As Superman approached the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, he expected to spend a little time in the coastal city of Benton Harbor, MI. Instead, he finds an empty field where Benton Harbor is supposed to be! There's no sign of bottles or Brainiac, just grass and the occasional wildflower--so what could make an entire city and all its residents suddenly disappear? To learn the shocking truth, Superman's taking a detour to the State Capitol building in Lansing, to meet with Benton Harbor's newly-appointed Emergency Manager, the mysterious Mr. Hamlin!
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
It's been ninety days, so Superman's expecting his usual visitor from the 5th Dimension, even as he tours the Physical Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD. The last thing he's expecting is a visit from five Misters Mxyzptlk! The little bald one in the purple suit has turned the lab upside-down trying to find someone named "McGurk," while the one with the cigar and the orange jumpsuit is busy fiddling with the fundamental constants of the universe, and the one with the buck tooth has rearranged the Periodic Table to spell out "NaMRePUS"! Meanwhile, the white-haired twins in the business suits are putting on a piece of performance art--using an Earth-shattering amount of antimatter! Superman's a little out of his depth on this one, so it's a good thing he has help--as a very annoyed modern Mxy lends an extradimensional hand!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I hope I have some time this weekend to talk at some length about "Action Comics #900," since there's plenty to say, but I think I ought to weigh in on the citizenship brouhaha.
It's not just silly because Superman is a fictional character and therefore no more an American citizen than Popeye or Mickey Mouse. It's silly because it's a non-issue.
This kind of story has been done before (he's eighty years old; what hasn't?), where Superman is conflicted about entering into politically tense situations because he's seen as an American and as a de facto agent of the American government. It was a component of "Superman: Peace on Earth," as I recall, and it figured into some of the Bialya/Qurac stuff in the '80s, and into a plotline in Rucka's "Adventures of Superman" a few years back. The point that Superman is a citizen of the world, belonging to the world, a hero to the world, has been made many, many times. Renouncing his citizenship (heck, the guy's home is already in the Arctic Circle, and presumably not Alaska) is simply a way of freeing him from being hampered by his apparent ties to the American government and freeing the American government from having to account for Superman's actions. One would think that would be a welcome relief, considering how often the guy seems to go crazy/evil/megalomaniacal. Global politics and the American government should not be a limitation on the good that Superman can do, and they shouldn't want to be.
The other side of this is the idea that Superman is somehow leaving behind or repudiating "Truth, Justice, and the American Way," and I really don't get that impression. He says "'Truth, Justice, and the American Way'--it's not enough anymore," but that doesn't suggest that it's wrong--just limiting, or limited. I hardly imagine that Superman is going to stop fighting for truth and justice; heck, this story is about Superman seeking the liberty to dedicate his life to the pursuit of happiness for all people, equally. He's declaring his independence from American politics. Put another way:
When in the Course of [super]human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.I don't know; it sounds like the American Way to me.
I'm slowly working my way through Elliot S! Maggin's Superman: Last Son of Krypton, and one thing I like is how he presented the Ethics of Sonnabend, the basic principles that have somehow found their way to every civilized corner of the universe in one fashion or another.
Loosely translated into English, some of Sonnabend's ethical standards could be stated like this:In other words: Truth, Justice, and the American Way. The problem is not in the principles, but in how others interpret Superman as a tool of American political power or imperialist intent. And with at least one writer on the Superman books (the inestimable Chris Roberson) explicitly influenced by Maggin and the novels, I suspect that this point won't go unnoticed.
Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The final point is this: Superman is a citizen of the world, and frankly, that's how it should be. But I guarantee you that Clark Kent is still registered as a citizen of Metropolis, USA. Not only would it be pretty damn obvious for Clark Kent to renounce his citizenship at the same time as Superman, but there's no reason for it. Superman will still be the hero of Metropolis, Clark Kent will still report for the Daily Planet, and the status quo will remain basically in place as it has for decades. Not even Superman could budge that.
When you can hover above the world, you don't see political boundaries.
And that's the way it should be.
The snarky answer is "writing Flashpoint tie-ins." But seriously, DC, you're paying an awful lot of editors, and I'm seeing more sloppy, basic errors slipping through than ever before.
I suppose I started noticing it when Perry White didn't know what 'passive language' meant and Lois Lane redrew state borders, but just in the most recent books I've read, there have been a slew of sloppy errors and sloppy writing in general. And it's the kind of thing that's up to editors, not writers or letterers necessarily, to correct.
So, three examples, all books I've read in the last two days. First, "Outsiders" #37, a book written by former editor Dan Didio, edited by Harvey Richards. I can forgive the comma splice in the first caption on the first page; it's page four--a full-page splash--that I'm concerned with. I'll chalk the sentence fragment in that first caption up to artistic license--totally acceptable--but it describes Doomsday as "The monster who murdered the greatest heroknown to man" (emphasis mine). Okay, a dropped space, not a big deal, right? But it looks sloppy and unprofessional; it would have come up in even a basic spellcheck search, and I have to imagine that the page gets looked over by at least one person after it's lettered. Isn't it the job of a decent editor to check the copy?
As I continued in reading "Reign of Doomsday," I came to James Robinson's "Justice League of America" #55. No spelling errors that I caught here, but there was a serious stylistic problem. The first page has fifteen 'bubbles' counting every caption and dialogue bubble. Within those fifteen bubbles, there are eleven ellipses. Robinson seems to be a really big fan of the separator characters, your ellipses and double-dashes, and I say that as someone who greatly overuses double-dashes. And perhaps it's my familiarity with those double-dashes that made them stand out so much for me this issue, because they are everywhere. They're overshadowed by ellipses on that first page, but even on that first page, a page where exactly two people have speaking parts, there are two people who end a sentence with a double-dash, interrupted by something else. Alan Scott, who is inexplicably Professor X, interrupts Jade, then interrupts himself, and sets the tone for "Justice League of America," the rudest comic ever.
