Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Superman

When I was a kid, I had some Superman activity book that listed Big Blue's birthday as February 29. For some reason, my brain has decided to retain that information while the quadratic equation has completely disappeared. I haven't seen the date mentioned in recent Superman lore, but even though no one else seems to care enough about Superman, a guy who's saved our planet about five times a day for 70 years, to celebrate the anniversary of his...his what? His birth on Krypton? His rocketship's arrival on Earth? Or is Feb. 29 just a lie he told Lois Lane to throw her off the trail of his dual identity as newsman Clark Kent?

If you've read more than three posts here at Bulldozer/Wreckingball, you've probably figured out that I'm pretty wild about Superman. I was as a young tyke, and then I went through a twenty-year phase where I thought I was too cool for Super-School. I was wrong. Oh, sure, there have been a lot of really terrible Superman stories that only reinforce the misconception that Superman is a total square (the 90s mullet didn't help).
Here are some recommendations of stories that will hopefully make you fall in love with Superman as hard as I did.

Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 1: This black & white reprint collection is almost entirely issues of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen from the mid-50s, which is maybe the best POV from which to view the classic iteration of Superman. With Superman relegated to supporting player status, he becomes slightly more accessible and a lot more fun. Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 2 just came out this week and finds Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane getting equal play. I'm only about 30 pages into the over-500 page book, but already it's as gnarly as the first volume.

The Superman Chronicles Vol. 1: This colour reprint package collects the first year or so of Superman's published existence. It's pretty mind-blowing to see how raw the character was at the beginning.

All Star Superman #5: The whole series is highly recommended, and I'm sure the first six issues have been collected in hardcover by now, but this issue in particular is frighteningly amazing.

The Day of the Krypton Man: I don't know if this early-1990 storyline that ran through Action Comics, Adventures of Superman and Superman has been collected, but it's a fun romp as an ancient Kryptonian artifact called the Eradicator slowly turns the midwest farmers' son Clark Kent into freaky spaceman Kal-El. Along the way Supes fights a vengeful, cab-riding alien...on the moon.

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil: Okay, this isn't actually Superman at all, but Captain Marvel, a Superman clone from the 40s who was briefly more popular than Superman himself (Elvis was a fan). This 2007 miniseries by Bone genius Jeff Smith returns Captain Marvel to the awesomeness he has been missing for the last 30 years. Mike Kunkel is doing a sort-of follow-up ongoing series due out later this year that promises to be fun. Below is an advance look at Kunkel's take on Captain Marvel's mad scientist enemy Dr. Sivana. YES. Anyway, Captain Marvel provides yet another way of looking at Superman, though the best stuff (like this) tends to mostly treat the Shazam fam sui generis.

mp3: "Man of Steel" by Frank Black
mp3: "Love Your Spaceman" by Robert Pollard

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