Archives for category: Superman

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For trade readers, April has seen a lot of action along the fringes of the Superman meta-narrative. Elseworlds, alternate Earths, alternate timelines, clones, and adaptations- we live in a time of many Supermen. I’ve written previously on how Batman is preparing us for travel through the multiverse and today I’m going to discuss how Superman’s multiple existences in the multiverse allow us to confront and cope with some of our fears- or rather, just one fear: evil Superman. (bad Superman?)

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This month saw the publication of three trades that deal with an alternate Superman and each of these alternate Superman are more evil than the Superman archetype. Each of these titles stand among some of the best DC is publishing- compelling stories that twist the Man of Steel into a reflection of the terrors associated with absolute power and nigh-invulnerability.

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In Earth-2 Vol. 5: The Kryptonian, a Superman under the control of Darkseid has come to post-Apokolips Earth-2 to bring about a revival of Apokoliptian terror. The fear that our greatest heroes will come under the power of tyrants is not an irrational fear and Earth-2 is full of deceitful authorities coming from all angles.

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The heroes of Earth-2, including a Red Tornado Lois Lane, attempt to use Clark’s adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent to bring Superman to his senses. This strategy is common when trying to calm Superman down. It seems very natural to us because we believe that humanity is what makes Superman good which is all sorts of problematic, but it comforts us to think that our way of life could keep a god from doing terrible things, which is odd in itself as many comfort themselves by worshiping a god that does in fact do terrible things and swear allegiance to an employer who might not care if they live or die.

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In Justice League 3000, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman have been resurrected alongside Superman in a morally questionable experiment completed by the Wonder Twins in the distant future.

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These Wonder Twins differ greatly from the original Wonder Twins and that can be said for all of the members of the Justice League. Of these not-exactly-cloned clones, Superman falls the shortest of his legacy.

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Here, Superman is a sex-crazed blood-thirsty idiot who keeps forgetting that he no longer has the power to fly. This depiction of an imbecilic Superman preys upon the same fear that perpetuates the dumb jock stereotype and inspired so much protest against George W. Bush’s presidency. We are afraid of the stupid and the powerful. Being powerless in the face of mediocrity can feel worse than being powerless in the face of brilliance- here, there is no respect for the fool leading you, no hope.

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In Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Two, the story of a Superman driven to vengeful murder and then obsessive fascism continues as more and more DC Comics characters try to make sense of this totalitarian Last Son of Krypton. I’ve really enjoyed Injustice. When it first came out, I avoided it because I didn’t want to read a comic book based on a video game, but when I heard Mike Miller, one of the artists, speak about it at Dragon Con (and then subsequently found a copy of the first trade for $5), I decided to pick it up. Immediately I was impressed at how well Tom Taylor grasped the characters. I should mentioned that Tom Taylor wrote about this fascist Superman and also wrote the Earth-2 Darkseid-controlled Superman. Maybe he has an irrational fear of Superman and his therapist suggested he work through those issues by bringing his fears to their absurd conclusion. In Year One, Superman ended war. In Year Two, Superman must figure out a way to keep the peace. To do so, he needs an army and Lex Luthor has developed a pill that will allow normal humans to rock and roll all night while simultaneously partying every day. The pill even let Alfred beat up Superman.

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Superman’s motivation towards absolute rule comes from the Joker tricking him into killing Lois Lane, their unborn child, and the entire city of Metropolis. Superman just wants to keep everybody safe. This motivation creates a very different totalitarian Superman than the classic Red Son where Superman’s drive towards a one-world government-dictatorship is more philosophical than emotional. All these stories of Superman going over the edge really make me want to reread Red Son. In both cases, Batman is there to oppose him. In Earth-2 and Justice League 3000, alternate Batmans prove to be the voice of reason in the face of a radically imperfect Superman.

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All of this evil Superman stuff just off the heels of Forever Evil, a storyline than spanned nearly the entire New 52 universe and featured Ultraman, the Crime Syndicate’s answer to Superman, as one of its main villains.

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As well as Superman works as a metaphor for absolute good, he also works quite well as a metaphor for absolute evil.

