Friday, May 29, 2009

Superman Champions Universal Peace Part 1

Superman #2 continues with Clark being assigned to interview professor Runyan, a famous scientist who has had countless breakthroughs of one sort or another. Editor refuses to get specific. And why should he!? He's a busy man!

Arriving at the professor's lab, Clark learns that the man has developed what he calls the ultimate weapon of war, a gas that can penetrate any gas mask. Clark is understandably skeptical, and is rewarded for his lack of trust by the murder of the cutest gosh darn monkey you ever did see.

Accessory to simianicide. Not gonna look good on your superhero resume, Clark.

The professor demonstrates his nobility so that we can be sad when he dies (oops) by stating he will only give the formula to the "war department" if they promise to use it solely in matters of defense. The professor's good guy status having been established the story immediately introduces a group of, yes, thugs. The thugs kick Clark out because he's a sissy, but little do they know that listening in on other people's conversations is Clark's favourite hobby. Thus, when they demand the professor delivers the secret gas formula to them within 24 hours Clark is standing outside with his ear to the door. A yellow box informs us that this is super hearing, but if that's the case I think I have that power too.

Clark follows the men to their lair and vows to return later, but first he must write up his story on Runyan. Upon accepting the article from Clark, Editor receives a chilling phone call: Runyan has been murdered, and Clark thinks he knows who did it.

It turns out that one of the thugs payed Runyan a visit just as he was attempting to skip town, and seeing this as a breach of the threatener/threatenee contract the thug had no choice but to kill him. That's why I don't needlessly kill monkeys, its bad karma.

Listening in through their cabin window, Superman learns the evil men plan to use the gas (the formula for which they stole after killing Runyan) in the Boravian civil war. Shortly the men pile into their own personal plane and head towards the embattled country, with an unexpected guest clinging to the fuselage.

Upon the plane's arrival in Boravian airspace Superman tears through its roof and drops in on the arms dealers, demanding they hand over the stolen formula.

Oh, gross.

Quickly learning that it is in the possession of a man named Bartow (pictured above) Superman once again proves to be an imbecile when he assumes the controls so that Bartow can retrieve the formula for him.

You will win absolutely no points if you guessed that Bartow's next action is to shoot the controls, and leap from the plane because a child could have seen that coming. Yeah Superman, a child.

Superman of course leaps after him and the two land together. The Man of Steel takes the formula back, with Bartow saying that his boss will have him killed for not delivering it. At that moment a group of soldiers arrive, and attempt to rescue Bartow by both shooting and bayoneting his assailant. Their attacks have the usual effect, until a "rebel bomber" drops its payload on them. This sends the soldiers flying, and somehow manages to knock Superman out. What?? Well that was unexpected!

Next thing he knows Superman comes to in front of a firing squad, somehow standing on his feet. Seriously, how did they prop him up? To be fair I've never really seen Superman unconscious before, so maybe he goes stiff like those fainting goats. Whatever, Bartow is on hand to mock Superman and tell him that he's bringing the formula to the descriptively named Lubane the Munitions Manufacturer.

Having been told all he needs to know by Bartow, you might think Superman would rush off to Lubane's place to sock the munitions magnate in the kisser, or maybe grab Bartow and take the formula back. After all, there's nothing really stopping him, right? Wrong.

Superman has a need to showboat, and if he isn't constantly demonstrating that bullets don't hurt him, or leaving rescues to the last second then he isn't truly living. That's why he's so pissed at Bartow, Superman was going to waste 23.9 of the promised 24 hours before he saved Runyan, but Bartow broke the damn rules! With that in mind Superman sticks around and allows himself to be shot by the firing squad.

Who manage to knock him down!? Whoa! But Superman is, as noted, a showoff and was just hamming it up for the audience at home. The next page he's on his feet again, absorbing more shots into his barrel of a chest. One of the soldiers decides they must be shooting blanks, and in order to test this theory points his rifle at his own foot and pulls the trigger.

Okay, nothing I write here is going to top a guy shooting his own foot off and Shuster actually drawing a piece of exploded foot flying toward Superman. That's amazing, and should probably be in a museum somewhere.

So we'll stop here and finish next time, when Superman beats up a blimp and goes to court.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Million Dollar Superbaby

Superman #2 begins with the last son of Krypton witnessing a man fall from a bridge. Running so fast he manages to arrive before his shield does (damn it Shuster) Superman saves the man from a watery grave. It should come as a shock to no one that this man was attempting suicide, and angrily takes a swing at Superman for being foolish enough to save him.

Superman recognizes something in the man's face, and the way he throws a punch. Why this is Larry Trent, ex-heavyweight champeen of the world! Why would HE want to kill himself!? For the same reason every boxer in every movie/tv show/comic/novel/radio drama/real life situation has of course! His manager wanted him to throw a fight, but Larry refused and ended up drugged and unable to win his title bout. From then on he's been a "stumble-bum, fighting for $5 a night."

