Posted in Comics n Stuff

In defense of… Superman

I’ve decided to start putting forth my opinions a bit more on here. I may eventually move to podcasts with this particular idea, but for the time being, I’m just going to do it here. I’ve noticed here that there’s a lot of news coming through of  the Batman/Superman film and it’s very pro Batman and anti Superman look.  The occasional how Batman is a better hero/character post or article shows up and it very much feels like somehow there’s something wrong with Superman or in preferring him over other heroes even (gasp) Batman. Now I’ve never been a fan of Batman, but there are great versions of Batman out there, Kevin Conroy from the Timm-verse IS how Batman sounds. Batman is an easy character for a lot of people to get and can be adapted to many different media easily, so more people have their version of Batman. Superman is harder for a lot of writers and fans to get into and it blinds people to one basic fact… Superman is Awesome.

And here’s why.

He was there first.

His was not the first secret identity, his was not the first costume and seeing how influenced it seems by the story Gladiator by Philip Wylie and he was far from the first comic book hero. But he was the first to bring it all together to make it work. In one small story Superman establishes his powers, his origins, the dual identity of Clark Kent, the story also introduces Lois Lane and the beginnings of the triangle made for two.

action1imagesSuperman_Vol_3_1

Maksed heroes were often called Mystery Men, but over time they became known as Superheroes and he is why.

He’s a good guy.

This is often overlooked, or in fact seen as a disadvantage. Batman is a superhero because he wages a war against criminals because of the loss of his mother and father. Spider-Man is a super hero because of guilt. Green Lantern is because it’s his job and the list goes on. Why is Superman a superhero? Because he can be. There’s very little angst or sense of vengeance, there’s just a guy who was well raised by loving parents who wants to help. He’s seen as unrelatable because there’s no tragic back story or movie-style motivation, I don’t get that. Isn’t real life full of people who do something, simply because it’s there to be done and you can help. Superman does his thing, because the way he see’s it if more people could do the things he could do, they’d do what he does too.

He’s a role model.

Another side of him is the part that inspires others. The logo on his chest means hope, not because of some ret-con, but because he’s that kind of character.  People stand up a little taller and smile that little bit more around him. Batman can be considered smarter, Wonder Woman is more fierce in battle, Martian Manhunter is more powerful and Aquaman is a king, but they all look to him. I can’t say off the top of my head how many times he’s been the actual leader of the Justice League, but it’s him you think of in that role.  He’s the guy you’d like to be and gives you an ideal to strive for.

superman20alex20ross207

There’s more than one.

Ok, this one requires you to go with me a little as we talk about the different ages of comics. I’m going to list them, but please realise that I’m making huge sweeping generalisations about this and am not being in any way shape or form exhaustive.

THE GOLDEN AGE:

This is the period between 1938 and 1946 although it can be considered to have gone on longer than that. The start of the Golden Age is considered to be Action Comics #1 and the period ends after the second world war. This is the first surge of Superheroes/Mystery Men and many of the more famous characters have their starts here. After the second world war ended, the interest in superheroes waned until..

THE SILVER AGE:

This is the period between 1956 with the introduction of the second Flash in Showcase #4 and runs to about 1969 or so. This is the resurgence of the superhero and the genre’s full embrace of science fiction. The comics started here continue to this day and the rest of the really popular superheroes of today came from here.

THE BRONZE AGE:

This is a period between 1970 and 1985, although that can be considered a bit looser a definition than the rest of the ages listed here. There was more of an emphasis on plot and art having a more realistic/relatable feel with social realism and consequences the actions involved.

THE MODERN/POST CRISIS AGE:

This is the era just around and after the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths, this took the bronze age feel and took it to a darker place. Dark Knight Returns, V for Vendetta and Watchmen were produced at this time.

THE POINT?

The point here is that that’s four different ages of comics, five if you count that current age of whatever it is, each of these ages had their own distinctive Superman and each is a very different beast, while each still being recognisable as Superman.

super3

GOLDEN AGE SUPERMAN:

Golden Age Superman started off as a street level social crusader. Rather than the more restrained family friendly future versions, the Golden Age version was a bit more rough and tumble. In Action Comics #1, he hears of a domestic disturbance and when he arrives just belts the wife beater in the face. “You’re not facing a woman Now!”  This is Superman as a bad-ass, standing up for the little guy and taking his first steps against Luthor. As the years went on and more and more powers were added Superman became what he became later, but here he was simply strong, fast and impervious to harm. He could be hurt, but you knew deep down he wasn’t going to be stoppped.

GAsuper08download

 

SILVER AGE SUPERMAN:

Ok, here’s where my knowledge fails, I’ve not read too much Silver Age Superman, but what little I do know is very different from the Golden Age, this was more high concept science fiction. This is the era of Kandor and Brainiac and also the strengthening of  the mythology introducing more and more characters and concepts that are now considered essential to Superman. The Silver Age brought us Krypto, Supergirl, The Legion of Superheroes and also a greater power level than before. This was a Superman with a family, Superman with a rogues gallery and a Superman who could move planets. Like most Silver Age stories, they were silly, but as a result there’s a lot of fun stories to be found too.

adv167s g60 Superman 165 00 - FC Team-Superman-004 Silverjonzz

BRONZE AGE SUPERMAN:

The Bronze Age was a transitory period, it held onto some of the Silver Age silliness and yet pushed the character into the bronze age, with a greater sense of realism and changes to the status quo. No longer a reporter, Clark was now an anchor for WGBS TV and was the face of the news. Lana and Lois both vied for his affections and villains either got more depth or like Brainiac were completely reimagined. This is the Superman from Superfriends and the version that made it’s iconic appearance in the 1978 Superman: The Movie.

SMovie gil-kane-new-brainiac

March 1972 Dec 1971

This version of Superman is also unique in that it ended. This was done to make way for a planned reboot for Superman and Alan Moore was given the chance to say goodbye to the current version of Superman with a degree of style in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. Superman was gone and went off to his happy ever after with Lois.

Superman423whatever-happened-to-the-man-of-tomorrow-covers

Then there came a Crisis!!

POST CRISIS SUPERMAN:

In an effort to reinvigorate the character, boosting flagging sales, Marvel Comics superstar John Byrne was brought in to reboot Superman along with DC Comics writer Marv Wolfman. Byrne reinvented  Superman and his supporting cast making sweeping changes to established characters. Now after Crisis, Superman was an adult before donning the costume, so now there was no Superboy. Johnathan and Martha Kent survived into Clark’s adulthood and now were part of his daily life to offer advice and support as well as  a place to feel more normal. Lex Luthor was no longer a mad scientist and was now a corporate titan, hiding his crimes behind lawyers and a public face. This was a villain that few could see as a villain and even fewer could prove.

act584s                        Action-Comics-592-e1321134546473

Superman v2 021 - 00 - FC                        Superman(vol2)#002

This is where I came in. Starting with Man of Steel #1, this was a brand new start for Superman if were brand new to the comics the character starred in, here was a nice little starting point with an ‘all you need to know is in here’ feel to them. Here Superman and Clark Kent were both doing well, no longer the lily livered coward of the golden age, or the disguise of later years Clark was a person in his own right. Superman didn’t have a secret identity as far as the world knew, so Clark was just someone he knew. This was a Clark capable of change, going from not knowing his origins, to knowing his entire world’s history. He went from Lois Lane’s rival, to winning her over as himself and not Superman. They even married. There was a supporting cast that was as rich and varied as anything Spider-Man had, including supporting heroes like Rampage or Gangbuster. Post Crisis was a new start and there was a great feeling that here, the hero could grow, change and even in the 90’s be killed.

NEW 52 SUPERMAN:

The same thing was done again and I’d talk about it here more, but to be honest I’m holding judgement till I’ve given the New 52 comics more of a fair shake.

HE’S A TV/MOVIE STAR

The Fleischer cartoons from the 40’s

The Adventures of Superman from the 50’s

The Superman movies of the 80’s

The Ruby Spears Cartoon of the 80’s

The Superboy Series of the 80’s

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Superman: The Animated Series

Smallville

Superman Returns (If I have to mention it)

Man of Steel

All of these films and series portray a different version of the character (except Superman Returns, that was just copy what was done by Reeve and Donner) and while each have their flaws, each has something to like about them. I’ve not mentioned the 40’s serials, the radio show, the graphic audio productions or the musical. Whatever medium of entertainment you enjoy, chances are Superman has been there and been there in style. Case in point, Superman vs Darksied.

 

FINAL NOTES:

Yes he does look ridiculous, strongman suit and long cape, all bright colours and unforgiving spandex. Yes the glasses and hair aren’t really going to fool anyone. Does that matter? Superman blends high concept science fiction, serialised drama and action/adventure in a variety of ways. Moreover, he also gives an ideal to strive for. None of use can fly unaided or have X-ray vision, but we can all try to stand up a little taller, be a little kinder to each other and stick up for the guy who needs your help.  If the sky was falling and he showed up, you’d be glad to see him. If the sky wasn’t falling, you’d still be glad to see him. He’s that kinda guy. He’s a good guy. One of the best quotes I can show what Superman is, in the way we can all be is actually from Preacher, with a man telling his son what kind of person he should be.

You don’t take no s#*@t from fools and you judge people by what’s in ’em, not in how they look. You gotta be one of the good guys son, because there’s way too many of the bad.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

There are several podcasts which deal with the different versions of Superman.

Golden Age Superman by John M Wilson

Golden_Age_Superman_banner

http://goldenagesuperman.libsyn.com/

This is a look at all Superman titles from Action Comics #1 in 1938 onward. I’ve listened to a few episodes of this and found it both entertaining and informative.

Superman in the Bronze Age

cropped-AC_900_0094-00951

http://www.supermaninthebronzeage.com/

This is a look at Superman between 1970 and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow by Charlie Neimeyer.

From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast

crisis-podcast

http://www.supermanhomepage.com/multimedia/multimedia.php?topic=crisis-podcast

This is a podcast covering the issues between Man of Steel #1 and Adventures of Superman #649. Covering a Superman period of some 20 years, it covers each appearance by the Superman rebooted by John Byrne and his adventures until Infinite Crisis. It’s funny, informative and at the moment my favourite Superman related podcast. Jeffrey Taylor is on good form and Michael Bailey is the Godfather of comics podcasting and is always worth listening to, especially when talking about something he is passionate about.

The New 52 Adventures of Superman

389454_261858370536385_1219843705_n

http://new52superman.libsyn.com/

John M Wilson again, with friends showcasing the current Superman comics, full of analysis, comment and a fair chunk of humour, this has been my reintroduction to the New 52 after walking away from it a couple of years back.

SUGGESTED READING:

SuperArchive

Superman Archives: Reprinting the early Superman issues, which contain many of the early Action Comics tales.

SilverArchive

Superman Man of Tomorrow Archive: Reprinting several classic Silver Age issues.

There were several Superman in the trades with selected stories from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Super40 Super50s Super60 Super70 Super80

Then there are a few trades of note that are just favourites of mine.

MOS1                Superman_for_All_Seasons

Man of Steel                                  Superman for All Seasons

SuperEx             SuperKK

Exile                                   Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite

IN CLOSING:

Finally, the end of the article, the is no comic character that can’t be written well given the chance. The arguments against Superman as a character can be rebutted by the right story. The guy has been in print for 76 years, there is going to be a story that you’ll enjoy as you can see there’s a lot of them listed here and even more that aren’t. Superman is awesome,  a fact that I maintain because it’s been proven to me. My argument is this.. You have a favourite Superman story, if you don’t agree, maybe you’ve not found it yet.

Ok, this was far too long.

Advertisements
Posted in Comics n Stuff

5 Comics that changed my Life

Most people can chart their lives by songs on the radio at certain times of their lives, others by sporting events  and others still by places they’ve visited etc etc.

