web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #558

1 2 3
Next »

Welcome to the five hundred and fifty-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, was Marvel’s classic 1980s Squadron Supreme series a mini-series because DC threatened to sue if it became an ongoing? Did Stan Lee really have Dan Adkins swipe Steve Ditko panels for Adkins’ Doctor Strange run? And did Harlan Ellison and John Romita Jr. nearly do a Doctor Strange series together?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme was going to be an ongoing series until DC Comics threatened to sue if the series kept going

STATUS: False

As I wrote about years ago, Marvel invented the Squadron Supreme for a sort of “crossover” between the Avengers and the Justice League of America, with the Squadron working as stand-ins for the Justice League. The Squadron, though, evolved and expanded and would very often appear in the pages of the Avengers and other Marvel titles (the original Squadron became villains and the Avengers eventually traveled to a universe where GOOD versions of the Squadron Supreme lived – these good versions became longtime allies of the Avengers – one of the villainous Squadron members eventually became the longtime Defender Nighthawk).

Anyhow, in 1985, Mark Gruenwald wrote an ambitious maxi-series that was basically “What if the Justice League decided to fix all of the world’s problems?” Hyperion, the Superman character, explains the plan…

squad1

squad2

squad3

squad4

Nighthawk, the Batman of the group, decides he has to kill Hyperion before the plan can go into action. But can he truly kill his friend?

squad5

squad6

His decision to let things go leads into the rest of the epic 12-issue series examining whether it was RIGHT for superheroes to solve all of the world’s problems and whether that is even POSSIBLE. Nighthawk decides to try to stop his friend and the whole thing ends in tragedy. The remarkably thoughtful series actually predated Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen by a full YEAR! Gruenwald rightly viewed it as his masterpiece, and after he died, his ashes were mixed in with a printing of a trade paperback collection of Squadron Supreme (one of my very first comic book legends way back when).

So, almost eight years ago, reader Ken R. wrote in with the following legend:

Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme series was originally planned to be ongoing, but DC said they would sue Marvel if the published a continuing series featuring characters known to be copies of their characters.

The lawsuit stuff was basically correct, with Gruenwald telling Davis Smay in Amazing Heroes #97, after Smay brought up the Justice League connection:

Well, I guess I am a little sensitive about it because we were threatened with a lawsuit. And somehow we got out of it because the characters had passed beyond the statute of limitations [DC didn’t act when the Squadron Supreme first appeared several years back].

(Generally speaking, the statute of limitations on copyright infringement is three years of the discovery of the infringement – clearly, DC knew about it back in the early 1970s because they were PART of the debut of the Squadron Supreme!)

In that same interview, however, Gruenwald explained the real reason why the series didn’t go past a maxi-series, “I have approval to do a Squadron Supreme one-shot Annual special – double-sized – originally intended as an epilogue. However, there’s not a great demand for a continuation of the series.”

That one-shot presumably evolved into the bleak 1989 graphic novel, Death of a Universe…

deathuniverse

So the series was done in by the most evil of villains – low sales.

Thanks to Ken for the question and thanks to the late, great Mark Gruenwald and David Smay for the answers!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Check out some recent entertainment and sports legends from Legends Revealed:

Was Lisa Kudrow Seriously a Virgin Until She Got Married at Age 31?

Did NBA Great Manute Bol Coin the Term “My Bad”?

Was Oliver Reed too “Rough” to be Cast as James Bond?

Did the Florida Gators Once Accidentally Have a Crocodile on the Cover of Their Media Guide?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

On the next page, the first of back-to-back Doctor Strange legends! Did Stan Lee have Dan Adkins intentionally swipe Steve Ditko’s art for Adkins’ run on Doctor Strange?

1 2 3
Next »

70 Comments

The weird thing about DC threatening to sue is, isn’t this back and forth done all the time? Justice League International had a very clear parody of the Avengers, and didn’t they actually originate in the 70’s as well? They even had two of the Avenger parodies join the Justice League for a while, I thought.

That’s not even getting into Jeph Loebs’ “The Maximums” during his Batman/Superman run.

