Albert Einstein, who famously had a messy work area, once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Well, if a messy desk indicates potential genius, then Superman may be at Einstein’s level.
The recently released Action Comics #1002 (October 2018) opens with a splash page showing Clark Kent’s workspace at The Daily Planet newspaper. There are tab-filled notebooks strewn about, loose papers, pens in and out of their pen cup, a pop can that obviously isn’t the first because there is a bin filled with can tabs, a stress ball, resource book and more and more and more.
Most importantly, though, there are a couple dozen sticky notes filled with Clark’s handwritten notes. They are everything from story ideas, to personal errands, to contact numbers, to comic book in-jokes. It is a clever and fun way for writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Patrick Gleason to sprinkle in some silliness as well as some character development.
Here is a breakdown of every single one of Superman’s sticky notes. I’ll start in the upper left corner, work all the way around to the right, then jump down to the notes on the front of his desk. I’ll put the note in quotes, then explain what it means. Follow along!
“Follow up w/ B & WW re: Sanctuary improvements.” – B & WW are of course Batman and Wonder Woman, and he wants to talk to them about making upgrades to the secret hospital for traumatized superheroes called Sanctuary. It is about to be the center of DC’s big event Heroes in Crisis starting later this month. Odd that he wouldn’t also use a code for Sanctuary, too. There are snooping reporters around for goodness sake!
“Reminder! Return Bruce wedding gift.” – Ah, the aftermath of the failed wedding of Batman and Catwoman continues. Hope he saved the receipt. Batman #50 (vol. 3)
“Story idea: underfunded/underused: What’s the future of Checkmate?” – Checkmate is a government agency that first appeared in Action Comics #598 (March 1988) and eventually headlined their own series on two occasions. Is this just a callback, or is Bendis planning to make them relevant again?
Jenn Jess Chen” – Even Superman can make mistakes, as he accidentally wrote Jenn before crossing it out and correctly writing Jess. Jessica Chen is currently the Associate Editor of Action Comics.
“Profile? The new QUEEN of the sea: Mera, Queen of Atlantis” – The recently crowned liege’s solo mini-series that just wrapped up was also named “Mera, Queen of Atlantis”.
“Black Label pitch: Red Tornado: Year one” – Black Label is the new imprint that DC Comics recently launched. It will publish Superman: Year One starting in November.
“Talk w/ Perry re: smell” – Perry is Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet. I have no idea where that smell is coming from.
“Melody Moore (555) 555-2018” – The phone number of new Metropolis Fire Department Deputy Chief Melody Moore. She isn’t taking my calls.
“2814” – Sector 2814 is the Guardians of the Universe’s designation of the part of space that contains Earth.
“Tetsuo?” – This is likely a nod to Testsuo Shima, a villain that first appeared in creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s ground-breaking Japanese series Akira.
“Talk w/ Perry re: Trish Q’s Maggie Sawyer ‘story’” – Trish Q is the Daily Planet’s gossip columnist. Maggie Sawyer, an officer with the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, is openly gay so it is likely Trish has some info on her latest girlfriend.
“LexCorp Main # (555) 555-1986” – Never know when you need to get a quote from the biggest company in Metropolis. And 1986 was the year Superman got a hard relaunch after Crisis on Infinite Earths.
“Jim Lee called” – Jim Lee is one of the best comic creators in the world, and is currently the Co-Publisher of DC Entertainment. He is Bendis and Gleason’s boss, so it would be really smart if Clark calls him back!
“Jon school (555) 555-2105” – Jon Kent is Superman and Lois Lane’s son and the newest Superboy. 2015 is the year of his first appearance in Convergence: Superman #2 (July 2015).
“Superman private line (Go away Trish)” – Knowing Trish Q would come snooping, he set this trap to get her excited for a second”
“Your cousin called, said she ‘and the dog are fine’” – His cousin is, of course, Supergirl, and the dog is Krypto
“R. C” – this one is covered by the previous sticky note. What could it mean? My first and middle names are Robert Charles, so I just assume Bendis and Gleason were giving me a shout out!
The next two are together: “Remind Jimmy – pay rent” and “(I know you’re looking at this, Jim)” – Obviously photo-journalist and Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen is just as nosey as Trish Q. But at least he won’t get evicted this month.
“Hal Jordan called. (Again.) Says he’ll be out of town a while.” – Hal Jordan is Green Lantern and he has been busy destroying the Darkstars at the center of the universe. Yeah, definitely out of town.
“12:10 pm” – This one has me stumped. Do you have any ideas? Let me know in this thread in the CPG Forums: Post-it notes in Action Comics
“Hall of Justice photos? –Jimmy” – Need to get those pics from Jimmy already!
“What is the ‘Superman’ theory?” – The SuperMEN Theory is central to the current Doomsday Clock series. It states that the USA is the center for most superhuman activity because the government has been experimenting on citizens for years and that most meta-humans are actually government operatives who could turn on the world at the whim of the president.
“Suicide Slum Shelter (555) 555-1988” – Nice of Superman to keep an eye on what is happening in Metropolis’s Southside. Also, 1988 was the 50th anniversary of Superman, and the year the Superman animated TV show launched.
“Call Byrne. What does he know?” – Reference to comic superstar John Byrne, who was the architect of the 1986 Superman relaunch beginning with Man of Steel #1 (October 1986). It is the same series name that Bendis used for his first Superman series earlier this year.
“Remind Bendis eye appt.” – Nice of Gleason to remind his writer to see his ophthalmologist. Hope he made it.
“Is KGBeast tied to election hacking?” – KGBeast is a former Soviet assassin turned villain that first appeared in Batman #417 (March 1989). However, the idea of Russians trying to hack into our elections is absolutely ludicrous. Geez, try to keep things at least a little realistic, DC.
“Miller & Romita = ???” – Frank Miller and John Romita, JR. are the creative team of Superman: Year One mentioned above.
“Batmite conspiracy follow-up” – Bat-Mite is a 5th dimension imp that has been plaguing Batman since Detective Comics #267 (May 1959). Not sure what the conspiracy is unless he has been having secret meetings with Superman’s favorite 5th dimension imp – Mr. Mxyzptlk.
That is the last of them. It would be interesting to hear from Bendis how much input he had on these, or if Gleason did it on his own. Whoever is responsible, it was a clever way to keep us combing over every detail on the page.
By Rob Otto