Friday, December 4, 2020

Bullet Review: The Other History Of The DC Universe #1

The Other Side of the DC Universe came out last week and it has been appropriately lauded as a look at marginalized groups and their place in the classic DCU.

Written by John Ridley with inventive art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, the book looks at the early career of Black Lightning and how he struggled as an African-American in the DC world. As a long time fan of DC, Ridley really hits my sweet spot of the Bronze Age, showing us scenes pulled directly from the original Black Lightning series and the classic Justice League of America 2-parter where the JLA invites Lightning to join their team, but do it in the most terrible way. I read those issues off the racks. But now I am looking at it from a different viewpoint.

Ridley puts us firmly in the mind of Jefferson Pierce and how he responds to the world around him. In particular, Pierce's thoughts on Jon Stewart and how Green Lantern acts in the DCU is fascinating.

 I am glad this book is on the shelf.

And I was glad that we got a Supergirl moment. For me, it meant that Ridley considered her an important part of the DCU. It even leans into more Silver Age Kara history and that makes me happy.

Pierce talks about Superman representing the white Anglo-Saxon idea of excellence. He even seems to chide the Man of Steel for openly espousing 'Truth, Justice' and the American Way.'  There is even a feeling from Pierce that Superman represents the establishment and is too busy looking for acceptance and recognition than helping everyone.

At first, I kind of bristled a bit at this. I don't think this is a zero-sum game. You don't need to drag Superman down to elevate the ideas of Black Lightning. But  then I remembered that this is Pierce's thoughts. I have to acknowledge that Superman probably is a symbol of old thinking to marginalized groups. And later Pierce talks about how Superman has survivor's guilt which might be impacting his thoughts.

Then we get the arrival of Supergirl. 

Young, pretty, invincible, nonthreatening. 

I read those words and got ready to have Ridley dismiss Kara as something vapid and forgettable.

But then he talks about how Supergirl is full of light, life, and curiosity. How she survived, endured, and flourished.

She is such a symbol of exceptionalism that even Black Lightning has to wonder if it wasn't 'morning in America again'.

Those are powerful words about Supergirl and what a beacon of hope she is. If only all of DC creative recognized her the same way.

Lightning even mentions the fanfare around Supergirl's introduction to the world.

Yep, in the famous Action Comics #285, Supergirl is celebrated around the world and around the cosmos.

Interesting that Ridley brings up a Silver Age moment in this story which seems squarely placed in the Bronze Age world.

The art is really specatacular. Page layouts are inventive.

And I couldn't help but notice that while Supergirl is more horizontal on the page, she clearly is in the pose she was in on Action Comics #252. In fact, Camuncoli does a great job of homaging the heck out of the book. Really visually a winner.

People should check this title out, definitely. Interesting and eye-opening.


Anonymous said...

These days I'm just happy they got the SA Costume right...:)


Steve said...

I read it and enjoyed the prose but illustrated novellas really aren't my thing. I enjoy the combo of pictures and words comics bring and them being segregated ruins that for me. I hope it's a success though even if I probably won't do more than read great reviews like this and Martin Gray's for future issues...

Martin Gray said...

It was a lovely surprise to see Kara in here...I can’t remember her and Jeff ever meeting, not even in a crossover, maybe they will in the issue featuring Black Lightning’s daughters.

As you say Anj, this was pretty darn good.

And Steve, thanks for the kind words. I’m with you on wanting comics to be comics so it’s a tribute to the creators that I was so quickly absorbed by this issue.

Anonymous said...

Good book, but that is a really crappy cynical take on Superman

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Don't know how or where this Supergirl sequence fits in with current DC continuity, but I really don't care. It's always nice to see Silver Age Kara.

I hope this is the beginning of a more positive take on Supergirl in the post-Didio DC Universe. Having Kara join the Legion (as hinted in Action Comics #1027) would mean that Bendis can keep writing her even after he leaves the Superman books. That's assuming that Bendis will continue to write the Legion, and that Kara's visit to the 31st century will be more than a quick "Hello Goodbye, see ya later!" Maybe something will happen and Jon will revert back to his younger self, and Supergirl will replace him. There will be a new Super Sons digital first series coming out sometime next year, although it supposedly takes place before Jon's age-up.

By the way, I noticed that the cover of Action Comics #285 shown here is the one from either the archives or omnibus editions and not from the original comic where Supergirl had longer hair. I recently read somewhere that the shorter hair cover first turned up on a German reprint. I would guess (and it's only a guess) that the short hair cover was the way Curt Swan originally drew it (compare it to Supergirl on the cover of Action Comics #277) and before the comic went to press, he redrew Supergirl's head with the longer hair to bring it in line with Jim Mooney's version. There was a paste over that got lost somewhere along the way. Like I said, just a guess.

Martin Gray said...

That is fascinating, Professor, I need to find the visuals, I’d never noticed the Great Hair Disparity.

I’m with you, I’d love Kara to be a visiting Legionnaire and Jon to be younger again. I suppose it would be unfair to the character to de-age him as he lived those years, but the upcoming universal reset could undo his Earth 3 time... I never liked that he had years of torment and hiding.

Anj said...

I'll have to look at the 285 covers.

I pulled this image of the internet. But I have the original in my collection.