Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Episode #6: Superman: The Year In Review

In this episode I review the monthly Superman titles and rank them in reverse order of preference.

Superman Confidential is one of the Superman titles that I no longer read. After the original kryptonite story done by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale, the conclusion of which was recently published in issue #11. Why the delay with the concluding issue of the storyline I have not been able to find out why. The subsequent storylines did not grab me as much as that first story arc, and so I dropped it from my reading list.

Superman/Batman is another title I recently dropped. I had collected every issue from the beginning, being a fan of the old World's Finest title, especially with the 1960's Curt Swan drawn issues. Recent story arcs weren't as interesting as earlier ones, and so I decided to drop both in order to leave room in my comic book buying budget for other titles I am interested in. Although if I had more room in my budget I would still pick up Superman/Batman because the current story arc, where Batman and Superman are searching the Earth to rid the planet of all kryptonite. I hated to drop it just before that storyline.

Superman has been the weakest of the Superman titles that I still collect. I enjoyed parts of the Arion story arc, where Arion shows Superman a possible future timeline, which I enjoy reading. But I thought the angle of Superman stunting humanity's ability to protect itself dragged on too long.
The recent conclusion to the Insect Queen 3-part story was excellent. It brought into current continuity a silver-age character and updated it. And the next storyline, involving Mon-El and Daxamites also promises to be exciting to read.

Action Comics has been better this year. The General Zod story, written by Geoff Johns and director Richard Donner, has been excellent. The only criticism I have about it is that the conclusion is going to be in Action Comics Annual #11, whick has yet to be published. I think it will finally come out in March. Another thing I did not like about it was that to read the conclusion of the story, instead of taking maybe two more regular issues, will be in an over-sized issue costing more. I just hope that the conclusion has some substance to it, and isn't filled with fluff to stretch the story.
The current story arc, with the Legion of Super-Heroes, is one of the best Superman stories I've read in a long time. This arc retrofits Superman/Legion continuity into current Superman history. The Legion has been forced underground by the 31st century Justice League, and the Earth's sun has been turned into a red star. We see that Superman's bravery comes from his heart, not his superpowers.

If not for All-Star Superman, Action Comics would be my favorite Superman title. All-Star Superman fits in any era of Superman continuity. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitley, every issue has been excellent. Superman takes Lois Lane to the Fortress of Solitude for her birthday, and in another issue meets some of his descendants. There hasn't been a weak issue in the series. The only drawback to this series is that it doesn't come out monthly. Most of the time it comes out bi-monthly, and sometimes feels like quarterly.

This coming year in Superman comics looks to be exciting. It feels good to look forward to Superman comics as much as I do other titles that I read, such as Invincible and Powers.

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Episode #5: Happy Valentine's Day! Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane

Note: A correction has been noted for episode #4. Issues 12-18 of New Gods, and issues 19-25 of Mister Miracle were done by other artists in 1978. Jack Kirby was no longer working for DC by that time.

I hope everyone enjoyed Valentine's Day. For the Superman Fan Podcast, the episode for the week of Valentine's Day will feature the loves of Superman's life. And for this first Valentine's Day episode, who else can we start with but the woman who was there from the very first issue of Action Comics, Lois Lane!

Action Comics #1 established the Clark Kent / Lois Lane / Superman love triangle that lasted throught six decades, until Clark revealed his secret identity to Lois after they became engaged.

There were several inspirations for Lois Lane, probably more than those noted here. Similar relationships between women and masked adventurers in literature were nothing new in the 1930's, when Siegel and Shuster were creating Superman. One example was The Scarlet Pimpernell, which Siegel and Shuster had probably read.

There were several real life inspirations for Lois as well. In the 1930's the actress Glenda Farrell starred as Torchy Blaine, a female reporter, in a series of films, the first of which was Smart Blonde.

In Glenville High School in Cleveland, fellow student Lois Amster was another inspiration for Lois Lane. She was a student that Jerry Siegel had a crush on but never pursued.

The real life first model for Lois Lane was Jolan Kovacs (Joane Carter). She had placed an ad in a mewspaper seeking work as an artitst'smodel to help earn money for her family. Siegel and Shusterhired her, and all three were surprised at houw young they were. She posed for Joe, chapperoned by her mother. Ten years later she met Siegel and Shuster again, and eventually married Jerry, a second marriaged for both. They would have one daughter, Laura.
The first solo Lois Lane story was published in Superman #28, May/June 1944, titled Lois Lane, Girl Reporter. It is credited as having been written by Don Cameron and drawn by Ed Dobrokta, although the credit in the first panel is credited as "by Jerry and Joe". This might mean they worked for the studio that Siegel and Shuster had established in Cleveland to produce their Superman stories. But it's just a guess on my part.
Lois Lane would eventually receive her own comic book, titled Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, first published with the May/April 1958 issue. It ran for 137 issues, ending with the September/October 1974 issue. Her solo stories were merged, along with Jimmy Olsen's and Supergirl's into Superman Family. which continued the numbering of Jimmy Olsen's title.
Several stories of interest in Lois's relationship with Clark Kent / Superman are:
- Action Comics #484: Superman Takes A Wife (The Wedding of the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane)
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Cover: penciller: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, inker: Dick Giordano
Story: writer: Cary Bates, penciller: Curt Swan, inker: Joe Giella, letter: Ben Oda, colorist" Tatjana Woods.
The current Superman:
Clark and Lois became engaged in Superman #50 (1987 - present), in a story titled, The Human Factor, part 4 of 4 of the story Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, December 1990.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover artist: Jerry Ordway
Story: writer/artist: Jerry Ordway
artists: penciller: Dan Jurgens, inker: Brett Breeding; penciller: Kerry Gammil, inker: Dennis Janke; penciller: Curt Swan, inker: John Byrne; letter: John Costanza, colorist Glenn Whitmore.
Clark/Superman revealed his identity to Lois in: Action Comics #662, Secrets in the Night February 1991, originally on sale January 8, 1991.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: penciller: Kerry Gammil, inker: Brett Breeding
Story: writer: Roger Stern, artist: Bob McLeod, letter: Bill Oakley, colorist: Glen Whitmore.
To read the story of the wedding of Lois and Clark in DC continuity, you can find it in the DC trade paperback Superman: The Wedding and Beyond (1998).
The artist for the entire run of Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane was Kurt Schaffenberger. He began his career in the 1940's with Fawcett Comics, doing backgrounds for Captain Marvel stories. During WW II he worked for intelligence since, being of German descent, he could translate German documents. After the war he returned to Fawcett to work in the studio of C. C. Beck and Pete Costanza on Captain Marvel and Isis the Invisible stories.
After Fawcett closed their comic book line after settling with DC over their lawsuit over Captain Marvel, Kurt began working for DC Comics. Along with pencilling Lois Lane, Kurt succeeded Jim Mooney on Supergirl, and also became the feature artist on Superman Family.
Kurt Schaffenberger was one of a number of writers and artists who went to DC in the late 1960's to petition for better pay and benefits. Whether by design or by accident can't be proven, but every member of this group slowly received less work from DC, as new blood entered the company, and the "old timers" eventually all left the company.
Kurt went on to work for other comic book publishers, including Marvel, and also did advertising and promotional comics. In the 1970's he illustrated children's books.
An interesting website on Kurt Schaffenberger can be found at:
A great book on the art and career of Kurt Schaffenberger is Hero Gets Girl: The Life and Art of Kurt Schaffenberger, by Mark Volger, published by TwoMorrows,

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Episode #4: Honoring Jack Kirby

Note: Superman Fan Podcast is now on itunes, as well as Podcast Alley, Pod-Planet and Feedburner.

Thanks again to and also, Mark Evanier's website. He worked as an assistant for Jack Kirby during his years at DC Comics in the 1970's, which we will feature here. He is also the author of a brand new Kirby biography, Kirby: King of Comics, published by Abrams Books.

Jack Kirby was indeed the king of comic books. He was one of the most porlific artists in the industry. According to his website, Mark Evanier said that Kirby could draw five to six pages a day, because he was willing to put in long hours and work overnight.

This week marks another sad anniversary in comics history. Jack Kirby died on February 6, 1994 at his home in Thousand Oaks, California.

In this episode of Superman Fan Podcast, we will focus on Jack Kirby's work with DC Comics.

During the early 1940's Jack and his partner at the time, Joe Simon created the following characters for DC:
Boy Commandos: a group of war orphans, one each from the allied countries, led by a U. S. Army Captain.
Newsboy Legion: a band of Suicide Slum orphans who survived by selling newspapers on the streets. A police officer, Jim Harper, became their legal guardian as well as the super hero The Guardian.
The super hero Manhunter, as well as revising the character Sandman, changing his costume from a suit and gas mask to a conventional super hero costume, and a sidekick named Sandy.
In the late 1050's Jack returned to DC and created Challengers of the Unknown, a quartet of men who survive a traumatic event and band together to have adventures, a plot that Kirby would revisit with Stan Lee on Fantastic Four. Kirby also drew Green Arrow backup stories in World's Finest Comics and Adventure Comics.
In the 1970's Kirby returned to DC, creating his Fourth World mythology for comics. He developed this modern mythology in the pages of:
The Forever People: Feb./March 1971 - Oct./Nov. 1972 (11 issues). Issue #1 co-starred Superman. This story was reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told (1987)
New Gods: Feb./March 1971 - Oct./Nov.72, July 1977 - July/Aug. 1978 (19 issues) Note: Issues 12-18 were done by other artists. Jack Kirby was no longer working for DC by this time.
Mister Miracle: March/Apr. 1972 - Feb./March 1974 - Sept. 1977 - Sept. 1978 (25 issues) Note: Issues 19-25 were done by other artists, for the same reason noted for New Gods.
Elements of the Fourth World were introduced in the pages of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, starting with issue #133. In that issue Kirby revived and revised the Newsboy Legion from the 1940's, adding a black character named Flip. The origingal newsboys were now adults working for a secret genetics project, and Jimmy met their sons, almost identical to their fathers.
Here is a list of Kirby's stories for Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen: (Jack Kirby wrote and pencilled all of the stories, and, except where otherwise noted, the inker for these stories was Vince Colletta)
#133: The Newsboy Legion, October 1970
Editor: Muarry Boltinoff
Cover: peciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Vince Colletta
#134: The Mountain of Judgement, December 1970
Editor: Muarry Boltinoff
Cover artist: Neal Adams
#135: Evil Factory, January 1971
Editor: Muarry Boltinoff
Cover artist: Neal Adams
#136: The Saga of the D. N. Aliens, March 1971
Editor: Jack Kirby (He is credited as editor on the rest of these issues.)
Cover: Neal Adams
Writer and Artist: Jack Kirby (no credit given to an inker)
#137: The Four Armed Terror, April 1971
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
#138: The Big Boom, June 1971
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
#139: The Guardian Fights Again, July 1971
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Vince Colletta
(Issue #140 was a giant reprint issue, republishing the stories involving Superman and Jimmy as Nightwing and Flamebird, respectively, as heroes in the bottle city of Kandor, as well as the story that details how Jimmy became an honorary member of the Legion of super-Heroes.)
#141: Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?, Sept. 1971 (Yes, that really is the title.)
Cover: penicller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
As a backup feature, beginning with this issue, DC began reprinting the original Joe Simon / Jack Kirby Newsboy Legion stories, beginning with the first one titled The Guardian, first published in Star Spangled Comics #7, April 1942.
#142: The Man From Transylvane, and Haine's Secret Revealed, Oct. 1971
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
The Newsboy Legion reprint: Last Mile Alley, from Star Spangled Comics #8, May 1942.
#143: Genocide Spray, and The Alien Thing, Nov. 1971
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
The Newsboy Legion Reprint: The Rookie Takes the Rap, from Star Spangled Comics #9, June 1942.
#144: A Big Thing In A Scottish Lake, and The Torn Photograph, Dec. 1971
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
Newsboy Legion reprint: Kings For A Day, from Star Spangled Comics #10, July 1942.
#145: Bragadoom, Jan. 1972
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Neal Adams
Newsboy Legion reprint: Paradise Prison, from Star Spangled Comics #11, Aug. 1942.
#146: Homo Disastrous and Arin the Armored Man, Feb. 1972
Story inker: Mike W. Royer
Cover: penciller: Jack Kirby, inker: Mike W. Royer
Newsboy Legion reprint: Prevue of Peril, from Star Spangled Comics #12, Sept. 1942
#147: A Superman In Supertown, March 1972
Story inker: Mike W. Royer
Cover: Neal Adams
Newsboy Legion reprint: The Scoop of Suicide Slum, from Star Spangled Comics #13, Oct. 1942
#148: Monarch of All He Subdues and Genetic Criminal, April 1972
Genetic Criminal inker: Mike W. Royer
Cover: Neal Adams
Newsboy Legion reprint: The Meanest Man on Earth, from Star Spangled Comics #14, Nov. 1942
These stories have been reprinted in several volumes:
Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby, vol's. I & II (2004)
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, vol's. I - III (2007) There is a fourth volume of the omnibus, but it does not have any stories from Jimmy Olsen's title.
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