Sunday, October 31, 2010

Excerpt from If on a winter's night a monster

The novel begins with a very embarrassed monster.


Hello everybodeee! You are about to begin reading the latest book starring your furry pal Grover. It is called If on a winter's night a monster. Relax. Have a cookie. Wait, do not relax! Does that say "a monster"? It does! I am so scared of monsters, and I am not very fond of winter nights either! Close the door! Turn up the heat! Put on some fuzzy slippers! I will not put on fuzzy slippers, but that is because I am already very fuzzy. It is important that you keep warm, because winter nights can be very cold. You should find a comfortable chair, and perhaps you should make a mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Why are we drinking cocoa again? Oh yes, it is because you want to read the newest book starring me, Grover. What is the title of the book again? If on a winter's night a monster?! This book has a monster in it! Maybe it would be best if you did not begin reading the latest book starring your furry pal, Grover. Get up, go for a walk. Be sure to take a coat, because you would not want to get cold. And you should not wear your fuzzy slippers to go walking outside. Make sure you have an adult with you, and that you do not cross the street without looking both ways first. That would be a good way to avoid the scary monster that is in this book. It is also a good way to get exercise, and you should get lots of exercise to stay healthy.

Yes, that would be much better than reading If on a winter's night a monster, which I remind you has a monster in it. Put the book back up on the shelf. Drop it behind the shelf so that no one will accidentally find it. Tape the cover shut, or tie it with rope. Better yet, have an adult help you with some paste or glue, and make sure that no one will ever make the terrible mistake of reading this book and finding the scary monster inside!

I notice that you have not yet stopped reading. Do you realize that there is a monster in this book?! A monster that lurks out in the cold winter night, possibly with sharp teeth and shaggy fur to keep it warm in the snow?! I know I am afraid of monsters, aren't you?

I know, you think that I, Grover, am playing a game with you. You must think we are playing a game of Simon Says. I do not know why you think this, because I am not named Simon, but I, Grover, will play along. Simon (or Grover) says to shut this book, put it away, and never look at it again.

You are not very good at playing Simon Says.

The way that you play Simon Says is that one person says "Simon Says do something" and the other person then has to do it. So let us try again: Simon Says to close this book and tie it up with shoelaces so that no one will ever meet the scary winter night monster in this book!

I am beginning to think that you are not listening to what I am saying. I did not want to have to do this, but now I am begging you: please stop reading! It is getting very dark and cold here and there are no more marshmallows in my hot cocoa and every word you read brings us closer to the winter's night monster that is in this book! And I am very scared of monsters, if you have not heard. I will ask you, one last time, please stop reading! Or at least put the book away until it is not so cold and dark here! I think the monster might be less scary on a summer's afternoon than on a winter's night. So please, listen to your lovable, furry pal Grover, and STOP READING!!!

Boy, if this is how you treat your pals, then I would hate to see how you treat your enemies! We are nearly at the end of this first chapter and I am afraid that the next chapter will have that terrible winter's night monster in it, especially since the title of that next chapter is, in big bold letters, "If on a winter's night a monster." This book certainly likes to repeat itself. I have tried and tried to get you to stop reading, to save us from the very scary monster, but nothing has worked. So I, your furry pal Grover, finally give up. If you are going to force this poor monster to continue reading on this cold winter's night a book where...

Wait! I am a monster! And it is a winter's night! That means that I must be the winter's night monster! Of course! It was all so simple!

And you wanted to stop reading. Well, hurry up, I want to find out what I am going to be doing on this winter's night! I hope I will be getting more marshmallows for my hot cocoa.

References: If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino, The Monster at the End of This Book starring lovable, furry old Grover.

Walking with Superman: Day 102

Anoka, Minnesota calls itself the "Halloween Capital of the World," but they've never seen Halloween havoc in five dimensions before! Mr. Mxyzptlk's trickery has made everyone into what they dressed as, and it's up to Superman to save the town from hordes of ghosts, vampires, and other assorted monsters. It's too bad he was dressed as a simple mild-mannered reporter at the time! Now the fate of Anoka rests in the suddenly superpowered hands of three Kryptonianized kids! Will these grade-schoolers of steel be able to win Mxy's game and set things right? If it means giving up their amazing powers, will they even want to?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some initial thoughts on Superman: Earth One

I just finished reading "Superman: Earth One" (okay, except the article at the end), and I figured I should get some initial impressions down before they're all gone. Spoilers ahead.

