Tag Archives: DC Comics

Off the Spinner Rack: June 1985

This month I take a look back at my prime years of comic book collecting via the Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to revisit the comics I bought off the spinner rack in June 1985.  By 1985 our monthly comic book purchases were still steady at around 8 to 10 books a month, but started to decline toward the end of that year.  Several superhero books on our pull list would be replaced by independent titles, with Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance among the titles we looked forward to the most each month.

Alpha Flight #26

Alpha Flight #26
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Written and penciled by John Byrne; Inked by Bob Wiacek

Cerebus #75

Cerebus #75
Terrible Analogies
Written and drawn by Dave Sim; Backgrounds by Gerhard

Daredevil #223

Daredevil #223
The Price
Writers: Dennis O’Neil and Jim Shooter; Penciled by David Mazzuchelli; Inked by Kim DeMulder

Dreadstar and Company #4

Dreadstar and Company #4
The Hand of Darkness
Written and Drawn by Jim Starlin

Fantastic Four #282

Fantastic Four #282
Inwards to Infinity
Written and penciled by John Byrne; Inked by Jerry Ordway

Groo the Wanderer #7

Groo the Wanderer #7
The Ivory Graveyard
The Sage
Written by Mark Evanier; Drawn by Sergio Aragones; Lettered by Stan Sakai

Jon Sable Freelance #29

Jon Sable #29
Murder…In Spades
Written and Drawn by Mike Grell

Longshot #1

Longshot #1
A Man Without a Past
Written by Annie Nocenti, Penciled by Arthur Adams, Inked by Brent Anderson

Thor #359

Thor #359
The Grand Alliance
Written and Drawn by Walter Simonson; Lettered by John Workman

Uncanny X-Men #197

Uncanny X-Men #197
To Save Arcade?
Written by Chris Claremont; Penciled by John Romita Jr.; Inked by Dan Green

Ten comic books purchased at a total cost of $8.05 ($17.97 in 2016 dollars).  We’d been purchasing Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four and Thor since Byrne and Simonson began their respective runs on those titles in the early 80s, and we hadn’t missed an issue of Uncanny X-Men since Days of Future Past.  The next longest purchase streak was Dave Sim’s Cerebus, which we would continue to buy consistently until the early 90’s.  Not one DC title purchased that month, but a couple from Marvel’s Epic line, with Groo the Wanderer a favorite over the next several years.

Missed Opportunities:

Black Dragon #3

Black Dragon #3
Written by Chris Claremont; Art by John Bolton

Conan the Barbarian #174

Conan #174
Children of the Night
Written by Jim Owsley; Penciled by John Buscema; Inked by Bob Camp

Crossfire #12

Crossfire #12
Written by Mark Evanier; Art by Dan Spiegle

Star Wars #99

Star Wars #99
Touch of the Goddess
Written by Jo Duffy; Penciled by Ron Frenz; Inked by Sam DeLaRosa

Swamp Thing #40

Swamp Thing #40
The Curse
Written by Alan Moore; Penciled by Steve Bissette; Inked by John Totleben

Black Dragon #1 was a favorite of ours when it hit the spinner rack, but our local comic shop didn’t stock any subsequent issues.  Recently I was able to track down issues #2-6.  I have a few issues of Evanier and Spiegel’s Crossfire, but #12 is an issue I’m still on the lookout for, particularly for Dave Stevens’ amazing cover.  By 1985 Star Wars wasn’t part of our monthly pickups (another title I’ll need to track down missing back issues for) and we completely missed out on Moore’s Swamp Thing.  Conan the Barbarian was a sporadic purchase, which I regret because I missed out on an incredible amount of art by the great John Buscema.  It’s now high on my list of back issue purchases at the next convention I attend.

 

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Off the Spinner Rack: March 1982

This month I’m taking another trip back to my prime comic collecting years thanks to The Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics.  I’m hoping to make this a monthly trip on Fante’s Inferno because it allows me to look back on some of the issues and storylines that I enjoyed way back when and to give me a new “want list” of missed issues to pick up at this year’s local comic cons.