Can’t say that Dr. Strange story sounds all that good. Dormammu’s been deposed and destroyed often enough that it’s hard to buy the premise. Plus “my enemy is really vital to some sort of balance so he must be preserved” has been done often enough. And I didn’t even like it with Galactus.

I’ve hard people say that Squadron Supreme series is even better than Watchmen, but I’ve never read it. I have a few issues out of the dollar bin, but nowhere near complete enough to check it out.

Fraser –

The problem is, without such a premise, it’s hard to justify any heroes would tolerate the existence of a “god of evil” or “devourer of planets” or any other such entity that only seems to exist to cause pain and destruction.

The Squadron Supreme series is an excellent book. Watchmen is quite a different book, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an influence.

That Squadron graphic Novel depressed me to no end…..I hated that they killed off some of my favorite characters…Especially Redstone. It was a disjointed story, in my opinion….

That Squadron Supreme series was fantastic. Even after 30 years I still think about it.

Becca Danny's Wife

January 15, 2016 at 11:29 am

The Avengers expy was part of the crossover that was mentioned in the opening. The Squadron was recruited by the Grandmaster to fight the Avengers, who were helping Kang, of all people.

In DC, the Avenger knockoffs were sucked into fighting the JLA in a giant cosmic misunderstanding. It was an I Love Ya, but You’re Strange entry awhile back, because ALL of the JLA was WAY too interested in Zatanna. Mike Friedrich was at his least subtle, and that was frankly scary.

The Squadron Supreme mini-series had some similar themes as Watchmen, but I see them as very different animals. SS was more of the “we need a fight scene every issue” style of Marvel storytelling and put big themes into the Marvel Style while Watchmen was a SF novel that happened to be a comic book. The whole “super-heroes in the real world” was a big thing in the mid 80’s, and was supposedly the entire premise of the New Universe when it started.

Not really Rene. It’s not like killing Dormammu or Galactus is an option on the table, for instance due to their sheer power level. They exist whether the heroes want them to or not.

Fraser –

The problem is that the option of killing Galactus is on the table. Since the first story, with Reed Richards threatening to use the Ultimate Nullifier.

Both Watchmen and Squadron Supreme are excellent – but SS is coming from a love of superheroes whereas Watchmen is intent on destroying superheroes.

On Dan Adkins’ last page from Strange Tales 168 there’s a swipe from Alex Raymond’s Flash Grodon. Can’t point to the exact strip but it ‘s the one reused in this cover (so it must be in a a strip between 1937 and 1941).
http://cloud2.todocoleccion.net/comics/tc/2013/08/29/38793990_16025792.jpg
That image has been swiped many times by diffrenet artits (as Alex Raymond was one of the most swiped artists at the time)

Blair –

I think Alan Moore’s relationship with superheroes is best described as a love-hate relationship, or uneasy, uncomfortable love, instead of pure hatred.

The SS book seemed like a pretty carefully plotted and planned story with many of the major characters dead at the end, so I don’t see how it may have been a series intended to continue past issue 12. I always thought of the Death of a Universe (weak title!) as the SS version of the Crisis.
That said, SS is probably my favorite comic story of all time. That Mark G considered it his greatest achievement is no surprise. Thoughtful and interesting comics did indeed exist before Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns.

I loved the SS series, but I found that the slaughterhouse finale (almost everyone dies!) to be a bit off-putting at times. Lots of characters were straight up murdering other characters (and while some of them were formally evil, it was still depressing), making it hard to actually care too much about those that died because, in a panel or two, another one is going to bite it (and probably in a gruesome way).

That said, I agree that it is a series that I enjoyed (overall), and I wish they would reprint it as a trade paperback.

But that’s my complaint in general…a lot of series I collected as a teenager I’d love to repurchase as a trade if they made them (for both Marvel and DC), or re-released old popular trades that are no longer in print (like Tower of Babel).

Skip Nelson-

I agree, also Redstone’s death came out of nowhere and felt totally gratuitous. The poor guy just dies.
Probably, having just an annual left to tell his story, Gruenwald tried to shoehorn all the ideas he had for some characters.
At least Gruenwald got to use the squadron again in his Quasar run.