Superman offers to help him out the only way he knows how: by doing everything himself.

Come on Superman! Inspire the guy! Train him! Convince him to look into a career path more suited to his current situation! Don't give the guy a fish, teach him how to catch his own. Oh well, at least he didn't have to drug this one to steal his identity.

Convincing Larry he is capable of winning by uprooting a tree, Superman drops the ex-champ in an apartment he has apparently rented for emergency situations, and heads to The Crystal Club to complete Larry's scheduled fight for the evening. A twelve man free-for-all!

Knocking all 11 opponents out in less than a second, Superman scores himself a meeting with Jock Kane, Larry's former manager. Why the hell would he want that? The manager is an established scumbag cheater! [edit from the future: It turns out that while this new manager is clearly drawn the exact same as the old one they are written to be different people. Great.]

See? One of them has a grey shirt on. Entirely different characters.

So Superman, as Larry, meets with Jock and is immediately sent packing due to being a big loser. And what's more, a boxer by the name of Slugger gives him an entirely ineffective hotfoot.

Can't a Superman catch a break?? Okay, this story is as slow as a modern Tyson fight so it's time for a list.
  • Superman clocks Slugger for trying to burn his shoe.

  • Slugger responds by suggesting they give him another chance in the ring, since he's got such a good punch. But secretly he wants the fight so he can beat him up! Why not just do it now?

  • It turns out I spoke too soon earlier, and Superman is actually training the real Larry in his spare time. When does he sleep?

  • In his fight with Slugger Superman gives him the ol' rope-a-dope (minus the rope) until Slugger is so tired he punches himself out. What a maroon! What a mook!

  • Larry's old manager approaches Superman and offers to bring him back to the top. Seeing an opportunity for revenge, Superman agrees.

  • The days of Superman hiding behind chairs and hanging from windowsills are behind us. Superman, perched high atop a far away building, listens in as his manager plans to drug him during the fight. The first use of superhearing!

  • Three different papers are shown lauding Larry Trent's exciting comeback, following which Editor tells Clark that the other papers have been laughing at him for supporting Trent. Apparently Editor doesn't keep up on the news.

  • A yellow box informs us that Superman has been at this for months. Well yeah, it isn't as if he has anything better to do.

  • Larry finally realizes that Superman winning the title for him would be a hollow victory, so Superman allows him to take his place in the title bout.

  • Evil Manager and his thuggish accomplice attempt to drug Larry between rounds but Superman, in full costume, puts a stop to that. I guess he's given up on the whole "subtlety" thing from earlier stories.

  • Why the hell did Superman allow Evil Manager to manage him again if his big revenge plan was to yank him away from an attempted drugging of Larry? Why even give him the chance? This guy never thinks ahead.

  • Larry wins and when he goes to thank Superman he finds the apartment empty, apart from a congratulatory note. Touched by a frickin' angel.

  • Editor is shocked that Clark was able to write an article about the fight before it happened, and get every detail correct. Hell, I don't understand how he did it either. That doesn't make any sense.

Next time: Superman goes to war again, and there's a really cute monkey! Be there!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Become as Strong as Superman, the Easy Way!

They knew I'd be reading all these Superman adventures and wishing I was as strong as him! So it's pretty generous of DC to give away vital info like this for free, when they could have easily sold it as its own one panel book. I've been lifting my computer chair above my head once a day since I read this, and the results are incredible.

My one complaint is that it's almost as vague as an Ikea instruction manual. Obviously this will make me as strong as Superman, but will it make me invulnerable like him too? Only one way to find out...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Superman's Actions are Frankly Unforgivable: A Football Story

Here we are at last at the final story of Superman #1, and boy is it...

Let's just get into it.

A pedestrian is struck! The car flees the scene! We learn that in 1938 this was known as a "hit-skip"! As a crowd gathers 'round to call for help, Superman begins his pursuit!! The hit-skip car is stalled on some train tracks!!! Superman pulls himself and the driver from the car at the last second!!!!

And the driver dies of a heart attack. Damn, that's heavy.

Thus ends the case of the drunk drivin-wait, there's more?

Leaving the dead body on the side of the road, Superman for no reason at all (really.) leaps onto the side of a train car and slips in the window. Hearing people entering the very same car, he quickly ducks behind a chair. Why? You're Superman, show a little guts!

However his cowardice pays off, as he once again listens in on someone else's conversation and learns the plot of today's story. I wonder how many conversations he secretly listens to in a day before finally getting to the juicy one? In this case he overhears the local university's football coach hiring some toughs (always with the toughs!) to play on his team, and ensure his opponents lose in the most violent way possible.

Obviously Superman won't allow this to occur, so he leaps from behind the chair and with but a fraction of his titanic strength knocks the coach and two thugs cold!

