I have been pretty tight-lipped about my specific thoughts on Man of Steel. That’s because I was saving it for this very podcast. Last night, Erika and I were guests on Stimulated Boredom. We got on about the brave Lois Lane, a sullen Clark Kent, Christian allegory and the collateral damage of the long-awaited Superman film. We had a ton of fun talking about it and hope you enjoy the show.
But, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are massive spoilers in our discussion. Gargantuan. We talk about every scene we can remember in explicit detail. While I really, really want you to listen now – see the film first if you haven’t already. We’ll be here when you get back.
If Superman is the hero whose powers we all dream of having, many more of us can probably relate to Spider-Man. Underneath it all, he’s the regular joe whose powers weren’t a birthright but bestowed by accident. Rarely do his good deeds go unpunished, and he has wrestled with the question of how to do the right thing in a world where many don’t trust him. Continue reading
Superheroes and anti-heroes lead complicated, over-the-top dramatic lives that inevitably wreak havoc on their relationships. No matter what that passionate lip-lock between Wonder Woman and Superman on the cover of Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special suggests — and enough already; we get it — the stories in this collection are not heavy on heart-fluttering moments and sexytime. Continue reading
It’s the “New 52,” and the new Action Comics, and inevitably we revisit fall of Krypton. But how many ways can Krypton be annihilated? In Grant Morrison’s take on Supes’ origin, he makes subtle tweaks to how it all went down in the House of El. With minor adjustments to previous continuity, Morrison paves the road for a plethora of possibilities for future stories. We press pause on the events of issue #4 and focus on baby Kal-El making it to a planet with a yellow sun and less gravity, so he will be super. Superman’s chunky, little baby self is escorted in a rocket powered by an artificial intelligence Jor-El calls Brainiac. It is Brainiac who narrates this issue, entitled, “Rocket Song.” Continue reading
In the world of many superheroes, killing a villain is verboten. Theoretically, doing so would undermine their moral authority and blur the line between angels and demons — even if the target is a cold-blooded murderer with no remorse and a high recidivism rate. Better to break a few of the bad guy’s bones and ship him or her off to the nearest prison or high-security facility for sociopaths. Right? Not always. Sometimes a character does something so heinous and/or is such a threat to society that a hero is justified in choosing the nuclear option. Continue reading
V. knows way more about Smallville than I do, but I was a fan of this show in its early days. Though poor Tom Welling has yet to don a cape, there have been some notable, full-costume appearances by major DC players. But since it’s a TV show and not a big-screen blockbuster, Smallville has never had the budget to provide truly splendid superhero costumes. The best ones look like top-notch cosplay getups. Others, like the recent Blue Beetle reveal, are a bit sad:
Hawkman: In Smallville‘s defense, Hawkman’s comics costume is glorious and therefore very hard to pull off without CGI and big bucks. Again, if I saw this at Dragon*Con, I’d be kinda impressed. However, I saw a Hawkgirl at D*C whose wings were bigger, more feathery, and far more striking than this. The helmet looks like it was decorated with gold spray paint, and overall, it’s a letdown. Grade: C-
Booster Gold: Not awful. Booster isn’t the most serious character in the DCU, but he looks like he’s ready to handle some business in this instance. Snazzy shades, and props for the oh-so-accurate product placement patches. Very NASCAR. Grade: B
Wonder Woman: Even though this is Lois Lane in Diana’s costume, I dig it. In fact, like it so much that I wish David E. Kelley & Co. had gone this route for the TV show. It’s got some warrior flourishes, and it appears classic and youthful. Points off for the cheap-o tiara and star deficit, though. Grade: A-
Zatanna: Fishnets, check. Tuxedo getup, check. Hot boots, check. Matrix-y trench coat, check. This is a fairly simple look, but it’s effective and awfully stylish: Grade: A
Black Canary: I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. Dinah looks like a cross between in Val Kilmer in Top Gun and a mannequin at Wilsons Leather. The costume screams “cheap,” and the Ziggy Stardust raccoon mask isn’t helping matters. Grade: D-
Stargirl: The mask is effed up, and the costume is only slightly above Halloween quality. I think had those shorts in fourth grade. Anyway, Stargirl is such an underexposed character that I’m happy to see her at all. By the way, that staff looks like a solar light fixture that was ripped out of someone’s front yard. Grade: C
Aquaman: I really, really got a kick out of this. I’m a tad biased because orange and green are my alma mater’s colors, but Aquaman’s costume looks functional for a guy who spends most of his time in the water, and it’s sleek and modern. Groovy footwear, too! With apologies to my Aquaman-loving friends, “cool” is not a word I often associate with King Arthur, so this is well played. Grade: A+
Clark Ken/Superman: I realize that he has yet to officially become the Man of Steel on Smallville, but at this point, Clark ought to have more than jeans, a blue T-shirt, and a red jacket from Costco. Can’t a Kryptonian get some love on his own show?! Even Welling’s well-documented beauty can’t redeem this. Grade: F
Author’s Note: If fan sentimentality of any kind repulses you, please avoid the following essay.
The relationship between Batman and Superman has fascinated me since I was a kid. Equal parts bickering couple, friends, and teammates, they are quite a combo. Their surface differences are interesting enough — Clark’s pastoral and idyllic upbringing (minus that whole exploding planet thing) vs. Bruce’s youth as the orphaned Prince of Gotham. But when a really good writer brings them together, you get a sense of their mutual respect and understanding, in spite of the way they often grate on one another. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Before I start making fun of Lois Lane’s attempts to understand the plight of my people in the early 1970s, I’ll say this much: A silly as Lois Lane #106 looks now, it was probably quite a powerful comic book when it first published, and I say it’s better to address racism awkwardly than not at all. Continue reading
Ann U.’s illustrations caught my eye the instant I spotted them on DeviantArt, and it led me to even more of her striking art posted on her Live Journal. I cannot resist the work of an artist with a gift for facial expressions and body language, and Ann’s drawings radiate personality. Continue reading
If a picture says a thousand words, the World’s Finest covers of yore are entire novels. Faulkner novels. As in, engrossing and deeply troubling. While this storied title was innocent, action-packed fun for generations of comic book-loving kids, things look very different when viewed from an adult perspective. It’s like when you look at H.R. Pufnstuf clips on YouTube and realize that it’s one big LSD endorsement. Continue reading
The very handsome Brit Henry Cavill is the new cinema Superman, and for the life of me, I can’t tell whether anyone cares. Too soon? It seems like we were just being introduced to Brandon Routh, who did a good job in a flawed movie, Superman Returns. I’m not all that excited about a reboot, but I’m a little bummed that Routh didn’t get a chance to show what he could do in a (potentially) better movie. In any case, Cavill will look great with a spit-curl and a cape. And for the love of Rao, please cast a believable Lois Lane this time around.
Does the unveiling of the new Man of Steel have you pumped for the movie?
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Rod Reis (colors) and J.P. Mayer (ink)
Cover: John Cassaday and David Baron
Letters: John J. Hill
There’s nothing new about the similarities between Superman and a certain carpenter from Nazareth, but in some stories, the parallels are neon-sign obvious. Shortly after watching Superman Returns — in which Kal-El even rises from his hospital deathbed after a few days (three?) — my brother asked, “Are we sure this isn’t a movie about Jesus?”
Writer J. Michael Straczynski is an atheist, but he has spoken of Superman in biblical (or, depending on your point of view, mythological) terms. In JMS’ highly anticipated Superman debut, the Man of Steel comes across the way I’ve often imagined Jesus might: captivating, earnest, the tiniest bit smug. He doesn’t carry much in the way of cash or material possessions, and he walks a lot. Wherever he goes, people pepper him with questions, try his patience and practically dare him to use his powers. Sound familiar?
Literally down to Earth, Superman is on a sort of fact-finding stroll through America, telling one journalist, “I’m not flying because I’m walking.” (As a former newspaper reporter, I thought the pack of hero-chasing journalists seemed gratuitously dim, especially considering Clark Kent’s line of work. But maybe they were TMZ types.)
