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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #19

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0019DOOMSDAY is Here!

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: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1993/1

This issue has one of the most iconic covers of my life. It may not be a favorite, exactly–it’s not one that’d really work (for me) as a poster image or such–but for a lotta years, just because of the cover date–January, 1993–and being the first Triangle # of 1993, this was an image I pictured when I’d think of "1993."

The image is "just" an extreme close-up of Doomsday and Superman literally getting in each other’s face, the creature being larger/taller and bearing down on the (black)-bloodied Superman (though no real/obvious facial wounds for the blood, but hey, it adds effect, right? And had to get by the Comics Code Authority and all that.

Despite reading this entire Doomsday! story fresh, I’ve realized that part of my confusion on the gradual tearing-away of Doomsday’s suit and the reveal of the hulking grey-and-white creature is the inconsistency from book to to book of its depiction! While there was some severe tearing and a big chunk missing, where we left off in Action Comics #684, the creature very shortly later now has far more of it gone. I expect that’s the peril of having to get multiple issues drawn by differing art teams in a short time, and the thing was probably set on the notion that "most of the green suit is now gone," but no ultra-hardline visual "bible" to lead it. Of course, this is–to me–mere "observation," something I don’t recall consciously noticing quite in this way before, and I have no problem with it!

This issue has us down to only two panels per page in the several-issue declining-panel-count countdown to the main issue of the story, and as such is increasingly fast-paced with less dialogue and less room for pauses…just faster visual beats on the march from cover to cover. Perhaps it’s the increased action, the ferocity of the battle, but I dug the visuals on this issue a lot more than I did the previous issue, with several iconic moments (to me) in this issue: from Doomsday’s first kills in Metropolis, Superman trying to take the creature into outer space, Doomsday’s elbow-stab of Superman, and the Underworld explosion, Doomsday one-punch taking out Supergirl, hitting her so hard she reverts to her protoplasmic state, the look on Bibbo’s face as he, Hamilton, and Mildred realize they’ve not only angered the creature, but it’s gonna land right on them if they don’t jump…and the shock-cannon blasts from the Cadmus troopers as Superman and Doomsday pound on each other, with Superman thinking "Even if it kills me–Metropolis is where I hold the line!"

And in a way, that sums up the issue. Going from scene to scene, as Doomsday hits Metropolis like a wrecking ball, killing immediately and continuously, punctuated only by attempts to damage him, whether by Superman or Professor Hamilton with a sci-fi cannon of his own, and so on. There’s not much story, exactly, but this issue’s not intended to be all that deep in that regard, and receives no penalty from me for it.

It’s also a credit to the Dirk Maggs dramatization of the story that I "hear" echoes/flashes of that as I read this, as it definitely gets across the frenetic ferocity of the situation, and certainly moments out of this issue.

Yet again, there’s not exactly a whole lot to be gotten from this just as some standalone single issue at this point, picking it up some twenty-five years after publication. It’s a key chapter in the overall story, and maybe sees Superman take some of the worst physical damage ever to this point…certainly more than I remember offhand seeing him take on-panel in Superman #75. While I mentioned early in this post that I don’t see this issue’s cover making a great poster, I could probably be persuaded pretty easily, as I do think on a small scale this would work as wall art at its actual-comic-cover size (perhaps amidst the other issues of the story).

This is definitely well worth snagging from a quarter bin or otherwise bargain bin if you can get all the issues of the story (or all the issues you are interested in at the time), but I’d continue to recommend a collected volume of this story over the single issue for "best results" and maximum impact.

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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.

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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 ’90s Revisited: Superman the Man of Steel #44

superman_the_man_of_steel_0044To Know… Know… Know Him!

Story: Louise Simonson
Layout Art: Jon Bogdanove
Ink Art: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor: Chris Duffy
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.50

This is one of the more "iconic" Superman covers for me from the ’90s: it was the issue immediately preceding the 100th issue of Superman and the start of the whole Death of Clark Kent storyline. I distinctly remember this cover from first getting it–we were visiting my grandparents, and my aunt took me to a comic shop in the area, where I got this. It also helps the cover to be memorable given that it’s essentially (but not quite! It’s still its own thing!) a reproduction of a panel within the issue.

Clark’s on the phone with his book editor when he hears a ticking in the background from the other end; so he rushes in as Superman, managing to save the man from being blown to bits. Meanwhile, Keith (a young boy being adopted by Perry White and his wife) is hanging out with some older kids after school. When the store manager accuses them of shoplifting, the other boys race off, leaving Keith to take the fall. After being extricated from the situation by Perry (who assures Keith that he and his wife are still adopting him), Clark once again learns of a bomb by hearing it over a phone, and saves Perry and Keith (and everyone on the bridge they’re stuck on) but Perry’s car is destroyed. Later, Keith takes courage from the incident and stands up to his so-called friends, and winds up making some new ones…while Jimmy decides to stick with Clark like glue until they figure out who’s been threatening him and trying to bomb his editors. Clark distracts him briefly as they get off an elevator, only to find a Superman dummy pinned to his apartment door by a giant knife…and he realizes then who’s behind stuff.

This is an issue from back in the heart of the "Triangle Numbering" era of the Superman titles…though each creative team had their own through-threads they focused on, their own stories to tell, ultimately the titles were one ongoing weekly series, with each week’s issue moving the overall Superman story forward. As such, with weekly doses of THE Superman story, there was plenty of room for the cultivation and development of a large supporting cast and plenty of "subplots" to be dug into and unfold over the course of things, such that a single issue could often seem all over the place, when taken out of context. This one manages to avoid the worst of that, though a single paragraph summary doesn’t do the thing justice. There’s the overall story, but the details of the various characters’ interactions makes it more complex…much like an episode of a large ensemble cast tv show where certain characters really get around, while others are checked in on but don’t necessarily have much screen time.

This issue ought to–by 2017 standards–be billed as a "prologue" to the upcoming major story; or heck, in contemporary terms there’d be a whole pre-Event event (particularly if this was Marvel). Here, it’s just the next chapter of the continuing saga, that just happens to be right before the larger titled story kicks off.

I definitely dig the story, though I find reading this over 20 years after the fact, I’m less enamored with Keith’s story, being so much further away in age now than I was then (as well as feeling like there’s a bit of "preachiness" going on here that would have much different connotation were it published in 2017).

Visually, it’s not hard to follow what’s going on, to recognize Superman or Clark, Lois, Keith, Perry, or others. However, it’s hardly my favorite art, ESPECIALLY stacked up against the likes of Dan Jurgens, who IS one of my absolute favorite artists (particularly when it comes to Superman!). Bogdanove‘s style grew on me, and holds a definite place in my memory and liking of the Superman books…but might not be the most appealing to someone unfamiliar with it or this era of Superman.

As a whole, though–story and art–this is certainly a strong issue, giving the reader action, plot development, and moving everyone around the final bit to head into The Death of Clark Kent. I appreciated it as an isolated one-off that I picked up specifically for remembering the cover so clearly.

That said…you’d likely be better served tracking down the collected edition of The Death of Clark Kent if possible, or picking this up as part of a larger group of the issues than to get this one issue by itself.

superman_the_man_of_steel_0044_slice

Superman Shelves Return

superman_shelf_01It’s been a couple years since I really “refreshed” some of the shelves I have, and some recent Superman acquisitions had me curious what things would look like put together again.

So I took some time and pulled all the newer Superman books I’ve bought, and went through and got the Superman shelves re-organized and re-confirmed for myself that Superman is certainly a key part of my collection.

superman_shelf_01a

I’m very interested in tracking down Superman in the Fifties and Superman in the Sixties, as well as Superman Chronicles vol. 7. (I’m not sure if the series made it past 10 or not). I’m sort of interested in other Showcase Presents volumes, but not dead set on ’em…though the nostalgia might kick in and change my mind.

superman_shelf_01b

I think I’m three volumes behind in the The Man of Steel series…and off the top of my head, not sure what else I might be missing from the post-CoIE/pre-Death era outside of The Wedding and Beyond.

superman_shelf_02

I’ve waffled on whether or not to pursue the New Krypton era of stuff, as I just wasn’t overly fond of that…PARTICULARLY in retrospect (though I’ll take it over New 52!) I’ve got the first couple Superman/Batman volumes…though I’ll probably “upgrade” to the newer editions soon, replacing those two with the more compact, robust paperback with both under a single cover.

I’d also like to get the single-volume edition of All-Star Superman, and had been intending to get the single-volume edition of For Tomorrow…though that was rendered a bit moot by recently acquiring the Absolute edition for 75% off. Then again, that unfortunately does not fit properly on any of my shelves, and might be relegated to a “special” shelf with other books that just do not physically fit…which would leave these shelves able to make use of the paperback as well.

(Plus, hey…Superman.)

Favorite Superman Covers: Superman: The Man of Steel #1

I’m not much of an art person when it comes to comics–I tend to prefer story over art…but that’s not to say that art doesn’t play a huge factor! And through the years, there have been a number of Superman comics whose covers have particularly stood out to me, for one reason or another. In this series, I’m presenting 10 of my favorites and why they are favorites.

