With his 19-issue Action Comics saga, Grant Morrison has almost literally written a Superman story for all time. “For every time” might be more accurate, because it plays with chronology like a kid jumbling up a Rubik’s Cube. Morrison begins with tales of Superman’s earliest days, then jumps into the New 52′s present for a couple of issues (bringing in the 31st century’s Legion of Super-Heroes) before wrapping up the first arc and proceeding on to “now.” The result is a macro-level adventure that draws liberally from every era of Superman, blends those disparate elements into a fine pureé, and repositions the mix as a self-reflective epic. This is the Superman legend as alpha and omega, beginning and end, reinvention and restoration, and it’s a heck of a thing.
It’s also a pretty daunting read. I spent about three hours Tuesday night with issues 1 through 17 (and Issue 0, of course) and still didn’t catch every nuance and reference. However, the overall impression is a familiar one: Superman’s real power comes more from the idea of “Superman” than from the effects of yellow-sun rays. On its own this is rather hokey, or at least dismissable as such, and a reader casually flipping through Action Vol. 2 #18 might wonder what all the fuss was about. To be fair, a more dedicated reader might wonder that as well; but I think it’s a lot less likely.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for Action Comics #18 and its predecessors:
As the title suggests, the 28-year-old campaign features celebrities, ranging from Bill Cosby (who appeared on the very first poster) and Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey and the stars of The Hunger Games, with books in an effort to encourage reading. Watchmen star Jeffrey Dean Morgan previously appeared with a copy of the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons book, while Hugh Jackman was shown with … The Man in the Moon.
Here’s the text accompanying the Cavill poster on the ALA website: “Born in the United Kingdom, actor Henry Cavill has already made quite an impact in both film and television. Henry made his feature film debut in The Count of Monte Cristo and went on to star in Tristan & Isolde, Woody Allen’s Whatever Works and, most recently, as Theseus in Immortals. On the small screen, Henry appeared on the Showtime series “The Tudors” for four seasons. This summer, audiences will see Henry star in Man of Steel when it flies into theaters on June 14. In preparation for this epic role, Henry delved deep into original source material, reading hundreds of Superman comics.”
Available for $16, the 22-inch by 34-inch poster is featured on the cover of the ALA Graphics summer catalog, arriving this week. Director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel opens June 14.
“Yes, many have heard, Andy Diggle left Action Comics after the first issue. I can only say I feel bad he made that decision. I think it was the wrong one, but that was his choice to make. For the remainder of the arc I’ll be working off his plots to finish out this first arc. So essentially, I become ‘scripter’ in the credits w/Andy as ‘plotter.’ As for myself, I end my short run after I complete this first arc, which ends with issue 21. This was preplanned since last fall as there is another project I’ll be taking on, and assisting with, a massive project with DC. I still think people will like this arc and I’m staying as true as I can be to Andy’s plans for this story. In the end I hope he’ll find it somewhat recognizable as something he took part in.”
– Tony S. Daniel, commenting on his Facebook page about the abrupt departure of writer Andy Diggle from Action Comics after just one issue. Daniel, who was initially announced as penciler of the DC Comics series, previously had stints writing Batman, Detective Comics and The Savage Hawkman.
The first photo has surfaced of Edward Watts as a rather old-school Man of Steel in the Encores! revival of It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman, which opens tonight for a five day run at New York City Center. (Cue complaints about DC Comics’ New 52 redesign.)
Yes, long before Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark wreaked havoc on cast members and production budgets, or even ads for the aborted Captain America musical puzzled comics readers in the mid-1980s, Superman soared to Broadway in 1966 in a show directed by none other than Harold Prince. OK, “soared” is a bit of an overstatement, as It’s a Bird … closed after 129 performances (still, it garnered three Tony nominations).
While it’s been revived on a handful of occasions, the best-known version is the abbreviated television adaptation starring Lesley Ann Warren, David Wilson and Loretta Switt that aired in 1975 on ABC. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the stagings, don’t feel bad: Watts wasn’t either.
“I only knew that it existed, actually,” he tells Broadway.com. “Quite frankly, I never really thought I would play Superman. I used to work for a company that would hire out actors to play characters at their company picnics during the summer, but it wasn’t really a show — you just put the costume on and walk around and take pictures with the kids.
Watts is joined by Jenny Power as Lois Lane and Alli Mauzey as Sydney Carlton.
Awards | A last-minute reminder: Today is the deadline for Eisner Awards submissions. [Eisner Awards]
Creators | Grant Morrison looks back on his run on Action Comics, which ends today with the release of Issue 18, and touches upon Multiversity and his long-discussed Wonder Woman project: “This is some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time, because it’s a completely different type of comic book. Usually I don’t do masses of research, but for Wonder Woman, I’ve actually been working my way through the entire history of feminism. I want this to be fucking serious, you know? I want this to be really, really good, to reflect not only what women think, but what men think of women. I’m trying to do something really different from what’s been done with the character before. That one’s been amazing fun, because it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever done before.” [Entertainment Weekly]
“Everyone’s trying really hard to do the three-act structure, and write like movies, and do it by the book. You know what you can do in comics? You can do anything. So what I did was to have the impossible happen. There’s a bit in [Action Comics #18] when Superman comes to the audience and says: ‘If we do the impossible, the devil disappears.’ And you go: What? How? Why? I put it in there because nowhere else — you couldn’t get away with it in TV, you couldn’t get away with it in movies. I wanted to show that comics can actually do the impossible. Here’s a comic that would never get by a committee. This is true weirdness. I’m hoping it will be an actual experience for people. I want it to be almost psychedelic on that level. People should go check it out, because it’s Psychedelic Superman.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin agreed to pay each company $17,000 for infringing on their trademarks; they’d originally sought $27,000 in damages.
Binyamin told The Jerusalem Post in September that he doesn’t produce the yarmulkes, but merely sells them like many other shops in the area. “They make them in China, I just bring them,” he said. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” Indeed, the newspaper reported that nearly every store on Ben-Yehuda Street displayed yarmulkes outside. However, Kippa Man is the most successful and best known outside of Israel.
The Times of Israel then characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” Lawyers for Marvel and Warner Bros. told the Israeli newspaper Maariv that the companies will pursue legal action against other small stores that violate their trademarks.
“What makes it compelling as a story and a character is his tremendous backstory, which sets up the character as someone who is different than everybody, but striving to help. That sense of somebody that is an ‘other,’ someone who doesn’t belong but is doing his best to do the right thing all of the time. That’s incredibly compelling and universal. All of us, no matter how much we feel complete, sometimes feel like we’re on the outside, feel like we’re alone, feel like we’re strange and different. That’s why the Harry Potter books and movies are so popular. That’s why the X-Men are so popular. That’s why just about every pop culture phenomenon you can think of is so popular.
It’s amazing how many of the stories we love to cherish explore that sense of being different. That’s a universal human condition. And the reason Superman, in particular, is so compelling is because he’s on the outside, yet he’s doing his best to help everybody. That moral core of the character is something that we all, deep down, want to aspire towards. It’s that struggle to do the right thing that is really compelling. And it’s not easy for him. I think that’s another thing that great Superman writers have explored over the years. This is a guy that — everything should be easy for him because he’s Superman and he can do anything, but he is still in a constant struggle to figure out what the right thing to do is and how to do it.”
– Greg Pak, writer of DC’s upcoming Batman/Superman series, explaining to Comic Book Resources what makes the Man of Steel such a compelling character
It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
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IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics is partnering with DC Entertainment to reprint rare newspaper strips starring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The archival collections will debut in July with Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies, Vol. 1: 1958-1961.
Although DC and Kitchen Sink Press reprinted the first few years of the Superman and Batman newspaper strips in the 1990s, they only scratched the surface of the comics’ run: Superman, which featured the work of such creators as Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Curt Swan and Wayne Boring, was serialized from 1939 to 1966. The Batman strip, originally titled Batman and Robin, saw three major runs — 1943 to 1946, 1966 to 1974, and 1989-1991. Wonder Woman’s newspaper tenure was much short-lived, lasting less than a year (in 1944).
