The Man of Steel is reborn!
Kryptonian Easter occurred sometime last month with the arrival of the New 52, DC’s relaunch of the entirety of the DC Universe. Much has been changed for some lines, others remain virtually untouched. I was skeptical at first when I heard that Superman would be changing. They didn’t really change Batman at all. Why fix what isn’t broken, right? In my opinion I thought Supes didn’t really need any fixing. I liked him just the way he was.
You see, the big reason DC was looking for a reboot was that the sales were flagging. Call me cynical, but it’s always about the money. It’s the only reason anything ever changes. Follow the money. Find out who benefits. The folks at DC need more money in the coffers and reboots are a great way to get that influx. It’s risky, but it’s been done many times before in the comic industry, and not just by DC. Eventually, the life expectancy on every comic line drops to zero to paraphrase Mr. Durden.
So, to be blunt, Supes needed changing because people weren’t reading him anymore. Not that I particularly like hearing that, but as pointed out by one of my friends over at NonTraditionalPocketPasser.com, if no one is reading it, the only way to keep the franchise alive is by changing the formula. Give the line a chance to get a new cash influx at the hand of new blood being infused into it. Sure, it pisses off the die hards. But the die hards weren’t buying. Not enough to keep the franchise alive.
It’s a conundrum.
One way or the other, Superman is a large part of my own identity. And, the funny thing is, the Supes that I grew up and loved is not the original Superman, either. I was raised with a stand in Superman myself. To get the original, I’d have to have grown up in the Great Depression. That reboot brought me, new blood, into the mix in the eighties with every trip to Captain Blue Hen’s Comics. So I can’t really knock it. The original Superman was actually a one-off villain, a mentalist miscreant who bore more similarity to Lex Luthor than Clark Kent. The next, and long lasting incarnation was quite the bully, fond of tossing people about in fashions that guaranteed paralysis if not straight-up death. The supes I grew up was all truth, justice and the American Way. I grew up on propaganda Superman.
And, I still love it. But, its time is over. In an age where blind patriotism is a polarizing subject, where ‘edgy’ beats out ‘moral’, and in which the Man of Tomorrow has too few weaknesses, DC took advantage of their need for cashflow and made some changes. So, my Superman goes in the trash. And for a while, I was kind of angry about that.
I suppose if I liked him so damned much, I’d have been buying the comics. But… coup scored. I wasn’t. I’ve been reading edgy books since I got my first copy of Preacher.
So, I’m behind it right now and I got issue two last night and read it. Between Action Comics (which handles the nascent Superman) and the Superman title itself (handling current Superman adventures) they’ve found a mixture between the Supes I grew up and idolized and the rough and tumble Superman of the thirties. They’ve kept most of the tropes that my generation would remember: Kryptonian origins, the bookish alter-ego, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen). But, they have also added in elements of costume change (And seriously, underwear on the outside? C’mon Supes. Good change.), attitude and methodology. Things that might have given my Superman pause do not always get in the way. The first Action Comics issue harkened straight from the early superman. Kal-El has got a mobster dangling off a rooftop to work a confession out of him. Not because Supes caught him red-handed. Oh no. This guy was having dinner and Superman just rolled in and regulated on him until he got what he wanted. The police surround him while the guy gushes an obviously coerced confession. Good luck getting that to stick in court Supes. That’s a little more morally grey in my own terms. But you know what? Read a few of the original Superman comics. Go ahead. They’re online. Superman to start was kind of a thug. He didn’t have time for ‘due process’ or civility. Supes just busts down fucking doors until he gets what he wants, much akin to the honey badger.
As much as I want my Superman to be the paradigm, he clearly isn’t. And so, we get the new blood.
It’s not bad. But it’s a risky gamble. We’ll see if the new Supes is up to the task and if he’s still culturally relevant. I’m hoping that he is. Because having Batman replace him would suck.