Action Comics #1000: A Celebration of 80-years of The Man of Steel

The image of men running in terror. One fleeing from the scene, another on the ground in confusion, and the final running straight towards the audience with a face that can’t seem to comprehend what he’s witnessing. A crimson and yellow sky engulfs the scene while at the centre, the destroyed remains of a 1937 Plymouth hoisted up by a mysterious figure. Clad in blue and red, a flowing cape, boots and trunks, with an emblem across his chest that screams “I am here!”. This is the cover to Action Comics #1. Cover date June 1938 with a copyright date of April 18th. 80 years later we celebrate that mighty figure on the cover with the publication of Action Comics #1000 on April 18th, 2018. That figure:

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Action Comics #1000 brings together ten stories by all-star creators, three pin-ups and an array of glorious variant covers. Celebrating 80 years of THE premier superhero. The talent contained within these 80 pages ranges from industry favourites such as Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Lee, long time Superman creators like Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway, and current staples of the industry including Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

From The City That Has Everything:

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The book opens with one of the longer stories “From the City that has Everything”, a title nod to Alan Moore’s famous “For the Man who has Everything” issue. Written and pencilled by long time Superman creator Dan Jurgens. The city of Metropolis throws their own celebration for the Man of Steel. All the while Clark is on edge as he knows of an impending invasion from the Khunds. During the celebrations people come forward on stage to talk about the good Superman has done for them. Some are police officers, others are former criminals who Superman never gave up on. When Daily Planet Editor-in-Chief takes the stand, he tells the crowd:

“When I think of Superman, I think of what they used to say about the best fighters in the World. That they always answered THE BELL. For Those of you who don’t know boxing, answering the bell means that during a fight, in between rounds. When the bell rings, telling the fighters to get off their chairs and FIGHT some more. No matter how beaten and weary they are. They get up and FIGHT.

As Perry continues, Clark realises that something is wrong and that what he’s been tracking with his senses is completely off. As he takes off into the sky, Wonder Woman comes to stop him. Informing him that the threat he has been so worried about has been taken care of by the Justice league, wanting to give him this day off. The league appears on stage along with all the others grateful for the impact he has on all of them.

“Your father is the most understanding man I’ve ever met, Jon. He knows he shares a bond with Metropolis. And That every now and then, in appreciation for all he’s given them. The people get to return the gesture. That’s what makes him Superman.”

Never-Ending Battle:

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From the writer/artist team of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. “Never-Ending Battle” is a wonderful tribute to the legacy and 80-year history of the character. Framed as Clark telling Lois and Jon about his day and how hard he had to fight just to make it to them in time. An encounter with Vandal Savage has him using time distortion and disruption against Superman. A fantastic plot device that makes full use of it’s premise in order to highlight and celebrate everything from the 1930s, the Elseworld outings and iconic scenes from both Kingdom Come and The Dark Knight Returns, right up to modern day and DC Rebirth.

“I want you to remember an old adage. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Staying true to yourself. Abiding by the morals and ethics ingrained in you by your mom and dad. Along with the lessons you’ll learn in your own life, can pull you through the DARKEST moments. But if even THAT’S not enough. Sometimes pure GUMPTION and WILLPOWER are all you need to get you where you want to go and be with who you want to be with.”

Combined with there 2-year long run on Superman, which saw it’s final issue release on the same day as this. Tomasi and Gleason prove that they know what Superman is and stands for. Gleason’s art is stunning and stylised. Making full use of entire pages rather than shifting to panels.

As Superman’s quest through time and reality comes to an end, we catch up with Superman together with his wife, son and dog Krypto. Calm and happy as the story concludes with a birthday cake. Complete with 80 candles and a lovely message to the Man of Steel from the two authors.

Pin-Up: John Romita Jr.

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 The first of the books pin-up illustrations, John Romita Jr returns to Superman after his run on the New 52 incarnation. Unfortunately, this maybe the weakest of any of the book. His style doesn’t fit the character in the same way it does that of Batman or Wolverine. The composition and framing is wonderful, though the choice of Romita Jr. over someone like Gary Frank or David Finch is a confusing one.

An Enemy Within

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As Super as he is, Superman can’t always be there. What makes it worse is that even when he’s rushing to one disaster, he can hear another. As Superman is on the other side of the world, trying to stop Brainiac’s latest scheme. He can hear it taking effect back in Metropolis. Causing a high school principle to snap and take his students hostage. As Superman is still in Japan, he can hear how the good people of Metropolis take care of the situation. Praising Maggie Sawyer’s strong but compassionate command. Superman’s actions do help as it’s Brainiac’s devices causing the insanity, but the story still uses Superman to praise the hardworking people that keep Metropolis running. Fantastically focused story by Superman veterans Marv Wolfman and Curt Swan.

“You can knock them to their knees and threaten them with any number of tortures, but even against overwhelming odds, they won’t long bow down to any master. Compared to the natives of other worlds, their bodies are fragile. But it always amazes me how strong they can be. And while human passions can be infuriating, their unstoppable will to ultimately do right, even under the threat of danger, is INDOMITABLE. And I’m the one they call SUPERMAN.”

