Archive for the ‘My Big Bad Superman Page’ Category

My Big Bad Superman Page

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

A guy who reads as many old Superman comics as I do needs to come across Superman sometimes…

SVMA

SVMA

Superman versus Muhammad Ali – I keep reading the hardcover bound graphic novels looking for great stories, and I usually only get great art (if I’m lucky). But this classic from 1978 has it all! In a time when there was a Superman vs Spider-Man Marvel-DC crossover story, DC worked with promoter Don King to come up with their version of this concept, also in giant-size (which is sadly not reproduced here). But everything else is there, and the layout of the new material at the front and back is also very good.

While there’s a silly framing story (aliens want to destroy the earth, as our species is too warlike and may some day prove a danger to other star systems, therefore Superman, Muhammad Ali and an alien champion must fight a gladiator match to determine Earth’s fate), but it sort of works. It’s so great to see Muhammad Ali kick alien buns. There’s also the classic wraparound cover, which it reproduced inside the book, with a table of who everyone is, and we get the Jacksons, Curt Vonnegut, two Presidents (Ford and Carter) and their wives, Cher, Andy Warhol, Sergio Aragones, Joe Namath, Pele, the Osmonds, Wolfman Jack, Sinatra, Ron Howard, William Gaines, Raquel Welch, Liberace, Johnny Carson, Christopher Reeve, Lucille Ball and Sonny Bono, not to mention fictional characters such as DC heroes and characters from their world (Alfred Pennyworth, for example), and even Alfred E Neuman! Of course, everybody had to give permission to have their likeness on the cover, which delayed publication, and some didn’t give it – George C Scott and Caroll O’Connor, for example – but enough did to fill a huge audience. Great!

The art, by Neal Adams, is a knockout, of course, and each drawing exudes class for a full 72 pages (and there’s sample sketches in the back too). The drawings of Ali are also very nice, as are his rants and boasts. Love it. Of course, they have to let the two men fight on even terms, so Superman is brought into the vicinity of a red sun, which strips him of his powers and makes him a normal man. “The crowd’s gone wild!” I like the part where Superman is nearly defeated, and he challenges himself to think of a solution. Yes, he uses his brain to get out of pickles and to save the earth, which is more than he did in the disappointing “Death Of Superman” stories, where he couldn’t think of any other way to take on Doomsday other than to use his fists.

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TDOS

The Death Of Superman – As usual with DC comics, they look great, but the writing is not so hot.

In this case, we get Superman, trapped in a cheesy TV interview, missing the first rounds of the battle with Doomsday, a sort of evil Incredible Hulk that crushes little birdies and chokes Bambi for fun (he also destroys houses and cars). Doomsday’s escape from his prison, initially with one hand tied behind his back (the mysterious/ominous Cadmus Project is implicated), is quite cool to see, and to the writers’ credit, they keep Doomsday’s origins a secret for a long time, which is good – from what I’ve read about it, it’s fascinating. More fun to come.

There are human interest stories thrown in – a long-haired kid from Ohio who seems like a mini Axl Rose, Keith the orphan, Charlie the homeless man who is a mole in the Underworld/Warworld, not to forget our friend Bibbowski; but we get past these stories and observe that awesome trail of destruction. The new Justice League Of America gets involved, and we get a whiff of the politics and the bickering that these people are all about (Bloodwynd, Guy Gardner, etc), as they get beaten to a pulp. As usual, the media is always present, and we get lots of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and Cat Grant, Perry White… But, petty soon it becomes all about Superman, and the exertion of his final battle.

Lex Luthor (supposedly the son of Lex, but in actuality Lex himself) turns up, as does his girlfriend Supergirl (!?!?). More craziness to come in that area in the following “A World Without Superman” graphic novel.

