‘Man of Steel’: I Want To Believe, Sort Of

Pictured: the author.

Pictured: the author.

Okay, Jimski. All the meditation and medication have been leading up to this.

This week is going to be the biggest test of your character in a long while. In a few quick days, Man of Steel will be in theaters, and for the good of the community you need to commit yourself to A) steer clear of it, B) keep your gripe-hole closed, or C) all of the above.

“… Or D) go in with an open mind, be pleasantly surprised, and learn something along the way”? Are we really going to do this again? The Matrix. Remember your failure at The Matrix. Know your limitations.

I know you have Superman problems, and I know it’s crazymaking when the entire rest of the world seems to disagree with you, but does any right-thinking person want to be the guy who poisons the punch bowl for everyone else going to a party? You wouldn’t have much trouble finding people around iFanboy whose lives are already chock full of sourpusses who see them minding their own business, having a good time, and whose only instinct is to run up and tell them their fun is stupid. If they read comic books as a kid in the seventies or eighties, they probably met their lifetime quota of these meatheads by the time they were fourteen. Don’t be another one. I know it’s irresistible, but it’s childish. To each his own. The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum; what might be right for you may not be right for some. We’re better than that.

Do you hear me, Jim? Better than that. Get through this week with your dignity intact.

People are vibrating with excitement about Superman this week, and why not? After that last Bryan Singer whatever-that-was (with Superman’s six-year-old son committing murder, among other decisions that multiple people had to sign off on) these poor stalwarts had no reason to be sure they’d even get another Superman movie any time soon, much less one with any kind of pedigree. Let them vibrate. You absolutely must not at any point this week blurt out “oh my God Superman is the worst character in modern fiction (besides The Sentry and even that is basically Superman’s fault) how can so many of you not know that aaaagh,” black out, and wake up in a Barnes & Noble with fists full of shredded paper. Not again.

At least don’t post it in any comment threads. If you need a valve to release the pressure you can, like, passive-aggressively slip it into a post of your own. But that is it.

Nothing good could come of it anyway. All you’d get is helpful pedants schooling you about how Superman does have flaws, conflicts and limits. How many more times do you need to have that Glen Weldon piece sent to you? (Weldon does describe a pretty interesting Superman story. Someone really should write it someday– no! Stop this! Behave!) So much effort that would be much better expended on poor Aquaman. Now, there’s a guy who could use some cheerleaders. You want to talk about flaws and limitations? To say nothing of the opportunity to draw an army of attack shrimp storming a beach?

It could be a genuinely good movie! Zack Snyder has made some good movies–saw ’em with your own two eyes, you did!—and he obviously has a reverence for the source material that, say, Richard Lester did not so much. You like all the actors whose names you recognize, and the suits had the wisdom to say, “Let’s get the only people who’ve had any success with our DC characters recently and put them on the case.” After years of false starts and coulda shouldas, Movie Superman’s fortunes could turn around faster than you can say “We don’t have the Harry Potter franchise to put on our annual report anymore.”

Relive all the staring and stiffness at home with Mattel's Terrifying Don Draper Homunculus!

Relive all the staring and stiffness at home with Mattel’s Terrifying Don Draper Homunculus!

Still, we can’t be the only ones, curmudgeonly or not, who hear all these people raving about these trailers and want to discreetly sniff the contents of their drinking glasses. Those trailers make Man of Steel look like a car commercial about a Bible story. Everyone is so moist-eyed, staring poignantly off into the middle distance as if Krypto is being hit by a Kryptonite car right off camera, while a voiceover like an insurance company remembering 9/11 talks about Humanity. And how much grayer could it be without just being a black and white movie? Unless they do a Wizard of Oz thing where midway through the movie Mr. Mxyzptlk appears and everything bursts into pastels (you’d see it) the film as advertised looks completely joyless and earnest and rainy.

But it could be great! At least they’re not using Luthor yet again. They’re using Zod yet again! So hey, that’s something!

I know you’re trying. Old habits die harder than a hero with no significant weaknesses of any kind.

Here’s the thing that always gets you back in trouble: there has been hope for even such a sinner as You, Jimbo. There was a time, not so very long ago, when you thought Captain America was too aw-shucks “just milk for me, bartender” for your eyes to ever focus on him for more than a page. If you had been told in junior high, “In the right hands, actually, Thor can be really interesting, even fun,” you would have said, “It’s a little early in our academic careers to be experimenting with drugs, isn’t it? The guy who talks like the Book of Psalms?” (Catholic school.) The lion’s share of characters you have been following doggedly for the last decade were characters you were rolling your eyes at for the decade before that. It would be kind of nice if Superman became one of those characters.

When you get right down to it, you envy Superman fans. That’s why you keep butting my head into that wall, trying to break through, buying issues you lose interest in and considering going to movies you have no business seeing. Superman fans tend to be bored by ironic detachment. They seem open-hearted and bend toward decency. They are inspired by notions you’re too cynical for. It would be sort of great to be like that. It’d be great to go to that party and drink some of that punch. They make that party look fun.

Now that you have been vulnerable and let the reader into your secret heart, surely everyone can find some common– what’s that? They got mad way before reading this far and already started ripping you a new one in the comments? Well, can you blame them?

If nothing else, at least you got it out of your system without being too big a crab. Maybe you’ll even attract some like-minded souls, and you can all work out these issues together. As long as you’re facilitating a good time instead of getting in the way. Everybody can have fun this weekend.

 


Jim Mroczkowski notices that the only Superman stuff that gets memed around are those covers from the fifties, and he would watch the hell out of a movie where Jimmy Olsen forces Superman to eat a thousand cheeseburgers or whatever.

Comments

  1. Single best non-Mignola use of the “homunculus”

  2. Are there any Superman stories that you’ve enjoyed over the years? Or have you just avoided them altogether? For instance, what is your take on the current Book of the Month?

  3. There was a time, not so very long ago, when you thought Captain America was too aw-shucks “just milk for me, bartender” for your eyes to ever focus on him for more than a page. If you had been told in junior high, “In the right hands, actually, Thor can be really interesting, even fun,” you would have said, “It’s a little early in our academic careers to be experimenting with drugs, isn’t it?

    I felt the exact same way with the exception that I love Superman and almost always have.

  4. Personally, I’m pretty lukewarm when it comes to Superman. I’ve read a few stories about him, but it’s not my bag. That said, I’m definitely going to see the movie, and I don’t begrudge anyone who finds Superman compelling.

    I don’t think anyone should let their dislike of a character/show/movie/band allow them to think they can pass judgment on those that do. Just because you’re not a fan doesn’t mean people aren’t allowed to like it without being accused of “drinking the Kool-Aid”. I think “Two and a Half Men” is a pretty big waste of space, but that doesn’t change the fact that millions of people disagree with me, and watch it every chance they get. It makes them laugh, and if it helps them escape the monotony of the 9 to 5, that is their choice.

    It seems like you agree with me for the most part Jimski, but there’s a devil on your shoulder that is making it hard to follow through. I’m curious though, what was your failure at “The Matrix”?

  5. Jeez, what characters do you actually like; Spawn, the Punisher, and Lobo? I didn’t always like Superman, I used to think he was very boring. My only joy in seeing the character was “Superman: TAS” and “JLU”, until I y’know actually started READING the comics. Not all of them are great, some of them you need the right mood, but there are some real gems out there.

    I agree Aquaman probably deserves a movie more, then again so does the Atom, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter and everyone else that hasn’t had a movie/tv show yet. Besides, its time for a new Supes movie. However if you really hate Superman Returns there’s some great videos online that rip into it (Kevin Smith’s rant on it was pretty funny).

    I can’t wait for “Man of Steel”, I’m having trouble deciding whether to go opening day or Saturday. But now I’m having flashbacks to “Green Lantern”. That looked balls-to-the-walls too and instead just sucked balls. But I live in hope (Shut Up!), so I’m counting the days until I can a kick-ass Superman movie.

  6. “Superman fans tend to be bored by ironic detachment. They seem open-hearted and bend toward decency. They are inspired by notions you’re too cynical for.” I think you hit it on the head, either you are a cynic or not and I think if you are naturally a cynic (which there is nothing wrong with) Superman is a very hard pill to swallow.

  7. I don’t really have strong feelings about the Superman story either way, but I look at those trailers and there is 1) Lois Lane 2) Henry Cavill w/ stubble in a fisherman’s sweater.

    Sold.

    /female gaze

    • You kinda sound like Drew Barrymore in “50 First Dates”. You’re into guys in fisherman sweaters? (I’m not judging, I just want to know).

    • “Those trailers make Man of Steel look like a car commercial about a Bible story. Everyone is so moist-eyed, staring poignantly off into the middle distance as if Krypto is being hit by a Kryptonite car right off camera, while a voiceover like an insurance company remembering 9/11 talks about Humanity. And how much grayer could it be without just being a black and white movie?”

      I laughed so hard. Still, they were awesome and made me REALLY excited for this movie.

    • How weird…I didn’t mean to append this to ohcaroline’s comment.

      But since I’m here, @IthoSapien, the Irish Spring guy? Carving into the green soap w/ his manly buck knife, in his manly Fisherman Sweater? My wife has a HUGE crush on that guy. I have a drawer full of sweaters she bought me that I will never put on.

    • Huh, guess I’ve stumbled onto a way to attract female readers to comics, every man gets a fisherman’s sweater!

      Weird, if you’d asked me what I thought was the sexist article of male clothing I never would have said Fisherman’s Sweaters. I’m guessing this fantasy has no connection to real life, cause y’know sometimes the reality will just kill the fantasy. Seriously, imagine how those things would smell after 1 “hard day’s work”. Different strokes tho.

    • Well, really it’s the whole fisherman package.

      That might have come out wrong.

      And hey, my brother has convinced his wife and in-laws to see the movie because there is (he claims) an Australian cattle dog in five seconds of the trailer, and they really like cattle dogs. WHATEVER IT TAKES.

    • BTW, somebody once assumed I went to see ‘Iron Man’ because I thought Robert Downey, Jr. was attractive when in fact I loved Iron Man before the movie was even a rumor.

      When it comes to Supes, though, I’ll totally own it.

    • I like that attitude; “Whatever it takes, for this movie to ROCK!’.

      You’re not the first women I’ve met that was into Superman for Superman, so yea, good for you!

      BTW, what is the “whole package” of dating a fisherman (flashback to “50 First Dates” again)?

    • I may not be as good at girly things as you are b/c I haven’t seen ’50 First Dates’.

      The whole package = rugged quiet strength and stubble and fashion sense. Though it might just be because I worked at a J Crew call center when I was in college and the only thing to do when it was slow was to read J Crew catalogs and make up stories in your head about the models, many of whom shared Henry Cavill’s fondness for stubble and sweaters and gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

    • Ok, fair enough. Good explaination.

  8. I’m irritated by this piece, because I don’t have this kind of hate or passion to call a character terrible or the worst character ever or any of that. I don’t care for Wolverine, but that’s only because he’s in every single Marvel book. But I don’t hate him. I don’t know, it just seems like the writer was just like, “hmm…I know, I’ll make an article and pretend to be a Superman hater! That’ll get people to read it! Mwahahaha”!!!

    • If you’ve spent any kind of time here you’ll know that Jim has not made up his opinions on Superman just for this article. His antipathy for the character is widely known in these parts.

    • This kind of sounds like a comment from someone who hasn’t spent much time here.

  9. Well written, Jim. We may never agree on the Man of Steel, but your insight into the mind of the Super-Fan is inspired, there, at the end.

  10. Just skip the movie and wait for The Wolverine, you Marvel fanboy. That one looks really great. 😉

  11. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I want to buy Jim some Superman stories and then guilt him into reading them.

  12. I think you should have chosen “B” and ended at paragraph two.

  13. The best Superman story I’ve read in a long time is Avengers #13.

  14. I’d like to know if Jim read All Star Superman and if so, what did he think of it? I bring this up because there’s people who gripe about the Christ-like undertones(?) in the new movie, yet these same people LOVE All Star Supes. If Jim has not read All Star then fine, no problem there due to consistency, but if he did read that story and like it, I have to call B.S. just like all those other phonies.

    • Really, what Christ-likes undertones are in “Man of Steel”? And how do these people know about them, are they psychic? I ask because Singer took a simailier route in “Superman Returns” which irked me for a few different reasons (like the fact that the creators of Superman were Jewish).

      I also didn’t really notice any in “All-Star Superman”. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.

    • Okay… The trailer with 1) Russell Crowe speaking as Jor-El about his son, the way he describes his uniqueness 2) and when he’s explaining to Lois what the “S” on his chest stands for and 3) when Supes is drifting away from a vessel in outer space toward earth notice the pose he is holding. There are many these are few.

      I’ll just give one example of All Star Superman, the cover to issue No. 10 Supes pose can easily be compared to a certain painting of Jesus Christ in THE SAME POSE. It’s up to you how much attention you pay.

    • The Jor-El thing I guess could be Joesph talking about Jesus, but I don’t see the S thing at all. If that’s meant to be the Cross I’ve never heard of Jesus saying “I want to be remembered using This symbol”. I’ll watch the MoS trailers (not that I need an excuse to!) and look for the space poses.

      In Supergods, Grant Morrison had a line about All-Star Supes being like a space Jesus but I just ignored that. It’s Grant Morrison, he says lots of odd things. I’ll give you that cover of All-Star having a Jesus pose tho.

    • Siegel and Shuster were influence by the Moses story, how he was put in the basket and floated down the river to save his life. But there are a number of valid Christ comparisons that have evolved over the years, including Superman’s resurrection. I think you can compare Kal-El’s “death” and regeneration in the Regeneration Matrix to the “Swoon Theory.”

    • I bought All Star Superman #1 the week it came out, but in 2013 all I remember about it is saying, “Nope! No thank you,” and putting it in the recycling.

    • @Kennyg, I get that you can make comparisons between Supes and Jesus but I just feel like it’s coincidental. When Singer incorporated them into “Superman Returns” I feel like he did it out of ignorance (He’s stated he’s not a comics fan and never read any) and so I feel like he projected those themes onto Superman. Personally I just don’t see it when I look at Supes, and I’ve been a Christian for 9 years now. It doesn’t fit with how I see the character.

      @Jim Mroczkowski, I encourage you to give “All-Star Superman” another chance. I didn’t like the first issue either, but I went back and read past that and if became one of my favorite Superman stories. I truly believe it’s one of the best of all time.

    • @Itho: When Lois asks him about the “S” on his chest, Supes explains that on Krypton it means hope. If you connect all the dots the comparisons are there and a good story will transcend any base proselytizing as this one seems to do. As a non-christian I’m not put off by any of this and really looking forward to the movie. I want for it to be a worthy story for the first super hero created.

      @Kennyg: You are correct, sir!

      @jimski: I gotta hand it to you, true to your stand on Superman.

  15. I think this much introspection means Jim may enjoy It’s A Bird… Which is a meta textual approach to Superman that confronts many of the same issues Jim raises.

  16. I’m torn. On the one hand, I like Superman as a character. On the other hand, going by this article, Deadpool is the ultimate character because he is Superman’s exact opposite and I am a huge fan of Deadpool and all characters like Deadpool.

  17. I think it looks great. I mean, “The Wolverine” looks cool, but every time I watch the “Superman” trailer I well up. At the very least it’ll be better than “Green Lantern” and “Johah Hex,” which are tied for worst superhero film of the last ten years.

    What people forget is even the first two “Superman” movies are a mixed bag and are remembered fondly mainly because of Christopher Reeve’s flawless performance as both Superman and Clark Kent and of course John Williams’ anthem. To me Superman begins and ends with Max Fleischer. And “Iron Giant.”

  18. How strange that someone cares so much about their own apathy regarding something like this. It’s like a bizarre form of self-imposed peer-pressure.

    • Anyone this pissed off about something is generally coming from A) genuine hatred and B) frustration that so many people (to them) love it/him/etc uncritically and seem (again, as they see it) to mindlessly excuse every sort of perceived idiocy.

  19. I think that the reasoning behind this article is specious. I’m not a Superman fan but I am able to enjoy a good story told with Superman in it. Good story is good story, end of story.

  20. You know Superman was the first superhero, right? Without him, we might not have all the goodness of superheroes and comic books. So you have to appreciate him for that, at least.

  21. Irredeemable by Mark Waid turned me around on Superman personally. Reading about a Superman with good intentions who wasn’t quite Superman just made Superman more compelling for me.

  22. Only Lex Luther, Brainiac and Darkseid hate Superman. I leave that with you, for your thoughts, and look at my Man Of Steel iconic 1/6 statues of Aupes and Jor-El in awe, until the movie comes out.