Superman 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen thrown around about Superman as a character is that he’s “too powerful,” that nothing can challenge a man who can quite literally juggle planets. There’s a bit of truth to this, to be sure, but it’s a narrow criticism, one that only takes into consideration physical challenges; the most interesting Superman stories are the ones that challenge him morally, ethically, or in ways that make his physical abilities useless. Superman 1 is such a story, an issue that finds the character at his most physically competent, yet feeling more lost and helpless than ever before.  Continue reading

Superman Fails to Find a Better Way in Man of Steel 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Man of Steel 6

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Superman always finds a better way.

Superman purist, Traditional

I’m paraphrasing pretty heavily here, triangulating a sentiment from the dozens of arguments I read (and participated in) in the wake of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but the idea that Superman can always come up with a solution that doesn’t involve murder is a ubiquitous one in Superman fandom. And I agree with that idea as it applies to that film — Superman certainly could have at least attempted something else (or the movie could have done a better job convincing us that he had exhausted his options) — but something about “always finding a better way” doesn’t quite feel like Superman to me. His moral compass true, and he’ll never fail to aim for a solution that satisfies his sense of what’s right and wrong, but the thought that he always comes up with a solution would rob those morals of any real consequence. While some Superman stories might resemble Sherlock Holmes in that “seeing how he solves it is the fun” kind of way, one of the most interesting things about Superman having such a strong morality is that it might be tested or bear some emotional cost. That’s a point Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Fabok leverage twice in Man of Steel 6, as Superman fails to “find a better way” in both his superheroing and family lives. Continue reading

Man of Steel 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: Batman is a subject that frequents many pages of my sketchbooks and I assume everyone else’s.  Unlike the versatile Batman, I find that Superman is a harder character to draw, especially in his facial features. The face of Superman has to simultaneously convey strength, joy and a decent amount of charm. Thus far, I am enjoying Brian Michael Bendis’ depiction of Superman, and in Man of Steel 2, he is joined by 3 artists who tap into that Clark Kent Charm. Continue reading

Man of Steel 1 Reclaims Superman

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“Let’s make America great again / by making racists ashamed again.
Let’s make compassion in fashion again; / let’s make America great again.”

“Make America Great Again,” Frank Turner

In isolation, the words “make America great again” shouldn’t elicit a strong negative biological/emotional response. But this fairly innocuous phrase has been twisted beyond recognition by white nationalism, isolationism, and just general shitheadery. On Frank Turner’s newest record, Be More Kind, he attempts to overwrite the listener’s associations with those four little words on track five, boldly titled “Make America Great Again.” The song is big, joyful and rebellious at the same time, like all of Turner’s best tunes. I like it a lot, but I still flinch when chorus comes around. Some words and some symbols are just too thoroughly corrupted to be reformed. Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis’ Man of Steel 1 has a similar hurdle to overcome: attempting to return Superman to the platonic ideal that maybe only exists in the imaginations of Kal El’s biggest fans. The results are miraculous. Continue reading

Doomsday Clock 5 Meanders

By Drew Baumgartner

Doomsday Clock 5

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The essence of drama, and especially melodrama, is compression. Show only what’s important. So start the scene as late as possible and once the dramatic point is made, end it.

Dennis O’Neil, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics

Pound for pound, this might be some of the best writing advice I know. But in this age of sequels, prequels, spin-offs and tie-ins, it seems like it’s all but been forgotten. That is, the artistic discipline of narrative efficiency is no match for the commercial demands of more familiar content. I don’t mean to dismiss all sequels etc. out of hand (The Godfather: Part II is a goddamned masterpiece, and is both a sequel and a prequel), but I do think they need to work a bit harder to justify their existence — if the details of this prequel story truly are essential, why weren’t they included in the original. And that scrutiny goes double when augmenting a beloved masterpiece. It’s absolutely possible for a sequel to justify itself, even under those circumstances (again, The Godfather: Part II), but it’s no easy feat. Unfortunately, the longer Doomsday Clock wears on, the less it seems up to that task, not only failing to justify its existence, but pretty much every storytelling choice it makes. Continue reading

Action Comics 1000: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner, Michael DeLaney, Patrick Ehlers, and Spencer Irwin

Action Comics 1000

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“From the City that Has Everything”

Drew: Superman changed the world. That’s obvious enough in-universe, but it’s just as true of our world. Action Comics 1 created (or at least codified) the superhero genre, a genre that came to define both the 20th and 21st centuries, and is still growing as Action Comics rings in its 1000th issue. It’s a singular achievement, but celebrating it as such might not be in the spirit of Superman, for whom humbleness is as much a part of his character as heroism. He’s not one to take compliments easily, let alone brag, so any efforts to do so on his behalf run the risk of feeling crass. Most of the stories in this issue opted to ignore lionizing Superman outright, aiming instead to illustrate what it is that makes him so laudable, but in the issue’s opening chapter, Dan Jurgens came up with a way to address the issue with Superman himself, providing a commentary on the whole exercise of a huge anniversary issue, and offering a justification that even Superman can get behind. Continue reading

A Bad Dad Provides Clarity in Action Comics 995

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The past few issues of Action Comics have featured Superman at his worst. His determination to go back in time to watch Krypton’s destruction (all in hopes of proving that Mr. Oz wasn’t actually Jor-El) has practically made him the bad guy of this story, as his stubborn refusal to heed Booster Gold’s warnings to stop meddling in time have endangered all of history. Even at his best moments in this story, though, he’s come across as a bit shortsighted and condescending. It takes a revelation about Booster’s father to help Superman gain some much-needed clarity. Continue reading

Time Travel Trouble in Action Comics 994

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

With Action Comics 993 I wondered: how many times has Superman traveled back in time to Krypton? Action Comics 994 has me wondering the follow-up questions: how many times has Superman had to watch his birth parents and their home die? Continue reading

The Power of Faith and Trust in Superman 36

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.

Fans and creators alike often complain that it’s hard to find a proper challenge for Superman when the character is so unfathomably powerful. But as far as I’m concerned, the best Superman stories aren’t the ones that challenge him physically, but the ones that test his morals and ideals, his methods and resolve. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Superman has excelled in this respect, and issue 36 continues this streak, further defining Superman’s greatest strengths by showing what happens when he doesn’t live up to his own lofty standards. Continue reading

Batman 36: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Mark Mitchell

Batman 36

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: Is Bruce Wayne the mask, or is Batman? Which one is “real”? It’s a long-standing debate amongst the comic book community, and given the myriad of different interpretations of the character, probably one that will never have a definitive answer. My own feelings about this question have shifted and evolved over time, but if you asked me right this second, I’d say that both Bruce and Batman are masks of sorts — the millionaire playboy and the dark knight, respectively. We don’t see him too often, but there’s a real Bruce beneath both those facades, one with real human emotions that often get buried beneath the weight of his own mythology. The best parts of Tom King’s run on Batman have been the moments where he’s let that real Bruce shine through, and more than anything it’s been Catwoman who has allowed this Bruce to do just that. In Batman 36, King adds another tool to his storytelling arsenal that similarly cuts right to Batman’s hidden humanity: his best friend, Superman. Continue reading