Tagged: Action Comics

MIKE GOLD’s Top 10 Comics Of 2011

It’s the end of the year and everybody’s got their Top 10 list, and since I went to journalism school I’m obligated to list mine. I’m looking at titles that were released in 2011 because cover dates are meaningless. I’m not looking at original graphic novels or reprint projects, even though in dollar volume they constitute the majority of my purchases. Besides, original graphic novels are done to very different standards. Finally, some of these titles are done by friends of mine; I refuse to disqualify them because they just might buy me lunch. Having said all that…

#1 – Life With Archie Magazine (Archie)

Top of my list for the second year straight. Two stories – Archie marries Veronica, Archie marries Betty. Parallel worlds which converge, but that’s not why this book is great. There’s very real character development here, layered on personalities that existed for 70 years without it. We watch them grow, not into adults, but as adults. Better still, the most interesting character in both series is Reggie Mantle! Paul Kupperberg writes this, with art from Norm Breyfogle, Fernando Ruiz, Pat and Tim Kennedy and a host of others.

#2 – Tiny Titans (DC)

If you see this as a kid’s comic, that’s great, particularly if you’re a kid. If you see this as a brilliant loving satire of DC Comics and its convoluted universe, that’s great too, particularly if you’re an “adult.” Art Baltazar and Franco are pushing towards 50 issues here, and there ain’t a clunker in the bunch.

#3 – Elric: The Balance Lost (Boom)

Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion has been in the hands of a lot of comics creators and a lot of comics publishers, and the output has been… inconsistent. This latest series is among the very best: all of the various shades of Elric are here, and interweaved through the storyline are very contemporary elements and environs. Good stuff from Chris Roberson and Francesco Biagini.

#4 – Daredevil (Marvel)

Once again, Mark Waid does what he does best: he takes a well-established character that, like all well-established comics characters, has been covered in paint about a dozen too many times and strips it back down to the wall, preserving everything that made the character work while imbuing it with a contemporary environment. On this series, he’s going just that – and he’s doing it better than ever. Penciler Marcos Martin ain’t no slouch, neither. This is a real superhero book.

#5 – Justice League Dark (DC)

This one’s my surprise of the year. While very little of DC’s New 52 answers the question “why bother,” this one takes a bunch of characters of a somewhat mystical nature and thrusts them, Justice League like, into a trauma vastly larger than any one of them… and maybe all of them. Sort of like The Defenders, with all the style and John Constantine’s wit. Peter Milligan’s DC work has been inconsistent for me (I tend to prefer his U.K. work), but I’m glad I checked this one out. Mikel Jann draws the series. Very different… and very good.

#6 – Fly (Zenoscope)

I reviewed Raven Gregory and Eric J’s series about a recreational drug that gives kids the power to fly way back here. I liked it then, I like it now. Of course it’s out in trade paperback, so if you blew me off in August, give it a shot now.

#7 – Red Skull (Marvel)

Retrofitting a backstory onto a well-established character is a gambit that is often ill conceived and, worse, boring. Not this one. Greg Pak and Mirko Colak take us back to the villain’s adolescence where we learn – definitively – where his allegiances truly lie… and why. The fact that it’s got the best covers I’ve seen on a mini-series in a long while doesn’t hurt, either.

#8 – Batgirl (DC)

I don’t have a clue about how this series fits into any continuity, current or past. I’m told it does. What I do know is that this is a series about a young woman who’s trying to reestablish herself as a superhero after enduring traumas that shattered her body and soul. She’s not necessarily great at being a superhero, but she’s giving it all she’s got. This is exactly what I expect out of Gail Simone, and that is a very high standard. Adrian Syaf offers solid and exciting storytelling.

#9 – Action Comics (DC)

I went here because of Rags Morales’ art – I’d buy Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes if Rags drew the box – and I stayed for Grant Morrison’s innovative and engrossing script. This is the all-new young Superman, before he figured out what to wear on the job. It’s set well before the all-new older Superman in his eponymous title. I don’t know how this leads up to that, and I don’t care. This is supposed to hold up on its own, and it does. I’ll get over the slap in history’s face with the numbering (if such lasts); this is the best-produced Superman title in a decade-and-a-half.

