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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.

New Death of Superman Editions

death_of_superman_new_editions_03Back in late 1992, possibly early 1993–VERY shortly after Superman #75 was published–a collected volume was rushed out, collecting the six Superman issues and the Justice League issue that made up the Doomsday! (now simply The Death of Superman) arc.

I have always considered it something that was rushed because on the back where they gave a cover gallery, several of the issues were obviously-marked (Roman Numerals) later printings…whoever had been tasked with designing the back cover did not even themselves have access (or care) to all first-print editions (and I say this assuming there were no digital images floating around back then to simply access and use).

And over 1993 we then got the Funeral for a Friend story collected as World Without a Superman, and then eventually a massive (even by contemporary standards!) The Return of Superman (my copy, bought at the time, was a whopping $14.95 or so..!).

Over the years, those volumes have remained in-print…with the only major difference that I have noticed being that the Death of Superman volume eventually was switched to the iconic Superman #75 cover image of the tattered cape amidst the wreckage of Doomsday’s rampage.

The volumes originated in a time where any such collected volume was a real rarity/novelty, and it was only the particularly “special” or truly “sold-out” major storylines that would get collected into a single-volume edition…and each was largely its own thing, existing as an isolated item. “Simple” as the spines were back then, my original editions, at least, look ok together, but do not match many “surrounding” volumes on the bookshelves…and other than “knowing” the three volumes belong together, there’s no real indicator of them, nor the order to read them in. I take such knowledge totally for granted, but especially in this day and age of constant deaths and resurrections and timey-wimey stuff and multiverses and pre-Flashpoints and New 52s…’nuff said.

death_of_superman_new_editions_01

We now get five volumes–each more manageable than the Death and Return of Superman Omnibus, and admittedly higher prices…but also more content in the volumes–for example, the Death of Superman volume now contains the Newstime magazine that was published during all this; the Funeral for a Friend volume has the Legacy of Superman and the Supergirl/Team Luthor special; while what was formerly the single-volume The Return of Superman has been split in two–with the addition of the four ongoing titles’ Bloodlines annuals (each issue starring one of the Four Supermen) as well as the entirety of issues that had only had several pages reprinted.

And while it does not fit the “set” or “series” quite the same way, we have the inclusion of the Doomsday volume, giving us the Doomsday: Year One annual as well as the complete Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey along with Superman: The Doomsday Wars.

I believe podcaster and fellow blogger Michael Bailey said it on Facebook (and I wholeheartedly agree!) that probably a better fit for this volume would have been the early-2000s mini-series Superman: Day of Doom in place of The Doomsday Wars.

death_of_superman_new_editions_02

Still, all in all, I love the new trade dress–the black bar with red logo/title text contrasts nicely with the images, and really make them look like part of the same series of books.

While I kinda question the wisdom of numbering the volumes (wondering if a 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 on the spine would put someone off from buying an isolated volume), I absolutely love that with the full set, part of the spines makes up a black box with the iconic (extremely so to me!) “bleeding S” that denotes the death of the Man of Steel.

This set gives me at least my 5th edition of the Death of Superman volume, and I have many of the issues in this set multiple times over. Yet, given what the saga means to me, on learning of these new editions’ existence and the inclusion of the specials and particularly the annuals…I was immediately interested. That the spines do what they do put me over the fence.

However, I did wait until these were available from InStockTrades, as I certainly was not going to buy all 5 at once at anything remotely approaching cover price, and even this was a hefty one-time amount to lay out. For saving 45%, though, I’m extremely pleased with the purchase, and having these volumes!

The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus

The ultimate comics story of my childhood is now the ultimate single volume in my entire collection.

deathandreturnofsupermanomnibus

I “passed” on the original “omnibus” released back in 2007 or so. It seemed expensive, and as I hadn’t pre-ordered it, I had time to learn that it wasn’t a “true” omnibus–the heart of the story (Funeral for a Friend) was gutted, and a number of other stuff was left out.

When I found out about this edition (I believe from Michael Bailey), it had my interest. Yet, the solicitation text seemed similar to the previous edition, listing material from the various issues, but not specifying if the issues were collected in their entirety, or just a handful of pages.

When this arrived in the mail this week and I opened it yesterday…I was quite impressed on a number of things. Firstly, in Amazon‘s “bargain” shipping. I’ve at least twice in the past half-year had to return stuff I deemed too damaged to keep, due to the way they packaged/shipped ’em. But this arrived in good shape, no random dings or dents in the covers or spine. The dustjacket has a little piece bent on the back, but that was UNDER the shrink wrap of the book itself–factory issue, and straightened right out enough that I’m not concerned.

