DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories

By various (DC Comics)
ISBN13: 978-1-4012-0534-8

Alan Moore’s famous epigram notwithstanding not all comics tales are “Imaginary Stories.” When DC Editor Mort Weisinger was expanding the Superman continuity and building the legend he knew that the each new tale was an event that added to a nigh-sacred canon: that what was written and drawn mattered to the readers. But as an ideas man he wasn’t going to let that aggregated “history” stifle a good idea, nor would he allow his eager yet sophisticated audience to endure clichéd deus ex machina cop-outs to mar the sheer enjoyment of a captivating concept.

The mantra known to every baby-boomer fan was “Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not a Robot!” boldly emblazoned on covers depicting scenes that couldn’t possibly be true… even if it was only a comic book.

Imaginary Stories were conceived as a way of exploring non-continuity plots and scenarios devised at a time when editors believed that entertainment trumped consistency and knew that every comic read was somebody’s first …or potentially last.

This jolly tome celebrates that period when whimsy and imagination were king and stretches the point by leading with a fanciful tale of the World’s Mightiest Mortal as ‘Captain Marvel and the Atomic War’ (Captain Marvel Adventures #66, October 1946) actually hoaxes the public with a demonstration of how the world could end in the new era of Nuclear Proliferation, courtesy of Otto Binder and CC Beck.

‘The Second Life of Batman’ (Batman #127 October 1959) by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris doesn’t really fit the definition either, but the tale of a device that predicts how Bruce Wayne’s life would have run if his parents had not been killed is superb and engaging all the same.

‘Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent!’ by Binder and the brilliant Kurt Schaffenberger, was the first tale of an occasional series that began in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #9 (August 1960), depicting the laughter and tears that might result if the plucky news-hen secretly married the Man of Steel. From an era uncomfortably parochial and patronizing to women, there’s actually a lot of genuine heart and understanding in this tale and a minimum of snide sniping about “silly, empty-headed girls”.

Eventually the concepts became so bold that Imaginary Stories could command book length status. ‘Lex Luthor, Hero!’ (Superman #149, November 1961) by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff, recounts the mad scientist’s greatest master-plan and ultimate victory in a tale as powerful now as it ever was. In many ways this is what the whole concept was made for…

No prizes for guessing what ‘Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl!’ (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, #57, December 1961) is about, but the story is truly a charming delight, beautifully realized by Siegel, Swan and Stan Kaye.

‘The Origin of Flash’s Masked Identity!’ (The Flash# 128, May 1962) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, although highly entertaining, is more an enthusiastic day-dream than alternate reality, and, I suspect, added to bring variety to the mix – as is the intriguing ‘Batman’s New Secret Identity’ (Batman #151, November 1961, by Finger, Bob Kane and Paris).

‘The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!’ (Superman #162, July 1963) is possibly the most influential tale of this entire sub-genre. Written by Leo Dorfman, with art from Swan and George Klein, this startling utopian classic was so well-received that decades later it influenced and flavoured the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman continuity for months.

The writer of ‘The Three Wives of Superman!’ is currently unknown to us but the ever-excellent Schaffenberger can at least be congratulated for this enchanting tragedy of missed chances that originally saw print in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #51, from August 1964.

‘The Fantastic Story of Superman’s Sons’ (Superman #166, November 1964) by Edmond Hamilton, Swan and Klein is a solid thriller built on a tragic premise (what if only one of Superman’s children inherited his powers?), and the book closes with the stirring and hard-hitting ‘Superman and Batman… Brothers!’, wherein orphaned Bruce Wayne is adopted by the Kents, but cannot escape a destiny of tragedy and darkness.

Written by Jim Shooter, with art from Swan and Klein, for World’s Finest Comics # 172 (December 1967) this moody thriller in many ways signalled the end of the care-free days and the beginning of a grittier, more cohesive DC universe for a less whimsical, fan-based audience.

This book is a glorious slice of fancy, augmented by an informative introduction by columnist Craig Shutt, and bolstered with mini-cover reproductions of many tales that didn’t make it into the collection, but I do have one minor quibble: No other type of tale was more dependent on an eye-catching cover, so why couldn’t those belonging to these collected classics have been included here, too?

