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June 13, 2013


Five Superman Publications I Like Better Than The Movies 04: Superman Annual #11

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This selection is for the teenager in me, the guy that took superhero comic books very seriously in part as an aggressive defense of his enjoyment of them. There's a lot going on in Superman Annual #11 in terms of the development of the superhero model. We see flashes of the "moment-to-moment" aspects that came to define comic books ten years later, when Mark Waid made significant use of the technique in his Flash comics and later when Grant Morrison took his version of that storytelling strategy to JLA. The famous moment in Superman Annual #11 is Superman hissing "Burn" before ripping into villainous Mongul with his heat vision: it's a great little scene because it reminds you just how freaky that power is at the same time being a standard cool-guy phrase-making moment in a decade stuffed with them. There is nothing superhero fans love more than a new, exciting way of looking at old business. There are other stand-out panels and sequences, though, such as a Wonder Woman/Superman kiss, Batman cautioning the new Robin to keep his mind out of the gutter when meeting the Warrior Princess for the first time, Superman shouting "Mongul!" before heading off to kick his ass, Mongul's pathetic dreams of power...

The story itself is soaked with melancholy, a precursor to the also-really-good "Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?" Superman-sendoff by writer Moore in the way it recaptured the spirit of some of the better, science-fiction oriented stories of the 1950s and 1960s. Superman is shown here having come of age never having left the Silver Age conception of Krypton, a planet still hanging in the sky, where he is awash in the quotidian happiness of a life that doesn't depend on a Fortress of Solitude and super-strength but remains slightly unsettled because it just doesn't feel right. Like a lot of Moore's work this is commentary on the way we approach such stories in addition to being a method of getting at core themes, in this case the idea of doing good as a sacrifice, and whether that serves as a component of -- or in opposition to -- being happy. Mostly, though, "For The Man Who Has Everything..." is a fun little story, well-executed by Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, and deserves its reputation. I wish I could read a mainstream comic with its sturdiness and flair every time I stepped into a comics shop.

*****

* "For The Man Who Has Everything..." Superman Annual #11, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics, comic book, 40 pages, 1985, $1.25.

*****

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