MORE THAN ZERO: ZERO MONTH 20 YEARS LATER

In 1994 DC Comics published Zero Hour, a five issue mini-series designed to not only serve as a major summer crossover but also fix some of the continuity problems that had plagued their universe after the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Some have suggested that Zero Hour caused more problems than it fixed but at the time it was the dawn of an exciting new era for DC. To kick off this new age DC followed Zero Hour with Zero Month. As the name suggests all of the main DC books were rolled back to zero though each one had a different approach to the idea. Some books featured a new origin. Some contained tweaks to the existing origin. Some contained brand new versions of old characters. All of them served as a jumping on point for new and old readers alike.

To celebrate this new era (or perhaps to bury it) some of us in the comic book blogging community have banded together from remote galaxies to discuss how the characters we cover were rebooted/revamped by looking at the solicitations of our character’s zero issues as well as delving into the Wizard Magazine Beyond Zero Hour Special, which was a magazine published around the time of Zero Hour to promote the series, what was coming next and the history of DC in general.

As this is a blog crossover be sure to check out the links below to find out how other characters were treated during Zero Month.

So…Superman and Zero Month.

Superman STMOS #000
The Superman titles were doing extremely well leading into both Zero Hour and Zero Month.  The books had exploded in popularity thanks to the Death and Return of Superman saga and the creators did not disappoint with how they followed up on that story.  While Spilled Blood was not the best of ideas (though it did bring some of the early ’90s to the Super-titles) the Superman offices spun two characters from Reign of the Supermen, Superboy and Steel, into their own titles while giving Supergirl her own mini-series, which wasn’t quite fair but that’s how things played out.  Superman/Doomsday Hunter/Prey was a satisfying follow up to Death and Return story and included the return of the Cyborg and the origin of Doomsday.  In the Superman titles proper the creators briefly had Superman’s powers overloading before launching into the Battle For and Fall of Metropolis, which featured the utter destruction of Metropolis and the fall of Lex Luthor.

It was an exciting time to be a Superman fan.

On the whole Superman wasn’t rebooted or revamped during Zero Month.  There was a tweak to the day the ship landed and some bits of business added to his early years but on the whole Clark came through the process nearly the same as he had been before.  This makes sense because as I noted above the creators had cracked the code on Superman to get the then current reader base to check out his books for the first time in years.  There were two surprises coming to the Super-titles as a result of Zero Month and both were discussed in a Wizard: The Guide to Comics special.

For those that are either unaware, have forgotten or have blocked it out completely there was a time when Wizard: The Guide to Comics was the resource for comic book fans.  It began publication in 1991 and quickly became to the go to guide for (overpriced) comics.  While it was mainly a price guide and a popularity contest it did produce some great articles that went beyond simply pimping whatever big book or event that was coming down the pike.  Their article on Zero Hour (which I posted a few weeks back) was a solid bit of promotion but the best was saved for a special stand alone magazine.

Beyond Zero Hour

Put out under the Wizard Press banner (which produced some great specials, including one about super villains called The Dark Book) Beyond Zero Hour was, as the cover suggests, a comprehensive look at DC Comics or at least as comprehensive as the size of the magazine would allow.  I bought this off the stands when it came out and devoured it because then as now I have an affinity for learning about the history of the comics I read.  After an introduction by Harlan Ellison and the previously mentioned history the book became a giant preview of the brave new era DC was about to embark on.  Every mainstream title was covered with comments from the creative teams and teases on upcoming stories.  Some characters only rated a half a page.

Superman got five.

Beyond Zero Hour Superman 1 Beyond Zero Hour Superman 2 Beyond Zero Hour Superman 3 Beyond Zero Hour Superman 4 Beyond Zero Hour Superman 5

To be fair Superman had four titles, so his real estate in this special averaged out to a little over a page a book.  Also to be fair there were a lot of graphics taking up some of those pages.  Nevertheless it was great to see him get so much space.  A lot of that has to do with how far he has fallen in terms of being the lead dog hero of the DCU in recent years.  Batman has far eclipsed him in popularity with the general public and in standing at DC itself.  I don’t like that fact but it is what it is so I will patiently wait for the pendulum to swing the other way.  In 1994 it made perfect sense to give him such a prominent position in the magazine given how well his books were doing.

