The 1990s were a time of gimmicky covers for comic cooks. My favorites are the X-Men Holograms from the Fatal Attractions crossovers, and the skeletal madness of Wolverine #100. But 1994’s Man of Steel #30 takes the award for the most ridicuously creative. DC polybagged this relic with a sheet of “vinyl clings”, which are like the ColorForms I played with as a kid. Through some arcane magic, they cling to the surface but are easily peeled off and re-arranged. Man of Steel‘s character-less, wraparound cover invites you to create your own fight between Superman and Lobo, who spend most of the issue hitting each other before shaking hands at the end. Enjoy this gallery of scans of the front and back of the polybag, the front and back cover, and the vinyl clings.
My scan of the “stickers” is 600 dpi resolution, because I am thinking of getting it enlarged and printed on a t-shirt. My one-of-a-kind parasaurolophus t-shirt arrived last week, printed with a scan of one of the stickers from the Dinosaurs Attack! trading cards.
My version of the cover features eight-limbed octo-versions of the characters:
For being almost thirty years old, the vinyl clings adhere okay, but not great. They were somewhat unenthused about sticking to each other when piled on in layers. And they are much thinner than I recall Colorforms being. Still, they are a bit of nostalgic geek fun. (Update: Redditor /u/bloodfist converted these scans to a web-based version you can play with! If you want something more advanced, check out their digital version at the Photopea site, which is a free alternative to Photoshop.)
Man of Steel #30 went for the gimmick-cover trifecta by also being a variant. The other edition was printed with a face-bashing cover by Jon Bogdanove, who penciled the interior pages of Louise Simonson’s story. I am sure some speculators bought this issue with a $2.50 cover price thinking it would someday pay for their kids’ college funds. Sorry, 90s Boom Buyers! I got it last week for $2.70 in Near Mint, sealed condition. And since it actually cost me nothing with some store credit I earned thanks to this blog’s readers, it deserves a place in the Big Box of Comics!
While everyone else was obsessing over “The Snyder Cut”, I skipped all that and dug up some Justice League issues featuring Bryan Hitch, whose work I loved on The Authority, The Ultimates, and Fantastic Four. Here are the highlights.
In 2000, DC published a “100-Page Spectacular” called Heaven’s Ladder, written by Mark Waid and brought to life by the comic-art dream team of Hitch on pencils, long-time collaborator Paul Neary on inks, and the incomparable Laura Martin on colors. The story begins on the microscopic level as The Atom does microsurgery on viral DNA, then expands to truly epic scale as the most massive spaceship I’ve ever seen steals Earth from its orbit.
The epic scale is why I recommend reading this book in digital format instead of the perfect-bound paperback format. In the paperback, too much of the art is swallowed by the gutter, the area of book pages that “disappears” near the spine—not just Hitch’s masterful two-page spreads, but even some of the dialogue. It would have worked much better in print if DC broke it into smaller issues in standard, stapled comic-book format so we could open the books all the way to see everything.
Still, the visual splendor is undeniable. What is there not to love about Wonder Woman being a total bad-ass and taking on a fleet of spaceships, wrangling one with her lasso and steering it on a collision course with a planet where it explodes, leaving her to emerge from the flames with a look that wordlessly says, “Is that all you’ve got?”
This tale has many great moments like that. I especially love Superman’s line of dialogue as the team goes into combat, where only three words lend all the emotional punch that’s needed on a perfectly rendered double-splash page.
Without giving away the plot, I’ll say that Waid’s script includes many thought-provoking concepts, including how different sentient races conceive of the afterlife in different ways. It’s a “thinking man’s” Justice League story, but if you think about it too hard, some of it makes no sense. For example, members of the League are forced to become exposition machines to explain to the reader what is being seen on the page, even when it seems improbable that they would understand the crazy cosmic stuff they are looking at.
Plus, Waid’s use of “science” concepts conveniently ignores plenty of science in service of the plot. For example, a bunch of planets are held in place by some kind of hand-waving gravity thingies, but if planets were really as close to each other as depicted, their gravities would rip each other apart. Worse, the Earth is removed from its orbit and *spoiler alert* gets put back in place at the end. But what about the moon? I can suspend my disbelief to think a giant spaceship took Earth away, even without the ship being crushed into a sphere by its own massive gravity. But I can’t believe that the moon would be waiting for Earth when it got back. The moon would be long gone!
If you can kick back and enjoy the spectacle without overthinking it too much, if you’d love to see the Justice League in a cosmic-level battle drenched in glorious color and eye-popping art, give Heaven’s Ladder a shot.
I looked into more of Hitch’s work on Justice League, and my favorite story is a multi-issue drama where a legendary Kryptonian god named Rao comes to Earth with wonderful gifts and apparently benevolent purposes. He turns out to be a scumbag, and the conflict is not just interplanetary but involves a bit of time travel, too.
Even with Hitch writing and penciling, we get “sciencey” stuff that ends up making no sense. The thing that bugged me most was how it’s clearly stated that part of the evil plan involves genetically altering humans, but the plot conveniently sweeps that detail under the rug by saying the solution to stopping Rao’s control over humans is an electrical blast. I am willing to suspend my disbelief in favor of the old trope that electricity can do anything—and look awesome while doing it—but you can’t genetically alter the human race then just ignore that.
So, like Heaven’s Ladder, the Rao storyline is one to be enjoyed for its epic scale of conflict and jaw-dropping artwork, just so long as you don’t require your science-fiction to be consistently scientific when it might get in the way of advancing the plot.
Finally, I read the first arc of Justice League that Hitch wrote after the “Rebirth” nonsense at DC. I call it nonsense because DC realized they had screwed up some things with the New 52 and decided the solution was to reveal that Dr. Manhattan from the totally unrelated Watchmen had been altering DC history, leading once again to a complete overhaul of the hapless “DC Universe”.
This is such a stupid idea and such a horrible use of Watchmen characters that I get angry just thinking about it. Back in the 1980s, DC revamped their whole universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it seemed like a decent idea at the time—even a dramatic, exciting, and original one. But now, every time DC sees declining sales, the big bosses decide they need to do some pointlessly convoluted mega-event to give all their comics a simultaneous makeover. Let’s have an Infinite Crisis! Let’s have a Final Crisis! Let’s have a New 52 relaunch! Let’s have a Flashpoint! Let’s have a Rebirth! Let’s reboot everything all the time!
Let’s give me a frickin’ break, DC. All you need to do is write awesome stories with awesome art about awesome characters. The constant reshuffling of the DC Universe every few years is garbage. I don’t usually rant on this blog, but this is a major flaw that Hitch needed to deal with in the pages of Justice League. Suddenly, we have a new Superman who is really the old Superman from an alternate universe, and he doesn’t want to do his world-saving job because he is married or something, so the League needs to talk him into it, despite Batman not trusting him because it isn’t the right Superman. Please, make it stop. Even Marvel has been infected by this mentality now. Stop revamping and smashing “universes” together!
To Hitch’s credit, he did the best he could with the flaming pile of dog crap that DC management left on his porch. The result is a bunch of characters who don’t talk or act like the characters we’ve known for decades, but more like they are in a vintage Authority story using different costumes. Batman acts like Jack Hawksmoor. Wonder Woman acts like Jenny Sparks. It kind of worked for me because I loved Hitch’s run on The Authority, but I felt like this “Rebirth” version of the League wasn’t really the League at all.
Still, the story looks absolutely amazing even though Hitch didn’t draw it. One of my favorite moments is Wonder Woman’s first scene in the adventure, where once again she is portrayed as an absolute bad-ass, a goddess you do not want to mess with. Behold.
Hitch ignited a fanboy crush on Wonder Woman I didn’t know I had! And even the new/old Superman gets some awesome moments, too. Is Hitch’s work on Justice League an indispensable part of my collection? No, but it looks so damn good that I can’t avert my eyes, and it includes memorable moments for these characters in the kind of grand conflicts that made The Authority such a joy to read. It’s a mixed bag, but one worth looking into if you want to see the League save the universe in style.
The images in today’s gallery come to us courtesy of the archives at The Supergirl Project. Some of these public service announcements from the National Social Welfare Assembly have graced our virtual pages here before. But something unexpected happened last year when we put one on Twitter. It got picked up by someone from the NSWA, now known as the National Human Services Assembly. It turns out they were collecting these old ads for their archives! Last we heard, they had gathered quite a collection. Enjoy a few below. Superman even makes a couple appearances!
Alright. This issue of World’s Finest is so incredibly whacked out that we almost lack words to describe it. Perhaps psychoanalysis would better suit this issue than description. You’ve got juvenile versions of Superman and Batman. Yeah, yeah, they’re sons of Supes and Bats… Whatever. Like that makes any sense. Who are their moms?
Then you have this dream-like story about a town filled with women who are NOT happy to see the boys, a giant one-eyed monster on a tower (dear lord, my Freud is aching), a scene where the guys get naked and put on each other’s clothes… You can blame it on author Bob Haney if you want, but maybe this comic book isn’t even real and you are just dreaming about it.
In which case, you need serious psychotherapy.
First, go schedule your appointment, then come back and take a peek inside these pages we photographed before listing this beast on eBay. What? You need your own copy printed on the corpses of trees where endangered owls used to make babies? Well, don’t let us stop you. Buy World’s Finest #233; DC Comics, 1975. It is also reprinted in the collection Saga of the Super Sons 2007 trade paperback.
Collector’s Guide: From Superman: For Tomorrow by Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams. Originally printed as Superman #204-215; DC Comics, 2004. Collected in Superman For Tomorrow Hardcover and Paperback.
Martin Pasko and Curt Swan crafted my favorite issue of Superman. I had this one back in 1978 — probably the Whitman version — and recently picked it up again. It’s still awesome! How do they do that? You can tell it’s going to be amazing right from the question mark layout on the first page.
Are you ready for the attack of the killer Kryptonoid? What the heck is a Kryptonoid? That’s what Superman needs to figure out before it’s too late. One touch from this shape-shifting, metal-controlling pink monstrosity and it’s all over for Supes! The sick, twisted tragedy of the Kryptonoid’s origin, once revealed, slays us every time. Plus, Clark Kent gets naked for Lana Lang — sort of. Believe me, if I was Superman, I’d fly around naked, too. Just because I could.
The image gallery includes a tribute page: a memorial to Mort Weisinger who died on May 7, 1978. The resolution should be high enough that you can read the full text by zooming in. Something I did not include from this issue: a back-up story about Mr. & Mrs. Superman, an alternate reality where Supes and Lois are married.
Collector’s Guide: From Superman #329; DC Comics, 1978. The first half of the story appeared in Superman #328. But don’t worry, Pasko’s three-page opening recap gives you all the details you need!
Witness the glory of “Computer Masters of Metropolis!” in our gallery today. This free promotional comic book from Radio Shack perfectly captures the state of consumer computer tech in 1982. I know, because I was there. I got this book when it came out! Dad worked at Radio Shack back then, and he always brought home a copy of their comics for me. You might get a laugh now in 2013, but things like “a subscription to an information retrieval service” were a big deal in those thrilling days of yesteryear.
So, try to imagine a primitive world before people born during the Clinton administration were old enough to legally buy beer! In this world, you loaded computer programs and video games from a cassette player. It made a high-pitched tortured mechanical scream the whole time, and the low-fi games were all written in BASIC. Alec and Shanna — the Tandy Whiz Kids, named for Radio Shack’s Tandy computers and TandyVision video games — use this ancient tech to save the day. They look up newspaper articles about Lex Luthor to help save Superman! What nerds!
The scene which most chills my blood shows young Alec working in silence for an hour as the computer gives him problem after problem at speeds faster than he ever could have imagined. NNAYARGH! That precisely describes several really awful temp jobs I had in the mid-1990s!
Compuserve was a big deal when these comics came out, and it gets several mentions. Whatever happened to Compuserve? Hey, you can read all about them on the greatest “information retrieval service” to date: Wikipedia!
I haven’t reproduced the whole issue here, just some of the stunningly “old-school” technology. The part about Superman is cheese-eriffic, but Wonder Woman makes a good electronics teacher!
1965: You could call it the Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am age of comics. In the brief sixteen pages of the cover story from World’s Finest #147, we experience an exploding tower of rocket fuel, giant mutant eagles, a car wreck, an invasion by giant robotic water beetles, a trip to another planet, telepathic aliens, and one %@$#-ing insane science experiment.
Whoa! No wonder I loved reading this as a kid. That, plus lots of youth rebellion. Yes! World’s Finest #147 was one of the treasures I discovered in Gramma’s garage of comic book utopia. It left a lasting impression on me. I share it with you today in all its rampaging Silver Age glory!
The story is called “The New Terrific Team!” Superman and Batman get put in their place when teenage sidekicks Robin and Jimmy Olsen decide to strike out on their own. But are the boys’ heroic deeds driven by a more sinister menace? Find out!
Here’s the second half of the story we looked at yesterday, where Superman and the Flash get roped into racing to the end of time by some freaky aliens.
Once they get there, though, they have to travel all the way forward in time to get back to where they started. Why? Because time is a circle! Didn’t you learn anything from yesterday’s post? Anyway, Pasko and Garcia-Lopez give us all of human history in a single splash page. It’s full-flavored Bronze Age DC goodness, Martians. Enjoy!
Superman and the Flash get roped into racing to the end of time by some freaky aliens. If that doesn’t sound like a premise for greatness, you may be at the wrong website! We’ve got Martin Pasko scripting. Swamp Thing fans might recall he was on the book for the inception of the second volume. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez really hits the perfect look for this book; just the right balance of cartoon silly and sci-fi awesome.
But maybe I’m biased. I first read this as an impressionable little Martians close to the time it came out in 1978. So impressionable, in fact, that Pasko’s explanation of time as a circle still seems completely reasonable to me. His aliens explain that if you went to the end of time, you would actually be at the beginning of time… Screw Stephen Hawking, I’m going with Pasko cosmology!
In World’s Finest #146, Batman takes part in ‘five minutes of silence’ observed by Superman and every other surviving Kryptonian on the anniversay of Krypton’s destruction. The silent ceremony triggers a memory in Batman — a memory he could not possibly have unless he, too, was from Krypton! The ensuing drama and its resolution tug at my heart strings every time I read it.
Every so often, my local comic shop puts some well-worn silver age comics in the $5 bargain box. “Affordable Silver Age” says the sign. Okay — I’ll bite! Last time, I found this copy of World’s Finest #146. True, the science is completely goofy, and the writing aims at a younger audience. But, this is one of those gems I read as a youngster in the amazing comic book stash in Gramma’s garage. If I haven’t bored you with that memoir before, jump over to my other favorite issue of World’s Finest: World’s Finest #147.
Even if you’re not a big Silver Age fan, I encourage you to check out this story. You might never think of Krypton in the same way again!
Here’s another one of the rare ads we just couldn’t bring ourselves to delete from the archives. Straight out of 1979, this ad for “Kryptonite Rocks” is for one of those things we always wanted our parents to get for us. After all, they glow in the dark! The kryptonite, that is — not our parents. On the other hand, if you asked Superman, he would tell you that Kryptonite does NOT rock! It sucks!
Not wanting to be outdone by Dr. Doom’s domestic abilities, Superman shows us how he keeps his SuperPad so SuperClean! Not only can he leap tall buildings with a single bound, but he’s pretty awesome with a vacuum cleaner. Of course, he has to deal with all those unstable chemicals on the table! Guess how THAT turns out.
Jim Starlin re-worked many of his older ideas in Dreadstar. Take for example the cover of DC Comics Presents #93: Superman meets the Elastic Four! (Believe us, the cover is the best part of this issue…) All these stretchy dudes bring to mind the cover of Dreadstar #21!
Today’s gallery features the scene from Dreadstar #21 where the teleportation drive blows up. Plenty of distorted bodies and Ditko-esque special effects here!