A comic book mystery to rival all others! A senses shattering surprise that not only changes the DC Universe as we know it today, but one that will have echoes and reverberations for decades to come! It’s a long-play reveal that no one could possibly see coming!
Well, maybe a few did. And it’s not like we haven’t all read over-the-top superlatives about comic book crossover event series’ before.
But the DC Universe Rebirth initiative from the spring of 2016 that saw the reboot/relaunch of their classic characters and publications has seen a swell in the comic book company’s sales figures. Their monthly offerings have delighted both critics and fans and has got all the industry buzzing about what happens next in the story.
Rebirth has been a success.
At the heart of that story, someone named Mr. Oz, you see, has been pulling the strings of heroes, villains and possibly reality itself, from behind the scenes.
Today, in Action Comics #987, Mr. Oz, finally, gets revealed! No spoilers below, but make the jump to the how’s and why’s of it all!
This time on Heroes and Villains, we’ll be looking at a variety of comics out this week and last, from a variety of genres and companies. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Mage: The Hero Denied #1, Boy in a Well and its accompanying album by The Yawpers, Back Issue #97, Action Comics #985, Grimm Fairy Tales: Tarot #1, Grimm Tales of Terror #8, Captain America #25, Secret Empire #8, Spy Seal #1, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…
Justice League is undoubtedly the flagship comic book title for DC Comics.
Sure, there’s the big guns of the monthly Batman and Action Comics – and, I suppose, the publishing company’s namesake title, Detective Comics, but in the post New 52 world (two years on and still ticking away), Justice League is where all the company-spanning, world-shattering storylines originate from.
The long awaited “Trinity War” tale just wrapped up last month, which directly lead into the current Forever Evil storyline, mini-series, and September’s plethora of under-allocated 3-D covers. Did you get yours, by the way?
Still, amongst all the large headlines and senses-shattering cover page verbiage, simply running as a back-up feature in the pages of the monthly Justice League, it was the story of Shazam! that was the real draw for the flagship title.
Happy 75th birthday, Superman! You don’t look a day over…well, how old is Henry Cavill, anyway?
That’s right. We’ll use Henry as our benchmark as he’s the most recent actor to portray the world’s most recognizable superhero in the sure-to-be-a-blockbuster film, Man of Steel, opening in wide release this coming Friday. That means, as of today, only three more sleeps to go. And just so you know, Henry is thirty. So says Wikipedia.
With every new mass media incarnation of Superman, be it film or television, one can’t help but reflect on what’s come before – both in terms of visuals and in their corresponding auditory illuminations. Opening scenes of films and opening themes of music for those same films, I think, not only showcase the times in which those pieces of art were produced, but they’re also representational of what you’re likely to experience over the coming two hours of cinema viewing.
Walk with me, then, through the first few moments of the characters broadcast origin and through two previous Superman films – comparing the differences and similarities of works of cinematic art separated by over five decades of human history. We’ll take a short respite in the realm of television, and then continue on our journey, making our way to the opening scene and musical theme of the brand new Man of Steel film.
Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
I fondly recall collecting Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men and following Byrne over to his classic Fantastic Four run. His short run on the Incredible Hulk was abruptly brought to an end and was one of the precipitating events that led Byrne to leaving Marvel Comics. Marvel’s lost was of course DC Comics’ gain as Byrne took on DC flagship character, Superman.
In the early 1980s, Superman and Action Comics were in a bit of a tailspin and was suffering a bit of creative burnout as they retreated a lot of the 1960s and 1970s. Byrne was just what just what Superman needed. Read the rest of this entry
75 years ago Action Comics #1 hit the newsstands, which means that today, for all intents and purposes, is Superman’s (née Kal-El of the planet Krypton) birthday. Happy birthday, good sir! As a Canadian, I also cannot help feel a bit of pride about this auspicious day – while created in the United States, one half of the team that dreamed up this mythic icon, Joe Shuster, was a Canadian. Yes, Jerry Siegel was American, but we Canadians take what we can get. (Perhaps we should look at Superman’s creation as an iconic representation of the partnership between our great nations, but even I have to admit that’s stretching the envelope pretty thin)
Anyhow, our esteemed editor, Andy Burns, asked me to say a few things about the Boy in Blue today, given it’s his birthday, and I said “Yes, for sure”, despite not being a huge fan of the series, the hero, or the DC Universe as a whole (not to say I don’t like these things – I’m just more of a Marvel boy). Why? Because Superman was my first introduction into the world of comics, just like he is for so many other fans, or one-time fans, of superhero comics. Superman is the superhero, after all; there was never anyone like him before, and there’s never been anyone like him since (all other attempts have been, at best, pale imitations – even Captain Marvel, who is the magical manifestation of the science-based Superman, never achieved the canonical status of Superman). The American dream made manifest, and a god amongst men, Superman is the dream to which we all aspire, even if we don’t really want to admit it.
