Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 1: Superman’s Metropolis

September 15th, 2010 Posted by guest article

(Gavok note: On the heels of Marvel announcing What If #200, it’s fitting to take on the topic of alternate reality stories. Truth be told, the idea of doing an Elseworlds list much like how I did one with What If has been a looming menace hanging over my head and for years I’ve been afraid of forcing the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett was inspired enough to fight the dragon in my stead and has offered to do a series of guest articles on the subject. You might remember Syrg from his fantastic take on the comic disaster Marville last year. If you don’t, go read it anyway. He’s good people. I plan to throw my hat into his series here at least twice before he’s finished, since there are a couple Elseworlds that I feel the need to talk about. This includes one that I’ve considered to be the worst comic I’ve ever read that I’ve been putting off writing on for years. But enough about me. It’s Syrg’s show. Enjoy.)

Marvel has their What If…?s, and DC has their own brand of “But what happens if we take X and change Y?” tales, called, depending on when you ask, Elseworlds/”Tales of the Multiverse”. (Juuuuust kidding. I don’t think anyone aside from Dan DiDio has ever used that last one seriously.)

The thing is, though, Marvel’s usually (I added the qualifier for a reason, Gavok, I know about that Timequake crap) come from a formula of “take big event/origin of character, change outcome slightly, go from there”. DC runs a little looser with the format, like that one where Bruce Wayne is an amnesiac immortal and Alfred is actually Merlin. Or the time the Justice League had to mount an assault on the Planetary Organization to break their shadowy hold over the planet. Maybe you know the one where Lex Luthor, singer-turned-record executive, sold his media empire to Darkseid?

Elseworlds are almost always entertaining, intentionally or not, because before 2010 and a run of titles like Rise of Arsenal and that other trainwreck I forget the name of*, you never thought you’d be buying a DC book where Superman got turned into a gender-swapped nazi centaur. (We’ll get to that one. Later.) Point is, the fact that so many of these are out of print and forgotten is a damn shame, and so just like Gavok running through all the What If…?s in the world, I’ll hit every damn Elseworld I can get my hands on, and probably a few other eccentric DC projects that didn’t earn that banner, usually because they were written too early or too late.

There’s going to be a lot less order to this than Gavok’s project. For one thing, I don’t think there’s any way to come up with a coherent set of criteria/checklist to hit for all of these, and I’m unsure as to what the “Peter Parker Dies” of Elseworlds is. Probably “Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere”, that dude shows up a lot in the otherwise-grounded stories (and it’s usually to inspire Superman to go use his goddamn powers, that guy takes pacifism way too seriously in these).

Also: no order, no rankings. Some of these are books I haven’t even looked through since I picked them up, and this project is good motivation to finish looking at the beaten-down copies of a couple. There’s no way I’ll be able to come up with a full scale to judge them on and pick a favorite. (Even if I did, people would bitch at me forever because technically, Kingdom Come is an Elseworld, and lord knows the kvetching if I put that below something like Speeding Bullets.) In fact, let’s just say it: I’m skipping a lot of the big ones. Kingdom Come/The Kingdom, Red Son, Destiny (since Gavok covered it a while back), Dark Knight Returns/Strikes Back. (I want to skip True Brit because it’s rather awful, but I suppose I’ll play canary in the coalmine for people who might go “John Cleese? Sold!”) I leave myself wiggle room on this as I go, but rest assured I’ll give you more than those and then some in extras by the time we’re done.

This is getting to be a bit text heavy. Let’s dive into the first book, Elseworlds: Superman’s Metropolis.

Superman’s Metropolis is an interesting book for a variety of reasons. It’s why I started off with it. But first, let’s look at the stats:

Superman’s Metropolis
Focuses on: Superman (for now)
Self-contained/Multiple books: Multiple (trilogy)
Published in: 1996
Central premise: Superman and cast as placed into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

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Comics That Should Be, But Shan’t Be

October 20th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

1.Significant Others Of Superheroes Society. It would be a great cross between an emergency response team (considering how often they get attacked), a support group (dealing with the Flash Force, Kleenex/Steel, and how a ‘charged relationship’ is only romantic as a metaphor), and Army Wives. They could have a SOSS message board, and use the teleporters for a Sig Others Night Out when the heroes were forced to rush off at the last minute to save the day. It would be a gossipy, action packed, salacious geek dream.

