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The PA Report - DC looks back on 75 years of Superman, and for some reason they seem to see a loser

DogDog Registered User, Administrator, Vanilla Staff admin

imageThe PA Report - DC looks back on 75 years of Superman, and for some reason they seem to see a loser

The classic comic book characters have been around so long that you can make them look very different in retrospect depending on what stories you choose to highlight. They can be violent, they can be gentle, they can be unhinged, or they can be the lone center of sanity for a crazy world. Every writer and artist has a slightly different take on these icons.

Read the full story here

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  • GunganGungan Registered User regular
    404 - Is that DC's newest superhero?

  • E-gongaE-gonga Registered User regular
    I'd like to think it's because Superman just punched Solomon Grundy through the PA Server room. He'd look at his defeated foe an drawl "Flawed hero? More like a floored villain." before flying away to tackle a kraken.

  • enderandrewenderandrew Registered User regular
    Working link -

    It could also have something to do with the fact that if Superman never struggles, he is boring. A character that is invulnerable to everything and has all the super powers isn't very interesting in the long run.

  • GunganGungan Registered User regular
    Early Superman felt like a syndicated TV show. Metropolis is in trouble, but of course Superman saves the day because he always does. If he didn't there wouldn't be another episode next week... same bat time, same bat channel.

  • TiberiusEsuriensTiberiusEsuriens Registered User regular
    DC is just so bitter that Marvel keeps getting more popularity because of the movies. They're even taking flack because they show bitter animosity at the idea of diversifying their comic book characters. At this point it just seems that the entire company is in a giant rut of depression. They keep getting mocked on all sides, even by their own fans and writers, and with every press release they dig themselves a deeper grave.

    DC shows all the classic signs of a depression. They are too busy wallowing in their own misery to try and get out of it.

  • The Bad VoodooThe Bad Voodoo Registered User regular
    I know that I'm supposed to like superman and all, but.... I really don't. He's always felt like a power fantasy for children that people couldn't let go of, so they had to fabricate some sort of conflict for him that elevated him beyond Timmy fantasizing that "mom and dad couldn't put him to bed because he was Superman and nobody tells Superman what to do."

    He's a relic, and not really all that interesting.

  • mrthewhitemrthewhite Registered User regular
    part of the problem here is that contrary to what the title of the article says, Superman is no longer DCs flagship character and hasn't been for a while.

    Batman is their new favourite, as is evident simply by the sheer number of titles he's got now (7, 13 if you include spin offs). He's their cash cow and DC doesn't know what to do with Superman any more. He's difficult to write for but they can't just write him off because he's a pivotal character in their history. Would be like Disney axing Mickey Mouse.

    Superman is a difficult character to write because he has very few weaknesses. Most of his conflict has to come from intellectual challenges and that's not as easy to do as having him beat someone up and when a large portion of, presumably, your top writers are on a batman related comic, it doesn't leave much talent left for everyone else.

  • UshioUshio Registered User regular
    Not really surprising this happened as looking through the stories collected it seems to be ones aimed at advertising David Goyer and the Superman focused DC Universe Animated Original Movies.

    Besides with so many Superman stories out there were he wins it's those were he loses that are more memorable (at least until the 80's) for how few there are.

  • mpurekampureka Registered User regular
    @THE BAD VOODOO - Truthfully, I could say much the same sort of thing about Batman; Except that he's also fundamentally ridiculous. He's not deep, he's practically a parody of dark, and he's THE BATMAN!

    I'm curious to see if there's any sort of generation divide on people who like Superman though. Or whether there's just a few people who actually like...heroic heroes.

  • plaintomatoplaintomato Registered User regular
    IMO people that say Superman can't be interesting because he's too powerful have a pretty narrow view and an unhealthy tolerance for the samey stories that come with your everyday hero that's balanced out with more adequate weaknesses to make for easy lazy formulaic stories.

    Superman is often about the burden of all that power, and his decisions to use it selflessly instead of being corrupted by it. He's a different type of hero that requires more thoughtful creative writing - and because of that the series can and sometimes does deliver stories that far exceed the quality of your formula Marvel character.

    Not to say that there aren't a lot of boring Superman stories from people who were inadequate to handle the material. And apparently those responsible for this compilation fall into that same category - just plain inadequate to handle the material. The world is full of stupid people, it's just a shame when they leave their stains on something with the potential of Superman.

