• October 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Sep    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • On Facebook

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Comic Blog Elite

    Comic Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

  • Advertisements

The ’80s Revisited: DC Retroactive – The ’80s – Superman #1

dc_retroactive_1980s_superman_0001New Day, Final Destiny

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Sergio Cariello
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Andrew Elder
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 2011
Cover Price: $4.99

I remember when these DC Retroactive specials hit, back in 2011–as a sort of bridge between the pre-Flashpoint wrapup of titles and dawn of the New 52. I got the Superman 1990s one, but don’t recall if I had actually picked up this 1980s one at the time–though I can’t imagine that I would not have, given the cover! Still, this particular copy coming from a 25-cent bin recently, and including a reprint of a 1980s story along with a new story OF the 1980s pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman places it well within my personal definition of a 1980s Revisited issue!

As said, the cover stood out to me most, showing an anguished Superman surrounded by imagery from the ’90s and forward…particularly Superboy Prime and an OMAC from Infinite Crisis; an Amazon from Amazons Attack, Bane breaking Batman from Knightfall, and a prominent Hal Jordan as Parallax from Emerald Twilight, Zero Hour, etc. In fact, this cover would make for an excellent art print and/or poster. The imagery is nice, and the Superman logo is nice and big, the "classic" yellow letters with red 3D coming off..the "classic" DC Bullet logo I grew up with, etc. While part of my motivation grabbing it from the quarter bin was that it was originally a $4.99 issue and here I was snagging it for a mere 25 cents…the cover had grabbed my attention and was worth 25 cents to me to get just to have handy, regardless of owning a copy "somewhere" in my too-vast accumulation.

The issue opens on an exhausted Superman who’s just trying to get some sleep…but if there’s no rest for the wicked, then he’s apparently been very naughty (to paraphrase the character’s thoughts). Superman quickly finds himself in the midst of a major crisis as an alien creature called The Dread destroys the Daily Planet building, killing thousands. When he tries to at least rescue one girl, time freezes…and he encounters the entity known as Destiny (one of the Endless) who pauses time, and confronts Superman with a choice: Superman can give in to The Dread’s option of aiding their conquering of worlds, or he can live to see horrible things happen to the people and its heroes. Destiny shows Superman glimpses of what’s to come: Amazons Attack Washington, killing thousands. A huge brute called Bane breaks Batman’s back. An earthquake levels Gotham City, and the Arkham Asylum inmates take over what remains of the city. Firestorm and Blue Beetle are killed. With encouragement/sanction of the Justice League, Zatanna mindwipes villains. Sue Dibny–the WIFE of one of the JLA–is killed. Wonder Woman kills Maxwell Lord outright. Hal Jordan dismantles the Green Lantern Corps and becomes Parallax. Barry Allen (Flash) is killed during a Crisis. Superman himself is killed by a Doomsday creature. Even his beloved cousin Kara is killed. Many other heroes and villains are killed, and eventually resurrected during a Blackest Night to kill countless others. All Superman has to do to prevent these things is to become the assassin/"herald" of The Dread and let all of Earthly humanity to be made into mindless slaves to The Dread. Yet, Superman refuses to give in, refuses to accept these as the only two options…he holds onto hope in the face of it all. The destruction of the Planet building, everything Superman’s seen right here is shown to be visions granted from Destiny…who himself isn’t actually the Destiny Superman had met before. He knows only that this is someone different…but as readers, we learn that this is a disguised Lyla–Harbinger–"testing" Superman, and finding him to be truly the hero they need to recruit if any of the multiverse is to be saved from the Anti-Monitor.

Story-wise, on the surface, this is a rather cheesy, pandering, gratuitous thing. As a DC Retroactive issue, this is designed to play on nostalgia, from the cover-inward. For me it gets that on numerous levels–from the ’80s writer in Wolfman to the’80s version of Superman, to the visions of major events from the ’90s and 2000s that were all "current events" for me as a reader as they came about.

But beyond RECOGNIZING that, in a clinical sorta way…I honestly HIGHLY enjoyed this story! It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want in something like this…give me the older version of the character, with a story that in no way detracts from prior continuity, show that even "old" continuity is part of "new continuity"–one big flow–as well as letting me as a reader see events that I know were indeed coming, that Superman and his world would face and endure. This is both a revisitation of the ’80s and a revisitation of the ’90s. Much as Superman is shown, though, a number of things are left out of being explicitly shown on-page (such as the death of Jason Todd) though the narrative allows for this in acknowledging that so many other events are glimpsed in Superman’s mind.