Nah, I'm just kidding. He actually reports the underhanded deed to the university, preventing the cheating from taking place at all.

HA! No, I'm pulling your leg. That's way too outlandish. What he actually does is learn the non-cheating football team's roster, disguise himself as one of the players using greasepaint, track the boy down and drug him with a hypodermic needle so that he can take his place on the team.


It seems Tommy Burke is a substitute football player who is down on his luck, his shrew of a girlfriend has just left him for the star tennis player because Tommy simply isn't athletic enough for her. Vowing to become the greatest football player alive, and to never talk to his ex again, Tommy is suddenly accosted by his doppelganger and before he can properly react is knocked unconscious by the contents of a needle.

At this mention of Tommy's girlfriend I'd like to take a brief break from the story in order to point something out: Joe Shuster can only draw one woman. Below is a hastily edited together picture of (left to right) Lois Lane, the lascivious Lola Cortez, a party woman who gets trapped in a mine, and Tommy Burke's girlfriend. Or was it the other way around?

Lois, Lois, Lois and Lois

Back to the story: Superman shows up at the football team's locker room and is immediately razzed by his fellow players, as it seems Tommy don't get no respect. Not knowing which locker belongs to Tommy, and thus contains his uniform, Superman decides to pick one at random. Seeing Tommy attempt to steal his uniform one of the players becomes understandably upset and takes a swing at him.

Superman grins and takes the hits, before casually tossing the boy across the locker room with a flick of his wrist. This is the Superman I respect, not the one who saves the Earth from otherworldly threats, but the one who needlessly injures those both younger and weaker than him.

Amazingly, writer Jerry Siegel shows some actual consequences here and has Superman ejected from the locker room and barred from sitting on the bench. Realizing he's an impulsive jackass, Superman vows to make things right again by impulsively rushing out onto the field and playing the game anyway. His coach orders him removed from the field, causing Superman to suddenly face the wrath of the entire football team. He smashes through the same player he had previously knocked unconscious, citing "revenge" for the boy having hit him earlier. Grow up Superman, you're invulnerable!

The entire team hanging off his back, Superman reaches the goalpost and makes a touchdown. I don't have to tell you that he is immediately made the star player.

Due to Superman's skillful playing in his stead an article is written about Tommy Burke in the paper, causing the evil coach to send his evil thugs out to prevent him from participating in the big game. The thugs arrive at Burke's house and find him still drugged (honestly, Superman?) but tie him up anyway and drive off with him in their car. Of course, Superman gives chase! I for one am glad that we have heroes like Superman who would never allow someone to get away with kidnapping, why I-

Holy shit!

Very well...leaving Tommy to his kidnappers, Superman arrives at the stadium disguised as Burke once more. He confronts the evil coach, telling him if he doesn't resign and kick the thugs off his team he will expose him after the game. Thinking Tommy has escaped, evil coach orders his thugs to knife him during play.

Meanwhile, the real Tommy Burke has escaped and arrives at the stadium to witness his ex-girlfriend giving her tennis champion boyfriend the cold shoulder. It seems she is taken with SuperTommy's skillful playing. What a bitch.

The thugs stab Superman, snapping their knife on his unpierceable skin, before being carried away on stretchers after facing the man of steel's wrath. Don't feel left out because I'm not posting the panels to this, you don't see the knife or the fight. Seeing this, the evil coach resigns.

Superman somehow finds Tommy in the stands at halftime, and they switch places. Tommy plays like a bungling idiot for a few seconds before being buried beneath the entirety of the opposing team, and being knocked unconscious.

When he awakens he is embraced by his girlfriend who makes him promise to never play football again as it's too darn dangerous, a promise he is all too ready to make.

The end! And the moral of the story

Well, see you next time when we begin Superman #2!

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Superman and the Case of the Malignant Mine

Here begins Action Comics #3.

Upon hearing that a lone miner is trapped within a collapsed coal mine Clark pleads with Editor to be allowed to cover the story and is quickly speeding to the scene as only Superman can.

This is the last time we'll see him in the Superman costume for the entire story, leading me to wonder if this wasn't just some mine adventure story they tacked Superman into at the last second.

Arriving to find the mine cordoned off by police, Superman disguises himself as a miner and pretends to fall into the shaft. Because creating further panic by making it appear as if another innocent life is in danger is much better than just showing up and saying "Hey. I'm Superman. I'll handle this."

Superman quickly discovers that the shaft is filled with poisonous gas released in the collapse, and while this obviously has no effect on a man whose strength is born from the increased gravity of his home planet it has managed to knocked the rescue party unconscious.

Superman returns them to the surface via the elevator, and immediately discovers the man he was initially there to save buried beneath gigantic boulders. I don't need to tell you that these boulders are "putty" before the man of tomorrow's impossible strength.

