Sunday, 31 October 2010

MCM Expo Days 2 and 3

Wow, what a fantastic couple of days!

First of all, let's check out the loot. I had a great range of purchases and signings at the convention, from personal mementos to some titles that I always knew I should have been reading but never found the budget or time to do so. I even got a piece of artwork from a creator I have respected and adored for some time, but I have to keep quiet about that for the next couple of months!

First of all, the Doctor Who stuff.

 All of which are written by Tony Lee, seen below on the left with his artistic partner Dan Boultwood on the right. Both Tony and Dan were incredibly warm and welcoming to a new person at the convention, and they didn't steal my camera when they had the opportunity to do so (always a plus in my book!). If you ever get the chance to meet Tony and Dan, I strongly urge you to do so. The next year looks to be very promising for the two of them, and I can't wait for their upcoming projects The Gloom and The Baker Street Irregulars. The second signature on the trade and the annual is Al Davison, who I talked about on the last blog post.

It wasn't just Tony at the convention with a Doctor Who pedigree. Paul Cornell, the current writer of Action Comics, was a roaming guest, participating in a couple of panels and doing a couple of signing sessions. Now, Paul has just had his fifth issue of Action released, but I've been reading him for about 15 years longer than he's been writing Superman Lex Luthor. And as I still associate him more with Doctor Who than I do with comics, there was only one item from my library that I wanted signed - my first ever (and his first ever) Doctor Who novel, Timewyrm: Revelation.

Oops, I appear to have got my ugly mug a little too close to a Superman writer...

I had a great time meeting and talking to Kieron Gillen and Sean McKeevie on Saturday, fresh from their success at the Eagles with Phonogram: The Singles Club. I had wanted to meet Kieron both because of this series, but also in the hope that he might have some of his recent Thor run on him. I'm a listener to the Awesomed By Comics podcast, which has ranted and raved over the greatness of his longer-and-better-than-a-fill-in-run Thor writings. We had a chat about the podcast (he's a listener as well), which is why he dedicated in the way that he did. Kieron was absolutely wonderful, very down to earth and modest despite his successes both with Phonogram and the rocketing of his Marvel career. I also got to meet Sean Phillips, and sample Criminal for the first time. Criminal is an astonishing read, a great script from Ed Brubaker and fantastic art from Sean Phillips. Having read the first volume, I'm pretty sure that if this had been handed to me as a short story in just prose, I probably would have had very little interest, but told through the medium of comics it really grabbed me. I look forward to getting hold of the other trades in the future.

The most famous comics creator at the convention was arguably Chris Claremont. Opinion is widely varied of his work, especially anything he's written in the last 10-15 years (and when we finally get to his brief run on JLA, we're not going to be happy with it), but his X-Men run is unparalleled. I have this on DVD, having imported the Uncanny X-Men DVD a few years ago, but before I got this I bought myself a copy of the Days of Future Past TPB, which covers #138-#143 (the immediate aftermath of the Dark Phoenix saga, the introduction of Kitty Pryde, DoFP and the N'Grai, along with the Dante's Inferno annual). I feel very proud of having his signature on the title page.

Other creators I met, but gained no loot from, included Antony Johnston, David Hine, with whom I discussed his first ever Marvel work, the underrated Daredevil: Redemption mini-series, and Bernard Chang, who I told that my favourite panel of his was his recent Bizarro JLA from Supergirl, which included Bizarro Red Arrow (Arsenal) with a quiver full of dead cats.

As well as all of this, I got to see an extended trailer for Paul, sat in on panels on Warehouse 13 and A Town Called Eureka, got freaked out when I realised just how bloody tall Tony Todd is, got my arse handed to me at both Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft: The Collectible Card Game, wondered just why the meme of the con was 'Free Hugs', was distinctly unimpressed by Pocky, drank ridiculously overpriced Mountain Dew and wanted to be gently sick, had an awesome sausage sandwich, marvelled at the ability of 4 Subway employees to royally fuck up an Italian BMT (if the answer to the question 'do you want it toasted' is 'no', then don't put it in the fucking oven!), and walked miles and miles and miles.