Squadron Supreme was so ahead of it’s time.

A few random thoughts, on each legend, only tangentially related to the legends;

1) SQUADRON SUPREME was great. And if you’ve ever wanted to see Batman defeat Superman in a completely believable way, this is the series for you- but you’ll probably need a box of tissues.

2) I know it’s considered heresy, but my all-time favorite DOCTOR STRANGE artist isn’t Steve Ditko- it’s Marie Severin. I think her all-too-short run on the series is extremely underrated. I first encountered her STRANGE artwork in the second Dr Strange story reprinted in ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS, and I’ve loved it ever since. She took Ditko’s amazing vision and added something wonderful to it.

3) I never thought about this before, but if Harlan Ellison were going to be the regular writer for a Marvel series, SILVER SURFER would be a really, really good choice.

Alaric Ditko will always be my favorite Dr. Strange artist but I agree that Severin’s run was outstanding.

Rene while it’s true Reed threatened Galactus, the Utlimate Nullifier wasn’t anything to use lightly—that’s why he settled for Galactus promise never to attack Earth again rather than using the thing (of course it turns out Galactus’ word is worthless, but Reed couldn’t know at the time). And at that point Big G wasn’t such a monster as he became later–Earth was, after all, the first time he’d attacked a world of intelligent life (soon retconned away to leave a long chain of dead inhabited worlds behind him).

The first Dormammu story actually raises the question: Clea shows Stephen that without Dormammu, there’s nothing to stop the Mindless Ones rampaging through the Dark Dimension. Stephen makes a conscious decision that his first duty is to Earth, let the chips fall where they may.

I enjoyed Squadron Supreme but I thought it a shame that after all the discussion of ideas, the ending came down to which team can beat up the other one. It gave me that much more respect for Watchmen for not going the same route.

“The weird thing about DC threatening to sue is, isn’t this back and forth done all the time? Justice League International had a very clear parody of the Avengers, and didn’t they actually originate in the 70’s as well?”

I’d say that the difference is that while DC’s Avengers takeoffs were one-shot deals, Marvel kept bringing back the Squadron in the Avengers, the Defenders, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and finally in their own 12-issue limited series.

The Heroes of Angor, as far as I know, did not reappear until the Keith Giffen / J. M. DeMatteis / Kevin Maguire Justice League in 1986-7. And given the timing, I’m now wondering if Marvel pushing the Squadron Supreme in a big way in 1985-6 might have motivated them to do it…

Wow. There’s more dialogue in those sample pages of Squadron than there are in six issues of any current ongoing book.
Decompression is the devil.

“Decompression is the devil.”

Yes. Yes, it is. I just read a Morbius trade (it was on clearance for $4.97). I believe it collected an 8 or 9 issue miniseries, and had about two issues’ worth of actual content. I literally thought that on closing the cover — the story was padded to a ridiculous degree.

I remember reading the Squadron Supreme book as it was published. I was in my teens at that time so seeing a story like that with what the characters wanted to do blew my mind.

Grum – Squadron does have a TBP out. I own it, and I actually just purchased it as a gift for a friend this past Christmas. http://www.amazon.com/Squadron-Supreme-Mark-Gruenwald/dp/0785184694/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452896877&sr=1-1&keywords=squadron+supreme

Both Watchmen and Squadron Supreme are excellent – but SS is coming from a love of superheroes whereas Watchmen is intent on destroying superheroes.

That seems like a good comparison to me, even if it is a bit harsh to Watchmen. Personally, I’m not really a fan of Watchmen, but I can see that it’s a well-written comic and understand why others would like it. As it is, whilst both have good points in their commentary on superheroes, I feel like Squadron Supreme has a bit of an advantage in that it’s a bit more “comic book-y” – there’s magic, there’s super science, and there’s actual superpowers, so by exploring its ideas in a more traditional superhero setting Squadron allows for its commentary to be more applicable to more traditional superheroes.

