Secret Origins #1 (April, 1986)
"The Secret Origin of the Golden-Age Superman"
Writer/Editor - Roy Thomas
Illustrators - Wayne Boring & Jerry Ordway
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Letterer - David C. Weiss
Cover Price: $0.75
Welcome to the First Blogiversary for Chris is on Infinite Earths. One year of daily blogging, which isn't really something worth bragging about... but still a pretty big deal to me. Ya see, I used to see myself as having a real "sticktoitiveness" problem. I would start projects, and leave them lay for... well, forever. I've got folders upon folders of incomplete stories, art, and "screenplays" on thumbdrives dating back to the turn of the century... ya know, back when the biggest one you could get was just a handful of MB's. So, for me to actually see this through to a "goal date" is something I'm, I dunno... sorta proud of.
I chose to cover this issue of Secret Origins because I thought it would be nice (if not self-indulgent) to share the Secret Origin of this blog. The remainder of the piece will be normal, so if you wanna skip this overlong preamble, please feel free to head to the hyphens.
Anyone who knows me offline knows that I started college juuuust a little bit late. I went back in 2011 when I was 31... and is another thing I'm surprised that I've been able to stick to. Now in spite my poor track record of getting things done, I am also known to throw myself so deep into my work that I get lost. It's almost a manic state, though I wouldn't say that exactly. Anyhoo, one such time was late January, 2016.
I was in one of my Forensic Psychology classes, and was tasked with profiling potential perpetrators in a cold case. I chose the Amber Hagerman case from the mid 1990's. This had to do with a young girl who was abducted while riding her bicycle, and whose body was found a few days later. She is who the AMBER Alert is named after as well. I became so engrossed in this case... I mean, I had two computer screens up looking at maps... I combed over any seemingly inconsequential statements from family members and "witnesses"... it really got under my skin, and took over much of my brain-space for a number of weeks.
Then... I actually had to write about it.
... and I couldn't.
It wasn't a case of writer's block, per say... I was more "mind-jammed". I literally sat in front of a blank screen for hours... fingers hovering above the keys. I couldn't even B.S. it... I was just stuck. Words were not transmitting from my brain to my fingers... it was a feeling that I'd never faced before as a "writer". I mean, I've been "stuck" before... but this was different. I'm not sure if it was a mix of having too much to say... and nothing at all... or if I knew that after I wrote my piece I'd have to "let go" of the Hagerman case. I just don't know. It was a very bizarre sensation.
Now, to shift gears just a bit... a month or two before this I began reading comics blogs and listening to comics podcasts again after some time away. I think I overdid it on such things in the years that proceeded... and kind of got burnt out on the scene. Anyhoo... I found a particular blog/podcast called Weird Science DC Comics. They primarily wrote reviews of contemporary DC Comics... of which I had a pretty steep interest. This was at a point in which I was kind of "getting over" my post-New 52 temper tantrum (only took me a half-decade), and was dipping my toe back into the game. Anyhoo... I really enjoyed what they did... and at one point in either December or January, they opened up a message board.
On this message board was a folder for "reader reviews", which I made a mental note of... but didn't really think all that much about it. Well, during my stint of crippling academic writer's block... I decided to write a review for that message board... with hopes that maybe someone would see it, dig it, and maybe I could start writing "retro" reviews for their site. The book I chose was Tales of the Teen Titans #55... an all-time favorite of mine. I wrote it in a Blogger template and copied+pasted it onto their board...
... and it kinda just sat there without much fanfare.
The thing of it was... in writing about something that I was passionate about... which was also fun, I was able to clear the logjam in my head and actually see my Forensics project through to completion. I enjoyed writing about comics so much that I decided to try my luck a few more times on the message board... ya see, I really didn't wanna start a blog... I figured it would be less stressful (and more fun) to just contribute to other blogs... I could write about something I'm passionate about, and hell... maybe even make some friends in the process. I was an avid blogger during the mid-2000's... and it can be a real pain. Blogger is not always the most cooperative in terms of formatting... and bloggING is often a rather lonely endeavor. Also the thought of uploading and attaching pictures made me clench... well, maybe not clench... but definitely wince.
Shortly after I started posting, the fellas took down their message board leaving my mostly un-viewed pieces homeless... and leaving me with very little choice but to, if I wanted to continue writing, actually start a blog (this blog!) in earnest. Not sure when I decided to go daily... or stick to daily, anyway. I know at first I was chomping at the bit to discuss certain books, and perhaps that dictated my pace... and now we are where we are.
Throughout this past year, I feel I've been afforded so much in terms of fun, experience and friendships. I've been a podcast listener on-and-off for about a decade... but never thought I'd ever have the guts to actually be on one. I never felt I was good enough to write for other websites, and this year I've been granted the opportunity by several. I always have this fear that my brain... typing fingers... and mouth are all running at three different speeds, and it's obvious to everyone but me. If you're reading this and see this is the case... please don't tell me.
For this wonderful year-o-blogging, there are many people I want to thank. Not to turn this into a silly awards speech or nothing... but, without the kind words and support of the community I'm not sure I would have seen this one through. I hesitate to name-names, because I'm always afraid I'm going to leave important people out. Not that getting a thank-you from me is any great shakes... but, if you're reading this... if you've ever taken a few moments out of your busy day to read a few words I've written, or shared something on social media, or reached out to say "hi"... I humbly and sincerely thank you.
I was asked several months ago by a very good friend of mine what my ultimate goal was in blogging... and after considering it, I came down to two things that I wanted out of this more than anything... fun and friends. Well, over the past year I've had a bunch of fun... and I'd like to think that I made friends. So that's pretty good.
Well, that's about all I've got to-- Oh, damn... we've still got a book to discuss, don't we? Ahem... of course. Let's get right down to it.
We open on Krypton where Jor-L... not Jor-El returns home to his wife after a long day working with the (so-called) Science Council. Upon arrival we are introduced to his infant son, Kal-L... not Kal-El. After bouncing the baby in the air a few times, family time is interrupted by an Earthquake, er... landquake... because they're not on Earth.
The L's apartment begins falling apart, and so they flee to their reinforced "other home". As they travel we learn that Krypton's Uranium core is about to ignite... which would mean the end for the planet. Inside their seasonal abode sits an experimental rocket ship. Not more than a toy, in Jor's terms... this piece was set to demonstrate Jor's foresight in Krypton's potential instability. It was his hope that he'd be able to create a fleet of these crafts before Krypton eventually popped. Being as though all he's got is this tiny ship... there's only one thing the L's can do. You know it, and I know it... little Kal's going for a ride.
Kal-L is loaded into the ship and takes off just as the planet goes boom. The craft lands on "Sol-III", better known to us as Earth... where it is found by the passing John and Mart... er, Mary Kent.
Who "naturally" take him to an orphanage. Huh? Make that an "orphan asylum"... which suddenly makes Superman's treatment of Supergirl in Action Comics #252 make a bit of sense. He ain't there all that long, as the Kents missed him dearly and decided to properly adopt him.
We advance through Clark's childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. We see him use his powers on the farm... the death of his parents... and his eventual arrival in Metropolis, at the offices of the Daily Star. He applies for the job of a reporter... without any experience. Editor Taylor (rightfully) tells him to hit the skids. He leaves, changes his clothes, and figures there's gotta be a way to impress his prospective "chief".
Across town, a group of rowdies battering ram their way into the County Jail. They are looking for an alleged murderer named Sims... and they wanna string him up for killing Jack Kennedy... not that Jack Kennedy... this is just a conveniently named labor leader. Superman arrives before our man Sims goes for a swing.
Superman returns Sims to the Jail where he introduces himself as "just a reporter". We learn that Sims didn't do the deed, see? And neither did Evelyn Curry... who? She's the other falsely arrested party who is about an hour away from a ride in the 'lectric chair. Sims claims that the real killer is a lounge singer named Bea Carroll. Well that theory's as good any, right? Before heading off to catch the baddie, Superman makes sure to call the hanging tip into the Daily Star... which is an act that gets him hired!
Minutes later he is backstage at Bea's lounge act. He calls her out for the murder... and to prove her innocence, she pulls a gun. Well, that ain't gonna work. He nabs the piece, nabs the lady... and flies her to the Governor's house... where he binds and gags her on the lawn. Oh boy.
Superman knocks on the Governor's door... where he is met by an aide who refuses him entry. Well, buster... that's the wrong thing to say. Superman busts in anyway.
Upstairs we find that the Governor's bedroom has a steel door... oi. Well, steel is little more than paper for a man of... er, steel (cough), and so our hero makes short work of the obstacle. Inside we meet the Governor, whose pajamas nearly match those of his aide, must be government issue. Superman pleads his case... when the aide decides to fetch a gun and unload it right into the "S". Yeah, that's not smart either.
From here, Superman is able to convince the Governor that they got the wrong lady... by using a written confession that this colorful massive muscleman forced a lounge singer to write... ahem. There's a neat Golden Age touch here in the corners of the panels, where it gives us a timer indicating that there is a life hanging in the balance. Too fun not to mention.
Evelyn gets a full pardon, and all's right with the world. We enter something of an Act II, as Clark heads to work. There we learn that Superman is being called... well, Superman. Lois didn't name him, either... this is just what "the paper" is calling him... cuz he's got an "S on his shirt". Following this heady meeting, Clark meets Lois Lane... writer of the Daily Star's "Lonelyhearts" column. Clark immediately asks her out on a date... and she agrees.
On their date a heavy decides he wants to cut in... something that Clark meekly protests, but doesn't physically stop the fellow. This rightly ticks Ms. Lane off, and so she splits... or tries to anyway.
The baddies snatch her after running her cab off the road and toss her in the back of their car. Their intentions aren't made clear... though I suppose we can assume. Luckily, Superman is on the scene. He does some wacky feats of strength before carrying Lois to safety. He then does something... well, kind of iconic.
He drops Lois off at a bus stop and asks that she not report on what happened. She wonder how he knew she was a reporter... after all, she's not wearing her press card. That's pretty sloppy, Supes. Anyhoo... the next day Lois heads into the Star, and the first thing she does is tell her Editor about what happened the night before. Good lookin' out, Lane.
We wrap things up with Clark arriving and apologizing to Lois... the first of millions of times to come. Our last image shows us what's to come for the happy couple, up to and including their marriage!
Tale as old as time, right? We've been here before... some of us even got the t-shirt. But really, if you're going to launch an ongoing series of Secret Origins, you almost have to start with Superman.
This is a hard one for me to really parse, as this is the way the Golden-Age Superman has always been to me. My Golden-Age game is laughably low... I don't know what bits were changed or tweaked between retellings. That being said, I can only review this as... well, an issue of a comic book, and not as a commentary on updating older characters. To me and I'd venture to say most in my age range, updating Superman happened in Man of Steel.
As for this being an issue of a comic book... it ain't half bad. It's quite compressed... and actually feels somewhat like what little Golden Age I have read. Upon rereading this for review, I'd completely forgotten about the back-half. When we get to Superman pleading his case to the Governor... we're just barely to the staples! Yeesh, we're talking a 2017 six-issue storyarc crammed to one side of the staples. Crazy, right? What's more, it doesn't read as being rushed or compressed. We get all the information we need, it's just that nothing is dwelt on... because, really... not a whole lot needs to be. We ain't makin' movies here... and we don't need nine-panel grids of a repeated static talking head.
Now with all that said... this story has plenty of silly moments. Clark strolling into a newspaper on a whim to become a reporter so he can help others... that's kinda precious, right? The idea that baby-Kal nearly single-handedly destroyed an orphan asylum... and not a single person thought to contact the authorities is pretty wild too.
We get the classic scene of a doctor's hypodermic needle snapping on Clark's impenetrable skin... with Clark telling him to "try again"... I mean, eventually the Doc's gonna get tired of trying... and ya know, maybe confer with other doctors about this strange case. That's a classic case of my thinking too hard, so we'll just sweep it under the rug.
Overall... a fine enough issue, though probably not one that needs to be sought out. I think many of us are already at least somewhat familiar with this story... and it is what it is. This bugger isn't available digitally... as DC has thus far only uploaded a few issues from this series... mostly having to do with (surprise, surprise) Batman. Not worth breaking ones back to track down... but if you come across it on the cheap, you could do worse.
And there we have it... one whole year in the books, er blogs. Three-Hundred and Sixty-Six days of blogging. Not sure where we go from here... every time I hit a milestone, I think to myself that I'm "okay" to take a day or three off... but something keeps me coming back. I sit here now with a full year down... but in the back of my head I know that I'm only about a month and a half away from post #400. Ay yai yai. I guess time will tell.
Before I split, I want to once again thank everyone who has supported the blog by visiting and/or spreading the word. I'd say this whole thing would have been worth it if a single person read a single word... but I gotta admit, it's a lot more fun to think that people might actually dig the words I digitally drop here. Thanks everybody!
Now as if this piece wasn't self-indulgent enough... I thought it would be fun to share several of my favorites this year. Not necessarily my favorite "issues" or "stories", but the ones I most enjoyed writing. There were several pieces that sorta-kinda "snuck" up on me... ones I wasn't expecting to enjoy writing about, but actually did a great deal. Gonna go the old Top 10 route (who doesn't like a Top 10? Don't answer that...), however, they are not listed in any particular order... well, except the first one.
Batman #416 (February, 1988)
"White Gold and Truth"
Jim Starlin (W) / Jim Aparo (A)
Original Post-Date: November 11, 2016
Very possibly the best issue (new or old) I'd read the entire year. I'm a sucker for Bat-family dysfunction and this one absolutely brings it. I'd long written off Jim Starlin as a "cosmic" writer... his late 1980's Batman run has totally changed my mind on that!
Superman #327 (September, 1978)
"Two Can Die as Cheaply as One!"
Cary Bates (W) / Kurt Schaffenberger (A)
Original Post-Date: September 17, 2016
There were two stories in this issue, but it's the back-up that I had the most fun with. We get a really awesome Mr. & Mrs. Superman story, from which I pulled my "Superman being blown up in his car" image I use on various social media sites.
Tales of the Teen Titans #42 (May, 1984)
"The Eyes of Tara Markov!"
Marv Wolfman (W) / George Perez (A)
Original Post-Date: August 12, 2016
Such an emotion-wrecking good time. I've said it many times... every time I read The Judas Contract, I always get that hope that eventually Terra's going to "come around". Of course that's not how things work. Terra's tale was a difficult but enjoyable one to chronicle here last Summer.
Justice League #1 (May, 1987)
Giffen/DeMatteis (W) / Kevin Maguire (A)
Original Post-Date: January 1, 2017
This piece was special to me as it was my picking up on a previous failed-blog attempt. It felt good to actually see this one through. The issue was also quite fun to discuss.
Superman Meets the Quik Bunny (1987)
Mike Carlin (W) / Carmine Infantino (A)
Original Post-Date: March 6, 2016
Discussing this book was one of the things that illustrated the potential this blog has. I have a love of the obscure and "novel" in comics... and it doesn't get much more novel than this! This issue kinda fell into my lap, and I'm happy I was able to share it.
"The Last Batgirl Story"
Barbara Randall (W) / Barry Kitson (A)
Original Post-Date: January 23, 2017
A very recent entry... but one I had a lot of fun reading and writing about. It comes from a time in Barbara Gordon history, which up to this point, I didn't even know existed! Stories like this are part of the reason I started writing about comics.
Wild Dog #2 (October, 1987)
"Blowed Up Real Good!"
Max Collins (W) / Terry Beatty (A)
Original Post-Date: May 17, 2016
Around mid-May I hit my 100th Daily Post... and kinda fell into a bit of burn out. Writing became a bit of a chore, and I was considering stepping away for a bit. I felt like I was trying to hard to write for an audience, covering books that I didn't really want to... then along came Wild Dog. Pure fun!
Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986)
"I Knew I Shoulda Taken that Left Toyn Back in Albakoyky"
Keith Giffen (W/A)
Original Post-Date: July 7, 2016
Despite the fact that my Christmas entries almost always result in a pretty hefty dip in readership, I still had a blast covering this wacky book.
Angel Love #3 (October, 1986)
Barbara Slate (W/A)
Original Post-Date: August 27, 2016
This was the one issue of Angel Love that eluded me for over a year. This was another "re-invigoration" issue for me. I was getting a bit tired of writing, and again... considered stepping away for a little while. Was lucky to come across this little book which reignited my interest in discussing these silly stories.
Lois Lane #1 (August, 1986)
"When it Rains, God is Crying: Chapters I & II"
Mindy Newell (W) / Gray Morrow (A)
Original Post-Date: February 18, 2016
This was a very interesting book to cover... in light of my own "Secret Origin" which I droned on about for far too long above. This has to do with missing and abducted children... and Ms. Newell absolutely crushed it with her research. A pleasure to read and discuss.