#10 – To my friends who didn’t make this list: each of you came in tied for #10. Now go fight it out.

Notice how there aren’t any teevee or movie tie-ins? I never warmed up to that stuff. Not even as a kid. Which means it took me a while to realize Steve Ditko actually drew Hogan’s Heroes.

I have no doubt that within weeks at least two of the above-named will start to suck. Like all commercial media, comic books are subject to the whims of the lords and ladies of irony. But as a professional cynic, these titles and perhaps another half-dozen meet and exceed my bizarrely encrusted standards. Your opinions might differ, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong.

Of course not.

Extra: Happy birthday wishes to fellow columnist Marc Alan Fishman, who turns 30 today and, therefore, is old enough to know better. His son turns 0 in about a month.

Extra-Extra: Thanks to Gatekeeper Glenn for saving my life this year.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Nicolas Cage’s ‘Action Comics’ #1 sells for $2.16 million

Nicolas Cage’s ‘Action Comics’ #1 sells for $2.16 million

Superman making his debut in Action Comics No....

The $2 million barrier has been broken, with Nicolas Cage’s CGC 9.0 copy of Action Comics #1 now holding the all time auction record.

A rare and pristine copy of the first issue of Action Comics, famed for the first appearance of Superman, has set a record Wednesday for the most money paid for a single comic book: $2.16 million.

“When we broke the record in 2010 by selling the Action Comics No. 1, graded at 8.5, for $1.5 million, I truly believed that this was a record that would stand for many years to come,” said Stephen Fishler, CEO of ComicConnect.com and Metropolis Collectibles.

The previous record set in March 2010 was followed by the sale of another copy for $1 million. But neither of those issues was in as good a condition as the issue that sold Wednesday, though it’s pedigree of setting records was already documented. Twice before it set the record for the most expensive book ever, selling for $86,000 in 1992 and $150,000 in 1997.

But in 2000, it was stolen and thought lost until it was recovered in a storage shed in California in April this year.

via Action Comics 1 sells for $2.16 million in auction.

A two billion percent increase in cover price in 73 years. Not bad. No word on who the buyer was.


I’ve been in a grumpy mood all weekend. I don’t know why exactly… and I made it worse today because, being in a grumpy mood yesterday, I didn’t work on my paper for school – the topic being An Ethical Analysis of a Current Domestic or Global Issue, and normally I love to talk ethics and issues with a capital “I,” but I just was so grumpy, I couldn’t get my interest going – which of course I should have, but I blew it off.

Which meant that I had to do it all today, which led to me missing the Giants game against the Seahawks. Which they lost 36 – 25. And yesterday was Yom Kippur, but I was grumpy, so I blew off going to temple, too, which made me feel terribly guilty, but I grumpily chose to feel guilty rather than do the right thing and go to temple with my parents. Who are really getting up there in age and who knows if we’ll all be here next year, and would it really have been so horrible to go to temple for a few hours and make them happy?

Although I did fast. Sort of. Meaning I drank a lot of Diet Pepsi and smoked a pack of cigarettes while being grumpy and watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on TV Land. So I’m feeling guilty and grumpy about not going to temple yesterday, even though my parents were totally cool with it, and anyway, I haven’t gone to temple since 9/11, when I just decided that all organized religions totally suck.

And I’m grumpy because I’m not all that happy with my paper, which is called “There’s Something Happening Here” and is about the Occupy Wall Street Protests and the unethical practices of Wall Street (which of course is enough to make anyone grumpy) and the bullshit crap about Occupy Wall Street that’s coming out of the mouths of people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner (which should make everybody grumpy, but it doesn’t, which makes me even more grumpy), and there’s so much to say, but I had a word limit, which I went over, which makes me grumpy, and with my luck my professor is a member of the Tea Party, which will really make me grumpy if it’s true.

But this column’s supposed to be about comics.

