SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF 03
Batmania Vs. Supermanga
Reviewing: Secret Files & Origins To The DC Universe 2001-2002, Sugar and Spike Replica Edition #1, Birds of Prey #42, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, Superman #178, 182, Adventures
of Superman #603-605 and Ultiman Giant Annual #1
Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker
DC has been doing these Secret Files books for awhile, sometimes they're worth it, sometimes not. I'd have to say Secret Files & Origins To The DC Universe 2001-2002 was not. This was a commercial, and false advertising at that.
Let's just look at the cover. Superman (who at least looks like Superman, a rarity as we'll see below) appears in six panels in the lead story. Wonder Woman, two panels. Hawkman, the reason I bought it, was mentioned once and appeared barely in two panels. Saturn Girl, also two panels. Krypto, apparently the star of the book, six panels like his master. Azrael gets a vague non sequitor two page sequence. Orpheus, a new character gets a text piece - an ad for his new book basically. And Steel? Only on the cover. What a rip!
Inside the book we get a jumbled but touching story about a working couple who hardly have time for each other because their jobs have them each running around the DC universe. It's interspersed with mentions of various major plotlines going on in many DC books this past year. The highlight is a fictional movie ad for "Topeka" a movie made about the Worlds At War series that ran through the Superman books.
Then we have the blatant ads, the pin-ups and text pieces on upcoming series or books DC wants to push. Suicide Squad (already on the cancellation block), Haven, Doom Patrol (yes, another new Doom Patrol), Orpheus (a Bat spin-off I won't bother with cuz I don't want to buy the other fifty Bat-books to keep up), Power Company (actually quite good, but this dry text piece sure wouldn't have sold me on it), Josie Mac (also quite good but dry as well) and Legion which is completely unrecognizable to me as the Legion but makes sure to make itself inaccessible to new readers. Hmmmm, ads that don't work, another $4.95 down the drain, I think I won't be buying any more Secret Files.
To wash the sour taste of that one out of my mouth I also purchased the reprint of Sugar and Spike #1 originally published in 1956. This was a joy by the master Sheldon Mayer and worth every penny of $2.95. Why can't we have more comics like this?
Birds of Prey is a hot topic lately. It's been picked up as a series for the WB by the same people who do "Smallville." To be aired Wednesdays at 9:00 PM it will be in the future as "Smallville" is supposedly in the past. Also in common with "Smallville" the comics continuity is thrown out the window, in other words some of the characters in this show will have the same names as characters in the comics. The plot for the pilot has Batman (played by the actor from the OnStar commercials) fleeing Gotham City after the Joker (voiced but not performed by Mark Hamill) kills Catwoman and cripples Batgirl. Years later Batgirl, now a computer hacker tries to fight crime with help of two new female crusaders.
Casting for the moment has Dina Meyer (who was so hot in "Starship Troopers" and "Johnny Mnemonic") in the Oracle/Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Rachel Skarsten as the telepathic (?) and teenage (??) Dinah Laurel Lance (not called Black Canary in the pilot but sources say her mother appears in later episodes and is referred to as Black Canary) and Ashley Scott ("A.I.", Fox's "Dark Angel") as the Huntress/Helena Kyle (reverting to the original comics continuity as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman). Recent casting changes have Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks"), who was to have played Dr. Harleen Quinzel who eventually becomes the Joker's companion Harley Quinn, having her scenes reshot and replaced by Mia Sara ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Time Cop") because she could not commit to the series.
Now I don't follow the comics series because it's so tied up with the Bat-continuity and I don't want to buy fifty books a month for one story but I know enough to know the show certainly won't attract viewers to comics, they'll be hopelessly confused. The most recent BOP I picked up was #42 because of Power Girl.
I'm a big Power Girl fan mostly because of the Justice Society and the 1970s All Star Comics series. That said, this issue read and the horror of what's been done to the character in the intervening years I think the only writer that should be allowed near her is Paul Levitz. The story in this book, why Power Girl no longer works with Oracle, is good by Chuck Dixon (who should be pounded in the head for getting PG's secret identity wrong - it's Karen Starr, not Steele. Hello? What do these DC editors get paid for anyway?), it's just not my Power Girl.
