Monday, January 31, 2011

The World That's Coming!!

Feed readers just got a startling glimpse into the world that's coming!! Try to ignore it until Wednesday, folks.

Walking with Superman: Day 194

Superman arrives in Houston, TX, where police are in a tense standoff at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Clifton Lacey--a former NASA engineer, long thought dead--is holding the center's scientists hostage with the ultraviolet death-ray he developed as the villainous Solaris! Unless the authorities capitulate to his impossible demands, he plans to irradiate everyone in the facility until they die quick, gruesome deaths! And lest the police think they can just send in the Man of Steel, Lacey claims to have adapted his weapon with red sun frequencies as well, making it as deadly to Kryptonians as it is to humans. Defeating this deadly doctor and saving the scientists is going to take every ounce of Superman's cunning and skill...but will they be enough?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 193

Superman and Krypto are in Willow, Alaska for the start of the great Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The Man and Dog of Steel are sledding for charity, with several organizations pledging money based on how quickly the duo can traverse the 1,161-mile course. But there's sabotage afoot, and as the pair approaches the halfway mark, they find themselves robbed of their powers! Now they're trapped without supplies between two ghost towns, with over a hundred and fifty miles between them and civilization, and at least four days ahead of the nearest race team. Lost and powerless in the frigid Alaskan wilderness with a blizzard sweeping across the trail, could this be the end for the Last Son and Pup of Krypton?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 192

Mr. Mxyzptlk is back in this dimension for his regular visit, and he hasn't come alone! He's not here to cause the usual mischief and mayhem this time--his new puppy, Bxtr, does enough for both of them! Mxy's in serious need of some obedience training, and so he's come to Highland Canine Training in Harmony, NC, hoping that they can tame his magical mutt. Though the trainers at the school may be top-notch, housebreaking an omnipotent puppy is no job for mere mortals. They're going to need a consult, someone who has experience dealing with super-powered pooches, someone with the power and cunning to deal with whatever a god-dog can throw at them. Yes, training this puppy is a job...for Superman and Krypto!

And in the last installment of the Krypto Second Feature, the Mutt of Might is summoned to the Kennel of Solitude, along with his counterparts from across space and time! A great malevolence threatens to wipe out all of their masters, and only the Infinite Legion of Super-Pets can stop it!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 191

Despite being a felony in all fifty states, despite the cruelty and associated crime, dog fighting is a booming business. There are rings and circuits all over the country, especially states with lenient animal cruelty laws. Such is the case with Mississippi, where a warehouse in Long Beach regularly holds the most unusual dog fights in the world. The villainous promoter called Roulette has moved on from her usual stock of superhero gladiatorial matches; pitting enhanced, super-powered, and alien dogs into the arena pays just as well with fewer organized escape attempts. The crowd is packed in thick tonight; the reigning champion hasn't had a challenge like this in weeks, and the audience wants a bloodbath. Who will emerge victorious: tonight's newcomer, the Mutt of Steel, Krypto the Super-Dog; or the merciless defender, the battle-scarred New Genesis war dog called Sturmer? It's up to Superman to stop the fight, but can he make it in time?

Plus, the Krypto Second Feature puts the Dog of Steel on the trail of Koko, Brainiac's deadly alien pet that was lost on Earth after the Hundred-Minute War.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 190

Thousands of years ago, though it is nearly impossible to say exactly how long, a human came upon a strange tree, apparently turned to stone, with a jewel stuck to its trunk like a frozen drop of golden blood. The stone spoke to him, and he plucked it, listening to its pleas in his own simple language. A spirit lived in the stone, and the spirit gave him what he most desired: power. He gained strength beyond any others in his tribe, such strength that he could tear a mastodon apart with his bare hands and outrace the fastest horse. With this power, he became a mighty ruler, for his people had seen what happened to those who would challenge him for food or women or trinkets. But for all his power, he became fat and lazy; behind his back, the tribe compared him to the great sloths that they sometimes hunted. Finally, one brave young hunter crept into the Sloth's dwelling and took the spirit gem. It spoke to him as well, and it cried for help. The spirit gave this hunter his desire as well: knowledge. And with that knowledge, he was able to free the spirit from its jeweled prison. The spirit emerged like a raging storm and returned to its world, giving the hunter its thanks. Unfortunately, the Sloth sought vengeance upon the Hunter, beginning a feud that would last for many years. Despite the Sloth's strength and abilities, the Hunter's keen mind and boundless knowledge allowed him to evade and defeat his foe time and time again. But despite his victories, the Hunter's intellect drove him farther and farther from his own people, and it seemed the Sloth would kill more and more of his loved ones each time he returned. And so it was that the Hunter sacrificed himself to stop the Sloth once and for all, destroying him utterly and taking the last piece with himself down to the bottom of a pit of tar, where he could finally be at rest.

Until today. Krypto goes digging in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, CA, and emerges with, as you might expect, a bone. But from this oversized human femur re-emerges a villain not seen since prehistory. As the so-called Sloth starts his assault, his ancient nemesis wakes and rises from the tar. The pleistocene powerhouses plunge into pugilism, and it's up to Superman and Krypto to end this timeless struggle once and for all!