  • First, this is basically "Marvel Comics Presents Superman." It's Superman's origin by way of "Smallville" and "Spider-Man," and while that's certainly not a terrible thing, it's also the latest in a long line of fairly pessimistic, dull-toned Superman stories. And more and more, I'm tired of reading those stories.
  • That being said, this certainly isn't as bad as "Grounded," which was a pleasant surprise. I'd still rather have someone other than Straczynski writing this book. Or another book being written, honestly. "Birthright," which did is still in print, did many of the same things and had the same general tone, while also being a much better introduction to the Superman mythos than this was. Meanwhile, "Superman: Secret Origin" is due out in collected form any day now, and it tells yet another version of this story. If I were working in DC's marketing dept., I'd frankly be a little worried-slash-upset that we were diluting the market like this. Seriously, take a look at the Superman graphic novels that are both accessible and acclaimed, and you'll find that a fairly sizable portion of them ("Birthright," "For All Seasons," etc.) are about his origin story. A story that has been a basic part of the cultural background noise since the '40s. I think DC would be better off focusing on telling accessible new stories about the Man of Steel than treading the most well-worn ground in comic book history one more time.
  • In that same vein, the new villain is simultaneously a good idea--introducing new ideas, freshening up that well-worn ground--and a bad one. This is one of the problems I had with "Birthright" as well, but Superman shouldn't be the kind of person who needs to be motivated by some sense of revenge or responsibility. Despite the fact that he lost his planet, Superman doesn't need, and generally hasn't really had, a defining tragedy to spur on his superhero career like Batman or Spider-Man. His driving force is and should be that it's the right thing to do. I don't understand why that's a tough concept for people to grasp, or why writers feel like they need to gild it with sci-fi tropes like "I hate seeing people's souls disappear" or "I must avenge my homeworld, and it's my fault that these aliens attacked Earth." Other superheroes take up the tights out of responsibility and vengeance. Superman takes them up because of his strong moral upbringing.
  • Moreover, the main villain, Tyrell (wow, that's the best alien name you could come up with? I know people named Tyrell), looks a little like "what if the Crow were a Final Fantasy villain." Alternately, "what if the Silver Banshee was a dude from the future." Not the most striking design, though I like the contrast between Clark's colorful outfit and his stark black-and-white.
    The final version swaps the darker and lighter tones on top, but leaves them intact on the bottom.
  • Speaking of Clark's colorful outfit, it's gotten some minor tweaks. There's some piping on the main suit and around the S-shield, the shield on the cape is now yellow-on-red, and the boots are a different shape. Fairly minor changes, and yet it seems like they didn't quite think it through. There are scenes where we can see Superman's armpit, and yet, we can't see the seam between the two colors that should exist there. The way the piping and the two-tone colors work, there should be a place where the colors separate. This seam could be in three positions: over the arm, possibly along the deltoid, so that most of Superman's sleeves are the darker color that predominates on his sides (both of Superboy's pre-t-shirt costumes do something like this); along the armpit, so that Superman's sleeves are the lighter blue of his torso (like that Cosmic Boy costume, but with fabric instead of naked Braalian); or along the arm, so that the sleeves are also two-toned (like Spider-Man. Do I need to provide an image?). Instead, we get no seam, no indication that any part of the sleeve is a different color than the rest of the middle/upper torso, and a question as to why, if you're going to design a new costume, you wouldn't consider that kind of detail.
  • Also, the shading on the top is reversed from the shading on the legs, which is a little weird, but I can imagine ways for it to work. It's the briefs breaking things up that makes it look weird; the eye expects the piping to be continuous, so the color swap looks weird.
  • I suppose I needn't mention my feelings about the nigh-indestructible costume. The same goes for the nigh-indestructible metals--Clark's indestructibility comes from his cells' absorption of yellow sunlight. Where does it come from in acellular metal?
  • I'm also not thrilled with the way that comics keep pushing the age of Clark's onset-of-powers. Writers, please, people have been realizing (all too occasionally) since the very beginning that a baby with full-on superpowers is not a good idea. Let's stop the creeping development before it gets that far again, thanks.
  • Not only does Clark need to learn how to use proper SI units (kilograms, Clark, not grams), but his "equation" is, not surprisingly, almost total gibberish. If you carry out the equation as written, going by the order of operations, then the term "1 mol H2O2" disappears, which means it's completely unnecessary. That is, of course, assuming it's "H2O2," because it's written without subscripts (and strangely, the computers used by the researchers use the same font that Clark writes in). The "ΔH" suggests that Clark's equation is describing a change in enthalpy, the total energy of a system, and that might be useful for researchers trying to get energy out of the system. Unfortunately, the likeliest way to get energy directly out of salt water is going to be to break the atomic bonds (breaking the ionic bonds in salt is already done once it's in the water; breaking the hydrogen bonds holding the water molecules together or breaking the molecular bonds holding the hydrogen to the oxygen both require an input of energy greater than the output), and the equations for that are different.

    But it's clear from the fact that 1.00 mol H2O2 is about 34.0 g H2O2 that Clark just left out some important parentheses. Inserting them where they ought to be in this equation gives us the meaning of what Clark is actually doing: first, converting grams to moles (34.0 g/mol is the conversion factor for hydrogen peroxide) then multiplying by the enthalpy of reaction of the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (-98.2 kJ/mol), the reaction that spontaneously occurs when hydrogen peroxide is exposed to...well, most things, really. If you've ever used peroxide for anything, you're familiar with the way it bubbles and fizzes; this is because it is unstable and decomposes into water and oxygen quite readily, releasing a small amount of heat in the process (as Clark's equation notes, about -2.89 kJ for every gram of H2O2, or about .69 Calories).

