Bending the Man of Steel, or, Was Superman Ever Cool?

The following is a direct response to The Difficulties in Making Superman Cool Off My Mind Thread. Do read here at: if you haven't already.

I had a horrible knee-jerk reaction to the first major point "Superman is Too Good."

But I did truly think the other three were spot on. I’ve shown many friends and family members the article and they are all in mutual agreement. Better

stories? Supes is in definite need (and please no more hitch hiking across the world on foot preaching month in and month out watered down politically correct

diatribe please, another Grounded event might just kill the character IMHO). Also yes, Superman is in definite need of a few bad men, (and women! Please, more women!) Helspont is more in the right direction but he's already a established character from another universe. How about some truly iconic nasties who can go toe with the Man of Steel rather then just and talk or punch him to death?

Let's explore the second issue before tackling the monumental first one (the elephant in this particular writer's mind as it were) though. Superman being too powerful is a difficult one the purist in me does not wish to dignify with a response much less agree to, but yes, if he is truly the fastest, smartest, strongest, most bonkers powerful being in space, its about time he started acting as such and if he does there is precious little use for the rest of the DC canon. Superman should be faster, more powerful than, and able to leap higher then the respective speeding bullet, powerful locomotive,or tall buildings presented to him. In short he should be tremendously powerfuland in a league of his own. This is in effect what makes him super. But Supes should not be invulnerable, powerful should never be mistaken for all powerful, and frankly, there is only so many ways kryptonite can be used in a plot beforewe all yearn for a more meaningful weakness.

Personally, I thought there was a lot of potential in Flashpoint Superman, but we didn't get to see much...

I don't want to neuter Superman, I want his powers to mean something. I don't want to muck with what makes the character great, but his powers shouldn't be the only thing that defines him, that's where we get drivel like the old Aquaman, Wonder Woman, etc.comics, stories concerned only with each superheroes "niche" and never letting them grow out of it. Aquaman is doing fine now isn't? Wonder Woman too come to think of it? What's wrong with Supes?

I believe the answer goes hand in hand with the first issue, the cringe inducing statement that Superman is too good. I disagree, I say Superman is written (especially these days) like a cheesy putz who stands for "good" in a time when ourvery concept of the word is floundering in post modern arguments, passing

trends, and political land mines. In short, Superman is not (as currentlywritten) too good, he is too preachy. More to the point, present day superman

stands not for good, but a flimsy, meaningless, unrelatable version of it. Thatmay be laying it on a little thick, but let me extrapolate.

What does Batman stand for? He stands for the people, he wishes to inspire positive action in people, by defending them from those who would harm or maim.

What does The GreenLantern(s) stand for? Peace and (comparative) order in the galaxy, a law enforcementsociety who wishes to see sentient rights respected throughout the cosmos.

What Does The Flash stand for? Family. Both his own family and the community he lives in, byextension, the entire global community is one he wishes to see protected and left in peace.

What does Wonder Woman Stand for? Justice, a somewhat crude, old fashioned sense of absolute justice

perhaps, but she will fight to see the innocent protected and the evil vanquished.

These are the somewhat simplified goals of each DC icon, guided by their outdated origins but ultimately existing in a relatable, likable, exciting incarnation in the modern comic book world. Let's take a look at Supes by contrast.

What does Superman stand for? Well in his original incarnation he was a Gee whiz Messiah, a down to earth protector with the slightly chauvinistic but well meaning morality of the30s. In WW II times he was the anti Nazi. In the seventies he was a confusedbut still relatable golden boy. What does he stand for now?

If I am to believe the Grounded storyline he is a whiny Zen-like hippie who gives bad advice, punches out Alien

visitors even though he is one himself, and in a huff defies a major governmentand runs off to “represent the world” rather then try and communicate with


If I am to believe the current Action Comics, he is a self righteous know-it-all who hates big business and has incredibly trendy political views. He’s also kind of a dick.

And in Earth 2 he's dead. Prettty much killed off without ceremony too...

