Tag Archives: superman

Review: Supergirl #36

supergirl coverAs one of the outliers in the Superman titles, Supergirl often gets the worst treatment of them all.  Throughout 35 issues the character has struggled to find a singular direction in its stories and character development, instead often getting caught up in the Superman crossovers.  While the initial issues were going along well enough, it eventually got stopped in its tracks by the H’el story arc, and once the series seemed to have recovered from that it was thrown into the Doomed story line.

Below it all is an engaging character that all too often has her character development thrown out the window for the sake of some easy cross-coverage.  While that is not exactly the case here, it is clear that the Superman titles cannot just leave the character alone, which is evident here even in the words of Supergirl, asking to be left alone as she addresses Kal.  There is incidentally relatively few moments in comics where reality imitates art as well as this.  Much as with Batgirl in the Bat-titles, the character of Supergirl really needs some space in order to grow into something more than just another tie-in to bigger Superman stories.  By the end of this issue that starts to take shape, but it is at the expense of other recent developments (such as her budding romance from the other recent issues.)  What happens here at the end is to throw Supergirl into yet another offshoot of her own story lines, once again drawn into space beyond her control, but this story arc at least looks to be engaging (including re-introducing Maxima.)

What happens is that the series once again seems to have some promise to stand on its own, something that it didn’t have since the first year of its stories.  While readers and fans of the character might be waiting a long time for some eventual stability within this title as opposed to outside interference, it would appear that this might be that issue where it starts, even if Superman is here for about two pages.  As one of the few titles featuring a female superhero, this title could definitely use the attention which it deserves from both the fans and the creators, but it is to the creators to make that happen, and hopefully this will be the first step.

Story: K. Perkins and Mike Johnson Art: Emanuela Lupacchino
Story: 8.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

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The 1st American Comics Scholar was a Superman Artist, Except for all those Scholars Before Him

superman fact checkIn an article for The Beat, Brad Ricca recounts his interaction with Sean Howe, the author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, concerning an early thesis written by Paul Cassidy dating back to 1942. Cassidy was an early “ghost” artist for the Superman comics. The 156 page document included statistics, footnotes, and anecdotes about the industry. It’s absolutely an important piece of comic book history, and great find.

Ricca makes an unfortunate jump. Instead of just covering the discovery, he makes the claim:

According to Gene Kannenberg, Jr.’s great site ComicsResearch.org, the oldest American comics academic work is a 1944 dissertation by Anna Florence Heisler titled “Characteristics of Elementary-School Children Who Read Comic Books, Attend the Movies, and Prefer Serial Radio Programs.”

Cassidy’s work is dated two years earlier. His thesis is, we think, the first graduate-level American scholarship on comic books.

The problem is, that 1944 date from ComicsResearch.org is incorrect, and there is indeed scholarship research that predates not only then, but Cassidy’s newly found thesis as well. On a comics scholar listserve where I’m a lurker, the article was quickly debunked, and chalked up to “not enough detective work.” That listserv actually points out two examples much earlier than 1944 or 1942.

Munger, Elizabeth M.  “Preferences for Various Newspaper Comic Strips as Related to Age and Sex Differences in School Children.”  M. A. Thesis.  Ohio State University, 1939.

Smith, Lewis C. Jr.   “Comics as Literature for Children.”  M. A. Thesis.  Colorado State College of Education, 1938.

A “M. A. Thesis” would be a masters’s thesis, “graduate-level” scholarship. I’d say both count as “American comics academic works,” and those dates indeed pre-date the above claim. A quick Google search brings up this 1999 dissertation that references the two works above, confirming their existence (though not like I’ve seen both in person).

In the same listserv there’s also a reference to earlier scholarly work from the 1920s in psychology and linguistics, though examples haven’t been given yet. I did some digging and found this example also from 1942 that was cited in a recent scholarly paper:

Haggard, E. A. (1942). A projective technique using comic strip characters. Character & Personality: A Quarterly for Psychodiagnostic & Allied Studies, 10(3), 289-295.

So, lesson for everyone, don’t believe everything you read without a little research of your own, and it might be far past time for a “Snopes” for comics.

Spider-Man Beats the Avengers, Batman, and Superman

When it comes to dollars, it isn’t the comics that pays the bills for DC Comics or Marvel (or their parent companies), it’s the licensing of the 1000s of characters each character controls.

In May, License Global ranked Marvel parent company Disney at the top of a list of licensors with sales of around $41 billion in 2013. In contrast, DC’s parent company Warner Bros. was in seventh earning $6 billion. That’s not bad, but that’s a huge gap between the two.

Surprisingly though (or maybe not so much) Spider-Man is the strongest property according to the Licensing Letter. Spidey’s global retail sales is about $1.3 billion with the Avengers earning $325 million in 2013. DC’s Batman earned $494 million, while Superman earned $277 million.

What’s fascinating in the chart below are those earnings in the U.S. and Canada versus globally. Spider-Man and Batman are actually close for the former, and it’s the latter where the webhead takes off.

It’ll be interesting to see future reports, especially with Guardians of the Galaxy exploding this year at the box office.

licensing earningsPhoto credit: AP Images

DC Comics Reveals More Details on Convergence

Last week DC Comics revealed the cover to their big event next year Convergence. Now, They’ve revealed even more details about what we can expect during the event including plot details, creative teams, and teaser images. Check out below for what you can expect.

SUPERMAN

Superman and Lois deal with the impending birth of their child as he is called in to protect the city. Dan Jurgens (W), Lee Weeks, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund (A).

superman

THE ATOM

Ray Palmer finds that Ryan Choi is still alive. Together, they meet and confront Deathstroke, the man responsible for “killing” Choi, before fighting the invading Extremists. Tom Peyer (W), Steve Yeowell and Andy Owens (A).

THE ATOM

BATGIRL

After a year in the dome, Stephanie Brown is not sure she wants to be Batgirl again. But when Flashpoint Catman attacks, Red Robin and Black Bat call her back into service.Alisa Kwitney (W), Rick Leonardi and Mark Pennington (A).

Batgirl

NIGHTWING/ORACLE

Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon reevaluate their relationship under the dome (wedding!), but Flashpoint Hawkman & Hawkwoman attack, and everything changes. Gail Simone (W), Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons (A).

NIGHTWING ORACLE

SPEED FORCE

Wally West and his kids are separated from Linda, which was bad enough, but when the dome falls, Flashpoint Wonder Woman comes for them. Tony Bedard (W), Tom Grummett and Sean Parsons (A).

SPEED FORCE

TITANS

Starfire and Donna Troy come to get Roy Harper who has gone into seclusion since the death of his child and loss of his arm, but then Arsenal has to choose between his team and resurrecting his dead daughter. Fabian Nicieza (W), Ron Wagner and Jose Marzan (A).

Titans

JUSTICE LEAGUE

When Supergirl, Zatanna, and Jade went to Jessie Quick’s baby shower, they didn’t expect to be taken to another planet for a year, or to be attacked by Flashpoint Aquaman. Frank Tieri (W), Vicente Cifuentes (A).

JusticeLeague

THE QUESTION

Two-Face is fighting another world’s Harvey Dent, and it’s up to Renee Montoya as the Question to help him beat the odds. Greg Rucka (W), Cully Hamner (A).

The Question

BATMAN & ROBIN

Bruce Wayne and Damian have friction with Red Hood before the Extremists attack. Ron Marz (W), Denys Cowan and Klaus Janson (A).

Batman and Robin

HARLEY QUINN

Harley Quinn is enjoying her normal life under the dome until Catwoman and Poison Ivy draft her to fight Captain Carrot. Steve Pugh (W), Phil Winslade and John Dell (A).

HarleyQuinn

(via iO9 and CBR)

Warner Bros. Announces their DC Comics Movie Schedule

New-DC-Logo_BlueDuring a shareholder meeting Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced plans for Warner Bros.’ plans for movies based on DC Comics, ending months (years?) of speculation and rumors. This is the list of movies to expect post Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

August 5, 2016: Suicide Squad“four A-listers are currently in talks to star,” and the film will be directed by David Ayer.

June 23, 2017: Wonder WomanGal Gadot spins off into her on film.

November 23, 2017: Justice League Part 1 – the first part of Zack Snyder‘s two part film brings back the cast of Batman v Superman with man more added.

March 23, 2018: The FlashEzra Miller will suit up as the scarlet speedster, instead of the television show’s Grant Gustin

July 27, 2018: Aquaman – the studio has confirmed that Jason Momoa will star.

April 5, 2019: ShazamDwayne “The Rock” Johnson is attached to the film.

June 14, 2019: Justice League Part 2

April 3, 2020:  Cyborg – the film will star Ray Fisher.