The best moments in this issue are the smallest, like when Superman checks the funds in his cape pocket before ordering a cheese steak sandwich, or when star-struck residents react as if a caped Zac Efron were in their presence. It’s not every day that you see a metahuman celebrity in Philly, and I was charmed by Eddy Barrows’ scenes of grinning, gobsmacked citizens.
Unfortunately, the effort to make Superman “relevant” is all too obvious at times, and the book begins to strain under the weight of its own message. There’s a deeply goofy segment involving some drug dealers who appear to have stepped right out of New Jack City, and Supes has one too many Preachy McPreachypants moments. By the end, I found myself wishing Original Batman were around to bust the guy’s chops. However, despite these stumbles and my lack of any deep investment in Superman (the character or the comic), JMS has laid out an interesting premise — one that makes me want to stick around for at least one more stop on Kal-El’s tour.
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Writer: Alan Moore
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inkers: George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger
Though I accept that Alan Moore is an exceptional and groundbreaking writer, I’ve often found his work difficult to love. However, when Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” stories were reissued in trade form, I went directly to the comics shop and bought the book. This volume is delightful, and it’s a great read whether you’re a hardcore comics lover or a casual reader with only basic knowledge of Superman.
Written in the 1980s as the final chapter for the Silver Age Superman, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is touching, haunting and playful in all the right places — and in a way, it highlights the problem with the lack of an expiration date on iconic comic book characters. No one stays dead (or missing) in comic books anymore, and it is harder to care when you know that a the story of a character’s life has no real end. As wonderful as Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” story was — and it was plenty wonderful — it was undermined a little by the knowledge that Bruce Wayne wasn’t really gone for good. Dude is already on his way back.
Of course, this makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, and new readers keep discovering (and rediscovering) these titles. My point is that the level of poignancy that Moore achieved here is rare because the medium doesn’t often allow for it. A character like Superman is so much more compelling when he is ultimately defeated by something, whether it’s mortality or a changing world. Superman was rebooted in 1986 with “The Man of Steel” arc, but Moore’s story represents the end of a long and storied era. You should read it.
My LCS owner and I were doing our regular news-of-the-week chat when I started griping about the Earth One projects DC has planned for Superman and Batman. Gripe is probably too strong a word, because I’m a big fan of Gary Frank, who’ll be illustrating the Batman arc. However, I said something about being annoyed with the repetition of two very well-worn origin stories, and that as much as I love Batman, I don’t need to see him crouched over his dead parents’ bodies ever again. That’s when the owner pointed out the obvious: “Well, you’re not the target audience for these books.”
When I got back into comics in a serious way three years ago, I promised myself that I wouldn’t become the kind of fan who considers a reboot or revision as an affront to his or her childhood. And since I write for a living, I can appreciate the difficulty of keeping a beloved character fresh while being confined by lore and editorial dictates. But there I was, throwing shade on books that aren’t even out yet. God forbid a publisher try to bring newer, younger readers into the fold! While I’d much rather see a great writer breathe new life into a less familiar character, I’m already reading comics. Someone who isn’t in that world is more likely to enter (or re-enter) through a familiar door. And it doesn’t get more familiar than Batman and Superman.
That comic shop exchange reminded me of a Dragon*Con panel about the future of comics that I attended back in September. Panelist Darwyn Cooke, one of my favorite writers, kept it extremely real, referring to modern comic book culture as “an over-35 club.” He pointed out that comic books were never meant to be read by the same audience for 20-plus years. But because the average reader today is more likely to have a mortgage than a homeroom teacher, the demand for continuity, among other things, hangs over many titles. So naturally, someone like me — as opposed to, say, my 9-year-old son — is over Superman’s origin story because they’ve been paying attention to superhero titles for decades. As Frank himself put it, the Earth One project “is a blank slate.”
It’s nice to be reminded that there’s room under the tent for everyone — and that if it doesn’t move me, I don’t have to read it. Besides; despite my grouchy old geek act, they had me at “Gary Frank.”