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

§ June 14th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 9 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 § 8 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.

“EEEYAAAHHHH!”

§ 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.

In which I bother noted comics people online.

§ May 24th, 2024 § Filed under hulk, superman § 9 Comments

So, a couple of follow-ups:

First, in regards to Amadeus Cho’s explanation for the Hulk avoiding death tolls in his rampages, I said I wasn’t sure if that was per an editorial edict or not. Turns out over on Bluesky, the fella what wrote that comic, Greg Pak, straightened things out saying that it was all him making that decision, not anyone higher up.

Granted, I’m sure the Marvel high muckety-mucks were glad to have something to point to and say “see, our hero who is in Avengers movies and makes us lots of money is not a killer.” And frankly, I’m glad of it too. It’s fun to see Hulk smash up buildings and punch tanks, it’s not quite as much innocently-violent fun (usually) to think about him murdering people in the process. Just one of those “willing suspension of disbelief” deals.

I did just reread the Garth Ennis/John McCrea Hulk Smash two-parter from 2001:


…and in the series, Hulk fights the army, natch, and it is very heavily implied that several soldiers are killed in the process.Tanks are smashed, planes are blown up real good, and you do see men scrambling out of hatches or parachuting to safety. However, deaths are implied in dialog, but there is perhaps enough wiggle room to claim that soldiers have survived but are out of the battle.

Chris K noted the 2001 Startling Series: Banner series by Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben:


This was an out-of-continuity story that, I have to admit, I haven’t read probably since it was released, but it does tell the story of a Hulk who does leave a body count in its wake. As I recall, it’s dark and a little depressing, so if you had a killin’ Hulk on a regular basis, that may be what it’d feel like.

• • •

Again on the Bluesky, I quote-posted famed comics writer Kurt Busiek, because he was talking how DC Comics missed an opportunity by not going wild with out-there storylines right before Crisis on Infinite Earths swept threw and reset everything.

He mentioned as an example of DC kinda/sorta half-heartedly doing that sort of thing was “Supergirl [getting] married in a story no one remembers.” Well, I remember it, because I bought that very issue new off the shelf back in late ’85:


Now this was by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Al Williamson, and I haven’t read it in forever, but my memory is that it was…not good. I mean, nothing wrong with that creative team, of course, but the story itself seemed misguided and, well, weird.

As per this Wednesday post, I’ve been reading a lot of late-era pre-Crisis/pre-Byrne reboot Superman comics. I keep avoiding this particular issue as I recall not liking it, but talking about it this much may have be revisiting it sooner rather than later. Anyway, I did hit on kind of a similar point in that past post, which I mentioned to Mr. Busiek, about Steve Lombard’s progress as a character this late in the game was curtailed by Crisis and the reboot.

Busiek’s response was that around this period, DC was producing Superman story inventory for overseas publication, and then trying to use them up in the U.S. comics, so that actual permanent continuity changes were tricky to pull off. Now, I know DC did release stories in other countries that were eventually reprinted here, such as every issue of the Superman Special, as well as the proto-graphic novel Superman Spectacular.

The Grand Comics Database is usually pretty good in noting when a comic is reprinted from another source. But I can’t find any of the late pre-Crisis era Superman and Action books noted as initially coming from an overseas publisher, while the examples above do. Doesn’t mean they don’t, I just can’t find info confirming it. It would be interesting if that were the case, so I’ll have to look further into it.

As opposed to a “Power Action Computer Kick.”

§ May 22nd, 2024 § Filed under pal plugging, superman § 18 Comments

Okay, first off, before I get into the rest of the post, I want to get this link in here because I was dumb and forgot last time. Old pal Mark, co-creator of Fake AP Stylebook on what used to be Twitter, and co-editor of the spinoff book Write More Good, can use your help.

Mark is currently in an uncomfortable living situation and needs some funds to rehouse himself. He’s reached his stated financial goal, but he can use more scratch just in case, you know? Please contribute if you can:

Thanks for anything you can do.

• • •

Not that I don’t have enough physical comics piled up to read, after being behind for the last several years, I’ve been using the DC Comics digital comics app to look at some old stories I may have missed, and revisit some books that I gave up to the shop/don’t feel like digging out of my boxes at home.