This I belive, is the nexus of the problem. Superman is no longerrelatable, or even likable, I think the last story I read were I actually liked him was All-Star

Superman and that alone should say something about how overdue we are for areally Super Superman. A man who inspires people, a hero we can depend on and relate to, an everyman who believes in something and moves worlds to pursue his ideology. To quote the (keepings my fingers crossed oh boy I hope its good, this could be incredible) Man of Steel Movie Trailer, Jor El speaks with confidence when he says:

“You will give the people an ideal tostrive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time you will help themaccomplish wonders.”

Does anything in Jor el’s words ring true for our modern day comic book superman? I don’t think so, if so his comics would be incredible and enjoyable, not flat and dissapointing. I think he’d have a following of truly inspired fans both old and new, I think he'd having something to actually say. Today I feel he has

none of these things. He’s good because he’s “supposed to be”, enforcing moralsI not only can’t relate to, but ones I largely am not even interested in. He comes off less heroic now as he does petty and/or just smug. As an orphan now he supposed to be lost and confused in the world, his moral compass eskew. Okay, I understyand that, but he’s done nothing truly compelling since the new 52 started, and is just as boring out of costume as he is in it.

I agree that Superman needs a lot of work if he’s going to be a modern cultural icon as opposed to the symbol for a bygone era he has become. But we are not going to have this catharsis by merely trying to make Superman “Cool.” Change his suit, his powers, and his rouge gallery all you want, we know he needs it, but unless you begin with what originally made him the man you wanted to root for, you’ve already failed.

Is Batman’s costume and intellect the only things that make him cool? No, its his fervor, his message, his one rule, and the lengths he goes to just to make the world safe for people who often just stand by and criticize his methods.

Superman needs to be the same way, not dark and despondant, brooding even, but he does needs to struggle against his limitations (limitations beyond merely the fact he can't punch this guy), define an ideal, uphold a universal ideology and pursue it even in the face of adversity. The people maybe confused (and even hateful) toward him, but he is not the one who should be confused. Superman should inspire and stand tall in a world that has forgotten

how to. This is why he has endured over the years, and why having him play second fiddle to trendy morality or un-relatable enemies just doesn’t work. He needs to stand for something more.

Say what you want to about the hair, here's a Superman who I can look up to!

In Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, Lex Luthor in temporary control of Superman’s powers pauses in his quest for global domination and begins looking around him in wonder. Astears well up in the misguided man’s eyes he chokes on an explanation that gives us some truly insightful justification for Superman’s “goody-two-shoes-ness.”

"It’s so obvious!" He exclaims, “I can actually see and hear, feel and taste it. The fundamental forces all yoked by thought alone. I can actually see the machinery and wire connecting and separating everything since it all began…"

His face twisted in a moment of stark revelation the tyrant blinks back tears as he continues: “This is how he sees things all the time, every day, like its all just us, in hear together. And we’re all we’ve got...”

In a nutshell, a few heartfelt words have clearly defined hero and villian, and Superman's dillema is a truly touching one as old as time itself. This is something the comics need to be doing to make Superman appeal to the masses again, don’t tellus he’s Super, show us. Don’t have Clark preach, have him speak with true conviction, don’t tell us he’s one of us, let him walk amongst us a moral but relatable immortal, and perhaps we’ll begin to appreciate him for what he is,

rather then what many writers merely try (usually quite poorly) to convince us he is.

To quote Man Of Steel’s Jor-El again,

"What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?"

That aspiration is the Superman we know and love and it is the superman many writers have begun to abandon in a misguided attempt to appeal to comic

book (or should I say comic book movie) trends. Superman should not befollowing a crowd, he should be leading one. Society does not inspire heroes,

heroes inspire society. Don’t spoon feed me idealistic niceties, take a stand for what you believe in Superman, do this, and maybe we will race behind you, perhaps one day we’ll even join you in the sun.

I think we're on the verge of a new era for Superman, i just hope its an exciting meaningful one, where Supes can be the role model and Icon he was always meant as rather then just a pale tombstone on the grave of idealism...


Cohesion? Keep your sticky mitts off my comic books!

Has everyone read the Should There Be More Cohesion in the New DC Universe? article by Tony Gurrero yet? If not its right here, read it then come back.^^

Okay read it? Good. When i first read it I thought something was missing...then I read it again and felt almost insulted, then I read it again and decided someone wasn't seeing the forest for the trees. This mythical cohesion talked about through most of the article DOESN'T EXIST and if it did...everyone would be btiching about it. Let me extrapolate...

Everyone's over the costume changes by now right?

The problem (for me) with this article's argument is it assumes cohesion was ever a large part of the DC universe. Even before the new 52 we had characters jumping the shark left and right, acting one way in their comic much different in another, different writers, artists, and story-lines made for a mix mash of motivations, inner voices, and morals.

This isn't a problem with DC comics, its a "problem" that plague ALL comic book universes large enough to have multiple people writing on the same character simultaneously. This isn't new; or did anyone else think Battle for the Cowl felt sounded, and looked NOTHING like Batman R.I.P even though it was the next chronological event. Flash's history and motivations were in constant flux, and the Darkest Night event (while still one of my favorites) changed many characters motivating factors and inner voices. (Though I might argue it changed many for the better)

Comic books exist in constant flux, they are pieces of over-arching stories, told and retold through the minds of literally hundreds of individuals and as such will never be 100% cohesive. But let's hold up one cotton-picking second and ask ourselves something. Right now, look in the mirror and ask yourself this 52 dollar question...Would we really want a totally cohesive comic book universe?

Think about it. No loose ends, one continuous story-line, no resets, false deaths, or sudden change in mood.

This was Bad Ass, we both know it.

Ignoring the positively ridiculous amount of organization, continuity adjustment, and general chaos such a status quo would require; it would suck! Furthermore, and far more importantly, it would be boring. I DON'T want every character stuck in the same story, I don't want them to all have to interact with each other all the time, and every confrontation they have send tremors through every other book I read. Maybe batman spends his weekends helping out the Justice League International, maybe he did that one summer last year, it doesn't need to take away from my enjoyment of his struggle with the court of Owls in Gotham, or his strained relationship with his son, or even his on again off again relationship with catwoman. Its COMICS! I can enjoy them all at once, is one storyline more important then another in my mind? Sure is! Does that mean i can't enjoy each for their own merits? Of course not!

Answer me this? When did comic books become about how many issues do I need to collect (and by extension how many more books I was never interested in am I going to be forced to read) to get one gosh-darn story finished? When did it become essential to throw the ENTIRE set of a single company's comic line out of whack for the sake of one year long story destined to endanger everything, but largely have no result other than frustrate the fans of the individual books? (Marvel, I am looking at you very hard right now)

Put it another way, do I want to read about a world-spanning tragedy every couple of months, or do I want to get back to reading about my favorite character's exploits? Is every year in comics supposed to be a bombastic family reunion or can we spend some time (please!) with our favorite characters walking outside, saving the world, getting on with their lives and for gods sake save something other than the eternal cosmos for a change?

Don't get me wrong, a Crisis is pretty cool...if it comes in a decade or so. Every year? Really?

Are we not done with the annual events yet? Can we not finally settle down and have some adventures focused on the characters I actually picked the book up to read? Do I really want Superman popping up and ruining all of the weaker heroes stories with his immense collection of superpowers? (for all intents and purposes between him and The Flash there should never be another reason for someone to put on a cape!)

Pretty awesome guys. But we got to stop meeting like this!

The new 52 has given me 52 separate stories that in many places interlock or reference other comics, but remain on the whole their own enjoyable story line(s) honestly, this is what I've been waiting for, a chance to settle down and let each comic book character stand on their own and voices their own strengths, rather than wait to see them all fight head to head to head to head against ANOTHER galaxy-threatening crisis.

Not every comic book needs to be an epic Lord Of The Rings saga; I want personable stories of good vs evil, (Batman or batman and Robin, Cpatian Atom) magical tales of far flung worlds or powerful organizations (Green Lantern, Stormwatch) horrific tales of things that go bump in the night, (Swamp Thing, Animal Man, I vampire) fun team books, with superhero crews doing their thang (Justice league International, Teen Titans) stories of strong, and yes, sexy women. (Wonder Woman, Voodoo, Batwoman)

While I am it, I want to thrill at seeing old characters in a new light (Aquaman, Batgirl, Grifter Catwoman,) cheer for heroic underdogs I never read before (Resurrection man, Red Hood and the Outlaws) and maybe curl up with a mini-crisis featuring some of my favorite heroes. (Justice League)

Getting the picture? The new 52 has done something a solid cohesive world could never do, give me stories of humor, heroism, horror, and honor through many different spectrum, moods, and voices. Do I want every comic to look and feel like Swamp thing and animal man? absolutely not, but at the point where i'm just reading 52 superman stories with different names is the point I stop reading.

Swamp Thing has never, and never will require Superman or Batman OR Flash in his book.

Cohesion comes in many forms, it is the variety that makes comic books so constantly fresh and readable, let's not try to pen them to one event, style, or tone, let's experience them all at once!

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A Brave New World or: How I Learned to Stop the Fandom Bomb.

A Brave New World or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Deal with the Fandom Bomb.

Since establishing myself on this wonderful site, I've heard so much upheaval and complaints over the New 52. One day, while stopping by to pick up the first stack of issue #2s I noticed one of the two owner had fashioned a halloween-like gravestone. Grainy and age-weathered it looked, with these solemn words chiseled into its surface; R.I.P DC COMICS 1934-2011. Really? I noted his disapproval upon me picking up the new 52, but he was polite. Even so, I left the store with my head spinning. DC comics decides to relaunch their timeline, create a new playground of imagination and bring new exciting concepts into our (I'll say it) somewhat drab and predictable comic-world, and their long time fans disown them?

Hear me out, I am NOT a big fan of every 52 title, Its beyond me how racist drivel like Firestorm or lackluster offerings like The Flash or Deathstroke got green-lighted, but I DO like many of the new titles, and have always been a fan of DC's characters, just not always their story execution. Also, keep in mind my friends, Comic books are a living, constantly-changing, ever-exciting form of story telling, and there is something there for everybody! More to the point, I'm not supposed to like every single piece of the new universe, there are different dishes for every taste, including mine.

I'm both frustrated and angered that just because DC decides to do something somewhat drastic (beats closing the company down doesn't it?) like resetting their universe and recreating many of their beloved franchises from the ground up with a new more modern approach in mind, they are considered sell-outs and failures.

Do you know how much hate and fanboy-squeals of agony I've bee subjected to over the fact that superman and batman are now wearing honest to goodness armor? Do you know the frothing pot of discontent poured across the internet over Superman no longer being married to Lois (a relationship that did very little for either character)? Of course you know, your a comic book reader, and if there is one group of individuals who will simply not be pleased with any adjustments, adaptions, or re-imagining of their beloved fandom, its comic book readers. I'm not saying you personally bashed DC or are doing so right now, but I tell you honestly, we comic book fans are a fickle bunch; and the new 52 was not greeted with optimism or excitement as much as it was with cold blooded reservation, or white hot antagonism.

What kind of a fandom are we? The industry heads decide to change with the times, realize that they need to reach out to a new generation of readers or be forgotten by the ever-more-jaded 30 to 40 year old who are barely keeping the industry alive now, and what do we spend our time and money on? Paper-mache gravestones marking the passing of a company that in reality is vibrant and working harder than many comic book companies to change the status quo.

Moreover, their efforts seem to have worked! Fans young and old have returned to comic book stores, Teenagers and children, even gray-haired men who've long since forgone the comic industry return to see what the hubbub is about, all under one comic book roof? These are things I've given up on seeing in my home town, let alone most of the united states (if sales are anything to go by) and it makes me cautiously optimistic that maybe comics aren't dead, that perhaps we are on the brink of a brave new world.