Plus, in the Second Feature, flash back to Krypto's first meeting with the futuristic super-dogs of the DogStar Patrol!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 189

It's not terribly unusual to see a 'falling star' in the middle of the night, but falling constellations are considerably less possible. And yet, several stars seem to have disappeared from the night sky, just as a muscular Greek and his hunting dog fall into Michigan's Lake Orion! Orion and Sirius have rejoined the world of men, bored of afterlife among the stars and hoping for new hunts and new adventures. There's just one problem: the star Betelgeuse is still a part of the stellar hunter, and it's on the verge of going supernova! Superman and Krypto team with the Roman hero Alpha Centurion and his loyal hound Canis Major on a grand hunt to restore the demigod before it's too late!
And in the Second Feature, Krypto gets drafted into the Green Lantern Corps to combat the rogue Red Lantern Dex-Starr and his amassing army of raging strays! But while the super-dog has an indomitable will, his ring was made for a different paw, for the Green Lantern of Sector 0068...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Getting it Right

I was pretty harsh on Chris Roberson's first issue of Superman, mainly due to a fairly glaring error. I also have a history of getting quite annoyed when comics mangle basic science in the service of technobabble. There's an art to technobabble, and it's clear that not every writer is the staff of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

So it's always nice to be able to praise writers when they get it right. And in "Superman/Batman" #80, Chris Roberson got it right.

Frankly, it started with some excellent time travel action in the DC One Million future in #79. I'm a big fan of DC's various futures, especially that one, and I'm similarly a big fan of stories that play around with time travel, so this hits a lot of nice notes for me. I do wish post-DC One Million uses of the 853rd Century characters would recall that their outfits have lens flares associated with them; every damn character commented on the strange fabric of the heroes' outfits in the original crossover, and it's not like lens flare is difficult to add.

But I digress. The point is, the first part of the story is strong, but it's the second part that really makes me happy.

Superman understands how his powers work again!It starts with Epoch's attack on Superman, using a burst of red sun energy. I've noted before the recent trend in writers treating red sun energy as if it immediately robs Superman of his abilities, as it did in the Silver Age. Since the dawn of the modern age, though, Superman's cells have stored yellow sun energy like a battery, and so exposure to red sun energy alone shouldn't drain that energy. Under red sunlight, Superman's cells simply shouldn't recharge, but they should use the yellow sun energy as usual.

So I'm elated to see Roberson getting that precisely right on this page. Epoch fires red sun energy at him with such intensity that it would cause Superman to burn off yellow sun energy (since invulnerability uses that energy like any of his other powers) while being unable to replenish it. As Superman explains, the attack still left enough yellow sun radiation in his cells that he would have his abilities. It's a small, simple detail, but it's still nice to see.

The real treat, however, comes when Superman, Batman, and Robin are locked in Epoch's "Omega Barrier," a cubic force-field with a barrier "as impenetrable as the event horizon of a black hole." First, there's this excellent bit of characterization:
Damn straight.

Maybe it's just me, but that seems like a pitch-perfect Superman line. And the way out of a trap that's as inescapable as a black hole is the same way that energy and information escape from a black hole. As Superman correctly explains, even a vacuum is constantly churning with the creation and annihilation of virtual particle-antiparticle pairs. Normally these quantum fluctuations average out to nearly zero energy, but at the event horizon of a black hole, every so often pair creation causes one particle to appear outside of the black hole's range, and the other to appear within that range, causing one particle to fall into the black hole and the other to escape. The net effect is that energy leaks out of a black hole as Hawking Radiation, and over time that would cause the black hole itself to evaporate.

So Superman focuses his heat vision on the Omega Barrier's wall, hoping to increase the rate of particle-antiparticle pair production, and thus create a buildup of Hawking Radiation, which ultimately knocks Epoch out of the sky and disintegrates the barrier. It's a very clever solution, and any scientific quibbles I might have are minor at best (and at least one of them evaporates faster than a black hole if Hawking Radiation is understood in a context of quantum tunneling). It's an excellent example of how real scientific concepts can be tweaked into interesting superheroics without losing the integrity of the science.

So kudos to Chris Roberson. More than anything else, this issue has me excited to see what he does next with the Man of Steel, and based on this two-parter, I hope he stays on the book beyond the conclusion of "Grounded." Because it looks like he's capable of a lot more than batting cleanup for Straczynski.

Walking with Superman: Day 188

Superman's visit to the Marvelous Mirror Maze in South Carolina left him and Krypto stranded in an alternate dimension, while their antimatter counterparts are free to wreak havoc on their world. With Superman unconscious, it's up to his faithful pet to seek out help in this world where the sun still never sets on the British Empire, thanks to the efforts of the children and grandchildren of Superman's counterpart, Sir Clark of Kent! Thankfully, Krypto shouldn't have too much trouble communicating with the super-knight; after all, he was raised by wolves! Krypto rallies the pack to rescue Superman, as the fates of countless worlds hang in the balance!
Meanwhile, in the Krypto Second Feature, the Dog of Steel meets Rex the Wonder Dog, as the two canine crusaders track a missing child in the Rocky Mountains.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 187

People who go into the Marvelous Mirror Maze in Myrtle Beach, SC, have been coming out...different. Some have had strange amnesiac symptoms, remembering their lives with different details. Others have been apparently changed in even more bizarre ways. When Superman and Krypto visit the maze, they discover its secret: something has made the mirrors into doorways to alternate worlds! But before our heroes can rescue the displaced civilians and find the source of the dimensional nexus, they'll have to deal with their own counterparts--from the Antimatter Universe! And if Ultraman and Terro the Ultra-Hound have their say, there'll be one less set of counterparts in the multiverse!