Since I’ve been on an Armored Lex kick lately, I reread this three-parter, probably for the first time since it appeared in print back in 1985:


That’s the middle chapter of a story that ran in Superman #410, #412 and #413 (#411 was a surprise issue celebrating Superman’s editor Julius Schwartz), written by Cary Bates, illustrated by Curt Swan and Al Williamson, covers (which I liked!) by Klaus Janson.

I’ve written before about different inkers’ effects on Swan’s pencils, but I was struck by the expressiveness in the faces here in this particular sequence of panels from #412:


Isn’t that nice? Those are some good looks from Superman that you don’t normally see.

But what I wanted to mention for sure here was…well, let me give you a brief set-up. The story is about Clark reporting on an event Superman was involved in, only it turns out Superman imagined said event and it makes it look like Clark fabricated the whole thing. Clark is fired, and his reputation is shot so he can’t get another reporting job.

Obviously this is a plot by You-Know-Who, but Clark is left adrift in the meantime. As such, he pays a visit to another former Daily Planet/WGBS employee, Steve Lombard, who is currently running a sporting goods store. As you recall, Steve was the one continually pulling pranks on Clark in an attempt to pick on him (pranks that usually backfired due to Clark using some super power or ‘nother).

Now, the digital archive is incompelete for the Super-books, and my own memory of the stories from the time is a little spotty, so I don’t recall the circumstances of Steve losing his job, or on what terms he and Clark were on. But in this particular issue, we see the characters reunite:


…and Steve’s tomfoolery aside, it looks like the two get along just fine. They are genuinely pleased to see each other, and in fact Steve gives Clark a part-time job.

I thought this was a nice bit of character growth for Steve after, what, a decade or so of him being a pain in Clark’s rear? It feels like some of his arrogance has worn away, laughingly admitting his own foolishness in the panels above. It’s a real shame this is butting right up against the Byrne reboot, which would wipe this all away, as I would have liked to have seen more of this mildly less-obnoxious Steve Lombard. Ah well.

• • •

And here, since this seem relevant to the recent Superhero Violence post from the other day, is a panel found by Bluesky pal WormDrivePRO. From Spectacular Spider-Man #118 (1986) by Peter David, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod, comes this inversion of the “Abandoned Building Battleground” trope:


Huh, just like Thom H. said!

WormDrivePRO is a good follow if you like nice big scans of curated comic panels. It’s a fun feed that I recommend!

Old Timer Mike here with some important blogging for you.

§ May 8th, 2024 § Filed under free comic book day, miraclemarvelman, superman § 13 Comments

Yes, it’s another Post of Miscellany for you to enjoy, for varying values of “enjoy.”

PART THE FIRST: Just to follow up on my 2024 Free Comic Book Day post-mortem, there was some concern that no children were spotted in my photos of the store in the midst of Free Comics action.

Well, let me assure you that there were plenty of children passing through the shop to get their free comics, and many, with the assistance of the parents and/or guardians, took advantage of the storewide sales. Some kids showed up in costume (one as the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, anoother as the Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel). A girls softball team showed up, in uniform. Plenty of children thanking me for their comics, A whole bunch of smiling faces.

As was pointed out in my comments, probably not a cool thing to take pics of kids and post ’em to my site without permission. So you’ll just have to take my word that they were there. I promise.

PART THE SECOND: Miracleman talk is back in the news, what with the release of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s The Silver Age in trade paperback form this week. This article on The Beat is about the lack of excitement over the completion of this long-interrupted story. Surprisingly, it includes a link to my own writings on the very same topic from back in January. I’m so used to shouting into the void here, since Linking to Blogs is a thing that folks don’t do much of that anymore, but it is nice to be acknowledged.

Anyway, on Bluesky Mr. Gaiman his own self linked to a New York Times article ballyhooing the release of the book, saying

“It’s interesting seeing the comics press going ‘Why isn’t there more talk of Miracleman: The Silver Age?’ Meanwhile, we get the kind of review that those of us who made comics in the dawn times dreamed of as a kind of grail.”

Now, look, I’ve done my part, which y’all can see right here in this category link, but…I think I’m correct in reading this more as “isn’t it ironic that one world ignores the book, meanwhile this other world is paying attention,” instead of “the comics press are a bunch of dummies, of course people are talking about it.”

