Monday, February 28, 2011

Have you guys heard that I like Superman?

As if you couldn't tell by the two hundred and twenty little daily fanfics, my obsession has become a little...obsession-y, lately. For instance, my go-to show for background noise and entertainment while I work on other things has been the first season of "The Adventures of Superman," what with George Reeves and all. Taking a bit of a break today, I picked up the last disc of season 3 of "Lois & Clark." And I was hit with an interesting bit of synchronicity.

See, I remarked on Twitter about the "Adventures of Superman" episode I watched last night, where Perry took Jimmy on a fishing trip. Maybe I just haven't had those formative relationships with my employers, but I've never been on a fishing trip with anyone I've worked for. Or with. But hey, if Perry wants to take Jimmy under his wing, that's great. It just feels like a detail from a bygone era, real Andy and Opie stuff.

But then I watch this "Lois and Clark" episode, and Perry's handing out assignments. At the end of the spiel, he says that he wants Lois and Clark to get their story in by one, because nothing is going to stop him and Jimmy from going on their fishing trip.

I swear, if the next Superman comic I flip through has Perry and Jimmy on a fishing trip, I might take it as a sign that I need to cut back. Just so you know.

Walking with Superman: Day 222

Dakota City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, Pine Heights, Chicago, Little Rock, Louisville, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New York, Metropolis: all across the country, neo-Nazis and white supremacists of every stripe--some metahuman, others just well-armed--are waging a sudden strike on aliens, minorities, and so-called race traitors! And the man behind it all, Kentucky's senior Senator, Matt Riggs, has taken control of Capitol Hill with a handful of like-minded politicians and a truckload of explosives! Superman and Steel are rocketing toward Washington, D.C. as fast as they can, but the threat of detonation may mean that all hope for the future of the American government may be decided by the actions of Ron Troupe and Jimmy Olsen! The question remains, however--if Riggs' plan succeeds, what will there be left to govern?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 221

Alex Trent was a small-time member of the Aryan Brotherhood until a demon called Bloodthirst implanted teleportation devices into his chest and hand. With them, Trent became the second Bloodsport, able to instantly acquire any weapon from a vast arsenal. He was defeated handily by Superman, and was killed in prison by his own Brotherhood.

Until he rose again. During the event called the Blackest Night, Trent left his simple grave to exact revenge and extract emotional energy from his Aryan brothers. But despite his Nekron-augmented abilities, he was overcome by their firepower, and they were able to steal away his cybernetic implants. Several months later, the Aryan Brotherhood sent schematics to a small arms manufacturer, detailing the construction of an ammunition clip that could transport bullets directly into the chamber, providing near-infinite ammunition for any gun fitted with the device. When these "cheat-clips" hit mass production, along with other weapon designs culled from various sources, supremacist groups across the nation were first in line to order them, tipped off by their partners in purity.

And as Superman and Steel raid a militia compound near Elizabethtown, KY, they discover that this is only one small piece of a much larger, more sinister picture--one that is continuing to unravel as Aryan, Neo-Nazi, and KKK groups form a united front, ready to wage a war of racial purity across the nation. And, to Superman's horror, it all began with an attempt to create metahuman Klansmen over sixty years ago--an attempt that he foiled while lost in time!

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, senators from Kentucky, Indiana, and Mississippi, along with a handful of Representatives, have decided to filibuster Senator Reilly's bill--with deadly force! The Capitol is locked down and taken hostage as the first strike in this racial holy war!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 220

In this issue, Mister Troupe goes to Washington! Following the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman, Senator Lorraine Reilly and a few of her colleagues have introduced legislation to make sale and possession of so-called "cheat clips," small single-subject teleportation units that can provide near-infinite ammunition to a variety of personal arms. Debate begins today, and Ron Troupe and Jimmy Olsen are on-hand to cover it!
Meanwhile, Clark Kent and John Henry Irons have traced the "cheat clips" and knockoffs of Irons' Toastmaster guns to a small firearms manufacturer in North Haven, Connecticut, and they're planning to have some stern words with the owner! But the interview reveals that this isn't the end of the trail by a long shot. Lachesis Firearms received the schematics anonymously a few months prior, and the weapons quickly became their most popular product, selling particularly well online. The customer list shows deliveries all across the country, with the earliest adopters near Louisville, Kentucky. As the Men of Steel race toward the Bluegrass State, Superman can't help but feel a twinge of déjà vu...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 219

