Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New Comics Wednesday: Recent Reviews


™ and © 2018 Simon Spurrier and Matías Bergara
This is a splash page from Coda #1. 
Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's new comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, 
ComicAttack where I post my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately. 

For today's post, I thought I'd actually point folks over to some recent reviews I've done for comics that might be of interest to the role-playing game crowd. 

I am always a big fan of supporting local comic book shops, so my suggestion would be to look on the Comic Shop Locator to see if you can find a shop near you that might have these issues, but if not, I've also included links below to where you can buy digital versions on Comixology. 

Coda
This is one of my favorite recent comics. It's an independent title from Boom! Studios, and in my review of the first issue, I described it as essentially a mash-up between Tolkien and Mad Max. The premise is essentially that, only a few years before the beginning of the story, there was an apocalyptic event that succeeded in destroy all magic. The characters are living in a post-magic world full of paladins, bards, and various fantasy creatures, but magic is gone. The main character is Sir Hum (he calls himself "X" but given his penchant for saying "Hm..." when people ask him questions, he's picked up the name of Sir Name), a wandering bard scoundrel who is searching for a way to save his missing wife. He rides an interesting creature referred to as a "pentacorn," which is basically like a nightmare version of a unicorn, and one that speaks, except the only thing it ever does is curse. 

The visuals are done in a uniquely cartoon-like style, but they are very detailed, and the world-building in the story is incredible. It's a world that would make for a fun D&D campaign, and it seems pretty clear that the creators have at least some experience with role-playing. They even include a map of the world in the back-matter of the first issue. 

I reviewed both the first and fourth issues for ComicAttack.net. I suspect that you should still be able to find all of the issues relatively easily, but there's a chance that it might come out in a trade paperback version of the first few issues relatively soon as well. 

If you don't want physical copies, you can always buy them digitally at Comixology here

Sandman Universe
Neil Gaiman's Sandman was one of my favorite comic series, and one of the first I read that made me realize that comics don't have to all be about superheroes in capes. I highly recommend it to everyone, whether they are into comics or not. 

Recently, a new comic came out, called Sandman Universe, that sets the stage for a variety of new titles that take place in the Sandman universe. I reviewed the first issue here. You can buy digital copies at Comixology here

Abbott
A short and sweet description: 1970's Blaxploitation noir story of a black woman reporter for a small newspaper in impoverished Detroit, investigating the murder of a young black kid, and dealing with the rampant sexism and racism of the time. Also, there's Cthulhu stuff. 

I really loved this book, also published by Boom! Studios. It was a short limited series that just recently ended, but you can find the issues at Comixology. There is a trade version coming out soon, but the individual issues are also available. 



Aside from these, I also review a lot of DC comics for the site. If you search for my tag on ComicAttack.net, you can find all of my reviews. 

Let me know whether you end up reading any of these, or what books you're currently reading. 

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Primordial Double IPA by Mother Earth Brewery (at lunch)
Listening: "Sunny" by Wes Montgomery






Monday, August 27, 2018

My Gaming Hardback Bookshelf

This is something I've wanted to do for a while. A few years ago, I received a fun book called Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, as a gift. The entire book is full of fun, creative, and informative graphs for comic books, with very unique graphs such as a table of "True Colors" showing what looks like a periodic table, but with different colors to illustrate the color of each hero. On the top left is the Crimson Cavalier, along with Crimson Dynamo and Crimson Daffodil. The Scarlets are next (Scarab, Witch, and Spider), then the Reds, Pinks (light and dark), Oranges (one only: Agent Orange), Yellows, (in two tones, light and dark), and so on, until you get to the bottom right-hand corner, the "Whites" (Queen, Ghost, Dragon, and more; nine in all). Another graph uses the three primary colors of Red, Yellow, and Blue, to show which heroes utilize any/all of those colors, and the ratio of each (Spider-Man is about 60% Blue to 40% Red, for example). There is a Venn diagram of Superhero Comic Tropes (Underwear on the Outside, Tragically Dead Parents, and Cape). These are just a few examples, but it's a fun book and I highly recommend it to both comic book fans as well as those interested in design and creative ways to express data.

