Thursday, February 25, 2010

Disregard Monday's Post: New New Record Price for Comic Set Today

Just Monday, a copy of Action Comics #1 sold for a cool million smackeroos, which three whole days ago (it seems so long ago, doesn't it?) was a new record for the highest price ever paid for a so-called "funny book."  It was inevitable that the record would eventually be shattered.  Still, who would have thought that it would be later in the very same week?
Well, Rich Johnston is reporting on his blog Bleeding Cool that a copy of the Batman's first appearance, Detective Comics #27, sold at auction for the new new record price of $1,075,500.00.

Yeah, take that, Superman!!

By the way, according to Johnston, there exists somewhere another copy of Action Comics #1 that is in even better condition than the one that made news on Monday, so this record may not last long if that books owner hears this news and starts to see dollar $ign$.

We've Come So Far...But There's Still A Long Way To Go It Seems and other further thoughts on Warner Todd Huston

You know, I thought I'd said all I had to on this subject, but there are a couple of things I still need to get off my chest.
"I should start this discussion by saying that there isn’t anything wrong with enjoying comic books, even as an adult. They can be fun, for sure. But to imagine that comic books offer anything other than lowgrade entertainment is laughable. Comics are not high art (in fact, most of them are horrible even as graphic art) and they most certainly do not equal anything of the sort of deep, consequential literature. Comics are a childish, formulaic, lowest common denominator form of entertainment. It doesn’t make them evil or useless or bad necessarily. It just makes them low-end, fun. They are nothing to be taken seriously. If you are someone that lives for your next comic, or you want to claim that comic books are 'art' worthy of serious consideration… you need to get out of your parent’s basement a little more often. Still, they can be fun if treated as the mindless entertainment that they are. Call it a guilty pleasure, something that for a few hours or so might help you take your mind off the harsh glare of reality."
Even though, if I really had to, I would classify myself as a liberal and I am registered to vote as a Democrat, I'm not really all that political.  I am, however, passionate about the comics art form.  Thus, even more than his trite, mean-spirited, and false generalizations about liberals, which are really just boilerplate conservative talking points and not even really worth acknowledging, let alone taking time to   refute, it is the above quoted passage and others like it from the recent bloviating by right-wing nutbar Warner Todd Huston over a minor detail in one panel of a recent issue of Captain America which I wrote about on Sunday that really raises my hackles.
Hanging out, as I do, mostly with fellow cartoonists, comics readers and other similarly enlightened sorts, it can be easy for me to think that comics' decades long struggle for mainstream acceptance as a serious art form and entertainment medium has finally been won. After all, movies based on comics are among the top grossing films of the past decade, and  the film adaptation of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor became an indie sensation when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival; mainstream bookstores feature burgeoning graphic novel sections featuring everything from the collection of the latest Batman storyline to alternative titles from publishers such as Top Shelf and Fantagraphics; and Time magazine even named a graphic novel, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, as the best book of 2006.
Given all that, its somewhat of a shock when I read something like Huston's piece and find myself slapped in the face with all the same myths and prejudices about comics that are almost as old as the medium itself. The first anti-comic book rant  to gain national attention was a piece by children's book author Sterling North entitled "A National Disgrace" which first appeared in the Chicago Daily News in May of 1940 and was subsequently reprinted in dozens of papers nationwide.  Personally, I think North was just jealous because comics were read by more kids than his books, but that's way off topic, not to mention too simplistic an explanation.
