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The Kryptonian Cybernet Issue 43 • Neperos (1)

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Kryptonian Cybernet

·5 Jul 2024

 _____________________________________________________________________________ 

T H E K R Y P T O N I A N C Y B E R N E T
_______________________________________________

http://www.ms.uky.edu/~sykes/kc

Issue #43 -- October 1997

_____________________________________________________________________________

CONTENTS
--------
Section 1: Superscripts: Notes from the Editor
The End is in Sight
Ratings At A Glance
Titles Shipped September 1997
Just the FAQs
"What Romances were in Lois's and Clark's Past?"
Part III: Superman's Admirers, by David T. Chappell

Section 2: News and Notes
A *big* look ahead at the coming months in comics and
merchandise, Some creator shuffling, TV ratings, Movie
news, and a November TNT schedule
And Who Disguised As...
J.D. Rummel addresses the potential of Superman Blue
Heroes
Superman and what makes a hero, by Enola Jones

Section 3: An Edition of Famous Firsts
Yosef Shoemaker helps improve your Superman trivia skills!
The Mailbag

Section 4: New Comic Reviews
The Superman Titles
Superman: The Man of Steel #73, by Thomas Deja
Superman #129, by David T. Chappell
Adventures of Superman #552, by Dan Radice

Section 5: New Comic Reviews
The Superman Titles (cont)
Action Comics #739, by Shane Travis
Super-Family Titles
Steel #44, by Jeff Sykes
Superboy #45, by Rene' Gobeyn
Superboy and the Ravers #15, by Jeff Sykes

Section 6: New Comic Reviews
Super-Family Titles (cont)
Supergirl #15, by Thomas Deja
Other Superman Titles
JLA #12, by Anatole Wilson
Superman Adventures #13, by Cory Strode
Limited Series
Elseworlds' Finest #2, by Douglas Wolk

Section 7: New Comic Reviews
Limited Series (cont)
The Kents #4, by Rene' Gobeyn
Annuals and Specials
JLA Annual #9, by Anatole Wilson
Superman Adventures Annual #1, by Cory Strode
Adventures in the DC Universe Annual #1, by Rene' Gobeyn

Section 8: After-Byrne
Manuscripts of Steel
Adventures of Superman Annual #2 and
L.E.G.I.O.N. '90 Annual #1, by Denes House
The Phantom Zone
Tales of Earth-One
Superboy's first appearance in Adventure Comics,
by Bob Hughes

Section 9: Superman: The Animated Series
A Brief Episode Guide
Episode Reviews
"Livewire", by Neil Ottenstein
"Speed Demons", by Mike Shields
"Action Figures", by Scott Devarney
"Mxyzpixilated", by Diane Levitan
"Brave New Metropolis", by Scott Devarney
"Monkey Fun", by Nathan Bredfeldt

Section 10: Sneak Peeks: The Kryptonian Cybernet's Pre-Reviews
Spoiler-Free opinions on Legends of the DC Universe #1

STAFF:
------
Jeffery D. Sykes, Editor-in-Chief
Shane Travis, Executive Editor: New Comic Reviews
Nancy Jones, Executive Editor: Lois and Clark section
Neil Ottenstein, Executive Editor: S:TAS section

Editors:
Chip Chandler Steve Hanes D.M. Simms
Joe Crowe Curtis Herink Shane Travis
Trevor Gates William O'Hara Steven Younis

LEGAL DISCLAIMERS:
-----------------
Superman and all related characters, locations, and events are copyright and
trademark DC Comics. Use of the aforementioned is not intended to challenge
said ownership. We strongly suggest that each reader look to the media
sources mentioned within for further information.

All original material published in The Kryptonian Cybernet, including but not
limited to reviews, articles, and editorials, are copyright 1997 by The
Kryptonian Cybernet and the respective authors. Reprinting in any format is
expressly forbidden without the permission of The Kryptonian Cybernet and the
contributing author.

Opinions presented within this issue belong to the authors of the articles
which contain them. They should in no way be construed as those of any other
particular member of the editorial or contributing staff, unless otherwise
indicated.

This magazine can be distributed, in whole, freely via e-mail. Should you
desire to share this publication with other on-line services, please contact
me at sykes@ms.uky.edu for permission. Feel free to advertise subscription
information on other on-line services which have internet mail availability.

THE KRYPTONIAN CYBERNET is available by e-mail -- to subscribe, send the
commands

subscribe kc
end

in the body of an e-mail message to "majordomo@novia.net" (without the
quotation marks). The program ignores the subject line of the message.

Back issues are available via ftp at oasis.novia.net. These archives can also
be reached via the Kryptonian Cybernet Homepage:

http://www.ms.uky.edu/~sykes/kc

______________________________________________

SUPERSCRIPTS: Notes from the Editor
------------------------------------

THE END IS IN SIGHT

In a recent statement, DCU head honcho Mike Carlin flat admitted that the
classic Superman would return in 1998, and that they had always intended on
the Electric Blue Superman being a temporary alteration. (Now don't those of
you who *bought* the permanence feel a bit silly?) He also indicated that
"June '98 seems like a sensible date to aim for..."

For those of you who don't know the specifics, the cover date of ACTION COMICS
#1 was June 1938. I believe this was the same as the month of publication
(unlike today, where the cover date is two months different from the month of
publication). If we assume that DC wants to "debut" the classic Superman on
exactly the 60th Anniversary, there are then two options: April 1998 (whose
books will sport a June cover date), or June 1998 (for obvious reasons).

Some new information. Christopher Priest, who writes STEEL and several other
titles, is an active participant in the rec.arts.comics.* newsgroups, and
recent discussions have included the upcoming 50th issue of STEEL. Priest
recently indicated that he's not entirely thrilled with the fact that he's
going to have to rework his plans for STEEL just a bit. The reason? STEEL
#50 will be taking part in a big Superman crossover, information about which
Priest refused to offer up.

However, the participation in and of itself clues us into the time frame!
Assuming there are no plans to skip a month, STEEL #50 should hit the shelves
in early March. This means that the big Superman event will begin no later
than March. So the only question is when will it draw to a close?

As I understand it, #50 is the only issue of STEEL slated to participate in
the crossover. This could be a sign that the crossover will not drag on for
months, but may well wrap up in April. Then again, it could just be that
STEEL will not be participating in the entire crossover. There's no reason to
expect that it should have to -- in fact, there's no reason to expect that
Priest should be *forced* to involve Steel, but that's another matter all
together...

For something as huge as Superman's 60th Anniversary, though, I somehow doubt
that we'll only see a month-long crossover. Keep in mind that less important,
issue-number-based anniversaries saw crossover events lasting several months.
The death, funeral, and return of Superman took around three-fourths of a
year. "Dead Again", "The Death of Clark Kent", and "The Trial of Superman"
each lasted at least two months.

If the crossover doesn't actually begin until March, then I'd bet on June as
the month to feature the return of the traditional Superman. Of course, it
could all begin in February, making April an ideal finish line. Either way,
I'm certain most of us are ready to see what's going to happen. I'm told it
will be exceedingly interesting, and perhaps *not* what we might expect.

I'll stop babbling here -- have to make room for a *huge* News and Notes this
month. Enjoy the new issue!

Jeff Sykes, Editor

______________________________________________

RATINGS AT A GLANCE: Titles shipped September 1997
-------------------------------------------------------
Prepared by Shane Travis (travis@sedsystems.ca)

Key:
----
Issue -- Issue for which 'Current' Rating and Rank are calculated. The
'Previous' columns refer to the issue immediately prior to this.
Rating -- Average Rating, in Shields (maximum rating is 5.0). The number
in () indicates how many people submitted ratings.
Rank -- The relative ranking of the book among the regularly-published
Superman titles.
Average -- Average of the ratings for this title over the indicated number
of months, based on the book's cumulative average. Each month is
weighted equally, regardless of the number of people rating the
book that month. If this book is averaged over fewer months than
the rest, the number of months is displayed in ().

CurrentPreviousAvg (6Mth)
TitleIssueRatingRankRatingRankRating Rank
---------- -----------------------------------------
The Kents44.1(5)--4.2(5)--4.30--(4mo)
Superman Adv.133.9(4)14.4(7)1 4.12 1
Superman 129 3.8(7) 2 2.4(13) 10 3.17 6
Steel 44 3.8(2) 3 3.1(4) 5 3.85 2
JLA Annual 1 --- -- --- -- -- --(*)
JLA 12 3.4(5) 4 4.1(10) 2 3.67 3
Adv. of Superman 552 3.3(10)5 2.6(12) 8 3.15 7
Supergirl 15 3.3(6) 6 3.3(6) 3 3.43 4
Elseworld's Finest 2 3.2(5) -- 4.0(7) -- -- --
Action Comics 739 3.0(9) 7 3.2(10) 4 3.23 5
Superboy 45 3.0(7) 8 2.6(7) 7 2.92 9
Adv. in DCU Annual 1 2.8(5) -- --- -- -- --
Sup. Adv. Annual 1 2.7(5) -- --- -- -- --
Man of Steel 73 2.6(7) 9 2.4(12) 9 2.75 10
SB and the Ravers 15 2.1(4) 10 2.9(3) 6 2.93 8

(*) The ranking for JLA ANNUAL #1 is approximate: the two stories within
the annual were rated separately.

Standing Tall: SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #13 (3.9 Shields)
- While not as well received as "The War Within" two-parter, people cheered
long and loud for this fun and funny Strange Sports Story.

Falling Flat: SUPERBOY AND THE RAVERS #14 (2.1 shields)
- Average rating on SATR has fallen 1.6 Shields in two issues. Last month
could be blamed on Genesis; Josh Hood's art and an all-over-the-place
storyline contribute to this month's slide.

On The Rebound: SUPERMAN #129 (+1.4 Shields)
- Wow. People hated to see Cyborg come back from being buried in the Wall,
but they sure liked the story he had to tell once he got here.

Down the Tubes: ELSEWORLDS' FINEST #2 (-0.8 Shields)
- Too much story in too few pages was the general comment. Still, a
respectable average rating of 3.6 Shields for the two-parter, and a lot of
positive comments about this take on the tandem.

Information for 'Ratings at a Glance' and the ratings accompanying the
monthly reviews of Superman comics are obtained from KC readers. Anyone
interested in contributing may contact Shane Travis (travis@sedsystems.ca)
and will be added to the monthly mailing-list to receive a Ratings Form.

______________________________________________

Just the FAQs
--------------------------------------------------------------------
More Details about Frequently-Asked Questions about the Man of Steel

by David T. Chappell (d.chappell@ieee.org)

Despite Kal-El's current super-blues, Lois and Clark's romance seems solid and
eternal. Over the years, however, Lois has not been the only woman to set her
eyes on the Man of Steel. Thus, this month's article will cover the topic of,

"What Romances were in Lois's and Clark's Past?"
Part III: Superman's Admirers

Introduction

Even though some women see Clark as strong, handsome, and admirable, it is
Superman who has many more admirers. Most of these female fans remain
anonymous, but a few of them have been important over the years. The
Kryptonian eventually married the woman whom the press called "Superman's
Girlfriend." Superman has also had other relationships in his super-guise,
not all of which have been exactly pleasant.

Previous of my columns in the KRYPTONIAN CYBERNET have covered similar amorous
topics. In Late October 1996, I answered, "What Events Led to Lois and
Clark's Romance?" Then in March 1997, I covered the question of "What if Lois
and Clark Hadn't Married?" Moreover, the last two issues have covered
relationships specifically involving Clark and Lois.

Amazing Grace

During the Legends affair (DC Comics' big 1986-1987 cross-over), the evil
Darkseid brought Superman to the home of the darker New Gods. There on
Apokolips, Superman fell into the raging fire-pits and lost his memories.
Amazing Grace, one of the Dark Lord's followers, used her mind-affecting
powers to alter Kal-El's memories. Under her charm, Superman believed himself
to be Darkseid's son, and he fell in love with the evil Amazing Grace. At
times, Kal-El's seductress seemed to show emotion towards her prey, but it was
clear that her sole intention was to use him for her master's plans. For a
short time, Superman fought for Darkseid, but the good New Gods eventually
restored his true memories. With his love for Amazing Grace gone, the Man of
Steel attempted to gain vengeance upon Darkseid but was teleported home by the
great schemer. (SUPERMAN #3, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #426, ACTION COMICS #586,
Mar 87)

Poetically, Amazing Grace later appeared during one of Superman's other
romantic encounters (see below). When Darkseid launched a plot against
Superman and Wonder Woman, Amazing Grace aided her master by briefly
masquerading as the Amazon princess. Though Superman saw through the facade,
the deception nearly led to the heroes' downfall. (ACTION #600, May 88)

Wonder Woman

Kal-El nearly had a romantic relationship with Princess Diana of Themyscira.
After their initial meeting in Washington during the Legends affair (LEGENDS
#6, Apr 87), physical attraction sparked a brief glimmer of romance between
Superman and Wonder Woman. Over subsequent months, the media hyped up their
"Romance of the Century." Diana's charm left Superman infatuated with her,
and he experienced several intense dreams about the beautiful woman.

The two heroes eventually met privately to uncover their true feelings.
Though Superman greeted Diana with a passionate kiss, the couple found no real
amorous attraction (ACTION #600, May 88). Although no romance ever developed,
the two still share a friendship, admiration, and confidence different from
Superman's relationship to most fellow heroes. For example, the two heroes
met during the time Lois had broken off her engagement with Clark, and Diana
encouraged Clark not to give up on his love for Miss Lane (SUPERMAN #118, Dec
96).

Maxima

News of Superman's heroics have spread throughout the galaxy, especially after
his adventures into outer space. In particular, the passionate, fiery Maxima
set out to take Kal-El as her mate. As princess of the planet Almerac and
future ruler of an interplanetary empire, Maxima would only accept a mate of
great strength and physical power. Suspecting that Superman was worthy of
contributing his genes to her royal line, Maxima sent a servant along with a
simulacrum of herself to investigate further. Upon arriving at earth,
however, Maxima's handmaiden Sazu was infuriated by Superman's avoidance of
slaying his enemies. Thus, Sazu declared Superman unfit to wed her lady, and
she destroyed the synthetic duplicate of Maxima. (ACTION #645, Sep 89)

Maxima herself was undeterred, however, and she personally continued towards
Earth since "she is drawn to Superman like a tide to the shore!" (ACTION
#650, Feb 90) When Maxima finally found her perfect mate and stated her case
to ask him to become her consort, Superman declined her offer. Maxima became
enraged and used her psychokinetic blasts against the Kryptonian. After a
short battle, Maxima's telepathic powers made contact with Superman, and the
emotionless aspect that the Eradicator had placed within Kal-El convinced
Maxima that he truly was unworthy of her. (ACTION #651, Mar 90)

Despite her headstrong, barbaric background, Maxima did eventually join the
forces of good. Brainiac conquered her home world of Almerac and encouraged
Maxima to ally with him as he moved to conquer Earth as well. Maxima fought
alongside Brainiac during the "Panic in the Sky" (Feb to Apr 92) since she
considered him as a potential mate, but when she learned of his dangerous
insanity, she decided that the best way to save her home was to defeat
Brainiac. Thus, Maxima changed sides and effectively lobotomized the green
conqueror. Soon thereafter, the alien princess joined the Justice League at
the same time as Superman (JLA #61, Apr 92). She fought alongside the JLA
against Doomsday and eventually joined the JLA Blue and Gold team (EXTREME
JUSTICE) for a while. All during this time, her emotions towards Superman
were generally subdued.

With a recent, unexplained change of heart, Maxima has resumed her obsession
with the Kryptonian. In a sudden shift that leaves the story lacking, Maxima
explained, "I've decided to give you another chance to become my life-mate."
When she realized that Superman had lost his powers, she immediately left,
feeling humiliated. (SUPERMAN: THE WEDDING ALBUM, Dec 96) When she later
suspected that Superman had regained his powers, Maxima resumed her quest:
"With Superman at my side as royal consort, I could restore the glory of
Almerac." Returning to her barbaric instincts, she endangered innocent lives
to attract Kal-El's attention. Superman's rejection stirred her ire, and
another brief fight ensued. At Superman's insistence, Maxima ended the
conflict and apologized to the populace, but she felt only greater anger as a
result of the indignity. (SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF TOMORROW #7, Winter 97) When
later recruited to join the Superman Revenge Squad, she gave Superman a
challenging fight but eventually flew away (SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #65,
Mar 97).

Obsession

Dana Dearden was also clearly obsessed with the Man of Steel. The Superman
shrine in her home showed pictures, magazines, newspaper clippings, action
figures, and other items dedicated to Kal-El, but this was just the edge of
her insanity. Dana wanted to get to meet Superman personally, so she planned
to do it through Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen. Dana pretended to befriend
Jimmy, and she was attractive enough to easily draw him into her snare.
Moreover, Dana carefully planned to share her love with Superman. Her
interest in mythology led her to rob a museum, and the magic coins she took
granted her the abilities of Greek and Norse gods. Along with the costume she
designed for herself, Dana wanted to become a super-heroine.

When Dana finally set her plan into motion, she invited Jimmy to her home,
only to capture the young man and interrogate him. When Jimmy told her about
his signal watch, she rapidly retrieved it from the safe-deposit box. After
summoning Superman, she explained to her love that she wanted to be
Superwoman, "to be there for [him] every day . . . every night." Kal-El
quickly realized the extent of her obsession, but her magic powers led to a
brief skirmish. When Dana accidentally harmed innocents, she joined Superman
in saving the crew of the oil tanker she damaged. Though it is possible that
she survived the tanker's explosion, it seems more likely that it truly was a
Fatal Obsession. (ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #538, Sep 96)

Conclusion

Superman's romantic encounters have not generally been as happy as Clark's
relationships, though they have often been more unusual. Nonetheless, these
in-costume romances are important for what they reveal about Clark and
Superman. On one hand, they demonstrate to us readers how Kal-El is same in
either guise. On the other hand, they show how the public perceives the man
differently by his clothing. Thus, while the great love triangle of Superman
comics ended when Clark revealed his secret to Lois, the world still sees
Superman as an available bachelor.

The "Just the FAQs" column is Copyright (C) 1997 David Thomas Chappell. All
rights reserved. Making copies in any format is expressly forbidden without
the written permission of the author.

______________________________________________

NEWS AND NOTES
--------------

DC recently let everyone in on some of their plans for the next half year,
so I'm going to devote a large portion of News and Notes to recapping this
information. Some of it will be familiar, as we've mentioned a few of these
projects before, but by and large, this is new word on upcoming projects.
Most of this information comes from a recent issue of COMIC SHOP NEWS, but
additional bits were obtained via Michael Doran's NEWSARAMA.

Without further ado:

SUPERMAN '98

SUPERMAN AND BATMAN: GENERATIONS, written and illustrated by John Byrne
as a sequel-of-sorts to his BATMAN/CAPTAIN AMERICA one-shot. This
four-issue prestige-format miniseries presents a reality in which
Superman and Batman began their careers in the 1930s. We see how the
world we know is drastically altered over the course of sixty years of
superheroics, with each issue (focusing one decade in the superheroes'
careers) reflecting the superhero style of its era.

SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS, a new prestige-format four-issue miniseries by
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, focuses on Superman's past. This saga, set
early in Superman's career, reveals how Clark Kent developed the moral
code and maturity that helped make him the greatest hero the world has
ever known...

Mark Millar and Dave Johnson's SUPERMAN: RED SON focuses on a Superman
raised in the Soviet Union, leading to a confrontation with US President
Lex Luthor...

SUPERMAN RED/SUPERMAN BLUE splits Superman in two as his energy form is
ripped apart, forming two superpowered energy beings. The red
incarnation is devil-may-care, while the blue version is more somber.
The repercussions of this split begin in this one-shot, which will be
offered with a 3-D cover, and continue into 1998. The deluxe polybagged
version of this book will also reprint the 1953 3-D comic presenting
Superman's origin.

Mike Carlin confirmed that there would be a great many significant
events in the pages of Superman and in special Superman projects to
celebrate the hero's 60th anniversary. He also assured everyone that
the return of the familiar red-and-blue Superman is definitely coming,
and that the Superman team had always planned to bring that familiar
costume back. "We have never started a story in Superman without
knowing what the punch line was going to be," Carlin said. "We have
changed where the ending *was* in the past, but we know where we're
going." He added, in discussion of when this change might occur, that
"June '98 seems like a sensible date to aim for." (For more information
and speculation about the return of the traditional costume and powers,
make certain to check out my editorial in Superscripts this month!)

JLA/SUPERMAN FAMILY '98

ELSEWORLD'S FINEST: SUPERGIRL AND BATGIRL by Barbara Kesel and Matt
Haley is a prestige-format one-shot set in a different world in which
there are no Batman and Superman -- "In a world where Superman's rocket
carried a lifeless body and James Gordon and his wife died facing Joe
Chill, the greatest heroines of a very different DCU struggle to find
common ground as they face Luthor and the Joker."

The JLA's new lineup will be revealed beginning with the double-sized
conclusion to the "Rock of Ages" storyline in December; the new fourteen
member League will be unveiled in JLA #16.

How much difference can a nail make? You'd be amazed! JUSTICE LEAGUE:
THE NAIL shows what happens when a flat tire on the Kents' pickup truck
takes Superman out of the JLA line-up. Alan Davis is writing and
drawing this three-issue prestige-format Elseworlds series that shows
how the smallest events can have major ramifications. (For
clarification, it's my understanding that Kal-El *will* play a
significant role in this story, hence its inclusion.)

SUPERBOY #50 brings back original series creators Karl Kesel and Tom
Grummett; Superboy's solo adventures will take an Indiana-Jones-meets-
Jonny-Quest-style turn.

Recall that "Junior JLA" project we mentioned might be replacing SUPERBOY
AND THE RAVERS? Tentative plans are for a two-issue miniseries, JLA:
WORLD WITHOUT GROWN-UPS, in which Superboy, Robin, and Impulse must save
the day when a villain makes all the adults in the world disappear. This
would then set the stage for an ongoing series to debut later in the year.
Todd Dezago will write both the miniseries and the ongoing series, while
pencilling chores for the mini appear to belong to Humberto Ramos. No
artist is set for the ongoing.

Mark Evanier and Steve Rude are working together on a JIMMY OLSEN special.
Rude told NEWSARAMA that he expects Evanier's script soon, and that DC is
hoping to release the special at the 1998 San Diego comic convention,
with a special edition designed just for the con.

SUPER MERCHANDISE '98

With 1998 being Superman's anniversary, it's logical to expect a ton of
new Superman-related merchandise. So it should come as no surprise that
a *lot* of the recently announced plans for DC merchandise includes just
that. The varied assortment of planned products includes a series of
mouse pads based on the "Faces of the DC Universe" cover designs gracing
DCU covers in October; a new print project involving Superman; a possible
stationery program, including stationery, notepads, bookmarks, and
playing cards; new DC magnets; a Superman S-Shield ring; and perhaps a
classic Superman watch to accompany the new-design Superman watch
released last Spring.