Visiting the rescued miner in the hospital ace reporter Clark Kent learns that the mine was known to be dangerous, but the owner callously disregarded this information. A negligent mine owner? Yes, I think we may have at last found an enemy greater even than a butler. Stay on your toes, Superman.

Generously allowing the owner to share his side of the story Clark finds him to be a bit of a jerk, unwilling to offer a pension to the now crippled miner, and uncaring about the possibility of safety hazards within his mine.

Because this really doesn't seem to be a Superman story at all Superman, dressed as a miner, returns to the owner's house later that night and attempts to sneak in to a fancy party the man is throwing.

You can tell it's a gay party because that woman is being asked to leave at gun point.

Quickly caught by security Superman is brought before the owner, where he pretends to be a simpleton who wanted nothing more than to experience life on the other side. Seeing an opportunity for a laugh, the owner declares that the miner will now lead the party down into the mine so that they can experience life from his point of view.

While the socialites enjoy their ironic entertainment, Superman...he...I...uh...?

Holy shit, what's your problem Superman!?

The collapsing mine causes the revellers to panic, a woman faints, the owner imagines he is suffocating, and Superman helps the situation by saying they may never be rescued. The party goers turn on the owner, until he remembers the safety devices which will call rescuers to their aid immediately!

Gee, do ya think they'll work?

The safety device having failed, the owner now decides that everyone should work on digging their way out. Superman helps by refusing to dig, and once again pointing out that they may never escape.

Learning what it's like for the miners as they dig, the party goers feel terrible regret for their actions. None more so than the owner, whose repentance causes Superman to spring into action and...wait around until everyone falls asleep so he can remove the barrier. Well at least he did it eventually. To end the story Clark visits the owner for another interview, learning that his mine will from this day forth be the safest in the country. HOORAY.

Damn, another great issue of Adventures in Mining! This one really painted Superman as not only a reckless dick, but a bit of an idiot. He shows up at this party dressed as a miner (why?) and upon the owner's suggestion that they visit the mine THAT is when he concocts his plan to bury them alive and put a group of innocent lives at risk (really, check the image up there. He comes up with it on the spot). So what was his initial plan? Go to the party and get kicked out? Yeah, that'll show 'em. Oh well, I guess Batman always has been the smart one.

Next time: Do you like football? Well so does Superman!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Finally, Superman's Powers Explained Through Science!

Not a full recap today, just going to drop the greatest page of all time on ya'll.

Oh okay, that makes sense. Superman is from a planet where increased strength is necessary to simply exist, and thus his great power becomes greater still on a planet where he doesn't need to fight against gravity all the time. Sure!

And yeah, grasshoppers and ants are really strong considering their size. No denying that, but I don't really see what it has to do with Superman.

It's the conclusion reached here that I can't quite swallow. Superman is from a planet with greater gravity than Earth and is resultantly stronger than a normal human, also ants can lift things bigger than themselves, therefore humans will have super strength someday.

Huh? Is this page really implying that Superman and an ant (or grasshopper, whichever's sexier) are going to mate and the resultant offspring will make humanity as obsolete as the neanderthals?

A horrifying vision of a future not yet come to pass, or simple info-dump of tenuously related insect facts because they had to fill an entire page and couldn't figure out how? Hard to say.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Superman vs. a War

Superman and Norvell's detachment is sent to the frontlines.

Superman, it is important to note, is in full military uniform and has nothing identifying him as Superman. How is this different from Clark being in military uniform? Obviously he isn't wearing his glasses, but it just doesn't seem like he's trying very hard to keep his identity a secret anymore and he's only been Superman for like a week.

We are treated to the obvious "Why do you manufacture weapons when they kill people? And now here you are at war, and you don't want to die how ironic!!" exchange between Superman and Norvell that may or may not have been groundbreaking stuff in 1938 but here is just tedious.

The company sets up camp, while Superman dons his costume once more and speeds to the enemy encampment with a singular purpose: to take a photo of the opposing generals who are "hilariously" discussing how impenetrable their lines are.

Having taken the photo Superman commits perhaps his biggest dick move thus far and mails it to The Evening News in Cleveland Ohio. What the HELL, Clark? You were sent to this war by your paper. The Daily Star. In Metropolis. What are you even DOING?

Following this we are shown the beautiful, mysterious, alluring, dangerous, exotic, and never seen again after this page Lola Cortez who, fearing that army officers are on to whatever it is she's up to hides some evidence in Lois' hotel room.

Thus, Lois is framed for espionage and immediately sentenced to meet the firing squad. Awesome! Clark learns of this by listening in on someone else's conversation, as always, and rushes to the scene as Superman! Just as the men fire he leaps between Lois and their bullets shouting what I'm sure you all remember as his most famous of catchphrases:


Superman takes Lois in his arms and leaps the execution wall, responding to the executioners' cry of "You can't do that! It's impossible!" with a smug "Thanks for letting me know!" Hey, he's not so uptight after all.

Carrying a doe-eyed Lois in his arms, Superman stumbles across a torturer in the midst of plying his wicked craft. Allowing no injustice to go unpunished Superman lifts the "torturing devil" above his head and throws him like a javelin where the man no doubt dies somewhere offpanel.

Remembering the point of this story, Superman returns to the camp to check on Norvell and finds his regiment under attack from a villainous pilot. Seriously, this guy is so evil he's shown shouting "Die! Like crawling ants!" as he strafes the encampment. I suppose it makes sense, they had to make him obviously devil-grade evil in the few panels he's alive for (oops, spoiler) in order to make Superman killing him seem justified. And kill him Superman does!

Afterwards Norvell is shown pumping his fists in triumph and shouting "Good! That finishes my nemesis!" What's it gonna take before this guy gets it? No damn plane is gonna kill Superman.

Seeing Superman alive Norvell begs to be allowed to return to the U.S., which Superman allows on the condition that he doesn't make any more weapons. Agreeing, and meaning it, Norvell goes home. That seems a little easy, but I guess the true horrors of war are enough to stop any war monger in their tracks. Which is why we don't have wars anymore.

Superman realizes there is one more thing he must do before his mission is complete, and kidnaps the two armies' commanding officers telling them to fight it out and settle this thing once and for all.

Oh for God's sake

Realizing they have no reason to fight, the two men shake hands and the war ends. Kent goes back to The Daily Star where Editor observes that since he's been gone, Superman seems to have retired. But Clark knows different!

Next time: Superman has never met a mine shaft he didn't like...until now!!!

But seriously, why did he send that photo to Cleveland? What an asshole.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Superman vs. Congress

The comic misadventures of the world's mightiest man continue, as we once again see Clark Kent speaking with his still unnamed editor. It seems Editor is concerned about a lack of news, stating that he had to print the results of a card game on the front page.

Really? Really? That's all the news this pathetic paper can muster? How about "Star Reporter Kidnapped - Saved by Superman"? Nah, no one would buy that.

Editor gives Clark an assignment: to travel to San Monte South America and cover a war. Clark, his faith in anything Editor says understandably shaken after that front page, instead goes to Washington DC.

Attending a session of congress Clark's attention is drawn to one senator Barrows, who he sees talking to an obviously shady individual by the name of Alex Greer. His reporter instincts kicking in, Clark follows the two back to Barrows' hotel room where he listens in on their conversation.

Kids! Would you rather see Superman hanging from the ledge of a senator's hotel room window so he can listen to a conversation about the passing of a bill, or see him punch a giant robot in the nuts!? What?? The bill? Okay!

Barrows tells Greer off for speaking to him in public, and then they discuss the imminent passing of a bill. One with apparently sinister implications, though what they might be isn't mentioned. There's no way to make this exciting.

This all makes Superman very angry, probably because he'd rather be punching robot balls, so he confronts Greer outside and demands to know who is behind the corruption of senator Barrows. Quickly finding that Greer is a tough nut to crack, Superman grabs him by the foot and leaps to a telephone wire where he threatens the man with potential electrocution before leaping toward the capitol building, ostensibly to turn Greer in for his crimes. However, in a rare miscalculation Superman jumps short and the two men tumble quickly toward the pavement below.

Little Known Superman Superpower #1: The ability to stand on a telephone wire while holding a grown man and not have the wire bend, droop, or in any way react to his presense.

Here ends Action Comics #1! However, since I'm getting this from a collection and not from Action Comics itself our story does not end here. But let's look at this for a second: that's the best cliffhanger they could come up with? No kid is going to care about this crooked politician guy! And we've already seen Superman get shot in the frickin' neck, so I think it's safe to say he'll survive a little fall. If they wanted us to pick up next month's copy, they should have ended on the high note of the previous Lois story.

Whatever, Action Comics #2 starts with Superman and Greer still falling, but omits one rather important aspect.

You know, there isn't much you have to remember when drawing Superman. Dark hair, chiseled jaw, blue suit, red cape and...what else was it? Oh yeah, a fucking shield! Come on Shuster you created the guy, this should be easy!

Having survived the fall (surprise!) Greer now tells Superman that "the man behind the threatening war is Emil Norvell, the munitions magnate." So having skipped out on one story about a war, Superman discovers another! Unless this is supposed to be the same war. But that war already started, and this one is "threatening". Honestly, I have no idea what's going on.

While Superman runs to the vile Norvell's residence, Greer calls to issue a warning to a man with a telephone receiver for a nose. Thus upon his arrival Superman is met by three toughs with tommy guns, the results of which I shouldn't have to tell you. "Good Heavens!" exclaims one of the hardened criminals "He won't die!" Superman responds to this in a rather uncharacteristically dark manner when he shouts "Glad I can't say the same for you!"