The Car:

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Ever wonder what happened to that car? The one on the cover that started it all. In “The Car” Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Oliver Coipel explore the driver’s life. As he takes the car into a mechanic, tries to explain what happens and takes a long walk home, only to run into the man who stopped the car. Superman. He tells Superman all about his life. How his father was killed in the war, his mother died when he was thirteen and life in an orphanage was rough. He was stopped by Superman before in the middle of a crime. And yet instead of dragging the man back in, he leaves him with something to think about.

“You’ve had your fair share of knocks. And you can keep knocking the world back like you’ve done. Or you can make a decision. Today. It’s your life Butch. You can fix it, or you can junk it. it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.”

A short but very interesting look at the part of Superman’s first outing we never saw.

The Fifth Season:

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Perhaps the most surprising of all the stories in Action Comics #1000. The team behind American Vampire as well as the iconic Batman writer, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque give one of the most grounded and heartfelt looks at the relationship if Lex and Superman. Joining the pair in an observatory as Lex explains to Superman, unaware the he truly is the Clark he once knew. The talk about how Lex used to spend his free time in the observatory, trying to send messages to other planets. Wanting to contact intelligent beings. Feeling stuck in this small town and unappreciated. He confides in Superman that on one occasion he made a mistake and didn’t heat up the nitrogen in his experiment. He should have died. Through a change in perspective, we see the reason he didn’t was because Clark had stumbled in and used his heat vision when Lex was looking away. The story of the two of them there as children are wonderful parallels. Lex wanting to make contact due to feeling alone, and Clark possibly there for a similar reason, but instead of comfort, he wanted answers.

From a writer that’s more known for his darker takes, particularly with Wytches and Batman. This story feels so full of heart for them both. A fantastic surprise from a master of horror.

Of Tomorrow:

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A short but bitter sweet tale from the minds of Tom King and Clay Mann. A future where the Earth is degrading. Superman comes back every year to a world that’s almost fire and brimstone, talking to himself about how he needs to stop coming back. That it feels like this is the five billionth visit. That Jon is growing into a fine man. Lois is being kept alive with an eternity formula, though is growing to hate the taste. That ‘they’ would be proud of Jon on Lois, before finally turning away and leaving. Revealing the final resting place of Ma and Pa Kent.

“We’re all Stardust Fallen. And so, we look to the sky. And we wait to be reclaimed. Good-bye, Ma. Good-bye, Pa. And thank you. For everything.”

Clay’s earthy artwork fits the story beautifully but adds a whole new level of depth by drawing his Superman to heavily resemble the late Christopher Reeve. Another fantastic nod to the legacy and history of the character.

Five Minutes:

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Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway prove once again why they are legends when it comes to Superman. “Five Minutes” is a fantastic little day in the life piece of both Clark Kent and Superman. As Perry is shouting over that Clark has five minutes to finish his story while the presses are on hold. Clark hears a disturbance and hurries out of the building. The fantastically energetic and invigorating story shows everything that could possibly happen to him in those five minutes. As he manages to rush back to his desk and finish on time, Perry shouts over that the stories dead and that Clark needs to take Jimmy and go report on Superman’s latest outings.

“The rush! The focus! The fact that I’m helping people – sometimes even SAVING them. Superheroing. Reporting. They’re not so different if you do them right. Man, I love my jobs.”

Though short, it feels like we see the world through Clark’s eyes. How fast paced and to the bone his world can be, and yet just like the Man of Steel himself. We can’t help but love it.

Action Land:

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Perhaps the strangest, and most divisive story in the collection. Paul Dini and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez bring us a roller-coaster amusement park history of Superman. Already a strange concept, but when it’s revealed to be all the doing of Mr. Mxyzptlk, it feels like one big loving send up to the silliness of the silver age and all the fun Superman comics can be. An enjoyable story that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, heightened by Garcia-Lopez’s stunning artwork.

Pin-Up: Walter Simonson

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Industry legend Walt Simonson brings his classic and dynamic take to the Superman in this fantastic pin-up! While the style may not be to everyone’s liking. It’s dynamic and attention grabbing presence is undeniably Simonson.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet:

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Brad Meltzer and John Cassidy bring up an interesting but heartfelt take on what it feels like to be Superman in an emergency. Flying as fast as he can, he can hear a woman in distress. He can hear the trigger on the gun as he cocks, and he knows that he’s going to get there a second too late. To his surprise, the woman does something that buys him those few seconds he needs. The short story shows not just how Superman inspires others, but how he is inspired by them. Their courage, ingenuity, and bravery. The final moments show how humble Clark is, as Lois is the one to point out that today, “he met a good one”.

Pin-Up: Jorge Jimenez

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The final and strongest of all the pin-ups. Jimenez continues to prove why he is one of this decades best Superman artists. Dynamic, strong, with an overwhelming presence, but completely natural. Embracing even the classically mocked trunks as symbol of strength once more. Jimenez’s use of lighting gives Superman and ethereal presence. A man who has fought for truth, justice and the American way but remains true to who he is. A symbol of hope.

The Truth:

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Finally, the last story in the collection had both the most to prove but brought the least. With art by Jim Lee, who’s style really doesn’t fit the character, and the Superman debut of Brian Michael Bendis, the story acts as a teaser for his upcoming run on both Superman, Action Comics AND his Man of Steel mini-series. The few pages lack substance. The focus should be on this new villain and his final page ‘reveal’. However, the most memorable parts are two women debating about Superman’s trunks, and Supergirl piledriving into the villain. It’s possible that due to this being Bendis’s first outing, this could be a result of nerves or pressure, but let’s hope with time he improves.