The New York Times article doesn’t really counter the idea that Miracleman is mostly ignored within the comics world, and that actual sales aren’t want you’d think they should be, if “you” is me, a guy who waited the decades for Miracleman to start up again. I don’t have to go into again, see what I said at my self-link above, but the passing decades, the delays, the botched presentation by Marvel, all got in the way of a new audience discovering a lost unfinished classic in the process of being completed. Which is a shame. It honestly is very good. Even the initial kinda clunky chapters by Alan Moore have a style and power few comics can match today.

I said this a couple times in response to various discussions on Bluesky, but I feel like maybe the Moore/Gaiman/Buckingham/etc. era of Miracleman won’t properly get its due until it’s all done and collected into trades. At that point it can be sold as a finished masterpiece…assuming Marvel can keep the books in print.

PART THE SECOND AND A HALF: Just for some perspective: In 1985 I was sixteen, still in high school, when I bought the first issue of Eclipse’s Miracleman #1 new off the stands. I am now 55, waiting to eventually place orders for my store for the final chapters of the story begun back then.

PART THE THIRD: So anyway, here’s a picture of Superman from the movie coming out next year:


I mean, it’s fine. The top part looks a little too much like he’s wearing a sweater. I suppose we’ll have to see it in action (either live or CGI) to give it a full judgement. But lookin’ at that picture…c’mon, Supes, buddy, speed it up a bit, there’s something you need to attend to going on outside your window there.

The debate is raging on as to whether this is a good costume or not, whether there’s too much texture on there or if they should’ve gone for a Christopher Reeve-style smooth ‘n’ skintight spandex. I think the latter look, more accurately reflecting appearances in the comics, may be out of favor with studios, but given how superhero movies have been doing lately, what have they got to lose. However, having Wolverine in his classic comic togs for the Deadpool/Wolverine flick, a film that has a very good chance of getting that billion-dollar box office that’s been eluding Marvel for a while, may change some costuming trends.

At the very least I would have liked a brighter, maybe more optimistic look, but again, it’s just one promo photo. All depends on what they do with it. And it’s James Gunn, who actually made people care about Guardians of the Galaxy, so I’m still giving him the benefit of a doubt. I mean, c’mon, Metamorpho, the Fab Freak of 1,000 and 1 Changes, is gonna be it, I’ve gotta see that.

I’d bought World’s Finest #300 new off the stands not having any idea that was what was going on.

§ May 1st, 2024 § Filed under batman, byrne reboot, superman § 10 Comments

Another big change to the Superman mythos made in John Byrne’s 1986 reboot mini-series Man of Steel was the bustin’ up of the long friendship between Supes and the Dark Knight his own self, Batman.

The two characters have been buddy/buddy for decades, almost from their very inception, as seen here on the cover of World’s Best Comics #1 from 1941:


This of course was the first issue of the series that would become known as World’s Finest starting with #2. And the early issues of the comic would feature covers pairing the two (along with Robin, usually) and showing them doing something fun, like, oh, I don’t know, fishing:


The team-ups were just on the covers, however, as Batman and Superman had separate stories inside, along with other characters and their own stories. Eventually the extra-sized comic reduced its page count, and instead of cutting either Superman or Batman out of the book, the two were squeezed together into one story (starting with issue #71). And aside from a brief stint of team-ups featuring Superman with other characters in the early ’70s, and the whole “Super Sons” thing, this was the Supes/Bats crimefighting pals team book ’til its end in 1986.

Except.

There was a short storyline in this series regarding a split between Batman and Superman, spiraling off from Batman’s resignation from the Justice League in Batman and the Outsiders #1:


This development gets followed up in World’s Finest #294 (1983) which presents further acrimony between the two old friends:


See, it says right there in the footnote, “see Batman and the Outsiders #1,” I didn’t lie to you.

Anyway, the two of them are at odds with each other for the next few issues, until this particular storyline comes to its conclusion at the end of the extra-sized anniversary issue #300 (1984):


And all was right with the world until 1986, when John Byrne presented his new status quo for the Superman/Batman relationship in Man of Steel #3:


In that preview article from Amazing Heroes #96, Byrne’s ideas on what the relationship between Superman and Batman are made clear:

And sure enough, in Man of Steel this new more adversarial interaction is revealed right out of the gate as Superman shows up in Gotham to take in this infamous vigilante:


Once Superman sees Batman in action over the course of the story, he softens his stance — i.e. he won’t immediately haul Bats off to the grey-bar hotel — but he’s still not entirely on board:


…leaving Batman with this wistful wink to the audience who just saw the Old Ways swept out the door for the Way Things Are Now:


And that was the status quo for…well, a little while, ’til, like all post-Crisis changes, folks started to turn things back to how they were in little ways. The UnCrisis-ening continues to this day, but this particular portrayal of the Superman/Batman relationship, coupled with what we saw between the two in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, has had a little more staying power.

I mean, obviously not the “you’re a criminal who should be turned in” part, but definitely the emphasis on “our approaches to crimefighting are different” has remained to a far greater extent than it ever did in the older books. It was probably also an influence on Batman’s general gruffness and reluctance to open up to friendships and such in recent years, not to mention the idea of his having contingency plans to take down the whole Justice League, that sort of thing.

However, the Superman/Batman pairing is too strong an idea, with too much inertia behind it, for it to be forever relegated to “frenemies.” We’ve had multiple Superman/Batman team-up mini-series and regular series, certainly with an emphasis on their differences, but definitely having them as pals again. The current World’s Finest absolutely feels more like the original series with that name.

I appreciate Byrne’s point about Superman and Batman just being too different to be friends…but honestly, having them at such odds with each other was the aberration. It’s having them as friends that feels like the correct, logical, choice.

My British accent is impeccable.

§ April 26th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, dc comics, superman § 21 Comments

More specifics about the actual content of the 1980s Superman reboot will come in future posts (yes, it’s continuing into next week). You can find the previous posts under the newly-created “byrne reboot” tag, so I don’t have to keep adding a large list of links to past posts at the top of each entry.

Today, I wanted to post up something else I found in that long preview articles from Amazing Heroes #96 (1986). Now, I’d read this ‘zine when it originally came out, and I know I absorbed every column inch of this article in anticipation of the Byrne reign of Superman. It’d been several…well, decades (egads) since I’ve read it, and peeking back at it as reference for this series of posts have reitroduced me to some interesting bits of information.

Specifically, this plan for a Superman team-up comic (like the defunct DC Comics Presents) as part of the reboot, written by…well, take a look:


When I spotted this, I immediately popped it up on Bluesky and it generated some discussion.

Bully the Little Fanzine Bull noted that this magazine “was pretty infamous for just letting creatives run at the mouth and printing that as news, though,” which, you know, fair enough. That is the foundation for many a ‘zine, prozine and fanzine alike, and while this article does appear to be informed by primary sources, I’m sure some of the noted plans weren’t firmed up yet, or no more than floated ideas.

Like, this Alan Moore thing sounds like it was no more than “can you do it?” “strewth, I don’t have the bloody time, mate” “oh okay thanks” and that was that. At that point in Moore’s career, I’m sure he got lots of job offers like this. “Can you write West Coast Avengers for us?” “Flippin’ ‘eck!”

Adam Knave had the probably very correct response in saying “I’m sorry we never got it and glad he didn’t do it at the same time.” I mean, yeah, Watchmen (or The Watchmen) would end up being an ugly mess re: merchandise royalties and creator ownership, not to mention being plundered by lesser talents for knockoffs. Probably best that there’s not also a one or two year run of Superman team-up stories by Moore to provide content to be clumsily reinterpreted later by writers whose names might rhyme with Reff Rohns.

But on the other hand, would we have read a run of Alan Moore-written Superman team-up comics? Oh, you bet your sweet bippy we would. Imagine, like, 24 or 36 issues of comics on par, or even better, than this one. That would be an absolute treasure, Moore just traipsing through the DC Universe.

On the other other hand, this was the period when Moore was at his deconstructive height, pulling apart the very idea of superhero comics and looking at their components in a new light. I don’t know if DC, in their fragile “we’re not sure entirely what’s going on here” post-Crisis phrase, trying to rebuild continuity after the structural damage inflicted by Crisis on Infinite Earths, would want Moore going through its new direction upending things even more.

Just picture the aftereffects on Adam Strange, after his brief 1987 appearance in Moore’s Swamp Thing run, and how his reinterpretation there still affects Adam Strange stories to this day. Now picture that with dozens more characters in addition to the ones he’d already touched with his wizardy powers. It really would be Alan Moore’s DC Universe now.

