This post can be filed under the heading, “Guilty Pleasure”.
Funko Pop figures have been insanely popular for a number of years now and until recently I haven’t dipped my toe into that pool. I don’t hate them but I do view them as the crack cocaine of collectible figures. Someone took articulated action figures and cooked them down to a simpler, almost purer form. They are cheap, easily accessible and addictive. If you want to see a critical look at this phenomenon that nails the downside to Pop figures check out this video over at Retroblasting on YouTube.
(In all honesty you should be checking out Retroblasting in general. Michael and Melinda put out entertaining and informative videos and they are well worth your time and attention. Consider them Friends of the Fortress, for whatever that’s worth.)
Anyway, a few months back I started seeing some of the Superman related Pops at Books A Million and the two comic shops in the area and I started getting that feeling…that old familiar feeling…that something rank was about to be collected. Well, not rank per se, but something that I didn’t need at all but would look awesome on my book cases in front of my Superman related trades. I started buying the aforementioned Superman Pops and have amassed a small collection. I have some Batman ones as well but between my own desire to not start buying more stuff that is just going to sit there and the fact that my wife actually asked me not to go whole hog on these (something she rarely does) I have stuck to the Superman Pops that haven’t been retired yet because screw paying that much for the Man of Steel one.
One of them came in the mail the other day.
My first reaction when I took this Pop out of the Amazon box it came in was, “Damn, Superman…you really need to cut down on the performance enhancers.” Between the expression on his face and the build of the body this Superman looks like he has a serious case of ‘roid rage. Other than that it’s a cute figure. I appreciate the lines on his face that are presumably there to indicate he’s older or to somehow mimic Frank Miller’s artwork. The costume and the cape look great and I like that he’s rocking the spit curl.
Now if he would only leave the steroids out of his workout routine. That isn’t going to end well.
As the cover copy suggest this issue of Amazing Heroes celebrated Superman’s 50th birthday. It is jam packed with pin-ups, interviews with creators and actors, personal anecdotes by comic creators of every stripe and a lot of fun and informative articles. It was a meaty read and I am glad it was included in the giant box of fanzines that the manger of the comic shop I was going to in 1997 gave to me. It is not expensive on eBay so if you don’t have a copy I strongly suggest picking one up.
1997. Bill Clinton begins his second term as President of the United States. Madeline Albright is confirmed as the first female Secretary of State. Pokemon premieres on TV Tokyo. Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after the Labor Party returns to power. NASA’s Pathfinder space probe lands on the surface of Mars. Timothy McVeigh is convicted of 15 counts of murder and conspiracy in the Oklahoma City Bombings.
And Superman receives a new set of powers as well as a new costume.
In an era where Superman’s look has changed three times in the space of six years it might seem weird that Superman getting a new costume and new powers made the national news but times were different in 1997. Superman’s look had been relatively stable for the majority of his almost sixty year existence. The S symbol might evolve. The length of his cape would change. He had long hair for three years. Other than that his outfit was pretty much the same. Blue shirt and pants. Red trunks. Red boots. Yellow belt. Flowing red cape with a yellow S on the back. Red and yellow S on the front. Likewise his powers evolved into a pretty standard set of abilities. Strength. Speed. Flight. X-ray and heat vision. So when DC announced that they were changing all of that there was the usual mix of excitement, apprehension and outrage from the fan base.
At the time I was excited. I had been reading the Man of Steel’s titles for nearly ten straight years when Superman #123 hit the stands and in that time I had seen a fair bit of change. Superman had left Earth, returned, lost and regained his powers, got engaged, bounced around time, fought off an alien invasion led by Brainiac, died, came back, watched as Metropolis was destroyed by Lex Luthor, helped rebuild Metropolis, thought he was going insane when a body was found in his tomb, nearly lost his Clark Kent identity, was put on trial, broke up with Lois, lost his powers again, patched things up with Lois, married her, got his powers back and dealt with a Revenge Squad hell bent on killing him.
The one constant in all of that was that the creative teams kept pushing Superman, his friends and his foes forward. Lois went from being a rival to a friend to a fiancé to a wife. Jimmy went from being a photographer at the Daily Planet to an anchorman on WGBS. Perry White lost his son, adopted another and fought lung cancer. Lex Luthor switched his brain from his dying body into a younger one, nearly died in that body and then bargained with a demon to get his youth and vitality back. While there was a status quo, things changed and it was easy to fall into the trap to think they would always change. On that level, giving Superman a new suit and a new set of abilities makes perfect sense.
Not that I thought in those terms at the time. In early 1997 I was just along for the ride and, as noted earlier, generally excited. That changed as the year wore on and in the interest of full disclosure I was pretty much done with the new powers and the splitting into two and all of that noise by the time the story reached its conclusion. I wanted the classic Superman back with the blue suit and the red cape and all that jazz.
All of which brings us to this series of posts and why I am writing them. It has been twenty years since, for lack of a better term, the Electric Blue Era began and I thought two decades was enough distance to reappraise these comics. Like the first ten years of my relationship with the Superman books, a lot has happened to the Man of Steel in that time and not all of it was good. I used to hold the Electric Blue Era as the benchmark of how low the character can go. Then 2003 happened. And 2007. And 2010. And most of The New 52. Suddenly Superman Red/Superman Blue was looking positively awesome and I wanted to see if that feeling was nostalgia or bitterness? Was I looking at these comics through rose tinted glasses or were these objectively good stories? Finding out should prove interesting.
So here’s the plan; after next week’s all-purpose catch up post that explains what was going on in the Superman titles right before this era began I’ll be doing an issue by issue review of the Superman books published in 1997 on the 20th anniversary of the day they came out. This is why I positioned this series on a Sunday. Twenty years ago that was a Wednesday, which by 1997 had become the agreed upon release date for comics or at least comics coming from Diamond. The reviews will vary in length depending on the issue itself. Some stories might yield a bumper crop of opinions. Other stories may require less examination. I mainly want to see if the stories started out strong and then fizzled out or was the new costume and powers an interesting idea that simply ran its course.
In addition to the main Superman books I’ll be looking at the annuals from that year and briefly examining how his powers were dealt with in the Grant Morrison fueled JLA title that started shortly before Clark’s new look. The commonly accepted wisdom about Electric Blue Superman was that the main books were bad and Morrison was the only one that knew what to do with the new powers. I want to see if the hive mind is right or is it another example of something becoming a “fact” simply because everyone says so.
To be fair I am not holding out any hope for The Millennium Giants being good but other than that I’m optimistic about proving the Morrison thing wrong.
So travel with me now, dear readers, as we break the bonds of our temporal placement and journey back twenty years to read about a married Superman with a new status quo. They might be great comics or, at the very least, they might wish to be. They only lack a reviewer to show the way. For this reason, their capacity to entertain, I present them to you, my loyal audience.
Below is a list of the books…book I picked up this week.
Action Comics #972
The last week of the month is usually the lightest in terms of Superman books, so it isn’t that much of a surprise that the only physical comic I picked up at the shop this week is Action Comics. Men of Steel has been a great story arc so I am looking forward to reading this issue and reviewing for the Superman Homepage. I did order a Superman related collected edition in the form of the over sized deluxe hardcover Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse to go along with the The Great Darkness Saga I bought last week and that came in the post on Friday, so I have roughly two years of Legion stories to read!
Comixology ran an Infinite Crisis sale (which expires Monday), so I picked up a few Superman related books at a buck a piece. These include:
Action Comics(1938) #s 826 and 829
Adventures of Superman (1939) #639 – Available of the first time digitally
Superman (1987) #s 216, 218-220
Wonder Woman (1987) #s 219 and 220
For some reason Adventures of Superman #642 wasn’t part of the sale, which is weird because it is part of the Sacrifice story arc. I picked it up even though it wasn’t on sale because…I’m me and that’s how I roll.
