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Superman '86-'99

A thorough chronological examination of the best/worst period in Superman history, by Maxwell Yezpitelok. All covers stolen from comics.org.
Jul 24 '14
Action Comics #656 (August 1990)
Soul Search, Part 1: SUPERMAN GOES TO HELL! Or, like, to a place with fire and demons and stuff, because they don’t specifically call it the H-word. But you get the idea.
On Adventures #469's cliffhanger, Jerry White and Jimmy Olsen got shot: Jerry for pissing off some drug dealers and Jimmy just for being there, being Jimmy. The doctors say the kids should be getting better since no major organs were damaged, but instead they're mysteriously getting worse. Clark Kent is consoling Perry White and his wife at the hospital when a black man in a knight armor and skis walks through the wall and talks to him.

"Shouldn’t have taken that mescaline before coming here."
That, of course, is none other than the Black Racer (last seen in Superman #35), who is also the cousin of Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, but that coincidence is irrelevant to the story and not mentioned here. Anyway, the Racer tells Superman that Jimmy and Jerry’s souls have been stolen and taken to another plane of existence (the non-Hell mentioned above) — Superman is transported there through the Black Racer’s black powers, but then the Black Racer has to go run some black errands or something, so Supes is on his own.
Once he’s in sorta-Hell, Superman saves a sexy woman from a big satanic dog… a favor she repays by betraying Superman and spitting lava on him, because it turns out she’s Blaze, the lady who runs this dimension. Superman emerges from a river of lava even more pissed off than he was before, swearing that he won’t leave this place until he has kicked Blaze’s butt and saved Jimmy and Jerry.

…well, one of them, anyway.
Character-Watch:
This is Blaze’s first appearance in her demonic form, but she appeared before as Angelica Blaze, Jerry’s boss and the one who caused him to get shot. However, that’s not exactly her first appearance either: not only will we find out that Blaze was responsible for another villain that goes back to the Byrne era, but we’ve also seen the human form of her brother in these pages recently.
Plotline-Watch:
This storyline has an interesting pedigree: Alan Moore was the one who originally suggested that Superman should visit Hell back in the mid-’80s (before he decided that all of DC should go there instead), and Neil Gaiman actually wrote a script about it in 1989, for the last issue of Action Comics Weekly, but it wasn’t published because of a continuity problem (it eventually came out in 2000 as Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame, when DC was desperate for more Gaiman material to print).
Also, isn’t it weird that a story about Superman and demons started on Action #656? I have a theory that they wanted to start it in #666, but they pushed it ahead because the events here will trigger an important plotline about Luthor, and they didn’t wanna wait for that. More plots:
Clark Kent only finds out Jimmy got shot after he arrives from his Smallville smooching trip with Lois, because they didn’t have Facebook back then (though I’m pretty sure Clark would have blocked Jimmy by now). I do like the slow process of how everyone finds out the bad news: it kinda reminds me of the better parts of “Funeral for a Friend.”
The Misadventures of Jose Delgado: Jose is taking this pretty badly, since he and Jerry have been pals since they both debuted on this comic in the same issue, back in 1987. Jose unhangs his old nunchakus and goes out as Gangbuster to find out who shot Jerry and punch his face in. As he investigates, he sees Angelica Blaze being interrogated by Detective Slam Bradley and gets a bad feeling about her.
Someone else who’s bummed out about Jerry: Lex Luthor? Lex is yelling at Dr. Kelley for giving him some bad news (we’ll find out soon what they are), when he hears about Jerry on TV and gets all sad. What could Luthor possibly have to do with the son of Perry White? You know, the guy whose wife he had an affair with right before Jerry was born? Pretty weird.

Meanwhile, no one cares about Jimmy. Just as it should be.

Action Comics #656 (August 1990)

Soul Search, Part 1: SUPERMAN GOES TO HELL! Or, like, to a place with fire and demons and stuff, because they don’t specifically call it the H-word. But you get the idea.

On Adventures #469's cliffhanger, Jerry White and Jimmy Olsen got shot: Jerry for pissing off some drug dealers and Jimmy just for being there, being Jimmy. The doctors say the kids should be getting better since no major organs were damaged, but instead they're mysteriously getting worse. Clark Kent is consoling Perry White and his wife at the hospital when a black man in a knight armor and skis walks through the wall and talks to him.

"Shouldn’t have taken that mescaline before coming here."

That, of course, is none other than the Black Racer (last seen in Superman #35), who is also the cousin of Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, but that coincidence is irrelevant to the story and not mentioned here. Anyway, the Racer tells Superman that Jimmy and Jerry’s souls have been stolen and taken to another plane of existence (the non-Hell mentioned above) — Superman is transported there through the Black Racer’s black powers, but then the Black Racer has to go run some black errands or something, so Supes is on his own.

Once he’s in sorta-Hell, Superman saves a sexy woman from a big satanic dog… a favor she repays by betraying Superman and spitting lava on him, because it turns out she’s Blaze, the lady who runs this dimension. Superman emerges from a river of lava even more pissed off than he was before, swearing that he won’t leave this place until he has kicked Blaze’s butt and saved Jimmy and Jerry.

…well, one of them, anyway.

Character-Watch:

This is Blaze’s first appearance in her demonic form, but she appeared before as Angelica Blaze, Jerry’s boss and the one who caused him to get shot. However, that’s not exactly her first appearance either: not only will we find out that Blaze was responsible for another villain that goes back to the Byrne era, but we’ve also seen the human form of her brother in these pages recently.

Plotline-Watch:

This storyline has an interesting pedigree: Alan Moore was the one who originally suggested that Superman should visit Hell back in the mid-’80s (before he decided that all of DC should go there instead), and Neil Gaiman actually wrote a script about it in 1989, for the last issue of Action Comics Weekly, but it wasn’t published because of a continuity problem (it eventually came out in 2000 as Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame, when DC was desperate for more Gaiman material to print).

