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.