    What's not clear is why any of that is significant. The amount of energy is miniscule, the equation is pedestrian, and none of it has anything to do with salt water, which is what the researchers were supposedly working on. "Give this man a job, he just told us that hydrogen peroxide fizzes!" This is one place where the writer, artist, letterer, whoever's to blame should have gone with a less-is-more strategy. Don't show us the revolutionary equation, because then you have to come up with a revolutionary equation.
  • I'll leave aside the idea that an electron microscope can image normal atoms, that such an image would show atoms as spheres connected to each other by rods, and that you could write on electrons. It's comic book science, I know, and it'd be almost clever if it weren't so not-even-wrong.
  • Similarly, when reading Perry's speech to Lois, my first thought was "hey, Perry actually sounds like an editor here." My second thought was, "actually, he sounds like someone read about editing somewhere." Much like the science thing, what's meant to sound kind of profound and insightful is really kind of bog-standard. "Use active language" is the kind of thing that every editor already knows; it's the kind of thing that any reporter should already know. And so the speeches Perry makes in his first scene read not so much like the words of a seasoned editor, but the words of someone who's just started out editing and has learned all these things in school, and is meeting his team for the first time. These are the conversations that I had with my writers when I edited my college newspaper; these are not the kind of conversations I would expect an experienced editor to have with professional reporters. "So you don't think a reporter should give her opinion of the story she's covering?" Really, Lois? Is this your first day in the News section too?
  • The dialogue in general is kind of problematic, really. The characters all kind of sound the same, making the same kinds of quotes and references, and that's to be expected to some degree in any work by a single writer. But these are characters who all have fairly well-established voices, and I didn't really feel like we got much of that at all.
  • Moreover, and this is a problem carrying over from "Grounded," too many characters seem to exist primarily so other characters can bounce speeches off of them. In that first scene with Perry, that's the only purpose served by Lois. In the two later scenes with the scientist, he's only there so that Clark can smugly moralize at him. Too much of the story is geared toward setting up particular speeches, and that's kind of a serious problem. It shows that Straczynski wasn't following the advice he had Perry give to Lois: "You fell in love with the words and put yourself too far into the story. Write about what you're writing about, not about you writing about what you're writing about."
  • Speaking of writing advice:
    how exactly do you bury the lede in the headline? Way to fall asleep on the job, Perry. In fact, now that I'm looking at the interview, the paper looks a bit amateurish. Fix the justification, guys. There's also way, way too much of Clark in that article. It all seems a bit...self-indulgent. Superman should never seem self-indulgent.
  • I actually like the idea of Clark trying out using his powers for personal/familial gain. I would have been more happy to see some more moral development here--a note about fairness, at least with respect to football--but I think it was generally a fairly reasonable and well-played set of scenes--the terrible science aside. That being said, though it touches on the issue, it really doesn't answer the question Straczynski posed at the beginning of "Grounded"--if Superman has the power to do things like, say, tell scientists what everyone already knows about peroxide how to get energy from salt water, then why doesn't he put his powers toward ending hunger or the energy crisis or cancer or whatever? The answer here seems to be "he doesn't really want to, and his mom said that he doesn't have to," which I suspect would be small comfort for that lady in the "Grounded" prologue.
  • Jimmy Olsen was pretty awesome in this, I have to admit.
  • Um, yeah, so...Superman sure killed a lot of aliens in this.

And aside from that last point, I don't think "Earth One" is terrible. It's not the kind of Superman origin I like seeing, but I guess for anyone who's coming to the character through, say, "Smallville," it fits that tone and style fairly well. Clark even looks like Tom Welling at a lot of points, and I don't think that's an accident. There are some barely-patched-over holes (the justification for the S-shield is particularly weak) in the story, and I think I've done a pretty thorough picking of certain frustrating nits, but it's not as awful as I expected it to be based on "Grounded."

That being said, I'm glad I didn't pay $20 for it. It actually makes me want to revisit "Birthright," which boggles my mind a bit. It also makes me wish that someone, anyone, would take a page from the John Byrne book and write a Superman origin that was upbeat. I guess "Secret Origin" has a lot of smiling in it, but it's still not as brightly-colored and brightly-toned as "Man of Steel" all those years ago.

Walking with Superman: Day 101

The Master Jailer and Lock-Up have turned Alcatraz into the world's finest prison for the World's Finest team! Batman and Superman are trapped inside, along with dozens of their most dangerous enemies, and they're all determined to ensure that the only way out is in pieces! Even with all their powers, all their cunning, all their skill and experience, escaping this lethal super-prison is going to take a Miracle. It's a good thing that he's already on his way! Shiloh Norman guest stars in this supermax-sized prison break spectacular!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 100

Today, The Fortress of Soliloquy brings you an exclusive three-page script preview of the milestone Walking with Superman #100! Check it out below the fold!


PANEL ONE: Wide shot. Superman is standing atop one of the supports of the Bay Bridge, watching the sun sinking slowly toward the horizon through the San Francisco skyline. His back is to us, his cape is swaying slowly in the breeze.

1 CAP: San Francisco, CA.

2 CAP (SUPERMAN): What a beautiful city.

PANEL TWO: Closer on Superman's face. He's smiling.

3 CAP: I take it all in.

PANEL THREE: Split into many small panels, each showing some San Francisco locale or random resident or object, snippets of the things Superman is experiencing.

4 CAP: The people,

DIALOGUE (Unattached bubbles): I'll have the mahi-mahi.

SFX: Aurk aurk! (sea lion noise)

5 CAP: the sights,

DIALOGUE: Lombard and Laguna, thanks.

6 CAP: the smells,

DIALOGUE: DNA tonight?

SFX: Ding! Ding!

7 CAP: the sounds...

DIALOGUE: Over by Pier 39.

SFX: Thum-thump

PANEL FOUR: Close on Superman, looking surprised.

8 CAP: I hear it before I see him, of course. That's the way he is.

PANEL FIVE: Superman takes off toward the skyscraper at 201 Mission St.

9 CAP: Jimmy has his signal watch.

10 CAP: Lois calls my name.

11 CAP: J'onn has that telepathic link.

12 CAP: But when he needs to contact me...

PANEL SIX: Superman lands on the ledge, where Batman is perched, looking down at the city.

