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Monday, 2011 August 1 : Volume 14, Number 8
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What We Got Here

After far too long an absence, here’s a new Tale of the Old Home Café. Although it can stand alone as a story, it does reference items that have yet to be explained, and I hate exposition. If you’re a little confused, you ought to see my notes.

In “ Over the Double Nickel ”, I’m going to rant about the New 52 from DC Comics. Feel free to skip this article if you don’t care about comics; but I’ve got to get this out of my system.

Finally, in old news: Top Ten Events In The Life of C.W. McCall.

Tales of the Old Home Café

Shut Down

Postmaster Marie was agitated.

She walked into the Old Home Café last Thursday morning holding Wednesday’s copy of the Omaha World-Herald. She climbed onto her usual stool at the counter — Marie’s vertically challenged — and slapped the newspaper down. “Didja see it? Hayden’s on the list for closing!”

Alex, the editor and publisher of the local Hayden Occasional, was sitting in a booth with his notebook computer on the table. He was working on his next issue, and feigned exasperation. “Damn!” he said. “Scooped again!” But the World-Herald’s news was hardly a “scoop”, considering that the Occasional was published only weekly, and on Friday.

Jon, behind the counter, placed a cup of coffee in front of Marie. He pointed to the paper, asked “May I?”; Marie said “Sure”, so Jon spun the paper around to read the headlines which had Marie so concerned. “Postal closures target tiny towns,” said one. “Rural America worried about post office closings,” said another.

“Thirty-seven years I’ve been the postmaster here. Thirty-seven years handling the mail for two hundred of my friends.” Marie sipped her coffee; she nodded towards the newspaper. “And now this.”

“I guess that a hundred-and-seventy-three people isn’t enough to support post office in a town this small,” said Jon.

“One seventy-six!” said Alex, shouting across the room. “You forgot about you and the new cook and your girlfriend.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” said Jon. “She’s a girl and she’s a friend, but she’s not my girlfriend.”

“Yeah, right,” said Alex, sarcastically commenting on what everyone in town knew.

Jon ignored the gibe and returned his attention to Marie. “If our post office closed, who would be handling the mail around here? Dunlap?” he asked.

“Maybe,” said Marie. “Or Woodbine. Whatever it is, it’s still not a short walk in town. And all the boxes! You know, a lot of folks don’t take delivery at a roadside mailbox; they’re worried about their mail being stolen, so they pick it up at the post office. A hundred people driving down the highway every day, just to check their mail? Ridiculous! Most of them don’t even have cars.” Her disdain for the possible changes was very evident. “But theft hasn’t been a problem for quite a while. All that driving will probably contribute to global warming, too,” she said, finishing her cup of coffee.

“And another bother: I’ll be losing the rent. I’ve been counting on that to make ends meet.” She leaned forward, as if confiding in Jon. “A postmaster doesn’t get paid much, not in a place like this,” she said.

Jon looked puzzled. “The Postal Service doesn’t own that building?”

“Nope,” said Marie. “They’ve been renting it since 1960. My dad built it on the front of our property, back in ’53, and worked it as a small grocery store until Fred Miller opened the IGA over on Jackson. The old post office is that one-room shack on the other side of the street, about a half-block down.”

“That building ought to be an historical landmark,” said Jon. He added that idea to his list of ways to tempt tourists into Hayden. “And we don’t have an IGA,” he said. “Or a grocery store, either. It was on Jackson?” He thought for a moment. “The big white building next to Ray’s, maybe?”

“Yeah, that’s the one,” said Marie. “Closed in 1997. Which reminds me,” she said, pulling a slip of paper from the breast pocket of her shirt, “here’s my grocery list. Who’s making the run to Food Land today?” She gave the list to Jon.

“Nick Thomas,” said Jon, adding Marie’s list to a larger pile of requests next to the cash register.

Marie smiled. “Good,” she said. “Nick’s a good picker of vegetables, and I need a lot of ’em this trip. Gonna make that jalape&ntilda;o stuff you like.” She dropped a buck on the counter and hopped off the stool. She waved to the room. “Gotta go, gents and ladies,” she said, heading out of the door. “Can’t stop working until they fire me.”

Marie walked around the corner of the Café and headed down Main Street toward beautiful downtown Hayden and the post office; Jon gathered the grocery lists and stuffed them into an envelope for Nick; and Alex kept typing on his computer, laying out the whole eight pages for tomorrow’s Occasional.

Over the Double Nickel

Superman and Me

by Ed. Floden

I’ve been reading comics for over fifty years. I don’t recall what my first comic was, but I have a vague recollection of reading a copy of Space Mouse (the 1960 version). Or maybe it was a Harvey title: Richie Rich, Baby Huey, Hot Stuff the Little Devil, or Casper the Friendly Ghost. But the comic book that really got me started reading (and sometimes, collecting) comics was the big blue boy scout: Superman.

You may have read in the news that DC Comics has “rebooted” fifty-two of its comic books, restarting them from issue number 1 in an effort to modernize their characters and give “young readers” an entrance point into the DC universe. Apparently, DC has determined that their target audience may not be buying their books because the issue numbers are “too high”: Action Comics, the book that introduced Superman in its June 1938 issue, reached its 900th issue a few months back. Now, thanks to Strictly Commercial thinking, Action Comics will have its second #1 issue.

But I’m not going to buy it. Or any of the other New 52 titles which are being restarted at #1, except for Catwoman (and I’ll explain that decision later). This time, DC’s changes are not simple reboots of existing titles; they’re reboots of the characters. I liked the characters that they had; I don’t want to read about characters who suddenly no longer look or act as they have for many years.

In the early 1960s, I read every title that concerned Superman: the eponymous Superman, Action Comics, World’s Finest, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, even Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. I wasn’t picky. I didn’t confine my choices only to the adventures of Big Blue; I read much of the output of DC Comics (then known as National Periodical Publications), from Green Lantern to The Flash to Sea Devils and Challengers of the Unknown. And whenever the television show Adventures of Superman was broadcast, I was there in front of the tube. (I also discovered Marvel Comics around 1963, but that’s another story.)

Having such a long history with The Man of Steel, I have read — and in some cases, endured — the now-clichéd stories of the 1960s (Lois suspects Clark of being Superman), the reduced powers stories of the ’70s (and all of the kryptonite on Earth is turned into iron), the first big reboot in 1986’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. Some of the stories were good, most were passable, and a few were excellent (“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” by Alan Moore).

And then Superman died.

I saw the big event of 1993 for what it was, a calculated commercial bid to raise awareness of DC’s flagship title which had been suffering from low sales for several years. Superman just wasn’t relevant anymore; even the boost that was given to the character’s popularity by the four films starring Christopher Reeve had dissipated. But I continued to read the Superman titles as he became less of a muscle-bound supercop and began to explore his Kryptonian ancestry. His transformation into an “alien on Earth” who was really Clark Kent was far more interesting than watching him push planets around in their orbits.

This latest reboot isn’t just a simple retelling of Superman’s classic history: it’s akin to the storyline of the television show Smallville, which seemed similar to the now-familar path of Krypton to Smallville to Metropolis, but followed its own progression: on Smallville, Clark Kent is a wimp who can’t commit to using his powers, he meets Lois Lane long before he gets his job at the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen dies, and Clark doesn’t wear the classic red-and-blue costume until the final episode.

In DC’s reboot, there are two Supermans: and neither one looks like my Superman. In the new Action Comics #1, his costume (if this thrown-together outfit can be called one) is a short-sleeved blue t-shirt with the classic S-shield, blue denim jeans, brown work boots, and a tiny red cape. Yes, tiny red cape. The world’s first superhero now appears to also be the world’s most fashion-challenged superhero. The stories in the new Action Comics supposedly occur five years before the present day, which is presumably Superman’s excuse for his lack of appropriate super-clothing.

This Superman is newly-arrived in Metropolis, and he’s supposedly the only superhero in the world. He’s the first superhero; the year is like 1938 all over again. He’s a clueless newbie. Even in the first Superman story in the real Action Comics #1, Superman knew what he was doing; judging by the cover of new Action Comics #1, he doesn’t care who gets hit by the bullets that bounce off of him.

In the new Superman #1, whose stories are in the here and now, Superman’s costume isn’t the simple red-and-blue-with-cape that everyone knows. This time — in the worst Superman costume change ever, surpassing the Superman Red / Superman Blue atrocity of the ’90s — he’s not wearing the red shorts. Yes, the classic underwear-on-the-outside (it really isn’t, but I don’t have the time to explain why) is gone, replaced by… blue shorts. According to DC, there isn’t red underwear-on-the-outside because Kryptonians don’t wear underwear. Superman has gone commando! For an added what-the-hell?, Superman’s belt is now red, not yellow, and its design is incomprehensible: the buckle is another S-shield, and there are no belt loops. Superman’s belt now looks like Batman’s utility belt without the pouches, or the utility.

Lastly, new Superman isn’t married to Lois Lane. Yes, Superman has been “One-More-Day”-ed (that’s a reference for Spider-man fans). At least Marvel Comics left open a way for Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to reconnect; DC is going to force us to relive the Clark and Lois’ entire relationship. Sorry, DC, but I’ve seen it before. I don’t need to see it again.

So here’s my point: I’ve wasted devoted many hours of my life to DC comics, and now they’ve gone and taken away all of the progress that they’ve made. I’ve written about Superman, but much of this rant applies to many other DC characters: what they once were, they are no longer. They’ve been dragged into the 21st Century, as if the 20th Century never existed. Eventually these characters may return to their old traits, but I’m not going to wait for something that, five or ten years from now, will once again be retcon’d in an attempt to appeal to “young readers”. I’ve already survived years of stories wherein the status quo never really changed, and at the end of each tale the reset button was pressed. I liked watching my heroes develop as people, even if that development took far too many years (Clark Kent married Lois Lane fifty-eight years after they first met).

Whatever storylines may come from this reboot, they can be nothing more than rehashes of what has happened before. Since I’ve already read what came before, I find that this is the best time to quit. I don’t need to see a future that’s already past.

One last note: I said that I wouldn’t be buying any of the New 52 comics, except for Catwoman. That’s because, if you’re collecting comics, having a complete run of a single title is worth far more than just having some of the issues in the middle of a run. I already have complete runs of the previous Catwoman series (1993 to 2001, and 2002-2008), so I’m adding volume 3 to my collection. Whenever this one is finally cancelled (there’s a trend), the entire collection ought to be worth more than a few hundred dollars. I can be mercenary sometimes.

— Ed.

Previously, in The Legend-News

Top Ten Events In The Life of C.W. McCall

From the 2000 March 27 issue of The Legend-News.

From the home office in McHenry, Illinois, it’s the Top Ten List for March 27th, 2000!

  1. 10. Born in town called Audubon
  2. 9. Had an old cat named Roy
  3. 8. Went over a bump and spilt the Kool-Aid
  4. 7. Walked the line on 89 in the Arizona sun
  5. 6. Running amuck in a pick-'em-up truck
  6. 5. Crawling around in that creek
  7. 4. Ran the rapids of the Green
  8. 3. Crashed the gate doing 98
  9. 2. Toured with a fella by the name of Milton

…and the Number One Event in the Life of C.W. McCall…

  1. 1. Bashed into the side of the feed store in downtown Pagosa Springs

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