Posts Tagged ‘Superman’

World of Krypton

August 6, 2008

I’ve been reading the recently released “Superman: The World of Krypton” trade paperback, and it’s drawn into sharper relief some of the feelings I’ve had about how Krypton has been depicted over the years.

Krypton was mentioned for the first time in Superman #1 (1939), and for almost fifty years thereafter it was expanded upon, revisited, and revised until it was as vibrant and intricate as any fictional world had ever been.  You had the history of Kandor and its abduction by Brainiac; you had the invention of the Phantom Zone by Superman’s father, Jor-El; you had the destruction of Krypton’s moon, Wegthor, by the evil Jax-Ur and his subsequent imprisonment; you had wondrous places like the Gold Volcano and the Jewel Mountains; and you had the doomed love story between Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van that was surprisingly affecting given how comics were written at the time.  In fact, much of this embelishment came directly from Jerry Siegel, during the short period of time that he returned to work at DC in the 1960’s.

But then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, and DC decreed that Superman should be the last survivor of Krypton.  No exceptions.  That meant no Supergirl, no Krypton, no Kandor, and no Phantom Zone villains.  Drastic as this was, it still would have been possible to accomplish without throwing out the entire history of Krypton, as it had been gradually built up for decades.  But John Byrne, who was tasked with reinventing Superman following the Crisis, decided to give readers an entirely new version of Superman’s homeworld.  Now, Krypton was a cold, emotionless, sterile place, where people lived forever but never interacted face-to-face, and where children were conceived in birthing matrices through no direct involvement of their parents.  Thus, when Jor-El sent his son to earth, he did it not just so Kal-El could escape Krypton’s destruction, but also in the hopes that Kal-El could live in a society that still had the concepts of love and joy.  Superman’s being sent to earth, in this interpretation, is portrayed as being a positive thing independent of Krypton’s imminent doom.

But the story doesn’t work nearly as well this way, in my opinion.  The destruction of Krypton is supposed to be one of the all-time greatest tragedies of the universe.  The death of Superman’s parents, whose love is so great but who die long before they deserve to, is supposed to be heart-wrenching.  And that’s how it was for decades, until Byrne gave us Krypton that seemed like it deserved to die, and a Jor-El and Lara who only met for the first time minutes before their deaths.

And then there’s the circumstances of Superman’s birth.  Originally, of course, he was born on Krypton, and lived there for the first few months of his life.  In Byrne’s version, though, Superman’s “birthing matrix” is what is jettisoned to earth, the result being that he is not actually “born” until Jonathan and Martha Kent find him in the cornfield.  As Superman proudly declares at the end of Byrne’s Man of Steel miniseries, that makes him a human and an American, not an alien.

But Superman is supposed to be an alien.  Sure, he was raised by humans and tends to think and act like us, but he’s not one of us.  That’s the great irony of the character, that an alien can represent the epitome of what humanity could be.  And that’s the great tragedy of the character, that no matter how much he wants to be one of us and finally fit it, he isn’t and he can’t.  He disguises himself as bumbling Clark Kent so that he can live among us, but he forever feels apart from us.

And, like almost all adopted children, Superman wants more than anything to know what it would have been like to grow up on Krypton with his birth parents, and live that other life.  Not that he wishes things had been different, necessarily; he loves the Kents and thinks of them as his parents.  But he forever feels the sense of loss that comes from being the last survivor of a great culture, and not really knowing what that culture meant or how best to carry on its memory.

That’s who Superman is.  And, thankfully, that’s the Superman that DC is giving is these days, as written by Geoff Johns, Kurt Busiek, James Robinson, and Grant Morrison.  The “Byrne Krypton” gave us a lot of great stories, but for my money, it missed the mark in the most fundamental ways.

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SDCC Wrap-Up, Part One

July 28, 2008

As I’m sure everyone with even a passing interest in comics knows by now, the San Diego Comicon has just concluded, after running from last Thursday to yesterday evening.  I’m going to take a few minutes and run down the list of exciting DC-related announcements.

 

At the top of the list has to be Flash: Rebirth, which is a miniseries by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver that will be debuting in January.  After Barry Allen’s shocking return in Final Crisis, Rebirth will pick up where that series leaves off and presumably reintroduce Barry as DC’s main Flash going forward.  Normally this is the kind of thing that would worry me, for two reasons: one, I’m a big fan of Wally West as the Flash, and two, Barry had such a great send-off in the original Crisis that I’d usually be loathe to see that undone.  But Geoff Johns is my favourite writer right now, and quite possibly my all-time favourite, so the idea of seeing him build up the Flash mythology like he’s done the Green Lantern mythology is tremendously exciting.  And since Johns is such a huge Wally West fan himself, I trust him to do well by that character too.  Hopefully the mini will leave the Flash status quo in a place similar to the GL status quo, with every Flash that readers have loved over the years viable and with their own unique place in the DC Universe.

 

Another exciting Johns-related announcement is the upcoming New Krypton storyline that will run through all three Superman books (Action Comics, Superman, and Supergirl) and introduce over 100,000 Kryptonians to Earth who would much rather conquer the whole planet and rename it “New Krypton” than live side by side with the inferior human species.  These Kryptonians will presumably come from Kandor, the city that Brainiac is responsible for miniaturizing and removing from Krypton shortly before its destruction.  Johns has been doing a great job reintroducing classic elements of Superman continuity into our post-Infinite Crisis “New Earth” continuity: Clark as Superboy, Superboy in the Legion, the Phantom Zone criminals including General Zod, Bizarro World, the different colours of kryptonite, and most recently the ultimate version of Brainiac with the original’s history of being an emotionless android that shrinks cities and imprisons them.  Now, following naturally out of the Brainiac storyline will come a reintroduced Bottle City of Kandor, and an entire population of Supermen and Superwomen on Earth.  I can’t wait to see where Johns, James Robinson, and new Supergirl writer Sterling Gates take this story!

 

More later…

New Comic Book Day

July 23, 2008

Here’s what I picked up this week:

 

Ambush Bug: Year None #1

Brave And The Bold #15

Green Lantern Corps #26

Justice League Of America #23

Legion Of Super-Heroes #44

Robin #175

Superman #678

Trinity #8

 

Preliminary thoughts: Superman was good, but is it just me or does James Robinson make odd choices regarding which words to emphasize?  It’s like he just picks them at random.  The art was great — did Guedes do the old-timey sections as well?  They were eerily Kirbyesque.  I have a feeling Robinson will start to play up the similarities and differences between Superman and Atlas as the story rolls along, inasmuch as they are similar in terms of ability and initial motivations but Atlas grew too attached to power once he saved his city and found it easier just to rule it permanently.  On the odd side: wasn’t Clark being kind of a dick when talking to Lois about Krypto?  He sounded like he was one minute away from accusing Lois of P.M.S.-ing!

 

Robin was decent; I’m loving Batman: R.I.P. so maybe I’m a bit biased.  It’s good to see Tim’s take on everything that’s been happening get fleshed out a little.  Continuity problems, though: isn’t Sgt. Harper supposed to be Officer Harper?  And didn’t Nightwing head back to Gotham to deal with Intergang before Bruce underwent the Thogal ritual?  Anyway, Nicieza is a solid writer, and I’ve enjoyed his Superman fill-in work and the stuff he’s done with Kurt Busiek, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the book once he can start his own storylines.

 

Haven’t read the rest yet, but I’m looking forward to taking in some lush Scott Kolins art on BATB.  Hope DC puts him on something after Rogues’ Revenge…