Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back Issue Box Musings From A Snowed In Day

The New England area got pummeled with snow yesterday and my town got over 18 inches of wet heavy snow. That meant several trips shoveling the driveway and watching the kids playing in the snow.

It also meant not getting to the store for new comics. Instead, I was sitting by the roaring fire and reading a boatload of back issues. My local comic book store recently pulled out dozens of $1 boxes which I thumbed through last week, finding some true gems hidden in the comic detritus. Here were a few of the moments and books I enjoyed by the fire yesterday.

Perhaps the biggest score from the sale was a chunk of Walt Simonson Thor issues. Simonson was on the title from issues #337 to #382. His run was steeped in Norse mythology and dealt more with Asgardian politics than supervillains trashing New York City.

I have read the run in trade format but only had a handful of the issues. So I was glad to a huge stack of this run.

But I appreciated this moment in Thor #341, a rare Clark Kent cameo in a Marvel title.

In this arc, Thor had lost the ability to turn into Dr. Donald Blake and so needed a new secret identity. Nick Fury creates the Sigurd Jarlson identity, including glasses since that has always worked for 'that other guy'. Here, Thor knocks a reporter named Clark down, scattering the journalist's notes.

Next up was Superman #349, "The Turnabout Trap", written by Marty Pasko and drawn by Curt Swan. In this issue, Superman returns from space to find that Earth has changed with gender reversal happening throughout. So there isn't Wonder Woman there is Wonder Warrior. There isn't Batman there is Batwoman.

And there isn't Supergirl, there is Superboy. Look at those flowing locks!

More interesting, Superman is considered a super-villain on this Earth. He is quickly captured by these super-cousins. At first Superman thinks he must be on a parallel Earth but then he quickly realizes this is his Earth magically altered. And it doesn't take long to figure out the culprit.

Mr. Mxyzptlk changed the Earth out of revenge. In their last adventure, Superman helped Mxy get hitched to Ms. Bgbznz. Once the vows were exchanged, Bgbznz dropped her glamour revealing her true looks. So upset by this, Mxy got the marriage annulled and set up this trap so Superman would never be able to be with Lois Lane (she is Louis Lane now).

Luckily Superman is able to coerce Mxyzptlk into saying Kltpzymx by using Wonder Warrior's lasso of truth on the imp.

Totally silly issue which includes seeing the reversed JLA, Jenny Olsen calling Penny White Chief, and Superman making a huge crayon so he can write a message to Mxy.

Lastly, I was able to get all 4 issues of Superman:The Secret Years mini-series written by Bob Rozakis and drawn by Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this series is that Frank Miller did the covers. This was released a year before Dark Knight Returns and Miller treats Superman with some respect here, with some nice iconic poses.

These images are a far cry from the 'Big Blue Schoolboy' representation in Dark Knight.

The mini-series is a maudlin and saccharin affair. The overall arc covers Superboy's junior year of college, the year he went from Superboy to Superman. It is a hard transition as he has to learn the limits of his powers and the scope of his guardianship.

Unfortunately, the point is driven home in a ham-fisted manner. First Clark can't stop one of his roommates from drunk driving. The boy ends up being paralyzed from the waist below.

And another roommate, a Smallville resident named Billy who also at Metropolis University, someone Clark eventually reveals his identity to, ends up dying while trying to save people in a house fire. He had thought that Superboy would be watching out for him, but Superboy was away stopping a tidal wave.

With that much guilt on his head, Clark becomes haunted by nightmares where both sets of parents say how disappointed they are in him. But in the dream Billy stands up to the parents saying that Superman is bigger than all their petty needs.

With a new resolve, Superboy calls himself Superman and moves on in life.

It reads a little dated, even if this was released in 1985. There are some nice moments revisited: loving Lori Lemaris, Luthor's first arrest as an adult, solving the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. But nothing special enough is here (outside of the covers) to warrant tracking this down.

So with the snow melted and the roads clear, life is more normal. But there was something nice about having a sort of snow day home with the family, reading by the fire.


Anonymous said...

I need to read the Simonson Thor issues. My favorite Marvel homage to Superman is the Todd MacFarlane cover of Amazing Spider-Man #306 (October 1988), which recreates the iconic cover of Action Comics #1. In this issue, I also recall Mary Jane buying Peter a copy of an Action Comics/Supergirl comic book because he had a crush on her as a child.

This was the first comic book I ever bought with my own money. How I wish I still had it. I traded it away on the playground for the vastly inferior Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #7 (1987).


mathematicscore said...

Simonson Thor might be my favorite Marvel thing ever. Beta Ray Bill FTW.

Felicity Walker said...

Good post! Thanks for including scans. I hope I find my own copy of Superman #349 at the next comic con!

Martin Gray said...

Eek, that 'turnabout' stiory still disturbs me. Much as I love Curt Swan, he might have bothered to tweak the female costumes and hair to suit male figures. You know, make the shorts into tights and so on.

Then again, that could have been refelcting Mxy's wishes!