As with any con, cosplay was a huge element. In fact, the only time the main theatre was full was when the cosplay championships were on. As most of the cosplayers were characters from manga and videogames, I didn't recognise the majority of people in costume. However, there were a few good comics characters (including the Power Girl in the picture below, whose costume was really rather accurate, if several sizes too big) and a few duff ones, such as the dayglo orange DeathstrokeZatanna and Harley Quinn.

Finally, one of the funniest inadvertent moments of the convention came when I was looking at one of the adverts in the convention center for another event. See if you can spot what I enjoyed so much...

Next on World of Superman: Superman comics! Honestly!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

MCM Expo: Preview Night

So, I have lost my convention virginity.

Yesterday was the preview day for the London MCM Expo. As I live ten minutes walk away from the convention center (The ExCel Centre in East London), an appearance was always a given, especially as I had booked the afternoon (and the rest of the weekend) off work.

It was an interesting experience for the first-time convention-goer. I kept hopping from overjoyed to confused to (occasionally) intimidated by the scale of the event coupled with the sheer volume of content focused on areas which I have little to no knowledge. I was very surprised at the high manga and Japanese culture content of the convention. I know manga has been gaining popularity around the world, but I had no idea of the scale of this, or fanatacism of its fans and cosplayers. Yes, I know, my naivety in my expectations of the fans is readily apparent.

Being a comic fan, the first place I went to check out was the artist's alley. There were a lot of empty tables, but more than enough of the big names were present. I got the chance to say hello to Rich Johnson, formerly of Lying in the Gutters and now the founder and head of As a semi-regular poster there (and, if all goes well, a front page article penned by myself has been submitted, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with that), this felt like an important meeting for me. But not as important as the next person I went to see - Tony Lee.

Tony is one of my favourite creators in comics. He is the current writer of the ongoing Doctor Who title(s) from IDW, which have been a great read. He topped the New York Times bestseller list with his graphic novel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He was nominated for eight Eagle awards this year for his various projects, and his twitter feed - @mrtonylee - is one of the most interesting ones I read. As I was the first person to approach and buy from him, he cut me a great deal on the latest issues of the Doctor Who comic, and between sucking on his absinthe lolly, he pointed out that one of his Doctor Who co-creators - Al Davison - was present.

I didn't know Al Davison as anyone other than an occasional Doctor Who artist, although his career has been long and varied. His graphic novel autobiography - a work in progress - is a beautiful piece of work, chronicling a difficult and tragic childhood. Check it out at Muscle Memory, but be warned, it's not an easy read.

Finally, I was pulled over by Claude Trollope-Curson of Gronk Comics, who showed me some of his weird and wonderful creations. He did the best thing of making me laugh at his work in seconds, and I was happy to buy a couple of his publications. We ended up reading them on the Underground at 10.30pm on our way to a free showing of Due Date, and even my non-comic-reading girlfriend found his parodies of super-hero culture amusing.

I did some other stuff as well, including trying Magic: The Gathering for the first time in about a decade, and marvelling at all the cosplayers. One guy was dressed as Where's Wally (Where's Waldo for the Americans out there), and he cut a sad and lonely figure winding his way through the long, empty queueing system. I thought that he might have been playing the longer game, and that if the massive queue system was full then he would have been in his element. As the queue started moving as people were let in, I passed him once, then prepared to pass him again. But he had gone. Where was Wally? Suddenly, I understood the genius of his costume choice, and I berated myself for ever doubting him.

I'm really looking forward to today. I'm excited about meeting the Kieron Gillen, who recently wrote an amazing four-issue post-Siege fill-in run on Thor, and who just won an Eagle award for his series Phonogram. I'm hoping to meet Criminal artist Sean Phillips, and I'll be stopping by Bernard Chang's table to pick up the latest issue of Supergirl and hopefully get the panel with Arsenal and his quiver of dead cats signed. But most importantly, I'm really looking forward to meeting Chris Claremont, and Paul Cornell, who will be signing my first ever Doctor Who book, Timewyrm: Revelation, as my love of Who trumps my love of his current Action Comics run.

