The Return of Superman’s trunks!

2018 marks two very important milestones for the Man of Steel. The 80th anniversary of the character and the 1,000th issue of Action Comics, the comic he debuted in. None the less Superman fans the world over are excited by these major milestones. These are not just milestones for the character, but for pop culture as a whole.

DC Comics had originally announced that the 1,000th issue would be released in hardcover format and would feature stories from various creators. Including Brian Michael Bendis’ first DC work, and stories from Scott Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Tim Sale, Marv Wolfman, and many more yet to be announced.

Today (January 19th), DC announced another way they will celebrate the landmark issue. The return of Superman’s iconic trunks.

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The trunks are not only a staple of superhero iconography but a classic component of Superman’s look. The reason we associate underwear on the outside with superheroes is because of Superman. But going further back, the look comes from circus strongmen who would traditionally wear tight spandex to show off their muscles while performing. The trunks were added out of fear of their spandex ripping in unfortunate places. Superman’s creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster took much of the iconography of circus strongmen in order to emphasis the strength of their creation. The cap and boots added from the world of professional wrestling and to emphasis movement. Particularly the cape.

During the 2011 reboot of DC Comics, known as the ‘New 52’. Many superhero costumes were redesigned, with the most noticeable one being that of Superman’s. Discarding the iconic trunks and giving the entire suit a thin armour appearance that made no real sense for the character. In 2016, DC rebranded themselves with DC Rebirth. Bringing the classic Superman and Lois Lane back into continuity. While his initial introduction back into this new universe did include the classic costume for a glorious half an issue in Superman: Lois and Clark. But Superman still chose to use a trunks-less costume. In Action Comics # 967 Jon, Superman’s young son, asks Superman why he doesn’t wear his old suit. A question echoed by many real-world fans.

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Shortly after this exchange in the Superman Reborn storyline, Superman did indeed receive a new costume, though not the return of the trunks. This new suit was still a massive improvement over the New 52 designs. With full red boots, and a redesigned belt incorporating some yellow but it’s still not the classic suit many crave.

The return of the classic look, regardless of how long it will last, is still amazing news to many and a truly wonderful way to celebrate both the 1,000 issue and 80th anniversary.

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Superman #39: Goodnight Moon

Superman 039 cov (2018)Despite being one of DCs, and comic books, most powerful heroes. Superman is above all things the best of humanity. Superman #39 showcases this fact beautifully.

While taking on the Demolition Team in Metropolis, Superman finds himself being cheered on by children in the local cancer ward. With the parents and doctor’s permission, Superman with the help of Green Lantern take the children on a day trip to the Justice League Satellite. Made possible by a Green Lantern construct of a rocket ship. Allowing the kids to experience zero-gravity and ‘fly’ along with him. Upon reaching the satellite, the kids are greeted by the looming figures of The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Batman. Superman gives each of them a phone and sets up a scavenger hunt for them including finding items such as Superman’s cape, Wonder Woman’s lasso, and the hardest item of all. A picture of Batman smiling. It’s an absolute delight to watch their progress, as well as their progress on the Batman picture. To round off the day, Superman dresses the kids in space suites and allows them to stand on the moon for a while. Knowing many of them don’t have much time left, everyone writes their name on a rock to leave on the Moon’s surface where they will last forever. The issue beautifully ends with the kids and Superman in awe of the Earth from the Moon.

The issue is filled with so many wonderful moments that are a joy to experience. It encapsulates everything Superman should stand for, particularly in darker times. A symbol of hope in a dark world. That absolute power does not have to mean that it’s used for evil and that what makes us human is how we treat others. Superman never gives up on anyone. That as long as there is life in your lungs, no matter how little time you may have left, you deserve to enjoy it. The Justice Leagues action as well in this issue, may show them at their most heroic. Not just patrolling the streets or smiling for the cameras. But acting as heroes and making the kids who look up to them feel hope and joy.

With Superman #39, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason prove that they understand the character of Superman once again. A must read for all Superman fans and those wanting to know why we love him.

