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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Jor-El’s Golden Folly – Superman #233 (1971)

Superman 233-00Superman #233: The Fabulous World of Krypton – Jor-El’s Golden Folly.
January 1971
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
Artist: Murphy Anderson

A back up story in Superman #233, the beginning of the infamous Kryptonite Nevermore. Jor-El’s Golden Folly is the first of the ‘Fabulous World of Krypton’ mini stories. Meant to build up and explore the world that Clark will never know and his own people. This first story follows Superman’s father, Jor-El, as well as showing his work and meeting Clark’s mother, Lara.

Jor-El and his friend Kim-Da find themselves with brand new assignments and are now separated. Splitting up the good friends and having to go their separate ways. With Jor-El being sent to the ‘Kryptonopolis Space Complex’ and Kim being sent to the ‘Kandor Observatory’. For the reader, we know that Kandor is the city that will eventually be shrunken down and stolen by the villain Brainiac. A city, and villain, that makes its first appearance in Action Comics #242. The final fate of Jor-El is obvious to us, as it’s a defining catalyst for Superman being sent to Earth in the first place. However, the fact that Kim-Da is sent to Kandor begs the question of weather or not he survived, only to be trapped within the bottled city. It’s a minor thought, especially with how little the character appears, but interesting none the less.

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As he arrives at the Space Complex, Jor-El is shown around by a man named Ken-Dal. The idea is explained to him that a major goal right now is to break free of Krypton’s gravity and reach the stars, the problem is that the science council has cut their budget. While showing him around, Jor-El sees Lara Lor-Van, his future wife and the mother of Superman, as one of the ‘test fliers’. He comments on her beauty within seconds of seeing her. Time passes, and Jor-El is experimenting with Anti-Gravity. Eventually developing an ‘Anti-Grav Belt’ and testing it by attaching it to a white dog and controlling where he floats with a remote control. Later, he demonstrates it on himself in front of both Ken-Dal and General Zod, another little Easter Egg for readers. They are both greatly impressed and allow him to continue with the next phase of his plan.

Jor-El’s next thought is to use his Anti-Gravity technology to help fly and stabilise a rocket ship. Due to its abundance on Krypton, he makes the decision to use gold in it’s construction. The idea that gold is such a common material on Krypton helps to re-emphasis the fact that this is not Earth. That we are watching a different civilisation entirely. However, due to the weight of gold. Those around Jor-El mock him for thinking that this gaudy, hunk of metal would ever fly. Nicknaming it “Jor-El’s Golden Folly”. The only person who does seem to believe in him is Lara, how offers to fly the ship due to her excitement at reaching the stars. Jor-El tells her that because they don’t even know if it will fly, so for this maiden voyage they will use the same remote-control system he had used before.

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When the big day comes, the ship finally flies. Taking off through the crimson skies. As they celebrate, a message comes through over the communicator. Lara is onboard the ship, seemingly forgetting the time and not getting off. How very Lois Lane of here. The ship eventually lands on a nearby planet, Wegthor, and since communication is lost it is assumed that the experiment failed and had crashed landed. As the higher ups walk away, laughing at Jor-El’s failure. Jor-El is informed that a cargo ship is leaving for Wegthor in a few days. Using the technology Jor-El had invented and an oxygen mask, Jor-El sneaks aboard the cargo ship hoping that Lara is still alive. When they finally land, Jor-El sneaks away and traverses this strange planet before final discovering the ‘Valley of Gloom’. At the centre, Lara. He ruses to find her and in a final panel they embrace. Ending with Jor-el saying; “My discovery may have been a failure, Lara… But it did have one success. Bringing us together!”

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  • Binder, O & Plastino, A. (1958) Action Comics #242: The Super-Duel in Space. DC Comics, New York: USA.
  • Bridwell, E. & Anderson, M. (1971) Superman #233: Jor-El’s Golden Folly. DC Comics: New York: USA.

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?

Time and Deconstruction

Deconstruction in media is something I find intensely fascinating. And while this video by Under the Scope is a great exploration of deconstruction in anime, particularly in the ‘magical girl’ (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and ‘giant mech’ (Neon Genesis Evangelion) genres (though it was strange to hear someone refer to the show School Days as a deconstruction of the ‘harem’ genre). What I find puzzling about the evidence he uses, is possibly my own experience with discussing deconstruction. Particularly, calling Neon Genesis Evangelion a deconstruction of the ‘mech’ genre.

