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Author Topic: Busiek, Johns, and Morrison  (Read 6489 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: March 31, 2006, 11:00:27 PM »

It's a great, great time to be a Superman fan.

Morrison's ALL-STAR SUPERMAN is throwing one trippy curveball after another, making it the most mindblowing book on the stands (and the art really, really grows on you after a while). The little hints that Superman will perform future great deeds make the book one I can't wait to get. What IS the Underverse? The Tyrant Sun? Will Superman in fact, die? How's he going to get his way out of that? I'm frankly, desperate to know.

The most interesting thing about A-S-S is the innovation. This was what made us all love Superman in the first place: trippy idea after trippy idea. A race of dinosaurs at the center of the earth. Sampson and Atlas with a time travelling go-kart, as a pair of loveable rascals. Lois Lane being simultaneously alive and dead. WOW.

Remember a while back when I said that only Kurt Busiek could save Superman now? Well, after having read ACTION COMICS #837, I was right, suckers! I hate to repeat the endless praise these two must receive, but da-a-mn, can they do characterization. Previously, I said that something about their Superman felt "off." And I would officially like to eat my words, because I was looking in the wrong place: Superman isn't around, so he can't feel off. But Clark Kent feels so much like Superman, especially come ACTION. Clark - WITHOUT his powers, mind you - without the slightest bit of hesitation, saves an innocent bystander in the middle of a superhero power battle. Clark attempts to sneak into a Luthor Lair by himself. Clark gets slapped around by Luthor for digging too deep (beaten pretty badly, mind you) and still insists on doing the right thing despite the cost to him personally.

It's great that even WITHOUT his powers, Superman is still listened to by other superheroes. We haven't seen a Superman with this kind of moxie since Roger Stern made him a Superhero General back in "Panic in the Sky."

And remember when I said that the single most important attribute of Superman, the one defining element that made Superman who he is, is his intelligence? Well, he's got plenty to spare in this issue, guiding his allies on how to disable Lexorian robot suits, thinking of tactics ("that wouldn't work...Lex would have armed the helmet forcefield.")

Best of all, there is such an incredible projection of WARMTH from Superman and his world. I knew that if Busiek could bring his talent to bear for characterization we'd see something special...Clark Kent carried by Hal Jordan above a subway crowd, he hears cheers. "It's an old familar sound I haven't heard in a while. I can feel Hawkgirl smile...and why shouldn't she?"

And then we have a wonderful, wonderful sense of humor going all through this book: Hal Jordan saving a man about to turn Clark Kent's head into paste by saying "Hey...now, you wouldn't hit a man with glasses, would you?" Or Lex saying that he "always suspected that Clark Kent has a glass jaw."

One of the more irritating bits of the abominable Carlin years was Clark Kent being a gutsy super-reporter sipping lattes. Why is it that it works here, but not there? The reason may be because...(and here's a trippy idea) Clark Kent is not and never has been, really, an actual reporter. It's hard to imagine Clark Kent asking "hard hitting" questions or doing any of the things that make journalists successful. Bill O'Reilly he ain't. But here, Clark is really, less a reporter, more of something like a detective; one is reminded of the old "Jimmy Olsen, Mr. Action" backups back in SUPERMAN FAMILY. Hell, Clark's even got the Signal Watch!

Previously I posted that it felt like after INFINITE CRISIS, nothing has changed. For better or for worse, after reading ACTION COMICS #837, there is a definite sense of what happened after the original Crisis has happened here: that interest was aroused in titles ordinarily not read. That anything COULD change. I mean (SPOILER WARNING!) at the end of the book, Hal Jordan gives Superman a power ring. And it appears that Conner Kent is dead.

Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!

Yes, I know, Crisis was bad, blah blah, but I to be honest, I never took interest in Wonder Woman until George Perez made me stand up and pay attention, because there was suddenly a sensation that anything can happen. On the other hand, after the original Crisis, titles that were wild and crazy and unpredictable, that went into Crisis strong, were diminished because now that anything in the DCU can happen, they start to look pretty formulaic in comparison: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES became like the Roman Empire, going into a "long night" that it has never recovered from, and while it wasn't just Crisis but a combination of factors, NEW TEEN TITANS  "jumped the shark" around that time.

And then we have what may be Johns's contribution: the villains. We're only two issues into the darn thing, and we've already seen Lex Luthor (with his irritating Kingpin phase clearly over, and using a Luthor Lair - yay!), Metallo, and a creepy new Toyman.

Also it is implied that Superman rebuilt his Superman Robots but were rebuilt "after a tiff with the Titans." Whoa. So, Superman has his Superman Robots?

By the way, Kurt, you always said you were in love with the space opera and romance of the Schwartz years. So, when's Superman going to go in space and do all that STAR WARS stuff, eh? I mean, dang, we're three issues into ALL-STAR and there, Superman's jaunted into space something like four or five times.

My father used to compare wine to women, perhaps I can compare comic books to women, too:

The Busiek/Johns run is the blonde, cute girl next door that goes to potlucks and bicycles down the waterfront, who goes to sleep surrounded by hundreds of stuffed animals. The Morrison Superman is your wild, crazy, sexy European girlfriend (possibly Spanish or Italian) that calls you up on your cel at three in the morning to go to nightclubs and "urban exploring."
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2006, 05:23:53 AM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
By the way, Kurt, you always said you were in love with the space opera and romance of the Schwartz years. So, when's Superman going to go in space and do all that STAR WARS stuff, eh? I mean, dang, we're three issues into ALL-STAR and there, Superman's jaunted into space something like four or five times.


Our guy doesn't have any powers at the moment.  If he went off into outer space, he'd die dead.

But I've got at least three big space arcs planned, and that's just the beginning.

There'll be Earth-based adventures too, mind you...

kdb
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2006, 10:36:30 AM »

It's a great moment to read Superman.
Rarely the Super titles disappointed me from "Strange new visitor" on, but this seems the best moment in the last 3 years.
Superman is the only comic book character who makes me remember what I like in superheroes. I could call him "Spider-Man of my adulthood".
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CRISISHATER
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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2006, 08:07:32 AM »

Kurt, please tellme that "Super boy" quote in the first issue origin of this arc isn't just a throwaway and that they'll be a Kal-el Superboy. I would hope DC would want this due to the new Legion cartoon starring him....Please I BEG OF YOU Tongue
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Crisis and man of steel ruined the Superman mythos

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nightwing
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2006, 02:04:04 PM »

Julian Perez asks:

Quote
One of the more irritating bits of the abominable Carlin years was Clark Kent being a gutsy super-reporter sipping lattes. Why is it that it works here, but not there?


I don't remember "gutsy," but I do remember the lattes.  I think Byrne's recreation of Clark as a style-concious yuppie was nauseating, and making him an award-winning columnist was offensive in the same way as making him a football hero.  Namely, no accomplishment is praiseworthy when it's achieved by "cheating."  There is no honor in a super-powered Clark Kent running, jumping or hitting harder than any other football player, and likewise if he gets a "scoop" because he can get access to the scene of a story inaccessible to a mere mortal, or sees and hears things no human reporter ever could, then he deserves no praise for beating them out.  He cheated.  (Incidentally, this is why I still can't believe Lois ever forgave him when she learned his secret ID)

The whole "gifted reporter" thing works better for me in "Up Up and Away" because (1) Clark is mortal now and so anything he achieves is thanks to good old fashioned brains and hard work and (2) he's not wearing designer fashions and sipping lattes, he's wearing a vintage Smallville High jacket and scarfing pretzels from street vendors.  Clark Kent works for me as an Average Joe on the city beat, but NOT as a world-class, Pulitzer-winning syndicated columnist.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2006, 02:27:08 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
Julian Perez asks:

Quote
One of the more irritating bits of the abominable Carlin years was Clark Kent being a gutsy super-reporter sipping lattes. Why is it that it works here, but not there?


I don't remember "gutsy," but I do remember the lattes.  I think Byrne's recreation of Clark as a style-concious yuppie was nauseating, and making him an award-winning columnist was offensive in the same way as making him a football hero.  Namely, no accomplishment is praiseworthy when it's achieved by "cheating."  There is no honor in a super-powered Clark Kent running, jumping or hitting harder than any other football player, and likewise if he gets a "scoop" because he can get access to the scene of a story inaccessible to a mere mortal, or sees and hears things no human reporter ever could, then he deserves no praise for beating them out.  He cheated.  (Incidentally, this is why I still can't believe Lois ever forgave him when she learned his secret ID)

The whole "gifted reporter" thing works better for me in "Up Up and Away" because (1) Clark is mortal now and so anything he achieves is thanks to good old fashioned brains and hard work and (2) he's not wearing designer fashions and sipping lattes, he's wearing a vintage Smallville High jacket and scarfing pretzels from street vendors.  Clark Kent works for me as an Average Joe on the city beat, but NOT as a world-class, Pulitzer-winning syndicated columnist.


Good point, Nightwing. Superman using his powers to succeed in athletics, and worse, taking pleasure in such honors, is pretty darn shallow.

Strange how when Johnny Bates used his superpowers to advance in his career - to spy on competitors and steal their plans, and also to use his superbrain to create advanced pieces of equipment...this all characterized Bates as a villain: a smarmy, unscrupulous rattlesnake.

I've always said that Clark Kent shouldn't be a successful journalist with his own office and pulitzer-prize winning column. If there's no difference between Superman and Clark, why have Clark around at all? However, you also correctly identified something else that was wrong with this picture: the success of Byrne/Carlin's Superman was based on dishonesty. Getting a "scoop" on Superman...because you ARE Superman?

It's wonderful to see Busiek and Johns write Superman here as a gutsy reporter, but as a result of his own courage, and Clark Kent's willingness to stand up to authority (and taking a punch from gangsters takes guts of iron). One is reminded of the Maggin and Bates stories where for whatever reason, Superman ceases to exist, and so characteristics that belong to Superman (confidence, sense of right and wrong) "bleed" over into Clark Kent.

When I read that Superman was going to lose his powers, I rolled my eyes. I didn't think they would do it THIS way, though, with this kind of intelligent, original execution. Believe it or not, I'll actually be a little disappointed when Superman gets his powers back!
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2006, 03:22:27 PM »

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When I read that Superman was going to lose his powers, I rolled my eyes. I didn't think they would do it THIS way, though, with this kind of intelligent, original execution. Believe it or not, I'll actually be a little disappointed when Superman gets his powers back!


I feel the same way!  This storyline so far reminds me a bit of the immortal "Who Took The Super Out of Superman?" quadrilogy.  After that issue where Clark punches Steve Lombard, makes out (and maybe more) with Lois and battles Intergang sans powers, I would have been more than happy to have Superman take a permanent vacation and Clark Kent get his own book!  :shock:

I'm well into "Showcase Presents: Superman Family" now and I have to say that to a lesser extent, vintage Jimmy Olsen has kind of the same appeal; he's a gutsy, resourceful mortal whose adventures are relatable and who's braver and smarter than I remembered.  (We're still a ways off from "Turtle Boy" and...ick...Lucy Lane).  Come to think of it, one of my favorite characters ever was that Korean War vet who tagged along with Thor for a few issues during Walt Simonson's run.  There's just something about real, vulnerable flesh and blood heroes trying to keep up in a world of superheroes that's really appealing to me.  "New Frontier," with its focus on the Challengers, the Losers and a (for much of it) pre-GL Hal Jordan won me over for similar reasons.

I'm looking forward to the promised outer-space epics and "big" stories, but I really hope we see more of Clark Kent during Kurt's run, and a focus on the supporting cast. Not their soap-opera problems, mind you...I don't give a fig if Perry and Alice divorce or not...but some opportunities for these guys and gals to shine as heroes in their own right.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2006, 04:24:52 PM »

Quote from: "Nightwing"
I'm looking forward to the promised outer-space epics and "big" stories, but I really hope we see more of Clark Kent during Kurt's run, and a focus on the supporting cast. Not their soap-opera problems, mind you...I don't give a fig if Perry and Alice divorce or not...but some opportunities for these guys and gals to shine as heroes in their own right.


Good point. Incidentally, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW had the definitive Lois Lane characterization, and it wasn't even a Superman movie! That is to say, brave and gutsy, but sometimes getting way in over her head. There, we had Gwyneth Paltrow's character running TOWARDS the giant robots when everybody else ran away, reaching down to get her camera when it had fallen down a drain, even though the robots were only a few feet away...

People complain about Lois Lane's personality. The secret though, is not to make her more assertive or less assertive or have her treat Clark Kent well or poorly. The secret is to give her something to DO.

I also like that Kurt Busiek and Johns aren't wasting our time on page-killing subplots about Cat Grant's personal problems (who cares?) and the Super-Marriage, except to use it show what a warm, nice guy Superman is, with a lot more subtlety than Morrison, who has Superman as so polite and apologetic it is almost unreal (a small nit, of course - A-S-S is wonderful).
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