Tag: Kryptonite

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!?!”

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the Mayor?

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the Mayor?

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game. “September Song” written by Teemu Brunila, Ben Hudson, Jon Cobbe Hume, and John Paul Cooper.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the peoples of steel, well, I understand. It’s hard to find DC books that aren’t about Batman. It might come as a surprise that DC Comics still publishes Bat-less books. And now that DC’s daddy has licensed their Looney Tunes characters out to Dynamite Entertainment, it’s even harder.

But if you search the racks a bit you’ll see that there are quite a few DC titles that feature the many various Supermans flying around the ever-morphing DCU comics that do not have Batman grabbing the staples, at least not in every issue. In fact, you might be confused with all the different Super men, women, children and pets. If you’re in Metropolis, and you look up at the sky, if you don’t see a fast moving red blur, you’re probably visiting an Earth with four digits.

The fact that all these Supers, with the arguable exception of Krypto, keep trying on new costumes does not help lesson the mob mentality one bit.

So it might come as a surprise that some major changes have been going on and, even more shocking, these charges are evolutionary and not the result of typical obsessive-compulsive rebooting.

As we have seen in last week’s Superman #850 (an up-priced anniversary issue because it ends in “50”), Daily Planet E-I-C Perry White, on leave of absence, has decided to run for mayor of the City of Tomorrow. Before he took leave prior to his announcement, he put the Planet in the hands of his star reporter, Lois Lane.

Now, that would be unlikely to happen on whichever Earth we happen to be living on. Lane has won more Pulitzers than the next ten winners combined. She is worth far more to the paper as a reporter. But this isn’t our Earth, and on hers she deserves the appointment, if she wants it.

In 2023, the existence of a women editor-in-chief of a great metropolitan newspaper is no longer rare. In fact, as print papers have dwindled down to a precious few, women editors are doing better than the medium for which they toil. Yeah, that isn’t much, and if this were British opera you might take that as a sign of their end times.

Should Perry win, should Lois become permanent E-I-C — and either can happen without the other — all kinds of interesting plot paths come into being. How would the job affect her marriage to Clark? How would the job accept her marriage to Kal-El? To their kid, to their family, to the other Supers and to the Justice League members she knows so well? And… what about Lex Luthor? Besides, if she’s running the Planet, she is unlikely to have time to fall out of helicopters.

What kind of mayor would Perry be? Does he have sufficient political skills to get anything accomplished? What sort of enemies will he make, and how will they act out? Will Perry have any sort of relationship with the Planet and his old friends? Will Mayor White’s work place those friends in jeopardy? Hoe long will he be mayor — and what happens after that ends? Senator White? President White?

In fact, Perry White had been mayor of Metropolis on one of the best known infinite Earths. It was revealed that Perry had been mayor before he went to the Daily Planet in the hit television show The Adventures of Superman, a program whose exposure and longevity is among the highest in history — it’s in the I Love Lucy class. Which is vaguely funny as Superman crossed over into Lucy.

Of course, there’s a 500 pound gorilla with Kryptonite ray vision sulking in the corner waiting for a big-ass strike to be resolved. What will happen to all of this as James Gunn’s Superman Legacy comes out — July 11, 2025, as time currently is reckoned in Hollywood? Does that establish another “sell-by” date for the masters of seat-of-your-pants circumlocution at Warner Bros Discovery? Hell, given the past ten years or so, will Warner Bros Discovery still be a thing? I wouldn’t bet either way.

There could be some interesting and fairly original stories coming out of all this. Then again, it all could wind up looking like a 30-car pileup in a blizzard on I-80 in Pennsylvania. We can and need to pay attention to history, but be careful about taking odds on the endgame.

But I like the sound of a kick-ass Mayor Perry White.

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

With Kong v Godzilla lighting up movie theaters real and virtual, it’s time to revisit that wonderful phenomenon, our gorilla-laden comic books.

The big apes have been a cultural force since staples started to bend and popcorn started to pop. I’m sure there have been thousands of doctoral theses written explaining why people are so attracted to our simian brethren, but I am certain about one thing: in the 1950s and 1960s, when you slapped a gorilla on the cover, you sold comic books.

By the time the Comics Code came into being, publishers were trying to cater to their horror-story-loving audience by deploying these colossus of sinew and fur as the Big Bad. Fine. But, just as those horror comics before them, things started to get kind of weird – particularly at DC Comics, and then, particularly when editor Julius Schwartz was involved. Here are six stunning examples of the form, each completely lacking in the type of realism that readers of the time demanded.

6. Tomahawk. As we began to realize the whole cowboys-and-Indians thing was exploitative, inaccurate and bigoted, Tomahawk — one of DC’s longer-lasting features — switched from chasing native Americans to protecting America from the evil British. It’s nice to see that by this time Tomahawk and his Rangers opened their ranks to the people they conquered. Obviously, when you’re taking on a gorilla so huge King Kong would cross his legs in shame you need all the help you can get.

5. Strange Adventures. I haven’t counted, but it’s possible that this particular s-f title had more gorilla covers than the Planet of the Apes. This one is my favorite, as it explains exactly why reading is, indeed, fundamental. I should point out that the covers to this Julie Schwartz title were by and large quite compelling. So compelling, in fact, that the actual stories rarely matched their impact.

4. Judge Dredd. The big ape thing was not just an American thing, to be sure, but in the world of Judge Dredd having a big ape Judge was just another day in Mega-City One. In fact, I’d say it was about as surprising as the sun coming up. Note that this guy is called “Judge Heston,” in tribute to the astronaut who inspired one of Jack Kirby’s best covers. Take a closer look and you will see the name “Heston” was engraved on the badge by, evidently, someone who’s penmanship was lacking in an opposable thumb. Evidently, Judge Heston had a thing for doing Batman-like poses.

3. Bizarro Titano. If all you know of Bizarro is the current not-well-defined Solomon Grundy pastiche, you’re missing out on “Tales of the Bizarro World,” one of the most unusual, bizarre, and clever volumes in the greater Superboy oeuvre. The original Bizarro was manufactured by a malfunctioning duplicator ray that was shined upon the Boy of Steel. Bizarro wasn’t an ape, but he sold comics during the JFK administration as though he was. Before long, there were Bizarros made of all the members of the Superman family and many of the members of the DCU at the time… not to mention a Bizarro Marilyn Monroe hanging out with a Bizarro-President Kennedy. God, those were good times. It wasn’t too long before Superman’s simian foe Titano got his own Bizarro doppelgänger. Fair is fair. Which leads me to…

2. The Real Titano. Talk about upping the ante: Not only was Titano a truly great ape, but he had Kryptonite rays beaming out of his eyes. This made Superman’s day all the more difficult. Like the original Superboy Bizarro story, Titano’s initial appearance ended quite nicely and in a laudable, humane fashion. But, as noted above, later somebody found that Bizarro duplicator ray. I loved this story, and I even remember where I was when I first read it

1. Grodd. There’s no contest (in my feeble brain, at least) that Gorilla Grodd is the most impressive ape in all comics gorilladom. He is one of the most evil of all the DC villains. He’s got one of the best backstories in all bad guy history, and his world (Gorilla City; I would have given it a more impressive name) is fully developed, fascinating, and fodder for many a good subsequent story. Grodd looked great in The Flash comics, and he looks even better on The Flash television series. In fact, he’s one of the three reasons I still watch that show. I don’t think he’s in next year’s movie (the one with several Batmans), but I’d hardly be surprised if he shows up. Just as long as you’re not sitting behind him at the theater.

Honorable Mention. There were plenty of gorilla covers in the pulp days. This particular one deserves notice because the name of the magazine is Zeppelin Stories and, therefore, the stories therein are built around zeppelins. Those things were to biplanes what King Kong is to Detective Chimp. So, yeah, that’s a gorilla hanging from the ladder hanging from the gasbag, which is why the story is called… “The Gorilla of the Gas Bags.”

I swear, if there’s just one more comic book in me and I can find the right publisher, it will have an absolute killer gorilla cover.

Thanks to my pal Marc Alan Fishman for unknowingly yielding me his snark space.