Supermen

Photo with my girlfriend and I posing with Supermen Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, Gerard Christopher, Dean Cain, and Tyler Hoechlin.

Over the weekend I went to the Rhode Island Comic Con. The main draw was, of course, the above picture with Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, Gerard Christopher, Dean Cain, and Tyler Hoechlin; but there were lots of other Superman-related actors in attendance as well. If we consider Doom Patrol and Titans Superman related, there were 23 actors from Superman projects and one director (plus Brent Spiner who was cast but then dropped as the President on Supergirl and Tim Daly who cancelled). I tried to prioritize who I was meeting since there was no way I would be able to meet 22 people in one day!

Our first stop was the Smallville Fathers and Sons panel with Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum, John Schneider, and John Glover. The panel was short and there wasn’t much insight shared beyond what we get on the weekly Talkville podcast. Schneider did talk a bit about his return for the final episode which was cool to hear. Overall the panel they did at the Superman Celebration last year was better and more fun. Last year I went to Smallville Nights twice so I didn’t do that again this year. With time being as it is, I didn’t get photos or signatures from the two dads, but did walk by them on the convention floor.

Back in 2021 Stacy Haiduk and Ilan Michael Smith from Superboy were at the aforementioned Superman Celebration. I met them both and got a photo signed with a spot for Superboy Gerard Christopher right in the middle. I’ve been waiting patiently for a chance to meet Mr. Christopher and get his signature and this was finally my chance. He was super gracious to us. We talked briefly about his recent interview on the All-Star Superfan Podcast which I loved. We bumped into him later in the day and he was still so friendly and I loved that New York accent. Real stand-up guy.

After meeting Gerard we went around the corner to meet the Super Sons Alex Garfin and Jordan Elsass. We ended up waiting for them at their table for more than 30 minutes but then had to give up. I assume they were late because of the poorly organized photo ops. We looped back around at the end of our day and finally caught them. They both felt like their characters to me which is super interesting. Jordan mentioned how tough it was to live in Vancouver just like Jon Kent would complain about living in Smallville over Metropolis.

While we were waiting for the boys we did see John Ratzenberger across the aisle. He’s been in so many movies that I love him in, but of course his Superman the movie claim to fame is close to my heart: Absolutely impossible, sir. They have the new B20 low level avoidance systems.”

The very last stop of the day was the Brandon Routh panel. Since I had met him at the 2018 Celebration I didn’t do any additional meet and greet with him separately. This panel also paled in comparison to Celebration. This is pretty disappointing considering since 2018 he’s had the opportunity to revisit the role which is something he expressed great interest in. His answers were more limited due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike than it seemed the Smallville guys were. It didn’t help that he was running late and the panel felt very rushed.

The overall convention experience was one of the worst I’ve seen. I’ve been to many cons over the years both large and small (from New York Comic Con to LadiesCon in Somerville) and I’ve never seen a more poorly organized set up. First thing when we walked in at the security check was a no outside food rule. It’s absurd that I couldn’t bring in a pack of Twizzlers and would be forced to buy food there. I have several dietary restrictions which makes eating out a complicated endeavor. The next issue we ran into was with the panels. The two I went to were in a separate building requiring a second security check every time. The audio at the panels was absolute garbage. It was hard for us to hear what the panelists were saying and it was hard for them to hear questions from the audience. The camera set up dead in the middle of the room was terrible placement. They told everyone to hold photos until the end of the panel but then each time rushed the panelists off stage. Crappy experience. The photo op experience was also poorly managed. The photo ops were up on the 5th floor of the convention center. Everyone looking for their photo op congregated in a foyer as a big sea of people. The sea of people needed to be funneled through a double door choke point into the ballroom with designated lines for each photo op. When you heard them call out the name of the photo op you had to raise your hand and push through the crowd to find the line to stand in. It was also extra confusing because there were two Supermen groups (one without Gerard Christopher). They were about 20 minutes late to call out the Supermen group photo and there was another 20 or so minute wait before we got in front of them.

Once the photos started it was fast. You got about 15 seconds there to take the photo and go. There was a problem with our first photo so they called us back for a second one which gave me an additional few seconds with them. It was so cool to see them all together. Scrolling through social media I always see bad photoshop jobs putting these guys in the same place and here I was seeing it for real. This was also a great way to see Dean Cain without paying for his autograph. Dude really bums me out. Plus it was a way to see Welling, Routh, and Hoechlin all again and not feel bad for wasting money! When I sent the photo to my father he told me I looked like I had just won a million dollars. Can’t describe it better than that.

The people I missed? Anna Diop and Ryan Potter from Titans; April Bowlby, Diane Guerrero, and Stephanie Czajkowski from Doom Patrol; Anson Mount and Evangeline Lilly who were on Smallville; Harry Lennix from Man of Steel; Nolan North from Young Justice; Phil Lamarr from Young Justice and Supergirl; Denise Crosby who was on Lois & Clark; Chad Coleman from Superman & Lois; and Amy Jo Johnson who directed an episode of Superman & Lois.

November 6, 2023

My Adventures Watching My Adventures With Superman

A few weeks ago I finished writing my recaps of each episode of My Adventures with Superman for Multiversity Comics. After a brief hiatus I wanted to write about the experience and my feelings on the show as a whole now that the first season is complete. Figured I’d put my six hours flight to good use.

The conceit they go with for television recaps is to organize them into five thoughts”. It was helpful to have a structure like that because it prevented me from writing a boring beat-by-beat recap of each episode. While each piece did include a recap I was able to structure them around themes and my ideas. It even let me put in some Easter eggs of my own. While each article was a lot of work it was ultimately rewarding to be able to write about a great new Superman adaptation for an audience.

One of the things the show did really well is demonstrate how great Superman really is as a character. It’s been brought up in both a Superman Homepage interview with producer Josephine Campbell and on the Always Hold on to Smallville podcast but the moment where he says to Lois that he didn’t know if he was bullet proof but knew she wasn’t will be remembered like the Regan scene in All Star Superman. Quintessential Superman.

The show shows us in no uncertain terms how special it is to have someone with the power of Superman who chooses to use it for good. The opposite of the old absolute power adage. Characters like Ivo, Waller, and Alex (definitely Luthor) are all well chosen to demonstrate the opposite. None of them can fathom that Superman uses his abilities for good. This is key to getting Superman right and this show nails it. Even when they dip into the alternate evil Superman well it’s done to reinforce how special Superman really is. Because not everyone with this power would do what he does. Also note the main evil Superman we see is Overman from Grant Morrison’s Animal Man not Ultraman or any other variant as I’ve seen speculated.

At first glance it may seem that Clark is the real person and Superman is the made up identity in opposition to the famous Kill Bill scene. But I think that when you look closely there are three personas. There is Clark Kent the reporter. This Clark needs to hide who he really is to fit in with his coworkers and the rest of the world. There is Superman the hero. Lois and Clark explained it well when Clark said Superman is what I can do”. Superman is Clark at his most selfless best. Then there is the Clark that he can be with Jimmy and Lois when they discover his secret. It’s the Clark from the farm in Kansas. This is the real person. I love that the show handled it with as much care and depth as they did. The who is the real person” debate has been had for ages and I’ve always felt it was more complicated than a duality. The best written Superman stories often show this.

The show goes a step further by exploring Clark’s identity by making him afraid of being different. The first episode is titled Adventures of a Normal Man” which he wishes he could be. This reminded me of Smallville, where there were many moments when Clark just wanted to be a normal Kansas kid. I loved the way MAWS used his fears of being different along with the General Lane story. The revelation that his home planet of Krypton might be an invading force and that is why he’s special is so shocking to Clark. The moment where Lois tells Clark that he could try being normal for a while hits Clark so hard. Throughout the season he becomes more comfortable with who he is and confronts his identity head on.

I read once that Donner said if they could make the Lois & Clark relationship believable the whole movie would be believable. They clearly took that to heart here and made the Lois & Clark relationship the core of the show. This relationship is so key to the character and it gets the attention it deserves. Unlike the last solo Superman show which I think made the core relationship an after thought.

The best part of TAS is the way they adapted the villains. Taking a page out of the Batman shows book they depicted some of the most iconic interpretations of the rogues gallery. MAWS didn’t quite live up to that mark. The choice to tie all the antagonists to Zero Day and Kryptonian technology is an excellent one. It makes it personal for him and pays off when he discovers their purpose. But I don’t think there is a reason for any of these characters to keep their tech after they’ve been caught. I also don’t think they chose the best characters. Heatwave? Mist? Livewire in particular is overshadowed by her TAS counterpart. Maybe like Superman & Lois they were given a list of characters they could use and it was very limited. I hope this is something that James Gunn fixes now that he’s in charge since it’s been a problem since Smallville. TAS has possibly the best versions of Bizarro, Parasite, Metallo, and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Tough to compete with that. I will say this Mxy was a ton of fun and it allowed them to really pay homage to different eras of the character. I like the idea that there is one Mxy that just looks different depending on the universe he’s in. Much better than when they do that with Darkseid.

A great part of our modern internet era is our ability to see behind the scenes of this show in a way that wasn’t quite possible in the 90s. Artist Kris Anka has shared some of his designs for the Superman costume. Producer Jake Wyatt said they wanted Jor-El to look like Big Boss. We’d be lucky to get this insight into TAS in DVD special features back then!

Speaking of DVD I am hoping and praying we get a physical release of this show. Warners is a horrible company in so many ways (lots of which we can thank the constant mergers and acquisitions of the last 30 years for) but one thing they do get is their fans still like physical media. Even Scooby Doo and Krypto Too got a DVD release. Maybe they’ll wait until after season two airs. It would be nice to have a complete twenty episode blu-ray set. Even better would be if this show continues past the two seasons, but that seems unlikely just due to WB being bad.

October 2, 2023

Adventures of Superman

First things first: I’ve got a small announcement. The blog will be going on a hiatus while I write weekly reviews for Multiversity Comics for the new animated series My Adventures with Superman! I’ve written for the website before and I’m excited to be covering this highly anticipated series.

In celebration I thought I would take a look back at the Adventures of Superman” title and how it’s been used over the years.

Back in February 1940 radio listeners were treated to the first episodes of The Adventures of Superman”. 15-minute serialized episodes airing several times a week. Long time Superman fans will know the importance of the radio show in Superman’s history; it’s responsible for introducing many of the elements we’ve come to associate with the Man of Steel.

Later that same year the cover to Superman #7 described our hero as the world’s greatest adventure-strip character”. This text remained on the cover through issue 20 and with issue 24 it was briefly changed to America’s favorite”; World War II nationalism and all that.

This was also the title used for George Lowther’s 1942 novel; showing The Adventures of” was catching on and had staying power.

A decade later and in the new medium of television we would get a continuation of sorts of the radio show. Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves remains a favorite of mine and many fans. It’s hard to overstate how influential this show was to a generation of viewers. To this day this might be the most well known Adventures of Superman.

Logo for the television Adventures of Superman in color.

Fast forward to the mid 60s when Filmation introduces us to The New Adventures of Superman. This emphasis let viewers know this was a new thing and not the show that had been in reruns for years. Beau Weaver who voiced Superman in the 1988 Ruby Spears cartoons mentioned this being an issue for his cartoon. Since it was only called Superman it didn’t let anyone know it was new!

And the naming of the show was unfortunate. It was called simply Superman. Better branding might have resulted from naming it Superman: The New Adventures or The All-New Superman. A listing in TV Guide or the newspaper TV listings that read simply Superman” did not spotlight it as a new series, did not distinguish it [enough] from reruns of the old George Reeves show or even from Super Friends.

Covers for the DVD releases of various Superman cartoons with the filmation The New Adventures of Superma volumes one and two on top.

Jump ahead another decade to the comics of the 70s. DC wanted it’s new direction of the Superman books to really stand out. They started with a big number 1 despite it being issue 233. Number 1 issues are often big sellers and it let readers know this is a good jumping on point. More to the point though this Neal Adam’s cover read The Amazing NEW Adventures of Superman”. This stuck around through issue 241 and from 242 to 247 it read The Amazing Adventures” dropping the new.

In 1987 DC gave John Byrne a new Superman #1 after his Man of Steel miniseries to mark the new era of the Man of Tomorrow. DC didn’t want to lose the legacy numbers from Superman volume 1 though. So we got the first comic officially titled The Adventures of Superman”. The first logo had Superman inverted from how we were used to it reminiscent of the Fleischer cartoons. The comic creators of the time were heavily influenced by the television show and this was only one small nod they included. This logo lasted until issue 456 with all but one cover by Jerry Ordway.

Internal DC comics ad for the three new Superman books in 1987. Superman, The Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics. Text reads AT LAST! THE GREATEST HERO IN COMICS BY THE GREATEST TALENTS IN COMICS!

After this the logo took the standard Superman wordmark from 1983 and added a flat The Adventures of” on top of it with a drop shadow. This stayed consistent until we got the electric Superman in issue #546. It returned again for issues 558-575. We then got one issue with the electric Superman logo mixed with a preview of the new The Adventures of” text. Stylized like the Superman logo but included the little extender on the A from the first logo. This version stuck around until 598. Issue 600 brought us what I affectionately call the SUPERMANS logo due to the S after the word. This lasted until 626.

Cover to Adventures of Superman #600

Then we drop The” and it’s just Adventures of Superman. Similar to the 577-598 look, but with the extender on the D instead of the A (since the A starts the title and not THE) and a more stylized S. It lasted this way until The Last Adventures of Superman #649. This was the end of The Adventures of Superman for a bit as the title became just Superman again. Check out the cover gallery at the DC database to see them all.

The next time we’d see Adventures of Superman on a comic is for the short lived digital first series of out-of-continuity stories. So many of these are great and I wish they sold enough to warrant an ongoing non-canonical Superman anthology book.

Most recently, Jon Kent’s current series takes on the storied Adventures of Superman title, but with a Jon Kent subtitle. This is just a miniseries and is a follow up to Superman: Son of Kal-El.

Finally, we have our honorable mention Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. They took Beau Weaver’s advice to heart with this mid 90s show and emphasized this wasn’t your dad’s Superman show.

Superboy and Supergirl had adventures too over the years. The Superboy television show changed it’s name to The Adventures of Superboy for it’s final seasons–along with the tie-in comic. We had a Supergirl book titled the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl” and had an Adventures of Supergirl” book that tied in with the recent CW television show.

I love the idea that Superman’s exploits” are so commonly known as adventures. We always say he fights a never-ending battle, but calling them adventures sounds so much more positive, exciting, and forward thinking to me. Let’s hope My Adventures With Superman” continues in the tradition of the Superman we love in more than just name.

June 26, 2023

Fleischer Follow-Up

Last month I wrote a review for the Blu-Ray release of the 1940s Fleischer theatrical shorts. In it I tried to be as detailed as I could. I spent a lot of time on the presentation like the packaging, menus, and video quality. I noted an error in the intro of Volcano. Overall the clean bright image really won me over. Especially when I compared it to some shots of the earlier releases in my collection.

Well, this weekend someone went on a damn-fool idealistic crusade and detailed every single error in this new version. They used the Bosko release as the reference for most of it, but have some other comparisons as well including an old laserdisc release. They have identified 66 Picture and Sound Errors. Some of them were included on the earlier official DVD, but some of them are new to the Blu-Ray making this the most error-prone release yet.

A big theme that stuck out to me is the restoration reuses intro and outro audio—likely from the cleanest source they could find—but the originals had unique intro and outros for each short. They weren’t just cut and paste jobs; they were each made with care. I noticed the abrupt music ending in a few shorts, but they were the same on the official DVD so I assumed it was correct. I didn’t compare it to the Bosko which is clearly better. I wish that I had taken the time to really compare these side by side, but I’m glad someone did. This YouTubers attention to detail is what Warners is lacking.

Much of the early chatter around the release said that Warner Archive should have handled the restoration rather than Warner’s traditional home video department. I see the logic in the Archive department working to put out the most historically accurate versions of less commercially viable projects. With the regular home video department focused on a more mass market. I understand why they made the picture quality as clean as possible without the grain to appeal to a wide audience. But actual errors in presentation are inexcusable.

If you care about the nitty gritty details I recommend watching the whole comparison. His full review is also worth checking out.

June 19, 2023

Another New Superman #1

It’s Superman Day and I’m just getting home from the Superman Celebration. I had a wonderful time this year as always and highly recommended for every Superman fan.

Earlier this year DC published a new facsimile edition” of Superman #1. This made me want to revisit my earlier post on the issue and how there have been changes to it over the years.

