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Author Topic: Who can save Superman now? KURT BUSIEK!  (Read 147620 times)
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VanZee
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« Reply #104 on: October 05, 2005, 01:37:41 AM »

>>You're not thinking big enough, Gary.

>Maybe so, maybe no, but Gary's just articulated my problems with a reboot clearly and concisely -- I wouldn't know how to do it without causing more problems than it solves.

The tragedy of Crisis for me is that DC picked the wrong Superman to continue forward.

It seems to me the first steps are to put the most important criteria on the table first, foremost among these are that the elements NON-fans think of when they think of the character are represented and preserved (ie, these are iconic and framing elements, central to identity).  For Superman, those are his boyhood as Superboy, Clark Kent, Lana, Lois (single), Jimmy, Perry, Kandor, etc.  For non-fans, these are seen as  very nostalgic elements: "Everybody knows these things about Superman."

Seems to me gifted writers could construct "two ages" of Superman (much like the E1, E2 versions).

The first age would contain all of the timeless and iconic and central elements of the Superman mythos, set in  some timeless past age (much like Batman the Animated Series seemed set in some mythic gothic past).  This Superman would have his own book(s).  He would have his boyhood adventures, his dog, and his cousin.

The second age would be to advance Superman in years, put gray at his temples (like E2, who had great dignity) and years of experience as the model by which all other heroes are compared.  We already know that Superman is immortal, or nearly so, so advancing his years would neither dim his eye or his powers.  Perhaps he'd be more powerful than ever.  He would be scarred through the loss of dear friends, now the quintessential alien, his values--formed when the world was more naive and perhaps more noble--would endure; rather than seeming silly or campish, these values would transcend pop culture and shifting mores.  This would be the Superman that interacts with the modern era and, as such, could be completely re-written with a new cast of supporting characters, the ultimate reboot.  Clutter could be cleaned out, problematic elements written from the storyline through the passage of time and the villainy of foes.  Maybe in this realm he is outed as Clark but has largely retired his uniform except for those great moments of peril.  Maybe a mature Jimmy is publisher of the Planet, and Clark serves as US Senator from Kansas (being non-native, he cannot be President).  This Superman would also have his own book(s).

I recall one of my all-time favorite Superman stories, the Immortal Superman, where Kal-El had lived on, long years beyond his friends and companions.  He was a tragic figure, but still champion of the earth and ready to do battle on its behalf, his values as invulnerable as his body.

Wild as this sounds, I think it would be very comforting to people familiar with the mythos of Superman, who could pick up one book and see all those elements in place, and to a new generation-- unfaamiliar with the mythos-- who just want to read about Earth's most powerful champion, grizzled and weatherbeaten but tough as nails.

Writers that absolutely had to monkey with core elements could monkey in the modern era... but the original would live on in his mythic and iconic past.  Each era would be a joy to write.
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #105 on: October 05, 2005, 01:52:11 PM »

Quote from: "VanZee"
Writers that absolutely had to monkey with core elements could monkey in the modern era... but the original would live on in his mythic and iconic past.  Each era would be a joy to write.

Note that writers ranging from Alan Moore (Supreme, Tom Strong) to John Byrne (Generations) have done this sort of thing to Superman archetypes.

Superman isn't consistently immortal.  The classic LSH tales don't have a 30th century Superman in them.  Lots of imaginary future tales showed him as dead or looking / acting his age when projected into the future.  I kinda like that.  Kurt's Superman: SI grew old and wasn't seemingly going to live forever, and that was refreshing.  To me, Superman being immortal and _knowing_ that he'll be immortal is a really big deal as far as how he relates to everyone around him.  Some examples:

- Do you think that a Superman who knows he's immortal gets himself so attached to mortals that he totally flips out when they inevitably die?  
- Is he thinking about the "death"/long-term future of Clark Kent, knowing that an 80-year old Clark who looks in his 20s would be suspicious?  
- Does he interact in interesting ways with other immortals, good and bad (think Highlander TV series)?  
- How bored might he get living life for "forever" at super-speed, or how does his brain work to overcome that?  (That's an issue for speedsters in general but at least most of them age, unless the Speed Force grants eternal middle-age for everyone.)  
- If you know that your Super-children will live forever, would you raise them differently... prepare them for loss and ennui better, perhaps?  
- What grand things would he want to do a few thousand years from now once civilization has hopefully evolved to not need him on patrol?  
etc.

How much of this fits in a popular comic book is questionable?  Superman being approached by some immortal who's seen it all and wants powerful Superman to help him in assisted suicide might get the riot squad out.  I doubt that'd have been an issue for Alan Moore's Supreme.
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #106 on: October 06, 2005, 05:15:05 PM »

On a separate note:

Kurt, how smart is Superman in your mind?  He's been depicted anywhere from a super-innovative genius nearly as smart as scientist Luthor,  to a super-uncreative computron, to little more than a big blue dumb boy scout.  What do you think works best, as a writer?
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #107 on: October 06, 2005, 06:51:31 PM »

Quote from: "Uncle Mxy"
Kurt, how smart is Superman in your mind?  He's been depicted anywhere from a super-innovative genius nearly as smart as scientist Luthor,  to a super-uncreative computron, to little more than a big blue dumb boy scout.  What do you think works best, as a writer?


I don't want to see him building robots or curing cancer, but I think he's pretty smart.  Not scientist-smart, but regular-human-being, good-analytical-skills/sound-judgment smart.

I'd rather see him go get technical help because he's smart enough to know he needs it than have the same kind of mad-science skills his foes have.

At the same time, I have to admit, I like those old stories where he works on finding a cure for something in his Fortress Lab.

So I dunno.  Worth thinking about.

kdb
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Captain Kal
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« Reply #108 on: October 06, 2005, 07:03:57 PM »

Kurt, now that we've done our obligatory what makes Superman look good questions, let's go the other way.

What character flaws would you give Superman and why?  Which ones do you think he already has and how would you work those into your stories?
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Captain Kal

"When you lose, don't lose the lesson."
-- The Dalai Lama
Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #109 on: October 06, 2005, 08:13:30 PM »

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
Kurt, now that we've done our obligatory what makes Superman look good questions, let's go the other way.

What character flaws would you give Superman and why?  Which ones do you think he already has and how would you work those into your stories?


I don't know.  I don't really view characters as collections of discrete virtues and flaws, but merely of attributes.

For instance, Superman would not sacrifice a child to save a nation.  Is that a virtue or a flaw?

And honest, I'm not gonna be outlining how I'd work anything into stories I'd write, on two grounds:

1. I wouldn't know without working out the stories, so I couldn't tell you unless I actually had the job; and

2. If I did, I wouldn't tell you because I'd want you to find out by reading them.

But what do you (and everyone else here) think are Superman's flaws, and what stories have pointed them up well?

kdb
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Gary
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« Reply #110 on: October 06, 2005, 10:32:40 PM »

Not really flaws per se, but I think Superman, like a lot of classic heroes, has strengths that can be used against him as weaknesses. Always being willing to help those in need, having an absolute code against killing, generally putting others' welfare before his own happiness are all character virtues, but all of them can cause him a lot of trouble depending on the situation.
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VanZee
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« Reply #111 on: October 07, 2005, 01:08:14 AM »

Quote
But what do you (and everyone else here) think are Superman's flaws, and what stories have pointed them up well?


I'd say a flaw is his rather reactive approach to danger.  Confident in his invulnerability, Superman usually takes a few rounds in the chest before responding to danger.

The smug joy he sometimes displays in having a secret others do not know... that's kind of a flaw.  The identity serves to protect the innocent, not give him superiority over the innocent.  Think of the times Lois has confessed some passion about Superman to Clark (or vice versa); is it really ethical for Superman (or Clark), the most ethical of all beings, to use that information?  Is it ethical for Clark to use super powers to improve his profession, to advance his career?

Actually, the Clark Kent persona is Superman's greatest weakness and has definitely generated more stories than anything else-- the constant danger of having his secret exposed, the innocent and fragile people he must protect (and endanger!) while trying to maintain "normal" relationships with them, the... well, let's face it... deceits and equivocations counter to his nature he must concoct in order to protect it, etc.  You know, without CK's life and his circle of friends Superman would be without meaningful weakness.  You wonder sometimes why Superman even keeps CK around, the identity creates so many problems.  It's not as if Superman himself doesn't maintain relationships with that circle of mortals as well.  Jimmy is *Superman's* best friend, remember.

Ultimately, Clark is a lie, a weakness that a strong hero must hide behind... meek, timid, even cowardly and unmanly.  What part of Superman's true self does Clark even represent?  What would happen if Clark just got lost for a while?

A good story would explore that, find new ground in that, and probably prove my assessment of the Clark persona totally shallow and in error.
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