Secondly, the weight and physical size of this thing. This is absolutely THE largest single comic volume of any sort that I have ever bought. I’ve posted in the past about how close some of Marvel‘s omnibus editions are to otherwise “regular”-ish hardbacks…but this one easily dwarfs the largest Captain America omnibus I own.

Thirdly, I paged through the volume last night, and it indeed seems to have the entirety of what I’d expect; each issue’s cover is also included at the start of each chapter, making this essentially a bound-without-the-ads sort of thing…you know exactly where the issue breaks are, and which issue you’re reading.

Fourthly, the Justice League tie-in issue to Doomsday is included in full, as is the Green Lantern tie-in issue to Reign of the Supermen; this also includes the entirety of the Legacy of Superman special. And rather than “short” us with a few pages of “immediately relevant” stuff from Adventures of Superman #505 and Action Comics #692, the entirety of both of those issues is reproduced here.

Finally, the extras–though not entirely impressive in and of themselves–proved a real treat to read through. I don’t tend to care for random sketch pages, but this volume is a certain exception given the subject matter. And while not quite annotations, the text comments from the various creators were enjoyable to read–confirming stuff I (mostly) already knew, and I also enjoyed seeing some of the promo artwork and such that I’d forgotten about or in the case of art for a couple t-shirts don’t think I ever knew existed.

I don’t think I’d consider this “worth” its full cover price at the moment–I have the original issues several times over; I have the original editions of the individual paperbacks, I have several of the issues digitally in my ComiXology account–but I snagged this for 45% off and free shipping from Amazon, and for that price, I am presently very happy with what I got.

I don’t know how well the binding will or won’t hold up–I flipped through carefully, but didn’t try to lay this out flat or actually READ any of the issues in this edition yet, and it was sorta awkward holding it to read the “extras” material without putting this out flat.

But overall, in the present moment…I’m loving this thing.

Christmas as a comic person

This is my 23rd Christmas since being introduced to comics.

supermanchristmas1992 And yet, comics have been a pretty rare “gift thing” for me. Which is quite understandable for a number of reasons (I’m resistant toward birthdays, and gifts, when they’re mine and I’m on the receiving end) and of course…when someone owns tens of thousands of comics…unless they’re vocal about some certain (probably highly expensive) issue they’re missing…what CAN you really get them that they don’t likely already own?

So, I don’t have very many comics-associated Christmas memories. But there are a few.

wolverine77 Christmas 1993, I remember Dad taking me to Capp’s Comics in Mentor, OH on Christmas Eve. In addition to the “usual” comics that week (whatever the new Superman issue was, among others), he bought me a number of other comics I had my eyes on. And then we “qualified” for some “free” comics the store owner had behind the counter. (For every so many dollars spent, one would (cumulatively) “qualify” for certain “free” comics—I remember the silvery and black Magnus: Robot Fighter #25 from Valiant, and other such overstocked “collector’s item” issues.)

And for some reason, I have this strong memory of Wolverine #77 from that year. Can’t forget to mention the “Christmas issue” of Superman that year, part of the “Funeral for a Friend” storyline.

sandmandreamcountry I’m pretty sure one year, my parents gave me a gift card to Capp’s; and though I don’t recall specifics, I am pretty certain they gave me a few comics one year.

Probably the most significant comics-related gift, though, was in 2001. For my birthday that year, my parents gave me The Sandman vols. 3 and 7 (Dream Country and Fables & Reflections). For Christmas, they gave me the other 8 volumes.

On a slightly different note: I recall back in 2006 or so, DC Comics solicited an “Infinite Christmas” one-shot/holiday special…something I found amusing enough, playing off the “recently”-concluded Infinite Crisis event’s title. infinitechristmasspecial However, when the book shipped, they changed the title from “Infinite Christmas” to “Infinite Holiday,” which I didn’t catch til I got home and went to read it. (Which, being incensed at the title change, I opted to NOT read, and have not bought/read any DC “holiday special” since.)

Of course…it should be noted that while this is all materialistic and self-indulgent…

Gifts do not—to me—represent Christmas. Even with the gifts of comics and such I’ve received…I associate them more with the time of year, and stuff going on—personal memories and feelings and such—at the time.

But I’m not going to get into my feelings over the perversion of the true meaning of Christmas in contemporary society, here.

I hope you’re having—or had—a very merry Christmas…comics or no!

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