Daredevil #184

Daredevil 184
“Good Guys Wear Red”
Written and penciled by Frank Miller, inked and colored by Klaus Janson

Dazzler #17

Dazzler 17
“The Angel and the Octopus”
Written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Frank Springer, inked by Vince Colletta

Fantastic Four #243

Fantastic Four 243
“Shall Earth Endure?”
Written and drawn by John Byrne

G.I. Joe #1

GI Joe 1
“Operation:Lady Doomsday”
Written by Larry Hama, penciled by Herbe Trimpe, inked by Bob McLeod
“…Hot Potato”
Written by Larry Hama, penciled by Don Perlin, inked by Jack Abel

Iron Man #159

Iron Man 159
“When Strikes Diablo”
Written by Roger McKenzie, penciled by Paul Smith, inked by Terry Austin

Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions #1

Contest of Champions 1
“A Gathering of Heroes”
Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by John Romita Jr., inked by Pablo Marcos

Power Man & Iron Fist #82

Power Man and Iron Fist 82
“Secret of the Black Tiger”
Written by Mary Jo Duffy, penciled by Denys Cowan, inked by Carl Potts

Star Wars #60

Star Wars 60
“Shira’s Story”
Written by David Michelinie, penciled by Walt Simonson, inked by Tom Palmer

The Uncanny X-Men #158

Uncanny X-Men 158
“The Life That Late I Led…”
Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Bob Wiacek

What If? #33

What If 33
“What If the Dazzler Had Become the Herald of Galactus”
Written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Mike Vosburg, inked by Jon D’Agostino
“What If Iron Man Had Been Trapped in King Arthur’s Time”
Written by Steven Grant, penciled by Don Perlin, inked by Bob Layton

Ten comic books bought in March 1982 for a whopping $7.30 ($17.94 today adjusted for inflation).  I can’t remember a single month in which we bought ten new issues, and I couldn’t imagine buying that many current books today considering how cost prohibitive it would be.  Many of those titles were consistent purchases for us, namely Uncanny X-Men, Star Wars, Fantastic Four (the cover for FF #243 is still one of my favorites), Daredevil and Iron Man (IM #159 was my introduction to the art of the amazing Paul Smith).  Dazzler was most likely purchased because the X-Men’s Angel was on the cover, and there’s no doubt we picked up What If? #33 for the Iron Man trapped in King Arthur’s time story (the storyline originally told in issues #149 and #150 was simply amazing).  G.I. Joe was a chance for me to own a #1 (my first speculative purchase) though I did continue to buy that title for the next year.  Power Man and Iron Fist was new on our monthly buy list, and the back issues of Mary Jo Duffy’s run on that title are now on my “must buy” list at the next comic con I attend.  Contest of Champions #1 was also a favorite of mine that month, though our local comic shop didn’t have the subsequent two issues.  After 34 years I finally have a chance to read them now that I bought the hardcover collection.

Missed Opportunities:

Moon Knight #20 & #21

Moon Knight 20 Moon Knight 21

Doctor Strange #53

Doctor Strange 53

To miss an issue of Moon Knight back then was a rarity for us, but to miss two in one month?  That’s unbelievable.  The covers alone would have been enough for me to plunk down $1.20 for Moon Knight #20 and #21.  It wasn’t until many years after their initial publication that I discovered Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin’s run on Doctor Strange with Roger Stern, and issue #53 is still missing from my collection.  Three more issues I’ll have to pick up at my next convention!

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Off the Spinner Rack: February 1981

This week I made a return trip to The Newsstand at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics to revisit the comics I bought (and missed out on) in February 1981.  Comic book collecting was a big part of my life up to my late teens, and while I can’t remember a time in which my brother and I weren’t buying comic books, it really does amaze me as to how many books we missed out on back then.  So here’s a look back at our purchases 35 years ago this month:

Jonah Hex #48

Jonah Hex 48

“The Vulture Creek Massacre” – written by Michael Fleisher, penciled by Dick Ayers, inked by Tony DeZuniga
“Devil’s Power” – Written by Ted Skimmer, penciled by Ross Andru, inked by Tony DeZuniga

Moon Knight #7

Moon Knight 7

“The Moon Kings” – written by Doug Moench, penciled by Bill Sienkiewicz, inked by Klaus Janson

Rom #18

Rom 18

“And a Child Shall Deceive Them” – written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Al Milgrom

Star Wars #47

Star Wars 47

“Droid World” – Written by Archie Goodwin, penciled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Gene Day

Uncanny X-Men #145

Uncanny X-Men 145

“Kidnapped” – Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Josef Rubinstein