13 CAP: He just turns off the gadget that masks his heartbeat.

14 BATMAN: Took you long enough.

15 SUPERMAN: It's not exactly a spotlight, you know. I assume you're not here on vacation.


PANEL ONE: Batman holds out a small holographic projector, which displays dossier images of Carl Draper, Checkmate Pawn and former supervillain.

1 BATMAN: Checkmate security chief Carl Draper, aka "Deathtrap," and "Locksmith."

2 SUPERMAN: We've met.

3 BATMAN: Twenty-five days ago, he disappeared from his apartment.

PANEL TWO: Wide shot from behind Batman's shoulder. His holographic projector is now displaying a wide set of images of various Superman and Batman villains. Superman looks on from the other side of the translucent panorama, arms crossed over his chest.

4 BATMAN: Since then, there have been over two dozen similar disappearances.

5 BATMAN: Killer Croc, abducted during prison transfer.

6 BATMAN: Riot, vanished from his cell at Stryker's.

7 BATMAN: Bloodsport, never made it to arraignment.

8 BATMAN: Firefly, The Riddler, Parasite, Metallo.

9 SUPERMAN: And so on.

PANEL THREE: The hologram flips to an image of the Film Freak, tied up on the steps of the Gotham City Police Department building. He is unconscious and dressed in a gray jumpsuit.

10 BATMAN: This morning, the Film Freak was dumped on the steps of the Gotham City Police Department, dressed in a gray prison uniform. His identification listed the name Robert Stroud.

11 SUPERMAN: The birdman of Alcatraz?

PANEL FOUR: Batman looks Superman in the eye, and points at him in a somewhat accusatory fashion. Superman is skeptical.

12 BATMAN: On the day that you arrive in San Francisco. Not a coincidence.

13 SUPERMAN: And you think Draper is behind the disappearances? He's reformed.

14 BATMAN: If you call working for Checkmate reformed.

PANEL FIVE: Batman produces a small baggie of prescription pills from his utility belt.

15 BATMAN: Draper's rehabilitation involves a cocktail of strong anti-psychotics. I tested his most recent prescription refill. Placebos.


16 SUPERMAN: This still doesn't seem like Draper's style. Where's the challenge in trapping prisoners?

17 BATMAN: I don't like it either. There are too many missing pieces.


PANEL ONE: Batman pockets his evidence, while Superman watches the sun setting over the ocean.

1 SUPERMAN: So I suppose this means we're breaking into Alcatraz?

2 BATMAN: I don't see another option.

PANEL TWO: Superman turns back toward Batman. Superman is wary, Batman is almost eager, having pulled out his grappling hook.

3 SUPERMAN: And you realize that this is a colossal trap.

4 BATMAN: Of course.

PANEL THREE: Close on Superman's face, with an expression of staunch determination.

5 SUPERMAN: All right, then. Let's go.

PANEL FOUR: Large panel. Superman flies and Batman swings north across the city, toward Alcatraz Island, as night falls over the west coast.

Script by TOM FOSS
Someone's been kidnapping the enemies of the World's Finest team, and all signs point to Alcatraz! Superman and Batman are breaking into the Rock, but what sinister secrets await them inside? It's wall-to-wall action in this landmark hundredth installment!
On sale OCTOBER 29 • 64 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 99

Superman comes to Dudleytown, Connecticut, which stood for a hundred years as a small Appalachian village, but has long since been reclaimed by the forest. The area has long had a reputation for being haunted, and while accusations of vandalism have led to the area being closed to visitors, determined ghost hunters and other paranormal enthusiasts have always managed to find a way past the authorities. Recently, though, they've been returning not with EVP tapes and low-light video, but with persistent hallucinations, dissociative states, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Something in those woods is scaring people out of their minds, and Superman aims to find out what. But he'll soon find that the ghosts aren't the most dangerous things haunting this forest, and the terrifying tag-team of Scarecrow and Phobia will discover what scares a Superman!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 98

The zombies have come to Baton Rouge, and while Doctor Mid-Nite was infected before he could complete a cure, his research has allowed Superman and the JSA to trace the zombies back to their source--Solomon Grundy! But this time, the shambling scion of Slaughter Swamp is just a victim, a chalk-white pawn in someone else's menacing machinations. Grundy's body has been examined and dissected both physically and magically, his unique tissues and microbes and energies used to engineer the zombie regiments. Now the mastermind stands revealed as the Brotherhood of Evil's horrible Houngan, and he's got a united zombie army at his command! Will this be the last stand of Superman and the Justice Society?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 97

Superman and Dr. Mid-Nite already have their hands full with two different zombie invasions of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so imagine their surprise and frustration when decaying corpses begin rising from their graves all around the city! Superman scrambles to contain the walking dead, the living dead, and the infected, while Dr. Mid-Nite works on cures for those who might still be saved. Just after he discovers how the infection and the chemicals are related, one of his patients infects him with the rage-plague. His last lucid act is to call in reinforcements from the Justice Society, while Superman finds himself in over his head with three plagues of zombies! The cavalry is on its way, but will they arrive in time? And will they be strong enough to stop the horde?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 96

Dr. Mid-Nite comes to Baton Rouge to help Superman diagnose the strange chemical concoction that has turned a host of normal people into shambling zombies. Unfortunately for both of them, Vodou may be the least of their problems. Someone has introduced a strange pathogen into the water supply, and the contagion is spreading rapidly. Those infected quickly become fevered and disoriented, eventually leading to extreme aggression and a total loss of higher brain functions. The afflicted behave like rabid animals, driven by their illness to spread the disease, and they do so with uncanny speed and deadly ferocity. Now Superman and Dr. Mid-Nite have two plagues to fight and--hopefully--cure, before the population of Baton Rouge is reduced entirely to mindless zombies!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 95

