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So I have to say I was pretty amused by this week’s preview booklet for DC’s “Young Animal” imprint. As you can see by the cover, it apes the look of DC’s Who’s Who series, down to including Who’s Who-style entries for some of the characters in the first few pages. The rest of the pages are filled with art samples from the forthcoming titles. Mostly I’m impressed by the “lo-fi” nature of the preview, a black and white digest-sized pamphlet that stands out in this age of full-color sampler comics and full-size first-look magazines, selling ideas, not production values. An interesting statement on the aesthetic of this line, I think.
What’s interesting about the Superman titles during DC’s “Rebirth” initiative is that, all things considered, people shouldn’t like them. This is about as convoluted a set-up as you can have for a Superman franchise, involving parallel universes and whatnot, and oh Superman and Lois have a son, too…but ultimately people are interested. It’s a combination of “here’s something sorta new with the character” and “this isn’t the New 52 version of Superman you didn’t like, but the one that’s been around since the 1980s Byrne revamp, more or less.” The hooks for the two series have been engaging (with Action focusing on the maybe-redemption arc for Lex Luthor and the mystery of the Other Clark Kent, and Superman focusing on the Supes/Lois/Jon family dynamic).
I generally prefer Action, and at first I wasn’t entirely thrilled with this week’s issue of Superman…there’s a whole lot of fighting with the Eradictor, and not a whole lot else…but it does provide the next step is Jon’s evolution as the Son of Superman, and that does leave me wanting to see more. Which, of course, I’ll eventually be getting in the forthcoming Super Sons book, co-starring Damian Wayne…which makes me wonder. Did DC’s relative success in giving Batman a biological son pave the way for DC doing the same for Superman? But then, a father/son dynamic has been present in the Batman comics for decades…it’s just now the son is actually his son, not a ward or an adoptee, so there’s not really any change in that dynamic.
I guess in the Superman franchise, Supergirl sort of filled the role of the mentored youngster, but that’s not really the same as “Superman has a child.” He’s not even really had any kind of established Robin-esque sidekick like Batman, despite Supergirl’s occasional guest appearances. So, while Batman having a son didn’t really affect the franchise, giving Superman a son does alter things from the established model quite a bit. (It strikes me, sometimes, how lonely Superman seems to be in the pre-Crisis days…going to the empty Kent home, keeping his double life secret from his friends, even separated from Kandor in either its shrunken city or on-an-interdimensional-planetoid forms.)
Anyway, this is just a lot of meandering about a current plot development that will likely go away in whatever big shakeup the whole “Rebirth” thing is eventually leading to. The current story of “Parallel Universe Superman” will probably be wrapped up sooner rather than later, and whatever permutations that make this Superman differ from the Official Licenseable Version will be sanded away. But in the meantime, the Superman books have made for intriguing reading, if only for exploring how flexible the franchise is after nearly eight decades of existence.
So here’s a Superman comic that I bought off the stands way back in 1983. That’s a scan of the actual comic, straight out of my collection, up there. There’s nothing particularly of-note about it, as individual issues go. It’s not a key issue, no first appearances (aside from Superman’s “brother,”
whom I believe is never seen again), not particularly scarce by any means. Just your plain ol’ Superman comic, with a dime-a-dozen Gil Kane cover, and yet another art job, the latest in a string of hundreds of assignments on the character, from Curt Swan. Another story by Cary Bates (plot only this time, scripted by Paul Kupperberg).
So, you know, nothing special…
…we thought at the time.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to wander into a local newsstand (or even my own store, though that dispels the nostalgia somewhat) and be able to pick up a new Superman comic, with another wonderful Gil Kane cover like the one above, with more beautiful Curt Swan art, written by either Cary Bates or Paul Kupperberg…or, you know, both. Or with Kurt Schaffenberger art. Or with Elliot S! Maggin scripts.
Or…well, you get the idea. The Superman comics were always just sort of there, but looking back at them today, knowing that exact style of Superman comic will likely never return…well, they all seem a little more special now.
Even the ones where Superman meets a brother he didn’t know he had. No, really. And his brother’s a secret agent! It’s all pretty awesome.
