Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "silver-age"

Book Review: Showcase Presents Superman

Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1 Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1 by Jerry Siegel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This monster sized 560-page collection contains 17 months of Superman stories from June 1958-November 1959.

To enjoy this book, you have to understand Superman of this era. The Superman Stories of the early Silver Age are not primarily considered about Superman's rogue's gallery or finding some challenge that's physically equal to the Man of Steel. Very few stories in this book are about that. What made Superman stories interesting to folks in the late 1950s was that the books were about Superman. Superman has a ton of superpowers and is the type of scientific genius/troubleshooter who could give modern-day Batman a run for his money.

But the guy's got problems. He wants to maintain his identity as Clark Kent and keep his job at the planet. He's got countless villains after him and Kryptonite seemed to be plentifully available. Superman's problems are different, though, so more people will empathize with Peter Parker being bullied then Superman having his head turned into a lion.

Simply put, Superman is pretty interesting guy and complaining about quality of villains is like whining about the quality of opponents the Harlem Globetrotters play. No one is there to see the Washington Generals. Same thing with Superman. Who cares if he's taking on Sinister Thug #20. The writers make it seem interesting.

So what does this book have? It features issues of Both Superman and Action Comics. The Action Comics story would usually be 12-13 pages long. The Superman books were longer but usually came with three stories eight-to-nine pages in length.

Superman firsts and old favorites: DC's decision to begin in 1958 wasn't arbitrary. Some pretty amazing things happen right off the bat. Action Comics #241 introduces the arctic Fortress of Solitude. In the course of the book, we see the first appearances of Brainiac, Metallo, Supergirl, the bottled city of Kandor, and the adult Bizarro. In addition, Luther comes in for several appearances. All very amazing stuff to see all these firsts.

Comedy: People always talk about unintentional humor in these books, but I think there's plenty of intentional humor, such as in "Superman Joins the Army." when a headstrong Captain is determined to have Superman drafted and treated exactly like any other soldier. Hilarity ensues. There's the story where Superman forgets his identity of Clark Kent, so he adopts another identity as a British man-name of Clarence Kelvin. Superman in this book has its serious moments but is far more light-hearted.

Emotion: There are some pretty moving moments in the book. There's the story in which the Kents (deceased during the Silver age) travel forwards in time to meet their boy. Superman gets all emotional and takes them to the Fortress of Solitude. They're disappointed when they found the room dedicated to Superman's parents is for Jor-el and Lara. However, Superman had a special one for his Earth Parents. Superman says to them, "I have two sets of parents and love them both dearly...I can never thank you enough for having adopted me." Very sweet. Another favorite scene is when Superman finds himself with a head of a lion. Lois Lane's interest in Superman often seems shallow and a little creepy but when she kisses him while he's got the head of lion, it's absolutely beautiful.

Untold Tales of Superman and Imaginary Stories: Some of the Superman magazines included Untold Tales of Superman. These range from so-so to fascinating. None is better than, "The Girl in Superman's Past" that has a college-aged Clark Kent considering ending his career as Superman to be with a beautiful girl in a wheelchair in a beautiful story. There's also a full-length Adventures of Superman that was dedicated to imagining Clark Kent's life had Krypton not blown up. It's an early pre-cursor to the Elseworlds stories that DC has released in recent years.

Not every story is "Super" but most of them are great and these 17 months of comics are highly entertaining. See Superman battling Lex Luthor as the Kryptonite Man and Jimmy Olson has a crazy battle with Superman with a nice surprise twist.

The book's not without its flaws. My personal pet peeve is "*choke*" being used repeatedly to show emotion. The ready is light and unbelievably fun. Silver Age Superman is a courageous, funny, smart, and sweet Superhero, and definitely makes for some worthwhile reading.



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Published on May 29, 2013 22:16 Tags: silver-age, superman

Book Review: Showcase Presents Superman Volume 1

Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1 Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1 by Jerry Siegel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This monster sized 560-page collection contains 17 months of Superman stories from June 1958-November 1959.