2. Lois Lane: Investigative Reporter. This series would be kind of like Gotham Central (Yeah. That did so very well.) only Lois would go out looking for trouble instead of letting it come to her. It would let us see the day-to-day Metropolis, as well as letting us get to know Lois as more than just someone who loves Superman and has moxie. Plus it could take a variety of tones. The first arc could be a dark look at the kinds of Metropolis crime that Superman can’t deal with. The second might be a day-to-day look at the city and how it adapts to the presence of a nearly all-powerful hero. The third could be a fun homage to the old Superman’s Girlfriend days, with Lois getting bonked on the head so that she forgets that she’s Superman’s wife, and trying to win Superman over, ward off Clark Kent, and insisting, upon hearing that she’s wife to both of them, “I’m a polygamist? Never. It must be an imaginary tale!”

3. Jason Todd and Cassandra Cain: On Their Own. I’m talking about pre-Infinite Crisis batkids. Imagine them roaming around the country with superheroes on their tails and the mobs scattering in front of them. They could bond over stories of how Batman might be the crappiest father-figure that ever there was. Cass could bring the muscle and Jason, in what must be a refreshing change for him, would provide the know-how. Think about Jason trying to teach Cass how to go undercover. Think about her doing it by imitating him – a five-foot-not-very-much slender girl acting like a six-foot-something muscle-bound man. Think of him having to teach her how to go undercover by trying to imitate the body language of a small girl. Also, they would kill people and feel good about it, which would be a change in the Superhero world. . . . I sense you’re not convinced. They’d never set foot in Gotham again. Deal? Deal.

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Respect for the Old Days

September 15th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

A while back I bought a big hardcover called Superman: Sunday Classics 1939-1943 for about $5. Not a bad deal. Much like my copy of Snoop Dogg’s novel (which I bought for a dollar), I never really intended to get around to reading it. If anything, it was just a conversation piece on my bookshelf.

I finally sat down and gave it a look. Right now I’m about a third into it and I thought it deserved some comments. I went into it thinking that I was in for some absolute weirdness on the level of Fletcher Hanks’ I Must Destroy All the Civilized Planets, but found something more.

For one, being from the early, early days, nobody knew who Superman was. That was kind of jarring, compared to how he’s such a household name in any recent comic he appears. Criminals would be in complete shock to see their weapons have no effect on him, whether it be simple bullets or a bucket of fire. Yes, a bucket of fire.

The stories are so different from how we see him now. Not in the Superdickery sense, which itself barely appears in these strips. More that he doesn’t spend his time going to space or fighting monsters capable of hurting him. He sticks around Metropolis and mainly takes on street level threats. Most stories involve some good-hearted citizen who tries to help society in some way or another. Bad people are out for this guy’s blood and Superman is the only one stopping them.

It’s a sense of wish fulfillment that we rarely see out of the character anymore. The closest I can think of is that issue from a year ago where that woman thought Superman was an angel meant to specifically protect her. That’s really what made these fun. Superman wasn’t just a superhero, but an honest to God guardian angel.

Ah, but there is some old-school craziness abound. Every once and a while they toss in a weird story to liven things up, based on Superman fighting something a little more powerful than a bear or a circus lion. For instance, Luthor uses a hurricane-making device on Metropolis and sends out a series of glowing, purple cars immune to its effects in order to rob banks. When Superman tries to stop them, they use “hurricane guns” to knock him back. How great is that?!

Even better is the story about an explorer being kidnapped by giants in a mysterious cavern. Superman investigates and rescues this explorer. Now, they could have used just about any explanation for what those giants were up to. Just about anything would’ve done fine. Hell, they could have just said, “These giants are fucking nuts! Let’s get out of here!” Instead, they decided to go with something far more insane.

“Never mind my identity. Do you know why you were kidnapped?”

“These giants are hemophiliacs, men who bleed profusely if they suffer the slightest scratch. They kidnap people from the outer world, steal their blood to replenish their hungry veins!”

No, that does not play into anything. In fact, in the next page, Superman simply punches a giant’s flamethrower and it somehow causes the entire cavern to explode, killing all the giants.

Hemophiliac giants. God, I love it. It’s like, “Oh shit! Giants who aren’t really that hard to kill! Run!”

I’ve also discovered that Lois Lane was kind of a bitch. We get that Clark Kent is supposed to play the role of coward to hide his identity (except for when he mans up anyway and kicks a lawyer’s ass for twisting Lois’ wrist), but there’s one point where two armed men run out of a bank with money and Lois demands Clark go confront them. Then she gets on his case when he says no.

I’m having an absolute blast with this book. If you come across a copy for cheap like I did, give it a shot.

Before I go, the most badass moment in Superman’s early days? There’s this part where a hunchback criminal fires his gun at an unconscious man. Superman flies over with his hand out, as if he’s going to catch the bullet. He does catch the bullet, but with his teeth instead. Then he spits the bullet out at the hunchback, bouncing it off his skull and knocking him out. Hells yes.

