The Midnight Comic Club Episode 1 – Super Scares!

Welcome to the first meeting of The Midnight Comic Club! A few months ago, I got an idea that just would not leave me alone: a podcast about horror comics. There are plenty of shows about horror and many about comics, but this cross-section seamed relatively uncovered. It’s time to fire up those flashlights and read some creepy comics!

This first episode focuses on some of my favorite Superman-related horror stories that I read not long after getting into comics in 1992. I cover everything from hugely popular stories like the Death of Superman to smaller, but still-hard-hitting tales like the sad story of Adam Grant.

Here’s  a series of Comixology links to some of the issues featured in the episode including The Death Of Superman and Adventures Of Superman #500, Superman #84, 85 and Action Comics #865. Superman Annual #7 doesn’t seem to be on there, but Action #692 is. You can check out DC Comics Presents #85 as a single issue or just go for the DC Universe By Alan Moore. I’m not seeing Adventures Of Superman Annual #6, Superboy Annual #1 or Action Annual #1 as digital issues, but the last one can be found in the Dark Knight Over Metropolis and Man Of Steel Volume 6 collections.  Finally, if you’re interested in Emperor Joker, here’s the trade. If you REALLY want to get your hands on the unlinked-to issues, has them: Superman Annual #7, Adventures of Superman Annual #6 and Superboy Annual #1 (scroll on down til you see them, they’re only $1.70 each!).

If you have any questions or want to suggest topics for future shows, hit me up in the comments! Also, if you like the show, tell your friends and head on over to Apple and rate the podcast!

World’s Finest Trade Post: Batman Adventures & Adventures Of Superman

the batman adventures vol 1 The Batman Adventures Vol. 1 (DC)
Written by Kelley Puckett & Martin Pasko, drawn by Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Brad Rader & Mike Parobeck
Collects The Batman Adventures #1-10

In a recent post over on my dad blog, I reviewed the delightful Batman ’66 Volume 1, a series set in the same universe as the 1960s Adam West TV series. I noted that the series would be a pretty great place to start if you were looking to give younger kids a good jumping on point for Batman. While it does have a good deal of crime, it’s very much in-line with the tone of the TV series which means its lighthearted, fun and also very funny.

I’m always looking for comics that I can read to my daughter when and if she’s interested in going down that route, so when I was at the library, I also picked up the first volume of The Batman Adventures which was amazing, but not something I’ll be passing along to my kiddo at this point. I wasn’t super surprised because the cartoon this is based on — Batman: The Animated Series — is also kind of dark.

That being said, though, these are still some pretty great Bat-comics that would be great for an older kid or anyone interested in checking out the Dark Knight’s comic book exploits. The series kicks off with an already-established version of Batman running around Gotham putting a stop to hooligans like Penguin, Catwoman, Joker and the rest. I appreciated that writer Kelley Puckett avoided the tired idea of going through Batman’s origin in the first issue. Everyone knows who Batman is and why he does what he does, it doesn’t need to be reiterated and isn’t. I also appreciated that, even though the first three issues can and do stand alone, they also work as an overarching drama that pits Bats against some of his greatest foes.

These 10 issues show exactly why Batman is the kind of character that people have been reading about and following for 75 years. He does whatever it takes to save people while also showing that he has a heart. While reading these issues ostensibly written for children, I found myself thrilled with Batman’s exploits, worrying about people and even feeling bad for bad guys like Killer Croc and Clayface. These delightful adventures are brought to life by a quartet of artists who do a killer job working within the style presented by the TV series. I’m actually a big fan of Mike Parobeck who drew four issues going back to the Justice Society Of America miniseries’ he worked on in the early 90s that introduced me to a team I’ve loved ever since. If you’re looking for a continuity-light, easy access series of Batman comics to read yourself or pass to an interested party, I can’t recommend this collection more!

adventures of superman vol 1Adventures of Superman Vol. 1 (DC)
Written & drawn by lots and lots of awesome folks.
Collects Adventures Of Superman #1-5

I’m also giving Adventures Of Superman Volume 1 a big thumb’s up. This is a series that appeared digitally first, then collected into single issues before being brought together into a trade. Unlike The Batman Adventures, this book is actually an anthology with a variety of killer writers and artists doing Superman stories from a continuity-free place that has no connection to existing media (ie, it’s not based on a TV show or cartoon).

The beauty of these stories is that they come from such a creative place. When it comes to a hero like Superman who has been around forever and is an important part of DC’s publishing plan, you can get to a place where the comics and stories feel artificially manufactured or even half-assed. But, because these are short stories brought to you by some of the best and brightest this industry has to offer, you can feel that — even if you don’t necessarily dig the tale — it came from a truly creative place.

AOS is also nice for people like me who have a long-standing love of Superman, but don’t care for what’s been done since DC restarted the continuity a few years ago. I’ve said that “my” versions of a lot of these characters aren’t being published anymore (but thankfully still exist in the 20 longboxes sitting in my garage), but many of the stories in this collection have that feel which is really nice.

If you’re a Superman fan who feels like your favorite hero is constantly written off as a Big Blue Boring Boy Scout, I’d say that Adventures Of Superman Volume 1 is the perfect book to hand to someone as proof that that is not the case. Yes, he’s a great hero, but he’s also a great character whose adventures I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading.

The Box: Venom Lethal Protector #3, Brave & The Bold #157 & Adventures Of Superman #473

To be completely honest, this installment of The Box is a bit of a cheat. First off, I read a pair of terrible comics I literally have nothing to say about. I won’t say what they were, but they were both mid 90s Image books that did nothing for me. I don’t want these posts to be completely negative and I also want to have some fun, so those books went right into the recycle bin. I also actually specifically purchased the latter two books at a flea market, so they’re not as random as the other picks, but we’ll get back to that next week, I’m sure. Did I succeed at picking out good comics for myself to read? You’ll have to read (or scroll) on down to find out.

The one random comic from this post is Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993) written by David Micheline and drawn by Mark Bagley. Venom’s not a character I’ve ever really been into, but there was always something a little cool and dangerous about seeing these comics in the pages of Wizard or on comic stands when I was looking for the books I wanted.

This issue really has all the components you’d expect from a 90s comic starring Venom. He cracks wise while beating up on bad guys wearing a LOT of armor. There’s actually a solid story underneath all that with a guy trying to get revenge on Venom for his dead son.

Overall, it’s a fine story. I think it’s hard to take a book with so many spikes and pouches seriously these days, but that was the mode of the day. On the other hand, though, Bagley’s art doesn’t look as jagged and crazy as a lot of the popular artists of the day. He is just a damn solid, classic style artist that looks rad no matter what he’s drawing. I won’t be keeping this comic nor will I be tracking down the rest of the issues, but it was a fun read for a few minutes and now I’m ready for the next thing.

I chose this comic for one simple reason: I wanted to see how Jack Kirby’s Last Boy On Earth found his way to Gotham to team-up or tussle with Batman. Brave And The Bold #157 (1979) was written by Bob Haney with Jim Aparo artwork and unfortunately, it’s pretty boring. The story revolves around a new super powered enforcer on the scene and Batman trying to figure it out. However, since we know that Kamandi’s in the issue and doesn’t show upfor a while it’s not much of a surprise that it’s him.

The worst part though is that the scenes between Kamandi and Batman just aren’t that fun or interesting, I just kept thinking about how much cooler this issue could have been or how rad the team-up between the two of them was on the wonderful animated version of this comic from a year or two back. It also sounds like the BATB issue where Batman goes to Kamandi’s time was a lot more interesting.

I think even if I wasn’t comparing this issue to those other stories that I wanted, I still would have hoped for less Batman-talking-to-people and more Kamandi-punching-people. I’m just simple like that, I guess.

It was neat seeing Aparo draw Kamandi, though.

I grabbed this issue of Adventures Of Superman #473 from 1990) because it’s not part of the wonderful Man Of Steel trade series, it has Green Lanterns in it and that Dan Jurgens cover sure looked neat!  Written and drawn by Jurgens, the issue was great looking, but it was the kind of story I’ve read before. Basically Hal Jordan’s being held captive by a giant alien who crashed and remained underground for many years. He sens out a distress signal for Superman who winds up teaming with Guy Gardner. Unfortunately, this is also the version of Guy that really grates on me: the asshole loudmouth who never shuts up. I’m more a fan of the confident, but layered version Beau Smith wrote in Guy Gardner: Warrior.

So, while the main story felt like something else I’d read (another Superman story? something with the Fantastic Four?) I was actually more interested in what was going on back at the Daily Planet because this was right after Lois and Clark got engaged the first time. I came to Superman a few years after this when he was killed, but a lot of what was going on in issues from this time were referred to when I came on and even well after Supes returned.

While I wasn’t really ennamored with this issue, I will hold on to it. I kind of want to fill all the post Crisis Superman holes that exist between the existing trades and when I started collecting. Just thinking about that makes me a bit sleepy.

Ad It Up: Post-Crisis Superman

I can only imagine how crazy the idea of Crisis On Infinite Earths must have seemed to fans in the late 80s. This series was designed to clean up continuity, freshen things up and start some things over from the beginning. Obviously, this is something that’s happened a number of times since then, but this was the first universe-wide reboot in the modern era. What stories would still matter? Which ones would be completely disregarded? Many of us are asking the same questions right now, but at least we understand the mechanics thanks to COIE.

As regular readers will know, I’m a big fans of DC’s Man Of Steel trades that have collected every post-Crisis Superman story up to a certain point in mostly chronological order (I’ve reviewed volumes 4 and 6), so I got kinda jazzed when I saw this ad in 1986’s Hex #17. I like to think that I would have been excited about all these new prospects were I a fan back then, but in reality, I’d probably be filled with a little apprehension, as well. If you’re looking for a less-powerful, more down to earth Superman who isn’t crying all the time, you can’t beat those MOS books.

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Adventures Of Superman Annual #4

I’ve picked up a lot of comics over the year. Some of them fit into larger collections I’m working on while others just strike my fancy at the time. Comics Comics Comics Comics will be a look at some of the more random books I’ve picked up here and there with a few scans/pics of favorite or funny moments from the issues. The first entry will be Adventures of Superman Annual #4 from 1992. It’s written by Robert Loren Fleming and drawn by Bob McLeod and seems to be the penultimate issue in the “Eclipso: The Darkness Within” event that was running through the annuals that year.

I have next to no experience with this Eclipso storyline, but as far as I can tell, the idea is that supervillain Eclipso has been possessing superheroes and villains (which he can only do when it’s dark) including Superman. Our big bad will apparently gain the powers of those he’s possessed once the impending lunar eclipse is complete making him pretty damn powerful.

This issue is mostly concerned with members of the Justice League, L.E.G.I.O.N. and a few Teen Titans (or were they just Titans then?) tracking the possessed Superman down and trying to un-possess Big Blue. I was actually a little surprised that there wasn’t a recap page, but I was able to follow things with context clues. However, I’m not sure why so many pages were spent showing various heroes trying to find Superman even after our heroes already figured it out. Maybe they were capping off elements from previous issues, who knows?

Booster Gold of all people figures out that EclipSupes is hiding out in a volcano during the day. The heroes show up only to be surprised by a newly minted Guy Gardner who recently quit the Green Lantern Corps, got his hands on a Sinestro ring and started running around in a “G” jacket, cowboy boots and jeans. I’m a big fan of Beau Smith’s run on Guy Gardner, but I’m not a fan of how Guy’s written in this issue, read: xenophobic and sexist. Guy’s not an easy character to get right, balancing the arrogance with the good heart, but Guy comes out pretty good in the end. Making him a complete ass is too easy and something a lot of writers tend to do with the character.

As the Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover boasted (and the reason I bought this issue) both Lobo and Guy take their turns fighting Superman and then getting smacked down by him. The plan is to explode the volcano and let the sunlight in thus curing Superman, but the volcano erupts which puts the villagers in danger. Also, it’s night, so the plan was an all-over failure. Earlier in the issue Vril Dox suggests that Guy go get some sun and bring it back, which he says no to, but then goes and does so, which winds up saving the day. With no fear for his personal safety, Guy douses Supes and then launches them both into the volcano. A no-longer-possessed Superman rises out holding Guy whose new ring apparently protects him even when he’s unconscious.

The end of the issues features a big part of Eclipso’s plan. He’s got the Will Payton Starman under his control, but made it look like Starman was being attacked by the other possessed heroes and villains. Taking the bait like super powered fish, the non-possessed heroes swoop in, save Starman and he tells them to go to the dark side of the moon, which they do. Before that, though, Superman asks Nightwing to help him find Dr. Bruce Gordon who is the Eclipso expert and used to share a body with him (or will share a body with him, like I said, I’m no Eclipso expert).

I’ve always loved the Superman/Dick Grayson dynamic, so seeing these two running around trying to solve a mystery for a few pages was very cool for me. Superman’s respect for Nightwing and Nightwing’s level of comfort with the hero everyone reveres is great. They’re checking out the labs of super geniuses like Will Magnus, Lex Luthor the Second, Emil Hamilton, Blue Beetle and more when Hawkman comes in to tell them about the moon. Nightwing goes off with him to help save the (apparently) possessed Titans and Superman gets drawn into a door of light.

Overall, I had a surprising amount of fun with this issue, it even made me want to check out a few more issues of “The Darkness Within,” at least Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2 which I believe ended the story. This issue would probably be hard for a reader unfamiliar with 90s DC comics to jump right into. Though I would start reading comics later in 1992, I still have no idea why Hawkman is wearing that red costume or what Black Canary was doing during this era (I assume she was still kicking around Green Arrow and don’t really remember her being in any of the Justice League books of the time), but if you’re at all familiar with comics, you know that random things like this change without having a lot of baring on the overall story. I’ve read Marvel books where Thor has a beard and Hulk’s wearing a tank top, but it doesn’t really effect how I read the story. I just use Wiki to find out what the deal was (I know why Thor had a beard and Hulk had a tank top, by the way, it was just an example). Putting this story into context with the upcoming Death of Superman story is interesting, especially seeing as how so many heroes–really powerful ones at that–had trouble taking Superman down. Makes Doomsday seem all the more powerful.