Veteran’s Day Review/Tribute: Superman Up In the Sky #3 Story-Just A Little Farther

Superman Up In the Sky#3-Just A Little Farther

Writer: Tom King

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Artist: Andy Kubert

I have always enjoyed the stories my Grandma had told me about my Grandad. I never met him but he was a hero who answered the call to enlist in the United States Army during World War II. Grandma also told me that Grandad fought in the Battle of the Bulge which was a huge battle that escalated the end of the War in Europe.

Sometimes, I tell people that Grandad was Captain America. When doing so, people often give me funny expressions and I just smile. I tell them what my Grandma told me: he fought in the war and returned a hero. Maybe my Grandma and her storytelling was why I love stories about heroes or superheroes. Heroes like Superman. Heroes like Captain America. Heroes like my Grandad.

But on this Veteran’s Day, as I think about Superman: Up in the Sky-Just A Little Further, I begin to wonder if Grandad was perhaps, Sgt. Rock? My mom told me a story where he had gotten shot at like any other soldier, seen many of his buddies die, and probably seen a whole lot of narly shit that only could be birthed from war. As Rock narrates his meeting with the guy in the red cape, he explains how “when you’re in the hurt of it, you don’t have time to think.” I am certain that Grandad thought the same thing after seeing the men he likely considered his brothers get hurt.

When I think of Just A Little Further, I think of two generations meeting in a time of uncertainty. I am also reminded of those stories my Grandma and Mom had told me. Now that I think about it, this story is similar to just that but with one of my favorite heroes added in it.

Just A Little Further is the meeting between a hero from the 21 century and a grizzled American soldier in the 20th century. It is a part of the Superman: Up in the Sky issue where Superman goes on a quest to find a young girl name Alice who was kidnapped by an unknown alien.

The very first scene of Further was moving. It showed Sgt. Rock carrying a knocked out Superman while shooting Nazis. A real bad ass drawing and one of my favorites next to Superman taking a green car and smashing it on a boulder in Action Comics #1 or Spider-Man saving a man on the cover of Amazing Fantasy #!5 (Just to name a few).

As Superman comes about, Rock asks who he is and where he is from. Superman response that he does not know who he is but that he is from Kansas. What is so funny in this comic is Rock calling the Man of Steel “Kansas” and gives him an army uniform to hide his costume and “long underwear” plus a pair of glasses.  The sargeant was probably thinking “who the hell says they are from Kansas and dresses like a circus person in a red cape?”  Nonetheless, Clark Kent becomes a memeber of Easy Company and takes part in the Company’s mission to take St. Ruth’s church.

What I enjoyed about this story is that Tom King wrote Sgt. Rock as this man who, despite obviously not having superpowers, is hellbent on completing the mission by going further. Rock even saves Clark’s life of several occassions until Clark becomes Superman again and helps out Sarge whoop some Nazi ass.

Tom King’s Rock narration had a lot of references to comic books and even Action Comics. I also loved how King wrote Rock and Superman being respectful toward each other as men and as heroes. Sarge’s narration of Clark telling him that he had read a lot about the war reminded me of my high school self reading a lot about the U.S. involvement in the war when wanting to learn what it was like for my Grandad. Another cool thing about the narration was when Rock said that he believed in the mantra of Truth, Justice, and the Amercian Way and that he also believed in Superman. The story ends with Rock bidding farwell to the Man of Steel, or Kansas and Superman thanks Sarge for saving the world.

To all the veterans, past and present (Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel and definitely Grandad), men and women, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neices and nephews and also to Tom King (who served in the CIA)…this day is for you. Like Superman, I want to thank all of you for answering the call to fight for our country and for saving the world. You guys have a special place in my heart.

Thank You.

Happy Veteran’s Day

Review: Becoming Superman

When I read the book, J. Michael Straczynski’s book Becoming Superman, I became quickly engrossed by the story of a man who fought and kicked adversity’s butt like Superman did to villains who would repeatedly threaten Earth or those he cared for. This autobiography painted a picture of a man who had to leap every tall building adversity erected in a single bound to become Superman. It was a story that I enjoyed reading because like Straczynski, I aspired (and still do) to be Superman and a writer.

The story starts off with Straczynski’s family background that is laced with a dark secret that involves deception, Nazism, and tragedy. However, as the story progresses, we see a young Straczynski slowly develop a resilience that is fueled by his aspiration to becoming Superman. And that aspiration was birthed when, as a boy, he started reading Superman comic books and science fiction novels. And that aspiration also fueled his love for writing stories.

As Straczynski hones his craft as a writer, he slowly but gradually breaks out of his family’s shadow of misfortune and poverty. To me, Straczynski’s resolve to overcome adversity as shown throughout the book,  is more powerful than a locomotive.

In his youth, Straczynski had to face an alcoholic father who was a Lex Luthor, or perhaps a General Zod, to his Superman. He also had to experience repeated moves to different cities in the country. He also encountered schoolyard bullies and slap-happy Catholic Nuns. He also had to experience his share of financial ups and downs while using his gift as a wrtier. He learned to love himself by following his goal to becoming a writer which eventually gave him several opprtunities like writng for newspapers, writing scripts for cartoons and TV shows, writing and producing Babylon 5, writing comic books like The Amazing Spider-Man and Superman: Year One, and writing the scrpt for The Changeling.  And with that, he created an awesome career as a writer.

My favorite part in the book was when Straczynski is at the Cannes Film Festival in Paris. It is here where we see Straczynski envisioning himself unbuttoning his shirt and exposing that familiar red and yellow “S” shield of Superman. In that vision, he flies off to the sunset. This scene symbolizes him coming to grips with his past and his accomplishment of living his dream as an accomplished writer.

This book had taught me that despite our adversity, we need to fight for our dreams regardless. Our circumstances, while understandable, are irrelevant to how we approach our goals in life. Straczynski reminds us that we are not victims and that we can all aspire to be like Superman and do the right thing.

To me, J. Michael Straczynski is Superman. I say this because like Superman, he is brave and never gave up on his dream of becoming a writer despite everything being thrown at him. He could have given up and blame his upbringing or childhood but he let it become a motivator for him to be where he is at today. He inspired me to do the same when I read this quote from him in the book:

“I think that the reason so many unlikely things happened to me is because I never listened to those voices; because I came out of the womb snarling at anyone who told me there was something I couldn’t do; because I learned that to win, I only had to ‘say yes I will’ one more time  than somebody else could say ‘no, you won’t.’ I never walked away from what gave me joy, never surrendered my dreams to those who would profit by eradicating them.”

-J. Michael Straczynski

I often used to blame my problems or shortcomings on other things or people.  Only after the fact, I would feel sadness for doing such. Recently, I had to come to grips with the fact that I have to take ownership for my mistakes or shortcomings. I am beginning to love myself enough to say: “No, this is my fault and I am the problem but you know what? I am also the freakin’ solution, son!” That is what real successful people do. Whenever you come up short, there is a time to be upset but, you have to dust the crap off and keep moving forward. J. Michael Straczynski is a reminder of that.

This book really hit close to home for me because, like J. Michael Straczynski, I wanted to be like Superman. As a kid, I emulated Clark Kent by wearing toy red glasses. I pretended to fly and run around the house with a dish rag for a cape. And Superman became one of the reasons why I wanted to become a writer and tell stories.

I recommend that you read this book. It is not just an autobiography of a writer who broke out of the Phantom Zone of adversity and poverty. It is an autobiography about a man who became Superman.