Monday, February 12, 2024

Action Comics #1060 (February, 2024)

A drunken, belching John Constantine was hanging out at a bar during a punk show when Superman walked in to plead for him to help find his daughter.

Wait. Stop. What? If this was a '90s comedy, there'd be a record scratch and voice over explainer, now a meme.

I gave up on DC in the first year of the New 52, although my connection had been on life support for years to that point. I never finished reading the 2015 "DCYou" Martian Manhunter series drawn by the swell Eddy Barrows, and barely bought any of the following volume in 2019. I was so divorced post-Rebirth that I don't even know if that maxi-series was part of a greater publishing initiative. G5? But one of the few DC things that I have bought in recent years was the Warworld mega-arc that ran for over a year and across some spin-offs. I have it in trade paperback. I haven't actually read them, but I've heard good things. While Kal-El was off in space, his rapid-aged late teens son Jon took over as the Superman of Earth. At the time, it felt like DC had finally given up on the original Man of Steel, and were transitioning to a younger model whose bisexuality made him hipper and less Übermensch-y. Except, again, everyone seemed to be loving the Warworld stuff, and Jon occasionally kissing another boy was somehow the less sexy product of the two for readers. So now the Man of Tomorrow is still your grandpa's, but he's the lead in a Superman Family title. The Kryptonian Supergirl, the Son of Superman, the Superboy from the '90s/Young Justice, the Chinese New Superman, and the armor-clad Steel with surname "Irons" offered with or without y-chromosome, as you choose. They even have matching uniforms liked an X-team. No need for a trial run, because I hate it on premise. Isn't the biggest complaint about Superman that he's overpowered, and now there's nine of them working together out of one Metropolis?

On right, the math. Yeah, there's two more. Otho-Ra and Osul-Ra are fraternal twins with powers comparable to Superman's, whom he saved from Warwold and has now adopted. If you're saying to yourself "didn't they do that with the new Flamebird and Nightwing during the 'New Krypton' period," I'll note that ended fifteen years ago. Like Chris Reeve, that thought makes me feel like catching a bullet in my teeth. I did reference the Superman Family title from the '70s, and closer to my peak fandom, the "Team Superman" that included versions of many of these properties in the '90s. Nothing ever ends or is ever truly new in mainstream comics, so instead of starting a pressure campaign against "thet queer Super@#$" like a Comicsgater, I just read more satisfying comic books elsewhere now. It's less work and stress, but you can't pretend your homophobia, racism, and misogyny are about "reverence for continuity," so it's a trade-off. And psst-- don't tell EVS, but I quietly like some of those indie comics with the non-white, non-binary, non-male characters, because they're just stories about people. Nobody's broken down my door to peg me yet. Having signaled my virtue, I can now comfortably restate that I hate most of these Super-people and they can all die painfully. But hey, I did pre-order Steelworks. I'm not a complete CIS-het monster!

Now that we're mostly caught up, I can move along to other things I hate. Like a mainstream DCU Constantine that is written as a cartoonish chav. That an adult-oriented character from a Vertigo title is in a Superman book. That of all the world class mages Superman knows, he goes to lower-tier dirty dealing gutter trash like John Constantine. That Superman spends most of the issue so distraught over a daughter that I just learned he had that he sounds like the woman screaming "my baby" at a fire and it turns out to be her cat. That the antagonists of the arc are a bunch of super-xenophobes given temporary powers, like the Everyman Program in 52 or the White Triangle Daxamites from Archie Legion, and are able to swiftly turn the populace against well-established heroes, as did the Hyperclan and G. Gordon Godfrey (but with metahuman powers of provocation.) That the big bad leading them is the parallel universe daughter of Batman and Talia al Ghul seeking revenge for a plot that was foiled in an earlier spin-off special involving a version of The Authority that is no one's favorite. Hystericalman with super-speed and hearing fails to heed a warning from Constantine, accidentally smashes the McGuffin that allowed the bad guys to travel to Earth via Hell, and releases the new team of Bloodynd and The Demon Etrigan back to our world... only to continue in a wrap-up annual. All that, just to explain how Bloodwynd's wynding arc leads to this nonsense.

"New Worlds, Part Four" was written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson. I was today years old when I realized that he and Daniel Warren Johnson are not the same guy, plus he's the new hotness giving me "next Tom King" vibes. Not a compliment, if there was any doubt. It was drawn by Eddy Barrows, who was once to Ivan Reis as Bryan Hitch was to Alan Davis, but also like Hitch, is adopting a more "realistic" looser illustrative style that I'm not as into. I thought he was just doing this for one horror story, but I guess it's for keeps. There's a bunch of other artists listed that may be drawing other pages, or just a squad of inkers, but I don't care enough to write or parse it out. I still have to read a whole ass annual of this tripe.


The Deadend Kid said...

Personally I hate on the Trendiness of DC incorporating queer elements into titles to promote schtick that's massively overexposed: like Super-fam, or Bat-fam, etc. There's plenty of room for queer reads on characters who haven't had multiple film and television franchises. I don't feel Superman's gay son gives me a deeper read on Kal-el, but then I'm not a Superfan, and I'm also frankly wary of anyone at DC Entertainment claiming they have my community's interests at heart.

Because this is DC we're talking about. DC had a strict editorial mandate throughout the AIDS crisis to not have openly queer characters, to avoid issues germane to my community-- at a time when such representation might have been *beneficial* for us. Which is why Alan Moore (whose support i appreciate, albeit question) felt compelled to have a diversely queer cast in Watchmen (whose role was, coincidentally, surely, to die en masse in New York).

I'm glad DC got over all that, more or less, with the advent of the Vertigo imprint. I'm a little less chuffed that it took DC more-or-less another quarter century to start appealing DIRECTLY to us. Shining the Super-Bat prefix on an identity doesn't sell cowflop, as far as I'm concerned. John Constantine's nominally bi, if not heteroflexible, depending on who's writing him. That isn't an accomplishment, to me. It's not a moral stance. These are just choices driven by sales.

I dunno. I'm not really saying anything here beyond blogging on your blog. Loutish of me.

We repeatedly saw DC crumple & tear like wet paper over Batwoman being lesbian, in the 2010s. Why is it an accomplishment NOW for there to be queer (male) superheroes published by the more Catholic of the Big Two? Why do I give a good god-damn whether the pope approves of my marriage? These all feel like variations on the same non-question.

Once a fanboy, always a fanboy. I'll probably die a DC baby. But that doesn't mean I'll die a rube. Because those guys, I quibble with almost every move they've made for thirty years. They never had my back when I stalwartly defended theirs, and nowadays they always smell desperate.

You brought up something fun for me to think on, though. I don't remember ever reading anything featuring J'onn in romance mode. A martian 'Brother From Another Planet' seems like a story DC should've produced, at some point... But the wizards at the House of Dire Copyright prob'ly feel their Sayles movie was 'Jemm, Son of Saturn'.

(Curious, those two arriving the same year: Jemm & The Brother both dropped in 1984...)

Kevin from New Orleans said...

For storylines featuring J'Onn with some romance try JLA: Scary Monsters, the story arcs In My Life & Rings Of Saturn from the 1998 ongoing book, the 12 issue mini by Steve Orlando, & there was an issue from Detective Comics where he wonders if Diane Meade could love him, & then JLA: Trial By Fire.

Diabolu Frank said...

As Kevin points out, virtually all of J'Onn J'Onzz's romance is markedly Post-Crisis, and more so pre-millennial. The Silver Age creators seemed to have no interest in that angle, even with the addition of Diane Meade late in the Detective run. It wasn't until J'en just under thirty years into his career that he had an unambiguous heterosexual relationship, and one wonders if that wasn't driven by a touch of gay panic over his being a "Manhunter from Mars." Also, I have to say that with the exception of Kishana Lewis, these ladies were less than enthralling. Of course, everyone has leaned heavily into the bereaved widower bit since '88.

D.K., while I tread lightly into the topic, it's hard not to question whether a given subject is a legitimate stab at representation or market friendly tokenism. That said, any nods to the queer community earns the ire of the radical right, so even tokenism takes a degree of courage. I do think Tom Taylor wrote that series with good intentions, though I have to wonder whether the sudden glut of Superpeople, especially the alternate Superman variety, has something to do with the default character entering the public domain in the next decade. If Disney couldn't save Mickey Mouse, the Man of Tomorrow will eventually fall into our hands, but within a very narrow scope. If DC has trademarks and copyrights on every possible flavor of Superman, including rainbow, they can sue for the slightest whiff of infringement. Don't expect to see that S-shield anywhere else anytime soon.

DC was historically conservative, especially where race is concerned, so I do think they deserve some credit for gay representation in the '80s and '90s. Certainly more than Marvel's YMCA bathroom assaults and literal fairy Northstar (before shelving him for most of two decades after finally outing him.) In retrospect, it was still far too timid, especially at the peak of AIDS, but "good for its time." Consider how the Image boys were strident about bisexuality in Uncanny X-Men (probably abetted by oddball ally John Byrne) but had none of that on their creator owned titles. Hell, DC ended up buying the only gay Image characters worth having.

That said, Batwoman is a perfect example of refusing meaningful representation in favor of pandering.

Oh, and speaking to our side conversation about Outlaw Martian Manhunter comics, I do have a Sayles approach to at least one story I've had on mind since the '90s.

Finally, I'm known for leaving "manifesto" length comments on other people's blogs/podcasts. I am that lout.