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Old December 18 2008, 01:53 AM   #1
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A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Okay, in an old thread, I asked for recommended comic reading, since I am essentially a comic book virgin. One book often suggested was Allstar Superman. I did a little reading on it on the Internets and then decided to pick up a copy at my local borders. I've been in and out of town (lots of stuff going on, a few flings as well as helping some of my family who are STILL cleaning up in New Orleans from Katrina. Believe it or not) Anyway, I sat down exhausted one night but too tired to sleep. So I ripped open All Star Superman and read the first issue. I'm not sure what to say. I enjoyed the sci-fi nature of it, as I am a huge sci-fi fan and have been all my life. But the art and some of the characterization was off. Maybe because my only real familiarity with Superman was from the old Chris Reeve films. I didn't much care for Jimmy (a jet-pack? A super-watch?) as he didn't seem to fit in with the otherwise realistic tone of the people at the newspaper. I did like the story overall, basically, that Superman is dying and that this Quintum guy is going to try and clone him or some such. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Superman die years ago? I remember reading about it, but never reading the comic. A college bud of mine had it but it was in a black bag and he wouldn't let me open it. Anyway, I'm intrigued enough to keep reading, but the art and some of the weirdness for a lack of a better word is a little distracting. Does it get any better? -Dan
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Old December 18 2008, 02:45 AM   #2
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

I thought it was great from the beginning. Superman is a bit weird. Embrace the weird.
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Old December 18 2008, 03:10 AM   #3
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

1. The story is 12 issues long and they haven't all been reprinted in HC/TPB form yet so unless you plan to get all the individual issues, you'll have to wait to finish the whole thing.

2. Your friend likely recommended it to you because, by the nature of the "All-Star" line, there is no past continuity other than that you choose to give him. No he didn't die, not this guy, not necessarily. Thus the title character you're reading about didn't come into existence until All-Star Superman #1 and you should read it as such.

3. Yes it gets even better as time goes on, but definitely not any less "weird" or quirky. I think alot of us like that about it.

4. The art is an acquired taste.
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Old December 18 2008, 03:28 AM   #4
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Santanova wrote: View Post
I didn't much care for Jimmy (a jet-pack? A super-watch?) as he didn't seem to fit in with the otherwise realistic tone of the people at the newspaper.
Realism is not something you should expect from the world of All-Star Superman. It's basically a tribute to the comics of the '50s and '60s, which could get really weird and wacky and colorful. Loosely speaking, it's based on the idea of "What if the Silver Age Superman had continued to the present day?" It's Silver Age concepts filtered through modern storytelling sensibilities. So the characters are richer and the concepts explored with more nuance, but it's still a wildly fanciful reality.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Superman die years ago? I remember reading about it, but never reading the comic.
As slappy said, this miniseries is in its own separate continuity from any other version of Superman.

Anyway, I'm intrigued enough to keep reading, but the art and some of the weirdness for a lack of a better word is a little distracting. Does it get any better? -Dan
Quitely's art is an acquired taste, but it's consistent throughout the parts I've read (I have the first trade paperback). As for the weirdness... oh, that's hardly begun yet. This is a tribute to the weirdest, wildest era of Superman comics.
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Old December 18 2008, 06:49 AM   #5
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

I want to pick this up, but I'm going to wait with the hopes that they'll collect the entire thing in one volume.
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Old December 18 2008, 08:58 AM   #6
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Morrison can write a fun little superhero nostalgia tale when he's not obsessing over tearing down the mythology, I'll give him that. Its like he saw all the Silver Age revamps Johns was making wildly successful and thought "hey that's a good idea". This is just a good ol' fashioned fun superhero story and nothing more. And there's nothing wrong with that. Its like if you took a Mark Waid story and made him shoot heroin laced with LSD. His signature "big, mindblowing concepts" are still there to mask his almost always ridiculous characterization. But it's not as obvious this time around(unlike his X-Men, Doom Patrol, and Batman runs) because unlike those other three he actually "gets" Superman. Better then most writers I'd say.

That being said there is still too much of his "look at me and how brilliant and awesome and clever I am!" style he brings to everything he writes. But unlike most of his pre and post Justice League work, it's not as noticeable.

Also, I wouldn't call it the best Superman work I've seen. John Byrne and especially Dan Jurgens were way better. But this good. A bit overrated and overworshiped, but most Morrison stuff tends to be that way.
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Old December 19 2008, 05:05 AM   #7
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Thrall wrote: View Post
Morrison can write a fun little superhero nostalgia tale when he's not obsessing over tearing down the mythology, I'll give him that. Its like he saw all the Silver Age revamps Johns was making wildly successful and thought "hey that's a good idea". This is just a good ol' fashioned fun superhero story and nothing more. And there's nothing wrong with that. Its like if you took a Mark Waid story and made him shoot heroin laced with LSD. His signature "big, mindblowing concepts" are still there to mask his almost always ridiculous characterization. But it's not as obvious this time around(unlike his X-Men, Doom Patrol, and Batman runs) because unlike those other three he actually "gets" Superman. Better then most writers I'd say.

