WHAT I BOUGHT: 04/16/2008

Decent week Superman wise.  Busiek’s last issue, Tangent stuff, a Bronze Age issue, a couple of guest appearances and a tenuous connection.

And here we go.

Superman Vol.1 #675

The last Busiek issue.  Definitely going to review this later.

Oh yeah, I bought the variant.

Superman Vol.1 #675

I don’t really know how to feel about the Galactic Golem, but we’ll see how that goes.

Next up is a Bronze Age book containing a story that many people consider a classic.

Superman #247

I have some definite opinions on this story, so this will get a post too.

Oh yes, it will get a post.

This next one was a lock simply because of the cover.

Brave and the Bold #12

Superman.  Supergirl.  Ultraman.  George Perez cover.  Mark Waid writing.  Jerry Orway drawing.

I am so there.

The second to last is here only because the name Superman is on the cover. 

Tangent: Superman's Reign #2

I’m a big Tangent fan, so I am looking forward to this.

Finally, a very tenous connection since it is a Superman villain (or villains I guess) and not Superman himself, but I still think it counts.

Salvation Run #6

I have been enjoying this series quite a bit.  Any time Lex and the Joker face off is a must read for me.

So it looks to be a good week reading wise.  If not I’ll let you know.

More to follow…

“HUMOR” or MAN I AM REALLY TIRED

I wanted to post about the comics I bought today since I actually got my books on Wednesday this week, but I have been going in at five in the morning for three days in a row and did a lot of running around so I am tired.

Yeah, I know.  “Man up, Bailey.  This blog is more important than your petty concerns.”

I get it all the time.

Instead of posting a bunch of images and providing commentary I give you something I have wanted to do for a while now.  Sometimes I will see an image and a comment will pop up quite uncontrollably, which strikes me as funny.

Here’s one of those images.

Superman Returns Humor

“Uh, I like your drawing of us holding hands and eating lunch, Jimmy, but I don’t think this is the time.”

More to follow…

ACQUISITIONS FOR 04/15/08

You know, I don’t care what anyone says. I liked this story.

Death of Clark Kent TPB

Ah 1995. 

I mentioned in my Trial of Superman Acquisition Post that the latter part of that year was kind of the suck but the spring and summer?  A little rough in places but at the same time probably some of the best days of my late teen-aged life.  I was pretty much on my own, going to college, spending money I really didn’t have to spend, had a girlfriend and around the time this story hit I reunited with one of the best friends I will ever have.  One of the comics in this trade is Superman(Vol. 2) #100, which was part of a series of unconnected centennial issues that DC was kicking out that summer.  Flash, Green Arrow, Justice League America and Wonder Woman all had big time double sized issues to mark their ability to stay in print for one hundred months and to culminate huge events in their characters lives. 

Technically all of these books, including Superman had hit the hundred issue mark a month before thanks to Zero Month, but in comics it is not the actual anniversary that matters but when people choose to celebrate it.

“The Death of Clark Kent” was, to me, one of the best Post-Back-From-The-Dead Superman events the seeds of which were planted during the previously mentioned Zero Month when Kenny Braverman (a.k.a. Conduit) made his ret-conned first appearance.  I never had a problem with Kenny Braverman.  I thought then and think now that he was the natural end result of a Clark Kent who was a sports star in high school.  Conduit had a great origin and was a solid villain for Clark Kent and Superman. 

But maybe that’s just me.

Some of the people I have talked to don’t like this story very much.  My buddy Shag over at Once Upon a Geek told me that this was the story that made him drop the Superman books for a time.  He then told me that he got back into during the whole “Electro-Blue Superman” story.

Which to me is a lot like dumping a girl because she’s a little flaky and then getting back together with her after she gets out of prison for killing her last boyfriend.

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but I think I made my point.

Unlike the other trades I’ve purchased recently I have decided to go ahead and read this one right away instead of waiting to get to it in the ongoing re-reading of my Post-Crisis Superman run.  I have some plans for this story.

What plans?

