Tagged: Action Comics

John Ostrander: The Ultimate Illegal Alien

I’m indebted to Fox News anchor (and blogger) Todd Starnes. About two weeks ago – okay, I’m late to the party again – he posted a commentary entitled “Superman defends illegals against angry American.”

In his complaint, Starnes gripes about a scene in the most recent Action Comics where “Superman comes to the rescue of a group of illegal aliens – under attack from a white guy wearing an American flag bandana and waving around a machine gun… Instead of rounding up the illegals and flying them back to where they came from, the Man of Steel snatches the white guy and with a menacing look snarls, ‘The only person responsible for the blackness smothering your soul – is you.’”

This upset Mr. Starnes no end and has provided me with grist for this week’s column.

I could start by pointing out that the incident is fiction (or fake news) and that Superman is not real but I’ll give Mr. Starnes the benefit of the doubt and assume he already knows that. Although the guy is the host of Fox News and Commentary so maybe one shouldn’t assume. But we will.

Superman stops the assailant from killing these people (the alleged illegals). And this is a bad thing – because? Maybe Mr. Starnes is conflating the First and Second Amendments in the Bill of Rights and suggesting that the use of the machine gun on illegals is an expression of free speech.

Okay, I’m joking. Sorta.

This is what Superman does. This is what Superman is supposed to do. Defend people (and they are people) like these. Would it be better if he let them die at the hands of this asshole no matter how good of a reason he thinks he has? That is Superman’s job. Deporting them afterward? He’s not I.C.E. – that’s not his job. He has no legal status to do that any more than I do or Mr. Starnes has.

What I’m really indebted to Mr. Starnes for is his observation “Clark Kent is technically an illegal alien – a native of Krypton.” (Okay, technically Kal-El is the illegal alien.) Supes came to this planet, this country, in a rocket and was found by the Kents in a field who then adopted him. No border guards or checkpoints. No visa. No green card.

Who better to symbolize what an immigrant, legal or otherwise, brings to this country? Kal-El’s strengths, his abilities, his character has immeasurably aided his adopted country. He represents Truth, Justice, and the American Way in all the best senses. He is not a rapist or a drug dealer or a terrorist as some would have us believe. Superman represents the best of immigrants, legal or illegal – and us.

So, thank you, Mr. Starnes, for this timely reminder. The Man of Steel is indeed an illegal alien. We should try to make him the face of the illegals and remember not just his powers and abilities but the fact that he also from small-town America and that Superman is a good man.

 

Joe Corallo: Diversity — People, and Content

Marvel MysteryIn addition to being really into comics, I’m also really into history. I like to know where things came from and how they were made. This fact about myself has resulted in my reading of quite a few comics from the Golden and Silver Ages. Nearly all were reprints, but comics of those ages none the less. Although some of the comics then may not offer us the kinds of lessons in diversity and inclusion I’m normally advocating for, they actually do give us a valuable lesson in diversity that is lacking in mainstream comics today.

The norm for decades in comics was an anthology format. Marvel Mystery, Adventure, Action, Detective, Showcase, Journey Into Mystery, Police, Crime Does Not Pay, Eerie, Creepy, My Greatest Adventure, all of these and more would offer us up multiple stories featuring different characters in each. The first issue of Marvel Comics featured the Human Torch, the Angel (not that Angel), Sub-Mariner (yes, that Sub-Mariner), Masked Raider, a short story titled “Burning Rubber” and Ka-Zar. Yes, it wasn’t the standard 20-22 pages we see in most comics, it was 64 pages. The point being that you could have a single issue with many characters and stories. One title being the feature, with the highest page count, and the other stories being back ups.

Action ComicsAs the years went by, anthology style comics at the big two were either getting canned, or morphing into books about one hero or team. My Greatest Adventure turned into Doom Patrol, Action into another Superman comic, Detective another Batman comic, Journey Into Mystery a Thor comic, and so forth. DC in particular tried to carry on with that tradition longer, having books like Legion of Superheroes have a feature story with a large portion of the team followed by a shorter back up with only one or two members to help us all get to know them better. Eventually, these efforts more or less faded away. Occasionally, like in Action Comics, Detective Comics or Justice League they’d have some sort of back up, but it was just furthering the feature story and not really it’s own thing.

Police ComicsDC did try bringing back more anthologies with Adventures of Superman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, but all of those only featured the character in the title. Though those weren’t a bad idea, I do think it misses a key point of the older anthologies; to help introduce new characters to a market that might otherwise not pick up a book featuring one of those characters.

Both Marvel and DC have hundreds of characters at their disposal. The market only allows a certain amount of comics hitting the shelves at once while still being able to sell X amount of them all. Maybe instead of testing out different solo titles, they could try more anthology style comics.

Wouldn’t it be great is characters like Batman got more people reading Batwing and Batwoman because they were in the same book? What if you alternated who had the feature story, so maybe Batwoman would be the feature for a few months, but that Batman story in there helped keep enough readers on the title who otherwise wouldn’t be and kept the title afloat? What if we used a format like that to expose readers who otherwise wouldn’t go out of their way to read a comic with racial or religious minority characters, or LGBTQ characters in it?

DC editors recently decided they needed to stop “batgirling” and get back to “meat and potatoes.” That kind of talk usually ends up meaning going back to a less diverse time in comics. I get worried when I see Marvel or DC seemingly spread themselves too thin in certain areas. For example, as I mentioned last week, DC now has Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy, three white bisexual women as leads in their own solo titles. That won’t last forever. Maybe when that starts to change, a Gotham City Sirens book featuring all of them would be easier to maintain.

I think if comics are going to be serious about diversity, they have to do more than just cater to the readers of the different communities. Preaching to the choir is one thing, and it is important, but it’s not everything. We need to get more people outside of those communities to be exposed to them, and understand them better. It’s an important and necessary component in making comics a more diverse place and assuring that it won’t just end up being a fad.

Besides, this feeds into nostalgia, and what comic book reader in their right mind doesn’t love that?

Mike Gold: Superman’s Real Family

Gold Art 131204There was a time when the world could not get enough of The Man of Steel. In the 1950s National Periodical Publications, the name DC Comics went under back then, published seven different Superman titles, five of them every six weeks and two every month. In those days, that was a lot.

Today, of course, Wolverine wouldn’t lift his head out of his own puke for such paltry exposure. But back then, that workload was astonishing – and it wasn’t uncommon to see sales figures on certain of these titles reaching seven figures. Action Comics was shipped at the end of the month and that very issue was re-shipped two weeks later.

Superman had more than just that going for him. In the 40s he had one of the most popular and long-lasting radio shows around. In the early 50s, a time when most cities were lucky to have two television stations and it was common for one of those channels to pick from the offerings of two of the three networks, Superman was offered up in first-run syndication and he captured the awe and wonder of the entire baby boomer generation. We were all glued to the boob tube; it was our crack. And there were a hell of a lot of us, too.

The Big Guy had something else going for him: he was in the newspapers daily and Sunday all across America, including Hearst’s New York Mirror, which sported the largest circulation of any U.S. newspaper at the time. His newspaper circulation made the comics work appear downright skinny.

All this exposure required the efforts of an astonishing amount of talent. By and large, there were three primary Superman artists: Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, who did the newspaper strip as well as Action Comics and Superman, and Al Plastino, who did… well… everything.

To be fair, there were other great talents in this group, legends all. Kurt Schaffenberger, whose work dominated the Lois Lane stories, Win Mortimer, George Papp and John Sikela, perhaps best known for their Superboy efforts (as was Curt Swan), and Dick Sprang on the Superman-Batman feature in World’s Finest.

Gee, no wonder Big Blue was so popular. And, yes, I’m leaving at least a half-dozen artists out.

Last week the last of these awesomely talented people died. Al Plastino, the medium’s best utility infielder, died at 91. He was an artist, a writer, an editor, a letterer and a colorist. He co-created the Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl and Brainiac. He drew the Batman newspaper strip in the 1960s, and he ghosted the Superman strip in its latter years.Plastino Hap Hopper 2-02-44

Al was the go-to man at the United Feature Syndicate, creating a couple of minor features in the 1940s (Hap Hopper, from 1944, is pictured to the right) and doing Ferd’nand for its last 20 years, retiring in 1989. He also stepped in to do the Sunday Nancy page for a while after Ernie Bushmiller died. And there was some work on Peanuts, but there’s a whole story in that one that should be reserved for a later date.

Oh, and he inked Captain America in the early part of both their careers.

Al Plastino was an editor’s dream. A wonderful artist and a fine storyteller, he could do anything and do it on time. His legend as a comics creator alone makes him a permanent part of comics history.

Al, thank you for making my childhood all the more amazing.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Return of The Tweaks

The Atom Invades Grover Mills and “The War Of The Worlds”!

If you’re like me, you learned way too much of your history from comic books. That’s how I first learned about Orson Welles and his infamous Mercury Theater “War Of The Worlds” broadcast which took place seventy-five years ago today, when the Atom went back in time and… well, why tell you when I can show you? From December 1974, here’s the back-up story from Action Comics #442, written by ComicMix columnist Martin Pasko and drawn by Mike Grell, here’s The Atom, or as he’s known here, “The Little Man From Mars!”

Here’s a thought that shocked me when I realized it: it’s been a longer amount of time from the time this story was published to today than it’s been from when this story was published back to the time when the War Of The Worlds radio broadcast happened.

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With A Roar Of Thunder– The New Blood ‘N’ Thunder Arrives This Labor Day

The New Issue of Murania PressBLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER issue #38 will be available Labor Day Weekend. A few highlights from the upcoming issue:

This issue’s outstanding feature is a lengthy excerpt from Nathan Madison’s recently published book, Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960. In this richly detailed, extensively illustrated piece Nathan explores “Yellow Peril” fiction from the pulps. His exhaustive study complements Bill Maynard’s celebration of Fu Manchu’s centennial from our last issue.

Another book published earlier this year, Will Murray’s Skull Island, pitted Doc Savage against King Kong and aroused much interest not only among the Bronze Man’s fans in general but devotees of Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe in particular. BnT contributor and Wold Newton adherent Rick Lai examines Skull Island and catalogs its deviations from the Universe in an unusually absorbing work of scholarship. In a separate piece Will responds to critics of his approach. Let it never be said that BnT refuses to present both sides of a story!

Will’s second contribution to BnT #38 is an 80th Anniversary hat-tip to the long-running hero pulp G-8 and His Battle Aces, adventures from which are now being offered in audiobook form by Radio Archives. He covers a hitherto overlooked attempt by Popular Publications editors to gauge reader interest in a proposed shift of emphasis for the magazine.

This summer marked another important anniversary in American pop culture: Superman debuted 75 years ago in the first issue of Action Comics. Mike Bifulco, author of The Original Superman on Television (a definitive guide now in its third edition), weighs in on the recent theatrical release Man of Steel and reflects on the enduring popularity of the TV series starring George Reeves.

This time around our “Tricks of the Trade” department boasts a particularly comprehensive installment by long-time pulp editor and science-fiction specialist Robert A. W. “Doc” Lowndes. Originally written for a 1949 writers’ magazine, this 6400-word treatise is perhaps the most informative piece of its type we’ve published to date. It provides the clearest look yet at how pulp editors appraised the manuscripts they received by the thousands every year.

BnT #38 also reprints two fascinating short stories culled from vintage pulp magazines. James B. Connelly’s “The Last Passenger,” from an early 1913 issue of The Popular Magazine, may well have been the first work of mass-market fiction inspired by the Titanic tragedy. “The Tenth Man,” from a 1922 issue of Adventure, is a taut tale of African intrigue by the unjustly forgotten Robert Simpson.

Learn more about Blood ‘n’ Thunder #38, along with ordering information, here.
Learn more about Blood ‘N’ Thunder here.

Man finds “Action Comics #1” being used as wall insulation

While remodeling his newly purchased home in Elbow Lake, Minn., David Gonzalez noticed something unusual amid the old newspapers that had been used as wall insulation.

It was a copy of Action Comics No. 1 from 1938, the very first comic to feature the granddaddy of all superheroes, Superman.

Read the rest at Man finds comic book worth $100,000 being used as wall insulation | The Sideshow – Yahoo! News.

REVIEW: Superboy the Complete Second Season

D500Alexander and Ilya Salkind had sold Superman to the Golan-Globus Group/Cannon but wisely retained the rest of the family including Superboy. Thanks to Star Trek: The Next Generation pioneering first run syndication in 1987, the Salkinds realized the Teen of Steel would be perfect. Looking to produce this on the cheap, they set up shop in Florida, hired science fiction hack Fred Freiberger to produce and hired a slate of newcomers to fill the iconic roles of Clark Kent, Ma and Pa Kent, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, et. al. The series debuted in 1988 with 25 episodes and was pretty laughable stuff. Freiberger was past his sell-by date and the Salkinds didn’t know how to handle the half-hour drama format.

Still, the ratings from the 95% of the country the series reached were strong enough to keep them going. However, changes needed to be made. Freiberger was shoved out and Salkind favorite Cary Bates stopped writing comics to become Executive Story Consultant with Mark Jones.  John Haymes Newton was asked to return the cape rather than give him a salary bump. Gerard Christopher, a more nuanced actor, became the last son of Krypton and thankfully had nice chemistry with Stacy Haiduk’s Lana. Also out was the character of TJ White with Andy McAlister the new comic relief. As performed by Ilan Mitchell-Smith, his scenes are cringe-worthy.

Superboy and Lana

As a result, the second season, out now from Warner Archive, is a far stronger, more satisfying collection of 26 episodes. Contained on three discs, this stripped down collection comes complete with bumpers and coming attractions but no other extra features. The transfers are nice and clean so with the series never having been rerun in the States, this is your chance to check it out.

1989-lazenby-01

Along with Bates, the team of Andy Helfer and Mike Carlin moved from vetting the scripts to writing more than a few. With Denny O’Neil also back for more and Bates penning a bunch, there was a definite stronger feeling to the stories and characters. With less than thirty minutes to tell a story using the regulars and guest stars, there’s very little in the way of depth or character development. As a result, the brilliant approach to Clark Kent slowly mastering his powers and coming to grips with his responsibility as seen in Smallville is all but absent here. Instead, the fully function hero is merely a younger version of Superman as he faces off with the adult’s rogues gallery including Metallo and Bizarro. Salkind and Bates teamed up for a pair of stories with Dracula while Bates plucked the Yellow Peri from Action Comics for a tale. O’Neill brought back Mr. Mxyzptlk and as portrayed by Michael J. Pollard, is more slacker than imp.

There’s a loose continuity episode to episode, beginning with season opener as Sherman Howard went bald as Luthor, replacing the previous season’s Scott Wells. His threat hangs over the beginning of the season and comes back later on while Dracula and others add a bit of spine to the stories. A highlight for this season is the appearance of Britt Ekland and George Lazenby, claiming to be Lara and Jor-El, still alive. This two-parter from Bates and Jones is emotionally compelling in ways many of the other episodes are not.

Given the Florida shooting, noteworthy guest performers were few and far between so beyond those two, Keye Luke and Gilbert Gottfried (as the mischievous Nick Knack) are as noteworthy as it gets.

The regulars all look too old for their college setting and Haiduk’s ‘80s hair does not age well but there’s a lot more charm the second time around and it’s well worth a look.

Happy Diamond Anniverary, Superman!

Seventy-five years ago on this day in 1938, the Golden Age of Comics began with the release of Action Comics #1, where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introducing us to a strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men– Superman! Who can change the course of mighty rivers– bend steel in his bare hands– and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!

And now, here are some scenes from the adventures of Superman*:

Superman-Origin

* Sorry about that– reflex.