Plus, in the Second Feature, the vigilante called Dogwelder meets the one dog he can't weld when Krypto comes to Gotham City!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 186

Every year, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship invites dogs and owners from around the world to show off their skills and style in a number of events. This year, though, someone seems to be eliminating the competition, attacking several dogs and trainers--and there's evidence to suggest extraterrestrial involvement! This looks like a job for the Man--and Man's Best Friend--of Steel! Superman and Krypto go undercover to Tampa, FL, but will they be able to sniff out the culprit before "Best in Show" becomes "Rest in Peace"? Plus, starting this issue: a brand new Second Feature following the solo adventures of Krypto the Super-Dog! When a displaced Sirian crashes near Roswell, Krypto lends a helping paw--but can he protect his new friend from...the Dogcatcher?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Putting the call out

I'm trying to track down a comic for a reference, but all my attempts to do so have, so far, been in vain. Here's what I can remember:
  • It's a comic from the last fifteen years or so, I'm guessing mid-to-late '90s
  • I thought it was a Superman comic, but I could be wrong about that
  • I'm pretty sure Ron Frenz did the art
  • The plot goes something like this: a big alien monster is tearing stuff up, but is eventually stopped by the hero, whereupon an alien in a spacesuit comes to retrieve it. Turns out the big monster is the alien's pet. The hero remarks that it's kind of like a dog, after which the alien removes its helmet to reveal a very canine-looking face, and says "something like that," or something like that.
At this point, I could probably draw the alien from memory. I remember the panel where it appears vividly, and especially the clearly-photoreferenced dog face, but I can't for the life of me figure out what comic this was in. Google has been no help, and flipping through random issues may take me several more days. Anyone know what this was off the top of their heads?

Walking with Superman: Day 185

A huge plume of black smoke catches Superman's attention as he reaches rural Obion County in Tennessee. He races to the source, where he finds a team of firefighters standing by while a house burns down, ignoring the pleas of the owner and his neighbors. The Man of Steel makes quick work of the fire, rescuing two of the owner's pets and leaving much of the structure intact. He then questions the firefighters, learning that they were ordered to allow the house to burn down because the owner had failed to pay a $75 fee. Appalled, Superman makes his way up the local political ladder, trying to unravel how a system designed to save lives and prevent the loss of property could go so wrong.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 184

As a clock somewhere chimes midnight, Superman stands at an old intersection in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Legend has it that at this "Devil's Crossroads," blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul for supernaturally amazing musical abilities. Some say the story is mere myth, some say Johnson's benefactor was the Vodoun gatekeeper Papa Legba, and some say it was Satan himself. Regardless of which version is the truth, a weary Man of Steel finds himself approached by a mysterious old man, who offers him an end to his travels. With a word, Superman could eradicate evil and injustice worldwide, rendering everything from hunger to disease a thing for the history books. Surely one so self-sacrificing as Superman would be willing to sacrifice himself for the happiness and prosperity of countless billions of people, now and into the distant future. The whole world could gain so much from the loss of one man's soul. Superman started this journey to reconnect with humanity, but at this crossroads he may lose his own...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 183

From the Old Faithful geyser to the Mammoth Hot Springs, many of the interesting features at Yellowstone National Park are fueled by the Yellowstone Caldera, a "supervolcano" situated over a volcanic hot spot. While the caldera has been fairly dormant for quite some time, it tends to erupt every six hundred thousand years or so, causing widespread destruction and potentially affecting weather and climate globally. Now, six hundred and forty thousand years since the last eruption, we're overdue, and certain indicators have scientists worried that the caldera will soon blow its top. But it seems that some people just aren't content with waiting. Volcana and Geomancer have found their way to the geographic center of the caldera in northwestern Wyoming, and they're ready to blow the volcano sky-high if the nations of North America fail to meet their demands. While authorities negotiate with the tectonic terrorists, Superman leads Terra and Sand into a battle for the fate of the continent!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 182

Superman expected his walk through Butte County, South Dakota to be uneventful, a scenic tour of the territory's beautiful hills and prairies. But as he nears the geographic center of the United States, he encounters something shocking: Bizarro, walking backwards along the same path! In this installment, we flip the map and take a look at some of Bizarro's strange adventures from his own tour across the United States! In Las Vegas, high-rolling Bizarro takes on Lobo--and takes him to the cleaners! In Olympia, Bizarro encounters a desperate, defeated Maxie Zeus, seeking revenge on this anti-Apollo! In Seattle, Bizarro enters the Powerhouse superhero convention's costume contest! In Orem, Utah, Bizarro has a very strange reaction to synthetic Blue Kryptonite! Bizarro enters the ring in Santa Fe, taking on Los Atómicos as El Hombre del Revés! Off the San Francisco coast, Bizarro teams with Batzarro for a daring Alcatraz break-in! All this and more in this extra-sized Walking with Bizarro!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 181

