Comics: A Retrospective or How Smallville Made Me a Comic Fan

Horus exists. Oh boy, does it exist.

This past Saturday, on a whim, I decided to rewatch the pilot episode of the WB/CW’s super-hero series Smallville. I have actually seen it once before a couple of years back. I had downloaded it from Playstation Network because I remembered at some point that I had missed the first half of it when it originally aired in 2001. No matter what the haters will say about it, I will always appreciate Smallville since it’s the reason I officially started reading comics. I mean, I’d read comics before and I was semi-familiar with characters and storylines based on the movies and cartoons that I’d seen, but I’d never actually been to a comic store before. Despite that setback, I did actually have a few comics while growing up. I believe the count is at around 8 including an issue of Web of Spider-Man, a couple of issues of Horus: Son of Osiris, the comic adaptation of RoboCop 2, and about 4 issues of Fantastic Four. So why hadn’t I ever been to a comic store at that time? Well, to be honest, I didn’t know of any comic stores. Even though I’ve been a super geek all of my life, up until my sophomore year in high school, I was the only geek I knew. When you’re the only geek you know it could be INCREDIBLY difficult to meet other geeks, especially back in the Dark Ages of dial-up internet.

You see, for you young folks out there, in the dial-up era, being on the internet busied up the phone lines which means that to spend a lot of time on the internet, you had to either be a recluse (which I was, but my parents weren’t), or have a separate phone line (which was relatively expensive). Not only that, but we had to pay in minutes for internet time. Yes, this was at home.

A still from the aforementioned scene

Getting back on track, there are very few major events I can remember which inspire me, but this I remember. A good chunk of the first 4 seasons of Smallville love to do wink, wink, nudge, nudges towards Clark Kent’s future as Superman. In a specific first season episode of Smallville, an elderly woman is reading characters’ futures and at the very end of the episode, young Lex Luthor catches up to her and asks her to read his future. We’re instantly brought into her vision as she sees Lex Luthor casually browsing his Oval Office and creates a field of death with his Kryptonite hand. If you’re like me at the time & haven’t read any of DC’s comics or for whatever reason (I didn’t have cable) didn’t see Justice League Unlimited, you’re probably saying to yourself something along the lines of, “LEX LUTHOR AS PRESIDENT?! NONSENSE! WHAT AD WIZARD WOULD ELECT THAT MAD MAN PRESIDENT?!” So I did research. And much like Smallville‘s (as well as Justice League Unlimited and Lois & Clark‘s, in fact) portrayal of him, the modern Lex Luthor is both an ad wizard and a mad man, so his ambitions are not as obvious as they are in say, the Christopher Reeve movies. However, I still didn’t quite believe what I was reading on the Smallville forums (Wikipedia didn’t exist yet), so I decided I needed more proof. I looked up the nearest comic stores and decided to pay them a visit.

Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool

I ended up visiting Graham Cracker Comics, a small Chicago chain. I rifled through the Superman issues looking for proof of Metropolis flooding or Lex being the PotUS and was very surprised to find it all true. However, I was in for an even greater surprise when I discovered that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was reprinting their comic series. And to top it off, I was there just in time to discover that a cartoon I was a big fan of, Static Shock, was based on a comic and that comic was making a new limited run. Because of that, I wanted to find out more about the old Static comic series which apparently was originally published in the 90s.

(Trivia: the back wall of the pool house in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has the premiere covers of 4 Milestone comics, one of which was Static)

After discovering these things about Superman comics, I realized I didn’t want to have the wool pulled over my eyes like that again, so I tried to find a place to start and decided to start with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths from the 80s, which [was supposed to] cements the entire DC universe. That succeeded in getting me interested in the Legion of Super-Heroes and more parallel universe versions of comics. That lead me into reading Kingdom Come (GREAT story, by the way). Then Kingdom Come made me realize just how cool Batman is. Somewhere around then, I found The Death and Return of Superman and read that. Needless to say, I became a comic fiend, trying to read as much as financially possible (which wasn’t much). I finally found a nice balance in occasionally reading trade paperbacks and keeping up mostly with non-major comic titles. For example, the new popularity of The Walking Dead‘s tv series is strange to me since I actually started reading it about 3 years ago. But things I wear hipster glasses for are a whole new story.

Put a Ring on It

Val Armorr, the Legion's "Karate Kid," makes Batman look like an untalented hack.

I got some intel from a con[vention] acquaintance I know about a promotion that DC comics was having. I noticed on Facebook that he was sporting a very interesting piece of jewelry – a flight ring from the comic series The Legion of Super-Heroes. If you’re not familiar with the Legion, you’re missing out.

See, in the 30th century, there weren’t any superheroes like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, or the Flash to protect citizens of the United Planets. Inspired by the heroes of yesteryear, a group of teenagers decided to band together to protect the galaxy from any potential evildoers. These teens called themselves The Legion of Super-Heroes and it grew to become what is likely the largest group of superheroes in comic history.

You can take every X-Man EVER (including affiliates) throughout time, and that number still probably doesn't come close to a TENTH of the Legion's total members.

The Legion membership is most likely so large because the Legion are more or less the end-all, be-all for superhero membership in the 30th century (excepting the Legion of Substitute Heroes, but they’re still the second bananas to the Legion of Super-Heroes). Unlike the Justice League & Justice Society, Legion members are mostly made up of people with natural abilities from their planets with a few that had some sort of accident. There’s even one character who has absolutely no powers at all – just raw talent.  Am I getting off track again? I believe I am.

You know you want one, too. Don't lie.

So, the Legion flight ring not only allows flight, but it also acts as a environmental suit for off-world travel. It is given to all members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. So why am I blabbling on and on about the Legion and their ring? Because I am a HUGE fan of the Legion. I first discovered them about 10 years ago after reading the original Crisis on Infinite Earths which was created in the mid-80s to straighten out the hundreds of parallel universes that DC had created and I became very enamored with their version of the future. OH MY GOD, I just can’t stop getting off-topic, can I?

Anyway, my boy & his buddies are sporting the Legionnaire flight ring in a Facebook picture and when I asked him about it, he said that comic stores were giving them out with Legion comics. Since I was passing a comic store on the way to donate plasma, I decided to stop there to see if they had any rings. Apparently, what my buddy had forgotten to mention (and what I found out at the comic shop) is that this promotion was MONTHS ago. As in September/October months ago. There are no more. It has ceased to be. And thus, I cannot have my Legionnaire flight ring.

This makes me a saaaaaad panda

2012 – Year of the Hoverboard?!

You've been to the future, Marty, but even you probably didn't see this coming

When Back to the Future Part II first premiered in 1989, many of us were enamored with was seemed like a great (and possible) future. In this movie, 1980s teen Marty McFly travels with Doctor Emmett Brown to the year 2015 to prevent his son (Marty McFly, Jr) from getting arrested and potentially permanently tarnishing the McFly name. When Marty gets to the future, he (and we) are amazed at all the things that 2015 holds – games that don’t require controllers, flying cars, the Cubs winning the World Series, Jaws 19, powerlacing shoes, self-drying clothes, dehydrated food, but what probably captured the imaginations of viewers most was a small device called a hoverboard.

If the Cubs ever make it to the playoffs, Steve Bartman will be there to cut their dreams short

The hoverboard was essentially what appeared to be the future of skateboarding. When Marty “borrows” it from the little girl, he begins another Back to the Future signature scene where he skitches a ride on various vehicles to get away from Biff Griff and blah, blah, blah, you guys know the story.

Anyway, even though this movie came out 20 years ago, fans of the film series remain absolutely CONVINCED that most of the events from this movie will come to pass. While many things remain unavailable to this day, such as the genetic aging treatments,  the flying cars, and dehydrated pizza, some things ARE actually available. Fingerprint-based security systems, projection TVs, and controller-less video games, of course are on that list. But what may be most surprising are the fact that power lacing shoes and the hoverboard are a reality as well. Yes, you read that right: MATTEL IS FINALLY MAKING THE BACK TO THE FUTURE HOVERBOARD. Much like last year’s powerlacing shoes from Nike, it seems that these are going to be a limited supply of prototypes that were highly influenced by pressure from fans. According to a press release put out by Mattel, the hoverboards should mostly be able to glide (rather than hover) along the ground. There’s even a quick reminder that they don’t work over water.

Elijah Wood had Kinect way before it was cool

Mattel has also mentioned in their press statement that they are looking for a minimum number of order before they even start production. Lemme tell you what that means – it means that if people order these, then they’re going to have an R&D team working on this day & night to have fully operational hoverboards by 2015…just like Nike promised to with their powerlacing shoes offer. Good times are coming, Back to the Future fans. Good times are coming, indeed.

The ULTIMATE Ninja Storm

Recently, Namco/Bandai put out a full trailer for their newest installation in the Naruto: Narutimett Hero/Ultimate Ninja series that has been going strong for about 9 years, Naruto Shippuuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. This trailer also now confirms something I’d noticed when I first saw the December trailer: that Danzou Shimura, unofficial 6th hokage, would in fact be playable.

Danzou is CLEARLY Team Shippuuden. Because eff that 3rd Hokage...seriously.

Just LOOK at that outfit. It SCREAMS, "Don't f$%& with me."

This addition to the series over 70 playable characters, and what I’m also noticing in the trailer is that some of the lesser-known grunts (but nevertheless recognizable faces) such as Darui, Akatsuchi, and Ao will also be available, but whether they will be full characters or just support remains to be seen. This game series has continually kept me jizzing in my pants every time a new release is announced. Why is that? Because of the dedication and attentiveness to fandom the CyberConnect2 seem to have. In Narutimett Hero 2, Doto Kazahana, the villain from the first Naruto movie was available as an exclusive character. A hypothetical version of Naruto wearing Gai’s might suit, Anbu Kakashi, Minato Namikaze (the 4th Hokage), the Konohamaru Corps, and Hanabi Hyuuga were included in Narutimett Hero 3.

All that said, yes, I’m admittedly biased towards Japanese games that are based on an anime or manga. This is usually because I’ve found that they managed to make the game simple, yet complex and fun at the same time. Oddly enough whether or not I’m a fan of the series doesn’t even seem to matter – before I ever played the original Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, I had only seen a few episodes of MS Gundam Wing and decided I didn’t like it. Jump Super Stars and  Jump Ultimate Stars (both fighting games for Nintendo DS), gave me new manga titles to look out for from Shonen Jump. Now in a few months, One Piece: Pirate Warriors will be released, and even though I have a hard time getting into the One Piece phenomenon, I am still quite excited for that game to come out. That should tell you how well the Japanese do at porting licensed titles.

I promise it's not nearly as complicated as it looks.

Anyway, where was I going with this again? Oh yeah – I’m SO excited for this game to come out. I’ve been dying to play as Obito Uchiha ever since Kakashi Gaiden was first published in Jump. And finally, there’s going to be a Naruto game that will let us play as any of our favorite ninja that we (and Naruto) have met throughout his story.