New statues include SUPERMAN '98 and a phenomenal KINGDOM COME SUPERMAN
STATUE, designed and sculpted by Alex Ross for release later next year.
Comic Book Champions will expand their line of collectible-pewter
figurines with three new series (three figures per series), including
a new Superman edition.

The KINGDOM COME novelization is on schedule for March release from
Warner Books. The book, which features new paintings and illustrations
by Alex Ross and text by Elliot S. Maggin, will expand on the comic
book saga. Warner is also producing a full-scale large-cast drama
audio production of KINGDOM COME.

In January '98, Ty Templeton and John Delany will demonstrate how to
draw Batman and Superman in animated style with Walter Foster's HOW TO
DRAW BATMAN & HOW TO DRAW SUPERMAN. Upcoming books will also demonstrate
how to design and paint animation cells.

The SUPERMAN radio drama returns to radio stations around the nation
later this year as the classic audio drama is offered in syndication.
Those radio programs are also being restored and remastered for DC and
cassette release.

And in one final merchandise note, I have heard that there is or will be
a 60th anniversary Superman calendar, though I have yet to verify this.

FINALLY, THE CRISIS COMPENDIUM

So how many times have you asked (or been asked) what the Crisis was all
about? After all, we use this massive event to denote the Superman which
came before from the Byrne revamp which came after...

Finally, after years of begging by myriad fans, DC is going to re-release
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS in a single, hefty hardcover edition. The
maxi-series which reshaped the DC Universe(s) will be collected as a
high-end, deluxe edition with enhanced coloring and production values.
In addition, this edition will feature an all-new painted cover by Alex
Ross based on a design by the series' artist, George Perez. As quoted by
NEWSARAMA, "Alex ... asked me if he could paint over my pencils. Now I
seldom relinquish my privilege of finishing my own work, but who am I to
turn down Alex Ross?" said Perez. "Alex had two stipulations though. He
wanted the golden-age Superman on the front part of the cover and he
wanted me to draw every character who appeared in the series. I figure
that will be about 500-600 characters. Of course, I said YES."

Don't look for a trade paperback version of this one, however. DC
publisher Paul Levitz explained that the sheer size of the volume would
make it "virtually unbindable," and the cost of a slipcased two-volume
trade paperback would be quite close to the price of the hardcover...

A STERN FAREWELL AND THE WEEZIE SHUFFLE

Roger Stern is once again leaving the Superman fold. Stern, currently
the writer of SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF TOMORROW, will leave that title
following the publication of its tenth issue in early January.

Stern cited two primary reasons for his decision, the first being a
simple desire to move on. He has been working on one Superman book or
another for nearly ten years, and felt it was time to do something else
on a regular basis. He also mentioned the erratic publishing schedule
of MAN OF TOMORROW. As you'll recall, MOT was designed to fill the
so-called "skip weeks." Every now and again, a month will have five
Wednesdays, and MOT was intended to fill those fifth shipping dates.
However, a rash of special projects (Amalgam, Tangent, and the upcoming
New Year's Evil) have recently co-opted those fifth weeks, resulting in
a sporadic and indeterminate schedule for MOT.

Stern will not leave Superman behind completely, however, as he is
finally going to begin work on that Superman Elseworlds story he
mentioned to us some time ago. Under a working title of SUPERMAN: A
NATION DIVIDED, the story deals with a Superman who was around during
the time of the American Civil War.

Following Stern's final issue, current SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL scribe
Louise Simonson will take over the writing duties on MOT. However, as
she makes this transition, Simonson will also be reducing her role on
MOS from writer to co-plotter, as artist Jon Bogdanove takes over
scripting duty. This move is designed to give Mrs. Simonson time to
pursue some writing projects outside of comics.

LET'S PLAY THE RATINGS GAME!

Wonder how LOIS AND CLARK is doing, ratings-wise, on TNT? According to
numbers from mid-September to early October, L&C averaged a 1.4 rating
(or about a million viewers) and a 2.8 share (around 2.8% of the people
watching TV were watching L&C). As I understand, these aren't quite the
numbers TNT had expected, but they have been higher than expected in the
crucial 18-35 year old age range (the group advertisers are most
interested in)...

The BATMAN/SUPERMAN: WORLD'S FINEST movie on the Kids' WB (on Saturday,
October 4) scored a 4.1 rating and a 16 share among kids age 2-11, the
highest ever for Kids' WB Saturday morning programming.

While we're speaking of the animated series, I should point out that
SUPERMAN is still airing twice each Saturday (though I don't know for
how long). The first episode remains at 8:30 AM Eastern, but the second
episode now airs at 10:00 AM Eastern (THE BATMAN/SUPERMAN ADVENTURES
moved to a 9:30 start time). You should, as usual, check local listings
for the exact time and date in your area.

CINEMATIC SETBACKS

It now appears that there will not be *any* appearances by the Man of
Steel in movie theaters in 1998. First up, the campaign to have the
1978 Christopher Reeve vehicle, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, restored and
re-released has apparently come up a bit short. The recent word from
MegadethDC@aol.com is that while Warner Brothers *is* restoring the film,
it will *not* be released to theaters. Instead, look for a home video
release, probably in the VHS, laserdisc, and DVD formats.

In SUPERMAN LIVES news, Warner Brothers has announced that filming has
been pushed back to the Spring of 1998, effectively ending all hopes of
the film's being ready for the Holiday season. Instead, the plans now
are for a Summer 1999 release. Why another delay? If you'll recall,
Tim Burton tossed Kevin Smith's script shortly after coming on board the
project, hiring Wesley Strick for a new version. Word has it that
Warner Brothers has rejected Strick's script, and that Strick has been
let go from the project. So now the project needs a new screenwriter...

What's the bad news about this? Well, Summer 1999 will likely put the
film up against the first of the new STAR WARS movies, which will almost
certainly destroy everything it competes against that summer. In
addition, Marvel Comics has a slew of projects in development, including
Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and X-Men, any one of which could end up
hitting theaters before or around the same time as SUPERMAN LIVES. In
the end, hiring Tim Burton has led to so many delays that (in my opinion)
the film will end up seeing *much* stiffer competition -- not to mention
MISSING THE BLASTED ANNIVERSARY! Get it together, WB.

And the good news? Two ideas. Hopefully, this rejection of Strick's
scripts means that WB is not going to do just whatever Burton says he
wants to do. Perhaps this means that they're slowing things down in
order to make certain the movie is done right. Who knows? For the
second point, the word about SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE not being re-released
into theaters came *before* the announcements about the new delays in
SUPERMAN LIVES. Maybe, just maybe the absence of a new movie for the
60th Anniversary will cause WB to rethink their decision about the
re-release...

I MARRIED A FROG-EATIN' CLONE

November gives us all a reminder of how not to marry two characters on a
popular TV show -- from frog-eating clones to Mike the Angel, you just
gotta wonder what the producers of LOIS AND CLARK were thinking...
Here's a tentative schedule for November, barring special programming of
which I'm not aware. Also note that I'm stopping short, since I don't
know yet what TNT's plans are for Thanksgiving weekend.

LOIS AND CLARK airs Monday through Saturday at 7:00 PM Eastern on the
TNT cable network.

Ep# Date Episode Title
--- ----- -------------------------------------
308 11/1 Chip Off The Old Clark

309 11/3 Super Mann
310 11/4 Virtually Destroyed
311 11/5 Home Is Where The Hurt Is
312 11/6 Never On Sunday
313 11/7 The Dad Who Came In From The Cold
314 11/8 Tempus, Anyone?

315 11/10 I Now Pronounce You...
316 11/11 Double Jeopardy
317 11/12 Seconds
318 11/13 Forget Me Not
319 11/14 Oedipus Wrecks
320 11/15 It's A Small World After All

321 11/17 Through A Glass, Darkly
322 11/18 Big Girls Don't Fly
401 11/19 Lord Of The Flys
402 11/20 Battleground Earth
403 11/21 Swear To God, This Time We're Not Kidding
404 11/22 Soul Mates

405 11/24 Brutal Youth
406 11/25 The People v. Lois Lane
407 11/26 Dead Lois Walking

______________________________________________

AND WHO DISGUISED AS...
---------------------------------------------------------
A Column of Opinion by J.D. Rummel (rummel@creighton.edu)

I don't follow the fanzines and newsgroups like many of you, but even so, it
would be hard to miss the wailing that has been going on about the "new
Superman." (For a comic book guy, that is. I'm sure George F. Will is
oblivious.) Lots of people have been decrying him, saying, "he's not
Superman," and going around with what I can only imagine are puffed-out lips,
or angrily cursing the comic Gods. Well, the sixtieth anniversary is upon us,
and there should be no doubt that the blue guy we've been reading about is
gonna go away. For the big six-oh you better believe that classic cape is not
far off. Not that anybody with even half of my cynicism thought blue-boy was
gonna last. As I stated earlier in this space, he was just a marketing ploy.
Now, however, I think he could be a lot more.

Our fearless leader, Jeff "Devil's Advocate" Sykes, urged us a couple of
issues back to give DC a break. He said they were attempting something
different, and that we should applaud them. Well, I have to agree with him.
Whatever it was, whether experiment, marketing device, or drunken bet gone way
too far, I think it has been a good thing. In fact, I kind of like the "New
Blue." I've started to enjoy reading him, even though Superman is a terrible
name for this incarnation. Let's face it, he is an electrical freak of comic
book physics, not a superman. Blue Bolt, Cobalt, those are better names for
this figure. But even so, it was entertaining watching him manipulate energy
fields to accomplish his super-deeds. And yes, I also like his costume and
all the drawings of crackling energy. Add to this the fact that most of us,
including the star, haven't a clue what his limits are, and there is a lot to
like. I mean, who among us can't predict what the real Superman would do in a
crisis? C'mon, it's been six decades! Any one of us could be Superman.
We've been reading the manuals for years. "He'll use heat vision here," our
inner voice says; when danger hurtles at an innocent, we know he'll use his
body as a shield.

Anybody out there remember Dr. Solar, the Man of the Atom? No, not the new
guy being done by Valiant comics. They are not doing the Man of the Atom. By
their own admission they are doing "The Adventures of God" comics. Last time
I enjoyed that type of approach was back when Murphy Anderson was drawing the
Spectre. No, I'm talking about the guy from Gold Key comics in the sixties.
They featured Dr. Raymond Solar, a guy who survived exposure to the sort of
radiation that we all know drops real folk in their tracks. Solar was a very
cool hero. He was able to control his atomic structure, and... oh, heck, I
have no clue what his limits were. He was always pulling new powers and
tricks out of his butt. But he wasn't God, and it was very exciting watching
him display new uses for his _energy_ powers. The Solar that I loved, with
his above average (especially for the sixties) adherence to science and his
painted covers went away some time in the seventies, but this guy reminds me
of him a lot.

The major reason we all read this new character is because he is a chapter in
the Superman mythos. The major reason we don't like him is because he isn't
really Superman. So, here's what I think DC should do: Restore the original,
true Superman (as they were going to do all along) but keep the new blue guy
as a secondary character. Think about it! The possibilities are innumerable:
He could have an identity crisis, insisting that he is the real Superman, the
writers could poke fun at the Spider-man clone farrago, explore the essence of
Superman, and maybe spin off this character into his own series. They have
invested a lot of time and creativity and I think he should get a shot at
finding his own depth.

Think about it DC. Hey, I won't even charge you guys for the idea, just put
up one of those tags that gives me a credit, or make me his new-found buddy as
he seeks to rebuild his life.

I'll send a nice picture of myself for the artist to reference.

Away!

And Who Disguised As... is copyright 1997 by J. D. Rummel. Its contents may
not be reproduced in any format without the written permission of the author.

______________________________________________

HEROES
------------------------------------------
by Enola F. Jones (sj1025@gte.net)

This world needs heroes. People find heroes in sports figures or
entertainment stars. Some of us find heroes in our religion and in history.
Others find their heroes in the comics.

Superman has always been one of my heroes. Lois Lane was another. Perhaps I
liked her because of her humanity and toughness, two qualities I didn't always
find together even in real life. She seemed the perfect foil to Superman, who
could do ANYTHING.

Now it's a bit different. Superman Blue is radically different. Now he can
no longer do anything, but he is more visually intense. Lois Lane is also
different. She is much more human and also much more feminine. She is a
bigger hero to me than Superman now.

I have a five-year-old daughter. She is barely reading, but she loves looking
at the pictures in the books I read every week. When she got done reading
one, she asked, "Mommy, do we have a Superman in real life?"

I told her yes. He can't fly or zap people. He can't see through walls or
enable bullets to bounce off his chest. But we have a real life Superman.

Instantly she grinned. "It's Daddy, isn't it?" I told her it was. Tereasa's
wise response: "I knew it was. He's my hero, too."

Tereasa knows that Superman won't come flying off the page to solve her
problems. At that young age, she knows that life doesn't work like that.
Pretending is fine, and she does a lot of that, but real heroes don't fly
under their own power, and real people are very vulnerable to bullets. Her
biggest hero is her Dad, and at her age, that is the way it should be.

What makes a hero? Superman shows us. His costume may change, his powers may
change, even his corporeality may change, but what he is does not change. He
may now be energy, but in the ways that matter he is still more human than
many humans.

What do I mean by that? Superman is a moral person. He is full of
compassion. When someone hurts, he wants to fix it. When someone threatens
someone else, he wants to make them stop. When what is morally right is
threatened, he swings into action to protect and make it right. This is a
very simplified explanation, but an accurate one.

Superman has consistently been portrayed as defender, protector, and sometimes
judge. He has also shown an acute awareness of his own foibles and
limitations. The only exception I see to this is when he is now-powerless
Clark Kent. He keeps reacting to situations as though Clark were still super.
(Remember the potholder incident last month?) I keep chalking that up to
inexperience and hoping that we'll see even more of this, as this is one of
the few slapstick moments in Superman Blue. But as Superman, he is highly
aware of what he can and cannot do. This limitation adds an extra element of
humanity to a character that is larger than life.

What makes a hero? Not powers or a fancy costume. Not money or position.
Not fame or the lack thereof. What makes a hero is what a person is inside:
compassion, morality, and a willingness to put others first. Those with these
qualities, whether fictional or in real life, are heroes. This world
desperately needs heroes, and I am glad Superman is one of them.

______________________________________________

AN EDITION OF FAMOUS FIRSTS
-----------------------------------
by Yosef Shoemaker

INTRODUCTION: Although it is common knowledge that Superman, Lois Lane and
Clark Kent first appeared in ACTION COMICS #1 [1938], and that by then they
were already print journalists, there are other noteworthy "firsts" in the
Superman mythos that an aficionado might find to be of interest. This is a
compilation of such famous [pre-Byrne Superman] firsts. The notes indicate
if, historically, the first was in a different medium. All years for comic
books refer to cover dates, except perhaps for ALL-STAR COMICS #7. I owe an
incalculable debt of gratitude to Michael S. Fleisher's SUPERMAN ENCYCLOPEDIA,
as well as acknowledgments to the following: the history presented on the
"Superman Homepage;" the English version of the Spanish Superman Homepage; E.
Nelson Bridwell's introductions to the 1971 "Superman: From the 30's to the
70's" and the 1981 "Superman and His Incredible Fortress of Solitude;" the
WIZARD price guide; Gary Grossman's SUPERMAN: CEREAL TO SERIAL."

* Krypton first named: SUPERMAN #1 [1939]

* Jor-El and Lara first seen and named: SUPERMAN #53 [1948]

NOTE: Superman's father was mentioned, unseen and unnamed, in ACTION
COMICS #1 [1938], described as a "scientist." [By the way,
Jor-El and Lara first met on 71 Belyuth 9995, and were married on
47 Ullhah 9997. If memory serves, Kal-El was born on 35 Eorx 9998.
Kryptonian civilization was 10,000 years old when Krypton
exploded.]

* Superman first encountered Kryptonite, and first learned that he was
born on Krypton: SUPERMAN #61 [1949]

NOTE: Historically, it was the comic strip that first named Superman's
home planet ["Krypton"] and parents ["Jor-L and Lora."] In the
1942 novel by George Lowther, they were called "Jor-el and Lara."
Superman was given the name "Kal-el." In the comics, the name
KAL-EL for Superman does not appear until SUPERMAN #113 [1957].
Also, it was the radio show that first featured Kryptonite, in
1945. In a story reprinted in SUPERBOY #165 [1970], SuperBOY
first encounters Kryptonite.

* Jonathan Kent first named [as "Jonathan"] in a Superman story:
ACTION COMICS #158 [1951]

* Martha Kent first named [as "Martha"] in a Superman story:
SUPERMAN #74 [1952]
[According to "The Superman Homepage," it was in ACTION COMICS #158]

NOTE: In ACTION COMICS #1, it was an unnamed "passing motorist" who found
Kal-El's rocket. In SUPERMAN #1 [1939], it was a couple; the
wife's name was "Mary." Superman's adoptive father was given the
name "John" in SUPERMAN #53, and the "Mary" name was repeated.
E. Nelson Bridwell stated that the names "Jonathan and Martha"
first originated with SuperBOY. Bridwell was undoubtedly referring
to ADVENTURE COMICS #149 [1950] for the name Jonathan Kent and
SUPERBOY #12 [1951] for the name Martha Kent. These Superboy
stories BOTH proceeded the Superman stories listed above. In both
the Lowther novel and the 1950's TV show, they were called "Eben
and Sarah." According to an issue of Amazing World of DC Comics,
in the 1948 serial, they were "Eben and Martha."

* Jimmy [Olsen] the "office boy" first appeared: SUPERMAN #13 [1942]

* Jimmy Olsen's signal watch first appeared: JIMMY OLSEN #1 [1954]

* Editor [Perry] White first appeared: SUPERMAN #7 [1940]

* Daily Planet first named: SUPERMAN #4 [Spring 1940].
ACTION COMICS #23 [April 1940], which came out at or around the same time,
also featured the new name Daily Planet.

NOTE: Historically, it was the radio show that first contained the names
"Perry White" and "Daily Planet." E. Nelson Bridwell stated that
"Jimmy the office boy" in the comics was seized upon by the radio
show, who made "Jimmy Olsen" a character. The full name "Jimmy
Olsen" first appears in SUPERMAN #15 [1942]. An office boy first
appeared in ACTION COMICS #6 [1938]; he became Jimmy Olsen. The
full name "Perry White" first appears in SUPERMAN #10 [1941]. By
the 290's [c.1975], Inspector Henderson and Professor Pepperwinkle
had begun appearing in SUPERMAN. Historically, both had first
appeared in the 1950's TV show. Inspector Henderson subsequently
appeared on LOIS AND CLARK. [This is the token post-Byrne
reference.]

* Metropolis first named: ACTION COMICS #16 [1939]

* Fortress of Solitude first named: SUPERMAN #58 [1949]

NOTE: Ever since SUPERMAN #17 [1942], a mountain hideaway had been
mentioned.

* Standard Version ARCTIC Fortress of Solitude first appears:
ACTION COMICS #241 [1958]

NOTE: In SUPERMAN #58 [1949], the Fortress was described as being in
"polar wastes," although Luthor discovers Superman's hideaway in
the MOUNTAINS in SUPERMAN #81 [1953]. In 1971, E. Nelson Bridwell
stated that Luthor's discovery of the hideaway prompted its
movement to the Arctic. In 1981, he basically removed these two
stories from regular continuity.

* Superboy first appeared: MORE FUN COMICS #101 [1945]

NOTE: This was the first time that it was stated that Clark Kent grew up
in a small town. The name Smallville first appeared in SUPERBOY #2
[1949].

* Lana Lang first appeared: SUPERBOY #10 [1950]

NOTE: Lana Lang left Smallville and came to Metropolis [and met Superman]
in SUPERMAN #78 [1952]

* Krypto the Superdog first appeared: ADVENTURE COMICS #210 [1955]

NOTE: SuperMAN's first recorded adventure with Krypto was in
SUPERMAN #130 [1959]

* The Phantom Zone first appeared: ADVENTURE COMICS #283 [1961]

NOTE: SuperMAN's first recorded adventure with the Phantom Zone was in
1962 [SUPERMAN #150 and ACTION COMICS #254 (the January issues)]

* Supergirl first appeared, and Argo City's survival of Krypton's
explosion first revealed: ACTION COMICS #252 [1959]

NOTE: After training Supergirl, and keeping her in reserve as his secret
weapon, Superman revealed her existence to the world in ACTION
COMICS #285 [1962]. She was killed in CRISIS ON INFINITE
EARTHS #7 [1985].

* Luthor first appeared: ACTION COMICS #23 [1940]

* Brainiac first appeared; Kandor's survival of Krypton's explosion first
revealed; Kandor's liberation from Brainiac first recorded:
ACTION COMICS #242 [1958]

NOTE: Kandor was enlarged in SUPERMAN #338 [1979].

* Superman of Earth-2 first appeared in the Silver Age: JLA #73 [1969]
[He met the Superman of Earth-1 for the first time in the next issue]

* Superman first uses his X-Ray Vision: ACTION COMICS #18 [1939]

NOTE: This power was not named "X-Ray Vision" until ACTION COMICS #20
[1940]. The term "X-Ray Eyesight" is used in ACTION COMICS #11
[1939], but may not refer to seeing through objects. Lead was
first described as blocking X-Ray Vision in ACTION COMICS #69
[1944].

* Lois Lane begins to "actively suspect" [versus just "speculating"] that
Superman is Clark Kent: SUPERMAN #17 [1942]

* Superman first met Batman: ALL-STAR COMICS #7 [1941]

NOTE: Historically, they first met on the radio. [They learned each
other's secret identities in SUPERMAN #76 (1952) and began regular
team-ups in WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #71 (1954). The pairing of the
two was due to the shrinkage in the number of pages per issue.]

* Superman first met Captain Marvel: JLA #137 [1976]

NOTE: In ALL-STAR SQUADRON #36 (1984), the Superman of Earth-2 first met
Captain Marvel. Lex Luthor might have fought Captain Marvel in
SHAZAM #15 (1974).

* Superman's powers first described as being dependent on a yellow sun:
ACTION COMICS #262 [1960]

______________________________________________

THE MAILBAG
-------------------------------------
(sykes@ms.uky.edu, KryptonCN@aol.com)

KC Responses are indented and begun with ****

=====================================================================

From: David Joseph Young, Jr. (dayoung@luna.cas.usf.edu)

I tried to keep myself from writing in this month since I had two rather long
letters in the most recent issue. I felt there was something I said in one of
the letters that needed clearing up however.

