|Issue #28||Release Date: 10/17/12||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Look: THE WALKING DEAD MAGAZINE #1
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #4
MARVEL ZOMBIES HALLOWEEN #1
Advance Review: ALAN ROBERT’S KILLOGY #1
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS: BLACK LIGHTNING AND BLUE DEVIL #13
A VS X: CONSEQUENCES #2
Advance Review: TALON #1
Opinions Are Like @$$Holes: Superman – Then & Now!
Advance Review: In stores today!
THE WALKING DEAD MAGAZINE #1Publisher: Titan Magazines
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Come for the Kirkman interview and stay for the 100+ more pages that traverse thousands of leagues deep into the WALKING DEAD world. And don’t let the cover shot of all the TV folks fool you: there’s as many, if not more, pages devoted to the comic.
I love magazines like this because I hate my co-workers. My nerdom is generally the object of ridicule inside the gleaming boardrooms and general boredom that is Business-to-Business Communications. Except for brief pockets of time each year, co-workers line up outside my office to get the deep dive into whatever comic property has jumped into other mediums. My summer was spent articulating the back-story of AVENGERS. For the past three weeks these cheap and lazy fuckers of corporate servitude have been trying to glean whatever they can from my ten year love affair with WALKING DEAD in anticipation of the series premiere.
“How will the prison arc end?” “Who is the Governor?” “Is he a real Governor?” “Who is the samurai chick?” “Is she a real samurai?” Now, I can just place copies of WALKING DEAD MAGAZINE (WDM) outside my office and hope the pulp chum lures these ignorant information sharks away.
WDM doesn’t answer all questions; in fact, it will make you pose more questions as you get deeper into the issue. The TV show has already deviated from the comic in many regards, and in case you forgot what they all are, there’s a nice handy dandy check list in WDM. It also looks like from the spoilers inside, those deviations will become even greater as the show progresses. I don’t fault the show or blame anyone; TV is a different medium and character development simply can’t happen in the same fashion. Take Carl, for instance: comics characters age at the pace writers want them to. As we’ve learned time and again from TV, though, children age fast and look different from week to week. Carl’s maturation on the show must happen significantly faster than in the comic. For my money, as long as a character ends up where they ultimately should emotionally, the translation did its job.
Here’s a brief rundown of my WDM greatest hits:
Interview with Robert Kirkman: The great furry one loves this series, THIEF OF THIEVES has been optioned, Kirkman is continuing his commitment to indie comics by expanding Skybound line of titles in 2013. All told much more entertainingly in the Kirk’s words.
The Story so Far: For all the TV troglodytes thinking of jumping to the funny books, but too cheap to buy them, here’s a trade-by-trade run down.
Just Another Day: Want to know what made the Governor so damn Governey? This short story will illuminate and entertain.
A Century of Fine Art: Issue 100 brought with it a cavalcade of covers…I own most of them (don’t judge me – I couldn’t decide). What’s interesting are the little blurbs of insight from creators like Quitely, McFarlane, Ottley and others on why they chose the moments and themes they did.
Charlie Adlard Interview: Most fascinating element? The time he takes to track the rate of decay on all the zombies. I never noticed before, but I went back issue diving after reading this article and sho’ nuff, The Dead do indeed get rottier as the issues move forward.
Choice Cuts: Breakdown of best moments for different characters each month. This month gives us a Michonne spotlight…as expected given her popularity in the Season 3 build-up and interview with actress Danai Gurira inside WDM.
Basically, WDM is the full access balls deep examination of anything and everything WALKING DEAD. Even if you’re the type of fan that likes the clutter of statues around the house, you’ll find articles a’ plenty in WDM on new ways to piss off your wife.
Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #4 (of 6)Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Art: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics
Positive reviews and generally favorable response to DC’s Alan Moore-free WATCHMEN prequels aside, I still have a hard time supporting these projects.
MINUTEMEN is the most palpable for me, mostly because up until this issue, Darwyn Cooke has focused his attention on those minor characters that were barely sketched out in the original graphic novel. His extrapolations of the Silhouette and the Mothman feel true—that is, feel that they could fit in neatly with the universe that Moore and Gibbons created.
