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!