Jorge Jimenez’s original Superboy costume designs

DC Rebirth brought us a brand new Superboy in the form of Clark and Lois’s son, Jonathan Kent. A bright and kind-hearted kid, newly developing his powers and discovering that the father he already looked up to is really Superman. In issue two of Superman, Jon goes along to help his father when he is asked to step up and use his heat vision in action. In the freezing cold arctic weather, he rips open his coat to reveal a two-toned blue shirt with the Superman emblem emblazoned across his chest.

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Once the action dies down, Superman gets to look at Jon’s shirt. Jon states that he got it from a second-hand store and liked that it had the “S” on it. Comparing it to people wearing Wonder Woman’s and Batman’s logos all the time. That he wanted to feel super, like his dad. Clark’s response is both incredibly poignant, and deeply personal to them both.

“Jon, you’re not like the boy who outgrew this shirt and donated it. I’m afraid someday soon – too soon – you will have to pick it up and embrace the “S” for yourself. it’s not about our powers or strength, or heat vision. It’s about character. It means doing the right thing when no one else will, even when you’re scared…. Even when you think no one is looking.” [Tomasi & Gleason. 2016:09]

Jon’s costume is a wonderful mixture of both the classic Superman and the New 52. The world Jon has lived in already had a Superman that was not his father. The shirt was created to celebrate the darker interpretation, and was donated by someone who outgrew it. Only for it to be picked up and embodied by someone who wants to stand for the same thing as classic Superman. Hope and justice. The two blue tones nicely show this divide between the two, while combining them into one garment. A few issues later, Jon gains a cape and completes his wonderful costume.

On Twitter, Supersons artist Jorge Jimenez released his sketches of the possible costume ideas before the current design.

They scream of the classic, and much missed Superman costume design. Complete with red boots and trunks. The lighter blue is striking, though the high collar is heavily reminiscent of the New 52 armour. But those classic trunks not only harken back to the classic Superman design, but the inspiration behind that. The circus strongmen of the early 1900s.

It’s clear that Jon is perfectly aware of the original costume. In Action Comics #967, Jon pulls up images on his phone asking his father why he never wears either the classic look, or the black suit he wore while in hiding. Clearly enthusiastic about both looks.

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While Jon’s current costume fits the character and world perfectly, it’s wonderful to know that in some version of the multiverse. The classic costume lives on through Superboy.

  • Jimenez, Jorge (2018) Do you want to see something curious?? Here my first versions of Superboy’s design. [Twitter] 9th Available from: https://twitter.com/JorgeJimenezArt/status/950760640771182599 [Last Accessed: 09.01.2018]
  • Graydon, D. & Brownie, B. (2016) The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Nerdsync (2015) Why Do Superheroes Wear UNDERWEAR on the Outside?!? || Comic Misconceptions || Nerdsync [YouTube] 16th Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOhQlqrp2oM [Last Accessed: 09.01.2018]
  • Tomasi, P. & Gleason, P. (2016) Superman #2. DC Comics: Burbank.

The Flash Rebirth Deluxe Vol. 01

Looking for a great jumping on point to start reading The Flash? Rebirth has you covered!

As someone who had never read a Flash comic until this deluxe collection, I was more than a little sceptical. When I think the Flash, I think of a guy who beats his Rogues gallery simply by running fast. Where’s the fun in that? Having now sped through the first 13 issues and the Rebirth one-shot by Joshua Williamson, I was completely wrong. The DC Rebirth Flash title is an incredibly fun and energetic read even to a complete Flash novice like myself.

Spinning out of the DC Universe Rebirth one-shot (shameless plug here!), Barry Allen is reunited with the pre-Flash Point Wally West. Setting the tone for this Flash series, and giving us a clear idea of where Barry is in live and where Wally goes from here. The series first 13 main issues give us 4 main stories, with the bulk of the book exploring what happens when a speed force storm grants multiple citizens of Central City Flash’s abilities. The Flash takes on a mentor role, and re-evaluates everything he misses about working with the Pre-Flashpoint Wally, until a new villain explodes onto the scene, Godspeed, and begins killing all the new speedsters. Later issues explore The Flash’s relationship with both the pre-Flashpoint Wally, and the new post-Flashpoint Wally. We see Barry taking on a mentor position throughout passing on what he knows, as well as learning that he can always be better. That there is always more to learn. The two-part story, Speed of Darkness highlights this perfectly, as well as how the young Wally is progressing as a hero in training. Ultimately, the series is about trust, optimism, and using your abilities the best way you can, for the betterment of your city. As well as exploring what justice truly means, and what happens when taking it into your own hands turns sour.

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“When you and Kid Flash saved me… I had one last vision. And I saw something in the Speed Force I don’t think I was supposed to see. I don’t know what it was but…. It filled me with hope.”

The art, primarily by Carmine Di Giandomenico, is bright and lively with a number of incredibly cleaver techniques that greatly add to the feeling of speed. During the first issue, there is an incredibly clever moment where Flash is depicted running, and managing to out pace the comics own panel boarders from catching up with him. Giandomenico makes incredible use of their talent throughout to add these minor details, that explode in significance when realised. The energy leaps off the pages throughout with the crackle of the speedster’s lightning becoming almost audible, something that makes the book feel complete along with Williamson’s dialogue.

Dc’s Rebirth Flash is an incredibly uplifting and energetic read. A perfect starting place for Flash novices and those looking for a fun read.

The Flash Rebirth Deluxe volume is available here: http://amzn.to/2FhlX7w

Digital Comics: Infinite Canvas meets Infinite Time.

The idea of a comic book would most likely bring to mind the image of dog eared magazine, decorated in the garb of colourful superhero action, such as Superman or Spider-man, or comical animal strips, including the likes of Garfield, found in your everyday newspaper, due to the image that the mainstream media has perpetuated. With this image in mind, the general public can view the comic book medium as a playground tailored for children and the immature, a notion once shared by the creators themselves [Howe. 2012], this can put off some creators, as they “have a very limited audience and little chance of seeing any returns for their efforts” [Shedd. 2005:05]. The advent and ease of access of the World Wide Web, allows for creators to share their own comics with a wide audience without the fear of distribution costs, the freedom of genre, and complete creative control over their work. With that freedom in mind and the implementation of web only features, such as HTML and Flash, the medium itself could be played with and experimented upon, creating interactive experiences and motion sequences.

However, the creation of motion and interactive comics, according to Scott McCloud, could fall into the same trap as the traditional printed medium, using the screen in the same manner as a standard page. Unlike a sheet of paper, which has defined dimensions and can be ripped and ruined, a screen can be viewed as a window, an infinite space. “The goal is to use the infinite nature of the web to the advantage of the medium, rather than be constrained by panels and pages” [Booker, 2014:1825]. The expansion of a comic beyond its original dimensions, allows for a creator to experiment with what we traditionally see as a comic, and take “advantage of the medium to a much higher degree” [Shedd, 2005:09], using the added space and flexibility to complement the story being told.

The implementation of an infinite X and Y axis can add a sense of time to the work, as information is being revelled to the audience in a controlled setting. A practice McCloud refers to as “gradualism – slowly gaining information by slowly scrolling through an image or sequence of images” [McCloud, 2007]. This practice can, theoretically, expand on an idea of Marshall McLuhan, and the notion of time between panels. That the space in between comic book panels is infinite and can only be determined by what comes before and after. “The viewer, or reader, is compelled to participate in completing and interpreting the few hints provided by the bounding lines” [McLuhan, 1964:174]. An idea also expounded upon by McCloud, with the example of an off panel death, “To kill a man between Panels is to condemn him to a thousand deaths” [McCloud, 1993:68].

  • Blake, C. (2013) The digital evolution: from infinite canvas to infinite comics. [Online] Comic Book Resources. Available from: http://www.cbr.com/the-digital-evolution-from-infinite-canvas-to-infinite-comics/ [Last accessed: 28/09/2016]
  • Booker, M. (2014) Comics through Time. A History of Icons, Idols and Ideas. Greenwood
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics. The Untold Story. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (2007) Reinventing Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. Routledge, Oxon.
  • Shedd, A. (2005) No Borders, No Limits: The Infinite Canvas as a Storytelling Tool in Online Comics. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Idaho.

Why was Yuri!!! On Ice so ubiquitous?

[This is neither an analysis, review, or critic of Yuri!! On Ice. This is simply a passing thought as to why was the show popular with a none anime watching audience when compared to the standard attention grabbing shows. None of this should be taken as researched analysis. This is a casual post.]

