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Author Topic: Viewpoint: A Generational Perspective on the Iron Age Superman...  (Read 26375 times)
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TELLE
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2006, 12:52:55 PM »

More germaine to the subject of this thread (and realizing that my last post probably belongs over in the other Iron Age thread), I have to say that I really enjoyed Gangbusters longer "essay".  I love thoughtful posts that try to make sense of our fannish concerns with reference to larger macro-social trends.  A completely original take on things, in my experience, the idea that left-leaning Xians could be responsible for a change in Superman's demographic and editorial direction.  Food for thought.  Although I must say (and how could I not, as one of those Council of Wisdom types referred to in the original post who is susceptible to groupthink on the subject of Superman?), I tend to agree with Nightwing and Super-Monkey that the Iron Age was objectively ugly and Death of Superman suicidal and that the whole thing was as creatively bankrupt as almost anything in modern superhero comics, including the late-Bronze Age Superman or Image comics,  and that anything that DC could do (like hiring fresh artists and smart writers) to appeal to a new crowd or revive interest in old fans was to the good.  As an over-30 atheist lefty with conservative views on superhero comic book art (I love Fletcher Hanks, Odgen Whitney, Boody Rogers as much as the artists behind Project: Superior, say), I'm not really that attracted to either the new Busiek or Morrison books.  I am reading the latest Popeye collection and plan to buy some manga and comics published by Drawn and Quarterly, Picturebox, Fantagraphics, et al in the next few weeks.  But no new superhero pamphlets.  So DC's latest effort is really not aimed at me, I guess.

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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2006, 06:15:39 PM »


2) I don't think that DC editors and authors hated the classic Superman. John Byrne, believe it or not, is a huge fan of the character. And so Stern and other writers. The big problem with the one you call "Iron Age Superman", for me, was that DC produced his stories in the wrong way. Superman must be an accessible reading. A comic book for everyone who wants a comic book.
Look at what they're doing in the '90s, instead: events over events, bad ideas, unaccessible stories. If you wanted to follow the Man of Steel, you were forced to buy 4 titles a month. 4! In Italy we were lucky, because all the Superman stuff was published in one single comic book, but I suppose that for you Americans it was a nightmare.

You don't get American radio so you don't know how DC actually said this time and time again, and refuse to reprint any old stories. Again, my opinion is based on actual facts.

John Byrne only knew Superman from the cartoons, TV Show and Movies. He never read the comics so how could he be a big fan?
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2006, 06:16:43 AM »

You don't get American radio so you don't know how DC actually said this time and time again, and refuse to reprint any old stories. Again, my opinion is based on actual facts.

John Byrne only knew Superman from the cartoons, TV Show and Movies. He never read the comics so how could he be a big fan?

Well, if his intro to Man of Steel is true, and I really have no reason to believe it's not because this was a time when the man seemed sane, he tracked down the comics after watching an episode of the George Reeves series.

And I'd argue that even if his only exposures to the character were through the George Reeves series, the Christopher Reeve films and the Fleisher shorts that he could still be a huge fan of the character.  Superman has transcended comics.  There are people who love the character but only know him from other sources.  It seems a bit elitist to suggest that the only true fans are the ones who read the comic books.

Having said that I think there was a bit of "old is bad, our new is good" going on in the late '80s and early '90s.  I don't think it was hostile or part of some over all plot to make everyone forget what came before, but there was a general air of snottiness going around. 
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« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2006, 05:09:13 PM »

Having said that I think there was a bit of "old is bad, our new is good" going on in the late '80s and early '90s.  I don't think it was hostile or part of some over all plot to make everyone forget what came before...

actual quotes:

Byrne claims that his depiction of Clark Kent is inspired by George Reeves' Clark Kent on the 1950s television series.  "I loved the way he played Clark Kent," Byrne says, "He was grittier, tougher.  He wasn't the mild-mannered reporter.  He had some guts to him, and that's the way I'm trying to play Clark.

"There won't be as much difference" between the personalities of Superman and Clark anymore.  "Clark's not as timid anymore."  In the fourth issue of Man of Steel Clark and Lois run into terrorists, "and Clark immediately steps in front of Lois, saying, 'Look out, Lois!'"

"I'm throwing in a little twist of the knife in every issue," John Byrne says, "so if you think you know" the Superman mythos, "there's going to be something in there to let you know that you don't." The first slap to hit readers is the new look that John Byrne has given Superman's native world of Krypton.  The next is the new visualizations of Superman's parents, Jor-El and Lara.

"I liked the cold, antiseptic Krypton that I saw in the movie, but we couldn't do it for copyright reasons." - John Byrne

Andrew Helfer reveals that the baby who becomes Superman "is hatched, essentially.  You get the impression there's no sex on this world. If you can judge the sexual mores of a society by how high their collars get, on Krypton they go around their heads so just their eyes and mouths are exposed.  They're really uptight people."

"When I showed the first issue to Richard and Wendy Pini, Wendy said I'd created a Krypton that deserved to blow up," recalls Byrne. "And that was my intent.  I don't want nostalgia for that place.  It's very clear in that first issue that Superman is lucky to have come here."  Eventually, when Superman learns he is from Krypton, he will declare, "'I'm a human being,' because he doesn't want to be Kryptonian.  Krypton is anathema to him."

In the previous Superman continuities, Superman and Batman were the best of friends.  In the new continuity, as in Frank Miller's Dark Knight series, the relationship between DC's two greatest superheros is now very different.

In fact, Byrne talked to Miller about the Batman so that in The Man of Steel "I could suggest the kind of Batman he was going to do."  Similarly, Miller talked to Byrne so that the Superman in Dark Knight could be based on his version.



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« Reply #20 on: November 20, 2006, 09:14:19 AM »

I'd say that there was definitely some hostility towards the classic Superman. Of course, maybe that's just because Byrne comes off as arrogant (not confident--arrogant) in most interviews he does. As for DC, it was almost like they had an inferiority complex because of Superman. Marvel was constantly being praised (deservedly so) for their stories while DC's flagship character was in a bit of a rut. Unfortunately, they reacted in the wrong way. When your competition is doing something right you don't try to copy them. Instead, you should offer something different--something new.

Rebooting Superman in-itself was not a bad idea. If someone like Moore, Maggin, or Bates had rebooted Superman then it could've been great. What was needed was a writer that loved the Superman mythos but could also update it somewhat. Byrne reversed things to Bizarro levels, most of which have been reversed to the way they were by successive writers. In the end, any attempt to alter Superman to make him "cooler" will fail and things will revert back. The birthing matrix, the unfeeling Krypton, suave Clark, and many other elements have all been tossed out. (I won't even get into gimmicks like the Energy Superman or the super-mullet--ye gods.)

In a final analysist, the mythos is as invulnerable as Superman himself.
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« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2006, 06:25:22 PM »

I'd say that there was definitely some hostility towards the classic Superman. Of course, maybe that's just because Byrne comes off as arrogant (not confident--arrogant) in most interviews he does. As for DC, it was almost like they had an inferiority complex because of Superman. Marvel was constantly being praised (deservedly so) for their stories while DC's flagship character was in a bit of a rut. Unfortunately, they reacted in the wrong way. When your competition is doing something right you don't try to copy them. Instead, you should offer something different--something new.

Rebooting Superman in-itself was not a bad idea. If someone like Moore, Maggin, or Bates had rebooted Superman then it could've been great. What was needed was a writer that loved the Superman mythos but could also update it somewhat. Byrne reversed things to Bizarro levels, most of which have been reversed to the way they were by successive writers. In the end, any attempt to alter Superman to make him "cooler" will fail and things will revert back. The birthing matrix, the unfeeling Krypton, suave Clark, and many other elements have all been tossed out. (I won't even get into gimmicks like the Energy Superman or the super-mullet--ye gods.)

In a final analysist, the mythos is as invulnerable as Superman himself.

Bates did turn in a reboot concept that worked within continuity but DC rejected it.  Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin also turned in concepts and were also rejected.

The thing I think we should keep in mind on a historical level is the fact that the sales on the Superman titles were lousy.  I don't have actual numbers (sorry) but Marv Wolfman back in September at DragonCon related how he came on to the character both times in the '80s and sales weren't all that good in the early part of the decade and by 1984 or so things were getting desperate.  DC needed something that would grab people's attention and get them to look at the Superman titles again.

I honestly think all of it, as far as the higher ups were concerned, came down to money.  How can we get these titles back on track and get as much attention as humanly possible.  I believe that if there was any feelings of animosity towards the pre-Crisis Superman it was in how badly the title was selling and it wouldn't be the first time a company shook things up based solely on sales.  I don't think that they didn't like the character, they were just stuck in this "well if that didn't sell then the exact opposite might."

The one name I really don't see thrown into the mix too much is Marv Wolfman.  A lot of people seem to forget that he was the one responsible for changing Luthor into the tycoon (or as some called him the Kingpin rip off) basedis problems with how Luthor had been presented.  John Byrne agreed with the concept and the two together mapped out the new Superman. 

And Byrne was and is arrogant.  There is no getting around that, but I still don't see how that makes him a non-Superman fan going in just because he wanted to change things. 
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« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2006, 12:19:51 AM »


The one name I really don't see thrown into the mix too much is Marv Wolfman.  A lot of people seem to forget that he was the one responsible for changing Luthor into the tycoon (or as some called him the Kingpin rip off) basedis problems with how Luthor had been presented.  John Byrne agreed with the concept and the two together mapped out the new Superman. 

Byrne wasn't alone, you should have heard of the ideas that were rejected!

We speak of the Big Bad Wolf every once and a while. Man was he a bad writer and to make matters worst there was a time when it seem like he was writing every book at DC! So wonder sales were so bad!

Bryne is a non-Superman because he is a non-Superman, and this would be true if he had never written a Superman comic.
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« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2006, 02:05:41 AM »

Byrne wasn't alone, you should have heard of the ideas that were rejected!

We speak of the Big Bad Wolf every once and a while. Man was he a bad writer and to make matters worst there was a time when it seem like he was writing every book at DC! So wonder sales were so bad!

Bryne is a non-Superman because he is a non-Superman, and this would be true if he had never written a Superman comic.

I've heard a few and yes, they were kind of the suck.

I don't think I would classify Marv as a bad writer as I rather liked his Pos-Crisis Superman work (ducks the chairs that appear as if from nowhere) and I really liked the first decade of New Teen Titans/New Titans.  It seemed that was the time when sales at DC started on the upswing.

I am up to cover date October of 1981 on my Superman reading, so I haven't read a whole lotta his Pre-Crisis Superman work.
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