Nuclear Rooster

January 15, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Ok, I read Squadron Supreme a few years ago because of the Watchmen comparisons I had read.

SS (Is this abbreviation intentional?) was probably interesting at the time, but it is NOWHERE near the quality of Watchmen.

SS seems to me like a kind of mildly interesting story with none of the attantion to details which – IMHO. is one of the main draws of watchmen,

Reading WM you get the feeling that every detail is thought out down to every pixel.

SS feels like a quickly made COMIC BOOK.

I am really glad someone lent it to me so I did not have to buy it.
SS was probably a groundbreaking series at the time but does not come close to a game changer like Watchmen IMHO.

I really like Squadron Supreme, but I have to agree with Nuclear Rooster that it’s just not as good as Watchmen. It’s a very compelling superhero story with some of Moore’s “what if superheroes lived in the real world?” ideas taken to the extreme, but the characters are just not as three dimensional as the characters in Watchmen. It doesn’t help that the art team revolved quite a bit in SS and there was a crossover with a random issue of Captain America.

On another note, Dan Adkins’s art was really incredible on Doctor Strange when he cut loose. Those were some really cool issues.

Nuclear Rooster (look out!) sums things up well. With respect to the memory of Gruenwald, it was a wordy, wordy, wordy book and not particularly well illustrated, notwithstanding a panel or splash here and there. To be honest, apart from the fairly novel concept (original in the sense that it was a first for a major publisher), I had trouble ploughing through the series when it was first released and can’t help but start flipping pages to find the meat when I try to read it now, and there’s not much meat to be found. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t “deep”, and it’s a chore to read. But it remains clever and deserves some recognition beyond the usual four-colour dreck. Also, this was a time of early Miller, Sienkiewicz, John Byrne at his peak, and other excellent artists and writers doing excellent work, which sort of left SS as barely more than just another comic.

Man I loved squadron supreme when it came out. Artwork wasn’t the greatest but enjoyed the hell out of the whole thing. Death of a universe was a huge let down, not sure if it was trying to cram too much into one graphic novel, the artwork which was worse, or if it just didn’t need a continuation. Surprised to see that the limited series didn’t sell well, just kinda figured all those limited series sold well back then.

@Rene- yeah, but in Dormammu’s case, the heroes have tried everything from absorbing him into the Evil Eye to scattering his energies over several dimensions to get rid of him and he always comes back.

And that Squadron Supreme series is essentially the basis for Injustice: Gods Among Us.

I loved Squadron Supreme but I would have preferred Bob Hall for the entire mini rather than Paul Ryan. Their styles didn’t mesh even though I like Paul Ryan’s art. Bob Hall was a favorite of mine because of his Avengers work.

Fraser –

True, the Ultimate Nullifier is not to be used lightly. And Galactus was not originally an omnicidal entity. But with the retcon that made him one, well…

Look at it this way, we’re talking about a threat of planetary scale, that doesn’t seem to have any purpose except ending civilizations, that doesn’t seem to be redeemable or able to face justice, because it has no peers to judge it. Even if the Ultimate Nullifier has risks or whatever, don’t you think that every superhero in existence should stop whatever they’re doing and pull their resources to end Galactus, no matter the risks? Even if using the Nullifier means death, I think lots of members of Earth’s superhero community would realistically be glad to trade their lives to end Galactus. Or Dormammu. Or Mephisto. By any means necessary.

So yeah, I agree with the writers that have made Galactus into an essential piece of a cosmic design that can’t be tinkered with. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

Michael –

Yeah, with Dormammu at least it has been tried plenty of times. It must mean that he is not a part of the fabric of the universe or whatever, like Galactus and Mephisto. Honestly, I don’t know which is better. They could remove Galactus’s cosmological immunity or whatever the hell he has, but then we’d have Galactus seemingly dying and returning all the time, like other mega-villains.

I love the Squadron Supreme series and the graphic novel. I will say that the series was hurt by having THREE artists on it to cover 12 issues. I think a solid art team on it for the duration of the series would have made it stand the test of time better.

I can’t help noticing that the wildly waving wand of Stan Lee spelled Raymond Marais’ name wrong.

As for possible swipes by Dan Adkins – The hands in the bottom panels of page 6 scream ‘John Buscema’ to me, but only in general style. Equally, the falling figure on page 9 has what I’d call ‘Gene Colan’ fingers, circa his long stints on Daredevil and Iron Man – Of course I could be barking up the wrong tree entirely but those were my first impressions.

I’ll have to peruse my older comics…

Wait. Hold on. Grant Morrison FF project? Can we get back to that?

I assume that was FF1234, with Jae Lee, Steve. I have been assured that that did happen, perhaps unfortunately.

One of the things that held Squadron Supreme back was Paul Ryan’s artwork. He just didn’t have the style or experience to really expand the visuals. Also, it was a victim of the Marvel house style, which severely limited the storytelling, in my opinion. And, yes, it is extremely wordy. Gruenwald wasn’t necessarily a writer who let the art tell a large part of the story. One of the strengths of Alan Moore’s work is that he plays to the strengths of his artist. SS was definitely Gruenwald’s masterpiece; but, it doesn’t have the same ambition and depth that Watchmen had. It’s got more than your average Avengers or JLA story; but, Watchmen is on another plane.

DC and Marvel would have a hard time suing each other over plagiarism, even under the best of circumstances. Neither really wants to open that can of worms, as each accusation would probably bring a pretty damaging counter-accusation. Add on top of it the “unofficial crossovers,” done by friends (like the Invaders and Freedom Fighters crossovers, or the various Rutland Halloween stories) and any decent lawyer is going to advise them to just let it go. Actually, given how lawsuit happy DC was in the early days, over Superman, I’m kind of surprised Phillip Wylie and Street & Smith didn’t threaten suits over Superman, given the similarities to the novel Gladiator and the various elements of Doc Savage. You could also throw Edgar Rice Burroughs in there.

ps I never thought the ending to Squadron Supreme was that strong which didn’t help its sales. The graphic novel epilogue was kind of underwhelming, though it isn’t bad.

Squadron Supreme better than Watchmen? No. One of the top ten greatest superhero stories? Absolutely. I reread it in omnibus form last year and it still holds up very well, though many of the series’ most interesting ideas are in the first half. Growing up I got rid of them as I did most other comics but I actually hunted down the issues again before it gained its current following because I found that I kept on thinking of it. I like Gruenwald’s writing in general despite its oddities, but this was beyond anything he wrote before or after. Though I agree that the GN is nowhere near as good. I think it’s probably for the best that it never went to series because while it still would have been good the GN suggests that Gruenwald had used his best ideas for the team in the original story

Grum: SS has been collected quite a few times in paperback and hardcover. In fact the first printing of the original trade has Mark Gruenwald’s ashes mixed in. There has already been one Omnibus with the limited series and GN and another one is planned for next year with the above plus all their earlier appearances (Avengers, Defenders etc) as well as their Quasar and Avengers (Busiek) appearances.

I believe that Elliott S! Maggin once told me at a comic book store signing that DC considered suing Marvel over SQUADRON SUPREME but ultimately decided it wouldn’t be worth it, since it was a 12-issue series and would be over before the case ever got to court.

Agreed on decompression. Rereading old comics, I’m often amazed how much story squeezes into one issue. My favorite example being the original crossover event, the wedding of Reed and Sue—today it would take up four or five issues of every Marvel comic book.

Rene, you have a point, but I think that’s where I accept comics just don’t make real-world sense. As I think has been discussed in these threads before, there’s no way the Joker wouldn’t be put to death by now (or just get “shot trying to escape”); and it’s unlikely the US government wouldn’t be doing everything in its power to overthrow Doom. In fact I remember that was a point in JLA/Avengers, where the League gets a look at Marvel Earth and can’t figure out how Hulk and Doom are still walking around free. I’d sooner accept the discontinuity than buy into the awkward rationales for why villain X just has to stick around for the good of the universe.

“there’s no way the Joker wouldn’t be put to death by now”

I am a fervent opponent of the death penalty. I think it is a useless and inhuman punishment, which lowers us to the level of the punished criminals.

