80 years, 1000 issues, one hero

Action Comics 1Eighty years ago today, a comic book hit the newsstands. It cost ten cents, and the vast majority of people who purchased it — as most people did in 1938 — read the book once and then threw it away. Those people who didn’t, if they still happen to have the book and it’s in decent condition, are sitting on a fortune. That book changed everything. It invented a genre, it left an indelible mark across popular culture, and it gave this woeful world a hero that has left a mark on everything we know.

April 18, 1938, was the day Action Comics #1 was released to the world. It was the day Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gave us Superman.

Action Comics 1000Today — thanks to a little creativity with the release schedule, DC Comics is releasing Action Comics #1000, the first superhero comic book ever to hit that milestone number. I could spend hours waxing on about the importance of that character, of that book, regaling you with the hundreds of amazing writers and artists who have crafted tales of the man of steel over the last 80 years. But there are plenty of other people writing about that today, many of them far more qualified than I. Instead, let me tell you why Action Comics and Superman matter to me.

Superman is considered the first superhero. Clearly, there are earlier characters that include many of the tropes of the genre (Philip Wylie’s Gladiator, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and so forth), but Superman was the character that codified everything we think of when we think of the word: the costume, the powers, the secret identity, the tireless crusade against evil. And although there were many, many imitators, for a very long time Superman was the most popular of them all. Things changed during the “Marvel Age” of the 1960s, when characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men gained traction and became the choice of the sophisticated comic book aficionado. And to be fair, those characters had faults and flaws that made them more realistic and more relatable than a lot of the heroes that had existed before then, the Superman of the time included.

Action Comics 484Over the years, there have been attempts every so often to “reinvent” Superman. Some of them have been very successful, some have not. As such, many people complain that the character is “boring” or “too powerful” or “old fashioned,” as if there’s anything wrong with that last one. This results in further reinventions that don’t work, because people lean too hard in the other direction, making a character that loses contact with his humanity. Whenever I hear a writer wants to focus on the fact that Superman is an alien, it makes me nervous, because that’s not what he’s about.

WAction Comics 500hat makes Superman so great is that — despite the fact that he was born on another planet — he is the most human hero of them all. His power comes from Krypton, but his soul was forged in the farmland of Kansas, brought up by two good, kind people to be a good, kind person. With his power, Superman could take over the world. Instead, he chooses to defend it. This sounds a little trite, but in truth, it’s the most important thing about the character. Who among us, if given any super power, would never succumb to the urge to use it selfishly, even just a little? If given the power to crush diamonds out of coal, wouldn’t you be living in a mansion? If you could could move faster than the eye could see, might not an errant pitch just happen to go the right way for your favorite baseball team? If you had heat vision, how many jerks who cut people off in traffic would find their tires suddenly melted?

Or maybe I’m just projecting.

Action Comics v2 1aThe point is, Superman could do all these things, but doesn’t. More to the point, he chooses not to. It’s not that he never feels the temptation, it’s that he knows he can’t give into it. That’s the kind of strength that makes the character fascinating. That’s the kind of thing that he got from the Kansas farmland. The greatest stroke of luck the citizens of the DC Universe ever had is that Kal-El’s spaceship landed on the property of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

A few years ago, DC pulled back from the hero they’d had and made him younger, nullified his marriage to Lois Lane, and tried to “update” him again. A few years later they realized the error of their ways. Now, not only are Superman and Lois married, but they have a son: Jon Kent, Superboy. In nearly 30 years of reading Superman comic books, nothing has made me happier than the adventures of Super-dad and his boy. And a great deal of that probably has to do with the fact that, a little over a year after this became DC canon, I became a dad myself. Superman has always been the man I wish I could be. Now, when I read Action Comics, I see the father — besides my own — that I aspire to be the most.

Action Comics 957That, you see, is what Superman is. One of the “updates” that seems to have stuck is the idea that his symbol, the “S-shield,” is actually the Kryptonian symbol for the word “hope.” This couldn’t be more appropriate. In the world of the comics, movies, and TV shows, that symbol means that you don’t need to be afraid: no matter what is happening Superman (or sometimes Supergirl, or Superboy, or if the writers are really feeling playful, Krypto the Super-Dog) is there to save the day. In our world, the world that needs a hero so desperately, it’s a reminder of an ideal. Superman is about having inner strength to do the right thing, to protect people who need it, to shine a light of hope where none exists.

It can be a hard thing, sometimes.

But 1000 issues later, I feel as if we need that symbol more than ever.

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Episode 323: Rebirth Roundup

Two weeks in, Blake and Erin take in the beginning of DC Rebirth. They kick things off by delving (in spoileriffic detail) about the DC Universe Rebirth one-shot, then pick their way into each of the Rebirth releases to date.

And what’s cool this week? Both our hosts were wild about Disney’s Zootopia, and Blake gives his praise to Valiant’s A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 323: Rebirth Roundup

DC Rebirth: The Liveblog

DC RebirthDC Comics is going to be giving the dirt on Rebirth this morning at Wondercon, and they’re livestreaming the event on their YouTube channel. Dutiful nerd that I am, I decided to watch. Then I thought, what the heck? I’ve got a nerd blog. Why not post my reactions in real time as well?

So keep it on this page during the panel, folks, and hit refresh every few minutes. I’ll update as they do.

Kicking things off, they showed a video of DC heroes over the years, then they brought Dan DiDio and Jim Lee to the stage. Lee’s kind of adorkable, not entirely comfortable on camera but doing his best.

DiDio is calling rebirth a “reconnection to the fans” and says he wants to show the fans “we care about these characters as much as you do.” Without transcribing every word, he’s basically saying, “We hear you, and we feel it too, and here’s Geoff Johns to tell you more.”

(Brief tangent: How awesome is it that we live in an age where they can make this announcement in California, they put it on the internet, and I can watch it on my TV at home?)

Johns: “Rebirth is NOT a reboot.” As we have heard. He’s calling it “the next chapter.”

Johns on Green Lantern: Rebirth, and how it relates to the new initiative: “Rebirth is about taking everything, past and present, taking everything wonderful about these characters and bringing them to the fore.”

“What’s missing to me is Legacy.” YES.

The Rebirth one-shot in May will feature “the biggest secret in the DC Universe.” It will return some characters. It “may” feature the death of a character. Because of course it will.

Showing off some of the new designs for the characters. Oh my GOD, I love Supergirl so much. As soon as the pictures make it online, I’ll try to add them to this post.

Didio reiterates that the books will all be $2.99 an issue, with 17 twice-monthly titles and 14 monthly books. So fewer titles overall, but about the same number of issues a month.

Now we’re getting a video of fans and creators saying what their favorite DC stories are. I’m not disagreeing with any of the choices, but the audio sucks. We keep getting echo from the hall, and the sound is really low. Hopefully this isn’t going to be anything vital.

Bringing out the “Bat-Family,” Tom King (whose Vision is awesome) writing Batman, James Tynion IV on Detective Comics, Tim Seely on Nightwing, Hope Larsen on Batgirl and I missed the names of the women writing Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. This Batman image is crazy — a man and woman behind him wearing costumes with Batman colors but Superman-shield-shaped symbols with old lettering.

Augh, the video froze! Somebody tell them in LA!

It’s back.

TIM DRAKE AS ROBIN IN DETECTIVE COMICS! It’s a team book with Batman, Tim, Batwoman, Spoiler, CLAYFACE, and Cassandra Cain, whose new identity will come out of Batman and Robin Eternal.

Seeley’s first Nightwing arc is called “Better than Batman.” Tom King is verklempt.

Hope Larsen’s Batgirl looks like she’s running with the ball from the Burnside era, but taking her to Asia to “find herself as a person.” Rafael Albuquerque on art.