I’m one of the more geeky people and sadly when this idea came to me, I could only think of it in comics. Being someone who struggled to make friends and was for the majority of my life on my own socially, comics  were my escape and my window into a larger world. Comics reinforced the morals my parents instilled in me and helped me fashion my own outlook on things. Comics are a something of a constant in my life, I’ve moved several times, had several jobs, girlfriends and heartbreaks and upsets, but there was always comics.

1: Original X-Men #1

The Original X-Men (1)

What it is:  An 80s reprint of 60’s X-Men Comic.

When was it? April 1983

Where I was: Bradford: West Yorkshire

Why was it important? This is the first comic I remember ever reading and it set me on the course I’m on to some extent.  This was time when comics could be find in newsagents. When my family moved back to  Liverpool after 18 months in Bradford, I found a local newsagents (JayCees on Aigburth Road) and bought lots of different comics from there.

2: Guardians of the Galaxy #2

guardiansgalaxy02

What is it? The 2nd issue of the Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series.

When was it? April 1990

Where was I? Liverpool

Why was it important? This is a comic that had an underdog team and I really enjoy the lesser appreciated characters, the B-listers. A lot of the comics that I gravitate towards are the less headliner titles. I was never a Batman fan, but I remember fondly the Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. I wasn’t overly fond of the Justice League at the time, but I loved the Mike Parobeck Justice Society Series. This is where that love affair with the overlooked comic heroes started.

3: X-Men 1

xmen001vard

 

What is it? The Second X-title. This one with art by Jim Lee and words by Chris Claremont.

When was it? August-September 1991

Where was I? My First comic mart in The Bluecoat, Liverpool.

Why was it important? This is the first comic I bought at a comic mart. I consider this to be the beginning of my proper collecting of comics. I’ve been buying comics on a regular basis ever since and the day I got this, is the first day I ever went to a comic shop.

4: Green Lantern # 51

greenlantern51

What is it? Jumping on point for Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern.

When is it? February 1994.

Where was I? Still in Liverpool, at this point working work experience.

Why was it important? This comic led to my interest in DC comics and the characters. Green Lantern led me to Superman, who led to Zero Hour. Zero Hour, a crisis in time was my first event, which I bought at Liverpool Comic Co and proceeded to spend the next 6 years of weekends there (had a job there on saturdays). I was a marvel guy, but being there I got into a load of different comics, read Watchmen and V for Vendetta for the first time and got a ton of back issues. It was the time the comic bug grabbed hold and has yet to let go.

5: Superman 650

superman650

 

When was it? May 2006

What was it? Part of DCs post Infinite Crisis One Year Later event.

Why is it important? When I first read it, nothing at all. This tale takes place several months later. I was a couple of months in to a relationship with a girl. Things were going well. I had a system of lending a trade to people not into comics, Ultimates Vol 1. It’s very cinema over comic so works for non-comic fans. She tried it and didn’t like it. I thought oh well, at least she was happy to try. We might not share this interest, but at least she might understand it.

So life goes on, albeit a life sweeter for having someone awesome in it. A week or so later, we are at her place and amongst the stuff I have laying around her’s is a bag of  comics (parts 1-8 of Up, Up and Away of which 650 was the first) and at one point that weekend I find her thumbing her way through these comics. She tried it out of curiousity, thinking Ultimates was just a bad choice for her to read.

She loved the comics and I was able to share several others with her at her request. 52, Daredevil Born Again, Kingdom Come, Identity Crisis, Astonishing X-Men, Annihilation and more. She’s my plus one of choice for any comic related movies (Most recently Guardians of the Galaxy) and the best person to watch comic related tv with.

The above wasn’t a deciding factor or anything, but I married that girl. My Rosie and I have been married for 6 years next month, just after our little boy turns 4. Comics are a hobby, they don’t define my life, but they do chart how far my life has come from the lonely little boy to a happy husband & father.

 

Just some random thoughts, hopefully I’ll have a topic next time.