Thursday, 31 January 2013

Superman Family Adventures #9 review

Brainiac arrives on Earth and persuades Lex Luthor to team up with him for an attack on the Fortress of Solitude. Well, I say 'persuades' but in truth, he kidnaps Lex, putting him in charge of his shrink ray. Meanwhile, Metropolis is revelling in the super-efficient Brainiac tech that's been popping up without explanation. Perry White loves the Daily Planet's new computers, but Clark Kent is wary of any machine bearing the logo of a space pirate. And when Perry spots 'a skull-shaped alien space ship', it can mean only one thing.
Ah, that did my heart good - have we seen this iconic moment at all in the last several years of DC Comics?

Brainiac hits Superman with a Kryptonite ray unlike anything we've seen previously. I really can't justify spoiling its effects, but I can reveal the colour, periwinkle, and that it makes Lois Lane one very happy woman.

The villains arrive in the midst of a joyful scene - Superman's mom, Lara, was last month discovered to have survived Krypton's demise, and here she's trying out her super-powers. Egging 'Auntie Lara' on are Supergirl and Superboy, along with Bizarro and Krypto. The mysterious Brainiac bug is also around, but he's a tough one to read.

And that's quite enough precis - just know that there's fighting and fluffiness, wit and warmth in a supremely satisfying one-issue wonder that rewards readers who've been with SFA from the beginning and wondered why the constant barrage of boulders from beyond.

Writers Art Baltazar and Franco once more blend characters and continuity from seven decades of comic book and screen adventures, add in fresh ideas of their own and come up with a Superman comic for the ages, and all-ages. Kids will enjoy the smiley heroes and pets having DayGlo fun while older readers will appreciate the subtle sophistication and nods to the classics. Fans tired of the main line Superman Family's in-fighting will delight in a Superman, Supergirl and Superboy who love to spend time together. And everyone will relish the jokes, not least the closing scene between Clark and one very knowing girl reporter. Then there's a cameo from Miss Eve Teschmacher, and a charming chat between Luthor and Brainiac on the streets of Metropolis. I was grinning from start to finish.

Baltazar's artwork is super-cheery: bold and colourful, perfect for a world in which tiny Kryptonians play frisbee with super-pups. Pared-down character designs plus dynamic compositions equal pages that are Pop Art poetry, a treat for the eyes. That they're telling a coherent, amusing adventure is the cherry on the cake.

If you're worn down by the never-ending, frankly constipated 'storytelling' of many DC New 52 books, give this comic a try. One issue will put the smile back on your face. It's a crying shame that DC is cancelling it with #14, but good on DC for giving the book more than a year to find an audience big enough to satisfy the accountants - the one foe no hero can defeat. I don't suppose they might license it to a publisher with more success in getting kid-friendly comics to places where they might sell?

Archie Presents: The Superman Family Adventures, anybody?

16 comments:

  1. Man, now I feel like a heel. I've often 'almost' bought this comic but passed it by thinking I would buy it later, and now they are going to cancel it. DC only has a handful of all age comics, I hope they at least replace this one (and I double hope they replace it with a return of Brave and the Bold!).

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    1. Perhaps they'll bring out a collection - snap it up!

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  2. It's wonderful, Mr. Whiskas; get the collections if you can. I've been looking online to find out what Art and Franco are doing next. Anyone know?

    Man, I loved this issue. Periwinkle kryptonite!

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  3. Aha, good work Rob, a collection has indeed been announced, due in July!

    http://www.amazon.com/Superman-Family-Adventures-Graphic-Novels/dp/140124050X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359758068&sr=1-1&keywords=superman+family+adventures

    I suddenly feel FABULOUS!

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  4. Hi there, sorry for going off topic, but I noticed from your profile that you're the same Martin Gray who was editor of the 80s/90s My Little Pony comic books, and I'm kind of flipping out here because I LOVE THOSE COMIC BOOKS. The title of your blog makes me chuckle, because it ties in so well with those comics. Colorful, friendly ponies . . . always battling villains who wanted to enslave them or imprison them or turn them into stone. Sort of a "Alice in Wonderland" quality too, it seemed like a place where anything could happen. And, rereading them now, there was a startling amount of continuity. I'd like to say thank you, thank you for your contribution to the childhood of a lot of little girls. :) I wonder if you've ever thought about doing an article about your experiences on "MLP & Friends"? What were the guidelines? Did Hasbro communicate with you much or was it like, "WELP, here's a list of ponies, go to it!" And how the HECK did you keep track of all those characters--not just the ponies but also Junk-It and the Weather Witch and it seems like a couple hundred other recurring characters?

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    1. Hello ladymoondancer, you've just made my day. Those My Little Pony days were fun and indeed, challenging - Hasbro were extremely protective of the ponies and it was quite tough to get anything but the most predictable storylines past them. There was one time, though, when there was some problem with approval that wasn't the fault of anyone at our firm, London Editions/Egmont, which meant that instead of our regular writers (lovely professionals), I had to come up with a script almost overnight. So I brought back the Smooze from the 1986 MLP movie, which I found fun.

      As well as dealing with writers such as the lovely Hilda, I got to work with the incredibly talented artists at Madrid's Selecciones Illustradas studio. Back then it was mainly by fax, but they were great, nothin was too much trouble.

      Best of all, though, was the daily pile of mail from bright, enthusiastic children - a picture of Majesty and the Know-All Gnomes could make my day.

      And while we didn't have a massive Bible, we had smart writers and our back issues.

      As you likely inferred from the above, Hasbro UK were extremely hands on, requiring approval of plots, scripts, layouts and finished art. Such fun! Still, they had their ponies to protect ... it would've been great had they trusted us, after a few years. Oh well! It was fun to pop down to Uxbridge and the Hasbro HQ annually for a chat about new product (just don't get me started on Polly Pocket!).

      It's fascinating to see the ponies popular all over again.

      Thanks!

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    2. Oh my gosh, you wrote the Smooze story?? Ha ha, that is the most valuable comic book because everyone is so curious about the Smooze and witches on the cover! Last time I tried to get it on eBay it went for over $50.

      I would love to know more about the writers and artists on the staff, none of the comics I have list them in it. Were all the artists from Selecciones Illustradas? I don't suppose you know this artist by his/her style? Here it is: The Golden Galleon. I just love the hair, the ship, everything! Also, do you remember if Hasbro told you to do the eyes of the First Tooth babies (Baby Fifi, Baby Bouncy, Baby North Star, etc), differently from the other ponies? Because they were often drawn like this and I have always wondered why!

      I'm sorry to hear that they saddled (HAR HAR HORSE PUNS!) you with so many restrictions. But I do remember some epic moments all the same, like Lemon Drop facing a jumping course made of barbed wire, and the Twinkle-Eye ponies' origin being that they were slaves in a mine who went blind until Applejack rescued them.

      I have a Tumblr called Heck Yeah Pony Scans, I hope you will check it out if you're ever feeling nostalgic! Thank you again, it's amazing talking to someone who worked on the comic, let alone was in charge of it! :)

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    3. Blimey, wonder if I have any copies of that issue knocking around!

      All the artists were indeed from SI, Hasbro wouldn't countenance anyone else working on the characters. Any instructions on eyes and so on, they'll have had. We did have lovely colour guides, I did the odd issue myself. Fun!

      The writers, ooh, it was so long ago ... the aforementioned Hilda Young and another lady. Weirdly, I still have my old address book from the Eighties, sitting here. I may yet find the name!

      And what an excellent site you have, great stuff1

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  5. anybody hope that when the make a superman cartoon they will use superman family adventures as inspiration as well as Grant Morrison's action comics run. that would be awesome but please keep it as brainiac

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  6. Wow, do you have a copy of the smooze comic????????????
    I want it more than a million other comics.

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    1. Probably, in the depths of my parents house ...

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  7. Could you PLEASE put it on ebay? I am so desperate for it.

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    1. I not have the one copy, sorry! Try my old publisher, Egmont UK - they may have a spare somewhere: http://www.egmont.co.uk/default.asp?pageid=32

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    2. How do you tell them to put it on ebay or send it tome?

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    3. Just contact then and ask if they have a copy they might sell you, or even try Hasbro UK. I can't help you, unfortunately, as I left the UK comic industry many years ago. Best of luck!

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