Julie Benson and Shawna Benson on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Somebody is pretending to be Oracle, and Barbara is ticked off. Black Canary and Huntress on the team… what version of the Huntress, then?

Scott Snyder, whose Batman has been awesome, will be teaming with John Romita Jr., on a twice-monthly All Star Batman. Romita’s co-artists will be Jock and Sean Murphy. Snyder says he wants to do stuff with the villains he hasn’t gotten to do before. At this point, you could give Snyder a Care Bears comic and I would read it. Also, Snyder is now DC-exclusive.

I’m sorry, I gotta say it again — Tim Drake as Robin.. And wearing a version of his classic costume. This makes me SO HAPPY.

Superman family!

Dan Jurgens writing Action Comics! The image is Superman slugging it with Lex Luthor in a kind of Superman armor. Dan says that this is the Superman and Lois from the current Lois and Clark series.

Gene Yang on New Superman. This one looks odd. It stars a Chinese teenager who somehow gets Superman’s powers. If anyone can do it, it Yang.

Steve Orlando on Supergirl! Again, I love this costume. It’s much more like the TV suit, and very classic-looking. Cat Grant is in the image too. Cyborg Superman (who in this universe is Kara’s father, Zor-El) will be in the book too.

Trinity, written and drawn by Francis Manapul, starring you-know who.

Phil Jimenez writing and drawing Superwoman! (Who the hell is Superwoman?)

Peter Tomasi writing Superman, which is awesome.

Then there’s Liam Sharpe on Wonder Woman. Is she a Superman-family book now? Jim Lee is calling Sharp his “big get” for Rebirth, like Greg Capullo was for the New 52. The costume, especially the colors, is very reminiscent of Gal Gadot. The book will be written by Greg Rucka!

The book will be written by Greg Rucka! And Sharp will be sharing art chores with Nicola Scott. Rucka says Sharp will be doing odd-numbered issues that take place in the present, while Scott will do even-numbered “Wonder Woman Year One” stories. Scott is AMAZING. This is a perfect fit for her.

Up next will be the Justice League family.

Tony Daniel doing art for Justice League. Bryan Hitch writing. TWO Green Lanterns on the team — Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

Joshua Williamson writing Flash. New Flash villain, “Godspeed.” Nice and creepy visual on this guy – skinny, all white, almost like Slenderman meets the Flash.

Robert Venditi writing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. This book will have Ethan Van Sciver and Rafael Sandoval on art. Venditi says the book begins with Sinestro planting his Warworld in the center of the universe, where Oa once was, and it’s the story of what Hal and the Corps (including John Stewart and Guy Gardner) do next.

Sam Humphries writing Green Lanterns. Johns is going to co-write the Rebirth one-shot with Humphries. The book will star Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz as “the new Green Lanterns of Earth.” They’re rookies, partners, and “don’t know what they think of each other yet.” Humphries calls it “Lethal Weapon with alien technology.” Nice. The Red Lanterns are the bad guys in this book.

John Semper on Cyborg. Art by Will Conrad and, one of my favorites, Paul Pelletier. Semper says the book will be about Cyborg as someone “already living with the Singularity… where does the soul of the man begin and the soul of the machine start?”

Dan Abnett on Aquaman. Johns talks about Abnett’s past awesome work on Legion Lost and Guardians of the Galaxy. He’ll be co-writing with Brad Walker, who also will be sharing art chores with two others. (They’re flashing the credits on screen, guys, I’m writing as fast as I can, but I miss some.) Abnett says in this book Aquaman wants to make Atlantis “part of the world.” I can totally see Arthur sitting in a United Nations panel.

Abnett will also be writing Titans with Nightwing, Arsenal, Donna Troy, Tempest. Who is the woman in green?

Jason Fabok is here to talk about issue 50 of the current Justice League run, which he’s drawing. He says it will “blow your minds.” Okaaaay… so why are we talking about it on the Rebirth panel? I assume it’ll lead into the one-shot?