Also, isn’t it weird that a story about Superman and demons started on Action #656? I have a theory that they wanted to start it in #666, but they pushed it ahead because the events here will trigger an important plotline about Luthor, and they didn’t wanna wait for that. More plots:

  • Clark Kent only finds out Jimmy got shot after he arrives from his Smallville smooching trip with Lois, because they didn’t have Facebook back then (though I’m pretty sure Clark would have blocked Jimmy by now). I do like the slow process of how everyone finds out the bad news: it kinda reminds me of the better parts of “Funeral for a Friend.”
  • The Misadventures of Jose Delgado: Jose is taking this pretty badly, since he and Jerry have been pals since they both debuted on this comic in the same issue, back in 1987. Jose unhangs his old nunchakus and goes out as Gangbuster to find out who shot Jerry and punch his face in. As he investigates, he sees Angelica Blaze being interrogated by Detective Slam Bradley and gets a bad feeling about her.
  • Someone else who’s bummed out about Jerry: Lex Luthor? Lex is yelling at Dr. Kelley for giving him some bad news (we’ll find out soon what they are), when he hears about Jerry on TV and gets all sad. What could Luthor possibly have to do with the son of Perry White? You know, the guy whose wife he had an affair with right before Jerry was born? Pretty weird.

  • Meanwhile, no one cares about Jimmy. Just as it should be.
Jul 21 '14
Adventures of Superman #469 (August 1990)
Superman takes a holiday, but it’s interrupted by two guys in buffalo masks. Also featuring the long-awaited return of two Superman villains! (That you’d probably forgotten by now.)
Superman #46 ended with Lois Lane and Clark Kent making out while watching fireworks in Smallville. Apparently those crazy kids were going at it for a full week, because this issue starts with the exact same scene:

The smooching action is interrupted by Clark’s old friends Pete Ross and Lana Lang, leading to a slightly awkward moment between the two LL ladies. Fortunately, before Lois and Lana can recreate the scene from this cover, a spaceship lands right in front of the crowd watching the fireworks and Clark has to disappear to deal with it. Out of the spaceship come the two buffalo dudes mentioned above who say they’re looking for some fugitives, but as usual, a misunderstanding causes Superman to fight them.
Once the buffalo bros. are defeated (turns out it was as easy as taking off their clothes, since there’s just energy underneath), we find out who they were looking for: Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, those aliens who “stole” Superman’s powers back in Adventures #442! The pair try to attack Superman, but now that he knows that their power-stealing trick was completely psychological, they’re a lot easier to deal with.


Don’t mess with Superman’s vacation time.
In a bizarre plot twist, out of the big spaceship comes Dreadnaught’s wife, who looks exactly like him in a dress. The lady explains that these two goofs aren’t really scouts for an alien invasion like they claimed in their previous appearance: they just like going around the universe picking fights with other races. Superman leaves them on Mrs. Dreadnaught’s care on the promise that they won’t come back to Earth again.

However, in another bizarre plot twist, Mrs. Dreadnaught’s spaceship doesn’t go to another planet: it heads to a military base in Wyoming, where a big shot army type person calls Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught idiots for almost tipping off Superman about their “operation.” TO BE CONTINUED! In a few months. Because first, there’s another big storyline coming…
Plotline-Watch:
After all the goofy stuff in the main story, the last pages switch gears to show Jerry White doing a drug deal for his boss, only to find out the money he was given has been replaced with cockroaches. The drug dealers don’t appreciate the joke and shoot Jerry in the chest… and also Jimmy Olsen, who came in at the worst possible moment (as usual). The issue ends with the seemingly dead Jimmy and Jerry laying in an alley as Jerry’s boss, Angelica Blaze, comes in says this:

Yep, that got dark pretty quick.
Creator-Watch:
Between the Mxyzptlk issue (Adventures #463), the one with Lobo and Bibbo getting drunk in the Fortress of Solitude (#464) and this one, Dan Jurgens was giving Justice League International a good run for its money for the best humor comic starring people in tights. There are lots of great little gags all over the issue, from the rednecks who are unimpressed by the aliens because it’s all just “wires and special effects” (come to think of it, they weren’t far off from the truth) to this little gem of a panel:

I just love seeing Superman in uncomfortable situations he can’t punch his way out of. Ironically, when Jurgens does take over the JLI, he’s gonna turn it into a straight action comic, and in general the humor will become a lot less prominent in his work (thankfully we’ll have Karl Kesel by then).

Adventures of Superman #469 (August 1990)

Superman takes a holiday, but it’s interrupted by two guys in buffalo masks. Also featuring the long-awaited return of two Superman villains! (That you’d probably forgotten by now.)

Superman #46 ended with Lois Lane and Clark Kent making out while watching fireworks in Smallville. Apparently those crazy kids were going at it for a full week, because this issue starts with the exact same scene:

The smooching action is interrupted by Clark’s old friends Pete Ross and Lana Lang, leading to a slightly awkward moment between the two LL ladies. Fortunately, before Lois and Lana can recreate the scene from this cover, a spaceship lands right in front of the crowd watching the fireworks and Clark has to disappear to deal with it. Out of the spaceship come the two buffalo dudes mentioned above who say they’re looking for some fugitives, but as usual, a misunderstanding causes Superman to fight them.

Once the buffalo bros. are defeated (turns out it was as easy as taking off their clothes, since there’s just energy underneath), we find out who they were looking for: Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, those aliens who “stole” Superman’s powers back in Adventures #442! The pair try to attack Superman, but now that he knows that their power-stealing trick was completely psychological, they’re a lot easier to deal with.

Don’t mess with Superman’s vacation time.

In a bizarre plot twist, out of the big spaceship comes Dreadnaught’s wife, who looks exactly like him in a dress. The lady explains that these two goofs aren’t really scouts for an alien invasion like they claimed in their previous appearance: they just like going around the universe picking fights with other races. Superman leaves them on Mrs. Dreadnaught’s care on the promise that they won’t come back to Earth again.

However, in another bizarre plot twist, Mrs. Dreadnaught’s spaceship doesn’t go to another planet: it heads to a military base in Wyoming, where a big shot army type person calls Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught idiots for almost tipping off Superman about their “operation.” TO BE CONTINUED! In a few months. Because first, there’s another big storyline coming…

Plotline-Watch:

After all the goofy stuff in the main story, the last pages switch gears to show Jerry White doing a drug deal for his boss, only to find out the money he was given has been replaced with cockroaches. The drug dealers don’t appreciate the joke and shoot Jerry in the chest… and also Jimmy Olsen, who came in at the worst possible moment (as usual). The issue ends with the seemingly dead Jimmy and Jerry laying in an alley as Jerry’s boss, Angelica Blaze, comes in says this:

Yep, that got dark pretty quick.

Creator-Watch:

Between the Mxyzptlk issue (Adventures #463), the one with Lobo and Bibbo getting drunk in the Fortress of Solitude (#464) and this one, Dan Jurgens was giving Justice League International a good run for its money for the best humor comic starring people in tights. There are lots of great little gags all over the issue, from the rednecks who are unimpressed by the aliens because it’s all just “wires and special effects” (come to think of it, they weren’t far off from the truth) to this little gem of a panel:

I just love seeing Superman in uncomfortable situations he can’t punch his way out of. Ironically, when Jurgens does take over the JLI, he’s gonna turn it into a straight action comic, and in general the humor will become a lot less prominent in his work (thankfully we’ll have Karl Kesel by then).

Jul 21 '14

Anonymous asked:

Wow. I know now, after reading your blog, that I practically know squat about Superman! But it is lots of fun reading you, so thanks! Can you help me out? I am trying to find the title of two Superman comic books. I am pretty sure they would be from early 80s. One of them had Brainiac creating a reversed image of Metropolis in the sky. The image would go down slowly and at some point, Superdude realizes that the image will destroy Metropolis as soon as it'd get in contact with it.

Whoops, hadn’t seen this before! That comic doesn’t ring a bell, so it’s probably from before 1986 (I have like five comics from that era). Has anyone else read it?

The other comic Anon needed helps identifying was “one where he was apparently married to a lady witch or sorcerer. They were doing some tourism on the moon with their son when a series of catastrophes start happening… and the son seems responsible for them.”

Anyone?

Jul 19 '14
Superman #46 (August 1990)
Superman vs. Terra-Man, the enviromentalist supervillain, and his robot cowboys. Also starring Jade and Obsidian, the brother and sister superhero team. Did I mention the robot cowboys? There are robot cowboys.
Lois Lane and Clark Kent are attending a media event by a rich guy who says he figured out how to solve all the problems with the enviroment: just get every rich person inside a big dome! A new villain called Terra-Man takes offense with this plan and stages a protest, and by protest I mean he has his gang of robot cowboys terrorize the place. Terra-Man also has various hi-tech gizmos and guns, but luckily Superman isn’t the only superhero in attendance: Jade and Obsidian were also at the event because, having fallen on hard times, they’re now working as an expensive projection system, basically.

I like that the only use for Obsidian’s amazing shadow-based powers is “holding up a photograph,” but he still felt the need to be in full superhero getup. Anyway, Jade and Obsidian deal with the robots while Superman has an old fashioned cowboy duel with Terra-Man (there was a western movie set right there, so they couldn’t pass up the opportunity).


(Of course, it’s a “laser gun vs. super breath” duel, so maybe “old fashioned” isn’t the right term.)
In the end the defeated Terra-Man escapes by summoning a tornado, but at least the rich guy’s project is completely ruined, and that’s what’s important here.
Character-Watch:
The classic version of Terra-Man was a cowboy-themed villain with a winged horse. This more interesting version is Tobias Manning, a former industrialist who was responsible for an enviromental catastrophe and saw the error of his greedy ways (he might have gone a little too far in the opposite direction, though). Unfortunately, he’ll only show up a handful of times in this era before getting killed off and turned into a zombie by future writers, which is the ultimate fate of like 80% of DC’s minor villains.
As for Jade and Obsidian, I’m pretty sure they only appear here because Jerry Ordway was their co-creator on the Infinity Inc. series, about a superhero team made out of the children of the original Justice Society of America. In their case, they are the son and daughter of the 1940’s Green Lantern — the implication being that they came out looking like that because their dad’s sperm was mutated by wearing that ring for so many years. They’re going through rough times right now, but I seem to recall Jade had her own reality show at some point in the ’90s.
Plotline-Watch:
Jimmy Olsen is now officially in his punk rocker/satanist/potential drug dealer phase, all because he’s hanging out with Jerry White. Lucy Lane tries to talk some sense into Jimmy, but he’s like “leave me alone, square.” Then Jerry asks for a ride in Jimmy’s piece of shit car because he has to deliver yet another one of those mysterious brown bags for his boss. Jimmy doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious there and says sure.
#MORGANSPIRACY update: The media event mentioned above takes place at Monarch Studios, owned by Cat Grant’s ex, media mogul Joe Morgan. One of the attendants is Vinnie Edge, father of Cat Grant’s other ex, media mogul (and incarcerated criminal) Morgan Edge. The two bond over their mutual hatred of Morgan, and then Vinnie offers Clark Kent a TV job for helping bring down his son. Unfortunately, he’d have to change his hairdo and wear contact lenses, so Clark declines.
After the Terra-Man thing, Lois and Clark finally travel to Smallville like they were supposed to in Adventures #468, and then the issue ends with her doing this…

…presumably just to avoid any more silly “she likes Superman better than Clark” subplots in the future. Thank you, Lois.

Superman #46 (August 1990)

Superman vs. Terra-Man, the enviromentalist supervillain, and his robot cowboys. Also starring Jade and Obsidian, the brother and sister superhero team. Did I mention the robot cowboys? There are robot cowboys.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent are attending a media event by a rich guy who says he figured out how to solve all the problems with the enviroment: just get every rich person inside a big dome! A new villain called Terra-Man takes offense with this plan and stages a protest, and by protest I mean he has his gang of robot cowboys terrorize the place. Terra-Man also has various hi-tech gizmos and guns, but luckily Superman isn’t the only superhero in attendance: Jade and Obsidian were also at the event because, having fallen on hard times, they’re now working as an expensive projection system, basically.

I like that the only use for Obsidian’s amazing shadow-based powers is “holding up a photograph,” but he still felt the need to be in full superhero getup. Anyway, Jade and Obsidian deal with the robots while Superman has an old fashioned cowboy duel with Terra-Man (there was a western movie set right there, so they couldn’t pass up the opportunity).

(Of course, it’s a “laser gun vs. super breath” duel, so maybe “old fashioned” isn’t the right term.)

In the end the defeated Terra-Man escapes by summoning a tornado, but at least the rich guy’s project is completely ruined, and that’s what’s important here.

Character-Watch:

The classic version of Terra-Man was a cowboy-themed villain with a winged horse. This more interesting version is Tobias Manning, a former industrialist who was responsible for an enviromental catastrophe and saw the error of his greedy ways (he might have gone a little too far in the opposite direction, though). Unfortunately, he’ll only show up a handful of times in this era before getting killed off and turned into a zombie by future writers, which is the ultimate fate of like 80% of DC’s minor villains.

As for Jade and Obsidian, I’m pretty sure they only appear here because Jerry Ordway was their co-creator on the Infinity Inc. series, about a superhero team made out of the children of the original Justice Society of America. In their case, they are the son and daughter of the 1940’s Green Lantern — the implication being that they came out looking like that because their dad’s sperm was mutated by wearing that ring for so many years. They’re going through rough times right now, but I seem to recall Jade had her own reality show at some point in the ’90s.

Plotline-Watch:

  • Jimmy Olsen is now officially in his punk rocker/satanist/potential drug dealer phase, all because he’s hanging out with Jerry White. Lucy Lane tries to talk some sense into Jimmy, but he’s like “leave me alone, square.” Then Jerry asks for a ride in Jimmy’s piece of shit car because he has to deliver yet another one of those mysterious brown bags for his boss. Jimmy doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious there and says sure.
  • #MORGANSPIRACY update: The media event mentioned above takes place at Monarch Studios, owned by Cat Grant’s ex, media mogul Joe Morgan. One of the attendants is Vinnie Edge, father of Cat Grant’s other ex, media mogul (and incarcerated criminal) Morgan Edge. The two bond over their mutual hatred of Morgan, and then Vinnie offers Clark Kent a TV job for helping bring down his son. Unfortunately, he’d have to change his hairdo and wear contact lenses, so Clark declines.
  • After the Terra-Man thing, Lois and Clark finally travel to Smallville like they were supposed to in Adventures #468, and then the issue ends with her doing this…

…presumably just to avoid any more silly “she likes Superman better than Clark” subplots in the future. Thank you, Lois.

Jul 16 '14
Action Comics #655 (July 1990)
In this issue: Lois Lane jumps on top of trucks and kicks all sorts of ass (with a little help from Superman).
This story picks up from the end of Adventures #468, when Lois stood up Clark Kent and he assumed she was trying to cheat on him with Superman. In this issue Clark immediately goes “Wait, no, that’s stupid” and goes looking for Lois, who’s supposed to be doing a story about some military kooks stealing weapons from the army — naturally, at one point she found their base and got captured. If that sounds familiar that’s because Lois already met this group back in Adventures #439, where the leader of the kooks blew himself up in an explosion. Now his son is trying to continue his mission, which is to prepare the army for Armageddon. They even have a portrait of the guy from the other issue adorning their base.

Oh yeah, and said base is an empty city made of trees outside Metropolis that they just found there. Superman arrives and dismantles the entire operation within minutes, but not before Lois manages to steal some guns and point them at bad guys.
After going through so much trouble for a story, Lois and Perry White are told at the end they can’t run it as it is, because the tree city belongs to Project Cadmus (it’s Habitat, first seen in Adventures Annual #2) and they wanna keep it top secret. Which is why they abandoned it and didn’t even notice when some guys started living there, I guess.
Bonus Story!
Yet another 8-page insert letting us peek into the private life of someone in the Superman universe: this time, it’s Ma Kent’s Family Album (seen briefly in her kitchen in Superman #45), which predictably deals with Clark only, since the Kents were never blessed with another alien baby from space. We get cameos from Dr. Whitney (Clark’s childhood doctor who turned out to be a killer robot), Lana Lang (kissing Clark in her 8th birthday), Pete Ross (murdering Clark with his eyes as Lana kisses him in her 8th birthday) and even Clark’s old college girlfriends: Ruby the waitress from World of Metropolis #3, and Lori Lemaris the secret communist mermaid from Superman #12. Ma even wonders whatever happened to Lori…

…which confirms my theory that she wants Clark to date literally anyone but Lois Lane.

Character-Watch:
I guess this entire issue was done to show Lois being a badass for a while, and it worked. I like the flashbacks throughout the issue showing Lois’ dad being a jerk to her and pushing her to be more boy-like, which explains her strong personality (and also why she hates the guy, as seen in Adventures #424).
Plotline-Watch:
So now we know what those military guys wanted, since their previous appearance didn’t bother to explain it: they were preparing for doomsday, so they holed up in Habitat. The irony is that when Doomsday does come, he’s gonna wreck the shit out of Habitat, of all places.
Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane go to Blaze’s, the desecrated church turned discotheque, where Lucy turns out to be slightly overdressed (it was less dinner party, more punk night club). Lucy gets disgusted and leaves, but Jimmy stays behind with Jerry White, who works there. After all, Jerry gave him those free tickets to the satanic shitshow and it would be rude to leave early.
The family album also includes photos from the seldom mentioned time in Clark’s life when he traveled the world before becoming Superman, just like Bruce Wayne did before becoming Batman. In fact, a future special reveals they actually ran into each other for two seconds while backpacking in Asia. If only they’d done as college students do in those cases and gotten drunk together, and we would have been spared 100 issues of superhero rivalry.

Action Comics #655 (July 1990)

In this issue: Lois Lane jumps on top of trucks and kicks all sorts of ass (with a little help from Superman).

This story picks up from the end of Adventures #468, when Lois stood up Clark Kent and he assumed she was trying to cheat on him with Superman. In this issue Clark immediately goes “Wait, no, that’s stupid” and goes looking for Lois, who’s supposed to be doing a story about some military kooks stealing weapons from the army — naturally, at one point she found their base and got captured. If that sounds familiar that’s because Lois already met this group back in Adventures #439, where the leader of the kooks blew himself up in an explosion. Now his son is trying to continue his mission, which is to prepare the army for Armageddon. They even have a portrait of the guy from the other issue adorning their base.

Oh yeah, and said base is an empty city made of trees outside Metropolis that they just found there. Superman arrives and dismantles the entire operation within minutes, but not before Lois manages to steal some guns and point them at bad guys.

After going through so much trouble for a story, Lois and Perry White are told at the end they can’t run it as it is, because the tree city belongs to Project Cadmus (it’s Habitat, first seen in Adventures Annual #2) and they wanna keep it top secret. Which is why they abandoned it and didn’t even notice when some guys started living there, I guess.

Bonus Story!

Yet another 8-page insert letting us peek into the private life of someone in the Superman universe: this time, it’s Ma Kent’s Family Album (seen briefly in her kitchen in Superman #45), which predictably deals with Clark only, since the Kents were never blessed with another alien baby from space. We get cameos from Dr. Whitney (Clark’s childhood doctor who turned out to be a killer robot), Lana Lang (kissing Clark in her 8th birthday), Pete Ross (murdering Clark with his eyes as Lana kisses him in her 8th birthday) and even Clark’s old college girlfriends: Ruby the waitress from World of Metropolis #3, and Lori Lemaris the secret communist mermaid from Superman #12. Ma even wonders whatever happened to Lori…

…which confirms my theory that she wants Clark to date literally anyone but Lois Lane.

Character-Watch:

I guess this entire issue was done to show Lois being a badass for a while, and it worked. I like the flashbacks throughout the issue showing Lois’ dad being a jerk to her and pushing her to be more boy-like, which explains her strong personality (and also why she hates the guy, as seen in Adventures #424).

Plotline-Watch:

  • So now we know what those military guys wanted, since their previous appearance didn’t bother to explain it: they were preparing for doomsday, so they holed up in Habitat. The irony is that when Doomsday does come, he’s gonna wreck the shit out of Habitat, of all places.
  • Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane go to Blaze’s, the desecrated church turned discotheque, where Lucy turns out to be slightly overdressed (it was less dinner party, more punk night club). Lucy gets disgusted and leaves, but Jimmy stays behind with Jerry White, who works there. After all, Jerry gave him those free tickets to the satanic shitshow and it would be rude to leave early.
  • The family album also includes photos from the seldom mentioned time in Clark’s life when he traveled the world before becoming Superman, just like Bruce Wayne did before becoming Batman. In fact, a future special reveals they actually ran into each other for two seconds while backpacking in Asia. If only they’d done as college students do in those cases and gotten drunk together, and we would have been spared 100 issues of superhero rivalry.
Jul 10 '14
Adventures of Superman #468 (July 1990)
Superman versus a pile of junk. A living pile of junk! And other important stuff happens that will have repercussions for years to come! (Seriously.)
We start with a bunch of random machinery in the LexCorp building assembling itself into vaguely human-like form and scaring the crap out of a janitor. At the same time, all the communications on the East Coast go kaput (this being 1990, that means phones and… telegraphs?). Superman investigates and realizes the mega-interference comes from a NASA facility outside Metropolis, where the living junk person has recently shown up. That’s when we find out that he’s actually…

…Johnny-5 from the 1986 motion picture Short Circuit! No, not really: it’s Hank Henshaw, the astronaut who died in front of a LexCorp computer two issues ago. Just like Hank’s buddy temporarily rebuilt his body out of rocks due to the magic of cosmic radiation, Hank has managed to do the same thing with technology. The only member of Hank’s crew who still has a real body is his wife Terri, but watching her friends die caused her to go catatonic. Unfortunately, seeing Hank come back as a robotic monster doesn’t do wonders for her mental condition either.
Anyway, after Superman has finished dealing with all the problems the communications blackout caused, he shows up at NASA and greets Hank by punching him so hard his entire robot body comes apart.

Hank quickly reassembles his body, but upon learning that not only has he caused a massive blackout but the mere sight of his new persona made his wife slip into a coma, he decides there’s nothing for him on Earth and exiles himself in space. Using NASA’s equipment, Hank beams his “soul” to the Kryptonian rocket that Superman left suspended in orbit back in Superman #1 and forgot about. Hank builds himself a mini rocket from the Kryptonian technology and speeds off into deep space, despite Superman’s efforts to get him to reconsider his decision.

Bonus Story!
After that, Superman goes to his Fortress of Solitude and writes an entry in his futuristic Kryptonian journal (basically, an iPad), and then we actually get to peek at that through a special 8-page insert. Most of the journal is just a kind of dull recap of Superman’s friends and non-friends, but there’s an interesting bit at the end where he fantasizes about one day telling Lois Lane he’s Clark Kent. That “fantasy” right there is a pretty big spoiler.
Character-Watch:
Despite being sad about his wife, at the end Hank sounds pretty excited about exploring the cosmos and gaining more knowledge. Overall he seems like a pretty cool dude, like Carl Sagan meets Reed Richards (meets Johnny-5). He even forgives Superman for punching him!
However, at some point in the future, the details of how he left Earth will become a little iffy in his memory and he’ll blame Superman for everything. Oh, and he has access to Kryptonian technology and Superman’s DNA (from the birth matrix in the rocket). But what could a villain do with that?
Plotline-Watch:
I’m not joking when I say Superman forgot about the Kryptonian rocket he left in space (along with the big chunk of land and laboratory it was in): he’s seriously like “oh, right, here it is,” as if he’s talking about his keys or something. At the end of the issue he finally puts away the rocket in the Fortress of Solitude, though.
This, somehow, is the second issue in one month where a widowed female character that was more or less OK the last time we saw her is revealed to be catatonic from the delayed shock of something she went through: first Jimmy’s mom in Superman #45 and now Hank’s wife, who was bummed but pretty non-catatonic at the end of her last appearance. That’s a pretty specific trope to be abusing in such a short period of time.
Speaking of Jimmy, we saw in that same issue that he got some tickets to a satanic disco from Jerry White, who works there. As Jimmy and Lucy Lane are heading to the disco, they happen to run into Jerry again, but he’s in a hurry and clutching a mysterious paper bag. You… you don’t think the satanic disco gig isn’t as a legit as it looked, do you?
WTF-Watch:
I always thought this plot was pretty dumb: Lois Lane is supposed to fly to Smallville to have dinner with Clark Kent and his parents, but the phone lines go down (because of Hank) just as she’s about to tell Clark she can’t be there. Later, Clark sees her as Superman and he’s so distracted saving people that he forgets he’s not wearing his glasses and tells her they’ll talk during dinner.

Most people would have cracked the mystery of Superman’s secret identity right there, but this being Lois Lane, she just thinks Superman is inviting her to dinner too (we’ll find out what’s keeping Lois busy in the next issue of Action). And of course, when Lois doesn’t show up at the airport in the end, Clark thinks she chose Superman over him and Charlie Browns away.

Clearly, these two dummies belong with each other.

Adventures of Superman #468 (July 1990)

Superman versus a pile of junk. A living pile of junk! And other important stuff happens that will have repercussions for years to come! (Seriously.)

We start with a bunch of random machinery in the LexCorp building assembling itself into vaguely human-like form and scaring the crap out of a janitor. At the same time, all the communications on the East Coast go kaput (this being 1990, that means phones and… telegraphs?). Superman investigates and realizes the mega-interference comes from a NASA facility outside Metropolis, where the living junk person has recently shown up. That’s when we find out that he’s actually…

…Johnny-5 from the 1986 motion picture Short Circuit! No, not really: it’s Hank Henshaw, the astronaut who died in front of a LexCorp computer two issues ago. Just like Hank’s buddy temporarily rebuilt his body out of rocks due to the magic of cosmic radiation, Hank has managed to do the same thing with technology. The only member of Hank’s crew who still has a real body is his wife Terri, but watching her friends die caused her to go catatonic. Unfortunately, seeing Hank come back as a robotic monster doesn’t do wonders for her mental condition either.

Anyway, after Superman has finished dealing with all the problems the communications blackout caused, he shows up at NASA and greets Hank by punching him so hard his entire robot body comes apart.

Hank quickly reassembles his body, but upon learning that not only has he caused a massive blackout but the mere sight of his new persona made his wife slip into a coma, he decides there’s nothing for him on Earth and exiles himself in space. Using NASA’s equipment, Hank beams his “soul” to the Kryptonian rocket that Superman left suspended in orbit back in Superman #1 and forgot about. Hank builds himself a mini rocket from the Kryptonian technology and speeds off into deep space, despite Superman’s efforts to get him to reconsider his decision.

Bonus Story!

After that, Superman goes to his Fortress of Solitude and writes an entry in his futuristic Kryptonian journal (basically, an iPad), and then we actually get to peek at that through a special 8-page insert. Most of the journal is just a kind of dull recap of Superman’s friends and non-friends, but there’s an interesting bit at the end where he fantasizes about one day telling Lois Lane he’s Clark Kent. That “fantasy” right there is a pretty big spoiler.

Character-Watch:

Despite being sad about his wife, at the end Hank sounds pretty excited about exploring the cosmos and gaining more knowledge. Overall he seems like a pretty cool dude, like Carl Sagan meets Reed Richards (meets Johnny-5). He even forgives Superman for punching him!

However, at some point in the future, the details of how he left Earth will become a little iffy in his memory and he’ll blame Superman for everything. Oh, and he has access to Kryptonian technology and Superman’s DNA (from the birth matrix in the rocket). But what could a villain do with that?

Plotline-Watch:

  • I’m not joking when I say Superman forgot about the Kryptonian rocket he left in space (along with the big chunk of land and laboratory it was in): he’s seriously like “oh, right, here it is,” as if he’s talking about his keys or something. At the end of the issue he finally puts away the rocket in the Fortress of Solitude, though.
  • This, somehow, is the second issue in one month where a widowed female character that was more or less OK the last time we saw her is revealed to be catatonic from the delayed shock of something she went through: first Jimmy’s mom in Superman #45 and now Hank’s wife, who was bummed but pretty non-catatonic at the end of her last appearance. That’s a pretty specific trope to be abusing in such a short period of time.
  • Speaking of Jimmy, we saw in that same issue that he got some tickets to a satanic disco from Jerry White, who works there. As Jimmy and Lucy Lane are heading to the disco, they happen to run into Jerry again, but he’s in a hurry and clutching a mysterious paper bag. You… you don’t think the satanic disco gig isn’t as a legit as it looked, do you?

WTF-Watch:

I always thought this plot was pretty dumb: Lois Lane is supposed to fly to Smallville to have dinner with Clark Kent and his parents, but the phone lines go down (because of Hank) just as she’s about to tell Clark she can’t be there. Later, Clark sees her as Superman and he’s so distracted saving people that he forgets he’s not wearing his glasses and tells her they’ll talk during dinner.

Most people would have cracked the mystery of Superman’s secret identity right there, but this being Lois Lane, she just thinks Superman is inviting her to dinner too (we’ll find out what’s keeping Lois busy in the next issue of Action). And of course, when Lois doesn’t show up at the airport in the end, Clark thinks she chose Superman over him and Charlie Browns away.

Clearly, these two dummies belong with each other.

Jul 6 '14
Superman #45 (July 1990)
Superman versus a giant fire dog coming out of an old man’s hair! Don’t worry, though: the old man summoned it, so his hair is impervious to fire. He’ll be fine.
Said old man is a Shaman of the Oto Tribe performing a ritual near Smallville, where Superman happens to be visiting his parents. Since Superman was behaving like some sort of, well, alien from planet Krypton the last time Ma and Pa Kent saw him (in Action #652), they’re glad to see that’s back to his old jokester self.

Meanwhile, a bunch of young Oto tribe members have kidnapped Smallville’s county agent (Superman’s childhood friend, Pete Ross) because their reservation is about to be turned into a mining operation. Superman eventually arrives to save Pete, but the Otos have a superpowered being on their side too: the old Shaman with the fire dog-creating powers. Naturally, Superman must fight the fire dog for a while (because otherwise anyone who bought the comic on account of the cover would feel cheated), but soon enough the Shaman says his fight isn’t with Superman, whom he sends away with a Jedi mind trick.

Now unopposed, the Shaman (turns out his name is Firewolf, which sounds like a Tom Cruise movie) goes into Pete’s office to tell him to leave the reservation alone, only to find out that’s exactly what Pete was trying to do. Turns out the young Otos didn’t want to stop the mine, they wanted to get a piece of the profits. One of them even tries to shoot Firewolf, but the bullet magically goes through him and hits the shooter’s friend. The Shaman cures the guy’s bullet wound with some leaves, and upon being informed that the Otos have actually voted to allow the mining operation (as long as they’re treated fairly), he’s like “OK, screw you then” and disappears in a puff of fire, never to be seen again.
Aw, poor Shaman Firewolf. With a name like that, he deserved his own series.
Bonus Story!
This issue includes 8 extra pages for no extra price, which is pretty awesome, but made slightly less awesome because it’s 8 pages of Jimmy Olsen (more specifically, from his diary). Jimmy covers events like Superman’s first public appearance (Man of Steel #1), the time Jimmy saved a classmate by turning his watch into a Superman-calling device (World of Metropolis #4), or the time he saved Superman himself by almost singlehandedly defeating Bloodsport (Superman #4). Unfortunately, the awesome Jimmy who did those things gets replaced in the last pages of the diary by whiny Superman-hating Jimmy, who simply recounts what’s been happening to him in recent issues.
Plotline-Watch:
The real reason Superman came to Smallville was to tell his parents that he’s getting serious with Lois Lane, but they insist that he also tell his best friend/stalker Lana Lang (whom he was a big jerk to in Superman #41). That goes well.

At the end of the issue they both apologize and Lana says she’s finally over him. And she means it! We get a little hint of where her life is heading when she kisses Pete Ross on the cheek after seeing that he didn’t get murdered by magic Indians. Other plots:
Jimmy’s mom seemed fine (if you know what I mean) when he rescued her from the Evil Factory in Superman #43, but now she’s suddenly gone catatonic as a delayed reaction to the utter insanity that was that plotline. Predictably, this makes Jimmy even more angsty than he’s been lately.
As Jimmy leaves the hospital he runs into Jerry White arguing with his girlfriend Tammy, because Jerry is working at a satanic night club made from an old desecrated church (sound familiar?). Jimmy’s like “hey, that sounds cool” and gets some free tickets for the club from Jerry. The place is called “Blaze’s”. Nothing ominous here.
As he flies over Smallville, Superman thinks about the “old Simonson quarry” where he used to play as a kid. This blog is the foremost authority on the Internet about Smallville’s Simonson Limestone Quarry, since we’re the first ones to point out that Superman fights people there in both Superman #8 and Action #644… and that it’s mentioned in this issue. You should feel honored to be reading these lines.
And finally, an important moment in Superman history: Lois Lane gets a new haircut! The new hairstyle actually debuts next issue (we only see Lois being indecisive at the hair salon in this one), but it will be the way she wears her hair for the rest of the ’90s.
WTF-Watch:
I’ve always loved the interaction between Superman and his parents in this issue (especially the part where Superman hides in the barn because he’s sad that Lana slapped him and Pa Kent talks to him), but I never noticed this: Ma Kent apparently isn’t a big fan of Lois Lane.

