Tuesday, June 18, 2013


On the eve of my going to the theater to play a part in the box-office bonanza that is "Man of Steel," I engaged a friend and colleague in a little DC Comics bashing. Issue number one for me was the way that the heroes in their universe seem to come with heroic personae along with their requisite super powers. There isn't much doubt built into their worlds. I likened this to the way Batman's utility belt always seemed to offer just the right solution for whatever the situation the Caped Crusader found himself. This has always been true of Superman as well. If you needed a way out of a particularly tight fix, all you needed to do was pop the modifier "super" in front of this or that character trait, and you knew that the Last Son of Krypton would be alright. Super-breath for fighting forest fires. Super-hearing for listening in on Lex Luthor's nefarious schemes. Super-hypnosis to wipe the hard drive of Lois Lane's memory clean from the Super-tryst. Super-convenient.
Once you've discovered that you can, for example, travel faster than the speed of light in order to undo the events of the previous day, suspense is a little hard to come by. So, what's left? Super-torment? Super-reflective? Super-angst? Becoming the sole caretaker for your adopted home world is a pretty big responsibility. Super-big. It's that human part of Kal-El, the one we call Clark, that I always wish had a little more doubt in him. Super-confident plays pretty well in 1938, but seventy-five years later, I think I'm ready for a little Super-introspection.
The good news is that there is some of that to be found in this new vision of Superman. We find out that Krypton imploded because of fracking. We see young Clark Kent in his elementary schoolroom assailed by his own Super-senses in what can only be termed Super-attention-defecit-disorder. And the new Super-suit? It's darker than the one Christopher Reeve or George Reeves or any of those other Reeves wore. And even though he gets to wear his underwear on the inside this time, he's still hampered by that annoying cape.
The other fresh piece of news is that this time it would seem that Metropolis' number one investigative reporter, Lois Lane, gets to be in on the joke. No longer stymied by the puzzle of a guy who happens to work right next to her wearing a fifty-two regular and always happens to be out of the room when Superman appears, Lois is no longer part of the world's longest office prank. Suddenly Clark is Super-available.
With all this said, I still found myself pining for the teenaged ennui of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider Man. This is a guy who routinely found himself running out of web fluid, and even had to do his own laundry. Pretty amazing, but not exactly super. But maybe, as the Kryptonian scholars would tell us, that "S" doesn't stand for "Super." It stands for Hope.

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