June 19, 2020: Green Lantern

There also more solo Batman and Superman films in the works. Also announced was The Lego Batman Movie in 2017, directed by Chris McKay, and The Lego Movie 2 in 2018.

In August a list of ten movie release dates was posted by BoxOfficeMojo. Here’s how those dates match up.

  • Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – 3/25/16
  • Untitled DC Film (June 2020) – 6/19/20 – Green Lantern above.
  • Untitled DC Film (April 2020) – 4/3/20 – Cyborg above
  • Untitled DC Film (June 2019) – 6/14/19 – Justice League Part 2 above.
  • Untitled DC Film (April 2019) – 4/5/19 - Shazam above.
  • Untitled DC Film (July 2018) – 7/27/18 - Aquaman above.
  • Untitled DC Film (March 2018) – 3/23/18 – The Flash above.
  • Untitled DC Film (Nov. 2017) – 11/17/17 – probably Justice League, thought it’s shifted by a week.
  • Untitled DC Film (June 2017) – 6/23/17 – Wonder Woman above.
  • Untitled DC Film (2016) – 8/5/16 – Suicide Squad above.

All the dates match up, except one which is shifted one week.

Fear of a Black Kid Flash. Not so Much a Female One.

wally westAn interesting thing happened last week when in the Teen Titans version of Futures End that a new Kid Flash was introduced in the wake of the company-wide crossover.  Or more accurately another new Kid Flash was introduced. Earlier this year some fans were upset at the long-awaited return of Wally West to the DC universe, the problem that they were upset that the character was black. While this was not too much different from some other reactions – such as the reveal that the Earth 2 Alan Scott is gay – it is interesting especially after this new female Kid Flash was released to little fanfare or reaction. No one at all seemed to complain about this new character, seemingly also taking over the role of Wally West, though the incursion was potentially just as comprehensive. After all the character is never named and could have just as likely been named Walda or Wallis as any other name (thus allowing a nickname of Wally.)

Although they are based off of general consensus and are generally pretty silly, the so-called rules of the internet cover this topic to a degree, specifically rule 63 which states that for every male character that a female version of this character also exists.  While not absolutely true, it is often the case at least with the most popular characters. Some are direct rip-offs, though very rarely does a character assume the actual identity of the character, though the new female Thor is potentially going to change this. The female characters generally are presented in one of two ways. Either they are a female character that is modified into the costume of a male hero, as in the case of Stephanie Brown in the costume of Robin or May Parker in Spider-Man’s costume, or with separate characters in obviously feminine costumes as in the case with Supergirl and Batgirl.  In these cases though the character is separate and not taking over for the main role. While this in itself could be interpreted as a statement of gender, it is still worth noting that each character has their own self and their own past.

kflashThis being the case it would seem that the problem with the case of Wally West is not that directly of skin colour but that of identity. Wally West was an established character for many, and to change something as deep as skin color for many readers meant a fundamental change for the readers. Is this fair though?  If indeed the female character had been named either Wallis or Walda (I know these are more obscure names) would that have been so easily forgiven?

Before answering that it is maybe relevant to have a look at some of the major black characters from the history of comics. A lot of the major black characters came from a time when being black was a big part of their identity, especially with the introduction of these characters in the silver age.  In the case of Black Panther or Black Lightning, there was no question about their skin color as it was right in their names. While this did not hold true in every character (such as with Falcon or War Machine) it was still a notable part of their identity. In the comic book setting where the suffix “–man” is the expected commonality, it was necessary for a time to distinguish between skin color and gender. Black Lightning is perhaps one of the worst cases of this, as for a time his true identity as a black man is hidden behind his hero facade of being a jive-talking street character. He was not allowed to be educated as a hero, instead he was forced into racial stereotypes. Still those stereotypes existed, and they were even there with other characters. If Black Panther were called White Panther instead, the main association with the color to the character would not be skin color.  Instead, someone would expect that the character has some kind of powers related to the word “white.”

There exists a lot of other names in comics to distinguish one version from another. One major example is the previously mentioned example of –girl which is used almost exclusively for female versions of male characters (with the exception of the Legion of Super Heroes characters as well as Wonder Girl), but in terms of the Flash there was already a descriptor for this difference – “Kid”.