A few months ago, I wrote an article discussing how the deconstruction aspect of a piece of work is waisted, when that piece of work is recommended or introduced above and before the thing being deconstructed. A deconstruction without reference. The two examples I used were Watchmen, which is often praised as one of the greatest comics ever written (personally, I think it’s just ok, but I didn’t read it at the time of creation), and often on the top of ‘comic you should read for beginners list. And I paired that with Neon Genesis Evangelion for an example in another medium that is also highly praised, and first to be recommended to newbies.

The two most common responses I got to the piece had nothing to do with the content, but argued that Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t a deconstruction, and no one reads Watchmen first. And that I’m an idiot for thinking so. I did a little research into the profiles of the people who commented, and concluded that a lot of them were either relatively new to anime, had read Watchmen recently, or were jumping on the band wagon of the first few commentator’s due to other posts they had made being contradictory to what they had later said.

This makes me wonder something else about the nature of deconstruction. With both works being creations of (arguably) a different generation. The mid 80s for Watchmen, and mid 90s for Evangelion. Has the passage of time, and the effect these works had, changed how we view the media enough for them to no longer be considered deconstructions?

In the case of anime, Evangelion’s release spear headed a dramatic shift in the medium. Particularly in the production of original television properties. This change also allowed writers such as Chiaki J. Konaka to bring works such as Serial Experiments Lain to the screen. The Youtuber Digibro describes this shift well in his video How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. Concluding Evangelion’s full effect kicking in, with the series Now and Then, Here and There. Taking on the familiar trope of a young boy being transported to a magical new world. Something usually seen in a show aimed at young children. Only to be met with a dark dystopia, full of twisted characters, and plot devices including murder and rape.

In the realm of comics, Watchmen was part of a one-two punch, along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Eventually culminating in advertisements for comics presenting them as “Grime, Gritty, Grown up”. These kinds of stories lead to darker storytelling, particularly in the worlds of superhero comics. A genre created for a primary audience of children, and grew in the wake of the second world war, as a means of hopeful escapism. This darker tone has continued to reverberate through modern comics, particularly in DC. With the ‘Rebirth’ relaunch acting as a course correction, and the storyline ‘The Button’, and the current ‘Doomsday Clock’ actively blaming the darker tone on the Watchmen characters. Particularly Dr Manhattan.

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But this all leads back to my initial question. Is something still a deconstruction, if the deconstruction has become part of the norm?


  • Digibro (2017) How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. [Online] YouTube. August 3rd. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ3F_hhzJ3o [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Johns, G. & Frank, G. (2017 – 2018) Doomsday Clock. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moore, A. & Gibbons, D. (1986 – 1987) DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996) TV. Directed by Hideaki Anno. [DVD] Studio Gainax: Japan.
  • Now and Then, Here and There. (1999 – 2000) TV. Directed by Akitaro Daichi. Studio AIC: Japan.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) TV. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. [DVD] Studio Shaft: Japan.
  • School Days (2007) TV. Directed by Keitaro Motonaga. [DVD] Studio TNK: Japan.
  • Serial Experiments Lain (1998) TV. Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura. Studio Triangle Staff & Studio Pioneer LDC: Japan.
  • Under The Scope (2016) What Actually is A Deconstruction? [Online] YouTube. July 5th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBuo4vi_A0s [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Williamson, J., King, T., Fabok, J. & Porter, H. (2017) The Button. DC Comics: Burbank.

 

 

 

Superman: Speeding Bullets (1993)

Time for a trip to the Elseworld titles! A series of stories set in the DC universe but out of continuity. A chance for writers to flex their creative muscles and ask ‘what if’ questions. Superman: Speeding Bullets was released in 1993 and written by J.M. Dematteis with art by Eduardo Barreto. The ‘what if’ in this case is a little bit strange but very fascinating. What if Superman was Batman?

The cover is just fantastic. Using the iconic image of Superman flying over the city that appeared on Superman #01 in 1939. Instead of a yellow background, the cover reflects Gotham’s aesthetics with a gradient of black to grey. Superman strikes the same pose within the oval, but his costume is replaced with a modified Bat suit. Noticeable, his face is covered with a full mask, similar to that of Spider-Man, rather than a cowl. The emblem on the chest is a perfect fusion of Superman’s shield and Batman’s yellow oval design with the overall shape being that of the shield, and the bat stretching out inside. The style, particularly in the cape, feels inspired by the work of Norm Breyfogle or Todd McFarlane. For this darker take and Superman’s Alien status, the style of cape works perfectly, as it gives it the feel of having a mind of its own. Even the books title box corrupts the original image. Taking the smooth curves at the edges and giving them a jagged horn like appearance.

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Throughout the book we have narration, asking what it would be like if things turned out differently. We see a rocked escaping a planet as it explodes, a green glow all around. The rocket travels through space and crash lands just outside of Gotham City, where it is discovered by Thomas and Martha Wayne along with their butler Alfred. Inside is a young boy, Kal-El of the planet Krypton. Through pages styled to look like a photo album, we see the young boy grow as Martha and Thomas decide to adopt him, naming him Bruce Wayne. Martha dotes on the child, stating to love him as though she had given birth do him. Thomas was intrigued by the boy’s ability to quickly take to his lessons. How the boy was so agile, never a bruise or broken bone. Thomas was compassionate and kind, concerned with testing his mental and physical limits. He imparts to Bruce:

“The cowards and bullies use violence. But you – of all who live – must aspire to something better. Something higher.”

They were a family. Happy, without worry, and with a bright future ahead.

However, the point of the book is ‘What if Superman was Batman’. And one constant in the mythology of Batman is the death of the Wayne’s. Leaving the Monarch Theatre, Bruce shouts about how he want’s to be Zorro. “Defender of the weak. Righter of Wrongs”! Martha jokingly mentions that last week he wanted to be John Carter, and before that Sherlock Holmes. As they round the corner, they are confronted by a mugger demanding their money and Martha’s pearls. During the struggle, both Martha and Thomas are shot and die in front of Bruce as he cries on the floor. The mugger turns to Bruce gun pointed, and as Bruce looks up to him, full of rage, Bruce’s powers activate, and he blasts the mugger with his heat vision. The mugger runs in fear, his face burnt and Bruce struggles to control what’s happening to him.

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The mugger is revealed to have been found the next morning, his body burned almost beyond recognition. But is identified as Joe Chill. Because of course. Young Bruce is found by the police, eyes wide, covered in his parent’s blood. After the funeral, Bruce is left in the care of his butler Alfred. Over time he grows and matures, but the guilt and shame still run deep through him, always at the forefront of his mind. At the age of 21, Bruce is bitter to the world, looking through the paper he sees nothing but blood and madness. Nothing but violence and death. As he tosses the paper aside, we see an article informing us that Lex Luther is coming to Gotham City. Because so far there has been far more Batman than Superman in this Superman story, apparently. Bruce unlocks a door to reveal hundreds of newspaper clippings tacked to walls, all relating to acts of senseless murder in his city. As he looks around, he begins to enter a panic attack, thinking about his parents and wanting it all to stop. He runs through the mansion before he realises that people have broken in and holding Alfred hostage. Pointing a gun at Bruce’s face. In a fit of rage, Bruce knocks them all side, even throwing one out the window. As one fires bullets right at him, they simply bounce off. Bruce crushes the gun in the criminal’s hand as his heat vision activates, terrifying the criminal. Alfred watches on, as Bruce breaks down remembering what he did to the man who killed his parents.

In a cave beneath Wayne Manor, Alfred and Bruce look through Thomas Wayne’s journals. As Bruce looks around, testing his super vision, He asks Alfred if he can see his ‘brothers’, referring to the bats in the cave. Testing his flight, Bruce flies among them.

“There’s so much I can do… That I’ve never let myself know I can do.”

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Cut to another location in the city, a man behind a desk telling his men just how disappointed he is in them. Based on his purple and green outfit, brief flashes and pale skin, as well as the maniacal laugh, it’s clear who he is supposed to be. Condiment King. Obviously. He’s chewing them out over their inability to break into a mansion even with the equipment they were given. One of the men starts ranting about how Wayne is crazy, that he put Charly through a window. In retaliation, they are both strangled on the spot, as the figure laughs to himself.

Two months later, the GCPD are after a man on the roof, Mick Johnson. He’s firing at them from up above when a shadowy figure descends upon him. The Batman has arrived! In a flurry of panic, Johnson fires several rounds at Batman only for them to rebound off. In a final moment of panic, Johnson throws a grenade straight at him, only for Batman to catch it and let it explode in his hands. Batman throws Johnson over the edge, letting him fall, before swooping down to grab him and throwing him into the arms of the GCPD.

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The next day, the media is having a field day over the appearance of a cloaked flying figure in the night. Luthor is looking over the paper during a meeting as he is attempting to take over Wayne Enterprises. Just as he’s about to sign the papers, Bruce walks into the meeting telling him that it’s not going to happen. Luthor doesn’t know who he is at first, meaning that Bruce is not very well known publicly, or doesn’t have much involvement with the company. Which leads me to wonder what exactly he has been doing over the years. Bruce puts an end to the deal, saying that he plans to be much more active in the company’s management and dismissing many of the people in the room. As Bruce leaves, it’s clear that Luthor is far from pleased.