Unfortunately we don't see our first Superhomicide here, as he simply wraps their guns around their necks and sends them runnin'. Finally alone with Norvell Superman threatens to break his neck (!!) unless he's on a ship to San Monte the next day, confirming that this is in fact the same war Editor asked him to cover. How the hell did Superman know to go straight to Washington after being instructed to go to San Monte? I guess the implication is that if there's ever trouble, you can safely blame crooked Washington fatcats.

Good God this story is slow. It's bullet point time!

-Clark arrives to board the San Monte bound boat and is surprised to find Lois there. Turns out Editor wanted her distinct woman's touch. Hey, so does Clark!

-Special attention is payed to the boarding of Lola Cortez, who is described as beautiful, mysterious, exotic, and dangerous. I wonder if she'll prove to be important??

-Superman greets Norvell in his cabin, allowing the weapons trader to sic some thugs on him.

-Superman is defeated when the ship's railing gives way and he falls overboard, causing the thugs to report him as dead.

-Norvell reveals himself to be the type of villain who wouldn't actually have any henchmen when he refuses to pay the men for killing Superman, instead threatening to turn them in to the police. How did he become a successful crime lord treating underlings like this? He'd have been dead his first day on the job.

-Speaking of which, once the ship arrives in San Monte the thugs attempt to kill their former employer, but Superman (who out swam the ship and got there first) saves his life.

-Why? Well, not because he's a hero and that's what heroes do, but because Superman has decided to take the time to teach this man an important life lesson. Sure could save a lot of lives in the time you're spending playing Ghost of Christmas Present here Superman. Just sayin'. Lot of lives.

-Norvell agrees to join the army, but secretly plans to dessert the moment Superman leaves.

-Anticipating this, Superman enlists too. Can hilarity be far behind??

Tune in next time to find out what can change the nature of a man, and to finally get to the damn action.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Lois Lane, Wot a Gal

Continuing right where we left off...

The next day Clark checks the paper to see if he's been mentioned in relation to the whole Bea Carrol murder debacle, and is delighted to see he hasn't. In case you didn't pick up on it, a man in blue and red long underwear with a colossal billowing cape who runs around stopping crimes is actually attempting to keep a low profile.

No, really.

Unfortunately, Clark's expertly executed subtlety is wasted as the next panel shows the governor himself gushing to a boardroom full of people about just how dreamy that Superman fellow is. Boy, those governors and their gossip! Following this the governor and his board all play a rousing game of Girl Talk.

Cut to the Daily Star editor's office, where we se-hold on. Who the hell is that? That's not the editor! How fast is the turn over in this place when the editor in chief is replaced in the course of a single day? For his part Clark doesn't react to the change, all too aware of the fact that he's lucky to have this job in the first place so he'd better not make any waves. Or maybe it's just that all Earthlings look the same to him.

Anyhow, now that that wacky governor has let the cat out of the bag regarding Superman's existence the new editor decides to play the straightman in Clark's comedy routine, asking him to cover all Superman related material. This prompts Clark to quip "Listen, Chief, if I can't find out anything about this Superman, NO ONE CAN !" Zing! Haha, you go Clark! Woop, there it is!

Ahem. Now I recognize that this comic is aimed at children, but would even the dumbest kids of 1938 find this to be an entertaining or worthwhile joke? I just can't imagine any time period that this wasn't a tired cliche. I know you do a lot for us Superman, but could you try just a little harder? If not for the children, then for me?

Fortunately (for my splitting sides!) the story switches gears here when Clark is sent on assignment to cover a wife-beating and kicks the tar out of the abusive husband. Superman throws this guy at the wall so hard that his sleeves explode! That's awesome! You really gotta respect the abusive monster's gumption though, if someone were to lift me above their head with one arm I would probably stop making threats.
Following this Superman changes back to Clark, tells the cops Superman must have saved the day, and heads back to the office where he nervously asks a woman on a date.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Lois Lane. Judging by the dialogue exchanged here the two have already established the classic Lois & Clark relationship of him being a total doormat and her gladly wiping her feet. I am genuinely glad to see things started in the right place.

The two reporters head to a dance, where we are treated to the typical brute wants Lois, Clark must pretend to be weak, Lois slaps brute, brute totally pie-faces that nerd Clark, Lois storms out because GOD what a nerd scenario.

Following this the awful brutish man runs Lois' taxi off the road, and kidnaps her because it's what's expected of him and he can't fight the pressures of a society that has cast him aside. Driving...somwhere, the brute and his friends are shocked to see a rather colourful man standing in the middle of the road, arms akimbo. The brute continues to drive toward our hero in order to "scare him out of his wits" while his friends plead with him to swerve and avoid hitting the oddly-attired eccentric. Now honestly, once you've kidnapped the city's premiere reporter you're already in pretty deep, either you let her go and have her bring the police back to arrest you or you face the grisly task of murdering her to ensure your freedom.

Let's give these thugs the benefit of the doubt, clearly they are well-educated criminals who wouldn't enter into a pointless jealousy-based kidnapping unprepared. They knew the consequences before they grabbed her. So accepting that these men are aware they will have to kill Lois if they are to have any hope of avoiding jail, I simply cannot buy their reluctance to run over what they can only perceive to be an escapee from the loony-bin. You're going to kill this woman, why suddenly develop a conscience when it comes to idiots standing in the middle of the road? Maybe I just can't appreciate the deep characterizations in this comic.

Carrying on, Superman leaps the car and chases after it, giving the kidnappers the fright of a lifetime. This is ironic because they had intended to scare him. DO YOU SEE?

And happens. Superman lifts that fucking car over his Goddamn head and smashes the absolute shit out of it. This is a truly exhilarating series of panels, even today. You can practically see the motion happen before your eyes, and for this I applaud artist Joe Shuster.

Back in the story, Superman hangs the lead thug by his pants at the top of a telephone pole, before physically intimidating Lois while telling her not to be afraid. Look at him in the image below and try to tell me he isn't sending a very specific message. You're no better than that sleeveless drunk from earlier, Superman. Shameful.

Clearly enjoying the rush he gets from bullying someone smaller than him, Superman once again threatens Lois with violence while warning her not to write any stories about the night's events. Because, in case you've forgotten, that flashy costume is a clever attempt to remain under the radar.
Oh dear
But he needn't have worried, as while Lois does in fact report the story to the nameless editor, her claims are dismissed as the drunken halucinations of a foolish dame. Fortunately the panel where the editor calls her "Sugarlips" and she makes everyone in the office a sandwich was left on the cutting room floor.

So there we have it, the first appearance of Superman's one true love! Exciting, wasn't it? I've got to say though when I started reading this story I was impressed by the progressive treatment of Lois; she stood up for herself and treated that dork Clark like dirt. That's cool, I can totally respect that! She was, for the first few moments of the tale, the type of Lois Terry Hatcher portrayed on that awful television show that is probably best left forgotten. However by the end her typical 1938 role in society was re-established: needing men to protect her, being physically dominated even by her protectors, and having her claims ignored despite being an assumably respected reporter.

In its treatment of women this story disappoints, but when it comes to action it was truly a top notch affair. Overall, not bad. Next time? Superman hates crooked politicians. He just hates them so much.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Superman does a bunch of shit that should probably be beneath him

And here we begin the first ever Superman comic storyline, from June of 1938.

Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Star (would its eventual change to Planet be an upgrade or a downgrade?) and is immediately told that he's wasting his time by a secretary who knows a total rube when she sees one. Still, he is let through to meet with the editor, where Clark puts it all on the line: "I know I haven't had any experience sir, but still, I think I'd make a good reporter." Nice try, Kent, but if Peter and Joey can't do it neither can you.

Outside, Clark employs the typical comicbook external monologue and tells himself that he needs this job in order to quickly learn of people in distress. Ignoring their method of exposition, that's actually pretty clever on behalf of the writers! Of course, everyone is more familiar with Superman just toolin' around town until he hears someone step on an ant on the other side of the planet, but this is a pretty effective plot device before that shortcut gets introduced.

So Clark takes off his clothes in an alley (no phonebooth yet) and reveals that he is in fact Superman! He then leaps to the ledge outside the unnamed, I hesitate to call him Perry White because who knows if that's who he is, editor's office and listens in as the man is informed of a mob gathering at the county jail. "Cover that story!" Possible Perry proclaims to the person on the other end of the phone. Superman is not above using his powers to put others at an unfair disadvantage, and leaps across town to cover the story himself. You know, before any actual reporters might be able to do their jobs.

Arriving on the scene Superman stops the lynching of a prisoner and puts him safely back into jail. In return, the prisoner informs Superman that he is in jail for the murder of Jack Kennedy (Now THAT'S being ahead of your time!) and that a nightclub singer by the name of Bea Carrol set him and another woman up for the crime.

Superman calls Potential Perry and is immediately hired for his trouble. Well that was easy. Following this he confronts the vile Bea Carrol in her dressing room, who for her part attempts the most awkward seduction of a superhero I have yet seen. "You attract me!" Unfortunately Superman's steadfast resistance to her charms forces Bea to draw a pistol on him, which he immediately snatches away robbing us of the thrill of seeing a bullet bounce off his manly chest. Something's gotta bounce off that thing soon though!

Forcing a signed confession out of her (!!) Superman hears an announcement on the radio stating that the woman Bea framed for Kennedy's murder is 30 minutes away from meeting the electric chair. The radio announcer also helpfully adds that she will die unless the governor reprieves her. Ham, meet Hands.

