Superman: The Man of Steel #37 (September, 1994)
“Countdown to Zero”
Story – Louise Simonson
Penciller – Jon Bogdanove
Inker – Dennis Janke
Letterer – Ken Lopez
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor – Chris Duffy
Associate Editor – Frank Pittarese
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $1.50
I’m not sure where in the timestream I’m transmitting from… but we’ve got a really fun issue to discuss today. Working on an upcoming Cosmic Treadmill… which may have birthed an additional episode of Weird Comics History, all about Zero Hour! Having more fun with our “research” than I thought we would.
Anyhoo, we start the (doomed to be retconned out of continuity) Chris is on Infinite Earths: Year Two with an amazingly fun issue of Man of Steel.
It’s the day of a big “Children of the Night” benefit concert in Metropolis… featuring the rock songstress Babe. Jeb Friedman wearing both a bitchen “Shredding Metal” jacket and a wild mullet seems to be organizing the affair. Speaking of affairs, he appears to be quite keen on Lois, who is currently going steady with our main man. Not to be left out of this early-90’s insanity, this is around the time ol’ CK had himself quite the mane. Sometimes a mullet… sometimes just long hair. Either way, I’m blaming it on the time anomalies.
Lois and Clark take their leave. As they walk down the street, Clark notices a familiar signal… morse code being reflected in the light… which can only mean one… well, I suppose it could mean many things, but this time it means that Batman is trying to get a hold of him. But then, is this Batman?
Superman tells his World’s Finest pal that he looks pretty good for a fella getting over a broken back… which is a reference lost on the Dark Knight. Also, Batman is quite confused about the length of Superman’s hair… that makes two of us, pal. This Batman is depicted as though Neal Adams drew him, and it looks really cool. Anyhoo, Batman informs Superman that there’s something strange happening in Gotham… something having to do with time anomalies.
We shift scenes to check in on Jimmy Olsen and Ron Troupe as they celebrate their having backstage passes for the Children of the Night concert. They share a high-five so powerful windows shatter for a five-block radius.
We rejoin Jeb Friedman as he walks down an alley of sorts. Seasoned DC Comics fans will notice some pretty familiar visors watching him from a darkened nook. Why, it’s the Mutants… from Dark Knight Returns! They grab the goof and demand he call off the concert because they’re not for anything that would help rebuild the City. Well, where the Mutants go, a certain someone can’t be far behind… and so, it isn’t long before Batman (that Batman) is on the scene.
The Dark Knight Returns Batman proceeds to pummel the hell out of the Mutants… and does so until he is joined by Superman and the Neal Adams Batman.
The trio confer and discuss what’s going on. DKR Batman brings similar tidings to the Adams variation… there’s some crazy stuff going down in Gotham… due to some time anomalies (no matter how many times I type that word, I still misspell it at least twice!).
Superman decides it might be a good idea at this point to chat up his Physicist friend Emil Hamilton. Before he can, however, our threesome becomes a quartet… we got ourselves another Batman, this time from the Golden Age! C’mon now… how awesome is all this?
Golden Age Batman has the same message as the two before him… Gotham City-weird, time-anomalous. And speaking of time anomalies, it’s at this point that the Neal Adams Batman shifts into the form of the more recent Kelley Jones-looking one… ya know, with the really pointy ears.
We shift scenes to the Whites settling in on a picnic blanket in preparation of the Children of the Night concert. They are currently in custody of a young boy named Keith. We met him a long while back drawing arrows with glow-in-the-dark spray paint. He’s happy that the Whites have taken him in, though he still misses his mother… who, it just so happens might just be at the concert. We watch as he wanders off.
The concert is about to begin, and we get a pretty awesome panel featuring Superman and the three Batmen looking on… which I would love to see without the word balloons!
Although the “music” is messing with Superman’s super-hearing, he is still able to parse a rifle bolt being pulled back. One of the Mutants is in the crowd, ready to take aim. Superman tackles the creep, however not before he can squeeze off a shot… which appears to hit Babe dead center!
The Batmen spring into action… and suddenly the Mutants emerge, in a freaking tank! The heroes unload on it, with DKR Batman taking an especially proactive approach, via thermite bomb… which isn’t terribly effective. Superman decides to stop the tank with his form of offense… his body.
Back on stage, Babe is… well, still alive… and what’s worse, still singing! Her set ends and she transforms into a bat and flies away. I think I might need to share photo evidence of that so you don’t think I’m making that up.
We rejoin Jimmy and Ron as they flash their backstage passes… and hoo boy is Jimmy a smug little jerk. I hope he gets bit by a vampire…
We rejoin Superman and the Bats as they meet up with Hamilton. Here’s where it gets weird… the Bats start time-shifting like it’s going out of style. Really great work here by Bog. It’s deduced that none of these Batmen are the one from the DCU “proper”… and suddenly Superman hears a high pitched signal that tells him where he might just be able to find the real-bat-deal.
Outside of town is… Batman, ya know… the real one. Superman mentions the “broken back”… which is a reference that this Batman does understand. You’ll never guess, but Batman is here to inform Superman about some strange goings-on round Gotham way… before they can go too far, however, they are interrupted by Metron… who warns that these anomalies are badder news than we might have thought.
We wrap up with a craft landing in Smallville. A pair of figures wander up to a well-lit dwelling and knock on the door. Why it’s the Kent farm… and our guests are Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Lara. They mistake the door-answering senior citizen for their son… something tells me this is only going to get more confusing.
Well, that was a lot of fun, right?
Jeez, no matter how many times I read this one, I always get giddy seeing Superman hanging around these iconic versions of Batman. I mean, ya just don’t see the Dark Knight Returns Batman out of that particular world. Not only was the art incredible, but Simonson actually wrote them with the proper voices and behavioral patterns… just so much fun!
Check out that cover. I mean, really now. We’ve got Batmen from all over the map, including the Animated Series, and if I’m not mistaken, the 1966 Adam West show. I remember folks not really cottoning (is that a word?) to Bogdanove’s work early on… but if this issue alone didn’t tell ya that he’s got chops, then I don’t think you’ll ever be convinced.
Gotta say… I don’t remember the early 90’s being so ugly… like, fashion-wise. I was there, and I’m old enough to remember… and I don’t recall such ugly clothes and hairstyles. Oh so many mullets… including, arguably our star. I know the super-mullet is a divisive subject… kinda… but, whether it’s a mullet or just overgrown hair… it’s rather unpleasant either way. I used to complain that the artists couldn’t agree on it’s length or shape… however in this issue alone, it’s all over the place. I think we can just write it off and say that Superman’s hair is a victim of time anomalies…
My only complaint about this issue is how hard it was for me to decide which pictures to include. I really wanted to include just about every page! There’s just so much cool stuff here to share. So many awesome panels… too many! I guess when your biggest gripe is that something is TOO good, you’re doing alright… right?
Overall… yes, this is a comic book you should read. It’s available digitally, so if you’re down for it… give it a go. Also, check out the DC UNIVERSE page in the “Ads” section… DC does a bit of teasing and trolling to give readers an idea of what might follow Zero Hour. Some came to pass… while others were actual theories we’d heard at the shops. Give it a look, it’s a fun piece of ephemera.