Posts Tagged ‘Superboy


Things I DON’T like about Christmas

As you’ve probably heard right now, I love Christmas. I love it in a totally unironic, unapologetic way. I love it so much that I’d help coordinate Dickens’s three spirits to new misers every year. I love it so much that I know not to wish for it to be Christmas every day, because I’ve seen enough cartoons where that happens to know that would be disastrous. And in fact, I suspect most people reading this love Christmas too. Even those who claim to hate Christmas secretly love it, because it gives them an excuse to complain loudly to anybody who will listen how much they hate Christmas. They’re like hipsters that way.

But that doesn’t mean I love everything about Christmas. So for the sake of you Scrooges out there, I thought today I would point you towards a few of the things about Christmas I could do without. None of these are particularly original suggestions, but they’re mine, consarn it. Some of the things I really hate are…

Christmas Shopping

I love to give gifts. I love handing over a brightly-wrapped package to a loved one and seeing their face as they tear it open, and I love putting on my own most charming smile as I hand over the gift receipt so they can exchange it. But I hate the actual shopping process. I don’t really like crowds in the first place, so wandering an Old Navy packed with enough people to keep an NBA franchise in a small market city is horrifying to me. Because although I subscribe to the theory that people, at heart, are basically good, I also subscribe to the theory that most people immediately between myself and whatever my goal of the moment is are raging morons. I hate having to elbow my way past sixteen people to see if they’ve got the particular aroma of soap at Bath and Body Works that showed up on my sister-in-law’s Things I list. I hate those who block the aisles with huge shopping carts at awkward angles that clearly aren’t moving any time soon because they’ve just pulled out their cell phones and started a conversation about the LSU/Alabama rematch. I think people who get into the “10 Items or Less” line with 11 or more items should be shot. Out of a cannon. At a brick wall.

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I’ll tell you this: if I was in charge of shopping, all express lane cash registers would automatically shut down after the allotted number of items have been scanned in, and the cashiers would be instructed to tally up the items scanned thus far and tell the perpetrator to take the rest of their crap to the end of the line.

And while shopping online has helped this situation considerably, there are still pitfalls — like figuring out what to get for everybody. My father is one of the hardest people in the world to shop for. If I get him books I think he’ll like, he never has time to read them. If I get him DVDs, he never has time to watch them. I have no idea which tools he already has or needs, and I don’t even know if he needs a left-handed or right-handed triple-ground flange escalator. I am lost.

As a corrollary to the shopping situation, I also hate…


You know how stupid people are in stores? Put them behind the wheel of a car and their IQ automatically drops another 37 points. There are special places reserved in Hell for those who cut off six cars to advance twelve feet in heavy, slowly-moving lanes of traffic. It’s catercorner to those who tailgate, next door to those who cut in-between cars just because they aren’t tailgating, and down the block from the spot for those who think turn signals are a quaint anachronism that aren’t really necessary because they’re so damn awesome everybody should just get out of their way on general principle.

I realize that none of these particular complains are specific to the Christmas season, but they are without a doubt multiplied this time of year. More people on the road translates to more stupid people on the road. The great Dave Barry once said that, in traffic, anybody who drives slower than you is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than you is a maniac. I would amend this slightly. I believe anybody who drives slower than me is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than me is a maniac.

The Christmas Shoes

You know this song. Adorable waif shows up in a store on Christmas Eve. He goes to the clerk with a pair of shoes and about eleven cents and a gum wrapper in his pocket, and asks if that’s enough to buy them for his sick mama, who’s about to go meet baby Jesus. People cry and we all learn a Very Important Lesson.

Look, I’m all for Christmas stories having a message. In fact, I think they should have a message beyond just, in the words of the immortal Animal from A Muppet Family Christmas, “Gimme Presents!” But no storyteller should resort to something so painstakingly manipulative as a chronically dying mother get his point across. The song is specifically and deliberately structured in order to make the listener feel like a pulsating burlap bag of horse crap in the hopes that they will call their mamas and tell them they love them and buy them copies of the CD.

