Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘What makes Superman unique?’

“What makes [Superman] interesting other than that he’s really, really strong? That question led me to want to redefine Clark in ways that made him more interesting and more flawed as a person. Not in a dark, mean, cynical way, because that’s way too easy. But as a true outsider whose heart is vulnerable. I wanted to emphasize the loneliness of a kid growing up knowing just how different he was from everyone else, who had to keep his distance for their protection and his own.”

J. Michael Straczynski, on his approach to Superman: Earth One

That’s from a couple of months back, but it’s stuck with me. In the shadow of Man of Steel and questions like the one Gail Simone posed a while ago, I’ve been thinking lately about Superman and what it is audiences want from him.

I enjoyed Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Lex Luthor: Man of Steel for its fascinating take on Luthor and why he opposes Superman so much. From Luthor’s point of view, Superman is just one bad day away from being the worst threat the world has ever seen. The problem is that perspective has become the way all of humanity sees Superman in the DC Universe, especially in the New 52. People just don’t trust the guy.

The trailer for Man of Steel suggests the movie is going to take this approach as well. There’s a scene, after young Clark is seen using his powers to save someone, where Pa Kent tells him, “You have to keep this side of yourself a secret.”

“What was I supposed to do?” asks Clark. “Let him die?”

“Maybe.”

Excuse me?

Later in the trailer, Clark says outright: “My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready.” Ladies and gentlemen: Pa Kent, moral compass for the Last Son of Krypton.

There’s maybe a point to be made about how different the world is now from when Superman was originally introduced. I’d argue that the world is no more dark and threatening now than it was in the years leading up to World War II, but we’re perhaps less trusting. I really don’t think that’s the problem though. The problem isn’t a changed society as much as it is a changed audience. For the most part, Superman’s fans now are all grown-ups, a much less trusting group than the children he used to thrill and stir up. The result is that the modern Superman doesn’t inspire the world, he terrifies it.

That’s a problem, because it doesn’t make Superman more unique or interesting; it makes him like every other damn thing in the world today. Superman shouldn’t have to distance himself emotionally from people for their protection and his own. That’s why he wears a colorful costume and has a secret identity. Those things let him revel in the unrestrained use of his powers while still connecting to people as Clark Kent. They let him reach past loneliness to serve his fellow humans without restraint. Because in every way that counts, Superman is human. Pa Kent taught him that.

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141 Comments

Solid, man.

Exactly 100% correct. JMS and all the others just don’t understand Superman. They want to make him like everything else we fear and hate. They should allow him to be as he has always been: an inspiration and the greatest beacon of hope we’ve ever had.

I have always disliked Superman as a character because I felt, as many do, that he is too perfect. He has no flaws, and as such, it’s hard to write real stories about him. Flaws end up being contrived, like the numerous different types of Kryptonite, or come from the outside.

That said, I can’t understand what JMS or other modern writers are trying to do. The appeal of Superman is exactly what I don’t like; he is the greatest example of humanity, his Kryptonian heritage aside, and he inspires people to be better. Sure, I may not like it, and other people may not like it, but that’s who he is. It’s what’s made him such a lasting character, and any attempt to change him that doesn’t address this and come naturally out of character and plot development is just damaging this main source of likeability.

So sure, I may not like Superman, and many other people may not like Superman. But that’s who Superman is and what he stands for. Period.

Mister Stockwell

January 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm

The entire point of Superman is that he has deliberately made himself part of our world, NOT that he has set himself apart. When asked the question “what would happen if Superman were real?”I think Roger Stern said that his first words would be, “Greetings people of Earth. As your king let me say…” That’s what you would get from a Superman that withdraws from humanity and sees himself as an outsider. Look at how Christopher Reeve portrayed Superman: happy, friendly, polite, helpful; when confronted with evil he was angry but never filled with rage. Superman is an alien who demonstrates the very best of humanity. Superman is bright and the essence of hope and inspiration.

The “problems” that JMS and other writers experience have more to do with themselves than with the Superman.

“Superman shouldn’t have to distance himself emotionally from people for their protection and his own. That’s why he wears a colorful costume and has a secret identity. Those things let him revel in the unrestrained use of his powers while still connecting to people as Clark Kent. They let him reach past loneliness to serve his fellow humans without restraint. ”

Well-said, and a thousand times more insightful than the quote you were reacting to.

The tragedy of Superman is that he is very lonely, but the heroism (and example) of Superman is that he perseveres in the face of it. There’s not a mopy, morose, self-pitying molecule in Superman’s body. To suggest otherwise helps eradicate what makes him unique. Foibles are for Clark. That’s the side of him we’re supposed to relate to.

JMS is 100% right. Superman is physically almost invulnerable, but NOT emotionally invulnerable. Thats the right approach.

“Superman is human. Pa Kent taught him that.” in other words, Clark Kent is who he is, Superman is what he does.

That’s gotten lost after countless reboots by little eager-beaver Silver Age fanboys with a grudge against the 80s and a hard on for the 60s.

As far as the portrayal in the comics go, the character has losts its humanity, it’s been replaced by crap, like redoing the origin countless times and redoing different story arcs countless times.

In the span of two years, DC published two origins of Superman and two Superman Versus Brainiac stories that boiled down to the same plot… for what? What were they hoping to accomplish?

Both volumes of Earth One are the closests we’ve seen to the modern version of Superman since Waid took a dump on the character with Birthright.

These two stories re-established a lot of what made Superman and Clark honest to the premise of the concept work, while at the same time infused it with new ideas (i.e. Tyrell, Lex Squared). Hell, Clark even plays football here!

Except for one issue I have with the story, I found Earth One to be a very worthy representation of Superman in the 21st Century. Much more so than Birthright, Secret Origin, and whatever Morrison’s crap ends up being called.

Obama-man or whatever Morrison’s Superman-esque character from Earth whatever the Hell is not “Superman done right”. The Earth One Superman comes closer than those three rehashes did to doing the character right.

“in other words, Clark Kent is who he is, Superman is what he does.”

Not according to Siegel and Shuster, but hey, what did they know, amiright?

I think the thing that makes Superman unique is that he – by pure happenstance – ended up Clark Kent. By that I mean, he could have landed anywhere in the world (as explored in “Red Son”), and it happened that he landed in Kansas. And was found by two people in Kansas who had the moral values/compass to raise him with a strong sense of right and wrong, and an accountability for his actions.

The unique thing about Superman is that his ‘secret identity’ decides his moral code, and that secret identity happens to be a decent man who understands his impact on the world, and his responsibility to his fellow humans. The reason Lex Luthor has the point of view that he does, is that he does NOT have the moral compass (precisely because of the way HE was raised).

People have long assumed that the Luthor/Superman dynamic – the yin/yang – was brain against brawn. That’s an error. The yin/yang is between a guy who grew up responsible, and a guy who did not; and who therefore cannot imagine someone who could. It’s their respective upbringing that form the two sides of the coin with Luthor and Superman (or seen another way, Lex and Clark).

Mark, come home, please! We need you back at DC!

(Yeah, I know, that ship has sailed for now. But a fan can dream.)

Mark Waid; I know you were just kidding….because you realize that art and literature has meaning ascribed to it by those who observe AS WELL AS those who create it. And that those different points of view have no more or less value because of who you are. amiright?

The thing with Superman is that back then the character could be considered “a work in progress”. I’ve said it before, it wasn’t until they started telling stories with Superboy and to flesh Superman’s background in Smallville, his life with his parents, etc, and what makes him tick that the creators telling the stories back then really got a better understanding of what they had in their hands.

It boils down to “how can a man know where he is going unless he knows where he comes from”, and that is the void that the Superboy stories filled, they showed us where Superman came from before he arrived in Metropolis.

As the narrative progressed and things like the multiverse were introduced and Superboy and Superman were split into the “Superman of Earth 1″ and “the Superman of Earth 2″ that the character became even more fleshed out. In other words, the background that the Superboy stories had filled out for Superman was empty once more and in need of new development, but this time with a better understanding of who the character was.

That’s what we saw in 85 with the Superman reboot of Man of Steel, which, in very basic terms, tackled the question of “where does Superman come from without Superbaby and without Superboy and the trappings associated to both (i.e. the Legion, Lex in Smallville, etc).

Byrne called his take on Superman a cross between the Siegel and Shuster version with the Fleisher version in the (then) present, and I believe he delivered on that.

Superman without Superboy does not wear glasses when hes’ a teenager, he doesn’t need them because he has nothing to hide, therefore Clark in Byrne’s stories and those that followed never wore glasse as a teenager, and neither does he in Earth One or in adaptations done in other media like Smallville, Lois & Clark, or Superman TAS, at least not until he crosses the threshold into becoming Superman.

“Superman came from before he arrived in Metropolis.”

Amending. I meant “before Action Comics #1″.

The problem with Superman is quite simple: people have far more options to choose from these days than they did when he was at the height of his popularity. Not just in comics but in other mediums of entertainment as well. He’s just gotten lost in the shuffle.

I concur with Alexander. I’m not a Superman fan and never will be. However, I think its wrong for his caretakers to alter who he is to try to appease those of us who aren’t particularly fond of the character. Its just a terrible disservice to his fans.

Continuing.

Without Superboy, Clark doesn’t have to tackle problems of the superhero kind while groiwng up in Smallville (unless it’s part of the narrative, I suppose, like in the TV show) so he is free to have a relatively normal life.

Whatever few young Clark in Smallville stories that were done after 85 — which includes For All Seasons (which I argue could not have been done without Man of Steel), filled the void left by the removal of Superboy (which predates the Man of Steel reboot by decades) quite well, resulting in a Superman that went beyond what we saw in the first appearance in Action Comics #1, leaving us with a more well-rounded character.

Comics (For All Seasons, among others), cartoons (The Late Mr. Kent from TAS), and TV shows (Smallville and Lois & Clark) have demonstrated very well that Clark Kent is a very integral part of the character, more so when he is played for real and not as a mask.

L&C gave us the notion that Clark is who he is and Superman is what he does, while Late Mr. Kent, which is a classic episode of the animated series, cemented how important that aspect of himself is to Superman.

the Siegel and Shuster version is far from perfect. We can’t hold it to that standard.

Is the Kents taking baby Kal-El to the orphanage perfect? No. is the orphanage director giving the baby back to them after he flies around the room and makes a mess perfect? no. is Clark trying to sign up for the military and failing to pass because the needle broke on his skin perfect? no.

it was a work in progress.

@ Michael: You can keep responding to this (basically talking to yourself at this point), but it won’t make people agree with you.

…Particularly when you insult Birthright and Grant Morrison’s brilliant Action Comics.

@ David: Ah, nope. Mark Waid’s opinion is always going to be more important to me–at least, about Superman–than someone who hasn’t spent nearly as much time thinking/writing/reading about the character. Yes, he’s a fictional character but even in this, there are experts and there are amateurs. Amateurs are welcome to their opinion, but those opinions certainly aren’t as valid as an expert’s.

@Mark Waid

Hope you have a chance to write Superman again sooner than later – I love your work, man! :)

“[T]he Siegel and Shuster version is far from perfect. We can’t hold it to that standard.” is maybe my favorite message board quote ever.

“I know you were just kidding….because you realize that art and literature has meaning ascribed to it by those who observe AS WELL AS those who create it. And that those different points of view have no more or less value because of who you are. amiright?”

I would be hard-pressed to make an argument that the point of view of anyone other than the creator of the work itself has equal value to the creator’s.

What makes Superman unique? A lack of interesting villains. His arch-enemy is a bald guy with no powers and no costume. Yawn.

@Jake Earlewine

At least that’s what every writer without creativity says.

