Installment One

Triangular Introductions

I’ve been a very happy Superman fan as of late.

“But, Mike,” you might say as you always might say in these imaginary conversations that we often have, “Didn’t you think of dropping the Superman titles last month?  And now that I think about it didn’t you also lose your damn mind back in December or so when it was announced that Superman was being taken out of his own book?  What’s up with that?  Why the sudden change of heart?  Wait a second.  Are you really Mike?  You type like Mike.  You “sound” like Mike, but there is always the chance that you are an impostor.  Who are you and what have you done with Mike?”

Well, maybe your inner dialogue won’t go that far but I think you get the point.  Yes, I did think of dropping the Superman books.  Yes I had a fanboy meltdown a month or so back, but I’m better now.  The therapy is going well and the little yellow pills make me feel…better.  In any case I have made peace with my “inner demons” and am ready to embrace the future filled with excitement, vim, vigor and even pep, though not Kellog’s Pep because that stuff was discontinued decades ago.  I don’t even want to think what would pour out of a forites era box of Pep.  That might be a horror show.

Digressions aside I have been content as a Superman fan for the past month or so.  The New Krypton storyline has been fantastic from the very beginning with great writing and solid art, but my enjoyment stems from more than that really.  I know the real reason that I am digging the books so much and it has been on just about every Superman or Superman related cover for several months now.

I’m talking of course about the triangles.

The triangle numbering system is back, yo.  It might be temporary.  For all I know it could be over and done with forever after the New Krypton saga ends but for the moment it is back.  More than that, though, there is another Superman title out there even if it is just a max-series.  Superman: World of New Krypton #1 hit the stands last week and did so with a great introduction to the next phase of New Krypton.  It helps that it was written by Greg Rucka and James Robinson.  So between Superman: World of New Krypton, Action Comics, Superman and Supergirl the Superman family of titles is once again weekly for all intents and purposes.  There have been rumblings of a few specials thrown in for good measure and if we’re lucky those will hit on the “skip weeks” of “fifth weeks” depending on how you want to describe a month with five Wednesdays instead of the usual four.

The whole affair just takes me back to happier days, at least for me.  For eleven years or so the Superman titles were linked by similar triangles.  This started in 1991 with Superman (Vol. 2) #51 and was meant to give readers a heads up on where the books fit in the overall story.  Starting with baby steps in 1988 the two Superman titles, Superman and Adventures of Superman[1. With Action Comics Weekly serving as an anthology book from issue 601 until 642.] made up a kind of bi-weekly comic book about Superman.  The Exile storyline showed that such a storytelling process could work and work well and over the next two years the books were connected but not in any kind of official way.  In late 1990 they finally decided to make it official and thus the Triangle Numbering System was born.

Some have referred to it as the Never Ending Battle System as well but in either case the Superman titles had a reading order and for years that is how I filed my Superman books, even the earlier Post Crisis books.  My Superman collection started with Man of Steel and was arranged chronologically from there.  Annuals were tricky but all I had to do was look on the back and match up the ads to know when they were published.  Mini-series and such were placed after the main books followed by the Pre-Crisis issues I had at the time and then Steel, Superboy and Supergirl with the adaptations and based on books bringing up the rear.  The Superman titles came out on a near weekly basis starting later in 1991 when Superman: The Man of Steel joined the already back from weekly heck Action Comics and then in 1995 they were weekly when the quarterly Superman: The Man of Tomorrow to the line-up.

Man I loved that era.  I really did.  Sure things weren’t always composed of 100% Awesome.  Sometimes the storylines dragged on and there were other times that I just flat out didn’t like what was going on.  At the same time though there was a comfort level to the publication schedule that couldn’t be beat.  I knew that every week or just about every week I could go to the shop and there would be a new Superman book waiting for me and I didn’t realize what I had in that until in true Cinderella fashion I didn’t know what I had until it was gone.  I mean there were times when I thought that there shouldn’t be so many Superman books.

Three things caused me to go down that particular thought process the first being that they took away the Triangle Numbering System from me in late 2001.  Action Comics #785 saw the last triangle until Superman: New Krypton #1 in 2008.  Suddenly the books weren’t connected anymore unless a storyline happened to be running through them such as Return to Krypton II and Ending Battle, which oddly enough is getting the trade paperback treatment later this year probably because Geoff Johns had a hand in that.  Actually Ending Battle was supposed to be the last time the books connected for years but every once in a while the four and then three books would join forces to fight a common foe with such stories as Lost Hearts, Strange New Visitor, Godfall, Lightning Strikes and Sacrifice.  Other than that they were on their own, which sometimes worked and sometimes…didn’t.

The second reason was that because the books weren’t connected buying the books went from reading one big story to reading three stories of varying quality and likability.  I mean the books were kind of their own beast starting in 1999 but this is when the sub-plots running through the by then four titles[2. Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was cancelled in 1999.] disappeared.  At this point we were at the mercy of whatever creative team happened to be on a particular title, which after a time got annoying because I had become accustomed to one form of storytelling and suddenly that was taken away.  Suddenly I was left without the safety net of knowing how everything fit together.  Was that my own fault?  Yeah, I’ll cop to that but at the same time some habits are hard to break.

The third and final reason is that for some reason after the Triangle Numbering System was taken away the books seemed to drop in quality across the board.  Sure Greg Rucka and Gail Simone did bang up jobs on Adventures of Superman and Action Comics during their respective runs there was also Joe Casey, Steven T. Seagle and Chuck Austen to contend with.  By 2004 I was very much on the side of cutting  some books because I thought I would rather have two good Superman books a month than three or four that I didn’t enjoy as much, Rucka and Simone being the exceptions.  Eventually I got my wish.  After Infinite Crisis there was only Superman[3. Taking back the numbering that Adventures of Superman had “stolen” in 1986.] and Action Comics and when those books started their rollar coaster publication schedule I realized I missed having a Superman book every week.  Missed it like crazy.  This is further proof that there is something to the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Now both the “weekly” schedule and the triangles are back and that makes me happy.  I personally hope that it sticks around for a few years until fans get sick of it again because they will.  Oh yes.  They will.  Of this I am certain.  It’s just how things work.  High and lows.  The ebb and flow.  Comics, like most entertainment for the past forty years or so, is cyclical.  For now, though, I will kick back and enjoy it, content in the memories of old combined with the stories of today.

So yeah, I’m a happy Superman fan.  For now at least and in all honesty that is enough for now.

Now if only they would continue to collect the Post Crisis Superman run beyond the first year worth of books.

That would be awesome.

More to follow…

Fortress Footnotes

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