EDIT: See the comments for more comic book appearances of Superman’s brother.
Due to popular demand (and because I should have mentioned it in my Curt Swan post myself), here’s a beautiful example of the Swan/George Klein art combo featuring Superman and his friends from Action Comics #309 (February 1964):
For more on this issue (including more representative panels) I direct you to this previous post
of mine, as well as this one
So the latest Question of the Week over at Trouble with Comics was about our favorite penciller/inker teams, and…well, I won’t play coy and say “you gotta go there to find out my choice” since I’m going to post a scan of their work right here, but you should go and read what we all had to say, anyway. I get a bit…florid in talking about my pick, but it’s borne of enthusiasm for the work, what can I say.
I did send a scan along with my entry just to show what I was talking about, but it was a tad large, and may have disrupted the flow of the article. However, I don’t care whether or not anything I do here interrupts any kind of flow, so here’s the pic from Superman #247 (January 1972) by Elliot S! Maggin, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson:
Just look how torn Superman is in that second panel. That’s a man about to make a decision he doesn’t want to make. But you can read more about what I think about Swan and Anderson’s artistic teamwork right here
Swan has been paired up with a few interesting inkers: Al Williamson over Swan sometimes mostly just looked like a full Williamson art job, but it was still an odd if enjoyable combo that echoed Anderson’s work in the facial expression department, like in this example from Superman #416 (February 1986):
A Twitter pal brought up George Perez’s inking of Swan in the first half of Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” story (Superman #423, September 1986) which brought a slick richness to the art:
And I’ve mentioned in the past Kurt Schaffenberger’s inking over Swan, though the primary example is, as I mentioned at that link, too obscured by the terrible printing. But the other half of that Moore story, from Action #583 (September 1986), we get a better look at Kurt’s smooth, expressive lines over Curt’s pencils:
And then of course, there’s Curt Swan inking Curt Swan (in more ways than one!), from Superman Annual #9 (1983):
Man, Swan was always the best, and that he was almost always paired with wonderful collaborators couldn’t help but make his work shine. There’s a big Curt Swan-sized hole in the comics artform ever since his passing, but thank goodness there’s just so much of work left behind that we can still enjoy.
So anyway, there’s Jimmy Olsen with two members of the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club at their campsite out in the woods, about to sit down and have breakfast, when suddenly Brainiac strikes! One thing leads to another, with Brainiac wreaking havoc with his Enlarging Ray, and ultimately Brainiac is defeated, and Jimmy’s got hold of said Enlarging Ray. Meanwhile, Superman is at the bottom of a steep hill, his life endangered by a giant piece of Kryptonite! (Which used to be a small piece of Kryptonite, until Brainiac enlarged it, and, well, there you go.)
Jimmy is stuck about how to help Superman, because he and his pals can’t climb down the hill due to being bitten on the legs by giant fireants (the Enlarging Ray, again), until inspiration strikes!
After the guys rescue Superman (by enlarging a giant lead tackle between Superman and the Kryptonite, thus depleting the Enlarging Gun of all its juice, so too bad, Bottle City of Kandor), Supes asks “what the hell were those giant tire-things you rode down in?” if I may paraphrase slightly. Jimmy thus ends the story with a blatant bit of product placement that beats out Superman: The Movie
by about a decade:
I did a little Googling research, and all I can turn up was that Superman was licensed to Kellogg’s
in the 1950s for Frosted Flakes, and that DC didn’t team up to produce comics with General Mills (makers of Cheerios) ’til 2011
. Granted, “licensed characters on cereal boxes in the 1960s” is not my particular field of expertise, so I could very well be missing something, but it looks like Cheerios was just used as the punchline for this particular story, no deals attached…unless there’s some kind of backroom deal we didn’t know about, or DC Editorial was fishing for some free boxes of cereal. “Thanks for featuring our product…have this truckload of Cheerios on us!”