While I recognize Wolfman‘s contribution to comics history, I cannot honestly say that I specifically recognize his writing…I have not read enough of his work specifically to do so. That said, this was a story I really enjoyed, that captured the "tone" of the 1980s Superman that I do know, from what I have read from immediately prior and shortly after the Crisis itself, before Byrne‘s reboot. That the character is recognizable as such is a strong point to me…as well as the way the glimpses of the actual future of the DC Universe is worked in.

Visually, it’d be easy to mistake this for what it is–a much more contemporary take on Superman. Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t LOOK like ’80s Superman…it looks like early 2010s Superman, a more generic Superman as depicted by whoever the current artist is. However, for this story, the art still works well and in and of itself is quite solid, conveying the action, this artist’s takes on the key turning points that Superman is shown, and the characters involved.

I also quite appreciated the editorial note that Superman had previously met Destiny in Superman #352…I actually made a note for myself with the intention of tracking that issue down in the near future, curious about that original story. I had not even connected that with the knowledge that this issue also contained a reprint story from the ’80s after the new "lead" story.

superman_vol1_0352Superman (vol. 1) #352: Day of Destiny!

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Julius Schwartz

It was a very welcome treat to find that the reprinted 1980s story included in this issue was the aforementioned Superman #352! Rather than having to remember to look for the issue and maybe find it easily, maybe not, I was able to simply turn a page and dive right into the story!

This story was also written by Wolfman, with accompanying art by classic Superman artist Curt Swan…whose visuals I definitely recognize and made for a real treat of a thing. Given that it IS from then, it looked and read as an ’80s piece, with the familiarity I’d expect, and also enhanced what I had read in the lead, contextualizing things a bit and giving a post-read feel of merely reading two issues out of order…bringing back memories of reading Grandpa’s old comics. Like I had been grabbed by the cover and read an issue, and then being referred to a previous issue, found it and got to read it.

Despite my praise that definitely comes from the nostalgia of it all…this story’s looking/feeling like its time period isn’t all good…strip away the nostalgia and it felt a bit boring and ham-fisted and a bit borderline preachy.

Superman encounters Destiny, who is determined to PREVENT Superman from helping people, despite Superman’s every instinct being to leap into action and help people as he always does. Superman is forced to stand by helplessly as he sees people that he WOULD save ultimately save themselves. And thus Destiny’s lesson is imparted to the Man of Steel that the world and its people cannot be solely reliant on one person–him–for everything; that they are actually capable of taking care of themselves (Superman and the people are made to realize this).

I couldn’t help but think of the years-earlier story Must There Be a Superman? from Superman #247 (in which the Guardians of the Universe put Superman on trial for interfering with Humanity and impart to him the same lesson, essentially, that Destiny does here). The two are 106-some issues apart (nearly a decade) so it’s not like they were back to back…but as someone who has read SOME stuff from throughout Superman’s history it jumps out at me where it may not to others.

Though I recognize Swan‘s art and like it in the nostalgic sense…there’s a certain "generic" nature to the art that I personally tend to compare to (in particular) Dan Jurgens‘ art, particularly from around The Death of Superman as well as other Superman art from the late 1980s/early 1990s, a good 9+ years removed from this, as this was from Superman 247.


The cover price is rather steep for a 26-page "main" story and 16-page REPRINT. Still, that’s 42 pages of content for $4.99, from a time where many books were $2.99 to $3.99 for only 20 pages. Additionally, the reprint is specifically germane to the main story, which would certainly be a $2.99 value, and it’s pretty unlikely I’d be able to acquire the single issue as its own unit for under $2, so the extra price is still a definite savings and added convenience to have the issue’s story right here.

All in all, this is actually a solid value and enjoyable issue for a $4.99 special, whether at that price over 5 years ago or by present-day 2017 standards. As something that might be come across in a bargain bin, this is certainly worth 25 cents, and would be a strong buy for $1, and I dare say I’d be relatively willing (for the nostalgia factor at least) to pay full cover price on this (or rather, some of the other DC Retroactive specials).

Highly recommended for the lead story if you’re a fan of Wolfman or the era; and certainly worthwhile for a glimpse back to that period combining the lead with the reprinted story (and pre-Gaiman appearance of Destiny). The cover is a definite treat as well!

dcretroactivesuperman1980s

Advertisements

The ’70s Revisited: Action Comics #428

action_comics_0428Whatever Happened to Superman?

Story: Cary Bates
Art: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson
Editing: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October, 1973
Cover Price: 20 cents

The Plot to Kill Black Canary!

Story by: Elliot Maggin
Drawn by: Dick Giordano
Edited by: Julie Schwartz

GBS has had a new satellite launched. Superman flies into action to stop a fire raging far above easy reach of firemen, and conveniently (and extremely quickly) locates and flies in an iceberg, melting it with his heat vision to put out the fire. But the world sees just a storm cloud and rain. As Superman investigates this phenomenon, he becomes aware of the fact that everyone believes Superman hasn’t been seen in ten years–even going so far as to (as Clark Kent) do a shirt-rip on live TV…but all anyone sees is Clark revealing an undershirt. Of course, the real villain turns out to be Lex Luthor. Luthor mouths off, revealing his plan when Superman poses as a newly-assigned inmate occupying the "empty cell," convincing Luthor he’d been double-crossed and had himself been "forgotten." All’s well that ends well, right?

Meanwhile, in the Green Arrow (and Black Canary) portion of the issue, we see Ollie on the phone, declaring "Listen, Trump–when Ollie Queen says his Public Relations Agency will make your motorcycles sell…they’ll sell!" He then springs into action, recruiting Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary), and convinces her to participate in a stunt for a commercial. Later, Ollie’s made aware of a planned attempt on Dinah’s life, so he goes back into action and saves her (though she’s not at all happy about it, as he should’ve just told her what was going on). Again, all’s well that ends well, right?

Visually, this issue simply "looks like" one of Grandpa’s comics. And I’m pretty confident that that literally is what this one is–one of Grandpa’s comics, from back in the day, that somehow got mixed into stuff that wound up in my family’s garage, where I found it recently.

And that obviously makes sense–Curt Swan? Murphy Anderson? Dick Giordano? Big names I recognize from the time period and associate (particularly) with DC Comics; Swan all the moreso with Superman. And of course, I recognize the other credited names as well from the time. For where I’m at, the credits read like a roll call of classic creators, all of which have a good name to me when it comes to comics.

I’m not the fondest guy when it comes to pre-Byrne Superman comics–I was introduced to and grew up on the post-CoIE Superman, and hold that as my favorite to this day. But I also have plenty of fond memories of laying on a bed, having pulled out many of Grandpa’s comics from a cabinet, literally surrounded with more comics than I could truly hope to read in the limited time(s) I had there. For the 8-9-year-old-Me, that was a key time for me, when Superman comics were just Superman comics, and I had no clue who any of the creators were, never noticed any of the credits, and hardly even noticed any numbers or saw much distinction, say, between Action Comics or Superman or such…they were just titles on a cover, and I don’t recall ever sorting the comics to put them into numerical order or systematically reading through any given title. I just looked for the coolest-looking cover, or whichever character(s) I was interested in reading at the time.

So, I can definitely say that this issue held up to that. It’s not the craziest or silliest or most out-there story. It’s–as many such were, and particularly compared to modern post-2010 comics–a highly-compressed story. Thirteen or so pages, and I could easily see how this would be grounds for a six-issue (at least) story nowadays*.

(*As a de-compressed story, I figure the first issue would include a bit more detail of Superman doing super-feats and perhaps a bit more foreshadowing with the satellite and such, and likely end with an initial revelation/question like "What are you talking about? Superman’s been missing for TEN YEARS!"–To Be Continued. We’d then get several issues of Superman investigating the phenomenon while performing further super feats and being increasingly stressed at not being "seen" as Superman; we’d get details of it affecting him in private life, and possibly relationships with others, as he starts questioning his own sanity. There might even be one-shots or a JLA mini-series to see how other characters are reacting to a world seemingly without Superman; how their attitudes toward the hero gig are affected by believing Superman’s been missing for a decade, and so on; and maybe even a couple new characters introduced that are trying to follow in the legacy of the "missing" hero.)

As-is, it’s fast-paced, introducing the problem, exploring it, and resolving it, with little deep exploration of the implications of stuff, and we’re done start-to-finish in just this issue, half the issue.

The Green Arrow piece looks remarkably good…though I guess I shouldn’t seem surprised (yet, I was!) The character looks exactly as I like him, with the hat and goatee and such. I looked up the dates, because it felt like the Ollie from the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run, but I suspect this was from just after or near the end of that run…this being 1973, while that run started in 1970.

The GA story itself is rather simplistic, and seemed a little heavy on pushing whatever dynamic it is with Ollie and Dinah. Being such a short story and characters I’m less familiar with from this time, it’s a bit short to try to dig in and analyze much…suffice it to say I wasn’t enamored with it as a singular, stand-alone story. It seems like something that would read better in a group of stories for longer context. Of course, there’s also the fact that it was a Green Arrow story when I set out to read a Superman comic. That said, I was quite grabbed by the opening with Ollie yelling into the phone to Trump.