But with this issue, Cooke fixes the majority of his attention on the Comedian and Sally Jupiter—two characters who, to my mind, were realized to perfection in WATCHMEN. Readers of the original graphic novel need no further backstory for these characters; everything we needed to know was laid down in those twelve issues. Cooke’s new continuity adds nothing to these two that enhances their already-detailed characterizations.
Moreover, some of the new material rings false when taken with the original series. I can’t see the Sally Jupiter of Moore and Gibbons killing the Silhouette’s murderer, much as I can’t imagine The Comedian of WATCHMEN responding to the kindness of a villager during wartime.
It comes down to this: Cooke’s MINUTEMEN is a pretty good read…if you’ve never read WATCHMEN.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
MARVEL ZOMBIES HALLOWEEN #1Writer: Fred Van LenteArt: Alessandro VittiPublisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Something Something Joke About This Franchise Becoming A Zombie Blah Blah Blah…
MARVEL ZOMBIES has always seemed like an incredibly odd imprint to me. Don’t get me wrong; horror films are only a few pegs under comic books on my geeky credentials, so seeing zombie superheroes was something I’d never thought of and had always wanted. Robert Kirkman’s initial run is twisted, funny, and surprisingly deep. The same issue that saw Magneto ripped to pieces ala Day Of The Dead also featured Spider-Man refusing to ever take off his mask again, because he could never look himself in the eyes after consuming MJ and Aunt May. It was creative, well written, and fun. But since that original story, the brand has been subject to countless reinventions and arcs, all of which just seem to diminish the effect. The ingenuity of having Hulk consume too much people and having his stomach burst when he returns to Bruce Banner was gone, replaced with the same jokes over and over (I do still love MARVEL ZOMBIES VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS, if only because if confirms that a version of Ash does in fact exist in the Marvel universe). It got to the point where the original story finally concluded in MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, and I thought we’d finally seen the end of the franchise, only for five more times. The fifth one, MARVEL ZOMBIES HALLOWEEN, departs from the typical “Your favourite heroes making cannibalism jokes” vein of the franchise and instead tells a solid one and done story about two of the survivors of the plague. Van Lente manages to turn the concept into an enjoyable Halloween tall tale, and while it’s nothing remarkable, it is well done.
Writing: (3/5) What manages to be the most impressive part of the writing is how it resists the typical tropes of the Marvel Zombies stories. It’s not needlessly gruesome, as some of the other stories became, and doesn’t rely on shock value to drive the plot. Instead, it’s a much more basic premise: some time after the zombie plague has swept the world, a mother and her son survive in a farmhouse. The boy, learning counting by using a calendar, is intrigued by Halloween and gets his mother to celebrate it with him. But when the boy gets lost in the local city at night, he finds himself on the run from zombified superheroes. It makes for a more enjoyable read than the series has done previously, for once feeling like there are stakes present. Seeing the zombies through the eyes of a child gives them a real sense of danger, something that’s been lacking. Van Lente utilizes the actual villain of the piece to great effect, turning this from a basic zombie story into an old Hallows Eve tall tale.
However, it’s not perfect. The title still feels the need to make the zombies quippy (an element I’ve never much cared for, regardless of who the zombies used to be), and the zombies themselves aren’t remotely memorable. As is the case with many horror stories that involve a child in peril, you almost want to see the boy devoured for the sheer stupidity of going outside alone at night. It’s a classic set up for this kind of story, but it doesn’t necessarily make the classic good.
But, overall, Van Lente writes an entertaining comic. The early scenes with the mother are well done, and the reveal at the end is a very good twist.
Art: (4/5) Vitti does a great job creating a distinction between the comforts of home compared to the horrors of outside, complimented well with Beaulieu’s colours. The mother and her son have a bright color palate and exceptionally expressive models, which lends well to both the calm and terror in the comic. The zombies, on the other hand, are done with a sinister edge, decomposed enough to be frightening but still easily recognizable. The art takes a serious step up once the second villain is revealed, and it all looks marvelous. The art can be a little muddled at times, with characters making incredibly weird expressions or being inconsistent, but overall it’s very well done.
