Thursday, April 19, 2018

Super Anniversary

Yesterday was the Eightieth Anniversary of Superman, celebrated by DC releasing Acton Comics 1000.   I know the other one is a Superman issue, but its such a great picture.

Although I have been collecting Superman regularly, on and off, since Action issue 600, having two of my favorite writers being removed from Action and Superman to make way for a defecting Marvel scribe, meant I originally didn't have a post themed to the Last Son of Krypton today.

I read the bittersweet, but beautifully executed, farewell of the Superman team, followed by reading issue 1000....

And was once more reminded why I read Superman comics in the first place.

Ah, who needs sleep anyways?

Lets take a look at how this issue celebrated the creators and the concepts that have kept  Superman as the premier super hero across eight decades.

The issue is broken down into ten stories, with a couple of pin ups.

There were many variant covers, one for each decade and a few exclusives. I chose the Dan Jurgens one, since him being on Action in Rebirth is what drew me back into collecting them.  He was the writer of the flagship Superman title back in the "triangle number" days that gave us the Death, Return, and Wedding of Superman.

More importantly, Lois is on the cover. It's her Eightieth Anniversary too.  She's been there since Action #1, and after all this time, their partnership is just as important to the mythology of the character as his powers, costume and ability to inspire.

The first two stories are by the current teams, then it goes into history...and tomorrow.

I'm only listing writers and pencillers. Comic fans know there are also inkers, letterers, colorists and editors, but normal people still don't care.

"From the City That Has Everything” Writer/ Artist- Dan Jurgens
It starts off with the former Superman and current Action writer. The title references the famous Alan Moore "End of the Silver Age” story, but is far more upbeat.  This is a tale of “Superman Appreciation Day” in Metropolis.  Clark, of course, doesn’t want to show up for the praise, but the story shows why it is important not only for those receiving it, but those giving the thanks to be able to do it.  It's a celebration of the anniversary, but also of what it is about the “Man” in Superman that makes the citizens, and other heroes, look up to him.  He inspires everyone to be better, because it’s not the powers; it’s that he always does the right thing that makes him “Super.”

"Never Ending Battle" Writer- Peter J. Tomasi, Artist- Patrick Gleason
This one is by the recent team heading the Superman title.  Tomasi writes the (awesomely fun, and also ending…crap) Super Sons bringing his experience on the Bat-Titles to continue as the one guy who makes Damien likeable.  His stories excellently highlight the new Super-Family of Clark, Lois and John.  The framing of this all-splash-page tale is a blast of Hypertime (yay!) knocking Superman through multiple dimensions that allow peeks at moments and costumes throughout the character’s long and varied history.  The core of the story, similar to most of Tomasi’s work, is the importance of his family to Clark.

Next is a pin up by long time, second generation Marvel (in general) and Spidey (in particular) artist John Romita Jr.. He shows why he did have an impressive run on Big Blue in the Nu52 as well.

"An Enemy Within" Writer- Marv Wolfman, Artist - Curt Swan
Wolfman: writer of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, Swan: THE Silver Age Superman artist, to the extent that he was asked to redraw Jack Kirby’s art to match what Superman should look like. Sadly, Swan passed in 1996, so this must be a lost or unfinished work.   Superman’s presence is there, but the short tale is more about his influence inspiring the best in people…which is what an Icon of Hope is supposed to do

Note: I've seen some reviews putting the Paul Levitz, Neal Adams "The Game" story here in issue 1000. I have that one in my Giant Hardcover Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman.  I haven't read it yet (see "Giant Hardcover" above) but with those two, it has to be good.

"The Car" Writers- Geoff Johns/ Richard Donner, Artist- Oliver Copiel
Johns is currently president and CEO of DC comics, with epic runs writing JSA, Action, Aquaman, Flash, Teen Titans, Green Lantern and Justice League under his belt, along with a few Crises.  He started out as an assistant to his co-writer on this one, Richard (Goonies, Lethal Weapon, Superman the Movie) Donner. The two had a brief run together on Action a while back.  Oliver Copiel, known for Thor, the Avengers and House of M over at the competition, as well as DC’s Legion, lends his beautiful style to the oldest of old school Superman stories. It's the aftermath of the cover to Action Comics 1.  Yet another inspirational tale where Superman informs the driver of the car he smashed on his 1938 first appearance cover that must make a choice about the automobile and his life, repair it, or junk it.