First, here's what I said--

"If done well, either approach is valid. The reason the linked format did so
well at first was because the quality of the storylines merited it. They were
so good that you couldn't wait until next week. Lately, unless there is some
specific 'crossover' story going on, it just seems like weak filler material.
(Of course, that's also a subject for another letter. Is it just me, or has
the Superman crew gotten so used to big 'event' storylines that whatever comes
between them is uneventful and 'villain-of-the-week'-style filler material?)
Another obvious reason the linked format did well at first is that the cover
prices were less. Still, if the books were as good as they were then, I doubt
we'd have so many people complaining."

Here's what you said in response--

"On the one hand, we have a group complaining about having so many extended
story lines, wanting more single-issue tales. On the other, we have a group
who tends to find such single-issue stories to be filler material, desiring
more 'relevant' stories. Could it be that the weekly continuity lessens the
overall effectiveness of the single-issue tale?"

I just wanted to say that I wasn't intending to come down on single-issue
stories. There have been some awesome single-issue Superman stories in the
recent past (the Superman and Lois talking on a mountaintop one and the most
recent "relevant" Superman story written and drawn by Jurgens come to mind).

**** Then again, you *did* mention that the stories falling between the "big
event storylines" seem to be uneventful. Seriously, though. Take a
quick look back at the four to four-and-a-half years since "Reign of the
Supermen" (the last truly great Superman epic to grace the triangles).
In my opinion, the bulk of the "event" storylines have been reasonably
good to great ideas with poor execution. The primary culprit behind
this poor execution has been the simple fact that most of the stories
were drawn out *way* too long.

Quite often, the issues that have been most universally well-received
have been the single-issue stories. Sometimes these were tangential
lead-ins to upcoming epics (the "low-dialogue" issue of ADVENTURES which
saw an alien entity scouting Superman before his "Trial"), and others
were simple, yet powerful, stories spinning out of epics (ADVENTURES
#525, where Lois convinces Superman he must be Clark again). There have
been incredible one-shots such as the classic Mxyzptlk appearance in MOS
#56, while Lois and Clark were separated, and the Zero Hour issue of MOS
with multiple Batman. In short, I believe that, taken as a whole, the
single-issue stories have been quite a bit better than the "event"
storylines.

What I was complaining about was the slew of "villain-of-the-week" stories and
characters which seem to always come up between big events. You know the type
of villains. (A good example is the commando guy shown in the flashback story
during the honeymoon story arc.) These characters show up, knock Superman
around a couple issues, and then are gone. I'd rather see stories which
spotlight existing supporting characters or villains instead. Don't introduce
new villains until you've got really good ones, please.

**** Amen. In recent years, the Superman team has handled such classic
villains as Mxy, Luthor, Intergang, and the Parasite *extremely* well,
in my opinion. Most of the newer villains have been uninteresting --
Conduit, Rajiv Naga, Massacre, Anomaly, Arclight, etc. Too often, this
group invents a new villain without fully developing the character,
which means that we don't learn enough to care one way or the other
about the villain. This isn't to say that some of these aren't
potentially interesting. I would personally *love* to see a return of
Riot, to learn more about him and his condition which was alluded to
over several issues. I also think Misa's characterization in the most
recent appearances have made her much more intriguing than she started
out as. I think all the background maneuvering going on in Metropolis
is the most interesting aspect of the Superman titles these days --
Luthor, Edge, Intergang, and let's not forget that Satanus is still
controlling Newstime. He really ought to be given something to do...
Once again in short, let's see more development of existing villains
rather than the continued introduction of more and more new villains.

Also, a real quick LOIS AND CLARK comment. I generally agreed with everything
you said about the reruns vs. the final season. One thing you didn't mention
-- When I was watching a rerun recently, I caught the one which had a short
scene of Clark playing Ping-Pong by himself. I also remember him playing
baseball. I missed these playful little scenes in the later years, although I
didn't realize it at the time.

**** Clark also went golfing with Lois (and Phil Mickelson) and played
basketball with Bo Jackson. Probably not coincidentally, these stopped
about the same time that series creator Deborah Joy LeVine was released
from the show... Having now seen the second season again, I find it
clear that everyone had a lot more fun working on the show in its debut
season.

=====================================================================

From: Steve Kaplan (phoenix@netactive.co.za)

About 6 months ago, [Denes House] wrote a review of the SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY:
HUNTER/PREY mini-series, to which I took serious objection. We bantered about
it and agreed to disagree. I notice now your reaction to ACTION COMICS ANNUAL
#2, Superman on Warworld for the first time.

This time, we agree. I thoroughly enjoyed your review and agree
wholeheartedly. It is packed with vitality. A while back I just stopped
buying the annuals because they were generally meaningless one-shots. And the
latest offerings seem, if I judge the KC panel's comments accurately, to be
more of the same. AC ANNUAL #2 is a whole 'nother story.

I picked it up in a back issues bin at a comic store about 4 years ago just
because it was cheap. It is one of the best

Superman stories in its own right 
as well as being a useful filler for the then ongoing story-line. (And if you
don't think the pink elephants are just too cool, well, then, you're really
missing out :-) ). Thanks for reviewing a great comic. Anyone who still
doesn't have it, go get it now.

**** I'm reprinting your letter to Denes because it raises an interesting
question about annuals. Why on Earth do we have them? As you mention,
they rarely seem to contribute anything to the ongoing continuity
anymore -- the lone exception this year being the introduction of
Luthor's lawyer in the SUPERMAN annual. DC keeps trying the themed
annuals in an attempt to increase sales, though at least the annuals no
longer are a crossover event. (I still don't understand -- given DC's
logic about linking the continuity of the Superman titles, you'd think
they'd make the annuals part of the ongoing continuity...)

Now I've heard that DC is considering increasing the page count of its
annuals for next year. This will, undoubtedly, result in higher prices
and, predictably, lower sales. Well, I think I have a better idea.
Many years ago, annuals were often reprints of popular stories from the
past. Why not try this again, in an alternative to the expensive
hardcover archives series? Each title which participates could reprint
some of the earliest appearances of that character -- Golden Age, if
possible. Given the option of a new story by a current writer and
artist, one which may or may not have anything to do with the current
continuity, or a reprint of several 1940s issues by Siegel and Shuster,
which would you rather pay four or five bucks for?

=====================================================================

From: Jason Arnett (jalawa@falcon.cc.ukans.edu)

A couple of months ago, I wrote and told you how I disliked the linked format
of the Superman books. I'm still with Big Blue though I really don't know for
how much longer. It seems to me, though, that the reason MAN OF TOMORROW came
out was just to put another Superman book out so that the readers never had an
off week. Just how many books can a character really, and I mean REALLY,
sustain? What worked after the relaunch in 1986 was the fact that there were
3 Superman books, but you didn't HAVE to buy them all. I was, and still am, a
Byrne victim, so I only bought his two books. Soon enough, MAN OF STEEL came
along to make sure that the readers could get their weekly dose of Superman
and the linked titles could realistically be done to a much greater extent.
And then when the readers kept on moaning about having a week off every three
months or so, here comes MAN OF TOMORROW.

I have to agree that a few months on and a few months off from the big
storylines would certainly be a wonderful idea. However, if the industry in
general is in so much trouble, maybe they should look into pulling back on
giving one character so many books. I would like to see SUPERMAN and
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN maybe linked and ACTION become the team-up book again.
As for MAN OF STEEL, Louise Simonson is the best thing about it. She has not
had a great artist on that book ever, but we have to buy it if we want to be
completists. I would not be so sad to see that book depart the shelves along
with MAN OF TOMORROW, which is a total waste of the talents of the creative
team.

Sorry to sound so negative, but when the industry in general, and Marvel in
particular, are in so much trouble, how can they justify not turning the
talents of people like Roger Stern, Paul Ryan, Kerry Gammill, Ron Frenz (what
happened to him?), and Louise Simonson towards creating new characters for us
readers? Maybe if DC dropped MAN OF STEEL they could replace it with an
Elseworlds monthly comic. It could be run in much the same way that Miller
does Sin City or Wagner does Grendel, you only publish when you have a great
story arc.

Anyway, it sounds like a much more valid option for the cash-crunched consumer
that companies claim hold the industry up.

**** Sure, DC could drop one of the Superman titles and replace it with
something else -- something which doesn't exclusively feature the Man
of Steel, if at all. But would it sell? There aren't many DC titles
out there which are outselling the Superman books, so why would they
take the risk of canceling one of them to offer something else --
something which might not sell as well? I just don't think replacing a
Superman title with an unproven title is going to help sales -- and
that's the bottom line of the industry.

I also think that the comics world is overpopulated as it is, and there
are *way* too many new characters being created these days. Keep in
mind that for every Grendel, Nexus, Bone, or Astro City there are dozens
of new characters that are created and then fall away, primarily because
they just aren't any good. I think that the industry needs to focus
itself on producing quality material of both established and new
characters rather than producing tons of crap, just because it's some
popular artist's or writer's latest concept.

Not too long ago, creating a new character was the pinnacle of a
writer's or artist's career. These days, creating a new character is
what you do when you run out of ideas for what you're currently working
on. (And yes, while I celebrate Image for what they did for creator's
rights, I also blame them for this frenzy of publishing whatever crosses
one's mind...)

Finally, I doubt creating new characters for us is the solution to the
troubled comics industry -- the key is to find something to bring new
and former readers into the comic shops, and perhaps to get kids picking
up comics off the newsstand again. I have to believe it would be much
easier to do so by shoring up the classic, more recognizable characters,
rather than by creating a bunch of new ones. As big a success as SPAWN
has been inside the industry, how much has it done to bring in new
readers?

There's no doubt the industry is in trouble. In my opinion, the
solution lies in learning how to compete with the rest of the
entertainment world, not with reshuffling things inside the industry.
The comics world is in dire need of a visionary who can see how to
make a kid go out and buy the latest Superman offering instead of the
latest CD, novel, or movie.
-- Jeff Sykes

______________________________________________

NEW COMIC REVIEWS
-----------------

Ratings Panelists:

AW: Anatole Wilson DWd: Darrin Wood KM: Kuljit Mithra
ChS: Charles Stevens DWk: Douglas Wolk RG: Rene' Gobeyn
CoS: Cory Strode EJ: Enola Jones ST: Shane Travis
DC: David Chappell GN: G.M. Nelson TD: Thomas Deja
DR: Daniel Radice JSy: Jeff Sykes VV: Vic Vitek

As always, the first rating given after the average is that of the reviewer.

The average rating given for each book may correspond to a larger sample
of ratings than what is printed following the average.

==================================================

THE SUPERMAN TITLES:
-------------------
43. SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #73 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Gang War"

Plot: Louise Simonson
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Artists: Scot Eaton and Dennis Janke
Letter: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glen Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Ass't Ed.: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Joey Calivieri
Cover: Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke, and Patrick Martin

RATINGS

Average: 2.6/5.0 Shields

TD: 3.0 Shields (Story)
2.2 Shields (Art)
ChS: 2.4 Shields - Excellent idea with a "gang war" there, but I just think
it wrapped up too quickly to get a real good story. It looks like
Eaton's art is slipping.
DWk: 1.9 Shields - Awkward and contrived all the way through, from the cheap
melodrama of the opening to the out-of-nowhere twists in the Lois
subplot. Nice dialogue, though, especially Luthor's "dismissed."
EJ: 2.5 Shields - Too much going on in thirty-something pages. My head is
STILL spinning!
JSy: 3.0 Shields - Janke starts to mesh with Eaton just a little, but most
of this issue is endless fighting. Waid's dialogue is good, though,
and at least we won't have to put up with Jimmy for a while.

Okay, things are really complicated. To begin: Jimmy Olsen, being pursued by
the new Intergang, finds himself in the Wild Area. While the Outsiders try
to protect Jimmy, Morgan Edge strikes a bargain with DeSaad: join Edge in
his plan to destroy Metropolis, and Edge will bring Superman to the brink
of despair by doing so. DeSaad likes the motivation, and sends a squadron
of parademons to Edge. Edge sends some to the Hairies/Intergang/Jimmy
free-for-all, while another batch goes to Lexcorp. Good fightin' ensues,
with Sparky the Wonder Kryptonian fighting off the Parademons and swallowing
his desire to see Luthor sent to a just reward, while the Hairies get their
licks in to aid Jimmy--but all this foofrorah is just a diversion for Edge's
real plan.... Meanwhile, Lois' attempt to contact the aboriginals attracts
the attention of Naga, while someone or something is making off with kids
in Metropolis....

There are some interesting things touched on. Edge's playing both sides
against the other appeals to me, as does the bizarre but all-too-sure scene
with the aboriginals (and boy does it piss me off that it seems like this
will be ignored once Naga makes the scene in two issues). Also, the opening
scene was pretty chilling, managing to catch our attention like a bucketful
of cold water. Unfortunately, there's too much fighting and not enough
storytelling going on here. The two extended battle scenes make "Gang War"
appear thinned out; after last issue, it's a bit of a disappointment.

One interesting angle is Simonson's indication that other people are
paying attention to the Man of Sparks' abilities. Page 11, featuring
Luthor getting at marauding parademons by shooting *through* Sparky is
particularly intriguing. Superman's final maneuver in the Luthor battle
makes sense, although it's another "Hey Look What ELSE I can do" scene.

Boy, the inking makes the art look muddy. There are pages that appear to
be done in magic marker (including the first page, which is so absolutely
inept looking; luckily Eaton takes back his art for the following three
pages). Eaton *does* make an interesting and, in many cases, successful
attempt to create a continuity between his version of Intergang and the
Stuart Immonen versions. For that matter, Eaton is now taking after Immonen
in portraying Supes as well, something of which I wholeheartedly approve.
Once again, we can see Eaton fighting against Janke's inappropriate, heavy
inks; unfortunately, most of the dull portions come in the fight scenes
themselves, the moments that most need dynamic pencils. It also must be said
that Eaton doesn't do good Kirby (but then, who does?).

So, while "Gang War" is not a stinkbomb like some recent issues, it's a
comedown from the excellent last issue. I hope that Waid (whose dialogue
is pretty decent, all told) will allow Simonson to rest up and recharge her
batteries so that S:MOS can reach its full potential. One also hopes that
Janke gets the boot, and soon -- much like I am, from reviewing this title.
The difference is that mine is voluntary, and you can still catch me
reviewing SUPERMAN starting next month, whereas Janke should be removed
from all Super-books altogether.

Thomas Deja
<manciniman@rocketmail.com>

==================================================

44. SUPERMAN #129 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Within Human Reach"

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciller: Paul Ryan
Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Chaperones: Maureen McTigue, Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Dan Jurgens, Joe Rubinstein, and Patrick Martin

RATINGS

Average: 3.8/5.0 Shields

DC: 4.2 Shields
ChS: 4.0 Shields - Whoah! This one had it all! An excellent further look
into an excellent character, and an awesome Cyborg appearance.
I love this new storyline for him!
EJ: 4.3 Shields - I loved the emphasis on characterization in this issue.
The POV being that of a blind girl was very well done.
JSy: 4.2 Shields - Excellent story by Jurgens, who excels at raising
questions about Superman's role in society. Ashbury is growing
into a strong supporting character, but Scorn still needs work.
TD: 3.5 Shields - I'll give Dan jurgens credit for trying something
different with the Cyborg this time--although the dialogue still
stinks on ice, and the plot could have benefitted from being
stretched out through a few sub-plots before the final revelation.
VV: 3.5 Shields - As Mr. Sorman, Cyborg brought up some interesting points
about the Man of Steel; does he ever follow-up on the people he
apprehends to see if they've turned their lives around? Pre-crisis
Supes did from time to time....

SYNOPSIS

This story is told from the viewpoint of Ashbury Armstrong as a computer
diary entry. It begins with Ashbury and her friends decorating for a high
school homecoming dance. The students gradually begin to accept Ashbury's
alien friend Ceritak. Soon after Clark Kent arrives to cover a column about
youth, a fire breaks out in the school. Superman saves the day and captures
the culprits. When Ashbury continues to argue with her father about Ceritak,
her art teacher, Mr. Sormon, attempts to intervene on her behalf. Ashbury
clearly likes Mr. Sormon, but the entire class is dismayed at his disgruntled
attitude over being forced to assign an art project for Superman Appreciation
Day. The final revelation of the secret behind the story's minor oddities
leads the reader to think, and Superman's handling of the situation adds even
more depth to a controversial predicament.

CRITIQUE

In this issue, Dan Jurgens presents the sort of story that has drawn me to
Superman comics over the years -- a story focused not on super-heroics and
battle scenes but on human feelings and emotions. While the alternate point
of view is a nice touch, the story's true beauty comes from its thought-
provoking nature. It is touching in a disturbing way that makes the reader
ponder some difficult issues. I find it appropriate that Ashbury's journal
entry begins by calling it her "classic, momentous first story."

I am pleased that the cover art does not even hint at the issue's big secret.
Usually I do not like it when the cover has little to do with the contents,
but in this case it has just enough relevance to be appropriate without
spoiling anything. Sadly, however, the cover art is unlikely to draw many
readers to the high-quality story contained inside.

This issue includes art by guest penciller Paul Ryan. I found the issue's
art to be pretty good overall, though some of the poses occasionally look
too stock and forced.

Many of the best and most memorable Superman stories have been told from
a different perspective, and this issue ranks among the best of them.
Initially, the narration is nice merely because it is different, but the
special viewpoint is almost necessary for understanding Mr. Sormon. Were
the story told from Superman's viewpoint, it would not be nearly so deep
or thought-provoking.

The only flaw I see in the story is in its timing. Just a few weeks ago
(ADVENTURES #551), Hank Henshaw returned to Earth, and now he suddenly
seems to have been a teacher for a while. Ashbury just describes him as
"our new art teacher," but I infer that some time has passed since Henshaw
established the Sormon identity.

It is only appropriate that Dan Jurgens write a story which delves into
Henshaw's psyche since he wrote the original appearance of Hank Henshaw back
in ADVENTURES #466 (May 90). Furthermore, during the Reign of the Supermen,
Jurgens' stories tended to focus on the Cyborg. Jurgens also set up this
story last month (SUPERMAN #128 and ADVENTURES #551) with Henshaw's bubbles
of memories and his comments to Superman about feelings, experiences, and
humanity. In this issue, it was nice to see Henshaw in a physical form other
than that of the Cyborg, and this appearance goes a long way to counteract my
complaints on that topic.

A second reading of this story reveals many deliberately placed clues about
the art teacher. Early on, Mr. Sormon stands up for Ceritak at the gym,
saying that he "might very well be a remarkable fellow," and emphasizing,
"I have great respect for those who endeavor to make a normal life out of a
bad situation." Sormon's clumsiness at the party is reminiscent of Clark's:
"he's so strong that he can't help but break delicate things!" His amazement
at seeing Superman putting out the fire seems insignificant at the time but
is appropriate in retrospect. One of the best lines, Sormon's answer that
yes, he could "imagine flying in a space shuttle," reminded me of Hank
Henshaw (crewman of the Space Shuttle Excalibur), but I still did not see
the connection. His angry reaction to Mr. Armstrong's bigotry over Ceritak
seemed odd, but I surmised that perhaps Mr. Sormon was a well-intentioned
extra-terrestrial. The final hints as to his identity come in Sormon's
discussion of "that questionable" Superman Appreciation Day. Henshaw, a
former scientist and astronaut, insists, "we should honor explorers and
researchers! Not someone who solves problems only with force!" Though it
was clear that Sormon was not a normal man, Superman's entrance was as big
a surprise to me as it was to the art students.

Ironically, Superman's final appearance in the story seems to confirm
Henshaw's condemnation of him. Superman does not offer to help his old foe
fit into society, nor does he help him become a normal man again. Instead,
Superman immediately uses force and attacks the perceived villain in combat.
In short, the Kryptonian acts just as Henshaw has accused him of acting,
"solving problems with violence instead of reason!" Superman's actions are
justified based on Henshaw/Cyborg's history, but from what we see in this
story, Henshaw also appears to have a point about Superman.

In his lecture to the class, Henshaw all but asked for rehabilitative help
from Superman, leaving the reader with some questions to ponder. Should
Henshaw have been allowed to lead a normal life, and could he have fit into
society again in the long run? Should Superman have further investigated the
situation before charging into battle? Had Superman not intervened, would
Henshaw in his new identity have caused more good or harm? Will Mr. Sormon's
students ever truly understand what happened? These questions, focusing on
the Cyborg's desire to be a good human being again, are what bring depth and
quality to this excellent book.

Other little pieces contribute to making this story a true classic. Examples
include Superman's excellent handling of the arsonists, the cameraman's
comment on "American Home Crime Scene Videos," and the excellent line that
Dirk delivers to Ashbury "You...bump into [Superman] almost as often as
Kent!" Perhaps most important of the little touches is the juxtaposition of
the way Ceritak and Henshaw are treated: both are foreign in some way, and
both are just trying to fit in. In the final panel, Jurgens takes the
stereotyped hint of the villain's secret survival and keeps it from being
trite: Henshaw may have survived, but he did so in the company of one who
saw his good side.

In the end, Hank Henshaw was merely trying "to make a normal life out of a
bad situation." Henshaw's desire to repent and the exposure of his good side
should provoke each reader to contemplate his plight. Ashbury did admit,
"As days went by, Mr. Sormon seemed to change," but would he have eventually
slipped into madness, or was Miss Armstrong correct that she "might have
helped him to find that which he cherished most -- his human self"?

David T. Chappell
<dtc@acpub.duke.edu>

==================================================

45. THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #552 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Control Of Power"

Writer: Karl Kesel
Layouts: Tom Grummett
Finishes: Denis Rodier
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Asst. Ed.: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Tom Grummett, Denis Rodier, and Patrick Martin

RATINGS

Average: 3.3/5.0 Shields

DR: 3.8 Shields (Story: 4.0, Art: 3.5)
ChS: 3.7 Shields - I didn't see the point of the Parasite appearance, but I
loved seeing Luthor beat the crap out of Boss Moxie. The art was
wonderful as usual, and getting better all the time.
DWk: 2.3 Shields - Luthor at his nastiest--but he's obviously an accessory
to murder now, and you'd think he'd want to stay out of legal trouble
for a little while. Kesel overstates things, e.g. Simone's pass at
Clark--aren't there sexual-harassment policies at the Planet for
that kind of thing?
EJ: 3.6 Shields - A well-told story, especially the Contessa's barbs to
Luthor. A bit too violent for my liking, however.
GN: 4.2 Shields - Nice show of the "dark side" of this new Superman, one
even the Man of Steel acknowledges. Kesel's work is consistently the
most engaging of the regular writers; his use of the New Intergang
is intriguing. Grumett's return to AOS continues to be welcome.
TD: 2.5 Shields - This issue sort of faded from my memory the second I
put it down.
VV: 3.0 Shields - A ruthless Luthor starts to tie his plotline together with
Intergang's, and the baby appears to be getting closer.(MOS 75?) It
seems that Clark is no longer a solar battery, but does anyone here
really think that "Early to bed, early to rise, makes Blue Superman
charged power-wise?"

It's a month of returns in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN! The return of the Parasite
(after only 2 issues...)! The returns of Intergang (after only one issue...)!
Most importantly, though, is the RETURN OF KARL KESEL! Ok, it really wasn't a
major "return issue" since the people "returning" have been fixtures as of
late in the Super-titles, but it's quite a relief to have Karl Kesel back on
Adventures and Dan Jurgens only writing (read: contaminating) one Superman
book a month. That said, on with the re-cap:

Intergang, Metropolis' super-powered mobsters, are on a stealing-spree,
hitting one of LexCorp's research and development labs. Unfortunately, due to
their overzealousness, they partially botch the robbery causing the stolen
materials to be slightly ruined.

Meanwhile, back at the Planet, we're reminded of Clark's recent separation
from Lois. No, they didn't break up again; Instead Lois was reassigned as
foreign correspondent. Again. We see Simone DeNeige's sultry advances, as
Clark unwittingly falls prey to her wily ways. It seems that this may be a
slight set-up to some future happenings, but could just as easily be a
throwaway idea. I like Simone and Clark together. Too bad there aren't
two Clark Kents...

Moving back to Intergang, Boss Moxie isn't all that pleased with his goons'
botched equipment-stealing job. Moxie knows that the only way to cut his
losses is to bargain with Lex Luthor. The bargaining chip: Luthor's top
geneticist, Mensa (Ha! Punny!).

Acting on a tip from Perry White, Clark (now in Superman-mode) heads off
to investigate a homicide in Suicide Slum, one with potential meta-human
involvement. As the Man of Energy and the Special Crimes Unit look over the
body, the Parasite (who just happened to be walking by) decides to attack
Superman and "suck him dry". The last time this occurred, Superman merely
absorbed the Parasite's energy and left him weak and powerless, this time
Electri-kal accidentally absorbs enough of the Parasite to leave him an
almost lifeless husk. Suffice to say, the S.C.U, surrounding crowd, and
Superman himself were all quite shocked at this.

A meeting takes place between Boss Moxie, with "associates", and Lex Luthor,
also with "associates". A knock-down, drag-em-out slobberknocker ensues as
Luthor beats Moxie senseless. In an attempt to save face, Moxie makes an
agreement with Lex, one that essentially makes Lex the new leader of
Intergang. Talk about having too many irons in the fire...

Thankfully Karl Kesel is back scripting and plotting the Adventures of
Minty-man, because I definitely could not have stood another month of
Jurgens. Bleah. That's not to say that Kesel is the be-all and end-all of
comic book writers, but he is definitely an improvement over Danny-boy.
Kesel has a better grasp of story plotting, organization, and presentation.
Sure he has his faults, but they're not as obvious or drawn out as some
writers' are... not to name any names, of course.

In this story, Kesel packs a good chunk of Intergang development. The cloned
muscle of Intergang show consistent characterization. Noose doesn't get any
lines, Torcher is the "hot" babe (pun intended? you make the call!) and
"Machine" Gunn shows off his tough guy persona. This time, however, we're
given a better look at the brute of the team, Rough House. He plays the role
of the strong guy, bashing down doors and walls--with his head, no less--but
also acts like a little puppy, always eager to please, to make people happy.
Call me crazy, but I like him.

I was also glad to see Kesel make use of Luthor's bargaining agreement
with Neron. He did sell his soul for human physical perfection, so it's no
surprise that Moxie had his hind-end handed to him. I found it funny that,
even though he bargained to be at the echelon of human physicality, Lex
still has a gold tooth. Go figure.

Tom Grummett puts in his usual stellar pencilling job, which is marred, as
usual, by Denis Rodier's usual messy inks. I must complain, however, of Glenn
Whitmore's colors. I have always wished that, when the artist takes the time
to detail the background, that individual items were coloured as they should
be. Are all the people in the Daily Planet actually a brownish-gray? I
suppose this is because Whitmore has to color each of the monthly titles,
but his work is really best on Immonen and Marzan Jr. He just doesn't work
for the rest of the titles, particularly in this issue. There are a slew of
capable colorists who do wonders through the aid of the computer, Patricia
Mulvihil and Stu Chafitiez spring to mind as people who could definitely make
an improvement on the coloring in the Super-books.

On a final coloring note, I personally don't enjoy white borders or unused
space on a page. Black works much better. Years ago, when artists maintained
that 6-10 panels a page theory, white worked just fine. Now that different
panel sizes and layouts are being attempted, though, the blandness of the
white sticks out sorely. Either having the entire page rendered or a black
background improves it's visual presentation quality ten-fold. Example:
Page 2 and 15 stand out as nicely laid out pages that look much better than
those in the rest of the book. All, of course, IMHO.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN is usually a good read and this month's issue didn't
disappoint. Kesel and Grummett were made for each other and it's great to see
them together again. All Joey Cavalieri (the editor) needs to do is heed my
other comments and the book will be nigh-perfect!

Dan Radice
<dradice@caninet.com>

______________________________________________

THE SUPERMAN TITLES (cont):
--------------------------
46. ACTION COMICS #739 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Party Trappings"

Story & Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Jose Marzan, Jr.
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Prismacolor
Assistant Ed.: Maureen McTigue
Party Animal: Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Stuart Immonen, Jose Marzan Jr. and Patrick Martin

RATINGS

Average: 3.0/5.0 Shields

ST: 2.2 Shields (Story: 1.5, Art: 3.5)
DWd: 2.0 Shields - I'm starting to get a bit tired of this boring obscure
Rajiv character. C'mon, you can write better stories than this!!
DWk: 3.1 Shields - Scorn in a tux! Lois thinking fast! Superman using his
new Deus ex Machina powers! Very pretty to look at, and smoothly
dialogued--if only a little more happened. But Immonen knows how to
keep the fun stuff flowing.
JSy: 3.6 Shields - Immonen's new twist on Deathtrap/Locksmith rounds out
a strong month for the Superman books, an excellent recovery from
GENESIS. But is anyone else sick of Rajiv?
TD: 4.2 Shields - Immonen's art has grown on me during the Sparky the
Wonder Kyptonian phase of the titles, altough the whole aborigine
thing seems to have been tossed in for flavor and nothing else.
And *why* isn't the Master Jailer a good enough name anymore?
VV: 2.0 Shields - "Locksmith" just isn't my cup of tea as a villian,
especially with all these other open-ended things going on. After
some advancement of Luthor, Intergang, and Edge--all those plotlines
are dropped to open up the kidnapping of Lois??? No, thanks.

Synopsis:

An explosion rocks the Homecoming Dance of Maggin High (being held in the
Centennial Hotel after the fire of SUPERMAN #129). When Superman shows up, he
is caught and trapped inside a techno-widget by Locksmith, AKA Don't Call Me
Deathtrap. With the clock ticking, Electri-Kal must engineer his escape in
time to rescue the trapped students. Scorn, who was attending the dance with
Ashley, ensures that no one dies while Clark waits for Locksmith to drop
enough hints that even he can figure out how to escape. As Ashley is about to
play True Confessions with Scorn, Better-late-than-never Man shows up and uses
his power of techno-babble to quench the fire.

Over at Subplot Central, Lois's Australian Adventure continues. 'End Of The
World' warnings from an Aboriginal Elder weird her out, and Lois decides to
rent a car and drive across Australia (rather than just flying home). In one
of those crazy coincidences that only happens in badly-written fiction, the
rental agent turns out to be an old army buddy of her father, Sam Lane. He
insists on driving her where she wants to go. Two honest-to-God Ninjas swoop
down from the roofs of this outback town KOing the Plot Device (er... army
buddy) and kidnapping Lois -- delivering her into the clutches of Rajiv Naga
(who continues his bid for Overused and Unloved Villain-of-the-Year award).
Army Buddy calls Sam Lane to inform him of his daughter's peril; Lane shows up
on Clark's doorstep loaded for bear and itching to rescue his little girl. He
wants to prove that the commando-gene comes from _his_ side of the family!

Opinions:

As you can probably guess from the synopsis, too many things in this book
broke the bounds of credibility and stretched my suspension of disbelief past
the point where it could snap back.

Let's start with the villain of the piece, Deathtra...er... Locksmith. What
the heck was the rationale behind the name change? Deathtrap has that classic
super-villain ring; dark, and dangerous and foreboding. Who's going to be
afraid of a villain who soulds like a B&E specialist? Secondly, for someone
who prides himself... er... herself on building inescapable traps, Locksmith
sure didn't do her homework. As shown in this month's _Man of Steel_ (by
Luthor shooting _through_ Superman), Big Blue's new powers are becoming more
widely known. How, then, could anyone living in the same world as Jimmy Olsen
miss the fact that Electri-Kal can _absorb_ energy as well as discharge it,
and fail to design the trap accordingly?

Perhaps the biggest oversight in the characterization of Locksmith, however,
was turning her into a killer. We've met Carla Draper before (in the pages of
_Superboy_) and like her father, she seemed to enjoy the mental challenge that
went into designing and spring her traps. Blowing up an entire floor of a
major Hotel just to get Superman's attention seems just a _touch_ extreme
based on what we've seen of her. Oh, sure, everything worked out okay (if you
assume that the demolished story was empty), but that's only due to the
presence of Scorn at the Homecoming dance. Had he not been there, four kids
(at least) would have died in the elevator, and who knows how many more if the
roof had collapsed. In fact, if Scorn hadn't conveniently been on the scene,
there wouldn't have been anyone left to save by the time Supes waltzed out of
the trap.

Let's talk about Scorn for a moment, shall we? Of everyone, it is he who is
the only one to emerge smelling like a rose. A sooty rose, but a rose. Big
Blue (the horned one, not the electical one) showed a lot of guts and courage
throughout the fire, and it seems to have paid off in the romance department
too. Too bad that Superman couldn't have relaxed in Locksmith's shackles for
just a few more seconds so that Ashley could have finished her sentence. The
single best moment of the issue involved Ceritak, and came when he licked his
lips at the sight of the punch-bowl--a clear reference to the punch-disposal
scene of _Superman_ #129.

My only beef with this guy is a long-standing one. Ceritak/Scorn, although he
has proven himself time and time again to be a decent guy, bears little or no
resemblance to the death-defying, law-abusing, high-flying juvenile delinquent
we were first introduced to way back inside the bottle city of Kandor. I know
that he's latched on to Superman as a role-model, but it would have been nice
to see some examples of his inner strength before he burst out of the bottle's
confining situation. Still, as Superman said as he flew away, Ceritak has
indeed turned into a Hero.

Speaking of Superman and heroes, those two words hardly deserve to be in the
same sentence this issue. While people were frying upstairs, Superman first
stored more energy than he needed to break out (by his own admission), spent a
few moments jawing with a disappearing Locksmith, and then tried to track him
through the computer. Only when that all failed did he deign to go and pull
the dancers from the fire. And how did he pull off this rescue? Why, with a
Cohesive Energy Matrix, of course! He resorted to this after earlier trying to
convert the flames' own heat-energy into a 'Dynamic Energy Matrix'--a trick
Clark apparently learned in his high-school Physics class! Wish _my_ Physics
classes had been as interesting as his.... Let's face it; Clark blew it big-
time this go-round, and it's a good thing Ceritak was there to backstop him.

Finally, I suppose, I should make a couple of comments on the wasted five
pages that make up the sub-plot. How do I hate this story? Let me count the
ways:
- There is _no way_ that any newspaper is going to send a prize-winning
reporter half-way around the world on a fluff piece.
- Other than repeated warnings about 'the End of Everything', the Abos were
about as useful as a bicycle to a fish.
- Plot-device man, AKA The Army Buddy.
- Ninjas in Australia? Stand out there much, boys?
- Sam Lane and Clark Kent, together, as you've never seen them before! Given
how Sam has made it clear he feels about Clark, what earthly reason
does he have for bringing him along?
- ...and the number one reason I hate this subplot is... Rajiv Naga.

We've seen Naga three times now in the last year; blowing pock-marks in the
earth's crust with super-satellites, kidnapping Clark and thereby touching
off the dreadful Commando Lois story-arc, and now this. His first appearance
was interesting, in a _Superman Adventures_ sort of way, but overall he
really hasn't generated much interest or threat-potential. Why do we continue
to get annoying, boring villains like this when the team has shown that they
can really handle some of the classic villains (Mxy, Parasite, Intergang)
quite well?

Final Thought: It was nice to see Supes suck information directly from the
computer by plunging his hand into Locksmith's terminal when tracing him. I
don't think we've seen this ability since it first manifested during the
power-shift. If he can read directly from electronic media, however, can the
writers please make it so that he can write directly to it too? Then we won't
have to listen to Clark whine anymore about how slow he types... :-)

Shane Travis
<travis@sedsystems.ca>

-- 30 --

______________________________________________

SUPER-FAMILY TITLES:
-------------------
STEEL #44 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Metropolis"

Writer: Priest
Artists: Denys Cowan and Tom Palmer
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: John Kalisz
Asst. Editor: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Mike McAvennie
Cover: Cowan and Palmer

RATINGS

Average: 3.8/5.0 Shields

JSy: 3.8 Shields - A good issue which highlights the differences between
Metropolis and Jersey City. Interesting development with the cops
who beat up John, but certain to cause him some problems down the
road.
DWk: 3.7 Shields - Priest writes some of the best and funniest dialogue in
comics; check Natasha guilt-tripping Amanda. I'm starting to like his
favorite narrative technique--the jumping-all-over-the-place-in-time
one, but Cowan's pencils are getting sloppier all the time--ick.

Synopsis:

The primary events in this issue are told in flashback, and occur between
pages during GENESIS. If you'll recall, Superman left Steel behind to meet
with the JLA early on during the crossover, and Steel was left behind to guard
Metropolis in Superman's absence. John receives a bit of a culture shock, as
he has to re-adjust to the welcoming attitude that Metropolis has towards its
heroes. Quite a difference from how he's usually received in Jersey City.
Between heroic efforts, Steel gets a little lesson on love from Lois Lane, but
perhaps not what regular readers of the Superman titles might expect.

Meanwhile, Crash -- John's believed-dead brother -- takes advantage of Steel's
absence to exact deadly retribution on one of the cops who beat up John a few
issues back. Last issue, John and Amanda decided that one of these cops must
have stolen John's flight boots. In this issue, John and Amanda decide to
pursue the cops and recover the boots -- which means they will inevitably be
marching into a murder charge...

Commentary:

The best aspect of this title under Christopher Priest is the character
interaction and development, so expertly choreographed through both action and
dialogue alike. Perhaps the best example in this issue is Nat's blatant
manipulation through guilt of Amanda -- Nat recently discovered Amanda's
involvement with the Doctor we know to also be the villain Skorpio. While Nat
doesn't know that particular connection, she does know enough to play around
with Amanda's mind.

It's also clear from this issue that Steel has not yet become aware that his
brother is alive, though with the risks Crash is taking of late, I fully
expect that status to change soon. We learn in this issue that Crash is in
possession of the missing flight boots, though it is unclear why he has them
or how he obtained them. His past actions seem to indicate that he's looking
out for his family, but there's certainly some darker motivation as well.

Late in this issue is a one-page sequence which just seems to come out of
nowhere. I realize that Priest is trying to make Steel sort out his feelings
for Amanda, but this scene with Lois just felt wrong. First, Lois seems to
develop psychic abilities, deducing from Steel's mania in the previous issue
that he's got woman problems. She then proceeds to diagnose their
relationship and warn him off based on *three* sentences!

Steel mentions that he *thinks* they've been dating; that he's not certain
because he thought they were just friends. He continues by mentioning that
she's met someone (Dr. Skorpio). From just these comments, Lois deduces that
Steel has "at best an academic understanding of women," and suggests that he
may want to let Amanda go. She continues by asserting that his past priority
on family may have left him "a bit clueless about this boy/girl thing," and
that he shouldn't get his education at Amanda's expense.

Excuse me? Lois has always been a headstrong woman with strong opinions, but
she doesn't know John Irons from Adam. These quick judgments and "advice" are
simply out of character. I certainly can't see the Lois I've been reading
about for the past ten years making these kind of statements to an essential
stranger based on so little information.

While one page can't spoil a book completely, this complete
mischaracterization of Lois Lane left me a bit cold. As a result, this
issue just doesn't quite rank up there with the title's recent issues.

Jeff Sykes
<sykes@ms.uky.edu>

==================================================

SUPERBOY #45 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Invaders From the Future"

Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: Buzz Setzer
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft/AD
Ass't Ed.: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Mike McAvennie
Cover: Tom Grummett, Doug Hazlewood, and Patrick Martin

RATINGS

Average: 3.0/5.0 Shields

RG: 3.7 Shields (Story)
3.0 Shields (Art)
DWd: 3.0 Shields - I'm a big Legion fan so anything with the Legion in I'm
going to enjoy. Well handled and I hope the S-boy appears with the
Legion a few more times
DWk: 1.9 Shields - If you're going to use the Legion, make _sure_ you can
write them in character. As opposed to way out of character (Triad),
or in no character at all (everyone else). Basically just a lame
excuse to get Superboy back in with the LSH.
JSy: 3.4 Shields - Not certain I cared for Jeanty's style, but his art is
not bad, with a lot of detail. I wonder whose spell Silver Sword
is under? And we've *got* to have a Legion crossover in which the
Kid wears this new suit! (And maybe a similar one for Supergirl?)
ST: 3.1 Shields - Some character problems with Triad, but I _loved_ Ferro.
Silver Sword's return was good, but I'm not crazy about the mind-
control angle. Appreciated the break from the "I'll never grow up!"
angst.

Synopsis:
The Legion of Super-Heroes drop by for an unannounced visit with the expected
misunderstanding. The reasons for the visit quickly become clear, and it's
not good news for Superboy. When Silver Sword interrupts by breaking into
the museum, the Legion pitches in to help.

Review:
This is yet another in a series of above average issues for the new team.
This book is getting better and better, though I do hope that they settle on
a regular art team soon. While the overall quality of the art remains high,
the differing styles (from issue to issue) is a little distracting.

This month the Legion of Super-Heroes guest stars, bringing with them renewed
tension and promise of an interesting possible direction for Superboy. It's
a shame that the Legion is due to go back to the future in the next couple
of months; they provide a refreshing change of pace from Superboy's usual
pace of aimless drifting from one bit of trouble to the next. Cosmic Boy
could provide the incentive for getting Superboy to focus more on thinking
first, instead of his typical 'damn the torpedoes' style.

This month also starts to shift some new focus on Tana Moon's place in
Superboy's life. Not all is well in paradise. It will be interesting to see
how this plot line unfolds over the next few months. Who knows, maybe Triad
will get to have her wish granted.

This title has gone from the very bottom of my reading list to the top ten in
just three months. I actually look forward now to reading it each month. If
you gave up on the book a few months ago you should give it another chance.
The more character oriented stories coupled with good artwork should go a
long way to convincing you to stay.

Rene Gobeyn
<bedlam@frontiernet.net>

==================================================

SUPERBOY AND THE RAVERS #15 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Edge of the Event Horizon"

Writers: Steve Mattsson and Karl Kesel
Penciller: Josh Hood
Inker: Dan Davis
Computer Colorist: Stu Chaifetz
Letterer: Kevin Cunningham
Assistant Editor: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Mike McAvennie
Cover: Paul Pelletier and Dan Davis

RATINGS

Average: 2.1/5.0 Shields

JSy: 3.3 Shields
DWd: 1.0 Shields - I'm just about to drop this title. It doesn't seem to be
going anywhere at all. I hope it picks up when the original team
returns.
DWk: 1.7 Shields - I can barely tell what any of the characters are supposed
to be in relation to each other at this point, and I barely care.
Small redeeming factor: the best coloring of any of the Super-books.
ST: 2.4 Shields - Some interesting insights into Aura's history and Hero's
addiction, but a lot of the relationships just felt... wrong. Maybe
Hood's art played a part; everyone looked elongated, and the Rave
looked way too Grunge.

I don't normally start with the art, but with a new penciller debuting this
issue, it seems reasonable to try a new approach. Plus, I just have to get
this out of the way, so we can get to what was *good* about the issue...

Josh Hood's art is distorted. In and of itself, this isn't necessarily a bad
thing. For example, most would agree that Humberto Ramos' style on IMPULSE
was quite distorted (mis-proportioned and angular), but most also agreed that
the style was perfect for the setting and tone of that particular book.
Hood's take on the Ravers is simply distracting.

The characters are often elongated and/or gaunt. DC/Sparx generally looks
almost anorexic. As well, Mattsson and Kesel include a few scenes with
several of the characters out of costume, and in these moments, it becomes
clear that Hood has a bit of a problem distinguishing his characters from one
another. Perhaps it doesn't help that Aura and DC are wearing identical
shirts, but they could pass for identical twins -- and let's not forget that
Aura is Oriental, while DC is not.

Incidentally, take a quick look at Sparx in the first panel on page 21. Now,
do the names "Cruella De Ville" and "Bride of Frankenstein" have any meaning
for you?

In Hood's defense, there are some places where the art is quite striking.
These generally occur when his layouts avoid looking at the characters from
directly in front. His layouts also perform admirably in illustrating the
motion of the characters, from subtle gesture to full-blown super-heroics.
And the art and color effects combine to produce a dynamite take on Half-Life.

On to the story, then.

During Superboy's absence (recent events in his own title take place between
GENESIS and this issue), the Ravers have been recuperating at the Force
compound. During this time, Hero has been grilling Vicki Grant about the
H-Dials and, as heavily foreshadowed a few issues ago, has become quite
obsessed with his own. In fact, he goes so far as to dial up a hero for the
sole purpose of entering the Rave, when in the past he has only done so in
battle.

What Rave? Oh, yes. I got ahead of myself. You see, Marx has put together a
new Rave, with the same express goal of attracting his beloved, whom I assume
Marx doesn't know he's already missed once... Perhaps through Marx's own
engineering, the Ravers are one-by-one convinced to rejoin the Rave by way of
drug-induced hallucinations projected onto the Event Horizon crowd by a meta
with mental abilities -- and yes, it's just as confusing as it sounds. In the
end, though, it comes down to the fact that each of the Ravers is essentially
conned into returning.

All except Aura. She refuses to fall under Marx's control again, and
heads off to take care of personal business. (By the way, this final panel
is one one of Hood's best: as the Rave disappears in a flash, Aura is shown
in silhouette, with just enough light in front to see the tear revealing her
true emotions for the group.)

