Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Shutting Up Shop

It's been 3 months since the last post appeared on World of Superman, and I'll be honest with you - I've not really thought about this blog since then. I've enjoyed doing what I've been doing here, but it's been more and more of a struggle to keep this thing on track over the past year, which is why I'm officially bringing the World of Superman to a close.

But I'm not done with the internet, or with Superman! First off, there's my solo podcast project, the 20 Minute Longbox. Every two weeks, you'll get a random hit from my longbox. The latest episode is a 20th episode spectacular, taking a look at Incredible Hulk #26 from 2001, as well as a brief peek at Batman: The Black Mirror, a look forward to the imminent London Super Comic Convention, and some analysis of what the randomiser has chosen so far.

I've also started a new podcast with Andrew Leyland of Heykids Comics, called The Fantasticast. This show covers every appearance of the Fantastic Four from the very beginning of the Marvel Age of Comics. I'm having a huge amount of fun with the show, and I love recording with Andrew, and I hope you'll stop by and check it out. New episodes arrive every two weeks, alternating with the 20 Minute Longbox, and the next episode will hit this coming weekend.

As for Superman? Well, one of the most common questions I've been asked since starting this blog post is how I've decided to put the comics in the order I've chosen. Well, over the past few months, I've been working on a proto-timeline for Superman's life, covering from the earliest recorded days of Krypton up until the Millennium crossover. It's an early draft, and there's a lot still to add in, and as soon as I've plucked up the courage to read the last two issues of Millennium and add them in, I'll publish the timeline on this blog for you all to read and comment on. If the reception is good, then I'll see about getting through to the end of Exile as the next stage!

And finally, keep your eyes peeled for a new blog from myself, a place for me to write about what interests me in the world of comics, movies and television, coming soon to an internet browser near you. No plot, no plan, just a gentle geek and his keyboard writing about what he wants to, when he wants to.

Thank you for coming by over the past couple of years, for reading, for commenting, and for making this fun for a while. See you on my podcasts or at the new blog.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Superman #5 - The Mummy Strikes!

This isn't quite as planned, as my laptop is having a few problems reading my latest set of pictures, featuring all of my lovely MCM Expo goodies, from my memory card. So, whilst I wrestle with the technical issues, I figured it was probably worth  getting back to the bread and butter of this blog - the life and times of the Post-Crisis Superman!

Don't forget to grab the latest episode of the 20 Minute Longbox. Not only is it a super-sized episode featuring my good friend Jon M. Wilson as a special guest-star, but it also contains an exciting announcement about a future project!

And on with the issue!

The Mummy Strikes

Writer-Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Letterer: John Costanza
Editors: Andrew Helfer & Michael Carlin
Cover Art: John Byrne
Cover Date: May 1987
Release Date: 12/02/1987

Superman dreams of fighting Apokolitian Warhounds in Washington DC and the arrival of Wonder Woman. The two defeat the Warhounds together. Wonder Woman makes to leave, but Superman grasps her wrist. The two are about to kiss when Clark awakes, amazed at the intensity of his dream.  Starting to wonder if there might now be place for romance in Superman’s life, Clark realises that he is late for work.

At the Daily Planet, a package has arrived on Clark’s desk. Distracted by Cat Grant’s flirting, Clark forgets about it. Summoned to Perry’s office, he sees a video message from Lois Lane giving an update on her secondment to an archaeological dig that suddenly cuts out. Perry sends Clark to South America to investigate.

Superman flies to South America before changing in a dig tent. As Clark, he meets up with Lois, who has been trying to fix the radio. She accuses him of trying to scoop her again, before reluctantly mellowing as he convinces her that he is here to help. Dr Estevez, the dig chief, shows Clark a piece of machine-tooled metal found inside a 3000 year old jar, the key to the dig. Descending into the site, Clark sees futuristic panels secreted behind naturally grown stalagmites, which are the source of the interference that blocks communications. As Estevez attempts to work the panels, a wall crumbles as two large bandage-wrapped hands burst through.

The hands belong to a giant mummy-like creature that attacks Clark and Lois with eyebeams. Clark gets Lois and Estevez to safety, wondering how he can use his powers without compromising his identity. He uses his heat vision to bring a section of the roof down around him, giving him cover to use his powers. The ‘mummy’ surprises him however, by blasting into the air with rockets. Clark has to pull his punches, as his x-ray vision cannot penetrate the ‘mummy’ to discover if it is a living being or a robot.  He realises that he cannot change into Superman as he hasn’t shaved, and both Clark and Superman being seen by Lois in another country with stubble would be too obvious.

