Sunday, June 30, 2013

Great Issues: Superman/Madman Hullabaloo #1-3 (1997)

From The Superman/Madman Hullabaloo! (1997), Issue #1 by Mike Allred.
When digging through long boxes looking for titles to re-read, I was reminded that back issues we as collector's imbue with "greatness" are often emblematic of transition in our fanboy lives. Great issues are not just those that entertain, or represent a momentous occasion in the characters' "lives," but also those which reflect a change in our own lives (collecting or otherwise).

Take this great issue for example. Written and drawn by Mike Allred, The Superman/Madman Hullabaloo!, is much more than a throwback to a more joyful style of comic book storytelling. Truth is, to label it as such would be to suggest that this type of story is not the norm for Allred. Hullabaloo demonstrates the staying power of solid writing and artistry that continues to be successful as is evident by Allred's current success on Marvel Comics' FF title. Those who have read and enjoyed Allred's other work, both independent such as The Atomics, or "mainstream" like Marvel's X-Factor, can attest to his ability to make the traditional (and, really, what continues to be more traditional than Superman?), both new and exciting. Even more unusual, especially for Superman in the last fifteen years or so, entertaining. (In some ways this foreshadows the more recent willingness of publishers using talent from smaller publishers to reinvigorate their characters.)

This really couldn't end any other way than with a Mxyzptlk
and Madman Twister showdown with the fate of two worlds
hanging in the balance.
When this fantastic miniseries was initially released in 1997, I was nearing the end of what had been a decade long love affair (translation: straight uninterrupted run of collecting) with all things Superman. In terms of my collecting and reading of comic books, it was also the beginning of my transition away from mainstream (Big Two, DC Comics and Marvel) and toward smaller publishers such as Dark Horse. In many ways, this crossover was my introduction to small press comic books.

Much like the amalgamation process that the two protagonists experience in the miniseries, Hullabaloo demonstrated for me, as a longtime Marvel/DC fanboy, that those titles, which had been relegated to the lower shelves of the new comic book rack, were accessible. More importantly, it also communicated an energy that I had not experienced in the "regular" books with which I had long term relationships, like Fantastic Four and the Superman titles.

After re-reading the series in anticipation of this post, I was pleased to realize that, at its heart, Hullabaloo is built around the theme of superficiality. When Superman (Clark Kent) and Madman (Frank Einstein) have their physical attributes mixed up, the previously "traditionally" unattractive Frank and handsome Clark initially deal with how this change will positively or negatively effect their relationships with others. Will Frank's girl love him even more? Will Lois (who at this time knows his secret identity) be less inclined to dig Clark? It is this anxiety that Mister Mxyzptlk uses to draw the two into conflict, and the small interactions with the supporting characters around this theme make fro some some sharp (and authentic) dialogue.

If the value of comic books was based solely on what I think they should be worth (value being a relative thin really), I would suggest purchasing the trade paperback collection of the three issues miniseries as it is very reasonably priced at outlets such as Barnes and Noble. But because value is relative, if your choice of vehicle is individual issues (as mine is) you can still purchase The Superman/Madman Hullabaloo! in individual issues online (or in your local comic stores back issue long boxes) at the original cover price of $2.95.

In addition to action, the small moments between both sets of supporting characters make for great reading.

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