Reflections on Superman’s Sad Decline

This week I am going to discuss one of two things that we touched upon in the most recent Pick of the Week Podcast (which featured the mad rantings of the iFanboy staff writers and was a lot of fun), two topics that are representative of the evolving status quo in comics.

This week, I go with Phil Askew’s question about Superman, wondering why DC was doing everything in its power to make the Superman character and associated titles as lame as possible.

Now, somehow, I’ve found myself very much willing to participate in any Superman discussion. Not so much because he’s my favorite character (he really is not), but because I feel very strongly that he is an important touchstone when it comes to America’s concept of “superhero.” I am sure he represents heroism for other countries as well—Grant Morrison told me once that America was a special place because, “you guys created Superman, mate!” — but I grew up here and can only explain my experiences, which included at least two sets of Superman sheets and pillowcases.

Now, you may feel differently—and I hope you do—but I have found the Superman comics to be have been pretty awful for the past few years, and they have done nothing to help the negative image of Superman that Jimski related during our podcast (I fear it was edited out for time), when he explained, basically, that Superman was the worst superhero ever created, a flawed character with zero redeeming features, and to even try to like him, to even try to hope that the books would be good, was folly because the character itself was worthless. (Jimski, I am paraphrasing, but that’s kind of the vibe I got, am I right?)

As much as I do not agree with his point, I see it and concede that the modern Superman has been a letdown, and it seems no one knows what to do with one of the most powerful superheroes in modern comics. And when I say “powerful,” I do not just mean his yellow-sun imbued prowess. Or, despite what the picture above may imply, his teeth.

Yes, he is hard to write for all the obvious reasons, I get that. His powers and abilities and boy scout demeanor do not necessarily make him a character easy for the modern reader to relate to.

Wait. You know what? I don’t usually swear in my articles, but I am calling bullshit on that.

For many of us, Superman gave us power. Your mom would cut out a piece of red fabric and tie it around your neck and you could fly. One piece of fabric with a letter on it would mean a day of flying around…and doing good. Rescuing people. Fighting bad guys. For that afternoon, you had power to do whatever you imagined.

Perhaps the “problem” with Superman is that everyone can relate to him. That everyone has felt like a unwanted visitor, has felt abandoned, has felt like a stranger? That everyone has had that job the grinds away at their psyche, that everyone has longed for someone that didn’t ever take him or her seriously. Or perhaps the problem with Superman is that technology is making Superman less special? I can “be” in almost any place with my mobile phone when I do a video chat. I have the wealth of the world’s information in my pocket. With the internet and my social network, I don’t really have to be faster than a speeding bullet, you know? I can click a button and donate $25 to a cause in a second. When we see an injustice, we have a camera and we can take a picture and we can fight that injustice by exposing it for all the world to see. Compared to the 40s, we are all…super.

Unlike Batman, Superman is not driven by demons. He is driven by the urge to give back, to help this place he now calls home.  Maybe the fact that he does it in the same costume that we imagined ourselves in when we were six years old makes it harder for us to take him seriously as a character when we are older; Superman is a relic of our childhood, a comic book character.

Now, it seems to me, that the character who defined the very concept of heroism for so many of us has the potential to be the most relevant, the most complex and most intriguing modern character in all of comic books. Yet it also seems to me that DC does not see him like this as at all, and, if anything, has forgotten just why Superman is an icon.

The New 52 characterization of Superman seems to me — at least the one I am reading in Action Comics and Justice League — hard to categorize neatly, given that the time lines have been all over the place. However, the words that come to mind for me have been along the lines of cocky and arrogant. This is, quite literally, not the Superman whom we grew up with, which is really interesting because clearly DC was trying to do something “new” with the character since Superman was very easily criticized for being an “overgrown boy scout.” So it looks like they changed him up, but now that they have changed him, he’s less likable and more irritating than ever.

DC, stop playing around with your logos and listen for a second: changing Superman’s personality is not the way to go. The moment Superman becomes arrogant is the moment that he should not be on Earth. Superman needs to admire humanity and learn from us; he can never, ever, be above humanity’s hopes and dreams. We aspire to be like him and he aspires to be worthy of us.

Characterization is, like art, a personal thing, and who knows? Maybe teens like this new Superman. (Yeah, and maybe teens read comics.) However, one thing is clear: DC blew an opportunity when it became clear that Action Comics is now just a “normal” Superman book, with his new lame costume and stupid, toothy grin.

I, for one, wanted a few years of Superman in jeans and blanket/cape. I wanted him to find Superman, to find his new identity as a hero, to understand the responsibilities bestowed upon him. The first issue hinted at a whole slew of possible stories, of character moments, of personal revelations that would, later, define the modern day “New 52” Superman.  This looks like it will not happen. It now looks like Action Comics will turn into Superman and, for people like Phil Askew and myself, we are in the sad position of not reading a regular Superman title.

Is this the new status quo for Superman? Is Superman destined to be a character who creators just throw BIG PROBLEMS at? Is that what Superman is now, just a collection of powers beyond mortal men? Do modern creators look at Superman and consider it a fool’s errand to try to do something different? I mean, I’m a fan of Grant Morrison, but his recent issues of Action Comics have been confounding, with random, gibberish-ridden word balloons, convoluted action sequences and lackluster, saccharin resolutions. If the writer behind All Star Superman can’t tell a compelling Superman story for modern audiences, where does that leave us?

It makes me sad. Superman, like I said, was my “go-to” hero as a kid. He was an example of how one could be good in this world. It would be nice, as an adult, to read a book about that same hero, that same friend, making his way in this world, trying maintain a job, a relationship and keep a promise he made to his parents: to protect those who need protecting…

…and be Superman.


Mike Romo is an actor in Los Angeles. You can reach him through email, visit his Facebook page, connect with him on Google +, and collect his tweets on Twitter.


  1. You hit it on the head, Mike. I hate people who say Superman is boring. Just because a character’s not “flawed” doesn’t mean they aren’t nuanced. You’re not supposed to relate to Superman, you’re supposed to want to be him. Not just the powers, but the morality too.

    • I think the front page image of the kid with the Superman shirt and a black eyes says it all (My childhood memories have been capped with the current run of Action & Superman). Let him be who he is…all-powerful and all likable. Don’t be ashamed of that DC.

      And,don’t get me started on the new Captain Ma…er, SHAZAM.

  2. I sometimes wonder if Superman’s problem isn’t him, it’s us. I feel like, for decades now, there are more cynics than optimists. I just mentioned to my wife that I sometimes think my generation mistakes cynicism for intelligence and sarcasm for humor (obviously, a cynic can be smart and a sarcasm can be funny, but one does not equal the other all times and in every situation). I consider myself an optimist and I run into people all the time who look at me like an oddity.

    How can Superman seem relevant to a pessimist? Most people don’t think that he could possibly exist. I don’t mean this in the “alien that rocketed to Earth and has super powers” sense, I mean it in the “anyone with that much power couldn’t possibly be that good and if they were they would become corrupted” sense.

    Of course, I could be wrong, maybe there are as many optimists as cynics and all the optimists are just quieter.

    • i like what you said here.

    • I think it’s telling that Mike (the eternal optimist) and Jimski (the eternal pessimist) view Superman the way they do.

    • I read that whole post in the voice of Theodore Roosevelt. That made it better. Not that there was anything wrong with it. Just, you know, TR.

    • Bully!

    • Really nice nuance, there–I totally agree. It’s so easy to be snarky and pessimistic…and Superman really flies in the face of that…

    • Wow, I think you’re sadly right on the money here.

    • Perhaps his enternal optimism and undying positivity is one of his superpowers (he does have “ALL” of the superpowers, doesn’t he?)

    • Its not that Superman is a boyscout that makes him less interesting. Peter Parker is also a boy scout. The difference between the two is that one is mortal and one is not. The Hulk had banner and stupidity (sometimes) to curb his power ,, kryptonite is not enough to make Superman exciting. Im not that interested in a character that can almost never be beaten. At least with Spidey we can imagine that.. oh maybe this is it and genuinely be concerned!

    • @iroberts- I’ve often thought the same thing, that his HUGE power set was a detriment to a lot of readers because it gave the impression that he could not be beaten (that might be a reason why All-Star Superman resonated with so many people, it’s literally about him dying). That’s why I was so excited about Action Comics when it first came out: He couldn’t fly, he could be knocked out. I hoped that we would continue in that direction for a long time.

    • I read your article and about a dozen comments, interesting but maybe someone touched on it and I didn’t read the comment but 70 years of stuff has happened, trying to write new creative material is beyond the crew at DC. This Superman works for their target audience of 10 to 15 year olds with no history. Bitching ain gonna change DC, it may be as painful as a divorce but I’m saying goodbye to Superman and maybe Green Arrow too since they enjoy destroying him too.

    • Ding Ding Ding!

    • That’s it.

    • Yeah I agree with you guys we might be the problem. I guess we are just to jaded.

    • I agree as I’m over cynics(especially snooty artist ones) and have been for years, constructive criticism is one thing but cynical pessimists just come off as they can never be happy or just enjoy something for what it is kinda people. And yes if your spending money on a character you love you should definitely voice your opinion but give it up or move on if starts to rain on others parade. This is the world we live in and its as jaded as anyone can be, find the optimism in that and you’ll enjoy life more. I rarely read forum reviews cause I don’t care what anyone thinks about the books I enjoy.

    • Well, I’m a pretty pessimistic guy in some respects, and I’m a huge fan of Superman. A lot of it is nostalgia, I won’t lie, but also history. Superman and Batman are the only two superheroes who span the entire history of the superhero genre AND essentially the medium of comics. But it’s not just that: like any other superhero, Superman is about action and as such, it’s fun to see him fight characters like Darkseid and Metallo. That may be shallow, but it’s true. I like the blue costume with the red cape, I love how he has heat vision and can blast stuff, and he has a lot of catch phrases.

      A lot of this “deeper meaning” stuff is great; but it’s not all there is to it.

      For whatever reason, some people just love to complain when it comes to the character. Even fans. Superman III, the NES game, later seasons of all the live action TV shows (except Superboy) and even the comics over the past X years… they’re not just disappointing, they’re an insult to humanity.

      The perfect example is the death & return. Growing up, that defined the character for me. Not only that, but at a time when DC was unwisely pushing him as the opposite of the most popular superhero around, that saga basically saved him. Yet, SOMEHOW it not only “ruined” him in the revised history, but it “ruined comics.” The diminution of sales, the feeling that everything’s been done, the inability to tell self-contained stories within one issue; it’s that one saga’s fault and nothing else.

