Bookworm: 80 Years of Superman (Deluxe Edition)

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DC released a special collection of classic stories from Action Comics to celebrate its milestone 1000th issue. I thought I’d look at it and review each comic and article.

  1. “The Coming of Superman”–The first Superman story, where he can’t fly. It’s OK, for what it is. But I prefer a Superman who’s not as brazen with his powers.
  2. “The Mystery of the Freight Train Robberies”–Action Comics #1 didn’t see the debut of just Superman, but also Zatarra, father of Zatanna. I like Zatanna better because she doesn’t have the “Mandrake the Magician” rip-off feel to her stories.
  3. “Revolution in San Monte”–I still say I’m glad other people came on after Jerry Siegel and wrote a nicer version of Superman.
  4. “The Times”, a commentary by Tom DeHaven, a Creative Writing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. He gets some points docked for scoffing at Supergirl.
  5. “The Origin of the Vigilante”–I’ve never understood why the Vigilante is a thing. He’s just your average cowboy crimefighter.
  6. “The Terrible Toyman!”–Toyman was a big deal in the Pre-Crisis days of Superman. Nowadays, not so much. In fact, I think the current version isn’t even a criminal anymore. Still, he’s actually not a bad villain here, for Golden Age style storytelling anyway.
  7. “How I Saved Superman”–Marv Wolfman talks about his tenure on Superman, a run I’m not familiar with. I knew Wolfman more from New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  8. “Too Many Heroes”–An unpublished story from 1945. Superman imposters ruin the real deal’s reputation. Not bad.
  9. “Clark Kent, Reporter”–David Hajdu talks about Superman’s alter ego, and how he’s just as impressive when he’s wearing glasses.
  10. “The Super-Key to Fort Superman”–The first appearance of the Fortress of Solitude. So glad they didn’t keep the original name. This starts the Silver Age section, and it’s pretty good. I love how he’s got stuff in it to pass on to his friends when he dies.
  11. “The Super Duel In Space”–Brainiac makes his first appearance! Loved this one! He’s one of my favorite villains.
  12. “The Supergirl from Krypton!”–Supergirl meets her cousin. I like that they found a good loophole by having her live on another planet before landing on Earth. I’ve always liked her because I like the fact that she constantly lives in her cousin’s shadow.
  13. “Endurance”–Larry Tye contemplates how Superman is relatable even with his god-like status.
  14. “The World’s Greatest Heroine”–Superman reveals Supergirl to the world, including her foster family. I like the part where the Legion of Superheroes shows up at the end and makes sure they don’t ruin the surprise for her until they meet her again and she already knows.
  15. “The Infinite Monster”–Supergirl gets a solo story! She fights a giant monster. It’s not bad.
  16. “The Assassin-Express Contract”–The Human Target’s debut. I really don’t get this “Oh by the way, here’s some stories that have nothing to do with Superman, but they were in his comic” idea. But at least we get some nice Carmine Infantino art

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Bookworm: Action Comics 1000

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When Action Comics hit 1000, I had to get a copy. But I had a problem–there was no comic book shop nearby. My nearest bookstore no longer existed. My solution? Downloaded it off the DC app.

Instead of posting one special story to celebrate this milestone, this issue actually has several stories, celebrating Superman and his legacy. I thought I’d review and rank all of them.

  • “From the City That Has Everything” (Team: Dan Jurgens/Norm Rapmund/Hi-fi/Rob Leigh)–10/10

Summary: Superman fights off a Khund invader and reluctantly returns to Metropolis, where they are celebrating Superman Day. Lois wants him to hear everyone’s testimonies, but he’s too nervous about the invaders.

Review: I liked all the testimonies, including the reformed criminal. It set the tone for the rest of the comic.

  • “Never-Ending Battle” (Peter J. Tomasi/Patrick Gleason/Alexandro Sanchez/Tom Napolitano)8/10

Summary: Superman battles Vandal Savage across space and time, reflecting on the life and battles he’s had so far while celebrating his birthday with his family.

Review: This may be one of the last stories Tomasi ever does for Superman, and if it is, then it’s a good farewell. Gleason’s artwork was great, but I’m deducting points for the Conner Kent cameo. Way to rub our faces in it, DC.

  • “An Enemy Within” (Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Kurt Schaffenberger/Hi-fi/Rob Leigh) 9/10

Summary: While Superman fights one of Brainiac’s drones in Japan, a principal in Metropolis has been hypnotized into taking someone hostage. What Superman doesn’t realize is that the drone he’s fighting is what’s controlling the principal.

Review: This story was especially unearthed just for this issue, and is the only story that isn’t new. (For those who don’t know, Curt Swan was one of DC’s most-celebrated artists, and died in 1996) It even ends with a Curt Swan-esque drawing in tribute to him.

  • “The Game” (Paul Levitz/Neal Adams/Hi-fi/Dave Sharpe)7/10

Summary: Superman and Luthor take time out from fighting each other to play a game of chess.

Review: This was a great scene and a classic-style story of worthy opponents with Lex at his hammiest. It seemed like something out of Superfriends, but I liked it.

  • “The Car” (Geoff Johns & Richard Donner/Oliver Colpel/Sanchez/Napolitano)

Summary: You know that car that Superman is picking up on the very first cover of Action Comics? We meet the driver in this story. 8/10

Review: “Hey what about the car Superman picked up on the cover?” sounds like a good “high concept” story idea. And I like Geoff Johns a lot, even with the controversy that seems to follow him wherever he goes.

Continue reading “Bookworm: Action Comics 1000”

Happy 80th Birthday, Superman!

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On April 17, 2018, Superman celebrated his 80th birthday! Not only that, but Action Comics, where he made his first appearance, just hit 1000 issues–the first time an American comic ever had that many issues!

Superman was vastly different in his first appearance. The only powers he had were superhuman strength, speed, and leaping–not flying. He worked at the Daily Star, not the Daily Planet. (the old-time radio show changed it and also added Perry White and Jimmy Olsen to the cast) He grew up in an orphanage instead of on a farm. He was more aggressive than he is these days.

These days, Superman is now married to Lois Lane, who once considered him a rival. But perhaps the biggest change is now he’s a father! As a result of the Convergence event, Superman’s son was born, named Jonathan Kent, after Superman’s earthly father.

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Bookworms: Astro City v. 1

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Many superheroes have a fictional city they call home. Superman has Metropolis. Green Lantern has Coast City. Batman has Gotham City. Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be an ordinary person living in these cities? Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Astro City can give you an idea.

The series was launched in the mid-90’s as part of Image Comics’ short-lived Homage imprint, before Wildstorm Studios folded and was bought out by DC. I’ve decided to review as many of the collections as I can, because I think the series needs more love.

First, let’s talk about the creative team. Kurt Busiek really is one of the best writers in comics. His favorite technique is not using superheroes, but ordinary people to tell his stories. His Marvels novel, for instance, was told from the POV of a reporter who witnessed the first adventures of many of Marvel Comics’ legendary heroes.  This series uses that same approach. Of the six stories in this volume, only two are told by superheroes.

Alex Ross is the cover artist, and his work is museum quality.  His covers are included in a gallery at the end and all look great.

Brent Anderson is the main artist. He has a style that can capture motion well. It’s unique and complements Ross’s concepts well, without emulating it.

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Image: The Samaritan

Now I’ll talk about the stories. First is “In Dreams”, spotlighting the Samaritan. The Samaritan can fly and has superhuman strength, speed, and endurance. He also has a barrier that can repel energy.  In a way, he’s a tribute to Superman. He laments that he spends so much time flying around and saving people, he can’t just fly around and enjoy himself.  We also meet the Honor Guard, the Astro City version of DC’s Justice League. The roster consists of Beauty, Samaritan, The Black Rapier, Cleopatra, MPH, Quarrel, and the N-Forcer.

Elliot Mills, editor of the Rocket
Elliot Mills, editor of the Rocket

“The Scoop” takes place in the 60’s, and is about Elliot Mills, editor-in-chief of Astro City’s Newspaper, The Rocket. (He’s basically a tribute to Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, where Clark Kent works) In this story, he tells a new reporter about a framed article on his wall–one that was actually rejected by his editor. The story gives us a glimpse of the city’s earlier days, when a new hero called the Silver Agent called Astro City home. We also meet the original roster of the Honor Guard, and learn it was founded by a wealthy businessman named Max O’Millions. I liked this story for its glimpses of Astro City’s history.

The Jack-in-the-box, a clownish superhero
The Jack-in-the-box, a clownish superhero with a storied legacy

“A Little Knowledge focuses on a homeless criminal who catches the superheroic clown Jack-in-the-Box as he is removing his mask. Jack in the Box is what you call a “legacy” superhero, meaning that more than one person has taken on the identity (think of how there has been four different Robins throughout the Batman saga) . Jack has rubber noses that can stun criminals, stretchable limbs, and shoots confetti like Spider-man shoots webs. While Jack-in-the-box is a light-hearted superhero, his costume can be frightening to criminals, and the narrator is worried what will happen to him now that he knows the clown’s secret.

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My Favorite DC Villains

I believe heroes are defined by their villains. The best villains are those who exist as the opposite of their foes. DC’s villains are as grand as their heroes, as they should be. Here are my favorites:

new-52-vandal-savage_010. Vandal Savage–Vandal Savage has been around since human civilization itself. He has conquered all and survived every battle. And he has not forgotten anything he has learned.

thYU2JVLE19. The Parasite: If I were to make a Superman movie, I would use the Parasite as my villain. The Parasite consumes energy to survive. When he faces superheroes, he can steal more than their identity and energy, he can steal their powers. He can bring even Superman down to normal.

thQ3WD49XJ8. Catwoman–Catwoman is really the one villain in the DC Universe who has effectively been both a hero and a villain. She is truly an independent spirit, much like the animal she wishes to emulate. She’s not one to be taken lightly, and I admire her for that.

th38C8QEI87. Reverse Flash–Reverse Flash is the Flash unhinged in his powers. The Flash knows his limits and does not exceed them. He does not let his power consume him, and is ruled by his morals and convictions. Reverse Flash is not pinned down by such petty concerns, as he would see them. He is a true Reverse of the Flash, in every shape of the term.

th0WHLNU876. Mr. Freeze–Victor Freeze was a brilliant scientist who loved his girlfriend Nora, more than anything. He wanted so much for her to be healed of the disease that was slowly draining her. But she could not, because those who financed Mr. Freeze’s research wouldn’t let him continue. He is a tragic villain, one you pity because you feel if any villain deserves happiness, it could be him.

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My Top 15 Favorite DC Superheroes

After posting last week’s article about the Joker, I thought why not make the whole month about comics?

DC Comics was the first company I ever got into, thanks to my love of the character you’ll see in the #1 spot. What’s so great about DC is that their characters are so iconic and legendary.  It’s a shame that often when the comics are made into movies, the results aren’t great.

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15. Static: Static comes from the (sadly now defunct) Milestone Media comics line. He has electricity based powers and is both street and book smart (he was even a valedictorian when he graduated from high school.) He was the only character from his line to get his own cartoon, and it was a great show too, especially when he teamed up with Batman, the Justice League, and even Terry McGinnis, the Batman of the future.

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14. Starfire–My favorite Teen Titans member. I like her bubbly personality and she’s just a fun character. Yeah it sucks what they did to her in Red Hood and the Outlaws, but overall, I she’s a great character when done right.

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13. Firestorm–Firestorm has the unique characteristic of having not one, but two alter egos: Professor Martin Stein and Robbie Raymond, a student. They were both bonded by a nuclear accident that gave them the ability to merge into the superhero Firestorm. And yes, I was beyond pumped when he appeared on The Flash‘s TV series.

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12. Green Arrow: Rich playboy and master archer Oliver Queen is sort of a more light-hearted version of Batman crossed with Robin Hood. While I’m probably in the minority when it comes to that silly boxing glove arrow, I like his variety of arrows that he’s used through the years. He’d rate higher if he weren’t such a jerk to everyone, including his own sidekick.

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11. Zauriel–In the 90’s when Grant Morrison was writing the Justice League, he wanted to use Hawkman as one of the members. DC refused because at the time, Hawkman’s comic book was such a mess that they felt it wasn’t profitable to drag the entire League into the mess.  So, Morrison said “fine, I’ll create my own winged superhero.” The result was Zauriel, who’s actually an angel with a cool fiery sword and an ear-piercing scream. He’s still around too, as one of the key members of the paranormal wing of the Justice League, Justice League Dark.

thRRNHUC4810. Nightwing–When Dick Grayson finally grew up and became Nightwing, he proved to all of us that he was more than ready to step out into the spotlight on his own. He eventually formed the Teen Titans and fought a demon and the mercenary Deathstroke. He’s learned from the best and I just can’t help cheering him on.

thR5IJ9XWU9. Hawkman and Hawkgirl: I decided to put them both in the same spot, because you really can’t have one without the other.  My only problem is that over the years, their origins have constantly changed. I personally like them best as warriors from the planet Thanagar, which is their most famous origin.

thVO72J03P8. Martian Manhunter: J’onn J’onzz is a shape-shifting alien and the last of his kind. When he came to Earth investigating the evil Starro, he knew he couldn’t take on the evil starfish alone (comics are weird sometimes, eh?), so he recruited several other DC heroes, resulting in the Justice League. To me, J’onn is the heart and soul of the League, with his Spock-like personality and staunch loyalty.

thIZZ6N7WV5. Superman: Come on, do you really think I’d leave the first superhero off this list? So what if he’s overpowered? He’s Superman, the champion of justice, the Man of Steel! Without him, we wouldn’t have any other superheroes!

4. thHYW64J1B Green Lantern–When you have a ring that can conjure anything you can imagine, how can you not have an awesome superhero? While I like most of the Green Lanterns we’ve had over the years (I’m not that familiar with Alan Scott), the ones I’ve liked the most are Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner.

3. thEDKG7CHBThe Flash–The Scarlet Speedster has always had a soft spot in my heart for his cocky attitude and innovative use of his abilities. I’m really more of a Wally West fan, but thanks to the TV series, I’m beginning to enjoy Barry Allen more and more.

2. thQLX61FNUWonder Woman–Wonder Woman is also pretty much the heart and soul of the Justice League, with her compassion and her zest for truth driving her to fight evil. I love the link to Greek mythology in her mythos, and she’s just a great character. I’m looking forward to her appearance in Batman vs. Superman, but I really wish she had  a whole movie to herself. She deserves it.

thUWS0NXDX1. Batman: The Dark Knight was the first superhero I ever saw in action, thanks to the Adam West TV series being rerun as a kid, as well as Hanna-Barbera’s Superfriends cartoons. I’ve watched all the movies, read several graphic novels, and thrilled to them all. Whether solo or with his various Robins, Bruce will always be my favorite superhero.

Next time, I’ll talk about my favorite DC villains.