Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Superman #11

Well, what can I say about the Superman book that I haven't said other places. George Perez was given the keys to the kingdom but backed out after one arc and hinted at issues with editorial. Dan Jurgens comes in and has been writing standard if lackluster stories, most likely hamstringed by the unclear prior years of Superman's career and by the announcement that Scott Lobdell will be taking over. With such turnover and with the uncertain foundation of the character being built in Action, this book has felt a bit off kilter. I feel for Jurgens. He certainly couldn't define new characters or build a long term plotline given his short stay on the book.

Superman #11 is Jurgen's penultimate issue and promises on the cover to reveal the secrets of the Kryptonian biosuit Superman has been wearing. But in the end, we don't learn about the suit at all. Instead we get another story of Superman fighting an alien. Indeed, the best part of this issue was a dinner scene with the supporting cast. At least that characterization has been strong here.

The art also has a pedestrian feeling to it, although everyone on the creative side of things knew they were playing out a string of meaningless games so why put in extra effort.

The issue starts with Superman breaking into a Russian military science building, easily overcoming their laser defenses. He calls the Russians paranoid but I guess his breaking into the facilty confirms why they should be a bit worried.

While investigating, Superman finds some crucial evidence, stumbling on a recording where we learn the Russian sub from a few issues back were retrieving an unworldly capsule from the sea floor. I think this is one of those things I have to roll with - Superman entering a gutted building, pressing one button, and finding the video that provides the exposition.

We learn how Superman ended up there via a flashback, that dinner scene I mentioned above.

For ditching Lucy at the train station, Clark is forced to take her, Lois, and Jonathan Carroll (the barechested guy in Lois' apartment from way back in Superman #1) to an extremely expensive dinner.

It is here we learn that Carroll is a foreign correspondent and a 'decent guy' (at least that is what Clark thinks of him).

Also, Lucy is played a little edgy, a little vampy, and a little adventerous telling Clark no one has ever stood her up twice and that they should bungee jump from the Bogdanove bridge. I don't know if she is a Kid Cat Grant or just a confident young woman. And, as Jurgens is leaving, I might never know.

My favorite moment of the book is a Lois moment.

Morgan Edge also happens to be eating at the restaurant tonight and he and Lois talk about the recent erroneous 'Superman's secret identity' story Edge ran. Lois goes 'for the jugular' zinging him for looking like an idiot regardless of the ratings he got. Nice! Great Lois moment.

Before the food arrives, everyone's cell phone buzzes about an incident in Russia that might involve their nuclear plants. All the journalists leave to do some digging on the story. Interesting that Clark says he will make it up to Lucy. Could Jurgens have wanted him to court the vivacious Lucy? That would be weird but interesting.

Of course Clark went straight to Russia as Superman.

Back in the building, he runs into Russian security including 'Ivan' a high ranking security agent. Ivan provides more exposition. The Russians have been looking for their own Superman to balance world power. They found another dimension with life but whatever was in there looked back and shot the pod to our world.

Don't look into the abyss or it might look back?

Again it is something of an easy way for the story to be told to me. Ivan sounds interesting as he is elusive with details of his past and boasts of having been on the Secret Service. But Russia being nervous of America sounded a bit too Cold War for me.

Superman tracks the being into a Russian town where everyone ... everyone ... has been killed.

This alien then engages Superman and using what seems to be high-tech weapons and scanners, pretty much trashes Superman.

Maybe this is supposed to be a riff on Predator? But this also felt a bit 90s Image too.

And so we end on a cliffhanger, Superman unconscious (I guess the suit reverts to its basline white without biorhythm input).

So outside of a nice Lois moment, this felt pretty much like filler. Nothing special, nothing terrible. And so there is only one more issue in the 'Jurgens Era' of Superman in the DCnU.

Overall grade: C

Monday, July 30, 2012

CBR Interview With Mike Johnson And Michael Green

It has been an incredible week for super-interviews with Grant Morrison, Tom DeFalco, and Mahmud Asrar all being interviewed somewhere on the net. I guess Supergirl writers Mike Johnson and Michael Green didn't want to be left out, being interviewed over on CBR.

As always, it is well worth reading the interview as a whole as the writers comment on manner of topics including some future directions of the book. Here is the link: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=40068

And, of course, me being me, I have to add my two cents. I will say that each time I read the Supergirl creators' thoughts on the character, the more I think they understand her core, that unbending determination to do what's right. They just have to fit that into the current downbeat DCnU. Here are the questions that grabbed me.

CBR: The #0 issues are also functioning like origin stories for a lot of characters. Is this #0 issue going to neatly tie up and answer every question about Kara getting to Earth and Zor-El's shooting?

Green: No, no! We're genetically modified to ask a question whenever one is answered so that we can keep a constant supply of interesting story. So we're going to wrap up some stuff and introduce some stuff.

Johnson: As Michael said, we want it to be a reward, so we do want to provide answers but we don't want to wrap everything up with it. We want to push the story in a new way that has its own questions. For the most part, the #0 issue is about focusing on her origin in a way we've never really seen before in any of her incarnations. Everybody knows the Kal-El story, everybody knows what went down and how Jor-El was dealing with things and his plan; we actually saw it happen in "Action Comics," and now we get our chance to know a little more about the wider view of life on Krypton and how things went down in Argo City and that side of the El family.

Green: So far in our book, we've had a really good time focusing on how she dealt with getting here. We finally really get to go into what were the circumstances that put her here. Issue #0 is a lot of what happened right before issue #1.

CBR: How do we get into the origin issue? Will Superman's appearance or any of the things in issue #12 factor going into the #0? 

Johnson: That's really before and after the #0 issue. In issue #11 we saw her on her first date on Earth and saw her out of the costume and interacting with life in New York in a way we haven't seen before. Her experience with that actually prompts her next meeting with Kal-El, which is the beginning of issue #12. The #0 issue follows right on the heels of that, and then we come out of #0 continuing that moment.

 So I can't wait to read Supergirl #0 because as much as I have been enjoying these last issues with Kara becoming more integrated with Earth, I have a bunch of questions about her origin. Who sent her here? Why a pod and not a rocket? When did they send her here - pre-Krypton's destruction or from Argo City? Who set up gateways from Argo to Earth and why? Who shot Zor-El? And how does his death tie into her flight (if at all).

Now I know that all the questions won't be answered but I better get a lot of information!

As for Superman, given the description he must help her in getting those details of her origin. How does he have them? At least there isn't any mention of the two of them fighting!

CBR: Turning to what's been going on in the book prior to September, what role do you see Tom and Siobhan playing in Kara's life? Are they solidly her supporting cast? 

Johnson: It's not reoccurring as in you're going to see them every episode; it's reoccurring in the sense it's constantly going to be part of life on Earth. We definitely want to keep them reappearing in the book, not in the "Friends" kind of way where they're at the door -- which is always unlocked in the "Friends" world, which is weird! They're not going to be walking into each other's apartments and hanging out, and they're not going to be showing up in every issue. She's still going to be going far and wide, Earth and beyond. What they represent in terms of a supporting cast are her guiding lights on Earth, two people she can feel safe around, because she really doesn't have anyone -- definitely no one from her past anymore.

Readers might think, "Well what about Kal?" The relationship with Kal is not going to be in a good place for a while. She's still coming to grips with the fact this guy claims to be the cousin she knew as a baby. He's very much an Earthling to her. He can't relate to what she's going through. The complexity of him trying to help her and wanting to be this combination brother / parent put stresses on her that she doesn't have dealing with her friends, with the Smythes. They're definitely going to be important characters. We're also going to have a huge, dangling Irish thread with their story where we saw that they thought they took care of the Banshee curse, but that's definitely something we're going to be revisiting in the year to come.

Lots to digest here.

First off, it doesn't sound like Kara is going to have a home base given that she is going around 'Earth and beyond'. I wonder if her 'fort of solitude' ends up being her 'home'. Of course, I would prefer she isn't so isolated. Living in a city, hanging out with other people, learning about our world, has to be healthier than staying isolated. At least the Smythes are a sort of safe haven, a place to hang out and relax.

I think I am one of the people who has been saying 'what about Kal' since the third issue. And while it sounds like she is uncomfortable with it, at least Johnson and Green think that Superman would want to help and be a brother/parent to his cousin. He isn't ignoring her because he is 'a loner' (as hinted at in the Superman panel at SDCC). So at least I have that going for me.

Lastly, I think we are all just biding time until the Banshee spirit overwhelms Siobhan and she becomes a villain.

CBR: In those issues you not only had a brand new Silver Banshee but you also had veteran artist George Perez working on the art. Did George Perez do that amazing Banshee redesign, or was he working from one of Mahmud Asrar's designs? 

Johnson: That was all Mahmud!
Green: George did his version; we had a couple of emails going back and forth there --

CBR: We saw some of his most detailed and emotional panels, I think, with Kara and the sunstone in the World Killers arc. Are there any pages coming up that hit you guys as emotionally as those images? 

Johnson: There's actually something coming up at the end of issue #12 that is hugely visual and hugely important to Kara's status quo going forward. All we can tell you is it's a thing and it's partly Kryptonian in origin. It's very large and it shows up at the end of issue #12. We can't say anymore without spoiling it, but it's very cool and it's going to be very important to her life going forward. But it's not an invisible airplane!

I'll pile on the Mahmud Asrar love. This ending panel of Supergirl #7 is just about perfect.

Now since we know that Supergirl's Fortress of Solitude makes it's first appearance in Supergirl #13, the semi-Kryptonian object must be linked to it. But what is it? Large and important moving forward ... could it be the whole fort? And how does it get here? Is it in Superman's Fortress? Maybe some crystal tech that his ship supplies her?

CBR:In the last few issues, Black Banshee has "unlocked" more of Supergirl's powers. So far, coming to grips with her abilities has been a very frightening and confusing process for Kara. Will she ever get to enjoy being super-powered? 