While John Henry Irons examines the fragments of a hi-tech bomb that nearly slaughtered celebrants in Portland, Clark Kent covers a Representative's town hall meeting in Tucson, AZ. The forum takes a decidedly negative turn, however, when someone opens fire on the crowd! Quick action by the disguised Superman prevents any serious injuries, but stopping this would-be assassin is only the beginning! After arrests have been made, Superman gets a closer look at the assailant's handgun, finding not a typical clip, but a small teleportation device, designed to transport bullets directly into the chamber! Further investigation at the attacker's home reveals reams of white supremacist propaganda and a virtual arsenal of similar hi-tech weapons--including guns that look an awful lot like John Henry's old Toastmaster designs. Clark can't help but think that these attacks are related, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 218

Superman is not the main attraction in Portland, OR, today, but the Man of Steel is happy to sit out of the spotlight as the city celebrates Black History Month with a parade and festival. Unfortunately, it appears that not everyone is so thrilled with the celebration--and they're voicing their displeasure with a roadside bomb! Superman finds the bomb in time to save the parade, but this is no ordinary explosive. The advanced technology involved in the bomb's construction would have devastated Portland if not for Superman's timely intervention, and now he's taking its remains and schematics to an expert for analysis. Tracking down these twisted terrorists is going to take two Men of Steel--enter John Henry Irons!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 217

Superman arrives in Dakota City, MI, and the local Teen Titan, Static, offers to sho him around. They don't get far, though, before a strange reaction with Static's powers turns everything upside-down. Suddenly Superman and Static find themselves on an alternate Earth, facing the fascist mastermind called Idol, his sidekick Missile, and their allies, the Lightbox! Now the only way home for the lost heroes is through the evil counterparts of Dakota's superhumans! Meanwhile, back on New Earth, Icon and Rocket lead the fight against the evil Ultraman and his new ally, Blitz!

Dedicated, of course, to Dwayne McDuffie.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Escape is impossible until one perceives all of the barriers."

Dwayne McDuffie has died and the worlds of comics and animation are less as a result.

McDuffie was one of the best. He was the mastermind behind Milestone Comics, an incredibly underrated imprint that has given us quite a lot of interesting characters and poignant stories. He was a key component of the awesomeness of the DCAU shows, and I think he understands the core DC characters better than most.

And I think he may have been too good for DC. At the very least, he deserved better than what DC gave him. Milestone as an imprint was shuttered with several finished issues still to be printed, issues that would have provided closure to their respective titles. When DC finally had the sense to hand him what ought to have been their flagship title, "Justice League of America," they tied him up in so many editorial mandates and crossovers that the book was never able to find its feet. When DC integrated the Milestone Universe characters into the DCU proper, the early hype of how much would be done with them eventually petered out into a few appearances in Brave and the Bold and JLofA, and Static joining Teen Titans (apparently the only Milestone character DC actually cared about). As if to add insult to injury, DC censored McDuffie's "Milestone Forever" for unknown reasons.

And all the while he kept working on DC's characters, in one form or another, putting out some of the best stories ever told with them. I haven't been able to watch "All-Star Superman" yet, but after "Crisis on Two Earths," I think it's clear that McDuffie is one of the few people who could faithfully and excellently translate a Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely epic into a screenplay.

And now, he's gone. I wish his family and friends the deepest of condolences, and I hope that, perhaps, DC will finally do right by his characters even if they didn't do right by the man.

