Posts Tagged ‘Action Comics


Everything But Imaginary #484: How Long Can It Be New?

It’s time for a new Everything But Imaginary. 20 months in, is the “New 52” still new? Where are the good elements of “new?” What are some things that should be allowed to settle down and grow? This week I talk about some DC rumors and offer some suggestions.

Everything But Imaginary #484: How Long Can It Be New?


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 273: Superman Vs. the Elite-The Commentary

Blake and Kenny sit down this week to give their thoughts on the DC Animated film Superman Vs. the Elite! The guys talk about the movie, the comics that spawned it, and discuss DC’s next film, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One. Plus, a special bonus for the ladies out there — the heavy, sensual breathing of Kenny “The Fan Guy” Fanguy. (Sorry to everyone else, we’ll try to make sure those microphones are a more respectable distance from our noses next time.) In the picks, Blake takes Batman #0. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 273: Superman Vs. the Elite-The Commentary


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 259: John Carter and Books on the Screen

With John Carter finally in movie theaters a century after publication, with Game of Thrones and Dexter burning up your TV screens, this week we take a look at other books that should be made into movies or TV shows. In the picks, Erin goes with Fables Vol. 7 and Blake takes Action Comics #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 259: John Carter and Books to the Screen


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 252: Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. Marketing

This week we look into the announcements made this week regarding Avengers Vs. X-Men — the marketing and the miniseries. Plus — Blake begins tracking his effort to view as many 2011 movies as possible, and he gives props to Action Comics #5 and Rachel Rising #4. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 252: Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. Marketing


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 240: Doctor WHO?

Kenny and Daniel are back, and this week the boys take an episode-by-episode look at the second half of this season of Doctor Who. the guys talk about what they liked, what they didn’t, and those low-hanging unanswered questions that we’re going to have to wait ever so long to have answered. Kenny hasn’t gotten his comics in a while, so Blake doubles up on his picks: Action Comics #2 and Mystic #3! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 240: Doctor WHO?



2 in 1 Showcase Episode 237: The New 52 Week 2 Review

Halfway through the first month of DC Comics’ New 52, Blake and Erin sit down to discuss the comics they’ve read so far. They dig into Batman, Suicide Squad, Lanterns (both Green and Red), Demon Knights, Frankenstein, Batwoman, Static Shock and much more! In the picks, Erin goes retro with Image’s I Hate Gallant Girl and Michael Crichton‘s novel The Lost World, and Blake stays contemporary with Resurrection Man #1 and Life With Archie #13. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 237: The New 52 Week 2 Review


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 236: Distribution and Contagion

Blake is by himself for part of the episode this week, and goes into a bit of a rant about Diamond Distribution and the reasons we can’t seem to get an accurate comic book bestseller list. Then, Mike and Jason join up with him to review the new Steven Soderbergh film Contagion. In the picks, Blake doubles up on Action Comics #1 and Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #1 Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 236: Distribution and Contagion


Classic EBI #259: A Valiant Return

Last week’s DC Comics news was pretty ginormous, but this week I look into some stuff that kind of got lost in the noise — including a big announcement from Valiant Entertainment and the events of Fear Itself #3.

Everything But Imaginary #402: But That’s Not All!

In this week’s Classic EBI, we’re going back to April 9, 2008, the last time Valiant had an announcement to make. Let’s see if this one sticks…

Everything But Imaginary #259: A Valiant Return

Back in the summer of 1993, I wasn’t really mobile. I was 15 and didn’t have a car, or a driver’s license, or a friend with a car or driver’s license, or a particularly reliable pogo stick. If I wanted to go anywhere, I pretty much had to catch a ride with somebody. I did, however, have a best friend (Shane Overstreet – how ya doin’ out there, buddy?) whose stepdad frequented the dollar cinema, and so I caught a lot of cheap movies with them. Also in that same strip mall was a small comic shop, different from the one I frequented with my Uncle Joe (hey, Joe!), and always worth checking out. I don’t remember much about that shop – the name, the owner, even the layout – but I do remember the day I walked into the store to see two books I’d never heard of before: Magnus: Robot Fighter #24 and Rai and the Future Force #9.

