Wednesday, February 5, 2014

DC Comics and Me#3

Art by Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino

Today is Part Three of my nostalgic review of my time as a DC Comics reader and how that is slowly coming to an end.

Click the links here for Part One and here for Part Two.

Now.....Up, Up, Up and Away! 
_______________________________

When I hit my mid-20's and I found myself with more disposable income and sadly no significant other to spend it on (everybody put on their sad faces), I actually became an even more voracious reader of comics than I had been when I was a kid. Instead of leaving the life of the comic book geek behind, I embraced it more fully, buying dozens of comics on a weekly basis. Mostly, it was DC Comics and the major driver that brought me to Acme Comics (the most amazing LCS in the world!) week after week was Superman.

Superman & the JLA by Jim Starlin
As I noted before, my comic book buying habits began in earnest with Superman and I continued to follow the Man of Steel in Superman, Action Comics, World's Finest, DC Comics Presents, Justice League of America and more. 




The appeal for me was not just Superman with all his powers and abilities but Clark Kent, the normal nebbish who no one suspected of being the most powerful person on the planet. Ask a lot of comic book reading people who found themselves isolated as kids and they'll tell you the appeal of super heroes was not just the escapist fantasies of powers unleashed but that as ordinary people, they had this other secret life that only they and a choice few knew about. As a boy, it gave me a valve for my loneliness. I imagined that like Clark Kent, I was something more underneath, something astonishing. And it was my secret.


But out of high school and into college, Superman began falling by the wayside. I was changing but Superman wasn't changing with me. In many ways, Superman was actually regressing with simpler stories just as my tastes grew more (for lack of a better word) sophisticated. 


Art by John Byrne
But after Crisis On Infinite Earths, something happened to Superman. Something big. John Byrne was coming to DC and take over Superman! 





Although a dyed in the wool DC guy, I read some Marvels. (My best friend in college was a Marvel guy. So I would buy my DC books and he would read them and likewise, he lent me the Marvel titles he purchased.) So I knew who John Byrne was and this was a BIG DEAL! 


So I had Acme Comics put the three Superman titles on my pull list. And what Byrne did with the Superman mythos was, to me, nothing short of astonishing. Clark Kent may have been mild mannered but he was no wimp. Superman was still powerful but not all-powerful. This was a Superman who was appealing not to the kid in me but to the actual twenty-something person I was. 

Art by Jerry Ordway 


Byrne's run on the Superman titles was too short; after two years, Byrne was back at Marvel. But the foundations had been laid and I was hooked. And Roger Stern made sure I stayed hooked. 


Of all the people who have written Superman pre-Crisis, post-Crisis and in the New 52, the one with the best grasp on Superman and his cast is Roger Stern. Working in tandem with writer/artist Jerry Ordway, Stern crafted the first great epic of the post-Crisis John Byrne Superman, a space faring journey that saw Superman exiled away from Earth but still holding on to the values of his adopted planet as he fought alien warlords on distant worlds. 

Joining Stern and Ordway were writer/artist Dan Jurgens and writer Louise Simonson as this insanely talented quartet of writers produced some of the best, most imaginative Superman stories ever. With four titles, there was an excuse for me to come in almost every week. I needed my Superman fix. 

But all good things, yada, yada, yada...well, you know the drill. Roger Stern left and suddenly things seemed more, I don't know, frantic, I guess? Whereas Stern and editor Mike Carlin along with the other writers seemed to have a plan, without Stern and Carlin, there seemed to be more of a "making this up as we go along" vibe. There seemed to be a lack of direction, of purpose. 

Still, I persevered, remaining faithful to the Man of Steel, even when he became a blue body suited Man of Energy. God, THAT went on WAY too long! After about 12 years since John Bryne relaunched Superman, the titles got a bit of a shot in the arm courtesy of Jeph Loeb and Joe Kelly. Kelly, particularly, wrote some amazing Superman stories and I would certainly count him as part of my top 5 Superman writers (with Roger Stern at the top, of course). 

But wheels turn and people move on. Superman was a habit but it wasn't a fun one, at least not as much as it had been in the heady days under Stern, Ordway, Jurgens & Simonson.   

Infinite Crisis struck and the changes Byrne had wrought were undone. The Superman that John Byrne wowed me with and Roger Stern kept me riveted with was no more.


Art by Terry & Rachel Dodson

Still I valiantly held on with commendable work by Kurt Busiek and James Robinson. But Superman's hold on my heart was not what it once was.  






Then came the thing that made me completely stop reading Superman for the first time in over two decades. 

Grounded.  

The writing was on the wall for Dave-El. 

To be continued. 


Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death

During the dark times (the 1990's) when Doctor Who was lost on the seas of cancellation with only the 1996 TV movie to keep us afloat, t...