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Upon the announcement that Jesse Eisenberg would play Lex Luthor in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel, I’ve felt a slight discomfort with the casting. I like Jesse Eisenberg, Lex Luthor is one of my favorite characters of all time, and more importantly, I think Eisenberg will do a great job as Lex Luthor. My discomfort comes from the difficulty is separating Eisenberg from his Jewish heritage. Eisenberg is not the first Jew to play Lex Luthor- Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum played an incredible Lex- but part of Eisenberg’s charm is how well he personifies many of the characteristics that pop culture finds endearing about the way Jews behave. He’s not Woody Allen, but he played him once in a movie. Does he play up to Jewish stereotypes? Sure, to some extent, but he’s also embraced roles that challenged popular conceptions of Jews, such as playing an Orthodox Jewish MDMA smuggler in Holy Rollers. Eisenberg is Jewish and deserves a certain amount of consideration when he portrays Jews positively or negatively as it is his own culture he’s representing. From Shakespeare to Star Wars, Jews has suffered negative portrayals by gentiles and while it is a generally accepted dramatic trope, negative Jewish stereotypes are usually identified by the Anti-Defamation League swiftly and often make news. As a person of Jewish heritage myself, I’ve come to tolerate the negative depiction of Jews as unavoidable symptom of a larger systemic social problem and rarely make a crusade about the way Jews are presented. As the husband of a Chinese woman, I’ve probably become more sensitive to the portrayal of Chinese people in Western media than I am to representations of Jews that reinforce stereotypes.

So……………………

what’s wrong with a Jewish Lex Luthor?

Lex Luthor plays to some very specific Jewish stereotypes

1) Lex Luthor is the smartest man in the world. This point may be argued by Michael Holt or Ray Palmer, but it is generally accepted in the DC Universe that Lex Luthor is the smartest man on Earth. When I was living in China, the most common reaction to the discovery of my Jewish heritage was: “This is why you are so clever.” or “The Jews are very clever.” While this is not really a negative stereotype, it is a stereotype and one that makes the lives of Jewish children with learning disabilities doubly difficult. Is unforgivable to portray Jews as intelligent? No. Is it racist to portray Jews as intelligent? I’m not sure if it is. The belief that Jews are somehow smarter than others is rooted in the Jewish tradition of revering scholarship. Many cultures place an emphasis on education, but there is something special about the role education plays in the development of Jewish identity, both communally and for the individual.

2) Lex Luthor is the richest man in the world. Lex is not only one of the richest people in the DC Universe, but he has obtained his wealth through the type of ruthless business behaviors that non-Jews have frequently accused Jews of engaging in. Of course, Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor won’t be as damaging as Bernie Madoff or any of the very Lex-Luthorian types of Jewish descent that the US government has an irrational fear of prosecuting. The stereotype that Jews have lots of money is hardly new. The phenomenon of Jewish wealth can largely be traced back to the limiting of opportunities for Jews by the gentile populatins in which they lived. The inability to own land and Christian opposition to usury can both be credited with encouraging a tradition of finance and trade in Jewish communities, making both finance and trade elemental to the Jewish economy and to Jewish social mobility.

3) Superman is Jesus. As we all know, Superman was created by a couple of nice Jewish boys from Ohio and the comic book industry itself was largely created by Jews, borrowing many of its production strategies from the garment industry where Jews were also prevalent. Why did these Jews make a caped Jesus? The Christ-like nature of Superman has always been there. While Superman’s origin story greatly mirrors the story of Moses, we should pay attention to some differences in the two stories. Moses liberates his people from the tyranny of the Egyptians while Superman liberates a foreign population from the tyranny of themselves and external forces of Darkness. Superman is Jor-El’s only son. Jor-El gives his only son to the people of Earth- people he largely look down upon while simultaneously adoring them (sounds like any god you’ve heard of?). The messianic nature of Superman is well-documented and generally accepted, so I won’t go into too much detail here and will assume that you accept that the idea of “Superman as Christ” has legitimacy. Lex Luthor hates Superman- perpetuating the idea that Jews hated Jesus or willfully contributed to his crucifixion is an irresponsible assessment of the relationship Jesus had he with members of his own community.

For these reasons, I’m a little uncomfortable with Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor, but as a comic fan, I have no doubt that he will do a better job than Kevin Spacey, the worst Lex Luthor of all time. My favorite Lex so far? Either Clancy Brown or Anthony LaPaglia.

Honestly, I might be more excited about the Son of Batman animated movie that was recently announced more than the Man of Steel sequel.

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As the last moments of 2013 are sucked up into the vortex of history, I thought I could share a few items that I feel really articulate the Christmas Spirit of Wayne Xiaolong, the World’s Second Greatest Detective.

Firstly, craft plays a huge role in what makes this site tick. One of the things that separates Wayne Xiaolong from other comic book sites is the ambition of this site to produce content rather than review or report on the content of others. This holiday season I’ve made a number of crafts and I’d like to share some of them here.

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I made a significant quantity of lighters as holiday gifts this year. I haven’t given them all out, so I’m only posting pictures of ones that have already been claimed. Making these lighters was really simple. If you want to make some yourself, you’ll need a few things: cigarette lighter(s), decoupage, paint brush, and some images. I created my images using Photoshop. I cropped pictures from the internet and pasted a gold frame to keep it classy. You don’t need to print pictures though. You can cut images out of magazines, comics, instruction manuals, etc. I would recommend thinner paper over thicker paper, so no encyclopedias except maybe Wikipedia. Then you paint a little decoupage on the lighter and the back of the picture. Place the picture on the lighter. Paint a little decoupage on the top of the picture and let it dry. Repeat that last step a few times and viola! You have a fun and inexpensive gift. Many of the lighters are made were tailored to the recipient, but the ones in the above photograph were chosen as more generic crowd-pleasers because who doesn’t love Earth Kitt, Li Xiao Long, Linda Carter, and Zhang Man Yu?

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Secondly, Wayne Xiaolong exists in response to the exciting stuff going on in comic books and the Atlanta art world. The work that I do with artists and arts organizations here in Atlanta gives me a very real sense of community while the current generation of comics creators provides me with a different sense of community as I find myself identifying with and finding inspiration from the incredible work being produced right now. WXL proudly wears its branding as an outpost for the eccentricities of the Green Lantern narrative. The last decade of Green Lantern work opened my eyes to the renaissance taking place in comics while the new crop of talent working on the title have been very supportive of this site. Now is a great time to be a Green Lantern fan and I encourage all of you to check out the independent titles that helped Vendetti, Soule, Jordan, and Jensen catch the attention of DC Comics. Anyway, last night I received a gift from Van Jensen, a GL writer who has made Atlanta his home, that I wanted to share with you. It’s a magnet featuring two classic GLs from the Silver Age, Tomar-Re and B’dg.

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Thirdly, a desire to bring light into this dark world is fundamental to the philosophy of this site. Some of the most frequent visitors to this site come in search of ESL crossword puzzle and clozes related to superheroes. Having taught a university course on the history of superheroes to Chinese (i.e. ESL) students in Dalian, I have the unique experience and expertise in using superheroes as tools for teaching English language and Western culture to people from the East. For the past year, I’ve been creating these crosswords for the family from Myanmar that I tutor. They’re a really fantastic family from the Chin state of Myanmar- mom, dad, and two lovely little boys. The two boys often greet me with one of three battle cries: “Superhero!” “Batman!” and “Go Go Power Rangers!” They’re pretty young (2 & 4) and English is their 2nd (maybe 3rd/4th) language, but my goal is get at least the older boy to be able to recite the full GL oath (In brightest day, in blackest night; no evil shall escape my sight; let those who worship evil’s might; beware my power- Green Lantern’s light!) .  Here’s a picture of the two boys as pandas that I created last year. Like most children their age, they’ve been growing at a phenomenal rate.

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I often bring them sweets and small toys. After Free Comic Book Day, I brought them a big stack of nearly age-appropriate comics. Their joy is some of the most rewarding joy to witness and they provided what I believe will be the highlight of my holiday season. This past Wednesday I brought them their Christmas present.

Christmas gift with candies taped to it

I wrapped the gift and adorned it with candy canes, gingerbread Twix, caramel apple Milky Way bites, and a Godiva truffle. These kids love chocolate and superheroes, so we have a lot in common. When they opened the gift to find the world’s greatest heroes, their excitement could not be contained. Jumping up and down, shaking their fists, shrieking- these kids seemed to be in total awe that the seven major members  of the Justice League were now part of their toy army. In a pleasant coincidence, Young Justice was playing on the TV, which made it very easy to explain to them who Cyborg is.

The Treasure

Finally, the World’s Second Greatest Detective would like to wish a safe and happy holiday season to everyone who reads, supports, and inspires this site. Let’s all pledge to work towards a more cooperative world in 2014, to turn hope into action, and to celebrate the contributions and potential in others and ourselves. I have a feeling we can look forward to some great comics too.

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As its very essence, democracy is institutionalized civil war. This doesn’t simply apply to political states, but to wherever democracy flourishes and spirited debate ensues. Contesting for authenticity, for sovereignty, for status among the masses- this quest to be deemed legitimate by the standards of the arena compels the democratic imperative. Comic books are one of the most democratic artistic fields, largely because of its ties to the capitalist system. People buy more Animal Man than Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. so Frankenstein is cancelled and Animal Man lives on. Every comic book convention is a market research orgy for publishers. Consumers voluntarily mail, email, and blog their votes/marketing information to allow the producers easy access to their opinions. The democratic elements on the production side are quite similar to rap music- you don’t need much more than a pencil and some paper to get started. Comics, like political democracies, have established seats of power, factions, propaganda departments, dirty tricks, and giant fucking egos. Here I’d like to touch on a comic book icon that reminds me a little bit of the recording artist Prince, Alan Moore.

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Certain pop culture figures and moments in their public life can stay with you. Many of my first impressions of celebrity came from the actions of Prince Rogers Nelson a.k.a. Prince. I can clearly remember watching Weird Al Yankovic as a young child and hearing him explain that Prince refused to let me parody his songs, which may have been the first time I ever heard of Prince. One of the favorite Prince stories is the bit about how he demanded youtube remove a fan-shot recording of a live performance of Radiohead’s “Creep” that he had performed at Coachella and Thom Yorke, hearing of this, defended the fan and told youtube to unblock the recordings. Whatever your opinion of Prince, you must admit that a central component to his public persona is active paranoia regarding his music and his money. You could hate Prince for it and consider him a mega-crybaby,  but he deserves credit for committing to his own insanity.

With the release of the TPBs of the recent Before Watchmen series approaching, I’ve been thinking about comic book icon Alan Moore. Many consider Moore to be the greatest comic book writer of all time. Is it wise to criticize this legend so early in my foray into the medium? Well, it worked for Grant Morrisson. My problem is not so much with Moore’s work, which I really enjoy, but with his personality and contradictions in it as it relates to how his work is used.

Moore has been vocal in his protests of the film adaptation of Watchmen and the Before Watchmen series. He was also pretty vocal about the film adaptations of V for Vendetta and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I sympathize with his commitment to the characters he “created.” Many fans align themselves loyally and somewhat blindly with Moore. Regarding the films, a lot of material was cut, changed,and thematically distorted. Of the three films, Watchmen is by far the most loyal to the source material, but Moore and fans alike have grumbled loudly about the film. I really enjoyed the V for Vendetta and Watchmen films and generally think it’s great when artists try to interpret other artists’ work- like Prince covering Radiohead’s “Creep,” for example. I enjoy mash-ups, film adaptations, fan art, plays, homages, cosplay, and other instances where people contribute the larger essence of a work, giving it new life and killing the author is Barthesian fashion. In this way, I’m like Voltaire and would die for Jessica Simpson’s right to slaughter Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ” because art progresses with mistakes and the freedom to make them, good with the bad, bad with the good, equality with your neighbor and enemy alike and all that.

Adaptations are one thing. The Before Watchmen prequels are something else entirely because they’re not recreating Moore’s narrative in a parallel medium, but adding to Moore’s narrative in the same medium. Of course, they only add to the narrative if the reader allows it or enough readers allow it to justify the prequels entering the public perception of what Watchmen as a sequential art narrative entails, what constitutes its entirety. As an artist, I can understand how Moore feels threatened. It’s like Nickelback saying they want to add a few verses to “Stairway to Heaven,” but not as frightening. (That Nickelback thing might actually offend the gods in the volcano in my attempt to use hyperbole- I’m just trying to take the concept to its absurd conclusion, so forgive me.) Moore and fans also see the Before Watchmen series for what it is at its essence, a capitalist enterprise. Alan Moore is really mad, but the co-creator of Watchmen Dave Gibbons has given the project his blessing, which only complicates the validity of Moore’s assertion that DC Comics should not have pursued Before Watchmen.

What is Moore’s problem? Is it that he doesn’t like a comic book character being written by someone other than the creator? That would be absurd. Moore wrote Superman comics and he didn’t create Superman. Moore built his reputation on his run on Swamp Thing, which is a character created by Len Wein, the editor of the original Watchmen series and writer for the Ozymandias storyline of the Before Watchmen series. The greatest flaw of this argument lies in the original conception of Watchmen to be based on characters from Charlton Comics that Moore didn’t create, but also in the premise of Moore’s other acclaimed serieses League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Marvelman, From Hell, and Lost GirlsLOEG being the guiltiest party by featuring nearly two hundred characters that Moore did not create. Alan Moore has taken broad strokes with character he didn’t create, such broad and extreme strokes as shooting them, paralyzing, and taking naked photographs of them with the intent of driving their father insane. Moore has demonstrated a fondness for sexualizing, often violently, characters he didn’t create as seen graphically in LOEG and Lost Girls. A somewhat simplistic reading of LOEG will see it as merely common sexual fantasies manifested through the actions of Mina Murray- her sexual liberation through sexual assault at the hands of Dracula, the Invisible Man, and many others, her eternal youth, her bisexuality, a lover who can change genders (Orlando), the affections of multiple monsters, free love, incest (Quartmainn’s reincarnations), and on and on. The text itself is a sexual act and Lost Girls? That book’s even dirtier than LOEG, so if Alan Moore can take such sexual liberties with beloved characters from children’s stories, why should he be so upset by a couple of prequels for one twelve-issue graphic novel?

Is Moore’s problem with the capitalist enterprise of milking a story past its expiration date for financial reward? Isn’t that what comic books are all about? Such a large component of comics is the recurrence of characters, which is distinctly not a Nietzschean eternal recurrence but rather a more broad exponentially eternal recurrence as evidenced by the ever-expanding continuity organism that thrives on disruptions like the New 52 or Ultimates. Also, I love What If and Elseworlds imprints. In the case of Moore, didn’t he just release the LOEG: Century and Nemo books to cash in on the previous success of LOEG? Look at how those books were sold, Century is sold as three skinny books 1910, 1969, and 2009 even though they should be sold as a single graphic novel. Nemo has been released in hardcover despite being a mere 56 pages- $14.95 for 56 pages? Seriously? On this point, I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed every bit of LOEG and regard the additional material as worthwhile, but its nowhere near as good as the original first two volumes of the series, which probably stand better independent of the Black Dossier, the Century books, and Nemo. Mary Poppins might be worth it though.

I haven’t read Before Watchmen as I don’t read single issues and am waiting for the trades to come out. I’ve heard good things from people who read them and bad things, mostly from people who haven’t read them. I’m excited by the creative teams that worked on them- Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Jae Lee, Brian Azzarello, et al. are some of the most talented people working in comics. Stuff like Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote the Nite Owl storyline of Before Watchmen, is one of my favorite Superman storylines and the current Wonder Woman is one of the best titles being published, written by Brian Azzarello, who wrote the Comedian storyline of Before Watchmen. I’ll wait to see the final product before I judge and I’ll be amused and impressed, but not swayed, by Alan Moore’s commitment to his creations, despite obvious contradictions in his behavior- same with Prince.

I volunteer with a family from Myanmar every week, teaching them English. The kids in the family love superheroes. Here’s a picture where I drew them as pandas:pandakids

Here’s a Superman-related activity I made. I based it off the Simple English Wikipedia(a great resource for language teachers to find simple and interesting material) Superman origin story. It shouldn’t be much of a challenge for native speakers. Keep in mind, this puzzle is for beginning language learners, so somethings are simplified. Of course, I know Superman has more than one weakness. Here’s the puzzle:

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Here are the clues:

Superman is not from (20 Down).  He is an (8 Down) from a planet called Krypton. His (21 Down) named him (24 Across). His father, Jor-El, found out that their planet was going to (22 Across). Jor-El sent his baby son to (20 Down) in a (3 Down) to save him. Baby (24 Across) was found and (27 Across) by Jonathan and Martha Kent. They named him (2 Down). The Kents raised him as their own son in on their farm in a small (14 Across) called Smallville, (5 Across) in the United States.

As he grows up, Clark finds out that he has (17 Down) powers. He cannot be hurt.  He is (7 Down) enough to lift almost anything. He can (4 Down) like a bird. He can run and move faster than a speeding (23 Across). He has can see through walls and shoot heat from his (6 Across). He can (4 Across) things with his cold breath. He decides to use his special powers to fight (12 Across) and save people in (25 Across).  He wears a blue and red (2 Across) and cape to keep his identity (18 Down).

He moves to a (10 Down) called (16 Across), and becomes a journalist for the Daily Planet, the most popular (19 Across) in the world. He falls in (11 Across) with another journalist, (13 Down).

His only (9 Down) is a (15 Down), a radioactive rock from his home planet. It makes him (11 Down) his powers. His (26 Down) use it to hurt him. (15 Down) comes in many colors, but is usually (1 Down).

YOU CAN FIND MORE WAYNE XIAOLONG SUPERHERO CROSSWORD PUZZLES BY CLICKING here.