As long as we're on the Bat-books, this summer welcomed the long-anticipated sequel to the classic The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I bought all three issues of The Dark Knight Strikes Again or DK2 at a tragic $7.95 each and am wondering who I see about getting it back. Who said we needed a sequel anyway? The original was just that, original. It had things to say, trends to set, unexplored territory to explore and talent to show off. Unfortunately I think Frank Miller (like Peter David and the Hulk in my last column) has said all he has to say about Batman and should quit while he's ahead. DK2 is drivel, and a waste of money - for me, for you and for DC cuz I'm sure Miller did not come cheap.
On the other side of the Bat-coin this summer was the Bruce Wayne: Murderer story arc running through all the books. I only picked up the first part; Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure. Ten cents… I find the marketing ploy rather curious considering most comics shops gave these away for free. It's a great story, the best Batman I've read in years, by Greg Rucka. You get the origin, the motivation, brings you up to date in continuity, springs a great cliffhanger to launch this summer's story arc and entertains as well. As interested as I am to find out what happens I just don't have the cash to buy all the Bat-books this summer to find out. Shame, cuz the start is terrific.
It was recently announced that Wolfgang Petersen, director of action films like "Air Force One", "The Perfect Storm", "Outbreak" and "In The Line of Fire", was online for preproduction of a film project called "Batman Vs. Superman". Sadly from interviews it seems the German director knows very little about these two great American icons. It will be based upon the old day vs. night, hero vs. anti-hero cliche which is from a script by the multi-talented Kevin Williamson ("Scream", "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Dawson's Creek") which is at least a good sign. Petersen wants to cast unknowns in the title roles rather than actors already established in the parts. It should be noted that there is also a "Batman Year One" (Darren Aronofsky), a live action "Batman Beyond" (Neil Stephenson) and a new "Superman" (McG) all in preproduction and unrelated to this project right now as well.
If we were to do a Batman Vs. Superman as far as comics quality this summer Bats would be the sure winner because the Superman books surely do suck. Over the past months the art has been turning more and more manga. Sorry this is not my Superman, he's not big eyes and cartoony exaggerated muscles. My Superman is Max Fleischer, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, even John Byrne or Alex Ross but no how no way manga. If I want that crap I'll watch one of my videos or read Impulse. It ain't Superman.
With my thoughts on the deteriorating art stated I'm just going to review the writing on the following books. Superman #178 features a visit to Smallville (do I smell a marketing link here?) and the return of Quality Golden Age great Uncle Sam. Sam has been restored to his original form after a stint as the costumed Patriot (a biiiig mistake in my eyes) and engages Supes in a Marvel Comics style brawl for no apparent reason (shades of the Hulk and the Thing). Superman #182 has Supes saving Lois from various members of the newly-re-formed Suicide Squad (now this is a marketing ploy) like Killer Frost, Solomon Grundy (again? Wow, between the "Justice League" cartoon and the comics this has been one busy summer for old Grundy) and Deadshot. As with the Batman 10-Cent Adventure above both these books have great cliffhangers but are so continuity-heavy in the subplots it kills any desire to pick up the series regularly.
I also picked up Adventures of Superman #603-605 because I'm a sucker for the Crime Syndicate even if they're not the evil Justice League from Earth Three anymore. Crisis still burns me up, I was five when I was introduced to the concept of parallel Earths (Justice League of America #91 to be precise) and have never had a problem understanding it. I still maintain it was the idiot editors at DC who didn't do their jobs that were the morons who didn't understand it, not the readers. Jeez, how did anyone watch "Sliders" if it's such a hard goshdarn concept???
Post-Crisis the Crime Syndicate now hail from an anti-matter universe which of course makes even less sense than Earth Three thanks to the twisted mind of Grant Morrison (don't get me started…). Here again, the art… ick. Mirror Mirror is an appropriate title for this trilogy because the manga-ish art has turned into some dark twisted Bizarro version of manga - it hurts my head to look at it, let alone read it. Any coolness the story may have had was destroyed by the visuals. It will be a loooong time before I pick up another Super-book.
For us Superman purists at least there is still Big Bang Comics. These folks specialize in paying homage to the Golden Age and the Silver Age of comics. Their version of Superman, Ultiman, has the Ultiman Giant Annual on the shelves this summer. Set up like the DC 80-Page Giants of the 1960s we get a few Silver Age style stories of Ultiman, a Thundergirl (sort of Mary Marvel meets Supergirl), and a Blackjack and his Flying Aces (Silver Age DC Blackhawks). A great tribute to the comics of the sixties. Ahh, memories... definitely pick this one up.
reprinted from http://www.comicwidows.com
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