Shortly after finishing the book, I wanted to do some similar graphs, mainly to see if I could try to replicate some of the styles from the book. I've been bitten by a bit of an artistic creative bug recently; I've started sketching again for a start, and making these graphs was a fun way to get my creative juices flowing. I chose to make a few graphs for my hardback book gaming collection, partially to see what the data would look like, and also to see what kinds of ways I could divide up my collection in a fun and different way.

Depending on peoples' reactions, I might do some more of these, with my paperback RPG books and modules, my gaming PDFs, and maybe some of my comics collection.

Let me know your thoughts, and if you end up making your own graphs, be sure to let me know!

I created all of these below in Microsoft Excel just to get the size ratios right, but then for the bar graph and the bubble graph, I re-drew them so I could arrange the data the way I wanted without being held to the built-in graph formats in Excel. The pie charts are right out of Excel with the only manipulation being the colors and hand-created legends. I tried to do some interesting things with the colors, such as for the different editions, using the main color of the book spines as the associated color of the graphs (e.g., more than half of my 1st Edition books have that orange-colored spine, the 2nd Edition books mostly had a black spine, etc.). Some were more difficult, especially when I had to pick just one color to represent a bunch of different books/publishers (such as the gold-yellow color for "D20/OGL 3rd Party," which I picked based on the gold-yellow color of the Dawnforge book by Fantasy Flight Games, mainly because I hadn't used yellow for anything else).

I'm not going to say anything else about the graphs, as hopefully they convey the information clearly, but I'll happily answer questions on the comments, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+












Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Club Soda with Angostura Bitters
Listening: "Detour Ahead (Take 1)" by the Bill Evans Trio

Friday, August 10, 2018

Early Documents for My World of Samoth Campaign

A very early map of countries, some of which eventually
made their way into my current World of Samoth campaign.
Drawn on a yellow legal pad in the summer of 1986.
Today is my househhold's unofficial "last day of summer" - our daughter starts school next Monday, August 13th, which I still think is way too early, but that's just the schedule that her district is on. As this is the last day of her summer vacation, I got to thinking about some of my past summer breaks. Back when I was a kid, my mom didn't work until I was much older, so summers were spent at home, hanging out with the neighborhood kids, going on adventures on our bikes with a promise to be home before dinner, and maybe sneaking into a movie or mixing every flavor of soda at the 7-11 into one giant cup and sitting on the curb with our soda creation and the latest copy of Avengers or X-Men comics. In contrast to this, my daughter goes to a variety of different summer day camps, which is fun in its own way, but just different than how I grew up.

One of my original list of countries and rulers
for my campaign. I made this list in a yellow
legal pad, around the summer of 1986. You can
see in this list at the top, the name "Samoth" which
at the time was the name of a country as opposed
to the name of the planet. The country names are
very inspired by the naming habits of Gygax in the
World of Greyhawk boxed set. Of this list of
countries, only Stadhof and Verundhi survived to my
current version of the world. The "Confederation of
the Greyclans" is still around in a very different
form. The small village called "Rowland's Hundred"
is based on my middle name, and also on an article
I had read in a National Geographic magazine about
an early English colonial settlement in Virginia
called "Martin's Hundred."
As I got older, we had moved several times and often I would go through the summer before school started with no friends, as we moved on the day after the last day of school, and it was harder to meet kids because the "neighborhoods" were more spread out and I didn't have a car, so I would have to wait until school started to meet the new kids. As such, I spent a lot of time alone, reading, researching, drawing, and working on D&D campaigns. At this stage, I had played with some friends in the past, but moving caused me to lose my game group. I had never DM'd, but creating a campaign world is almost a way of playing D&D "by yourself," and it indulged my creative streak to develop cultures, religions, and societies, draw maps, and the occasional sketch of various characters. I've talked before about how I used a hodge-podge of different resources to create what eventually became my World of Samoth campaign, including Earth history, the world of Conan, access to my parents 1963 World Book Encyclopedia series, 25+ years of National Geographic magazines, and a variety of TSR game worlds including Dragonlance but most importantly the B/X D&D "Known World" and of course Greyhawk. I also mentioned how I would incorporate the personalities and even the names of my various classmates into my game world cultures and countries.

