Superman Through the Ages! Forum

Superman Comic Books! => The K-Metal from Krypton! => Topic started by: Great Rao on October 30, 2006, 01:11:55 AM

Title: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: Great Rao on October 30, 2006, 01:11:55 AM
Words by Jerry Siegel; Layout and Pencils by Angel; Finishes by Shane; Colors by Sarge; Letters by yours truly:

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: Aldous on October 30, 2006, 01:31:12 AM
Words by Jerry Siegel; Layout and Pencils by Angel; Finishes by Shane; Colors by Sarge; Letters by your truly:

I find it interesting that, even though he has narrowly escaped an unpleasant death, and is facing the biggest crisis of his super-career by far, the Man of Steel is still obsessed with one thing: preserving the Clark Kent/Superman secret identity!

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: MatterEaterLad on October 30, 2006, 02:12:12 AM
Even though this is an early story, I wonder why the man and woman feel the need to flee Superman so strongly....

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: Criadoman on October 30, 2006, 09:30:41 AM
Even though this is an early story, I wonder why the man and woman feel the need to flee Superman so strongly....

I agree.  I did some thinking on that, way back when I got the script, and since the point is brought up, I offer the following up...

I would like to think that in a very exterior point of view Superman's creation can be said to be intended to shake up the status quo.  And by "status quo" I simply mean the efforts of a group (not necessarily individuals, but a generalized concept intending to indicate the actions of a group would not generally be as sane as the actions of an individual) to maintain a course of action whether the course is right (helpful) or wrong (harmful).  E.g. (and boy I hate to use the analogy) like a school of fish trying to panic their way out of a danger but getting herded into a fishing net.  (It's not that bad, but sometimes I wonder.)  But for my purposes, just the actions taken by a group to keep whatever course of action unchanged, despite how harmfully destructive it might be.

If you look at many of the early stories around the time and prior, Superman took on wrongs that anybody themselves could have handled.  E.g. his 1st story he stood up against the status quo to prevent a wrongful execution, wife beating, and later - the status quo that allowed big business to take away worker's rights (the mine story).  Sure - he was assisted on the basis that he was "super" (with powers and abilities far beyond the common man) - but still, he dealt with societal ills that any man or woman with courage could also do.  Superman took an interest in an individual and stood against all who opposed or allowed this individual to fail, suffer, or get hurt, or die.  To illustrate further, in the case of the 1st story, the "justice" status quo was maintained by not really getting to the bottom of the matter - and for his efforts Superman was stabbed or shot at, by both the real criminal and technically, the justice authorites (yes - it was the butler, but trying to keep the govenor "defended", rather than have enough guts to receive the message and pass it).  And on and on.

This activity was prior to the creation of real "super-villians", but Superman was basically standing up and disagreeing and doing something about what others basically became inactive about and just let happen.  However, because he was being so in disagreement with the standard operating basis of groups of people who'd rather preserve a quiet reality and tolerate injustice - he would be viewed as a type of monster who was uncontrollable, dangerous and a threat by them, unless you knew him.  He was probably crucified as such in the media at the time - hence people panic when he arrives.

Frankly, this type of attitude exists even to this day.  Any individual who stands against the grain of the comfortable and tolerable (and by this is meant - shutting one's eyes to the injustice, dishonesty of actual criminals and turning one's head from the pain and suffering of others) or attempts to get off the treadmill - generally tends to become the black sheep of their family or if any public status, get crucified in the media and made into a sort of monster themselves - depending on how good their PR firm is.

But really, if Superman was just a man with no extraordinary abilities outside of exceptional courage, you could read into those stories as a type of social or political commentary work protesting wrongs committed by criminals trying to get away with their crimes by either hiding or getting into positions of trust in society.

In the beginning, Superman stood up against very real problems, and stood up against vested interests.  Having super powers made it possible for him not to be injured by those he opposed, a very real wish for anyone who would like to fight against wrongs.  It becomes even more interesting then to note that ultimately Superman evolves into the biggest defender of status quo (boy scout), and his peer, Batman, takes on the original role Superman had.

Ultimately, the morals I get from those stories, and yes, there are some, were you're always better off maintaining your own integrity to do what's right despite what the group is doing that is actually wrong.  Better to think for yourself than agree with any group, and my parents' favorite, "If all your friends were jumping of a bridge, would you?" 

The salient point is that in an unelightened age, you generally are the "monster" or "black sheep" or other social pariah if you aren't doing what "everyone else is" - despite the rightness of what you're doing.

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: MatterEaterLad on October 30, 2006, 10:19:25 AM
Those types of activities are certainly re-inforced on the next page...

Its a very different kind of outlook, though  I have to admit that personally, I'd be more terrified of Superman if seeing him meant something like a 100 foot long fire-breathing dragon from Krypton had landed in the city.

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: Great Rao on October 30, 2006, 10:21:04 AM
Even though this is an early story, I wonder why the man and woman feel the need to flee Superman so strongly....
My take:

There are a number of fascinating elements that are powerfully combined in this story.  These include Superman's ignorance of his origin, his revelation of his love for Lois Lane, and the fact that he is the unknown and feared outsider.  Almost like Frankenstein's monster.

Siegel's Superman was feared - I think this was an element that was removed by later writers and played down by editorial decree, but it was part of his original characterization and comes across very clearly in  Siegel's K-Metal script.  Many people -- man-on-the street, non-criminal types -- are described as being "terrified" of him.

Think about it:  Here's a guy who smashes through walls, nobody knows who he is, where he came from, or what he is going to do.  He's an unknown force, his motivations are unknown, no one can stop him, and no one knows what he's capable of.  He molests respected government officials, he leaps in the air and threatens to drop people, and the police are after him.  Who knows what the newspapers are saying about him - the press was probably just as sensationalist back then as they are now.

It's part of the adolescent fantasy fulfillment aspect of Superman - the girls can't help but be attracted to him, he can do anything, and people are afraid of him.

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: davidelliott on October 30, 2006, 05:53:26 PM
I agree with Rao...

Think of it, a man who can fly (or leap 1/8 of a mile), is super strong, can not be harmed AND is dressed in a colorful costume, well you may be afraid of him, too... especially in a world that never saw anything like him before.

The papers weren't sure what to make of him... hero or menace?  I would be scared if he showed up in MY small town!

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: MatterEaterLad on October 30, 2006, 06:47:25 PM
Its a very interesting time in Superman's evolution, another reason why the story is interesting in what it could have meant if it was published.

If you read "Superman and the Dam" on this site, you get an impression of a Superman/Clark who really wants to get a story, you are confused at how much Clark is willing to let Lois jerk him around, and you see that Lois, a star reporter certainly has no fear of Superman.

A while later, the US is at war and Superman changes a lot.

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: Aldous on October 31, 2006, 01:57:00 PM
he is the unknown and feared outsider

There is a simpler explanation for this: it's a major theme of "Gladiator".

I agree it's an interesting time in Superman's evolution, but Superman in his early stage was highly derivative and Jerry took many of these ideas directly from other sources, so I don't read too much into them (ie. I don't try to deeply analyse why Superman is like this at this stage).

Title: Re: "Grim Reality!"
Post by: Permanus on October 31, 2006, 06:13:44 PM
I don't try to deeply analyse why Superman is like this at this stage

Yes, I quite agree with you there; at the time, they were still feeling their way around and weren't really bothered about what some middle-aged guys would be thinking of as "canonical" sixty or seventy years down the line.

Still, it is interesting that Superman doesn't immediately appear as a beacon of hope in the early adventures. In fact, he is rather often shown as a crowd-dispersing kind of fellow, at least when he shows up at lynchings and car-shaking occasions. People are rather often shown running away from him, but they're usually guilty of something; there's not really much depiction of him interacting with innocent bystanders.