From what I’ve seen there are seven different versions of the cover. I’ve given them all handy names for clarity.

  1. OG. This is the original as published in 1939
  2. Licensed. This version is used on merchandise that features the cover. In my collection I have a notebook, magnet, and short comic box. The differences from the original are the color of the roof top, the fully colored in logo top, there is a red rather than yellow border on S shield, his costume is a darker blue, and the 10 cent price is in black.
  3. Archive. This was first seen in the recolored Archive hardcovers (as noted in my previous post) and also seen in the Golden Age Omnibus and Chronicles trade paperback series. - The suit is a lighter blue, the building behind him isn’t colored, and the text isn’t red.
  4. Millenium Edition. First seen in DCs Millenium reprint lines. This is the version they used for the newest facsimile except without the foil. Because this was originally for a foil cover there is a gradient on the yellow at the bottom which really stands out on the new facsimile edition. Additionally, the roof under his hand isn’t colored pink and he has a red belt loop.
  5. Masterpiece - This version from 1999 was packaged with a hardcover book and statue; and is a very accurate reprint. The logo is missing a tiny black line on the S, everything is colored with Ben-Day dots, and his skin tone is very light.
  6. Famous first inside cover. The inside cover from the Famous First oversized edition in the 70s. Superman’s hair is darker blue and there is more white on the logo
  7. Famous first outside cover. The inside cover from the Famous First oversized edition in the 70s. It is missing the tiny black line on the S and the blue in the logo doesn’t line up exactly.

I love the giant Famous First reprints, but I think the Masterpiece version is my favorite coloring. The Millenium version is decent but I hate the gradient and they should not have used it for the facsimile. Also the facsimile is modern comic sized which feels off, is missing the 10 cents price and has copyright text on the bottom. The Archive recoloring is bad. Kind of shocking that they marketed this as an accurate recolor in these beautiful expensive hardcovers but did such a poor job. Licensed is fine for consumer products, I get the changes they’ve made because it makes it look more like the modern costume. They are going for recognition.

I’ve only identified three versions of the interiors as detailed in the earlier post: The Original (which is the same as the Famous First and Masterpiece versions making them the most accurate), the Archive recoloring (which is reused in the new facsimile), and the Millenium Edition (also used in the Chronicles trade paperback, and Golden Age Omnibus).

Here are some detailed shots comparing the new facsimile cover to the Masterpiece cover: Close up on the right side of the cover showing the dot shading patern on one version but not the other Close up on the left of the cover showing the different color roofs Right side of the cover showing one version says 10 cents and the other doesn’t have a price Bottom left of the cover showing the subtle font weight different in the text “64 Pages of Action!” Bottom of the cover showing one version with a gradient and the other without Top left corner of the Superman logo word mark showing slight differences in shading

June 12, 2023

Superman Wordmark

Earlier this year Superman fans got something we haven’t had since 1983: a new Superman logo wordmark. For the last 40 years we’ve been using the logo that debuted in Superman (Volume 1) #386.

With the debut of Superman (Volume 6) designer Darran Robinson (his website was darranrobinson.design but that seems to be down) has redrawn the Superman logo. He posted the following image to social media announcing the redesign, but this doesn’t tell the entire story.

Superman logo word mark as it was in 1939, 1940, 1983, and 2023

Those first few years there was lots of variability. The wordmark first appeared with our hero in Action Comics #1 in the very first panel:

the first panel of Action Comics 1. Text reads Superman by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster. As A DISTANT PLANET WAS Destroyed BY OLD AGE, A SCIENTIST PLACED HIS INFANT SON WITHIN A HASTILY DEVISED SPACE-SHIP, LAUNCHING IT TOWARD EARTH!

The wordmark was inconsistent over the next couple of years, looking like it was handdrawn each time. It was typically used on the first panel of every story and then finally on a cover in Action Comics #12. But it’s the cover of Superman #1 that really stands out. That’s where that first version comes from in Robinson’s image.

