"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Batman is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, which may come as a surprise. I mean, look at that smooth, handsome face, or what little of it is visible beneath his cowl. Look at those ripped muscles, or the way he runs across rooftops and beats up criminals — why, Batman doesn’t look a day over 35!
Now just as it did recently for Superman, DC Comics is releasing a pair of hefty, 400-page hardcover collections that serve as a sort of survey for how the character has been portrayed and functioned in the publisher’s comics line during since his first appearance. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years and The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years aren’t exactly the comics equivalents of greatest-hits albums, but they are nice starting points for newcomers and/or casual fans, offering quick, compelling overviews of the title characters through the decades.
The Batman volume, featuring Jim Lee’s rendition of the character from the 2003 storyline “Hush” on the dust jacket, must have been particularly challenging to assemble, given the thousands and thousands of pages of Batman comics, featuring dozens of different takes by scores of creators.
Earlier this week many of us delighted at the reveal of Ming Doyle‘s homage to John Byrne’s classic X-Men #137 (Phoenix Must Die!). The commission was done for Rachel Edidin in anticipation of the first episode of Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, Edidin’s new podcast with Miles Stokes that debuts this weekend.
Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we’ll talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out on Wednesday.
So without further ado, let’s get to it …
The release of the time-travel arc “Days of Future Past” in 1980’s Uncanny X-Men #141-142 opened a broad door for comic stories of heroes from the future traveling to prevent the wrongs of their past — and our future. And artists have, time and time again, paid tribute to John Byrne and Terry Austin’s cover for Issue 141 showing a gray-haired Wolverine and an older Kitty Pryde — Kate Pryde, in this instance — with their back against a wall of wanted posters.
Here’s a look at the origin and some homages to that classic image from sources ranging from superhero titles to manga to webcomics.
Summer is officially over, so this is a little late, but I’ve been meaning to talk about a certain arc from the summer of 1993. It was the height of the speculator bubble, when everything came with cover enhancements, trading cards, unfortunate hairstyles and/or superfluous pouches.
For many DC Comics readers, 20 years ago was also the summer of “Reign of the Supermen!” That’s not necessarily enthusiasm — the exclamation point was part of the title, which in turn was inspired by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s early proto-supervillain story, “The Reign of the Superman.” The third (and by far the longest) chapter of the “Death of Superman” saga began with teasers at the back of Adventures of Superman #500, published around April 15,* and ended with Superman Vol. 2 #82, published around Aug. 26.** Those four and a half months may not seem like much, but they saw 20 issues of the four regular Superman books (including Action Comics and Superman: The Man of Steel) spread over 20 weeks. In fact, “Reign” was front-loaded, with all four titles marking the official start of the arc on April 29 or so, two weeks after Adventures #500. That meant there were some weeks without a new installment, and those were sometimes hard to take.
“Reign of the Supermen!” is not the greatest Superman story ever memorialized in print. On one level it is very much a product of its era. However, for the Superman books, that era was energized not just by the efforts of their creative teams, but by the overarching framework the books had developed. While “Reign” wasn’t the only big DC event of the summer — for one thing, the debut of DC’s imprint Milestone Media has much more historical significance — it’s a reminder of the ebbs and flows of serial superhero storytelling, and it remains instructive today.
Warning: This is a very long post, because I think there’s a lot of background to be explored.
I talked about it last week, but there’s a lot to unpack in the recent Williams-and-Blackman-leave-Batwoman imbroglio. Part of it is DC Comics’ apparent need to keep characters relatively unchanged, which these days includes being young and unmarried. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has already explained this in terms of heroic sacrifice, so I suppose that’s as close as we may get to official company policy on the matter.
However, before DiDio made his comments, I was wondering whether DC didn’t want the non-costumed half of Batwoman’s main couple to remain single and uncomplicated. After all, Maggie Sawyer goes back further than Kate Kane, and has appeared in both the animated Superman series and in Smallville. Thus, a certain part of the TV-watching public probably associates Maggie Sawyer more with Superman than with Batwoman; and DC might not want to have her tied permanently to the Bat-office.
This, in turn, brings up the issue of DC as a “content farm,” providing material for future adaptations. Obviously the publisher has almost 80 years’ worth of characters and stories ready to provide inspiration. Indeed, over the decades, that inspiration has gone both ways. However, more recently it seems like the adaptations have been influencing the comics to a greater degree than the comics have been influencing the adaptations, and in the long run that’s not good for either side.
Welcome once again to the column we’re proud to call Shelf Porn, where fans share their collections for the world to see. Today’s collection comes from Kevin Sharp, an English teacher and author from Palo Alto, California. Kevin shows us his graphic novels, statues and some commissions from Steve Rude and John Byrne.
If you’d like to see your collection featured here on Shelf Porn, check out the submission instructions for complete details.
