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<<May 2015>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Superman, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 116
1. The Death of Superman Lives trailer considers what might have been


You’ve all heard the story, in the late 90’s, Tim Burton was scheduled to direct a Superman film entitled Superman Lives, which was to be written by Kevin Smith and star Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel.

It was to be a radically different take on Superman that makes Man of Steel look traditional by comparison. It also never came to be for a number of different reasons. With The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, a new documentary by AMC Movie Talk’s Jon Schnepp, this fascinating chapter in this history of DC’s biggest icon is explored in depth.

Check out the trailer below for the film, which opens in select theaters on May 1st and expands on July 9th.

The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? delves into one of Hollywood’s most enthralling ‘what could have been’ stories. In 1996, Warner Brothers engaged Kevin Smith to write the screenplay (‘Superman Lives’). Director Tim Burton assembled an elite group of artists to work on Superman Lives, including Nicolas Cage as Superman. Warner Brothers scrapped the project shortly before principal photography began.

This documentary, directed by Jon Schnepp, features interviews with director Tim Burton; producers Jon Peters and Lorenzo diBonaventura; screenwriters Kevin Smith, Wesley Strick, and Dan Gilroy; production designer Rick Heinrichs; special effects artist Steve Johnson; storyboard artist Tim Burgard; costume designer Colleen Atwood, and many more. This film delivers an inside look into what would have been the most original, unexpected and cosmic Superman movie ever made.

Sounds like something I need to see. On a related note, Superman vs. Hollywood is a great book that digs into this subject and all of the projects that came before and after (stopping short of Man of Steel).

0 Comments on The Death of Superman Lives trailer considers what might have been as of 4/21/2015 1:13:00 AM
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2. New ‘Clarence’ Episode Will Pay Tribute to Fleischer Studios

Clarence is headed back to the 1920s.

0 Comments on New ‘Clarence’ Episode Will Pay Tribute to Fleischer Studios as of 1/1/1900
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3. Tonight @ Society of Illustrators: Is That Art?

Yoe-is-that-artThis exhibit of works from Craig Yoe’s original art collection has already garnered stellar accolades – tonight you can see why. And that’s not all …

I had the good fortune of seeing an early preview of Is That Art? at the Society of Illustrators a few weeks ago, and it’s a must-see for anyone who wants to connect with the magic and the power of creative design. The exhibit covers much of the first century of comics & cartoon art, and the work is displayed in ways that highlight deep connections and spark new ideas. A original Spark Plug parallel to a Peanuts strip where Snoopy is dismissed as a dog; a landmark portrait of Superman for Siegel-and-Shuster’s syndicate chief near a reflection on a woman’s dual identity by Fay King; the first Pogo newspaper strip; the original Fin-Fang-Foom-awakes page, signed by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers ….


I could go on, but I’ll leave you to discover all the wonders for yourself. The exhibit’s official opening is tonight from 5pm – 10pm at the Society of Illustrators, 128 E. 63rd St. in New York City. If you can’t make it this evening (or at all, alas), you can find some consolation in the extensive Yoe! Books library, which includes lavish and faithful restorations of material ranging from kitsch to classics. One place to start: the latest Yoe! Books/IDW publication, Milt Gross’ New York, which has been receiving impressive reviews.


If you can make it to the Society of Illustrators, don’t miss its other must-see exhibits. The original art from Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream is up through tomorrow (April 9), and seeing it at full size reminded me of seeing the original art for Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis at the Hammer Museum – a revelation. As for the exhibit on Alt-Weekly Comics curated by Warren Bernard and Bill Kartalopoulos, well, that too deserves a book of its own – this exhibit is important not just for chronicling an influential, if under-appreciated genre within North American comics, but for helping us understand the world today.


1 Comments on Tonight @ Society of Illustrators: Is That Art?, last added: 4/9/2015
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4. nuDC: Batman is a robot, Wonder Woman is Captain Wolverine and Superman put on jeans

This week DC has been revealing new looks for its core characters, including some startling fashion changes. The new looks have been revealed in various places We’ve cobbled it all up for you below but here’s the shorter version:

• Batman is now a robot or something. Scott Snyder calls it “the boldest, weirdest, biggest thing we’ve ever tried on the book.” Maybe the suit is an eco skeleton or something…his ears are now antenna-thingies that have distant echoes of a cross between Doom PAtrol Cliff, Batman Beyond and  Ultron.

• Superman now looks like..Channing Tatum. After he trashed his tights the other day he’s put on some comfy jeans that give him mobility and a sporty vibe. This look debuted in the Morrison/Quitely Action Comics, but Superman has a shorter, more contemporary haircut. And no capes because Edna Mode.

• Wonder Woman has gotten a VERY thorough update that also seems to include body armor as well as big wrist spikes (ala Wolverine) and a logo treatment that…well, it resembles Captain Marvel just a weeeeeeee bit. I don’t really like loincloths, but whatever floats your boat.

• Also Harley Quinn has kneeepads…dont’ know how long that has been going on but NOT GOING THERE.

While I don’t expect to see any of these looks on toasters or immersion blenders any time soon, a shake up is good, and I’m sure all the stories behind these changes will be exciting (The Batman robot one looks promising). In the meantime here’ amore of DC’s new June look:

Here’s the lineup:


THE JOKER Variant cover by SEAN MURPHY
On sale JUNE 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
The all-new Batman makes his debut! Who is he, and what happens next? Find out here as a new era begins in Gotham City!


Written by GREG PAK and AARON KUDER / Art and cover by AARON KUDER
On sale JUNE 3 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The epic new storyline “TRUTH” begins! For Superman, there’s no more holding back!


On sale JUNE 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
They’re here – the Gang of Harleys has arrived! Because the world demanded more Harley Quinn, Harley has answered the call – will a dozen more Harleys do the trick? Meet Carli Quinn, Harley Queen, HanukQuinn, and many, many, MANY more in a story that will have your sides splitting!


On sale JUNE 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

There’s a traitor in the Sinestro Corps who has set New Korugar on a path to certain destruction! The smart move would be to evacuate the Korugarian refugees from the planet, but Sinestro knows finding the identity of the traitor is more crucial, which leads to an unexpected betrayal from someone you would never expect, and a punishment from Sinestro that will alter someone’s life irrevocably!


Written by TOM KING and TIM SEELEY / Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN
On sale JUNE 24 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Everything changes as Helena takes over SPYRAL! Plus: Grayson gets a new partner!


Art and cover by DAVID FINCH and 
On sale JUNE 17 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
A daring new direction begins with the arrival of a brand-new villain! But while he may be new to us, he’s not new to the world he seeks to tame. And speaking of villains, Donna Troy’s quest to destroy Wonder Woman ratchets up another gear (if that’s even possible!), while the games of the Gods bring dark portents to the ultimate Amazon!


Cover by BILLY TAN
THE JOKER Variant cover by BEN OLIVER
On sale JUNE 3 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
“Renegade!” Beginning a new chapter in Hal Jordan’s life as he becomes the universe’s most wanted outlaw! And wait till you meet Hal’s new partner, Darlene. She’s definitely not what you’re expecting!


Written by FRANCIS MANAPUL and
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
On sale JUNE 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Following the events of “Endgame,” get ready to ride with the GCPD in a whole new city! Harvey Bullock is leading a Bat task force, but what are his duties, and can he be trusted? And what kind of welcome awaits his new partner, Renee Montoya?


Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art by DOUG MAHNKE and others
On sale JUNE 17 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The epic new storyline “TRUTH” continues! As the pressure mounts, a relationship is tested!


Also here’s a look at the Batman/Superman #21 cover where you can see the robotic bats in all its glory.


20 Comments on nuDC: Batman is a robot, Wonder Woman is Captain Wolverine and Superman put on jeans, last added: 3/13/2015
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5. What is the Secret of Gene Luen Yang’s Superman?

superman-d120fOf all the comics projects announced this far from DC after Convergence, the one that arguably has fans the most excited is Superman from author Gene Luen Yang. The indie cartoonist will likely bring a different vibe to DC’s flagship character that will be focused on some of the ideas reflected in his own works like Boxers & Saints and American Born Chinese. We learned today in the solicitation text that the Man of Steel is going to have a brand new secret after the events of the aforementioned storyline.

Illustrator John Romita Jr. is staying on the comic after his short stint on the title with previous storyteller Geoff Johns. In an interview with Hero Complex, the writer talked about his experiences working on some of those titles, and how an upcoming secret will be revealed that will change up the status quota of the character after the Convergence event. Yang explained to the outlet how this book will focus on Superman’s Earth experience as an immigrant reflecting the author’s own life chronicled in some of his earlier works.

That’s just an essential part of the character. And as I’m writing, what I’m expecting is that it will come out organically. Superman has been around for so long; he’s been around for, what, eight decades now? And he goes through these different eras where different aspects of who he is get emphasized. I think at the core of him is the idea of the immigrant experience. His creators were two children of Jewish immigrants.

Take a look at the solicitation for the issue from Hero Complex further teasing the big secret of Superman:

Superman # 41
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art and cover by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson
The Joker variant cover by Karl Kerschl
On sale June 24 • 32 pages, FC, $3.99 U.S. • Rated T
The epic new story line “TRUTH” continues with the debut of the amazing new creative team of new writer Gene Luen Yang (“American Born Chinese”) and continuing artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson! What will happen when the big secret is revealed?

The author also elaborated on his own attachment to Superman as a character:

There’s something very special about getting to the seed, to the genesis of this entire industry. And like I said before, I’m really fascinated by the ways in which facets of the immigrant experience play out in a very fantastic way within his origin and within who he is and what he does. I think over the years they’ve built up this very interesting supporting cast that I’m excited to play with.

Superman #41 goes on sale June 24 in digital and print marketplaces.

1 Comments on What is the Secret of Gene Luen Yang’s Superman?, last added: 3/11/2015
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6. How to Craft a Superman-Themed Shovel

Sick and tired of the cold winter weather? The Homemade Game Guru YouTube channel offers a fun idea for comics fans: a Superman Shovel. If you want to make this cardboard project, watch the video tutorial embedded above. What do you think?

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7. Guest commentary: Who Stole Superman’s Undies?

movies man of steel henry cavill Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Guest post by T Campbell.

Can the soul of Western civilization be found in a pair of red briefs? Was our first great superhero at his strongest, his noblest, his superest, before modern interpretations stripped him of his underwear? Is there a connection?

A generation ago, when those red briefs were an inseparable part of Superman’s design, he was the most familiar superhero by a wide margin, leading the field in film adaptations,[1] headlining cartoon shows,[2] and even winning over famous media critics who were fiction writers in their own right. Even now, if you believe superheroes have anything to say to American culture or the human experience, you sort of have to start with him, because he’s the prototype.

Umberto Eco called him “the representative of all his similars” [3]  and Harlan Ellison described him as one of “only five fictional creations known to every man, woman, and child on the planet.”[4] Born in the early hours of a visual, easily reproduced medium, he was popular enough to codify most of what being a superhero meant. The Oxford English Dictionary even mentions him by name in its definition of “superhero”:

su·per·he·ro ˈso͞opərˌhirō noun: superhero; plural noun: superheroes; noun: super-hero; plural noun: super-heroes. a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers, such as Superman.[5]

And yet, Batman emerged a year later with no superhuman powers at all, and he was far from the only superhero to flout that membership requirement.[6] What really seemed to make a superhero a superhero, in the minds of the public, was the benevolence, the codename and the costume.