Back in about 1980 (could have been as early as 1979 or as late as 1981), my father gave me two oversized comic books: Superman and Captain Marvel. Both contained origin stories and adventures involving the two caped heroes. Yes, I enjoyed the Captain Marvel stories (S-H-A-Z-A-M!), but it was the huge, almost-as-tall-as-me, Superman book that I kept returning to. In rich blues, reds, and yellows, Superman pummelled the bejeezus out of whatever Lex Luthor threw at him, and I loved every second of it; that well-worn, pages-falling-out, tome turned me into a comics fan for life. I was fascinated with his origin story (he’s from OUTER SPACE – what kid doesn’t like aliens and dinosaurs?), and his humble upbringing on a lonely Kansas farm before heading to the Big App…Metropolis as the über-nerd Clark Kent (no one in their right mind, even children, could understand how a suit and pair of glasses hid him from prying eyes, by the way, but it made for good fun) were terrific bookends to the madness and mayhem of Superman knocking Luthor-powered robots with his bare fists.
It was a glorious book, and a glorious introduction to the world of comics, and for that I thank you Messrs Siegel and Shuster, my dad, and above all, Superman.
What? What? What? They did what now?
I know this is DC’s New 52, and that the New 52 means change, but this is just…ludicrous! Look, I’m all for new stories shedding new light on old characters, but there are certain things that are sacrosanct.
When we’re talking about comic book superheroes, those things, ultimately, are: character name, general physical appearance, general costume motifs, and, of course, a love interest. When we’re talking about the most globally iconic superhero of all, well, Superman needs his Lois Lane – and Lois Lane needs her Superman! They define each other!
So what’s all this nonsense about discarding everyone’s favourite black-haired, intrepid Daily Planet reporter and reimagining Supes’ singular love interest as…the Amazonian Princess herself, Wonder Woman? Huh?
Reboots and Recollections Part 3: JP Concludes His Top 10 Comics in DC’s September Line-Wide Comic Book Re-launch
Off the top of my head, I’m having trouble remembering what the very first first issue comic I bought was.
Of course, I was there for the first issues of Watchmen, Sandman and Hellblazer. I had seen ads of those comics in an industry leaflet and thought that their respective stories sounded interesting – that they were right up my ever-growing imaginative alley.
And they were.
Every weekend this summer, we’ll be bringing you a new installment of a 12-part series of reviews of meaningful comics found in the collections of our writers. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
These reviews, then, are the tales of those collections: illuminating characters, artists, writers – even eras – in addition to the personalities of the very owners of those fine collections.
Action Comics Weekly # 601
Think back to when you were young.
Remember when the Saturday edition of the newspaper used to arrive early in the morning and you’d quickly scan through it, tossing aside the business and political insight sections and excitedly pulling out the comics insert?
My parents subscribed to the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star and that was the first thing I did each morning before running to the television to watch my cartoons: flipping pages and reading my favourite comics, getting my finger tips covered with black ink, while eating my breakfast bowl of Cheerios or Fruit Loops or Shreddies. My favourites were The Far Side, Herman, Calvin and Hobbes, as well as the ongoing adventure stories of Spider-Man, which was only published in colour on Saturday.
I remember that extreme sense of Saturday-morning childhood anticipation like it was yesterday. The newspaper comics don’t hold my attention any more, but the continuing, serialized form of comic book storytelling, does. The style is a throwback to those black and white pulp films or radio shows of my father’s generation, where every episode of The Shadow or Doc Savage was a cliffhanger and audiences had to tune in the following week to find out what happened to their favourite heroes.
Over the last few years, DC Comics has aggressively returned to the weekly serialized format. They’ve published the critically acclaimed 52 series, a title that ran every week over the course of an entire year, showcasing a set of B-list characters, each finding their own voice and, more importantly, their own audience over that span of time. Directly following 52 was Countdown, also a weekly, year-long series. DC proved that there were comic collectors interested in the format so long as solid storytelling and consistently good art could be maintained over the frantic pace of a weekly series.
