The Glory Days of Comics: A Blast from the Past

Well, at least the Glory Days to me.

I used to be a big fan of comic books.  And while I was fond enough of Marvel, my true love was for DC comics.

Along about ’87, I mostly dropped away though.  Comics had changed from the stories I loved into something else.  In the interest of being more “adult” and “relevant” they’d lost the magic that drew me to them, that still draw me to stories today.  Oh, there were exceptions.  I recently got reminded of the scene from a Superman graphic novel, the scene is titled “Superman and the Jumper”.

When Superman is written well, he’s very very good. (And, yes, I’ve seen the complaints “how many people could he have saved while he was spending all that time with that one person.” Well, that’s an issue you have to gloss over with Superman.  Because given his powers that question would apply to anything he does besides running at super speed from crisis to crisis to crisis.)

Truthfully, most of the stories from when I was reading comics kind of blend together and fade away.  I don’t really remember a lot of specific story lines.

But some I do.  Some are as vivid in my head today as when I first read them.

There’s the Dick Grayson story arc in New Teen Titans which began with him giving up the Robin identity (having passed it to Jason Todd–not being fired by Batman as per the post Crisis retcon, dammit) and ending with him taking the identity of Nightwing and setting out with Jericho to rescue the other Titans in the climax of The Judas Contract.

There was “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne,” IMO simply the best Batman story ever written.

There was “Night of the Stalker”, another Batman tale and #2 in my list of all time favorites.

And rounding out my top three ever Batman favorites, there is “To Kill a Legend.”

But there’s a Superman story that also remains fresh in my mind.  I don’t know the title, but Superman ran into a villain called, IIRC, The Protector, because he “protects” polluting industries on the grounds that his powers come from pollution.  Superman goes a bit off the rails, and then Supergirl* drops a bombshell on him.  The whole “kryptonian” thing was a  massive delusion on his part.  He and she are actually mutants whose fathers were co-workers in an atomic facility.  All the statues and mementos in his Fortress of Solitude?  Things he’d made to flesh out his delusion.  The phantom zone projector?  A glorified flashlight.  Kandor?  A model with the citizens nothing more than tiny dolls.  Accepting this revelation, Superman decides to “connect” more with the Earth, accepting more human contact, dating Lois (as Clark–since she was in one of her “attracted to Clark Kent” periods), playing football with the Galaxy broadcasting staff (and woolgathering so badly that he runs the wrong way when he gets the ball–yes, Clark Kent really is a klutz).

But when a distant star system pleads for help from invaders and Supergirl asks him to accompany them to help her, he rebuffs her; it’s not his problem.  So Supergirl and Krypto fly off to deal with the invasion while Superman stays behind for a date with Lois.

On the date, he keeps watching with telescopic vision Supergirl’s fight with the aliens.  Supergirl and Krypto are overcome.  Eventually, he makes a decision, hustles Lois out of his apartment, flies off, rescues Supergirl and Krypto, defeats the aliens, and flies back to Earth with SG and K.  Oh, and by the way, he’s on to the whole “Krypton never existed” thing being a hoax.  You see, Supergirl kept referring to him as “cousin” when, per the hoax, their fathers were simply co-workers, not brothers.  It seems that Kandorian shrinks were concerned about his earlier outbursts and in Kandorian medicine they don’t “resolve” problems but “remove” them.  And since his belief in destroyed Krypton, they thought, fueled his overreactions, they responded by removing his belief in Krypton. (Okay, that was kind of stupid. Kind of?  That was a lot stupid.)

He explains that his overreaction earlier was not the result of Krypton having been destroyed, but Earth itself and his love for it, particularly since Earth “adopted” him and gave him a home.  He wished that everyone could feel what he felt but that Kara should feel it most of all because she was adopted too.

And, as Superman flies off, Supergirl looks up after him with a wistful expression and the narration is that “she does feel it most of all.”

It has to be on the order of 50 years since I read those and I still remember it vividly.  I can still “see” some of the panels in my head.  And, you know, I’d really like to find those issues someday.  That is the one Superman storyline that stands out after all these years.

*Out of the Superman Family, I was always more of a fan of Supergirl than Superman in much the same way I was more of a fan of Dick Grayson as Robin/Nightwing.  Superman and Batman were these big, iconic characters while Kara and Dick just struck me as more, I don’t know, approachable, if that makes any sense.

Addendum:  In recent years, the Marvel Movies largely seem to “get it”.  DC, not so much.  I haven’t seen Justice League yet and am in no great hurry but of the recent batch, indeed, in everything since the first two Christopher Reeve (he is greatly missed) Superman movies, saving only Wonder Woman, DC’s movies have missed the mark for me.  While I could enjoy Michael Keaton’s (even Val Kilmer’s) Batman, he wasn’t really “Batman” to me.  And “grimdark” can be an excellent “seasoning” (I’ve talked about that elsewhere), it’s not so great as a steady diet.

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