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Author Topic: Six Things About Superman that I Miss, and Two that I don't  (Read 12270 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: February 12, 2006, 09:17:35 AM »

6. Superman's Super-Intelligence

It was just NEAT to know that Superman had a laboratory where he worked to understand the riddles of creation in his off hours when he wasn't fighting noogoodniks, with machines whose function couldn't be determined by any earthly scientist. I also miss Superman speaking all earthly languages, from Courtly French to the clicking of Micronesian Islanders. I miss Superman creating wonders like vehicles, robots, interdimensional travel gateways, and the Super-Computer, which was so advanced that like Gary Seldon, it could predict the future using advanced mathematics.

Superman being Super-Intelligent is a part of the grandiosity that makes Superman who he is; without that grandiosity, he's just another superhero, and without his Super-Intelligence specifically, he's just a big flying version of the Incredible Hulk.

It was also great to see Superman solve mysteries, too, or match wits with an enemies like Luthor. At some points, especially under Maggin, this battle of wits assumed Tom and Jerry-esque proportions: Superman catches Lex' ship in a vortex, only to find that the Lex in the ship was a robot. The REAL Lex was hiding in a secret compartment, however, Superman spotted the compartment with X-Ray Vision and now is holding Luthor's ship in a microfilament web...and so on. Thankfully, their battles ended in time before the two started hurling SUNS at each other, like the characters did in E.E. Smith (the Lensman series could be summed up like this: villain has a big gun. Hero gets a bigger one. Villain gets a bigger one. And so on, and so forth, until, in the last books, they throw PLANETS at the other - I'm not making this up).


5. Lex Luthor's Sense of Humor

People complain about Gene Hackman in the Superman movies, but he did it just right, I think: one of the most intriguing things about Lex Luthor is that he had this wonderful sense of humor; he taunted Superman with nicknames like "Superjerk" and seemed to have more chuckles and one-liners than the Joker and Sid Caesar put together. It sure helps that for much of his seventies incarnation he was written by Maggin, Bates, and Wein, who sure had ears for smart, sassy dialogue. Things like "Sorry Superboy, but charity is for sob sisters and bleeding hearts!" or "Eat hot atoms, Supercreep!"

Maggin once described Lex Luthor as a Jew that ddn't practice; now, seriously, did this surprise ANYBODY? Raise your hand here. Lex Luthor was the scene-stealing Semitic funnyman to Superman's suave, straight-faced Italian lover. They were Martin and Lewis with space mutants.

Kudos to Mark Waid for restoring this aspect of Superman's Greatest Enemy, and giving them that zany zing again.


4. Perry White's Super-Cigars

"Hey KIDS! Smoking is GOOD for YOU!"

Oh. Jesus Christ. Why didn't Perry White, after he smoked his cigar, just follow it up by (on panel, mind you) glugging half a bottle of Cutty Sark and pinching the backside of his nubile secretary?

Perry White's cigar chomping habit is a reminder of the Go-Go Sixties and Seventies, back when Americans still had balls, office sexism was normal instead of prosecuteable, when white collar sloth was at such an all time high that three martini lunches were common.

As for Perry White's Super-Cigars, a box of these were given to Perry White by an alien race. All he had to do was smoke a cigar completely and he would duplicate the Superpowers of anyone he was near. The absolutely surreal image of Superman charging into battle with Perry White (still in his vest, tweed jacket and blackjack dealer visor) is absolutely awesome beyond words.

In fact, as I recall, as late as the Wolfman years, Perry White had ONE Super-Cigar left, kept in a safe for an emergency.


3. Lexor

My memory is imperfect, but didn't they all shave their heads bald at one point in memory of their hero Lex?

It was so weird that there was a planet out there where Lex Luthor is the world's greatest hero and Superman the greatest enemy. Lexor has a Red Sun, no less, which is a brilliant act of forethought on the writers part; it means that Superman can't just pop up and prove Lex is a bad guy, and cart him all the way back to Earthly jail. It also means that Lex, in addition to his Luthor Lairs (yet ANOTHER LL!) had a base somewhere - one where it isn't that simple to just "catch" Lex. Lexor also made Luthor a complicated figure; showing he wasn't ALL bad, because despite his antisocial ends on earth, he really did seek to help the common people of that planet.

It was unfortunate that Lexor was wiped from existence, because even when Lexor was destroyed it served a purpose, allowing Cary Bates to "revamp" Lex Luthor with a Lexor-made battlesuit and a WRATH OF KHAN-style characterization, blaming Superman for the death of his wife.

Further, Lexor was just plain interesting on its own; it had a variety of weird Edgar Rice Burroughs-esque wildlife (like for instance, giant yaks with horns that hold water in the desert), and had a never-ending supply of gadgetry, and had a history that was fascinating and mostly forgotten and hinted at.


2. Cary Bates

Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns have said that they're both big, big fans of Bates, so I guess I won't have much longer to miss this; I have every faith that those two loveable jabronis can pinch-hit for His Majesty, King Bates.

But this guy was DYNAMITE! I mean, think about it: he came up with a new use for superspeed once a month for TEN YEARS. Bates created Vartox, which I'm sure by itself deserves a Nobel Prize (Sean Connery as a superhero? Oh H-E-L-L yeah.) And Bates melded the aesthetic of the Schwartz years with the Silver Age of clean, correct plots and twist endings that totally recontextualized the entire story.Someone once called Bates the "last DC Silver Age writer." This is wrong: Bates was something new, something not seen before or since.


1. Superman's other girlfriends

Seriously, when did all the writers suddenly get the idea in their heads that Lois Lane was, and always had been Superman's one and only soul mate?

Superman (or should I say, Supercad) sure sowed his Kryptonian Oats quite a bit. In fact, one of the most interesting differences between Earth-1 and Earth-2 Superman was that Earth-2 Superman had ONLY Lois, and eventually married her; whereas Earth-1 Superman never married because he had Lyra Lerrol (not one of the most reacurring but whose role and the emotional power of her Siegel story exceeded her appearances), Lana Lang (who for years was a shoe-in for Superman's affections; thanks to Wolfman, who made Lana Superman's girl, and made Lois no longer WANTING to be his girl friend and wanting to become her own person), Lori Lemaris (I'm convinced the only reason cowardly writers don't pair them up is because that would mean making Superman a mermaid too so they can be together), and the Silver Age Superwoman, who, like Lori Lemaris, would probably be Mrs. Superman right now if it wasn't for bizarre atmospheric requirements.


Two Things About Superman I Don't Miss


2. The Superman Robots

Grant Morrison, in ALL-STAR, has the right of it: have Superman have Robots, but make sure they don't LOOK identical to him. The problem with the Superman Robots that look exactly like Superman is that it means that Superman doesn't have to try very hard to maintain Superman's secret identity. Just get a robot, put him in glasses, and bam! Superman in two different places at once.

Sure, Batman occasionally disguised himself as Superman (usually to trick the bad guy into using the wrong weapons on each other) but Batman's a busy guy and he doesn't always have time to do this sort of thing, especially for frivolous reasons like tricking Lois and Lana, and the list of people that know who Superman is, is very, very small.

Superman ought to sweat how to keep his secret identity; it should force him to come up with clever ideas.

Nobody has picked up on this yet (thank Rao), but Superman having the ability to create sentient, perfect robots that copy his powers (and presumably can copy the appearance and powers of others) can potentially destroy the DC Universe. Sound excessively alarmist? No! Consider:

There was a friend of mine that predicted that AVENGERS FOREVER would destroy the Marvel Universe forever. Why? Two words: Space Phantoms. They can duplicate powers exactly, are virtually undetectable, and they occasionally don't even know they ARE Space Phantoms. With the presence of Space Phantoms, we suddenly can question anything we read or see as being legitimate, because at any moment, a future writer can declare that "this character all along was a Space Phantom."

The clashing continental plate-sized egos of the 70s-80s Marvel Bullpen already had this problem, albeit on a smaller scale and limited to only one character: Dr. Doom. There was a story that either Byrne or Claremont rewrote it so that the Doctor Doom used by the other in a previous story had been "only a robot." It is often difficult as a result of this to keep straight which Dr. Doom appearance features the Lord of Latveria himself, or a Doombot.


1. Power Girl

(NOTE: This one is subject to revision, because Geoff Johns is writing her in JSA and INFINITE CRISIS, and Geoff Johns is good at doing the impossible: getting me to like characters that I hate. So, I may revise this list very soon and say, hey, Johns, way to go, you got me grooving on Power Girl.)

If I had a time machine, you know what I'd do?

Travel forward in time to the future where you can buy artificial girlfriends, stash one in my time machine, then go to the year 1976, and give one to Wally Wood, so he can take his excess frustration out on that future synthezoid and not on the comics page, where every issue he blew the pneumatic Power Girl up a little bit more.

Power Girl was never made likeable enough by any writer (though Johns might prove me wrong here) to truly justify her continued existence as, what Roy Thomas called Earth-2 characters with Earth-1 equivalents, a "doppelganger."
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Permanus
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2006, 11:05:29 AM »

6) Ah yes, supersmarts. I do miss that; in his current incarnation, Superman isn't exactly dim, but he comes off as naive, middlebrow, and prone to use his fists. Back when he was a super-genius, though, he used his powers more imaginatively, like when he stopped this tidal wave by turning all the sand on the beach into a big glass barrage. He never seems to do any of that stuff any more, you know?

Superman should see things on a different scale from us; his brain should be able to accomodate things on a planetary level, so that he has the big picture.

5) Wisecracking Luthor, another thing I miss too. This was really brought to the fore in Maggin's Superman novels. I always liked Hackman's line in the movie: "There's a strong streak of goodness in you, Superman... But then, nobody's perfect."

Now he just spouts bile all the time, as if he's seconds away from total apoplexy.

4) I hadn't even noticed Perry had given up smoking, to be honest, but those cigars certainly complemented his image. There was a time when no picture of a man behind a large desk was complete unless he was chomping on a big ol' stogie, but what can you do? I suppose The Thing and Nick Fury have given theirs up too. O tempora! O mores!

(I'm a pipe smoker myself, but I'm not above the odd cigar on occasion. In fact, a friend of mine is just visiting the Dominican Republic and tells me he has a surprise for me on his return, so I'm kind of hoping.)

3) I have this love-hate relationship with Lexor. On the one hand, I like the fact that it provides a forum to demonstrate that Lex is actually a very decent human being. On the other hand, I can't help feeling that the whole place is a bit of a silly idea.

2) As far as I can see, Cary Bates doesn't even have his own entry in Wikipedia. What gives? You could tell he really cared about all the characters in the Superman mythos, giving them depth, complex emotions, interesting backstories. I recently re-read some of the old Vartox stories, and they are every bit as good as I remembered. Bates gave the characters a lot of time to stand around chatting, which I really enjoyed: it gives the stories a rather cosy feel. I really miss Vartox, too. I wish they'd bring him back, but give him an easier life this time around.

1) Well, let's face it, the man's handsome, reliable and can fly. What's not to like? If it weren't for his bizarre "L. L." fetish, which sort of restricts the number of women he'd be attracted to, he'd have lots more girlfriends.

I always thought the Superman robots were a dumb idea, too. Morrison brought them off all right, but frankly, I wish he'd just forgotten about them. As for Power Girl, well, she never really registered on my horizon, so I never had any feeling about her one way or the other, but it seems as if she was always written with that sort of agressivity that many comic-book writers still mistake for feminism.

Tell you what else I miss: Kandor. I really, really liked Kandor. I haven't actually read any of the recent stories concerning its reintroduction, but from what I've heard, it's nothing like the old bottled city. I'm a Classic Kandor man myself. I want Kandor back. I want to live in Kandor.
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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2006, 11:22:53 AM »

Oh, just remembered another thing I miss: Lana Lang calling everybody "Luv". It made absolutely no sense unless she spent all her time in Britain in a Liverpool pub, but I certainly miss it.

Come to think of it, the one thing that would improve Superman beyond measure is if all the characters spoke with British regional accents. Perry White should have a Glaswegian accent, Jimmy Olsen should be Welsh, Luthor should speak like Prince Philip, and who can deny the charms of Lois as a chirpy cockerney sparrer, eh?
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2006, 02:53:58 PM »

Quote from: "Permanus"

Come to think of it, the one thing that would improve Superman beyond measure is if all the characters spoke with British regional accents.


You mean they don't already?

Julian: I can do without Power Girl too.  On the cartoon show they've made her a villain/clone of Supergirl, with slight "improvements" (ie, she's older).

But don't mess with those robots!  I love the rampant Doombot problem as well.  Clones and robots are the glue that holds the multiverse together.
The Hulkbot in Kirby's Eternals is another great example.  I thought it was a rip-off as a kid, but wouldn't have him be real today.
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2006, 05:22:19 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
4. Perry White's Super-Cigars
In fact, as I recall, as late as the Wolfman years, Perry White had ONE Super-Cigar left, kept in a safe for an emergency.


Smoked here:

http://www.comics.org/graphics/covers/116/400/116_4_376.jpg

kdb
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2006, 06:31:22 PM »

More things about Superman I miss:


Superman's other secret identities, Dart, Nova, Nightwing

Superman has had tons of identities; there was Dart, his dart-throwing identity using Superman's Super-Aim power, Supernova, whose deal I forget, and finally, Nightwing, one taken over by Van-Zee and Ak-Var in the Schwartz years.

(And what's with the Martian Manhunter turning into women? I mean, in recent times he's started doing it so often that I seriously wonder if he enjoys it for unwholesome reasons. Paging Dr. Wertham! Ditto for 8-Man. He can disguise himself as ANY member of a criminal organization...and he tends to pick the gangster's girlfriend? Oyvey. 8-Man, John Jones, both of you, just be honest with your unnatural vices and urge to dress oddly.)


Superman having lots and lots of powers

I miss Super-Ventriloquism, Super-Memory, Super-Aim, Super-Balance, Super-Shouting, Super-Mimicry, Super-Sensitive Nostrils, Super-Kissing, Super-Hypnotism, and so forth - all for the same reason that I miss Super-Intelligence: 1) these powers are just plain COOL (remember that time he hummed at just the right frequency to shatter steel like glass?) and 2) having lots and lots of powers give Superman added grandeur. He isn't just ANY superhero; he's the biggest and bestest of them. He can solve and approach problems from multiple angles; he doesn't have to ever catch a falling plane the same way twice, for instance.

And to be honest, I liked that big cellophane s-shield from the movie, too! Everybody rags on it, but Superman probably has all kinds of gimmicks like that, which he keeps a secret to spring on criminals. And it's nice to know that S-Shield on his chest DOES something.


Quote from: "Permanus"
Back when he was a super-genius, though, he used his powers more imaginatively, like when he stopped this tidal wave by turning all the sand on the beach into a big glass barrage. He never seems to do any of that stuff any more, you know?


Oh, absolutely; when Superman did Super-Feats like stretching his super-stretchy cape over an ENTIRE CITY to keep rains out...it reflected so well on the character and his intelligence and resourcefulness (and on the writers, too) for writing him in this way.

Quote from: "Permanus"
5) Wisecracking Luthor, another thing I miss too. This was really brought to the fore in Maggin's Superman novels. I always liked Hackman's line in the movie: "There's a strong streak of goodness in you, Superman... But then, nobody's perfect."


Someone once said that Maggin wrote the definitive Superman. I wouldn't agree with this; Cary Bates wrote the definitive Superman. But Maggin wrote the definitive Luthor. It really helps that Maggin has such a wonderful streetwise sense of humor, a warm cynicism about politics and other things, that he just projects into his characters. Maggin was able to wring sympathy for Luthor by having him be misunderstood and misanthropic, and further, had him be downright COOL, funny, and witty at the same time. Maggin's Lex was complicated, too: note that he saves Superman, his greatest enemy from C.W. Saturn.

If there was any character that is crying out to be written by Maggin, it is that streetwise New Yorker/wisecracker, Spider-Man.

Oh, and Kang the Conqueror...but we've been over this one before, haven't we? Cheesy

Quote from: "Permanus"
On the other hand, I can't help feeling that the whole place is a bit of a silly idea.


TRUE - but there is a kind of silly that is silly no matter how you approach it (there's no WAY to do Mr. Tawny the Talking Tiger "straight") and a kind of silly that in the hands of savvy writers, can become the stepping stone for good worldbuilding, as long as you choose to not laugh at the concept, treat it with veneration, and take it seriously.

Most planets, including Lexor, fall into the latter category. Note for instance, how well developed Steve Englehart was able to make the Weaponeers of Qward and their civilization in his JLA and GREEN LANTERN.

Quote from: "Permanus"
2) As far as I can see, Cary Bates doesn't even have his own entry in Wikipedia.


What an injustice!

Perhaps someone else can write it; I wouldn't want to misattribute anything.

Quote from: "Permanus"
Oh, just remembered another thing I miss: Lana Lang calling everybody "Luv". It made absolutely no sense unless she spent all her time in Britain in a Liverpool pub, but I certainly miss it. {/quote]

Oh, this was so cute! You're so right. Although didn't Lois get married and live in Europe after the end of the Superboy stories? This may explain this.
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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2006, 09:21:13 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
If there was any character that is crying out to be written by Maggin, it is that streetwise New Yorker/wisecracker, Spider-Man.

Wow! Never even occurred to me, but you're quite right, Maggin would have written a great Spider-Man.
Quote
TRUE - but there is a kind of silly that is silly no matter how you approach it (there's no WAY to do Mr. Tawny the Talking Tiger "straight") and a kind of silly that in the hands of savvy writers, can become the stepping stone for good worldbuilding, as long as you choose to not laugh at the concept, treat it with veneration, and take it seriously.

No arguments there, but somehow, for me, Lexor just tries to suspend disbelief a bit too much. It should be said that Lexor was never really much explored, so it never got to make much sense. I am now dreaming (and I guess I can keep on dreaming) of a series called Wonderful World of Lexor, written by Alan Moore.

Quote from: "Permanus"
Oh, just remembered another thing I miss: Lana Lang calling everybody "Luv". It made absolutely no sense unless she spent all her time in Britain in a Liverpool pub, but I certainly miss it. {/quote]

Quote
Oh, this was so cute! You're so right. Although didn't Lois get married and live in Europe after the end of the Superboy stories? This may explain this.

Yeah, Lana went off to live in London for a while, if i remember correctly, which still doesn't explain why she came back speaking like a Scouser. I'm still not letting go of my newfound obsession with the characters in Superman speaking in British regional accents, though. It makes such wonderful sense.

By way of interest, people in the United States have very different accents too, depending on where they come from: now, we know Clark comes from Kansas, so it would make sense for him to speak with his local accent. So what does Superman speak? Wouldn't it be a dead giveaway if he comes off as a Kansan too? It would be quite good if he actually put on another accent when he was Superman. Maybe Bostonian or something.
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« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2006, 09:47:29 PM »

Bostonian??? It would be weird to hear him sound like JFK.

I figure he talks with a New England accent, that is what all the news broadcasters are taught to talk in, it long been considered the easiest to understand.
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