Best/Worst Moment: I honestly can’t tell how I feel about zombie Squirrel Girl. I love her optimism and her character so much, and it’s difficult to see that transferred into a unremarkable zombie. On the other hand, she has a swarm of zombie squirrels to do her bidding.
Overall: (4/5) An enjoyable if flawed Halloween special. Now, can we please let MARVEL ZOMBIES die? Please?
Advance Review: In stores today!
KILLOGY #1Writer: Alan Robert
Art: Alan Robert
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
A year after completing his excellent and harrowing tale of madness CRAWL TO ME, Alan Robert is back with a whole new kind of terror and this time he’s brought along some friends. After talking with a lot of writers, I’ve come to find out that in order to get into the heads and develop the voices of their characters, they cast their stories with real life people. Here, Alan Robert has gone a step further and lets us know right off the bat who these people are he’s based his story characters on in KILLOGY, a new limited series to be released this October from IDW. Since Mr. Robert has been kind enough to be a guest on my horror panel for the last few years at SDCC and NYCC, he was kind enough to pass me on a super-secret advance copy of his new book and I’ve decided to share it with all of you!
KILLOGY starts off with a contrived but undeniably cool concept: what if tough guy mob actor Frank Vincent (who most know from GOODFELLAS and THE SOPRANOS) happened to be locked in a prison cell with rock star Marky Ramone (from the Ramones…durrr!), and the gorgeously talented and talentedly gorgeous Brea Grant (star of HEROES/DEXTER/FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and writer of WE WILL BURY YOU) the night some insanely ghoulish shit happened to the world? Yes, it’s got a bit of a whiff of THE USUAL SUSPECTS, but it’s one of those concepts that works for me. Casting real life people (playing roles, but basically they are playing themselves) is a fun way of adding a bit of fun meta-conceptuality to this miniseries and I like it.
I don’t want to reveal the threat, but it’s right up Robert’s alley as all of his work tends to take a more horrific route. Here it’s handled with ambiguity, which adds to the horrific nature of the conundrum the three characters find themselves in, and while they are safe yet starving in the cell for the time being, they have nothing to do but tell each other the story of they ended up there. And that’s how our story begins.
Having talked with Robert about this book, the stories each of the characters recite in the cell are interconnected, but with Frank telling his tale first, how those interconnections play out isn’t made clear at first. I do know that I had a blast reading Robert’s mafia-style Italiano dialog. I could almost hear Frank mutter the clichéd but hilarious Italian colloquialisms I used to enjoy every week on THE SOPRANOS. Robert gets the voice perfectly.
Robert also did the art of this book and adopted a completely different style from the photoshopped and digitalized stylizations from his previous series CRAWL TO ME and WIRE HANGERS. Here Robert adopts a more straightforward method of drawing. Though it is a bit heavy on inks at times, Robert shows amazing range in his accurate depictions of his stars as well as some horrific scenes filled with scares and gore.
I can’t wait until October to enjoy this series on a monthly basis. It’s definitely something I can’t wait to see play out and with a winning “cast”, a cool premise, and some extremely talented artwork, KILLOGY looks to be a series that’ll satisfy the ghoul in me.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-September 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 which begins in August 2012.
X-FACTOR #245Writer: Peter David
Art: Leonard Kirk
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Once again Peter David’s X-FACTOR team has been forcibly shuffled due to editorial dictates, and once again David manages to turn this into an insightful, engaging comic. A few years ago it was Wolfsbane being trucked away to the pages of X-FORCE, and now it’s Havok going to the new UNCANNY AVENGERS.
David uses this exodus to focus on his strongest suit: exploring the relationships of these most human superheroes. Alex Summers’ feelings about his role in the X-Factor organization, his long and convoluted history with Polaris, and even his love/hate relationship with his brother Cyclops are discussed; thankfully, the events of AVENGERS VS X-MEN are referenced without this title having to have been involved in the crossover.
Sure, no punches are thrown, no plasma beams are blasted, nobody gets decapitated or defenestrated…but a superhero book about the heroes themselves can be just as compelling, and that’s the case (and is thankfully the norm) with this issue of X-FACTOR.
