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Selkie

What does Superman represent to you?

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Hee. Not trying to be cool, just . . . the man leaves me colder than a Wendy's frostee up the poop chute. It's not even that he's even actively repulsive, he's just so . . . unappealing.

 

If it's DC, give me Green Lantern or the Titans.

 

*pops on his Moby and picks up a classic Titans ish*

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I have no affinity for the character so he doesn't represent anything to me.

 

What the man said. I stopped reading Superman when I got older and he turned into an overgorwn schoolboy in blue tights.

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Which is why Shazam was so cool in "Justice League", because they didn't take him seriously. He was just an overgrown schoolboy in tights!

I'm sorry....but "Kingdom Come" was a total joke to me because the big, action-packed, dramatic ending of the comic had Capt. Marvel attempting to kill Superman while shouting "SHAZAM! SHAZAM! SHAZAM!" What a fitting end for Superman's career.....if only ol' Supes had whispered (in a dramatic, bone chilling gasp, of course) "Gomer." after each "SHAZAM!" :lol: :lol: :lol:

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You never read Dark Knight Returns? Wait - isn't the first Miller Dark Knight book called Dark Knight Returns? What was the sequel called?

Dark Knight Strikes Again.

aka DK2.

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I was struck by the passion that this discussion engendered and the quick polarization into two strongly different attitudes and viewpoints toward Superman, and thought about it on my trainride down to my significant other's house.

 

I can argue, forcefully and backed by evidence, my view of the Superman character.

 

But what I can't argue with is his mass appeal and amazing longevity, and his legendary status as the one character that defines the world of comics more than any other.

 

Some here, including his supporters, have described him as an immigrant but I think that description is wrong, and what the word implies via connotation is even more wrong.

 

Kal-El is a refugee. He didn't come from a benighted country where his kind were persecuted like his creators' forebearers, nor from one where people of his social class couldn't earn a living. His planet (does anyone remember its name?) was a utopia where war, poverty and disease had been eliminated and whose sciences were much more advanced than ours. I remember panels of clean, tall, ultramodern cities with happy, healthy occupants. If there was any ideal to live for in the Superman books, it was that world that he came from.

 

Unfortunately it was destroyed by natural disaster, and he was sent off alone. He ended up on earth, like Moses in the bullrushes (which is an analogy that I'd guess has been made a million times in literature about Superman because it's so unavoidable). He is found and raised by a decent, hardworking, childless couple in a decent, hardworking part of a country that was not a superpower when Superman first was published, and he was raised according to the best values of that society. When he was old enough, he decided to "give back" to that society, perhaps in the hope of bestowing upon it the order, peace and beauty of the world he lost.

 

He was not cut off from his original culture because the city of Kandor remained, miniaturized, to be protected and occasionally visited by him. There Superman really was just Kal-El, an normal man among equals. If I'm remembering correctly, he would go there to "let his hair down."

 

That's all from Superman up to the 1960s. That's when I read his books, when the character was less than half its current age. Then, there was something compelling about him. He'd lost greatly, but was unscarred by it, and made the best of being orphaned in a way that we can only imagine via science fiction. That tragical element has a certainly nobility to it. But it has to be referred to and occasionally made use of by the title's writers.

 

Even back in the `60s, the character was so goody-goody and invulnerable that its writers didn't always know what to do with it, and they wrote some "imaginary stories" then, including ones where Superman died. At that time the character seemed to be in a creative cul-de-sac.

 

I haven't followed it much since. I've bought a few Superman books in recent years past but never felt like staying with it long. Sometimes it seems the most interesting thing about modern Superman is Lex Luthor, who now pops up frequently in Batman titles or who even gets his own books from time to time.

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I'd probably agree with everything you say there, Josh.

 

I wasn't trying to persuade anyone to agree with my views, incidentally - just stating them. I can very much understand the alternative viewpoint, and in terms of how the character has most often been written in most of the modern stories I've read about him, it's one I sympathise closely with. Re-reading my posts yesterday, there's something I should clarify - my frustration isn't directed at people who feel apathetic (or hostile) towards Superman, but rather at the writers and editors who seem so utterly at a loss regarding how to use the character. There have been some fantastic Superman stories over the past 2 decades, but very few of them have been in the main titles or continuity (a notable exception, for me, would be Alan Moore's 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow', which I believe was the final SM story published before Crisis on Infinite Earths - it's probably significant that virtually all the Superman stories I've really enjoyed have been by Moore. I sincerely hope Morrison changes that), and the very best of them (Supreme) wasn't technically about 'Superman' at all. That, and the post-DKR take on Superman as a tool of fascist oppression (it works extremely well in that story, but seems to have become a common view of the character since, without a great deal of justification), is what I was objecting to, and what I'm weary of. You made some good points in your posts, even if I don't entirely agree with all of them.

 

I've never been fond of the idea of the Bottle City of Kandor, personally. It sort of ruins the whole 'last son of Krypton' thing, when you think about it...

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I'd probably agree with everything you say there, Josh.

 

 

 

I've never been fond of the idea of the Bottle City of Kandor, personally. It sort of ruins the whole 'last son of Krypton' thing, when you think about it...

 

Yes this was total rubbish! Superman last one of Krypton finds his people in the size of modern Star Wars Figures! :biggrin:

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I've never been fond of the idea of the Bottle City of Kandor, personally. It sort of ruins the whole 'last son of Krypton' thing, when you think about it...

Sure, but wasn't Kandor destroyed a few years ago? (I've followed Superman so little lately that I'm not at all sure about this.)

 

I hope some of my writing didn't come across as too overheated earlier. I edited some things out of earlier posts that might have seemed combative. I don't think a discussion about Superman is something to get too excited about. 8-)

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Sure, but wasn't Kandor destroyed a few years ago?  (I've followed Superman so little lately that I'm not at all sure about this.)

 

I hope some of my writing didn't come across as too overheated earlier.  I edited some things out of earlier posts that might have seemed combative.  I don't think a discussion about Superman is something to get too excited about.  8-)

 

I have no idea about the current status of Kandor, I'm afraid.

 

I couldn't agree more - it's not something worth getting worked up about. You didn't come across as particularly overheated earlier (probably less than I did, anyway), either.

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Excellent post, Josh. Really, I don't have anything to add except that, even though I like the character and re-read some of the stuff in trades involving him, I don't follow the book, either!

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Busiek's recent "Secret Identity" series was a rather good Superman tale.

 

So was Loeb's "For All Season."

 

But really, nothing tops...

 

redson_one.jpg

 

Superman%20-%20Red%20Son%20#3b.jpg

 

SupesRedSon3.gif

 

red%20son.png

 

runit.jpg

 

BEHOLD THE GLORY, CHRISTIAN!

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I hoped this question would spark some spirited and considered debate, but once again, you guys have exceeded my expectations. Thanks!

 

In case anyone's wondering, in my friend's mind Superman is a symbol of all that people can aspire to be. In my friend's interpretation, the fact that Superman is an alien who chooses to help mankind reach its highest potential is especially laudable.

 

I, being a grumpy ol' person, have a predictably darker interpretation. (Gee, I'll bet you guys are just :o :laugh: ) I see Superman as a symbol of ideals, all right, but of the "traditional American heartland" variety. Why else choose a Midwestern farm as the setting for his childhood? Those symbolic values work fine in the broadest of broad strokes, because some of those ideals - like altruism - sit just fine with me. The problem is that I live in the American heartland, and it's also rife with hypocrisy, racism, misogyny, and homophobia, among other less-publicized features. Look at how often Superman is compared to a Boy Scout, and then consider the furor involving that organization's stances on atheists and gays.

 

I think that without a nearly universal consensus of what constitutes "American" values, writers are forced into telling stories that are (a) completely heroic non-controversial (Superman saves child from burning building), (b) science fiction protector fantasies (Superman saves Earth from space baddie), or ( c ) delve into riskier morality plays that DC won't ever risk touching for fear of alienating part of the audience for its biggest cash cow (Superman stands up for gay couple's right to adopt a child). Story #1 can be handled more effectively with more realistic characters, story #2 has limited interest for me over the long term, and story #3 has great interest to me but isn't going to happen in my lifetime and still would probably be better handled with more realistic figures.

 

As for the space alien aspect, I've never seen that as symbol of immigration despite being hit over the head with that interpretation (not here, but in general). I hadn't given it as much thought as Josh did, but I agree with what he said on the subject so I'll bow to his eloquence. Despite the character having been created by Jews, Superman is entirely too much of a Christ figure for my personal comfort. Supernatural otherworldy being comes to Earth, is raised by a humble "ordinary" family, and serves to protect us and show us an ideal to aspire to? I'm sure that's fine if one is comfortable with that paradigm (and I'm sure most Americans are), but I'm not. There's still a shred of idealism in me that believes we humans can figure out a higher path all by our lonesome selves without need of an outside, supernatural agent.

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Actually, Josh, we've seen in later stories that the picture of Superman's homeworld was just as idealized as many people's ideas about America. Krypton (the name of his homeworld) was a cold, sterile place where everyone was the same or you faced punishment of the law. The sterile, ultra-modern, technological cities would be seen as an externalizing of what had happened to the materialist inhabitants of the world. The advanced sciences Krypton had were tested on the inferiors of society (the darkness which eventually gave way to the good, but at what cost). In fact, I would say that Krypton was the ultimate vision of Hitler. I would have to reread the stories, but I believe that the planet was made of the Elite and slaves. Which isn't to say that this effects Superman's character in any way, as he didn't grow up there; although it would fit nicely with my interpretation of Superman, if he did find out what his home was really like.

 

Like I said, there have been some Superman stories that I've enjoyed, but all of them handle Superman quite differently than the idea of who and what Superman is.

"Red Son"-Superman was raised in the Soviet Union. I was actually disappointed in this story, although it was still really good, and did help create my vision of what Superman should be.

Rick Veitch's issue of "Swamp Thing"-the most mature examination of Superman.

"Whatever happened to....."-Superman was retired

"Secret ID"-A kid in the real world who gets super powers

"Man or Superman"-A forgotten classic by Michael T. Gilbert in which Superman finds out what it's like to be a "working stiff".

"Son of Superman"-Come on! It's freakin' Howard Chaykin!

"Where is thy Sting"-DeMatteis makes Superman very human and vulnerable.

"The Kansas Sightings"-DeMatteis again, but which really isn't about Superman.....

Those are the stories I can think of.

 

Just to clarify, I don't want to write a story about Superman being a Fascist, or anything like that. I think it's an easy way out of the connundrum of Superman being an outmoded character. I'm sick of characters representing "what America could be!", because it's just that "what it could have been", and it's just as easy to write a story about what Africa could have been, or what Cuba could have been without outside agitation. It's just escapism, taking your eyes of the reality.

My Superman story that has never been told is that I think Superman is the perfect character to use to critique modern American society and what it has become against what the ideal of the "American Dream" is. It would be the awakening of class conciousness in Superman.

I mean, come on! He lives in "Metropolis"! Remember that black&white silent movie called "Metropolis"? How perfect is that!

I actually have high hopes that Morrison will play with this idea, and I can rest easy knowing that the greatest Superman story has been told.

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I'm sick of characters representing "what America could be!", because it's just that "what it could have been", and it's just as easy to write a story about what Africa could have been, or what Cuba could have been without outside agitation. It's just escapism, taking your eyes of the reality.

My Superman story that has never been told is that I think Superman is the perfect character to use to critique modern American society and what it has become against what the ideal of the "American Dream" is. It would be the awakening of class conciousness in Superman.

 

Ooh. I'd like to see an Elseworlds in which Superman is the literal representation of America through the years. I'd like to see the perspective of a "hero" that represents an age he/she/it despises. What would you do if you had your own mind, your own thoughts and ideals, but couldn't stop acting from the collective mind of The People?

 

Huh. Screw Superman, that could be a character concept all in itself. :) I doubt it could last for an ongoing, but maybe a strong mini. :D

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hmmm....Interesting, Wolf.

Slightly reminiscent of the "Uncle Sam" Vertigo mini, and also reminds me of Chaykin's version of Capt. America (although it's hardly the same concept).

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I really like wolfram's idea, and think it would do a lot to bring a much-needed dose of conflict to the character.

 

Or how about putting him in an Unbreakable dilemma of having this enormous power, but having to choose which evils in the world to face at any given moment because he can't fix them all at once? There's a recipe for dramatic misery, especially for a character with god-like powers (rather than a more street-level figure like David Dunn who probably wouldn't even think in global level terms Superman would).

 

 

From a story-telling perspective I'm sure he's an extremely frustrating character for writers who are handed a character who is so hopelessly powerful he almost can't lose, and who must be kept completely squeaky clean so DC can make a fortune licensing lunch boxes and underoos.

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I'd be interested in that sort of Superman story done well, certainly.

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Actually, Josh, we've seen in later stories that the picture of Superman's homeworld was just as idealized as many people's ideas about America.

Which I think really means that people had lost their ability to believe in utopias through the seventies so DC revised Superman's home planet (no one knows its name?) to make it conflict-ridden.

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I liked that, and it worked, but I feel it was more about exploring Frank Miller's views. I agree with him, in that story, but at the same time, it's far too easy to just take that as your approach to Superman. There's more to him than just that, as I see it.

 

Josh-I kept saying Krypton! Was there a different original name for his home planet, because Krypton is what it's called now

Nice juxtaposing of the political climate of the 1970s-on with the change in the idealization of Krypton from reality to nightmare.

But, it still wasn't conflict ridden, as the people had all accepted the "status quo". It was a "1984" dystopian reality, without a rebel in the midst. There was no disease and no poverty, there were also no emotions left (which makes conflict hard), and the work was all done with slaves (who had accepted their fate).

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Don't know if anyone remembers, but Superman killed some people (General Zod or was that in Superman 2) and then over the course of a year, he went slightly mad (assuming the role a masked hero -gangbuster? - without realising it). And then it all went even worse for him, because Clark Kent was working on exposing the criminal gangs of Metropolis and was apparently killed.

 

Now there was a great Superman story, where I liked Superman, before he went all hippy (remember that?). The story unfolded over a year and it was great since it not only showed Clark Kent actually reporting, it had hidden clues to Kent's secret source and everything.

 

If Superman was written like that all the time, I would have no problem with the character, but most of the time he is written very simply and I don't like the character.

 

These days Superman means nothing to me other than just another superhero, but I resent that now because I have very fond memories from the late 80's.

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I mean, come on! He lives in "Metropolis"! Remember that black&white silent movie called "Metropolis"? How perfect is that!

I actually have high hopes that Morrison will play with this idea, and I can rest easy knowing that the greatest Superman story has been told.

Christian, did you read "Superman: Metropolis"? It was one of a trilogy of comics based on 30's German cinema. "Metropolis" was Superman set in Fritz Lang's Metropolis with great art by Teddy Kristenson.

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