Sep 8, 2007

All-Star Superman

I've liked Superman since before I could read. There's an incredible amount of fantasy involved to reading him, and there's also the simplicity of his characterization - he does the right thing because it's the right thing to do; no more, no less. He's not driven by guilt or tragedy; he's driven by his inner character. As far as I'm concerned, that makes him more fascinating and more admirable than most heroes. (By the way, my nephew and I came up with a top 10 list of heroes I like recently, and Superman's ranked number 8. So I hope that dispels any notion of me being exclusively a Superman geek.)

However, there hasn't been an incarnation of Superman that I really feel gets it right. The Golden Age Superman was too crude, the Silver Age Superman was too hokey, the post-Crisis Superman was too weak and angsty (which REALLY goes against why Superman is cool), and the current Superman is okay, but still a little too real-worldy for me. Even Alan Moore's interpretation of Superman both in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and Supreme seems more like an intellectual exercise (how to make all these hokey elements cool in the modern day) rather than focusing on the characterization that makes Superman special. Even the cartoon was lacking in certain factors, most notably some of the imaginative elements.

And then this title came along:

All-Star Superman, named so because of the All-Star creative team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

This series strips Superman down to his timeless, most essential elements. His power levels? Off the charts. His characterization? To do right because it's the right thing to do. And the tales herein? Fun. Imaginative. And uplifting.

The series draws heavily from two sources: The Silver Age, and Grant Morrison's boundless imagination. As such, it takes stories from the Silver Age of Comics, such as when Superman used to have to fight the mythical Hercules and Samson for Lois' affections, and it places them in the modern day, with modern sensibilities, making it a fun read all around. It also takes from Grant's DC One Million Concept, introducing ideas such as the legacy of the Supermen, Superman Prime, and the world of New Krypton.

My favorite issue has been issue 5, where Clark Kent, interviewing Lex Luthor in prison, has to help everyone from an escaping Parasite without compromising his secret identity but at the same time not disappearing in front of Luthor. Grant's take on Clark is hilarious. He's really klutzy, to the point that no one - not even Lois Lane - would suspect he's Superman, even with his glasses off. And when Clark does something incredibly klutzy, it's usually to prevent a bigger accident from occurring.

I also like how the art by Frank Quitely is crystal clear enough (and the coloring makes it beautiful) that when clever things like that do happen, dialogue isn't needed to convey what's going on. The chemistry between Grant and Frank is perfect, and worthy of the Eisner award they won.

And really, this was the vision in my head of the ideal Superman, which is basically a synthesis of all the Supermen that came before, and what made him the ultimate hero: unlimited powers, unlimited heart, unlimited fantasy.

So even though Grant and Frank are only on board till issue 12, at least that still gives me four issues more to enjoy, and at least I saw the Superman in my head in print at last.

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