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Steel #1 and the state of the superhero comic

There’s so much I find fascinating about Vaneta Rogers’s Newsarama interview with Steel #1 writer Steve Lyons that I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I’ll start by saying that there’s a lot to be excited about in the comic, which kicks off DC’s “Reign of Doomsday” event. For example, I’ve long argued that Steel is one of the most undervalued characters and designs in DC’s pantheon. Iron Man’s powers, Thor’s hammer, Superman’s cape, and an African-American folk hero’s name? That’s pure gold. And seriously, what a great design: The Alex Garner cover to the issue — itself part of DC’s genuinely awesome iconic-cover line-up for the month of January — is practically payoff enough. Plus, in a genre often (and accurately) decried for its lack of strong non-white heroes, John Henry Irons is an armor-clad, hammer-wielding, ‘S’-shield-wearing super-genius whose role in Metropolis’s scientific and business community is basically “the anti-Lex.” Tough to top that.

Similarly, at nearly two decades’ remove from the controversial “Death of Superman” storyline, I’m much better able to appreciate Doomsday him/itself. He’s no longer just the out-of-the-blue newcomer who got to deliver the coup de grace to the Man of Steel over more “deserving” villains like Lex Luthor (and set sales records in the process). Rather, he is to the villainous side of the superhero genre what the Hulk is to its heroic half: The power fantasy in its purest form, i.e. giant unstoppable guy pounds the crap out of everyone in his way. On an inner-eight-year-old level, that’s a thing of beauty. And remember how in his original appearances he slowly shedded a Kirbyesque jumpsuit-and-goggles look to reveal badass bone spikes and claws jutting out of every possible place on his body? He’s basically a microcosm of the direction of the entire superhero genre from that period, a walking symbol of ’90s excess at its boldest and best. Finally, in story terms, he accomplished the pinnacle achievement for any DCU villain: He killed Superman! Okay, so he got better, but still. As I believe Geoff Johns has argued, Doomsday’s name alone should scare the crap out of every character in the DC Universe. As such he’s a terrific basis for a crossover event.

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Comics journalist Vaneta Rogers talks about the industy and her place in it

Vaneta Rogers and I have been longtime colleagues as comics journalists, specifically at Newsarama. We were both brought in under longtime site editor Matt Brady, and have each covered comics far and wide — and stepped on each other’s toes more than once. Like me, Vaneta juggles both a career writing about comics and doing design and marketing for local clients through her own company. As someone working beside her, I’ve been amazed by her ability to get a story and get interview subjects to be more candid than they might normally be. Several times a month I see a piece she did and say, “Damn, I wish I would have done that first.”

Through her work, she has a unique perspective on the superhero-centric world of America comics and the genre-based comics in and around it. She knows all the players, she’s seen the game being played for years, and has a healthy love for comics and a pull list any comics fan would die for.

Chris Arrant: When people ask about your work, what do you tell people you do for a living? And is it different for a comics person as opposed to someone not familiar with comics?

Vaneta Rogers: I tell them the truth — that I’m a freelance writer for the Internet, and that I write about comic books and comic-related media. My kids sometimes make my job sound more exciting by bragging to their friends about people I’ve gotten to interview, and that’s nice, ’cause my kids rarely think I’m cool. But for me, it’s just a job description, so there’s no reason to change it.

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