Tag: Jerry Siegel

Brainiac On Banjo: Superman Kills!?!

Brainiac On Banjo: Superman Kills!?!

“People say that life is good, but I just piss and moan. I got one foot on a banana peel, the other in the Twilight Zone.” Life Sucks And Then You Die, written by Mike Girard, Doug Forman and Rich Bartlett

It is well-known that the Man of Steel does not kill. However, that has not always been the case.

I just started rereading the first year of the Superman newspaper comic strip. It began publication near the beginning of 1939, five months prior to the release of the first Superman #1. Its circulation was mammoth, quickly appearing in virtually all major American cities and headlined by The New York Mirror, which ultimately had a daily circulation that was about the same as all three printings of Superman #1 combined. It is fair to say that, in these earliest days, the strip did quite a lot to maximize the Man of Steel’s popularity. The Adventures of Superman radio show, equally successful in widening the audience, didn’t start until a full year later.

Initially, the strip was produced by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s studio in Cleveland. Joe’s eyesight was pretty much shot by 1939, but he inked — at the very least — the character faces. The rest of the artwork was handled by Wayne Boring and Paul Cassidy. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Superman Kills!?!”

Weird Scenes #122: The News About Sperm

Weird Scenes #122: The News About Sperm

Zero. Perhaps we should start thinking about a Go-Fund-Me for cloning research.

Right now, half of this world’s nations have a live birth count insufficient for maintaining population status quo. “Insufficient” means the live birth rate is exceeded by the dead death rate, so half of our nations are losing population. This might be a bad time to become a real estate speculator.

To me, this is a good thing. When it comes to human survival, I do not see our biggest problem as diminishing resources. It’s overpopulation, and that’s not quite simply another way of looking at the same thing. Of course, the fastest way to deal with that outside of total war is for heterosexuals to severely cut back on fucking. That didn’t work in China, and that didn’t surprise anybody… including the Chinese government.

Unfortunately, I suspect the sundry fundamentalist organizations disagree with my worldview. Organized religion is cool with massive overproduction as long as the only humans who are being overproduced are those of their own particular brand. This starts a competition which, in turn, has lead to a lot of wars and disease and, perhaps curiously, rape. I’ve always found organized religion to be very confusing. It all seems to me to be a bunch of highly weaponized country clubs.

If you define “nature” as a physical force that scientifically takes control when humans screw up – after all, we humans are but an extremely tiny part of nature – then we have been conducting a war with nature. It’s thrown a lot of stuff at us to cut the population. Spanish influenza, HIV, Covid-19 are just three of the items in the cosmic trick bag that seem to have been designed to, as author Harry Harrison postulated, make room make room (a.k.a. Soylent Green). It seems we have been overwhelming those stopgaps.

Due to our inability to develop a reasonable attitude towards stewardship of our planet, which is the only apartment building our species can rent, we’ve been using up everything we’ve got. Food, fuel, clean air, potable water, patience… we might have enough of all that to make it to 2045, but if you’re looking forward to raising grandchildren, it seems likely they, in turn, will not be able to share that desire.

Superman was sent to Earth because his planet of birth self-destructed. I doubt Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster meant that to be a guide or a methodology. Then again, I could be wrong: they were big science fiction fans and the most significant purpose of the genre is to warn us about… well, us. We haven’t been catching on to the trend because we — myself included — do not want to give up our creature comforts. While our planet does not appear to be in danger of exploding per se, it is clearly seeking self-preservation by vaccinating itself from his most deadly disease. That disease, of course, is us.

I have no doubt that Earth will be around for the next millennium. To ironically anthropomorphize our Mothership, unfortunately, we won’t be around to hear our planet laugh triumphantly.

Right now, the human race meets three of the five standards commonly used to be classified as an endangered species. It is critical to note that it only takes meeting one of those standards to make the endangered species list. Ergo, we, the human race, is an endangered species.

There’s a sort of silver lining in this. If, in 24 years, there are no new babies crawling about we do not need to be sweating global warming today. As the saying goes, it’s just a fart in a blizzard. We might want to whip out the last reel of Doctor Strangelove and start choosing survivors.

Douglas Adams was mistaken. It is time to panic.

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Deep in the dark / I don’t need the light / There’s a ghost inside me / It all belongs to the other side / We live, we love, we lie – “The Spectre” written by Gunnar Greve, Jesper Borgen, Tommy Laverdi, Marcus Arnbekk, Anders Froen, Alan Olav Walker, and Lars Kristian Rosness, 2018

The comment expressed in our headline above was made by the fabled Jules Feiffer in his groundbreaking 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes. It was groundbreaking because Feiffer was the first to take the history and craft of comic books seriously — so seriously, in fact, that it was excerpted in Playboy.

