Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 41

Superman Blue is back, and he's not too happy about it! His body has been usurped by a LexCorp-built Artificial Intelligence, the authorities are convinced that he's an impostor, and all his attempts to retrieve it have been blocked by LexCorp guards with weapons designed to combat his altered form. Even if he makes it past them, he still has to defeat his own body, and it's not going down without a fight! It's the Man of Steel versus the Man of Teal in a battle royale! Of course, without the help of a particular endangered computer programmer, it's not going to matter who wins! This stunning conclusion could be the end for Gus Gorman--and the Last Son of Krypton!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 40

Superman has been split in two by LexCorp's VERA Device, and only Gus Gorman knows how to reverse the process. But before that can happen, Superman must find a way to keep his disembodied, digitized life-force from dissipating forever! A lightning-fast trip to the Fortress of Solitude reunites Superman with his containment suit, a device he'd hoped never to use again. The Man of Energy has returned, but can he stop VERA before it takes control of his lifeless body? Even if he does, it'll be in vain if Gorman's bosses decide that he's too much of a liability...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 39

Gus Gorman was an average code jockey for a software developer subsidiary of LexCorp operating out of Orem, Utah. But that was before his superiors learned that Gus is a technological prodigy, a certified genius with electronics. He was immediately promoted to the head of a new research and development team working on a secret project near Glen Canyon. At first, he's thrilled by the opportunity, but as the development continues, he realizes that there might be sinister motives at work. Threats of blackmail, blacklisting, or worse hang over him if he tries to leave or speak out. Gus watches, cornered and helpless, as his project reaches completion, just as Superman enters its sights...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 38

When the landmark larcenist Monumentarch heard about Mel's Hole, he was intrigued. Imagine, a bottomless pit in Washington state, with strange properties that warp time and space and might even be able to resurrect the dead! Monumentarch's mind bubbled over with ideas of how to use such a place to his advantage, until he hit a snag: it doesn't exist. Monumentarch decides that he's going to take control of Mel's Hole, even if he has to make it himself. Now Superman's in a race against time to stop the mad monnument marauder before his stolen singularity generator turns the Earth inside-out!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bottomless Nerdity

My fianceé and I have been car shopping for a little over a month. My car is getting to be pretty unreliable, and cleaning up the oil slick in the garage every couple of weeks is fairly frustrating. We'd just about given up recently, having heard little from the local agents we had out looking for us.

Until yesterday. I got the call shortly after work that they had found pretty much precisely what we'd been looking for. It was amazing. It's got almost all the features I wanted, and it's a beautiful iridescent blue. We made our down payment, and we'll be picking it up in a week or so. I'm quite excited.

So naturally I was still thinking about the car--and its gorgeous blue color--when I texted her a little later:
The leg room certainly makes it feel bigger on the inside.

I'm thinking "Classy, and Relative Dimension in Space."

Walking with Superman: Day 37

Kodiak and his sidekick Cubby, members of the Chicago 7, take Superman out to a ballgame. It's a Crosstown Classic game at Wrigley Field, and Superman's enjoying the chance to relax with some new friends and allies. It's a fine day for friendly conversation about loyalty and bitter rivalries, about eternal underdogs and everlasting hope, and about what toppings belong on a hot dog. Oh, and while we won't mention who's leading the song for the Seventh Inning Stretch, we will say that Darkseid would hate it...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comics that should be drawn for free

I know it's a little cliché to criticize Greg Land for being the laziest, most shameless tracer in comic art, but so long as the man is being paid to rip off other artists' work with no credit, I think that it needs to be repeated and restated.

One thing, though, that I commonly read in threads about his hack work is that he used to be pretty good and didn't do this kind of thing. I've seen some of his old Birds of Prey covers, and it seemed like that might have been true.

And then, when going through the Legion of Super-Heroes reboot chronology, I read The New Titans Annual #11, with pencils by 1995's Greg Land. And while it isn't obviously porn- and wrestling-tracing all the way through, that's partially because it looks so terribly '90s. All the typical '90s excesses are here--ridiculous proportions, huge muscles, everyone shouting and veiny. But in addition to that, it's clear to see the germs of Land's current career: blatant tracing, lazy reuse of images, and images that just don't fit either the story or the scene.

Frankly, I didn't even know it was Greg Land at first. I didn't go back to look at the artist credit until I saw these two panels on the same page:
Remember, this was when copy/paste still required actual paste.

Really? The same exact pose in consecutive panels? There's no reason for it in the story, either.

Then there's these, mercifully spread out in the book:
Anyone know who got referenced for this one?

And finally, special guest star Don Knotts!
We oughta nip this in the bud.

The idea that Greg Land was better in the past is a Comic Book Legend worth debunking. The man is a hack, he's always been a hack, and he will continue being a hack so long as his comics keep selling. There is no reason that Land should have a career as a professional comics artist when there are starving artists with metric tons more talent working on freaking DeviantArt. Anyone can trace, and it's time people stopped paying for Land's stolen work.

Walking with Superman: Day 36

The Ukiah, California Fire Department is always overworked when the wildfire season begins, and this year has been particularly bad. So the team is happy to accept new transfer Calvin Ellis, even if he is from out east. It helps that Calvin's a real team player and a nice guy besides, and he's really enthusiastic about working with "a different kind of hero." If the Chief knows what he means by that, he ain't talking. In fact, no one can get him to say much of anything about Ellis's history, except that he's got a great record. And when the forest fires begin raging more dangerously than they have in years, Calvin will prove to be a more valuable asset than the team could ever have imagined.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A decent first try

Hey, remember when there was that long stretch with no Doctor Who show, and then they brought it back?

Yeah, not that time. I'm talking that other time. The 1996 time.

The TV Movie holds special significance to to me, because it was almost certainly the very first Doctor Who show I watched on its first airing. It was definitely the first Doctor Who episode I made plans to watch. Plus, I really like Paul McGann as the Doctor, though that's more due to the audio plays than the Fox episode.

The TV Movie is quite flawed, but it's not as terrible as its reputation makes it out to be. Heck, I'm pretty sure I'm more excited to watch it again than "Planet of the Dead," but that's mostly because "Planet of the Dead" is so unmemorable that I recall almost nothing of what happened in it. Say what you will about the TV movie, at least it tried for epic.

Well, if you've been eager to check it out, but unable because of the rights issues that kept it from being released in the US, then I have great news for you: the rights have been cleared up, and a new, snazzy, extras-filled DVD edition should be released sometime in the next year.

I'll be getting it, to be sure, but I was impatient. I picked up a Region 2 copy on Amazon.co.uk a year or so ago.

Walking with Superman: Day 35

There's a rally outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where a crowd of Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers have gathered to voice their opinions. Clark Kent observes, interviewing individual rally attendees and members of the nearby counter-protest, trying to understand what would cause so many people to deny the obvious and hate so passionately. When the gathering turns violent, Superman steps in to defuse the situation, but the problem only escalates when one of the rally attendees turns out to be a World War II survivor--Captain Nazi! Superman goes head-to-head against the symbol of Aryan superiority, but the real battle is the one waged by the Daily Planet against the bigots and revisionists. The Fourth Estate takes on the Third Reich with the power of the First Amendment, and a lone reporter proves that Fascist propaganda has nothing on Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 34

Strange things have been happening in the Galaxy Amusement Park in Anaheim, California. Children are coming out of the Turtle Boy Funhouse of Shellitude in silent, imperturbable trances; adults are starting to act like their favorite GBS-TV characters, and all signs point to the park's lead Innovationaut: Winslow Schott, the terrible Toyman! Schott maintains his innocence, and he's asked Superman to prove it. Superman travels down the rabbit hole into the surreal world of an aging theme park, and what he discovers is the only man who would mock Turtle Boy. Everyone's a little mad in Galaxy Park, but some are a little madder than others...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 33

Bristol, WI has become a real renaissance town, and only an unpopular, powerless writer named Joseph Kent suspects the truth. Kent's pamphlets and speeches have only made him a prime subject for the pillory. In order to convince the populace, he's going to need a new tactic. If journalism won't win them over, then perhaps drama will. A little fiction might be just what's necessary to stoke up the fires of rebellion. Yes, the play's the thing, when Superman becomes...the Shakespeare of Steel!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 32

Superman takes a trip back in time at the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, WI, but what starts as turkey legs and tunics becomes a bit too real when Morgaine le Fay shows up. When her magic makes Bristol into a 15th Century European hamlet, she offers Superman a position as her personal knight and protector of her expanding realm. Superman refuses, and so he is consumed by the spell. Now, only her majesty Morgaine's least favorite rabble-rouser and pamphleteer, Joseph Kent, suspects that something is amiss in Bristol. But can he convince the an unsympathetic populace before the lunar eclipse makes Morgaine's spell permanent?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 31

Just outside of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Superman finds out where the heck Wall Drug is, and a whole lot more besides! Superman visits a small, secluded town with a singular resident. The valleys around Randall, SD hide a diverse assortment of deadly creatures and ne'er-do-wells from across time and space. When they become a threat, it's up to Vaxan Byzar to save the day. Accidentally transported to Randall by the same failed experiments which turned the area into a spacetime nexus, Byzar comes from a much less advanced world than our own. But, armed with a keen mind and conventional weapons, he has become a local hero. Superman's arrival brings Byzar new dangers, wider recognition, and perhaps even a chance to return home...

Asian Spam Update

You may recall my attempt to reach out to the Asian Spammer community, in an attempt to understand their motivations and desires. Well, there's some news on that front. In the past few days, I've gotten four or five e-mail notifications that there were new Asian spam comments on my various recent posts, but when going to delete them, I find no such comments. So apparently Blogger is cracking down, which is fantastic.

As to the spammers: sorry guys. I've got no control over this one. Sayonara.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 30

Superman tracked down Wild Dog in hopes of saving lives, but he never expected to be saving Wild Dog's! The Crimson Avenger has come calling, and her guns cry out for Jack Wheeler's blood. It's cursed pistols versus machine guns, with four cities and a reluctant Kryptonian caught in the crossfire. Superman told Wild Dog that the ends don't justify the means, but when one killer promises to eliminate another, can even Superman justify getting in the way?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 29

Superman's travels have brought him to the banks of the Mississippi River, where the Quad Cities straddle the border between Illinois and Iowa. Crime in the area is lower than the average for such a large urban population, largely because of the vigilante activities of the man called Wild Dog. While his methods have proved effective against everyone from domestic terrorist groups to the mob to low-life drug dealers and bank robbers, the Man of Steel doesn't approve. One way or another, Superman has decided that it's time to put the Wild Dog down--but this dog won't go down without a fight!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 28

Superman's trip to Seattle coincides with the annual Powerhouse Hero Convention, a massive gathering for amateur superheroes and hero groupies, fans, retailers, and fetishists. Superman marvels at the subculture, seeing panels like "How to Activate Your Meta-Gene," "Costume Design 101," and "'Who talks to fish?': Coping with Lame Superpowers," and gets stopped every ten steps by people who want their picture taken with one of the best Superman cosplayers they've ever seen. Superman finds it strange but mostly harmless, until it all takes a more sinister turn. Amidst the vendors selling memorabilia and knick-knacks and useless crystals promising to harness cosmic energy, someone in the convention center has been dealing in a cheap but very effective single-dose knockoff of Lex Luthor's Everyman Exo-Gene treatment. Now Superman must fight through dozens of excitable new metahumans and thousands of groupies to find the source of the drug before the streets are filled with inexperienced wannabes. Thankfully, he has the dedicated help of the convention's guests of honor: over thirty superheroes of various levels of fame and experience, including Booster Gold, Beast Boy, and the Inferior Five!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hey, check out this crazy thing I totally just found somewhere!

It's amazing the things you find just lying around in coffee shops. Take a look:

Crazy, right? I mean, I can't believe this got left out of the actual issue. Maybe they'll do a director's cut or something.

Walking with Superman: Day 27

New York is the City that Never Sleeps, and it plays home to a particular population of residents who take full advantage of that. But when Superman comes to town, some of the Big Apple's large vampire community take notice. A number of experts in vampire physiology have hypothesized that there might be a way to use the solar-powered cells of a Kryptonian to cure vampires' fatal allergy to daylight. New York's civilian vampires look to Superman as a symbol of the hope of returning to some semblance of a normal existence, many having had their lives ruined by being turned against their wills. The less scrupulous Nosferatu see an opportunity to extend their bloody reign well past sunrise. Meanwhile, Vampire Hunter Anna Vordenburg recognizes that the bloodsuckers will be out in force after the Man of Steel, and vampiric vigilante Moonrise hopes to spare both the humans and the vampires from any further bloodshed. Vulnerable to the supernatural abilities of the vampires and sympathetic to both sides, Superman must defuse the human-vampire tensions before they tear him--and Manhattan--apart!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 26

Maxie Zeus has imprisoned Superman and enslaved Olympia, Washington, but he seeks to assert his godhood over the rest of the world. The creatures and armies of Zeus march across the Pacific Northwest, expanding the reign of god-king Zeus, and no mortal superhero can get anywhere near the ever-increasing boundaries of Olympus. To take down a mad god, the heroes must become gods themselves. Batman assembles a pantheon: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Steel, the Flash, Plastic Man, and ancient Roman hero Alpha Centurion. Together they must storm Olympus, rescue Superman, and take down Maxie Zeus once and for all, or Earth will fall before the thunderous might of Zeus.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Superman Sunday: Origins (Part 9)

Today, we're continuing our look at George Lowther's 1942 novel, The Adventures of Superman. When we left off, Eben Kent was about to enter an anvil-lifting contest against much younger men in hopes of saving the farm, and I'm pretty sure someone asked "what could possibly go wrong?" along the way.

The day of the State Fair dawned bright and clear, but there was little happiness in Clark Kent's heart. (p. 36)

Reading this, I can't help but think of "Casey at the Bat"--'but there is no joy in Smallville,' or something like that. Clark didn't sleep well, worried about his father, and trying to think of a way he could help. I get that Clark doesn't realize that he's super-strong yet, but why doesn't he consider entering the contest himself? He's a young man, and while he may not have the years of experience and exercise that Eben has, I'd think being a young, hard-working farm boy would count for something in the muscle department.

Eben and Clark head out to the Fair Grounds after a hearty breakfast1, while Sarah stays at home. The hard times, it seems, have been harder on her than on Eben, aging her more obviously than him. The fair is an interesting sight to me, because aside from a couple of details ("horse-shoe contests, potato-sack races") it sounds like every local and state fair I've ever been to. Sixty-plus years later, and some things still don't change (p. 37).

The afternoon approaches, bringing with it the anvil-lifting contest. "Clark's eyes roved over the crowd, sought and found what he most feared--the faces of 'The Bull' and Fred Hornbach" (p. 38). The competition for the contest is stiff, and both Clark and Eben know it. "The old man realized, perhaps for the first time, the impossibility of his winning against such heavy odds" (p. 38). But Eben goes anyway, refusing to back down when he's already committed to the contest, and knowing how much they need the prize money. Willingness to strive against insurmountable odds in the name of responsibility and a greater good? In the education world, we call what Pa is doing here "modeling."

I'd like to step back once more and mention just how much I love the Kents. Orphans are the lifeblood of superhero comics, and Superman's no exception to that, but he's one of the few for whom that orphaning isn't his motivation for being a hero. Batman is driven by the tragedy of his parents' deaths, Spider-Man became a hero out of guilt over Uncle Ben, but Superman becomes a hero because he was raised by his parents to be one. The loss of his parents, even his adopted parents, plays a fairly minor role in his superhero career. He becomes a hero because it's the right thing to do.

In part, this is because in the origin stories where one or both of the Kents die, they aren't killed in some freak accident or mugging or anything. They generally die of old age, or related symptoms. The Internet's Leading Batmanologist argues that Bruce Wayne should be the happiest kid ever, and that his parents' death shouldn't be his fault, because that's the point of the story. Similarly, I think the stories where Clark inadvertently causes his parents' deaths (like in the Silver Age, where he accidentally infects them with pirate germs, or something) or where they die from some less natural cause (as in the modern age, where Pa overexerts himself during a battle with Brainiac) are missing a big part of the point. If Ma and/or Pa must die, it should be from old age-related symptoms; it should be tragic in the way that all loved ones' deaths are tragic, but it shouldn't be an event, if that makes any sense. The death of the Kents should be a reminder to Superman of his limitations, that no matter what he does, no matter how much power he has, he can't save everyone.

But I think, ideally, that Superman's parents ought to be alive. There's no reason that Clark's parents have to die, and if there's any superhero who should be able to go back home for Thanksgiving, any hero who should have a good relationship with his parents, it's Superman. The whole point of Superman isn't just that he's the ultimate immigrant, it's that he's the ultimate adoption story. He's an orphan, sure, but he's been adopted by the entire planet, and he sees himself as just another member of the family. And that's all because he had some solid parenting from good, kind, upstanding people. Which is why it's always nice to see Clark's parents walking the walk, and modeling for Clark what real heroes do.

Digression over, back to the book. Clark looks to the competition, seeing how obviously strong they are, and knowing that even his youthful muscles couldn't measure up. Eben ascends the stage, while onlookers snicker, not knowing the desperation that led him to this contest. Clark overhears a sour-faced aging city-slicker scoff aloud about Eben's foolishness, and the two exchange bitter glances. Afterward, the contest begins.

The first man to try is one who stepped up after Eben, and he's unable to get the anvil to budge in the slightest. Next is Fred Hornbach, who struggled to lift the anvil a full inch off the platform. "The Bull," a big broad shirtless man, took to the challenge like a smug prizefighter, and lifted the anvil three inches. Finally, Eben took his turn, much to the crowd's derision. The crowd goes silent when Eben manages to lift the anvil, but at two inches, it's obvious how much he's straining. Clark cries out: "Put it down, Dad! You'll never make it! You'll kill yourself!" (p. 43). The shout is in vain; Eben feels a sharp pang of pain and drops the anvil, but puts on a brave face even as the crowd jeers once more. "The Bull" joins in the mocking, until finally Clark loses his temper. He rushes the stage.
He stood before "The Bull" with tears of rage streaming down his cheeks.

"Let my father alone!" he shouted. "Let him alone--you hear?"

"The Bull" looked at him in mild astonishment and amusement. He reached out a powerful arm to push Clark away.

"Go 'way, kid, or I'll--"

He never finished what he started to say. As his hand reached out for Clark, the boy stepped aside and swung his fist against the other's jaw. "The Bull" shuddered and sank limply to the floor. (p. 44)

There's a trend in certain Superman origin stories that portrays the young Clark as having a temper; he's not quick to anger, necessarily, but he's shown to have a limit and a righteous fury when that limit is hit. We're seeing that here, and I've seen it pop up in Tom De Haven's "It's Superman" and "Smallville" as well. I really like this trait, because it's so believable. It's a flaw in Clark's character, a sign of his immaturity, but it also presages those rare occasions when we see Superman lose his temper--I'm specifically thinking when he fights Darkseid in "Justice League Unlimited" or when he comes out of the Black Mercy world in "For the Man Who Has Everything." It's very humanizing. It's also, when Clark is young, an opportunity for him to realize precisely why he can't cut loose all the time, and why patience and restraint are more important for him than almost any other person alive.

An anvil's black and shiny / It's very heavy too / So watch out, my chubby friend / Or one will fall on you.Still seething, Clark walks to the anvil, indignant about the crowd's treatment of his father. "He reached down, gripped the anvil in both hands, and lifted. He was almost thrown off balance at the ease with which he raised it and held it aloft, high above his head!" (p. 45). The crowd is silent in awe, and Clark finally cools down enough to realize what he's done, and moreover, that the anvil feels practically weightless. He puts the anvil back down, and the crows cheers. They mob Clark, asking him questions (again, I can't help but think that John Byrne read this book), until the sour-faced city-slicker pushes through to say that he works for the Daily Planet and wants to write the story of his remarkable strength. Clark is overwhelmed, unable to speak, so the reporter decides to write the story without Clark's help. But as a show of gratitude, he tells the boy to look him up if he ever needs anything. The reporter turns to leave, but Clark manages to stop him and ask his name.
"Eh?" He paused, squinting back at the boy. "Oh yes. Couldn't very well find me without knowing my name, could you? Well, son, if you ever come to the Daily Planet just ask fro Perry White. That's all. Just Perry White!"

A moment later he was gone in the crowd. (p. 48)

And much as I'd like to finish this book tonight, I think that's a good place to stop. Next week, we'll tackle the last two origin chapters, and then it's on to other media once again.

1. No doubt one that included Kellogg's Pep, the Sunshine Cereal!2

2. If you don't get that joke, don't worry. I'll do some explanations soon.

Superman Sunday: Origins Master List

"Things never were the same. Change is...it's what we get."

This post is not about Scott Pilgrim. It's not about Superman either, for that matter. It's about something much more personal.

My comic shop, Stand-Up Comics, is closing.

The news came pretty unexpectedly for me. Though I knew business hadn't been great, I didn't know it was nearly this bad. I suspect it's largely due to the economy--when you've got to choose between comics and food, eventually food wins. I haven't bought comics in over a month for precisely that reason. Things suck all over, and it's hard for any small business in a niche market to stay solvent in the current climate.

I've applied superlatives to Stand-Up Comics in the past, and I stand by them. It is seriously the best comic shop I've ever been to, and brother have I been to a lot of comic shops. They have a wide selection of comics, displayed in a sensible, organized manner, and with excellent discounts. They offer more than just geek paraphernalia; while most comic shops' attempts at diversification usually lead to gaming materials and used paperbacks and porn, Stand-Up Comics brought in local bands and held comedy shows. The shop is spacious and well-lit, welcoming and friendly. My fianceé always appreciated the "girlfriend couch," a place where she could sit and relax while I browsed, rather than following me around like, in her words, "a lost puppy," given that she's a lot less interested in the material than I am. That's a lot more than most stores offer their customers' significant others, or girls in general, for that matter.

Stand-Up Comics is still going to be around for a few more weeks, though you won't be finding the most recent books on the shelves this coming Wednesday. Still, everything in the store will be marked down, and it sounds like there might be some end-of-an-era events in that time as well. I don't know if I can make it to the shop in the next few weeks--I'm living pretty lean until my next paycheck or two--so I'm asking my readers for a favor: Drop by. Stop in for everyone who can't, for the people like me who are too damn broke to help out good friends. Buy some books and boards and boxes, not out of charity, not out of pity, but out of recognition. Stand-Up Comics tried new things. They aren't a conventional comic shop, and they're better because of it.

And I don't think you can say they failed. I've seen small businesses with much wider appeal than comic shops flare up and die away within weeks or months around me; when I drive around my town, I see dozens of empty storefronts, some of which have never actually been rented, others the remains of short-lived businesses from just the last few years. It doesn't help that there are several other comic shops in the same general vicinity, or that Chicagoland is home to one of the largest comic shop conglomerates in the country. That Stand-Up Comics managed to stay open and popular for nearly five years, run by a bunch of comic fans with no formal business training, is nothing short of fantastic. The owners should be proud, and I know they are.

It's bittersweet, because the last thing I want to see is my friends forced into bankruptcy by a dying business, but I also hate losing a shop I've patronized faithfully, if remotely, since they opened. I've never had a comic shop close on me before. Today, I filled out the subscription form for that same conglomerate, and it felt like defeat.

But I'll get over it, and I'll move on. All of Stand-Up's customers will, and the owners are already moving on to new things. Sometimes change hurts. And often, change sucks. But change is what we get.

So good luck to Eric, Pat, Brian, and the rest of the Stand-Up Comics crew and customer base. I'll be seeing them around, and you should be seeing them too. I know I have readers scattered all over Chicagoland and northern Indiana, I've seen the referral logs. Take a trip down to 3429 Ridge Road in Lansing, IL, and show a little love for a shop that dared to try something more than Magic: the Gathering and Pokémon tournaments. In a world where comic shops are all too often run by people like this jackass, I think actual, quality shops should be rewarded. It's in our interest as customers to encourage comic shops to be as open and friendly and innovative as Stand-Up Comics, because it's one of few antidotes against the increasing insularity and homogeneity of comic fandom. Like it or not, comics are dependent on the direct market, and the direct market is dependent on new customers. And you can only get so far in that direction by stocking up on board games and D&D books.

I'm going to stop gushing and ranting, I think. You get the idea. Now get on down to the best damn comic shop in the multiverse before it, like all good things, comes to an end.

Walking with Superman: Day 25

Maxie Zeus was just a mob boss with delusions of grandeur, an annoyance to Batman and a minor player among the criminals of Gotham City. That all changed when a series of deals that involved a devil or two along the way gave Zeus possession of a set of ancient coins. Once held by Superman's infatuated foe Dana Dearden (aka Obsession), the coins were said to grant their owner the powers of the gods whose faces adorned them: Mercury, Hercules, Heimdall, and Zeus. Under Dearden's particular obsession, the coins made her into a misguided superheroine; under Maxie Zeus's obsession, they have made him into a god. With power undreamed-of, Zeus ascends to his throne atop Olympus--that is, Olympia, Washington--seals off the city (for no mortal may enter Olympus without Zeus's permission), and sets the citizens of the state capital to constructing his Grecian paradise. It is two weeks into Zeus's reign when Superman comes to Olympia. Zeus welcomes "Apollo" into Olympus, but when Superman rebels against the god-king, he finds himself cast into a bizarre labyrinth beneath the city. Even if he can survive the deadly maze and the monsters within, how can any man--even a Superman--stand against a god?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Walking with Superman: By the Numbers

I did a bit of planning for the "Walking with Superman" feature today, and I thought it might make an interesting, quick post to show where the series is and where it's going. So, a few brief facts:
  • I've written a total of forty-one posts for the series so far. I'm trying to stay at least two weeks ahead, and there are three posts in addition, scheduled for the more distant future. Right now, the post that's scheduled farthest in the future will show up on (about) March 8, 2011.
  • This means I've written a little over 1/10 of the entire series.
  • I've either written or planned posts for thirty-one states so far.
  • On average, Superman will have seven adventures in each state. This won't be entirely accurate, since some adventures take place in non-state areas, like the Gulf of Mexico and the District of Columbia. I haven't yet decided if there'll be any adventures in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or any other non-state territories.
  • If I make it through the whole series as I've planned, it would be the equivalent of 365 issues of a Superman comic. Released monthly, this series would last 30 years and 5 months. If appearing in both Superman and Action Comics, thus coming out biweekly, the whole series could be released in a mere fifteen years, two months, and two weeks. If I were writing this in the late '90s, when "Adventures of Superman" and "Superman: The Man of Steel" were still being published, this series would last 7 years, 7 months, and 1 week. At the height of Superman publication, when the quarterly "Superman: The Man of Tomorrow" was being released, it'd be just 7 years and 1 week.

    So, the reasons for not doing this whole series as I've pitched it are pretty obvious. Even if it were weekly, it'd take seven years.
  • I would gladly write Superman for the next thirty years.
  • I have a philosophy behind this series, which I'll talk about in more detail in the 366th post.
  • The last time I wrote a post that wasn't about Superman was July 30th, 15 days ago. I do feel bad that this has become the all-Superman blog, but I'm posting more and having more fun doing it than in quite some time. I do have some things to say about Scott Pilgrim, so there's that coming up.
  • I feel a little worse that my more academic "Superman Sunday" series has suffered in recent weeks. I plan to have another post in that series ready for tomorrow, hopefully closing out the Lowther novel. I recently found out about another origin, so that might be the next piece.
  • That last bullet wasn't actually about "Walking with Superman."

That's the state of the union so far. I'm excited about this series, and I'm percolating with ideas (true fact: so far, I haven't used a single one of the pitches and story ideas that I've saved up in case I ever actually get to write Superman--not that I wouldn't use some of these, too). I don't know if I'll manage to get through 365 without repeating myself, but I think there's enough places and interesting things in this fair country to easily support that many stories.

So here's to the next...what is it, 341 days? Awesome.

Walking with Superman: Day 24

When Superman's journey brings him back home to Smallville, Kansas, he expects to have a little peace, quiet, and home-cooked pie. His hopes for R&R are dashed, however, when he's given a top secret mission by a former President of the United States. Pete Ross calls in a favor from his old friend, to take on a job that could only be trusted to Superman: babysitting. Little Clark Ross is a toddler, and single dad Pete is desperate for a day off and a night out. Superman's faced some frightening foes, but even a throwdown with Lex Luthor might be preferable to the terrible twos. It's a tale of two Clarks when Superman becomes the Sitter of Steel!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 23

Superman's in the Atom's stomping grounds, Ivy Town, Connecticut. While on a brief visit to Ivy University, Superman finds something unexpected--Ryan Choi! And Ryan Choi! And Ryan Choi! A time traveling mishap with Chronos has split the Atom along temporal lines, and the Choises are increasing exponentially. It's up to Superman to help Ryan pull himselves back together, but they're going to need Chronos's help to do it. Meanwhile, Dwarfstar learns that his dead Choi is just one of many, and he's looking to complete the set. Can the Man of Steel and the Subatomic Scientist stop the fission before there are no more Atoms left? An All-New Era for the All-New Atom starts here!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 22

Superman's journey takes an unexpected turn when he sees something fall out of the sky into the center of a small town along the road ahead. He races toward the crater to find a ravenous monster tearing up the small village. Superman knocks the creature out quickly, and the townspeople rejoice. But when the Master Jailer erects an impenetrable dome around the town, Superman realizes that there may be more to Angel Falls, South Dakota than meets the eye.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Grounded

Well, "Superman" #702 is definitely not as bad as #701. Although the racial politics of the series so far are beginning to become seriously problematic. In addition to trading on every black stereotype you could think of (drug dealers, lazy guy on the porch, street basketball players), now we have Superman telling a bunch of space alien refugees that unless they share their advanced technology, they're basically leeches and he's going to out them as aliens.


The basketball scene is fairly good, albeit very predictable. The bits with the aliens are, as I mentioned, more problematic. I thought I remembered something about this supposed to be bringing Superman back to his populist, champion-of-the-oppressed roots. Why is he lecturing a harmless group of secret alien refugees on giving back to the community? Especially when he's guilty of the same damn crime--or doesn't he still have tons of advanced alien technology holed up in the Arctic? I guess he figures that if you've got natural talents, you can afford to hide your technological candle under a bushel or something. It's an asinine position, that immigrants must somehow justify their presence, implying that natural-born citizens get a free pass to freeload.

It all works out: Superman meets an old guy who's watching an abandoned car factory, but the guy has a heart attack (or something), and so he forces the aliens to treat him with their advanced technology, then reopen the plants to start mass-producing that technology. It's suggested that the aliens will be hiring a bunch of the laid-off auto factory workers, but unless there's a lot of mechanization, I have a hard time believing that people could transition seamlessly from building cars to building hi-tech medical equipment with no apparent training.

In the meantime, we finally get some explanation of what Clark Kent is doing during all this, and Batman shows up at the end to look all menacing. On the other hand, we still have Superman sighing, acting smug and self-righteous, and putting his hand on his chin for extended periods of time. And then there's this, during the big robot battle:
Superman: Yes, I can be hurt. It's actually not that difficult. So the hard part isn't hurting me. The hard part is surviving me.

That bit of in-fight criticism would carry more water if Superman weren't in the habit of ensuring that his enemies survive. Because he doesn't kill people. Ever. And so surviving really isn't hard at all. It's a stupid thing to say, especially since it's all part of this world-weary "bored now" attitude Superman has been taking to just about everything in this storyline. And frankly, I have little desire to see Superman as Evil Willow.

It's a mixed bag, but that's quite a lot better than the last issue. That's praising with faint damnation, however, because this still features a Superman who acts like a douchebag. And that's not Superman.

Walking with Superman: Day 21

When he was a student at Metropolis University, before going public as Superman, a young Clark Kent used his powers and his position on the Met U newspaper to raise funds for "Kidtown," a commune for orphaned and at-risk children and teenagers in nearby Virginia. Now, years later, Clark returns to see how the haven has fared. What he discovers prompts him to put his abilities and his journalistic skills to bear once again to save the community.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 20

There are nearly four thousand oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, but it seems that someone is determined to bring that number to zero. Over the last several months, three rigs have been bombed, seven have been sabotaged in other ways, and two have completely disappeared without a trace. Dozens of lives have been lost, but strangely there has been no damage whatsoever to the ecosystem. The Coast Guard is at a loss to stop the attacks, and local authorities have been unable to find any leads on the ecoterrorism. Gulf Coast police and military organizations turn to Superman to help. The Man of Steel investigates, and he discovers a familiar foe behind it all. Abducted from the Old West, outfitted and enhanced with advanced alien technology, and driven by warnings of climate change, pollution, and an uninhabitable future Earth, Tobias Manning has run afoul of Superman in the past. But now Terra-Man is back, more powerful and driven than ever, and deplorable methods aside, he may be right.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 19

Wisconsin is home to many cheeses: cheddar, Camembert, brie, and Big Red? That's right, Captain Marvel joins Superman in the Badger State for a charity Bratwurst-Eating Contest. It's stomach against stomach as the Mouth of Steel goes up against the Constitution of Hercules, but it's not all wine and roses (especially since Cap's underage!) when the Sivana Family crashes the competition! Cheese, Steel, Brats, and brainiacs--why, you never sausage a fight! (Groan)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 18

Superman visits Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the American Revolution, and site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution. The City Council of Philadelphia asks Superman to make a few appearances around the city, and he happily obliges. At an elementary school, a high school, and a town hall meeting, Superman answers the easy questions and the tough questions about what why a global hero from another planet represents "the American Way."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 17

Someone is injuring race car drivers in the days before the Indy 500, and it's up to Superman and Indiana's mechanical superhero Boilermaker to find out who's trying to rig the big race. But there's more to these attacks than a few off-track bets, and these two Men of Steel may find that in the world of racing, faster than a speeding bullet just isn't fast enough.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 16

Superman's visit to Chicago is derailed before he can even get on the El. Block by block, the city and its residents are turning back the clock to the 1920s! All signs point to a dastardly plot by Chicago's mad mechanical mob mastermind, C.A.P.-1, asserting his technological dominance by taking the city back to the prohibition era! Superman joins with the Windy City's premier super-team, the Chicago 7, but will their combined might be enough to put an end to the bionic bootlegger's temporal tampering?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 15

Arizona has the third largest population of extraterrestrial immigrants and refugees in the western United States, but some of Arizona's natives and legislators aren't happy sharing their towns with creatures from across the cosmos. In this double-sized issue, Superman's cross-country journey puts him in the middle of a political and cultural battle, where the Man of Steel must decide what he stands for, and who he stands against. Up against bigotry, hypocrisy, poverty, and injustice, Superman won't be able to solve this problem alone. No, this is a job for...Clark Kent!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 14

Bodies are turning up in the Everglades, and Cuban-American superhero Escudo is implicated. Superman puts his investigative skills to the test, hoping to find evidence to clear Escudo's name and prevent his identity from being revealed, putting his family in severe danger. But the real killer is still out there, and the World's Mightiest Monster suddenly has a taste for Kryptonian blood.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 13

Superman's finally leaving Las Vegas, but if the Kings of Rock have anything to say about it, he'll be leaving in a pine box! Burnin' up after their defeat in Memphis, the Kings of Rock are looking for a rematch, but they haven't come alone. Before Superman can return them to sender, he has to contend with a legion of cybernetically-enhanced kung-fu Elvis impersonators! Can the Man of Steel defeat these Dixieland devils before they tear up the Strip, or will they leave him and Las Vegas all shook up?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 12

Yas ti sdrawkcab! Everyone knows that the house always wins in Las Vegas, but the house usually isn't quite so...alive! When Superman and Zatanna find themselves facing walking neon cowboys, a killer Sphinx, and increasingly bizarre bets and odds, it quickly becomes clear that Mr. Mxyzptlk is up to his old tricks. It's up to the Man of Steel and the Maid of Magic to find out what the imp's game is this time, before Sin City is turned completely upside-down!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Superman Sunday: Fall in love with spines

No Origins post today, sadly. I'm using this Sunday to catch up on some other writing projects whose deadlines are coming due. In the meantime, enjoy this awesome panel of Clark Kent1.
Horizontally? Yikes.

I've been reading some late-'70s Superman comics recently, and it's amazing to see how much they were willing to shake up the status quo. It also makes me sad that the fanboys-turned-writers who grew up on the comics of this era (Meltzer, Johns, etc.) just want to return to those eras without restoring the attitude of change that made them interesting and memorable to begin with. Fodder for a future post, I guess.

1. Technically, it's not Clark, but Don-El, leader of the Kandorian Superman Emergency Squad, who deluded himself into thinking he was Superman, so Clark let him live his life for a day to shock him out of it. From "Superman (vol. 1)" #337.

Walking with Superman: Day 11

Still in Las Vegas, Superman decides to take in a show--with special guest star Zatanna! But trouble is brewing in Sin City, and Lord Satanus is at the bottom of it. Superman and Zatanna find themselves in a fight for their lives--and their souls--and if they lose, there's Hell to pay!