Friday, May 02, 2008

Target: Superman (DC/Kenner)
Target: Superman #1 When: 1995
Why: Dan Jurgens How: Dan Jurgens

The Story So Far...
With the planet Krypton on the brink of destruction; scientist, Jor-El, defies the wishes of his superiors to bundle his only son into a spacepod. The craft carried the infant to the distant planet of Earth, leaving the technologically advanced planet to it's self-made doom.

Discovered by humble farmers, young Kal-El was rechristened "Clark Kent" and raised as if he were the Kent's own son -- even though prolonged exposure to Earth's yellow sun was reacting with his Kryptonian DNA to transform him into an unstoppable dynamo! With the values taught to him, Superman becomes Earth's greatest protector against any evils that should invade his adopted home!

The legend of the last son of Krypton would come to spread throughout the galaxy, making this protector a beacon for intergalactic menace. Many an extra terrestrial would come to seek Superman as a trophee of conquest, but so to would many know the strength of the Man of Steel! When a chance meeting leads to an unlikely defeat, Massacre becomes the latest in the long list of warriors to seek glory in battle with Superman -- and he'll destroy Metropolis to get it!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Barry KitsonARTWORK: Jim LeeStrength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Massacre 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Draw 5 (Lasers)

- Massacre is a lone warrior whose travels across the universe are motivated only by violence. With a long list of defeated adversaries, this alien of unknown origin seeks only opportunity to test his might.

Possessing fantastic speed, strength, and durability; Massacre's greatest asset is his ability to read and observe nerve impulses in his opponents. Though this strange ability requires visual-contact, it gives Massacre the ability to anticipate and counter any offensive initiated by his opponents.

Massacre also employs technology to teleport as a beam of light, and wristbands that allow him a variety of high impact projectile attacks.

- With the planet Krypton on a path toward destruction, a scientist, Jor-El, bundles his only son into a rocket ship designed to take him far from the impending doom. The young Kal-El would be rocketted far from his home to come to land on the planet Earth, where a yellow sun would grant him the powers to become the man of steel - Superman!

A spiritual leader for the superhero community; Superman has a wide array of physical capabilities to back his presence up, the stalwarts being; super strength, flight, heat-vision, super breath, and super speed. He also has a keen intellect, his Kryptonian brain enhanced in much the way his body is.

A keen strategist, Superman has a broad understanding of sciences and battle tactics, but is often hindered by his own sense of caution and responsibility.

The Math: Draw Ranking: Superman (#5)

What Went Down...
When a streak of light blazes across the Metropolis sky, only to pause atop Lexcorp Tower; Clark Kent makes the transformation from mild-mannered reporter, to airborne man of steel! Upon Superman's arrival on the rooftop, the light clears to reveal the confident visage of Massacre -- an alien seeking out Superman in an effort to defeat him in combat!

The two extra terrestrial titans square off - with Superman coming off second-best after suffering a left that "could have caved in a mountain!"

The Man of Steel makes a sharp U-turn; flying back like a speeding bullet to take the fight back to Massacre. The tides turn once more when Massacre displays his own impressive feats of speed, ducking the incoming assault, only to use Superman's momentum to catch and piledrive the hero head-first into the roof!

The structure holds up better than Superman's temper when Massacre boasts his ability to anticipate attack through his opponent's nerve reaction. Superman charges up for a full blast of heat vision, believing the attack to be sufficient enough to fell the fiend, even if he did see it coming -- alas, Massacre comes prepared with advanced technology capable of creating energy shields!

The maniacal menace shows Superman how it's done, unleashing his own devestating energy burst from wrist-mounted blasters! The blow sends the man of steel hurtling from the rooftop, too rattled to pull up from his rapid descent!

Standing dominant atop Lexcorp Tower; Massacre claims victory, disappointed by the ease with which he disposed the Kryptonian. With super-hearing, Superman hears these claims from deep within his landing crater. Seeking strategy to defeat his attacker, Superman begins burrowing unseen beneath the Earth!

Using X-ray vision to insure against Massacre's movements; Superman rockets from beneath the ground to launch a sneak attack on his nerve-reading foe!
Unseen, Superman charges at the unsuspecting Massacre with a right hook!

Massacre promptly promises destruction for Superman, but on the back foot, he is unable to protect against heat vision that reduces his wrist blasters to slag. Enraged, he charges Superman, who now retaliates with confidence in his own superior strength and speed.

Recognising the bitter taste of defeat; Massacre makes a hasty teleported retreat, once again zipping across the Metropolis skyline as a beam of light!
Unable to follow, the battle damaged Superman returns to the skies, where he watches over his city in wait of the next menace to face it!

ARTWORK: Jim LeeThe Hammer...
Bringing the brains with the brawn, your winner: Superman!

So, it seems, the almost inevitable vilification of marketing has reared it's head in relation to the unlikely meeting of DC and Midway properties in November's, Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe.
I had been planning to use this 10-page floppy as an opportunity to talk about the nature of Superman's universe; but schedule shuffling has allowed us to absorb the synergy of yesterday's Kenner crossover.

The horsemen of our fates have been horn-rimmed wowsers and Boss AG investors, bringing with them the dips and peaks of an industry shaped by everything from congressional hearings, to financial speculation.

It can sometimes be a sad fact, but marketing is a big part of any mainstream production. Comics as an industry have been around for well into seventy-plus years, and during that time they've faced the same economic adversity of any other entertainment medium. Companies like Kenner have been at the forefront of entertainment cross-promotion in the modern era, leading the way with it's Star Wars and DC Super Powers action figure lines in the seventies and eighties.

Contempt for marketting in comics probably doesn't permeate until the much maligned nineties, which saw the increasing influence of chrome covers, and contrived crossover events. The argument that increasing interference from editorial and marketting pressures hindered the quality of comics in the nineties is very valid, and goes lengths to explain the crash of the industry by the end of that same decade. Of course, that very point hinges on the fact that these less than popular qualities drove the industry to financial highs.

I suppose that's one of the most interesting qualities of this industry.
At the level of production DC and Marvel sustain, you have to appreciate the nature of comics as an artform, and a business. The on-going luxury of our sequential medium grows increasingly reliant upon the big dollars of licensed property as the industry continues to struggle to recoup the buying audience it once captivated.

After a creative reneissance in the (financially) dark days of the late 90's/early 00's; the industry has enjoyed the success of a collection of mainstream film projects. It took some time, but we're now seeing initiatives to better capitalize on this mainstream popularity with a wider, more accessible range of titles starring characters like the Justice League, Iron Man and Spider-man.
Even more successful are some of the major events garnering the attention of mainstream news outlets. Coverage of stories like Civil War and Captain America's death has shown immediate results, pushing these titles into sales unrivalled by other series.

The recent announcement of Barry Allen's resurrection promises to be an acid test for whether or not marketing can sustain the momentum it's building, without suffering another nineties-style crash as a result of abusing the opportunity. While the hardcore fanbase might observe cross promotional items like Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe with chagrin; it must be acknowledged that the art we all clamber for could not be sustained without these expansion efforts.

MK vs DC is a great example of this process.
I'm very conscious of the fact that I've been speaking to a split audience of late. Many regular readers will be those interesting or familiar with the comic side of things, but the announcement of the video game crossover has allowed me to connect more specifically with fellow Mortal Kombat fans.

Reactions on the comics side have been considerably muted, if not disinterested. It's fair to say that outside of video game circle, and even then, MK's cultural significance has receeded considerably.
Much like the comics of the nineties; the most recognised qualities of Mortal Kombat revolve around flash, violence, and shallow gimmicks that engender very little investment. MK does deserve the credit of having one of the best unfolding stories and creative directions in beat 'em up video games, but I couldn't begrudge many for struggling to get past the pre-teen tittilation of cartoon gore and scantily clad mutants.

Of course, on the other side of the fence, comics have become the most discussed item amongst MK fans. Debates for, and against, have broken out in response to the unlikely pairing of the DC heroes with the gothic darkness of Mortal Kombat's fighters. Already DC have the attentions of many who typically wouldn't be watching and are largely ill informed, and while it's certainly an uphill battle to appeal to unique predilictions of the MK fans, marketing has successfully opened a channel of dialogue.

For fans of DC comics, this should be validation alone. Of course, in this case, it's probably the ire of MK fans that need be pacified. Confusion amongst a fanbase that seems to have skewed younger over the past decade has led to a spread of misconception, anger, and ill informed assumptions.

We've already covered chunks of these debates with our on-going Fantasy features and spotlights on the compatability and lethality of DC characters.
On the whole, MK fans have been easily bought-off by the overt darkness of Batman, even with the few non-believers intent on hinging their discourse on productions from forty years ago.

Superman; the only other DC character thus far confirmed; has been the posterboy for everything wrong with the pairing of franchises. This is what I referred to as the make-up of the 'Superman universe,' because there's been a loss of identity for the Man of Steel in the modern era.

Pressures of fallibility have ultimately been Superman's greatest obstacle.
A marketing style campaign has spread virally through new readers to perpetuate the misconception that DC characters are somehow less human or relatable than Marvel's terminally angst-ridden icons. The notion that Superman is somehow too strong has been a sticking point for people in and out of the circle of initiated.
In the comics, this has led to an inconclusive cycle of revamps and creative pushes to humanize and redefine Superman.

I suppose this week's entry was to remind us all that Superman is almost the archetype by which we define the big brawling hero. Massacre; one of a tragic slew of post-Doomsday characters; probably isn't the world's greatest example, but sometimes all a good Superman story needs is a big ass fight.

As many of you know I'm typically reluctant to feature reprints, and as difficult as it was to research, I'm pretty sure this particular pamphlette was exclusively packaged with Kenner's two-pack Man of Steel action figures (Massacre and battle damaged "Full Assault Superman", to be specific).
As a Kenner-commisioned product, it is just another example of ways marketing has been able to reach new readers. New readers who will hopefully use the Infinite Wars as a information pool, as opposed to some of those others that will lead them astray. Astray like this entry is slowly going...

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3

Massacre's first forray to Metropolis appeared in Action Comics #515, but if you want to get Dan Jurgens' abbreviated first-time clash between these titans, you'll have to buy the action figures! It's all about the marketing synergy, folks. If it's comics that really tickle your fancy, you can find a wide range of titles available at low Amazon prices in the Infinite Wars Gift Shoppe!
By purchasing you help sponsor the Infinite Wars, and if you did that more often, maybe I wouldn't be running so late!

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