I keep hearing how Alan Moore wrote two really good Superman stories, but think about them a moment. “For The Man Who Had Everything” is a decent story, but it’s about how Superman really would have been happier growing up on an unexploded Krypton. “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow” is about Superman giving up his powers after accidentally killing a suddenly murderous Mr. Mxyzptlk. Moore thinks a better Superman is a guy without superpowers. Just look at Watchmen and Doctor Manhattan. The only hero with superpowers lacks Clark’s empathy, compassion, and mercy, not unlike the other heroes in his story…and remember he wanted to tell that story with the recently acquired Charlton Comics superheroes but DC wisely turned him down. That was supposed to be Captain Atom. Moore has a very negative view of superheroes, especially the ones with superpowers.
So when Screen Rant found him on a sanity day to actually discuss Superman I’m not that surprised that he really doesn’t understand the Man Of Tomorrow as much as you’d think. In the interview with Andrew Firestone, Moore tries to make the case that Superman wasn’t just ruined recently thanks to Dan DiDio, Brian Michael Bendis, and the remaining DiDio acolytes at DC Comics but that he shouldn’t have changed at all since 1939. Let’s go over the interview and all the stuff he gets wrong about Superman.
In conversation with Screen Rant, Moore remarks on his childhood reverence for comic book superheroes and provides fascinating commentary on what he views as the more human and relatable foundations of the genre. What is missing from the current formula of blockbuster superhero cinema, he says, is the revolutionary, anti-authoritarian spirit that was a major theme in many of the early stories featuring these characters. Moore triangulates this as a reflection of the Depression-era blue-collar urban areas of America that early comics creators like Siegel and Shuster hailed from. Specifically referring to Superman in the context of his creators’ background, Moore says:
Speaking of things I’m not surprised about, DC has been screwing over Siegel and Shuster since they were still called National Comics, so I have no problem believing Moore relates to them given how long DC’s been jerking him around when it comes to Watchmen.
He was an immigrant, like most of them, but he was not forced to dress in the drab browns and grays of most of the other people on the 1930s breadlines. He was wearing bright primary colors and he could leap over the streets that they were having to trudge down looking for work. The early Superman beat up strikebreakers, and threw a slum landlord over the horizon. Obviously, that Superman didn’t last a long while. He was pretty soon taken from his creators and made a much more socially respectable middle-class and right-leaning character.
SUPERMAN IS NOT AN IMMIGRANT! HIS STORY HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT BEING AN IMMIGRANT!
If you want to get technical you can call him an immigrant but he came to Earth as a baby (not counting the radio drama). It’s like someone adopting a baby from Mexico and calling that baby an immigrant. He grew up as a white kid in a small Kansas town, which was retconned from an orphanage while still appearing like any other caucasian kid who could pick up a table by the leg at toddler age. Later versions had Clark hiding his powers until it was time to come into the light as Superman or even Superboy before the Crisis On Infinite Earths reboot. This nonsense that Clark’s story is about being a foreign kid growing up in bread lines (which even American kids did in 1939, and I’m pretty sure even a UK writer knows what the Great Depression is) plus he wouldn’t have been a kid in 1939 because that’s when we first met Clark. Kal-El’s ship had to have crashed around 1910, which allows him some exposure to the Great Depression but he grew up on a farm that was never even mentioned as being part of his story even before the sliding timeline altered when he landed, grew to adulthood, and started running around in a bright blue costume.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster grew up in Cleveland. THEY may have experience the Great Depression but we never see it have any kind of impression on Clark. Also, Siegel and Shuster were the sons of immigrants, not immigrants themselves unless you count Shuster originally being from Canada. Somehow that lacks the same issues as being from Israel or Germany.
Created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman is often regarded as the first superhero, modeled on detective and adventure heroes of pulp literature and newspaper comic strips of that era. A colorful figure who fought against gangsters, abusers and corrupt public officials, Superman became the first of many super-powered comic book superheroes. Eventually, Clark Kent even became the subject of three Alan Moore stories, including the wildly influential ‘For The Man Who Has Everything.’ While Moore’s literary deconstructions during his time at DC in the ’80s provided the basis for how superheroes are presented today, he has been consistent in his disgust towards the subject since that period, often pointing out that, beneath their squeaky clean veneer, the very concept of superheroes inherently belies many problematic philosophies that become increasingly obvious the more prominent they are in popular culture.
This is not a good thing. Modern writers, wanting to be the next Alan Moore without becoming more beard than man, have so deconstructed superheroes that the very concept of the superhero is broken and in serious need of reconstruction. In trying to copy Watchmen without understanding it they failed and dragged superheroes down with it. Also, he only wrote TWO Superman stories, not three.
To Moore, Superman’s early costume is an artifact of the working class origins that the character was quickly forced to leave behind – wish fulfillment from a very specific time and place in American history. The implication is that, while they may have begun as everyman figures, particularly in the context of the marginalized communities they arose from, as time has moved on, superheroes have evolved into something darker – no longer a wish to escape depravation and fix specific social woes, but rather the assumption that might makes right, and moral authority is derived from individual strength. Moore observes how Superman, who once used his power to challenge unjust authority and corrupt institutions, now more commonly finds himself pitted against monstrous outsiders, upholding the status quo rather than questioning it.
Superman’s costume was inspired by the circus strongman. He was also significantly weaker than he is now. He could leap high and far distances but not really fly. A bursting shell was the weakest thing that could pierce his skin. He was superhumanly strong. That was his powers. Flight and various visions came later, and even while Siegel and Shuster were on the comic he gained flight and X-Ray vision, using the heat to burn easily flammable objects like rope or paper. According to Superman Through The Ages Siegel even planned a comic where Superman learned he was from Krypton and by then he already had dealt with mad scientists and other criminals that weren’t ordinary criminals. Though it’s not criminals the anti-establishment Moore wants to see him fight.
Instead he liked seeing him beat up a wife beater in his first appearance, dealt with corrupt businessmen and corrupt government officials foreign and domestic. However, that’s how he started and those people were indeed bad guys while Superman was practically still a ground-level hero. He wasn’t being a “social activist” as the interviewer (who gives us very little of the interview, with only one actual quote) suggests, he was dealing with criminals above the law. He also dealt with gangsters and bank robbers, and then the mad scientists showed up and he fought them too.
Of course, Moore is speaking generally, and there are counterpoints to his damnation. Indeed, since his recent adoption of the Superman role, Clark’s son Jon Kent has explicitly addressed real-life social ills, taking a progressive stance on subjects such as corrupt governments and immigration. However, while some fans accuse modern comics of being overly political, it’s unlikely that DC’s superheroes will ever again be as specifically and righteously involved in modern social questions as Siegel and Shuster’s original vision for Superman.
“Overtly political” in modern critics minds refers to modern superhero stories telling readers what to think while Jon has been accused of spending more times at rallies and coming out as bisexual (which means he’s actually gay because bisexual characters are not allowed to date the opposite gender…I call that “bisexually gay”…for fear of offending the more extreme members of the LGBT community who forget what the “B” stands for because they look down on bisexuals in real life for not choosing a “side”) instead of fighting supervillains, regular criminals, and alien invaders who don’t care who you’re sleeping with so long as you make good slaves, food, or something to shoot at. Superman in the early days fought bad guys. I don’t think anyone (except for Alan Moore and possibly Firestone) wants to see Superman kidnap a football player, take over his life at the game, and stop an illegal gambling ring during the time nobody knew there was a Superman running around Metropolis. Yes, that’s an actual story from these “good old days”.
I also have to ask what’s with the teaser to the full interview being posted? It’s not even the first one but I’m not going to bother with the second one. Alan Moore has a poor understanding of superheroes, based on his hatred of them and his more cynical worldview. Nobody’s asking you to write them any more, Alan, so go back to turning childhood tales into pornography or whatever it is you’re doing these days. You don’t understand Superman. You just hate “the man”.
Interesting take on Moore