Life looks better in black and white.
Prince Lemur Protector on Marvel Super Hero Squad Online
Even now, when for example I look at the cover galleries for a given month, the Marvel covers tend to pop out at me while, with a few exceptions (e.g. House of Mystery, the Kirby stuff, Wrightson Swamp Thing) I don't see the DC ones unless I make an effort to look for them. Speaking mainly of the 60s and 70s, mind. After that they tend to look much the same.
I tend to split superhero comics fans into "People who like Krypto" and "People who don't like Krypto."
Basically, if you miss the wonder of a dog flying around in a little Superman cape, you're in the wrong hobby.
Last edited by The Beast Of Yucca Flats; 08-10-2012 at 01:53 PM. Reason: Remembered some sources. Oh, and one's actual title.
"'Kirby got a shitty contract too, so get over it' isn't a great tagline."
Being of almost the same generation as Moore and Morrison, I think that the cosmic meaning behind Lee and Kirby and Ditko's Marvel was always obvious. Not only did fandom almost immediately start unpacking all the significance of the work--the creators themselves were never left speechless. We heard it all and very loud.
DC's Silver Age, by contrast, was given short shrift and even debased. You didn't see a lot of fans investigating all the meaning in these comics. And the folks at DC--traditionally conservative--were not saying anything. It was easy to think that there was nothing there.
So what is the greater challenge for a fan? To explicate Marvel's cosmology--done and done--or to investigate the hidden depths of DC? I think the choice is obvious.
Moore and Morrison have understood that just because DC was subtle that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot going on below the surface. Attempting to show all this hidden meaning, in an artistic way, is certainly more interesting than doing another perfect parody of Lee and Kirby. (Which have been done by what? a million creative teams by now?)
Returning to Supreme for a moment, one thing should be made clear. In Moore's Supremacy, there is already a King Supreme, who seems meant to stand for the Weisinger Era Superman. This is different from the main Supreme featured in "The Story of the Year," although there are some common features between the two. So strictly speaking, Moore's Ethan Crane is not the Silver Age Superman--he's a revitalized version of the same, whereas King Supreme is the real deal. With both versions of Supreme--Alan Moore seems to be saying that Superman went downhill after Weisinger left (Supreme goes into outer space around 1970). I take from that that Moore doesn't have a high opinion of the Schwartz Era Superman (not very nice given that he worked with Julius Schwartz on a few Superman stories). Wheareas--if All-Star Superman is taken as evidence--I'd say Morrison paid as much tribute to the Schwartz Superman as Weisinger.
Both Moore and Morrison (in Supreme and in All-Star) aren't presenting an authentic version of the Silver Age Superman. That's not their intent. Rather they are showing how elements from various versions of Superman can be amalgamated into a new and satisfying version of the character.
Moore is sorta the opposite. He loved the early Marvel titles, but he couldn't always get his hands on them.
I really enjoyed Supreme: The Story of the Year and Judgment Day, but I didn't care much for Supreme: The Return.
Checker got a bad rap for poor production values, but I am glad that they took the chance and gave us collections of these three lost Alan Moore tales.
It's not his best work, but, not his worst, by a long shot. I loved Rick Veitch's art in the series and thought the other artists gave a great effort.
Checker did put out two leather-bound volumes to go along with the regular trade paperback releases. The company kept having to resolicit the leather-bound editions because they couldn't get enough people to buy them. When they finally did come out, around two years late, they were extremely limited (maybe just a little more than 200 copies of each volume) and very expensive. I think they retailed at, like, $75 each. I pre-ordered a set and then had to wait and wait. My retailer was very honest about why they kept getting resolicited and I kept in touch with the publisher about them. When they were finally released, they were beautiful white, leather editions, but had no dust jackets and look rather plain. Still, they are extremely rare and really nice to put on a bookshelf.
There's a book by Grant Morrison called Supergods. I haven't read it (I have lots of books on my shelves crying out to be read first), but I was thumbing through it in the bookstore the other day. And numerous posters have quoted from it in various threads. It's a collection of essays about many different superheroes and their history. In one essay he talks about Mort Weisinger and the fact that Mort was going through psycho-therapy when a lot of his Superman plots were being hatched.
Likewise, there have been several interviews with Alan Moore over the years where he expounds on his ideas about characters like Superman and Batman. And there's Alvin Schwartz's blending of fact and fiction in An Unlikely Prophet--in which he reveals a lot of subtext about Superman (I know he planned a sequel featuring Batman, but I don't know if he ever finished it). And Moore said that Schwartz's book was an influence on him.
If you really look at the stories from the Weisinger Era, you begin to see all kinds of psychological complexity below the surface. These crazy plots sometimes are working on the level of dream (and probably influenced Neil Gaiman's version of Sandman). I think these stories are much more interesting than the comics which are instantly decipherable. On the surface stories are easy to understand, but when you start to ask yourself why these characters do what they do, it's like going down the rabbit hole.
Take Jimmy Olsen as an example. Cary Bates once summed up his characterization--"Jimmy is an idiot," or words to that effect. Jimmy is all impulse and little control. He chases after women and messes up time and again. He's not unlike most males. But he looks good in a dress and gets cat-calls from the other guys in the office. What is going on here? Unpacking all Jimmy's psychological baggage would have us here all day.
Partly because of the constraints of the age and partly because of DC's own idiosyncrasy, we were never given real answers why the characters acted so strangely. Whereas, Marvel often spends most of their pages laying out why things are strange (because of doings with Loki or Dormamu or Norman Osborn). It's almost like a Pinter play, where there's something in the basement at DC, but we never see it.
A lot of this seems to come up from the unconscious of the writers. Although, I wouldn't want to say it was all instinctive. I'm sure some of those writers were deep thinkers and recognized that they were putting their bete noires on the page.
And again, with artists like Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger, the art isn't full of hyperbole. It's restrained, but beneath that surface beauty you get a sense of desperation. I think the fact that most people look normal in the Superman comics and everything has this modern urban sheen works with the twisted psychology of the comics. In those days, everyone was trying to be normal--and all their weirdness was kept out of sight and behind closed doors.
It always confounds me when fans either say that Silver Age stories are silly--if they're articulate--or stupid--if they're inarticulate. And their examination of the story ends there! If you've come to such a conclusion doesn't that demand a closer examination? We can assume that the creators had some reason for making these stories--why would they make something that is silly? Doesn't such a conclusion simply lead to a further level of reading, to see what's below the surface?
"Invasion of the Super-Ants" is always tossed aside by pop culture critics as the most obvious example of a silly Superman story. But I wonder if they ever got beyond the cover for Action Comics 296--which is certainly silly as it shows an ant-headed Superman leading an invasion of giant red ants (but beautifully illustrated by Curt Swan and George Klein). Yet what is Superman's purpose in this red ant ruse? To show the world's two super-powers the threat posed by nuclear proliferation. Note, Superman doesn't simply condemn the Soviet Union for its nuclear program--a popular notion in 1962--he condemns the United States in the same breath, hardly an attitude that was in fashion with the nation's hawks. So beneath this ha-ha funny story (illustrated by Al Plastino), the editor (Weisinger) and the writer (Edmond Hamilton--a giant among Superman writers) are sending a serious message to their own government. Little kids are reading this morality play and they understand that the development of nuclear weapons isn't good for any of us. This was possibly one of the most important stories published at that time, because of the power that Superman had over his young readers--but all today's critics can think about is that Superman looks funny with an ant head. Who is being superficial?
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I suppose my feeling is that everything has sub-text, more than one layer of it, and what I see in the classic DC comics doesn't interest me enough to let me overlook my distaste for what I find an unbearably bland surface. IOW, I'd disagree that everything is displayed up-front in the classic Marvel books. The surface there can be more distracting, because there is more going on there than is usual with classic DC, but the subtext is there as well. Mind you, some of that subtext is not always very pretty when you look at it, but that goes for DC as well.
But regarding the long, silly Superman season, I always thought there was something rather frightening, or at least disturbing, lurking below the preposterous covers. Why is Superman trying to kill Supergirl?; Why is Jimmy Olsen, trying to betray his best friend Superman?; Why is Superman, the irreproachable, in turn trying to humiliate his friend Jimmy Olsen? Why is Lois, who ever loves Superman, now trying to harm him with such a look of demented glee?
Weisenger was always depicting the DC characters, those who personify truth, justice, morality, freedom and apple pie... the iconic Superman no less, and his entire extended cast, in situations of humiliation, degradation, ridiculous transformation, betrayal, treachery, jealousy and other perverse scenarios. It almost seemed as though he wanted to undermine the values they ostensibly upheld.
It was indeed a perverse undercurrent. It was as sinister as it was silly. It was as though Weisenger was trying to probe and prod all that was repressed beneath both the clean art and the flawless super-heroic universe.
I didn't mean to suggest that Marvel didn't have subtext. They had plenty of that, but it seems like their readers readily saw on the surface the hatchway they would have to open to get down into the other layers--and many of them did just that. Part of it was that Marvel had older readers but part of it was that Lee presented his stories with a lot of flash--declaring that they were epic and worthy of attention. DC has been relatively ignored--and it seems like the reason is that people never looked beyond the surface.