I could look at videos like this all day.

§ June 19th, 2024 § Filed under retailing § 3 Comments

Here is a 1970 news piece on the Canadian comic shop Memory Lane, run by George Henderson:

1. George Henderson is better known as “Captain George,” prolific ‘zine publisher of mags like Captain George’s Whizzbang which you’ll see plenty of in that vid.

2. The customer they speak to in that clip is George Olshevsky, whose name I knew from somewhere in the comics biz but couldn’t place it. I meant to look it up, but hadn’t before I put the video on Bluesky, and no less a person than comics legend Paul Kupperberg reminded me. He was the person behind the various Marvel Index publications, and has sadly passed away…you can read all about Mr. Olshevsky in this obituary.

3. Just seeing the thick stacks of Silver Age Marvel on the shelves was jaw-dropping, particularly since I’ve been acquiring and selling lots of those over the last year or two. Boy oh boy I’d love to be able to reach into that clip and pull out those piles of books for my shop.

3b. Seeing the person flipping through the box of unbagged Silver Age books caused quite the reaction in me. “BAG THOSE BOOKS, reduce that wear and tear!”

4. “The first Superman can sell for as much as $300!”


5. The piece ends on the very odd note of “sometimes comics get stolen but the police don’t take it seriously,” which, huh, okay.

6. I would dearly love to be able to wander around in that store at the time. I’ve been in little shops sort of like this, with stacks and rows of old unbagged comics, but alas not with material of this vintage. Plenty of black and white boom comics, though, which…come to think of it, I’d still love to paw through those.

Cameo appearance by the worst Hawkman mask.

§ June 17th, 2024 § Filed under golden age § 16 Comments

So Daniel T made a joking reference to how All-Star Superman would be abbreviated, which reminded me of this panel from another “All-Star” comic, All-Star Squadron #3 (November 1981):

Oh Roy Thomas, you’re such a card! Actually, I think the Golden Age Superman would have totally abbreviated it that way and not worried about being “careful” about it. Like I was, when I used the shorted version “ASQ” at the shop the other day.

• • •

Sorry for the short Monday post, I had some family stuff to attend to, but I should have one of my usual overly-wordy entries here later in the week. Thanks for reading, pals!

Yes, I could phrase that differently, but I refuse to.

§ June 14th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 11 Comments

So just as a brief follow-up to the Secret Identity talk over the past week, I wanted to mention the time Superman exposed himself to Jimmy.

Yes, like with Lois, there were plenty of times in the past where Jimmy found out the secret, but it was undone or the memory was wiped or whatever by the end of the story and all is good. But post-reboot, cheats like that were mostly avoided and when stuff happened, consequences were had and continued on through future stories.

Aside from the inherent “cheats” of reboots/relaunches themself, which is how the next situation is resolved. In Superman #38 (2015), well in the midst of the New 52 reimagining of the character, Superman’s need for a confidante has him decide to let his best pal Jimmy in on his double identity:

Like the reveal to Lois, this was a long time coming. Also like Lois, this was shortly after a reboot of the character, so the “finally, after so-and-so many years” is muted somewhat. This ain’t Silver Age Jimmy finding out, it’s Nu-Jimmy, part of the semi-ill-defined New 52 era. It should be an exciting development, but…it’s not the real Superman, if you know what I mean. Plus, that costume, yuck.

I know I’m opening up a can of worms with the “real Superman” comment, as there may still be people out there holding a grudge over the 1986 reboot supplanting the Silver Age Man of Steel. And despite the huge sales early on, there was some resistance to Byrne’s new version of Superman, how he didn’t have the, I don’t know, inherent authoritative qualities vis-à-vis his position in the DC Universe. As time has gone on, though, especially with the readable, competent work put into the franchise over the decades, we ended up with a character that is that Superman.

Then in 2011, with the New 52 line-wide initiative from DC, which ranged from “almost no change at all” to “forget everything you knew before!” in its impact on the books, we got essentially a new relaunched version of Superman. If it wasn’t clear what was and what wasn’t part of the character’s new continuity, don’t feel bad, even the people who worked on the book weren’t quite sure. (George Pérez, who was writing the relaunched Superman title, famously had complained he couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether or not Ma and Pa Kent were still alive.)

Not to say there wasn’t good work in the relaunch (Grant Morrison’s Action run, set during Superman’s earlier years, remains solid), but this was a new version of the character, seemingly distinct from the version given us by the 1986 reboot.

Thus, going back to the topic at hand, this is why the Jimmy revelation isn’t quite as impactful as one would like. Also, not long afterwards in the New 52 run, Superman’s identity gets exposed to the world (resulting in a storyline that, as I recall, was actually pretty good), so Jimmy being the only one with the secret doesn’t last terribly long anyway.

And then all that is more or less undone with, as I said before, a “cheat,” as DC’s next publishing initiative, “Rebirth,” eventually does away with the New 52 version of Superman and reinstalls the 1986 reboot version. Complete with Lois still knowing Clark’s secret, the two of them being married, and oh yeah, they have a kid now. It’s a complicated sequence of events reintegrating the post-Crisis Superman into the post-Flashpoint/New 52 Rebirth era (phew!) of the DC Universe, but they manage it somehow and everything is about as “back to normal” as can be expected.

Then Brian Michael Bendis comes along and redoes the whole “Superman reveals his secret to the world” story, but maybe I can address that at a later date.

Just as an addendum, I wanted to point out this panel in #12, the final installment, of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, a series that exists as its own thing and outside the regular DC Universe continuity. In this issue, Superman has supposedly disguised himself as Clark Kent in an attempt to get one over on Lex Luthor. Anyway, stuff happens, and Jimmy brings out a spare costume, saying this:

That little bit of hesitation before the word “disguise” always read to me as Jimmy realizing full well that Clark Kent is Superman, but is keeping up the pretense for his best pal. Nothing more is really said about it, since as noted this is the last issue, and maybe I was just stating the obvious here, but I liked that little touch. If, in fact, that’s what’s happening. I like that it’s open to interpretation.

One presumes she shut the blinds between issues.

§ June 12th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 9 Comments

So when we last met, Derek said about the cover to Action Comics #662 that it “might be my favorite Superman cover of all time.” And just as a reminder of what that was:

Yeah, that is a good cover. Drawn by Kerry Gammill and Brett Breeding, it certainly stood out on the stands.

Given how there were more than a handful of pre-Crisis stories revolving around the idea of “Superman’s secret identity — revealed!” I suspect there was some level of skepticism to this plot twist. Countering that is the fact that the post-reboot Superman stories were more of a continuing soap opera than the earlier one-shot stories where any big changes were undone at the end. As such, I feel like folks at least figured Lois knowing Clark’s secret would last for a storyline and be undone somehow.

Well, that wasn’t the case, as we know. And interestingly, falling in line with my assertion that the new paradigm is that Lois learns/confirms Clark’s double-life early on, the above comic was released in early 1991, less than five years after the 1986 relaunch. I mean, it depends on how you’re counting, I suppose. In terms of Superman’s overall history, outside of relaunches, reboots, Silver and Golden Ages, etc., it was 50-something years coming.

So the actual event itself, ballyhooed so much on the cover, doesn’t happen ’til the last couple of pages of the book. In continuity terms, Lois and Clark are in love and engaged to be married, and he decides “well, uh, I guess I’d better tell Lois about my side job,” and here we go:

And this was the time of the multiple Superman titles running as essentially a semi-weekly comic, with stories flowing consistently from one to the next. In this case, Action #662 continues into Superman #53:

…which, unlike the spoilery cover for Action, gives no clue as to the import of the story inside. (In fact, I was looking at this issue’s listings on eBay and I didn’t see a one that mentioned the I.D. thing…either that’s not considered an important selling point or none of these sellers have ever cracked opne a comic.)

Inside we get essentially a repeat of the final splash page from the Action issue:

I certainly appreciate the attempt at consistency in world-building here, making Lois’s place look mostly the same between Bob McLeod’s portrayal in Action and Jerry Ordway and Dennis Janke’s in Superman. Even down to the cat! The TV/bookshelf thingie looks like it’d been remodeled a bit, however.

Lois has a measured response, as from this excerpt:

…which is certainly a contrast from her response in Action #597 shown in my last post.

Part of it is Lois and Clark are in a different relationship now than before, but Lois’s portrayal has certainly been softened since the early hard-as-nails version from the initial issues of the Byrne reboot. Which is fine, and I can’t recall my specific reaction to reading these stories in real time, but I imagine the character’s progress worked well enough to make the romance an’ all acceptable to readers. Plus, it’s Supes ‘n’ Lois, they’re supposed to be together.

As a side note, notice that both those covers above have a Roman numeral “II” near their issue numbers, which indicates these are second printings. These comics weren’t, like, “Death of Superman” hot, but at the time, due the revealing of the I.D., they were quite in demand, causing DC to go back to press. I haven’t actually seen second prints of these in the wild in quite some time, maybe not even since they were released, so it’s possibly they’re very hard to come by. Not that prices seem to reflect that, given my brief eBay sojourn looking these up.

Spoiler: Clark Kent is Superman.

§ June 10th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot § 5 Comments

So another big change in John Byrne’s 1986 rebooting of the Superman franchise was the retooling of the whole “secret identity” thing. As laid out in the preview article from Amazing Heroes #96, Byrne’s idea was that the default thinking in-universe would be that Superman didn’t have another identity aside from being Superman:

The comments continue, bringing up the fact that since Batman and Green Lantern and so on wear masks, they’re obviously hiding who they are. But since Superman’s face is just out there, he’s obviously not hiding anything and surely isn’t roaming the streets with slicked back hair and big ol’ glasses perched on his nose.

This concept was so ingrained in me when it was first expressed in this way during this time, that it caused the occasional hitch in reading older Superman stories. Not, like, a big one, just a thought in the back of my head when I’d look at some Silver Age story and the idea of Superman also leading a secret life is just casually mentioned by someone…I’d be all “man, why should that even be public knowledge that exists!” It’s a security risk, to be sure. (And this doesn’t even touch upon Lois and Lana’s constant attempts to uncover the truth.)

That idea, that people assume Superman is just Superman and not secretly living as a normal human, is as far as I can recall mostly intact to this day. Yes, there have been no less than two major storylines in recent years about Clark being exposed as Superman, but it was more a “oh wait Superman is also Just Some Guy!?!?” versus “oh so that’s his secret I.D.!”

Byrne puts some real effort into establishing this new status quo for our hero’s double identity. I’m sure there are more examples than just the ones I’m mentioning here today, but I’m just going to keep it down to three specific issues.

First is Man of Steel #5, the pentultimate issue of the initial Byrne mini-series introducing the revamped Superman. It’s the issue where Superman first meets an adversary who’s just about as strong as him, giving him a physical challenge he hasn’t had before. To wit:

Now, Bizarro himself is (say it with me) an imperfect duplicate of the Man of Tomorrow, created by Luthor’s attempts at cloning him, and this creature appears to have some vague recollection of Superman’s memories. And that’s why, after stealing some clothes, he shows up dressed as both Supes and Clark:

…which makes Superman recognize his secret identity is in jeopardy. This problem is easily solved, however, with some judicious use of heat vision:

…and that’s that. While the concept of folks knowing he has a secret identity is gone, that doesn’t mean the threat of its exposure has gone away in this new version of character.

Now the story everyone (or, well, certain values of “everyone”) thinks of when it comes to the post-reboot I.D. status is the one in Byrne’s second issue of the ongoing Superman series, which has this provocative cover:

Hoo boy, this should be good, right? The upshot of the story is that a connection is noticed between Clark and Superman, and Lex and his underlings gather enormous amounts of data on the two to find an explanation.

Which all reminds me of Lana Lang’s Superboy Identity Detection Kit:

…which you can read a little more about here.

Anyway, I feel like all the info they gathered would make the conclusion self-evident, but a button is pressed, hamsters run on wheels, and so forth…

…and when the answer comes:

…all are shocked and amazed (though c’mon, “never would have occurred to you?”)…

But Lex ain’t havin’ it:

Thus it is established that Luthor can’t even comprehend someone like Superman would have a secret identity, that the very idea of hiding one’s power is ridiculous. The conniving and clever Luthor of the Silver Age might have at least considered it, but the very idea just bounced off the mind of this more…thuggish interpretation of Superman’s genius adversary.

There’s one more story that, I think, belongs in the New Secret Identity Canon, and that’s Action Comics #597. This is a little later than the other stories, from 1988, and it’s during the “team-up” era of this series. It puports to be a “team-up” between Lois and Lana, and the two do meet, but it’s more about Lois trying to determine the exact relationship between Kent and the Kryptonian.

In short, Lois visits Smallville, bumps into Superman and Lana, Lois wonders why Supes is in town (and also there were lots of wild cosmic things goin’ on here that I won’t get into), and begins to put some pieces together:

But before Superman can answer, in come Ma and Pa Kent to help, with a wild story they probably manage to sell by being Kindly Old Farmers an’ all:

Needless to say, finding out Superman and Clark were basically raised together as “brothers” really pisses off Lois, thinking the two of them were playing some kind of game with her re: Clark getting all the good Superman stories for the Daily Planet an’ such, and she just wants nothing to do with either of them.

I mentioned on Bluesky that the current paradigm in Superman media is for Lois to find out relatively quickly that Clark and Supes are the same. Or rather, after getting a bit of pushback there, that Lois knows Clark is Superman, and that Superman is honest with her about it. It feels…right, that this should be so, to be frank, and the convolutions the Kents go through to cover their son’s secret in that issue of Action, from a perspective three-something decades later, feels so unnecessary and almost…hostile toward Lois.

Okay, the Silver Age stories in which Superman continually gaslights Lois about his I.D. seem borderline abusive at times. But with the post-reboot stories, with marginally more realistic characterizations and behaviors, Superman clamping down at this point is almost worse. And Lois’s response to this new cover story is absolutely understandable.

Now eventually Superman does come clean:

…but that’s a tale for another time.

“It is 1992. I’m selling Death of Superman.” / “It is 1993, I’m not selling Adventures of Superman #500.”

§ June 7th, 2024 § Filed under watchmen § 6 Comments

So it’s come to this: reposting a meme that I’d posted on Blueksy, a three-panel sequence from Watchman featuring Doctor Manhattan on Mars. You can kind of get what the meme is used for, the “time passes, things remain the same” theme, by looking at my example:

I really have been in the business for a long time.


§ June 5th, 2024 § Filed under supergirl, superman § 14 Comments

So I talked about the “Supergirl’s Husband” story last time, about how it wasn’t as bad as I’d recalled it being. I mean, it’s not the greatest Superman story ever told but as a weirdo hybrid of modern storytelling demands and the Bronze/Silver Age milieu in which the Super-books still existed, it remains a fascinating example of where this particular franchise stood in those about-to-be-rebooted-away days.

The previous issue, however…

…well, it’s not awful throughout, but it ends on a really sour note that affects my opinion of the whole thing.

The most notable happening in this comic is the elaborate-if-easily-foiled-by-opening-a-door computerized contraption that uses its mid-1980s A.I. to generate believable Clark dialog while occasionally telling you it’s totally fine to eat fugu liver:

This is what I mean by the Superman books still being under the long shadow of the Silver Age. The wild elements and behaviors from that period continue on, even as the genre “matures,” with plot points like “Superman’s out-there ways of protecting his secret I.D. from Lois” sitting side-by-side with attempts at more modern storytelling sensibilities.

(I recently noted online that Superman media adaptations have increasingly done away with the idea of Superman trying to withhold his secret from Lois, possibly a reflection of the fact this is no longer a thing in the comics, or more likely just out of the feeling that aspect of the relationship is outdated.)