Flipping through these two books, I quickly realized that they were not just part of the same universe, but the beginning of the same story. The Magnus issue was the end of a four-part arc, but led into Rai, and together made up the beginning of what would be known as the “Malevalent War” storyline. The books were pretty exorbitantly priced for me – a whopping $2.25 each – but they were written by John Ostrander and they had cool new sci-fi based superheroes and they actually mentioned Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and did I really need to get popcorn at the dollar cinema, since that’s where they all made their money anyway?

I bought the books.

Thus, I was introduced to the Valiant Universe.

Both books, despite their high price point, got added to my pull folder immediately. A month later on the Internet (yeah, I was already on the Internet back then, but at the time it was actually on the Prodigy service) I ranked both of the comics among my monthly favorites. This prompted an e-mail from one of the Valiant Employees who wanted my address. A few days later in the mail I got a free gold edition of Rai #9 just for making that message board post. Valiant did stuff like that back in the day.

As I was writing this column, I dug out that old gold edition just to scan in the cover. Within seconds, I was reading it all over again. (I want to stress here – in a week where my new comic book purchases included such surefire gems as Justice Society of America, Peter Tomasi on Green Lantern Corps and the new volume of The Complete Peanuts, I took time out to read a book that’s 15 years old and that I’ve read a thousand times… because it was there.) Even completely cold, I grasped this story immediately. Earth was being invaded by evil robots. Among its heroes was a man who was raised to fight robots, a new hero who had taken up the mantle of a dead one, the dead man’s wife (who was none too happy), a strange guy in a hood, an immortal warrior, a guy who turned into a robot-killing monster when he was scared, a narcissistic swashbuckler and a pair of lowbrow, gun-toting warriors. And in this one issue, we saw them all come together and become a real team. This was, I learned, the first issue of Future Force. The previous Rai had died a few issues before, and the book was being retooled. But I grasped everything instantly and loved everything just as fast.

I soon found out that this was actually the distant future of a contemporary universe populated by such books as Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Eternal Warrior, Shadowman and Solar: Man of the Atom. I couldn’t afford all of these books, but the ones I did start to pick up were fantastic. At the time, Image Comics was still relatively new and hugely popular, and most of the comic book industry was becoming heavily artist-centric as a reaction. Valiant, on the other hand, was a company focusing on story first, which is what I’m all about. This was a universe whose heroes were flawed and realistic, but still managed to tell larger, epic stories without losing any of the punch. Every book was among the best-written titles on the stands, and although critics would sometimes claim the company had a “house art style,” with artists as diverse as Barry Windsor-Smith, David Lapham, Bob Layton, Joe Quesada and Sean Chen, I simply didn’t see it.

Unfortunately, like all candles that burn twice as bright, Valiant only shone for half as long as it should. Less, even. After the publisher got white-hot, the investment company that backed it sold it off to video game maker Acclaim for a reported $65 million. Acclaim was predictably more interested in mining the company for game concepts than putting out quality comics. The company flickered and they tried to reignite it with “Birthquake” – a pseudo-event that gave many of the titles new creative teams and new “beginnings,” as it were. It didn’t catch on, and the Valiant Universe died.

They then tried to resurrect the line as “Valiant Heroes,” a sort of “Earth-2” or “Ultimate” approach to the line, and there were a few solid books there, most notably Mark Waid and Sean Chen’s X-O Manowar, Kurt Busiek and Neil Vokes’s Ninjak and Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright’s Quantum and Woody. Within two years, though, that line too was dead. There was a third relaunch attempt, but the six-issue Unity 2000 miniseries vanished after just three issues, and there was no Valiant at all for a while. And the world became a sadder place.

