everyone from Peters and Smith to Burton and costume designer Colleen Atwood. It’s fascinating to see how they all attempted to bring each others’ visions to life and maybe a little tragic that it was all for nothing. Except, it’s not really for nothing because this public record of their work now exists. I think that might be the great thing about this era of “why didn’t it get made” documentaries. They take something that a lot of people put a lot of effort into and bring it to your attention, even if it’s not in the originally intended way. With that in mind, I’m even more excited about eventually seeing Doomed and the one about George Miller’s Justice League movie.
For all the effort he put into the film, I give Schnepp huge buckets of kudos. Cage is the only major player who did get interviewed for this thing, but he still shows up thanks to some filmed segments of him trying on the costumes with Atwood and Burton. Those clips really bring the whole thing together because the represent the in-the-moment as opposed to the looking-back. I’m not personally a fan of the animated sequences in the film and think it’s super awkward for the interviewer to be on camera nodding when the subject is answering questions, but altogether I can’t recommend this movie enough for anyone who’s ever been even remotely interested in Superman Lives or the process that goes into making these big, blockbuster superhero films.
Superman: Secret Origin (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Gary Frank
Collects Superman: Secret Origin #1-6
When I started reading Superman comics, the character was about six years out from his post-Crisis reboot which de-powered him a bit and made a conscientious effort to make him the last Kryptonian (hence a clone Superboy and extra-dimensional shape-shifting Supergirl). Another major tenet of those days was that Superman because Superman as an adult. This was the Superman I knew, though I also understood that the Golden and Silver Age were jam packed with elements that didn’t fit into that rubric. I try my best to keep an open mind for Superman stories that don’t fit into that mold, but sometimes they throw me for a loop. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem with Geoff Johns’ retelling of the Man of Steel’s life in Secret Origin.
Johns worked with the amazing Gary Frank on this miniseries after they teamed up on Action Comics a few times. Essentially, this is the definitive origin story for the post-Infinite Crisis DCU which has since gone the way of those aforementioned older ages. Still, there’s plenty of Superman-fueled goodness in here for people to dig into.
The first issue is set in Clark’s earlier days when his parents reveal his alien origins to him. He’s mad about the whole thing, but still uses his abilities to help people when he can. We also find that Lex Luthor grew up in Smallville too and even encountered Clark. My favorite part? Young Clark doesn’t like the Superboy costume his mom made him, which makes perfect sense when you think of a modern teenager running around with his underwear on the outside. In the next issue, Clark heads to the future to hang out with the Legion. I wish Frank could draw a thousand issues of Legion comics, I really do, he’s perfect for them.
The last four issues follow Clark as he gets to Metropolis and working at the Daily Planet while also revealing himself to be a hero. One of the interesting things that Johns does in this book is take some of the classic elements and making them make sense in more modern times. The costume thing is part of that, but so is the fact that the Daily Planet is still a paper that exists (instead of all the ones that have closed down in the past decade). For my money, that’s one of Johns’ strongest talents, integrating old craziness and making it work even in a world where aliens come to Earth and save the day all the time. I even like what he did with Metallo and Parasite, though I’m not a fan of the former’s design this time around (you can’t like everything, right?).
So, no, this isn’t MY Superman (everyone has their own) but it still tells a great Superman story that’s not unrecognizable. One of the problems I’ve had trying to read the New 52 Superman books is that he just doesn’t seem like Superman to me. This is still on point and fits in with what I like about the character: he’s the ultimate orphan who still wants to fight for his larger family, humanity.
Superman: Secret Identity (DC)
Written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Stuart Immonen
Collects Superman: Secret Identity #1-4
Superman: Secret Identity is one of those books that everyone loves and I just never got around to reading. I actually have the last three issues in a box out in the garage, but wasn’t going to fully skip the first issue. Luckily, the library had a copy, so I dove in right after Secret Origins.
This story by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen is actually about a person named Clark Kent who’s in a version of our world. His parents named him that as a joke because everyone knows about the comic book and pop culture icon. But, after a mysterious meteor hits nearby, Clark gets Superman-like powers and starts experiencing some of the fictional hero’s ups and downs.
In a way, this book reminds me of Paul Cornell’s Action Comics story “The Black Ring” in that you find yourself learning about Superman by comparing him to the character you find yourself reading. This version of Clark follows some of the fictional version’s path, but he also finds himself living in a simpler world than the one in the comics, but still one filled with a certain amount of danger for him and his eventual family. He also deals with concepts like secret identities in ways that feel more realistic than some of the ways they are dealt with in ongoing comic book series’ that not only try to keep things interesting year in and year out, but also come from a variety of different minds and voices.
As it is, Secret Identity is a wonderful take on Superman from two very distinct, but complimentary voices in Busiek and Immonen. I was familiar with the artist’s work on books like Adventures Of Superman, but here he keeps his figures smaller and more realistic, while playing more with darkness and shadows than I remember him doing in the the mainstream superhero work. Together he and Busiek nail that real-person-dealing-with-the-unreal idea that the writer has become famous for in his comic book career.
Boy oh boy do I have a lot of Superman trades lying around waiting to be read. I figured I’d do something about it and made my way through this batch here starting with Superman Vs. Mongul which collects stories from DC Comics Presents #27, 28, 36, 43 as well as “For The Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11.
As a longtime, albeit post-Crisis fan of Superman’s I thought I knew all about Mongul, the villain planted the Black Mercy on Supes and later teamed with Cyborg to destroy Coast City. It turns out Mongul actually had several appearances before that written and drawn by the likes of Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Paul Levitz and Curt Swan.
The opening two-parter finds Mongul blackmailing Superman into getting him the key to Warworld from Martian Manhunter (who’s hanging out on a planet called New Mars apparently). From there he teams up with Supergirl to stop Mongul which works pretty well until he appears again a few months later. This time, Supes partners with the Starman of space to fight off the yellow madman. The third DCP story then teams Supes with the Legion to fight Mongul delightfully drawn by Swan, the man born to draw Silver Age Superman and his pals. Fun fact: Mongul has a strange ability to shrink people and put them in clear boxes that he uses in every one of these appearances.
I actually didn’t read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “For The Man…” this time around because I can only take so many “he’s living in a fake reality!” stories and am no stranger to this one specifically. However, if you’re looking for another reason to buy this trade, that might push you over the edge.
Reading Superman Vs. Mongul reminded me that I also had a copy of DC Universe Special: Superman #1 which actually features all Mongul stories. This book came out in 2008 which the big yellow bastard was a big time player in the Green Lantern books and, much to my surprise (especially given the re-use of its rad Ryan Sook cover for the above collection) has no overlap with the SVM book.
This reprint floppy includes a story from Superman #32 by Roger Stern and Kerry Gammill, the two part Showcase ’95 tale by Peter J. Tomasi and Scot Eaton and an appearance in Flash #102 by Mark Waid, Micahel Jan Friedman and Oscar Jimenez. The first is part of Superman’s time away from Earth where he had amnesia and fought on Warworld, the second shows what happens when a prison tries to mess with Mongul’s memory and the third pits Wally West against the villain. I’m actually a big fan of the Showcase story and am pretty sure it’s not collected anywhere else, so for that alone, this one’s worth the price of admission. As an added bonus, Tomasi wrote many of the Mongul issues of the Green Lantern saga.
I also made my way through Superman: The Power Within, an odd little collection that brings together the Superman strips from when Action Comics went weekly (#601-641 to be exact) and the three part story, “The Sinbad Contract” from Action #658, Superman #48 and Adventures #471.
The former, written by Roger Stern and drawn by Superman legend Curt Swan, is a series of two page spreads told in the style of comic strips with a good deal of recap. I’m sure that helped readers pick up on details they would have otherwise missed reading the weekly adventures, but it can make the all-at-once reading experience a bit slow. The story itself revolves around a guy named Bob Galt who’s part of a Superman god cult and a group that thinks he’s the anti-Christ known as the Consortium. Ultimately there’s a big villain reveal that I didn’t see coming, but it would have been nice to see Superman and said bad guy square off a bit more (as it is, the villain’s only in three strips).
Swan also penciled the “Sinbad” story which was penned by Bill Messner-Loebs. This one’s about a pair of Muslim siblings who wind up with a special power belt that belongs to Lex Luthor. While much of it is about the boy and his older sister trying to figure out what to do with the newfound power, the three-parter also heavily deals with the idea of anti-Muslim sentiment and how it can be used as a weapon more powerful than the aforementioned belt.
As a big Superman fan, I will be keeping all three of these books in my collection. I’ve gotten much better at letting go of trades and donating them to the library, but I have a much harder time doing that with pre-New 52 Superman trades. There’s just so much greatness in this character that I want to hang on to these books to flip back and watch him defeat Mongul again or deal with problems a lot more complicated than bank robberies or alien invasions.
Even with all the Halloween-related work I had going on this season — which included healthy doses of Warren’s Eerie comics and Marvel scare books — I still had some time to read a few other things leading up to the big day. I’ll hit these up in a quick hits fashion, but still wanted to call out a few fun aspects of each book. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Trade Pile