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Author Topic: Who can save Superman now? KURT BUSIEK!  (Read 147583 times)
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Captain Kal
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« Reply #128 on: October 11, 2005, 12:18:39 AM »

Kurt, this is such an obvious question that I'd be surprised if you hadn't been asked this before.

You've made it clear on this thread that you respect both the established continuity of a character and the right of a writer to go with an innovative idea.

What if the great new idea contradicts what is already established in continuity with a character.  Would you be willing to defy established continuity to write that great story?

Or can you see an alternative here not covered by those two extremes?
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Captain Kal

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« Reply #129 on: October 11, 2005, 12:30:25 AM »

Oh, and my apologies for getting carried away earlier, Kurt.  Of course, we must read your actual stories instead of 'cheating' asking here.

I see two other necessary failings in Superman.

1) As Mark Waid put it in "Kingdom Come", Superman's inability to see himself as the inspiration he is to others is a necessary failing.  If he could see himself that way, the character would become horribly distorted and self-important which is most assuredly not Superman.

2) For a character of such vast powers and resources, he must necessarily have a paucity of imagination when it comes to using his powers.  If he truly used his abilities to their fullest extent and imagination, most stories would be over before the second panel of the first page.  In order to challenge Superman, writers must take away a good deal of his creativity in using his powers while having some plausible reason why he would do so.
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Captain Kal

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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #130 on: October 11, 2005, 02:23:33 AM »

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
1) As Mark Waid put it in "Kingdom Come", Superman's inability to see himself as the inspiration he is to others is a necessary failing.  If he could see himself that way, the character would become horribly distorted and self-important which is most assuredly not Superman.

That struck me as a necessary failing for the story, at least to the tragic extent it was taken.  Heck, by most accounts, Pre-Crisis Superman was horribly distorted and self important, and a lot of us loved it.  Smiley

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2) For a character of such vast powers and resources, he must necessarily have a paucity of imagination when it comes to using his powers.  If he truly used his abilities to their fullest extent and imagination, most stories would be over before the second panel of the first page.  In order to challenge Superman, writers must take away a good deal of his creativity in using his powers while having some plausible reason why he would do so.

To what extent is that a function of the medium, though?  Go look at Maggin's fight scenes in the Superman novels, which are little blurs that wouldn't fly in a comic book sense, yet his stories moved along and made sense.  Honestly, if Superman (especially pre-Crisis Superman) used his stories to their fullest extent, most of the stories wouldn't even begin.
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #131 on: October 11, 2005, 03:36:35 AM »

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
You've made it clear on this thread that you respect both the established continuity of a character and the right of a writer to go with an innovative idea.
What if the great new idea contradicts what is already established in continuity with a character.  Would you be willing to defy established continuity to write that great story?


Depends on the circumstances, and on what's getting defied.  Some aspects of Superman are so contradictory already that there's no way to do a story about it without contradicting something -- his "vulnerability to magic" pops to mind here.  Some bits are so terribly minor, or are part and parcel of the constant revision of comics time -- Superman, Superboy and Superbaby all met JFK during his Presidency, didn't they? -- that it doesn't seem like a big deal.  To pick a different character, I'd have no trouble writing a story that contradicted the early THOR story where Don Blake built a functioning android, for instance.

I don't think there need to be rigid, hard-and-fast rules in a creative field -- everything's case-by-case.  How good is the idea, how big is the contradiction?

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Or can you see an alternative here not covered by those two extremes?


Well, yeah -- let's say you've decided that it's a great idea to reveal that Martha Kent's maiden name is Clark, and that's where they got the idea to name the baby Clark.  Not a bad idea.  But a little while ago, it was established that her maiden name was Hudson.  Not in any big way that affected any other stories, just an arbitrary choice.

Now, you can be continuity-rigid and say her name's Hudson, dammit, too bad the Clark idea didn't come along earlier.

Or you can be idea-supportive and say, don't worry about it, we'll all forget about that Hudson thing soon enough.

Or you can find a way to explain the change -- maybe the Superman Revenge Squad, in the future, analyzed out that if Superman grew up with a different name, he'd have had a very different self-image and a different future, so they brainwashed Martha and her whole family into thinking her name was Hudson, until Superman managed to defeat them and undo their tampering, and that one story happened during the tamper-period.

The thing is, some stories are worth doing that kind of explanation-spackling, and some aren't.  Spending a whole issue on why Martha was called Martha Hudson in one story can be done, but it sure seems like a waste of an issue.  Better, to my mind, to just say okay, her name was Martha Clark, that "Hudson" thing was a mistake, and hey, maybe Hudson is an old family name, and her full maiden name was Martha Hudson Clark, as a nod.

There's always a way to reconcile continuity and changes, but sometimes it's more trouble than it's worth.  So you go with your best judgment.  Sometimes, in the case of a conflict, you go with what's been established, sometimes you go with a better idea, sometimes it's worth explaining in-story why the old way wasn't what it seemed to be.

But there's no one choice that's right every time.

kdb
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #132 on: October 11, 2005, 04:23:09 PM »

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
Depends on the circumstances, and on what's getting defied.  Some aspects of Superman are so contradictory already that there's no way to do a story about it without contradicting something -- his "vulnerability to magic" pops to mind here.

Has he ever proven to be vulnerable to the very same magic that he was later proved to be invulnerable to, or vice versa?  I always figured a good way to fix Superman's variable vulnerability to magic would be to say that he's vulnerable to _some kinds_ of magic, and just not specify "some kinds" beyond what's already been depicted.  It's magic, after all.  

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Some bits are so terribly minor, or are part and parcel of the constant revision of comics time -- Superman, Superboy and Superbaby all met JFK during his Presidency, didn't they? -- that it doesn't seem like a big deal.  To pick a different character, I'd have no trouble writing a story that contradicted the early THOR story where Don Blake built a functioning android, for instance.

It was a Demon Duplicate of Don Blake, which was the only thing Zaxton could make a duplicate of because he was really a magical construct of Odin.  Smiley

Quote
Or you can find a way to explain the change -- maybe the Superman Revenge Squad, in the future, analyzed out that if Superman grew up with a different name, he'd have had a very different self-image and a different future, so they brainwashed Martha and her whole family into thinking her name was Hudson, until Superman managed to defeat them and undo their tampering, and that one story happened during the tamper-period.

The sad part is that this is better than having Manhunters in Smallville brainwashing the whole town.
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Captain Kal
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« Reply #133 on: October 11, 2005, 05:24:52 PM »

I've always favoured Maggin's approach in his novelization of "Kingdom Come" when it comes to magic.

Copied from Knightshifter's site on this (which has a good deal of my own speculations on this included):

"But there was something about whatever it was that people called "magic." It was not one thing, magic, but a constellation of unknowns. It was almost as though by failing to understand the nature of a thing, that gave the thing a power over Superman. It was the unpredictability, like physics' exclusion principle: by understanding something you subvert its nature. Superman could never understand Captain Marvel or believe in the gods that had given Marvel a power to rival his own."
Excerpt from Chapter 28 "The Physics of Magic", Elliot S. Maggin's novelizaton of Kingdom Come.

Superman's belief structure is based on two things. Firstly, he was raised with midwestern common sense. Secondly, his Kryptonian heritage was solidly technocratic and scientifically based. His belief structure doesn't include the possibility of magic. This explains why he can be hurt by a Vampire, but he resists outright destruction by vastly superior magical forces. His subconscious kicks in his self-preservation instinct in life-threatening situations. It would make an interesting Elseworlds story if Superman had been raised in a magical culture. That way, his belief based vulnerability would be to scientific weaponry instead of magical forces.
Superman "can" resist magic. Superman is a thoroughly selfless character. He has been shown to resist magic when there is a grave need for it. Some examples:

Early 90's Superman vs. Blaze; Superman defeats Blaze in her own hell dimension. Stakes: Jimmy's soul is about to be taken by Blaze. This is no ordinary feat as Blaze has NEVER been beaten in her own realm. Blaze is a mystical demonic ruler who has total control over a mystical Hell. She's on a par with Neron and Satannus.

JLA Primeval: As was stated below by other folks, Superman resisted the magical and mystic energies of a Primeval God. Stake: the JLA's evolved existence. God power versus Superman Invulnerability.

Crossover, War of the Gods: Superman DEFLECTS and WEAKENS a mystical Bolt so powerful, it was designated to destroy the Greek Islands. Stake: Millions of lives in Greece. Although Superman was unable to completely stop it, he deflected (and resisted its destructive mystic energies) enough to save the Isles.

Some minor incidences:

Superman versus the Demon, Byrne era: The Demon blasts the MOS with Hellfire but causes no physical harm. Superman feels though as if it was burning in his mind and soul. He resists it enough to fling the Demon through several towers.

Superman as Gangbuster: Without his normal psyche intact, Superman breaks mystical bands that was restraining him.

Superman in Valhalla: Although he is fighting against demons in a mystical realm, he ultimately out survives the DC version of Thor, and becomes the War's number one warrior. As noted, Thor deems Superman the worthy lifter of Mjolnir, not Diana or anybody else.

The point of these examples is that at times, Superman resists magic due to some instance when he is no longer thinking about the effects on his body. He has been shown to resist even massive amounts of mystic energies because he believes that he can endure it, "and does"! Magic, and Mystical forces require faith to sustain it. The funny thing about bringing up Superman's vulnerability to magic is that everyone who says it will hurt him just says that it will, no questions asked. That's faith. But equally true is the belief that if you believe that it cannot hurt you, it will not. That too, is faith. This is just our opinion of the matter of course. Superman's mind is that of a mortal. There are many things, like a mortal, he does not understand. And magic is among them. He has been indoctrianted to believe that he has a weakness to magic, and thus when confronted by it, he automatically believes that he can be hurt by it. It is when he removes this belief (for the stakes at hand) that he overcomes magic.

The first 3 examples show this theory. The following 3 are a bit more diverse. Magic does not physically hurt the MOS, but rather he says it is hurting his soul. This is indicative of the nature of one type of magic.

The second example is when Superman no longer maintains his own psyche. He no longer has this "fear" of magic and thus breaks through mystic restraining bands. The last is when he fights so long in Valhalla that he is not affected by its magical nature (or that of its creatures) any more than WW or asgardian fighters, or even Thor. Magic is a tricky thing. It requires someone to believe in it to be effective. Belief systems have everything to do with it. And not everybody believes the same way. Superman "can" resist magic, only if he believes he can.

http://www.geocities.com/knightshifter100/Superman.html
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Captain Kal

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« Reply #134 on: October 11, 2005, 05:33:35 PM »

Kurt, thanks for the very thoughtful, detailed answer on continuity and innovation.  I've read similar sentiments from Walt Simonson but nowhere near as detailed nor well thought out.  You make good sense, as usual, though I can't help commenting that what's a great idea some some might not be so to others, so it's a bit of a subjective call here just the same.

Uncle Mxy, I really fail to see how any incarnation of Superman truly understood how important and inspirational he was to everyone else.  He always seemed to be so modest and just trying to be one of the rest of the super-hero community.

Kurt, again, how much editor influence comes into play on a book?  Does it depend on the company, editor, writer, etc.?  Or is this one of those, "it depends on the situation" questions?

How much of the creative process of a book is reliant on fans accepting it vs the publishers/creators/etc.?
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Captain Kal

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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #135 on: October 11, 2005, 06:02:43 PM »

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
You make good sense, as usual, though I can't help commenting that what's a great idea some some might not be so to others, so it's a bit of a subjective call here just the same.


Of course -- in a creative edeavor, almost everything is going to boil down to subjective choice.

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Kurt, again, how much editor influence comes into play on a book?  Does it depend on the company, editor, writer, etc.?  Or is this one of those, "it depends on the situation" questions?


Assuming you're talking about company-owned books, it depends almost entirely on the editor.  Some editors have a lot of direct input, some don't.  Some editors have a lot of input with some creators, and not with others.  There's no "right" way to do it, and no "wrong" one, either, except by the standards of "did sales go up" and "was the end result good."

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How much of the creative process of a book is reliant on fans accepting it vs the publishers/creators/etc.?


I don't really know what that means, sorry.  Fans don't get input on the process.  They can accept or reject the results, but most readers probably don't know whether a book is plot-style or full-script, whether the editor asked for the ending to be changed, whether the artist drew what was written or reworked it...

kdb
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