RENAISSANCE MAN NO MORE

MOS120clarkjournoMOS120clarklovesLois

When I was young I didn’t know what a Renaissance man was, but I knew what a Superman was/is/should be.

Superman to me was more than just a brawling alien who fought for Earth and its human inhabitants.  Being the Last Son of Krypton allowed this being to possess all the knowledge of the known galaxies. What does such a man do with all those advantages?  How can mere humans ever hope to relate to him?  How can a reading audience ever trust him to never be corrupted?  The answer is in his origins.  He took on a human identity.

How could this Kryptonian balance two lives?  Because he’s SUPERMAN.  He has powers beyond those of mortal men, but he also is/was a writer – with the power to touch the hearts and minds of the global population.  He’s a leader – yet not a demagogue.  He has the power to move mountains or planets, but has strong willed control.  He reacts rather than imposes his will. His keen mind and experience from an early age made him realize what he says or does could affect the entire univerrse(s).

As a scientist, could he cure cancer?  Sure.  But perhaps he is more wise and mindful that the people of Earth need to solve their own problems.  As a reporter, could he report on how to cure cancer sighting the latest research that was going in the right direction?  Of course.  But if the people didn’t listen, then he would allow them to decide that.  He’s not a god.  Superman will not force his will on others.  Did he ‘allow’ the people to elect Lex Luthor as their President?  Yes, even though he couldn’t see the wisdom of that decision.  He still stood by it.  Again, he will not force his will on others.

So does he do nothing?  Say nothing?  Don’t be absurd.  This man living on Earth has a lot to say, but as Superman, he has to keep some things unsaid in order to keep the peace or allow order to grow.

That’s the beauty of the Clark Kent ‘identity’ – He can express his mind through his articles as a journalist.  Clark Kent can do things that Superman can’t.  That’s why being Clark Kent is so important to the character of Superman.  It makes him relatable to the Earth world where he resides, gives him purpose and motivation, gives him a fuller live and personality, allows him to be not only physically wonderous but also to display his fortitude, resolve, intelligence, quirks, and flaws.  Yes, flaws.  Every being has them even if they are a Kryptonian living under an Earth’s yellow sun.  The flaws and all the rest make the character relatable to readers.  It inspires them to aspire.  Clark Kent gives us that.  Because Clark Kent is Superman.  And we can be super, too, in our own way.

The portrayal of the dual identities gives us a vista vision view of this character.  He is so much more than a battling alien.  He, like the humans of Earth, has the same feelings, desires, and thoughts that all beings have.  His life as Clark Kent is the landscape where those things are presented.  Clark is mild mannered and meek, which doesn’t mean weak.  The definition of meek is power under control — and isn’t that the epitome of Superman?  Clark is polite, well-mannered.  Again this has to do with relating to others and not imposing upon them.  He gives others the benefit of the doubt until they prove him wrong.  Clark gives second chances because he knows he’s made mistakes and he has great faith that a person or humanity will get it right.  They just have to pick themselves up and try again.  Wouldn’t learning how to use his abilities have taught him that lesson also?  Especially flying?

Clark respects life and all living beings.  Some of that may have been from his farm-life upbringing.  Dependence on other creatures and crops as well as their care.  He is, afterall, an alien and adopted.  He  knows what being an outsider is all about.  So when he meets someone, he doesn’t punch first and ask questions later.  He uses discernment and observation.  Because life is precious – even when we find it strange, grotesque, or intimidating.

Without Clark Kent, we would not know how or why Superman has a good heart.  Why does he care so much for Earth and its people?  Without Clark, Superman could just as well leave Earth and explore the universes, but would he still have the reverence for life and other beings as he does now?

Superman is an alien living on Earth.  He’s a farm boy and a powerful being with incredible powers.  He loves life in all its forms and detests evil.  He could rule the world, but has a strong will which keeps his power under control.  He is gentle but can smash a planet.  He is courteous, but will speak out about injustice and lies.  He appears unassuming as Clark, but is practically revered as a god as Superman.

This is the balance and inner conflict of this character.  A Renaissance man and Superman.

In the new 52 we have not witnessed hardly any Clark Kent.  We may see him typing at a keyboard, but never truly involved in a story.  And we may see a reference to the now abandoned Kent farm, but we do not see the dual identity to the extent that would allow readers to relate to this character on a fundamental level.

Currently, Superman is in a relationship with Wonder Woman.  She’s not totally comfortable with him insisting on being Clark Kent.  She’d rather he be the ‘god’ 24/7 so they can be together.  Bad characterization aside – but it is enraging what they are doing to Wonder Woman.  This has been the plan since the new 52 started.  To present Superman as only Superman and none of the Clark Kent.

The absence of five years of story in both the Superman books and Justice League have shown absolutely no growth or history with Superman.  In a recent book, Superman’s inability to defeat Zod and Faora was explained as lack of training.  (Which Wonder Woman had offered to him in a previous issue)  But could Superman be totally ‘untrained’ having Batman as a friend or battling with the Justice League for at least five years?  Would he have not learned some battle skills from the crystals within the Fortress of Solitude?  Surely someone with a thirst for learning and fairly sizable brain power would have acquired some knowledge during his many, many, and I mean, many battles?

Apparently like Clark Kent, Superman’s character took the leap of those five years without learning or living through much that he can apply to the present timeline.  How does that happen?  Is this good storytelling?  Does it give this character any credibility?

So new 52 Superman who is only allowed to battle all the time, can’t even learn from past experience or any knowledge available to him previously?  Not a Renaissance man.  Not a Superman.

In case you didn’t know, new Superman is in a mess of his caretakers own making.  He is lesser.  He is barely himself half the time.  The other half of the time he’s a cardboard cutout to be moved on a chessboard of chaos.  He’s no longer courteous.  He’s a douche.  He no longer relates to very many humans most especially his former supporting cast at the Daily Planet.  He has no world to live in of his own, even though he has 2+0.5+0.5 books and having just celebrated (not really) his 75th anniversary of existence.  He is a character torn apart.  With no hope of him ever being rebuilt to some semblance of what he was before.  His books continue to dive into where no icon’s books should ever go.  He has been mis-characterized, mistreated and abused as has been his audience, or what is left of it.

Now that our hero is in such dire straits, DCE is calling in the cavalry.  Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer, will be taking over the writing of the Superman book.  And they’ve gotten a real coup with hiring second generation Marvel artist, John Romita, Jr. to do the pencils.  Big doings for the corporation – but what about the character?  Big names will bring in those creators’ fans which will mean increase in number of orders – but will it keep the hopeful loyal fans staying because they recognize the Superman they love?

Johns orchestrated the World of New Krypton storyline along with Greg Rucka and James Robinson.  This took Superman out of his namesake book and Action Comics.  The World of New Krypton book gave us a character that was only Kal-El, not Clark Kent or even Superman.  He was not allowed to even think about the loved ones he left behind.  There was no emotional or inner conflict displayed about his circumstances.  He was for all extent and purposes a Kryptonian with no Earthly ties.  WONK started with 50,048 in March 2009 to 32,407 in February, 2010.  Last Stand of New Krypton 38,205 in March, 2010 to 34,553 one month later.  War of the Superman in May, 2010 48,357 to 38,863 one month later.  Superman book with no Clark or Superman started in October, 2008 with 54,604 to April, 2010 with 33,183.  Action without Superman or Clark from October, 2008 with 57,400 to April, 2010 with 29,106. Action continued without Clark or Superman (until the very end) but Lex and a Lois bot from 34,744 in June, 2010.  It had its ups and downs with every villain in the DCU and then some, but ended that story arc with 31,808.  Multiple Doomsdays were brought in for the final arc in May, 2011 with 44, 143 to August, 2011 with 39,323.

Paul Cornell was able to bring back Clark and Lois during those last few issues of Action (the book that started it all) before the reboot.  Last minute homages to the Kent marriage and relationship were given, but it was too little too late.

After the WONK story line in Superman books came Grounded, where Superman (not Clark Kent) walked the United States.  (Straczynski left the book after the first few issues to go write Superman: Earth One, because he found out DCE was going to do a reboot.)  Lois, his wife, made minimal appearances and Clark Kent appeared towards the end of the run thanks to Chris Roberson.  Grounded ran from July, 2010 with 54,506 to August, 2011 with 35,919.  The end of the Post-Crisis/pre-52 era.

Flashpoint was another Johns creation.  Superman and Lois had their own books in this transition period.  Lois wasn’t in her own book a lot since she was fighting with the Resistance against Wonder Woman (and Aquaman).  Their symbol was a circle no sign through a helmeted Wonder Woman head.  Superman’s book had more Lois in it from their childhood to Lois’ cliched death where the captive alien proclaimed he would become Superman.  Unfortunately in the animated film of this story, Superman and Lois never meet.  This was after the Justice League 12 initial snog and DCE was pushing the fauxmance.  Justice League War, just recently released, also added scenes where Superman and Wonder Woman were interested in each other more than they were in the first issues of JL.  Lois made an appearance as a witness to their attraction while Steve Trevor leaves in a huff.  Never happened in the books.   Most critics remark on how out of character Superman is and how he is a dick in the animated feature.

Johns was responsible for writing Justice League and the fauxmance.  The ‘event’ that was supposed to take down the entire DCU, but nearly two years later that hasn’t happened.  In fact Superman and Wonder Woman have their own action romance book which is not selling well.  From its first issue in October, 2013 with 94,859 to just 4 issues later in January, 2014 with 47,350, slightly over 50% drop in orders.  It took Action and Superman 21 months to reach that amount of orders.

Yes, the Superman books are in trouble.  Now Action and Superman are below 39,000 and falling in orders.  Something had to be done.  So DCE is doing a Doomsday xover in at least April & May of 2014.  In the meantime, readers have to get through (trudging through the mire) of February and March issues where Superman is a douche with no training and no trust for his best friend of over 5 years (but yea, that gap doesn’t count cause . . . then he’d probably be a better character than he is).  He won’t be Clark Kent, journalist – except for a moment in the Superman: Lois Lane #1 one shot on sale February 26th.  Buy it!  It may be your only chance to get an inkling of the Renaissance man.  But aside from that . . .

We’ve been sold this bill of goods before.  It’s never about Superman being a great character.  It’s about the writer.  Like Grant Morrison starting the new 52 Action series, Johns and Romita are being touted as the reason to read Superman.  And it’s mostly been a patting of each other’s back in interviews.  What fans want is some enthusiasm, love, and excitement about writing and drawing Superman.  It’s got to be more than a business deal.  Otherwise fans are only going to see DCE pulling the same ole song and dance when it comes to Superman.

Let me give you an example of what some fans want.  Tom Taylor LOVES Superman.  When DCE had him write Injustice: Gods Amongst Us.  He basically apologized as to what he had to do to Superman.   He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do.  To make Superman, a character he loves, into something horrible.   I’ve read that first issue and issue #30.  Tom Taylor LOVES Superman and it’s apparent in his writing.  He shows respect and loving care for the character.  Which is why I am extremely excited about his Earth 2 run.  He has brought back Lois Lane from the dead because he knows how important Lois is to the Superman mythology.  Superman is currently Darkseided in the story, but fans still have hope.  That’s more than the new 52 Superman books have given us in a long time.

Also Max Landis wrote an Adventures of Superman story involving the Joker.  This is a MUST for every Superman fan.  It addresses Superman critics on every level including the hierarchy at DCE and what they’ve said about the character while kicking off the new 52.  If you get a chance, check out Landis’ Youtube video, not THAT one, but the one where he gives his Doomsday pitch.  He and Greg Pak were supposed to do a Doomsday weekly, but that fell through.  It would be cool to see how his pitch compares to what Pak et al will be doing in April and May (or longer).  My point for mentioning Landis is — the guy is all out enthusiastically in love with the Superman mythology.  That would mean all the characters that helped build it.  Including Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

The question:  Is Geoff Johns going to return the Renaissance man we’ve known for over 75 years as Superman?  Complete?  With his Clark Kent identity firmly instilled into the Kryptonian being?  Are we going to see Superman’s emotional ties to Earth and Metropolis in particular?  Obviously the ignoring of Clark Kent is not conducive to better sales.  And fans are tired of beating the dead horse of the battling alien and only the battling alien to death.  It’s damaging Superman, his fans, and his orders.

We need a new deck of cards.  The battling alien is not aces anymore. The numbers since April, 2008 show that has been a failing premise for 6 years. DCE needs some trump cards like Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  I hate to say the word hope yet.  Because if I want hope, I’ll go read some Earth 2 and the Superman digital firsts of Adventures of Superman and Smallville.  And unfortunately, I have pretty much lost hope DCE will ever publish another Superman Unchained by Scott Snyder in 2014.  Don’t get me started on that completely insane business strategy.

But . . . Johns is a classic character guy.  There could be hope he’ll bring back the entire Superman mythology.  If we hope for anything, let’s hope he finds a true and abiding love of the character like others have.  That he brings an enthusiasm and respect for the mythology.  Let’s hope that this time we can say, Geoff Johns had the best run on Superman IN DECADES.

(And maybe Johns can get the DCE editorial’s bootheel off of Superman’s codpiece so we can see Clark and all the rest.)

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February 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Baudy's Reviews, BaudyBlahBlahBlah, Lois Lane, Superman.

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