Page two features Eclipso, who uses five ellipses in the span of three connected speech bubbles, then four more between four captions. The elliptical menace perforates Dick Grayson's narration on page three and even Alpha Lantern Boodikka's speech on the following pages. And then Supergirl ends a sentence with a double-dash, and it sets the ball rolling again.
Dick Grayson (Narrative Caption): Lucky. Just plain lucky. All the weapons on this craft...to fight Kryptonians...I can use them to fight--That's two pages. Two pages where one character's dialogue is interrupted by a narrative caption, and that same character interrupts her own narrative caption with another narrative caption! The next page features this interestingly unnecessary bit of punctuation:
Supergirl (Dialogue): Grayson!
Dick (Dialogue): I'm fine. Space-suit--just deal with--
Supergirl (Narrative): Sure. He's here for me anyway. I'm going to--
Supergirl (Narrative): Wait. No...
Supergirl (Narrative): ...it's not me he wants at all.
Boodikka (Dialogue): Ring? Why can't I--
Jade (Dialogue): Go, Jesse!...I understand using an ellipsis to link separated balloons or boxes; they demonstrate that a thought hasn't been finished, what in actual dialogue would be a hanging or pregnant pause. Such a pause is hard to accomplish directly after an exclaimed order.
Jade (Dialogue): ...Take my father away from this. Now. Please. Now.
The rest of the book features a "bubble ending in a double-dash, indicating sudden stopping or interruption" fifteen times in the remaining eleven story pages. This includes such interesting instances as Supergirl thinking "He'll kill Grayson, I w--," with no apparent reason to stop thinking, then saying "Me! Hit m--," somehow being interrupted in the middle of a single-syllable word. That particular disease hits Batman's next speech bubble, "That was too close f--."
Look, it's nitpicky, I know. But it's also a ridiculous excess of punctuation, and generally for no good reason. This is the kind of nitpicking that editors are paid to pick up on as being clunky and unnatural, and then fix it. 90% of the ellipses and double-dashes in this book could be replaced with commas, taken out entirely, or (heaven forbid) replaced with words, without losing an iota of the sense of urgency from the dialogue and narration of a book centered around fight scenes. It would have the added advantage of allowing us to see what Supergirl "w--," and not forcing us to believe that someone could be interrupted in the middle of a two-letter word1
But I might not have posted about it if not for Detective Comics #876, and this:
Batman is one of the smartest men alive. He designed these computers to be bleeding-edge, beyond-state-of-the-art, with his genius intellect and limitless funds.
And they can't spell acquired.
Seriously, I would think that the blaring red screen in the middle of the page might stand out to one of the three editors on this book. Apparently this either slipped past everyone who saw the lettered art, or letterer Sal Cipriano and editors Katie Kubert, Janelle Asselin, and Mike Marts are all unfamiliar with the concept of spellcheck.
Look, I don't want to be the nitpicky fanboy. I'm not trying to point out little continuity flubs; I'm not even criticizing fictional science content. I'm saying that these errors in basic English are sloppy and make DC Comics look terribly unprofessional. These comics pass through many eyes, and in some cases, many editors before I stand in line to pay my $2.99 for them, and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect those editors to edit.
1. Yes, she was interrupted by a teleportation, presumably instantaneous. In which case, Robinson should have followed through on the trope (and the Star Trek VI reference) by having her say "--E!" on the other end. This suggests that she actually stopped speaking in the middle of the word "me."
The Queen of Fables has captured Uncle Sam and Miss America, and through them she's made herself the star of America's story. Now, Superman leads a team of folklore heroes back to Philadelphia to put an end to the mad Queen's reign. Molly Pitcher, Hiawatha, John Henry, Casey Jones, Pecos Bill, Annie Oakley, and Paul Bunyan stand alongside Vigilante, the Celestial, Steel, Lois Lane, and Superman--but before they can take down the Queen, they have to make it through her strongest defenders yet: the Shadow Government! To rescue Uncle Sam and Miss America, the heroes will have to battle their way through swarms of black helicopters, shape-shifting reptilians, gray aliens, men in black, and other agents of the omnipotent force behind the nation's every conspiracy story. And while the League battles against the obvious foes, the Second Gunman waits out of sight, preparing to pick them off one by one with his magic bullets!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Queen of Fables has made herself Empress of the United States by capturing Uncle Sam and Miss America, and the country's only chance at freedom lies in Superman's League of Folktale Heroes! Casey Jones's train brings the team to their last stop before the final battle: Oscoda, MI, home to the giant lumberjack called Paul Bunyan! And while the towering woodsman is eager to join Molly Pitcher, Hiawatha, John Henry, Casey Jones, Pecos Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Man of Steel's other allies, the Queen isn't about to let them leave! The mysterious Mothman leads the charge against Superman's League, backed up by a squadron of blood-sucking chupacabras, brutally strong sasquatches, and countless other cryptic creatures! The League is finally complete, but will disaster claim them before they can finish their mission?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Wow. So, suddenly the vast majority of my hits are coming from The Superman Homepage, since sitemaster Steve Younis quite kindly linked to the Walking with Superman Contest. I've been reading the Superman Homepage regularly since I was on AOL dial-up, so this is pretty cool.
If you're a new visitor from the Superman Homepage--or elsewhere--welcome! Feel free to look around, comment on stuff, and enter the contest. And thanks for visiting!
The Queen of Fables has captured Uncle Sam and Miss America in order to take control of America through its stories! In order to stop her, Superman is assembling a team of heroes from America's legends--Hiawatha! John Henry! Casey Jones! And today they're on the banks of the Pecos River north of Pecos, New Mexico, where the Vigilante has assembled an incredible duo of western legends: Pecos Bill and Annie Oakley! But before this heroic journey can set out again, the Queen's forces arrive to make sure that they never leave New Mexico! Gangsters and bandits from Bonnie and Clyde to Billy the Kid surround our heroes, accompanied by an army of hoop snakes and rabid jackalopes!