Another element of “modernization” bringing Superman comics in parity with 1960s Marvel is some of the overly-chummy captions, that “greetings fellow kids” really, really hard:

A total slam on Bulgaria completely out of nowhere, C’mon Julie.

And I just have to bring this up, as one of the alien antagonists for this story has an annoying speech pattern, one not shared by his fellow alien from the same species that’s his partner in crime. So the dude deliberately choose to talk like this:

“I have it with me…in this file I do have it!” “As we planned! Planned it we did!” AUGH SHUT UP ALREADY

Speaking of those guys, the story generally revolves around them (representatives of the Superman Revenge Squad) invading New Krypton (the planet upon which the formerly shrunken Bottle City of Kandor was expanded) and causing some havoc. But the early parts of the issue are more explicit tie-ins to Crisis on Infinite Earths, opening with Superman’s grief over the death of his cousin Supergirl, and proceeding to fly around a bit with the Superboy of Earth Prime:

Wait, that comes later. This story features the character in more innocent times:

…before he’s whisked away yet again by a mysterious cosmic vortex that…was there an explanation for that? I seem to remember it happening in the series and folks were all “where did that come from?” and it’s been so long since I last reread it I can’t remember if there is a reason for those. If you can enlighten me, feel free.

This comic concludes with Superman bringing Supergirl’s body to her parents on New Krypton, wrapped up in her cape. And I suppose Superman did a good job of wrapping, or Zor-El is in complete denial, because he says, well….

And we close ther issue with a nice, tasteful scream of anguish…

…accompanied by the almost certainly deliberately Vonnegutian “So it goes….!” which, I mean, c’mon, there’s a reason it’s used in Slaughterhouse-Five, I don’t think that’s quite earned here. Unless it’s some form of metacommentary on Crisis‘s then-ongoing slaughter of parallel universes and the countless lives therein, in which case, Elliot S! Maggin, I salute you.

But despite that, that final panel is…urgh. Kinda gross, to be honest, with that terrible cry across the top of the image. Better to have just shown the exterior in silence, I think, but forty years on may be a bit too late to do a little armchair editing.

The whole comic very much feels like “we’d better address what’s happening in the DC Universe at large” in a book that had largely charted its own course without many interactions outside its specific character franchise. That, of course, was a common element across most of DC’s superhero line, one that I think was hoped to change with the New, Fresh Start afforded by Crisis.

Following the Crisis tie-ins the Superman line mostly went back to business as usual, until the conclusions afforded to the main ongoing titles written by Alan Moore and Steve Gerber. Then along came the Byrne reboot, which I’ll be getting back to here shortly.

The verdict’s in!

§ June 3rd, 2024 § Filed under supergirl, superman § 3 Comments

I did get around to rereading this “Supergirl’s Secret Husband” issue of Superman, which I remembered as bad

…but it turned out to be…okay-ish? Not as bad as I’d remembered, given I probably haven’t read it since around the time it was released. I still have my copy of it, bought new off the stands, and still in nice shape, which sort of surprised me, but then again I only read it once or twice so it’s not like it experienced a lot of wear.

This is marked on the cover as Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, and…well, it’s more of one than some other similarly-marked books from the time. In this ish, we find out that, during a bout of amnesia and being stranding on an alien world, Supergirl met and fell in love with a resident there, Salkor. You can see Salkor below:

I’m not going into every detail here, but in short Supergirl regains her memories and returns to Earth, and…well, I’ll let here tell it via post-death hologram message:

So anyway, this “Hokku” she’s talking about is a device that she’d kept with her, one that retained her memories and such and Salkor wanted it back. But Superman was all “she’s my cousin, I’m keeping it” and thus the conflict proceeded until a giant robot thing shows up and they must unite to…well, you know.

Then at the end the Hokku displays a hologram of Supergirl as per the above scan and sets everything right, except the fact that she didn’t try to get back to Salkor after regaining her memory or even asking Supes “hey, turns out I’m married, help me contact my husband, right?”