And the worst part is that the damn song is now stuck in my head. Okay, I’m gonna have to blast “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” while I write this next one just to get rid of it…

ABC Family’s Definition of “Christmas”

I respect the ABC Family network for loading December with Christmas programming, and for how heavily they promote it. I love the fact that they give us marathons of Rankin and Bass specials, original holiday movies, and so much other content.

On the other hand, certain things just don’t fit their definition. Sure, there’s a December scene in most of the movies, but Harry Potter? NOT a Christmas film. No matter how many of the movies you show in a row. The same goes for the marathons of Pixar movies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who loves The Incredibles more than me, but it’s still not what I’m going to put on if I’m in the mood for some holiday cheer.

I’m not saying that ABC Family should avoid showing these things during the month of December. Let’s face it, if we didn’t allow them to show Harry Potter movies they’d lose their entire weekend lineup twice a month. But if you’re going to do that, don’t bill it as a “Christmas” marathon.

People Afraid to Say “Christmas”

I’m not talking about the whole “Happy Holidays” thing here, guys. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me in and of itself. I recognize that there are many celebrations, both religious and secular, that take place this time of year, and I fully support everybody’s right to celebrate whatever they happen to believe in or hold traditional. What bothers me, though, is when I feel like somebody is going deliberately out of their way to avoid saying the word “Christmas” or allude to anything even remotely connected to the holiday, as though it were some horrible, verboten topic that everybody knows about but doesn’t actually want to mention, like the real reason Uncle Walter keeps ordering little sailor outfits from those Japanese websites.

To fully demonstrate my point, I’d like to point out last year’s chief offender from my primary nerddom of comic books: the DC Universe Holiday Special. Comic companies have done holiday specials for years, of course, most of them featuring several stories with multiple characters and, most of the time, showcasing various holidays. Again, that’s cool. I don’t mind a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa story, I don’t mind seeing the  Justice League ring in the New Year or the Avengers sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. But if the idea is to be inclusive, Christmas is traditionally included as well, right? That’s… that’s what “inclusive” means, it means that nobody gets left out. I know, I gave it to my 11th graders in a vocabulary quiz.

The six stories in this comic book included a winter solstice story set in caveman times, a western Hanakkah story, a Superman Thanksgiving story, a story about the Shi’a Day of Ashra and Easter (combined), a story of the Vernal Equinox, and a far-future story where all holidays have been mashed together into one generic “Holiday.” Seriously. That’s it. The word “Christmas” never appears in the book, nor “Yuletide,” or even “X-Mas.” No image of Santa Claus, not a tree, not a trace of Christmas lights, not a bloody snowman. Even the Easter mention was in passing. Christmas was so conspicuous by its absence that it couldn’t have been a more deliberate snub if they’d had Sarah Silverman urinate on a Nativity scene. It’s a damn far cry from the classic 70s story where Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes actually took a spaceship to look for the Star of Bethlehem.

(In all fairness to DC Comics, they did also publish the Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special last year, which starred an alien driven by greed who comes to Earth and suffers a horrendous and hysterical misunderstanding of Santa Claus. And speaking of Santa Claus…)

The Santa Clause

With all due respect to Tim Allen, this makes me want to crack people over the head with a yule log. I know the problem didn’t originate with his movie, but it certainly seems to have gotten worse since then, so let’s get something straight, people:

The Santa Clause is either: A) A series of Christmas films starring Tim Allen as Santa Claus or B) The specific clause featured in said series of movies that leaves someone beholden to become the new Santa Claus if they put on the suit of the previous Santa Claus should they meet with an untimely end.

That’s it.

The name of the person himself? SANTA. CLAUS. With NO “E.”

It’s the English teacher in me, guys, but it drives me bonkers. It’s a spelling error and I keep seeing it again and again and again and — argh! There’s a spot in the Special Hell for people who do this too. If Santa CLAUSE was coming to town, I’m imagining a lawyer driving in with a briefcase full of legal papers that are going to indemnify you in the case of Nicholas Vs. Guy With a Slippery Roof. If you see Mommy kissing Santa CLAUSE, that means she’s got her lips caught in a DVD case and you need to call 911 again.

Get. It. Right.

Okay, that should be enough evidence that not EVERYTHING about Christmas fills me with joy and revelry. Just most of it. And if you’re missing out on any revelry yourself, here’s an inexpensive way to get a little…

My eBook, A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas, is now available in the Kindle Store, the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, on your iPad bookstore, or for every other eBook format at! This eBook contains the entire short novel A Long November, PLUS eight additional short stories of the holidays, including the short story “Lonely Miracle,” set in the world of my novel Other People’s Heroes. That’s nine stories for just $2.99, friends. Check it out, tell your friends, and Merry Christmas!


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


Counting down to the New 52…

Three months after the announcement was made, on Wednesday, everything changes. DC Comics is relaunching its entire line with 52 new #1 issues. And while I certainly won’t be getting all of them, I will be getting a lot. And I’m actually very excited for most of them. Still, questions persist… the history of the Flash(es), the connection to DC’s multiverse, whether Booster Gold will ever learn the truth about Rip Hunter’s parentage, where the Marvel family fits in, whether Steel ever armored up after the death of Superman, if Stephanie Brown ever was Robin or Batgirl, how Barbara Gordon is walking again, how the Martian Manhunter came to join Stormwatch, if Superboy was ever a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes… I could go on and on, and if you understood even half of those questions, you probably can too.

But the important thing is, I’m anxious to find out the answers. This week, even more than usual, I can’t wait for Wednesday.


New looks in the new DCU

As you’re probably heard by now, especially if you read my columns or listen to my podcast, starting in September DC Comics is relaunching its entire line. This means restarting every title with a new first issue, launching several all-new titles, and tweaking the continuity and costumes of several long-standing heroes. Looking at the stuff that’s been announced so far, I’m mostly excited. There are some changes I don’t like (Harley Quinn’s new costume) and omissions that I’m not thrilled about (Power Girl and Xombi), but we’re also going to get ongoing series for great characters like Mr. Terrific (who has never had one before), new starts for deserving characters like Static, and the integration of the Wildstorm characters in the DCU. There’s a lot of potential there.

One thing that hasn’t been talked about much, though, is what the books are going to look like. I heard a quick reference somewhere that seemed to imply the books will have new logos and a new trade dress, which is to be expected, but so far we’ve only gotten one glimpse of them: what will apparently be the new logo for The Fury of Firestorm.

Firestorm is one of those characters that’s been around for a long time — over 30 years now — and he’s got a devoted following, but he’s never quite cracked the upper echelon of DC’s top heroes. I’m really looking forward to reading this title, though, because I do like the character and the creative team of Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver and Yildiray Cinar is a great combination.

What interests me at the moment, though, is this logo. It’s a cool look — contemporary, with that sort of spiral coming from the “O” that I think is intended to evoke the atomic nature of his powers. It’s also very different from his previous logos:

Firestorm’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years, you see. This is the fourth attempt at a solo series for the character, and at least the seventh logo. Looking at the older ones, it looks like they either tried to evoke the “fire” part of the name or the “nuclear’ element, with only the sixth one (bottom right corner) trying to bring in both.

I was looking at this and thinking about it, and I suddenly found myself wondering… when did I become such a nerd for logos? I blame the great comic book letterer Todd Klein, who often runs logo studies on his blog, where he goes through all of the different logos a particular character has had and discusses the design. I never really put a lot of thought into them before, but I’ve really come to appreciate logo creation as an art form of its own.

This, of course, got me thinking about the other logos. Will DC change them all? They haven’t said one way or another, but I think it’s highly possible. Even something as venerable as Superman’s logo is probably up for a change. And unlike most other characters, the changes to Superman’s logo over the years have either been small or temporary. Look at the graphic to the right — the logo from the first issue of Superman and the most recent issue. Small changes — turning angles into curves, streamlining the characters, but it’s still clearly based on the original design. Bigger changes (like during the dreaded “Electric Blue” period of the 90s) never lasted. It’s kind of like the costume that way — small changes have taken, big ones have gone away. Of course, he’s also getting a slightly different look, so a very different logo I think is very possible.

Then there’s the question of related titles. This new DCU will feature three different Justice League titles, numerous characters in the “Batman” family, and of course, the four Superman-related titles. My question is, will the logos for these titles have any sort of visual link? The Batman books often don’t, but the Superman titles — except for Action Comics — have been pretty uniform. Supergirl and Superboy, as you can see to the left, have had the same basic design as the Superman logo for the past twenty years or so. I like this. It gives them a nice, uniform look, and makes it plain that they’re all part of a group of titles. But this hasn’t always been the case. Before the late 80s or early 90s, the characters often had very different logos, both from Superman and from each other:

The real question, I suppose, will be of the characters themselves. In this “new” DC Universe, will they still be the close-knit family they are now? If so, I’d like whatever new logo design they have to reflect that by sharing some elements. If not, going completely different with each of the three characters may make sense.

It’s interesting. While there are a lot of new DC books I’m excited to read, I’m actually interested in how all of them are going to look.


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 222: A Chat With Francis Manapul

It’s a Showcase first! Last week at Nola Comic-Con, the boys were lucky enough to host a few panel discussions, and we’re bringing the audio to you. This week, we talk with DC superstar artist Francis Manapul about getting started, his evolving art style, his work on Flash, his appearances on the TV show Beast Legends, and a hint about who’s going to be writing his next project. In the picks, Blake recommends Rocketeer Adventures #1! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 222: A Chat With Francis Manapul


Comic Cover Roulette: Superboy #162

For the long version of what Comic Cover Roulette is, read the first post. (Actually, read it anyway. It’s cool.) But here’s the short version: back in the Silver Age, comic book writers would often be given cover art and assigned the job of writing a story to fit. Now, I’m picking out some classic covers and doing the same thing. This time I’m tackling Superboy (Volume One) #162, with a cover by the classic team of  Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. I’ve never read this issue.

“The Super-Phantom of Smallville!”

(Special Note: In the Silver Age, Superboy’s dog Krypto not only had all of Superboy’s powers, but also a human-level intelligence. Although he could not talk, he frequently communicated his feelings to the reader via thought balloons. Contemporary Krypto does not have this ability – he’s a good, loyal dog with Superman’s powers, but not higher-level intelligence. For my little story, I will be using the more contemporary incarnation, because apparently while I have no problem accepting a dog that can fly, survive in the vacuum of space, and shoot laser beams from his eyes, when you add in the fact that he can think, Snoopy-style, that is where it gets too silly for me.)

Having Krypto to pal around with has certainly gone a long way towards helping Superboy feel like less of an outcast on his adopted world. While the dog isn’t quite the same as having human interaction with another Kryptonian, being able to roughhouse with someone that he doesn’t have to worry about hurting is very therapeutic. On the other hand, it can also be pretty destructive, so when Superboy feels like spending some quality time with his pet, they head out to the woods north of Smallville where they won’t accidentally injure anybody or damage property.

Superboy and Krypto are participating in an old-fashioned game of fetch, although it’s a little different than most kids play with their pets. You may throw your tennis a few dozen yards away for the dog to fetch. Superboy throws his into orbit. Krypto makes a run into space, retrieving his ball, and Superboy throws it back for him again and again. Superboy also has to bring a rather large bucket of tennis balls with him as well – Krypto doesn’t quite know his own strength, and about every third ball winds up ripped apart in his jaws because he isn’t always careful when he gets excited.

After one such game, Krypto returns not with his ball, but with a small device. As Superboy throws a real ball back into space for Krypto to fetch, he examines the device. It’s the same size as the tennis ball, painted the same color green, and even covered in a spongy material that feels like the surface of a tennis ball. It’s heavier, though, denser, and there’s a metallic sheen to the stitching. Superboy uses his X-Ray vision to investigate the inside of the ball, but his power triggers a charge inside the device. It explodes, and Superboy finds himself spinning head over heels. When he regains his senses, he cannot see his own limbs, and when he tries to touch anything – the trees, the ground – he simply passes right through it.

As he watches, helpless, a strange being that looks exactly like Superboy arrives and picks up the remains of the device. He flies off and Superboy pursues him. Moments later, Krypto returns with his ball, only to find his master gone. Surprised, he flies for home.

Back at the farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent, the doppelganger is accepted without question. Superboy watches, helpless in his phantom state, as the duplicate sits down for dinner with his parents. Clark tries to talk to them, to tell them the truth, but whatever trap his duplicate used on him prevents anybody from seeing or hearing him at all. As he pleads to deaf ears, Krypto bursts into the room, shocked. He sees his master, but his super-sensitive nose betrays the truth… the boy at the table may look like Superboy, but he doesn’t smell like Superboy, and the nose never lies. He begins to growl at the fake, barking madly. Jonathan puts the dog out, and Krypto obeys (because, even though he’s powerful enough to tear Jonathan to shreds a thousand times over, he’s still a Good Dog). As he sits on the porch, brooding. The Phantom Superboy drifts outside and “sits” in midair next to his dog. He talks to the dog, not expecting it to do any good but hoping it will at least make him feel better. To his surprise, Krypto’s ears perk up. The dog’s super-sensitive hearing can detect his voice. It seems faint, like he’s not sure where it’s coming from, but it’s definitely working.

Shouting as loudly as he can, Superboy leads Krypto to his bedroom window, where the duplicate has retired for the night. Before their eyes, he transforms, melting out of Superboy’s shape and into the form of a hooded creature with tentacles protruding from his cloak. He takes out a device that looks like a large calculator with a bigger screen. When he touches the face of the device, it turns on and a hidden camera begins to record him. He isn’t speaking English, but on his journey to Earth from Krypton, the onboard computer of Superboy’s rocket subliminally tutored him in many galactic cultures. He recognizes the language as Interlac, and can easily understand what the alien is saying.

“Mission status report. Phase one is complete. Superboy found the device we constructed based on the remnants of Krypton’s Phantom Zone technology and fell into the trap. He will be invisible and undetectable for as long as the device remains functional. I have successfully masqueraded as Superboy, fooling the human family we observed him residing with on our earlier scouting mission. Tomorrow, I will begin the task of seeking out the rest of this world’s metahumans and eliminating their threat.”

Superboy’s heart nearly stops – an alien invader is planning to hunt “metahumans” (whatever those are) and murder them in his name! He can’t let that happen. He finds the Phantom Zone device stashed underneath his bed and stares at it, trying to figure out how to deactivate something he can’t touch.

Then it hits him.

Flying back outside, where Krypto is waiting outside the open bedroom window, Superboy leans over directly into Krypto’s ear and shouts a command as loudly as his super-lungs can scream: “FETCH!”

Hearing the signal, Krypto leaps through the window and begins searching the room with his own X-Ray vision. The alien tries to stop him, but Krypto is much faster – the fake has duplicated Superboy’s form, but not all of his powers. Krypto finds the Phantom Zone device under the bed and champs his jaws shut on it. The timing is perfect – Krypto bites too hard and the device is destroyed. Instantly, Superboy pops back into view and becomes solid again. The shapeshifter transforms into a giant monster, leaping at Superboy through the window, but despite his size he is unable to change his mass. The result is a monster that weighs far less than it should, and something Superboy and his faithful dog easily defeat.

The alien retreats to his ship, planning to leave Earth, but not without issuing an ominous warning: “You aren’t the only super-powered being on this planet, Kryptonian! We will be watching! And if the day comes when Earth becomes a galactic threat, you shall face a power beyond imagining!”

The alien blasts off, and Superboy shrugs. “Maybe you will come back some day,” he says. “But if you do, Krypto and I will be ready.”

If you’d like to suggest a cover, go right ahead. Find it online (I suggest using the marvelous database at and post the link — any cover that has Superman on it is fair game. These characters are, of course, ™ and © DC Comics. I don’t own ‘em, I don’t claim to own ‘em, and I have no intention to use any of these stories for any monetary gain. This is just for funsies. Please don’t sue me.