As the character gained more depth though, he was no longer associated with his own name and instead that of another, Wally. He became a real hero in the way that real heroes do, that by association by their non-hero names is almost as evident as with their superhero names. In this way it is not possible to have a character named Batman that is not Bruce or a Superman that is not Clark. The question is though, is whether skin color and gender are so tied to those identities. It would seem as though the answer in both cases is yes, except the more so for skin color. Not all fans, but some fans are willing to make fewer exceptions for a black version of a character than for a female version, and perhaps some of this is tied to identity but some is not.

A distinguishing factor here is the previously mentioned aspect of power. Even Supergirl, who is as much Kryptonian as Superman, is never said to be able to match him in power, despite their powers having nothing to do with their specific gender physiology. Equally Stephanie Brown, for the short time that she took over as Robin was never seen as his equal, even being regarded by Batman as an unnecessary risk to be allowed to act in the role. It is thus the case that female characters rarely break the gender role/stereotype of the female gender, but it is not the case with a black character. Black versions of the white characters are usually just as strong and able at superheroics, and this is likely also part of the outrage over the characters. That in some ways the girls will never compete truly for the title, but that the black men can, and this is the true danger with a black version of a favorite character. A black character makes the original white character replaceable, while a female character only makes a lesser powerful version of that main character. In the first case fans will often reject the change, but in the second case it is more acceptable.

In light of all the commentary about the medium in recent months, be it over the black Wally West or over the comments about the new direction for Wonder Woman, it is important to note that certain aspects of the medium and their fans are still stuck with some outdated thinking.

Review: Futures End Wonder Woman #1 and Superman/Wonder Woman #1

aa01Company-wide story arcs or events outside of the regular continuity of comic series can be particularly frustrating to regular readers, especially when the underlying concept or plot is of little interest to the reader.  Instead of reading the pre-planned progress of the series, fans are left with a choice either to buy into the whole event, or to take it piece by piece and to try to figure out how it affects a specific series.  Previous issues of Futures End have been fairly self-contained in terms of their content. It has been possible to follow along without understanding the bigger picture of the series, rather the event has just had the effect of creating a What If…? scenario where a potential future five years ahead is investigated. This is one the problems with the Futures End version of both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman. Instead of being standalone issues, the two issues are tied together, a story arc within a story arc.

As a pair of standalone issues they end up in a bit of a weird place. Wonder Woman is about to get a new creative team, and the current direction of Wonder Woman while being wildly popular with fans, is unlikely to continue. This version of the character, though successful from a creative and commercial standpoint, is therefore likely not the one which is going to be seen in the future, rather a different one presumably more tied to the mainstream of DC continuity. This works to the detriment of the story which is not particularly inspired anyway, at least not to start. The story aa02picks up some momentum as it gravitates away from the initial setting, but also loses it again with the appearance of Superman. So far the romance between the two heroes has a been of a misfire for DC. The initial novelty of it was perhaps of interest to some, but the  unnatural handling of their romance has not done much to in grain this among readers and fans.

This would appear to be to the detriment of this story as well but it really doesn’t end up like that.  Instead the writer here has used both series as a way around having limited resources to tell the story. Except for a few panels on either side, the second issues (that being the SM/WW issue) is almost exclusively focused on Wonder Woman as well. The payoff is not as good as one might expect, but it is still better than one is led into believing after the first issue of this small two-part story arc. It may be obvious, but it is still a nice touch to the current incarnation of Wonder Woman as the goddess of war. It is still hard to recommend these two issues, especially as they do not really cover any new ground, but it is nice to at least see the writers get the main character right.

Story: Charles Soule Art: Rags Morales/Bart Sears
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Is Aquaman a Victim of Power Creep?

aquamanPower creep is a loosely defined term mostly because it is subjective in its application. Generally speaking though, power creep can be roughly described as the general evolution of character’s powers over time. For the fickle readers and writers of comics, these powers becomes part of the character’s canon, and represent abilities and powers which should be perpetuated. In the golden age of comics, Wonder Woman once found herself trapped in outer space, and needing a source of oxygen, she ground her earrings to dust, somehow releasing enough oxygen that she could safely breathe. It did not matter that this was a throwaway occurrence or that it made very little sense, but all of a sudden Wonder Woman’s earrings had the ability to allow her to breathe in outer space. The same kind of runaway powers are prevalent in almost every hero, with debates over who can smash a planet, or a sun or a galaxy.

