Go West, Young Superman
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the August 14-20, 1997 Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
At last year's ICON convention in Stony Brook, NY, writer John Ostrander hinted that he had pitched a genuine Western to DC Comics, even though he'd been told real Westerns without any mystical mumbo jumbo doesn't work. But the best way to get Ostrander to do something is to say its impossible. He was told supervillain team books dont work, so he made Suicide Squad last 57 issues, and DC still gets regular letters about bringing it back. He was told The Spectre as a title doesnt work for more than six issues, so Ostrander wove religion, moral dilemmas and the search for justice into a series thats been running since 1993.
Ostrander got to make his Western. It's the 12-part The Kents is the story of Martha and Jonathan Kents ancestors in the Old West. We get to see Ma and Pa Kent's forebears in action generations before their adopted boy Clark rocketed down to their spread. I'ts clear Ostrander feels nurture rather than nature had quite a bit to do with why Clark became an emblem for truth, justice and the American way. Im not a Western fan, but Ill give anything by Ostrander the benefit of the doubt, and Im glad I did. The story is just as suspenseful and filled with action as his other work, and I love the way he weaves genuine people into the story without being heavy handed. See, folks, you can go against type to do something different and commercial. It just takes a little creativity. Seeing Tim Trumans artwork paired with Ostranders words again is also a treat. Trumans known for his art depicting that time period and its beautifully authentic.
By the way, a rumors floating around that a deal is close to bring back Ostranders Grimjack from the limbo its been in since First Comics collapsed. I dont know if the rumored deal is as a comic book or as a film, since at one point J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, was interested in doing something with it. Regardless, its long overdue. Grimjack was the story of John Gaunt (later Jim Twilley) who walked out of heaven and now cant get back in, doomed to be reborn in Cynosure, a nexus of all realities. Roger Zelazny praised Grimjack for its "Chandleresque dialogue" (thats Philip Marlowe creator Raymond Chandler for those of you who only read comic books. You know, the type of story that inspired Frank Millers Sin City.). I loved it because it could go from straight drama for one plot line to out-there science fiction for the next to fanciful sword and sorcery the next.
Other random notes:
Also, Drew Hayes swears that #25 of Poison Elves is a good jumping on point for this outstanding series. Its a great series thats not your typical fantasy. Trust Drew.
Back to Superman, what annoys me the most about the cancellation of Lois & Clark (besides ABCs constant retooling and its unceremonious dumping at the end of the first season of Cat Grant, played by the under-appreciated Tracy Scoggins), is no more K Callan and Eddie Jones as Martha and Jonathan Kent. Their talent and non-stereotypical portrayals lent Lois & Clark a large does of credibility. If Tim Burton were smart, hed snap them up for his big screen version of Superman (hint, hint).
Column © 1997 Long Island Voice. Artwork for The Kents and Suicide Squad © DC Comics. Artwork for Grimjack © First Comics.