 

The companion Deluxe hard cover, Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman, puts Superman’s history on display for the world to see. Action Comics #1000 honours that history. With a mixed array of takes on the character and an all-star creative team, here’s to many more years of the Man of Steel!

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Superman’s Metropolis (1996) – Fritz Lang, Futurism and the Mother City

The city of Metropolis. A staple in the Superman mythos. The city is as iconic as Superman himself, they go hand in hand the same way as Batman and Gotham. You can’t have one without the other. Many Elseworld stories like to play around with the location Superman lands and the city he protects. A big example would by Superman: Red Son [Miller & Johnson.2003] which made Superman a protector of the USSR rather than the USA. However, Superman’s Metropolis [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996] plays with this relationship far more, by experimenting with the city itself. In this case, transforming this comic book Metropolis, into the film version of Metropolis.

Despite its strong ties with the Man of Steel. The city remained unnamed for over a year until Action Comics #16 [Seigel & Shuster.1939]. “On June 7, 1939, Clark Kent, while on assignment in ‘Boravia,’ sends his editor a telegram addressed to ‘Metropolis, NY.’ Meanwhile, in the September 1939 issue of Action Comics (Which would have been on newsstands in June), Clark Kent poses the question ‘How come gambling is permitted to flourish in the city of Metropolis?’ These concurrent instances represent the first time the Man of Steel’s home city is given a name.” [Weldon.2013:39]

The word ‘Metropolis’ comes from 1350 – 1400 Middle English, Late Latin. Meaning ‘Mother State’ or ‘Mother City’ referring to the parent state of a colony. In modern times, the phrase refers to the chief or sometimes capital city of a country or just a very large city. [Dictionary.com:2018] In the DC Comics universe, Metropolis itself fits this by taking the form of New York City, a trait it shares with Batman’s Gotham City. However, while the cities share an inspiration, both show a different side. As stated in The Many Lives of Batman, “The difference between Gotham and Metropolis succinctly summarizes the differences between the two superheroes. As current Batman editor Dennis O’Neil put it: ‘Gotham is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at 3am., November 28th in a cold year. Metropolis is Manhattan between Fourteenth and One Hundred and Tenth Streets on the brightest, sunniest July day of the year” [Pearson & Uricchio.1991:009]. This duality in a city can also be seen in 1927s Metropolis [Lang.1927].

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Superman’s Metropolis takes its lead and plot from Fritz Lang’s classic film. Which is in itself is adapted from the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou [von Harbou.1925]. The story is set in 2026, the city of Metropolis is ruled by the wealthy industrialists while the working and lower class operate the machinery underground, out of sight. The city is essentially run by Joh Fredersen, while his son Freder spends his days in the pleasure gardens. When a young working-class girl named Maria brings a group of children to visit the high-rise towers to see how the other half live, Freder is smitten before she is ushered away. Freder follows her back into the underground where he witnesses one of the machines explode, killing and injuring many. He hallucinates a worse incident, where a machine is powered by being fed the working class. As Freder retains his senses, he runs to his father to tell him the conditions the working class have to put up with, but upon seeing his father’s reaction, he vows a secret rebellion against him. Vowing to help the workers.

However, secret maps are found in the possession of some of the dead workers, and the foreman, Grot, brings them to Fredersen. Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor, Rotwang, a man who had once been in love with Fredersen’s now deceased wife, Hel and has created a robot in order to “resurrect” Hel. The maps show the catacombs under the city and as Rotwang and Fredersen investigate, finding a gathering of workers, including both Freder and Maria. Maria is addressing the group, prophesying the arrival of one who will unite the working and higher classes someday. Freder believes that it could be him, and declares his love for Maria while Rotwang and Fredersen watch on. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give his robot the Maria’s likeness in order to spread chaos through the underground and disrupt the rebellion. However, Rotwang plans to use the robot to kill Freder and take over the city as revenge for the death of the woman he loved. Maria is kidnapped and her likeness is given to the robot, being sent to Fredersen when the transfer is complete. Freder walks in on the robot Maria and Fredersen in an embrace and falls into a depression at the idea of losing his love, and the one he wants to fight for. During this time, Maria is unleashed into the world and using her charms and influence drives men to murder and causing dissent amongst the workers below.

Freder eventually returns to the catacombs below and finds the robot Maria encouraging the workers to destroy the machines and rise up. Freder accuses her of not being the same person he knew, but the workers don’t listen. Leaving their children behind, they destroy the machines, causing the worker city below to be flooded. The real Maria manages to escape and rescues the children just in time with Freder’s help. The workers are horrified at what they have done, fearing their children dead. They turn on the robot Maria and burn her at the stake. Freder watches on horrified, until the fire finally reveals to them all that the false Maria is a robot sent to trick them. Rotwang appears, delusional. Believing the real Maria to be the long dead Hel, chasing her to the roof as Freder runs after them. Rotwang and Freder fight on the cathedral roof, Fredersen and the workers watching from the streets, until Rotwang falls to his death and Maria is finally safe. Freder and Maria return to the others, linking the hands of both his father Fredersen and the foreman Grot, bringing them together, and proving that Freder is indeed the one prophesised.

