In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the embossed cover for Superman The Wedding Special #1…
Superman The Wedding Album (published December 1996) – story by Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, David Michelinie, Louise Simonson and Roger Stern; Art by John Byrne, Terry Austin, Kerry Gammill, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Bob McLeod, Stuart Immonen, Jose Marzan Jr., Paul Ryan, Brett Breeding, Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke, Kieron Dwyer, Doug Hazlewood, Tom Grummett, Denis Rodier, Dick Giordano, Art Thibert, Jim Mooney, George Perez, Curt Swan, Jackson Guice, Nick Cardy, Al Plastino, Barry Kitson, Ray McCarthy, Ron Frenz, Joe Rubinstein, Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway
Superman had been through a lot during the 1990s – a much ballyhooed death, followed by a lengthy resurrection and then the loss of his powers during the Final Night crossover. But the end of 1996 marked a happier time for the Man of Steel, as DC, in coordination with the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman television series, decided to pull the trigger and marry Superman to his long-time sweetheart Lois Lane in a special one-shot, bringing together a score of writers and nearly every single living artist who ever worked on a Superman comic. In addition to the star-studded cast, Superman The Wedding Album featured a white embossed cover.
But what about inside the comic?
Wedding comics are typically schmaltzy affairs, so judging a comic like The Wedding Album for a feature like “Gimmick or Good?” is a tough task because the issue in question was designed specifically to draw in casual readers and fans of the Lois & Clark television series. The story is not meant to be overly deep or philosophical, just light and fun. Generally, the comics I’ve found to be the most problematic since I started doing this column nearly a year ago are those that lack substance, but still take themselves way too seriously. And considering the amount of money some early 90s books like X-Force #1 and Superman #75 and Youngblood #1 had made their publishers, it probably behooved Marvel, DC and Image to take these projects very seriously.
But DC treats The Wedding Album like the frivolously joyous celebration that it is. It’s a wedding – the union of two characters in Lois Lane and Clark Kent that have been associated with each other in comics, movies and television for so long that they had become the pop culture equivalent of common law. There’s a little bit of superhero conflict within the issue, with the bulk of it stemming from the fact that Superman is still without his powers from the events of Final Night, but the real drama focuses on the human beings within the story. And their problems are very un-superheroic. Will Lois’s estranged father ruin the wedding? Is Clark mad at Jimmy Olsen for leaving the Daily Planet for another newspaper? How will Lois and Clark possibly spend their time on their honeymoon? It’s all a far cry from the token end of the universe scenarios we got a steady diet of during this era, but I can’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing.
There’s plenty to pick apart about this comic if you want to spend your time doing that. Certain moments don’t get the appropriate amount of build-up or development that they should. For example, in the beginning, Lois, who a year prior broke off her engagement to Clark, shows up at the Daily Planet and sees her ex for the first time in a year. After some initially tense conversation, she learns he no longer has powers and accepts his proposal.
Meanwhile, the comic is filled with wedding issue/episode/scene clichés galore: feuding in-laws, surprise bridal showers and bachelor parties, to the inevitable build-up to the obvious “I now pronounce you husband and wife” ending. Unpredictable, this story ain’t.
Truth be told, I enjoyed reading Wedding Album in a Golden/Silver Age throwback kind of way. Sure, the calories are mostly empty, and the whole thing was rendered moot by 2011’s Flashpoint event, but every once in a while you need a comic that’s low-stress enjoyment. Even Batman takes an issue off from his dark and gritty persona just to wish Superman the best of luck before his nuptials (and to secure Lois and Clark a new apartment owned by Wayne Enterprises).
Miraculously, having a plethora of writers and artists who each have very distinct styles isn’t the tonal train wreck it could have been. Sure, the artistic styles vary from page to page, but they’re not so divergent that you get disconnected from the central story. As a nod to everything he did for the character in the 90s, Dan Jurgens gets the final few pages, including a gatefold back cover showing the Lois and Clark kiss, which echoes the “Death of Superman” spread of Lois cradling Superman in her arms.
I would never confuse this comic as a contender for any “greatest stories of all time list” (though it did rank on CSBG’s Top 75 Superman stories list last year), but it’s hard to get overly angsty about something that’s just not complicated. There’s a reason why peanut butter and jelly on white bread is a comfort food, and The Wedding Album doesn’t mislead anyone into thinking they should be getting anything more upscale on the menu.