The core mythos of Superman

Many of you have heard of Superman. An American icon created in 1938 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, many recognize Superman as the first American superhero.

Next April 2018, this American icon will be celebrating his 80th anniversary (since the publication of his first comic, Action Comics #1 in 1938).

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The cover of Action Comics #1 (1938). On August 24, 2014, a copy graded 9.0 by CGC was sold in eBay for over 3 million dollars.

Superman has many superpowers: Superhuman strength, invulnerability, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision, superhearing, super breath (including freezing breath) to name a few.

 

But if we were to strip Superman to its core, his story remains the same:

1. Last Son of Krypton

He is a survivor, the last son of an advanced Kryptonian alien civilization who interestingly appears human-like. Unlike humans however, Kryptonians are born in green planet that orbits a red giant star.

There has been many variations in how the Kryptonian civilization was portrayed. The early 1940s stories portrayed Kryptonians as being utopian and technologically advanced and born with superpowers. Later stories revised them being similar to human beings with advanced technology, and a genetic trait that allow them to gain superpowers when exposed to the radiation of a yellow sun. More recent stories portrayed them as technologically advanced, but also culturally and emotionally stagnant making them a rather xenophobic culture. But essentially, now matter how advanced the Kryptonians were, one thing was constant: the destruction of their homeworld Kryton.

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Krypton, about to be destroyed as portrayed in Man of Steel (2013) film.

How did Superman survive? Apparently Superman’s parents (Jor-El and Lara) were the only ones prepared for this cataclysm, but they only had resources to create one rocketpod for their infant son. They sent him away before Krypton’s destruction, and eventually his ship arrived on Earth.

2. Found by the Kents couple

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Jonathan and Martha Kent with a young Clark, as drawn by Gary Frank for Superman: Secret Origin (2009)

When Superman’s ship crashed on the fields of Smallville, he was discovered and rescued by Jonathan and Martha Kent. With no one else witnessing the event, Jonathan and Martha adopted him and named him Clark after Martha’s maiden name. Clark Kent would later grew up in Smallville, become close friends (or fall in love) with Lana Lang, and after high school would eventually left the town and eventually resided in Metropolis, one of the largest (fictional) cities in America.

3. Mild-mannered reporter

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Cover art from Superman: Secret Origin #3 (2009), as drawn by Gary Frank

By the time he is an adult, Clark Kent becomes a reporter in the metropolitan newspaper agency. He is often known to work at Daily Planet under the editorial guidance of Perry White, and often partnered with investigative reporter Lois Lane (who would eventually be his love interest) and best friends with the young Jimmy Olsen. Besides the Daily Planet, certain versions of Clark Kent also worked in the Daily Star (with George Taylor as his editor), and the Silver Age version of Clark Kent even became a news anchorman at WGBS Galaxy News (While it might be odd how the world’s best superhero has similar features to national news anchorman, thankfully this story is now no longer current). In the New 52 storyline (between 2011 and 2016), Clark Kent even quit his job on the Planet and became a news blogger with Cat Grant.

4. Truth, Justice and the American Way!

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Cover art for Superman #24 by Jack Burnley (1943).

Besides having his many superpowers, Superman’s strongest strength is his uncanny sense of moral compass. He fights for truth and justice. The term ‘American way’ has been given less emphasis lately, but the American way is often synonymous with freedom and the pursuit of happiness. A reason why Superman is so iconic (not just in the United States, but in other countries including Indonesia) is because what he represents.

Superman is often constantly portrayed as an ideal of hope, The Man of Tomorrow, who can show what an ideal person. An ideal not in terms of superhuman strength, but his superhuman resolve to fight for truth, justice and peace. He is protector of innocent, he is the first person to arrive in disaster area, and in many stories there are instances where Superman laid down his life for humanity.

Well, these are four aspects of the Superman mythos that has been constant throughout his 80 years of history.

There are many amazing parallels between Superman and another real world icon: Jesus Christ. While it is not my intention to rub other people’s religion and faith, the selflessness of Superman often brings comparison to Christ. But another appropriate parallel will be with Moses: both were ‘refugees’ who were sent away by their parents, travelling in a pod through treacherous distances… (I know, comparing the vast cosmos with the Nile river is a stretch, but bear with me). But as they grow older, they became aware of their heritage and would eventually take a leadership role and perform miraculous feats.

How did Superman survived so long in 80 years? How did two Jewish boys name Joe and Jerry came up with the idea of Superman? We’ll explore more in the future.

Please comment below!

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4 Zaniest Resurrections in Sci-Fi

As billions of Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter Sunday, I’ve decided to write this short science fiction-related post.

 

Throughout the years there have been several characters that came in go in science fiction stories. While countless fictional characters have died, many have also risen and came back to the land of the living.

Here are four popular characters in various science fiction franchises that died, and got better.

  1. Superman
    Back in the 1990s, the Man of Steel facing low number of sales and loss of popularity. Although the idea of Superman’s death has been tackled in a few imaginary and ‘what-ifs’ stories, the idea to truly kill DC Comics’ flagship hero finally happened: The Death of Superman storyline helped boost DC Comics sales and with Superman #75 (volume 2, 1993) selling out in comic stores causing DC to publish not just one or two reprints, but 3 reprints!
    In the story, Superman died protecting the city of Metropolis against the rampaging monster known as Doomsday. As most comic book stories say, Superman’s death didn’t stick for long. Within a year, four different individuals claiming the title appeared in the Reign of the Supermen storyline: Cyborg Superman (The Man of Tomorrow), Last Son of Krypton, Steel and Superboy a.k.a. the Metropolis Kid.
    Eventually, after a year of his well-published death, the one and true Superman came back, restored and alive.
    The ‘death of Superman’ storyline has been adapted a few times: in the Justice League cartoons, in a few episodes of Smallville, and much more recently in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League.
  2. Optimus Prime
    For kids who grew up in the 1980s, Optimus Prime was a prime example of qualities a good leader possess: courageous, incorruptible and with the baritone voice of Peter Cullen leading the charge! In the first two seasons of the Transformers G1 cartoons, Optimus led the Autobots against the evil Decepticons in every episode. But in the Transformers Movie that came out in 1985, Optimus Prime died after a duel fighting Megatron. His death was quite a shock… it’s not that often you get to see a well regarded hero figure (he’s a red truck and robot!) die in a movie that is basically marketed to boys!
    True, his death allow Hot Rod to inherit the Matrix of Leadership and became Rodimus Prime.. but seeing such a character killed off in such a way can be quite… traumatizing.
    Unsurprisingly, Optimus Prime was brought back to life in the 3rd season episode: The Return of Optimus Prime and eventually soon restored as the Autobots leader in the Season 4 telemovie Rebirth.
    In other Transformers stories, Optimus Prime pretty much dies all the time: He died fighting Megatron in Revenge of the Fallen (2011) movie, only to come back better near the end of the movie. In the Aligned continuity, he sacrificed himself in the Predacons Rising to purge the Dark Energon corruption of the Well of All Sparks, only to be transported the ‘realm of the Primes’ and restored to life in the Robots in Disguise cartoon.
    Bottomline: In most Transformers stories, Optimus Prime eventually dies, but comes back again… better.
  3. Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace, from Battlestar Galactica (2000s TV series)
    The death and return of Starbuck is quite controversial in nature… and in fact troubling to most people who didn’t expect the new Battlestar Galactica TV series to have such a take on religion and supernatural deities. Short story: Starbuck dies in the 3rd season episode ‘Maelstrom’, but later appears two episodes later.
    The beginning of 4th season addressed the suspicions regarding her return: Is Starbuck actually a Cylon? Apparently no, but things got more confusing when Starbuck and the humanoid Cylon Leoben found Starbuck’s crashed Viper as well her remains on it.
    In the finale, Starbuck was pivotal in helping humanity find their way to their final home… the planet Earth. And after that… she just disappears into thin air, but not forgotten.
  4. Spock
    In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (which is often regarded as the best Star Trek movie of all time) Spock sacrifices himself to restore the USS Enterprise’s warp engines and dies of radiation poisoning later.
    The next movie, aptly titled The Search for Spock basically revolves around Captain Kirk’s effort to recover Spock’s resurrected body, and restore Spock’s katra to it.

 

To be honest, I would write a fifth if I could think of someone else. Also, there has been so much deaths and resurrections in Marvel comics that I think it’s just too… zany to write about them.

 

Please comments below! Cheers.

It’s already 2018…

Hi all…

first of all, let me apologize for not updating my blog regularly enough.

I can come up with lots of excuse, but I’ll just say that life happened, and now I’m back in the field.

 

 

So… what’s happening lately?

For those who don’t know yet, I’ve been operating an online-based comic stored called Fiksilmiah In2scifi. It’s not that grand, and there only a few customers, but it is something I’ve been enjoying lately.

 

So right now, I’ll be dedicating my next few posts into the subject of very popular hero: Superman!

 

Action Comics 1000 logo

My recent resurgent obsession with Transformers

Who doesn’t know the Transformers? Those incredible transforming toys that are more than meets the eyes? Being a child of the 1980s, I grew up watching the old G1 (=Generation 1) cartoons. Although it may look a bit dorky by today’s standards, back then Transformers was just prerequisite TV show for kids. My dad even bought me a few G1 figures. There was Ramjet (a Decepticon plane), Afterburner (an Autobot Technobot motorcycle) who can join with Scattershot (the Technobot leader), and Chromedome (a Headmaster car). When I left the US, I brought some of them with me to Jakarta, but sadly none of them survived till today.