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS: BLACK LIGHTNING AND BLUE DEVIL #13Writer: Marc Andreyko
Art: Robson Rocha
Publisher: DC Comics
Why did I buy this comic? Two words: Blue Devil. One of my favorite comic book characters, for reasons both profound and simplistic. Profound in that I discovered the original BLUE DEVIL series at a time when the prevailing tenor of the comic book landscape was dark, dark, dark, and the magical concept of taking a tragic premise—a man trapped inside a demonic form that he himself created—and throwing out the pathos for a comic that wasn’t afraid to be FUN. Simplistic, because hey! It’s a big bald blue guy with horns and a trident with a slick costume and he looks cool! My favorite character has gone through the wringer since his creation back in the pre-CRISIS years of the mid-1980s, going from an ordinary guy stuck with the “weirdness magnet” of his demonically-charged suit to a full-fledged demon, and has lost most of his original appeal in the process. So when I saw that the Blue Devil was going to be reinvented for the sort-of-rebooted DC Universe of the “New 52,” I had to see which version of the character would serve as the basis for this new incarnation. Would it be the fun-loving stuntman trapped in his own creation or the azure-hued demon from hell?
Turns out that this new Blue Devil is more in tune with the original character concept, at least at the basest level. This Devil gets his powers from the costume, although Daniel Cassidy is no longer the suit’s creator—that credit now goes to his uncle Liam, who in this issue seems to regard the Blue Devil costume as more of a curse than a blessing. Foreshadowing a more hellish origin for the character rather than the original science-and-magic mixture, perhaps?
But even though the origins are similar, I can’t get excited about this new Blue Devil, and it comes down to the character design. I lament the loss of elegant costume design at the DC offices; the overly scribbly lines of Jim Lee’s revised designs for the Justice League members seem to have set the tone for the rest of DC’s characters. The graphic, Kirby-esque design of the original Blue Devil costume has been replaced by hooflike feet, an annoyingly asymmetrical trident design and a leather-and-chain combo that looks like a mishmash of Ghost Rider, Hellraiser and Spawn. And what’s with the whole collar, sleeves and bare chest look? The overall design lacks polish, and winds up feeling like an amalgamation rather than a clear concept. Plus, that element of FUN that made the original character endearing looks to be absent here, especially since this issue closes with (SPOILER ALERT!) Daniel’s uncle dying in his arms. Looks like it’ll be more of that dour comic book darkness for my one-time favorite character.
Oh, and Black Lightning is in this comic, too. I got no beef with him.
A VS X: CONSEQUENCES #2Written by Kieron Gillen
Pencils by Steve Kurth
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth br>
The Battle is finally over and now the inevitable fallout is here. The suitably titled “CONSEQUENCES” is a five part mini-series that explores the aftermath form Marvel’s AVENGERS VS. X-MEN crossover event. Admittedly, my initial reaction to yet another AVX tie-in was not the most exuberant. Having now read the first couple of issues, my viewpoint has shifted 180 degrees.
After a 12 issue run (not to mention a multitude of tie-in issues) that amounted to little more than superheroes beating up on other superheroes, AVX: CONSEQUENCES is a welcome turn of events. Issue #2 explores the complications of the Phoenix Five’s war with The Avengers, with a heavy emphasis on an even more tenuous than usual relationship between Cyclops and Wolverine.
This issue is significantly light on action, and that’s actually a good thing. The usual fisticuffs are swapped with a zealous verbal melee. This heated exchange between Scott and Logan is quite gripping and feels a lot more substantial than most of the events depicted during the entire AVENGERS VS. X-MEN tale.
Kieron Gillen delivers a story that is emotionally rich and, dare I say, crucial for the events in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN to be of any real consequence (see what I did there?). Steve Kurth does an equally impressive job handling the artwork for this issue. Kurth is able to imbue the same level of emotional range with his renderings resulting in a representation that flawlessly supplements the tone of the story.
AVX: CONSEQUENCES #2 does a solid job of conveying the seriousness that was sorely lacking form the main story. While this issue may not be big on POW, WHAM and BOFF moments, it certainly makes up for it by engaging the reader with more depth and humanity. In short, AVX: CONSEQUENCES #2 makes the hot mess that is AVENGERS VS. X-MEN feel like it actually has made an impact on the Marvel Universe.
Advance Review: In stores today!
TALON #1Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Art: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I can’t cast one negative barb at TALON from a creative standpoint. Snyder is a tits writer and Tynion has a flair for both action and quieter moments of reflection. Together the team did an excellent job peeling back the psyche of former Talon (not an undead one, just to be clear) Calvin Rose, as he returns to Gotham to see if the Court of Owls was truly caged and summarily put down by BATMAN.
Now, those that don’t enjoy Snyder’s reflections on history will be slightly annoyed. Personally, I don’t understand your gripes; I like how Snyder has always made Gotham a character in the mythos, but to each their own. The first two pages are very heavy on Gotham itself as we learn more about the rogue Talon and his mission to regain his life before Owls.
For as good as this is, though, I still question the necessity and value of this project.
This book is a “Joey”, not a “Jeffersons.” For anyone who isn’t as old as Moses’ balls, I use these TV shows as an example of characters that were perceived to be too popular to contain within their parent properties. With “The Jeffersons”, good call. “Joey”, not so much. Some characters, some mythos, are better as garnish than the actual meal. I feel this way about the RED LANTERNS book as well. It’s not a bad book; just egregiously unnecessary in telling the grand story of the DC Universe or the pocket that is just GREEN LANTERN. I like my books to have weight and consequence on the meta level. TALON just doesn’t give me that vibe; it feels like a shill based on popularity rather than adding anything further to Gotham or Batman.
Wafts of Azrael permeated my mind as I read each page and with that conjuration of nostalgia, I also was reminded of the bank-breaking deluge of titles that permeated the early 90s.
The New 52 was supposed to be DC’s line in the sand on how many titles would be produced. Yes, we all bemoaned this many titles in September of 2011, but it actually was a pull back from the stable prior to FLASHPOINT. It was DCs caring hand reaching out to assist our beleaguered recession-struck budgets. Personally, I liked when 52 had a little more significance than a publishing count: the weekly book, the idea of 52 separate universes and other actual reasons for the number seem to have faded into the ether, but I truly believed the published number would stick.
In September I counted 57 books and this excludes anything Vertigo or some of the younger DC fare; hell, I was even kind enough to take anything BEFORE WATCHMEN out of the count. That’s expensive. Sure, if you have infinite dollars and infinite time, there’s a nugget of goodness and at least one moment of enjoyment to be found in any DC book including TALON. However, if you’re an actual human being, you must be cautious of dollars and life really sucks up a ton of comics reading time. I just don’t feel Talon is one of those enduring characters that will carry weight through the DC Universe anytime soon, and for me that means I’m going to divert my 30 DC titles a month budget or whatever it might be to books that I know are truly interconnected, creating a larger cohesive narrative.
As a man who was clearly not a fan of the 52 moniker to begin with, I become even less enamored when the number loses all significance beyond a marketing slug line. At a certain point I know our dollars will decide the fate of all books; to that end I give DC credit in its ability to cast away dead wood, but I also know this book will get readership based on the Snyder name alone, and in my mind a book without purpose and consequence cheapens its respective universe regardless of how it sells.
I also have a personal problem with this book since the 0 issue. Where the FUCK IS BRUCE WAYNE’S brother? When I picked up a book with one central protagonist in the COURT OF OWLS, yes I was fully expecting a resurrection of a character thought dead. I mean, this is kind of a serial staple, no? Instead I get to meet Calvin Rose…who’s kinda cool, I guess.
If you’re the type to read comics by particular creators, buy TALON today. Your Snyder stalking will pay off in spades. But if you’re like old Optimous and want your stories to truly matter, to be part of a grander and more glorious design, you would be best sharpening your beak on the current “Death of the Family” crossover in the main Bat properties.
Last year DC Comics rebooted their universe with the New 52, something that really hasn’t happened since the aftermath of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS in 1985-86. In both cases, DC’s goal was make their universe simpler and easier to understand for new readers. So in 1985 they revised their history and in 2011 they erased it. Last week we looked at how this affected the Justice League; this week let’s turn our attention to: Superman.Before the reboot in 1986, DC said goodbye to their original Man of Steel with a two issue story by Alan Moore, “What Ever Happen to the Man of Tomorrow?” published in SUPERMAN #423 and ACTION COMICS #583. While Superman had evolved over the years, there was never a Golden Age to Silver Age break in the character like the Flash or Green Lantern, so this was a big deal for Superman. Before the New 52, Superman had gone through two soft reboots already with SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT (by Mark Waid in 2003) and SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN (by Geoff Johns in 2006). Oddly enough by today’s standards, in 1986 Superman’s comics were not re-numbered. There was a new SUPERMAN #1 on the stands, but it was a brand new series as the original Superman comic was retitled THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. ACTION COMICS, meanwhile, retained its issue count. The new Superman comic lasted until 2006, at which point THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN went back to its original title: SUPERMAN. In 2011, DC had no worries about renumbering the classic series and both SUPERMAN and ACTION were restarted with a true #1 issue.
So who were these brave, foolish people who sought to rewrite the most successful superhero in the history of the world? In 1986 it was John Byrne, perhaps the biggest name in comics at that time (although George Perez was a close second). Byrne helped turn the UNCANNY X-MEN into a mammoth hit with writer Chris Claremont, and furthered his fame writing and drawing FANTASTIC FOUR and creating his own superhero team: ALPHA FLIGHT. On top of all that buzz, this was billed to be John Byrne’s first work for DC (well, kinda; he had done smaller work before). The reboot was also worked on by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Jerry Ordway, who produced sister comic THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. In 2011, the now sister comic, SUPERMAN, was produced by George Perez (writing) and Jesus Merino (drawing). ACTION COMICS by writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales was the main event. Grant Morrison is one of the industry’s top writers, who could either wow with the likes of JLA and WE3, or confuse with the likes of SEAGUY and FINAL CRISIS. Years earlier Morrison wrote the award-winning ALL-STAR SUPERMAN mini-series. Rags Morales became a highly respected artist after drawing the controversial miniseries IDENTITY CRISIS. He also impressed fans with his work on characters like Doc Savage, The Avenger and The Spirit in the FIRST WAVE.
Now comparing Supes’86 with Supes ‘11 is a bit messy, compared to JL’87 and JL’11. You see, DC kicked off their Superman reboot with a six issue, bi-monthly mini-series by Byrne, MAN OF STEEL. John Byrne then continued writing and drawing two comics a month, producing both ACTION COMICS and SUPERMAN. Meanwhile, in 2011, DC just had Grant Morrison produce twelve issues of ACTION COMICS (Rags Morales drew nine of them). So, in the first year Supes ‘86 had 24 issues and Supes ‘11 had twelve (not counting their sister titles THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN or SUPERMAN). For the purposes of this article, I plan to compare the first year of each. So that’s twelve issues of ACTION COMICS (#1-12 monthly) for Grant Morrison and six issues of MAN OF STEEL (#1-6, bi-monthly) and nine issues of SUPERMAN (#1-9 monthly) for John Byrne. I’m excluding John Byrne’s ACTION COMICS, because the main story was in SUPERMAN, and ACTION was just a fun team-up book a la THE BRAVE & THE BOLD. Make sense?
Concept wise, Supes ‘86 was all about simplifying Superman and making him more unique. He was now, truly, the last son of Krypton. Gone was the Phantom Zone, Kandor City, Supergirl, multicolored kryptonite and crazier elements like Beppo the Super Monkey. He was also treated more like a guy from a Kansas farm than an alien planet. In fact, Superman didn’t even know he was an alien until well into adulthood. Supes ‘11 turned around and embraced all those former crazy elements. The Phantom Zone, Kandor City, Supergirl, and multicolored kryptonite all came back (still waiting on Beppo), as did Superman’s knowledge of being an alien as a young boy. So while John Byrne focused on Superman as a superhero tale, Grant Morrison focused on Superman being a science fiction tale.
Superman’s powers changed a lot too. Supes ‘86 was no longer capable of pushing planets out of orbit or flying so fast that he could break the time barrier. That said, he was still the most powerful superhero around. He also lost his invincible skin, which was replaced with an invincible aura. The aura came in handy since he also lost his invincible costume (originally made from Kryptonian blankets). This aura extended over his normal Earth costume, making it invincible too--but not his cape, which got shredded often. In Supes ’11 his invincible skin returned and his cape became an invincible Kryptonian cloak, so now his t-shirt and jeans (and shoes) got shredded often--that is, until he acquired an indestructible suit of Kryptonian armor for his costume. In both 1986 and 2011, Superman’s powers developed slowly, having no superpowers as an infant. This prevented Superman from ever being Superboy in 1986, a tradition still carried on today. Currently Superman is younger than his 1986 counterpart, so we have yet to see how much more powerful he may become. In Supes ’86, it’s stated that Superman was a solar battery, solely getting his powers from Earth’s yellow sun. In Supes ’11, Morrison returned the concept that Superman also got his powers from Earth’s weaker-than-Krypton gravity.
What about the characters? The biggest change in Supes ’86 was Lex Luthor. No longer the childhood friend of Clark Kent who grew up to be a mad super scientist, Lex Luthor was now the evil CEO of Lex Corp, a company built from his own genius. Luthor maintained a popular public persona, as Lex Corp supposedly directly or indirectly employed most of Metropolis. He was the biggest man in town until Superman showed up, which was something Luthor wouldn’t have. Luthor also gained a history with Lois Lane, as they dated sometime before Superman’s arrival in Metropolis. In Supes ’11 Lex Luthor has yet to be fully described, appearing as a rather moral-free consultant to the military. Lex Luthor now fears alien influences corrupting the human race, which puts Superman in his cross hairs. In Supes ’86, Clark Kent was no longer the cowardly klutz he was before. Kent was now a confident newspaper columnist who could be just as brave as Superman. In Supes ’11 Clark Kent became an earnest slacker type. He once again became a newspaper reporter, now with an investigative angle to expose the corruption in society. His Superman was much more confrontational and didn’t mind throwing his weight around.
In 1986, Superman was more the gentle giant, getting the nickname the Big Blue Boy Scout. Also back in 1986, Ma and Pa Kent were now both still alive and helped Clark create his Superman identity. In Supes ’11 they were both returned to the grave before he became Superman, as they were Pre-Crisis. Lois Lane in 1986 hadn’t changed much at all; nor has she in the New 52, though she is younger. Oddly enough, as Clark and Lois got younger, Jim Olsen got older in the New 52, as the three of them are now the same age. Pre-Crisis Jimmy had slowly matured into a young adult; Post-Crisis Jimmy was back to a wannabe cub reporter with a camera. Perry White was the same as ever in Supes ’86, and in Supes ’11 he’s barely appeared. Only Jimmy and Lois work for the Daily Planet in Supes ’11, as Clark works for the smaller rival newspaper the Daily Star (the early name of the paper Clark and Lois worked for in the 1940’s).
As for other notable characters, well, in both cases the jerky co-worker Steve Lombard is still no longer around. And in both cases a new female cast member has been added: Supes ’86 had Cat Grant, the gossip columnist who actively pursued Clark Kent (much to Lois’ shagrin). Supes ’11 has Mrs. N, Clark Kent’s landlord and the only other person who knows he’s Superman. Mrs. N was recently revealed to be someone from the 5th dimension, like the yet to be seen super-villain Mr. Mxyzptlk. Supes ’86 also saw the addition of Metropolis’ Special Crimes Unit with Dan Turpin (a character originally from Jack Kirby’s Pre-Crisis NEW GODS series) and Maggie Sawyer (who would be one of DC first homosexual characters). On the Police side in Supes ’11, there is the possibly corrupt Inspector Blake.
