Tag Archives: Grant Morrison

Action Comics vol 1: Superman and the Men of Steel

Action Comics vol 1:  Superman and the Men of Steel

A great homage to the original Action #1 without just doing the same old thing!

2012

DC Comics

256 pages $25

This was arguably the big dog in the New 52 relaunch.  One of the longest running American comic book titles was being renumbered to 1 and Superman was being rebooted.  Everything that had come before was now gone.  Sort of.  All of the familiar faces are still there, just not quite how we remember them.  Grant Morrison was the clear choice to re imagine this icon of comics.  Bringing Rags Morales along for most of the ride was an inspired choice.

This book reads very well as one volume, unlike many comics written for the collection though, this one suffers from very few of the problems that many other books do.  The book feels like Morrison in that, whether it is present or not, the hand of DC editorial seems light enough to not be there at all.  The book chose a direction and rarely strays from it.  Morrison’s new take on the character is a strong one, rooted in his personal view of what Superman used to represent.  Here is a Superman that is firmly anti-establishment.  This is the Siegel and Shuster Superman, really.  There was a time that he was not the big blue Boy Scout.  A time before the super villain Dr. Wertham and the evil rays of the comics code.  Before the changes made in the 1940’s even, Superman was an agent of change and justice.  In this day and age, I imagine there are people that would call him a Socialist. Ultimately he is Superman, pure and honest, with a fair bit of justifiable anger toward most authority figures.  He is not as powerful as before, but it is made clear that he is getting stronger every day.  The T-shirt design is replaced by the new costume, (bummer, I kind of liked that) and much of the origin is left to be told yet, or at least filled in with backstory, as there are few real changes to the “doomed planet, desperate scientist, kindly couple” motif.  What is here is cleaned up and made more believable.  The current status of Krypto is still just plain mean though.  The supporting cast is here too.  Jimmy Olson is now Clark Kent’s pal, NOT Superman’s.  Lex Luthor is here and even more slimy than ever.  Interestingly, Ma and Pa Kent are dead already.  I always felt them an interesting touch stone for Clark, so it will be interesting to see how they fill that void going forward.  The Landlady character may fill part of it, but I don’t see that having legs.  Then there is the voiding of the marriage of Lois and Clark.  They barely even know each other at this point, and they are not friendly.

This cover to the first monthly issue really set the tone.

The art, mostly by Rags Morales is a bit problematic, but only because it is just MOSTLY by Morales and not ENTIRELY by him.  While the fill in art by Andy Kubert others is very good, the changes chapter to chapter and within some of the issues themselves can be jarring.  I really wish the schedule would take a back seat to just making a good product that flows properly.  The real gem here is the look of Clark.  With just hair, clothes and a properly awful pair of glasses, the disguise actually works for a change.  Another good touch is the bruises.  When Superman is getting pounded on, he bruises, and later Clark is still banged up.  It works wonderfully here.  For the first time, I actually find myself caring about Clark Kent and I am even worried for him!

The story moves along well enough, but there are occasional jumps that feel odd.  As though there needed to be a “meanwhile” or “later that day” caption.  The inclusion of the back up stories featuring the John Henry Irons character are fine, but the real treat is in seeing a Superman that I might actually like.  Many of the old clichés are gone as well, and I cannot say I’m sad to see them go.  I know that Morrison is off the book sometime around issue 16, but until then I am all over this book!

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The Children of the Atom

The cover to issue #1

The X-Men has always been a sore spot with me.  One of the richest pools of characters in comics regularly misused.  Creators at the top of the industry doing their best work, or people so inept that they fail in every possible way to make something as inherently entertaining as a comic book even remotely readable.  This is a book that vacillates wildly between the best in the industry to not worth wiping your ass with. 

Such is the way of things with many books that have been around for as long as the X-Men.  In 1963 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started the book up and wasted no time in taking interesting characters and writing them like they didn’t care a bit. To be fair this was true.  This was just another comic to them, and they did not care all that much about it.  It didn’t sell well from the start, and they were not doing their best work.  Not even close.  Kirby did not stick around long, leaving main art chores after the first dozen issues and working with other artist for the heavy lifting for a few more.  As was often the case with a Kirby drawn book, once he was gone things tanked.  Since this was already a marginal book, things were really pretty awful.  Not to say there were not positives.  Golden Age artists Don Heck, Werner Roth (AKA Jay Gavin) and Alex Toth  graced the pages, sometimes aping Kirby’s style, but often doing their own.  The book looked great at times.  There was the all too short Roy Thomas, Neal Adams run.  One of the best of both their long careers.  Then with issues #67 the book started reprints.  Not bothering to reprint the entire run, they started with issue #12.  The reprints were sloppy, concerned with cramming a couple of issues from the early run under 1 cover, they were often done out of original sequence. 

