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.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2tltm5wUCs

(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…

FCTC EPISODE 113: ECLIPSO THE DARKNESS WITHIN PART 3

Episode 113: Eclipso The Darkness Within Part 3

Welcome to the one hundred and thirteenth episode of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast!  This podcast has a simple premise; examine just about every Superman comic published between Man of Steel #1 in 1986 to Adventures of Superman #649 in 2006 in an informative and hopefully entertaining format.

 Part index.  Part commentary.  Part history lesson.  All podcast.

This week From Crisis to Crisis’ coverage of Eclipso: The Darkness Within concludes!

That’s right, faithful FCTC listeners!  Eclipso: The Darkness Within is over and sadly it ended with a whimper, not with a bang.  Jeff and Mike cover it right to the bitter end though even if they tried to back out on the last issue.  Before covering anything in depth Jeffrey gives you a rundown of the various annuals that led up to Adventures of Superman #4.  The boys then cover that annual, which was all kinds of awesome.  Finally they give you the skinny on Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2, which was…bad.

Sadly.

You can subscribe to the show in two ways. First there is the RSS Feed and there is also the iTunes link.

If you want to comment on the show or contact the hosts you can always private message Mike and Jeff, at the Superman Homepage, leave comments here or at the Homepage or here or email them by clicking this link.  All questions, concerns, fears, trepidations and cheap shots are welcome.

Next time: Another edition of FCTC Mailbag as the guys take a break to read some of your e-mails!

FORTRESS ARCHIVES – CRISIS OF INFINITE (WELL, TWO ANYWAY) FANZINES

A few days ago I posted the cover and table of contents to Amazing Heroes #91.  You can see it again (or for the first time) by clicking on this link.  I’ve been reading through the issue over the last couple of days and it inspired me to dig out two other fanzines I have in the “archives” relating to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

This issue of Amazing Heroes came out a year before the one I posted the other day.  I have had this book since at least 1999.  If memory serves I found this one at another one day show on the north side of Atlanta.  Odd that, considering where I found the other Crisis related issue.  Anyway this issue has a preview of Crisis rather than the post-game wrap up that the one I am going through now has.  I plan on cracking this bad boy open once I am done with issue 91.  That may be a little backwards but sometimes things work out that way.

Another Perez cover, though it is not Crisis related.  This one is the box art for the first edition of the DC Heroes role-playing game put out by Mayfair Games.  I love this image.  It is a perfect representation of DC in the mid-’80s.  The Teen Titans and their villains are well-represented, John Stewart is Green Lantern, Brainiac is in his robotic form and piloting his skull ship and there is even some Super Powers action going on with the Joker wielding a giant mallet.

This image contains just about everything I love about DC Comics…both in the eighties and in general.

If my memory isn’t failing the Crisis interview is pretty cool as is the article about the DC Heroes game.  Where my memory does fail me is where I got this issue.  It could have been another random comic convention/show find or it could have been in the giant pile of Amazing Heroes, Comics Interview and other assorted fanzines that my former comic dealer Chuck Sheffey just gave me out of the blue one day in 1997.  No matter where the magazine came from I am pretty darn happy to have it.

Oh, if anyone out there knows of other issues of Amazing Heroes or Comics Interview or any other fanzine of the eighties that featured stories about Crisis on Infinite Earths let me know.  I am trying to gather all of the articles and such that I can.  Just e-mail me at michael@fortressofbaileytude.com.

More to follow…

TRAILER PARK – JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM

And lo it was announced that the first Direct-To-DVD DC Animated film of next year is going to be Justice League: Doom.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0MSuTJNDdc

If this movie is released using the timeline of past DC DVDs then this should be hitting store shelves right around my birthday.  I will admit that I am looking forward to it even if it seems to be a very loose adaptation of Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel storyline.  It is very cool to see them get “the band” back together, so to speak, by hiring actors and actresses that have voiced a particular character in the past to return to that character here.  Personally if you were going to go for a Justice League/Justice League Unlimited reunion then George Newbern should have been cast as Superman instead of Tim Daly.  I like Daly.  I really do, but to me Newbern is the Justice League Superman.  I am very excited about the fact that they cast Phil Morris as Vandal Savage as I thought he was fantastic in the role on JLU and if you were going to have Hal Jordan in the movie then Nathan Fillion is your man.

