If you've been reading the current Superman titles, then you're no doubt aware that things have gotten pretty weird lately. Superman and Lois Lane are the characters from two reboots ago, and Clark Kent's a completely separate person with a secret so strange that we don't really know who the heck he is yet --- and that's before we throw New Super-Man, Cyborg Superman, and at least two Superboys into the mix.
But to be fair, this isn't the first time that there's been a weird split between "Clark Kent" and "Superman," and while it might be the weirdest, it has some pretty stiff competition on that front, too. Like, say, the time that Superman had powers and Clark didn't, even though they were the same guy, based entirely on which set of clothes they were wearing.
Over the past week or so, my thoughts have been primarily consumed with two things: Comet the Super-Horse and the Summer Olympics. For the former, I was mostly able to get all of my thoughts down on paper in the form of last week's Ask Chris column, but when I was doing the reading to talk about Supergirl's equestrian pal and/or boyfriend, I discovered that there's one story where, at least for a page, those two things are kinda-sorta tied together in a really strange way.
It happened in "The Super-Cheat," in which Supergirl, with the help of Comet, screws over all of her classmates at Stanhope College so that she, and not them, can compete in the not-quite-Olympic games of the International Athletic Competition. So if you've ever wanted to see Linda Danvers just straight up shatter some dreams, this is your chance.
We've seen an awful lot of reboots over the past few years, and when it comes to giving a long-running character a new #1, there are a lot of choices you can make. The obvious one, of course, is to give readers a back-to-basics approach that makes things a little more accessible and lets new fans get in on the ground floor. Or, if you're aiming for the hardcore fans, you could pick something from past continuity and bring it back, casting it in a new light to reward and intrigue long-time readers.
Or, if you're Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger kicking off The New Adventures of Superboy in 1980, you decide to open your first issue with some complete and total weirdness that references the obscurest pieces of old continuity and ends up with a story about an extra birthday candle, an eight year-old with a big decision to make, and a couple of aliens who long only for the sweet, sweet embrace of death.
I love crossovers. Even when they don't really work that well or make a whole lot of sense, it's almost always interesting seeing how characters that don't usually hang out bounce off of each other -- and it's especially fun when you've got a character like Superman. That guy's such a well-known, well-defined cultural institution that there has to be a huge temptation to see how he interacts with pretty much anyone else, even if you don't actually have the rights to do the real thing.
But really, that's the magic of comics. Even if you can't get the genuine article, you can always file off the serial numbers and do your own version and get the same effect. Sort of. And that's how Superman ended up spending a good chunk of the '70s hanging out with Captain Strong, a thinly veiled stand-in for Popeye the Sailor Man who was addicted to alien seaweed.
Look: I have read a lot of weird old DC comics. It's kind of my thing. But the great thing about them is that no matter how crazy they get, every time I think I've seen the weirdest thing that comics have to offer, they always somehow manage to top themselves. Case in point: a Cary Bates/Ross Andru/Mike Esposito classic from 1968 that has somehow managed to outdo every other comic I have ever read. I realize I say this all the time, but this is, without question, the absolute balls-out craziest comic I have ever read.
Seriously, folks, I'll go ahead and tell you right now that Batman casually mentions owning a time machine in this one, and as far as weird stuff goes, that's not even in the top five.
As much as I tend to enjoy Superboy stories for their sheer kookiness, I've never really been a big fan of the concept. For the most part, they tend to just be standard Superman stories with Metropolis swapped out for Smallville and a slightly different girl with an alliterative name giving him a headache...
I think we can all agree that the problem with Silver Age Superman was that he just didn't have enough powers. Flight, super-strength, invulnerability, super-speed, heat vision, X-Ray vision, telescopic vision, microscopic vision, super-breath, super-memory, super-ventriloquism, super-hypnosis, super-intellect -- I mean, honestly, how is anyone supposed to tell a story with such a limited set of tools...
While DC's upcoming Flashpoint event is poised play out across an altered present, the publisher's also got plans to pay tribute to the past this July through August. This afternoon during the DC Nation Live panel at WonderCon, DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan DiDio announced Retro-Active, a wave of one-shots that will pay homage to the spirit of the Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Justice League of America stories of the '70s, '80s and '90s...
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