© 1946, 1959-1964, 1967, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved

Superman in the Fifties

By various (DC Comics)
ISBN13: 978-1-56389-826-6

Part of a series of trade paperbacks intended to define DC’s top heroes through the decades (the other being Batman, of course) these books always deliver an unbeatable dollop of comicbook magic and a tantalising whiff of other, arguably better, times. They’re divided into sections partitioned by cover galleries, and this second volume of comic cuts begins (after an introduction by the ever informative Mark Waid) with “Classic Tales” culled from the period when the Superman TV show propelled the Man of Tomorrow to even greater levels of popularity.

Leading off is ‘Three Supermen from Krypton!’ written by William Woolfolk and illustrated by Al Plastino (one of a talented triumvirate who absolutely defined the hero during this decade). From Superman #65, (July-August 1950) this classy clash revealed more about Superman’s vanished homeworld whilst providing the increasingly untouchable champion with a much needed physical challenge.

Outer Space provided another daunting threat in ‘The Menace from the Stars!’ (World’s Finest Comics #68, January-February 1954). However all is not as it seems in this quirky mystery by a now unknown writer and the exceptional art team of Wayne Boring (another of the triumvirate) and inker Stan Kaye.

‘The Girl Who Didn’t Believe in Superman!’ by Bill Finger, Boring and Kaye, is a fanciful, evocative human interest tale typical of the times and sorely missed in these modern, adrenaline-drenched days. It originally appeared in Superman #96, cover-dated March 1955. From the very next issue came the canonical landmark ‘Superboy’s Last Day in Smallville!’ (by Jerry Coleman, Boring and Kaye) which revealed that particular rite of passage by way of exposing a crook’s long-delayed master-plan.

The first section ends with a tale from one of the many spin-off titles of the period – and one that gives many 21st century readers a few uncontrollable qualms of conscience. Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane was one of precious few titles with a female lead, but her character ranged crazily from man-hungry, unscrupulous bitch through ditzy simpleton to indomitable and brilliant heroine – often all in the same issue.

Most stories were played for laughs in a patriarchal, parochial manner; a “gosh, aren’t women funny?” tone that appals me today – but not as much as the fact that I still love them to bits. It helps that they’re all so very well illustrated by the wonderfully whimsical Kurt Schaffenberger. This one, ‘The Ugly Superman!’ (#8, April 1959), deals with a costumed wrestler who falls for Lois, giving the Caped Kryptonian another chance for some pretty unpleasant Super-teasing. It was written by the veteran Robert Bernstein, who unlike me can use the tenor of the times as his excuse.

As the franchise expanded, so did the cast and internal history. The second section is dedicated to our hero’s extended family and leads with ‘Superman’s Big Brother’ by famed pulp writer Edmond Hamilton and Plastino, (Superman #80, January-February 1953) wherein a wandering alien is mistaken for the aforementioned sibling, followed here by the introduction of a genuine family member in ‘The Super-Dog from Krypton!’ which originally saw print in Adventure Comics #210, March 1955.

Here Otto Binder and Curt Swan (the third of three and eventually the most prolific Super-artist of all time), aided by inker John Fischetti, reveal how baby Kal-El’s pet pooch escaped his home-world’s destruction and made his way to Earth.

Another popular animal guest-star was ‘Titano the Super-Ape!’ a giant ape with kryptonite vision, and this tale (from Superman #127, February 1959) is still one of the best Binder, Boring or Kaye ever worked on, combining action, pathos and drama to superb effect. This section ends with the inevitable landmark which more than any other moved Superman from his timeless Golden Age holdover status to become a part of the DC Silver Age revival. ‘The Supergirl from Krypton!’ introduced the Man of Steel’s cousin Kara Zor-El (Action Comics #252, (May, 1959) in a captivating tale by Binder and Plastino.

There had been numerous prototypes (one was included in the previous volume of this series, Superman in the Forties, ISBN: 978-1-4012-0457-0) but this time the concept struck home and the teenaged refugee began her long career as a solo-star from the very next issue.