Five comic books purchased that month (cover dated May 1981) for a total of $2.50 ($6.52 today adjusted for inflation).  Jonah Hex #48 is one of only two issues of that title in our collection (the first was #45), and that purchase was most likely based on Tony DeZuniga’s amazing cover.  I’m not sure why we didn’t stick with the title, but it’s now on my list to hunt for at the next comic con I attend.  Moench and Sinkiewicz’s run on Moon Knight was by far one of my favorites of that era, and by the time the powerful cover for Moon Knight #7 hit the spinner rack that month, we were already hooked on the title.  We had purchased Rom sporadically over the first ten issues of the run, but seeing Rom and the X-Men on the cover of issue #18 drawn by two of my favorite artists (if only Frank Miller and Terry Austin had collaborated more!) made this a must have.  By February 1981 I was probably a bigger fan of the Star Wars comics than the films (that changed once we got cable TV and Star Wars: A New Hope played about 50 times a month), and those books were my introduction to the art of the great Carmine Infantino.  But the Uncanny X-Men was by far my favorite title throughout the 80’s, in part due to Dave Cockrum’s second run on the book which began with issue #145.  While I loved the stories from Claremont, Byrne and Austin’s run, it was Claremont and Cockrum’s stories that got me emotionally invested in the characters.

Missed Comics:

Daredevil #170

Daredevil 170

“The Kingpin Must Die!” – Written and penciled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson

Iron Man #146

Iron Man 146

“Blacklash – And the Burning” – Written by David Michelinie, penciled by John Romita Jr., inked by Bob Layton

Two more rare misses for titles that were consistent purchases for us back then, though I did recently pick up a copy of Daredevil #170 at a comic con recently.  Iron Man #146 was one of only two issues we missed during the Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton run.

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Off the Spinner Rack: April 1981

This week I decided to take another trip down comic book memory lane via the Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics and look up which comics we had bought (and missed out on) during a particular month of our prime collecting years of the late 70’s to mid 80’s.  Rather than using my usual 30 year benchmark I picked a year at random and decided on a look back at the comics that went on sale in April 1981.  I narrowed it down to the following purchases:

Moon Knight #9
Written by Doug Moench, art by Bill Sienkiewicz

Moon Knight #9

The Uncanny X-Men #147
Written by Chris Claremont, art by Dave Cockrum and Josef Rubinstein

Uncanny X-Men #147

What If #27
Written by Mary Jo Duffy, art by Jerry Bingham and John Stuart

What If #27

Iron Man #148
Written by David Michelinie, art by John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton

Iron Man #148

Star Wars #49
Written by Mike W. Barr, art by Walter Simonson and Tom Palmer

Star Wars #49

Not surprisingly, our purchases (totalling $2.75) were entirely Marvel.  But I am surprised at how few comics we bought off the spinner rack that month.  I wasn’t reading Amazing Spider-Man or Captain America at that point, though those titles and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man would soon be consistent purchases.  Of the issues listed above, What If? #27 was and still is a particular favorite (see my earlier post revisiting this issue).  Each of these issues were part of memorable runs that I still reach into the old box o’ comics to read time and again, particularly Claremont/Cockrum/Rubinstein’s run on Uncanny X-Men.  I’ll still take these stories over most of the comics published today.

Missed Comics:

Fantastic Four #232
Story and art by John Byrne

Fantastic Four #232

Daredevil #173
Written by Frank Miller, art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Daredevil 173

These two missed issues were a surprise to me.  Byrne’s run on FF and Miller/Janson’s on Daredevil are still favorites of mine from that era, and I’m still not sure why we hadn’t picked up these two issues off the spinner rack back in April 1981 or as back issues over the last 30 odd years (I finally read FF #232 in its original form in IDW’s John Byrne Artist Edition).  They’re now high on my list of books to seek out and buy at the New York based conventions this year, along with several other titles available that month such as Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, New Teen Titans, Jonah Hex and Warlord.

When I cut back significantly on buying comics over the last year, I wondered if that was pretty much the end of collecting for me.  But discovering what I missed out on over the years has lit the fire in me to keep collecting (even if they are primarily back issues), complete runs started way back when, and start a few more along the way.

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Off the Spinner Rack: January 1985

Lately I’ve been looking back on the comic book runs that hooked me during the 1980s.  Back then my brother and I would visit our local comic shop every Saturday and plunk down a few bucks for the latest issues of The Uncanny X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Thor among other (mainly) Marvel titles (by the mid-80’s there would also be a few independent titles in the mix).  I recently opened up the old box o’comics and wondered how many comics I would have bought on a month to month basis during my prime years of collecting.

I recently discovered the fantastic Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, a comic book database that allows visitors to search for the titles that were on sale during a particular month and year.  I figured I would use my usual 30 year benchmark to look back, and I was able to track down our exact comic book purchases for January 1985:

Alien Legion 6 Cover
Alien Legion
#6

Alpha Flight 21 Cover Alpha Flight 22 Cover
Alpha Flight #21 and #22

Doctor Strange 70 Cover
Doctor Strange #70


Fantastic Four #277

Groo The Wanderer 2 CoverGroo The Wanderer 3 Cover
Groo the Wanderer #2 and #3

New Mutants 27
The New Mutants #27

Thor 354 Cover
Thor #354

Uncanny X-Men 192 Cover
Uncanny X-Men #192

Void Indigo 2 Cover
Void Indigo #2

Looking back on this list, the titles we bought that month aren’t surprising.  At that point in our comic collecting we were primarily Marvel readers, with only sporadic purchases of DC titles.  Alpha Flight, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, Thor and The Uncanny X-Men were consistent favorites of ours for several years and would make up the bulk of our comic book collection.  Bill Sienkiewicz’s art got me hooked for a second time on The New Mutants, and Groo the Wanderer by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones would become a new favorite over the next twenty or so issues in 1985-1986.

Missed comics:

Cerebus 70 Cover
Cerebus
#70

Crisis On Infinite Earths 1
Crisis on Infinite Earths #1

Jon Sable Cover 24
Jon Sable Freelance #24

Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance were also consistent purchases for us, but that month’s issues sold out at our local comic shop before we could buy them.  Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 was a flat out miss on our part and that’s one I regret not picking up back then.

January 1985’s purchases added up to a whopping $9.05 for ten comic books ($19.86 today adjusted for inflation).  The same number of comic books today would run me about $44.  In my opinion we got better art and more story/character development per issue for a fraction of the price back then, and it’s no coincidence that my comic book purchases over the last year or so have been mainly back issues.  Sure they cost a few bucks more nowadays, but I enjoy the feeling of nostalgia I get when I find a back issue from the 80’s that I missed the first time on the spinner rack.  In a way I’m glad we missed a few issues back then.

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NYCC 2014: From Albuquerque to Artist Alley in Record Time

NYCC 2014 2

Since the first show in 2006, the New York Comic Con is the comic book related event that I look forward to the most each year.   I still can’t believe that only eight years ago it started as a one room event that took up a fraction of the Jacob Javits Center.  And while I tend to complain about the crowds in the exhibit hall each year, I am very happy that the show has grown in popularity into one of the premiere comic book conventions with an attendance (over 151,000 attendees) that has now surpassed the San Diego Comic Con.

I’ll admit I don’t take as full advantage of the show as most of the attendees do.  I don’t cosplay (though I am tempted to break out the stormtrooper armor each year), and I avoid the larger panels for the less crowded sessions, but that’s because I choose to maximize my time in Artist Alley to meet the creators that have written and drawn my favorite stories of the last four decades.  This year was no different but that was because I had less time at NYCC than previous years.  My faithful sidekick and I had set up a two week vacation in Arizona and New Mexico that overlapped the first three days of NYCC and I didn’t think I would be able to attend this year.  But when I found out we were flying the red eye from Albuquerque to JFK I knew that I could make the last day of the show.

While I may have missed New York Super Week and the first three days of NYCC, I made up for it by buying some comic related merchandise during our stop in Albuquerque.  First stop was the amazing Astro-Zombies comic shop where I got a great deal on copies of X-Men #90 and Fantastic Four #92.  I also found Days of Future Past HeroClix that sold out at my New York comic and game shops (Storm, Blob, Pyro and a Sentinel!).  If you’re ever in Albuquerque, I highly recommend a visit to Astro-Zombies.  They have a great selection of new and back issues and a friendly staff.  I also picked up a few Marvel Comics themed wall decorations at a local art store on sale.  Buying these items that I would have picked up at NYCC softened the blow of not attending the first three days (and probably saved me a few bucks!).  Heck, even the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta had a con feel with a huge crowd and members of the local chapter of the 501st Legion in attendance as the Darth Vader and Yoda hot air balloons ascended!

