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Frank Miller’s take on Superman is all about truth and justice, not so much the ‘American way’

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Cover of Superman #1

In the 80 years since his first appearance in Action Comics #1, Superman has become one of the most recognizable mainstays of American pop culture. His slogan “Truth, justice and the American way” has become more than just a catchphrase, but the linchpin of the Man of Steel’s identity,

Until now.

In the hands of legendary comic book writer and artist Frank Miller and current Superman writer Brian Bendis, Superman and his backstory are being reshaped for modern times. The two writers, who are working on different projects for DC Comics, a unit of Time Warner, seek to put their own stamp on the iconic superhero going so far as to strip him of political affiliation and alter his origin story.

These fresh takes on Superman come as the character’s commercial appeal has waned following years of film adaptations that didn’t quite resonate with audiences even as comic book movies have exploded. Superman’s sales haven’t quite touched the levels of the early 1990s and the controversial “Death of Superman” storyline. Despite that, he remains DC Comics’ second-biggest comic book franchise behind Batman.

That, ironically, makes the otherwise staid character a ripe target for experimentation.

For Miller, Clark Kent began as a character that sought out justice without affiliation. However, after the last few decades, his ideals shifted to be more Republican, he said.

“By the time I was first reading [Superman] as a child, he had just become a status quo hero,” Miller said during a panel at New York Comic Con last week. “He wanted everything to stay the same as it was.”

Before he was dubbed the Man of Steel, Superman was often referred to as the Champion of the Oppressed, according to Glen Weldon, author of “Superman: The Unauthorized Biography.” In the years after his 1938 debut, Superman was “a bit of a bruiser,” using his fists to beat up people for picking on the little guy.

“He was kind of a socialist, or at least neo-socialist, ideal of equality,” Weldon said. During that time, Superman took on crooked politicians, villainous oil barons and gangsters.

“And then World War II happened,” Weldon said. “He went from being this challenger of the status quo, which is what he was created to be, to reinforcing it because America needed belief in the status quo. It was a very scary time. People were worried about America’s fate and so he became a patriotic symbol.”

Superman worked for Reagan

After the war, Superman continued on this path as the hallmark of American values. However, as comic book writers in the 1970s attempted to make Superman more relatable to audiences, they actually managed to make his differences from humans more apparent. Superman became a symbol of the establishment, a Boy Scout in a blue suit.

This identity carried into Miller’s first depiction of Superman in his influential and infamous “The Dark Knight Returns” comic book miniseries. The four-part series published in 1986 saw an older Batman don the cowl in a dystopian version of Gotham City. In this world, Superman is a government agent and, at the behest of President Ronald Regan, is tasked with arresting Batman. While Superman does not like working for the U.S. government, he sees it as the only way he can save lives.

Miller’s story changed the course of superhero comics. The bold reinterpretation of Batman gave way to more adult iterations of comic book characters, but also changed how some readers saw the Man of Steel.

Superhero stories have long reflected the politics and cultural debates of their time, but Miller’s adaptation brought Superman’s flaws to the foreground. In the context of Batman’s story, Superman is a villain. He is portrayed as a naive henchman, driven by keeping his world just the way it is no matter the cost.

‘Not so noisy about the American Way’

More than 30 years later, Miller is revisiting the character. In the works is a three-part series titled “Superman: Year One,” that revolves around the early days of Clark Kent’s life as he discovers his powers and the women that shaped him into a hero.

“What I want to do is to help bring him back to this iconic force and maybe play up the truth and justice and just not be so noisy about the ‘American way’ part,” Miller said. “We’ve got plenty of that now.”

Sixty-one-year-old Miller has never been shy about sharing his political opinions in his work or publicly. He’s been vocal in blog posts and at conventions about such things as the Occupy Wall Street movement, immigration and terrorism. In 2011, he released a graphic novel titled “Holy Terror,” in which a superhero named The Fixer battles against Islamic terrorists.

However, his newest comic isn’t going to be a sermon railing against his ideological opponents, he said.

“[Superman’s] not gonna tell you how to vote,” Miller said. “He’s going after much larger truths. The truths are going to be emotional and moral, not political.”

Bendis, who is in the midst of his own Superman storyline with DC and shared the stage with Miller at New York Comic Con, echoed that sentiment. He said that some writers have used Superman as a soapbox to lecture the audience. Rather, he said, the hero should teach comic book readers through his actions.

“I’m writing Superman in a world where for the first time the ideas of truth, justice and the American way are not being taken for granted,” Bendis said. “Truth is something that people are arguing about, justice is not for everybody, we have all now seen, and the American way, the idea that anybody can come here for freedom, is under siege.”

Bendis, a comic writer and artist from Cleveland, Ohio, penned Marvel heroes like Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers throughout his career before transitioning to work with DC exclusively last year.

His debut with the company came in the form of Action Comics #1,000, which came out in June, and marked the start of his limited series with the Man of Steel. The comic, which retailed for $8, sold more than half a million copies, said John Jackson Miller, creator of Comichron, an online comic book database.

Refugee, immigrant, ‘the ultimate American’

In Bendis’ iteration of the classic hero, the author altered a key plot point in Kal-El’s past: The destruction of his home planet Krypton. Superman was not the sole survivor of a natural disaster that devastated his planet, but rather he became the sole survivor of mass genocide, a cleansing of Krypton by another being.

“The world now sees him as a refugee and an immigrant and not just as a survivor,” Bendis said at New York Comic Con.

Frank Miller was quick to chime in afterwards, saying: “[Superman] is the ultimate immigrant and thereby, folks, the ultimate American.”

Bendis’ tweak to Superman’s origin story comes at a time when the United States is divided on how to deal with immigration. President Donald Trump’s administration has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration that has resulted in the separation of children from their parents caught crossing the border and an uptick in the number of detention centers. Trump has also been pushing for stronger border protections, including a more comprehensive wall along the Mexican border.

This policy has further split the American public, raising questions about how the country should be handling immigration issues and, more so, how it should be treating immigrants.

“What more political statement could you make than having the immigrant coming in and save America, not undermine America?” Larry Tye, author of “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero,” said.

Superman has changed and evolved with just about every era, transforming into the superhero that America needed at that time. Weldon said that Superman appeals to our desire to be better than we are — he is not someone to identify with, but to aspire to be.

“He exists as the real personification of everything that America thinks it is, not necessarily what we are,” Weldon said. “What we think we are is this immensely powerful entity that could do anything in the world and what we choose to do is use our power with tremendous restraint and help others. This is the America we keep telling ourselves that we are.”

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From: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/14/frank-millers-take-on-superman-is-all-about-truth-and-justice.html

DC ROUND-UP: The Bendis SUPERMAN Run Progress Report …

DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Wonder Comics, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!

THIS WEEK: We look at Superman #4 and the overall state of the Superman titles. Also, Hawkman #5 is another solid issue for a surprisingly-accessible series.

Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.


Superman #4

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inkers: Joe Prado Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed

It’s been six months since Brian Michael Bendis got the keys to Superman at the end of Action Comics #1000. Since then, Bendis has taken on two Superman monthly titles while presumably deputizing Marc Andreyko and Kevin Maguire to extend his overarching plot in Supergirl. Add a six-part Man of Steel weekly series, and the SuperBendis era has now spanned roughly 16 issues. As such, it’s time for a progress report.

With this week’s Superman #4, it’s increasingly clear we’re getting a best case scenario from this run. Bendis jumped to DC after nearly two decades as a defining voice at Marvel, with multiple all-time great stories to his name. His last major event, however, was 2016’s Civil War II, which mostly tanked. Bendis’ potential to succeed on a high-profile Superman run was a source of much speculation before it began. Anyway, progress report: I think it’s fair to say he’s so far exceeded expectations, even reaching outstanding at times while rarely tipping into needs improvement.

This week’s Superman #4 explores a major strength of this entire run: its ambition. Bendis is steadily recasting Krypton’s destruction as genocide, which has the potential to drastically heighten the significance of Superman being a refugee. It’s a timely notion too, given one lesson humanity has repeatedly learned in the eight decades since Superman’s creation is that massive tragedy is rarely accidental, often spurred instead by base fears, vast misunderstandings, flawed convictions, lazy beliefs, profiteering, or some combination thereof. In Superman #4, Bendis continues to develop this through his antagonist, Rogol Zaar.

