Soup R. Man: My Favorite Superman Comics

As I’ve written on here before, people are dismissive of comic books. But they’re REALLY dismissive of Superman.

He’s corny. He’s old. He’s a “boy scout” (often said with a sneer). He has too many powers.

There’s all sorts of excuses for why people don’t enjoy Superman, or wouldn’t read a Superman comic, but the fact is…most of these people have NEVER read a Superman comic book.

I won’t argue that these people aren’t right in some way to carry some preconceived notions about Superman, but if I might get all analogical on yo asses for a second: There are more bad pizza joints in the world than good, but people are still willing to eat pizza so…OK, this is just collapsing on itself. I really want pizza right now.

Anyway, yes, there are probably more bad Superman comics than good, but there are some GREAT Superman comics out there. There are a bunch on sale RIGHT NOW at Comixology: http://www.comixology.com/Superman-Unchained-plus-Sale/comics-collection/1257

Here’s some of my favorites:

All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 7.56.05 AMI’ve mentioned it numerous times before. This is THE Superman comic. It’s earnest yet never corny. Morrison and Quitely pay tribute to what has come before them without a wink or a smirk, but don’t get lost in nostalgia. Their Superman is not only one that is “super” by having powers, he’s also trying to be the best in all possible ways.

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 8.39.18 PMThis isn’t a Superman that takes Lois on some cheesy romantic flight. Or gives her an amnesia kiss. This is a Superman that analyzes Lois Lane’s entire DNA sequence and figures out to give her superpowers for 24 hours. And he even sews her a super-suit!

Not only is he a hero that has saved the world a thousand times over, he is the best scientist/boyfriend ever. In the opinion of your humble comic book recommender, it is the best Superman comic ever done. It’s all the best parts of the character told by two of the best storytellers in the medium.

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Also written by Grant Morrison, with art by Rags Morales and Andy Kubert, is Action Comics (volume 2). It features a modern update to Superman, with a brasher, more idealistic Clark Kent/Superman.

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He knows a bit less about his heritage or where he fits in. What he does know, is he hates corporate fat-cats, and goes after them hardcore. It’s a great examination of what any of us would do with super powers after taking our first mind-blowing college course about how unfair the world is. And I say that without dismissing how that feels. Rather than getting lost in the wonder of super powers, this Superman is about what happens when powers and raw ideals collide.

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SPEAKING OF IDEALS. Superman: Red Son, by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson is a 3 part tale about a Superman that crash-lands in the Soviet Union rather than the United States. It then jumps back and forth as Superman and Lex Luthor act out their own Cold War until it culminates in a fun, Twilight Zone-y ending.

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Also, it has freedom-fighter Batman!

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Building further on the “what if Superman ____ in ____” theme, Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen is…well, it’s friggin beautiful is what it is.
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Immomen can do really stylized, cartoony art. This is not it. This is realistic, but not over-realistic. It’s just…gorgeous.
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Oh, yeah. But the high concept. It’s “Superman in the real world,” where a young man named Clark Kent, who has endured Superman jokes all his life just happens to wind up with the exact same powers as the fictional Superman. It’s really, really good. He even meets and falls in love with his own Lois.

I’ll follow up with a few more Superman favorites, but these are my top Superman comics. There’s no barrier to entry for these. Just good stories, that happen to feature an all around super man.

 

 

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1/11/13: Buy This Right Now, Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena and others

Sorry for the “and others” other talented artists that have brought Uncanny X-Force to life, but time is of the essence (Quick time-essence break, the colors on this book? RIDICULOUSLY GOOD, courtesy of Dean White. This comic is like a dark and scary and awesome dream because of that guy)!

Ok, folks. The first 31 issues of Uncanny X-Force are on sale for 99 cents each at Comixology. Don’t tip your toes in, drop the $31 and get it all. It’s worth it. LINK HERE IN FULL UGLY URLNESS: http://www.comixology.com/Uncanny-X-Force-1/digital-comic/AUG100524

Screen Shot 2012-09-17 at 10.24.08 PMUncanny X-Force is about X-Force (I know, dumb name, but dumb names are the name of the game in superhero comics, so get past it mr or ms fancy cool pants), the secret black-ops team of X-Men. They kill threats to mutant kind  before those threats can make their latest attempt to kill mutants. This team of killers sometimes has problems with this (moral dilemmas!). There’s action and Sci-Fi (Not Hard  Sci-Fi, sorry Forrest), there’s dimension hopping and evil cyborg time travel duplicates. There are villains attempting to kill our heroes with their butts:

Screen Shot 2012-09-17 at 10.24.44 PMFor reals.

It’s also a great  companion book for anyone who enjoyed Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, as it expands on several characters and concepts from that run. Remender also revisits the Age of Apocalypse universe, making it even darker than those of us who grew up in the 90s remember it (and better, too. 90s X-Men comics DO NOT hold up).

I’d love to write about this book more, but you only have til 11pm to get past your indecisiveness to buy all these awesome comics!!! Seriously, it’s a steal. It also doesn’t depend upon years of continuity for enjoyment, nor does it lose any momentum by getting caught up in company crossovers. Everything you need to read is in these 31 issues (and in 6 more that are still at full price, but we can all wait for a price drop on those). Read this comic, and then we’ll come back here in a few days time to go a little bit more in detail about how awesome it is, and how amazing Dean White’s colors are.

(Disclaimer: I don’t see a dime for telling you to buy anything off Comixology. It’s how I read my comics, I think their 99 cent sales are fantastic, and as a result I’ve probably given them most of my dimes).

 

 

Buy Things With Your Moneys: Digital Comic Books

This post is entirely for digital or digital curious readers. I’ve been reading comic books digitally for about a year now. I’ve read a couple of print things here and there, but I love reading panel by panel. As far as my (fast) style of reading goes, it helps me linger and study each panel more, whereas I used to tear through comic books quickly, sometimes missing important moments because I was in some sort of rush (for what, I don’t know? Life and comic books are too short). I’ve primarily been reading via Comixology on my Kindle Fire, though I have bought a few books through Amazon directly (though I don’t like their comic reader) and Dark Horse Comics. Both Comixology and Dark Horse are having some cool sales this weekend, so let’s talk about what you should buy (or maybe even gift–tis the season!).

Have we talked about Superman? (Read that in a tone of your parents approaching you with the sex talk in the most awkward way possible). So, son or daughter, what do you know about the last son of Krypton?

If the answer is nothing, or “Superman’s lame and we thought you created this blog to tell us all about more varieties of comic books than super hero,” then you should check out Comixology’s Superman sale. You can’t go wrong with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman. My dad likes this comic. And he’s pretty much hated any other comic book I’ve put in front of him. It is also one of the most beautifully illustrated comic books I have ever read.

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It’s a comic that is both fantastical and serious, or adult, or whatever qualifier I have to use to get those of you that only read “serious” fiction to read this amazing book. It is pretty much the only Superman book you’ll ever need to read. It’s a character defining work, taking the best core concepts of the character, and telling a story of a dying Superman’s last days on Earth expertly and accessibly. Frank Quitely draws a Clark Kent that isn’t simply Superman with glasses, or just a bumbling awkward guy. His Superman as Clark is PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT.

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 7.56.46 AMClark Kent is always slightly crouched. He doesn’t fit into his suit well. He looks like a stocky farm boy and not a well toned alien super hero (And he also apparently works with Jake “The Snake” Roberts? Look at that dude in the center of the panel). Anyway, at 99 cents an issue, you’re getting a great story that will look beautiful on your tablet or your computer if you haven’t tableted up yet. People pop movies like The Dark Knight or Jaws, or Wall-E to show off their latest HD television or projector to show off how baller it is. This is what you pop up on your iPad or other tablet-y device to show how baller THAT is.

“What does it mean to be an environmentalist after the world’s already ended?” This is the question posed in The Massive by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson.

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A series of environmental catastrophes have crippled the globe. We see this from the point of view of the crew of The Kapital, an environmentalist ship in search of it’s (titular) fleet-mate The Massive. Wood and Donaldson present things so starkly, so matter of factly that there’s no much opportunity for the reader to get lost in the “Whys” of the world’s end. No, the important hooks of the story become “How is the crew of The Kapital going to survive?” and “What happened to The Massive?” It’s a great first issue, and it’s taking all of my willpower to not buy the next issue and spend money that I shouldn’t.

 

The Massive, along with a number of other Dark Horse 2012 launches are on sale this weekend for a mere 99 cents.I’ve heard great things about Mind MGMT and Ghost as well. There’s also a number of Star Wars, Buffy, and Hellboy-related series that are worth checking out. I’m sorry I’m not more helpful in Dark Horse recommendations, but I’ve only recently gotten the app on my Kindle Fire, and I had to do so by hacking it. Having to hack an app onto my device sucks, and the reader isn’t as polished as Comixology’s, but as publishers go, Dark Horse is probably only second to Image Comics this year in terms of launching interesting new series by great creators.

Onto Marvel and back to Comixology. Marvel’s sale focuses on their “latest and greatest.” Click through here to check it out. My personal picks begin with Captain America, which was reinvigorated by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting as a spy/noir series, as well as Brubaker and Butch Guice’s spinoff series: Winter Soldier. Both series start with a character from the 40s who has been brought forward to modern times, but while Captain America was frozen in ice, The Winter Solider, aka Cap’s former sidekick Bucky, was brainwashed and running black ops missions for the Soviet Union. Both men are dealing with demons from their respective pasts while trying to do good in the modern world.

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Ed Brubaker is a writer who mostly manages to avoid crossovers, and makes Captain America’s rich history work for him rather than being a slave to continuity. The books dark color palate is a stark contrast to the “golly gee” red white and blue that most would expect of the “first Avenger.” If you’ve seen and enjoyed the Captain America film, this is a darker and meatier version of that.

The first issues of Jonthan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run are also on sale, and in these early issues he’s paired with artist Dale Eaglesham who has a pretty Kirby-esque style, especially in his characters’ faces, AND when drawing giant space god monsters (If you haven’t clicked over and bought this based on the words “giant space god monsters,” we have a problem). This is a pretty amazing Fantastic Four run, and a great story for both new and longtime readers. Hickman balances the story of a family with epic cosmic adventures. As I’ve mentioned before, they might save the world, but they’re not superheroes, and these issues are done by creators who get that.

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There’s also two great series by Matt Fraction (Shut up with the Fraction, already Paul!). Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca is a great buy for anyone who’s loved the big screen version of Tony Stark. Fraction writes broken characters well, and Tony Stark, a recovering alcoholic war profiteer trying to atone for his past is probably one of his brokenest. Yes, I just created the word “brokenest,” bro. Deal with it. Larroca’s art is gorgeous, though there’s some distracting moments where his characters are clearly modeled on actors like Josh Holloway or Bill Paxton. But again, other than that, his art is beautiful.

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I’ve also written about The Defenders before.

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This is a FUN series (though again, about some broken people) written by Fraction, with art by Terry Dodson, Michael Lark, Mitch Breitweiser, and Victor Ibanez. Probably not for beginners, but for people who might have stepped away from comics, it’s a good “Oh, comics are GOOD again? Shiiiiit, that’s all you had to say.”

These 99 cent digital sales are like (insert addictive substance that you best relate to) for me. I have dropped so much cash on comic books this year, mainly through these sales. And more often than not, I’ve wound up with books that I’ve not only enjoyed, but LOVED. If you’ve been on the fence about reading any of my recommendations, or about trying digital, NOW is your time to check it out. Now being December 22nd, and I think you have until the 23rd to get the Dark Horse books, while Marvel and DC’s sales are running until December 30th.

 

“Would you prefer yellow spandex?” LOL, Movie Cyclops! New X-Men by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Etc

There’s two things I really love about Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and BOTH of them begin with the letter U. But first, for those  hearing about X-Men and mutants for the first time, mutants are super-powered beings whose mutations (super powers or deformities) manifest at puberty. The X-Men are a team founded by Professor Charles Xavier to protect mutants from a world that fears and hates them. And on a metaphorical level, Mutants are young people, they’re teenagers, they’re minorities, they’re anyone who FEELS like a minority (again, teenagers).

1) Uniforms: Grant Morrison and his artists put the X-Men back in uniforms (for awhile they all wore…whatever. There were pouches…so many pouches). The first X-Men movie did this first a few years prior, but these were way cooler. There’s kind of a variation of these in the film X-Men: First Class, but I think they worked a lot better on the page.

2) Ugly Mutants: For the most part, “ugly mutants” in X-Men comics were blue. Fuzzy and blue. Essentially Muppets. Yeah, there were some weirdos living in the sewer, but where would they fit in a swinging soap opera with super powers? No one wants to bang an ugly mutant. Well, except for OTHER ugly mutants, and the trashy girl who smokes (she makes out with this dude).

But Morrison really took the X-Men to a point where he boiled them down to their essential concepts.

  • Mutants are feared and hated.
  • Mutants are the next stage in human evolution (And he makes it FOR REALS this time, when we find out that humans will be extinct within a few generations).

For the sake of not having an absurdly long title, I cut mentions of the artists. BUT, here’s who collaborated with Morrison on New X-Men: Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Sciver, Igor Kordey, Lenil Francis Yu, John Paul Leon, Keron Grant, Phil Jiminez, Chris Bachalo, and Marc Silvestri. Each one contributes their own unique style, but maintains the “try to keep up, gonna throw a lot of weird stuff at you pace” that comes with a Grant Morrison comic book. Lenil Francis Yu draws one of the more experimental issues of the series, which is entirely “widescreen,” in which the character of Xorn, a mutant with a star for a brain in an iron prison (see weird stuff, thrown at YOU!), is introduced while Cyclops, Wolverine and the gang indulge in some espionage.

This is probably the best X-Men comic. Period. Whether you’re new to the concept, or coming into it from the movies, or grew up with them as a kid. Morrison and the artists he’s paired with never let you forget that this is all inherently weird.

Hmm…I don’t think I’m doing a great job selling this, but I’m still gonna publish it, and keep this line in pondering it. BUT, this is the best X-Men comic. Beyond boiling the X-Men down to their basic concepts and doing it right, there’s ALSO aliens, evil twins, designer mutant drugs, harvesting of mutant organs, and as I’ve mentioned, weird bird guys making out with skanky girls with wings. If any of my terrible musing on this has interested you, you can buy this on Comixology, or get a couple of beautiful trade paperbacks like I have (that I am TERRIBLE at photographing as you can see from the panels above).

The First Comics I Read

The first comic book I ever read was an issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. I was likely in Kindergarden or first grade. While at my parents’ friends house for dinner, I’m guessing my folks mentioned that I was into the Ninja Turtles toys and cartoon. So their friend showed off a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. Soon after that, I was in my first comic book store, Flashpoint Comics. (The store closed when moving from elementary school to middle school. One of the last issues I bought was an issue of Ghost Rider. I cried. Cried due to the store closing, not due to Ghost Rider. I think).

One of the first Marvel Comics I read was X-Men. I started reading it before the cartoon, but can’t tell you exactly why. I know there were toys first. I had a Cyclops action figure before I ever had a comic book featuring him. The comic was probably drawn by Jim Lee, or one of the Kuberts. Rogue probably called someone “Sugah.”

The first Superman comic I ever read was Superman #75 which featured his “death.” (Spoiler: he got better).

I bought a lot of “Indie” books as I got into middle school. These were published by Image and heavy on the boobage. During this period, I bought a lot of comics that I thought were going to be worth something one day. (Spoiler, they weren’t, and won’t likely be worth anything. If anyone ever pays money again for the bulk of the comics I got rid of, they are a nostalgic fool). They mostly looked like this:

There was a lot of time spent…alone…with these comics…

I stopped buying comics in the middle of high school, the idea being, that that would make me cooler to girls. See also: buying stereo system, guitar lessons, and joining art club for other failed high school attempts at impressing the ladies. My first comic after this self imposed sabbatical was an issue of New X-Men by Grant Morrison and Igor Kordey. It was unlike any comic book I had read before. The art was ugly (by my understanding of what comics were supposed to be), and everything was confusing and different from the way comics used to be. I talked about this comic with my senior year art teacher, and the fact that an adult was into it helped legitimize comics for me.

 

My first non super hero, non toy-based comic was read in college. I don’t recall exactly which was my first, but my friend Chris Ritter introduced me to a lot. He’s responsible for making me aware of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian Wood, Jim Mahfood, and generally, the idea that there were people making these books, and not just awesome characters punching each other.

I bought a lot of comics after college, mostly out of habit, not really enjoying them. The first comic I read that helped break me out of that, that got me excited again was The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman.

 

Then I fell back into reading stuff that depressed me. Or maybe it wasn’t the comics that depressed me, but the act? The act of going to the comic store after work, looking for escape. The excitement caused by a cover, followed by the ultimate disappointment at either a padded or just plain old disappointing story.

The first digital comic I read was…well, I don’t really recall. But I got some gift cards at Christmas this past December. I had recently bought a Kindle Fire, had started reading some comics digitally, and the first comic I read in that format that really excited me, that really lit my comic book fire in general was Casanova: Gula by Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon. I had read Casanova: Luxuria (also written by Fraction, with art by Moon’s twin brother Gabriel Ba), the first book in this series, but Gula was so…heartbreaking.

You never see the aftermath of an action or horror story. You don’t get to see characters deal with things or try to fix things. Gula is that on a COSMIC scale. This is another comic that I’ve promised to talk about more, and will do so later this week. But anyway, these are a bunch of my “first comics.”

 

P.S. My LAST Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic featured a back up story with “The Mighty Mutanimals.” They were all similarly mutated or alien creatures that had teamed up with the Turtles at one time or another and had formed their own supergroup. They dealt a lot with environmental issues. They were all brutally murdered in this issue. It was…weird.