The age old charges against comics are all there in one big, odious lump in Huston's paragraph: the idea that  all comics, by their very nature, are poorly drawn and barely written trash paired with the implication that comics are, and can only ever be, fit only for children and illiterates (later on he urges comics fans to read "real books" once in a while); and the stereotype that adults who read comics are socially inept losers who still live with their parents and are most likely still virgins. I'm surprised he didn't include the Wertham inspired charges that comics turn children into criminals and/or homosexuals.
Given Huston's spouting of these hoary old cliches as if they were gospel truth, its quite easy to forgive Robot 6 blogger Carla Hoffman for assuming, as she seems to in her post "An Open Letter To Warner Todd Huston", that he had never before actually bothered to read a comic book. Nor, for that matter, despite his anemic claims to have been a comics collector during his misspent youth, does it appear based on what he writes that's he's ever even met anyone who's ever read a comic book.
I suppose that Huston isn't the only one still clinging to these ridiculous, outdated and provably false ideas, but fortunately their numbers seem to be dwindling.
It seems to me that if you want to assume that comics are just for children, its not the political meaning of the panel that offended Huston that should bother you.  The panel depicts a protest rally where one of the signs reads, "Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag You!" which to Huston indicates that the panel is meant to depict members of the so-called Tea Party movement and paint them as rascists. What really should bother someone worried about what the impressionable kiddies might be reading is that the message on the offending sign is, in fact, truly offensive. It is clearly a reference to the pornographic connotation of the term "Tea Bag," which could lead to some embarrassing moments when Junior asks what the sign means.  Now, I'm not advocating for the return to full power of the Comics Code, but if Marvel were still submitting their books to the Code Authority, this whole flap would never have happened, as there's no way they would have let the book go out with that phrase in it. 
Another thing that bugs me about Huston's rant , and doesn't concern either his political views or his attitudes towards comics, is the hypocrasy he exhibits when he chides certain of his critics for misspellings and poor grammar in their comments, while his post is riddled with examples of the same. One particularly ticked off blogger takes Huston to task for his misuse of punctuation, and you'll notice that in the quote with which I led off this post, he writes "low grade" as one word, and there are many more examples scattered throughout his text like Easter eggs for anyone obsessive enough to hunt for them.  Because of the dash-it-off-and-hit-send nature of most blogs, I'm willing to forgive a certain amount of typos, misspelled words and grammatical errors, UNLESS the writer seeks to act as a self-appointed grammar cop, criticizing the errors of others.  If you're going to do that, you'd damn well better make sure that your own glass house is in order. That's why you can be assured that I will have thoroughly proofread this post before you read it.
Finally, I want to address his BS about the so-called "first rule of journalism." According to Huston, Hoffman supposedly violated said rule by not attempting to contact him before writing her piece.  Later on, however, responding to charges of bias, he admits that both his and Hoffman's columns are opinion pieces, and, therefore, by their very nature, biased.  That is certainly true, and it is also why opinion writing is NOT journalism, and thus not subject to the "first rule," which, by the way, I'd never heard of before, and I was a Communications major in college, so I studied journalism.
This, of course, is just my opinion, and now that I've expressed it, its time to move on to other things.
By the way, and I'm not this if this manufactured controversy had anything to do with it, but when I was at the Laughing Ogre, the comics shop just down the street from my apartment, I noticed that they were sold out of Captain America #602.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Batman: King Tut's Tomb