THAT Trump.

The Liberal Oliver Queen, Green Arrow, enthusiastically doing business for Donald Trump.

What a difference 40+ years makes, right?

All in all, this issue was an enjoyable read, and a nice trip down memory lane. I’m glad to have read the issue, for myself. I’m awed at considering the timeframe, that the cover references 35 years of Superman, and here it’s been another 43 years since then…this issue is from less than HALFway into its run and Superman’s existence and all that.

Other than the Trump reference in the Green Arrow/Black Canary piece or interest in the actual reading experience of the Superman story given my lack of brevity discussing the issue, I don’t really see or know anything of this issue to make it singularly a stand-out issue or to overly differentiate it from any other issue from the early-’70s with the creative teams. Still, it’s not a bad issue, and if you find it cheaply, it’s not a bad one.

The ’70s Revisited: Action Comics #500

actioncomics0500The Life Story of Superman

Writer: Martin Pasko
Artists: Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1979
Cover Price: $1.00

This is one of the older comics I’ve read in awhile, particularly as a single issue. With the October 1979 cover date, that places this at just over a year older than ME myself, as well as only just BARELY prior to “The ’80s.” While in some ways 500 isn’t that big a deal nowadays–a number of other US titles crossed the threshold in the ’90s and early 2000s–at the same time it’s a huge milestone given it will be a long,long time before any title hits such a number again “naturally.”

While a product of its time, the issue is extra-sized for “only” $1–something like this would absolutely be $7.99-$9.99 present-day.

The story is a bit hokey and clich├ęd–Superman is leading a tour through a newly-opening museum in his own honor (that he’s serving as a guest tour-guide raises money for his favorite charity, though). As they visit different displays, we as readers are given information of the various parts of his life to that point, as it stood in 1979. The means of this context being shared includes a memory device that allows Superman better access to his own subconscious memories as well as to share those with others…and thanks to a secret villain, the memories are also fed into a clone’s memory. Eventually the villain stands revealed as Lex Luthor, which is fitting enough given this anniversary issue and touching on major elements of Superman’s life. Overall, we’re shown a bit of the final days of Krypton and why Jor-El only saved his son; We’re seen how baby Kal-El arrived on Earth and came to be adopted by the Kents; that he operated as Superboy; that he had adventures while in college, joined the Daily Planet, etc.

It’s somewhat odd for me, reading this. This Superman feels very familiar in a nostalgic sort of way…this is (largely) the Superman I recall from reading Grandpa’s old comics as a kid. It doesn’t seem NEARLY as hokey as I thought I’d remembered–I credit that to this being “bronze age” Superman rather than “early Silver Age”–as it takes stuff relatively seriously, and definitely suggests a “continuity” of the time, that plays into stuff I do actually recall while reading (but might not recall off the top of my head with zero context)–such as the Kents’ ages.

I don’t recognize Pasko‘s name and certainly wouldn’t be able to–at present–tell his writing from anyone else I’m unfamiliar with…but the story works, and I didn’t have any significant problems with anything. I enjoyed the art for the issue…regardless of what continuity elements I do or don’t recall from reading as a kid…Swan‘s Superman is absolutely familiar, and while there’s something to this version that I don’t care for (behind Byrne and Jurgens‘ Superman), he’s visually iconic as the Superman from this period, which is something I definitely appreciate. I can’t quite explain it as of this typing, but there’s also something about seeing Julius Schwartz as the editor that made me smile a bit. Perhaps due to having come to learn well after the fact that he was editor on so many of the comics I’d read as a kid, and I retroactively associate his name with a certain tone.

This issue itself caught my attention as an anniversary issue, as #500…the “next” anniversary issue for the title going backward, for me (as I already have #s 600, 700, 800, and 900). The price–25 cents (4 for $1) was also most excellent and appealing. Though my copy isn’t in wonderful condition, it was quite readable, and I enjoyed it well enough. All in all I’m quite glad I bought the issue and made the point of reading it fairly immediately. It’s also raised my interest in other Super-books of the late-’70s/early-’80s.

If you’re a fan of “classic” Superman or just curious, this issue is certainly worth a few dollars…I don’t know a “guide value” for it, but I’d’ve certainly found it worth $4 (the price of most current new comics) if not $5 (it IS a vintage comic, after all).

