For a character who's so definitively aspirational, Superman sure has given us a whole lot of dubious messages over the years. I mean, yes, he represents the best that we can be and reminds us that if we do good to each other, every man can be a Superman, but there's also stuff like the regrettable wartime propaganda. And, y'know, that time in the early '80s where there was a story that was all about how cigars can give you super-powers.
Okay, okay, not you. The person who actually gets the super-powers is Perry White, because it turns out that the best thing for you when you're in the hospital is to light up a cigar --- but only if Superman gives it to you.
Like a lot of people who started reading comics at an early age, I learned a lot of things from superheroes. Most of it was trivia, like all the Army slang that you can pick up from back issues of GI Joe --- and a lot of it was completely wrong, like that thing about only using 10% of your brain --- but comic books have always been full of weird little facts that creators decided to build entire stories around. Like, say, the time that Batman devoted his considerable resources to finally battling the most pressing scourge of 1964: Elephant Crime.
No, not crime involving elephants, like, poaching or illegal ivory smuggling. This is crime committed by elephants. And that's not the weirdest thing about this story.
Last week, when DC launched a big sale on Batman Adventures, I did what I always do in that situation and told everyone to buy and read all of them immediately, because they are the best Batman comics of the '90s. But as good as they might be, there's one issue that stands out, one that rarely gets mentioned despite feeling like it ought to be a pretty big deal: Batman Adventures #25, which features the first meeting of the Animated Series Batman and Superman.
And it's also, as reader Geoff DeSouza put it when he asked me about it, "one of the best weird comics ever."
All things considered, Steve Ditko has had a pretty strange career. I mean, he co-created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and Squirrel Girl, and went solo to create the Question, Blue Beetle, and Shade the Changing Man, and even nowadays, he's still going, quietly producing creator-owned work from a studio in Manhattan. But that stretch in between is where it really gets weird. In the '80s and '90s, he did everything from Mr. A to Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos. And then there was the Missing Man.
In a career that was full of characters so odd that one of them was even called Odd Man --- and he lived up to the name, I assure you --- the Missing Man might have been the weirdest. And as the name implies, it's not what's in the stories that's so weird, it's what's not.
It's never the wrong time to read a Jack Kirby comic, but with the King's birthday coming up in two weeks, now is a better time than most. Of course, the big problem there is trying to narrow it down --- Kirby's career did, after all, span six decades and involve some pretty prolific major work --- but really, when you want to read Kirby comics, you want to go for the big stuff.
And there's nothing bigger than Darkseid finally launching his attack on Earth, a battle so titanic that it took the combined forces of the Justice League and their most diabolical villains to repel it. It's the most titanic battle possible, on the grandest, most cosmic scale!
Except for the part where, you know, it doesn't actually happen.
I haven't really watched any of DC's current television offerings, but to be honest, I'm actually pretty impressed with what I've heard. It seems like they're really going for it in a way that Smallville only ever did in its final season, going right to these big, weird superhero stories right out of the gate. I mean, if you'd asked me a year ago, I would've told you that there was no way we were ever going to see a telepathic talking super-gorilla show up on the CW's version of The Flash, and yet, here we are, living in a world where Gorilla Grodd is starring on a live-action TV show.
With that in mind, I'm guessing that we're only one, maybe two seasons away from TV's Green Arrow meeting up with Xeen Arrow, the hundred foot-tall alien Green Arrow from another dimension, a character who may in fact be Jack Kirby's strangest co-creation.
If you've read one Astro Boy story, then the odds are pretty good that it's 1964's "The Greatest Robot On Earth." It's considered to be a high point not only for Astro Boy, but for Osamu Tezuka's career, a massive, sweeping story full of Earth-shattering fight scenes and a villain who, despite his horrible acts, isn't entirely evil. It was even revived as the basis for 2003's Pluto, one of the greatest comics of all time, where Naoki Urasawa retold the story as a murder mystery from an entirely new perspective. It is, by any measure, one of the all time greats.
But let's be real here: Why would anyone ever talk about that comic when the very next volume has a story where Astro Boy fights Lord Satan in an amusement park full of robot deathtraps?
I've written before about how a lot of the fun of reading Golden Age comics is in seeing people who have no idea what they're doing scrambling to figure out the limits of a whole new medium, but if you ever need definitive proof that it was the Wild West back then, just flip through the pages of 1942's Scoop Comics.
It's the home of an early superheroine called Mother Hubbard, and if you haven't heard of her, don't worry. I hadn't either, until I read about her in Jon Morris's League of Regrettable Superheroes, and I think he said it best: "Back then, everyone in a cape and cowl fought a few Nazi masterminds. Only Mother Hubbard confronted a race of gnomes who pried the eyes out of children's heads with a crowbar!"
You might not realize it, but we're currently living in a Golden Age of licensed crossovers. I mean, really, you can go out right now and pick up a comic about the Ninja Turtles hanging out with the Ghostbusters and it'll be a rewarding experience that ties in logically to both ongoing series about those characters, and when you really think about it, that's mind-blowing. There was, after all, a time not too long ago when the big boom brought us a new installment of Such-and-Such vs. So-and-So almost every month, and getting excited for any of them was almost always a recipe for disappointment.
Except, that is, for the time Frank Miller and Walter Simonson decided to do a book about RoboCop fighting the Terminator and gave us the greatest crossover of all time.
This week, Boom Studios --- which, in the interest of full disclosure, is a company I've done some writing for --- announced that they'd acquired the rights to Power Rangers with plans to launch a new series sometime this year. It's pretty exciting news, but at the same time, the news about a bunch of teenagers with (shockingly positive) attitudes coming to comics always gets me a little bit down, because it reminds me of one of the biggest missed opportunities in the history of the franchise.
See, this isn't the first time that the Power Rangers have made an attempt at conquering the world of superhero comics, and there was a time when they only made it through one issue with a story that was more notable for the books that it advertised and never came out than what happens in the issue itself. The year was 1996, the comic was Power Rangers Zeo, and the man who had the license... was Rob Liefeld.
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