Throwing parties, getting ready for parties, cleaning up after parties…there’s a certain flow to it all. I really like all these different stages, even when it gets nuts.
And for me, right now it is nuts. I’m helping throw a party. The 44th Annual ITHACON, Ithaca’s Comic Convention is this weekend. It’s actually the nation’s second longest running comic con, right after San Diego Comic-Con. I’m part of a big team, including a group of dedicated Ithaca College students. They are learning about conventions and getting their first, hands-on taste of actually planning and running one.
But aside from the all the planning and ever-expanding to-do lists, part of my pre-convention ritual is gathering together some favorite comics for guests to autograph. There’s something about an autograph that makes a favorite comic become even more of a treasure.
Louise Simonson will be a guest at ITHACON. She’s had a such an impressive career- editing B & W magazines (Vampirella, Eerie, Savage Sword of Conan), writing top characters (Superman, the X-Men) and creating ground breaking characters (Power Pack, Spellbound).
But I think I found a favorite comic that I’d like to ask her to autograph. Superman: The Man of Steel #63 was published in 1996. It was right before the big industry bust, and at that time this title was part of a quartet of Superman comics that created a rich, monthly Super-tapestry of interconnected adventure. When this comic was published, Superman and Lois had just been married, and Clark had lost his super-powers.
One thing that makes this issue special is that Lois takes center stage in this story.
On John Siuntres’ Word Balloon Podcast, he recently interviewed Brian Michael Bendis who said he realized that Lois was one of the most interesting people in the DC Universe. This story from 1996 reinforces that view.
In this issue of Superman: Man of Steel, Lois is tough, determined and resourceful. She’s not stepping into the spotlight to save Clark because he’s in a temporary jam. In this story, she’s just “doing what she does” because that’s what she always does.
But there’s more: another nuanced part of this tale is how writer Louise Simonson cleverly makes the case to readers that it’s not the powers that make Clark a Superman. She’s able to write the character and show his humility, his heart and his hero’s soul.
John Bogdanove’s art in this issue still stands up. He had this breezy, action-oriented style that delivered impactful scenes with plenty of oomph. At the same time, he could pull the reins back for the quiet scenes as well. And with his inker, Doug Janke, Bogdanove created textures in each panel that would delight and surprise the reader’s eye.
It’s a great issue, and I can’t wait to tell Louise how much I enjoyed it, and still enjoy it, at ITHACON. Fingers crossed she’ll give me an autograph.
One More Thing
Similarly, I also stumbled across another comic in my collection. I had forgotten how much I liked it. Doomsday Annual #1 is a collection of short stories focusing on the early days of Superman’s unstoppable nemesis, Doomsday. I was flipping through the comic to review the Louise Simonson story within, but was reminded how much I liked the obscure Green Lantern Corps story that was also included. It was called “In Blackest Night” and was written by Roger Stern with heart-stopping art by Gil Kane and Jerry Ordway.
Ordway’s at his best with crusty inks over Kane’s pencils (layouts?) here. Kind of like that delicious cocktail that you’ve just tried for the first time, this combination of two favorites created something special. Jerry Ordway has the roughs and inked pages up on his blog and they’re worth a look. And Stern’s tragic tale of loss and sacrifice packs so much into a 12-page story.
Roger Stern is another ITHACON guest, and you can bet I’m going to pester him for an autograph too!
And I don’t mean to slight our other amazing ITHACON guests. For a small show – we’ve assembled an impressive line-up that also includes Walter (Ragnarok) Simonson, award-winning YA author Tamora Pierce, Tom (AHOY Comics) Peyer, Jamal (The Wrong Earth) Igle, David (“Trouble with Tribbles”) Gerrold, Craig (Behaving Madly) Yoe, Twilight Zone Author Nick Parisi, Frank (Stinger) Cammuso, Superman Expert Sid Friedfertig, Steve (The Only Living Girl) Ellis, Harold (Small Monsters) Sipe, Ken (Popeye) Wheaton and more. Maybe even one more super-surpise guest! And we’re trotting out some of the rare treasures from the Rod Serling Archives to put them on display for attendees. Can you tell I’m really looking forward to it? Hope to see you there.