“in other words, Clark Kent is who he is, Superman is what he does.”

“Not according to Siegel and Shuster, but hey, what did they know, amiright?”

Well I think the basic point of Superman having lived his entire life as Clark Kent as that’s who he thinks of himself as is not entirely off. It does seems a little odd do the stranger in a strange land vibe when the guy has been here for 29+years and raised as a human being.

That aspect of Post-Crisis makes sense. It’s the near total dismissal of his Kryptonian heritage that I don’t think holds up as well. Though in fairness, the Post Crisis Superman was a character whose powers were harnessed and guided by his humanity and part of his never ending battle was the constant barrages of forces that sought to change, control, or eradicate that humanity.

I guess what I’m saying is I think both approaches have validity to them. But the flaw that can occur in either is when the creator dismisses one or the other as “just” a suit or “just” glasses.

Superman is unique in that he is THE superhero. That’s about it. Even Batman, who is probably the most popular superhero in the US and probably the western world, doesn’t have that standing of being the prototypical, classic hero. If you say the word ‘superhero’ or even ‘comics’ Superman will definitely pop-up.

That said, I still find him boring. I get why some fans hate anything other than a gee-whiz, black and white vision of Supes and his world, but that’s something that absolutely bores me in any character. Yes, he is too powerful and too perfect. When he was first conceived he was kinda interesting if only because he was at least cocky (a character flaw that Shuster and Siegel probably didn’t intend) but now he’s just milquetoast with muscles.

Mark, I haven’t read even most of Irredeemable but I like what you did with it because, extreme as it is, you let Superman… AHEM, I mean the Plutonian… cut loose. You let him get DIRTY. I don’t think I’d ever want to see the real Superman get so dark and nasty, but the nicey-niceness is aggravating. It’s a relic from a simper (minded) era that I’m glad we’ve woken up from.

I’ll probably go see the next Superman movie like everyone else if the reviews are good and, to be honest, I hope they don’t make things too dark and “realistic” for him. But that classic, gleaming, all “American” version is, frankly, too much of a lie for me, even among all the other spandex-suited heroes I love.

I’m giving this a standing ovation in my head. Perfectly explains every problem I’ve had with Superman in the new 52, and my bafflement when people say they’re excited for Man of Steel.

Here’s the thing as you point out- Superman is an outsider, but he doesn’t feel like one. That’s the whole point of him growing up with the Kents. And the flip of the coin is Batman, he’s not an outsider but he feels like one because he grew-up alone. To change either one is to screw with what makes the character who he is and takes anyway the value of the character. At which point you’re just writing a different character.

I feel every writer who approaches a character like this does so because they feel the character invaild, and it’s their job to make them vaild.

I also have a hard time a believing Superman feels so all alone when he’s got Krypto, Supergirl, the crazies in the Phantom Zone and all the m-f’ers in Kandor City!

Fantastic column.

Ever since its release, I’ve said “Superman vs The Elite” stood as the perfect modern-reintroduction-to-Superman movie. It makes such a wonderful point about how unique, special and necessary Superman is by comparing him to the sort of heroes people think they want… then unleashing Clark, full-bore, at the end in a SFX-assisted lesson in morality.

Film audiences don’t need a Superman origin. There’s few people in Western culture who are unaware of who the man is and how he came to be. But a film like “vs The Elite” done in live action, with its script and message left intact? I feel that’d position Superman for a glorious cinematic future.

“The yin/yang is between a guy who grew up responsible, and a guy who did not; and who therefore cannot imagine someone who could.”

That’s profound, David, and makes a lot of sense. Thanks for that.

I gotta say I agree with you, Michael May.

DC should give you a Superman book, good point man.

What I find interesting from the “experts” to “amateurs” – “fans” to “others”, is that everyone and I mean “everyone” has an opinion. That there is a “right” or a “wrong” way to tell the Superman story. I’ve always enjoyed the different takes on the character and some are better than others. What is unique about Superman – is that all stories can still be part of the mythos. Most characters when rebooted or rewritten have something either added or subtracted from their stories – I would compare Supe’s to a modern Arthurian Legend – it might as well have every story as canon. Every change just enriches the story.

Great piece!

Excellent piece, and excellent conversation, too. Personally, what makes Superman unique is his ability to remain an unimpeachable paragon of optimism in an increasingly cynical world, which appears to be the exact opposite of the tack JMS and maybe Snyder are taking.

I’ll let another speak for me:

If one of the unarguable criteria for literary greatness is recognition, consider this: In all of the history of literature, there are only five fictional creations known to every man, woman, and child on the planet. The urchin in Irkutsk may never have heard of Hamlet, the peon in Pernambuco may not know who Raskolnikov is; the widow in Jakarta may stare blankly at the mention of Don Quixote or Micawber or Jay Gatsby. But every man, woman, and child on the planet knows Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Robin Hood… and Superman.

He is more than the fanciful daydream of two Cleveland schoolboys. He is the 20th-century archetype of mankind at its finest. He is courage and humanity, steadfastness and decency, responsibility and ethic. He is our universal longing for perfection, for wisdom and power used in the service of the human race.

Of all the literary creations of American fiction, Superman, after all these years, born of a “dispensable, disreputable” genre, is the only one that seems certain to get Posterity’s nod. And that is because, simply put, he is our highest aspirations in human form.

– Harlan Ellison

@Beware Of Geek

BRAVO!

In an interview actress Margot Kidder said of Christopher Reeve that he was an “earnest young man” in reference to their work on the first Superman film. It is that “earnestness” that comes through in Reeve’s portrayal of the character, and why that portrayal has stood the test of time for two generations.
It is a portrayal that many Superman writers and storytellers have had a hard time living up to in their suceeding works.
The current incarnation seems to be a somewhat jaded twentysomething; having morals, yes, but unsure of where his sense of “earnestness” fits into this cynical time in the world.
Still, Superman will always be perceived as the ultimate super-hero; the template upon which all the others are measured. He does good deeds; he helps when he can. As for representing the ideal in humanity, that remains to be seen in this current iteration.

Yeah, my jaw dropped at Pa Kent’s “Maybe” in the trailer.

Now, I grant these are characters who have existed for 75 years and been interpreted by dozens of different creators. I acknowledge that one creator’s take may be nothing like another’s.

But I believe Jonathan Kent responding to that question with “Maybe” indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. And I really and truly hope that’s just one of those weird little bits of trailer voiceover that doesn’t reflect what’s really going to happen in the film.

J. Michael Straczynski? The same J. Michael Straczynski that outright stole a scene from the first half of the movie HANCOCK, the film where the first part of the movie was a character that was in all respect and purposes not only the polar opposite of Superman BUT cruder and ruder than Drunken Christopher Reeve’s Superman after being exposed to Richard Pryor sythesized wacked out Kryptonite?

J. Michael Straczynski? Who truly and very obviously felt such atrocious action on the part of Superman would be perfectly acceptable in the hearts and minds of every comic book reader who had ever possessed any knowledge of any single shred of the character IF ONLY instead of being a young bully it was instead a fictional character which highly resembled the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore?

J. Michael Straczynski? He wouldn’t know what makes Superman interesting if Kal-El jumped up and wriggled his crotch against Straczynski’s face at superspeed for six hours.

Well I think the basic point of Superman having lived his entire life as Clark Kent as that’s who he thinks of himself as is not entirely off. It does seems a little odd do the stranger in a strange land vibe when the guy has been here for 29+years and raised as a human being.

__________________________________________

Quoted because (a) I agree with him and (b) it makes perfect sense what he said.

J. Michael Straczynski

January 14, 2013 at 11:19 pm

I think some very good points have been raised throughout this conversation. To the question of my book, Superman Earth One, there are some additional points that may help further the discussion.

In terms of Superman being a “paragon” of morality, to a degree I do agree, certainly in terms of the Superman who has been with us and doing this for fifty-years-and-change, and has earned the street cred to be a paragon.

The Earth One Superman has been doing this for about a week and a half. He only just barely put on the suit, and he’s trying to find his way through a number of deliberately and increasingly difficult moral and ethical questions. I’ve never known a twenty-something guy who had all the answers, and if he said he did, he was almost always a jerk.

That being said: Clark’s sense of morality, given him by his foster parents, has never been and is not in question. He knows exactly where he stands on the matters of his own heart in terms of what he believes is correct. The question he’s wrestling with, a lot, is how to *apply* what he believes in a world where if he goes too far he will get a backlash, and if he falls short, he’ll fail to live up to his potential.

Give him fifty years of experience, and he’ll have much of that worked out. Just as the rest of us have to go through a learning process in order to figure out how we integrate our beliefs with the larger world. His moral compass is intact. Heck, we’re talking about a Clark who in volume 2 not only saved a kitten from coyotes and raised it, he buried it on the moon, riddled with grief when it died. That comes perilously close to being sappy, but it underscores the value he places on life, *all* life.

He’s not morose, or moody, or unsure of his morality. He’s unsure about *himself* and how to best use the power he controls, because he’s never done it before. Throughout v1 and v2 he’s frequently making jokes, keeping things light, and fighting the good fight. Most of those who think he’s some kind of moody, emo, adrift punk kid are those who never got past the cover of v1 or are simply relying on the characterizations of the book made by others.

Finally, to the question of how the world perceives him, the goal of the E1 books is to take a real-world perspective to the story. This a world where there were no other superheroes before Kal’s ship landed, and certainly none known to the world before he put on the suit. In a real world scenario, does anyone, and I mean *anyone* actually think that the various nations of the world would see this guy who just two weeks ago appeared out of nowhere in the midst of an alien attack, who has more power than a thousand atomic bombs, who can fly anywhere he wants, and do anything he wants, and say to that guy, “sure, welcome, make yourself at home” without even a hint of suspicion or fear? He’s not a fearsome character, not a dark character, but we fear what we don’t understand, and just as Clark has only had about two weeks to figure out his side of things, the world has only had that same amount of time to make similar decisions.

To make matters worse, in v2 – in an effort to save thousands of lives – he helped a small island nation get rid of the tyrant who was murdering them and keeping them from getting the aid they needed to survive the aftermath of a Tsunami. This will not endear him to the world. But he did it out of a sense of his morality and value of life…again, trying to figure out the balance that the main-book Superman figured out thirty years ago, but which he is still experimenting with and working out.

And for the record: he will learn it was a mistake on his part, and v3 will show him that in stark terms.
“Learn” being the operative word here for the Superman of Earth One. He will one day become the Superman who knows the balance, who can move with surety and confidence and *earn* his way toward being a paragon. If you look at the real paragons of the real world, they were people who suffered, who made mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and went on to help others. Nobody has come out of the womb a natural-born paragon in over two thousand years, and even that one is still under debate. He will, in time, work his way up to that point. But he ain’t there yet. Nobody in his twenties is there yet.

For me, writing is all about process, about how you get the character from A to B, from one state to another. When I made Babylon 5, I didn’t want to do a story about a war in process, and governments stable and in place. I wanted to show the process of how a war starts, how it is sold, and the aftermath; I wanted to show how governments rise, become corrupt, fall and change and rise again in new forms. And that, for me, is the whole reason for the Earth One books, to show the process by which someone with vast power comes to be a hero, how he figures out his place in the world, and how the world figures out it’s relationship to him.

The question raised at the top of this article is a valid one: “What makes Superman unique?” (Though it does fall into a bit of error when it conflates what the E1 book is doing with the Superman movie, which are two very different creatures and have very different agendas when it comes to Clark’s character.)

When Superman first appeared, he was the strongest guy in the universe, and for a very long time, that was all he really kind of had to be. Nobody else came close. So Clark kind of got second-billing. He didn’t have to be interesting on his own terms in those early years because he was Superman.

But in the years since then, other equally or more powerful characters have come along in and out of the DC line, especially as other publishers got going. So it seems to me that more has to be done to make Clark an interesting character on his own terms. (I’m not the first to say that, not implying otherwise, just saying that that was my rationale going into this.) Writing (like acting or directing) is all about making choices, and the choice I went with this time was to go with process. But I wanted to distinguish it from Smallville, which in general kept Clark’s choices fairly confined to his home town, firends, family and Metropolis.

So again: a real good discussion above, and to those who have said “this isn’t the Superman I know,” quite honestly, you’re absolutely right. That Superman is waiting in the wings, some distance away, and this Clark is working his way toward that Clark. It will be slow, it will be difficult, but he will get there, and along the way, he will earn the reputation, the clarity and the gravitas that the experienced Superman wears as a given.

Or as we say in television: stay tuned, for there is more to come….

jms

I say without hyperbole (mostly) that J. Michael Straczynski is the absolute worst Superman writer of all time and space.

Chris Roberson understands Superman and did what he could to make the last of the pre52 Superman be who he is supposed to be. To this day it saddens me he wasn’t given the chance to have his own run on the book free from the Grounded structure. Roberson managed to deliver a better half of that story and it was a tease of what SHOULD of been next, a great Superman run.

Very good piece. Superman is one of the few DC characters that I generally take to read, but I’m not a fan of this new 52 version at all. I miss a Superman that we can look up to.

Superbly put, Michael.

Have I ever mentioned that Robot 6 is easily my favorite CBR blog? Because it is.

I tried to read all the opinions here, so forgive me if I just end up repeating what others have said. In my opinion,
Superman is not unique because he is the strongest being out there, there are others who could take him physically (Desparo and Doomsday, to name a couple) and those who are equal to him (General Zod and Captain Marvel, to name a couple), it is that he is an incredibly powerful being who will not allow this power to corrupt him. This is because he is aware that the first time he is corrupted, he loses and becomes the type of villain he fights against. In many versions of Superman, he makes minor miscalculations and this causes the death of the Kents and for Luthor to be his greatest enemy. The best stories I’ve seen of Superman are those where he has to struggle with not becoming corrupted by the outside influences of the world, like in the direct to video cartoon Superman vs. the Elite.
Yes, Superman is perfect, a paragon as some people have stated, but this is for two reasons. The first is that, when he makes mistakes, it often causes devastating results, and he knows it. One could argue that Superman’s greatest weakness is that he must be so moral, that it sometimes cripples him from going into action. The second is that Superman represents the best of our society, so, in stories where one can question his ethics, one is actually questioning the ethics of our culture. For example, in Identity Crisis, Wally West asks Green Arrow how they can hide the conspiracy him and a small group in the Justice Leaguers are involved in from Superman. He answers that Superman, of course, knows, since his super powers allow him see and hear everything around him. But, if you’re a friend of his, he ignores your wrongdoings and hopes you find your own way towards the right path. One could argue that this reflects American foriegn policy.

“SUPERMAN is about someone trying their best to save the world, one day at a time; and it’s about that person’s love for that one whose intellect and emotion and sheer bloody humanity completes him. It’s about Superman, and it’s about Lois and Clark. And that’s all there is. That’s the spine. That must be protected to the death, not lost in a cannonade succession of continuing stories.

That’s what, in the continuing rush to top the last plotline, I see getting lost.”—Warren Ellis

Mr. Ellis speaks the truth.

One of the biggest letdowns and missteps in Earth 2 is that Lois is criminally underused and, as many others have stated beforehand, many of her most iconic and intensely feminist traits seem to have been handed off to “Jim” Olsen in an attempt to make him cooler. Now, I respect that Jimmy has a role to play in the Superman story but making him “cool” should never come at the expense of chiseling away at the passionate and special personality of Lois and the intense bond that she shares with Superman. I also found the relationship between Clark and the prostitute, Lisa, to be degrading and loaded with problematic gender issues. Meanwhile, Lois is regulated to all off-page development. A female icon like Lois deserves alot better particularly in this day and age when the issue of women fighting for equality in competitive jobs is still a hot political and social issue in the US.

I can respect and understand that there is an attempt being made to tell a story about a younger Superman…but this isn’t the way to do it.

If you want to read a story about a “young” Superman that brings Clark into the modern age and still stays true to his heart and soul….read Mark Waid’s Superman: Birthright. That’s the way you write Clark Kent as a young, hip, modern guy who struggles with the rest of us. It’s also the way you write Lois: smart, kind, funny and warm. Also a book that honors the history of Krypton in a way that is emotional, poignant and heartbreaking and shows why Lex is the opposite of Clark. A much better book.

@JMS

I hope you won’t take the following as anything other than a passion for dialogue. I don’t mean to attack, simply discuss.

>The Earth One Superman has been doing this for about a week and a half. He only just barely put on the suit, and he’s trying to find his way through a number of deliberately and increasingly difficult moral and ethical questions. I’ve never known a twenty-something guy who had all the answers, and if he said he did, he was almost always a jerk.

I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you’re saying here, but one thing I feel is that the fact that you’ve ‘never known a twenty something guy who had all the answers’ is irrelevant to the point. Superman/Clark Kent isn’t some 20-something guy.

I can’t help but feel Clark as ‘just a guy’ would have started dying a death by inches when puberty hit and he started developing senses and cognition that allowed him to stare into men’s souls, hear the lamentations of the powerful and the weak, to see the way that every living thing depending on every other thing, that everything was at once unique and of one piece.

Sure, Clark Kent exists, he’s real, but he’s not struggling with the Superman side of things anymore. He is his own entity with his own issues.

It’s not that Clark is a lie; Clark is Superman’s most impressive feat, his magnum opus. It makes sense to me that a super man would create super artwork, and that is what Clark is: Superman’s greatest work of art. A living, breathing human being, every bit as real as anyone else, as the “Superman” persona. Like the Batman of Zur En Arrh, made to a specific purpose.

So the newly emerging Superman took what Clark Kent had been and hid it away, sheltered it, then extrapolated it forward into manhood.

Clark isn’t a lie anymore than Guernica, or Crime and Punishment, is a lie.

Anyway, I digress: I’m not sure I feel that the Superman experience can be analogized to any real world situation.

The closest I can come to it is by describing another philosophy; that of Buddha.

Siddartha was Buddha and vice versa, but upon achieving enlightenment I think something fundamentally changed in terms of how he saw and interacted with the world. That’s the fully developed “Superman” persona we saw in All Star Superman. The Clark persona CAN’T demonstrate those traits, because he’d never have any of the angst or anger etc that Clark SHOULD demonstrate.

>Give him fifty years of experience, and he’ll have much of that worked out. Just as the rest of us have to go through a learning process in order to figure out how we integrate our beliefs with the larger world. His moral compass is intact. Heck, we’re talking about a Clark who in volume 2 not only saved a kitten from coyotes and raised it, he buried it on the moon, riddled with grief when it died. That comes perilously close to being sappy, but it underscores the value he places on life, *all* life.

My problem with this scene – if I am remembering it correctly – was the implication that this was the first time he felt anything for ANYONE. That, to me, felt dangerously close to a pathological inability to connect. Which is exactly the opposite of what Superman’s problem is.

>Finally, to the question of how the world perceives him, the goal of the E1 books is to take a real-world perspective to the story. This a world where there were no other superheroes before Kal’s ship landed, and certainly none known to the world before he put on the suit. In a real world scenario, does anyone, and I mean *anyone* actually think that the various nations of the world would see this guy who just two weeks ago appeared out of nowhere in the midst of an alien attack, who has more power than a thousand atomic bombs, who can fly anywhere he wants, and do anything he wants, and say to that guy, “sure, welcome, make yourself at home” without even a hint of suspicion or fear? He’s not a fearsome character, not a dark character, but we fear what we don’t understand, and just as Clark has only had about two weeks to figure out his side of things, the world has only had that same amount of time to make similar decisions.

This works for me, and worked for me in Supreme Power. It’s not necessarily something I want to see belabored in the mainstream continuity, but for Earth 1 I don’t see any way you could have done anything differently.

For me, writing is all about process, about how you get the character from A to B, from one state to another. When I made Babylon 5, I didn’t want to do a story about a war in process, and governments stable and in place. I wanted to show the process of how a war starts, how it is sold, and the aftermath; I wanted to show how governments rise, become corrupt, fall and change and rise again in new forms. And that, for me, is the whole reason for the Earth One books, to show the process by which someone with vast power comes to be a hero, how he figures out his place in the world, and how the world figures out it’s relationship to him.

The question raised at the top of this article is a valid one: “What makes Superman unique?” (Though it does fall into a bit of error when it conflates what the E1 book is doing with the Superman movie, which are two very different creatures and have very different agendas when it comes to Clark’s character.)

When Superman first appeared, he was the strongest guy in the universe, and for a very long time, that was all he really kind of had to be. Nobody else came close. So Clark kind of got second-billing. He didn’t have to be interesting on his own terms in those early years because he was Superman.

But in the years since then, other equally or more powerful characters have come along in and out of the DC line, especially as other publishers got going. So it seems to me that more has to be done to make Clark an interesting character on his own terms. (I’m not the first to say that, not implying otherwise, just saying that that was my rationale going into this.) Writing (like acting or directing) is all about making choices, and the choice I went with this time was to go with process. But I wanted to distinguish it from Smallville, which in general kept Clark’s choices fairly confined to his home town, firends, family and Metropolis.

So again: a real good discussion above, and to those who have said “this isn’t the Superman I know,” quite honestly, you’re absolutely right. That Superman is waiting in the wings, some distance away, and this Clark is working his way toward that Clark. It will be slow, it will be difficult, but he will get there, and along the way, he will earn the reputation, the clarity and the gravitas that the experienced Superman wears as a given.

Or as we say in television: stay tuned, for there is more to come….

jms

As I said above, I for one really liked Earth One, and I didn’t think I was going to.

After the countless non-starters that began with Birthright (each of which were derivative of the 60s and 70s), I had grown jaded towards origin of Superman stories and was expecting it to be just like them. Once I read it, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found.

One of the things that worried me based on the previews, for instance, was seeing Clark with a ready to wear Superman costume with an S shield on it. I worried that, once again, we’d see a story in which the shield comes from Krypton (which is ridicolous). What JMS ultimately did with the shield was inspired, original, modern, and befetting of a reimagining of the concept in the 21st Century.

I also enjoyed seeing Clark trying to find himself in Metropolis, exploring his options of what he could do with his life.

All that said, I do have one nitpick with the story, and that has to do with Clark meeting the Planet staff before he dons the glasses he uses to conceal his face.

During Clark’s interview with Perry, Perry has a heated argument with Jimmy regarding the file sizes of the photos that Jimmy is uploading to the Planet’s server. Jimmy argues that the file sizes are necessary in order to retain the high quality of the images (or words to that effect). This is paid off at the end when Jimmy takes a picture of Superman that Perry declares is the best quality image of Superman anyone has (or, again, words to that effect).

My problem is that prior to Clark donning the glasses, he met Perry, Lois, and Jimmy, all of whom saw his face (one could argue that Lois wasn’t paying that much attention to him, but Perry certainly did).

These people are reporters, they are supposed to be able to remember the smallest detail of what they see the moment they see it so that when they report it they get the facts right, but none of them mention the fact that Superman is “that Clark guy who came in for an interview”. Perry should have certainly seen it.

This is more aparent in Volume 2, which follows Lois’ investigation into who Clark is (if I remember correctly, I think that was). At no point does she bring up that she saw Clark in his civilian clothes, sans glasses, and then again as Superman.

