I find J. Michael Straczynski to be a very frustrating writer. If his work was merely bad or uninteresting it would be easy to dismiss him, but unfortunately he is a good writer who frequently comes up with fascinating ideas for the comics he writes. The central premise of his Supreme Power series from 2004, that no one could wield the power of a Superman, Wonder Woman or even Batman without being hopelessly insane, had been touched on before, but never with quite the intensity or attention to realistic historical detail. The problem with Supreme Power, and with most of the series that Straczynski writes, was that he never really finished it, he just let it fizzle out.
Even more disappointing than Supreme Power was the Thor relaunch in 2007. It had a wonderful premise that followed on perfectly from the destruction of Asgard in the previous Thor series, with Thor seeking his fellow Asgardians who had been reincarnated in the forms of mortals and scattered across the world, and establishing a new Asgard in, of all places, Oklahoma. It was a great set up for a series, and the new Asgard’s small town Oklahoma neighbors provided some much needed comedy relief for the traditionally humorless series. But Straczynski seemed to get bored with the whole thing pretty quickly, and he rushed through the search for the Asgardians, then fell back on the same old tired “what’s devious old Loki up to now” plots that have plagued the book for years.
Don’t even get me started on The Twelve, a proposed 12 issue miniseries about Marvel’s forgotten 1950s characters, which never made it past issue 8.
So it was with great irritation that I read that Straczynski would be taking over writing on Superman, one of my favorite ongoing superhero books. I decided that I would have none of it, I wouldn’t set myself up for disappointment again. He was starting with issue 701, so I would end my collection with issue 700, a nice round number. Unfortunately for my plan, Straczynski’s story actually started at the end of issue 700, and in spite of myself I was intrigued enough to want to read on. I read issue 701 with every intention of hating it…
But I have to admit, it was one of the more enjoyable Superman comics I’ve read in quite some time.
The story starts with Superman deciding that he spends too much time up in the sky, that he’s lost touch with the regular people that he’s dedicated his life to protecting. For the most part I agree. The “New Krypton” storyline that has consumed the Superman books for the past two years has been epic and ambitious, but it’s also been a bit too much about fighting and conflict between various super beings, which is all too prevalent in most modern superhero comics. I like Superman best when the stories are about him helping people, whether it’s saving them from burning buildings or getting their cats out of trees, and that seems to be the thing Straczynski’s storyline is going to focus on, as Superman decides to forego flying and walk from one end of the country to the other.
The pacing is nice and leisurely, spending time on little incidents of Superman connecting with ordinary life and ordinary people. No other costumed characters appear in the story at all, and other than a very brief appearance by Lois Lane, none of Superman’s regular cast of supporting characters appear either. It’s just scene after scene of Superman using his powers to help people, and it’s very well written. The dialogue is some of the most natural I’ve seen in a Superman book in years, and this is where Straczynski’s vast experience as a film and television writer are on display. The writing is humorous without being resorting to comic relief, and emotional without being sentimental.
Superman says he’s going to walk the length of the country. Given Straczynski’s recent track record, I’m betting he’ll either give up by the time he gets to St. Louis or we’ll jump ahead to his arrival in Alaska. But if he doesn’t, if Straczynski takes his time to explore this idea before jumping to one of the many other great ideas I’m sure he already has for the character, it could be a journey worth sticking around for. I guess we’ll see.
— Jefferson Powers
After several years of closely connected storylines, DC’s various Superman titles are now going in different directions, and perhaps the most dramatic change is that Action Comics, the title that Superman debuted in back in 1938, will now be headlined by none other than Lex Luthor.
When I first heard about it I was intrigued by the idea. Under the right writer Luthor is a fascinating character, and Paul Cornell, a veteran of British television (including the critically acclaimed Doctor Who episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood) should bring a fresh perspective, and Cornell’s characterization of Luthor is definitely a highlight of the book. While he occasionally lapses into the tired ruthless corporate CEO cliché that has plagued the character since the 1980s, this Luthor has a cocky sparkle to him, and Cornell’s sharp writing makes me believe two important things: that Luthor is A: a genius and B: completely insane.
The story itself is serviceable, picking up where Luthor’s involvement in the Blackest Night storyline left off. His exposure to the orange power ring has left him even more greedy for power than he was before, and so he embarks on a quest to find a way to create his own power ring. He is assisted by the usual corporate toadies, but also with what may end up being one of the more interesting characters in the series: a robot duplicate of Lois Lane, programmed to challenge Luthor, to give him, in his own words, “a viewpoint that’s not entirely about need.”
Of course Luthor follows this explanation of the robot Lois’ purpose with the following statement, which really sums up the tone of the writing: “That will be especially useful when I’m becoming a god in space.” The plot really isn’t all that important, it’s just a vehicle for Luthor’s character.
Paul Cornell seems to have a firm handle on that character, and so far he has avoided the pitfalls that usually befall villain-led books, largely by avoiding having Superman or any other heroes appear in the story at all. This is Lex Luthor’s book, and the story is told squarely from his point of view. In his mind at least, he is the hero.
— Jefferson Powers
Week of April 11th, 2007
The apology for this week’s show is that there’s a really bad echo on Jefferson’s microphone. We got Jonathan a new headset mic after the first 3 shows, and he sounds much better ever since, we’ve ordered the same one for Jefferson.
1. Fake casting notice for the Superhero Guys in The Dark Knight, sent in by Blake.
2. We also answer Blake’s question about rumored villains in the next Superman sequel, as part of that we get a little into the history of Brainiac.
3. Jason asks us an entry on Wil Wheaton’s where he is asked about being in Watchmen, we discuss the possibility and the quote from the movie’s directory Zach Snyder about the direction the casting will take.
4. Jason also asks about Heroes and whether the hiatus is too long and if that can hurt a show, we have several different opinions on this one. We compare Heroes to Lost, X-Files and 24.
5. Jeff from Thornton CO asks about what characters would we like to see made into movies and TV shows. Not a small subject.
1. One last 300 box office report.
2. Incredible Hulk updates, new effects company, etc.
3. Eric Johnson (Smallville) will be Flash in SciFi Channel’s Flash Gordon TV series.
4. Leslie Bibb cast in Iron Man.
5. First set pictures from Iron Man are out, are Tony Stark and Pepper Potts an item in the film?
6. Lauren Shuler-Donner producing DC’s The Metal Men.
7. Ben Stiller producing an animated film for Dreamworks Animation called MasterMind.
8. Ghost Rider on DVD June 12.
9. The Secrets of Isis complete series on July 24.
10. New David Goyer project, Super Max, must be heard to be believed.
1. Returning cast and director for Spider-Man 4?
2. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon in talks to play Speed Racer’s parents.
3. Nadia Bjorlin is not Wonder Woman.
4. Jason Schwartzman in a possible cameo in Spider-Man 3.
5. Orlando Bloom in a future Superman film? Based on a lunch sighting.
Categories: Podcasts Tags: Animation, Ben Stiller, Cory Gray, Eric Johnson (Smallville), Iron Man, Isis, Jason Schwartzman, John Goodman, Lauren Shuler-Donner, Leslie Bibb, Nadia Bjorlin, One, Orlando Bloom, Pepper Potts, Speed Racer, Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man 4, Susan Sarandon, The Dark Knight, Thornton CO, Tony Stark, Wil Wheaton, director for Spider-Man, superman
Week of March 21st 2007 (The show was uploaded very late, that will not happen this week, promise!)
Frank Miller corrections.
1. Green Hornet optioned by Columbia.
2. Jefferson talks about some other comics properties optioned, Whiteout and The Surrogates.
3. We talk a lot about movie options.
3. Joss Whedon is off the Wonder Woman movie.
4. David Goyer is off The Flash.
5. What’s up with DC?
6. New DVD releases this summer, animated Batman from 1977, animated Superman from 1966.
7. A big discussion about an interview Zack Snyder (300 director) did this week about Watchmen.
We get on the Rumor Treadmill and discuss rumors about:
3. The Dark Knight
4. The next Superman sequel
We also discuss whether the Transformers movie will suck, and why the Hellboy animated movies rule. We also whine about Cartoon Network’s scheduling.
Superhero Theater 2.0
Friday Just for Fun Friday
6:00pm Hero at Large (1980)
8:00pm Sky High (2005)
10:00pm Comic Book the Movie (2004) starring Mark Hamill
Saturday Superman Saturday
10:00am Batman Beyond (1999) Animated Movie with George Takei
11:30am Superboy (1961) and Superpup (1958) Unaired TV Pilots
12:00pm Smallville (2005) Run with The Flash
1:00pm Director Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns Video Diaries
2:00pm Justice League Unlimited (2004) For the Man Who Has Everything
2:30pm Superman Animated (1996) Brave New Metropolis
3:00pm Fan Films and Movie Trailers
4:00pm Lois and Clark (1993) A Bolt From the Blue with Denise Crosby
5:00pm Birds of Prey (2002) Prey For The Hunter with Joe Flanigan
6:00pm It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman (1975) Broadway Musical
7:30pm Superman: The Movie (1978)
10:00pm Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
Sunday Major Marvel Sunday
10:00am Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked (2003) Documentary
11:30am Fan Films and Movie Trailers
12:30pm Avengers: United They Stand (1999) Avengers Assemble
1:00pm Pryde of the X-Men (1989) Animated Pilot
1:30pm Generation X (1996) TV Movie
3:00pm Upcoming Superhero Movie and TV Projects Panel
4:00pm Spiderman Animated (1994) Doctor Strange with George Takei
4:30pm Fantastic Four (1994) Unreleased Feature
Friday The New Breed
6:00pm Blade II (2002)
8:00pm The Incredibles (2004)
10:00pm Hellboy (2004)
Saturday Marvel Madness
8:00am Captain America (1966) Animated
8:30am Sub-Mariner (1966) Animated
9:00am Incredible Hulk (1966) Animated
9:30am Spider-Man (1967) Animated
10:00am The Amazing Spider-Man (1978)
11:30am Spider-Man Animated (2002) Flash Memory with Jeffrey Combs
12:00pm The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) with Daredevil
1:30pm Incredible Hulk (1982) Animated Origin of the Hulk
2:00pm X2: X-Men United (2003)
4:00pm Fantastic Four (1994) Unreleased Feature
5:30pm Fantastic Four (1978) Animated and Trailers for new FF movie
6:00pm Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979) TV Movie
7:30pm X-Men Evolution (2004) Animated with Captain America
8:00pm Dr. Strange (1978) TV Movie
9:30pm Incredible Hulk (1996) Animated with Dr. Strange
10:00pm Doctor Mordrid (1992) “Dr. Strange” film starring Jeffrey Combs
Sunday DC Dazzle
8:00am Superman (1966) Animated
8:30am Flash (1966) Animated
9:00am Justice League (1966) Animated
9:30am Justice League Unlimited (2004) Fearful Symmetry
with Jeffrey Combs
10:00am Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
11:30am Batman Fan Films and Trailers for Batman Begins
12:00pm The New Original Wonder Woman (1975)
1:30pm Justice League Unlimited (2004) Hawk and Dove
2:00pm Upcoming Superhero Projects Discussion
3:00pm The Flash (1990) Captain Cold with Jeffrey Combs
4:00pm Superman: The Movie (1978)