But the fans never forgot. Websites were prolific. Costumes never vanished from conventions. Podcasts were launched. And even though the back issues no longer command the hefty price they did back in the company’s heyday, they still move.

Then, last year, something we’d been waiting to hear for seven years was announced. Valiant’s Harbinger would be getting a new hardcover collection courtesy of the company that bought Valiant from Acclaim on auction. And as if that wasn’t good enough, it would include a new story by the property’s creator, Jim Shooter. There is a highly-technical industry term for this sort of announcement: “awesome sauce.”

The resurrection was almost derailed, however, when a second company emerged claiming to hold the trademark to many of the Valiant titles, including Harbinger. The situation was kind of complex, and I already discussed it in Everything But Imaginary #227, but a few months ago a settlement was reached. Valiant Entertainment, Inc. was given the copyright and trademark to the Valiant Universe, and because of that, today I purchased the hardcover collection of the first eight issues (#0-7) of Harbinger.

And there was much rejoicing.

Now it’s a waiting game. Will Harbinger sell? What about the next hardcover, X-O Manowar, which will go on sale in a few weeks? And most importantly, will they sell enough for the new Valiant to do what it really wants to do: namely, take a chance on producing new comic books featuring the Valiant Universe?

Obviously, I hope so. The fact that there’s an audience is inarguable – the question is whether that audience can sustain the universe’s return. And which properties will return? Three of the big ones – Magnus: Robot Fighter, Solar: Man of the Atom and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter were never actually owned by Valiant, but instead licensed from defunct publisher Western. They may not be able to return. On the other hand, Solar appears in the Harbinger hardcover, so maybe something can be arranged.

Whatever, however it happens, there are a lot of old-school Valiant fans waiting for this. There were a ton of comic book universes that were born and died in the 90s, but none of them command the love and loyalty that Valiant still draws from its fans today. And maybe, just maybe, this week we’ve begun to see that loyalty pay off.

Favorite of the Week: April 2, 2008

Geoff Johns is a greedy, greedy man. Like it’s not bad enough that I feel compelled to make every issue of Booster Gold, Green Lantern and Justice Society of America my pick of the week, now he’s gone and turned Action Comics into the best Superman comic since… hell, possibly since I started reading. The Legion of Super-Heroes arc ends with this issue, and it ends in as exciting a fashion as I’ve ever seen. Superman and the Legion bring it big-time here, and Johns and Gary Frank managed to create one of those classic pages where I almost feel bad for the villain, because I can just feel the beatdown he’s about to receive. And the teaser at the end alone was almost enough – Johns and George Perez on a Legion of Three Worlds miniseries? My God, I should just engrave the “favorite of the week” plaques now.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.



Classic EBI #93: The Worst of 2004

So, if you’ve got any interest in the world of comic books at all, you probably heard about yesterday’s pretty big announcement. DC Comics is planning a massive, line-wide relaunch of their superhero universe. We’re still not really sure exactly what form this relaunch will take, but I’ve never let that stop me from pontificating before. My immediate thoughts and gut reaction make up this week’s all-new Everything But Imaginary.

Everything But Imaginary #401: An All-New DC Universe?

But here at the ‘Realms, we stay classic. This week, we’re dipping back to December 2004, when everybody was making their “best of the year” lists. I decided to go a little different this week…

Classic EBI #93: The Worst of 2004

Here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, there are two things we like more than anything else: any confectionary or pastry filled with chocolate pudding, and great comic books. Unfortunately, not every comic out there is great, and sometimes a light must shine down on the depths.

Now don’t worry, we’re going to cover the best in comics in the 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards. But since part of the EBI mission statement is to talk about how to make bad comic books better, sooner or later, that means talking about the bad.

Worst Relaunch: Challengers of the Unknown. How many people know about Challengers of the Unknown? Well, back when comics were allowed to be fun, the Challengers were a group of explorers — scientists, daredevils, etc. — who miraculously survived a near-disaster. Deciding they were now living on “borrowed time,” they banded together to push back the boundaries of the universe. It may not be the most famous property in the DC Universe, but its simple innocence has always held a lot of appeal to me.
The Challengers miniseries DC published this year, however, had none of those things. It didn’t have the characters, it didn’t take place in the DCU, and it was anything but simple and innocent. In this version, Howard Chaykin ramped up a bloated, messy conspiracy theory about a group of bland, obnoxious characters who were under attack by some horrible shadow government.

Now it’s well documented that I’m not really a fan of conspiracy stories, but I can at least recognize when one is done well. Take The Losers for instance. Not my cup of tea, but it’s well written, deep, layered, and I can understand why people enjoy it. It’s just not my thing.

Challengers, on the other hand, is completely incomprehensible to me. I like Chaykin’s work — heck his Bite Club miniseries was one of my favorite titles this year — but every page of this comic dripped with venom and bile, which was flung at any target even remotely divergent from the writer’s own political screed. The satire was the sort that not only beat you over the head, but then dropped you off a cliff just in case you didn’t get the point, none of the characters was even remotely likeable and the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I want to see the real Challengers back, DC. I hope never to see these pretenders to the throne again.

Worst Cancellation: Sentinel Now I know a lot of people are going to be ticked that I didn’t pick Captain Marvel, but to be honest, I wasn’t that sad to see the title end. I used to enjoy it, but after Genis had been insane for over a year, the book lost its luster for me and I never got into it again. I was sorry to see it go for the sake of those who did enjoy it, but personally, I didn’t feel much anymore.

Sentinel, on the other hand, floored me. I got into it late, reading the Marvel Age Digest and picking up the last six issues when I dropped by the Wizard World Texas Convention, and I was astounded at how good it was. It was a teenage comic that didn’t drift too far into the soap opera. It was a book tied to the X-Men that didn’t require encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe. It was a comic that featured a single father who wasn’t drunk, abusive or absent, but was actually a positive figure in his sons’ lives. Is that sort of thing even allowed in comics anymore?

This book had so much going for it, even a definite direction to take the characters after the series ended, and it would be a true shame if Sean McKeever never got the chance to tell us what Juston Seyfert’s final fate was.

Worst Overexposure: The X-Family. I remember not too long ago, a time when there was an effort to trim the line of X-Men related comics. Several titles were cancelled, others retooled, and the series was streamlined.

What happened?

This year saw the beginning of no less than seven new ongoing X-titles, and I’m not even counting New X-Men: Academy X (as that is a retooled New Mutants) or Excalibur (as that could theoretically be a replacement for X-Treme X-Men). But we still got Astonishing X-Men, District X, Cable & Deadpool, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler and Jubilee (which, to be fair, was retroactively turned into a miniseries as its sales began to plummet).

Now Astonishing is probably the best book in the line right now, and I don’t really mind three core titles since each features different characters (except, of course, for Wolverine). District X also gets a thumbs-up as it’s only an X-book in the sense that it’s about mutants and has Bishop as a supporting character (acting as a cop and not a superhero, and not coincidentally, becoming interesting to me for the first time ever).

And there are a couple of cancellations on the horizon too — Mystique and Emma Frost. X-Statix ended, but that barely counted as an X-book, and Weapon X got the axe only for us to learn it will return as a series of mini-series.

And speaking of miniseries, how about Wolverine: The End, Sabretooth, Wolverine and the Punisher, X-Men: The End, Wolverine and Captain America, Madrox, Wolverine and Richard Simmons, X-Force etc. Oh, and how about X-Force? Anyone remember the days when stilted artwork and big guns and shoulder pads sold comics instead of plot? Happy days are here again.

We get it, Marvel. People like the X-Men. The X-Men sell a lot of comic books. I don’t even really blame Marvel, they’re a business and they’ve got to make money. I blame the fans who keep turning over their pockets for the same old thing again and again while great comics like She-Hulk, The Monolith and H-E-R-O languish in the shallow end of the sales charts. There’s a lot more out there, folks.

Worst Marketing Capitulation: Organic Webshooters. For the record, I was not one of the people totally incensed when Spider-Man, in the movie, had organic webshooters growing in his arms rather than building them himself. I thought it lost a chance to display Peter Parker’s intellect, but overall, it was a minor thing and the spirit of the character is the same. But I have to draw the line when a little tweak from the movie is crammed into the comic books with a crowbar, especially as it was in as bad a story as this Spectacular Spider-Man story arc. So Peter turns into a giant spider and, when he turns back, has organic webshooters and can talk to insects. I’ll let somebody else argue that spiders aren’t insects, we all know that already, but really Marvel. Are you that worried that a kid who saw the movie will read a comic only to see Spider-Man with a little metal thingie on his wrist and then run away in horror? I don’t mind change, folks, but I do mind when story is sacrificed for something so clearly a marketing concern.

(I have similar misgivings about Wolverine being crammed into New Avengers, but I’ll withhold my ravings about that until he actually appears in the title, that I may make a more informed rant.)

Worst Treatment of a Character that Deserves Better: Action Comics. You had to know this is coming. I have not missed an issue of a Superman comic book in 15 years. If I weren’t reviewing it every month with the DC Comics advance books, I would have dropped Action Comics at least six months ago.

Superman is supposed to be the top, the pinnacle, the greatest superhero in the world. So somebody please explain to me why Chuck Austen insists on writing him as (alternately) a stupid frat boy, an arrogant jerk or a brow-beaten weenie? What’s even more frustrating is the fact that, as evidenced in JLA #101, Austen is capable of writing Superman in-character. He just doesn’t.

Even the treatment of Clark Kent isn’t as appalling as how the supporting characters are treated, though. Lois Lane is cold and stoic and Lana Lang has no other characterization other than an urge to jump into bed with Clark Kent, dredging up a story that was over and resolved over ten years ago. If a woman in real life were this obsessed with her high school sweetheart in her mid-30s, she’d be called a stalker. We actually had a pivotal plot point revolve around Lois finding a pair of Lana’s underwear. It was like reading a Days of Our Lives comic book. Then of course there are brilliant villains like Repo-Man and Sodom and Gomorrah, and our old buddy Preus, whose characterization involves picking his favorite “lowly, disgusting” human females and having sex with them until they are dead.

This is Superman. I don’t know on what planet storylines like this are supposed to be appropriate for this title, but I can’t imagine it’s Earth or Krypton. This is worse than bad, it’s nauseating, and it has to stop.

The good news from all this, friends, is that 2004 is almost over. 2005 is a brand-new year, and a new chance to turn things around and get things right. And while there are a lot of difficult problems in comics, the ones I’ve outlined in this column are all pretty easy to fix. We just need comic publishers with the guts and the foresight to do what anyone reading the comics knows is right all along.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 15, 2004

Anyone remember Bullpen Bits? Anyone remember Spidey and the Mini-Marvels? Not enough of you do, that’s for sure, or else they’d still be doing them. But Chris Giarrusso is back with his own creation, G-Man, in a one-shot from Image comics. Giarusso has a lot of fun with this book about a kid who wants to be a superhero in a strange world where such things seem to be pretty commonplace. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s sharp enough for adults to like it and it’s clean enough to share it with your kids. If you want to have fun with a comic book, look no further. I hope there’s more G-Man in the future.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.




Classic EBI #85: Deconstruction and Glory

With tax season upon us, we’re all going to look for less expensive entertainment. In the interests of helping us all with that dilemma, I’ve taken it upon myself to sift through Amazon for a few graphic novels that — at least as I write this — can be had for under ten bucks a pop.

Everything But Imaginary #394: Eight Under Ten

In the classic EBI from this week, we go back to Oct. 20, 2004, when I look at the two extremes of the superhero genre…

Everything But Imaginary #85: Deconstruction and Glory

There are many types of comic book fans — the geeks, the fanboys, the gaming crossovers, the alts, but there are only two types of fans that really get on my nerves. First are their ones who only read superhero comics. The ones who refuse to come out of the narrow little shell and experience all of the wild, diverse realms of storytelling that comic books have to offer. Second, the ones that refuse to read superhero comics, the ones who think they’re too cool for that and anyone who enjoys a superhero comic is intellectually beneath them and that by picking up this week’s Amazing Spider-Man you are contributing to the downfall of western civilization. (You are actually doing this by picking up Action Comics.) [2011 Note: I wrote this during Chuck Austen’s run on Action Comics. I stand by this statement.]

Smart comic fans, I think, should fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Nobody should ever read any comic they don’t like (save your money and buy something good), but it’s even more important not to close yourself off to a great story just because of the genre it is written in.

Just as comic book fans have divided themselves into these camps, however, superhero comics to a very large degree have divided themselves as well, and although there are some exceptions, almost all mainstream superhero titles these days play more to one side of the spectrum or the other — they deconstruct the heroes, or they glorify them.

“Deconstruction,” of course, is nothing new — one could argue that it goes back as far as Green Arrow’s discovery of his sidekick Speedy’s heroin addiction. There are lots of kinds of deconstructive stories — those that show the heroes has having all-too-human flaws or feet of clay, or those that simply show them failing, or achieving victory but at too high a price. The darker threats, the mass murders, the terrorist actions. These are the “deconstructive” comics.

Pretty much every title under the Marvel Knights banner fits this description — Daredevil is a great example. He was, in his early days, a brighter character, akin to Spider-Man, but as time went on he got darker and darker. Now his comic is the epitome of gritty, showing hard crime and real consequences. Matt Murdock’s world is not a nice place to live. Brian Michael Bendis, of course, is one of the tops in this realm of comics — along with guys like Grant Morrison and Bruce Jones, and perennial favorites like Frank Miller and Neal Adams. These are often the only comics the “too cool for school” crowd will touch, mainly because it’s so “grim” and “edgy” and helps to shatter the ideals of the spandex-clad warriors they sneer at the rest of the time.

Then we have the flip side of superhero comics — those that take the traditions and standards of the genre and raise them up, glorify them, and make them seem fresh and new again. Take a look at Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four for a primary example of this. While the “Unthinkable” and “Authoritative Action” storylines he told last year did get pretty dark, he stayed with what made the characters the heroes they were rather than pull them down, and he closed off that chapter of their lives in the “Afterlife” story by bringing back the Thing (killed in “Authoritative Action,”) with a little help from a certain Man Upstairs who looked an awful lot like Jack Kirby. Some readers balked at the unabashed sentimentality. I thought it was brilliant.

Geoff Johns has also proven himself quite adept at the glorification of superheroes, and he does it in a way that Waid often does too — he mines their pasts, digging into classic stories from the golden, silver and bronze ages, and uses them to craft something totally new. A lot of his Teen Titans series up to this point has been about bringing together threads left by the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez incarnation of the property, but updating it to fit in the new members of the team. In Flash, he keeps taking old villains and remaking them into more serious threats (as he did with the likes of Mirror Master and Captain Cold) or introducing new threats that tie into the past of the character (like Murmur and the new Zoom).

Johns may just save his best storyweaving skills for JSA, however, and it’s no wonder. This is the first superhero team in the history of comic books, and several of the oldest characters in industry are still members. What’s more, they have progeny and proteges that are carring on in their names. Johns has brought together the legacies of the Star-Spangled Kid and Starman stogether in Stargirl, restored Hawkman to a characterization that actually makes sense and even made a character with the goofy Golden Age moniker Mr. Teriffic a deep, interesting character.

But man, the stuff he’s done with Hourman is even better. The original Hourman, Rex Tyler, died fighting Extant during DC’s Zero Hour miniseries. There are two other Hourmen walking around, though, Rex’s son Rick, and an android from the future with time-travel powers. In JSA we learn that the android plucked Rex from the timestream just before his death and gave him one hour to spend with his son, who could break up that hour into increments anytime he needed to talk to his father. When Rick was almost killed fighting Black Adam, though, he and Rex switched places, with Rex back in the “regular” timestream and Rick trapped in time. Johns wrapped up that storyline in last week’s JSA #66 with an ending that showed off everything that made these characters heroes.

If we’re talking about glorifying superheroes, though, one need look no further than Astro City. Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross have created a real lush, wonderful world that pays a brilliant tribute to everything that superhero comics have to offer, and they look at it from every angle. If you haven’t read this comic, you haven’t read superheroes right.

Here’s the thing — while excellent stories have been told in both the deconstruction and glorification subgenres of superheroes, not all characters are suited for both. Superman and Captain America, for instance, never really work in deconstructed stories. When you start making Superman grim or edgy, you lose what it is that makes him Superman.

This was the big problem I had with Mark Millar’s Ultimates series, and the reason I’m not getting Ultimates 2. Millar recreated regular Marvel characters and made it a point that they were not the same as the ones we were used to. However, the new characters he whipped up seemed to me to be nothing more than the original character’s worst traits magnified to the extreme. Giant-Man was nothing more than a wife-beater. Iron Man was nothing more than a drunken philanderer. Captain America was nothing more than an arrogant nationalist.

On the other hand, characters like the Punisher just don’t hold up if you try to glorify them. Even when you go lighthearted, as Garth Ennis did in the Marvel Knights incarnation of the character, it has to be dark humor, with an undertone of madness that belies the character’s situation in life.

Then there are those rare characters that work if you’re deconstructing or glorifying superheroes. I think the X-Men are probably the best example of this. During New X-Men, writer Grant Morrison dissected these characters, brought their faults to the forefront and made them face down threats — both from without and within — that tore the team apart. Much of his story was a satire of some of the more ridiculous aspects of the characters (Magneto’s tendency to get resurrected no matter what the circumstances of his death were, for instance, or the egocentric notion that the “X” in Weapon X was a letter and not a Roman numeral). He took the X-Men apart and pieced them into something new, then he put the chairs on the tables, wiped down the counter and left.

Then he leaves and what happens? Joss Whedon comes in with Astonishing X-Men and, using many of the same characters, puts them back into costumes and sends ‘em out to be superheroes. And it works, just as well. Meanwhile, Nunzio DeFillips and Christina Weir remake their New Mutants series into New X-Men: Academy X, a book about — what else? — teen superheroes. These are kids learning to one day become X-Men, and as such, the book has several elements that both glorify superheroes (the code names, the “squads”) and break them down (how Wither accidentally killed his father with his powers, for instance).

There are many, many different things that can be done with superhero comics, and a great many of them are being done right now, done very well. There’s an old saying in some parts of the country that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change. With comic books, if you don’t like one, just take a step or two further down the rack. Even if you’re looking at a rack of superheroes, you won’t have far to go to find something totally different.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 6, 2004

Welcome back, Bill Willingham, you have been too long absent from this list, but last week’s Fables #30 bolted you right back to the front of the pack. I’ve been a fan of this title since the first issue, friends, and issue #30 is possibly the best yet. This is the answer to “decompressed” storytelling here, everything happens at once. The Fables are reconstructing their home after a battle, the election for the mayor of Fabletown is going off, Snow White is in labor (and Bigby Wolf is the father) — there are three major storylines in this issue, a half-dozen (if not more) minor storylines, and there’s still room in there for a few surprises. If you haven’t tried out Fables, this may just be a great place to start.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.


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