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Author Topic: Ideas of Elliot S! Maggin that were pretty bad  (Read 1586 times)
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Council of Wisdom
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« on: March 10, 2006, 05:48:32 AM »

As much as I love Elliot S! Maggin, as well as he understood who Superman was, as streetwise and funny as he could be, as well as he could write...

...if you are paid, for 15 years, to write about a character, no matter how talented you are, the law of averages states that eventually you'll hit a real stinker of an idea. Heck, the only reason that Stan and Jack seemed to bat a thousand with FANTASTIC FOUR was because they quit while they were ahead.

People ask me why it was Cary Bates that was my favorite of the Schwartz Superman writers, despite his flaws (like FORGETTING a Legionnaire's powers one time) - so, here's why. Don't get me wrong, I love Maggin to death, but not everything he did was pure gold.

It's also very amusing to note that every single time Maggin throws out the off curveball theory, nobody except him ever talked or mentioned it again; everyone else just ignores it. It was like Bates, Wein, and Nelson Bridwell all made a blood pact never to mention the Kryp-Tonn story again. The only other time I've ever seen that idea brought up again was in MAGGIN'S OWN SUPERMAN NOVELS, and in a 1980s Nelson Bridwell miniseries as a throwaway line that could be interpreted as either confirming it, or laughing along with the audience at the ludicrousness of the idea. Even Mark Waid, an avowed Maggin disciple that got S! to write the KINGDOM COME novelization, wouldn't touch this theory with a ten-foot pole when he redid Krypton in BIRTHRIGHT.

Superman as the Qwizatz Haderach

According to some Maggin stories, Superman was produced over time by the Guardians of the Universe in order to become a superbeing.

Okay, yeah, it brings the Guardians into the origin of Superman, sure, making the DC Universe "tighter" and more interconnected in a Roy Thomas sort of way. But the thing is, Superman is great, noble, and pure because of his choices, not because he's the Qwizatz Haderach. Plus, the whole "Guardians breeding project to produce the perfect being" is such a direct crib off of Smith's LENSMAN that it is actually offensive.

Krypton Was Settled by Space Explorers: Answering a Question that Nobody Asked

This is the big enchilada right here: the worst idea Maggin ever had.

The idea that Krypton was settled by space explorers.

This makes no sense in light of what we know about Krypton; for one thing, if they're not from Krypton, why would they have powers at all because of the planet? Other beings from Krypton get powers too: dogs, gorillas, and flame dragons, all presumably native. Second, Krypton's history included periods of savagery, which are not consistent with a history that begins with something as high-tech as a space colony. And further, it doesn't account for where Kryptonians came from in the beginning. Was it Daxam, perhaps? Then why no weakness to lead? Instead of "explaining" the origin of Krypton, all it did was muddy it up, all for the purpose of answering a question that no one asked.

This sort of thing has a name: "Peter Davidism." Taking a concept that previously was straightforward (Superman gets his powers from being a Kryptonian, a people from Krypton who get their powers from their planet) and giving it a backstory that makes the previously straightforward idea all unclear and confusing.

And the whole "Kryp!" and "Tonn!" thing, in the Schwartz era of space opera, was absolutely inane. Wasn't this a Jack Handey gag? "Mankind is very mysterious. Why? Let us look at the words 'Mank' and 'ind.' What do these words mean? I do not know. That is why mankind is so mysterious."

The Sword of Superman

For one thing...since freaking when has Superman ever needed or used a sword? Does Wonder Woman carry a katana? Does Batman carry a gun (well...yes, but that's a long story)?

Also: it was a piece of unformed matter from the Big Bang. So, essentially, what Maggin's telling us here is that the universe was created by someone putting a firecracker in a dumpster.

For one thing, it violates a very basic rule of High School physics: all matter that came out of the Big Bang was hydrogen. Heavier elements formed inside of stars. There's no way the Big Bang would produce a chunk of solid metal, not to mention the absurdity of one that was perfectly sword-shaped with an "s" symbol at the handle. Also, the Sword of Superman's powers were virtually limitless - not because it was, but because its powers were so poorly defined.

Also...since when does Superman know so much about swordsmanship, anyway? In a Dennis O'Neil story, Batman was in trouble because he didn't know how to fly a World War I era biplane - many superheroes don't have mastery of archaic skills. There isn't even a swordfighting robot partner in the Fortress of Solitude.

King Kosmos

I've said this before, and I'll keep on saying it: Kosmos was such a transparent Kang clone that one wonders if Maggin was trying to see if he could smootch the right behind to get work at the House of Ideas (which wasn't successful; wasn't the last thing he did in comics, the AD&D comic for DC?)

Any story involving Superman meeting God

I loved LAST SON OF KRYPTON, but this subplot needed to have hit the cutting room floor.

Though I will admit, once God became a Superman supporting character, it took Marv Wolfman to figure out that Brainiac would probably want to find and replace him.

"Wait, a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
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