Robot 6

Action Comics stars ‘a Bruce Springsteen version of Superman’

Action Comics #1

If you’re perplexed by the denim-clad Man of Steel on the cover of Action Comics #1, Grant Morrison has two words for you: The Boss.

“With what we’re doing he’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt – a Bruce Springsteen version of Superman, that’s the angle we’re taking,” the writer tells London’s Metro. “The cape’s still indestructible but the rest is picked up in a shop.”

I’m not sure precisely what that means, but if it leads to Jimmy Olsen becoming the Steven Van Zandt of the New DCU — complete with flowing bandanna — I’m all for it.

The relaunched Action Comics, by Morrison and artist Rags Morales, has been touted as the writer as a “big beginning” and a “new chapter” for the 73-year-old character. “We want to introduce a take on Superman that’s going to be so different that no one can expect what might happen next,” Morrison promised in a video address released last month. “One of the things we’re going to do in this book is also to show you how Superman is, who he is, why he ended up wearing the costume that he wears. And to show kind of a different side to the character than we’ve ever seen before.”

To Metro, Morrison adds: “I want to solve some of the problems that have grown up around the character. People now ask: ‘Why the hell would he dress up like that?’ I want to make Superman a more contemporary character. We’ll be changing how he looks, dresses and behaves. He’ll be more like the Superman who appeared in 1938 – more socially active and a champion of the oppressed.”

Action Comics #1 is set for a Sept. 7 release.

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Comments

18 Comments

Hugo Sleestak

July 13, 2011 at 8:14 am

Actually, if I remember the earliest Joe Shuster sketches, maybe this is a pre-1938 Superman – the guy in pants and a strong man shirt.

And I think he looks more like John “Cougar” Mellencamp.

wow…just wow….im kinda speechless.

“He’ll be more like the Superman who appeared in 1938 – more socially active and a champion of the oppressed.”

That sounds good. But the Springsteen thing seems to prove how out of touch this relaunch is, I can’t say there’s any parallel in modern pop culture, but Springsteen hasn’t been relevant for 30 some years, if he ever was.

they plan to make him contemporary by dressing him in jeans in a t-shirt?

drunkjack,

springsteen is VERY relevant among young ‘hip’ kids now, and is probably more popular at the moment than he has been since the 80s,.

morrison is trying to do what he did with new xmen here in making this book ‘stylish’ and pulling in the cool kids and im all for it!

“That sounds good. But the Springsteen thing seems to prove how out of touch this relaunch is, I can’t say there’s any parallel in modern pop culture, but Springsteen hasn’t been relevant for 30 some years, if he ever was.”

I wouldn’t take it too literally. “Springsteen” (or, at least, mid-eighties, “Born in the USA” era Springsteen) is still shorthand for “All-American, blue-collar everyman”. Its a pop cultural archetype, just like if you say “John Wayne” or “Jimmy Stewart”, everyone knows exactly what kind of traits and values you’re referring to, even if the reference points themselves haven’t been an active part of American culture for decades.

Springsteen is still very popular by the way, and he’s recently undergone a reappraisal/been embraced by younger, hipper music mags/sources, like Pitchfork, for example.

As far as DC being out of touch with the current culture, I couldn’t say. As for Morrison, I don’t know how much of his work you’ve followed, but I can’t think of anyone in mainstream comics who is more up on the bleeding edge of damn-near everything in pop culture.

“they plan to make him contemporary by dressing him in jeans in a t-shirt?”

I see the jeans/t-shirt as a nice nod to the original, pre-publication Joe Shuster strips and designs, which had Superman wearing…jeans and a t-shirt. Morrison’s ‘Action’ stories are also set the in the past; this Superman will eventually evolve into the more “traditional”, fully costumed Superman. It’s paying homage to the actual evolution of the character and the stages that Siegel and Shuster went through as they created him; I think that’s a pretty cool take on things.

A literal reading of the comment seems like a pretty bad idea. And a quick listen to Badlands, Thunder Road, Born in the USA, etc… its not hard to parse what Morrison means by a Springsteen concept behind Superman (and saying Springsteen is not now or never was relevant is… seriously? Wow.).

The idea of a Superman who comes from a blue-collar perspective, and who is reaching to make life better is very in tune with the 1938 version of Superman, thematically in tune with Springsteen’s early and some of his current work, and I can dig what I think Morrison is saying. The Mellencamp comparison probably isn’t so far off, given how Springsteen and Mellencamp address similar themes, just from different parts of the country, but once Superman hits Metropolis… sure: Springsteen.

Really? I wouldn’t pay attention to Pitchfork if you paid me to, Pitchfork only likes things that are horrible and/or boring.

Actually, I don’t care if they’re out of touch with current culture so much as they seem to be approximating the design fetishes of the 90s more than any sort of forward thinking sensibility. Overly busy design is overly busy design, be it pouches or irritating geometrical shapes for no apparent reason.

Someone shoulda told Jim Lee: Keep it simple, stupid.

drunkjack regardless of what you think about pitchfork (and that was just one example of a place that embraces springsteen, also see: all cool US youth culture at the moment) dc would rather have those kids than grumpy old comics fans… get used to that kind of attitude from them as the relaunch gets closer.

they are tired of the same 60,000 or however many fans buy their books and want some fresh blood!

As soon as I saw that Superman pic with the blue jeans and shirt I got all excited for a working class, blue-collar Superman. I’m glad Morrison is keeping with these expectations. Seriously, everyone complaining about blue jeans and a tee being a poor attempt at modernization, one, you’re being superficial, and two, take a trip down the street; what are most people wearing? My guess is about 50% of the people you’re gonna run across are wearing blue jeans and a tee. And if he does for Superman what he did for the X-Men, and give them a new meaning while keeping in tradition to their overall theme and make them new and exciting, then I’m all for that.

Simon DelMonte

July 13, 2011 at 10:59 am

If Morrison is writing this, I give him a chance. Many chances.

But gotta say, if this were coming from almost anyone else, I would not be so thrilled.

so is morrison basically writing a “what shaped him to put the uniform on” type story? If so im gonna check it because Morrison is pretty good.But i am a lil tired of that type of story with superman.Ive seen it in secret origins,superman:birthright, superman-earth one-even though thats set outside the modern dcu.But all that being said i will pick it up and i look forward to it.I enjoyed his all star superman.

Splint Chesthair

July 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm

@Mike T,

It does look like another “hero’s journey” type of story, sort of like Birthright, Secret Origin, et al. However, it looks like Action Comics is going to have more in common with the Tom De Haven novel “It’s Superman!” (which I highly recommend to Superman fans and non-fans alike). The book hews pretty closely to Morrison’s basic concept, with a “working-class” Superman in a makeshift costume being motivated more by the social injustices he witnesses first-hand than, say, holograms of Marlon Brando’s head. If anything, Action Comics is guaranteed at least to be a better depiction of Superman’s “in-between” years than “Smallville.”

Wait… if Superman is the Boss, then that would make Morrison’s Bruce Wayne Bono…

It all makes sense now.

Googam son of Goom

July 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I like Bruce’s music. I like Grant Morrison’s writing. I like Superman as a superhero. However, this makes me wretch.

So, how does this parse with the Superman/Justice League seams, everywhere seams Supes?

Cole Moore Odell

July 18, 2011 at 10:06 am

I for one am thrilled. This is pretty much exactly the Superman comic I’ve been saying should exist for years–a return to Jerry Seigel’s “Champion of the Oppressed” for a modern world. This frees the character from the constraints of being an establishment figure and restores at least the possibility of him as an outside agitator.

Based on Morrison’s description, this take also seems highly influenced by Bradford Wright’s take on Superman in the book Comic Book Nation–that Superman is the modern, urban equivalent of Paul Bunyan or Natty Bumpo. Wright postulates that Superman helped audiences in the 30s and early 40s deal with their anxieties over the urban frontier–crime, industrialization, loss of identity, etc–in the same way that Bunyan helped earlier generations handle their anxieties over the danger and mystery of the natural wilderness. While I think this idea itself is a little dated, and the real action now is in the actual world’s uneasy relationship with the online world, at least it’s a genuine thematic idea–which is something that has been missing form the Superman books for decades now.

(And DrunkJack aside, yes, Springsteen is a huge touchstone for many of today’s younger bands, as shown by all of my Gaslight Anthem, Arcade Fire, Hold Steady and Titus Andronicus records.)

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