By DIOMJK 74 Comments
So Superman. I knew I would think of some things to say about the Man of Steel eventually. Supes is without a doubt the most divisive A list super hero in all of comics, with people either loving him and what he stands for or else are completely apathetic to him and his stories. There are hundreds of reasons to explain this: He's over powered, he's an icon, he's a role model, his existence basically eliminates need for other heroes etc. etc. But the main reason I keep hearing, the one I think is the biggest thing keeping him from being universally accepted by the comic reading masses, is that he is Dull. just incredibly BORING, plain and simple.
And unfortunately, this is a valid complaint. The average fan could probably only name off a few things about the character that actually define him outside his power set. He's married to Lois Lane, he's the last son of Krypton, he's got a few buddies at the office and he pretends to be the office bitch when he's disguised as Clark Kent. and that's about where it ends. Literally nothing more defines him as a character than that, in the eyes of the public, and most stories I've read only back that up. That isn't to say that these things can't be used to great effect in making an engaging story with an interesting premise, but the fact is that in our minds (and on paper), Superman hasn't had any real permanent changes to his status quo since he got married to Lois Lane way back when.
That brings us to the reboot, with Grant Morrison completely re-vamping the character, as he is want to do, with Action Comics, and veteran George Perez handling the "current" incarnation of Superman in... Superman. And there have been some mixed results, to say the least.
Having read all of the new 52 Action comics (up to issue 7 at the time of this writing), and having seen some reviews and critiques of it throughout the opinion cesspool that is the internet, what we ultimately conclude is that despite a few storytelling problems, Morrison has in effect given us a much more exciting Man of Steel to get behind. His brash, headstrong and arrogant nature, combined with seeing how the world reacts to him before he becomes the poster boy for Justice, cannot be called boring by any means, though if you want to argue about the quality of the stories you sure can make a few points.
Perez's run, on the other hand, tosses aside all that in favor of a more classic Superman tale, slightly tweaked to fit a few editorial mandates. That is it. I wrote before about how this book was one of the most disappointing titles I've read over the reboot, and the fact is it all stems from the excitement I felt after reading Action comics. This was Superman After having grown up and matured a bit, who combines his past personality with what he's learned and experienced, and using that to make him a better person. Aaaaaaand... complete failure. What we got was a series so disconnected from it's recently established origins that I kinda suspect Perez didn't bother reading it, and just wrote Supes as he would have back in the 80's (hell, he probably didn't even read the first issue of JLA!). What we should have gotten was a calmer, more collected and patient Superman who still had some hints of his past. Instead we got what is the equivalent of him having recently been chemically castrated. Sure, as Clark he does get riled up after the ownership of the Daily Planet changed hands, but it was lukewarm at best, and combined with seeing how he reacts to Lois Lane's boyfriend, he comes across as no more than a whiner. I refuse to believe that after 5 years knowing each other, he didn't make a single move on Lois, or that he'd just mope like that when he finds out that (surprise) she's human and needs to get off with a man some times.
Which leads me to my problems with having their marriage erased from continuity. Now, this isn't One More Day, this is more turning back the clock. We all know that the two are going to end up together at the end, we're not stupid and, despite some questionable decisions, neither are DC. This change was done for two reasons
1) Because DC thinks that our heroes need to be single, for a time, in order to be more relateable (as Aquaman and Animal Man have proven, though, this is bullshit)
2) Because Lois and Superman have been together for so long that the average reader has no idea how they got together, at least when it comes to the details/ events surrounding it
But unfortunately, instead of perhaps seeing an entertaining little romp about how the most powerful being in existence and his tough reporter co-worker fall in love, we're subjected to a typical story about unrequited love from a nerdy man who actually has an incredible secret. SNOOORE.
I know that isolation is the big theme that Perez has been pushing onto this book, which makes sense when you're an endangered alien species in disguise who occasionally engages in fisticuffs with a bald man and a super computer, but certainly we could have seen SOMETHING new and surprising from this book. And that's really what it boils down to: It's pushing for change, but it's being much too safe about it
In the end, you have to ask yourselves if a Superman book can ever deliver what I'm looking for in a book, and really all my complaints can and probably are being cast aside by people who defend this book since it is just my opinion (which is true, but doesn't mean they aren't completely valid). But at the same time, I feel that we CAN have our cake and eat it too, that there is a middle ground and a way that can make this character work for a wider audience, without sacrificing his appeal to his current readership. So I've made a few suggestions on how I would see a Superman book working.
First, we should just accept that Superman is insanely powerful. There's really no point in bringing his strength down in a hope that him being only able to lift 100 tons instead of 200 will make him suddenly more likable. Instead, focus on making his adventures more creative, more interesting, and/or more FUN. Go for high concepts like Stormwatch, or go a zany route to make it more entertaining. Or both. There's only so many times we can see our mightiest hero have to stop "A new threat that is laying waste to Metropolis, one that May Be More Powerful Than the Man Of Steel Himself Can Handle!" before we just collectively go meh and pick up something worth reading (such as the ever fantastic Demon Knights, which i shall continue to shamelessly plug).
Once that's established, we gotta give Superman a deeper personality, one that has something more to him than the "Nerd/Hero" duality that most writers seem to rely on. I suggest that they do what Perez should have done from the start, run with the Isolation angle that DC has been pushing, but keep the dick-ish Superman that Morrison and Geoff Johns are crafting in their books. How would you do this? By making his arrogant nature as superman part of his disguise, a front that Clark Kent wears because he's actually deeply insecure about his life due to the lonely he feels, since he can't truly relate with human beings. Boom. There's your book. Check please.
From there, you need to integrate the supporting cast. Hacker Jimmy Olsen? That's just painful in how much of a stock character they're trying to make him. I got a better idea. If you guys haven't heard of it, there's a fantastic mini-series out called Superman: Metropolis, which focuses on Jimmy Olsen. In it, he still is superman's pal, but he stands on his own. He's willing to do whatever it takes to get a shot, he's naive but knowledgeable, and he's just a fun, interesting character, and it even gets a bit tragic. that's what they should aim for. If there's one thing Bucky Barnes and Damian Wayne have taught us, even the lamest of sidekicks, done right, can shine on their own. I don't know much about Perry White, so I'm not gonna mention him, but i'm sure he can't be too hard
Ultimately, what really doesn't work about Lois is that despite being in Action comics, she seems to have no real relationship with Clark to speak of. What they could have done is instead make them close friends. Serious BFF territory. Then continue with the idea that Clark pushes people away due to his inability to connect with humans in order to make tension in the relationship, which is why they never got past "just friends". OR make Lois the one person Clark feels he can truly connect with, which makes her lack of interest in him all the more tragic. The only reason seeing her with that other man had any sort of impact on us is because we know that their SUPPOSED to be together. Instead, emphasis should have been made on WHY they aren't together yet, instead of just "Oh, Clark's a dork".
And that's really all I have to say about this. To clarify, I write these things in order to improve my writing skills and my ability to make clear, concise arguments, So feedback, comments and discussions are much obliged. I DEMAND them. Agree, disagree, better ideas, things I'm ignoring or not touching on? TELL THEM TO ME. And thanks for reading.