Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reign of the Supermen #249: Superman/Quex-Ul Mash-Up

Source: Phantom Zone #4 (1982)
Type: The real deal (since retconned)
At the end of the Phantom Zone mini-series, Superman and Charlie "Quex-Ul" Kweeskill (an exonerated and amnesiac Phantom Zone villain from 20 years prior) are trapped inside the crystalline mind of Aethyr the Oversoul, who creates the Zone with its mind. As they start to merge with the Oversoul, losing their identities, they somehow manage to squelch away to another corner of Aethyr's mind and get their costumes mixed up.
Superman's new "calendar" chest emblem doesn't do much for him, but Charlie is inspired to confront Aethyr...
...but is consumed in soul-devouring flames. Superman's costume flutters back down and Supes quickly changes back into his red and blues for round 2. Where Quex-Ul failed, he succeeds, escapes the Phantom Zone and returns all the escaped villains therein, that green monstrosity of a costume but a memory.

Now of course, the reason I chose to post this particular iteration of Superman is because we lost Gene Colan this week, and I was happy to find he had drawn a project that featured Superman in clothes other than his own. He was going to be 85 this September, and had been working in comics since the 40s. His work on Daredevil, Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck and Batman is probably what most fans will remember, or perhaps Night Force, Nathaniel Dusk, Jemm Son of Saturn or Silverblade. Either way, his art looks like no one else's. A true original, there's something incredibly sinister and creepy about it that made it the perfect match for Wolfman's Code-approved horror books and Gerber's weirdness, two name two writers he often worked with. What makes Colan Colan? The last panel I posted above is a good ambassador for it, I think. Characters are defined not by linework, but by where shadows fall on them. Lighting schemes akin to putting a flashlight under your chin. There's an unfinished quality to contours that dissipate into mist. Strange panel shapes giving the reader a feeling of sustained anxiety. But most of all, that "dead eye" he often gives faces. Sometimes dwindling to a point like Aethyr's here, sometimes simply blank and pupiless, sometimes completely in shadow. He was a master of fear and I wish I'd appreciated him more when I was a kid, but I was so dang SPOOKED by the art, I probably didn't.

Heaven's relaunching Howard the Duck, I hear. Hope the angels can stand it.


rob! said...

R.I.P. Gene Colan!

Martin Gray said...

Very nice talk-through of essential Gene Colan. And I loved the Phantom Zone series, it's so weird that it's never been reprinted.

Siskoid said...

Reprinting the back catalog in trade is a post-Crisis kind of thing, so likely an out of continuity tale like this, somewhat obscure even in its day, was never put on the docket. Perhaps posthumous interest in Colan's work will make someone dig it out of the archives.

Anonymous said...

The Phantom Zone mini was in continuity. Or so I always thought.

I re-read this recently ( I bought them as a kid when they first came out) and the story holds up. Its easily one of my favorite pre Crisis Superman stories.

I believe the last DCCP wrapped up the storyline.

Siskoid said...

In pre-Crisis continuity yes. And that was, what, five continuities ago?