Sunday, August 09, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Here's a little gem. A stand alone landmark issue. Not the current use of anniversary issues to wrap up some drawn out story or as the launch point for a new drawn out story. Why, this single issue of Superman wasn't even the least connected with continuity of the day.

Sure, it brought up some guy named Morgan Edge who didn't make the post Crisis cut, so far as I recall, but otherwise the stories in Superman #400, published with an October 1984 cover date, were all about what Superman represented.

With Superman this isn't exactly edgy stuff. Throughout the years many writers have written about future societies' views of Superman. Just look at the last few years of Legion of Superheroes, for instance. As written by Elliot Maggin, for all but the last segment, this issue was no landmark of writing. To tell the truth, I don't know anything about Maggin and can't say as if I've read anything else he's written.

He writes several segments, each going further into the future. In only a couple of those stories does Superman even appear. Oddly, in the first one he's a white bearded old man, but through time travel, in a much later one he's his usually depicted thirty-something self. As is often the case, this sort of time travel oddity only leads to headaches if you think about it for any length of time. In each stop in the future the mythos of Superman has reached the populace in a different form, serving whatever purpose a segment of that populace needs at that moment, even if it's just light entertainment. Kind of like a religious figure, really. Jesus, for one, comes to mind, and I don't suppose Maggin was being overly subtle about that.

Speaking of time/continuity issues, though, I couldn't figure out how the last story, set so far in the future as to be the end of time and the beginning of another universe, is populated by descendants of Superman, yet there don't appear to be any descendants in several of the stories set at earlier times. I guess they were living in secret in those earlier times. Who knows. Not really important, either, but curious in a comics minutae sort of way. Maybe it's just that that segment was written by Steranko instead of Maggin.

All of which is not the reason I bought this issue, I'm sure. As I've noted previously, other than the New Teen Titans, I wasn't much of a DC purchaser prior to Crisis in 1986. Furthermore, I'm usually not an artist guy. I'm usually all about the story and plot development. This issue of Superman was an anomaly. I bought it for all the great guest artists.

The front cover was by Howard Chaykin, back when he actually drew more than 1 face. The back cover, as well as a segment of the interior story art, was by Frank Miller. There were pin-ups by Jack Kirby, Will Eisner (with The Spirit), John Byrne, Bill Sienkiewicz, Walter Simonson, Bernie Wrightson, Mike Grell, Leonard Starr (which included Little Orphan Annie, even), Jack Davis, Moebius, and Steve Ditko. Other interior artists included Wendy Pini, Al Willaimson, Joe Orlando, Michael Wm Kaluta, Terry Austin, and Klaus Janson. There was an introduction on the inside opening cover by Ray Bradbury and a interior back cover sketch by Jerry Robinson that included many pop figures of the day, such as Michael Jackson, Ed Koch, Woody Allen, Ted Koppel, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Cher, Ed McMahon, Larry Holmes, Walter Mondale, and, amusingly, the Penguin.

This was the kind of celebration I like to see with a landmark issue. Take a step outside. Bring in lots of talent. Celebrate the meaning of the characer. Of course, not a lot of characters are going to reach the 400 issue mark in 1 book, let alone multiple books. But with characters like Batman and Superman, or for that matter, Spider-Man and the Hulk, it's nice to see a publisher take the moment to savor and leave the advancing of ongoing stories to another month. All ad free, in this case, too.

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