Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Supergirl #53 Cover Art Process

As I have said in the past, I love to see the creative process in comics. I like to hear about the spark that started a story idea that is then fleshed out into a script. And I like to hear from the artists, from thumbnail to rough sketch to final product.

So I was pretty psyched to see a process piece for the Supergirl #53 cover posted on Jamal Igle's deviantart page. Here is the link:

I am a complete fanboy when I see this stuff. So the decision of a cover design is made from a thumbnail sketch as seen on the far left? Amazing. It is a sort of classic design echoing one of the more famous poses of Superman. So it is cool to see it applied here.

And I like hearing the degree of detail that Jamal put into the pencil sketch was different since he knew he was inking it himself. He probably had the 'final picture' in his head and so didn't need to add those pencil strokes in early on.

I am somewhat apprehensive about hearing that the ID badge was purposefully removed. While the 'civilian clothes' scream 'Linda Lang', a Daily Planet badge would have assured that Linda was coming back.

The more technical information (for example, type of brush and pen used) is unfortunately lost on me but most likely appreciated by artists who frequent the site.

As I said when this was solicited, I am happy to see Jamal Igle get a cover on this title. He deserves some up front credit. And it is appropriate that this be on the first chapter of a new Supergirl-centric arc. I wonder if more covers by Igle are in the future.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gates And Robinson On Newsarama

I know I am way behind the times commenting on this Sterling Gates/James Robinson interview over on Newsarama but there was just too much interesting stuff in it to let slide by.
The two writers talk about War of the Supermen and the state of the super-titles in general. Here is the link:

It's a long and excellent interview and well worth reading in it's entirety. But I figured I would highlight the pieces I found most interesting.

Nrama: We first heard about the War of the Supermen event months ago, but only recently was it announced that this is now a 100-minute war. Where did that idea come from?
Gates: The way I heard the story was Dan DiDio and DC Comics Publicity Manager Alex Segura were talking, and Dan was telling Alex about the war. Alex said, "New Krypton versus Earth? That’s going to last, what, like 100 minutes?” And Dan said, "Oh, wow!" He called us up and said, "Hey guys. We're doing this thing in a few months. I know you guys have started talking about it and plotting, but what if we frame it around the idea of a 100-Minute War? A war fought so quickly that most of the heroes of the DC Universe have no time to react, so it's a pure Kryptonian-human skirmish." James and I thought it was a great idea, so here we are.

I love hearing the behind the scenes talk involved in the creative process. The truth is I wondered how humanity, how General Lane, would be able to be a significant part of this story. We already saw way back in the early days of New Krypton when the JLA/JSA contingent skirmished above Kandor, that this could be a super-power war.

What better way to keep the super-heroes out of the fray than to speed up the war, making it impossible for the heroes to mobilize. But to find out that the idea of the 100-minute war was born from an off-the-cuff comment by Alex Segura is fascinating. I guess it's like catching creative lightning in a bottle.

Nrama: We've seen that the Legion of Super-Heroes has a pretty significant role in the war's prelude. Why was it decided to give them a part to play in this war?
Gates: Our goal with using the Legion was twofold: First of all, James and I both have a love for the Legion, so we wanted to do this big Legion story before the war. Secondly, we wanted to cap off all the different Legion elements we've seen the last few years – since The Lightning Saga onward – and clear up everything in the present. That way, when Paul Levitz starts his run on the Legion [in Adventure Comics], he'll have a clean future, so to speak.

Robinson: As you've seen in Adventure Comics #8, Last Stand #1 and Supergirl #51, the Legion’s goal is to get the bottled cities out, because it's not only the right thing to do, but in the future, they have an importance to the Legion of Super-Heroes. We'll reveal why that is within the story. So it's important for their future in the 31st Century that they do what they have to do now in the present.

It's no big reveal that I am a Legion fan as well, so I am really happy to see them so involved in this storyline. I think it has been pretty obvious that the importance of the bottled cities is that they are the home worlds of many of the Legionnaires. If Rimbor's last city gets blown up in Last Stand then Ultra Boy won't exist in the 31st century.

I guess the bigger question is ... once the cities are rescued from Brainiac's ship, who goes around the universe recreating all these planets? Is that a GL Corps job? A R.E.B.E.L.S. job? Maybe the job of some surviving 'good' Kryptonians ... like Officer Nar from the Red Shard? Does that 'galaxy building' story ever get told?

Nrama: Sterling, what can you tell us about the meeting between Brainiac 5 and Supergirl? Gates: Legion and Supergirl fans both know that Brainiac 5 and Supergirl, historically, had a relationship. Time travel and love and relationships can be very, very tricky. This is sort of the first and the last time Brainiac 5 and Supergirl meet, depending on your point of view. Does that make sense?

Nrama: In a time travel way, yes.
Gates: Yeah. To steal a phrase from Doctor Who, it's “wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey”...uh, “stuff.” [laughs] It'll make sense within context of the story. But again, fans of Supergirl and fans of the Legion know that there’s classically a relationship between them. I play with that in Supergirl #52 in a really big way.

I think most of us are really clamoring to see this reunion (of a sorts). I love time travel paradoxes. So that this is the first and last time they meet (first time this Supergirl meets Brainiac; first time Brainiac meets this Supergirl, but the last time he sees "a" Supergirl I guess).

It reminds me of a line in Grant Morrison's run on JLA when Kyle Raynor met Hourman III. The android says something like 'This is the first time you are meeting me but not the first time I have met you.' That sort of stuff is comic book gold.

Nrama: James, how is Brainiac's attack affecting the relationship between Superman and Zod?
Robinson: The actions of Zod at the very beginning of Last Stand #1 is what brought Superman back to being Superman. He's back to wearing the costume and being Superman. He sees that Zod is an irredeemable person and realizes he's made a mistake trying to change things and change Zod. So there’s some very tense stuff between them in the course of this series, obviously playing into the fact that they'll be on opposite sides of the 100-minute war.

Gates: The relationship between Superman and Zod is really, I think, a tragedy. They’re two men who, under other circumstances in some other place, could understand each other and be friends. But here, now, on New Krypton, knowing what Superman knows about Zod and vice versa, these men are at odds. Superman has a code that he lives by, and it’s in conflict with Zod’s way of thinking, so they can’t be friends. They could’ve been. But they never will be.

The Zod/Superman relationship was one of the interesting parts of World of New Krypton. It was clear that they were both willing to try to give the other space, try to see the world from the other's perspective, try to accept living on the same planet ... but always knowing they simply had diametrically opposed viewpoints on life in general.

I agree they could have been friends. You can imagine them working together well as a team as a Captain and First Officer, keeping the other in check and offering different perspectives. But that simply can't happen here and now.

Nrama: How important is the "war" for these Superman supporting characters that you guys have been exploring for several months? Is it an ending for some?

Robinson: Literally, everything is going to be turned on its head by the end of the war.

Gates: Yeah, there's a phrase, "life-changing events."
Both Last Stand and War of the Supermen are life-changing events, one right after another for Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, the people of New Krypton, even Lois. You'll see a lot of characters change before your eyes as events shake out. It's going to be a hard war. War is not easy and war is not pretty. To quote a phrase that Ian Sattler came up with on the panel last weekend at Emerald City Comicon, “Super-War is Super-Hell.” I don't want anyone to think we're pulling punches because this is a Superman book. It's going to be tough on Superman and Supergirl and Superboy. It will also be hard for Nightwing and Flamebird, particularly Flamebird.

I guess things will be 'life changing' after this but I hope that whatever those changes are that they last. I don't want this near 2 year story to be simply swept under the rug and forgotten 6 months from now. I want their to be some impact to this resolution.

And hard on Flamebird huh? I guess my prediction that Chris is going to die (as Nightwing) to 'recreate' the Phantom Zone might actually might be right. Of course, my predictions never come to pass. I thought Superwoman was a Kara clone of some sort.

Nrama: I'm sure Supergirl fans will be happy to hear that. But Sterling, even when New Krypton first appeared, did you guys always know that it was going to culminate with this big showdown, and have you been planting seeds for the War of the Supermen all along?

Gates: Absolutely. If you go back and look at the original document James and Geoff [Johns] put together, this war was always the end game. And as for seeds, I've been planting seeds in Supergirl all along. Things that you don't even think are seeds are going to play out in a huge way in the war. Same with James’ Superman run, same with Greg Rucka’s Action Comics run. There’s even stuff in Geoff’s Superman: Secret Origin book that’ll play a part in this war. The Superman books have been building towards this sequence of events for the last two years.

As someone who has been critical about dead end plot threads that have been seen in the Superman books, I am very happy that there is a big picture with 'seeds' out in the books that will be revealed in this big story. So the fact that all the Superman titles are named here as having these plots play out in War of the Supermen is reassuring.

But what seeds could have been planted in Supergirl that we haven't picked up on here? Call me curious.

Nrama: I think the fear fans have about what comes next is that everything from your run is going to disappear once JMS comes on board. Do you know if there are still going to be pieces of this story left after War of the Supermen? Obviously some of these villains you've ramped up will still be around, not the least of which is Brainiac.
Robinson: I honestly have no idea what's going to happen after I leave. That's the next writer's thing. But I do know from talking with Sterling, that his book is going to kick ass.

Gates: [laughs]

Robinson: No, I really am impressed with what he's done on this book and what he's told me is coming. He has some amazing ideas. I think, as good as Supergirl has been, it will be even better after the war.

Gates: Well, thank you. Yes, I plan on keeping some characters from the last two years in my book, definitely. And you're definitely going to see fall-out from the war reflected within the pages of Supergirl.

Robinson: She'll also be the "S," the "super" member of the Justice League.

This is the second time that Robinson has come out in an interview and declared Supergirl as 'kick ass'. Will such promotion by Robinson bring in some new readers? Can we be that lucky?

I have to admit, I wasn't planning on getting Robinson's Justice League run, but with Kara in there I guess I am on board.

Nrama: She's come a long way. As long as we're talking about other characters from the DCU, can we finish by giving fans a few battles we'll see in War of the Supermen? Who's going to be fighting whom?
Gates: Superman vs. Zod, Supergirl vs. Superwoman, Alura vs. Reactron, Steel vs. Atlas, Codename Assassin vs. The Guardian, General Lane vs. Lois, Krypto vs. 100 Kryptonians.
Luthor vs. somebody really cool. Superboy vs. Non. Flamebird vs. science. Nightwing vs. someone else really cool that isn't Lex Luthor...
Robinson: You know what you could say? In a roundabout way, you'll see Flamebird vs. Luthor.
Gates: Yeah. There you go. Who else?
Robinson: Superman vs. Supergirl.
Gates: Right! Superman vs. Supergirl! I told you, this war's crazy!

Okay ... now this sounds like it is going to be fun. How can all these fights be stuffed into 4 issues?

But they all sound great.

Supergirl vs. Superwoman!

Alura vs. Reactron!! I hope both survive.

Steel vs. Atlas shouldn't be a fight. Atlas should mop the floor with him.

Codename:Assassin vs the Guardian. I wouldn't cry if neither make it out alive.

Luthor vs Someone Really Cool? Wouldn't it be cool if it was J'onn?

Lastly, I hope the Superman/Supergirl fight isn't really a fight.

Anyways, this interview certainly got me thinking more about the War of the Supermen mini-series, and more jazzed to actually read the books.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dick Giordano Passes Away At Age 77

It was a sad day for the comics industry on Saturday when news came out that DC Legend Dick Giordano had passed away. There are almost too many links talking about his passing but here are a few. In particular, the Newsarama 'Remembering' link and the Comic Mix "Mentor' are incredible to read as an all-star list of influential creators talk about how much Giordano meant to their careers.

There are also a lot of comic blogs out there offering memories and condolences.

As for me, I can remember being in my tween/early teen years and making that leap from casual comic reader to comic collector and fan. Those days were marked by keeping the books in better condition, buying titles monthly to follow long-term stories, and starting to actually look at the credit boxes to see which writers and artists work I enjoyed consistently.

It amazed me back then just how many times I saw Giordano's name on either the cover or inside as the inker or as the editor of a DC book I was reading. I was stunned by how much work he produced. He was everywhere.

His list of accomplishments on Comic Book DB is massive: In that list are covers for the first Superman books I began to collect in earnest - the early 80s Superman, Superman Family, and Action Comics stuff. That was the Giordano I knew. I learned of his work with Neal Adams on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow later on.

Heck, he even inked a bunch of Supergirl issues too, including Daring New Adventures #1 as seen above.

As my collecting grew into high school, when going to the comic store became a Friday afternoon tradition, I also began reading his Meanwhile... columns, my first glimpse into some of the creative process in comics. I always dreamed of writing one of those 'Guest Meanwhile ...' pieces but never got around to doing it.

But it was in his administrative role that DC exploded in the late 80s with Crisis on Infinite Earths, Swamp Thing, Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen. And those were heady days for me as fanboy.

This being a Supergirl blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't also say that he apparently lobbied for Supergirl's death and inked Supergirl's final pages in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. So there are parts of his career that maybe, as a fan, I disagree with.

But he also pencilled and inked the famous 'Kara' story in 1989's Christmas with the Super-Heroes.

This is considered a pretty special story to Supergirl fans and I'd like to believe it was Giordano's recognition of ... and apology to ... her fanbase.

The bottom line is another legend of the industry has passed. In reviewing just the covers I have in my collection from him, I am floored by the impact he had on me back in my earliest days of collecting ... back when I spun a rack in the local convenience store and bought the comic with the best cover. It was those covers that got me hooked onto DC Comics. In that respect, he could be considered one of the most influential artists for me.

God speed Mr. Giordano. And thanks for the comics.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Back Issue Box: Legion Of Super-Heroes Annual #2

Supergirl #52 is right around the corner, showcasing the reintroduction of Supergirl and Brainiac 5. I realized I still have a few trips into the back issue box to review the Supergirl/Brainy relationship and little time to do so.

After today's look back, I am hoping to still review Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes 314-315 (The Trial of Ontiir) and Action Comics #276(first appearance of Brainy, Supergirl joins the Legion). If I have time, I am really hoping to review the Justice League Unlimited episode 'Far From Home'. Whew ... I hope I can get to it all.

The quickest to review is today's back issue, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2 in which Supergirl has something of a cameo appearance. Written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, it is best known for being the issue where Princess Projectra and Karate Kid get married.

This issue takes place immediately after the Supergirl/Brainy adventure on Weber's World as reviewed in prior posts, most recently here:

With that battle behind them, the group of Legionnaires flies to Orando to help celebrate. Arriving on the planet, they join the party.

Even Superboy comes by to help celebrate the special occasion. It is always nice to see the super-cousins together in the Legion, if only because they are usually closer in age. Supergirl seems more at ease with Superboy than she does sometimes with Superman.

Superboy seems happy that the event seems to be peaceful and free of incidents. Unfortunately, he is wrong. When he flew out of the time stream to join the ceremony, he opened up a warp which swallowed up another Legion cruiser heading to Orando.

That Legion cruiser holds a team consisting of Dream Girl, White Witch, Cosmic Boy, Ultra Boy, and Star Boy.

The warp somehow sends them back to ancient Earth where a group of shape-changing Durlans have set themselves up as the physical embodiment of the Greek pantheon.

After a brief skirmish, the 'gods' are sent packing. The Legionnaires are saved from being trapped in the past by a time bubble flying Chameleon Boy.

With everyone now in attendance, the wedding commences. Now married, Projectra and Karate Kid have already submitted their resignation from the Legion. It is enough to make Supergirl consider re-applying for full time membership.

It is clear that Kara has enjoyed her time with Querl and her recent adventures with the Legion.

The issue ends happily with the 'kiss the bride' moment.

It was interesting to look back at this issue for a couple of reasons. As always, it is fun to see Supergirl and Brainiac 5 interact even if it is only for a couple of panels.

This happy time is short-lived for a number of the principals of the story. Shortly after this issue, 'Shrinking Violet' gets revealed to be a Durlan spy who has been acting as Vi for some time. And within the next couple of years, Orando gets overrun by the Legion of Super-Villains. In that battle, Karate Kid gets killed by Nemesis Kid. Projectra then executes Nemesis Kid (leading to her Sensor Girl identity). Such is the life of the Legion.

The biggest draw for this issue was simply to see Gibbons' take on the Legion and Supergirl. I can't look at Gibbons art without seeing panels of Watchmen in my mind. He had a long run on Green Lantern, drew the famous 'For the Man Who Has Everything' Superman Annual #11 story, and has had a storied career. Still, he is most associated with Watchmen.

This issue is probably $2-4 at many conventions and might be worth the money if only to see the art.

Overall grade: B

Friday, March 26, 2010

Review: Superman #698

Superman #698 was just released and marked the 3rd part of the Superman:Last Stand of New Krypton story arc. While Supergirl #51 looked at the war from the perspective of New Krypton, this issue takes place almost exclusive on the second 'front' of this war, Brainiac's ship.

It's hard to believe, but there is basically one issue left on James Robinson's run on the title and only one more issue 'starring' Mon-El. This issue seemed to showcase the upcoming transition with both Mon-El and Kal-El having some big moments. While I have, at times, been a critic of Robinson's work here, one thing I have appreciated has been his handling of Mon-El. He really felt like a fully realized three-dimensional character.

Javier Pina and Bernard Chang split the art duties for the issue, with Pina handling the Superman heavy pages and Chang working on the Mon-El pages. Unfortunately, it distracted a bit from the flow of the issue, especially at the end when the two characters finally team up. But on to that in a bit.

The issue starts on the ground with the shocking announcement that 10,000 Kryptonians have been killed in the first few hours of the war. The population of New Krypton has literally been decimated.

It rightfully frightens General Zod who knows that Brainiac would have anticipated the results of this battle. If this is only the first volley, what is coming next?

You know what I keep thinking ... that feeling in my gut that New Krypton is going bye-bye. That the planet is going to explode. That would be something 'worse'.

On the ship, Superman remains trussed up by a Green K powered Brainiac drone while Brainiac and Luthor gloat over their victory.

Superman doesn't quite understand what Luthor hopes to gain out of this battle and asks him outright what it is he wants.

I love Luthor's response. It is creepy and malicious as he tries to use his poker face on Superman. Now I don't know if there is anything tangible that Luthor hopes to procure from his agreement with Brainiac. But at the very least, isn't slaughtering Kryptonians and emotionally injuring Superman it's own reward?

In the meantime, Mon-El has broken onto Brainiac's ship the same way Superman did. As he scours the ship to find and rescue Superman, he is contacted by a telepathic race captured in a Brainiac bottle.

He also has to fight against Brainiac's organic defense systems ... giant white baboon like creatures called Koko. Comic historians will recall that way back in the early Silver Age, Brainiac had a cute little pet white monkey called Koko. Clearly these are the 21st century upgraded models.

One thing that has worked well in the first chapters of 'Last Stand' have been the use of splash pages when appropriate. This one works well as we see a small Mon-El facing off against the masses of Koko's climbing into the room. The background even works here, giving this part of Brainiac's ship and arena-like feeling.

As if fighting off all those baboons weren't tough enough, the next line of Brainiac's defense shows up, alien races which have sworn allegiance to Brainiac in return for being freed from the bottle. You might recognize these races as the components of Ultra the Multi-Alien.

During these fights, the telepathic race continues to contact Mon-El imploring the Daxamite to save them. They are the Lanothians. I don't know that race off the top of my head. Are these new to the DCU? Or a race I don't know about?

Still wrapped up by the Brainiac drone, and weakened by the nearby Green K, Superman shows the villains why he is who he is. He never stops trying ... and actually overcomes his imprisonment, breaking free.

Again, a semi-big moment given a splash page for emphasis. Big moments deserve big art. Frankly, I am still giddy just from Superman being in his costume. But this moment, with Superman showing his toughness and temporarily wiping the smile of the faces of Brainiac and Luthor, was good to see.

Despite this bold moment, Luthor reacts quickly and with malevolence. He stops Superman in his tracks by threatening to simply blow away a whole race simply by aiming his sidearm at a bottled city.

Luthor is such a wonderfully evil character. I absolutely have no doubt that he would do it. He has such clarity in his thought ... able to turn most situations to his advantage, with no depth he won't go lower himself to.

In true heroic fashion, Mon-El flies in, wresting the city from Luthor's grasp and saving the Lanothians.

Here we have yet another splash page. And here is another moment I think will end up deserving it. Mon-El says to himself that somehow he knows that saving this city, this world, was part of his destiny on Earth.

With his bargaining chip out of his hands, Luthor slips away.

And Brainiac calls out his army to combat the Supermen. Nice double splash page here.

So, overall I would say that I enjoyed this issue, although maybe just a smidge less than the prior two issues. While this issue did progress Mon-El's story, it did not necessarily move the whole Last Stand story forward that much. That's okay, there are 2 more months to get to the finale. It's just that the Last Stand #1 and Supergirl #51 had such a fast pace.

I have talked about the duality of splash pages here before. They can be spectacular ways to focus on an event in the story. Unfortunately, they cut down on the space for story-telling. Think of how much story you can fit into 6 panels instead of one. As this is such an important storyline, the culmination of two years of Superman stories, I have a little bit more mental leeway towards creators use. (For example, the moments here where a splash page was used just feel more important than let's say the double page splash of Quislet shooting lasers or the Chameleon Boy reveal from last issue.)

Bernard Chang is slowly becoming one of my favorite artists, especially for fight scenes or post-fight scenes. That shot of Mon-El holding the city, his uniform ripped and wrinkled, his expression focused and angry ... that's good stuff. Javier Pina's pages looked like a mix of Jim Starlin and Pete Woods and didn't have the 'ooomph' of the Chang pages. The back and forth art styles did distract a bit as I read this.

Still, Last Stand has yet to disappoint.

Overall grade: B+

Thursday, March 25, 2010

June 2010 Solicits

The DC Comics June solicits are out and posted over on Newsarama. Here is the link:

As usual, a couple of surprises have been slipped into the mix. On top of that, yet another addition to the shrine has been officially solicited meaning that I will officially have to start squirreling away some money.

On to the solicits.


Beginning an all-new SUPERGIRL arc!
The War of the Supermen is over. Who is left to pick up the pieces? Fallout from her actions during the war plague Supergirl, and Kara has to make one of the toughest decisions of her life: Should she continue to be Supergirl and stay in metropolis - or is it time to move on? And with Cat Grant and the villainous [CLASSIFIED] coming at her harder than ever before, is being a superhero even worth it?

"Who is Supergirl?" begins here!

Now this sounds enticing. I have to be honest, I thought that the first Gates and Igle story arc would be called 'Who is Supergirl?' Let's face it, the Supergirl before Supergirl #34 was the character that needed some definition. But then New Krypton came out.

The truth is the Supergirl character has grown over the last year and a half. She has had to deal with her mother, Lana, and her place on two worlds. This is a much more mature Supergirl than the one who tried to save Thomas and suffered from Kryptonite poisoning.

But while she has made progress on her heroic journey, she is far from done with it. And after New Krypton, whatever has happened to her planet, her mother, her people ... she will need to re-define herself.

And the [classified] villain? I'm going to say the Toyman given the creepy doll sent to Cat Grant looong ago.

Despite my love of Josh Middleton, I am happy to see Jamal Igle finally produce a cover for this title. And this one is certainly a classic heroic pose, a version of the classic 'Clark turning into Superman' pose. Plus, she seems to be shedding the Linda Lang identity. Hopefully this means there will be a reconciliation with Lana.

On Twitter, Sterling Gates added:
We're going to start doing bigger, longer arcs that are self-contained within the pages of SUPERGIRL. Spread the word. :)

Sounds good to me!

And now the rest ...

Written by J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, JAMES ROBINSON & DAN JURGENS • Art by EDDY BARROWS, BENARD CHANG, DAN JURGENS & J.P. MAYER • Cover by GARY FRANK • 1:25 “DC 75th Anniversary” variant cover by Eduardo Risso • 1:75 “DC 75th Anniversary” variant black and white cover by Eduardo Risso

DC Comics proudly presents the 700th issue of SUPERMAN, a 56-page extravaganza full of tales celebrating the Man of Steel’s past, present and future! First up is a story by the man who actually killed Superman, Dan Jurgens! Then, James Robinson brings his epic run on the title to a close with a touching story featuring art by Benard Chang that brings Superman back to Earth after his time on New Krypton. Finally, we preview the exciting new SUPERMAN ongoing creative team as J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows provide a story that sets the stage for an explosive, all-new direction for The Man of Steel! (Seriously! Wait till you read this!)

The end of the James Robinson era and the beginning of the JMS era.

It certainly sounds like DC is pulling out all the stops in this anniversary transition issue. First, a story from the man who was the architect of the 1990's Superman, Dan Jurgens. Then the official end of the Robinson era. I think that it will be a nice capstone to an interesting run which was more Mon-El than Kal-El. But it brings Superman back to Earth ... finally. Add to that variant covers including the rare 1:75 variant.

I wonder about the 'explosive, all-new direction'. I still think it is going to be 'Superman as social activist'.


Look out, Metropolis - Lex Luthor is back! The dynamic new creative team of Marc Guggenheim (Amazing Spider-Man) and Pete Woods (SUPERMAN: LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON) hits the scene with an oversized issue packed with non-stop action! That's not all! Superstar artist David Finch (BRIGHTEST DAY, New Avengers) joins ACTION COMICS this issue as new cover artist!

Another new beginning for the Superman titles as New Krypton is truly put into the rear view mirror.

Back when Guggenheim was first announced he promised to bring 'big action' back to the title. So I am interested to dive in here. I have no prior experience with Guggenheim, so I am going in with no preconceived notions.

Adding David Finch to the covers will surely bring some readers back to this title as well.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
1:25 "DC 75th Anniversary" Variant cover by LEE BERMEJO

Legion great Paul Levitz begins his ADVENTURE COMICS run by revisiting the Legion's past in this special story featuring one of Superboy's earliest adventures in the far future!

As an old-timer, I can't wait to see Paul Levitz back on the Legion. And a flashback story with Superboy with the Legion in their Silver Age costumes to boot! The official Legion book will be out by this time as well. I don't know if the long-term plans for Adventure have been finalized. Will it still be a Conner book?

I think the question for me is, do I review the Legion book officially here on this blog?

Written by ART BALTAZAR & FRANCO • Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR

It’s Supergirl’s turn to toddler-sit the tiny Tiny Titans! Can she handle this crisis of infinite toddlers – or will she burst into tears?

And a nice little surprise! A Supergirl issue in Tiny Titans! I have always loved her appearances in this book. She seems to be portrayed as being above the fray of the usual craziness happening around her. So this issue should be funny as we finally see her stressed a bit.

Plus, a Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 inspired cover on Tiny Titans? Incredible!


Award-winning sculptor Tim Bruckner has transformed his original designs of the most recognizable DC heroes into some of the most outstanding, upscale statues DC Direct has ever produced. Each statue features a base that captures the character’s interaction with the surrounding environment.

In this sixth statue in the series, Kara Zor-El celebrates her powers with carefree, youthful exuberance.

Limited Edition Statue * $195 US

I covered this statue when it was first announced and guessed it would be $195 based on prior Dynamic Statues. But $195!

Well, I have 8 months to complete a layaway plan. It doesn't help that the $80 Turner-style mini-statue is coming out the month before.

Still, I really think this statue is going to be stunning and will be a great part of the shrine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

JC Penney And Supergirl

As a big fan of Supergirl, I am always very happy to see her cross over into the mainstream. As the father of three supergirls at home, three budding Supergirl fans, I am ecstatic when Supergirl crosses over into the mainstream of their world.

So imagine how happy I was when I saw this post from Variety touting a new Supergirl-themed clothes line being marketed at JC Penney this summer. Here is the link and some of the post:

Warner Bros. is turning to Supergirl to battle Disney for a piece of the girls market the Mouse House dominates with its Princess franchise.

The studio has teamed with JCPenney to launch Supergirl as a lifestyle brand aimed at 8- to 12-year-old girls with clothing that prominently features the S-shield.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products enlisted five-time gymnastics Olympic medalist Nastia Liukin to lend her name to the new line as its spokesperson and push a message of empowerment.

Products, made up of T-shirts, dresses, dancewear and other apparel, will be priced from $20 and $38 and hit store shelves July 20, timed for the back-to-school season.

The Supergirl by Nastia line is the first of several new products WBCP is expected to introduce around the high-flying heroine after focusing heavily on the 6- to 8-year-old boys market using DC characters like Batman and Superman.

Warners saw an opportunity with Supergirl because "the Supergirl S-shield is embraced the world over as a symbol of girl power," said Brad Globe, president, Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

The studio has spent the past four years supporting female athletes with the Supergirl Jam, an all-girls action sports competition and music festival, and this month, launched the inaugural Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup, to honor the accomplishments of young, rising female gymnasts.

I had heard of the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Jam before but never paid too much attention to it. But this seems like the perfect cross-cultural exposure of the character mixing the heroics and power of Kara with the accomplishments of the Olympic medalist. And the line is coming out in time for 'back to school'. My guess is that I will be shopping with the three supergirls when this is released.

If I were DC, I would piggy back on this phenomenon. What great exposure for the character! Now would be the time to get these new Supergirl fans interested in her comic book adventures.

How about another Cosmic Adventures mini-series?

New Page Feature

Blogger added a new page feature to its repertoire and I thought I would make use of it here. Link in my scroll bar on the right.

I have added a page which lays out my current pull list of titles. I will do my best to keep it up to date. I also added a page of all the artists from whom I have obtained a Supergirl commission from. At some point I might actually post thumbnails of the commissions there.

And, if I can easily look back at this blog, I'll try to keep a running list of the back issues I have reviewed here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Superman 80-Page Giant

The Superman 80-Page Giant came out last week and was simply a treat to read. Touted as a showcase for 'up-and-coming' talents, the book is stuffed with 7 Superman stories ranging from the sentimental to the silly, from fast-paced action to philosophical musings.

And for someone like me, starved for Superman (not Commander El) stories right now, it hit the spot. It definitely reminded me of the old Superman Family or Silver Age Superman 80pg Giants. As a youth I devoured those short 'one and done' stories.

And these new talents didn't disappoint, although I would say that for me, some of them are better known commodities. I have discussed the art of Matt Camp, Clayton Henry, and CP Wilson III on this blog in the past.

But on to the bullet reviews of the issue's stories.

The book opens with 'Cold', written by Mike Raicht and drawn by CP Wilson III.

In the story, Clark accidentally uses his heat vision in response to a bully and nearly drowns Pete Ross in suddenly melted skating pond. It is a touching story of this man's attempt to bridge the gap between his humanity and Clark's super-humanity all while being a father.

In the end, he connects to Clark by pretending that the cold of that Kansas night isn't bothering him, showing that they have plenty in common. I have read plenty of the flashback stories in the past but it is such rich material that they almost never disappoint. These are the reasons Superman acts as he does ... why he isn't aloof or angry or maladjusted. In many ways, the Kents are as heroic as Kal, just for raising him right.

Wilson's art is perfect for this type of story. Sepia-soaked and nostalgic, his pencils really capture the words wonderfully. It gives of a feel of old photographs or daguerreotypes. I have enjoyed Wilson's art on Stuff of Legend and was lucky enough to get a commission from him last year. Here is the link for those who did not see it before:

While I don't know how he would do on a primary-colored whiz-bang Superman title on a monthly basis, I think Wilson would be a perfect fit on Jonah Hex, any war comic, or even more 'down to earth' titles like Hellblazer. I really like his work.

We leave that sentimental feel and careen towards the more humorous in 'Lois Lane and Clark Kent: Patience-Centered Care', written by Kathryn Immonen with art by Tonci Zonjic.

I thought this was a funny little story of how staying at home doing nothing is probably an arduous task for Superman. With Lois floored by the flu, Clark vows to stay at home and be the doting and helpful husband. Unfortunately, he is bored out of his mind being on Kleenex duty.
With little else to do, he actually creates a couple of 'danger situations' so he can get out of the house.

The 'Mr. and Mrs. Superman' story was certainly funny and the art mirrored the zaniness nicely.

Immonen has several Marvel mini-series under her belt and Zonjic drew the somewhat controversial Marvel Divas but I hope to see them on some DC comics in the future.

We are then treated to 'Got Bugs', written by Ben McCool with art by Matt Camp. Much more the standard 'punch em up' Superman story, 'Bugs' has Superman fighting a sentient swarm of alien bugs named Krugak ( a great 60's style Marvel monster name).

With the swarm infesting the Daily Planet, Superman has to defend his friends and defeat the insect horde. This also had a nice amusing undertone, with the exterminator hired by the Planet telling Clark his 'war stories' all while Clark is hammering away against the alien threat.

McCool is able to stuff in a lot of story into his few pages ... flashbacks, scenes in the Planet staff room, as well as the action. Pretty impressive.

And I have trumpeted Camp's work before based on his work on Supergirl. His meticulous style works so well here, each bug visible in the lumbering hive-being. I was really looking forward to Camp's take on the Supergirl/Brainiac 5 relationship but based on his blog, I don't know if he is on her next issue. I definitely hope Camp finds regular work soon.

Again we swerve towards the humorous with 'Why Metropolis?', written by Pat McCallum and drawn by Mike Shoyket.

We are treated to the musings of a gang of bank robbers retelling all the cities they have tried to commit crimes in and their interactions with the super-heroes who live there. They talk about the showmanship of Green Arrow, the thoroughness of the Flash, and the creepiness of Batman.

So why try to rob a bank in Metropolis? Because Superman isn't a jerk when he catches you. He is barely in the story but I loved Superman's brief speech to the bad guys, telling them they should look for a different path in life.

Shoyket's art worked more on the Green Arrow and Batman pages than on the Superman pages for me. He looks like he would be best suited for some 'no powers' book like Azrael or some similar Batman like title.

My favorite story in the issue was 'Superman Is My Co-pilot', written by Jason Hall and drawn by Julian Lopez.

Leaning towards the metaphysical, the story revolves around an agoraphobic named Stan whose life is completely changed when Superman saves him from a giant robot which demolished Stan's apartment building. Suddenly Stan feels that Superman is watching out over him and so takes a complete 180 degree turn in his life, thrusting himself into more and more dangerous environments 'knowing' Superman will be there to rescue him. When he almost dies trying to jump from one building to another, he is rescued yet again. But this time, Superman pauses to talk to him.

Superman talks about how difficult his life can be where he needs to make tough choices of who to save and who not to save, how while that is a god-like responsibility, he is just a man trying to help. But most importantly, how Stan needs to help himself rather than rely on an absent savior. Armed with some wisdom, Stan reaches out to the woman in his building who he is enamored of but hasn't had the courage to talk to.

Again, Superman is not the centerpiece of this story instead being the catalyst for character change in the everyman Stan. But it works, showing how much Superman can resonate in the world, impacting even the individual.

Julian Lopez' art has been covered here for his work on Superman, Action Comics, Adventure Comics, and World's Finest. His works has seemed to mature and become more detailed here. Good stuff.

'Five Minutes' written by Rik Hoskin and drawn by RB Silva again looks at the frenetic relationship between Lois and Clark. When Lois says she will be five minutes later than she thought, Clark finds the way to pass the time by being helpful in the city.

No fisticuffs with a super-villain here. Instead Superman acts as super-citizen, clearing up a traffic accident, helping put out a fire, even performing the old 'saving a cat from a tree' routine. I thought that was the key to this story, showing how Superman helps even with the most mundane of good deeds.

Silva's art has a hint of manga to it, just enough to make me think it but not enough to overwhelm.

The final story is 'On Break', written by Sean Ryan and drawn by Clayton Henry. Yet another look at the impact of Superman on the common man, this story follows a Superman/Bizarro fight across the country. Each scene moves us from Metropolis to Columbus to Arizona, each with a commentary from a 'normal person' who seems to take Superman's actions in stride.

I thought this was another good story where Superman doesn't necessarily star but is more of an external force on the cast. I suppose this is what it would be like to live in a world of super-heroes, a place where you nonchalantly say a sonic book cracked the television. It was great to see a couple of teenage boys call Superman 'hard core'. I am sick to death of 'big blue school boy' interpretation.

We have seen Clayton Henry's work on the Legion in Adventure Comics. He seems well suited for high-flying superhero action and would be a good choice for a book like Legion or Titans.

You never know what you will get with an anthology book like this. But I thought this one worked very well. In particular, I thought the varying themes showed the breadth of stories that Superman can work in.

And lastly, I hope DC ties up some of these talents and we get to see them again soon.

Overall grade: B+

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eddy Barrows On Superman

I don't know what to think about the recent announcement on the DC Source Blog that Eddy Barrows will be the artist on JMS' run on Action Comics. Here is the link and some of the post:

Eddy Barrows will be the artist for JMS’ run on SUPERMAN, starting with a story in SUPERMAN #700 and kicking off officially with July’s #701. We showed you some of Barrows’ stunning art from the upcoming WAR OF THE SUPERMAN Free Comic Book Day book recently, so you’ve got an idea what to expect. But that’s never stopped us from showing new art before, so why stop now? Here, for your Friday afternoon enjoyment is a fantastic page from WAR OF THE SUPERMAN. We showed the pencils recently, but the finished colors are amazing, and give you a great idea of what Eddy’s Man of Steel will look like.

So I would be happy about this announcement because I happen to think when Barrows' art is clicking than it really is spectacular. The problem I have with the announcement is that I have heard it before and I don't know if I believe it.

Remember when Barrows' was announced as the ongoing artist for Greg Rucka's run on Action Comics? He drew a dynamic Action Comics #875 and the bulk of the bloody Action Comics #876. And then suddenly he was gone. I thought his art on those issues was dynamic and grabbing.

But he couldn't stay on timeline for more than one and a half issues.

He was also named the artist on Superman:Blackest Night. I really enjoyed that mini-series, in particular how Supergirl was treated in that storyline. And Barrows' did a great job with Supergirl as well. I loved his take on her costume, the shirt much longer, the S-shield large.

But he also lasted only 2+ issues on this 3 issue mini-series.

So, again, while I loved his art here, he also needed a pinch hitter to finish the book.

I am sure I will enjoy his art on the book while he is on it. And I really hope it is a long run. But I won't be surprised if someone else is on pencils a few months in.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: Supergirl #51

If the first two parts of 'Last Stand of New Krypton' are any indication, I am going to be very happy with it.

Supergirl #51 came out this week and marked the second part of the Last Stand story arc. It definitely felt like a second chapter, like it flowed straight from Superman:Last Stand of New Krypton #1. But it also maintained a definite Supergirl focus. And it continued to move the overall story forward while maintaining some small moments that gives the plot some human gravitas.

I was hoping that the Last Stand issues would begin a renumbering in the S-shield on the covers. While I haven't always felt that the cover numbering has added much, here I think it would have. This should be #2 in this Last Stand arc ... not #33 of the bigger arc.

But that is a quibble when you look at the content of the issue.

I have talked about the small moments in comics before and this issue starts out with a good one.

A couple of Kryptonian teachers are having a field trip away from Kandor while Brainiac attacks. The teachers, scared of Brainiac themselves, are hopeful that their distance from the city will keep them unnoticed. They also try to keep the children from looking at the fiery carnage raining down on the city.

Unfortunately when you have super-hearing, nothing is ever too far away. As is usual, Jamal Igle does a great job on the art here. The expression on this young Kryptonian's face says it all ... the sheer terror she is feeling as the planet's boogey man comes back to reclaim his prize.

Just like in the first issue, big moments get big art. Here is a great double page spread of Supergirl and Mon-El wading into battle with the Brainiac probes.

You would think super-powered beings would laugh at an attack from Terminators, but these robots are built for Kryptonian combat. And we see quite clearly the damage they can do to the Kandorians with their red sun blasts. It is a pretty brutal display of the citizens being perforated and eviscerated by the drones.

Again, it is refreshing to see Supergirl so strong and brave as she battles. This isn't the frightened girl on Argo whose best friend was kidnapped by Brainiac. This is a mature young woman defending her people.

During the fight, Mon-El gets a telepathic overload from Tellus. Suddenly Mon-El is not only aware that the Legion is being arrested by Zod, he also knows that Superman has been captured by Brainiac.

Now I don't know why Tellus' message would be so painful, but I thought the layout here with a montage of the ongoing action was nice.

Another recurring plot point in the book (and even Last Stand #1) has been Supergirl's growing status among her people. Whether she knows it or not, Kara has grown to be an important person in the New Krypton culture. I can remember when New Krypton first started that Gates and Igle said that Supergirl was sort of a princess on her homeworld.

It is one thing to have that stature simply because her mother is head of the council. It is quite another to earn it. Being on the front lines here, bringing home Reactron, ... it's all made Supergirl a leader on the planet. It is interesting that she doesn't realize it herself. So I like that Mon-El recognizes her growth and potential and tells her so.

Her response is swift, charming, and somewhat unexpected. A kiss for luck? I suppose she could be overcome with such happiness that Mon regards her as a leader that she needed to express herself.

But I wonder if this was thrown in to reflect the kiss we saw in the 'Origins and Omens' piece so long ago. I thought it was going to be Freddy Freeman all this time, but that kiss never happened in Cry For Justice. Maybe Gates realized he needed to show a kiss to cross that premonition off of a 'to do' list.

While Mon-El flies off to help Superman in Brainiac's ship, Supergirl does her best to rally the Kryptonians.

Unfortunately, the prejudices of the guilds don't let them work together as a fighting unit. Each guild does their own thing, leaving the city with a disorganized and shoddy defense.

Supergirl realizes that New Krypton needs a true leader, someone who can rise above the Guilds. She thinks that person is her mother Alura. I think we know that person is Superman.

Supergirl rushes to her mother's aid, assuming that Alura has been threatened by Brainiac probes. Instead Kara finds Alura fighting with Superboy.

Alura knows that Zod has branded Conner and the Legion as outlaws. She also knows the last human to wear the S-shield was Superwoman. Assuming the worse, Alura attacks him.

And when Kara runs in on their fight, she decides to end it.

I love this panel, Conner flying out of the building after being on the receiving end of Supergirl's right hook. It is the point of view I like, the buildings below Conner as he rockets away.

While I am usually tired of seeing Supergirl fight other heroes, I thought this sequence made a bit of sense. Kara was defending her mother after all. But after this punch, she immediately defends Conner and the Legion to her mother. It's almost she knows that punch was the quickest way to end the stand-off.

For the second straight issue though, Supergirl needs a last second rescue. Subjected to the red sun rays again, Kara and Alura are about to be killed when Superboy returns and dismantles the marauding robots.

I like how Supergirl is willing to try most anything in the heat of battle, even picking up a nearby rifle. It reminded me a bit of her fighting Reactron when powerless and she picked up a piece of rebar.

Once safe, Supergirl tells Alura of the Legion's mission and challenges her to stand up to General Zod. It is a very strong moment for Kara. And it is fruitful. Alura pardons the Legionnaires and sends Supergirl off with them to take the fight to Brainiac.

It is a good moment for many reasons, but it certainly shows how much the mother and daughter's relationship has changed recently. It actually seems to be a relationship! Gone, it seems, are the days where Alura yelled and Kara cried. It again shows how much Kara has matured recently.

Alura's pardons do not please Zod, setting up a confrontation between the two leaders of the planet.

I thought this was a very good issue pushing the plot of Last Stand forward but having Supergirl as the star and not one of a cast of many. The interactions with Mon-El, Superboy, and Alura showcased the character nicely. Gates has such a great handle on these characters. Their lines just seem so natural.

And Jamal Igle continues to produce great work on this book. This issue really lets him shine with a number of splash pages and near splash pages throughout. I wish I could have posted them all.

It'll be nice to see Supergirl leading the Legion again.

Overall grade: A