Monday, June 30, 2008

Superman: Distant Fires--Has Anyone Else Read This?

In 1998, DC released a 64-page Elseworlds comic written by Howard Chaykin and illustrated by Gil Kane (with inks by Kevin Nowlan). Have you read this thing? You should. Because it's CRAZY!

Yes, that is Superman riding a giant mutatated cat as the Earth burns beneath him. And all his superhero pals are following his lead. Well, the ones that can fly anyway. The rest are screwed. But before I get into the horrible deaths of the many non-flying heroes, let me tell you a little bit about the premise of this Elseworlds marvel.

It begins with a global nuclear war. Everyone and everything is destroyed. Superman cries (because, being Superman, he survives, even if his shirt does not).

The nuclear armageddon really didn't do too much more than cause a lot of really big tidal waves. No nuclear winter. No gigantic radiation-filled zones. Just a lot of rubble. Rubble that's good for makeshift gravestones, thinks Superman. Oh, yeah, and Superman has also lost his powers, so he has to resort to using a shovel. And since he can no longer fly, he's at the mercy of the GIANT MUTATED RATS that infest Metropolis. Yes, it's the day after the nuclear war and the rats have already mutated to the size of elephants. That radiation works quickly, but only on animals. Luckily Superman hasn't forgotten how to fight, so he quickly dispatches the evil rats and runs away. And meets a new friend. A giant kitty cat that he tames and mounts, He-Man style. He compensates for the loss of dignity by sporting a vest and a sweet ponytail:

He wanders the continent, thinking he, his beard, and his ginormous kitty are all alone in the world, but then he bumps into Wonder Woman and finds out that people have survived! Including, Wally West, who insists on wearing his Flash costume even while hobbling around on one leg:

Note that nobody else still wears their costumes. But Wally West? He's the fastest man alive, and he wants people to know it. Even if he can't walk anymore. But that's not the real story of the comic. The real story is that the all-grown-up-now Billy Batson is in the camp with the survivors, and when Superman shows up, arm-in-arm with Wonder Woman, Billy Batson gets his Shazam-envy on. He goes so far as to create a civil war within the camp, dividing the factions between those loyal to Superman and those loyal to Captain Marvel's jealous rage. Oh, and in the battle, Wonder Woman dies. Superman sheds more tears before punching Billy Batson in the chest. Then the Earth starts to explode.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Wonder Woman and Superman had a baby at some point, and Superman also got his hands one of those sweet Green Lantern power rings. So he crafts a magical green spaceship and launches his infant son into space, because that's how the El family rolls when the planet is ready to blow and there's a baby kicking around.

And that, my friends, all happens in 64 pages. That's what was so great about the Elseworlds books. Anything could happen, and it often did. All in the same story. And Chaykin pumped out a bunch of Elseworlds in the 1990s--all of them deranged bits of genius. Plus, Gil Kane inked by Kevin Nowlan? Seriously? How can you go wrong?

As the main Superman titles were reaching their nadir, the Elseworlds Superman books like this one were keeping the legacy of Silver Age insanity alive. If you think sometimes mainstream comics can be repetitive and dull, and don't have enough crazy gigantic rat battles and hormonally jealous Fawcett characters, think again. This comic proves you wrong.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Green Lantern #32 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Green Lantern #32, about which I write the following sentences: "'Captain America' is a dark look at the individual struggling against the system -- it's a Marvel book through-and-through, with its pathos straight out of Stan Lee and its iconography straight from Jack Kirby. 'Green Lantern,' on the other hand, is the quintessential DC comic. It's brighter, more epic, more showy. It's about clear delineations between good and evil. It's that Gardner Fox/John Broome approach to the genre, updated for the 21st century. If you are a DC fan, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis' 'Green Lantern' is probably one of your favorite comics, embodying, as it does, everything the DC Universe does well: spectacle with a strong sense of tradition."

Read the entire review HERE.

Ultimates 3 #4 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ultimates 3 #4, about which I write the following sentences: "It's customary for superhero comics to have slugfests and action scenes, and it's to be expected in the climactic portions of the story arcs. But this tempo -- fight after fight after fight -- has been the standard since the first pages of the first issue. And it's not exhilarating. Or fun. It's just the comic book equivalent of someone yelling in your face for ten minutes every two or three months"

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chad Nevett With More on Superman's Villains

Continuing our back-and-forth look at the Morrison/Waid/Millar/Peyer Superman 2000 proposal, Chad Nevett has posted the bits about the three great "Anti-Supermen": Bizarro, Brainiac, and Lex Luthor.

I actually disagree with Chad about the Luthor as businessman idea. I think that was one of the things that destroyed the character in the 1980s and 1990s. I didn't mind it at the time, but in the past two weeks I've read the Elliot S! Maggin Luthor and the Luthor from Stuart Immonen's graphic novel, and Maggin's ultra-genius super-scientist Luthor is such a fascinating character--much more interesting than the bland businessman Immonen is saddled with. In the novels, Luthor has multiple identities so he can create super-weapons, hide them in plain sight as works of contemporary sculpture, and then bid up the prices. Then, when someone outbids him, he makes a ton of money, then when he needs to super-weapons, he knows which museum to find them in--and he just waltzes in and steals them.

Luthor as a business man is too plain. Too desperate. Too simplistic.

The Cover Price Trend: A Graph

Here's my relatively unscientific profile of comic book price trends, in response to my prediction that mainstream comics will all be $3.99 by next summer.

This hastily-made graph on the left shows a sample of Amazing Spider-Man cover prices--from issue #55 to issue #555. I stuck with the issues ending in "55" because I figured that would avoid any double-sized issues and price problems. And I was too lazy to look up more than a handful of issues.

But you can clearly see the price trend, and by issue #655, scheduled for 2011 or so, the price should be at or above the four-dollar mark (if the graph continues in the same general direction). This graph doesn't account for the huge spike in oil prices which will probably drive the cost of EVERYTHING through the roof.


DC and Marvel via Brian Reed

Brian Reed had a great line at WizardWorld Chicago, at the "Bendis vs. Johns" panel. He said that anything can happen in the DC Universe, but the Marvel Universe has a different set of rules: "Wonder Woman can come home and have gorillas in her living room and people are like, 'that's cool.' If Professor X came home and there were gorillas, fans would be like, 'that doesn't make sense.'"

That sounds exactly right to me, but what is it about the Marvel Universe that doesn't allow random gorillas?

And does such mentality destroy any chance of success for the upcoming Marvel Apes mega-crossover?

Final Crisis #2 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Marvel has this tiny Secret Invasion thing going on, I don't know if you've heard about it, but some of the kids are really getting into it. It might catch on, so buy your Marvel stock post-haste! DC has this other thing--this massive crossover written by Grant Morrison, who's been known to do a bit of writin' now and again. It's called Final Crisis and people don't really seem to like it because there (a) aren't enough aliens that have the powers of three or more heroes, (b) isn't a lot of repetitive dialogue and/or T-Rexes, and (c) is an expectation that readers will look at the words AND the pictures to figure out what's happening.

So now that Final Crisis #2 is out, Chad Nevett and I though it was time to discuss the grouchy reception some critics gave the first issue, and to talk about how it compares to that little Secret Invasion thing.

Also, we mention Saved by the Bell and Degrassi. Without any good reason, really. Read all about it in the newest installment of what some might consider the most profound work of comic criticism to ever hit the transnational internet spaceways, The Splash Page.

Some might instead click HERE.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Captain America #39 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Captain America #39, about which I write the following sentences: "'Captain America' is packed with plot twists and character moments. It's not Bendis' 'Daredevil,' which was all about interior conflict and paralysis. No, this is a comic book series that has moved tremendously from where it began, but the looming threat hasn't disappeared. The Red Skull, Dr. Faustus, and Arnim Zola continue their evil scheme. And Bucky Barnes slowly grows into the role he was born to play."

Read the entire review HERE.

Look: An Interview with Me

Here's something that was never published: a short interview Matt St. Pierre did with me a few months ago. Because even though I should post about how terrible Trinity is, I am at Six Flags the Children's Museum with my family today, and I have better things to do--like water slides!!! like puppets?--than worry about Bagley's mediocrity. So, here's the interview:

Matt St. Pierre: How long have you been interested in comics?

Tim Callahan: I've been reading comics since I was a kid, but I never really collected them or read them regularly until about middle school. What happened was that I had been buying "Web of Spider-Man" at the local grocery store, but I missed issue #1, and I was at some weird flea market place around that time and actually found issue #1 and when I got back to school--this must have been 7th or 8th grade--I told a friend that I found a place that actually sold OLD ISSUES OF COMIC BOOKS. And he was like, yeah, so what? There's a store in the neighboring town that does that. It was the now-defunct Imagine That on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield, and once I saw their selection of comics both new and old, well... I've been buying comics on Wednesday ever since!

MSP: What about comics - the medium, superhero comics, graphic novels, and whatever else - is interesting to you? Why do you read them, follow them, keep up with them?

TC: Actually, the reason I even started buying scattershot issues of stuff like "Web of Spider-Man" back in the day was that I bought TSR's "Marvel Superheroes Role-Playing Game" and I liked reading about the characters so much in the guidebooks that I wanted to start reading the comics. I just didn't really know where to find them. Before the internet, information on comics and where to find them was scarce. And I pretty much bought all the "Marvel Superheroes" guidebooks and manuals and modules even though I never actually played the game ever. But I had a strange compulsion to learn everything about all of the characters, and then the "DC Heroes" role-playing game came out and so I got hooked on those characters too. I'm not even a gamer, really, but I liked reading ABOUT the characters and fictional universes. And once I found out about Imagine That, I was able to buy stuff like "Who's Who in the DC Universe" and "The Handbook to the Marvel Universe" and so I guess you could say that it was the vast array of superhero characters that fascinated me. I seriously read every single word of all of those character guides over and over. And traced the pictures, too.

All of this was coming out just as the big "event" comics were hitting -- stuff like "Secret Wars" or "Crisis" and then we got stuff like "Watchmen" and "Dark Knight Returns." Basically from ages 12-15 I was exposed to all of this amazing new superhero stuff--arguably the height of the superhero genre--and I just loved the scope and tone of the stories, especially the darker ones I started reading, like "Miracleman" and, later, Grant Morrison's absurdist work on "Doom Patrol" and Neil Gaiman's "Sandman."

So at just the right age, superheroes were deeply lodged into my psyche. Now I read almost any kind of comic -- I've been catching up on Moebius's "Lt. Blueberry" work and I'm reading manga I've missed out on like "Lone Wolf and Cub" and "TekkonKinkreet" as well as the major work coming out from Top Shelf and Fantagraphics and Oni. But I prefer the superhero genre for its scope and beauty. When it works well, like Geoff Johns's recent work on "Green Lantern," or John Rogers "Blue Beetle," it's just great serialized storytelling that mixes the cosmic fun of sci-fi adventure with the humanity of an epic tragedy. The artists working in the medium are consistently amazing, and I just love stories that have words AND pictures.

Although I love reading literary novels, with my current teaching and writing schedule, and two young kids at home, I rarely have the time for the sustained attention a novel of any substance requires. Comics take about 10 minutes (at most) to read, and I can squeeze them into my life much easier, even when I'm reading 20 or 30 a week.

MSP: The book you wrote about Grant Morrison - what made you want to write about him, and how easy/difficult was it to get the ball rolling?

TC: I've told this story before, but one of the few fan letters I wrote as a teenager was in response to Morrison's first American work, and you can see my letter published in "Animal Man" #5. So I've been following his work ever since it appeared over here. I've tracked down pretty much everything he's ever written, even the more obscure British stuff (with the exception of the "Captain Clyde" newspaper strip he wrote and drew as a teenager), always with an eye on maybe writing a book about his work. I grew up thinking that he was the most interesting writer (not just comic book writer, but WRITER) ever, for the way he reimagined genre conventions and brought his unique voice to everything he did, and so I always assumed I would write something about him someday.

I met the guys at the first New York Comic-Con and I e-mailed them about doing a column on Morrison's work. They liked the idea, and as I spent literally 10-12 hours a week on the column, I knew I wasn't just writing a column--I knew I was writing chapters of a book. And then when they said, "hey, we think this might make a good book," I said, "I know. That's how I've been planning it." Originally, they wanted to wait until I was done with Morrison's entire career, but I had written so much about his early work--from "Zenith" to "Doom Patrol" that we all agreed that we already had a book on just that section of his career. And, frankly, I was burned out on Morrison and burned out on spending 10-12 weeks on the project, so I wasn't really going to be able to write about his later stuff without a break. (I'm still on that break, by the way, and although I tried to begin the proposed sequel to the book last year, I just don't have that much ambition to continue down that particular road right now. I began listing all of the allusions he makes in "The Invisibles," for example, and it was well over 120 references in just Volume 1, and although I'd planned on reading, or watching, or listening to every single thing he alluded to, I ultimately decided that I just wasn't that interested.)

MSP: Why did you start the blog and why do you continue with it?

TC: My writing career really began with the Sequart column. I had written a couple of online things before -- reviews for "Grayhaven Magazine" and other sites you've never heard of -- but I only started my GeniusboyFiremelon blog because I knew I was going to the first New York Comic-Con, and I wanted to do a report on my experiences. So I started the blog a couple of weeks prior to that, just playing around without much direction. It's hard to write a blog when you know you aren't going to have any readers. So I updated it sporadically, and when I posted my convention report a few people linked to me, and I got a few readers. And then I started the Sequart column and started to update the blog a bit more regularly, but not much.

Then, a year later, once the book hit Amazon, I made a concentrated effort to make the blog really work. I posted every day, knowing that, as a reader, I only read blogs that were updated regularly. I thought of my blog as a comic book and pop culture magazine, with me as the sole contributor, and that helped me stay focused. Plus, I was on my summer break, so I could devote the time to it. Since my book was getting some press and I was being interviewed at various places online, I was also picking up more visitors. Since I knew people were reading it, I had more motivation to keep posting. I also thought of it as a promotional tool. I advertised my book on the site, and I could trace a pretty direct correlation between how many hits I was getting and how much my book's ranking was improving. Of course, when school started back up in September I had to cut back, and my stats dropped accordingly. But after I got settled in with my new classes, I returned to a more regular blogging schedule and my blog actually landed me a job at Comic Book Resources where I now work as a regular reviewer, and I'll have a weekly column starting at the end of July. I was really hoping all of that work I was doing for free would pay off somehow, and it's starting to. Of course, now I have less time to write anything substantial for my blog, but that's okay. Each month the hits increase, and my added exposure elsewhere, plus my archive of material, has brought more people to check out what I'm doing.

