Zero Hour Strikes! Man and Boys of Steel

In Zero Hour Strikes! Episode 3, Bass and Siskoid follow Batman to the Superman family of books, specifically to Superman: The Man of Steel #37 by Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove and Dennis Janke. Then, it's off to Smallville for Superboy #8, by Karl Kesel, Tom Grummett and Doug Hazelwood, where it's Superboy vs. Superboy! Plus, things look bad for the Bat in our feedback section, Letters Lost in Time!

Listen to the Zero Hour Strikes! Episode 3 below!

Or subscribe to The Zero Hour Strikes! Podcast on iTunes.

Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.3 Supplemental

This podcast is a proud member of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK!

Subscribe via iTunes as part of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK.

And thanks for leaving a comment!

23 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Man and Boys of Steel

  1. Fun show guys, and a fun pair of comics. This was a great era for Superman (mullet aside), and I LOVED that MOS issue with all the Batmen, because I love identifying different artists on toy packing, licensing art, etc. So I was like a kid in a candy store with that cover, and to a lesser extent, this issue. This particular issue is what i think of first when Zero Hour, or at least the tie-ins are brought up.

    I’m not going to lie, MOS was my least favorite of the Superman titles. I either loved what Bognadove was doing, or was strongly revolted by it, sometimes from panel to panel. It was the most “out there” book of the triangle comics, in both art and story. Simonson tended to concentrate on aspects of the storylines I was less interested in, but it was still a solid book with lots of energy. Once this team was gone, I missed them.

    I really dug the cloned Superboy right out of the gate. The attitude, the look, his supporting cast… all of it. I kind of hate that Johns pretty much reinvented him in his own angsty image, because he is for the most part a totally different character now. I don’t dislike that character, but I sometimes have a hard time reconciling Connor was the Kesel/Grummet Superboy.

    This issue was a great mash-up of the classic and modern iterations of the character. It reminded me of the “Pocket Universe” saga that ran in Superman and Legion post-Crisis, but with a much happier ending, and honestly a more classically in-character Kal-El/Clark/Superboy. I don’t think the copyright issues were a real concern at this time, but of course they were by the mid 2000s, hence Superboy being called Superman on the animated Legion of Super-Heroes show, and Connor being taken out in Infinite Crisis.

    Again, great show!

    1. You’re spot on as regards what Geoff Johns did to Superboy, Chris, he took all the fun from the character, just as he took away Impulse’s playfulness and made him a generic teen Flash. Why do that?

      And yeah, Time and Time Again was an instant classic. Bring back Mr Z!

  2. I really like listening to Bass! He always sounds so happy about everything! Loved the”hyper time” motif!
    I’m not going to comment on the books, I’m just listening to you guys and grasping what I can. Sometimes, I’m in the dark (who is Conor? who is Bippo (sp?), why would a city still have things like major rock concerts when there has been widespread destruction of the infra-structure?), but I’m going to enjoy the ride.
    Re: music tastes of comic book characters. It’s like putting a date stamp on a story. From Lois Lane’s attraction to Pat Boone, to Ant-Man’s naming his ants “Crosby, Stills, and Nash” to Steve Gerber’s predilection for showing off his eclectic musical taste with his story titles, the practice of comics writers to inject real pop culture references almost always struck me as pandering or lame. One exception that comes to mind is Captain America. A Roger Stern story showed us that Steve Rogers record collection is mostly Big Band music. Cap is from a specific time and place, and that was clever way of showing it. I recall an interview with Stern where he opined about Peter Parker’s possible taste in music. Stern reckoned Peter liked Elvis Costello and other similar “New Wave” artists (can you guys when this was written?). I did not agree with Stern. Mostly because we had never seen Peter show any interest in pop music. I figured he was more likely to have been influenced by whatever Aunt May and Uncle Ben would have been listening to. Easy listening music, standards, Lawrence Welk, etc. Not Shrapnel.
    In his later series in Detective Comics, Ollie Queen was shown to be a fan of jazz music, and the writer (Cavaleri?) made certain to cite specific artists and albums.
    I like the fictional bands in comics, like Great Frog and Ape Sex!

  3. This was another interesting wind-up to the greater Zero Hour mini. But it wasn’t one that really nabbed me the way I hoped. this era of Superman is the one I collected the most, but isn’t one I have ever greatly revisited. That may need changing.

    Great job on another ZH prelude. So, 2021 is when we start to hit the for real ZH series?

  4. Great show, guys! I am loving the review of a really fun time in DC. Just the fact that the Jack Knight Starman book launches out of this event makes it all worthwhile, as Starman is, in my humble opinion, the greatest comic of the 90s. Plus, you played Liz Phair! It inspired me to get drunk, cheat on someone, and burn all my bridges. (I still love her.)


  5. Nerdy comment out of the way first; Simonson Quarry goes back to Superman #8 by Byrne and Kesel. Superman thinks about the name as he flies over it on his way to battle the Legion members. That was my first issue of Superman as a collector, so it stuck in my head.

    The long hair was chosen as a sign that something had changed after Superman came back from the dead. The creators wanted to have some visual sign, so they settled on long hair. It’s interesting to hear them talk about it. Jurgens seems adamant that his take on long haired Clark would have never pulled his hair back into a ponytail, while Bogdanove was quite fond of that look. I used to get really annoyed when people would call it a mullet because it became such low hanging fruit for the masses to pluck every time they wanted to take a shot at this era. I’ve lightened up, which is why this comment is calm and measured. You want to call it a mullet? Fine. I will have no part of it. He had long hair. Just because Brian Bolland didn’t get the memo doesn’t make it so.

    This was an interesting era for Superman. The year after the death could have been a let down, but outside of the whole Spilled Blood storyline (which dragged the books firmly into the early nineties for a minute) the drama and action didn’t let up. We lost Grummett on Adventures, but he was replaced by Barry Kitson, so that was a pretty lateral move. Superman getting overpowered allowed the writers to play with Superman in space for a month (and allowed Jurgens to go back to the Sun Devils, his first writing work in comics) followed by a new take on Bizarro followed by the Battle For/Fall of Metropolis and Worlds Collide, which turned out to be one of the most interesting crossovers DC has ever done.

    It was pretty epic.

    This is one of my favorite issues of Superman: The Man of Steel, mainly for Bogdanove’s homages. Thanks to a friend named Alan and another friend (some guy named Shag) I managed to get two copies of that promo poster that has the Superman surrounded by Batmen on one side and Batman surrounded by Superman on the other. It was a fun issue and everything a crossover issue should be.

    I love this era of Superboy. The character was never better than when handled by Kesel and Grummett. The sad bastard Conner was interesting, but the retcon that Luthor was half his DNA did nothing but provide unnecessary angst to what was supposed to be a fun character. Yeah, his original costume was dated almost from the start and yes the t-shirt and jeans look was more timeless, but after Johns got his hands on the character he was never the same. Your mileage may vary.

      1. Whether it was a mullet or not, the second Clark got anywhere near a rocket ship window panel, he should have cut it; it’s not what a city room reporter would wear, and it didn’t work for the personality.

  6. I’m transitioning to a new podcast listening device, so I only learned the new episode was up this evening. Figured I’d talk a little personal history while only about ten minutes in to fill time until the Democratic debate tonight, then come back after listening completely.

    Superman: The Man of Steel debuted on May 14, 1991 according to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics. DC did such an amazing job of promoting the launch that I don’t think I was aware the title existed until the War of the Gods tie-in two months later, and I believe that it went something like “what the hell is this?” To me, it remained the weird one with the terrible villains and the funky art that I probably didn’t even bother to flip through until purchasing the first Reign of the Supermen tie-in issue, #22. I was immediately hooked by the introduction of John Henry Irons, and he was easily my favorite of the replacement Superman. Unintentional faint praise, since I don’t like any of the other Supermen, but I really liked “Iron John” as he was initially, unfortunately dubbed on an early cover.

    Speaking from both recent and long term experience, a lot of comic artists have an aversion to drawing black people, and many are really bad at it. Jon Bogdanove on the other hand excels, and with Louise Simonson created one of the best under-heralded mainstream super-heroes of color. In retrospect, Bogdanove was doing most of the heavy lifting, because his renditions of Irons and his neighborhood conveyed more humanity and depth than the actual scripts ultimately afforded them. Irons’ nascent narrative was swiftly subsumed by the larger multi-title story arc, and Bogdanove did not choose to draw the Steel spin-off series, so that’s enough about that until his book gets covered.

    Of the four titles, I enjoyed Man of Steel the most. Simonson had the humanistic leanings needed for Clark Kent, and had the most authentic handling of Lois Lane, investigative journalist. Despite being raised on Christopher Reeve and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Bogdanove initiated my rejection of “realistic” depictions of Superman as too small and earthly to adequately convey the Man of Tomorrow. Bogdanove was the clear successor to the cartoonish vigor of Joe Shuster, as well as the barrel-chested glory of Wayne Boring during the peak of the hero’s popularity and cultural impact. That said, long-haired Superman was perhaps the most pointedly off-model under Bogdanove.

    I tried to continue with Man of Steel briefly on its own, but the inter-connectivity of the “triangle” period made following Superman an all-or-nothing proposition, so I chose nothing. The inflated price on the Color Forms gimmick cover #30 presented a clear jumping off point for my subscription, and frankly, Man of Steel was still the weird one with the lousy villains. I would revisit odd issues of MoS, and while I enjoyed the bigness of Superman’s visual representation, the stories were much too minor; tangling with Lex Luthor in a grounded urban setting where this team should have had more cosmic aspirations. I think Simonson was great for the Daily Planet staff, but maybe too restrained and domestic for the never-ending battle. Dennis Janke is a strong inker, but I’m not sure that he was the best choice for embellisher, and I seem to recall being underwhelmed with Glenn Whitmore’s color pallet. Maybe it was just the paper stock, but I don’t feel Bogdanove really lit up until his latter years at DC, inking himself on glossy stock. Regardless, when Bogdanove is on, I feel that he’s one of the very best Superman artists, and my favorite coffee cup features his take on the character.

    I did buy Superman:The Man of Steel #37 just to marvel at his versatility at applying so many other artists’ styles. It was a fun and successful experiment.

    …Debate’s on…

  7. From what I can still (kind of) recall, I enjoyed the “wind-ups” and “spin-offs” from Zero Hour a great deal more than the actual “event” series. I specifically remember this “Superboy” issue as one of my favorites. Unlike some, I was really enjoying the post-Death-of-Superman Superboy title very much, and it was a treat to see these two very different takes on the character (or at least the character-name) contrasted with each other. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I remember anything else very fondly about Zero Hour, at least not until we get to some of the great series that were born in its wake….I guess we shall see! Great episode!

  8. Thanks for a great episode. I enjoyed both these issues, Jon Bogdanove’s commitment to the Zero Hour story was astonishing, and Simonson gave him the perfect canvas. I love stories in which different versions of characters meet one another (Superboy Prime excepted after his first appearance).

    I will never understand why Karl Kesel isn’t allowed to write any book he wants at DC or Marvel (how many brilliant FF fill-ins does he have to produce before being given a shot as regular writer?). And his Superboy artistic partner Tom Grummett, is similarly underrated. Together they produce pure superhero joy.

  9. Superman grew his hair long, which I would have been fine with, except a) ponytail rivals glasses for least plausible disguise and b) he needed a modernized costume to go with the ‘do. At the time, I felt Superman desperately needed an overhaul, and when all he changed was the hair, I quit on him. I don’t care about tradition– put on some damned pants, man. My chief complaint about the New 52 suit was that armor made no sense on a Man of Steel.

    Hearing that Superboy had good taste in ’90s indie chick rockers just makes me suspect him more. Was he playing it up to get under Tana Moon’s skirt? Was it the first stuff he was exposed to out of the vat? He’s way more into Whipsmart than Exile In Guyville, and he probably just saw the videos for “Supernova” and “Down By The Water” and went “schwing!” Kon-El’s a creeper.

    I’m pretty sure I bought Superboy #8 for the dueling incarnations, read it once, stuffed it in a longbox, and forgot about it until my next purge. I pretty much hated “The Metropolis Kid’s” Poochie ass on sight, from his Snow sunglasses to his Vanilla Ice shave to his Jake Hanson leather jacket to his Jim Lee pointless leg belts and his overall Brian Austin Greenness. He fairly screamed “what middle-aged comic nerds think is a cool dude,” but I suspect to most was clearly Superfuccboi from jump. That said, I’ve read enough “classic” (*groan*) Kon-El material to recognize Kesel & Grummett were basically doing an extended, extensive riff on Kirby in general and his Jimmy Olsen run in particular, which coupled with the Reign momentum, pushed his solo to a respectable centennial run (high-fives Firestorm while Aquaman’s salty tears float into his also-not-a-mullet. ((henceforce, a Lamas, or perhaps a Fabio?))) So of course DC ran screaming from the interpretation that carried all those issues in favor of Emo-Clone (see also, Impulse.) I shrug, because I don’t give a rattail for either. Just pointing out the obvious.

    Green Lantern John Stewart once cited his affection for Barbra Streisand as an example of his non-traditional blackness. And in the ’90s, so I can’t tell you if it was instantly dated or timeless as a result. Doesn’t exactly jibe with the post-millennium jarhead, does it?

  10. I was collecting all of the Supermans at this time, and love this MOS issue. But oddly, on reread, I can’t recall anything about the other subplots that were touched upon. I’m at a loss. Don’t get me wrong, big fan of Louise and Jon, but it must not have stuck as well. But this issue, wow! Bogdanove capturing so many artistic styles was the best part, absolutely! But I have to give props to Weezie for capturing the various Batman characters in her dialog. (anyone else notice the “old friend” mention?) And the colorist Glenn Whitmore also had to work overtime to make the Batmans look right. Fantastic effort all around.

    Superboy was definitely a favorite of mine. Kesel and Grummett are magical together, and I’m glad to see them still collaborating today on Section Zero. That bit with the music store woman is one of their hallmarks. Every character gets to be a person, no matter how brief their appearance. I think it’s part of Kesel’s approach: make everybody interesting, and maybe some will really click and return, but if they don’t, at least it’s more fun to write. (and read.) As for the boy’s musical taste, we’ll see in about 4 years that he likes “Garbage”, the group not the quality, and continuing the trend here.

    I always thought Hypertime (doo-do-do-do!) was created by Mark Waid as it first appeared in his series “The Kingdom”. But looking it up, one source credits it to both Waid and Morrison. Interesting!

    Has Zero Hour really struck yet? Don’t think so, but I feel it coming! Thanks, guys!

  11. This is one of my favorite Superboy stories- (not so quite as much love for the Superman story. )
    I wanted a multi verse were the Suoerboys could team up, because of this issue. I think that was the problem for me with the way things eventually end up, this series makes the multiverse look cool, then doesn’t give us that multiverse. At least on this read I know better then to hope-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *