Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Lately I've been thinking about my problem with Superman. I was a kid who loved the Superman and Batman animated series, they were my pipeline into comics. My enjoyment of Batman translated well but it didn't work out with Superman. I've always wondered about why that happened. I loved the Superman cartoon but I couldn't stand the comic book counterpart. I struggled to find any modern day Superman story I can enjoy. It was difficult for me to reconcile how much I loved the cartoon with how much I was disinterested in the comic. Why was there a disconnect between the two? I started watching clips on Youtube of the animated series to try to see whether it was childhood nostalgia that was making the show great or whether the show had a quality about it that made that Superman more special and distinct. As it turns out there was something distinct about the show, Superman was kind of a jerk.

The question then became what was significant about that. The answer is simple his attitude conveyed a personality. This was a Superman who because of his powers was a little arrogant and stubborn (absolute power does that). He reacted to events! He wasn’t written as an idea but rather as a person with character traits. Here is where I think the divide occurs between comics and the animation, the comic Superman is written as an idea instead of a character. That is the cause of the distinction. He is written as an idea of what the writer wants to express. The problem there is this causes him to lose all semblance of a personality. Writers write him to express ideas about humanity at the cost of him having any humanity. The “character” has gone through a change and become an idea which is why it’s more interesting to talk about the concept of Superman instead of reading about his adventures.

This became most apparent when I heard about the JMS Superman storyline (haven’t read it but seen bits and pieces of it). To summarize it, Superman walks around the US because he feels he lost touch with the people. That is a good idea because it is feasible that over the course of several epic adventures that will happen. Yet based on what I’ve seen, the Superman is written naïve and seemed completely unaware of the problems of the world. This goes back to my argument that he is written as an idea. (This is not a criticism of JMS other writers are just as guilty of this. I just had the thought when I heard about his story.) The character of Superman grew up in this world, he was raised on Earth and saw the best and worst of it thus he shouldn’t be this naïve. He couldn’t be. Secondly, he is a reporter. I would imagine over the course of his job he sees all sorts of problems in the world and reports on them. He is aware of the world. This is symptomatic of the larger issue which is writers seem more interested in expressing Superman as the idea of goodness and having him overcoming the evils he encounters as a way to say that we should strive towards those positive ideals to stop and overcome the more negative attributes within our nature. That is a beautiful sentiment but that doesn’t make for ideal storytelling though because you have a character that becomes no dimensional.

Superman becomes the physical form of an idea and it isn’t compelling to read. I need to stress this though, this doesn’t apply to all superheroes but specifically to Superman. Since he has ultimate power there is nothing that can challenge him, it becomes more difficult to create any doubt about the outcome. He is smarter, stronger, and faster than you leaving all villains at a disadvantage against him. The traditional situation of a small force of good standing up to vast force of evil is flipped and now it’s a small speck of evil versus an overwhelming force for good. Ultimately this results in a protagonist that is bland but interestingly enough it adds depth and layers to the antagonist. You get a more emotional investment in the antagonist and why they are fighting against the noble idea than you do caring about the quality of the original good idea. That’s why a villain like Lex Luthor has become more fascinating than Superman. You can find many articles talking about the emotional depth of his character (an excellent one is located on mightygodking) and I contend that is a function of Superman being more an idea than a character. It changes the focus of the story from why is Superman doing this to why would someone be trying to fight this idea.

I will always prefer the animated Superman over the comic Superman. In the animated DCU, he is a man who always has to hold back and be careful. He sees in himself a capacity to become a tyrant but balances that out his desire to do good, actual internal conflict. He is some what stubborn and hard headed, you know an actual character. In the animated universe he is a character but in the comics he’s just an idea.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Black Glove Theory

I haven't read any spoilers or anything for future Batman issues and am making this pick based on the evidence that Morrison has presented us thus far. My pick for the black glove is Alfred hands down. I seriously suspected Tim Drake for all the obvious clues such as the red and black theme that matches his costume plus the fact he had some really ominous dialog but several things occurred to me to make me choose Alfred. The Black Glove has to have unlimited access to all of Bruce's working and have been watching him for a while. The man with the most access to Bruce is Alfred. Through everything that has ever happened, Alfred has always been there and Bruce has always confided in him thus leading to him having the greatest amount of information on Bruce. Another thing that eliminates a majority of suspects is the age factor, we are lead to believe that the Black Glove has been operating for a majority of time so that would eliminate Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, and anyone else younger than Bruce. There are little pieces of dialog that compel me towards this conclusion as well. There was a scene during the "Space Medicine" issue where Bruce was reflecting and he mentioned the fact that Alfred always compelled him to write everything down. Alfred is aware of everything Bruce does to prepare for whatever and he could stay one step ahead of him since he knows what Bruce has and hadn't prepared for. Alfred was also somewhat responsible for introducing Bruce to Jezebel indirectly. Alfred also fits the several of the descriptions that Grant Morrison has stated:

"Ultimate diabolical b_st_rd who decides to destroy Batman"

"What's the biggest most twisted bad guy we could use"

"When we begin to suspect the identity of the villain, I think it's [...] possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years."

"And then above that you have the identity of the Black Glove, who is a person."

