Superman

Image via Wikipedia

Dictionary.com defines “iconic” as “of, pertaining to, or characteristic of an icon”. Well, that helps nobody. Let’s see what Merriam Webster Online says about “icon”, because I couldn’t find a separate definition for “iconic” when I went there.

1
: a usually pictorial representation :image
2
[Late Greek eikōn, from Greek] : a conventional religious image typically painted on a small wooden panel and used in the devotions of Eastern Christians
3
: an object of uncritical devotion :idol
4
:emblem, symbol <the house became an icon of 1960’s residential architecture — Paul Goldberger>
5
a: a sign (as a word or graphic symbol) whose form suggests its meaning b: a graphic symbol on a computer display screen that usually suggests the type of object represented or the purpose of an available function

Right, so how does that reply to Superman? I suppose #3 works best, “an object of uncritical devotion”.

Although you could make the case for religious symbol as well. This takes us back to yesterday’s article and the comments of Lee and Didio. Namely this one:

“We’ve made Superman such an iconic figure over the years that we’ve lost some of the character and the ability to tell stories with that character,” said Dan DiDio, co-publisher at DC. “There’s so much continuity that’s been built on this character. We really wanted to get a Superman that is more accessible to the audience.”

Sorry, Dan, the problem wasn’t the continuity. The problem is a running issue at both your place and your “marvelous” competition.

At some point Superman was the flagship character at DC. For a very long time, in fact. Unfortunately this came with plenty of downsides. Those downsides are now shared with Batman, who has become the Chuck Norris List of the DC Universe. The problem was that Superman had become too powerful. Never mind all the secondary/temporary powers Kal-El would grab. They had to create a whole new character just to kill him. (Oh, what sad fate has befallen ol’ Doomsday.)

Superman was so powerful that nothing could hurt him…at least in the comics. And come to think of it in Superfriends but you can’t blame animation for that. While even the theatrical movies were limited by budget, at least they gave the Man of Steel an actual challenge. Well, that’s debatable in some cases. Metallo wasn’t very interesting besides his Kryptonite power source until the animated series came along.

Even the Toyman in that series gave Superman a fight, by creating things that could be Superman’s equal. Superman was powerful, but not near godlike. (Odd that one of the physically weakest Superman versions had a game that could give the player a believable challenge, but ended up being Superman 64.) Superman could still take a pounding but he still had to deal with deathtraps and villains who could pound him into a world of pain.

This was lost in the comics, and in fact they didn’t seem to think he was powerful enough. The infamous “Superman 2000” proposal wanted to boost his powers to ridiculous levels. It almost seems like the prevailing thought is that Superman has to be the most powerful being this side of the Spectre. This is a mistake since as the ranks of metahumans grows somebody has to come along more powerful.

One would think that the solution would be to tone down his powers, and they’re actually doing this as we watch his powers develop. Again. See, the Bad Fanfic Brigade has decided that they want to tell Superman’s origin and early years since they never got the chance and think they can do it better. That has been the theme in recent years, and they’ve abused the backsliding timeline to do it.

We’ve told so many great stories over the years where Superman has embraced his human side and built stories around that side of the characterization. Now we’re flipping it around a little bit and really embracing his alien side, so we can understand what it’s like to be a man from another world, living amongst men, but not feeling like you’re a part of it, but belonging to them all.”

As Snell of Slay Monstrobot noted this week this was a hard Superman to relate to as he would go on and on about, to quote that Five For Fighting song, “a home I’ll never see”. Sure it’s interesting to learn about Krypton, but Superman would have “super recollection” of Krypton from his toddler days…including things a toddler probably wouldn’t even pay attention to. We had the bottled city of Kandor to show us what life on Krypton was like, and Superman could learn along with the readers. Instead he was even swearing oaths to a Kryptonian god he never knew just to play up the alien angle.

The end result is going to be a Superman we can’t relate to, and poor Kara is going to be even worse. From the writer’s own words:

(Michael) Green: We’re approaching this as if we’re inventing a new character. Obviously, she’ll have similarities to the character people already know, but she’ll have some new things as well.

We’re really focusing on her specific journey on our crazy planet, and letting it just be about that. She’ll interact with other people in the DC Universe who are experiencing interesting things in the relaunch, other characters you’ll recognize. But this is going to be Supergirl’s book.

Nrama: How would you describe this Supergirl? Can you tell us about her as a person?

(Mike) Johnson: She’s a Kryptonian teenager who has had her entire world taken away. All her friends and family are gone, and she’s suddenly on this planet called Earth, with backwards technology and people who don’t behave as well as the people on her home planet.

It’s like taking a teenage girl from today, who’s locked into modern technology and social media and everything, and throwing her back into the Middle Ages.

And in Supergirl’s case, she also suddenly has the power to rule the place. All of that would mess with anyone’s head. It would mess with an adult’s head, let alone a teenage girl who’s finding her way in the world.

Also, she’s an alien. Kryptonians are aliens. And I think that gets lost. In the past, they’ve been heroes and they look like us, or at least really good looking versions of us. But she notices the differences when she arrives. And that informs the way she reacts.

So in the move to make the Superclan (I’m not even sure what’s going on with Connor/Superboy) “more accessible”, they’re completely rewriting the characters we’ve known and loved for years to the point that the only thing recognizable are the costumes…no, that’s not even true thanks to Jim Lee’s redesigns. I’d rather see them create brand new characters than continue to ruin old ones.

I think the Retroactive comics will be the last Superman comics I’ll be buying for a loooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnng time.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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