This brings me back to my comic book shop, where two or three weeks ago I saw a man going in with his girlfriend, and a older man coming in with his son. The young couple looked like pioneers in a strange new land, and the older man looked a little apprehensive, as if there were going to be unpleasant consequences to him bringing his young son into the strange curiosity shop. That proprietor was talking with some particularly cynical comic fans about timeline atrocities in X-men First Class and barely even looked up when these people walked into his store, and when they asked for help he turned to them with the air of a man speaking to second class citizens, it was if he felt they didn't "belong" there; you know, in a comic book store.

The young couple were looking for batman comics, "the new ones" and the older man was wondering if the "young Superman" comic was there. The conceited smirk I saw pass over the proprietor's face as his suspicions that these new comers were not "true' comic book fans were confirmed, truly disappointed me. Furthermore, he began to ask them if they were looking for the old superboy comics, or the video game comics for batman; honestly the newcomers didn't have a clue, this caused the proprietor to wave them off to the "new comics" table, maybe what they wanted was there.

The proprietor returned to his friends and continued his discussion about how disgusting the newest X-man movie was, and the customers began to look almost embarrassed to be there. I stepped up an asked the group if they were talking about the "new 52, where everybody is young again and the stories are starting over?" this was exactly what they were looking for, and luckily, most of the reprints for the #1s they were looking for was on the shelf.

They all left happy, hopefully new readers who may swell the ranks of the comic-reading public, but the disgust and distaste they were treated with by a self-proclaimed hardcore comic book reader put me off my lunch. Is this our fandom? A squabbling, jaded, group of overgrown teenagers acting like a major hobby is our personal little whipping boy? I've seen Star Wars fans of all ages, whole families enchanted by Harry Potter, mothers and daughters addicted to Twilight, and tons of random Doctor Who fans, but a group of comic book fans who were united in their interest and eager to bring new people into their fold? Hardly never, and certainly not at the venue we are all known to frequent...The Comic Book Store.

We need talent in this industry that will help grow, change, and shake up the established status quo, I want to thrill at a mainstream comic book, and many of the new 52 teams are making that dream a reality now, today. In response, more and more members of the "mainstream" audience have expressed interest in this new world, in reuniting with their roots if you will, are they being welcomed with open arms? Is the comic industry growing in a healthy manner? Is there any way we can help it?

I purpose we stop treating change as a bad thing. Accept comic book movies and television as means of bringing in fellow readers into our fandom rather than things to pick at or dismiss, but more than anything, before all else, we as a group need to let go of our apathy. This is what is truly choking the industry, turning off potential fans of the work, as well as keeping comic books a "back store hobby" rather than a truly accepted all american tradition.There is no reason we as a group can not take a stand, agree to disagree (on comic companies, characters, relaunches), and just give the new comics and fans a chance.

Last week I brought home several more of the #2s and received a unexpected request from my visiting mother, she asked if I had any of the new batgirl comics. I was surprised as I didn't even know she had an interest in my comic book heroes, and gave her the first two issues which she read in a matter of minutes. When she was done she looked up, smiled, and asked "These are really good! When does she get the black costume with the red hair?" I laughed and quickly produced the batwoman comics, explaining that these were the ones she was looking for.

Batwoman: Your mom's new favorite comic?

The new DC continuity is a brave new world full of possibilities I don't think we've had in a long time; for old fans of superhero material to reconnect with characters they read as children, for younger readers to see that comics aren't just for geeks, heck you can read em on your Iphone now, and for fans of other comics to see what DC is all about.

This is a tremendous opportunity to grow as a fandom and a industry, and all I hear are naysayers. Are we too jaded to succeed as a concentrated group of fans? Good god I hope not, we built this city on hope and friendship, the lifeblood of comics, let's do our best to keep it that way, and not squander any chance we have for redemption.