Thursday, September 13, 2018

Project DC

In August of 2017, I came up with an idea to explore the history of the DC Universe. I have always been a bigger fan of Marvel Comics. I have times that I have considered stopping reading DC entirely. Were it not for Scott Snyder, Tom King, and Batman I would.
Snyder's work has redeemed the DCU for me quite a bit. The current Justice League run has been fantastic. I stick around for the things you write. Why is anyone celebrating Bendis at DC when you already have Snyder on board?
 I have a love/hate relationship with Tom King. I will say his work overall is exceptional. There are some issues that I *ahem* take issue with. The first arc of the current run is still painful, as an example. Issue #54 right now feels like very weak sauce. The cool thing about Tom King's writing style is that the issue that I take exception to now is the very issue that turns out to be key to a plot later. This is a huge change in my opinion from my ranting and raving about the man on The Printed Panel Podcast. My apologies, Tom King, I hope you never heard the criticism. I was wrong.
I guess all of that rambling boils down to the fact that I want to love the DCU. I will keep pulling the Batman lines. They never disappoint. That makes me a fan of Batman though, not the universe. I want to love deeper. I am open to a relationship.
To that end I committed to reading DCU events. Event books are fun enough. Most of them don't have that long lasting an impact. Still, they are fun. That keeps me generally in the DC loop, but I don't feel like a fan.
I want to dive deep. I thought a long time about how. A year ago plus now I figured it out. I needed a character (other than Batman) that I could really sink my teeth into. I couldn't get into the Lanterns. Which one would I follow? How many thousand issues would I need to read to feel well versed? Do I pick a character or a color? The Speedsters all seem a little one dimensional. Wally, Barry, Bart or one of the others solve pretty much every problem by running faster than they ever have before.
And then there is Superman. I bloody hate Superman. He is corny. He is cornier than Captain America by a long shot. He is overpowered. The original story for Superman is all the same. Nothing can beat Superman! Oh look that villain is totally about to beat Superman. Through human traits like grit and determination, Superman came to believe more strongly in himself. Now, through this self-affirmation, Superman can overcome the bad guy!
In the 90s they began to change this formula. Nothing can beat Superman. Wait! That villain is bad enough to beat him. *poof* Superman has a brand new power, picked up a power ring, his weakness changed, or used the technology of one of his Rogue's gallery to not lose the fight. It is BORING. It is hackneyed. I could care less if he is young, old, red, blue, undies on the inside, undies on the outside, with a cape, without a cape, or alternate universe. Superman, by definition, sucks.
Then there is Superboy Prime. He is a "real" person from the "real" Earth where Superman is just a character from comic books. (how brilliantly Meta.) One day the fictional Superman is teleported to the real universe where he meets the young Clark Kent who is, in fact, a "real" Kryptonian. He has all the powers and a similar origin to the fictional Superman. Now he can learn all about what being a hero really means!
...let's pause here just a moment to appreciate the above narrative... It is so awful it just shines. They "created" a character by giving an origin that is only slightly tweaked from Superman's origin. Earth Prime is "our" reality- sort of. It comes just to the point of breaking the 4th wall without actually sticking an arm through the way Howard the Duck or Deadpool wants to do.
Superboy Prime doesn't really see use or development for about 15 years. The events of Crisis on Infinite Earths really screw him over in a brilliant way. Prime becomes this misguided, angst-ridden teenager as a result. Years later, plot holes and changes in the DC universe are explained as," Superboy Prime causing ripples in reality by pounding on the walls of his extraplanar prison."
Yes, dear readers, Prime is responsible for giving us back Jason Todd from a storied perspective.
When Prime escapes his prison, does he want to go back to being the ultimate superhero? Nope, he wants to be the only hero on Earth Prime- a planet destroyed in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Why not throw tantrums that cause wars, kill heroes and villains alike, and ultimately twist you into an adult looking, but child behaving powerhouse of a villain? Hilarity Ensues.
I LOVE this broken misguided version of Superman. The guy reads comics about himself eventually. If you are reading a comic about a character that is reading a comic about himself that is META. He also tends to pop up in fun ways in just about every major DC event - even the ones that don't include the word Crisis. (You cannot fault DC when Marvel really overuses Secret, Civil, Infinity, and War)
 Here is what his appearance list looks like from my research:
DC Comics Presents #87 (1st appearance)

 
Superman #414 
 
The Official Crisis Index #1 
 
Last Day of the Justice Society Special #1 
 
Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Update '87 #5 
 
Crisis on Infinite Earths (#10 & #12)
 
DC One Million (#4) 
 
DC One Million 80 Page Giant Issue #1,000,000
 
Super Girl Volume 4 #79 
 
JLA #119 
 
Infinite Crisis (#1-#7) 
 
Adventures of Superman #649 
 
Infinite Crisis Secret Files #1 
 
Rann-Thanagar War #1 
 
Batman Annual #25 
 
Teen Titans: Life and Death #1 
 
Action Comics #839 
 
Green Lantern #13 (8/1/2006) 
 
Detective Comics #820 
 
The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #2 
 
Teen Titans (2005-2006) #29 
 
Teen Titans #31 
 
Teen Titans #32 
 
Sinestro Corp Special #1 
 
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime #1 
 
52 (#11 & #52) 
 
Countdown to Final Crisis (#13, #14, #15, #16, #23, #24, #26, #42, #44) 
 
Sinestro Corps War : Green Lantern (2007) (#21-#25) 
 
Sinestro Corps War : Green Lantern Corps (2007) #25 
 
Green Lantern/ Sinestro Corps: Secret Files #1 
 
DC Universe #0 (2008) 
 
Justice Society of America Annual #1 2008 
 
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds (#1-5) 
 
Justice Society of America #20 
 
Ambush Bug: Year None  
 
The Flash: Rebirth #4 
 
Adventure Comics (2009-2010) #3 
 
Adventure Comics (2009-2010) #4 
 
Adventure Comics (2009-2010) #5 
 
Adventure Comics (2009-2010) #7 
 
Adventure Comics (2009-2010) #518 
 
Blackest Night 
 
Superman #712 
 
Batman Under the Red Hood #1 (2011) 
 
DC RetroactiveL Superman The 80s #1 
 
Legion of Super-Heroes "The Curse  
 
Teen Titans (2011) #98 
 
Teen Titans #99 
 
Teen Titans #100 
 
The Multiversity Guidebook  
 
Justice League #40 (Darkseid War) 
 
Convergence (#8) 
 
Convergence Superman #1 
 
Robin War 100 Page Spectacular (2016) 
 
Nightwing #9 
 
Superman #38 (2018) 
 
Super Sons #12 (2018) 
When I compiled this list I immediately was happy. It is not an insane amount of comics. It also touches pretty strongly on the major events of the DCU. This is a list I am still fleshing out somewhat, but I like that by following Prime through his publication history I can read the broad strokes. When you add the build-up books for the events Prime is involved in you really get the last 30 years of DC comics history in one run. Here is the list I have generated from Prime's appearances:
 
Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) 
Watchmen (1986) 
The Dark Knight Returns (1986) 
Batman: Year One (1987) 
Batman: A Death in the Family(1988) 
Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) 
The Death of Superman (1992) 
Batman: Sword Of Azreal 
Batman: Knightfall (1993) 
Batman: The Long Halloween (1996) 
Kingdom Come (1996)
DC One Million (1998) 
Day of Judgement(1999) 
Batman: Dark Victory (1999) 
JLA: Tower of Babel (2000) 
The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001) 
Batman: Hush (2002) 
Gotham Central (2002) 
Identity Crisis (2004) 
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2004) 
Infinite Crisis (2005) 
Batman: The Man Who Laughs (2005) 
All-Star Batman and Robin (2005) 
Final Crisis (2008) 
Joker (2008) 
Batman: Cacophony (2008) 
Blackest Night (2009) 
Batman: Widening Gyre (2009) 
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne(2010) 
Flashpoint (2011) 
Batman: New 52 (2011)
Joker: Death of the Family (2011) 
The New 52: Futures End (2014) 
Convergence (2015) 
Darkseid War (2015) 
The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015) 
Batman: Rebirth (2016)
Batman: White Knight (2017)  
Dark Night: Metal (2017) 
Doomsday Clock (2017) 
Confession time! I totally added in a ton of "necessary" Batman reading in the above list. Since this is probably a bit distracting let me point out that the Superboy Prime related books are BOLDED so that the list still has some integrity. I will attempt to expand on the thought process behind this list and why you should read them.
Crisis on Infinite Earths- Although the DC Universe did not start here, in many ways, this is the birthplace of the modern DCU. There have been several reboots since then. Most of them are in this list, but it all started with the original Crisis. Since Superboy Prime's origin was related to this event, I think Crisis on Infinite Earths is an awesome place to start reading. Fair warning, you may not recognize MANY characters, worlds, or even plots on your first read, but this is the chaos of the DCU at it's finest. Read this before grabbing Prime's origin books: DC Comics Presents #87 and Superman #414.
DC One Million- Before I knew about Superboy Prime I picked up this gem. Grant Morrison is the writer behind one of the coolest stories in DCU history (to be fair, Morrison has his hand in many excellent DC stories) The fun of this book is its entire conception is meta. Some of the folks at DC got together and figured out when DC would publish their 1 millionth issues of their current titles with their current publishing schedule. The answer is in the 853rd century. As a result, we get a 4 part mini-series and 1 shot #1,000,000 of all running titles at the time. Not knowing any of that I picked this book up and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Most of the rest of these titles I have not read. I have always been happy to summarize plots using friends and Wikipedia. I am going to continue to explain, but I admit I am theory crafting a bit. I pick up as an active reader again around 2011, but I don't get into DC until 2014 or so.
Infinite Crisis- The sequel that Crisis on Infinite Earths did not know it needed is here. DC sets out to clean up more of their continuity. Superboy Prime is a heavy player in this one.  From my research if you love Prime this is a must read. I love that 20 years (or so) after Crisis on Infinite Earths DC felt that they needed to fix everything again. You know that person that rechecks their luggage three times before they leave for vacation rather than accepting that forgetting something is in the very nature of vacation? Yep, This is the comic book equivalent of not being able to leave well enough alone.
Final Crisis- Oh Grant Morrison, you lovely bastard, this one genuinely excites me. I wonder if putting Crisis in the title is necessary. Darkseid and a "dead" Batman make this one look fun.
Blackest Night- I don't much care for the generic power ring idea. I read this one because it is the one all Green Lantern fans point to as the "best of" story arc. I admit it is good. I don't dread this reread.
Convergence- I loved every issue of this series without knowing what the hell I was reading. Spoiler alert. This is basically an Earth 2 reboot and has very damned little to do with anything else. I will say that it is some of the most beautiful art that DC has ever produced. All the spin-off books got a bit annoying. If you are looking for Prime he is in the Superman #1 Convergence issue.
JLA: Darseid War- Prime has a brief and rather unimportant appearance in this event. To me though this was the best of the modern DCU. I was hungry for every issue. The best part here is you can pick these up in two JLA trade paperbacks.
With those huge pieces of continuity read, I will either love the DCU a little more or I can finally say, "This isn't for me" and I have given it a truly fair shake. The research that has gone into generating the lists has been fun. Writing this post has been a bit laborious, but that in and of itself is fun. I like detail-oriented projects.
As I have been putting this together I have been shopping, buying, and reading to make some progress. I have everything ordered up to Supergirl #79. That puts all the stuff from the '80s in my hands. I also have spent a fair amount of time digging through back issue bins. That makes the project even more fun. I love graphic novels and trade paperbacks, but there is something very cool about original issues.
The other problem this thing presents me with is storage. Do I file all these comics together? Do I dedicate a box to Superboy Prime? Do I split it all up and file it alphabetically by the title like all the rest of my comics? That is truly a thing I will be thinking on.
So, readers, if I missed anything on either list please shoot me a message. There is no better recommendation than from someone passionate about something they love. Be prepared to explain anything you suggest though. I love asking questions and I love conversation. Bring it on!

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