Between the Comic Book Resources stuff, my Morrison book, my work on the "Teenagers from the Future" book, upcoming articles for "Back Issue" magazine, and my blog, I'm actually starting to get noticed a bit, and I'm starting to shop some work around to the bigger publishers. But I'm just getting started, honestly. My plans for world comic book domination are far from reached.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: Lois Lane, Mrs. Superman

I've been commenting on excerpts from the Morrison/Waid/Millar/Peyer Superman 2000 proposal for weeks, and so has Chad Nevett. Here's another small except of the rejected proposal, from the section labeled "Lois Lane, Mrs. Superman" with some commentary by me (just to clarify, the block quotes come from the pitch, and the other stuff between the block quotes are my comments):
Lois brings us to the second major phase of our approach. Everyone’s in agreement that the marriage and the emphasis on soap opera no longer seems to be working as well in the current market as it once did and that a major part of our imperative should be to restore the Clark/Lois/Superman triangle. This is, to our collective mind, one of the most if not the most important reader-identification elements to the character--and yet, we have to find it again without putting the All-American icon through a divorce, without killing anyone, without sullying this grand romance known the world over.
Sounds familiar, no? Well, Joe Quesada and Spider-Man weren't the first to deal with these kinds of thoughts.

By the way, the "second major phase" line implies a first major phase, and that would be the return to a more powerful Superman, as I've outlined in previous blog posts. But it's worth noting that the team thought that the Lois/Clark dynamic was the second most important aspect of the comic. Honestly, Superman has been married for most of my comic book reading career, so that seems like the natural state for the character as far as I'm concerned, but in my current Elliot S! Maggin obsession phase, I've been reading a lot of Superman stories from the Bronze Age, and I forgot how essential those "oh, I secretly think Clark is Superman, but he can't be because there's Superman standing next to Clark" scenes really were. They happened a lot. And it did add some tension to the story. But a married couple with a secret life is also a kind of sexy tension too, so I'm not sold on the notion that the "triangle" is what's most important about their relationship.
How we dissolve the marriage and still be true to the fact that it happened is the one instance where we’ll have to sail close to the cosmic reboot dock--more on this below--but hopefully this time the change will be organic and satisfying and will have a magical, romantic feel rather than the cold, surgical procedures of the previous era’s retconners.
According to Morrison, in a relatively recent interview about All-Star Superman, this bit of the pitch was amended before the final proposal was submitted. Apparently, the "dissolve the marriage" idea was ultimately abandoned, but in this version of the proposal, it's a significant part of the Superman 2000 concept (and what Morrison says in that interview refers specifically to the ideas outlined here). And, as you'll see, it is a very familiar approach to creating a kind of new day, a brand new day, if you will, for a married superhero.
Our absolute conviction is that we’ll have failed in our job if readers cheer when Lois and Superman are split. Everyone will be EXPECTING this to be the first thing we do. We have to make them love Mrs. Superman and THEN take it all away. This has to be universe-shattering romantic overload and when it’s over, it has to break every heart in the land. If it doesn’t, if we do it and nobody cares, we do a disservice to the Superman/Lois relationship. Now that this has happened, we can’t and won’t treat it as just a mistake without making it at least as meaningful a farewell to the Byrne/Jurgens era as Alan Moore’s Krypto deathscene was to the Weisinger legacy. We honestly feel pretty strongly that Lois Kent and the marriage deserve our best efforts before we get rid of them.
Did "One More Day" accomplish this for Spider-Man? Did the story itself make readers love Mary Jane and that caused the uproar when the marriage was taken away? I don't think so--I think that there's no way comic book fans would ever cheer about a major superhero marriage being removed. So Morrison and company really didn't need to worry about that, but the notion of showing exactly what is so powerful about the love between Lois and Clark is a good one.
First thing we must do, however, is shake up the relationship and define its quirks and boundaries anew.

Stage one: split Clark and Lois by sending her off around the world as the Planet’s foreign correspondent. This gives us a whole new arrangement of relationships to play with below).

Lois and Clark are now physically separated. They still meet often, taking the occasional romantic weekend in the revamped Fortress (see below). He makes her breakfast in bed in a manner of seconds with ingredients from all around the world, waltzes with her through the Aurora Australis, etc. A dream, an idyll, but for their own amusement they play a game whenever they meet as Clark and Lois, sniping and sparring like Tracy and Hepburn. Lois and Clark thus become a little edgier, while the love of Superman and Lois becomes grander and more heartbreakingly poignant.
I'm not convinced that such an approach would make their love seem "grander and more heartbreakingly poignant" just because they're not hanging out in the apartment all the time, but the foreign correspondent approach is a good idea. Was that ever used by another Superman creative team?
As we approach mid-year, we unleash our Big Story. The unthinkable has finally happened. Luthor and Brainiac, working together, have finally unearthed the secret of Superman’s dual identity----and they tell the world.
In Maggin's Superman work, his exposed identity was a regular plot point--and Superman would always clean it up by the end of the story. But, wow--the similarities to One More Day/Brand New Day continue, don't they? Maybe Millar whispered some of these ideas to Quesada when he joined Marvel. It's not just "Birthright" and All-Star Superman that ended up with the ideas from the Superman 2000 pitch--it was Spidey as well..
Superman is totally and irrevocably exposed for the first time, and the consequences are more disastrous than he ever imagined. In less time than it takes to tell, his personal life has been destroyed as souvenir hunters snatch everything in his office and apartment; his parents have been hospitalized by a vengeful Parasite; the Daily Planet has likewise been leveled by his enemies, with Jimmy and Perry barely able to escape with their lives--maybe. And Lois may as well just paint a target on her head. For sixty years, we’ve been telling readers why Superman’s secret identity is important. Now we show them.

And that’s just the opening salvo.
And Bendis's Daredevil too...
The Luthor/Brainiac team intensifies its efforts to manifest a global threat. Brainiac turns Earth’s sun red to drain Superman’s powers. Luthor trips triggers he’s had in place for years, all while pitting an ever-weakening Superman against a phalanx of his greatest foes while the Man of Steel wracks his brain trying to figure out not only how to save Earth but how to get his--and, more importantly, Lois’s--life back.
And "Avengers Disassembled." But, enough of my snark. Here's the grand finale of what they had planned for Lois and Clark:
Ultimately, Luthor’s threat becomes so grand that it threatens all of spacetime--including the Fifth Dimension, forging a tense alliance between Superman and Mxyzptlk. With superhuman effort, Luthor and Brainiac are thwarted--but not before Brainiac gets his revenge.

Memories, as science is only now theorizing and as Brainiac has known for years, are not electrical in nature. They are, in fact, actual chemical deposits in the brain. And what is chemical can easily be turned to poison.

Brainiac has adjusted Lois’s chemical memory of Clark’s secret identity so that it’s killing her.

The poison memory can’t be removed. It can conceivably be masked--Superman has more than one magical ally who could erase Lois’s conscious memory of his identity, who could facilitate a reality in which Clark and Lois were married without Lois being aware of her husband’s double life--but deep down, Superman knows that’s too risky. He can’t live with her, can’t be her husband, can’t share her life. She’s too sharp. No matter what he does, no matter how on guard he is, she’ll stumble onto his secret eventually, and when she does, it will be the death of her.

With no other conceivable option, Superman turns to Mxyzptlk. Sure, says Mxy, I can fix this--but only by altering history so that she NEVER knew. So that there was never a memory TO poison.

Unacceptable, says Superman. You have the power to fix this more simply. You don’t have to go that far.

Untrue, counters Mxyzptlk. Despite what I may or may not WANT to do for you...when I’m in the third dimension, I’m INCAPABLE of doing anything BUT mischief.

So the offer’s on the table, the clock is ticking on Lois, and together, she and her husband make their tragic decision. Though Lois would rather spend one day with Clark’s love than a lifetime without it, he swears to her that they’ll be together again when the time is right. For now...they have no choice but to erase their lives together so that Lois might live.

Mxyzptlk weaves his spell. As night falls around the globe, people will begin to fall asleep--and as they do, the world will change and Clark’s secret will be restored. People will awaken without any memory that Clark Kent and Lois Lane were ever married, were ever together. Clark and Lois have until sundown to enjoy one last, perfect day.

And so long as we live, we will never again see two people so much in love as we do that day.

Eventually, however, the violet dust of twilight settles across the city. It’s happening. Their arms wrapped around one another as if they’ll never touch this way again, Lois and Clark begin to fall asleep. With a last kiss, they drift into slumber...

...and when dawn breaks across Metropolis, Clark Kent exits his bachelor apartment at 344 Clinton Avenue and makes it to his Daily Planet desk just in time to catch the latest in a long line of caustic barbs from rival reporter Lois Lane. She has her sights set on Superman, thinks Kent for the millionth time. If only I could get her to love me as Clark...
Memory poison and Fifth Dimensional magic instead of a deal with the Devil. But still, eerily similar to the Spider-Man situation, isn't it? And by "eerily similar," I mean "pretty much exactly the same--a memory wipe."

What do you think the reaction would have been if the Superman 2000 crew actually decided to do this for real? Would fanboys have been in as much of an uproar? I don't know--it seems like it could have been possible to pull off if the story was epic enough.

Your thoughts?

Young Avengers Presents #6 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Young Avengers Presents #6, about which I write the following sentences: "Remember that 'Spectacular Spider-Man Annual' Fraction wrote -- the one where he came in for a single issue and proved how vibrant and powerful the Peter Parker/Mary Jane marriage could be? The approach he took there, with its mixture of nostalgia and emotion, is similar to the one he takes with the new Hawkeye character here. He doesn't literally retell story bits from the past like he did in that annual, but he does hit all the right beats, and he turns one of the least-developed Young Avengers characters into someone the reader can care about. In short, this is everything a superhero spotlight issue should aspire to."

Read the entire review HERE.

Final Crisis #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Final Crisis #2, about which I write the following sentences: "The whole issue has that dream-like quality or, more accurately, a nightmarish quality of scenes not quite transitioning together properly. But that's the point, as the characters indicate. They know something's not right. Things aren't happening as they should. Something is deeply wrong with the fabric of reality. And Morrison and Jones simulate that not only with puzzled characters, but with awkward leaps from one scene to the next. It creates for a jam-packed puzzle of a story, and even though it's all setting up the inevitable confrontation as the forces of good rally against the forces of evil, it's much messier than a typical gathering of superfolk. Because evil has already won, and the heroes are barely starting to figure that out."

Otherwise known as the review in which I feel like I somehow need to defend the quality of the best-selling DC comic of the year.

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

...And Final Crisis #2 is Really Good, Also

Remember that day a month or two ago that was like the best Wednesday for superhero comic books ever? Well, today is another really great day. So much stuff to choose from, and I've already read a bunch of it, and it's very good.

I just finished reading Final Crisis #2, and I think it's better than the first issue, and I liked the first issue a lot. Man, it's good.

And all that Fraction stuff. And a whole bunch of Avengers stuff that looks pretty good. And, oh yeah, the new issue of Brubaker's Captain America--that was really good too.

I'm drowning in comics, and I love it.

Happy Matt Fraction Day

So, I assume you're going to get the final issue of Matt Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist, and you'll probably get his Thor one-shot because the first one was good, and you expect this one to be good also, but are you going to pick up Young Avengers Presents #6?

Well, you really should.

I'll be reviewing it for CBR today or tomorrow, and I just read a preview copy, and guess what? It's really, good. Art by Alan Davis. Script by Fraction. I literally laughed out loud at one point--and comics never make me laugh out loud. I am serious and humorless. But Young Avengers Presents #6 snapped me out of that. I loved it. And after the lackluster issues in this series so far, you were probably going to skip issue #6 entirely, weren't you?

Don't. You'll like it. Trust me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stuff I'm Obsessed with, Right Here, Right Now

Now that school's out for summer (not forever, though, contrary to what you may have heard from a certain song years and years ago), I have more time to obsess over things. Normally, with my full teaching load, my various part time writing gigs, my family, tutoring jobs, etc. I can only obsess over maybe one thing at a time. Hence, I went through my heavy Morrison phase, and my heavy Legion of Super-Heroes phase, and I just finished up a heavy Batman phase.

But now, with all this extra time that I really should be using to produce more writing, I can procrastinate by delving into some stuff that's been piling up around the house, calling to me, beckoning, like:

Elliot S! Maggin's Superman work: In the past week, I read both of his novels and most of his Superman and Action Comics issues. The results of that obsession will feed a future column for Comic Book Resources, so stay tuned.

The Wire: Here's my impression of everyone in the world: "The Wire is the best show ever, blah blah." Here's me: "Haven't seen it. Until now!" I finally got a chance to watch some dvds over the last week or so, and I'm halfway through season two. So don't spoil it for me. It is good. Although Dominic West's accent is more than a little sketchy. Or maybe I've watched him in A Midsummer Night's Dream too much--which, by the way, I do not recommend.

Garth Ennis's Ghost Rider: Jason Aaron's amazing Ghost Rider has me going back and reading the Ennis stuff. As much as I don't like Clayton Crain's work, I don't hate it here. It's not the kind of art I'm interested in, but he can create some pretty awesome effects with that magical computer of his. In "Trail of Tears," in particular, he can draw some seriously menacing spirits of vengeance.

The Umbrella Academy: I picked up the trade and read the series again last night. I still think it starts stronger than it ends, but it's a really great piece of work. I loved it more this time than when I read it in single issues and couldn't remember which number kid had which superhero nickname as an adult. It's worth owning just for Ba's artwork, definitely, but Gerard Way is a writer with a strong voice, and I love to see that. I have a crush on this book now.

Brian Wood: I've appreciated Brian Wood's work for years, and Demo was great. But between DMZ and Northlanders for Vertigo, and the upcoming New York Four for Minx (which I picked up at MoCCA in preview form, and read last night), I'm astounded by the quality of his recent work. And each of those three books has such a different flavor. He can do political satire, and powerful revenge drama, and believable teenage girl-speak, and he makes each of his works uniquely wonderful. Okay, DMZ may not be wonderful. But it's good. The other two: great.

Fresno State vs. Georgia in the College World Series: Did you see the first game? Fresno State, the supreme underdog, hacking away toward a victory that ultimately slips through their fingers? Good stuff. I'm hooked.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Saunders on Relatable Superheroes

One of my favorite contemporary prose writers is George Saunders. He's a direct literary descendant of Donald Barthelme, another one of my favorite writers, who, himself, was a direct literary descendant of Samuel Beckett--who I admire, but don't necessarily enjoy when it comes to his longer works.

But Saunders is great. You should go out and buy his recent essay collection, The Braindead Megaphone, and while you're at the bookstore, check out his first story collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, or his most recent story collection: In Persuasion Nation. All of which get the GeniusboyFiremelon seal of approval. In fact, I've bought some of his books twice--because I lent them to people and never got them back, which tells me that the books are pretty great or my friends are dicks, or both.

Anyway, in last week's New Yorker, Saunders has a satirical piece about an idea for a superhero TV show, about people who don't really have any powers, but they do--sort of. And the whole thing--it's only two pages long--culminates in this bit: TV show is like life, where people's abilities always fall short of their hopes and aspirations and the extent of their love. This will be great for ratings. It will make my show relatable.

The first season ends like this: We zoom down, into a lonely room. There sits a guy who has lost an ability he's always had: can easily find a pithy way to end a comic piece of writing.

Saunders goes on to explain the metafictional scenario at the end a bit more, but what I like about the piece isn't the metafiction--although I'm always up for metafiction--it's the notion that everyone falling short of their "hopes and aspirations" is relatable and therefore good. It's kind of the Marvel philosophy in a lot of ways, and DC has fallen victim to it as well. I've been deeply obsessed with Elliot S! Maggin's writing for the past week--reading both of his novels and much of his Superman comic book work (my thoughts on that stuff will be turned into a CBR column later this summer)--and the thing about Maggin was that he believed in keeping Superman as a cosmic-level character and using his god-like presence to exemplify difficult moral choices. It doesn't matter the power of the hero--the moral decisions are still equally difficult. And that makes the stories relatable. They don't have to be about Clark Kent working with kids at the YMCA.

Since all that Maggin stuff is out of print--except for a few Superman tales in a couple of anthologies--go out and buy some Saunders. He will make you look at the world a bit differently, and that's a good thing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Superman/Batman #49 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Superman/Batman #49, about which I write the following sentences: "Readers looking for a classic superhero romp, with a bit of an emotional underpinning, could do a lot worse than this recent 'Superman/Batman' arc. It's not outside of continuity, but it's also not caught up in the whims of the 'Countdown/Final Crisis' mentality. It's plot-heavy, slickly drawn superheroics, and sometimes that's enough."

Read the entire review HERE.

Chad Nevett on Superman's Foes: Superman 2000

A lot of readers have been coming here for the Superman 2000 action, so I'll direct your attention to Chad Nevett's recent post on a few members of Superman's rogues' gallery. He excerpts a bunch of brand new paragraphs from the rejected proposal, and he offers a bit of the ol' commentary.

My thoughts regarding the Superman villains discussed in the pitch: Anyone who can propose an interesting version of the Prankster is pretty special.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

DC/Wildstorm Dreamwar #3 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: DC/Wildstorm Dreamwar #3, about which I write the following sentences: "We often talk about writers and artists 'playing around in the sandbox' with these corporately-owned characters. But most of the time, the 'playing' part gets lost. Not with Giffen. He knows that this is all a lark, and though he has the characters act suitably self-important and stoic, he's just messing with them. He throws the geriatric JSA against the geriatric Tranquility gang. He has the innocent and naive paramilitary Silver Age Legion battle the cynical and lethal paramilitary Stormwatch. In the night sky, we see Amazons vs. Vampires -- 'should be quite a show,' says one Wetworks member, and he's right."

I read this stuff so you don't have to. But, in this case, you might actually want to read it--if you like lots of fisticuffs and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Check out the entire review HERE.

Justice League of America #22 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Justice League of America #22, about which I write the following sentences: "One of the reasons Brad Meltzer's run on 'Justice League of America' was so critically unsuccessful was that his tone would radically shift between superhero whimsy, mature sexuality, fannish enthusiasm, and explicit violence. It was that uncomfortable mix of the juvenile and the adult -- so explicit in the character's dialogue and the illustrations of Ed Benes -- that made the launch of this series so unsavory. For whatever reason, Dwayne McDuffie has now fallen into the Meltzer trap. 'Justice League of America' #22 feels like more than just a sequel to Meltzer's Red Tornado fetish; it feels like a slice of Meltzer from a year ago, stuck in a drawer for fermentation, and released past its sell-by date."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chad and I vs. B. Clay Moore Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

B. Clay Moore, creator of Hawaiian Dick, up-and-coming mainstream superhero writer, and guy with opinions, has some very strong things to say about comic book critics. Since Chad Nevett and I are both comic book critics, we have a few opinions of our own. So we take his assertions and slam them to the ground with the force of a thousand tiny butterfly kicks.

If you've ever wanted to see Chad and I articulate our critical positions, or argue about what it is we do as critics, or discuss comic book criticism in the world today, then you'll want to check out this week's installment of the world's greatest comic book conversation column, the Splash Page.

Who wouldn't want to read that? Plus, you can chime in with your own thoughts and tell us how wrong we are. Isn't the internet a magical place?

To go straight to column #20 (twenty straight weeks of Splash Pagey goodness), you can also click HERE.

Hellblazer #245 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Hellblazer #245, about which I write the following sentences: "I bailed out on 'Hellblazer' halfway through the Garth Ennis run, and I haven't picked up an issue of this series since. I can't really blame Ennis. His work on the title was quite good, but I moved on to other things and never bothered to look back. But how could I resist 'Hellblazer' #245 when it's written by one of the best current writers in American comics, Jason Aaron? I could not. Especially when I found out that the story would deal with John Constantine's days as a member of Mucous Membrane. Punk rock plus Jason Aaron? How could I go wrong? 'Hellblazer' #245 lived up to my expectations and then some. It reminded me how good this series used to be, and it made me want to go back and reread all the back issues. I have more than enough to do these days, so any comic that makes me want to dig through the longboxes for extra reading material is a pretty extraordinary comic."

Jason Aaron on Hellblazer? You've got to buy it, right?

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: Clark Kent

I've been commenting on excerpts from the Morrison/Waid/Millar/Peyer Superman 2000 proposal for weeks, and so has Chad Nevett. Here's another small except of the rejected proposal, from the section labeled "Clark Kent," with some commentary by me (just to clarify, the block quotes come from the pitch, and the other stuff between the block quotes are my comments):

Priority One is to make Clark Kent different from Superman. For too long, they’ve been exactly the same guy with zero contrast between them. Clark doesn’t have to be an overblown drama-queen wimp, but neither can he be so super-successful he has the world in his pocket. We must not forget why he was created in the first place--to be a touchstone. To be the half of Superman which readers can actually relate to because we all (Jesus, especially comics readers) want to believe that even though we may be put upon and bullied by the world from time to time, we know what those who pick on us or look down at us don’t--that if they could see behind our glasses, they’d see a Superman. In short, we’d like to use Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent as a base, but lend him enough dignity so that he’s not the total Reeve cartoon.
In the most recent issue of Action Comics, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank return Clark Kent to an almost exact duplicate of the Christopher Reeve version. In All-Star Superman, Morrison and Quitely differentiate between Clark and Superman, but the ridiculously massive muscles of Superman are barely contained by Clark's suits. It's a comical image -- almost the equivalent of Wally Wood's "Superduperman," but it works to show the awkwardness of the Clark character. In John Byrne's depiction, Clark was a well-adjusted regular guy, and so was Superman. This bit of the pitch, like most of the other excerpts, is largely based on jettisoning Byrne's vanilla-ification of the character.
Clark is the creation of Superman's memory and imagination. His eyes can see through skin and stone and light years; only memory tells him what it was like to simply see and he can only imagine what it would be like to need glasses. Still, Clark is his cherished link back to his human upbringing and the ethical structures forged in the Midwestern dream of Smallville. Without Clark, Superman knows, he might have been inclined towards detachment, aloofness, alienness. As Clark, he can walk among people, meek, quiet, unnoticed, learning all the time. From this perspective, the secret identity becomes something more like the human disguises gods would don or the rags kings would wear when they wanted to walk among the ordinary and the merely human. Without even a hint of condescension, Clark is eternally delighted by humanity. A man whose perceptions so routinely unlock mysteries and secrets genuinely loves to be confronted by the only thing in the universe which can actually surprise him.
Unlike Tarantino's commentary on the Clark/Superman duality in Kill Bill, the Morrison/Waid/et al pitch sees Clark as "delighted by humanity." His human disguise is not a mockery of homo sapiens, but a way to infilitrate and appreciate from within. Superman isn't literally able to see (such as we understand the concept) human behavior, but by being with humans, and perhaps by being a bit strange and watching their reactions, he can feel what it's like to be human, and that's what keeps him grounded.
And so, Clark is where he goes to sit on seats and drink coffee and watch TV. Sometimes, Clark sits in his apartment listening to alien music and watching sunspot activity with his telescopic vision. Other times, he relaxes simply by observing with reverence the actions of ordinary humans in extraordinary situations. Whatever, he's always busy. Even when he's just sitting still. And Clark allows Superman to do stupid little stuff with his powers, like getting back at Steve Lombard or whatever.
Speaking of Steve Lombard, he's back in the newest issue of Johns's Action Comics as well. Do you think Johns is cherry-picking from his buddies' old Superman pitch? It certainly wouldn't be a bad idea, would it?
Clark’s also the sob sister of the Daily Planet, if not of all Metropolis. Despite his attempts to keep a low profile, compassion radiates from him, and people pick up on that almost unconsciously. Friends and total strangers alike constantly confess their plights and problems to poor Clark. They don’t want advice. They just want someone to listen, and no one listens better than him. This aspect of his character naturally opens up the occasional avenue to the smaller human-interest story which can be investigated by Clark the reporter and by us the writers.
Super-empathy? Someone so attuned to every wavelength of energy would surely have great empathy, and with his super-patience, he would be the perfect "sob sister." Who uses that term, though? That's pretty sexist, isn't it? I can't remember ever hearing it in real life. It sounds like something out of a Cary Grant movie.
One final little note, which has nothing to do with the fact that Grant wrote "Animal Man" and Millar’s a veggie, but is a matter for pure logic. Clark eats bouef bourginon? The man with a code against killing eats murdered animals? Regardless of his farm upbringing, can we justify a Superman this aware and attuned to life in all its forms being a carnivore? Though there’s no need to make a direct, on-stage issue of it, file this thought away; his diet would be beans, pulses and windfall, if anything, and his body would be capable of extracting maximum energy from these simple foods if not solely from the sun’s rays.
Chad Nevett commented upon this bit over at his blog already, but I thought it worth excerpting as the conclusion of the "Clark Kent" section. It is strange to think that Superman would need to eat like normal humans, but I'm not convinced about the vegetarian aspect. If he grew up on a farm in the midwest, would he really be averse to eating meat? I don't see how a code against killing has any relation to vegetarianism, do you? I don't kill people, don't want to ever kill people, and don't even want to kill animals. But if the meat is already prepared, I will eat it without a second thought. I think most people are like this, no?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rasl #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Rasl #2, about which I write the following sentences: "Rasl, the gruff-looking hero with an apish upper lip and disproportionately large cranium, lacks a clear direction in his life. His dimension-hopping escapades in the first issue have landed him a Picasso painting, but for what purpose? Was it the thrill of the chase? Was it just to impress a girl, Annie, who realizes that she can't ever show it to anyone else? Rasl's opening narration expresses the restlessness and despair of someone who's looking for something, but doesn't know what: 'We flit in and out of existence like sparks from a fire.'"

Read the entire review HERE.

Red Mass for Mars #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Red Mass for Mars #1, about which I write the following sentences: "I won't go so far as to say 'Red Mass for Mars' is a superhero comic unlike any other. It's not. It has a tone and manner of execution that's similar to some of the things Warren Ellis has done in the past. That detached narrator, calmly describing the indescribable. The matter-of-fact description of Earth-shattering events. The heroes as men and women doing a job, not as idealized, grandiose figures of worship. The one 'hero' who positions himself as a god, Lightbender, is portrayed with monstrous arrogance and xenophobia. His hubris has led him to overthrow Buckingham Palace and announce his plans to rid the world of non-English languages, violently. And this activity is referred to by the narrator as 'not-for-profit charity work.' The irony is thick, and the characters are flawed, just the way I like them."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wolverine #66 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Wolverine #66, about which I write the following sentences: "Steve McNiven gives us some beautifully bleak landscapes, and a weary Logan. We get it. It's being played as a Western. Millar doesn't need to hit us over the head with the on-the-nose cowboy patois. But he does anyway.

"And that's all before the redneck Hulk Gang shows up, with their moustaches and deformed teeth."

This issue hits stores tomorrow, and if you always wanted to see Marvel's version of Unforgiven with Hulk Hillbillies and a Spidey-Mobile, then this might be worth a read. Or maybe not.

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Superman and Miracle Monday

In a post last week, I quoted from the vetoed Superman 2000 pitch from a decade ago, and one of the lines referenced Elliot S. Maggin's 1981 Superman novel, Miracle Monday: "The scene with Superboy and the grasshopper in Miracle Monday nails it beautifully; this could be the world’s scariest living being, a detached, scientific observer with the ability to experiment upon us all."

My copy of Miracle Monday arrived in the mail today, and even though I'm only two dozen pages into the book, I've already read the bit with the grasshopper, so now I can shed some more light on what Morrison, Waid and company were talking about (for those of you, like me, who had never read this long-out-of-print novel; and let's be honest, that Miracle Monday reference in the pitch probably came from Waid, right?).

The Superboy and the grasshopper sequence begins with Jonathan Kent waking up from a nightmare in which he, fearing Superboy would be worshiped as a messiah, begins digging up the Kryptonite meteor. "The man certainly did not want to kill his son," writes Maggin. "Fathers do not kill their sons. He did not even want to punish him. He only wanted to talk to him--to make him listen, the way a boy ought to listen to his father." It's a startling scene, even for a nightmare, as Jonathan Kent realizes that Superboy is too powerful, too inhuman to be allowed to reign over humanity, so the father begins digging for the chunk of extraterrestrial rock that will destroy his own adopted child. That's a lot of heavy subtext for a mass market novel billed as a tie-in to the Superman movie sequel, and the nightmare is the thing that begins the book. And it gets creepier, as Jonathan Kent digs up the Kryptonite and a hand springs up from the earth, pushing the shovel and the father away. Superboy rises out of the ground, menacingly:

"The boy glared at the man, raised the shovel over his head like a broadsword."

Jonathan wakes up, but what an image! Demonic and Oedipal--it surprised me to read such a depiction of Superboy in the opening sequence of the novel, even if it was just a dream.

But the dream sets up the grasshopper scene, for Jonathan's fears are not quickly forgotten, and he sees young Clark sitting with a microscope peering at "a cross section of a grasshopper's nerve ganglia." "I dissected him myself with my fingernails and my microscopic vision," says Clark, enthusiastically, and given the context of the previous scene, chillingly.

The scene continues as Clark uses his own super-intellect and his "weird optic nerve" to project the magnification so Jonathan can see a single molecule of a virus attached to the grasshopper's nerve cell wall. The scene is laced with unease, as Jonathan thinks the dead grasshopper is a sign that Clark has no regard for life, but sees all living things as part of a science experiment he can conduct at will. It's the first sign of his nightmare coming true.

The reality is that Clark had found the dead grasshopper, along with dozens of other dead ones, in the fields, and he dissected it to find out what had killed it. To prevent it from happening to other grasshoppers. To save lives.

The point of the scene, in the novel, is to establish the very human fear of someone like Superboy/Superman using his unstoppable powers unchecked. And to emphasize that even with all of his immense power, Clark Kent would never even consider hurting any living thing, no matter how small.

No wonder Miracle Monday--or at least this one bit of it--was cited in the Superman 2000 pitch. I don't know if Maggin's book is any good overall, but that opening sequence captures the essence of Superman perfectly. Superior, detached, possibly frightening, but deeply humane, and deeply good.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Batman Phase

Because Morrison's Batman has me digging back through Batman and Detective back issues and reading as much Batman stuff as I can, I guess you could say I'm in a Batman phase right now.

I'm a guy who has never followed characters--I'll drop a title if I don't like the creators (although I'll always give them a couple of issues to win me over), and I don't really ever think in terms of favorite characters. I've said before that choosing a comic because you like the characters is like choosing a book because you like the nouns. I look to the writers first--characters are only as interesting as their writers make them.

With that said, I did go through an obsessive Legion of Super-Heroes phase in 2006-2007, to prepare for the Teenagers from the Future project (available soon--there's been another delay with the publisher, but don't worry--it's still coming!), and now I guess Batman's on my mind. I picked up every hardcover Batman collection at my local comic shop and I've been digging through my longboxes, reading Batman stuff I haven't read in years. I even reread "Broken City," which I really didn't like at the time, but now I find fascinating. I think the ending is still terrible, and it's really just Sin City Batman, but Risso's art is gorgeous and Azzarello's terse narrative creates a unique vision of Gotham City. The plot is a mess, but the mood is terrific.

And, as I mentioned in a recent Splash Page installment, I've been reading every Neal Adams Batman story, immersing myself in the confident and virile Batman of the Bronze Age.

So, here's the question of the day: Not including anything by Frank Miller (it's too easy to cite DKR or Year One), what is your favorite Batman issue, arc, trade paperback, episode, whatever? What's the Batman you're into and why?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Clandestine #5 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Clandestine #5, about which I write the following sentences: "It's exactly what the three star rating was made for. It's slickly drawn, it has some interesting concepts, and it does some things well. But it also jumps too quickly and easily from one resolution to the next. When I say that it stumbles over itself, I'm not just talking about the plot. The overlapping panels, beautiful though they may be, visually represent the haste with which this issue unfolds. This story just doesn't have time to breathe, especially with the large Destine family (with over half a dozen members), the classic Claremont/Davis Excalibur team, and the Inhumans all thrown into the mix, along with ugly, evil clones of the Destines, plus a mind-controlling alien with a giant cranium and tiny little T-Rex arms."

Is the final issue of this mini-series worth reading?

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Eternals and the Jack Kirby Legacy Hit THE SPLASH PAGE

What's the deal with the Kirby revamps? Is Kirby's 1970s work so distinct that anyone trying to resurrect it in a new series is doomed to failure? Can anyone but Kirby do anything worthwhile with the New Gods? With the Eternals? With Devil Dinosaur? Chad Nevett and I wonder about such things, prompted by our reading of the Knauf/Acuna Eternals #1 which just came out this week.

Join us as we deconstruct the Kirby legacy and consider which of the Kirby revamps have actually been worth our time, and which ones deserve their quick cancellation or reader apathy (Chuck Austen's The Eternal, anyone?).

We care about this stuff, and we know you do too. Because it's the most important topic in the world today.

All this fancy talk and more, in the newest installment of what one reader may or may not have called, "the greatest thing I have ever read, ever," The Splash Page.

People seem to like clicking down here as well, so, if you're into that sort of thing, click HERE.

Madman Atomic Comics #9 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Madman Atomic Comics #9, about which I write the following sentences: "But what Allred accomplishes here is amazing. Comic book artists rely on panel size and panel placement to control tempo and to create a sense of spatial movement. Allred does it all with just the double-page spreads. Yet he still makes this comic feel full of energy and motion. He's using layout and composition within each double page spread to simulate action, and it works magnificently. "

If formal experimentation excites you, and it should, then you should pick this one up.

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: Superman

I've discussed the "Concept" and "The Writing Process" involved in the Morrison/Waid/Millar/Peyer proposal to revamp Superman for the 21st century, and Chad Nevett has discussed the proposal's concept of a vegetarian Superman and the cyclical nature of the superhero genre. Now, I'm going to move on to what the uber-crew had to say about Superman himself (with my commentary). The block quotes come from the Superman 2000 pitch:
Superman is defined immediately by his increase in capability. This is a more powerful Man of Steel, a Superman with a much keener intellect and curiosity. Suddenly there’s more to learn, more to do, further to travel and a greater responsibility than ever before. At the same time, one of the first effects of his increases in power is to make Superman a little more remote (but only as he takes time to understand the changes which have affected him). After the initial shock, Kal is more Superman than ever before, with a corresponding tight focus on the character and his incredible adventures. Now is the time to make Superman very definitely the star of his own book and to play down the sprawling soap opera subplots.

This notion of a MORE powerful Superman is in stark contrast to what John Byrne did to depower Superman in the 1980s. And that's the point, of course. This Superman for the 21st century is supposed to be everything the Byrne Superman was not--powerful, distant, incredible. Byrne focused on the SuperMAN, while Morrison and company proposed the SUPERman.
Superman’s character is one we all feel we know intimately. The scene with Superboy and the grasshopper in Miracle Monday nails it beautifully; this could be the world’s scariest living being, a detached, scientific observer with the ability to experiment upon us all. Instead, this brilliant Kryptonian brain was introduced to the noblest of human values and somehow those great powers were put to use in the service of an ethical code the Kryptonians would have been impressed and startled by.

I haven't yet read Elliot S! Maggin's Miracle Monday novel, but I've ordered a used copy (it's long out-of-print) and I've heard only good things about it. Has anyone here read it? I wonder if it informed All-Star Superman the way it seems to have informed Superman 2000. I'll get back to you on that one.
To that end, we’d like to balance out his battles with Brainiac and Luthor with stories which thoroughly explore those values, stories allowing him to return to his roots as a champion of the weak and oppressed. Even more so than for Batman, Green Lantern, Flash--all his peers and contemporaries--Superman’s job is to fight for and inspire those who cannot fight for themselves. His job is to make this world a better place and to help all men realize their potential as supermen.

Further to this, it’s important to keep in mind the Superman/Christ parallels WITHOUT being obvious and heavy-handed about them. Superman has to think differently from us, and when we see into his head, we should be shocked by the clarity and simplicity of his brilliance and compassion. This is a god sent to Earth not to suffer and die but to live and inspire and change the face of the galaxy by his deeds and reputation. This is the man who will take time out from stopping Mongul’s plan to crash Alpha Centauri into our sunsystem just to save a drowning dog or dry the tears of a child.
We also see Superman as the ultimate communicator--invulnerable to pain, he needs none of the physical defensive postures we take for granted and so would be incredibly relaxed and open--the big smile, the instant handshake, the conviction that everyone he meets is to be regarded as a friend until he proves otherwise. Superman should be indefatigable and trustworthy. No more "Bad Superman" or "Crazy Superman" stories for a while.

This is far more of the Silver Age notion of Superman's goodness than anything we saw in the Bronze or Modern Ages. But even in the Silver Age, Superman could be, well, a dick (there's a whole website about it, isn't there?), so this Superman 2000 concept of the character is more of a synthesis of all of the character's best qualities (not best as in "coolest" or most "commercial," but best as in BEST), than it is a return to basics. It's a return to what the character always aspired to be, but writers always wanted to give him flaws to keep the character relatable. Morrison and company wanted to make Superman ideal, so we could aspire to him, not so he could make us feel good about our own flaws.
His curiosity and kindness are childlike in their purity but he should also be frighteningly quick and clever. The combination of contradictory qualities adds to his slightly removed air. The eyes go vague when he looks at your electrical field for a second and gets the idea for an oscillating defensive forcefield based on the rhythms of your pulse rate. Sometimes he seems not all here, but it’s only because he’s much more here than we can sensibly hope to be.

This bit seems to nail the kind of Superman that we're currently seeing in All-Star Superman, doesn't it? That "frighteningly quick and clever" being who is more than we can ever hope to be. That's what makes him Superman. He is the paragon, not of humanity, but of the ideal of humanity.

More from Superman 2000 each week, until Chad and I run out of stuff to say.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eternals #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Eternals #1, about which I write the following sentences: "If you read Gaiman's series (and if you didn't, there's that 300-word introduction on page one!), you know that every issue was a mixture of unease and strangeness, as various humans found themselves remembering that they weren't so much humans as immortal heroes and villains birthed by alien space-gods. You know, that old chestnut. It continues here, in issue #1."

Eternals #1 hits the stands today. Should you buy it?

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Apocryphal Continuity

From Grant Morrison's recent Newsarama interview: "the best I can do is suggest that the somewhat contradictory depictions of Orion and Darkseid’s last-last-last battle that we witnessed in Countdown and DOTNG recently were apocryphal attempts to describe an indescribable cosmic event."

I like the idea that all of the crappy comics in recent memory were just apocryphal stories, created by those who lacked the intellect to comprehend the cosmic. I can support that. Now I can enjoy Final Crisis without thinking about Countdown at all.

Okay, I'll admit it, I forgot about Countdown the week after it ended, even without Morrison's blessing.

But at least now we all have a new term to apply: "apocryphal continuity."

What else should be considered apocryphal continuity?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Skyscrapers of the Midwest Hardcover Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Skyscrapers of the Midwest (Hardcover), about which I write the following sentences: "Even after all the pain and misery and glimpses of contentment and maybe even joy, Cotter ends the book with a simple scene between the two brothers -- a scene from their younger days, before the protagonist turned into a much angrier young man. The scene takes place in a snowstorm and as the characters walk away, the snow covers their tracks, and the pages turn to whiteness, and then blankness. Unlike their footprints, the power of the story lingers, but ending the story in the snow is appropriate. Cotter has frozen these childhood moments in time, not with rosy nostalgia but with bleak honesty."

I mentioned liking the first part of the book yesterday, and now that I've finished it, I love it even more.

Read the entire review HERE.

Manhunter #31 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Manhunter #31, about which I write the following sentences: " It's basically a comic about a lawyer who moonlights as a costumed vigilante, and the comparisons to Marvel's 'Daredevil' can't be avoided. But unlike 'Daredevil,' which, even when it's been good, has wallowed in despair and self-pity, 'Manhunter' is a much more active, aggressive book. Things happen with speed and force in 'Manhunter,' while in "Daredevil," under Brian Michael Bendis, especially, but also under Ed Brubaker, the plot has inched along, slowly building toward inevitability. You might say that 'Manhunter' is a more superhero-centric, old-school 'Daredevil,' but done in a contemporary style."

Read the entire review HERE.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Stuff I Got at MoCCA 2008

  • Harvest is When I Need You the Most by Braden D. Lamb, Jacob Chabot, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, et al. A Star Wars fanbook that I had to pry from my son's hands, because he couldn't stop reading it. His favorite stories? "Under 21" and "One of the Tribe." I have to admit, those are good choices. He's a smart kid. You are probably jealous that I have a smart kid AND own this book, and you have neither. Too bad for you.
  • The Pirates of Coney Island #3-6. I might own a couple of these issues already, but I wasn't sure, so I bought the most recent three. I definitely own the first three, and, seriously, when is this comic going to wrap up? It is good. I have a Pirates of Coney Island promo poster hanging in my classroom, and everyone always asks me about it. And all I tell them is, "it is good. You should read it." That's the extent of my critical insight. While I was hanging around Rick Spears's table, deciding which issues to buy (seriously, I really should keep better track of the stuff I already own), some super-creepy guy came up to the table and started showing Spears some really poorly-drawn original art pages done on typing paper, apparently. "This is what I'm working on," he told Spears, "it's page 3 of a hentai book." Classy.
  • Rudo #1, Rudo: Special Edition, and Callinazo #1, from Calavera Comics. Alexis Ziritt draws like an angry Paul Pope, and the comics from this company are filled with drunken, gun-toting luchadores. Also Zombies and Dodge Chargers. These guys are still young, and they're producing some cool comics already. I'll be keeping an eye out for their future projects. Plus, no hentai fans at the table.
  • Advance preview copies of The New York Four, Janes in Love, and Burnout, all from Minx. Am I the Minx demographic? No, but I did read P.L.A.I.N. Janes and liked it, and I'm definitely interested in The New York Four. I will read them all, and comment upon them. When I have time. DC is the only big company to have a presence at MoCCA, and I think it's cool to see them there. They have a little Vertigo section (with a preview of Air #1 on display--I will definitely be buying that comic), and their Minx table. I also got to meet Casey Seijas who is good at editing. He edits like a madman.
  • Chiggers, by Hope Larson, who, as we all know, is great. You're obviously going to buy this book, but will your version have a personalized drawing of a hamburger on the cover? No. Does mine? Yes. I win.
  • Super Spy, by Matt Kindt. This book was hard to find online for a while? Is it still? I don't really care, because now I have one straight from Matt Kindt, and I will probably read it too!
  • Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World, by James Kochalka. I bought this for my kids, and they had read it twice before we even left NYC. That is some good comics mojo, right there. My son, who's seven, also has "Hockey Monkey" on his iPod, so he's part of the Kochalka demographic already. If you are older than seven, this book might be a little too whimsical and fun for you. If that's the case, I know a guy who can draw some really creepy-bad hentai for you.
  • We Lost the War but Won the Battle, by Michel Gondry. I read this comic last night, and it was exactly what you'd expect from Michel Gondry, and I loved it. Also, he drew a picture of me when he signed the book, so now I am a strange and dreamlike Michel Gondry character. You are jealous about that, too. Michel Gondry, signing his comic at MoCCA, and nary a line to wait in? MoCCA is cool like that.
  • Skyscrapers of the Midwest, by Joshua Cotter, the hardcover version (of the book, not Cotter). I've looked at Cotter's comics several times over the past couple of years, and I determined that they weren't for me. But I kept hearing how good this book was, and I am a sucker, so I bought it. Now I understand. I've only read the first 40 pages or so, but I completely get it, and see what Cotter's doing here. I fell in love with it the minute the characters reference the smell of Moss Man. Although I didn't grow up in the midwest, I did grow up in rural Massachusetts, and this comic is the closest thing I've seen to my childhood experiences. Plus, robots. Wow. This is good stuff.
  • I also got a million business cards, and with the projects I have planned, my summer just got a whole lot busier. Thanks, Lawrence Klein!