Right, enough buggering about. The con is open and I need to put trousers on and go there. Follow me on twitter at @quizlacey to keep up with me throughout the day.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A brief update

Shock! Horror! This is not an imaginary post!

So, I've not been around for a couple of weeks. I've been feeling a lot of stress and pressure at work, which has made my non-work life, such as it is, feel very awkward. I've not been getting pleasure from the things that normally help me relax and unwind, and I've spent the last couple of weeks in a state of near perma-tension. All of which has made sitting down to read comics, analyse them, and write about them on this blog a task that has felt like an unnecessary chore, rather than a welcome pleasure.

The good news is that things have quietened down , and I can feel my life returning to normal. I've got a long weekend off ahead of me that I intend to spend geeking out in the most fantastic way. I'll be attending my first ever comics convention, the London MCMExpo, which takes place in a building about 10 minutes walk away from my front door. I'm looking forward to meeting the cream of British comic creators, including the wonderful Mr Tony Lee, Kieron Gillen, current Action Comics writer Paul Cornell, and the legendary Chris Claremont. I'm hoping to get in on the Paul exclusive footage (I'm a big Simon Pegg fan), attend the Eagles awards, and hunt down Lying In The Gutters and writer Rich Johnston.

In short, I'm looking to have a great weekend re-connecting with my inner (and outer) geek. And when it's all over, I'm gonna open up my longboxes, pull out my copy of Booster Gold #7 and get some thoughts posted here.

Next on World of Superman: Comics'n'stuff. Honest.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

I'm Proud Of The BBC

No posts for a few more days, as I'm pretty horribly ill and can't really focus on much at the moment. But to tide you over, a ratehr wonderful song and video from a comedian I've been following for years. I'm proud of the BBC, and here are a few reasons why...

See you in a few days!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Booster Gold #6

This blog post has had a pretty tortured history. I had a chunk of it written, and then blogger had a fit and deleted a bunch of it. I then tried to get it written again, but blogger wouldn't let me edit or create new posts. After quite some time, I discovered that my browser was at fault, having crashed whilst attempting to update. This happened whilst I was away from my desk, so I had no idea about the update, until tonight when a little popup informed me. So, we're back, but a little behind schedule.

One of the things I got the chance to do whilst not blogging was to take a look at the latest episode of Smallville. As normal, there were things I liked and things I disliked, and as normal, the big money-shot moments just seemed to come across as a bit flat. I really dislike this new version of Cat Grant. The super-bubbly-perky character, the relentless parroting of 'Godfrey' (if she's such a hotshot young reporter, shouldn't she have her own opinions?), the forced pairing with Clark. I would be happier if they wrote the character as a normal person with the views that she has, and let the performance lead the irritating side of the character. I also found the 'lifestyle' comments regarding vigilantes to be incredibly heavy-handed. It's been covered elsewhere in more detail, but I also need to point out that Deadshot and Jonah Hex are two different characters, and nothing is gained by combining the two. And the revelation of the new costume for Clark was spoiled by some really bad CGI, especially on the flags waving limply in the background.

What I absolutely loved about the episode was the Carter Hall/Lois Lane subplot. Michael Shanks was great in Absolute Justice, but playing the identity rather than the hero really gave him the chance to shine. I loved his annoyance at Lois in the first scene, but what really sold me was the closing scene where he wonderfully conveyed centuries of love and loss. Erica Durance as Lois Lane has come on by leaps and bounds since I last really saw her in the role, back when she was first introduced. For probably the first time since the early days of Lois and Clark (or The New Adventures of Superman, if you're British), I was watching the Lois Lane that I have read for years in the comics. I wasn't expecting to be this impressed by her, but she is something I will enjoy watching in future episodes.