I’m hoping this will be brought up in volume 3. I think that one of the best things Byrne did very early on was when he had Lex Luthor find out that Superman is Clark Kent. Maybe this time around it’ll be Lois who finds out his secret early on.

I like to compare Kal-El to John Greystoke and Clark Kent to Tarzan. Superman is what allows Clark to explore his Kryptonian heritage, but it doesn’t define him, nor should it eclipse or negate his human upbringing.

Clark is not J’Onn J’Onzz, who puts on a disguise as John Jones to pretend that he is human. Clark is, for all intends and purposes, as much a human as Tarzan is an ape. It’s only their biology that makes them different. Tarzan has opposable thumbs, Clark has heat vision.

Psychologically speaking, they are whom they were raised as, a man and an ape.

Superman needs Mark Waid.

he had him, it didn’t end well.

I see these comments in the following:
– people who write Superman
– people who used to write Superman
– people who will most likely never write Superman

Guess what. It’s the “people who write Superman” who are the torchbearers. Everyone else you either had your chance or you may never get a chance. Which usually equates to: bitter, bitter, bitter.

@Ruiz : I agree. I’ll never understand why DC boxed Roberson in to the Grounded arc after JMS left. Roberson was able to mitigate what was, in my opinion, a rather meandering story.

For me, the last time DC got Superman consistently right was when Kurt Busiek was writing the title. Unfortunately his run took place during that ridiculous Countdown (to nowhere) event. Although, I think Smallville Season 11 is doing a good job with the character and I really enjoyed the newly canceled Superman Family Adventures.

I think DC had a kernel of a good idea with the New Krypton idea, I was hopeful at first that this would be an exploration of a lot of what is being discussed here. Who is Superman? I don’t buy in to the “Clark is who I am, Superman is what I do” philosophy. I think it’s a lot more complex than that. However the story got lost in the minutia and politics of New Krypton. Clark became a rather passive observer. I’ll always feel this was a lost opportunity.

I don’t understand why Superman is considered a boring character. He grows up being able to do these fantastic things yet always hiding, that is a goldmine to explore.

I felt Waid’s Birthright and John’s Secret Origin were able to capture the feelings of alienation without the mopey self pity that seems to run through a lot of what is being done now.

Birthright was also able to re energize those last moments on Krypton. I loved that last conversation between Jor-El and Lara when they’re putting Kal-El in the rocket. Those pages rank up there as some of my favorite comic panels. The grief came off the page. One especially poignant moment for me was when Lara put a History book meant for Jor-El’s birthday in the ship with Kal-El. Jor-El asked what was the point because their son wouldn’t be able to read it, she told him it wasn’t for their son but for him.

It’s little moments like that which make the story relatable. Characters don’t have to mope and cry and carry on in order for the audience to feel gutted.

Another moment, which as a Lois Lane fan, I really appreciated was after the Daily Planet crew ditched Clark at another restaurant and Lois called them out on their bad behavior. We see Clark alone at the other place listening to the conversation, his head bent and we understand what the need to be disguised as Clark Kent” is costing him. Yet Lois Lane isn’t used as a club to beat him down. It’s not her fault this is happening. It’s just the by product of his disguise and what he needs to do. He’s not happy he has to play the role but he’s not feeling sorry for himself. Nor are we as the audience asked to pity him and more importantly we’re not asked to hiss at Lois because she’s too blind to see him.

Instead we can relate to both characters.

The book also showed the importance of the triangle for two, again not playing Lois for the fool but instead showing why it’s so important for Clark that somebody meets him as an alien without ever knowing him as a human and doesn’t feel fear and trusts him.

Secret Origin followed many of these themes. One of my favorite moments was right after Clark found out he was an alien and freaked. He’s crying in Jonathan’s arms that he just wanted to be his son, and Jonathan replied that he is.

I don’t know how that moment between Jonathan and Clark in the movie trailer will play out but I have a feeling context of that conversation wasn’t fully realized.

I’m not very impressed with how DC is handling Superman these days. I’m even less impressed with what they’ve done with Lois Lane. I was hopeful when I heard the movie people read and enjoyed Birthright and Secret Origin. I’m hoping they go down that route instead of Earth 1.

“Superman is our greatest-ever idea as a human species” -Grant Morrison

The movie seems to be a lot like Earth One. It hits the same beats. One could argue that the movie takes the Kryptonian invasion idea from Birthright but replaces the fake Kryptonians with real ones (though I’m still hopeful that in the end it’ll turn out to be a plot by Lex Luthor and that Zod will be as fake as Van-Gar), but one could also argue that it takes the invasion story from Earth One and replaces Tyrell with Zod.

The last Superman stories I truly enjoyed were by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank—their run on Action Comics and Secret Origin. More of that incarnation of the character would make me a happy reader, but with the New 52, that ship has sailed.

As to the topic of how Superman should be portrayed, well, that’s obviously a point of contention, but Michael May’s column pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject. Still, since I’ve not seen Man of Steel in its entirety, I’m withholding judgment—even on Pa Kent’s remarks. Just as I want to see the whole film, I want to hear the whole conversation, but the snippet in the trailer is a bit troubling—even if he is just a parent who wants to protect his son.

@ Michael Sakal

Kingdom Come begs to differ.

@ Mikael

If Scott Lobdell is Superman’s “torchbearer” than we are all in trouble.

Jacques Massard

January 15, 2013 at 7:31 am

In the Donner super man movie Pa Kent says something about how he was worried that someone would take Clark away “but as he got older” he changed his mind a reach the conclusion that Clark was there for a reason.

Man of steel is about pa kent’s and Clark kent journey to that moment. They will rises above their fears and change the world.

Or at least that’s what i hope.

@Chris

Alex Ross came up with Kingdom Come (originally called The Heroic Age), then Waid became part of the project (after James Robinson passed on it), this according to the Wizard Alex Ross Millenium Special.

Alex Ross = Kingdom Come

Mark Waid = The Kingdom.

Remember, when DC wanted to turn KC into a monthly series with Waid and Ross centered around Clark, Diana, Bruce, Billy, and Magog’s arrival in Metropolis, Waid claimed that he couldn’t wrap his head around it, then he came up with The Kingdom, which was all his with help from Morrison and a few others (all listed in a CSN The Kingdom Special).

Either Hero Illustrated or Wizard, I forget which, ran an article with illustrations from Ross showing what The Kingdom would have looked like. It was going to have Gene Ha on pencils. Some of those ideas later showed up in JSA’s Thy Kingdom Come, like Wildcat’s son, who was going to be a part of The Kingdom, and Gog.

“The book also showed the importance of the triangle for two, again not playing Lois for the fool but instead showing why it’s so important for Clark that somebody meets him as an alien without ever knowing him as a human and doesn’t feel fear and trusts him.”

THIS.

This is the piece that people miss so often about Lois Lane and SUPERMAN and the Triangle for 2.

Clark Kent is a very real part of who Superman is just as Superman is a very real part of who Clark is. To ever try to make one identity more important than the other is a mistake because both pieces are equally real.

Mark Waid got this in Superman: Birthright. Geoff Johns’, to his credit, seemed to understand it in Secret Origins as well.

It’s vital that Lois Lane meets Superman when he’s not dressed as Clark Kent but is IN THE SUIT, using his powers and instead of shrinking back in fear….trusts him…embraces him…loves him. Not because she’s some obsessed fangirl attracted to a god. No. That’s the shallow story that a weaker writer who is not understanding her perspective would write. No, Lois Lane trusts him because he’s the most noble man she has ever met. All her life, Lois has known men who abuse their power. Then she meets Superman.

It’s a very ::different:: component than someone who accepts Superman because they already know him and love him as Clark. Lois does not have the benefit of knowing that at first but she trusts Superman anyway. She knows he’s here for good.

The other piece, of course, is that Lois Lane sees that Clark Kent is holding back. Waid and Johns made it clear that she was on to him. She cares deeply about him as Clark Kent. She grows to love him. There is story there. But a modern view of the Triangle should understand that it’s not just as simple as the Silver Age antics that are neither appropriate now nor relevant to a modern era. The modern triangle for 2 is about love triumphing over fear. It’s about a human woman having faith in Superman when others don’t because she knows and believes he is there to help and the relationshipt that develops between Lois and his human identity that plays out at the same time.

Lois Lane, like the Kents, is the bridge between Clark Kent and Superman. She’s the woman that he loves no matter what suit he’s wearing and the woman that relates uniquely to both sides of his persona in return.

That’s why it’s poignant that the final image of the Man of Steel trailer is Lois reaching out her hand to Superman while he’s surrounded by the military and the guns and the fear. Because, in a moment of isolation, there is a human (and yes, it’s significant that she’s a woman) who isn’t afraid.

“It’s vital that Lois Lane meets Superman when he’s not dressed as Clark Kent but is IN THE SUIT”

I’d argue that when Clark has the suit on he stops being Clark and becomes Kal-El.

Certain writers like to argue that there’s three facets to the character, which they call Smallville Clark, Metropolis, Clark, and Superman. I argue that they are two facets, Clark Kent and Kal-El.

Clark is who he is when he puts on a suit, glasses, etc, and Kal-El is who he becomes when he puts on the suit.

This is perfectly exemplified in certain comics in which Wonder Woman calls Superman “Kal” and Batman calls him “Clark”.

One can argue that both sides are real, neither one hides the other. When he is Clark he gets to experience the normal life that Jor-El sent him to have on Earth when Krypton exploded, like have friends, date, fall in love, read books, watch movies, etc, while when he is Superman he gets to explore the man he could have been on Krypton had the planet not exploded.

Seen that way, the question then becomes, who should Lois fall in love with? Clark or Superman? I say Clark, not because he is more real than Superman (when seen this way) but because that aspect of the narrative belongs to Clark, the man he became after he left Krypton and landed in Smallvile.

@Michael Sacal and @Chris

Mark Waid’s greatest achievement on Superman is Superman: Birthright.

Kingdom Come (no matter who’s idea it was) was meant to be a WARNING. It was not a “how to” guide and it’s a mistake people make to treat it that way. It was an exploration of our worst possibe nightmare and of Superman’s worst possible nightmare–A public that rejected his brand of heroism and a hope that was just too hard to hold onto with Lois dead. As a fan of Wonder Woman (and a fan of Lois Lane) I have really mixed feelings on the book as I agree with those who have criticized it over the years for some problematic gender stuff. But either way, whether you love it or hate it, it’s not really an example of Superman done right because the entire point of the narrative is that it’s not. It’s a warning. It’s not a how-to guide.

Superman: Birthright, however, is a sincere look at who Clark Kent is from the ground up. It’s an emotional look at both sets of Clark’s parents both on Krypton and on Earth. It’s a modern view on Metropolis and on Lois and Lex and the rest of the Daily Planet. Mark Waid absolutely understands Superman based on that book. I’m not sure how anyone could say otherwise.

“I’d argue that when Clark has the suit on he stops being Clark and becomes Kal-El.
Certain writers like to argue that there’s three facets to the character, which they call Smallville Clark, Metropolis, Clark, and Superman. I argue that they are two facets, Clark Kent and Kal-El.
Clark is who he is when he puts on a suit, glasses, etc, and Kal-El is who he becomes when he puts on the suit.”

I disagree. Because that assumes that there isn’t a part of Superman that is influenced by the man that Jonathan and Martha kent raised and there is.

Superman isn’t Kal-El. Superman, if written correctly, isn’t just the alien.

Superman = Clark Kent + Kal-El

Superman is the blending of human plus the alien. It’s the pure expression of Clark’s humanity and his alien power and heritage.

“Seen that way, the question then becomes, who should Lois fall in love with? Clark or Superman? I say Clark, not because he is more real than Superman (when seen this way) but because that aspect of the narrative belongs to Clark, the man he became after he left Krypton and landed in Smallvile.”

I don’t agree. That’s the problem—you are asking her to choose and she doesn’t have to choose.

Lois Lane falls in love with Superman and Clark Kent. The most successful understandings of the Triangle For 2 understand that it’s not up to Lois to choose nor is any persona any more “real” than the other.

Yes, Lois Lane loves Clark Kent the man. We know that. We saw as early as the Bronze Age that when Clark Kent stops hiding who he is and finds the courage to tell Lois how he feels…she loves him.

But Lois Lane also loves Superman. Not because if his powers but because he’s good. She accepts Superman as an alien without knowing that he’s human.

You can’t ask Lois Lane to choose between Clark Kent and Superman anymore than you can ask Superman to choose between the human and the alien sides of himself. Both are equally real and their love is part of that.

Nah, Birthright could have been great, but instead it was an unnecessary reboot that broke the character.

Take Birthright out of the equation, and Superman wouldn’t have had half a dozen origins in a single decade.

Earth One did it better than Birthright. Birthright was far too derivative of the past, inconsistant, and pointless.

Superman’s greatest feat is fighting a giant spider from Krypton (that turns out to not really be from Krypton)? Really? Seriously?

Let me ask you something, who is Lex Luthor supposed to hate, Superman or Clark Kent? Because in BR, he kindda is given motivation to hate Clark for ruining is experiment, but then he gets amnesia and forgets ever being in Smallville, therefore that whole thing became kind of pointless to have in the comic since it didn’t accomplish anything. Even if you removed the amnesia angle, Lex would still end up hating Clark, not Superman, and that hatred never showed up on the page. Lex never did anything to ruin Clark or attack him in any way to show his hatred for him.

That entire sequence was there solely because it was there in the 60s, and it turned Lex into Dr Doom and Clark into Reed Richards, but, though to the amnesia, it didn’t go anywhere.

I do think that the idea that Luthor is lonely and thinks he would fair better with aliens is good. I think that had that been applied to him without sending him to Smallvile, would have had merit. Ultimately it could have ended up being a nod to the SA versions of the characters the same way Byrne did in Man of Steel with Batman and Superman, in which one of them noted that, in another reality, they could have been friends.

I could see Lex, sans Smallville, looking for friends in outer space, and noting that, in another reality, he might have even had one (i.e. Superboy). or something like that.

Either way, as it stands, Birthright is not that great. It was unnecessary.

That said , you should check out the character gallery that was printed in Superman #200 or one of the issues released around that time that show a very different Krypton from the one seen in the published comic. That had potential for an out of continuity story akin to Earth One.

“Superman = Clark Kent + Kal-El”

I can agree with that.

Superman exists as a concious decision made by Clark. It’s not the other way around, though. Superman doesn’t create Clark Kent (as seen in BR), it is Clark who creates Superman (as seen in Man of Steel, the Lois & Clark pilot, and Earth One).

Both Earth One and Man of Steel showed that Clark doesn’t need a super suit to be a hero and use his powers. They both show that putting the costume on was a result of fate, which works great.

@Michael Sacal

“Nah, Birthright could have been great, but instead it was an unnecessary reboot that broke the character.”

No, the new 52 was an unnecessary reboot that broke the character.

Superman: Birthright was a narrative that restored much of the Kyrptonian heritage that was lost in Byrne’s reboot while preserving the humanity that was paramount to making Superman a relatable figure for the modern era. Birthright was the perfect combination of the modern, relevant Superman while still preserving the emotional majesty of Clark’s birth parents, Jor-El and Lara.

Birthright also preserved and expanded on the paramount modern treatment that was given to Lois Lane and took it to the next level by following through on the original intent of Jerry Siegel back in Action #1 wherein Lois Lane is the one who stands before the Superman and isn’t afraid.

All 3 of the origin stories from the last 30 years: Man of Steel, Birthright and Secret Origins have value. There are things about all 3 that are important and vital. They were all necessary in some respect because they all brought something important to the character. Secret Origins took Mark Waid’s concepts and expanded them even though the version of Superman used resembled Christopher Reeve. Secret Origins also took what Waid had done with Lois Lane and continued down the same important path of being on to Clark from the beginning.

But,in all honesty, if you are putting Superman: Earth One above Superman: Birthright than I’m not sure we can continue this conversation as I don’t see us having anything in common. I didn’t care for the first volume of Superman Earth One but there were a few things in it that had some value. I found the second volume one of the most offensive things I had ever read. So I think we are an impasse.

Cole Moore Odell

January 15, 2013 at 8:24 am

A serious problem for Superman over the last few decades has been the misguided pretentiousness of trying to inject a can’t-screw-this-up concept with post-Claremont emotional realism. It’s a terrible fit, and it’s led to decades of mostly awful Superman comics, of which JMS’ series is only the most recent example. Superman can change the course of mighty rivers, he can’t stem the tide of banal bullshit. “What makes Superman unique is that he feels alienated LIKE EVERY TEENAGER EVER.” “Superman may have diamond-hard skin, BUT DEAD KITTENS MAKE HIM SAD.”

I know that comic book writers/publishers today, faced with the market as it stands, are compelled to bend these iconic properties that were initially elegantly simplistic toward a faux complexity. If you’re a writer, exploring the trajectory of flawed characters probably seems like the job description. But if ever a character should be defined by what he does rather than how he feels about it, it’s Superman. One thing that actually *does* make Superman unique in the current superhero marketplace is how ill-served he is by the constant gnashing of teeth over the existential misery of being a guy who can fly and punch evil robots to the moon. Unlike Batman, Green Lantern and the whole Marvel stable, Superman really can’t bear the weight. So it’s frustrating to see DC perpetually ignore the property’s conceptual strengths in order to fixate on its weaknesses.

That said, there’s a reason why the only Superman comic that currently operates as I’m suggesting, Superman Family Adventures, is now cancelled. In an environment where “fun” is a dirty word, DC is clearly more comfortable selling the cocktail of crying-in-Jonathan’s-arms melodrama and desperate, mythic-symbol of-all-that-is-great-in-us self-aggrandizement. Siegel and Shuster’s Superman would have taken one look at this sorry mess and hung it from a telephone pole by its suit jacket.

Actually, Man of Steel is not the end all and be all of the modern age Superman (modern does not necessarily mean current, btw. I use the term the way it was applied in the comics, trading cards, and the like).

Much of the Kryptonian heritage was re-established by the writers that followed Byrne and Wolfman, like Stern, Jurgens, Kesel, Ordway, etc. It was not a copy of the way it was done in the 60s, it was given a twist and things were modernized, not regurgitated.

BR had potential as an out of continutiy story, but then it was forced into becoming canon and that is where the problem lies.

BR was intended to be what Earth One became, and had it been published and followed up on in that way, the character would not have required multiple reboots to fix the origin because without BR the origin would not be broken.

Best case scenario would have been that the story of the previous iteration of Superman would have begun with Man of Steel and ended prior to the new 52, which would start another iteration of the character and narrative. That was not the case. Not because of something Byrne did in 87, but because of was done with BR in 04.

As far as the story in BR goes, it is derivative, inconsistant, and boring.

I was one of the first people on the Newsarama msg board who expressed interest in seeing Waid tackle Superman’s first big apperance when Waid claimed that BR a Year One project that would explore the character’s first year (this was at a time when Year Ones were not reboots, and in point of fact, DC published a few Year One projects before, during, and after BR that were not reboots).

Man of Steel lacks a big moment for Superman, so seeing Waid tackle that would have been cool… unfortunately, the big moment was his fighting a giant freaking robot spider.

Ultimately, Birthright is a footnote. As great people think it is, audiences didn’t embrace it, and there is a reason for it that has little to nothing to do with where it fits in canon and everything to do with the merits and flaws of it as a s tory.

In contrast, audiences embraced Earth One, which merited not just one follow up, but, from what I’m reading here, TWO follow ups.

The smugness in here is reaching critical levels.

@Audrey: Agreed. I think Clark Kent is Kal-El, he’s Superman and he’s Metropolis’s disguised as Clark Kent. All these experiences are part of who he is.

I wish Birthright, instead of being a 12 issue monthly mini series, was written from the start as a novel the way Earth 1 series has been. Unfortunately it wasn’t. I think there was a lot to explore in that universe that sadly wasn’t.

At the time the mini came out DC was all over the place on if it was continuity, if it wasn’t. The story would change depending on the day you asked the people in charge or even who was asked.

I personally wish that after the Infinite Crisis they released origin stories even if they didn’t want to start the universe from scratch as it were. I think they could’ve taken the core of Birthright and expanded on it. However, that again is just my opinion.

I would’ve loved to see a Busiek & Waid mini not that I didn’t enjoy what Busiek & Johns did.

On the topic of Earth 1, I thought Vol 1 was okay, but I didn’t like Vol 2. Of course, that’s only my opinion, needless to say others feel differently.

Give me the John Byrne Post-Crisis Superman. That’s the one that I like reading about. Thank god for back issues.

I found Earth One to be fairly comparable to World of Metropolis, particularly Clark’s arrival in Metropolis.

Cole Moore Odell

January 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

It is difficult to write stories premised on Superman’s moral uncertainty or the world’s apprehensive misunderstanding of him, when 4-year-olds everywhere know exactly who he is and what he stands for.

If as a Superman writer you are dwelling on questions of, and crafting stories about how people would “really” react to a being of such power, or how a person imbued with such power might “really” handle it, you made a wrong turn some considerable ways back.

I really believe that writing Superman successfully requires a degree of conscious naivete, or at least careful consideration of the concept’s boundaries–and possibly a different target audience than jaded adults. Elliot S! Maggin’s “Must There Be a Superman?” was a landmark, a neat little thought experiment as story, but after that too many dominoes started falling in the wrong directions as subsequent writers all wanted their crack at a thesis statement, or at forcing Superman to confront the ethical dilemmas of his power, which is the real-world version of Gold K.

I’m not so sure Clark knows who Kal-El is. If some alien beings showed up and told me I was ZaTi from the planet Titen, that wouldn’t change the person I am- that would be more like someone I could have been.

Good point, Fremgen. Byrne covered that at the end of Man of Steel fairly well.

I think it would be great if Film-Superman and Comics-Superman had the sort of synergy that is being implied by this article but they are being written independently and I think they need to be looked at as such.

For MAN OF STEEL, I think everyone’s making too much fuss about the Pa Kent’s “Maybe” comment, yes this is a shock, and a departure from what we know, but to me the more prominent line is the voice over as Superman walks across the snowfield:

“You just have to decide what sort of man you want to grow up to be Clark. Whoever that man is, is gunna change the world”.

To me this is what the film is about. To all the people who are worried that Superman will be feared by the world, and therefor not the Superman they know, I believe this film is about the choice Clark makes to become Superman despite the distrust and fear people will have of him. And in doing so, he becomes the symbol of hope that inspires the world.

you can read my review of the MAN OF STEEL trailer here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/david-amore/man-of-steel-trailer-review-beware-the-spoilers/568000539881972

I also loved @Audrey’s comment : That’s why it’s poignant that the final image of the Man of Steel trailer is Lois reaching out her hand to Superman while he’s surrounded by the military and the guns and the fear. Because, in a moment of isolation, there is a human (and yes, it’s significant that she’s a woman) who isn’t afraid.

This is exactly what I took from this moment in trailer and I’m already hopeful that this film will be very good.

Grounded was a good idea with fumbled execution. Earth One, however, is currently my favorite Superman story. I really can’t agree more with his post.

In regards to Comics Superman, I think the biggest issue is that because Superman has been around for 75 years, everyone (literally everyone) has their own beliefs about what Superman is and how he should be presented.

If you identify with JMS’s Earth 1 and prefer it to Mark Waid’s Brithright then good. If you prefer Mark Waid’s story or Geoff Johns’ story or Grant Morrison’s New52 or any other incarnation, then ALSO GOOD! The fact that this article has prompted so much discussion means that there is beyond doubt an audience for the character.

Personally I prefer Geoff Johns’ Secret Origins, and Mark Waid’s Birthright, but having read JMS’s post above I’m not discounting Earth1 or it’s validity either. Just as Lois should not have to choose between Clark and Superman, neither should we readers be forced on to TEAM EARTH 1 or TEAM BIRTHRIGHT. It doesn’t work that way.

In addition to this the continual bemoaning of the New52 is something I find equally nauseating. In all honesty I won’t say that I’ve enjoyed NEW52 Superman so far, but that doesn’t mean DC have ‘broken the character’ (what ever that means).

For all we know, Scott Lobdell and Andy Diggle may be working on the greatest most popular Superman story ever told. We won’t know until we read it, and if when you start reading that story you don’t enjoy, there a plenty of other comic books out there.

@Brave Dave, I have to agree with you 100%. Pa Kent’s “maybe” comment is a natural reaction of fear for his son’s safety. That doesn’t mean that he raised young Clark with some skewed, spineless sense of morality. Honestly, what parent in their right mind would say “Yes, my alien son, go forth and show off your powers as much as you can…and don’t worry, no one is going to try to kidnap you and make you into a lab rat?” However, if Pa Kent had actually raised Clark to ignore the needs of others, then he would never have put on the suit in the first place, right? Personally, I love the fact that the trailer takes a few seconds to examine this moral dilemma that Pa finds himself in. It gives me hope that this movie might actually be worth watching.

Johnny Sarcastic

January 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Clark Kent: Excuse me, Mr. White. I was wondering if, if, uh, perhaps you could arrange for half my salary to be sent to this address on a weekly basis.
Lois Lane: Your bookie, right?
Clark Kent: My what?
Lois Lane: Don’t tell me: he sends a check every week to his sweet, grey-haired old mother.
Clark Kent: Actually, she’s silver-haired.
Perry White: Yeah. I’ll see what I can do.
Lois Lane: Any more at home like you?
Clark Kent: Uh, not really, no.
Lois Lane: I didn’t think so.

That’s Superman.

He’s a guy who does the right thing, all the time, simply because it’s the right thing to do. He lives the way we all ought to, and he does so unabashedly.

[sarcasm]But Johnny, it’s Clark who does that, not Superman, and Clark is a mask, a pretense that Superman puts on to deflect people so they won’t think he’s Superman…[/sarcasm]

Johnny Sarcastic

January 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

@Michael

Ha.

Well, I guess that’s the beauty of Superman, but also the curse. As a character he can exist in several different ‘versions,’ each discovered with wonder in their own way.

I’m 30 now, so it may come as little surprise that Byrne’s “Man of Steel” origin is the one that, for the most part, sits best with me. I’ve always liked believing that Superman lived as a human proper, if only for just a little while before his powers developed, enough to temper his understanding permanently about the “human condition,” as it were.

I wasn’t crazy about most of Birthright, even though I was crazy about the same Mark Waid’s characterization of Superman in Kingdom Come – who was a lot different than Byrne’s Superman. I didn’t care for Secret Origin (with the exception of Gary Frank’s beautiful pencils), and frankly, most of Superboy’s adventures with the Legion were ‘meh’ for me.

But every one of those origin sequences and versions have been discovered by someone and is their ‘truth.’ And the one thing all of those Supermen have in common is that they’re all beacons of … I dunno, righteousness?

I’m rambling. I guess what I’m saying is – I don’t care if he’s more Clark than Superman, or more Kal-El than Clark – as long as he has the will and desire to be the good guy – the guy who never, ever gives up and always finds a way – then I’ll read about him. He’s a never-ending optimist.

I like it when stories are honest to their premises. In the case of Superman, you start with the premise that he is the last survivor of a dead world whose parents sent to Earth to survive the cataclysm and have the life he would be denied if they didn’t send him away.

For him, it just happens that on the world he finds himself in he acquires these amazing powers due to the proxmity to a yellow star (and the enviroment, depending on the version). His choices determine how he wants to make sure of those powers. In this instance, he chooses to don a colorful costume and become a “superhero”.

I don’t think that should come at the expense of having the life his birth parents wanted him to have on Earth, which includes having friends, a love life, etc.

The Superman writers that followed Byrne up to before Loeb took over managed to tell that story, and that’s the story that was translated to TV in the form of Lois & Clark, Superman TAS, and Smallville, and in all instances it worked.

If going back to the 60s worked, then it would have stuck with Birthright, there would have been no need to reboot the character three or four more times after that. The continued failure to make a version of Superman that is derivative of the 60s stick in canon and the success of Earth One proves that audiences are not all that interested in reading that version of the character (at least not in canon going by Morrison’s ASS).

The cool thing about the Byrne reboot is that Clark made it so that no one would even consider that Superman has a secret identity, and even when Luthor found out the truth he dismissed it.

Nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong.

There’s a variety of ways to portray the character.

Cole Moore Odell

January 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

It’s nice knowing that there ae identical threads out there with exactly the same arguments, only “JMS’ Superman: Earth One” is replaced with “Miley Cyrus’ cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.”

ironic that a message that infers that anyone can like whatever they want is followed by another message that infers that if you like Earth One it means you like something bad.

Cole Moore Odell

January 16, 2013 at 7:48 am

The two thoughts aren’t mutually exclusive: people are also allowed to like (even prefer!) Miley’s Nirvana cover. Even if other people think it’s terrible, misses the point, betrays the original, etc.

Cole Moore Odell

January 16, 2013 at 7:54 am

Also, you’re misusing the word “infer” in two different ways. One infers from something; one uses a statement to imply something.

Friendlyfire flat out stated his position, whereas I may have been implying something about the relative quality of JMS’ Superman work.

“Even if other people think it’s terrible, misses the point, betrays the original” like Birthright does with Superman…

Cole Moore Odell

January 16, 2013 at 8:21 am

This thread does point out a valid challenge with different generations of fans of a 75-year-old character trying to discuss something like Earth One. For people who know the stories by Siegel, Hamilton, Bester, Binder, Schwartz, O’Neil, Maggin, et al, it can be kind of tough to find common ground with those for whom ancient Superman history is John Byrne. It’s a bit like debating the new Rolling Stones single with someone who only knows them from Steel Wheels on.

I don’t look at Superman as a character with 75 years of history, but a character with different iterations published during those 75 years.

You have the Golden Age/Earth 2 Superman, whose story began with Action Comics #1.

You have the Silver/Bronze Age/Earth 1 Superman, whose story (retroactively) began with More Fun Comics #101 (the first apperance of Superboy).

And you have the Modern Age Superman, whose story began with Man of Steel #1.

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and and end.

The story of the Golden Age/E2 Superman ended with Crisis on Infinite Earths (or, if you want to go beyond that, it ended with Infinite Crisis), while the story of the SilverBronze Age/E1 Superman ended with Whatever Happened To the Man of Tomorrow (which while at the time of publication could have been dismissed as an imaginary story, it eventually became canon when Loeb made it so in the first story arc of Superman/Batman).

The problem with retcons/reboots like Birthright, Action Comics #850/Action Comics Annual #10, and Secret Origin is that they are not unique iterations of the character in the same way that the Earth 1 iteration is unique from the Earth 2 iteration and the Modern Age is iteration is unique from those two. Those reboots attempt to replace the Modern Age version as the one that “counts”. That creates countless problems in continutiy from which the character never really recovered.

Had they provided the Modern Age version with an ending, akin to Whatever Happened and Crisis, then it be a different story. There would have been no need for countless retcons, and there would have been no problem with the consistancy of the narrative.

That’s not what they did.

Now we have Earth One, which is not trying to replace anything, it exists as its own unique iteration of the one published in the monthly series and it’s telling the story as if Superman made his debut in the (recent) present.

Birthright could have done that eight years ago, but someone involved with the production decided that they didn’t want that, they wanted it to “count”, and in order to “count” it had to become the “official”, in-continuity, origin.

maybe it would have been best if instead of multiple iterations of the character the narrative had progresses in way that the Silver Age Superman was the son of the Golden Age Superman and the Modern Age Superman was the grandson of the Golden Age Superman. Something more generational.

Cole Moore Odell

January 16, 2013 at 8:44 am

Well, there’s the other problem. No disrespect intended, but I have absolutely no investment in anything you’re concerned with. The notion that these characters’ stories have the hard continuity of “beginnings, middles and ends” rather than an eternal present is a relatively recent invention layered over the top of most of the Superman stories that actually mean anything to me. They’re *all* just unique iterations to me, that live or die on their own merits–or lack thereof. There are certain things I expect, philosophically speaking, from any version of Superman for me to feel that the writer and artist “get it”–and for me, those things are almost entirely missing from JMS’s awkward version. Speaking only for myself and my relationship with the character over the last almost-40 years, I’m mystified that a smart, talented guy who has obviously thought at some length about Superman should come to such terrible, wrong-headed or trite conclusions that directly undermine the things I like about the character. I’m far less mystified that the current regime at DC would publish it, or that it would find an audience. That’s pretty much it.

In recent times, there have been countless attempts to apply what you want to see to the character, and they all failed. They all resulted in the need for mutliple reboots.

Continuity has become a fight between different writers to have THEIR version of Superman “count”. That does not result in good storytelling.

Cole Moore Odell

January 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

I’m under no illusions that new adventures of the Superman I’d like to see won’t be published anytime soon. The closest we got was the first few issues of Grant Morrison’s Action, and that turned out to be a feint.

The good thing for me is that the Superman I’d most like to see already was published, for years on end, and I can go to the shelf for it any time I like.

exactly. people who want to read about the Silver Age Superman have enough pre existing material to read for the rest of their lives.

people who want to see new material – like Earth One – don’t have that option. new material can only exist when people create it. that’s why new comics that are derivative of pre-existing material suck.

C’mon, DiDio/Harras— just give Michael Sacal his own “New 52″ take on SUPERMAN/Kal-El/ClarkKent already!1!!1!

Give it a cover blurb from JMS, and you’ll have another hit for all the NuDC fanboys to buy…

(But I think I’ll wait for Mark Waid’s review first.)

Lex’s portrayal in Birthright was ridicolous.

What he wanted to do was to either go back in time to Krypton before it exploded to save the planet, or bring Kryptonians to the present, or something. It wasn’t clear. All that was clear was that he made contact with the Kryptonians and told them that they could help each other (I figure that those two scenarios are the only tangible way in which he could help them. Either stop the planet from exploding or bring them forward in time to Earth).

Lex may be smart, but there is NO way that he is smarter than an ENTIRE planet of Kryptonians.

If THEY couldn’t figure out how to save themselves, what chance does a human have, even if he is the smartest human on Earth? That would probably put him on the same level as a first grade Kryptonian child.

In what way, shape, or form does it help Lex’s goal to antagonize the Kryptonians in the public eye? What was he hoping to accomplish? He makes Superman look like the vanguard of an alien invasion, then he hires a bunch of people that he dresses in Kryptonian military garb and equips with faux Kryptonian technology he made on Earth, and sends them to attack Metropolis… to what end?

If the Kryptonians had accepted his help, and if he could have brought them to the present day Earth, what was going to happen? Because of his attack on Superman, no one on Earth would trust the Kryptonians.

Let us say that Luthor’s plan was to make people on Earth distrust Superman, then he was going to go back in time to Krypton and keep it from exploding, and then he was going to live happilly ever after on Krypton.

We’ll ignore the temporal paradoxes that Krypton not exploding would result in (though I doubt someone as smart as Lex or Jor-El would ignore them!!!!!).

I reiterate, in what way, shape, or form would making Earth mistrust Superman help him attain his goal?

What reason does Lex have to even want to antagonize Superman? In his eyes, he will either go back in time to Krypton or bring Kryptonians to the present and be happy, in either case Superman is not an obstacle to his plan.

Lex wanting to save Krypton or save Kryptonians should have made them ALLIES, not enemies. If Superman knew what Luthor wanted to do, they would have worked together to accomplish Lex’s goal to either save Krypton or bring Kryptonians to present-day Earth.

Either way, Lex had no reason to orchestrate the faux Kryptonian invasion, attack Metropolis, and make people distrust Superman. None of those things would help him accomplish his goal.

You can’t say that Lex went after Superman because of what happened to him in Smallville, because 1) if he blamed anyone for what happened to him it would be Clark, not Superman, and 2) he has NO memory of what happened to him in Smallville!!! Of course, even though he has no memory of being in Smallville, he somehow lost all his hair and knows that the Kryptonite will help him contact… argh, I give up. The entire plot in this comic is shit. How can people defend it? It lacks rhyme and reason. It needs Milo to save them!!!!

We get it, Michael. You didn’t like Birthright any more than I liked Byrne’s relaunch back in the day. We get you. Byrne was the only visionary in the last 75 years, including Jerry Siegel, to get Superman right. Yes, yes, yes. Also, JMS is Jane Goodall and I’m a chimp. We understand. So why all the hate? You WIN. You have the Superman you seem to want now. I mean, VICTORY IS YOURS, right? So you don’t like some Superman story written ten years ago. YOU WIN. Feel free to use all that energy to write your own comics. I look forward to reading them.

Calm down, mr. Waid, you’re embarrassing yourself….

He strikes me as pretty calm.

it’s not about being visionary. it’s about being honest to the concept as opposed to being locked up to a particular version/iteration.

In the comics, Byrne and JMS wrote iterations that are honest to the premise of the alien from another world that is raised by humans and then discovers that he has superpowers. In animation, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini did it with TAS, while in live-action TV it was Millar and Gough.

Birthright was more about replicating a previous version than in telling a story that was honest to the concept.

For instance, Lex losing his hair in a fire didn’t inform the narrative one bit. It was there solely because that’s how he lost his hair in the 60s.

“You WIN. You have the Superman you seem to want now. I mean, VICTORY IS YOURS, right”

Why does it have to be a competition?

Do you understand that if had you done Birthright as “Ultimate Superman”, OUTSIDE of continuity, then EVERYONE would have won and everyone would have been happy?

You would have had your version of Superman OUTSIDE of canon, like Earth One is, AND everyone else would have had the Modern Age Superman that traces its origin to Man of Steel?

There would have been NO need for Busiek’s retcons in Action Comics #850 and Action Comics Annual #10, or for Johns’ reboot in Secret Origin.

The problem is this need to have everything count by making it part of canon, or have everything be part of a multiverse.

Not everything has to count, and you don’t need a multiverse to have disparate versions of the same character.

A multiverse is merely an excuse to have those versions meet, which is in no way, shape, or form a requirement of storytelling.

@Michael: Seems to me that the obsession with continuity cuts both ways.

Do you think Birthright is bad solely because Mark Waid is too concerned about what does and doesn’t “count” as continuity, or do you think Birthright is bad solely because YOU are too concerned about what does and doesn’t “count” as continuity?

1. Is the story good on its own merits?
2. Is there really any point to quibbling over what is and isn’t in-continuity given that DC jettisons its continuity every time somebody sneezes anyway?
and 3. Did you seriously just say that Smallville is a better Superman origin than Birthright?

Well Michael, I couldn’t disagree more and I’m puzzled as to how you can throw together Man of Steel and Earth One as being in any way, shape or form supporting a similar interpretation of the character.

I don’t particularly like the interpretation of Superman as a lonely sad alien stranded in an adoptive planet, neither do I like the idea of him being a Mesiah. I think that Superman is relatable because he is very human, he is either super-powered human, a God who thinks he is human or an un-assuming mesiah, when you portray him as a God or Demi-God hiding in plain sight or an actual Mesiah, he becomes a very boring character, that’s the reason I hated Superman Returns, it was boring on its own, but it also was plagued with judeo-christian symbology and an annoying reverence to the first 2 Superman films.

I think that Superman loneliness is a defining aspect of the character, but not the most defining aspect of the character, if it is, there’s very little reason for Clark Kent to exist. For me the important part of the character is being raised as human by loving, caring parents who taught him to be selfless, honest, etc. I mostly like Byrne’s interpretation of the character but I had nothing to compare it to, it was the first Superman I read. Mark Waid’s Birthright was awesome, but DC didn’t like it and buried it, Johns’ Secret Origin was boring and JMS’s Earth One is the book that I truly hate, I reffer to Chris Sims’ extensive coverage of its awfulness to point out the many, many, many unforgivable reasons why it’s so awful.

@Thad

Birthright is a flawed story. Look at my previous comment about Luthor’s motivation.

In what way does attacking Superman help him attain his goal of helping the Kryptonians?

When Luthor makes contact with the Kryptonians, he says “No! I am real!… We can save each other!”

If he wants to save them, why does he make them seem like invaders out to conquer Earth?

How is he going to save them? By stopping Krypton from exploding or by bringing them into the present?

How can Luthor be smart enough to do either when not even Jor-El could think of it?

Jor-El is CERTAINLY smarter than Luthor, and the BEST plan HE could come up with was to send Kal-El away before the planet exploded. If it was possible to stop the detonation, surely Jor-El would have focused his attention on doing just that. If Jor-El couldn’t figure it out, how could Luthor, who no matter how smart he might be on Earth is most likely no smarter than first grade Kryptonian child?

That has nothing to do with canon, it’s solely about the merits and flaws of the plot, which is flawed.

And that’s just one of many examples of its flaws. You have al the crap with Luthor losing his hair in a fire and then losing his memory of ever being in Smallville. Then there’s giant freaking spider.

And yes, Smallville was a much better origin than Birthright. No question about that.

@Esteban Pedreros

“I reffer to Chris Sims’ extensive coverage ”

Link? I’d be curious to see that just because.

How can Superman be lonely when as Clark he has Lois, Jimmy, Perry, and his parents, and as Superman he has Batman, Wonder Woman, and other heroes who are his friends?

Just because he is the only Kryptonian it doesn’t mean that he is alone.

and, again, Jor-El didn’t send Kal-El to Earth so that he would lock himself away in the Fortress of Mopetude and cry about Krypton’s destruction. He sent him to Earth to embrace life.

If Clark doesn’t marry, he can’t have children, and if he can’t have children then he can’t have descendants like Laurel Kent. Even fans of the Silver Age must appreciate that.

If it was revealed in-continuity, without redoing the origin, that, deep down, Luthor wishes he could live on Krypton amongs the smartest beings in the entire universe next to Coluans, and that he has uncovered the means to prevent the planet from exploding but does not pursuit it because of his hatred of Superman, that would add another layer to the relationship between the two characters.

Luthor won’t do something that will make him happy because it would make Superman, the man who humiliated him when he had him arrested, happy too.

That’s the plot that Birthright should have focused on. Not redoing the origin, not fighting a faux Kryptonian invasion and a giant spider, but explore what Superman’s birthright is. The project had a lot of potential. Had it been the Year One project that explored Superman’s first year in Metropolis the same way that Batgirl: Year One, Robin: Year One, and Nightwing: Year One (all of which were published shortly before or at the same time as Birthright) instead of a reboot, the story could have been more powerful than it is, and it would have “counted”.

imagine a scenario in which Lex and Brainiac team up to advert Krypton’s destruction and then recreate the planet in their own image to create an army of Kryptonians to use against Superman.

@Michael you said this: “and, again, Jor-El didn’t send Kal-El to Earth so that he would lock himself away in the Fortress of Mopetude and cry about Krypton’s destruction. He sent him to Earth to embrace life.

If Clark doesn’t marry, he can’t have children, and if he can’t have children then he can’t have descendants like Laurel Kent. Even fans of the Silver Age must appreciate that.”

You also said that you liked Earth One… I don’t get it. That’s the book that presents Superman as an Asperger angsty teenager who can’t have sex because his is afraid that he’ll destroy the woman he sleeps with… I bet the Kents bathroom was filled with “bulletholes”, from when he entered puberty.

The army of kryptonians already happened. read the Great Darkness Saga but they were Daxamites instead (is the same, but they are vulnerable to lead). And Chris Sims work for Comics Alliance, he kind of reviewed Earth One several times in the War Rocket Ajax podcast… I think he said in their Christmas episode that is you truly hated someone you should give the Earth One, or how awful it would be to receive the book by of those people who know that you like comics, but don’t really know anything about them.

“That’s the book that presents Superman as an Asperger angsty teenager who can’t have sex because his is afraid that he’ll destroy the woman he sleeps with”

In order to avoid doing that, he needs to learn how to control himself, learn more about his biology works, or walk into a chamber that exposes him to red sun radiation and strips him of his powers (or for that matter have sex under a lamp that emits red sun radiation).

There is nothing wrong with Clark worrying about how he can relate to other people, men or women, on a physical level, specially given whatever his frame of reference may be.

In Man of Steel, Smallville, Lois & Clark, TAS, and other versions he didn’t develop his powers right away, it was a gradual development that allowed him to grow up as human and understand the noton of pain, which gives him a frame of reference of what it’s like to be human.

I don’t recall off hand how gradual or inmediate his development was in Earth One.

As for what this Sims person said, it sounds very idiotic and like he, like many other people, are stuck in the 60s and can’t grasp a version of the character that doesn’t susbcribe to that era.

Earth One was epic and grounded at the same time. It presented new ideas regarding the destruction of Krypton and the origin of the S shield that were both ingenious.

JMS created, as opposed to what Waid, Morrison, Johns, and Busiek, did, which was to regurgitate what they read in comics of the 60s and 70s and saw in movies of the 70s.

Neither Birthright, nor Action Comics #850, nor Action Comjcs Annual #10, nor Secret Origin are at all what the origin of Superman would be like in the 21st century, while Earth One comes very close to doing it right.

I ran a search for this Chris Sims guy and what I found was a review (not written by him but on a site he sees to be an editor for) that points out that Earth One is not the story of the boy you see on the cover of the hardcover, but that it is the story of Superman. It seemed like a positive review (though I admit that I just skimmed it).

I think JMS said the same thing on this thread, that the Earth One saga (my term, not his) is the story of Clark becoming Superman (which is pretty much the same thing that Byrne, Carlin, Jurgens, Ordway, Simonson, Kesel, and all the other members of the 80s/90s Super-Team were doing).

His becoming Superman may include how to better use his heat vision as well as how to make love to a woman without breaking her in half. Who knows. It really depends on whether JMS’ focus is solely on finding out how hard Superman can punch or if it also includes how well he embraces life on Earth as one of us as opposed to living in hiding.

Both Birthright and Earth One use the plot of an alien invasion as the threat that Superman defeats.

In BR, the invaders are an army of faux Kryptonians led by the owner of a gun store whom Luthor has equipped with technology he built based on his studies of Krypton, which includes a vehicle that, for some odd reason, is shaped like a spider (because that’s what aliens do, they build vehicles in the form of arachnoids from Earth).

In EO, the invaders hail from a planet that neighbored Krypton and are led by Tyrell, who is on a mission to kill the last Kryptonian. Their army consists of an indestructable ship that becomes a target Superman must destroy in an explosive fashion worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

In terms of scope and rationale Earth One is the clear winner here when it comes to the threat Superman faces.

comicsalliance.com
warrocketajax.com
http://warrocketajax.com/2012/12/17/episode-140-a-few-of-our-favorite-and-least-favorite-things-fmatt-fraction/

I don’t know what review you read, most comics sites have been pretty silent about that book. That indeed has some good reviews that I don’t agree with, and I’m sorry but I’ll leave at that.

This is the review I found when I ran a search for Chris Sims and Earth One.

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/10/27/superman-earth-one-review/

It’s a very positive-sounding review that points out that “Superman: Earth One is not actually a book about [the]guy [on the cover]”, “but It’s about how [the] guy [on the cover] becomes [Superman]”, which is something I agree with.

I for one had very high hopes for Birthright and very low expectations for Earth One.

I ultimately like the latter as much as I loathe the former.

I like that both Man of Steel and Earth One had Clark come to a point in his life in which fate propells him into becoming Superman.

In MoS it was when he saved the Shuttle Constitution, and in Earth One it was the arrival of Tyrell. Both events resulted in the creation of Superman (granted, in EO he already had a costume, but I’m going to chalk that up to the needs of compressing the story. It wouldn’t have been wise for Clark to go make a costume AFTER the aliens arrive).

Johnny Sarcastic

January 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

And to sum up the comments section:

Various fanboys (with a generous assist from a professional nerd) try to explain to Michael that taste in literature is relative to the reader, and fail miserably.

Highlights:
“Why does it have to be a competition?” (because everyone acknowledges you don’t like Birthright, that it is your right not to like any version of Superman you don’t want to, and yet you continue your manic crusade like a drunk street prophet rather than have rational geek discourse)
“are stuck in the 60s and can’t grasp a version of the character that doesn’t susbcribe to that era.” (just remove ‘stuck in the 60s’ … ‘can’t grasp a version of the character that doesn’t subscribe to [an] era.’ sound like anyone you know, Michael?)

my years online discussing comic books have taught me that the one thing advocates of the Silver Age can’t stand is ANYONE who likes anything that contradicts that era or the thing that contradicts the era itself, as you can see from the posts made against Earth One, while at the same time they will place anything that is derivative of that era on a pedestal, so don’t tell me that I’m the one who can’t have a rational discourse.

Johnny Sarcastic

January 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm

You’re the one that can’t have a rational discourse.

Actually I can, and have. I’ve been rationally pointing out all the flaws in BR during this discourse.

Johnny Sarcastic

January 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm

“I’ve been rationally pointing out all the flaws in BR during this discourse.”
Those are your OPINIONS of what a “flaw” is. There’s no hard-and-fast rule to defining what a flaw is when it comes to a matter of taste; that’s equally as ridiculous as my saying that you are “wrong” for disliking bacon if I like it, or for disliking the nighttime over daylight. You might find other people who agree or disagree with you; you may even be in a majority some of the time, but that doesn’t make you ‘right.’ If unanimous agreement were required for stories, we’d never have any thanks to guys like you.

You constantly bash people who like Silver Age or Birthright Superman by saying things like this:
“advocates of the Silver Age can’t stand is ANYONE who likes anything that contradicts that era or the thing that contradicts the era itself”

Do you not see the irony in the fact that they are, in your eyes, ‘wrong’, and you are ‘right’ for liking your versions? That you are just as bad, if not worse than the villains you perceive?

Worse, you’ve painted all ‘silver age Superman lovers’ with one brush. That’s like saying all black people are the same.

Basically, you’re a racist. A comic book racist.

No, those are not opinions, they are facts backed up by the published comic book.

Fact, Luthor’s plan of turning humanity against Superman has no bearing whatsoever on his intention of somehow saving Kryptonians. Read the comic book. The two plots have nothing to do with one another.

Fact, Luthor’s time in Smallville did not enhance the character in any way, shape, or form. It was tacked on because that’s the way it was in the 60s, not because it makes sense (which, oddly enough, is the criteria for writing in the style of the 60s. things don’t need to make sense).

I’m sure that if I was ripping Earth One apart like the rest of the choir, you’d think that I was being rational, but because I’m talking against something that is derivative of the 60s – which to many is akin to holy scripture – you say that I’m irrational.

Be it as it may, it’s a matter of fact, not a question of taste, that Birthright is flawed.

I do enjoy the irony of something called “Superman: Earth One” having nothing to do with the Earth-1/Silver Age version of the character.

Johnny Sarcastic

January 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Actual fact: I haven’t even read Earth One, because I had zero interest in reading JMS Superman after ‘Grounded.’ So no, you are wrong when you accuse me of being an Earth One fanboy. There you go, using horrendous generalizations again, you comic book racist.

Actual fact: I also don’t much care for Silver Age Superman, either, save for the occasional heartwarming story – as I said above, I’m a Byrne guy if I had to “pick” an origin.

You’re literally conjuring up “facts” to “prove” your point. Much like a member of, say, a hooded party. Because you are a comic book racist.

What if I like John Byrne’s origin, but I also like the concept of Lex Luthor and Clark growing up in Smallville together? Am I half-wrong (Halle Berry), or all the way wrong (Denzel Washington)?

I’m not sure why I’m trying to get you to see why you’re irrational, other than I have the flu and have nowhere else to be.

Taste in literature is not a matter of fact. YOU don’t like Birthright, but people who do are not wrong. We’re all going to the same schools and using the same drinking fountains now, man, it’s the 21st century.

you live in a strange world in which comic books are the same as race. and I’m the one who is irrational?

you can like drinking water from the toilet for all I care, it doesn’t make it any more clean.

You can like Birthright, no one is telling you not to like it. your like or dislike of it doesn’t make the plot any less flawed or any more coherent.

Johnny Sarcastic

January 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Haha, no, comic books aren’t the same as race. I think you missed the point.

But you didn’t respond to mild logic and adult conversation, so I used an extreme example to get you to understand that you are making false generalizations.

Allow me to correct your last sentence, “it doesn’t make the plot any less flawed or any more coherent to me.”

Because it’s YOUR opinion. Not a fact. Do you understand the difference yet?

it’s not an opinion, it is a fact.

Fact, once again, Luthor’s plot to make humanity hate Superman has NO bearing AT all on his plot to save Krypton or however else he wants to help the Kryptonians.

If you want to refute that fact, use the actual comic book to prove me wrong. Don’t tell me I’m stating an opinion when I’m actually stating an INFORMED fact from reading the comic book.

If I’m wrong, if I’m forgetting one part of the comic in which one plot informs the other on in which they connect, FIND it and point me in the direction to it.

THAT is the proper way to have a DEBATE based on facts

I stated my FACTS earlier over how this aspect of Birthright is flawed, and if I felt like it I could point to specific issues, pages, and panels that support this FACT.

In order to DISPROVE this FACT, you have to provide COUNTER FACTS that prove me wrong.

Telling me that I’m wrong doesn’t do it.

and to reiterate, in what way, shape, or form, does it make sense for Luthor to turn humanity against Kryptonians and then offer to save them?

How does he plan to save them? By stopping Krypton from exploding, or by helping them escape the planet?

How is he going to do that?

How can Luthor, whose intellect at best rivals that of a first grade Kryptonian child, come up with something that Jor-El, one of Krypton’s brightest, couldn’t think of?

Johnny Sarcastic

January 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I’m going to regret doing this, because you’re silly in the brain and none of this will stick, but oh well.

I just dug out Birthright and re-read it, because I was pretty sure you’re talking crazy. Now that I have re-read it, I’m 100% sure you have either never read Birthright, or did not understand it.

Luthor’s plot to make humanity hate Superman has NO bearing AT all on his plot to save Krypton or however else he wants to help the Kryptonians.
I have no idea to what you’re referring to specifically here – this is not even a plot in the story. He did indeed want to make humanity hate Superman, but he wasn’t going to “save” any Kryptonians. Issue 10, page 11, panel 2, Lex Luthor says that he “has a plan to save Metropolis from the Kryptonians,” not a plan to save the Kryptonians. If you’re referring to his breakdown in issue 12 (pages 23 – 25), it certainly seems that Luthor knows he’s defeated, and his offer of “helping each other” through his Kryptonite-powered wormhole is just a desperate plea for any last-minute weapon he can get (he specifically requests weapons on page 24, panel one).

Even if it WASN’T a desperate ploy for last-ditch weapons (which it was), the only reason he offered it is because his first plan (discrediting Superman on Earth) failed and he knew he was going to lose his status / position / freedom.

I would answer your other “points,” but the fact that Luthor was at no point actually trying to save the Kryptonians pretty much blows a hole in your entire complaint about Birthright. But, just for fun:

How can Luthor, whose intellect at best rivals that of a first grade Kryptonian child, come up with something that Jor-El, one of Krypton’s brightest, couldn’t think of?
Obviously Lex is smarter than a 1st grade Kryptonian – I have no idea where you’re getting that statistic. However, this is an easy answer – since Lex is able to open a wormhole, he can TIME TRAVEL. He can take all the time he wants to create an answer and send it back to the right time. Jor-El was working on a timeline, and it obviously wasn’t enough time for him to come up with an answer to save the entire planet.

Again, irrelevant because Lex wasn’t actually trying to save the Kryptonians.

Side note – Birthright was a lot better’n I remembered.

So you’re position is that the sole reason why Luthor contacted the Kryptonians was to ask reinforcements to defeat Superman?

He spent years building his machine to contact Krypton just in case sometime in the future he met a Kryptonian he hated, he built a faux Kryptonian army to discredit him, he would defeat them, and then he would need to ask the real Kryptonians for help?

That’s your argument?

Clearly, the point of Luthor in BR escaped you.

Luthor in BR was a lonely child looking for aliens because he did not relate to other humans. He believed that aliens were his only intellectual equals.

He spent his adult life building the wormhole machine in order to make contact with the aliens so that he could be with them, NOT so that they would send him weapons to defeat Superman as part of a comic booky supervillain plot (which is what the faux Kryptonian invasion was).

Luthor’s motivation for building the machine was to find people on another world that he would relate to.

What Luthor wanted was to make contact with aliens, that was the reason why he travelled to Smallville in the first place as established in the short Young Luthor story in an issue of Superman Secret Origins and Files.

In Birthright, Clark at one point remarks that Luthor was lonely.

In Birthright, Luthor and Clark have a conversation about alien life, if I recall correctly.

The question I asked was in what way, shape, or form did discrediting Superman, creating a faux Kryptonian army, and making humanity hate Kryptonians help him to attain his goal to make contact with alien life and be with them.Instead, you answered the question I didn’t ask, which was in what way would making contact with aliens help him to defeat Superman.

Luthor did NOT spend his adult life building a wormhole machine to defeat Superman!

Had this been set in the 60s when Clark was Superboy, and had Superboy been responsible for burning Luthor’s hair, THEN it would make sense for Luthor to be a mad scientist who builds a wormhole machine as part of a comic booky supervillain plot to defeat Superman.

I’m not above giving Waid credit for coming up with a compelling idea for Luthor (that deep down he admires aliens and he wants to be with them). That doesn’t negate the flaws in the story.

Btw, I know what makes Superman unique.

Not since Hawkman and Wonder Girl has any comic book character had as screwed up an origin as Superman, whose number of origins in the last decade alone comes somewhere around five or six.

If Mad Magazine payed attention to comic books, they would do a cover with Hawkman and Wonder Girl laughing at Superman for having a worse origin than they do.

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