Super or Sullen

After hearing the news about the upcoming DC 52 book relaunch/reboot/regurgitation, I got excited to see a few things.  Like some of the WildCATs and a solo book for Mister Terrific.  Wonder Woman wearing pants still is a good thing and she still looks iconic.  Superman, however, is….  It’s so stupid, I don’t fell like typing it.  But I will copy/paste!From Newsarama:

Husband and wife since 1996 in the comics, the new status quo will find Clark Kent and Lois Lane not only unmarried, but establish that they were never married in the first place. Clark will be a bachelor, and Lois will have a new boyfriend, one whose identity is yet to be revealed but is said to be a Daily Planet colleague.

Additionally, Superman’s alien origins will be emphasized in a big way, with the character described as “more Kal-El from the planet Krypton than Clark Kent from Kansas.” Superman’s deep connection to his Kryptonian heritage also explains his new costume, as seen on the cover of Superman #1. It’s “ceremonial armor” from his home planet, with the traditional red trunks abandoned.

Perhaps part of the reason Superman’s embracing his alien nature is the loss of his adopted parents. Jonathan and Martha Kent are both dead in DC’s post-Flashpoint continuity, a pronounced change from the recent past, and a return to the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths status quo in that respect.

Action Comics, which focuses on Superman’s early superhero career, depicts a “younger, more brooding” Man of Steel adjusting to his adopted homeworld. His powers are still in development at this point, as he “can leap tall buildings but can’t fly in space.” The series, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Rags Morales, will also show the evolution of his costume from jeans and work boots to Kryptonian armor.

Years ago, long before the days of Reality Check Fail (which has a new episode up!), we wrote movie reviews.  The lowest rating we gave was called “Chicken Hell” and featured an animated gif of a chicken pecking on a stick of dynamite until it exploded.  In these reviews, I had a tendency to ask a lot of questions rhetorically, just to voice my concerns.

1. Why does Superman need to be more alien? New Krypton stories didn’t go over too well a few years back and that was all about making him more alien.  Most readers aren’t extraterrestrials, so I don’t see how this relates to them at all, especially in washing over the Midwestern values.

2. Kryptonian ceremonial armor.  I actually like this idea.  It fits.

3. Ending the marriage/making the marriage cease to exist.  Why?  Really?  Why?  There are lots of people who are 18-25 and are married.  Why can’t Superman be one of them?  The only real answer came from a friend who said DC might want to show this incarnation of Superman grow to this point.  I can live with that.

4. Why are the Kents dead?  Is DC’s new policy “death to the old people?” (I doubt it.)  Superman just loses from this change.  The story gains nothing, especially if the Kents are dead in both the present and the past.

5. If Superman is an alien and thinks of himself as an alien, why is he still called Superman, aside from the obvious reasons?  Wouldn’t he be Super Kryptonian Male?

6. “Brooding” is a selling point for the hopeful, inspiring character.  WHAT?

OK, list stops there because I’ve hit the core problem.  I know this may not apply to the present-day Superman title, but that’s not the issue.  DC just said their most iconic figure is accessible now because he’s brooding.  It’s Batman’s job to be brooding.  What’s a brooding Superman going to do?  Get a knife out, try to cut himself and get depressed that he has superpowers and thus, can’t cut himself with a knife?  I’m sure it’s not that severe, but is this really what we want out of Superman?

I bring this point up because there are limits to every character.  There are points characters can’t actually cross without something fundamentally changing them.  Sometimes these changes are good, like in A Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen starts out a meek little girl, abused by her brother.  She ends up a majestic, willful young woman, driven to take back the throne that rightfully belongs to her family.  A change occurs there.  Daenerys starts out wanting to go home, back to a quiet little island by the sea, and ends up ready to conquer the world, even if she has to consort with blood magic and eat raw horse heart to accomplish her task.

Conversely, in Star Wars, Han Solo used to murder Greedo in the middle of a full cantina.  He shot Greedo because he’s a pirate and an opportunist.  When the special editions arrived and Greedo suddenly shoots at Han first, something seems wrong.  The plot didn’t give the greedy smuggler a reason to wait for his enemy to shoot at him, yet Han just waits to get shot at before opening fire.  Except Han’s act is premeditated and he’s searching for a reason to shoot Greedo.  Irritated, Han finally gives in to his impulse and shoots the fool.  At least, that’s the way logic would have it work.

When I was at Dragon*Con last year, I went to a Batman panel that featured, among others, artist Neal Adams.  At one point, he was asked what version of Batman was his favorite.  His answer radiated pop culture wisdom, so I’ll do my best to quote him, though I doubt it’s verbatim.

“Listen, there aren’t actually different versions of a character.  Any character that’s been around as long as Batman is going to have a ton of people who’ve worked on the book.  They all have their idea of how the character works and it doesn’t match up with what the next guy down the hall thinks.

“But you guys know who Batman is.  You know that Batman in the cartoons isn’t the same as Batman in the comics or in the movies.  But he’s the same guy.  You can look at it and tell he’s the same guy.  And if it’s not the same guy, you’re the ones who knows something’s wrong.  Not some guy behind a desk.  You.

“Look at Batman & Robin.  That movie was a piece of crap, not because they didn’t have talented people working on the movie.  Because they messed with things too much.  It’s all neon and bright lights and that’s not Batman.

“You’re the ones who know who Batman is, not me.  Same goes for Spider-man or Superman or anybody else.  You’re the ones who really know who these characters are.”

I don’t think I got that 100% right, but I think I got Adams’ point across.  The fans know when something is broken with a character.

I don’t try to sell myself as a Superman fan.  I’ve read some Superman titles in the past, but I’ve come to look at the character as a man with two perfect lives: the life of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author who is married to another equally-famed reporter who is hot, PLUS a superhero who is more powerful than anyone or anything and cannot lose.  That screams Mary-Sue, or if you prefer Gary-Stu.

But changing things to where Superman has four dead parents, no longer has a wife so she can date someone else, has to be more alien and less human… I think these things just take a big shit on Superman’s life.  All I wanted was for him to bleed a little when he fought and struggle a little with his job and wife.  These changes are extreme, especially for the character who is supposed to be the cultural icon for hope in comic books.

If Superman is going to be brooding and not hopeful, then I wonder what that big S on his chest stands for now.  Does is mean Super or Sullen?


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