But even if the Moore thing had been a done deal, as blogging brother Andrew said on Bluesky, “the question then would be ‘how long until Byrne and Moore got on each other’s nerves and one/both quit'” and he ain’t wrong. I feel like the two would not play very well together. All it would take is Byrne saying “hey what you’re doing here with Superman isn’t in line with my vision,” and Moore would be all “blimey, you’re a barmy bloke, I’m gutted” and he’d be in the wind.

Anyway, thought that was an interesting bit of forgotten trivia involving this particular time in funnybook history. I don’t know how close this actually came to happening (like I said above, probably not too close), but it’s still quite the thing to think about.

Orange is the new Luthor.

§ April 24th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, dc comics, superman § 16 Comments

So last time I talked a bit about the first issue of John Byrne’s Superman revamp, and how it felt to encounter it as it was happening, after having read Superman comics prior to this and witnessing the changes to the franchise in real time. I pointed out a number of those changes that happened just in that one comic, but a few of you beat me to the punch and started bringing up other alterations later in the Man of Steel mini-series.

Right out of the gate in the comments, David slings the following at me

“I always felt like the biggest change in Man of Steel was the change to Lex Luthor. His pre-Crisis persona was genius supervillain. Man of Steel established him as a genius businessman, who hated Superman, which moved him to villainy.”

Luthor went through several changes in the character’s history (a number of which I listed in this long-ago post which may amuse). The “mad scientist who hates Superman” remained fairly consistent from Luthor’s inception up through this point in the 1980s, cosmetic costume/hairstyle overhauls aside. The biggest alteration to the character was the adding the idea of Luthor having grown up in Smallville, concurrently with Clark/Superboy, and establishing the origin of his hatred (i.e. blaming the Boy of Steel for the loss of his hair).

But with the reboot comes A New Take (not to mention the loss of Superboy — more on that in a future post — effectively removing Smallville from Luthor’s backstory) and apparently Marv Wolfman had the idea for Big Businessman Luthor some time before Byrne came along. Here’s a bit from an article in Amazing Heroes #96 (1986), previewing the reboot:


Now the new idea as to why Luthor hated Superman had to do with him being the most powerful man in Metropolis…until the Man of Tomorrow showed up.

Hair still comes into play, as Superman’s first post-reboot encounter with Luthor in Man of Steel #4 ends with Lois hairline-shaming him:


Yes, I borrowed these scans from a two-year-old post where I go into a little more detail about the changes in Luthor’s motivations over the years. I’ll repeat here what I said there, in that there were some comments at the time that New Luthor bore some resemblance to Marvel’s “respected businessman” villain Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin. Interestingly, both characters have had their evil shenanigans become increasingly more public knowledge as time has gone on, though still being able to hold high political offices (Luthor as President, Fisk as Mayor of New York).

Speaking of which, Byrne/Wolfman Luthor had that veneer of legitimacy crack a bit in that very “first” appearance, where Luthor was arrested. And as the years have continued, and DC continued its trend of backpedaling on the sweeping changes from both Byrne and Crisis on Infinite Earths, Luthor slowly became more and more like his pre-Crisis incarnation, to wearing versions of his early 1980s superarmor, to regularly being shown in prison. The “businessman” era still exists in current continuity, but now has more or less merged with previous versions.

Yet more reboot fiddling had initially made Luthor a much older man than previously portrayed. As you saw above, Lex and Clark were contemporaries in Smallville. In the reboot, he was at least a couple of decades older…he had to be old enough to believably have a son in his 20s, per a storyline a few years later. In Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography (1989), he’s shown as a child, and friends with a young Perry White:


However, Luthor has gradually become younger, both with an in-story explanation of his brain being transplanted into a youthful clone body, and with a no-explanation “he’s just younger now” pushing him back to around Clark/Lois’s ages. In fact, he’s now back to having have lived in Smallville and hangin’ with Teen Clark. I think this return-to-form was first evident in the continuity-or-not mini Birthright, discussed here (where the series’ writer himself chimes in).

So this new version of Luthor was indeed a significant modification to the Superman saga. But like many of DC’s changes from the period, the inertial effect of previous portrayals force at least some reversals of those decisions. If DC can make (multiple) attempts at bringing back the multiverse concept done away with in Crisis on Infinite Earths, it shouldn’t be surprising that Luthor has traded his business suit back in for his prison greys (or oranges).

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