Other Superman related digital books that are available for the first time include:
Action Comics (1938) #s 743 and 744
Adventures of Superman (1939) #s 556 and 557
DC Comics Presents (1978) #s 44-46
Superman (1987) #s 133 and 134
Superman: The Man of Steel (1991) #s 77 and 78
I am not picking up the DC Comics Presents issues just yet but I will get there at some point. Otherwise, I picked up the rest of these books and I was amused to see that they’ve gotten to The Millennium Giants part of the Electric Blue era. Still no sign of the Superman Red/Superman Blue special, so I have to shoot them a message to see if I can get anything going on that.
Despite the lack of that special I continue to be amazed and delighted that more of the Post Crisis era is available digitally.
Welcome to another installment of Secret Files Friday! Each week I present another entry from the various Secret Files and Origins specials that started popping up in late 1997. While they weren’t as detailed as Who’s Who I have a real soft spot for the Secret Files and Origins line so I wanted to give them some love. The week’s entry is The Metropolis SCU!
(originally published in Superman Secret Files and Origins #1, January 1998)
The time has come to look at the Superman related solicitations for the month of April. For some reason I thought these were going to come out last week but here they are so here I am. This is not a comprehensive list of the Superman related comics that DC will be publishing in April. They are just the ones that caught my eye.
This is the alternate cover to Wizard: The Guide to Comics #47 and I was surprised to discover that this was also the first Wizard cover to feature Superman. Actually I shouldn’t have been surprised. Wizard didn’t give DC much in the way of coverage for the first few years of its existence. Insert snarky comment about how they were up the rectums of Marvel and Image here. They didn’t even have a feature article on the Death of Superman when it happened and that was kind of a big deal. They kind of made up for it with the excellent Wizard Superman Tribute Edition in 1993 but the Man of Steel didn’t appear solo on one of their covers until 1995.
This issue features an interview with Roger Stern. Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was about to premiere, which was Stern’s return to Superman after leaving Action Comics the previous year. It’s a good article too. This cover was one of the images featured in that article and normally I would be upset by the angry red eyes of anger but this was before that was an overused cliche so it gets a pass.
Plus it’s Tom Grummett drawing Superman. Which is awesome.
Below is a list of the books I picked up this week.
Justice League #13
Justice League vs Suicide Squad #5
Multiplicity started strong in the previous issue of Superman, so I am excited to get to the next chapter. Hopefully things will work out for Captain Carrot. Trinity is the most beautiful book I’m reading right now so that is definitely at the top of the stack. The whole Justice League vs Suicide Squad thing continues to build up on the “to read” pile until it’s over.
I also picked up the Deluxe Hardcover of Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga. I’ve never read that story and the price was low enough that it justified the impulse buy. It collects issues 284-296 of Legion of Super-Heroes plus Annual #1, so that is a meaty read. I like these hardcovers quite a bit. The paper stock is good, they look nice and the fact that they are slightly oversized makes the artwork pop. Cheers to DC for finally putting what issues are collected in the trade, hardcover, etc. on the back cover. That is mighty handy.
Comixology added some more Superman books last Friday. They have been following a pattern over the past month or so, which continued this week. Books now available digitally include:
Action Comics (1938) #s 15, 17, 741 and 742
Adventures of Superman (1987) #s 554 and 555
DC Comics Presents (1978) #s 41, 42 and 43
Superman (1987) #s 131 and 132
Superman: The Man of Steel (1991) #s 75 and 76
Superman: The Man of Tomorrow (1995) #10
More of the Electric Blue era was added this week as it heads into the home stretch. I looked and looked but could not find the Superman Red/Superman Blue special, which is disappointing as it’s important to the overall story. The annuals from 1997 aren’t available but those are not as important as the special where Superman is split into two different people. I am hoping it will be available next week. If not I’ll write and ask.
The physical comics I got this week were bought at First Edition Comics in Peachtree City, GA. Jared runs a great shop so if you are on the south side of Atlanta definitely pay him a visit and barring that check out his site. I picked up the Legion hardcover at Dave’s Comics in Fayetteville, GA.