Report what comic books you have read today--and tell us a little something about it while you're here!

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I got to the end of it this afternoon, and yeah, I liked it all the way through! I also bought Avengers Prime in hardcover (for $5, I imagine), and that follows right up on it. And with gorgeous Alan Davis art! (But I repeat myself.) So I'm pretty sure I'm going to love that too.

For the third week in a row I have just not been interested in reading my new comics.

I'm nearly finished reading Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" cycle.

Re the Sand Superman, my knowledge of the final Weisinger issues is spotty, but my experience of them is they are plot-driven - Cary Bates wrote a lot of them - and there were a lot of imaginary stories. (His Action and Superman runs both ended with them.) The lore-heavy Superman Family approach was dropped but the comics retained the silly element. (It's visible on the covers of Superman #221, #224 and #226.) Two-parters were common, and there were continued stories in Action Comics that ran several months. It's unlikely those comics would have appealed much to the Captain.

O'Neil's take on the Superman/Lois relationship is in line with the pre-Silver1950s, and perhaps with those last couple of years.

O'Neil's view of Superman's power was basically right, as Superman can be too powerful and aloof, and if kryptonite is used to much to get around this it does become a crutch. The challenge is to get around this. Where he went wrong was thinking the solution was depower Superman. If he's too depowered he ceases to be Superman: are you going to depict him as now vulnerable to fire?

But he understood the need to humanise Superman. He wrote the first "Private Life of Clark Kent" story. His Superman was always concerned for others, but also had needs of his own. Contrast Steve Ditko's inhuman heroes.

Since the depowering didn't take, the Sand Superman story is an arc where Superman loses his powers and gets them back, with quite good things in it. Superman #237 is for me a go-to example of how to give Superman a dilemma and have him solve it creatively. Although it's my understanding South American ants don't actually do The Naked Jungle bit.

Maggin's first story, in Superman #247, seems to me wholly of a piece with O'Neil's. There's the same thoughtful Superman, social concern, a problem that can't be solved by violence. I think the other 1970s writers built on what O'Neil had done. 

My recollection is the period was the debut of Swan and Anderson as a team, other than the covers. They were simultaneously the team on Action Comics, edited by Murray Boltinoff.

To be sure, Curt Swan had already modernised his style. There's a striking bit where a whole city is destroyed in the final Weisinger issue (Superman #231: #232 was a reprint giant).

Post-Weisinger Action Comics was initially edited by Murray Boltinoff. He had been editing Superboy since 1968, and started on Action, in on-sale terms, a couple of months before Schwartz on Superman. (Schwartz took over Action when Boltinoff took over World's Finest. That's when Bob Haney's long run on the latter started, and the Super-Sons series debuted. Haney had written the Superman/Batman feature late in Weisinger's time.)

Swan and Anderson drew the "Superman" stories in both titles. I think they'd only done covers together under Weisinger. Boltinoff used Leo Dorfman and Cary Bates as the writers. His Action issues often carried more than one story. When there was a second one by Dorfman in the issue it was credited to "Geoff Browne". Some issues had "Metamorpho" back-ups by Haney.

Post-Weisinger Lois Lane was edited by E. Nelson Bridwell. (The Thorn's debut was his debut issue.) Jimmy Olsen was briefly edited by Boltinoff and then by Kirby. Schwartz's run on World's Finest was the period when it was a Superman team-up book.

Metamorpho was Action Comics' backup from #413 to #418 in 1972 then was replaced by the rotating features of the Human Target, Green Arrow (usually with Black Canary) and the Atom.

Thanks for all that editorial history, Luke! By the time I'd started reading comics, Schwartz was editing both Action and Superman, so I was interested to see that they weren't always in creative lockstep. I know I've read a number of the Boltinoff issues, but that never stood out to me until now.

The changeover of back-up features came with Schwartz's arrival as editor, in #419. For two issues, #425 and #426, the issues had 10 page lead stories and two back-ups. Perhaps that was to take some of the workload off Curt Swan.

In 1972 Dorothy Woolfolk briefly took over Lois Lane. That's when Lois went freelance for a bit and moved into a shared flat. 


When Weisinger retired  Adventure Comics starred Supergirl. He was succeeded first by Mike Sekowsky, then by Joe Orlando. She was moved  to her own title later in 1972. Mike's Amazing World says the first issue was edited by Woolfolk, and the rest by Robert Kanigher, who also succeeded her on Lois Lane.

Kirby left Jimmy Olsen at the point Woolfolk took over Lois Lane. Joe Orlando edited it briefly, then Boltinoff. Boltinoff's arrival is when Dorfman and Schaffenberger became the creative team (#154) and the Mr Action period started (#155).

Bridwell was the one who used New Gods elements in Lois Lane. The wrap-up of the Clone Edge storyline in Jimmy Olsen #152 was edited by Orlando but written by Bridwell.

The Legion became the co-stars of Superboy in 1973. Boltinoff edited up to #223 in 1976.

At the start of 1974 Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and Supergirl were replaced by Superman Family. Initially only the lead slot had a new story and Jimmy, Olsen and Lois alternated in it. During this period it was variously edited by Boltinoff and Schwartz. It went all new at the end of 1976, briefly with Denny O'Neil editing, then Bridwell, then Schwartz.

In 1977-78 Superboy's solo feature reappeared in Adventure Comics with Paul Levitz editing.

There was a lot of good stuff in the back-ups from the 1970s Super-books. Martin Pasko got his start on the titles doing "The Atom" and "The Private Life of Clark Kent". Maggin wrote the "Green Arrows".

There were a couple of Superman-GA team-ups in Action while GA was in the back pages. The Smallville story in Superman #284 appeared in 1974, when the Smallvillle-based "Superboy" was no longer appearing as a feature. The "Superboy" story in DC Super Stars #12 appeared in 1976, half a year before the revival of his feature in Adventure. Lana didn't join the "Superman" cast as Clark's co-anchor until 1977.

For most of the 1970s Clark wasn't working in newspapers, so his boss was Edge, not Perry. Perry was prominent in some stories. Jimmy wasn't an important character in Superman's own feature. Steve Lombard was, starting  with his debut in 1973.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE END: Written and drawn by Erik Larsen. In a post-apocalyptic reality, the Red Skull’s virus has mutated and spread worldwide. Instead of killing its victims, though, it mutates them into zombie-like Red Skulls. The plot is action driven with little characterization and the script is repetitive in a way in which I suspect Larsen thinks of as “writerly.” This one-shot is about what I would expect from Larsen, but I can’t buy an Erik Larsen comic book and then complain that it’s like Erik Larsen. [SPOILER] At the end it is discovered that the cure to the zombie plague lies in Cap’s blood. [END SPOILER]

LOIS LANE #8: This one was sold out with no possibility of reorder (unless it goes into a second printing). Apparently, the introduction of some new character has fueled speculator frenzy, but I don’t know any details. This is the third time I have missed an issue of a series I read, and for the third time I just don’t care all that much. That’s not really me (or at least it never used to be). I didn’t even swing by my back-up store on my way home in an effort to score a copy.

Quantum & Woody (2020) #1: The bloom is off the rose on this series for me, mainly because it's not written by Chrisopher Priest any more. But I still enjoy it occasionally. 

The premise, if you don't know, is that the two are step-brothers who are polar opposites and basically hate each other, but must stay together because of the nature of their super-powers. Each of them has Quantum Band on a wrist that gives them energy-based powers, but they have to stay in proximity and touch the bands together at least once every 24 hours (and yes, the sound effect is "Ktang," which the brothers occasionally use as a verb. "It's almost time to Ktang.") As you can see, it's a motley collection of bits culled from other series, but that's kinda the point, as it's a borderline satire of superheroes.

Quantum, for example, is a square-jawed, earnest superhero who is noble and self-sacrificing. Woody, on the other hand, is an irreverent con man and wastrel who is always provoking Quantum (and subtextually pointing out the absurdities of superhero conventions). There's also a goat, but I missed the series that introduced him/her/it and don't know why he/she/it is part of the cast now. But he/she/it is always there. (Quantum does goat yoga, so it's all good.) 

The series only really works when there's a writer good enough to deliver a cracking adventure yarn with good jokes but also a superhero satire, and very few can do that. Priest could, and made it look easy, but very few writers are at his level. Sometimes Woody's hi-jinks strike me as criminal and/or dangerous to others, but are presented as humorous, which takes me out of the story. Sometimes Quantum's consistent idealism comes across as single-minded stupidity (and the character isn't supposed to be stupid). And so forth. It's a trick to write Quantum & Woody well, and most Valiant writers -- many of whom are newcomers -- aren't up to it.

The current series is about midway between the ones I've liked and the ones I haven't. The art is a bit too much like a MAD parody than I'd prefer. If I was younger and more easily amused I'd probably follow it. As is, I'll wait for the next Quantum & Woody #1.

Archie #699-710: As most reading this know, the venerable Archie title was rebooted a few years ago at #1, with Mark Waid handling the writing/reboot duties. I've said before that I loved his take on the characters, as he used his vast experience to makes sense of the various conventions that are the series' hallmarks. For example, he smoothed out the love triangle so that it was palatable to a modern (#metoo) audience, which not only eliminated something that doesn't make sense to modern audiences (why would these two smart, gorgeous gals battle over this nitwit?) but made it easier for later writers to continue the narrative. That's just good writing.

Anyway, when Waid left the series, they reverted to legacy numbering with #699, which was the comic book version of a clip episode to get readers up to speed. With #700 "Captain Hydra" writer Nick Spencer took over, with some decent art from D. Hands.

I joke about "Captain Hydra," but honestly, I had no opinion about Spencer's work until that series, but now I can't forget it. Such a monumental blunder into bad taste shows a serious lack of judgment, so I hold Spencer at arm's length now. He has to prove himself to me again and again, on each new series. Any hint of Captain Hydra awfulness, and I'm out. And I'm looking for it.

He actually did get there, but fortunately, he didn't stick around for long. Archie #709 was his last issue. And the whole series revolved around Archie dating Sabrina and keeping it on the down low. The fact that Archie wouldn't even tell Jughead about it is the Captain Hydra moment; there is scene after scene where Archie is evasive with his closest friends, or outright lying to them. That is not Archie. In fact, that is someone I don't want to read about. Like Captain Hydra.

There are reasons for the secretiveness, mainly that Sabrina wants to keep a low profile to keep her witch-ness a secret. (And Sabrina is now at Riverdale High, which is never explained. But in an Archie comic, I can forgive a lack of continuity.) And being a romantic who accedes to his gf's wishes is in character for Archie. So there's that.

Anyway, the title becomes Archie and Sabrina with #705, although the indicia doesn't change, nor does the status quo within. I think it's for trade paperback purposes, since an Archie & Sabrina TPB is a foregone conclusion. With #710, it becomes Archie and Katy Keene (on the cover), part 1 of 5 -- again, a TPB set-up. Also with #710 there's a new writer which, without looking it up, I assume will be the writer on the upcoming Katy Keene title. 

I read these comics to inform this week's column (that I'll be posting later today). I didn't hate them, and the art was nice. I honestly can't predict if anyone else will like them or not. It depends on your Spencer tolerance, I guess.

Undiscovered Country #1-2: This is a horror/adventure series co-written by Scott Snyder, so naturally I gave it a shot. It was OK, but I'm not likely to continue it.

The premise is that the U.S. literally walled itself off from the rest of the world 30 years ago, and no signal -- not radio, telegraph, Internet or anything -- has emanated since. U.S. airspace for above and for a couple of miles around is a dead zone for all communication, where all devices simply stop working. 

The rest of the world got on without the U.S., with the EU and some pan-African organization combining into the Euro-Afrique Cooperative, or something like that, while apparently all of Asia is united in some sort of overarching organization. These two blocs are in competition. 

But now a pandemic has arrived that threatens to kill everyone on Earth. Neither bloc has a cure. But a TV signal suddenly arrives from the U.S. -- the undiscovered country of the title -- promising a cure from a well-known biologist. So a team from both blocs is put together for an adventure into the unknown.

I was immediately ready for a terrific political story utilizing elements of Trump's "America First" policy and wall-building. But I was disappointed. Instead, the intrepid team discovers that America is a land of unrecognizable monsters and warlords. There is nothing political about it; it's a monster story.

So I'm a bit disappointed and won't be reading further. Perhaps if I hadn't made all those assumptions during the first issue, I wouldn't have been looking for what I didn't find. Your mileage may vary.

Also: Monsters. Boring. Get a big enough gun and they aren't a problem. (And America has a lot of big guns.) And since they're not sentient, they have no characterization to like or dislike. They're plot props, like zombies.

