All-Star Appreciation

Many, many others have written about the genius of the original All-Star Superman, so the series doesn’t need my late stamp of approval. But while I fully expected to enjoy the story, I didn’t anticipate just how much more I would appreciate Superman as a character after finishing them.

I recently purchased the trades in a mad rush to catch up before watching the direct-to-DVD film that was released last week. Several times, I’d flipped through the All-Star Superman collection in a bookstore, shrugged and put it back. Again, I assumed that it was good, but I was convinced there were no more truly interesting stories about the Man of Steel. Even the gushing cover blurbs couldn’t win me over.

My bad.

Comic book icons are the hardest to write because they can only be trifled with to a point. Usually, you can’t deviate too much from their basic backstory or blueprint. If they’re killed, editorial brings them back in a year’s time. In this context, maintaining the freshness of a storied, nearly invulnerable hero like Superman is an especially difficult task. He loves his job, his parents, and Lois. He’s loyal to his friends. He’s good with children. He does the right thing because that’s what he learned in Kansas. Isn’t that kind of goodness … boring?

All-Star Superman — the series and the movie (adapted for the screen by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie) — answer this question with a resounding “No.” Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant took a character who is often dismissed as a demigod Boy Scout and reminded us of why he is the most important superhero of all time. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet read the comics or seen the film, but suffice to say that Kal-El’s heroism comes across as something incredibly decent and organic, not predictable and corny. And dude, he makes Da Vinci look average. Batman is justifiably celebrated as a genius, but in these stories, Superman is over-the-top brilliant. He’s perfecting A.I., concocting serums, reading Lois’ DNA, and communicating (sorta) with his 28th Century counterparts. All before breakfast. The Fortress of Solitude is like the best Manhattan penthouse ever, crossed with Mt. Olympus and NASA. And he designed it HIMSELF.

Unfortuantely, this level of awesomeness can’t be sustained indefinitely, which is why some of the most powerful Superman stories — including Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? — have less than happy endings. But they do have hopeful, emotionally resonant endings. I am not ashamed to say that I was in tears by the end of Morrison’s series and the movie adaptation. My husband, a non-geek, gave the latter his ultimate compliment. “That was tight.”

Indeed. Superman, you’re my hero.

12 thoughts on “All-Star Appreciation

  1. I like Superman, I have always admired him but I have NEVER understood his fascination with Lois, she seems to only like him because he is Superman and does not realize that Clark Kent is who is also but who he really is and wants to be.
    The movie was good in parts for me but I could not take the WWE tagteam fighting over Lois at all…COME ON!
    Loved the integrity and kindness of Clark/Superman, for me those qualities are not boring at all because in truth they are so seldom seen in our world at times. :)
    Dwayne McDuffie did an excellent job on this his last opus and I will miss his work, and so will the rest of the world.
    Superman is really super! :)

    p.s. love Superman but what of Megamind!!??? For me that is now one of my all time favourite superhero films! So fun and funny! :)

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    • I loved it too Hep. I bought it for the young’ns this week and finally watched it with them last night. I loved the Incredibles best until I saw Despicable Me. Now I’m not sure which one I like the best. Minion has got to be the all time best hench-fish though.

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      • i really loved Megamind because of the Superman parodies, like Space Dad his voice and his fabu hair, and of course Minion is just stellar.
        But I loved Megamind because he knows how to put on a show, with great tunes and the way he says Re-vonge, and ME-GACITY!
        But I fell of the couch when I saw the “NO YOU CAN”T”posters!
        My nephews love it as do I! :)

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  2. The movie was fantastic. I haven’t read the actual comics yet (which my fellow geeky friends have already started railing me for), but I intend to in the near future.
    *sigh* Why can’t comic books be free?
    Oh well, I guess this means another trip to Barnes & Noble with my best friends to read comic books for a couple of hours! :D

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    • Well comics are like any other book, you got to pay for them.
      But you could check you local library to see if they have them on catalogue.

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    • Or find a discount shop. Many used book stores also have a graphic novel collection. Do you have BMV where you live? We have 3 in Toronto at usually 1/2 off the cover price, sometimes more.

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      • DaVeO what is BMV? I live in Toronto and I have no idea what you are referring to?
        Also the Toronto Public library has a great collection some are lending and some are for reference.
        :)

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  3. I would highly recommend Kurt Busieks’ Superman: Secret Identity. I’m hopeful they’ll reprint it when he does the Batman version. I loved All-Star, but I thought Secret Identity was possibly the best Superman story ever. I quite liked Superman: For all Seasons as well. The monthly comics just never quite get to do the sorts of stories where you care about Superman as much. JMS had the chance with his “Grounded” storyline, but we all know how that’s turned out.

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  4. Hey I saw on the DVD extras with this film that they are doing a second Green Lantern animated film!
    Come on!!!
    What about something with Wonder Woman in it, like Trinity?
    Or a Birds of Prey film?

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  5. I’m glad you realize of Superman’s significance.Too bad that lots of people find him boring,they can’t appreciate what a true hero is.By the way,what you say about his intelligence,in fact he’s always been a genius.In the pre-crisis stories he invented devices that even Reed Richards could not make.In the post-crisis version,he was more normal and the Fortitude and the invents were forgotten.Morrison’s version is based in the pre-crisis stories,that’s why he recovers those elements.Some people thinks he is stupid just for being strong,but that doesn’t make sense.
    I hope that some day the Byrne version is on a film,too.

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  6. Just saw this post and wanted to share that I concur, agree and wholeheartedly appreciate your appreciation of this MOST excellent Superman tale. I am a big fan of Superman, and so I am really hard to please.. not a fan of JMS recent run, for instance. My faves are Superman for all Seasons, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and Kingdom Come. All really good, self-contained stories that capture the spirit of Supes.
    What makes All Star Superman stand apart even more is that it captures the soul… the magic of being Superman. The whole story is so clever, inventive, and original all the while paying tribute. It’e genius and covered in pixie dust. I loved it so much that I bought 2 extra copies of the graphic novels and decorated my comic boxes as follows: http://photobucket.com/supes.
    Thanks so much for your post!

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