Post-Crisis (Superman)

[I've been a bad, bad blogger over the last few months. Here's hoping I can start making my lack of regular posts up to everybody and bring back some regular readers in 2016. Sound good to you? Good! --GMM]
Maybe the single book I was happiest about in 2015. Happy irony!
When last I wrote, I was having a little crisis regarding my comic book buying habits. I developed a severe lack of faith in the output of the Big Two in 2015, exacerbated by line-wide events like Convergence at DC Comics and Secret Wars (what, again?) at Marvel.

Looking at some articles out there from not only fans but also some retailers, it appears I'm not alone in my trepidation. One thing the market hates is uncertainty, and in 2015 the Big Two gave it to retailers and readers alike in spades. With a spate of regular series, retailers can base their orders on their regular customers and their buying habits, forecasting here and there for "new" series based on the performance of other, similar books. With a two-month-long event like Convergence, there's a degree more of uncertainty because the entire regular lineup is replaced by forty two-issue miniseries anchored by a 9-issue event series. And because Marvel must take every idea DC has and shoot it full of Gamma Rays to do it "better," they anchored a staggering 42 miniseries of indeterminate length (upon early solicitations), as well as several issues of 10 ongoing series, to their own 9, then 10-issue event series.

So, to recap: we've got big event miniseries, which usually sell gangbusters. But what happens when you tie them to countless miniseries instead of the traditional issues of ongoing series? Remember the theory to using events and crossovers in the first place: namely, to prop up flagging sales of series by tying them--unnecessarily, even--to said event. But how do retailers even begin to determine orders when juggling an event with a whole bunch of new #1 issues for series of unknown length, with no real corollaries to existing series? Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!

I'm proud to announce that the tailspin I found myself in when I wrote the last entry has evened itself out. That's right: I'm no longer quite so fatalistic when it comes to the comics I read! Isn't that amazing? I've learned to not worry and enjoy the titles I read, like the Superman family of titles. Why, just last month we had Joe Kelly & Pascual Ferry finish their epic run on Action Comics; Joe Casey & Derec Aucoin do the same for Adventures of Superman; and Steven T. Seagle & Scott McDaniel have brought Superman to its grand 200th issue while finishing their year-long "Futuresmiths" storyline that began back in the worth-every-penny Superman: The 10-Cent Adventure. That doesn't even count Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness bringing us our heroes' epic throwdown with President Luthor in Superman/Batman, or Mark Waid & Leinil Yu's awe-inspiring reimagining of the Man of Steel's origin in Superman: Birthright. (True, there was Superman: Metropolis, that 12-issue series written by Chuck Austen about the "Tech" brought back from Brainiac-13's future, which was kind of a super-dud...but let's be honest, at least the powers-that-be were trying to do something different for a change...)

One of my favorite Superman covers, by the late Michael Turner. (Don't judge me.)
Wait, you haven't heard of these books I'm talking about? Well, that's probably because they're all from the past--2004, to be exact. Now, I haven't totally checked out on ongoing series for 2016--in fact, one of my next posts will be about the very few series I think are worth taking a chance on this year--but right now is time better spent on acquainting myself with a whole mess of back issues that've been taking up good storage space in my closet.

It's actually one of my favorite things to do: go grab a mountain of back issues (or, on rare occasion, trade paperbacks) and just go on a reading spree. I used to do it a little over ten years ago when a Pittsburgh comic shop had 50-cent "warehouse" sales, buying up pretty full runs of 1990s books like X-Force and all other manner of stuff. (True story: I bought New Mutants #98--the first appearance of Deadpool--from a $1 bin in pretty nice shape. I sold it with the rest of the series when I was financing an Incredible Hulk #1. So, granted, I'm not really kicking myself because I've got one book that's really appreciated...but, still...!)

In mid-2014, history repeated itself in having one fight between Superman and Doomsday lead me back to the back issue bins. The last time, it was the famed "Death of Superman" storyline that prompted me to buy up John Byrne's Superman and Action Comics, as well as Marv Wolfman & Jerry Ordway's Adventures of Superman. In that same sweep where I sold off Deadpool, I similarly sold nearly all of those books.

The storyline that launched a collecting crusade.
This time, the "Doomed" storyline reawakened my fascination with the Big Blue Boy Scout with even greater fervor. What really sparked that fire was my remembrance of a piece of Superman lore I found very interesting but never actually read.

John Byrne's final storyline prior to his departure involved Superman facing Kryptonian super-criminals from a pocket dimension. In the end, he rationalized that the only way to stop them was to expose them first to their version of Gold Kryptonite, which removed their powers, and then kill them using their version of Green Kryptonite. Over the subsequent months, in stories crafted by Roger Stern, Kerry Gammill & Jerry Ordway, Superman doubted his decision. At the same time, the vigilante called Gangbuster returned to the streets of Metropolis after having been gone for months due to a grave spinal injury. Eventually, we discovered this wasn't the original Gangbuster, but rather Superman, in the midst of a nervous breakdown which was the direct result of his doubts over killing those Kryptonians. The revelation of his new costumed identity led to his temporary self-exile into space. There, he eventually met the Kryptonian Cleric and the weapon called the Eradicator, the latter of which would cause years of trouble.

So, some eBay sales gave me a goodly bit of the run I wanted, which included everything up to and including the "Death of Superman" storyline. But as the auctions piled up and gave me a handful of issues beyond my intended end point, I decided "the hell with it!" and kept on trucking through more auctions and a few big $1 sales (especially the big basement sale at New Dimension Comics near Pittsburgh, PA). I filled a long box with Superman comics, 2,000 miles from home, at about 75 cents each. (Just imagine the difficulty in getting them to my home!) Finally, I achieved a satisfactory end point with the final issues of Superman's series before the New 52 began.

Somewhat ironically, a short time after I completed this Superman run--encompassing four long boxes and well over 1,000 individual issues--DC announced the return of the Post-Crisis Superman in Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks' Convergence: Superman, a two-issue miniseries released during the larger Convergence event. That larger event left the Post-Crisis Superman "stuck" in the current iteration of the DC Universe, which begat the current Superman: Lois & Clark miniseries, also by Jurgens & Weeks. That book is currently the only DC comic I follow, for obvious reasons.

More Turner, in the storyline that led to "New Krypton."
So there you go. I've actually gotten a small feeling of dread as I've begun reading 2004's swath of Superman series. In no small part, it's because of Superman/Batman. My trepidation isn't due to Jeph Loeb's writing, or the connection to the upcoming feature film; rather, it's because the series' opening arcs form the basis for "New Krypton," the immense storyline that began in late 2008 and continued through mid-2010. The return of the various colors of Kryptonite, as well as the "true" Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, foreshadow all that Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates & James Robinson accomplish throughout that year-and-a-half. From there, it's only a little over a year before the start of the New 52. I suppose it's a bittersweet feeling settling in right now.

But yes, to be fair, I have about 7 more years of Superman stories left to read. I've got "Our Worlds at War" and "Emperor Joker" behind me, and Infinite Crisis and yes, "New Krypton" still to come. It ought to be a fun ride. If nothing else, it'll provide a different perspective from my intermittent reading of these books during the first go-round.

How about for everyone out there? Are you disenchanted with the modern Big Two? And if so, what books are you reading to satisfy your superhero fix?


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