Archive for Superman

Love, Superhero Style

We got another giant buttload of Convergence comics this week, and once again, I’m going to try to get all of these cleared out of the way quickly.

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Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #2

The rotten-as-snot Flashpoint versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl are in Gotham City, looking forward to killing Nightwing. But Dick Grayson isn’t all that easy to kill, and Barbara Gordon’s awfully, awfully smart. And they both have some really great friends. Can an acrobat and a paralyzed hacker beat up a couple maniacal winged fascists and still find true love?

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Midnighter” series.

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Convergence: Superman #2

While Superman battles the Flashpoint versions of Cyborg, Captain Thunder, and Abin Sur, the skinny Flashpoint Superman kidnaps the pregnant Lois Lane. He takes her to the Flashpoint Batman’s Batcave, hoping Dr. Thomas Wayne can help deliver her baby. Will Lois’s baby be delivered safely?

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Doomed” series.

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Convergence: The Question #2

Renee Montoya, along with the Huntress and Batwoman, are trying to find Two-Face. Harvey Dent desperately wants to die, and since he’s not able to commit suicide as long as his coin keeps coming up heads over and over, he’s decided to track down the Harvey Dent of another dimension and get him to commit murder on his behalf.

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Starfire” series.

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Convergence: Speed Force #2

Wally West has to battle the seriously psycho Flashpoint Wonder Woman and her Amazons, while Fastback, from the Amazing Zoo Crew, tries to defend Jai and Iris West. Can the Flash handle a foe who’s almost as fast as he is and a much more deadly combatant? And will the loveable cartoon turtle survive?!

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Green Arrow” series.

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Convergence: Batgirl #2

It’s Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Tim Drake vs. the Flashpoint versions of Gorilla Grodd and Catman!

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Prez” series.

Verdicts: We had some good stuff and some bad stuff. Let’s unpack this thang.

First of all, the Batgirl story is the one I was looking forward to the most, and it was just not good. While I liked the fact that she solved the issue’s dilemma through brainpower, the rest of it was not worth the paper. Confusing, badly illustrated, not well written, poor characterization. Of all the characters here, Steph probably needed closure the least — the end of her regular series was actually very well done and emotionally affecting. I would’ve enjoyed this one more if we’d gone with a good ending for Cass, instead of a tacked-on romance between Steph and Tim.

The rest were much better. The Nightwing/Oracle story was probably the best, but it was written by Gail Simone about some of her favorite characters, so that was certainly to be expected. The romance subplot didn’t feel tacked-on — in fact, it was at least, if not more important than, the entire battle against the Hawks.

Superman’s story was fine, but it was stronger as a combination of a great Lois Lane story and a nice story about the more hard-edged Flashpoint Batman finding something he was willing to care about.

The Question’s story was great just because it’s wonderful to see Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner working on these characters again.

Flash’s story was alright, but not all that spectacular. I was just glad to see Flashback survived — I take it the Zoo Crew has been taking it on the chin in the other Convergence books.

Of the sneak-peeks we get of the new series… not a lot of them really appeal to me. I’d had high hopes for the Prez and Starfire series, and they just don’t look very interesting. The Doomed series looks somewhat interesting — I knew nothing about it before — but it still stinks like ’90s Image to me…

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So Much Convergence

So the first of the “Convergence” miniseries came out this week, and most of the stuff on my pull list all showed up at once. So hey, we’re gonna try to clear these outta here as quickly as we can.

We know the general premise, yes? A mysterious entity (Pssst! It is Brainiac!) had kidnapped many cities from old versions of the DC Universe or alternate universe variants. For the past year, they’ve all been held beneath domes, and the various superheroes under the domes have been deprived of their superpowers. Now the domes have been removed, everyone has their powers back, and the champions of each city must fight other champions, or their realities will be destroyed. And the first crop of books focuses on pre-Flashpoint characters, just before DC ruined everything with the Reboot.