Issue #94

Then Giant Sized X-Men #1 arrived.  Len Wein and Dave Cockrum put together a book that threw caution to the wind and made a book that was limping to its death into a book that was still limping to its death, only slightly slower.  This issue (followed by #94) is remembered incorrectly by people today.  It was not a thunderbolt.  People remember this as the book that changed everything and made the X-Men hugely popular.  Only the first part of that was true.  When Chris Claremont took over the book with issue #94, co plotting the book with Wein for a few issues, sales were slow to improve.  The book got only a small bump with the new team.  When John Byrne came on as penciller with issue #108 the title had not improved much, and things were not looking great.  At that time in his career, Byrne was not very popular and certainly not the legend he would become.  He was replacing the fairly slow, but very popular Dave Cockrum in the hopes they could get a terminally late book back on schedule.  This began what was at the time, a very underappreciated run on the book.  The ABC books, as I used to hear them called, for inker Terry Austin, Byrne and Claremont, have become some of the most beloved in Marvel’s long history.  Byrne and Austin stayed with the title until #143, along the way creating with Claremont, The Dark Phoenix Saga; the story that really did redefine modern comics.  Dave Cockrum returned for a nice run and the book’s sales continued to climb, but they were still not stellar.  In those days 100,000 copies was a borderline book, always waiting for a dip in sales that would cause it to be cancelled.  X-Men did not become THE Marvel book until the 150’s or so. 

The cover to issue #165 by Paul Smith, marked a drastic change in the look of the title.

The popularity was cemented by the arrival of Paul Smith with issue #165.  At this point spin-offs and limited series with the characters were done to capitalize on the popularity of the X-Men.  Other highlights such as Magneto’s conversion to a much deeper and more resonant character, and the Fall of the Mutants arc, were strong entries as well.  A host of artist came and went, while Claremont stayed on the book until 1991, when editorial pressure, and a willful artist named Jim Lee wanted more story input.  The lunatics artists were running the asylum at this point at Marvel, and  it shows.  A lot of the guys that left to found Image were big on the idea that you didn’t need a writer if the art was good.  Well they were proven both right and wrong.  The X-books went almost immediately into the crapper.  Sales followed once the hot artists all defected to Image, where poorly written books like Spawn and WildC.A.T.S. sold just as well as the well-written ones, better much of the time.  The X-books lost much of their previous sales numbers, and Marvel with its new “just put whatever pretty bit of foil-covered crap we can on the stands” policy in place, fell with it.  Eventually they declared bankruptcy, leading many to foolishly fear that the company would fold.  An artistic and editorial black hole opened up and Marvel managed to destroy almost every book they had.

The suck-itude lasted for nearly a decade.  When the ship was finally righted, it took a long while for people to pay attention to even the best books Marvel was putting on the stands, even the well written X-Men.  Grant Morrison was writing the New X-Men and with Frank Quietly, making this a premier book again.  The books were more in line with the movies, at least visually, and contained wild and outlandish stories at times. This let this book soar again.  There were even good crossovers.  The House of M and original Age of Apocalypse, were actually not bad, and continue to draw readers and have new stories or direct call backs to them even now.  

The absolutely stunning cover to Astonishing X-Men #6

Then there is Astonishing X-Men.  OMF-ing G this was a great book!  Joss Whedon and John  Cassaday brought out 24 issues over nearly 4 years, and gave us the best X-Men comic in over a decade.  Bringing back major characters from the glory days, putting a sick amount of Whedon-esque humor and then kicking us in the gut with a climax that truly was astonishing!  These were the X-Men I remembered, possibly even better than I remembered.  I could not wait for each issue, and I was never let down by what I read. 

Since then, things have been pretty uneven. Vampires on the low-end, with some powerful stories with classic characters on the high.  The trip into the cosmic storylines was interesting, if not all that well executed.  Some of the spin-off series are quite fun also.  The returned New Mutants being the highlight there. 

