A little over two years ago, DC launched their “One Year Later” revamp/relaunch, with a year-long weekly series 52 as its centerpiece. Layout artist Keith Giffen described the book’s appeal to fans:
I call [it] the NASCAR book, because nobody goes to a NASCAR race to watch the cars go around in circles. You go for the crash. You hope for that blistering, horrifying crash. People are going to be watching 52, waiting for us to screw up… it’s not going to happen.
And he was right; people came to 52 looking for blood, but the series never “crashed” off its weekly schedule and was generally well-liked. Its weekly successor, Countdown [to Final Crisis] may have not been as successful or well-liked, but no one could argue that it wasn’t on time! But while both 52 and Countdown kept running on time, these bastions of punctuality served as a smokescreen for the fiery wreckage that was DC’s Demolition Derby of Scheduling, a/k/a “Pretty Much Every Non-Weekly Book DC Published”. A lot of books have had production problems in the past two years, but when the history books are written the “Last Son” storyline in Action Comics will likely go down as The Didio Era’s biggest disaster. And trust me, there have been plenty of other candidates.
I have put this article together not to point and laugh at the bodies being hauled out of the twisted chrome and steel of Action Comics. I am not trying to personally impugn the creators, editors or their support staff, or complain about how I “deserve” a monthly fix of my favorite superhero. I’m sure everyone involved had their reasons, none of which I will pretend to know. I’m not even trying to make fun of a bad comic; when all is said and done “Last Son” is going to make a nice little hardcover collection. But this happened. This was a heavily promoted comic, the sort of thing that (like Secret Invasion and Final Crisis or what have you) received mainstream attention, promotional posters, previews posted on EW.com. This was expected to be big. And this is what happened to it. I feel like it deserves documentation. Here now, we present a timeline of how this humble
six five part story came to be:
JUNE 4, 2005: At Wizard World Philadelphia, it’s announced that DC has signed exclusive contracts with both Adam and Andy Kubert. Neither Kubert is given an immediate assignment, but Andy talks about wanting to do Batman (which he would, but that’s another article). Adam closes their initial interview by stating, “Nothing is definite until I have a script on my board, but if it works out the way that itâ€™s been suggested itâ€™ll be huge.”
FEBRUARY 27, 2006: Rich Johnston, traditional gateway for industry gossip, rumors that Richard Donner would be joining his former assistant Geoff Johns on Action Comics at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis.
MARCH 15, 2006: “One Year Later” officially starts for Superman, as Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns collaborate on “Up, Up and Away”, an eight part story that runs through June of 2006.
APRIL 14, 2006: The debut of the Johns/Donner/Kubert team, now generally common knowledge, does not get announced for the first issue of Action following “Up, Up and Away. Superman writer Kurt Busiek states in an interview that “something happened to put the debut of the new Action team off a little bit, something I’m not at liberty to discuss without blowing some secrets.” The new Action team is promised to debut in October, after Busiek and Fabian Nicieza’s “Back in Action” storyline, through Action #841-843. The new team, given a three month span to catch up, will debut in Action #844.
JUNE 26, 2006: Rich Johnston again reports on the Johns/Donner/Kubert Action team, showcasing Wizard’s hasty removal of the team’s mention on their website.
JULY 15, 2006: In what is to my recollection an unprecedented move, DC releases its October 2006 solicitations and solicits Action #844 with no actual content information:
ACTION COMICS #844
For information on this issue, please see the August issue of Previews!
On sale October 25 â€¢ 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
The timing of these solicitations was such that they were released a week before the San Diego Comic Con, where DC planned to make their Big Announcement.
JULY 21, 2006: After months of attempts at secrecy, Richard Donner appears to admit that he will be co-writing Action Comics a day early, appearing on a Friday panel at the San Diego Comic Con. Over the course of the weekend, Johns and Donner claim their collaboration on Action is “open-ended”, and promise to reintroduce Brainiac, a character Johns had been promising to bring back to since his abrupt disappearance in the 2005 Teen Titans/Outsiders crossover that preceded Infinite Crisis. Johns also claimed that he and Donner had plans to revamp Parasite, team Batman and Superman, and feature Lex Luthor mourning his dead “son” Connor Kent in the series. As of this writing, none of these things have happened, and will presumably never happen with Donner’s involvement.
AUGUST 21, 2006: Action #845, part two of “Last Son” is solicited for release on November 22, 2006.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2006: Action #846, part three of “Last Son” is solicited for release on December 27, 2006.
OCTOBER 16, 2006: Action Comics Annuall #10 is solicited for released on January 31, 2007. It replaces Action on DC’s schedule for the month of January.
NOVEMBER 13, 2006: Action #847, part four of “Last Son” is solicited for release on February 14, 2007. It is advertised as containing a 3-D section, and being sold in two editions: one
with 3-D section and accompanying glasses, one without.
NOVEMBER 22, 2006: Action Comics #845 ships as scheduled.
DECEMBER 8, 2006: DC issues a press release announcing that Action #847 will not contain the fourth part of “Last Son”, but will instead contain a fill-in story by Dwayne McDuffie and Renato Guedes: “With Metropolis under siege from General Zod and the villainous hordes of the Phantom Zone, Clark Kentâ€™s friends and family watch in horror as Superman heads into danger against the greatest odds of his career!”
DECEMBER 11, 2006: Action #848 is solicited for release on March 28, 2007 and is announced to contain “Last Son” part four, previously solicited to appear in Action #847.
DECEMBER 27, 2006: Action Comics #846 misses its ship date.
JANUARY 14, 2007: DC releases its solicitations for April 2007. Perhaps wisely, no issue of Action is offered.
FEBRUARY 7, 2007: Action Comics Annual #10 is released, one week late.
FEBRUARY 12, 2007: Action #849, part two of a fill-in story by Fabian Nicieza and Allan Goldman, is solicited for release on May 16, 2007. Action #850, a stand-alone story by Kurt Busiek and Renato Guedes, is also offered for release on May 30, 2007.
FEBRUARY 14, 2007: This was the first scheduled date for the release of the fourth part of “Last Son”. It did not ship. Part three had not shipped by this point.
FEBRUARY 15, 2007: DC issues another press release, stating that Action #848 will not contain the fourth chapter of “Last Son”, nor will it appear in stores on March 28th. Instead it will contain the first part of a two issue story by Fabian Nicieza and Allan Goldman, and arrive in stores April 25, 2007. I can’t recall if this was actually announced after issue 849 was solicited with part two of this story, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case.
FEBRUARY 28, 2007: Action Comics #846 (“Last Son” pt 3) ships, two months late.
MARCH 19, 2007: Action #851, which will TOTALLY FOR REALS be the fourth chapter of “Last Son” is solicited for release on June 27, 2007.
MARCH 28, 2007: Action Comics #847, a fill-in by McDuffie & Guedes, ships. It’s a month and a half later than Action #847 (“Last Son part 4″) was supposed to be, but it was rescheduled when the new content was announced.
MARCH 28, 2007: Oh yeah, this was also the second scheduled date for the release of the fouth part of “Last Son”. It did not ship.
APRIL 25, 2007: Action Comics #848 is released, about a month late.
JUNE 27, 2007: This was the third schedule release date for the fourth part of “Last Son”. You’d think the third time was the charm, but no.
JULY 4, 2007 Action Comics #851, part four of “Last Son” is released. Depending on how you look at it, it is either one week, three months or four months late.
JULY-NOVEMBER 2007: Having pushed the finale of “Last Son” to the unsolicited Action Comics Annual #11, Johns and Donner are free to continue their Action run without Kubert. Donner’s involvement is short-lived, lasting only through Action #854-856, a three-part Bizarro story with Eric Powell art. Beginning with October’s Action #857, “Superman & the Legion of Superheroes” is written solely by Johns.
NOVEMBER 19, 2007: Action Comics Annual #11, the final chapter of “Last Son” is solicited for a release date of February 13, 2008.
FEBRUARY 13, 2008: Oh, what do you think?
MAY 7, 2008: Action Comics Annual #11, the finale of “Last Son” is released. This issue:
** is nearly three months late from its solicited release date
** had an initial solicited release date just over a year after the natural “fifth issue” of a monthly story would have been released
** is released nearly two years after what would’ve been the hypothetical “post-Up, Up & Away” launch date of the run.
** is published after about ten issues of Action have been released that take place “after” this issue.
** is released very nearly three years after Adam Kubert’s three year exclusive contract with DC was announced.
And there’s one last thing worth noting about the final chapter of “Last Son”; while they waited over a year so that Adam Kubert would be the sole artist of the story, they did not choose to afford any time to let Dave Stewart do the coloring. So after four chapters of this:
the final chapter is colored, competently but in a typical contemporary Photoshopped gradient/filtered style by Edgar Delgado:
I don’t know how long it typically takes Stewart to color a comic, but DC had long abandoned the “monthly” reader with “Last Son” by the time the final chapter was released last week. The real market here is for the collection, which would be an evergreen “blockbuster Superman story” graphic novel, like an extended Superman II with an unlimited effects budget. The shift in coloring will be, in my eyes, kind of jarring in collected form. Perhaps they can get Stewart to recolor the story? They had entire sequences of Infinite Crisis redrawn and redialogued for the collection.
Regardless, “Last Son” is finally complete. I don’t know what will become of the remainder of Adam Kubert’s DC exclusive, or if we’ll ever see these other stories the Johns/Donner team wanted to tell, but we have “Last Son”. Let us remember it every time a book we like is delayed a few weeks or a month, and we wish to hurl blogosphere invective at the creative staff.