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I used to have this toy, but now it’s gone. Picture taken from TF Wiki

Imagine my delight to see two of my old robots toys, recently re-released in our local toy stores.

Anyway, some time ago I’ve started to introduce my six year old son to the Transformers franchise, starting with the kid-friendly Robots in Disguise animated series. My son really loves the animation style and storyline. So last month (in July) I bought him one of the cartoon’s hero, Bumblebee. Two years ago, I bought a Warrior-class Optimus Prime on sale in Singapore, and allowed Zach to play with him.

So there was Optimus and Bumblebee. With no villains to fight.

Then The Last Knight started to play in the cinemas. As gorgeous those Michael Bay films are, Zachary had no taste for that franchise. But funnily, The Robots in Disguise toyline were being refreshed with new waves of figures while the shelf warmers (the previous unsold toys) were being heavily discounted, from 20% off… later 30% off… even 50% off (which I bought a few) and ultimately, 70% off.

In total, I spent about a good amount of money buying more Decepticons and Autobots in the months of July and August. Was it worth it? Well, Zach really loves them and enjoy recreating episodes, and they’re better alternatives than playing with the electronic gadgets.

Happy New Year, and thoughts about 2016

Hi all. First of all, let me wish you all a Happy New Year. I don’t know what are your resolutions for 2017 are, but I hope you can accomplish them.

 

How are things in the sci-fi world? Well, last month I had the fortune to go to the cinema an watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I was immensely satisfied with it. There are so many good things about it, even though it simply based on a single paragraph from the original Star Wars (1977)’s opening crawl.

We also lost of good number of celebrities last year, including Anton Yelchin and much recently, Carrie Fisher (as well her mother, Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds). Many people were so disappointed with that year’s losses, that people keep hoping 2016 would past.

 

There are several sci-fi flicks that I haven’t watch, including Assassin’s Creed and Passengers. I hope I can spare time to watch them before they are off the cinemas for good.

 

 

 

The Encounter

Bowman jogged at a steady pace, His breathing was even and controlled, as were his steps and arms. His body temperature was warm enough for his muscles to perform what most civilians might consider a strenuous exercise, yet his body was not perspiring.

It was only sunrise at this side of Eterna Prime.  In the past two weeks since his arrival on the planet, Bowman is still adjusting to the 27 hours cycle per day. People in Eterna had a longer daily cycle and tend to be more relaxed compared to other inhabitants. Most people Bowman saw on running track were simply strolling, enjoying the nice cool morning air. Some were running along their dog, while others were calmly relaxed in this new start of the day… all enjoying the serenity, except one lone figure who was running very fast.

In the short few seconds where Bowman noticed the sprinting runner, few factual details came into his attention: the runner was running at least twice the pace Bowman was using, and was drenched in sweat. Second, the runner’s apparel was definitely designed to accommodate short distant runners: cool, light-weighted and enhancing the fact that the runner was female.

“Excuse me,” she said in a silvery voice. Bowman stepped aside to hi left without losing his pace, and glanced to the voice.

That’s one lady who really knows the joy of running Bowman thought to himself as she noticed the lady’s smile as she swiftly passed by and ran further away, into a curve and out of Bowman’s sight.

Bowman kept jogging at this pace and eventually circled back to the position where he started. It was later evident that Bowman didn’t want to jog any further when he passed a large display screen right next to the Recruiter’s Office. Usually the screen would display still images of statistics and public serve announcement, yet somehow Eterna’s Media Department has added a new spin.

“Bowman James. Scout. Explorer. Discoverer! He left his homeplanet at the age of 23. Twelve years later he has discovered forty nine planets and have expanded our Kingdom’s boundaries.”

Discover? I just explained to that interviewer that I don’t discover. I verify! Bowman thought angrily.

Even though he and his crew never discovered any habitable ones, Bowman continues to hope to discover one and join the annals of Kingdom Explorers! Bowman James. God Bless him and his crew as they embark on their next exploration journey! Bowman James. Scout. Explorer. Discoverer! Join the Interstellar Exploration Corps and make a new discovery! Contact the nearest Recruiter’s Office,” the media narrator said.

Twelve years in the Corps and I never really thought that I’ve discovered anything.

Bowman stopped still and sighed. It has been twenty five minutes since he started his jog, and he guessed his body had enough. He looked at the screen with disgust and wished he never accepted that interview weeks ago. His shuttlecraft barely landed at Eterna’s Space Terminal when Bowman received immediate orders to meet up with a Lieutenant Kelly Andrea of the Kingdom Media Network. Miss Andrea was waiting for him and quickly instructed him to follow her.

At first Bowman thought it was for a quick photo op for the recruitment posters and social media posts, which would make sense since recruitment in the Exploration Corps has been at its lowest in the past two centuries. Instead, Bowman was quickly ambushed and instructed to answer as truthfully and as diplomatically as possible. Of course, Bowman answered straightforwardly, yet still whoever was charge of the contents in Media managed to repackage and reinterpret his carefully selected choice of words.

“Some recruitment tool,” a nearby silvery female voice said.

Bowman was so lost in his thoughts that it didn’t visually register in his mind that the female runner who passed him moments ago was near him, stretching her limbs.

“Yeah,” Bowman commented sarcastically. “That guy must be some tool,” Bowman gestured to the Bowman James on the screen.

“I was referring to that advertisement segment,” she said. “I like how they utilized him to endorse space exploration. Not that many people are willing to go out there,” she raised her bare right arm pointing to the sky. Bowman noticed how toned and muscular her arms were, indication that she engages in some serious form of strength training.

“Are you a media specialist?” he asked her.

“Nah,” she replied. “My training is in nutritioun and physical therapy, but I’ve always wanted to travel to space.” The woman looked at the screen again as it displayed several planets and various space phenomenon that were visually stunning.

Bowman’s face was puzzled, as he tried to connect the dots between the woman’s physical appearance (which is very fit), her chosen profession(s), and her interest in space travel. Quite uncommon for an inhabitant of Eterna Prime. She giggled and extended her hand.

“Cassandra Mulian. Health Sciences,” she introduced herself, indicating her Service branch.

“Davidic James,” Bowman warmly replied, taking her hand. Her grip was firm and tight. “Just visiting, he added.”

“Nice to meet you, Captain James. How long will you be planetbound?”

“Prorbably another week ro two. My ship is being retrofitted and the rest of my crew are on shore leave. But I myself am so…”

“Anxious to get back out there?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t quite use the word anxious, but you’re pretty.” Cassandra smiled as Bowman paused and quickly continued,” Pretty right, I mean. I mean you’re right about me being anxious.”

Bowman felt strangely nervous around her… which was unusual for him. Cassandra knelt down to pick up her water bottle and towelette. She turned to him and said, “Captain, it’s been a real pleasure meeting you. I do have to get ready for work as my shift’s about to start. You can find me at the Medical Wing of the Space Complex.” She looked sincerely apologetic as if she very much enjoyed chatting with Bowman.

“No problem…, hmm… ma’am.” Bowman replied.\

“My friends call me Cassie,” she smiled as she quickly walked toward the door.

“Mine usually call me Bowman!” he almost shouted as Cassandra acknowledged him. “See you around, Captain Bowman.”

Contact! Encounter with Indonesian Comic Book Readers community (part two of two)

There are several fan communities existing in Indonesia.  Some of them can be quite specific (such as the Jakarta Saber, a group of Jakarta Star Wars fans who like to cosplay and do lightsaber fights), while others can be quite broad, such as the Indonesian Comic Book Readers.

Om Aji Widodo invited the Facebook group to meet up at a cafe in Jalan Bulungan, to chat and trade their comic collections. I was the second car to arrive after Om Aji, and he was very warm and welcoming. I met other traders and collectors, as well passersby who were curious about it.

Mr Aji explained to me to me in detail, how the American comic book fans started to gather together and acknowledge one another. Some people are blessed, others are very specific in what they like collect. One guy, for instance, specifically loves Golden Age Superman comics and anything related to Bizzaro (Superman’s defective clone). Another guy was so esctatic

 

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One of the interesting people I encountered was an alumni from Universitas Indonesia named Rama. He’s a psychology lecturer who also writes comics in a regular basis.

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Rama Reksoprodjo and Arvin posing together at the

Rama is the writer for several comics which are published by Skylar Comics. One of his comics is currently being developed as a motion picture which will be released later in September 2016.

 

Throughout the several hours I spent with them on that Sunday afternoon, the comic book fans have several peculiarities:

One has been collecting comics since he was young, and even at his age of 40+, he still collect them and store a huge amount of his collection at his parents’ house outside of Jakarta.

Another is married with children, and budget his expenses very carefully. He likes to collect good Spider-Man comics. The mainstream Marvel Universe Spider-Man, not the other variations. He works as a contractor in the construction industry.

One guy, as I mentioned before, specifically loves Golden Age Superman (that is the old 1930s-1950s Superman who was married to Lois Lane, until he died in the Infinite Crisis), as well comics that have Bizzaro.

Another guy works as an IT manager and has huge amount of collection. He also shared some personal information, which really struck a chord with me.

One lady who wears a hijab, loves Fables and comic book stories that tells human drama. Not really much into superheroes, but she enjoys Neil Gaiman’s.

It’s a real challenge to map out the broad range of comic book fans, but that meeting that day exposed me to huge plethora of information about the ones in Jakarta.