A Modest Proposal For Making Superman a More Relatable Character

It is a melancholy object for those who peruse these message boards to read of long-suffering Superman fans yearning for a human protagonist that they can relate to. Being forced to read the fantastic exploits of a nigh-invincible character soaring through the cosmos in tights has pushed them to repeat their desperate plea again and again: “What about Clark Kent?” These abused fans simply wish DC to acknowledge that the core of Superman’s character originates in the heartland of Kansas and not in the far-reaches of space. They know that Clark’s purest aim lies in fitting in with the human multitude that surrounds him and not in surpassing them to reach for something better. To my great shame, I once counted myself as their philosophical adversary. I used to clamor for an all-powerful Superman who was much bigger than the confines of his mundane alter-ego. No more, my friends, as I come again before you a changed man willing to spread the virtues of one Clark Kent. In that regard, I offer up this modest proposal for making Superman a more relatable character in the decades to come.

First, we must address the criticism that Superman is over-powered. Let’s face it, the amount of things that the man can do is ridiculous. No one alive is that powerful and you can’t realistically kill the man. How can you possibly enjoy a story about a man who can’t die? My solution is to just get rid of his powers altogether. Why not? Most readers like the character for who he is on the inside anyway. Since his personality obviously carries the book then there’s no need for unrealistic superpowers. They just get in the way of character development. Moving from there, we can also do away with that garish costume and cape he’s always wearing. I mean, who dresses like that outside of the mentally ill and perverted fetishists? Getting him out of that costume and into a normal mix of business attire and casual wear will further ground him to reality and make him a man that dresses like the rest of us. That brings me to his war on crime: What’s the point? We all know what happens to real vigilantes and the poor fools who think that they can be real-life superheroes. They all get hurt or locked up. It’ll be much safer and more realistic if our Kent fights for truth and justice during his everyday activities rather than stick his neck out fighting mobsters and alien invaders. Finally, with his powers, costume, and war on crime out of the way, is there any reason for us to call him Superman? I think not, fellow fanboys. Therefore, I suggest we keep the title of Superman around merely for nostalgic purposes and rename the title: Superman-The Adventures of Clark Kent.

Now that we’ve taken care of fixing the man himself, let us turn our attention to tweaking his background and day-to-day life. The first thing we really have to do is get rid of all that Krypton and space business. Only crack-pots and children believe in aliens and other planets supporting life. We won’t even mention it. Instead we’ll make Jonathan and Martha Kent his natural parents. That way he’ll be an honest to goodness human and AN AMERICAN and not some illegal space immigrant like he was before. We’ll also keep his parents alive and well into Clark’s adulthood to make sure he doesn’t stray from the path of Midwestern values. In fact his values are central to the misadventures Clark has in the big city of Metropolis. My proposed series is about how Clark moves to the city to become a reporter while still keeping his honest, Christian values in tact amid all the bustle and sin. Will he ever reach his career goal of becoming an editor or the personal milestone of marrying the girl of his dreams, Lois Lane? Stay tuned reader and you might just learn the answers.

Story Arcs-

A Phone by Any Other Name…:

Clark is in the market for a smart phone to aid him in keeping up to date with the latest news, but he can’t decide between an iPhone and a Samsung. Jimmy informs him that Apple uses the Samsung processors in all their phones, anyway. Yet, Clark wonders if this invalidates the status of having an iPhone. Readers will be shocked by Clark’s final decision!

Too-Easy Rider:

Annoyed by the rude behavior of certain passengers on the Metropolis metro system, Kent posts a stern status about being raised to learn manners on his Facebook timeline. He becomes disheartened at the fact that Lois neither “likes” nor reposts his words…

It Takes Two:

Made uneasy by the romantic advances he’s receiving from single mother Cat Grant and wishing she would get back together with her ex for their son’s sake, Kent contacts his minister back in Smallville for help. Will their cunning ruse involving a dinner party and a jammed elevator work to bring this family back together?

Black Out or Black Listed?:

Clark is frustrated at being overlooked at The Daily Planet next to the charismatic reporting skills of newcomer Chip Dawson. He searches for evidence that Dawson is falsifying stories. Instead he finds pictures on the Internet of Chip getting sloppy at a bar the night before a big International Conference. Clark struggles with the moral quandary of whether or not it’s right for him to capitalize off these photos and forward them to Perry White.

Occupy Common Sense:

Jimmy is planning on attending an Occupy Metropolis protest and asks Clark if he’d like to go with him. Instead, Clark lectures Jimmy on the values of centrism and of not rocking the boat. Only good, old-fashioned moderate politics ever fixes anything and no one has ever gotten anything by whining. Will Jimmy listen to Clark’s good sense or will he be lured into temptation by punk girls in cut-off shorts and acoustic jam sessions? Only time will tell…

Waiting for Luthor…:

After spending an exhaustive amount of time picking the perfect cable package that fits both his budget AND his interest in the Hallmark network, Clark embarks on the perilous task of arranging an installation appointment with the cable company. Unfortunately, Kent is set up with the most notoriously lazy cable man of all time: Lex Luthor! Will he hook the cable up in time or will Clark have to do the unthinkable and miss a day of work?

Christmas for the Kents:

After her father gets stationed in South Korea, Clark invites Lois to spend Christmas with his family in Smallville. The vivacious, thrill-seeker is initially hesitant, but Clark hopes the most exciting Kent tradition will get her to change her mind: Making a tree ornament based on your favorite scene from It’s a Wonderful Life.

As you can see, my Clark Kent is a much more human and relatable figure than the current iteration we are subjected to. I can’t take all the credit, of course. I simply took the man who was so well crafted under the likes of John Byrne and Dan Jurgens in the 1980’s and 90’s and got rid of all the superfluous junk. This character finally gets to the root of what the fans want to read: A normal man living his life. Until the writers and editors of Superman realize that it’s Clark Kent and not Superman that makes this book special, the readers will continue to suffer the unrealistic and needlessly exciting plots churned out month after month. I urge DC to turn away from their current mistake and start printing stories that the common man needs. Goodbye Superman! Long live Clark Kent!

……………. ;) ………….

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Zero Hour vs. Hypertime: The Continuity Debate

Continuity is an interesting concept in comic books. The idea that you can take stories that span decades, are told across different titles, and completed by various creative teams and tie them to the same world and timeline is an ambitious approach to storytelling. The way that the big two companies, Marvel and DC, approach the issue within their superhero books is rather unique. It’s one of the best things about superhero comics but it can also be a bit of a curse. Having to conform to a set continuity can be restricting to creators and can be an enormously difficult task that becomes harder the longer that continuity stays in motion and the more stories it engulfs. DC originally solved this problem by having a multiverse. When the existence of the Golden Age versions of their heroes threatened to invalidate their Silver Age counterparts, Earth Two was created so the Golden Age heroes could continue their adventures without changing Earth One’s continuity. From then on, every story that was told outside continuity or didn’t fit the status quo was set on an alternate Earth. However, these different worlds eventually became hard to keep track of and fans started to complain that they created confusing redundancies. In response, DC released Crisis on Infinite Earths which was a universe-wide crossover that effectively did away with the Multiverse and consolidated all of their characters and continuity into one world and timeline.

Crisis on Infinite Earths solved the problems created by the multiverse but set them up for further continuity problems. It also created a rift in the creative community and fan base. To explain this rift, allow me to quote Alan Moore from his lost crossover pitch to DC, Twilight of the Superheroes:

“…I'd also like to put right something that has bothered me since the resolution of Crisis, namely the fact that I actually like parallel world stories and that a lot of other creative people enjoy the freedom that gives them too. Some of the better stories in DC's history have been those directly related to the idea of alternate Earths (including Crisis itself, paradoxically enough), and there are a lot of brilliant imaginary stories which display the same urges and the same ideas at work, albeit outside mainstream continuity.”

Alan wanted to point out that many creators don’t like being restricted by tight continuity and that alternate worlds allow them a way to circumvent this while still using the characters. Many classic stories published by DC have been told this way: The Amazing Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue, The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, and Justice League: The New Frontier. These stories profited from not having to follow a set timeline or continue characterizations set by other writers. Yet, many fans complain that tight continuity is what makes comic books worth following. It allows the reader to feel like the stories they read before are leading somewhere and that the plots that follow will be an organic continuation of this. DC, Post Crisis on Infinite Earths, gave their best shot at a strict, continuous timeline to try and make their universe feel as real as possible.

Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC still had a number of loose ends and inconsistencies that the editorial staff felt they needed to resolve. The task of solving these problems fell to Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway in their 1994 crossover Zero Hour. Zero Hour’s agenda included cleaning up Hawkman’s history in the wake of problems created by Hawkworld, gracefully retiring the Justice Society of America since new continuity put them far past crime fighting age, and introducing a number of new characters and series that would be released following the crossover. I also believe that Zero Hour is structured as a piece of propaganda in favor of a set continuity and timeline barring any deviation. First, let me point out that Dan Jurgens was the creator of both Waverider and the Linear Men who acted as the DC Universe’s “time cops.” They worked as a continuity check that hunted down inconsistencies, time anomalies, and warned in Zero Hour that alternate time streams could unravel time itself. Zero Hour also contained an alternate version of Barbara Gordon who was still active as Batgirl while the Barbara of that era’s DC Universe was confined to a wheelchair after being shot by the Joker. Many fans and creators clamored for the mainstream Barbara to return to her days as Batgirl despite continuity, so I believe this alternate Batgirl’s inclusion was done to close the door on this request. Finally, I’m rather intrigued by this monologue given by Hal Jordan, Zero Hour’s prime villain, in the final issue as he’s explaining his plan to create ALTERNATE WORLDS:

“I’m erasing the Coast City tragedy, and all our misfortunes, forever! …I can bring back most everyone who died… And why stop there?—Why not Two Earths? One for us—and one for the JSA, where they can stay eternally young! …Everybody Wins!”

This speech was put in Hal’s mouth because it represents the arguments of those in favor of bringing back the Multiverse and the concept of alternate worlds. I believe Hal was set up here as the villain that needs to be defeated because his wish to bring back the Multiverse would invalidate the tight continuity that was being built by Jurgens and DC at the time. The Waverider chastises Jordan for his “twisted” vision of reality, Superman scolds him for selfishly playing God, and Hal’s plans are eventually halted. The part of this crossover the really cements my belief that this story was a piece of continuity propaganda is the fold-out timeline at the end of issue #0. It’s a fun piece of DC memorabilia, sure, but it also set the Post-Crisis continuity in stone. Anyone looking to write a DC comic book after that would be forced to follow that timeline or would be subject to judgment by The Linear Men.