Bruce stops off at the Gotham Gazette, the cities local paper and one he now owns, and meets the editor-in-chief Perry White, as well as running into the Gazette’s newest recruit, Lois Lane. Just arrived from the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Around Lois, Bruce becomes a bit a buffoon. Stumbling over his words and knocking into desks. It’s heavily reminiscent of a phrase from Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek. “If I sound smitten, don’t read too much into it – it’s because I am.”

At this point, it becomes clear that the narrator is Lois. Talking about how she expected Gotham’s famous recluse to be a lot of things, but not a shy, stuttering klutz, referring to him as charming, adorable, and disappointing all at the same time. Walking through the streets, Luthor’s car pulls up along side Lois, offering her a ride home. Lois accepts but Batman is watching from the rooftops. In the car, Lois and Luthor talk about how much things have changed, Luthor alludes to an accident that has changed him as he tries to slip his hand up Lois’s thigh. Lois slaps him across the face and is thrown out of his car. Fifty blocks from her apartment, Lois finds herself on the street with a group of men cat calling to her. They attempt to attack her just as Batman swoops in to save her. After knocking out the guys, he reaches out a hand to Lois asking if he can help. After the events of the night, Lois slaps his hand away and asks him to get away. Batman flies away just as the police arrive to help.

Back at the Gazette, late at night, Lois is typing up an article based on the man who saved her and the state of violence in the city. Bruce finds her there, and Lois instantly questions his appearance. Bruce says that he’s just getting some work done while it’s quiet and asks her what’s wrong. Lois tells him everything about her night, and describes Batman, saying that he has an “utter disregard for human life!” That he could do so much more for the world with those powers. She compares Batman to Bruce, his idealism and dedication, using his wealth to help others. The pair embrace and kiss in the middle of the office. Interestingly, this is a nice little twist on Lois preferring the meta-human to the bumbling co-worker. But even with the change of name and identity, Kal-El and Lois still feel like they are made for one another.

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A few weeks later, a man furiously enters the offices of the Gotham Gazette and demands to see Mr. Wayne. As he crashes his way through, we see his purple and green suit and as he bursts into Bruce’s office, we see that the man is Lex Luther. Removing his hat and prosthetic skin to reveal a bleached white face and thick red lipstick. A jokerised Lex Luthor! Who saw that coming… Bruce jumps up to confront him, only to be blasted back by an umbrellas gun. As Bruce falls out of the window behind him, Joker/Luthor kidnaps Lois and escapes into the night with a small flying machine strapped to his back. As they land on the top of a tall building, complete with devil horned gargoyles. Batman flies in and grabs Joker/Luthor. Flying him high into the sky as narration talks about how Luthor wants to use chaos and violence to take over the city. As Batman announces to Joker/Luthor that he sees him as an “Insufferable Maggot”, that he is going to kill him. Joker/Luthor begins to laugh telling him that he’s just as mad as he is, wouldn’t he agree. As Batman screams “YES!” he throws Luthor to the ground from high above the city, as Lois watches on with the saddest of expressions on her face. Batman looks down at Lois, seeing her face and flies back down and catches Luthor, telling him that he’s going to jail in order to save the city. Batman takes on the hordes of tanks and men working for Joker/Luthor that have been trying to tear apart the city during this whole ordeal. When he’s finished he flies back over to Lois making sure she’s ok.

Lois: “What you did tonight… it was different. Not hate… not vindictiveness… not wasting your gifts on terror and brutality. With your power – There’s so much more you can do. Instead of flexing your muscles… stooping to the level of the very people you’re trying to stop – you can rise above all that. Stand as an example. A symbol of hope.”

Lois reveals that she knows Batman is Bruce Wayne and the pair embrace once again and fly off into the night.

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As the story comes to a close, Lois continues talking about how all of this could have come out so differently. How different the man she loves could have been if he had landed somewhere else. Even making reference to Superman: Red Son as well as the main continuity. As the words play out we see a brighter figure fly over the city of Gotham, and the final page reveals a bright new costume for Bruce, and the new name of SUPERMAN!

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In the end, the story is mainly about nature verses nurture. Not just for Superman but Batman as well. Superman is often called the most human of us all, despite his alien origins. This is largely contributed to his upbringing among salt of the earth people on a farm in Kansas. Batman is often the first to bring it up and often talks about what he would do if he had that kind of power. The book works as a good character study on these ideas. While certainly not the first story to do this for either Batman or Superman (and definitely not the last). Superman: Speeding Bullets is a fine addition to the Elseworld library.