The Spectre was created by Jerry Siegel, and if truth be told it’s probably my favorite of his creations — including the Big Red S. Feiffer was right: it’s a bitch to write a series where the lead isn’t really a “hero” and yet has, as Jules noted, powers roughly equivalent of God’s. And we’re not talking about the New Testament’s cosmic muffin — this is the Old Testament’s hoary thunderer, and The Spectre is his personal instrument of vengeance. Yup, the after-life might not be as sweet as you’d hoped.

I don’t know if the kids who were reading comics at the every end of 1939 were ready for that. Within two years the series was lightened up by a bumbling guardian angel called “Percival Popp, the Super Cop.” Think Frank Capra, but stupid. The Spectre became a founding member of the Justice Society, but when World War II ended he was out of the group, out of More Fun, and living off of Officer Popp’s police pension.

Still, the character made an impression and when Julie Schwartz was looking for another golden age character to revive after The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Hawkman, he chose The Spectre. That was odd, but with the arguable exception of Zatanna (or, really, her dad Zatara), The Spectre was the first character he brought back that Julie hadn’t edited during the Golden Age. Despite some decent scripts from Gardner Fox and artwork from the always amazing Murphy Anderson, it just didn’t click. The series was handed over to a relative newcomer named Neal Adams, who did some truly wonderful artwork, but it also did not find success.

But the guy still remained in the hearts of DC’s creative community. Editor Joe Orlando needed a new lead for Adventure Comics, so he brought in Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo and let them go nuts. The Spectre took this “vengeance of God” thing to a fundamentalist level, and he would kill the bad guys with such creative cruelty that they might have made EC artist “Ghastly” Graham Ingles genuflect at his porcelain throne. It was great. And it lasted 10 issues.

Since then The Spectre has been floating around the DC Universe in all its forms, incarnations, and mistakes. Lots — and I mean lots — of A-listers handled his adventures, including my buddies John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. They enjoyed one of the longest runs.

So it was with absolutely no surprise whatsoever that I stumbled across a DC Digital First thing called Ghosts. At first I thought that odd — thus far they hadn’t done resurrections of their mystery anthologies in their new digital line. Then I saw “Ghosts” was just another way of saying “The Spectre” and then I noted it was written by Dan Jurgens.

I really like Dan’s work, both as an artist and a writer. We worked together on Green Arrow for a long time, and instead of just leaving the series to do something new, he told me he was making a play to do Superman and, if he got it, he’d be moving on. As much as I liked Dan’s stuff — he and Mike Grell made a great team — he certainly earned the right to take a shot at the Man of Steel. I successfully fought back my overwhelming desire to mindfuck him into staying, although I did think about it. Dan did some remarkable work with the brightest of DC’s corporate jewels. Right now he’s writing Nightwing, and is damn good.

Dan, along with artists Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher, did a fine job on the story. I don’t know if Ghosts is a one-shot or a play to resurrect The Spectre again, this time without having to resort to paper and staples. They were somewhat restrained in their story… if you compare it to the Fleisher / Aparo run. Then again, a head-on collision between two 10-car passenger trains would seem equally restrained.

DC has done a number of very entertaining stories in their almost-daily Digital First line, unburdened by a continuity that mutates as often as amoebas commit mitosis. Seeing The Spectre pop up in this format evoked a response characters rarely have when they cross his path: I was pleasantly surprised.

Brainiac On Banjo #084: Me See DeeCee TeeVee

Brainiac On Banjo #084: Me See DeeCee TeeVee

Sweet Little Sixteen / She’s got the grown up blues / Tight dress and lipstick / She’s sportin’ high heal shoes / Oh, but tomorrow morning / She’ll have to change her trend / And be sweet sixteen / And back in class again. – Chuck Berry, Sweet Little Sixteen, 1958.

It seems that almost everybody is using their confinement to catch up on all kinds of television — mostly streaming or DVRed (that’s a verb now, right?). So, lapsing back into my traditional role as August Contrarian, I’ve decided to do a little catch-up on my book reading. Right now I’m about two-thirds of the way through Meyer Levin’s The Old Bunch, written in 1937. That’s only 35 years longer than I’ve had it on my shelf. As Brian Wilson and Mike Love said, I get around. Eventually.

But mopery is a force of my nature, so I have been watching a bit of teevee. Besides, I’ve never gotten a paper cut from watching television. I’ve been watching Stargirl, the latest presentation from Warner Bros.’ DC Comics think tank. The former goes up on both the DCUniverse streamer and The CW this coming week. Pop Culture Squad HBIC Adriane Nash (that’s what it says on her business card) and I had the privilege of watching the first three episodes of Stargirl, and my comments that follow come from the totality of this experience. Spoiler Alert: There really aren’t any spoilers here. Sorry.

Let it be said that I am a Justice Society fan — certainly the original creation, as well as most of its subsequent reincarnations. The JSA was the thing to collect when I was Li’l Fanboy, along with EC Comics, Carl Barks and The Spirit, and I remain a big fan of all four. Indeed, I now get nostalgic for nostalgia.

Stargirl is based upon the 1999 title Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder and Dan Davis, with James Robinson riding shotgun on the first issue, which was #0. Yes, the comics racket remains mathematically challenged. The series lasted 15 issues, ending with #14 (reread the previous two sentences), and it was a conflation of the original Star-Spangled Kid, Starman(s), and various versions of the JSA as well as the JSA’s lame doppelgänger, The Seven Soldiers of Victory. A cute teenager discovers Starman’s cosmic belt as she discovers her step-father was the Star-Spangled Kid’s sidekick, Stripesy. Like all smart, precocious comic book teen-age characters, she wants to become a costumed superhero. Stripesy, being her dad, is not keen on the idea but seeing as how he’s got a huge Transformers-wannabe robot suit gathering dust in the garage, he supervises his stepdaughter while on the fly.

I loved the series. I was annoyed it got shitcanned after 15 issues… the last being #14, remember? I’m a jaded old fart — that goes hand-in-hand with being an August Contrarian — and I think Geoff did a wonderful job bringing teen-age angst into the story in a fashion that makes the reader root for the kid while still sympathizing with the concerns of her parents.

So I was quite pleased that the greater Warner Bros. empire chose Stargirl as the newest wing in the DCU mansion, but I was a hell of a lot more pleased that Geoff Johns created the teevee series, is writing it, and is an executive producer. That’s pretty damn rare; off-hand, I can’t recall that happening since The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, a show so ancient that some readers might need to IMBD it. Television scripts always go through a lot of hands and by the time it’s being filmed it’s got more notes than Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. Remarkably and to its credit, the shows I saw still maintain the feeling of Johns’ work, as well as his story.

I’m not letting any cats out of my collection of trick bags when I say that JSA fans of all… stripes… likely will enjoy the hell out of the third episode. It pleased my Li’l Fanboy heart to no end.

Like all DCU-CW series (and now, post-Crisis, much of the rest of their sundry media universes), Stargirl is fraught with continuity possibilities. I’m not saying she’ll show up in the next big-ass crossover, and I doubt the Powers That Be will let Stargirl get too close to John Constantine. That’s reasonable, but if Geoff wants to consider that a challenge, hey, who am I to pour cold water on a jail bait story?

I do have one question. If you’ve read any new Superman family stories over the past few years, you’ve seen the legend “Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.” The creator credit also appears on the Supergirl CW show as well as other media derived from The Man of Steel. This was part of the end result of about 70 years of legal wrangling, and all accurate creator credits are well-deserved. Jerry Siegel also created the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy. Shouldn’t there be a creator credit for Jerry as well?

Yeah, I know. But I’ll ask again when Steve Amell returns as The Spectre.

Brainiac On Banjo #082: This Is Fitting… And About Time, Too!

Brainiac On Banjo #082: This Is Fitting… And About Time, Too!

Famous 1st Edition #C-63, New Fun Comics #1, published by DC Comics, 2020, in hardcover $19.99.

The very first thing that impressed me about the release of Famous 1st Edition #C-63, the first in four decades, is that the subtitle below the logo is “Limited Collectors’ Platinum Mint Series.” Holy crap! It’s Limited, it’s Platinum, it’s also Mint… and it’s a series?

So I looked it up. DC published a bunch of “Famous First Editions” reprinting the first issues of most of the usual suspects: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash Comics, All-Star Comics. Don’t ask me to explain how their numbering system worked; I figured it out with the intent of explaining it, but my head still hurts and it really isn’t important. The number isn’t on the cover, and, anyway, there can’t be a second Famous 1st Edition edition of New Fun #1. What I did’t realize, or maybe I forgot, is that before this Famous 1st Edition Limited Collectors’ Platinum Mint Series book DC had published issues as “Golden Mint,” “Silver Mint,” “Bronze Mint,” and Blue Ribbon series, the latter doubtlessly just to piss Archie Comics off. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #082: This Is Fitting… And About Time, Too!”