If someone has any additional background on just what was going on here, or if it simply was “we’ve got a funny gag involving Cheerios,” let me in on it please!
from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #116 (December 1968) by Otto Binder, E. Nelson Bridwell and Pete Constanza
1. That’s some typesetting.
2. The Pope story is so big, they featured it twice. Unless the Pope is going somewhere after he goes to Zimbabwe, since the destination is cut off in that second article.
3. Well, that’s an unfortunate date. …Even the most innocuous of usage sticks out like a sore thumb now.
4. Honestly, that typesetting. But I’m grateful to this newfangled Digital Versatile Disc technology allowing us to freeze on frames like these for such important projects as, say, looking for injokes or poking some gentle fun.
still from “Superman and Wonder Woman vs. the Sorceress of Time” (1988)
So it occurred to me a few days ago, in regards to all my griping about the order in which this “Truth” storyline in the Superman books is playing out, that what we’re getting in the forthcoming Superman #41 (the issue readers were referred to in Action #41, the actual first part of “Truth” to hit the stands) is backstory intentionally deferred until after the in media res chapters we’ve already seen. And now that I’ve seen the issue, that’s more or less what happened, though, well…here’s what the original solicitation says for Superman #41:
“The epic new storyline ‘TRUTH’ continues with the debut of the amazing new creative team of new writer Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and continuing artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson! What will happen when the big secret is revealed?”
Okay, the storyline continues, so I was wrong about this issue being delayed and thus “the first chapter” of this storyline being skipped with following chapters being released. The egg is in my face, as the saying goes. “The big secret is revealed” in a way, though not how we expected, in that someone knows, but it’s not the big “here’s how the world found out!” reveal everyone was assuming would happen in this issue. And you know what they say about assuming…it makes an “ass” out of “you,” and, um, somebody else, I think…slips my mind at the moment.
The editorial aside to Superman’s reference in Action #41 to having a couple of “crazy weeks,” asking readers to see the then-forthcoming Superman #41 for details, certainly gave me the impression that this would be the issue where the secret I.D. hits the fan, but I was wrong again. Instead, it looks like this will be the book where it catches us up on what happened, while the other Super-books give us the “current” adventures. Don’t know if my previous assumptions were from misdirection or outright being misled, but I’ve been enjoying this particular direction of the franchise so far, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.
I am curious, plotwise, how they’re going to get this particular genie back in the bottle without “magic” or “Brainiac wipes everyone’s memory” or some other similarly cheaty fashion. I know the general meandering direction of the genre has been kinda/sorta away from the secret identity concept, but it still holds firm in some parts. I doubt Superman, the archetypal example of this particular trope, will be left without his Clark Kent for long, but it’s interesting in the meantime.
from DC Comics Presents #53 (“Superman in the House of Mystery,” January 1983) by Dan Mishkin, Curt Swan and Tony DeZuniga
Now here’s a thing I’ve not seen before:
This is copy of the Marvel Milestone reprint of the original Hulk #1
, sealed in a polybag promoting the 1994 Incredible Hulk video game
. Sealed inside the polybag is a smaller pack of…something, sealed within its own cellophane wrapper:
It appears to be a stack of three or four large-ish trading cards, or perhaps stickers, but it’s hard to say.
I’ve never seen this comic packaged like this before, but I wasn’t frequenting video game stores or even video game sections of toy and department stores, so it’s easy to believe that I missed it. What is odd is that I haven’t come across these in any collections in the ensuing 20+ years until this past week. But then again, I hadn’t seen one of these ’til this past week either, so there are still plenty of surprises out there for me.
Anyway, if any of you folks out there have bought and opened one of these wrapped Hulk comics, please let me know if those are trading cards or something else in that little package there. Thanks!
• • •
Commenter reaction to the Superman
cover scan I posted yesterday
was fairly unanimous in their negative responses to John Romita Jr.’s drawing. And…yeah, that’s not a great cover. Things look significantly better within the actual book, honest. I generally like JRJR’s art, though, as I believe I’ve stated on this site before, it’s a rarity for his art to be on a project I have any interest in reading. In fact, it’s been quite a while
. On Superman
he and Geoff Johns been doing fun work, bringing some life to a franchise that had been mostly ill-served by DC’s linewide revamping…though, as I’d said, Superman comics as a whole have been improving of late. We can probably stand to have one or two fewer Superman comics on the shelves, maybe, but what can you do.
