Comicscape - June 2, 2004 -


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Comicscape - June 2, 2004

Superman: Your Responses, Part One

By Tony Whitt     June 02, 2004

Superman's signature.
© DC Comics


Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day and that, if you weren't out remembering those who have fought and died for our freedom, you were at least enjoying the fruits (and nicely grilled meats) of that freedom at the park or campgrounds of your choice! You'll also be pleased (or perhaps distressed) to know that I did not fall in battle this week, nor did I receive any promises or hopes that I would. Despite all that, the reaction to last week's piece about Superman was huge, and, as one might expect, there was just as huge a mixture of opinions about whether Superman has reached the end of his relevance to contemporary society or whether he's only just begun. Many of you feel the recent "reboot" is a good idea, whereas others feel it's unnecessary or an unworkable attempt to keep a worn-out character on the stands. OK, maybe you didn't feel that strongly, but there was still cause for debate! In fact, there was so much response on both sides that I'm going to use both this week's column and next week's to present both sides of the issue ("Superman is Timeless: The Arguments Against Change" this week and "Superman Is Behind The Times: The Arguments For Change" next week.) This is also because the majority of the responses were so good, I really don't see how I can edit them down without also watering them down. Hence, two weeks. If you have no interest in Superman at all, we will resume regular programming on the 16th...

Although most of your responses fit well enough into one of those categories or the other, there were a couple literally that summed up some of the more ambivalent feelings about the character and why debate over changing him or not changing him may be altogether spurious. For example, Frank Sinatra (no, not that one) writes, "I have to admit I'm a little torn on this one. I do believe that "Big Blue" should have more character development. As the majority of comic book readers move into their 30s and 40s, there is a growing demand for newer directions in comics; more plot and story substance is clearly what sells today (look at the growing popularity of writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, and J. Michael Straczynski). However, I do not feel that the ideals he stands for should be wiped away so quickly...I love the fact that Superman has developed into a hero whose motivation for doing good lie in his roots in Kansas; that he is not a strange visitor from another planet, but a citizen of Metropolis and the world. This sense of duty and responsibility - the good that he does - helps to give him substance, not make him obsolete for our times. In comics, he is the ultimate role model, calling us to greater things in our own lives and having us reach beyond our grasp.

"Regardless of the state of our nation and the world, there still needs to be people willing to aspire to truth, justice and the American way. Superman is the symbol of all those things. While these ideals were developed in our past, they should also be the goals of our future. They are what made our country great and while things change, we cannot truly abandon them, nor should we stop striving for them." Amen to that, Frank!

On a different note, Britton McDonald writes, "As a bit of a comic historian, I find it interesting that people always comment on what Superman 'is' rather than what he became. When Superman was first published, he never fought supervillains; he would use what many would say were questionable tactics (including threats of physical harm) to catch or interrogate criminals, and was more concerned about crime that affected 'the little people.' Surely this was a comic book hero leftover from the progressive era. So when people talk about Superman being the symbol of America, they are really talking about what the character became. As a symbol of America, however, it is a little ironic that one of his creators was Canadian. (I must admit, this is news to me...Which one? TBW) As for changes to the character himself, I'm a little out of date. I collected every issue that I could from the relaunch after John Byrne's MAN OF STEEL miniseries through Dan Jurgens long run on the series in the 90s. It's not that I stopped collecting comics, it's more that I became more selective with which issues I get. DC has made a habit of piddling around with Superman every few years, with some crisis or 'event,' which is highly annoying (I suspect) to the average fan like me. Granted, they do the same to Batman as well...Given Superman's power levels it is hard to write for him. Perhaps a retelling or homage to BRUCE ALMIGHTY might be in order? Here is a man leading a double life, trying to be an ordinary man with a fulfilling job and social life, all the while knowing that he may be called upon to stop Intergang, prevent a disaster somewhere in the world, or battle against a supervillain set on destroying Metropolis, the world, etc. Surely any writer would want to stay away from the 'Am I Clark Kent or am I Superman?' angst that goes along that. You don't want Superman to sound like some whiney teenager! And it's been done during the 'Death of Clark Kent' storyline. I suspect that this summer's 'event' (IDENTITY CRISIS) may answer a lot of these issues and questions regarding Superman." It just might, Britton, it just might...

And now, in this corner...

Superman is Timeless: The Arguments Against Change


Superman's signature.

us off is Mark Onspaugh, who writes, "I'm one of those baby boomers who read DC in the Silver Age (and only DC, mind you tho' I'm reading Marvel now). Superman was one of the easier books to read it offered a lot of fantasy for a kid of eight, and who wouldn't have wanted that array of powers? Of course, many of the stories of that era were ridiculous, what with the scheming of Lois to uncover Superman's secret identity, Jimmy Olsen's strange transformations and hoaxes so contrived and complex you needed a flow chart to follow them but man, they had some great stories, too... And those covers outlandish, contrived and glorious usually completely misleading, but memorable all the same...

"Look, Superman is almost too powerful but that serves our imagination it's a challenge, but writers like Loeb and Busiek (the excellent 4-part SECRET IDENTITY) take that challenge and run with it... When a character who is like an old friend (as opposed to your "grandpa" analogy) is changed too much, we become uncomfortable... I don't want Superman in a new costume, or Krypton to be intact, or the fortress designed by someone smarter than Superman Superman is comfort food and if you can spice up the mac and cheese once in a while, so much the better...I also like SMALLVILLE's take on Superman many of my friends (who now love the show) were crying "blasphemy" at the revisions to the mythos but Superman is myth you can re-tell the story in different ways and not alter the core that love creates virtue, and cannot be corrupted, no matter how much power is involved. I have been saying for a while now that DC could follow Smallville's lead and have Lex Luthor like Clark but hate Superman or, have Lex knowing the secret but feigning ignorance think how much he could screw with Clark/Superman then!

"I like Superman the way he is you can redecorate your house, but never to the extent you are uncomfortable. For me, reading Superman's adventures is like coming home... And I may be 50, but I still wish I could fly."

According to M. Ali Choudhury, here's what Warren Ellis had to say recently about the topic, under the heading "Why They'll Never Let Me Write Superman" the original post by Ellis can be found here: "I'm not a superhero fan. I had to learn the subgenre when I began writing for the States. I've had to learn to read them. Now, I can appreciate some of them. Not many, it has to be said... but some. The one I always wanted to like was Superman. Superman is a uniquely American icon, and the first true myth of the electronic age. One special facet to it is that it began as a myth told to children by children. Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster were youths when they created Superman, a far cry from today's handful of twentysomethings and carloads of middle-aged men who give today's children their superheroes. (Perhaps this is why, to me, a strong adult story told with Superman would seem curiously inappropriate - and, conversely, the 20th Century social nightmare given inky form that is The Batman seems to me strangely inappropriate as figure of children's tales.) Superman, then, is the agent of modern fable the most compelling fable the 20th Century gave us. Soap opera is unworthy of him, and, as has been proved many times, is not big enough to contain him and the central concepts of his story. At the heart of myth and legend is Romance. That is not the same as the weak, whiny demands of soap opera that begin with 'characterisation' and crap on with demands for ever more levels of 'conflict,' 'jeopardy,' 'ensemble writing,' 'tight continuity' and all the rest of that bollocks. These things are unimportant. Many of them just completely get in the way of the job at hand. SUPERMAN requires only the sweep and invention and vision that myth demands, and the artistry and directness and clean hands that Romance requires. SUPERMAN is about someone trying their best to save the world, one day at a time; and it's about that person's love for that one whose intellect and emotion and sheer bloody humanity completes him. It's about Superman, and it's about Lois and Clark. And that's all there is. That's the spine. That must be protected to the death, not lost in a cannonade succession of continuing stories. That's what, in the continuing rush to top the last plotline, I see getting lost. I understand, accept and even to an extent agree with what's going on; the SUPERMAN creators are trying to keep the books vital, keep them moving, keep those sales spikes coming. But they seem to me to be getting away from the sheer wonder of the Superman myth. (The single title that does seem to be hewing to the line I've just scratched in the sand is Mark Millar's charming and energetic SUPERMAN ADVENTURES.)

"What SUPERMAN must avoid is genericism. It must live up to its billing. The comics must crackle

Michael Turner's cover to SUPERMAN #203.

with invention and mythic power. They must always resolutely be of Now, be utterly modern - if not utterly of Tomorrow. They must thrill and frighten and inspire and give us furiously to think. Crucially, they must not simply offer us a parade of costumes and odd single name/titles. There must be stories where something important is at stake. Something worth saving, be it the life of a human, the soul of a city, the fate of a world, or the future of a child...Mike Carlin always characterises the ongoing thrust of the SUPERMAN titles as the 'Never-Ending Battle.' Those battles must have stakes beyond those of smacking about this month's new costume with an odd name. (Superman tackles natural disaster and human crime. It's his belief that nothing else falls within his purview. War and the politics of famine, he feels, are part of human government, and so not his place. He will not interfere in the growth of the human race, as much as it sometimes breaks his heart. He merely, obliviously, shows the human race, by example, how to be great.)"