This week DC releases a new trade paperback called Batman: King Tut's Tomb, collecting the story arc "A New Dawn" from Batman Confidential #'s 26-28 and padded out by reprints of some older Batman stories, including Batman #353 and a couple of old issues of The Brave and the Bold.  
I have no intention of buying this.  
That's because I picked up the core Batman Confidential issues back in September, not too long after they first appeared.  Since that was before I started this blog, I shared my thoughts about the story in a news post on my Wasted Potential site.  If you're not a regular reader of my comic strip (and why the bloody hell aren't you?), then you haven't had the chance to read my insightful review.  Therefore, I re-present it below:

"A New Dawn"
Batman Confidential #'s 26-28
by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan

I was really looking forward to reading this story, but I was also prepared to be mightily disappointed by it.
I was looking forward to it because this is a story that I have wanted to see for years. I've always wished someone would take King Tut, one of the silliest villains created for the Adam West Batman show, and bring him into the comics as a serious, and even a bit scary, threat for the Caped Crusader.  
A summary of the plot piqued my interest even more. Members of a museum's board of trustees are being murdered by a man dressed as a pharaoh and spouting Sphinx-like riddles. Batman at first suspects the Riddler is involved, but they end up working together to catch the killer, since the Riddler is ticked off that someone has stolen his schtick.
And I was prepared to be disappointed because almost everything I've read from DC Comics in the past few years has disappointed me, especially the whole Identity Crisis/Infinite Crisis/52 cycle of crap. I haven't yet attempted to read Countdown or Final Crisis and I'm not sure I really want to put myself through that.*
The credits didn't give me much to go on, as I'd never heard of DeFilippis and Weir, but with Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan doing the art, I knew that the story would at the very least be beautifully drawn.
I was not disappointed, and, in fact, I haven't enjoyed a super-hero story this much in years. This is a classic Batman story that plays up the character's detective skills as he and Riddler race against time to figure out both the killer's identity as well as where and when he will strike next.
The story also does a wonderful job of giving us a serious version of King Tut who fits into the darker world of the Batman comics while retaining the essence of the character as established in the TV show. He is presented here, just as he was on TV, as an Egyptologist who gets bonked on the noggin and starts to think that he's the reincarnation of Tutankhamen, except that he's skinnier than the TV version as portrayed by Victor Buono and he actually kills people. 
There are a lot of great moments and a few unexpected twists, as well a classic TV show style deathtrap cliffhanger, in this story, but I really don't want to say anymore or give away too much here, because if you are any sort of Batman fan you need to read this story yourself.

(*Update: I have, since I first wrote this piece, gotten around to reading Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis. Countdown was not as bad as I was expecting, but that's probably because my expectations were so incredibly low after the ineffably awful Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and 52. Final Crisis, on the other hand is pretty good. You'll especially like it if you've enjoyed previous Grant Morrison super-hero opuses such as JLA (particularly the "Rock of Ages" storyline), All-Star Superman, and especially Flex Mentallo. (Check out my post on DC comics of the 90's for my feelings about Flex)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Neno Curates Album Cover Exhibit At Wild Goose Creative

Michael Neno, best known to comics cognoscenti as the creator of Michael Neno's Reactionary Tales and the hot off the presses The Signifiers, is a man of wide ranging interests in comics and beyond.  His association with Columbus, Ohio based arts community Wild Goose Creative has afforded him a unique opportunity to share those interests with the world.  Last month, he led a panel of local comics artists, which also included Lora Innes and Jonathon Riddle, in a discussion of their work in progress.  Beginning this Thursday, Neno will present the exhibit "Long Hair Music: Classical Music's Response to the Counter-Culture," showing at Wild Goose's headquarters at 2491 Summit Street.  The show spotlights classical music album covers from the 1960's and 70's, most the work of designers Christopher and Peter Whorf, which traded on the psychedelic imagery of the era in an effort to entice youthful buyers of rock records to try something different.  The covers come from the Neno's personal collection and will be on display through March 28.  Thursday's opening coincides with the beginning of this weekend's Columbus Comedy Festival at Wild Goose.
This article about the exhibit appeared in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch.

Action #1 Sale Sets Record

From McPaper (sorry...USA Today):

A copy of Action Comics #1, which, as we all know, featured the very first appearance of Superman and kick started the entire industry, sold just this morning to an unnamed collector for one million dollars (a phrase that, thanks to Mike Myers, it is now impossible for anyone to utter without doing a Dr. Evil impersonation), the highest price ever paid for a comic book.  
Despite this, your complete collection of all five variant covers of Jim Lee's X-Men #1 still aren't worth the paper they're printed on and never will be.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Captain America Kerfluffle

This may all be old news to you, but I just learned about it bear with me.
It seems that while I was wallowing in nostalgia for the comics of two decades ago, a comic published just last month provided the catalyst for a bit of a brouhaha in the comics blogosphere.  
It seems that a right wing blogger by the name of Warner Todd Huston took offense at a scene in Marvel's Captain America #602 that he believed portrayed the so-called Tea Party movement in a negative light (as if their recent convention and its keynote speech by Sarah Palin weren't bad enough for their image).  This  little rant can be read here.
Next came a reply to Huston's nonsense on  the Robot 6 blog at Comic Book Resources in the form of Carla Hoffman's "An Open Letter To Warner Todd Huston," which, in turn, elicited not just one, but two responses from Mr. Huston in which he not only hurls a buttload of standard issue right wing vitriol at Ms. Hoffman and liberals in general, but brazenly attempts to establish his geek cred by stating he had collected comics from the mid-60's until about 1986 and once had a collection of over 5000 comics while at the same time disparaging the entire medium as "low grade entertainment" and "horrible even as graphic art."
The whole flap even attracted the attention of the non-comics media, such as this opinion piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  And of course, FOX "News" just couldn't resist a story like this.
At first I didn't think I should write about this, because the controversy appears to have blown over, and I wasn't sure there was anything new that I could add to what's already been written elsewhere.  Most of the points I would have made are addressed in this post by Bill Reed that went up last Monday on CBR's Comics Should Be Good blog.
However, and you probably aren't going to catch any other comics blogger admitting to this, I will grudgingly concede that Huston has a couple of somewhat valid points, not in his original screed, which is pure right wing scandal mongering, but in his repies to the "Open Letter..."  I do, in fact, detect more than a slight note of condescension in Ms. Hoffman's tone throughout the piece.  Moreover, concerning Marvel's "apology" for the one panel that offended Huston, Marvel Editor In Chief Joe Quesada's "it was the letterer's fault" excuse strikes me as more than a little weaselly. This should not be construed as a defense of Huston's posts, as these minor points are overshadowed by his overall smug and self-righteous attitude, and, despite his feeble protestations to the contrary, quite obvious lack of knowledge of modern comics, as well as the fact that everything else he says in these posts is a big steaming, stinking truckload of crap.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Oh, Bloody Hell! One More Thing...(90's Comics V)

Yea, I know I said I was done, but I was re-reading the earlier posts, and when I got to the part in the first part of this interminable series where I mentioned the various "new universes" that sprang up during the 90's, I remembered that I had intended to mention Milestone, the one such start up universe that produced some really good comics, as well as inspiring the animated Static Shock.  An especially egregious omission now that the Milestone characters are making a comeback, this time incorporated into the mainstream DC Universe.
This time I'm done for real.  Honest. (Maybe)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Comics of the 90s Part IV: Postscript

Continuing to beat a deservedly dead horse, I present what I promise is the final installment in my series on the comics of  the 1990's.  If you missed any of the previous parts, you might want to check out parts one, two, or three before continuing. (or not)
First off, I'd like to  thank everyone who commented on the series, especially part one, which is  the most commented on post I've done on this or any of my previous blogs.  One comment on that post, concerning the definition of the term "mini-comic" may possibly lead to a post attempting to sort that out sometime in the future.
For now, I wrap up the series with a list of addenda, apologies  and self-justifications.
Here in the age of   Web 2.0, re-writing and revising are pretty much things of the past.  Bloggers like myself usually just whip out a couple of hundred words and hit "publish." Perhaps if I'd allowed myself some time to polish the posts, I wouldn't have omitted some comics that I should have mentioned. 
For example, as soon as I finished the first part, I immediately realized that I had failed to mention Rich Watson's Rat, even though I've felt since I first saw it that this is one of the best comics I've ever read.  Here's a link to a review of the comic which will give you some idea of why I feel that way (it's one of several books reviewed in the column so you'll have to scroll down a bit).
Another wonderfully talented small press creator  I should have mentioned is Pam Bliss.
Responding to my post on independent and self-published comics on the Sunday Comix e-mail group, Max Ink suggested a list of additions that included Mark Oakey's Thieves and Kings, Scott Roberts' Patty Cake, Seth's Palookaville, Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library, and Alex Robinson's Box Office Poison. I haven't read the first three comics he mentioned, and you may call me a Philistine if you wish, but the work of Chris Ware, genius though he may be, just doesn't do anything for me. Box Office Poison, however, I have read and definitely should have mentioned.  Perhaps it's because I didn't read it until the trade paperback collection was published in 2001 that I failed to include it among the comics of the 1990's.
In my post on DC's 90's output, I gushed on and on about Grant Morrison, yet I failed to mention the Doom Force special. Morrison and a cadre of artists including Keith Giffen, Richard Case, Walt Simonson, Steve Pugh, Ken Steacy and others, serve up a dead-on and wickedly funny parody of the "hot" comics of the early 90's, particularly Rob Liefeld's X-Force
Also on Sunday Comix e-mail group, my friend Russell Merritt suggests that my list of good Marvel comics of the 90s should have begun and ended with Marvels.  I admit that I went out of my way to give Marvel the benefit of quite a few doubts and some of my choices may be a little questionable, such as, for example, Kevin Smith's Daredevil run.  I mean, I liked it, but then again, I like Mallrats. In fact, if pressed, there's only one comic I mentioned among the Marvels that I'd really be willing to go to bat for--to wave in front of someone's face and shout, "Dude! For Pity's Sake, just READ IT!"--and that's Alan Davis' Clan Destine. Of the twelve issues published, Davis wrote and drew the first eight, and those issues truly do deserve to be mentioned with the 90's best super-hero comics.
Russell also mentions that Groo The Wanderer technically wasn't a Marvel comic, since Marvel didn't own it and it would move before the end of the decade to Dark Horse and eventually to Image.  However, Groo was a good comic and was being published in the 90s, which were the only two criteria for making the survey, and I included it with the Marvels because it began the decade at Marvel/Epic, and it had slipped my mind until Michael Neno mentioned it when I solicited suggestions from the Sunday Comix group prior to writing the Marvel installment.
And that, I believe, is that;  the end, at last of my week long look back at the comics of the final decade of the 20th Century. I hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And Now For Marvel: Good Comics of the 90s Round III

(For those of you who haven't been keeping up with my recent on-line activity, this is the third in a series of posts looking back on the comics of the 1990's. Part One focused on the era's independent, alternative and self-published comics, while the second installment turned its eye on DC's 90's output. And now, at last, the time has come to look at Marvel Comics in the Clinton Decade)

The notion that the 90's was the "worst decade EVER" for comics is, sadly, pretty much true in Marvel's case. I really had to strain my brain to come up with the meager offerings listed here.  No other publisher, other than Image, of course, embraced the flashy, exaggerated, over-rendered "Image Style" that was inexplicably "hot" at the time as wholeheartedly as Marvel did.   Though it would be inaccurate to accuse Marvel of jumping on the Image bandwagon, as it is highly likely they would have trod that dark path had Image never existed, since they were headed that way anyways.  You must remember that the founders of Image all made their names and developed their trademark styles while toiling at Marvel, and probably would have stayed there if Marvel had been willing to pay them what they felt they were worth.  After all, despite all the high minded statements bandied about back around 1992, the so-called "Image Revolution" was not about artistic freedom or creator's rights, but about money.  Which is not to say that's a bad thing; comics is, after all, a business. But let's call a spade a spade, shall we?
Anyway, out of a decade of mostly dreck, I've come up with a pitifully short list of Marvel comics of the 90's actually worth reading.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Top 5 Super-Hero Movies or TV Shows NOT Based On Comics

As you can see in recent posts, I've gotten on a list-making kick, and my post comparing the 90s Electric Superman to Steven Spielberg's Freakazoid inspired the following round up of five of the best super-hero sagas of movies and television that are not adaptations of comics.  
For a moment, I considered putting Batman Beyond on this list, since Terry McGinniss is an original creation for TV, but, in the end, he's still calling himself Batman and Bruce Wayne is still hanging around. Heck, if I were gonna include Batman Beyond I might as well throw in the Lou Ferigno The Incredible Hulk series, since it shared little other than a title with the comics that were supposed to have inspired it.
Also, although I've heard good things about it, and enjoyed other films by Sam  Raimi, especially the first two Spider-Man films and the Evil Dead series, I've never actually seen Darkman, so that's why it didn't make the list.
Anyway, the list I finally settled on follows the jump.  Please feel free to share your thoughts on this list, as well as any additions or substitutions you might have made.

Freakazoid Supes

Going back one more time to that list of 10 Worst 90s Character Revamps that provided the spark for my recent focus on the comics of that decade, you'll notice that at No. 5 is Superman during the brief, but not brief enough, period when they completely changed his powers and costume.  I was reminded that I used to refer to this version of the character as the "Freakazoid Superman", after the Steven Spielberg produced Warner Brothers TV cartoon of a couple of years earlier.  These two images should illustrate why:

Hilarious as Electric Supes was,however, Freakazoid! was, of course, much funnier. Not to mention a better super-hero story, as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

90's Comics Part II: DC

Here we go with the second installment of my look back at some of the highlights of the final decade of the twentieth century in the world of funny books. As I explained in my last post, the whole thing began when I e-mailed some friends of mine a link to a list of Worst 90's Character Revamps which featured such gems as Azbats, Electric Blue Superman, Zombie Punisher and Alien Shapeshifting Guy Gardner.  (Personally, I would have found a spot on the list for Heroes Reborn, especially Rob Liefeld's execrable Captain America relaunch.)  This led to responses labeling the 90s  "...the worst decade EVER..." for comics and "..sad."  As the guy who initiated this round of 90s bashing, I felt that it was thus my duty to point out that were actually some good comics published during that decade, and I compiled a list of over fifty titles.  In the first part of this post, I covered the independent, self-published and small press books of the era, and today I turn my attention to the "big two," DC and Marvel. 
Actually, since there are so many DC books I want to talk about, I'm going to concentrate on those today and come back later with a, sadly, much shorter post on Marvel in the 90's.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not All Bad: A Defense of 90's Comics

It started when I stumbled upon this list of The 10 Worst 90s Comic Character Revamps on-line and shared it via e-mail with fellow members of the Sunday Comix group, eliciting the following response:
"There is no doubt the 90s were the worst decade for comics ever. Ever. Even worse than the 80s."
That was followed by:
"At least the 80s are funny. The 90s just seem sad."

At that point, having initiated this, I felt it therefore incumbent upon me to  rise to the defense of the comics of the Clinton decade.  Sure, it was the heyday of Liefeld and McFarlane and their various imitators, the era of multiple chromium/3-D/die-cut/holographic/lenticular/trading card cover gimmicks,  a time when a plethora of "new universes"--the Ultraverse, Comics Greatest World, the Kirbyverse, Impact, and many others--sprung up overnight and disappeared just as quickly, the time when it seemed like any new character created had, as if by some unwrittten law, to include the words "blood", "kill" or "death" or some combination of thereof in his name, and the era of the "speculation boom" that at first  caused sales to skyrocket then threatened to destroy the industry.
It was also, however, if you look very closely, an era that produced some pretty good comics, and I set out to make a list of the highlights of the decade that, with a little help from Sunday Comix member Jonathon Riddle, who compiled his own list that included a couple of things I'd overlooked or forgotten, eventually grew to over fifty items.
Some of the highlights of that list follow the jump....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Off-Target: "Human Target" Take 2

When I first saw The Human Target in the back of The Brave and the Bold #143 ("The Cat and the Canary Contract" by Len Wein and Dick Giordano), I thought the character was pretty cool and that the concept would make a great TV series. It seems that I'm not the only one struck by that thought, as last month a new Human Target series debuted on Fox.  This is the second attempt to bring Christopher Chance to the small screen.  The first version aired briefly on ABC back in 1992 and starred Rick Springfield. (Yep, the guy who sang "Jesse's Girl," which I still maintain is one of the worst songs ever, despite being perhaps the only hit song ever to include the word "moot". Odd casting, perhaps, but nowhere near as bad as the Hoff playing Nick Fury.) Human Target v2 stars Mark Valley in the title role backed up by Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley.  McBride and Haley are always good no matter what they're in, and the show is probably worth checking out at least once just for them.

Now, don't get me wrong, Human Target is actually a pretty good show. It's an exciting action/adventure series of the type that we don't really see that much of any more.  It kind of feels like a throwback to the PI shows of the 70s and 80s, such as The Rockford Files or Magnum, PI. What it isn't, however, is The Human Target.
The problem is not that the Human Target concept doesn't translate to TV, it's that the producers didn't even try. The basic idea of the character, as created by Len Wein and Dick Giordano and first appearing in Action Comics #419, is that if someone is trying to kill you, you hire Christopher Chance, a master of disguise who will in effect "become" you, disguising himself as you and taking your place until he catches the killer, or, as the cover of B&B #143 proclaims, "If you're marked for murder, he'll replace you on the bullseye". In the new version, however, Chance merely goes undercover as someone close to the intended victim; no longer a "human target," but simply a bodyguard, which makes the series a lot less interesting than it could and should have been.
Well, I guess I can always hope that this show tanks and someone tries again in another eighteen years.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oh, How the Times Have Changed: Superman #326

I just finished re-reading Superman #326 in preparation for the writing of this post, but I really didn't have to.  I've read that story so many times over the past thirty-two years that I practically have it memorized.   Marty Pasko is one of my favorite writers of the Bronze Age, mainly because of his Superman stories, and #326 is one of the issues that won him that place in my heart.
The story is entitled "A Million Dollars A Minute," and deals with Superman being mind controlled by a mad scientist working for UBS, the chief rival of GBS, the TV network where Clark Kent anchored the Evening News at the time, into signing a contract in which he promises to reveal his secret identity to the world on UBS.  Now, the way Supes, big blue Boy Scout that he is, sees it, a contract is a contract, whether you were mind zapped by mad scientist or not, so the bulk of the story deals with Superman's efforts to not only foil the bad guys, but protect his secret identity as well while keeping his reputation for integrity intact.  It strikes me as somewhat ironic that while the Man of Steel goes to such great lengths to keep the public at large from learning his secret, that same issue features a sub-plot, setting up the following month's showdown with Kobra, in which the Deadliest Man Alive quite inadvertently discovers that secret when he traces an alien weapon stolen from him by SKULL agents to Clark Kents apartment, and finds, just hanging there alongside his legion of identical blue suits, a spare Superman uniform.
Anyway, the title of the story, "A Million Dollars A Minute," refers to the rate UBS charged advertisers for commercial time on the broadcast where Superman was to reveal his identity.  That "...unprecedented rate..." was, as the hypnotized Superman states on the splash page, "...the highest price ever..."
Seems kind of quaint, doesn't it?
It's probably obvious by now why I was thinking of and chose to write about this particular comic today, of all days.  After all, it is, as you may have heard, Super Bowl Sunday, and tomorrow morning, as is the case every year, there will most likely be more talk about the commercials that aired during the broadcast of the game than about the game itself, and while a million bucks might have been an unheard of sum for a minute of airtime back in 1978 when Superman #326 hit the newstands, tonight's advertisers will have shelled out two and half times that amount for a mere thirty seconds.