Monday, June 24, 2013

Superman for a New Generation


Superman has been reinterpreted in many different ways, ever since he grew beyond his initial hit popularity starting in 1938. He's been interpreted as a Science Fiction themed comic, a love triangle romance, and all-American Superhero. Beginning, I believe, with Grant Morrison's Action Comics, as part of the New 52, a new Era for Superman in well underway! I've been a stellar supporter for Morrison's re-interpretation, re-casting Superman as a Sci-Fi Action Hero, with the magic and creativity only able to be captured in the Comics medium. Since Morrison's departure, though, it's been a little rough sailing. Andy Diggle's run on Action Comics clocked in at a grand total of 3 issues, jumping ship before the first issue even released. Scott Lobdell has been propping the series up during this year, and while he doesn't come close to Morrison's skill, he' been doing a passable job giving us entertaining, if not well written, Superman stories. (His writing actually feels like a throw-back, to how he wrote X-Men comics, back in the day. His writing it, while not great, is familiar and comforting, in a way.) Luckily, the standard for having far-fetched, fun and outrageous plot-points has been continued from Morrison's run.

After writing some Action Comics issues, Lobdell will be replaced with new regular series writer Greg Pak, with Aaron Kuder on art. Still not on the same level of Grant Morrison; but I'm excited to see a finite direction for Action Comics finally put underway, and Pak should do a fine job. As for Aaron Kuder, I think this is a great choice - as he showed us all what he could do, in the Action Packed issue of Superman #20, where Superman fought against Orion of the New Gods.

Adding Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder to Action Comics sounds great; but it's still not A-Game talent. Luckily that can be found in new Superman title "Superman Unchained" - written by rising star Scott Snyder, with art by the legendary Jim Lee. The first issue definitely did not disappoint - as Snyder brought in a new level of complexity, mixed with familiarity, to the Superman Universe - with a new threat, of the Government having their own version of a Superman, operating since during WWII. If there is one Superman title you should be following, this one is it.

(Warning: Large Image)

Their first issue, also, introduced a blatant gimmick, but one I really liked: a 4-page pullout, depicting Superman crashing through a space station. It was one of those magical comic moments - as the storytelling was actually uplifted by the boom and spectacle of this large poster-sized page. Do I want to see this as a regular thing in comics? Heck no! But for a one-off experiment, it really did impress me.

DC isn't letting up just yet, though - as they have a new Media Blitz coming, with September's Villains Forever month, featuring 3D Cover Comics. Now this, this is a stunt -- but, wow - it's an exciting stunt, highlighting various Villains of the DCU, and specifically bolstering Superman's Rogue's Gallery, with issues focusing on Zod, Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and others. I'm going into this event, planning to pick and choose which issues to get - focusing mostly on Superman's titles. The number of fill-in artists and writers concerns me, as to the quality of the issues; but this feels like a rare opportunity, as DC are doing these 3D Cover issues at a loss, even at $4 price point. Don't expect them to do this that often, or again in the near future. It's all about smashing through and grabbing attention of the media, fans, and new readers.

So, while in comics the New Modern Superman is slowly being solidified and catered to, for this new Generation - it's at the Box Office where Superman is truly getting a new start. The new film "Man of Steel" has been raking in the money - despite a number of negative reviews and fans responses.

For me, I land somewhat in the middle, concerning the film. I thought it was good; it did things very differently, from Lois knowing Clark's secret from the get-go, to the level of destruction caused by Superman's fights. This is a darker, more brooding emo Superman -- but not one devoid of hope and inspiration. Everyone immediately compares this new Superman to the legend of Christopher Reeves' version, which I think is a mistake to do. Simply put, there can be two Supermen -- the classic one, which no one will, or should, forget; and the new one. They don't necessarily cancel each other out.

For the next Superman film, I think the introduction of Lex Luthor will be paramount. DC, for a number of years, has been going the "Mad Genius/Concerned for Earth"-version of Lex Luthor - and I think, after the destruction caused by the fighting, Lex will have a welcome entry into audiences' minds, giving us a complex and fulfilling Lex Luthor, than that of movies past. I think, of all the actors they could choose - I'd urgently plea for the directors to consider Bryan Cranston for the role. Not only does he have the incredible range, depicting both befuddled father in Malcolm in the Middle, and morally astray meth cooker in Breaking Bad -- but he's an actor who would definitely draw people into theaters, as his appearance in small roles, like Argo, and Total Recall, elevated those films considerably. (I know, I know! Not enough to save Total Recall, though.)

The dramatic ending, for which I labeled this entry for Spoilers, of Superman snapping Zod's neck, is probably one of the most divisive moments of the film for viewers, and especially for Comic Book readers. While I love the the rule "Superman doesn't kill", I remind myself that Zod was always the big exception. John Byrne wrote a compelling issue, in which Superman, in a pocket/other dimension, made the hard choice to condemn Zod to death for his crimes. Now, the reasoning behind this was that Zod had killed, literally, everyone - Superman was all that was left, in terms of justice in this Pocket Universe. Still, fans sort of deny the event, ignoring it as not counting, the Pocket Universe-Zod being less than real, in some way. End of the day, though, Superman performed an execution, which could be considered by some even more cruel than a last minute, "people will die the next second unless he acts", kind of moment. So for me, the neck snapping moment wasn't what bothered me about the film.

What really irritated me was him showing up as Clark Kent, of the Daily Planet, at the end of the film! I know it was necessary - but, really, his secret identity was blown wide open in any number of ways -- showing up for work in a News rooms just laughingly seems absurd! I guess Lois will keep her trap shut, and no one else really saw Superman up close; but it still seems like a grinning--"if they only knew"--kind of move, that stains credibility. Though, really, Superman's secret identity has always strained credibility; so I guess I'm ultimately OK with it!

This new Supemran, for a new generation, might thrive, especially given all the money the movie has made. I think, for anyone looking for a less grim Superman, they only need look to the Comic books, which I think will support the franchise inbetween movies very nicely.

So what's you're opinion, about the New Superman? Will this new Era of the Man of Steel stand the test of time?

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