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Convergence: Batgirl #1

We start off with Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, Cassandra Cain as the Black Bat, and Tim Drake as Red Robin. Stephanie has been designated Gotham’s champion, despite the fact that she hasn’t worn her Batgirl costume in a year — Cassandra and Tim would be much more capable than Steph would. They start training her but are all soon dragged off into the desert where they’re attacked by the Catman and Gorilla Grodd from the Flashpoint universe.

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Convergence: Superman #1

Superman has been without his powers for a year, but he’s been dressing up in a simple costume to fight crime Batman-style. Lois Lane has been assisting over a radio headset. Lois is also pregnant and due any day now. Once the dome is down and Supes has his powers back, he ends up tangling with Captain Thunder, Cyborg, and Abin Sur from Flashpoint, while the skinny teenaged Flashpoint Kal-El heads for Lois, believing her to be his Flashpoint benefactor.

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Convergence: The Question #1

Renee Montoya is trying to help keep things under control in Gotham, running around without her mask. Harvey Dent is running around with half a beard, beating up thieves — and his two-headed coin is only flipping good side up lately. The Huntress doesn’t really approve, but she’s not going to get in the way. And Renee is still going out nightly as the Question — and meeting up with Harvey, too. He wants to kill himself, but he can’t do it as long as the coin keeps flipping on the good side. But when the dome comes down, he decides to find a Two-Face in another city who’ll finally kill him.

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Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #1

After the Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkgirl kill off the Justice Riders‘ Earth, they get sent after our Gotham, where Oracle is giving Nightwing her cyber-assistance in crimefighting. Mr. Freeze has lost his edge from long imprisonment under the dome, and Nightwing is worried that he’s losing his edge, too. Dick Grayson asks Barbara Gordon to marry him, and she turns him down, just before the Hawks make their appearance and offer a bargain — if Barbara surrenders the city, the Hawks will take a dive — Gotham will live, the Hawks’ home will be destroyed, and the Hawks will take over Gotham. Nightwing plans to fight them, but Oracle has her own way to make war.

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Convergence: Speed Force #1

Wally West has been stuck powerless in Gotham with the rest of the Justice League, along with his children Iris and Jai. When the dome comes down and his powers return, he takes a high-speed tour of the other kidnapped cities. He gets to watch the Justice Riders’ home get atomized, then visits a bunch of other worlds, eventually picking up a new superspeed friend, Fastback, from the Zoo Crew! But they’ll all have to deal with the murderous Flashpoint Wonder Woman next.

Verdicts: Well, now, let’s add all this up.

First, I really hate the “We have to murder all these people to save our planet” plotline. It’s lazy. It’s not something that any legitimate superheroes would do, because it’s exactly the kind of scam that comic book superheroes prefer to find a way around, usually by beating up Brainiac instead of each other. And it’s short-sighted — is there any good reason to wipe out characters as awesome and fun as the Justice Riders? Only if you’re Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, and Jim Lee, and you can’t stop thinking like a ’90s Image comic.

I liked getting to see Stephanie, Cassandra, and Tim again, but large chunks of the story bugged me bad. Steph had finally become an excellent superhero at the end of her series — now she’s struggling to do anything right, which is a severe backslide. We also don’t get to see her mother at all, and she was a great character. And I felt Cassandra and Tim were also a bit mis-handled.

Having said that, there are lots of good things here. Revisiting the pre-Reboot non-sucky DCU is a very good thing. Tom Grummett drawing the Flash and his kids is a good thing. Gail Simone writing Oracle is a good thing. Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner working on the Question again is a very good thing. Guest appearances from Two-Face, Starfire, Helena Bertinelli, and Fastback are all good things, too.

Altogether, I’ll give these a tentative thumbs up. I reserve the right to switch that to a thumbs down if DiDio is just going to kill everyone off but Flashpoint and the Reboot just to laugh at everyone’s tears.

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Friday Night Fights: Krypton Kick!

It’s been a cold, miserable week for almost all of us, so let’s heat things up for the weekend with some gratuitous violence and… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from October 1979’s Action Comics #500 by Martin Pasko, Curt Swan, Frank Chiaramonte, and Adrienne Roy. Lex Luthor has the Man of Steel right where he wants him — but how will he kill him? Uncontrolled monologuing?

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Well, a good kick to the face never goes out of style.

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Friday Night Fights: Bat Flick!

I ain’t got time for no clever intros! It’s time for the weekend, and it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from August 2003’s Justice League Adventures #20 by Jason Hall, Rick Burchett, and John K. Snyder III. The Psycho-Pirate is messing with the JLA’s minds and emotions, and that means someone’s going to get a superpowered finger upside their skull.

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(Grr, inability to erase stuff cleanly in Photoshop…)

You kids get out there and enjoy the weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

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Friday Night Fights: Bonked on Friday!

We’re gonna make this short and sweet so we can all get right into enjoying the weekend. Ya know what time it is, kids? It’s FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS time!

From April 1979’s DC Comics Presents #8 by Steve Englehart and Murphy Anderson, here’s Superman punching Solomon Grundy crosseyed.

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Yep, Grundy definitely “grew worse on Friday.”

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Let’s Talk about Sextillion

This is something that’s been bugging me for the last couple of weeks.

I was surfing around the Intarwebz and landed on this Wikipedia page that listed Superman’s powers. We all know that Supes pretty much hit the superpower lottery — he’s got just about everything, and he’s got more of it than just about anyone else. But there was this bit that bugged me:

After being saturated with yellow solar energy in All-Star Superman, his strength was tested as exceeding the force of 200 quintillion tons (or 2×1020 tons, in scientific notation, i.e., two hundred billion billion tons), enough to pull the Earth away from the sun. As of The New 52 reboot, his strength now exceeds 5.972 sextillion metric tons.

I’m willing to buy that for “All-Star Superman,” when, again, he’d been overdosed on solar energy — and the focus of the story wasn’t on his physical strength. But the New 52 bit just annoys me, partly ’cause they’re just trying to one-up Morrison’s story, and partly ’cause it’s just so stupid. Here, lookit this panel from the Reboot’s Superman #13:

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And here are the panels, if that’s too small to read. First, the technician helping test Supes says this:

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And Superman replies:

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This bugs me, and not just for the arrogance the Man of Steel is flashing here.

Really, that level of strength is freakin’ unrealistic. Yes, even for a superhero comic book. Especially for a superhero comic book. Bench-pressing the planet is stupid — and I felt the same way when Grant Morrison had Superman, Wonder Woman, and Martian Manhunter do it all the time in the classic “JLA” series.

Being powerful enough to juggle planets may be a power fantasy (but I don’t know anyone who fantasizes about juggling a planet — juggling bullies, sure, planets, no way), but it makes for boring storytelling.

Where’s the challenge for someone who can juggle a planet? Got a comet on the way to hit Earth? Juggle the planet out of the way. Lex Luthor has a new robot? Is it heavier than the planet? Toss it aside. Lex Luthor got a chunk of Kryptonite? Swat it out of the solar system before it actually reduces your powers or causes you any serious harm. Or have Wonder Woman or the Martian Manhunter or Apollo do it for you, ’cause it’s been pretty well established that they’ve all got Superman-class strength.

Challenge comes from being able to be challenged, and the DC Reboot just prioritizes a few creators’ feeble egos and shallow fantasies above good storytelling.

Superman was a better character back when John Byrne was writing him in the mid-’80s — not just because Byrne was a better writer, with a better grasp of the Man of Steel’s personality and motivations, but because he understood that Superman was more fun to read about when he couldn’t juggle a planet.

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Friday Night Fights: Seasons Beatings!

Awright, kids, it’s the last weekend before Christmas, and if you think we’re gonna go easy on the harmless cartoon violence just for the sake of the holiday, you’re sadly mistaken. It’s mere days from Christmas, and it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s festive rannygazoo comes to us from February 2007’s DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1, in the story “Yes, Tyrone, There is a Santa Claus” by Kelley Puckett and Pete Woods. Superman has decided to help a family in need, and because the kids don’t believe in Santa Claus, he’s decided to get dressed up as Old St. Nick to rekindle their love of the holiday. However, it turns out that Batman does not approve of the masquerade.

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Yes, Batman, we know. Your parents are DEEAAAAAAD!

So Batman talks Superman out of the charade, but the Man of Steel later decides he’ll pay the family a visit anyway. And what to his wondering eyes should appear…?

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That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

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Desperate Relationships

So this happened.

When DC Comics rebooted its entire line of superhero titles last year, the publisher did away with Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane to pave the way for a new romance. Without further ado, EW can exclusively reveal that Superman’s new partner in love is no mere mortal, but a superhero icon in her own right: None other than Wonder Woman. herself.

So the first thoughts that went through my mind were outrage and disappointment… but after that, I started thinking a bit more about it, and these were the words that ran through my head:

“Oh, DC, are sales down? Are the higher-ups at Warner’s grumbling about how the company’s doing and what potential damage you’re doing to the trademarks? Are you jonesing hard for the oh-so-addictive thrills of getting the news media to pay attention to you and of randomly pissing off the fanboys who, for now, shell out the cash for your books? Too bad, guys, so sad.”

The sweaty, flailing, wheezing desperation for controversy-for-the-sake-of-controversy makes DC look increasingly weak and inept. I mean, really, they don’t even work to promote their books as good storytelling, good art, good writing — it’s all focused on manufacturing controversy, however they can get it.

I feel sad for the writers and artists who are trying to create good comics in the face of DiDio-Johns-Lee’s ham-fisted gropings into the world of marketing. Because they’ve made it pretty clear that they don’t care about making good comics, they just care about trolling the readers with badly thought-out ideas, trying harder and harder to piss off feminist comic fans, and getting interviewed by entertainment reporters. It’s a sad state of affairs for any good comic creator.

But for the company itself? For DiDio and Johns and Lee? I just want to laugh. They’re fooling fewer and fewer people by the minute, and I don’t know if they realize that.

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Superman Smashes the Klan!

Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan by Rick Bowers

I picked up this book a few weeks back, and I wasn’t expecting a lot — I know Scholastic Books publishes a lot of good stuff now, but when I grew up, it was strictly for kids’ books — and not particularly good kids’ books either. But I ended up liking what I read here.

This is basically a history book, with its initial focus on the history of Superman, from the early youths of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, through their initial failures in the comics biz, to the unstoppable success of the Man of Steel, and clear through the way Siegel and Shuster got screwed out of their rights to the character. There’s quite a lot of info about the years when “The Adventures of Superman” was one of the most successful programs on the radio, earning millions of dollars for his advertisers and enthralling legions of fans, both kids and adults.

The book’s other focus is a fairly detailed and warts-and-all history of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi organizations, and hate groups in 19th and early 20th centuries. And a lot of this is stuff that was definitely never taught to me when I was in school, mainly because textbooks have always seemed to put more emphasis on teaching kids the national legends instead of the actual facts. There were times when the KKK and pro-Nazi groups had a lot of political power — and a lot of times when they were mostly devoted to fleecing their members of every dime they could get. And a lot of the time, there were a vast number of people, ranging from everyday citizens to federal officers to Southern newspaper editors, who hated the stuffing out of the Klan.

And it all comes together after World War II when the advertising execs for Kelloggs — who also managed the Superman radio show — decided they wanted to try pointing the power of Superman at the nation’s social ills, particularly racism and intolerance. And what was interesting to me was that the radio producers didn’t just bang out some scripts for Superman to fight some Nazis — they did intense research on how to educate children about racism, and they interviewed people about what the Klan was like behind the white hoods. One of their interviewees was a man named Stetson Kennedy, a publicity-hungry Southerner with a serious mad-on against the Klan — he heroically infiltrated the organization while simultaneously campaigning publicly against it.

And what they came up with were a couple of storyarcs that infuriated the KKK and the rest of the nation’s racists. And that by itself is a pretty awesome victory.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s well-written, it’s detailed, it’s entertaining, and it’s filled with really interesting characters, including Siegel, Shuster, Stetson Kennedy, radio producer Robert Maxwell, education consultant Josette Frank, and even several of the Klan’s leaders, who generally come across as either charismatic lunatics or craven greedheads.

There were a couple of things that I knew already, being a longtime comic fan — but it was still nice to see them pointed out in a book designed for younger readers who probably aren’t as familiar with the history of Superman. The first was that in Superman’s earliest appearances, he was a very, very political guy — and he definitely came across as a liberal, since most of his opponents were greedy politicians, crooks, and factory owners who were making things hard for the common man. The second reminder — there were a huge number of Jewish people who had a hand in Superman’s success, including Siegel, Shuster, their publishers, and even their radio producer — no wonder they were so interested in putting the smackdown on the nation’s hatemongers!

I was pretty impressed that this book didn’t sugar-coat very much. These days, you read the newspapers and watch the news shows, and they’re absolutely devoted to never saying whether any group is right or wrong. If they mention the Klan these days, they definitely never say that they’re evil racist scumbags — that wouldn’t be properly Broderian or moderate — and they might offend some lunatic on hate radio. Rick Bowers really doesn’t do things that way — Superman’s the good guy, the Klan are the bad guys, and that’s really all there is to it. He also doesn’t mince many words about how Siegel and Shuster got mistreated after DC got its claws on Superman, and that’s pretty refreshing, too.

So there’s Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan by Rick Bowers. I liked it — go pick it up.

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Action Heroes

Action Comics #1

Here’s the comic that probably should’ve been the first out of the blocks last week for the DC Reboot — but of course, this one wasn’t being worked on by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, so “Justice League” had to go first. But this one is by Grant Morrison, so you can probably bet a decent sum of money that it’ll be better.

This is, obviously, a Superman comic, and it should be equally obvious that it’s not the familiar Superman we’re all used to. This is a young Superman at the beginning of his career. He wears blue jeans, work boots, a T-shirt, and a cape. He can’t fly, but he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He’s not as strong as the Superman we’re used to, but he’s real strong, real fast, and getting stronger and faster all the time.

And hold on to your hats — the Man of Steel is a hardcore, unapologetic liberal with a mad-on for corporate malfeasance.

We get introduced to Superman after he charges into a skyscraper and terrifies a mega-rich corporate tycoon into confessing to his crimes by jumping off a building with him. The police are helpless to stop him, and Lex Luthor is working with General Sam Lane to figure out a way to capture him. After Supes prevents the demolition of a tenement filled with people and eludes the cops, he changes into his Clark Kent, crusading reporter, pays his rent, and tries to warn Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen (who are working for a rival newspaper? What the heck?) about going after a gangster. But when Luthor decides to crash a subway car, will Superman be able to save the day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ll admit — I was not actually expecting a lot from this. What we got was an interestingly different Superman and Clark Kent, with the same political sensibilities he had back when he was initially introduced in 1939. The action, as you’d probably expect from something called “Action Comics” is first-rate, but really, the thing that makes this so interesting is Superman’s personality — man of the people, infuriated by injustice and the way the law and the police work almost entirely for the advantage of the wealthy, and more than a bit arrogant about his powers, especially since he’s never run into anything that could seriously challenge him. This could turn out to be one heck of a cool comic.

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And here we get introduced to the new version of Barbara Gordon — former Batgirl, victim of a spinal cord injury courtesy of the Joker — and a woman who had a miraculous recovery after three years in a wheelchair. Now back in costume as Batgirl, she takes down a bunch of home invaders, despite her lingering fears of gunshot wounds. She moves into a new apartment with a new roommate, but gets called back to action to help defend the leader of the home invaders from a villain called the Mirror — a murderer who specializes in killing people who have survived where they should have died — and he might have Barbara Gordon in his sights, too…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The “miraculous recovery” might be seen as a cop-out to get Babs Gordon out of her wheelchair and back into a bat-costume, but since there’s clearly something big that’s going to be explained at some point in the future, I’m willing to give it a pass. At any rate, I’m very glad to see this character being written by Gail Simone, who is one of the few writers I think can be trusted to do right by Batgirl, no matter what.

Today’s Cool Links:

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