More to follow…

SOME BRONZE AGE LOVE

You know, I’m going to take back a lot of the bad things I said about the Pre-Crisis Superman.

Superman Origin Story

Actually I didn’t bad mouth the Pre-Crisis Superman too much.  I can’t think of an iteration of the Man of Steel that I truly hate with the fire of a thousand suns but at the same time there are some eras that I prefer over others.  To paraphrase Lewis Grizzard I’m Post-Crisis born and Post-Crisis bred and when I die I’ll be Post Crisis dead.  I’m still not keen on the Silver Age.  Sure there are some great stories but when you read a bunch of them in one sitting they tend to run together. 

The Bronze Age though…that’s a different story.

A few years back (probably 2006 if I had to nail it down to a year) I started going though my Pre-Crisis DC stuff.  I have these things that I refer to as reading projects where instead of taking one of the series I own and read it all by it’s lonesome I will choose several somewhat connected series and read them in chronological order.  The up side to this is that sometimes you can see how a comic company evolves over a period of time.  The down side is that you have to slug through some real hunks of crap to get to the good stuff.  In this case I was reading all of my DC books in chronological order starting from cover date February 1976.   While my collection had some holes there was a good deal of Bronze Age Superman in there and much to my suprise I liked what I read.

In some cases I really liked it.

I really sold that era short in terms of characterization and continuity.  I may not like the concept of Superman being the real guy and Clark Kent the disguise but writers like Denny O’Neil,  Elliot S! Maggin, Marty Pasko, Gerry Conway and especially Cary Bates introduced and reintroduced a number of great characters and concepts. 

It may not be all wine and roses and it may not be “my” Superman, but I dig it and I definitely see the appeal.

So yeah, gonna take back a lot of the bad things I may have said.

More to follow…

WHAT I BOUGHT/ACQUISITIONS: COMIC WEEK 04/09/2008

Wow, this was a big week.

I didn’t set out for it to be such a big week, but between some very cheap acquisitions from my good buddy eBay and the comics I bought this week I am phat with Superman comics, which is good on one level and kind of overwhelming at the same time.

This post has so many covers to show that I am going to use the whole “Read More” feature for the first time.

That feels a lot more historic than it should.

Continue reading “WHAT I BOUGHT/ACQUISITIONS: COMIC WEEK 04/09/2008”

WELL, I WENT AHEAD AND DID IT ANYWAY

Wal-Mart has had all six seasons of Smallville currently available on DVD for $19.99 a piece for a little over a week now.

I’ve been in Wal-Mart several times over the past week getting groceries and other necessities and have walked past those DVDs, stopped, walked back, stared at them and then kept going.

I didn’t have seasons 5 and 6.  Just haven’t gotten around to buying them yet.

Tonight I did.

Sigh.

As much as I bad mouth the show I feel like a bit of a fraud buying them.

See, it’s not that I hate Smallville.  I just haven’t liked it since the hundredth episode.  I thought they just wussed out by killing Jonathan and not killing Lana and there’s the fact that they are producing a young adult drama and trading in on the Superman name to do it.  So between those reasons and my complete inability to follow episodic television I didn’t see an episode of the series with the exception of the Justice League episode and the one after it and always thought, “Well, I’ll just buy them when they come out on DVD,” which is the television version of waiting for the trade I suppose.

Both seasons came out and I just didn’t buy them mostly because when I did half-ass want them it was a week where money was tight.

And now I have them.

 

Because they were $20.

 

Or at least that is what I keep telling myself.

More to follow…

ACQUISITIONS FOR 04/09/2008

Ah, another trade from the mid-nineties.

Superman Vs. The Revenge Squad  TPB

In all honesty I can’t remember this story at all.  Unlike The Trial of Superman, which I have very little memory of because of the upheaval in my life at the time I can’t recall the books in this trade because, well let’s just say they wouldn’t make the cut for the third volume of the greatest Superman stories ever told. 

I’m currently re-reading my Post-Crisis Superman books so I will get to these issues eventually.

If they’re as bad as I remember hopefully I’ll forget them again.