Comic Cover Roulette: Adventure Comics #140

For the long version of what Comic Cover Roulette is, read the first post. (Actually, read it anyway. It’s cool.) But here’s the short version: back in the Silver Age, comic book writers would often be given cover art and assigned the job of writing a story to fit. Now, I’m picking out some classic covers and doing the same thing. This time I’m tackling Adventure Comics #140, with a cover by James “Win” Mortimer. I’ve never read this issue.

“Six Superboys on the Moon!”

Back in the days before Clark Kent came to Metropolis, when Superboy is still protecting his hometown of Smallville, Kansas, he sees a strange vision in the sky. There seems to be a flash of light coming from the surface of the moon itself. Using his telescopic vision, he looks up to the moon’s surface, where he sees, of all things, himself. The distant Superboy seems to be a bit confused, flying across the satellite as though aimless.

At first, Superboy is intimidated at the prospect of flying into outer space. He has never left the surface of Earth under his own power before, although he has often speculated about his ability to break free from Earth’s gravity and wondered just how long he could hold his breath. Finally, he decides to take the chance. With a running start, he launches himself into the air and, for the first time since he fell from Krypton as a baby, leaves the cradle of Earth behind him.

Superboy flies to the moon, where he sees his double juggling a set of bowling pins. As the second Superboy seems him approach, he hears a voice in his head: “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting.” Superboy is stunned, of course, both by how perfect the duplication is, and by the fact that this creature seems able to communicate with him in the vacuum of space. The two speak for a short time, the other asking Superboy how well he has accomplished his “boring” task of tracking his speed. Before Superboy can answer, a third Superboy appears over the horizon, zooming in to the spot where the other two are having their conversation. The first duplicate isn’t very surprised. “Sorry,” he thinks, “I thought you were him. Which one are you then?”

“I… I’m Superboy,” the real Superboy thinks.

Soon, even more Superboys begin to arrive from across the surface of the moon. Superboy soon finds himself facing six different versions of himself. One of them, the one with the bowling pins, laughs as he realizes the truth. “Why, this must be the original Superboy,” he says. He explains to Superboy that he and his brothers are creatures from another dimension who have been observing Earth for some time. They have decided to come to take the world over, using the form of its most powerful hero. They have set up base on the moon in order to test their newfound abilities. Each of them has been testing a different aspect of Superboy’s powers, and believe they have mastered them.

The six Superboys challenge the real boy of steel to six duels. If he can defeat each of them using the power he has chosen to master, they will leave Earth alone. Superboy accepts the challenge, and the battle begins. One by one he defeats the others – flying faster than one, jumping higher than the next, lifting heavier stones than the third, seeing farther with his telescopic vision than number four, and using his freezing breath to lower the temperature farther than number five. As each of the Superboys is defeated, he says a unique, incomprehensible “magic word” and disappears. Soon, the only Superboy duplicate remaining is the first one he encountered, the one who was juggling the pins.

“And which of my talents did you try to master?” he asks.

The duplicate begins to laugh. “Why, the most important one of all – fun! My brothers just don’t know how to have any. I never wanted to invade stuffy ol’ Earth in the first place. Now, thanks to you, they’ve got to abandon their scheme. This is the most fun I’ve had in ages, Superboy, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re the winner!”

“Then you’ll go away and leave Earth alone?” Superboy asks.

“I won’t invade, I’ll keep my word,” the duplicate says. “But you’ve been an awful lot of fun. I just may come back and play a game or two with you again.”

The duplicate winks at Superboy and says his own magic word: “Kltpzyxm!” He vanishes without a trace, leaving Superboy alone on Earth’s cold, distant moon.

If you’d like to suggest a cover, go right ahead. Find it online (I suggest using the marvelous database at and post the link — any cover that has Superman on it is fair game. These characters are, of course, ™ and © DC Comics. I don’t own ‘em, I don’t claim to own ‘em, and I have no intention to use any of these stories for any monetary gain. This is just for funsies. Please don’t sue me.

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