Superman is a strong man created by weak boys. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were nerdy teens when they came up with their first “Superman,” a madman with mental, not physical, powers.[7] Their second draft, far closer to the version we know, had what appeared to be a streak of white in his hair and a bare chest.[8] And those trunks, which persisted through other versions for eighty years.

01 originalsuperman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Lacking any personal experience being strong, S. & S. took Superman’s powers from their beloved science fiction, and his costume from the circus.[9]

01 ActionComic1 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Underpants on tights were signifiers of extra-masculine strength and endurance in 1938. The cape, showman-like boots, belt and skintight spandex were all derived from circus outfits and helped to emphasize the performative, even freak-show-esque, aspect of Superman’s adventures. Lifting bridges, stopping trains with his bare hands, wrestling elephants: these were superstrongman feats that benefited from the carnival flair implied by skintight spandex. Shuster had dressed the first superhero as his culture’s most prominent exemplar of the strongman ideal, unwittingly setting him up as the butt of ten thousand jokes.

Grant Morrison [10]


Actually, Siegel and Shuster thought of Superman’s other clothes as the mockable ones. To fully understand the significance of Superman’s costume, look at him when he’s out of it—when he’s Clark Kent.

01 clarkkent Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

In virtually every version of Superman, Clark is an exercise in patient self-restraint, the ultimate man pretending day by day to be the ultimate common man. In his early days, this restraint was a superstrongman feat all its own, because Clark was extra pathetic—the better for Siegel, Shuster and the readers to identify with him.

I had crushes on several attractive girls who either didn’t know I existed or didn’t care I existed. So it occurred to me: What if I was really terrific? What if I had something special going for me, like jumping over buildings or throwing cars around or something like that?

Jerry Siegel [11]

Kent looked like Shuster, who later lifted weights for five years but never developed the bodybuilder’s confidence.[12] If Kent’s daily humiliations echoed Siegel’s past, they also predicted part of Shuster’s future.[13] When Shuster’s worsening eyesight drove him out of cartooning, he went back to deliveries, showing up at his former publisher carrying a package and wearing a ratty, worn-out suit.[14]

It’s not hard to imagine nerdy Shuster stammering “Sign here, please” in the same voice that Kent used to ask Lois, on their first date, if it wouldn’t be “reasonable” to let a bullying gangster have just one dance with her.[15]

008 shusterman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Yet Shuster also drew Clark with a rock-hard physique that threatened to burst out of his jacket and pants at any moment. Every so often, after meekly tolerating an editor’s blustering or Lois’ icy contempt, “Clark” would crack a smile: if only they knew. For him, the angst Siegel and Shuster had felt in real life was just a pose, a suit he put on sometimes. And then he’d hear someone in trouble and strip off his shirt to reveal the S-shield underneath. The red trunks would soon follow. Underwear, for the underself.[16]

01 alex ross Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

It was all just a game. Everything was going to be all right. Superman cheerfully presided over a world of bright rainbow colors where hurts and humiliations were temporary. Indeed, after a couple of years he developed a code against killing—a code most superheroes also followed.[17]

They also imitated the briefs, especially his most immediate peers—the original versions of Batman, Robin, Hawkman, Hourman, Starman, Dr. Fate, the Spectre, the Atom, and the Star-Spangled Kid all rocked the look as seen below. [18] And yes, more than half of those heroes also followed his “Somethingman” naming convention.

01 Justice Society of America Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The 1960s and 1970s still saw plenty of new trunks-wearers among Avengers like Giant-Man and the Vision, mutants like Magneto, and gods like Orion. The Thing wore only trunks, and the Hulk torn purple pants. Other gods and mutants (Thor, Darkseid, the early X-Men) wore onesies broken up with a belt.[19] Strangely, two X-Men who each disdained the other’s sense of style—Cyclops and Wolverine—went full trunks-over-pants from the 1970s into the 1990s.[20]

01 Jim Lee X Men 11 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

This tendency to assign the look to gods and mutants, though, instead of more central figures like Captain America, Mister Fantastic, and Spider-Man, may have been an early sign that it was on its way out. These newer Marvel characters stood out from the first generation by being more fully realized people in their civilian identities, if not eliminating the dual identity altogether. Of the marquee Marvel heroes, only Thor, whose fashions and godly nature made him the exception that proved the rule, was introduced with a Clark Kentish self-denying secret identity.[21]

Superman’s influence continued to erode as the decades wore on. Newer heroes showed less interest in the code against killing or in names ending in “-man.”[22]  And costume redesigns left the trunks behind. The X-Men got into black leather for a while, and their later, more colorful costumes still left the briefs out.[23]

Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film “de-briefed” comics’ second most famous underwear wearer. Batman never went back to the briefs in any succeeding movies: they began to fade from the comics as well, as shown in this sample of Ben Moore’s larger survey of Bat-suits seen in various media, covering the period from 2005-2012.[24]

01 batman infographik e1419850900988 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The look could still show up in the deliberately retro stylings of a film like The Incredibles; despite fashionista Edna Mode’s disdain for capes and insistence that “I never look back, darling, it distracts from the now,” her creations had an old-fashioned flair that matched the traditional values of their wearers, the kind of nuclear family that seemed to headline most sitcoms from the 1950s to the 1980s.[25]

 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Superman, for many years, seemed content to be a bit old-fashioned. His brand hadn’t been about “cool” for a long time: it was more about safety and stability. The comic-book Superman of 1962 or 1988 was more scientist than slugger, often approaching problems from a cool remove. His peers honored him as the one who came first, and therefore someone who didn’t need to follow the trends. He had, after all, defined them.[26]

002 comic superman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Nevertheless, as superheroes and popular entertainment in general grew increasingly impatient with the “no kill rule,” the temptation to challenge Superman for wearing last year’s morals was overwhelming. The movies of the 1970s and 1980s danced around the issue by making Superman’s foes inanimate[27] or leaving their fates uncertain.[28] But many of his best-loved adventures, the ones that could claim to influence his canon, saw him sorely tempted to end a life—or even saw him succumb.

However, this was always an ending for the character as we knew him, as proved by what came next. In one such story, Superman instantly punished himself by giving up his super-powers and retiring.[29] In another, he died along with his foe.[30] In a third, he had a mental breakdown and went on a long journey of soul-searching before returning to duty with an even firmer vow, “Never again.”[31] In multiple stories of a world not our own, a world gone wrong, Superman deciding to kill is his first step toward villainy.[32] And at least once, he used magicians’ stage tricks to fool the world into thinking he’d broken his rule—just to show how terrible a Superman unchecked by restraint would be.[33]

01 superman nobody has the right to kill Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The conservatism is unmistakable but charming.  Nearly all fictional franchises create a moral universe that rewards readers for following them, and Superman is no exception. However much he struggled with it, refusing to kill would always be The Right Choice. Other heroes would always look to him for guidance, saluting his cape as if it were the flag. Underwear on the outside of your pants totally works.

The super-briefs stayed on for generations, in comics, movies, TV, Halloween costumes and branded, official kids’ underwear—an incentive to finish toilet training if ever there was one. [34]

005 super underoos Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

And then everyone seemed to reject them at once. In 2011, Jim Lee redesigned all DC Comics’ top-selling characters, giving them the scratchy, slightly self-conscious “edginess” that had made Lee famous.[35] But the artist who had kept Cyclops and Wolverine in trunks now broke precedent. The red of Superman’s trunks shifted to his belt, and its buckle took a shape echoing the chest symbol. The trunks vanished.

I think you have to go for the core elements that are critical to the costume and freely change what looks dated… For me, the red trunks on Superman, you didn’t notice. It gets colored in blue anyhow.[36]

003 comic superman postpants Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

In the same year’s Action Comics, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales emphasized the populist strain in Siegel’s early, Depression-era stories. Theirs was a Superman for the 99 percent, and his costume was the believable result of a reporter’s salary: a screen-printed T-shirt, short cape, and jeans. [37] Morrison explained:

We felt it was time for the big adventures of a 21st-century Paul Bunyan who fights for the weak and downtrodden against bullies of all kinds, from robot invaders and crime lords to corrupt city officials. The new look reflects his status as a street-level defender of the ordinary man and woman.[38]

004 action comics superman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The filmmakers of 2013’s Man of Steel found the trunks clashed with their concept of the costume as alien armor. Even director Zack Snyder, whose adaptation of Watchmen had featured two trunks-over-pants designs to the comic books’ one,[39] now found himself breaking precedent.

The costume was a big deal for me, and we played around for a long time. I tried like crazy to keep the red briefs on him. Everyone else said, “You can’t have the briefs on him.” I looked at probably 1,500 versions of the costumes with the briefs on.[40]

006 man of steel Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Who stole Superman’s undies? Morrison takes responsibility for his part in it, Lee shrugs about careless colorists and readers, Snyder bows to the input of unnamed advisors. Their earlier output, though, suggests they had no dislike for the design, just a need to follow popular taste rather than acting as if Superman still shaped it. But fashion, as ever, sends a message about its wearer.

In Man of Steel, the blue is navy, the yellow rusty and gritty. Smallville’s Clark operates without a costume at all. Both versions of Superman are painfully unsure of themselves, closeted, desperate, and far less successful than earlier versions at preventing collateral damage.[41] Smallville averaged one death per episode in each season.[42] Superman’s first TV outing, The Adventures of Superman, averaged none—and lasted six seasons to Smallville’s ten.[43]

Analyst Charles Watson puts the Man of Steel death toll at 129,000, with the last of those deaths by Superman’s own hand.[44] Contrast this with Superman: the Movie, in which Superman saves everyone at risk from a devastating earthquake except Lois Lane, whom he then rescues via time travel. Man of Steel opened in eight times as many theaters as Superman: The Movie.[45] An influential new beginning, and by his old standards, an inauspicious one.

Man of Steel Superman may scream in anguish after killing General Zod, but unlike in the other stories where he crosses that line, he seems to get over it pretty fast. One scene later, he’s cheerfully knocking an Army drone out of the sky. He actually seems more relaxed and happy after the killing is done! No doubt Lois’ approval helps, but even so.

01 man of steel close e1419854857831 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Man of Steel screenwriter David Goyer appears to be weaving some acknowledgments of that issue into its sequel.[46] He would like to assure you that the Superman you remember from your childhoods isn’t gone—he’s just not fully reborn yet.

Our movie was, in a way, Superman Begins; he’s not really Superman until the end of the film. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films. Because he’s Superman and because people idolize him, he will have to hold himself to a higher standard.[47]

It’s true that Smallville and Man of Steel focus on a young Superman who hasn’t had a chance to become the graceful legend of earlier works. But these have been the portrayals to reach the widest audience in the last decade. [48] Even in current comics, though they have a lighter color scheme and mood, he’s an impulsive younger man with a quick temper.[49] The latest Superman project to be announced, TV’s Krypton, will take place thirty years before his birth.[50]

Put it all together and you’re left with the impression that Superman’s 21st-century caretakers would rather invoke the smiling, life-preserving, cool-headed circus superstrongman than actually show him. Will the next film change that? Will it give him the power and certitude to preserve all intelligent life in his path with a calm soul and a wink at the viewer? Or is that Superman no longer filmable, a relic to be tossed out like a pair of outgrown briefs?

Tights may tell.

[1] 1978’s Superman: The Movie earned nearly six times its budget and spearheaded the only superhero film franchise of the following decade.

[2] Some variation of Super Friends, always with Superman as the headliner, appeared on TV from 1973-1986.

[3] Eco and Natalie Chilton. “The Myth of Superman. The Amazing Adventures of Superman. Review.” Diacritics, 2(1), pp. 14-22. Spring 1972.

[4] Ellison, Foreword to Dennis Dooley and Gary Engle, Superman at 50: The Persistence of a Legend, 1987.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary entry, 2014. Found via Google search, November 22, 2014.

[6] Batman later used gadgets as sort of substitute super-powers, but other figures—the first Atom, Wildcat, and the Spirit, among others—used nothing but ordinary fists.

[7] Jerry Siegel (illustration by Joe Shuster), “The Reign of the Superman,” Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3, 1933.

[8] Les Daniels, Superman: The Complete History, 2004, p. 17.

[9] Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action Comics #1, 1938.

[10] Grant Morrison, Super Gods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, 2012.

[11] Gerard Jones, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the American Comic Book, 2005, p. 63.

[12] Tom Andrae with Geoffrey Blum and Gary Coddington, “The Birth of Superman,” Nemo #2, 1983.

[13] Craig Yoe, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, 2009; Brad Ricca, Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—The Creators of Superman, 2013.

[14] Joe Simon, My Life in Comics, p. 188, 2011.

[15] Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action Comics #1, 1938.

[16] Alex Ross for Alex Ross and Paul Dini, Superman: Peace on Earth, p. 7, 1938.

[17] Editor Whitney Ellsworth was the driving force behind this rule, as early as 1940, years before the Comics Code Authority.

[18] Art by Jerry Ordway, Who’s Who in the DC Universe #12, 1986.

[19] Tim Leong, “A Venn Diagram of Superhero Tropes,” Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, 2013.

[20] Art by Jim Lee for X-Men #11, 1992.

[21] Dr. Donald Blake is more complicated than we can cover here,

[22] Wikipedia’s “List of notable superhero debuts” shows a tapering off of such names after the 1960s.

[23] Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, New X-Men #114, 2001; Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men #1, 2004.

[24] Selected from Ben Moore’s 2012 “Batman Infographic: Every Significant Bat-Suit Ever,” found at Screen Rant, http://screenrant.com/batman-infographic-every-batsuit-benm-144238/.

[25] Brad Bird, The Incredibles, 2004.

[26] Image by Jim Lee for DC Comics.

[27] In Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns, natural disasters are the chief problem; in Superman III and IV, the main villains are destroyed but arguably not truly alive.

[28] Superman II.

[29] Alan Moore, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger, Action Comics #583, 1986. Source of the image below and the last “Silver Age” Superman story.

[30] Dan Jurgens, Superman #75, 1992. The famous, notorious “Death of Superman.”

[31] John Byrne, Superman #22, 1988; Jerry Ordway, Adventures of Superman #450, 1989; Roger Stern and Kerry Gammill, Superman #28, 1989; George Perez, Action Comics #649, 1989. John Byrne’s last Superman story, and a heavy influence on Man of Steel in terms of who Superman kills and why.

[32] Central premise of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, released in 2013, ongoing storyline in the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated series (2001-2006) and invoked in the climax of 1996’s Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross.

[33] Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke, Action Comics #775, 2001. Adapted into a 2012 direct-to-DVD animated film, Superman vs. The Elite.

[34] Photo from http://savinginsalinas.blogspot.com/2011/09/yard-sale-finds.html. Superman has had many adaptations but this was true of virtually all of them until 2011.

[35] Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Justice League #1, 2011 (image source), and George Perez, Superman #1, 2011. Lee’s career goes back to 1987.

[36] WonderCon 2013 panel, “WC13: Jim Lee Talks DC, Answers Fan Questions and More!,” Comic Book Resources, March 30, 2013, http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=44604.

[37] Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, Action Comics #2, 2011.

[38] Dareh Gregorian, “Bird? Plane? Superdude!,” The New York Post, July 18, 2011.

[39] Nite Owl wore them in both versions, but Ozymandias picked them up in the movie. Comics 1986-1987, film 2009.

[40] Reed Tucker, “‘Steel’ this movie,” The New York Post, November 25, 2012. Image from Man of Steel, 2013.

[41] In addition to the film itself, see Emma Dibdin, “‘Man of Steel’: Zack Snyder defends Superman’s ‘collateral damage,’” Digital Spy, August 30, 2013.  

[42] According to smallville.wikia.com. In some seasons it was as high as three.

[43] 1952-1958; 2001-2011.

[44] Graphic by Chris Ritter, “The Insane Destruction That the Final ‘Man Of Steel’ Battle Would Do To NYC, By The Numbers,” Buzzfeed, http://www.buzzfeed.com/jordanzakarin/man-of-steel-destruction-death-analysis, June 17, 2013.

[45] Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com.

[46] Devin Faraci. “Find Out Superman’s Situation In BATMAN V SUPERMAN,” Badass Digest, December 15, 2014.

[47] 2013 speech at the BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture series.

[48] 2006’s Superman Returns was far less profitable and problematic in a different way.

[49] Johns, Lee, and Morrison have confirmed this is deliberate.

[50] Lesley Golberg, “Syfy, David Goyer Developing Superman Origin Story ‘Krypton,’” The Hollywood Reporter, December 8, 2014.

13 Comments on Guest commentary: Who Stole Superman’s Undies?, last added: 12/31/2014
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8. Amy Adams & Henry Cavill Accept Ice Bucket Challenge on ‘Superman vs. Batman’ Set


Here’s a scene you might not see in the upcoming Superman vs. Batman film. Amy Adams and Henry Cavill accepted the ALS Ice Bucket challenge in full wardrobe on the set of the Man of Steel sequel. Adams challenged all the siblings names she could remember.

I don’t want to ruin the end for you, but I hope you like your Man of Steel soaked.

They just dumped load, after load, after load…

Click here to donate some money to ALS.

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9. Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison Edition

Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics has been met with both high praise and no small measure of bewilderment. But this is a legendary run – you just need to think five dimensionally.

psych Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison Edition

When Morrison was announced as the writer of Action Comics #1, back in 2011, there was a great deal of excitement within the comics community. The man who had given us one of the greatest Superman books of all time, All-Star Superman, seemed a poetic choice as the architect of this brand new history. Morrison spoke of his love for the original Golden Age character, his socialist roots and desire to do good in the world; Superman as a folk tale, before he became the centrepiece of our modern mythology. The young Kal, standing proud and over-confident in his American jeans and self-branded t-shirt, cape flying behind him as he raced from one adventure to the next.

Action Comics, set five years behind the current day Superman comic, was to show us how Kal went from farmboy to international hero – from brash young man to a wiser one – but also to introduce all the pieces of the puzzle that make him who he is. There was fan outcry at the pre-publication revelations that Clark and Lois would no longer be a couple, and that Clark’s parents would no longer be alive. Comic fans, strangely adverse to change in a constantly recycling continuity, were outraged at the lack of a romantic plot with Lois, perhaps inadvertently recasting her in their minds as in existence only to please the leading man. The lack of parents of course linked this Superman much more strongly to his Golden Age roots, and removed him too from any existing connections to the world he found himself living on. An alien alone.

ac 01 200x300 Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison EditionAs Morrison’s run kicked off, with newspapers still fascinated by the jean-clad Superman and somehow missing the alarm bells that usually come with any mention of “socialism”, it soon became clear that Morrison’s ambitions were far greater than previously stated. This was not to be merely the introduction of the character, but the making of him – joining up pieces of a fragmented puzzle to show the whole, a Superman for a new generation of readers that brought the best of every previous incarnation along for the ride. Perhaps not surprising given the writers similar treatment of Batman, but the sheer scale of this particular endeavour given the extremely tight timescale is rather phenomenal.

Unsurprisingly, many readers were somewhat lost at various points – because when I say fragmented, I am being quite literal. After only four issues it was necessary for artist Rags Morales to need a break to catch up, and another plot was inserted with both the baby Kal’s escape from Krypton, and a future Superman returning to a point in time not long after the previous issue. The change in art style thanks to Andy Kubert for this two issue interlude helped underscore the time difference, and in issue seven we were back on our original track. These interludes became a signature of Morrison’s run, with further adventures spending time on the Superman of Earth 23 – and a meta teaser for Morrison’s upcoming Multiversity – as well as a Halloween trip to the Phantom Zone, and of course the obligatory issue zero with its genuinely heartwarming tale.

But here’s the thing: Morrison planned a short six issue run on the comic. When the first artist change came up, he told me that:

“…for me it hits the long term collections of it to have things done like that but at the same time it brings back a lot of the freshness and improvisation of doing comics again and just responding to that and also sometimes you know they’ll be like we need a two part filler here – okay I’ll just come up with something, and it might not necessarily fit it in to the middle of this but okay, you need a filler.”

And yet, every little aspect of this comic – from the future plot to the Phantom Zone to the appearance of the little teetotal man in the first panel of issue one – suggests a much grander plan. If I was uncharitable I’d chalk this up to a mild case of fibbing, but I know that’s not the case. Of course it’s likely that someone with so much knowledge of the DC universe would subconsciously drop little things in to the narrative that might turn out to be useful later – but for a six issue run? It’s a marvellous little contradiction that is completely in keeping with the unfolding story itself, perhaps demanding that it be told.

ac 02 200x300 Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison EditionSo we have the initial plot, the tale of Clark finding his feet as an investigative journalist and being a superhero in a world without superheroes – for he was the first – while the world reacts with suspicion, just in time for the Collectors to appear on the scene labelling Earth as a doomed planet. Clark is also receiving communications from a secretive person named Icarus, while Lex Luthor attempts to negotiate for his own life with the incoming alien threat. Superman of course saves the day, after pushing himself further than ever before, and the people of Earth are happy to have their own personal saviour. Kal even gets a shiny new suit out of it.

This alone woud be a solid little arc, establishing Kal as an accepted hero, uniting him with Brainiac and his Fortress of Solitude, placing Lex, Lois and Jimmy on our radar of people to look out for, and… well, also hinting at the involvement of the 5th dimension, casually mentioning a missed visit that is later revealed to be the Legion of Superheroes, foreshadowing the appearance (and constant invisible presence) of Krypto, a suggestion that the small man is the devil, and the introduction of Nimrod who we know will shoot Superman in the brain in the future because we’ve seen it in a past issue, as well as the K-Men who don’t actually quite exist yet because they’re from the future also, and the future form of Eric Drekken and the existence of the “First Superman”.

brain Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison Edition

All in all, it’s a good job Morrison stayed on to write more as while those plot bunnies would have given any writer much to play with, it’s clear that by now there was a greater plan in mind. In the first 8 issues, the fragments were already starting to tug apart, and I was reminded of Morrison’s fondness for telling stories that can only be told in comic form. In comics, unlike say films or games, each story is already a four dimensional experience – the reader is in control of the pacing and movement through time, even able to reverse time or skip from one time to another. With comics, the one thing that sets them apart from all other media – for me – is the gap between the panels. What happens in the gutters is completely unique to each and every reader, from the simple movements of a character across time, to the shifts between place, person and stories. When a writer chooses to increase those gaps, not only between sequenced panels but between issues, between pages, and between stories being told simultaneously at different time points, the story becomes even more interactive. A co-creation between creators and readers alike.

ac 05 200x300 Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison EditionThe fragments can be jarring, until you read further and more gaps are filled. This is partly due to the nature of the Big Bad, a 5th dimensional bastard named Vyndktvx, but it also serves to both explain the multitude of artists on the book, and to fill in those five years between issue one and where the character is supposed to end up. Five years over a handful of issues results in snapshots in time, little episodes that are important in the forming of Superman himself rather than an exhaustive chronological list. Superman was hated and feared – but not for long. Superman gave up his Clark Kent identity – but not for long. Superman is exasperated by the perceived inactivity of the other superheroes – but not for long. Superman plays can and mouse with Lex Luthor – but not for long. Superman interacts with Lois and Jimmy – but not for long. And so on. We know who Superman becomes, we have seen that story before in a million different varieties. But for this Superman, what is important? The chance to say goodbye to his father. The return of his faithful hound who never left his side. The children who found shelter in his cape. His landlady who gave everything to help him survive. That Kents never give up and that no matter what, he’ll never really be alone.

ac 09 200x300 Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison EditionThis is not the Superman of All-Star Superman. That Superman was older, matured, and a perfect focus of the Silver Age made real. This Superman is born from the pages of the Golden Age, each issue showing another edge of the same character while introducing the instruments of his incredibly complex life. He’s just a man who will never give up – the message at both the beginning of issue one as he threatens a corrupt businessman, to the end of issue eighteen where he hugs his dog and jokes about his hard won fight for both his life and the entire universe. An alien alone perhaps, but one who is very human. All-Star Superman was a god you could believe in; Action Comics Superman gets shit done.

ac 14 198x300 Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison EditionHaving Superman face off against the devil, a jealous little man from another dimension who poses as dealer, bartender and lawyer, is a neat touch. Vyndktvx is not only attacking Kal at the end of the run but has been attacking him all his life, sometimes in ways that Kal will never know and perhaps never should. He is even the figure responsible for the Super-Doomsday, an “unstoppable killer franchise from a parallel reality” that is perhaps a shade too close to our own little Earth. Commentary on Superman as corporate symbol would appear to be in conflict with Morrison’s previous comments on Superman’s heritage, but not when you look between the lines. Vyndktvx’s pledge to “make coins of” Superman, and his subsequent failure is a clear illustration that Superman the mythic symbol of our age lives beyond corporate lines and greed. His past may be murky, but Superman’s ability to inspire is unstoppable. At least, in the hands of Morrison.

The revelation that the universe was born from Mxyzptlk’s hat, and subsequently that many worlds were destroyed by the multitude, the three dimensional interpretation of the multispear, is an interesting play on gods toying with their creations from above – and of course a parallel of the ability of creators to manipulate their own paper universes. That Kal is a favourite of his 5th dimensional audience for his ability to not be controlled – alongside his father – places him at the centre of the story for reasons beyond him simply being Superman. His angering of a petty god leads to his life being irrevocably damaged, neatly fitting in with the New 52 changes and perhaps hinting at a deeper message.

ac 00 195x300 Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison EditionThis is an ambitious run, all the more so for how everything does in fact tie together in the end. Even the smallest throwaway comments in the early issues are given meaning in later reveals, while the back up strips by Sholly Fisch (and the Action Comics Annual #1) are uncannily in tune with the main comic as well as giving deeper insights into Kal’s humanity. As time and story starts to slide sideways, with Vyndktvx breaking the fourth wall, the creators themselves appearing alongside the hand of god, and angels tumbling from the sky, the time slips start to collide with the whole picture becoming clear. With the arrival of the final issue I spent a few hours reading the entire run first, and the effect is rather like standing back from a tapestry to see all the threads intertwine.

Honestly, I could spend thousands of words picking out all the links and meta-touches here, and still it would do no good – because what you, dear reader, insert in between those gaps and how you read the comic, through the manipulation of time and touch, and what you decide it all comes to… well that’s what makes the comic.

But I defy anyone not to have a little sniffle at the return of Krypto, and for the boys who borrowed Superman’s cape.

spin Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison Edition

Ha-la Kal-El, ha-la-la!

Action Comics #1-18
Writer: Grant Morrison

Pencillers: Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Andy Kubert, Gene Ha, Travel Foreman, Cafu
Inkers: Andrew Hennessy, Mark Propst

Colourist: Brad Anderson, Art Lyon
Cover Artist: Rags Morales, Brad Anderson

Letters: Steve Wands, Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Matt Idelson, Will Moss
Publisher: DC

[Laura Sneddon is a comics journalist and academic, writing for the mainstream UK press with a particular focus on women and feminism in comics. Currently working on a PhD, do not offend her chair leg of truth. Her writing is indexed at comicbookgrrrl.com and procrastinated upon via @thalestral on Twitter]

15 Comments on Review: Action Comics, the Grant Morrison Edition, last added: 3/27/2013
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10. On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid

A panel on Friday, March 29th, the first day of programming at WonderCon brought together a rather iconic cast to discuss “iconic characters” and what keeps a character “true” to their origins over long periods of time. Mark Waid opened as moderator by pointing out that the table full of seasoned pros had more than 125 years of comics experience between them and most had worked on longterm characters and newer creations alike. The essential question posed by Waid was how to “vault” characters “into the 21st century without losing what keeps them special”. The question seemed particularly pertinent to Waid, whose ongoing work on DAREDEVIL has evoked critical acclaim. Waid asked his panellists how they handle the “core elements of characters” to face this challenge.

mbrittany mwaid 1 255x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid J. M. De Matteis introduced an image that stayed with the panellists as a reference point for discussion. He felt that creators handling long-lived characters work “within a cage”, so they can’t “go wide” with the character in term of change, but they can “go deep” in terms of making new discoveries. For De Matteis, personally, it’s all about the “Big Why” of characters, figuring out what makes them tick. He prefers working with super-villains to pose questions about the formative impact of their past histories because there’s “always a little corner of the psyche to dig into”. Ann Nocenti, however, in her recent work with Catwoman found that “her archetype was pretty clear” as a troubled kid originally, “on the streets” originally, and moving through “foster homes”. Her intuitive approach is to “play with a character and see what feels right” and she doesn’t mind the fact that later creators will do the same with long-term characters. It’s “like treading water”, she said, “You give a sense of constant, dynamic action, but you’re really not moving far”, and she expects later creators to be under the same constraint.

mbrittany nocenti slott dematteis 300x117 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid Doug Mahnke’s challenges, as an artist working on long-term heroes, is rather specific, handling costumes and their overtones. He observed that heroes, even today, often don’t look “contemporary” because their appearance has become iconic and we no longer question the anachronism, like Superman’s “underwear outside his pants”. Other features like capes and boots, Mahnke said, “made sense at the time” they were created based on a “swashbuckling” influence. In fact, he explained, an artist’s job is to “bring out the majesty in the character. It doesn’t matter so much what they’re wearing”, but you can use costume as a “tool” to use to your advantage.

mbrittany dematteis mahnke 300x145 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid Several of the panellists then commented on the fact that objectively, some of the nomenclature and costumes of characters created decades ago would seem “stupid” now. Nocenti’s example was a resurrection of a minor character, Zebra Man who was “visually fantastic” but the name and concept bizarre. Slott felt that once an icon is an icon, “the fact that it’s an icon gives it weight”, preventing further critique from readers. Even Waid’s considered opinion was that “Green Lantern” is a “stupid name for a character, but after 75 years”, it has “gravitas”.

mbrittany nocenti slott 300x161 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panel then tackled the question of when and how exactly a character becomes officially iconic, and they set the bar high on awarding this status. De Matteis opined that “nothing about the character idea makes it iconic. It’s the execution”, and not every character reaches this status despite reasonably strong storytelling behind them. Dan Slott interjected that it only takes “one writer and one artist to do it”, like Frank Miller on DAREDEVIL. The discussion often drifted into slap-stick commentary on the more absurd aspects of superhero lore like the possession of a super vehicle as an icon accoutrement. Nocenti provided the little known detail that Cat Woman’s car is known as a “Catillac”. Slott confessed to proposing in a “meeting with real adults” that Superman’s car should be known as “Superman’s Ford Taurus of Solitude” with disasterous results.

Waid observed that some characters are iconic in pop culture without necessarily being long-lived, like Woody Woodpecker, who’s highly recognizable, but not a currently active character. Waid commented that the tendency toward merchandizing may encourage the slow-down or freeze of new developments in a character since “every character becomes a beach towel” in the end. The entire panel segued into a long and fairly serious discussion of Wonder Woman as a character and why she has, or has not, lived up to her iconic status in terms of actual comic storytelling.

mbrittany mwaid 2 251x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid

Most felt, like De Matteis, that Wonder Woman comics have not always been “all that good”, nevertheless the character definitely qualifies as “iconic”. Waid had a fairly idiosyncratic theory behind why this is the case. He observed that there was a strong “sexual element” to the “first 10 years of the strip” that was later removed to render the character more “plain vanilla”, and that now, lacking that “x-factor of sexuality”, stories fail to live up to the early days (an issue, he said, he frequently discusses with Grant Morrison). Slott disagreed pointedly with Waid’s assessment. He instead blames the lack of verve in Wonder Woman comics to the fact that comics are essentially a “make dominated industry” that has not explored the “many angles of the character” sufficiently. Slott still feels that if the right team is put together, the stories can rise to iconic status again, without recourse to the “weird quirky bits”. His choice of phrase caused plenty of giggling among the panellists.

This led Waid to ask his panel how they decide what elements are most essential to a character, what continues to translate, and what can be left behind. De Matteis advised to “always approach the characters psychologically and emotionally” and not worry too much about the “other stuff”, and sometimes that psychological appeal can be found in lesser known characters. Nocenti commented that her current work on KATANA based on the strange but intriguing concept of a “girl with a sword” produced “good potential” for developing “obsessional love triangle” elements between herself, her murdered husband, and his murdering brother.“The less iconic a character, the more fun you can have!”, she enthused.

Slott agreed with Nocenti on  this idea, up to a point. When you’re handling an iconic character, readers lose the fear that their reckless lifestyles will do them in, whereas if a character is “unknown”, “Everyone is worried”, wondering if they will survive from issue to issue. Slott and Nocenti shared an interesting moment of commiseration, albeit brief, about their mutual killing off of Spider-based characters, and the emotional reaction of fans. “Screw letters from emotional fans”, Slott concluded, laughing, but Waid intervened by informing the audience that he’s sure Slott “weeps himself to sleep at night with 6 year olds’ fan mail” over the death of Spider-Man .

mbrittany comics 300x200 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panellists didn’t always find their subject matter easy to decipher, nor did they feel that there’s always an easy answer for why some characters “click” as icons and some don’t. Batman, particularly, has a mysteriously successful dynamic, they said. But some things do change. Waid observed that he “couldn’t have imagined a world where I walked down the street and everyone knew who Tony Stark was” until after the Iron Man films had been made. Waid suggested that iconic status for characters might be measured in the number of imitators who have sprung up. De Matteis returned to his general position that archetypal patterns determine iconic status, however. Slott provided examples, stating that Superman is like Hercules, Batman a being on a vengeance-quest, and Tony Stark is, too, iconic in formula, as a combination of “Man and Machine”, an icon that the world is ripe for right now.

mbrittany nocenti slott 2 300x190 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panellists’ parting thoughts during the Q and A period focused on an interesting point made from the audience about the superhero/villain ratio. With so many more supervillains than superheroes in comics, “recycling” them is the norm, but at what point do they become “stale” and need to be retired, at least for awhile? De Matteis was firm about the roles of the artist and writers, insisting that there are “no stale characters but stale interpretations of characters” and that good work will prevent this problem. “Every character is great if you did into them in the right way”, he said. Waid’s closing example to support De Matteis’ point was that “20-25 years ago, no one would have thought that GREEN ARROW would become 2 times the best selling DC book, and then get his own TV show”. His bottom line: “If you dig deep enough you can find something that resonates”, and that’s the key to creating an icon, something that may not happen overnight.

 Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.


Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.




15 Comments on On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid, last added: 3/31/2013
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11. 75 years ago today, the Boys of Steel changed pop culture

A week that brought horror in Boston and shame in Washington also includes an unlikely positive: according to court records, it was 75 years ago today when Superman debuted in Action Comics #1.

Thanks to the Boys of Steel for changing everything, even still: this month inaugurates an (admittedly clunky) tweak to the credit line in Superman stories: 

 from Justice League #19 (first appeared in Action Comics #19, 4/3/13)

If you think it trivializes real-life struggles to juxtapose them with a fictional character, go back to 1938: when America was caught between two of its greatest challenges (the Depression and WWII), Superman brought hope literally to millions...

It couldn't hurt to give the sky more than a passing glance today.

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12. Superman honored in both native and adoptive homes

In October 2012, Cleveland, the city in which Superman was created, installed an exhibit about him in the airport.

In June 2013, Kansas, the state in which Superman crash-landed, will induct him (as well as Clark Kent) into its hall of fame.

What is your city doing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the world’s first superhero?

1 Comments on Superman honored in both native and adoptive homes, last added: 5/11/2013
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13. Music Monday - Can You Read My Mind?

The love theme from the 70's version of Superman came up this week. Made me nostalgic...

(sung by Maureen McGovern).

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14. Knoxville Children’s Festival of Reading

My second time in Tennessee took me to two schools in one day and the Knoxville Children’s Festival of Reading the next day.

The first school was a Jewish day school, where the setup enabled me to take this photo of two symbols which, to me, each speak of peace:

The other school was an Episcopal day school, so it was a day of unity.

The festival was the morning after rain, and held on a field, which had turned to grassy muck, which meant the one pair of shoes I brought was the wrong pair of shoes. Luckily, that was the only downside; the crowds were fun, I received a special gift, and I sat on a panel with people whose work I admire.

 Deborah Diesen, Bob Shea, Jarrett Krosoczka, 
moderator Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, me

During that panel, a girl in the audience asked us a question I found profound: how do we as adults relate to the kids we write for? 

I wish I could say my answer was that I stuck out my tongue, but it was not that clever. Whatever I did stammer out was heartfelt, but still a real missed opportunity on that one.

If you have ever wondered what a panel of authors looks like the night before the panel, mystery solved:

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15. Reviewed! Every Issue of Villains Month, Week One

DC sent along a lovely pack of review copies for Villains Week, and I feel like it’s only fair that I read through all of the ones out this week and review ‘em. I’ll go from my least favourite to my favourite, ending with my favourite of this first lot. And hey! If DC send along a second selection next week, I’ll review those ones too!

Slight spoilers below, but nothing particular.

One thing that you should note is that some of the comics take place as part of Forever Evil – the Batman and Flash comics, it seems – whilst the Green Lantern/Superman issues are more general. So if you pick up Poison Ivy or Grodd, it’ll make reference to two of the more immediate moments which occur in Forever Evil #1. Keep that in mind as you buy the comics – they’ll all make sense, but some will be directly following on from the main story whilst others are unconnected origin stories.



Paul Levitz (w), Yildiray Cinar (a), Jason Wright (c), Carlos M. Mangual (l), Anthony Marques, Mike Cotton (e)

I’m astonished this issue was made. Impossible to understand as a standalone story, it features a sequence about a mass shooting which is in extremely poor taste. The rest of the comic doesn’t explain who Desaad is or what’s going on, and is filled with concepts and ideas which are neither fleshed out nor coherent. The art tells the story – what little there is – well enough, but there are some dodgy character designs going on. I didn’t care at all about Desaad by the end of the issue.




Robert Venditti (w), Rags Morales (a/i), Cam Smith (i), Andrew Dahlhouse (c), Dave Sharpe (l), Chris Conroy (e)

There’s an interesting story in here somewhere, but the artistic choice made here turns an origin story into a complete chore to read. Every page is a splash page from Rags Morales, and he chooses some absolute clunkers. The first page shows a pretty galaxy with an arm floating into the left frame. What’s going on? Who knows. It’s boring.

Morales doesn’t make any of the concepts in Venditti’s script work, and his character designs are uninspired and uniform. Andrew Dahlhouse does his absolute best to clean up this mess, but it’s a lost cause. I can see that Venditti’s story would be interesting, if only the comic had been told sequentially instead of as a series of misconnected splash pages.




Andy Kubert (w), Andy Clarke (a), Blond (c), Jared K. Fletcher (l), Katie Kubert (e)

As you might expect, there’s really no reason to try and offer any backstory to The Joker. This issue tells a nonsense side-story from some point in Joker’s past, during which he has some flashbacks to his childhood. Really, any attempt to flesh out the past of the character is always going to flop – the more we know about Joker, the less interesting he is. As a result, the issue flails with an un-involving main story which bombs the final gag, and flashbacks which take away from the story entirely.

Andy Clarke’s artwork is lovely, as always, although the weak script means it’s very difficult to determine how some scenes are meant to be interpreted. There looks to be some intent at offering a subtext, but this is only conveyed in the art and not the script. It seems as though one of the supporting characters is secretly working at a cross-purposes, but there’s only so much the art can do without clear dialogue. Clarke attempts to elevate a completely throwaway storyline, but can only offer a very pretty, very weak, story.



Brian Buccellato (w), Chris Batista (a), Tom Nguyen (i), Wes Dzioba (c), Wes Abbott (l), Kyle Andrukiewicz, Joey Cavalieri (e)

Grodd’s a curious character. The main reason he exists as a villain is because gorillas are scary, I guess? This is an issue which struggles because the character comes into this issue with a goal that doesn’t make any sense. Every single character in the comic calls him out for his strange decisions and ambition, and he basically hits them until they give up trying. Does it forgive a strange character if every other character CALLS him strange? I’m not sure on that.

Chris Batista, to me, is one of those artists DC have never appreciated quite enough, and his work here is really good fun – not everybody can draw an expressive gorilla. Not a bad issue by any means, but one which doesn’t manage to quite fix the character.



Cyborg Superman

Michael Alan Nelson (w), Mike Hawthorne (a), Daniel Brown (c), Carlos M. Mangual (l), Rickey Purdin (e)

Interesting, this one. It’s going to upset fans of the character, but tells a reasonably involving story. Framing two sequences against one another, the final few twists are very obvious, although Nelson mines from really fun laughs from Cyborg Superman’s sadistic quest for a sidekick. I don’t know how this actually fits in with established continuity – it would seem to wreck Green Lantern’s past storylines, for example – but we’ll have to see. It’s a perfectly fine comic, and Hawthorne’s art is like somebody put Jamie McKelvie and Stuart Immonen’s art in a blender. Good, in other words.


Two Face

Peter J. Tomasi (w), Guillem March (a), Tomeu Morey (c), Dezi Sienty (l), Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern (e)

Featuring an astonishingly drawn and coloured opening sequence between Two Face and Scarecrow whilst both are stood ON the Bat-Signal, the issue sadly then moves into familiar territory for the rest of the issue. Morey’s colouring is spectacular though, especially in the early stages of the issue. At first it feels like there’s a definite plan for the issue, until the story turns into a typical Two Face/anti-hero narrative. There’s nothing especially new here, especially for those who have read No Man’s Land and other stories where Two Face similarly has no Batman opposing him.

It’s entertaining, but it also feels like Tomasi is killing time for the last half of the page-count. There’s some good puns about duality, though, which is half the battle in a Two Face story.



Bizarro Superman

Sholly Fisch (w), Jeff Johnson (a), Andy Smith (i), Javier Mena, Jordie Bellaire (c), John J. Hill (l), Ricky Purdin (e)

This is actually a Lex Luthor story, and it follows familiar ground in an entertaining way. No other character in comics quite has that mix of ambition, arrogance and disregard that Luthor has, and Fisch nails the character. Bizarro Superman himself is a strange creature in the comic – his arc is obvious from the moment he appears. Interestingly enough, Bizarro at no point takes on the design he has in the cover – this is a step far removed from the ‘classic’ rendition of the character.

But despite the by-numbers nature of the narrative, the creative team fit enough touches of silliness and character into the story that the comic works very nicely indeed. I was surprised to find I enjoyed the comic so much, but it was a really solid issue.



Gail Simone (w), Derlis Santacruz (a), Karl Kesel (i), Brett Smith (c), Dave Sharpe (l), Katie Kubert (e)

Very much in-tone with her run on Suicide Squad, Gail Simone’s story here puts focus on different mindsets of villainy. One thing the writer has excelled at recently has been creating villains who do evil acts no other villain would do – her Deadshot felt like a unique person rather than a sarcastic goon with a gun, and she’s created some of the most genuinely unsettling villains of the last few years. So it is again with Ventriloquist, which focuses on the second iteration of the villain, Shauna Belzer.

Carefully told, even if it does require a rather large suspension of disbelief towards the end, the story gives us a version of the characters – both ventriloquist and dummy – which keeps readers surprised and unprepared for what might happen next. And when Simone does leave a blatant piece of foreshadowing in the story, she does it to drum up tension and let readers stay one step ahead of the characters. It’s a well-done story, which takes an (probably rightfully) underused villain and give them a bit of purpose and character. It might be deeply silly, but there’s a deadly slice of horror tucked away in there too.


Count Vertigo

Jeff Lemire (w), Andrea Sorrentino (a), Marcelo Maiolo (c), Rob Leigh (l), Harvey Richards, Will Moss (e)

A considered and underplayed issue, Green Arrow’s team make the most of this opportunity to build up one of the character’s most famous villains.  Despite a slightly silly design, the character gets a much-needed redevelopment and sense of purpose which feels genuinely menacing. This doesn’t feel like a villain who is insane, but rather a methodical and calculated man who realises that breaking a moral code is preferable to getting left behind.

Sorrentino and Maiolo do some more wonderful work on the issue, continuing their incredible run of form. Sorrentino is the most distinctive and impressive artist at DC, and creates a wonderful sense of space in his work. On one page, for example, he breaks the story into ten page-width boxes, but without any of them feeling cramped on unintelligible. He does masterful work with POV framing, as well – he has an innate sense of perspective which makes it feel as though we’re looking directly out the eyes of the character, without things seeming like they’re overly-crafted and false.

It’s a very very strong issue indeed. Lemire unfolds an inevitable story as his own leisure, and leaves us with the indelible impression that Count Vertigo just became one of DC’s finest.


Poison Ivy

Derek Fridolfs (w), Javier Pina (a), John Calisz (c), Taylor Esposito (l), Kyle Andrukiewicz, Joey Cavalieri (e)

Like with the Two Face issue, this is an exploration in what Poison Ivy does when Batman isn’t around. And again, it’s basically what happened in No Man’s Land. The creative team manage to spread that idea out, however, and fill in some great details about the character and her origin. Also, there’s something quite enjoyable about seeing the character cut loose and have fun, because unlike most other Batman villains, her goal is philanthropically sociopathic. Fridolfs details how her ambitions are almost-so-close to being understandable, and Kalisz’ colours actually go a long way towards aiding that.

In the flashback sequences his colours highlight the character as a total innocent, in bright, warm pastels which makes the reader feel empathetic to her. Pina’s artwork is also excellent, presenting the character over the years as she ages – young and adult Ivy look like each other. I have a soft spot for the character, but the issue doesn’t rest on that hope. Instead, it offers a coherent origin story which binds the character’s personality together and leaves her in a stronger position than before.



Greg Pak (w), Paulo Siquiera, Netho Diaz (a), Hi-Fi (c), Dezi Sienty (l), Anthony Marques, Eddie Berganza (e)

The best issue so far, and likely to be the best of the initiative in general. Greg Pak offers us a talking Darkseid who earns his position as villain #1 in the DC universe. He’s scary and performs crazy, ambitious feats. What’s most notable is how Pak seeds his own just-started stories into the first Justice League story Geoff Johns wrote in the New 52 – it feels seamless and goes a very long way in fixing the problems many readers had with that first story.

A brilliant showcase for Darkseid as a villain, the issue is big and grandiose, explains who he is and why he does what he does, and makes the reader eager to read more Darkseid stories in future.

As I mentioned it in the Joker review, I should also mention it here – it’s a bit strange reading a Darkseid origin story. At the same time, so far in the New 52 Darkseid has been a bit rubbish… so I’m really just happy that the issue deals with him, gets it out the way and pushes the whole thing forwards.

Siquera, Diaz and Hi-Fi offer distinctive, eye-popping visual images whilst letterer Dezi Sienty handles the Kirby-esque dialogue with consummate ease. The ideas presented here could look silly and ridiculous, but for the intervention of Siquira and Diaz as artists. They handle everything thrown at them and turn it from nonsense into a believable (if strained) reality. If there’s one villain issue to pick up – it’s this one, for my money.



And here’s some numbers:

* five of the books are origin stories set primarily in the past

* six are set in the ‘present’ day, after Forever Evil #1

* three of them do not feature the ‘origin’ of the character profiled

* two books have a completely different character in the starring role, rather than the original pre-52 character

* four of the characters have a backstory of familial abuse/murder

* Batman, Superman, Darkseid, Count Vertigo, The Cyborg (Superman) and Desaad all get ‘created by’ credits.

15 Comments on Reviewed! Every Issue of Villains Month, Week One, last added: 9/6/2013
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16. Reviewed! Every Issue of Villains Month, Week Two

We head into week two of Villains Month, with thirteen more titles out this week. Ranging from Harley Quinn and The Riddler through to Mongul and Black Manta, a theme seems to emerge this week – DON’T EVER GO INTO SPACE!

Follow the jump for every issue reviewed, from my least-favourite through to my favourite.

One thing that you should note is that some of the comics take place as part of Forever Evil – the Batman and Flash comics, it seems – whilst the Green Lantern/Superman issues are more general. So some issues follow on immediately from the first issue of the event, whilst others are more general stories. Keep that in mind as you buy the comics – they’ll all make sense, but some will be directly following on from the main story whilst others are unconnected origin stories.



Solomon Grundy

Matt Kindt (w), Aaron Lopresti (a), Art Thibert (i), Travis Lanham (l), Michael Atiyeh (c), Anthony Marques, Mike Cotton (e)

It feels like there’s a big missing section from this comic somewhere, which would help tie the two stories together. This is an origin story interweaved with a scene of Grundy causing chaos in the modern day, but the end of the comic leaves readers with a whole load of questions. The issue starts with the character crash-landing on Earth from outer space…. the origin sequence ends with Grundy being created, a hundred years ago, on Earth. So how did he end up in outer space, so he can subsequently crash back to Earth? No idea.

It’s a massively melodramatic story as well, veering almost immediately into complete manic camp – especially in the origin sequence, which is the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s almost parody of itself. This is a bad comic, but at the same time? Enjoyable BECAUSE it’s so bad.




Tony Bedard (w), Pascal Alixe (a), Hi-Fi (c), John J. Hill (l), Rickey Purdin (e)

There’s a lot of horror in space this week, and Tony Bedard’s Brainiac story – although not really capturing the character’s intelligence – offers another imminent threat. Crucially though, I simply didn’t find any of what happened to be particularly interesting. Hi-Fi’s colours have picked a strange palette which makes every page into a fuzzy blur, like we’re watching an out-of-focus tv channel. Their decision muffles Pascal Alixe’s artwork significantly, and also seems to cause some real problems for the narrative. It’s quite hard to tell how some of the images relate to each other due to the colouring, especially when panels move around within a fixed space.

The story isn’t all that interesting either, explaining the duller parts of Brainiac without telling us anything about the cool bits – why don’t we get to find out the point of the pink disks he attaches to his head halfway through? What do those do, then?




Marguerite Bennett (w), Ben Oliver, Cliff Richards (a), Daniel Brown (c), Sal Ciprano (l), Rickey Purdin (e)

I didn’t understand the ‘controversy’ about this issue, but the story itself doesn’t really help endear this new character to readers. Despite Simon Bisley’s Lobo on the front cover, the character doesn’t make an appearance anywhere in the story. This is, instead, about a younger, sleeker Lobo who speaks in the same way (Bennett’s script absolutely nails the dialogue) but doesn’t really get much of a chance to shock the reader. The story is slow and doesn’t go anywhere, and the whole point of Lobo, surely, is that he does outrageous and over-the-top things – this issue doesn’t give readers any of that craziness.

It’s not a bad comic, but it’s nowhere near as dynamic and enjoyable ridiculous as a Lobo story should be.




Greg Pak (w), Ken Lashley (a), Steve Wands (l), Pete Pantazis (c), Anthony Marques (e)

There’s a miniseries hidden inside an issue here, with Zod a character who has a lengthy backstory which struggles to be crammed inside a single issue. The main concern with this issue is that Pak simply can’t get the whole story into this issue, leaving us with an issue which leaps around in time and sequencing almost as random, leaving readers slightly confused as to what’s happening. Ken Lashley’s artwork manages to do some heroic efforts in this regard, however, establishing the alien world Zod surrounds himself in as a really bizarre, weird place to live in.

Lashley seems to be the perfect fit for an outer-space story, as he manages to design around five different outfits for Zod (like I say, the story races through time like a dervish) which all seem appropriate to his place in Krypton’s society and his role as a constant outsider to it. If this had been expanded into a longer piece of work, it could have made for an interesting tale. As it is, this is a story which is constantly rushing forward, and the reader falls behind sooner rather than later.




Marv Wolfman (w), Cafu (a), Jason Wright (c), Steve Wands (l), Anthony Marques, Mike Cotton (e)

Marv Wolfman returns to a character he co-created and gives him an utterly horrific backstory and motivation which I presume will be setting up some future storyline in Teen Titans. This wasn’t a bad issue by any means – almost every issue this week seemed fine, at the very least – but it is a bit reliant on the central shock value of the character’s actions. If you strip out the villainy, I’m not sure I really felt a true sense of what the character’s ambitions are beyond ‘be horrible’.

Cafu and Jason Wright offer some brilliantly realised artwork, however – Wright’s colouring is especially fantastic, and ensures that this isn’t an issue which looks as grimy and dirty as it reads. There’s a brightness and vibrancy in the colouring which takes the character and makes him seem more impressive and powerful. The secondary characters are all muted, leaving Trigon the brightest character on each page.



Harley Quinn

Matt Kindt (w), Neil Googe (a), Wil Quintana (c), Taylor Esposito (l), Harvey Richards, Will Moss (e)

Remember how Harley Quinn is a terrible person wrapped up in a sweet and adorable harlequin bow? Matt Kindt’s issue reminds you that within that candy coating beats an evil, evil person. Struggling a little to connect the two halves of her personality to each, Kindt’s script eventually resorts to having the two narratives in her head shout at each other – which actually seems to fit her pretty well. This is a madcap issue, running at a very quick speed thanks to Neil Googe’s utterly wonderful artwork.

Googe steals the issue, in fact, emphasising the utter horror of Harley’s power fantasies during a particularly grim, extended joke sequence in which she acquires her new costume. There’s an overwhelming presence of character on the pages of the issue and it’s very good fun, even if it is rather aimlessly. The final page is a mega disappointment in that regard – it puts her back to square one for the New 52.



Mr Freeze

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray (w), Jason Masters (a), Dave McCaig (c), Jared K. Fletcher (l), Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern (e) 

Mr Freeze has gone through an interesting development during the New 52, in that Scott Snyder invalidated the whole ‘dead wife tragedy’ aspect in the character. With Nora now a distant memory, Palmiotti and Gray are left with the task of finding a new thing for the character to fixate on. That they magae to do so may well be the greatest triumph of the New 52 thus far.

The character was so heavily motivated by a need to protect his wife that a more straightforward villainous agenda feels beneath him, but the creative team here do their very best to work on the character and make this new aspect work. Their tactic is to make him so amoral and unfeeling as to be completely unpredictable, and McCaig’s colours assist this greatly. The bright red goggles, the only dynamic feature of Freeze, hide his eyes for the entire issue – a very effective tactic. It’s a solid issue.



Jim Starlin (w), Howard Porter (a), Hi-Fi (c), Carlos M. Mangual (l), Kyle Andrukiewicz, Joey Cavalieri (e)

An excellent reimagining for the character which realises the original design doesn’t really need to be changed.  The last I saw of Mongul, he had one eye and was terrorising the Green Lantern Corps. Here, though, the New 52 reimagines him as a military genius, living on a massive spaceship the size of a planet and defeating every force in his wya.

Starlin writes the issue as a celebratory monologue from the character, as he takes his latest defeated foe for a tour round his house and gloats about how easy victory is for him. On a character level, we now have a great sense of what Mongul is like and how his mind works. Starlin’s script is tight, but still allows the character to show himself off repeatedly; aided by some of the best art I’ve seen from Howard Porter, whose style usually puts me off.



Reverse Flash

Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato (w), Scott Hepburn (a), Buccellato (c), Carlos M. Mangual (l), Harvey Richards, Will Moss (e)

It wasn’t until the last page that I realised this wasn’t an issue DRAWN by Manapul, but was instead the work of Scott Hepburn. Coloured by Buccellato, Hepburn hurls himself wholly into this issue, producing some dynamic and wonderful pages with a zip and pace only Manapul himself could match. For the most part, this is an issue featuring the Reverse Flash as a regular person, and the pages reflect that with a blocky style. But whenever he transforms? Suddenly the pages explode apart with zagged borders and fractured panels.

It’s a fantastic showcase for Hepburn. As far as story – this is okay. It gets the idea across of the main character, but in doing so it accidentally breaks one of the supporting characters. By establishing Reverse Flash as a sympathetic figure, it has to make his sister – Iris, perhaps you’ve heard of her – seem rather cruel. I didn’t buy that, particularly. As this is, however, essentially an advert/prelude to the next big arc on The Flash, perhaps the team will be able to sort that out later.



Court of Owls

James Tynion IV (w), Jorge Lucas (a), Dave McCaig (c), Steve Wands (l), Katie Kubert (e)

A paranoia thriller of a one-shot, here James Tynion IV lets loose with the conspiracy angle of the Court of Owls and manages to just-about put their ship back on water. Which is a strange metaphor to use, but I’ve written ten reviews about villains already and my mind hurts. The Court of Owls were an interesting idea which didn’t quite hit the target during Scott Snyder’s original story, but here Tynion manages to get the concept together and make it seem plausible that they would exist.

Jorge Lucas and Dave McCaig nail the issue, absolutely. Coupled with the disturbing white-on-black lettering from Wands, the issue manages to create an investing and fascinating tonal style which gives the concept of a secret society in Gotham a feeling of realism. There is one panel where Lucas misses this mark and creates an unintentionally funny moment, but overall this is an engaging issue.



Black Manta 

Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard (w), Claude St. Aubin (a,/i), Blond (c), Carlos M. Mangual, Taylor Esposito (l), Kate Stewart, Brian Cunningham (e)

The most interesting aspect of Forever Evil is undoubtedly that several of the villains seem to have immediate plans to overthrow the Society of Super Villains and go their own way. This is once more the case with Black Manta, and the character seems primed for an interesting future following this issue.

Following Geoff Johns’ plot, Tony Bedard quickly sketches the basics of the character’s personality despite the book being heavily connected to Forever Evil. At least half the issue is working through the events of Forever Evil #1 from Manta’s perspective, expanding his role and motivations within a narrative we’ve already seen unfold. As a result, this is an issue which requires the reader to have seen the main event in order to get the most out of it. But, if you have, what follows is a surprisingly effective character issue.

The bulk of this story is based around the enmity between Black Manta and Aquaman, which makes one scene towards the end particularly effective – where Manta has the choice between two objects, and picks one over the other. It may be a little slight, but Black Manta is a quick and fun piece of the Forever Evil storyline, and shines a spotlight on a character who has seen significant growth over the last year.



Killer Frost

Sterling Gates (w), Derlis Santacruz (a), Brett Smith (c), Dave Sharpe (l), Kate Stewart, Brian Cunningham (e)

Killer Frost is a proper done-in-one horror story which then trails into the DC Universe right at the end, and is all the better for it. If Villains Month is proving anything, it’s that a lot of American writers struggle to create a proper done-in-one issue. Killer Frost – and the final issue of this month – are perhaps the two best exceptions to that rule, thus far. Sterling Gates and Derlis Santacruz take a note right out of Whiteout and The Thing, by stranding the central character in an Arctic Colony where people are acting suspiciously.

The majority of the issue is spent with her before she becomes a super-powered villainess, and as a result we get a real feel of her and her motivations, making her a sympathetic protagonist. When things go wrong, we get to experience John Carpenter-in-reverse, with Santacruz offering some exceptional suspense work which shows just enough of the violence to get the concept across – without ever showing so much that the comic feels gratuitous.

And when the issue moves into the DC Universe proper, Gates reconnects the character with her most well-known opponent, but adds a new wrinkle to their enmity which again serves her brilliantly. I knew nothing of the character before – now I’m excited to see where she moves next.




Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes (w), Jeremy Haun (a), John Rausch (c), Taylor Esposito (l), Katie Kubert (e)

The Riddler finally gets a showstopping sense of definition at DC, as Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes take the character and evolve him into a fully-formed, unpredictable theorist. Creating several rather clever riddles (I only guessed two out of five) and leaving them on the first page of the issue, readers are then asked to work out how these five riddles are going to allow the character to complete his goal of breaking into Wayne Tower.

This is gripping stuff, with Haun’s artwork methodically detailing the character’s movements and body language. There’s a moment where the character plays golf halfway through the issue which is a brilliantly quirky detail, and demonstrates just what makes him so fun to root for. There’s a playfulness in this violent and mentally ill supergenius, and Fawkes’ script allows the character several interesting new tics and ideas. Riddler comes off as evil, but in a way which suits his high intelligence levels – he’s a bag of tics and fears and arrogance, shaken up and then let loose into the world.

Taylor Esposito’s lettering is a great asset to the story also. If the reveal of each riddle weren’t placed as perfectly as Esposito places them here, the issue would fall flat, regardless of the great script, art, and colouring. Esposito carefully works out how to set up each page, creating a seamless reading experience for the reader. It’s really a tremendous issue. I’m biased because I have a previous love for the character… but this issue took everything I like about him and made it sing.



Here are the numbers:

* four books directly follow from Forever Evil – including all the Batman books, aside from The Court of Owls.

* eight have no connection to Forever Evil whatsoever

* there is no origin story for Lobo or The Riddler

* Batman created by Bob Kane, Court of Owls created by Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo, Aquaman created by Paul Norris, Mongul created by Len Win/Jim Starlin, Harley Quinn created by Paul Dini/Bruce Timm, Superman created by Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster, Lobo created by Roger Slifer/Keith Giffen, Trigon created by Marv Wolfman/George Perez

15 Comments on Reviewed! Every Issue of Villains Month, Week Two, last added: 9/12/2013
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17. Bill Finger’s sole official credit in his lifetime...on Superman?

Only once in his lifetime, Bill Finger received a “written by” credit on a first-run Batman story, and it wasn’t a comic book.

And though he wrote Superman stories, too (he created Lana Lang!), same deal—one credit, in TV:

This is from The New Adventures of Superman, a Filmation series of animated shorts that debuted in 1966.

Though there is currently almost no trace online that Bill wrote for this series, in 2006, I did follow a path to determine that this was the case. But I didn’t look for the visual proof until now.

Thank you to Bill Davis of Toronto for prompting me to revisit this.

Adios, Señor Superhombre.


Excerpts from emails with Bill’s second wife Lyn Simmons, and one other, in figuring this out:

From: Marc Tyler Nobleman
To: Lyn Simmons
Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 9:02 AM
Subject: Hi Lyn - Superman movie

You said they called Bill to ask him to come to California to write a script for the Superman movie. I've talked with a few people who were involved with the film and they don't remember that. Are you sure?

There was another writer named Alfred Bester who was friends with Bill who was definitely asked—there are written accounts online. Did you know Alfred? Is it possible you're confusing the two? Can you remember any more details?

From: Lyn Simmons
Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 4:25 PM

good to hear from you marc. bester's name rings a bell but don't think i ever met him. i'm pretty sure that bill received invitation to ca to write superman films. it's so long ago and i could be mistaken but I don't think so. in any event he never went. he had anxiety about flying and about leaving nyc.

bill may never have told his fellow writers about ca because he didn't want to explain why he wasn't going.

From: Pierre Spengler
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 1:05 PM

We purchased the rights in november 1974 and therefore started hunting for writer in the beginning of 1975. Very soon thereafter we engaged Mario Puzo. Therefore we never approached Bill Finger.

From: Lyn Simmons
Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:18 AM

i believe he was asked to come out to ca in the late 60s. i'm pretty sure it was superman. maybe they wanted him out there for ideas or stories a year or so before he died which i think was in '74. but perhaps it was for cartoons.

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18. reviews#402-403 – Superman Fights for Truth! & Batman is Brave! by Donald Lemke & Ethen Beavers

.. Superman Fights for Truth! (Dc Comics) by Donald Lemke &  Ethen Beavers Picture Window Books 4 Stars .. About the Story:   Someone has stolen from the grocer and it is up to Superman to catch the thief and returns the goods. Opening:  Superman hears a cry for help.  “Titano took my bananas!” yells a …

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19. Clark Kent’s grandson

On 2/24/14, I had the honor of presenting at Gregory-Portland Intermediate School in Portland, TX (near Corpus Christi) for the second year in a row

Another round of thanks to Cati (first syllable rhymes with “cat,” not “Kate”) Partridge for inviting me to speak with her students.

As before, the school (particularly library aide Cindy) created award-worthy displays to welcome me:

Prop pay phone! 

(I told Cati that there is no pressure to outdo themselves each time!)

And I had another honor this trip: I got to meet the genuine and articulate Ron Dennis, who is a friend of Cati’s and who is the grandson of Walter Dennis…who is a possible visual inspiration for Clark Kent.

I’d forgotten that I already knew of Walter; he is mentioned (and pictured!) in Superman: The Complete History.

Superman: The Complete History by Les Daniels

Superman: The Complete History, page 19

Ron was kind to answer some questions:


me with Clark Kent

me with Superman

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20. "Boys of Steel" signed by Siegels and Shusters

My friend Jamie Reigle is one of the world’s foremost collectors and purveyors of Superman memorabilia. I’ve mentioned him here before, and not only because he so kindly distributed hundreds (of the tens of thousands) of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman postcards over the years.

There were a lot:


In the summer of 2013, among the tributes acknowledging the 75th anniversary of Superman, the Cleveland Jewish News produced a special commemorative section; Jamie was profiled.

Mentioned and pictured: the page proofs of Boys of Steel signed by as many members of the Siegel and Shuster families as Jamie could round up.

His sons are named Kalel and Lex. I trust Jamie has a plan to prevent young Lex from using his genius for evil…and I know I’m not the first to make that joke.

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21. Naming your kids after Superman

My daughter’s name is Lara. It was one of the few female names my wife and I agreed on. I don’t remember who proposed it, but I know it was on the list I started in my early twenties. (Yes, I am that guy.) And I know my wife latched onto it after being swept up by Doctor Zhivago (which I still have not seen).

Though my wife might never believe me, and I can barely believe this myself, in deciding on the name for our baby girl, I did not remember that the name of Superman’s biological mother is Lara. In other words, I didn’t secretly propose/go along with the name because of my fondness for the Man of Steel.

My son’s name is Rafael. It was, I believe, the only male name my wife and I agreed on. (One of my first choices—Clark—was nixed even faster than I nixed one of her first choices…Fritz. Cut some slack. She’s German.)

I’m Jewish and because my wife is not, she gave her blessing for our son’s Hebrew name to be “Kal-El”—which is Superman’s Kryptonian name. Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman was not yet out so my life was not yet so linked to Superman, but even then I felt going this route would be too fannish. I did not want our son—who may not care a whit about Superman—to be saddled with a Hebrew name he would not be able to say without a sigh.

So instead, we chose “Emet”—“truth” in Hebrew. (This was inspired by the motto of my alma mater, Brandeis University: “Truth even unto its innermost parts.”)

And just like I had a revelation only after naming our daughter, I had one with our son as well. I recently realized that, perhaps subconsciously, I did saddle him with a Superman name after all:


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22. The Conversation of Literature: What Are They Saying About Your Book?

" Saucy is a real character dealing with real stuff—hard stuff that doesn’t have easy answers, not in real life and not in fairy tales, either. This is a really compelling and ultimately hopeful story. Highly recommended." – Debby Dahl Edwardson, National Book Award finalist and author of My Name is Not Easy Read a sample chapter.

We don’t write in a vacuum. Your story is in the context of the whole of literature, and specifically, the literature of your genre. How does your story add to, change, enhance the conversation?


Superman No. 1, Millennium Edition, a reprint of the first ever Superman Comic.

This question was brought home to me as I picked up my son’s comic book. It’s a reproduction of the original Superman comic book from 1938 (Millennium Edition, Superman 1, December 2000, originally published as Superman No. 1 Summer 1939). Wow! It’s bad. Really.The characterization, the back story, indeed the characters are all pretty stale and cliched. But that’s my evaluation from this time, from 2014.

The reproduction starts with an introduction to the comic:

Until 1938 most comics were usually filled with reprint material spotlighting the more successful newspaper strips of the day. And while ACTION COMICS was one of the first titles filled with original material–created from scratch for less money than it would have cost to reprint existing comic strips–few could have been ready for the sensation its cover-featured star would cause! ACTION #1 spotlighted the debut performance of the world’s first–and still foremost–superhero: SUPERMAN!

This puts the fist story of Superman into context. No wonder there’s no mention of Jor-el and the struggle on Krypton (which is expounded in recent films). Mr. and Mrs. Kent are just described as an elderly couple. Clark’s first exploit is to prevent a lynching, then catch a singer who “rubbed out” her lover for cheating on her, and then to stop an incident of domestic violence. Not the stuff of super-fame. The stakes are low–Superman isn’t saving the world here.

But in the context of comics that just reprinted comic strips from the newspapers, Wow! Again, Wow! This was great stuff.

Two things strike me here: First, Superman had a humble beginning. Too often today, humble beginnings are overlooked or not allowed to even see the light of day. We want a fully developed story, with super-hero characters. But these type characters often need a small beginning. They develop over time as the story becomes part of the culture and join the conversations of our time. If the story captures any part of our imagination, they will become part of the conversation and the characters, the story, the plotlines–everything–will grow and develop. I wish there was a way to let more stories do this, to begin small, to join the conversations and to develop. Witness the Superman legends today, with rich back story on his parents, his struggles to fit into Earth, the dangers from other Kryptonite survivors, his love life with Lois Lane and so on.

Second, Superman was a product of 1938. His story joined the conversation of his time. His first act was to prevent a lynching. Would that speak to today’s audience? No. Domestic violence? Shrug. We’ve seen so many stories that are much better than the nine panels devoted to this small subplot.

How Does Your Story Join the Conversation

Today, werewolves and zombies are having a rich conversation in our culture. You’d have to be an ostrich to know nothing at all of the influx of werewolves stories. Well–if truth be told, I am almost an ostrich on these two subjects. Until I read Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, who brings the werewolf story alive in new ways. (Actually, I’m linking here to the audio version because the author narrates his own story in an impossibly deep voice that is fascinating to listen to.) This is no “Cry Wolf” story, but a fascinating look at how the ancient legend could possibly affect our lives today; and it’s told with impeccable prose that fascinated me with its amazing storytelling.

I shunned the whole zombie thing until my hairdresser raved about “Warm Bodies,” a movie that took Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and updated it with zombies. Really? You could DO that? In other words, zombies were joining the conversation about romance and love. How do the things that separate men and women affect our lives? Can love really change things?

In other words, it’s almost impossible to live in today’s world and not know something about zombies and werewolves. The literary conversation is littered with these conversations that make connections which weave in and out of the canon of English and Western literature.

Saucy and Bubba. A Contemporary Hansel and Gretel Story.

Saucy and Bubba. A Contemporary Hansel and Gretel Story.

I call my recent story, SAUCY AND BUBBA, a contemporary Hansel and Gretel story because it puts it into a certain context: the discussion of step-mothers and how they treat the step-children. Mine is a twist on the old story–of course! In fact, it MUST be a twist on the old story, or it adds nothing to the conversation. Why would you rehash the same thing again. One reviewer said, “When a story can get me to even start to like the antagonist – like Saucy and Bubba does here – I know there’s a good book in my hands.” That’s what I wanted, a more nuanced look at the step-mother. I wanted the reader to have sympathy for her, even as they condemn her actions.

It’s like the original Superman comic: in today’s terms, it’s cliched. But it was hugely original for it’s time. It added to the conversations about justice and law-enforcement in interesting ways. If I simply repeated the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, it would be a flop. Instead, we must think about how our stories fit into the context of our times. We must strive to join the conversation and to have something to add to the conversation. How can we add something different, interesting, conflicting, nuanced and so on? How are you enriching the conversation? How are you changing the conversation?

How does YOUR story join the conversation of our times?

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23. Romita Jr. is either playing centerfield for DC or “the real thing” on Superman


This week Jorn Romita’s first Superman comic debuts, a fairly notable event in that Romita has been known all his career for his Marvel work. DC pulled out the big PR guns and the Times covers the move:

For comics fans, Mr. Romita’s change to DC from Marvel is the equivalent of Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees to play for the Mets.

Mr. Romita used a different metaphor: “DC and Marvel are like Coke and Pepsi,” he said, explaining that his decision to move was about trying new things. “Staying at Marvel, I would’ve been doing the same stuff, character wise.”

I think I like Romita’s metaphor a little better. As you may recall, Romita became a “free agent” last year and was roaming around looking for new work and ended up drawing the Man of Steel, in a version which debuts Wednesday in Superman #32 by Geoff Johns, Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson.

Long time Marvel artists going over to DC have had some mixed results — Marvel-storytelling is actually very different from DC’s background-heavy style. People tell me this book is kind of its own thing outside the New 52, so it could be worth checking out aside from the crosstown rivalry aspect.


13 Comments on Romita Jr. is either playing centerfield for DC or “the real thing” on Superman, last added: 6/26/2014
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24. ONE AND DONE: Up, Up, and Away?


Keeping up with comics is ridiculously expensive if you want to keep up with a number of titles that come out every month. Not everyone can do that–I definitely can’t. So welcome to One and Done, a weekly column where I go to a comics shop and try to find one good book that’s worth the exorbitant price. It’s not easy.

I really didn’t want to spend four dollars on a comic book this time. June has been an expensive month for me, and I didn’t have a lot of leeway this week. Which is a shame, because Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely’s Six-Gun Gorilla finally came out in trade paperback, and as someone who loved Spurrier’s work on X-Men: Legacy I would love to be reading and writing about that right now. But I could only spend four dollars at the shop, not twenty.

Instead, I bought Superman #32. I almost didn’t. Money’s tight, and I know how the vast majority of cape comics work: a dash of plot, a load of action, and a cliffhanger for dessert. Not to mention the fact that publishers are absolutely trigger happy with “events” and “crossovers,” which is pretty coercive and stupid but also has worked for literally ten straight years so of course they’re not going to stop.

Anyway, I should tell you why I bought Superman #32, instead of, say, Trees #2 (which is worth getting, Trees #1 might still be free when you read this. If it isn’t, let me know. I will tweet you a very entertaining plot summary) or Flash Gordon #3 (which I hear is Very Fun Comics). Some of you probably know why, because if you pay even the slightest attention to mainstream comics online, it’s painfully obvious why Superman #32 is A Big Deal. But bear with me for a paragraph or two while I address The Casuals.

On the Hype Scale, Superman #32 lies somewhere between “New J.K. Rowling Book (Non-Harry Potter Division)” and “Apple Releases New iPhone.” This is because Superman–despite bearing the name of and being about the oldest, most famous superhero in the whole world–has not been a very good book for about three years straight. And this week’s issue #32 marks the introduction of an Acclaimed New Creative Team, which makes it the Perfect Jumping On Point. The hope, then, is that this book will stop sucking.

But that’s a very general explanation for the hype. There’s an equally specific one, and its name is John Romita Jr.

Superman #32 is Romita’s first DC Comics work, after a legendary 30-year career of working almost exclusively for Marvel. That’s like Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees to play some games for the Red Sox, to use a sports analogy. He’s joined by writer Geoff Johns, who had an acclaimed tenure telling Superman stories in Action Comics a while back, and has spent much of the last decade remaking the DC Universe in his own image.

He’s a smaller part of the hype, but only because LOOK AT THE TALENT WE POACHED is a much better headline than GUY WHO DID GREAT STUFF HERE ONCE RETURNS TO HOPEFULLY DO GREAT STUFF AGAIN.

They’re joined by Klaus Janson, an inker who a good enough artist in his own right to get people excited about him drawing a book by himself, and Laura Martin, an award-winning colorist. So, the reasons to buy this book are stacked up right there in the credits.

So is it any good? No. Not if you paid four dollars for it.

That qualification is important, and should be adjusted based on how you feel about the reason we’re all here: John Romita Jr.’s art.

I, for one, really enjoy JRJR. He has a distinctive, blocky style that often feels refreshingly blue collar. Sure, his faces tend to all look similar and he can get really weird with anatomy–Superman’s head completely disappears in the fourth figure of that cover illustration up top–but there’s a lot to love about how he portrays things like physique. His Superman–and Clark Kent–is built like a truck, but not bulging with muscles made of marble. This Kal-El is less Greek god, more caped linebacker. It really helps to convey a sense of might, not just strength.

But man, the story on this thing. Let’s start with this. Here is the solicit (that’s comic speak for ad, I suppose) for Superman #32:

““THE MEN OF TOMORROW” chapter 1! A NEW ERA for SUPERMAN begins as Geoff Johns takes the reigns – and he’s joined by the legendary super-talent of John Romita, Jr. in his first-ever work for DC Comics as they introduce Ulysses, the Man of Tomorrow, into the Man of Steel’s life. This strange visitor shares many of Kal-El’s experiences, including having been rocketed from a world with no future. Prepare yourself for a run full of new heroes, new villains and new mysteries! Plus, Perry White offers Clark a chance to return to The Daily Planet!”

There are two plot points mentioned in that solicit. They are the only two things that happen in the book. There is nothing I could spoil for you if I wanted to. There’s some stuff in there about Clark not having much of a personal life and Jimmy Olsen not knowing what to do with his fortune, but they literally don’t go anywhere, as they’re most likely B-story stuff to check in on throughout the run whenever we need a break from Superman punching giant robot gorillas.

Oh, and Superman also punches a giant robot gorilla, but there’s no reason for it other than giving JRJR something dope to draw. That’s something I take issue with. I mean, if you’ve got it, use it, but use it in a justified way. If you want to have a giant robot gorilla fight (and there’s nothing wrong with that, those are awesome), then make it amazing, make it happen for a reason, make the script earn the art it asks for. Don’t waste an artist’s talent or a reader’s time.

One of the things I don’t really understand about how comics are critiqued and received are the standards that we hold creator-owned books like Saga or Fatale or Mind Mgmt to, and the ones that we judge mainstream superhero comics by. Cape comics get a pass on a lot of things: bad dialogue, barely any plot, and a near-sociopathic insistence on buying multiple titles to get a “full story,” as if they still cost ten cents a pop.

You’re going to read a lot of reviews saying how great Superman #32 is. A lot of those reviews will likely be written by people who also adored books like The Wicked + The Divine #1, a book absolutely full of great ideas and hidden meanings and lots of potential energy. Superman #32 has none of these things. So why would we call it good?

Superman #32 is a bad comic book. But ‘The Men of Tomorrow,’ the larger story of which Superman #32 is the first part, could be absolutely fantastic whenever it’s done. Everyone working on it is top notch.

But there are ways to make a good comic book, to tell a good serialized story twenty-two pages at a time. The stands are full of good examples, and we read them every week.

This is not one of them.

As always, support your local comic shop if you can, patronize your local library if you have one, and say hi on Twitter if you like.


Be back in a week.

8 Comments on ONE AND DONE: Up, Up, and Away?, last added: 6/29/2014
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25. Review: It’s a Bird, It’s Plane…It’s Superman

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I saw the final night of the ENCORE! concert staging of ythe Adams/Strouse Superman musical last night and I truly wish I had seen it earlier so I could have written about it earlier and told everyone to go see it because it was a DELIGHT! but the theater was jammed so I guess it didn’t need my rave! (I spotted Joss Whedon among those taking it in!)

Everything about this production was charming and fizzy and fun, starting with the bold splashy sets filled with pop art ben day dots and explosions. Originally produced in 1966, this was very much a period piece, but people were a lot more sophisticated in 1966 then we give them credit for, from Lois’s kicky mod dresses to the sly suggestion that Superman is a little more into his celebrity than his heroism might indicate.

The cast was note perfect, from Edward Watts strapping, slightly goofy but always sincere Superman; Jenny Powers as a pert, yearning Lois, David Pittu and Will Swenson bringing down the house as a pair of villains.

This musical came out a few months after the campy Batman TV show debuted, a reminded that the DC superheroes were already a significant part of the cultural consciousness. It’s a Bird’s Superman plays on the same kind of cartoonish approach to the idea of the Superhero — both Batman and Superman are just “good guys” who solves petty street crimes and vanquish the occasional wackadoo with an unlikely hairdo—but it’s a lot more amenable to the idea that we need an amazing hero to look up to, even if he is a little bit slow on the uptake about a few things, like romance and mad scientists with evil schemes.

All the singing and dancing and acrobatics was outstanding, and I left the theater humming the tunes…something I could not say about SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK. Different stories for different times.

Anyway, great fun, and I’m really glad I got to see it.

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6 Comments on Review: It’s a Bird, It’s Plane…It’s Superman, last added: 3/26/2013
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