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This is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52. Please keep in mind that all honors are awarded based on their performances in the first collected volumes of their series. If you want me to weigh in on whether or not I approve of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, which begins in the second volume of Justice League, I’ll tell you that it’s okay with me because I know Superman’s going to find his way back to Lois Lane.  He loved Lana before he loved Lois and that worked out fine. The Kryptonian heart surely contains as many riddles as the human heart. I don’t blame Diana either because Steve Trevor has always seemed to me like what the porn industry calls a suitcase pimp. He’s a stripper’s boyfriend, a leech, an Andy Warhol Factory vampire. I thought the arranged marriage to Aquaman in Flashpoint was an interesting direction for her love life. I think Kara-El would also make an interesting mate for Diana. Before I start auctioning off rental space in Wonder Woman’s uterus, let’s get to the Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 2), which, in accordance with its title, is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52.

Best and Worst of the Superman Family of Titles

Best: Action Comics Sadly, none of the Superman titles approach the quality of stories like All Star Superman, Superman for All Seasons, Red Son, or Birthright. Still each of the titles in the Superman family offered entertaining fair. The new manifestations of some of the classic Superman relationships distinguish the New 52 Superman from his previous incantations. Obviously, there is Clark’s relationship with Lois. She’s very suspicious of him, a suspicion that is long overdue. Lois is a smart woman. Clark Kent is a sketchball with an obvious link to Superman. Finally, we have a Lois who suspects something. In Action Comics, Superman meets some of his classic villains for the ‘first’ time: Lex Luthor, Metallo, Brainiac. He also sees some old friends like Steel and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Grant Morrison seems a little greedy with the Superman mythology, making George Pérez’s complaint that Superman (which takes place 5 years after Action Comics) was difficult to write without the cooperation of Grant Morrison. The book itself is pretty straight comic book story-telling, unlike Morrison’s wilder stuff like The Filth or Flex Mentallo. Another relationship that we see start from the beginning is the relationship between Kal-El and his lovely cousin Kara in Supergirl. Supergirl is one of my favorite characters. I really enjoyed reading about her in the Superman/Batman and Supergirl titles prior to the reboot and I must admit that I prefer her in the skirt as opposed to the Power Girl-esque camel-toe-inducing outfit she has now. Her outfit looks classier in Supergirl than Superboy. She’s a great character. I look forward to seeing more of her in the New 52.

Worst: The premature death of Martha and Jonathan Kent. I don’t know who made the decision to have these two iconic Mary & Josephs die prior to Clark’s arrival in Metropolis, but that was a dumb move.  A lot of Superman’s renewed popularity comes from the success of Smallville, in which Clark’s Earth parents played a significant role. Many Superman fans suffered through Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and only survived because of the contributions of Eddie Jones and K Callan as the Kents.

Best and Worst of the Batman Family of Titles

Best: Batman. I really enjoyed most of the Batman books and the introduction of the Court of Owls as Gotham City’s spooky secret society. The overlap between books was good. I can only imagine the experience of reading Nightwing without knowing that Dick’s a Talon- a great tagline for your on-line dating site: Dick’s A Talon. I like a lot of the new villains introduced in the Batman books, but I like the Owls the best. Greg Capullo’s art is pretty sweet, though the rotating of the actual book is pretty hokey. Still I’m glad they’re experimenting. The most innovative art in the Batman family and possibly the whole New 52 is Batwoman. It’s a pity that J.H. Williams III didn’t continue to do the art after the first volume- no offense to the talented artists currently working on Batwoman, of course.

Worst: Catwoman. Catwoman was an okay book, but the others are much better. On a note unrelated to this honor, Catwoman and Batwoman are always dressing/undressing.

Best and Worst of the Green Lantern Family of Titles

Best: The origin stories of the Red Lanterns’ rages in Red Lanterns

Worst: The cheesy story at the end of Green Lantern Corps where John Stewart returns the GL he silenced with death to the GL’s family, only to have a few heart-warming moments with the GL’s mentally challenged younger brother. The depiction of the mentally challenged brother is insultingly cliché and surely offensive to mentally challenged Green Lantern readers everywhere. Sometimes Green Lantern stories amaze you with their social and political relevance and sometimes they seethe cheese like your grandmother’s knees.

Best and Worst of the Edge Family of Titles

Best: All Star Western. Telling the story of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in nineteenth century Gotham, All Star Western is a good mystery story. The art’s good, especially the covers. I wish DC had more titles that took place in the past. I’d really like to see some Elseworlds stories in the New 52. As a comic book historian, I like a little history in comics. It’s like wearing another gender’s corset.

