Over the course of his career, Superman has built, befriended, and battled countless robots. But when the Amherst, NH Police asked Superman to assist with an emergency at the ActivMedia Robotics headquarters, the last thing he expected to see was an assembly of all those robots, ready to destroy the factory--and the Man of Steel! From Kelex to Ned the Superman Robot to the Kryptonian battlesuit, Superman finds himself up against an automated army--and behind them, Dr. Cyber and the Cyborg! Can Superman stop this android avalanche, or will New Hampshire be ground zero for cybernetic armageddon?
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Clark Kent is on a tour of Wright, Wyoming's Black Thunder Coal Mine, one of the largest such mines in the world. It's a fairly standard and informative trip, until a coal silo is suddenly buried beneath a mountain of stone and dust! Now Clark and the rest of the tour group are trapped inside with a limited amount of air, and perhaps even less time before the ceiling collapses on top of them! Even if Clark can find a way to rescue the trapped tourists without revealing his secret identity, he still has to discover what caused the accident--if it was an accident--and prevent it from happening again!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
When Jim and Andrea Spellman moved into their new home in Rexburg, Idaho, they were elated. Three bedrooms, two baths, a finished basement, and an absolute steal at the price they paid. And while every house has problems, the last thing the Spellmans expected to find was an abandoned Kobra Hibernaculair in the sub-basement! Now the D.E.O. has cordoned off the property, and Superman's assisting with the investigation. Even the Man of Steel must tread lightly around the weapons, doomsday devices, and booby traps. But though the lair has been abandoned for some time, it seems there was something left behind, perhaps the result of genetic engineering experiments or dimensional exploration or even arcane magic. Whatever its origins, it's alive, it's angry, and the whole ground appears to be slithering...
Monday, June 27, 2011
A young girl was kidnapped from her home in Walpole, NH, and Clark Kent is on the case--and once he submits the story, Superman will be too! But mere moments after sending the piece to his editor, Kent heard a knock on his hotel door. The pugilistic private eye Slam Bradley is also on the hunt for the abducted girl, and he wants Kent's assistance. Clark reluctantly agrees, knowing that he could be doing more in the sky than on foot, but Slam Bradley isn't the sort of person who takes "no" for an answer! The longer they work together, the closer Bradley comes to unraveling Clark's secret, but the detective has secrets of his own. What is he doing in Cheshire County New Hampshire? Who hired him for this case? And what is his hidden connection to the missing girl, Helena Bastian?
Sunday, June 26, 2011
All it took was one sick day. Ray Jensen spent the day in bed, rather than coming into Hardwick, Vermont's Electric Department, and as a result, his entire life has come crashing down around him. A notice about a suspicious unsigned check led to the revelation that Jensen embezzled over a million dollars over the last several years. What's stranger, it seems he's also been skimming electricity, apparently draining it directly from the generators! Visiting reporter Clark Kent helped break the story, but the bizarre energy theft looks like the sort of case that would interest Superman. He tracks down the fugitive Jensen, but finds a far more familiar face than he would have expected! "Ray Jensen" is but an alias, a concocted identity developed by one Dr. Torval Freeman, formerly part of that violet villain, the Parasite! Freeman is sick, hungry, and has nothing left to lose--meaning Superman is in for the fight of his life!
Saturday, June 25, 2011
It's Super Saturday at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, as Superman makes a special visit to talk about the science behind his powers and show off some of the specimens from his alien zoo. Children have arrived in throngs, dressed as the Man of Steel and their other favorite superheroes, as part of the day-long celebration. Unfortunately, they're not the only ones wearing that S-shield today, and when the sinister Cyborg Superman shows up to incapacitate the Action Ace, it'll fall to the crowd of normal kids, teachers, and museum staff to save the day!
Friday, June 24, 2011
The small town of Modale, IA, has been almost completely evacuated, in anticipation of severe flooding from the overflowing Missouri River. The visiting Man of Tomorrow even stood ready to change the course of the mighty river, if it would prevent damage and destruction. But the flood never came. In fact, as the sun beats down in the cloudless sky, the river is running a lot shallower than usual. Wells and water tanks are running dry, and even the bottles on the grocery store shelves are going dry. The Thirst has come to Iowa, and it won't be satisfied until the entire country is a desert--unless Superman can stop it!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
You've probably already seen my thoughts on the DC relaunch over at Nerdy Nothings, but I thought I'd do a little wrap-up, to see just how much things are likely to change for me in September, based on the solicitations as they stand and my current pull list. So first, I made a quick list of all the main DCU titles that I've been consistently buying. I included a few books that have recently ended and omitted miniseries, Vertigo, and Johnny DC titles. Here's the current list:
- Action Comics
- Batman, Inc.
- Birds of Prey
- Booster Gold
- Detective Comics
- Doom Patrol
- Freedom Fighters
- Green Lantern
- Green Lantern Corps
- Justice League: Generation Lost
- Power Girl
- Secret Six
- Wonder Woman
Eighteen regular titles. Now, here's what things will look like in September. New titles in bold, "Batman, Inc." omitted due to hiatus:
- Action Comics
- All-Star Western
- Animal Man
- Batman & Robin
- Birds of Prey
- Blue Beetle
- DC Universe Presents
- Demon Knights
- Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
- The Fury of Firestorm
- Green Lantern
- Green Lantern Corps
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians
- Justice League
- Justice League International
- Legion Lost
- Legion of Superheroes
- Mister Terrific
- Resurrection Man
- Sgt. Rock & the Men of War
- Swamp Thing
- Wonder Woman
And there are some books that are very much not new to the pull list; I bought "Blue Beetle" and "Firestorm" in their last incarnations, and I've bought "Jonah Hex" (giving way to "All-Star Western"), "Batman & Robin," and "Legion of Superheroes" at various times in the past; the latter are both fairly recent drops from my pile, as is the second Legion title, "Adventure Comics."