That being said there is still too much of his "look at me and how brilliant and awesome and clever I am!" style he brings to everything he writes. But unlike most of his pre and post Justice League work, it's not as noticeable.

Also, I wouldn't call it the best Superman work I've seen. John Byrne and especially Dan Jurgens were way better. But this good. A bit overrated and overworshiped, but most Morrison stuff tends to be that way.
I'll agree to differ with you on Byrne and Jurgens--their stuff was not all bad, but far from my favorite. (I'll also say that I personally think Morrison gets Batman a lot more than most who've written him in the last, oh, thirty or so years--especially Frank Miller.)

But most definitely I'll agree that he gets Superman, especially the Mort Weisinger era that All-Star builds on. One thing I love when it comes to Superman is plain good old fashioned imagination, and say what you will about Morrison, he's got that in spades. A less powerful, more down-to-earth Superman is a valid enough idea (consider Siegel and Shuster in the early days). But I like me a Superman who stands as an equal with strongmen of myth like Atlas and Samson, who is a hero renowned across whole galaxies and across the millennia to come, who forges mini-suns on an anvil of the gods to feed his pet baby Sun-Eater. A Superman who carries with him a sense of full-on, flat-out unlimited wonder.

And without giving anything away to Santanova (to whom I offer my heartiest recommendation for the back half of the series), the end of this tale is just phenomenal. Brought tears to my eyes, and the end of Superman's climactic confrontation with Luthor is just spot-on perfect.
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Old December 19 2008, 05:32 AM   #8
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

I'll agree to differ with you on Byrne and Jurgens--their stuff was not all bad, but far from my favorite. (I'll also say that I personally think Morrison gets Batman a lot more than most who've written him in the last, oh, thirty or so years--especially Frank Miller.)
Byrne created the modern Superman. His stories were just average, but the world he recreated for him has stood the test of time. He depowered him so as to make him more believable and easier to relate to. Being able to move planets got a little hard to stomach. He got rid of that silly Mad Scientist Luthor and brought in the Donald Trump version we all know and love. He gave Lois and Jimmy and the rest much more depth and personality. And he gave him a rogues gallery that he could actually struggle against.

Jurgens wrote the best Superman story ever told imo - The Death of Superman.

And I don't think Morrison gets Batman at all. OK, he doesn't write him as being as much of crazy asshole like some people do. But the only thing he "gets" about him is that he sees him as yet another venue to pull a hype-laden stunt so he generate tons of controversy and leave his name on the book. Illegitimate sons. His father faking his own death and becoming a super-villain. Destroying his whole reason for being Batman. Killing him off in the stupidest way possible. Frank Miller is insane, but even he didn't tear down Batman like this. And all of his work but Year One is relegated to his own non-canon universe.
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Old December 19 2008, 09:24 AM   #9
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Thrall wrote: View Post
Byrne created the modern Superman. His stories were just average, but the world he recreated for him has stood the test of time. He depowered him so as to make him more believable and easier to relate to. Being able to move planets got a little hard to stomach. He got rid of that silly Mad Scientist Luthor and brought in the Donald Trump version we all know and love. He gave Lois and Jimmy and the rest much more depth and personality. And he gave him a rogues gallery that he could actually struggle against.

Jurgens wrote the best Superman story ever told imo - The Death of Superman.
Fair enough. Like I say, agree to differ. I'm not knocking Byrne or Jurgens, just saying that their stuff isn't my favorite. I read and enjoyed 'em both (though out of that era, I liked Roger Stern's work better).

As to Byrne's work standing the test of time... precious little of his revamp is really in continuity any more. Most of the stories still stand, but his version of Superman's origin has been superseded; Ma and Pa Kent surviving well into Clark's adulthood and heroic career remains, though Pa has recently passed away; Lex's Trump period remains, but has been followed by a downspiral into supervillainy and mad science. So what has not been retconned out altogether has been changed as part of the ongoing storyline.

That's not to say that Byrne's work was bad or will/should be forgotten, but the fact is that a lot of what he did has been undone.

Thrall wrote: View Post
And I don't think Morrison gets Batman at all. OK, he doesn't write him as being as much of crazy asshole like some people do. But the only thing he "gets" about him is that he sees him as yet another venue to pull a hype-laden stunt so he generate tons of controversy and leave his name on the book. Illegitimate sons. His father faking his own death and becoming a super-villain. Destroying his whole reason for being Batman. Killing him off in the stupidest way possible. Frank Miller is insane, but even he didn't tear down Batman like this. And all of his work but Year One is relegated to his own non-canon universe.
I don't know if I'd equate writing a controversial storyline with a failure to 'get' a character. As much as Batman RIP has created an uproar (and I grant that the story's execution is flawed, though I'm not opposed to the concept), it also contains a bit where Alfred sums up Morrison's take on Batman brilliantly...

"Master Bruce has a very clear idea of human perfection towards which he constantly strives, you understand. The absolute physical mastery of the top martial artists, gymnasts or yogins... the logical and deductive skills of master philosophers, forensic scientists, and detectives... the understanding, discrimination, and moral clarity of ultimate zen adepts... need I continue? His is a mind like no other. I have grave doubts either of us will ever fully comprehend its decisions, but we must never underestimate its strength and resilience."

(Batman 676)

Comes a lot closer to the mark, for me, than, say (to pull a line out of a hat) "I love being the goddamn Batman."

The idea of an illegitimate son with Talia has been floating around for a while, long before Morrison (admittedly not as part of mainstream continuity, but it's been out there all the same). It's by no means certain that the bad guy is actually Thomas Wayne. And although a lot of things are still unclear about the incident with the helicopter, it's a known fact that Batman didn't die in the explosion.

I could gently point out that to use the phrases "the best Superman story ever told imo - The Death of Superman" (or indeed "Byrne created the modern Superman") and "pull a hype-laden stunt so he generate tons of controversy and leave his name on the book" in the same post is an interesting choice. It strikes me that one argument might undercut the other a little bit, but I'm not sure which.

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Old December 19 2008, 04:39 PM   #10
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Dropo wrote: View Post
I want to pick this up, but I'm going to wait with the hopes that they'll collect the entire thing in one volume.
Waiting patiently for the Absolute edition right here.
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Old December 19 2008, 04:46 PM   #11
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Thrall wrote: View Post
Byrne created the modern Superman. His stories were just average, but the world he recreated for him has stood the test of time. He depowered him so as to make him more believable and easier to relate to. Being able to move planets got a little hard to stomach.
There's merit to that viewpoint. Giving the hero limits does make the stories more suspenseful. But there's also something worthwhile about a Superman who's virtually a god, a truly mythic figure. Elliot S! Maggin did a particularly superb job making Superman interesting in that way. The problems the Superman of that era faced weren't so much ordinary things like whether he'd survive a fight, but more cosmic concerns like how to cope with the responsibility of such immense power, how to balance protecting humanity with giving people freedom to choose and make mistakes, etc. There's a definite appeal to a Superman who operates on such a grand scale and has such wild, cosmic adventures, yet still has the humility to live as an unassuming mortal who can't get the girl.

If I ever got the chance to reinvent Superman and do my own version of him, I'm really not sure whether I'd go with the more limited version or the more godlike version. I used to think I preferred the limited version, but these days I've come to appreciate the godlike version and the associated sense of wonder. My ideal would be to find a way to get the best of both, but I'm not sure that's possible.


He got rid of that silly Mad Scientist Luthor and brought in the Donald Trump version we all know and love.
Not all of us. I don't find "Trump" Luthor an appealing idea at all. My view of Luthor was shaped, again, by Maggin. In his fiction, Luthor was anything but a "silly Mad Scientist." He was the world's most brilliant man, the only intellect capable of challenging Superman's power, and he chose to do so because he believed the world needed someone to keep that immense power in check. There's something very profound about that -- someone choosing to become the world's greatest villain only because the power of the world's greatest hero needed a balance to keep it from becoming oppressive to humanity.

The idea of Luthor being nothing more than some corrupt businessman is just dull in comparison. How is that a worthy foe for Superman, even a depowered Superman? Luthor should be a genius, not just a thug in a fancy suit. I was glad that Superman: The Animated Series struck a balance between the two versions; although he started out being just a business mogul, it gradually became apparent that he'd built his empire on his own technical brilliance.
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Old December 19 2008, 05:34 PM   #12
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Excellent points, Christopher. I've always been a fan of Maggin's Superman, for precisely the reasons you mention. His novel Last Son Of Krypton does a great job of exploring the characters of Superman and Luthor. And I loved his run in the comics... paired with the late, great Curt Swan, the definitive Superman artist, he produced some great stuff.

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Old December 19 2008, 06:30 PM   #13
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

Christopher wrote: View Post

He got rid of that silly Mad Scientist Luthor and brought in the Donald Trump version we all know and love.
Not all of us. I don't find "Trump" Luthor an appealing idea at all. My view of Luthor was shaped, again, by Maggin. In his fiction, Luthor was anything but a "silly Mad Scientist." He was the world's most brilliant man, the only intellect capable of challenging Superman's power, and he chose to do so because he believed the world needed someone to keep that immense power in check. There's something very profound about that -- someone choosing to become the world's greatest villain only because the power of the world's greatest hero needed a balance to keep it from becoming oppressive to humanity.

The idea of Luthor being nothing more than some corrupt businessman is just dull in comparison. How is that a worthy foe for Superman, even a depowered Superman? Luthor should be a genius, not just a thug in a fancy suit. I was glad that Superman: The Animated Series struck a balance between the two versions; although he started out being just a business mogul, it gradually became apparent that he'd built his empire on his own technical brilliance.
I can't disagree with you more. I don't think you've read some of the better Luthor stories in the past 20 years or so (The Unauthorized Biography of Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel). He wasn't just a corrupt businessman. He's a guy who takes what he wants in life because, in his mind, there's no one that deserves it more than him. He's above building petty little tinker toys and ray guns, that's for others to do for him. I find the idea of a man as brilliant as Luthor becoming some villain only to keep Superman in check quite ridiculous. That's not profound, it's insane and Luthor's anything but insane.

Luthor hates Superman for two reasons. One, because he represents a level that humanity can never reach on their own and it bothers him. Secondly, and most importantly, he hates Superman because Superman honestly thinks he can stop Lex Luthor and no one does that.
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Old December 19 2008, 07:02 PM   #14
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

slappy wrote: View Post
I find the idea of a man as brilliant as Luthor becoming some villain only to keep Superman in check quite ridiculous. That's not profound, it's insane and Luthor's anything but insane.
So are you saying I'm insane to find it intriguing? Just because you don't personally find the idea appealing doesn't make it all right to ridicule it in a way that impugns the judgment of those who like it. I recommend you find more diplomatic ways of expressing your opinions.

And I can't understand for the life of my why you'd dismiss it as insane or ridiculous. Power, even with the best of intentions behind it, is a dangerous thing. Unchecked benevolent power can easily turn into benevolent oppression. Just ask the subjects of the British Empire or the peoples of the various Second and Third World nations that America's benevolent interventions have royally screwed up. It's entirely rational to believe that absolute power needs to be kept in check. There are some very complex philosophical issues at work here. Maggin brought some real moral ambiguity to it. His Superman was a nearly Christlike figure who was fundamentally good, but even so, his great power created a danger to humanity, a danger of losing freedom or becoming too dependent on him. Even in the ultimate good, there was the potential for harm -- so that maybe the world needed an "anti-Superman" to impose limits on him.

Luthor hates Superman for two reasons. One, because he represents a level that humanity can never reach on their own and it bothers him. Secondly, and most importantly, he hates Superman because Superman honestly thinks he can stop Lex Luthor and no one does that.
That's not incompatible with a more Maggin-like approach to Luthor. The first is consistent with believing that Superman's power is a danger to humanity that needs to be controlled or destroyed. We saw this in the S:TAS Luthor, who worked with the military to develop anti-Superman weaponry. As for the second, Luthor's supreme arrogance is what compels him to believe that he's the only one who can match or best Superman, that no other human is on his level and neither is Superman himself. It's just that in the case of Maggin's Luthor, that arrogance is warranted because he really is as brilliant as he thinks he is. And that's what makes him a truly effective antagonist for Superman. The Byrne-style Luthor may be rich and politically powerful, he may be able to hire a bunch of scientists, but how does that make him really an equal for the Last Son of Krypton? I don't see the value in a Luthor who isn't a genius, who doesn't match Superman's physical power with an equivalent mental power. Matching it with economic or political power just seems... mundane.
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Old December 19 2008, 07:25 PM   #15
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Re: A Comic Virgins Review: Allstar Superman

^ I'm fairly sure he's only calling the idea insane, not its appreciators.

Thrall wrote: View Post
And I don't think Morrison gets Batman at all. OK, he doesn't write him as being as much of crazy asshole like some people do. But the only thing he "gets" about him is that he sees him as yet another venue to pull a hype-laden stunt so he generate tons of controversy and leave his name on the book. Illegitimate sons. His father faking his own death and becoming a super-villain. Destroying his whole reason for being Batman. Killing him off in the stupidest way possible. Frank Miller is insane, but even he didn't tear down Batman like this. And all of his work but Year One is relegated to his own non-canon universe.
I agree. Morrison is the only writer I know of whose Batman writing is worse than Miller's. (And I like his work on New X-Men and All Star Superman, though think some aspects of each failed.)
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