Tag: Superman

With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman

With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman

Last week I presented my interview with Roy Schwartz about his new book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero. This time around, let’s take another look at Superman, albeit in a decidedly batshit crazy way.

Rescued from the Bargain Box

Recently, I rescued a copy of Superman #184 from the bargain box at Ravenwood in Utica, NY.  This comic, originally from February 1966, sports a cover by Superman stalwarts Curt Swan, George Klein and Ira Schnapp.  Or at least ¾ of the cover. I love three-quarter-covers, although this mutilation renders it a pariah by many collectors. We used to see more of these ripped covers in the old days. Before the direct market was established, retailers would be required to send back their unsold comics for credit. After a while, that proved to be too cumbersome, so the practice of sending back only the cover, or only the top logo from the cover, was adopted.  The leftover comics were often not destroyed and instead illegally resold at a discount. Continue reading “With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman”

With Further Ado #149: Is Superman Circumcised?

With Further Ado #149: Is Superman Circumcised?

It’s getting to be that time of year when I want to get my summer beach reading all lined up. That’s one reason why I was so eager to speak with author Roy Schwartz about his new book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero.  Here’s my five-and-a-half questions and Roy’s five-and-a-half-answers:

Question 1:

Ed Catto: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Roy? And are you a comic fan?

Roy Schwartz: I’m a huge comic fan. I grew up on comics, it’s how I taught myself to read and write. My favorite has always been Captain America—and this goes way back, when people would say “who?”

I used to have a decent collection. 42 long boxes, which isn’t huge, but it was well-curated. I had a complete run of every Cap comic published from October 1964’s Tales of Suspense #58 (signed by Lee & Kirby!) to October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy destroyed my storage unit and with it my lifelong collection overnight.

I’d like to give a shout-out here to Chuck Rozanski from Mile High Comics, who heard about it and sent me a few boxes of back issues. It was the sweetest gesture. This is a guy who spends his time and money volunteering for homeless causes around Denver. He’s a real-life superhero.

I don’t collect with the same gusto anymore, but my home office looks like a comic shop. I have a framed copy of Avengers #4, Cap shield and helmet replicas, life-size bust of Christopher Reeve’s Superman, a bunch of Hot Toys and other cool stuff.

When I’m not in fanboy mode I’m disguised as a mild-mannered director of marketing & business development for a great metropolitan law firm.

Question 2:

EC: Your book, Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero looks fascinating. What’s the book about? Continue reading “With Further Ado #149: Is Superman Circumcised?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

“I need you, but I hate to see you this way / If I were Superman then we’d fly away / I’d really like to change the world / And save it from the mess it’s in / I’m too weak, I’m so thin / I’d like to fly but I can’t even swim” — Ray Davies, (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman, 1979.

You might have heard the news. It’s been bombarding El Casa de Oro all week, and it’s been blitzing the interwebs to the point where I’m thinking of upgrading my dial-up. But just in case you’ve been away chasing after the Perseverance Rover, I’ll make my journalism teachers happy.

This past weekend, AT&T sold control and most of their ownership of their WarnerMedia division to Discovery Networks, owners of the many, many Discovery “cable” channels, HGTV, the Food Network, TLC, ID, Animal Planet, the Magnolia Network, and the Discovery+ streaming operation. They call this stuff “reality programming” but, as we all know, reality is in the mind of the beholder. As far as I’m concerned, that million-dollar vaccine lottery is the only reality show.

AT&T had only recently bought what they now call WarnerMedia — Warner Bros, CNN, HBO, Cinemax, the Cartoon Network, TCM, TBS, TNT, and a bunch of other stuff. If you can read the six-point type, you’ll discover they own some publishing as well, such as whatever is left of Mad Magazine and the meandering DC comics. Ma Bell went into so much debt to do this deal that, upon reading the report, King Midas reflexively picked his nose.

After acquiring that Denali of debt load, AT&T came down with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. I’m sure the stay-home-or-die principle that governed most thinking humans these past fourteen months did not help one bit, but it wasn’t a very good deal in the first place. After all, what does AT&T know about running the Home Insurance Building of media (sorry; “I.P.”) companies? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?”

New Number Ones: Comics Coming in March 2021

New Number Ones: Comics Coming in March 2021

This month we give our readers a list of the exciting new comic book series debuting in March. We have compiled an alphabetical list with cover art and the official solicitation text from PREVIEWSworld. Check below for our PCS NOTES to find out what we just have to tell you about the new comics in question.

There are a bunch of great new and interesting series starting this month from AfterShock Comics, Boom! Studios, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, Image Comics, Marvel Comics, AWA/Upshot Studios, and Bad Idea Comics.

There are a lot more new series starting this month from both DC and Marvel than we are used to. The Infinite Frontier initiative from DC Comics is bringing with it some new numbering to existing series, returning series that have been out of publication for a while, and a few brand new titles.

Marvel on the other hand is launching some interesting new series with lower star quality existing characters that seem pretty interesting.

Also of note, March has a magical fifth Wednesday. So this list is supersized because there are five weeks of new comics this month.

We will bring you reviews of most of these debut issues as they come out, and don’t forget to use the comments section to let us know what you think of this list.

You will find the books listed below in the order of when they are released.

Week of 3/3/21
Week of 3/10/21
Week of 3/17/21
Week of 3/24/21
Week of 3/31/21


Week of March 3rd

America Chavez: Made in the USA #1
Marvel Comics
Written by Kalinda Vazquez
Art by Carlos Gomez & Jesus Aburtov
Cover Art by Sara Pichelli & Tamra Bonvillain

WHO IS AMERICA? America Chavez is incredible — her origins, her strength, her dimension-shattering star portals! But when the foundation of everything she believes is shaken, America will stand up and face the parts of herself she’s been running from. From writer Kalinda Vazquez and artist Carlos Gomez comes an explosive, brand-new story all about what made America Chavez who she is — and what she’ll do to protect the ones she loves.

Release Date: March 3, 2021

 


Chariot #1
AWA / Upshot Studios
Written by Brian Edward Hill
Art by Priscilla Petraites & Marco Lesko
Cover Art by Jeff Dekal

The Chariot was a Cold War-era secret government project to provide its star agent with a weapon unlike any other in the form of a supercharged muscle car. It sank into the ocean decades ago, and the agent along with it. Now, a petty criminal looking to reform his life has stumbled upon the Chariot, and he’s about to find out that the agent’s consciousness is still controlling it in this synthwave thriller.

Release Date: March 3, 2021

PCS NOTES: AWA continues to bring us high quality creatives with interesting story concepts.


Crime Syndicate #1
DC Comics
Written by Andy Schmidt
Art by Kieran McKeown & Bryan Hitch
Cover Art by Jim Cheung

Spinning out of the pages of Dark Nights: Death Metal, the Multiverse is reborn — and Earth-3 with it! In this six-issue miniseries, witness the true origins of the malevolent makers of mayhem known as the Crime Syndicate as a common foe unites them! But how long can alliances last between villains like these? Also in this issue, it’s the origin of Ultraman in our special backup story drawn by superstar artist Bryan Hitch!

Release Date: March 3, 2021

PCS NOTES: I am not typically a fan of “villain books” but I want to see what Andy Schmidt has in mind. Continue reading “New Number Ones: Comics Coming in March 2021”

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

As a kid in the mid-sixties, it was a big deal when there was going to be a new Superman show on TV.  Batmania had taken hold, and there was a ravenous hunger for more superhero stories. I loved the Justice League comic of the day, which had one dominant message for young readers – if you like Batman, he has a bunch of friends and you should buy their adventures too!

Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman debuted on Saturday mornings, and it was a must-see. Never mind fellow-comic book alumni Casper on the opposite channel (although Secret Squirrel looked kinda cool). That was the show for me. Even though it was, in many ways, a retread of the old Superman radio show, we just knew these NEW adventures presented to best version of Superman ever! Continue reading “With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!”

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 #106: “Be Original?”

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Having spent the better part of my life in the comic book field – define “better” as you wish – one might think that I wouldn’t be so hung up on originality. After all, when it comes to those companies big enough to hoist a catalog, for 60 years now the orders of the day have been “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.”

Those are my words and not those of any marketing whiz. I am reminded of one of the medium’s great intellectual property redevelopers, editor Julius Schwartz. His nickname was “B.O. Schwartz.” The “B.O.” part stood for “Be Original.”

But, for the purpose of this treatise, let’s put aside four-color history and, instead, let’s talk about television. Or streaming. Or whatever we’ll wind up calling what’s been flickering between those programming arms on either side of the big glass teat.

Take a good look at some of the new fodder that’s been appearing on the boob tube the past decade and what’s in the pipeline for the immediate future, and you’ll see the orders of the day are now “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.” Why? Because it’s worked so well for comics?

Nudging aside my sarcasm (no easy feat), look at some of the recent programming options we have been given in the fantasy drama field. We find the reassembled return of Walker, Hawaii 5-0, MacGyver, Star Trek The Red Shirt Years, Doctor Who, Battlestar: Galactica, Superman, and many others that walk in the shoes of others. If it was once extremely popular and it wasn’t a western set in the old west, chances are it’s been or about to be rebooted, relaunched, revised, and retreaded. A new coat of paint and you’ve got yourself a franchise.

So, what do we have in that ever-widening pipeline right now? Law and Order SUV Mach II. The return of Criminal Minds. Yellowstone The Prequel. CSI (OG). Even Frasier. One might quibble that the upcoming return of Sex and the City is not drama per se. I don’t have a fully informed opinion about that, but to the extent that I am aware that program has been dramatic and certainly quite fantasy-oriented.

I could offer the argument, one that was standard in the comics field until maybe the early 1970s, that there’s an audience turnover and thus, for today’s viewers, these revivals are something new. Except they are not. Television has been swimming in reruns since Ampex invented videotape recording in the 1950s. Just about everything broadcast on network television since their videotape recorder was first installed has been broadcast and rebroadcast ad infinitum ever since. DVDs gave all that another platform, digital television, and the decimal television stations have expanded that, and now streaming has turned such accessibility into an ocean of nostalgia.

(A digression: the history of Ampex, which heavily involves Bing Crosby, Les Paul, and Ray Dolby, is quite interesting to those so inclined, as well as to those who have worked for ABC-TV during the past 60 years.)

Ampex-AVR-2-Quad-TVR

I’m not suggesting that all these reboots suck, or even most of them. But there’s no catharsis in “been there, done that.” It used to be each market had between three and five television outlets; today the only restraints are bandwidth and speed (both are increasing) and the consumer’s willingness to subscribe. That creates a lot of opportunity for all sorts of stuff, and there is more good stuff on “television” than one could have been imagined back when FCC commissioner Newton Minow called the medium a “vast wasteland” in 1961.

Nonetheless, Julie Schwartz’s admonition to “be original” is just as valid today as it was back in the day. If watching images float rapidly as viewed between our toes continues to be a thing, it is impossible to offer enough originality.

Sorry, Stabler. I’d rather see a bit more innovation.

With Further Ado #122: I Love A Parade

With Further Ado #122: I Love A Parade

It’s a big deal to have a balloon in the Macy’s Day Parade. When I was in brand management at Unilever, we worked to get Snuggle, the cuddy teddy bear mascot for Snuggle Fabric Softener, included in this wonderful event.  It made for a few special Macy Day Parades.

There have been a bunch of corporate mascots included over the years (I’m looking at you, Poppin’ Fresh, you Pillsbury Doughboy!) This annual event generally has been very inclusive to comic characters too.

In fact, you could “Look! Up in the Sky” many times over the years to see the “first” superhero: Superman.

The last of son of Krypton actually had three incarnations with the Macy’s Day Parade. The first Superman balloon took to the skies in 1939.  Superman’s first’s appearance was, of course, in April of 1938. It’s incredible to us today that a character could debut one year and become a giant balloon in one of the famous parades the very next year. Surprisingly, this balloon even preceded  The Adventures of Superman radio show.

And as Superman was so new, it’s understandable that he looked a little “off-model”, a term that didn’t even exist all those Thanksgivings ago. Continue reading “With Further Ado #122: I Love A Parade”

With Further Ado #115: The Sprawling MetaVerse of a Virtual Comic Con & the Simple Joy of an Old Comic Story

With Further Ado #115: The Sprawling MetaVerse of a Virtual Comic Con & the Simple Joy of an Old Comic Story

The best part about conventions, for me, is that they that they transcend commerce and blow past marketing to blossom into big parties where you spend time with old friends and make new ones (who all share the same pop culture interests).

Days gone by…

New York Comic Con was held virtually this past weekend. I was surprised how nostalgic so much of fandom and the industry was for “the good old days”.  And I was surprised how much I missed it.  Make no mistake, I had so much fun there for so many years, but I didn’t expect to be sappy about it. I thought the ache of my feet and the crush of the crowds was still fresh in my mind, but as time floats by we tend to forget all the crummy aspects of things and just remember all the cool parts.

Hats off to Reed Expo’s Mike Armstrong, Lance Fensterman, Larry Settembrini, Mark Fitch and their merry band who pulled this all together. This 2020 NYCC virtual convention, also branded as Find the Metaverse,  had some very interesting parts.  The exhibition floor was, by and large, a pretty straightforward conversion to an online version. Certain companies, like BlueFin, created incredible virtual booths where attendees could roam freely…and discover treasures. Continue reading “With Further Ado #115: The Sprawling MetaVerse of a Virtual Comic Con & the Simple Joy of an Old Comic Story”

With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not

With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not

Way back in my freshman year of college, instead of taking a traditional English class, students could select a Freshman Seminar. These courses were full of a lot of reading and writing, just like those traditional English classes, for these Freshman Seminars, you’d choose a topic that really excited you.

One that I chose was Medieval Studies 106 : King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.  I was surprised to find out that one could take classes in Medieval Studies.

It was really something! I had grown up enjoying King Arthur movies and books. In fact, John Boorman’s Excalibur debuted the summer before I went away to college. But the scholarly nature of the class opened my eyes wide to the rich, expansive landscape the Arthurian Legend.

There were quite of few stops along the way before that movie. The musical Camelot was a favorite as were the many King Arthur picture books I’d read as a kid. And so many King Arthur comics inspired me to learn more about the Round Table.  There’s an impressive new one that was just published that I’ll write about towards the end of this column.

The Road To Camelot – In Geek Culture

As a kid in the 1960s, for me World’s Finest #162 was an epic comic. In this adventure, those two great pals, Batman and Superman, adventured in medieval times with the Knights of the Round Table, and it turned out that the Arthur’s knights are essentially old timey superheroes. Oooooh! Now I got it. When you put it that way,  how could I (a young boy obsessed with superheroes ) not be enthusiastic about King Arthur stories?

Prince Valiant

One of the Knights of the Round Table, Prince Valiant, seemed to come into our life every week in the Sunday funnies.  I’d read his adventures every Sunday, just after The Phantom. Continue reading “With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not”