To enjoy this book, you have to understand Superman of this era. The Superman Stories of the early Silver Age are not primarily considered about Superman's rogue's gallery or finding some challenge that's physically equal to the Man of Steel. Very few stories in this book are about that. What made Superman stories interesting to folks in the late 1950s was that the books were about Superman. Superman has a ton of superpowers and is the type of scientific genius/troubleshooter who could give modern-day Batman a run for his money.

But the guy's got problems. He wants to maintain his identity as Clark Kent and keep his job at the planet. He's got countless villains after him and Kryptonite seemed to be plentifully available. Superman's problems are different, though, so more people will empathize with Peter Parker being bullied then Superman having his head turned into a lion.

Simply put, Superman is pretty interesting guy and complaining about quality of villains is like whining about the quality of opponents the Harlem Globetrotters play. No one is there to see the Washington Generals. Same thing with Superman. Who cares if he's taking on Sinister Thug #20. The writers make it seem interesting.

So what does this book have? It features issues of Both Superman and Action Comics. The Action Comics story would usually be 12-13 pages long. The Superman books were longer but usually came with three stories eight-to-nine pages in length.

Superman firsts and old favorites: DC's decision to begin in 1958 wasn't arbitrary. Some pretty amazing things happen right off the bat. Action Comics #241 introduces the arctic Fortress of Solitude. In the course of the book, we see the first appearances of Brainiac, Metallo, Supergirl, the bottled city of Kandor, and the adult Bizarro. In addition, Luther comes in for several appearances. All very amazing stuff to see all these firsts.

Comedy: People always talk about unintentional humor in these books, but I think there's plenty of intentional humor, such as in "Superman Joins the Army." when a headstrong Captain is determined to have Superman drafted and treated exactly like any other soldier. Hilarity ensues. There's the story where Superman forgets his identity of Clark Kent, so he adopts another identity as a British man-name of Clarence Kelvin. Superman in this book has its serious moments but is far more light-hearted.

Emotion: There are some pretty moving moments in the book. There's the story in which the Kents (deceased during the Silver age) travel forwards in time to meet their boy. Superman gets all emotional and takes them to the Fortress of Solitude. They're disappointed when they found the room dedicated to Superman's parents is for Jor-el and Lara. However, Superman had a special one for his Earth Parents. Superman says to them, "I have two sets of parents and love them both dearly...I can never thank you enough for having adopted me." Very sweet. Another favorite scene is when Superman finds himself with a head of a lion. Lois Lane's interest in Superman often seems shallow and a little creepy but when she kisses him while he's got the head of lion, it's absolutely beautiful.

Untold Tales of Superman and Imaginary Stories: Some of the Superman magazines included Untold Tales of Superman. These range from so-so to fascinating. None is better than, "The Girl in Superman's Past" that has a college-aged Clark Kent considering ending his career as Superman to be with a beautiful girl in a wheelchair in a beautiful story. There's also a full-length Adventures of Superman that was dedicated to imagining Clark Kent's life had Krypton not blown up. It's an early pre-cursor to the Elseworlds stories that DC has released in recent years.

Not every story is "Super" but most of them are great and these 17 months of comics are highly entertaining. See Superman battling Lex Luthor as the Kryptonite Man and Jimmy Olson has a crazy battle with Superman with a nice surprise twist.

The book's not without its flaws. My personal pet peeve is "*choke*" being used repeatedly to show emotion. But other than that, this really is light and unbelievably fun. Silver Age Superman is a courageous, funny, smart, and sweet Superhero, and definitely makes for some worthwhile reading.



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Published on October 29, 2013 20:30 Tags: showcase, silver-age, superman

Book Review: Essential Spider-man 2

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2 Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This second volume of the Amazing Spider-man collected Amazing Spider-man Issues 21-43 and Annuals #2 and #3.

Is this as amazingly good as the first Volume of Spider stories? Not quite. There's really not a comparison to facing off against the Sinister Six, but there are plenty of great stories that feature the world's greatest webslinger in amazing exploits that showcase his character as we get to see Peter Parker grow up.

Some highlights. We have a guest appearance by the Human Torch (issue 21), Green Goblin (23, 26,27, 39, 40), and Spidey thinks he’s going insane (24), gets attacked by a corny robot (25), and graduates High School (28), he has to battle the Master Planner and save Aunt May’s Life (31-33) and then there are two big battles with the Rhino sandwiched by one with J Jonah Jamison’s superpowered sons (41-43), the introduction of Mary Jane (42), .and then the book wraps up with Spidey’s first tryout for the Avenges (Spider-man Annual #3).

Beyond the highlights, Spider-man remains a thoroughly enjoyable title. As a Character, Peter shows some solid growth as a person as well as some great heroic moments. I love the story arch where he’s desperately trying to save Aunt May from his sickness caused by a transfusion from his radioactive blood and has to go through one of his toughest foes get it.

Avengers Annual #3 has Spidey facing a great dilemma when the short-handed Avengers offer him membership. His mission is to bring them the Hulk. Avengers membership would give him respectability, but Spider-man’s compassion and decency lead him to make a choice that is costly and painful.

I don’t know if I could ever fully appreciate the revelation of the Green Goblin’s identity in Spider-man #39. I’ve known it since I was a teenager. But Stan Lee kept it under wraps for 2 years even while Gobbie became Spidey’s toughest opponent. It was a great story as were the other Goblin stories in the book.

Issue 39 also saw the art chores change from Steve Ditko to John Romita who may have even become more beloved among Spidey fans. The best Romita moment was in Issue 42 with the creation of Mary Jane Watson who Peter had been avoiding meeting for Months. The intro of Mary Jane may be one of the best pieces of comic art created.

There’s something about Mary Jane. She’s perhaps the most beautiful comic book woman ever created. A lot of comic book artists can draw a sexy women, just by exposing breasts and legs and creating a whole lot of superficial stuff. What Romita does with Mary Jane in the famous “Face it tiger, you hit the jackpot.” frame is that we actually only see her from the waist up, and what Romita’s art communicates more than anything else is confidence and vitality. While other women in the comic books look more like comic book characters, there’s something very real about the way Romita draws Mary Jane and that’s a definite highlight.

Even stories that have Spidey battling lesser villains such as the Molten Man and the Looter, Spidey’s tricks and his line of patter make for great adventures.

If I had one complaint, it would be that the break up with Betty Brant was really painfully drawn out. But that’s a minor point.

Overall, this is classic Spider-man with all the action, adventure, and honor that made him such a great character. This is a truly essential title.




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Published on November 29, 2013 18:21 Tags: silver-age, spider-man

Book Review: Doom Patrol Archives, Volume 2

The Doom Patrol Archives, Vol. 2 The Doom Patrol Archives, Vol. 2 by Arnold Drake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The original Doom Patrol, DC's team comic book that looks like a Marvel magazine continues in this 2nd archive edition, collecting Doom Patrol Issues 90-97 for September 1964-August of 1965.

If anything, writer Arnold Drake stepped up in these eight stories. The Doom Patrol universe expands with the introduction of a Mento, a superhero with designs on Elasti-girl. Both Robotoman and Larry Trainor resent him. Though his amazing mental powers lead to an offer to join the Doom Patrol that one member votes down. Who is a bit of a surprise.

Elasti-girl continues to be the most interesting character in the book though Robotman has a few interesting stories as well.

The stories are very well-developed. Unlike most other DC books, of the era, seven of the eight issues had book length tales, which means that most stories are about five pages longer than the typical Marvel story of the same era. As such, there's great fight scenes, great plot twists, and some good character moments.

Through the first six issues, I was prepared to give this collection four stars for the simple reason that the villains were quirky and fun, but nothing really special or epic, however Issues 96 and 97 have a fantastic story with the Doom Patrol taking on its most dangerous challenge ever.

Overall, the Doom Patrol is action packed, thrilling, and with great characters that are just fun to read. This collection is highly recommended.



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Published on December 22, 2013 18:06 Tags: doom-patrol, silver-age

Book Review: Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies Volume 1: 1959-1961

Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies Volume 1: 1959-1961 (Superman: the Silver Age Dailies) Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies Volume 1: 1959-1961 by Jerry Siegel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book reprints more than two years of Daily Superman Comic book strips from 1959-61.

All but one story in this book has been reprinted elsewhere in its comic book form, but this book invites us to read different cuts of these stories. Many of them were far more complete. One great example is the Ugly Superman Story where Lois' motives for falling in love with the homely wrestler and going by the nickname of the Ugly Superman are better explained and it's actually a much better story.

I've read several of these before and all that I recognized were the same or better than the comic book versions. These are stories when Superman was a lot more fun and fantastic. A few strip series used comic book tales from Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane, so there are a few Lois Lane stories in here. (But no Jimmy Olsen based ones for some reason.)

The first story in this book, "Earth's Super Idiot" was not from the comic books and was a fun tale of Superman having to humiliate himself for galactic film makers and find some way to turn the table. "Superman's Return to Krypton" is a classic story of the Man of Steel travelling back through time to pre-Destroyed Krypton and meeting his parents and falling in love, joyful to find a woman who loves him for himself and not his powers. The story has a very poignant ending.

I also loved "The Super Servant of Crime." Another big favorite was, "Superman's Billion Dollar Debt" where an IRS man tries to collect back taxes from Superman. I give credit to Superman Creator and strip writer Jerry Siegel for having this strip published not only during tax time but directly AFTER Superman saved the word from being conquered. And it turns out that the reason the agent's going after Superman is that he hasn't reviewed tax law carefully enough. That's the IRS for you.

Of course, the silver age wasn't without its problems. There was a little repetition. Perry White put himself in mysterious disguises not once but twice in this book. The last two stories featuring Lois Lane also had issues. "The Perfect Husband" has a really stupid and "convenient" ending. And "The Mad Woman of Metropolis" seemed to go too dark for DC's Silver Age with Lois Lane typing up a suicide note. If it was supposed to funny, the comedy didn't age well.

Still, these issues are overridden by the pure awesomeness of most of this book and this is a great new story for fans of the Man of Steel.



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Published on December 31, 2013 18:24 Tags: silver-age, superman

Book Review: Doom Patrol Archives, Volume 3

The Doom Patrol Archives, Vol. 3 The Doom Patrol Archives, Vol. 3 by Arnold Drake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This third collection of Doom Patrol stories is the best yet, collecting Issues 98-105 of Doom Patrol along with Issue 48 of Challengers of the Unknown.

The first two collections were superb but this one topped them. There are a number of reasons why.

First and foremost was the introduction of Beast Boy, a spunky orphan with the amazing Superpower to change himself into any animal and a smart aleck attitude that was second to none. The character also had a compelling personal story as his guardian is stealing his money. The character is a great addition. My only complaint is that his first appearance in Doom Patrol #99 is a bit of a ripoff. While I don't usually lend credence to such allegations. In his first appearance, Beast Boy tries to gain admittance to the Doom Patrol by breaking into their headquarters and fighting them, a plot that sounds familiar if you've ever read Amazing Spider-man #1. Despite the ripoff introduction, the character makes a great addition to the mix and a fantastic foil to Robotman.

I also loved the introduction of Mr. 103, a villain who could change himself into any of the then-103 known elements. Meteor Man was mindless but fun, particularly with the idea of the man who had been changed into Meteor Man trying to send subliminal messages.

The book's crossover story between the Challengers of the Unknown and the Doom Patrol was a highlight as the four challengers, the members of the Doom Patrol, Beast Boy, and Mento took on four of the Challengers' greatest foes led by multi-man. Truly, an epic story.

The book's ongoing characters continued to be enjoyable except perhaps for Larry. Rita continues to be my favorite Silver Age Superheroine. These books written before feminism became a thing in comics, which is good. Rita doesn't come off like Marvel and DC's attempts to appease the womens' lib movement, rather she comes as a very real character who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to say it. She stands up to both her own team and Mentos when she feels she's being disrespected. The book features the story, "Bride of the Doom Patrol," which features a superhero wedding story like no other with cameos by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Teen Titans. Not quite the cast that would go to Aquaman's wedding but still pretty snazzy.

Robotman actually stands out better in this book. He clashes frequently with Beast Boy. In addition, Arnold Drake decided to tell his backstory in a series of 8 page back up stories. It's unusual because usually these back up stories are somewhat shallow one-shot stories with a little bit of humor. However, Drake told a 38-page story over the course of four issues with boy the Challenger Team Up and Bridge of the Doom Patrol demanding the longer tale. The story was as close to a realistic look at how a man would feel to wake up to find his brain in a robot body. It's not grim and gritty but it's got some emotional power.

Overall, this is just a great book. The Doom Patrol are fantastic as well as very human. The comics in this book are as good as any comics published in the Silver Age and better than many. This is a must-read for fans of vintage comics.



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Published on September 10, 2014 19:12 Tags: doom-patrol, silver-age

Book Review: DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories: 11 Tales You Never Expected to See!

DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories: 11 Tales You Never Expected to See! DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories: 11 Tales You Never Expected to See! by Otto Binder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


During the Golden and Silver Age, most DC comics reset back to normal. Continuity existed, but on a very basic level that allowed villains to recall their last encounter. At the end of the day, you reset to Status Quo. No one got married, no one important died.

That's why Imaginary Stories were so powerful. While the results of the stories were said to be "imaginary" as far as impacting continuity, it was in Imaginary stories that readers got a chances to see actual plot changes and shake ups of the Status Quo or to imagine how things might be different. I'm going to divide my review of the stories by character:

Captain Marvel: This story from 1946 was actually from Fawcett for Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam, I guess) and it's a terrifying little tale as Captain Marvel encounters atomic war and for once Earth's mightiest mortal is essentially powerless to stop it. In one scene, he saves a woman from the blast only for her to die from the radiation. Powerful stuff and well-drawn and written.

Flash: The Flash tale included in here is a tad dumb. The Flash debated not wearing a mask as the Golden Age version hadn't (opting for a helmet that hid his hair. However, he had a daydream where that went wrong and it changed his mind. Really? Somebody spent 7 pages writing that?

Supergirl/Jimmy Olsen: As is typical for Jimmy Olsen tales, this is a comedy of errors. Supergirl gets amnesia, meets Jimmy Olsen and falls in love with him as her secret identity and then becomes convinced he has to woo him as Supergirl. Okay, but not great.

Batman: The Second Life of Batman (1959) asks what would have happened if Bruce's parents hadn't been killed. The results are somewhat dull. The second, "Batman's New Secret Identity" is a tale "by Alfred" imagining that Batman's secret identity is revealed so he established another one (for some reason instead of just being Batman all the time.) Despite the bad premise, the story plays out to be a solid adventure.

Superman has got the mother lode of imaginary stories and they're here and they are amazing. "Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent" is from Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane and is light comedy imagining what if she got her wish of marrying Superman by marrying Clark Kent. "The Death of Superman" from 1961 tells the tale of Superman's demise and it tells it with pathos and a lot of emotion even though its imaginary. "The Amazing Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue" is the type of story that would have ended the comic as Superman splits into two equally good halves, turns Earth into a Utopia free of evil, resolves all his relationship issues, and ends crime as we know it, and Lex Luthor even gets his hair back. It's wish fulfillment and the type of story that would end the comic and the DC Universe, but for happy endings you can't beat it.

"The Three Wives of Superman" takes a look at if Superman decided to marry and the resulting string of tragedies that occurred. Although, he could have prevented some of it by not proposing to his Second Wife Lana in the middle of her wedding to Lex Luthor thus leading Luthor to become evil again, but nobody's perfect. Finally, there's "The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons" which avoids getting into the Lois/Lana debate by always keeping "mother" grayed out and we're introduced to sons "Kal El II" and "Jor El II." Kal doesn't have superpowers, while Jor El does leading to a friction and the boy's quest to find his place in the world. Again, a very emotionally satisfying tale.

The final tale features Superman and Batman in, "Superman and Batman-Brothers" from 1964. The story's premise was somewhat weak as inexplicably authorities in Gotham decided to give an orphaned Bruce Wayne to the Kents. However, it gets interesting with Clark observing Young Bruce at school and even feeling a bit jealous. The end does feel weak, but it's still worthwhile.

Overall, this is a nice book with some of the greatest imaginary stories (particularly the Superman ones) showing you SIlver Age heroes in a different way. While Marvel's What If and DC's new Elseworlds have surpassed these stories for complexity and variety, the ones in this book are still classics worth reading.



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Published on February 08, 2015 20:17 Tags: dc-comics, imaginary-tales, silver-age

The Many Versions of Superman, Part Three: The Fun Adventurer and the Savior

See Part One and Part Two.

Having covered the first three different versions of Superman, we turn to two others:

4) The Fun Adventurer:

While Superman would always be a role model, he couldn't be just a role model. Superman during the 1950s and through the 1960s was probably one of the most consistently fun comic book heroes.

Superman's adventures were weird, they were wacky, and they were fun. Under Mort Weisinger, the series had Superman enjoying numerous wacky and colorful adventures.

Superman had a team of robots who could fill in for him. He had a Super Best Friend in Batman. He had a Fortress of Solitude that makes the Batcave look like a kid's treehouse.

Superman stories of this era have some silly or off moments, but they're something so incredibly fun and joyful. Reading this stories, it's great to be Superman and even greater to be Superman.

Superman was so popular that he not only had stories in Action Comics and Superman, but Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen each had their own spin-off titles, and of course there were the adventures of Superboy.

Some of these stories were weaker. Many, such as the Lois Lane stories could read like sitcom plots as Lois Lane and Lana Lang competed over Superman. There was the time the IRS went after Superman for not paying taxes on various activities but ended up backing off when it was pointed out Superman had saved the world and could claim everyone as a dependent. Yes, it was awesomely silly, but wonderful.

That doesn't mean the stories were totally vacuous. The Silver Age Superman established Metallo and Brainiac as well as introducing Bizarro as a character that adult Superman had to deal with.

Not all 1960s stories were happy, but still fun but with poignancy mixed in. One told the tragic story of how Superman couldn't save Ma and Pa Kent. Another, "Superman's Return to Krypton" had Superman travelling back in time and landing on Krypton and finding himself trapped in its final days but falling in love with a woman who loved him just for him.

Two stories dealt with the Death of Superman: one an imaginary story where he actually died and another where he appeared to be dying and spent his last days trying to find ways to help others on his home world. Even a relatively silly story where Superman got a lion's head, Superman was really upset about it and Lois (whose pursuit of Superman always seemed a little selfish) gave him a very sweet kiss in a touching scene.

Of course, the Silver Age couldn't last forever and Superman moved on. Yet, the sense of fun survived the original Superman Movie, and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and of course the tone was reflected in the 1950s Superman TV show and the 1967 Cartoon show which aired during the Silver Age.

While the 1990s Superman: The Animated Series had some darker themes in it, it still was drawn in a far more brighter fun way than the more dark and serious Batman stories.

This does contradict one of the major points of the Speculative Faith series that inspired this, but I'll save those comments for Part Five.

5) The Savior Figure

Superman as a savior figure is something that's been written about quite extensively. It's true that the character was created by two Jewish young men who certainly didn't have the idea of doing anything based explicitly on Christianity. Still, they saw him who came to Earth as a "savior of the helpless" (Action Comics #8). However, it's safe to say that he wasn't initially anymore of a Christ figure than the Green Hornet who saved people from racketeers and rackets. Superman was seen as a savior, but not really as a Christ figure.

However, Messianic imagery worked its way to Superman, starting with the novel The Adventures of Superman which George Lowther renamed Jor-L to Jor-El with "El" being the Hebrew name for God.

Reverend H. Michael Brewer in his book, Who Needs a Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, and Whats Holy in the Comics writes of the parallels. One of the big ones is, "Superman arrives in this world as Kal-El, who comes from the Heavens sent by his father to a planet in desperate need of his help."

Still, Superman saved us from the same things other superheroes did. Superman had no big plan to save the world, at least not usually, but there were a couple exceptions.

Imaginary stories were a huge features of the Superman Universe. They told stories of what might happen or could happen but it was imaginary because if these stories did "happen" it'd be too big of a gamechanger.

1963 saw the publication of, "The Amazing Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue" which imagined the people of Kandor (Kryptonian survivors who were shrunk and imprisoned in a bottle by Brainiac) giving Superman an ultimatum: You have 30 days to restore us to normal size, eliminate the effects of Kyrptonite, and banish crime from Planet Earth.

And in this imaginary Story Superman accomplished his mission. He did an experiment that created two of him (Superman Red and Superman Blue) and the two of came up with solutions to all these problems, including a scientific solution that eliminated all evil. Luthor and Brainiac became good, the Cold War ended with Castro and the Soviets ending their evil ways, and peace and prosperity prevailed. Superman Blue married Lois and moved to new Krypton while Superman Red married Lana and retired to Earth with Superman robots handling search and rescue missions. The story reflected a modernist belief in science like no other Silver Age tale.

Nine years later in a "real Tale" thanks to brainwashing by the Guaridans of the Galaxy, Superman begins to wonder whether he's hindering human social progress. He begins to think they're right when he encounters migrant workers who refuse to stand up for their rights except when Superman's around. Superman then pledges only to help people with things they can't do themselves.

It was only with Superman: The Movie that the image of Superman as a Christ trope and as a Messianic figure really takes firm root with Jor-El's dialogue on why he's sending Superman to Earth, "They can be a great people Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son."

The other thing that changed was the emphasis on Clark Kent, particularly int the post-Infinite Crisis era of comics and media. Early comics viewed Clark Kent a disguise, a device for Superman to achieve his goals. The radio show said that Superman was "in the guise of mild-mannered Reporter Clark Kent." However, in the modern era, it's different.

In the 1990s TV series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Clark declares, "Clark is who I am, Superman is what I do." Clark embraces humanity, lives among us, and identifies with us.

Still, Superman would be mostly as an example because they wouldn't kill Superman...Except they did in 1993's Death of Superman event when he battled the malevolent Doomsday, and in killing him died himself.

Brewer writes of the story:

Doomsday was too powerful for an easy victory-he combined death, evil, and judgment into one terrifying figure. In retrospect the stakes were too high for a cheap win. The defeat of this gigantic threat demanded a heavy price.

Superman had taken it upon himself to be humanity's champion, and the one who came from above had to finally lay down his life to fulfill his mission. No lesser effort would have halted the onslaught of evil. No smaller sacrifice would have ransomed those in the path of destruction...

His death brought tears to my own eyes and echoed a much older story, this one true. Behind the slumped figure of the dead Superman, an upright piece of broken lumber juts from the wreckage. The tattered cape of the Man of Steel hangs on the board and flutters in the wind. In my eyes, that heaven-reaching timber casts the shadow of the cross over the scene. Superman is no savior, but his dying to rescue Metropolis points our hearts towards the true Savior who died for the world.


After this event, Christian imagery became more pronounced working its way into Smallville and of course The Man of Steel and has become part of the Superman mythos, a part that does point the way to Christ.

In our next post, we'll turn to to two more modern innovations. Superman as the "anti-Batman" and as a Greek god.
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Published on July 24, 2015 19:37 Tags: savior, silver-age, superman, versions-of-superman

Book Review: Showcase Presents World's Finest Volume 2

Showcase Presents: World's Finest, Vol. 2 Showcase Presents: World's Finest, Vol. 2 by Jerry Coleman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The second volume of Showcase Presents World's Finest brings us Superman-Batman team ups from November 1960-September 1964 in Issues 112-145 of World's Finest.

The highlights of the book include two separate meetings between Bat-mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk. There's also plenty of Lex Luthor in the book including a second Luthor-Joker team-up. Outside of that, the only other name supervillains in this book are Clayface and Brainiac.

Mostly the book features fun high concept sci fi. There's a different sense that's apparent throughout the book that if you're going to do a proper Superman and Batman Adventure, you have to really provide something special, so you have stories of time travel, of strange alien creatures. There's some overused tropes in there such as mind control, somebody else getting superpowers, and our heroes fighting each other or pretending.

I prepare the earlier stories in the book that are a bit shorter. They feel more light and breezy at 13-14 pages, while the latter stories that are 18 pages long really feel too long and have trouble maintaining their credibility. And I think the last five stories written by Edward Hamilton are a bit of a down note for the series. With tales like, "The Composite Superman," "Prison for Heroes," and "The Feud Between Batman and Superman," the book goes from being amusing to being over the top absurd.

Still, the first four hundred pages were quite enjoyable and I hope Hamilton's work in other volumes is better.



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Published on August 25, 2015 19:59 Tags: batman, silver-age, superman

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks, Mighty Thor, Volume 3

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor, Vol. 3 Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor, Vol. 3 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book collects Thor stories from Journey Into Mystery #111-#120 and Annual #1

The Thor stories begin by finishing a story involving Cobra and Mister Hyde from the previous book. Then in Issue #112 we learn of one of Thor's battles against the Hulk in an awkward way as he happens to be flying by and overhear a group of young people talking and explains a private (undocumented battle he had with the Hulk in Avengers #3. It's really cheesy. Issue 113 has him deciding to give up being Thor but then the return of the Grey Gargoyle changes his mind.

The book then enters a very long interconnected storyline running from Issues 114-120 involving he and Loki engaging in, "The Trial of the Gods" and it's aftermath. It really is a very intricate storyline that has one story running through it but a lot of twists and turns along the way including Loki forced to try and save Thor.

Clearly, Lee and Kirby were enjoying playing around with Norse mythology. This is true in the main Thor titles and also in the Tales of Asgard shorts which Marvelizes a lot of Asgardian legends, most of them center around younger versions of Thor and Loki, playing to the popularity of Loki as a villian (although there is one explaining the "true" version of Little Red Riding Hood.)

Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 features a battle between Thor and Hercules when Thor crosses into Olympus. The story is your standard, "two heroes stumble onto each other and fight story," but it helps that it's drawn by Jack Kirby who provides superb art on every page of the book. The Annual also features a map of Asgard with a map pointing to a shopping center. (Yea! Verily.)

My biggest complaint is that the book ends in awkward places with both the Thor stories and Tales of Asgard at a high tension "to be continued" place. But to be fair, it may have been hard to find a good stopping place on this one. As is, this is a very fun and creative book and I look forward to more.




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Published on October 30, 2015 19:14 Tags: silver-age, stan-lee, thor

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing
...more
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