Thursday, July 05, 2012

Twilight of the Super Heroes

Now this post is not about DC´s recent campaign to destroy everything they have created the last 75 years or so with the NEW 52. It´s depressing enough to what lengths a publisher can go just to not pay royalties to the heirs of the creator of a certain man of steel.

That´s not to say that all new DC books are bad, which would be very hypocritical since I´m enjoying AQUAMAN, WONDER WOMAN, ACTION COMICS and to a lesser extent RESURRECTION MAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, the latter because they really didn´t benefit from the relaunch and would have worked better as a continuation of their previous incarnation.

Especially with JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL they were comin from a kick - ass story in which the whole team had gone trough the fire and really came together as a team. Almost every member, no matter how boring or uninteresting they were written before gained big points in the character departement and even Captain Atom had some depth. And to throw all that away really hasn´t helped. I mean I´m not surprised the series is cancelled with issue 12. It´s true, I would have liked to read it longer even being the mishappen abomination this book turned into but the whole reason for this reboot seems to be the Benjamins so DC cut its losses. But like I said, that´s not what I´m writing about Today.

It also isn´t about Alan Moore´s nixed DC project that was supposed to be a follow - up to WATCHMEN, Deborah Eisenberg´s short story collection of the same name ( which I´m not sure if it has to do anything with superheroes at all ) or the superhero version of that awful vampire saga that will not be mentioned. No this post is about RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES from Black Tower Comics, written, drawn and inked by Terry Hooper Scharf. I know you expected the next part of my Erlangen convention diary or - finally - the next chapter of my Moebius series since I promised to add at least one more post covering the INCAL series and I have already re - read all the INCAL books by Moebius I have or at least could find.

So far I couldn´t read the continuation but maybe that will be a seperate post. Well, most definitely a separate post. So as usual there are a lot of other things I could write about but Today´s topic is a bit more urgent since it also has a special offer with a time limit. So the sooner this is posted the better, but more about that later.


Now I thought I had already written something about RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES when I did the post about D - GRUPPE but it seems I only mentioned it. My bad.

What I do remember is that I said it´s good I didn´t review the BLACK TOWER ADVENTURES issues 1 and 2 before doing the post on D - GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST. You see, RETURN OF THE GODS ( it is shorter than TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES although that motif pops up even more in modern pop culture, well in cultures in general ) was first published in six parts in the BLACK TOWER ADVENTURES series, but it takes place after the events of D - GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST. So now we are kind of in the chronological order.

RETURN OF THE GODS ( I just love the logo font on page 4 ) is a new 197 page paperback reprinting the complete saga that combines several storylines into one big event. If this was published by DC, Marvel or any other of the bigger comic companies it would be one of those big summer crossovers with a gazillion spin off books to rack in the comicbuyers hard earned samolians. ( Yes, I´m watching the third season of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD right now and it´s starting to rub off, so sue me. ) Instead you have the complete story in one paperback with 5 new pages all for the price of less than 11 EUROS. Which is a real steal for an albumsized black and white comic with almost 200 pages.

Now the question is, after ZEIT GEIST which was the big Infinite Crisis of Parallel Earths of the Black Tower universe - how can one possibly top that ? We had heroes from all german parallel universes uniting against a common threat and you really have to up the ante to go one step further.

In come the gods.

Now this idea is not the most original because everybody does that from DC with the WAR OF THE GODS crossover or the NEW GODS comics to Marvel´s various Greek, Norse, Celtic or Egyptian phanteons fighting with / against the superheroes who themselves are seen by some of new versions of the gods. There is even the current storyline MAYAN RULE in the HULK books written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Dale Eaglesham in which El Toro Rojo ( or Red Hulk as the gringos call him ) teams up with everyone´s favorite Canadian unkillable ( at least in the long term ) superhero team Alpha Flight against the returning old Mayan gods.

Everybody loves a good superhero vs gods / new gods vs old gods / good gods vs evil gods slobberknocker. Since some scholars say that Todays superhero comics are the sagas of the gods of the modern age it´s only natural to have the modern gods fight against the older gods. Especially when you have so many of the more popular gods like Odin, Thor, Herkules, Zeus, Pluto or Aphrodite in the pages of the comics anyway. Throughout pop culture and also practically in every culture there are stories of gods battling each other and one or two endtimes of the gods no matter if it´s called Armageddon or Götterdämmerung. It´s also one of the oldest genres of horror books, novels or comics, the old dark gods returning which was forever made immortal by horror icon Howard Phillip Lovecraft and his stories about the Necronomicon and Chtulu.


In our story heroes around the world disappear after being chased by glowing orange spheres - the world believes them dead but they have actually been transported to a huge walled city on a dimensional plane. The home of the gods.