For the moment the movie looks good.  I hope they can top the action from Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, which to me set the bar for big, animated super-hero fights.  Christopher Drake is doing the music and based on his work on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Batman: Under the Red Hood I have high hopes for the score to this film.  I am guessing Cyborg is there because he is currently in the League.  I am not sure how I feel about him being in this film considering I think Cyborg works better with the Titans, but it could end up being cool so I am reserving judgment until the movie comes out.

So yeah…looks good thus far.  Hope I still feel that way when the DVD ends.

More to follow…

ACQUISITIONS – SUPERGIRL WANTS YOU TO WEAR A SEATBELT

I have no idea where I got this book.  I was looking for something in my horribly and shamefully disorganized comic book closet the other day and found this in a stack of random books.  Someone probably gave this to me.  I have not had a chance to read it yet but the front and back cover seemed interesting so I thought I would post them here.

I need to pick up more of these comics because they really are fascinating.  You are taking a character like Superman or Supergirl and instead of telling an adventure story that furthers that character’s development or just telling a kick ass story in general you have to frame a story around some company’s product or a particular buzz issue of the time.  The messages are many and varied and have included anti-smoking comics, anti-drug comics, tell an adult if another adult tries to touch you in the bad place comics or, in this case, buckle up or you are going to die.

If I am sounding a bit cynical…well, it’s because I am a bit cynical.  At the same time I can’t fault an organization or a company wanting to use a super-hero (especially Superman or Supergirl) to get their message out to the kids of the world because that character has a certain level of recognizably.  In the case of Tandy Computers, for example, I am assuming that using a known property is just basic marketing.  In the case of this “buckle up or you are going to die” comic or the Spider-Man fueled “don’t let people touch you inappropriately” comic I’d like to think that those involved thought that kids would listen to Supergirl or Spider-Man over some random adult telling them about the given subject.

So this sort of comic has a lot going for it.  Mainly I just think they’re cool.  I try to pick them up when I find them in fifty cent boxes though I do feel like I shouldn’t have to pay anything because these things were originally supposed to be free.  I try not to gripe too much, though.  Beyond being a crass commercial use of a property or an attempt to reach kids with familiar characters these things are collectibles, so fifty cents isn’t that high a price to pay.

I draw the line at a dollar, though.  A man has to have principles.

More to follow…

FCTC EPISODE 112: ECLIPSO THE DARKNESS WITHIN PART 2

Episode 112: Eclipso The Darkness Within Part 2

Welcome to the one hundred and twelfth episode of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast!  This podcast has a simple premise; examine just about every Superman comic published between Man of Steel #1 in 1986 to Adventures of Superman #649 in 2006 in an informative and hopefully entertaining format.

 Part index.  Part commentary.  Part history lesson.  All podcast.

This week From Crisis to Crisis’ coverage of Eclipso: The Darkness Within continues!

Yes indeed, folks Jeff and Mike are back along with Scott Gardner to delve further into the Man of Steel’s end of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within Annuals event.  The guys start out with Superman Annual #4, where Superman (along with Bruce Gordon and Mona) head to Crater Bay to find Eclipso and things turn ugly fast when Eclipso takes over Lois Lane!  In Justice League America Annual #6 the majority of the League fights an Eclipsed Maxima while Blue Beetle faces an Eclipsed Starman all by himself.  Finally Superman gets Eclipsed in Action Comics Annual #4 and has a huge throw down with the World’s Mightiest Mortal CAPTAIN MARVEL!

Note: At one point in their coverage of the Justice League America Annual Scott asks about a Justice League titled called Extreme Justice.  For whatever reason Mike heard Extreme Justice as Justice League Task Force and starts talking about that series instead of the one Scott asked about.  So this is all Mike’s fault.  Address all complaints to him.

You can subscribe to the show in two ways. First there is the RSS Feed and there is also the iTunes link.

If you want to comment on the show or contact the hosts you can always private message Mike and Jeff, at the Superman Homepage, leave comments here or at the Homepage or here or email them by clicking this link.  All questions, concerns, fears, trepidations and cheap shots are welcome.

Next time: Eclipso: The Darkness Within concludes with Adventures of Superman #4 and Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2.

ACQUISITIONS – AMAZING HEROES #91

Here’s something I bought several months ago at the Atlanta Comic Convention.  This magazine set me back a whole $2.

To be honest I bought this issue for two reasons.  One; I collect issues of Amazing Heroes because they have fantastic articles and are great time capsules into what was going on in fandom (or at least a small but vocal part of fandom) during the eighties.  Two; that freaking cover.  Sure Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman (complete with a non-yellow oval bat symbol on his chest) look fantastic but so do the smaller characters that include (going from left to right), the female Wildcat, the Green Lantern symbol (not a character but neat nonetheless), Hex, Power Girl, Tommy Tomorrow (I think or it could be Rip Hunter), Pariah, Lady Quark, Uncle Sam, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Doctor Light II, the two Flashes and the face of Harbinger.  It’s just a beautiful piece of art and it is not lost on me that the characters shown either made their first appearances during the event, were killed, are from the future or were from the Earths that were destroyed because of the Crisis.

After getting home I found out that this issue chock full of articles that made that part of me that loves reading the behind-the-scenes stuff squealing like a little girl.  The articles include (taken from the table of contents):

  • “Who Doomed the Flash?” On the tracks of the Speedster’s killer by Steve Webb.
  • “Crisis Obituaries” A look back at some of DC’s late heroes by Mark Waid and Mike Tiefenbacher.
  • “Who’s New at DC” A look at the Crisis’ new heroes by Mark Waid.
  • “Making a Crisis of It” Interviews with the men behind the Crisis by Mark Waid.
  • “Infinite Crisis on Earth-2” Roy Thomas on the aftermath of the Crisis by Andy Mangels.
  • “Monitoring the Monitor” Before Crisis — a list of appearances by Andy Mangels and Mark Waid.
  • “The Crisis Calendar” A day by day guide to the Crisis by Andy Mangels.
  • Who’s Who in the Crisis” Page by Page…did you recognize them? by Mark Waid.
  • “Charlton’s Action Heroes” A look back at a whole universe by Mike Tiefenbacher.
  • “Crisis in Review” Our critic examines the value of the Crisis by R.A. Jones.

So yeah…whole lotta Crisis coverage there.  Even the letters page was dedicated to COIE, which should result in an interesting reading experience because the people that wrote into Amazing Heroes were an opinionated bunch and are further proof that comics fandom as a whole hasn’t really changed, just developed a new fashion sense and now have a larger and more immediate platform in which to mouth off about comics.  It is also rather cool to see Mark Waid and Andy Mangels’ names pop up so much in this issue.  Mark Waid is…well he’s Mark Waid.  The guy has written some of my favorite comic book stories ever and I like to read the articles he wrote before breaking in professionally.  Andy Mangels was (and probably still is) one of the best fanzine writers out there so it is always nice to see his name on the by-line as well.

Usually when I read issues of Amazing Heroes I pick and choose the articles I actually go through.  Sometimes they would cover comics that either didn’t interest me or that I just didn’t care about at all.  For this issue I am going to be reading the thing cover to cover.   There is just so much there that looks neat and it will be rather helpful when Scott Gardner and I get to our epic coverage of Crisis next year on Tales of the Justice Society of America.  More than anything I need to get my head back into the research end of reading comics because I haven’t done that sort of thing in quite some time.  I used to love piling my reference books and old fanzines on the desk and really digging into a particular subject and now the words “free” and “time” rarely go together in terms of my comic book reading much less researching.

Keep in mind that I am not complaining because I love all of the various podcasts that I either host or co-host and I love writing this blog.  I’m just stating a fact about the current use of my non-family and work that actually pays the bills time.

I tell you these non-important/first world problems can be too much sometimes.  Too much!

More to follow…

IT IS ACCOMPLISHED (SUPERMAN EDITION) PART 3

And lo there came a day unlike any other…a day where Mike posts the covers (front and back) to the final issue he needed to have a complete run of SUPERMAN (Vol. 1) from 230 until the present.  There was much rejoicing across the land when these covers hit the internet.  It was a lot like the end to the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi but the original music was reinstated because that’s the score Mike prefers.

Or maybe it was just a simple matter of uploading two jpgs to the site.

Six of one, half a dozen of another.

Here are the covers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the awesomeness that is Murphy Anderson drawing Superman.

The team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson is recognized far and wide as one of the best artistic duos to draw the Man of Steel.  I agree with this sentiment.  However when you look at this cover it is hard to deny that Anderson could draw a kick ass Superman on his own.  Superman looks fantastic on this cover and I like the little floating heads at the bottom of the piece.

Now if you thought this was a neat image then the next one will blow you away.

With the exception of Kid Eternity everyone on this page, including Air Wave, looks as if they are ready to beat some serious ass.  Even the Atom looks aggressive.  Kid Eternity looks like he is just happy to be there.  It’s kind of goofy but it works.

It also looks like all of these heroes have been doing some serious work on their abs.  I am pretty sure you could wash clothes on those stomachs.

Regardless I love this image.  While I am not the biggest fan of Hawkman I do like when Anderson draws him.  I look forward to my friend Luke’s thoughts on the Hawkman presented here.  He has a blog called Being Carter Hall so I look to him when it comes to all things Carter Hall/Katar Hol.   Super Chief is just a goofy concept but I can’t help but like it.  I took a peak inside and this is the best Air Wave is going to look in this entire comic because the story they reprint has some awful artwork.

And that is it, folks.  Three days, three covers and (to paraphrase Harvey Pekar) another short term goal accomplished.  I would say that acquiring a complete run of Action Comics from cover date January 1971 to the present is next on my list but I have pretty much gotten all of those books, but that is a post for another time.  The Superman collection has a long way to go, though.  I still have dozens of World’s Finest and Superboy and Superman Family, etc. to collect so the war is far from over.

It seems to be a never-ending battle after all.

Sorry…couldn’t help myself there.

More to follow…

IT IS ACCOMPLISHED (SUPERMAN EDITION) PART 2

It Is Accomplished (Superman Edition) continues today with the cover to the second of the three issues of Superman (Vol. 1) that I needed to get all of what I consider to be the Bronze Age era of that title.

Classic.

That is the first word that springs to mind when I look at this cover.  Not only does Neal Adams draw a fantastic Superman but he draws a fantastic rest of the DC Universe as well.  The theme of this cover is neat as well; the flying heroes of DC.  I am kind of curious as to why Hawkman and Hawkwoman are on the cover twice but I am working under the assumption that the Hawks on the front cover are the Earth-1 versions and the Hawks on the back are Hawkman and Hawkgirl of Earth-2.

Just a theory.

We also get the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Green Lanterns, Lightray, the Martian Manhunter, Black Condor, Starman of Earth-2, the Ray, Kid Eternity, Black Racer, Johnny Quick, Dr. Fate, Red Tornado, Shining Knight and Supergirl.  I don’t recognize the heavyset guy at the top of the back cover but I am sure someone will let me know.  All in all a great cover.

By the way, this was the issue that I kept finding at outrageous prices.  Thankfully eBay had a decent copy at a reasonable price and now IT IS MINE!

(Cue the lightning and thunder crashing behind me as I stand on top of a mountain holding the issue high above my head.)

(Or maybe that’s too much.)

Next time: The final cover.  I actually like it better than this one.

More to follow…

IT IS ACCOMPLISHED (SUPERMAN EDITION) PART 1

I know this may come as a complete and utter shock to people but I like Superman.

I’ll give you all a minute to let that sink in and allow you to compose yourselves.

I try to hide my love and adoration for Superman but the truth has to come out at some point and I might as well fess up here and now.

Because acceptance is the first step towards the healing.

Anyway, I have spent the last ten years or so making an effort to collect the Bronze Age era of Superman.  It’s been an on and off sort of thing as my world renowned short attention span sent me in other collecting directions but recently I have been rather focused in my pursuit and until last week I was three issues away from having a complete run of Superman (Vol. 1) from issues 231 to the present.  Those three issues were kind of a bugger to find too.  The comic shop I currently haunt had a great selection of Bronze Age Superman in the $3 box but issues 245, 252 and 272 were no where to be found.  I couldn’t find them at a decent price (or at all) at the various cons and one day shows I have attended in the past year either.

Frankly I was getting a tad annoyed.  I would find 252 occasionally with some insane price tag on it and think, “Wow, I am not at the point where I would be willing to spend that much money on a book,” but other than that nothing.  I found it sort of amusing that these elusive books were all 100 Page Spectaculars but other than that they had nothing in common.  Finally I got impatient and went to my last hope; eBay.  After thirty minutes or so of looking around I found all three issues in the condition and price range I considered reasonable.  Over the next the next three days I plan to post scans of the covers and do the blog version of an End Zone dance to celebrate this occasion.

And, as I am fond of writing, here we go…

This is my least favorite of the books so far as the covers go.  The Superman standing by the logo looks more than a little off and the whole layout is just wonky.  I am glad to have the issue, though because I love these reprint issues.  The very idea of them is cool because there was a time when reprints of older comics were hard to find.  So these were (at the time) cheap ways to get a whole bunch of older comic stories.  When it comes to comics cheap is usually but not always good.

Next time: Neal Adams.

More to follow…