So what happen in those first years? Well, both reboots started off in the quasi-past. In THE MAN OF STEEL, John Byrne told Superman’s new origin, now a test tube baby ‘born’ on Earth. He also covered Superman’s first run in with Lois Lane, Batman, Lex Luthor, and Bizarro. Superman would also learn of his alien heritage and reconnect with the one woman who knew his secret, Lana Lang. When the mini-series ended, it was assumed we reached the present. In Grant Morrison’s ACTION COMICS, it started off five years in the past, and after the first story arc it supposedly moved into the present. The narrative did flash back to show Superman being born properly on Krypton again, and growing up in Smallville, then flashed forward to show Superman hanging out with the Legion of Superheroes. When the MAN OF STEEL mini-series was over (in 1986) the action moved over to SUPERMAN #1; Superman would face Metallo (a now Terminator-like cyborg), a space mummy, Rampage, Bloodsport, the Legion of Superheroes and even the Joker.
Superman would also face Darkseid in a LEGENDS cross-over story that carried over into THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS (#586), where the two would engage in their first ever physical conflict. Also of note was a short story of Lex Luthor, which would illustrate what a bastard he is, as he toyed with a small town waitress (SUPERMAN #9). A common thread through all these issues would be Lex Luthor’s quest to destroy Superman, including the discovery of kryptonite. The Supes ’11 stories were much more dense as Grant Morrison wove a narrative including flashbacks, easter eggs, and hints of future story arcs. Superman ( and Clark Kent) would go after corrupt businessman, Glen Glenmorgan, get captured by Lex Luthor and the military, tackle Brainiac (who was now a giant collector of doomed civilizations), and fight Captain Comet (one of DC’s first mutant heroes from the 1950’s) and Metallo (now a military cyborg, sans the kryptonite heart). A common thread through all these issues is a little evil man seemingly pulling the strings in the background, revealed to be a being from the 5th dimension. Oddly enough, a scrap book would come into play in both series, as Ma Kent kept a Superman and pre-Superman scrap book in 1986 and Lois Lane would keep one in 2011. Superman would meet Batman in both series as well. In 1986 Superman tried to capture the vigilante and in 2011 he went to Batman for help (as they had met earlier in the Justice League). An appearance by the Legion of Superheroes was also a common element in both books.
One of the crazier things that happened in these reboots was, Grant Morrison killed Clark Kent. An assassin discovered Superman was Clark Kent, but before he could move in for the kill, Superman let everyone believe Clark was killed in an explosion. He then captured the assassin and took on a new identity, John Clark (a fireman). That didn’t last long as a magic wish would make the world forget Clark was ever killed. In Supes ’86, Lex Luthor actually figured out Clark Kent was Superman, but he refused to believe it: ‘No one with that much power would pretend to be so simple’, he figured. Another strange thing that occurred in the Supes ’86 revamp was that after DC declared “no more alternate Earths”, John Byrne created one! The pocket universe, in which the classic Superboy existed! This was to explain all the Superboy/Legion of Superhero adventures. Grant Morrison tackled this issue as well, having Clark Kent be a small kid with just his cape, and borrowing a Legion flight ring to hang with the Legion. Morrison also had an alternate Earth story in his first year as well, the Superman of Earth 23 (I’m not sure how to describe this Superman, in a PC manner, as he is neither African nor American!). At least this time DC hadn’t outlawed alternate Earths, stating there are 52 in existent.
The reception of the Post-Crisis Superman was pretty much a smash hit. Newer and passing fans of Superman enjoyed the cleaner, less ridiculous history of Superman while John Byrne’s own star power brought in everyone else. Still, diehard Superman fans were not happy with this weaker, farmer boy Superman, let alone the loss of Superboy and Supergirl. John Byrne’s Superman remains fairly popular today, but is often used more as a reference point when discussing Superman’s power level. With the star power of Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, plus the sizzle of the whole New 52, Superman (ACTION COMICS) started with a bang. But sales slowly dropped to average levels as most fans complained of the confusing narrative. While John Byrne managed to write and draw nearly 45 issues of the various Superman titles, Grant Morrison will be leaving after issue 16. It’s unsure how long Rags Morales will remain on the book.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this look at Superman reboots then and now--be here next time as we go over Wonder Woman, George Perez and Brian Azzarello.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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