Saturday, March 03, 2012

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 63

Panel from Batman: Shadow of the Bat #72 (March 1998), script by Alan Grant, pencils by Mark Buckingham, inks by Wayne Faucher, colors by Pam Rambo, separations by Android Images, letters by Bill Oakley

Friday, March 02, 2012

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 62

Panels from Batman: Shadow of the Bat #73 (April 1998), script by Alan Grant, pencils by Mark Buckingham, inks by Wayne Faucher, colors by Pam Rambo, separations by Android Images, letters by Bill Oakley

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I call "no way" on that stunt, Johnny Storm

So here's a story from pretty darn early in the Human Torch's career where he absorbs the entire power of a nuclear bomb:

Panels from Strange Tales #112 (September 1963), plot by Stan Lee, script by Jerry Siegel [as Joe Carter], pencils and inks by Dick Ayers, letters by Sam Rosen

Yeah, I'm not buying that he was able to do that—I call shenanigans! especially since this ultimate deadly atomic blast was a plot by none other than that most dangerous and nefarious Marvel're gonna guess Doctor Doom or the Red Skull or Magneto, right? One of the powerhouse baddies. Nope. T'was The Eel.

Yep! The guy with the oil-slathered costume and the 4,000 double-AA batteries built into his gloves. So he can shock you, and help provide you with a a lovely light vinaigrette salad. He didn't even give Daredevil much of a workout. And that was in his yellow costume days.

Panels from Daredevil v.1 #6 (February 1965), script by by Stan Lee, pencils and inks by Wally Wood, letters by Sam Rosen

So, you know, a villain of this calibre is going to be a pretty dangerous villain up against somebody like, say, Ghost Rider, right?

Panels from Ghost Rider v.1 #21 (December 1976), script by Gerry Conway, breakdowns by Gil Kane, finishes by Sam Grainger, colors by Jim Shooter (!) and Roger Slifer

Oh. Thus died the Eel. The guy who once almost nuked the planet. He probably ought to have listed that first on his resumé, then.

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 61

Panel from "A Tale of Time Past!" in Batman #328 (October 1980), script by Marv Wolfman, pencils by Don Newton, inks by Kim DeMulder, colors by Adrienne Roy, letters by Milt Snapinn.

And a special haunted Boo-ly-Prize to eagle-eyed reader Dan Longe,
who spotted that I'd posted the credits of a different story (now corrected). Thanks, Dan!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blowing out birthday candles / I was dressed as Superman and you were a shining star

It's February 29, the date so nice we get it, every eight years. And we all know whose birthday February 29 is, right?

Cover of Whiz Comics #47 (October 1943), pencils and inks by C. C. Beck

That's right! Happy Birthday, Big Red Cheese! And he gets to spend his birthday with a freakin' talking tiger.

But the truth be known, altho' it really is Captain Marvel's birthday (and it'll be a cold day in the cabbage patch before you make me call him "Shazam"), it also happens to be the birthday of another, somewhat important superhero:

Cover of DC Super Friends #9 (January 2009), pencils, inks, and colors by J. Bone

Yes! It's the birthday of

Super-Deformed Superman!

And the real Superman, too.

Those of you who are old enough to remember four years back on my blog (and, hey, those who remember good comics) will know that one of the simply finest Superman birthday tales is "For the Man Who Has Everything" in Superman Annual #11:

Cover of Superman Annual #11 (1985), pencils and inks by Dave Gibbons

I covered this fine tale four years ago on this very date, so I'm not gonna talk abut that issue today. I think I did it justice at the time, because it's my most-viewed post ever (even more than my post about half-naked Harley Quinn):

So, on this momentous occasion I like to call Clark Kent Day, let's take a look at some other Superbirthdays! Here's longtime hetero-lifemates Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent making the most of an evening by not actually fighting crime but instead attending an exhibition by an evil mentallist. You can tell he's evil because he's got lots of extra mascara on. (Maybe he's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline.)

Panels from World's Finest Comics #235 (January 1976), script by Bob Haney, pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by John Calnan. Yes, this is the one where Superman's head got popped off on the cover.