With AvX running now, I cannot honestly say that there is much to look forward to.  There have been a couple of interesting twists, but Marvel still is a “House of Ideas”, they just can’t translate even the coolest ones into strong stories.  The brightest light right now is Wolverine and the X-Men written by Jason Aaron.  This is a very fun read.  Lots of action and humor, with something strong underneath called good writing.

When well written, the X-books can be among the best of the Marvel titles, thanks to a rich stable of strong and much-loved characters.  If you seek out the stories mentioned here, you will not be disappointed.

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Review: Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Hardcover

This is an odd one for me.  I did not like the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol, and had never read Flex Mentallo when it originally ran as a 4 issue limited series in 1996.  This was a book that was completely off my radar.  But in recent years I have found a great deal of Morrison’s writing very much to my liking, and decided to give this one a try.  Everyone else seemed to know something I didn’t.  “What do you mean, you have not read it?”, is the response I have gotten enough to tell me that I needed to read it.

This is clearly one of those books that struck something in the readers of the day, more than now I think.  Not to say it isn’t good, because that is not the case.  This is a good book.  It just isn’t that much of a revelation.  Is this because much of it has been copied and redone since?  That may be the case here, as Morrison is an often copied writer.  It just seemed that much of it was trite, had a feeling of “seen that” and was a book more suited to describe what is possible in the monthly format of comics than a truly great story.

Flex Mentallo was created by Morrison for the Doom Patrol and quickly developed a following.  This was enough for Vertigo to take a chance on a limited series and this book is very much in its own continuity, quite apart from the Doom Patrol.  The DCU is only hinted at and more often referred to in metaphor and allegory.  Overall, this is a pretty trippy book.  There is a lot of meta referencing about a universe that we are all supposed to know about.  Much of what is here can be seen as the seeds of Morrison’s book, Supergods, and it is clear the ideas that would form that books were being fleshed out here.  The metaphor that we lost our old Gods and created super heroes, is familiar enough.  He then goes into the comics as a medium and develops the idea further; that after we created the new characters as surrogate Gods, we gave them reality, only to abandon them again at another point to pure fiction.  The line here between the Gods of our world and the heroes of this book is blurred.  This is done very purposefully and is to illustrate the connections between our Gods and our fiction;  how we lost one only to replace it with the other, then found them intruding into the “real” world.

The art here is nothing short of stunning.  Frank Quietly has always been someone worth watching.  His art while highly stylized, is always full if life and vigor.  Fun and silly in many ways, but not without real power and force.  The book is really a fine example of some of his best work.

There is another issue with this collection. It is recolored.  I think the book looks great.  It has a realism and visual quality that sets it apart from much of what I have seen in catalog reprints lately.  However, there are fans that are not so happy.  I can sympathize, but I have also looked at the original pages side by side online.  Had this volume retained the fun psychedelic colors of the original comic, it would look terrible.  Those colors, while very well suited to the comic book format, would not look right on this paper stock.  What worked on the flat crappy paper of the day, needed a different touch in this modern volume.  There is also the thought that DC wanted to appeal to more than just the old fans of this book.  Newer readers might have found the look of the old color off-putting.

While a lot has been made about the supposed legal issues that kept this book out of print until now, I think much of this is more in the area of urban legend than actual fact.  In any event, this book is here for fans old and new.  While it may not resonate with new readers, the old fans of the book should be well pleased.

 

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Why not these comics as movies & TV…?

With all the effort and money being spent on movies and TV shows based on comic book properties, I was thinking about some of the untapped potential out there to convert comic properties into either movies or TV series.

The first one that seems to get the most regular fan service is Sandman.  Personally, I think this would make an awful movie, or at least need to be so changed to translate, that it would offend every fan of the book out there.  Make no mistake, I am a fan of this book, but this is just not going to make a good film.  It would make a great TV series though.  I know they are working on American Gods and I hope that it translates well giving Gaiman and the producers the desire to try it with Sandman

Another book I would really like to see done for TV is Mage by Matt Wagner.  The style of this story would lend itself well to the format and be a very fun series.  Despite the need for some serious special effects in the story, they are manageable; the cast would be a relatively small one.  To be honest though, I would just be happy if the final book of the 3 book series would show up before I die.  Wagner’s other property; Grendel would also make for a pretty decent ongoing TV series.

Something that might make a fun all ages film is Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy.  It could be done as light or as dark depending on what the film makers want.  The story is something that could be very malleable without wholesale changes and is a touching and involving story that can reach any audience.  Another good potential source for another all ages film is I Kill GiantsThis is still one of my favorite books and I cannot imagine this one failing if it were done by someone good.  Hey, Pixar, jump at it!

Why Strangers in Paradise has not been done as a TV show is beyond me.  Terry Moore’s masterpiece has it all.  Drama, complex relationships, sex, violence and plenty of room for melodrama of the prime time soap variety.  It crosses most of the adult target demographics and still manages a very powerful and intense story.  This would most certainly need to be on a network like HBO, as the content would need to be fairly adult, but this show just screams “must watch”.

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete might translate well to either medium, really.  It is such a well told story that just about any way you decided to tell it, could work.  There is the sci-fi/fantasy element and the dramatic aspects that could really set a show based on this one of the coolest offerings in either medium.

Am I the only one out there that would love to see another Rocketeer movie?  Slap Zac Effron or Taylor Lautner in the helmet and that is a movie that makes a pile of cash. (The wife unit agrees strongly on this one)

Since Hollywood is doing so much rebooting, it would be nice to see some of the books that were ruined back in the day, be given a proper treatment.  Dr Strange could be super cool now and Marvel is said to be working on it.  The 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Peter Hooten was so cheaply done that it is actually a little trippy and cool, but with all the play sparkly vampires and young monster hunters get these days, just make him a 20 something (or a very youthful and cool 30) and this film sells itself.

I would like to see another try at Isis too.  The Saturday morning Shazam/Isis Power Hour was fun for the mid 70’s and could probably be well done today.  But that is just me wishing. 

A failed attempt to bring Wonder Woman back last year shows that the mainstream is not ready for this one yet.  Either David E Kelly tanked it or a Linda Carter-less show is just not going to fly .  Speaking of failed tries, Global Frequency had lots of potential but Warner Brothers soured on it when they failed to grasp the viral quality of fans on the internet. At least the pilot is out the to be downloaded.

These and all the great series that have made good cartoons series like FF, Justice League etc; there are piles of worthy material waiting to be tapped.

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DC New 52: Action Comics #1 review

Action Comics #1

DC Comics

September 2011

$3.99

Well this one certainly lives up to the title on the front of the book!

Now THAT'S a cool cover!

To start off, I think it is inevitable that Superman will go back to the same character we have all know for our entire lives, The Big Blue  boy scout.  I really don’t see that staying away for very long.  The core concepts of the character are pretty much untouchable, but the things that hover just at the edge of that, the apple pie goodness that so many fans find foolish and hokey, seem almost as pervasive.  As a quick aside:  I am not blind to the fact that many people just don’t like Superman.  There is one particular reader out there that seems to waste focus a great deal of energy on just how much he dislikes the character.  First to that person, and the other people out there that calls themselves “fans” of comics…  It is perfectly acceptable to dislike everything you read, see, hear and otherwise experience.  I would respectfully suggest that if you do not like something, stop trying to explain to everyone why you hate it, and try to spread the word on something that you DO like.  On this blog I welcome all views as long as they are reasoned and expressed respectfully to everyone that might read it.  To be honest, I am not a Superman fan.  Not really.  There are people who have an allegiance to a character regardless of any other factors.  I am not one of them.  I enjoy good comics, and that starts with talented and inspired creators putting that product out there for me to read.  Superman, like all other company owned properties, has had many creators far beyond the two kids from Cleveland.  Many have been hacks, or at least did not really bring their “A Game”.  Many others were masters of their craft.  And many more were somewhere in between.  I should not really ever say (but sometimes I do slip up on this) that I like or dislike Superman, Batman, Thor, The Avengers and so on.  What I should say is I like Thor as written by Walt Simonson, or the Avengers as drawn by George Perez.  Saying “I hate Superman” is really not saying anything of substance.  Opinions are only valid when expressed with a reason attached, even if that reason is irrational.  It is like saying “I hate cabbage”.  Well, OK, sure, but WHY?  No one NEEDS a reason to hate something, true.  But without a reason, you will not get anyone to listen to your opinions.  The best way to get people to dismiss or just plain ignore your opinions is to shout them out at the world like an idiot.  So if you have an opinion, share it, but do so intelligently and respectfully.  The words “Superman Sucks” over and over will lower the interest has of everyone reading it.  Even if they agree with you.  If you don’t like something here, that I DO, or the reverse, try to change my mind.  You probably won’t, even as I cannot change yours.  Opinions are like that, once formed, they tend not to change much.  But the debate is always more fun and stimulating that just mindless bitching.

Having said that, it is true.  I am not a Superman fan.  On my shelves right now are 8 trades or hardcovers where they are predominantly Superman books, and that is out of, what I will guess to be something between 750 and 850 similarly formatted books.  ( I don’t really do floppys anymore and the New 52 books I am reading now are very much the exceptions to the rule, as I might have something in the area of 100 floppys at any one time.  When they are put in a nice trade or HC, I tend to get rid of the originals)  Those Superman books are by some of the best of the modern writers.  (sorry, not much of the classic stuff out there that I enjoy enough to own and re read) Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, being the most recent of the really fine books.  And that is why the New 52 and the re launch of Action Comics really had me interested.

If you were not previously much into Superman, this might be the book that changes your mind.  If you prefer the boy scout as mentioned above, this may really send you screaming.  I hope not.  As I said, this will not last.  The Supes we all know will slowly return.  But for now, there is a pretty good take on the character.  This Superman has returned to the social crusader that first appeared in the late 1930s and his methods have a lot more in common with Batman than the big blue we all recognize.

This book is in the past, behind the continuity of all the other new books except Justice League.  These are here to establish the world as it is now.  As I understand it, JL will eventually catch up.  That has not been explicitly stated for Action, but that is a safe bet.  The world does not understand or really even trust this guy in a tight T-shirt, jeans and a cape.  They are wary and frightened of him.  The police and military are after him even as he tries to fight FOR them.  Lex Luthor is here too, and he is on the side of the average man, much like he has always claimed.  The plot really is just “let’s get Superman” at this point.  They manage to re-establish that Clark Kent is there and that he still works for a news agency , but Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane work for a rival one.  This Superman is FAR from invulnerable.  Yes we have seem him take a pounding in books before, but not really like this.  The beating he takes has consequences and they follow him.  Clark SHOULD have bruises if Superman does.  I like that this Superman is more fragile, it adds impact to the story, but I don’t want to see his de power go to far.  He should still be the most powerful being on the planet.

That is where I didn’t care for this book.  To me, and this is strictly MY opinion, Superman IS a Sun God, just as Morrison has stated.  If any but the most amazing mortal was confronted with seeing a being with the kind of power that Superman has, they would likely be unable to function.  They would go bibbldy.  At least they would wet themselves.  That might be why Superman has been a character I have failed to enjoy as regularly, I cannot believe in the more simple aspects of the story.  Suspension of disbelief starts with very subtle things, after all.  My version would probably not make for very human comics, though, so the approach here is bringing the Sun God down just a bit, and making him more believable.

Grant Morrison and Rags Morales are the writer and artist that are bringing you this book, and I have to say that it met my very high expectations for it.  I will be picking up the monthly issues for the duration of the first arc.    Morales’ art has found a perfect complement in inker Rick Bryant.  The line is stunning and pulls you in and keeps you there.  Clark is believably human and he and Superman actually do look like they might fool you into thinking they are different people.  Morrison’s new take on Superman is an interesting one and I can only say 2 things:  One, please stay on the book as long as you have good stories to tell(with the obvious thought that there are a lot to tell, rather than just this first arc).  And two, that they don’t chicken out.  Take your ideas to the logical conclusion without making concessions to the commercial aspect of the industry.  I doubt DC editorial will allow something with an actual beginning, middle and end, but I can dream.

Buy this book.

 

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A new Action Comics # 1?

Well, it is official.  The DC reboot will be a truly line-wide one.  Even Action Comics will not be safe.  The bright spot in this is that the book will be by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, two people who can do great work!  Morrison is likely best know in recent years for All-Star Superman and the current Batman Incorporated storyline, and Rags Morales has done piles of great books.  The book that stands out for me is Identity Crisis, the best of the various DC Crisis books in my opinion.