Walking with Superman: Day 216

Harvey Dent has left Gotham, and he's out to make his distinctive mark on the Twin Cities! The criminal mastermind has hidden binary-compound bombs all around Minneapolis and St. Paul, and he's given the cities a dilemma: whichever city can pay his fee--$222,222,222.22--by 2:22 PM will be spared. The other? Well, to say it would end up scarred might be an understatement. And if neither city makes the payment, their survival will be up to the coin. The visiting Man of Steel speeds toward Two-Face's hideout, only to be caught in a terrible trap! If the power-duplicating Paragon isn't enough to keep Superman busy, then Two-Face's shard of black kryptonite certainly will be! Now, if he's to have any chance at saving the Twin Cities from certain doom, the Man of Steel must deal with his own dastardly duplicate!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 215

Superman expected his trip to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to be a relaxing bit of tourism, seeing the monument's familiar Presidential portraits: Adam Weishaupt, Aaron Burr, Stephen Douglas, and William Jennings Bryan--every schoolchild in America knows which Presidents are memorialized in carved granite. What Superman didn't expect was to be pulled into a time-sphere by Rip Hunter and Miss America, to take a trip into the history of the United States! Hunter claims that a conspiratorial organization called the Quadrilateral Commission has been conducting a four-dimensional infiltration into government, altering key historical events in order to suit their own sinister ends. But Superman remains skeptical of their plan--after all, they haven't been able to change anything yet...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 214

Andrew Meda is a forklift operator in Shreve, OH--or at least he was before a strange illness took hold of him. Now, he's running out of sick days, his insurance is starting to turn him down for all the tests that reveal nothing about his condition, and his small savings account is getting considerably smaller. So as he spends another day at home, alone, unable to leave his bed, he sees a curious documentary on the Historical Channel. The program explores the fringe theory that Superman is an immortal, who has secretly shaped American history since its very beginning. In particular, a number of unexplained sightings and reports from Philadelphia around July 4, 1776, suggest that the Man of Steel himself may have been involved in the signing of the Declaration of Independence! Something about the show triggers a lost, familiar feeling in Meda, and he knows that he must contact Superman while he is still in the Buckeye State--his very life depends on it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 213

Years ago, a colony of matter-manipulating aliens called the Invisible Empire attempted an invasion of Smallville, Kansas. A young Clark Kent foiled their plans by imprisoning the would-be world-conquerors in waxwork dummies of the world's most terrible dictators, borrowed briefly from Madame Tussauds. Now, the Man of Steel is visiting the Wax Museum in Washington, DC, and he's about to learn that the Invisible Empire has risen again! Years of immobilization and imprisonment have convinced the aliens that they truly are the great dictators of the past, and now that they've been reanimated, they're ready to resume their conquest of the world! Superman will have to act fast to stop these megalomaniacal mannequins before they rediscover their matter-altering abilities. Perhaps the solution lies in the Presidents Gallery...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 212

The Integrated Robotics Manufacturing company, based in Endicott, NY, has long been the industry leader in the development of artificial intelligence and robotics applications for general consumption. Today, however, they're ready to reveal their newest development, the culmination of work at several IRM satellite locations, universities around the world, and pioneering developments by scientists like Will Magnus, Pat Dugan, and John Irons. Superman is on-hand for the unveiling, but when he removes the sheet, even he's in for a shock! IRM's scientists and technicians have built the first assembly line superhero, a robotic crusader ready for mass production--and what's more, they claim that it can out-super Superman! Step aside, Superman--you're obsolete!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 211

Despite the publicity garnered by nearby Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, was the actual site of the Wright Brothers' history-making first powered flight. You might say that Kill Devil Hills has aviation in its blood. And when Superman arrives to find that every one of the town's nearly six thousand residents has taken to the sky under their own power, he might say the same thing! What strange force has made the people of this small North Carolina town so defiant toward gravity? Will this wondrous ability prove dangerous to the people, or just to the local shoe stores? The Man of Steel looks into the cause of this abruptly airborne area, while the citizens of Kill Devil Hills learn that the skies aren't always friendly...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 210

