23/2 SUPERMAN and THE AUTHORITY annotations Pt4
LIBRARY artefact #005
SUPERMAN AUTHORITY annotations PART 4
ISSUE 2 – ONE SOUL AT A TIME
Superman’s robots are using the Kryptonian alphabet to communicate. Look it up!
We make a point of drawing attention to Black’s habit of smoking roll-ups here to foreshadow the solution to the mystery of who left those matches Apollo talks about later this issue. To help sell this set-up, Mikel has quite brilliantly framed the whole page layout in the swirls of a question mark made of smoke!
Superman is referring to a Pet Shop Boys lyric from the 2017 song ‘The Samurai in Autumn’ which goes ‘It’s not as easy as it was, nor as difficult as it could be for the samurai in Autumn…’ which condenses everything about this version of Superman into a memorable haiku.
The Pet Shop Boys loom large over this issue for reasons I can barely explain – something about gay synth duos – Apollo and the Midnighter, Neil and Chris, Hinge and Brackett, Jekyll and Hyde... I don’t know, do I ???…
As mentioned previously, with Superman occupying the Doc Savage role, I liked the idea that we could position the character of Steel – himself a 2nd generation iteration of the Superman idea - in the Tom Strong ‘science hero’ space, with his niece Natasha Irons as a credible Tesla Strong analogue.
For that reason, the Steel story here was intended to be in the vein of some of the clever shorts from Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales – where the Moores Alan or Steve would employ a cascade of ‘Mad’ style puns and sight gags to riff on some basic daft idea for 8 pages.
Knowing how arch and/or camp this might appear, I hedged my bets on the last page by having Natasha Irons comment on exactly that aspect of the adventure.
Interestingly On the final edit, I changed ‘cringey’ to ‘overtly’ – convincing myself that no young person would use the word ‘cringey’ nowadays, only to have this sequence described as ‘cringey’ by more online commentators than I’d care to count!
The moral; always trust your first instincts! Although my next attempt to use ‘cringey’ in an interview was rendered as ‘crunchy’ by mistranslation.
Among Superman’s transport museum exhibits we see on the left, the Argo, of Jason and the Argonauts fame. The Argonauts of Greek mythology, counting among their number Hercules, Orpheus, and Theseus can be regarded as the prototype superhero team – conjuring yet-to-be-told stories of Superman lost in time fighting alongside the Argonauts, King Arthur, and JFK’s proto-Justice League. The Titanic is there. The space shuttle Columbia – which Superman rescued in his world. My favourite Batmobile is there – the 1990s model designed by Norm Breyfogle.
In his hall of time travel vehicles we see - the iconic Time Machine from the 1960 movie version of HG Welles’ seminal tale. A red TARDIS. The movie version of the WABAC machine from 2014’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Doc Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean from Back to the Future. HG Wells’ Time Machine again – this time the design from the 2002 remake with Guy Pearce and Samantha Mumba.
If I’d thought harder about this, I’d have included a Legion time bubble here and I wish I’d found room for the Time Tunnel, Professor Prune’s Electric Time Trousers, the US and UK telephone booths used by Bill and Ted and Inspector Spacetime respectively, the Omni from Voyagers, the Hot Tub Time Machine, and – deep breath - the TURDIS from ‘Bottom’…
The Apollo and Midnighter story is intended to echo the work of Warren Ellis - creator with Bryan Hitch of these two characters - with its gritty super-espionage feel, real world setting and bio-engineered nightmare creature as antagonist.
The chapter title - ‘Hard’ – is from the Pet Shop Boys song So Hard which includes the heart-breaking lines ‘we’ve both given up smoking ‘cause it’s fatal, so whose matches are those?’ – evoked here in the opening exchange – which flips us back to page 1’s hidden gag. It was Manchester Black who left the matches, of course, cueing up the conclusion here with Midnighter’s anniversary gift for Apollo.
Notice the three circles logo, linking the stolen brains and telegraphing Brainiac’s mastermind role in the story.
Manchester Black’s line ‘I’m 48% gay…’ is a call back to his first appearance in Action Comics #775 where he justified various outrageous statements with similar tall tales of his, in that case, ethnic diversity.
Hinge and Brackett are a gifted old school UK drag duo – I don’t know why they remind me of Apollo and Midnighter.
I was amused to read some complaints about this scene which boiled down to the fact that while Apollo and Midnighter were popular and welcome additions to the team, why the obsessive need to draw attention to their sexual orientation every time they show up?
Superman’s straightness is never an issue in the comics, the critics insist, it never comes up – etc etc
It almost tastes like a compelling argument until you take less than three seconds to recall eight decades worth of Superman adventures which revolve exclusively around his romantic relationships, relentlessly reinforcing his straightness in story after story and, in the majority of cases, making his wantonly heterosexual love life the principal focus of the tale!
The Enchantress’ tale was a mad mash-up using elements of the character’s 1966 origin story from Strange Adventures #187 spliced with the atmosphere of DC’s endearingly vanilla supernatural titles of the early ‘70s, like The Witching Hour, Secrets of Sinister House and Weird Mystery Tales – books that read like EC horror titles someone had taken to the vets, anesthetized and discreetly debollocked. Added spice here came from those Ira Levin adaptations like the Stepford Wives or Rosemary’s Baby.
Sprinkled throughout Superman and the Authority are some nods towards the writing style of my erstwhile protégé and great mate Mark Millar who lit a fresh fire under The Authority with Frank Quitely in 2000…
‘THING IS SWEETHEART, I PLEDGED YOUR PRECIOUS SOUL TO ENTITIES THAT WERE ANCIENT LONG BEFORE SATAN WAS CONCEIVED IN THE MIND OF MAN.’
…is me doing him. See if you can spot other homages to the Man, the Myth, The Millar!
D’Z’Amor’s Purple People Eaters pay tribute to Sheb Wooley’s memorably deranged 1958 hit single Purple People Eater!
Superman delivers the mission statement for my life’s work as a writer of superhero comics - …you’re in hell… take my hand. We’re here to get you out…’
I keep reading these even though I haven’t read the comic, and I’m still entertained. Gotta seek out the book soon though.
I suspect that if/when Superman was a romance comic and if Apollo and Midnighter's relationship was mentioned only in passing, that these "critics" would still have a problem with it. That's because they are not critics, they are bigots.