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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

90s_revisited

Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

Justice_League_America_0069_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #18

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0018Doomsday! part one

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/45

It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty five years since this issue was new! This cover remains one of the most iconic I can think of, certainly extremely recognizable at a glance for me. It’s the cover that started things off for The Death of Superman saga, and has remained locked in memory for me ever since.

Unfortunately, though we get some scenes of Doomsday tearing up the landscape–first as he digs/punches his way up/out of the prison he was contained in and then starting to make his way wherever it is he’s going (including squishing a random bird that landed upon his outstretched hand)–we have zero interaction between the creature and Superman himself…until the very end of the issue, no one even seems to know there’s anything important starting at all. As such, it hardly seems like this ought to be the opening chapter…this could have been a prologue issue instead of the first chapter, even part of a multi-issue prologue/prelude thing (along with the Justice League America issue), leaving Superman #74 as the actual opening chapter. But then, that’s the way I’ve been "conditioned" on modern comics to think, where "everything" is an event or an event prologue or there’s an event leading into another event that’s the prologue to the Really Big Event.

Instead, this issue is basically "just" another issue of Superman: The Man of Steel. The issue opens with Doomsday emerging from his confinement, then switches to the current moment in the ongoing continuity of the Superman titles. Interspersed with the creature’s emergence, we have an orphan boy–Keith–trying to find his mom, as Lois Lane investigates a tip about a danger threatening Metropolis. Underworlders (rogue clones/creatures/monsters) allied with Warworld refugees (from the then-recent Panic in the Sky story) are preparing to invade Metropolis and take over. First they "steal" the city’s electricity, then use a giant borer to tunnel to the surface with plans to have their war machines emerge from there. Keith sees Lois get captured and overhears her captors’ reference to holding no prisoners, and realizes he won’t find his mom this way. He manages to get Superman’s attention by spraypainting a huge "S" in a parking lot and leads Superman to the captured lady reporter. A scuffle ensues between Superman and the Underworlders with predictable results (Superman wins). Doomsday having moved from squishing birds and breaking trees moves to traffic interference, which finally gets him noticed by someone (Oberon, a Justice League ally), which leaves us to continue into Justice League America #69.

While I just lamented the lack of Superman/Doomsday interaction, part of that is that I never liked the Underworlders stuff, so that makes for a rather boring and "out there" story for me. On a technical level, though, this works quite well in that everything about Doomsday comes outta nowhere, as he should be just some other creature (perhaps akin to an Underworlder) and this is supposed to be just another day for Superman/Clark, Lois, and everyone else. Nothing as significant as Superman’s death is remotely a part of anyone’s plans.

Though the Superman books all continued a story essentially as a single weekly comic (with four creative teams each handling a week a month), I’ve come to see a bit more distinction in stuff with the different titles…and one of those is the Underworlders being a "thing" for this title, Superman: The Man of Steel.

I don’t care nearly as much for them, as said, which makes this (offhand) my least-favorite of the issues involved in this story. That’s not to say it’s a bad issue, but it doesn’t interest me beyond the snippets of Doomsday.

The art also isn’t my favorite, but it definitely hits some positive nostalgia for me as far as the appearance of all the characters. There’s a visual style that’s quite distinct to this title and this period, making it highly recognizable to me, and I wouldn’t trade it out, given said nostalgia.

As an issue from this time and part of this story, of course the issue is a keeper…and it’s totally etched into my personal history with comics and Superman, creating a bias that keeps me from being entirely impartial in terms of any review.

That said, in looking back across 25 years…I definitely would not recommend this issue as a stand-alone read. Taken only by itself in a vacuum, this is a boring issue, with the most interesting thing being the emergence of Doomsday itself. Of course, this is well worth getting if you want the entire "branded" story/set of Doomsday/The Death of Superman, and of course ought to be read if you’re reading the story in collected edition format.

superman_the_man_of_steel_0018_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Doomsday Pages

Back in 1992, shortly before the actual start of the Doomsday crossover/event/story/arc, all four of the Superman titles ended with a single page showing a fist repeatedly punching a wall, as whatever it was, tried to escape some sort of confinement.

Superman: The Man of Steel #17 saw Superman dealing with the ongoing subplot of Underworlders in Metropolis, ending here:

doomsday_mos17

Then Superman #73 saw Superman and Waverider interacting again, and dovetailing off to:

doomsday_superman73

Next, Adventures of Superman #496 gave us one last hurrah with Mr. Mxyzptlk before the monster arrived:

doomsday_adventures496

And finally, Action Comics #683 saw Superman dealing with The Jackal in a (comparably) forgettable story that left us with:

doomsday_action683

And of course, from there, the actual story kicked off in Superman: The Man of Steel #18!

Along with these pages, and all sorts of news coverage, we had this iconic (to ME, at least!) house ad:

doomsday_ad_superman73

These days, that alone would have to be its own VARIANT cover…either for Man of Steel #18, or heck, they’d do different silhouetted poses of Doomsday like this for all four covers with those single page bits the month before the actual event!

While I’ll be doing my own stuff here, several years ago, Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor covered the Death and Return of Superman saga in a lotta detail in their podcast From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast, and there is a HUGE treasure trove of material related to it over at the Fortress of Baileytude!