A good number of these are provisional; this list assumes that I'm wowed by every single book I pull in September. "Batwing," "Grifter," "Voodoo," "Firestorm," "New Guardians," "Batgirl," "Birds of Prey," "Sgt. Rock," "Mr. Terrific," "Batman & Robin," "Flash," and surprisingly "Superboy," and "Supergirl," are all on the cusp, judging by solicits and past history. If this relaunch goes really poorly, I could be back to eighteen or fewer titles come October. I don't anticipate that, and it's entirely possible that some book not on the list (like "I, Vampire," "Static Shock," "Suicide Squad," or "Teen Titans") might drum up enough buzz that I'll pick it up the following week.
Overall, I'm generally pretty excited. I think reboots are generally a bad idea, but if we must have them, then I'm at least glad to have so many options and so many choices. I just hope that the next few months provide new solicits for new titles featuring new creators, above and beyond the relatively few that are mentioned here.
The battle was going poorly for Per Degaton. Capturing the valkyrie in the distant past was easy enough, but he hadn't counted on such opposition. The Vikings--who should have been on his verdammt side!--were led by a prince who seemed to have a personal connection with the horsewoman. With his advanced weaponry, he might have been able to turn them back completely, were it not for the savages, some of whom had powers like the mystery men of his own time. If he wanted to ensure a Nazi victory in the war--and thus, ensure his own world conquest--then he would need reinforcements. The enchanted coin, the one that would seek out the Übermensch, was his only hope. He tossed it into the timestream, charged with chronal energy, so that the Übermensch would be transported to this moment in time as soon as he made contact.
And this moment, just after Superman touched the coin back in Decorah, IA, is exactly when he arrived! Unfortunately for Degaton, his ploy didn't produce an ally, and now the Man of Steel stands with Prince Jon and Wakiya-Cante against Degaton's forces. But when the battle spills back into modern-day Iowa, Superman must find a way to put everything and everyone back where they belong!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
So, as you probably know by now, the story solicited for "Superman" #712 has been replaced with the story originally solicited for "Superman" #659, which itself was replaced by the story originally solicited for "Superman" #660, which was replaced with a story about the Prankster.
We'll leave aside the potentially uncomfortable implications of replacing a story about a Muslim hero with a story about an animal that at least some Muslims might consider unclean. That's just the usual sort of forehead-smacking ignorant, probably unintentional insensitivity that DC's excelled at recently.
Instead, I want to make a couple of comments. First: I think Chris Sims is probably right, as is often the case. In what was probably a dumb attempt to avoid controversy (because heaven knows the last thing we want is non-comic-readers talking about comics), DC switched the story at the last minute, causing at least some amount of controversy anyway.
This does mean that I think someone is taking the piss or having the piss taken from them with the kitten alternative, which is prima facie ridiculous. The logic that DC would scrap an entire finished book because of a two-page kitten-saving sequence, completely in-line with Superman's character, and replace it with a story about Superman's super-powered pet dog mourning the since-undone death of its cloned teenage caretaker, is cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face stupid. Of course, DC's official line, that the story about a character being inspired by Superman to do good and act heroically, as written (and pencilled, inked, lettered, and colored) didn't fit with "Grounded"--which of late has been all about Superman inspiring other characters to do good and act heroically--and which has been all over the map in terms of tone, so it was replaced with an "Infinite Crisis" epilogue from five years ago, is pretty absurd as well.
But let's explore the implications for a moment. I don't want to read about a Superman who won't stop to save a kitten from a tree. In fact, I just (re-)watched a movie about such a Superman. "Superman/Doomsday" has a scene specifically where the (SPOILER ALERT) Luthor-cloned Superman saves a cat from a tree, but then threateningly berates its owner for allowing it outside in the first place and diverting his attention from more important things. The scene is specifically designed to demonstrate that this Superman is a bad guy, and the thought of DC adopting something closer to that as the official Superman sounds...well, it sounds like more of the '90s again, except Superman largely escaped that idiocy in the '90s.
Except, you know, when he conquered the world. But even then, it wasn't a matter of certain tasks being beneath him, it was that he was trying to do too much, to the point that he tried preventing Pa Kent from doing basic yardwork due to the danger.
In any case, I think the kitten explanation is too dumb to be true, even if the actual reasons are similarly dumb.
Back to the originally solicited issue, we have the matter of Muslim superhero Sharif. Chris Roberson has been pretty clear that Sharif isn't a new character, but is a revamp of Davood "Sinbad" Nasoor, a force-field-wielding metahuman who debuted in Superman (v2) #48 as the subject of a three-part story by William Messner-Loebs and Curt Swan. The story appeared a few years before I was actively reading Superman comics, but Sinbad was still one of the first Superman-supporting superheroes I got to know as a young comics reader, because of his brief appearance in "The Legacy of Superman."
"Legacy" came out shortly after Superman's death, and thus, shortly after I subscribed to the four monthly Superman titles. I was surprised when it came in the mail, not being a regular issue, but I read it over and over. I knew Rose and Thorn from some of my Mom's comics, and Guardian and Gangbuster had both had brief appearances in other post-Death comics, but the other characters--newly-created Auron, Sinbad, Waverider, etc.--were largely unknown to me. As such, I also had no idea how important or unimportant they were to Superman's cast. As far as I knew, Sinbad was just as important as any of the other characters. And I thought his force field power was pretty cool, reminiscent of a backup story I'd enjoyed in "Spider-Man" #26 a few months prior.
So color me excited to see Chris Roberson catching us up on Davood Nassur, for the first real time in eighteen years. Except that he didn't, for whatever reason.
Since you probably don't have "Superman" #48, "Adventures of Superman" #471, or "Action Comics" #658 in front of you, let me give you a quick run-down of Davood's story. Please stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
A year or so before, Superman invaded Qurac, which he called a "terrorist nation," as a response to terrorist attacks on American soil (specifically Metropolis). Though conflicted about interfering in international politics, the Man of Steel took violent action, blowing up tanks, stopping missiles, and confronting the military dictator about the attacks. His actions were viewed as an act of warlike aggression by the Quraci people, who consequently came to see Superman as both an enemy and an agent of American imperialism. Fast-forward past the Invasion, where gene-bombs activated meta-genes in many members of the population, including Davood Nassur. Davood, a Quraci-American immigrant living with his family in the Little Qurac neighborhood of Metropolis, had limited telekinetic-style powers--until he and his sister Soraya (a LexCorp secretary) accidentally ended up in the middle of one of Lex's nefarious schemes, and obtained a special belt that would enhance Davood's abilities. He used his newfound power to fight crime and toyed with calling himself Sinbad, which Luthor used to his advantage, staging terrorist acts across the city by costumed criminals claiming to work for Sinbad, in an attempt to retrieve his power belt.
Superman naturally got involved in various places here, and his interactions with Davood--in fact, with any Quraci--were marked by violence and distrust. Superman's brash actions in Qurac the year before had made him a pariah among Quracis, a dangerous villain to be feared and loathed. Eventually, he and Davood made peace (Superman saved Soraya's life), just in time to prevent the destruction of Metropolis by a giant spaceship-bomb directed by Luthor. In the process, Davood's belt shorted out, leaving him with the unamplified powers he had at the beginning of the process, and both Clark and Superman had made inroads with at least one Quraci family.
By the time of Superman's death, Davood's power had increased to the level that it had been with the amplifier belt, and he took an active role as Sinbad once more, with mixed results.
It's not a great parallel, but similar elements are there--a terrorist attack on American soil, Superman's actions in a foreign nation being perceived as an American act of war, a Muslim superhero dealing with common prejudice, ultimately trying to live up to Superman's example.
What does it say about DC, about the United States as a country, that they were brave enough to publish that story in 1990, but not in 2011?
Superman comes to Decorah, IA, where the staff of the staff of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum hope that his incredible super-senses will help them unlock the mystery surrounding an artifact recovered from an ancient Viking settlement. The object--a coin strung on a leather cord, discovered in modern-day Newfoundland--gives off strange energy traces that the museum's scientists have been unable to identify, and they're hoping that Superman's enhanced senses and experience with advanced science and eldritch energies can shed some light on the subject. The Man of Steel sees both chroniton particles and magical energies swirling about the coin, but when he touches it, the energy starts swirling around him instead! When he looks up again, he's been transported into the middle of a battle between the forces of time-traveling despot Per Degaton and a Viking colony, led by Prince Jon and Thor's half-Sioux son, Wakiya-Cante, for the fate of a captured Valkyrie!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It's the Summer Solstice, and in Fairbanks, AK, that means nearly 22 hours of continuous sunlight. For a solar-powered Superman, that should be a little slice of Heaven, except Luminus's special filter has turned the sun red! With the Man of Steel's strength sapped, there's nothing to stop the photonic felon from trapping him in a hard-light labyrinth filled with holographic horrors! Can a powerless Superman survive and escape the sinister maze, destroy the orbital filter, and stop Luminus before he executes his malicious master plan, or will this be lights out for the Last Son of Krypton?
Monday, June 20, 2011
When the power went out for many residents in Helena, Montana, they suspected it was due to a lightning strike from the thunderstorm that's been raging for the past few days. Imagine the surprise of the Northwestern Energy workers who discovered an electrocuted dragon caught up in the power lines! A rift in time and space has opened in Helena, allowing creatures and warriors of myth and legend to escape to our time from a distant medieval age. Superman fights against knights, wizards, and terrible beasts to close the gateway, but he won't be able to win this fight alone. Thankfully, he receives a helping hand--and sword!--from the Silent Knight!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
What would you do if you had just one more day? Superman has come to the city of Paterson, NJ, and he's not the only Smallvillian visiting today. Jonathan Kent has also come to the Silk City, resurrected by cosmic forces to spend 24 final hours with his son! Clark and his Pa walk around the city, catching up on life and exploring the Historical District, doing the typical father-son activities that Clark has missed so much. But while the Kents enjoy this taste of restored normalcy, Superman plans to move heaven and Earth to ensure that this isn't his last Father's Day. Can the Man of Steel conquer even death, or is it finally time for him to let go?
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Superman visits Lawrence, KS, eager to take in the local flavor and visit the Natural History Museum--but there's a more personal matter to attend to first. When he was young, before the days of capes and tights, Clark Kent spent quite a bit of time in Lawrence, visiting relatives from Pa's side of the family. Today, Clark Kent visits his cousin Harry, for the first time in years. Unfortunately, the visit is anything but joyous; Harry's infant daughter Lucy is battling a rare form of brain cancer, and her odds don't look good. Clark was only meant to be there to provide moral support, perhaps lend his celebrity to an article, raising awareness or funds for treatment. But when he examines the child with his incredible Kryptonian eyesight, he sees a glimmer of hope. The resources of Clark Kent might be able draw some attention to Lucy Kent's tragic death, but can the resources of Superman prevent it from happening at all?
Friday, June 17, 2011
Superman visits Dummerston, VT, where local superheroine Tavi gives him the grand tour. The Kipling-inspired vigilante shows the Man of Steel around the author's one-time hometown including the house where the he lived while writing some of his most famous works. What neither hero is expecting on their sightseeing trip is an attack from the criminal terrorist organization Kobra! Superman and Tavi are trapped in Kipling's house, surrounded by Kobra's forces as Black Python advances. Can the heroes stop the fanged fanatics and prevent the destruction of a historic monument, or will they be caught forever in the corrupting coils of Kobra?!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
A pair of very unusual grizzlies have been apprehended by the police of New Town, North Dakota. These were no feral beasts, but intelligent creatures, claiming to represent a secret ursine society living beneath the nearby bluffs! Townsfolk are understandably worried about the revelation, and tensions throughout New Town are high surrounding the captured bear-people. Meanwhile, the more warlike of the bears are rallying a rescue party for their imprisoned ambassadors. Can Superman prevent violence from breaking out and help these two communities to live in harmony?
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Delaware has the highest proportion of Ph.D.s of any state in the union, and just by chance, that also means they have the highest proportion of mad scientists! The number's inflated this week, as MadCon draws the most promising criminal minds from around the world to Wilmington for an extended weekend of plotting, trading inventions, and pooling their skills toward a single goal. This year's theme: Kill Superman! When the Man of Steel is transported to the dais at the center of the convention hall, he's caught in the most devious deathtrap ever devised, specifically designed for his own destruction! Can Superman outsmart Earth's most brilliant villains, or will his demise be simply another data point?
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
For every popular fad, there's someone who finds a way to make money off of it, and superheroes are no exception. Where others saw colorful vigilantes working to fight crime, Sam Tanner saw opportunity. He marshaled all the resources of the United Broadcasting Company's multimedia empire toward developing the world's first wholly-owned corporate superhero. Thus was born Blackrock, the first superhero invented by committee and tested by focus groups, the first superhero with his own Twitter feed and a live-streaming camera in his cowl, giving fans a first-person perspective of a superhero's life. Armed with a powersuit that draws energy from the ambient microwaves and radio waves that power modern technology, Blackrock was an overnight sensation. His mask's communication system allowed him to be the first at every bank robbery or minor supervillain attack, and a team of scriptwriters ensured that his banter was the wittiest, his battle cries the most macho. But if he wanted to stay on top, if he wanted his ratings to continue like this, he'd need to raise the stakes. The producers decided that a team-up with Superman was in order, one where Blackrock could appear to be at least as great a hero as the Man of Steel. The script was perfect, hinging on Superman's upcoming visit to the aptly named Black Rock, AR. The Action Ace would fall into a carefully-set but totally reversible trap, and Blackrock would be the one to rescue him. The last thing the multimedia marvel expected was for the trap to turn Superman into a woman!
Blackrock fumbled briefly until the scriptwriters could come up with a solution, and he tussled with the distaff Kryptonian. Quickly they cleared up the confusion, and Blackrock tried to move the plot toward a new angle--superhuman romance! He would woo the Woman of Steel, despite her talk of "returning to her own world." Better yet, he'd easily come out to be the better man!
That is, until now--Superman reappears over the skies of Black Rock, AR, alongside his allies from Earth-11's Legion of Super-Heroines. The truth is quickly revealed, and suddenly Blackrock finds himself up against the combined strength of Superman and Superwoman! Is this Blackrock's series finale?
Monday, June 13, 2011
Superman is stranded at the mouth of the Eleven Point River in Arkansas, but he's never been farther from home! The Man of Steel has traded places with his Earth-11 counterpart, and the Justice League is none too happy about Superwoman's disappearance! But even if Superman can convince Batwoman, Wonder Warrior, and their colleagues, they have no way of getting him back to his world--not without some help from the 31st Century! Bouncing Betty, Duo Dude, Brainia 5, Lightning Lass, and Light Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroines have come back to bridge the gap between worlds and rescue their lost Legionnaire. Meanwhile, Superwoman and her mysterious new ally work to find a way back to her Earth, but his ulterior motives may mean the end for both Kryptonians!
I feel a little like Polyphemus saying stuff like that, but whatever. The fine folks at Nerdy Nothings asked me to join them in talking about September's DC relaunch. The articles will be going up over the next couple of days, so if you're interested in seeing my expanded thoughts on the subject, head on over. The first post is here, and I'll update the blog here as they go up.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Superman's walking along the Eleven Point River near Black Rock, AR, when he's divebombed by a familiar figure in a purple-and-green battlesuit! The Man of Steel braces himself for the next flyby, but when he gets a good look at his enemy, he's shocked to see that Lex Luthor has apparently become a woman! Somehow, Superman has been transported to an alternate Earth, and while Leslie Luthor doesn't pose much of a threat, the missing Superwoman's allies in the Justice League may not be so forgiving! Meanwhile on our world, a bewildered Superwoman finds herself face-to-face with the sinister force who orchestrated this dimension-swap--but will the mysterious villain prove too strong for the Woman of Steel?
Saturday, June 11, 2011
A rash of tornadoes and terrible storms have carved swaths of destruction around the country, and while Superman was able to avert some of the damage, even he could not be everywhere. So when he heard that a Nashua, NH, hair salon would be donating proceeds to tornado relief efforts, he decided to stop by and lend a hand, maybe even get a trim in the process. After a long day of publicity and super-barbering, Clark Kent went to bed...and woke up the next morning with long, luxurious locks of steel! It seems like everyone who visited that salon is now sporting the Rapunzel look, and these are some killer hairstyles--literally! In order to get to the bottom of this bizarre mystery, Superman must contend with his own murderous mane, and the hair-raising power of the calamitous Coiffure Queen! Will the Action Ace succeed, or will he finally meet his (split) end?
Friday, June 10, 2011
An escaped cow in Pelham, NH, would not normally make the national news. Even the fact that the animal shrugged off police officers' attempts to taser it might be totally unremarkable, if a little odd. It was when the bewildered bovine casually flipped over a police car, shrugged off bullets, and flew into the sky to escape that people began calling the media. All around Pelham, livestock are developing amazing superpowers, and Clark Kent is just the reporter to investigate it. But when Superman learns that the source of their powers is also granting these animals human-level intelligence, the dilemma of the domesticated demigods becomes even more troubling!
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Memphis, TN, has been restored, but not everyone is willing to let the ancient times go. One group wants to restore Egypt with a capital E--for Elvis! The King and his Kings of Rock are determined to make their dreams of conquest come true, and the only thing they see between them and world domination is red and yellow and blue! Superman may have beaten them twice before, but this time they're armed with the mystical power of the True Book of the Dead! Will the Man of steel triumph over these evil Egyptian Elvises, or will he find himself bound and chained, afraid, and alone against the might of the Pharaoh's power?
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
It's the final battle over Memphis, TN--and as goes Memphis, so goes the world! Superman and Metamorpho lead a team of heroes with Egyptian ties against Imentet and her rogue war-gods! But now the deities reveal their own champion: the black sheep of the Marvel family, Black Adam! Will Isis stand against her husband? Can the heroes force the gods back to their own time? Or will the world fall beneath the fist of a new pharaoh?
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Chris Roberson, Kevin Maguire, and Jimmy Palmiotti have all tweeted that they don't have any upcoming work in the New DCU. Brian Wood and Brian Clevenger both were apparently booted from titles. James Robinson, Paul Dini, Phil Hester, J.M. DeMatteis, and Keith Giffen's names have all been conspicuously absent from any announcements.
Meanwhile, JT Krul is writing two titles, and a whole bunch of artists and people whose names you last heard circa 1995 are moving up to writing duties for the "bold new DCU." It's not even "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." It's "meet the new boss, who has even less variety than the old boss." It's ridiculous to be trying to promote a bold new direction with the same writers you had for the old direction, but to also jettison your promising, up-and-coming new writers--including people whose most prominent work thus far has been to clean up other writers' messes--in favor of untested quantities like artists who have never scripted before, that seems like shooting yourself in the foot. With a green willpower-plasma gatling gun.
I just don't understand why you would take people who are good writers on somewhat popular books and leave them out in the cold. Unless the "bold new direction" you have is "toward failure."
Every new day of reveals for this new DCU fills me with a couple of glimmers of hope, and a whole lot of DC playing the role of cargo cultists, hoping that if they act like it's the '90s again, then the sales figures and comic book boom of the 1990s will come back and everyone will prosper once more.
Southwest Tennessee is beginning to look a lot like Lower Egypt, as Imentet and her war-god cohorts seek to establish a new dynasty in the new world! They've blocked off Memphis to outsiders with an arcane shield, leaving Superman as the only hero on the inside. The Man of Steel has a plan, and while he battles through the mummified hordes toward the portal to Egypt, a strike force of heroes who might not be affected by the force field is responding to his call. Dr. Fate! Blue Beetle! Ibis the Invincible! Hawkman and Hawkwoman! The mighty Isis! Together they may be able to stop the conquest of Earth by these ancient deities.
And on the other side of the portal, Metamorpho fights to rescue the lost Egyptologists from their servitude under...the Ultrasphinx!
Monday, June 06, 2011
A recently-acquired sarcophagus has been revealing a very different Memphis, TN--one straight out of ancient Egypt! For weeks now, Egyptologists have been disappearing from the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology, so Institute donor Simon Stagg sent adventurer Rex Mason--aka Metamorpho, the Element Man--in to investigate! But when Rex fell through the sarcophagus into ancient Egypt, he opened the cosmic floodgates. Now, desert sands, shambling mummies, and a phalanx of Egyptian war-gods are pouring into the River City, and Superman stands alone against their progress. The Action Ace must stop their invasion if he hopes to prevent the destruction of modern Memphis and further conquest, but destroying the portal would strand Metamorpho and a dozen innocent Egyptologists in a hostile ancient land!
Sunday, June 05, 2011
Egyptology students keep disappearing from the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at the University of Memphis in TN. Superman steps in to investigate the newest artifacts, prepared for any mystical mishap from mummies to sphinxes. The last thing he expects is a neanderthal--specifically Java, the brutish manservant of billionaire industrialist Simon Stagg! Stagg's cronies have the Institute shut down tight, and not even the Man of Steel is allowed inside. Strange doings are afoot in Memphis, with Simon Stagg at the center, and investigative reporter Clark Kent won't stop until he finds out the truth!
Saturday, June 04, 2011
All around the country, Superman has met people and families struggling to get by. Many have found themselves suddenly homeless, and the people who have the least seem to be hit the hardest. Credit card companies drain the poor with hidden fees, and banks charge exorbitant amounts for miniscule overdrafts and withdrawals. But the family whose house was foreclosed due to a bank error was the last straw. The Man of Steel is in Charlotte, NC, at the headquarters of one of the largest banks in the country, and he's doing a little foreclosing of his own. There's a right and wrong in this world, and Superman is tired of seeing the people we trust with basic necessities constantly choosing the latter. So he's shut down the bank's headquarters, and he won't be letting anyone inside until some changes are made. But has Superman finally gone too far, or is the banking industry the one enemy more powerful than the Man of Steel?
Friday, June 03, 2011
People give DC a lot of flak for being the company that does these periodic mass continuity reboots. To some degree, it's true, but it's also overblown. I've seen commentators talk about DC "completely rewriting" or "rebooting" their universe repeatedly, and I have to wonder what these people are talking about. Even "Crisis on Infinite Earths"--the rebootiest reboot that's ever hit the proper DCU--didn't rewrite everything. Not even close. Most of what happened "pre-Crisis" was still meant to have happened; the things that changed were the line-up of the JSA and its place in history, the integration of the Charlton, Quality, and Fawcett characters into the DCU proper, and the histories of a few key characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Jason Todd. All the key events of the pre-Crisis DCU happened, but may have happened in a slightly different fashion than we originally saw. Even the Crisis itself was remembered by the heroes (after all, how else do you explain the death of Barry Allen and Wally West's ascension to the Flash mantle?), only as a big battle where the Anti-Monitor tried to destroy the positive-matter universe.
After that, what are the actual reboots? "Zero Hour," obviously, but that was less a reboot and more a tinkering. The only things that really changed due to Zero Hour were Batman's urban legend status, Hawkman's confusing complexity, and what the Legion of Super-Heroes was like.
"The Kingdom" is the next one that deserves mention. It didn't reboot or retcon anything; it just made the multiverse a thing again through the magic of Hypertime. Now, every story that DC published took place in a variety of divergent universes. Which was kind of already the case, "The Kingdom" just canonized it.
"Infinite Crisis" was the next "reboot" (commentators tend to lump "Identity Crisis" here because it has the word "Crisis" in the title, despite not doing anything to the timeline), making a few cosmetic changes the same way that "CoIE" did, but more becoming the scapegoat for the sorts of changes that occur naturally in a century-spanning serialized shared universe. And we'll get to that again below. The biggest impact "Identity Crisis" had on continuity was through restoring the multiple Earths-style multiverse, paring the number down from ∞ to 52. These weren't the old Earths restored (as JSofA would go to show) but new Earths that, in some cases, bore resemblance to some of the numbered Earths from the pre-Crisis era. And in most other cases, bore resemblance to various Elseworlds titles like "Gotham by Gaslight" and "Red Son." We saw some tweaked origins and such post-IC (notably in the "Look, Up in the Sky" Superman arc), but nothing particularly major.
Post-Infinite Crisis, there really hasn't been another attempt at rebooting or mass-retconning. People point, again, to "Final Crisis," because of the "Crisis" title, but despite the story's heavy involvement with the multiverse, there's nothing there to really rewrite existing DC history.
Which isn't to say that such rewrites haven't occurred. The "Secret Origin" titles--running through "Green Lantern" and the Superman miniseries--have both made tweaks, both major and minor, to those franchises, but without a universe-spanning justification ("Superman: Birthright" did the same, ten years back). This is certainly cause for some confusion among the long-time fans (did Ron Troupe and Lucy Lane have a son or not? If the 'new recruits don't have Lantern badges' was a thing when Hal joined the Corps, then why did they bother introducing it as a new idea in "GLC: Recharge"?), but they've generally been matters of nitpick-level importance, not serious detractions.
And as comic fans, we should be used to that sort of thing by now, because they happen all the time. As I mentioned above, Marvel gets a free pass on the "universal rewrite" thing, but not because the details never get rewritten. Instead, Marvel is in a constant state of flux with respect to those details, such that Tony Stark was originally a POW in Vietnam, then the Gulf War, now Afghanistan. Reed Richards and Ben Grimm no longer met in World War II, and were no longer racing against the Russians to be the first on the Moon. The details get smoothed out, ignored, and rewritten periodically at Marvel, such that the "starting point" of the Marvel heroes is a sliding scale, always creeping toward the present, always kept a constant-but-unclear distance in the past.
Which is not to say that they haven't had harder reboots too; "Heroes Reborn" was a specific attempt at just that, as was "Spider-Man: Chapter One." "One More Day" sits somewhere in-between on the Sleep Number scale of superhero reboots.
Of course, Marvel has had one hard universe-wide reboot, though they tried to have their cake and eat it too: the Ultimate Universe. It's frankly a harder reboot than anything that DC has done since "Showcase" #4, but they just shunted it all to a side universe. And I think the Ultimate universe (along with other hard-reboot examples like "Man of Steel" and "Spider-Man: Chapter One") shows some of the pitfalls and problems with hard, line-wide reboots on the whole:
- The Best Laid Plans: Generally, the stated goal of a hard reboot is to jettison the decades of confusing history and continuity that might make the title a daunting read for the casual fan or new customer. The logic is that this confusing history piled up over a long period of time with no overarching plan, so an overarching plan will prevent the new history from being so confusing. Contradictions and continuity errors and tangles will generally fail to exist, because everything is planned in advance.
But even the best plans don't account for everything. For the "Man of Steel" reboot, for instance, the biggest problem was first addressed in "Superman" (vol. 2) #8: if Superboy never existed, then who inspired the Legion? The consequence of a hard reboot in one corner of the shared universe meant that a different corner was suddenly far more complicated, as it required a tangled mess of pocket universes and counterparts and so forth.
For the Ultimate Universe, the problem came in "Ultimate Marvel Team-Up," which introduced a bunch of characters who would later be reintroduced...and totally different. So some of "UMTU" became canon, other bits didn't, and continuity tangles were born.
- Historical Inertia: Characters, one way or another, develop, despite the best efforts of the status quo. A hard reboot, setting everything back to the beginning, thus comes with a lot of the baggage it was trying to jettison: mainly, how these familiar characters will grow and develop. Some developments are necessary and obvious: doesn't matter how much characterization or how many ponytails you give Uncle Ben, we all know he's going to die. That's his purpose as a character.
But that sort of thing carries further. Take a Robin reboot for instance. Let's say DC resets things all the way back to the original Dynamic Duo. There will always be that tension hanging over Dick Grayson, about whether or not he's going to leave and what his eventual grown-up trajectory will be. Readers will always be waiting for Nightwing, and writers will always be acknowledging Nightwing in some fashion--either by trying to set it up as an eventuality or trying specifically to avoid it. Either way, Nightwing--and now, Batman--will be the shadow hanging over any young Dick Grayson story.
And frankly, it'll probably take them less time to get there. The first time around, it took 45 years or so for Robin to become Nightwing, and if we had to do it all again, I doubt it would take more than ten. "Nightwing" is seen as the trajectory of Dick Grayson's story, and everyone from fans to writers is going to be expecting it to happen.
As a less hypothetical example, consider Supergirl. It took 21 years after Superman's debut for them to create a Supergirl; after the reboot, however, even given a "no more Kryptonians" edict, it only took two. Consider that the Ultimate Universe has existed for about eleven years, but has already had everything from the Death of Gwen Stacy to Venom and Carnage to the Clone Saga, compressing some forty years of significant Spider-events into a quarter of the time.
Sure, they aren't exactly the same stories. This time, Supergirl is a superpowered protoplasmic clone of Lana Lang from a pocket universe, this time one of the Spider-Clones is a girl. But the changes are mostly cosmetic, mostly detail-based. The same basic story is happening again, either because it's seen as inevitable (the death of Gwen Stacy), because it introduces useful or popular bits of the discarded continuity (Supergirl's return) or because the new writer wants to pay homage to an old story, or "do it right this time" (Clone Saga). Which brings us to the next point:
- Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Continuity reboots are not a way to tell new stories. You don't need an excuse to tell new stories, and new stories are perfectly possible within the confines of an established continuity. Want to tell a story that ignores or contradicts some inconvenient continuity point? Do what people have done since time immemorial: ignore or contradict it. That's what No-Prizes are for. Or find a way around it--make the story a flashback, set it in the past or the future, add a little "This story takes place before events in" caption. There are plenty of ways to tell stories that aren't hampered by the long history and shared universe even when you're in a shared universe with a long history, and various writers have been very successful in recent times by treating those long histories as smorgasbords built to pick and choose the best bits from.
Of course, there are ways that continuity hampers what stories can be told. Writer wants Character A to team up with Character B against Character C, but Character B died before Character C debuted, or something. There may be editorial red tape preventing Character B from being resurrected, and the story has to be reconsidered somehow. I don't necessarily see that as an argument against continuity; it's more an argument against killing characters. Killing useful, interesting characters is like breaking the toys in the toy box; it reduces the number of games you can play, until someone takes the time and effort to fix or replace the broken toys.
The only real counter-example I can think of is Neil Gaiman's "Legend of the Green Flame," a story that was famously filed away because part of it hinged on Superman and Green Lantern knowing each other's secret identities, which wasn't the case post-Crisis. I'm sure other stories have fallen into the file like this one, for similar reasons, but it's hard to catalog stories that were never told. The problem with using "Legend of the Green Flame" as an example of how continuity can limit what stories can be told is that it was eventually published anyway, outside of continuity (though it didn't matter by that point), and that the problem which prevented its publication wasn't continuity, but a continuity reboot. The story would have been completely fine just a few years earlier or later; rebooting continuity was what caused the problem.
No, the biggest reason for doing a reboot is to retell familiar stories again. Those retellings are, of course, going to be different in various ways, but "the origin of Firestorm" is going to have similar attributes whether it's about Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein in college or Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch in high school. And eventually, one way or another, historical inertia is going to carry those rebooted characters to familiar ground, whether or not it's in new and slightly different ways. The baggage isn't lost, it's just shoved to the back of the closet.
- Worst of Both Worlds: That's the biggest problem with reboots: you lose the smorgasbord of past stories to pull interesting and fun details from and you leave that historical sword of Damocles hanging above every writer's head. The best writers will use the history as a guide or inspiration, using the unwritten history to inform the story one way or another. The worst writers will use it as a crutch, a way to tell the same stories that have already been told, but with minor cosmetic changes to make them fit the new status quo.
Which is not to say that there's no innovation, but I think it represents a step backward. Consider the Superman/Lois dynamic. We had fifty-eight years exploring every aspect of their classic two-person love triangle, which also formed the basis for every superhero relationship that followed (and that's ignoring all the flashback stories, out-of-continuity stories, and everything else since the marriage in 1996). Conversely, their actual marriage remains largely unmined for story opportunities. Undoing it would have the unfortunate result of leaving everyone with the (reasonable) assumption that they'll eventually get back together, and leaving the writers and readers in very well-explored territory. The focus of the tension will have shifted; in the Silver Age, it was "will she ever figure out his secret?" "will Superman ever settle down?" "will Superman choose between Lois and Lana?" Post-reboot, the tension is "when will they finally get back together?" "when will she learn his secret?" The former is the kind of tension around which you can build satisfying stories and conflict. The latter is the kind of tension around which you can build "Moonlighting."
I just think that this whole kerfuffle is missing the forest for the trees. It might be true that comics are inaccessible to new readers, but wiping out all history--or worse, wiping out some histories and not others--doesn't make things any more accessible. What makes comics accessible to new readers is getting them out of the comic shops. Unless someone is already interested in comics, they're unlikely to enter a comic shop. Unless their comic shop is one of the really good ones, it's unlikely that the comic shop will have a welcoming atmosphere to new readers, or accommodating to the kinds of questions that new readers have. The future of comics lies in bookstores and the Internet and other places where new readers are more likely to be than insular comic shop clubhouses. The future of comics lies in attracting new writers and new artists with new ideas.
That should be obvious, from the success of "Superman: Earth One" in the mass market, and from the basic facts of most current comics fans. Think back, folks: where'd you get your first comics? I bet it wasn't at a comic shop. I got mine from newsstands and grocery stores and He-Man toys and my mom's yellowing collection. That led me to the weird assortments they sold in Sears Christmas Catalogs and grab bags at toy stores, and only after getting hooked on all that did I get to a comic shop.
Instead, DC's lesson from "Earth One" seems to have been that people want to read about younger characters and origin stories. And some of that may be true, but there's only so many ways and so many times you can tell an origin story. And it looks like we'll be seeing more such stories come September. I just hope the plan is bigger and better than it seems at the moment.
And I really hope Green Arrow's not in the Smallville costume for very long.
By the way, I'm totally aware of how many sentences in this start with "and" or "which isn't to say." Consider it a stylistic choice. As in, I stylistically chose not to do any editing on this meandering post.
The quest to fill and expand the Periodic Table has led once more to the research reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Samples of a rare element must be transported to Germany, and to avoid any chance of sabotage or radiation poisoning, the scientists have enlisted the services of some heroic elements--Doc Magnus and his Metal Men! But as soon as the heroic robots take possession of the samples, they go berserk! Now, the only one who can save the Oak Ridge lab--and prevent serious danger to the Atomic City--is Superman! It's the Metal Men versus the Man of Steel, with the future of science--and Tennessee--hanging in the balance!
Thursday, June 02, 2011
In light of all the positive reviews and the big DC news, I decided to pick up "Flashpoint" #2, hoping maybe it would hook me in a way that the first issue didn't.
I'm not sure what it is, either. The whole conversation between Barry and Batman plays out with the same paint-by-numbers problem I had with the first issue. The "choose between this world, where things suck, and a world where I'm dead" heroic sacrifice is part of, what, every alternate universe story? "Yesterday's Enterprise," "Father's Day," "Turn Left," "Days of Future Past," "Sorcerer Kings," and that's just off the top of my head. Nothing about it feels new or surprising here, and maybe that's just because I was the one person, apparently, who saw the Thomas Wayne shocker coming. The only surprising thing about that scene was how unnecessarily violent it was, but given that it's Geoff Johns writing a big crossover book, I suppose I should be happy that arms just got twisted, not torn off.
The only things that really struck me about this issue were the idea of Deathstroke and Warlord as rival pirates. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll get to see Warlord's ship, and I'm not entirely sure how Deathstroke's going to star in a miniseries with a trident in his throat.
As a related aside, I bought the cover with the man being electrocuted instead of the cover where a woman has been bloodlessly decapitated. Comics, everybody! "Everything will change in a flash--except the gratuitous violence and death!" On one hand, I guess one of the points of an alternate universe story is that you get to kill off people in ways you never could with the "real" universe (see also: Every "What If...?" ever), but on the other hand, I'm tired of Geoff Johns being this one-note joke. Maybe he needs some time away from writing, so he can learn a new trick--or re-learn some old ones. "Severed body parts" has become for him what "AIDS" was for Judd Winick.
Maybe the reason that Mera's severed head isn't dripping any blood is because she vomited it all out in Johns' last big crossover. Did Mera even appear in this issue? Was her death even referenced?
Barry's climactic plan seems pretty stupid on several counts. I suppose it's the poorly-considered act of a desperate man, but "I can't be a hero unless I have my superpowers" seems like a total repudiation of the basic tropes of the superhero genre. Isn't Barry supposed to be a genius scientist and forensic detective? Why is he trying to outrun Zoom rather than outsmart him? I did like that Barry comes across as a raving lunatic in this issue; it shows the depths of how different things are in this universe. So many alt-universe "let's put things right" stories have the heroes just accepting that the universe is supposed to be different and that everything will be better if they just trust this one unknown person who claims to be from another world. So does this one, but I like that it took a little while to get there. It would have been nice to see that twist carried over: Barry Allen, the one man who knows that this world is wrong, and everyone just thinks he's totally nuts. It would have isolated our hero from the crazy happenings of our alternate universe, which I suppose would have taken away some of the excitement, and it would have hearkened back to the origin of Triumph a little, but it would have been an interesting twist on a standard trope. Kind of like "DC Two Thousand," where the standard "we must avert this terrible future" story is about the heroes of the past trying to avert our present.
It would also make this stupid stunt Barry pulls make a little more sense. Trapped in a world he knows is wrong, with his memories slowly being rewritten, where everyone thinks he's crazy and none of his friends exist, with his mother watching him madly trying to re-create a world where she's dead, with an unseen villain pulling his strings and taunting him, Barry finally sets up the experiment as a last-ditch effort, figuring that if it works, he'll be vindicated, and if it doesn't, then at least he won't have to live in this world anymore.
Instead, it just looks like Barry Allen, who knows he's being manipulated and taunted by someone who moves so fast that he might be right there but invisible, doesn't consider that the same invisible villain might be able to swap out some of the chemicals without him knowing, or change the voltage on the electric chair, or sabotage this plan in any of a million other ways, making it far too dangerous to attempt. But instead, Barry Allen joins the burn ward.
Although it would be interesting if Barry died here, and the last three issues were all about Batman trying to bring about a universe that he's never seen.
I did pick up two tie-ins. Abin Sur is one of those characters like Jor-El, who's not so much a character as a plot device. I don't have a whole lot of interest in reading about him, so I didn't bother with "Abin Sur: Green Lantern." "World of Flashpoint" sounds like one of those books that's a Sourcebook/Secret Files in narrative form, and I've read enough of those (Like "Tales of Blackest Night" or whatever) to know that I'd rather not read those. But "Batman: Knight of Vengeance" promised Azzarello/Risso Batman, and I liked "Broken City" enough to check that out. It's a decent enough book, with a lethal Batman and a guest appearance by the late Heath Ledger, and I'm interested in seeing what further twists await in the story. The idea of Batman controlling crime through its funding is the sort of thing I would expect as the difference between businessman Thomas Wayne and our more familiar vigilante. I do hope that we see some of Thomas's medical expertise show up in this storyline.
Peter Milligan, plus the eventual prospect of Amethyst, made "Secret Seven" the tie-in I was most excited about (apart from "Lois Lane & The Resistance" and "Project Superman"). And hoo boy, was my excitement misplaced. I'll admit to having never read a Shade comic, though what I've read about the character is intriguing. This, however, was a mess. Confusing, plodding, and almost wholly uncharismatic, plus another fine example of DC Editors (Eddie Berganza and Chris Conroy this time) doing the most basic part of their job:
Good thing this isn't some kind of high profile release tying into a major crossover or anything. I'm sure no one will notice.
Looks like next week I'll get the Frankenstein issue, and maybe Deathstroke. But it's looking like a long summer.
When the alarms go off at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, Superman is on the scene almost immediately. But he's not the only superhero responder, and an unexpected collision--along with a sinister spell by these conjuring crooks--turns the Man of Steel into the Man of Eel! Superman and Plastic Man are merged into a single body as the burglars make a clean getaway, carrying the only artifact that might return them to normal! To catch the thieves, Clark and Eel will have to work together like never before, master a strange new set of powers, and track down the sorcerous swindlers before the spell becomes permanent!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Concept Labs, a small tech company from Schaumburg, IL, has just put itself on the map. Their revolutionary new KLoud Processor allows for faster-than-ever data storage and access on a wide range of devices, thanks to new wireless technologies that allow for remote processing. The ultra-thin KLoud-powered smartphones and tablets are selling like mad, with no sign of letting up. Concept Labs is poised to become one of the country's top tech companies, after only a few months of existence. And they couldn't have done it without Superman. Not because of a high-profile endorsement or PR campaign, but because the KLoud Processor runs on his hyperfast Kryptonian brain! The Man of Steel is trapped inside Concept Labs, hooked up to their servers, and imprisoned within his own exploited mind! In order to escape, he'll first have to match wits with the mastermind behind Concept: the terrible Thinker!