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Superman’s Metropolis tells a very similar story, though takes the ‘saviour’ metaphor of Metropolis and makes a more direct connection with Superman himself. Freder is replaced with the character Clarc. The son of Jon-Kent, ruler of Metropolis. While talking with another high-born woman, Lana, it’s Lois who brings the children and tells them of how the better live. As she’s being escorted away, she turns and looks at Clarc. Commenting, “The one I’m searching for is here…. But he doesn’t know it yet” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:07]. Clarc follows, and finds and workers in the underground, chanting bitter hymns with his father’s name in place, as they work themselves to death. Clarc witnesses the fatal accident, before returning to his father, telling him of what happened, only to be turned away. The plot continues the same, the maps make their way to Jon-Kent who takes them to the inventor, Luthor. Now bitter over the death of Marta.

Clarc, taking his friend Olson with him, begins working underground, wanting to help those down below. He attends the gathering lead by Lois. A corrupted Superman logo on the wall behind her. She speaks out to the crowd. “My brothers. Today I will tell you the story of the new Tower of Babel! There were men who wished to build a tower whose summit would touch the skies. And on it they would inscribe: ‘Great is the world and its creator, and great is man!’ Those who conceived the idea of this tower could not have built it themselves – so they hired thousands of others to build it for them. But those toilers knew nothing of those who planned the tower. While those who conceived the tower did not concern themselves with the workers who built it. The hymns of the few became the muttered curses of the many. Babel! Between the brain that plans and the hands that build, there must be a mediator. A Super-Man! It is the heart that must bring about an understanding between brain and hand! That saviour will rise to bring goodness and peace and love. The Super-Man will come – to free men’s souls of their inhuman bondage!” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:22-23]

Luthor and Jon-Kent watch on as Clarc is enraptured. Luthor even comments on Lois’ resemblance to the late Marta. Clarc stands and asks if he could be that saviour, declaring his love for Lois. She gives him a small version of the Super-Man symbol, before promising to see each other again tomorrow. As Lois leaves, she is kidnapped by Luthor, and in a departure from the source material, we briefly cut to Jon-Kent removing a book with the same symbol from a vault in his office. Luthor shows Lois the artificial being in his chamber, revealing his plan for the robot to take a human’s likeness. Originally that of his lost love Marta, having died by Luthor’s hand as revenge. But instead, he chooses Lois in order to disrupt the underground. As the robot is taking Lois’ form, Clarc and Olson discover the vault and a mysterious capsule inside. A slot on the front seems to fit the symbol that Lois gave him. As he placed the symbol inside, Clarc’s origins are revealed to him. His abilities, his history, the fact that when Luthor murdered Marta, he couldn’t kill Clarc as much as he tried. That Luthor learned so much from the craft that brought the boy here, and used this knowledge to take over. Swaying the mind of Jon-Kent, and erasing Clarc’s memory of his abilities or the death of Marta. With this new knowledge in hand, and the clothes he finds within the capsule, Clarc declares himself THE Superman! [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:38]

Having now unleased the robot Lois into the underground, she used her sexuality and charm to sway the workers into an uprising. Smashing machines and destroying the underground. As the furnace is about to explode, Clarc flies down, complete in a new colourful garb and saves them. Asking Lois why she would encourage them to do such a thing. He tries to calm her, as he realises that she is not the woman he loves. As Superman and the robot battle, Luthor reveals that he has been experimenting on himself. Making himself part machine, and a possible equal to Superman, powered by Kryptonite. “I am more than human. Far more than just my hand was shattered on the night a projectile from space crashed near me. Even in my bed of pain. I supervised the doctors who replaced half my flesh with mechanisms I had previously created. Yet my crowning achievement was not those mechanisms – nor the robot in whose design I utilized many secrets I learned from that rocket. But this pulsing inorganic heart, held in its chromium cage – which makes my own still beat! I shaped it from the glowing metal fuselage of that star-spawned vessel – a last little piece of Clarc Kent-Son’s birth-world!” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:50].

As Clarc’s long battle with the robot ends, he flies to his father to learn that Luthor has Lois atop the cathedral. Clarc flies over and begins to fight the robotically enhanced Luther, but finds himself weak around his Kryptonite heart. As the fight continues on, Lois falls from the roof, only to be saved by Clarc. Revealing that despite his weakened state, he managed to remove the Kryptonite, killing Luthor in the process. In the light of a new day, Clarc stands with both his father, Olson and the people of the underground. Declaring that the day of the Super-Man has come and gone. That from now, “your hands and the city’s finest minds will work together to forge the destiny of Metropolis” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:64].

Superman’s Metropolis continues the film’s spirit in its use of art. The early German film heavily used both Cubism and Futurism imagery to further its futuristic feel. Both movements began in the early 1900s, “among modernist movements futurism was exceptionally vehement in its denunciation of the past.” “Futurist Painting used elements of neo-impressionism and cubism to create compositions that expressed the idea of the dynamism, the energy and movement of modern life” [Tate.2018]. The artist of Superman’s Metropolis, Ted McKeever, used elements of cubism and futurism in order to bring the same feel to the book. “By breaking objects and figures down into disctinct areas – or planes – the artists aimed to show different viewpoints at the same time and within the same space and so suggest their three-dimensional form. In doing so they also emphasized the two-dimensional flatness of the canvas instead of creating the illusion of depth.

The incorporation of Superman into the story of Metropolis works well. Both Freder and Clarc are versions of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero of a Thousand Faces’ [Campbell.1949]. However, Superman stands above them all regardless of this new-found equality. The Nietzschean Ubermensch that follows the idea posited by Nietche. A goal for humanity to set for itself. That human life would be given meaning by how it advances a new generation. [Nietche.1883]

  • Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero of a Thousand Faces. Pantheon Books, New York: USA.
  • Dictionary.com (2018) Metropolis. [Online] Dictionary.com, LLC. Available from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/metropolis [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • Kubista, B. (1912) Kiss of Death. [Oil on Canvas] Regional Art Gallery, Liberec.
  • Lofficier, R.J.M., Thomas, R. & McKeever, T. (1996) Superman’s Metropolis. DC Comics. Burbank: USA.
  • (1927) Film. Directed by Fritz Lang. [Blu-Ray] UFA: Germany.
  • Miller, M. & Johnson, D. (2003) Superman: Red Son. DC Comics, Burbank: USA.
  • Morrison, G. (2001) Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville can Teach Us about being Human. Spiegel & Grau, New York: USA.
  • Nietche, F. (1883) Thus Spoke Zarathustra. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, South Carolina: USA.
  • Pearson, R & Uricchio, W. (1991) The Many Lives of Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media. BFI Publishing, London: UK.
  • Poplik, B. (2008) Metropolis is New York by day; Gotham is New York by Night. [Online] March 29th. Barry Popik. Available from: https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/metropolis_is_new_york_by_day_gotham_city_is_new_york_by_night/ [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • Seigel, J. & Shuster, J. (1939) Action Comics #16: Superman and the Numbers Racket. DC Comics. Burbank: USA.
  • Stella, J. (1919 – 20) Brooklyn Bridge. [Oil on Canvas] Yale University Art Gallery, Yale.
  • (2018) Cubism. [Online] Tate.org. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/c/cubism [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • (2018) Futurism. [Online] Tate.org. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/futurism [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • Weldon, G. (2013) Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey:USA.
  • Von Harbou. T. (1925) Metropolis. Illustriertes Blatt, Dusseldorf: Germany.

The Iron Spider Costume – Comics and Infinity War

Superhero costumes are incredible. They say so much about the character through various details. Some are flashy and make solid statements, while others have the soul purpose of concealing identity. See Superman: Earth One for a good example of how a mask isn’t always necessary to conceal identity.

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When it comes to iconic characters, it’s interesting to see how over time creators will play with their iconography to create all new designs and costume. Spider-Man is no exception. Famously the black costume in particular made such a big impact that it even led to the equally infamous character, Venom. However, one costume that also left its mark, though in a smaller way, is the Iron Spider costume. Created by Tony Stark for Peter after his resurrection from a battle to the death with villain Morlun. The costume works like a fusion between Spider-Man’s classic design and Tony’s armour. Complete with a red and gold colour scheme and mechanical spider arms to help him manoeuvre. The costume appeared heavily during the time of Civil War, before Peter gave it up when he went on the run. The costume has its fans, particularly due to the mechanical legs, and its practical applications.

However. The costume shown off in the Infinity War trailers look far better!

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Thanks to toy releases before the film, especially the Funko Pop and Cosbaby lines. The suit shown off in the trailers is confirmed to be the MCU’s interpretation of the Iron Spider costume. What makes this version feel so much better, is purely down to the colour scheme. While the red and gold of the original makes sense due to it’s origin as Iron Man’s design. The blue with the gold accents of the Infinity War costume suites the character far more. It adds a lot more personality and makes the gold just pop. Rather than the overly gaudy look of the original suit.

While the film doesn’t open for another month. The look of this costume is already a point in the films favour. Hopefully, the MCU will take some of these older costume designs in the future and add to them in the same vain as this.

The Closer we get to Action Comics #1000, The More Nervous I feel

Like any Superman fan, I’m thrilled at the idea of celebrated not only his 80th birthday, but the landmark of a 1,000th issue. I feat not only impressive in the eyes of Superman fans, but an achievement for the comic book industry. Both my copy of the 1,000th issue and the Superman at 80 hardcover are happily pre-ordered. Now less than a month before the books release, I still carry many of the nerves I had at its announcement.

Action Comics #1000 will act as the start of a new era. A new creative lead and not to mention the much-celebrated return of the red trunks.

At the release of Action Comics #999 last week, Dan Jurgens has finished his latest run. And with only two issues left for Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason on the main series, the age of Bendis is dawning. And while he is a celebrated writer, one Marvel has sung the praises of for many years. DC has done little to inspire confidence in his upcoming take over. Instead relying on his name alone as a sign of quality. And while, yes, Bendis has certainly written some high-quality work in his time. His early Ultimate Spider-Man were a childhood favourite, House of M remains a sold event book even 13 years later, and his Guardians of the Galaxy run is heavily flawed but still enjoyable. But even die-hard fans of his work have admitted that his quality has been slipping in recent years. As well as his continues problems with pacing.

In the months since Bendis was announced to be the new writer, there has been ample opportunity for DC to show him off and provide more reassurance for fans that it is indeed a good fit, and not just a publicity stunt. Granted, Bendis’ recent hospital stay would have slowed him down. But the point still stands. Why should we care about Bendis taking the lead, when Tomasi, Gleason and Jurgens have been writing the character at the best he’s been in nearly a decade?

Bakuman Vol. 1 [Part 1]

When you search titles from Shonen Jump, you’ll find yourself confronted with mainly battle series. The likes of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto, My Hero Academia by Kohei Hirokoshi, or Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato. Beyond the obvious fighting series, you also have other forms of battle like food fighting in Yuto Tsukuda’s Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, battles of sport such as volley ball in Haruichi Furudate’s Haiku!! and American football with Riichiro Inagaki’s Eyeshield 21. From just an overview, it’s easy to classify stories published under the Shonen Jump title as battle series, of one kind or another.

In 2003, the team of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata brought the series Death Note to Weekly Shonen Jump. A series that ones again could be called a battle series, but one of minds and ideologies. The series became massively popular to the point that it spawned an animated series, a series of Japanese live action films, spin-off novels, and an American film adaptation on Netflix. The series was strong throughout, to the point that it’s highly regarded the world over, and while it was artificially stretched out with a longer second act just to keep making money. The series ending had one massive question from fans. What would these two creators go on to do next?

Enter 2008 and the release of Bakuman. The return of Ohba and Obata. After such a dark and strange series such as Death Note, Bakuman could be anything. It could be just as messed up, it could be just as polarising in terms of ethics.

Instead, Bakuman is the story of two 14-year-old boys as they try to find their place in the world, and get a series published in Weekly Shonen Jump, while the series itself ran in Weekly Shonen Jump. The series in an intriguing and meta look at the inner workings of not only the magazine, but the lives of those that work week after week in order to have their work published.

Chapter 1: Dreams and Reality

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The opening chapter introduces us to Moritaka Mashiro. A 14-year-old just entering the last year of compulsory education. Mashiro is a talented artist and strong-minded kid, but he knows what is expected of him, and resigns himself to an ordinary life.

“The normal path means getting into a good high school, a good college and a good company to work for. So I guess I’m just going to live a normal life. I don’t want to cause any problems for my parents. I don’t want to be called a shut-in. That’s why I go to school even though it’s so much easier to stay at home and sit in front of the computer or play video games. I don’t want to be called a freeloader in the future, so I’ll become a white-collar worker even though I don’t want to.”

Mashiro sits in his class, takes his notes, and quietly draws the girl he loves quietly. Since exams are going on, the class is allowed a half day to study. Upon getting home, he realises that he’s left his notebook in his desk and quietly walks back alone to get it. As he makes his way back to the classroom, he finds Akito Takagi sat at his desk. Akito Takagi, the smartest kid in school, and adored by all the teachers. Takagi reveals to Mashiro that he’s seen in his note book, he knows about the very detailed and well-drawn sketches of Mashiro’s crush, Azuki. Obata and Ohba even make a very casual nod to their previous series. When Takagi holds up the notebook, he notes the expression on Mashiro’s face and comments:

“Come on, don’t look so serious. It’s not like it’s a Death Note.”

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Mashiro, already resigned to just living an ordinary life, assumes that Takagi will tell him to back off on his crush. Takagi even follows up by making a comment about how she’s reserved but probably the cutest girl in school. However, he takes Mashiro by surprise by saying that she probably likes him too. Flustered, Mashiro asks how he knows that, and Takagi’s only real response is that he sits in the back of the classroom, so he watches everyone. Mashiro finally asks for his notebook back, but Takagi has one condition.

“I want you to team up with me to create manga.”

Mashiro is surprised that Takagi, a smart kid, destined for a bright future, is so dedicated to something like creating manga. Mashiro even breaks down to him how unlikely it is to succeed in that world. How much it takes from a person, and how the only ones that truly succeed are born geniuses. Comparing those foolish enough to try to gamblers. Mashiro’s thoughts on the industry at this point are very much the harsh reality. Ohba, the series writer, uses this opportunity as a chance to explain to the audience how he feels about it all. Using Mashiro as his mouthpiece for the moment, having him state:

“You’re a manga artist if you create one mega hit or several ones successful enough to live off of. Otherwise, you’re just a gambler. Even the author of Death Note wrote somewhere that he’d probably starve to death in five years if he didn’t keep working.”

Takagi, surprised by how well and much Mashiro knows asks why he has this opinion. And Mashiro reveals that his uncle used to be a manga artist for jump, drawing a small gag comic known as Superhero Legend. An artist that passed away largely unknown to the world but was still a big source of inspiration to Mashiro.

It’s speculated that the series author, Tsugumi Ohba, has been using a pen name for years, and is actually Hiroshi Gamo. An artist and writer who worked on a similarly styled Tottemo! Luckyman, and that the commentary in Bakuman about Mashiro’s uncle, is Ohba talking about his own previous career, and how hard that was for him. The theory comes from the pages between chapters that show Ohba’s doodles and notes to artist Takeshi Obata for each chapter, and the similarity between Mashiro’s uncle’s characters, and Gamo’s Luckyman.

Mashiro tries to leave, and Takagi asks what exactly does he want from life. Is he happy with just being an ordinary business man? If he going to ever use his natural artistic talent, or just waste it? Mashiro comments on Takagi’s persistence, and tells him that he’ll think about it.

Home, Mashiro sits trying to study for the upcoming exam, but just can’t get into the right mindset. He takes a break and starts playing a game, but Takagi’s words are echoing in his mind. He thinks back to the times as a kid where he would sit in his uncle’s studio, watching him work himself to the bone, and a story of why he does what he does. That he was in love with a girl from middle school and wanted to become rich and famous, so he could give her the life she deserved. That they exchanged letters back and forth since they went their separate ways, but by the time Mashiro’s uncle had gotten a series published, and it was about to become a TV show. They were both in their 30s and she had gotten married. He carried on what he was doing, getting published as much as he could, because the more he had his name published, the more she would be able to see his success. Something he wouldn’t be able to do as a regular salary man.

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Mashiro thinks about it all, still sat there, game system in hand. As his mother walks in and shouts at him for not studying. Asking if he even cares about his future. As she leaves, his frustration about everything is let out as he punches both his bed and the system. His phone begins to ring, as Takagi voice comes through, telling Mashiro that he’s going to Azuki’s house to confess. Mashiro is flustered, unsure of what he means, as Takagi asks him to come with. Reluctantly, Mashiro agrees and bikes to meet Takagi by Azuki’s house.

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As they ring the door bell, and the pair panic. Azuki’s mother answer’s through the speakers. Later bringing Azuki herself to the phone. Takagi asks if she could come to the door, and she agrees. Now face to face, upon seeing each other Azuki and Mashiro blush before looking away. Takagi announces to her that the pair are going to become manga creators, and they came here to tell her that. Takagi reveals that he knows Azuki’s dream is to become a voice actress. A flustered and panicked Mashiro is dragged into better view, and blurts out that Takagi will be writing, while he draws it. Azuki is greatly happy to hear this, and even comments that if the pair get published, and if that series is made into a tv show, then maybe she can voice one of the characters.

Mashiro’s memories of his uncle’s story blair through his head, and in a moment of passion, he shouts:

“So if that dream ever comes true, will you marry me?”

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Takagi and Azuki are shocked by his comment, and Mashiro suddenly realises what he had said. Azuki runs back into her house and closes the door. The pair are freaking out for a moment, before Azuki’s voice rings back through the speakers.

“Mashiro? Okay. I promise you.”

 

  • Death Note. (2006 – 2007) Directed by Tetsuro Araki. TV. [DVD] Studio Madhouse: JPN.
  • Death Note. (2006) Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Film. [DVD] Warner Bros. Pictures: JPN.
  • Death Note. (2017) Directed by Adam Wingard. Film. [DVD] Vertigo Entertainment: USA.
  • Death Note 2: The Last Name. (2006) Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Film. [DVD] Warner Bros. Pictures: JPN.
  • Furudate, H. (2012 – present) Haikyu!! Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Gamo, H. (1993 – 1997) Tottemo! Luckyman. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: JPN.
  • Horikoshi, K. (2014 – present) My Hero Academia. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Inagaki, R. (2002 – 2009) Eyeshield 21. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Isin, N. (2006) Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. Shueisha, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Kishimoto, M. (1999 – 2014) Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • L: Change The World. (2008) Directed by Hideo Nakata. Film. [DVD] Warner Bros. Pictures: JPN.
  • Ohba, T. & Obata, T. (2003 – 2006) Death Note. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Ohba, T. & Obata, T. (2008 – 2012) Bakuman, Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Toriyama, A. (1984 – 1995) Dragon Ball. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.
  • Tsukuda, Y. (2012 – present) Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma. Weekly Shonen Jump, Tokyo: Japan.

Clarissa by Jason Yungbluth

Independent comics are perhaps some of the most experimental you can find. With no publisher or financial backer to worry about, particularly in the age of the internet, an artist/writer can explore any themes or settings they wish without fear of loosing the ability to publish. The internet lets these creators express their ideas to the world openly and freely. This can range from slice of life type works where people chronicle their everyday worlds, to strange sci-fi and fantasy that’s simply too weird for a mainstream publisher to get in the first place. This freedom opens creators up to go as weird and nonsensical as they wish, or even to explore the darkest realms of humanity.

Enter Clarissa.

Created by Jason Yungbluth in 1999, Clarissa centres around a young girl and her almost anachronistic 50’s family. A seemingly perfect family, complete with 2.5 kids, a doting mother and head of the household father. Problem is, this is all just a cover up. Clarissa, the youngest of them all, is frequently the victim of sexual assault and rape at the hands of her father. The rest of the family is shown in fear of the father, and keeping up, above all else, the image of the perfect family.

The stories are mostly told from Clarissa’s point of view as we see the lengths she goes to at such a young age to avoid her pain, or even to get other people to understand what is going on in her life. Including her nursery school teacher or some of the kids around her. The series has this dark humour vibe running through it. Almost like it’s trying to make you awkwardly laugh while horror unfolds before you.

An example of this is the story Stuffed Friend. A five-page short story written and drawn in 2001.

