The Deconstruction of Superman

Anyone who has been following my blog knows how I feel about what the Co-Publishers have been doing to the Man of Steel.  I’m just not sure how much Geoff Johns is involved in this deconstruction.

Back in 2008, when Didio was just VP Executive Editor and Lee was an artist and Executive Creative Director over video games, Geoff Johns met with James Robinson and Greg Rucka to discuss the Superman storyline for the next two years.   What fans got was Superman out of the Superman book for a year and Superman out of Action Comics for two years.  World of New Krypton had a Superman/Clark Kent leaving his loved ones (including his wife, Lois) to go live on New Krypton as Kal-El with 100,000 other Kryptonians.   Sales plummeted.  No one knew this character without his dual identity and only his alien heritage.  There was no marriage as apparently Kal-El dared not even think of Lois while on his new world.

After that sales dive, J Michael Straczynski gave us Grounded where Superman would walk the United States to get back to his superhero roots.  Minus his wife, of course.  Shortly after a meeting with Dan Didio in late 2010 JMS learned that Didio was jonsing for a reboot and was getting it.  Soon after JMS dropped Grounded (so he could concentrate on Superman: Earth One supposedly) and Chris Roberson was given up the clean up duties.  We found that the marriage was alive when Lois visited her mind controlled husband – but he still wasn’t truly Superman or Clark Kent .   No dual identity or triangle-for-two.

When the reboot was announced, Paul Cornell finished out his Action run (his previous year on Action consisted of a Lex Luthor based story with a Lois-bot and every DCU villain, but no Superman) with Doomsday and the Supers battling it out.  Roberson and Cornell tried to end Superman and Action with a tribute to the marriage and the most iconic love story in comic book history. But a couple of pages just didn’t cut it.

Lois Lane was fridged 4 times in a 12 month period before and after the reboot.  Her marriage was thrown into oblivion – because she was a “beautiful trophy wife and the marriage just weighed down Superman and made him boring.”  Didio said they had no writers who could write the Superman story with all that baggage.

Enter the new 52.

There were rumors that there would be a Superman Wonder Woman hookup early on.  This seemed to be underlined by that October, 2010 “writers’ retreat” where they thought of putting Superman in a love triangle and the ideas just flowed.

You’ve read who I think were actually at the writers retreat – and no one who actually wrote Superman or loved the character could have come up with what he is in the new 52. Removing all his human tethers and making him alienated sounds like ideas from people on the outside and not working from within the character.   George Perez and Grant Morrison were handpicked to write Superman and Action.  Perez later spoke of how editorial (and possible corporate entities) had very strict perimeters which often changed on a whim.  Morrison, who Didio boosted as the main reason to buy Action, later within his story spoke of a corporation who took a great iconic idea which everyone loved  (Superman) and twisted him into something he was never intended to be – a superdoomsday, a monster that kills.

Bryan Q. Miller had an idea for a comic book that would continue the Smallville television story before the show ended.  He couldn’t sell the idea as the new 52 was beginning to get ‘organized’ but later, he was told that his book would be published.  Smallville Season 11 would be a digital-first meaning fans could purchase a digital-chapter before it was compiled into a print issue.   Fans disappointed with what was transpiring in the new 52 books were happy to purchase (both electronically and in print) the story of a classic Superman.  The Smallville show had its troubles, but it did try to incorporate all the ages of the Superman mythology.

Although there have been no digital numbers released regarding sales/downloads, Smallville Season 11 at a 99 cent price point usually rises to the #1 spot week after week.  That’s quite a feat for a book competing with $3 or $4 books well established in the new 52 or at Marvel or the other publishing companies.  Print-wise Smallville Season 11 dances around the 100 mark each month and has done so steadily.  It’s like guaranteed money.  Now with a little more promotion maybe it could go up the order charts – but Smallville Clark is a classic character and would be a reminder of what the new 52 Superman is not.

Superman Family Adventures by Art Baltazar and Franco also gave fans of all ages, a classic Superman.  The triangle-for-two (Clark and Lois), super pets, the Daily Planet, and all the villains (new and old).  BUT, this past week fans found out after its 12th issue, Superman Family Adventures would be no more.   No more laughing.  No more fun.  If DC Entertainment were seriously trying to build its comic book division, then wrangling the kids early on in their lives would give them a habit for life.  And since kids (of all ages) are electronically savvy, then why not have had it in some digital form and promote the hell out of it?  But again, maybe Superman Family Adventures brought up too much of the old mythos to the Co-Publishers liking.

Since August 22nd, DC Comics has promoted the pairing of Superman and Wonder Woman to the point of hysteria.  Profiles from match.com, multi-media promotion, made up top ten polls, and hyperbole made into a new art form has been relentlessly shoved down fans throats.  Although Justice League #12  got a bump with its heavy promotion and second variant cover, its orders have continued to fall month after month.   Action Comics orders have fallen 60% since October, 2011 and Superman after  four writers still is falling.  WHY?

When Superman fans saw the kiss promo, we knew why Superman just couldn’t get off the ground.  Clark Kent has not been seen much since Perez’s run (1-6) , Morrison writes in multiple timelines and really didn’t give us much until Action #12 (same month as JL #12), and the Daily Planet and Lois especially has been relegated to a deeply buried subplot.   Superman’s dual identity, the triangle-for-two and his human background are gone!

Did you know that Superman is an alien?

Similar to what we experienced in WONK, Superman is an alien complete with a suit of armor with a Mister Majestic collar.  He’s all alone.  There’s no one like him (except Supergirl and Superboy . . . and the many other Kryptonian villains DC has unleashed upon him).   So if he doesn’t exactly know who he is – you can forgive him cause, he’s alienated.  (worst characterization ever)

Why alienate Superman?  Because then you can turn him into something he has never been – a monster.  How do you alienate him – you jump into his story at the five year mark and hope no one asks any questions.

Kal-El was placed into a ship by Jor-El and Lara to save him from the destruction of Krypton.  He landed in a field in Kansas and was discovered by the Kents.  That much of the story has not changed.  But we do not see his upbringing by the Kents or his first five years working as a reporter in Metropolis.

If any writer was in that writers’ retreat, they would know that a character’s back story and circumstances shape the story and suggest plots.   It seems as though this Clark Kent did not develop his powers until he was an adolescent.  That means his formative years where he’s a learning sponge were under the direction and guidance of the Kents.  We’ve been told he has a strong moral core.  Clark experienced rejection in middle school (being picked last for a basketball team) but he played football in high school.  A picture proudly displayed at the Kent farm confirms this.   How alienated can he be if he played team sports?  He even has a favorite eating spot in Smallville where he enjoys the company  of the folks there.

In Action 12, Clark is far from alienated from Lois Lane.  He saves her life as if his counted on it.  And in Perez’s run, his life did depend on Lois as she saved the super damsel in distress at least twice.  Also within those pages, we saw Clark wished things could have been different between he and Lois.  He had just found out she had a boyfriend (Superman #1) which editorial gleefully related made Clark despondent (thus alienating him further).  Bad Lois for making Superman feel bad.

Fans have never seen those first moments of Lois meeting Clark face to face or Superman meeting Lois Lane face to face.  The triangle-for-two is dead.  He’s dating Wonder Woman because he’s alienated.  Still working as a journalist, even though he left the Daily Planet (thus alienating him further), and still seems to enjoy a hot dog and having a slob for a room mate in the form of Jimmy Olsen.

Right now when we do see Clark, we are TOLD in narration boxes, he finds Lois to be the most amazing woman he has ever known.   But within the story, Clark chastises Lois for having a boyfriend she’s moving in with and tossing her journalistic integrity away in her new position at the Daily Planet.  While he’s kissing Wonder Woman because there’s no one like them – except for the supers, and some of the peeps on Justice League, Justice League Dark, and soon to be Justice League of America.

This is just bad storytelling.  POOR POOR characterization and just darn right stomping down of the Superman character and mythos.

Superman is no longer a symbol of hope (even though Perez, Giffen and Jurgens tried to put that into the narrative).  He is feared by the humans of the world (except Lois and Jimmy supposedly).  And will be more feared when his relationship with Wonder Woman is publicized in the story – thus leading up to the Trinity War (the first crisis of the new 52).  Yes, people fear Superman.  He’s an emotional coward.  Doesn’t follow his heart.  He’s alienated.  Sometimes emotionally removed (Justice League) and hovering above others.   Sometimes over the top petulant 12 year old emotionally in Lobdell’s Superman book.  He doesn’t know who he is and we certainly don’t know who he is either.  His story has been smashed to smithereens – and for what purpose?