Tucked away in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a fortified compound, where a superhuman cult leader called the Patriarch rules over his many wives and children with an iron fist. The Patriarch feeds on the life energy of his family, and in turn they develop amazing abilities, used to defend the compound from outsiders and interlopers. Usually the isolated group keeps to themselves, but occasionally things turn violent, or some members of the family will make a raid on a nearby town for supplies or new recruits. That forcible recruitment drive seems to have started up again, with several young women going missing from the east side of Salt Lake City in recent days. Superman teams with SLC's native superhero couple, Danite and Seagull, to track down the missing girls and return them to their homes. But the Patriarch doesn't take too kindly to outsiders, and he's not going to give up his newest conquests without a very nasty fight!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 209

In one of his earliest pieces for the Daily Planet, a young Clark Kent investigated sightings of a ghostly clipper ship appearing around a shipyard near Bath, Maine. Kent's inquest ultimately revealed the sightings to be a clever hoax, meant to disguise the devious dealings of a traitor--dealings that were undone by a rookie Superman. Today, Clark Kent finds himself back near those old shipyards, once more walking the docks in the foggy night. But this time, when the seaweed-draped hull of the Nancy M materializes in the murk, its skeletal crew looming over the sides, his senses prove that this ghost ship is no hoax! Why has Captain Joshua Murdock sailed his spectral seamen out from Davy Jones' Locker, and how is Superman involved?

Inspired by The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 208

Bryan Laska, the metahuman matchmaker known as Dr. Love, has returned to his hometown in Medina, North Dakota, hoping to unite a very special couple. Despite his romantic superpower, he's always been fairly unlucky at love. Now, sans mask and costume, he's hopeful that he might be able to rekindle an old romance with his high school sweetheart, Melissa Cooper. Of course, rekindling that relationship also means reliving all the awkwardness of a small-town adolescence, and that's an obstacle that any superhero would struggle with! It's a good thing that Dr. Love has backup this time--in the form of the Cyrano of Steel, Superman!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 207

Dane Roberts is usually the driver of the popular Titano monster truck, but a sudden malfunction before the big show at the Georgia Dome forces him to take the wheel of a new truck: the CARnivore. Once he's strapped in, a strange and mysterious curse takes hold, transforming him and the truck into a rampaging biomechanical beast! With a hunger for steel and a thirst for transmission fluid, the CARnivore breaks free of the Georgia Dome and carves a swath of automotive destruction toward the Atlanta Highway, where Superman stops its demolition derby. Despite its strength and ferocity, however, the biggest threat to Superman comes after the battle, when a costumed bystander sees his interview with Lois Lane. Dr. Love is in Georgia, and his unique ability allowed him to see the powerful love connection between the Man of Tomorrow and the married reporter. Superman may have saved Atlanta, but can he rescue his identity, his marriage, and his reputation?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 206

Most superheroes turn their attentions toward fighting crime, but there are thousands of metahumans in the world, and not everyone has abilities suited to apprehending criminals or fighting alien invaders. Consider Bryan Laska, a young medical researcher working at West Virginia University's Center for Neuroscience on an fMRI study to discover how human brains tap into the so-called "emotional spectrum." He never suspected that he had the meta-gene, until a mishap in the lab left him with the uncanny ability to see love before it happens. Determined to use this power for the benefit of humanity, he takes the name Dr. Love, and begins his epic quest to spread romance! But when Superman encounters Morgantown's masked matchmaker, he wonders if there may be a sinister component to Laska's unique ability--one that even the young hero himself may not suspect!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Well, there's your problem

In the latest Superman issue--which is overall quite good--the Man of Steel visits the great state of Nebraska. Apparently his itinerary originally included a trip to Omaha, but reports that he skipped over the city to visit Lincoln instead. From the article:
“We could joke here that Superman took the wrong exit off of Interstate 80, but we won't,” said Bob Harras, editor-in-chief of DC Comics. “We sincerely apologize to Omaha fans and retailers for our editorial oversight.”