Green: There's definitely some joy coming, and if you look, it's been encrypted into the artwork Mahmud is drawing. She's gone from being surprised by it and not knowing how to stand, to -- in some of the newer images, you're going to see she's really fluid and almost balletic with her abilities. She looks much more like an Olympian who's in charge of her body and is in charge of her abilities. There's a confidence that comes with it that's very fun, and sometimes it's nonverbal. If you look at her first images of flying or standing and punching or heat vision, now when she does these things, they're becoming second nature. Now she sometimes floats when she talks, just because it's something she does. That's not something that would have been a natural thing. She's starting to rely on them like a second sense.

Johnson: It's a really good question, and I think we are going to see her have more fun. Partly because we don't want the book to be a downer, dealing with heavy tragedy every issue, but also because if you we're in her shoes she's been through a lot and it’s been a shock to have these powers -- but at the same time, powers are inherently fun! We've seen her in general being more proactive, and that extends to her powers. Rather than feeling like she's cursed by them, she's going to use them to her benefit and the benefit of the people she wants to help. I'd say to the benefit of planet Earth, but it's not a given that she wants to save the world. She's going to want to save the people she knows and that she cares about. That's a larger theme going forwards. She's been very reactive so far, she's had to be with the things she's experienced, and after the #0 issue, we're going to see her become increasingly proactive in her adventures and how she deals with things.

Perhaps my favorite question in the whole interview. She is fluid and balletic and in charge of her abilities. She has confidence and fun. She is going to use them to benefit people she wants to help. She is going to be proactive. All while learning what it means to be a hero. Sure sounds like Supergirl.

CBR: I know by this point, if I was Kara, I'd start getting angry about how I'm being treated by the police and the various Earthlings she's run into. Are we going to see her taking a stand after issue #0? 

Johnson: I think she's not necessarily angry, but we've established her as someone who is not a shrinking violet, someone who has her own opinion and her own feel of how she thinks things should go, and you're going to see that in the #0 issue. That's what we're going with -- it's not that she's angry, but she's not going to let anybody dictate what happens to her except herself. And now she's got the power to make sure that happens.
Green: That includes going forward on Earth. She really does start navigating our culture on her terms.

Best line in there ... 'it's not that she's angry'. And she is strong.

Remember when she was described as 'Hell on wheels', someone fighting friends and enemies alike, someone without any affiliation or affection for humanity. None of that ever comes out when the writers and artist talk about the book. Thank goodness!

CBR: Simply because she is attracting so much attention, it seems like Superman would have to get involved as people are now comparing this city-wrecking force to him. What is his motivation when it comes to Kara and seeing Kara? 

Johnson: We can say the decision to see him is actually hers and not his. We don't want to have a reoccurring situation where he's always showing up and yelling at her for getting in trouble. That's something we want to avoid, going forward. His appearance in #12 is motivated by her and not him.

I still think it is weird that Superman wouldn't seek her out. So I am glad that she decided to find him.

And I have never wanted him to be a disciplinarian. But I do think he should be someone she would feel comfortable turning to when she needs advice or a friend. Hopefully she will reach that point.

Anyways, this was all good news for me. I said it before ... I think Supergirl is in good hands here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

DeFalco Talks Superboy

Tom DeFalco recently was interviewed about Superboy over on Newsarama, talking about the character and the overall plans for the book. The whole interview is worth reading and definitely covers a number of issues about the direction of Superboy so I recommend reading it. Here is the link:

Now I had some issues with the last issue of Superboy feeling that prior issues showed him being conflicted about being a hero but eventually doing the right thing. The last issue seemed to have him lean away from conflict and more towards being the villain. DeFalco addressed that aspect of the book. Here are some of the questions that grabbed me and my commentary.

Nrama: What is it about this Superboy that intrigues you as a writer?
DeFalco: I think Scott and [artist] R.B. [Silva] have crafted a very unique kind of character. Superboy is not your traditional comic book character. He may be the protagonist of the series, but we're still not sure whether he's the good guy or the bad guy. Just because he has the "S" on his chest doesn't mean anything. He did not choose that "S."

Nrama: With Superboy #0, you get the chance to reveal a few mysteries. What can you tell us about what readers are going to see?
DeFalco: In Superboy, we've never actually witnessed his origin, from issue #1 on. Scott Lobdell and R.B. did a terrific job just getting us right into Superboy's mind and Superboy's world right away.
Since then, we've discovered that there was a mastermind behind all of this construction, the character we've come to know as Harvest. Some of the things we've seen, there was a subtext to it that we were unaware of, because Harvest is always scheming within schemes. So we're going to find out some of the subtext and some of Harvest's plans for Superboy in issue #0, because up until now, we haven't known the details.
Up until now, we knew that Superboy was created to be a living weapon, but we didn't know what the weapon was for.

So I guess we have to wait and see which Superboy emerges - the good guy or the bad guy. It is one thing to write a hero. It is another thing to write an anti-hero, someone like Deadpool or Deathstroke. I don't know how easy it will be to skirt the line, one or the other, in the long term.

I also worry about this straddling of the line is going to eventually make Superboy an unlikeable character. I can remember my feeling as I read the Loeb and Kelly Supergirl, where she seemed to shun heroics, was almost narcissistic, and 'edgy'. I don't think many people liked that Supergirl, eventually requiring soft reboots by Puckett and then Gates/Igle. Will this bank-robbing Superboy be embraced by readers? I guess we'll have to see.

As for Harvest, I guess I need to learn more about him before I can comment on him being the arch-enemy of Superboy. Hopefully I don't need to read Titans or Ravagers to learn about him.

We're also going to, in the course of this, discover a story of ancient Krypton and how that relates to Superboy, and relates to something a character told him in one of his early issues, which up until now we haven't understood. Now we're going to find out what that character was talking about.

So I don't think it is too hard to figure out that the character is Supergirl talking about the Kon-El story.

Nrama: Can you say what character it is?
DeFalco: No, and I didn't say the name of the character for a reason, because all of this is going to come back and play havoc in Superboy's life going forward.

So I don't know why he didn't just say Supergirl talking about Kryptonians clone history. It was mentioned at the SDCC Superman panel.

Will there be a sort of Spawn-like countdown until be becomes unraveled?
I don't know why there should be. He isn't a Kryptonian clone in the classic sense.

Nrama: You talked about there being an ancient story from Krypton in Superboy #0. Is there a concerted effort to make sure this jibes with what they're doing in the other Super-books?
DeFalco: They're being united as a family. I've had a good time working in conjunction with what's being done in Supergirl, Superman and Action Comics.
But the thing to keep in mind is, you've already got two heroes with an "S." The question is, do we really need a third one?
That's what we're going to work to answer in this comic, and what Superboy will be deciding.

Well, I guess this struggle to figure out if he is a hero or a villain will be the primary theme moving forward. How long should I give the book to figure it out is as important a question.

Lastly, just like I don't think Superman would let Supergirl fly around without seeking her, I don't think Superman would let someone villainous wear his shield. I suppose the "super-family" crossover will help answer some questions.

As I have said before, I'm not jumping ship. I will see if this works itself out. But I don't want to read an anti-hero or super-villain Superboy book.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Superman Family Adventures #3

Let's take a look at the super-titles right now. Supergirl continues to find the right mix of heroism and alienation, action sequences and character scenes. Superman is something of a mess, a seemingly rudderless book. Action is a high concept super-hero comic with a fast pace but isn't the quintessential Superman book and Morrison is leaving. Superboy seems to be playing the 'black sheep of the family' role with a main character who 'might be the bad guy.'

With all that uncertainty and angst and offbeat characterization, where can a Superman fan look for a breath of fresh air? The answer is Superman Family Adventures. And the latest issue, Superman Family Adventures #3, continued to trend of making me smile and reminding me that comics should be fun.

Much like Tiny Titans, the prior book by creative team of Art Baltazar and Franco, Superman Family Adventures is the right mix of all ages adventures with the right sprinkling of older continuity for the older readers as well as some references to current continuity.

I wonder how many older readers like me use the Baltazar/Franco books as a gateway to comics, using it to talk about characters and older stories.

So let's look at the fun!

The book starts with Jimmy telling his pals from high school that not only does he know Superman but he has a special signal watch to call Superman in an emergency.

As I thought, Jimmy is starting to be suspicious that Cloe is actually Supergirl. I hope this 'plotline' continues in the book maybe mirroring some of the zany antics Lois did in the Silver Age to prove Clark was Superman?

This being Metropolis, all sorts of crazy threats all seem to converge on the city at once. Alien invasion, 'giant pointy-headed alien monster', and a 'giant slimy six-eyed alien monster with tentacles' all descend on the city. And each time Jimmy hits the signal watch, one of the Super-Pets arrive to help out. You know me, I can't get enough Streaky. Add Comet and Krypto and I am thrilled.

I also liked some subtle nuances in this scene. The high school bully in the piece is wearing a villain's colors - a purple and green hoodie.

And Beppo comes about as close as you can get to saying 'Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah'. You know that means 'I love you!'

Turns out the signal watch Jimmy got was the super-pet one. Superman gives the right one to Jimmy.

And it looks like Jimmy might be Mr. Action in this book too. The girls tease him about wanting a watch to call him. And it looks like Cloe might be crushing on him. Interesting little love triangle there is Jimmy likes Kara, Cloe like Jimmy, and Jimmy thinks Cloe is Kara.

Anyways, lots of fun in this main story with some zany city threats being dispatched by super-pet super-breath.

Then we get a short of Krypto trying to train Fluffy to use his powers in a controlled way.

And now we learn why Superman doesn't have red trunks in the DCnU. Krypto burned his butt practicing his heat vision.

Funny quips about the current DC continuity are always appreciated by this team - like in Tiny Titans when Kid Flash sharpened his pencil to a Flashpoint, Cyborg sported new shoes for his reboot, or exams leading to a Finals crisis. Fantastic!

In the last story, Clark has to answer some tough question by Lois,wondering why he and Superman are never seen together.

She offers to buy Clark cotton candy to which he responds how much he likes pink. Of course, in the Donner movie Superman proves he has x-ray vision by telling Lois that she is wearing pink underwear and then that he 'likes pink, very much.' Only old timers would see how that particular line would make Lois more suspicious. In the comic she simply states that 'Superman says that'.

But this is what 'all ages' comics should be ... something that appeals to All Ages!

It makes Clark activate 'Operation Pink' in which Superboy and Supergirl are to send a Superman robot to Metropolis so that Clark and Superman can be seen at the same time. The younger cousins mean well but mess up sending 2 Supermen and then dozens of Clarks to Metropolis. I like how Lois decides to just roll with it. I mean in a town where aliens and monsters attack near daily, a bunch of Clarks is actually small potatoes.

The freshly squeezed orange juice line also harkens back to the Donner films.

So nothing to complain about here. It is a fun comic and it portrays an accepted and heroic Superman who is a member of a loving family. It is here that I go for a classic and refreshing take on Superman and his supporting cast.

Overall grade: A

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Morrison Off Action Comics

Boy, a bomb dropped onto the comics world the other day over on Comic Book Resources when Grant Morrison said he is going to stop writing super-hero comics. The whole interview is worth reading here:

But it was this questions that simply stood out:

CBR: I think a lot of people are surprised that you've remained dedicated to writing superhero comics for this long. Did you always foresee a waning of that work, or did it sneak up on you that "I'm not sure if I need to write anymore superhero stories"? 

Morrison: The idea was always that I'd keep doing it as long as it gave me a lot of pleasure and allowed me to express myself . And it still does, but I can see the end coming closer. I'm coming to the end of long runs and stories I've had planned in my notebooks for years and the stuff I’m developing now is quite different. The "Action Comics" run concludes with issue #16, "Batman Incorporated" wraps up my take with issue #12, and after that I don’t have any plans for monthly superhero books for a while. "Multiversity" is eight issues and I’m 30-odd pages into a Wonder Woman project but those are finite stories. I'm not saying that I'll never write superheroes again. It's just that my relationship to them has changed especially after finishing the book and I’m not sure if I want to maintain the same kind of relentless level of production.

Morrison finally leaving the genre isn't that surprising to me. He is something of a rock star in the comic world and has plumbed the depths of the super-hero world. Maybe it is time for him to try something new. I don't blame him at all. And I could rattle off the stuff he has written in the genre that showed just how far and how fantastic the medium can be - from Doom Patrol and Animal Man to JLA to New XMen to All Star Superman - it all has been wondrous.

And this Action Comics run has been as great. It started mid-sprint and hasn't slowed down. We have been pelted with idea after idea, with the origins and ethics of Superman showed in a nuanced way rather than drummed out via exposition.  This Superman feels right. And I'll reiterate ... I think it is great.

But ....

You knew there was a 'but' coming right ...

But I worry in what state he will leave this DCnU Superman. This is a new Superman. Action Comics is set 5 years prior to current stories. It is supposed to be the bedrock on which a whole new mythos of the main character of the DC universe is built on.

Will Morrison be able to wrap up all his plots in just 5 months? 

And more importantly...

Will Morrison be able to leave Superman as a defined and well-established character in the next 5 issues? Will there be enough of a foundation?
Will the 'lost 5 years' ever be covered?
 Will enough be explored such that when Morrison is gone that both titles will be set in the now? That both books are on a creative level such that one doesn't define the other?

From an editorial viewpoint, I wonder ...
Did DC always know that Morrison was in it for 1.5 years? 
Did they try to have him write something more of a 'Secret Origin' style book to set up Superman for the future?  Or was he given free reign?

The news of Morrison leaving has to make DC shudder. Morrison's Action made Superman sort of relevant again, despite the shakiness of the Superman title. What does this mean moving forward? Who is going to take over the book (although Sholly Fisch seems to be warming up in the bullpen)?

Lastly, this news makes me respect John Byrne. I know some love him and some hate him. But there is no denying that he had a long term plan for Superman when he took the reins 25 years ago. He did Man of Steel to set up some parameters for the character - who is Superman, when did he arrive, who is Lois, who is Lex, how does Batman react to him. It was a decent enough foundation that Byrne could then write and draw years of Superman from the character's 'beginning', reintroducing us to aspects of the legend while weaving his own story. 

I had hoped Morrison (like Byrne) would also be on the book for years,  seizing the keys to the kingdom and writing a new legend. Now it seems like he didn't want the kingdom long term, he only was visiting. I hope the new tenants on the Superman books bring the right ideas and outlook to the character.

And, needless to say, I am sad to see him leave the book. Because in a world where a Superman editor calls the character a loner, Morrison seemed to understand just who Superman is.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interview With Mahmud Asrar On Superman Homepage

Over on the Superman Homepage, there is a great interview with Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar. Here is the link to the interview in its entirety:
If you are a fan of Asrar, you should definitely head there to read this. It is a great piece going over a variety of topics from his beginnings in the comic world through his current run on Supergirl. I picked out a couple of questions to cover here as the answers were interesting.

Q: You'd previously been hired to work for DC Comics on the "Brightest Day: Atom" oneshot and an Atom back-up feature in "Adventure Comics", how did you get the job of being the artist on the relaunch of "Supergirl"? What was the process behind that?
A: Right after the "Giant-Size Atom" book I started working on "Star Wars: Jedi - The Dark Side". While I was on that DC offered me the chance to do some covers for "Supergirl". This was for the pre-New 52 book. Later I was asked if I'd be interested in doing an ongoing book for them. They were being really vague and after a non-disclosure agreement I was filled in on the details. Turns out I was being offered to be a part of the New 52 with Supergirl. I was pleased as I was looking to do a single character book with a preferably female protagonist.

I can remember when Asrar's covers for the prior Supergirl comic came out, I was pretty impressed by them. In particular I thought this cover really stood out as being fantastic. It has almost a pulp or noir feel to it with Supergirl and the heroes literally being in the palm of the villain's hand (I still feel funny calling that guy Triplexxx).

So I am not surprised that DC approached him to do Supergirl for the new 52.

I am pretty sure this cover was going to be the cover for the Good Looking Corpse trade paperback, a book which ultimately was never released.

Q: There's always a lot of discussion regarding the sexualization of female characters in comic books. Many feel that the design of Kara's costume in the "New 52" is inappropriate for a teenage girl, especially from the waist down. What are you thoughts on this? And what do you like/dislike most about this version of Supergirl's design?
A: Truthfully, I completely disagree on this regarding Kara. Sure, there are obviously sexualized or overtly provocative costumes on some characters out there but I don't think Kara fits that category. Kara's costume and its purpose has been hinted at in the first and sixth issues. It's basically a training outfit. If you take a look at modern sports, you'll see that female athletes dress up pretty lightly. So in that sense, or any other sense, I don't think Kara's outfit is sexualized or provocative at all. Admittedly I try to draw her attractive but I aim to keep it tasteful at all times.

So I don't necessarily think that this costume is overtly sexualized, not in this day when Starfire, Dejah Thoris, and Emma Frost grace comics covers. I do think that the red covering of the 'crotch panel' and the intricate corners around that area do tend to draw the eye. To be honest, I'd be happy with a simply blue unitard with the S-symbol.

But I agree and am very glad that the book remains tasteful. There are no cheesecake poses or awkward anatomically impossible preening or even provocative points of view or panel angles in this book. There is nothing gratuitous or distracting. Instead we get straight up comic book action.

Q: Can you let us in on any upcoming Supergirl storylines you are working on or will soon be working on? What are you most looking forward to?
A: Right now I'm working on the zero issue. I'll be vague here to avoid getting sliced and diced by the DC legal ninjas but expect quite a few answers on Kara and her origins. It'll be a very gratifying issue for long time readers while being an excellent starting off point. Also we've got some surprising new, but maybe familiar, characters appearing in upcoming issues. You'll never guess who.

Hmmm ... another hint that we will see new but familiar characters in the future. I am going to restate my theory that Reactron will once again be a Supergirl rogue ... either as Zor-El's assassin (again) or as the 5th World Killer (although he might be a she in this incarnation).

Either way, echoes of Supergirl's history in this incarnation (as in the last and in Peter David's book) are always appreciated as they acknowledge her mythos.

Thanks again to the Superman Homepage for conducting the interview and letting me repost these questions here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Heading To ComiCONN

After a little work maneuvering, it looks like I will be able to head a couple of hours south and hit the ComiConn, 'Connecticut's biggest comic book, sci-fi, and collectible' show on August 18th.

Here is a link to their site: http://www.comiconn.com/

It'll be a new convention for me which is always fun. And unlike the other cons I usually frequent, this one is equally heavy on writers and artists. So I don't know if I will be getting any commissions.

But the writers ... it is like a Supergirl nexus! There are basically three generations of Supergirl writers in attendance as well as a Superman historian par excellence. I don't know if I will have enough time to ask all my questions.

Paul Kupperberg is going to be there, the writer for the entire Daring New Adventures of Supergirl in the early 80s. He wrote her in Superman Family. He wrote her last non-Crisis adventure. His Supergirl was strong and confident and comfortable in her own skin.

I interviewed Kupperberg earlier this year on this site but I have a bunch more questions for him. At the very least, I want to meet him as his Supergirl stories were solid with great characterization.

Peter David will be there too! David wrote the Supergirl book in the 90s, the Matrix/Earth Angel stories, the Many Happy Returns storyline. I absolutely love this book and still contend that Supergirl 1-50 is one of the best prolonged arcs in comics. I have briefly met David in the past, before I started this blog. I will gush I am sure but I hope to ask him some questions too!

Joe Kelly will also be there. I love Kelly's Superman work (especially Action #775). I found his run on the 2005 Supergirl to be troubling. I have certainly been critical of that run here any number of times. And yet, of the creators there I want to talk to Kelly the most. Maybe I missed the point of this arc? Maybe he had a grand plan that never got actualized? I hope I can ask even the broadest questions about this run with him.

But that means that Supergirl writers from the 80's, 90's, and the 00's will all be in one building! Fantastic!

I suppose that it will depend on the crowds whether or not I can pull up a chair and jaw with these guys. I'll take 5 minutes if possible.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #11

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 came out last week and continued a sort of resurgence of the title. The current Dominator storyline has been tighter and more dramatic than the earliest issues of the book. And writer Paul Levitz has concentrated the number of characters being used right now, minimizing scenes 'checking in' on the big cast of the book. This really 'feels' like the Legion right now.

The art on the book is split between regular artist Francis Portela and Andres Guinaldo. Portela simply shines on the book making him one of my favorite current DC artists. I keep hearing his time on the book might be coming to a close. If true, I hope he finds himself on another ongoing title quickly. Guinaldo's work is fine if dark and a bit more raw.

This arc reminds me of a couple of other older arcs. One is the Universo Project where Brainy and Dreamy are kidnapped. The other was the cabal of Legionnaires (including Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel) going against Legion rules and going after the Time Trapper.
The issue starts with the stealth Legion team led by Star Boy sneaking into Dominator space under the guise of a 'rogue comet' generated by Comet Queen. It is extremely taxing on the Queen, generating that much gas and tail (all while Thom adds tremendous mass). Avoided by the Dominator fleet, the comet sneaks into Dominator home world space, allowing the team to seek out the kidnapped friends.

The breakdown of this rogue team is interesting. I can understand Star Boy being on this team. I can understand Bouncing Boy and Duplicate Damsel (no longer Duo Damsel). I can even understand Comet Queen who would do whatever Chuck asked her to. But couldn't Levitz include Saturn Girl on the team instead of the recruit telepath Otaki? I have to believe Imra would be there.

In the meantime, Dreamy and Brainy continue to wait and wonder while no one has come for them. Brainy seems to grasp the political 'hot potato' it would be for the Legion to storm in.

I like that this conversation gives Levitz the opportunity to declare that Brainy does not experiment on animals or sentients (without consent). It is one of a couple of interesting new wrinkles in Brainy's character.

The incoming team tracks down Brainy and Dreamy and breaks them out of their cells. It looks like this might actually succeed. That is, until Brainy says he needs to get his force shield belt - a device which is now a 1000 yr old family masterpiece rather than an invention by Querl. Despite the danger to the team, he absolutely refuses to go telling the rest of the team to leave without him.

I have to chuckle a bit at the first panel as Thom comes crashing in like some heroic knight, grabbing Dreamy, seating her in his lap, and screaming to leave. That felt consistent with their relationship.

Even though it makes no sense, the team decides to stay and help Brainy rather than leave him alone with the Dominators.

I have come to love the steely heroism of Luornu. It is clear that the death of one of her body's at the hands of Computo has made her vigilant and focused on the safety of her friends. She simply won't let anyone else suffer. She won't leave Brainy. The Legion stands together. And Portela really shows us that, her eyes narrowed, her body poised. I want her back on the main team and not just an instructor at the Academy. Heck. I might vote for her for leader!

It turns out that Mon-El actually knew about the 'rogue team'. He has plausible deniability but put together the best ragtag team he could.

And he isn't going to have Cos berate him for being a poor leader. He tells Rokk to give him a break.

I get the sense that Cosmic Boy thinks he is the Legion Leader even when he isn't the Legion Leader. And I wonder if that impinges on the power of the elected leader.

Anyways, it is an interesting panel composition here as Mon-El curtly tells Cos to shove it. That opening panel with Mon mostly in shadow conveys some anger as well as echoing the need to a shadow type team. And the bottom panel is very good. All we see of Mon-El is his clenched fist. That's all we need to see to get that he is angry. And Cos small in the background let's us know that he feels ashamed and embarrassed for calling out Mon-El inappropriately.

So first we find out Brainy doesn't experiment on sentients.
Then we hear that his force field belt is an antique.
Now we see that Brainy can 'sense' where the belt is and then call it to him telepathically. It is shocking not only to me but to the team. Brainy calls it one of his 'tricks' but I hope we get something of an explanation.

And look at Dreamy laughing as she says 'Oh Brainy!' I am telling you, romance is in the air between these two.

But the escape takes a bad turn.

Just as the team is battling their way out, Brainy seemingly in a mental battle with a high caste Dominator, Comet Queen 'betrays' the team, knocking out Brainy. This leads to the rest of the team being overrun. The Dominators are just as surprised with Comet Queen's actions. They weren't expecting it either. So they include her in the captured, promising death to all of them.

I don't know if Comet Queen isn't acting on some hidden order by Brainy. She starts to say she was told to do that before she is attacked by Dream Girl. Could Brainy have some hidden agenda, pretending to be knocked out so he can get closer to the genetic database and destroy it? I am going to say yes. I don't think Comet Queen is capable of complex thoughts like betrayal.

So overall another good chapter in this Dominator arc. But can it all be wrapped up in next month's conclusion? I truly hope so.

Overall grade: B+

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #271-Supergirl's Fortress Of Solitude

The description for Supergirl #13 in DC's October solicits states that we will see Kara's very own Fortress of Solitude. At SDCC, it was described as a 'fort of solitude', I suppose implying lass grandeur than a Fortress. It has been a while since Supergirl has had her very own private space. I already covered the 'closet of solitude' during Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle's run here.

But there is more to cover than just that recent history. So I figured I would go way back to Action Comics #271 for a Supergirl story from way back in the original Supergirl's history. She was still an orphan in Midvale and still unknown to the world at large, acting as Superman's secret weapon, details which factor in significantly to this story (and most stories from that era). While I wish I owned the issue itself, I don't. These scans come from Supergirl Archives Vol. 2.

'Supergirl's Fortress of Solitude' was written by Superman creator Jerry Siegel with art by legend Jim Mooney.

The story opens with Linda Lee lamenting her time at the Midvale orphanage and hoping to be adopted. Even playing with Streaky can't keep her mind off her problems.

Then she has a revelation! Why not make her own Fortress of Solitude, a place to head to and get away from it all. So she activates her Linda Lee robot and sneaks off to set up her new hideaway.

So she gather up scrap metal that no one will miss and head deep into the 'Arabian Desert' where she excavates a ditch and welds herself a true Fortress of Solitude buried deep within the sands.

And then we get to see her decorate the room, traveling to far away planets for mementos, and setting up a Linda Lee room, a Jerro room, and as a memorial to Argo City.

She even makes a play room for Streaky!

Of course, this is the Silver Age so things are never easy.

Supergirl buried her fortress right where a group of archaeologist is about to dig for an ancient tomb.

Talk about bad luck. Not only did she bury it where this group is going to dig but she put it there just days before their excavation. You just have to roll with these coincidences in the Silver Age.

And what a 'tomb' they discover! Things are pretty much spelled out for them, all of Supergirl's secrets are right there in front of them.

 Incredibly, the lead archaeologist, Professor Brant, immediately surmises that Superman must be keeping her existence hidden so that he can use her as a secret weapon. I am amazed he was able to jump right to that conclusion since it has never made sense to me.

Wanting to honor Superman and Supergirl's privacy, Brant hypnotizes his crew and makes them forget everything they saw. (His crew agreed to be hypnotized.) So not only did the crew happen to dig right where her Fortress was but it was headed by a world-class hypnotist too!

Brant did not remove his own memory though. Instead he figures he can turn this information into a profit, planning to adopt Linda and tricking her into making him and his wife rich.

So not only is he a famous archaeologist, and a mesmerizer extraordinaire, he is also a devious and nefarious man.

Now one thing that is tough to read in these old stories are the efforts Linda goes through to NOT get adopted (so she can remain Superman's hidden weapon). And what's worse are the actions of the potential parents. These folks visiting the orphanage seem to want an indentured servant and not a child, usually rejecting an adoption for things like burning food, cleaning poorly, or being lousy at arts and crafts ... those are not exaggerations! They happened in these stories.

But Brant won't let any 'fumbling' by Linda dissuade him from adopting her. So even doing such horrible things as ...gasp ... playing the piano poorly or burning cereal doesn't faze Brant and his wife. Not only do they adopt Linda but they shower her with gifts and win over trust.

And being the loving daughter and caring person she is, Supergirl wants to return their love. When Brant 'worries' about not having enough money to fund his projects, she decides to help out by anonymously donating crates of diamonds and pearls to Brant.

I think this sort of sweetness is a hallmark of this Supergirl.

Of course, even a chest of fist-sized diamonds and a box of pearls can't fill as empty a soul as Brant.

He loses his composure and lays it all on the line. He demands Supergirl make him the richest man on Earth. If she brings him that much wealth, he will willingly submit to her super-hypnosis to have the knowledge of her existence erased from his mind.

Do you believe him? Well, unfortunately Supergirl does. And 'for Superman's sake', she agrees to the terms.

She travels back in time and raids the past of tremendous treasures ... gold, jewels, and artifacts.

She sets up her adopted parents in a palace made of emerald, filled with 'treasures that stagger the imagination'.

No surprise, Brant reneges on his deal deciding it will be better to keep Supergirl under his thumb. So he will not allow her to hypnotize him or his wife.

But lucky (or unlucky coincidences) are par for the course in the Silver Age.

Streaky comes by to play with Supergirl and accidentally bathes Brant and his wife with his feline x-ray vision. And, as luck would have it, those xrays burned out the recent memories of the Brants. They no longer remember anything that recently happened.

Her secret suddenly a secret again, Supergirl sets everything to right. She hides the emerald palace, burying it in the sand before a horde of bandits can pillage it. And she returns herself and the Brants back to Midvale.

In classic Silver Age fashion, the Brants have to 'return' Linda because Brant is called away to another dig. They returned her? What is she, an appliance? Luckily it does reset the status quo - Linda is back in the orphanage and Supergirl is again a secret.

And then, in classic Supergirl fashion, she denies herself the joy of her fortress, destroying it with her xray vision after confessing the whole thing to Superman. At least here Superman says he admires Supergirl rather than berating her for letting it happen in the first place. Still, he could at least offer her a room at his Fortress.

So this is a nice example of the earliest Supergirl stories as she struggled to be a loving cousin and a sweet young woman while living under the tough constraints placed upon her by Superman. And yet, it is her self-sacrifice and eternal optimism that makes Supergirl such a wonderful character. Even when faced with this sort of absurdity, she tries to do what's right.

I think any of these earliest stories have to rank of at least medium importance to a Supergirl collection. It is these early stories which have helped mold the overall feeling of this character over these last 50 years. These books tend to be hard to find and expensive so best of luck to anyone looking. Again, it has been reprinted in both the Archive books as well as the Showcase 'phone book' style collections.

It is hard not to like these stories just for the nostalgia even when bordering on the absurd as this one does.

Overall grade: B+