This past week fans got the first chapter of the comic book behind the video game, Injustice: Gods Among Us.  It is being done by the people who did Mortal Kombat.  That’s right the very violent, fight to the death (lots of death) video game.  We see a Superman we are familiar with.  He’s married to Lois Lane.  He’s wearing the new 52 suit.  Why have Lois in the comic if she means nothing to his story?  Emotional impact.  How do you turn Superman into a killing monster?  You kill Lois and their unborn child. Talk about a slap in the face to Superman fans.  Lois is only important if you can fridge her and her baby to make Clark into a monster.   It’s the nature of the video game – Superman has to be a tyrant in order to bring order into the world, right?  And the only way to be a tyrant is to kill a few along the way especially if your game is being done by the Mortal Kombat guys.  And if it means getting vengeance for Lois’ death all the better, right?

Even the writer of the comic said it was the most painful thing he has ever done – destroying Superman.

DC Entertainment has sold Superman’s soul for a video game.  He will kill.  He will do things out of anger.  There is no self discipline or self control – that would not be conducive to the game.

There is no shining light of hope in troubled times as there was in the Great Depression.  We in the soon-to-be Greater Depression have no such inspiration or aspiration.  That character is gone and has been for quite a few years now.  He’s too alienated.  He doesn’t relate to humans.  And if you piss him off for some reason, he will kill.  This is Lee’s Mister Majestic not Superman.   But some of us knew that already – like everyone who has thrown down a new 52 Superman book in disgust.

Will generations of fans see THE Superman they know and love?  Most probably in the Man of Steel movie.  Dan Didio and Jim Lee thankfully have nothing to do with that.

But fans are stuck with these two overseeing the pages of the new 52 Superman stories – their ideas are diminishing Superman and in so doing imploding the comic book industry at a more rapid rate.  Too many missed opportunities for expanding the character and audience or riding the wave of good publicity from the film trailer.  It’s their way or the highway . . .  They love doom which is not what Superman is about at all.

It’s about time Diane Nelson showed the Co-Pubs the exit ramp.  Fans are gleefully awaiting your doom.

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January 18, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Announcements, Baudy's Reviews, BaudyBlahBlahBlah, Superman.

3 Comments

  1. Slade replied:

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on Dan Didio(t), and I cannot find anything in his background that explains how he was not only able to join DC Comics, but rise through the ranks so quickly. Jim Lee is a very talented artist (even if he is a terrible costume designer), but from a business standpoint, he has proven to be anything but a progressive-minded individual. I get the sense that he’s in the same frame of mind that he was in when he first started out in the industry over 20 years ago: that over 90% of comic book readers are horny teenage boys who only read for boobs, butts and big explosions. Then I remembered that Diane Nelson — by her own admission — doesn’t know jack-sh*t about comics, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that she would give the keys to the kingdom to these two buffoons and let a visionary like Karen Berger walk away from the company. I think its time for WB to step in and show all of them the door.

    In the long run I think Superman will be fine. Its Wonder Woman who’s going to come out of this with her image irreparably damaged. Just look at how things have played out so far:

    She’s been marketed as a sexual object throughout the promotion of this “romance.”

    Portrayed within the pages of JL as an overly vulnerable dim-witted barbarian who needed Superman to tell her what to think, how to feel and how to live amongst humanity even though she’s been in “Man’s World” for FIVE YEARS.

    She cruelly spurned the love and loyalty of an honorable man at a time when he needed her the most, and since then she’s been following Superman around like a lost puppy and hasn’t even bothered to check and see if he was breathing.

    What’s really tragic about all of this is that under Brian Azzarello, WW is currently having arguably the best run she’s ever had, but its all amounting up to nothing because of the aforementioned disservices.

    • baudyhallee replied:

      Hi Slade,

      I agree with what you say regarding Wonder Woman. If it wasn’t for Azzarello making her into the hero she is in her own book, we’d be getting this foolishly dim warrior who doesn’t seem to learn or know herself. I wonder if that is what Brian was shown as how the Co-Pubs saw her role in the DCU. With all we’ve seen in the new 52 so far, that seems to be about it. Diana being the only female on the team and with all the ‘dibs’ references when she first joined, it appears as if some characters are more liked than others or at least given more prominence. I remember while reading Justice League thinking they were going to make Batman and Green Lantern, the new World’s Finest. Again, snuffing out Superman’s role in the universe.

      I keep hoping Johns brought Steve Trevor in the picture for a reason. The character needed to come back because in the old DCU they passed Wonder Woman off to Batman while she ‘dreamed’ of being with the married Superman. Not exactly who Diana is either. So having Trevor come back could add something to her story — BUT, he’s been in every book with the title Justice League in it and Team 7. He’s been in more books than she has. Is Steve Trevor one of those characters Johns wanted to bring back to prove he could make him viable?

      My main worry is Superman and his mythos. How he is perceived. He has no hope in the new 52. The phrase “Look up in the sky!” meant quit looking at the ground while trudging through life. When people look up, there is hope — and Siegel & Shuster gave us a hero to see up there in the ethereal while we experienced worldwide collapse. One we could trust because he always did the right thing. He wasn’t a monster. He had self control and didn’t force his will on us. He could, but he doesn’t.

      The other part of that character of hope was (and should be) Clark Kent. This powerful being wants to be one of us because he sees our potential for good. If we are inspired, then we rise above our circumstances and selfishness. We see none of that in the new 52. Superman does not inspire anything hopeful even after the five year jump. He just battles aliens. He doesn’t investigate crime or corruption as a journalist — every day things that real people actually deal with. Why does DC Comics keep saying they want Superman to be “more realistic” and yet, they shove aside Clark Kent, journalist (and Lois, too). Clark and Lois are how we human readers relate to Superman on an emotional level. We get to see this powerful being as a person — with personhood. It’s one of the reasons this story has lasted 7.5 decades.

      There are rumors the DC offices are a shambles and chaotic. One huge rumor (to me at least) is that they aren’t even sure when they will have the Trinity War. For Free Comic Book Day in May, DC is offering a copy of Superman: Last Son of Krypton which Johns wrote with Richard Donner years before WONK or Grounded. I already have those issues. What is DC going to offer me? And will Lois still be in that story or will they cut her out?

      It just seems as if DC will not be having any synergy between the film and the comic stories. Thus, once again, losing an opportunity to build their fanbase and more importantly, giving the industry an injection of success.

      When done right, nothing sells better than Superman — unfortunately the Co-Pubs won’t allow writers to do it right. They have to have their bootheels on everything.

      PS You mentioned that Lee still may perceive the new 52 audience as he did in the 90s. What if the audience has changed? Yea, I’m still jonsing for that second Nielsen survey. What the hell are they so afraid of by showing them to us?

  2. Slade replied:

    I’ve also seen numerous reports that suggest that things are very hectic behind the scenes at DC right now. One of them is that the plot for Trinity War has changed about four times!!! The structural flaws from the beginning of the N52 have really come back to bite DC in the ass, and now there just flying by the seat of their pants and scrambling to maintain their share of the market with gimmicks and crossovers. The position they’re in right now is strikingly similar to the one Marvel was in during the 90s right before the company imploded (ironically enough, Bob Harras was the EIC at Marvel during this time).

    Since you mentioned synergy, Wonder Woman has a television show in the works and an OGN written by Grant Morrison that’s due out some time this year. Her love interest in both is a certain U.S. Air Force Colonel who’s been her primary love interest throughout her 70+ year history. Geoff Johns does speak glowingly of Steve, but as I mentioned earlier, DC is really just flying by the seat of their pants these days and its hard to tell what they’re gonna do. I think one of the stupidest things DC did during their 1985 reboot was making him an older father figure type character to Diana. Since then she hasn’t had a definitive romance and I think that’s kind of hampered her narrative. She deserves a legendary romance just like Spiderman/Mary Jane, Superman/Lois Lane and Batman/his 20,000 women LOL.

    Superman does have an animated DVD coming out this summer in which Lois will be his love interest, so that’s something to look forward to other than MOS.

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