In an e-mail to The World-Herald, Harras didn't offer any explanation for why Superman got lost.
One possible explanation may be that Superman is using a map that places Kansas adjacent to Iowa. Seriously, Kal, get an atlas.

Walking with Superman: Day 205

It was a beautiful morning in Claremore, Oklahoma, before there was a change in the weather. Appearing from out of nowhere, a torrential rainstorm drenched the small city, and the winds came right behind! Hurricane-force winds swept down the plains, putting town in a terrible fix--and it's all because of the mysterious machinations of the wicked Weather Wizard! Visiting reporter Clark Kent isn't about to just stand in the rain and watch the renegade Rogue make lazy circles in the sky, not with the disheartened townsfolk losing hope for any rescue. But what could have brought the villain so far from Keystone City? Why attack without making any demands? The Man of Steel will learn that this meteorological menace has targeted Claremore as part of a caper as big as all outdoors! When he pulls off this gig, the red sun will set, the stars will fall from above, and people will weep and wail for miles around. Soon, all the world will flee, and the land will belong to the Weather Wizard!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 204

He came to Sweetwater, Texas mere weeks ago, bony and hollow-faced, walking like a man asleep. What bizarre influences brought him to the Wind Turbine Capital of Texas are unknown, but as soon as he arrived, he embarked on the strangest project ever imagined: to reshape reality, to crown himself king, and to rule over a feudal Texas--and then, the world!

When the wild winds of fortune carry Superman to Sweetwater, he finds a town caught between the medieval and modern, and the effect is spreading. He knows not why or who to blame for this bleak and unbearable world, but he marches through the impossible, dreamlike landscape to discover the source. But he has stepped into a world that cannot be, the world of King John, the world of Dr. Destiny! The longer Superman remains, the more the dream pulls at him, alters him, the more Destiny calls to him, and soon even his steely mind will go! Superman has but half a prayer to topple the godlike regent from his golden throne, but no matter how hopeless his chances, no matter how weary his arms, he knows that he must battle even an unbeatable foe--the question still remains: will he find glory, or will even his last ounce of courage be too little?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Drawing the Line at $7.99

Marvel has resolicited their Young Allies/Spider-Girl/Avengers Academy crossover "Arcade: Death Game" as the 80-page "Avengers Academy Giant-Size" #1. As someone who subscribed to (but sadly has not read the last few issues of) Young Allies and reads Avengers Academy, and as someone who likes Arcade a whole lot, I'm kind of looking forward to this. I admit, I was a little taken aback at the price tag: $7.99 is a little steep for a single comic; I've bought digest-trades for that price. But considering that it was originally a 3-issue miniseries, at Marvel's current pricing, it's actually like getting one issue free.

But the press release also includes this curious jab at DC's reduced page counts: "That’s the size of FOUR of our competitor’s books!" It's true; with DC's comics now clocking in at 20 instead of 22 pages, an 80-page issue is indeed the size of four regular DC Comics. It is, however, only the size of one of DC's 80-Page Giants. And looking at the last two of DC's 80-page giants ("Superman 80-Page Giant 2011" and "Batman 80-Page Giant 2010"), I see that they were priced at $5.99.

So I guess it's more like, "That's the size of FOUR of our competitor's regular books, at a price that's ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of their comparably-sized books." But I guess that's not quite as punchy for the press release.