Eight days ago, Robert Dufresne of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, fell into a coma due to a mysterious and sudden illness. Seven days ago, he died.Five days ago, he was buried after a tearful funeral. Four days ago, his grave was found disturbed and empty. Today, Robert Dufresne was found staggering around the streets of Baton Rouge in a suggestible trance, mute and disoriented, but still very much alive. More than fifty other residents of the greater Baton Rouge metropolitan area have died and had their graves defiled under similar circumstances in recent months, though Dufresne is the first to have been recovered. Someone in Baton Rouge is amassing an army of Vodou zombies, and Superman is determined to put a stop to it. But even if he finds the Bokor behind the zombies, is there any hope of finding a cure?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 94

Superman visits the Yucca Mountain Hazardous Waste Depository in the Nevada desert, where government scientists have found an ingenious solution to safe disposal of nuclear waste, dark matter, and the other unsavory leftovers from cutting edge technology. Rather than bury their problems and risk various sorts of contamination and security compromises, they have found a way to dump the wastes into the Phantom Zone! Superman fears the repercussions, knowing the unpredictable and bizarre nature of the Phantom Zone, and voices his concerns to the scientists. As if to prove his point, an accidental chain reaction causes the projector to be destroyed, trapping Superman in the dimensional space between our world and the Phantom Zone! Missing and presumed dead, the Spectre of Steel must figure out a way to communicate with his allies and rescue himself from eternity as a living ghost. And he better hurry--something else lives in this in-between space, something beyond human or Kryptonian comprehension, and it hasn't eaten in eons...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 93

Years ago, young Clark Kent joined his Cub Scout troupe on a camping trip to Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska. The trip was the first time Clark had been that far away from home, and like any boy that age, he was quite happy to return home at the end of it. But it wasn't just homesickness that elated Clark when he returned to the Kent farm, and it wasn't just bugs and spooky noises and ghost stories that kept him awake in his tent those nights. No, there was something else in the woods at Indian Cave, something ancient and alien, something that recognized Clark for what he truly was. He never saw the thing in the woods, not really, but he could feel it scraping at his mind, trying to find him, trying to steal him away. For months thereafter, he could hear it in his nightmares, feel its cool, sweet breath on his neck, and cry out for the comforting embrace of his parents. Now, as an adult, Clark Kent has returned to the State Park, and those half-forgotten childhood memories have returned as well. And when he feels that familiar scraping at the back of his mind, he knows that he must finally face the thing that lurks at Indian Cave.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 92

When Clark Kent checked into the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, he expected to have a little rest and relaxation, but it doesn't look like he'll be getting either. It's not just the decor--the tacky paintings, the dingy yellow-orange wallpaper, the ever-present smell of stale smoke; it's not just the guests and employees--half of them walking around as if in a trance, the other half looking like they've been to madness and back again; it's not just the sounds--sometimes sinister whispers, sometimes distant cries for help, and sometimes, despite his superhuman senses, complete silence no matter how hard he listens. No, it's that every time he tries to look into the next room, he sees himself; it's that some corners of the room seem to flicker and waver and stick together in ways that hurt his eyes and his head, it's that no matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to get out. It's clear that there's something sinister about the Winecoff Hotel, and it's attacking the Man of Steel in one place where he isn't indestructible--his sanity.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 91

Astronaut Dexter Michaels and his team have just returned to Cape Canaveral after an expedition to a nearby uninhabited exoplanet. They brought back countless samples of minerals and atmosphere, as well as a bizarre curse. Something happened to Captain Michaels on the surface, something that he didn't disclose to NASA's medical staff. Something that left the pattern of a star system burned into his left palm. But as the night falls and the moon grows on the horizon, Captain Dexter Michaels also grows, changing into something inhuman and dangerous--and only the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive knows how to stop his transformation. Now S.H.A.D.E. agent Frankenstein and the suddenly-drafted Superman race against moonrise with a captured silver comet, knowing that it may be their only hope to save Earth from the menace of Dexter Michaels, the Were-World!

I can pretty much die happy now

If I kept up with my podcasts better, I would have known about this weeks ago, but I don't, so I didn't. Anyway, I got mentioned by name on the only comics podcast I listen to, War Rocket Ajax! Episode #44, if you're curious, in reference to this.

So that's pretty cool. My next goal? Getting an interview. I suppose "becoming a published and popular nerdsphere author" would probably be a good intermediate step.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 90

While Superman visits Gotham City, NJ, his alter ego spends some time at a charity fundraiser sponsored by the Wayne Foundation. The costume ball provides an outlet for movers and shakers from business empires and media conglomerates to move and shake for a good cause. Unfortunately, not everyone at the masquerade has such charitable intentions. A Vulture, a Fox, and a Shark have crashed the party to prey on the revelers, and they plan to treat themselves to a fortune in charitable donations, jewelry, and ransom demands for their socialite hostages. The Terrible Trio have been operating long enough to know that you don't commit crime in Gotham without preparing for costumed intervention, especially when Superman is visiting, so they've arranged some disastrous diversions throughout the city to keep the heroes busy. Little do they know that they have the World's Finest duo trapped among their hostages! Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent must try to stop the Trio without compromising their secret identities, while outside the ballroom walls, Gotham City burns!

Superman SD

The DC Source Blog recently revealed some pages from the upcoming J. Michael Straczynski/Shane Davis OGN "Superman: Earth One." The story is another retelling of the Superman origin, and it's clear that they're building on themes that have become popular in recent versions. I'm thinking most specifically of how Mark Waid's "Birthright" gave Clark inhumanly blue eyes that betrayed his alien heritage, but were masked and dulled by his glasses, justifying their presence. Davis has gone a step further:
Seriously, the legs are nitpicky, but that head is ginormous.

Yes, it's going to be a struggle for Superman to hide his true identity, given his disproportionately large head and stumpy upper legs, but when he slicks his hair back and slouches, no one will no the difference!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 89

In his apartment in Metropolis, James Bartholomew Olsen sleeps soundly, until he is awakened by a signal he hoped never to hear. His signal-watch buzzes insistently with an unfamiliar, ominous tone, and Jimmy knows that Superman has activated the Transilvane Protocol. Olsen wastes no time, gathering Superboy and Supergirl, and leading the charge toward Portland, OR, where the signal originated. Now it's up to our three young heroes to rescue Superman from a race of singing cowboy monsters, prevent the destruction of an indigenous people, and possibly avert a vampire civil war! All in a day's work for Superman's pal!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Walkin', yes indeed

Let's start with the good, shall we? This is easily the most in-character Superman has been during Straczynski's arc. Moreover, it's nice to see some discussion of the New Krypton events, and some repercussions thereof, even if they're fairly fleeting. Moreover, the "superheroes invite trouble" plot, while a bit overplayed, is the kind of story that this arc should be telling: what happens when Superman visits small towns that aren't used to superheroic battles and action and such? It's also good to see that Straczynski did enough research to get the name and mascot of Danville High School right.

That being said, the issue still has a boatload of problems, the biggest of which being the mischaracterization of Batman. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think that Straczynski wrote this issue with Bruce in mind, then made a few changes to turn it into Dick when it became clear that Bruce wouldn't be around. Frankly, I wish he'd just used Bruce, because the conversation doesn't work as one between Superman and Dick. It's way too familiar, and not nearly as reverential as I expect Dick to be around Superman. Moreover, I don't think Superman would call Dick a "psycho," no matter what mask he was wearing.

But then there's the whole notion that Bruce and Dick are out of touch with the common person, which is predicated on almost exactly the same stupid notion that the whole story arc is based around. Superman isn't out of touch with the common person because no matter what happens, he's still a Kansas farm boy. You don't get much more "common person" than that. With Bruce and Dick, the case is a little easier to make, seeing that both have been world-traveling millionaire playboys, but in those dark alleys that Superman suggests are so isolating, most of their patrolling typically involves street-level thugs, gangs, and other ne'er-do-wells. Batman's in touch with a different class of "common people," the "common people" of Gotham City, but it's not all aristocrats and supervillains as Superman suggests.

Then there's the continuing problem of race, as Superman dangles a stalker who's visually quite similar to the drug dealer from the first issue, and now a schoolteacher of color who ends up the sinister pawn of a Kryptonian artifact, for no discernable reason1. I guess it's all okay, because the redneck truck driver from "Superman II" gets to have some superpowered revenge2.

And at the end we get the "Batman was right" ending, where everyone's upset with Superman and he gets a new reason to angst about whether he's a force for good or ill. It's a paint-by-numbers angsty Superman story, of the sort that people have been complaining about for years. Me, I'm the kind of guy who doesn't necessarily mind when Superman cries; I am the kind of guy who minds when Superman doesn't do anything else.

And maybe that's not a fair criticism of this book, since Straczynski hasn't been writing Superman since Our Worlds At War, or whenever we want to pin down the start of the "angsty Superman" problem. But, like his tone-deaf characterization of Dick Grayson's Batman, it would be nice if he actually spent some time reading modern Superman comics, and seeing that "hey, let's have Superman question his usefulness" is about the most overplayed plot in the last several years. Heck, they made a movie about it.

It's like destroying Themyscira over in "Wonder Woman." I only read "Wonder Woman" regularly from about the time of "Our Worlds At War" on, and even I know that this is at least the third time it's been destroyed in that timeframe. Straczynski seems to think he's breaking new ground and telling these deep and meaningful stories--and maybe he is in "Wonder Woman," which I dropped--but at least in Superman he's walking over well-worn ground. And while he's got Superman walking on Interstate Geoff Johns from Arcuditown to Singerville by way of Azzarello Heights, old Route Cary Bates is gathering dust.

And that's a damn shame.

1. That's not really a criticism; 'Kryptonian artifacts making people superpowered and evil for no discernable reason' is a time-honored tradition (cf. Every "Smallville" episode ever).

2. He actually doesn't look anything like said trucker, but man, that seems like a missed Easter Egg opportunity.

Walking with Superman: Day 88

When Superman last encountered the planet Transilvane, mad genetecist Dabney Donovan had influenced the development and evolution of the miniature world's native life forms, using horror movies projected onto the planet to turn it into a world of classic movie monsters! Superman interceded with a stopgap solution, using the same methods as Donovan, but changing the film to "Oklahoma!" Now, the Man of Steel ventures to the surface of Transilvane, accompanied by a small group of vampire separatists who hope to colonize the world themselves and finally live in peace. But the Transilvanian natives are not entirely thrilled by the prospect, and the visitors find themselves hunted by Sheriff Dragorin and his wolfman Deputy, Lupek! Pursued by monstrous lawmen on horseback, caught in bizarre mummy/Frankenstein love triangles, and surrounded everywhere by unprompted singing, Superman discovers the consequences of his previous encounter with the bizarre world, and hopes to set things right for everyone.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 87

