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Author Topic: Widely disliked ideas about Superman that you like?  (Read 25159 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: October 05, 2006, 05:31:21 AM »

A character like Superman has had multiple different takes on him. Some have been more popular than others and some have been very, very disliked or at least controversial; others were swept under the rug very soon.

I got the idea for this thread from the discussion about Superman being a vegetarian. I for one, don't have as much a problem with this as many people seem to.

For one thing, characterization-wise, it seems like an extension of Superman's clean-living. He doesn't smoke or drink (poor soul)...is it really that much of a jump to say he doesn't eat red meat?

And I think it's perfectly in character for Superman to be intelligent and give in to some of the eccentricities that very dedicated people have - vegetarianism among them. Doc Savage, Superman's anticedent, took this a little further; he was, if you think about it, was not just eccentric, he was a downright weirdo: he exercised two hours every day in the days before just about every white collar person had a gym membership, and he didn't smoke when just about everybody smoked.

I'm not a vegetarian myself, so my position on Superman's vegetarianism does not come from a defensiveness about the choice.

I also like Superman's Aura-Vision.

In proof that people get their opinions by looking at the opinions of others, if you look at some other boards, it's just about common wisdom that this is the worst idea ever. I'm not saying all views are like this, but there certainly is a kind of view on something that people just take for granted as being true without looking deeply at it. An example would be the so-called awfulness of artists like Don Heck and Mike Sekowsky. People are only NOW looking back at their work and saying, "a-ha! Heck wasn't as bad as all that."

I think it's really, really trippy that Superman with his vision, sees living things in a totally different way.

It transforms his respect for life and makes it more interesting, because instead of being a rule, he respects life because he has a sense of awe, wonder and mystery about it.

I also like that there is more than one survivor of Krypton. I also like that there are quite a few!

"How much is too much?" At least when it comes to Krypton survivors; I'd like to err on the higher side of that question.

Even people that like the idea of say, Supergirl and the Phantom Zoners, always qualify their statements with something like "...well, I'm not in favor of TOO many Kryptonians, though."

Krypton "works" as long as it blows up. After that, you can have as many survivors as you want.

Superman is kept emotionally identifiable because he doesn't have a home, he's an alien that's accepted the world over but ironically is very much apart from it all. Somebody very sentimental about where he came from. This characterization can work with as many Kryptonians around as you like.

And Krypton is ultimately too interesting a world to just shut the door on entirely. Uncle Morty, God bless him, didn't think it's possible to have too much of a good thing, and that's where we get guys like Dev-Em and the Kandorians, as well as tons of Kryptonian gear like a box of superweapons invented by Dev-Em.

It's no coincidence that Cary Bates, a guy that understands Superman very well, also wrote several episodes of GARGOYLES. Specifically, he wrote the episode of GARGOYLES where the Gargoyle Clan - who previously believed they were the last of their race, discover that they really aren't, that there are Guatemalan Gargoyles that look like Mayan serpent carvings, and Japanese Gargoyles that keep alive the old Samurai and Ninja ways. The loss to the series was negligible and the gain was infinitely greater because of the supporting cast that was added.

(I forget if Cary Bates wrote the Samurai Gargoyles episode, but I know for a fact he wrote the Guatemalan Gargoyle one.)

Ultimately, the existence of characters like Kara and the Kandorians, like the Guatemalan Gargoyles (voiced no less, by very sexy Hispanic actors), add more to the Superman world's richness. You can tell more stories about Kara alive than dead. She offers more alive than dead.

And let's face it, a rule like "no other Kryptonians" just won't work. It hasn't worked, because it does the one thing in not just comics, but serial fiction in general, that you just can't do: close a door. This is why the post-Crisis rules of "time travel only works a single time once" or "no alternate universes" didn't hold. Okay, yeah, there was the general climate of lassais-faire malaise and idiocy that typefied the post-Crisis DC, but even in a strong editorial grip, the rules would inevitably be broken: they closed a door.

I also don't mind Superman working as a newscaster.

The reason that Superman working as a newscaster was acceptable whereas Supeman going back to being a newspaper reporter in the Andy Helfer-edited years is unacceptable, is in approach.

As a newscaster, Clark Kent behaved like Clark Kent should; he was mild, unassuming, bland and somewhat forgettable.

In the Helfer/Byrne/Kesel years, Kent was successful and admired, a top reporter, and had a column and won awards. See the difference? I'd rather have Clark Kent act like Clark Kent as a newscaster and still have there be a difference in the secret identity, than have one where he is characterized wildly and abnormally.
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Permanus
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« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2006, 08:10:43 AM »

I also liked Clark as a newscaster, actually; there was something trippy about him being a celebrity too. Maggin mentioned this in Superman: Last Son of Krypton, pointing out that it was a tribute to his acting ability that both Superman and Clark could appear on the news and nobody guessed his secret.

In fact, I liked the whole WGBS thing: Clark getting chewed out by Morgan Edge and Steve Lombard pulling pranks on him. There was something very pleasant and chatty about those scenes. Maggin and Bates both wrote well-paced dialogue and Swan conjured up the office environment brilliantly. I would gladly have read a whole issue of just Clark hanging out at the office, talking to Lana and Lola and giving Josh Coyle ulcers. It got even better when Vartox became the building security officer; pity that was so brief. Come to think of it, it was a good setting for a sitcom.

I also miss super-genius Superman, who is gradually making a comeback thanks to Kurt Busiek. I don't know why people tend not to like that aspect of the character. He was always in control. The Byrne incarnation of Superman was too naive and temperamental, which says more about the writer than the character himself; the guy should have been around the track a few times, know the score, be secure and not blow his top. HE DOES NOT SUFFER MENTAL ILLNESS AS A RESULT OF EXECUTING ZOD AND COMPANY IN COLD BLOOD. Sorry, lost my cool there.

Kandor. Old Kandor, I mean, with people strolling around in tights and headbands, driving hovercars in a sort of Lilliput Utopia. I haven't entirely followed the introduction of the new Kandor, and I'm not really sure how it's supposed to work, but it certainly doesn't look like the place I knew as a boy. I miss the way old Krypton was depicted too, like an Art Nouveau I Love Lucy.

Superman and Batman being such good friends. This has more to do with the treatment of Batman's character over the years, of course. It was nice to know that Superman knew this fellow he could talk about anything with. Now when Superman shows up at the Batcave he gets hissed at.

Aaah, there are lots of things I miss that most people probably hate. It's almost impossible for me to read one of the old comics without coming across a bit that I know is corny, but really works for me.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2006, 08:41:10 AM »

Quote from: "Permanus"
Maggin and Bates both wrote well-paced dialogue and Swan conjured up the office environment brilliantly.


Curt Swan's offices felt very true-to-life. I was watching NETWORK recently, and struck by how accurate Swan was in depicting the "look" of an office in that period. As much as I enjoyed the Animated Series, their beautiful Daily Planet was hyper-stylized; it looked like a cross between the inside of an Opera House and the General Motors Futurama from the World's Fair. As great a look as that was, the Planet benefits from feeling like a real office and a real place.

Quote from: "Permanus"
I also miss super-genius Superman, who is gradually making a comeback thanks to Kurt Busiek. I don't know why people tend not to like that aspect of the character. He was always in control. The Byrne incarnation of Superman was too naive and temperamental, which says more about the writer than the character himself; the guy should have been around the track a few times, know the score, be secure and not blow his top. HE DOES NOT SUFFER MENTAL ILLNESS AS A RESULT OF EXECUTING ZOD AND COMPANY IN COLD BLOOD. Sorry, lost my cool there.

Kandor. Old Kandor, I mean, with people strolling around in tights and headbands, driving hovercars in a sort of Lilliput Utopia. I haven't entirely followed the introduction of the new Kandor, and I'm not really sure how it's supposed to work, but it certainly doesn't look like the place I knew as a boy. I miss the way old Krypton was depicted too, like an Art Nouveau I Love Lucy.

Superman and Batman being such good friends. This has more to do with the treatment of Batman's character over the years, of course. It was nice to know that Superman knew this fellow he could talk about anything with. Now when Superman shows up at the Batcave he gets hissed at.

Aaah, there are lots of things I miss that most people probably hate. It's almost impossible for me to read one of the old comics without coming across a bit that I know is corny, but really works for me.


I don't think these things are ideas that most - or even lots - of people hate. I mean, I was thinking of something like sticking your middle finger out and saying, "Yeah, I liked 'Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis.' So what?"

The one idea I never would want to see back is Kandor. The reason is, Kandor's story is finished.  The city was regrown, etc. They got a Happily Ever After, in other words. Bringing Kandor back in some form would be as pointless as bringing the original Swordsman back.
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2006, 08:48:52 AM »

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I don't think these things are ideas that most - or even lots - of people hate. I mean, I was thinking of something like sticking your middle finger out and saying, "Yeah, I liked 'Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis.' So what?"

Oh, I thought everybody hated them on the general principle that the things I like usually tend to be very unpopular. In that case, I can't think of anything, really, although I did quite like the Master Mesmerizer story now that you bring it up, because, come on, a pair of glasses?

I know what you mean about Kandor, but still.
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nightwing
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2006, 02:12:06 PM »

Julian Perez writes:

Quote
I got the idea for this thread from the discussion about Superman being a vegetarian. I for one, don't have as much a problem with this as many people seem to.


Aside from the fact that my favorite storyline ever has Clark eating beef bourgignon, I have no particular interest in his diet one way or the other.  The only vegetarians I don't like are the holier-than-thou militant variety, so as long as he doesn't proselytize, Supes can eat what he likes with no grief from me.

Quote
Doc Savage, Superman's anticedent, took this a little further; he was, if you think about it, was not just eccentric, he was a downright weirdo: he exercised two hours every day in the days before just about every white collar person had a gym membership, and he didn't smoke when just about everybody smoked.


Plus he had a mortal fear of females and had a habit of making a "trilling" noise subconciously.  He was a nut.  If you've ever seen the movie "Twins," you know Arnold Schwartzenneger played a guy raised by scientists on a remote island to be a mental and physical superman...and he's also a complete and utter dork and weirdo.  That's pretty much Doc's origin, and that's pretty much how he turned out.  Actually, for my money it makes Doc more endearing to know that for all his superhuman talents, he's as messed up as any of us in the end, just in different ways.  

Quote
I also like Superman's Aura-Vision.


I think if people dislike this power, it's because it's usually associated with trippy hippy types in tie-died sun dresses.  Just the existence of auras is debatable, and the debate veered off into something like religion before it ever got a chance to be scientific.  Giving Superman the power to "read" auras is almost like making him a wiccan or something, and that's going to gall Middle America for sure.

Quote
I also like that there is more than one survivor of Krypton. I also like that there are quite a few!

"How much is too much?" At least when it comes to Krypton survivors; I'd like to err on the higher side of that question.

Even people that like the idea of say, Supergirl and the Phantom Zoners, always qualify their statements with something like "...well, I'm not in favor of TOO many Kryptonians, though."


I'm currently reading bits and pieces of the "Krypton Companion" book and at the end, there's a roundtable discussion with creators from various eras.  The question comes up about Superman being the sole survivor and how important that is.  The most militant champion of the "sole survivor" rule is, predictably, Byrne.  

But let's consider for a moment the differences between pre- and post-reboot mythos.  In the Weisinger and Schwartz eras, we had stories of Jor-El and Lara, the Phantom Zone, Kandor, Kara, Krypto...all adding to a huge and rich tapestry.  In the Byrne reboot, we got one guy with no appreciation for his roots...just another guy in longjohns like all the rest.  He might has well have been bitten by a spider or hit by a gamma bomb for all the difference it made.

Why would anyone think that Superman has to be the ONLY survivor in order for the story to work?  The only way to keep the pathos going is to have constant reminders all around the guy of what he lost.  Kandor doesn't take away the sting of losing Krypton, it makes it more excruciating.  Every visit there reminds Kal-El of the life he might have had, and every time he sees the bottle it's a reminder that he can't solve every problem (incidentally in the same book, Len Wein admits he was wrong to enlarge Kandor in Superman #338, saying "the concept of a city in a bottle is a lot cooler than what I left it as").  The Phantom Zone is also a rich concept; it's got to torture Superman that so many of Krypton's worst offenders survived when so many good people did not.  And the responsibility of acting as warden to those prisoners is huge; how to reconcile his own belief in fair play and due process with his fear of releasing these terrible people when their sentences are up? All of this stuff just makes the mythos so much more interesting, and makes Superman's life so wonderfully complicated; defender of Earth, caretaker of Krypton's legacy, warden to the universe's worst prison, failed savior to a city of captive liliputians.  It's great stuff.  I say if you've got writers with the chops to handle the concepts as they were back then, the more survivors the better!  Bring 'em on!

Quote
I also don't mind Superman working as a newscaster.


Well, that one never worked for me.  I don't think it hurts the character or anything like that, it just doesn't interest me.  I got tired of seeing Clark run off set on commercial breaks or when the tape was rolling so he could fight crime or whatever.  Somehow it just degenerated into cliche for me a lot faster than the newspaper thing.  Also I don't care what Maggin says, if the guy's on a national newscast there's no way somebody's not going to see through that disguise.  It's one thing to act the coward around your co-workers, but if all you've got to do is read the news off a teleprompter, there's not much opportunity to show what a nervous nelly you are.  All you are is a pretty face with flapping lips...and hey, wait, doesn't that face look a lot like Superman?  As far as I'm concerned, the first time Clark did a story on Superman and they showed a portrait of Supes in a little box over Clark's shoulder, the jig would be up.

But your question was, what did I like that others did not?

Umm...not much, really.  Guess I'm just part of the herd.  :lol:

Does Plastino's art count?  I've heard him bashed, but I liked him fine.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2006, 04:22:53 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
(incidentally in the same book, Len Wein admits he was wrong to enlarge Kandor in Superman #338, saying "the concept of a city in a bottle is a lot cooler than what I left it as").


I think Len Wein is one of the greatest writers of his or any time, so I don't know if I entirely agree with him here. What he did was something that had such utter chutzpah that it's certainly got entertainment value. Hey, they hired a Marvel guy for his "coolness" and ability to shake things up, and by God, he did!

The other reason is, if you know the future about something, there's only so long that you can push the future events further in the ill-defined future. For instance, there's only so long the Legion can push off the events of the Adult Legion story starting to come to pass.

A young Mordru is right now running about the 20th Century. Eventually, at some point, he's going to have to go into the Sleep Prison (and for the most part, stay there).

There was also one Roy Thomas Golden Age-set story where the Nazis summoned and mind-controlled Thor (THE Thor). Obviously,  Thor couldn't stick around, because it was destined that he would not return "until the dawn of the Age of Silver."

A scheme to mind-control a Pagan deity? Gee, I wonder where it all went wrong.

By the Legion's time, we know for a fact that the survivors of Krypton, enlarged Kandorians, lived on the planet Rokyn. They mention Rokyn in (for instance) "The Five Legion Orphans" in 1967. Eventually, Superman's going to have to enlarge it somehow.
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« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2006, 05:10:06 PM »

The Bizarro World

While many people have reprints of Jerry Siegel's Adventure Comics run, the origins of the Bizarros, and especially their planet haven't been reprinted. Htrae is a planet of lifeless clones that predates the Borg...except it's funny! Siegel's run is the only reprinted one, and they are reprinted all in one book so that the format seems repetitive. This contributes to a lack of respect for Bizarros and Bizarro culture. Personally, the only way I found out some of my Bizarro information was from the Great Superman Book, and I've now copied this information here: Bizarro
One good thing about the Supermanica article...is that it contains none of the Adventure Comics information. It's about 8 thick pages of only Superman and Action Comics info.

Superboy

While popular for over 40 years, this idea has fallen out of favor with many: Superboy was Clark Kent's first secret identity. This training ground in Smallville is the reason that Superman doesn't end up like...well, Nietzche's Superman (or Overman) after the Kents DIED (that's right, they're stone dead!)

Composite Superman

I ran across a conversation on a certain Superman board the other day, and the consensus was that Composite Superman was lame. First of all, without knowledge of his origin, it simply looks like somebody sewed together a half-Superman/half-Batman costume. Part of the problem also lies in the comtempt for the idea that Superman and Batman are best friends that complement one another. Who knows, maybe Superman's optimism is what kept the insane Frank Miller Batman from ever happening for all those years!

And I like the aura-vision too. Sure, there is scientific debate about auras, but we're talking about SUPERMAN comics here.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2006, 07:17:48 PM »

Quote from: "Gangbuster Thorul"
The Bizarro World

While many people have reprints of Jerry Siegel's Adventure Comics run, the origins of the Bizarros, and especially their planet haven't been reprinted. Htrae is a planet of lifeless clones that predates the Borg...except it's funny! Siegel's run is the only reprinted one, and they are reprinted all in one book so that the format seems repetitive. This contributes to a lack of respect for Bizarros and Bizarro culture. Personally, the only way I found out some of my Bizarro information was from the Great Superman Book, and I've now copied this information here: Bizarro
One good thing about the Supermanica article...is that it contains none of the Adventure Comics information. It's about 8 thick pages of only Superman and Action Comics info.


I really, really don't like the Bizarro World, at least in the form that it ultimately took.

Uncle Morty did the right thing by replacing the Tales of the Bizarro World backup with Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Bizarro World is ridiculous, but not in a good way; it's ridiculous in the sense that a totally backwards society would not be workable.

A similar criticism can be levied against Qward, a "society dedicated to evil." I think the Talmud said that there's no such thing as absolute evil; evil men are all entirely practical.

That is, until later writers (notably Steve Englehart in GREEN LANTERN CORPS) transformed Qward into a much more "real" kind of society; one that isn't dedicated to evil as an abstract concept, but nasty, nasty pieces of work that are nonetheless evil, but a very human, ruthless kind.

And rereading some of the SUPERMAN FAMILY issues with Bizarros in them, I don't find the Bizarros all that funny; the sense of humor was based on something like "You low down, disloyal cur..." "Stop! No Bizarro lets himself be complimented!" I mean, taxonomically speaking...can that even really be classified as a joke?

Bizarro himself is an interesting figure, a sympathetic monster who often doesn't understand what's happening around him (and is occasionally duped, as Pasko had him be) but divorced from the Bizarro World and its kinds of stories.

Quote from: "Gangbuster Thorul"

Superboy

While popular for over 40 years, this idea has fallen out of favor with many: Superboy was Clark Kent's first secret identity. This training ground in Smallville is the reason that Superman doesn't end up like...well, Nietzche's Superman (or Overman) after the Kents DIED (that's right, they're stone dead!)


Is Superboy really that unpopular? My understanding is, the idea that Superboy may be back only really upset the hardcore Helfer/Byrne partisans (who grow less and less numerous every day), but the universal response is a type of hesitant curiosity.
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