Holy crap. Johns just said this is going to follow-up on the part in issue 42 where Batman asks the Mobius Chair what the Joker’s real name is. They teased this with an image of many Jokers throughout the years. What the HELL are they up to?

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner on Harley Quinn. Jim Lee says these two have made Harley “the fourth pillar that supports House DC.” Hard to argue with that. Conner says the book will have “more of the same madness PLUS.” The costume looks like they’ve merged the New 52 version with the movie version. She definitely has Margot Robbie hair.

Philip Tan on Suicide Squad. Lee will also be working with Rob Williams writing. He clarifies that each twice-monthly book has “a team of artists.” They tried to find artists with similar styles and sensibilities that work well together. Tan calls the book about “redemption.” The team will be Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Rick Flagg, Katana, Boomerang… basically the movie team. Lee further says that Harley and Croc will be an interesting team-up, and Conner jumps in with “Harley’s power is that she doesn’t really know that she can’t do anything.” DiDio adds that she’s now DC-exclusive.

Conner says a lot more guest-stars in Harley’s book, including Poison Ivy, Power Girl, and a lot more “bat-characters and non-bat characters.”

Remaining titles:
Ben Percy on Green Arrow.
Red Hood and the Outlaws co-starring Bizarro and Artemis.
The Hellblazer by Simon Oliver, with Swamp Thing.
Deathstroke with Christopher Priest.
Batman Beyond with Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang. “The return of Terry McGuinness.”
Blue Beetle with Keith Giffen, starring Jaime Reyes AND HIS MENTOR TED KORD!
Damian Wayne leads the new Teen Titans, by Ben Percy. The Titans apparently aren’t thrilled about this.
Super Sons — no creative team, but “Son of Superman meets son of Batman.”
Justice League of America — “which we can’t talk about yet,” Johns says.

Finally, the full cover of the Rebirth special, by Gary Frank, shows the heres of the DC universe reaching out towards a hand reaching out from the light. It’s intriguing, to say the least.Rebirth special, by Gary Frank, shows the heres of the DC universe reaching out towards a hand reaching out from the light. It’s intriguing, to say the least.

Overall impressions… I’m really liking what I’m seeing. There are some killer creative teams, and some books I can’t believe I’m seeing. Some stuff is outright insane, but in a good way.

You have my attention, DC Comics.

 

 

At the Movies Episode 47: Jurassic World

Over 20 years after the tragic incident at Isla Nublar, Jurassic World is open for business! Does Colin Trevorrow’s return to this legendary franchise do justice for the fans? Blake and Erin give you their thoughts on the summer’s biggest film to date.

And what’s cool this week? Blake wants you guys all to march on down to your local comic shop and pick up Action Comics #41 and Thom Zahler’s charming Long Distance #1.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

At the Movies Episode 47: Jurassic World

Episode 273: Superman Vs. the Elite-The Commentary

Blake and Kenny sit down this week to give their thoughts on the DC Animated film Superman Vs. the Elite! The guys talk about the movie, the comics that spawned it, and discuss DC’s next film, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One. Plus, a special bonus for the ladies out there — the heavy, sensual breathing of Kenny “The Fan Guy” Fanguy. (Sorry to everyone else, we’ll try to make sure those microphones are a more respectable distance from our noses next time.) In the picks, Blake takes Batman #0. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

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Episode 259: John Carter and Books to Screen

With John Carter finally in movie theaters a century after publication, with Game of Thrones and Dexter burning up your TV screens, this week we take a look at other books that should be made into movies or TV shows. In the picks, Erin goes with Fables Vol. 7 and Blake takes Action Comics #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

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Episode 252: Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. Marketing

This week we look into the announcements made this week regarding Avengers Vs. X-Men — the marketing and the miniseries. Plus — Blake begins tracking his effort to view as many 2011 movies as possible, and he gives props to Action Comics #5 and Rachel Rising #4. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio

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