I also read the recent JLA/JSA crossover, but if you want to know about that, check out this episode of The LanternCast. The poor guys did the episode once, then lost the episode before it could be released, so they had to do it all over again. And the only way one of them could cope was... well... let's just say he wouldn't have been driving that day!*

To Cross The Rubicon

Creator/Writer/Artist: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: Augustin Más
Colorist: Nansi Hoolihan
Editor: Al Gold
Cover Art: Dan Jurgens and Mike DeCarlo
Cover Date: July 1986
Release Date: 14/04/1986

Jason Redfern (Fern), a teenage boy, discovers a miniature spaceship in Centennial Park, long with a miniature alien. The alien’s language cannot be understood, so Fern calls him ‘Zee’. When Zee pushes him out of the way of the exploding space-ship, Fern is convinced of his good intentions, and takes him home. At home, Zee projects an image of Superman’s ‘S’ shield, which Fern interprets as Zee’s desire to locate Superman. Catching an advert featuring Booster Gold on the television, Fern realises how to get hold of Superman. He travels to Reilleau Towers, where he is able to see Booster and tell him his story. Booster then publicly calls Superman out through the media to meet him the next day.

The next day, the media is buzzing with Booster’s decree. Clark Kent hears about it at the Daily Planet, and sneaks away to become Superman. Booster Gold arrives at the rendezvous point, having stopped off at STAR Labs to grab a life-support suit for Fern. Although Skeets is sceptical about whether Superman will show, the Man of Steel arrives. Superman is disdainful of Booster, his publicity seeking ways, and the fact that his powers are artificial. Disappointed in the reactions of his hero, Booster walks away. Skeets speaks to Superman, and reveals the secret origin of Booster Gold.

Michael Carter was a prodigious football player, the biggest name in college football in the 25th century. As he was on the verge of being signed up professionally, he was caught betting on his own games, and expelled from college. With no further hope as an athlete, and needing to make a living, he took a security job at the space museum, as well as enrolling as a student of 20th century super-heroes. Whilst participating in the studies and his duties at the museum, Michael formulated a plan, cemented when he discovered Rip Hunter's time machine in the museum. Disabling the security robot Skeets, Michael steals various exhibits to create a power suit, then travels back to the twentieth century in the time machine, taking Skeets along with him.

Superman is shocked to hear this, and accuses Booster of theft, and using the stolen equipment to make himself rich. As the two argue, Zee starts speaking. Superman recognises snatches of the language, and is able to discover that a warship is chasing Zee. Suddenly, an energy burst renders Superman, Booster and Fern unconscious. Another miniature alien appears, abducting the heroes, Fern, Zee and Skeets onto his ship, which departs for space.

pre-dates The Man Of Steel #1 by three months, meaning that we have here the very first appearance of the post-Crisis Superman. Booster does it again! This also means that Dan Jurgens debuted his art for Superman before John Byrne, and it's great art. His first panel, featuring Clark changing to Superman in an interpretation of an iconic pose, is wonderful to look at, and as fans of this era know, Jurgens' Superman art is a real keystone of the next fifteen or so years of the character.

This is a great Superman issue, and fits neatly into the timeline between The Man Of Steel #5 and #6. Superman here is confident in his position in the world, having already met and worked with one wave of heroes. Now, with the appearance of Booster Gold several years into his own career, Superman is starting to encounter the next wave of heroes, people whose motivations lie in places other than benevolence. His outrage at Booster's self-centered money-making activities, all of which stem from theft, is entirely justified, and comes from a place of confidence in not only himself but his position in relation to other heroes. The first panel in which Superman appears, a one-page splash where he stands above Booster, looking down with an expression of derision, neatly sets up how he feels, and completely wrong-foots Booster, for who Superman is a personal hero.

Of the two parts of this story, I feel that this is the stronger of the two. We get the first revelation of Booster's origin, devoid of the later embellishments and cliches that Booster would add, and the force of Superman's anger towards Booster has a powerful effect on the reader.