So what did I read this weekend? Well, I wanted to critique Catwoman #1 of DC’s New 52, because I have a special interest in Selena, having written the first Catwoman mini-series, and it’s been making me grumpy that in that series I wanted Selena to deliberately throw the bad guy who had raped her sister off the catwalk, but the powers-that-be at DC at the time wouldn’t let me ‘cause “Selena a cold-blooded killer? Nonononono, bad, Mindy, bad,” but apparently now it’s okay to show Selena and Bruce doing the dirty on a roof in total Photoshopped glorious color. But my comic book shop guy screwed up the order for the second week in a row now, which has also made me grumpy.

But I did pick up Batgirl #1 by my gal friend Gail Simone and artists Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes along with Wonder Woman #1 by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, and Action Comics #2 by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Brent Anderson and Rick Bryant. Plus Green Lantern, Batwoman and Voodoo. But it’s making me grumpy that I’m behind the eight ball and it feels like everybody else has already put their two cents in.

Gail does her usually superb job writing Barbara Gordon, and I’m trusting her to answer why Barbara remembers being shot by the Joker and being in a wheelchair for three years if none of the characters are supposed to remember their previous incarnations. Or is it that she just doesn’t remember her time as Oracle? But I really like that the emotional and psychological reverberations of the Joker’s attack are still there. It would make no sense if Barbara was just “la-di-di-dah.” I’m trusting Gail to follow through with this for quite a while. No instant fixes, please, girlfriend! The artwork made me a little grumpy though.

Wonder Woman is always her best, imho, when her Hellenic background plays a strong part in her book. Which is why I loved Wonder Woman! I especially liked the cape worn by unidentified bad guy who pulls a “Godfather” on the horse in the stable. (The bad guy is only unidentified if you’ve never read any Greek mythology and so don’t get the significance of that particular cape.) Brian Azzarello does his usual brilliant job at dialogue, dropping hints and making the characters come alive. The artwork definitely did not make me feel grumpy.

Action Comics #2 is sucking me in but good! Special highlight for me was the “exclusive peek behind the scenes” at the development of the characters and artwork. Especially the artwork. As a writer who can’t draw beyond a stick figure, I love seeing (or reading) how an artist makes the magic.

I wasn’t feeling grumpy there for a few minutes, but now I’m grumpy again because I didn’t have time to read the rest of my haul, which puts me even further into the backfield. But I’ve run out of room anyway, so I guess I shouldn’t be grumpy.

Except that I’m running really, really late on this column (again!) and that’s making me grumpy.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

MINDY NEWELL: SuperGod – Thus Spake Zarathustra

I came home from work on Friday to find a package had arrived from Amazon. It was Supergods, by Grant Morrison. I had first heard about the book while reading the Rolling Stone interview with Morrison, which I mentioned last week. Between that interview and all the hoo-hah about Action Comics Vol. 2 #1, both my own reaction and those in the media, I had to read it.

(The debate continues, by the way. Today, Sunday, National Pubic Radio – NPR – devoted a segment of its “Studio 60” program to the reboot, with two interviews: the first with a comic book shop owner in Brooklyn, and the second with Jill Pantozzi, who herself is a redhead and in a wheelchair. Jill wrote an absolutely brilliant and terrific Op-Ed piece for Newsarama about the transformation of Oracle back into Batgirl, entitled Oracle Is Stronger Than Batgirl Will Ever Be. You should check it out.)

Anyway, back to Supergods. The subtitle is “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And A Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.” I’ve only read the introduction, and browsed through it, and already I’m enthralled.

Now granted (no pun intended – or maybe it was), Morrison is not the first to write about the mythology, the übergeist – I think I just made up that one from a combination of Yiddish and German – the collective consciousness of humans creating heroes to reflect themselves, their darkness and their light, their trial and tribulations. If you didn’t have to read it in college, you learned about Joseph Campbell and The Hero With A Thousand Faces from George Lucas through a little thing called Star Wars. But as one of the preeminent contemporary writers of superheroes, I can’t wait to really sit down and read it.

