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Author Topic: Why I DON'T like Alan Moore's Superman tales  (Read 22081 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: November 30, 2006, 10:54:05 AM »

Who are the big villains that Superman faces off against, in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"

We've got Lex Luthor and Brainiac, sure. That's to be expected.

But the other people? Mxyzptlk. Toyman. Metallo. No surprises so far.

But wait!

Moore throws in the Legion of Super-Villains. But not even the big-ass Legion of Super-Villains that Paul Levitz used barely a few years before in the first issue of his baxter paper series that had Sun Emperor, Chameleon Chief, Spider Girl and Micro Lad. It was the classic, Siegel Legion of Super-Villains:  Chemical King, Saturn Queen, and Lightning Lord.

And the Kryptonite Man. Nice of Alan Moore to give a big role to somebody like that, but  it's very odd he'd be such a big shot in this story.

This is my big problem with Alan Moore's Superman: his vision of the character is time-locked in the sixties. And this wouldn't be so bad, ordinarily: sometimes ideas are fresher if you put them on the shelf for a little while and take them off. I really love how Busiek was going for capturing the spirit of the Satellite Years in his recent JLA, for instance.

But there's a difference between digging up old ideas and trying to recapture a certain age's spirit...and xeroxing that period pointlessly to the point where it ignores everything that happened in the interim.

Yes, yes, I know Vartox and Kristen Wells had cameos (where incidentally, they didn't even deliver dialogue), and Moore also briefly mentioned Perry White's marital problems, but still. Krypto? Jimmy Olsen becoming Elastic Lad? There's much more of the Weisenger era in this story than any other. In fact, with the exception of little details like the preence of Jason Todd, nearly all of Moore's stories could be set in the Silver Age with a minimum of details being changed about.

I can only thank the God of Comics that John Byrne never got an opportunity to publish his mutant massacre story, which would involve hundreds of X-Men dying except (coincidentally) more or less the original five X-Men. It's also a good thing that Byrne was pulled off AVENGERS WEST COAST before he could have the Scarlet Witch rejoin the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Characters are more than just what they are in their first appearance, and it's tragic Byrne had to ignore everything done with the Vision, where he gradually gained and learned emotions and a wife and family...only to remove it all from the character.

I never thought I'd ever compare Alan Moore to John Byrne, but there you have it. It was the wrong choice for John Byrne to ignore all the Roy Thomas stories where the Vision discovers his humanity just to get the Avenger back to where he was at his first appearance, and it's wrong for Moore to pretend the seventies and eighties never happened in SUPREME and his Super-Tales.

There's a difference between trying to envoke the spirit of a specific period (as Morrison does) and to diss by omission, which Moore does. In SUPREME, Alan Moore's wish-fulfillment fanfic about sixties DC Comics, except for a Neal Adams/Dave Cockrum style flashback sequence, Supreme is absent for the entire 1970s and 1980s "lost in outer space." Even the characters in the STORY say "Nah, those decades were pretty forgettable."

As a fan of the Bronze Age as well as the Silver Age, a period that has Englehart, Bates and Gerber, all writers that at their peak were arguably more talented than Moore is, I find this chilling absence to be irrational.

Nothing pisses me off more than some punk Kyle Rayner fan slamming Hal Jordan by saying that "the REAL Golden Age is when you are twelve." In other words, trying to make your real, meaningful preference as being nothing more than nostalgia...and thus an emotional and irrational choice. It's like saying "oh, you're just saying that because you're a (fill in the blank)."

But still, I can't help but wonder if this argument is appropriate at least when applied to Alan Moore. Why should sixties Supreme be King of all Supremes everywhere, anyway? When Batman daydreams about the woman he's married to in SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11, it's to Kathy-freakin'-Kane. Screw all the women that have popped up in Batman's life since the sixties: Silver St. Cloud, the Daughter of the Demon, his on-again, off-again heat with the Catwoman...after the incredible heat Bats has had with all these dames, having his dream life be with KK is not only inappropriately regressive, but also pretty STRANGE, too.

Suprema, the Supergirl analogue, is the worst example of what I'm talking about. Astoundingly, she has such a regressive characterization that she bears almost no resemblance to the character she's patterned after, because the point of divergence between Supergirl and Suprema is so early. Think of it as if the Vision never fell in love with the Scarlet Witch...and so was never really accepted by others nor achieved love or a desire to be human. The departure happens so early on that this Vision is almost a totally different character.Likewise, Supergirl became independent and well-adjusted enough to be okay with occasionally being openly sexy. Suprema is a frightening prude.

And finally, while I'm turning this sacred cow into hamburger, Moore's Superman stories are hardly airtight or perfect, and have really terrible holes in them. It would require a post this size to talk about them all, but it's enough to point out that the guy wasn't perfect. For instance, in ANNUAL #11, he had Superman be the cynic about a beloved planet he always idealized, and he had Batman be dewy-eyed and optimistic. He got their characterizations reversed, there. Also, there was the appalling ending to that issue of SUPREME where Supreme is facing Gorrl the Living Galaxy.

As far as awful, barely understood endings go, this one ranks up there with SUPERMAN II.

GORRL: I will destroyeth thee!
SUPREME: Your people are out there, Gorrl. You are beautiful and must run with them.
GORRL: Okay!

And it was over. JUST. LIKE. THAT.

Don't get me wrong, I like the guy, but Alan Moore wasn't perfect by any means.
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nightwing
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2006, 04:02:25 PM »

Hmm...interesting perspective.  You may be right that Moore's too reverential of the 60s stories, but then I am too, so it doesn't bother me so much.  Wink

I think "Whatever Happened" gets off the hook, though.  The point of that story was to provide a coda to the whole pre-Crisis mythos and like it or not, almost everything of any lasting importance to that mythos came from the Weisinger era.  The 70s gave us the elimination of Kryptonite (soon reversed), the dimunition of powers (quickly ignored), Clark's move to TV (a pretty cosmetic change, and one reflected in the story anyway) and not a whole heck of a lot else.  Julie Schwartz may have downplayed a lot of the Weisinger era baggage, but it didn't eliminate it.  Kandor, Krypto, the Zone, etc were all there, always waiting to be used in some way should the need arise. So when Moore set out to "wrap up" the mythos, he was bound to bring up that stuff that happened to be invented in the 60s, because that was the stuff that mattered, the stuff that was still around and in play and unresolved. 

On the other hand, I agree it makes no sense that Batman would dream about marrying Kathy Kane, since Batman's best days were NOT in the early 60s, and he'd moved on in ways Superman never did.  I guess it MIGHT work if you believe Bruce felt some responsibility for Kathy's death.  That way, paradise to him would be a world where not only his parents but also Kathy were still alive and happy...and marrying Bruce would definitely have made her happy.
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2006, 12:34:26 AM »

Nobody as to be perfect Julian, but i always thinked that"Wathever happened to the man of tomorrow" was the last goodbye to the Superman version that,like it or not,as worked better and added so much to is mythos than any other,so when Moore was asked to write this last respect he choose to work with,and this is still my opinion, the best part of the fictional life of the character. 
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2006, 01:17:33 AM »

I applaud Moore's selection of villians for "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" and I thought it clever that the "annoyance" villians were used early as more deadly than they used to be.

I was especially glad he left out Terra-Man, the Purple Pile Driver, and the Whirlicane... Grin
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Aldous
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2006, 06:55:30 AM »

I'm sure I once said I thought the "Sand-Superman Saga" was far superior to "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"

And I'm also sure Super Monkey had the temerity to argue with me.  Shocked
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Permanus
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2006, 10:28:14 AM »

I don't think Moore's brief in "Whatever Happened..." and "Supreme" was to encapsulate Superman's entire history up to 1986. As Nightwing notes, "Whatever Happened" was a tribute to the Weisinger era more than anything; "Supreme", as I see it, is a commentary on the revamp of comics characters, Superman in particular.

Obviously, Moore preferred the Weisinger comics, and probably knew more about them, too; he was born in the 50s, after all, and I don't suppose he read that much Superman from the 70s on. If he'd been ordered by the editors to cram in a lot of stuff he didn't know about or have any feelings for, the stories would have suffered as a result. It's a reflection of his personal taste, and that doesn't mean he misunderstands the character. You can say what you like about "Whatever Happened", but at no point does Moore make fun of the mythos: he even gives Jimmy and Lana their powers back, and plays it straight. The story works best if you place it in its context (i.e., Moore saying goodbye to the old character before Byrne's act of rape), but in my view, it works perfectly well on its own, provided you know a bit about the history of the character.

In fact, Moore's understanding of Superman as a character is better shown in his DCCP Superman/Swamp Thing story, in which Superman is lethally infected by a Kryptonian virus for which there is no cure. His powers fluctuating, he crawls off to die, neither as Superman or Clark, but hiring a car under the name "Cal Ellis", as if he was finally allowing himself the possibility just to be himself in death.

Moore's written plenty of stuff I don't like, but on the other hand he's written enough stuff I do like that it more than makes up for it; his Superman stories aren't among his best writing, but they're pretty durn strong. Yes, they're about his personal take on the character, and yes, that take is basically rooted in the 60s, but I don't think it's fair to criticise his Superman stories because they don't include everything you like in them, any more than it would be for me to criticise a baker for putting nuts in a cake on the grounds that I'm allergic to them.
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MatterEaterLad
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2006, 05:10:48 PM »

I'm sure I once said I thought the "Sand-Superman Saga" was far superior to "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"

And I'm also sure Super Monkey had the temerity to argue with me.  Shocked
That was a good debate, hope its still archived here somewhere... Smiley

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Aldous
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2006, 08:36:53 PM »

nightwing:
Quote
The point of that story was to provide a coda to the whole pre-Crisis mythos .....

If, as you say, you're reverential towards the Weisinger era, then you already had your "coda" from Dorfman, Swan, and Klein, viz. "The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue".
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