I still have all of my old notes that I used to develop my game world; pretty much everything from fully drawn maps to hastily written notes on a scrap piece of paper or post-it note that I jotted down at a library while researching a topic. It's a very weird personality trait that I can't seem to break - I keep everything, such as email folders full of every personal email I've sent or received. I never go back and read them, so I'm not sure why I keep them, but my penchant to keeping and organizing everything carries over to every aspect of my life. I guess you'd call it a collector's mentality.

Another, different list of countries, about 5
pages into the legal pad, following the other
list shown earlier. The world had a very "pulp"
feel, closer in style to the world of Conan,
as evidenced by things like the "overgrown
jungle" for the South American equivalent.
In this version, I was going to make the
Elves more like Native Americans, with
different types of elves named after animals.
This world also had gnomes and a race
called the "siee" which were the equivalent
of halflings. Neither made it past this
version, for reasons I've discussed before.
In any event, back in the summer of 1986, right before my junior year of high school, I spent a ton of time alone in my room drawing maps and writing notes concerning a D&D campaign I wanted to run some day. I was really into the band U2 back in that time; this was right before the "Joshua Tree" album came out, and I had discovered a small 4-song "EP" on cassette tape called "Wide Awake in America" that included live versions of two songs from the "Unforgettable Fire" album and two new tracks that hadn't made the album. One of those songs, "Three Sunrises" became one of my favorites and I used to listen to it all the time. It's one of those songs that, when I hear it, I am instantly transported back to that summer of 1986, lying on my bedroom floor at my parent's house, with my maps, notebooks, comics, and D&D rulebooks and modules all spread out in front of me, working on my campaign. I heard the song recently pop up on one of my playlists on Spotify, and I had an urge to go searching for a bunch of my old notes. Here are a few pictures of them for those that are interested to see some very early, "proto-Samoth" materials.

Anyone else out there hold on to old things like this? I can't be the only one, right?



Another early map in my old yellow legal pad, from the
summer of 1986. For another early map. see this post


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Three Sunrises" by U2

Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review: Ravagers (1979)

I had originally intended for this to be one of my "80's TV Thursday" posts, as I had recalled this being a made-for-TV movie from the early 80's that I saw precisely one time right around the time that I had learned about the Gamma World role-playing game. But, as it turns out, it was actually a theatrical release from 1979, so it qualifies as neither "80's" nor "TV."

Back in the early 1980's, after I learned about Gamma World, I had gotten onto a huge post-apocalyptic kick and this movie was right up my alley. I stumbled across it after seeing a small ad in our TV Guide, and had to watch it by myself because no one else in my family was interested. Thankfully I remember that my parents were out that night (doing, of all things, square-dancing) and my sister was studying so I didn't have to fight anybody over the TV.

"Ravagers" is based on a book from 1965 called Path to Savagery, which sadly hasn't seen a lot of reprints so it's quite expensive on Amazon right now. The novel is, however, highly reviewed, with only 5-star reviews. 

The movie, unfortunately, didn't receive much critical acclaim, being somewhat praised for its sense of aesthetics but receiving less enthusiasm for its acting and story. It has a large cast, including some pretty heavy-hitters from the time, including Richard Harris, Ernest Borgnine, Ann Turkel, and Art Carney; combining the salaries of the cast and the production designs, it couldn't have been an inexpensive movie to make. 

"Ravagers" is a post-nuclear holocaust movie in which the survivors do their best to protect themselves from the dangers of the world, which mainly comes in the form of wild humans called "ravagers." Opposing the ravagers are other groups of survivors, generally divided into a group called "Flockers," who are relatively primitive and not well organized to defend themselves, and another unnamed group that live on an old naval vessel off the coast for protection, are well-armed, organized, and much cleaner than most humans of the era.

The point-of-view character is a loner, living with his wife, trying to find a place they can settle down in peace, and scavenging for small comforts like old cans of food. The film focuses on his journey as he is attacked by Ravagers, makes his escape, kills one in revenge, and then makes his way across the countryside, interacting with other survivors, all while being followed by the Ravagers.

Honestly, the plot of the movie is very thin and extremely slow-paced, and the characters are very one-note with no personality. The main villain of the movie has maybe one or two lines of dialogue at most, and is so unmemorable that I can't recall his name. His fellow Ravagers are even worse. The fight scenes are also poorly choreographed, especially by today's standards.

The main character, Falk, comes across the ruins
of the Alabama Space & Rocket Center. 
I had very vague memories of seeing this on TV as a kid, and had never seen it offered on video or DVD, but discovered that it's available for streaming on Amazon, so I watched it yesterday, and can say that pretty much the only thing this movie has to offer is its landscapes and set designs. There are a variety of different locations, but the one that really sparks the imagination for a post-apocalyptic type game is an old, abandoned space port, which was shot on location at the Alabama Space & Rocket Center Museum. In particular, the back of the museum, which holds a bunch of rockets, was aged for the movie, so you have old, rusted rockets poking up from the landscape and the effect is suitably creepy and nostalgic at the same time. Those scenes, along with the huge matte painting of a destroyed cityscape shown at the beginning of the movie during the credits, definitely fit within the design aesthetics of 1st Edition Gamma World.
The opening credits backdrop. The destroyed city reminds
me of the cover of 1st Edition Gamma World. 

Other than the set designs, there is little to offer from the movie for players of post-apocalyptic role-playing games. The different cultures of the survivors are barely fleshed out; the cryptic alliances as described in the Gamma World rule-book offer much more role-playing opportunities than the Ravagers, Flockers, and Loners as portrayed in the movie. My understanding from reading the reviews of the novel upon which the movie was based is that the book has much more detail, and is more creative, in the description of the different post-apocalyptic cultures.

However, on the note of role-playing games, I did stat up the three main characters from the movie, as well as a band of Ravagers, way back when I was a kid as part of my encounter tables for Gamma World, and a few years ago, I updated them to the Mutant Future rules here on my blog. I changed the names to "Wanderers" and "Pillagers" to avoid copyright infringement.

Does anyone else remember this movie? What were you thoughts? Did you try to incorporate any of the elements into your post-apocalyptic role-playing games?


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "You Know - Extended Mix" by Herald, Gee
Drinking: Coffee

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Dreamer Class for B/X - Labyrinth Lord

Image © 2017 Boom! Studios 

I came up with this idea a few weeks ago while reading a comic book called Lucy Dreaming, about a young girl going through puberty who starts to experience some very odd quirks, including her pupils turning gold-colored, and having very vivid dreams in which she is a hero, warrior-princess, leading a revolution in a dream world. In her dreams, she realizes that she’s dreaming and can’t figure out why she can’t simply wake up, but as time goes on, she learns to use her dream powers rather than be afraid of them. Another interesting idea from the series is that every time she visits the dream world, while her overall “role” stays the same, her appearance changes, as does the landscape of the dream world itself. She also begins to be able to recognize other dreamers in the waking world, and beings to realize that what’s happening to her isn’t just the result of changes happening due to puberty (which is a funny thing that happens in the first issue of the comic). As an aside, I highly recommend this comic, especially to younger teenaged girls and their parents.

Right after reading that comic, I was also reading Dark Nights: Metal by DC Comics, and Sandman (aka “Dream”) makes a brief appearance in that story as well. This all got me to thinking about doing something with dreams in an RPG setting.

This class relies a lot upon the DM to create a “dream plane” or equivalent for the campaign setting, to allow the dreamer character to make use of his or her powers. By using the dreamer’s powers in a clever manner, the DM can drop hints about future plot points in the campaign, but of course needs to be careful to balance the rest of the players so that the dreamer character doesn’t completely take over the direction of the game. It's designed for the Labyrinth Lord game but could be used for a variety of old-school games with a few tweaks. 

I'd love comments on the class, as it's mainly just off-the-cuff and I haven't playtested it or anything. It's really more of an idea and creative expression at this point. In particular, many of the abilities the dreamer has while in the dream world scale with level, which I know is not consistent with most B/X or Labyrinth Lord games, but I couldn't figure out how best to show the dreamer getting better over time without scaling them. 


Dreamers
·        Requirements: None
·        Prime Requisite: WIS
·        Hit Dice: 1d6; +1 after 9th level
·        Maximum Level: None

Dreamers are a special class that have the ability to travel to the dream world, or plane, each night while sleeping. While in the dream world, the dreamer has special abilities, and upon awakening, is able to retain some of those abilities in the real world. The nature of the abilities retained depends upon the dreams had while in the dream world, so the abilities will vary from day to day.

Dreamers can use any one-handed weapon, but due to their need for free movement to cast spells, they cannot use any metal armor.  Dreamers are also able to use any magic weapon (as long as that weapon is allowed by the class) and magic armor (non-metal), and any other magic item that has powers related to divination or dreaming (e.g., all crystal balls, etc.). Dreamers save and attack as clerics, and use the illusionist experience and level progression table (from the Labyrinth Lord AEC) as shown below.

DREAMER LEVEL PROGRESSION
Experience
Level
Hit Dice (1d6)
0
1
1
2,251
2
2
4,501
3
3
9,001
4
4
18,001
5
5
36,001
6
6
80,001
7
7
160,001
8
8
310,001
9
9
450,001
10
+1 hp only*
600,001
11
+2 hp only*
750,001
12
+3 hp only*
850,001
13
+4 hp only*
950,001
14
+5 hp only*
1,050,001
15
+6 hp only*
1,150,001
16
+7 hp only*
1,250,001
17
+8 hp only*
1,350,001
18
+9 hp only*
1,450,001
19
+10 hp only*
1,550,001
20
+11 hp only*

Each night, the dreamer’s consciousness travels to the dream world, and the dreamer is lucid during this time. While in the dream world, the dreamer has control over his or her actions and has a limited ability to direct the narrative that is happening. The dreamer needs eight hours of uninterrupted rest to lucid dream, and this time also counts as normal rest (e.g., for recovery of hit points, etc.). While in the dream world, the dreamer has the following powers:

  • Attacks as a fighter of the same level (as opposed to using the cleric attack matrix while in the waking world)
  • Adds +1 / +5% to all rolls made in the dream world as a result of his or her mastery of the dream realm. This bonus increases to +2 / +10% at 6th level and to +3 / +15% at 12th level
  • Wields a “dream weapon,” the primary weapon used by the dreamer in the dream world counts as magic while in the dream world (e.g., provides light for seeing and can damage foes that can only be damaged by magic weapons, etc.). The dream weapon counts as +1 at first level, and increase to +2 at 5th level, +3 at 10th level, +4 at 15th level, and +5 at 20th level. At 10th, 15th, and 20th levels, the dreamer may also assign other qualities to the weapon (one each per level, such as “flame tongue” or “frost brand”). The magical bonuses and special abilities on the dream weapon do not function in the waking world. Also, the bonuses do not “stack” with any bonuses that the dreamer’s weapon already has (e.g., if a 5th level dreamer wields a +2 sword normally in the waking world, it does not become a +4 dream sword in the dream world).
  • Able to transport companions to the dream world. Beginning at 3rd level, the dreamer may bring up to three companions with him or her to the dream world, and keep them lucid while they are there. The dreamer’s companions retain the benefits of a full night’s rest while with the dreamer in the dream world (e.g., for spell recovery and memorization, hit point recovery, etc.).  
  • Inspires allies, beginning at 5th level. As a natural leader in the dream world, three times a day, the dreamer is able to provide a bonus of +2 / +10% to a roll, to one of his or her allies while they are in the dream world.


Upon returning from the dream world, each morning the dreamer is able to retain a small portion of the powers that he or she has while in the dream world. The dream world is constantly changing and very chaotic, so the actual powers the dreamer gains each morning while shift from day to day. The DM can work with the player to choose which powers best fit based on the adventures had in the dream world the night before, or the player can just roll on the following table.


Percent Roll
Power Name
Ability
01 – 25%
Dream Warrior
+1 to attack rolls and damage. Increase by +1 at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th levels.
26 – 50%
Dream World
Gains spell ability as a magic-user of the same level; dream time from the night before counts as spell preparation/memorization time.
51% - 75%
Dream Infiltrator
Gains thief abilities as a thief of the same level.
76% - 100%
Future Sight
Gains limited ability to see future events based on events that happened in the dream world.

From 1st through 5th level, takes the form of either an automatic hit during combat, or an automatic successful saving throw, once per day.

From 5th through 10th level, this is the equivalent of casting an Augury spell with the dreamer’s level being used as the caster level for the basis of success.

From 11th – 15th, this is the equivalent of a Locate Object spell.

From 16th – 20th level, this is the equivalent of a Commune spell, but the dreamer is not seeking knowledge from divine powers but rather relying on his or her knowledge gained in the dream world.



Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "Drink's On Me" by Jazzinuf
Drinking: coffee

Monday, April 30, 2018

80 Years of Superman

[Note, I started this post last Wednesday 4/25]

Earlier in April saw two major milestones, both of which are firsts within the realm of superhero comics. First, the character of Superman celebrated its 80th anniversary of his creation by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel on Thursday, April 19th. Second, issue #1000 of Action Comics was published a day earlier on Wednesday, April 18th (almost 80 year to the day of the first appearance of Superman).

[To be fair, DC unfortunately decided to re-number all of their comics back in 2011 when they re-booted their line as "The New 52" so the original numbering of the first volume of Action Comics stopped at #904 and the comic started over as Action Comics, Volume 2, #1. After about five years of that, with the debut of DC Rebirth in the summer of 2016, the original numbering resumed with Action Comics #957, and the publication began shipping twice monthly].

These are very significant events, as Superman was the first true comic book "superhero." Without Superman, there arguably would not be a Batman, a Wonder Woman, a Captain America... the list goes on. Sure, there had been pulp heroes and newspaper comic strip characters, but they weren't "superheroes." The creation of Superman also created a genre which has become an integral part of America's pop culture, and created an American mythology that is no less culturally important to Americans today than the myths of ancient Greece or Egypt were to the cultures of their time.

From a publication standpoint, Action Comics is one of the very few superhero comics books still in publication that can trace its on-going publication history all the way back to the creation of the superhero genre. Shortly after World War II, superheroes fell out of favor and most superhero comics, even popular characters thought of as popular such as the Flash and Green Lantern, ceased publication. The only ones from DC Comics that continued publishing were Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. In the mid-1950's, DC revisited a lot of their old heroes like Flash and Green Lantern, revised them for the "modern" age, and created the "Silver Age" of superheroes. But, all along, the "trinity" of Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman had continued as usual. It's fun to celebrate something that's been continuously published month in and month out (or sometimes, weekly, and as noted, twice-monthly currently) for 80 years.

Given all of the hype and excitement about Superman, for my regularly scheduled New Comic Book Wednesday post, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my favorite Superman stories over the years, and hear what some of yours are.

Superman is a tricky character to write well, and most people these days seem to prefer darker, grittier, more "realistic" heroes like Batman. I don't always agree with those people. I definitely enjoy Batman stories a lot, but I don't like him because I somehow think he's more realistic than, say, Superman or the Flash. None of the superheroes in comics are realistic. Yes, Batman doesn't have super-powers, but anybody who actually attempted what Bruce Wayne does would be killed in probably less than a week. And that's not even counting the physical toll on his body and the mental and emotional damage he's doing to himself.

