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The Silver Age of DC Comics – TASCHEN 396 Pages

Superman Confidential #1

In stores Nov '06/cover dated January 2007
Storytellers: Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale
Artwork: Tim Sale
Colors: Dave Stewart

If any superhero artist deserved to have poster-sized reproduction of his artwork, it's Tim Sale. Many of his pages are quasi-posters to begin with, drawn in a style that hearkens toward classic advertising art as well as classic superhero comics, too. Thick brush-strokes and heavy ink blacking fill up these 22 pages of "Superman Confidential" in which Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale, sharing co-billing as "storytellers" have concocted a tale in which, thus far, not only does a huge glob of kryptonite tell the story in first-person narrative, but so does Superman as he battles supervillains and romances Lois Lane. The last 8 pages of this first issue deviate from this and are the usual Daily Planet scenario in which Perry White, Jimmy Olson, Lois Lane and Clark ponder how to get the "story" on someone in Metropolis. I remember this same plot device from the few Superman comics I last read back around 1975!

The target is a fellow named Tony Gallo, a businessman and casino operator suspected of venal and corrupt practices. It's funny seeing these Daily Planet news-hounds setting up shop to spy on him by working a stack of camcorders and computer terminals in front of huge glass windows facing Gallo's Metropolis headquarters. Gallo will never suspect what's afoot unless of course he looks out a window and sees the Daily Planet reporters staring back at him. Another unintentionally funny element is Tim Sale's framing the location of the spy-operation: in one panel their building faces Gallo's skyscraper from what appears to be approximately one mile away; the next panel, the building is possibly only a hundred yards away. Did Superman move the buildings closer? (And why is Gallo's "Utopia" building composed of such squiggly lines? It looks like its undulating.)

Gallo himself is shown as a mephistophelean fellow who has on enough eye-liner to disturb Johnny Depp. Like an Italian gangster culled from a hundred different mobster movies, this oily Gallo is obviously up to no good, but at least has a great deal of style whilst doing it. How does a chunk of kryponite lodged in the Himalayas (or is it Tibet? Mongolia? Shangra-la? Cooke doesn't specify) figure in the confrontation between Gallo and the Daily Planet? Good question!

Darwyn Cooke's writing style here is a homage to the squeaky-clean superhero comics of fifty-years ago in the same way the "New Frontier" superhero books Cooke wrote/drew for DC were. I enjoy Cooke's undiluted take on the raw intention and emotion of classic superhero figures, and if there was ever a superhero character that works best as a pure and primal slice of that point of view, it's Superman. Although Cooke shows his perspective (and the very real distance of time between a genuine comic of 50 years ago versus one of today) by couching all of Superman's do-gooding by referencing "Ma Kent" instead of just Superman himself, nonetheless this approach is appealing and one of the few ways an as uncomplicated character like Superman can be presented successfully (at least to me.)

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Original page November 14, 2006 | Updated July 11, 2021