Before 52 or Countdown found acclaim, however, DC toyed with the format in their flagship title, Action Comics.
After a company-wide crossover story that reinvigorated the heroes of the DC Universe, including Superman, DC renamed their flagship to Action Comics Weekly with issue #601, published in 1988 which ran double-sized at 48 pages. The series would still boast a Superman story but would also contain tales featuring a host of lesser known or struggling characters in an effort to drum up public interest. Each character would have a limited run, replaced with other heroes once their story ran its course. The first issue contained the characters of Blackhawk, Deadman, Wild Dog, The Secret Six and even Green Lantern, whose series had just been cancelled, all featured in 8-page long segments.
There was something here for every comic fan.
Green Lantern, written by comic book hall-of-famer James Owsley and drawn by the legendary Gil Kane, picked up right where the character’s series had ended, only now, in the first chapter of the serial, the exploits of DC’s favourite science fiction space-cop was narrated by his ex-lover, now turned adversary, Carol Ferris, the Star Sapphire. The story traveled from deep space to planet Earth, the first chapter ending with the mutilation and murder of ex-Green Lantern Corps member, Katma, who also happened to be Green Lantern John Stewart’s wife, at the hands of the evil narrator. Quite the cliff-hanger.
Wild Dog, created and written by mystery novelist Max Collins and artist Terry Beatty, made his first appearance in a four-issue mini-series a few years earlier. His emergence in Action Comics Weekly was a way to drum up interest in the hopes of publishing another mini or even an ongoing series. Part of the appeal of the character during his first outing was the mystery surrounding who Wild Dog actually was, which was eventually revealed in the final issue. Unfortunately, that mysterious lure was gone and Wild Dog simply became a man with a gun out to take on and kill criminals with constant special effect gunplay sounds of “Budda! Budda!! Budda!!!” Not very interesting, the character faded into obscurity.
The Secret Six series within Action Comics Weekly reformed the team originally created in 1968. Veteran writer Martin Pasko and realist artist Dan Spiegel reinvigorated the team for the late 20th century, imbibing the six “agents” with specialized talents in combat, intelligence and espionage. The lure of the series was once again the mysterious Mockingbird, a hooded figure that guided the team from mission to mission. The Secret Six would have two distinct storylines in the anthology and last year, DC Comics revived the title, giving them their own monthly series which has been praised by critics and fans alike.
Deadman, always a character on the outskirts of the DC Universe, found a regular feature home in the weekly anthology. Written by Mike Baron and drawn by long standing DC Comics illustrator Dan Jurgens, the ghost who could posses the bodies of other people took up where his 1986 mini series left off. Fans clamored for more and eventually Baron would write a number of prestige-format mini series featuring the titular character, all drawn to disturbing, decomposing effect by Kelley Jones. Fans loved the new look.
Blackhawk told the period tale of the post World War II fighting pilot ace, once again under the pen of Martin Pasko and joined by the artistic design work of Rick Burchett. Blackhawk gave the Action Comics Weekly title an entirely different feel: globe-trotting high adventure in the late 1940’s, ensuring the parent series contained stories of a different nature, look and feel. Blackhawk would successfully inherit his own monthly series.
Other characters would join the line-up as storylines concluded. Black Canary would find a home in Action Comics Weekly as would the Phantom Stranger, Captain Marvel, Catwoman and Speedy. Only a fleeting few titles were successful, however, and the flagship would return to Superman-centric stories under its old title of Action Comics within a year. Still, it proved to be an interesting way for DC Comics to “try out” new characters and gauge audience reaction.
This July 1st, DC will make another attempt at a weekly installment series featuring different characters. Wednesday Comics will be stylized like those Saturday morning newspaper pull-out section comics of our childhood and feature, over twelve issues, the legendary characters of Superman, Green Lantern and Hawkman. Once again, the stories of these heroes are mixed with “b” and “c” listers such as Kamandi and Metamorpho.
It’ll be exciting to pull the newspaper-sized Wednesday Comics off of the shelf and flip though the pages of favourite and emerging heroes. It’ll be just like when I was a kid.
Instead of Saturday, I’ll just have to save my Cheerios for Wednesday mornings now.