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante's Inferno)

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

ABQ 2

Stormtroopers prepare the crowd for Yoda at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

ABQ 3

Darth Vader gets ready for the mass ascension at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

But no sooner than I had gotten home from JFK Sunday morning, I was pulling together every book I wanted autographed, my sketch book for commissions, and of course The Captain America Project to (hopefully) complete.  I arrived at the Javits Center around 9:15 that morning, and I was surprised to not see a crowd gathered in front.  But reality soon set in when I realized the thousands of attendees were lined up in the lower level of the convention center prior to the 10:00 start time.  Overall it was a good system, and even though I was towards the back of the line I made it into Artist Alley by about 10:15.  Thankfully most of the attendees were heading to the exhibit hall and Artist Alley was practically empty when I walked in.

My top priority at NYCC was completing the Captain America Project: a jam page of 20 drawings of Captain America by 20 different artists.  After four years, 17 of the 20 spots on my Captain America jam page had been filled by artists like Jim Lee, David Finch, Herb Trimpe and even Golden Age artist Allen Bellman.  I had put a lot of thought into which artists I wanted to finish the page, and even though there were more artists to choose from than spots available on the page, I decided they would be filled by three of my favorite artists of the last 30 years.  My first two stops were Lee Weeks’ and Bob McLeod’s tables.

Weeks’ art has been a favorite of mine over the last ten years, most recently his work on Daredevil: Dark Nights #1-3, and I’ve been a huge fan of Bob McLeod’s work since the early 80’s, particularly his run on The New Mutants.  So as long time fans of their work, they were “must haves” on The Captain America Project.  I had originally planned on posting scans of their Cap sketches in this post, but then I realized they would be major spoilers of their individual posts for The Captain America Project, so I decided to hold off.  But in the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of them sketching on the page:

NYCC 2014 4

Bob McLeod adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project

NYCC 2014 3

Artist Lee Weeks adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project.

Unfortunately, the third artist that I was hoping would cap off the page (pun intended) wasn’t able to attend Sunday, so I’ll keep that one a surprise until I’m able to get that sketch at a future show.

After collecting autographs from artists Rob Liefeld, Allen Bellman, Howard Chaykin and former Marvel writer/artist/editor Al Milgrom for my copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, my last stop of the afternoon was The Artists’ Choice table for a sketch from artist Jerry Ordway (Superman).  Going into the show, one of the items on my wish list was a full sized sketch of Superman from Ordway, and he didn’t disappoint with this gem:

IMG_3072

Superman by Jerry Ordway

IMG_3071

Artist Jerry Ordway and his Superman sketch.

I had every intention of staying until the end of the show to hit the exhibit hall and get a few more sketches, but by 3:00 I realized that I hadn’t slept in over 30 hours (maybe that’s a con endurance record?) and it was time to head home before I passed out and the attendees swiped my sketches.  But this year’s NYCC was definitely worth the red eye flight and sleep deprivation.  Looking forward to next year!

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75 Years of Batman

 

Detective_Comics_27

Sunday March 30th marked the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27.  National Periodicals (later to be DC Comics) introduced Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s creation to the world on that day in 1939, and eight decades later the Dark Knight is as popular as ever in comic books, film and television.

Batman was the first comic book hero that I was introduced to thanks to reruns of the 60’s television series starring Adam West.  This was several years before I bought my first comic book, and despite its campiness I still have a soft spot for the original series to this day.

In honor of The Dark Knight’s 75th birthday, here’s a list of my all time favorite representations of Batman:

Favorite Batman Artist:  Neal Adams

Detective Comics 400

Choosing my favorite Batman artist was a tough task for me considering how many incredible artists have drawn the Batman books over the years (Jerry Robinson, Sheldon Moldoff, Dick Sprang, Carmine Infantino and Jim Aparo, just to name a few).  But it was Neal Adams’ Batman that was my first introduction to the Dark Knight on the comic book page, and it’s his artwork that comes to mind when I think of the character.

Favorite Issue:  Batman Special #1 (1984)

Batman_Special_1

This story of Batman vs. The Wrath is one that stuck with me over the years.  Batman’s nemesis in this special issue was his complete antithesis even down to the death of his parents.  Great story by Mike W. Barr and art by Michael Golden and Mike DeCarlo.

Favorite Run:  Batman: Year One

Favorite Cover:  Detective Comics #69

Jerry Robinson’s cover for Detective Comics #69 just barely edges out Neal Adams’ cover for Detective Comics #400 as my favorite of all time.

