Posted by: Doc Comics | May 3, 2010

Why Superman matters?

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, which won 3 Eisner awards and numerous accolades, has a fascinating backstory of its own.

From Mark Waid’s intro to ALL-STAR SUPERMAN vol. 2:

“But the big moment is the perfect line of dialogue. It comes in Chapter Ten, when Superman, without a second’s hesitation, takes time from his world-building feats to embrace and comfort a suicidal young girl. When he tells her, “You’re much stronger than you think you are,” they become the most moving words we have ever read in a Superman story. And they are perfect because they reveal, in one sentence, the fundamental secret of Superman and why we love him so: Gods achieve their power by encouraging us to believe in them. Superman achieves his power by believing in us.

Awesome moments from All-Star Superman:

Superman receives his prognosis.

There’s always a way.”

Lois’ birthday gift.

Trouble with Kryptonians.

It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re much stronger than you think you are.”



Lex Luthor’s epiphany.

As we’ve seen in the last post, the “Man of Steel” has a serious PR problem as a goody-two-shoes who is inherently less interesting and relevant than avenging American vigilantes like Batman or Wolverine. Of course, Superman is also a nostalgic throwback to the Depression Era values of America’s agrarian past, whereas others argue that it is Iron Man Tony Stark who better embodies the contemporary sensibilities of the 21st century’s Gen Y Millennials. Yet Superman endures as the ultimate American synecdoche because he has evolved with the American Dream but continues to represent a nostalgic melancholy for our cherished ideals despite a troubling past. Morrison’s Superman, however, seems to transcend as a “Man of Tomorrow” whose utopian futurism functions as pure ideal and spiritual inspiration. Morrison and Quietly are making an impassioned argument for Superman’s mythic and moral importance, accomplishing the nigh-impossible task of making “The Big Blue Boy Scout” seem fresh and relevant as an answer to the “Grim-n-Gritty” Postmodern Age of SuperAntiheroes and Superkillers.

Read alongside Kingdom Come and ICON or Promethia and Batwoman, this RE-mythologizing in All-Star Superman continues themes raised in Flex Mentallo by these authors. Interestingly, it also contributes to our academic wrangling with the “Mythic Perspective” of Rushing & Frentz and Reynolds, the Genre battles over continuity vs. multiplicity between Coogan and Jenkins, and the ideological criticisms of cultural critics. Oriented to Superman’s impending death, this “Elseworlds” tale both illustrates and defies the critiques of Eco and Andrae and perhaps restores not only some democratic hope but also some faith in exploiting the contradictions of commodified myths. How does this supersavior counter these critiques? Or the critique of Lawrence & Jewett? Is Superman a hero or a leader, or both? How does Superman view humanity here, as contrasted with the “Kill Bill” interpretation? WHY does Superman matter, and what American mythos does he champion that differs from crusading vigilante avengers like Batman? Does Superman exemplify Ghandi’s challenge to “be the change you want to see in the world,” or the Christic command to “love thy neighbor” and “forgive thy enemies”? Is Superman an Übermensch, role model example, savior, prophet, action hero, proto-fascist, or just a fanciful fantasy for kids? How does Superman stack-up to Doty’s “polyphasic” criteria for myths? What is new, and for what effects, within this “multiplicity” experiment in All-Star Superman?



  1. Tim’s Soap Box:
    Crazy Jane from Doom Patrol (and the Brotherhood of Dada along with the kookiest moments of Doom Patrol) illustrate the power of comics to imaginatively engage both the impossible and the pure potentiality of fiction!

  2. From the Seattle Times: “Local Boy with Cancer Turns into superhero for a Day.”

    “The Make-A-Wish Foundation made 13-year-old Erik Martin’s superhero dream a reality with a giant city-wide role playing scenario that incorporated all of Seattle. With the help of the Seattle Sounders, Spider-Man and a DeLorean, Electron Boy saved the day.”

    Further proof that Superman doesn’t lecture or preach, he inspires.

  3. SUPERMAN RETURNS felt like Bryan Singer’s fan fiction for the Donner films, down to Brandon Routh’s uncanny reproduction of Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance (which also influences Quitely’s take on the characters). But IMHO, the final chapters of Mark Waid’s BIRTHRIGHT are the best sequel fodder for the movie franchise. Didn’t Lex get a blood sample on the kryptonite shiv? Holy Bizzarro clone factory! No need to recycle oh so tired General Zod plots when you have 24-hr Superman clones at Lex’s disposal! and if you throw in big robots, no one will complain.

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