Not too long ago, Superman visited the Harlem neighborhood in New York City, where local hero Muhammad X gave him a decidedly chilly reception. Today, Superman hopes that he'll be more open to the help of an outsider--outsiders, actually, because this time, Superman's bringing reinforcements. Steel! Fire! Icon! Gangbuster! Mr. Terrific! Black Lightning! John Stewart! Blue Beetle! The Atom! Huntress! All these, and a host of other heroes including the Supermen of America, have united to make a real change in Harlem. Their main goal is the construction of a new youth education and recreation center, a safe haven for Harlem's children and teens away from gangs and the streets. But they're also bringing along new funds, equipment, and teaching techniques for Harlem schools, provided by the Wayne Foundation. They're bringing adult education modules and refurbishing local businesses to help drive down unemployment. They're bringing pledges from New York's other superheroes to put forth a concerted effort to clean up Harlem's streets. No one in Superman's team expects that they'll be able to solve Harlem's problems overnight, but through funding, effort, and example, they hope that they'll at least be able to make a change. And Superman hopes that Muhammad X will be on-board with that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting un-"Grounded"

My fairly negative post notwithstanding, "Superman" #707 was a real turning point for a terrible storyline, and I am excited to see where Chris Roberson is going to take things. Chris Sims sums up where the issue goes right in his review at Comics Alliance. I read the issue too quickly the first time to catch the references to speeding bullets and leaping tall buildings (and as Roberson pointed out on Twitter, bending steel and changing the course of mighty rivers), and I really like the connections to Maggin's "Must There Be a Superman."

I'm still apparently the only person who caught the "Superman III" reference. Or the wacky geography. And while I hope someone in DC Editorial cracks an atlas for the next issue, I do think the "Superman Squad" is a step in the right direction, and if the Maggin reference means Superman comics are going to get more like they were in the late '70s/early '80s, I'll be the last person to complain.

Walking with Superman: Day 180

Superman makes his annual trip to Birmingham, AL, to honor and remember the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Man of Steel was scarcely two years old when Dr. King penned the letter from a Birmingham jail which would come to shape his life, his career, even the way he chose to use his amazing abilities to help all humankind. Whenever doubts have shaken him, whenever the righteous path has been obscured, Dr. King's words have set him right. Critics have called him an outsider, an alien who should not interfere with human affairs, and he has responded that "anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds." He has been called an imperialist, enforcing a singular notion of justice without regard for local legalities or customs, but he has quoted "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." He has been called brash and thoughtless, flying in without considering the political and social ramifications of his actions, but steadfastly believes that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." He has adopted Dr. King's notion of peace, working toward a "positive peace which is the presence of justice," though he has found it harder to remain so steadfastly nonviolent in the face of the threats which, time and again, he has stopped. But unlike many of his caped and costumed colleagues, he would still prefer and attempt nonviolent methods even in the face of unyielding evil--after all, "right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant," and "it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends." The truth, the justice, the American way for which Superman stands, are the truth, justice, and American Way that Dr. King defined. The truth is the purest truth, attained through struggle and tension. The justice is swift justice, true justice, which reflects the moral law even when the civil law stands at odds. The American Way is freedom, "because the goal of America is freedom." Superman takes a last look at the statue of Dr. King in Kelly Ingram Park, and departs--after all, the President can't be late for his speech at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Meanwhile, in the Birmingham, AL of another Earth, another Superman reads the same letter in the same park, and finds a renewed sense of purpose.

Read the full text of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" here. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ending Douchebag Welfare

By now you all know about Travis Corcoran, the colossal asshat at Heavy Ink who thinks the proper response to the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman is to endorse the assassinations of the rest of Congress. Notable people are boycotting him, and that's fantastic. Some people are decrying the boycotts, usually on a complete misunderstanding of what is meant by "freedom of speech" (here's a hint: it means that you are free to say whatever stupid crap you want, within limits. It does not mean that there will not be consequences for saying stupid crap). But one argument sticks out to me, and I think it's worth responding to. Cartoonist Ted Rall said:
If I only bought from companies and individuals whose political beliefs I agreed with, I wouldn’t be buying much.

This guy is entitled to his beliefs. Personally, I think anyone who supports America’s illegal wars is far worse than the Heavy Ink guy is. After all, our wars kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people for no good reason. But people are entitled to support whatever murderous wars they want. I wouldn’t boycott someone because of their disgusting politics. Hell, if I did that, I wouldn’t buy much.

Boycotting or trying to drive someone out of business due to their political beliefs is vile, hypocritical behavior on the part of creative types who depend on the right to free expression to market and sell their ideas. The fact that you disagree with those beliefs does not change that.

(And please spare me the right-wing libertarian pablum about how only the government can censor. Look up the word “censorship” in the dictionary.)

Funny how people react to violent intolerance with violent intolerance.
Ted Rall is an idiot.

Let's start with where he's right: yes, Corcoran is entitled to his beliefs. And everyone else is entitled to think that his beliefs make him a colossal asshat (see above). Said people are also entitled to decide which colossal asshats they are willing to do business with.

And I'll even agree that people who support our illegal wars are bad, because war is bad, and lots of innocent people die in war. On the other hand, people who support said wars aren't directly calling for the specific murders of particular individuals, unlike Corcoran, and I think that puts them in a slightly different category. But where does this war bit come from? It is, as the Latins say, a non sequitur. It's not an either-or proposition--"either you support assassinating Congress or you support killing Muslims"--there's a whole spectrum of vile opinions and vile people. Only one of those people is involved in this situation.

And yet, that's where Rall goes right. Where he goes wrong is by saying that boycotts are "vile, hypocritical behavior" for artists to engage in. The reason he's wrong is in his next clause: because those creative types "depend on the right to free expression to market and sell their ideas." It is most assuredly not hypocrisy for creative types who market and sell their freely-expressed ideas to recognize a freely-expressed idea that is poorly-marketed and not buy it.