Kesel and Mattsson still have quite a few plot threads to tie up in this
title: Kaliber is still blind from events in GENESIS; Half-Life is now
falling apart after his GENESIS encounter with Mantis; Sparx and Hero have a
long way to go in determining their relationship; Hero's got a bout of Dial
dependence to overcome; Aura's got to finish her personal business; and
there's still the main story with Marx, Grim, Sol, and Rex -- who still hasn't
been identified as *that* Rex. That's a lot of story-telling left for a title
whose days are numbered, so why does so little happen this issue? As far as
the above threads are concerned, this issue provided a new vehicle (the new
Event Horizon) for the completion of Marx's story, set Aura off on her own to
resolve her personal issues, and *introduced* Half-Life's new health problems.

I, for one, will be disappointed if Kesel and company run out of time and have
to leave something unresolved. However, as usual, the best aspect of this
title really isn't the events so much as the development of the characters,
and Sparx once again receives the spotlight.

In retrospect, it seems apparent to me now that this title is actually more
about Sparx than any of the other characters. She and her family have
received the most "screen time" to date, and this issue is no exception. The
series has watched her grow-up, to an extent, and her character continues to
develop in this issue. I hesitate to say she's *growing* in this issue,
however, because she does manage to act like a typical teenager -- rebelling
against parents, trying to force herself to get over Hero, trying to fit in
with the "cool" crowd, etc. It's in these smaller, quieter scenes, that Kesel
and Mattsson accomplish so much with SUPERBOY AND THE RAVERS. Even when not
much is happening.

Jeff Sykes
<sykes@ms.uky.edu>

______________________________________________

SUPER-FAMILY TITLES (cont):
--------------------------
SUPERGIRL #15 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Gods of the Twilight"

Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Leonard Kirk
Inker: Cam Smith
Letterer: Pat Prentice
Colorist: Gene D'Angelo
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Asst. Ed.: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Mike McAvennie
Cover: Gary Frank, Cam Smith, and Patrick Martin

RATINGS

Average: 3.3/5.0 Shields

TD: 3.9 Shields (Story:3.7, Art:4.2)
DWk: 2.2 Shields - For all the action this issue, it seems like it's just
marking time--Linda's parents are still freaking out, the fight
scenes are sound and fury signifying nothing, and the jokes fall
flat. Nice to see Power Girl turn up, though.
GN: 3.5 Shields - Liked the reappearance of the Extremists, and wonder about
the Twilight's motives. The real treat is how Peter David is handling
Linda's parents' reaction to Supergirl's revelation. Seriously -- how
would your folks respond? Kirk and Smith give a nice Immonen-style
to the art.
JSy: 3.3 Shields - I'm not so sure where David's going with this Angel thing,
and so I'm apprehensive. Am I wrong here, or does little Wally think
he's God? Kirk's softer pencilling style makes his nightmare images
quite disturbing...
KM: 3.6 Shields - Good to see there wasn't a quick and easy resolution to
last issue's revelation. David is building an excellent supporting
cast.

There's a lot of good news this month. Peter David, now that he's decided
to go the super-hero route, jumps into the genre whole-heartedly this issue
while minimizing his anything-for-a-laugh tendencies *and* still retaining a
shred of the darkness that made SUPERGIRL unique during its first year.
Added bonus: Comet is nowhere to be seen.

In fact, the first scene seems to be David's attempt to say 'so long' to his
vaudeville strain. We see two guards obviously patterned after Abbott and
Costello watching over the Extremists (the insane android supergroup that
ironically was introduced to signal a return to serious storytelling in the
Giffen-era _Justice League_ titles). When the lights go out and a mysterious
figure redirects a storm, the Costello figure discovers that the Extremists
are back--to his everlasting regret.

What's going on is this: still shunned by the Danvers, Linda agrees to take
a road trip with Dick Malverne to Charlotte to meet his mother. The two head
off (and just miss meeting up with Andy Jones) to find the Extremists, under
the leadership of a mysterious figure named Twilight, in the process of
wreaking mayhem on the city. Supergirl intervenes, discovers a new power
(flame vision), but gets her head handed to her by the android villains. The
Extremists march off, ready to burn Charlotte to the ground, while Supergirl
gets a hand from the last-page appearance of Power Girl.

One of the best things about this issue is its deadly earnest in its
storytelling. The goofiness that marred the last couple of issues is out
the door, and some of David's scenes--particularly the exploration of the
reprecussions of Linda's revelation on all three members of the family--are
stunning in their dark, somber tone. There're still a few rough spots, such
as the set-up for an *Ellen*-style revelation about Andy (which is kept under
wraps, but telegraphed a mile away), but overall David has hit his stride
again. It helps that Twilight, the first 'original' villain for Supergirl
since Buzz, is ominous and enigmatic and more than a bit frightening (her
explanation of what she wants the Extremists to do on page 13 is chilling in
its forthrightness).

Leonard Kirk does a knockout job in this issue. It seems that he's getting
the hang of the action scenes finally, although his strength still lies
in character scenes (check out page ten; each panel is composed differently,
each character going through several emotions, and it flows beautifully).
More importantly, he's finally figured out how to portray Supergirl; the
scene that goes from page 5 to 8 is extremely well chreographed and plays
with the Maid of Steel's pain exquisitely. (The title page on 6 just floored
me.) He also deserves credit for making Supergirl and Power Girl separate
and distinct entities with their own body language and appearances.

"Gods of the Twilight" *works*; the question is, will David stay the course
or be tempted to put on his silly hats again. I, for one, hope not.

Thomas Deja
<manciniman@rocketmail.com>

______________________________________________

OTHER SUPERMAN TITLES:
---------------------
JLA #12 Nov 1997 $1.95 US/$2.75 CAN

"Wonderworld"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Howard Porter
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Pat Garrahy
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Separations: Heroic Age
Assoc. Ed.: Peter Tomasi
Editor: Dan Raspler
Cover: Howard Porter and John Dell

RATINGS

Average: 3.4/5.0 Shields

AW: 3.5 Shields
DWk: 4.1 Shields - Lots of great ideas--maybe too many: this reads like a
plot summary of three or four really good issues' worth of stuff.
(Especially great: Wonderworld heroes out-cosmic-ing the New Gods.)
Morrison's Luthor is my favorite version of him right now--he's not
just brilliant and evil, he's _compelling_.
GN: 3.0 Shields - Not Morrison's best effort on this series so far. Too many
elements are tied into this current arc, making the story hard to
follow. It is nice to see Luthor in his traditional role as "active"
villain rather than the supporting character role he's been relegated
to in the Superman titles.
JSy: 2.8 Shields - You know, I'm not really sure at all what happened in this
issue. Morrison gets downright confusing with this chapter. Porter's
art is a bit stronger this issue, but it still doesn't impress me.
TD: 3.5 Shields - The most Morrison of the lot, which might turn some
people off. would've like to see more of the Injustice Gang,
though Wonderworld (like George Harrison much, Grant?) was ginchy.

I haven't quite figured out whether to praise or condemn Grant Morrison for
the 37 stories he tells in this third part of the "Rock of Ages" saga. I want
to praise him because each of the adventures alluded to on this strange new
planet/dimension called "Wonderworld" sounds fascinating and worth telling.
I want to condemn him because he cheats us out of 34 of them by reciting them
in two panels or less, and leaves us with three stories that at this point
have me almost completely confused.

Until now, "Rock of Ages" was moving pretty smoothly: Luthor was staging a
"hostile takeover" of the JLA, and Batman was preparing his counterstrike.
After last issue's final panel, I was really looking forward to the intricate
struggle between the two corporate geniuses. Then Metron came in and muddled
the picture.

Metron, as mentioned last time, is seeking the Philosopher's Stone before
Darkseid can get hold of it, and has recruited Flash, Green Lantern, and
Aquaman to help him. (I assume this is *the* "Rock of Ages".) He opens a
"timespace" doorway and the three heroes are thrown out into other
dimensions where "traces" of the Philosopher Stone's power have been
detected. (Anybody want to guess why Metron can track emanations from this
stone through multiple dimensions, but can't sense the one on Earth that's
closest to him?) Then the confusion begins.

Green Lantern finds himself on Wonderworld, telling a creature named "Mote"
of his adventures tracking the Philosopher stone. What probably would have
been a neat adventure to tell is condensed into a couple of panels. When
GL is reunited with Aquaman and the Flash, they too seem to have had some
exciting adventures that we hear about in single-sentence descriptions.
Wonderworld itself is pretty bizarre. I can't say I fully understood the
description given by Adam One, the gigantic leader of the heroes of Mammord,
but it has something to do with recruiting superbeings from thousands of
planets to aid in guarding the "entire timespace frontier" against the
Anti-Sun and Mageddon. Ooooookay.

Finally, Green Lantern recounts an interdimensional meeting with Hourman, who
became "self-aware" in the year 85000330, and has some ties to Rex Tyler, the
original Hourman (or at least to the Miraclo pills that gave him his super-
strength). This new Hourman warns GL that Metron has betrayed them and they
must get back to Earth before Darkseid

enslaves the planet. The guardians of 
Wonderworld agree to help them find their way back to Earth, but warn that
the method they are using could send them just about anywhere in spacetime.

Let me mention at this point that Porter and Dell do an excellent job
portraying alien dimensions and visually exciting Wonderworld beings. I look
forward to seeing them spending an entire issue or more, with full splash
pages, on this world. Their layouts are innovative, yet successfully draw
the eyes to where the action is. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the
subtle visual gags; the Joker blowing bubbles out of a container with a
Bat-emblem, (all the bubbles have little skulls in them), and giving an
exploding cigar to J'emm(?). It's worth taking a second look at each panel.

Meanwhile, back at the old home planet, Luthor's pretty happy with his recent
successes. He believes he's killed Superman and J'onn J'onzz, he's recruited
Green Arrow (with just a little emotional manipulation by Circe), and is
beaming twelve nuclear missiles into the JLA satellite while revealing to
Aztek that _he_ is the 'secret benefactor' behind Aztek's training and
forcing him to chose sides. Aztek has about four minutes to decide whether
he'll head a new LexCorp-controlled JLA, or go down with the satellite.

Batman, of course, isn't just sitting on his hands through all of this; he's
been doing some recruiting of his own. Proving there is some honor among
thieves, Mirror Master accepts Batman's buyout offer (a rather large check
made out to a hometown orphanage), and clues him in to Luthor's plans. Batman
confidently proclaims that in three minutes, with the help of a large rock
Superman transports into space, "the Injustice Gang is history."

Our final scene brings our intrepid timespace travelers back to Earth,
whereupon they see that Europe has been turned into an exact replica of an
Apokolips furnace/factory. Gasp! They're too late! Darkseid has taken over!

Is anyone wondering how Morrison is going to wrap up all these plotlines in
the final three issues without turning it into a convoluted mess?

I think I see what he's doing. It's an homage to the old Justice Society of
America adventures, where the team would split up, each chapter would detail
an individual hero's exploits, then the final chapter would pull them back
together as a team for the final victory.

Unfortunately, this is the Nineties and we don't have 64-page stories
anymore, so Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Flash have these terrific adventures,
but we can only see a single panel or two. It's as if Morrison has forgotten
that in comics, it's the journey that is exciting, not just the destination.
I feel more cheated than charmed.

The entire Wonderworld thing (event, happening, whatever you want to call it)
is also interesting, but Morrison only knows what it has to do with the JLA/
Injustice Gang struggle, or the Darkseid struggle.

I have a lot of faith in Morrison; he's managed to successfully cram more
story into fewer pages than just about any other writer in recent history,
but I fear he may be pushing his luck on this one. It's especially risky to
me because he's tied Darkseid into all this, and we've just come off a rather
disastrous "Genesis" crossover that had every superhero and their brother
battling mindless hordes of Apokolips' Hunger Dogs for no particular reason.

Morrison has come up with some wonderful story ideas here: I'd love to hear
more about the timespace-traveling trio and their adventures, and Hourman,
and Wonderworld, and this Apokolipsian invasion that's probably happening in
some other timespace. I'm just not sure they all fit into one story.

Knowing Morrison, there's a good chance I'll eat my words in three more
issues. Morrison has something up his sleeve--as Mote tells Green Lantern
as they tour the museum district of Omnitropolis, "You should take time to
see and *remember* these wonders."

I hope so. For the next thirty days, though, I'm going to be scratching my
head and wondering just how he's going to do it.

Anatole Wilson
<awilson@oracle.us.com>

==================================================

SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #13 Nov 1997 $1.75 US/$2.50 CAN

"Grand Slam"

On the Mound: Scott McCloud
Behind the Plate: Rick Burchett
Running the Bases: Terry Austin
Color Commentary: Tom Zukio
Working the Scoreboard: Lois Buhalis
Designated Hitter: Maureen Mc Tigue
Hit by a Pitch: Mike McAvennie
Cover: Bret Blevins and Terry Austin

RATINGS

Average: 3.9/5.0 Shields

CoS: 4.0 Shields - A well-executed trifle of a story, showing that you
can do an all-fighting issue and still have a good story to tell.
DWk: 4.2 Shields - A lightweight farewell for McCloud, and fun and touching
anyway, with amusing details on almost every page. This is _exactly_
the kind of comic book I want my kids to be able to read someday.
GN: 3.2 Shields - Too fun! An enjoyable romp, with nice insights into the
S:TAS Prof. Hamilton.
JSy: 4.0 Shields - Kind of a let down when compared to "The War Within,"
but still a good story in its own right. The only true negative
I can come up with, though, is the cover -- I really can't imagine
it drawing people into the book.

Does anyone remember those comics from the 70's that would have on the cover
"All-Out Battle Issue"? I remember as a kid that when I would see one of
those, that the entire issue would be super-heroes bashing on super-villains.
All of the plot development would have been in the previous issue along with
all of the reasons behind what was happening. Until I was about 12, I would
seek those issues out, since it would be cool to see all the different super
powers and the neat ways they were used. After that, I would dread those
issues, since none of the stuff I liked would be in the comic. It seemed that
the writer got all of the plot elements aligned and then told the artist,
"...And then they beat on each other for 21 pages!"

On the surface, "Grand Slam" is an "all-battle" issue, since the vast
majority of the story is taken up with Superman fighting an alien in three
different contests. The team on _Superman Adventures_ has been very good,
however, at taking old stories like that and making them innovative,
interesting and fun. While this issue isn't very innovative, it certainly
was interesting and a whole lot of fun.

The issue begins at a baseball game, with Superman throwing out the first
pitch for the third game of the World Series. (In a nice bit of business,
the catcher's name is Wayne Schaffenberger, combining the names of two
classic Superman artists.) As Lois, Superman, and Professor Hamilton settle
into their seats and watch the game, it is called on account of an alien
invasion. Well, something had to happen since the cover did have the phrase
"Strange Sports Stories" (another nice nod to DC's past) and showed Superman
getting beaten up. Even though Scott McCloud is a devotee of Japanese Manga,
I'm pretty sure that he knows American audiences aren't quite ready for a
comic book depiction of a baseball game. A pair of aliens, who were directed
towaard Earth by Lobo, challenge Superman to a fight for his planet's honor
and the Nebula Cup, best two out of three. Superman reluctantly agrees, after
learning that if he does not compete, they will train their formidable
weapons on Earth.

With the set-up out of the way, the battles begin. It's difficult to
summarize fight scenes, but McCloud does keep it interesting by having
Professor Hamilton in the announcer's booth, helping Superman figure out the
alien weapons. Superman loses the first battle, mostly due to the fact that
he doesn't know how to use the weapon he's been handed. The second contest
is another matter; this time the combattants are using gravity disruption
batons, and Professor Hamilton figures out what they do in time to give
Superman enough knowledge to win.

With the score tied, the final contest begins, with each of the combatants
using high tech boxing gloves. Professor Hamilton is unable to come up with
a way for Superman to use the weapon to his advantage, so Superman removes
them and takes out the alien champion with a "fastball special", followed by
and old fashioned pummeling (nicely done in a nine-panel grid). Standing
over an unconscious alien champion, Superman wins the round and the contest.

Superman flies to the alien craft, where he is awarded the Nebula Cup,
sculpted from actual nebula stars. Professor Hamilton realizes that if that
is so, then the award would weigh as much as a thousand battleships, and
tries to warn Superman, but too late; as he accepts the award, the weight
causes him to plummet toward Earth and innocent spectators below. Professor
Hamilton realizes that when they hit, they will cause a big, _big_ crater,
and heads straight for one of the anti-gravity rods to try and counteract the
award's weight. Unfortunately, all of the ballplayers scatter and Professor
Hamilton--not the most athletic of people--is left to try and hit a home run,
as it were. All of his sports failures as a kid go through his head as he
watches the award descend. The world holds it breath as he swings and...

Since this comic is primarily for an "all-ages" readership and was approved
by the Comics Code, you can pretty much assume he hits it out of the park,
saving everyone. The story does have a nice little kicker at the end, ending
it all with a chuckle. McCloud has a number of nice touches with Professor
Hamilton not being athletic but able to help Superman, and the pair of
announcers giving a play-by-play so that we don't have to have dialogue
between Superman and the alien as they battle (I like the fact that the alien
doesn't talk; it makes him a more imposing figure). Burchett does a very nice
job of keeping the story visually interesting, and the fights all seemed much
bigger than life. A few pages are very Kirby-esque, with a panel grid layouts
and Kirby power poses, yet nothing seems like it was traced from old Kirby
art. All in all a nice little story to pass the time, showing a creative team
functioning on all cylinders. You know, it would have been a nice touch if,
at the end, Superman or Clark Kent were to wink at the reader, but you can't
have everything.

Cory Strode
<c.strode@genie.com>

______________________________________________

LIMITED SERIES:
--------------
ELSEWORLDS' FINEST #2 (of 2) $4.95 USA/$6.95 CAN

Writer: John Francis Moore
Penciller: Kieron Dwyer
Inker: Hilary Barta
Colorist: Gloria Vazquez
Separator: Heroic Age
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Cover: Dwyer and Barta

RATINGS

Average: 3.2/5.0 Shields

DWk: 2.1 Shields
GN: 4.0 Shields - The art has a nice period feel, like the early adventure
strips that inspired comic books. This has been one of the more
interesting Elseworlds takes on these two characters and their
supporting casts.
JSy: 4.0 Shields - The Eradicator was a little too familiar for this
Elseworlds setting, and having Clark kill himself because of it
was a bit much. But on the whole, this was an enthralling
conclusion to the tale.
ST: 3.3 Shields - Too much detail crammed into too little space; there was
a real feel of 'we have to wrap this all up' that wasn't present in
the first book, including in the art which seemed less finished.
Still, a thoroughly enjoyable 'imaginary tale' of other times.
TD: 2.8 Shields - EF stumbles as things get over-complicated all around,
but it still does a lot to capture the flavor of the era and the
style of the pulps.

The first half of ELSEWORLD'S FINEST introduced an awful lot of threads.
The second half presents the problem of how to resolve them all and turn
Clark into Superman and Bruce into Batman in a 48-page story.

Like #1, this issue is crammed with plot, but here are the basics: It's 1928,
as pirate Alexi Luthor explains to his captives, Clark, Jimmy, Lana and
Prof. Lang, that he's going to Argos to find the same Godstone that Ra's Al
Ghul is after. He's got a jewel ("from the hold of a Spanish galleon that
sank in 1512") that makes Clark sick. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Bruce dresses as
the wizard Kha and tries to track down Ra's. Luthor's party arrives at his
island home, where he explains how he built his ship the Leviathan. They fly
towards Brazil, where Argos seems to be located; Luthor gets fresh with Lana,
Clark tries to interfere, and Luthor zaps him with the "jewel" and has him
chucked out of the plane.

They land near Argos, where they find a Superman logo over the city's main
gate, a super-sharp knife, and Ra's Al Ghul and his legion waiting to ambush
them. Ra's waylays the Luthor party and announces his intention to find the
Godstone. Bruce discovers Clark in the jungle; as they climb the mountain to
Argos, Bruce explains how the spirit of Kha rescued him. They run into Ra's,
who has found the Godstone. He mesmerizes them and grabs the stone, which
incinerates him and pulls Clark towards it. Turns out the Godstone is a
"harbinger global matrix" which tells Clark that he's from Krypton, gives
him a rather familiar costume, and tells him his job is to turn Earth into
a new Kryptonian homeworld. Lana appeals to Clark's humanity; in the ensuing
struggle, Clark throws himself on the super-sharp knife.

Luthor grabs the Godstone and Jimmy; Bruce takes off after him, and Talia
drags Clark into an impromptu Lazarus Pit. Bruce fights Luthor, and the plane
is about to crash when it's rescued by the revived Clark. who destroys the
Godstone. Finally, we see a much older Lana reminiscing over those early days
and giving her journals to Clark's (and, perhaps, Talia's?) daughter Kara.

If you're going to tell a story where the big things are unbelievable or
seriously coincidental, you _have_ to make the plot airtight and the details
absolutely credible, and the infrastructure of ELSEWORLD'S FINEST is awfully
rickety. There's no reason why Luthor's 16th-century Spanish jewel should be
Kryptonite; there's no reason the Godstone should incinerate Ra's and just
give Luthor bad zits; there's no reason the super-sharp knife is even in the
story, other than to provide something that can injure Clark. A ceramic
suicide-tooth is one thing; one with something that makes people who bite
down on it burst into flames is another; that Bruce should happen to carry
around an antidote with him is completely implausible. And if Ra's can make
a Lazarus Pit out of any pool with a handful of potions that he carries with
him everywhere, you'd think the technology would have spread a bit. Not to
mention that Earth seems perfectly habitable for Kryptonians--why would it
have to be reconfigured, especially considering that Clark is the only
Kryptonian left?

Then there's the dialogue, which is ordinary at best, cringeworthy at worst.
Jimmy, in particular, is cursed with lines like "Wow! This is just like the
latest Captain Marvel adventure in the Daily Planet--only more exciting and
more real!" The language the characters use has the flavor of old movie
serials a few times removed, but it's not nearly as sharp and fun as its
setting demands.

As with the first issue, the best bit of the art is a glimpse of a fake
newspaper strip--in this case, a "World's Finest" strip drawn in a lovely
mock-Bob Kane style. Other than that, Dwyer and Barta's characters are often
sketchy-looking--the style may be meant to suggest Milton Caniff-style
chiaroscuro, but it sometimes distorts faces and bodies grotesquely--and the
layouts are messy and sometimes unclear. That said, a lot of the design of
individual elements in ELSEWORLD'S FINEST is awfully cool, particularly the
interior of Luthor's ship, his airplane, the architecture of Argos and the
modified Superman and Batman costumes. If only it belonged to a story as
thoughtful and clever.

