November 28, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

The Problem With Superman


I’ve never regularly collected Superman comics.  As you can probably guess by what I tend to write about, I’ve always been more of a Spider-Man fan with Batman a very, very close second.

Nothing against the big blue boy scout, and I’m not even sure why he ranks so low on my interest level.  Maybe he is too powerful and I relate more to the hero that is more worried about getting home with a cake for his Aunt May’s dinner party than how to beat the Shocker this go round.

I have read my share of Superman books all the same.  As a self-proclaimed eventaholic (Editor’s note: good for you Jimmy, admitting it is the first step) I’ve read lots of Superman in Crisis on Ininite Earth,  Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Crisis of Faith, The Bizarro Crisis, Crisis: Two Cakes, One Fork.  Ok, I might have made some of them up.  But you get the point.  Along with those line wide DC events, I’ve also read more Superman specific events like Death of Superman, Funeral For A Friend, Reign of the Supermen, that Electric Blue/Red Superman crapstravaganza, The Black Ring, etc.  At miscellaneous times I’ve read arcs of Justice League with Supes at the helm.  Actually, to contradict my opening statement, I did collect Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics to start the New 52.  I like Morrison at times.  I loved Animal Man and his Batman run for the most part.  But there are definitely times when he makes my head hurt.  Getting through to the end of this run was one of those times.  But I digress.

This past weekend I finally got around to reading Volume 3 of Superman Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Ardian Syaf.  The Earth One books are sort of DC’s answer to Marvel’s Ultimate line (which is about to come to an end in Secret Wars so maybe DC should look elsewhere for inspiration…).  I’ve enjoyed the first two volumes as well as the first volume of Batman: Earth One. (Look for Bats Vol 2 in a couple of months.)  And I enjoyed this as well.

As one of my geek blind spots, I’ve never watched Bablyon 5, created by Straczynski.  But I have read and enjoyed much of his comic book work.  Many years ago, before the superhero movie boom, I wrote about the need for there to be a Rising Stars movie or mini-series. (I guess I jinxed that one, but Watson has taken up the cause.)  His work on Squadron Supreme is one of those under appreciated gems.  And of course, I read years of his Spider-Man work, culminating in the still controversial One More Day story line.  Straczynski departed Spider-Man after that over creative differences, as did I.  You know what, if you want to make Peter single and carefree again, fine.  But the whole execution of One More Day, including a literal deal with the devil was so out of tone for Spider-Man, they lost me at that point. (I’m hooked again now, but that is more thanks to Otto Octavius than anything else.)

(Editor’s note: Jimmy…what the hell does this have to do with Superman?)

Sorry. As I said, I did enjoy Earth One Volume 3. It’s a decent story, well paced, well written, good art, enough action, a love interest who, as is common in this day and age is not Lois Lane, etc., etc.  The “problem” I had with it (again, it is good, go read it), is a problem that many pop culture entities suffer from…there are only so many stories to tell. We see this all the time especially on TV.  I know I am in the minority of Big Bang Theory watchers at Gabbing Geek, but the show is definitely on the downward slope. (Penny, what is up with your hair?!?)  The Simpsons keeps on keeping on, but when was the last time it was really good?  I still watch it, and except for that stretch when they went HD and for some reason it was absolutely horrible, it has been ok. But long gone are the days of episodes that become talked about and quoted endlessly in every day situations.  How many times can Bart have a crush on a girl?  Lisa get a rival at school?  Moe renovate the tavern?

(Editor’s note: Ahem.)

Right, sorry again.  My point is, the main villain of Superman Earth One Volume Three is Zod. No doubt there is a different spin on Zod here, as there is on most characters on this Earth.  And while they are attempting to create a new mythology here without the restraints of 75+ years of Superman continuity, those 75 years of stories still exist.  Again, it is a different approach, a new approach, and to many that’s probably ok.  (The book is good, read it!)  But I felt like, “oh, here we go again with Zod”.  Especially since Zod was fresh in the memory as the big bad in the most recent Superman film Man of Steel.  The Zod here bears no resemblance to that Zod.  Or the Zod from 1980’s Superman 2.  (And probably from any comic appearance of Zod…remember…I don’t read Superman…)

Zod.  New look.  Same jerk.
Zod. New look. Same super jerk.

I don’t envy these creators, coming up with new stories and characters that latch on and gain that level of fame they need to take on a life of their own is rare.  For every Superman or Spider-Man there are thousands of Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja’s and Madame Xanadu’s.

Sorry Jenny
Sorry Jenny

And when you have over three quarters of a century of back story, be it in continuity or not.  Movie or tv show.  Live action or animated.  They all exist in the public consciousness.  And it’s hard not to mentally compare all the times Superman has had to “Kneel before Zod.”