Zaar is an embodiment of bigoted hate. Shrewd and capable, he’s a genocidal maniac who believes destroying the Kryptonian people is noble. Zaar’s very existence has caught Superman by surprise, and normal tactics for vanquishing him are ineffective (sound familiar?). It’s powerful stuff for our times. There’s even a panel in Superman #4 wherein Zaar tells Superman he’s fooling Earth into thinking he’s a good guy, all but calling him fake news. Coupled with Supergirl investigating a cosmic cover up by a powerful governing council over in her own book (Supergirl #23 was excellent this week too, btw), and—well—you can see where this is headed.

While I remain ambivalent about Zaar’s design, the art in Superman #4 was strong, as the art has consistently been throughout Bendis’ run. On this title, Bendis collaborates with Ivan Reis (inked by Joe Prado and Oclair Albert). There are four massive two-page spreads in Superman #4 wherein Reis’ clear linework and imaginative designs create memorable cosmic visuals. I’d have to count, but I feel like that number is par for this run. Reis, for his part, has long been a dependable purveyor of DC house style, if not the flashiest artist, but there are hints here of an ascension to the top tier of Superman pencilers, even if he’s not there just yet.

That’s not to say this issue (or run) is perfect. Bendis is packing tons of ideas, yet also using an increasingly evident trick to do it, specifically thinking here of Kent family flashbacks, another of which appears in Superman #4. Bendis has sent Jon and Lois away, limiting their appearances to Clark’s recollections. This has done decent work to make Clark relatable, but the longer it persists, the more it feels like a trick to bench the family that was here when Bendis arrived. It’s his prerogative as a storyteller, of course, and makes sense given the scope of his ambitions, so I’m amenable to taking this all back once the family end-game is clear (and, to be fair, previews for Action Comics #1004 foreshadow more Lois). Still, I think the clock is ticking loudly on these flashbacks and how meaningful they can feel.

For the most part, though, this Superman run sees a self-aware Bendis playing to his strengths, expertly using his keen ear for dialogue without being self indulgent. Bendis’ Superman sounds like a patient and comforting dad who cares and tries his hardest, always. Bendis is a master of machine gun conversations and one-liners (for which mileage varies depending on sense of humor), but he’s writing Clark with restraint, finding subtle jokes in the world around him. It works.

Overall, Superman #4 is another step forward for an entertaining run with vast potential. I’m hesitant to come off too bullish, though, because tweaking an 80-year-old world-famous character’s core in a lasting and poignant way is a high wire act from start to finish. While it’s one thing to praise ambition, Bendis’ story should be thoroughly scrutinized throughout. For now, though, I thoroughly recommend it.

Verdict: Buy


Hawkman #5

Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Inkers: Bryan Hitch Andrew Currie
Colorist: Jeremiah Skipper
Letterer: Starkings Comicraft

I continue to find this current Hawkman run baffling. Like, really truly baffling, and not in the same way most Hawkman runs confuse. See, in the space of its first five issues, Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch have taken a character who has long been among the most convoluted in all of superhero comics, and they’ve created a story that’s so accessible, I could almost give it to newbie readers or non-comics familiar friends. Yes, Hawkman is currently DC’s most streamlined book, which is a thing I never thought I’d say.

So, I’m going to start this review by trying to figure out how they’ve done this. I think it’s that this Hawkman is the first comic about this character to be built on an admission that his history is totally confusing. At this series’ start, the creators subtly acknowledged to the audience, Look, we get it. This backstory is difficult, and then rushed headlong past that by having their hero investigate himself, looking specifically at his own reincarnations throughout not only time but also space. It’s a small tweak, and it helps explain how Hawkman is connected to both Thanagar and ancient Egypt, simultaneously enabling a connection to a host of new planets, including Krypton. It’s Indiana Jones by way of DC cosmic, and so far I’ve enjoyed it all quite a bit.

Hawkman #5 largely keeps the accessible momentum going, employing another relatively straightforward concept within a simple structure. The first page grounds (heh) our hero within the microverse where he has encountered his good friend Ray Palmer, The Atom. We get a splash of the two heroes hugging (all smiles) beneath narration reminding us what’s going on (There’s nothing better than running into an old friend). The second page brings a quick but efficient run down of what the microverse is, followed by a mission statement for what our heroes will be trying to do in the coming pages, and we’re off.

Hawkman #5, like the rest of this run, succeeds on the wings (heh heh) of not overthinking its ambitions. It stumbles with pacing more than past issues, bogging down in its first half with a barrage of science talk as Palmer literally uses a chalkboard to Atom-splain what’s happening. The pacing quickly recovers, though, and soon it’s back to the giant monsters, swinging magical maces, and sweeping two-page spreads that have dotted this run like a trail of candy leading us down a path of the book’s central mysteries.

Obviously, it’s unclear how long Hawkman will last (in almost eight decades of life, the Hawkman character has never headlined a book that #50). There is a best case scenario (that again!) though, wherein Venditti and Hitch are building a foundation for a story that will continue taking readers to forgotten and under-explored corners of the DCU for a long while to come, spanning lengthy stretches of both time and space. That’s the picture I have in my head as I give this week’s issue a hearty recommendation.

Verdict: Buy


Round-Up

  • Wildstorm: Michael Cray #12 is a satisfying maxi-series finale. This book basically took Cray from his brief appearance in The Wild Storm, to the status quo he lands on here: blending with a powerful new other, an alien or demon or demonic alien (I wasn’t clear on which). In the process, we got entertaining stories about our hero disposing of evil alternate Justice Leaguers, save for Supes and Bats. The ending was smart and I liked this comic, but the real appeal here was the journey.
  • Having The Witching Hour crossover in Wonder Woman is a nice chaser for Steve Orlando’s brief-but-superb run on the book. Wonder Woman #56 gives context as to what’s happening and why, as James Tynion’s decision to throw Diana at the darker corners of DC mysticism continues to be a fascinating study in contrast.
  • Titans #27 sees the team mourning the loss of Nightwing as leader (headwound, amnesia, etc.), providing a look at dynamics plus a quick soul check. I liked it. This book has worked well since No Justice with its smaller cast, and it also helps that there’s a goal—managing emergent meta events—to guide direction. The Rebirth run sometimes felt like a bunch of legacy characters milling around conspicuously ignoring where they fit into continuity. Titans is simpler now, with less baggage, and it’s looking better for it.
  • In Suicide Squad #47, Captain Boomerang is an Australian James Bond…who gets missions briefings from a hologram projected by a beer can. Funny stuff.

Miss any of our earlier reviews?  Check out our full archive!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

From: http://www.comicsbeat.com/dc-round-up-the-bendis-superman-run-progress-report/

The October Superman Giant and Justice League Giant Officially Delayed at Walmart

Last week, we noted that the Swamp Thing Holiday Horror special had arrived at Walmart, but that the fourth issues of Superman Giant and Justice League Giant did not appear to have come out.

Comics retailers make take some schadenfreude in that late comics aren’t just for the Direct Market anymore.

According to the DC website Superman Giant #4 and Justice League Giant #4 are now scheduled to come out on October 21st.  (Which really means sometime towards the end of next week.  They’re usually out before Sunday.)  Since Batman Giant #4 and Teen Titans #4 continue to be scheduled for 10/21, it looks like next weekend is going to be the first 4 title release week at Walmart.  We’ll have to wait and see if the titles ship in 2 batches next month or not.

The previews for Superman Giant #4  and Superman Giant #4 will have to tide you over for another week.

Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.

From: http://www.comicsbeat.com/the-october-superman-giant-and-justice-league-giant-officially-delayed-at-walmart/

Box Office: The Biggest 2nd-Weekend Drops For Comic Book Superhero Movies

‘Venom’Sony

After Venom shocked us all by snagging an $80 million opening weekend, much of the talk online was about how the Tom Hardy vehicle’s success would be short-lived and that it would surely take a big (-60% or more) drop in its second weekend. First of all, a big comic book superhero movie falling 60% or more in its second weekend is no longer considered a major issue. Second, just in the last three years, we’ve seen a handful of big superhero flicks take arguable nose-dives in weekend two only to reassert themselves over the next month for an eventually happy ending.

So, for my own research, I dug up an old list I made three years ago for the 16-biggest second-weekend drops for comic book superhero movies. To my amusement, we’ve actually had a handful of new entries on the list. Moreover, the likes of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Deadpool 2 and Suicide Squad (along with Ant-Man and the Wasp, which dropped “only” 61% this summer) recovered accordingly and ended up with perfectly acceptable ($300 million+) domestic totals. So, for those who are curious, here are the 22-biggest second-weekend drops for major comic book superhero movies.