What I don’t like about the book is that Superman’s brain is obviously turned off in his final battle. His opening move with Doomsday is to take his punch to the chest, initially without flinching… but a second blow shoots him out the door. Our heroes even figure out how to destroy the restraints that keep Doomsday’s right arm pinned behind his back, giving him two fists instead of one. Clever! Even with my non-cartoon, human brain, I can think of a dozen ways Superman could have used his powers to render Doomsday inert. But Supes decides to go with brute force to destroy the brute, meeting him on his own terms (Doomsday seems to have limited analytical skills). Why do this, when Superman is well known for his brains and knowledge of science? Seems crazy to me. Which is why I like the Superman Vs Muhammad Ali story, with its clever plotting, and its clever Superman; this Superman seems a bit thick, and so maybe he deserved what he got.

Aesthetically, it’s grandiose how the panels reduce from four per page, to three, to two, to one for the final issue. Must had been cool to see these come out at the time. While the formula may seem limiting, they do handle it in a clever way, and there’s a lot of variety. Nice.

But, as always, the story doesn’t end here…

WWAS

WWAS

World Without A Superman – Collecting seven issues of the various Superman-linked titles (and two Supergirl titles), which follow the actual death of Superman, these stories are tales of grieving, and there’s a lot of focus on Ma and Pa Kent (Pa suffers a heart attack, and we don’t know if he’ll make it or not – he sure is spending a lot of time in limbo trying to decide whether to live on or to pass on). And there’s Lois’ grieving, and Bibbowski’s as well (the Batman even shows up once or twice as well). Mostly these stories jump around the place, with a lot of emphasis on a few characters, such as Lois, Lex Luthor Jr (who shows more and more of his true colors), and the Cadmus Project people. It marks a pretty good interlude and lead-up to Superman’s return. There sure are a lot of Superman stories, despite the fact that there’s no more Superman… he may have died, but his titles weren’t cancelled! For some reason, Dubillex is a main player here.

We get the aftermath of the battle, and attempts to revive Superman. As the bodies are taken away, there’s discussion of what to do with Superman’s corpse – the key plot point, actually. The newspapers and media report it, the world grieves, Ma and Pa Kent agonize, Lois grieves, even Lex Luthor grieves… that he wasn’t the one to pull the plug on Superman! Lobo freaks out about it, Batman freaks out, Bill and Hilary give a speech! The Axl Rose kid from Ohio blames himself, and there’s quite a lot of talking. Wonder Woman and gang open up Superman’s Christmas mail bag and go around do-gooding – reuniting families, etc. It’s about heroes helping humans with their day-to-day problems, subtle stuff (no invincible opponents here). Gangbusters reappears, Superman’s corpse gets stolen (!!!), and more battles with Underworld. Stories with Guardian are quite Kirby-esque. Weird to see the Newsboy Legion live on in clone form, though – why do those guys need to be resurrected, they were always too goofy to be taken seriously, and this is not a goofy storyline! We get the introduction of more clones, like Auron, cloned from Guardian but trained to be a slave… like the clone troopers in Star Wars. Underworlders help Lois recover Superman’s body from Cadmus, and Lex Luthor has a corny training session with beautiful female black belts… and he takes his revenge out on one of them that gets a kick in… ridiculous. Isn’t this what Kingpin used to do? Lois has dream sequences, and so does Pa Kent when he goes into a coma. Quite a cool wander through history – wheat fields, the Korean war, the young Clark, all sorts of fun stuff… Inane episodes, like Turtle Boy, and the emergence of Kismet. Looks cool! Nice cliffhanger at the end too!

Overall the collection is a lot of fun, coming after the grim and thuggish Death Of Superman series, and we open up many cans of worms. Enjoy this one! Naturally, the art and layouts are impeccable, with one issue drawn by Walt Simonson.

return_supes

The Return of Superman – Finishing off a trilogy of books that started with The Death Of Superman, which was followed by A World Without Superman, The Return of Superman tells just that tale – how Superman returns from the dead. The story starts off well, with the readers trying to figure out just what these four new Supermans (an “Iron Man” Superman who never claims to be the original, a young clone who kinds sorta is Superman, a cyborg Superman who passes the DNA test, and a visored Superman who’s more like Marvel’s Punisher than DC’s Superman) are all about. One of the sad points of the book is that none of these new Supermans gets a proper name (worst of all is “the visored Superman”, a term used dozens of times). Lex Luthor and Supergirl play in the story, as do a few rival news journalists, Ma and Pa Kent, the Justice League Of America shows up just to be sent on a wild goose chase, the annoying Guy Gardiner gets a few panels, and of course there’s Lois Lane. Sadly, the story gets stupid pretty fast, there are a few interesting teasers about bigger and better things to come (in particular those that involve Doomsday), then the villain reveals himself… to be someone completely obscure!! So obscure Superman himself barely remembers him when he reveals his secret identity!! Superman’s reincarnation is also never satisfactorily explained. There are many more letdown moments in the final act, and the story thuds to a halt with a big fat Clark-Lois smoocheroo! Oh well…