Superheroes are not meant to be "realistic." As I mentioned above, I subscribe to the premise that superheroes are a new type of American mythology, something that is unique to our cultural make-up. The heroes of Greek myth were not admired because people thought they were real. They were gods and demi-gods with extraordinary powers, and their exploits provided moral life lessons that we could learn from and try emulate in our daily lives. The 12 Labors of Hercules teach us that, as humans, we need to learn how to control our anger, lest we be consumed by it and do something horrible that we regret while we are in a rage. People didn't hear those stories and think, "I want to be strong enough to kill a lion!" What they got out of that story was that we shouldn't let our emotions control our actions. Superman has the strength to eliminate Lex Luthor and take over the world and run it as a dictatorship (what he would most likely think is a benevolent dictatorship, but that's aside from the point). However, he doesn't do so. Despite his great power, Superman tries to figure out ways to outwit Lex and also to provide proof of Luthor's wrong-doings within the context of the law so that Lex can be punished by a jury of his peers. The lesson we are intended to take from this is that might does not make right.

Unlike the "Man of Steel" movie (which I did originally like, but now with hindsight, I have soured on quite a bit), the best Superman stories should inspire us, and allow us to see a refugee from another planet who came to earth and made it his adopted home, who does good works and always looks for the best in people, and who uses his great gifts to provide hope for those who are less fortunate. That said, here are a few of my favorites.

Superman for All Seasons. This is a beautifully illustrated book, originally published as four monthly issues, with each issue representing a different season. It was a follow-up book to the creative team's very popular Batman: The Long Halloween, a limited series based on the months of the year. Superman for All Seasons is a wonderful coming-of-age tale, which also deals with themes such as the end of childhood and finding one's place in the world. The art features many large format double-page spreads to show the grandeur of Superman. 

Superman: Secret Identity. This is such a clever concept by writer Kurt Busiek, of Astro City fame, and artist Stuart Immonen. It is a non-continuity story that tells the tale of a young boy in a world without superheroes or super-powers,but one that does have comic books. The boy's favorite comic book hero is Superman. Then one day, the boy discovers that he has powers like the Superman from the comics, and he sets out on a path to do good deeds, while keeping his identify a secret. It's a masterfully told tale and one that will resonate with younger kids as well.

Superman: Red Son. Another very clever concept, in an "Elseworlds" format (stories that exist outside of main DC continuity). In this story, written by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar, the premise is that Superman's escape rocket from Krypton crash-landed in Soviet Russia instead of in Kansas. Rather than fighting for "truth, justice, and the American Way," the Soviet Superman is described as championing the common worker, Stalin, and socialism. The story spans the timeframe from 1953 - 2001, along with a futuristic ending, and also features alternate versions of most of the main DC characters such as Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and Lex Luthor, as well as real-world people such as President Kennedy and Joseph Stalin.

Superman origin sequence from the first
page of All-Star Superman, Issue #1
The All-Star Superman. This is by far my favorite Superman story, told by fan favorite writer Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely. This is another out-of-continuity story that tells a very moving, emotional story of Superman, who [minor spoiler alert, but this happens within the very first part of the story] realizes that he is dying, but doesn't want the world to know, and goes about spending as much time as he can with Lois (who doesn't know, in this story, that he is Clark Kent), and accomplishes a series of tasks that help humanity and remaining Kryptonians (such as those in the Bottle City of Kandor), and interacts with all of the important characters from Superman's long history, both in his guise as Clark Kent and as Superman. It's a wonderful story that succinctly tells just what it means to be Superman, and also includes perhaps the most elegant, concise, and beautifully illustrated one-page, four-panel re-telling of Superman's origin.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Superman, what you like and don't like about the character, and also what you would list as your favorite Superman stories. Put a comment below or on Google +.


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Somethin' Else" by Cannonball Adderly
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