Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dig in: Featuring Superman!

Look, up in the sky! Does any character evoke the spirit of super heroics more than Superman? DC Comics and the world are celebrating his 75th Anniversary this year and he’s getting his own new movie this week to boot! As a way to celebrate this classic character I will be writing up a couple things this week in honor of him. The first is the return of Dig In, this time featuring Supes.  

So you want to start at the beginning but you don’t have the extra million dollars to buy Action Comics #1, eh? Well try on one of these modern adaptations of where Superman comes from: 

Superman: For All Seasons: Simply put, this is one of the prettiest books I have ever seen. Tim Sale serves up picturesque Kansas landscapes on one page and on the next perfectly evokes the skyline of Metropolis. Sale created this book with his often times partner Jeph Loeb. Loeb uses the seasons of the year as a framing device to tell 4 different stories from 4 different vantage points, Lex Luthor, Jonathan Kent, Lana Lang, and Lois Lane. Each story is simple but significant. Overall the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and it is definitely worth a read.

What to buy: This story has been collected a couple of times (link) or you can try and find the single issues (1-4) as well. 

Superman Birthright: Birthright is something of an artifact of its time nowadays. It was created in the halcyon days of Smallville being on TV and parts of the story really reflect that. But to say it’s an adaptation of that show is to do Mark Waid and Lenil Yu an injustice! While the show touched this book it also smartly combines many of the previous origin stories of Superman while still adding a modern spin on it. Waid expertly uses his ability to weave in Silver Age ideas and stories and Yu’s distinctive pencils create an interesting story that showcases Clark Kent just as much as Superman. 

What to buy: There is a pretty cheap collection (link) or you can try and find all 12 issues (which will get pricey). 

So you want to read about Superman, but you don’t really have time for his 75 years’ worth of baggage? Try one of these great out of continuity tales
Superman: Secret Identity: Written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Stuart Immonen, this is a story that ostensibly takes place on a world devoid of super heroes, much like our own. In it, a young boy is named Clark Kent by his family as a joke and he grows up hating everything about Superman and his name. But one day on his birthday he develops all the spectacular powers of Superman! The story chronicles his decisions on how to use his newfound abilities as well as the effect such powers would have on your personal life. He even falls in love, with a woman named Lois Lane natch. This is a great look into how a real man deals with being a super man and how the world would likely react to such a thing. It may not star the real McCoy, but few stories capture the essence of Superman more than this one.

What to buy: The collected edition is definitely cheaper and easier to get (link). You can get the 4 single issues but they are pricey and a couple are hard to lay hands on. This is also a commonly found book in the graphic novels section of your local library! 

All Star Superman: So when I say out of continuity, I mean it. This tale is not a canon part of the DC universe. However, a strong understanding of Superman’s history would likely add to your enjoyment here. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary and that’s one of the reasons that this Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely epic is so highly prized. Morrison uses his wizard skills to blend together the Silver Age madness of Superman and some modern storytelling sensibilities to tell a tale of a Superman who is dying from the machinations of Lex Luthor. This story features Superman’s entire cast and why each of them is important to Superman. Along the way you get to see exactly why Superman matters to the world and how he has changed it for the better. Crazy comic book goodness abounds including a Super Serum, Planet Bizzaro, a mission to the Sun, the Tyrannosaur people of inner Earth, time travelling biblical heroes, and more! If you ever only read one Superman story, this should be it.  

What to buy: There are two trades you can purchase (link & link) that cover all 12 issues. Or if you have deep pockets, you could with the Absolute Edition (link).

In today’s hectic world, you may only have time to read one or two comic books in a setting. Do you want to read Superman stories faster than a speeding bullet? Try these one issue long tales!

For the Man Who Has Everything (Superman Annual #11): An Alan Moore and David Gibbons
collaboration on Superman! It’s Supermans birthday in the tale and Batman, Robin, & Wonder Woman are headed to the Fortress of Solitude to give him some gifts. Unfortunately, before they arrive an alien demigod named Mongol has wreaked some vengeance on the Man of Steel. Using a flower called The Black Mercy, Mongol is making Superman hallucinate his greatest desire. A battle between the party guests and Mongol ensues all while Superman hallucinates. Superman must fight back against un-reality to help his friends and defeat Mongol. It’s a gripping tale that always appears on lists such as this.
What to Buy: The story is including in collections like: The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told and DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore. I would suggest those or buying is digitally as the real life floppy version can be expensive. You could also watch the Justice League Unlimited episode based on the comic. 

What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, & The American Way? (Action Comics #775): Drawn by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo and written by Joe Kelly, this anniversary issue has its lovers and its detractors. The story features The Elite, which are analogues of The Authority. Both teams represent the “edgy” comics of the early 2000’s by having members that kill when they think they need to and basically being the opposite of everything Superman stands for. At first it seems as if Superman and the Elite will be allies but as the story progress The Elite take a heel turn for the worse. Their rough style of “justice” and their team wind up becoming more popular than Superman. Superman must decide if the world has passed him and his morals by or whether there still is something to Truth and Justice and how to best deal with The Elite. Personally I found it very enjoyable when I first read it and it made me switch teams to being a Superman fan. It can be a bit heavy handed at times and Superman’s morals don’t really need to be defended so vigorously but it does its job of showing you why Superman matters. 

What to buy: You can find the issue in pretty much any self-respecting 50¢ bin. On Netflix Instant you can see the animated movie adaptation as well. 

Of Thee I Sing (Hitman #34): Yeah, that’s right, Hitman. The title featuring a gun for hire and written by the world’s biggest super hero hater, Garth Ennis, features one of the greatest Superman stories you can read. Ennis and John McCrea had a successful run with Hitman but this issue is just a little something different. Superman ends up hanging out with Tommy Monaghan, (Hitman) discussing what it’s like to be Superman. He’s failed to save a life earlier in the book and it’s just eating him from the inside out. Superman failed, he let someone die. Monaghan delivers a speech about what it means to be Superman and what it means to be an American. It’s amazingly heartfelt and displays a reverence for the character that doesn’t often work. If you need your heartsrings tugged on then pick this one up. 

What to buy: Just go and find the issue somewhere I reckon. 

I like What if? Kinds of stories, got anything for me?
Sure! Pick up some Superman Elseworlds!

Superman: Red Son: Mark Millar’s take on what Superman and the DC universe would be like if Superman were a red blooded, Russian, commie!

Superman: Speeding Bullets: What if Superman was Batman? You would get this really weird story!

JLA: For Want of a Nail: What if Jonathan and Martha Kent had a flat tire and didn’t find baby 
Superman? You would get a nutty world of hero hatred, evil Jimmy Olson, and Amish Superman! Don’t believe me, then go read this story. 

There are lots and lots of others of course but these are just a good place to get started! I hope you find some stories you enjoy and that you end up loving Superman!

That’s all for today everyone! Come back on Friday when I present “IN DEFENSE OF SUPERMAN!”

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