Look at the contempt in her face. She’s like “Her? Meh. That’ll never last.”

Superman #45 (July 1990)

Superman versus a giant fire dog coming out of an old man’s hair! Don’t worry, though: the old man summoned it, so his hair is impervious to fire. He’ll be fine.

Said old man is a Shaman of the Oto Tribe performing a ritual near Smallville, where Superman happens to be visiting his parents. Since Superman was behaving like some sort of, well, alien from planet Krypton the last time Ma and Pa Kent saw him (in Action #652), they’re glad to see that’s back to his old jokester self.

Meanwhile, a bunch of young Oto tribe members have kidnapped Smallville’s county agent (Superman’s childhood friend, Pete Ross) because their reservation is about to be turned into a mining operation. Superman eventually arrives to save Pete, but the Otos have a superpowered being on their side too: the old Shaman with the fire dog-creating powers. Naturally, Superman must fight the fire dog for a while (because otherwise anyone who bought the comic on account of the cover would feel cheated), but soon enough the Shaman says his fight isn’t with Superman, whom he sends away with a Jedi mind trick.

Now unopposed, the Shaman (turns out his name is Firewolf, which sounds like a Tom Cruise movie) goes into Pete’s office to tell him to leave the reservation alone, only to find out that’s exactly what Pete was trying to do. Turns out the young Otos didn’t want to stop the mine, they wanted to get a piece of the profits. One of them even tries to shoot Firewolf, but the bullet magically goes through him and hits the shooter’s friend. The Shaman cures the guy’s bullet wound with some leaves, and upon being informed that the Otos have actually voted to allow the mining operation (as long as they’re treated fairly), he’s like “OK, screw you then” and disappears in a puff of fire, never to be seen again.

Aw, poor Shaman Firewolf. With a name like that, he deserved his own series.

Bonus Story!

This issue includes 8 extra pages for no extra price, which is pretty awesome, but made slightly less awesome because it’s 8 pages of Jimmy Olsen (more specifically, from his diary). Jimmy covers events like Superman’s first public appearance (Man of Steel #1), the time Jimmy saved a classmate by turning his watch into a Superman-calling device (World of Metropolis #4), or the time he saved Superman himself by almost singlehandedly defeating Bloodsport (Superman #4). Unfortunately, the awesome Jimmy who did those things gets replaced in the last pages of the diary by whiny Superman-hating Jimmy, who simply recounts what’s been happening to him in recent issues.

Plotline-Watch:

The real reason Superman came to Smallville was to tell his parents that he’s getting serious with Lois Lane, but they insist that he also tell his best friend/stalker Lana Lang (whom he was a big jerk to in Superman #41). That goes well.

At the end of the issue they both apologize and Lana says she’s finally over him. And she means it! We get a little hint of where her life is heading when she kisses Pete Ross on the cheek after seeing that he didn’t get murdered by magic Indians. Other plots:

  • Jimmy’s mom seemed fine (if you know what I mean) when he rescued her from the Evil Factory in Superman #43, but now she’s suddenly gone catatonic as a delayed reaction to the utter insanity that was that plotline. Predictably, this makes Jimmy even more angsty than he’s been lately.
  • As Jimmy leaves the hospital he runs into Jerry White arguing with his girlfriend Tammy, because Jerry is working at a satanic night club made from an old desecrated church (sound familiar?). Jimmy’s like “hey, that sounds cool” and gets some free tickets for the club from Jerry. The place is called “Blaze’s”. Nothing ominous here.
  • As he flies over Smallville, Superman thinks about the “old Simonson quarry” where he used to play as a kid. This blog is the foremost authority on the Internet about Smallville’s Simonson Limestone Quarry, since we’re the first ones to point out that Superman fights people there in both Superman #8 and Action #644… and that it’s mentioned in this issue. You should feel honored to be reading these lines.
  • And finally, an important moment in Superman history: Lois Lane gets a new haircut! The new hairstyle actually debuts next issue (we only see Lois being indecisive at the hair salon in this one), but it will be the way she wears her hair for the rest of the ’90s.

WTF-Watch:

I’ve always loved the interaction between Superman and his parents in this issue (especially the part where Superman hides in the barn because he’s sad that Lana slapped him and Pa Kent talks to him), but I never noticed this: Ma Kent apparently isn’t a big fan of Lois Lane.

Look at the contempt in her face. She’s like “Her? Meh. That’ll never last.”

Jul 6 '14

Anonymous asked:

I started reading all of the post-crisis Superman comics about a year ago and then discovered your blog a few months ago. It's been great following along with you. Please keep this thing going!

I will! Sorry for the scarce updates lately, though I actually just scheduled a post for tomorrow. Anyway, thanks for the nice words, have another “Superman in Hell” ad:

Jul 3 '14
Hey! I was interviewed about this Tumblr at UNLEASH THE FANBOY! Check out the interview here (includes mild spoilers for future storylines).

Hey! I was interviewed about this Tumblr at UNLEASH THE FANBOY! Check out the interview here (includes mild spoilers for future storylines).

Jun 27 '14
I couldn’t resist posting this awesome house ad for the upcoming “Superman in Hell” storyline (uh, “upcoming” in 1990, that is). Not only is the Kerry Gammill/Brett Breeding art awesome, but JIMMY OLSEN GETS SHOT? Sign me up!

I couldn’t resist posting this awesome house ad for the upcoming “Superman in Hell” storyline (uh, “upcoming” in 1990, that is). Not only is the Kerry Gammill/Brett Breeding art awesome, but JIMMY OLSEN GETS SHOT? Sign me up!