Section three highlights “the villains” and leads with a rarely seen team-up of The Prankster, Lex Luthor and that extra-dimensional sprite Mr. Mxyztplk in ‘Superman’s Super-Magic Show!’ by Hamilton, Boring and Kaye (Action Comics #151, December, 1950) – tale more of mirthful mystery than menace and mayhem. It’s followed by the still-impressive introduction of alien marauder Brainiac in ‘The Super-Duel in Space’ by Binder and Plastino, from Action Comics #242, (July, 1958) and ‘The Battle with Bizarro!’ from Action Comics #254, (July, 1959) by the same creative team. This story actually re-introduced the imperfect duplicate, who had initially appeared in a well-received Superboy story (#68, from the previous year). Even way back then sales trumped death…

So popular was the character that the tale was continued over two issues, concluding with ‘The Bride of Bizarro!’ (Action Comics #255, August 1959), an almost unheard of luxury back then.

The fourth and final section is dedicated to “Superman’s Pals” and stems once more from that epochal television show, which made most of the supporting cast into household names. ‘The End of the Planet!’ by Hamilton and Plastino, Superman #79 (November-December 1959) is actually about the famous newspaper’s imminent closure rather than a global threat, whilst ‘Superman and Robin!’ is a classic bait-and-switch teaser from World’s Finest Comics #75 (March-April 1955), and Finger, Swan and Kaye knew that no-one believed that they had really broken-up the Batman/Boy Wonder team….

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen also had his own comicbook, and ‘The Stolen Superman Signal’ (#13, June 1956, by Binder, Swan and Ray Burnley) perfectly displays the pluck and whimsy that distinguished the early stories. The last tale in this section – and the volume – is from Showcase #9 (June-July 1957) the first of two Lois Lane try-out issues. ‘The girl in Superman’s Past!’ by Coleman, Ruben Moreira and Plastino introduced an adult Lana Lang as a rival for superman’s affections and began the sparring that led to many a comic-book cat-fight…

Including an extensive cover gallery, text features and a comprehensive creator-profiles section, this is a wonderful slice of comics history, refreshing, comforting and compelling. Any fan or newcomer will delight in this primer into the ultimate icon of Truth Justice and The American Way.
© 1950-1959, 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman in the Forties

By Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster & the Superman studio (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0457-0

Part of a series of trade paperbacks intended to define DC’s top heroes through the decades (the other being Batman, of course) these books always deliver a superb wallop of comicbook magic and a tantalising whiff of other, perhaps better, times.

Divided into sections partitioned by cover galleries this box of delights opens with the untitled initial episodes from Action Comics #1 and 2 (even though they’re technically ineligible, coming from June and July 1938) written and drawn by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. With boundless enthusiasm the Man of Tomorrow exploded into action, saving an innocent condemned to the electric chair, teaching a wife-beater a salutary lesson, terrorising mobsters and teaching war profiteers to think again. It’s raw, unpolished and absolutely captivating stuff.

Swiftly following from Superman #58, (May-June 1949) is a beguiling teaser written by William Woolfolk and illustrated by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye. ‘Lois Lane Loves Clark Kent!’ found the intrepid reporter seeing a psychiatrist because of her romantic obsession with the Man of Steel. His solution?

The quack tells her to switch her affections to her bewildered, harassed workmate! A rare treat follows as the seldom seen Superman prose story from Superman #1 (Summer 1939 and of course written by Siegel with accompanying art by Shuster) reappears for the first time in decades.

In 1948 the editors finally declassified the full and original ‘Origin of Superman’ written by Bill Finger with art from Boring and Kaye (Superman #53, cover-dated July-August) It was followed a year later and directly after in this volume by ‘Superman Returns to Krypton’ by Finger and Al Plastino wherein the Man of Steel breaks the time barrier to observe his lost homeworld at first hand. This little gem (from Superman #61, November-December, 1949) provided the comic-book explanation for Kryptonite – it was originally introduced on the radio show in 1943 then promptly forgotten – opening the door for a magical expansion of the character’s universe that still resonates with us today.

During the late 1940s Siegel & Shuster retrofitted their creation by creating Superboy (“the adventures of Superman when he was a boy”) for More Fun Comics #101 (January/February 1945). An instant hit, the youthful incarnation soon had the lead spot in Adventure Comics and won his own title in 1949.

From Superboy #5 (November-December, 1949) comes the charming tale of a runaway princess ironically entitled ‘Superboy Meets Supergirl’ by Woolfolk and the hugely talented John Sikela.