"MutatisMutandor" addresses the difficulty of this whole debate and proposes something that's not quite a "change," per se: "Is Superman out of date or timeless? That is a really tough question. It is easy to write him off as out-of-date. It could be argued we are living in a more cynical world where such a character is an anachronism. He embodies the ideals of a more innocent time where the comic reading world (mostly ten year olds) had higher ideals of the American dream. And of what a hero should be. So it could easily be argued he is out of date. [But] while I am not the biggest fan of the character, I would have to say he is timeless. Because he embodies ideals which, while seemingly outdated, are things we would like to live up to, to see in our heroes. True, the media is always exploiting weakness, and we always thirstily take it in, but we also crave the true hero. We want that perfect hero that will meet our ridiculously high expectations. We want to see the embodiment of a dream that has begun to fade but still tugs at the edge of our conscience. I believe that it is Superman.

"That being said, I believe it's time the Man of Steel took a sabbatical. Appearing continuously in several titles a month has certainly made a bigger challenge for him. I imagine that maybe it's time for DC to pull the plug for a year and really think about who Superman is and what he is. The problem he has now is that far too many people see him as the icon. I always hear people complain that Superman has grown tired, but anytime a change is made people froth at the mouth, furious anyone would tamper with him. It would be interesting to see this dilemma from Supe's point of view. Bring him back in a story that addresses this issue. How does he view himself? Is he perfect? Or is the legend bigger than the man?" That's an excellent idea, actually, and it's one that's only occasionally been touched on in the series themselves. Maybe it's time it was and it would be a way of making the character interesting without fundamentally changing him, as well. Such an opportunity, in my humble opinion, was lost when Supes was brought back from the dead what better time for him to explore his actual impact on the world than when he's just returned to it, and various pseudo-Supermen have taken his place because the world can't bear to be without him?

"Bill P" makes it very clear what he thinks about the issue: "I feel that Superman is timeless.


He is a hero we all look up to and we all wish was around to help. Every time I hear they are going to restart Superman, I cringe. It is not the character, but the writers and artists. Yes, the artists. Personally I have tried to buy SUPERMAN over the past two years, but the art always made me put it back. The Super-Size muscles and anime look never fit Superman. Now that the artist has changed I have started to come back. As for writers, look at Spider-Man. Everybody said Spidey was dead. The Clone Wars had really killed the character and the readers. However since [JMS] has taken over, Spider-Man has new life. The villains have never been better, and the stories have been great. He has made changes, but not big changes (Is Spidey a clone? Sigh). This is what Superman needs! A writer who cares...As I said before I think Superman is timeless. He is a hero of all ages, who will always represent the best of us and always should."

Scott Kent writes not only about Superman but about another major icon in comics which could very well give us fodder for another column sometime soon: "To me, there are two classic comic characters who represent the highest ideals of American society, reflecting all that is good about us: Superman and Captain America. The comic universe is chock full of 'relevant,' brooding, conflicted (and in some cases, corrupted) superheroes (or super-anti-heroes). Those who find Superman and Cap to be one-dimensional Boy Scouts can find satisfaction in reading a whole slew of titles that present 'realistic' characters. Why must Kal and Cap be changed (or lowered) to meet the lowest common denominator? Haven't they earned the right to stand on their pedestals, apart from the rest? Again, if you don't like them, don't read them. Me, I read nothing but superhero books (I'm old skool), and I read a bunch of different characters, dark and light with many shades of gray. I also read Kal and Cap. They fill a niche. Please don't take that niche, that choice, away from me by turning Superman into a brooding Batman or a wisecracking Spider-Man (and I really like Batman and Spidey). I didn't like the post-9/11 Cap stuff, where it was, in my mind, a bit sympathetic to terrorists (the old 'we must understand why they hate us').

"I don't want to get into politics here, but let me just say that post-9/11 there ought to be one comic character who stands up for America and kicks terrorist ass, just like in the 1940s when facing the Nazis. And that guy should be Captain America. I'm really not interested in Cap being conflicted by the Patriot Act. Doesn't mean I want him to swallow it whole, either. I just want to see him defeat terrorists. Let Tony Stark deal with all the political crap (although that's been boring as hell, too). And let me quickly add: The complaint by writers that the character is constraining them is a cop-out. What, are we gonna pull another Jason Todd, killing off a guy simply because we wrote ourselves into a corner?

"Let Cap be Cap. Let Kal be Kal. The comic universe is big enough to accommodate these two guys in their classic personas, unchanged."

"JR" writes, "This very same question of relevance was posed by TIME once before, and the result was the very successful mid 80's reboot. The problem with Superman today is the writers, not the character. They psych themselves out by starting with the problem from the wrong direction. As soon as you say to yourself: here's a guy who can do anything, you've lost the race. Now, they've got no less than five different takes going on at once. There's no cohesion. And writers struggling with how to write Superman all too often fall back on the two cop outs of comics. They either cook up a gimmick (electric Superman?) or they attempt to pigeon hole him with tweaks on his personality. In doing either, you suddenly find you're not writing Superman anymore. As powerful as he is, he isn't all powerful. Charles Xavier could knock him out with an afterthought.

"Superman works when Jeff Loeb

SMALLVILLE preview art

writes him. Superman works in Mark Waid's BIRTHRIGHT. Superman rebooted very successfully under John Byrne all those years ago. Yes, there were tweaks in Byrne's reboot and in BIRTHRIGHT. And some I didn't like. But the stories work and prove the character is still viable. What do these guys have the other writers just don't get? It's the same thing Bendis does. He doesn't reinvent. He goes back to the heart and core of a character and builds up from there. So what's the core of Superman? What do Byrne, Loeb, and Waid (and SMALLVILLE) get that others miss?

"1. Superman is an incredibly powerful alien man who's heritage and origin seem almost mythological, even to him.

"2. All of this incredible strength is tempered by having been raised by American Midwestern values. He aspires, just like the rest of us, to do better. That internal conflict is the pure genius of the character.

"3. He's very powerful but not all powerful. When he has to sweat for it, it works. The animated series did a great job of conveying that. Things like 'arctic breath' stretch into gimmick territory.

"4. The core is the key. An entire genre started with him. Start with the core. Very powerful man with can do American idealism (Captain America), struggles to help others while fighting feelings of survivor's guilt (Batman), alienation (X-Men), loneliness (Swamp Thing), not to mention the ultimate extension of Peter Parker's mantra: with great power comes great responsibility. And in Clark's case its not only responsibility to help others and right wrongs, its responsibility to not misuse his gifts or let the gifts be more than the man inside. How can these basic human issues be irrelevant?

"Finally to the issue of Superman as a metaphor of America. I totally agree! Irrelevant? Never more timely. Its an ideal needed now more than ever. Want proof? If you take the America/Superman metaphor as a given, then the battle between him and Luthor becomes all the more relevant. Because Luthor embodies the dark side of America: selfishness, corporate greed, power hungry, might for self interest. Not to be overly dramatic but the battle of these two men is a metaphor for the battle of America's soul. Superman is only irrelevant if we want Luthor to win..." Which, luckily, he hasn't and again, it's thanks to Jeph Loeb. You've definitely hit on something with these broader points, though these are the cores to the character, and as long as they're written well, by gifted writers, then there's no need for fundamental change in the character (or, indeed, in any).

Neil Steen is a bit less forgiving of TIME than "JR" but he agrees with the point about the writing: "I think that TIME MAGAZINE article was more out of touch than Superman could ever be. I hate it when people say Superman is a product of the thirties, and will always be a boy scout. Have any of these people read those comics from the thirties? Superman's an ass-kicker in those stories. He beats up on bad guys and hits first, asking questions later. He is certainly not the boy scout he would later become. But this was the iconic hero, people wanted to see at the time. I think that's all Superman really is: The ultimate realization of a hero people need at any given time. It wasn't until the fifties, an era of optimism and hope (I'm told) that Superman began to take on the persona he is most often associated with. Happier times called for a happier hero. Also, America's need to promote it's way of life over Russia's, led to the popular catch-phrase: 'Truth, Justice and the American Way.' I truly believe that Superman is timeless. The great thing about him is that he's got a lot of character attributes that can be [pulled from] at any given point to satisfy the audience. During Loeb's run, Clark's small-town sensibilities were really brought to life and made for an interesting dynamic between Lois and Clark. In KINGDOM COME, Waid really emphasized Superman's conscience and desire to do good, in a world gone bad. In the Donner movies, people really identified with the geeky loser who couldn't get a date, ripping off his shirt to become a powerful man of hope and confidence. These are just some of the aspects of that character that can be played with, in order to tell good stories.

"Most of the time, if Superman seems a little stale or out of date, it's due to bad writing more than anything else. I presume that most writers find it difficult to

What a chin. Superman strikes a pose on the cover of SUPERMAN #178.

write for a character who doesn't have any clichéd or obvious character flaws like that of Spiderman or Batman. (Batman has no character flaws??? TBW) As a result, some writers rise to the challenge and others don't. It's a testament to the character that some of the best writers in the business have done their best work on Superman: Alan Moore in the classic "For the Man who has Everything", Mark Waid in KINGDOM COME, or even Grant Morrison in his JLA run. Morrison even found a way to make electric blue Superman interesting in JLA #6-7. I think the problem people are having with the character now is that we live in a really grey time, where no one really knows what is right anymore. We don't even know if Americans are on the right side a lot of the time. And before this gets labeled as anti-American, let me just clarify that all I mean is that in this time, more than any other, people are really divided in what they believe. It's hard to find a general consensus on what is right in this world. As a result, this loss of innocence makes it hard to identify with the ultimate icon of goodness when we don't even know what that is half the time. But I'm not worried. Pretty soon a writer will come along and nail it for us again, just like Moore, Waid, and Morrison."

David Jackson proposes a slightly different approach to making the character interesting again without changing him (which he feels is unnecessary): "Well, honestly I don't think a change is much in order if you're talking about the character. His powers, approach, look, attitude, and view of the world around him should literally remain unchanged. Superman any other way is simply 'not Superman.' What needs to change is the way Superman is used at DC. He can't remain their top icon. He doesn't fit the part anymore and he hasn't fit the part for some time... What DC needs to do with him is simple in my opinion. It might not make much financial sense to them out of the gate but it's the best way to keep the character alive and 'correct.' Crop back the number of titles he fronts to one. In this book, make Superman the complete focus of the book and get him out of other characters books for the near future. Not only should they do this in our world, but Superman should kind of get scarce in the DC universe as well. Other major characters should notice he's not around as much. They should get some distance from him. New characters should not meet him by page 10. Basically remove him from the everyday and allow him to recapture some of the awe and majesty that a character like Superman would rightfully have. An encounter with Superman should be something that the other, lesser DC characters remember for a long time. Superman doesn't need to change - DC does."

On the question of Superman's supposed "perfection" as a character, Mark Hain echoes Neil Steen's sentiments: "Superman's 'perfection' is exactly what makes the character to relevant to today's society. We live in a world of gray. Most things in our life are not all good or all bad, you have to use your common sense to judge them. The war in Iraq, whether to vote Democrat or Republican - there are a lot of issues in life today that are hard to have a 100% one-sided opinion on. First and foremost, Superman is fiction and is therefore allowed to be perfect. But beyond that, he is what Americans, or dare I say humans, should aspire to be. Is he irrelevant [to us] because his 'perfection' is impossible for us to achieve today? Was it more possible to achieve his level 70 years ago? What makes Superman the quintessential hero is his perfection and how it relates to the DC universe. Just look at his relationship with Batman. These two characters are almost exact opposites. In the Batman "Hush" storyline, Batman talks about how Clark would handle a hostage situation he was involved in. Not just the invulnerability or ability to just fly out of there, but the way he could say something warm and smile and put the hostage at ease. Clark is an invulnerable alien raised by human parents to be as 'normal' as is possible. This makes him vulnerable - in protecting humans over and over and even dying during "Doomsday"...If anything in the Superman comics should change, it's things around him. Make the bad guys stronger, or make his life as Clark Kent harder. Superman should always be the strong icon he has always been because, after all, don't we all need role models?"

"Shadoe Knight" writes, "I think that the WB has done a great job in re-defining the character of Superman. SMALLVILLE shows that Clark Kent thinks and wants to act like the rest of us, but he knows that his abilities give him a greater responsibility

Cover to JLA #94.

to restrain himself. A healthy upbringing with loving parents has taught him a sense of fair play and using his abilities for revenge or out of anger goes against the morals he was taught. Seeing this portrayed on the screen really gives you a feel for how difficult it actually would be to be Superman. Superman is the ideal of what we hope and wish to be. He is a dream of morality and decency, but in SMALLVILLE he becomes more real to us because of the talented writers, actors, and directors of the show. I think that this could be translated to the comics with a little thought. We need to see what Kal-El is thinking to truly appreciate what he goes through on a day to day basis. The writers of SPIDER-MAN have done this for years. They made the great power, great responsibility element first and foremost in Peter Parker's mind. This makes him human and
vulnerable even if he rarely loses. Its the internal struggle that makes them heroes. Only their powers put the super in superheroes. We need to see that even without his abilities Clark Kent would feel the need to help his fellow man.

"Superman is far from irrelevant. Now more than ever he is needed. Showing his outrage and anger followed by his restraint and dedication to morals and ideals shows us that feeling angry is alright, acting on that anger without thought is folly."

Phillip Miller (and I wish I could preserve the original spacing of his letter, as it reads almost like poetry that way) writes, "Being a superhero is about doing things that are 'beyond' human. Being Superman is an ideal - an icon to aspire toward. When Superman behaves no differently than what we would expect from the average person, then Superman becomes Everyman. Superman loses the ability to inspire. And when Superman leaps over a building and we shrug it off as just one of those things Superman does, then the sense of wonder is lost. As time goes by, it becomes more difficult because so many stories have been told but artists and writers have to creatively express stories that can inspire respect and wonder. Dramatically, death could take an extended vacation. But when we're indifferent to Superman and what he represents, then we've done what so many villains have failed to accomplish. No need to wait until issue 1000."

Pat Hutchins writes, "I appreciate the boost you've given the old boy in some of your recent columns, particularly your summation in today's [column]: 'he symbolizes the foundations of your family and your family's ideals, dreams, hopes.' And, as you point out, America's as well. Though I probably fall to the right on the political spectrum, and actually believe in the things that Superman is supposed to stand for, or at least don't find them 'uncool' or 'obsolete,' as Lev Grossman did, I realize how far we often are as a country from achieving them. That being said, I think Superman represents that struggle to achieve them, almost in the sense of the Arthurian quest, or, as the Fleischman studio shorts and the radio and TV shows put it, the 'never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!' It sounds corny to modern ears (if not, to many, repugnant), but it is supposed to be the ideal we strive for, continually, and hope to attain, even if we never make it. In the Arthurian tales, the quest itself was ennobling, whether achieved or not.

"As far as the 're-imagining' of Superman goes, and the need to get out of the hole created by his perfection and invulnerability - why not take a page (or several) from the original Siegel and Shuster comics, where Supes really wasn't invulnerable at all? Granted, they were still working out the 'mechanics' of his abilities, but in the early pages he couldn't really fly, only jump very high, and was very strong, but not infinitely so, and on the occasion of his first meeting with Luthor (who then had hair!) he was knocked out by a special gas, etc. The original Superman was not really the near-god he's since become, but only possessed of 'abilities beyond those of normal men.' I'm sure this has been proposed many times by many people as a solution, and many other people would probably think it heresy to propose this, but how about making the Man of Steel vulnerable to a little rust sometimes? I'm not talking about cheapening the character - taking Superman back to these roots would also serve to make him more human, and thus accessible, to a wider audience as well...I'm no great comic-book scholar, but as a long-time reader (at least, until recent years), I would hate to see an American icon like Superman go down the crapper because those responsible for him now start 'experimenting' with un-authentic ways to keep him relevant in today's world."

Brodie Williams writes, "It was not long ago that you or one of your colleagues did a column on the differences between Marvel and DC. (That would be me, actually glad you remember it! TBW) I think the debate over the need for

Jim Lee begins his run on the Man of Steel beginning with SUPERMAN #204.

Superman to change is directly related to these differences. I tend to lean toward Superman's timelessness rather than his anachronistic qualities. I think it's sad that some Americans no longer believe in 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way.' There is a culture of permissiveness that seems to be of the opinion that everything and anything is ok as long as no one gets hurt. What people fail to realize that the more lax moral and ethical standards become, the more potential there is for harm. Superman stands for a moral and ethical standard that his country and its citizens should want to return to...[Also, in that] previous column many people who supported the DCU stated that the heroes exemplified what Americans(humans) wish they could be. DC heroes are ideal in their convictions where Marvel or some Independent heroes have compromised and given into the 'dark side.' Why does Superman need a dark side? Granted, times have changed, but is that a good thing? Is the darkness in Marvel and other books good? This is also why a book like Superman/Batman works so well. Both characters have a code of ethics and morals but implement them in different ways. The point is they both have a standard. In closing, I have no problem humanizing Superman. Clark Kent is a great mechanism for that. But I don't support changing Superman on a fundamental level."

Dennis Smith writes, "Having powers isn't what makes Superman a hero; remove the powers, and what you have is still a hero. A good man, doing whatever he can to help those in need. The reason people think he is out-dated is simply because no one believes that a person can be good for no other reason except they are a good person. Even our sports hero are tarnished. if you look at the heroes people have today, you see rappers going on about pimping, killing, etc. Our sports heroes get charged with rape, [with] murder, [and even with] biting off a person's ear. Superman represents what every person should try to be but the reality is no one can live up to his fictional example. Change to Superman is not the answer. Keep him the way he is, someone for every kid to look up to. Focus on how he deals with a world where morals, ideals, and doing the right thing aren't as important as making money."

Michael McGee writes, "Up until a couple of years ago, I would have given the usual answers to the question of who my favorite comic character was - Spider-Man, for example, or maybe the X-Men. But now it's Superman. I've become fascinated by international politics in the last couple of years for obvious reasons. Being a Canadian, I have an outsider's view of America that isn't always in line with how America sees itself, and a view of international politics that's probably not synonymous with the median American view. The most worrisome aspect for me as America responds to the murder of its citizens and redefines its place in the world, is that when dealing with a global super-giant like the USA, every action has consequences. Every bomb

Superman: The 10-cent Adventure

dropped abroad, every dollar spent, every application of political pressure creates ripples that sometimes I'm not sure America is fully aware of. In this respect, Superman serves as a metaphor for America in a more interesting manner than just 'super-invincible always-right guy'. My favorite Superman stories inevitably involve his effect on the world around him, intentional or otherwise, and him coming to grips with doing the wrong thing for the right reasons: 'Must There Be a Superman,' KINGDOM COME, RED SON. Superman's no more likely to lose a battle with a C-list bad guy than America is likely to lose a direct confrontation with 95% of the armies on this planet. With Superman, it's not a question of whether he can, but whether he should. If he melts down every nuclear bomb on Earth, does that stop people from making more nukes? Does that solve the real problems behind nuclear proliferation? And is it really the place of one single, powerful individual to tell the rest of the human race how to behave? Endless amounts of interesting stories can be spun out of the core concept of a man torn between doing too little and doing too much.

"If most people don't 'get' Superman commercially - that's fine. Superman's an acquired taste for many - and he's multifaceted, which is probably his biggest barrier to greater success. Most people don't dislike Superman, so much as the common perception of Superman as straight-laced grinning idiot with no problems, which is a minor, distorted vision of the whole story of the Man of Steel. The fact that SMALLVILLE is WB's number one show, that the Seinfeld commercial's been downloaded over a million times, that every website goes gaga over the slightest bit of Superman movie info no matter how many times it's proven false - as well as the fact that TIME felt the need to publish this article in the first place - says a lot for how durable the myth of the Man of Tomorrow really is...Alan Moore once said that Superman was his primary influence growing up. I think that counts for something."

As you can see, there's some variance even in the opinions of those who agree that Superman need not undergo any fundamental changes to retain his relevance so you can imagine what next week's exploration of the opinions of those who feel he should will bring! The discussion's nowhere near over, of course, so if you have anything to add, send your thoughts via the web site contact address here or to me directly. And remember, if you should happen to make reference to a title of a comic series please use CAPS when giving the title since I do the HTML coding on this column every week, having the titles in caps already makes my life much easier. Finally, as always, don't forget our discussion boards! Now, because of Memorial Day, you will not find new books on the shelves today (Wednesday), but you will find them there bright and early tomorrow (Thursday) or whenever they get there. Shame that doing our patriotic duty to remember those who have fallen in battle means putting off reading our new comics for a day, isn't it? Anyway, here's what you'll see:


For the kids this week, Marvel offers a retelling of the FF's first encounter with the Miracle Man in MARVEL AGE: FANTASTIC FOUR #3, a retelling of Spidey's first encounter with the Lizard in MARVEL AGE: SPIDER-MAN #5, and a telling (no "re") of May's first encounter with a black costume (please, no more Venom!) in SPIDER-GIRL #75.

Over at DC, the fun for kids continues with both the BATMAN ADVENTURES VOL 1: ROGUES GALLERY trade paperback and the BATMAN ADVENTURES VOL 2: SHADOWS AND MASKS trade paperback, each for $6.95. If that's too much for you and how can you dare to say you love your kids if it is? then there's JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES #32, written by Keith Giffen (!!!) and LOONEY TUNES #115, which could be fun.

I'd imagine that the BATMAN IN THE FIFTIES trade paperback is equally appropriate for kids, but with a $19.95 price tag, I doubt you love your kids that much. Yourself, on the other hand... If it's still too pricey even for you, then there's DETECTIVE COMICS #795, featuring the conclusion of "The Rotting". I doubt I have to tell you that this is not for the little ones.

Whoa, did the sewage system back up or something? No, it's only ALPHA FLIGHT #4. (Sorry about that, but have you actually read this book?)

From Dark Horse this week comes some fun stuff, including BPRD: A PLAGUE OF FROGS #4 (Of 5), featuring those wacky people from HELLBOY; CONAN #1 in a new printing and with a new cover, featuring that wacky barbarian; and OH, MY GODDESS! #109 and the TRIGUN VOL 1 trade paperback for $14.95, which are just...well...wacky. (Can you tell which ones I've read and which I have not?)

I'd make some joke about "Parts is parts," but I think I'd be the only one old enough to get the reference... Anyway, ENGINEHEAD #3 (Of 8) is out this week, and it's not about a creature made of chicken parts.

I assume that AVENGERS/THUNDERBOLTS #4 (Of 6) must have been delayed, or else my regular sources wouldn't be telling me that #5 on June 30th is the only issue coming out this month... Anyway, if it's there, buy it. If it's not, not.

And speaking of which, if you're lucky enough to find a copy of FIRESTORM #2, by all means buy it. In this issue, we discover how teenager Jason Rusch combined with another person to become the Nuclear Man and presumably which of the two personalities is dominant. You don't think it could be the older guy in control this time, huh? Nah.

No, the DAREDEVIL VOL 7: HARDCORE trade paperback does not contain nude pix of Jennifer Garner. Hell, I'm not quite sure what it contains, but if it's written by Brian Michael Bendis and it's $13.99, it's a steal.

I assume the main reason the GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD TWILIGHT - NEW DAWN trade paperback is being re-released is to stir up the frenzy for the return of Hal Jordan yeah, like it needs any more stirring... You'd think they'd have marked it down from $19.95, at least, but no.

The EXILES take on the FF and Namor in #48, and the line-up changes - again. It's "ReLoad" Fever, everybody!

Ethan becomes a danger to himself and others in HARD TIME #5. Of course, whether you're in prison or in high school, that's only half bad, really. (Look, I don't even know what that meant, so keep your cards and letters to yourself, already.)

Reed and Sue must defend civilians in the Pine Barrens from an extraterrestrial menace in MARVEL KNIGHTS: 4 #6. Wait there are civilians in the Pine Barrens? I thought they was...well, barren, as in deserted, except for the occasional visit by Tony Soprano...

Your head will be spinning this week get it? Oh, forget it as Vertigo brings you the HELLBLAZER: HIGHWATER trade paperback for $19.95, collecting issue #s 164-174 of the highly adaptable yet seemingly uncastable series; SWAMP THING #4, which also just happens to feature John Constantine imagine that; and Y: THE LAST MAN #23, which features the end of the "Widow's Pass" story arc and the film version of which will not, will not, feature Keanu Reeves. So my two black kitties tell me, and they never lie. Except when they're hungry, which is all the time, so yeah, take that as you will.

Whoo hoo! Panty raid! No, no...although the NEW X-MEN VOL 4: RIOT AT XAVIER'S trade paperback may sound like it's the male mutants up to some hijinks, it really isn't. If it were, Marvel wouldn't be selling it for only $11.99.

Repeat after me: there are no more alternate universes in the DCU. Except, of course, for any crossovers you may have read between the JLA and the Avengers recently (though Thor fans still hope that was an "imaginary story"), or for JLA: EARTH 2, a softcover printing of which is available this week for $14.95. Seriously. No alternate universes. None. Even we here on Earth-Prime don't exist. Which explains a lot, if you think about it.

Here's the proof of what I just said: no one who truly existed would foist upon us something like the SPIDER-MAN LEGENDS VOL 4: SPIDER-MAN & WOLVERINE trade paperback, presumably collecting that miniseries from last year that was so awful, even if it were only for $13.99. Of course, that might explain why I've seen no other information on it...

Now I know we're in a parallel universe Sam Kieth is doing the Batman in SCRATCH #1 (Of 5). No, really. Good stuff, Maynard.

And from Image comes SPAWN #135. Nope, guess we're in the real world, all right.

From Wildstorm this week, it's the beginning of a bona fide cat fight in THUNDERCATS: ENEMY'S PRIDE #1 (Of 5), while a different sort of cat fight altogether ensues in WILDCATS: VERSION 3.0 #22.

Did you get the impression from that little outbreak of exclamation marks above in the JLA ADVENTURES listing that I really like Keith Giffen's writing? Didya? He's writing THANOS #11, too, y'know.

Shock! Horror! Someone other than Dan Jurgens is writing THOR #80, and it's no less than Mike Avon Oeming! (Hey, I thought all he could do was draw!) To paraphrase John Byrne, guess this proves there is a God. Of Thunder. Still. Yay!

Seems that last year's sampler of Golden Age comics was such a hit even if the story selections themselves weren't that DC is releasing the WORLD'S BEST COMICS: THE SILVER AGE DC ARCHIVES SAMPLER, again for $.99 (Cheap!). This one features JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #4 (the induction of Green Arrow); ADVENTURE COMICS #247, in which Superboy joins some superhero team or other; and OUR ARMY AT WAR #81, which is not Sgt. Rock's first appearance. But you have all the originals of those anyway, right?

Warren Ellis takes over the scripting chores on ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR with #6, presumably meaning there will be a secret plot to replace parts of the FF's bodies with cybernetic implants; and Brian K. Vaughan is writing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #60, in which he presumably discovers that Aunt May is actually part of a secret society of super villains. Oh, yeah, there's also the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN VOL 7: IRRESPONSIBLE trade paperback for $12.99, in which not much happens at all, as usual. (I'm joking! Would you please put down the grenade?)

Oops, pick it up again...the Fury (no, not Nick) divides the team in UNCANNY X-MEN #445, which X-MEN UNLIMITED #3 divides itself into two stories, proving once again that "unlimited" in Marvel's vocabulary actually means "unlimited, except in terms of page count, plot, and development." But Gambit's in it, so that has to count for something.

Up, up, and away!

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Comicscape is our weekly Comics column.


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