The annual gathering of the Exsanguinators' Society in Portland, OR, is the world's largest regular meeting of vampires, hangers-on, and wannabes from all walks of life (and afterlife). This year's convention promises to be among the biggest, with controversial rumors of a cure coming out of New York City and a momentous reveal planned for opening night. The emcee promises an end to fears of sunlight, an end to hiding from slayers, an end even to hunting humans like prey--all thanks to the Society's newest acquisition, a completely customizable miniature planet called Transilvane. But before the interested attendees can visit the surface, the party gets crashed--by the Man of Steel! Superman has been trying to track down Transilvane since learning of its disappearance from Cadmus during the DNA Diaspora, and while he sympathizes with the vampire separatists, he warns them that Transilvane is inhabited--and dangerous! If there's to be a colonization, then he's going to make sure it's done right, so that everyone benefits. Countless human, vampire, and Transilvanian lives hang in the balance, as Superman accompanies the first expedition to the surface of the demon planet!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 86

A number of people have disappeared in New Hope, Alabama under mysterious circumstances, and it all seems to be centered around a conservative Christian youth group and their annual "Judgment House." Supernatural energies in the area led former Justice Leaguer and Shadowpact member Zauriel to investigate, but when Zauriel failed to return, his teammates Blue Demon and Nightmaster decided to call in reinforcements--specifically, the traveling Superman. The trio takes a terrifying tour through the showcase of sins, and quickly discover that the staged acts of depravity aren't staged at all! In trying for authenticity, it seems that the actors in the Satanic Mass scene accidentally summoned the Demons Three, and now all the actors and attendees have become trapped in their grisly scenes! With their tortured souls and Zauriel's angelic form, Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast hope to break down the dimensional barriers and make a literal Hell on Earth! Will Superman and his magical allies be able to stop the demons, or will they become just another part of this hellish pageant?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 85

Superman's journey so far has been punctuated with publicity and popularity. People in nearly every town he's visited have welcomed him as a hero and celebrity, and while the Man of Steel is not typically one to bask in such a limelight, he would never think of begrudging people their parades and celebrations, no matter the occasion. His reception in this latest city, however, is considerably colder. There are no crowds of onlookers, there is no line of autograph-seekers, no queue of hands to shake. Every face he sees, every whispered comment he hears lets him know that this place, this city, does not welcome Superman, not since he was gone when they needed him. Here, the shield he wears on his chest is not a symbol of hope, but of destruction and death. Superman has arrived in Coast City, California. Here, only one person would walk the lonely streets with the Last Son of Krypton, a person who knows what it is like to be unwelcome: the Phantom Stranger. And he's about to give Superman a glimpse into what might have been...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 84

Superman's visit to Sleepy Hollow, New York brings him into contact with its most legendary resident--the Headless Horseman! Superman thinks the phantom jockey is after his Kryptonian cranium, but the truth is far stranger! The Horseman tires of his centuries-old ride, and he needs Superman's help if he hopes to reach his eternal rest. Superman must take a journey into early American history and into the strange supernatural forces which have kept one dead Hessian riding since the eighteenth century. One unsolved mystery stands between the Headless Horseman and his final fate: what is the strange secret of Ichabod Crane?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 83

The Second City Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, boasts an impressive roster of famously funny alumni, and continues a fifty-year-old tradition of knocking audiences dead. Today, though, the act is really killer, as the Joker takes the stage! But th-th-that's not all, folks, because the Prankster's in town, and he's determined to depose the Clown Prince of Crime! Can Superman save Second City from this calamitous clash of criminal comedians, or will they literally bring the house down?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 82

An alien race has been studying Earth history and culture through the media and the Internet, and they believe that they've discovered the perfect day and place to begin their invasion. And so the Zakid ships land in Columbus, Ohio, on October 11th, and Nolak plants his flag in the manner of Earth's celebrated conquerors. Superman stands against the would-be emperor and his armada, but they aren't the only threat. Even as the Man of Steel battles the Zakid warriors, alien nanotech is infecting the people, architecture and landscape, changing them to something more suitable for Earth's new owners. If Superman doesn't act quickly, there won't be a Columbus--or an Earth--left to save!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 81

The calls come into various authorities from all across Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Police receive numerous noise complaints, from the ringing of bells to the firing of guns. Late-night radio hosts and the Department of Extranormal Operations receive claims of spectral horsemen, racing loudly across the countryside. Some dismiss the reports as the activities of bored teenagers, others chalk it up to the mischievousness of poltergeists, but when seven hundred phantom British Army Regulars rise up in Boston and begin their deadly spectral march to Concord, it suddenly becomes clear that those "poltergeists" were actually the spirits of William Dawes, Samuel Prescott, and Paul Revere, trying to raise the alarm. Now, Superman stands against the ghostly redcoats, but what can anyone do against a regiment of dead men?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 80

It's the double-sized conclusion to the Supergroup Saga! Clark Kent and his newly-named band, Freedom, have arrived in Boston, ready to take on The Man with the power of rock and roll. In order to get at the man behind the music, however, they're going to have to outperform every sold-out musician and band on his label, from Carlos Sivana to Slade to Kobra Starship to Elinel and S6! Even if they manage to survive that musical assault, do they have what it takes to stand up to the sultan of swing, the king of rock, the emperor of emcees, the ambassador of soul, the maestro of music himself, the felonious Fiddler? Clark's band finally has a name, but even with Bat Halen and Arrowsmith playing backup, do they have what it takes to go up against the nigh-omnipotent Fiddler and his symphonic prog-rock band Yz? Tonight, the fate of the world comes down to a single concert!