Over the next few covers of the quarterly Superman title and in the issues again we saw lots of inconsistency, likely due to different artists drawing it by hand. That is until we get Superman #6. The logo was finally standardized and consistent (and the 1940 version from Robinson’s image).

the cover of Superman #6. Superman standing with his hands on his hips infront of a white circle on a yellow background. At the bottom it looks like it is signed “Very Truly Yours, Clark Kent (Superman)”

Although this didn’t hit the interiors for a while as even in Superman #6 the first panel has a logo that looks handdrawn.

the first panel of Superman #6. Superman is shown carrying a tied up Lois and being shot at. Text reads WHEN A CRAFTY MURDERER MERCILESSLY PINS THE GUILT FOR HIS CRIME ON LOIS LANE THINGS LOOK MIGHTY DARK FOR THE DAILY PLANET GIRL-REPORTER. BUT THE CALCULATING KILLER HAS MADE ONE FATAL MISCALCULATION –HE HAS RECKONED WITHOUT THE INTERFERENCE OF SUPERMAN, MIGHTY CHAMPION OF JUSTICE AND THE OPPRESSED!

Now I say handdrawn for these as if to imply they had other options in 1940. No computers here. But the new logo created for Superman #6 was then machine reproduced for covers and issues moving forward. The first appearance of this logo on an interior panel looks to be Action Comics #29.

the first panel of Action Comics #29. Text reads AGED, HELPLESS PeOPLe,THE VICTIMS OF a GHOULISH PLOT – A SECRET FIEND WAXING WEALTHY THRU THE SPILLING OF THEIR INNOCENT BLOOD THIS IS THE SETUP WHICH CLARK KENT, MEEK DAILY PLANET REPORTER INVESTIGATES– AND WHICH SUPERMAN, CHAMPION OF THE HELPLESS AND OPPRESSED, SMASHES!

This logo would remain in use all the way up to 1983. Now there are some notable exceptions including the Fleischer cartoons, the Adventures of Superman television show, and even Superman the Movie. But outside that this is the logo you’d see on every comic book and related piece of merchandising.

Superman issues 385 and 386 showing the logo transition

When we changed over in 1983 the older logo was banished. Being seen only sporadically over the next 40 years. Some notable places include period correct DVD releases of the Adventures of Superman and the Filmation New Adventures of Superman. The Superman classic” merchandise line. The new Super Powers toy line (even though the original line had the post 83 logo). A house ad for Bendis’ Superman #1 relaunch. And the most recent use: Superman: Space Age. It jumps out to me every time I see it as feeling old.

an interior ad for the new Bendis written Superman #1. Shows Superman from the chest up smiling. Text reads: THE BIGGEST STORIES. THE BIGGEST VILLAINS. THE BIGGEST SURPRISES. Superman #1

Now of course the post 83 logo has had many variations. Computer generated versions made to look shiny starting with Superman (volume 2) #178, the infamous electric version in the late 90s. But over all we kept coming back to a really standard version (albeit in many colors). All from a company who changed their logo three times in the interim.

When DC published their Connect” previews issue it still had that 83 logo, with some computer shine added to it ala the aforementioned Superman 178. So when the book shipped I was surprised!

the latest Superman #1 along with the DC connect issue promoting it, each with different Superman logos.

Now why have I written 800+ words on a logo that has only subtly changed over the last 85 years? Because I really don’t like this new version. I’m fine with them adding some Photoshop shine to it, but I think the 83 logo is perfect. I fully admit that it could be because it’s the logo I’ve lived with my entire life (I was born in 83). But I don’t like the squared off U, P, and R. I do see how it aligns with the earlier logo, but that logo feels old. The rounding of those letters feels smooth and pleasing to my eye. Plus when it was originally drawn in Action Comics #1 those letters were rounded. I think they were only squared off for consistency and ease of duplication.

I am personally not a huge fan of the trade dress in many recent DC books. Lots of them have little to no regards for the history of the characters or their logos. The recent Son of Kal-El, Superboy Man of Tomorrow, and Adventures of Superman Jon Kent logos do nothing for me. I actually do like the My Adventures with Superman logo from the upcoming cartoon for a couple reasons. It is reminiscent of the Action Comics font, cartoons often have unique logos (Fleischer & The Animated Series), and the incorporation of the new S design.

I’m not anti-change in my Superman books. I love when they change the status quo and challenge us as readers. But I hope this change goes the way of some of the other big Superman changes and is rolled back.

June 5, 2023