Worst: Stormwatch I’m excited to see what Peter Milligan does with it. I really enjoyed his work on Red Lanterns and Justice League Dark

Best and Worst of the Dark Family of Titles

Best: I really, really, really like the three cancelled series from The Dark family of titles: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Resurrection Man, and I, Vampire. I feel certain that Resurrection Man, Frankenstein, and the other members of S.H.A.D.E. can survive without their own monthly title, but I was really looking forward to the development of the I, Vampire  plot. It’s cancellation is a bummer.

Worst: I haven’t read Demon Knights, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Jason Blood/Etrigan. It’s unfair to assign Demon Knights as the worst, but the other Dark titles are all so solid that I can’t bear to call them the worst.

best&worst

One of the reasons I took the internet and started this site is my hypothesis that superhero comic books are a uniquely democratic art form that has become increasingly democratic with the rise of internet communication. Superhero comic books have traditionally solicited the opinion of their readers. The industry has engaged in all sorts of gimmicks to find out what their audience likes and dislikes. The internet has allegedly made this process easier for the producer and consumer alike. Comic books are magic capitalism, right?

I’ve really enjoyed reading the first round of trades for DC Comics’ New 52. I’ve read nearly all of them and feel confident speaking on those I’ve read. Today I finished Men of War, which will probably be the last of the first round of New 52 trades that I will read. I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on the reboot with a list of bests/worsts and Men of War sparked the spark, compelling me to finally publish my list of bests/worst, to proclaim my demands and evaluations as a client, to cast my ballot across multiverses in a vain last minute attempt to influence the big decisions like which book gets cancelled (I’m too late) and which authors and artists should get raises. The truth is that I enjoyed every single one of these trades, so the ‘worst’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously except in the first case (Worst Line of Dialogue). The meaning of ‘best’ and ‘worst’ will surely change from category to category.  Sometimes ‘worst’ means ‘failed to live up to my expectations’ and my expectations are higher for Detective Comics than Hawk and Dove.

Best and Worst Lines of Dialogue

Best Line:  In DC Universe Presents Deadman, Deadman and the Son of Morning are playing twenty questions. I’m fond of one of the Son of Morning’s answers to Deadman’s run-of-the-mill philosophical questions.

“God has earned the right to ignore you.”

Worst Line: In the story “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS” in Men of War, Soldier Ice says to Soldier Tracker:

“I got out of the Peace Corps ‘cuz it made realize if you want to do good, it helps to have an assault rifle.”

Well, Jonathan Vankin, the author of the worst story in Men of War, has some interesting street cred. He’s written a bunch of conspiracy books and  edited Tony Bourdain’s comic. He’s an advocate of underground icon Harvey Pekar and he contributed to a shit ton of Verigo stuff and  participated in Brightest DayIf I see Jonathan Vankin’s name on a comic again, I won’t buy it. During my Peace Corps service and most of my life, I’ve found if you want to do good, people will assault rifles are a big fucking inconvenience.

Best and Worst Story Lines from Men of War

Best: “Frankestein and G.I. Robot: Dead Man Flying” by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Tom Derenick

Worst: The aforementioned “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS

Best and Worst Male Title Character

Best: Robin in Batman & Robin. Damian Wayne is one of my favorite characters and my favorite Robin of all time. I’d really love to see DC produce an animated film of Damian’s arrival into Bruce’s life. Peter J. Tomasi captures what makes Damian different from the other Robins and there’s a lot of difference between Damian and the previous Boy Wonders. Throughout the first trade, Damian and his tortured genius develop alongside Nobody’s nefarious plot, creating one of the more compelling story arcs of the New 52.

Worst: Green Lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. Kyle Rayner is the worst Green Lantern and by far the worst lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. The book could’ve been called Orange Lantern: New Guardians and avoided the dubious honor of Worst Male Title Character. I don’t mind hating Kyle Rayner too much, so if I was to issue one complaint about the book, I would request more attention be paid to Bleez. She’s a great character, really tears it up in Red Lanterns.

Best and Worst Female Title Character

Best: Batgirl in Batgirl. This is one of the hardest to choose because so many of the best titles in the New 52 are titles featuring female characters. Sorry, Wonder Woman. Sorry, Batwoman. Sorry, Voodoo. The return of Barbara Gordon to the identity of Batgirl brought me much joy. Gail Simone really used the landscape of Gotham, Barbara’s relationships with classic characters, and superb villainous foils to make the narrative of Barbara’s return to Batgirl meaningful.

Worst: Catwoman in Catwoman.

Best and Worst Team Title:

Best: Justice League. Yeah, everybody knows why Justice League is great. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are geniuses. It’s the cornerstone of the New 52, so let me talk about how great Red Lanterns is. In Red Lanterns, Peter Milligan tells the story of a corps in crisis and through that story, he visits the origin stories of many of the Red Lanterns. The artwork is explosive, especially if you like red. As I mentioned before, Bleez is incredible in this book. Her rage and the rage of the other Red Lanterns distinguish this corps from the others and prove why the Red Lanterns, more than any other corps besides the Greens, deserve their own title.

Worst: Stormwatch While I found Stormwatch engrossing and found several of the characters appealing, it lacks the magic that the other team titles possess. Martian Manhunter has traditionally been one of my favorite characters, but his direction in the New 52 leaves me wanting. Where is his personality? Does he just hate everybody now? He was an environmentalist in Brightest Day, Clark’s sort of 2nd round godfather on Smallville, down with M’Gann J’onnz despite their different colors, and a green Harlem Globetrotter for much of his career- you know, he was likeable. I like my Martian Manhunter with a little naivete, a little child-like wonder. Now he’s a super-cop, which is contemporary comics go-to archetype.

Best and Worst Legion of Super-Heroes Title

Best: Legion Secret Origin. I entered the New 52 with only a scant knowledge of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I knew they were from the future and hung out with Superman and Brainiac. I had also read a handful of articles about how the title tried with varying success to deal with race issues. Honestly, I’m pretty ignorant about these characters and feel them to be less important and less interesting than other characters in the DC universe. Because the stated goal of the New 52 is to help introduce new readers to these characters, I hoped this reboot would help me make sense of the scores of characters involved in the Legion. The mini-series Legion Secret Origin does a good of that. It gives these iconic characters as sense of youth, a sense of adventure that may have dwindled under the bureaucracy of the Legion.

Worst: Legion of Super-Heroes. As someone who is not a Legion of Super-Heroes expert, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters I was introduced to. After a few issues, I was able to ascertain which characters figured more prominently in the story and the Legion itself. I like Brainiac-5. I think the story in Legion Lost is more easily understood than Legion of Super-Heroes and deals with time travel more directly.

Best and Worst Member of S.H.A.D.E.

Best: Bride. First of all, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. has been one of the best titles to come out of the New 52 and my heart is broken that it has been cancelled. I really fell in love with Frank and his wife during Flashpoint. The characters in this title are each really special, so choosing one would be hard if Mrs. Frankenstein wasn’t on the team.

Worst: Warren Griffith. He’s a great character, just not as great as the others.

Best and Worst of the Seven Families of Titles (Justice League, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Edge, The Dark, Young Justice)

Best: Batman, with The Dark a close second. Because each family of titles has a different numbers of books in it, I’ve imagined an averaged level of quality, rather than which family has the best or largest amount of titles. Batman has a lot of titles and some are more connected than others. The Night of Owls and Batman, Inc. stories kept the family tightly pretty closely together.

Worst: Young Justice. Besides Teen Titans, none of the Young Justice titles really stood out.

Best and Worst of the Justice League

Best: The Flash, with Wonder Woman a close second. By far, The Flash features the funnest art in the New 52. A handful of New 52 titles exhibit particularly innovative art (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, I, Vampire) and the innovations in the visual representation correspond with the essence of the character being depicted; this is no truer than in The Flash, where speed is translated through blurs, fractures, bursts, and shatters.

Worst: Justice League International. This book is pretty offensive. It perpetuates the misconception that Africa is a country- superhero comic books seem to have an especially hard time dealing with this. General August in Irons represents an impossible China where their highest ranking military officials have never eaten a hot dog- seriously? Chinese people eat a variety of sausages, including hot dogs. Rocket Red perpetuates the same Cold War stereotypes he perpetuated before the reboot.

Keep your bat eyes bat-peeled for part 2, same bat-site, same bat-internet.

 

secret

I’m posting a crossword puzzle that I made based on characters from DC Comics. Hopefully it proves to be a fun and challenging distraction for some of you. Click here or at the crossword link on the top of the page to have a try. Following the link will allow you to see the clues.

realcrosswordeasytoprintforeasyboysandgirls

Image I recently posted the Will Power Timeline I’ve been working on. It attempts to draw connections to real world events with developments in the Green Lantern narrative. It’s unfinished, a work in progress. Any suggestions on things to add are appreciated. Also if you notice any glaring errors, I would appreciate it if you could bring those to my attention as well. I will keep adding to it as my research continues. You can visit the timeline by following the link at the top of the page or clicking on these words.

supermanfruit

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