But I was going to buy this one anyway, because I had to know. You see, for the past three months, ever since a conversation with fellow comic fan Rick Diehl, I've been convinced that the Superman reboot — not the rest of the DC reboot — was being done in an attempt to subvert the Siegel and Shuster estates' abilities to create their own Superman comic based on ACTION COMICS #1, and Grant Morrison's disingenuous comments about the whole affair pretty much confirmed it for me. So I said that the new Superman books have one issue to grab me, because I was hoping against hope that this wasn't the case.
From the preview that CBR gave me, it looks like my suspicions were confirmed. The first scene is pretty much a page out of ACTION COMICS #1, with Superman taking the law into his own hands. Strongarming a corrupt businessman and torturing him into giving a confession is pretty much straight out of the initial Golden Age appearance of the Man of Steel.
|Top Panel: Original ACTION COMICS #1, circa 1938|
Rest of the image: New ACTION COMICS #1, circa 2011
The difference between the two versions of Superman is that the original is a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands and zips away, while this one clearly loves what he's doing, and he's cocky and annoying about it.
This scene is followed by Superman gleefully asking the police to chase him, and then smiling as he's chased and fired upon. There's a dangerously fascistic undertone to this version of Superman. Now, don't get me wrong — there's been a dangerously fascistic undertone in all versions of Superman since the very beginning, and it's been very subtle or always kept as subtext. With Morrison though, as Morrison is wont to do because Grant Morrison is a really a great idea man and a technically bad writer (but since we are in the age of the superstar creator, he's allowed to do whatever he wants), we're subjected to this theme with a gigantic sledgehammer.
I won't lie. This gets my goat. In all the incarnations of Superman, he has never been this arrogant, this... well... dickish, except for some Silver Age stories that are obviously panned today. Superman has been, through all his incarnations, a man who was raised to be good and to do good — he was raised right and he did the right thing for no other reason than it's the right thing to do. Before anyone writes that off as "boring" or "unsophisticated," I humbly refer you to Greg Rucka's article here about the difference between "smart" and "realistic."(Does anyone want to check how Captain America did at the box office?)
To be honest, I see this title clicking with fans. It's generic enough to appeal to cynical masses, and obviously there are people who will be reacting with "Oh my God, Superman's a badass now!", as if having all these powers and using excessive force is being a badass rather than a bully. This kind of thing is easy. It's the kind of thing that would classify as "cool," if you're one of those people who think cynicism means being grown-up. Personally, I think this version of Superman is unlikable. And why would I want to read about that? It's possible Morrison's making some sort of poignant point here, but given that the man completely missed the point of MIRACLEMAN, I doubt it. And sure, obviously, this will all lead to Superman being more responsible, more heroic. But that's not Superman either. You know who it is. Superman doesn't have to learn that with great power comes great responsibility. Superman knows that with great power comes great responsibility.
In the end though, that has nothing to do with me not buying the book. In fact, for all intents and purposes, under any other circumstances, I'd give it a shot. I did say that these stories have one issue to grab me. But then I read this interview, where Morrison flat-out makes it clear that this new "social justice" Superman is taking its cues from the original appearance of Superman.
But as you know, I'm only taking that aspect of it from the original 1938 version, which was the original Superman....It's not just the establishment. He's against everything he sees that's wrong. He's against crime. He's against wife-beaters. He's against people who kick dogs and cats, as much as he's against the evil Congressman or big business.
So let's get this straight. The rights to the original ACTION COMICS #1 and therefore the original Superman were handed to the Siegel heirs back in 2009, with the Shusters' shares to be fully dispensed to them (though definitely with some legal contest) in 2013. Because stuff has been added to Superman over time, DC will retain ownership over anything created after ACTION COMICS #1, but the heirs will get ownership for ACTION COMICS #1 and the elements in it. So really, the Siegels and Shusters have two ways to finally make money off of Jerry and Joe's most famous creations, in a way that Jerry and Joe themselves never did. Either (1) they settle with DC, or (2) they come up with their own product involving the guy in ACTION COMICS #1. That's a depowered Superman who crusades for social justice.
Whoops! Too late! DC beat them to it again! Unless they can get someone like Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to write their stuff (this being the age of the superstar writer, after all), So now they have no choice but to settle with DC. And considering how many times DC has tried to settle with these guys since 1999 with lowball offers and small deals, well... let's just say it's ironic that this Superman is explicitly classified as one who fights for social justice.
Nothing peeves me off more than the knowledge that this effectively neuters the estates of Siegel and Shuster — again, 73 years later. I'm certainly not calling for a boycott or anything; that's your decision and it's up to where you stand, and of course, the vagaries of the law are complex. But I've been advocating for creators' rights, including retroactive ones, for a very long time, and I just can't do it. I can't buy this book. I feel dirty even thinking about it.
Maybe this Superman will be a big hit with this generation of fans, and maybe that'll be a good thing for the comic book industry. But you can keep this particular Superman — and Grant Morrison — away from me, because all I can see is a middle finger to Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and theirs, unless someone can convince me otherwise.
And that is the last I am saying about this, the Siegel and Shuster case, and anything Grant Morrison says or does for a while, not counting previous work, for a while.
I'm hoping that the other SUPERMAN book will be a different story. In other words — it's your turn, Mr. Perez.