Superman, Bea tucked under his arm like a precious parcel, leaps across the county arriving at the Governor's mansion. Turned away at the door by a butler, Superman knows there is no time to explain (why that might take precious seconds!) and simply shoulders the door off its hinges, before lifting the butler above his head with one arm. Having carried the butler to the top of the stairs the man of steel discovers a door of steel, behind which the governor sleeps. Why on Earth does this guy have a steel door on his bedroom? And how many doors do we need to see Superman destroy before we get that he can beat up doors? I hope upon seeing that a man who wears his underwear over his pants has broken into his home the governor hides in his closet, the door to which is constructed of pure diamond! Diamond Superman, let's see you break that! Whatever the case, the butler mocks Superman unaware that this door is like tissue paper to the last son of Krypton.

Having broken into the man's bedroom Superman removes his red underwear, as some sort of strange Kryptonian sign of respect(the colourist forgot to colour them in). Superman attempts to inform the governor of the signed confession he coerced from Bea not 15 minutes earlier, but is interrupted once again by the butler who has drawn a gun on him. Here, we see some truly impressive storytelling, as Superman is shot in the neck on the last panel of the page. The panel is silent, not so much as a sound effect. The reader, at this point, is stunned to see the hero they have so quickly fallen in love with killed before he has saved even a single day. It is not until they turn the page that the reader is able to feel relief, when they read the caption "The bullet ricochets off Superman's tough skin!" and a legend is born. Superman's first bullet ricochet, right here.

Of course not every decision made in this comic is quite that savvy, as in the next two panels a clock is inserted informing us that there are 12 minutes before the execution, followed by 9 minutes. Apparently it took 3 minutes for Superman to subdue one butler. That discrepancy aside, if you're going to include that timer why not do it for the entire story? Don't just introduce some impending time limit at the end there, have us feel anxious throughout the story by having those clocks present from the get-go. Are you listening to me people of 1938!?

Having defeated his to-this-point greatest foe, a butler, Superman and the governor are free to work together and stop the wrongful execution. Thank goodness.

That's it for this post, but the story isn't done yet! Tune in next time for the debut of Lois (I mean it this time) and the most iconic panel in comics.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In which the Kents find a fantastic baby, and give it away

Superman #1 is mainly a reprint Action Comics #1, but with an exciting new title! What's different? Beats me, apart from the ads I'd assume the only other difference is the cover. And what a cover! By God, if I didn't know he was jumping I'd say that man could fly. And 64 pages of action is a hell of a lot, this book is simply packed with Superman stories, including a 2 page short story. Comics just don't come this packed with action anymore, and that's a shame.
Opening the book we find that Superman #1 begins with a short recap of just where this guy came from, and that's what this post will concern itself with. Everyone knows this origin story, at this point most of us were born with the knowledge ingrained, but there are some details I found rather surprising. To start us off the book shows a rocket speeding away from a planet, mid destruction. Modern readers all know what this is but the people of 1938 sure didn't. That fact doesn't seem to matter to Siegel and Shuster who waste no time elaborating on the concept, confining it to a single panel. In fact, Superman's entire origin is covered (for the very first time!) in two short pages. His past was important only as an explanation for why he can beat up crooks better than you or I.
Anyhow, following the initial panel we have these:

The Kents find Superbaby, and immediately turn it over to the vaguely sinister sounding "orphan asylum", where he proceeds to lift a desk. What appears to be five minutes later Pa Kent and some hired goon (no way is that guy Martha. Grundy, maybe?)return to adopt Superbaby once again. It's apparent at this point that they only gave him up in the first place because they needed to fill two extra panels. Of course, as we all know the Kents then instill Superbaby with a strong sense of truth and justice.

Looking at this a little more deeply brings up a rather troubling thought: everyone who works in that orphanage knows who Superman is. They know they had a baby who lifted a desk, they know who adopted it, they know 15-20 years later an adult Superman arrived on the scene! These people are either the biggest plothole in Superman (and introduced on the first page, no less!) or in some future issue they will become his greatest foes. I honestly hope Superman vs. Guy Who Runs an Orphanage comes sooner rather than later.

Okay now what the hell is this!? This idiot kid just goes into the middle of a city and starts jumping around in broad daylight? We're all used to seeing young Clark leaping around the wheatfields of Kansas, but that's not what's happening here at all. Is there anyone who doesn't know his identity by the second page of this comic? No.

Of course he doesn't get any more subtle as an adult, showing off his glistening naked torso while lifting a car (gaggle of swooning ladies assumed to be just off-panel), running alongside a train, and smugly making a doctor break needle after needle on his impenetrable skin. Trivia!: It turns out a "bursting shell" can penetrate Superman's skin! I look forward to that coming into play never.

The next page contains perhaps the biggest twist in the entire issue (or the next 80 issues to come)

Yeah, two pages in and the Kents are dead.

And there's Superman's glorious origin! Next update will cover Clark attempting to become a reporter, and meeting someone with the initials L.L.
See you then.