Allow me to elaborate: Corcoran had an idea. He expressed it, as is his right. Upon expressing that idea, it turned out that there's not much of a market for calls for Congressional assassinations. He finds himself now desperately trying to sell these ideas that almost no one wants. If he were a political cartoonist, for instance, it would seem that his cartoons would not be picked up by many newspapers.

But he's not a cartoonist. He's the president of a distribution company. He has apparently taken it upon himself to be a public face for said company. In those capacities, he is not selling ideas (except inasmuch as he is selling other people's ideas, printed and bound); he is selling his services as a distributor. He is essentially marketing his own sales skills, promoting himself and his company as the organization you should choose, out of all the other comic distributors, to sell and ship comics to you.

So I ask you: where is the hypocrisy in looking at that situation, seeing a salesman who is so bad at marketing his own ideas that he can't get people to buy them when they are free and extrapolating his marketing skills in arenas where money is at stake? That's not hypocrisy. That's not censorship. That's business. He is the public face of his company, and his thoughtless actions have made it clear that Heavy Ink's public face is a horse's ass. If he's not business-savvy enough to recognize that his public statements reflect on his company and carry potential financial consequences, if he's not business-savvy enough to recognize when to cut his losses and save face rather than continuing to dig a hole when it's just a matter of ideas, then why would anyone think he's savvy enough to do those things when money and business decisions are involved?

Two last things: there is nothing "violent" (or even really intolerant) about boycotting a business due to things done by the owner of the business. As long as Rall is telling people to look words up in the dictionary, perhaps he should turn to the "V" section.

But he's right about censorship. It would be wrong to say that only the government can censor. Lots of people can censor. Private editors can cut objectionable words or phrases out of articles or stories or whatever; heck, when I was a DJ at my college radio station, I did a whole lot of censoring. It's how I managed to play certain songs by Ben Folds and Tenacious D over the airwaves. I even censor myself, here on the blog, restricting what words I use to describe people like Corcoran.

Where Rall runs wrong again is in thinking, apparently, that anything in the Corcoran situation constitutes "censorship." No one is telling Corcoran that he can't say what he likes, where he likes. No one is cutting words out of his blog posts or blocking access to his website or otherwise forcibly limiting his freedom of speech. He has the Constitutionally-protected right to say any asinine thing that crosses his mind. But he is not guaranteed the right to have his words exist free of consequence. He is not guaranteed the right to have a customer base. I would think that "creative types" who "depend on the right to free expression to market and sell their ideas" like Rall would understand: your right to voice and market your ideas does not guarantee that someone will pay for them. And just as Ted Rall isn't guaranteed a Constitutional right to have any random napkin-scribbling picked up by the Tribune, Travis Corcoran is not guaranteed to have people patronize a business that would have such a giant boob as its president.

So, needless to say, I won't be shopping at Heavy Ink. But my decision not to shop there is not because I "disagree with his political beliefs" (assuming, of course, that "kill Congress" constitutes a "political belief"). My decision not to shop at Heavy Ink is based on the same reason(s) as my decision never to buy comics from Larry Doherty. First, there's just the matter of convenience; I don't live anywhere near Larry's Comics, and when I was doing a lot of online comic ordering, I hadn't heard of Heavy Ink. But the more principled reason is that, whenever possible, I like to not directly support douchebags. "Vote with your dollar" seems to be the mantra of comics fandom of late, and more than individual titles, I think that applies to retailers. There's a lot of bad behavior and bad business among comics retailers, and whenever possible, I try not to reward or reinforce it. That means not patronizing shops where the owner is a dim-witted misogynistic asshole who feels the need to vent vehement dislike for folks on the Internet. That means not patronizing shops where the owner is a contemptible ghoul who thinks the proper response to a tragedy is to call for more and again. That means recognizing what kind of atmosphere you want from a comic shop, and patronizing shops which provide that atmosphere. It means not settling for dank dungeons run by misanthropic jackasses.

So, to summarize: Travis Corcoran is a douchebag, and I hope this experience teaches him something about how to run a business. Ted Rall is an idiot, and I hope he takes the opportunity to learn how to argue a coherent point. Larry Doherty is just a dumbass, and I hope the people of Lowell, MA take advantage of their many alternatives. And vote with your dollar, because that's the American Way.

Walking with Superman: Day 179

After the brutal beating of a suspected petty thief, facts came to light about a gang of rogue police officers operating in the streets of Milwaukee, WI. The gang, called the "Wild Dogs," were typically identified by the symbol of a laughing red hound, similar to the mascot for a midwestern University, adorning caps, stickers on cars and lockers, and occasionally tattoos, belonging to the officers. The known members of the "Wild Dogs" were fired, but rumors and irregularities in other cases suggest that they're still active, and that their reach extends deeper into the Milwaukee police force than anyone could have suspected. Clark Kent investigates, interviewing the captain and detectives who broke the case, but these vigilantes don't take kindly to his snooping. Kent's story might be able to shed light on the rogue lawmen, but cleaning up the crooked cops is a job for Superman!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Walking with Superman: The Contest!

Day 200 is coming up quickly, ladies and gentlemen, which is quite frankly ridiculous. I've enjoyed nearly every minute of learning about interesting places in the United States and coming up with cool ways for Superman to interact with them. I've created new characters, dredged up some old ones, and really renewed my desire to actually write the Man of Steel one of these days. I'm looking forward to the next hundred and seventy-six days, and I hope you are too.

But that's all kind of beside the point. I've been thinking about doing a contest on the blog for awhile, and the 200th installment of Walking with Superman seems like the perfect opportunity. I've got some prizes lined up, and I'll probably dredge up a few more before the big day. So, here are the parameters:
Write or draw something out of the previous 199 Walking with Superman installments.
Pretty open-ended, eh? You could script a page or draw out one of the new characters or do a "30-second recap" style thing since Chris Sims punked out on that this year. When all the entries are collected, I'll pick the ones I like best and award prizes to them. And of course, I'll post everything here on the blog. The deadline for entries is 11:59 PM on Saturday February 5th, 2011.

I know I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with, so spread the word and get to creating!

Edit: It occurs to me that I didn't give instructions on how to send me your entries! You can leave a link in the comment section, tweet me @Doubting_Tom, or just fire off an e-mail to this address:
Hopefully I'll remember the password to this account...

Get to it!

Walking with Superman: Day 178

Clark Kent and Lois Lane take a long walk around California's scenic Coronado Island, but when a storm rolls in from the ocean, it begins to look like they should never have left the Hotel del! The whirling winds whip around them, and Lois is knocked unconscious by a piece of flying debris. When the super-tongue of Krypto wakes her up, she finds that Coronado Island has suddenly become a lot more primary-colored, and why is she wearing shoes made of Red Kryptonite? She doesn't have long to wonder before the Newsboy Guild tells her that the only way she can return home is to consult the wizard who lives in the Sunstone City. Along the way, she'll encounter a familiar scarecrow, tin-man, and lion, who will help her find her way back to reality. Just pay no attention to the bald man behind the curtain...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 177

Superman's journey takes him back to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, epicenter of the formation of the Justice League. Resident Snapper Carr gives the Man of Steel the grand tour, but when they reach the Justice League's old Secret Sanctuary, these old friends stumble into a trap set by an old enemy! Quick thinking and quicker actions by Snapper allow him to activate an old distress signal before he and Superman are whisked away. But the signal didn't summon the old Justice Leaguers. Instead, Red Tornado, Superboy, Kid Flash, Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Arrowette, Empress, and the girl once known as Secret are on the case! But the reunited Young Justice teammates won't have much time to catch up: they've got a play-date with the Weapons Master, and if they lose at his deadly board game, the founding members of the Justice League will lose their lives!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Off to a bad start

So, I'm reading "Superman" #707, the first issue scripted by Chris Roberson, and I have all these tentatively hopeful expectations for a better experience than the previous few installments of "Grounded." Then, I get to this panel:
I'm sorry, Lois, when did you start dressing like a Planeteer?

Now, I understand that it's difficult to pin down fictional comic book locations. I've had a devil of a time with it myself, and I'm quite glad that the Atlas of the DC Universe has taken up the difficult task of citing semi-canonical locales for our superheroes' homes. It's not perfect, as I've discovered, mainly because writers and editors don't seem concerned with giving these cities stable locations--or even stable states. While Metropolis is listed in Delaware by the Atlas--which, frankly, makes the most sense to me, given various details about Metropolis's geography and placement relative to Gotham and Washington, DC--"Countdown to Infinite Crisis" set it in New York (which is absurd). The Atlas places Smallville just south of Wichita, very close to the southern border of Kansas, but the "JLA: Our Worlds At War" special implies that Smallville is within 150 km (about 93 miles) of Topeka.

In neither case, however, is Smallville "just across the state line" from Des Moines, IA. There are two reasons for this:
  1. Des Moines, IA, is just south of the center of the state of Iowa.
  2. The state of Iowa does not share a border with Kansas.
It was almost forgivable that J. Michael Straczynski didn't do the research to figure out what side of Philadelphia he was setting the story in the first issue, or that he didn't realize that ordering a "Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich" in Philly is like going to a hot dog vendor on Michigan Ave. and asking for a "bread-wrapped frankfurter sausage, adorned in the custom of Chicago, Illinois." But holy Hell, has the man never seen a map of the United States? With two writers, an associate editor, and the Superman titles' editor working on this story where Superman is visiting real places in the real United States, you'd think someone would have the sense to open a goddamn map. It's not like they're hard to find. Perhaps someone could send DC Comics a gas store roadside atlas. Or at least one of those handy U.S. placemats.

On the other hand, I'm glad to see someone finally calling Superman out on his incredibly out-of-character behavior of late. And while I may be the only person in the audience for this, I did like that the main plot/action was lifted directly from a scene in "Superman III."