The Superman daily strips will be released in three collections, organized by era — the Silver Age, the Atomic Age and the Golden Age — with Sunday reprints published in a separate, concurrent series later in the year.
Publishing | DC’s 52-variant-cover gimmick with Justice League of America #1 seems to have paid off, as ICv2 estimates Diamond Comic Distributors sold more than 300,000 copies to comics shops last month. That adds up to more than $1 million in retail sales, a rare height last passed by in January by The Amazing Spider-Man #700. ICv2 also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for February. [ICv2]
Kickstarter | Gary Tyrrell talks to Holly Rowland, who with husband Jeffrey has launched a business called Make That Thing to help comics creators fulfill their Kickstarter pledges. The Rowlands are also the team behind the webcomics merchandise retailer TopatoCo. [Fleen]
Legal | A federal judge on Friday denied DC Comics’ bid for sanctions against the attorney for the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, finding that Marc Toberoff made “no deliberate attempt to mislead” during the discovery process and, perhaps more importantly, did not interfere with the publisher’s rights to the Man of Steel when he allegedly inserted himself into settlement talks in 2001. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Stan Lee will be deposed this week by lawyers representing Stan Lee Media in its multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Disney involving the rights to the characters the legendary writer co-created for Marvel. Stan Lee Media, which no longer has ties to its namesake, claims Disney as infringed on the copyrights Iron Man, the Avengers, X-Men and other heroes since 2009, when it purchased Marvel. The long, tortured dispute dates back to a sequence of events that occurred between August 1998, when Marvel used its bankruptcy proceedings to terminate Lee’s lifetime contract, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas and signed over his likeness, and any claims to the characters. Stan Lee Media has long claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company the rights to his creations and his likeness. SLM asserts in the latest lawsuit that neither Marvel nor Disney, which bought the comic company in 2009, has ever registered Lee’s November 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Young Daniel Bradman was a fan of the Man of Steel, and so for his bar mitzvah in 1988, his father Godfrey did what any real estate magnate would do: He commissioned DC Comics to create a custom Superman comic to serve as a party favor for guests.
But this wasn’t just any comic book. No, “This Island Bradman” was penciled by the legendary Curt Swan and inked by Angelo Torres, and followed Daniel, his half-brother Andrew Hunt and the rest of the family as they’re transported with their home — and Superman, naturally — to an alien world, where they’re to serve as entertainment. Superman is rendered powerless by kryptonite rays, leaving it up to the boys to rescue the superhero and return them home.
The issue, which Recalled Comics contends cost Bradman $18,000, is what Mark Waid has called “probably the rarest Superman comic in my lifetime,” as the print run was no more than 200; that figure comes from Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, though other sources put it much lower. Needless to say, seldom does one crop up for sale. (Waid, who sold his own copy last year, talks about it in the video below.)
But Patch.com reports Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood, California, was contacted by Godfrey Bradman offering to sell a copy of “This Island Bradman.” Owner Jud Meyers purchased the comic, and then recently sold it to a French collector for $5,000. According to Recalled Comics, five were sold in 2011, with a CGC 9.6 copy fetching $2,600.
“It’s stuff like that that is fun and different,” Meyers told Patch. “Sure you can have an X-Men #1 or an Avengers #1, but there are other people who have it. I don’t know of any store I’ve seen [the Bradman issue] in.”
David Levin, who wrote the issue, has shared some of the pages (and his memories) on his blog.
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.
Despite a January appeals court decision that seemed to signal an end to the nearly decade-long battle for ownership of Superman, the family of co-creator Jerry Siegel still holds out hope for victory over DC Comics.
Overturning a 2008 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found Jan. 10 that the Siegel heirs had accepted a 2001 offer from DC that permits the publisher to retain all rights to the Man of Steel (as well as Superboy and The Spectre) in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions — and therefore they were barred from reclaiming a portion of the writer’s copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1.
That decision came less than three months after a federal judge determined the 2003 copyright-termination notice filed by the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster was invalidated by a 20-year-old agreement with DC in which the late artist’s sister Jean Peavy relinquished all claims to Superman in exchange “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for Peavy.