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: Tales From the Dark Multiverse-The Death of Superman

Tales From the Dark Multiverse-The Death of Superman

Writer: Jeff Loveness

Pencils: Brad Walker

Inks: Drew Hennessy &Norm Rapmund

Colors: John Kalisz

Letters: Clayton Cowles

Cover: Lee Weeks & Brad Anderson


Warning Spoilers Ahead:

Could you imagine a love interest of your favorite superhero taking matters in her own hands after the death of the former? And when I mean take matters in her own hands, I am talking obtaining near cosmic powers that can potentially kill someone. Well, a Dark Multiverse version of Lois Lane has done just that in Tales of the Dark Multiverse :The Death of Superman.

There have been several comics or other mediums that depicted Clark Kent’s love interest as a Superwoman, In All-Star Superman, she temporarily had the same powers as Superman and fought crime alongside him. In Earth-3, Lois is an evil version of Superwoman who is the wife of Superman’s evil counterpart Ultraman. In the New-52, she was also Superwoman until Lana Lang took on the role. But in this twisted and dark Earth where the events of The Death of Superman play out, she does become a Superwoman but she takes it up a notch when she becomes the Eradicator after absorbing the powers from the Kryptonian Eradicator entity.

Jeff Loveness truly made the story that was penned by Dan Jurgens in a twisted dark story. I honestly did not see this twist coming but Loveness makes the reader understand why Lois had her reasons for becoming the Eradicator. He wrote a greiving, vulnerable, and angry Lois Lane hellbent and getting back at the world she felt let the love of her life down. At this point, we begin to see Lois’ gradual transition from the fearless journalist to a woman on edge.

Loveness also wrote Lois’ narration of the events in a poignant manner. In her nattation, Lois points out the hypocrisy of the Justice League when they are present at Superman’s funeral. She also notes that Luthor creating a golden statue of the Man of Steel would disgust Superman. What makes this sadder is that she is talking to Superman as if he were still alive and listening to her. She mentions that despite Superman having loved the world so much, the human race did not “try to be better.” We also see a scene where Lois is looking at Clark’s empty desk. Even more deep is the scene where Lois visits Martha Kent who has already become widowed after losing her husband Jonathan.

When Lois becomes the Eradicator (or EradiLois as I like to call her) she is more enrage and blood thirsty. Loveness writes a Lois who has no boundaries and is willing to protect the world by any means neccessary. Lois feeds the hungry, ends corruption, fights crime in a brutal and lethal manner which is very contrary to Superman’s less brutal method.

I also found the character of Tempus Fuginat very interesting. He is like a watcher of sorts who keeps track of the Mulitverse. His questioning on why the dark is growing and his lamenting of the light being warmth. Perhaps this is the allusion to the growing darkness within Lois as she grieves for Superman’s death. The use of Tempus at the beginning and the end of the comic was a great touch since he is used to question the darkness in the beginning and to justify it as a lesson in the ending.

In addition to Loveness’ writing, Brad Walker’s art also gave the Death of Superman story a dark twist. Lois’ Eradicator is drawn as a grieving and enraged Lois who is wearing Superman’s battle worn cape. The cape and House of El symbol, usually symbols of hope, are now symbols of loss. The Eradicator Lois is a complete 180 from the firebrand journalist we all know and love. The art used to depict Lois’ powers are more darker than the original Eradicator’s. And let not forget the coloring of the darkness metasizing onto the Multiverse as Tempus looks on. The darkness is a black and purple mesh that is enveloping the many Earths in all the Multiverse.

As a huge Superman fan, I enjoyed the story and it makes me want to read the Death of Superman. Reading a comic like Tales from the Dark Multiverse- Death of Superman has made me wonder if other love interest would have done the same exact thing Lois did. Could you imagine Mary Jane Watson going crazier beyond Superior Spider-Man (minus the body swap with Doc Ock) and killing the Green Goblin after Peter Parker dying? Or how about Princess Leia embracing the Dark Side and confronting her son Kylo Ren after Han Solo’s death. Or (for Image Comics fans), if Mark “Invincible” Grayson died and Atom Eve became Invincible and killed Thragg and all the Viltrumites. Or in the Walking Dead, after the death of Rick Grimes, Michonne killing Negan in full view in front of all the communities of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom looking on in horror?

It’s one thing for a hero to go bad when things get dark but a hero’s love interest going bad? That is a rather new crazy twist and Lois Lane sure pulled it off.

Review:Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab

Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab

Writer/Colorist/Letterer:Dave Dwonch

Artist:Anna Lencioni

Published by: Action Lab Comics

Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab has got to be one of my favorite graphic novels I have read this year. I decided to give this graphic novel a shot and it did not disappoint, The story has crime, noir, and supernatural elements blended into it’s writing and its art which also evokes emotion.

The story starts off with the titular protagonist Cyrus Perkins, a taxi cab driver living in New York City, who is driving a fatally injured teenage boy to the hospital. The boy reveals himself to be name Michael Bernbaum. Before Cyrus’ fateful meeting with Michael, he is seen to not like his job as a taxi driver due to dealing with the same passengers.

Cyrus’ life begins to change when he takes Michael to the hospital only for the latter to die in his car. He feels remorse for not saving Michael and as a result, he doesn’t drive the cab for a month. However, his girlfriend Iris and his boss urge him to go back to work. Cyrus eventually drives his cab again and seems to have gotten over Michael’s death. That is until Michael’s ghost appears.

Cyrus learned that Michael does not remember how he died nor does he remember anything about himself. Michael’s spectre also reveals that the reason why he has not crossed over was that he seems “tethered” to the taxi cab that he died in. It is here where Cyrus decides to help figure why Michael was killed.

Cyrus’ mission to find out how Michael, or Mikey as many of his loved ones called him, died leads him to many of Michael’s loved ones and friends. The scene with Michael’s mother kicks off the start of Cyru’s investigation. This was an abovious emotional scene as we learn that Michael, while a good kid and an 4.0 student, started to go on a sownward spiral after his father passed away. The investigation also leads to seeing several of Michael’s friends from his prep school.

Cyrus’ quest to solve the mystery behind Michael’s death makes him quite a detective. In every interview he has with several people, he gets a new lead. A notable scene where this happened when Cyrus interviews Michael’s friend Samuel and Chad.  Samuel blurts out that a girl name Hayley liked Michael which gives Cyrus a new lead and leads him to interview the girl who not only reveals that she had feelings for Michael but also advises Cyrus to find Chad’s brother Mitch.

The character of Cyrus Perkins reminds me almost of the social worker Chandler Jerell, Eddie Murpy’s character from the move The Golden Child. Both characters are taken out of their day-to-day and tasked with helping adolescents while dealing with the supernatural. Both characters’ careers also further their mission. Chandler’s career as a social worker leads him into helping the Golden Child and Cyrus’ career as a taxi driver leads him to gaining leads into solving the murder of Michael.

Cyrus also has a lot of wisdom that sometime makes him look as if he does not practice what he preaches. There is a scene where Michael tells a passanger, who is complaining about a relative, that people change. After getting the bad vibe from a the passanger who tried to kill his girlfriend. Michael reminds Cyrus of those words despite the latter refusing to get involved with stopping the crime. With Michael’s reminder, Cyrus eventually stops the crime by trying to talk down the passenger only to eventually knock him out after he does not listen to him.

Micahel “Mikey” Bernbaum’s character is a comic relief and a foil to the more grounded Cyrus. He acts more juvenile by making faces at several Cyrus’ passengers. However, Michael not only serves as a motivator for Cyrus to solve his murder but he is also a friend and confidant to the reluctant cabbie. When a passenger comes into the cab, Michael warns Cyrus that there is something odd about him and encourages him to stop the passenger. Cyrus follows the passener who is revealed to be a man about to kill his girlfriend. Cyrus stops the attempted murder and the passenger is arrested. We also see that Michael’s friendship with Cyrus is further solidifed when after`Mitch shoots Cyrus, the ghost has a resolve to save his life; simlar to how Cyrus tried to save his.

The characters of Samuel, Chad, and Mitch are seen as potential suspects. When we meet Samuel, he is a nerdy and overweight character who seems timid while Chad is more intimidating and snobbish. The comic did an awesome job by revealing that it was in fact, Samuel who killed Michael after he had the boy perform an satanic ritual and get possessed by a demon. Mitch was seen as a villain who really was not the villain after Cyrus’ figures out the real culprit behind Michael’s murder.

Another character that was interesting was the Claimer of Souls, a ghost-like character that poses as a male detective at the scene of the crime Cyrus stopped. The Claimer is a tall man in a tailored suit and he is seen as someone watching over Cyrus’ actions. The Claimer helps Michael get Cyrus to the hospital safe and sound. He also appears sitting inside Cyrus’ cab telling him that he is “here fo you.”

Cyrus’ girlfriend Iris is seen as a supporting character and a rock. She cares a lot for Cyrus’ well being, notably when he is grieving from Michael’s death. She also constantly reminds him to not smoke. Cyrus loves his girlfriend and muses that she sometimes sounds like his mother. Iris also appears to be either white or some other race while Cyrus is African-American which shows that Action Lab Comics embraces diversity (which I like).

Mors is another character that seemed interesting. We see her in the beginning of the comic speaking to Cyrus. She seems to be a character that offers wisdom to Cyrus involving his life with Iris and his well-being. There were some pages that made me wonder if in fact she and the Claimer are the same character or if she is somehow connected to him. Notable scenes are when Cyrus tells her that “every day is the same, Mors,” only for her to respond “Not today Cyrus” which foreshadows Cyrus’ fateful meeting with Micheal.  Another scene that further piqued my speculation was when she encourages Cyrus to open up to Iris about his ongoing investigation of Michael’s murder. After Cyrus thanks her for talking to him, Mors notes that maybe Iris will “tell you some of her secrets.”

Dave Dwonch has written an awesome story that shows that even a person, like Cyrus Perkins, who is dealing with the day-today can make a huge difference. Dwonch made an average joe cab driver into a bad ass slueth who is driven by empathy for those who are struggling like him.

The art done by Anna Lencioni was really awesome. It reminded me a lot of the Nickolodeon cartoon Danny Phantom, maybe because of the dark colors and the fact that this was a supernatural story. I liked how Micahel’s apparition was green or a teal color which, to me, symbolizes that he is not of the living. I also enjoyed the designs of the characters including Cyrus, Iris, the Claimer and many more.

If you guys have not read this book or if you need a break from the mainstream comics, this would be the book to read. I really enjoyed Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab and I am looking forward to reading the sequel Cyrus Perkins and Death Brigade whenever it comes out.

Understanding Mike Bennett’s Decision to Ask for His Release From WWE

When we grow up, we all have dreams of being who we want to be. Growing up, my dreams had took on several forms. At first, I wanted to be a firefighter, then an archaeologist, then a teacher, and then I decided that I wanted to be a writer. As we reach adulthood, very few of us actually reach our goals. We begin to live the lie that our dreams are nothing more than dreams.

As Mickey Goldmill from the Rocky movies so eloquently puts it: we “become civilized!”

Fear kicks into overdrive when people from parents to other people outside our lives tell us that our dreams are ridiculous and to give them up before we suffer. We begin to put our dreams in the backbunner and we become realistic. Getting a “real job” or livng paycheck to paycheck becomes our dream while our creativity suffers for it.

One person who I feel is brave enough to express his angst with that sentiment of security over a dream is a pro-wrestler and WWE Superstar name Mike Bennett, also known as Mike Kanellis.

Today, Bennett did something brave and unprecedented of a WWE Superstar. He announced on social media that he asked for his release from WWE. From what I read from the post, Bennett did not say anything bad about the company. He only expressed frustration with not working “one day a week” which was “not going o cut it” for him. He noted that he only resigned with the WWE  because he though it was “best for my family, and maybe from a finanical standpoint it was.”

The one part of the post that caught me attention was when he mentioned the lack of work affecting his home life and family. Furthermore, he added that after battling drug addiction for four years, he had came to the epiphany that he wanted to work more wrestling matches and travel the world like he did when he was on the independent scene. Another part of the post that really hit me was the mention of wanting to be an example to his daughter of what it is like to earn a living doing what he loves rather than “collecting a pay check.”

What I read from this post is a man who wanted to do nothing more than become a pro-wrestler and entertain crowds.

And Mike Bennett, if you are reading this. I understand where you are coming from.

I too have been in too many situations where I have had to put my dreams on the back bunner due to financial security. Now don’t get me wrong, it is always good to earn gauranteed money but if you are not living your dream and you are working in a job that you don’t like or at the very least doens’t allow you to live your dream, then there’s something wrong. I’m currently in a job that allows me to leave early so that I could work on creative projects like this blog and go to evening writing or comic book events. I am very grateful for that job. However, in my previous job whch was at a civil service organization that must not be named (out of respect), it was the opposite. Like Mike, I was there just earning a paycheck and not happy but unlike Mike, I was not brave enough to get real with myself and tell my supervisor that I want to call it quits. Actually, the civil service job fired me and even though I was upset, deep down, I was free and my creativity was returning slowly but gradually.

Working in a job or place that does not align with your goals or mission can sap your creativity. It can also make you angry to the point where you may need to seek counseling.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome coupled with Anxiety. Every month, I make it an effort to see a counsellor while my family and my co-workers encourage me to embrace my Aspergers everyday. I still deal with some of the struggles but I know with dealing with it and having a great support system, I can learn to cope with it in a healthy way.

However, what is not okay is living paycheck to paycheck to the point where your mental and physical health is at risk. That’s how some otherwise healthy people end up getting cancer or some other sickness. This is because some people live in fear that they would end up in a bad place if they decided to attempt to live their dream. But there are some who look in the mirror and decide to seek help before its too late.

And Mike Bennett is doing a great job dealing with his struggles. As he mentioned in his post, he bravely fought drug addiction for four years and won. He won the battle not only for his wife, Maria Kanellis, his children, and his career, he won for him. This is a man who loves himself. Why else would he bravely ask for his release from one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world? Maybe he feels more comfortable working in the independent scene where he would have more opportunities and respect. If I had a promotion of my own, Bennett would be one of my top guys and his wife would be included.

I enjoyed his character the “Miracle” Mike Bennett in Impact Wrestling. The character was a scoundrel/swindler type with a suave personality that exuded confidence. Not to mention that thee character had the coolest taste in clothing: sneakers, a two-piece suit, with a fedora plus a gorgeous looking red head at his side…captial “A” awesome!  If Mike Bennett could pull it off, why couldn’t I? Maybe a certain girl I have a crush on might take notice…

But in all seriousness, I have a new respect for Mike Bennett for showing me what it is like for a man to love himself. I have been struggling with loving myself all these years until I decided to seek help and follow my goals at the behest of family and co-workers. Mike, if you are reading this, you have a fan and whereever you will go, I will follow your carreer because you have become one of the people to inspire me to love myself more and embrace my Aspergers.

I know wherever it is you go, you will be successful. Whether its here in the US, Europe, Japan, Sibera, Earth-2, the Moon, you’re going to be awesome.

I don’t know about anyone esle but, I can only speak for myself. Mike and Maria Bennett, I am right behind you peeps and I understand your reason to request your release from WWE.

Go on and live your dream and remember…never stop believing and fight and work for a better tomorrow!

Brian from Earth-16

Mike and Maria
Mike Bennet  and his wfe  Maria Kanellis. Credit: WWE

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.

My thoughts on George Lucas Feeling ‘Betrayed’, Disney, and Star Wars

If you follow Star Wars, you’ve probably have read or heard the news of Disney CEO Bob Iger admitting that creator George Lucas felt betrayed when the creative direction of the new trilogy was unraveled.

Given how the films in the new trilogy were received by some in the fanbase, I cannot say that I’m surprised.

The old movies were poetic at best. There was a story there. It was a story about a young man growing up on a remote desert planet and eventually becoming a freedom fighter. That young man not only had to free the galaxy from the grip of a intergalactic tyrannical government but, he also had to free his father who was once a hero turned puppet of a dictator. Along the way, he found two droids on the run, learned of his heritage from an old hermit, made friends with a scoundrel and his furry co-pilot, learned more of his heritage from a wise creature, and discovered that a princess was his own flesh and blood.

To this day, that story, told in three films, still resonates with people. Several people have dissected it from college students working long hours on their dissertations to fans giving their own views on the films.  Fans like myself.

When I was 10-years old, I became a fan of Star Wars. My first Star Wars action figures were a Han Solo with Jabba the Hutt. An elementary school friend and I pretended to be Jedi Knights fighting the Empire. Me and my friends in my neighborhood would talk about Star Wars almost constantly. In terms of favorite characters, Luke Skywalker was cool but, Han Solo was (and still is) my favorite and Princess Leia was my childhood crush. R2-D2 and C-3PO were the droids that I wanted to have. I believed in having the Force. And yes, I did own a toy lightsaber I bought from Tomorrowland in Disneyland (this was before Disney acquired Star Wars).

As I got older, I collected Star Wars books (the Han Solo Trilogy written by A.C. Crispin, the Young Jedi Knights series written by Kevin J. Anderson, and the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole were my favorite novels). I also played the video games like the Dark Forces series which centered around stormtrooper turned Jedi Knight Kyle Katarn and Shadows of the Empire that centered around Dash Rendar. Both the books and the games introduced me to the Expanded Universe and I was introduced to new characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn(An Imperial Admiral) , Corran Horn (X-Wing pilot turned Jedi), the Solo children. (Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo who were originally Han and Leia’s children), and (another favorite character and Emperor’s Hand turned Jedi and later wife to Luke Skywalker) Mara Jade. The Expanded Universe also fleshed out more stories of characters like Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles, Chewbacca, and many more.  Star Wars was more than just a movie or a story about standing up to evil, it was a phenomenon. It was a part of my life and almost like a second religion.

But then along came the news Disney’s acquisition of the franchise.

As I write this, I think back when Disney purchased Star Wars for $4 million. I remembered reading an article that said that Disney was going to do away with the Expanded Universe. Okay, I thought. It can’t be too bad. At least Chewbacca will live again after getting killed at the beginning of the New Jedi Order. But when I saw what Disney was planning, it left a bad taste in my mouth. The Expanded Universe was not only no longer canon but the Disney brass was going to be making new stories and characters. Some from the characters or elements from the Expanded Universe may appear, others might not see the light of day. All those years of building an universe that was born from a man who grew up in Modesto, California was going to be warped.

No wonder George Lucas felt betrayed when he was told that his story was going to go a different direction. I can only tell you how I was feeling when I was heard that the House of Mouse was going to do away with a part of my childhood.

But one may wonder if Lucas saw this coming. After all, he did agree to sell the three stories he had ready for the new trilogy and he was made aware that Disney might not go through with his vision. And it wasn’t his first run in with studios wanting to claim his creation. Ever since the inception of  A New Hope, he wanted to own Star Wars as his own and he was successful. That was why he was able to have Star Wars on several platforms including 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. And it was with that that the more mediums were made including books, comic books, and video games.  When he decided to sell Star Wars, maybe Lucas thought that Disney would overlook the possibility of going the other direction honor his wishes.

But when Bob Iger, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and film director J.J. Abrams revealed their plans for the new trilogy, Lucas probably felt the same way Obi-Wan Kenobi did when he found out that Anakin Skywalker betrayed the Jedi Order and became Darth Vader: Betrayed.

And this is not a new story. A matter of fact, this story has repeated itself in different incarnations. This story started in 1938. Two young boys from Ohio created a comic book about a young man who, like Luke Skywalker, was a farmboy who had to leave his simple life to grow up to be a hero and develop an archaic sense of justice. That hero would become Superman. Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster hadn’t the slightest clue about how much Superman would make. They sold the character to National Comics which would later become DC Comics for $150. However, they were not given the rights. Shuster and Siegel must have felt betrayed as Lucas did. However, DC eventually relented and decided to pay royalties to the families and heirs of Shuster and Seigel.

Another comic book creator by the name of Bill Finger went through a similar thing. In 1939,, a comic artist by the name of Bob Kane wanted to piggy back off the success of Superman so he decided to make a superhero name the Batman who was a blonde haired man that wore a red shirt and had black wings. That’s when Bill Finger came in. Finger helped Kane flesh out the Batman and also created an ensemble of flamboyant characters including Robin, Catwoman, Joker, Penguin and many others. Batman became a success but Bob Kane took all the credit while Bill Finger became destitute.  Years later, in a recording to a writer, Bob Kane (like Bob Iger) admitted that Bill Finger should have gotten credit for creating Batman. In addition, it took the efforts of Marc Tyler Nobleman and Bill Finger’s granddaughter to finally have DC Comics credit Finger for the creation of Batman.

At the very least, Lucas got $4 millon dollars when he sold Star Wars. That was more than what Shuster and Seigel got for Superman and definitely more money than Bill Finger was given. But just by his reaction, as recalled by Iger in his memoir The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Lucas could have given a damn about the money. Then again, that could be refuted by the late Carrie Fisher in this article.

But one thing everyone could agree to was that Lucas was just a man who wanted to make movies. Period. In a documentary, when asked why he makes movie, Lucas responded with a shrug:

“I make movies because I have to.”

With how Disney decided to market Star Wars, it is true what is said in the 1 Timothy 6:!0 in the Holy Bible: “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Dave Ramsey once said that “money is amoral. It doesn’t have any guiding principles of its own. Having money or not having it doesn’t change who you already are. When you earn more money, it just makes you more of who you are.”

It can be argued that some studios or corporations crave money from someone’s idea. And in addition to that, they just allured to the idea of having more and more. They never take into account of the hours and sacrifices that creator made. Creators, the real ones, don’t care about the money. I mean, they should be given what they are deserved but its not about the money. Its about exercising what they were brought on this Earth to do.

I can only speak for myself. If all I ever wanted to do was make a crap load of money, well I might as well be a conartist and just hoard money. And that’s why I switched majors from Biological Sciences to Creative Writing. I originally wanted to be a doctor but only because it made a lot of money but I flunked out of Chemistry. Writing is my true passion. Being a creative weirdo is my true passion. I could care less how much I made as long as I was able to manage it and live while doing what I love.

I’m a Capitalist at heart. I am all for making a wage for the work done but only in the name of the spirit of Capitalism. Adam Smith argued that real wealth came from not hoarding gold but liberating people’s gifts. Smith believed that wealth came from people, not gold. George Lucas saw Star Wars as his work of art. Disney saw Star Wars as a cash cow. Lucas wanted to make more movies. Disney wanted to make money.

The backlash against Disney Star Wars has gotten so bad that even the prequel trilogy is getting some love. I enjoyed the prequel trilogy. It was not just a story about Anakin Skywalker and his path to eventually become Darth Vader. It was a story about corruption and how it can poison a government which can also poison the very people it was sworn to serve. It was about a war which both sides, Republic and Seperatists, had strings pulled by Darth Sidious who was also Chancellor (and later Emperor) Palpatine.  It was also a story that put to question the rigidness of the Jedi Order. If the old trilogy was about the fight against tyranny, the new trilogy was about the morality of political and religious institutions.

As for the new trilogy as created by Disney? It is not about any of that. Its just about a young woman who all the sudden knows how to wield a lightsaber and beats up an enraged young man who wants to be like his grandfather. Now don’t get me wrong, I like some of the characters in The Force Awakens. Rey is a very interesting character, almost like an enigma. Poe Dameron is like a Han Solo who already has morality and a sense of justice. Finn develops a sense of justice and becomes grows to be more heroic. Kylo Ren, is a guy who has a badass lightsaber and is a lot like Vader with all his limbs. But the story and the themes do not align. It’s not Star Wars.

But here are the things that are Star Wars.

Luke growing up and having to learn how to not only be a Jedi but a man. That’s Star Wars. Han Solo having to push aside his selfishness and pursue the things that really mattered in his life. That’s Star Wars. Princess Leia taking the fight to the Empire after it blew up her home and discovering the Luke was her brother and Vader her father. That’s Star Wars.

In my opinion, the only films that captured the essence of George Lucas’ story were Rogue One and Solo. Rogue One was good because it took place right before A New Hope and it told the story of how the Rebel Alliance came across the plans to destroy the Death Star thanks to Jyn Erso who wanted to fight the Empire for hurting her family. Solo was great because it told a story of a young Han Solo who wanted to leave the mean streets of Corellia with his girlfriend O’ira and be a pilot. That is Star Wars.

But, what did Rey want? Maybe she wanted to find out about her origins but they should have showed that in the beginning. In A New Hope, Luke had a thirst for adventure and wanted to know more about his father but Uncle Owen torpedoed those ideas. It would have been cool to see Rey trying to make sense of how she has these odd powers or why she is an enigma. Almost like: “Who am I? Am I meant somebody or just some other scavenger trying too survive?” We do see some of that in The Last Jedi but they would have planted those seeds in the first film. Keep in mind, that its just my opinion.

Going back to George Lucas and the controversy surrounded Bob Iger’s admission, I often told my sister that Kathleen Kennedy should have not had a hand on the creative side behind Star Wars. At best, she should have just done her job with running the operations or the day-to-day and let the directors and producers do their job. Maybe we’d have a different Star Wars with the same characters but better story telling. It would have been a Star Wars that was Star Wars. A story of discovery, learning, struggle, growing, and prevailing. Maybe that was what George Lucas wanted. At least that’s how I see it. But then again, I know that Disney sees this story differently from a their own galaxy that is far, far away.






Smallville: An Awesome Superman Story

I am beyond stoked about news of the bosses behind the CW Network’s Arrowverse revealing yet another surprise for the Crisis on Infinite Earth’s five episode event. As I look up to the sky…

It’s bird….it’s a plane…it’s Tom Welling, reprising his iconic role as Clark Kent/Superman from the CW’s Smallville TV series.

Tom Welling’s portrayal of Clark Kent is one of my favorite incarnations of the Man of Steel  and it made me watch Smallville almost religiously when I was a teenager. As you, constant reader, must know, I am a huge mark for Superman.

Smallville debuted on 2001 and it was a story about a young Clark Kent trying to make sense of his who he is and the man he will grow up to be. The thing I enjoyed about the show was that Welling had showed a more vulnerable and human side to the future Man of Steel. Under the guidance of Martha and Jonathan Kent, Clark had to face what every teenager faced (puberty, high school crushes, drama, etc) while discovering his Kryptonian heritage and developing his abilities. In addition, it took awhile for Clark to learn how to fly due to him being afraid of heights.

In addition to being brave, selfless, and loyal to his parents and friends, Clark was also mild-mannered. I mean, how can he be Clark Kent and not be mild-mannered?

There are several scenes where Clark is a complete goof ball when many women show interest in him while he is oblivious as to what is going on much to the humor of the audience or whoever Clark was with.

Another cool thing about Tom Welling’s portrayal of Clark was that some people saw this it as an analogue to Jesus Christ. One scene showed Clark falling from a building after a brutal fight with General Zod. While falling, Clark had his arms stretched out which made him look as if he was being crucified. There was an episode where Clark discovered that his blood could possible cure a disease.

Like any Superman story, Smallville had an ensemble of  supporting characters including: Ma and Pa Kent, played by Annette O’toole and John Schneider; Pete Ross, played by Sam Jones III; Lana Lang, played by Kristin Kruek; Chloe Sullivan, played by Allison Mack (currently awaiting a trial which will be another story for another time); Jimmy Olsen, played by Aaron Ashmore; and Lois Lane, played by Erica Durance. We also eventually meet other charaters like Kara Zor El, played by Laura Vandervoort; Dr. Emil Hamilton, played by Alessandro Juliani; Tess Mercer, played by Cassidy Freeman; and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, played by Justin Hartley.

Smallville also had an ensemble of villains that were original. Several notable villains were: Bugboy was a reclusive and creepy teenager who spied on Lana Lang; Desiree Atkins, a attractive and ravishing looking biology teacher that caused Clark’s sexual urges to intensify and his  heat vision to manifest; and Curtis Knox, played by Dean Cain (Who portrayed Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), who was immortal and exchanged blows with Clark. Later on, we meet other villains like Davis Bloome, played by Sam Witer, who eventually becomes Doomsday.

A unique take on this show that I was a fan of was Clark’s friendship with his future nemesis Lex Luthor, played by Michael Rosenbaum (who also voiced the Flash on the animated Justice League). Their friendship began when Lex accidentally hit Clark with a car and they both fell over a bridge and into a river bank. Clark ended up rescuing Luthor and the took had become good friends. The two were like brothers and often helped each other much to the ire of Jonathan Kent who despised the Luthors.  Clark and Lex’s destined and inevitable rivalry was foreshadowed several times. Notable prophecies were made by an elderly woman who could see into the future and several Native American paintings that were emblazoned on the walls of the caves in the outskirts of Smallville.

Eventually, the animosity between the two intensified when the former a love triangle due to their shared love for Lana Lang. And it was further established when Lex’s once ruthless father Lionel Luthor, played by John Glover, found enlightenment, after being used as a vessel for Jor-El, and began bonding with Clark. Luthor was presumed dead for two seasons but not before finding out that Clark Kent was Kal-El. He returned in the final episode of  Season 10, being put back together by various cloned body parts by the Earth-2 counterpart of Lionel Luthor.

The last meeting between Clark and Lex took place  in a broken Luthor Mansion. At this point, the Earth was experiencing an apocalypse unleashed by Darkseid and the meeting between the former friends showed that their rivalry had come full circle. Clark was shocked that Lex was alive while Lex criticized Clark for not using his powers to their fullest potential. Lex commented that Clark being his enemy was what made him and that they would be great men.

“I will be there to stop you,” Clark promised Lex.

Another thing that was intriguing about Smallville was that it made me question the idea of our destiny. The question that popped into my head was: do we have a destiny or are we allowed to create our own destiny? Clark had made me ask that question whenever he struggled to come to grips with his heritage and his role on Earth. His adopted parents often assured him that he could create his own destiny while Jor El, the entity in the Fortress of Solitude, seemed more rigid or strict.

The show took place in Superman’s hometown of Smallville, Kansas. The town is a rural town that embodies Middle America and has an All-American vibe (though it was filmed in Vancover, Canada). We are also introduced to several notable places including: The Kent Farm, Smallville High School, the Kawache Caves (which lead to the Fortress of Solitude in the Antarctic), the Talon (a coffeeshop operated by Lana), and the Luthor Mansion. As the series progressed and Clark matured, we begin to see more of Metropolis and the iconic Daily Planet. We also see the Ace of Clubs and (the already mentioned) Fortress of Solitude.

Smallville holds a special place in my heart. It is not only a Superman story. It is a story about a young man with special abilities who wanted to live a normal and simple life. But even when that was not possible, that young man took it upon himself to become a hero because his adopted parents instilled values of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But I think that the young man who would become the Man of Tomorrow did achieve much more than what he dreamed. He made some friends who were understanding and loving toward him, he became admired by the many he saved, and he fell in love with a beautiful and intrepid firebrand journalist name Lois Lane.

And the story wouldn’t end with Season 10. The Smallville saga continued in the form of a comic book which was titled: Smallville: Season 11. The comic introduced us to that universe’s version of Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, Barbara Gordon, Jay Garrick, John Stewart, and many other familiar characters.

Clark Kent - Smallville
Tom Welling as Clark Kent. Credit: DC Comics

This show and Tom Welling really made Clark Kent more human and relatable to viewers and myself.

As I write this, I am beginning to realize that this show has been telling me to accept and love myself for who I am. It realize that it has been telling me to accept my Aspergers Syndrome and to not push it away. Or perhaps, it was Clark Kent who was telling me to accept that part of myself. After all, ever since I was six years old, I had always wanted to be Superman.

I want to thank Tom Welling and the people behind Smallville for playing a role in my childhood. I also want to thank Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel for creating an awesome superhero who not only teaches us to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American way but to also love and accept ourselves and others. That is what makes Smallville an awesome Superman story.