Here’s the back cover.

Revenge Squad Trade TPB

In case you were curious the characters on this back cover are: (from left to right) Anomaly, Misa, Maxima, Riot and Barrage.

More to follow…

REVIEW: ACTION COMICS #863

WARNING: The reviews presented on this blog are usually written a week or so after the book has been released to allow for the reader to have a chance to read it. However, in case you haven’t read the book consider this a SPOILER WARNING and know that all aspects of the issue will be covered and should read this later in case you don’t want it ruined. Thank you for your time and attention.

And now, on with the review.

Action Comics #863

I really need to hold off on reading other people’s reviews before writing my own.

Two thoughts that kind of stood out from the pack as I was reading this final chapter of “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” were:

“Wow, this turned out to be a Superman story after all.”

And…

“You know, I get where Geoff Johns is coming from and I respect him as a writer and I have been digging his run on Action Comics but I just don’t like the idea of playing Superman as an outsider.”

And my buddy Neal Bailey pretty much makes both points  over in his review of Action Comics #863 at the Superman Homepage and does it quite well as he is a fantastic writer.

Sigh.

See, if I hadn’t read his review than I could have written about both points with a clear conscience and not given the matter a second thought and if someone would comment, “Hey, Neal Bailey wrote the same thing over at the Homepage!  What gives?”  I could have replied, “Really?  I had no idea.”  But I can’t do that now and have to somehow work it into the review without looking like I’m ripping off a fellow Superman reviewer.

And I hope you enjoyed it.

At any rate, this was a very satisfying end to a very enjoyable story.  Sure there were times when it felt like this was more of a Legion story than a Superman story, but I am enough of a Legion fan that it didn’t bother me too much.  I dug the plot and I liked the themes that Johns explored, especially the correlation between Earth Man & the Justice League of the 31st Century and the Legion of Substitute Heroes.  Geoff Johns did what he does best; take characters that haven’t had a chance to shine in quite some time and have a small yet loyal following and make them freaking awesome

I mean the man made Polar Boy a bad ass.  That takes talent.

Superman took back control of his original book in fine style in this final chapter.  The pacing of Superman getting his powers back was so spot on and it gave me a charge that I haven’t had in a Superman book in quite some time, especially when Superman hovering above the ground after realizing his powers had kicked back in and then “standing up” while still in the air.  The look of awe on the kid and alien’s face sold the moment, which made the next moment (where Superman frees the alien, saves her from an overzealous law enforcer and announcing, “I’m for everyone.”) that much more powerful.  The fight with Earth Man was also satisfying on a level that can only be reached by Superman not getting to do all that much for the majority of the arc.  I wanted this fight.  I needed to see this fight and the two page spread of Superman revealing that the Legion had his back gave me another fan surge.

And you can’t beat Superman the Legion standing in front of the Earth and telling the various aliens who have come to start a serious ruckus that there isn’t going to be a war today.

It is great to be this excited about Superman.

The reason I didn’t have too much of a problem with the “Superman as outsider” theme is that Johns made it work, especially in the last scene.  The joy and relief Clark felt after returning to his present came through in the writing and art and the little touch of him wearing the costume was neat as well.  Sure I don’t agree with the whole “Superman as an outsider” thing.  Sure I think that Superman works best when he is confident in his duel heritage and primarily think of himself as human.  Sure, I think that the stranger in a strange land bit is something that past Superman writers have beaten to death.  Despite all of that I was still touched at the fact that this new version of Clark had finally found some friends he could talk and relate to in a way that he never could with Lana and Pete.

(There is also the matter of the costume that the young Clark is obviously wearing.  I have this theory that the current regime at DC wants to bring back the concept that Superman was at one point Superboy.  I think they are chomping at the bit for it but the legal quagmire they’re locked into with the Siegels prevents them from doing so at the moment.  I am willing to put good money down on the fact that if DC is allowed to utter the word “Superboy” again and the previously mentioned current regime is still in power that you will see a Kal-El Superboy at the very least put back into the history and at most a new Superboy title.  But maybe that’s just me.)