Favorite Batman Film:  The Dark Knight

Favorite Televised Version of Batman:  Batman: The Animated Series

I was 20 and out of comics collecting when Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox in 1992.  I was expecting more of the campiness of the 1966 series, but was blown away by the noir tone and I was hooked.  (My favorite episode of the series: Beware the Gray Ghost, guest starring Adam West).

Here’s to another 75 years of Batman.

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Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby

Happy birthday to Jack “King” Kirby on what would have been his 96th birthday.

My first exposure to Jack Kirby’s work was back in the 70’s in the Italian language reprints of his Silver Age work on The Fantastic Four and the Eternals.  These reprints were published in Italy about 10 years after their initial U.S. publication, but they were new to me and I was hooked.  I’ve been a fan of his work ever since, and I’m truly grateful for the iconic characters he created and co-created over the course of his career.

Jack Kirby Portrait

Jack Kirby Galactus

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Thoughts On Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel

With $125 million domestic and $196 million worldwide box office earnings its opening weekend, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has set the bar for this summer’s box office.

In an effort to beat the crowds, my faithful sidekick and I bought our tickets for a 9:30 AM screening at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theater in midtown.  I went into the theater feeling equal parts anticipation and trepidation considering my appreciation for Superman: The Movie and my disappointment with Superman Returns seven years ago.

It would be too easy to base my opinion of Man of Steel on how it compared to Richard Donner’s 1978  Superman: The Movie, so I pledged to go into the screening with an open mind and judge Zack Snyder’s film on its own merits.  A year ago, my fear was that Man of Steel would be a slapdash production released by Warner Bros/DC prior to potentially losing their copyright case to the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  However the positive buzz leading up to June 14th got my hopes up that this wouldn’t be the case.  The trailer was amazing, Zack Snyder and David Goyer are a powerhouse director/writer combination, and the film’s cast was top notch.  At one point in the film, Superman tells Lois Lane the “S” on his chest is actually the Kryptonian symbol for “Hope,” and that is the word that best described what I was feeling as the lights dimmed and the film began.

So, wearing my Siegel and Shuster Society t-shirt and 3D glasses, I sat back and watched 2 hours and 23 minutes of the most anticipated movie of the summer.

Please note: Spoilers below.

The positives:

Man of Steel has the villains and fight scenes Superman fans have been asking for in a film, and the action sequences give the audience a pretty good ride from the opening scene on Krypton to Superman’s final battle with General Zod.

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were inspired casting as Jonathan and Martha Kent.  Costner’s performance made the film for me, and he truly delivered as the grounding force in Clark’s life.  On that note, I liked how Goyer & Snyder took the time to establish the roots of Clark’s moral compass and his rationale for keeping his powers secret.

Positive portrayal of the U.S. Military.  They mistrust Superman at first, but they are given an opportunity to explain their position, and a mutual respect is established.

But as I left the Ziegfeld after the closing credits, I couldn’t help feeling that there were several missed opportunities in the execution of the story and character development.

My main issues were:

Over use of the flashback sequences of Clark’s early years disrupted the flow of the first act.  I also wasn’t completely sold on Clark Kent as a drifter working odd-jobs in anonymity, which resembled Bruce Banner/The Hulk more than Clark Kent.

Goyer and Snyder’s reliance on Jor-El’s hologram throughout the film.  One of the things I looked forward to the most going into the film was Russell Crowe’s performance as Jor-El, and he owns every scene he’s in.  From the first moment Kal-El is born the audience feels his urgency to protect his child and use him as a savior for the Kryptonian race.  While the hologram was necessary for Clark to learn of his personal history (even with the underwhelming CGI during Jor-El’s monologue), it became overused by the end of the film and provides a too easy solution when Lois Lane is tasked with saving Clark from General Zod going into the third act.

Snyder and Goyer packed a lot into the film’s 2 hours and 23 minutes, and I appreciate the fact that so many characters from the Superman canon are featured in Man of Steel (Lois Lane, Perry White, Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Jor-El) and an amazing cast of actors has been assembled to play them (Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburn, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe).  But unfortunately David Goyer’s script gives Amy Adams little to work with in the film as Lois Lane and barely scrapes the surface of the character.  Unfortunately, Amy Adams’ Lois doesn’t have the toughness the Lois Lane of the comic books, TV shows and previous films.

