You’ve heard of Superman.
And how could you have not? There hasn’t been a child born in fifty years who hasn’t wrapped a towel around their neck and imagined that as they soared high above the world people would point toward the sky exclaiming: “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…”
Superman isn’t just the first popular superhero, he’s THE hero whose traits have been imparted to countless comic book champions that have followed the man of steel.
Problem is, all the Spider-mans, Wolverines, and Deadpool antics just blow olde Supes out of the water. He can take off the glasses, but he’s still boring Clark Kent next to the avengers.
So how do you make Superman exciting again?
Lets back up for a minute, we might already have the answer: You’ve heard of Superman.
The last son of Krypton’s greatest power might not be heat vision or ice breath, but the ability to be instantly recognizable. As a brand, the S symbol is arguably as well known as the McDonald’s M or Disney’s mouse head. But with that great power comes great responsibility, which hasn’t been properly executed often in the case of modern Superman.
As much as it is a strength, the point is, so much is commonly known about Superman. He’s such a icon in pop culture that when DC tries to introduce him to a new audience it usually ends up being somewhat boring. Usually being the key word.
Smallville on the other hand, was accepted as a successfully different take on Clark Kent and his surrounding mythos. By playing the prequel card, viewers could see a younger, less experienced farmboy from Krypton struggle to become the man we all knew he’d become. That was the fun of it, seeing where Clark picked up those dorky glasses or what inspired the classic S symbol.
But how do we make that lightning strike twice?
That’s exactly what DC and Grant Morrison are trying to accomplish during DC’s big re-numbering extravaganza. Come September, all DC comics will begin new story-lines with a slightly altered continuity in order to make the companies extensive history more user friendly. In this case, Superman is going to be rebuilt from the ground up.
In Grant Morrison’s Action Comics #1, (which takes it’s name and issue number from the very first appearance of the Man of Steel,) Clark Kent’s social awkwardness is no act. The new title begins with Ma and Pa Kent being long dead and Clark being nowhere near courting his once long time spouse Lois Lane.
Without the people that matter most to him, Clark is very much still an alien. Without those roots where does he go, what identity does he have left? Another beat Morrison isn’t skipping in the new Action Comics is while he may be a hero, Superman is still very much different, something people aren’t prone to openly accepting. With new conflicts inside and out, Superman is starting to get a little more relatable isn’t he?
Now that Supes himself is a little more busy, what about his foes? While there is a certain joy that comes from watching Superman foil 1930’s bank robbers, Superman needs a legitimate threat in order to keep a readership’s attention. But at what level of power should the Man of Steel play? It’s my opinion that while Kal-El can comfortably remain the strongest being on earth, he should struggle to defeat other aliens.
But Superman’s battles aren’t all about pure brawn, many of his classic antagonists fight with industrial, political, and ideological fronts at their core. A new villain appearing in this October’s issue of Superman is entirely undetectable to all of Kent’s super senses but completely visible to everyone else.
With yet another major reboot film on its way from Zack Snyder, will Superman appeal to movie goers as he once did? Has Snyder looked closely at the mistakes of Super Man Returns? Whether or not it can translate to the big screen, there is clearly potential for a much more enjoyable Man of Tomorrow…