9/11 and Super-Heroes

The Superadaptoid has returned! I moved into a new place at the end of last month, and even though it was just a cross-town move, it still wrecked my writing schedule. But now I’m starting to settle in, so more blog posts will be coming soon.

I’m working on a series of Flash-related posts, but have decided to set them aside for the time being until I get a better feel for the direction that the current season of CW’s Flash TV show is taking. For my newest post, I’ve decided to tackle a more serious topic than usual: the effects of the real-world events of September 11, 2001 on the fictional settings of super-hero stories.

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Universe Lost: Conclusion

This is the final installment of “Universe Lost.” I’m working on a new feature, “Mapping the Multiverse,” which will begin in two weeks to coincide with the season premiere of CW’s The Flash. I’ll also post a couple of standalone entries to fill the gap between now and then.

I’d really like to hear what readers think of the blog so far! You can contact me directly via the form at the end of the post or get a conversation going in the comments section below.

From 1978 to 1997, four Superman movies and four Batman movies grossed a total of $1.7 billion, giving DC Comics a virtual monopoly on successful super-hero film adaptations.

Now let’s compare that run to feature films adapting Marvel Comics characters to the big screen between 1978 and 1997.

There was only one: Howard the Duck.

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Universe Lost, Part 9: Not the Hero We Needed

NOTE: I originally planned for this to be the final installment of “Universe Lost,” but I wrote more than usual and can’t cut it down! So I’ll wrap up the series on Wednesday. After that, I’ll start a new feature on the Flash and the DC Multiverse, so stay tuned!

Last week, at Variety‘s Entertainment and Technology Summit in Beverly Hills, Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment since 2009, stated that there were no plans to connect the film adaptations of DC properties with their TV adaptations.

To regular readers of this blog, this should sound like a foregone conclusion on the part of DC and its parent company, Time Warner. Continue reading

Universe Lost, Part 8: Revenge of the Super Friends

In 1984, DC Comics characters were reaching new levels of media exposure through Kenner’s Super Powers toy line.

1984 comic book ad for Kenner Super Powers Collection

1984 comic book ad for Kenner’s Super Powers Collection

The success of the toys prompted a revival of the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon, the first new episodes of the series to be produced since 1979. The season premiere pitted the Super Friends against Darkseid and his minions for the first time.

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Universe Lost, Part 7: “When the Old Gods Died!”


That is the single most awesome sentence ever to appear in comic books. The caps lock on my computer turned itself on as soon as I started typing, such is the power in those words.

In 1971, Jack Kirby put those words on the first page of DC’s New Gods #1, setting out the themes of what would become known as the “Fourth World Saga.” It began with the end of the world, an apocalypse playing out over four exclamation-pointed sentences.

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Universe Lost, Part 6: Gods of New York

In New York City, anything is possible! Anything can happen … and it usually does.

— Stan Lee, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends S1E2 (“The Crime of All Centuries”)

Stan Lee was a pest. He liked to irk people and it was one thing I couldn’t take. … He hasn’t changed a bit.

— Jack Kirby, The Comics Journal #134 (Feb. 1990)

There are no two comic creators more fascinating to me than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Kirby passed away in 1994, while Lee today is most visible through his perennial cameos in films based on Marvel characters.

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Universe Lost, Part 5: A Bad Time to Be Successful

If, between 1940 and 1970, you were adapting a DC Comics property for radio, film, or television, you would have to answer to DC’s editorial director, Whitney Ellsworth. DC made sure that every adaptation of their characters into other media received personal attention from the publisher’s creative top dog.

Captain-america_serial_posterIn 1944, when Republic Pictures started production on a movie serial featuring Marvel Comics’ breakout character, Captain America, Marvel editor-in-chief Vince Fago was not quite as attentive.

All that Republic Pictures apparently got from Fago was a handful of sample pages from Captain America Comics that they couldn’t make heads or tails of.

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Tales to Astonish: The Origin of a Blog

I’m traveling right now, so my writing schedule is a bit off. As I work on the next installment of “Universe Lost,” I thought I’d fill the gap with some remarks on why I started this blog.

In May 2008, just days after Iron Man‘s US premiere, Marvel Studios announced its plans to produce a cycle of films that would lead into 2012’s The Avengers (originally slated for a 2011 release). The news astonished me. Previous cinematic adaptations of super-hero comics had always dealt with individual characters in isolation from one another, even when they were close associates in the comic books.

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Universe Lost, Part 4: Family-Friendly Vigilantes

Part 4 of a series. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Tracing the histories of comic book companies in the 1930s and ’40s can be difficult for a number of reasons. Virtually all the first comic book publishers emerged from the business of pulp fiction – cheaply produced, illustrated periodicals that contained serialized stories in a variety of genres, most often science fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, and detective thrillers. The genres represented in pulp fiction hardly counted as respectable literature, and the people who ran the pulp publishing companies were rarely respectable people.

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Gilgamesh vs. The Walking Dead: How the Zombie Apocalypse Is Older than You Think

I shall smash the gates of the Netherworld, right down to its dwelling,

to the world below I shall grant manumission,

I shall bring up the dead to consume the living,

I shall make the dead outnumber the living.

— the goddess Ishtar, in The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest story known to humanity. It began as a collection of episodic poems written about Gilgamesh, a legendary Mesopotamian king, around 2000 BCE. These were then compiled into a single, cohesive narrative (from which the above quote is taken) by 1100 BCE. Although it’s often difficult to pinpoint exact dates so far back in history, Gilgamesh quite likely precedes the writing of the Hebrew Bible by several centuries.

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