But...Clark's 18? Wait, wait, don't tell me...

Again, I point out the sheer massive amount of eye shadow that guy is using. He can't be up to any good, I bet. And hey, El Mystico...The Phantom Stranger called; he wants his cape back! Anyway, now we know CK/SM has two birthdays: February 29 is the actual date of his birth on Krypton (this explains why Lara always called him her little Leapbaby) and June 18 is the date the Kents got buzzed by an alien spaceship over their old dependable Ford pickup. (The Kents have never bought foreign automobiles.) And that also explains why he gets two sets of birthday presents a February, he gets Super-presents like comets and moonbeams and enchanted girdles from the island of Themyscira, and in June he gets socks and handkerchiefs and copies of Dan Brown novels.

You know, of course, lots of adopted people wind up having two birthdays for exactly the same reason. But on Earth-1, that can only mean one thing...that man must be Green Lantern Superman! Probably.

El Mystico was later found with his neck broken, lying in a Dumpster. The police coroner was puzzled to find that his neck had been snapped so powerfully that there were actually fingerprints in his skin...but then he got bawled out by Dr. Asten and Sam kept declaring that it couldn't have been murder but probably just suicide. Besides, the coroner had to rush off to investigate the arm of a woman in a bikini.

I really like the concept of Clark's birth being June 18. Not only is that the cover month of the very first issue of Action Comics, but June 18 is also the birthday of perennial Superman team-up partner Sir Paul McCartney, who appeared with Supes in the popular Bob Haney book Superman and the Fab Four (1965-1972). I loved that book! Who can forget the time Ringo punched Darkseid in the snoot? I know I never shall.

But of course, sometimes during the telling of the Super-Canon mistakes are made and dates get mxyzptlked up. (Dekltpzyxm!) Action Comics #241 finds Superman superwriting in his superdiary. I bet he has to keep that thing locked up with a tiny, tiny key so that Lois won't peek in it and find out how much he pines over her, or how neat he thinks Joe Namath is, or his drawings of planes and rocketships attacking monsters and blowing them up. And his many attempts to hand-copy the Led Zeppelin Zoso logo.

Splash page from Action Comics #241 (June 1958), script by Jerry Coleman, pencils by Wayne Boring, inks by Stan Kaye

Well, lo alti! stylt ltl? lmcw acdfe!< to you too, Superman!

Superman in investigating the mysterious break-ins at his Fortress of Solitude (thus completely negating its title), and two days after he makes this diary entry, the culprit is revealed...El Mystico! Oh, wait, it's just Batman.

So, according to Batman, Baby Kal arrived on Earth on June 12. Well, this is still the Silver Age, and Silver Age Batman was not infallible, unlike his later counterparts, Bronze Age Batman, Dark Age Batman, Post-Crisis Batman and Pop Batman.

Anyway, it was nice of Apache Chief to let Supes borrow his pocket knife. Also, please note that Batman put alternating giant candles of Clark Kent and Superman into his big-ass birthday cake. That's some dedication to detail. I suppose Alfred was up carving those all night.

Still, you can't complain that Batman's the only one to make a special fuss over Superman's birthday. That auspicious occasion is indeed a time of mirth and merriment everywhere, including the city room of a Great Metropolitan Newspaper (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer), all work stops to celebrate the big man's birthday.

Panel from Action Comics #149 (October 1960), pencils and inks by Al Plastino

On February 29, 1960, an earthquake in Morocco killed over 3,000 people and nearly destroyed Agadir in the southern part of the country (thanks, Wikipedia!), so Perry White missed out on that story, but it also happens to be the date that The Family Circus premiered, so I'm guessing it all balanced out all right.

Yep, all professional work stops in the office on the day of Superman's birthday. It's so hectic, no one even stops to notice that Lois Lane has been beatified within the Catholic Church!

Yep. Lois has just got to be so special. How special is Lois? So special that in Superman's Perpetual Thorn in the Side Lois Lane #72, when Lois travelled back in time to the seventeenth century, she was able to convince Galileo that the sun did not revolve around the Earth as previously thought, but rather that it revolved around Lois Lane.

How many special birthday gifts did Superman receive that year? So many that the Daily Planet Building began to collapse under their weight. It's canon, folks!

The story ends with Lois offering Supes a "wonderful present...the very best one of all." Fade out, finis. Wocka-cha-wocka-wow.

Let's flash back to 1980 sixteen years after whenever it is that we're saying Superman landed on Earth now. Freshly kicked out of his own magazine by those jerks in the Legion of Super-Heroes, high-schooler Clark Kent celebrates his sixteenth birthday...or...does he? Wait. Yes. Yes, he does.

Cover of The New Adventures of Superboy #1 (January 1980), pencils by Kurt Schaffenberger, inks by Dick Giordano

Everybody's at young Clark's birthday! Pete Ross! His dad, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross! That harpy, Lana Lang! Seriously, Lana, why don't you just pants him right there in front of his friends and parents and those two people watching in back from the Phantom Zone, huh? And let's hope Lana doesn't have slightly better-than-average hearing because Ma and Pa Kent can't help being blabbermouths.

Splash page from The New Adventures of Superboy #1 (January 1980), script by Cary Bates, pencils by Kurt Schaffenberger, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Ben Oda

"Hey Clark!" Pete Ross asks. "How come unusual circumstance which leads into the thrilling events of this story?" he continues. And that's a whole 'nother story.

It all has something to do with Superman spending an entire year helping out an alien race during his flight from Krypton to Earth so he's actually a year older than he really tells everybody he is and oh gosh my head hurts. Let us pay no attention to that and instead focus on the fact that no one has noticed Ma and Pa Kent are thirty years younger than they should be.

Of course, every now and then the good folks at DC like to stir up the pot by completely ignoring continuity that wouldn't make any difference to the story if it were properly followed introducing new and exciting concepts like Clark arrived on Earth on December 1, not June 18. Also, in his youth Pa ran moonshine in Hazzard County with his cousin Luke Kent.

Panels from Superman: Secret Origin #1 (November 2009), script by Geoff Johns, pencils by Gary Frank, inks by Jon Sibal, colors by Brad Anderson, letters by Steve Wands

What's under the floor? Why, it's a giant version of one of those light-up glasses you can keep when you buy a sparkling non-alcoholic drink at Bubba Gump's! (This joke provided for the three people who will get it.)

But that's just details about Superman's birthday dates on Earth. What about on Krypton? When was he born on that big green marble? Why, just like the lucky baby who was the first to be born in the year 2000 right here on Earth, or lucky Jesus who got born just as the clock ticked over from BC to AD, young Kal-El was born in the year 10,000! It all started when Superman found some debris left over from the total and complete nuclear explosion of his home planet which just happened to contain the perfectly intact desk and diary of his own father for him to find. The Silver Age, folks! The Silver Age of Coincidences, more like. Kennedy: had a secretary named Lincoln. Lincoln: has a secretary named Kennedy. Bruce Wayne: had a butler called Alfred. Alfred the Bruce: had a butler named Wayne. It's all part of a massive conspiracy!

Panels from Action Comics #233 (December 1956), script by Edmond Hamilton, pencils by Wayne Boring, inks by Stan Kaye

Yep! Year 10,000. And only a few days later, Krypton was destroyed. Now we know why: Y10K.

Wow! 10,000 years of Kryptonian culture! And at least 3,000 of those must have been devoted to advancing their colored tunic technology. But a Kryptonian year is not the same as ours, nor do they have those excellent door-busting sales on Black Sun Friday, the day after Kryptonian Federal Science Feasting of the Space-Fowl Day. If you want to venture into the intricacies of days, weeks, months, and years as reckoned by our Krypton cousins, you should A) check out this website and B) have a basic working knowledge of how many Knuts and Sickles go into a Galleon. For even more obsessively detailed calendar fun with Superman, here's a Kryptonian Calendar worth checking out. Personally, I always say, wait until after WinterScience Festival Period to get half-price on your Kryptonian calendars, especially if you like those little tear-off Page-a-Zetyars. If you want to get the cheesecake calendars with all the Kryptonian girls in tiny bikinis, better act quick, because I'm not entirely certain Kryptonians have even invented the bikini yet.

Panels from The Man of Steel #1 (October 1986), script and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Dick Giordano, colors by Tom Ziuko, letters by John Costanza

Say, now that I think of it...where did Jor-El get beefcake photos of Earth from? Why, from Starman VI Jack Knight and a Mother Box simulating his father Starman I Ted Knight, of course. Of course.

Panels from Starman v.2 #51 (March 1999), script by James Robinson and David Goyer, pencils: by Peter Snejbjerg, inks by Keith Champagne, colors by Gregory Wright, separations by GWC, letters by Bill Oakley

But really? Was Kal-El born exactly in the Kryptonian Year 10,000? Naw, probably not. The celebration for the big Ten-oh-oh-oh actually probably kicked off, much like our national's Bicentennial, a couple years early, in 9998. Then, they had two years of "Tenmillennial Minutes" hosted by Wal-Tor Krank-El on KBS leading right up until the big day, at which point the planet had already gone splodey two years before. Still, bet they whooped it up big time in the Bottle City of Kandor, huh?

No, Superman was actually born in 9998, a date made canon by this cover of Action Comics #429. A very special Bully "thank you" goes out to Charismatic Chris SIms, America's premiere Supermanologist, for helping me hunt down this issue, without which this post would have ended on that dumb Wal-Tor Krank-El joke.

Cover of Action Comics #429 (November 1973), pencils and inks by Nick Cardy

So, if you meet any Kryptonians today, be sure to wish them a happy Eorx 35th, and remind them that their rent is due on or before the 37th of every month. In this very issue we discover that Superman at last ditched the metal diary and finally got himself a Moleskine, even if it's one of those big-ass ones he has to use two iPads to operate. If and when Superman's Diaries are ever offered for sale to the general public, it truly will be the end of print publishing, because no sane publisher, not even DC, is gonna print a book that large. Even if they did, it's a cinch that Amazon would refuse to offer free super-saving shipping on it.

Panels from Action Comics #429 (November 1973), script! by! Elliot S! Maggin, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Bob Oksner

Supes is concerned that someone's found out his true identity because, y'know, everybody except Lois knows it. Turns out the guy who runs the Daily Planet's morgue accidentally began picking up transmissions from Superman's Big-Ass Diary. Then he taught himself Kryptonian so he could read it, and he figured out Clark Kent - spectacles = Superman. Yep! I'll buy that, DC. (shuffling away cautiously)

Oh, how they all laughed and laughed and laughed! Later, of course, Ryan Lowell was found in a Dumpster behind the Daily Planet with his neck snapped. Sure, you can pull on Superman's cape...but don't let him know you figgered out he's Clark Kent, idiot.

So, there you go: whatever way you chop it, it's Superman's birthday. (Huzzah!) And I have only one question left: if Superman's birthday is on February 29...what's Bizarro's birthday???

Panel from Action Comics #263 (April 1960), script by Otto Binder, pencils by Wayne Boring, inks by Stan Kaye

So, to sum up! Happy Birthday, Superman!

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 60

Panels from The Batman Strikes #28 (December 2007), script by Russell Lissau, pencils by Christopher Jones, inks by Terry Beatty, colors by Heroic Age, letters by Rob Clark Jr.

Now you know why it's called...366 Days with Alfred. Enjoy this extra bonus day!

Happy Leap Day! (Or: What If™ Scott McCloud Drew Amazing Spider-Man #121?)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When things are tough and you've had a bad day...

This is for my good pal Randi and anybody else who needs it today!
(Bully sketch by Roger Langridge)

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 59

Page from Batman Begins: Be a Hero Official Movie Color and Activity Fun Book (2005).
Print it out and color it! Be sure you have plenty of black crayons.