Special thanks to Eric Garneau for his help with this storyline.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 79

The penultimate part of the Supergroup Saga finds our erstwhile band at an indie music festival in Austin, Texas, where their search for a final member has brought them to a show spotlighting Canadian musicians. Clark's sure they've found their missing piece in the singer and keyboardist of Calgary's Siobhan and Kara, but Siobhan isn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of losing half her band--and she won't be letting go without a fight! As if that weren't enough drama, Clark's been challenged to a bass battle by Rick Dragon of Toronto's Human Sex Bomb! Clark had better get it together, because tonight he's in for the fight of his precious little life!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 78

The band splits up in part four of the Supergroup Saga! Don't worry, it's just for division of labor: while Conner and John attend a concert by the Birds in hopes of recruiting Karen Slick, one-time lead singer of Starrship, Clark seeks training from one of the greatest rock bands in history: Bat Halen. But while Diamond Dick Grayson shows Clark the ins and outs of being a frontman, Conner and John find themselves facing Operation Isley and Scaring Crows! Why do major-label bands want to stop this supergroup's formation? What light can Bruce Bat Halen cast on Clark's prophetic dreams? And will the new quartet make it out of Pasadena alive?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 77

The Supergroup Saga continues with the thrilling third part: Clark and John make it to Seattle, Washington, where they hope to find the next member of their band. Their talent search leads them to a chance encounter with rock group Arrowsmith, exiled from Boston for rebelling against the cartels who control the music scene--and, some say, the entire world. Our jukebox heroes becomes a power trio when they meet Conner Squires, washed-up member of the '90s one-hit-wonder band Kirby Danger, who apparently has neither aged nor changed his wardrobe since 1993! An open-mic night even gives the band their first chance to perform together--or it will, if superstar drummer Chang Tzu and his Fu Fighters don't run them out of town first!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 76

In the stunning second part of the Supergroup Saga, Clark Kent reaches his first destination: Detroit, Michigan. Strange dreams and stranger forces have driven him here to find a singer for his band, a velvet-voiced Motown soul legend, but Clark doesn't know his name. He searches nightclub after nightclub, but his efforts are fruitless. An accidental slight even leads to his lyrical humiliation by rapper Elinel. But when all hope seems lost, Clark finds an album by a forgotten local star named John Henry Sledge, and finally fits a name to the face. Unfortunately, Clark's search has not gone unnoticed, and his musical revolution may be over before it's even begun. There's only one way to rock in Detroit, and anyone who wants to form a band on this scene must first earn the permission of KISS--Knights In Shazam's Service!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 75

Rocketed from the dying planet Krypton, an infant child was rescued by a couple of aging progressive rock musicians from Kansas. As he grew, young Clark Kent discovered that he had powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal musicians. Faster than a Satriani solo! More powerful than a Manowar concert! Able to two-hand tap with only one hand! Look! There in the garage, it's--just some silly head-in-the-clouds dreamer. Despite being a virtuoso at any instrument he puts his hands on, Clark can't seem to catch his big break, but he also can't shake the feeling that he should be doing more with his life than rocking out in his garage. He hears voices when he's dreaming, a familiar woman's voice calling his name. In those dreams, he can rise above the noise and confusion, he has caught fleeting glimpses beyond the illusion of his life, glimpses of people he has never met and the people they ought to be. Though he may be a madman, he knows that something is wrong with the world, and forces beyond himself are driving his destiny. He sets out on the road with a guitar strapped to his back and a new mission: to form the greatest supergroup the world has ever known, and to make things right with the power of rock.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 74

The illegal street racing scene has become a serious problem for Miami, FL, earning US-27 the nickname "highway of death." Normally, Superman would be the last person to engage in such illicit and dangerous activities, but he'll soon find himself behind the wheel with the pedal to the metal, racing against the hottest hot rods in this world--or any other! Jason Blood has sought out the Man of Steel to enter into an infernal racing challenge held by Lord Satanus, pitting him against the best drivers Hell has to offer. Superman and Etrigan have less than twenty-four hours to soup-up a super-coupe if they hope to win. And if they lose, they won't just be out a pink slip--six hundred and sixty-six innocent souls are on the line!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 73

The Kensington Runestone has been a subject of great debate since its discovery in 1898. Some claim it represents clear evidence that Norse excursions into the Americas got as far as Minnesota, others dismiss it as a clear hoax. When Superman arrives in Alexandria, MN, where the stone is held, he decides to bring in an authority--the Norse god of thunder, Thor! What the deity reveals is stranger than any earthly explanation, as centuries-old machinations and deceptions by Loki Wolf-father are brought to light. Now, Superman is on a mission to 14th Century America, leading thirty of Valhalla's finest viking Einherjar to rescue the half-Sioux grandson Thor never knew he had!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Walking with Superman: Day 72

Warpath, AZ is a town on the border, both between Mexico and the United States, and between the old west and the modern age. But the town has recently experienced an upswing in crime rates, following the resignation and subsequent disappearance of the town's sheriff, Greg Saunders, who fought crime for decades as the valiant Vigilante! Superman tracks down the Prairie Troubadour, who has secluded himself in the desert. Reborn and rejuvenated, Saunders fears that his curse is stronger than ever, and that not even regular silver injections can keep it at bay any longer. Bodies are piling up around Warpath, and the wolves have been howling. Can Superman clear Saunders' name--and his conscience--before he fires that last silver bullet?