Saturday, June 27, 2015

Superman 41 and giving up on The Man of Tomorrow

I just read issue #41 of the post Flashpoint/ New 52/ DC You Superman series, and...  I mean...  Okay.

There's some decent Superman-action, and I like the Jimmy and Clark pairing well enough.  I think the idea of "Superman's Pal" actually knowing his identity is worth exploring if Jimmy's his peer.  It substitutes the 90's and 00's problem of Superman not having anyone to talk to in his own titles which the Lois-marriage resolved.

But we know where this storyline is headed, right?  I mean, all of the other titles and solicitations tell us Lois will blow Superman's cover.  He gets a haircut.  He goes back to the t-shirt and jeans.  But we already have the broad strokes for how this will play out.  There's not a lot of places for this story to go, it seems.  Or, at least, if we know the effect, any surprises in how we got there seem a little moot at best.

After finishing the issues, I am sorry to say that I think I'm done reading any Superman comics for a while.  Which kind of kills me.  But I feel like I'm spending money on something that isn't what I signed up for or what the name of the comic is selling me.

I'm still hopeful (but doubtful) that DC will give me a title where Superman wears red shorts, there's a Krypto and Kandor and he flies around and saves the day.  That (seemingly extremely profitable) version has been relegated to vague notions of superheroes as a generic concept that the licensing department keeps alive on t-shirts.

That DC can't find a way to write their flagship character after 75 years of history is absolutely mind-boggling, but, then again, they haven't really wanted to let Superman be Superman since the pre-New 52 Return of Krypton stories that kicked off in 2008 and put Superman off planet in a military outfit.  We briefly got glimpses of Superman in the JMS walkabout issues - but Superman didn't fly, and he had walked away from Metropolis and his supporting cast.  At least the Roberson issues salvaged the problem to an extent with better characterization and the return of Lois, but even Roberson's superlative work barely pulled the book out of a nosedive.  And all of that led into the character now called Superman in the New 52, which was way back in 2011.

It seems most long-time Superman fans agree: whatever it is we're seeing as Superman put out by DC in the vast majority of their synergistic media - it just isn't actually Superman.  We're told that the DCU reacts to Superman and thinks of Superman in much the same way as the pre-Flashpoint Superman, but there's never a reason why.  We have to assume it happened between Morrison's Action Comics run and the five year jump.

Certainly nobody on staff at this current time knows how to just sit down and write a straightforward Superman story.  You see glimpses here and there, but more often than not, you can feel the "next big idea" coming down from editorial, no less here with Superman's identity exposed and a return to t-shirts and jeans.  Even that simply feels like a misunderstanding of the best-selling brawler Superman that was Morrison's homage to the working-class, "champion of the oppressed" roots of the original Superman comics of the Depression era.  Now, he's just wearing the accouterments of the Morrison concept, a bit like the kids going to Hot Topic to purchase their pre-made edgy garb.

As much as the OCD collector in me reels at the idea of a gap in my collection or a point where the collection ends...  I don't know what I'm reading anymore.  It's not Superman, and it hasn't been in a long time.

I just finished reading Superman: The High Flying History of The Man of Steel by Larry Tye (more on that in a coming post) and attended the Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois.  Tye's book covers the evolution of the character and the iterations across the multitude of media where Superman has appeared, but even his book seems to grind to a halt when it comes to understanding what's currently going on with the handling of the character.  He tries to put an optimistic spin on it, saying its the one for the this generation, but given the fact that DC can't seem to lock down who their Superman is from month to month, and all of their answers seem to circle back to a near sense of panic whenever the character begins to look like himself, it's hard to figure what's going on.

I'll always be a fan of Superman and understand that the character isn't static.  Never has been, never will be.  But the current take on the character under the banner of Superman doesn't reflect any of what I think of when I think of why I became a fan.  And I came to Superman late in the game!  I was in college before I started really developing a solid interest in the history and legacy of the character.

At this point I don't know if I really care whether the writing is passable or not.  I'd argue the New 52 has not actually seen a lot of good writing, including and especially on the Superman titles, but whether Yang is telling the story he wants to tell or not...  it's just not a very good "Superman" comic.  It's yet another excuse to keep him away from - and push him yet further away from - the core parts of what I consider part of a Superman comic.  And just on the heels of Geoff Johns putting as much of it back together as possible (again, as he did in 2006), all of that gets chucked out the window before it has time to settle and re-establish the Daily Planet and supporting cast as important.

Walking around Metropolis, Illinois, Stuart rightly pointed out that - while we didn't get a Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? send off for Superman prior to Flashpoint, we did get All Star Superman, and maybe that will have to do.

I'm not saying I won't keep an eye on the Superman comics, but I'm also not going to just keep buying them and hope they eventually get around to something I care about.  I'm eternally hopeful, but the past few years have also made me a realist.  It's going to take some major reshuffling at DC before anyone cares about Superman again.


Stuart said...

"Stuart rightly pointed out..." Words rarely uttered.

The League said...

You get to show this to your wife as one official third-party confirmation that you are not always spouting off craziness.