Monday, April 25, 2011
The Queen of Fables has captured Uncle Sam and Miss America, and she's using her powers to take over America--through its cultural narratives! Today, Lois Lane's research and contacts lead the League of Stories to Vaughan, Mississippi, where they'll find the League's next member, and a heroine who may shed some light on why Superman hasn't lost his powers along with the rest of the superhero community. The Celestial is no folktale, but the latest in a long line of Chinese-Americans who have drawn amazing powers from America's railroads, using those abilities to protect the lines that united the country. Tapped into such a long and powerful tradition, her powers have not faded--and Superman may be experiencing a similar boost. More urgently, she has found the next member of their League, the legendary Casey Jones! With a dedicated conductor and the rails as their guide, the League sets out west--but the Queen's gang of legendary rustlers is on their tail!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The Queen of Fables has captured Uncle Sam and Miss America, and she's using her powers to take over America--through its folklore! Superman, Lois Lane, Molly Pitcher, and Hiawatha have arrived in Talcott, West Virginia, where John Henry Irons has already sought out the next member of their League: his namesake, the steel-drivin' man called John Henry! But the Queen's forces are on to their quest, and she's dispatched fearsome spectres from America's past to stop the fellowship once and for all! Now, Superman's Folklore League must face their first real battle, against the White Knight, the Red Menace, and the Yellow Peril!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
With Uncle Sam and Miss America captured by the Queen of Fables, it's up to Superman to unite a team with the narrative power necessary to stop her from taking over the country! The Man of Steel knows that assembling this group will require some convincing, so he's in Oswego, NY, hoping to find one of the greatest orators and diplomats in American folklore. But he's got a surprise reunion with another wordsmith first, as Lois Lane joins their fellowship--and she's been busy, coordinating other heroes to get this quest on its way. But first they have to get to the Oswego River, and to the gleaming white canoe sitting in the midst of it. The legendary Hiawatha once united five disparate nations into a powerful league. Can Superman convince him to do the same for his team?
Friday, April 22, 2011
The Task: Draw a cover for one of the 275 previous issues of "Walking with Superman"So, start working on those entries, Fortress faithful! And I'll start working on promoting this contest better than I did the last time around. You can link your entry in the comments here, or send them to:
The Deadline: Tuesday May 17, 11:59 PM CDT (day #300)
Prizes: The top three places will win awesome stuff! Here's some of the awesome stuff in my awesome stuff pile that I'll pull the prizes from:
- All-Star Superman Vol. 1-2 TPBs
- The Walking Dead Vol. 1 "Days Gone Bye" TPB (get it?)
- Freakazoid Season 1 DVD set
- Jimmy Olsen: The Jack Kirby Adventures Vol. 1-2 TPBs
- The Physics of Superheroes Spectacular Second Edition book
- "Look, Up in the Sky!: The Amazing Story of Superman" Documentary DVD
- A Hallmark Superman ornament
- Some assorted good comics, including the "Dark Knight Over Metropolis" three-parter and "Invincible Iron Man" Annual #1.
Edit: Just to be clear, lest you think I'll be judging this on artistic ability alone, please remember my artistic contributions. Entries will be judged primarily on how awesome/hilarious/excellent I think they are.
Edit: Just to sweeten the deal: Over the course of this thing I've created several new characters and revived quite a lot of old ones, just in case someone wants to do a bit of redesigning/designing along with cover artistry. Here's a list:
- The Kings of Rock: Jailhouse, Burnin' Love, Crazy Arms, Little Sister, and the King, Elvis-inspired villains.
- Monumentarch: The would-be supervillain who steals monuments.
- La Encantadora: The Joe Kelly-created villainess who last appeared (to my knowledge) in Action Comics #773.
- The Kings of Rock's cyborg kung-fu Elvis impersonator henchmen
- Escudo: the Cuban-American superhero with a magical shield and force field powers.
- The Chicago 7 and C.A.P.-1: Chicago's premier super-team (including Kodiak, who becomes a giant humanoid bear, and his sidekick Cubby, who is an intelligent young grizzly) and their robotic gangster arch-enemy.
- Boilermaker: Indiana's mechanical superhero.
- Terra-Man: The alien-equipped eco-terrorist cowboy, last seen in "52" #3 and as a corpse in "Blackest Night" #4.
- Alpha Centurion: Ancient Roman hero with hi-tech alien armor, last seen (to my knowledge) in "Alpha Centurion" #1.
- Vampire Hunter Anna Vordenburg and vampire vigilante Moonrise.
- Vaxan Byzar: an alien from a primitive world who has been stranded on Earth, where he uses our advanced technology to defend Randall, SD, from the strange threats the town seems to attract.
- Gus Gorman: computer programmer from "Superman III"
- Proud Mary; Rush and Silence: the ghostly pilot of the haunted steamboat Hell's Fury. Rush and Silence were mentioned (but never shown) in Jeph Loeb's "Superman" #179, implied to be African-American.
- Slugger: the baseball-themed villain who turns out to be Superman in disguise.
- The Young Heroes: Thunderhead, Bonfire, Frostbite, Junior, Zip-Kid, and Off-Ramp, along with friend-turned-enemy Monster Girl and Mayor Jeremy "Hard Drive" Horton, last seen in "Young Heroes in Love" #1,000,000.
- Los Atómicos and El Rudo: superheroic luchadores Angela (with Earth Angel-style abilities), El Menagério (who can take on animal characteristics), Hijo del Salvador (enhanced strength, speed, agility, and durability), and their mysterious leader El Primero (who wears a white suit and a gleaming mask, but coordinates the action from behind the scenes), along with their nemesis El Rudo.
- La Máscara de Tezumak: the mask of Obsidian Age-era warrior Tezumak, which grants its wearer armor and abilities similar to his.
- The bands from The Supergroup Saga (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6): including but not limited to rapper Elinel, Knights In Shazam's Service, Arrowsmith, '90s one-hit wonders Kirby Danger, Chang Tzu and the Fu Fighters, Starrship, Bat Halen, Operation Isley, Scaring Crows, Siobhan and Kara, Rick Dragon and Human Sex Bomb, Carlos Sivana, Slade, Kobra Starship, Emperor Fiddler and his prog-rock band Yz, and Clark's supergroup Freedom.
- Dexter Michaels, the Were-World: an astronaut transformed into a living planet.
- The Agents of Liberty: U.S. Marshals with special hi-tech costumes based on the original Agent Liberty.
- Kickflip: an Extreme Sports-themed hero who gained his powers during Bloodlines.
- Mad Mod and his Pack: Mad Mod is the new incarnation of a classic Teen Titans villain. The Pack are Darci, the Barbie-esque robotic female from Superman Animated Series episode "Obsession," Flash villains Peekaboo and The Folded Man with 50s-styled redesigns, and Johnny Angel, a satanic greaser.
- Theo Burr and Percy Fawcett: A time-traveling adventuress and her treasure-hunting time-lost nemesis.
- Mr. Hamlin: the loan shark whose deals have unexpected costs.
- Mountain Man, Yeti, Agents of B.I.G.H.O.R.N., Black Diamond, Avalanche: The hulking bearded hero of Aspen and his partner whose petite body hides the strength--and occasionally the shape--of a furry abominable snowman. Black Diamond is a secret society whose foot soldiers are snowboarding ninjas. Avalanche is an ice avatar, similar to Brimstone.
- Troika: super-powered Carggian recruit to the 30th Century's Legion of Substitute Super-Villains.
- Nuclear Man: the revamped villain of "Superman IV."
- Samuel Goodman and Maushop: a Pilgrim hero and a Native American giant.
- Dreamer: heroine whose precognitive powers come from Joseph's coat of many colors.
- The Black Convoy and Capt. Chip Hammer: Couriers to the supervillains and a super-highway patrolman whose hi-tech motorcycle becomes an arsenal of weapons and a suit of mech-style armor.
- Sgt. David Yu: a metahuman Army Ranger.
- Superman Red and Superman Green: Red Kryptonite's yuletide effect on the Man of Steel.
- Skyman and the Justice Squadron: Alternate-reality JLA, where Superman was raised by the military and Clark Kent never existed.
- Bizarro-Santa: the backwards elf whose sleigh is pushed by Bizarro reindeer.
- Frosty the Ice Elemental: a living snowman with incredible power and a stylish hat.
- Skyknight and the Barnstormers: Naval superhero squadron, code-named after Naval airplanes.
- Outburst: young magnetic superhero and one-time leader of the Supermen of America. The team was last seen (to my knowledge) in "The OMAC Project" #6.
- The Dogcatcher: An interstellar bounty hunter who specializes in Sirians and G'newtians.
- Terro the Ultra-Hound: Ultraman's super-powered mutt.
- Orion and Sirius, Canis Major: Orion and Sirius are the ancient hunter and his hunting dog; Canis Major is the super-powered canine pet of Alpha Centurion.
- The Sloth and the Hunter: A stone-age villain and his super-intelligent nemesis.
- Bxtr: Mr. Mxyzptlk's 5th-dimensional puppy.
- Solaris: a solar-powered supervillain last seen in "Kobra" #3.
- Organic Meta-Human Annihilation Construct: A brand-new OMAC, created by the union of Batman's Brother Eye satellite and the 853rd Century Superman's nemesis Solaris, the Tyrant Sun.
- Dr. Love: the metahuman matchmaker.
- CARnivore: the haunted monster truck that unites with its driver to become a terrible biomechanical beast.
- Danite and Seagull, the Patriarch: the married protectors of Salt Lake City and a cultist whose large, brainwashed family draw superpowers from him.
- Karb-Brak: the super-powered alien last seen (to my knowledge) in Action Comics #476.
- Idol, Missile, the Lightbox, Blitz: the Antimatter-Earth counterparts of Icon, Rocket, the Shadow Cabinet, and Static.
- Captain Bizarrvel: Captain Marvel's Bizarro World duplicate, with the strength of Solomon and the wisdom of Atlas.
- The Phosgene Phantom: a World War I-era poisonous spectre.
- Astonicus and Astoundia: a vaudevillian villain who fought the JSA by duplicating their powers, and his granddaughter who uses his amulet in the modern age.
- Dev-El the Overman: Superman's 25th century descendant who hunts Kryptonians with a dagger made from Red Kryptonite.
- Ultraboy and The Battalion of Ultra-Brigands: Universal Boy, Titan Girl, and Thunder Teen, the future of villainy in Earth-3's 30th Century, and Ultraboy, the teenage tyrant who would grow up to become that world's Ultraman.
- The Alliance: A San Francisco-based super-team dedicated to LGBT rights and improving gay-straight relations.
- Superman Blue and Superman Gray: the Man of Steel, split by time travel and fighting both for the Union and the Confederacy.
When the Queen of Fables captures Uncle Sam and Miss America in Philadelphia, Superman is only barely able to escape her clutches. By the time he reaches Valley Forge, the mythic monarch's magic is already altering reality. Superman's powers are waning, and the chatter on the JLA communications network suggests that he may be lucky that they're still functioning at all! He puts out the call for allies, but it looks like Superman might be on his own for this one--until he's approached by a woman in 18th-century attire! Since the very beginning, Molly Pitcher has been there to help America in its times of need, and she has a message for Superman from Uncle Sam: the Queen of Fables is tapping into the power of America's cultural narratives for her own gain and glorification, and if Superman has any hope of defeating her, then he must do the same! The Man of Steel has a new quest: unite a new League for America, gathering the great heroes from the country's folklore tradition to fight against the woman who would be Queen!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
First it was a middle-aged woman in Englewood, dead of axe wounds, found tied to a chair in front of a TV playing "The Shining" on a loop. Days later, a man in Winter Haven was found in a similar position, stabbed to death as he watched a marathon of "Psycho," "Halloween," and half a dozen other horror classics. There's a serial killer in central Florida with a film fixation. Superman plans to put an end to his killing spree before his double feature merits a threequel, but even if he unravels the mystery in time, will the Man of Steel be ready for the surprise twist ending?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Clark Kent's taking a casual walk around the mall in Burlington, Massachusetts, looking for a souvenir or two to take back from the Bay State. So he's as surprised as any of the other customers when the gunshots ring out, sending panicked patrons fleeing for the exits. He moves against the flow of the crowd, only to find Oswald Cobblepot, flanked by half a dozen henchmen and carrying a colorful machine gun umbrella, engaging in a little violent larceny! As the Penguin's partners plunder and pilfer, Clark looks for a place to surreptitiously change his clothes. Meanwhile, he ponders the bizarre mystery before him: the Penguin reformed, becoming a wealthy businessman and successful club owner in Gotham City. Why on Earth would he be stealing trinkets from a Massachusetts department store?
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Curtis Stevens is returning to his Vermont, WI home today. He was sentenced to probation after an incident last week, where he fired a handgun repeatedly at his television set and engaged in a tense standoff with police. It's been a rough month for Stevens, having resigned from the school board, lost his job, and generally withdrawn from society before the bizarre shooting. Neighbors say he hadn't left his house for over three days before the police showed up. But when Superman visits Dane County, he can't help but notice something off about the little town, about their vacant stares and the way the whole village shuts down at 5 PM, as every single citizen settles in to watch Morgan Edge's daily talk show, "The Edge of Reason." Superman's determined to find out what has turned so many normal citizens into Edge's glassy-eyed fanatics, and so he seeks out Curtis Stevens--the last sane man in Vermont, WI!
Monday, April 18, 2011
There's been a rash of pharmacy break-ins in and around Pascagoula, MS, with thieves usually taking some of the more valuable analgesics and psychotropics. So when investigators at the most recent burglary couldn't find anything missing, they assumed that the new alarm system and more frequent police patrols scared away the would-be robbers before they could complete the crime. But when the next day's prescriptions start turning innocent customers into bloodthirsty demons, it becomes clear that thievery wasn't the reason for this break-in. The traveling Superman lends a hand to the overburdened Pascagoula Police, but the Man of Steel's encountered this nefarious narcotic before. If someone's dealing DMN to drugstores, then it invariably involves some infernal interlopers. Superman's determined to get to the bottom of this backwards burglary, but he has no idea just how far down that bottom is!
Sunday, April 17, 2011
The Voynich Manuscript is an actual enigma. Dating back to the 15th Century, the mysterious book contains dozens of strange images and hundreds of pages of indecipherable text in an unknown language. Today, Superman's visiting Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Connecticut, hoping to turn his super-intellect and experience traveling the universe toward unraveling the cryptic codex. He quickly sees that the book is written in an ancient Kryptonian dialect, and its contents describe the flora and fauna of a dozen alien worlds between Krypton and Earth. Like a medieval version of the Pioneer Plaque or the Voyager Golden Disk, it's like a message in a bottle from an alien explorer. Except this message has an intended recipient: the Man of Steel himself! Was there a Kryptonian on Earth before Kal-El--or is the truth even more bizarre? To find the truth, Superman contacts the amazing Hourman, and his cross-country journey may find a detour to Europe--or to the 15th Century!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Montana is called "Big Sky Country," but today the sky looks awfully crowded, filled entirely with the slimy carapace of a planet-eating space creature! Superman arrives in Lewiston, MT, a town now bordered on either side by the creature's enormous mandibles, latched into the Earth's crust. The Man of Steel springs into action, but how can he reason with a mindless beast? How can his super-strength affect a creature the size of a gas giant? What use is heat vision against an animal that would casually drink the molten iron from the planet's outer core? Superman may finally be in over his head--and unless he can drive off this astronomic arthropod, the world will end with neither a bang nor a whimper, but with digestion!
Friday, April 15, 2011
Superman's in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho, digging toward the center of the Earth to find the source of a strange sinkhole. He suspected the cause before setting out on this infernal expedition, after being suddenly attacked by the amnesiac forester Jack Doe. It's little surprise to the Man of Steel when he reaches the core and discovers, unharmed by the heat, a familiar piece of 30th-century technology: the Persuader's Atomic Axe! Somehow, the Fatal Five's axe-wielding assassin has fallen through time and become separated from his memory! Superman must remove the axe before it does any further damage to the planet and the forest, but unearthing it risks reviving the ruthless killer in the peaceful forester. Can Superman save the forest and help his futuristic foe have a second chance?
Thursday, April 14, 2011
When he stumbled out of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho, Jack Doe had no memory, no identification, no possessions, and no name. During the weeks he spent convalescing in nearby Idaho Falls, he discovered that the only thing that ever felt right, that ever stirred even the smallest spark of recognition, was swinging an axe. He naturally took up work as a lumberjack, and found great success and a talent for the work. Over the last few years, he's worked his way through various logging companies all across the Northwest, finally returning to Idaho Falls to work with the USDA Forest Service. He's spearheaded work on sustainable forest initiatives and managing invasive species, showing considerable natural aptitude for adapting and developing green technologies and working with complex systems. In fact, the only project he hasn't been able to complete is discovering the source of a sinkhole in the midst of the very forest that, years ago, he left as an amnesiac. Incredible heat and strange gases well up from this tiny spot, killing local flora and causing animals to take ill and avoid it at all costs. So when Superman passes through the Gem State, Doe asks him to investigate the source of the problems. When Superman turns his back, Jack is as surprised as anyone to find himself swinging an axe at the Man of Steel! What could cause a peaceful man to have such a strange outburst? The answers lie in the forest--and at the center of the Earth!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Superman embarks on a walking tour of the Battle of Westport in Kansas City, MO. The "Gettysburg of the West" was the largest Civil War battle on this side of the Mississippi, fought in one of two states that divided its loyalties and government between north and south. But as the Man of Steel reads the plaques and moves from one site to the next, he begins to feel weak, light-headed. Something drives him on, though he wishes he could stop, and feels as though his head is about to split open. When he reaches the Forest Hill Cemetery, the strange force pulls him to his knees.