22. Spider-Man: Homecoming (62.1%)

Opening weekend: $117m     Second weekend: $44.2     Total domestic gross: $334.2m

One of the reasons I dove back into this list is because of films like Spider-Man: Homecoming, which suffered what once would have been considered huge second-weekend drops but A) were essentially considered par-for-the-course and B) recovered with a vengeance after the second weekend to end up with a strong and leggy domestic finish. Such is the case with Jon Watts’ MCU Spidey reboot. The well-received film dropped 62% in weekend two, which is a record for an MCU movie. But thanks to strong reviews, good word-of-mouth and the total absence of any live-action kid-friendly biggies between mid-July and early November (Thor: Ragnarok), the film stuck around and legged it to a fine 2.85x weekend multiplier and a rousing $334m domestic cume.

21. Dredd (2012)  -62.3%

Opening weekend: $6.2m     Second weekend: $2.3m     Total domestic gross: $13.4m

Six years later, there are those who rather love this cult picture who swear that a sequel will bring in the kind of numbers that this reboot never did. But while the reviews were surprisingly solid, the Lionsgate release, R-rated and in 3D, proved that the second time was not the charm for this British comic book saga. Dredd became a classic example of Comic-Con buzz not translating to mainstream appeal. In terms of budget versus worldwide gross, even the reviled 1995 Sylvester Stallone entry ($113m on a $90m budget) was a bigger success, although both were incontestable flops.

20. Batman Robin (1997) -63.3%

Opening weekend: $42.8m     Second weekend: $15.7m     Total domestic gross: $107m

If Batman Robin didn’t set the record for the biggest second-weekend plunge back in 1997 (and it was just 48th at the time), it was surely the most high-profile movie to ever dip below the dreaded 60% mark. We like to blame the Internet for killing the Joel Schumacher sequel, but it still debuted with one of the top-ten biggest debut weekends of all time back in June of 1997. So, to paraphrase that famous closing line, it wasn’t the Internet that got him, it was word-of-mouth that killed the beast.

19. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)  -64.2%

Opening weekend: $90.8m     Second weekend: $32.5m     Total domestic gross: $233.9m

This is the first film on this list that is unquestionably a hit, and it won’t be the last X-Men movie we see here today. As long-lasting as the X-Men franchise has been for 20th Century Fox, they have some of the worst legs of any major franchise outside of the Harry Potter and Twilight films. Even with eight years of inflation and a 3D bump, this film still couldn’t reach the opening weekend and domestic total of X-Men: The Last Stand ($102m/$234m), although its $748m worldwide cume (and smaller second-weekend drop) surely made up for it.

18. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) -65.3%

Opening weekend: $65.7m     Second weekend: $22.8m     Total domestic gross: $155.4m

X-Men: Days of Future Past earned strong reviews and was unquestionably a big hit. It earned $234 million domestic and $748m worldwide. However, Bryan Singer’s next X-Men movie took a similar drop and had a similarly frontloaded run, but with terrible reviews and a much smaller opening weekend. Fox screened this one early only to get sandbagged with generally negative critical notices, and a film that was sold as “the 1990’s X-Men toon come to life!” was revealed as yet another “Magneto has a sad and lifts stuff” melodrama. Cue a final domestic total lower than the unadjusted $157m gross of the first X-Men. With a $121m gross in China and thus a $544m worldwide cume, it was a rare case of a big budget Hollywood flick that really did get saved by China.

17. Deadpool 2 (2018) -65.4%

Opening weekend: $125.5m Second weekend: $43.463m   Total domestic gross: $318.4m

This is another example of a movie that took a big drop but was still a (comparatively) leggy hit. Deadpool 2 earned solid reviews and a superb $126m Fri-Sun frame, but (for the second year in a row) the Memorial Day weekend did not provide a cushion for a big Fox franchise title. Nonetheless, unlike Alien: Covenant, the Ryan Reynolds flick stuck around and ended up with a solid 2.5x weekend multiplier and a domestic gross essentially tied with the unadjusted domestic finish of Iron Man. If Venom sinks like a stone this weekend, I imagine Sony will be pointing at Deadpool 2 as a reason not to panic. And they would be right to do so.

16. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)  -65.5%

Opening weekend: $58m     Second weekend: $20m     Total domestic gross: $131m

Okay, so the lightning fast collapse of this second Tim Story film is probably part of what led Fox to not go forward with the franchise. In retrospect, it’s a classic Tomb Raider Trap scenario, as this sequel was arguably a better film than the first but only the die-hards showed up, with casual audiences sitting it out or catching up with it on DVD or Blu-Ray due to their indifference towards the original. Still, I bet Fox would love for a $287m worldwide cume for their current Fantastic Four movie, to say nothing of that $58m debut weekend.

15. Green Lantern (2011)  -66.1%

Opening weekend: $53.1m     Second weekend: $18m     Total domestic gross: $116m

It was a weird thing to be discussing a $53 million debut weekend for a B-list DC Comics character as an unmitigated disaster, but we all knew what was coming. The Ryan Reynolds film got terrible reviews, had a poor weekend multiplier, and had no positive buzz coming out of the weekend. But I will be honest, I’m still a little shocked by how quickly it collapsed, and it didn’t even make up for it overseas during a summer when 3D was still all the rage. In some ways, Green Lantern is the least likely mega-flop of the modern comic book age (I’d imagine its unapologetic fantasy would be more easily digested today), but that’s a conversation for another day.

14. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)  -66.9%

Opening weekend: $102.75m     Second weekend: $34m     Total domestic gross: $234.3m

It is a little ironic that the two biggest grossing X-Men pictures, both here and abroad, also suffered the largest second weekend declines of the 15-year old franchise. This third film scored what was at the time the fourth-biggest Fri-Sun debut of all time over Memorial Day 2006, but Memorial Day does not tend to be a terribly leggy weekend on which to launch. Fan hatred for this Brett Ratner entry, which was rushed into production to beat Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns to theaters, has clouded the notion that this was once by-far the most successful X-Men film of all. Of course, I can say the same thing about Spider-Man 3, which is still the most successful, and probably will forever be the most successful Spider-Man film.

13. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) -67.2%

Opening weekend: $13.3m     Second weekend: $4.3m    Total domestic gross: $28.7m

The original Kick-Ass was not a monster hit, operating as a classic example of Comic-Con hype not necessarily translating into mainstream interest. But the film still made around $98 million worldwide on a $50m budget, so the franchise became one of Universal’s many hand-me-down franchises. But piss-poor reviews and viewer indifference sunk this ship. The fans showed up on opening weekend, accompanied by no one else, and nobody liked what they got and the floor fell through. The first film is a solid look at real-world crime fighting and the morality of public interference. But this terrible sequel had nothing to offer except muted shock value, and thus it was gone from theaters in a flash.

12. Suicide Squad (2016) -67.4%

Opening weekend: $133.6m  Second weekend: $43.5m   Total domestic gross: $325.1m

We critics savaged this heavily recut/restricted David Ayer supervillain team-up flick, but fans (and general audiences) flocked to the first chance at seeing a live-action Harley Quinn and a live-action Deadshot (played by Margot Robbie and Will Smith no less) on the big screen. The film took a similar drop to Batman v Superman, but it stuck around due to being the last big movie of the summer. Or maybe, come what may, general audiences just enjoyed it more than Dawn of Justice. In the end, shock of shocks, it turned out to be leggier than Captain America: Civil War. It’s another recent example of a big comic book superhero movie dropping hard in weekend two but rallying back to life over the next month.

11. Punisher War Zone (2008)  -67.6%

Opening weekend: $4.2m     Second weekend: $1.3m     Total domestic gross: $8m

This is the second-cheapest film on the list, and the second-lowest grossing as well, but the $35 million production still had real consequences. This was the third attempt to jump-start a Punisher franchise and crushed what should damn-well have been a promising career for Lexi Alexander. She has since become one of the loudest voices about gender inequity in Hollywood. I didn’t see a bunch of Internet think-pieces trumpeting why she should be given a second chance and/or a shot a redemption back in 2008. Anyway, this one was another victim of bad buzz, with trouble on the set and rumors that it might go PG-13. For fans of the character, Ray Stevenson is often considered the definitive onscreen portrayal, all due respect to Jon Bernthal. That’s a statement I’ll agree with even as it’s not my favorite Punisher movie.

10. Watchmen (2009) -67.7%

Opening weekend: $55.2m     Second weekend: $17.8m     Total domestic gross: $107.5m

Like Green Lantern, this was a case of a major cult comic book movie opening to what should have been blockbuster numbers but getting tagged as a whiff anyway. And again, the writing was on the wall. Zack Snyder’s faithful-to-a-fault adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel barely pleased the fans and offered little to those not already in the fold, so it dropped like a stone, barely cracking $107 million from a $55.2m debut weekend. The film’s $185m worldwide total wasn’t nearly enough for the $130m film. Although in retrospect, it’s a credit to Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. that they opened a 2.75 hour, hard-R, ultraviolent comic book epic based on a cult title to $55m in the first place.

9. Man of Steel (2013)  -67.9%

Opening weekend: $128.6m     Second weekend: $41.2m     Total domestic gross: $291m

Yes, I am counting the film’s full opening weekend, including the $12 million worth of Thursday previews that inexplicably were counted separately this time out. This superhero reboot scored the second-biggest debut ever for a non-sequel (behind The Hunger Games) and what at the time was the biggest June debut. But mezzo word-of-mouth and surprisingly robust competition in the form of World War Z ($66m debut) and Monsters University ($82m debut) proved too much for Superman. The film was a hit to be sure ($668m worldwide on a $225m budget), but lukewarm reception led to turning the would-be Man of Steel 2 into what is now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

8. Fantastic Four (2015) -68.2%

Opening weekend: $25.7m Second weekend: $8.2m       Total domestic gross: $56.117m

When I first did this list three years ago, it was in anticipation of the second weekend for Fox’s disastrous attempt to reboot Marvel’s first family. The much-retooled (and eventually denounced by its own director) grimdark origin story was shredded by critics and ignored by indifferent audiences for whom the mere notion of a Fantastic Four movie was not enough of a draw. With bad reviews and poor audience buzz, there was little reason not to expect a massive drop. And sure enough, it sank like a stone in weekend two. Its awful $56m domestic cume is right between the unadjusted opening weekends of Tim Story’s Fantastic Four ($55m in 2005) and Tim Story’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ($58m in 2007).

7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)  -69%

Opening weekend: $85m     Second weekend: $26.4m     Total domestic gross: $179.8m

Not even a DVD-quality work-print of the film getting leaked online a full month before the release could stop this troubled Hugh Jackman spin-off from scoring a massive Fri-Sun debut to kick off the summer of 2009. But word-of-mouth was as poor for audiences as it was for critics, and J.J. Abrams’s critically-acclaimed and crowd-pleasing Star Trek quickly became the main event of the early summer. Ironically, while Star Trek crushed Wolverine in America ($257m vs. $179m), X-Men Origins clobbered the sci-fi reboot overseas and they both made almost identical grosses ($385m for Star Trek, $373m for Wolverine) on near-identical $150m budgets. The poor reception for this one arguably led to the prequel/reboot that is X-Men: First Class.

6. Elektra (2005)  -69%

Opening weekend: $12.8m     Second weekend: $3.9m     Total domestic gross: $24.4m

As I wrote last month, Jennifer Garner’s career as a leading lady never really recovered after this legendary whiff, which is a shame as it was something of a contractual obligation. This Daredevil-spin off is indeed terrible, and its artistic failures (it’s cheap, it’s small-scale, it feels watered-down) are dwarfed by its overall failure (it earned just $53m on a $43m budget) and its impact in terms of female-centric superhero movies. In short, this was the last outright comic book superhero movie centered around a woman. And really, there have only been three so-called “big” ones, SupergirlCatwoman, and Elektra. Heck, if you count non-superhero comic book movies with females, that still only gets you Barb WireTank Girl, and Red Sonja. As bad as that track record is, it’s hard to defend Hollywood’s skittishness when the Hitman video game is getting another shot at a franchise.

5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) -69.1%

Opening weekend: $166m     Second weekend: $51.3m     Total domestic gross: $330.3m

The poorly-reviewed DC Films backdoor pilot still assured general audiences that it contained IMAX-friendly spectacle, a big Batman/Superman fight scene and at least a little bit of kick-ass Wonder Woman action. So, the curious joined the hardcore fans for a whopping $81 million opening day and $166m debut weekend. But audiences didn’t like the long, grimdark, violent and hilariously not-kid-friendly superhero sequel any more than critics did, so it sank hard and never recovered. Even with less competition than Man of Steel, it failed to earn even 2x its admittedly massive opening weekend and resulted in the next wave of DC Films being heavily retooled. Never has such a high-grossing film ($873m worldwide) been viewed as a franchise-threatening disaster.

4. Jonah Hex (2010) -69.7%

Opening weekend: $5.3m     Second weekend: $1.62m     Total domestic gross: $10.5m

Speaking of gender inequities, Josh Brolin, arguably through no fault of his own, is constantly given major leading roles and would-be franchise opportunities (for which he usually delivers strong performances) while proving again and again that he cannot open a movie. And this heavily reshot, uber-troubled comic book production is a prime example. So disastrous was this Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor production that we didn’t even get a trailer until six weeks until the release. As much as I love the notion of not spending a year offering a stream of marketing materials, this one had the stench of doom all over it. And the final cut, barely comprehensible, ran just 73 minutes before credits. Ironically, there is a kernel of a frighteningly ahead-of-its-time idea (the fears of a militarized Tea Party type terrorist organization), but the film itself is something of a wash.

3. Hulk (2003) -69.7%

Opening weekend: $62.1m     Second weekend: $18.8m     Total domestic gross: $132.1m

There was a time back in early 2003 when it looked like Hulk was going to be one of the biggest grossing movies of the summer. Ang Lee was coming off Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the film had a great teaser attached a year-in-advance to Spider-Man, and the buzz was that this was a more cerebral comic book movie that still provided the destruction porn fans desired. And even with mixed reviews and a marketing campaign that didn’t set anyone’s hair on fire (I think I was the only one who liked the Super Bowl spot), the film still broke a record for June with a $62 million debut weekend. But it also set something of a record for a large-scale collapse, as audiences and fans didn’t care for the character-driven approach and the film wasn’t good enough to justify the lack of core elements. Twelve years later, it is the epitome of “noble failure,” and it’s certainly better than The Incredible Hulk.

2. Hellboy II (2008) -70.7%

Opening weekend: $34.5m     Second weekend: $10.1m  Total domestic gross: $75.9m

But what a minute?  Hellboy II is one of the very best recent comic book superhero movies ever made, and surely one of the best comic book superhero sequels of all time?  It had terrific reviews, a terrific marketing campaign which used Universal’s NBC properties for cross-promotion, a strong opening weekend, and solid word-of-mouth for a powerhouse fantasy adventure that pleased fans and general moviegoers alike!  How in the world did Guillermo del Toro’s gothic fantasy get kneecapped so badly in its second weekend?  Well, go look up what opened during Hellboy II‘s second weekend. Go on, I’ll wait. Yeah, Hellboy II may very well have been a one-weekend wonder, a “for fans only” affair even absent the earthquake-level competition in its second weekend. But against the might of Mama Mia! and Space Chimps, it never had a chance.

1. Steel (1997)   -78%

Opening weekend: $870,068     Second weekend: $191,667   Total domestic gross: $1.7m

The biggest drop on the list is also the lowest-grossing film on the list, as well as the cheapest at just $16 million to produce. In retrospect, it’s a little lucky that the so-called comic book film survived the miserable summer of 1997, with Batman RobinSpawn, and Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel polluting our multiplexes in a brief period. Blade would arrive to save the genre the next year. This film was, of course, a super-duper loose adaptation of the John Henry Irons arc, as Mr. Irons was one of four would-be “replacement” Superman figures that took over in the comics for a period after the Man of Steel was killed by Doomsday.

This film shares no connection to the source material. The good news is that it attempts to make some points about how rich white guys flood the inner cities with weapons and then profit in the bloodshed. The bad news is that this film is just violent enough to nab a PG-13, which created a picture too violent for kids but too juvenile and/or unappealing for older kids or adults. The result was a movie for no one, and it remains one of the lowest grossing comic book movies ever made.

Epilogue:

Okay, there are a few other “not quite superhero” comic book movies of note. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, a terrible supernatural thriller with a game Brandon Routh, opened with $754k in 2011 and then dropped an eye-popping 87% the next weekend. Barb Wire (sci-fi Casablanca with Pamela Anderson) dropped 67.7% in its second weekend while the likes of Priest (-69.2%), Tank Girl (-65.3%), and Sin City 2 (-64.8%),  brought shame to the comic book fantasy genre.

If I had the time to make this a top-29 list, the next ones would be TMNT (-61.9%), Ant-Man and the Wasp (-61.6% just this summer), Catwoman (-61.5%), Spider-Man 3 (-61.5% off a then-record $151m weekend), The Dark Knight Rises (-61.4% off a $160m debut weekend), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (-61.2%) and Ghost in the Shell (-60.9%). For those asking, The Incredible Hulk dropped a “mere” 60.1% in its second weekend while the first Fantastic Four dropped 59%, which would be relatively normal for big comic book movies (see – The Wolverine, Civil War and Age of Ultron) in this front-loaded age.

Looking at the films in question, comic book superhero flicks that have dropped 62% or more in weekend two, we have three DC Films flicks, three Zack Snyder movies, five X-Men movies and just one MCU title. By the way, Star Wars: The Last Jedi plunged a massive 67.5% on its second weekend, partially because Christmas Eve was right in the middle of the weekend and because the schools didn’t let out until its second Monday of release. But the Christmas-to-New Years frame gave it an extra boost (-27% in weekend three) and it still pulled a 2.8x multiplier from its $220 million debut weekend for a $620m domestic cume.

Venom may or may not take a big dive this weekend. The questions are A) how big? and B) if it ends up playing like a recent comic book movie or a recent Alien or Predator flick?

From: https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/10/11/box-office-comic-book-superhero-movies-venom-xmen-batman-v-superman-suicide-squad/

More than Superman: Jewish and Latinx Comics


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Jewish



Jewish is a blog by Be’chol Lashon, which gives voice to the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience. The original multicultural people, Jews have lived around the world for millennia. Today, with globalism and inclusion so key in making choices about engaging in Jewish life,Jewish provides a forum for personal reflection, discussion, and debate.



As a Jewish-German-Colombian-New York artist, Julian Voloj is both one of a kind and very at home in the world of comic books. Through comics, he has explored identity and forged community in navigating the overlap between his Jewish and Latinx experiences and expression. He has participated in specific Jewish and Latinx comic shows, and yet these two elements have never come together—until now. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Voloj, a Be’chol Lashon staffer, arranged Convivo, an art exhibition about Jews, Hispanics, and comics in partnership with Jewish Art Salon, Bronx Heroes Comic Con, and Repair The World.

Voloj spoke with the two curators, Joel Silverstein, a founding member of the Jewish Art Salon, and Ray Felix, an arts educator and founder of Bronx Heroes Comic Con, about their vision for Convivo and the world of comics more generally.

Julian Voloj: Thank you, Joel and Ray. It was wonderful to work with you both to organize Convivio. Can you tell us your thoughts about the exhibition?

Joel Silverstein: It began on a meditation on Convivencia, the storied and hallowed era of Jewish, Catholic and Muslim cooperation centered in Spain in the early Middle Ages. Although this era of fabled goodwill is historically hotly contested and debated, it is an idea that is seductive, positive and hopeful.

In real terms, the exhibition spoke to me because of my 18 years as a NYC DOE high school art teacher and artist, centered on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Delancey Street is the quintessential Jewish neighborhood in the early 20th century, but it was also shared for the last sixty years with Hispanics, primarily Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans and others. The relationship between the two groups was complex yet complementary.

Jews began the comic book industry in the 1930s and 40s, and by the 1970s and 80s Hispanics entered into the field. They saw comics as a way to create an artistic identity. In many ways, the two groups paralleled each other.

Voloj: How did you get involved in comics?

Ray Felix: I’ve always been attracted to comics since I was young. My father, who was in the Air Force Reserves, returned home from Germany and Spain and brought my brother and me stacks of comics tied with twine. There was the Flash, Batman and Superman. I think since that moment I was attracted to the comic medium.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t a geek or a nerd because I read comics. As a kid, me and my friends worked out, exercised and fought in the streets of the Bronx. We wanted to be the heroes and we wanted to look like them as well. Growing up in the Bronx, in retrospect, was traumatic. I fought in school, I fought in my neighborhood, and if I lost a fight my father would make me fight the kid again with boxing gloves in the backyard. So yes, I identified with the mean streets of the Bronx and with Gotham City, where Batman fought crime, and Hell’s Kitchen, where Daredevil fought. I wasn’t concerned about looking for a character that identified with my Latino culture or ethnicity. All kids wanted to be associated with the fight culture, and we aspired to be gladiators of the streets.

Silverstein: I have been passionately involved with comics since I was a boy. Part of my interest sees the mythology of comics as a secularization of religious thought and specifically Jewish religious thought. My tastes were eclectic. I loved Superman and Batman, Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, Swamp Thing, Captain America, Horror Comics, The Spirit by the great Will Eisner and of course my art god, Jack Kirby, especially The Fourth World, The Demon, and Kamandi. I loved superheroes, but I really loved the off-beat, second-banana characters.

Voloj: As I show in my new book Joe Shuster: The Artist Behind Superman, many of the pioneers of the American comic book industry were Jewish. However, their Jewish identity was often a taboo topic. Why do you think this was?

Silverstein: That was really true in a way that we as contemporary Jews can’t really comprehend. Jews changed their names and their identities to get business. The comic book industry was the rag trade of the publishing world, and this was the only place Jews could crash. They were unfairly barred from advertising, high-end magazines, etc.

Many have written about how aspects of Superman, like his name, origin etc. seem Jewish. It’s not a surprise given the Jewish immigration and assimilation experience. In an era after [Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel] Maus and The Rabbi’s Cat [by French comic book artist Joann Sfar], Jews are very free to write and draw graphic novels or indie comics centering on identity. There is no shortage or lack of interest. Yet I feel that there is still a glass ceiling on Jewish identity in mainstream comics.

Voloj: Ray, do you think that Latinx comic creators are able to be open about identity in their work today?

Felix: It has been my experience that no one wants to hear the Latino perspective in comics. Since the Latinx movement, there are some small strides being made, but we are divided among ourselves as well. I was criticized once as being “not a real Latino” because I don’t speak Spanish. My comment back was that speaking Spanish is no different from speaking English because they are both the language of our colonizers and not of our native people.  

Voloj: In the past, mainstream comics were often all-American with white male heroes. Now there is more diversity in mainstream comics. What changed? And how important is representation?

Silverstein: I think the great thing about now is that diversity is a given. It used to be an unfulfilled need and a secret. Now it can be out in the open. And by giving people heroes of all sorts, you are not just helping the group who is being depicted. You are helping people in the mainstream who never gave it a thought that other kinds of heroes were possible. Convivio is the kind of show that should be done because not only do Hispanic Jews exist, but Jews and Hispanics have shared New York neighborhoods (the Lower East Side, the Bronx) and have parallel histories as outsiders to the mainstream Anglo culture.

Felix: Growing up, there were no comic heroes that looked like me, so when I became an indie comic book artist, I created my own heroes. However, I never felt left out of comics as far as identity is concerned because I never needed a comic book to make me feel included.

The only reason why [major comic book companies] are now becoming more diverse is because they’re losing their core audience. Diversity is great in comics and I love it, but I believe that large companies are mainly motivated by financial gain, not by inclusion.  

Voloj: Tell us about the artists in the show? Can you highlight a few pieces and tell us why you selected them for the show?

Silverstein: All the works in the show demonstrate aspects of Jewish and/or Hispanic identity, or showcase the role of Jews and Hispanics working in the comic book industry. The artworks also show the nature of these respective cultures, how they have impacted and changed over time and more importantly, what they have learned from each other. Noaj Sauer is an Argentine Jew who has created banners dedicated to gay identity in the Hispanic Jewish community. Miguel Trelles is a Cuban/Puerto Rican painter who creates works highlighting pop culture, in this case the fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta and Mayan drawings, thus highlighting issues of colonialism, racism, masculinity, and American patriotism. Archie Rand created a series based on the bombed-out cities of post-war Germany after the Jews were hauled away.

Felix: We have Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, who gave us a fresh look from the Curt Swan style DC was known for for decades. N.Steven Harris and Grant Morrison created a Latin superhero named Aztec, made him a doctor and broke negative stereotypes of Hispanics as gangsters with bandanas and pipes. Sara Wooley and Laura Alvarez use the comic book medium to tell personal stories about their experiences and their families’ heritage.

Voloj: And you both have pieces in the show. Can you tell us about them?

Silverstein: My own work fuses superhero and Jewish imagery in expressionist paintings. In “Hulk Meets Samson,” I copied Peter Paul Rubens’ painting “Samson and Delilah” and mixed it with Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk. Both heroes are portrayed as Jewish protagonists.

Felix: “The Roach” is a Puerto Rican superhero as a bug. It’s inspired by a childhood experience. Every time a tenant moved out, my brother and I had to fumigate the roaches that they’d bring with them. I exterminated literally thousands of roaches, ants and water bugs growing up. As an adult, I began to think about how that must affect my karma in the wheel of life.  So I wrote a story about karma and becoming the Roach. It’s actually a parody on Gregor Samsa from Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

And what about your pieces in the show, Julian?

Voloj: Thanks for asking. We are including a page from my 2015 non-fiction graphic novel Ghetto Brother (illustrated by Claudia Ahlering), which focuses on the life and legacy of Benjamin Melendez, a Puerto Rican gang leader who brokered a truce that paved the way for hip-hop in the Bronx. The page we’re featuring in the show deals with Melendez’s family secret: His parents were Crypto-Jews, and this discovery leads later in the story to his own exploration and reclaiming of his Jewish identity.

EXHIBITION PAGE:

https://jewishartsalon.org/2018/09/26/convivio-jews-hispanics-the-comics/

Empower your Jewish discovery, daily




From: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/jewish-and/more-than-superman/

Action Comics #1004 First Look Will Make Lois & Clark Fans Very Happy

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Action Comics #1003 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ryan Sook and Brad Anderson, on sale on Oct. 24.


Ever since the Superman relaunch, starting with this past April’s Action Comics #1000, comics’ most iconic couple — Lois Lane and Clark Kent — have largely been separated. In a first look at this month’s Action Comics #1004, that is about to change in a big, emotional way.

In the pages of this week’s DC Comics’ preview magazine DC Insider, the creative team behind the upcoming issue break down the process of the reunion between the couple after being separated for weeks follow the events of Brian Michael Bendis’ miniseries Man of Steel.

RELATED: Yes, Bendis’ Batman and Superman Are Still Besties in Action Comics

“This is something we’ve been building towards since revealing Lois’ return at the end of Action Comics #1001,” said Bendis. The writer is joined by penciler Ryan Sook, inker Wade Von Grawbadger and colorist Brad Anderson, with the team providing the original script and step-by-step artwork for the issue.

“This page is all about emotion,” agreed Sook in the interview.

RELATED: Bendis Shares Rebirth Debut of The Question in Action Comics #1005

Lois had left with her and Clark’s son, Jon, on an cosmic adventure with Superman’s estranged biological father, Jor-El. While Lois has since secretly returned to Metropolis, Jon and Jor-El have not yet made an appearance back on Earth.

Action Comics #1004 is written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Ryan Sook, inked by Wade Von Grawbadger and colored by Brad Anderson. It is scheduled to go on sale on Oct. 24.

From: https://www.cbr.com/action-comics-1004-lois-lane-clark-kent-superman/

The Tragic Tale of Superman’s Jewish Creators

When Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the Superman character in the 1930s, they were still living at their parents’ homes.

Of course, the character and his story – the arrival from another planet, his dual identities as mild-mannered reporter and flying, bulletproof crime fighter – would go on to change the comics industry in several ways and pave the way for the super-heroization of our popular culture.

But Siegel and Shuster originally just wanted to make a little income to support themselves and their families, who had both immigrated from Eastern Europe not long before. They had bonded and began collaborating in high school in Cleveland, and although they were ambitious, they could not have conceived of how influential and popular the character would become. Sadly, they signed over the rights to the Man of Steel early on, dooming themselves to careers full of frustration and misfortune.

The story of these two Jewish comic book legends – Shuster the quiet, reserved artist, and Siegel the earnest, competitive writer – is dramatic and heartbreaking in its own right, and it’s now chronicled in a graphic novel titled “The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman,” written by Julian Voloj and exquisitely illustrated by Thomas Campi. (Voloj, who is Jewish, is also the author of the graphic novel “Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker,” a Jewish and Puerto Rican gang leader in the Bronx.)

From ‘The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman,’ by Julian Voloj and illustrated by Thomas Campi.
Thomas Campi / Super Genius

JTA spoke with Voloj about the project and Jewish comic book history just before New York Comic Con, which starts Thursday. (Voloj’s wife, Lisa Keys, is an editor with 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent company.)

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

So Jerry and Joe are both nerdy outsiders, and that’s how they meet at school. But was their shared Jewish immigrant background also a big part of their coming together? As in, they weren’t just nerds, they also weren’t as assimilated as the other kids?

Voloj: “They definitely shared a very similar identity, both born to Eastern European Jewish immigrants – Jerry in Cleveland, Joe in Toronto – but their identity was also the identity of Glenville, the neighborhood they grew up in.

“In the 1920s and ‘30s, the Cleveland neighborhood was like New York’s Bronx during that time. All their neighbors were Jewish, they were surrounded by dozens of synagogues, kosher groceries, etc. If you look at their high school yearbook, nearly every student seems to have a Jewish name. Even if they were from more assimilated backgrounds, they grew up in a very Jewish environment, so without a doubt, Superman has Jewish roots.”

Jewish identity in America before and after World War II is a recurring theme in the story, but it also feels like 99 percent of the characters in the book are Jewish (from the businessmen to other artists like Stan Lee and so on). Could you give an idea of how Jewish the comic book industry was throughout those early decades and why that might have been?

“It’s a history with many parallels to the beginning of the American film industry. Jews were discriminated against on the job market. If you were a writer or illustrator, not many jobs were available if you could be identified as Jewish. Some Jews changed their name and hid their identity in order to seek employment. Jewish artists such as Jakob Kurtzberg or Stanley Lieber became Jack Kirby and Stan Lee [respectively], even if they often claimed that their name change had nothing to do with them trying to hide their Jewish background.

“When, thanks to Superman, comics became a lucrative industry, job recruitment in this new market happened by word of mouth. Friends and family were hired. That’s why, for instance, many comic book pioneers came from even the same high school, such as DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx, where pioneers such as Will Eisner, Stan Lee or Bill Finger, to name but a few, had been students.

From ‘The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman,’ by Julian Voloj and illustrated by Thomas Campi.
Thomas Campi / Super Genius

“Given that also the publishers were Jewish … I think Siegel and Shuster didn’t imagine that they would, as fellow Jews, screw them over. Here, by the way, is an interesting parallel to the garment industry, where factory owners exploited workers even though both came from the same shtetl backgrounds.”

Was it an easy decision to tell the story from Joe’s perspective? Was it solely because he’s just a more likable character than Jerry was?

“When starting my research, the plan was to write about both of them from a third-person perspective, but then Joe became the protagonist by chance. In 2014, I learned that Columbia University had just received a donation of letters and documents that were either written or once belonged to Joe Shuster. I contacted Karen Green, who oversees Columbia’s comic collection, and even before the documents were cataloged, I got access to these letters, legal papers, bills, etc.

“It was fascinating to read about Joe’s problems in his own words. Most of the documents were from the late 1960s, during a time when [he was under] the threat of eviction, had doctor bills piling up, etc. – while at the same time preparations were made for a multimillion-dollar Superman movie.

“It also became apparent how Jewish he was. For instance, he wrote about the tzedakah he gave during the good years and how ashamed he felt that now he needed help from the Jewish community to pay his own bills.

“Jerry had always been the dominant figure of the creative duo, with Joe being the silent partner following his lead.

“Making him the narrator puts, for the first time, the spotlight on him, a late recognition of his role in creating the first superhero.”

From ‘The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman,’ by Julian Voloj and illustrated by Thomas Campi.
Thomas Campi / Super Genius

Were there other Jewish comic book artists and writers who dealt with similar losses of rights to their creations? Batman co-creator Bill Finger seems to be one? Or were Shuster and Siegel really the worst case?

“I’m not sure if it is really the worst case, but I would rather call it the original sin.

“Many stated that Siegel and Shuster were naive to sign the first Superman contract, but as we show in the book, there was no precedent. Comics were not big business and most work was work-for-hire, transferring rights to publishers.

“And then Superman changed everything. No one expected this success – neither the creators nor the publishers – and for sure no one expected the success to last.

“Like Superman becoming the blueprint for the genre, Siegel and Shuster’s contract became the blueprint for other contracts.

“Many pioneers experienced similar fates. Batman co-creator Bill Finger [who was Jewish], subject of a future graphic novel project I’m currently working on with the Israeli artist Erez Zadok, is another tragic story that only recently had a posthumous happy ending thanks to the efforts of comic historian Marc Tyler Nobleman.

“And unfortunately, these stories are not necessarily stories of the past. Earlier this year I read about Bill Messner-Loebs who once worked for DC Comics and was even credited in the “Wonder Woman” movie, butnow was homeless in Detroit.”

People have called Superman, who is sent away from his home planet just before it is destroyed, as the ultimate immigrant character. Was this definitely part of Siegel’s thought process in creating him? And can Superman more specifically be compared to a Jewish refugee fleeing a burning Europe?

“Superman’s Jewish identity is a recurrent theme. I once read that his origin story is an allegory to the Kindertransport, but this is, of course, a post-Holocaust analysis.

“Both their parents escaped poverty and pogroms in Eastern Europe, so this could have influenced the story, which some see as a kind of modernized Moses tale.

“I’m neutral when it comes to these interpretations. Superman’s origin story, which we see developing throughout the graphic novel, had many roots for sure, as did the plot. The double identity came from Zorro.

“What made Superman a success was that Siegel and Shuster understood the zeitgeist, took elements from contemporary pop culture and created something totally new, something that even today, 80 years after its debut, remains a global success.”

From: https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/MAGAZINE-the-tragic-tale-of-superman-s-jewish-creators-1.6534582

Graphic novel tells story of Superman’s Jewish creators

When Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the Superman character in the early 1930s, they were still living at their parents’ homes.

Of course, the character and his story — the arrival from another planet, his dual identities as mild-mannered reporter and flying, bulletproof crime fighter  — would go on to change the comics industry in several ways and pave the way for the super-heroization of our popular culture.

But Siegel and Shuster originally wanted to make just a little income to support themselves and their families, who had both immigrated from Eastern Europe not long before. They had bonded and began collaborating in high school in Cleveland and although they were ambitious, they could not have predicted how influential and popular the character would become. Sadly, they signed over the rights to the Man of Steel early on, dooming themselves to careers full of frustration and misfortune.

The story of these two Jewish comic book legends — Shuster the quiet, reserved artist, and Siegel the earnest, competitive writer — is dramatic and heartbreaking in its own right, and is now chronicled in a graphic novel titled “The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman,” written by Julian Voloj and exquisitely illustrated by Thomas Campi. Voloj, who is Jewish, is also the author of the graphic novel “Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker,” a Jewish and Puerto Rican gang leader in the Bronx.

JTA spoke with Voloj about the project and Jewish comic book history just before New York Comic Con, which starts Thursday.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

So Jerry and Joe are both nerdy outsiders, and that’s how they meet at school. But was their shared Jewish immigrant background also a big part of their coming together? As in, they weren’t just nerds, they also weren’t as assimilated as the other kids?

Voloj: They definitely shared a very similar identity, both born to Eastern European Jewish immigrants — Jerry in Cleveland, Joe in Toronto — but their identity was also the identity of Glenville, the neighborhood they grew up in.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Cleveland neighborhood was like New York’s Bronx during that time. All their neighbors were Jewish, they were surrounded by dozens of synagogues, kosher groceries, etc. If you look at their high school yearbook, nearly every student seems to have a Jewish name. Even if they were from more assimilated backgrounds, they grew up in a very Jewish environment, so without a doubt, Superman has Jewish roots.

Jewish identity in America before and after World War II is a recurring theme in the story, but it also feels like 99 percent of the characters in the book are Jewish (from the businessmen to other artists like Stan Lee and so on). Could you give an idea of how Jewish the comic book industry was throughout those early decades and why that might have been?

It’s a history with many parallels to the beginning of the American film industry. Jews were discriminated against on the job market. If you were a writer or illustrator, not many jobs were available if you could be identified as Jewish. Some Jews changed their name and hid their identity in order to seek employment. Jewish artists such as Jakob Kurtzberg or Stanley Lieber became Jack Kirby and Stan Lee [respectively], even if they often claimed that their name change had nothing to do with them trying to hide their Jewish background.

When, thanks to Superman, comics became a lucrative industry, job recruitment in this new market happened by word-of-mouth. Friends and family were hired. That’s why, for instance, many comic book pioneers came from even the same high school, such as DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx, where pioneers such as Will Eisner, Stan Lee or Bill Finger, to name but a few, had been students.

Given that also the publishers were Jewish … I think Siegel and Shuster didn’t imagine that they would, as fellow Jews, screw them over. Here, by the way, is an interesting parallel to the garment industry, where factory owners exploited workers even though both came from the same shtetl backgrounds.

Was it an easy decision to tell the story from Joe’s perspective? Was it solely because he’s just a more likable character than Jerry was?

When starting my research, the plan was to write about both of them from a third-person perspective, but then Joe became the protagonist by chance. In 2014, I learned that Columbia University had just received a donation of letters and documents that were either written or once belonged to Joe Shuster. I contacted Karen Green, who oversees Columbia’s comic collection, and even before the documents were cataloged, I got access to these letters, legal papers, bills, etc.

It was fascinating to read about Joe’s problems in his own words. Most of the documents were from the late 1960s, during a time when [he was under] the threat of eviction, had doctor bills piling up, etc. — while at the same time preparations were made for a multimillion-dollar Superman movie.

It also became apparent how Jewish he was. For instance, he wrote about the tzedakah he gave during the good years and how ashamed he felt that now he needed help from the Jewish community to pay his own bills.

Jerry had always been the dominant figure of the creative duo, with Joe being the silent partner following his lead.

Making him the narrator puts, for the first time, the spotlight on him, a late recognition of his role in creating the first superhero.

Were there other Jewish comic book artists and writers who dealt with similar losses of rights to their creations? Batman co-creator Bill Finger seems to be one? Or were Shuster and Siegel really the worst case?

I’m not sure if it is really the worst case, but I would rather call it the original sin.

Many stated that Siegel and Shuster were naive to sign the first Superman contract, but as we show in the book, there was no precedent. Comics were not big business and most work was work-for-hire, transferring rights to publishers.

And then Superman changed everything. No one expected this success — neither the creators nor the publishers — and for sure no one expected the success to last.

Like Superman becoming the blueprint for the genre, Siegel and Shuster’s contract became the blueprint for other contracts.

Many pioneers experienced similar fates. Batman co-creator Bill Finger [who was Jewish], subject of a future graphic novel project I’m currently working on with the Israeli artist Erez Zadok, is another tragic story that only recently had a posthumous happy ending thanks to the efforts of comic historian Marc Tyler Nobleman.

And unfortunately, these stories are not necessarily stories of the past. Earlier this year I read about Bill Messner-Loebs who once worked for DC Comics and was even credited in the “Wonder Woman” movie, but now was homeless in Detroit.

People have called Superman, who is sent away from his home planet just before it is destroyed, the ultimate immigrant character. Was this definitely part of Siegel’s thought process in creating him? And can Superman more specifically be compared to a Jewish refugee fleeing a burning Europe?

Superman’s Jewish identity is a recurrent theme. I once read that his origin story is an allegory to the Kindertransport, but this is, of course, a post-Holocaust analysis.

Both their parents escaped poverty and pogroms in Eastern Europe, so this could have influenced the story, which some see as a kind of modernized Moses tale.

I’m neutral when it comes to these interpretations. Superman’s origin story, which we see developing throughout the graphic novel, had many roots for sure, as did the plot. The double identity came from Zorro.

What made Superman a success was that Siegel and Shuster understood the zeitgeist, took elements from contemporary pop culture and created something totally new, something that even today, 80 years after its debut, remains a global success.

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From: https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Graphic-novel-tells-heartbreaking-story-of-Supermans-Jewish-creators-568774

NYCC: DC Comics Celebrates 80 Years of Superman

In 1938, arguably the most popular superhero of all time, Superman, made his DC Comics debut in the pages of Action Comics #1. To celebrate the Man of Steel’s 80-year anniversary, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio sat down with Superman and Action Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis and Superman: Year One writer Frank Miller Saturday at New York Comic Con to discuss all things Superman.

“I’d love to think you’re all here, but I just know that’s not the case,” DiDio said to the massive crowd before welcoming Bendis and Miller to the stage.

“We’re here as comic book fans today,” DiDio said. “Let’s approach this the right way.”

DiDio then asked Miller about the rumors that he hated Superman.

“Well, Batman did knock the snot out of him,” Miller joked. “But Superman was the first superhero I ever fell in love with. I used to watch the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s. I would wear a Superman costume under my school clothes.”

“The first Dark Knight ending I came up with didn’t really go over with DC,” he continued. “It ended with Batman dying in a police shootout.” He then explained his decision to make Superman “deluded” and Batman “radical,” in order for “Batman to kick Superman’s butt, just once.”

DiDio then asked Bendis about his path from Marvel writer to Superman writer.

“Even though I hadn’t been back to Cleveland in a few years, unrelated, I go back to Cleveland to the public library and they had put together this Superman exhibit,” Bendis said. “I stood there and I was saying, ‘Do I go to DC? Do I stay at Marvel?’ And I was like, I have to do Superman. I have to.”

“When I came in, the guy who’s presence was most felt was Neal Adams,” Miller said about his entry point into DC Comics. “The New Gods stuff was stuff I enjoyed from afar.”

“I had small bits and pieces jobs to do for the horror comics,” he continued, noting how a poor offer from Paul Levitz at DC led him to Marvel and Daredevil.

When asked why it took so long for Miller to do a Superman story, Miller said, “Dan… it’s because I thought you’d never ask. No, it’s because everyone just assumed I was the ‘dark guy.’” He also noted that when he told Dan he wanted to write Superman, “you could hear a pin drop.”

“[Superman] really had the best girlfriend in all of comics,” he continued. “Batman, he falls, he has to grab a rope. Superman, he just stays up. There’s no reason Superman shouldn’t be, essentially, the sexiest man around. When you look at the first Superman movie, when he flies around with the beautiful Lois Lane, it’s one of the most sensual and erotic scenes.” He also noted that in Superman: Year One, he’s “pushing for a certain Amazon to get involved.”

“One thing in terms of storytelling is just putting you in the rocket ship with the kid and witnessing the destruction of Krypton from his point of view makes it scarier,” Miller added. “What was the first heat vision like? I wouldn’t want to be Ma Kent.”

Bendis then compared Superman to Daredevil in the sense that both of them “beat the shit out of everyone” so everyone else can have a nice day.

Miller added that both men are an agoraphobe’s nightmare, comparing Daredevil’s enhanced senses to Superman’s.

“His powers don’t matter,” Bendis said about Superman. “He’s just a good guy doing good things. He’s Superman, there’s always gonna be something in front of him that only he can handle, but he always climbs those mountains.”

“There’s been a real effort in the Superman books to make more sense of that,” Miller said in regards to Superman being perceived as overpowered. “He is Superman,” Bendis added. “But much like a tweet isn’t the best way to handle a situation, sometimes punching isn’t the best way to handle a situation.”

DiDio then noted how Superman isn’t quite as “elastic” as Batman, saying “a darker version of Superman just doesn’t feel right.”

“With Batman, you’ve got a guy who’s permanently traumatized by the loss of his parent,” Miller said. “With Superman, you’ve got a guy who’s traumatized by the death of his family and his entire planet. BUT, he has good step-parents.”

Speaking of Batman, Bendis mentioned that Miller’s introduction in All-Star Batman resonated with him because no matter what you do with him, everyone will still generally accept it as Batman. Miller cited Bat-Mite and the Rainbow Batman as examples of this.

When asked what he drew from for inspiration for Superman, Miller said he looked at “some of the Joe Shuster strips. Superman’s wonderful in many ways, but just when he needs a lift, it seems like history provides one. Superman was good, but when WWII hit, he grew astronomically.”

“By the time I was first reading him as a child, he’d become a status quo hero,” Miller added. “What I want to do is help bring him back to being this iconic force, and maybe bring up the truth and justice, and just not be so noisy about the American way part.”

“Those things sounded so cliched as a child,” Bendis said. “But nowadays? Truth, justice? Superman.”

“As much as Superman does, he never thinks it’s enough,” Bendis added.

DiDio then asked Miller about the expectation that his work will shock people, and how he manages that when working on Superman.

“It’s your job to reconcile it,” he joked. “I absolutely adore Superman. I’ll do my very best. And, well, you don’t know where I live.”

DiDio also asked what kinds of things the two writers avoid with Superman.

“Lecturing,” Bendis said. “No one wants to be lectured any time about any thing. Superman should teach you by his actions.”

“He’s mythic,” Miller added. “My Superman is not going to be the Superman from Dark Knight. Superman is a mythic character, he’s supernatural in a certain sense. He’s not gonna tell you how to vote. He’s going after much larger truths, and they’re going to be truthful, and moral, not political.”

Bendis and Miller than joked that they should bring back Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. The two also cited their love of Lois Lane, as well as their love of Richard Donner’s interpretation of her.

Regarding taking Lois out of action and bringing her right back, Bendis said, “she’s come back. We don’t know what her deal is, but we’re gonna find out.”

As for Jon Kent, Bendis said, “When you’re a father and you see your little kids, you realize they’re looking up to you. When you see someone looking at you like this, you can relate it to the Superman story. It’s this man trying to be for this boy what he needs you to be. His relationship with Jon is very special. We’re gonna dive right into that.”

DiDio then asked Miller about Superman’s villains.

“Batman got all the good villains,” Miller joked. “Done properly, Lex Luthor could be the coolest.”

Bendis reiterated how shallow Superman’s rogues gallery is when compared to some heroes. “I’m happy Scott is so busy with Lex Luthor in Justice League so we can bring in some new antagonists.”

“I can’t wait to bring Lex Luthor in,” Miller immediately added. “Luthor and Brainiac are both great villains. And having Brainiac, he robbed the bank when Krypton was about to blow up. He’s really the worst villain in the universe. He didn’t just cash in on Krypton’s death, he’s holding a city hostage.”

Regarding Superman’s origin and the changes he made, Bendis said, “The idea that Krypton was cleansed instead of destroyed changes Superman’s perspective from survivor of a natural disaster to the last survivor of a cleansing.”

“That makes it even more biblical. The entire myth of Superman is Moses,” Miller said. “Superman is the survivor of a huge genocide.”

“He’s the ultimate immigrant, and thereby, the ultimate America,” Miller added.

“When I look back at Dark Knight, I go, ‘Whoo! Was I pissed off back then or what?’” Miller continued. “Things have become much more free, and it becomes silly to play the rebel. Instead, what you do is enjoy the opportunity you’ve got and focus more on quality instead of simply doing things that shock.”

“This series is introducing him as if he’s a brand new character,” Miller added about Superman: Year One. “Much like Batman: Year One, it’s supposed to be the kind of book you hand them.”

Bendis then asked if Miller would ever consider doing a monthly book again. “I’d imagine,” said Miller. “But I’d letter,” he joked.

“I’m in the middle of a very long and epic Superman story called the Unity Saga,” Bendis said regarding his own Superman run. “And in the end, we’re establishing where the United Planets came from.”

From: https://www.cbr.com/nycc-dc-comics-superman-80-years-bendis-miller-didio/

DC Looking to Make Superman Comics Based off George Reeves Era

Superman #2 cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair

During the “DC Meet the Publishers” panel at New York Comic Con today, representatives from DC Comics indicated that the company is looking into making Superman stories based off George Reeves‘s take on the character. Reeves, not related to fellow Superman actor Christopher Reeve, was the first actor to have the pleasure of portraying the iconic man of steel for the Adventures of Superman tv show in the 1950s.

Reeves was, for many early fans, the version of Superman they knew best. Partially because he did it first, of course, but also because the series was in syndication through the 70s as well. Hell, you might even recognize the opening.

And with the success of the 60s Batman series during the New 52 era, getting a 1950s Superman comic would not be much of a surprise for your average DC comic fan.

While DC was certainly enthusiastic about making Superman comics off the George Reeves era, the trouble they’ve had so far is assembling a creative team. They need to find the right people for the job, and so far, they haven’t had any luck.

Its possible we could see the series sometime in the near future, but as of now, it seems more of a vague concept than anything particularly concrete.

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From: https://www.bleedingcool.com/2018/10/04/dc-looking-to-make-superman-comics-based-off-george-reeves-era/

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