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Infinite Crisis: The Graphic Audio

August 31st, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Can you believe Infinite Crisis only ended a little over two years ago? It feels so much longer. At the time, it was an exciting time to read DC. A lot was going down, 52 was on the horizon, One Year Later was starting up, among other things. The miniseries did come off as a letdown, but considering how hyped it was, how could it be anything but? By the time the seventh issue landed, with its rushed art to meet the deadline, I couldn’t be happier to be done with this whole storyline.

Sometime after, author Greg Cox wrote a novelization of Infinite Crisis. Such an odd concept, isn’t it? A novelization of a comic book? It’s like the literary version of hearing a country singer covering a rock group’s hit song. I guess I shouldn’t talk, since years back, before I was even into comics in the first place, I read the novelization of Knightfall. Plus there’s the whole movie novelization thing I do for the sake of getting site hits.

I didn’t read Cox’s take on Infinite Crisis, but through chance, I discovered an interesting piece relating to it. A company called Graphic Audio had done a book on CD version of his take. That’s right, an audio book based on a book based on a graphic novel. What an insane concept. Too curious, I ordered the two sets and spent a couple weeks listening through them. Yes, weeks. The entire story is told with twelve discs over the course of thirteen hours. Thirteen hours to tell the story of seven issues.

Well, that’s not fair. It’s more than just the seven issues. Cox chose to cherry-pick tie-in issues to help pad out the story to differing success. This includes the end of Crisis of Conscience where Superboy Prime attacks Martian Manhunter, the Spectre vs. Shazam fight from the end of Day of Vengeance, the part of Gotham Central where Crispus Allen got killed, an issue of Aquaman and parts of the Rann/Thanagar War Special.

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Crisis on Infinite Supermen

July 9th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I’ve gotten into a couple conversations over the past week or so about Superman. I’m not sure what brought it on. Maybe it’s something in the air, or the creative changes on Superman, or whatever whatever. One thing that always comes up is what exactly makes up your own personal Superman.

It’s that personal continuity, or apocryphal continuity that Morrison inadvertently created, again. Some stories count for you that don’t count for others. Other stories are so terrible (War Games) that you just wish everyone else would pretend like they never happened. Why even mention [Sins Past, Parallax, Clone Saga]? They suck, leave them in the past, right? Anyway, apocryphal continuity is something that I think everyone practices, whether they realize it or not. I mean, seriously, how many Superman fans think that Superman really almost starred in a porno with Big Barda?

My Superman is pretty widely defined, but there are a few pet peeves and specific traits I think he should have. First and foremost, though, is that he doesn’t say “Great Rao!” or “Moons of Krypton!” or whatever fakey-fake Kryptonian religion crap he found out about second-hand. That’s lame and way too Silver Age-y. So is “Great Scott!” Superman talks like a normal person.

Superman and the Legion is one area that I’m not entirely certain on. I have a friend (or two) who swears that the Legion is necessary for his life as a boy, but I’m not so sure. My thought was that Superman’s powers don’t fully manifest until he’s basically grown, as in Birthright or the Death/Return of Superman. As a kid, he knew he was different, and he at some point found out who and what he was, but he wasn’t exactly a Superman at that point. Sure, he could fly, maybe had a little bit of laser eyes, but he wasn’t thoroughly amazing.

The reasoning behind the Legion of Superheroes being significant for Superman’s origin is that it shows him the impact he will have on the future, which serves to simultaneously create an environment where you can tell stories about Superboy fighting things other than runaway tractors and bears (or whatever infest the midwest) and to create a situation where Superman must live up to his own legacy.

Basically, I kind of liked it when the only legacy Superman had to live up to was his father’s. It’s smaller scale and much more personal, I think. He’s just a young, confused kid who’s got to find his own way in the world and try to do the best he can. Knowing for a fact that you basically become the greatest hero to ever do it takes away from that a bit. It makes him more sure of himself without doing the legwork. I’m not a hardliner on it, though, and can go either way. I’m just hesitant about the Legion because I can’t really get into it in general.

Superman is an alien, but he is also a human being. In fact, he is a human being first and foremost. He was raised by people who instilled that in him, along with humility, a need to do right, and a need to not do too much. He has the power to wreck the planet to get his way, but he studiously avoids any action like that. He understands the fear that would strike into the hearts of regular people. So, he tries to live his life the way his parents raised him.