The story begins with the mother calling Clarissa over saying that she’s brought her a brand new stuffed bunny. The mother’s appearance right before this exchanged shows her clearly drinking while she wears a coat and hat reminiscent of that of Jackie Kennedy the day J.F.K. was shot. The mother tells Clarissa not to lose THIS one. Implying that Clarissa’s toys have a habit of disappearing. Clarissa goes to bed, dragging the bunny behind her. At night, the bunny comes to life, jumping all around the room, trying to get Clarissa to play with him. Clarissa is unfazed throughout the entire event. The door begins to open, and the bunny comments that it will play possum till the coast is clear. The shadow of her father envelops the room and it’s implied that several hours pass. The father leaves, and Clarissa is shown with her clothes open, her frown now slightly shaken, and her hair out of place. The bunny comes back to life and comments “Holy Shit! That’s… Uh… That’s a little bit more than I signed on for”. The bunny jumps off the bed and towards the window, saying sorry to the young girl before jumping out of the window. The final shot shows a pile of stuffed animals all laying on the ground outside.

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This is not a one-off incident. This is routine in Clarissa’s life. A later comic Bath Time Fun! shows Clarissa’s painful and self-deprecating bath routine as she tells herself about how Daddy never keeps his promises to stop doing the yucky things he does. How she locks the door and doesn’t open it no matter how much money Daddy slips under the door.

The stories of Clarissa are fictional and short. But these stories can be all two true for many people around the world. Which Clarissa is written and drawn as somewhat of a dark comedy, it can indeed be a daily horror in reality.

The full selection of Clarissa comics, as well as Jason Yungbluth’s other work is available on his website here: http://www.whatisdeepfried.com/2000/12/31/clarissa/

Trying Something New – Doctor Strange: The Way of the Weird

In an effort to try something new, I searched through my books to find something I haven’t read before but have been curious of for a while. Today, that is Doctor Strange.

I’ve certainly come across him in other books, most noticeably Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. Not to mention the Benedict Cumberbatch film for the MCU. But even with that familiarity, I was yet to dive into the Doctor Strange comics until now.

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Doctor Strange: The Way of the Weird is the first volume of Jason Aaron’s run and part of the second Marvel Now relaunch. Jason Aaron is also the writer of Marvel’s Star Wars series. Given my familiarity with the writer, and that the relaunches are intended to hook in new readers, this seemed like a decent starting point. I’ve heard before that a good starting place for Doctor Strange is The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan but given that the point of the ‘Trying Something New’ exercise is to read books I’ve collected but not read, my choices are limited.

As a relaunch, the first issue works incredibly well! The book opens with an explanation page, as told by Stephen himself. The explanation page, while not completely accurate, even resembles older comics to add weight to how long Stephen has been doing this. How battle worn and experienced he is. This jumps to seeing Stephen in action. Fighting interdimensional beings that have managed to infect the soul and body of a young boy. All the while, we are hearing Stephen describe and talk about how he feels about all this, and how activity seems to be increasing of late. This is a great way to hook in a new reader, as we are learning not only about Stephen, but his line of work, how he feels about it, how weird it all seems even to him. It’s refreshing. Especially mixed with such vibrant and intricate artwork.

“Just that one glimpse is all it takes to drive the average person to the brink of madness. If they only knew. If they could only see the world the way that I do. The human body is a breeding ground for microscopic monsters. Whether you know it or not, your flesh has been colonized by millions of bacteria. Right now there are mites living on your face and eating your dead skin. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Though you may regret you did. Your Soul attracts parasites as well. On a mystical level, instead of a microscopic one. Interdimensional Bacteria. They may look like monsters, but like those aforementioned face-mites, they’re relatively harmless. Some are even helpful. Some are spiritual burdens that are none of my business.”

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Through the first issue, we are introduced to not only Stephen, but other members of the Marvel Magical universe, such as Doctor Voodoo and the Scarlet Witch. We get some nice foreshadowing that will pay off later, and even begin to explore the Sanctum Sanctorum through the eyes of a none believer.

The Way of the Weird trade contains the first 5 issues, and while it works as a great introduction, it’s also a tremendous hook for a seemingly massive story arc. Though the first two issues, both in story and especially in the last pages. Were shown moments where magic is failing, or that Sorcerers from other dimensions are being hunted down and killed. That these things are starting to infect not just Stephen but this world. It’s built up slowly and alongside Stephen’s character in the eyes of new readers. Meaning that after we have spent some time in Stephen’s world and seeing how he works, we care about the magic dying. We can see the consequences of such a thing.

At key moments in the story, we are treated to lesson’s Stephen has learnt along the way. Most noticeably the price he pays for using magic. That he can no longer eat normal food, his body is host to its own magical parasites. That he may spend days ill because of over use. It’s phrased in a memory he experiences with the Ancient One. That when he was ordered to use his broken hands to punch the Ancient One, the punch hurts him just as much. That there is always a price for using force. It’s the same with magic. This ties in rather well to the final story threads of issue 5. That magic is disappearing, and it’s time to pay the price.

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As a first Doctor Strange book, this works great. It introduces the world and character. Gives you an understanding of how magic works and its cost. As well as making you want to explore more and keep reading. The second volume is now high on my list of things to read. A wonderful and gripping introduction to the world of Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme!