Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
SPOILERS for Man of Steel, obviously
I’m not here to talk about whether or not Superman would’ve done that. As many have pointed out, that was already settled for mass audiences in Superman II. Instead, I’d like to offer six things that could have made Man of Steel a much better movie, regardless of whose Superman it represents.
“This old version of To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus kills a rabid dog isn’t *my* Atticus”
– Max Robinson, commenting on fan complaints about Man of Steel
I’ll try to keep this as non-spoilery for Man of Steel as possible, but if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to know anything about it, you may want to skip this.
There’s been a lot of discussion the past week about certain choices Superman makes in Man of Steel and whether those are things that character would/should do. Mark Waid describes being so upset by Superman’s actions that he stood up and yelled in the theater. In that review, the writer talks about “the essential part of Superman that got lost in Man of Steel.” And while I agree with what Waid describes as essential, not everyone does. In fact, some folks – like Robinson – question whether readers have the right to make those kinds of statements about someone else’s characters.
So have you heard there’s a new Superman movie out? It’s mostly playing in small art-house theaters with a minimal marketing budget, so you might’ve totally missed it. You should check it out.
If you haven’t seen it, fair warning: Here there be spoilers.
This isn’t a review because, honestly, you’ve probably already made up your mind. However, it is a look at how the changes to the Superman mythos made in Man of Steel have altered the origin, and indeed the character, intrinsically.
A lot of these observations were inspired by a podcast discussion of the movie at Part-Time Fanboy, in which host Kristian Horn caught on to something that hadn’t really stood out to me on my first viewing (the episode was recorded earlier in the week and should be available today). Since the recording, I’ve been thinking about what he said, and the more I think about it, the more I see how it seriously alters Clark Kent, and may in fact be the root of my problems with the Man of Steel.
Most people just looking for an exciting movie or a badass Superman enjoyed Man of Steel, and there is plenty to like: There’s some excellent design, particularly of Krypton, the bar has been raised on super-person battles, and most of the acting is fine to actually quite good; Kevin Costner’s delivery of the line “You are my son,” despite being over-used in trailers, choked me up.
Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel has grossed $141.3 million domestically since its June 14 premiere, breaking the record for a June opening on its way to a $214.6 million worldwide box office. That’s not bad for four days’ work. Of course, the franchise reboot had an estimated $225 million production budget, plus another $150 million for marketing and distribution, so Zack Snyder & Co. still have a way to go.
Clearly the film has legs, which means plenty of more Superman stories online and in print. Here are just a handful of them (warning: potential spoilers!):
• BuzzFeed turned to Watson Technical Consulting to calculate the real-life toll Man of Steel’s sprawling battle between Superman and General Zod would take on Metropolis — or, in this case, New York City — both in terms of money and human life. The disaster experts paint a grim picture in the days following the fight: 129,000 known dead, more than 250,000 missing (most of whom would’ve also died) and nearly 1 million injured. The strictly physical damage is pegged at $700 million, compared to 9/11’s $55 billion (with a further economic impact of $123 billion). The overall damage would be about $2 trillion.
One big potential problem with any Superman incarnation is his relationship with the audience. Even if the story centers around a credible moral dilemma, it risks having him make a choice with which the audience disagrees. Put another way, you can start with a Superman with a definite code of ethics, who always tries to do the right thing, and who puts others’ welfare above his own, and you might still end up with the Injustice comic, the pure-Straczynski issues of “Grounded,” or Superman Returns. For a significant group of fans, these are cautionary examples of How Not To Do Superman (although apparently those Injustice comics sell reasonably well…).
Accordingly, it helps if the audience trusts the particular Superman writer, which is where Scott Snyder, David Goyer, and Christopher Nolan come in. Snyder is already a big deal at DC thanks to his Batman work. Likewise, last year Goyer (screenwriter) and Nolan (producer/director) wrapped up a wildly successful Batman film trilogy.
Still, it’s easy to do Batman. For one thing, Batman doesn’t need to be a nice guy. Like James Bond or Don Draper, his main focus is the work, and the style with which he gets the particular job done. If Bats gets to make a hard moral choice, as he did at the conclusion of The Dark Knight, that’s just gravy.
With that in mind, we turn to the week’s two newest Superman vehicles, one an ongoing comic book, and the other a new film incarnation, to see what choices they present to our hero.
“Dude, I didn’t even get a free ticket. Are you kidding me? It’s DC. Even Marvel invites me to the movies.”
— Superman: Birthright writer Mark Waid, answering the question, “Did you get a ‘based on work by’ credit in [Man of Steel] due to Birthright?” In the conversation that follows, he adds, “They’re not legally obligated to. Why would they? When they did before, that was Paul. Paul’s gone,” with “Paul” being Paul Levitz, former President and Publisher at DC Comics. Update: It’s worth noting here (as Waid points out in our comments section below) that Waid was asked the question and answered it directly, versus complaining about it. As he said in a follow-up tweet: “I’m not complaining about the situation. I could be mad about the policy change, but why? That won’t mend it.”
I didn’t stay for the credits after the movie ended when I saw it earlier this week, so I didn’t see who did and didn’t get credited. But it’s a shame that this policy changed when Levitz left, for many reasons. Blogger Andrew Wheeler makes a good argument for why crediting and compensating creators for their contributions makes good business sense: “I know the moral argument is pointless and the legal one is dead, but I feel there’s a clear financial argument. Incentivising the best writers to give good ideas to companies that trade entirely on ideas seems sane to me.”
With director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel opening today nationwide (many theaters had screenings as early as 12:01 a.m.), it’s impossible to swing a dead Kent without hitting a dozen Superman-related items online or in print. Although most of them are directly related to the Warner Bros. franchise reboot, there are plenty with clear comic-book ties. Here are just a handful of them:
• Superman gets the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, on which Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson’s rendition of the Last Son of Krypton (from December 1972’s Action Comics #419) is given prominence over the movie and TV versions — possibly because Man of Steel star Henry Cavill was featured in April, but hey, we’ll take it. But poor, poor Brandon Routh …
• Mark Waid, whose 2003-2004 miniseries Superman: Birthright (with Leinil Francis Yu) influenced Man of Steel, saw the movie last night and tweeted, “That thunder you heard at around 9:15 EST was the sound of my heart breaking in two.” He followed that with a review on his Thrillbent website that he prefaced with, “It’s a good science-fiction movie, but it’s very cold. It’s not a very satisfying super-hero movie. That said, if your favorite part of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE was Superman standing in the Fortress while Jor-El lectured him, you’re gonna love MAN OF STEEL.”
As part of the big push for the opening of Man of Steel, and the 75th anniversary of Superman, DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee appeared this morning on Bloomberg Television to discuss the evolution of the character, the new series Superman Unchained, digital comics, and what trickle-down effect the film might have on the company’s comics.
Lee on Superman Unchained: ““I was working with Scott Snyder and we said if we could only tell one Superman story, this is what we would tell. If you only have one shot you want to do all the classic element of superman. We have lots in there. We have Lois. We have Lex Luther doing diabolical things. There is a new villain named Rathe. I think we can reveal that now. That is an exclusive. Scott will hate me for that [Laugher]. We are adding things to his mythology and that’s how you keep him fresh and relevant.”
To mark the premiere of Man of Steel on Friday, Mondo will offer two limited-edition prints (both with variant editions) created by Ken Taylor and Martin Ansin. Taylor’s print and its variant will go on sale at random times on Thursday, so you’ll have to follow the boutique on Twitter to find out when you can get it. The “metal variant” of Ansin’s print will go on sale Friday at a random time.
The regular edition of Ansin’s print, however, will be sold via a timed sale, which is only the second time Mondo has offered this (the first was for last year’s The Dark Knight Rises print from Olly Moss). The poster will be on sale for three days. They will start the sale at 12:01 a.m. Central on Friday, and will be open until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, with no purchasing limits. The number printed will be determined by how many are sold in that amount of time. After that, the edition will be closed, printed and never reprinted again.
Check them out below.
With Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel opening Friday, DC Entertainment has moved Superman front and center in the next phase of its “We Can Be Heroes” campaign to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.
The “Superman Edition” on Indiegogo features an array of perks for contributors, ranging from an exclusive Superman Unchained #1 variant cover ($25) and a Jim Lee Superman lithograph ($75) to a Man of Steel poster signed by director Zack Snyder ($100) and a portfolio review with Jim Lee ($1,250).
The press release teases “once-in-a lifetime opportunities for $25,000″ and “a hometown visit by legendary DC Entertainment artist Jim Lee, who will paint larger than life, custom artwork on a 10×10 wall” — maybe they’re one and the same? — so expect many more perks to be added before the campaign’s end on July 8.
“The generosity from the fans of DC Comics during the Batman wave was outstanding and challenged us to create another wave of unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said in a statement. “The first wave of the campaign eclipsed its initial goal of $50,000 in just three days and ultimately raised more than $150,000 in less than six weeks. We continue to be overwhelmed and appreciative of our fans who are helping to make a difference in millions of lives.”
Manga | The mega-popular series One Piece resumed publication in this week’s issue of Shonen Jump, after a two-week hiatus due to manga-ka Eiichiro Oda’s health problems following a tonsil infection. [Cruchyroll]
Comics | It seems like we are reading a lot about comics in the Arab world lately, and Egyptian graphic novelist Achraf Abd Elazim argues that the fourth major comics center (after New York, France and Belgium, and Japan) will be Dubai. [Your Middle East]
Comics | Michael Cavna kics off Comic Riffs’ celebration of Superman’s 75th birthday with a roundup of writers’ opinions on why the character has stood the test of time. [Comic Riffs]
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. While some of you may be scrambling to find that perfect Father’s Day gift, many others are chomping at the bit for the Friday premiere of director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel — or, the perfectly timed debut of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained.
Or perhaps you’re packing your bags for Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con, or simply plotting your weekly visit to the local comic book store. If that’s the case, do we have some recommendations for you …
Comics | To mark the 75th anniversary of Superman, and the premiere this week of Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel, Edward Helmore of The Telegraph recounts the long and bitter legal feud between DC Comics and the families of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster over the rights to to the multibillion-dollar property, a battle from which the publisher has seemingly emerged victorious. [The Telegraph]
Comics | The New York Post’s Reed Tucker has some ideas on how to “fix” comics, starting with cutting the cover price to increase sales. [Parallel Worlds]
Comics | With an exhibit of original art from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts opening in a local gallery last week, a local comic convention in the works, and a thriving comics retail scene all year round, South Florida could just be the next comics hotspot. [WLRN]
It’s not exactly what three residents had in mind last year when they launched a campaign to change the name of Hutchinson, Kansas, to Smallville, but this week city council voted to proclaim June 21 as “Smallville Day” in honor of Superman.
That’s the same day the Man of Steel will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame, alongside “the Father of Basketball” James Naismith, the band Kansas, Menninger Clinic founders Charles, Karl and Will Menninger, and the Union Army’s 1st Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry.
The push to rename Hutchinson was begun last year by friends Ben Eisiminger, KC McNeely and Christopher Wietrick, who noticed similarities between their city and the fictional hometown of Clark Kent — among them, a similar location and population (many more are detailed in the video below). The city of 42,080 also has a Clark Road and a Kent Road.
The Hutchinson News reports that given the 75th anniversary of Superman, the looming release of Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel and the Hall of Fame induction, Wietrick thought it was a perfect time to approach the city council with the idea. Tuesday morning, the members voted unanimously in support of the “Smallville Day” proclamation, which will be read at the June 18 by Mayor Bob Bush.
On June 21 the editor and publisher of The Hutchinson News will travel to Topeka to accept Clark Kent’s induction into the Kansas Hall of Fame, alongside Laura Siegel Larson, the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.
Whether he’s explaining buoyancy or warning of the consequences of evolution denial, there are few things as wonderful and as educational as Bill Nye delivering some scientific knowledge. And so it was a stroke of brilliance that the folks and Gillette recruited the Science Guy for their HowDoesHeShave promotional campaign for director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
As you can likely deduce from the name, the razor brand tackles the question that’s nagged Superman fans and scholars for decades: No, not how he and Lois Lane could have sex — rather, how does the Last Son of Krypton shave? For the campaign, it’s also posed to Kevin Smith, The Big Bang Theory actress (and neuroscientist) Mayim Bialik and MythBusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, but I like Nye’s “grinding theory” (much better than Smith’s half-baked “Kryptonian rocket that brought Superman to Earth theory”).