The Geeky Bits: Booster Gold is pretty much the first post-Crisis superhero, despite his first issue being released before the Crisis had finished publication. He has been a mainstay of the DCU, thanks to his high-profile membership of various incarnations of the Justice Leagues from the JLI onwards. He was also the first solo creation of Dan Jurgens for DC, but as before, I'm going to hold off on a full bio of Dan for a bit longer.

The title refers to the Rubicon river, which was crossed by Julius Caesar in 49BC, initiating a civil war. In general, the phrase 'To cross the Rubicon' refers to the point of no return, in this case the moment where Booster travelled in time to the twentieth century.

Next on World of Superman Booster Gold: The second half of this tale where Booster smacks down with Superman. Unless you've seen the cover, in which case you'll see that it's more a case of Superman smacking Booster down. Ouch.

* does not condone excessive alcohol consumption for the production of podcasts, blog posts, tweets, or any other type of new media (unless it's Lit Beer: My beer).

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Man Of Steel #5

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear,
Happy birthday to you.

Yes, believe it or not, it's been a year since the World of Superman snuck onto the blogging scene. In that time, we've covered the death of Krypton, affairs with Lex, the birth of the Heroic Age Silver Age, Superman joining - and leaving - the Justice League of America, some very bad comics, and most of all, the introduction of Superman to the DC Universe. We've also suffered some dramatic delays to posting, which I very much hope will be a thing of the past. Sadly, I missed my self-imposed target of completing The Man of Steel by the time the first anniversary came around, but that was as much down to me having my dates all wrong as anything else.

So, we're back with The Man of Steel, and we're going to finish it in the next few posts before moving onto the regular series. Well, apart from a couple of diversions. But it wouldn't be the World of Superman if we didn't detour along the way...

The Mirror, Crack'd...

Script and Pencils: John Byrne
Inking: Dick Giordano
Lettering: John Costanza
Coloring: Tom Ziuko
Editing: Andrew Helfer
With special acknowledgement to the work of Otto Binder
Cover Artist: John Byrne
Cover Date: December 1986
Release Date: 11/09/1986

Superman returns a LexCorp-built battle armour suit to Lex's penthouse. Luthor claims that the suit was registered as stolen, and that the pilot was fired from LexCorp weeks ago. Sadly, the pilot cannot corroborate Lex's story as prolonged exposure to the suit has left him brain-dead. As Superman flies away, Lex heads into his laboratory and talks to Doctor Teng, who tells him that his scans have revealed that Superman is not a mutated human, but an alien. Lex asks how this will affect the duplication process, and Teng replies that they will see. A chamber opens, and an exact replica of Superman steps out. After a few seconds, the replica collapses, its body crystallising. Luthor is disappointed and orders that the duplicate be destroyed.

In Metropolis, Lois Lane prepares to leave for work. She argues with her sister Lucy, who is bitter about her blindness. Outside, an ambulance gets stuck in traffic. Suddenly, it is lifted above the streets and dropped off at the hospital. The EMTs prepare to thank Superman, but are shocked to see that a monster has saved them. As 'Superman' flies away, he saves the life of Lucy Lane, who has thrown herself off of Lois' balcony. 'Superman' flies away, as Lucy wonders why he was so dusty.

At the Daily Planet, a disturbance in the lobby causes Clark to run out of the newsroom. He confronts the source of the disturbance, the distorted Superman who has partially disguised himself as Clark Kent. 'Clark Kent' wallops Superman, sending him flying out of the Daily Planet building. As the two fight, 'Superman' uses his heat vision on Superman, causing him intense pain. As they fight, Superman notices Lois watching, and uses his heat vision to destroy 'Clark Kent's clothing to protect his identity.

'Superman' grabs Lois Lane and flies away with her. In the air, he gives her a kiss, before taking her to her sister. As Superman arrives, Lucy explains that since 'Superman' saved her, she has been able to see shapes and shadows. The two Superman fight some more. Superman analyses the dust that falls off 'Superman', and discovers that his foe is not an organic creature. Deciding that he is not truly alive, Superman charges him with all of his might. The impact causes 'Superman' to explode, showering the neighbourhood with dust. Exposure to the dust restores Lucy's sight. Superman wonders if 'Superman' knew of the healing powers of his dust when he died.