But as egregious additions to the Superman mythos go, it’s not as bad as some things. Given the proximity to the eventual slate-cleaning by John Byrne ‘n’ pals with the Superman reboot, there’s not much opportunity to refer to this marriage or to even bring back Salkor for a guest spot (“Appearing in this issue: Supergirl’s Widower!”), so the impact is relatively nil. It’s almost…Silver Age-y in its presentation, outside the more modern Big Event Tie-in elements, which is sort of fitting given that Crisis, and the Byrne reboot, put a pretty solid cap on that era’s influence on Superman. Not that Silver Age stuff doesn’t get reinserted into newer stories, but it’s usually more a nostalgic reworking than just a natural expression of Superman comics’ DNA.

So this comic is fine, when all is said and done. Not a prime example of Superman comicking, but certainly a passable example of the end-of-days weirdness for the Super-books prior to their relaunch.

But the previous issue, #414, which is another Crisis tie-in…well, I may have been remembering the wrong Superman comic as the “bad” one all these years. But I’ll get to that next time.

A brief reminder.

§ May 29th, 2024 § Filed under Uncategorized § 2 Comments

Some comment spam has been getting past the filters lately, and I’ve been taking care of it as soon as I’m able. Please just ignore them in the meantime. Thanks!

One of them looks almost like “UPS,” a vastly untapped subject for comics.

§ May 29th, 2024 § Filed under peanuts § 7 Comments

So online pal dwinn74 brought this panel to my attention on Bluesky:

…which of course reminded me of this old post of mine from 2007, featuring the “beatiful gory layout” panel from the Peanuts strip.

Now, dwinn74 doesn’t recall from what online source he borrowed this particular scan, but I’m also borrowing it to discuss here. Unlike the “gory layout” panel, Charles Schulz showed a little more restraint in titling the various comics on displayed there on the rack to presumably reduce some visual clutter and focus the image.

Like that 2007 post, I’m going to go through and note which of these titles were actually used or not by actual publishers.

SLAM: “Slam” got used the lot as part of titles, but the 1978 mag (not familiar with it, I presume it’s a knock-off of MAD or National Lampoon) and the 2016 Boom! Studios comic used just that word for the title. That there wasn’t an ongoing Slam Bradley with that title is a real shame.

BANG: A 2020 series from Dark Horse (with an additional exclamation point) ran five issues, and there were a couple titles from previous years and other countries with that name. And as with “Slam,” “Bang” gets used a lot as a part of other titles. In fact, please enjoy some covers for Slam Bang Comics.

POW: In the U.S. there’s another one of those MAD knock-offs with the name from 1966. It gets used overseas a couple of times as well, and as part of longer titles (my favorite being Pow! and Wham! from England).

CRA: this title was cut off by the edge of the panel, and I presume it’s “Crazy” or “Crazed” or something. “Crazy” has been used as a title multiple times, most famously by Marvel.

Now, looking at the rack in my 2007 post, you can kind of gather Schulz’s opinion on what was available on comic racks at the time (Kill and Stab on a shelf emblazoned with “For the Kiddies”). With that in mind, there’s a non-zero chance ol’ Sparky meant “Crap.”

Hey, you never know.

YIPE: nope, not used for a comic far as I can see. “Yikes” was used a couple of times, which is close but no E.C. Segar.

OH!: It surprised me, but “Oh” (without an exclamation post) was used a few times. This Canadian comic seemed to use it the longest. “Oh” was used several times as parts of titles, probably most notably in the manga series Oh My Goddess (AKA “Ah My Goddess,” I suppose).

Now to the last two:

…which obviously were titles used on comic books, and around the time this was published, Tip Top and Nancy were featuring Peanuts stories. So Mr. Schulz was doing a little cross-promotion then.

• • •

A note to my regular readers: Superman talk will resume shortly here, I just haven’t had the proper time to generate a proper post in my continuing discussion of the reboot/pre-Crisis stuff. Thanks for your patience.

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