I think about God a lot. When I was a little girl, I had this recurring dream. I was somewhere in the middle of a field. It looked like the field in “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth, complete with the farmhouse at the top of the hill. Of course it was a dream, so it was a totally warped “Christina’s World.” I was standing there, and it was blue skies and sun. All of a sudden the sky was black with clouds. There was an absolutely huuuuge clap of thunder and a lightning bolt, and suddenly God was standing before me. Well, all I could see was the bottom of his long, black Supreme Court Justice robe. I craned my head up and back and up and back and the robe went up and up and up beyond the sky. Then God bent over, and I could see His face, and it wasn’t happy. His long white hair and beard mixed with the grasses of the field, and He looked at me with stern black eyes, and just shook his finger at me as if to say, “You’re a bad, bad girl, Mindy.”

I don’t know why I dreamed that dream. Probably got punished by my mother or my father for something I did that I don’t remember. Talk about Jewish guilt!

God and theology continued to fascinate me as I grew up. I didn’t go to Hebrew school, wasn’t bas-mitzvahed, and I got kicked out of Communion class for asking the rabbi how the Jews could be so sure that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, and saying that maybe we just screwed it up. (I asked a lot of questions that the rabbi didn’t like, like the time I asked him if Jonathan and David were maybe more than “just friends.”) But I read all the stories from the Old Testament that my brother brought home, and I read bits and pieces of The New Testament. I devoured movies like The Robe and Quo Vadis, and brought the books home from the library. My favorite though was, and still is, Ben-Hur.

There’s a line in Ben-Hur towards the end, when Esther and Judah Ben-Hur are taking his mother and sister from the Valley of Lepers to see Jesus. Judah’s mother is afraid, and Esther says, “No need. The world is more than we know.”

I know it was only a line in a movie, but I think the writer got it right.

Like Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, maybe the world was created by God because he’s a writer, and that’s what writers do, create, and we’re just the four-color two-dimensional characters in his comic book. Like Alan Moore’s Promethea, maybe we create the world out of our collective consciousness. Like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, the world is nothing but a dream set in motion by Morpheus.

Maybe there’s an obelisk on the Moon, just waiting to be discovered.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

MINDY NEWELL: Comics Are For Kids?

There’s a great interview with Grant Morrison on the website of Rolling Stone magazine.  The reason I bring it up is that I’ve been thinking about last week’s column.  The more I thought about Action Comics #1, written by Morrison, the more I really liked it.

But I’m an adult.

I’ve been a fan of Grant’s since his debut on this side of the pond as the writer of Animal Man back in the 80s. It was a book that I adored. But Animal Man was under the Vertigo imprint, whose aim was to bring a sophisticated, i.e. adult, audience and slant into the comics industry – at which it incredibly succeeded, of course. In fact, if I remember right, the “hook” for the entire line of Vertigo books was sophisticated horror.

But I’m an adult.

And the Vertigo books aren’t for kids.

I grew up during the Silver Age of comics. When Lois was constantly getting into jams thanks to her penchant of trying to discover Superman’s secret identity. When Jimmy was constantly being exposed to some weird amulet that turned him into Elasti-Lad or a giant turtle or a bearded man. When Perry smoked cigars and yelled “Great Caesar’s Ghost” all the time. When Supergirl was alive and acted as her cousin’s secret weapon. When Superboy was a teenage Clark Kent living in Smallville and had a secret passageway and robots to cover his “tuchas” when he was away on a mission and his parents were alive and Lana Lang was his sweetheart. When Kandor was in a bottle.  When the Legion of Super-Heroes travelled through time in a bubble. When the “editor’s note” would inform me that the sun was 93,000,000 miles away from Earth.

Okay, it was a more innocent age. Well, not really. There was the Cold War and the U-2 incident and the Korean War and the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis and Barry Goldwater and the John Birch Society and “advisory troops” in a country named Vietnam. The Suez Canal crisis.

It was the Mad Men age.

And then we all grew up to be Mad Men.

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luthor King. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Women’s rights. The Black Panthers. Newark, New Jersey in flames. The Weatherman. The Vietnam War. Tricky Dick. The Chicago Democratic Convention. Dan Rather being manhandled and dragged off the floor of the convention center. Cops in riot gear beating up college students. The Pentagon Papers. Pot. Hash. Timothy Leary. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.