For an issue of one of the most notable Superman mini-series ever published, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to say about it. Of all the issues, this is the most 'business-as-usual', with its notable first occurrences being rather understated.

I think the problem with this issue is how little has carried over into the continuity of the comics. Lucy Lane has her blindness cured and stops being suicidal in this issue, and her blind period is rarely referred to again. Of course, in terms of things about Lucy Lane that are never mentioned again, her blindness comes in a distant third to her marriage to Ron Troupe and her child. We also have the revelation to Lex Luthor that Superman is not human in any way, that he is an alien. Having Luthor in a position where he knows more about Superman's origins than Superman does is potentially an interesting status quo, but this doesn't last beyond the next issue.

Superman faces a being whose powers match his own for the first time here. Although he has fought aliens and encountered New Gods, this is the first time that he feels his own powers being used against him. He is concerned for his well-being, and feels pain, possibly for the first time, when 'Superman' unleashes his heat-vision on him. However, this encounter is soon forgotten. When Metallo attacks in Superman #1, he wonders when the last time he was hit so hard was.

Perhaps the biggest event in the issue which fails to carry over into the ongoing series that followed The Man of Steel is the bogus 'Superman', or as fans know him better, Bizarro. He is never named in this issue, and it's another eight years until the character returns. The character is also played down in a more muted fashion. Most of the bizarre elements associated with the character, from the reverse-speak to the literal Bizarro-world, are missing. Instead, this version of Bizarro is very much a Frankenstein's monster, misunderstood and unable to comprehend the results of its actions, except possibly in one moment of realisation and sacrifice. However, the encounter doesn't seem to phase Superman at all. Having deduced that 'Superman' is an artificial being, Superman shows no signs of following up his appearance. He seems to accept that such warped doppelgangers exist, and that having got rid of one, he has faith that there will be no more.

There is an interesting moral dilemma for Superman that occurs during his fight with 'Superman'. Realising that only one of them will walk away from the fight, Superman examines the dust that 'Superman' sheds wherever he goes and theorises that he is an artificial being, and thus, not being alive, can be killed. Once Superman has made this distinction, he is able to use levels of force that he would otherwise be unable to use against a living being, no matter how dangerous that being may be. In short, Superman is able to terminate 'Superman' for the greater good without any of the guilt that would follow the next time he decided to kill.

These issues aside, there are some strong moments in the issue. We get a good look at how Lois and Clark function in the Daily Planet newsroom, and we also get the first instance of Clark abandoning the newsroom to address a problem as Superman. Lucy's suicidal tendencies, whilst melodramatic, are a hint to a darker type of storytelling to that normally associated with Superman. The same goes for the implication that Luthor deliberately caused one of his henchmen to suffer brain damage in one of his schemes to better Superman. And whilst Superman's fears for his mortality in his fight with 'Superman' aren't as pronounced as the ones he felt whilst stranded in space in Action Comics Annual #7, the art and writing effectively communicates the feeling that Superman is out of his comfort zone.

The Geeky Bits: The Special Thanks credit for Otto Binder refers to the fact that this issue's plot owes a lot to the original appearance of Bizarro in Superboy #68 from October 1958. There, as here, Bizarro is very much cast in the Frankenstein's Monster role, and the subplot involving a blind girl is shared between the two stories. The more familiar version of Bizarro wouldn't appear until Action Comics #254 in July 1959.

This is the first of three post-Crisis version of Bizarro. 1994 saw the publication of the Bizarro's World story, in which Lex Luthor II recreates the duplication experiment, but with similar failure. The current version of Bizarro debuted in the Emperor Joker storyline from 2000, where he was a creation of The Joker, who had been infused with Mr Mxyzptlk's powers, and this incarnation has regularly appeared in the Superman books since then.

Next on World of Superman: A mere six months after reviewing The Man of Steel #1, we finally reach the conclusion veer off one more time to examine the first post-Crisis appearance of Superman.