SPOILERS for Superman #38 to follow:
So this issue contained two big events in the history of the Man of Steel: first, the acquisition, or, rather, revelation of a new power (the ability of expel all the solar radiation in his cells at once, creating a big explosion and hopefully not giving everyone in the immediate area cancer), and second, finally revealing to his best pal Jimmy Olsen that he and Clark Kent are one and the same.
I’m okay with both of these things, which I’m sure the powers-that-be at DC are relieved to hear. When I first heard “new power,” I figured it’d be some crazy thing that’d be around for a couple of issues until plot machinations or creative team forgetfulness/disdain did away with it. I mean, they still might, but it’s nice that the new power is explained as a natural extension of how we understand Superman’s powers to work. Plus, it has that Space Battleship Yamato/”wave motion gun” effect of Superman only getting one shot at using it before having to wait a day for his “solar batteries” and superpowers to recharge. (It also reminds me a little of the nova blast power of the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch.)
And regarding Jimmy…well, there’s not a lot to say about that other than it’s sort of about time. The issue’s been brought up before, as I recall, particularly in the Silver Age, where Jimmy would say something along the lines of “it’s best I don’t know Superman’s secret identity, so that his enemies don’t use me to get to him!” Again, it’s a change that can be undone in short order, but I’m looking forward to seeing the repercussions of Jimmy sort of taking the position of “normal person confidant” that Lois held in the pre-New 52 universe.
Now, I said I’m “okay” with this, but…well, this is kind of the weird aspect to it, in that I’m sort of not “feeling” the full impact of these changes. This New 52 Superman still doesn’t quite feel like the “real” Superman to me, which is a completely ridiculous thing to think about a comic book character, but there it is. Of course, then you have to ask, well, who is the real Superman, and there’s no good answer to that, either. Superman’s undergone enough changes/soft reboots/full-on reboots over the years: the Golden Age Superman certainly feels different in tone from the Silver Age Superman, and 1970s/early ’80s Superman is a different animal from the previous versions, and the the post-Crisis John Byrne start-from-scratch reboot is a whole other hoohar altogether.
But the thing about all those Supermen is that you can sort of feel a connecting thread through them all, that they were all drawing from the same essence-of-Superman well. Even the Byrne relaunch, though perhaps a bit on the rough side at first, eventually came ’round to feeling more Superman-ish, though perhaps that’s more due to 25+ years of dozens (hundreds?) of creators churning out lots of Superman material that, averaged out, gave us a recognizable modern Superman that outgrew his ’86 reboot.
The New 52 Superman seemed to break that thread, likely due to a seeming lack of a plan aside from “do something different,” giving us a character that sort of looked like Superman but didn’t really feel like him or act like him, and, aside from Grant Morrison’s entertaining efforts in early issues of Action Comics, didn’t really have much of interest going on in any of his comic book appearances. Of late, that’s changed for the better, as recent Superman-starring titles have had a reasonable increase in quality, and have gone a long way in rehabilitating Superman’s character in that he now sort of feels like the Superman we remember.
That said, this version of Superman (the New 52 version, which itself seems to have have a number of different sub-versions since the 2011 relaunch) doesn’t feel like he’s been around long enough yet for These Big Changes to have the impact they should have. There’s too significant a break between Superman Now and Superman That Has Come Before for these changes to feel like additions to the legend. Right now they just feel like “here’s something else different that we’re experimenting with for this Superman-like character we’re publishing while the real Superman is on hiatus.”
Totally not a fair thing to think, and honestly, I have been enjoying the Superman comics of late, and I do look forward to seeing how they’ll follow up…but man, what I wouldn’t give to have seen the Curt Swan-drawn Superman telling Jimmy he’s Clark Kent, and having it stick as part of the ongoing saga, and not as a dream, hoax, or imaginary story.
Oh, and there’s a third change to Superman, in that his New 52 costume is now mildly less terrible, though it still has that awful collar and there’s no forgiveness for that.
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