Take it away, Kevin …
With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971’s Issue 206 through October 1985’s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978’s Issue 151 through October 1986’s Issue 255.
However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.
A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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Hello everyone, Happy Memorial Day weekend to America, and welcome one and all to What Are You Reading? This week we are joined by special guests Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, the creative team behind Halloween Eve and the upcoming Rocket Girl. I spoke to them earlier this month about Rocket Girl, which surpassed its Kickstarter goal but you still have some time to get in on the action and rewards.
To see what Brandon, Amy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. While some of you will be taking full advantage of the three-day Memorial Day Weekend by enjoying a summer blockbuster, a barbecue or the first dip of the year in the outdoor pool, others will be heading to the Phoenix Convention Center for the 13th annual Phoenix Comicon.
But while everyone else is packing their bags, and stocking up on sunscreen, ROBOT 6’s contributors are busy spotlighting some of the best books going on sale Wednesday.
Last month DC Comics announced it had put together a new list of “essential” graphic novels and collections, designed to help casual readers and completists alike. This week I picked up a copy of the 121-page catalog (Issue 1, of course) along with my regular Wednesday haul.
Now, we all love lists, and this looks to be more comprehensive than the 30-item Jeph Loeb-heavy suggestions DC had previously offered. Could the new DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013 actually represent the depth and breadth of DC’s vast publishing history, and at least try to give each major character the attention he or she deserved?
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but judging from the two pages devoted to “Women of DC Comics,” the answer doesn’t look promising for said women. As Sue (of DC Women Kicking Ass) and Bleeding Cool have already pointed out, Green Arrow and the Flash both get two-page spreads (each, to be fair, split between a one-page portrait and a one-page checklist), while Wonder Woman has to share two pages with Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman and the Huntress. Although the DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013 could use more female-centric titles (no Power Girl, Manhunter, Stephanie Brown or Cass Cain Batgirl, or Stars and STRIPE, and not a lot of Supergirl), today it may be enough just to focus on Wonder Woman.
IDW may be one of the Big Five publishers in the direct market — that is, one of the five publishers whose titles are listed separately from those of the hoi polloi in Diamond Comic Distributors’ Previews catalog. But unlike the Biggest Two, IDW’s line consists mainly of comics based on a variety of licensed concepts*, and therefore do not feature shared settings like the DC Universe or the Marvel Universe.
You’d think that would prohibit the company from doing the sorts of line-wide crossover stories that DC and Marvel have been pumping out with regularity, but IDW has found a pretty clever way to have its licensed comics cake and eat its intra-company crossovers as well, by dreaming up a fairly generic threat, and then having that threat appear in a bunch of unrelated comics whose characters never really meet.
Rather than all the characters teaming up to fight the same threat on the same battlefield at the same time, as in your Crisis on Infinite Earths or Civil War or whatnot, IDW’s crossovers are a bit more like individual battles in large-scale wars taking place in different dimensions.
So, for example, 2011’s Infestation crossover pitted zombies from the publisher’s Zombies Vs. Robots comics against characters from G.I. Joe, Transformers, The Ghostbusters and Star Trek, in two-issue miniseries set in different universes. That was followed by Infestation 2, in which Lovecraftian space-god-monster-things invaded the home universes of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 30 Days of Night.
More recently, IDW published a much smaller-scale, simpler crossover story of sorts in Mars Attacks …, in which the little green skull-faced men of the 1960s Topps collectible cards (and 1996 Tim Burton movie) “invaded” comics featuring a comically diverse group of licensed characters. For the more patient among us, it arrived in trade format this month, in a collection titled Mars Attacks IDW.
In news that will surprise no one, I enthusiastically add my voice to the chorus advising comics companies to give Jerry Ordway work. Mr. Ordway represents, for better or worse, a particular style of superhero storytelling. His detailed, textured work is both realistic and stylized. He’s also become associated with a traditional approach to superheroes, mostly by drawing the Golden Age characters and their descendants. Similarly, his modern-day Superman and Marvel Family work gave those books a pretty “classic” look.
In fact, for a long while Jerry Ordway helped define Superman. He was an original contributor to the 1986 John Byrne-led revamp, penciling Adventures of Superman first for writer Marv Wolfman and then for Byrne. When Byrne left, he took over writing Adventures before moving over to the main Superman book. In one way or another, he was involved with the Superman titles from 1986 through 1993, when he started working on Captain Marvel in the Power of Shazam! graphic novel.
Hello and welcome once again to Shelf Porn, where fans share their shelves and we show them off. Today’s collection comes from Bill Roberge, who show sus his originla art, comics, statues and more. “My collection is mainly Galactus figures/Art, John Byrne art (with some Jack Kirby) oh, and lots of graphic novels!” he said.
Check out his collection below, and scroll to the end to see how you can submit your own collection.
To see what James and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …