Saturday, May 25, 2013

Top 10 Most Powerful Pre-Crisis Superman Foes

Listening to a podcast this week, I heard someone mention that only reason General Zod is going to appear in the Man of Steel movie is because Superman has a weak rogues gallery. While I will admit, there are some clunkers in his rogues gallery (Toyman?), if one looks back at some of the foes he faced during Pre-Crisis continuity, then the list powerful foes is longer than most people think. Here is my top ten favorites (in no order whatsoever.)

Dev Em - First Appearance: Adventure Comics 287

Powers: Super strength, invulnerability, flight

Dev Em was a Kryptonian juvenile delinquent who happened to escape the destruction of Krypton and ends up on Earth. While he begins his story as a foe of Superboy, he would later reform and join the Legion of Superheroes showing up from time to time in those stories. I first saw him when he showed up in the Great Darkness Saga.

Galactic Golem - First Appearance: Superman 248

Powers: Energy absorbtion, super strength and invulnerability

Created by Lex Luthor from collected pieces of galactic matter to destroy Superman. After its first battle with Superman (wherein Luthor helps to dispatch the creature) it shows up again a few issues later and really lays the smack down on Superman. The internet suggests the golem made an appearance in JLA vs Avengers mini-series. While I don't remember that, I can totally see Kurt Busiek adding the golem to the story.

Vartox - First Appearance: Superman 281

Powers: invulnerability, superhuman strength and senses, telekinesis, telepathy, energy projection, astral projection, ability to transfer these powers to others

Inspired by the Sean Connery movie Zardoz, Vartox was the Hyper-Powered hero on the planet Valeron who comes to Earth seeking justice for the death of his wife. While his vendetta initially puts him at odds with Superman, Vartox would return several times later in the series as an ally.

Karb Brak - First Appearance: Action Comics 460

Powers: Super strength, invulnerability (?), flight

An alien from the Andromeda galaxy, Karb had to leave his home planet due to having an allergy to everyone on his home world. Unfortunately, Superman's Kryptonian biology is enough to cause Karb's allergy to flair up which results in a battle between the two of them which ran its course through 4 issues. Karb-Brak was eventually cured by Vartox.

Hercules, Atlas and Samson - Multiple appearances during the Silver Age

Powers: Super strength, invulnerability

A common story idea in the Silver Age was to have Superman face off against some strong man from history. Grant Morrison pays homage to this conceit by having Hercules and Atlas show up in All-Star Superman. Of these three, Hercules seems to have had the most appearances.

Faora - First Appearance: Action Comics 471

Powers: Superhuman strength, speed, stamina and invulnerability, freezing breath, super hearing, multiple extrasensory and vision powers, longevity, flight, and regeneration

Faora's background suggests there is more to her story than is revealed in her Bronze Age appearances. A Kryptonian sentenced to the Phantom Zone for the crime of killing 23 men at a secret concentration camp, She is also a master of the Kryptonian martial art of Horo-Kanu. In her first battle against Superman, she has the ability to use mental lightning, but doesn't have this power in later battles.

Mongul - First Appearance: DC Comics Presents 27

Powers: Superhuman strength and durability, energy Projection

Created by Len Wein and Jim Starlin, Mongul is an interplanetary space tyrant with devastating powers and abilities. In their first confrontation, Superman ignores the advice of the Martian Manhunter to not face Mongul alone, and gets soundly defeated as a result.

Black Zero - First Appearance: Superman 205

Powers: Advanced Tactile-telekinesis that provided flight, invulnerability, and superhuman strength. Superhuman hearing and heat vision.

A space saboteur on a secret mission to destroy Krypton, Black Zero discovers that Jor-El's prediction of destruction was wrong because the internal pressures in the planet had subsided. To this end, Black Zero causes the pressures to build back up causing the destruction of Krypton. Later, Black Zero comes to Earth where he faces off against Superman. This character would return in name only in Post Crisis continuity.

Captain Thunder - First Appearance: Superman 276

Powers: Super-strength, speed, stamina, invulnerability, flight, wisdom, control over and emission of magic lightning

Created by Elliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan after DC's obtaining the rights to the Fawcett characters, this Captain Marvel doppleganger was actually a young boy named Willie Fawcett who obtained his powers from an Indian Shaman:

Little known fact: Twomorrows Publishing's Back Issue #30 revealed that another Bronze Age appearance which was drawn but never published.

Oriental War Demon - First Appearance: Superman 241

Powers: Magically tougher than Superman and has a 9 foot Katanna.

Appearing at the end of the classic Sand Superman Saga, an entity from Quarrm possesses a statue of an Oriental War Demon in Chinatown and proceeds to beat Superman up so badly he has to recover in a hospital. While this creature never returns after his initial appearance, his size, alien appearance and distinctive battle armor have always made him a personal favorite.

I actually bought this issue off a spinner rack, and it *may* have been the first Superman comic I ever bought (the timing works) which considering some of the more dynamic scenes of violence in the book, was quite the introduction to the Superman comics. (And to the best of my reckoning, that level of action was rarely scene again in this book.)
So, that's my Top Ten.

Is there a favorite Superman foe you would add to the list?

- Jim

Sunday, May 19, 2013

5 Thoughts on the end of the Legion of Superheroes

Last week, DC revealed a new wave of cancellations (many of which would be no surprise to regular readers of this blog) including long time fan favorite, the Legion of Superheroes.

This prompted this tweet from the High Reactionary himself, Mark Waid:

And while I think Waid's hashtagged label for the tweet is a clue that perhaps his reaction is a bit extreme, the news of cancellation catalyze a lot of thoughts I've been having about the Legion over the years. In no apparent order, here they are:

1. Has the Losh really been continuously published for the past 40 years?
Wasn't there a period several years ago when they were just a seldom seen backup in a short lived Adventure Comics in 2009? Seeing how this latest version was Volume 7 of a title that has been rebooted 3 times, I think it's a bit rediculous to call it continuous publication.

2. Does anyone really think this will be the last we see of the Legion in a comic?
In a world where Grant Morrison can put juice back in the Batman of Zurr-en-arrh, I would be relunctant to count the Losh out for long.

3. Is the Legion a concept that can't be retooled for this era?
The list of excellent creators who have tried to rejuvinate the franchise is pretty long (Abnett and Lanning, Waid, Giffen, Jim Shooter, Paul Levitz) DC has tried a number of different approaches on the franchises (time jumps, reboots, retro reconfigurings, high concept storylines, etc...) with the exception of some mild interest in the last Waid/Kitson threeboot in 2004, nothing has really ever moved the needle. (And even the threeboot ran out of steam by issue 16 when it was retitled Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes.)

4. Why don't younger fans like the Legion?
From listening to 30 something podcasters on ifanboy talk about the series, I think there are several answers to this question:
  • Dated, juvenile sounding names (Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, etc.)
  • A fear that they don't know where to start with the series
  • They are overwhelmed by the large cast
Basically, I think a lot of modern comic readers are a bit lazy when it comes to trying new comics. If they can't grasp a concept in the first issue, they walk away from it. A comic like American Flagg (or from heretell, the current incarnation of Prophet) requires more mental energy than most modern readers want to expend. (And honestly, can you blame them? With the siren song of television shows, movies and video games ever calling them, why should they put forward the effort to read a title like the Legion?)

5. What is my favorite era of the Legion?
That's a tough one, because I like different eras for different reasons. Currently, I would say the Silver Age, mostly for the background ideas that appear in the stories - like a desk unit that has yes/no light displays on the front.

I would love one of those for work.

I'm going to end with a final question:  
How would you make the Legion a successful comic in this day and age?

Have a great week!

- Jim

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why Do People Quit Reading Comics?

On many occasions, I've written a post about the rather lackluster state of comics from the big two and invariably, the post will generate comments from people saying they've completely given up on comics "...ever since they cut off the Joker's face, or Avenger's Disassembled or DC 52, or..." you get the idea.


 I totally sympathize with the frustration people might feel about the lack of quality coming from Marvel and DC (though the actual change in quality might not be as huge as you think it is, all things considered.) What I don't understand, is how this leads people to just give up completely on the genre itself.

People don't quite watching television shows because they didn't like how LOST ended. So why is it that so many people quit comics altogether because Doctor Octopus is now Superior Spider-Man?

 I suspect the answer is that a large part of the readership isn't really that enthralled with the genre in of itself. That's why independent titles languish, but umpteen Batman titles reign supreme. It's not the genre that people like, but the idea that Batman and his universe is something they are partaking in.

The problem with that comes when writers do something with Batman that no longer fits with how you perceive his universe. Then you are left with nothing.  Which is sad, because in many ways, we are currently in a new Golden Age of independent comics.

I would definitely encourage anyone who has "Given up on Comics!" to try some new independent comics.  You might find yourself really enjoying the experience of discovery all over again!

- Jim

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rainbow Godzilla vs Iron Man 3

I had planned to go see Iron Man 3 yesterday, but due to circumstance beyond my control, I found myself casting about for cheap ways to keep my daughter and her friend entertained all day. My solution: take them to Free Comic Book Day! 

As it turns out, that was the right choice as they both got a lot of free comics and were enthralled with the guest artists drawing sketches at the event. Check out our friend Sean McGuiness as he accepts the dubious challenge of drawing a Rainbow Godzilla. 

We actually ended up making two trips to the event (it was either that or go to Build-A-Bear which is sort of like the antithesis of Free Comic Book Day) and during both visits, I was impressed with how many kids were in attendance. Also impressive was how well the shop seemed to be doing on back issues and graphic novels. There was always a line at the register with people waiting to buy stuff.

As for Iron Man 3, from what I hear, it will be in the theaters for a while, so I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

- Jim


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