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Superman Confidential #12

Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2008
By: Ray Tate

B. Clay Moore
Phil Hester (p), Ande Parks (i), Pete Pantazis
DC Comics
"Signal to Noise"

What we have here is a perfectly adequate Superman story that goes over well-covered ground. B. Clay Moore doesn't really energize this familiar plot, but he does have an ear for dialogue, and it's interesting to see Phil Hester's take on the Man of Steel.

Originally, Superman built the signal watch and gave the device to Jimmy Olsen. In the John Byrne reboot and the animated series, Jimmy crafted the watch himself. We've come full circle.

To be honest, I really didn't give a flying fig about the how, who or why of the signal watch. On the whole, I hate Jimmy Olsen. I found him tolerable in the animated series and that's it. When I see him on Smallville, I shout at the television: "You're crap, Olsen!" It just makes me feel better.

DC has been having something of a Jimmy Olsen renaissance, even going so far as to threaten his red-headed life in house ads. In my dreams. Naturally DC would greenlight any story co-starring Jimmy Olsen, and that's the only reason DC published this tired old thing.

Superman sees Jimmy as a really good trouble magnet, even more so than Lois Lane, whom he likes to save. The Big Red S doesn't see the greater good in the death of Jimmy Olsen. So he begins construction of a signal watch that allows Jimmy to Zee-Zee Superman whenever he needs help.

B. Clay Moore writes Jimmy Olsen as the annoying pest I grew to loath. So, you can argue that he writes the quintessential Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pox. If you find Olsen as verminous as I do, you can better appreciate Moore's writing skill far more during the interaction between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Sparks fly, and Dana Delaney and Tim Daley can be heard delivering the repartee. Their dialogue is fun and sophisticated signifying a rivalry and friendship.

Moore's plotting is less involving. Schott snaps when he loses his job at the toy factory. He expresses his mania by constructing deadly toys. Yawn. Thanks. I didn't know that. Superman: The Animated Series, surprise, did the Toy Man the best. The creative force there turned the Toy Man into a particularly creepy murderer whose impulses stemmed from a realistic, personal vendetta.

Before Timm and company made their mark in animation history, Byrne reintroduced the Toy Man, but he had the foresight to make him English. This provided Byrne the opportunity to put the Avengers on his trail and thus illustrate Mrs. Emma Peel in cameo. Emma Peel equals instant cache and makes Byrne's version the best comic book origin of the Toy Man ever.

Phil Hester's characters are usually wiry and pliable. The Wretch exemplifies Hester's strengths. Hester's Superman is very much to the model, but the artist's unique, streamlined style comes through in the design, as does Ande Park's inking unity with Hester.

Hester's Superman often alludes to the Fleischer Brothers' Superman. He can frequently be seen with squinty eyes, and his general build resembles that of the simplified version of the classic cartoons. He doesn't look like a painted muscle man. Instead, he looks like a well-built man in costume, but Hester evokes this feeling without resorting to wrinkles in fabric. That trick hides Superman's build behind the mild-mannered reporter's facade.

"Signal to Noise" didn't really need to be, and I can't really see myself picking up the next issue, but it's an okay Superman retelling or re-imagining. I'd be more interested in a completely new Superman story from B. Clay Moore, Phil Hester and Ande Parks.



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