When the Man of Tomorrow awakes, he finds himself thrust over a hundred years back in time! Dressed in a modified Union uniform, Superman is stationed with the northern troops as the battle of Westport begins. He knows what effects his presence might have on the timestream, and quietly refuses to engage--until he sees a Confederate soldier flying above the fray, melting Union weapons with heat vision! It's Superman Blue versus Superman Gray, with the fate of history hanging in the balance!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
So, I've been keeping up with the news regarding the new Superman movie, and a few of the rumors (though I've avoided the 'we've totally read the new script' people). Some thoughts:
- So, we know that Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are playing the Kents, and that they're looking to do some exterior shooting in a rural town. At the very least, that means we get to see some Smallville, and I'm obviously fine with that. Since there appears to be enough of a fanbase for "Smallville" as a TV series to keep it going for ten years, and since the movie's coming out only a year or so after that series ends--possibly right in time for a "Complete Series" boxset to be released--this seems like kind of a no-brainer.
That being said, it also has implications: Either we're going to see an origin story, or Superman's parents are going to be alive and involved with his adult life. The former case makes me rub at my temples; it's definitely dynamic and dramatic and allows the director to flex his sci-fi muscles, but the origin of Superman is among the most well-known stories in the western world. It's a part of the cultural consciousness, and it really doesn't need yet another telling. At least, not one that's long and protracted, which would be suggested by casting big names as the Kents.
If it's the latter case, then I can't say I've got a real problem with that. I like the idea of Superman having parents, having a family to turn to, and it'd be nice to see that carry over.
- Michael Shannon has been cast as General Zod. This is the "mumble grumble" of the headline; my feelings about General Zod are well-documented, and despite a strong showing in the New Krypton storyline, I don't expect him to have any incredible amount of depth in the new film. The biggest mistake "Superman Returns" made was to basically retell the story of the first Superman film; I really hate to see the new film apparently following the same path. It's like seeing all the Trekkies who want the next "Star Trek" film to be "Wrath of Khan" or "Space Seed" again. Doesn't anyone want to see new stories? I've watched a movie where Superman fought General Zod. I'd really like to see a movie where he fights, you know, anyone else, but maybe especially Brainiac or Metallo or Darkseid or even frigging Doomsday.
The worst part about that, though, is Snyder's commentary:
Zod is not only one of Superman's most formidable enemies, but one of the most significant because he has insights into Superman that others don't.Can we unpack that for a moment? Sure, Zod has insights into Superman that others don't. Zod has the exact same powers, unrestrained by Superman's sense of honor and decency. Zod lived on Krypton, and has no loyalty for the human race, no love for them. Zod knew Superman's birth father, who Superman never met, and while Superman might be tempted to idealize Jor-El, Zod hates him. These are all rich areas to mine for conflict and action. The problem is that they've already been mined, and you can see the evidence of that every damn weekend when the movie's on some cable channel or another.
But it's the first part that I have the most problem with. Not Zod's formidable-ness, that's fair (though there's really no shortage of characters who are a physical match for Superman--Doomsday, new Brainiac, exo-suited Luthor, Bizarro, Metallo, Mongul, Kalibak, even more obscure guys like Reactron, Neutron, or Atomic Skull), but his significance. Before "Superman II," Zod was a footnote. Less than that, in fact; looking through Michael Fleischer's 1978 Superman Encyclopedia, I can't even find reference to Zod (or Dru-Zod, or General Zod), who appeared only a handful of times in the Silver Age. I appreciate that the movie made him a name character and caused him to supplant Jax-Ur as the Number One Phantom Zone villain. But Superman has many more significant villains than General Zod.
But you know, this doesn't happen to Batman. You ask people to name a Batman villain, they'll pick the Joker, sure. But ask them to name another, and I bet their first guess won't be "The Penguin" or "Max Schreck." Maybe "Catwoman."
I don't doubt that there's a good story to be had from Superman vs. General Zod. I just feel like I've already seen that story. In the shadow of Richard Donner, that story is always going to play out the same way: Superman fights Zod, Zod says "Kneel before Zod!", and then...what? A story with General Zod paints itself into a corner. Lester had him depowered and apparently killed. Donner had Superman turn back time again. Byrne had Superman execute him. Everyone else has mostly just shoved him back into the Phantom Zone, which is kind of anti-climactic.
There are seventy-five years of Superman stories to pull material from. 1978 and 1980 are only two of them.
- Rumor has it that the movie has been semi-retitled; following the trend set by "The Dark Knight," the Superman reboot is supposedly called "Man of Steel." I don't have much problem with that, but it is a little odd.
Somewhere above the storm clouds gathered over the Maine coastline, the stars are finally right. A group of dedicated cultists have gathered on Cross Island, part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, to carry out an arcane ritual, designed to summon their ancient master from its interdimensional prison. As the eldritch energies build, the air fills with mystical electricity, and lightning superbolts strike the charged water around the islands. The portal opens, and the great slimy goddess emerges, to spread madness and pestilence across the face of the world. But the electrical activity produced by their ritual has had an unintended effect, and something else has awakened beneath the seas--Gargantor, lizard-king of the sea! The giant semi-reptilian beast comes from unknown origins, but woke once in the late 1970s when a similar series of superbolts struck the northeastern coast. The heroes of the age were able to defeat it and imprison it once more beneath the waves, but now it has awakened, and thirsts for destruction! Caught between an enormous otherworldly creature-goddess and a giant saurian monster with electric-vision, Superman will have his indestructible hands full trying to save the East Coast from utter annihilation!
Monday, April 11, 2011
Collin Keith has just been released from prison, where he's been serving an eight-year sentence for robbing the Stockmen's Bank in Golden Valley, Arizona--three times. Today, Superman arrives in Golden Valley, just in time to stop Keith's fourth robbery of that same small-town bank. What drives a man to repeatedly risk his life and freedom to repeatedly loot the same place? Superman suspects that there's something more than money at work here, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it. But will his search for the truth become the same obsession that has consumed Collin Keith?
Sunday, April 10, 2011
With the assassination of Harvey Milk and the mysterious and frightening beginnings of the AIDS pandemic, 1979 saw America's gay community looking for a hero. It was amid that climate that San Francisco's only openly-gay hero Stonewall teamed up with the Manx, formerly of the Justice Experience, to form The Alliance. Today, the Alliance has grown to become a worldwide network of superheroes and civilians, dedicated to defending LGBT rights and promoting positive collaboration between the gay and straight communities. But when Superman visits the Alliance's headquarters in San Francisco, he finds it cordoned off by police and officials from the Department of Immigration. The Alliance has granted asylum to James Ndede, an openly-gay Ugandan artist who faces deportation due to an expired visa--and once returned to Uganda, Ndede could be imprisoned or executed for his identity. Caught between immigration law and an innocent life, can Supermna find a peaceful solution before it's too late?
Saturday, April 09, 2011
The various invasions and interplanetary wars waged on and around Earth have led to a considerable number of displaced aliens taking up residence around the world, and the United States' acceptance of high-profile aliens like Superman and Martian Manhunter has made America something of a land of opportunity for extraterrestrial immigrants. The greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area has proved a popular destination for otherworldly refugees, particularly ones from colder climates, and large pockets can be found spread around the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. Many of those pockets have emptied today, though, as a mob of angry aliens converges on rural Morris, just a few hours away. As part of a demonstration about free speech and religious privilege, a Morris professor desecrated a number of holy and not-so-holy books, including The Ethics of Sonnabend, a popular alien religious text. Superman steps in to prevent the clash of ideologies from turning violent. But can the Man of Steel stand up for someone who would stoke the fires of religious rage?
Friday, April 08, 2011
Superman's in Fruitland, Idaho, home to one of the country's main Soder Cola production centers. He's not here for the guided tour, though--someone's been contaminating the cola, and Soder has asked the Man of Steel to investigate. None of the affected bottles made their way to the national distribution centers, but a few cases ended up in the greater Fruitland area, and the company is bending over backwards to satisfy the affected customers. The customers are bending over backwards too--and sideways, and in spirals--tying themselves in knots over the Gingold extract that somehow made it into their drinks! Now, Superman's tracking down the twisted trickster who slipped the stretchy serum into the soda, but he's going to need a couple of flexible hands to help the victims. Step aside, Superman--this looks like a job for the the Prince of Plasticity, the Rubberized Redhead, the stretchy teen in purple and green: Jimmy Olsen, Elastic Lad!
Thursday, April 07, 2011
I trust that I don't really need to recap the Rob Granito fiasco for you. If you're active in the comic blogosphere, you already know about it. If not, check out The Beat and Facebook for the story and Legit-O-Mite for the evidence. In short, Rob Granito lied, stole art and sold it as his own, and possibly has any number of disorders, and consequently has been run out of the comics community on a rail. And for good reason.
Now, with his apparent main source of income very suddenly dried up, the Rob Granito experience has looked for a way to turn lemons into lemonade. Seeing how he's gone from nobody to infamous pariah in a matter of weeks, Granito--or at least his wife--is looking to cash in on that name recognition by charging for interviews. Because clearly, the only way War Rocket Ajax can talk to Matt Fraction or Nerdy Nothings can interview Dan Abnett, is by paying their extravagant honorarium fees. I myself received a comely sum for my appearance on the latter podcast, because podcasts are totally bottomless pits of real cash money.
Here's the reason I think this is worth mentioning: I'm pretty well convinced that Rob Granito is a scumbag of the first order, and after this latest salvo of scummery has me pretty convinced that his wife is too. But we're all forming these opinions without hearing Rob's side of the story. It's entirely possible that Granito could have turned this infamy into a series of interviews on various podcasts and websites. Wouldn't that be a coup? To have the first--the exclusive!--interview with comics' current most hated figure? To a guy who makes Rob Liefeld look super-competent and Greg Land a...um, non-tracer? To be the first quasi-journalist to really stick it to him and ask him the tough questions? It might not pay the guy's bills, but it would certainly help him engender some much-needed sympathy if he has any hope of continuing in this line of work. Muddying the waters with his own sob story, telling the "more that you don't know about" which he alleges in his press release, exposing the grand conspiracy of bloggers and comics professionals who have pursued a groundless vendetta against this guy who just didn't know any better--at the very least, it could gain him some defenders, possibly allow him back into an Artists' Alley here or there.
But instead, he's tried to cash in on a cash-strapped industry, wildly miscalculating the best available tactics in such a way as to make him appear even more like the cynical, amoral douchebag that most people already think he is. He has all but ensured that no one will hear his side of the story, egocentric and mendacious though it likely would be, at least until the sting of joblessness sets in and he drops his prices and searches for a media outlet who will hear him out, long after any possible sympathizers have long since stopped caring.
And so, through yet another colossally stupid choice, Granito has realized ripped-off artist Leonard Kirk's hope:
In all honesty, I really don’t want to know his story. I’ll admit, I’m a little curious about his fraudulent beginnings with that very first swiped image that he sold to some poor schmuck for twenty bucks. However, I don’t want his full story to come out. I don’t want to know about his life outside of the fraud. I don’t want to know about his wife or his kids or his childhood or his schooling or the bully who took his lunch money or his first legit-o-mite job. I don’t want to know any of that because such knowledge will begin to humanize him. Not that he isn’t a human being with feelings and loved ones. I’m just saying that it will lead to people coming up with stuff like, “Oh, look. The poor guy had it rough.” or “It’s been his lifelong dream to get into the business.” or “Can you blame him, considering how his parents treated him??” or some shit like that. Hell, I’ve already seen people post comments about how they feel sorry for the guy.
I don’t want this asshole’s story to turn into.… well…. A REAL STORY. I don’t want this transformed into some human interest piece of fluff like the crap you see on Oprah.
I will, however, donate money to the first comics news organization that offers to pay Granito's interview fees with a traced, slightly altered copy of a $200 bill.
The Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire is the oldest continuously-operated museum in the United States. Their current local art exhibit contains sculptures and bas-reliefs dating back to pre-colonial times, but a particular highlight is a set of newly-unveiled paintings by the reclusive local artist Fiona Pickman. The exhibit has been enormously popular, especially with Dartmouth professor Erica Carter. Dr. Carter enters the exhibit every day at opening and leaves at closing, staring at Pickman's newest piece, "Untitled," almost without blinking. Every day, that is, until yesterday, when she attacked the painting and had to be dragged from the gallery by guards. Now, Superman is turning his own incredible senses toward Pickman's art, hoping to discover the secret that drove one woman violently insane. But will he solve this artistic mystery, or will the Man of Steel be consumed by the same madness?
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Superman makes a stop at the High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, a science- and engineering-focused academy for the area's most gifted students. Its small annual enrollment makes it fairly competitive for the Garden State's top teenage academics, and under that stress, some students have turned to so-called 'smart drugs' to enhance their performance. But there's more than just Adderall and Ritalin making the rounds in the dorms, and the current drug of choice is a Coluan semi-intelligent technochemical called "Vitamin G." And as Superman walks the halls, seeing dozens of pairs of bright green eyes carefully watching his every move, he begins to suspect that the drug is doing something more sinister than boosting a few test scores...
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
What started as a panicked trip to a drugstore in Stollings, West Virginia, has become a tense hostage standoff between local police and 26-year-old Clay Murphy. There's just one catch: Murphy doesn't have a gun or a knife or a bomb--no weapons whatsoever! What he has is what brought him to the pharmacy in the first place: a strange, painful growth on his arm--a growth that's becoming more aggressive by the minute! The more desperate and agitated Murphy gets, the more his alien ailment lashes out at the hapless hostages! Can Superman defuse this tense situation and save Clay Murphy before this terrorizing extraterrestrial tumor consumes his body--or worse, before it becomes contagious?
Monday, April 04, 2011
Spring Break is coming to a close, and it's time for the members of the Superman Family to head back to their respective routines. But as they pass over Groom Lake in Nevada--location of the government base known as Area 51--the whole group plummets, unconscious, from the sky. Waking to find themselves trapped in an empty, twisted Metropolis, they discover that they are armorless, weaponless, and powerless! Clark, Lois, Conner, Karen, Linda, John Henry, and Natasha stand against their manifested nightmares, and it soon becomes clear that a forgotten malevolence has awakened in the place called Dreamland. Trapped as they are, with no hope for escape and no way to fight against the darkness, it turns out that the very last thing that the Superman Family needs...is a Savior.
Sunday, April 03, 2011
It's a super-sized installment of Walking with Superman when Superboy returns to his old stomping grounds in Honolulu, Hawai'i--and he's brought the whole Superman Family with him! A lot has changed in the Tomorrow Teen's life since he left the Aloha State, and while he tries to recapture his youth, it seems like every rogue he ever faced is trying to recapture him! The Family of Steel has their hands full keeping the islands safe--Power Girl and Supergirl take on the DNAngels, with the help of Honolulu SCU's Inspector Sam Makoa and Det. Roxy Leech! Steel and Starlight help stop Kossak the Slaver's extradimensional attack on S.T.A.R. Labs, assisted by Mickey "The Mechanic" Cannon, the Technician, Tekka the Gadgeteer, Director Serling Roquette--and the Guardian?! Superman and Lois Lane check in on Rex Leech, recently-appointed Chairman of the reformed Superman Foundation, and find themselves up against Kekona the Demolishor--the miniature Menahune menace who nearly ended their Hawaiian Honeymoon! Meanwhile, Conner tries to reconnect with the people and places that made him who he is today, and remembers his friends and lovers he's left behind. If only Sidearm, the Silver Sword, and King Shark were willing to leave him to his quiet reminiscence! And if the Boy of Steel hopes to uncover the shadowy figure pulling the strings behind his rogues' convenient resurgence, he's going to need help from one of his oldest friends, who disappeared during the DNA diaspora, and is believed dead--the DNAlien called Dubbilex!
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Team Superman is headed toward Hawaii, but as they approach the island, Superman and Power Girl pick up a distress call on an old JLI communicator frequency! Descending to an uninhabited volcanic island just east of the state, the heroes discover a fortress, stacked floor to ceiling with mystical artifacts, futuristic technology, and discarded equipment from heroes and villains alike. Superboy recognizes the collection almost immediately--though it's no longer on the moon, this fortress is clearly the home of one of his oldest foes: the Scavenger! Despite the Teen of Tomorrow's trepidation, the only one trapped is the Scavenger himself! The aging cyborg has become a victim of his own collection, pinned beneath some collapsed pile of discarded deathtraps and doomsday devices! The Family of Steel may be able to save him from his collapsed collection, but to really help him, they need to cure his compulsion--and that task may be too much even for them!
Friday, April 01, 2011
The Superman Family was heading west, planning on a short stop in Galveston Island along the Texas Gulf coast, but something went wrong along the way. Only Steel and Lois Lane awake to find themselves on the island--and under glass! Galveston has been transported to some strange new world, and these two displaced Metropolitans must find a way to restore it to its proper place! Meanwhile, Supergirl, Superboy, and Starlight find themselves forced to live out stereotypical roles on the set of a sinister teen sitcom, and there's no stopping this laugh track! Elsewhere, Superman and Power Girl are trapped in a deadly pinball machine, and one wrong move spells game over! It's all part of the Prankster's deadliest trick yet, but when the suckered superheroes learn the truth, their problems will suddenly seem a whole lot smaller...
Bruce Wayne's worldwide Batman, Inc. recruitment drive brings him to Tel Aviv, where the streets and alleyways are patrolled by the mysterious Hadassah and her teen sidekick Shepherd, the so-called "Goy Wonder." But Batman's not the only visitor to the White City this night--Victor Goodman is in town, and armed with the Orb of Ra, King Tut plans to revisit the Biblical plagues on the Mediterranean coast! As the sea turns to blood and frogs choke the streets, Batman and his Israeli allies race for the source of the disturbance, before darkness falls--along with the first-born child of Thomas and Martha Wayne! But once the threat of King Tut has been abated, Hadassah must still survive...her Bat mitzvah!