      In short: you’re right.

    • “I sometimes think my generation mistakes cynicism for intelligence and sarcasm for humor.”

      I think this is brilliant to the point that I am going to steal it and use it as the answer to every question anyone asks me for the next week or so.

      (Possibly also in TR voice. We’ll see on that part.)

    • Very eloquently put! And I agree; there seems to be this sense that it’s either about making Superman face an powerful threat or trying to force a “message” showing how he relates to humanity.

      If they just told stories and let Superman simply BE Superman – not trying to force things or change the personality he’s developed over decades – I think it would do far more to improve things.

      You can’t FORCE inspiration or admiration.

  3. “that Superman was the worst superhero ever created, a flawed character with zero redeeming features, and to even try to like him, to even try to hope that the books would be good was folly, because the character itself was worthless.”

    That is nothing but TROLL talk, its a completely blanket generalized statement meant to be contrarian and argumentative. Zero redeeming features? worst super-hero ever created? these are absolutely ridiculous things to say with any kind of seriousness, and the author of those comments knows it.

    • Well, no. He who said that truly believes it to be true. Plenty of people do, sadly.

    • come on its not that bad

    • Haha–well, I mean, that’s what he said, and he said it in a warm, joking way–but he meant it and, like Conor said, lots and lots of people really do feel that way…

    • Jimski has a totally valid point. Not everyone likes Superma; My friends and I made fun of Superman for being so goody goody when we were as young as 7. Since then I’ve been able to appreciate some of the stories about him but I don’t exactly love the guy.

      Jim likes the characters of Marvel, most of the time they focus on personality more than mythical archetypes. Intelligent critics like Roger Ebert hate mythological gods because they’re one-dimensional and unrelatable. Christopher Hitchens turned his nose up at most science fiction because the real world is fascinating enough. They all have good points even if they’re opinions strike some of us as bizarre. Just because we disagree with them doesn’t mean they’re trolling.

    • Not just trolls. The words of someone who’s never read a Superman comic in his life and only claims to be into the medium because he sees them as either a hipster thing or as glorified concept art for upcoming movies.

    • @Nightwing83: Okay, that doesn’t describe Jimski at all. Not even a little bit.

      This has been, on the whole, a very interesting and adult conversation. So let’s all calm down, please.

    • If you say so. I’d just humbly suggest that whatever comics he is into wouldn’t be here without Superman, and that I know those criticisms don’t hold water cuz I actually read the comics. If someone wants to appeal to majority/plurality, I humbly suggest he’s out of ammo.

    • You just cannot go around saying the absurd generalizations and expect to have your “argument” taken seriously. Or apparently you can.

  4. Superman is allot like Captain America to me. The S and the Shield are linked as symbols of justice and doing the right thing. Captain America and Superman should not be flawed. They should be beacons of good, right and justice in an other wise murky society.

    • I agree with that but then what does it leave us with? That it’s only been a question of writer quality and/or no one really having a story to tell?

    • There’s an earnestness to both characters that I find really appealing and is one of the reasons that I loved the Captain American movie as much as I did.

      I don’t think it’s a question of writer quality, there have been some very talented people who have taken on the character. I sometimes wonder if it’s just such a different feel from other characters out there that it can be difficult to pull off that sylistic switch. Or maybe different writers want to put “their stamp” on Superman, feel constrained by all the history and try taking him in a different direction.

      That said, All-Star Superman is probably my favorite Superman story (and I’m not alone, from what I gather on iFanboy) and that’s not that old a story, so a fresh and exciting take can be made with the character without sacrificing what makes him who he is.

  5. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It’s too painful to talk about.

  6. I was soooo excited for Action Comics in the new 52. I don’t feel it’s been horrible, but I would say I’ve been quite disappointed. I’m really surprised by how much I dislike the art.

  7. Making Superman a cocky and arrogant person is like making Batman a happy person.

    • Except both of them were true in the past and are perfectly valid interpretations of the character (Superman during his first year or two of the Golden Age, Batman during the Silver Age/60s show, even Morrison’s run to a certain extent).

  8. Just at least a year or two of Born to Run Superman would have been stellar. I don’t think I’ve been thrilled by a first issue as much as Action Comics No.1 Morrison really captured the feeling of the original Action Comics. So much potential was there to keep him rooted to today’s problems and concerns.

    A Superman of the times.

    I get that it was all a fake-out now, but I wish it wasn’t.

    I thought the point of Superman and Action Comics was to differentiate the two books?

  9. I completely agree. Superman is a great character and DC doesn’t know what to do with him. They haven’t for a long, long time (not counting the brief time Geoff Johns wrote him in Action Comics). Why do you think we got the whole Death of Superman storyline? They ran out of things to do with him.

    I’ve been reading the new Action Comics and Superman books and I don’t see Superman anywhere in them. If this is indeed their modern take on the Man of Steel, that does not bode well for me. As a big Superman fan, it feels weird not to be buying a monthly comic featuring the Man of Tomorrow, but that’s what it has come to.

    Superman is my all-time favorite superhero. Nobody else even comes close. Yes, Batman is cool, but there is something greater about the myth behind Superman that makes him a better character. Nobody else in the history of comics has the motivation Superman has – to help. Plain and simple. His greatest power is not his ability to fly or see through walls, it’s to inspire us. When I think about what Superman is all about, I want to be a better person. Batman doesn’t do that to me.

    Now I don’t mean to say I could write a Superman book better than anybody else. If writing a good Superman book was easy, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Clearly it can be done – just look at All Star Superman and Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics. It just seems to me that DC is too intent on being “edgy” with their characters than just flat out producing quality comics.

    I’m not interested in seeing a young Clark Kent “find” his inner Superman. I just got done with ten years of that on Smallville. As for the costume, you cannot beat the classic suit and the classic S-shield. The idea of Superman in some kind of Venom-like body armor is just silly.

    • I think a lot of times people overcomplicate the issue with Superman. I know this is going to sound dumb but it would be nice to see him stop a couple of bank robberies or hijackers.

      If ever there was a zeitgeist to set up Superman and Luthor as opposites with different ideals (Superman/Truth Seeker v Egomaniacal Clandestine Corporate Businessman) you’d think NOW would be the time with all the protestings and financial skullduggery and shim shamming going on in the world.

      It’s just crazy that in the first issue of Superman he was fighting an anonymous fire monster. I thought Action Comics was going to go there but Lois has been shoved to the side, Luthor is a patsy.

  10. We’ll always have All-Star Superman, you guys

    Sometimes, I take that Absolute Editon off my shelf and just giggle at all those amazing comic book pages.

  11. Good points, Mike. I’ve dropped Action Comics after the last issue. Expected something special by GM, but it wasn’t there. Luthor, Brainiac, all this has been told too many times. Too redundant.

    I’m not against Superman being a bit arrogant/cocky, though. He can still be likeable. The late Ollie Queen always had his edges, why not give Clark some edges?

  12. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has found the recent issues of Action Comics to be confusing and bland. And I was also disappointed by the quick transition into Superman. I liked the idea of seeing him learn a thing or two.

    That being said, I do like the current characterization more. I don’t necessarily find him to be arrogant or cocky. I like that he seems to have little patience for those who don’t respect others, the law, or humanity. He may be a little self-righteous but I don’t think he is being cocky.

  13. I think DC may not be as flexible as they want people to believe when it comes to Superman. Like I was thinking after listening to the podcast on Sunday evening, we got one hell of a bait and switch when it came to Action Comics. I, like Mike, was hoping for a good solid run of t-shirt, jeans and Doc Marten’s Superman as he grows into the role and gains the trust of the police department and citizens of Metropolis – de-powered and fighting for the downtrodden. Instead we get the tail end of it and a tease of what it COULD have been like.

  14. I usually like the stuff you write Mike, but this is just ranting for rants sake imo. You don’t get very specific about what it is you don’t like about these books/stories. It all sounds very general to me. There is no way this could become a good discussion. You don’t like the new suit? Seriously??? C’mon, you can write better than that.

  15. Rather than suffering through listening to myself on the podcast, I dug up something I wrote back in 2006 on my old blog that summarizes where I’m coming from:

    Does Superman seriously have fans in 2006 A.D.? I’ve logged some pretty substantial time hanging around comic book shops in my day, and I have yet to meet this person. The t-shirts seem to be selling pretty well, but I wonder if the people who gave this movie a bigger budget than the Marshall Plan gave any more thought to it than, “If they love that logo, they’ll love a movie about a guy with that logo on him.”

    Imagine pitching the Superman character today in a world where he’d never existed.

    “I have a great idea for a superhero. He came to earth from another planet that exploded, which will be great for helping the reader/viewer to not be able to identify with him or relate to him at all. What powers does he have? All of them. How’s that for a twist? He has every super power you can think of. That’s why he has no limitations. None. His skin is unbreakable, he can outrun bullets, and he never ages. His only weakness is exposure to fragments of his home planet; luckily for his foes, his planet blew up in such a way that 90% of its fragments traveled through space directly behind him and landed in the continental United States. He has no other vulnerability, though, so it is never in doubt even for a moment that he will triumph. That way, the viewer will never be bothered by wondering what will happen next and can devote his/her attention to feeling sorry for the villain for finding himself on Superman’s bad side. (Oh, by the way, the superhero’s name is ‘Superman.’ I came up with that myself.) The kicker? Superman is the best person who has ever lived. He is always right, he always knows exactly what to do, and he is always able to do it without help from anyone else in about a minute. (If he needs to reverse time and bring someone back to life, he can, but that might take as many as two minutes.) By making him pure, morally certain in every situation, devoutly patriotic to a country on someone else’s planet, and unstoppable in every way, we can successfully eliminate the conflict and drama that so often bog down today’s storytelling. Mostly, he’ll spend each issue chasing people who could never outrun him and punching people he could crush like Dixie cups, but that’s okay because anyone who would oppose this ungoverned living weapon is obviously a power-mad sociopath.”

    Would you spend $300 million on that guy?

    The only explanation I can think of is some kind of “Superman is America” zeitgeist thing. We take comfort in thinking about a red, white and blue entity that is at once all-powerful and harmless. That being-right-all-the-time thing sure would be nice, too.

    • what about Greek Gods? Aren’t they infallible yet interesting?

    • If by infallible you mean arrogant, paranoid, petty, incestuous, impulsive, and genrally horny, then yes, the Greek Gods are infallible.

    • Gosh, Jimski. You managed to regurgitate every idiotic anti-Superman line we fans have ever heard. You probably think we’d be challenged by these arguments or something.

      1) He’s from another planet, so you can’t relate to him. I mean, even though he acts like a regular guy–if a bit nicer–and was raised as a human. And even though there’s a film series called Star Wars where EVERYONE is an alien but you’re supposed to identify with the character of Luke.

      2) He’s so powerful, you can’t hurt him except with Kryptonite. Or magic. Or sonic attacks (cuz of his super hearing). Or a robot, alien or monster who’s also super strong (like the villains he fights 90% of the time). Or by threatening someone close to him. Or by mental attacks. Yeah.

      3) You’re never in doubt that he’ll win. Kinda like Batman. Or James Bond. Or, like, 90% of protagonists in the history of fiction.

      4) The thing where he’s perfect and has no flaws. Except that’s not who he is. Never was, in fact. Nope, cuz there’s a lot of stories dealing with how he’s naive. Or careless. Or overly attached to people. Or kinda careless like in the movies.

      Add to that the fact that he came first and the reason we have superheroes is due to him means you really don’t know much about those books they call comics, do you?

    • I love Superman when he’s written well. (And I have never associated him with “American might and virtue” or any kind of nationalism whatsoever.) He doesn’t need to be inherently flawed or morally ambiguous or kind of a dick to be relatable. He’s just a guy trying to do the right thing. Yes, he’s incredibly powerful, but everyone in society has different levels of power. I can still relate to a police officer who is just trying to do the right thing even though he has far more “power” than me or anyone else I know. What makes Superman relatable is that he goes through the same daily struggles and has the same emotions that I do. Sure, he can punch out Bizarro, but he can’t really (physically) fight Lex Luthor and big business/beauracracy. He can fly to the moon, but he still has to go to work every day. He has conversations with demigods but still has arguments with his wife (well, did anyway.) That’s why I feel he’s one of the greatest, most relatable characters around – not his power, but his humanity.

    • Perfectly said Nightwing83.

      “2) He’s so powerful, you can’t hurt him except with Kryptonite. Or magic. Or sonic attacks (cuz of his super hearing). Or a robot, alien or monster who’s also super strong (like the villains he fights 90% of the time). Or by threatening someone close to him. Or by mental attacks. Yeah.”

      It’s the writing.

      Look at Supergirl. Her recent run really showed what you could do with a character with Superman’s power set.

      The fact they keep trying to reinvent the wheel, redo his origin, make him less powerful, more powerful, etc etc just shows a lack of good creative talent.

      When has Superman been more powerful than in All Star Superman and that series was awesome. He was also far more powerful in the eighties and those stories were better than the last couple decades of dreck.

  16. I think a lot of the criticism Superman gets is based on trying to make a lot of superheroes angsty. So much of comics read like Dawson’s Creek or Twilight with these incredibly powerful and fortunate characters moping around and complaining all the time.

    The whole comics should be fun idea has been renewed as of late by titles like Spiderman under Dan Slott and Mark Waid’s Daredevil. I like a lot of what DC has done with the re-launch but I think they are tapping into too much darkness in their titles. Seriousness in comics is great with great writing but that doesn’t mean you have to make every character an unlikable douchebag.

  17. In today’s world being the greatest super hero is Superman’s ultimate flaw. People cannot or choose not to relate to him. People are entertained by Charlie Sheen’s antics for crying out loud!

    When he renounced his US citizenship, I thought that was a move in an interesting direction, but then the reboot came along and the first couple of issues touched on it and then: Nothing. This could have been a way for him to reevaluate his role in the modern world, social commentary from his perspective. That didn’t happen and I don’t think it will.

    • They CHOOSE not to. Think about it: if Superman wasn’t “too perfect,” what would make Spider-Man so special? Or any Marvel hero.

      As for all this “social commentary stuff,” well I’m not about to weep too hard. When that happens, it’s the writer making his/her own points and they’re usually not too subtle about which side they’re on and they often seem reluctant to give the other side a fair portrayal.

      Again: I think the Perez/ Moreno issues gave me what I wanted after so long: Superman being Superman. It doesn’t mean there can’t be any stories where they touch upon issues like what they did in Action Comics; but it’s also kind-of important to remind people who spout the old, “derr, he’s too powerful so you can’t challenge him,” crowd that, “oh yeah, like most superheroes, he tends to fight villains with similar powers.” In between those fights, it’s fun to see some wife-beater or drug lord get comeuppance, but you can do that with any superhero, really.

  18. Superman is one of my all time favorite characters, and the first real superhero that i thought was cool as a kid, and combined with all the TV shows i think Good Ol Big Blue really helped get me into the Superhero comics thing. Ever since coming back into comics a few years ago, i’ve EAGERLY wanted a good monthly Superman book and it hasn’t really been there for me.

    To me it seems like they are trying to get too tricky and cute with the character. Trying to change something that doesn’t need it. Whats wrong with a guy in a cape flying around and saving the day? Why can’t he stop heists and some rogues and save people from burning houses…maybe put some bad guys in the negative zone? I think if any character needs to be trapped in a time warp, its Big Blue.

    I feel like DC is trying to reinvent the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich with this one. Its kinda the same reason why Bobby Flay’s gourmet versions of Philly Cheese Steaks and Buffalo wings never win over the originals on his show….when you try an reinterpret a classic, you lose everything that made it great. Keep it simple.

  19. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s not the character that is the problem – it’s the writer. As much as I admire Grant Morrisson, he did his thing on All Star. Time to move on. This also requires some guts from the company to empower a writer to do something original with the character. But, sadly, we see the same names changing chairs on a regular basis. Straczinski, Johns, Levitz, Morrisson, et al over and over. The company has gotten its biggest creative boost lately by giving books to Jeff Lemire and others. It’s time to move on and let new voices take a crack at these characters and hope for something more original than “Superman walks across America” or “Superman with a superiority complex”.

  20. I liken people who get the chance to write Superman to people who win the lottery.
    Sure, some lotto winners use their winnings to help people but a lot of them blow it on gaudy crap.

  21. Superman was cocky for his first 30 years as characterized by his co-creator Jerry Siegel. The only reason I love Superman is because the 50s-60s stuff is some of the best Silver-Age stuff there is. Nothing wrong with turning him back into the boastful prideful defender he was originally written as.

    • Agreed. Just because the creator wrote the character that way doesn’t mean DC should go back to writing him that way. People have been writing Superman stories for nearly three quarters of a century. Let the character evolve.

  22. I’m going to trust Morrison in the long run on Action. However, the art needs to get better immediately.

  23. Has there ever been a trade that has been retroactively re-drawn for the sake of cohesion? Like can we get Chris Burnham to fix a couple of New X-Men issues?

    They probably don’t give enough of a crap but it would be nice to see Morales re-do the fill in work and clean up some of the dodgy pages in the middle of the run.

  24. People talk about these Super Hero stories as modern mythology, and I don’t think that any character embodies that as much as Superman. He’s an ideal, a representation of what we can be, not because of his power, but because of the values he was raised with and his genuine desire to do what’s right, for no other reason than that it is so.

    I’ll tell you what works for me in a Superman story: When it’s recognized that a character like Superman, a person who is actually, truly, unironically good, would have a strange effect on the people around him. It’s one of the reasons that Smallville (in my humble) worked so well as a character piece. You want struggle in a character? Try being a moral and just person in 2012. People don’t trust him at first, they assume that he’s pulling the wool. Next, they look down on him for his ridiculous optimism and perceived naivete. But finally, and most importantly, they’re inspired by him, and try to find that goodness in themselves.

    It works for the character because we identify with that. Not with Clark himself, but with the people around him who are spurred to do good simply by his example. It’s the same thing with Captain America. It’s why those issues where Spidey and Cap hang out are so great. It’s why Kyle Rayner in the Justice League was such a good idea. We are inspired by great examples of humanity and humility, and when we read about others who are as well, we become part of something greater.

    That’s Superman to me.

    • Avatar photo filippod (@filippodee) says:

      I liked your comment. Superman is a tough character to write and your suggested approach is probably the one which has the most potential.

    • Exactly, if Captain America can do well at the box office… I have little doubt that Superman is irrelevant as a character.

    • Although unlike Captain America, the thing that Superman has going against him is that he is so iconic. Everyone has this idea of who he is based on his prominence in the pop culture psyche when in fact they have no real knowledge of the character. This makes it difficult to change him or mold him in new ways. For instance, the idea this “new” Superman is cocky and arrogant when he was that way originally. Unfortunately, I’m not completely sure this is something that he can overcome.

    • @CaseyJustice

      So true. I think the interesting part of Superman as a character is Clark Kent, not Superman. The MAN part of Superman.

      What I find interesting about him is, technically, he’s NOT a man. He’s an alien (a Humanoid alien, but still he’s not a Homo sapien). Being “Super” comes naturally to him. He has to work at being what he sees as being human. I think Clark was raised to believe that human beings are inherently good, and that is what he strives to be.

      He looks up to us (well the “good” ones at least), just as much as we look up to him. While we all want to be Super, he just wants to be a man.

      All the flying and punching and world saving is just an extra action-y incentive.

    • Well said, Casey. I think Morrison totally threw out the goodness and positive influence that Clark Kent’s parents had on him. They gave him his humanity, despite his alien roots. They raised him with the moral compass to do the right thing and inspire others. He’s the Moses, the Jesus, sent by his parent into a harsh world to make it a better place and be the example others aspire to. His might is not what makes him right. His powers don’t make him super. His character, coupled with his abilities, is what makes him unique. That’s the key to the character. Otherwise, he’s just another super-powered bully slugging it out with other super-powered bullies. That inherent goodness is missing in the current books. He’s like some Jersey Shore juicehead, pumped up and looking for trouble – “Come at me, bro” indeed.

      I think the best characterization, outside of the original Donner film, was on Superman: The Animated Series and the Justice League cartoons. Sure, he fought when necessary, and sure, he took some punishment, but he was never an arrogant prick. He had a sense of humor, though. He rarely lost his temper or became enraged. I think the only times I can remember were when he fought Darkseid and maybe Mongul.

      So Superman is hard to write because he’s, ya know, super. Casey hit on this with Smallville. You want Superman’s greatest threat? Loss of hope. Loss of optimism. People not believing him. The physical threats are nothing. Break his heart, and you break the man. That’s the story we need.

  25. Avatar photo dublindarling (@dublindarling27) says:

    Hi, teenager here! Just though I’d give my thoughts since you were wondering what us teens thought about the new Superman. Obviously, I don’t count for every one of us, but this is what I think.

    I like the new Superman. He reminds me of me, actually. Cocky, arrogant, believes himself to be indestructible. Sounds familiar to me. In a sense, I go to a school filled with Supermen. But what I love(d) most about the idea of Superman being a bit of an ass is that we would be able to see him grow, see him become more humble and considerate. The problem is that we were left hanging with this. Clark moved too quickly from his t-shirt and jeans to a full blown suit. He had no time to grow, and I fear, just like I do when I look at my peers, that his personality will carry over. Superman can’t believe that he’s better than everyone else just like high school-ers can’t go into college and the “real world” thinking they’re indestructible, thinking they’re the next big thing, thinking they’re Superman.

    So yes, I like the cocky Superman. What I don’t like is the path he’s taking. As a teenager and someone who has yet to learn how to function outside of a stuffy classroom, I want to learn from his journey. I want to take it with him. That won’t happen if he’s shoved into the (sadly) metaphorical red panties too quickly.

  26. I’m a Supes’ fan and I wanted to like Action & Superman, but it just didn’t click for me.

    Writing a successful Superman series should be simple…focus on what is true about him. He flies, he is mega-strong, he has x-ray & heat vision and he can do anything. Focus on those things and stop trying to be all ‘mystical & weird’ for the heck of it (I’m looking at you Mr. Morrison).

    I understand that without conflict you really don’t have a story, but Superman has been done to death (literally). What else do we need to know about him that hasn’t been said in 80 years…well, we get what we have now.

    • I actually like the regular Superman because it is more-or-less a return to focusing on those things after so many years of, “I… bigshot writer… am reinventing the wheel!!!” Yeah, his costume’s different and okay they introduced a few new characters; but it just felt more like classic Superman, including the deletion of his marriage to Lois Lane.

  27. I could not agree more! Superman is the whole reason I got into comics as a kid and could not have more love for him. When I saw Chris Reeve fly across the screen, my world changed and introduced me to a whole new experience and new personalities who I still am in love with. I am the definition of a “DC Fanboy”, even going as far as to give my son the middle name of Kent, all because of Superman. That being said, Superman is in need of an overhaul. One bringing him back to what we loved. We don’t need a story about him walking to earth to find his connection with humanity. We don’t need him to have emotional demons to fight, we have that with Batman. We just need him to be what he always has been…THE superhero!

  28. Thought I’d weigh in here as well. I think it might be too soon to judge Morrison’s run, and I certainly feel the story of “Coming to Superman” could still be told. I mean, it is Morrison after all, time jumps happen in his books fairly often, so there’s a good chance we could be ‘going back’.

    Also, the new DCU seems to be jumping all over within timelines and continuity, so there’s still hope there.

    Morrison’s all about big ideas, and I suspect he’s still laying ground work. Personally I wasn’t diggin his New X-Men stuff until the last couple of arcs when everything that had come before tied together. I know the New X-Men stuff is divisive, but it’s evidence that he’s done that in the past, so there’s hope.

    And isn’t that what Supes is about? Hope?

    For me, and sorry for going off topic, I’m more bothered by Snyder’s take on Batman. I know I’m in the minority, so don’t judge too harshly, but I’ve always thought, what was coolest about Batman was that he was one step ahead (i.e. the Morrsion JLA stuff). In Snyder’s run, and even Morrison’s before that I feel like he’s scrambling to try and keep up, and it’s not doing it for me.

    • Too soon to judge GM’s run? I would like to give him more time, but I mean, after eight issues one should get an idea o the whole thing. Don’t think that I should have to wait for 16 issues until I’m enilightened about a books real quality.

  29. Great article. I’m a massive Superman fan myself, and these past few years have been especially maddening to me. Action Comics especially just makes me sick to my stomach, because how on earth could DC think that a Superman whose first recourse is violence, who sets himself up as a bogeyman, who is arrogant and taunts the police, is a Superman at all? Sure, Superman was many of those things in his first appearance, but his first appearance happened in a society where Miranda laws didn’t exist, a deeply racist and misogynistic society. Superman has grown as an icon and as a myth since then. He evolved from simple defender to symbol of hope. We shouldn’t be going backwards. As cynical as the world is, we need our symbols of hope more than ever, to remind us that darkness and misery and cynicism don’t equal maturity, that being kind and gentle and loving isn’t weak or unmanly. If someone looks at Superman and sees someone boring or outdated or stupid, the problem is with the person looking, not Superman. Writers are too quick to blame their own inability to grasp the narrative worth of a truly good hero for the problems in their writing, especially. It’s not the concept that’s inadequate; it’s your understanding of it.

    In short: I think that Superman: The Movie got its tagline just a bit wrong. The key to Superman isn’t that “You’ll believe a man can fly.” It’s that “You’ll believe a man can be good.”

  30. Awful the “past few years”? Geoff Johns’s run was just like a year ago. That was great stuff. Or am I confused?

    The human race spent literally thousands of years trying to come up with a hero who actually made the world a better place, and Superman finally pulled it off and he gets shit on for it. Just can’t please some people.

  31. I love Superman. I miss Superman.

  32. I loved that in the 1st issue of New52 Justice League, GL says something like “Batman stays here, Green lanterns got this” and BAM!! He gets blasted through a wall (for being cocky, which is already part of Hals persona) leaving a trail of green blur then you see Supes standing there looking pissed and defensive, eyes red, looks at Batman and says “what can you do?” I thought that was a great entrance for him, not cocky and arrogant but edgy and not to be messed with. Now, I’m someone who never read Superman until the last cpl years and even so only checked out Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman,Azzarello and Lee’s For Tomorrow, Geoff Johns Ending Battle, Secret Origin, Shane Davis’s Earth One, Geoff John’s w Eric Powell on Escape From Bizzarro World and the James Robinson New Krypton stuff, all in trades and all a little older and not much of the ongoing just specific story arcs and I like all the aforementioned. I don’t know why but I had a Smallville guilty pleasure marathon and it got me obsessed with a characters mythology I never cared about in 20+ years of collecting comix, maybe I like all this stuff cause it was so new to me being a Marvel kid and then Image launched when I was 13 and that changed the game again and pushed DC further away from me but somewhere in all this theres a point. Superman story and the essence of the character, and the key points to his origin are classic and think they need to find a balance of “boyscout” and edge, and take him somewhere he hasn’t been, off the shelves until a good approach and great creative team come along, although I haven’t read it but from the premise i’ve gathered think Morrison’s Action Comix has potential and is yet to really take off, I think he wants a slow build to a longer climatic stage.

  33. Oh, and this is excellent, Mike. Thank you.

  34. Mike, this is a great article. I am & forever will be a Superman fan. I also remember tucking a red towel (to my grandmother’s chagrin) into the collar of my shirt and diving off the backs and arms of couches like I was George Reeves. I also grew up with the Man of Steel and I began to adopt what he stood for. Not just the whole Truth, Justice, and the American Way thing, but standing up for those that can’t stand up for themselves. Unknowing to me, I have now become someone who does just that. Eight years ago, I became a Deputy Sheriff. I wouldn’t have gone down this path if not for The Big Blue Boy Scout. To this day, I carry his iconic symbol on my body at all times. Some people carry a rabbit’s foot or a animal totem of some kind, but I have the “S” shield. It reminds me that someone needs to stand up and protect the folks that need help.

  35. Romo’s essay is interesting, it hits on some salient points. Superman was the definitive “superhero” for many years, as well as being the first one. He built DC — and, arguably, all comic book superheroes — and his character continues to be a valuable franchise in other media, if not comics themselves. So why has DC Comics tossed him aside for Batman?

    I think a big part of Superman’s decline in (comics) popularity has to do with America’s own growing obsession with antiheroes over heroes. By that, I mean that people more and more empathize with figures who achieve victory by going around the rules set for them, or flat-out breaking them — while traditional heroes win the day by working within the system, thereby proving it just. The audience’s growing preference for the antihero can be traced back to the “greedy 1980s” era of winning at all costs, or you can go further back to the counterculture 1960s, when young Americans started harshly questioning the system which their elders had put into place — and it is no coincidence that Marvel Comics and its brand of “new heroes” began at this time, and began seriously competing with the House of Superman for the hearts of comics readers.

    But look, DC Comics is in business to make money. And Batman sells better than Superman. So it makes sense that DC should put less effort behind its Superman books and much more behind its vast Batman Family of books. All we Superman comic book fans can hope for, is that our favorite Kryptonian retains some of his traditional heroism in the upcoming MAN OF STEEL film, and that it’s successful enough to remind audiences that nobility can be pretty f–king cool. 🙂 And maybe DC Comics will remember that, too. Personally? In a dark world overrun with antiheroes, I am more intrigued than ever by figures who manage to win the day the old fashioned way — providing a glimmer of hope that the society we built continues to be a good one. In confusing times, Supermen like that are my magnetic north.

    • “Personally? In a dark world overrun with antiheroes, I am more intrigued than ever by figures who manage to win the day the old fashioned way — providing a glimmer of hope that the society we built continues to be a good one. In confusing times, Supermen like that are my magnetic north.”

      Yup. And some of the very best superman stories have followed that line of thinking (Kingdom Come, Truth, Justice, American Way, etc.).

    • The biggest problem in that regard was this: up until 1983 or so, Superman and Batman were always portrayed as “best friends.” That changed when certain people at DC started to think, “gee, I like Batman so much better,” and wondered how–especially with the first movie in the works–the two could be differentiated more. This lead to the whole, “Batman = Dark, Superman = light,” which was such a great idea. This way, Superman could lecture Batman about manhandling criminals much the same way he did a few issues/episodes earlier. This way, they could say, “okay, you know how Batman is the most popular superhero out there right now with big blockbuster movies and a dark attitude? Well, Superman is the opposite of him!”

      Of course, Batman isn’t as much of an anti-hero as a lot of other superheroes, and it’s not like Superman is afraid to get his hands dirty or something; but I honestly think that if they hadn’t put out the death & return saga–as much as history is being rewritten to make it seem like a failure–he wouldn’t have quite the cult-like following he has today.

  36. I agree with every word of this article. What has happen to thd man of steal. I dropped all my superman books years ago

    • I really like this article and also love specific stories with Superman but he’s definitely not at the top of his game or coming off as an A list character in any waves created by the medium other than a movie coming out that I haven’t heard as much about as expected, and agree with BionicDave, I too think he was tossed aside for Batman, its a darker and grittier world and that darkness has more appeal right now and perhaps thats why Morrison tried this approach with Action but like DD’s new run Mark Waid brought light and joy back into a dead horse of dreariness while still having an edge. The same needs to be done with Superman but different, 😉

  37. I love Superman. The Superman in my head, at least.

    Why don’t a lot of people like Superman? I think it is because he comes off as having no personality. If I were to hang out with Peter Parker, I could easily paint a picture as to what it would be like. He’d talk about photography, science, girls and make a lot of funny jokes. Superman on the other hand? You can’t pin his personality down as well.

    I think we need a definitive take on who he IS as a person, an execution of his character (preferably in some sort of motion picture) that conveys to the public what it would be like to hang out with Clark/Kal-El. Love it or hate it, SMALLVILLE did an okay job of giving him some angst, but it will probably be soon forgotten, and I’m sure I can’t get my wife to recount the personality Tom Welling tried to convey.

    Personally speaking, the Superman in my head is interesting because he is constantly wrestling with his moral code. How does he choose what is “right?” He is the ultimate nature vs. nurture argument. If I were writing it, I think that I’d make Jonathan and Jor-El as important as Lois.

    • Clark has always been the main issue for me. Clark is hard to nail down

    • “Why don’t a lot of people like Superman? I think it is because he comes off as having no personality. If I were to hang out with Peter Parker, I could easily paint a picture as to what it would be like. He’d talk about photography, science, girls and make a lot of funny jokes. Superman on the other hand? You can’t pin his personality down as well.”

      Since when does being a three-dimensional character mean, “you can pin his personality in a couple of sentences?”

      I’m a fan of the old Adventures of Superman TV show (no, I’m not that old, my parents had tapes of it) and in that show, he was a pretty rugged guy with a good sense of humor. My biggest complaint is that they often forget that he’s supposed to make jokes and stuff. Hopefully they’ll rectify this in further Earth-One books (if nothing else) but I do think that would be a better angle than the angry dude we see these days.

    • Roi, I don’t agree. I think Clark the most human part of the character. He’s just a guy who grew up on a farm and lived a very simple life. Right & wrong are very clear to him. Maybe it’s because I’m from Missouri but I get that part of him.

  38. It isn’t special when Superman shows up in a book or even his own book. I’m thinking of the second issue of Allen Moore’s Tom Strong got it right. That issue focused on Tom’s daughter and Tom showed up at the end to solve the problem with a solution other then punching things. That was special.

  39. This has been said before, so many times in fact that it’s almost cliche.

    But there are NO bad characters, only bad or uncreative writers and editors. And unfortunately with several decades of storys behind him Superman has been a victim of many bad storylines and editorial decisions with brief runs of greatness. I know Action Comics is coming up on a 1,000 issues, but with all the other superman issues that have been published the character has to have close to 2,500 issues written featurning him. It does make it VERY difficult to write new stories for new and old fans alike.

    I disagree though with the comments that have been made though that we don’t need a book with Superman growing up. Now more than ever we need that book. We need a writer who has a clear vision of how a 16 year to 26 year old with the powers of a god grows up to be an inspiration to humanity. So that the cynics and the critics might finally at least appreciate the character and the challanges he went through to become “big blue”.

    Quite frankly we need Mark Waid writing Superman.

    • That Waid thing isn’t going to happen.

    • And I think Superman comics are worse for that

    • “Now more than ever we need that book. We need a writer who has a clear vision of how a 16 year to 26 year old with the powers of a god grows up to be an inspiration to humanity. ”

      I’d read the ever loving crap out of that Superman book.

    • I know it’s not going to happen, but it should. He has proved that he has one of the best understandings of the Superman Mythos of anyone writing in comics.

    • BTW, i’ve only commented a couple of times on the site after being a fan for years. Having Josh and Connor comment on one of my posts made my day.

    • @DFWRob – If you could pull a ‘hat trick’ now that would be rare. Of course, it’s unlikely Ron will respond (he is probably still reading his comics from last week – boy, does he read a lot of comics – I thought my cousin was a read fiend) 🙂

    • If you say alot of mean things Conor usually comments.. 😛

      But seriously, having read Morrison’s book (Supergods) this: “Now more than ever we need that book. We need a writer who has a clear vision of how a 16 year to 26 year old with the powers of a god grows up to be an inspiration to humanity. ”

      seems like the kind of book he was setting out to write with Action. I wonder if the change was mandated by editorial at all.

      I maintain he’ll get back to that…

  40. Nice essay, Mike! And even better comments, gang!

    I’ve dabbled in Superman at various points over the years, but for whatever reason, I’ve never been a fan.

    I think there are a lot of great reasons brought up in the other comments here, but for my money I think Superman could be compelling when he’s cast as The Last Good Man. It’s been years since I read it, but I think Joe Kelly’s story from about ten years ago (The Elite?) had that sort of set-up. Superman is a genuinely good person despite living in a world that doesn’t seem to value or reward goodness.

    Which basically describes Ned Stark (Game of Thrones). That’s kind of popular these days, isn’t it? 😉

    I know it’s not a one to one comparison, but even though Ned Stark isn’t without flaw or vice, he’s definitely the best of the bunch. He’s a Good Man struggling to remain uncorrupted.

    I think Superman can work in a similar way. He can get mad, he can make mistakes, but he’s still out there doing the right thing and fighting the good fight when everyone else would rather keep their heads down. And he’s got to do it simply because he knows it’s right. Even when that puts him at odds with others (hello drama!). Superman is the guy that can say “at least I DID something.” Superman is the Do-er people aspire to be. A man of Action.

    I’m sure this has been done before, but maybe it’s time for Superman to not be the protagonist of his book for a while. He’ll still be there, doing his thing, but shift the POV to the people he’s helping, or capturing.

    Now I’m just spit-balling, so I’ll cut it here.

    • Not only has it been done before, but it’s been done quite often. Seriously: where did this, “oh, Superman doesn’t have any flaws” thing come from? I mean, at the very least, the very storyline the article is criticizing has him recklessly threatening random businessmen. The kind-of anti-hero antics he was all about prior to World War II.

      But yeah: he quite often gets mad is quite often at odds with others. In fact, for about a decade DC tried to force every team-up with Batman as some “we’re at odds” story about the power of dark and light or something (usually Superman scolds Batman for doing something Supes probably did three issues earlier) and there’s been plenty of stories–especially lately–about the government not trusting him and stuff.

      I’m really starting to wonder what some people think happens in a typical Superman comic.

  41. I”m not convinced the 1930’s pop culture audience saw Superman as being all that angry the way Morrison implies in interviews. They’d already gotten their fix with the brutal, cut throat version of the original Shadow who was massively popular before Superman arrived. I’ve never been convinced Morrison understands that dynamic. No matter how angry Doc Savage might get, he was the light against the Shadow’s dark. Those archetypes were the inspiration for Superman & Batman and Superman was not remotely dark and angry compared to the Shadow, a character everyone knew at the time. I like Rucka’s description of why the Captain America film worked: it was unapologetic in what it was doing. Same thing with the Rocketeer. Find a writer and editor who understands that and Superman will be fine. Then we can stop blaming the audience for channeling their angst into Morrison like he’s a shaman.

  42. Oh, I hope everyone wanting a really good coming-of-age Superman story has read the novel IT’S SUPERMAN! by Tom De Haven. Boy, does he ever get it right.

  43. I just cancelled both Superman and action comics today. DC did not live up to the promise that Action comics would tell the story of Superman before he truly became Superman, they did this for the firat 2 issues and then seemed to abandon it after that. Also the picture of Superman at the top of this article makes superman look like he is metally retarded, all I kept hearing in my head when I saw that panel was yeah!

  44. It’s difficult for me to separate the issues you’re talking about from the need for DC Corporate to distinguish their Superman Intellectual Property from the original Siegel & Schuster conception of the character. If they don’t change the costume and his character in a significant enough way then they will owe a lot of money to the creators’ heirs. Maybe the current problem is that the original concept wasn’t broken and is the one people would like to read, but due to copyright issues is not the one that DC is willing to provide. Wasn’t it Deep Throat that said, “Follow the money?”

    • But Morrison claims he’s returning Superman to his roots, so that theory never made sense to me.

    • I think Morrison can “return to the roots” of the character and still successfully differentiate Supes from his original conception. The Morrison New 52 Superman has not put on the original costume or even the most recent modern version of it. That’s just one example.

  45. Right before I read this article, I watched Max Landis’ description/recreation of The Death and Return of Superman, and it sort of spoke to some of the same things. How coincidental the world is!
    Has anybody mentioned the times in the 50’s or 60’s when Superman was a jerk to all his friends ( has lots of examples.) Does anybody know why they made him cocky and arrogant then?
    Like most people here it seems, I was disappointed with Morrison’s direction on Action Comics.
    “with random, gibberish-ridden word balloons” – those especially frustrate me in Morrison’s writing, with all the odd grunts and moments of surprise.

  46. Here’s hoping the Smallville comic delivers.

  47. perceptions can be funny things. where are the claims of “cocky and arrogant” coming from? I’ve seen people referring to the new stuff as “dark and edgy” or “emo” as well. where is all this in the new superman books?

    i see a character who is now being given something akin to a HUMAN/HEROIC personality. no longer the super doormat of years past. no longer the indecisive self doubter. no longer the tabula rasa of recognizable characteristics. but as much as people complain about how boring that character is/has been…thats what they want a return to? because that has obviously done so well for the superman books for years. really burning up the sales chart!

    what i’m seeing is a confident, kind (to those that deserve it), man of action. one who has a sense of humor. one who stands up for what he believes in. a little rough around the edges maybe but thats fine.. one can still be a good person and have all these traits. i for one look up to people who can combine all of that into a decent whole.

    the character is between a rock and a hard place. damned if he does and damned if he doesnt. people want him to be saintly good. but then dismiss him because they cant relate. bu then he is slightly depowered, as in ACTION right now, and he is given mannerisms to which they can relate and people think he is a jerk. cant joke because he isnt spider-man. cant be tough because he isnt batman. when the truth is, he was BOTH of those characters before they even existed. so its not like there isnt precedent. but wait! its not the 1930s anymore! well, it isnt 50’s either. when the version of the character you “grew up with” pretty much solidified.

    morrison has been throwing in ideas and future story nuggets left and right. and i am more than excited to see how it all plays out. ACTION COMICS has been the best it has been in a while.

