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CSBG Archive

Into the back issue box #27

The ground rules for the posts are here.  Today, they’re particularly pertinent, as we shall see!

Superman Adventures #36 (“This is a Job for Superman”) by Mark Millar, Aluir Amancio, and Terry Austin.  Published by DC, October 1999.

                      04-29-2007 10;06;14AM.JPG

I have heard some good things about Millar’s work on this comic, but thanks to my pathetic little boycott of his work (which I’m not getting into here, thanks for asking), I have never gone back and bought any issues.  When this came up randomly, I decided to break my boycott, because it’s not like I sought it out, right?  So I get to read his work on this, and see what the fuss is about.

I’m of a few different opinions about this comic.  On the one hand, for the purposes of these posts, it does a wonderful job introducing a first-time comic reader to DC’s greatest hero.  If you had been living in a bomb shelter like Brendan Fraser for your entire life and knew nothing of Superman, this comic pretty much shows why he’s such a hero.  My personal objections to it will come up again, believe me.  But let’s check the actual content out!

                          04-29-2007 10;07;39AM.JPG

On the splash page is Superman, taking off his boring Clark Kent clothes and getting into character.  Millar fails to give us a reason why Superman is able to do all these things, but we can’t have a flashback to Krypton every issue, and that’s okay.  What a first-timer would see is the way he uses his powers, and that’s good enough.  The reasons are best left for later, once you come back for more.  So, Superman’s ready for action!  The second page shows a kid praying to Superman to ask him to find his lost puppy.  His parents don’t think there’s much hope.  Any moron can tell that Superman will eventually find the puppy, even though his dad cynically says that “Superman’s got more important things to do with his time than look for little lost dogs.”  Au contraire, mon frere!  Despite its obviousness (obviousity?), it’s a decent framing device for the story.  Superman cares about his flock, after all.  If the idea of a kid praying to Superman sounds a bit sacrilegious, well, I’m sure the author of Chosen never even considered that angle!

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Superman flies above the city listening in on various conversations.  He hears a call for help and zips down to thwart a bank robbery.  Said robbery is being carried out by punks with “ice-guns,” but they are no help against the Man o’ Steel, who blows the ice back over the crooks and freezes them.  Ha!  Take that, punks!  Millar manages to get a reference to Intergang into the script, which indicates that there’s a criminal organization that Superman fights regularly.  One of the crooks escapes, and an ambulance swerves to miss him, crashing into a telephone pole (in the panel, there’s a flyer for the missing dog, a nice reference to the first page).  Superman captures the crook, of course, but there’s a pregnant lady in the ambulance who’s “suffering complications.”  What to do?  Good thing Superman is there – he flies the ambulance to the hospital, and everyone’s happy.  But wait!  A doctor informs Supes that he’s performing a transplant operation, but the donor heart is still in Chicago, because the airplane that was carrying it has been … hijacked by “political extremists.”  Isn’t that always the way?  That’s a political extremist on the cover, by the way.  But you probably figured that out.

               04-29-2007 10;10;33AM.JPG

One of the bad guys on the plane is holding a gun to a girl’s head.  Interestingly enough, she’s wearing more of a shirt inside the book than she is on the cover.  Odd.  A terrorist wants to “kill some passengers and double our demands,” but another tells him to “shut up and stick to the plan.”  Of course, we don’t have any idea what “the plan” is, because just then the Last Son of Krypton shows up, and he cares not for “the plan”!  The guy who wanted to kill some passengers yells at him, “We’re not some common thieves doing this money!  We’re political activists, fighting for a cause!”  Superman tells them he stopped listening the minute he saw the guns, and melts their fancy firearms with his heat vision.  A bad guy rolls a grenade with “enough explosive power to put you, me, and everyone within a 500-foot radius in tomorrow’s obituaries” at our hero, who picks it up and smothers the explosion between his hands.  Suck it, “political extremist!”  The bad guy, a bit panicked, says, “Aren’t you even interested in why we took up arms against the system you serve with such blind devotion?”  Superman says, “Politics was never my thing” and flicks him with his index finger, knocking him out.  Yeah, Superman is into a higher calling – like being worshipped!  Anyway, he gets the heart to the hospital, and hears about some kids trapped in a mine shaft.  He’s off again!

