Tag: Superman

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Phillip Kennedy Johnson as He Begins a New James Bond Comic.

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Phillip Kennedy Johnson as He Begins a New James Bond Comic.

A couple of weeks ago, we caught up with rising superstar comic writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. We talked about a bunch of cool topics and published that interview on our Pop Culture SquadCast: Interview Edition. Johnson is super busy creating comics, but we talked about the three biggest announced projects that he is working on.

Recently, it was revealed that he will be writing the new series of James Bond from Dynamite Entertainment, with artist Marco Finnegan providing the visuals. That series begins next month in August.

We also spoke about what is going on in the pages of Action Comics from DC Comics where Ricardo Federici, Johnson’s partner in crime from the Last God has taken over primary art duties from Daniel Sampere.

As is usually the focus of our comic creator chats, we spent quite a bit of time talking about Phillip’s writing process and techniques. Some of that highlighted the excellent work that he has been doing on the Marvel Comics series Alien with artist Salvador Larroca.

It is always illuminating to talk to Phillip and we have transcribed some of the interesting newsy bits of the conversation below the jump. Give the SquadCast a listen and let us know what you think.


Pop Culture Squad: Let’s talk about James Bond. Congratulations on writing the new James Bond series with Dynamite Entertainment. Before we get into the series, I want to talk about who is “your James Bond” Which actor is the one that you are always going to watch.

Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Daniel Craig, for sure.

PCS: Okay, good. I personally don’t have a favorite. I love them all. What was the first Bond movie that you saw?

PKJ: <laugh> I honestly don’t remember. And the reason is it wasn’t like there was just one that came on. This one time I was staying with my stepdad’s mother for the weekend, and there was this Bond marathon on TV.

PCS: So, you watched them all at once.

PKJ: Seriously. I watched like a dozen of them probably. I fell asleep during one of them. I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m going to go to bed.” And, at the time, I remember liking Sean Connery a lot. I thought like “This guy’s super cool.” And I still feel like he’s probably the coolest of the old Bonds of the pre-Craig Bonds.

Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Phillip Kennedy Johnson as He Begins a New James Bond Comic.”

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comic Writer Mark Russell

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comic Writer Mark Russell

In this episode of the Pop Culture SquadCast we spoke with writer Mark Russell. It’s been about seven years since Mark burst on the scene with his breakthrough book The Flintstones from DC comics.

Since that time, he has delivered a string of smart, thought provoking stories in the medium including Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Second Coming with Ahoy Comics, Red Sonja from Dynamite Entertainment, Billionaire Island, Not All Robots from AWA Studios, and so much more.

We spent some time in this conversation talking about his two upcoming series which are Superman: Space Age on which he is work with legendary artist Mike Allred. And The Incal: Psychoverse that he is doing with Yanick Paquette.

If you are a fan of Mark Russell’s work at all, you know that we had to touch on some current events and nature of human society. It was a lot of fun.

We transcribed some of the interview below but also listen to the SquadCast to hear the whole conversation. We hope you enjoy it.


PopCultureSquad: You’ve written Superman before in Wonder Twins and One Star Squadron. How does this new story differ for you? Is it the same version of Superman?

Mark Russell: I wanted to write him as like sort of a wise old stoic, you know, sort of like Marcus Aurelius or Suetonius or something, but he doesn’t start out that way. And I think what is different about this story is it tells Superman from his beginnings to becoming that. So, it is much more about trial and error. It is much more about the process of him becoming Superman, about him absorbing the wisdom of the Kents and Lois lane, and synthesizing all of the influences that they have on his life and becoming what you would recognize as my Superman. He is an unflappable, wise character who realizes that he has to be the voice of reason, that he has to be the most generous soul in the room, because anything less than that would be a nightmare for the human race.

PCS: Right. And it’s interesting because the Superman that you have written is very different from Sunstar from Second Coming. Superman that you’ve written has that heavy gravitas to him. And you can tell that everyone who’s talking to him, or stuck talking to him, knows that they are talking to the most powerful person on the planet, and he is not acting like it.

MR: So. Yeah. When I had originally pitched the Second Coming story, I wanted it to be Superman, but, Dan Didio at DC said, “I get death threats when Superman fails to say the Pledge of Allegiance. You are not going to involve me in your blasphemy here.” So, luckily he said no to Superman, but he said, “You can write it as a creator own character, and I’ll approve it.” So, that’s when I created Sunstar. and it really turned out to be a good move, because Sunstar, I think makes a much better paring for Jesus Christ than Superman.

If it was Superman, then you just have two nice guys, two really wise guys bouncing off each other, and no one wants to read that. There is just really nowhere to go with that. Whereas, Sunstar is not that wise. He’s a guy who’s kind of spoiled, someone who’s leaned into his privilege, and Christ has to sort of dial him back a little. Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comic Writer Mark Russell”

R.I.P. Comics Legend Neal Adams 1941 – 2022

R.I.P. Comics Legend Neal Adams 1941 – 2022

Photo by Gage Skidmore at 2019 Phoenix Fan Fusion

The comic book industry has lost another giant. Neal Adams passed away yesterday on April 28. 2022. He was 80 years old and passed after complications from sepsis. Adams’s work as a penciller and storyteller left a massive impact on the medium, and his efforts in creator rights advocacy led to policies that have benefited untold numbers of creators that followed him.

Adams worked in commercial advertising art at the beginning of his career and also worked for Archie Comics in the early 1960’s. He later worked for both Marvel and DC Comics, but his work on Batman and Green Lantern / Green Arrow in the 1970’s is where he began to leave his lasting legacy. The work he did with Denny O’Neil on those books was transformative in comic book storytelling. He also published creator-owned independent works with Pacific Comics and Continuity Comics among others.

He was also an activist for creator rights and is credited with helping to push for the credit for creating Superman that Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster were long denied. The practice of returning original art to creators is another innovation that he fought for along with various attempts to create creative community collective bargaining units. In his later years, he lent his art to several projects intended to highlight resistance to Nazi aggression during the Holocaust.

Neal Adams was a legend in his time. He was inducted into every Hall of Fame in the comics industry that you can think of and was responsible for helping to nurture the career of young creators. His legacy is immeasurable, and he will be missed.

With Further Ado #185: True Love and Discounted Comics

With Further Ado #185: True Love and Discounted Comics

I tested positive for Covid-19 last week, and it clobbered our plans for St. Valentine’s Day. I am relieved that I was vaxxed and boostered; my symptoms weren’t that bad. But my isolation period overlapped our Valentine plans, and that was a bummer.

My wife, Kathe, is always a very thoughtful gift-giver, and one of the St. Valentine’s gifts she gave me this year was a pack of 10 DC Comics from discount retailer Ollie’s. This pack collected ten recent comics and sold them at a discount. The promotional packaging proclaims it is up to a $49.90 value.

Do you know Ollie’s? This is a discount/close-out retailer. They famously had a bunch of hardcover comic collections from DC and Marvel on sale at absurdly low prices a few years ago.  It turns out the DC sales force had been trying to sell these books to comic shops for years, and finally just unloaded the inventory.  As we don’t have a comic shop in our town, it’s an easy stop for casual and hard-core comic fans.

As anyone who’s tried to gift comics to a comic book fan knows, it’s always hard to figure out what they already have and what they haven’t yet purchased/read.  Kathe was surprised that there were many comics in this 10-pack that I hadn’t read.

And it’s an odd collection. It’s like a time capsule, but not an ancient one. In fact, it’s like a time capsule that was just put together a year or two ago, and then you were impatient and wanted to open it right then. This stack of DC Comics had a bit of “stale anticipation” of all the stuff that seemed exciting but has since gone in another direction.  That’s understandable; the company has been through so many changes lately.

Of note:

Action Comics #1000 (June 2018) is a fun comic with short stories by top creators.  The last story in this one was a tease for Brain Bendis’ then upcoming stint of the Superman titles.  I really enjoyed that run, but it’s astonishing at how quickly it all went by.

Likewise, Superman #21 (May 2020) was published right at the tail end of Bendis’ run. One of the things it focused on was Superman abandoning his Clark Kent identity. The idea was that we’d get “so many” stories exploring that new development.  That didn’t really seem to happen either.

This packet included two copies of Batman #93 (June 2020), one with the regular cover and one with the retailer variant.  This issue features the character Punchline and the writer James Tynion IV, both of whom seemed to be so important to the Batman franchise at the time. I’m unconvinced that Punchline became the breakout character she was meant to be. Writer Tynion recently left Gotham City for the greener pastures of Substack, and the Batman title has the feel of re-starting with a “bold, new era” with new creators yet again. Continue reading “With Further Ado #185: True Love and Discounted Comics”

Brainiac On Banjo: Ku Klux Luthor For President?

I just returned from a week-long driving trip to Chicago, hanging out with friends while doing as little work as possible. I used to do this three times a tear, but I haven’t for the past 21 months because, you know, Covid.

The driving part is, for me, wonderfully relaxing. I control the music, I nosh on tons of life-saving unhealthy food, and I get to enjoy long internal conversations with the one person who totally gets me. This time, while plowing through north central Ohio, my thoughts drifted towards Lex Luthor and the frightening growth of the white separatist movements. Now, before you can scream “oxymoron” let me state internal conversations often are 100 miles short of reality. It’s my brain, damn it, and it’s time I indulged it.

Back in 1961, DC published what I believe was the first story titled “The Death of Superman.” It said so right on the cover, which kinda gave away the ending. It was an “imaginary story,” meaning it didn’t really happen. Compare this with Marvel’s later What If? stories, which I gather really did happen…. somewhere.

To illustrate this bit of comic book logic: DC did not publish a series of Death of Superman comics based upon this imaginary story — they rebooted the concept many, many times, often under the same title. On the other hand, this March Marvel will be coming out with a Captain Carter series based upon the first What If? teevee episode. Reality is what happens between the staples.

In this imaginary story, Lex Luthor is pardoned from all crimes after inventing a cure for cancer. That made sense to me at the time because I was barely 11 years old when I read it at the counter of Normie’s Deli while consuming a plate of french fries and a glass of Green River. It didn’t occur to me at the time how the hell Lex actually could come up with a cure for cancer while incarcerated. Penal reform, I guess.

Upon his release, Lex buckled down to his real plan: killing the Man of Steel. SPOILER ALERT: In this story, titled The Death of Superman, Lex Luthor’s nefarious scheme was successful.

Being in 21st century Ohio, I wondered what would have happened had Lex Luthor been a Trumpster white supremacist.

In the original story, Luthor was beloved for coming up with the cancer cure — perhaps it did not involve getting a vaccine injection. He lost that love after murdering Superman. Go figure. But in my more contemporary scenario, I suspect about one-third of Americans, those who are avowed Trumpster while supremacists, would be quite happy about Luthor’s newfound prerogative.

Undoubtably, Lex would be invited to guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast. He might get his own television show on one of the lying far-right wing fake news networks. He’d go on tour raising money for Trump. He could even become the new Rush Limbaugh.

Indeed, I suspect Donald Trump would pick Lex Luthor as his vice-presidential candidate in 2024. If you think about it, this might be a grave mistake on Trump’s part — with emphasis on the term “grave.”

I mean, WTF, Lex just killed that not-white alien Superman. Killing anybody else would be no big deal. Luthor could be a better Trumpster than Trump himself.

We would have President Lex Luthor which, as I recall, happened in DC’s not-imaginary stories. These sagas, by definition, really happened.

It doesn’t take a political wag to note the Republican party would be fine with this. They are fine with the invasion of the Capitol building by violent insurrectionists, they care fine with eliminating, oh, school programs, health programs, social security, Medicare, abortion, and poverty programs in order to give the wealthiest of the wealthy another cut in the taxes they don’t pay anyway. That’s how these bastards roll.

The man who edited that original Death of Superman, Mort Weisinger, was a friend (of sorts) of the Kennedy administration, so perhaps he would not have green-lit this saga. But that way then.

This is now, and that story doesn’t seem so extreme today.

With Further Ado #174: I Love a Parade

With Further Ado #174: I Love a Parade

It seems like it should be a rigorous process for a brand, or a character, to achieve the crowning achievement of being featured as a balloon in the Macy’s Day Parade. But it doesn’t work that way.

Way back when, when I was working in marketing for Lever Brothers on Snuggle Fabric Softener, I learned how it all really worked. It was simple economics. If you could pay, you could get your brand, or character, into the parade.

You might not see him so much now, but Snuggle was the cuddly bear mascot for the Snuggle fabric softener brand. In network TV commercials back in the day, we were forever throwing the Snuggle Bear into a pile of super-soft towels. They were so soft because, and you have already guessed it, the head-of-household had used Snuggle fabric with every load of laundry. You see, back then, parents expressed their love for their family through soft towels.

And yes, I know it all sounds silly now.

Anyways, Lever Brothers had created a Snuggle Balloon for the Macy’s Day Parade in 1989, and we ran it again in 1990. My firstborn was just a month old then, so I decided to forego the VIP seats. In retrospect, I do regret that!

Faster Than A Speeder Bullet

Still, I’m always surprised that Superman, who debuted in 1938, appeared as a balloon in the 1940 Macy’s Day parade.  According to the Macy’s Fandom Wiki, it was designed by the parade director, who evidently didn’t realize that Superman usually wore a red cape.  From the Wiki:

The colossal “Man of Steel” balloon was designed by a former Parade Director Tony Sarg and constructed out of neoprene coated rubber at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company  at Akron, Ohio headquarters. The “Giant Superman” measured 75 feet in height and 44 feet in width with 9,000 cubic feet of helium needed to help the superhero fly down the streets of Manhattan. A crew of 27 husky handlers helped guide the balloon down the street, all donning Superman-themed apparel. 

The original Superman balloon was retired after making only one appearance in the 1940 procession and was refurbished into Hugo the Football Hero the following year.

It really speaks to Superman’s instant, overwhelming success, that he could be in the Macy’s Parade so soon after his debut.  And by the way, who is Hugo the Football Hero?!?

But you may have seen Baby Yoda, although we call him Grogu now, in the parade last Thursday. He debuted in the 2019 Disney+ series The Mandalorian, and there he was in the parade, just two years later.

“Incredible!”, you say?  Maybe not. It’s not really the Star Wars character. It’s really the Funko version of the Star Wars character. This effort was driven by toymaker/collectible maker Funko, as detailed in this NYTimes article.

One more triumph for Geek Culture. And it also makes sense that this effort was a also a way to sell exclusive toys at Macy’s. From the NYTimes article:

For the occasion of the parade, Grogu Pop merchandise, including T-shirts, hoodies and figurines, will be sold at the Herald Square Macy’s and Funko stores.

“We’re beyond excited for the product to the hit shelves at Macy’s flagship store in a few days,” Jordan Dabby, Senior Director of Partnership Marketing and Media for Macy’s branded entertainment, said in an interview last week. “We expect the limited-edition Grogu Macy’s Parade balloon-inspired merchandise to go quickly.”

One can’t help but wonder what characters are in development right now for next year’s parade.

With Further Ado #170 : Is Superman Jewish?

With Further Ado #170 : Is Superman Jewish?

In recent weeks, there was the hubbub about Superman’s sexuality that outraged, “Outraged”, I say,  much of the conservative media. Of course, the storyline they were focused on is how in recent comics, it has been revealed that Superman’s son is bisexual.

Editor’s note: See this article.

Somehow, trying to figure out if Superman is circumcised seems almost … pedestrian by comparison. But don’t let that fool you. Roy Schwartz’s new book, Superman is Circumcised?, published by McFarland, is an impressive work that is meant for hard-core, real-deal fans as well as the general public.

I’m reminded of the time when…

How the world has changed. Back when I was a kid, our family went to one of my dad’s college homecomings at Cornell.  Usually, the stop at the bookstore was an opportunity to buy Cornell swag, but I was perplexed and enthralled by one book on sale there. It was The Gospel According to Superman by John T. Galloway, Jr.  I had no idea who John T. Galloway, Jr was, but I could tell right away that the cover was illustrated by a “real” Superman artist – the legendary Murphy Anderson. Continue reading “With Further Ado #170 : Is Superman Jewish?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Truth, Justice, and All That Jazz

“Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets. ‘Up in the sky – look!’ ‘It’s a giant bird.’ ‘It’s a plane.’ ‘It’s Superman!’ And now, Superman – a being no larger than an ordinary man but possessed of powers and abilities never before realized on Earth: Able to leap into the air an eighth of a mile at a single bound, hurtle a 20-story building with ease, race a high-powered bullet to its target, lift tremendous weights and rend solid steel in his bare hands as though it were paper. Superman – a strange visitor from a distant planet: champion of the oppressed, physical marvel extraordinary who has sworn to devote his existence on Earth to helping those in need.” – written by Allen Ducovny and Robert Joffe Maxwell for the original Superman radio pilot, 1939.

The above proclamation was not original to the Superman comic books or the newspaper comic strip. It was streamlined, and the phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” was dramatically appended to the opening as President Roosevelt had started making his plans to dive head-first into World War II. It was also used in the opening to the Fleisher/Paramount Superman cartoons, and later the syndicated 1950s Superman television series.

“Truth, Justice and the American Way” is not in the U.S. constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or as far as I can tell, the bible of any “major” religion. It is and always has been a marketing slogan, not unlike Fisk Tires’ “Time To Re-Tire.”

Why should he? Superman, long acknowledged to be a world citizen, is not a native born American and never had been. He has acknowledged that being an alien he could not lawfully become president. If he wanted to cheat, he probably could have pulled off running as “Clark Kent” (not his real name), as long as nobody demanded to see his birth certificate. With a raised seal, of course.

Superman is an illegal alien. A dreamer who landed without government permission or knowledge in Kansas U.S.A. without any parents and was seized by a then-elderly heterosexual white married couple. We assume somewhere along the line “Clark Kent” probably forged those credentials he would need to go to school, get a driver’s license and a passport, get married, and so on.

So, of course, this native Kryptonian dropping the “American Way” tagline drove the Rabid Right completely around the bend. Because, you know, he’s posed with the American flag and stuff.

The new phrase, “Truth, Justice and A Better Tomorrow,” would sound great opening a network newscast, unless that network isn’t Fox, Newsmax, OAN or their fellow reality-challenged microcephalic internet rackets. The Rabid Right lost their collective mind. Again.

As I said in this space last week, I enjoy watching the Rabid Right lose its shit. They’re almost as fantastic at that as they are lying through their teeth and causing widespread death. First Superman Son of Superman is revealed to be bisexual, and now, about a week later, he’s an optimistic citizen of the multiverse who is absolutely not working to further any American interests per se. So if the entire idea is to keep the Right reflexively flinching, then right on, DC Comics!

(Mike Gold and Bob Harrison will be representing Pop Culture Squad at this weekend’s the Baltimore Comic-Con, October 22 through 24, at — of all places — the Baltimore Convention Center, the one in Maryland. Evidently, Mister Gold will be on separate panels about First Comics and Hawkman, both hosted by Mister Harrison. We smell a fix…)

Brainiac On Banjo: Superman and the Dingleberries of Society!

Number forty-seven said to number three: You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company, Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me. — “Jailhouse Rock, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, 1957.

Bill Maher has a segment on his show called “I Don’t Know It For a Fact, I Just Know It’s True.” Here’s my contribution.

The smaller your mind, the more likely it is to fall out your nose. This is why you’re called “blowhards.”

Case in point: the pathetically predictable response to Jon Kent’s coming out as bisexual. You’d think they discovered a couple dozen missing votes for Trump.

Ignoring the facts that Jon Kent is a fictional character, that the audience is familiar with the concept of bisexuality and aren’t likely to “convert” anybody just because a comic book character kissed a member of his own sex, and that the only thing that noticeably drives comic book sales is its perceived collectability, it’s kind of amazing that so many fools totally lost their little minds when they heard this story.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy watching people like Tucker Carlson go apeshit over “dog bites man” stories, although it’s becoming as boring as it has been predictable. If they think this is a recruitment issue for the White supremacists that are in our face 24/7, they’re preaching to their own choir. To be fair, these self-absorbed dingleberries of society are indeed the only ones who would listen.

Since I love tossing rock lyrics around, let me assure you Pete Townshend was right. “This is no social crisis. Just another tricky day. You’ll get through.” I don’t think Warner Media execs or even AT&T stockholders will, to quote Flo and Eddie, “pull their heads out of their own puke” over this one. It won’t kill their Discovery deal.

These toadlickers are still pissed that Heimdall has been played by a Black man in the Marvel movies for a bit more than a decade. To them, that’s heresy… which is weird, as American White supremacy is a movement that appears to mostly attract Christians (but no, not the other way around; give me a break). However, every controversy is fraught with comedic potential: I explain to these numbskulls that, given the turf and the times, Jesus Christ absolutely had to be Black — so why not Heimdall? Then I watch the nuclear cloud blow the top off of their bald, teensy brain pans.

Yet, somehow, these same neverlaids get stimulated by Joan Jett’s cover version of “Crimson and Clover.”

My advice to Jon Kent, who I remind you is a fictional character, is to fly above the bullshit. You know these psychopaths are simply jealous.

And, yes, my tighty-Whities. I did start this one with a Bill Maher reference just to piss you off. Like I said, you’re pathetically predictable.

(Mike Gold will be joining our own Bob Harrison as guests at the Baltimore Comic-Con, October 22 through 24, at — go know — the Baltimore Convention Center. If you would like to discuss the above words of wisdom, remember: you’ll be in public, even if you’re wearing a mask.)

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comics Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comics Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson

In our latest episode of the Pop Culture SquadCast, we spoke to comic book writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. Phillip’s catalog of published comic work has increased significantly in recent years. He created and wrote the hit DC Comics Black Label series The Last God and currently is writing for both DC and Marvel comics. He is penning Action Comics for DC and the newly launched Alien book for Marvel, among others.

Phillip has an amazing “day job” as a member of the United States Army and has come to comic book writing later than others. His roots in comic publishing come from the creator owned space with books like Last Sons of America that was published by Boom! Studios,  and his collaboration with Steve Orlando on the AfterShock Comics book Kill A Man was a significant topic in our conversation.

Phillip is often found to be thoughtful and excited about telling stories in the comic medium. It is always a joy to spend some time talking comics with him. Our conversation touched on a bunch of different topics including his current projects.

We delved into the world building that Phillip does in his storytelling and how from The Last God to Superman and Alien you can see the care that he takes in making the setting authentic. The topic of alien languages came up and people interested in how to make that work will be very interested in that conversation.

As a reader of comics, I often wonder how the dynamic of two writers works in the practice of writing the story. Phillip went into detail about how the project Kill A Man was proposed to him and about how he and Steve Orlando traded off on scenes and then came back to collaborate and create a fluid single voice to the book.

The concepts and plans that are coming in the second arc of Alien from Marvel were discussed, and Phillip has taken great care to tell interesting stories in the world of Alien that respect the fan base but also push the boundaries. He laid out the premise for “Alien: Sanctuary” which begins in September.

We hope you enjoy the conversation and it inspires you to seek out Phillips work. You won’t be disappointed.

 

You can find Phillip on Twitter at @PhillipKJohnson and also on his website phillipkennedyjohnson.com.