Unknown to the heroes, they are pawns in a game by the gods to use them to fight of the return of the Ancient Old Gods. Of course it´s not as easy or else it wouldn´t be a Black Tower Comic so, just to add another wrinkle to it, while a big part of Earth´s heroes have been transported away an alien invasion is taking place and the remaining heroes have to fight this off. The hero community as well as world governments find their resources stretched on several fronts. Join BTCGs Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Singaporean, British and other international heroes where heroes DO die and death is final.

And oh boy, is it ever. Like SAVAGE DRAGON on steroids heroes are killed off left and right and I think the final bodycount is a few times that of the original SQUADRON SUPREME miniseries.

Which shocked me a bit because in this story you know they are not coming back and you wish you had gotten to know those heroes a bit better. Here death means something and will not be retconned in a few months or is just used to streamline continuity before the next reboot, here it all works together to tell one heck of a story and there´s no parachute under the seat. I mean on one side it is hard to see this many heroes kick the bucket and you wish there was a way to bring some of them back. On the other side I have to applaud the guts to not take the easy way out and make it a dream or have some allmighty entity bring everything back to the old Status Quo. And I think it´s a better story because in the end a lot of the heroes pay the ultimate price.

Of course there are also some funny parts in this and one of the things that has always been a mainstay of such big crossover events from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS to SECRET WARS is the sheer number of heroes especially heroes you don´t know. I mean, the exciting parts were not to see the heroes you were familiar with but those heroes with the cool costume, the freaky superpowers and the weird backstory you just wanted to find out more about. And in that departement Terry Hooper surely delivers since you´re probably unfamiliar with most of the characters to which he adds his usual cosmopolitical input.

If it was a joy to read so many German superheroes in ZEIT GEIST here Terry Hooper has heroes from India, China, Russia, America, England, Afrika, heck, every part of the world. And he seems to create them effortlessly, which for me has always been the sign of true genius. Like we would say in Spain : Chupate esto, NEW 52.

Like I said in my review of D - GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST, the art may not be to everyones liking ( one of my brothers was very surprised to find me reading it ) but Terry Hooper manages to evoke the feeling of Silver Age heroes whose roots lie more in the pulp genre like the great classics without resorting to silly stereotypes or parody. If there´s one thing I wanted to critique is that on some pages Terry should be a bit bolder using blacks. Otherwise the art reminds me of the comics from the Golden Age which sometimes were drawn a bit crude ( you have to remember that a lot of the professional artists were drafted ) but still had a lot of energy and excitement. Which is one of the reasons why I´m recommending this book : excitement. When was the last time you read a comic that was exciting and all over the place and pure fun ?

I´m going out on a limb here but I think Terry just put everything he liked reading about in comics into this story. Otherwise I can´t explain the Tohuwabohu of comic characters and concepts in this one. You have the old gods, which are kind of Chtululike monsters with the necessary number of tentacle appendixes, you have the " regular " gods which include gods from every pantheon, Mayan, Egyptian, Greek, heck even Monkey King is in it. And then - on top of that - you have all the heroes which are all kind of pulp heroes, super heroes and teen heroes you could think of. Some reminded me of the heroes I read about in KOBRA like Mr. Arachnia who looks a lot like The Spider or Mark 13 who could be the next model of Archie, others seemed to be inspired by american heroes but all were kind of familiar yet different.

There are also different cultures fighting against each other for the amusement of the gods, so you have Romans fighting Mayans, Christians fighting Indians, Babylonians against Sumerers etc. Not to mention robots, cavemen, aliens, cowboys, goblins, vampires, zombies, talking apes, walking skeletons, Sasquatch, Gilgamesh, Merlin and even the monster of Frankenstein.

And of course there´s a second encounter with german heroes like Rotkäppchen ( Little Red Riding Hood never looked so hot in the Fairy Tale books I read as a kid ), Deutscher Michel, Kopfmann and Goldener Soldat from D - Gruppe. I still get a kick out of seeing german superheroes in a comic, since they killed off german X - Man Kurt Wagner. By the way, best clobbering of a god goes to The Hornet in the garden with a lead pipe.

You have also factor in that RETURN OF THE GODS started out as " The Cosmic Fulcrum " in about 1992, had various artists, stopped, started and the finished item was drawn in 2002 by Terry himself. So the art reflects that. Which is not to say there is not some very elaborate sideway splashpage depictions of the various armies from different timeperiods going at it or any of the superhero teams charging. Or, one of my favorite splash gages, the magician ( I can´t find his name right now ) floating upside down in his sanctum sanctorum / shop with shelf upon shelf of stuff behind him. You can see case files, books about other Earths, Dr. Mabuse, Alice´s adventures in Wonderland and on parallel Earths, a book about Adam Eterno by a certain Terry Hooper, Big Jugs ( probably a book about drinking vessels ) various occult books, maps, tapes and magazines. There are even various bottles with ingidients for magic rituals labeled " eye of Newt ", " horse testicles ", " tongue of toad ", " wings of Beetle " and " Not sure ! ".

Now RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES will be available for the special price of 10.79 EUROS for readers of TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN until the end of July which is Mr. Hooper´s special discount for german readers - at least until he finds a german publisher. Naturally we´re talking about a bottom line profit margin here, so if you can DO order more than one copy. I know how that sounds but I do this myself for some books like HARTMUT where I know I´m going to give at least one copy away as a present. And to this day I´m still p - worded that I got none of the german FLASH print on demand copies I ordered. That would have been some cool gift you can´t get anywhere else.

As a special offer and additional enticement for buying the book Terry Hooper will do a signed A4 illo ( german readers know what size this is ) of your favorite character from the book, you just have to send a picture of yourself with the book or a copy of the order invoice. Also don´t forget to send the name of the character you want, you wouldn´t believe how many people forget that at the last minute.

You can see some of the original pages here but remember, the pages have been redrawn for the paperback and look much better in print than in this version. And here are the links to order RETURN OF THE GODS from Lulu and of course order other books by Terry Hooper from Lulu .

I´m also including the following links which, to tell the truth, were not essential to make the post but I think they might interest some of my readers. At least the ones who want to know what those other TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES stuff was I mentioned at the beginning.

Deborah Eisenberg´s TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES review

Alan Moore´s unproduced TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES project

another really long post about Alan Moore´s story

And after so much about gloom, doom, superheroes and gods it´s back to us mere mortals in our next post which will hopefully be the next installment of my Erlangen convention diary.

Since the video in my last post was for Marvel´s AVENGERS - EARTH`S MIGHTIEST HEROES cartoon I thought I should give equal opportunity to their Distinguished Competition.

A few weeks ago I started re - watching my episodes of YOUNG JUSTICE which I then followed with the new episodes and I have since then caught up with the new season YOUNG JUSTICE - INVASION. It takes place 5 years after the finale of the first season and there are a lot of changes on the team roster like Robin finally becoming Nightwing. The story is about what happened in the 16 hours that the Justice Leaguers were under Vandal Savage´s control at the end of the first season. As usual, it´s all very well done and one of the things I really like about the series is that it brings such often unused characters like Wotan, Atomic Skull and Jack Kirby´s Forever People into the story.

I already posted the clip for the pilot episode so here´s the trailer for the new season. By the way, if you wonder why it´s called YOUNG JUSTICE instead of TEENM TITANS when it´s so obvious that it´s Teen Titans : you would also try to avoid people mistaking it for that godawful TEEN TITANS cartoon. You would probably go as far as calling it SUPER FRIENDS RELOADED if YOUNG JUSTICE would have been already taken.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

I understand that, but Frank Sinatra gave me that shirt !


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

THANKS for the review! Never realised there were other Twilight of the Super Heroes!!! Why is there SO MUCH in it? Well, I thought that if I was going to do this book I would make it like a British weekly comic but then realised it was easier to publish each part seperately in Adventure. So I decided to make it something packed much as possible! If someone buys a book of mine I want to make sure they get their money's worth! My brother read the whole book and said it worked better than in parts!!
Again, thank you

SUBZERO said...

That´s what I thought. I mean, with DC or Marvel where everything is retconned and death only lasts for five or six issues ( and in the case of Winter Soldier even that was a stretch ) they can put what they want in it.

If they screw up and the readers don´t like it they just nixx it and try again.

But if you are a smaller publisher and death is not a revolving door you just have one go at it.

So you have to make it count, you want to tell the best possible story and you want to include everything even the kitchen sink. It has to be big, it has to be bold - in one word : epic. And I think RETURN OF THE GODS succeeds in that category. Even if you are a first time BLACK TOWER COMICS reader who is not familiar with any of the heroes you get a good sense of how universe shattering the saga is.

And yes, I also think that it read very good in one volume.

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Thanks. Oh, and tell your brother that NOT reading D-Gruppe is just what the terrorists want!! :-))

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Sorry, I ought to explain. There is a standard joke now what with all the terrorist paranoia and "patriotism" crap. So you get jokes like "Lower the price of petrol? THAT'S what the terrorists want!" or during a family arguement:"We must not argue -that's what the terrorists want!" so you can add that to anything really "You're complaining about the bad weather -that's what the terrorists want!" So, you don't buy and read my books -that's what the terrorists want! Not sure if the humour translates from English sarcastic humour or not.

SUBZERO said...

Okay, I wasn´t sure if that was the joke. But don´t worry, I still haven´t finished the post yet.

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

oh, upside-dowm sorceror is Wladyczec -vla-dee-check!