In between it jumps all over the place and back and forth: there’s a silly gang war, a gunrunner called White Rabbit and her gang of freaks (turns out her name is “Angora Lapin”!!!), some brutal violence (in the gang war guys get blown to bits and burned alive – ewww!!!), Bibbo provides some bizarre comic relief when he takes a shot at wearing the cape, then there’s some silly cult of Superman action with riots between opposing factions of Superman worshippers (seriously – even I couldn’t make up something this nutty),  John Henry philosophizing about Henry Irons, the cyborg Superman disposing of a dead-but-not-so-dead Doomsday by casting him out into space rather than throwing him into the heart of the sun – d’oh!! Strange dedication to “Jerry Ordway, whose quality of work encouraged us all”. (seems kind of a wimpy way to pay tribute to someone… ). Superboy takes on mobsters, Guardian hangs around, more gang warfare, White Rabbit wants to take on Superman (as if?!), the story gets dragged out and dragged out and dragged out… Lex Luthor paces and threatens but doesn’t do much other than fly a helicopter out to see Superman and have an angry conversation with him. Huh?!?! Tana Moon, lesbian police captain Sawyer, some nutty obituary for Clark Kent, written by his successor Ron Troupe, which involves the cyborg Superman, the White House, and all sorts of other nonsense. The Stinger pops in for some fun and mayhem, then disappears forever, Superman hatches from an egg (!?!?!?), the Supermans fight each other as well as bad guys, aliens arrive, and then it starts to get really messy!!!! Although it has its moments – the apparent murder/death of two of the Supermans is pretty interesting, and destruction takes on a whole new scale!! Sleazy managers, corrupt studio executives, unstoppable robot carriages, “doom” sound effects (what’s that supposed to mean?), walking from Antarctica to Metropolis across the ocean floor (Huh?? Why?!?!), weird robot battles, Supergirl accidentally throwing a robot onto her boyfriend’s chopper (!?!?!?), and then the weirdest scene in the history of comics – the robot shits out Superman!! WTF, people, WTF?!?!?!?!??????? Love Supes’ new all-black uniform with the silver shield on the chest and the silver wristlets… but what’s with the silver toe thimbles (later on he gets silver boots – okay, less yucky)? And the Super-mullet? Superboy Bucky Barnes-like on a missile that’s shooting off to destroy Metropolis… Hmmm…  The cyborg’s ability to Freddy Kruger-like take over all machinery is quite weird, actually, as is his “pity I didn’t think of this sooner” realization (corny). Green Lantern, of course, pops in for no apparent reason, and then it appears that somehow kryptonite has the opposite effect on Superman than we always thought it did – rather than killing him, here it strengthens his powers. Say what?!?!

However, despite all of these criticisms, the Return of Superman is probably still better than the other two in the series. The art is (mostly) quite amazing (Supergirl – hot!!), and there seems to be more focus on Superboy than the other Supermen, at least initially. As a reinvention of Superman, the images here are pretty radical – a heavily-armed “Rambo Superman” one that comes to mind immediately, but there are so many – and each issue ends on a genuine cliffhanger that would have made following the original publications quite thrilling month-upon-month; however, collected, the story loses that effect and seems weak in comparison.

Superboy meets the machine gun hookers. Love it!!

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Bubba meets the “cyborg Superman”. How young we were, how naive…

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What’s with the “doom” footstep sounds?

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That superboy really cracks me up!!

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Superboy… deep!

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The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in a comic book: the Superrobot shits out Superman!!

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And, of course, he’s pretty badass…

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Superman… meet Super-mullet!

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