Kryptonite will kill him, but so will the loss of Lois Lane. I really liked Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee’s For Tomorrow in part because it hammered that point home. Superman lost his wife, and losing his wife basically means that he lost his center. He isn’t out of control, exactly, but he’s much less likely to go easy on you. Lois is the most important thing in his life and his anchor with both his human and Kryptonian heritage.

In the Fortress, he’s Kryptonian. He’s surrounded by the remains of a dead world and statues of his birth parents. In Kansas, he’s surrounded by his past and his oh-so-human parents. With Lois, he can let down his guard and be both. In Action Comics #775, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way?”, there’s a bit where he’s laying in bed with Lois and thinking about the next day when he’s due to throw down with some people who might actually murder him.

The scene is the perfect intersection of man and hero. When Clark is Superman, he has to be flawless. He can’t make mistakes. He has to be perfect in order to protect the Earth. As a man, though? In the dark, with his wife? He’s allowed to be unsure and imperfect. He’s allowed to let his voice crack and wonder if he’s doing the right thing, even though he already knows that it’s the only thing he could ever do.

Superman, like Captain Marvel, should always be one of those few superheroes I think should stay kid-friendly. There’s just something about him that encourages that. Maybe it’s what he stands for or how he operates, but a story about Superman having committed murder, for instance, is a hard sell for me. You could add mind control into the mix and I still wouldn’t be interested. He’s Superman. He doesn’t do that kind of thing. Ever. That’s the way it goes.

Also, my Superman got into a fight with Muhammad Ali and caught a beatdown.

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Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

April 22nd, 2008 Posted by Gavok

The weekend of chunky guys dressed like Colossus and hot women dressed as Slave Leia has come to an end. I myself had a great time, spent with hermanos from this very site and a whole bunch of guys from Funnybook Babylon. Sadly, Thomas “Wanderer” Wilde deemed himself “too broke” to consider joining us and Hoatzin would have probably involved a gigantic plane ticket paid in rare diamonds, since he’s from Europe. I don’t know. I really have no grasp on how that type of thing works. Besides, Hoatzin seems to have vanished from our planet. What happened to that guy?

This one movie sent the other movie into space.

Day One

Last year I got to New York the day before the con started, which allowed me enough rest and whatnot. This year I had to come in the first day of the event and kill time until David Uzumeri came in from Canada, since he was in charge of dealing with the hotel. I walked straight from the Port Authority bus terminal to the Javits Center, which tired me the hell out.

After getting my swanktastical press pass, I met up with hermanos and Joseph of FBB. They were at a panel starting up that was a screening for a new Will Eisner documentary. Since I was tired from all that walking, I decided to stick around and watch it. I found it interesting in the sense that I honestly didn’t know all that much about Eisner, which is almost a sin if you’re a comic fan. The four of us (David U. showed up towards the end) mostly agreed that while it had some fantastic stuff in there, such as taped conversations between Eisner and guys like Kirby, the sum of it was incredibly dry.

Shortly after, we went to the panel on online journalism, with guys from Newsarama and CBR there. It wasn’t as good as the comic blogging panel from last year and mostly focused on arguing over criticism vs. getting press releases. Once that was done with, I was rested up enough to do some wandering.

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Iron Fist!

October 18th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

I am not supposed to be posting right now! I’ve got eight hours until a beast of a games deadline and holy crap am I not even close to being done!

Couple quick procrastinatory things, though.

ironfist003_cvr_col.jpg My secret shame is that I’m an Iron Fist fan. I love kung-fu movies. I used to own dubbed copies of nearly the entire Wu-Tang series, crap spinoffs and all. Putting Brubaker and Matt (Casanova) Fraction on a Danny Rand ongoing is icing on a cake… but when you give me covers like this? You guys are trying to make me fall in love. I love everything about it, from the awesome Iron Fist sweater (I would buy it) to the properly worn pants (off the hips is the only way to be) to the guns.

Guns! In an Iron Fist comic!

In other news, why are we not number one in a google search for Mary Jane Watson vs Lois Lane?

Do none of you remember “Who Would Win In A Fight? Mary Jane Watson vs Lois Lane?” I give you guys gold like this:

This seems pretty evenly matched. Rough’n’ready tomboy vs Super-hero trained model. Assuming no weapons, this would probably be a pretty even match. Lois Lane has experience, but she’s also got to be pushing 40 by now. Mary Jane is somewhere between 27-30. I will say that Kate Bosworth is an adorable Lois Lane, but she’s adorable because she looks to be roughly twee and a haff yeaws old.

and we’re only the fifth result on Google? We’re barely beating some nutball pervo’s story about Mary Jane and Lois getting into a catfight, which leads into frankly gross and violent sexual proceedings?

C’mon! Strike a blow for the power of not being a pervert!