Walking with Superman: Day 176

When Metropolis fell, superheroes and magicians gathered to restore it. When cataclysm struck Gotham City, multinational corporations stepped in to rebuild it. Even Coast City, razed by alien bombs and turned into an engine of destruction, has managed to recover. But when the caustic colossus Chemo was dropped on Blüdhaven, NJ, no serious attempt was made to undo the damage. The bulk of the city was walled off, then incinerated by Captain Atom, becoming a rubble-strewn backdrop for the most recent crisis. Today, the ruins of Blüdhaven are an open, rotting sore on the Atlantic Coastline, a dead, foreboding wasteland populated by sickly mutants and patrolled sparingly by the Atomic Knights. But when Superman crosses the wall, he finds that even among such desolation, life goes on. Something new has risen from the ashes of Gotham's sister city: intelligent, gelatinous beings, born from some strange interaction of Chemo's chemical innards, Captain Atom's quantum radiation, the unearthly energies of the New Gods, and the biological material of tens of thousands of Blüdhaven residents. The Man of Steel makes first contact, but will he find himself fighting these strange life forms, or defending them from the true monsters who reside in Command-D?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 175

In one of the first volleys of the Imperiex War, a hollower bomb was dropped on Topeka, Kansas, with the ultimate goal of destroying the Earth. While the planet was saved, Topeka was almost completely annihilated. The superheated air and dust and ash swept out from ground zero, devastating towns as far away as Smallville, and over one hundred thousand people lost their lives. When Superman returns to the Kansas state capital today, he finds a city still trying to rebuild and reclaim its lost glory. He thinks back to the friends he lost in that war--Guy Gardner, Hippolyta, Aquaman, Maxima, and others--and notes how many of them have since returned to the land of the living, in some cases more than once. Resurrection has become so common among his friends and allies that they consider it when planning funerals. Meanwhile, Topeka is still largely depopulated, still reeling from the terrible tragedy, and the innocent people whose lives were lost in a battle between superhumans and gods are not going to come back. But maybe, though he cannot raise the dead, Superman can help give Topeka a new life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 174

When the creature called Doomsday first escaped from his underground bunker, Lima, Ohio was one of the first real urban centers he encountered. The results were predictably disastrous--homes demolished, the LexOil refinery destroyed, and hundreds dead or injured. The town has mostly recovered in the intervening years, and Superman is pleased to see how well they've bounced back, but the Doomsday disaster still affects those who survived it. And the Man of Steel isn't the only hero returning to Lima; native son Mitch Anderson, also known as the magnetic marvel Outburst, has come home to open up a Supermen of America youth center. Mitch gives Superman the grand tour of the house that he inspired, and the kids and teens who benefit from that inspiration--teens like Dennis, who suffers from a very rare form of the very rare disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, and who was injured by debris during the Doomsday attack when he was a child. But when Dennis shakes Superman's hand, his disease goes into overdrive, and suddenly it looks like his bone overgrowth wasn't due to a gene mutation at all! Now it's up to Superman and Outburst to stop the teenage Doomsday's rampage before history repeats itself!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 173

The statue of Ceres was stolen from atop the Vermont State House in Montpelier the night before Superman walked into town. But when he visits the State House, he sees the familiar figure of the Roman goddess, still standing atop the gilded dome. Of course, Superman's as surprised as anyone else when Ceres begins to speak! The goddess is none too happy about the act of vandalism against her effigy, and she's offering the people of Vermont an ultimatum: Ceres will be restored to its rightful place, one way or another. Almost immediately afterward, astronomers around the world record a stunning phenomenon. The dwarf planet Ceres has moved out of its orbit within the asteroid belt, and is on an impossible collision course with Earth! Superman has twenty-four hours to find and replace the statue of Ceres, or Vermont will be wiped off the map--along with the rest of North America!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 172

After the attack on the Atomic Skull movie premiere, Superman decides to see if there's anything to the fabled Atomic Skull curse that strikes each actor to play the role with unlikely and untimely misfortune. So to start his journey, Clark Kent takes a trip to the University of California at Riverside to interview Prof. Jessica Nelson, pop culture historian and renowned expert on the history of the Atomic Skull. His investigation will take him deep into the hidden past of Hollywood, a tale of murder and tragedy, of strange illness and stranger injuries, of dark sympathies and even darker sorcery. The truth will finally be revealed, with one actor's life hanging in the balance, but will even Superman be able to break the curse?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 171

Despite some setbacks, the rebooted Atomic Skull film--"Curse of the Atomic Skull"--is finally being released, and Superman's been invite to the star-studded premiere! The paparazzi are out in force to see his red boots hit the red carpet outside of Arclight Cinemas' Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, but the buzz in the tabloids is focused more on renewed speculation about a real-life Atomic Skull curse, supposedly bringing danger and untimely death to all the actors who have played the role over the years. But the newest Atomic Skull star may never experience the real-life curse, since the real-life Atomic Skull is crashing the premiere!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 170

Ever since John Jones left Middleton, CO, the private investigator market has had an empty niche, and an empty office. That office has only recently been reopened, as a newly-relocated detective agency tries to fill his shoes--and their first big client is a knockout! The dame walks in with an attitude like she owns the place, and even the landlord might fall for it. She's got spunk, moxie, chutzpah, and a problem the size of a linebacker. Seems her husband has gone missing, right about the same time that Superman passed on out of town, and no one's seen him since. Chances are her missing farm boy is just out sowing some wild oats, though it'd be a shame, since she seems an awful lot wilder than any Quaker. But the lady's willing to pay top dollar to recover her man, some press-man named Kent who's supposed to be covering Big Blue's little vacation. Fella mustn't be all that special if she didn't even take his last name; then again, with the kind of alliteration she's got, it's hard to blame her. One way or another, this Kent guy'll turn up, because Lois Lane has engaged the unique services of the best private investigators around: O'Day and Simeon--Angel and the Ape!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 169

Curtis Howe Springer started up the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa in what would come to be called Zzyzx, California, in 1944, choosing the site for the lost mineral springs he'd discovered there. The fact that no such springs existed didn't stop him from charging visitors to treat their ailments with "mineral spring water," pumped to the baths from a secret boiler. It wasn't the first bit of fraud and trickery that Springer had engaged in, but it may have been the most successful, until investigations forced him off the land in the '70s. But when Superman walks down Zzyzx Road, he finds that there may have been a kernel of truth to Springer's claims about mysticism in the place. Instead of traveling toward Interstate 15, Zzyzx Road leads him to Dimension 5! Superman expected his travels to lead him to some strange places, but never would have guessed a trip across America to lead him to the extradimensional world of Zrfff! Now the Man of Steel turns to Mr. Mxyzptlk and his impish kin, to help him return to his home dimension--or he'll remain in this zany world forever!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 168

The Anti-Sun has risen, and its dawn means the last day for humanity! Thanks to the dark rituals of a forgotten tribe, the corrupt teachings of Lex Luthor, and a few drops of Kryptonian blood, Mageddon has been resurrected, and this time no force in the universe can stand against it! As anti-sunlight leeches the life from the world, the only hope lies in Superman and Manitou Raven, and a desperate trip into the remote past! Over three hundred years ago, a time-tossed Q Foundation space probe crashed in the Ozarks, carrying a secret cargo of Kryptonite and instructions by a Mageddon-controlled Lex Luthor. Found by a few outcasts from the Osage people, it led to a secret tribe, dedicated to the return of the primordial destroyer. Now, the Man of Steel and his mystical companion hope to alter that past, retrieving the probe before it corrupts history, and preventing Mageddon's release. But how can they stop events that have already happened? And if they succeed, what else might they change?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 167

When Superman returns to Beebe, Arkansas, he finds a familiar figure among the thousands of dead blackbirds--former Justice Leaguer Manitou Raven! What terrible danger could have drawn the spirit-mage back into the land of the living, and how does it connect to the strange tribesmen who attacked the Man of Steel the day before? The answers lie in a strange satellite, buried in a secret location in the Ozark National Forest. The case and electronics were manufactured by LexCorp, and its purpose appears to be as a deep-space probe. But why does it have trace amounts of Kryptonite within it? What is the "Q Foundation" whose logo adorns its hull? And why do the age patterns suggest that it's over three hundred years old? While Manitou Raven helps Superman unravel these mysteries, elsewhere a dark ritual proceeds. An ancient tribe, a centuries-old offshoot of the Osage people, use ancient rituals handed down from their forefathers and blood drawn from the prophesied Kryptonian, to summon something from the great beyond. And as a hundred thousand dead fish choke the shores of the Arkansas River, a drumbeat can be heard, sounding from beneath all things the name of the destroyer.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 166

On New Year's Eve, thousands of red-winged blackbirds fell out of the sky, peppering central Arkansas with grisly avian corpses. But when Superman arrives in the small town of Beebe to investigate, dead birds are suddenly the least of his concerns! The Man of Steel finds himself set-upon by a clan of bald Native Americans--wielding kryptonite-tipped spears! When the fight is over, Superman is injured and weakened, his foes have escaped, and only a single spear attests to their existence. He takes the artifact to S.T.A.R. Labs in nearby Little Rock, but their findings raise only more questions--specifically, how did a piece of Kryptonite end up on Earth three hundred years ago, before Krypton exploded? Meanwhile, among the blackbirds in Beebe, a single raven stirs...and changes!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 165

Richland, Washington is a remarkable city. According to declassified government reports, thousands of gallons of radioactive water were released into the Columbia River and surrounding ecosystem by the nearby Hanford Site nuclear reservation during the Cold War. This accounts not only for an elevated rate of certain health concerns, but also a significant increase in metagene activation. The abnormal number of super-powered children and adolescents led to problems early on, until a large contribution by an anonymous donor in the mid-50s facilitated the construction of the Wilson Academy, the first public school dedicated to the education of extra-normal students. Today, the school complex is much larger than it was in the '50s, and the declining number of meta-gene activations since the Hanford Site cleaned up its act has been supplanted by an influx of new families hoping to give their metahuman children the training they need. Today, for the first time in decades, all the students are gathered into the High School auditorium for a speech by the Man of Steel himself. But before that happens, Superman takes a little tour of the campus, and he's going to find that not all students are on-board with the school's doctrine of heroics and fair play...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 164

A few short years ago, while Superman was missing in action, Lex Luthor rose to some prominence and popularity by developing the Everyman Exo-Gene treatment, which brought superpowers to the masses...for a price. But on the stroke of midnight that New Year's Eve, those powers suddenly turned off, killing hundreds--if not thousands--of superhuman civilians. But as another new year arrives in Times Square today, it seems that someone has decided to reverse that tragedy. In the final moments of New Year's Eve, Superman discovered a lead-shielded device in the New Year's Eve Ball. In his attempt to discover its purpose, he inadvertently triggered it, releasing a strange customized virus onto the thousands below. Rather than some exotic illness, however, this virus contained a transmissible version of the Everyman treatment, infecting thousands of people with superpowers! Now, the virus is spreading through the Big Apple, and it's becoming clear that so many people suddenly gaining amazing abilities may be just as deadly as suddenly losing them! It's up to Superman to find a cure, before the newly-minted metahumans bring this super-city to the ground--but they won't be giving up their powers without a fight!