Having seen Snyder’s slower paced action sequences in 300 and Watchmen, I went into the film expecting more of the same.  At first I was pleasantly surprised by the faster pace, but there were moments when the fight sequences resembled a video game and by the third act I was begging for Snyder’s slo-mo camera work.

Lois Lane knowing Superman’s alter ego completely takes away one major element of the Superman canon. Sure, there are many people feel that the use of a simple pair of glasses to transform Superman to Clark Kent was dated, simplistic and silly, but at the end of the day half of any good performance as Superman is pretending to be the meek Clark Kent knowing full well you’re the most powerful person on the planet.

Superman killing General Zod with his bare hands, which in my opinion was completely unnecessary and added nothing more than shock value.

The big question for me going into the film was if Henry Cavill could make the role of Clark Kent/Superman his own.  He certainly looks the part in Superman’s iconic blue costume and red cape, but brings little more than brooding and mystery to Clark Kent, save for the end of the film when he dons the “secret identity” glasses on his first day working for the Daily Planet.  Hopefully the sequel will allow him to add another dimension to Clark Kent.

In spite of the issues listed above, it was a good summer movie experience and I’m looking forward to the sequel.  The world definitely needs Superman.

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The Men Who Were Superman (Part II)

In celebration of Superman’s 75th anniversary and the June 14th premiere of Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel, Fante’s Inferno honors the iconic character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster with a spotlight on The Men Who Were Superman.

Part II: 1978-Present

Christopher Reeve
Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Christopher Reeve Superman

My first screening of Superman: The Movie is a movie moment that has stayed with me throughout my life.  The smallest details are just as vivid today as they were on that December day in 1978: where we sat, the friends we saw sitting in front of us, and the guy sitting in the back row that chuckled at the film’s opening shot of a copy of Action Comics.  John Williams’ powerful score playing over the opening credits set the tone for the film, and when it was over I wanted to stay in my seat and watch it again.  To this day Superman: The Movie is the only film I’ve seen in a theater three times.

Prior to that first screening I had watched George Reeves in reruns of The Adventures of Superman, watched the The SuperFriends on Saturday morning TV, and read the DC Comics drawn by Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Neal Adams.  I had also seen promotional pictures of Christopher Reeve in the costume but very little footage on TV, so I hadn’t yet formed an opinion of his representation of Superman going into Richard Donner’s film that day.  But the moment Christopher Reeve emerged from the Fortress of Solitude to take his first flight, he was Superman.

Reeve brought confidence, strength, and humanity to Superman.  But it’s how he uses that confidence as Superman to add a sense of playfulness to Clark Kent that makes his performance stand out.

Reeve played Superman in four films from 1978 to 1987, but it would be unfair to only associate him with this role.  Several other notable films in Reeve’s career were (the under-rated) Somewhere In Time (1980), the gritty Street Smart (1987) and (the near perfect) The Remains of the Day (1993).  He was a remarkable and respected actor, and I wish we could have seen him in several of the roles that he had turned down (The World According to Garp, Mutiny on the Bounty and Romancing the Stone just to name a few).

Brandon Routh
Superman Returns (2006)

Brandon Routh - Superman Returns

When I first saw Superman Returns, there was a moment or two when I thought they had CGI’d Christopher Reeve into a couple of shots.  Director Bryan Singer’s 2006 reboot had a strong reverence to Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie and that included Brandon Routh’s portrayal of Superman/Clark Kent..

Like Donner, Singer wanted to cast an unknown actor to play Superman, and Brandon Routh had big shoes to fill when he took over the role that was associated with the beloved Reeve.  Routh bore a strong resemblance to Reeve especially as Clark Kent, and there are moments in Superman Returns when he was spot on in matching Reeve’s timing and delivery in his portrayal of Clark.

He had built his early career on TV roles in the 90’s and 2000’s before he earned the role of Superman.  Since then he as appeared in the films Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and on the TV series Chuck.  Four years after his role in Superman Returns, Routh portrayed another comic book character in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010) based on the Italian comic book by Tiziano Sclavi.

Henry Cavill
Man of Steel (2013)

Henry Cavill Superman

It seems like Cavill’s face has been plastered on every billboard and train station over the last two weeks (thanks, Gillette).  His work prior to Man of Steel includes the Showtime series The Tudors, Woody Allen’s Whatever Works (2009), and Immortals (2011).  My first impression of Cavill as Superman is a positive one from what I’ve seen in the trailer and the behind the scenes featurette.

A more detailed look at Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman will be included in my review of Man of Steel this weekend.

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