The thing is, I think all those people marching and rioting and fighting and reacting to what was wrong in the world, what they did, what we did, was because we were raised on the ideals of what America was supposed to be about, what we really did believe, growing up, America was about.

I look around now, and I wonder, why aren’t people out on the street marching in the hundreds of thousands protesting? Angry people march. Angry people riot. Angry people force change.

Six out of 10 children are living in poverty in this country. In fucking America, man! Why aren’t their parents out there marching? We were lied into Iraq more blatantly than we were ever lied to about Vietnam. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? We’re building infrastructures and schools in Afghanistan while our own bridges and roads are collapsing and our school buildings are rotting. Why the fuck are we not out there marching? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Koch brothers and about 10 other Wall Street operators are speculating in oil prices. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? The President lets the Republicans walk all over him and the Republicans can’t stand that the black guy in the White House isn’t the valet. Why the fuck are we not out there marching?

What has changed?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t.

But I’m sad, and I’m scared. Really scared.

Superman used to be written for kids. As was Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Grant is a great writer. Grant is a brilliant writer.

Grant is not a writer for kids.

And Action Comics #1 isn’t for kids.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

MIKE GOLD: Superman’s Return To Superman

Looking back at the past week’s columns here on ComicMix, I’ve noticed a lot of folks are kind of upset about DC’s New 52. Perhaps upset isn’t the right word. Perhaps “untrusting” is more appropriate.

This has been mirrored in the various conversations I’ve had with folks in the past week – fans, pros, casual readers, advertising executives, media moguls, relatives, and the rest of the usual folks who clutter my life and cut into my valued reading time. Nobody seemed very happy about The New 52; some thought it insane. Most were checking it out, and simple curiosity will inflate sales figures for a while. Then these books will live or die on their strengths and weaknesses, as it should be, and in DC’s ability to maintain a publicity campaign that isn’t catering strictly to the established Comic Book Donut Shop.

I can’t say I’ve read all of the first week’s output, nor am I likely to. I’m not overwhelmed by the concept – been there, done that, right down to the “52” bit. But some of the stuff I’ve read was pretty good, and I thought I should peep up about it.

Heading that list is Action Comics volume 2 number 1. I picked this one up because I’m a huge fan of artist Rags Morales; I’ve been such since he first walked into DC’s offices and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to work with him a few times. His Superman did not disappoint, not in the least. It has an energy and a determination that lends itself well to this incarnation.

Writer Grant Morrison, on the other hand, has had a mixed career at DC. I loved – and I mean “stop reading this and go buy it” loved – Zenith, his series for 2000AD. Some of his DC work has been really good, some not so much, and a little bit of it incomprehensible. But he’s always worth the effort.

Dismissing the parts of The New 52 that are little more than stupid marketing tricks – relaunches are never as good as simply doing it better – Grant and Rags used an interesting starting point for the new adventures of the ol’ Man of Steel. They used as their starting point the original mid-1930s Superman. They placed that character into our contemporary environment, and presumably are going on from there. This is not the new, angry, ballsy, tits to the wind Superman. This is the original angry, ballsy, tits to the wind Superman. And I think it’s good stuff.

I say “I think” because this issue of Action Comics is exactly like the other New 52 issues I’ve read in that it is a very quick read, light on story and burdened with all the problems of introducing a new series. I would have appreciated at least twice as much “story” in this story, although it has more than Justice League #1, which would give your average single day’s newspaper comic strip a run for its money.

This rather significant element aside, what we got wasn’t as much of a reboot as a restoration. This is a good thing.

I promised myself I wouldn’t comment on the more contemporary atrocity that is one of the new Superman costumes, but clearly I lied to me. Yeah, dumping the external red shorts is okay; they were stupid. A nod to their design source, the circus strongman. But by wearing blue jeans and a swell contemporary belt and a short sleeved shirt, the new stuff makes Superman’s cape look ridiculous.  It looks like a bib worn backwards. But Superman without his cape is like the American flag without the stars, and no matter how silly capes look and how they destroy verisimilitude Superman’s cape is part of the deal. Maybe they can fuss with it a bit.

Superman is the crux of the DC Universe, and DC has to make him work for the 21st Century in order to make The New 52 work. This first issue came maybe two-thirds of the way there.