If Zero Hour was a piece of Continuity Propaganda, then its ideological retort would follow about five years later. As Alan Moore pointed out, many creators liked the freedom presented by alternate worlds and timelines. Some of these creators worked hard throughout the 90’s to come up for a solution that would allow for this freedom while keeping most of the Post-Crisis continuity in place. Mark Waid and Grant Morrison came up with Hypertime as the answer. In a nutshell, Hypertime was the idea that every alternate world was a different time stream and these time streams flowed parallel to one another. At any point in time, these streams could seamlessly merge allowing alternate worlds to exist as one if only temporarily. It meant that every story that was ever told actually happened and could become part of the main continuity at any time. Waid introduced Hypertime to the DC Universe through his Kingdom Come sequel: The Kingdom. A main plot point to The Kingdom had Rip Hunter rebel from the Linear Men in an effort to hide the existence of Hypertime from them and their anti-alternate timeline policy. Hypertime’s reveal contains a Rip Hunter monologue that is just as illuminating as Hal’s was in Zero Hour. It goes:

“The problem with the Linear Men is that they’re too linear. They’re vested in enforcing an inflexible view of reality… They think orderly, catalogued continuity is preferable to a kingdom of wonder. Their sense of control would be splintered by the truth that the universe they oversee is actually part of an unpredictable Multiverse… Where fallen allies can live on… where tragedies can be turned to triumph.”

It’s obvious to me, and I hope now to you, that these two stories are speaking to one another. They are two sides to the same debate. Zero Hour argues that only a single world and timeline should exist because it gives things a sense of order. The Kingdom argues for alternate worlds and time streams because it allows for infinite possibility and wonder. I enjoy both Zero Hour and The Kingdom. My blog is meant to be a critique of neither. Yet, I do fall on one, clear side of this debate. I’m with The Kingdom. I believe in the existence of multiple worlds to give the full amount of freedom and possibility to the stories we read.

First off, let me point out that Zero Hour failed to iron out the continuity errors it set to correct, and, much like Crisis on Infinite Earths, created new problems for the future. For instance, the fact that they combined every version of Hawkman into a “Hawk god” didn’t solve the character’s history problems. It actually made him more confusing than ever and led to DC banning the character from use for a number of years. Then there’s the case of Guy Gardner who, during Zero Hour, became “The Warrior.” He was given alien DNA and shape-shifting powers that allowed him to turn his body parts into weapons. This was a deviation so far from his original character that it’s barely even mentioned now that he’s back with the Green Lantern Corps. Finally, I need to mention Power Girl’s baby who was rapidly aged into adulthood and shuffled out of sight as quickly as possible. Zero Hour illustrates that one of the main problems with strict continuity is that sometimes you make mistakes and do things that alter characters beyond the point of recognition. Without the freedom to change these things there would probably still be a ban on Hawkman and Karen would be attending PTA meetings.

In fact, much of what Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour did to DC’s continuity has been successfully overturned. Funny enough, much of it has been accomplished, in part, by one of Hypertime’s architects Grant Morrison. Grant brought the Justice Society of America out of retirement in “Crisis Times Five” (JLA #28-31) which helped them get their own series by David Goyer, James Robinson, and an emerging Geoff Johns. When the team’s moon headquarters was destroyed in JLA, Morrison “forgot” to remove the frozen Triumph who was introduced to Justice League history by Zero Hour which effectively killed him. He was a member of the writing staff for the 52 weekly series that brought back the Multiverse. His Batman run even brought back the plot point of Bruce confronting his parent’s murderer, Joe Chill, which had been retconned out of continuity by Zero Hour. This may all be coincidence. However, Grant has always maintained that Hypertime is still relevant even long after DC stopped mentioning it in continuity. Could this all actually be calculated to repair the sins of the 90’s?

Now we have the New 52 which has rebooted the DC Universe once again. It’s been relatively successful in sales and in bringing new readers into the DC line of books. However, it’s also been criticized by long time readers who bemoan the loss of continuity and their favorite characters changing. Yet, these things have changed before and will probably change again. Isn’t this further proof that alternate realities and timelines should exist? Doesn’t the fact that things change mean that comic history is fluid and should be loose? Many want John Byrne’s Post-Crisis version of Superman to return while I favor the new character created by Grant Morrison in Action Comics. Why can’t Byrne’s Superman be preserved in an alternate world so everybody wins? I urge every comic book fan to ignore the voice in their head that makes them demand tight continuity and their hang-ups about alternate time streams. Join me in the Kingdom of Wonder where everything is possible. It’s a lot of fun here.

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Everything's Coming Up Twilight of the Superheroes

Twilight of the Superheroes was a DC Universe crossover that Alan Moore pitched to DC in 1987 shortly before he left the company. I remember bringing it up with Silkcuts shortly before the New 52 began because John Constantine plays a central role in the action of TotS. Silkcuts questioned whether John was being reintroduced to the DC Universe through Justice League Dark out of DC’s regret over never having been able to release TotS after their relationship with Moore deteriorated. Then, just recently, I got a chance to mention the crossover again in conjunction with Superman and Wonder Woman’s kiss. Much of TotS takes place in a possible future where Superman is married to Wonder Woman and the union helps lead to a major catastrophe. After the announcement of Superman and Wonder Woman’s coupling in the New 52, I started to think that maybe these similarities to TotS were more than a coincidence. I’m not the only one as Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston printed an article four days ago asking if DC was reviving the project. Besides the two things I mentioned above, Rich also brings up the fact that Booster Gold’s reaction to Superman and Wonder Woman hooking up in Justice League International Annual #1 suggested that he was meant to prevent it from happening for the sake of the future. All of this does seem eerily similar to Alan Moore’s 1987 proposal.

But wait… there’s more. Alan also suggested that there would be a time stream fluke present that impedes time travel and that a group of Legionnaires get trapped in time after trying to investigate it. The New 52 has the Legion Lost group where a small group of Legionnaires are trapped in the present thanks to a glitch in the time stream caused by Flashpoint. In the possible future presented by TotS, Superman and Wonder Woman have a delinquent son who calls himself Superboy and Alan describes him as “bad news.” The Superboy in the New 52 isn’t the son of Superman and Wonder Woman but he is a bit like bad news. His delinquent activities include robbing banks and big city clubbing. The Martian Manhunter is a mover and shaker with an agenda all his own in Moore’s story. He certainly fits that description so far in the New 52. Finally, Captain Marvel plays a huge role in Twilight of the Superheroes, and Geoff Johns has the Big Red Cheese set to take center stage in the Justice League. In fact the more that I think about it, the more similarities start popping up between the New 52 and Alan Moore’s lost epic.

This isn’t the first time that elements of TotS have shown up in other DC stories. Armageddon 2001, Invasion!, Kingdom Come, and quite a few others can be seen as using plot points from the proposal when seen under the right light. The question is whether or not DC is planning on going through with a version of the crossover now long after Alan split from them over Watchmen rights and Jesus Christ in Swamp Thing. Technically, it would be their legal right as they bought the proposal from Alan after he pitched it to them. We know what Alan’s reaction will probably be if this is true. It would also, once again, beg the question if DC will ever be able to live down their split from the man who was arguably their most influential writer. One thing is certain, the original Twilight of the Superheroes was a brilliant proposal and one that continued themes explored by Moore in Watchmen and Miracleman. It would’ve been great to see back in the late ‘80’s behind Alan’s guiding hand. Does that mean it would be as effective twenty five years later utilizing different talent?

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The Superman Family After the First Year of the New 52

The first year of DC’s New 52 has come and gone, and what a year it’s been. The new status quo in DC’s publishing practices and continuity have brought quite a few changes to Superman and his related titles. Big Blue’s history has been reworked and rewritten by Grant Morrison while both Supergirl and Superboy have gone through rebirths of sorts. The question is: Are their comics any better for it? Let me do a quick review of all four of the Superman Family titles and I’ll let you know what has and hasn’t worked since last September. I’ll rely on the rest of you to give me feedback on what you agree with and what you think I’m completely off-base on.

Action Comics:

What worked- I haven’t really kept my adoration for this title a secret. I’m a dedicated fan of both Superman and Grant Morrison, so putting the two together made sure that this was my favorite monthly title for the last year. This book has taken no prisoners in its approach to the man of steel. It was fearless in presenting Superman as a leftist, social crusader at the start of his career much like he was when he first hit the comic book scene in 1938 during the great depression. Morrison has also paid homage to Silver Age concepts like Superman’s involvement with the Legion of Superheroes and all the imaginative wonder that comes with his cosmic lifestyle. We’ve seen some of Superman’s long-forgotten abilities make a comeback like his super memory recall brought to us through that subtle Krypton flashback dream in issue #5. Kal is super intelligent again and can even read a flash drive without the aid of a computer. We’ve seen classic villains reimagined and the multiverse explored in issue #9. Morrison has even given us some of his classic surrealist touch through his use of The Little Man villain and his weird powers. All of this and Superman never stops moving for an instant. Each issue of the series has delivered a kinetic, energized type of storytelling worthy of being called ACTION Comics. Grant Morrison is just doing what he’s always done: Paying homage to the character’s history while updating it for the present and the future. It feels like Superman has finally emerged from the Modern Age as his true self once again.

What hasn’t worked- If there’s any criticism I can give this book it’s that it hasn’t been quite the masterpiece that All-Star Superman was. Though, it’s probably not a fair criticism to make. All-Star Superman was a finite piece with a clear beginning and a set ending. It was also set out-of-continuity in a universe all its own. It didn’t have to navigate the intricacies of having to be a flagship monthly title that set a new status quo for a character’s history within a larger universe. Still, when compared to its super-predecessor, Grant’s Action Comics doesn’t have the same grace or insight that All-Star so deftly wields. It’s also suffered from fill-in artists having to swoop in to make deadlines and it was more than a bit disruptive that the main narrative had to be paused after issue #4 so Rags Morales could catch up with his work load. The point is that Action Comics isn’t perfect, but I’d still hype it as being the best monthly Superman run in the last decade if not in the Modern Age as a whole.

Superboy:

What worked- The strength of this version of Superboy rests in how different he is from the Conner Kent version that came before him. Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco have both embraced the idea that someone grown to maturity in a test tube wouldn’t have the same notions of right and wrong as someone who was, say, raised on a Kansas farm. To say that this Superboy is morally questionable is putting it lightly. He’s already been responsible for more than a few deaths though, for the most part, inadvertently. He’s also recently robbed a bank and gone partying with shallow celebrity youths. Kon-El is apathetic to both human life and human law, and is on the fence about wanting to be a superhero at all. This speaks to the notion that not everyone born with powers will use them responsibly or even with malicious intent. Some will simply wield their powers with a selfishness that can be inherent to a generation that’s never had to work for anything. I wonder if we can read any real-world implications into that. Hmmm… Superboy has also had some of the better cameos from former Wildstorm stars. Caitlin Fairchild, Grunge, and Warblade have all been successfully introduced to the New 52 universe through the Superboy title. It’s also been fun to see Superboy’s relationship with the Teen Titans grow. Issue #10 when he’s trapped on the deserted island with Wonder Girl is a highlight of the series thanks to the sexual tension alone. Bunker has also become an interesting best friend to Superboy in this new world. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Superboy is hip, vibrant, and action-packed. It’s easily my second favorite title of the Superman Family.

What hasn’t worked- The first problem with this series is that most of the interesting plot points fell to the wayside far too early. In the beginning, I was hoping to see a romance blossom between Superboy and one of his two handlers: Caitlin Fairchild or Ravager. Though much was hinted, both relationships came to nothing as the characters were repurposed for The Ravagers monthly series. I also liked Lobdell’s idea of having Superboy’s consciousness being spread throughout his entire body as a result of his tactile telekinesis power. It seemed like it could have been an interesting way for Kon-El to experience the world around him. However, it’s barely been mentioned since the first issue and hasn’t led to the exploratory story telling that I’d hoped it would. I know I mentioned Superboy’s relationship to the Teen Titans has been a strength of this book, but it’s also held the series back in a lot of ways. If you weren’t reading the Teen Titans along with Superboy then you missed major parts of the story like Superboy’s battle with the Titans and his rescue from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s operating table. The plot also became a bit jumpy and disjointed the closer we got to The Culling crossover. Going from issue to issue it was hard not to feel like you missed something because the transitions were less than smooth. Finally, the book seems to be falling into a repetitive superhero formula of meeting and beating a new villain every week ever since Tom DeFalco took full writing duties over from Scott Lobdell. It’s made me worry about the book’s future going forward.

Supergirl:

What worked- I’ll admit, it took me a little while to get on board with this book but I feel like I’m just about there now. The most compelling moments of Kara’s journey so far have been seeing her adjust to her new powers and to life on Earth. Her super-hearing going out of control in issue #1 was a great tactile moment that showed us exactly how hard it is to control super powers, and both writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson as well as artist Mahmud Asrar should be commended for it. There have also been simple moments like Kara going to her first concert in issue #8 or eating her first pizza in issue #11 that have been touchingly human and a bit funny. Watching this young girl adapt to her new life has been the real pull of this series and as a reader you can’t wait for Kara to find some sort of normality on Earth. There have also been some truly epic battles in this Supergirl monthly. She really let her cousin, Superman, have it back in issue #2 which has sparked lengthy debates on just how powerful this girl is. I personally enjoyed her showdown with the Worldkillers in issue #7. These alien warriors were rather unique and Kara had to be resourceful to win the day. Finally, it’s been great to see Supergirl gaining some things of her own. Superman has his timeless friends at the Daily Planet and his arctic Fortress of Solitude as well as a fearsome rogue’s gallery of classic villains. Supergirl seems to be slowly picking these things up with her new friends the Smythe siblings, her brand new underwater fortress, and foes unique to her like Simon Tycho. This shows that steps are being taken to give Supergirl an identity all her own which is important to the success of any monthly series. It should also be noted that Supergirl has had the most consistent creative team out of all the Superman Family books. That’s gone a long way to keeping the book on the right path.

What hasn’t worked- This book has been more of a slow burner compared to the rest of the Superman family, and it hasn’t quite found its identity yet. I mentioned above that it’s taken steps by introducing her friends, her headquarters, and her villains. Yet, it’s taken a year to get all this and Kara still hasn’t found much of a status quo for her life. She almost found it when she was living with the Smythes in New York City, but then she decided that she was putting them in danger and hit the road again. The fact that she’s been constantly jumping from one thing to the next has made the book’s direction tough to peg down which makes it hard for a reader to get comfortable. The title has also taken some stretches to keep Supergirl isolated from the rest of the DC Universe. The fact that she acted with mistrust and hostility to Superman in issue #2 is understandable considering her confusion and how she got to Earth, but the fact she continues to treat him this way in issue #12 is a bit bewildering. He’s the only other Kryptonian on Earth. Why would she still treat him like an enemy? They also had to take some liberties to make sure that no other superhero would disturb her fight with the Worldkillers in New York City. It is still hard to believe a world with the Justice League and Stormwatch wouldn’t have intercepted a new Kryptonian yet. I guess that’s just the challenge of dealing with a collective universe, though. I’m also waiting for this book to give me something a bit more. Thus far it’s been plot driven and shallow. What you see is what you get. I’m hoping Supergirl can be used to tell a story larger than the superhero genre. I eagerly await what Green and Johnson have in store for Kara in the book’s second year.

Superman:

What worked- The Superman monthly title has certainly been a lighter fare than its sister book Action Comics. It’s been easier to digest as a traditional superhero title than Grant Morrison’s experiment in action. It’s also successfully brought a lot of traditional Superman elements to the table. For instance, it was great seeing Lois Lane help Superman defeat the invisible creature in issue #2. It was also great to see the Daily Planet staff completely bewilder Clark Kent in issue #6. These moments brought me back to some of the better moments of Superman from the Bronze Age and Post-Crisis era. This book has also been useful in fleshing out the lives of Superman’s supporting cast. We’ve seen Lois Lane promoted to a television news producer and Jimmy Olsen become Clark Kent’s new roommate. We’ve been treated to the familiar, oddly comforting sight of Perry White chomping down on a cigar. We’ve seen two possible love interests for Clark Kent come and go in the form of Heather Kelley and Lucy Lane. All of this has been pretty fun and it’s good to see that the Daily Planet is still alive and well in the New 52. Superman has also brought Helspont in as a major villain in Superman’s rogue’s gallery. This former Wildstorm powerhouse has been a welcome addition to Superman’s list of enemies which could always use another foe that can challenge Kal-El physically. Finally, there’s been some great superhero art in this series thanks to the likes of George Perez, Jesus Merino, Nicola Scott, and Dan Jurgens. Superman has looked every bit the icon thanks to these talented artists.

What hasn’t worked- Superman has definitely been the weakest title of all four Superman Family books. The title has arguably struggled for years now dating back to before Flashpoint and the New 52. It feels like this book is being held back a bit. Personally, I think DC went out to make this the more reserved and traditional title just in case Morrison’s Action Comics ended up being too alienating to Superman readers. As a result, Superman has been a book that’s taken very few risks and it feels boring. It’s also had a hard time holding onto a creative team. George Perez left the book as writer after issue #6 to make way for Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen. Giffen exited after issue #9 and Jurgens finished his run with issue #12 as Scott Lobdell is scheduled to take over as writer this September. Perez explained that he decided to leave because he couldn’t take the editorial decisions he was being held to. The writer-artist claims he wasn’t being told what Morrison was doing in Action Comics which was set five years in Superman’s past, so that affected what he could and couldn’t do in Superman forcing him to make last minute changes based on new information. He even went so far as to say much of his scripts were dictated to him by the editorial staff. If this is all true, it explains a lot and begs the question as to why the Superman writer wasn’t being kept up to date on what was happening in Action Comics. It also makes me wonder how much of the weak plots we’ve been reading for the past year has come from the writers and how much has come directly from the editors. It’s always been my opinion that, for a book to succeed, it needs a writer who has a clear vision of what they want to do and say with their stories. It feels like the Superman title hasn’t been allowed to have that yet. Perhaps Scott Lobdell can turn things around when he starts his run with issue #0 next month.

There you have it. Action Comics is by far the best and my favorite while Superman lags behind the rest. Overall, I’d say that the Superman Family of titles are stronger than they were before Flashpoint. Action Comics has been a top ten selling comic title every month except for one since Grant Morrison began his run. Even Superman has been hovering around the late twenties and early thirties since the start of the New 52 whereas both books were in the late forties pre-Flashpoint. Supergirl has a consistent creative team now which is a major improvement to the confusion her book was experiencing in the waning days of the previous universe. Although I really enjoyed Jeff Lemire’s run on Superboy, I think Scott Lobdell did a fine job reinventing the character for the new world. Looking to the future, I’m a little worried about what will happen after Grant Morrison leaves Action Comics with issue #16. I really like the changes he’s made to the Superman character, his powers, and history. I worry that Superman will fall back into the bad habits he had in the Post-Crisis DC Universe that made his stories so hard to digest in its latter days. I can only hope that the creators that take on the next year of Superman’s life take Grant’s run to heart when they approach their stories. I honestly believe that Superman is back on track to being a more interesting character and hero. Let’s keep him that way.

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Silver Age Superman on Marriage

You know, there's been a lot of talk on Comicvine about Comic Book marriages these days. I've never much cared for them. I did, however, come across some scans I did a while back of one of my favorite Silver Age Superman tales about marriage. It's from a little story called "Clark Kent's Hillbilly Bride" featured in Superman #94. It all starts when Clark accidentally carries a girl over the town's "marrying rock." I wish I scanned the entire story since I no longer own the issue, but I did get the beginning and end in these four pages. I hope you enjoy!

"...nothing in the world can stop him from remaining a bachelor!" Except maybe the '90's... but that's what retcons are for! This story illustrates why Superman is so great: He's the only man alive that can escape from a shotgun wedding. Anyway, this is a funny little story that could've only happened in the 1950's. I hope it alleviated some of the marriage controversy out there!

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Will Superman Leave the Justice League?

Mat ‘Inferiorego’ Elfring attended the Justice League/Green Lantern panel earlier today at SDCC ’12, and he was kind enough to transcribe the more interesting and entertaining parts for those of us unable to attend. We thank him kindly for this. There were three things that Geoff Johns said according to Mat’s transcription that got me thinking:

1) Members of the Justice League will have quit by the end of the title’s first year.

2) That Captain Marvel (who is featured on the cover of Justice League’s September issue #0) will be a member of the Justice League next year.

3) And, finally, that the Martian Manhunter will be in Justice League next year.

Assuming that Johns wasn’t misleading, wasn’t lying, and that the Martian Manhunter’s appearance won’t be part of a flashback, these three revelations lead me to believe that Superman might be exiting the Justice League before the next year of the book. Captain Marvel’s powers and power levels have historically been identical to Superman’s. The same can be said of the Martian Manhunter who is a shape-shifting psychic on top of having super strength, speed, and flight. If Billy Batson and J’onn J’onzz do join the team then most would consider it overkill to also have Superman. The Justice League is powerful enough without three nearly indestructible strong men flying around at the speed of light. Conventional wisdom has always held true to the notion that three characters cast in the Superman mold cannot occupy the same team at once. A team has been able to support two at once, but they only use three during major events and crises.

We also may have been given a hint as to what causes Superman to break from the Justice League a month ago. In Action Comics #10, Superman met with the rest of the League and pitched the idea of taking a more proactive stance in handling the world’s problems. The rest of the team shot him down feeling uncomfortable with taking that kind of authority over the rest of mankind. Superman left visibly disappointed and after he was gone Batman said: “One of these days, we’ll all have to go after him.” Nothing more has been said about that meeting since then, and Batman has seemed pretty buddy-buddy with Superman. In Justice League #10, they admitted to the rest of the League that they work together outside of the team. We got to see a good example of that in Action Comics #11 when Superman goes to Bats for advice over having just staged Clark Kent’s death. However, it’s clear that Superman’s ambitions are a bit more far-reaching than the rest of the Justice League, and not everyone will sit easy with that. Could this lead to Superman breaking from the team?

This wouldn’t be the first time the Justice League would be without Superman. Most notably, Superman was absent from the Justice League’s roster during Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ International run in the late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s. The creators were told they couldn’t use Superman as he was still being developed by John Byrne and company in his solo titles following Crisis on Infinite Earths. Giffen and DeMatteis made up for big blue’s absence by using characters like the aforementioned Captain Marvel and Captain Atom who matched Superman’s powers if not his personality. In fact, Superman was not a member of the Justice League for a majority of the 1990’s with the brief exception of the early issues of Dan Jurgens’ run (Justice League of America vol. 2 #61-69) where he led the team before his death and, of course, Grant Morrison’s JLA run which started in ’97. Otherwise the DC editorial staff made it a point to keep Superman separate from the Justice League of the 1990’s. Could we be headed for a similar era of the Justice League in the second year of the New 52?

It’s been said that Superman doesn’t need to belong to a team since anyone with his power levels could solve most problems by his or herself. If you think that’s true then I can only imagine what you would think about a line-up that contained Superman, Captain Marvel, and the Martian Manhunter all at once. Of course, it’s still not a given that J’onn J’onzz will be part of the team again or if his appearance in the book will be a flashback to the time when he was a member. You also can’t rule out the possibility of Captain Marvel and Martian Manhunter joining the group at different times with one of them having a short stint. And, yes, it is possible that Geoff Johns might try something as ambitious as having all three characters in the League at once. However, from the evidence presented, it looks like a distinct possibility that Superman’s days in the Justice League are numbered. I’m eagerly waiting for the New 52’s second year.http://www.comicvine.com/news/sdcc-2012-dc-comics-justice-league-and-green-lantern-panel/144933/

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The Most Successful International Soccer Squads of All-Time

I was going to post this on my Fox Soccer blog, but then discovered that it no longer exists (it's been awhile since I blogged about soccer). I figured: Well, I spent a lot of time on this, so I might as well post it somewhere. Without further ado, here it is:

After their historic victory in the 2012 Euro final against Italy, there will be a great deal of discussion as to whether or not this Spanish National team is the greatest International soccer squad of all time. Granted, the fact that they won three major titles in a row makes a strong argument that they are the best. There have been other squads in the long history of the game that could also be up for the title, however. I’ve decided to throw in my list of seven squads worth considering.

Possible Worlds Greatest Int. Soccer Teams:

Uruguay 1924-1930: 1924 Olympic Gold, 1928 Olympic Gold, 1930 World Cup

Italy 1934-1938: 1934 World Cup, 1936 Olympic Gold, 1938 World Cup

Both teams inclusion in this list is problematic since the format of the World Cup was much different in the 1930’s and you would be hard pressed to say that winning an Olympic Gold in soccer (as impressive as that is) is as difficult as winning a Euro or Copa America.

Brazil 1970: World Cup 1970

Not to tread on the memory of Pele’ and the 1970 Brazilian squad that demolished all comers in the World Cup of that year, but that was their only major title. Granted there was a gap between 1967 until 1975 where there was no South American Championship or Copa America. They also won a number of minor tournaments, but it makes them hard to compare to Spain’s 2008-2012 squad.

West Germany 1972-1976: Euro 1972, World Cup 1974

You can make a strong case for Franz Beckenbauer’s West German side from the 1970’s. They took the 1972 World Cup, the 1974 World Cup, but came as runners up in the 1976 Euro to Czechoslovakia on penalties. It’s interesting to note that they did win the 1980 Euro after Beckenbauer left the team, but that is quite the gap between tournament wins. Another fun fact is that East Germany won the Gold at the 1976 Olympics. It makes you wonder what could have been.

France 1998-2000: World Cup 1998, Euro 2000

Zinedine Zidane’s French side did well to win the World Cup and Euro back to back and even had enough gas left in the tank to make it to the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy. They also won the 2001 and 2003 Confederations Cups. However, the fact that they never won their third major title and the way that Zidane left football will always haunt them.

Brazil 2002-2004: World Cup ’02, Copa America ‘04

I think this team tends to get overlooked next to the 1970 Brazil squad, but they did capture a World Cup and Copa America back-to-back. They also won the 2005 Confederations Cup and the 2007 Copa America despite falling short in the 2006 World Cup. They won enough to enter the discussion, though.

Spain 2008-2012: Euro ’08, World Cup ’10, Euro ‘12

On top of winning three major tournaments in a row, this Spain squad also has a number of impressive records to boast. Most consecutive wins (15), a shared most consecutive games undefeated (35), and a perfect 30 out of 30 points in World Cup qualifying for 2010. The only flaw would be their third place finish in the 2009 Confederations Cup, but that barely counts since it’s a minor tournament. There’s also the possibility that they could go on to win the World Cup in 2014. If they did, it would be almost impossible to argue against them being the greatest International soccer team of all time.

Honorable Mentions:

Argentina in the mid to late 1970’s won the World Cup in 1978 and a number of minor trophies, but failed to pick up a Copa America.

France in 1984 won the Euro, the Olympic Gold, and a few minor trophies in the surrounding years. Michel Platini’s side never won the World Cup, however.

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Superman Doesn't have the "M" Gene?

I just finished reading DC Comics Presents #18 by Gerry (I killed Gwen Stacy) Conway and Dick Dillin/Frank Chiaramonte and the issue makes a rather interesting argument as to why Superman is vulnerable to magic. In the Bronze Age, of course, DC was interested in playing up the fact that magic could harm Superman in an attempt to respond to the criticisms that the Man of Steel's invulnerability hurt his relatability. Different writers have given different explanations for this vulnerability over the years, but Conway gives a rather unique on in this issue. DC Comics Presents #18 starts with Superman researching his vulnerability to magic. He discovers that magic does exist as an energy beyond ultra-violet in the invisible spectrum of radiation. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Zatanna is about to perform her own sort of magical experiment. She starts by explaining her theory of magic's origins to her father, Zatara, a nd librarian Madame Van Jung. Zatanna claims that magic is performed by utilizing mystical energies from another dimension, and that the Homo Magus offshoot of humanity had the genetic ability to access these energies at will (for more info on the Homo Magi see Justice League of America #164). Since Zatanna's mother was Homo Magus, the young hero excels at using magic. However, the Homo Magi genes became diluted over years of intermingling with plain, old Homo Sapiens, so, as time went by, people started to need rituals and spells to access the same abilities that Homo Magi used to conjure at will. Zatara finds his daughter's explanation and can't help but add in at the end: "It even explains why Superman is vulnerable to magic! Not having been born on Earth, he has no Homo Magus genes whatsoever!" (Page 8).

