Comics: Superman as a character

  • Admin

    Hey, I ran into this quote by Grant Morrison today and I wonder how y'all feel about it.

    "We’re all Superman in our own adventures. We have our own Fortresses of Solitude we retreat to, with our own special collections of valued stuff, our own super–pets, our own “Bottle Cities” that we feel guilty for neglecting. We have our own peers and rivals and bizarre emotional or moral tangles to deal with... Batman is obviously much cooler, but that’s because he’s a very energetic and adolescent fantasy character: a handsome billionaire playboy in black leather with a butler at this beck and call, better cars and gadgetry than James Bond, a horde of fetish femme fatales baying around his heels and no boss. That guy’s Superman day and night. Superman grew up baling hay on a farm. He goes to work, for a boss, in an office. He pines after a hard–working gal. Only when he tears off his shirt does that heroic, ideal inner self come to life. That’s actually a much more adult fantasy than the one Batman’s peddling but it also makes Superman a little harder to sell."

    Also, this video.

  • Most folks I talked to, as writers or game designers see Superman as super powered first, and his Clark Kent side outside of those who know his secret as a guise, a step down where he hides the scope of his intellect and character as well as his powers. He grew up powered an aware of life outside this solar system. Perhaps its a bit of a vacation as well.

  • I disagree with it, but Grant Morrison is welcome to his theory.

  • Pitcrew

    I am not a huge Morrison fan but I partially agree, the way I tend to describe them is Superman really is Clark Kent, he is the well meaning guy from a small town who really just wants to help people, but he also wants to have his own life so he dresses up in a costume to perform his good deeds so he can go back to his (in current continuity) wife and child or (in past continuities) parents and friends and be himself.
    Batman is Batman, Bruce Wayne is no more a real person than 'Matches' Malone both are identities Batman will use when they provide an advantage, in Bruce's case money and tech and political power, but willing to be discarded if need be to continue his crusade. For example during the plot where David Cain framed Bruce Wayne for murder, once Batman escaped from jail he was more than willing to leave the Bruce Wayne ID and life behind and it was the rest of the Bat-familiy that concerned itself with clearing the Wayne name and finding the real culprit while Bats was busing doing his usual Gotham crime busting.

  • I wrote a paper in Superman a couple semesters ago, about DC Comics as an alleged Democratic National Party institution (Marc DiPaolo's claim, check out his book, it has Iron Man's face on the cover with an Obama campaign color scheme).

    I see Superman as a man that teaches you that it's important for everyone to take an active role in reform, in a system of mutual dependence, and that Superman's enemies are all dysfunctional in the sense of being 'me-first', which is the big city, versus Smallville's collective conscientiousness of being a small town.

    Lex Luthor needs to understand that he's just as indebted to his janitors as they are to him, and everyone in Metropolis is just as important, if you want to change the world, as the next kid on the street. But in a city, there's a 'trust fall' of unseen support, like with the financial system or the sewage crews or the bakers or the truckers. In a small town, you see everyone. And if you forget that, you're a Superman foe, for him to teach the value of individual valor and social justice to.

  • Pitcrew

    I thought this was going to be a discussion of the way Superman is played on games, which has been, based on passive observations, a textbook study in how having an encyclopedic knowledge of a character's adventures in no way confers and understanding of that character's psyche.

    The real crux of the Superman story is surprisingly simple: he is a person who has power and strives to exercise it with responsibility and restraint. He is fundamentally opposed by those who have power but do not give a damn about either of those things.

    All great Superman stories centering on conflicts between him and another character come down to an argument over use of power -- Superman vs. Lex Luthor, Superman vs. the Elite, Superman vs. Mongul, Superman vs. Brainiac, Superman vs. Hank Henshaw.

  • I have an interesting concept that applies to both the DC Comics heroes, and the rogues gallery. I'll use Batman, then Superman, to illustrate, since those are my two favorites.

    Every Batman villain is a wildcard in a certain situation. A wildcard is working from the id. Joker doesn't exist - Joker is Batman's id. If you want to write Batman, you better be capable of writing the Joker, and vice versa. Gotham City is all about the id, everything nasty and decadent about your inner voice.

    Superman villains, meanwhile, are about Alexander the Great. Great campaigns, legendary warfare, amazing tricks, superb skills, everything that could challenge a character with the powers of God. Lex Luthor is called the Man of Steel in a publication I don't recall, because Lex Luthor is Superman's equal - Lex Luthor has an entire organization full of toys and tricks that he has to use in certain ways, as does Superman with his multitude of powers that finds their equal in each villain's deployment of amazing field command. To write Superman, you need to know how to write Lex Luthor, and vice versa.

    So if you want to learn how to write a major DC Comics superhero, you have to master their archvillain, is my theory.

  • Admin

    What I like about Superman is how flexible a character he is. He isn't hopeful because of the things he does - lots of heroes since have been, well, good guys (and girls) - but what he specifically represents is cooler than just that.

    Superman, at his core, owes us nothing. He isn't even from around here, he's an alien! And he has all the power he'd ever want, simply given out to him. If he wanted, and in some Elseworld stories we've seen it, he'd have turned evil, corrupt or authoritative and really could anything else have been expected from him?

    Instead he shoveled shit at the farm as a kid, grew up to be a working stiff like millions of others and just wants the same things we do - or that we're supposed to. As Garth Ennis put it, he's the ultimate immigrant.

  • Pitcrew

    @chet Conversely the Flash is all about motion, speed. His (probably) most famous nemesis, Grodd, is literally a gorilla -- he is the definition of brute power. But he's also a telepath -- so he embodies both overwhelming power and attack WITHOUT motion.

    So your theory holds some weight.

  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel It was Superman in 'Cave Carson as a Cybernetic Eye' that sealed the deal for me -- Superman understands that he does not have any sort of divine right to his power -- possessing it does not make him automatically deserving of having it. The paradox of power is that you can only show that you deserve it after you have it.

  • I liked Superman in his original iterations, where he didn't really fly, wasn't godlike in his power like in his current incarnations, where he had weaknesses that made him more approachable as a character.

    I can't connect with Superman as he is currently, or as he has been for decades now. He is simply... to much. Every character is only a story being told by others, but Superman's Story /feels/ more contrived to me than possibly any other character other than Batman.

    Batman as a character I dislike too, but that's not for this thread.

  • Pitcrew

    There's an old adage in comics

    If superheroes were real...
    Superman is who we'd aspire to be
    Batman is who we'd secretly wish to be
    Spider-Man is who we'd actually be

  • @chet said in Comics: Superman as a character:

    So if you want to learn how to write a major DC Comics superhero, you have to master their archvillain, is my theory.

    I have been saying this literally for a decade.

    A hero is defined by his greatest struggle, which, in comics, is a super-villain. And the most compelling superhero stories have compelling villains.

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