That’s pretty good. Better than I expected.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

MINDY NEWELL: American Reinvention

Today, as I write this, is September 11, 2011.

Ten years.

The World Trade Center. The Pentagon. Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I’m watching the memorial services.

Tom Brokaw, David Gregory on NBC and MSNBC. Anderson Cooper and Candy Crowley on CNN. President Obama with Michelle and President George W. Bush with Laura. Mayor Bloomberg. Rudy Giuliani. Vice President Biden.

Breaking news: a truck bomb has killed at least 50 American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The ticker on CNN now reads: Global Terror Evolves. Al Qaeda under attack but keeps changing as Peter Bergen says: “Ten years out, terrorism remains, but is very different.”

Yesterday I read the “debut” issue of Action Comics #1. The one with Superman in a t-shirt, jeans, and Timberland boots.

It’s a different look for him.

He’s different.

The story opens as Superman breaks into a corporate (corporate = evil) meeting and manhandles the CEO (CEO = malevolence). The police (hired mercenaries?) rush in. They order Superman to put down the CEO. His answer, in the last panel on page three: “Just as soon as he makes a full confession. To someone who still believes the law works for the same for rich and poor alike…”

I turn the page.

Two-page spread, splash panel. Superman is standing on the edge of the roof, holding the CEO up with one hand, threatening to drop him. His eyes are burning, glowing red. He’s firing up his heat vision, eyes burning and glowing red. The CEO is screaming for someone to save him. The cops have their weaponry aimed at him. It’s a stand off. And Superman finishes his thought:

“…because that ain’t Superman!!!!”

It sure ain’t.

I could write a thesis on how American culture has changed since the last ten years. But better men and women, better writers and thinkers have done that already, so I won’t.

But I will say that I believe there is a disease that is rampant in this country. It’s a highly contagious disease that causes its victims to change facts. In America its sufferers believe that the United States and its government has always “played fair.” That the original colonists never slaughtered the native culture they found here or that 100 years later the U.S. Cavalry didn’t lace blankets with smallpox to kill the “Indians” of the Great Plains. That those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. That slavery itself was a fair and equitable system in which master and slave worked for the common good. That President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a scion of one of the wealthiest families in America, was a socialist. That Eisenhower was a tool of the communists. That the Civil Rights Act was propagated and staunchly defended by Southern Republicans and fought with tooth-and-nail by the Democrats. That the World Trade Center was brought down by controlled demolition explosions and that a missile hit the Pentagon was launched by “elements” inside the Bush administration. That Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. That Obama isn’t an American.

This is the culture of America today, September 11, 2011. It’s a suspicious and cynical culture that would rather dream nostalgic dreams of a past that wasn’t than to work together to shape those dreams into reality.

But is it so different from the culture that shaped two kids from Cleveland in 1932, two kids who believed in “the American Dream” of truth and justice for all, and created an avenging crusader a “superman” who beat up mobsters and wife beaters, profiteers and lynch mobs? That culture supposedly welcomed immigrants, and then barred them from communities and colleges and jobs. It was a culture that restricted voting and allowed segregation. The Superman created in 1932 and who debuted to the world in 1938 was a result of the suppressed anger of two Jewish boys who saw the inequities and untruths in the American reality, but still believed in the American dream.

Ronald Reagan, for all his faults, was right when he spoke of America as that “great shining city on a hill.” America, the idea of America, is still, will always be, in my not-so-humble opinion, the quest, the Arthurian legend, come to life.

My question is, and my worry is, how can the kids reading Grant Morrison’s 2011 version of Superman still believe in that quest, those ideals, that American dream that the hero has always represented when he clearly states, That Ain’t Superman?

Ten years later.


It’s not.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

JOHN OSTRANDER: Superman – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

This is an amazing Superman. Not totally invulnerable, can only leap mover tall buildings and not fly, defying authority, fighting criminals and corrupt politicians, on the side of the little guy – really amazing stories. What? Grant Morrison’s Superman? No, I’m not talking about that. I haven’t read his new version although I’m sure it’ll be good; Morrison wrote All-Star Superman, one of my favorite run of Superman stories.