Douglas Wolk
<dbcloud@panix.com>

______________________________________________

LIMITED SERIES (cont):
---------------------
THE KENTS #4 (of 12) Nov 1997 $2.50 US/$3.50 CAN

"Bleeding Kansas, Part 4"

Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Tim Truman
Inks: Michael Bair
Letters: Oakley/N.J.Q.
Colors: Carla Feeny
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editor and
Head Wrangler: Peter Tomasi
Cover: Timothy Truman

RATINGS

Average: 4.1/5.0 Shields

RG: 4.5 Shields (Story)
4.5 Shields (Art)
DWk: 2.8 Shields - A bad idea very well executed. The story's awfully
predictable (and the "S" blanket made me think I was reading a Mort
Weisinger comic), but there's no better Western artist right now
than Tim Truman.
GN: 4.0 Shields - Solid storytelling on all counts, though I'm personally
not nuts about the S-shield tie in -- it seems an artificially forced
gimmick to make the series more tied into the Superman line.
JSy: 4.5 Shields - The only possible weakness to this issue is the shoe-
horning of the S-shield. I hope that Ostrander plans to make this
symbol Clark and Jonathan's inspiration for Superman's shield, and
not just a coincidence.
TD: 4.5 Shields - Still one of the best written books out there--and we
get Tom Mandrake for the next four issues!

Nate learns some hard facts of life from the ex-slave's point of view. In
learning he makes some new friends and further alienates his brother Jeb. He
also learns a bit more about some of his white friends than he is comfortable
with. Nate's life and his relationship with his brother take a drastic turn
when some of his new friends are taken and sold back into slavery. Meanwhile,
the events leading up to the start of the American Civil War continue.

Rene Gobeyn
<bedlam@frontiernet.net>

______________________________________________

ANNUALS AND SPECIALS:
--------------------
JLA ANNUAL #1 1997 $3.95 US/$5.50 CAN

Letterer: Clem Robins
Separations: Heroic Age
Assoc. Ed.: Peter Tomasi
Editor: Dan "Slam" Raspler
Painted Cover: Gary Gianni

++++++++++++++++++++
"Hardboiled Hangover"

Writer: Brian Augustyn
Illustrator: Ariel Olivetti
Colorist: Pat Garrahy

Average: 3.6/5.0 Shields

AW: 4.0 Shields
DC: 3.3 Shields - Great story and interesting point of view.
EJ: 4.4 Shields - The angle of "It takes one to know one" was turned on
its ear.
GN: 2.5 Shields - Not bad, but the other JLAers reaction to J'Onn (not even
wanting to investigate this?) seemed out of character -- especially
for Superman, no matter how it was explained away in the story. The
art was only so-so.
JSy: 3.0 Shields - A reasonably strong story, but Olivetti's art did not
impress me at all.
KM: 3.5 Shields - Olivetti's 'hardboiled' style elevated this otherwise
average story.
TD: 4.2 shields - I have to wonder why, with so many people writing so many
good solo stories about J'onn, DC hasn't done an ongoing. Well
written, capturing the tone of hardboiled fiction, and well-drawn.

I've approached this year's series of DC Annuals with a due amount of
skepticism. The raw, text-heavy stories of archetypal rugged adventurers,
hardboiled detectives, and tamers of the Wild West that filled the pages of
the pulp magazines of the 1920's to 1940's seem somewhat at odds with the
continuity-bound, angst-ridden heroes whose adventures are told predominantly
in bright, splashy pictures.

It seemed to me this summer that our familiar heroes were being crammed into
roles they didn't belong, with stories that brought out old cliches and
atypical artwork that rarely matched the character--the "Wild West" Superman
in the _Adventures of Superman Annual_ being a good example. So it was with
great reserve that I picked up the JLA Annual. Surprisingly, it worked better
than most of the other efforts.

"Hardboiled Hangover" is, as its incredibly hackneyed title suggests, a
hardboiled detective story featuring J'onn J'onzz. This type of story is
more natural for the Martian Manhunter than it seems--when he first came
to Earth in the '50s, J'onn's "secret identity" was John Jones, Private
Detective. Back in his old role, complete with rumpled trenchcoat, J'onn
investigates a murder the JLA doesn't want to take--the murder of an
unidentified alien in some backwater town that the town's mayor claims was
"self-defense."

In a style befitting any "film noir" classic, J'onn goes to the town, asks
questions, fights with some locals trying to discourage him, romances a
beautiful woman whose smile hides many secrets (surprise!), is jumped by more
locals, is tied up in a house that's set on fire, and finally discovers the
secret behind the "self-defense" alien killings. (And no, I'm not telling.)

Augustyn throws in some of the elements of the best 1950's sci-fi films as
well. There's a sense of paranoia, the theme of a lone alien hidden among
humans, and as J'onn finds himself embracing the anger and violence around
him, a sense of disgust for the world we've created whose horrors can only
be appreciated by an outsider thrown into its midst.

Augustyn and Ariel Olivetti create an appropriate mood for this piece. The
text is heavier, more space-filling, but not overdone. The artwork is
effectively dark and moody. At times I almost pictured it in black and white.

Now, this isn't a perfect piece. I appreciated the style of this story, and
that Augustyn took lots of old cliches and made them fit together fairly
well--a feat not accomplished by many this summer. In truth, though, no
Annual this summer really captured the feel of the old pulps. Rather, they
took stories that might have been written back then and adapted them to
today's style. To me, that means something was lost. You might argue that you
can't go home again, and I might agree. The only successful "pulp" story I've
seen in (not-so) recent years was in DC Special Series #15 (1978?): A Batman
story written by Denny O'Neil, surrounded with mini-graphics by the
incomparable Marshall Rogers. It's a magnificent blending of pulp-style
writing and stylish artwork.

Despite my reservations, Augustyn and Olivetti have presented us with a
compelling, atmospheric piece worth checking out. I'll be looking forward
to their version of Roy Raymond, Private Eye in the near future.

++++++++++++++++++++
"Lockdown!"

Writer: Brian Augustyn
Illustrator: Gene Ha
Colorist: Gene Ha

Average: 3.4/5.0 Shields

AW: 3.5 shields
DC: 3.2 Shields - Silly premise but excellent execution (art and story).
EJ: 4.0 Shields (Story: 3.0, Art: 4.9) - Pretty standard and predictable
plotline -- however, the art was DYNAMITE! It looked like the entire
story was illustrated with photographs!
GN: 2.3 Shields - This story might have layed better if we hadn't just read
it in JLA Secret Files. Again this month, another tie-in to the
Kingdom Come continuity. Good Gene Ha art, though.
JSy: 4.3 Shields - Wonderful characterization and plot development, though
the villains aren't shown enough to be very interesting. Gene Ha's
art was pure eye candy.
KM: 3.2 Shields - Art just didn't click with me (too grey) but the idea of
the story (no powers) was interesting.
TD: 3.0 Shields (Story: 2.0, Art: 4.0) - What a gyp! Paying lip service to
KINGDOM COME, this story at least has some more Gene Ha photorealist
eye candy to look at.

This story is more notable because of the style of artwork and the villains
it introduces than the story itself.

The villains are a pair of telepathically linked creatures known as "The
Brain Trust." They and their group of "City-Killers" have taken Star City
hostage by going to its tallest building and placing a giant bomb there.
The bomb, they announce, will go off automatically if its sensors detect
any super-powered activity. The mightiest members of the JLA are thus
prevented from going in and stopping them.

But of course there's the Batman.

Batman leads the Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow through the sewers and
then up the side of the skyscraper so they can jump Brain Trust and end their
scheme. Batman does most of the work through this, as Flash and GL are not
very adept at battle without their powers, and Green Arrow is surprisingly
ineffectual. Batman said he needed backup, but must've muttered under his
breath, "and a couple of good laughs."

They jump the Brain Trust, but it turns out the bomb is already set to go
off. Green Arrow signals Superman, who rushes in and funnels off the
energy from the explosion before it can cause any damage. This leads me to
the question, if Superman could have rushed in and saved the day from the
beginning, why did Batman and the others have to climb up the side of the
building? I can't help thinking how badly Superman's going to miss that
energy absorption power when he gets back to normal.

So, you may be asking, what's so notable about the artistic style and the
Brain Trust? Well, as many sources have pointed out, the Brain Trust are
the first new villains from KINGDOM COME to enter the DC Universe. Gene Ha
emphasizes this point with his near-realistic drawings of the characters.
While this story accomplished little, it brings us a step closer to the
dark future foretold by the mini-series.

This, I believe, was the true mission of this backup tale. Augustyn has told
an amusing little story here, and the artwork fits an almost non-super-
powered storyline well.

Anatole Wilson
<awilson@oracle.us.com>

==================================================

SUPERMAN ADVENTURES ANNUAL #1 1997 $3.95 US/$5.50 CAN

"Dark Planes Drifter"

Writer: Hilary J. Bader
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Dan Davis
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Letterer: Albert T. De Guzman
Ass't Ed.: Maureen McTigue
Editor: Mike McAvennie
Cover: Joe Staton and Terry Austin

RATINGS

Average: 2.7/5.0 Shields

CoS: 2.0 Shields - A confusing story that boiled down to two fight scenes
scenes connected by magic and time.
DWk: 2.7 Shields - Enough with the incantation already! And the flashbacks
weren't terribly well handled--it was often unclear what was going
on. Still, good to see a plot this rich handled in the simple style
of the Adventures stuff.
EJ: 3.3 Shields - Enjoyable, but I felt it skipped around a bit too much.
Perhaps it would have made more sense as two separate stories.
GN: 3.0 Shields - More fun, though I was hoping for more of a crossover
between the "animated" annuals. Clark's earlier encounter with
Zatara was a nice touch.
JSy: 2.5 Shields - This actually looked better in my B&W preview copy. The
whole demon approach just doesn't mesh well with the animated style.
While not a *bad* story, the Dr. Fate encounters are just plain
confusing, and on the whole the book's not worth four bucks.

Some characters work in some situations and not in others. The best examples
I can think of are: Batman never really works against alien menaces, while
Dr. Fate doesn't work in stories where he's fighting against inner city
criminals. I have never thought that Superman works in a supernatural story,
and his weakness against magic never really made a whole lot of sense unless
you are going to do a story of science vs. magic. The story in the first
Superman Annual had Superman facing a supernatural menace, and does not work
with the science vs. magic theme. In the end, it's an elongated fight scene,
padded with standard plot points.

The story opens with Superman having a bad dream, in which he's being torn
apart by people asking for help. When he wakes up, he realizes that he left
his Walkman on, and his super hearing was listening to the news. He assumes
that was what was causing the dreams, but is unable to go back to sleep as
he hears cries for help from a burning building. Even as he rescues the
people, though, and as he works at the Daily Planet as mild-mannered reporter
Clark Kent, he still hears the voice from his dream calling for help. When he
finally recognizes the voice of Dr. Fate, he goes to the Fortress of Solitude
to recover an amulet Dr. Fate gave Clark before he became Superman.

As he retrieves it, he thinks back to a time before he was Superman--a time
when he was traveling the world. He sought out Zatara the mystic, who had a
stage magic act, but used real magic to make it appear to be sleight-of-hand
illusions. Back in the present, Dr. Fate appears to Superman as he is
fighting a fire, and tells him that he must bring the amulet to him. Superman
agrees, chants the needed phrase and is teleported to another realm. When he
arrives, he is greeted by the ruler of the realm, a demon named Akamin, who
has been appearing to Superman as Dr. Fate.

Superman continues the flashback from when he first went to the realm years
ago, when Akamin was "born". Clark was saved when Dr. Fate gave him an amulet
that allowed him to return home. Akamin, having seen Superman's escape,
plotted and schemed and finally figured out how to trick Superman into
returning to his realm. When Akamin escapes to Earth, he's able to assume
human form and begin his plan to take over the world. Superman finds a second
amulet, and returns to Earth where he discovers that Lois has been captured by
Akamin. (That the second amulet is able to detect Akamin is a nice way to get
the two together without Superman having to puzzle anything out.) When
Superman finds and defeats Akamin he is able to use the combined power of the
amulets to return Akamin to his home dimension. Dr. Fate finally arrives when
the battle is over and tells Superman how the two fights are connected by the
flow of time, and that Superman has done a good job.

There are a lot of problems with the story; some are in the storytelling and
others in the story itself. The flashbacks are not set apart from the modern
story clearly. While they are told from a time before Clark had his Superman
costume, the abrupt switch disrupts the flow of the story and adds little to
how it's told. The bad guy, Akamin, is trying to take over the world because
he's trying to take over the world--no motivation, no reasoning, and, in the
end, no plan, so we don't care. If he wants to take over the world, why does
he kidnap Lois Lane and hold her in a landfill atop a mountain of garbage? I
also wondered why Fate was in the story at all, since his role was simply to
hand out whatever amulet the story needed at the time.

In the end, there isn't anything special about the story--just a new bad guy
for Superman to beat up, with no real puzzle to the outcome. It never really
felt like anything was a stake, so the story didn't generate any suspense.

Staton does a good job with the art, but his layouts are pedestrian. He fits
in some disconcerting panel layouts in the other dimension which add nothing
to the story. One of the things about Superman is that you have to use visual
cues to give the reader a sense of just how powerful and imposing he is, and
Staton does none of that. Finally, the switch between present and past should
have had more visual clues, so the reader doesn't get caught reading for a
panel or two before realizing that they're in the flashback.

The story failed for me because it seemed more like page filler than an
important episode in Superman's life, past or present. There are a lot of
little clues that more is going on in the story than meets the eye. I am
guessing this is a crossover of some sort, but there are no clues as to with
what; If the story does continue somewhere, shouldn't there be an indication
of where? In the end, the story seemed like an excuse for a pair of fight
scenes, neither of which were involving.

Cory Strode
<c.strode@genie.com>

==================================================

ADVENTURES IN THE DC UNIVERSE ANNUAL #1

Writer: Hilary J. Bader
Letterer: John Costanza
Ass't Ed.: Frank Berrios
Editor: Mike Carlin

RATINGS

Average: 2.8/5.0 Shields

RG: 2.5 Shields (Story)
2.0 Shields (Art)
DWk: 3.4 Shields - Much more fun than the SupAdv story it complements. Good
to see Dick Giordano back in action; good Kirby-oid monster in the
Superboy story. _How_ did pg. 20 make it into an Adventures title?
Never mind.
EJ: 3.7 Shields - I liked how all five stories tied together. My favourite
individual story was Rose and the Thorn. The way she used her dual
personality as a weapon was brilliant, as was the way she gave the
villain EXACTLY what he deserved.
GN: 2.5 Shields (Superboy) - A cute encounter between Zatanna and Superboy,
but that's about it.
3.2 Shields (Rose and Thorn) - Always glad to see Giordano art, and he
adapted to the animated style nicely. Good to see a resolution of the
Hypnotist's story, especially with him getting his just desserts at
the Thorn's hand.
JSy: 2.0 Shields - The Rose/Thorn story was the only saving grace for this
issue, as the other stories were just not interesting at all. Only
the Giordano/Austin art managed to capture the feel of an animated
series. The remaining art was rough.

**********
"Something Wicked this way Comes" starring Dr. Fate

Penciller: John Delaney
Inker: John Byrne
Colorist: Rick Taylor

Told in two parts, it ties all the stories in this and the other two
Adventures Annuals together. Not bad, but a little too cute for my taste.

**********
"Something Wicked - Event one" starring Impulse

Penciller: Andy Suriano
Inker: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Rick Taylor

Impulse disobeys Max and gets in some trouble (so what else is new?) down
in South America. Not bad; a fair to good Impulse story.

**********
"Something Wicked: Event two" starring Rose & Thorn, and Zatanna

Penciller: Dick Giordano
Inker: Terry Austin
Colorist: Rick Taylor

This was the best story in the book. Rose/Thorn takes on the Hypnotist from
the Batman and Robin Adventures Annual #2. Thorn uses her split personality
to defeat the Hypnotist, disable his powers, and gets Zatara's Amulet back.

**********
"Something Wicked: Event three" starring Superboy and Zatana

Penciller: Michael Avon Oeming
Inker: Ron Boyd
Colorist: Rick Taylor

A pretty weak tie in to the ongoing Amulet Story line .

**********
"Something Wicked: Event Four" starring Mr. Miracle

Artist: Mike Manley
Colorist: Rick Taylor

An old fashioned Kirby style Mr. Miracle romp. This story has stronger ties
into the Amulet story than the Superboy one did.

**********

As an example of DC's 'Adventures' books, this one was a bit below average.
This is not to say it was bad, it just wasn't as good as the stories I've
come to expect from this family of books.

All of the stories in this year's Adventures annuals were tied together by a
single plot element; namely, two mystical amulets under the protection of
Zatara and Zatanna. There are two stories being told. One takes place about
twenty years ago and stars a young (pre-Batman and Superman) Bruce Wayne and
Clark Kent. Unfortunately in order to really understand the whole story, you
do need to read all three of the annuals.

In BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES ANNUAL #2, we see a young Bruce Wayne training
to become an escape artist under the instruction of Zatara (Zatanna's father).
A stage hypnotist finds that the amulets seem to give him extra power. Bruce
defeats him when he tries to take the them. In present times, the Hypnotist is
back and trying to find the amulets.

In the prologue of the ADVENTURES IN THE DC UNIVERSE ANNUAL #1 we see that Dr.
Fate is warned and concerned about the mystic effects of these amulets. By
tracking down the problem and attempting to fix things he sets in motion
several events that are seen to run through all the stories in the annuals.
While it does serve as a good starting point to tie everything together, many
of the stories have little to nothing to do with the central events.

One of the weakest stories in the annual was the Superboy story that also
featured Zatanna. A very lame terrorist tries to blackmail Hawaii by
threatening to detonate a bomb in one of the more active volcanoes. Superboy
and Zatanna manage to trick the terrorists and remove the bomb while at the
same time retrieving the Amulet from the volcano. As a story it is was more
or less OK, but as tied into the central theme it didn't work very well.

The Rose and Thorn story, on the other hand, worked quite well. It managed to
tie the Batman Adventures story of the Hypnotist together with the amulet
coming back into Zatanna's possession. It was easily the most entertaining of
the four stories in the book.

Rene Gobeyn
<bedlam@frontiernet.net>

______________________________________________

MANUSCRIPTS OF STEEL
------------------------------

Reviews of After-Byrne Superman Special Stories

by Denes House (househld@borg.com)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN ANNUAL #2
"Quest for Vengeance"

Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Bob McLeod, Curt Swan & John Byrne, Kerry Gammill & Dick Giordano
Colored by Glenn Whitmore
Cover by Gammill & Byrne
1990
Squarebound Format, $2.00 US/$2.50 CAN

Rating:

2.5/5.0 Shields

--------------------------------------

L.E.G.I.O.N. '90 ANNUAL #1
"Childhood's End"

Written by Alan Grant
Art by Jim Fern and Jeff Albrecht
Colored by Lovern Kindzierski
1990
Squarebound Format, $2.95 US/$3.65 CAN

Rating:

4.3/5.0 Shields

----------------------------------------------------------

There's something about Annuals for me -- it seems I either like them or hate
them -- there seems to be no middle ground. The two Annuals I'm reviewing
this month tell one story, but I love one and hate the other, though they both
have their moments.

The story begins in the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN Annual, with Vril Dox, Jr. and
Lar Gand, two members of L.E.G.I.O.N., falling to Earth in a malfunctioning
space craft. In so doing, they collide with the wing of a jetliner, and
plummet beneath the ocean close to Metropolis. Hearing about the jetliner,
Superman charges to the rescue in a scene that gives us our only glimpse of
Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. For the historians out there, this scene
establishes that this story is set between the time when Lois and Clark
started dating, but before he told her about his dual identity.

Superman saves the jetliner in the nick of time, and the reactions of the
passengers are priceless. Superman discovers that the plane was imperiled by
a crashing UFO, and flies off to investigate. Again, the thoughts of the
spectators are quite worthwhile.

Enter the rest of L.E.G.I.O.N., pursuing Dox and Gand in their own spacecraft.
We are introduced to Lyrissa, Strata, Lady Quark, Stealth, Telepath, Lobo,
and Phase in a serviceable scene, in which we learn that Dox is on a quest to
kill his father, the menace Brainiac.

We then cut to Dox and Gand. Their malfunctioning ship breaks through the sea
floor into a technologically advanced tunnel -- which we later learn belongs
to the Cadmus Project. (Considering that the entrance to the Project, the
Zoomway, is inland of Metropolis, the fact that it has sea-floor tunnels must
mean the damned thing is more sprawling than that great city. Think about
that.) Dox and Gand move to investigate this place.

Superman, searching for the downed UFO, is mistaken for Lar Gand by the
arriving L.E.G.I.O.N., and is attacked by the ravaging lunatic, Lobo.

Dox and Gand, meanwhile, realize the technological complexity of the
installation, and Dox decides to see if Cadmus' computers have information
about his father. Their ship is discovered by Guardian, the Project's
security chief, and Cadmus' psychic Dubbilex mistakes Dox's brainwaves for
Brainiac's.

This sets up the fight scene which is the rest of this 54-page Annual...34
pages of mistaken-identity battle that drags on, despite the talented artwork.
There are a few key revelations about Cadmus along the way, but the fighting
plot seems merely a space-filler to bring the reader to the last two pages, in
which Brainiac challenges his son to come to him on Colu, his home planet. A
menacing glare from Brainiac also invites the reader to pick up the conclusion
to this tale, in the L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual.

Story-wise, there's not much going on here, which is the key problem with this
Annual. Annuals are often reserved for important stories, stories that
require the extended length that the Annual affords. This story seems to be
merely a device to open up the REAL story, which takes place in the
L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual. Jurgens does an adequate job of introducing
L.E.G.I.O.N., which I have never followed, though the major motivations for
each character's involvement are barely mentioned until their own Annual.
Despite the good art, this feels like a way-too-long Prologue to me.

And the art IS good. I was reminded while reading this book how much I loved
Bob McLeod's Superman, and how sorry I am that Kerry Gammill is no longer
working on the character. Swan and Byrne are a good combination, and all of
the art teams use special paper in creating this book, a paper that with the
addition of one chemical brings out a parallel hatching, and with another
chemical, a cross-hatching. This brings a special feel to the artwork that
belies the mundane story.

Which brings us to the L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual.

This Annual runs 52 pages (plus a pinup) and it crackles with vibrant story.
Alan Grant crafts what is essentially a coming-of-age story, in which a
bent-for-revenge Vril Dox, Jr. arrives on Colu to challenge his father. Since
this is not a Superman Annual, I will only briefly review it, but it is
definitely worth a read. As Dox moves closer to Brainiac, we get revelations
about Dox's cloning and rejection by his "father," about the
L.E.G.I.O.N.naires' reasons for following Dox in his crusade, and about Dox's
morally questionable methodology in pursuing justice. More on this later.
Superman shows up to fill the role of moral conscience, in a thankless series
of cameos that do more to showcase Lobo than the big, red S. In this book,
Dox is a complex character, his teammates are believable, and Brainiac is as
malevolent as ever.

