Friday, January 1, 2010

Episode #107: Superman: The Year In Review!

Happy New Year, 2010, everyone!

2009 continued, for the most part, a run of excellent Superman stories. The year began with the final three issues of the New Krypton storyline through the Superman titles, which concluded with the restored Kryptonian city of Kandor leaving Earth and constructing New Krypton with its crystaline technology. The planet settled into Earth orbit on the opposite side of the sun, setting up the Superman stories for the rest of the year. The biggest development in the Superman titles was the Man Of Steel's decision to leave Earth for New Krypton to keep an eye on his native people, because he doesn't totally trust them.

Next came the Origins & Omens, a company wide second feature highlighting origins and hints of future character developments, which tied in to the then upcoming Blackest Night event series. While the ones in the Superman titles were interesting, it seemed much ado about nothing to me.

A much more satisfying series was Superman: World Of New Krypton, the first ten issues of which were published in 2009. Except for an issue or two of the latter issues, this has been a satisfying series, developing Kryptonian society for modern readers. Geoff Johns did a clever job of combining past versions of Krypton into different guilds, each with their distinct wardrobes. Kal-El became a member of the military guild, led by General Zod, and took his place while Zod recovered from an assassination attempt. The current triangle numbering continued as the New Krypton storyline continued across the Superman family of titles.

Over in the regular Superman titles the supporting cast did a good job of carrying both Action Comics and Superman. Nightwing and Flamebird were re-introduced in Action Comics in the form of Chris Kent and Thara Ak-Var. Chris battled accelerated aging, while Thara had a mysterious connection to the ancient Kryptonian Flamebird legend. Mon-El took Superman's place, at the Man of Steel's request, as the guardian of Metropolis, and, as Clark's British cousin Jonathan Kent, a member of the Science Police under the leadership of The Guardian.

In Supergirl, Kara battled Superwoman, who was identified as Lois Lane's sister Lucy. Supergirl also spent the year hunting for Reactron, her father's murderer.

The Superman Annuals chronicled some origins in the New Krypton story. Action Comics Annual #12 told the origin of the Nightwing and Flamebird team, as Thara wore a special suit to retrieve Chris Kent from the Phantom Zone. She became a member of the Relious Guild and became connected to the legendary Flamebird. Superman Annual #14 chronicled how Mon-El came to Earth and Supergirl Annual #1 revealed the origin of Lucy Lane as Superwoman.

The new storyline began as Codename: Patriot, four issues across the Superman titles, beginning with Superman: World Of New Krypton #6. General Lane, leader of Project 7734 (Hell), discredited the Kryptonian heroes and Mon-El, building public opinion against the Metropolis superheroes.

Then in Jimmy Olsen Special #2, he continued his investigation into Project 7734 until he was shot and apparently drowned in Metropolis Harbor. While his absence has been notice by the Daily Plaent staff in subsequent issues, there have been no new details about Jimmy's fate.

The numbering contiued after Codename: Patriot and was now called World Against Superman. Amond the developments that have occurred was that Mon-El was thought killed by the public but had been captured by Gen. Lane and later escaped. Lois Lane discovered the truth about her father and was arrested by government agents. She faced her father alone in an interregation room and later released . Lois then resigned from the Planet staff after Perry could not print her story about Project 7734, in an unspoken agreement between the two so she would be free to get to the bottom of the story.

Adventure Comics returned in 2009 featuring the Conner Kent Superboy and the second feature Legion of Super-Heroes.

Superman's origin is also in the middle of a makeover as the new year begins with Superman: Secret Origins. While it does not totally negate John Byrne's Man Of Steel revamp, it does largely return many of the silver age elements of Superman's origin, including his start as Superboy and connection with the Legion of Super-Heroes. This new origin has upset some Superman readers, many of whom are mostly familiar only with the post Man Of Steel Superman. They're where I was in 1986, when it felt "my Superman" was being changed. I got back into comic books a few years later, and have since read some of the past Superman origins. All of them have been different from what came before and have shown Superman's origin from different perspectives and have added details that haven't necessarily contradicted past origins.

What's coming up for 2010? first of all the final two issues of Superman: World Of New Krypton will be published. DC has announced that the final fate of New Krypton will be decidedin the 3-part mini-series Superman: Last Stand Of New Krypton. The escaped Brainiac will attempt to recapture Kandor, and Zod will be prepared to sacrifice Earth to defeat Brainiac. Superman will attempt to stop both megalomaniacs. I would have liked to have seen the story tightened in Superman: World Of New Krypton and this battle conclude the mini-series. DC seems a little too quick, like Marvel, to break a story into as many mini-series as possible.

Free Comic Book Day on May 1, 2010 will see issue #0 of Superman: War Of The Supermen, which will apparently see the tension between Earth and Krypton explode, and be the Superman event series of the year.

Some of the past plots that are continuing into the new year are: Lana's health problems, Thara's deal with Jax-Ur, Zod's most dangerous sleeper agent, to stop Chris Kent's rapid aging. Also, Lois' attempt to uncover the story of her father's Project 7734, what is going on with Lucy Lane, and what is the fate of Jimmy Olsen? Personally I think that Jimmy will be recovered or rescued by Project Cadmus and be treated for his injuries, or cloned.

While I have enjoyed almost all of theses plots and stories, I have more of a problem with their presentation. World Of New Krypton has been great, but with that mini-series being the main Superman story, the regular Superman titles have become secondary. I wish that DC would return to the 1990's, in one respect, and run the story through the regular Superman titles, instead of separate it from them, and give budget conscious comic book readers a reason to read one but not the other. Breaking up the story into all of these sepatate mini-series seems the idea of a desparate company of a shrinking industry to milk as much from the readers it still have. Marvel has been guilty of this as well. I'd like to see the regular Superman titles being the focus of the stories, not supporting the main event mini-series.

DC has said that the reason they removed Superman from Earth was to show how important he was to the DC Universe. They said the same thing about 52, One Year Later and Trinity. When will they finally get off that soapbox and develop the next story that focuses on some other point.

Another thing I would like to see, which propbably won't happen until probably 2011 wtih the end of War Of The Supermen is the return of Clark Kent. One good thing from the 1990's ws the development of Clark Kent as much as Superman. Let's see the development in Clark and Lois' relationship. Kal-El can't be Superman all the time. There's been very little Clark Kent the last several years.

Beyond comic books I have enjoyed the Warner Premiere animated movies. Superman / Batman: Public Enemies was a great animated DVD, but my favorite is still Justice League: New Frontier. On the movie front I am very disappointed in Warner Brothers. They have been very slow to make a decision on a direction for the next Superman movie. DC Entertainment was even formed to better utilize the DC Universe for movie development. Other than the Jonah Hex movie, no new projects really seem to be in any stage of development. According to the Superman Homepage website DC Entertainment will soon announce their movie plans. Let's hope they get the ball rolling on a new Superman movie and DO IT RIGHT!

Next Week: On the first full week of the new year, and to begin celebrating DC Comic's 75th anniversary, the subject of the episode will be the founder of what would become DC, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson.

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Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

Thanks for listening to the Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

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