From October, 1965, another three-story issue, this one featuring:
“The Insect Queen of Smallville” – Superboy’s girlfriend, Lana Lang, becomes a super-hero! Now, it’s important to understand that, if you’re Kal-El / Clark Kent and it’s not yet 1970, “girlfriend” is another word for “arch-nemesis.” Like Lois Lane in his adult life, Lana exists at this point only to try and prove that mild-mannered Clark Kent is actually the last son of Krypton. Also like Lois, she’s really bad at the job, and similarly obsessed with it.
This time out, Lana happens upon a spaceman in the woods, as teenage girls in small towns in the Midwest were wont to do back in the day. Said spaceman (now we would say “extraterrestrial,” but this was literally a little, green man.) She frees him from beneath a fallen tree. In gratitude, he gives her a ring which allows her to assume the powers of any insect.
So last night I saw this film, and on these very (virtual) pages said that it was the best Wonder Woman film of 2017. It was, because it communicated what the character was all about, which Patty Jenkins’s blockbuster starring Gal Gadot did not.
Wonder Woman was about love, pacifism and hope. She was about the triumph of compassion over war, over evil, over hate. I say she was about those things because she often is not about them anymore. In her new, iconic incarnation, she’s about women being able to be just as strong, just as aggressive, just as violent as men. That is not what her creator intended.
So I just got back from seeing Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, written and directed by Angela Robinson. I want to tell you why it’s a better Wonder Woman story than the one which starred Gal Gadot this past Summer, but I think I’ll start by explaining why the Gal Gadot film (actually, the Patty Jenkins film) disappointed me. I wrote this review the day after seeing that Summer blockbuster, but I didn’t publish it. It felt like I was spitting into the wind, because damn near everyone had declared that Wonder Woman (2017) was just the best superhero film ever–especially people who knew nothing about Wonder Woman and didn’t like superhero films.
Now, though, presented with what I think is a far superior film about Wonder Woman, if not starring the character, I want to share what I wrote then. Tomorrow, I hope to share my reflections on Robinson’s film.
A Lifelong Wonder Woman fan’s response to Patty Jenkins’s film
(Consider yourself spoiler-warned right now. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know plot details.)
I love super heroines. Always have. Before I started reading comic books, the women of the Starship Enterprise fascinated me. A while back I wrote this tribute to the character I thought was Captain Kirk’s equal as an officer and an action-heroine.
As was typical of the times (1962), this issue contains three stories. The cover actually references the third and shortest of them, “When the World Forgot Superman.” These were the days when the editor (Mort Weisinger, if memory serves) would have the artist draw a sensational cover, depicting an incident likely to make a reader ask, “How could that ever happen?!” And then the writer would be told to make that happen in a story. In this case, Superman returns from a mission in space to find that no one in Metropolis knows who he is, although, appropriately, they still know Clark Kent. How could this happen? Well, the answer is pretty obvious, if you know your Superman lore.
The first issue of the much-heralded story, “The Oz Effect.” Who is Mr. Oz? Well, he’s a character who first appeared a couple years back in a middle-numbered issue of the last run of Superman. That was before DC launched “Rebirth,” this… um… lessee… Crisis, Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis (do we count Final Crisis?)… New 52… Sixth? Fifth and a half reboot—well, now, I guess the introduction of the Silver Age Flash and all his JLA kin was also a reboot, so let’s go with six and a half reboots—six or seventh reboot of the DC Universe. Anyway, Mr. Oz is more than one reboot old, which is pretty damn ancient in DC terms, and he’s shown up a few dozen times these past few months, including in the eponymous DC Rebirth one-shot that started all the current shooting.
In this opening tale, the mysterious Mr. Oz declares that the human race does not deserve Superman or his family. Humans are just too selfish and petty, too easily swung toward the wrong choice, too prone to bring chaos. So Mr. Oz decided to give them a little push towards just that, in hopes of showing Kal-El that humanity is just not worth his time.
Right at the end, we learn the true identity of Mr. Oz. No spoilers, and I’m pretty sure it won’t stick; but it guarantees that this is a story I’ll want to read. Of course, so does Dan Jurgens name in the credits, but still…
A well-crafted story that touches on an old (but never-answered) question about being Superman: What the hell does he do when a lot of things go wrong at once? Here a lot of things do go wrong, and it’s enough to drive even the eldest of the super heroes to despair. Kudos to Jurgens for political even-handedness, by the way. There is, predictably, a white supremacist attack on helpless immigrants depicted. It’s the first crime Superman prevents. It’s followed up quickly by a thug spouting Occupy rhetoric as he tries to burn down someone’s house. It’s refreshing to see a piece of mass entertainment remind us that there are extremists on both ends of the spectrum, and they’re all dangerous.
I have a great fondness for Giant-Size comics. When I started reading, DC was in its phase of publishing its most popular comics as 100-pagers, with a wealth of reprint material from the 1940s up through the 1960s. It was a great way for a new reader to get immersed in the history of the characters, and, of course, a kid got the equivalent of four comics for little more than the price of two. I have no problems with comics for adults, but I think it’s important to keep them accessible to kids. Childhood is where we really learn to dream and imagine.
Anyway, I grab 80-page and 100-page issues from the past whenever I can. This one doesn’t offer much variety. It contains reprints of Bizarro World stories which had run monthly in Adventure Comics only about five years before this issue was published. They’re a bit repetitive—Bizarro’s obsession with Frankenstein shapes at least two of the stories. But they’re fun, especially when other members of the Superman family guest star. There’s not much depth to 1960s DC stories, at least those published before they shook things up around 1968; but they’re almost always fun.
One thing I find odd, in all the play that Bizarro got as a character in the 1960s, his origin was never represented in the course of my readings. Any time he appeared, we were just told he was the result of some scientist pointing an imperfect duplication ray at Superman. Although, in one story in this issue, we’re told it was pointed at Superboy instead. Continue reading
Two months ago, in honor of July 4th, Peter J. Tomasi, one of my favorite comics writers, together with Patrick Gleason, offered up a two-part Superman story called “Declaration.” Lois, Clark and their son, Jon, take a tour of the United States to visit historic sites. On this trip, they meet the Dowd family, who, for 154 years, have celebrated the birthday of Thomas Dowd, their ancestor, at Gettysburg. Thomas died in a military hospital and his body was never recovered. The story brought tears to my eyes, and not only because Tomasi and Gleason told it so well.
You see, I have a Thomas who fought in the Civil War. His name was Thomas Rathbone, and he too died in a military hospital. He was my great, great grandfather. His body, too, was never returned home. Over a century later, some of his descendants journeyed to Ashland, VA, to place a marker on a mass grave where we think he was buried.
The fictional Thomas Dowd fought for the Union army. The very real Thomas Rathbone fought for the Confederacy.