DCU by Grant Morrison: Superman in Excelsis

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SUPERMAN IN EXCELSISS I S L E C X E N I N SU PER M AOriginally published in single magazine form in S U P E R M A NA L L- S TA R S U P E R M A N 1-12 ,and A C T I O…
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SUPERMAN IN EXCELSISS I S L E C X E N I N SU PER M AOriginally published in single magazine form in S U P E R M A NA L L- S TA R S U P E R M A N 1-12 ,and A C T I O NU K A N N U A L 19 8 6 , C O M I C S ( V O L . 2 ) 0 -18script artcolorletterscoversGRANT MORRISONI SHOLLY FISHBARRY KITSON I JEFF ANDERSON I Frank Quitely I Rags Morales Rick Bryant I Brent Anderson I Gene Ha I Sean Parsons Brad Walker I Bob McLeod I Andy Kubert I Chris Cross Jesse Delperdang I John Dell III I CAFU I Drew Hennessy Travel Foreman I Mark Propst I Cam Smith I Ben Oliver Cully Hamner I Chris Sprouse I Karl Story Jamie Grant I Brad Anderson I Alex Sinclair I Art Lyon I JOE RIVERA Nathan Fairbairn I David Curiel I José Villarrubia I Paul Mounts Rachel Dodson I Brian Reber I Jay David Ramos I Jordie Bellaire Val Staples I Gabriel Eltaeb I Jason Keith I Dave McCaig Phil Balsman I Travis Lanham I Steve Wands I Dezi Sienty Pat Brosseau I Charlie Mangual I Taylor Esposito Frank Quitely I Neal Adams I Giuseppe Camuncoli I Rags Morales Chris Burnham I Gary Frank I Andy Kubert I Joe Prado I Bryan Hitch Jim Lee I Scott Williams I Ethan Van Sciver I Gene Ha I Mike Choi Cully Hamner I Cliff Chiang I Steve Skroce I Fiona Staples Pasqual Ferry I Terry Dodson I PAOLO RIVERA I Ben Oliver Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.O S GOOD P E A B ODY ’S BIG GR EEN DR E A M M ACHINE SS U P E R M A N A N N U A L 19 8 6 ( U K )A L L-S TA R S UP ER M A NTFA S T E R // S U P E R M A N ’ S F O R B I D D E N R O O M // S W E E T D R E A M S , S U P E R W O M A N // T H E S U P E R M A N / O L S E N WA R ! // T H E G O S P E L A C C O R D I N G T O L E X L U T H O R // F U N E R A L I N S M A L LV I L L E // B E I N G B I Z A R R O // U S D O O P P O S I T E // C U R S E O F T H E R E P L A C E M E N T S U P E R M E N // N E V E R E N D I N G // R E D S U N D AY// S U P E R M A N I N E XC E L S I S A L L- S TA R S U P E R M A N 1-12BEHIND T HE S CENE SNB Y M O R R I S O N A N D Q U I T E LYNO T IME T O L O SE // IN T RODUCING A L L-S TA R S UP ER M A N // NE V ER ONE BE T T ER I N T R O D U C T I O N S B Y C H I P K I D D , B O B S C H R E C K A N D M A R K WA I DA L L-S TA R MEMOR IE SEINTERVIEW WITH GRANT MORRISONAC T ION C OMIC S: T HE GR A N T MOR R IS ON EDI T ION A R E V I E W/ R E T R O S P E C T I V E B Y L A U R A S N E D D O NNTAC T ION C OMIC S S U P E R M A N V E R S U S T H E C I T Y O F T O M O R R O W// I N C H A I N S // W O R L D A G A I N S T S U P E R M A N // S U P E R M A N A N D T H E M E N O F S T E E L S U P E R M A N ’ S D O O M S D AY D E C I S I O N // S U P E R M A N M E E T S T H E C O L L E C T O R O F W O R L D S // R O C K E T S O N G // W H E N S U P E R M A N L E A R N E D T O F LY// T H E C U R S E O F S U P E R M A N // B U L L E T P R O O F// N E W S E C R E T I D E N T I T Y// R E T U R N O F T H E F O R G O T T E N S U P E R M A N // T H E G H O S T I N T H E F O R T R E S S O F S O L I T U D E // S U P E R M A N’ S M I S S I O N T O M A R S // T H E E N D O F D AY S // T H E S E C O N D D E AT H O F S U P E R M A N ! // S U P E R M A N A N D T H E F I E N D F R O M D I M E N S I O N 5 // S U P E R M A N ’ S L A S T S TA N D // T H E B O Y W H O S T O L E S U P E R M A N’ S C A P E A C T I O N C O M I C S 1- 4 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 7- 8 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 5 - 6 // A C T I O N C O M I C S 9 -18 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 0A C T ION C OMIC S B A CK-UP A D V EN T UR E SOH E A R T S O F S T E E L // M E A N W H I L E . . . // B A B Y S T E P S // L A S T D AY// E X E C U T I V E P O W E R //A B S E N T F R I E N D S // C L O T H E S E N C O U N T E R // O R I G I N O F T H E S P E C I E S //A B O Y A N D H I S D O G // S TA R L I G H T, S TA R B R I G H T// F O R M Y N E X T T R I C K ... // F U T U R E T E N S E // G O O D B Y E // N E V E R - E N D I N G B AT T L E A C T I O N C O M I C S 4 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 7 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 5 - 6 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 9 -11 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 0 //A C T I O N C O M I C S 13 -18T HE A C T ION C OMIC S E X I T IN T ERV IE W// MOR R IS ON ON T HE END OF HIS AC T ION C OMIC S RUN CINTERVIEWS WITH GRANT MORRISONS UP ER M A N NO W A P L A N T O R E V I TA L I Z E T H E S U P E R M A N F R A N C H I S E F O R T H E N E W M I L L E N I U MOSGOD PEABODY’S BIG GREEN DREAM MACHINE Published originally in SUPERMAN ANNUAL 1986 (UK) art by Barry Kitson and Jeff AndersonSuperman may look tough”, Carver Goodman said. “But when all’s said and done, muscle is all he has”. Five of the men who sat around the circular table in the hidden room nodded and muttered agreement. They were representatives of the world’s major crime syndicates and they were still wondering why Goodman had asked them here. The sixth man, small, elderly and bespectacled, was an inventor. His name was Osgood Peabody and his latest creation was a final attempt to win for himself a few pages in history books. “Think!”, Goodman was saying. “ What chance have we against Superman’s superior physical abilities? I’ll tell you”. He chopped the air with one hand. “Not a snowball’s chance in hell! Let ’s face it – he can outrace light beams; a thermonuclear weapon going off in his face wouldn’t even give him a suntan. Why, if he had to shave he could use a combine harvester and still blunt the blades! I’m sure I don’t have to remind you gentlemen that if somewhat could be found to ‘retire’ Superman permanently, we would be free to go about out unlawful business with a little more chance of success!” The representatives of organized crime nodded again. Osgood Peabody sat, still as a store dummy, awaiting his cue. “So, to that end I’d like to introduce Mr. Peabody here”. Goodman gestured grandly to Osgood. “Mr. Peabody believes that we have all been making a mistake. He believes that if Superman DOES have a weakness we can exploit, it will not be a physical weakness but a mental one! Superman’s body may be inhumanly powerful but how different are the workings of his brain to those of a human? Perhaps he has some hidden fear, some complex or deep-seated anxiety that can be rooted and used to destroy him! Mr. Peabody” ? Osgood sprang to his feet like a startled mouse and began his carefully rehearsed speech. “Gentlemen”, he said. “I-I have invented a machine which will tap directly into Superman’s dreams, revealing to us the inner processes of his mind. I give you...” Impressed, the representatives of organized crime watched as Osgood unveiled his invention. “The Dream Machine!” There was a stunned silence. “Does it have to be... that COLOUR? ”, one man ventured finally. The Dream Machine was green; a livid unhealthy green that glared and glittered and offended the eye. “Yes”, Osgood said firmly, ending all argument as he threw a sequence of switches. With a hush, the monitor screed phased into life. “If Superman has a phobia or a guilty secret, we will find it. In the privacy of his dreams will be found the key to the Man of Steel’s d-destruction”, said Osgood as he tuned the machine. He was starting to forget his carefully planned speech in his excitement. “You s-see, I managed to plant a microtransmitter in Superman’s costume at yesterday’s Charity Display in Metropolis Park ”.“ Where exactly did you place this... uh, transmitter, Mr. Peabody?, one man asked, with a shade of doubt in his voice. “On Superman’s costume”, Osgood said again. The other man looked to his colleagues then back to Osgood and said scornfully, “And what makes you think Superman sleeps in his costume? So you sleep in your lab coat? ” Osgood was offended. “As a matter of fact, I do!”, he snapped”. “And remember, Superman is on call 24 hours a day. Why should he take off his uniform? He’s invulnerable! He doesn’t sweat!” Carver Goodman stopped Osgood with a wave of his hand. “Let ’s not be too quick to judge Mr. Peabody until we’ve seen what his machine can do, eh gentlemen? ” “Thank you, Mr. Goodman”, said Osgood smugly. “Now all we have to do is wait for Superman to fall asleep”. And so they waited. An hour passed, then two. Then another. During this time the representatives of organized crime gleefully discussed the advantages of a world without Superman. “Didn’t I say I always bring good luck? ”, said Larry ‘Lucky’ Lepke, waving the wishbone which gave him his nickname. Then, at three thirty a.m. Osgood Peabody spoke. “Look!”, he said, “The Machine!”. The monitor screen swam with twisting shapeless patterns. “You see!”, Osgood cackled. “Enormous alpha wave activity! Superman is asleep!” “You’re sure-a this is Superman? ”, asked a man with a thick Italian accent.“Of course! Who else could have such powerful brainwaves? This no normal human’s output. Ah, he’s entering deep sleep rapidly – loss of muscle tension, increasing delta wave activity, rapid eye movement... Superman has begun to dream!” And at that, the pictures began also. “Incredible”, whispered Goodman. “Incredible!” The red and blue blur on the monitor screen focused into the powerful figure of Superman racing through a cloudbank at twice the speed of sound. “ What ’s-a he doing? ”, said the Italian. Peabody thought for a moment. “H-he’s building up an electrical charge in the clouds – creating a thunderstorm”. As Superman wove among the clouds, lighting began to flicker around his body. There was a sharp fusillade of thunder, then rain started to fall. “You see!”, Osmond cried excitedly. “Rain! Superman is dreaming about bringing rain to drought areas”. This scene was replaced by another; Superman striding proudly through crowds of cheering natives. This in its turn was replaced by another, more startling image.“Bones? ”, Goodman gaped. For several seconds the screen was filled with bones; hundreds of bones – a landscape of bones of every shape and size. Then Superman appeared again. “ What were those bones? ”, Goodman demanded”. “ Very curious”, mused Osgood. “Perhaps we’ve hit on something”. On the screen Superman was now hurtling through deep space in pursuit of an enormous rogue meteor. “Doesn’t he dream of anything but himself? ”, Goodman said with disgust. The eyes of the dream Superman lit up red and two fine beams of heat vision struck the huge chunk of space debris. Almost instantly the cold rock began to glow and liquef y. Under the incredible temperatures of Superman’s gaze, the meteor turned first to a whirling mass of molted minerals and then to harmless vapour. The scene wavered once more and then the bones were back. Strange skeletons stretched for miles like a crazy graveyard for monsters. “Bones again!” “Perhaps we’ve found an obsession! A secret fear!”, Osgood theorized. The image of the bones broke and scattered and Superman was back, flying triumphantly through a mauve alien sky. “ What a bighead”, said the London representative of organized crime. “He does seem to have a rather inflated self-image”, Osgood agreed. “But it ’s the bones that interest me”. And as if in answer, the bones appeared again. There were ribcages as big as aircraft, dinosaur skulls the size of trucks and thighbones as tall and thick as oaks. “Superman”, Osgood said simply, “is in need of psychiatric help. The man’s positively obsessed with bones”. “ What can it mean? ”, Goodman asked. “Have we found his weakness? ” “Perhaps”, said Osgood. “Perhaps bones make him think of death. Perhaps he’s afraid of death”. “But Superman can’t die...” someone objected. “ Well... that ’s why he’s afraid of it ”, Osgood argued. No-one quite understood this but since Osgood was the scientist, no one was willing to contradict him. “So you think we could use bones to terrif y Superman into submission? ”, Carver asked. “It looks that way”, Osgood said. “Right!” Goodman picked up the phone and dialed a secret number. “Supply division? Goodman here”, he said. “I need bones. Lots of bones... Yes, that ’s what I said. Bones. As many as you can get... No, it ’s not a joke. I want every man you’ve got on this one... Just arrange it ”. He cradled the receiver and looked at the expectant faces of the representatives of organized crime.“That ”, said Superman, looking at the bright colouring of the machine, “is an eyesore”. He pursed his lips and blew a stream of frozen air at the machine. Instantly it was encased in thick ice. “Shall we go? ” “How? ”, Osgood moaned, as Superman led them out of the hidden room. “ Where did I go wrong? ” Superman smiled. “It was the transmitter you planted. With my super-hearing I couldn’t miss the signal it was sending back to your machine. I simply followed that signal here”. “But the dreams...!”, Osgood wailed. “I clipped your dream transmitter onto someone else”, Superman told him. “But those were s-super brainwaves I was picking up? W-who else could it be but you? Who in their right mind would dream about bones? ” Superman’s smile broadened. “Those were super brainwaves, Peabody. You see, I left the transmitter with a very good friend and admired of mine. A friend who’s very keen on bones and is sleeping in my Fortress of Solitude right now”. “Soon Superman will be in our power, betrayed by his own subconscious mind!” On the screen, Superman was blowing out a sun which was about to go nova and threaten a neighboring solar system. Suddenly the scene shifted and the screen of the green dream machine was filled with the biggest bone any of them had seen. It was at least six stories high and it lay in a huge pit into which tons of earth were being shoveled. “He’s trying to bury it! He’s bone that he’s trying to bury his subconscious!”, Goodman with his own psychoanalyticalso afraid of the it out of sight of gasped, pleased insight.“That ’s right!”, Osgood said. “ We’ve got him!” He was ready to say more but at that moment the steel door to the hidden room bent inward, as though it was made of soft plastic. “ What...? ”, Goodman began. The door’s massive hinges sprung and snapped. It bulged, burst and fell. And Superman stood behind it. “Morning, gentlemen”, said the Man of Steel. “Sorry to interrupt the matinee...” Before Superman could finish, ‘Lucky’ Lepke leapt from his chair, shouting, “I’ll stop him!”. Brandishing his luchy wishbone, Lepke advanced on Superman. “You’ve made a real mistake, big guy”. Lepke sneered. “ We know how to stop you!” Superman looked down at the bone. Then he reached out and took hold of it. “Make a wish”, he said and lightly flipped Lepke across the room. “I’m really going to have to break this meeting up...”, Superman said. “I don’t get it ”, Goodman said, confused. “If you’re here, then what ’s that? ” The dream machine’s monitor was still busy with images.“ Who? ”, cried Osgood desperately. “ Who? ” And this time Superman started to laugh. “It was my dog Krypto”, he said. “Krypto the Superdog”. And as Superman led Osgood and the others away, the air rang with the sound of laughter. THE ENDTHE ENDNO TIME TO LOSE p u b l i s h e d o r i g i n a l l y i n t h e D C N AT I O N B L O GA journey into the heart of the Sun. A devastating diagnosis. A kiss on the Moon. Twelve mythic labors. The ultimate sacrifice. Superman.What if The Man of Steel were dying? Really, truly dying – and not in the rock’em-sock’em Doomsday fight-to-the-death manner – but slowly and privately, as you or I might, from what amounts to a fatal cancer. What does the most powerful being on the planet do with the precious little time he has left? This is the question that master comics writer Grant Morrison, illustrator Frank Quitely and digital artist Jamie Grant explore in this book. And the unforgettable answer is glorious four-color proof that with enough talent, skill and ingenuity even one of the most familiar and endlessly chronicled folk heroes of the last seven decades can be reinvented to make readers fall in love with him and his world all over again. And yet “reinvent” really isn’t the right term. Yes, all of the familiar tropes (along with the obscure, delightfully geeky ones) are here: The Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Bizarro, Ma and Pa Kent, the Fortress of Solitude, Krypto the Superdog, and of course, the fiendish Lex Luthor. But here they seem reawakened, as if Morrison and Co. have somehow snapped their fingers and presto: all of the characters are now the very essence of what makes them great, without becoming clichés. Perry, every bit the crank, is also the epitome of integrity in journalism; Jimmy is a goofball, but nonetheless a paragon of loyalty, enthusiasm and especially quick think-ing; Lois is as independent and unattainable to Clark as ever, but as Superman’s girlfriend she’s living proof that Wonder Woman doesn’t stand a chance. And Lex is pure evil, but with great swaggering style and a thoroughly reasoned rationale for what he’s doing—we don’t really root for him, but we understand all too well where he’s coming from. And then there is the book’s original creation, Professor Leo Quintum. With his P.R.O.J.E.C.T.S. laboratory complex on the moon, he is the comics’ Silver Age incarnate, his intellect exploding with science-fictional inventions such as the Anaerobic Meganthropes, Nanonauts and the Infinitesimal Yoctosphere. Leo is the Virgil to Superman’s Dante, his guide to the fatal underworld of Apoptosis (solar radiation poisoning) he now inhabits. For it is in saving Leo’s manned mission to the sun at the very start of the story that all that follows is set in motion. Much has already been written about the work you hold in your hands, and certainly there will be more. Chapter (issue) ten alone is worthy of a doctoral Lit thesis on narrative construction and causal connectivity in fiction. The entire series is so carefully constructed that even after dozens of readings I still find new connections that I hadn’t noticed – for example, Superman casually refers to something in panel one of page 21 of issue two that’s actually incredibly important and isn’t mentioned again until panel three of page 12, issue 12, and with devastating effect.Some more of my favorite details: • When at rest, Superman’s spit-curl makes a perfect “S” shape to complement his chest symbol.• In the first chapter, when Professor Quintum’s assistant Agatha the Sensitive places her hand on Superman’s forehead to read his DNA, she swoons: “Oh, it’s like Bach.”• In the Bizarro World (a cube!), the continents and oceans are reversed from ours, and backward (hold pages TK and TK up to a mirror to see it). Very cool.• More than once, Clark’s glasses are knocked off his face, but because of the way he’s altered his posture and bearing, he’s not exposed as Superman. Not even to Lex Luthor! (The mere fact that I’m giving the credit to Clark and not Frank Quitely is yet another testament to Mr. Quitely’s extraordinary talent).• And, of course, the already legendary moment at the end of Chapter Ten when Superman creates – wait for it – Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, so that they in turn can create him here on our Earth Q.So, what does it say that this treatment of one of the most iconic of American myths is the product of three, ahem, Scotsmen? Perhaps it’s some sort of Pict Bizarro coincidence, but it’s also tempting to posit that Glaswegians seem keenly equipped to make one fully appreciate and render the Man of Steel. Or more to the point: sometimes it takes an outsider to fully appreciate what we have in our own back yard. Morrison has said that his Superman is a metaphor for America at its best. He is the embodiment of basic human goodness despite the fact (or perhaps because of it?) that he isn’t even human. So: outsiders to America apply their talents to an American icon who is an outsider to Earth. At this point I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that the truly extraordinary thing about this story of Superman’s mortality is that at the end of it... he dies. True, there is the promise of a second coming, but the Kal-El we have known and loved is gone. But that can’t be, can it? Finishing the last issue, what I suddenly rea
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