"the ultimate diabolical mastermind story about a villain who has been plotting Batman's destruction for so long and with such precision that no-one even suspects his existence - except Batman"

"It's the biggest, most twisted bad guy we could use against Batman"

"it's so up front and obvious. Every issue tells you who you're dealing with it, and it's a character that everyone on the planet knows."

"I keep thinking it’s so upfront, so obvious, that readers will inevitably demand an impromptu hanging when the reveal is revealed"

"to me the answer is so obvious that hiding it has been the real challenge"

Alfred is a character that everyone on the planet knows and he has been upfront and obvious. Mention the fact that he seemed to disregard Bruce mentally breaking down when Tim started asking about him about Batman going crazy. Alfred is my pick for Black Glove and tomorrow we get the conclusion for the R.I.P. storyline.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Justice League of America #26 Review

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Art: Ed Benes

This is pretty much a filler arc, so who cares? Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are barely featured, and recently pushed stars like Tornado aren't even there. It is easy to blow past this arc, but I felt it did a strong job in looking into Vixen's character. For casual readers, she just seems like another one of those JLAers, and it takes certain arcs and issues to establish and build some of the minor characters in these big team books. I totally appreciate how McDuffie does this in this short arc. He presents a low-level character named Vixen with alternate-reality characters, and uses her to work through. It is a classic, but not often used, storyline of a minor character fighting her way to save the major characters. McDuffie gives us a compelling character study. Vixen has to confront her own fears and insecurities to save the day. Anasi is a great villain who breaks the proverbial 4th wall. He comments on storytelling, and captures all of the heroes and distorts what is real and fake. It is Vixen's job to wade through this, and after its all said and done, you actually care about the character. It is a pretty basic premise and storytelling device, but McDuffie does it beautifully. He has a great villain in Anasi, who is a no-name, but is presented very strongly. He has the minor character go over in a way where she discovers new layers within herself. I thought the alternate batman was pretty awesome as well. A gunslinger. That is juts awesome. The art wasn't great

ART: Etch and Sketch

Rage of the Red Lanterns Review

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope

The problem I have with Rage of the Red Lanterns is that is a remake of the Sinestro Corp War one-shot with Red Lanterns instead of yellow ones. I think another big problem is the fact that there seems to be no reason for the Red Lanterns to form. Johns teased us with the forming of the yellow lanterns as he would make yellow rings appear and you would see it building so when you saw the full numbers it was believable to the reader but here I believe you have seen one example of recruiting in the form of the former Green Lantern. I would hold the fact that there is no explanation for the Red Lanterns’ power source but I think that will be addressed later so I’m willing to let that go. Scar the Guardians continues to provide plenty of intrigue as she pushes her agenda through and you notice in the art how her eyes switch allegiances between the various established corps. I thought it was a nice little touch for the Red Lanterns to be as brutal as they are. Since they deal with anger there can’t be any finesses there and the choice of them not being able to make fantastic constructs but instead they just spit fire. The flip side of that is that they are unable to have complex stories with them are the Superboy-Prime corps in the sense that they are one-sided. Green Lanterns often have a break since “will power” is there emotion that you allow yourself to explore the various other motivating factors of a Green Lantern but with a Red Lantern, they’re just mad. The inconsistent art along with what seems to be a trend in epic war story telling makes me weary of the direction Green Lantern is heading but Geoff Johns has some real bright spots which is the complex villain he has Sinestro along with some great character moments from Hal Jordan. The Blue Lanterns look interesting but I think making so many corps may be a bad idea as there could be a limiting factor in what you can do. This was a dependable read and is worth a look even though it suffers from inconsistent art.



An Open Letter

Please Fox, don't do this

This has been an open letter (reviews tomorrow....ish)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Justice Society of America #19 Review

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Dale Eaglesham

Another Geoff Johns book that deals with a team with a lot of characters. Unlike the Legion, I appreciate a lot of the Justice Society members, because I can actually tell who they are. I really like this Gog arc, and it has brought me back to this title after some crap 5 or 6 months ago. Another thing I like about this title is the long story arcs. Johns does not need to cram anything in because he takes his sweet time with the stories, and lets the plots naturally develop while he focuses on characters. That is my type of comic book. This storyline does wonders for the characters. How Gog affected each of the characters is evident throughout. What is better is the uncertainty and skepticism that Gog creates as he creates good. The way Gog gives and gives to the people and the heroes is very one-dimensional, and raises questions upon the reader. Why would anyone this powerful do this? The brilliant thing is Johns recognizes the questions, and he has some of the heroes question the situation within the comic. This provides great natural tension in the comic book, in a way that wasn't forced. Like I said, Johns let the story progress naturally, and the characters were defined enough to have the doubts. This splits the Justice Society down the middle basically, and should provide for some good stuff as we move forward. I really like all the stuff with Black Adam, as I love the character and how it was written in the mini-series, and Johns is doing a great job with it. It will be interesting to see where that subplot goes. I can't say I am terribly impressed with Power Girl, but I will wait and see how that goes. The art was just fantastic, and Alex Ross does a great job with covers. As long as Eaglesham can do the interior, and Ross can just focus on covers, the team is good. I recommend this book in trade form.