Jim Fern's artwork impressed me from my first glimpse of it in this book.
Inked by Jeff Albrecht, Fern's pencils crackle with a blocky energy that
reminded me of a more upbeat Mike Mignola or Walt Simonson. Letters are by
John Workman, the best in the business in my opinion. Lovern Kindzierski's
vibrant colors are enhanced by the better-quality paper that marks the price
difference between this book and the ADVENTURES Annual. And the book has an
ending that leaves lots of room for interpretation.

Philosophically, the central moral dilemma -- Dox's questionable methods in
sentencing his father to death -- is presented in all its frustrating glory.
Superman, the moral conscience, confronts Dox: "To execute Brainiac under
those terms would be MURDER!" Dox responds: "Don't presume to lecture me on
MORALS! You are welcome to follow your own code of conduct! I will act as I
see fit!" The dilemma is left unresolved, but there it stands -- without an
external standard of values, Superman's moral code is no better, objectively,
than Dox's, or to the extreme, Hitler's. It is simply a different CHOICE of
standards. The reader (and characters within the story) may agree with either
Superman, Dox, or neither, but by those standards they cannot claim that
either is objectively true.

I raise this issue primarily since Superman fans seem to love him primarily
for his morality -- it is not the suit or powers that make the Man of Steel
Super, it is his moral core. This book raises the modern pin for that
ballooning hope -- if there is no objective truth in morality, as our society
claims, there is no basis for deciding between Superman, Dox, Lobo, or Hitler
besides preference, making the choice no more significant than one's favorite
flavor of ice cream. Just some philosophical points to ponder, courtesy of
Alan Grant's excellent script.

Capsule review:

Story: ADVENTURES - Pointless fight scenes serve as merely a lead-in for
the far better story in L.E.G.I.O.N.. Some good moments, but in general
poor. 1.5 Shields out of 5.
L.E.G.I.O.N. - Crackling with energy and significance. Grant knows
his characters and uses them well. Throw in a great moral dilemma, and you
have the kind of story only a comic book could contain. 4.0 Shields out of 5.

Art: ADVENTURES - Some of the best folks ever to work on Superman combine
for some special artwork that is betrayed only by a shoddy script. 4.5
Shields out of 5.
L.E.G.I.O.N. - I love Jim Fern -- he is expressive and impressive. A
thumbs-up to the entire artistic team! 4.5 Shields out of 5.

Overall: ADVENTURES, on the strength of the art alone - 2.5 Shields out of 5.
L.E.G.I.O.N., an all around good effort - 4.3 Shields out of 5.

Next Month: The Tyrant of Tomorrow!

______________________________________________

THE PHANTOM ZONE: Reviews of the pre-Crisis Man of Steel
------------------------------------------------------------------

TALES OF EARTH-ONE
--------------------------------------
by Bob Hughes (rhughes3@ix.netcom.com)

ADVENTURE COMICS #103

Our tale of Earth-One turns this time to the earliest Superboy story I have
in my collection, his first appearance in ADVENTURE COMICS. As I believe I
have mentioned previously, the Superboy feature began in MORE FUN COMICS with
issue #101 in Jan-Feb 1945. I don't have that fabulous first, but thanks to
Superman fan Supreme Rich Morrissey, I have read it. The super-short five
page story crammed in the back of the book was basically a retelling of
Superboy's origin. This version is virtually identical to the original
newspaper strip account and to the oft-reprinted account from SUPERMAN #53.
The main difference is that on the last page Kal-el is only 9 years old when
he vows to use his super powers to help friends in need as Superboy.

The short five-page length and statements editor Jack Schiff has made over the
years (See in particular, Overstreet's Price Guide #13) have given rise to
speculation that the story was originally intended to be the opening of a
Superboy comic book, but at the last minute business manager Jack Liebowitz
got cold feet and pulled it from the schedule. The only new title added to
the schedule in 1945 was REAL SCREEN COMICS starring the Fox and the Crow.
Due to war time paper rationing, the decision to add new titles was an
extremely critical one, as paper to print them on could only be gotten by
cutting back on existing books.

The initial 5-page Superboy strip kicked Dover and Clover, a new comedy series
about twin detectives, out of the book for one issue. After that, the Spectre
was dropped to make room. Superboy was not considered extremely important at
the time, as his first appearance was not even mentioned on the cover. The
Green Arrow cover blurbs Johnny Quick, Dover and Clover (who weren't even in
the book), Aquaman, and the Spectre, but not Superboy. Number 102, a Dover
and Clover cover, blurbs only Green Arrow. With MORE FUN #103 (Green Arrow
and Dover and Clover), a little blurb in the corner asked "What was Superman
like as a boy?". With #104 (and #106) Superboy got to share the cover with
Dover and Clover. For #105 he got the cover solo for the story "The Million
Dollar Marbles Tournament!" Exciting stuff indeed. On number 106, Superboy
flipped pancakes while Dover and Clover watched. He received no mention at
all on #107.

MORE FUN was apparently not one of the publisher's best selling titles.
Superboy only ran there for six issues before the entire book's line up was
changed radically. In April 1946 came the big switchover. Superboy, Aquaman,
Green Arrow, and Johnny Quick all moved to ADVENTURE COMICS, where they joined
the Shining Knight. All the other ADVENTURE strips were canceled except for
Genius Jones, which joined Dover and Clover in MORE FUN. MORE FUN then became
purely a funny comic book for the first time since its early pre-war days.

The decision was also made that Superboy was to be the star. Every cover from
now until the early sixties would feature Superboy. Thus ADVENTURE #103 is
pretty much the first decent Superboy cover. Pencilled by Joe Shuster
himself, the image hearkens back to ACTION COMICS #1. The three icons are
present: the car, the super-hero, and the astonished by-stander. But this is
a more innocent version; instead of holding the car over his head and
smashing it into a wall, Superboy is merely lifting the car so that the man
can change a flat. Superboy has his eyes closed and his eyebrows raised. The
slightest hint of a smirk graces his mouth. The war is over. Time to move on
to more domestic pursuits.

On the inside cover, we have an ad for Green Lantern and a list of all 25
titles published by "Superman-DC". (ADVENTURE is actually published by
Detective Comics Inc. at this time. The company that would become National
Comics in about a year was still using several corporate names, depending on
which set of investors had financed which titles.) Eight of those titles are
humor comics. One is REAL FACT. The rest are super-hero. The super-hero
percentage would not be that high again until the eighties!

The Superboy story that leads off the book is called "Happy Birthday". The
best information available says that it was written by Don Cameron, pencilled
by Joe Shuster, and probably inked by Marvin Stein. Although Superboy has
graduated to the lead spot in the book, his story is still only seven pages
long. But those seven pages would be crammed with excitement! The flavor of
the writing can be summed up by quoting the opening caption:

"It's Clark Kent's birthday but it's also Betty Marr's! And false rumors come
to spoil them both! As mean tongues wag and as a broken-hearted girl weeps,
the boy who is destined to become the Man of Tomorrow performs fantastic feats
so that Betty Marr may have a truly...Happy Birthday!"

The splash page shows a ten-year-old Superboy leaping across Betty's party
table, kicking a hole in her three layer birthday cake. Not my idea of how to
make a birthday happy, but it does put some action into the shot.

Ma Kent (unnamed at this point, and for years after) intends to bake a cake
for the anniversary of Clark's arrival, but Clark is afraid that if he invites
all his friends, no one will go to Betty Marr's birthday party. Meanwhile,
Betty's father is arrested as a suspect in a hotel robbery, but is let go
shortly afterwards. The event is enough to cause gossip all through the
Metropolis neighborhood where Superboy lives (!). Soon John Marr is convicted
in the court of public opinion and Betty is convicted of guilt-by-association.
When Clark arrives at Betty's party, it quickly becomes clear that he is to
be the only guest.

"Seconds later, a small vivid figure streaks through the air toward the heart
of Metropolis!" Superboy confronts the police inspector in charge of the case
and asks him to come clear John Marr's name. Superboy flies the inspector
from house to house, to personally vouch for John to the parents of all
Betty's friends. The gossip line also kicks in and pretty soon all Betty's
friends have shown up for the party. Unfortunately the ice cream is melted
and the candles burned out. But an unexpected guest also comes to the party
and saves the day. Superboy! Using his super speed to fly around the
ice-cream, Superboy creates a vacuum to draw the heat out of the melted ice
cream and it instantly refreezes. (I guess Superboy didn't yet know he had
Super-breath.) In two seconds, Superboy also makes new birthday candles from
scratch using the wax Betty's mom uses to can fruit. Unfortunately, by the
time Superboy can slip away and come back as Clark, all the food is gone. But
Clark happily participates in party games. However, by the time the party
ends and Clark strolls back to the Kent house, he thinks, "All that exercise
gave me an appetite. I wonder if Mom could fix me a sandwich and a glass of
milk?" (He can refreeze ice cream and make candles from canning wax, but he
can't make his own sandwich?) But when he walks in the door, there are Mom
and Dad Kent and his very own three-layer birthday cake! (And being Superboy,
he could eat the whole thing without getting a tummy-ache!)

It's kind of hard to describe Superboy's parents at this time. Dad appears in
only two panels, but they don't resemble each other much. In the first, he's
balding and has brown hair. In the second, he's got a full head of white hair
and apparently a mustache (and these panels are consecutive!). Ma is more
consistent. shorter than Dad with white hair pulled back in a bun, high arched
eyebrows, and definitely more sophisticated than kindly Martha Kent of
Smallville would be years later. Dad's brown, then green suit, isn't cut like
anything store-keeper Jonathan would wear a decade later either. He looks
like a banker to me.

Young Clark wears a blue suit, white shirt, and red bow tie. (What can I say,
he likes those colors.) He wears little round glasses and has the same spit
curl that Superboy does. I guess he hadn't yet learned to comb it back in
order to protect his secret identity.

In fact, it really wasn't until the Superboy strip was introduced that the
general public would even have been aware of the need for Superman to have a
dual identity. As Betty said when Superboy showed up at her party, "I would
have invited you but I didn't know where to send the invitation." An adult
Superman could be pictured as simply being Superman full time, but a 10 year
old child, even a super one, would come under the jurisdiction of the Public
Guardian unless he could convince the authorities that he already had a home
and family. Thus once there is a Superboy, public knowledge that Superman has
a secret identity becomes necessary. John Byrne's years-later innovation of
removing that public knowledge necessitated removing Superman's life as
Superboy also. In fact, it isn't until after Superboy is introduced that the
running story line of Lois trying to guess Superman's secret identity is
introduced, a plot line stolen from Batman's frequent encounters with Vicki
Vale (and not the other way around as is usually thought!)

Eventually Superboy grew up some and began facing major league super-villains
like Humpty Dumpty (no really, I'm not kidding). By 1949, Superboy had
finally received his own title and moved officially to Smallville. Shortly
after that his parents finally received names. And in SUPERBOY #10, Lana Lang
was introduced, replacing Superboy's original female lead, Betty Brown. Joe
Shuster left the strip in 1947 to work on his and Jerry Siegel's new creation,
Funnyman. Don Cameron eventually left also, ostensibly because he couldn't
stand working with new editor Mort Weisinger. I don't know much at all about
Marvin Stein. He apparently worked for Joe Shuster for a couple of years and
then moved to the Simon and Kirby shop. He inked most of Jack Kirby's 1950's
output including Fighting American and the earliest Challengers of the Unknown
stories.

A quick look at the other features in ADVENTURE #103:

Johnny Quick in "The Curious Cargo of the Bonnie Bess!" by Don Cameron; art by
Mort Meskin. Johnny guards a sunken treasure-hunting expedition from pirates.

Aquaman in "Footsteps in the Ocean" with art by Louis Cazeneuve. Aquaman gets
a message from The Sea Giant daring him to a battle in the deepest sunken
valleys of the Indian Ocean, but it turns out to be a hoax. (No giant battles
in this comic era!)

Shining Knight in "The Sword of Sovereigns" by Joe Samachson; art by Chuck
Winter. At this time, Sir Justin works in a present day museum. But he is
surprised when King Arthur's sword is found by archeologists, still stuck in
the stone!

The Green Arrow in "Invisible Arrows" with art by Maurice del Bourgo. Green
Arrow faces Emir Bey, whose 1000 year old magic bow shoots invisible arrows.

Where does all this information come from anyway? Well, fans have been
gathering data about Golden Age comics since the early sixties. This
information has been traded back and forth in fanzines and apa-zines and
private correspondence for years. The problem has been to find a way to store
this information and make it generally available in a standard format. There
are two major projects under way to do this:

First there is the Grand Comics Data Base. This project envisions an eventual
index of every single comic ever published, including credits, story titles
and characters, guest-stars and story synopses. To learn more about the GCD
project, please check out our web site at: http://www.nostromo.no/gcd/.
Don't be intimidated if you're not a Golden-Age comics expert. With the
tremendous number of new titles being released every day, members are needed
to concentrate solely on indexing new titles. And in exchange you get access
to more data than you could collect in a lifetime!

Also available is Jerry Bails' Who's Who of American Comic Books. Jerry has
been collecting biographies of every comic book creator he can find for over
thirty years. He has made this information available in a computer data base
format. To find out more about this amazing project, check out
http://www.nostromo.no/whoswho/.

That's it for this time. Next time I'll be back with another Golden Age
classic Superman story, this time featuring Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and Clark
Kent: "Superman, Alias Superman." After that, maybe I'll do Superbaby.
There's so much to choose from, I could never cover it all. That's why I like
Superman. The capacity for continued astonishment is infinite.

______________________________________________

SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
---------------------------------------

We're going to begin the S:TAS section this month with a brief episode guide.
Included below is a list of episodes which have already aired, indexed
numerically by the episode numbers provided by Kids' WB. Previously, we had
numbered the episodes by the order in which they first aired, so the first
season numbers will be

slightly reordered from our original reviews. Also 
included in this episode guide are the dates of first US airing, as well as a
brief indicator of the episode's topic. Note that I've constructed this guide
without having seen any of the season two episodes, so I would appreciate any
help in strengthening those episodes' descriptions.

==================================================

SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES BRIEF EPISODE GUIDE
-----------------------------------------------------
Prepared by Jeffery D. Sykes (sykes@ms.uky.edu)

FIRST SEASON:
------------
1. The Last Son of Krypton: Part I (09/06/96 - Kal-El sent from Krypton)
2. The Last Son of Krypton: Part II (09/06/96 - Young Clark Kent)
3. The Last Son of Krypton: Part III (09/06/96 - Superman's debut)
4. Fun and Games (09/07/96 - First Toyman, Intergang)
5. A Little Piece of Home (09/14/96 - First Kryptonite)
6. The Way of All Flesh (10/19/96 - Creation of Metallo)
7. Feeding Time (09/21/96 - Creation of Parasite)
8. The Main Man: Part I (11/09/96 - Lobo comes for Superman)
9. Stolen Memories (11/02/96 - Brainiac arrives)
10. My Girl (11/23/96 - Lana and Lex dating)
11. The Main Man: Part II (11/16/96 - Lobo and Superman team up)
12. Tools of the Trade (02/01/97 - Kanto helps Intergang)
13. Two's a Crowd (02/15/97 - SCU needs Parasite's help)

SECOND SEASON:
-------------
14. Blasts From the Past: Part I (09/08/97 - Jax-Ur and Mala escape)
15. Ghost in the Machine (09/29/97 - Brainiac returns)
16. Action Figures (09/20/97 - Metallo has amnesia)
17. Blasts From the Past: Part II (09/09/97 - Jax-Ur and Mala, cont.)
18. Livewire (09/13/97 - Livewire's debut)
19. Target (09/19/97 - Story makes Lois a target)
20. Identity Crisis (09/15/97 - Debut of Bizarro)
21. Mxyzpixilated (09/20/97 - Debut of Mr. Mxyzptlk)
22. Speed Demons (09/13/97 - Race with the Flash)
23. Double Dose (09/22/97 - Livewire, Parasite team)
24. Solar Power (09/26/97 - Luminus after Lois again)
25. Brave New Metropolis (09/27/97 - Alternate Earth story)
26. Monkey Fun (09/27/97 - Titano, the giant monkey)
27. The Prometheon (09/12/97 - Meteor approaching Earth)
28. Father's Day (10/03/97 - Darkseid)
29. The Hand of Fate (10/11/97 - Dr. Fate)
30. Bizarro's World (10/10/97 - Bizarro lives!)
31. Prototype (10/11/97 - First John Irons)

39. World's Finest: Part I (10/04/97, - Batman)
40. World's Finest: Part II (10/04/97, - Batman)
41. World's Finest: Part III (10/04/97, - Batman)

______________________________________________

SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES EPISODE REVIEWS
-------------------------------------------------

Ratings Panelists:

CH: Curtis Herink MS: Mike Shields NO: Neil Ottenstein
DH: Denes House NB: Nathan Bredfeldt SD: Scott Devarney

The first rating given after the average is that of the reviewer. Given
airdates correspond to the date of first US airing as regularly scheduled
on the Kids' WB.

==================================================

Episode #18: "Livewire"
------------------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Neil Ottenstein (otten@proton.umd.edu)

September 13, 1997
Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer
Directed by Curt Geda

Guest-starring Lori Petty as Leslie Willis/Livewire

RATINGS:

Average: 3.2/5.0 Shields

NO: 3.7 Shields
CH: 3.6 Shields - It was somewhat disappointing to see an episode that
promised to be something different instead turn into the usual
slugfest with a super-villain.
NB: 2.3 Shields - Livewire's appearance in the comic was much better than
this. The worst part was when she demanded money! Give us poor
fans a break, already!

The best parts of this episode occur early on. WLXL features shock jock
Leslie Willis, aka Livewire, a feminist with a dislike for Superman. Lois and
Clark go to interview her, and while she starts complaining about Superman,
Clark must leave. Superman's actions over the next few scenes are in direct
contrast to what Leslie is telling Lois over the air.

The 3rd anniversary celebration of Livewire's show is held in the rain,
despite various attempts to call it off. Superman even shows up to help, and
lightning strikes both Superman and Livewire, landing her in the hospital.
She soon discovers that she has been transformed, gaining electrical powers
which allow her to travel almost as electricity.

Livewire causes destruction in Metropolis using her powers, ransoming the
city, and Superman must defeat her. The episode ends with another of the
show's almost trademark eerie endings portending a return engagement.

==================================================

Episode #22: "Speed Demons"
------------------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Mike Shields (mshields@ccgate.hac.com)

September 13, 1997
Written by Rich Fogel
Directed by Toshihiko Masuda

Guest-starring Charlie Schlatter as the Flash
Miguel Ferrer as Mark Mardon/Weather Wizard
Lorin Dreyfuss as Ben Mardon

RATINGS:

Average: 3.8/5.0 Shields

MS: 3.75 Shields
CH: 4.0 Shields - A fun and exciting episode, though I would quickly get
tired of Flash's grating personality if he makes more guest
appearances.
NB: 4.1 Shields - I love teamups, but they portrayed Flash just a little
too coarse. Also, two heroes need more of a challenge than Weather
Wizard!
NO: 3.5 Shields - Nice to see both Superman and Flash solve their problems
in their individual ways.

The Fastest Man Alive charity race takes place today. The contestants?
Superman and The Scarlet Speedster from Central City, The Flash. There have
been quite a number of races between The Flash and Superman in the comics over
the years, and they have always been 'an event.' Rich Fogel does an adequate
job of bringing this race to the screen.

Superman and Flash are equipped with special armbands so that a satellite can
track their progress around the globe. First one around the globe a hundred
times wins! Mark Mardon, aka The Weather Wizard, has secretly planted a
device inside the armbands to collect the ionic energy generated, in order to
power his global weather control device. Miguel Ferrer provides the voice of
the Weather Wizard. He's the kind of actor that can play hero or villain
equally well, and this is no exception.

As Flash and Superman run neck and neck around the globe, The Weather Wizard
ransoms the weather of the world. If he is not paid off, world wide
catastrophes will result. Superman and the Flash attempt to stop him. The
style of animation choice hampers rather than helps the story in several
places this time. Over the course of the episode, Superman and Flash form a
friendship, and continue the race off into the sunset, suggesting the
inevitable rematch.

It was unclear to me whether this was the Barry Allen or Wally West Flash.
Furthermore, I don't remember either of them being this co*cky or arrogant. So
for having the idea that other superheroes exist in the 'Superman' Universe, I
give 5 Shields. However, on execution, it only earns 3.75.

==================================================

Episode #16: "Action Figures"
----------------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Scott Devarney (devarney@ll.mit.edu)

September 20, 1997
Written by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Kenji Hachizaki

Guest-starring Malcolm McDowell as Metallo

RATINGS:

Average: 3.4/5.0 Shields

SD: 3.7 Shields
CH: 3.8 Shields - Try thinking about this episode through Bobby and Sarita's
eyes as Metallo is successively monster, robot, hero, alien emissary,
and brutal villain, and yet even at the end they still think he is
capable of redemption.
NB: 1.4 Shields - Great. A cutesie kid episode. That was worth a half hour
of my life...
NO: 4.5 Shields - I guess I was in the mood for this episode (maybe it was
watching it with my 5 and 2 year old).

An amnesiac Metallo emerges onto a volcanic island from the ocean where he was
left after "The Way of All Flesh". He befriends two kids, a brother and
sister whose father is part of a team of scientists investigating the island's
increased seismic activity. Superman and Lois arrive at the island to
investigate sightings of a robot; both suspect that the "robot" is really
Metallo. Lois is captured by Metallo, who'd had his memory jogged by seeing a
crude Superman doll made by the girl who befriended him. Superman saves the
team of scientists from a small eruption and then confronts Metallo as a large
scale eruption ensues. Metallo gains the upper hand until he is distracted by
the boy. Superman uses the distraction to rip the green kryptonite out of
Metallo's chest cavity. The cyborg is overwhelmed by a wall of lava as he
tries to retrieve the kryptonite. As the episode fades out, we see Metallo,
immobilized in hardened lava, urging himself to remember who he is -- Metallo.

This episode showed a lot of intelligence, particularly in the way that
Metallo and Superman were portrayed. Regarding Metallo, the amnesia was a
reasonable development after surviving the explosion of Luthor's yacht and
months of isolation on the ocean floor. However, Corben's nature did not
change. Neither of the rescues he performed were done out of any inner sense
of altruism; catching the girl was instinctive and saving the truck driver was
done at the kids' urgings. Granted, he never harmed the children, but he has
been shown to only attack those against whom he has a vendetta. Even when he
derailed a train in his previous outing, it was just a means to attract
Superman's attention. The only disappointment was that, except for one line
of dialogue, Metallo's inability to feel was left unexplored.