No, I’m talking about the original run of Superman stories, by the creators – Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I read them in one of the DC Archive books and I was floored when I read them. This was not the Superman I grew up on; he was actually a lot more interesting.

In one story, he gets a bad guy to talk by throwing him off the roof of a building, catching him, and then throwing him off again. He keeps doing this as he worries about whether or not he might have butterfingers. In another story, there’s a series of slums that are public housing and the buildings are in terrible shape. Supes’ solution? He pisses off the authorities to the point where they try to bomb him. He’s running in and out of the slum buildings that wind up flattened so that the authorities have no choice but to build new ones. And he’s laughing while he does it. The man’s a maniac – a Supermaniac.

In another story, an innocent man is about to be executed. Supes gets proof he’s innocent and goes to the governor. It’s almost midnight and the governor is in his pajamas and robe. There’s a storm and the phone lines go out. No way they can contact the prison in time. Supes grabs the governor and hurtles through the night, running and leaping at high speed to get the governor there in time to pardon the guy.

In another, Superman deals with a wife-beater and gives the jackass a taste of his own medicine.

Is the art a little primitive by today’s standards? Perhaps. Are the stories a little simple by today’s standards? Maybe – but they move like a speeding bullet. Superman at the start was very much a character of his time, born in the Depression, where the public’s confidence in their political institutions were low, where crime seemed rampant, and the little guy/gal seemed to have no-one on his/her side. Superman wasn’t bound by the courts or the law; he was an outlaw for justice.

Sound like today? Oh yeah. A Superman that hearkens back to his roots might be just what we need. I don’t know if that’s what Grant Morrison is doing but, from interviews he’s given and fro9m what I read in articles, it sounds to me as if he read those old stories, too, and has gleaned from them a basic, more primal Superman. Yesterday’s Man of Tomorrow written for today? I could get into that.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Variant Variety Ain’t the Spice of Life

When my mother asked me why I was buying up all the comics I could, I made an attempt to satisfy her underlying problem. “I’m not wasting my money, Mom, these comics are worth money!” She bought that. Years later, she asked me when I was going to sell them and enjoy the tidy profit. Wouldn’t you know it? All those copies of Night Man and Mantra weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. And my Walgreens copy of Cyberforce: Bloodstryke? Nary a nickel would be given to me by any one aside from maybe Marc Silvestri. Had I been smart enough, I would have picked up the holo-foil variant cover, and nabbed me a dime.

You see kiddos, when I got into comics, the ‘Variant’ cover ruled the land. In the go-go-nineties, when people suddenly thought comic books were highly coveted collectables, the publishers followed suit by releasing a veritable tidal wave of ‘comicas con variantas.’ Short supply equaled high demand, and before you know it… even your next-door neighbor (who can’t tell Batman from Man-Bat) is collecting comic books. Me personally? I couldn’t care less. Have a seat. Get comfy. Let me pull out my jar of poetry wax. It’s time to polish up the Rant-O-Tron 5000.

Collectables by and large bother me. The idea that you would purchase a toy, a poster, a print, or a talking rubber fish all with the notion that it’d eventually mint you a tidy profit seems ludicrous to me. Toys are meant to be played with. Art is meant to be displayed. And those talking rubber fish? They’re meant to be in RVs in the south.

The same goes for comic books. Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment (and I hope in fact that I’m not) but comic books are meant to be read. Comic books as collectables just irks me a bit. Scratch that. Comic book collectors who don’t enjoy the medium for anything other than the potential profit? They irk me.

Unlike commemorative plates, baseball cards, or Hollywood memorabilia, comic books are made with the intent to entertain. Writers sat at typewriters concocting amazing fantasies for their fictitious creations. Artists slaved over their drawing boards meticulously adding nuance, detail, and action to the written word. And a literal team of other players had their hands in the pot… from the letterers, colorists, inkers, designers, and editors who spent their work week fretting over deadlines to eventually put their book on a store shelf… and you don’t even take the time to read it? Next time do me a favor, buy a limited edition Billy Bass.