Link that article, kids! Link it everywhere! We want to be number one! If we’re number one, then you’re number one! That doesn’t make any sense but believe it anyway!

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WWWIF: The Real Reason We Read Comics

September 2nd, 2006 Posted by david brothers

It’s the weekend, so we’re going into silent running, so to speak, but I do have one thing for you.

Hulk vs Thing. Batman vs Captain America. Superman vs Foolkiller.

We love comics for the fights and the conjecture, right? Hulk vs Thing is passe now. What about the fights we never get to see? Who cares about Black Cat vs Catwoman when you can see Shang-chi vs Richard Dragon? Black Racer vs Death? Slapstick vs Plastic Man?

So, I present to you– “WWWIF: Who Would Win In a Fight?” Volume one–

Who Would Win In a Fight?

Mary_Jane.jpg vs AllStarSuperman3.jpg
Mary Jane “Face it, Tigress– I’m gonna kick your face in!” Watson-Parker
Lois “Stop the Presses! There’s about to be a murder!” Lane
(it isn’t Lane-Kent, is it? If so, pretend I typed that!)

Who would win in this battle of the wives of the most popular superheroes out there?

On the surface, this just seems like Party Girl vs Army Brat. Lois Lane grew up a tomboy, eager to please her father, last time I checked. It may all be different now that it’s ONE YEAR LATER. Her pops taught her how to fight, shoot guns, and generally gave her that foundation to become a hard-hitting, take-no-guff investigative reporter. She’ll run into warzones to get a scoop if she has to. She’s a rough gal by any means, and has even taken on Cadmus with only the help of Matrix Supergirl. It’s worth noting, though, that whenever she’s taken hostage, it’s usually by a giant monster or Titano or Bizarro or someone way out of her league with superstrength and all that. She may not be able to handle supervillains, but she can bust Luthor in the chops all day. She’s been depicted as close friends with Bruce Wayne/Batman, and I’m almost positive that she’s done some “Superhero’s Wife Self-Defense Training.”

Mary Jane, on the other hand, turned into a flighty party girl after growing up under a physically absusive dad. She turned popular, approached serious things as if they were jokes, and made every girl in school into an enemy when she became the girl that every guy wanted. How many of you know popular girls who never got into fights? That’s right, I’m willing to bet that MJ is a scrapper. I’m sure that she knows how to acquit herself in a one-on-one match, and she probably fights dirty, too. It’s hard to knock someone out. It’s easy to make them bleed so much they can’t see. She’s also gotten personal close-combat training from Captain Freaking America. That has to count for something. She’s been kidnapped by every villain ever, so I’m sure that she’s learned how to look for weaknesses before going in for the kill. She may not be able to handle a slavering monster like Venom, but she’s no shrinking violet, either. She’s also got webshooter bracelets and can use them like Spider-Man, even though technically you need superstrength to be able to swing around. For the purposes of this battle, we’re going to assume that she can’t swing, but she can climb and make nets and such.

This seems pretty evenly matched. Rough’n’ready tomboy vs Super-hero trained model. Assuming no weapons, this would probably be a pretty even match. Lois Lane has experience, but she’s also got to be pushing 40 by now. Mary Jane is somewhere between 27-30. I will say that Kate Bosworth is an adorable Lois Lane, but she’s adorable because she looks to be roughly twee and a haff yeaws old.

MJ’s got the advantage of a younger age, but they both are probably in around the same shape. I might give MJ the edge in shape, because she’s a stage actress now, and that isn’t easy work. Evenly matched, I’d say, but Lois would probably win unless MJ put her down early. MJ is young and brash and could make a stupid mistake and get hit with some savate or whatever they teach in the Army now. On the other hand, I think that MJ would go for that early win with a shot to the face, followed by a headbutt or kidney punch.

One problem: Lois Lane falls into superpowers like other people stub their toes. It’s entirely possible that, during the fight, Lois will get hit by kryptonite or Superman will cough on her, or something will happen, and she’ll end up as Superwoman again. If that happens, MJ is toast. Considering the sheer ruthlessness that Superwoman displays fighting Lana Lang for Superman, she’d laser MJ’s head off and be done with it.

So, basically, all things being equal: either could win. They’re too evenly matched. But, if Lois lucks into powers, as much as it pains me to say it, advantage Lois.

Agree? Disagree? Show your work. Who do you want to see next? I’m thinking maybe Iceman vs Ice (Iceman wins ’cause Ice is dead! Hurrr!) or maybe Guy Gardner vs Wolverine. Perhaps Kyle Rayner vs Noh-varr. I’m taking suggestions, though!

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