Monday, March 06, 2006

Superman, Pt. 2

So, ready for more of my thoughts on Superman? Well, tough, you're getting them anyway.

As I mentioned before, I think a big part of the problem is that Superman is a stereotype at this point, too deeply ingrained as the archetype, which is limiting his appeal for me.

Jake suggested in the comments on the previous post that one way to go might be to focus on Clark Kent, and tell stories that show how a "normal joe" goes about holding down a job, paying bills, keeping a marriage together, while still having to rush off and save someone somewhere every 15 seconds.

Which would be interesting, I think. I also agree with Scipio that they need to stop with the "Let's make something so powerful that even Superman can't hit it hard enough to stop it!" mentality, and ratchet it down a little. Instead of coming up with new and stupid alien threats every three months, let Clark Kent infiltrate a corrupt labor organization for a hot story, and let us see how he uses some of his powers in a not so planet-saving way.

Let's see him acting as the protector of the common everyday person who gets routinely screwed by the government or society or maybe through their own choices. Let's see a little more of the "man" and not go overboard on the "Super".

Because I think that when you're as uber-powerful as Our Man Kent, the interesting question isn't necessarily: "How does he use his almighty powers to beat up Zagnorb the Destructor?" We've seen that a gazillion times at this point.

I think the interesting question is: "How does he limit his use of his almighty powers in the interest of not giving away his secrets/causing too much damage/using too much force/teaching others how to solve their own problems?"

But that's just me.

Don't get me wrong --- I'm not suggesting that they put the planet-moving, time-reversing Kryptonian in the blue suit away; I likes me some supervillain-punchin' just as much as the next guy! But those stories serve their purpose a lot better (showing the magnitude of the power of Superman) when you're invested in the meek, everyday human side. It's a hell of a lot more powerful transformation to behold.

And now, a bit about cartography.

On a contour map, sea-level is 0, and the base against which all other elevations are measured against --- how far away, up or down, they are relative to sea-level. It provides context, and serves to highlight the difference between the base (sea-level) and the point of interest (whatever point you're looking at).

Don't worry, I'm about to bring Superman back into this again.

Recently, DC announced that Mark Waid was relaunching The Brave and The Bold, which was a DC team-up comic. The question has been bouncing around, "Who should the ongoing character be that the Hero Of The Month teams up with?"


See, something that would get me reading Superman again stems from a comparison I made between Superman and the rest of the DC heroes. If he's the archetype, the all-powerful standard against whom all other heroes' cachet is measured, then he's sort of like sea-level on a geographic contour map.

If he's the gold standard (and he damn well should be), then let's see Supes with a different hero every month to show us how the others see him, how they see themselves compared to him, and how he sees himself compared to others. It can be used to tilt the mirror and see him in a reflected light, to gain a better understanding and interest in him, and tell a ripping good team-up adventure story as well. I'm not saying make him into Dr. Phil, but I could really get behind a "Superman as elder statesman/teacher" kind of vibe.

Hell. If you need a reason, make it so that, I dunno, the JLA mandates that every hero big and small needs to serve a "Tour of Duty" with Superman once a year (or whatever) in order to keep their perspective on power and ... God, how I hate this overcooked, cliched phrase ... "what it takes to be a hero". (OK, maybe that would make a better miniseries. You know what I'm saying.)

You could even have a nice little dichotomy between the Clark Kent-geez-how-do-I-get-out-of-here-without-blowing-it ideas and the Superman-geez-what-lessons-can-I-teach-this-hero type stories.

Anyway, again, that's just me.

Remember,DC, it is your job to make me care about Superman so that I will buy your comics, see your movies, play your games, and watch your shows.

Now would be a good time to start.

Thanks for the comments on part 1 of this little diatribe; I hope I've managed to sound relatively sane and coherent, anyway! And thanks to the comicsblogoweb for providing fascinating time-wasting topics like this for me to spend hours thinking about!


Blogger Ragnell said...

I ahve to say, the idea of using Superman for a team-up book is brilliant.

He's one of those characters that has worked better as a guest star than as a star for the past few years, mainly because of the reasons you've cited.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Ragnell--Great idea. And I like your ideas about Superman in general (DC should make you its "Superman Czar").

3:15 AM  

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