The ’80s Revisited: The New Adventures of Superboy #1

newadventuresofsuperboy0001The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker: David Hunt
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January, 1980
Cover Price: $0.40

This issue only just barely makes the cut to be counted as an ’80s comic…though I am pretty sure that is a technicality, as it’s the cover date, while the publication date was likely at least a couple months earlier, the end of 1979. I actually remember this issue as one I’d managed to acquire ages ago, when I was in junior high (probably–early 1990s). I could not have told you anything about the content of the issue from memory, but on reading it, I realized I had also definitely actually READ the thing, too.

We start with a classic Julius Schwartz cover, showing us a rather absurd, dramatic scene that relates to the content of the story within…a relation that plays up some element that doesn’t seem to make much sense on the cover, but has a reasonable story explanation. In this case, Superboy is celebrating a birthday, but his parents insist he needs an extra candle…and this story promises to tell us WHY.

Of course, while we have SUPERBOY on the cover…it’s actually Clark Kent being celebrated within…which fits continuity, as they weren’t THAT open about Superboy’s identity even back then…he held the secret identity knowing enemies of Superboy wouldn’t hesitate to strike at him through those he loved–particularly his parents. Clark’s 16 birthday is here, and he’s asked about the extra candle…he doesn’t know himself why it’s used, just that his parents have added it every year since his 8th. We then get a flashback from Jonathan and Martha’s point of view as the secret is revealed to us–the readers. Two ancient aliens found their way to Earth, where after “testing” the newly-revealed Superboy (that they have searched for since crossing paths with baby Kal-El’s rocket years earlier) deem him their salvation. They accidentally made themselves immortal–something that’s become a curse–and need someone of sufficient makeup that they could SURVIVE a device that would transfer one’s ability to age into them. Yet, they mean Superboy (and Earth) no harm…so provide the 8-year-old Superboy the choice: help them, or don’t.

We see the noble boy choose to help them, using their device on himself, which means he will no longer (ever) age, giving his ability TO age to the aliens, that they might finally age and find the end of their (unnaturally-long) lives. They also impart a bit of amnesia to the young Clark so that he won’t remember his choice, and can live with the thought that his ‘immortality’ comes from being Kryptonian on earth, rather than choosing to sacrifice a part of himself. After they leave and the Kents lament their boy’s fate, Clark reveals that he noticed from what the aliens had said about their plight that it was their own minds keeping them from aging…he actually countered their device with his heat vision…granting the aliens the BELIEF that they could age, which tricked their minds into ALLOWING them to age. Meanwhile, Clark will continue to age as normal…a win/win situation. Though the amnesia kicked in and he no longer remembers the aliens or his solution/decision, his parents do–and honor their pride in him with the extra candle.

I recognize the names Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger, though I can’t particularly place them off the top of my head, as of this typing. I’m pretty sure they’re either “big names” at DC from the late-’70s/early-’80s, or on the Superman family of titles (or both). I of course recognize Julius Schwartz as the editor as mentioned above.

This issue’s story worked decently for me–I’m not thrilled with it, nor does it play much into “continuity” that I recall except the obvious references and Editor’s Notes to remind (or inform) the reader of things of note (like the elder Kents having been de-aged). Stuff like that I took at face value as a kid, and took at face value here, but the added benefit of–as an adult–now having some vague memories of reading about the stuff being referenced, since I’d originally read the issue. In and of itself, I don’t know if I “buy” Superboy as an 8-year-old…but then, some of that may simply be that I’m so far removed from that age now, where I was only several when I would have originally read this. The story is a done-in-one, with nothing of note added to an ongoing saga or anything; just another “adventure” that takes an issue and leaves things in place for the next issue.

The art is quite good, and I really like the style overall…there’s something particularly familiar to it that puts me in mind of some of these characters even into the then-current comics I read in the late-’80s. It certainly fit the story and nothing to the art drew me out or distracted me, so it definitely succeeded in doing its job.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue as what it is–a “random” one-off, done-in-one issue that just so happens to be a #1 from an age when an issue with a #1 actually had some measure of significance. This was more than worth the 25 cents I paid for it.

Additionally, there’s an ad in the issue for the then-current issue of Adventure Comics that grabbed my attention…to the point that I actually sought it out in a non-bargain back-issue bin and found/bought it. It’s possible dabbling in these older back issues lately is just that–a dabbling. At the same time, I find myself more and more interested in older comics than new, and I’m increasingly willing to buy an issue from the back issue bins where I used to hold myself strictly to the quarter-bins.

%d bloggers like this: