Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Extra! Extra!

Back in 1988, DC had a title-spanning Big Event called Invasion. The main story concerned a bunch of alien races joining together to, uh, invade Earth, partially just to figure out what's up with all these pesky superheroes. (This story either introduced or elaborated on the whole metagene nonsense, but I won't get started on this whole trend of needing find consistent threads in superhero origins - metagenes, mutants, The Green, The Speed Force, whatever.) There were three stand-alone tales (80-pg. Giants!) and, of course, the story crossed over to just about every title for a month or so.

I was more confused than impressed by it all: I wasn't buying a whole lot of titles when it came out and I never did quite get my head around post-Crisis continuity anyway (but then, neither did DC editorial, apparently), so I am sure I didn't understand it as well as I could have. I remember the art being terribly uneven and the story being not much. When the collection went out the door, Invasion went along.

But there was one Invasion-related item that I keep and treasure, and re-read occasionally (although it's not physically in the shortbox):

That's right, a copy of The Daily Planet for November 4, 1988 - the day after the alien races invaded Earth.

This is an actual sixteen-page newspaper: four sheets of 23 x 16 inch paper (a little heavier and slicker than regular newsprint, but not quite magazine stock) folded to make a slightly-bigger-than-tabloid-size (16 x 11.5) paper, with no staples or binding. It was sold folded in half, the way full-size newspapers traditionally are, but it came in a plastic bag. It is a great artifact, and I don't know if any company has ever had another product like it.

I have to hand it to DC - they did a great job sustaining the conceit, and they filled the paper with lots of references and jokes - starting with the front page, which echoes a New York Daily News headline from the seventies.

Page 2 contains the contents - "Today in the Daily Planet" - and articles on the invasion, both datelined Washington, DC. This might be one of the few instances of a comics-related mention of Michael Dukakis (President Reagan is quoted as hoping the American people will join together behind his successor, whoever it is.) The stories fill in the Invasion story with some credible political and military background.

Page 3 has another news story from New York, a jump from page two, and a Know Your Aliens! feature, with photos.

On page 4 readers could see a map of the world with color icons representing various events of the previous 24 hours, and another story, datelined Moscow (the USSR was still around then).

Page 5 held two more stories, one from Sydney (that includes news of the death of the Tasmanian Devil) and one from Washington (that reports the death of Arani Caulder of [one of the versions of] the Doom Patrol. It also contains a sidebar on previous alien invasions that highlights a number of JLA stories (and contains a reference to V as well).

Page 6 had two more stories, from the Pacific and Cape Canaveral, and another sidebar on bombings.

The Metro section started on page 7, and included subway and bus conditions as well as local stories on local disruption caused by the invasion. It includes a picture of Metropolis Mayor Berkowitz and accounts of philanthropic response from Lex Luthor to the situation.

Two Metropolis stories filled page 8, along with one story from Washington on pending paranormal legislation.

The Planet's masthead is on page 9, along with an editorial from Perry White (yay, Perry - one of my all-time favorite characters) and "Metro Report," a column by Clark Kent (didn't Byrne make Clark a columnist rather than a reporter?). This page also contains the inquiring photographer feature.

Page 10 is the Business section, and has stories on the stock market and Lexcorp, as well as charts of the NYSE and gold prices.

"City Life" is on page 11, with a film review from Cat Grant, an advice column, and Teen Beam by Sidney Mellon (does anyone else remember that enfant terible persona?).

Page 12 has the TV listings and movie ads, while page 13 has the crossword puzzle and comic strips.

Cat Grant returns on page 14 with a gossip column, featured alongside the horoscope and the soap opera round-up.

Sports coverage fills page 15 and the last page.

Throughout all this content, the piece manages to maintain the illusion of being a real newspaper while at the same time giving a nod and a wink to a lot of DC history and personalities.

All the minutiae of a newspaper is here: consistent headline fonts and by-line borders; appropriate formatting and positioning of stories; ad placement. The text of the news articles is a little more contemplative and less breathless than would be expected in a newspaper extra, but the voice in the features rigs true. The newspaper photos are either real photos or drawings by the likes of Kyle Baker, Eric Peterson, and Dennis Janke, done in greyscale and in a non-comixy style. Willing suspension of disbelief is pretty easy.

Of course, DC staff had a field day with jokes. While the invasion-related stories are serious enough, much of the issue is filled with sly references to the DCU. More on those in the next installment.

In the meantime, here's the liner/cover of this special edition: the cardstock insert that was in the plastic bag with the paper. This is what you would have seen on the racks. What's the name of this member of the Newsboy Legion again?


Isaac said...

I think that newsboy's name is Scrapper.

What a cool artifact you've got there. Can't wait for the next installment.

Captain Infinity said...

Hey! I've still got that too! Too bad the actual storyline wasn't as interesting as this little item.

David C said...

I loved both the Invasion! and this newspaper.

And I do indeed remember Sidney Mellon, an alter ego of writer Gerard Jones who had a column in *Amazing Heroes*.

His persona was basically that of the classic "Marvel Zombie" style fanboy, and the parody was so subtle that he attracted indignant, outraged letters that were even funnier than the columns themselves!

Jonathan said...

no idea if you're still on here, but i wonder if you know if a copy of this daily planet would turn a profit? i can't find it on ebay or anywhere and am selling off stuff as i move overseas...

Walaka said...

Mile High Comics lists a NM copy for about eight bucks, and I found one or two offers online at about three bucks. I guess it's not worth much, at least monetarily.