The second section is dedicated to the Man of Steel’s opponents beginning with ‘Superman Meets the Ultra-Humanite’ from Action Comics #14 (July, 1939) by Siegel, Shuster and Paul Cassidy. They also produced a much more memorable criminal scientist in Lex Luthor who debuted in an untitled tale from Action #23 (April, 1940). This landmark is followed by ‘The Terrible Toyman’ (Action #64, September, 1943) by Don Cameron, Ed Dobrotka and George Roussos.

In such socially conscious times once of Superman’s most persistent foes was a heartless swindler called Wilbur Wolfingham. ‘Journey into Ruin’ by Cameron, Ira Yarbrough and Stan Kaye (from Action #107, November #107) is a fine example of this type of tale and the hero’s unique response to it.

A different kind of whimsy was apparent when Lois Lane’s niece – a liar who could shame Baron Munchausen – returned with a new pal who could make her fantasies reality in ‘The Mxyztplk-Susie Alliance’ from Superman #40, May-June 1946, charmingly crafted by Cameron, Yarbrough and Kaye.

The American Way section begins with a genuine war-time classic. ‘America’s Secret Weapon’ from Superman #23, July-August 1943, by Cameron, Sam Citron and Sikela is a masterpiece of patriotic triumphalism, as is the excerpt from the Superman newspaper strip which reveals how the over-eager Man of Tomorrow accidentally fluffed his own army physical. These strips by Siegel, Shuster and Jack Burnley, originally ran from 16th – 19th February 1942,

Look Magazine commissioned a legendary special feature by the original creators for their 27th February 1943 issue. ‘How Superman Would End the War’ is a glorious piece of wish-fulfillment which still delights, and it’s followed by a less famous but equally affecting human interest yarn ‘The Superman Story’. Taken from World’s Finest Comics #37 (1947, by Finger, Boring and Kaye) it sees a pack of reporters trail Superman to see how the world views him.

The book ends with ‘Christmas Around the World’ as Superman becomes the modern Spirit of the Season in a magical Yule yarn by Cameron, Yarbrough and Kaye from Action #93 (February 1946).

With a selection of cover galleries, special features and extensive creator profiles this is a magnificent Primer to the greatest hero of a bygone Golden Age, but one who can still deliver laughter and tears, thrills and spills and sheer raw excitement. No real fan can ignore these tales…

© 1940-1939, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.


By Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring, Jack Burnley and the Superman Studio (DC Comics)
ISBN13: 9781-84576-743-3

This fourth collection of the Man of Tomorrow’s earliest adventures, reprinted in the order they originally appeared, sees out the year 1940 in another tremendous little album that covers his appearances in Action Comics #26-31as well as the bi-monthly Superman #6-7.

Siegel and Shuster had created a true phenomenon and were struggling to cope with it. As well as the monthly and bimonthly comics a new quarterly publication, World’s Finest Comics (springing from the success of the publisher’s New York World’s Fair comic-book tie-ins) would soon debut and their indefatigable hero was to feature prominently in it. Also, the Superman daily newspaper strip, which began on 16th January 1939, with its separate Sunday strip following from November 5th of that year, was garnering millions of new fans.

The need for new material was constant and terrible.

From Action Comics #25 (July 1940) came ‘Professor Cobalt’s Clinic’ wherein Clark Kent and Lois Lane exposed a murderous sham Heath Facility with a little Kryptonian help, and the next month dealt a similar blow to the corrupt orphanage ‘Brentwood Home for Wayward Youth’. The September issue found the him at the circus, solving the mystery of ‘The Strongarm Assaults’, a fast-paced thriller beautifully illustrated by the astonishingly talented Jack Burnley.

Whilst thrilling to that, kids of the time could also have picked up the sixth issue of Superman (September/October 1940). Produced by Siegel and the Superman Studio, with Shuster increasingly only overseeing and drawing key figures and faces, this contained four more lengthy adventures.

‘Lois Lane, Murderer’, ‘Racketeer Terror in Gateston’, ‘Terror Stalks San Caluma’ and ‘The Construction Scam’ had the Man of Action saving the plucky newshen (you can’t imagine how long I’ve waited to type that term) from a dastardly frame up, rescuing a small town from a mob invasion, foiling a blackmailer who’s discovered his secret identity and spectacularly fixing a corrupt company’s shoddy, death-trap buildings.