Walking with Superman: Day 203

Dinah Lance and Rose Forrest are in Seattle, WA to oversee the grand re-opening of the original Sherwood Florist, but even before the doors open, there's a sense of sturm and drang in the air. And when one of the strange and interesting plants shipped over from the Gotham City branch turns out to be a Pamela Isley original, the little shop's loyal clientele suddenly see more than they bargained for! The rampaging rhododendron rises out from among the zinnias, hungry for blood, and the Emerald City's got more than enough. So while Dinah readies her Canary Cry and Rhosyn pulls on something that's green, the visiting Man of Steel drops by to help with the weeding. But to this ferocious flytrap, Superman looks like plant food--and it's suppertime!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 202

The history of American Fork, Utah, is intimately connected with the religious traditions of its residents, but in recent weeks something new seems to have taken hold of the citizens' souls. The old churches have nearly emptied of adults, as priests and elders leave their posts for a popular new chapel on the outskirts of town. And they've brought that fervor back to their homes, destroying televisions, video equipment, even religious music, and enforcing strict new rules on their children. While the kids of American Fork are learning to be silent, their parents spend every night paying tribute in the chapel, raising their voices in harmony. Every night, more and more adolescents find themselves tossing and turning, dreaming of something sinister approaching, but just beyond their reach. Every day, it feels more and more like something's eyes are watching, always watching. Superman arrives to find a youth culture holding out for a hero--and an adult population enthralled, using strange harmonics to make this world almost a paradise for some extradimensional influence! Can the Man of Steel turn things around and cut the citizens loose, or will even Superman be swept off his feet by this otherworldly menace?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 201

There's nothing halfway about the way Superman gets treated when he arrives in Mason City, Iowa! The town's throwing a parade to honor the Man of Steel, and the Mason City High School Marching Band gets the chance to try out their newly-donated instruments. But when the music begins shattering windows and sidewalks, when the instruments continue playing even after the students have stopped, and when Superman is wracked with agony from the assault on his super-hearing, it becomes clear that there's terrible trouble in Mason City, trouble with a capital P--and that stands for "Prankster"! As Superman struggles to free himself and this music-proud city from Loomis' musical mayhem, he wonders--maybe he oughtn't have given Iowa a try!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 200

It's Super Bowl Sunday, and Superman's in Arlington, Texas for the big game--though he has no idea just how big it will be! The Sportsmaster has taken both teams--and all the screaming fans in Cowboys Stadium--hostage, so he can stage his own big game. He's assembled a fantasy football team from the biggest, strongest supervillains in the cosmos, and Superman's been drafted to play defense. In this linebacker-sized issue, it's up to the Quarterback of Steel to assemble an all-star, all-superhero team to win the safety of over 100,000 football fans! This is one Super Bowl that no one will be watching just for the commercials!

But that's okay 'cause I've got no self-esteem

Well, that was a bust.

I knew it was probably a bad idea to do a contest with so little forward preparation. I figured it was probably a bad idea to make it so open-ended and free-form. I figured I'd probably get an entry or two from the regulars who comment here occasionally, and that they'd end up with the prizes, and I was all right with that.

But man, not a single entry? Worse yet, my average visits have dropped to, like, half of what they were when I started the contest. And I imagine that several of those 56 hits are mine, what with checking to make sure that things have actually posted when they were supposed to.

I'm not usually one to wallow in bitterness, and this time will be no different. I still plan on doing a contest, and I plan on it being successful. I've got at least two more milestones coming up in the next four months or so, and I'm going to make them count. And the first step is actually making this blog popular.

And as someone who spent high school reading comic books and playing chess, I know all about what it takes to be popular.

Seriously, though, any word of mouth and link love would be much appreciated. I've mostly been writing this Superman series for myself, but there has to be some other obsessive Superman fan who would enjoy it, right?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 199

Superman has returned to the San Antonio of the present, and his descendant has returned to the distant future, but there was a stowaway on their trip home! Revolutionary soldier, former Congressman, and folk hero David Crockett was accidentally brought to the present, mere moments before he would have died. Now, Superman faces a dilemma: send him back to be killed and burned unceremoniously in a mass pyre by the Mexican soldiers, or allow him to stay, despite the potential danger to the timestream and the psychological trauma of being a man out of time! Things only get more complicated with the arrival of two time travelers: Linear Man Liri Lee, who wishes to maintain the timestream's integrity, and rogue temporal physicist Walker Gabriel, offering Crockett asylum in the timeless city of Chronopolis! It's up to the Man of Steel to help Crockett make his decision, and protect him from those who would rob him of that right--no matter the cost!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 198

