Superman & Lois (The CW) Written by Greg Berlanti & Todd Helbing Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Superman in popular media has been a tricky thing for the last decade. I don’t disguise my absolute disgust with Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the character in his films. He seems relegated to a villainous figure in video games if you look at the Injustice series and the upcoming Suicide Squad game. I’ve enjoyed the direction he’s gone in the comic books, and despite some little annoyances, I think writer Brian Michael Bendis has taken the character down some fresh avenues.
Hawkman: The Awakening (2019) Reprints Hawkman v5 #1-6 Hawkman: Deathbringer (2019) Reprints Hawkman v5 #7-12 Written by Robert Venditti Art by Bryan Hitch
Hawkman: The Darkness Within (2020) Reprints Hawkman v5 #13-19 Written by Robert Venditti Art by Pat Olliffe, Tom Palmer, and Will Conrad
Hawkman: Hawks Eternal (2021) Reprints Hawkman #20-29 Written by Robert Venditti Art by Fernando Pasarin
How do you solve a problem like Hawkman? As I laid out in my Superhero Spotlight on the character, when you take on Hawkman, you are taking on a writing chore. There have been so many conflicting attempts to “simplify” the hero that led to him being a toxic continuity bomb. DC Comics are obsessed with continuity, so this results in a conundrum. I can’t say I am a fan of Robert Venditti. I read his X-O Manowar revival for Valiant, which was fine. I definitely didn’t enjoy his Green Lantern run, but he immediately followed Geoff Johns, who raised the bar so high it was nigh impossible to top. As this Hawkman series went on, I began to hear some surprisingly positive buzz, and when it was announced, it was coming to an end; I realized it was the perfect time to read through it.
One of D.C. Comics’ most notoriously confusing characters since the 1990s has been Hawkman. He wasn’t always this way, but some decisions during the Silver Age and the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths convoluted his history to the point editorial banned him from use in the late 1990s. Hawkman recently ended a run written by Robert Venditti that delved headfirst into his backstory, trying to iron out the wrinkles. More on that when I review the series next week. For now, let’s look at Hawkman’s evolution over the years and how he became such a confusing character.
Shadow of the Bat (Season 1, Episodes 57 & 58) Original airdates: September 13 & 14, 1993 Written by Brynne Stephens Directed by Frank Paur
Shadow of the Bat does many things and feels like a movie boiled down into weekday afternoon animation. It’s the best modern presentation of Batgirl we’ve ever gotten outside of the comic book, and it really showed how poor she was brought into the films with Batman & Robin. What’s interesting here is how separate & independent Batgirl is from Batman & Robin, the characters. Her origins are born out of a story centered around her, and the established heroes play supporting roles in this two-parter, with Robin being the more prominent of the two, in my opinion.
Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka Volume One (2016) Reprints Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, Wonder Woman v2 #195-205 Written by Greg Rucka Art by Drew Johnson, J.G. Jones, Shane Davis, and Stephen Sadowski
Going into reading Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, I wasn’t very hyped. I have never clicked with Rucka’s writing before. I can’t say I have read much of his work, so I think that might be relegated to some DC event adjacent books. I will admit that it can definitely hurt the overall quality when you’re forced to adhere to some editorial guidelines to mesh with a larger storyline. Isolated, I found I loved Rucka’s take on Wonder Woman. I associate him as more of a crime, street-level writer, but he really captures some fantastic Wonder Woman elements well, especially her relationship to the Olympian Gods.
The Flash by Geoff Johnson Omnibus Volume 2 (2021) Reprints The Flash v2 #192-225, Wonder Woman v2 #214, and excerpts from The Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen Written by Geoff Johns (with Greg Rucka) Art by Scott Kolins, Phil Winslade, Alberto Dose, Howard Porter, Steven Cummings, Justiniano, Drew Johnson, and Peter Snejbjerg
I was in college when these issues were rolling out, and I remember my roommate Keith, an even bigger comic book fan than me, having them around the dorm room. These are the height of Johns’s run and the last great Wally West comics we ever got. Infinite Crisis was looming right around the corner, and with it would be the end of Wally’s tenure as the Flash for a while. Even when he returned, it just wasn’t ever able to get back to the scope of these issues, which I argue make Wally West the Peter Parker of the DCU, both in personal crises and the scale of his rogues’ gallery.
We’ve looked at some characters with wildly convoluted histories, but Green Arrow remains one of the most simple concepts out of DC. Much like Batman and Superman, Green Arrow’s origins have remained relatively unchanged since the Silver Age, just updated with the times as they go. Wealthy playboy Oliver Queen has always been the Green Arrow (save for one brief instant) from his Golden Age origins to the present day. Despite his roots being kept stable, he has been changed mainly to distance himself from Batman, who he certainly came to resemble in those early years.
JLA by Grant Morrison Omnibus (2020) Reprints JLA #1-17, 22-31, 34, 36-41, One Million, JLA/WildCATs, JLA-Z #1-2, JLA: Classified #1-3, JLA: Earth-2, JLA: Secret Files & Origins #1 , Adventures of Superman One Million, DC One Million #1-4, DC One Million 80-Page Giant, Detective Comics One Million, Green Lantern One Million, Martian Manhunter One Million, Resurrection Man One Million, Starman One Million, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow One Million, New Year’s Evil: Prometheus Written by Grant Morrison (with many contributions) Art by Howard Porter, Val Semekis, Oscar Jimenez, and many more
By 1996 it was clear that the Justice League has lost its luster among D.C. Comics books. This was a shame because it was the premier team title at the company. Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis’s run on the book transitioned to Dan Jurgens, who eventually made way for Dan Vado with Gerard Jones writing the final arc. The roster by that time was made up of interesting but definitely not marquee level superheroes. Blue Devil. Nuklon. Icemaiden. Obsidian. Wonder Woman was there, but she was about the only notable character among the bunch. Sales dwindled, and Scottish writer Grant Morrison saw it as an opportunity to put their idea of a blockbuster movie take on the Justice League out there.
Superman: The Man of Steel Volume One (2020) Reprints The Man of Steel #1-6, Superman #1-4, Adventures of Superman #424-428, Action Comics #584-587 Written by John Byrne and Marv Wolfman Art by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Terry Austin, and Dick Giordano
Crisis on Infinite Earths was both a special event to celebrate 50 years of DC Comics and a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. One of those characters given a fresh coat of paint was Superman, the company’s flagship star. This wasn’t the first attempt to reboot the superhero; he’d been through several soft reboots since his creation. From a visual perspective, you can see how Superman’s costume has evolved but so too have his powers, supporting cast, villains, and backstory. To make everything more cohesive and move the character out of his Silver Age tropes, DC brought on comics superstar John Byrne who had made a significant name for himself at Marvel with work on X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Alpha Flight. The changes Byrne implemented wouldn’t last forever, but eventually, they would become part of the mishmash of ideas that keeps the character going.
Wonder Woman by Phil Jimenez Omnibus (2019) Reprints Wonder Woman v2 #164-188, Wonder Woman Secret Files & Origins #2 & 3, Wonder Woman: Our Worlds at War, DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #1-4 Written by Phil Jimenez (with Devin Grayson, J.M. DeMatteis, George Perez, Joe Kelly) Art by Phil Jimenez, George Perez, Travis Moore, Cliff Chiang, Jamal Igle, Buzz, Lan Medina, David Yardin, and Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez
I absolutely adore this collection of Phil Jimenez’s run on Wonder Woman while acknowledging this isn’t life-changing material. Instead, this is Jimenez’s tribute to the era of comics he loves and a celebration of every iteration of Wonder Woman. He manages to fold in the concepts established by Perez and Byrne in the post-Crisis continuity while also bringing back faces not seen since the Golden and Silver ages. This is one of those instances where letting a fan of the character write the book doesn’t turn out to be a terrible idea. Jimenez doesn’t always bring closure to every single plotline, but he grows the Wonder Woman family to make it rival what Batman and Superman had going on at the time.