The picture was tweeted out this morning and looks like it consists of some nice Gary Clark artwork, though it is uncredited.
?The text on the photo references both Superman’s and Batman’s mothers, Martha Kent and Martha Wayne.
That coincidence was used for dramatic humorous effect in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s climactic confrontation between the title characters. As Batman is about to deliver the killing blow to Superman, Clark begins calling out for his mother.
Batman of course does not realize that’s Superman’s mom’s name until Lois arrives to explain, which causes him to pause his assault.
Countless memes have been inspired by that exchange, which effectively ends the conflict between the two and causes them to team up. Batman then goes to rescue Martha from a group of armed soldiers led by the KGBeast in one of the most memorable fight scenes the character has been a part of.
His Batplane also unleashes a barrage of gunfire at some poor sap using a gun mounted to the back of a vehicle, which is slightly overkill, but nobody accused Ben Affleck’s Batman of being subtle. Batman rescues Superman’s mom by causing a malfunction in the KGBeast’s flamethrower, causing him to explode. Martha responds gratefully by telling one of the only jokes in the movie.
It’s nice to see DC Comics embracing the memes and having some fun of their own.
Be sure to give your own Martha a call this morning and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.
Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #978, by Dan Jurgens and Patrick Zircher, on sale now.
Superman’s life is a little complicated right now. His and Lois Lane’s pre-Flashpoint and New 52 versions merged after a confrontation with Mr. Mxyzptlk during the Reborn storyline, and his past is currently a composite of both of these versions. Action Comics #978 showed us what some of this past resembled. In this week’s Action #979 things get a little more complicated as a group of super villains hailing from both continuities has emerged to challenge the Man of Steel. A riff on an organization that made its debut in 1962’s Superman #92, this newly-formed Superman Revenge Squad includes a revived Eradicator, Blanque, Metallo, and Mongul with General Zod soon to join their ranks. The wild card here is Cyborg Superman — while we knew Hank Henshaw was involved in the Squad’s formation from previous issues, it was a safe assumption that Cyborg Superman’s role was going to be filled by Zor-El, the current version of the villain. However, Henshaw instead returns to his pre-Flashpoint role in the issue, a change that introduces new wrinkles to the still-forming Rebirth tapestry.
But before we get to our questions, some important background on Hank Henshaw, a familiar face in the DC Universe, with a long history. During the New 52, he was a fully human doctor working for the Advanced Prosthetic Research Centre, but pre-Flashpoint, he was the original Cyborg Superman. So, who exactly is he, and how could that spell trouble for the Man of Steel?
The New 52 Cyborg Superman, aka Supergirl’s father, Zor-El
Let’s start with who he isn’t; Hank Henshaw is not Zor-El. The New 52 version of the Cyborg Superman. who carried over into the post-Rebirth continuity, is Supergirl’s genocidal father. A scientist like his younger brother Jor-el, aka Superman’s biological father, Zor-El built a dome around Krypton’s Argo City to protect it from the planet’s destruction, sending his teenage daughter Kara Zor-El to Earth in a rocket in case his plan failed… which it did. Barely alive following Krypton’s death, Zor-El was captured, turned into a cyborg and reprogrammed by Braniac. He eventually overcame his programming, whereupon he attempted to save Argo City and cybernetic versions of its citizens by crashing the floating city into the Earth’s oceans while and sucking the life force out of the citizens of National City.
The original Cyborg Superman was created by current Action Comics scribe Dan Jurgens. Hank Henshaw made his first appearance in Superman #46, a member of the crew of a doomed Lexcorp shuttle that was downed by a solar flare in a sequence that was an homage to the Fantastic Four’s origin story. Following the crash, which killed two of the crew, but left their minds intact and able to craft new bodies composed of earth and the shuttle’s wreckage, Henshaw’s body started to decay, while his wife started phasing into another dimension. Superman helped save her using LexCorp technology, but Hank’s body was too far gone, so he uploaded his consciousness into the LexCorp mainframe. Using his new access to information and powers, he was able to build himself a cyborg body and appeared to his wife in his new form. She who was so shocked by his transformation that she committed suicide, leaving Henshaw distraught.
Henshaw then bonded with the birthing matrix that brought Superman to Earth, and used it to build his own spacecraft, the sentient computer consciousness known as the Eradicator. During Henshaw’s travels, he learned that Superman fought the Eradicator at roughly the same time as the solar flare that downed his Lexcorp shuttle, and falsely connected the two events. Believing the Man of Steel responsible for his misfortune, he swore revenge against the Kryptonian, and proved to be one of Superman’s most dangerous and deadly enemies.
The original Cyborg Superman has arrived in DC Comics’ Rebirth continuity.
Like Lois and Clark, the post-Rebirth Henshaw is an amalgam of this pre-Flashpoint and New 52 incarnations. His Superman Revenge Squad includes pre-Flashpoint allies Eradicator and Mongul. He goes so far as to reference his previous relationship with Mongul, proving that thanks to Mr. Mxyzptlk’s recent Rebirth re-jiggering of the Superman mythos, he remembers the destruction of Coast City, which resulted in Hal Jordan/Green Lantern’s descent into madness. The alliance with Blanque and his possession of the Oblivion Stone hail are a holdover from Zor-El’s New 52 incarnation. Although Metallo and Cyborg-Superman have worked together in the Supergirl television series, the pair has not traditionally partnered in the comics.
As Lois and Clark prepare to move back to Metropolis from Hamilton County, Henshaw and his crew prepare to take revenge, but not before bringing a final member into the team. Action Comics #979 concludes with the Superman Revenge Squad setting out to liberate the Kryptonian arch-criminal, General Zod.
The return of Henshaw as Cyborg Superman sets up an intriguing parallel that echoes Superman’s own post-Rebirth journey. Just as pre-Flashpoint and New 52 Clark Kent seemingly co-existed for a time in the Rebirth universe, we are now dealing with two different versions of Cyborg Superman in the present continuity. Will this set up a redemption arc for Zor-El, or will he team with his namesake and Zod to take on Kal-El? Or, like the Man of Steel recently experienced, will the disparate versions of Cyborg Superman find themselves experiencing their own Rebirth moment that will result in their two continuities being merged into a single story? We’ll know more when the next chapter of “Revenge” arrives May 14 in Action Comics #980.
Rebirthdid many things for the publishers characters and universe. It completely revamped almost all of DC’s line of comic books. Of all the changes, none have been more significant and warranted than the course correction for the “Man Of Steel.” Have Superman comics been the biggest beneficiary of DC Rebirth?
***SPOILERS LIE AHEAD***
With Action Comics #979 this week, the Kents find themselves moving back to Metropolis. This is the latest change for Superman comics, bringing them closer to home and farther from the misguided days of The New 52.
In both Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics and Peter J. Tomasi’s Superman, the wholesome hero is restored to his former glory. No longer just a boyscout, Clark is now firmly cemented as the husband and father that he always should have been. The transition has been a smooth one.
Superman Reborn was a major step in addressing the past and future, condensing the continuity of old and new into what it is now simply the future. Sure, there are some gray areas and holes at the moment, but they should be addressed by the time Mr. Oz is discovered and sorted out.
The main point is that being a Superman fan is fun again. Superman comic books are full of mystery and sci-fi action, now complete with a whole lot of heart in the center.
Family appeal isn’t the only return to glory for Clark and company, the Superman rogues gallery has also been getting the treatment. Action Comics #979 this week sees a “Greatest Hits” team-up in Part One of “REVENGE.” Metallo, Cyborg Superman, Mongul, The Eradicator, and Blanque have combined forces to exact their revenge on Superman. That’s not the final roster of their team either.
Dan Jurgens is opening up an explosive new chapter in Superman’s Rebirth era. The evolution by devolution for Clark Kent will continue to be put to the test as the two major titles enter uncharted territory. Both books are also accompanied by some extremely powerful artwork as well, another major factor in restoring Superman fans’ faith in the character.
What do you think about Superman comics thus far? With title do you enjoy more? Are there any elements you miss about New 52 Clark?
Created by two high school students in 1933, Superman has shaped the world of comic books forever. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation has become the world’s most iconic superhero. While everyone might not be a fan of the New 52 Superman (he dropped his undies, changed his attitude and dumped Lois for Wonder Woman) or the Rebirth Superman (an older bearded Superman who is married to Lois and has a son named Jon), there are many other comic books written over the last 75 years worth catching up on. Here are 10 essential Superman comics you need to read.
10. Superman: Earth One – 2010
“You’ve been hiding your whole life, Clark. But if you do anything other than what I think you were meant to do, you’ll still be hiding, because you’ll never be able to show people who you really are, and what you can do. Life was meant to be lived full measure, flat out, pedal to the metal, don’t live the rest of your life like a Porsche that never leaves the garage because somebody’s afraid to scratch it. Live, Clark. Follow your passion. Show the whole world what you can do. Fly, Clark…” — Jonathan Kent
Written by J. Michael Straczynski with artwork by Shane Davis, Superman: Earth One is one of the most recent iterations of Superman’s origin story. Going into a lot more detail, we get to see Superman’s early life, his arrival in Metropolis and the last moments of Krypton before its destruction.
9. Superman: Secret Origin – 2009
Lois: “Are you a man or an alien?” Superman: “I’m Superman, Lois”
If you’re looking for a more traditional Superman origin story (similar to the early 70s/80s movies), Secret Origin seems like the perfect place to start. The series begins with one of Clark’s “earliest memories” and then continues with a story of Clark’s self-discovery to become Superman (who looks a lot like Christopher Reeve here).
8. Superman: Secret Identity – 2004
“Maybe I had a “secret identity”, but then when you think about it, don’t we all? A part of ourselves very few people ever get to see. The part we think of as “me”. The part that deals with the big stuff. Makes the real choices. The part everything else is a reflection of.” — Kurt Busiek, Superman: Secret Identity
Unlike most Superman stories, Secret Identity is set in the real world. It examines the life of a young Kansas writer with the unfortunate name of Clark Kent. In his world, Superman is a fictional character and, unfortunately, his daily life is filled with bullies comparing him to the comic book Clark Kent — the one with super-powers. As fate would have it, one day he awakens to discover that he can fly and that he has developed super-strength, like Superman. But where did these powers come from? This 208-page trade paperback, written by Kurt Busiek with art by Stuart Immonen, received critical acclaim for its original and relatable story.
7. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel – 2005
“Those red eyes, I’m sure they look right through me, like I am nothing more than a nuisance. But when I see you? I see something no man can ever be. I see the end. The end of our potential. The end of our achievements. The end of our dreams. You are my nightmare.” — Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is a five-issue miniseries published in 2005, written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Lee Bermejo. It focuses on Lex Luthor as an extremely human protagonist and tries to show him in a much better light than his traditional villain role. Although Superman only appears here and there, this comic is a great insight to how the world and Lex perceive him – as an alien like god patrolling the skies. Lex’s interactions with Bruce Wayne (Batman) are also quite interesting to read. He presents Batman with a gift — Kryptonite. This ultimately results in a fight between Superman and Batman. Also, Bermejo’s art is beautiful throughout.
6. Action Comics: “Brainiac” – 2008
They call you Superman. Why would they call you that — when you are not a “man” at all? And “super”? There is nothing super about you. — Brainiac
This run of Action Comics retells Superman’s first run-in with Brainiac. Before he came to Earth, the people of Krypton battled Brainiac, a cold and callous alien obsessed with the control of knowledge. Now, Brainiac has set his sights on destroying Earth and finishing off the Last Son of Krypton once and for all. This epic battle will change Superman’s world forever. Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, this comic has a fair amount of graphic violence and is a somewhat darker Superman than some audiences may be comfortable with.
5. The Death of Superman – 1992
Yes, the unthinkable once happened — Superman died. Well, sort of. Can Superman stop the unstoppable creature called Doomsday? Superman finally meets his match here, which results in his death (after killing Doomsday, of course). The story is emotional, told superbly and the art is worth framing. The Death of Superman remains a seminal moment in the history of Superman comics. It is still one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time.
4. Superman: Last Son of Krypton – 2006
Written by Geoff Johns and Superman: The Movie‘s Richard Donner, Last Son of Krypton harkens back to Christopher Reeve’s embodiment. When a rocket lands in Metropolis containing a boy, Superman is convinced he is from Krypton. Will Superman be able to protect him against both Lex Luthor and his new Superman Revenge Squad, as well as the Phantom Zone criminals General Zod, Ursa and Non? The results are charming and the comic reminds us about the true values of the Man of Steel.
3. Superman: Red Son – 2003
What if the rocket that brought Superman to Earth had crashed in Soviet Russia instead of Kansas? What if insane genius Lex Luthor was employed by the US government to develop their own countermeasure against the Man of Steel? Acclaimed writer Mark Millar answers those questions in Superman: Red Son. Starring a host of familiar superheroes, including Batman and Wonder Woman, this superb graphic novel offers a Superman you’ve never seen before.
2. All-Star Superman – 2006
Considered the pinnacle of Superman comics, All-Star Superman is an example of great writing and great art. Grant Morrison attempted to strip the character down to his very basics and tell a Superman story without needing to worry about continuity. And he succeeded. Superman goes toe-to-toe with Bizarro and faces the final revenge of Lex Luthor. If you love Superman, you’ll love All-Star Superman. It’s a must-have and a must-read.
1. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? – 1986
Alan Moore writes Superman. Need we say more? Moore teams with Curt Swan, the definitive Superman artist from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, to tell the final adventure of the Man of Steel featuring his last stand against Lex Luthor, Brainiac and a few other foes.
Moore wanted his plot to honour the long history of the character and to serve as a complete conclusion to his mythology. The story is a frame story set ten years after Superman was last seen, where Lois Lane recounts the tale of the end of Superman’s career to a reporter from the Daily Planet. Her story includes numerous violent attacks against Superman by his enemies, the public revelation of his secret identity of Clark Kent and a number of deaths of those closest to him.
Alan Moore is a master of this kind of superhero story. A public vote of the users on the website “Comic Book Resources” named it the 25th best storyline in comics of all time. It definitely deserves a place on this list as one of the best Superman comics ever.
Other notable reads:
Superman: Peace on Earth Superman: Birthright Superman for All Seasons Kingdom Come Superman: Speeding Bullets For the Man Who Has Everything Superman and the Men of Steel
Superman doesn’t kill. It’s a truism almost as old and well known as the Man Of Steel himself, who by last count was something approaching 77 years old and in no danger of losing his popularity, with his last big screen outing netting a cool $872.7m at the box office. It’s one of the key aspects of his character, besides the red-and-blue uniform, the spit curl, and the secret identity that nobody really buys but ssshhh, we’ve all accepted it for this long, just go with it.
He may not be born of this Earth but Superman is supposed to represent the best of humanity, a standard we should all hold ourselves up to. Which means living virtuously, helping people, and firing lasers out of your eyes if you can. It also means not straight up murdering people, or killing at all, because that’s not cool. Even on Krypton, a place that was certifiably crazy-go-nuts. It’s why people kicked up such a fuss about the end of Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel, why the character’s depiction in the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game is so weird, and why people are always wondering why Kal-El doesn’t use his superior powers to just enslave the whole human race.
Because he’s a good dude, that’s why! Jeez! Except, well, it’s one of those truisms that isn’t actually true. Clark Kent, against his better judgement, has killed before. And he’ll probably kill again, albeit reluctantly. Fun as it is to see The Punisher gun down loads of gangsters, there’s a lot more drama in a guy who expressly respects human life and holds it sacred having to snuff one out.
Which is why, today, we’re going to look at ten times Superman was forced to kill.
Two weeks ago, Action Comics #977 saw a none-too-subtle reference to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns — and in a preview for this week’s issue, it looks like writer Dan Jurgens and artist Carlo Barberi will be headed back to the big screen again for a tweak to Superman’s origin that will sync the character up with Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie.
DC Comics put out a look at Action Comics #978, which features Superman’s first public appearance.
As in most modern incarnations, that appearance saw him rescue Lois Lane…but this time around, it’s not an experimental space plane or a plot by Lex Luthor, but a falling helicopter, not unlike in the character’s first big-screen outing.
The iconic moment is even captured on a variant cover by Gary Frank, who so often draws Superman resembling Christopher Reeve that most fans likely assumed it wasn’t meant to be representative of what’s inside the cover.
The dialogue (and wardrobe, for that matter) isn’t 100% the same, but it matches pretty well, right down to Lois’s brown jacket.
The issue, part two of “The New World,” will explore Superman’s history in the post-“Superman Reborn” era, giving fans a sense for what counts and what doesn’t, and what they will want to know going into the next year of Superman’s story…a year in which, it seems, Action Comics will hit #1,000 and the Man of Steel will face off against Doctor Manhattan and Ozymandias.
(W) Dan Jurgens (A) Ian Churchill (CA) Andy Kubert “Superman Reborn Aftermath” part two! Superman’s life has been changed, some good is back, but the bad is back as well-with a vengeance! As Superman’s allies gather to address the looming threat of Mr. Oz, another Squad seeks revenge against the Man of Steel-and you won’t believe who made the team! RATED T In Shops: Apr 26, 2017 SRP: $2.99
The most popular kind of Superman story these days seems to be one where Superman is corrupted, violent and cynical. A story wherein he fails his never-ending battle and spends most of his time moping about his lack of relevance in an increasingly cold world. Grant Morrison once summarized the Superman character in two words: selfless act. It is a simple yet accurate summary of one called the Man of Tomorrow. Then one day, tomorrow arrived and frankly, it doesn’t seem like a place that rewards or even cares for selflessness.
If anything, tomorrow comes across as a dark and cynical place with nary an opening for hope to flourish. Superman suddenly went from a simple parable regarding the compassionate use of power to a complex and cynical reflection of how society in the 21st century views anyone who would dare be decent in an indecent world.
Famed comic book writer Mark Waid, in his proposal to the 2003 Superman: Birthright series (a retelling of Superman’s origin), made the following claim:
“There are entire generations to whom Superman is about as meaningful and significant as Woody Woodpecker or Marmaduke…and to be honest, I don’t think it has nearly as much to do with comics’ availability as it does with the undeniable fact that the Gen-X and Gen-next audience perceive the world around them as far more dangerous, far more unfair and far more screwed-up than we ever did. To them, and probably more accurately so than we’d like to believe, their world is one where capitalism always wins, where politicians always lie, where sports idols take drugs and beat their wives, where white picket fences are suspect because they hide dark things – and to them, that’s the world Superman REPRESENTS and the status quo he DEFENDS.”
One could argue that the cultural and, more specifically, the deontological downfall of the Superman archetype started in the 1990s. I am referring to the seminal Death of Superman comic book event. I won’t bother summarizing the entire death and return of Superman. Suffice to say, sales and media attention for the comics centering on Superman’s death were extremely high. What that says about our culture is pretty disturbing, especially when we consider what has followed.
The Death of Superman was not just the public saying “we want to see the good guy die,” it served to denounce the public’s obsession with the failure of the selfless act, the failure of the hero in their great struggle. This failure didn’t just manifest in a heroic death. I would argue its primary manifestation is the corruption of the selfless act.
One of the earliest instances of this is the episode “Brave New Metropolis” from SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. The episode, one of many alternate universe tales, deals with Superman having lost Lois in a bombing and in response, teams up with Luthor and decides to impose a fascist dictatorship over Metropolis.
The iconography in this alternate Metropolis brings to mind the Nazi aesthetic. Even Superman’s iconic S shield is replaced by a red lightning bolt, evoking the German SS. People are rounded up in cells for speaking out against Luthor and Superman, and of course, the episode’s title is an homage to Aldous Huxley’s literary masterpiece.
One could consign this episode to the realm of simple one-offs. Nothing more than a curious and well-told what-if story. After all, the world didn’t seem that scary in 1997, hence why the iconography felt exaggerated, befitting of a cartoon. Ultimately, the story didn’t come off as a commentary on current events or phobias of the time. It didn’t seem that the producers had anything in mind other than to show what would happen if Superman had lost Lois to wanton violence. It was not until 2003, in a sequel animated series titled JUSTICE LEAGUE, that we would see a much darker thematic follow-up, one perhaps too close for comfort.
“I Did Love Being The Hero…”
I have written about the considerable influence the episode in question, “A Better World,” has had over popular culture since its debut but that was in the context of a different work. In this particular case, the episode was a case of art reflecting on itself whilst simultaneously being a reflection of the socio-political environment of the time. It had only been 2 years since 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq has only occurred a few months prior. In this episode, we are shown not just a totalitarian Superman, but an entire pantheon of super-fascists called the Justice Lords, with Superman as their leader.
There are many horrible events, alluded and shown, throughout the episode. The most disturbing ones are those involving Superman. The episode opens with Superman killing President Lex Luthor after a debate regarding their relationship as hero and villain. Having finally realized the cyclical nature of this relationship, simply says “I *did* love being a hero. But if this is where it leads, I’m done with it.” Batman and Wonder Woman join him afterwards, with Batman simply “It had to be done.” This was only a prologue to the story proper and yet would serve to announce the new role for Superman in the 21st century.
Another disturbing detail is the seeming absence of supervillains. We are then clued into the fact that most of the villains are either dead or lobotomized, courtesy of Superman’s heat vision. This is made shockingly clear when the true Justice League visits the Arkham Asylum of the Lords’ reality and sees all of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, quiet and obedient. The Justice Lords even hold the concept of free elections hostage and suppress any attempts at free speech, all in the name of security. Given what was happening in the U.S. and abroad at the time, it was a terrifying parallel dressed as a kid’s cartoon.
It was almost as if the episode was trying to prove Waid’s thesis; Superman was not only a terrifying representative of the status quo, he was its strictest enforcer. Of course, when Waid references the status quo, he hardly meant one that espoused fascistic tendencies, but the principle remains the same.
Case in point, the event that denounces this evil Superman’s role as the imposer of the status quo is his and his fellow Justice Lords invasion of the true Justice League’s home reality. They arrive just in time to witness the arrival of Doomsday. History would dictate that the Lords would fail and Superman would fall in battle while killing Doomsday. This expectation is circumvented, however, in narrative and metaphoric levels.
Superman interrogates the creature mid-battle, simply asking what it wants. It replies “Same as you, I imagine. Power. Control.” The theme of art reflecting on itself returns, and we see the metaphoric intention in full display.
While this is only one version of Superman, Doomsday’s response metaphorically applies to the Superman archetype as it stands in the 21st century. The Superman we seemingly want is nothing more than a powerful coercive force.
To illustrate that point, this Superman promptly lobotomizes Doomsday mid-monologue while reporters and bystanders observe. In the aftermath, the Lois Lane of this reality points out how lobotomy is out of character for Superman, immediately followed by the comment from an onlooker “It’s about time if you asked me.” Compassion and understanding are seemingly too old fashioned for the denizens of the 21st century. Cruelty and coercion are not only what we see in the Superman archetype, it is also what we have come to expect and even demand.
If this theory still seems far-fetched, it is important to remember that the follow-up to JUSTICE LEAGUE, JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, was a massive overarching story that was constantly threatening with reaching a conclusion wherein Superman and the League would go, rogue, much like the Justice Lords. While it ultimately did not happen, it evidences the producers’ fascination with the trope.
This theme of a Superman willing to forego moral and ethical boundaries would present itself yet again in the JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS multimedia project, produced by the same individuals who spearheaded previous DC animated series. Not even the origin of Superman was safe from this dark revisionism. While the project’s focus was on darker heroes, Superman was yet again the beating heart of this new, more proactive and violent take on the superhero.
Son of Lara and General Zod as opposed to Jor-El, this Superman was genetically imbued with a predisposition for aggression. Honing this anger was the lack of an upbringing by the Kents. Instead, he is taken in by illegal Mexican immigrants and raised as their own. Witnessing a harsher side to life, though, has made him more prone to lethal violence.
While this approach was understandable since it was a completely alternate universe, it happened to be within a product that was launched while the video game INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US was overtaking the public perception regarding Superman.
The plot of the video game and the tie-in comics was an amalgamation of “Brave New Metropolis” and “A Better World,” complete with the death of Lois and a fascist Justice League under Superman’s command. The narrative depicted in both would have Superman perform some incredibly dark acts, with the murder of Billy Batson/Shazam being the pinnacle of them. Superman murders a teenager in a T-Rated game that sold over 5 million copies. A sequel, INJUSTICE 2, is on the way and it looks to keep up this take on a tyrannical and unhinged Superman.
By far the most public downfall of Superman lies within Warner Brothers’ attempt at a cinematic universe, the DCEU. The first movie of this extended universe, MAN OF STEEL, was nothing but a desperate attempt to refute the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner take on Superman and to a point, I can understand why. It was a take that suited its time well but felt out of place in the 21st century, as SUPERMAN RETURNS evidenced.
However, director Zack Snyder’s take on Superman was rooted in faux realism that clearly catered more to Batman fans than it did to fans of Superman. Make no mistake, MAN OF STEEL is a Superman movie made for Batman fans. For one, none of the flashbacks within the movie remotely hint that Clark was ever happy throughout his childhood. He even loses his father as he watches helplessly from the sidelines, being traumatized by this for over 15 years. Sound familiar?
The movie treated his powers as sources of terror and isolation. He is always depicted as alone and misunderstood, and throughout the movie, his father does nothing to alleviate his confusion. If anything, he propels his son’s fear of himself and tells him that despite having gifts, he should hide them away in shame because the world isn’t ready. I think he might be absolutely right. We’re not ready for anyone as good as Superman.
All these deviations are completely at odds with the ideal of Superman. Even in the comic eras where Pa Kent died like the Silver Age or the New 52 or even in All-Star Superman, Clark learned the same lesson: that he is not a god despite having powers that would point to the contrary. That life and death are still very real to a being as powerful as himself. It is because he can’t stop death from happening to others that he realizes that life is to be cherished and protected, no matter the personal cost to himself. The movie misses this point entirely.
The film also contrives a scenario wherein Superman’s only way to victory is through killing his enemy, General Zod. While the aforementioned works have all depicted Superman doing the same, it was always a moment from which there would be no return. This film would have us believe that Superman kills and everything is just fine afterward, with nary a mention of it happening. According to Snyder’s logic, Superman needed to kill once to learn to never do it again. Barring how twisted that sounds just from a storytelling point of view, that is one disturbing perspective.
Then BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE happened. A masterclass film in the art of missing the point. While all previous products have been dark, here came a film that was not just willing to kill Superman by the end, it needed to humiliate him before doing so. In a single film, we had to have a Superman who questioned his every move and his relevance to humanity. He is depicted as a murdering tyrant in a dream sequence for no reason other than to have a sequence where Superman kills.
None of this is helped by the fact that Superman murders a man in the first 20 minutes of the movie. So much for learning to not kill. However, the most egregious act of these movies is the association of any heroic act with a negative side effect. Both movies attempt to create a moral dilemma for most of Superman’s heroic acts. As if it was a crime to imagine that performing good deeds would render only good outcomes.
This stems from the fact that Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer both aimed for a more grounded and realistic take on superheroes within these movies. There’s a difference between taking the source material seriously and thinking the source material is serious. If a creator is aiming to ground the story of a man who can fly and does nothing but good deeds and expects nothing in return, it is safe to say you have little to no care or understanding for what the character stands for.
By pointing out this fascination with the darkening of Superman, this is not meant to indict the creators. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a fan of many of these works and the creative minds behind them. Many of these narratives are exemplary of their respective mediums and do tell their stories in entertaining and mature manners. What is worrisome is how often creators, good and bad, decide that the Superman archetype must be put through some moral crucible. The end result of this being a violent, troubled anti-hero at best and a morally deficient failure of a hero at worst. And for what?
What is the purpose of driving the paragon of the superhero form through the mud only to leave him there? We can only use this metaphor to reflect our own troubled world so many times before we realize that escapism is necessary. Grant Morrison, in his autobiography Supergods, said that superheroes are a bright, flickering sign of our need to move on, to imagine the better, more just, and more proactive people we can be.
Maybe it is time we join Kal-El in the sun. Maybe it is time to stop reflecting how the world looks in our fictions and start trying to emulate our best fictions in the real world.
WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Action Comics #978
From the moment the New 52 Superman returned to life, it was clear the DC Universe was only big enough for one Man of Steel. The answer was to merge the classic and new versions of Superman into a new hero, and now that Clark Kent has started to explore his own history, fans are learning just how drastically he may have re-written the fabric of space and time. Make no mistake: it’s all in the service of making sure Superman’s greatest, most beloved, and heartwarming moments are once again canon.
Changing the continuity or history of a shared comic book universe isn’t easy, and is typically so far-reaching only major events or crossovers even attempt it. But with the new Superman of DC Comics, it seems the universe itself wants to return to a happier time. To a time when Superman loved Lois Lane, endured decades of insane adventures, stunned the world with his death and return, and finally settled down to raise a family. So how is it possible that it should all work in a universe not old enough for it to make any sense?
First, allow us to fill you in on the new Superman origin story that “Rebirth” was building toward. Then we’ll see how much the New 52 reboot even applies.
From Two Supermen, One
The fans had a hard time believing that the New 52 Superman was dead for good when he turned to ash just before “Rebirth” began – and more likely removed from the living to let the older, pre-New 52 Supes return to the spotlight. They turned out to be right, but few expected DC to deliver the twist they ultimately revealed. For reasons that have yet to be completely explained, it was no longer possible for both Supermen to exist at the same time. When Jonathan Kent, Superman’s son helped bring the New 52 Clark Kent and Lois Lane back to life, it reduced his parents to metaphysical forms. Only when the two Clarks realized that they seemed to be two halves more than two wholes, and merged one’s memories and being with the other was Superman truly resurrected. Not the New 52 Superman, and not the older version from DC past – but an amalgam of both – with a brand new suit to boot.
As the mysterious ‘watcher’ of all things DC, Mr. Oz, took in that transformation, he watched as the impossible happened. Not only had two people joined into one cohesive whole, but the fabric and history of the DC Universe was reshaped to make room. At the time, it seemed like a simple solution: the villains who had been defeated by the older Superman now counted – they happened in this universe, not the one the New 52 replaced. The New 52 costume of Kryptonian armor? Superman wore it… while he and his wife, Lois Lane, delivered their child (with help from Wonder Woman, who had been Lois’s friend, and never a love of Clark’s).
To some, it seemed like an excuse, or ‘cheap’ solution on DC’s part. But in the “Aftermath” of the “Superman: Reborn” story, readers are seeing just how much Superman’s origin story has changed… by not changing. Long story short? Superman’s life is, and was the one older fans remember… which means that the entire New 52 may have just been erased. But first, let’s see what Superman’s canonical history now looks like.
Superman’s New History – Goodbye, New 52
The new origin is delivered in the pages of Action Comics #977 and #978, with Superman’s life being remade into one every fan would make for him. Happy family, loving friends, and in all ways returned to his ‘classic’ state of being. But there’s a problem… something just doesn’t feel right. As if it all seems a little too easy. With Clark experiencing recurring dreams of other versions of Superman fighting to exist the way he and the New 52 version had, he heads to – where else? – the Fortress of Solitude. No longer believing his own memory, he requests that his Kryptonian robot butler, Kelex, recount his entire life’s story. It’s a way for new or confused readers to see what the new canon for the Man of Steel has become, and it’s largely free from surprises in the first issue. Kal-El of Krypton was sent to Earth, found by the Kents, grew up with Lana Lang and Pete Ross, etc., etc..
In the second issue though, things start to change. Once Kelex begins to tell Superman of his superhero career in Metropolis, it soon becomes clear: this is NOT the New 52 version of Superman. Meeting Lois while falling from a helicopter is just the beginning of Superman’s old history becoming his new history – with Supes himself confirming that, following his merge with the New 52 Superman, that is also the series of events he believes took place. Superman’s battles with Mongul, Zod, Bizarro, Brainiac, and Parasite happened as they originally did. And the parade of Superman’s most memorable alternate costumes – including the infamous ‘Electric Blue’ Supersuit – it’s shown that it all now took place in the New 52 Universe.
Obviously, that confirms the increasingly obvious fact that DC’s writers no longer pretend famous storylines never took place (Batman is a young man, but still somehow raised Jason Todd and saw him killed, and his return as an adult). But one Superman story above all others has finally rejoined the canon story – including the colorful characters that followed in its wake.
That’s right, the Superman of the New 52 Universe has already died at the hands of Doomsday, leading to the emergence of Eradicator, Steel, and Cyborg Superman. The panels that follow confirm Clark returned to life – long hair and all – and married Lois Lane. But as this story unfolds from Superman’s perspective, an unseen enemy is busy recruiting these same key players – now made real, along with their grievances with the Man of Steel. Metallo, Blanque, and finally the Eradicator are all recruited to unite against Superman by yet another villain seemingly ‘returned to reality’ with Superman so broadly reshaping it.
From that point, readers get to see how Clark Kent would have learned that he and Lois Lane were going to be parents. And here’s where things get particularly meaningful for those who read through the New 52, and the older Superman’s own survival of Flashpoint with wife and child. Since the original version of the story ended here, with Convergence pulling Superman from the main DC Universe, some changes are needed… because now, Superman never went anywhere. He stayed to see his son born with help from Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, and in a clever story twist from writer Dan Jurgens, it was for Lois and Jonathan’s safety that the Kent family moved away to a remote farm (not to stay hidden from a world already filled with a younger Superman).
That keeps Superman’s black suit and beard in canon, as well as Lois Lane’s career as a secret investigative reporter under the pseudonym ‘Author X.’ In this new reality, it wasn’t out of fear or secrecy that the Kents lived a simple life for Jonathan’s first ten years, but a desire to raise him as humbly and simply as Clark had been raised.
It was only after the League was established in its original form that Superman stepped away – showing in stark relief that in DC’s eyes, the pre-New 52 Superman is the version of the hero whose life is being made the canonical one. It’s not without some logic issues, including the fact that the entire DC Universe apparently got another decade or so older… a curious twist, considering that stolen decade was the main evidence of the New 52’s Watchmen mastermind.
And now that it’s returned, and Mr. Oz continues to watch Superman’s return to normalcy… what consequences will Superman’s actions have for everyone involved?
The Questions Left To Answer
As hinted at, it seems obvious that Superman’s re-imagining of the DCU reality is going to catch the attention of the mystery villain who first stole those years to weaken Earth’s heroes. That figure is largely believed to be Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan, who is famous for letting little slip by his view. So it’s only a matter of time until he rectifies the situation (assuming this wasn’t his plan the entire time).
The most telling twist, though, is the same one mentioned above: Superman has every reason to believe he’s attained his supremely happy ending… but something is tugging at his mind. In the latest issue of DC’s Trinity, Superman informs Wonder Woman and Diana of a recurring dream he’s having, in which he and the New 52 Superman fight to be the one left existing. Whether it’s an internal struggle, a nightmare, or a glimpse of what’s to come in the DC Universe, it’s the final shock of the dream that may be most telling. Waves of Supermen, Batmen, and Wonder Women wearing costumes from through history – and possibly throughout the main DC reality, not alternate Earths – appear in pursuit of their own return and liberation.
So for those keeping track: Superman has won on a scale only he can, returning to the New 52 Universe with his entire history intact, weaving reality itself to make that history the only one that occurred. But it’s an imperfect answer for obvious reasons, and according to the voice inside of Superman’s head… other heroes are going to fight for that same chance.
Needless to say, it’s interesting times to be a DC reader. And if anyone knows what the “New 52 Universe” even means anymore, we’re all ears.