In the 853rd Century, an unexpected tragedy caused that era's Man of Steel to face a crisis of confidence. Counseled by Superman Prime, he decided to take a journey into the timestream, visiting his ancestors to get back in touch with his Superman-ity. The final leg on this journey brought him to the first Superman, during a time in his life when he faced a similar set of problems. Following their climactic battle against apparently insurmountable odds, the futuristic Superman finally feels like he's conquered his doubts and can return to his own timeline--until a malfunction in his suit's chronocircuits sends both him and the modern-day Man of Steel one hundred and seventy-five years into the past, and two hundred miles west! The Men of Steel are thrust into the middle of the Battle of the Alamo, and they're not the only anachronisms around--the Texian soldiers are driving back the Mexican Army with automatic weapons and laser rifles! What time traveling trickster would turn the tide of the Texas Revolution? It's up to the Supermen to stop it, before history is irrevocably changed!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 197

While Superman tackles the deadly duo of Brother Eye and Solaris the Tyrant Sun, his 853rd-Century counterpart takes on the deadly new O.M.A.C. in the skies over Houston! The original Man of Steel faces the World's Fiercest foes, a satellite built by Batman as a countermeasure against rogue superhumans and a sun built paradoxically by a future Superman and programmed to be the constant nemesis of the Superman dynasty for the next fifty thousand years, and it's going to take more than his strength to defeat them! Meanwhile in the Space City, his super-scion stands against the hyper-adaptive abilities of the Organic Metahuman Annihilation Construct, and this strange visitor from a distant future is the only obstacle between it and the destruction of the metahuman race! It's a tale so titanic it needed two Supermen to tell it--but there's more to the Man of Beyond Tomorrow's visit than meets the eye!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Walking with Superman: Day 196

There is a new crater in Houston, Texas today, and Superman lies at the bottom of it! Solaris the Tyrant Sun, has risen, and its dawn may herald the end of days!! But this artifact of the world that's coming is not acting alone--it has united with the anti-superhero satellite called "Brother Eye"! Together, they have created a bizarre new danger, an entity called O.M.A.C.: the "Organic Meta-human Annihilation Construct"--and it has its sights set on Superman! But this sun-born god-killer will be a terror he never bargained for--and could never defeat!! The Man of Tomorrow will need assistance from far beyond tomorrow, and so he sends an "S.O.S." into the depths of space and time, hoping to reach his distant descendant--before it's too late!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Making Rape Jokes at the Darkness

I like superhero comics.

I like a lot of superhero comics from the big two. I like some creator-owned superhero comics as well, from "Empowered" and "Love and Capes" to webcomics like "The Non-Adventures of Wonderella."

I like a lot of non-superhero comics as well. I read more webcomics (XKCD, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Order of the Stick) than floppies in that regard, but I've got a fair share of "Scott Pilgrim" and "Walking Dead" and "Hellboy" on my shelves.

I spend an average of $30 a week on comics. Intermittent trades are in addition to that.

I am not the problem.

If you are, for instance, an indie comics creator, someone without a superhero title, then I can imagine you would have some issues with the mainstream system. Even from the consumer point of view, I have no idea how indie comics hit it big. By the time I hear of some indie book, it's usually already professionally published. Either it's from some established creator (usually someone who came up in literature or film or mainstream comics) or it's self-published or it's part of some "the book has to be popular before it can get noticed" weird causality loop. I don't know where most indie creators start.

That being said, there are obviously avenues for indie creators to get published, whether through self-publication means or through the smaller comics publication houses, or even through imprints at the big two, like Vertigo and Icon. Of course, getting published doesn't necessarily entail making it big. You have to get an audience, and that isn't a sure thing.