Gary Frank’s art is still taking some getting used to.  It’s not bad.  The man has talent and he really nailed the splash pages and big moments as well as the smaller, more emotional scenes.  My only problem is that for the most park all of his character appear to have just gotten off either meth or heroin.  They share this tired, “Man, I’m glad I got off the horse,” look that is hard to get behind.  It’s not bad and I hope he stays on the book for awhile because he has a wonderful sense of page composition and his art is rather good, but still…his style creeps me out at times.

Overall a great ending to a great story.  Things are definitely looking up for the Superman books as a whole especially with the books starting to kind of link again sometime later this year.  Then again I still miss the whole Triangle Numbering system so I am very biased in that regard.  Johns has a solid take on the character and I look forward to what he has in store, especially the upcoming Toyman issue.

More to follow…

REVIEW: ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #10

WARNING: The reviews presented on this blog are usually written a week or so after the book has been released to allow for the reader to have a chance to read it.  However, in case you haven’t read the book consider this a SPOILER WARNING and know that all aspects of the issue will be covered and should read this later in case you don’t want it ruined.  Thank you for your time and attention.

And now, on with the review.

All-Star Superman #10

A lot of people really like this title and believe it to be the best Superman book in ages.

I don’t think I’m one of them.

It’s not that I think the book is bad in any way.  The writing is good.  I’m not always thrilled with Frank Quitely’s art, but that’s because I don’t really care for his take on Superman, but I can’t say that it is inferior in anyway.  The storyline  is well thought and Morrison is obviously having a ball.

And yet I still don’t care for it all that much.

I guess it boils down to the fact that I don’t like this version of Superman.  Morrison is doing his own thing but he is still working in the Silver/Bronze Age framework with a heavier emphasis on the Silver Age more often than not.  I’m not a big fan of the Silver Age.  I don’t hate it, I just don’t prefer it either. 

Overall I did enjoy this issue.  It was interesting to see Superman getting his affairs in order before he dies.  On an emotional level I really got into “Neverending” and appreciated it on that level.

My problems rest in the particulars of the story.  I’m a pretty simple soul when it comes to Superman.  I like a grounded, down to Earth take on the Man of Steel.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the imagination involved in crafting the far out and cosmic flavored stories, I just don’t care for them.  I know, I know.  Superman has all of these fantastic powers so his stories should be fantastic as well.  I’m not down with that.  Then again I got into Superman during the late eighties and early nineties when his stories were a little more grounded, so that explains the bias.  I think the more real world the surroundings are the more super Superman appears.

So when Superman creates a whole new Earth as part of an experiment there is this involuntary eye roll.  It’s interesting, just not my bag so to speak though the bit at the end with one of the denizens of Earth-Q creating Superman in a comic book was a nice touch.  A little much, but a nice touch.

In the end while I had my personal quibbles I liked this book.  Sure Quitely still draws the cape too short for my tastes the writing and the art gel in this book and make it something special.  A lot of people seem to be responding to this story and that’s good.  Despite my overall feeling I do look forward to seeing how this particular storyline wraps up.

More to follow…

The Siegel Ruling: My Thoughts

Well it’s been a week since the news hit the Internet that the Siegels won a key battle in their litigation with Time Warner and for the moment they own fifty percent of the copyright to Superman. Reactions have been mixed and have ranged from entertaining to downright frustrating. I’ve been thinking about the whole thing for the better part of the week and here are my thoughts and feelings on the subject.

For those wanting the particulars you can get more information HERE and HERE.

The problem I’ve had writing this thing is that I didn’t know how to break down my thoughts in a way that anyone besides me would want to read. To keep things kind of simple I broke it down to the major questions surrounding the issue. It’s complicated or at least the way I feel is complicated so I thought that would be the best way to deal with it.

