Monday, May 16, 2016

Today in Comics History: Just Another Miracle Monday

This is an updated version of a post I originally wrote on May 15, 2006. Hey, I'm only six years old, how is that even possible?

Happy Miracle Monday, everybody! It's one of the best kind of holidays, falling after Easter and before the Fourth of July, and by its very nature absolutely guaranteed not to conflict with Mother's Day! Miracle Monday Monday always falls on the third Monday of every May (you know, take Free Comic Book Day and add two weeks and two days), and it's a day of celebration and joy in honor of Kal-El. (You might know him better by his alter ego name of Superman!)

Elliot S! Maggin (an' he should know, he's got a "!" in his name!) wrote of this grand holiday in the second of his pair of Superman original novels published in conjunction with 1979's Superman: The Movie. I highly recommend both novels — they're out of print but easily findable in used bookshop and online, sometimes for pennies). And if you look around carefully enough you may find the whole text of the books online, but trust me, I think you're gonna want to have these on your actual, physical, touchable bookshelf.

Of this grand day Mr. ! Maggin wrote
On that day...resort owners on the glaciers of Uranus raise ski-lift tickets for the influx of tourists. Teamsters driving slow-moving cargo transports to Earth from mining operations in the asteroid belt get drunk and silly like sailors crossing the Equator for the first time. In honor of Superman's chosen profession, even journalists can spend the holiday with their families. There are laughter, reflection, public celebration with barbecues and holographic light shows all over the solar system, merriments of all sorts. It's a big holiday.

Another vital primary document for scholars from the future (lookin' at you, Rond Vidar) researching the history of Miracle Monday is Superman #400, which contains Supes stories and pin-ups by literally some of the most famous artists and writers in comics at the time (inhale): Howard Chaykin, Joe Orlando, Brian Bolland, Jack Kirby, Al Williamson, John Byrne, Jack Davis, Frank Miller, Leonard Starr, Walt Simonson, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, Bernie Wrightson, Wendy Pini, Will Eisner, Michael Kaluta, Steve Ditko, Mike Grell, Klaus Janson, Moebius, Jim Steranko, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jerry Robinson, and an essay by Ray Bardbury. (exhale) I've often said that if you had to choose only one Superman comic to take to your desert island out of the thousands of 'em, this would be a great pick.

Most of the stories are written by Elliot S! Maggin, and they follow chronologically from our time forward to depict the future legacy of Superman in the universe. My very favorite — and the one I'm showing you here today — is a collaboration with Klaus Janson and a veritable celebration of Miracle Monday, focusing upon a sixtieth-century family sitting down to their traditional feast at which all are welcome to come in and join:

Panels from Superman (1939 series) #400 (October 1984); script by Elliot S! Maggin; pencils, inks, and colors by Klaus Janson; letters by John Costanza

A little like a Passover Seder, a Miracle Monday dinner is solemnified by telling the tale, the very celebration of the art of storytelling that mythology (and comic books) do so well.

A strange visitor from another planet has come to dinner on Miracle Monday: a time-lost (who else but!) Superman.

One of things I love best about the epic mythological tone of the stories in Superman #400 is that it serves as a coda to any age of Superman. Although the Crisis on Infinite Earths was still a couple years away when this was published, it can serve as "The Last Superman Story" for the pre-Crisis age (alongside the well-deserved "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", naturally), for the it-began-with-John-Byrne post-Crisis saga, or even for the "Final Days of Superman" chronicle now unwinding in the pages of the last "New 52" Superman comics.

Long before we were told the "S" stands for hope, before he married Lois or fought Doomsday or battled the Avengers or was recreated without red underwear, Superman promises us he'll always be back. And ya know what? I'm eager to take the Big Guy's word for that.

Throughout whatever DC Universe you prefer, let's all celebrate Miracle Monday and remember the difference that Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman has made in our lives. Won't you set a place for him at your Miracle Monday dinner table today? I know I will! Hope you like chicken-'n'-dumplings, Kal-El!

And you don't have to eat all your peas. I certainly won't tell.

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