Of course, it's easier with a superhero property. At the big two, superhero comics have a built-in audience; even new titles are tapping into an existing customer base dedicated to a universe with history. Indie superhero comics don't have that particular inroad, but still tap into the existing base. Comics are a niche market, and superhero fans make up most of that niche. The indie comics market is a small, somewhat overlapping fraction of that market, and it's splintered. People who like romantic biographical books might not like pulp sci-fi or zombie horror or musical urban fantasy.

And people who like superhero comics might not like any of it.

The problem for indie comics creators is not that people like superhero comics any more than the problem for sci-fi novelists is that people like mystery novels. The problem is that the market is small and splintered. A large market can sustain a wider variety of genres. It's anecdotal, but it seems like when the movie industry is doing well, there's a much wider variety of movies; studios are more willing to take risks. When the film industry is doing poorly, variety shrinks to the things that work or are likely to work, and the only risky movies are ones that have established directors and casts. And so you see the current market, glutted with superhero films, CGI kids movies, lame comedies, and the occasional "Inception" or "Black Swan." Again, the problem is not with the audience who enjoys "Iron Man" or even "Gulliver's Travels," it's with a market that's too small for the producers to be willing to take risks.

And the comics market faces this problem twice; the publishers represent one barrier, but the stores represent another. Just as a struggling publisher is unwilling to take risks on unknown quantities when determining what books to fund and produce, a struggling shop owner is going to be less likely to take risks on ordering books that are themselves unknown quantities, returning us to the causality loop of needing to be popular before you can be successful.

In other words, the problem for indie creators cannot be solved by cursing the superhero comics fans who support the industry's continued existence. The direct market is built, one way or another, on the superhero fans. The reason that you can buy floppies of "The Walking Dead" is because there are superhero fans to support stores that cater to the niche market, and because there were superhero fans to support the superhero creators who started the superhero comics that formed the foundations of Image Comics. The problem for indie creators is finding a market, and expanding that search beyond the confines of the brick-and-mortar comic book stores. Many indie creators, particularly webcomics creators, have found ways to do this quite successfully. And in their discoveries may lie not only new readers for indie comics, but the future of the entire industry.

Print media is struggling to retain relevance and audience. Niche markets in print media doubly so. Indie comics represent a niche market of a niche market of a struggling medium. Indie creators face the same problem as the rest of comics creators: how to evolve the medium in a changing world and changing marketplace, how to survive in a crappy economy, and how to expand the audience beyond the regulars and die-hards. But the survival of indie comics will not come at the death or shrinking of superheroes as a genre. Until the problems facing the entire industry are solved, superhero comics remain the life support mechanism for the medium. Their failure means the failure of the stores who count on them to stay open. The failure of comic shops means the end of the current distribution model, leaving indie creators in the unenviable position of either having to compete with all other media online to market directly to the consumer (as many webcomics creators do, and quite successfully--but I suspect the new complaints will be much the same as the old complaints, except with "comedy webcomics about video games" and "stick figures telling math jokes" and "thinly-veiled fetish material" replacing "the superhero genre"), or having to compete for a considerably reduced amount of retail shelf space with all the other indie creators, and without the 'sure thing' of the superhero genre to keep casual bookstore browsers coming to the graphic novel section.

Indie comics creators can light a candle and look for alternative methods of distribution and new audiences, potentially saving the entire medium from the problems plaguing everyone. Or they can continue to curse the darkness of economic-forced genre hegemony, and continue lamenting their state until every last publication house and brick-and-mortar comic store has shuttered their doors.

Seems to me that the choice is obvious.

Walking with Superman: Day 195

With the hostage situation at NASA's Johnson Space Center diffused and the disgruntled engineer called Solaris in custody, you might think that Superman could spend some time enjoying the sights and attractions of Houston. But while one Solaris heads to prison, another is hurtling toward the Earth! The artificial sun built by a futuristic Superman had been kept dormant and deactivated in a far orbit, but a computer error during the NASA hostage crisis sent it into a collision course. Only Superman can put the sleeping Tyrant Sun in its proper place--but there may be more to the accident than meets the eye!