Action Comics #29 (October 1940) again features Burnley art in a gripping tale of murder for profit. Human drama in ‘The Life insurance Con’ was replaced by deadly super-science as the mastermind Zolar created ‘A Midsummer Snowstorm’, allowing Burnley a rare opportunity to display his fantastic imagination as well as his representational excellence.

Superman # 7(November/December1940), and the Man of Steel was embroiled in local politics when he confronted ‘Metropolis’ Most Savage Racketeers’, quelled man-made disasters in ‘The Exploding Citizens’, stamped out City Hall corruption in ‘Superman’s Clean-Up Campaign’ (illustrated by Wayne Boring, who was Shuster’s inker on the other tales in this issue) and put the villainous high society bandits ‘The Black Gang’ where they belonged – behind iron bars.

This volume ends with Burnley drawing another high-tech caper as criminals put an entire city to sleep and only Clark Kent isn’t ‘In the Grip of Morpheus’.

Although the gaudy burlesque of monsters and super-villains still lay years ahead of our hero, these tales of corruption, disaster and social injustice are just as engrossing and speak powerfully of the tenor of the times. The raw intensity and sly wit still shine through in Siegel’s stories which literally defined what being a Super Hero means whilst Shuster and his team created the iconography for all others to follow. These Golden Age tales are priceless enjoyment at an absurdly affordable price. What dedicated comics fan could possibly resist them?

So don’t…
© 1940, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman/Batman: Torment

Superman/Batman: Torment
Superman/Batman: Torment

By Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino (DC Comics)
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-84576-741-9

This cosmic saga is taken from the high profile but often disappointing comic series highlighting DC’s twin top guns, specifically issues #37-42, with the usually excellent Alan Burnett scripting and the very classy Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs providing the pictures.

A seemingly mundane robbery leads the World’s Finest Team to the ends of the universe as Superman is targeted by the worst monsters on Apokolips to provide the ultimate tyrant Darkseid with yet another ultimate weapon. Quite where all these shenanigans lead is pretty much a foregone conclusion even for the casual reader, and as all the character ramifications are negated by the events of Final Crisis, Death of the New Gods and the sundry other mega-crossovers DC seems permanently embroiled in, it’s very hard to summon enough energy to connect to the events here.

Full of contemporary Sturm und Drang, this is fast, flashy and furious, but not particularly challenging or memorable fare, good for a wet afternoon, but sadly, not a classic nor a keeper.

© 2007, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: Infinite Crisis

Superman: Infinite Crisis

By various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-342-8

One of the major sub-storylines of Infinite Crisis (ISBN: 978-1-4012-0959-9) involves the Superman who debuted in 1938, and who for years was designated as first the Golden Age and latterly the Earth 2 Man of Steel. This slim addendum to the main event collects material from Infinite Crisis Secret Files and Origins 2006, Infinite Crisis #5, Superman #226, Action Comics #836 and Adventures of Superman #649, and details the poignant and tragic end of the characters that in so many ways birthed the DC Universe.

By detailing what became of Superman and Lois Lane of Earth 2, Earth 3’s Alexander Luthor and Superboy from Earth Prime after Crisis on Infinite Earths (ISBN: 978-1-5638-9750-4) writers Marv Wolfman, Joe Kelly, Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb have added tone and texture that is noticeably, if not painfully lacking from the parent blockbuster, and the quiet moments reviewing and commemorating the phenomenal life of the original Mr and Mrs Superman are more powerful than the inevitable battle of the superpowers that follows.

In many ways superior to the parent tale the only quibble is that the events of this book conclude before the end of Infinite Crisis meaning that you really need to read this simultaneously. Annotated Absolute Edition, anyone?

A huge number of artists worked on this book so I’ve saved them for the end in case you’re the type that likes to leave before the national anthem (and I suspect most of you are too young for that gag as well). They are Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Cam Smith, Art Thibert, Nelson, Ed Benes, Howard Chaykin, Renato Guedes, Kevin Conrad, Dick Giordano, Jose Marzan Jr., Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Lee Bermejo, Doug Mahnke, Tim Sale, Tom Derenick, Wayne Faucher, Karl Kerschl, Duncan Rouleau, Dale Eaglesham, Drew Geraci, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, Dave Bullock and Kalman Andrasofszky.

The colouring was by Jeromy Cox, Guy Major, Renato Guedes, Dave Stewart, Tanya & Richard Horrie, Rod Reis, Tom Smith, Michelle Madsen, Kalman Andrasofszky and Dave Bullock with lettering by Travis Lanham, Pat Brosseau, Nick J. Napolitano and Comicraft.

© 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: 3-2-1 Action!

Superman 3-2-1 Action!

By Kurt Busiek, Mark Evanier, Rick Leonardi, Brad Walker, Steve Rude & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-794-5

Here’s a lovely little piece of summer fun for comics fans that spins indirectly out of the Countdown publishing event. Although nominally another collection of the Man of Steel’s adventures the actual star of the book is Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. The main body of the volume reprints Action Comics #852-854, and examines the cub reporter’s trials and travails as the effects of the Countdown reach Metropolis.

Without wanting to give too much away in advance of the inevitable Countdown collections, a massive Crisis is affecting all 52 Earths of the newly minted DC multiverse. One inexplicable side-effect is the “fight-or flight” super-powers that suddenly afflict James Bartholomew Olsen, reporter-at-large. Whenever his life is endangered, sudden inexplicable transformations wrack Jimmy’s body (and older fans will no doubt be delighted to see the not so subtle tributes to such classics of the silver Age as Turtle Boy Olsen, Jimmy the Werewolf and The Human Porcupine). This engaging sidebar to the Countdown Main Event, which is by Kurt Busiek, penciller Brad Walker and inker John Livesay, also features yet another new take on Titano the Super-Ape, and the return of both Krypto and the Kryptonite Man.

This is preceded by a marvellous updating of the kid’s “origin” by Busiek, Rick Leonardi and Ande Parks, originally published in Superman #665. ‘Jimmy’ is a charming and action-packed character piece that updates the lad for the current generation, whilst still keeping the vitality, verve and pluckiness that carried the boy through seven decades and hundreds of his own adventures within the DCU.

Without doubt though, the absolute gem of this collection comes from the wonderful and much-missed Legends of the DC Universe comicbook of the late 1990s. Issue #14, to be precise; 55 glorious pages of wonderment by Marv Evanier, Steve Rude and Bill Reinhold from 1999, which featured a new story crafted from an unused plot Jack Kirby worked up during his tenure as Writer-Artist on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. This story features the Lord of Apokolips, The Evil Factory, The Guardian, The Project and enough fun and thrills to take decades off the most jaded fan.

Kirby’s run on what had become DC’s most moribund title utterly revolutionised the entire DC universe, introducing Darkseid, the Fourth World, Intergang, The Project (later known as Cadmus) and so much more. Nothing on Earth can induce me to reveal any details of this lost epic but if you can’t have prime, fresh Kirby, this loving and beautiful addendum to his work is the Very Next Best Thing.

I’m seldom able to wholeheartedly recommend a modern collection for you to buy, but with 3-2-1- Action I breathlessly do and you really must!

© 1999, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: The Man of Steel, Volume 6

Superman: The Man of Steel, Volume 6

By various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-440-1

At long last the latest volume in this excellent series chronologically reprinting the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman has been released, and reaches the landmark first anniversary of that brave renovation.

Featuring the creative efforts of John Byrne, Ron Frenz, Jim Starlin, Dan Jurgens, Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Brett Breeding, Steve Montano, Keith Williams, Roy Richardson and Karl Kesel, the book includes all three of the Annuals for 1987, Action Comics #595-595, Superman #12 and as a necessary bonus issue #23 of Booster Gold volume 1 – the concluding part of a cross over between the rival champions of Metropolis.

The magic kicks off with ‘Skeeter’, a vampire shocker guest-starring Batman written by Byrne and illustrated by Art Adams and Dick Giordano originally published in Action Comics Annual #1. Next is a poignant updating of a Silver Age classic. ‘Tears for Titano’ by Byrne, Frenz and Breeding first saw print in Superman Annual #1 and puts a modern spin on the tale of the giant chimp that menaced Metropolis.

The Adventures of Superman Annual #1 was the original home of ‘The Union’ by Jim Starlin, Jurgens and Steve Montano, wherein Superman is asked by Ronald Reagan and super-Fed Sarge Steel to find out what happened in the instant ghost-town of Trudeau, South Dakota. This edgy sci-fi shocker showed audiences that the new Man of Steel wasn’t the guaranteed winner he used to be, and set the scene for a momentous future confrontation with the monstrous Hfuhruhurr the Word-bringer.

‘All that Glisters’ (Byrne and Keith Williams) comes from Action Comics #594, a big battle team-up with Booster Gold that concluded in issue #23 of that hero’s own title. ‘Blind Obsession’, with art and story by Jurgens and Roy Richardson, is followed by the magical retelling of another classic Wayne Boring Superman tale.

‘Lost Love’ from Superman #12, by Byrne and Karl Kesel, recounts the tragic tale of Clark Kent’s brief affair with the mysterious Lori Lemaris, a unique girl he twice – that’s right – loved and lost, and the volume concludes with Action Comics #595. ‘The Ghost of Superman’ introduced the eerie Silver Banshee in a mystery team-up that I’m not going to spoil for you.

Against all current expectation the refitted Man of Tomorrow was a critical and commercial success. As one of the penitent curmudgeons who was proved wrong at the time, I can earnestly urge you not to make the same mistake. These are magically gripping and memorable comic gems that can be enjoyed over and over again. So the sooner you get these books the sooner you can start the thrill ride…

© 1987 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: Camelot Falls, Book 2 — The Weight of the World

Superman Camelot Falls

By Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-651-1

The concluding volume of the serial epic that ran intermittently in the monthly Superman comic is finally available, and although it is very impressive eye-candy I still question the fairness of two little books when the whole story could quite easily have fitted into one. In volume 1 (ISBN: 1-84576-434-X) the ancient Atlantean sorcerer Arion showed the Man of Steel a vision of the future where the hero’s continued defence of the planet inevitably lead to its destruction, and asked him to retire before that vision became horrendous reality.

In this volume (collecting Superman #662-664, 667 and Superman Annual #13) the Mage decides to force Superman’s decision.

Chockfull of guest-stars and featuring pertinent asides with the tragic Superman-analogue Subjekt 17, plus a pack of very young New Genesis truants and even old foe the Prankster, this is a very pretty adventure. But even although the final confrontation is visually spectacular, story-wise there’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Shiny and simplistic, this is a pallid disappointment for fans with precious little to recommend it to the casual or new reader.

© 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman/Gen Thirteen

Superman/Gen 13

By Adam Hughes, Lee Bermejo & John Nyberg (WildStorm/DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-328-5

The hoary old amnesia/mistaken identity plot gets a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek dusting off in this far, far above-average cross-company team-up when the highly proper Man of Steel meets the wild and wooly super-powered drop-outs of Gen 13.

Freefall, Burnout, Rainmaker and Grunge are pretty typical Generation X teens – apart from their superpowers – and they’re pretty bummed that the stiff and prissy Fairchild gets to choose their next vacation destination. But they’re frankly appalled when she decides to take them to Metropolis, home of the biggest boy-scout in the universe.

When the team stumbles upon a super-battle and the “nearly” invulnerable Fairchild gets a formidable shot to the head from a gigantic robot Gorilla, their troubles really begin. Confused, the pneumatic leader wanders off, and deducing that she’s actually Supergirl, causes swathes of destruction whilst trying to remember how to use her “other superpowers.” And then her friends realize with horror that she was holding all the spending money!

Unable to find her and getting pretty peckish, the team has to swallow their collective scorn and actually ask the Stiff of Steel for help, and the World’s Most Perfect Hero comes to realise that even he isn’t invulnerable to the mockery of the “Cool Kids” in this brilliantly funny generation gap comedy from scripter Adam Hughes and artists Bermejo and Nyberg.

Fast, funny, action-packed and loaded with brilliant one-liners that hark back to the glory-days of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League International this slim tale is as fresh and delightful a confection as any jaded, angst-laden fan could wish for. Track it down and cleanse your palate before the next braided-mega-epic rumbles along.

© 2000, 2001 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.