My wife went out of town for a week and I was under a lot of stress so, in her absence, I attempted to bottom out alone in classic style — all sunk into the couch like an ingrown toenail, clad in the most minimal and blowziest of my pajama and/or pajama-adjacent articles, thumbs atwitch, hovering over the Dominos Pizza app on my phone, and, to the chagrin of my man-bae, AG, with whom I’d forged a blood-pact o’er the very ceremony in which I was about to undertake, I decided to blow three hours of my life and hate-watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
So, basically, Superman was my first crush when it came to comics. And He is, in fact, a perfect fit for love when we comics readers take to the pages young, the joy indigenous to human hearts still present within and, as of yet, undeterred. Almost every DC Comics character, hero or villain, seems to align with an unweathered sense of idealism. For me personally, It wouldn’t be until the inky tentacles of teen angst siphoned off the last of that glittering optimism that I would lean toward Marvel and its dramatis personae of freaks and geeks, all lab accidents and military experiments gone all wrong. That evolution of my comics readership occurred because as I turned 13, 14, and 15 years old I felt as though I, too, was gone all wrong.
Now I’m closing in on 40, and I’ve started to get comfortable with who I am, or, let’s be honest, grown equipped with the operational procedures to accept the fact that this is just who I am, and as much as I still wish I could be the hapless victim of a run-in with a radioactive spider or discover some latent mutant power, I’m gonna stay this way. So, as I ripen further only semi-reluctantly into middle-age, the gleaming one-sidedness of the DC Comics denizen — characters I could never be no matter how much gene splicing I underwent — have suddenly become appealing to me again.
This subject came up randomly with a pal of mine, and partner-in-geek, RM, and so we together decided to commit to the rediscovery of DC Comics hero by hero, both mythos and canon, reading and discussing our way through must-read essentials.
And so thusly, DC BOOK CLUB was born.
Honestly, it’s a seemingly productive way to hang out in a city that ain’t really retrofitted for such tomfoolery, get high or shoot hoops or eat burgers, and sit around peacocking our mutual geekery, riffing on the inane and unimportant shit that catches side-eye from the wives.
I mean, yo, at least I’M READING, right?
In any case, beginning with the Man of Tomorrow, himself — SUPERMAN — RM and I are in the midst of reading through a list of requisite titles. At the completion of each, we’ll discuss, and I’ll include my personal thoughts here, along with the veritable highlight reel of our collective opinions — where we aligned, where we differed. Then, we’ll move on to the next title. Once we feel like we’ve tackled the bulk of a hero’s most notable installments, we move on to a new character. The intention is, at the very least, I think, to work our way through all core and extended members of the Hall of Justice.
So stay tuned! #whiteboy #geek
NOTE: I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it many times more, the respective cinematic universes of Marvel and DC are what are driving me back to comics, themselves, although not that I ever truly strayed. But I waited most of my life to see my favorite comics characters on screen, and now I regret every ticket stub and every Blu-Ray. The MCU, the tsunami of comics-to-film, top-heavy and oversaturated, has somehow fed and starved a growing audience that has now become desperate for fresh takes like Thor: Ragnarok and, obviously, Black Panther. Then, of course, there’s DC — or to be fair, Warner Bros. — who is like an overconfident upperclassman who bought new shoes but didn’t show up to practice. What a misguided notion that a DCCU could stoke fire on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy without having to gather any kindling of its own.
It’s an obvious bummer that DCCU is a shit to the bed. But, I have to say, this DC BOOK CLUB is getting me through. –JT
SUPERMAN: RED SON by MARK MILLAR
OK, so, when my buddy RM and I decided to embark on mining the rich, anachronistic, mid-thirties-and-past-our-prime-friendly ore of the DC Universe, we wanted to start with what would be a sure thing. You know, like, you gotta set a solid tone straight away, which is why Bell Biv DeVoe is always the first track on any killer mix-tape.
Well, the sure thing, it turned out, was Mark Millar’s DC Elseworld prestige format modern classic, Superman: Red Son.
BAM! off the top of the dome, I’m going to tell you geeks that if, for whatever reason, you have not held a copy of this book in your hands and read it — maybe you’re a shut-in or maybe you’re an invalid, but I don’t know your life, man, maybe you hate things that are awesome? I DON’T KNOW — get your shit together and get in your Yaris and drive to the fucking mall and cringe as they swipe your debit card, and don’t forget to validate your parking, and drive back home and sit on your couch and do all this shit right now, Eric. Or Darren, or Chris, or Laura, or whatever the fuck your name is, or give me your goddamn postal address and I will have Amazon heli-drone a copy of it right into your fucking home, or whatever they do now, like, maybe they’ll roll it up and fire it at you out of their Amazon.com cannon!
Oh, and for the sake of you disappointing and shameful lot, I’ll try to make this shit short, and as spoiler-free as possible, btw.
One of the main reasons RM and I chose Superman as the foundation on which to build this book club empire of ours, aside from the fact that, y’know, he’s the real OG and what not, was because we got suddenly keen on the many modern retellings of DC’s Silver and Bronze Age comics, as well as reinterpretations of the many-splintered aspects of Superman’s origin story, specifically. Also, Superman’s been in the vocab anyway, thanks in big part to the release and current run of Geoff Johns’ dope Watchmen/DC remix, Superman: Doomsday Clock.
For all the many above reasons, Superman: Red Son, in my humble opinion was the total imperfectly perfect choice with which we should begin.
In the alternate comic reality of Superman: Red Son, Kal-El’s spaceship crash lands on a Ukranian collective farm in the early part of the 20th Century, obvs instead of Kansas, USA. Then, in 1953, Superman is revealed to the rest of the world as the Soviet Union’s dominant military asset, at which point America’s trip-wired Cold War panic sets in motion a CIA-sponsored anti-Superman plot, with co-conspirators Agent James Olsen and S.T.A.R. Labs scientist, Lex Luthor, running point. The result of the effort is a US-issued Superman clone, and when things predictably go south, the consequences give delightfully justified birth to Luthor’s lifelong pursuit of Superman’s undoing.
The storyline presents alternate comic versions of DC favorites Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and others, as well as alternate reality version of historical figures like John F. Kennedy and Joseph Stalin. It’s a wondrous and complete reimagining, if not just a touch incoherent in its probability.
What I mean by that last bit is, if the logic of this alternate reality holds water, then Superman is basically a trigger for the existence of most, maybe all, of DC Comics’ cast of dramatis personae.
That criticism is a mere trifle, though, compared with the overall. This comic is the right stuff, Chuck. Epic stakes rooted in the very real era politics of the mid 20th Century, and its particular depiction of Superman as national figurehead, absent of a secret identity, by the way, is as appropriate or clear and well-drawn as any that has ever existed. So much so, that if this Superman is the Superman that such circumstances would produce, then I’d prefer the Soviet Union just have him, because Miller has tapped into all the quintessentials.
More often than not, I find Silver and Bronze Ages comics don’t really line up with my then or current (or forever) sensibilities, and that’s one of the reasons I never really fell in line with DC when I started reading. They have a tendency to be too cornball for my taste, but that is in no way meant to imply that I don’t consider them relevant to the culture-at-large, or to all the many other readers tastes. Like I’ve been saying, it’s become clear to me that I’m a late-in-life covert to the DC, and so I’m still fuzzy on a lot of the mythology — like post-Infinite Crisis universe continuity, for example, as well as the many resultant editorial efforts to reclarify and establish particular storylines as “neo-definitive.” Still, on occasion, despite their newness, I continue to find that even the retconned elements of many storylines run quite antithetical to my liking.
But this is why I found Superman: Red Son to be so imperfectly perfect. This comic manages to capture to maintain the heart, but its eye is cynical. It’s like when Daniel Desario gets down on some D&D with Sam, Bill, and Neil late in series on Freaks & Geeks. Superman: Red Son (and let’s face it, Mark Millar) is the badass dude in the leather jacket who somehow found his way to your table top fantasy role-playing game, and you’re all asking yourselves how we all ended up here.
As a final note, the one-two gut punch of the far-flung future epilogue posits a predestination paradox that will make any geek boner blast off into outer-fucking-space, so get to your shop, or get online, and buy this shit right now. You will not regret. —10/10