This is a slightly scary and slightly thrilling idea for me.  I didn’t get a chance to buy a copy of the first Action # 1 as I would not be born for three decades when it originally hit the stands, so yes, I will most likely buy it just for the geek factor.  There are some concerns though.  This will be, for all intents and purposes, a full reboot.  It sounds like they will be de-power Superman, assuming Morrison continues some of the ideas about the character that he has expressed in past interviews.  I have an issue with too much of a de-power though as the other books are not all changing to the same degree.  It looks very much like some of them (Green Lantern) are not really making any significant changes.  If that is the case, will Superman, as his name needs to imply, still be the most powerful hero in the DCU?  It also looks like there may be a real return to the “social crusader” that Superman was in his earliest days.

The two images of Superman that I have seen so far have been very different.  The George Perez preview image for Superman # 1…

Superman # 1(?) by George Perez

…looks very different to what we have seen as a preview image for Action # 1…

Action Comics # 1 (?) by Rags Morales

The differences in costume could be that one or both are not the final look.  The Action image is a clear homage to the original Action # 1, and the superman one has some similarities to the original # 1 of that title, but that may only be because I want there to be.  These are both fairly big redesigns if you know what you are looking for.  The loss of blue tights entirely on the Morales design, the angular Perez look that loses the underpants on the outside and simplifies the “S” somewhat.  These could be responses to the legal issues of copyright and trademark thanks to the various legal battles that have been going on, almost since the first Action # 1.  (See my post on this from May 29th)

Another, more concerning possibility is that the two books may exist in slightly different continuity.  This last one is concerning to me as it defeats the purpose of the intended, jump on friendly nature to the reboot, but the official statement regarding the book makes me wonder if that is not exactly what the plan is.  Action will start the DCU off and tell the earliest possible days of Superman.  DC’s official statement for Action # 1 is “This momentous first issue will set in motion the history of the DC Universe as Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.”  The reads to me like it is the true start point for the entire line.  You can’t have Superman show up one day and then everyone else the next.  Doesn’t work.  Is this book, at least from the start, in an earlier timeline, that will become the rest of the main continuity?  An intriguing possibility from a story standpoint, but maybe a little less new reader friendly.  Then Superman # 1 is the current continuity that Justice League etc all exist in?  The change in costume from Action to Superman would lend credence to that possibility.  Bleeding Cool seems to be painting the Action  Comics Superman as a “liberal activist”, basing that opinion on Morrison’s own statements from recent interviews.  That would certainly be in line with the original concept of the character as created by the two kids from Cleveland.  I don’t think that would be all bad either.  It would certainly make the stories more relevant for a modern audience, regardless of which side of the liberal line you come down on, and the media will certainly grab onto whatever will stir up the most controversy.  There is a lot of upside to making the character more relevant not least of which is the greater potential for projects outside of the comics medium, like the upcoming Man of Steel movie, currently with director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Dark Knight) as producer.

I will always give Morrison a chance, as he always make the ride an interesting one, even if I don’t always like the end result.  And George Perez doing Superman?  Where do I sign up?  But these look like two VERY different books, at least given the small amount of info we have been given so far.  That may well be the key to this reboot working.  Give fans a clear choice, and a bit of variety.  Marvel has never managed to keep multiple books fresh and different for very long.  Pick up any Spider-Man book out there and, to a casual or new reader, there will be very little difference.  Maybe a change of pace is in order.  For this to be the game changer it is intended to be, it needs to not only change the status quo for DC, but the entire industry.  They need to re invent the rules of comics publishing, and hope the readers like it enough to inspire the other publishers out there (I’m looking at you Marvel) to up their game and do it not only better, but differently too.  This reboot is make or break.  More people who I speak to, my friend Kurt started me on this fear, believe that if the reboot fails to put DC back on top of the market, or at least make it a much tighter race, that it could kill the line.  I think that is worst case, but at least it could seriously cripple the publisher.  And anything that is bad for one of the big guys in the market, is potentially bad for all.

UPDATE:  As of the next day at the LA TIMES HERO COMPLEX, the reveal in an interview with Jim Lee and Geoff Johns is that the new JLA book will start in the past and then jump forward into the new continuity.  This makes me think my theory above is getting more plausible.

SECOND UPDATE:  George Perez made a comment on his Facebook page to clarify his involvement on the new Superman: Man of Tomorrow book.  He is writing and doing thumbnail layouts for artist Jesus Merino to work from.  He will also be supplying covers.  Bit of a bummer there and now not as exciting.  Merino is pretty good though, so I imagine this will still be quite a book.

