FORTRESS ARCHIVES – CRITICS CHOICE MAGAZINE FOCUS ON SUPERMAN

When I moved to Georgia in November of 1995 my first priority was not finding a job or planning for my new future.  My first priority (shockingly) was to find a comic shop.

I was 19.  Sue me.

Because this was 1995 and I was still about three years away from getting online I went about finding a comic shop the old fashioned way; the phone book.  Years ago this was the only way, outside of word of mouth, that someone could find a comics specialty shop.  I was not familiar with the abbreviations for cities on the south side of Atlanta so finding a store was rather difficult.  There was a listing for a place called Titans Games and Comics on Riverdale Road in some city that when shortened read, “CP”.  Later I would discover that “CP” stood for College Park but at the time it was a complete mystery.  I knew there was an Upper Riverdale Road in the in the city of…well…Riverdale so one day I went exploring and after hours and hours of driving around (and having lunch at Shoney’s) I came up with…nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

The sad part was that if I had turned left at the intersection of Upper Riverdale Road instead of right I would have found the mythical Riverdale Road.

These things happen when you move to a new town.

So I decided to ask my father where Riverdale Road was and for what will probably be the last time in my life my Dad drove me to a comic shop.  We found Titans and I liked the place right away.  My father reacted to it and the guy behind the counter with the piercings pretty much how I expected he would (lots of sighing and eventually heading to the car) but I was taken with the shop.

On the way to Titans we passed another comic shop that I would soon learn was called Fischer’s.  After Dad and I got back home I hoped in my car and headed back up to this Fischer’s place to see what it was all about.  Titans was an old school store but still had wire shelving for the new issues, so it looked lived in but still contemporary at least by nineties standards.

Fischer’s was different.

Walking into that store was like walking into a comic shop in the mid-eighties.  All of the fixtures were made of wood and the place had the smell of old comics.  Like many of my ilk I have a particular fondness for that smell.  It is like new car smell if new cars smelled like cheaply printed magazines that have been stored in cardboard boxes for ten to seventy years.  If I really wanted to be pretentious I would write about how they smell like history or something but I try to not be really pretentious.

The neat thing about Fisher’s was the odd stuff they had lying around.  I got to see, for the first time really, independent books from the eighties that I was familiar with through ads in old fanzines.  They also had Superman and Batman button sets from the mid-’80s.  The item that really caught my eye that first day was this.

I am sure this will shock many of you but I bought it.

The anticipation during the drive home was palpable.  Here was a book/magazine (I will call it a book-a-zine) all about John Byrne’s Man of Steel as well as the first five issues of his Superman run.  How could I not be excited?   This book just had to contain the most amazing analysis of Byrne’s work with the character as well as an insight into the very nature of Superman himself.

Imagine my surprise (read: horror) when the book-a-zine was nothing more than this James Van Hise guy bitching about John Byrne’s Superman.

Looking through the book now lo these fifteen years later I am a bit more favorable on the book-a-zine.  Back then I was rage.  How dare this guy mock the best version of Superman!  If he were here I would…well, probably not kick his ass…because that would get me arrested…and sure this is Fayette County, Georgia so I wouldn’t be sent a particular rape-tastic jail but still…bail is expensive…and James may know karate…like awesome karate where he jumps up, scissors his legs around my neck which would drop me like  stone.

Kind of like what happens at the 1:30 mark in this video.

(P.S. I love that movie.)

Anyway, Van Hise does makes some good points in this book but then there are comments like, “While there has been some moaning over ‘all the changes’ Byrne has made with Superman they’re all just superficial.”  Uh, no.  Sure the costume was the same and he was still Clark Kent working for the Daily Planet and he still did the right thing because it was the right thing to do the emotional core had shifted.  Byrne’s Superman felt more human than alien and that was a key difference between the Silver/Bronze Age Man of Steel and the “modern” Superman of 1986.

And that’s where I will stop that sort of commentary or we will be here all day.  In any case this book-a-zine (last time, promise) still sits in the reference section of my “library”.  Actually it is currently stored in the bookcases of the hutch over my desk where I have a bunch of other Superman, Batman and Justice Society related books that are proving useful as of late.

Oh…before I go…

This is the back cover of the…thing that I promised I wouldn’t write again.  I think it is pretty dang awesome.  Not exactly the model Byrne would settle on but I like it just the same.

More to follow…

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One Response to FORTRESS ARCHIVES – CRITICS CHOICE MAGAZINE FOCUS ON SUPERMAN

  1. MattComix says:

    That one shot of him flying there I think was used as an early teaser promo for the mini series which as I recall didn’t even imply anything about changing his origin. So all I really knew looking at was “Wow, that guy who does the cool art on X-Men and Fantastic Four is gonna draw Superman!”

    Growing up while I didn’t necessarily hate Curt Swan I would see a cover by Neal Adams or Garcia Lopez or Ross Andru and honestly find it a bit disappointing when that was not what was inside. The cover art always seemed so much more dynamic and I just found it confusing that they wouldn’t put that art IN the book instead of just on the cover of it.

    So Byrne drawing Superman was by itself a reason for my to get excited just based on that one single picture in an ad that had no backgrounds or even info.

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