As for Superman, he was shown to be the resourceful, responsible hero we all
know. Before going after Metallo, he stops at S.T.A.R. Labs to get the lead
super-suit. He was shown saving lives: he saved the scientists from the first
eruption by smashing the larger boulders and diverting the lava into a trench;
and, of course, he saved Lois from Metallo. This episode showed Superman at
the top of his form.

There was some outstanding artwork in this episode. Particularly appealing
were the eruption scenes where the brilliant reds and oranges of the lava
contrasted vividly with the more muted colors of the surrounding scenery.
Also noteworthy was the eerily haunting closing shot of Metallo, encased in
rock, with his eyes glowing green as everything fades to black.

Now, there were a few problems with this episode. The biggest being that
Superman did not seem too affected by Metallo's kryptonite. A sliver of
kryptonite has been shown to turn Superman to jelly, yet he was merely
staggered by blows that should have killed him, had the kryptonite fully
weakened him. It could be argued that the lava contained some molten lead
which negated the effects of the kryptonite. No explanation was ever given
nor was his resiliency ever noted by any of the characters. In a related
matter, Superman's lead suit was awfully flimsy. This suit survived an attack
by the Parasite when Parasite had Superman's powers, yet an uprooted tree
stump punched a huge hole in it this time. Did Metallo's kryptonite weaken
the suit instead of Superman?

In summary, this was a satisfying episode, for the most part, with a great
rematch between Superman and Metallo. I just hope that Metallo's
half-human/half-robot appearance returns in future shows. It is much more
distinctive than the all-robot look sported this time. Here he looked like a
Terminator robot.

==================================================

Episode #21: "Mxyzpixilated"
-------------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Diane Levitan (dlevitan@ucsd.edu)

September 20, 1997
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Dan Riba

Guest-starring Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Mxyzptlk
Sandra Bernhard as Gsptlsnz

RATINGS:

Average: 4.5/5.0 Shields

DL: 4.3 Shields
CH: 4.0 Shields - I was astounded and amused by the ease with which Superman
disposed of Mxy. Even though the first couple of tricks were perhaps
too simple-minded, the later ones were quite clever.
NB: 4.9 Shields - A great episode! No evil schemes, no threat to Superman,
Metropolis, or the world at large. Just a fun, wacky episode that
presented us with a funny rendition of a rather blah character from
the comics.
NO: 4.9 Shields - Loads of fun.

I suppose I should start off with a small confession -- this wasn't the first
time I had seen this episode. In fact, I liked it so much the first time
(though this might have been helped by the mind-blowing wonder that is the San
Diego Comicon), that I asked for it specifically to review. With that said,
I'd like to think my initial reaction was one shared by most viewers, given
the fact that Paul Dini manages to make Mxy hilarious, but also preserves the
villain we know and love. "Mxyzpixilated" shows Superman using both brains
and brawn to get the job done, adding a quality to his character we've seen
all-too-rarely of late.

The episode begins on a perfectly normal day in Metropolis -- normal except
for the little, purple-suited man walking down the middle of a busy street.
The animated series' Mr. Mxyzptlk looks like a cross between Bone and Mr.
Magoo, and, incidentally, nothing like the brief glimpse we had of him as a
toy in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Mxyzptlk (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried) is
looking for someone named McGurk, and draws the attention of Superman, who
tries to stop an armored car that threatens to run down the little man. He
does so, but just as the car screeches to a halt, it turns into bubbles and
disappears. Mxy does so as well, taunting Superman with, "Confusing, isn't
it?" and leaving Supes scratching his head.

Our next glance of Mxy is at the Planet, where Jimmy is chuckling over a comic
strip. The strip is called Mr. Mxyzptlk, and one of the episode's many cute
touches is that the comic strip's authors are Siegel and Shuster. An amusing
side note -- Clark first pronounces Mxyzptlk "Mix-ul-plik," as many people,
including the old Superfriends series, have done. Mxy is irate over this, and
pops up from the comic strip to correct him, using a variety of hilarious
visual aids. He disappears again, but shows up at the museum opening Lois and
Clark are covering, making Rodin's Thinker (who is, of course, McGurk) come to
life and fight Superman. When Superman smashes the Thinker's head, everything
returns to normal, with the stunned crowd wondering why the Man of Steel has
just ruined the work of art.

After a week of similar play that leaves Clark wondering if he's losing his
sanity, Mxy finally reveals himself as a "brilliant god-like life form from a
dimension twice-removed from ours." Following a hilarious scene at the
Kents', in which Mxyzptlk's mischief turns Ma and Pa into a version of
American Gothic and makes the cat fly around the room a la pre-Crisis Supercat
Streaky, he lays out the rules. Mxy is looking for laughs, and Superman must
make him say his name backwards, at which time Mxy will disappear until the
next dimensional realignment. And so the battle of wits begins.

I'll admit that when I heard that Gilbert Gottfried had been cast as Mxy, I
was somewhat concerned; while familiar with voice work from roles such as
Aladdin's Iago, the comedian was someone I always found rather annoying. As
it turns out, he works perfectly as the new Mxy (and much better than LOIS AND
CLARK's Howie Mandel), and his reactions to being outwitted by Superman again
and again are classic. The sheer number of battles Dini fits into one episode
is impressive, and it's nice to see Clark taking satisfaction in his triumphs,
despite the fact that no one else knows the battles are going on. In another
case of inspired casting, Sandra Bernhard vamps it up as Gsptlsnz, Mxy's Betty
Page-like imp girlfriend, providing more fun, as well as a chance to see one
of the battles from _her_ viewpoint.

While the ultimate outcome is never in doubt, Dini leaves us with a current of
menace at episode's end. Despite the fact that Mr. Mxyzptlk has been
"permanently banished" to the fifth dimension -- to the delight of the amorous
Gsptlsnz -- I think it's likely we'll be seeing him again. "Mxyzpixilated"
was clearly played for laughs, but it surprised me how much it revealed about
Clark along the way, from how he shaves(the old mirror and heat vision trick)
to his clear delight in calling Mxyzptlk "loser." When I asked Dini at SDCC
if we could expect more episodes like it this season, he said that it was
one-of-a-kind. I couldn't agree more.

==================================================

Episode #25: "Brave New Metropolis"
----------------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Scott Devarney (devarney@ll.mit.edu)

September 27, 1997
Story by Stan Berkowitz and Alan Burnett
Teleplay by Stan Berkowitz
Directed by Curt Geda

RATINGS:

Average: 4.2/5.0 Shields

SD: 4.6 Shields
CH: 3.4 Shields - The final scene provided a paradoxical way of nudging
along the potential romance between Superman and Lois.
DH: 4.5 Shields - Moody, dark, and passionate, and displaying the first
glimpse of a possible romance between Superman and Lois that I've
seen.
MS: 3.8 Shields - This type of episode has been done before and better
elsewhere in the franchise.
NB: 5.0 Shields - I will never grow tired of good Alternate Universe stories!
The only dark spot is that a poor sequel is almost guaranteed.
NO: 4.0 Shields

During a demonstration of Professor Hamilton's dimensional viewer, Lois gets
sucked into a parallel-dimensional version of Metropolis. This version of
Metropolis owes more to Gotham City than her Metropolis. Dan Turpin tries to
arrest Lois for violating curfew but is distracted by rebels who are breaking
into a LexCorp research laboratory. Superman arrives, wearing a black Gestapo
suit with a red S shaped like lightning inside his shield. Superman swiftly
and violently takes out the rebels, but not before Jimmy Olsen, a member of
the group, escapes with Lois.

Jimmy takes Lois to a rebel safe house and explains how this Metropolis got
that way. In her reality, Superman saved Lois from a car bomb, but in this
reality Superman arrived one second too late. He changed; he started wearing
the black costume and teamed with Luthor to bring order to Metropolis.
Jimmy's team went to retrieve a chunk of kryptonite from the LexCorp lab.
LexCorp goons, led by Mercy, invade the rebel headquarters. Lois is taken
before Luthor, who believes her identity because of DNA scans and her
attitude. He orders Mercy to take Lois away and kill her before Superman
finds out. Lois manages to escape with Angela Chen's help. Chased by the
police and LexCorp security, Lois climbs atop a monument to Superman and
Luthor. A stunned Superman arrives, drawn to the commotion, and flies away
with Lois.

In a secluded place, Lois explains who she really is and demands an
explanation. When his Lois died, Superman was overcome by feelings for Lois
that he hadn't realized he had. He realized that he was fighting a war and
that he had to stop the war by any means possible. He allied himself with
Luthor because he needed Luthor's organization, but he believes that he could
crush Luthor if Luthor got out of line. Lois then reveals that Luthor ordered
her killed. Superman invades Lexcorp and confronts Luthor. Luthor uses the
retrieved kryptonite on Superman as Mercy attacks Lois. A crowd of freed
detainees arrives; they prevent Mercy from fleeing, but Luthor escapes in a
flying craft. Superman disables the craft and it crashes in front of the
Superman-Luthor monument. Later at the abandoned S.T.A.R. Labs, Superman
expresses his hopes that he can regain the people's trust. The portal opens
to Lois' world with her Superman standing in it to bring Lois home. Lois
kisses parallel-Superman and joins her Superman. Flying over Metropolis, Lois
offers to tell her story to Superman, over dinner.

This is an episode that proves Lois' importance to Superman. The impact of
Lois' death has been shown many times. In KINGDOM COME, Superman isolates
himself from humanity; in the LOIS AND CLARK "Tempus, Anyone?" episode, Clark
hides his powers from the world; in this episode he becomes a tyrant. Lois is
his calming influence, saving him from his worst impulses. She challenges him
and keeps him honest. Lois' death causes him to lose his perspective. He
blinds himself to Luthor's actions and the corruption of his city. Lois
forces him to take a hard look at what his Metropolis has become as a result
of his actions. Even Luthor realizes that Lois' influence on Superman could
undo Luthor's machinations.

It was great to see the Lois-Superman romance finally introduced so squarely.
Lois' surprise at the depths of Superman's feelings was in character for her
stage of development in this series. She has risked her life for his on
occasion, but she's never previously revealed any romantic leanings. It is
apparent from her good-bye kiss to parallel-Superman and from her final
conversation with her Superman that she is ready to take the next step in
their relationship. This series should take any such relationship slowly. It
should use the comics as a guide for combining super-heroics with romance.

This was an episode that demands a sequel, as either another episode or as an
issue of SUPERMAN ADVENTURES. There are so many possibilities: a meeting
between the two Supermen, parallel-Superman trying to regain the trust of his
Metropolis, or a look at how the parallel-Kents viewed their son's actions.
Kudos to all involved for a stand out show.

==================================================

Episode #26: "Monkey Fun"
---------------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Nathan Bredfeldt (hal@seas.smu.edu)

September 27, 1997
Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer
Directed by Curt Geda

RATINGS:

Average: 3.0/5.0 Shields

NB: 1.8 Shields - If you want a good laugh, watch "Mxyzpixilated," or even
"The Main Man."
CH: 3.6 Shields - Updating the story from the '60s for the '90s. I think
it's just as well that they left out the kryptonite vision.
NO: 3.0 Shields - A bit too fantastical for me.
SD: 3.7 Shields - This was an action-intensive episode with some cute
moments. Titano has never been one of my favorites, but he was
used well here. The rare look at Lois' sentimental side was also
appreciated and used to good effect.

In "Monkey Fun," a lighthearted episode, Superman recovers a pet from Lois
Lane's childhood, which almost immediately starts growing out of control, and
wreaking wacky havoc on Metropolis!

When I first saw the episode's title, I knew to expect wackiness. Then, the
week before, a great comic romp, "Mxyzpixilated," set my expectations for this
episode much higher than they had been. But, when I saw Evan Dorkin's (writer
of "Livewire") name in the credits, I knew not to expect much. I promise, I
will try my best not to compare this episode to "Mxyzpixilated;" I'll just
console myself with the thought that everyone who has seen both will, at some
point, compare the two for themselves.

What we have here is a basic and simplistic plot, embellished with a series of
none-too-clever jokes (Jimmy slips on a banana peel and falls off a ledge,
Superman gets hit by a test-your-strength game's bell). And it all wraps with
a very simplistic, obvious, and ecologically dangerous solution (not to
mention unbelievable; if STAR Labs can stop the monkey's growth, why can't
they shrink him as well?).

The episode wasn't all bad, however. We did get treated to more than the
usual amount of non-Superman character development that I have been missing so
badly since LOIS AND CLARK first got terrible, and then got canceled. Most
notably, I refer to a peek into Lois's childhood, and the appearance of Lois's
father (though he didn't do much). We even got to see what kind of mother
Lois might be, from her behavior while caring for the still normal sized
monkey.

This season of Superman has overall fallen below the quality of the first
season, because of episodes like this one. But, on the whole, it remains well
worth watching!

______________________________________________

SNEAK PEEKS: THE KRYPTONIAN CYBERNET'S PRE-REVIEWS
--------------------------------------------------

A word of note before we head into this month's pre-reviews of LEGENDS OF THE
DC UNIVERSE #1. Most of you probably noticed that we ran no pre-reviews in
last month's issue. Whether this section of the magazine runs each month will
depend upon what previews DC sends to us and when they reach me. If we're not
here one month, rest assured that we'll do everything we can to show up the
next!

I've already received a new package of previews of some November and December
titles, so it looks like we'll see ya' back here next month!

Jeff Sykes

==================================================

LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Val Semeiks and Paul Neary
Painted Cover by Glen Orbik
In stores December 10, 1997
$1.95

PREVIEWS SYNOPSIS:
A three-part Superman story written by James Robinson (STARMAN) launches
a new series teaming the greatest characters in comics with some of the
greatest talents in comics! With art by Val Semeiks (JLA/WILDC.A.T.S)
and Paul Neary, the first story in LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE tells the
previously untold tale of the Man of Steel's first encounter with the
U.L.T.R.A.-Humanite, the deadly genius whose powerful brain can switch
from one body to another. As the young Superman battles U.L.T.R.A., Lex
Luthor waits, poised for victory no matter which of the two wins.

PRE-REVIEWS:
-----------
Jim Butler (butlersix@worldnet.att.net):

I confess that I am a fan of James Robinson. I found his GOLDEN AGE
Elseworlds mini-series to be some of the best comics around. I really
enjoy his work on STARMAN. So it is no surprise that I enjoyed this
book. Having read this preview three times, I have to say that I think
his work here is simply outstanding.

Set in Superman's first year, we see a Lex Luthor that we haven't seen
in a while. He is at the height of his power, owning half of the city
(while controlling all of it), suffering from male pattern baldness (yep,
he has some hair!), and his Lex-Men are doing their best to keep Supes
out of the picture.

We also see a much younger Lois Lane--one not quite sure how she views
this "Superman" and yet fascinated by him. Plus, there are cameos on the
first two pages by a variety of DC characters from both the Golden and
Silver Ages.

The art work by Val Semeiks and Paul Neary is a sight to behold as well.
Luthor looks like a man filled with schemes while reveling in his power.
Lois is sexy yet professional. Lex's henchmen are filled with
professional evil. And Superman himself--well, I don't think he's
looked this good for quite a while (the opening splash page is simply
awesome!).

Try as I might, I couldn't find any drawbacks to this book, except maybe
the fight scene at the beginning. Wouldn't it be possible to have a
strong book without an obligatory fight scene somewhere? On the bright
side, that same scene gives us the above mentioned splash page, so it
isn't all bad!

I don't like buying "side books" very much. There are too many of them
with the various crossovers and other things. After a while it gets to
be a bit too much money, and my wife keeps me on a strict comics budget
(although pleading does help a bit now and then). But I will be buying
this one. It's worth the price of admission--and then some!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Enola Jones (sj1025@gte.net):

I've always liked origin stories. Perhaps it's the writer in me, or
maybe the historian, but I am fascinated by how things came to be. I am
equally, if not more, fascinated by how people came to be what they are
and do what they do.

That's what I enjoy about LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #1. Not only is it
the beginning of an origin story, but it is the origin of a new comic
book altogether. Like all books I read, I found some things in it to be
good, some to be bad, and some that were downright ugly.

THE GOOD:
* Using Lois Lane as the narrator for most of the story was inspired. She
managed to give a synopsis of the entire history of super-heroes in
under two hundred words.
* The artwork was very high-caliber.
* Superman's sense of humor under pressure, as always, shines.
* Luthor's appearance caught me off-guard -- not that he was THERE, but
the way he LOOKS. A tip of the hat to Semeiks for that pleasant
surprise.

THE BAD:
* There is one lady who seems to be there just for "eye candy." I am
hoping this is only a temporary situation.
* Mr. Hewitt and his goons seem to be rip-offs of MEN IN BLACK.
* In the first battle, I had to agree with the villain on one point.
Superman seemed a bit arrogant.

And finally:
THE UGLY
* Madness. Enough said.
* The closeup of a dead woman. We were TOLD about it, we didn't need to
SEE it.

As an origin story goes, this is the beginning of a good one. My only
question, which I hope will be answered in later issues, is: Is this the
origin of a hero or a villain?

All told, this is a good story. Not for the youngest readers (it's a
bit violent), but worth the two dollars.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Alan Kercinik (alan_kercinik@frankel.com):

This newest batch of "untold tales" hits comic stands focusing on the
Man of Steel. Since this is the first installment of a three-issue story
arc, much of the issue is devoted to establishing setting and background.
In a nutshell, the modern age of heroes has dawned, and Superman is the
new kid on the block who has captivated the city, much to the dismay of
the city's self-appointed benefactor, Lex Luthor. Events transpire,
centered around Luthor's attempt to "buy" yet another citizen in
Metropolis, that point towards a confrontation of sorts between the two.

James Robinson's Superman is a bit younger and brasher than we've seen
in a while. He's co*cky, a bit of a smart-alec and, in one exchange with
Lexcorp City Security, kind of a whiner. He's also less reflective,
springing into action with nary a thought balloon in sight. He's not so
much a Boy Scout here as a fireman, swooping in to put out trouble
whenever it erupts.

And, of course, he's in the classic costume. I didn't howl in outrage
when they changed him into Electroman, but it is a little jarring to see
him back in the red and blues actually lifting heavy machinery over his
head. (Outside of the Kids' WB, that is.)

Val Semeiks' pencils evoke the Superman universe as rendered by John
Byrne. Flying poses, hairstyles, facial expressions and even some of his
page and panel layouts firmly place this book back in the initial period
when Kal went public. Even with a black-and-white Xerox, the story was
easy to follow with clean lines and plenty of detail. My one complaint
about the art is that it is a little inconsistent; a couple of characters,
particularly Lois, look different at various points in the story.

On the down side, this issue doesn't offer anything especially revealing
into the Superman character or exceptional in terms of first meetings or
early DCU events. Lex, Lois and Supes are all here, but there is no
direct interaction between any of them. And poor Clark is nowhere to be
found. It's also very standard comic-fare in terms of plot line. No big
surprises and no big innovations, this one is pretty much by-the-numbers.
Lex is another problem area. Those things he tries so hard to hide
(flaunting of the law, for one) are seemingly known by almost everyone
in Metropolis. Gone is man who keeps that type of information close to
the vest.

One other nit: there is what seems to be a glaring continuity error in
this story. It may be corrected with some future scripting, but if that
type of thing is really important to you, this story may irritate you.

Even so, I'm a big fan of James' work on STARMAN, and I'm hoping the
story takes off now that all the pieces are in place. If you're looking
for a truly legendary tale of the Man of Steel, you may want to pass.
But if you're looking for a solid start that may go places and need a
fix for the historic Superman without digging out your back issues, then
give this a read.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bill Kte'pi (bwkF93@hamp.hampshire.edu):

Reading this was somewhat akin to mainlining nostalgia. Mainly it was
the artwork -- which on every page reminded me of Kirby, particularly the
action scenes and splash pages. The story itself, in contrast, is a
little disappointing -- but still good.

It's an excellent introduction to the DC Universe, opening with Lois Lane
typing away, writing yet another feature about superheroes for the Daily
Planet -- the sort of news-article-interspersed-with-action-scenes
opening that's been used for decades but, in the wake of Kurt Busiek's
MARVELS, seems a little hackneyed now. It works fine, it's just nothing
special.

Panel by panel the reader is run through a quick overview of the world of
DC heroes, leading up -- of course -- to Superman, cutting directly from
Lois' article to a battle in progress between Superman and Professor
Kilgrave. The Superman in this story, logically enough, is very like the
cartoon version -- not just in the traditional costume, but in the mild
wisecracking (not Spider-Man level but closer to that end of the spectrum
than, say, Batman) and brute-force tactics as well. Surprisingly, Luthor
here is most like Byrne's treatment than any other version -- a cold,
calculating businessman.

Robinson seems an odd choice for a comic I assume is being billed for
younger readers -- with his tendency to draw things out over a number of
issues, there's no sense of closure to each installment; the first issue,
in fact, ends with a cliffhanger. But more than that, it ends with all
its threads dangling -- not out of sloppiness, I assume, and I'm sure in
future issues everything will come together, but it seems like the sort
of thing which would have frustrated me as a preteen. Then again, maybe
it would frustrate me just enough to be certain to pick up the next
issue.

What would really keep me turning the pages, though? The artwork. What
really turns me on here is the panel arrangements and transitions -- page
19, in particular, I keep flipping back to. It's a very basic five-panel
page: one long panel of bad guys, two inset panels of a cop infected by
madness about to fire on a crowd, one open panel of Superman, and finally
the clincher -- a long overlapping panel of just the bullets flying.
It's a very Kirby-like effect, without the King's exaggerated perspective
or lines-with-lives-of-their-own.

All in all, worth picking up, certainly -- if the colorist does the
black-and-white copy I saw justice, it's worth it for the artwork alone.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tom Pairan (TPairan157@aol.com):

"Madness and Science," Part I of the U.L.T.R.A.-Humanite story is clearly
set during Superman's early days as a superhero. It's difficult to
pinpoint exactly when it takes place, but it's refreshing to see Superman
in his traditional costume, and it's even better seeing a younger,
balding Lex Luthor.

Young Lex appears to be romantically linked with "actress and music diva
Dolores Winters." This is a bit perplexing because the brain of the
villainous Ultra-Humanite was transplanted into the body of a Dolores
Winters in the 1940s. (The Ultra-Humanite has battled the Teen Titans,
Infinity Inc., and the Justice Society of America in various forms
throughout the years, including a post-Crisis confrontation in Justice
Society of America #3-5).

I will buy the rest of the issues in the story arc to see if there is
any connection between this story and the Ultra-Humanite and if so, how
it is handled. However, I think this book would also be enjoyable to
readers new to the DC Universe.

The black and white preview artwork is crisp and dynamic. Since this
story is set in Superman's early years, it would be neat to see this
book colored with flatter, mid-Eighties colors.

______________________________________________
*****************************************************************
End of Section 10/Issue #43

The Kryptonian Cybernet Issue 43 • Neperos (2024)
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