And here we go…

1. Do I think the Siegels deserved to be on the winning side of this ruling?

Well, yes and no. Frankly they are well within their rights to have sued for the rights thanks to the late Sonny Bono (who, by the way, played Mayor Frank Berkowitz in a first season episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) when he kicked started legislation that amended and changed the way heirs and estates could seek to recapture copyrights. So when it comes to the letter of the law they are entitled to do what they have done and since it is one of those laws that involve creative and intellectual properties I really can’t get all that upset about it since the law doesn’t impede on anyone’s civil rights and doesn’t, for example, tell a person they can’t drink out of that water fountain because they aren’t the right color.

That doesn’t mean that I agree with it. If Jerry Siegel was still alive and wanted to get the copyright back because the laws changed to allow him to do so then I would more than likely be behind him all the way. But this isn’t Jerry Siegel wanting to get the copyright back. It’s his widow and daughter. There is something to be said of Joanne and Laura having to live with Jerry’s struggle, especially Laura who had to deal with what her father went through her entire life. On the other hand there seems to be some evidence that some of what Jerry Siegel went through was kind of his own fault. I am not trying to say that he wasn’t screwed over. I’m simply saying that the apocryphal tale that Siegel and Shuster were the Davy and that DC Comics, in its many forms, was the evil Goliath set to keep all of the money for themselves and give nothing to Superman’s creators doesn’t ring true and is a tad naïve.

So it had to be rough for Joanne and Laura but that doesn’t mean I think they should have control of the copyright, but more on that in a bit.

2. Do I think that if you are against the Siegels in one form or another that you are against creator’s rights?

No, and what a stupid thing to say.

What is happening with the Siegels and creator’s rights are pretty different. Again, we’re not talking about someone claiming their intellectual property. We’re talking about an estate wanting money because of what their late husband and father created over seventy years ago. Do they deserve the money? Maybe. I mean DC and Warner Brothers were paying Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster a pension of sorts and if that pension extended to their heirs than by all means they deserve the money if the same deal that would have allowed Jerry Siegel to get the copyright back extends to them. But saying you don’t think that the estate deserves the money isn’t saying that a creator doesn’t deserve to be compensated if their creation becomes financially successful. There is a world of difference between saying that a person who creates a financially successful property deserves to be compensated and saying that the family of the dead creator deserves to be compensated for something they didn’t create.

A little harsh? Yes. If I created something that made a billion dollars in licensing would I want my wife and eventual children to still get a piece of that after I shuffled off this mortal coil? Yes, but I would make sure that such a thing was included in any kind of will that I would have written. Do I think Jerry Siegel would have wanted his family to be taken care of? More than likely, but the laws were different when he was alive and the Siegels are taking advantage of an amendment made after his death, which, like I said, is their right to do so even if I don’t agree with it.

3. So why don’t I agree with it?

This breaks down into two parts really.

Part one has to do with the fact that the Superman in Action Comics #1 is not the Superman currently running around in the comics and animated series and movies and so on. The only similarities is that Superman is Clark Kent, he was rocketed from a dying world as a baby, found by a kindly old couple and went on to work for a major metropolitan newspaper where he meets some woman named Lois Lane. Those are integral to the mythos, so to speak, but the supporting cast; Perry White, Jonathan and Martha Kent (originally it was John and Mary), Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Metallo and so on were all created later, sometimes decades later and sometimes, in the case of Jimmy Olsen, in another medium altogether. There is a difference between being the defender of truth, justice and the American Way and being the champion of the weak and oppressed, though Superman did spout that particular line at least once during the Silver Age. Since the late forties Superman would never level a slum to force the government to build new, better housing or declare war on all unsafe drivers. I’m not suggesting that one is better than the other, it’s just the Superman we all think of when we think of Superman is in just about every important way totally different from the one that was originally presented in Action Comics #1. The spirit is still there, but the trappings aren’t.

Is that important?

Yes, and that leads into the second part which is the only reason the Siegels are able to get a sizable chunk of money for all domestic Superman related products and such since 1999 is that DC Comics (through the various publishers, editors, writers, artists and such) were in control of the character.

My opinions on this matter stems from an interview I read with Will Eisner in a book titled Comic Book Rebels. Here’s the passage:

CBR: Do you agree this has been the greatest injustice against creators-that it’s always been assumed in this particular industry that it’s the publisher who should own all rights to a character or comic book title?

Eisner: Injustice or rip-off is not a fair description. There are two sides to it. A publisher-just as the artist-works within the framework of what the market will bear. The publisher essentially felt he needed to have ownership because what he was doing was investing his money on a property, and he was not about to waive proprietorship. The publisher saw is in the long term and was prepared to promote, develop and sustain the property. The creating artist neither had the resources or staying power. As a matter of fact-and this is a fact-there isn’t a major superhero that has survived through today that is still being done by its originator.

Superman and Batman, for example, are the result of years of exploitation and creative refinement by many, many brilliant artists and writers. Thousand and thousands of dollars in investing in promotion and exploiting of ancillary product. Which the publisher claims he might not have done if he didn’t own the property-or if his lease on that property was at the whim of some artist. On the other hand, the artist could not do it all himself. The real unfairness lay in the fact that creators did not share n the form of royalty. It took many years for that to happen.

Two things stand out to me in that quote; one, it is unfair that Siegel and Shuster didn’t get more money, something that was rectified to a certain extent in the mid-seventies when Neal Adams and others pretty much shamed DC and Warner Brothers into coughing up some much deserved money. Bear in mind that I am not in anyway saying that Siegel and Shuster weren’t screwed out of a lot of cash because I think they were.

On the other hand the only reason Superman got as successful and remained in consistent publication even during the times when comic books were on life support is that a big company was pumping money into the property and keeping it in the public consciousness. I’m not saying everything the various powers that be have done over the years have been all sunshine and lollipops but at the same time to not give DC and it’s various owners credit for keeping Superman alive is unfair.

So to me, while I believe that the Siegels are entitled (not deserve, entitled) to a good deal of money I don’t think they should have any say in the day to day business of Superman. I just don’t think they’re qualified and being the widow and daughter of a creator doesn’t automatically mean they you can step into a creative role.

4. What happens next?

From the looks of it a lot of legal maneuvering. From the most recent update it seems that the word settlement is in everyone involved’s future. Things are far from over and then there’s the fact that the Shuster estate can get involved in a few years and that the character goes into public domain in 2033.

So again, what happens next?

Best case scenario (to me): The Siegels and Warner Brothers come to a financial agreement that leaves the day to day publishing duties to Warner Brothers and DC. Joanne and Laura collect royalties and DC and Warner Brothers continue to crank out comic books, movies, television series, etc. The only downside here is that DC and Warner Brothers might be reticent to start new titles or movie projects because of the money they would have to pay, but given how much money was wasted on getting a new Superman movie together before Superman Returns it seems like this is something that can be worked around. Warner Brothers settles with the Shuster Estate as well and they get a nice bit of cash. As long as everybody remains calm and doesn’t get too greedy things would be different but relatively normal.

Worst case scenario (again, to me): DC loses fifty percent of the copyright to the Siegels and then fifty percent to the Shuster estate and no longer has any control over the core components of Superman. They either have to create an entirely new character thus having to start continuity over yet again or cease publishing the comics. Superman becomes a character like the Lone Ranger or the Green Hornet; something controlled by an estate. Bad management leads the character to lapse into obscurity and Superman becomes a footnote in the history of culture.

Do I think either will happen? Well, more the first than the second but I honestly believe that no one knows where this is all going to end up.

5. Am I worried?

Honestly?

A little. Yeah. But not too much and not enough to get truly upset. I still have all of my Superman comics. I will still be able to buy back issues and, as long as they are published, trades and DVDs and all of that. I am hoping for the best but somewhat preparing for the worst.

In the end what will be, will be. I hate to get all Zen about the whole thing but there are very few people that have control over the situation and most of us are merely commentators on what is unfolding.

It is interesting, though. I can certainly say that. This thing may end up being the big comic book story of 2008. For right now, though, I’m going to sit and read and wait and comment when I feel the need.

More to follow…