I believe this was my first-ever actual Superman #1 issue–before I’d found a reprint of Action Comics #1, even before I acquired Superman (1987) #1. I believe I got this issue from American Entertainment (an old mail-order service). It came with a poster that I still have to this day.

supermanthemanofsteel001

This is another rather iconic image, “simple” though it is…It’s just Superman flying, a cityscape in the background…but the specific image has stuck with me since those early days as a fan of Superman–and comics.

The Man in the [Man of Steel] Mask: Clark Kent vs. Superman as "Real"

supermanbookshelf

While going through some old stuff I recently uncovered, I found this old essay I wrote for a class in my undergrad days…probably 2002 or so. Figured I’d share it on this blog, as it’s at least some “new” content, and I’ve obviously not been posting much lately.

A lot has changed in the intervening years since this was written–including the fact that the Superman in the comics today is NOT the same Superman referenced throughout this essay (as of 2006 and the end of Infinite Crisis).

As I formatted this to post, I spotted a bunch of glaring errors and issues…but left ’em in here, to maintain the integrity of the original document. And…this could become a monster of a project if I were to play editor to my 8-9-years-younger self. 


In Superman comics since 1986, Superman’s identity has been changed—most notably in the portrayal of the Clark Kent portion as “true” while Superman is portrayed as a “mask.” Despite nearly sixteen years since the change, this portrayal of the character has had little impact on the way he is seen. Many people—fans, scholars, and the general public—see Superman as the “real” character while Clark is the fiction. “Superman differs from his predecessors in science fiction by being able to exist within society by disguising himself as the self-deprecating and mild-mannered Clark Kent. It is the Kent alter ego that is supposedly a fiction, while the Superman personality is taken as real.” (Thomas Andrae “From Menace to Messiah” 1987.) Using the Superman comics themselves, I will show Clark Kent as the primary character while Superman is the mask.

In the essay “The Good, the Bad, and the Oedipal” (1987), Lester Roebuck suggests that “The Man of Steel’s heroic stature depends on his ability to keep the Clark Kent portion of his psyche carefully segregated.” I believe that it is actually the maintaining of his Clark Kent psyche that allows for the heroic stature of Superman. Raised as Clark Kent from birth by adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent, and instilled with a sense of American values inherited from them, Superman as a hero is merely Clark Kent in a costume. In The Death of Superman (1993), this is explicitly stated: “The raised him to be a hero…to know the value of sacrifice. To know the value of life.” In World Without a Superman (1993), the reader is shown a flashback to Jonathan talking with a young Clark, and Clark explains “You’re the one who taught me how to care!” Additionally, in 1986’s Man of Steel, after revealing to Clark the rocket that brought him to earth, Jonathan tells him “Whatever this thing really is, wherever you came from, you’re our son now. You’re an American citizen–and that means you’ve got responsibilities.” When Clark prepares to leave Smallville, he shows acceptance of parental guidance when he tells Martha “After all the times you and he have talked to me over the years . . . You told me all those times that I should never use my special abilities to make myself better than other people–to make other people feel useless . . . It’s time for me to face my responsibilities.” With that, Clark began several years of secretly helping others, before he was discovered. He worked in secret, seeking no glory or fame for himself, simply wanting to help his fellow man, as his parents had taught him to do.

After the world’s discovery of this super-man, Clark returned to his parents for advice. Explaining his concern:

“They were all over me! Like wild animals. Like maggots. Clawing. Pulling. Screaming at me. And it was all demands! Everybody had something they wanted me to do, to say, to sell! It was as if my first public appearance had unleashed the worst, the greediest, the most covetous part of everyone . . . They’d taken everything you’ve ever taught me and ripped it apart . . . I know I still have to use my powers to help people who really need me…but now they’re going to be looking for me. Expecting me. And I just don’t know how to deal with it!” (Man of Steel)

Working with his parents, the costume and identity of Superman is created. Years later, Jonathan reflects to Martha “I had the idea . . . The costume. The secret identity.” (World Without a Superman). After the costume is created, Clark proclaims “The whole thing works just fine! It’s got exactly the symbolic look I wanted. So, from now on, whenever there are people who need my very special kind of help, it won’t be a job for plain, ordinary Clark Kent…It’ll be a job for Superman!” (Man of Steel). This illustrates that Superman is intended as a “mask” to be worn in public. As Clark tells Lois in The Death of Clark Kent (1997): “I’m Clark Kent first and Superman second! Superman is the mask I’ve worn all along to have a private life!”

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