The two major talking points of this section were Conduit and the upcoming Dead Again story arc.  Conduit is an oddity in Superman’s rogues gallery because he really wasn’t around for all that long but managed to gain enough popularity to be chosen as one of the figures for the 1995 line of Kenner Superman toys.  He’s kind of a divisive character as well.  The whole “here is the part of the origin that you never saw” combined with “here’s a character we’ve never mentioned before but boy is he or she REALLY important” could have spelled certain creative death for Conduit but the way the writers, particularly Dan Jurgens, went into his motivations made him more than just a Kryptonite themed villain with a mad on for Superman.

Dead Again was an interesting way to kick off Superman in the Post Zero Hour continuity.  One of the selling points of Reign of the Supermen was which of the four men that laid claim to Superman’s name were the real McCoy.  The actual story didn’t go into that as much with only two of the Supermen having any kind of mystery around them but I always liked the idea that one of those characters could have been the Man of Steel…wait, John Henry was the Man of Steel.

One of the could have been the Last Son of Krypton…wait, that doesn’t work either because the Eradicator was the Last Son of Krypton.

One of them could have been the real deal.

Yeah.  That works.

Anyway, the idea that one of the people that came back claiming to be Superman is turned on its head with Dead Again.  As far as cliffhanger endings go you can’t do much better than someone opening Superman’s coffin and there’s his body while this long haired guy has been running around saying he is the legitimate article.  I remember liking the story quite a bit and I am looking forward to reading it again when Jeff and I get there on From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast.

Superman was not the only one from his family of characters to be showcased in the Beyond Zero Hour special.  Superboy, Steel, Supergirl and even the Eradicator all popped up over the course of the previews.

Beyond Zero Hour Superman 6 Beyond Zero Hour Superman 8 Beyond Zero Hour Superman 7

I was a bit surprised that Superboy didn’t get a whole page.  I remember that being a popular book but memory can be a funny thing.  It was nice to see Steel getting a full page because that series had its problems but overall I liked what I read.  I do vividly remember how excited I was that Superman was going to be the focal point of Showcase ’95.  I was so excited that I bought the first issue and completely forgot to buy the rest of the series, so when we get to that on FCTC I will be reading a lot of it for the first time.  The same can be said for The Outsiders.  I’m kicking myself a bit because I really liked the Eradicator and have only recently gotten around to buying these issues.  Luckily they are rather inexpensive (thanks mainly to the fact that the back issue market has pretty much collapsed) so it will be fun to discover what the Eradicator was up to between his good-bye in Action Comics and his mini-series from 1996.

Next up I have some scans Zero Month edition of Previews, which wasn’t totally devoted to soliciting Zero Month related books but I’ll call it that for simplicity’s sake.  Like Zero Hour before it, Zero Month took up a lot of real estate starting with the cover.

Previews Zero Month 001

I have always liked that image.  For one thing it’s Tom Grummet and I love his work, particularly his takes on Superman, Superboy and Robin.  For another it’s a very striking image with only Vril Dox looking a bit off. It also has a very forward looking feel to it.  This was DC’s main image to show off that they were moving along as a company and I think this image does that very well.

The actual solicis of the Superman books were kind of a sliding scale of Previews solicitation formats.  If it was a big time comic the solicit would be in color.  If the book was slightly less of a big deal but still important you had the “Spotlight On” banner.  If it was less important than that you would get the cover of the book next to the copy and if it was a standard solicit you just got the copy.  While none of them got the color treatment you see examples of the other three below.

ZM Solicits - Superman TMOS #0 ZM Solicits - Superman #0 ZM Solicits - AOS #0 ZM Solicits - Action Comics #0

Superboy and Steel both fell under the cover with copy format.

ZM Solicits - Steel #0 ZM Solicits - Superboy #0

This edition of Previews also features solicits for Superman books that were being offered again.

ZM Solicits - Offered Again AOS ZM Solicits - Offered Again STMOS ZM Solicits - Offered Again Superman ZM Solicits - Offered Again Action

So over a year after Reign of the Supermen ended DC was still pushing the books that kicked off the story.  Until I saw this edition of Previews I had no idea that they had done that.

Finally, here is a fun video that was put out by DC as part of the promotional material they sent to comic shops to garner interest in both Zero Hour and Zero Month.  The guy that owned the comic shop I went to in 1994 gave me the VHS tape soon after he got it because he thought I would like it and I have been meaning to get into digital form for years.  Thankfully someone already did that.

And that is it for my end of the More Than Zero blog crossover.  Be sure to check out what everyone else has done via the links at the top of this post.  Also be sure to check back here at the Fortress because I have a bunch of other Zero Month scans to post over the next few weeks.

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