 

Occasionally I dip my toes back into the world of anime. My hay-day in the fandom was more than 4 years ago but I still try and look around at what is coming out every now and then. Last year, particularly on Twitter, I kept hearing so much about this random anime focused on ice skating of all things. What I found strange was not that a show about ice skating was popular, but that I was hearing about it from people I never usually hear talking about anime. And it was for a show about ice skating!?

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I understand that there is certainly a market for sports anime, I myself particularly loved the first season of Haikyuu when it came out and I’m not even interested in volleyball. So the idea of a sports anime getting a lot of attention was certainly not out of my range of comprehension. But then I sat and compared the idea of it to other shows I had heard a similar amount of buzz about from the same audience. Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, One Punch Man. Mostly shonen action orientated shows with well animated moments, at least one or two strong characters, and maybe some humour mixed in. At the time I was too busy to take the time to stop and watch something subtitled. Meaning I knew that the few screenshots I saw and the occasional mention I heard was going to be the extent of my experience. By the time this winter break rolled around the show had been dubbed by Funimation, and I could easily have the show playing on a second screen while working, taking breaks to watch the more action orientated and heavily animated scenes. I have no real preference for dubbed or subbed, it more depends on how busy I am at the time, how old the show is, and how desperate I am to see it.

In the end I watched all 12 episodes in a single day and I still can’t answer why it was so popular with a typically none anime viewing public.

My suspicions were confirmed by the fact that it was indeed beautifully animated in sequences. Particularly in how fluid and detailed the characters skating routines were. Though at times their sense of proportion compared to their surroundings was a little questionable to say the least. Characters were well defined to the point that I can still remember their names (helped by the fact that two characters share a name) and with elements of comedy thrown in frequently. On the surface it fit everything I expected from a ‘breaking mainstream’ show. But even having seen it I can’t figure out why it was so popular. Many may jump to the fact that I did finish the show in a single day as proof that the show was compelling and highly entertaining. In reality, I kept it on due to the fact that I needed something to accompany me while I worked, and I immediately put something else on as soon as it ended.

The show revolves around a 23-year-old Japanese ice skater, Yuri Katsuki, returns home after a defeat in the Grand Prix Final. Conflicted over weather or not he should continue skating, he goes to his childhood skating rink and preforms a routine by his idol for his childhood friend. The routine is secretly recorded by his friend’s children and becomes viral online, catching the attention of Yuri’s idol, the Russian skater Victor Nikiforov. Yuri suddenly finds Victor moving in with him and becoming his coach. Re-inspiring Yuri’s drive to win the Grand Prix and in competition with other skaters like Yuri Plisetsky.

Admittedly, the opening 3 episodes are incredibly strong and compelling. Standing strong enough to be a self-contained short series about a down on his luck skater finding his inspiration again. But in the long run, the show becomes predictable in its plot points as it takes on the standard tournament style narrative from about episode 5 onwards. While tournament arcs in shows can be fun and exciting for the viewer, see how My Hero Academia handled it in it’s second season, being a shows entire main plot can become tedious and heavily predictable. With the exception of the amazing animation, and the admittedly addictive opening theme, History Maker. The shows primary appeal seems to hinge entirely on the relationship between Yuri and Viktor, and how the show handles a same-sex relationship.

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Overly homo-erotic in tone at times, Yuri and Viktor’s relationship is heavily sexualised in nature given their profession. Viktor’s introduction to Yuri in itself is heavily explicit, given they meet in Yuri’s family spa while Viktor is completely naked baring no shame in his body. The music and routine Viktor gives Yuri is explicit in nature being designed to bring out Yuri’s sexual nature, and put it on full display on the ice. Even beyond that the pair embrace each other in triumphant moments as though they were lovers, even to the point of the infamous ‘kiss’ in episode 7. The pair promise each other that they work together for as long as they can, with the scene playing out as though it was an engagement complete with matching rings. Leading to an admittedly funny and open scene where Yuri’s friend congratulates them both on their engagement.

While the idea that Yuri!!! On Ice managed to break into the none anime consuming mainstream still baffles me. The show stands relatively strong on the strength of it’s animation, characters and relationships above it’s story. An enjoyable though not especially deep show, that works well for binge watching.