The advent of power creep is not always to an infinite degree. Sometimes the creep comes and then goes. Many fans either applauded or decried the post-Crisis Superman as written by John Byrne. Gone was the outlandishly powerful character who could scarcely be stopped by any theoretical angle. It seemed as though that anytime that he faced a threat that he developed a hitherto unseen power and that this power became another part of his canon. Fans might even look to the extreme such as in the movie Superman II when he throws his S-symbol from his chest and it becomes a giant cellophane trap for his enemies. In contrast Byrne created a character, that while still strong far beyond human capabilities, still had some limitations. The new more approachable and realistic character was what some wanted to see and what others did not. Regardless, this character did not last long either before returning to near omnipotent powers.

Among the core members of the Justice League and of the A-list of DC Comics characters, Aquaman is the one that has received the most negative attention in the years since his introduction. He was long thought of a running joke among those that looked at the medium from afar, with numerous comedic jabs at his unimpressive powers being a staple of social media and some paid professional comedians. The question is though, how did the character end up as a running gag for so long.The main problem it would seem is in the setting of the character. The undersea world is a great one for exploration, with the likes of Jacques Cousteau having made a career just out of underwater exploration. The appeal of the underwater world is there, but equally in terms of how comics tend to allow power creep onto characters, it also became one of a limitation. For DC characters with such ill-defined power or ability inspiration as “Super”, “Wonder” or “Bat” it is easy to expand their abilities beyond those of those words, as the words can be taken to mean different things, even in the case of “Bat” which might only be a creature to some, but to others represents the night or sneakiness or resourcefulness. “Aqua” it would seem is a limitation in terms of how comic writers thought of powers to develop for the character.

Some writers rightfully pointed to the fact that a character that can swim underwater and withstand the great depths and pressures of the oceans would be equally be superhumanly strong, maybe not the levels of Superman and Wonder Woman, but well beyond that of a normal human. While there were some sensical derivations of his powers, others were goofy. The ability to speak to or command marine life might have been a logical power to attach to the character, but equally this power was ill-defined and also generally useless, at least when it compared to the ability to move mountains or walk through walls. Equally so, when the character lost his hand in the 1990s during a reboot/darkening of the character, it was replaced by nothing other than a small harpoon, the writers once again unable to think of anything for the character beyond the aspect of the sea. His power creep did not occur to a great degree, but it seemed that when it did, that the character just became a bit more aquatic than he had before. Even compared to a pretty aquatic character in Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Aquaman’s powers were very sea based as Namor showed the ability to fly.

aqotherTo be fair since the relaunch of the new 52, the character is one of the DC properties that has really taken off, now ostensibly holding down two separate series at DC, a capability that previously had only been able to be accomplished by Superman, Batman, sometimes Green Lantern and rarely Wonder Woman. It would seem that the serious tone for the character now is one which has aided him, at least in the public perception. As his own entourage of the Others provides his own superhero team, they fill out the slow creep into more powers that another character might have experienced since long ago. As to whether power creep is actually a good thing or not is up to the fans to decide, but for so long it seemed, at least until recent years that Aquaman was left behind in the balance of powers.

Brazil’s Politicians Channel Superheroes

While here in the United States politicians tend to hide their goofy side, in Brazil, it’s a whole other situation. There, politicians have no problem channeling their inner superhero to court voters. Via the New York Times, there an auditor flies through the air like Superman, shooting laser beams from his eyes while using font last seen in He-Man. The candidate for a Catalão City Council seat dressed as Spider-Man and vanquished scoundrels in striped prison uniforms with well-aimed body blows.

This is all a move to cut through and grab voters’ attention. With over 20 political parties, you need to do whatever you can I guess.

If only our elections were this entertaining.

Royal Canadian Mint Unveils New Superman Coin Collection

Following last year’s sold-out Superman seven coin series, the Royal Canadian Mint has introduced four new collector coins featuring DC Comics‘ iconic Superman comic book covers. The coins were unveiled at Fan Expo Canada by the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and Mr. Patrick Hadsipantelis, Vice-President of Marketing and Communications at the Royal Canadian Mint.

These exciting new Superman coins can be ordered directly from the Mint at 1-800-267-1871 in Canada, 1-800-268-6468 in the US, or on the Internet at www.mint.ca/superman. The coins will also be available as of September 2, 2014, at the Royal Canadian Mint’s boutiques in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver, as well as through the Mint’s global network of dealers and distributors, including participating Canada Post outlets.

Check out below for images of the coins and below the jump for more information.

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