The Imaginext Collection Begins…

Well, technically my Imaginext collection had already begun, but at this point, safe to say it’s begun in earnest now. At least compared to then.

imaginext_doomsday_superman

Here we have what REALLY had my eye: a Doomsday, with a battle-damaged Superman. Overall, I like this set…though Doomsday is significantly larger in scale than I’d prefer. Still…he should be a hulking behemoth that even Superman would have trouble with, so…it works. I definitely like how it has parts of the "classic" green suit as well as the bony protrusions and such…also lets ’em get away with not having a giant naked monster…

And though his suit is a bit messed up…there’s no "blood" on Superman. And there are no trunks, so it’s not quite "my" Superman, but I don’t miss the trunks all that much…especially with a solid red belt, the cape, and red boots!

imaginext_zedd_goldar

Then we have Goldar and Lord Zedd. These were a Power Rangers 2-pack.

imaginext_mmpr_tigerzord

And here we have the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers themselves. For the sake of completeness and my OCD, I tracked down the White Tigerzord set in order to get the White Ranger.

The rest of the Rangers were 2-packs, and surprisingly easy to find (and/or I got lucky!).


There are a few more Imaginext things I’m particularly interested in…chief among them, the Megazord that is somewhat in scale with these Rangers. There’s also a giant Goldar with its own version of Rita Repulsa that I’m waffling on seeking out.

On the DC side, there are a couple Robin/Red Robin figures…but unfortunately, none as parts of any of the cheaper 2-packs…they’re part of larger sets or vehicle/figure packs…which when I really just want the figure, make ’em more expensive than they’re worth. (At least with the White Ranger, I really dig the Tigerzord, too; and Doomsday was the primary draw for that pack!)

I guess time’ll tell…and I may have another post on these Imaginext toys soon…I really love the variety to the multiple licenses available! Much like Funko‘s Pop line, these allow multiple franchises to co-exist and seem to fit well together. And they’re much more "available" and reasonably-priced than the "adult collector" toys for either Marvel or DC!

The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

The Covers of Superman #75

Here are the covers to Superman #75 from November, 1992:

superman_0075_all_versions

I’m not certain if the second through fourth printings were made available to actual newsstands to have the bar code instead of creator credits in the UPC box (and I’m not sure that I have a version of the first printing with the creator credits). But aside from barcode/not-barcode, these are the six* versions of Superman #75/the death of Superman from 1992 that one might come across.

(* does not include the “platinum” edition nor the 1999/2000 Millennium Edition)

  1. Black-bag Collector’s Edition (may or may not be opened, may or may not contain the bonus items that ‘necessitated’ the bag)
  2. Opened Black-bag edition with none of the accessories
  3. Newsstand edition first print
  4. –second print
  5. –third print
  6. –fourth print

Back in 1992, I’d gotten the black bag edition, opening at least one of the copies (I believe I wound up with 3 total). Right around that time, I was only ever able to get the fourth print newsstand edition…coming across the other printings and bag-less collector’s edition copies in recent years in quarter/bargain bins.

Perhaps suggesting just how relatively “common” the issue has become IN bargain bins…rather than selling one of the tattered-cape covers, I recently saw a dealer at a convention selling a “set” of all 4 printings for whatever price (I couldn’t read it from a distance and didn’t feel like asking).

Hard to believe it’s been 24 years.

Old-School Variance: Superman #75

I’ve often referenced it, but rarely had actual "live" photographic example to illustrate the point.

I do not consider 1990s "Collector’s Edition" and "Newsstand Edition" comics to be variants. Technically, I’ll give you that they are variants–one issue with two (or more) different covers.

Perhaps it’s that typically there would be two covers, and two covers "only" in such cases. There was also the notion of the selling channel–one version was intended for the "direct market" (comic shops) and the other for standard newsstand distribution. Also the fact that they were equally orderable by a shop–no "regularity" of 1:10 or other worse "ratios" on ordering and the other ridiculousness seen today. (special cases such as "platinum" or "gold" editions could be an exception, but those tended to seem truly "special" compared to 2016 1:50 or 1:100 or 1:500 or 1:1000 ratios!)

Back in 1992, there was the cover image. This is what people were looking for. They’d seen the image on tv, in the newspapers, in magazines, etc…so this is what they were looking for; and it was the content of the issue, the "event" of the story that was key, not which of fifty dozen alternative covers you had.

superman_0075_all_4_printings_newsstand

The variance (as opposed to variants/multiple editions) of the Superman #75 covers is due to the multiple print-runs. You have your standard first print; and then for later printings, rather than taking interior art or additional artists, the color of the Superman logo and text The Death of Superman! was changed, and a small Roman Numeral was added to the cover copy to clearly indicate which printing the issue was. (I recently came across at copy of The Killing Joke that I had and couldn’t find anything saying which printing it was…I finally realized/remembered that which printing is indicated simply by the color of the book’s title and the cover price). That’s part of why the issue(s) are so clearly "iconic" and memorable…they’ve not been diluted by umpteen hundred different images for just one issue.

It’s occurred to me that there’s likely additional variance–the UPC box. In my photo here, the first print has an actual bar code…while printings II, III, and IV have the creator credits (these are direct market copies of the "newsstand edition.") I also make a distinction there–bar code vs. not–I consider the same. I’m not actually sure if the later printings have a version with the bar code, or if the later printings were comic-shops-only (newsstands perhaps having gotten the first printing only, and anyone else had to go to the direct market?)

Anyway…the ultimate point of this post is the photo; that these are 4 different versions of the same edition of the same issue, just produced as separate print-runs. Yet same cover image, still instantly recognizable as the same issue, despite not all being printed at the same time.

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