Also, perhaps looking for things to dislike, the non-U.S. politics bothered me. So far, there is no mention of Russia or Oceania, which will be significant on the world stage 30 years from now unless something huge happens. And cultures like Japan, China and Korea working in solidarity stretches credulity, given their history, as does the Euro-Afrique business. Racism, you know? There needs to be one hell of an explanation for these counter-intuitive alliances and absences, but in the first two issues, there isn't one. I won't be reading long enough to find out if there ever will be one.

The artwork is too scritchy-scratchy for my taste, but some people like that sort of thing.

Wellington #1-2: An English gentleman in what appears to be the late 19th century gets asked to help an old friend in the countryside, and becomes embroiled in a dangerous mystery involving black hounds, werewolves and vampires (so far). I'm a sucker for this sort of thing, where a Sherlock Holmes type is always mannered and unruffled no matter what strangeness or absurdity is happening around him. He keeps a stiff upper lip and carries on, eventually solving the puzzle without ever losing his English reserve or dry, understated humor. Charming.

Star Trek: Picard #1-3: This mini is co-written by one of the chief writers/producers on the TV show, and is considered canon. So if you're watching Star Trek: Picard, you may want to pick this up, because it explains the backstory on several characters who, on the show, have yet to be given any.

Vampironica: New Blood #1-2: Still a delightful series, although the ending of the first Vampironica miniseries was apparently changed in Vampironica vs. Jughead: The Hunger, even though it took place in a parallel reality (!), which I haven't read. But I didn't need to; this series waves it away and we're off on a new story.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but Veronica makes a terrific (and hilarious) vampire. Her sidekick/Renfield is Dilton Doiley, and it's the best use I've ever seen of the character. And is it any surprise that Hiram Lodge is a bloodsucker, and always has been? Of course! Maybe all rich people are, at least in spirit. 

Anyway, it's good fun, as Veronica wages war against other supernatural entities, while taking care to look fabulous while she does so.

Batman: Creature of the Night 4 finally came out in December, and it's taken me this long to find the previous three issues. I've reread issue 1 so far, and it's every bit as good as I remember. A "real-world" kid named Bruce Wainwright loves Batman (he identifies with him because of his name), and on one Halloween night, his parents bring him home from trick-or-treating to find criminals have broken into their Boston home. The parents are killed by the thugs after questioning them about valuables, and Bruce is shot too, though he survives. His only relative is an uncle named Alton (who the kid calls Alfred, since his middle name is Fred) -- but Alton can't take him in. It's 1968, and we get hints the Alton is gay; there's no way Child Protective Services would place him in his home at that time. 

So Bruce, with his inheritance of his parents' portfolio, goes to live at a private school, seeing Alton only occasionally. And as he obsesses over the person who killed his parents, and gets  more and ore frustrated by the police's stagnant efforts to bring him to justice, he starts dreaming of a strange bat-creature roaming the streets...

Anyway, it's by Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon, and it's a companion to Busiek and Stuart Immonen's wonderful Superman: Secret Identity. It's really good, and I can't wait to see how it finally turns out.

Jeff, I've been buying Lois Lane digitally, and I think the new villain, Kiss of Death, actually first appears in issue 7. It's frustrating how slow and deliberate this series is -- I feel like there's a few pages of wasted space in every issue. I might try to read them in a  bunch soon, since it's moving so sluggishly that I'm losing the plot, and the hints at subplots don't make much sense to me anymore. 


Rob, thanks to your review I'm getting the collected editions of both Superman: Secret Identity and Batman: Creature of the Night.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE END: Written and drawn by Erik Larsen. In a post-apocalyptic reality, the Red Skull’s virus has mutated and spread worldwide. Instead of killing its victims, though, it mutates them into zombie-like Red Skulls. The plot is action driven with little characterization and the script is repetitive in a way in which I suspect Larsen thinks of as “writerly.” This one-shot is about what I would expect from Larsen, but I can’t buy an Erik Larsen comic book and then complain that it’s like Erik Larsen. [SPOILER] At the end it is discovered that the cure to the zombie plague lies in Cap’s blood. [END SPOILER]

I visited my friendly neighborhood comics shop today and saw this, but was disinclined to purchase it. I just wanted to verify for myself that it contains a glaring error on the credits page, which I first saw flagged on Facebook: 


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