First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.11: Adventures of Superman #449

Bass and Siskoid cover Adventures of Superman #449, featuring the Man of Steel, Gangbuster, Captain Atom, Guardian and the Newsboy Legion! And quite a lot of talk about Jack Kirby as well.

Listen to Episode 11 below (the usual filthy filthy language warnings apply), or subscribe to First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast on iTunes!

Relevant images and further credits at: First Strike ep.11 Supplemental

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6 responses to “First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.11: Adventures of Superman #449

  1. You guys caught me while I’m in a Kirby/Jimmy Olsen mode, having just discussed a couple of those issues on an upcoming Super Mates. Nice discussion here. Wish I’d heard this first so I could have stolen some of your points. :-)

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the Guardian. Such a great classic look. Mal was actually the Guardian AFTER Kirby’s Fourth World run, during the Teen Titans revival of the late 70s. After Kirby left, most of the Superman creators neglected his contributions and characters until the Post-Crisis revamp.

    Oh, and while I do love George Reeves, MY Superman is Christopher Reeve. I will say my Jimmy Olsen is George’s pal, Jack Larson. I can see him growing up a bit and going on these Kirby adventures.

    Chris

  2. Couldn’t agree more on your Kirby comments. Amazing characters, though often I felt that Jack himself didn’t know quite where to go with them. The Superman office of the late 1980s definitely did know, and that’s why I feel Jack untamed is an idea factory, but his factory needs a paint and marketing department to truly make his concepts golden.

  3. Another great episode, guys. It’s interesting to listen to your take of this Superman era, which is my absolute favorite. The Kirby talk was just gravy. I recently heard that the 4th World was what Jack wanted to turn the Marvel Universe into. He wanted to end it all in the pages of THOR and make way for this new line of books. Obviously not the marketing direction Marvel took, but it’s thrilling to imagine the scope of such a thing.

    In regards to “classic” art styles, we can all be talking about different things. These definitions are ever changing and our respective understanding of them are just as fluid. Kirby himself encompassed many approaches: classic/naturalistic »»» comic book bombast »»» cartoony. Batman can be filtered through many approaches, and so can Superman. To tie it back to the issue you discussed, Kerry Gammill perfectly balances of both naturalistic grace & subtle cartoony flourishes. (Also see: Walt Simonson, John Romita Jr, Michael Golden)

    1. *I meant Gammill for the previous issue you discussed. This issue had Ordway, who is very much from the school of classic illustration. He’s a technical beast with sharp storytelling instincts. To the modern reader, he might be unfortunately seen as “old fashioned”. Pfft, what do they know?

  4. Very interesting discussion Siskoid and Bass. I must say, I have never been able to immerse myself into the Fourth World. I found an old black and white TPB of the first 6-7 issues of Kirby’s Mister Miracle’s run and these were ok, but I was never grabbed by them. I may be wrong, but while Kirby was a magnificent artist, the dialogue of his characters felt off, and he probably needed a good writer to help bring across his characters better in the dialogue. That’s my opinion by the way, so please no angry ripostes from Kirby fans! :)

    The issue of artists on Superman is interesting too from the feedback. For me, I would always prefer the clean style as exhibited by Jurgens, Grummett, Byrne and Gamill, to name a few. While I like their interpretations, the more stylised art by the likes of Bogdanove were a bit harder to enjoy compared to the clean styles of the others.

    I look forward to hearing your take on the Animal Man issue next time out.

  5. After Lonely Hearts comes back from its hiatus, I wonder if all my exposure to Bass from this show will help me with differentiating the hosts better. It’s a great show with many interesting insights, but I unfortunately was still kind of breaking speakers down as Siskoid, familiar U.S. guest stars, French girls, and “not Siskoid.” But I know who Bass is on this show for sure, so I’m reasonably confident I can at least level up to “Not Bass, either” over there.

    Since the Superman art discussion took up so much space (and even a hint of barely perceptible Canadian passive-aggressive ribbing,) I want to clarify a bit. When I disagreed with Rob, it wasn’t a “he’s wrong, I’m right” thing. It’s more like being adherent to two different denominations of the same overall religion with key points of demarcation where each just takes their preferences on faith. I grew up on Christopher Reeve and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez just like Rob, but as I got older I felt like realistic rendering of the character emphasized the “man” over the “super.” I prefer Superman be iconic, or “cartoony,” so that he’s less one being with a set of model characteristics and more a larger than life concept that anyone can project their fantasy selves onto. That means Ed McGuinness is probably my all time favorite Superman artist, I prefer Shuster to Swan, Pasquale Ferry to Jim Lee, Jon Bogdanove to Dan Jurgens, and so on. There are of course exceptions (Ivan Reis draws a pretty Kal-El, while Wayne Boring is aptly named, and John Byrne is near perfectly balanced between the two approaches) but in general I don’t like realistic depictions to such a degree that it poisons my reception of even great artists like Jerry Ordway (who I think inks like magic, but his full art on The Man of Steel bugs me, especially in the face.) It is an unpopular opinion, but just call me a Seventh Day Raoist.

    As a kid who loved Marvel first, I’m a big fan of secondary characters like Captain Atom being elevated to the fore in a crossover while the overexposed Superman gets sidelined, because it build a broader universe. As an adult DC theologian, it’s supposed to be a Trinity universe, and everyone else is just there to support them. Which side I fall on in a given instance depends mostly on the execution of a specific example or just my mood that day. I’m in a “ugh, crazy-Gangbuster-pants” place here, so go Captain Atom!

    I’ve often mentioned that when I was growing up in the ’80s, and heard anecdotally among fans significantly older than me, that 1970s Kirby was regarded as the lowest form of boy’s adventure comics (ahead of only “girls” comics and funny animals.) A lot of Silver Age artists were unwelcome in the ’80s (there was a lot of Ditko hate, too) and even some of my favorites like Gil Kane were tastes I had to acquire rather than immediately receive. I think Kirby was single out the most because he was so prolific as to be unavoidable, and his aesthetic was so alien to audiences weened on artists of the Continuity school. In retrospect, I also think Ditko pulled a Next Men– divorcing himself from the safety of mainstream comics and corporate allegiance just as an exciting new wave of artists partially influenced by the original sucked all the air out of the room. If Kirby had left Fantastic Four for Superman it would have been The Story, but in 1970 it’s just the asterisk ahead of a discussion of Jim Steranko, Barry Smith, Frank Brunner, and so on.

    In the late ’90s DC did a proto-Essential/Showcase black & white reprint of New Gods that I dug, which inspired me to try too many bad revival attempts and one decent one (Simonson’s Orion.) I don’t think the Fourth World works inside Superman’s Universe, which is why they cherry picked the one great bad guy in Darkseid and treat the rest of the Saga as casualties in their conflicts. I never progressed to Kirby’s Mister Miracle, but in New Gods, Darkseid seemed to basically be Doctor Doom with more quiet confidence than bombast, which is the same as saying Darth Vader. He was a sullen dictator and scientist undermining a galactic cease fire and wrangling with rebellious sons in stories isolated from the greater continuity.

    Another one of those “so on” successors of the 1970s was Jim Starlin, was admittedly stole from Kirby to create his greatest villain, Thanos. However, it was Metron Starlin swiped, as should be obvious from his gangly first appearance in Iron Man, his flying chair, and the basics of his costume. It was Roy Thomas’ idea that if Starlin was going to borrow heavily from the Fourth World, he should take from the best source, Darkseid. That’s where the purple skin and bulky frame come in. Having acknowledged this debt though, I would argue that Thanos not only came out of Darkseid’s shadow almost immediately, but in turn influenced later uses of that character to the point of calling a draw. Darkseid was created to be a fascist seeking an Anti-Life Equation that would allow him to rule the universe within the context of an isolated feudal epic. Thanos also has an extended family drama that includes its own Highfather, but all that was abandoned fairly quickly, except I suppose Drax as its Orion figure (which would be a reach anyway.) Thanos is a grinning lunatic seeking interstellar genocide as tribute to a feminine concept of Death that he’s devoted to. Thanos was conceived to be a part of the Marvel Universe, battling the Avengers early and often. Darkseid worked mostly through intermediaries and rarely dirtied his own hands, while Thanos was hands-on, and his few agents were much different from the minions of Apokolips, prone to betrayal once they recognized Thanos’ psychotic goals. Darkseid brushed up against the Anti-Life Equation in Cosmic Odyssey and Orion’s series, but the effects were abstract and little felt (unless you’re Green Lantern John Stewart.) Thanos has repeatedly attained forms of omnipotence with disastrous results in stories felt throughout the continuum. Darkseid’s integration into DC continuity through Justice League of America and Legion of Super-Heroes came in the 1980s, and his presence there wasn’t solidified until Super Powers in 1985. In becoming a DCU villain having routine physical rows with the likes of Superman and exhibiting a broader emotional spectrum than Kirby provided, Darkseid was repaid the debt he was owed by Thanos, who was serving that role first. Physical similarities aside, Thanos is more like a cosmic level Hannibal Lecter than Darkseid.

    Which brings us to Mongul, who Starlin freely admits was him ripping himself off to port Thanos over to DC, except for stealing one of Darth Vader’s major distinctions from Darkseid: access to a Death Star. The odds favored Mongul only appearing in one story arc in DC’s other team-up book, but Starlin was only his co-creator, so other talents like Len Wein, Paul Levitz, and Alan Moore had a say otherwise. Mongul had his own motivation: he was analogous to the Shah of Iran seeking a device that would allow him to retake his dominion from an Ayatollah type. The quasi-Death Star version of Warworld was his first bid, as the Cosmic Cube was Thanos’ first draft of the Infinity Gauntlet, but it didn’t stop there. Mongul went on to murder and forcibly marry his way into the empire from Ditko’s Starman series in his next story. When that failed, he got his hands on a Sun Eater, necessitating the intervention of the Legion. In his final story Pre-Crisis, Mongul discovered the Black Mercy and used it preemptively against his constant foe Superman ahead of initiating his next scheme, but got hung up by Wonder Woman and the dynamic duo.

    Pre-Crisis, Mongul set himself apart by his reliance on one-use gimmick devices, but had some reliability through his use of “cube-traps” to shrink victims into an energy prison and extort his wishes through threat of violence. Mongul was also arguably physically stronger than Superman at a time when that just wasn’t done, which is why it always took multiple heroes to defeat him. I didn’t have a problem with Jason Todd beating Mongul with his own tools because it was true to the character’s early history and poetic besides. What I object to is that Mongul’s Post-Crisis stories all boil down to two aspects, the gladiatorial Warworld and a Sinestro Corps ring. I object to his never truly being a physical threat to Superman, and his being rather easily defeated by a slew of solo heroes of lesser standing. It bugs me that where once Mongul thrived on novelty and schemes, and where he once had an appreciable end goal, now all of Mongul’s stories center on mindless ultraviolence. He’s weak, he’s gross, and he’s dumb now. He should be like a galactic Kingpin to Superman’s Daredevil, but instead he’s Kalibak to Orion, a whupping boy on the road to bigger bouts.

    I’m going to let the dismissal of Starlin’s 1980s output go, even though that includes Dreadstar, one of my favorite series of all time…

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