                               04-29-2007 10;11;49AM.JPG

Deep in the mine, the kids are in trouble.  They have air, but the shaft is starting to flood.  The fire department isn’t sure if Superman will show up in time, but suddenly he appears!  Well, duh.  He busts into the cave and holds the roof up while the kids get out.  As the rescue workers help, one says he’ll never figure Superman out.  He says, “We risk our lives ’cause it’s our job, but he does this stuff practically 24/7 and doesn’t ask for a nickel.  He shuns publicity, never waits around to be thanked … I mean, what’s his angle?”  You fool – he demands your adoration as your Deity!

              04-29-2007 10;13;34AM.JPG

The next sequence shifts from humorous to serious very quickly, as Superman heads back into the city.  Over the police scanner, we get news of a gang riot, but the dispatcher suddenly notices that Superman showed up and all is well.  As we chuckle at Supes’ quick work, he comes across a suicide, which just happened.  He bemoans the fact that he missed it, but the cop tells him not to fret, because the guy was a scumbag.  Superman gets huffy and says, “A human being just died here, Officer.  Regardless of his past, this is one occasion where the man deserves a little respect.”  Before he can lecture more, another cop gives him the suicide note, which explains that the guy murdered someone and blamed his brother, who is, naturally about to die in the electric chair.  The killer just couldn’t take the guilt anymore.  The execution is scheduled for midnight, and our hero says, “Good Lord!  What time is it now?”  I guess we should be thankful he didn’t say, “Good Me!”  Unfortunately, it’s 11:59.  Of course.  Superman has only a minute to save the day!  He flies off, gets there just as the switch is flipped, and manages to rip out the wires and save the dude’s life!  The various onlookers rant about how he can’t stop an execution even if he disagrees with capital punishment, but Superman tells them about the note.  The real killer, he says with a downcast face, “decided to face his own sentence tonight.”

                    04-29-2007 10;14;44AM.JPG

You’d think that would be enough for one night, but you’d be wrong!  Out in space, the Olympus One station is getting bombarded by meteors, and it’s about to destroy them.  Guess who comes to their rescue!  Yes, it’s Green Lantern!  Oh, wait a minute, it’s Superman!  We don’t know exactly how much time has passed since he saved the dude from the electric chair, but he had time to get into his own customized space suit, complete with Superman logo on the chest!  He bats the meteors away from the station and blasts a big one heading right toward him.  The day, as they say, is saved!

               04-29-2007 10;16;09AM.JPG

The next morning the news of his exploits is everywhere as the city wakes up, and then we check in on sad little Timmy (he actually never gets a name, but I’ll call him Timmy) and his lost dog, Patch, who has miraculously returned!  The dad thinks that Superman had nothing to do with it, because he’s been busy saving the world, but Timmy says, “Don’tcha get it, Dad …?  He’s Superman!”  The last panel shows our hero flying through the air, with the Daily Planet building in the background as the sun rises on the city.  It’s interesting that we’re left wondering if Superman really did bring Patch back to Timmy.  I mean, of course he did, but we’re never told explicitly that it’s so.

                04-29-2007 10;17;56AM.JPG

On the surface, this is a perfectly assembled Superman story, and for a first-time comic book reader, it’s a wonderful primer on the possibilities of the Man of Steel.  Many of his powers are on display, and the various people commenting on what he does is a nice touch.  We get the worshipful attitude many people have toward him, the surprise that he doesn’t do these sorts of things for the glory, his utter selflessness, and his determination to make things right and treat everyone who deserves it with respect.  Millar does a great job with Superman’s characterization, from his apolitical attitude toward terrorists (all he cares about is helping the victims, not their rationalizations for taking hostages) to his desire to save everyone to his sense of humor (when he rescues the kids in the cave, he quips that the two hundred feet of rock he’s holding up is “heavier than it looks”) to his refusal to give up, even when the odds are stacked against him.  A first-time comic book reader would be enthralled by what Superman could do, and this comic would offer them just a hint of his prowess.  And then they’d have to come back for more!

                  04-29-2007 10;19;26AM.JPG

So it does its job.  The problem I have with the book is incidental to that, because Millar isn’t writing this comic for me.  However, I’ll still mention it.  This is a fairly stock Superman story, in that every so often, the writer of a superhero comic (usually one with Superman or Batman, but occasionally others) feels the need to write a “day in the life” kind of story.  So Superman goes about doing stuff like this, and there’s usually a part where he saves a kid’s puppy or something.  Occasionally we’ll get a Batman story in which he beats punks up but manages to get a junkie to Leslie Tompkins’ clinic, where she gets him into rehab (unless she lets him die to prove that Batman is a tool – but she would never do that, would she?).  Everyone does it, so they become less special every time we see it.  They seem like incredibly easy stories to write, too, because nothing is that hard for the hero.  In this story, Superman zips around without really breaking a sweat.  It’s not that it’s not a good story, and getting one like it every ten years or so is a refreshing reminder that these guys are really heroes, but again, it simply feels like a primer to the character.  So this is a very good comic for someone who has never read a Superman comic book or even someone who’s never read a comic book before, but for a jaded fan like me, it’s a charming distraction that I wouldn’t want to see too often.  I know Superman is a hero.  He doesn’t need to prove it to me by finding Patch for little Timmy.

          04-29-2007 10;20;40AM.JPG

Despite that, I would recommend this comic to someone who was interested in seeing what superhero comics are all about.  Millar keeps everything zipping, Amancio’s art is cartoonish and vibrant, with just enough menace in the bad guys to make us worry for a split-second, and it has enough meat on its bones to make some interesting points about Superman.  It’s astonishing to think that the Evil Mark Millar who is writing stuff today is even capable of this kind of story.  What the hell happened to him to make him so bitter?  Anyway, this is a fun book that does its job: gets people interested in Superman.  Yay!  Now I can go back to boycotting Millar’s comics.  But at least he was trying to get people interested back in 1999!

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35 Comments

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 29, 2007 at 5:39 pm

Ummm, you may not want to go into it, but I think everyone who reads this is now curious as to why you boycott him?

I’m guessing you spent money on ‘Trouble’!

I’m not his biggest fan, but I do like his stuff more than I want to. I do enjoy The Ultimates, and thought his Wolverine run was great fun – though his Spiderman book was an alright story, it just didn’t feel like Spiderman at all.
Perhapos he works best if you have no previous attachment to the characters.

I’m not curious on why he boycotts Millar.

I could think of dozens of reasons (the best being his Authority run or his attitude in general).

But I will say that Millar’s Superman Adventures run is VERY different from the rest of his work.

This, in my mind, is for two reasons. The first is that he has some editorial limits for once. he can’t take the easy road out. He can’t fall to big violence and easy LCD tactics. He HAS to stretch and use some of his imagination or there wouldn’t be any story at all.

The second is that unlike his Marvel work, where you feel a sort of sophomoric disdain and desire to deconstruct, there’s actually an honest love of Superman that shines through in his Adventures work.

Wanted #6. That is all.

Greg boycotts Millar because it hurt his feelings when a fictional character flipped him off.

I wept, Dan. No, I boycott Millar because he has no respect for the people who read his books. So why should I buy them?

I don’t “boycott” Millar, but the finish of Wanted #6 is pretty obvious as a “writer speaking to the reader” moment, isn’t it? I mean, if Dave Sim lost readers for printing misgynist essays in place of Cerebus stories, surely it’s not silly for someone to stop reading Millar comics after he finishes a comic by having the protagonist call said reader a loser and be depicted sodomozing him/her?

Wanted didn’t bother me so much — except in that it was bizarrely critically praised but was, for me at least, an unabashedly and unremittingly inane collection of shock tactics. Millar lost me when I realized that he’s basically Grant Morrison without as much capacity to make his characters empathetic.

He excels at writing the emotionless super-genius types, and the sadistic-sociopathic sort of villains, but outside of one or two of his comics, he’s never presented a character as a human being about whom I gave a damn. And without that, his work is just so much cynical, middle-school gloss.

Well, Grant Morrison without the empathy quotient…and without quite so many original ideas. Millar seems to do nothing but “mature” or “cynical” pastiches of existing characters, rather than originals.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 29, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Wanted #6?

Could it really be worse than the masturbation fantasy that was the final issue of his 2nd Authority arc?

I never read Wanted, but I looked up what the premise was on Wikipedia since the characters popped up in Savage Dragon. So what exactly happened in Wanted #6 that everyone is referring to here?

Holy crap. I actually already remembered that you were boycotting Millar because of Wanted #6, which proves there are parts of my brain that are really, really being wasted.

I’m a Millar fan, myself, although I haven’t read a lot of his stuff that people seem to object to. I know he gets labelled as a ‘cynical’ writer, but he definitely breaks out of that mould every once in awhile. The end of the ‘Weapon X’ arc in Ultimate X-Men, where he recasts Wolverine, the psychotic killer, as Wolverine, the most hopeful man in the world, was pretty cool.

And what I’ve read of his ‘Superman Adventures’ work is so much better than the show it was based on, it’s not funny.

I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned it in the post …

Ben: At the end of Wanted, the main character talks about how everyone who reads comics are complete losers and how he’s so much cooler than all of those people. The final page is a big “fuck you” to everyone who has read the entire six issues, and although people have pointed out that it’s the character talking, not Millar, I just got the feeling that it was Millar laughing at me, the person who supports his chosen line of work. It offended me greatly, and even though I enjoy some of Millar’s work (I will defend his run on Swamp Thing to anyone, and like the first volume of Ultimates), I decided he wasn’t getting my money anymore, because why should I? Yes, it’s pathetic, but it’s my money, and I’m happy with my reasons.

That being said, as this issue shows, he can write a good comic book when he wants to. I agree that some writers need an editor, and it appears that Millar is one of them. But as he gets more into “rock-star” mode, which he’s in now, editors won’t dare rein him in.

Wanted is basically a collection of the most repulsive, unlikable characters I’ve ever read. It was moderately interesting to watch Wesley turn into an utter sociopathic shithead over the course of the first 2 issues, but after that there really wasn’t much reason to keep reading the series. The plot was pedestrian, cynical, and tiresome, and the sheer contempt Millar displayed for his audience with the last issue was enough to put a bad taste in my mouth aside from the mediocrity of issues #3-5 and the chronic lateness of the series itself.

It’s hard to criticize Wanted when it’s so deliberately repulsive, cynical and poorly developed, because every possible criticism anyone can have with it is so blatantly intentional on Millar’s part that they can just say “Well, that was the point of the series to start with.”

Cool, I also boycoot Millar! Someday I hope every comic reader will do so!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

great blog you have going here. keep up the good work. Last monday i bought Heavy Hitters Untamed 1 because i was so entertained by the review you gave on it several weeks ago.

You’re welcome, comixkid. Such a gloriously awful comic, but I’m glad you liked the review.

Wasn’t this comic book suppose to be aimed at children? I don’t think I would want my 7 year old nieces and nephew read this comic because I think some of the issues in it aren’t approriate for children. Suicide? Terrorists? Someone about to be executed by electric chair? As far as I’m concerned, not stuff I would them exposed to at that age or anywhere up to maybe ten or twelve. I’d hate to have to explain suicide to them.

Not that I, y’know, remember any details* but I think I liked Wanted. I wasn’t offended, and I don’t remember thinking “This is going to be really offensive to some people.”

* No… wait. Here’s the deal: The main characters in the book are all DC Villain analouges. I remember the Toyman-variant got killed and I remember thinking “Wow. That was a REALLY well executed piece of writing.”

But that’s all I remember.

I boycott Stephen King for much the same reason. People say that Pennywise is just a character, but deep down I know that Stephen King is an evil clown who kills children, and “It” was just King’s way of rubbing it in our face.
I just can’t support anyone with that kind of contempt for his audience.

I boycott Stephen King for much the same reason. People say that Pennywise is just a character, but deep down I know that Stephen King is an evil clown who kills children, and “It” was just King’s way of rubbing it in our face.
I just can’t support anyone with that kind of contempt for his audience.

Yeah, I totally laughed at this. LOLed, even.

Sorry, Greg.

Millar I just don’t get. On the one hand, he writes something like WANTED, and CIVIL WAR, which seems to explicitly reject the idealism and individualism of the superhero genre, but then he’s written something like this, which is a total affirmation of superheroic tropes.

I have no clue where he stands on anything.

I wept, Dan. No, I boycott Millar because he has no respect for the people who read his books. So why should I buy them?

You misunderstand, Greg. I’m not saying you should be buying Millar’s books, I’m saying that your reason for NOT is silly.

1. It’s fiction, and therefore, totally possible for the character to believe and represent something that is not congruous with the writer’s position. The ending is totally consistent with what was established of Wesley’s character previously in the series.

2. Even if it was a direct representation of MIllar’s P.O.V, it’s quite possible that it was a temporary fit, and not a manifesto for his life.

3. There are other, better reasons to dislike Wanted! The story was SOOOO predictable, the pacing was uneven, and the release schedule was slow and inconsistent. You can even criticize the sudden breaking of the fourth wall in the last issue.

But to me, being insulted by something that a stranger wrote to be seen by thousands of people across the world, seems like a colossal waste of time.

I know, Dan, that there are better reasons to boycott Millar. You make very good points. I understand that Wesley is kind of a tool, but it seems obvious to me, at least, that he’s the kind of person Millar seems to admire, and therefore reflects his point of view pretty well. And yes, it’s possible that it was completely temporary and Millar thinks comics readers are the greatest people in the world these days. I have admitted more than once that my boycott is rather pathetic. But it’s mine. I just don’t see the point of giving my money to the man. Other reasons might be better, but it comes down to not wanting to read anything he’s written. It’s not that I’m insulted, it’s just that those few pages in Wanted made me realize that Millar is far less concerned with telling a story and far more concerned with being a rock star. From what I’ve read and from what others have said about Civil War, it seems like he’s still that way. So I just don’t waste my time.

And Knox, that’s very funny, but unless the clown in It (which I haven’t read) tells fans of horror that they’re complete dickheads for enjoying the genre, then it’s not really an apt comparison, is it? Again, my reasons may be stupid, but they’re mine.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, you’re totally entitled to spend your money on what you like. I would be a pretty big hypocrite if I argued otherwise.

I also don’t disagree with your assesment of his personality. I’ve come to the same conclusion, really, it’s just that I HAVE enjoyed things he’s written. And no, they’re never perfect, or even the best, but sometimes they’re pretty good.

If the last issue of Ultimates Vol. 2 ever comes out, for example, I’ll be buying it.

Who says which, or any, of the stories he’s written represent where he “stands”, though?

I haven’t read Wanted, but based on the descriptions here I can see why some would find it offensive. However, I also think that it’s a fair bit of an overreaction to automatically assume the beliefs and actions of a fictional character he wrote accurately represent how Millar himself feels. For all you know, he was writing the character from a perspective the complete opposite of his own.

(Just playing “devil’s advocate” here. It’s been said before, but I think bears repeating.)

I do aims to please.

Seriously though- i’ve spent a lot of time at Millar’s messageboard, and it’s pretty obvious (to me) that he’s a big fanboy, especially when it comes to the DC characters. I don’t think it’s that far-out an idea that Deadshot Jr would hate comicbook fans (AND people with large DVD collections and boring desk jobs, not just comic fans). It’s totally in keeping with the way the character was presented at the beginning of the story- in essence the character is mocking people who were the way he used to be before he embraced his evil destiny.

I don’t think that Mark Millar, writer, is mocking the readers any more than I think Mark Millar is advocating rape and murder and the other 99 atrocities the character committed in the story.

i don’t think that Millar was advocating rape and murder, but there’s no way you can say he wasn’t glorifying it.

Millar has said, explicitly, that Wesley is meant to be an evil, sadistic monster, because “Wanted” is the reverse of a superhero origin story, and that he’s not supposed to be admirable or likable just because he’s the protagonist. It’s the story of the villain, in a world where there’s no hope left. So when people say that Millar “obviously” sees Wesley and his deeds as admirable, I just shake my head. People will think what they wanna. They’ll project their own biases onto a person they’ve never even met because he committed the cardinal sin of writing a comic book they happened not to like. If they were rational, they wouldn’t be fans.

This is, to get back on topic, one of my favorite Superman stories, and Superman is my favorite fictional character. It’s elegantly paced, plotted and executed. Whenever someone says that a hero is defined by their villains, I think back to this issue and how it proves that old maxim of writing: for every rule of writing, the opposite is true.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Wasn’t this comic book suppose to be aimed at children? I don’t think I would want my 7 year old nieces and nephew read this comic because I think some of the issues in it aren’t approriate for children. Suicide? Terrorists? Someone about to be executed by electric chair? As far as I’m concerned, not stuff I would them exposed to at that age or anywhere up to maybe ten or twelve. I’d hate to have to explain suicide to them.

You’re either something of a hypocrite, or you had THE most protected childhood in the world.
Lots of kids books, films and comics deal with such issues (or at least they USED to)- actually hell, they may not ‘deal’ with them as such, but they are certainly there.
I mean Bambi’s mother got shot, and Scar killed Simba’s father and then set up an evil dictatorship (instead of a ‘good monarchy’ but still)… are these too much for kids to deal with?

What would you want in a Superman comic that’s not too scary for the kiddies?

What would you want in a Superman comic that’s not too scary for the kiddies?

An alien robot genius, a bald crooked CEO, and a man who attacks you with murderous toys, of course.

Surprised nobody’s mentioned that Superman prevents an execution in Action Comics #1 as well as this book. He was a real mean guy overall in a comic that dealt with some strange topics, but that didn’t stop kids from reading him anyway. :)

At the end of Wanted, the main character talks about how everyone who reads comics are complete losers and how he’s so much cooler than all of those people. The final page is a big “fuck you” to everyone who has read the entire six issues, and although people have pointed out that it’s the character talking, not Millar, I just got the feeling that it was Millar laughing at me, the person who supports his chosen line of work.

I don’t own a copy of Wanted but I read it and I remember the last page rant being aimed not at comic readers in general but instead at readers who had had come to see the main character as sympathetic( or heroic ) as I had. Since I never re-read the book it’s possible that I misinterpreted and supplied my own more effective meaning but it worked for me. The main character was pretty disgusting and I had slowly forgotten that by the last chapter so it was a shock to be reminded of it.

the first paragraph of that last post(31) should have quotes on it

Can anybody link to a scan of that last page?

I usualy avoid Millar’s work because I don’t think it’s very good. It lacks depth, emotion, and especially character. Wanted was a good opprutnity to show how an “average guy” becomes a killer. Instead it’s one big DC villain fan fic, with the message, “If you’re not a criminal you’re a pussy.” “The Ultimates” seems so preoccupied with being cool it leaves me cold. And “Civil War”? Just about everything was wrong with that from Day 0.

I can’t recall any Millar comic that I actually liked.

Now this is what I expect in a Superman comic. I haven’t read a lot of Superman comics, but I’m not really sure I even want to. Even as a cynical late-twentysomething I still look at Superman as some kind of perfect ideal and don’t think I want to read him as anything less. This looked like a fun series. A lighter read to remind me of a simpler time. Plus, that panel with the kid getting his dog back makes me smile.

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