Clark lunges for the panels, trying to halt the attack. A giant explosion rocks the ruins. In the aftermath, Lois crawls into the rubble, looking for Clark. She finds him unconscious, and she and Estevez drag him to safety. Returning to investigate, she comes face to face with the ‘mummy’, whose bandages have disintegrated revealing a large robot underneath.

For the second issue in a row, John Byrne takes an opportunity to move beyond Superman’s rogues’ gallery and bring something new to the table. This issue is all about continuing to establish the world in which Clark and Superman operates, and raising the stakes of the threat. Explanations and revelations will be saved for the next issue; this is all about the setup.

It might be a given, considering that the book is named after him, but this really is Superman’s issue. I love his gentle rebuttal of Cat’s not-so-obvious flirting, caused by him forgetting to shave. I really appreciate the page where Superman flies from Metropolis to South America, going suborbital to get there as quickly as he can. What is implied about this page is Superman’s intelligence. He knows how far away his destination is, and has a strong enough understanding of XXXX to be able to maximise his abilities to get there as quickly as possible.

The fight scene is a great example of Superman’s brains and brawn coming together. Realising that if both Clark and Superman appear to Lois with a five o’clock shadow then his secret will be out, Clark stays in costume and seals himself inside the ruins with the mummy-robot so that he can tackle it without worrying about his identity. This leads to come great visuals as Clark, clad in khakis, a shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a tie, goes toe-to-toe with a 20-foot tall mummy. I also like that he pulls his punches in case the mummy is an innocent living being, showing a respect for life regardless of the circumstances.

The cliffhanger to the issue is nice and strong. Clark, his secret safe thanks to not getting changed, is rendered unconscious by a huge explosion, whilst Lois is menaced by the unwrapped mummy, revealed to be a sleek-but-giant robot. We’ll see next week that the story takes a turn that’s nearly impossible to predict from the information given in this issue, which, in my opinion, makes the story stronger without cheating the reader.

The Geeky Bits: The intensity of Superman’s Wonder Woman dream is probably an after-effect of Prana’s attack in Adventures of Superman #427. Superman met Wonder Woman in Legends #6, and will feel drawn to her over the next year-or-so’s worth of stories. Look for Action Comics #600 to see what will happen between the two of them.

The mysterious package has been seen before, but for the sake of spoilers (!) I’ll hold off any futher commentary until we come to resolve this plotline in the books.

Collected in Superman: The Man Of Steel vol 3. It was covered in depth on episode 7 of From Crisis To Crisis.

Next on World of Superman:
Superman #6. Well, what did you expect?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

MCM Expo: The Pictures, The Memories

It's MCM Expo week here at World of Superman, taking a look back at this October's MCM Expo. Today, I'll be letting my pictures tell the story of the Expo. But, to warn you, I'm not a great convention photographer. I tend to feel very British and uncomfortable asking for pictures, and some experiences just cannot be captured in photographs. But I've got what I've got, and I'd like to take you on a journey!

All good journeys to the EXCEL Centre involve the Jubilee Line, and to my surprise, I sat down next to a Spanish lady who happened to have this emblazoned on her bag. A wonderfully appropriate start to the weekend, and a great way to introduce myself to Guest of Honour Gail Simone later on that day.

From the Underground to the Docklands Light Railway. Can you spot anyone who might be coming to the Expo? I love playing spot the cosplayer, seeing how early I pick them up on my journey from Surbiton to Docklands. This year, I had one on Surbiton station, only 10 minutes into the 90 minute journey, which was a record!

The title sponsor this year was Arkham City. This was the main entrance to the Expo halls, about 1pm, an hour before opening. The best thing about the Friday early entry is being able to get your hands on the hot games without queuing for hours, and I was able to while away some time playing the first section of the game. Having not played Arkham Asylum before, I was blown away by the attention to detail and the depictions of the characters within. Sadly, the game was on an Xbox 360, a console I've had no experience playing on, so I wasn't very good at it at all...

The queueing hall, 5 minutes after the doors should have opened. As much as I hate queuing for an hour, I do enjoy the sense of anticipation and fun you get in one of these queues. I met the lovely @pwnagesniper, who was attending for the first time, and together we whiled away the queue.

The doors, about 30 seconds after opening. No-one's gone through them yet. The con is open!

As always, my first port of call was the Comic Village, which this year had moved across the main hall and had grown across to the other side of the main walkway. Friday isn't always the greatest day for the Village, as about half of the creators don't attend until the weekend proper, but there's always enough great people to spend some time getting to know, and the lack of crowds means that you can get some great chatting time with people. Picture above is the great Ciaran Lucas, working with a digital inking pen whilst inking the 11th Doctor. Unfortunately, not long after this picture was taken, he introduced me to the 'delight' that is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Forever. I'm not Bronie... but I'm close...

Behind the Goblin suit is Claude of Gronk Comics, a must-meet every time I head to the convention. Claude has a great, weird sense of humour, he can happily geek out about comics at any point in the day, and his own comics are always worth spending some money on. Saturday was his Green Goblin day....

... and Sunday was his Hobgoblin day. Sadly, no love for the Demogoblin...

I normally get annoyed when a signing is interrupted by some cosplayers, but when those cosplayers were as good as this, I couldn't complain. Gail Simone was happily signing my pile of Action Comics (pictures tomorrow) when the Secret Six - and friends - arrived to say hello. Gail was an absolute joy to have as guest of honour, so free with her time and willing to be a part of the convention. It was absolutely great to see her solo panel on the Sunday packed out - standing room only, which was the first time I'd seen the audience so full for a comics-related panel at MCM.

It's always a delight to spend some time at John McCrea's table. We had a wonderful chat last time about Hitman, as he proudly showed off some of his original artwork that he had for sale. John very kindly let me watch him work on a commission and take some pictures. As an absolute non-artist, I am genuinely impressed with the skills of anyone who can create such fantastic images with just a pen and paper.

Does this look familiar to anyone? The book is a custom binding of The Demon Annual #2, Batman Chronicles #4, and the first 30 issues of Hitman.

You may recognise it as an upside-down Tommy Monaghan, fighting hordes of zombified sea creatures. If you don't understand why this is absolutely amazing, then run very fast to your local comic shop and purchase Hitman vol 3.

No con would be complete without some cosplay, and this wonderful teeny-tiny Wolverine was the first thing I saw when I came through the doors on the Friday.

Fantastic Four cosplay is not very common, so I just had to grab a shot of this guy. Of course, I also have some ulterior motives for getting a picture of something Fantastic Four related, but you're going to have to wait just a little longer to find out why!

I just loved the attention to detail on this. Well, maybe not the belt, but the darker blue on the costume really works for me. Red Son cosplay is awesome!

There's so many other memories that sadly aren't connected to photographs, so I think for the sake of brevity, I'll only cover a couple of them.

The first was a signing and chat with the always-lovely Tony Lee. Whilst he took my money and signed my stuff, he handed me his iPad, which was loaded with his proof copy of his final Doctor Who comic. I was the second person other than himself to read the book in the UK. It's a Christmas Special, entirely without words (with the exception of a highly appropriate final page), and it's a great way to end his run on the title. As well as my traditional Doctor Who comics, I also picked up a copy of his and Dan Boultwood's Hope Falls, a dark and brilliant tale of an angel falling to hell but taking the murderers of her mortal form with her. It's got one of the bleakest and most brilliant endings I have ever read, and when this makes it to the big screen in a few years, it's going to be a great film.

The other was a wonderfully pleasant chat with David Hine. I'm on good terms with him, thanks to my love of his first Marvel work, Daredevil: Redemption. We spoke a lot about his recent Batman work (did you know that his Detective Comics story involving gangs of fake Batmen and Jokers is actually a tie-in to a currently-unreleased video game?), and he showed me several preview pages by Shaky Kane for their upcoming Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred, their sequel to their highly-regarded 2010 project, Bulletproof Coffin.

I had a superb time at MCM Expo. Check back tomorrow for pictures of my loot from across the show!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

MCM Expo: The Thrill Electric

It's a belated MCM Expo week at World of Superman, taking a look at all the fun and games I had at this November's MCM Expo. Today, I'll be taking a look at a webcomic project that is redefining what webcomics can do - The Thrill Electric.

The team behind The Thrill Electric took the stage first thing Saturday morning to show off their work and talk about the inspiration and the making of the comic. Writers Leah Moore and John Reppion, designer Emma Vieceli, and artist Kit Buss from Windflower Studios attended:

From left to right: Emma Vieceli, Leah Moore, Kit Buss, John Reppion

The Thrill Electric is a 12 part, weekly comic chronicling the life and times of various characters whose lives revolve around the telegraph in 19th century Manchester. Leah and John talked about the origins of the strip, arising from research that discovered that, for skilled operators, the telegraph facilitated as much timewasting as facebook and twitter do today. This attitude provides a hook for the readers to bring them into the story.

The webcomic itself is gorgeous. Emma Vieceli's designs have been handled incredibly well by Windflower Studios, a team of four who worked for nearly a year to turn the scripts and designs into the full comic. There are sound effects, links from within the pages to wider research (the project is funded by Channel 4, and is seen as an educational project), and moments where you can head into the inner thoughts of the characters. There is constant motion within the panels, whether animation or the elements of the panels moving to provide interest. All of these provide an experience that is deeper than just reading a comic that has been designed for print but is being read on a screen.

But there are two features of this project that really make this stand out. The first is that each instalment features a moment of total animation, the 30 seconds or so of film from the first issue functioning almost as a title sequence. The second is the enhancements that pop up in each issue. Moore and Reppion talked about trying to create moments in each issue that could only exist in a project of this format, and of working to ensure that each one is unique. The enhancement in the 2nd issue is genuinely revolutionary, and not even months of spoilage on Bleeding Cool could lessen the impact of this. I won't spoil it for you, except to say that it's as close to having a Steadicam shot featuring the same characters throughout that you can get in comics.

To put it simply: This is a great read, not just for the whistles and bells and the joys of experimenting with and developing the webcomic format. Episode three has just been released, and there are nine more to come, one a week. Check it out and enjoy!

Next on World of Superman: A pictoral trawl through the MCM Expo.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

MCM Expo: Battle Of The Bloggers

It’s MCM Expo week at the World of Superman, covering everything I got up to this weekend at London’s biggest Con. It was a great weekend, full of comics and comic-y people. In a couple of days I’ll be posting a full rundown of the people, the purchases, the signings and the loot. Today, however, I’ll be taking a look at the Battle of the Bloggers event I participated in on the Sunday afternoon.

Yes, at 2pm on Sunday afternoon, the Memorabilia Stage played host to the grandest blogger slamdown of the weekend. My opponents were officially the superb Tonyo Times, but it soon turned into a three-way battle with the audience eager to hoover up discarded points along the way. We had to answer a series of challenging questions covering all elements of geekery and fandom, loosely based around events, promotions and products featured at the MCM Expo.

I got off to a bad start, failing on my knowledge of both the new Footloose film and anime-based videogames (although I really should have guessed Dragonball). However, a couple of lucky guesses around SyFy television shows had me back in the game. The game continued, with the audience rewarded with spot-prizes for picking up on any passes or incorrect answers from the contestants.

However, the battle was soon over, and when the dust had settled, it turned out that I had won, by a score of 7-5. However, both of us were winners, sharing the prizes between us.  Prizes included Disney Universe for the Wii, a book of Sci-Fi art, various pieces of In Time promotional gear, some really nice in-ear headphones, a USB drive, and a funky pyramid clock.

I now get to  travel to Birmingham in a few weeks to the Memorabilia event there, where the grand final of the Battle of the Bloggers will take place. A big thank you to Kat and Phil from Blogomatic 3000 for organising the event, and to the team from TonyoTimes for providing great competition. A couple of people recorded the event, so as soon as the videos hit youtube, I’ll post them here.

One final thing: As part of entering the event, I was given this for the Sunday:

I think this could be the start of something beautiful…

Next on World of Superman: The Thrill Electric!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A brief rest and the MCM Expo

Yes, I know the more long-term readers of this blog are rolling their eyes at this. 'Oh look,' they're thinking, 'the World of Superman is taking a break from regular posting again'. Sadly, I am. But this isn't because I've run out of steam, or I've found a new shiny thing to attract my attention. I'm actually written up for two weeks solid of posting, and planned further ahead than I have been for a very long time.

So, why the break?

I work in retail, and you don't need to work in retail to know that this time of year is a killer. On top of the Christmas run-up, the store I'm working in is going through a refurbishment, with the completion date set for next Thursday. This refurb is an absolute back-breaker. For two weeks now I've been working 6 day weeks, leaving the house at 6.30am and getting home around the 10pm mark. I just don't have the time to sit down, set up the hyperlinks, choose the images for the post, and generally spend the hour or so I need to turn a block of text into a blog post. So I'm not going to do so until the start of November, when I get a week off work and I can get some Superman posts up.

But there will still be activity over here. This weekend sees me once again at the EXCEL centre in London, attending the MCM Expo. And not only am I attending, but I will be participating. At some point on Sunday afternoon, in the Memorabilia side of the convention, I will be competing in the MCM/Blogomatic 3000 Battle of The Bloggers competition, fighting for the glory of this blog.

I've been issues with a press pass for the day, my first one ever. It says 'World of Superman' on it, and everything! I'm so happy! And so, to justify this, I'll be providing some stronger coverage of the event than I have done so before. Expect to see posts and pictures of the event over the week or so following the Expo, as well as an account of battling other bloggers for a superbly geeky title. Just not very many manga questions please...

If you're going to be around at the Expo, do stop by the Battle and cheer me on. If you want to say 'hi', drop me a mention on twitter - @quizlacey - and we can try and find each other across the halls. It's a fairly good bet that I'll be camping the Comics Village anyway!

So, basically, Superman's taking a brief break from the blog, but convention coverage should fill in the gaps.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Goodbye, Hello: Part 3

Welcome back to the list of things I will and won’t miss about Superman in the New 52. After last week’s looks at two sides of Superman’s family, this week, I’ll be focusing on the most important personal relationship Superman has – his marriage with Lois.

The Third Thing I’m Going To Miss About Superman In The New 52:

The Marriage

If I had to name the one thing above all others that defined the post-Crisis Superman, I think I would end up choosing the relationship and marriage of Lois and Clark. I don’t have a lot of time for the pre-Crisis relationship between the two, with constant deceit on Superman’s part to protect his identity, and Lois’s repeated attempts to uncover Superman’s secret. I do like how this was played with in the aftermath of the Crisis, with soap-opera love triangles involving Cat Grant and Jose Delgado, as both Lois and Clark were written as proper characters, rather than ciphers jumping through the hoops of the highly-formatted Silver Age issues. But it was the two getting together that really gave an emotional grounding to the series.
And it wasn’t just the fact that they got together that made it. Clark made only the tiniest effort to continue living a double-life once the two got engaged, culminating in his coming out of the closet to Lois at the end of Superman #50. I feel that this is one of the most important moments in this period of comics. By sharing his secret with Lois, Clark allowed their relationship to move to a level barely seen before in any version of Superman. Finally, he had someone to come home to, someone to unwind with, someone who could help him bear the burden of being Superman.

The Death of Superman would not have been as strong a story if the reader hadn’t had the emotional hook of feeling Lois’s pain and isolation after watching her fiancĂ© die, but being unable to share that with anyone. The shooting of Lois in Greg Rucka’s Adventures run would similarly have had less impact if we hadn’t have had such a strong emotional tie to her relationship with Clark. And we wouldn’t have had one of my personal favourite Superman/Lois moments in comics, when Superman finds Lois in the Phantom Zone towards the end of For Tomorrow and they reunite. (Yes, I’m a sap. I dislike a lot of that story, but I love that moment.)

It’s painful to see Lois and Clark not together in the New 52. Frankly, seeing her new boyfriend in the doorway at the end of Superman #1 was as much of a kick to the gut for me as it was for Clark. The last 20 years of reading Lois and Clark as a couple have convinced me, more than anything else, that the two of them are destined to be together. I don’t want them married again within the year, but I’d like to think that the long-term Superman masterplan  has the two of them moving closer together again.

The Third Thing I’m Not Going To Miss About Superman In The New 52

Joe Quesada’s feelings towards the marriage of Mary-Jane and Peter Parker are a mere passing whim when compared to the vendetta shown by the past decade’s worth of creative teams towards the marriage of Lois and Clark. In no particular order, we’ve had:
  • ·         The Parasite impersonate Lois to poison Superman and drive her and Clark apart
  • ·         Lois fail to deal with the death of her father in Our Worlds At War, heading off around the world and blaming Superman for not saving him
  • ·         Chuck Austen
  • ·         Well, OK, Chuck Austen writing Lana as a marriage-wrecking bitch, destroying her own marriage to Pete Ross and coming on to Clark in his parents house whilst Lois recovers from a gunshot wound
  • ·         Major creative teams (Azzarello/Lee, Johns/Frank, JMS/Whoever) avoiding the issue entirely by underwriting Lois/finding reasons to not include her in the story that they want to tell
  • ·         Superman leave Earth to spend a year on New Krypton with little-to-no reflection on how this will affect his marriage

For over ten years, the marriage of Lois and Clark weathered blow after editorially-sanctioned blow, yet somehow weathered the storm. And now it’s gone, and whilst it will be missed, it can only be hoped that if and when a relationship between these two is returned to the books, it will be allowed to grow and strengthen rather than suffer repeated attempts to undermine and dissolve it.


I’m Steve, and I’m a Lois and Clark shipper.

Next on World of Superman: This weekend (ish) sees us hit up another issue of Superman, featuring the much-heralded Superman/Mummy confrontation. And join me midweek-ish for a look at number 4 on both lists.