Monday, August 04, 2008

Best Something I Was Thinking About

Here's something I was thinking the other day.

Superman is known for being Super, and Super at it's ultimate extension means, you know, he can fly super fast, he's super strong, he's super invulnerable to harm...basically he can do anything and nothing can hurt him. This is the definition of Superman, and it's a great idea for an ultimate protector of the Earth, but a bad idea for storytelling. Where's the conflict and worry when your hero cannot be foiled? So the premise to any modern Superman tale is that some element must be introduced to create a vulnerability in Superman...a weakness is created or his powers are somehow reduced or a new villain appears more super than he...essentially, something happens to make Superman not Super anymore, and from there you've got a story. Superman either has to be able to achieve victory from his diminished capacity or find a way to return to his full-power and unstoppable state (or discover the weakness of the villain more powerful than he). SO, basically, there are no stories where Superman is Super, therefore, there are no Superman stories.

Put me back in college and give me a little more logic and poststructural training and I'll say this even better.

Related This post at Criminal Records details succinctly what I was trying to say about the Dark Knight when I shared my thoughts on the film...that it's an excellent movie but set in a world hostile to the Batman of comicbooks (which, to me, would be Batman) and all his allies and enemies.

And Another Thing What if Superman wasn't Clark Kent but Don Draper? Now that would be an alter ego. Or, actually, maybe Don Draper would make a better Bruce Wayne? OR if you were going to give Don Draper an alter-ego, what would it be? This guy does not count.


Tannerama said...

The dilemma of how do you tell a great Superman story is one that has plagued writers of Superman for decades. Especially when he is portrayed as such a kind, affable, idealist.

I mean there are ideas that would be great in a superman situation. Marvel comics has a superhero who has the power of Superman... but he is a paranoid schizophrenic. Which I feel is a little too far over the edge. They also had a character who had infinite power and "cosmic awareness" and he was frequently abusing that power because he was still a guy.

The problem with Superman is that he has no feet of clay. As I said he is perpetually portrayed as the epitome of benevolence. I think that the best Superman stories which are yet to be told are how superman would react to emotions that he doesn't feel that often. I mean what if he found out that Lois was sleeping around on him? How would a jealous, angry superman go about his business of doing good and saving people?

I think he needs to be written with more depth. More variance of emotion. I mean he can still be an "aw shucks" nice guy from Kansas. But, everyone has a bad day... or degrees of bad days. And I think that good superman stories deal with Superman when he is feeling sad or lonely or isolated.

Or how does superman decide who to save and help and who not to? How does he deal with the knowledge that while he is helping a lady who had her purse snatched in Metropolis there was ethnic cleansing happening on the other side of the globe. How does he reconcile that?

This is the stuff I think of.

JR said...

good post

Brig said...

Good words, Tanner. For these reasons I think Superman is a more compelling Superhero to examine than Batman (the question there seems to be: How much darker can we get?) and would be very fun/exciting/interesting/challenging to write. And I really liked Superman Returns for those same reasons because, while other people were complaining he didn't battle enough, I sat there in the theater thinking "Wow, I wonder how Superman feels right now" or "Boy, I bet Superman likes it that all those people are clapping for him."

greg said...

Superman is the best super hero period because you have to find a flaw which is next to impossible (which was discussed by Tanner). Thats why there are soooo many crappy superman stories. But 1 out of every 100 superman story is brilliant and mind blowing. Opposed to Batman who has 98 decent comics and 2 good ones. Nothing great. Plus Superman has the best villain. Not the BEST villain cause thats magneto but Superman's arch nemesis is perfect for him, Lex Luthor. Its a battle between the hero who was given greatness and power pitted against the man who has had to work their whole life to become powerful. Lex sees Superman and naturally despises him because in his eyes he is not worthy of his power.