  • BrohameBrohame Registered User regular
    Full disclosure: I don't like Superman all that much. He's pretty much the definition of a Mary-Sue character, which isn't the type of character that is very interesting to me. That said, even I think they could have picked better stories to represent Superman than what they chose.

    I don't think anyone should get all mad about this though. You can always get some back issues and compile your own montage of Superman stories based on how you feel he should be presented and share it with your friends. It's not like this book is the final word on who Superman is.

  • Casey ReeceCasey Reece Registered User regular
    I have never once, in my life, enjoyed Superman. *hides behind titanium thick armor plating*

    Don't get out the pitchfork yet guys. I have absolutely nothing against him. Just that, when I was growing up, it's exactly like @The Bad Voodoo says, he felt like a relic.

    Like, he was the "original mold" of the Super-hero. And while the symbolism is rich, and at the time of his conception, he was unlike anything ever published prior, the idea of the "super-hero" has fundamentally changed since his time, and perhaps too not for the better.

    The one thing Superman always had - was a certain sense of maturity in theme. At least the originals. I mean, in the original 30's and 40's Superman's, I don't think you had all the shirt-ripping, muscle-pumping, I'm-the-seed-of-the-Sun type stuff that typically typified most, if not all, of what superheroes would become. He was the kind of guy who a Dad would want his daughter to bring home. He had a strength about him that was derived from his character - more so than his powers. His battle, his challenge, was with himself. How to reconcile who he was with the world that was around him.

    Incredibly powerful themes. And that's not even scrapping the top of it yet.

    I understand Western comics are supposed to be cool and fun. But I could never, ever, for the life of me, get into them. It's not that there was nothing on offer, it's just that what was there really didn't appeal to me.

    But I'm an anime kind of guy. Shows like One Piece - absolutely love it. But then again, as an expressive medium, you can have a "super-hero-esque" style anime like One Piece, and then have a historical re-imagining of a tea-kettle collector in feudal Japan (Hyouge Mono - too brilliant). There's a little more diversity, creativity, and challenge present than cooking up high-school-esque reasons for laser guy to get in a fight with knife guy. My opinion at least.

    Again though - the themes in Western comics are no doubt allowed to be deep as well. My interactions with them never really encouraged it though.

  • Casey ReeceCasey Reece Registered User regular
    This is a comment for the mods/Ben/Andrew/anyone who works here.

    It says "Ben Kuchera" under every single article story on both the main page and at the top of every individual article page. Just recently though, I read a comment that inferred that Andrew had actually penned the piece. Is there perhaps a slight mishap with the code? Is Andrew still here? I haven't seen his name on anything for a couple weeks now that I think about it. Well . . . hope he's still around! :)

  • MechakiscMechakisc Registered User regular
    Contrast him to Punisher. To me, Punisher doesn't believe that his mission will ever be accomplished, he believes that he will just kill as many criminals as he can before someone catches up to him. There is nothing to hope for, because there CANNOT BE a light at the end of a tunnel with no end. He isn't trying to make it better for those who aren't criminals. He's trying to do as much damage to crime as he can before his light goes out.

    Superman believes that there is hope. Not that there will never be bad guys, but that things can get better, can be made better, for those who just want to live their lives. He makes mistakes, but he keeps going. He is beaten down, but he comes back and he keeps going.

    All the bad things happen to Superman, because he can survive it, and he can overcome it, and he will keep going. Because the alternative is no hope.

  • halycon404halycon404 Registered User regular
    When I was a kid Superman was my favorite character. He's the character you're supposed to want to grow up to be, not because all the power he has, but his morals. He's the only unequivocally good Superhero. All of Marvel's characters have flaws or traits that drive them. DCs other characters do to. But Superman? He could do anything he wanted, has no reason to choose one thing over the other, and he chooses to be good for it's own sake. He's singular in that respect, and makes him very hard to write for. And that has been the largest problem with Superman in the last couple decades, the writing. He is an interesting character, probably the most interesting character because he's different, but you gotta have a writer that knows how to leverage it.

  • korekore Registered User regular
    Andrew hasn't been writing for PAR since the end of October. I didn't realize it at first either.

  • er910er910 Registered User regular
    As I got older, I liked Superman more. He is an escape from dark and cruel reality. I just wish DC would let he be "SUPER" more often. Superman should not be brooding. He should be a beacon and the reason other heroes exist.

