Saturday, March 12, 2011

From the Longbox: Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame

Comic Geek Speak is my comic podcast of choice, and each of the members of this great group have their own spin-off podcast, which means more content for my iPod - great!

One of the spin-offs is from Adam Murdough, known as Murd, titled Murd's Time Bubble. The conceit of this podcast is that Murd, who came to comic collecting relatively recently, has compiled this massive stack of back issues in his quest to "catch up" with the decades of history of this medium - and, in particular, the collective mythologies of DC and Marvel. And, he has piled up his comics in chronological order, so that he can read them in the manner in which they were published to get a better overall feel of the universes of DC and Marvel. And Murd is roughly ten years behind in his current comic reading (though he does dip into earlier books as well as current ones in order to add his own point of view to current episodes of CGS). Thus, Murd's Time Bubble was born, allowing Murd to discuss his "current" comics with the CGS audience, and allowing us to enjoy - or discover - some older books we hadn't considered for some time. It's a lot of fun.

Anwyay. The latest Time Bubble had Murd discussing Neil Gaiman's superhero story - Green Lanter/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame. This was a story that had been commissioned for the culmination of the year-long experiment of Action Comics Weekly back in the mid-80s, which was an attempt to do a weekly anthology book incorporating Superman (who had a two-page continuing strip drawn by Curt Swan each week) Green Lanter, the Blackhawks, Deadman, Phantom Stranger, and various other DC comics characters. After a year though, it was obvious the book was not selling well, and DC chose to return to the monthly iteration of Action Comics with Superman starring in the book.

But, they needed a final issue to tie up all the loose ends. So, Neil Gaiman - who was still a year away from debuting his revolutionary Sandman series - was tapped to write this issue, and Bob Schreck was fortunate enough to have that as his very first editorial assignment upon moving over to DC. Gaiman had fun writing the story and suggested Mark Buckingham - a then-unknown creator with whom Gaiman was collaborating on Miracleman for Eclipse - as artist. Things were all set to go, and then Mike Carlin, Superman editor at the time, read the script and realized that it did not work within the new DC continuity post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The main problem was that, in Gaiman's tale, Hal Jordan and Clark Kent were good friends and knew each other's secret identities. But, with the new DC reality, editorial had decided that too many people in the pre-Crisis DC continuity knew Superman's secret identity and they wished to change that. Thus, Hal Jordan could not know Clark Kent was Superman, and the main thrust of Gaiman's story - the reason that brought these two heroes together - was now unacceptable to the mandates of continuity. They asked Gaiman if he could change that portion of the story, but the rest of it did not work without that friendship and Gaiman politely declined. And the story went into the file cabinet. And the script was lost.

But, in 2000, with Gaiman a bona fide superstar in the comics field - and a New York Times best-selling author as well - it was thought that this story could finally be printed in a one-shot special. And so, after going through some hoops to find a copy of that original script, DC published Gaiman's Superman/Green Lantern with art by a who's who list of stellar talent:

Eddie Campbell
Mike Allred
Terry Austin
Mark Buckingham
John Totleben
Matt Wagner
Eric Shanower
Art Adams
Jim Aparo
Kevin Nowlan
Jason Little
with a cover from Frank Miller

I'd actually planned on discussing what was inside the book in this post, but I felt I've gone a bit long, so I will save that for next time. For now, just know that, if you enjoy Neil Gaiman's writing and like a good superhero story, this book is right up your alley - a modern comic tale with a Silver Age feel.

I'll be back tomorrow to discuss the actual story.


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