Archive for Superman

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.

Batgirl #1

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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Oh Noez! Superman Renounced His Citizenship!

I’m pretty astonished that anyone cares about this stuff. I mean, fer cryin’ out loud, I don’t care, and I actually read the freakin’ things! I assumed everyone would ignore the publicity stunt and get on with their real lives. Just shows what you get when you assume people won’t go nuts about trivial stuff.

Listen, here’s how y’all should be thinking of this thing. Back in ’93, Superman got killed by a monster from outer space. The same year, Batman got his back broken by Bane. Captain America was shot to death in 2007. And for some reason, none of those characters is dead or crippled any more. Because comics is a business, and sometimes, they try to shake things up by pulling crazy publicity stunts for a few months before putting their characters right back in their old status quo.

In other words, the screaming ninnies may take heart in the fact that in a few months, whenever this latest Superman storyarc is wrapped up, the Man of Steel will be waving the red, white, and blue again. “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” is too important to the character’s core, and DC Comics — a company very firmly locked into never deviating from their status quo — won’t ever give that up. It’s a stunt and nothing more.

And for goodness sake, I certainly hope DC doesn’t chicken out in the face of all the usual impotent Fox News screaming.

See, I think of it this way: The Tea Party is dying a slow and ugly death, ranting new variations of the black helicopter myths and mostly ignored by their preferred political party. Fox News has hitched itself to an aging demographic addicted to constant fits of panic and outrage. The Republican Party is trying to decide which crazy racist it’s going to latch onto as its latest savior.

They’re threatening boycotts now, but they’re toothless threats. The vast majority of those groups never read comics. The vast majority of them never watch summer superhero blockbusters. DC and Warner Bros. can easily afford to wait them out until all the screaming morons get distracted by the next shiny object to catch their eye. Seriously, can anyone really keep track of everything that Fox News attack poodle Megyn Kelly gets offended about? I think her hair got bleached by her own natural bile.

And hopefully, DC will have learned from Marvel’s previous embarrassing example — when you cave in for the screaming morons, you just humiliate yourself.

So if you’re mad about Superman — who’s an illegal immigrant anyway — renouncing his American citizenship, just settle down and forget it — it’ll all be over and forgotten before you know it.

And while we’re at it, please realize how fortunate you are that worrying about the citizenship of a fictional comic book character is the most pressing issue in your life… and maybe, you know, try to find some more valuable thing to spend your time focusing on.

And if you’re DC Comics, come on, guys, get yerself a backbone and don’t sweat the easily-distracted screamers.

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Friday Night Fights: Gog Smacked!

It’s the final regular round of Friday Night Fights for at least a few weeks. The rule that SpaceBooger decreed for us was simply no character repeats — if you used a fighter once, you couldn’t use him or her again.

So far, I’ve used Detective Chimp; Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Storm, and Giant-Girl; Elsa Bloodstone (who got the most votes for that week — good for me!); Goody Rickles; Batgirl; Howard the Duck (another winner!); Welsh Rarebit; Supergirl; Batman; Bulldozer; and Parker.

This week, we’re going old-school — from November 1968’s Justice League of America #66 by Dennis O’Neil, Dick Dillin, and Sid Greene, here’s Superman getting challenged by the way, way overconfident Generalissimo Demmy Gog:

I know they call it liquid courage, but you might better ease up on the booze this weekend, just to make sure you don’t end up like General Gog…

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Friday Night Fights: Sucker Punch!

Wow, has this seemed like a rougher-than-average week. I’ve been feeling like I needed the weekend to start sometime around Tuesday, so this absolutely feels like it’s long overdue. So let’s get right to it — time to get our weekend started right — with FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes from the second volume of 2005’s DC: The New Frontier by the astonishingly awesome Darwyn Cooke with Dave Stewart. Superman heads out to confront the island-sized monstrosity called the Centre and finds an unwelcoming committee just waiting for him to drop his guard…

I’ve recommended this comic to y’all before — and if you don’t have it, you really, really should go get it. It’s fantastically beautiful all the way through.

Hope y’all have a great weekend, and I’ll see y’all Monday…

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Battle Royale with Cheese

Man, I’ve spent too many days in a row reviewing comics (Yes, dangit, two days in a row is a lot. Because shut up, that’s why.), and I’m starting to run low on unreviewed comics besides. So, inspired by this from Snell and this from Kalinara, y’all give me your opinions on the vital question of WHO WOULD WIN?

The combatants:


Superman vs. the Hulk!

Both widely considered the strongest heroes in their individual universes, any conflict between these two often leads to widespread property damage. With his larger variety of powers (flight, heat vision, freezing breath, super-ventriloquism), the Man of Steel often ends up the victor in crossovers that feature these two characters, but the Jade Giant’s near-limitless strength (The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets) means you can never count him out before the final bell.

We’ll go with a best-two-out-of-three battle.

Contest 1:


Pillow Fighting!

Contest 2:

Coin-op Galaga!

Contest 3:

Huggin’ Bunnies!


(My picks are in the comments…)

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Friday Night Fights: Love Stinks!

Oh, sure, sure, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. We’re all soooo excited. All you rassafrackin’ lovebirds are gonna be running around, buying each other dinner and roses and cards and, and waffles or whatever. Well, some of us happen to enjoy our happy, single, sitting-around-the-house-and-watching-PBS, eating-Fudge-Choco-Chip-ice-cream-out-of-a-bucket, not-actually-very-lonely-and-certainly-not-listening-to-people-in-the-other-apartments lifestyles quite well, thank you very much.


Definitely time for Friday Night Fights. Definitely.

Tonight’s lovesick brawl comes to us from June 2000’s Superman #157 by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, and Cam Smith. Things are not currently all sweetness and light in the home of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.


But I guess all relationships go through their rough stretches.


Well, maybe not that rough.


And that was probably unnecessary.


And to add insult to injury, turns out that’s not really Lois. (Gee, ya think?) It’s actually the big, gruesome Parasite, and in this storyline, he’d been impersonating Lois for weeks, maybe a month or two. And it’s possible that, at some point during all that time, there were… relations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… but it just can’t be healthy to sleep with someone called the Parasite, can it?

(No time for love, Dr. Spacebooger)

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No Superman is an Island


Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1

Oy, DC, what’s with those mile-long titles?!

Anyway, this comic marks a first for former Lubbock resident Alex Ross, who gets credited with illustrating and writing this. The plot focuses on the Kingdom Come Superman, who’s gotten trapped on Earth-1. He’s still haunted by memories of his time on his old Earth. He’s nervous because he thinks he sees the tragedy of his own world being recreated on the new one, what with the birth of Magog. He thinks he’s discovered the disaster that killed off the Daily Planet on his world, but luckily, it’s just a garden-variety trap (and an uncommonly unsuccessful one, too). He has a chat with our world’s version of Norman McCay. And he also has a chat with our version of Lois Lane about how his wife back home really died. And he worries that he’s cursed — Krypton was destroyed and his version of Earth was apparently destroyed, so is this Earth doomed as well, just from his presence?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is fine — not pure genius, but a good, solid story. The artwork is interesting for all the right reasons. We get some of Ross’s legendarily awesome paintings, but we also get treated to his somewhat more traditional pencils. He even inks his own work. And painted or pencilled, Ross still draws the best dadgummed Superman ever.


Secret Six #3

The Secret Six (well, right now, they’re the Secret Five, plus Tarantula, who’s more of a hostage) are on the run, trying to locate the mysterious card Tarantula stole. And they’re being stalked by supervillains, including Bolt and Cheetah, who want to steal the card and kill them all as messily as possible. And the insanely creepy Junior is still lurking out there.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Junior is really, really insanely creepy. Nicola Scott’s artwork is gorgeous and fun. And the secret of the card is pretty sweet — no wonder everyone’s so desperate to get it…

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The Death of Pa Kent


Action Comics #870

I’m a sucker for these big events, and I know I shouldn’t be. Brainiac has miniaturized Metropolis and is all set to destroy the Earth. Superman bashes Brainiac’s face in, Supergirl stops a missile from making the sun go nova, Brainiac shoots a missile that destroys the Kent family’s farm, and Pa Kent has a fatal heart attack.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Useless and stupid. All this effort to kill Pa Kent? Just to make the comics match up with a movie made 30 years ago? Just to make Superman angsty and mopey? Thanks, but no thanks.


Madame Xanadu #3

Centuries after losing her magical abilities and being cast out of Camelot, Nimue is knocking around China as Kublai Khan’s soothsayer. She has to drink noxious potions to maintain her youth and immortality, and she’s in the process of inventing the Tarot deck to help her see the future. She runs into the Phantom Stranger again while he’s escorting Marco Polo into the country, and she has the Khan take him into custody. But the Stranger clues her in on a plot to discredit the Polos by framing them for the murder of the Khan’s favorite consort. Can Nimue save her in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m really enjoying Matt Wagner’s writing on this one. From Camelot to ancient China? Very cool. Lots of really neat details help bring the point across that 13th century China was a vastly strange place to Westerners. Nimue’s continuing development is very interesting, and the Stranger is still a fascinating enigma. And Amy Reeder Hadley’s artwork is just gorgeous. Excellent work all around.

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Terrorist Fist Jab!


Why does Superman hate America?!

(Image courtesy of the always mind-blowing Chris Sims)

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