Superman/Batman #51 Review

From my review at Sight. I’ve also posted the full version of the gorgeous Ryan Sook cover under the review. It’s so cute, even your girlfriend will love it! What’s that? You read comics? Um…it’s so cute even your Aunt Beryl will love it!

DC’s current gallery of books is hardcore, with more convoluted stories than usual. Final Crisis and it’s truck load of tie-in issues has our heroes facing their darkest day (apparently), and with Batman:R.I.P, which has the Dark Knight’s existence seemingly coming to an unexpected end, the DC Universe is not the simplest or happiest world to visit. However, they still know how to entertain and in recent months DC have given me much more mirth than usual, thanks in part to Tiny Titans, a simple book with short tales, chock-full of fanboy in-jokes. It always puts a smile on my face. Now there’s this Superman/Batman two-parter. I don’t think I’ve laughed out loud so much in a single issue. A pleasant change from last month’s issue #50, which presented a far-out tale where the parents of our titular heroes may have met decades ago, this story is just plain fun, with no need for previous knowledge. Mike Johnson continues his writing duties on this title, from last month, with Michael Green (who also writes TV’s Heroes) who launched an excellent story arc in issue #44 which had the superhero pair hunting down all of earth’s Kryptonite. During that run, Superman was exposed to some Silver K, which gave him hallucinations of pint-sized versions of his costumed friends. It was a brief, but amusing moment. Here, the kid heroes return, thanks to the reality warping powers of that troublesome imp, Mr Mxyzptlk. He confesses that his aim was simply to lighten up the superhero pair, as both heroes have been in dark times indeed as of late, just like us faithful DC readers.

Mirth inducing moments abound in this ish, from Lil’ Bats punching the real deal in the kneecap, to the tiny versions of the Justice League of America, including a Supergirl toddler who cries at the drop of a hat, and similar versions of Wonder Woman, Vixen and Black Canary experiencing love at first sight when the teen Robin enters the Batcave.

I’m so glad to see DC mock their own creations with such recklessness. Superman and Batman are two of pop culture’s greatest creations, and like superheroes in general, are ripe for parody, though it’s really only insiders who can do it with any sense of wit. When films or TV shows attempt to do the same, their parodies come across as cringe inducing. Us fanboys are sick of “underwear on the outside” jokes, but we can laugh at ourselves with ease. The highlight here for me would have to be the pre-pubescent versions of Superman and Batman recounting their origins. Instead of the two gunshots that killed “our” Bruce Wayne’s parents that fateful night, the younger version’s parents experienced, “Two shoves. And nothing was ever the same again. I swore that night that no one would ever be bullied in Gotham City.” Similarly, instead of seeing Krypton’s destruction give birth to Superman, his counterpart’s parents rocketed their only son to earth just to save him from a rainy day. These origins have been told many times over these characters’ 70 plus years of history, and to see them retold here in such a refreshingly different manner is great.

The introduction of similar de-aged versions of the pair’s main villains on the final page is a hoot (Two-Face has a cake covering half his face, and Mr Freeze is armed with an ice-cream gun) and bodes well for more laughs in next month’s conclusion.

There’s sheer entertainment here for both hardcore readers who’ll get the parodies, and something for newbies too. Rafael Albuquerque is the perfect choice for artist. His deft pencils make all the characters seem so adorable and aid greatly in making this issue such a joyful romp. Now I just need to start a petition for DC to create plush toys based on these Lil’ Leaguers.

Save Superman’s House

I started watching Rocky Balboa again tonight. I love Sylvester Stallone’s films, and he’s created two of pop culture’s heroes in the Italian Stallion and Rambo. Especially with Rocky, there is so much that the general public remember – the theme music, “Yo Adrian!”, meat punching, running up steps, etc. And to top it all of he got his own statue in Philadelphia.

And all that is fantastic. Really. But what isn’t is that Superman’s creators are largely forgotten. The only comic creator that the general public really know is Stan Lee, and that’s OK. But even the Marvel man himself submits to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s timeless creation. Superman debuted in 1938 in Action Comics #1 and immediately took the world by storm, and virtually created the comic book industry. His place on the landmark of fictional story telling can not be denied. Unfortunately his real life origins can be.

Novelist/comics scribe Brad Meltzer recently visited the Cleveland house in which Superman was born and was shocked by what he saw. From the article at CBR:

While conducting extensive research for his latest novel, “The Book of Lies,” (in stores today), Meltzer visited Siegel’s boyhood home, where Superman – one of the world’s most recognized heroes – was created.

Much to his dismay, the house was in extreme disrepair.

Immediately, he knew he had to do something to honor the legend.

So he called up a few of his friends (and when you are Brad Meltzer, you have some pretty cool friends) and started collecting one-of-a-kind art and memorabilia, which is available now for bidding on his new philanthropic website, www.OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld.com.

The auction runs through 11:59 p.m. on September 30, 2008.

“When I saw that the house where Superman was created was in disrepair, it just seemed wrong. The house where Google was created is saved. The farm where Hewlett Packard was founded is preserved. The Superman house deserves the same respect,” explained Meltzer.

“We’ve always relied on Superman to be there when we needed him. This is our chance to be there for him.”

This is a fantastic idea and it’s awesome that fans and professionals of the comics industry can recognise a need and do something about it.