  • Redskull87Redskull87 Gamer TucumanRegistered User regular
    @CASEY REECE Really, one piece is your good example of good anime???... And is ironic tough, because i thing is all the way around for me, the anime scene is too "formulaic" for me. Yeah they are some great things outside if you want to dig(Horou mousuko, Bartender, Inio Asano, Jiro taniguchi, or 90´s Tezuka). But they are a LOOOOT of formulaic and repetitive things too in japanese manga, hell i HATE the actual scene because if become really, formulaic, even in the way they draw and design, and how the characters ACT!!!!, is like japan are having the 90´s period of comics, in 20XX. The sad thing if that in the old mangas, they was REALLY diverse, even in the shonen scene. With a much great history/drawings, and very mature themes touched, or simple and freaking fun to read. Apart of that, western comics are beyond ONLY superheroes, you have indies, vertigo, icon, some of the actuall image, the underground scene, and the canadian ones. Is like everthing, they are a lot of shit in every art, but tif you want, you can dig and encounter gold!!!!

    And for the people who talks about superman...someone really need to read some of his really good stuff, okay i am gonna admit that superman is a really bad handle character in his "regular series"(really dude), but his spin off is a thing that really need to be read. Superman Red son, Kingdom Come, Superman All-Star, Who happened to the tomorrow man?, Supoerman earth one, and Superman Secret identity, are for me really enjoyable, and REALLY well written. The problem for superman for me, is that is worked with the "action" hero theme, that really don´t work well, he is more for my form to see it, like silver surfer, a GOD, that...want to be us!!!, that ADMIRE US!!!, that ENVY US!!!!, and protect us, because, he think that even if humaity is flawed, they deserve a chance. He is not selfish because he can´t, is sure he CAN, no, because...he want to be the best of us, because he never gonna be like US, he never be a human, he always gonna be, superman. Is a little sad actually if you think of it...

  • BananamousBananamous Registered User regular
    @ER910, @HALYCON404, and @PLAINTOMATO

    You people "get it."

  • DinospyDinospy Pacific NorthwestRegistered User regular
    @Kore and @Casey Reece

    Sophie Prell is even still listed on PAR's About page...and she went to write for Joystiq during the summer. It doesn't surprise me that if Andrew left, it was unceremoniously.

  • MachinesMachines Registered User regular
    God, I hope all comic fans aren't as whiny as this Sims guy. What a terrible crime that the publishers didn't choose to print the happy comics with no surprises or scary moral relativism. They should have printed the safe predictable ones of course.

    Here's a thought, maybe they made Superman look like a loser so that people like Sims could identify with him.

    The book isn't actually all pessimistic, there's a bunch of happy or more familiar comics. The problem seems to be that they're not ALL this way.

  • ffaristocratffaristocrat Registered User regular
    Grant Morrisson's run with an early-days Superman in Action Comics was pretty great - glad to see one of those stories made the collection.

  • Casey ReeceCasey Reece Registered User regular
    @Kore & @Dinospy: Thanks guys. I appreciate the heads up. I enjoyed Andrew's work. While one would find this hard to believe looking at the comment's I left with his pieces - his work reporting on the fighting game communities and league-style play was always interesting. I enjoyed his entries in The Cut as well.

    @RedSkull87: I hear 'ya. Every medium faces its challenges. Thinking back on it now, I really enjoyed the Superman movie I watched a couple decades ago. All he had to do was save California from sinking into the ocean and get Lois. I almost pine for those simpler times, where a realistic level of destruction was an invitation to think of that world as your own. I guess that's what I'm saying regarding Superman. It's not that I never liked him - the whole product just never "spoke" to me. I don't enjoy the coarse, bold lines and rugged hyper-manliness that almost every other comic conveys, and by the time I saw Superman, he was just one of the guys - even if that wasn't the reality at all. The creativity afforded in an anime like One Piece, that invents new characters, new locales, new songs, and new styles constantly - tying together the realms of over a decade-worth of material into a comprehensive, engaging whole. Not a whole bunch of serials under the "One Piece" banner - but one loving, complete, entire product. Luffy is no Bruce Wayne, in that he spent the last half century hanging out in the same city, beating the same who's who of the most wanted time and time again. Happy to keep things at the status quo. No, Luffy enjoys growth, resolve, and a constant effort to better mold his character. He's not a static icon that just gets trumped out to clean the streets issue after issue. There's a beginning with this man. He has a life. He's on a journey. Joining in feels like one too.

    Also, it isn't afraid to have a sense of humour and to be light-hearted. Something I never even . . . really heard of in Western comics (but again - I haven't dug too deep).

    Still though, any further reason to understand where I'm coming from, just watch:

  • D_K_nightD_K_night Registered User regular
    Superman was created during a time where we as humans live through a very dark period. As crazy as it sounds, a simple comic book helped people indulge in a fantasy hero who was able to solve anything and stand for what's good and right.

    But almost a century later, that notion is awfully out of date. We have problems sure, but many of the things that were pressing to the common human being at the time, have been at least addressed, if not resolved. Superman is a relic and honestly shouldn't have been brought back from the dead.

  • Titanium DragonTitanium Dragon Registered User regular
    To be fair, the only reason we even see Batman and Superman as positively as we do is because we don't actually care about the countless victims their adversaries leave behind on a near-constant basis.

  • GuardianAngelGuardianAngel Registered User regular
    @D_K_NIGHT, I couldn't disagree with you more. The notion of selflessness and heroism should never become obsolete. In today's society, where we deify brutality (both professional sports and the military - specifically the wrong aspects of the military) and are taught early that you need to be a sociopath to get ahead, icons like Superman are only more poignant. Also, your idea that the common human no longer has pressing concerns, that society and the world have solved them, is patently false.

    This is a common mistake readers make with period-piece literature. They focus on the frills, the clothing, and the speech, not realizing that most of the basic problem that face the average human haven't changed. It's not any easier to get work, make a good living, and take care of a family. If anything, educational requirements and the way companies constantly search for new ways to cut employees or salaries only makes it harder. People in authority are no more trustworthy or interested in helping the average citizen. Our goal of universal health care is practically a flop before it's even begun. The United States is practically brimming with Lexcorp level corporations that not only flaunt the law, but actively disregard human safety for the almighty dollar. Our own government has passed half a dozen major laws through fear-mongering and backdoor deals. Now is as perfect a time as any for citizens to wish there was a superhero that could come in and actually make a difference.

    @TITANIUM DRAGON, this is actually satire. Superman and Batman don't kill. They are heroes, but they aren't around to make our decisions for us. The fact that no legal system in all of DC has ever sentenced the Joker or Luthor to death is an indictment of the legal system, not these heroes. Worse, it works as satire because that's exactly how our penal system really works. Cops catch bad guys, prison does the opposite of rehabilitation, and then we put bad guys back out on the street with more knowledge and experience to commit more and greater crimes. How is it that no police office has ever just put a bullet in the Joker's head when Batman leaves him for pickup? Do we condemn the police for not taking that leap from hero to villain? No, and it really wouldn't make sense to blame Superman or Batman either. They aren't the ones failing us, they are the ones working hard to make up for everyone else who does.

  • meaculpameaculpa Registered User new member
    After watching Man Of Steel and mulling it around in my head, I kind of think most people (particularly those tasked with writing his exploits) have forgotten who Superman is/was to the extent that I don't actually think of that character up there as "Superman" anymore. I'm certain more than a few commenters here certainly feel this way and where I'm coming from: he feels like a relic because we haven't seen him in a long while. Barring Grant Morrison's escapades, maybe not since 1978.

    And he shouldn't, he should be written in a way that makes him feel as vital and relevant today because...well, because despite the fact that he's fictional people still NEED Superman.

    (I'm not totally crazy: real people turn to all sorts of fictional characters to save them all the time so there is a precedent.)

    DC's little self-pity party made me sufficiently angry to put it all out there online. From my lurking, the audience of PAR seem of credible calibre in the critical faculties department so if there's anyone bored enough to read more nonsense about a fictional flying man, take a look/savagely pelt me with virtual fruit.

    If you'll pardon the shameless self-promotion:

  • JezebeauJezebeau Registered User new member
    Out of context, Superman's triumphant moments are uninteresting. He's described as morally perfect and nearly omnipotent, so we assume he wins out in the end. From that framework, it's his failures that characterize him. They're the only real element of unpredictability in his stories.

  • DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do? Registered User regular
    edited November 2013
    Because Superman wins. In about 99% of the cases he just does everything after trying it once. If they highlighted the guy who won all the damn time it wouldn't draw in new readers.

    In the comics superman is a force of nature, not a character. This is the guy who (As Superboy Prime) punched time.... how the hell do you write that kind of power from a character perspective?

    Dedwrekka on
  • regtocommentregtocomment Registered User regular
    I guess they could have just re-released All-Star Superman.

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    @Jezebeau: And how many times has Superman failed, exactly? Not a great many time, I'd wager.

    Two visions of Superman I REALLY like:
    All-Star Superman - Classic Superman, nothing complicated. Just fun.
    Kingdom Come - Tired of being the icon of hope in a world that doesn't care. And the way he snaps at the end is exactly what he needed in order to finally understand the feelings of the people he's protecting. Utterly perfect.

    I have yet to see any other Superman like that.

    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • spoonybard.hahsspoonybard.hahs Registered User regular
    If I had to wager, it's because there was - despite what many here might think - a positive response to Man of Steel. And to a lesser extent, Smallville. Both showed a Superman that's downright depressed. A Superman that's not allowed to BE Superman. And in the case of Smallville, that's actually a matter of fact. As much as I didn't like Superman Returns, Perry White had a good question, "Does he still stand for truth, justice, all of that?"

    Apparently not. Even in Superman Returns. There seems to be this new found need to make Superman as dark as they possibly can. The linked article mentions that the recent issue included in the Celebration is a #0 of the DC relaunch for Superman. And it is an incredibly awesome story that perfectly encapsulated what Superman was and always should be. And the #1? Superman gets into a pissing contest with the local PD and threatens to drop a suspected gangster off a 50 story balcony if he doesn't confess to the cops.

    We need a light-hearted, goody-goody Superman. What's the point of teaming him up with Batman if they're both scowling all the damn time.

  • wormspeakerwormspeaker Objectively Terrible Registered User regular
    I've always thought that Superman was best when he was playing out the Jesus metaphor, saving us from ourselves. (Most people hated Superman Returns, but I have to say I teared up in the first scene where Superman saves the airliner from crashing.) Unfortunately what this means is that the best Superman stories aren't about Superman, but about us. And that's not the most commercially successful way to do things. Further more there's only so many times you can go to the Jesus well before it runs dry.

  • CrowServoCrowServo Registered User new member
    @Dedwrekka It's true that the book might have been a bit off if they only showed Superman at his smiling, happy self, but at the same time what's important is that Superman is a figure that triumphs. He's the icon that shows, in the end, good will triumph, and all that. Showing him down, beaten, and depressed all the time is both just as boring as showing him as a guy who can't ever lose at anything, and also a poor representation of what he's supposed to embody.

    Though given how he was treated in Man of Steel, maybe this really is how people want to see Superman.

  • humbleElitisthumbleElitist Registered User regular
    @wormspeaker "[...]well before it runs dry."
    Well thats kind of ironic. (wrong word?)
    because of the "but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" verse and all.

    note:I wasn't sure which translation to use, I didn't mean anything by which translation of the text I used.


  • Dark JaguarDark Jaguar Registered User regular
    edited November 2013
    I always saw Superman as an ideal, something to strive towards, and that ideal is supposed to be about finding a better way. I also like stories where Superman does more with his powers than beat up criminals.

    While I haven't read the comic, I saw the movie "All-Star Superman", and well, game over, that's all I need forever. Sure, no Braniac, no Darkseid, and the reference to Batman's existence actually somewhat detracts (I like to think of Superman as being the only super hero that exists in that continuity, no massive sprawling league), but it does everything with Superman I could hope for.

    At some point, I think DC needs to be willing to have their heroes "walk into the sunset" and start over. Have their writers come up with brand new worlds, heroes, and storylines, tell those stories, then come up with brand new ones all over again, and don't even bother having the new stories all take place in the same "universe", because that's not needed and in fact muddles up good storytelling.

    Dark Jaguar on
  • wormspeakerwormspeaker Objectively Terrible Registered User regular
    @HUMBLEELITIST The wording was intentional. The Christian bible makes a poor document for binding morality, but it certainly has a lot of powerful imagery that has been embedded into the last 2,000 years of Western literary tradition. It seems a waste not to make use of it whenever possible.

  • crawlkillcrawlkill Registered User regular
    maybe some kind of misguided attempt at making an omnipotent character who never accomplishes anything interesting?

  • iamnamelessiamnameless Registered User regular
    There is absolutely NO WAY of making omnipotent, morally infallible character even the slightest bit interesting. Every story would be like "yeah yeah, superman will show up and save the day again *yawn*". Superman doesn't even work well as an "ideal", because he has superpowers, making the ideal technically unachievable.

    Seriously, he's not even good as symbolism of "triumph of good vs. evil" because literally the ONLY reason he triumphs over evil is his inherent superpowers.

  • iamnamelessiamnameless Registered User regular
    "This is the guy who (As Superboy Prime) punched time.... how the hell do you write that kind of power from a character perspective?"

    Dr. Manhattan would like to have a word with you.

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