But if lived in the DC Universe, I would have a hard time defending my beliefs. Not because The Joker or Zsasz deserve to be killed (none deserve it) but because the authorities can’t keep them behind bars. Every second which those people are alive some innocent is risking his/her life.

The writers created such an unstoppable monster that Gandhi or Mother Teresa would have difficulty defending his right to live. Killing him would be like stopping a natural disaster.

I think the Joker too deserves to die, but I don’t see him the same way as Galactus or Dormammu.

The Joker is basically human in his psychology. In the long history of the character, there have been rare occasions when he is recovered, whether because he thought Batman was dead or Martian Manhunter reordered his brain or whatever. Also, the speculation that what separates Batman from the Joker is one bad day, etc. Those are hints that being a murderous maniac may not be an essential part of the Joker’s being, metaphysically. Now, of course he is a mass-murdering monster, he has to die IMO, but I can buy why the idealistic superheroes would disagree with me, even with this scant evidence.

Galactus and Mephisto are not like that. There aren’t any other guys from their species walking around not being world devourers or gods of evil. Being what they are seems to be their whole reason to exist. They are not human-like entities, they are more like walking, talking diseases or sentient natural disasters. You may have moral qualms about killing a humanoid mass murderer, but if you can stop earthquakes from ever happening again, you just do it. There is no excuses for not doing it. Except… except if stopping earthquakes for good will mess with the natural order or something and cause worst disasters. It makes sense to me that Galactus is not just a giant Peter Parker and surviving the end of the former universe is not just a giant radioactive spider’s bite. Galactus is a part of the metaphysical way things are. Then, and only then, I can buy why the hero’s don’t end him.

Hey, you answered my question! Cool. Funnily enough, we’ve been talking about the Squadron at the Minimate fan site I belong to, the Minimate Multiverse, and I’d mentioned the same rumor there. Earlier today someone posted about this entry, and when I read it, and saw my name. I wondered “when the hell did he answer this? How did I miss it?” Then I saw the date. :)

It’s a shame sales weren’t very good, though it’s hardly surprising. They were almost unknown characters, and Mark Gruenwald, Bob Hall, and Paul Ryan weren’t exactly A-list creators (John Byrne was actually the original artist attached to the series, which probably would have made a big difference). But the reputation of the series has really grown over time, like a cult movie. I think it’s the best comic book Marvel published in the 1980’s, and right up there with the very best. I would never say it’s a better comic book than Watchmen, as Mark Gruenwald wasn’t in Alan Moore’s class (few are), and the art is nowhere as consistent as Dave Gibbons, but I would say that as a deconstruction of the genre of superhero comics, it succeeds in ways that Watchmen does not. Because the storytelling in Watchmen is so sophisticated (particularly for that era) it doesn’t feel like a superhero comic, whereas the Squadron fits right in. You can imagine yourself following the adventures of Hyperion, Nighthawk, et all for decades, which is why their final fates resonate in a way that belies their relative obscurity. For me, at least.

I loved Squadron Supreme because I’ve always been a Justice League and Aveneges fan even back when everyone was on X-Men and Titans. I do agree that the ending, while not bad, did not make for a satisfying resolution considering how intense and intelligent the first 11 issues were. Watchmen and SS, and I would add Kingdom Come, are all great perspectives on how super powered morality versus humanity can go awry. I think we may be due for a new one of the same epic levels given how the world has changed since then.

“With respect to the memory of Gruenwald, it was a wordy, wordy, wordy book”

It was, and that’s one of the reasons I loved it, the dialogue was great. I know I’m probably in the minority for comics fans, but I like wordy stories, if it’s well written dialogue. As for Watchmen, as much as I love SS, it’s not anywhere in the same league, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be, Watchmen is a book that truly deserves the term graphic novel. The stories sound similar on paper, but in execution, aren’t much alike at all. Sort of like Weeds and Breaking Bad, sure, they’re both about middle class parents in the burbs getting into the drug trade to take care of their families, but if you watch them, there’s no real comparison beyond the thumb nail description.

