Zero Hour Strikes! Superman Zeroes

Bass and Siskoid reach for an old favorite, covering the zero issues of all four Superman books, but is it Superman #0, or Conduit #0? Whose origin are we really telling? Only the Podcasters of Steel can get to the bottom of this.

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.25 Supplemental

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10 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Superman Zeroes

  1. Looks like Clark owned a first-issue Captain Action box like the one you posted, Siskoid. So it includes Superman, Batman and Aquaman! Zero Hour has clearly broken reality beyond repair!

    Oddly enough Captain Action figured into early issues of Starman around this time!

    Ah, Conduit. I used to jokingly say his name as if Scotty were having a coranary down in engineering: “I Conduit, Captain!”. He was all over the Superman: The Man of Steel action figure line from Kenner that was hitting shortly after this as well. DC and the Super-office really seemed to think he was going to be a villain for the ages, but…not so much. I think his intense obsession with Clark was good for this story arc, and that’s about it. So I’m glad they put him down pretty quickly.

    Jurgens was about to launch into writing/drawing his Teen Titans, and he seemed to get a better handle on drawing teenagers. Ovelry muscular, squatty Clark is indeed odd. And no one could seem to figure out how to draw either Lois or Clark’s hair consistently. I preferred Jurgens’ longer, but not-too-long Superman locks. Bognadove went all hair-metal for sure.

    As a father, I’m appalled at the notion of making your child compete against other kids like that. Unfortunately, I do know people who engage in that nonsense. I tend to avoid those people like the plague. No offense…but I don’t think you’ll be at all offended by that! Good on young your for standing up against that.


  2. Wonderful coverage, all. And what a deep dive into the inner workings of Siskoid’s past! I wonder if Siskoid and i crossed paths when he was in Texas. Maybe I’m his Conduit? Or maybe he’s mine?

    Never read these Superman comics for some reason. Weird as I was picking up as many zero issues as I could…

    Re: Superman not calling when he should is his thing. In the Return of Superman, the dude just watched TV while he healed up, never letting his wife or parents know he was ok. Nope, he had to wait until it was dramatically appropriate to be seen instead of letting loved ones know they didn’t have keep mourning.

  3. Conduit is mostly a victim of his own storytelling logic. As mentioned, the next thing to do with him is to have him realize Clark Kent is Superman, and at that point the second story can’t end with him alive (bronze age amnesia being off the table.) Him having a bit of a death wish built in doesn’t help either.

    I always looked at Conduit as a modern/post-crisis version of Master Jailer.

    1. There already is a post-Crisis Master Jailer (i.e. Carl Draper): Deathtrap, who fought Superman and Mister Miracle, then showed up as the Castellan of Greg Rucka’s Checkmate.

      He says Conduit can’t have his shtick.

  4. I feel a largely unearned concern for Conduit. The TV Trope that walked like a man didn’t amount to much, but he was one of the few villainous figures in the 1995 Kenner Superman: Man of Steel line. Omega Yellow got power action cables and a removable mask, plus a trading card with painted Joe Jusko art. We were already entering the modern period of “everybody gets a figure,” but that was far more true of Marvel than DC, outside BTAS. Hush 0.5’s story was lame, but the toy was nifty, and I still feel like his once rarified status deserves some kind of consideration. I do think the design is nice enough, and the origin really was proto-Smallville. Agree though that his motivation was total nonsense, and he either had to learn Clark’s secret or, well, what actually happened. Another problem is that Superman was already well-stocked with cyborg foes, and combining that with Kryptonite powers calls into question why Metallo was allowed to carry on with his shtick.

    As much as I’ve grown to appreciate Jon Bogdanove, one of my favorite Superman artists, Man of Steel always littered the quarter bins at my shops. The kids did not dig it. I always resented Bog for staying on the book, instead of transitioning to the John Henry Irons Steel title that desperately needed him. Bog was the right Superman artist for the exact wrong decade. His classical Boring touch only emphasized how off-model the long hair was, despite my being generally cool with that coiffure. Those too-brief stints with a properly groomed Clark Kent that sandwiched the Electric Glide in Blue year were nice. The three issue period Shuster pastiche pleased me. After 86 issues, it felt wrong to continue MOS without the original team. Schultz/Mahnke continued the title’s feeling the most out-of-step with its siblings and the times, but without the old-timey charm. Turning John Henry Irons into Emil Hamilton began the downfall of Steel. Like Man of Tomorrow, no one really mourned its passing, just the end of weekly Superman comics as a concept.

    I was much less impressed with the Superman #0 cover than you guys. Struck me as a lazy attempt at “kewl.” Also never got Dan Jurgens’ anointment as “the” Superman creator of that period. My best guess is that he was comforting to the “How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way” Bronze Age crowd. Serviceable, whitebread, safe, on-model, a bit of Neal Adams rendering flair without much actual flavor. The Jack In The Box tacos of Superman artists. I’m always surprised when I enjoy a Jurgens script, usually on Thor or Tomb Raider. Almost never on Superman, with all the flavor of a Miracle Whip sandwich. I picked up quite a few of these issues because of guest stints by the likes of Gil Kane and JLGLPBHN. I found the very Marvel stylings of Ron Frenz (often paired with OHOTMU’s Joe Rubenstein or Sal Buscema) to be delightfully ’70s Marvel, like if Buscema had followed Kirby over in the ’60s. One of the all-time great Lex Luthor stories was #131’s “Checkmate.” Mike McKone and Mongul were big draws for me once the old creative teams got canned. Ed McGuinness is perhaps the greatest Superman artist of all time, so the only way you could keep me off his run would be to saddle him with some corny hack like Jeph Loeb. Oh. I felt no ambivalence toward the deeply misguided Steven T. Seagle/Scott McDaniel period. I only made it partway through the offensively bad Azzarello/Lee year. I think it took me a year or more to realize that the title was finally killed under Verheiden/Benes.

    Adventures of Superman was the first bastard stepchild of the peri-triangle period– the one Byrne didn’t do. Time and talent lent respectability that continuing the original numbering alone couldn’t provide. From Art Thibert’s inks to Tom Grummett, this was the title with the most “now” look, and Barry Kitson continued that trend. Too bad all his crosshatching and extreme gestures made it some of the worst work of his career, and the visual dog of its class. He was soon replaced by Stuart Immonen, a better fit, but I found his work in that period to be a soft focus snooze. Kesel’s scripts were only ever okay, so the title was mostly inoffensive. J.M. DeMatteis came in for a while, so I tried the run repeatedly, but he never seemed to carve out his own identity within the family of titles. Unfortunate politics aside, I like Mike S. Miller here and on the odd JLA fill-in. Wieringo had a run before his death, but I never felt like Joe Casey ever clicked with Superman. Greg Rucka could be relied upon for Lois Lane material, so to the degree his run worked, it was in that mode.

    Action Comics featured the creative team of “at least it’s not Jurgens.” Butch Guice and Kieron Dwyer were too rough and moody for the material. From Roger Stern to David Michelinie, the scripts were sort of there. Joe Kelly came in during the soft relaunch, and while he struggled on Superman himself, and probably enjoyed reading his scripts from this period the most. He got paired with a bunch of interesting artists, but I especially loved Pasqual Ferry, who deserved a better career than he got. I’m among the few people who enjoyed the aborted wham-bam Chuck Austen issues. Some enviable artists cycled through there. Eventually, Gail Simone and John Byrne took over, but they seemed adrift and not at their best. Kurt Busiek seemed to fare a bit better. Missed the Geoff Johns run, but heard nice things, and Gary Frank was an excellent artist for the title. The Rucka Nightwing and Flamebird stuff wasn’t by cuppa. Chasing a year of that with Power Armor Lex Luthor surely strained reader loyalty.

    Unlike with Batman, who I pretty successfully bailed on, I kept coming back for less than Superman. Comics by committee hobbled him, and I’m still amazed that so many comics could have been produced under those terms offering so little in characters and stories of any real substance. Unchallenging. comforting pablum.

  5. Conduit, to me, is a fascinating villain because he was created for a purpose, he served that purpose, and then they killed him off. He could have easily become a reoccurring thorn in Superman’s side but they chose to give him some closure and that appeals to me. He wasn’t the deepest villain and you ended up hating his father, especially in The Death of Clark Kent where Superman tells him that his son is dead and his dad essentially uses that as one more opportunity to call his son a loser.

    Nice guy.

    In an era where companies were looking for the next hot villain the Superman crew said, “This one has a shelf life.”


    The fact that he got an action figure a few months after he died in the comics just shows how weird things can be. I loved that line of action figures. It didn’t tie into a cartoon and it was based purely on the comics. And they were pretty neat looking figures too. Both Conduit and Massacre got figures and they were both killed off, one before and one after the toys came out. To be fair, they looked good as villains so I’m assuming that’s why they were chosen.

  6. I agree 100% with Michael Bailey about closure and the novelty of having a significant villain go away, and I agree with Rob M.’s dad about “Kenny.”

    I didn’t appreciate the “government employees are evil” theme that ran through many DC comics in the nineties, but I’ve griped about that elsewhere. More importantly, Conduit’s motivation never held up to scrutiny. A guy like that would eventually — or maybe immediately — figure out his dad was the problem, not Clark (Siskoid = Exhibit A). Batman makes more sense because he turned his trauma into an admirable life’s purpose. At first (when he was eight) it may have been mostly about revenge, but eventually it came to be about keeping other people from being hurt by crime. As a mission, that’s substantial and meaningful and everything it would have to be to sustain your focus. You can even share it with other people, as he has. Conduit has none of that.

    Regardless, thanks for another engaging discussion, and I look forward to next month!

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