  48. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The “Superman is boring because he’s invulnerable” argument misses the point. Yes, Superman is valiant and invincible. But he’s just one valiant and invincible guy in a world full of innocent, vulnerable people. And he can’t be everywhere at once. It’s not about the quality of his power. It’s about the quantity of his enemies and the souls he deems to protect. Superman not relatable? Anyone who’s ever felt overwhelmed by responsibility can find a kindred spirit in Superman.

    If you want to say he’s not just one guy, that there are plenty of other superheroes in the DCU, that could certainly be valid depending on the story. But I don’t see that as a problem inherent in the core Superman story.

  49. Dudes. I have nothing to add other than this article rules and so do 98% of the comments. So much good reading. I just got home from a long day and zombie’d about a whole hour away on this one page. Thank you.

  50. I had the same mindset going into Action Comics #1 in that I was really hoping for a great, new angle on the character. But Morrison, whether it’s fully him or editorial, has completely lost the ball. Instead of doing interesting things with Superman he’s just doing another lame origin story for him. Then the next issue is about a Barack Obama Superman, and then the next arc is about someone trying to assassinate Superman and….it’s just so damn boring typing this!

    Another problem I have with the character is that his rogue gallery is pretty boring. I mean all anyone ever uses is either Luthor, Brainiac, or Metallo now a days. But when someone does try to invent new villains for him they only last for a couple issues and then disappear forever.

    If a man, who wrote one of the best finales to the same character ever, cannot write an ongoing clean slate for the guy then what hope do we have on having an interesting take on him again? I say let the guy go into public domain and let DC move on at this point cause they are clearly out of ideas.

  51. I’m sorry, I can’t quite agree with this article. I mean, after, what? A year-long story where he returned to Krypton and the main character of the series actually called Superman was Mon-El; and then a year-long story where he’s apparently quit his day job and just started walking across the country helping people with regular problems, capped off with the idiotic, “I renounce my patriotism” stunt; the reboot is a breath of fresh air.

    I mean, I’m glad they made him single again. The angle of him pining for Lois was something I could relate to a lot more (what? You can relate to a character who’s an alien? SORCERY!!!) than them simply being married. I mean, the current Superman series isn’t perfect by any means, but I’m just having more FUN reading it than a lot of other stuff I’ve been reading lately.

  52. Great article, man.

    Superman always “worked” pre-1986, when comics were generally “kids’ stuff”. After Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, however, people wanted more of a sense of realism in their superhero comics, and within that context Superman could often see lame and silly.

    So, for me, with few exceptions the best Superman stories of the past 20-30 years have been those that Alan Moore wrote for Superman analogues. His Miracleman (i.e. “Marvel Man”) and Supreme issues explored the archetype in a way that seemed radically realistic and new.

    There are exceptions, though. Morrison’s All Star Superman is definitely good. But you know what? It’s quite nostalgic and retro. And that’s fine. But it underscores the point that Superman doesn’t feel contemporary anymore.

    In some sense I think that the reason why the first few issues of Morrison’s Action “worked” fairly well was because they were said to take place “in the past”. It’s very difficult for Superman to feel contemporary. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make things difficult for ongoing serialized fiction.

    • “Superman always “worked” pre-1986, when comics were generally “kids’ stuff”. After Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, however, people wanted more of a sense of realism in their superhero comics, and within that context Superman could often see lame and silly.”

      That’s because when Superman DID tackle “realistic” issues like gang warfare and stuff, it wasn’t high-profile enough and nobody gave him credit. Again, DC’s mistake of playing Superman and Batman as “polar opposites,” (not just having a dynamic, but “POLAR OPPOSITES”) was a huge mistake and they’re still paying for it.

  53. Superman needs what fantastic four needed a few years back. A writer who can give the book a kick in the ass it needs. Like Hickman did with ff

    • This is the exact point I came here to make. Superman definitely has his problems but so did the Fantastic Four. I don’t remember where the point was made (I want to say it was on the podcast around the time Millar and Hitch were on FF), but the question was asked, are the Fantastic Four relevant anymore? Can the family as a superteam work in today’s market or is it too hokey and outdated? What Marvel got right was turning the book over to a writer from outside the mainstream, who had a singular story to tell and they let him do it without interference. Hickman embraced and strengthened the supposed weakness of the family aspect and used the cliche villians (Galactus and Dr. Doom) but did it in a way that made you remember why these guys were cool in the first place.

      Superman isn’t anymore broken or outdated than the FF were. I know DC is conservative with Superman because he’s their cash cow but I feel that DC has been too conservative with Superman in only letting established writers work on him. I respect Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens but Jurgens was the writer on Superman during the death storyline that got me into comics almost 20 years ago. Even Morrison, as great as he his, has already done his turn on Superman (plus how do you top All-Star Superman?) I know great writers aren’t a dime a dozen but I would love to see DC take a chance and give the book to next Jonathon Hickman, someone on the fringes of the mainstream who has a Superman story that he’s always wanted to tell. Someone that could embrace Superman’s perceived weaknesses (he’s a boy scout, he’s too powerful, etc.) and show why those qualities work, why they’re cool, and why the world needs them. It might not work but at least DC would have tried, plus they can always go back by hitting that ‘return to status quo’ button.

      C’mon DC! You’re bold enough to reboot your entire line but not bold enough to take a chance on Superman? Make me believe a man can fly (again.)

  54. If Superman had a better rogues gallery, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    • Yeah we would.

      I don’t think he has such bad rogues gallery. The problem is that, for some reason, Superman inspires the worst in people. From haters who regurgitate the pathetic old, “oh, he’s too powerful, so he can’t be challenged,” (cuz they expect us to believe that they read Batman thinking every issue might be the last) to this gloating mentality of, “see, I told you DC doesn’t know what they’re doing. Of course it failed, whereas if I could write my story, it’d be a monumental success,” to, “oh, they’re ruining him. Superman used to be X, now he’s Y.” And yeah, overly defensive fanboys like me… but I’m not about to change.

    • His rogues gallery is tough– because of his power level, he DESPERATELY needs more cosmic level threats like Braniac. But, those cosmic level threats are hard to nail, it seems.

    • @pdnoosh…Superman also needs to venture out of Metropolis from time to time leaving his supporting cast behind at times..more space adventures like Exile, maybe that’s the point of the new 52 but that’s yet to be seen, not counting the JL series.

  55. Great article, great conversation . . .

    Two moments have resonated with me in the current Action run strongly enough that I’m willing to forgive a clumsy issue or plot misstrep here or there. The first was during the Superman-backlash sequence, where Clark is crying and holding the photo of the Kents — NAILED it for me. Here is this kid — an alien in so many senses of the word beyond the literal and obvious — who’s doing his damndest to do right by his parents’ legacy, doing good in a world where good is in danferously short supply, and doing everything he was raised and born to do, being absolutely torn apart for doing the right thing. As a transplant from a small midwestern town who moved to Chicago not knowing a soul here in my early twenties, I knew exactly what that felt like. But more broadly than that specific personal connection, I think everyone goes through a trial where either they feel absolutely alone, unloved, and unable to find someone to reach out to for support. Or, whether it’s in relationships, career, politics, etc., we all go through something where doing what what we believe in and know to be spiritually and ethically right makes us a pariah. Doing the right thing is often lethal to one’s popularity, taking the high road is necessary but sometimes too taxing. But if we fight, if we believe in that light at the end of the tunnel, we carry on. and in someway, become heroes in the stories of our own lives.

    For me, Morrison and Morales put all of that in that one panel. And not only did that create a way for me to identify so personally with this take on the character, I think it gave us a glimpse into how to make Superman REALLY work for the 21st Century. He’s a good man with an unimaginable burden and sense of responsibility– but even with the powers and resources available to him, he will never fully be connected to other people or the world around him. He is twice orphaned, and no one can EVER even grasp what he’s been through, is capable of, and feels responsible for. But he still fights, he still tries. Because it’s the right thing to do. Considering the state of politics, technology, the economy and social change, THAT’S the story of what it’s like to live in America, 2012. If Morrison or some other smark writer could take Superman and use him as a metaphor in the same way that Joss Whedon used Buffy as a metaphor for growing up, Superman would be back on top in popularity.

    Play on Superman’s alienation and position apart from society to talk about how technology and urban sprawl can make actual human contact impossible. Use that sense of burden and fthe endless barrage of impossible tasks to talk about the impossible tasks we all face these days — making it in a sputtering economy. establishing a decent living, etc. Just as in our personal lives we have tons of technology, education,and media at our grasp, it still seems like it’s not enough — and writing a Superman whose powers aren’t always enough can offer a mirror to that facet of modern life. And key to making this shine here is giving the character immense hope, the optimism that despite tough times now, things are bound to get better.

    The other winning character moment for me was Superman’s determination and declaration to save both Kandor and Metropolis, despite Braniac’s ultimatum to save only one. Potentially, an unwise move that could rhave resulted in the destruction of both cities. And it’s that lack of experience and naivite that makes Morrison’s young Superman appealing to me as well. A couple posters mentioned Clark’s cockiness, but I wonder if that’s a front the chracter uses to hide that he’s really scared to death and can’t quite believe that all of this is really happening.

    There’s a ton of potential with Supergirl right now too. Just as Morrison’s characterization of Superman is selling it for me, Kara’s development has been done impeccably. Again, speaking of Buffy, there’s a lot of space to talk about growing up and tranisitioning to adulthood that they could do here. It’s too bad the pacing is so glacial, because despite nailing Kara’s voice, it’s not firing on all cyllinders. But, they’ve endeared me enough to the character that I’m coming back.

    • Oh damn, I think I accidentally deleted a sentence in the middle of that second paragraph that would have made it make so much more sense. So imagine a really smart point about feeling alone in the big city between the long sentence with all the “doings” and the sentence about knowing what Clark felt like in that scene. That’s TOTALLY what I meant to put there 😉 Sorry!

  56. Wow Mike you really hit a nerve here. I wish DiDio and Jim Lee were reading this. They have made some huge Superman mistakes on their watch, and they should get the blame. If Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are not strong than DC is not strong. Unfortunately, only two of those characters are in good shape right now.

  57. I think the portrayal of a “young” Superman in Action is fine, in fact if I remember correctly the early Post Crisis stories had Superman acting a bit like that as well (like in one issue when Superman left a criminal on top of a building to scare him), which was basically John Byrne’s tribute to the early black and white George Reeves seasons.

  58. I loved the first few issues of the new Action Comics and was sold on the jeans and t-shirt Superman but I’m afraid they’ve rushed things just to get him the costume. Now about the character just think and look back to when we were kids… Everybody wants to pick the most powerful superhero… Now did anybody complain back then that he’s too powerful? Of course not. When you were a kid your brain is still sterile and all you wanted to do was good. Now you’ve grown up. You found out that life is not all peaches and cream. Your tastes change and so do your hero preferences. Superman’s problem really is the comic reader. It’s interesting to note that majority of comic readers aren’t even kids anymore. People want new stories but won’t give him room for change. Maybe the guys in DC saw fan reaction and just reacted as well. I wish there was a follow-up interview with Grant Morisson with regards to the direction he’s taking action comics after this Braniac arc.

  59. First off, I want to thank Mike and Jimski for both being super willing to share their opinions. One thing I love about this site and community is that such diverse and polarizing opinions are treated with respect and honesty. So, you know, cool.

    Second, I think one thing that a lot of people in the pro-Superman camp are dancing around, and that I believe Morrison said in an interview circa All-Star Superman #1 (although I couldn’t find the interview), is that because Superman IS all powerful, then the conflicts he needs to fight shouldn’t be physical, but they need to be emotional, mental or spiritual.

    If you look at the points when Superman was the most relevant, or to the stories that have been the best of Superman’s history, the conflicts aren’t about who is stronger, but how Superman is going to deal with an emotional or mental threat. For instance, All-Star Superman is about Superman coming to grips with death and his legacy. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is about dealing with the loss of innocence and the status quo. Action 775 is about struggling with compromise, and feeling alienated morally. Practically all of the Superman comics of the 50s and 60s were about Superman dealing with mental and emotional challenges (mainly juvenile Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen things, but still).

    As a previous commenter put it, the story should be about a 20 year-old Superman becoming a beacon of hope. Because that’s not a physical thing, but an emotional battle. Battling for the hearts of a people you’re unequivocally better than withut them being jealous and without you turning into a monster.

    I think that Superman is the most relevant superhero because he is the most like us.

    Most of us don’t fight criminals or monsters from outer space. Instead, we do have to figure out how to be the best human we can be, how to use what power we have to live up to the way we were raised or wish we were raised, just like Superman does. Lex Luthor might as well be our boss, or our jackass coworker who seems to have it out for us. Jimmy Olsen is the well-meaning but kind of annoying kid who we’re trying to mentor but maybe also avoid. Lois… well, everyone has a Lois.

    I think a lot about Kingdom Come when this discussion happens. That moment where Norman McCay reminds Superman that the moment the “Super” becomes more important than the “Man” is when he stops being the person he ought to be.

    I think the writers of Superman ought to be reminded of that too.

  60. The thing is the DCNu Superman apart from his appearance in Justice League doesn’t strike as “dark and edgy”, Action has a young Superman who’s young and a bit arrogant (which is not really that different from how Post Crisis Sups started out since Byrne was a big of George Reeves’ black and white episodes) and Superman had Sups acting “out of character” and it seems he’s back to his old self in the current arc.

  61. Can I just say Bravo to the iFanbase for this heartfelt discussion? Bravo.

    Maybe a truly great Superman story is a rare thing. Perhaps we must wait for that perfect blend of artist and subject for it to mean something. Because maybe, just maybe, Superman desrves better than just a good run. And I think we can all agree that when it’s right, when someone comes along and really nails it… There’s nothing else in comics like it.

  62. It could be worse – at least he’s not walking anymore.

  63. If you haven’t already, go and listen to John Williams’ Superman Theme

    One day the Superman we all know and love will return and this will be playing!

  64. Superman maybe “cocky and arrogant” at the moment but I still get the Superman vibe when I read his *new comics.
    There’s still that bit of boy scout attitude in there.

  65. I think Superman is a great character because we want to believe that someone who is raised with love and goodness turns out good no matter how strange and alone their awesome powers make them feel. And he is totally relevant. I sometimes feel that people just hate on you when you are more than mediocre. They are like, who do you think you are trying so hard and doing your best? It sounds weird but it’s true. Yet there are also supportive people who can be proud of you even if they don’t know you that well or are your competition.

    I also love Superman as a parent, since who does’t want to be like Ma and Pa Kent. They are the best! I need to believe that my parenting will pay off when I am gone, that my kid will make mistakes but will be able to handle them with or without me. Superman is his upbringing and that is beautiful.

    Having said that I think DC needs to read this and listen to the fans when they say they want something new but without sacrificing the essence of a character. I think it would be a good idea to have one of the superman books be all ages. Do something for the kids that the parents can enjoy too, perhaps Clark Kent sent on assignments around the world where moral dilemmas arise. Something that old fanboys can’t complain about because its for kids after all.

    Finally for those who think his life is too perfect: Imagine you can stop bad things from happening but you cannot be everywhere at once and therefore bad things still happen to those you love, no you have never experienced that? Or that out of all the people you know and love you will be the last to die so there will be many painful funerals. Yes Superman shares the same enemy with us all, time.

  66. @jimski – Did you ever watch the Superman Animated Series by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini? I was never much of a Superman fan until I was introduced to that show about five years ago. (In fact, I generally had the same thoughts as you about him… he’s too powerful, he’s too “good,” there’s no real tension or danger, etc.) But I don’t think any medium (comic, show, or otherwise) has captured both the sheer joy and fun, as well as the drama and conflict, that Superman is capable of, as wonderfully and consistently as that show did.

    • I think that when someone says with a straight face that you can’t relate to a character because he’s an alien, he pretty much proves he has no imagination and doesn’t understand the very idea of science fiction.

    • Go back further and watch the Fleischer cartoons. Still capture the essence of what makes Superman great better than either the comics or any of the films.

      I think a retro, sci-fi approach to the character and series would do the trick. Maybe even for the art as well. I mean, imagine Darwyn Cooke drawing Superman on a monthly basis.

  67. Wow, this discussion gives me hope.

    And the urge to rant long and loud.

    I can only give my own opinion from my own experience. I love DC over the Other company. And I love it because it’s all about the big ideas. And at the heart of those big ideas is a team about Justice. And at the heart of that team there’s a holistic Trinity of heroism. And at the core of that Trinity is the idea that sums up and explores pure heroism. And it does it with a big S on its chest.

    You have to explore ideals differently to personalities. You have to approach them differently. Modern day writers have become so obsessed with the psychology of a character that they’ve made the first person perspective the tyranny of our narrative age, one in which all other forms of storytelling are considered juvenile. Whether it be the ‘simplistic’ and ‘all too easy’ third person perspective of the written and filmed story or the historically less developed second person perspective of the computer game, they are not considered worthy of ‘real’ stories. If it’s not told from within the characters skull then it simply isn’t ‘literary’.

    But this doesn’t work for ideals. Ideals are not psychological in nature, they’re about an examination of human potential and what we should aspire to be. What is possible rather than what just is. It’s about action and what we should find acceptable or reprehensible, what the best possible outcome could be and then a consideration of our attempts to move towards that goal. It’s about being led to a new destination that exists outside of ourselves, usually as a collective, not examining why we want what we want on an individual level.

    To bastardise a quote from sociologist Pierre Bourdieu – ‘People don’t long for a better future and then go find it. They see a better future and then find their present unacceptable.’

    Superman is the ideal we SEE that then leads us to think that a person can fly, a person can be good, a person can be a hero. And that it’s possible to recreate that image within ourselves. We SEE the behaviour on display in front of us and then choose to embody it within our own actions, not just tying that red towel around our necks but picking up that police shield or that reporters laptop and then going out and enacting it ourselves. We embody the behaviour after seeing it. And we see it collectively, from the eyes of many, not necessarily from the eyes of the individual who is supposed to embody that ideal.

    Superman’s problem is that writers are so desperate to get inside the skull of Superman as a character (and ONLY Superman) that they miss the point of him being an ideal to inspire. They miss the point that seeing an ideal, both for the reader and the characters surrounding Superman, is about how you yourself react to that ideal, how YOU feel in the face of that ideal, how YOU choose to respond, and how that embodied ideal changes your world.

    The genius of the Superman character is that even Clark Kent has to react to that ideal, an in-narrative example of that struggle. He has to wrestle with the idea of living up to the symbols and legacies that he has created, facing up to the big blue boyscout that affects his life just as much as everyone else. And showing how that affects the rest of his life.

    But he doesn’t do it alone. Clark deals with Superman within the context of his other social relationships. He has his own love interest in Lois, a person who herself is trying to engage with the ideal human (figuratively and, in her case, physically), with the added tragedy that she is so wrapped up in the romanticised ‘big’ ideal that she misses the much quieter version that is just one cubicle over. Clark also has a best mate (one of the best changes of the reboot) in Jimmy whose friendship is vital to Clark being normal and grounded but it’s a relationship that also exists juxtaposed with a level of hero worship for Superman that deifies the ideal rather than inspires to action. And then there’s good old Lex who is himself a superman but whose tragic jealousy and inability to accept a different type of ideal to his own makes him the great antagonist to the ideal rather than its ultimate completion (think if Lex added his political and financial abilities to Superman’s physical and symbolic – the world would be fixed. THAT’s the tragedy of Lex).

    And then there’s how every other hero reacts to Superman as the bloke they all aspire to be (not to mention the bloke who would keep them all in line if they wanted to be associated with his project of justice but missed the point).

    How all these different characters (and therefore readers) react to the ideal is just as important, if not more, than whether the bad guy is made of fire or babbling something clever and philisophical. We need the reactions to Superman just as much as we need his sci fi monster punching skills.

    And that’s the thing missing from Superman at the moment, the thing that we saw in passing but which quickly blurred away – the human element of Clark Kent’s world. The social relationships. The ‘how does Clark do it’. In the little things, not just the big. We need to see him making decisions like given an option ‘do I fight battles I probably can’t win’ (ie vs Lex in the political arena), ‘how much time can I take off when so many people need me’ (where’s the balance between hero burn out and being able to do more for people), or ‘do I take advantage of the woman that ignores me as Clark but obsesses over me as Superman?’. It has to be within the relatable world of the people around him, on the streets of Metropolis, so that we experience THEIR experience of Superman, not just watch him on spaceships punching android/cyborgs. He has to make us believe that he could really exist within our world so that then WE can really exist in our world the way he does, and that, if they only still had phone booths, you’d see that underneath this facade I’m not just a mild mannered person but someone who does extraordinary things. Someone who can act LIKE THAT, even if I do it without superpowers.

    If I were in charge of DC then Action would be Clark Kent’s story and Superman would be Superman’s story. Action would see Clark trying to balance his life in Metropolis from being friends with Jimmy to hitting those deadlines at the Daily Planet to crushing on Lois to trying to build a life he enjoys leading in the big city while ducking out on a regular basis to try and stop the next giant robot or criminal gang that is trying to destroy his new urban home, all without those other people putting two and two together. I’m talking the sitcom/workplace comedy/drama style stuff.

    Superman would be the space for the bigger stuff that takes place outside of Metropolis like interacting with other heroes, the big ‘world saving’ super bad guy stuff, the politics, sci fi, etc. And every opportunity possible (in both books) there would be stories from the perspectives of other characters who are trying to interact with Superman, whether they be an annoyed and jealous Lex, or a fangirl hero meeting her inspirational idol and then realising living the hero life is a bit different then first thought, or Lois feeling both angry and guilty over the fact that Superman blew off their date to go save someone. This would examine the Ideal of the Super, Clark Kent that is the Man, and examine how it relates to our own experience through the many perspectives of other people/characters within the narrative world.

    Sigh. In my perfect imaginary world.

    But regardless of what is happening now to Superman it is this discussion and how much other people care about the character that gives me hope. Because as long as people care about the character then there’s always another chance that they’ll get it right next time. And that gives me hope. For the next reboot.

    At which point I will long for someone to cry “Look up in the sky..!”

  68. 100% hells to the yeah, if I may say.

    Thanks very much for this article. It (and so many of the other comments) seem to be perfectly articulating things that I feel need to be said but would not necessarily have had the sense to put into words myself.

    I’m one of the lapsed readers that was lured back by the new 52. One of the things I most desperately wanted when returning to comics was finally to get into a monthly Super- book. Perhaps with the exception of Shazam (Marvel, whatever), SM is also my clearest memory of a go-to superhero from childhood. Though I never got into the comic before (GI Joe and Star Wars were more my reading speed at the time), I had plenty of Superman toys, and I hazily remember seeing Christopher Reeve in the theater with my dad back when I was 5.

    I settled on AC after reading the various first issues, and was happy with that – until the sudden Legion crossover mini-arc butted in, which just felt… honestly it like enjoying a song on the radio in your car, and then having some idiot pull up next to you at a stop light with a subwoofer that goes to 11, so you have to listen to -his- thumping bass-line of a non-song for 2 issues, then the light turns green and you pull away and you can hear your own song again. Anyway.

    I stuck w/ AC through the first arc, hoping and trying to have faith it would all tie together in the end. And now after #8, I am honestly kind of numb. I know it was disappointing, sad and a little heartbreaking. But to what degree I’m not sure I can say just yet. I am trying to decide if I actually hated it or not and just can’t make up my mind. And as for trying to decide whether to continue or not next month… instant ice cream headache.

    All of which essentially leaves me with Supergirl being the most Supery title left on my pull list. I must say I did -not- see that coming six months ago…

    So yeah. What Mike said.

  69. Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief. Your noble son is mad. . . .

    Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 86–92

    And indeed, we are mad. I agree with nearly everything you had to say, Mr. Romo. All except one criticism. Morrison’s run on Action still has the potential of being an interesting story where Clark learns the role of Superman. He may look like Superman, but he still has to learn to be Superman. My recommendation is to keep holding on with this title. The next couple of issues look promising.

  70. One quick thought:

    If there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Superman as a character (which I am willing to concede) why is it that, when I say what I don’t like about him, I’m told “these are the same complaints Superman fans have heard over and over again”? If you’ve heard a lot of people make these complaints, over and over again, might there not be a liiiiiittle something to them?

    Is that at least a possibility people can consider?

    Let me put it another way: if none of the stuff I dislike is true, but it is my perception after trying ten different Superman books by ten different writers, and apparently countless other people have gotten the same impression, is that not itself a problem of some kind? Or is that problem that all of us are dummies?

    This is all academic, of course. When I list things that bother me about art, your counter-list doesn’t “prove me wrong.” It ain’t geometry.

    • “Or is that problem that all of us are dummies?”

      Pretty much. I mean, even if you really read “ten different Superman books by ten different writers” (yeah right) you have to stoop to argumentum ad populum, which pretty much means you’re still making excuses and that while it’s certainly justifiable that a lot of people, “never got into him,” or whatever, that the serious haters are–yup–dummies.

      When people storm onto a message board to troll its posters and the butt hurt when we have responses, they are dummies.

      When people claim to “understand comics,” and don’t realize how impotent the “he’s too powerful” argument is because he–like 90% of superheroes–usually fights villains with roughly the same power level as him, yeah. Dummies.

      When people claim he’s too perfect to relate to. Well, that might be fair enough, but it’s not like he has no flaws as people say. He can be careless, naïve, overly sentimental. If that’s not your bag of tea, that’s fine. Like you said, “it’s not geometry.” I just think that when the “he’s perfect, he has no flaws,” is applied to the idiotic, unfaithful film Superman Returns wherein Superman–I don’t know if you saw it–became a deadbeat dad… it sounds like they don’t know what they’re talking about and are, as I said before, dummies.

      And finally, when people say, “oh, he’s an alien, so you can’t relate to him,” it tells me they don’t understand the basic concept of science fiction. Oh, I’m not claiming Superman should be considered “hard science fiction,” by any means; but one of the MAIN points of the genre is that aliens, mutants, machines, etc. serve as allegories for other stuff. So if “he’s from another planet,” makes him any harder to “relate to” than anything else–AND CAN’T UNDERSTAND HOW ANYONE ELSE CAN–you might… yes… be a dummy.

      So no, “a bunch or dummies keep spouting the same inane drivel and start crying when you counter it,” is not something to consider. If I read a good one I enjoy it, and if I read a bad one, I don’t.


    • Challenge accepted Jimski. The way i see it your complaints are valid. The only problem is that the majority of people who say this are the same number of people who tell me that Batman should kill the joker and be a little more evil to be completely badass. I’d say that when you look at the people who are complaining you should do one of two things: ask yourself if there is anything worth of value in their complaints and if these people are really the ones anyone should listen to. When i read your complaints i feel that there is worth in them and that it is coming from a decent person. But when i hear these complaints come from a person who only liked the ironman movie specifically because he’s killing terrorists and that other hero’s should do likewise, then I’m a little iffy on that.

    • Nah dude, you said it. It’s art, and opinions about art aren’t necessarily logical. They’re alchemical. Just as our professions of appreciation aren’t going to sway you, neither shall your detractions phase those who enjoy the character. We just like what we like. Different things resonate differently with different people. Indeed, many of the problems that you see with the character are not problems to others, but virtues.

      Now, some people feel the need to defend what they like by telling you that your opinion is wrong, but that just seems silly to me. Hate on, you crazy diamond!

  71. A question: do you think Superman would read better if creators stopped trying to be “topical” or get past big pseudo-events, and focused on simple straight-forward heroics where he does the right thing simply because it’s the right thing? Sans all the hand wringing and who am I type stuff?

    I am curious.

  72. valid point, and I agree. The potential of that very first Morrison issue was gone by issue 3. We were dropped in the middle of something and had to play catch up. I still have no idea who Glennmorgan is.

    DC had some success with the new 52, like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Aquaman plus Batman titles seemed not to miss a step, Green Lantern was also better. And as a Flash fan I’m enjoying it, but storywise I think its only a slight improvement over the past few years, so much bad, so much promise missing, and this seems to the thing it needed. But going into issue 7 I find the supporting characters flat, and the first arc a little anti-climatic.

    But the Superman line was a botched job, and I can’t believe how bad they blew it for Superman # 1. Unreadable. Nearly a year in and we have no idea who he is as a person, just that he seems like a bit of a dick.

  73. Avatar photo captamerica101 (@Autobot_Hunter) says:

    look, i wrote a whole long thing here but i deleated it. just go read kingdom come and all star superman. they prove my point better then I could. i’m gonna go read them now.

  74. Superman has never been my all time favorite comic book character. Do I think he’s awesome? Absolutely, but he was just never my favorite because I preferred the world of Green Lantern and the “makes himself a badass because he wants to make a difference” of Batman. However, I have been reading the new Superman and Action Comics, and I enjoy them both. Like many people have said in this conversation, I don’t want my Superman to be flawed. I want him to be better than me. Nobody broods better than Batman anyway.

    Regardless, I don’t want him to be like me…I want him to be better than me. He’s Superman. He’s the ideal being that we can never be. The things that made him boyscout like in the past were the qualities I loved about him. It’s still so early in the new worlds they’re all creating with the New 52 though. I very much enjoy what they’re starting out with, and I think it’s only going to go up from here. The Superdoom plot that starts in #9 sounds like it’s going to be excellent. I’ll be staying with it. And if Jimski did say he was “worst superhero ever created, a flawed character with zero redeeming features, and to even try to like him, to even try to hope that the books would be good, was folly because the character itself was worthless”, well, that’s just stupid to say. Come on…he’s SUPERMAN. If someone truly hates the character that much they shouldn’t be commenting on them, they couldn’t possibly be objective.

  75. You got it right. I agreed with you on the podcast and even more so now. Superman is supposed to be the rock of the DC universe. The guy that all the other heroes, including Batman, want to be more like. He’s supposed to be the shining example for all the other heroes. The guy that everyone listens to during the crisis moments because he is the greatest of them and they all know it.

    I can’t really say about Action Comics or Superman since I don’t read them, but Superman’s characterization (Or lack there off), in Justice League was terrible. He barely said anything and basically was just there to hit stuff. Superman is supposed to be the backbone of the Justice League but instead he was pushed into the back round until something needed to be punched or lifted.

    I personally vote for Mike Romo to start writing Superman since he as a much better handle on what it means to be Superman!

  76. I’ve never got so pissed off with an article like this before, not because I disagree with Mike Romo’s POV, but the very fact that I feel like he doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about.
    I’m extremely disappointed with this.

    • Considering the article is about Mike feelings about what the character of Superman has meant to him and why the current version doesn’t work for him, it would be hard for him not to know what he’s talking about since he’s talking about how he feels. I’m curious what you have an issue with, specifically.

  77. Smallville Season 11 #1 comes out today. Anyone read it yet?