“I think the Joker too deserves to die”

None deserve to die. But unfortunately Gotham City is a place where the normal rules of human civilization don’t apply. Instead it is a kind of war zone. The prerequisite for any discussion on the death penalty is that the state knows how to separate the criminals from the rest of the citizens. This is something that in real life the civilized nations can do well enough, but for some reason that the institutions in the DC Universe have not figured out exactly how to do that.

I pity the death penalty abolitionists in the DC Universe. They must seem some kind of deranged lunatics.

That Squadron Supreme TPB is going on my shopping list.

Squadron Supreme is still my favorite mini-series, and that last page of the first issue is a classic.

Zaku –

“None deserve to die.”

I am very conflicted about the death penalty. Like most complicated matters, I seem to be unable to make my mind one way or the other.

I have religious-spiritual beliefs that, if followed with any consistency, would mean that I’m opposed to the death penalty. All human lives are sacred and it’s not for us to decide to end them. In my better moments, I believe in that.

On the other hand, I have a more utilitarian side, and a purely emotional/common sense side that tells me that some people seem so obviously to be here only to cause pain and misery, I am not talking about your run-of-the-mill murderer or robber, but guys that have killed again and again, the most unrepenting psychopaths, war criminals, etc. I can’t stop myself from feeling satisfaction when one of these guys is executed. Just to feel guilty later for feeling satisfaction.

I think SS was just as well-told a story as Watchmen. There are similarities, but as many have already pointed out, they were coming from vastly different places.

I really prefer SS because of what Watchmen represents to those of us who loved Silver Age stories. After Watchmen was published, it became widely emulated. Every comics creator wanted to do superhero deconstruction. That eventually became the flavor of both Marvel and DC’s universes, and it’s still pretty much the status quo for most superhero comics, even though those kinds of stories and events have become trite and cliché (which makes Watchmen seem trite and cliché by association).

“I think SS was just as well-told a story as Watchmen.”

Oh, I think so too, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise, I just don’t think the ambitions were the same. I think Mark Gruenwald wanted to tell a cool comic book story with some interesting ideas. Alan Moore’s ambitions were a lot different than that, and I think he succeeded in them, it’s truly a novel in graphic form. While it could be enjoyed by younger readers (I was a teen at the time, and loved it), Moore was gearing it to an older audience. The basic outline makes them sound similar, but in execution, there’s not much that’s comparable.

Yes, Dan Adkins swiped a lot on his Doctor Strange stories, and not just from Steve Ditko. He also swiped from, among other places, the John Schoenherr cover artwork for the Theodore Sturgeon novel Venus Plus X for the appearance of Nebulos in Strange Tales #162…

http://martinohearn.blogspot.com/2011/08/from-john-schoenherr-comesnebulos.html

Nevertheless, I still found Adkins to be a good artist. At least he was upfront about his swiping, acknowledging that it was due to his difficulty in keeping a monthly deadline. His later move into inking was probably a smart decision, and I think he did wonderful work over various pencilers.

There’s no denying that Watchmen had a bigger impact (for better or worse it helped launch the grim “realistic” comics of the nihilistic nineties).

But Mark G was trying to write a different kind of story within the framework of a standard superhero comic book, and Alan M was doing something totally outside of that. Comparing them is kind of unfair. It’s like taking a batman comic from the 50s where Batmite has made Batman fall in love with Batwoman, and Robin has to trick Batman into not revealing his secret identity to her by having Alfred dress up as a new villain, the Crossword Man, who leaves clues to his next crime as giant crossword clues; and then comparing that story (a product of its time) to Year One. SS was pretty groundbreaking For Its Time. But it wasn’t supposed to change the industry the way Watchmen did.

And I find the lawsuit part of this pretty suspect. if DC was so keen to sue, and relented because SS was only a limited series, how did they let the absolutely awful New World Order get published (with the SS-earth versions of Phantom Stranger, Swamp Thing, Robin, and others) not to mention a garbage bag of other SS-ish books that have polluted dollar bins since (Supreme Power and all that).

@Rene

I understand that this is a very complicated matter. However it was not my intention to start a discussion on this topic. I just wanted to say that the DC universe is so full of unstoppable monsters that a discussion on the death penalty goes beyond the ethical boundaries to become a matter of simple survival.

And I believe that none derserve to die because none deserve to decide who deserve to die :)

Zaku –

Yeah, I agree with you about the DCU. Always thought it was a mistake to escalate the Joker’s evil and unstoppability. Horror stories are bearable as horror stories when their scope in time and place is limited. A horror story that goes on indefinitely becomes a sort of despair story.

@Rene

Yep.

Why on earth would a sane person would want to live in Gotham City?!?

Here an interesting article about the insanity defense in comics:

http://lawandthemultiverse.com/2011/01/18/supervillains-and-the-insanity-defense/

I never agreed with the mainstream narrative that comics like Watchmen and Dark Knight launched a dark age of comics. IMO, the darkening of comic books in the late 1980s and early 1990s seemed far more influenced by the Image creators being huge fans of the action movies of the time, alongside with some other assorted influences, like cyberpunk and anime.

It’s sort of silly to assume that the Comedian alone gestated the huge number of paramilitary black ops commandos armed to the teeth that abounded in comics of the time. The Comedian barely appears kicking ass in Watchmen. Rambo, John McClane, Mad Max, the Terminator, etc. had a larger influence. And the obsessed detectives like Rorschach were in the minority when compated with musclebound, armored, cyborgued monstrosities.

But I do agree that the Watchmen influence eventually reached comics big time in the 2000s and 2010s, with Identity Crisis, Civil War, etc.

This is one of the major reasons why I finally stopped reading the various Batman series a decade or so ago. I just got sick & tired of seeing the Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum, murdering a bunch of innocent people, getting caught by Batman, and being sent back to Arkham only to escape yet again six month later.

And at that point Big G wasn’t such a monster as he became later–Earth was, after all, the first time he’d attacked a world of intelligent life (soon retconned away to leave a long chain of dead inhabited worlds behind him).

How could Earth have been the first time he attacked a world with intelligent life when he brought with him to Earth the Silver Surfer, who only became the Silver Surfer to spare Zen-La?

Though I think you’re right and everyone is focusing on the “put to death” part, but ignoring the “or just shot trying to escape” part. Because even if the DC Universe was an America without the death penalty, it’s all about the suspension of disbelief that no cop, person on the street, or prison guard hasn’t had someone killed by the Joker and just decides to shoot him in his cell, or as he’s bat-cuffed up for arrest, or left unconscious somewhere, and either set up to look like he was trying to escape and shot, or just flat out blasted under the notion that “what jury are they going to find that will ever convict me?” And if it’s a universe with a Punisher or Vigilante type character, they would probably need to be spending every waking moment hunting down the Joker as their A#1 task. (Which is why the fact that there aren’t more stories back in the day where it’s shown having the Punisher take a shot at the Kingpin, and him having too good of security and protection to have it work undercuts the real world logic of the characters.)

I love the “unswiped” Adkins panels!

@M-Wolverine

“And if it’s a universe with a Punisher or Vigilante type character, they would probably need to be spending every waking moment hunting down the Joker as their A#1 task.”

He tried but…

M-Wolverine –

With the Kingpin, people have used different justifications. He is part of a criminal structure, and he can be replaced, etc.

With the Joker, there really is no excuse. Someone would surely have hired Deathstroke by now to put the Joker out of Gotham’s misery.

I read Squadron Supreme a few months after it came out and instantly recognized it as being different. More edgy, more realistic. And I was introduced to the mini-series concept.

I still love the series and the art.

It’s no Watchmen (which I discovered way later), but it was definitely a prototype of things to come. A great and sadly underrated book.

“How could Earth have been the first time he attacked a world with intelligent life when he brought with him to Earth the Silver Surfer, who only became the Silver Surfer to spare Zen-La?”

I believe that Surfer’s origin was only explained in his solo title, not his initial “Fantastic Four” appearances.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives