Tuesday, August 2, 2011

DC Retroactive: Superman--the 70's Reviewed

When I first heard about the DC Retroactive series of nostalgic one-shots, my reaction was mixed.  One the one hand, the cynic in dismissed as a crass attempt by DC to exploit its core readership of aging fanboys  by cashing in on their nostalgia for a simpler and better time that existed only in their collective imagination, or maybe on the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Earth One.  That makes it somewhat ironic that DC is following this event with the launch of its "New 52" relaunch/reboot, a move that, if not specifically designed to alienate those very same aging fanboys, certainly seems to be having that effect nonetheless.
On the other hand, being one of those aging fanboys, I could no more resist a new Superman story by my favorite Superman writer, Martin Pasko, than Bill Clinton could resist a chubby intern bearing cold pizza.  
If the purpose of the DC Retroactive books is, in fact, to appeal to fanboy nostalgia, then DC Retroactive: Superman--the 70's succeeds admirably.  While I was reading this book, it felt as if the three decades since Pasko's original run on Superman never happened and I was a kid just discovering comics once again.  Pasko successfully picks up the themes and plot threads of those Bronze Age stories to weave a new tale that can stand beside his finest work of that era.  
I have a couple of minor quibbles.  The first is the coloring.  It's a little too "21st Century" if you get my meaning.  Obviously done on computer, its full of the subtle shadings and gradations of color characteristic of modern comics.  Recreating the flatter, brighter colors of Bronze Age comics, as seen in the reprint at the back of the book, would have the completed the illusion of a "lost" issue form my childhood. So would art by Curt Swan, but that was, unfortunately, impossible.
Then there's the reprint itself.  I was under the impression that the DC Retroactive books would feature vintage tales written by the same scribe responsible for the new material.  However, in this case we are treated to "Superman Takes A Wife" from Action Comics #484 written by Cary Bates.  I'm not saying it's a bad story, quite the opposite, in fact, but it's just that I was expecting more Pasko. Since Mr. Mxyzpltk (I just amazed myself by spelling that correctly without looking at the comic) is the "villain" of the issue, I sort of expected to see a reprint of Superman #335 or #349, Pasko's previous Mxyzptlk stories.  Of course, this is kind of a silly complaint coming from me, as there are very few, if any, Pasko Superman stories that I don't already own copies of.  The lead story is sufficient to give readers unfamiliar with those tales a taste of what they were like.
All in all, I'd say that DC Retroactive: Superman--the 70's is definitely worth picking up.

1 comment:

  1. I just picked up the DC Retroactive: Batman -- the 70's (that's a damn long title when one actually types it out!) and I know exactly what you mean about the coloring. While Batman has a reputation for being a creature of the night, the colors were too dark to properly capture the retro look of a 70's comic. The backup almost seemed to glow by comparison.

    Unlike this Superman issue, (I'm not typing that full title a second time!) the Batman issue's main feature and backup were writen by the same scribe, in this case Len Wein. Part of the fun of the whole reading experience was that Wein included a subplot in the new story that tied in nicely with a subplot from the reprint.

    DC may indeed be cashign in on the nostalgia dollar, but personally speaking, these are the kind of comics I would have been interested in as a kid. Even as a boy I was more interested in back issues than what was new on the shelves. I remember cherishing the Megazine reprints of 70's and 80's Marvel comics that came out in 1994. (Then again, you've already written a blog about how disgusting Marvel's 90's comics generally were!)

    My allowance as a tot probably wouldn't have afforded the $4.99 price tag, but maybe allowances are higher nowadays to account for inflation. Were I a kid totay, I'd have probably begged my grandmother to buy one of these for me instead!