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Review: All Star Superman

This is a review I had been putting off.  I didn’t think I could be objective about the DC animated film based on the 12 issue Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely masterpiece.  I have never been much more than a casual Superman fan.  With the notable exception of the first Christopher Reeve film, my exposure and interest was limited.  But then a few years ago I started getting interested in a broader range of stuff, and for me, that meant getting back into the super hero books.  Through most of the 90’s I really only read indie books.  Sandman had kept me about as mainstream as I was going to be for a while. So when I wanted to get back in, I went more DC than Marvel, as I had grown up more Marvel and had a pre conceived notion and was sure I would be disappointed by what I saw.  I was, but that is another story.

Among the DC books I now read are the occasional Superman book.  But what really made me love the character was All Star Superman.  I felt after reading the book, that would be as good as it got for Big Blue, and mostly that has been the case.  There have been some gems, but this is still the high point for the blue tights in the last decade or so.  That is why I thought I might want to hold off on the review of the movie.  Would I be able to stay focused and objective?  Nope.  But then I watched the movie with the wife.  She didn’t really think all that highly of it and her coolness allowed me to step back and justify those things I though praiseworthy, and look with a more critical eye on those aspects that were less than great.


These two images are a good example of the differences between the movie and it’s source material.  The film is glossy and reasonably well produced, but far from the best that DC has so far to offer us, while the book has much more beneath the surface.  Obviously, the film had to omit some parts of the story, but to be honest, I have come to agree with the wife on this, the film is very disjointed and staccato.  While episodic tends to suit a comic (although it reads even better as a complete story in this case) a 88 minute movie needs more cohesion.  You could really feel where the story from each issue of the book ended and the next one began.  Maybe broken up by commercials that would work, but not like this.  Maybe for a younger fan this would work as simple entertainment, but ultimately this was a major drawback on repeated viewings.  There is a fair bit to like though.  The quality of the animation is decent if not top-notch.  At times it looks a little off-model and rushed.  The picture and sound are very nice quality, particularly on Blu ray.

What hurts the film most is that in making it fit in the prescribed 88ish minutes (and i have to say, DC needs to start thinking outside this particular box) they have removed some of the things that give the book its emotional core.  The first and most glaring edit, is almost all of the Smallville sequence.  Pared down to a short graveyard scene, nearly every bit of the heart of the original has been lost as most of it was in this sequence of story events.  While at first glance I can see why it was removed, on further reflection, I find it difficult to believe that as talented a screenwriter as Dwayne McDuffie (in his final screen credit, I believe-feel free to correct me on that) could not have found a way to put that into the film in such a way that the pacing would not have been hurt.  It certainly needed to be more fleshed out in the screenplay, and that, I think, would have made this a better film.  Fan service is nice, and there are lots of that geeky glow here, but we still need substance.  You cannot live on cookies alone (I know, I’ve tried), sometimes you need a real meal.  There are subtleties in the movie that I didn’t catch in the book.  The mention by Lois that the Superman of the year 85,000 looks like her father, is a nice hint that didn’t make the book at all.  And the Fortress of Solitude key under the mat gag, works much better in the film.

Another omission is the entire Bizarro World section.  While not as great a loss to the emotion or the story structure, it was a lot of fun in the book, and I do miss it a little bit here.  The scenes with Lex Luthor are not as strong as in the book, with the exception of the climax of the film, and the Jimmy Olsen scenes worked well and in some cases were actually funnier.  So all in all, the little things are a wash.

The ending will most likely trouble some viewers that do not realize that these DC movies, like most of the stories they come from, are not “in continuity” with the rest of the DCU, and so my find the end a bit of a downer.  the reason for this story being that way was that it was designed to be a complete and self-contained story of the Man of Steel, and viewed as that, it works pretty well.  Better in the book though.

I loved the book.  I really did.  I liked the movie more on the first viewing than on the repeated ones.  I still like it, and it is a great geek fest, but it is not the kind of thing that casual fans, especially those that have not read the source material are likely to get much out of.  Fans of the original book will enjoy the story coming to life, flawed though it is, but most others will want to give it a miss.  Sad to say, but I don’t think that a newcomer to this story will enjoy the movie anywhere near as much as the book.  Go buy the book and rent this.

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