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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


"Law's the same for all or it's not worth spit."

— Nathaniel Kent in The Kents #2

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 it’s impossible. He was told supervillain team books don’t 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 doesn’t work for more than six issues, so Ostrander wove religion, moral dilemmas and the search for justice into a series that’s been running since 1993.

Ostrander got to make his Western. It's the 12-part The Kents is the story of Martha and Jonathan Kent’s 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. I’m not a Western fan, but I’ll give anything by Ostrander the benefit of the doubt, and I’m 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 Truman’s artwork paired with Ostrander’s words again is also a treat. Truman’s known for his art depicting that time period and it’s beautifully authentic.

By the way, a rumor’s floating around that a deal is close to bring back Ostrander’s Grimjack from the limbo it’s been in since First Comics collapsed. I don’t 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, it’s long overdue. Grimjack was the story of John Gaunt (later Jim Twilley) who walked out of heaven and now can’t get back in, doomed to be reborn in Cynosure, a nexus of all realities. Roger Zelazny praised Grimjack for its "Chandleresque dialogue" (that’s Philip Marlowe creator Raymond Chandler for those of you who only read comic books. You know, the type of story that inspired Frank Miller’s 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:

If you liked Spawn, the movie, a good jumping on point for the series is issue #65, which should be in stores now.

Also, Drew Hayes swears that #25 of Poison Elves is a good jumping on point for this outstanding series. It’s a great series that’s not your typical fantasy. Trust Drew.

Back to Superman, what annoys me the most about the cancellation of Lois & Clark (besides ABC’s 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, he’d 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.