I found this to be an interesting way of explaining Superman's issues with magic. It's a different way of approaching the issue and has a logic of its own. Of course this story was from 1980 and we've had a few continuity restarts in the DC Universe since then so it's probably no longer relevant. I thought it worth bringing up since the Trinity War crossover is approaching and is fueled by the magical avenues of DC Comics. It's likely that Superman will be confronted by his vulnerability to magic once again and we could possibly be treated to a new explanation as to why it can hurt him. I wonder what some of you think of Gerry Conway's explanation, if you have or like a different explanation, and what your favorite memory of Superman dealing with magic is. Paul Kupperberg found every opportunity to put the words "I hate magic" in Superman's mouth. If the Trinity War is as mystical as I think it will be, Superman is really going to hate this event.

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The Little Man of Action Comics

This week, instead of writing up a review on Action Comics #7 (we all know I loved it anyway), I decided to devote some time writing up this investigation of one of the most intriguing characters from Grant Morrison’s Super-saga: The Little Man. We first saw “The Little Man” on the very first page of Action Comics #1. He was, apparently, closing a deal with Galaxy Inc. CEO and organized crime boss, Glen Glenmorgan. Later, “The Little Man” was seen coordinating the efforts of the Anti-Superman Army in their scheme to steal Kryptonite from the engine of the rocket that sent Superman to Earth. Though small in size, it’s obvious that “The Little Man” plays a big part in Morrison’s plans for the series so let’s take a closer look at who the character is and what he’s done thus far.

In the interview at the end of Action Comics #2, Morrison says of “The Little Man” that he was “thinking of the dwarf from Twin Peaks” when he was developing the character. I relished this comparison since Twin Peaks is my favorite television show of all-time. For those who haven’t seen the series, the dwarf that Morrison is referencing is this quasi-mystical figure from Twin Peaks who aids the show’s main character, Agent Cooper, in solving mysteries by giving the agent bizarre clues in his dreams. The dwarf seems to have vague mystical powers and knowledge beyond what the mortal characters in the series possess. “The Little Man” in Action Comics fits this bill perfectly. He also seems to have vast mystic abilities as evidenced by how he created a dimensional pocket in Superman’s brain and was able to shatter Kryptonite into shards simply by uttering unintelligible phrases in Action Comics #6. “The Little Man” also appears to know quite a bit about what’s going to happen in Superman’s life as he’s seen right before the train disaster in Action Comics #1 that allows the military to capture Superman and utters the phrase: “Now we can get started.” He also knows that the actions of the Anti-Superman Army will result in the creation of every Kryptonite isotope that will be used to make our hero’s life miserable. This suggests that “The Little Man” has knowledge of the future beyond that of mortal beings.

His diminutive stature, seemingly magical powers, and his knowledge of the future make me think that “The Little Man” could actually be a certain 5 dimensional imp who has always loved to cause Superman mischief. Mr. Mxyzptlk’s powers are magical and, as a resident of the 5 dimension, would be able to see the entirety of the linear time stream as time resides in the 4 dimension. Mr. Mxyzptlk seems the most likely identity for Action Comics little man. Another option is that “The Little Man” could have demonic origins. He seems to like making deals as he’s apparently done with Glen Glenmorgan and how he agreed to give the Anti-Superman Army a shard of Kryptonite each if they in turn agreed to do a deed in his name. Making evil bargains is definitely Satanic behavior and Superman has definitely had his fair share of demonic adversaries in the past (Lord Satanus, Blaze, Neron, Ghast, Rath, and Abnegazar). If he was from Hell, that would also explain the mystic powers and knowledge of the future. My money is still on Mxyzptlk, however, and time will tell us what his true identity is.

Beyond “The Little Man’s” identity, I’m very interested in the game he’s playing with Glen Glenmorgan. Action Comics #7 gave us a bizarre scene that only further piqued my interest in this situation. In issue #7, we see “The Little Man” working as the bartender at the Glenmorgan Hotel. There he interacts with Glen Glenmorgan for the first time since completing their deal at the beginning of Action Comics #1. Glenmorgan can’t seem to recall exactly who “The Little Man” is though he does recognize him. “The Little Man” claims to have been working at the hotel’s bar since Glenmorgan purchased it eight years ago. Then “The Little Man” shows Glenmorgan the silk tie that he made off with back in Action Comics #1 after Superman broke up their meeting to interrogate Glenmorgan. If we go back to the first page of Action Comics #1, we see that Glenmorgan was even adjusting this very same tie the entire time he’s talking to “The Little Man.” While showing Glenmorgan the tie in issue #7, “The Little Man” says: “You could even say we’re old friends, Mr. Glenmorgan. Don’t you remember the time? The time you forgot your lovely silk tie.” Notice the emphasis on the words “old,” “remember,” and “forgot.” Glenmorgan seems troubled by a stain on the tie that appears to have happened while in “The Little Man’s” care. The sight of it sends Glenmorgan into an existential defense of his own crimes. This scene is very odd. It’s so odd and seems to be in-synch with some strange moments from Action Comics #1 that it has to be significant. There’s obviously more importance to Glen Glenmorgan and the mysterious deal he made with “The Little Man” than initially met the eye. I already have a theory about what the whole thing really is that is so wild that I don’t dare make it public yet. Needless to say, I want you all to take another look at the tie incident from Action Comics #1 and #7. I promise you that it’s significant and will come up again. Crazy stuff Mr. Morrison. Cue that midget dance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guwl1w0yFGk

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