"The Fifth Season" Writer- Scott Snyder Artist- Rafael Albuquerque
The team from the outstanding American Vampire series, and a boatload of modern Batman tales, present the only story with Lex Luthor in it.  It's a tale of cosmic perspective, crushing loneliness, unbridled ambition and how the words and actions of one kind school boy…or one good man…can touch even the hardest super villain’s heart.

"Of Tomorrow" Writer- Tom King, Artist- Clay Mann
This is the current Batman team who gave us issues 36 and 37, the amazing super double date. Clearly they get the character.  This is demonstrated with a Superman at Earth’s end story.  Unlike most of the many versions of this idea, which dance heavily among post-apocalyptic tropes, this one is all about Clark’s relationships with both of his Earth families, and is brimming with hope and acceptance.

"Five Minutes" Writer- Louise Simonson, Artist- Jerry Ordway
More input from the triangle number days!  Simonson was another of the writers back then, on the Man of Steel Series. Ordway was on Adventures of Superman, but his work goes back further- all the way to the first Post Crisis reboot, working with Marv Wolfman, and then alone alongside John Byrne. He also did the definitive modern run on Captain Marvel.  Why DC hasn’t issued a full collection of Power of SHAZAM, I have no idea!  
(Sorry, yet another aside rant, there.)
Their day in the life peice, in five minutes, summarizes why Clark is a reporter, and how his two careers aren’t that different after all.  

"Actionland!" Writer- Paul Dini, Artist- Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Paul Dini is one of the primary architects of the complexity and fun of the DC Animated Universe while Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez created the DC Comics style guide in 1982 (plus an ocean of comics work) which is still used on a large amount of merchandise today.  Therefore this story reads like one of the humorous yet awesome DCAU episodes, but has the visual depth and beauty of a classic comic book. 

Another pinup follows. This one by Walt Simonson, known for groundbreaking runs on Thor and Orion, with all the power one would expect from him.

"Faster Than a Speeding Bullet" Writer- Brad Meltzer, Artist- John Cassaday
A story drawn by an artist known for Planetary, and Marvel's Secret War, Star Wars, and Whedon’s Astonishing X-men, and written by the novelist responsible for Identity Crisis, one of the darkest tales of the DC Universe.  As I expected, it started out looking to be a downer about how Superman can’t be everywhere and can’t save everyone.  Instead the power of the character looks to have affected both the creators and their characters.  Clark learns the bravery of a victim can help him save people he ordinarily couldn't have, and the strength of their relationship lets Lois immediately realize that he, “found a good one.”

An artist on Super Sons, Jorge Jimenez, does a pinup highlighting the comfortable in his own skin, and powers, attitude he normally infuses into “Super-Dad.”

'The Truth" Writer- Brian Michael Bendis, Artist- Jim Lee
Jim Lee, current co-publisher of DC, has provided gorgeous art for Johns’s Justice League, Batman: Hush, Superman: For Tomorrow, Claremont’s X-men  the early days of Image and a whole mess of other stuff. The final story is visually stunning.  It is written by Bendis, up until very recently Marvel’s top writer, starting on Ultimate Spider-man Alias and Daredevil back in 2000/2001 and heading up the Avengers, Iron Man, and a metric crapload of cross overs between then and now.

I’ve read a lot (A LOT) of comics, including a bunch of Bendis’s stuff. I liked some a great deal, but not all of it.  He’s a good fit for the complex and conflicting characters of Marvel, but I was upset about his penchant for tearing down all that has gone before with him taking over both titles of THE ICON at DC. How much I’ve loved Superman, Action and Super Sons since Rebirth did not help his case.

At first, “The Truth” didn’t give me much to look forward to. Superman gets the tar beaten out of him by a new monster-y looking bad guy we’ve never seen before, who spouts, “Everything you know about the past is wrong,” kind of dialog. 

There was another conversation that gave me some of the hope Superman is a symbol of.  The two women who find Superman after he’d been tossed through a window have a discussion about what has returned in all the stories in Action 1000, Superman is wearing his underwear on the outside again!

It is pointed out that he doesn’t look like Superman without them.

OK, Mr. Bendis, you have my attention.
 I’ll give your new Man of Steel a shot.

Here’s to Eighty more years of inspiring hope and bringing out the best in others…

Up, Up and Away!!!!

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