Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Superman 44 originally released September 30th, 2015.
Michael: Modern superhero tales have a troubled history with placing too much emphasis on the “how.” How did they get their powers? How did they become a superhero? How would this actually work in the real world? As always, there are exceptions to the rule, but many creators often spend too much time focusing on the “how” instead of placing the emphasis on what happens next. Case in point: Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr.’s Superman 44. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Superman Unchained 9, originally released November 5th, 2014.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Patrick: As I sit down to write this piece, the clock on the wall above my desk reads 11:00pm. It’s the end of a long day that’s been packed with all the various activities with which I busy myself. I worked, I ran, I improvised, I saw a show, I socialized. I talked to my sister on the phone, I explored the new podcasts on the Wolfpop network, I listened to that Nintendo Direct (Mario Kart DLC on November 13!), I even found some time to read a few comics. All of my interests were active all day, occasionally shifting in immediate priority so I could focus on completing one thing. This is the only way I know how to live my life — I don’t have much of a plan for my future, because I cannot predict which of these things is going to be / should be the most important thing to me. My enthusiasms revise themselves as opportunities and proficiencies wax and wane, and I’m constantly in fear that this maleability will rob me of genuine perspective. How can a writer have a voice, or a point of view, if they’re not any one thing consistently? In his spectacular finale to Superman Unchained, Scott Snyder posits that adaptability trumps consistency, and that Superman’s lack of defining ideology is his greatest strength. Neither Superman nor Patrick Ehlers stand for any one thing — and that’s what makes us mighty. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Superman Unchained 8, originally released September 10th, 2014.
Patrick: I’d never really considered how strange it is that we refer to the biggest global political players as “super powers.” It’s…weird, right? That’s a phrase taken from our capes and cowls, our frequently immature power fantasies, and applied to governments. It might be comforting to think of the United States as Superman, swooping in to altruistically save the day, but the truth isn’t so clear-cut. How can a government take altruistic action when there is no “self” to sacrifice? One body makes a decision, another carries out the action, and a third has to deal with the consequences. Heroism comes from that internalizing the whole process, from decision-making through the consequences. With Superman Unchained 8, Scott Snyder suggests that Superman can (and should) be that singular entity. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Superman Unchained 7, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Shelby: On the surface, the phrase “fight fire with fire” doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I mean, what are you going to do, set the fire on fire? That’s not going to get you anywhere. While it’s come to mean “taking extreme measures in the face of extreme threat,” its origin is actually fairly logical. As an early fire-fighting method, people would set small, controlled fires to burn up potential fuel and prevent larger, far more damaging fires from spreading. It’s logical until you consider how easy it is for a controlled fire to turn on you, however. In the end, no matter how you use the phrase, ultimately you’re just going to end up getting burned, a lesson learned by General Lane and Wraith in the latest installment of Superman Unchained.
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Action Comics 32, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Drew: How do you beat the unbeatable man? Normally, Superman writers struggle with this question in trying to create any real tension — the conventions of comics dictate that Superman is the most powerful being on Earth and that the good guy always wins, so how do you manage to wring a compelling story out of that? “Doomed” solves this problem by turning it on its head: what if Superman was the bad guy? Then the fact that he’s the most powerful being on Earth lies in direct conflict with the fact that the good guys always win, making the question of how to beat Superman no longer a trivial detail, but a key to the resolution of the conflict. Of course, years of the other kind of conflict have given writers an arsenal of weapons to use against Superman — they’ve never quite worked on their own, but maybe they can get the job done together. Action Comics 32 explores this idea in earnest, but reminds us that for all the ways we have to beat Superman, he was always our only solution to beating Doomsday. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Superman Unchained 6, originally released March 19th, 2014.
Shelby: Comic books have to be one of the most restrictive forms of media out there. As a writer, you’re stuck dealing with characters with 70-odd years of history hanging around their necks like a lodestone. Deviate too much, and millions of voices cry out in anger before you find yourself suddenly silenced (creatively speaking). But if you don’t deviate enough, you find yourself with a story that is at best seen as a cliché and at worse doesn’t make any sense because there’s no way to make sense of that much backstory. I have a lot of respect for the writers who walk that line, and walk it well; I don’t envy them the choices they have to make. While I have lauded Scott Snyder in the past for his treatment of Batman’s origin story in Year Zero, his take on the Man of Steel falls a little too close to territory we’ve tread before for me to really enjoy it.
Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Superman Unchained 5, originally released January 1st, 2014.
Mikyzptlk: Since the beginning, Kal El has been a man caught between two lives: Clark Kent and Superman. Sometimes, these two lives are shown in conflict, while other times they are shown in harmony with one another. No matter what though, these lives are a part of the Man of Steel. In Superman Unchained 5, the other superman, known as Wraith, attempts to use Kal El’s dichotomy to get Superman to see things his way. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Batman/Superman 5, originally released November 6th, 2013.
Drew: Ironic detachment is a dangerous thing in a work of art. It calls our attention to the weaknesses of a story, but it can’t do much to address those weaknesses. In calling our attention to the foibles of a work of art, the artist is intentionally leaving them in, which either means they’re either left there intentionally (maybe just to point them out), or they’re actually unavoidable, in which case, making fun of them is entirely superficial. Either way, it makes the art about itself, which is great if the point of the art is to comment on the limitations of the form, but starts to break down if it needs to make any other points. Unfortunately, Batman/Superman 5 aims for something beyond its postmodern trappings, and falls firmly into this latter category. Continue reading →