But Marc, you protest, what about those smart people who minted thousands upon thousands for their rare Action Comics #1, or Detective Comics #27? What about them, indeed. Neither were a “Holo-Foil Sketch Blank Autographed Variant.” And 75 years from now, if you think your copy of the “B” cover of Justice League 2011 will be worth thousands of dollars more than the standard “A” cover… well, you are welcome to dance on my grave if it’s true.

Suffice to say, I’ve never bought a comic strictly for the purpose of profiting. And for those who do, while I don’t deny you the right to spend your money however you see fit: I scoff at you on principle alone.

For the publishers who produce them, it must seem like a brilliant idea. In John Ostrander’s piece a few weeks back, we learned that the comic book market is such that the publishers don’t sell to the consumers. They sell to retail shops who in turn sell to us. So their spin-off squeeze play is nothing more than an attempt to hike up sales a bit more. Dynamite alone must produce an Alex Ross variant every other week, for every other book they publish. In turn the shops might feel compelled to order enough of the base book to “earn” those packed-in variants, and in-turn mark them up for sale to the saps, err, collectors who come into their stores. I love Alex Ross’s work kids, I do. But they day I’m chasing down a Green Hornet Year One Sketch Cover Variant C, break a NASCAR Jeff Gordon plate across my face. Before anything else, a comic is there to be read and enjoyed.

Agree? Disagree? You know the drill. Let me have it below.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MIKE GOLD: The Superman Rebus

If my calculations are correct – and that might be a first – the comic book advertised in the house ad above was released 53 years ago this week. DC fussed with the cover dates since this book was published, but I think I’m on this one. The house ad itself was designed so that the production department could easily swap out the covers, and here’s three of the others to appear in that slot:

(Don’t be concerned about Superman having a different cover date; DC had different schemes for monthlies, 8x yearlies, and bimonthlies.)

In 1958 those were four extremely compelling covers. Superman having a new power was a big deal, and rainbow covers always sold better than the norm. “Jimmy from Jupiter” was a very strong concept back at that time, and it was one of the first of the famous Jimmy Olsen transubstantiation stories.

The same thing is true for the Superboy story. It introduced Bizarro, the first super-villain to become an adjective. Editor Mort Weisinger knew he had a good story after its Superman-oriented dry run in the newspaper strip: he hyped it in the previous issue of the title, which was a rare event.

But that Adventure Comics cover was the killer: crossovers were few and very far between, and time travel crossovers were all the more rare. This issue must have sold well, as Mort endlessly repeated the stunt with other characters. Today we’d think that a no-brainer, but back in 1958 it was a very big deal.

So it was a good week or two for the Superman Family. And it was a very good week for me, as I had just turned eight years old and was at the optimum age for these stories.

Even then, my father was concerned about my obsession with comics. He didn’t have a problem with comics per se, just the fact that it became my religion. It was sort of a Jazz Singer thing. But we were visiting a relative and my father wanted to keep me occupied, so we stopped at a drug store next to the relative’s apartment building and he told me I could pick out three. I already had the Superman, so I had to pick from Action, Jimmy Olsen, Adventure, and Superboy. Of course I begged for all four – I would have anyway, but this time I was as insistent as I was ineffective.

Problem, problem. I had been waiting for the Bizarro story for at least a month, and the Superboy – Robin crossover was more important than life itself. So the choice came down to “The Jimmy From Jupiter” and “The Shrinking Superman.”

I chose Jimmy.

The problem is, even though that issue of Action Comics was redistributed two weeks later I never found it on the newsstands. In fact, I didn’t find it until nearly 15 years later, and it cost me over ten bucks.

I told that to my father, thinking I could guilt-trip him by exploiting his deep appreciation for the buffalo. But, as usual, he outwitted me. Dad said that I was eight and I would have not kept the book in good condition and, therefore, would have bought it on the collector’s market anyway.

He nailed me.

One thing more. This house ad? It spawned a deep love for rebuses. A teevee game show called Concentration where the gimmick was getting the contestants to solve a rebus took to the air the very same week as these various Superman titles were released. To add insult to injury, the original run of the show ended 14 years later, roughly the same time as I bought “The Shrinking Superman” at a comic book convention.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil