Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Took The Super Out Of Superman?

Who Took the Super?

For much of his 73 years, Superman has been the leading character of the superhero genre. The first of the successful prototypical comic book superheroes, Superman has also been – at times – the best-selling, most popular, most powerful, and in a couple of different ways, the defining symbol of righteousness. At others times, however, he has been less than that, and by and large several of these quantities have trended downwards over the last half of the character's history. The purpose here is to ask, as the title of a 1976 story put it, "Who Took The Super out of Superman?"

To the greatest extent reasonable, I have collected data to back up these points. I read one page of Superman from each year and counted the number of panels and statements that, in my view, portrayed certain traits. Ideally, one would examine every panel of every issue and have multiple readers "coding" their impressions, but I believe that the sample I performed is still enough to show some obvious facts on the scale of decades. I also used sales data to the extent that I could find it. I think there are some interesting and underappreciated truths in this data, and enough information to deflate a few myths.

History of Superman

Over seven decades, the tone and structure of Superman stories have varied considerably; to some extent, he is a barometer indicating what sort of stories one may find in each era in American culture as a whole. Summarizing Superman's history in any detailed manner would be a massive undertaking. My goal here is simply to sketch out some defining trends in the kinds of stories that have been told. Some of these trends are specific to Superman. Others reflect trends in the comic book medium or American entertainment as a whole. Some changes have led generally in one direction, whereas others have cycled like fashion.


Superman's physical powers have generally increased over the years. This is probably best seen as a gradual many-step retcon; there was not an overarching account that Superman's powers were increasing over time. Certainly the physically weakest version of Superman came right at the beginning. A process of powering him up lasted about thirty years. Since then, his power levels were twice (1972, 1986) reduced for creative reasons, but there have been power-ups along the way. The cumulative trend from his creation to now is definitely upward, but the increases generally came in the first half of his history, with power levels being cyclical since then.


The tone of Superman stories has teetered between dark, noir themes and tales of childlike simplicity. This ran roughly parallel to similar changes in Hollywood. Current readers who think of the Fifties as "old" may not appreciate that cinema had a darker era before the mid-Thirties, much as Superman and Batman inhabited tougher worlds in their initial run which quickly mellowed as the Forties began. Both Hollywood and the comics had official "codes" to preside over family-friendly standards. Then, in the Sixties, as major cinema began to allow darker themes, the comics also ratcheted up their seriousness. Superman's facial expressions alone are unmistakable gauges of this. His foes of the Fifties seemed merely to confound and irritate him. As often as not, his menaces were nothing more than attempts by Lois Lane to discover his secret identity, or to marry him. In the Sixties as in the Thirties and early Forties, he once again grimly faced killers.


In his earliest stories, Superman had no confidante in the world, and other than his dead adopted parents, apparently never had. And yet, he never expressed any regret or remorse. From the Fifties through the Eighties, he had a large cast of friends at the Daily Planet, but he never trusted anyone with his secret identity unless that person was also a costumed crime fighter. Certain other superheroes, particularly Batman and Supergirl, became true confidantes of his. His romantic relationships became increasingly weird, as his cycles of denying and desiring Lois Lane actually hinged on the "rule" that the publishers could not change the mythos by marrying the pair, but within the comics, Superman always offered the reasoning that it would endanger her if they married – illogical given the public nature of their romance such as it was. With the Byrne reboot, Superman became significantly less odd. His closest superhero friendships were deleted but more than replaced with the return of his adoptive parents, the Kents. A "super family" of super powered friends arose, and Superman finally married Lois Lane, giving him a complete confidante.

Superman, Kal-El, and Clark

There has been a complex juggling of three or more personas within the character of Superman. Where there is one physical body, he has been, or subsumed, all of the following:

a) A human and specifically American who happens to be of alien origin.
b) A tough man with powers who pretends to be a frail weakling.
c) A tough man who is reasonably tough even as Clark Kent.
d) A Kryptonian who remembers his early childhood there and reveres the memories and traditions of his lost planet.

During the late Bronze Age, that last personality became, like his romantic relationship, increasingly strange, with Superman's life full of solitary rituals devoted to the memory of Krypton, rituals he rarely shared with his cousin. An undue number of thought balloons contained Superman thinking about his favorite topic – Superman, not infrequently thinking of himself in the third person as something that may have been himself or may have been his sense of his own public image. As Alan Moore had the man himself say in Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?, Bronze Age Superman was "too wrapped up in himself," which helped motivate the humanizing reboot that followed.

For the first thirty or so years after the Silver Age effectively merged Superman's world with that of other heroes, they called him "Superman." This has since changed, in many stories to "Kal" or "Clark" when no outsiders are around. The use of "Kal" seems to have peaked in the Eighties; Lois calls him Clark, but not infrequently, the ironically belittling "Smallville."

Rivals (in the Superman titles)

Superman's universe has became increasingly more populated with characters whose powers (or gadgets) rivaled his own. Initially, Superman was the only unreal element in his fictional world. That lasted for just one year, after which mad scientists and their creations began to challenge him. By and large, such additions to his fictional world "stick" and are less often subtracted, so his fictional world has continually become a more challenging environment as time has gone by.

In his own titles, Superman had the first of many encounters with characters who physically rival him, when he struggled to defeat the giants created by a mad scientist in Superman #8. At first, the idea of a foil that could match Superman was fresh and used rarely. In Action #47, Luthor used electricity to give himself strength almost equal to Superman's. In Superman #30, Mxyzptlk had powers that matched, but did not clearly exceed, Superman's. In the early Fifties, two stories introduced characters with Kryptonian-level powers. Within little more than a decade, they added Superman's pets, cousin, a clone of sorts, and we learned that two entire Kryptonian cities plus that society's equivalent of prison had survived the planet's destruction. Superman had a virtually intact Kryptonian society he belonged in. Meanwhile, in another line of stories, Superman had another set of peers with the Legion of Superheroes.

Ironically, the stronger Superman became, the more often he ran into rivals and foes that were stronger than him.  What was once meant to be a fresh and original twist – a foe stronger than Superman! – soon became a cliché. Initially, every Superman and Action cover showed Superman doing something dominant and amazing. Over the next several years this pattern was interrupted by covers showing Mxyzptlk, the Prankster, or Toyman making a dupe of Superman. Much later, in 1952, a cover promised "The shock of the year" – showing a character punching Superman backwards through a wall. That was perhaps a shock in 1952 (one which ended up not being real; Superman had staged a phony defeat), but by the late Sixties, nearly a quarter of all covers showed someone physically overpowering Superman, and many of the rest showed him in some other way humiliated or bested by the like of Atlas, Samson, Hercules, and Zha-Vam, a Captain Marvel surrogate. The original premise of Superman as an unbeatable winner had given way to the point of monotony as a super powered punching bag that was nearly always faced with some form of domination. Of course, this is how the cover pitched the comic, while the story inside would end with his eventual victory. But in the process, Superman went from a character that was dominant 100% of the time, to one who often spent almost every page of a story losing and only winning in the last page or two. When 1978 rolled around, Superman was punched, zapped, or blasted off his feet in no fewer than 11 of the year's dozen Superman issues.

And while the Byrne reboot cleared the slate of all of those rivals it quickly replaced them, and established that in the new Superman continuity, many characters and even rather conventional machines, were not only a match for Superman but also in many cases far stronger. He soon faced Apokoliptan villains and four Kryptonians of the Pocket Universe whose power far exceeded his. Doomsday was introduced as a brutish foe that could physically beat Superman to death. When Infinite Crisis reintroduced Superboy Prime, he was shown to be clearly stronger than our Superman, as though the "power down" that Superman underwent in the Eighties did not affect him.

Rivals (DC Universe)

While the pages of All Star Comics had several times in the Forties featured Superman in several cameos and just one actual illustrated adventure, the reality of those stories seemed absent from the heroes' solo features. Superman's universe effectively merged with that of Batman in 1952. The single biggest change came in the early Sixties when the Silver Age merged the fictional worlds of all of DC's major superheroes. But the advent of the Justice League, like the Justice Society before it, was not immediately mentioned in the characters' solo titles. Crossovers began in 1962 to establish the unified nature of the heroes' universes even in their own titles. This happened for Superman at a slow pace: A party for Superman in early 1964 had no Justice Leaguers besides Batman present. The other Justice Leaguers were first mentioned in a Superman title in July of that year. And the third and fourth appearances of characters from another "sandbox", besides Batman and Robin, on a cover of Superman came only in 1973, with the offbeat choices of Star Sapphire and Batgirl.

The Seventies, though, solidly asserted the relevance of the Justice League in Superman's world, and in so doing, gave major creative decisions a back door into Superman's titles that they had not previously had. Initially, Superman's physical supremacy over his allies was frequently implied and then vigorously asserted by Justice League #63, which opened the "versus" topic by stating that Superman could physically whip the entire Justice League (including Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman; Martian Manhunter was not present) at once. It went on to state neither Wonder Woman's lasso nor Green Lantern's ring alone could restrain Superman, but that in combination, they could. Soon, however, Green Lantern rings were getting the best of Superman, with guest Tomar-Re zapping Superman in JLA #80. Through the late Sixties and early Seventies, many new and existing DCU/JLA foes are shown outpunching Superman, and this now meant that Superman's rank among the strongest beings in his own universe was continuously lowered. Currently, DC comics have indicated that Superman is roughly on par (perhaps a bit stronger, perhaps a bit weaker) than a vast number of other leading characters. Whereas Superman began as easily the strongest being in his own universe, he is now matched or bested or tied by whole races, and may not be even the millionth-strongest being in his own universe.


One of the hallmarks of Superman is that he has certain stock weaknesses. This superhero trait began with the original Green Lantern's weakness to "non-metals", which he encountered unfortunately frequently. Over the years, Superman has acquired specific weaknesses to the effects of kryptonite (1943 on the radio; 1949 in comics), red sun (Action #262, 1960), and magic (Action #86, 1945). These weaknesses, like powerful rivals, play a precise role in the narrative, giving Superman an obstacle to overcome, which inherently introduces variety into the range of storylines. When this was not enough, red kryptonite was introduced, allowing an implausibly vast range of quirky plots. The importance of varying story templates is the focus of the next section.

Story Structure

The classic story formula – not just for Superman, but also for Western literature as a whole – is Situation, Complication, and Resolution. In Superman stories, this is most often realized as follows: The peace of Metropolis (or the Earth as a whole) is attacked by an enemy. Superman comes forth to end their evil ways. A common alternative is that the enemy is aware of Superman and begins by attacking him directly.

Superman stories tend to run several pages (once as few as twelve; now, over a hundred, in the form of multi-issue story arcs, is not uncommon). Superman essentially always wins, and he is defined, traditionally, as being capable of beating almost any enemy. Accordingly, some counter-complication has to happen to prevent Superman from winning on the first page.

Over the years, this has tended to consist of largely repetitive formulas which paradoxically have evolved over the years. A formula is used for years on end, then is discarded, and a new formula is used.

For the first year or two, Superman faced almost no setbacks of any kind. The stories, which were usually quite short, consisted of him asserting his will onto a situation. Sometimes, he set out to change a social situation, and (as in the first two stories in Superman #1) his extra-legal solution consisted of forcing someone to undergo an experience that would make the person become more moral.

That template of story was mixed in with, and gradually replaced by, low-level mysteries. Superman would fight his way through some henchmen in one or two encounters before finally cornering his enemy. The key condition that enabled this was that Superman, though virtually invincible, was not omniscient. It was never asserted, as it later would be, that he could use his various sensory powers plus speed (plus little concern about invading the privacy of many innocents in order to catch the guilty) to scan large areas to find anyone he was looking for.

In the Fifties, there was a rise in stories where Superman was troubled by some sort of personal difficulty, often involving his secret identity or Lois's quest to marry him. From the Sixties to the present, the most common complication is that a foe has a way of besting Superman, despite his great powers. Many of the ways that this can happen have already been listed, but there are others: Superman is vulnerable to mind-reading, hypnosis, teleportation, threats to his friends and innocent bystanders, and countless science fiction constructs that infect, overpower, shrink, enlarge, zap, trap, or otherwise transform him. By and large, the default Superman plot has transformed into one that begins by emphasizing the limits of his power, and then the interest in the story shifts to how he overcomes that limit. Sometimes, this takes the format of a "Flash facts" story – Superman exploits one science law to beat his foe, and the issue thus becomes a mini-science text. Sometimes, Superman comes up with a clever tactic, or gets help from an ally. Sometimes, he seems simply to try harder in his third encounter with the villain than he did in the first two, summoning up just barely enough will power to win.

All told, the various degradations in Superman's relative powers and the increasingly challenging situations that he has faced can be seen as a way of renewing the creativity of the serial, allowing stories other than the repetitive stories of his initial year. However, these plot devices have themselves often become repetitive. A year's worth of stories in which Superman always solves a problem on the second-to-last page is no more or less formulaic than a year's worth of stories in which he always wins on every page.

Character-Driven Stories

Superman began as a supremely self-confident individual, bold, egotistical, and prone to boast, even gloat. He, like DC's next three heroes, was also a vigilante, working as a fugitive and at times almost as an anarchist. He resembled Frank Miller's Batman more than he resembled most later versions of Superman. When the comic genre as a whole lightened in tone, Superman naturally lightened with it, but his good nature remained even when the world around him became more complex in the Sixties and onward. Superman became the "Big Blue Boy Scout", at home in one-page promotional spots where he lectured kids on good values. His level of confidence and ego has generally wavered between the Sixties and the present. While, in the Fifties, Superman had not much personality at all, he now has essentially no personality at all. While he of course remains a heroic figure, the details of his values vary sharply from writer to writer.

As the tone of Superman stories changed over the years, embedding a long "nice" period between his rougher first year and the darker Sixties, Superman's personality developed accordingly. In the Fifties, all DC superheroes had much the same personality: They were happy and optimistic when things went well, temporarily glum but still optimistic when things weren't going well; they were upset by setbacks, but never angry.

As the publisher aimed for older readers, and mindful of the competition from Marvel Comics, DC had their superheroes begin to grow up in the Sixties and Seventies. In this new era, one could say that the Flash, Superman, Batman, and Green Arrow definitely had different personalities from one another. One can say that the industry grew up, replacing one-dimensional characters with more realistic, more "literary" characters, the basis of richer stories, more deserving of mature readers' attention.

To an extent this is true, but the character development has gone only so far, and is probably no more than one finds in "young adult" literature, aimed at teens. While stories are sometimes quite complex, they tend to be complex in a science fiction way, not like classics of literature. And, fair enough – they are churned out and mass-produced. In most media, serials and classics are distinct. Moreover, the "hero" genre excludes some of the range of personality from the creative palette: if a set of characters have to be heroic, then there is quite a bit that they cannot be.

Superman's characterization in particular left him penned into some strange pigeonholes. His Bronze Age love life was a soap opera with Lois and Lana at the corners of a love triangle. After the Byrne reboot, Superman planted an unreciprocated kiss on Wonder Woman then creepily told her he'd had erotic dreams about her. It was as though the mightiest hero in the world had the emotional and romantic stature of a fifteen-year-old boy.

The most problematic nature of Superman's characterization is how it has ended up so malleable as to have no solid core. Superman is the property of no single writing team, and in any given decade dozens of writers get their shot at him.
While certain values – of course, his goodness, heroism, and resolve – are relatively fixed, Superman has not become a well-developed character because different writers manipulate his finer points to make their stories work, leaving Superman with no real core.

For example, 2002's eight-issue crossover story Ending Battle climaxed with Superman refusing to kill Manchester Black even when he believed that Black had brutally murdered Lois Lane. Less than two years later, that value was affirmed when Superman said of the prospect of willingly killing a foe, "Never for me. Superman doesn't kill. He has too much control. He'd never make that kind of mistake."

But a year later, the Sacrifice crossover contradicted this by showing a Superman who was willing to kill Brainiac and other powerful foes when confronted with the same illusion that Manchester Black had shown him. The second story, a lead-in to Infinite Crisis, changed this value of Superman's for the sake of making the plot go where it needed to go. Even in this regard, the handiwork was careless: In order to make Superman a dangerous menace in the hands of Max Lord, it was only necessary to make him perform ruthless aggression while believing that he was responding appropriately. Sacrifice could have achieved the same thing by having Superman fight (nonlethally) opponents like Darkseid and Doomsday. In fact, he could unwillingly dole out lethal force while thinking that he was dismantling a bridge, or moving a pile of gravel. The writers and editors of 2005's story could have kept Superman consistent with his 2002 characterization simply by telling the story in that way. What were sacrificed was not the life of a fictional character or the reputation of Wonder Woman, but the creative values of consistent characterization.

The irony is that second-tier characters like Green Arrow and Damian Wayne have been characterized considerably better while Superman's characterization has, in the words of Gertrude Stein, "no there there."

Who Took The Dollars Out of Superman?

A simple display, and at first glance a shocking one. Here are the monthly sales of the Superman title from 1946 until the present. There are some factors that make this display somewhat misleading, but before we discuss these, take in the gestalt of this graph. It is a bleak state of affairs. Issue-for-issue sales have dropped as much as 98% over the past 65 years. This is a complete collapse.
Now, before looking for decades' worth of scapegoats, we should note the factors that led to the greatest part of that decline. First and foremost, the comic medium has faced increasing competition from other forms of entertainment. In 1946, printed reading material faced no competition from television or video games. As time passed, more entertainment options (besides playing outside) have emerged, and the decline seen overall in Superman sales can be seen in virtually any single entertainment channel when viewed over a run of decades.

In addition, the number of Superman titles per year has fluctuated. The frequency of publication for Action and Superman has varied, the number of other solo titles and titles containing Superman features has varied, and his team-up titles have also varied.

That said, the tale is still profoundly negative when we allow for the uncontrollable factors. If we compare Superman sales to a baseline comprised of four other DC titles (JLA, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash), we see a pronounced drop in stature as the years have gone by. In the Sixties, Superman's two titles, in terms of monthly per-titles sales, had 267% the sales of that baseline group. In the period from 2000-2008, Superman's fell to 102% of that baseline. Things have gotten far worse in the past three years, with Superman often absent from his own titles. From 2009 to 2011 Superman is down to 66% of the baseline.

Lest one believes that this collapse was somehow inevitable, or attributes this relative decline to the resurgence of JLA and Green Lantern, we can use Batman as a comparison. While Batman sales, relative to those four baseline titles, plunged from the Sixties to 1980 (in large part due to the loss of the bump that Batman comics experiences when the television show aired from 1966-1968), they subsequently rose, and have remained well above the baseline.

In a nutshell, one or many adverse factors have impacted Superman's popularity between 1980 and the mid-Nineties; in the same time frame, Batman's popularity surged, and then leveled off.

Given all of the ways in which Superman has trended over the years, largely by creative choice downward, which ones track the relative decline in sales?

Sheer physical power? No. Though I do not have data to track this, by all accounts Superman's sales did well for a decade after the Byrne reboot depowered him. Moreover, Superman's powers have been boosted over most of the last fifteen years, but his sales have dropped while his raw physical power has increased. Likewise, the de-emphasis of "Kal-El" and even the Superman persona relative to that of Clark Kent does not track the sales data. The most emphatic statement that the character really is Clark, not a Kryptonian superhero, came in Man of Steel #6 in 1986. The major sales collapse has come more recently.

Is it the tone of the stories? Superman's relationships? No – the darkest eras of Superman stories have sold just fine, and so have the lightest in tone. Bringing the Kents back to life did not hurt Superman sales. It is possible that his marriage to Lois Lane has been a contributing factor in decreasing interest, but that event happened in one issue, long ago, and Superman's sales have fluctuated both up and down since that time; if it has hurt interest by making Superman less macho, there's no real way to test that, and clearly the biggest fall in Superman sales happened well after the marriage.

Is it the increasing extent to which Superman has lost his initial encounters with enemies who match his power? Possibly. While Superman had glorious sales when this rarity became a cliché in the Sixties, it is interesting to track how consistently there has been an increase in the incidence of Superman being weaker when he first encounters an opponent. Taking as a sample the first page where Superman goes into action for one issue of Superman for each year, I coded his physical and personality traits as displayed in that page, counting the number of panels showing him at a physical advantage, or disadvantage, the number of panels in which he expresses confidence versus doubt or confusion, and so on. Then Superman's physical and personality toughness can be calculated by the number of "tough" traits shown versus the overall number of tough and weak traits. The following graph (click to enlarge) shows how those have tracked over the eras of Superman's history.

Some items of note: Superman was physically most dominant in the Fifties, with his battle outcomes declining sharply as his foes grew stronger in the following decades. Both his physical and personality dominance escalated in the Byrne era, despite his literal power-down: The self-doubt of the late Bronze Age was removed and replaced with a touch of farm boy disorientation but a larger helping of determination and confidence. And while Superman's personality was at a low in the late Nineties, his confidence rebounded in the 2000s.

However, one quantity that has steadily declined is the number of fights that begin with Superman taking a beating, with his victories just as inevitable by story's end, but those victories come later. In part, this is a reflection of stories that span multiple issues. In the 2000s as in the Fifties, Superman must struggle in the "Complication" phase of the story, but now that lasts much longer, potentially more than one issue. Page per page, Superman spends more time losing than he used to.

In my view, the greatest source of Superman's decline, though there are many to point to, has come from his relative decline in the DC Universe as a whole. His absolute power-down in the Eighties still left him more physically powerful than during the early years of the era of his uncontested dominance from 1938-1963. But as the post-Crisis era has gone on, Superman has encountered more and more situations where he is physically outclassed by recurring characters.

Consider Superman's first appearance in each JSA/JLA team series. In his only JSA adventure, he won an easy victory. In his first JLA action in 1960, he arrived at the end to mop up. In his first JLA action in 1997, he was immediately taken prisoner, and remained a captive while Batman began defeating the enemy.

Consider Superman's appearance in a 1977 issue of Flash. The speedster, running from a powerful energy fist, ran to Metropolis and led the fist into the back of Clark Kent's head, where it splattered apart. Superman's appearance in Flash Rebirth showed Barry Allen insulting Superman as he left the Man of Steel in his dust.

Consider Superman's easy dominance over his JLA teammates in 1963, and consider Captain Marvel decking him with a sucker punch in 1997.

Consider Superman's 1977 appearance in Batman, where his powers allowed him to laugh his way through a faked physical defeat while wearing the Batman costume with Superman's appearance in later Batman stories such as Hush and Frank Miller's Dark Knight stories where Batman manages to use his tools to beat up Superman.

Consider Superman mopping up a whole crew of White Martians in 1977's JLA #144 and his helpless captivity by White Martians in 2001's JLA #57 as well as the observation by J'onn J'onzz in 2006 that Superman is perhaps not even a rival to the Martian Manhunter.

Consider Elseworlds where Superman is tortured and killed by Gog, or left by Lois Lane for being pathetic and self-pitying when he loses his powers.

Heat flows from a warm body to a cold body. And DC writers, when they have another character's success to call their own, routinely use Superman as a punching bag to demonstrate that the other character is worthy of esteem. In many cases, as with Martian Manhunter, whatever is lost in Superman's stature is certainly not being made up for with the minor character's sales.

The single most important creative decision by DC is the one responsible for Superman's sales drop since 1980 and Batman's surge during that same time. In very simple terms, DC decided to make Batman stronger, and lo, Batman rose in stature. They decided to make Superman weaker, and lo, he sank in stature. While many separate stories oversaw this change over a span of years, the signature moment in that reversal of fortune came with Batman's eloquent dismantling of his erstwhile ally in The Dark Knight Returns. That moment alone, however, was not the unraveling of Superman's whole franchise, which still had a vibrant decade to come. But it was an inspiration to other writers who sought to steal heat from a warm body. Superman lost fights in the Sixties, to his own villains, but he always managed to prevail in the rematch. As he lost to other heroes, or saw his stature in the DCU otherwise diminished, that has been for keeps.

There was a time when Superman's name appeared on the company logo: "DC", "National", and "Superman" shared the billing. There was no question that he was the company's flagship character, distinctly above Batman, and incomparably above any other series. Since then, particularly in the past 15 years, Superman has been used like a bank, with creators making withdrawals from Superman and investing them in other characters. Sometimes, as with Batman, the loans pay back. Sometimes, as with the Martian Manhunter, the loans disappear. These unrepaid loans have spent Superman down out of flagship status, still strong in merchandising, but in comic sales, distinctly trailing Batman and Justice League, of late trailing Green Lantern, perhaps on trend to sink below the Flash. And that is how it stands coming into September 2011, with a new Superman #1 and a new Action #1 going on sale. It is up to the creators to decide whether there will be a #1 inside those issues or only on the covers.


  1. Wow. I'm only about halfway through this beast, and I have to say that it's amazingly well done. Not that your track record shows anything less, but this level of research and analysis is impeccable.

    I am definitely alright with less posting out of you if this kind of material is what it is sacrificed for.


  2. The creators of Justice League realized they had a "Superwimp" problem after Season One and addressed it going forward by beefing Superman up, both physically and in his confidence.

  3. Brilliant, Rikdad; let's hope that Morrison & Perez step him up.

    It would be nice to see in the next inevitable Batman vs Superman fight end in Suprman winning for once.

  4. Wow. Well done, Rikdad! That was the single most interesting text I read all day.

  5. Thanks, Matt, Beyonder, and others,

    This post was in the works for over a year, and I came to it with a good bit of interest, but also detachment. I was willing to let the facts change my mind to the extent that the facts could speak, and then I did what I could to lay them out. I hope the message, from whomever it comes, helps bring about a stronger Superman in the future.

  6. Well, Rikdad, the year.-long work on the article was definitel worth the effort. Any chance of your doing a follow-up discussing in greater details the specific topics of the article? (For instance, I'd just LOVE to read a more detailed, in-deep treatment of Superman: Powers, Superman: Weaknesses, Superman: Rivals (in his own book) and Superman: Rivals (DC Universe).

  7. Excellent work man, and a real fun read.

    I've often thought many of the things you wrote about, except not in such a specific manner.

    Usually it's like "Oh Superman got his ass kicked by Robin again."

    I'd like to support this character more since I like the idea of Superman, but the comics have been pretty bad. One of your points being the recent Lex Luthor arc in Action Comics. I enjoyed that more with Superman out of the book.

    Anyway, this is awesome stuff, great job.

  8. Stealth, It's not surprising to see the same issue arise in other media. Certainly "Superman Returns" comes to mind.

    There's a creative tension between being true to the character and doing something new/deeper. But comics have a legitimate difficulty in trying to stay original as the story count rises well past 2000. The movies and even TV series don't have quite that same excuse.

  9. marlon, indeed. I think Brian Azzarello gave a good account of a Superman-Batman fight in "Lex Luthor: Man of Steel." Superman has too many ways to win from long distance.

    One discovery for me as I read so many stories in research was the Zha-Vam enemy from way back in 1967 who was an obvious Captain Marvel substitute (his name even consisted of the initials of gods). I remember reading the "Captain Thunder" story and the first JLA adventure that showed the two facing off. I don't mind the idea of Superman and Captain Marvel being on a par with one another; I think, though, that they should never meet, and should be in different universes.

  10. I haven't finished reading the whole article yet, but so far it's very interesting and well written. I'm someone who believes that Superman should be the strongest hero in the DC Universe.

    I would like to say though that some of the characters you mention being stronger than Superman post Crisis made total sense. The pocket universe Kryptonians were post-Crisis versions of pre-Crisis Kryptonians so of course they would be more powerful.

    Also, you write "When Infinite Crisis reintroduced Superboy Prime, he was shown to be clearly stronger than our Superman, as though the "power down" that Superman underwent in the Eighties did not affect him". But why would it affect him? Superboy Prime was a pre-Crisis character that existed outside post-Crisis reality and his origin was not altered with the reboot, unlike our Superman, so it was logical that he would retain his power levels.

  11. Just finished reading the whole post and I'm impressed at how well tought out it is. I especially like that you mention how Superman's response to Lois's brutal killing differs so much within some years, according to what plot point the writers want to push. A lot of times I have seen fans say how they hate the Superman character for his behavior, when Superman himself is actually bound to the writers' whims. It' how Morrison wrote it in his last issue on "Animal Man":

    -Animal Man: How can they make me eat meat? I don't eat meat! I don't want to eat meat! I'm a vegetarian.
    -Morrison: No, I'm a vegetarian. You'll be whatever you're written to be.

    I hope you will excuse some nitpicking though. You write "In his first JLA action in 1997, he was immediately taken prisoner, and remained a captive while Batman began defeating the enemy". The truth is that Superman freed himself completely on his own (didn't need no Batman help) and proceedeed to defeat the White Martians' leader. Grant Morrison's JLA in general was a highpoint for post-Crisis Superman, with him being highly regarded by his teamates.

    Remeber in the Angels' storyline (JLA #6-7) Green Lantern says "We need Superman. I don't care how good we think we are." and Flash muses "This is the guy who said he couldn't live up to his myth. He's wrestling an angel." Also earlier, after Superman moved the moon, the Flash ponders "And later, when it's all over, I ask Superman how he managed to do what he did. And I know that the moon's gravity makes him six times more Superman there than on earth but..."

    Still, great post.

  12. Dimitris,

    The notion that someone outside the Universe would have stayed in pre-Crisis form makes some sense, but whether you read the stories closely and hold them "to the letter" or whether you give the creators some latitude, it is in either case a creative choice, not a rule of internal logic, that has the "other" Kryptonians at pre-Crisis strength:

    1) Superboy Prime was actually in the universe when COIE's cosmic events ended. He went into the paradise dimension after the last cosmic change happened in COIE.

    2) Superman of Earth Two did not end up vastly stronger than New Earth Superman (as we saw when they fought during Infinite Crisis and its crossovers). But he was always in the same dimension as SBP during the end of COIE and events of IC.

    3) Superman was not actually powered down when COIE ended. He was powered down by the Byrne reboot which happened some months later. For several months, he was being published, and in one pre-Byrne story where he remembers the death of Supergirl, the action implies that he is still pre-Byrne Superman, and that he and Kara could fly in space unaided, etc. Therefore, the logic of COIE does not necessarily apply to other Kryptonians.

    4) The Time Trapper grabbed the Pocket Universe from the post-Crisis timeline, so by default its Kryptonians would have been the same as in the post-Crisis world. The Time Trapper's decision to make those Kryptonians more powerful was actually the creators' decision to make them pre-Crisis-like. But that was a creative decision. They could have just as easily swept the same power-down over the Legion's continuity (affecting Mon-El, etc.).

    5) Note that Captain Marvel was very close to Superman's power levels both before and after the Crisis/reboot. He wasn't even Kryptonian, but was effectively powered-down, for creative purposes. This same creative decision could have been made for the Pocket Universe Kryptonians and/or SBP... it was creative whim, not a rule of logic.

    My point here is not to criticize it or say that it should have been different; it was a creative decision. And in fact, even that is not important to my original point, which was just to say that Superman dropped in the rankings as a result of all this. Whether or not that was good or bad or necessary is another matter. It's simply true that it did lower Superman's relative ranking.

  13. You are right, if they wanted they could have reduced Superboy Prime's and pocket universe Kryptonians' power levels so ultimately it was a creative decision. I just wanted to say that in these cases I found the reasoning behind their being more powerful, acceptable (for me).

    As for Superboy Prime going to the paradise dimension after the last cosmic change, that was still before the Superman reboot, which is where Superman's depowering really happened.

    If I remember correctly the last cosmic change within COIE happened in Crisis #10, which means that Superman in the last 2 issues should have been the post-Crisis version. The fact that DC implemented changes months after the end of that series follows no story-logic and thus it's difficult to hold these stories to the letter.

    So, I do see your point about them being creative decisions.

  14. Dimitris,

    I checked my comment about JLA #3 pretty consciously before I posted it. I didn't assert that Batman freed Superman, only that Batman had begun to defeat the enemy while Superman was still a captive. Batman had defeated four of the White Martians while Superman was still tied up, and Superman was amused to see them frustrated by Batman's attack, which was happening somewhere else in the same building. Superman, incidentally, only took out one White Martian, whereas in JLA #144 v. 1, he took out every White Martian by himself (Wonder Woman punched one of them).

    It doesn't look like Batman likely could have taken out the other 66 White Martians without backup, but I phrased it in line with how it happened. And it is still a sharp contrast from how team stories handled Superman in his earlier years.

  15. Rikdad,

    I didn't mean to say that what you wrote regarding JLA was wrong. I just didn't want anyone who read the blog and hadn't read the story to get the impression that Superman was just captive in that story while Batman was saving the day (not that you wrote such a thing, more how it could be perceived). And still, even if Batman didn't exist Superman would still free himself.

    But yeah, Batman had clearly cooler moments. And pre-Crisis Superman was doing bigger damage to his enemies, no dispute on that.

  16. Rikdad, thank you for this. You address, and answer, questions I've had for many years now.

    Although I didn't know it at the time, I came into comics at the end of the Mort Weisinger era in 1970. When Julie Schwartz took over, writer Denny O'Neill began with a brilliant eight-part story in which kryptonite on Earth is made inert yet Supes faces a new threat that temporarily causes him to lose his powers. At one point, he beats several thugs in a straight fist fight, an inspiring if unusual moment at the time. Finally, he regains some but not all of his powers, and, given a choice at the end of the story line, decides not to go back to the planet-juggling powerhouse he had been.

    I cite this story because I think Schwartz was struggling with how to make an all-powerful hero's exploits interesting. Weisinger resorted to a cast of thousands and numerous imaginary stories such as "Killer Kent vs. Super Luthor." Schwartz's answer was to take away some of our hero's power and attempt to give him more human-level issues to deal with (including a bad boss, Morgan Edge).

    What's happened in the past decade or so is I think an outgrowth of the same quandary Schwartz had. But writers and editors have struggled so much that Superman is pushed off stage regularly for lesser characters such as Booster Gold (in "52") or Mon-El (in the New Krypton saga). And too often when he has been on stage, he's characterized as being powerless to deal with events unfolding around him. My biggest frustration as a fan has been Superman's endless hand-wringing in various storylines. Punch someone, for God's sakes!

    The answer now, I hope, is for Grant Morrison to restore the seemingly supremely confident Superman of 1938 with modern-day situations and themes. I think confidence is the one power of sorts that Superman needs most of all, regardless of the relative power levels around him.

  17. You've made a truly awesome analysis, Rikdad.

    The only thing missing is what I consider the true motivations behind the Decline of Superman in the DCU.

    One may argue for or against the current creators being anti-Superman. Geoff Johns seems incapable of writing a Superman story without depowering the guy completely and/or turning Superman into a guest star in his own books. James Robinson goes further to make even minor characters more important than Superman in his own books, and twice has made Krypto (!) the 'Real Hero' over Superman. Paul Cornell is completely incapable of writing a Superman story hence the Luthor bait-and-switch in Action Comics. Here's an idea fellas: How about a Superman story in a Superman book? It just might work, huh?

    One thing not in doubt is the concurrent legal battle for ownership of Superman with the Siegel Estate during the Decline years.

    IMHO, owing to the courts ruling in the Siegel Estate's favour during these proceedings, DC set out to do two things.

    One, for sheer survival, DC had to go from a publisher with Superman as their flagship core character to one more diversified, and with little to no dependency on their Founding Father.

    Two, out of sheer spite, DC would 'poison the well' for anyone (the Siegels) using Superman if DC lost control of the character. If DC can't have total control, then let's make sure the other guy has a lame duck on their hands.

    Grant Morrison traditionally is a writer who shows Superman his iconic due. DC One Million certainly cements that esp. with his establishing of the Superman Dynasty, Superman Prime being immortal, and the DCU literally revolving around the Dynasty as it evolves. It shows both a fictional and metafictional appreciation for the character and his true meaning to the DCU. I hope Morrison is granted sufficient free rein to once more make Superman the iconic character he always was before.

  18. I'd like to add another possibility to the decline of Superman. Movies and TV. Since the late 70s - early 80s, Superman has not had a good movie. Yes Smallville was excellent. But Clark was never stated as Superman until the final show. Yes everyone knew who he was, but since the name Superman was not used and the costume was not used, it did not drive people to the comics.

    Though you would think comics would drive the movies, I think it is the opposite. Batman had a good movie in the late 80s and again in 2000s.

    And where many heroes do not have movies, the inability to produce a good Superman movie is actually worse. I think Superman Returns really hurt Superman comics.

  19. Steve F,

    I see your point and agree this is a contributing factor.

    But I see it the other way. Movies and TV are more symptoms of the problem not a root cause.

    While Batman has done phenomenally well, also notice that most of DC's other properties have also increased in DC popularity without needing their own movies nor TV shows.

    The other media are being driven by the comics popularity not the other way around. DC made a massive push on Green Lantern with various books and series long before the Green Lantern movie came out.

    I agree a bad movie would hurt the comics.

  20. Captain Kal,

    Interesting thoughts. I think the decline of Superman has certainly spanned different eras with different decision-makers at the helm, but the current era is one where your comments apply.

    In 2009-2010, we saw a similar phenomenon occur in the Superman AND Batman titles, and it is unlikely to be coincidental: DC divided their "star" assets from a small number of titles to a large number of titles, as part of what was almost certainly a conscious effort to boost overall sales. Specifically, the star characters (Superman and Bruce Wayne) were moved out of their main titles; it is likely that this specific strategy drove the plot lines (Bruce Wayne's "death" and the emigration of Superman to New Krypton) that "made" that happen rather than vice versa. Even Dick Grayson vacated Detective Comics. Three main titles (Superman, Action, Detective) were given to non-star characters (Mon-El, Luthor, Batwoman). In addition, star writers were moved to completely new titles (Morrison to Batman and Robin; Paul Dini to Streets of Gotham and Sirens).

    It seems clear that DC intended to get reasonably high sales out of multiple titles, by giving each title one star asset (the character, the writer, OR the traditional title) and for those to sum higher than the possible upside of a single title with all of those assets. (3 times 45,000 is more than any single title would sell.)

    So I don't think in this case, DC was trying to ruin Superman any more than they were trying to ruin Batman. I think they were trying to squeeze more dollars out of the assets they had.

    Maybe it worked, maybe it didn't. But the experiment is over: We will soon see Superman in Action with Grant Morrison writing.

  21. Hi Rikdad,

    Point taken re: similar storylines for both Superman and Batman, but Batman's didn't include the huge downgrading of Superman and Krypton for Bruce and Batman.

    Batman is like the Flash. Put anyone in the cowl and he still looks like Batman, esp. on the cover of his books. We didn't have such a stand-in who we could mistake for Superman in his books despite Mon-El sporting the S-shield; Lar clearly is Lar and not Superman.

    Kryptonians went from being single-metathreats capable of taking out a planet on their own, to simple Terran soldiers being able to take them out by themselves. Guess Luthor needs to take lessons from the military, huh? How about all those dozens of super-villains over the decades who tried singly and collectively to beat Superman? Even Darkseid didn't find Superman a cakewalk but now they can go down like flies being swatted. Even Saturnians, who aren't near as powerful as Martians but share a weakness to fire, swatted Kryptonians around like nothing when a simple match could take them out. Thanagarians were portrayed as a legitimate threat against Kryptonians. I mean, OMG!

    Krypton was made out to be an evil conquering empire in ages past, but Daxam was planet Wonderful. Robinson took so much time making Daxam special he forgot to explain that nasty lead weakness nor even mention it at all. Daxam = Good. Krypton = Bad.

    I sincerely doubt Bruce nor Batman were subjected to anything that degraded their status.

    Contrast the final battle in War of the Supermen with Superman vs Darkseid. The former portrays an idiot Superman who relies on luck and circumstance while all his comrades do the real saving the day. Even Zod looks more heroic than Superman, and Kal only survives some of Zod's traps by the grace of Zod. Superman in Superman vs Darkseid is a grand chessmaster positioning his troops for maximum effect while he takes on the Big Bad god by his lonesome, then proceeds to win after much struggle. The abomination of a 'Superman' in the War is an ineffectual loser who can't manage his own affairs let alone bother to keep track of his comrades, let alone plan anything with them. He even needs to be rescued by Krypto, the second time Krypto is the 'Real Hero' in Robinson's books, the first being against Atlas.

    The Superbooks took a record nosedive in sales during the bait-and-switch year. Despite DC's best efforts to find alternates to replace Superman, the experiment failed miserably. Guess what, DC? Readers actually like to read about Superman in his books. I sincerely doubt Batbooks sales took a similar dunking.

    I was so looking forwards to Superman returning to his books only to have more bait-and-switch with Luthor in Action Comics.

    Show me something similar in Batman for his storyline and I'll concede they're equivalent storylines.

  22. Steve, I have heard it said that movies have not tracked with comic sales in recent years. One would have to look carefully at the full panel (Spider-Man, Wolverine, etc.).

    I have found annual "Amazing Spider-Man" sales and see that there may have been a boost in movie years, but this was not sustained. Eg, sales were lower the year AFTER the tremendous hit Spider-Man 2 than in the year before the movie. That would seem to provide evidence that any movie boost is small or temporary. Although I have no way to account for other factors like the story lines themselves.

    It is clear that the Batman TV show had a tremendous impact on comic sales -- it temporarily propelled Batman to the top sales spot. And it seems logical that there be SOME overlap between audiences and comic sales. But it's unclear how significant this is in comparison to other factors.

    I guess there is a "hard" fanbase who buys comics and a "soft" fanbase who watches other media, and the soft fans are extremely hard to attract to comics. This may be a matter not only of preference and taste but even convenience.

    It is clear that the Superman movie franchise has a downward trend of EXTREMELY long duration, as the best-received two movies came first, thirty years ago. However, Smallville was a big hit on TV, and Lois and Clark did fairly well in terms of ratings. The company even tried to synchronize the TV and comics weddings. But I don't see that television success translated into sales.

  23. Rikdad,

    Good points about immediate impact of a movie, but I wasn't thinking of immediate. I was thinking long-term.

    You walk into a comic store and decide to buy. Maybe you think of movies from the last few years and you remember how good Batman Begins was or Spiderman. And you think of how bad Superman Returns was. That's when I think it comes into play. Years later while the movie is just recent enough to stay in memory and in the news.

    I also think it comes into play with corporations. I doubt DC makes anywhere near as much money from the comics as it does from non-comics (movies, toys, etc). Movie does bad, let's revamp the comic (usually for the worse) to increase interest.

    Writing will always be the main factor, but I think the media industry does come into play.

    It might be interesting to see how often a book is revamped after a poor showing from a movie or how often a book is changed to include movie elements when it does well. And then, how often both revamps fail.

  24. Just to underscore how 'heroic' Superman looks in War of the Supermen, check this pic out.

    Wow! That really makes Superman so inspiring...Not!

    Yes, DC was trashing Superman and trying to make his fans switch to all sorts of substitutes.

    When that didn't work they cooked up this New 52 reboot of the entire DC line which incidentally gets them off the hook on the Siegel and Shuster copyright court case since they'll be changing Superman from the character seen in the original Action Comics #1. I'm willing to bet we never see again the classic car-over-his-head pose so many artists have done homage to over the decades.

  25. Captain Kal,

    Two great points:

    War of the Superman downgraded Superman's relative rank in an unusually vast way, by introducing a huge number of characters who were inarguably near his fighting ability (same power, less practice) and frequently counter to his interests. The original Kandor (in a less reality-driven era) left us with Kandorians who were tiny and moreover, content to live under a red sun lamp. And yet, as truth-to-reality goes, I found the whole premise tremendously uncompelling in that none of the 120,000 chose to fly to Earth or elsewhere and make themselves gods - just a couple of bandits and some organized raids.

    Great point about the legal angle, but do we have that in print, or is it speculation surrounding what may have a gag order? It is certainly clear that DC is rushing the reboot, and running roughshod over many ongoing plans to get it underway. But there are business reasons as well as legal for doing it sooner rather than later.

  26. Hi Rikdad,

    Honestly, as I posted above in my first post, IMHO that DC has this agenda re: the Siegel lawsuit. It's never been officially documented anywhere. I'd be lying if I said I'm the only one who's made this connection as you'd doubtless see if one Googled the various forums about this. A number of other guys have made this same connection independently.

    I suppose this is actually the more optimistic way to see things, that DC has a corporate agenda to downgrade Superman. It otherwise would seem extremely stupid to poison their prime cash-cow.

    OTOH, another way to see it that isn't so rosy is that the current Superman writers simply are anti-Superman who should never have been let anywhere near the Superbooks. I find it ironic that Geoff Johns, who can take even the most minor character to turn them into something wonderful and interesting, seems to do the exact reverse with Superman. The one time Johns wrote about Superman under a blue sun, which is supposed to make Kal more powerful, the only notable power change was developing 'Superman vision' which gives super-powers to other characters. I mean, isn't that a little too blunt a metaphorical hint? Superman himself doesn't get more formidable, but he gets the power to makes others powerful. It sadly jibes with your own analysis, Rikdad, about how DC's been using/abusing Superman as a reputation bank.

    As for Kandor, Pre Crisis Superman was still seen as the premiere Kryptonian. In the story of Ar-Val, the Kandorian successor to Superman, the Kandorians selected the highest scoring in mental and physical attributes amongst themselves in Ar-Val. Ultimately, even Ar-Val was seen as not being up to Superman's calibre. A later World's Finest story has them elect Superman king of Kandor to solve their society problems. Even before that WF story, Kandor routinely asked Kal for help solving their internal problems. He was even written as "The Greatest Green Lantern of All!", genetically perfect, totally without fear, striding like a Titan amongst the stars, and the Guardians' chosen replacement for themselves to lead the Green Lantern Corps. IOW, Pre Crisis, even amongst his fellow Kryptonians, Superman was still the best.

    I agree War of the Supermen downgraded Superman to just one amongst many Kryptonians. But it goes far beyond that. They downgraded the power and moral rating of all Kryptonians in the DCU. And they made Superman himself into a joke, esp. with Krypto rescuing his limp form like that.

    I see three possible reasons for this in current times. I favour the Siegel lawsuit agenda POV. The second option is the current writers are simply anti-Superman. Another option is this is a big, honking coincidence. I discount the third alternative as too many coincidences add up to a conspiracy. That leaves options one and two, and you know where I lean towards.

  27. Now that the second week of DC's New 52 is out, I see a few things relevant to this topic.

    Justice League #1 shows Batman and Green Lantern first, in that order, as the first super-heroes depicted in the New 52 books. If we count Flashpoint #5, then Flash and Batman in that order were the first depicted in the New 52 DCU. (Post-Flashpoint? New 52?) Superman is the third or fourth depending on how you look at publishing. I suppose the good news is in the revised timeline Superman is once again the first super-hero of his Earth, but he's certainly not the first shown. And the whole basis for this reboot is Johns' Flash fixation which makes Flash the 'God' who remade the universe. This whole new DCU means everything came from the Flash somehow. Ugh! But another piece of good news is New 52 Superman clocks New 52 Hal Jordan Green Lantern seemingly effortlessly. At least he won't be looking bad to make Hal look good. But the next issue has him fight Batman. I despair that DC will once again make Superman look bad to inflate Batman's already considerable reputation. I really hope they don't.

    The new Action Comics #1 still carries creator credit for Siegel and Shuster. I thought that was just a courtesy since the first Superman movie, but it might be a legal requirement now that the copyright courts have ruled largely against DC for the Siegels.

    Stormwatch #1 indicates Stormwatch is seeking Apollo, a Wildstorm Superman-copy, because of a fight he had with Superman implying Apollo is more powerful. The fight is referenced is in Superman #1 which isn't out yet. If Superman #1 does indeed confirm this, it's a very bad start to New 52 for Superman as he's already being used again as a reputation bank to give credit to a copy of himself at the expense of his own standing. I hope Stormwatch #1 is misleading, but this might be the end of my DC reading days if they trash Superman even at the start of a supposed 'new era'.

  28. Captain Kal, you've continued to make some fantastic observations on this topic. The "blue sun vision" is indeed a telling situation.

    I was decrying the "Boy Scout" before I had any inkling that DC might show us the guy Morrison wrote in Action #1. As I mentioned, I started this piece about a year before I actually published it. So I am delighted by Morrison's approach. But it seems like other writers are still free to do their own Superman-undermining in other titles. I hope editorial sees the wisdom in enforcing some consistency. If the characters have no real grounding, then character-driven stories are automatically undermined.

    (Incidentally, I also wanted to see the JSA and the Marvel Family go to their own worlds and not share Superman's, and that appears to be happening, if they are depicted at all. This reboot is like Christmas for me.)

    The re-superization of Superman is thus going to fall to a few major parties:

    1) Editorial -- to see that he is characterized first and foremost consistently. And preferably, as the dominant hero in his universe. While I liked Morrison's and Dini's parallel Batman titles in the 2006-2008 era a lot as individual titles, I sometimes had trouble seeing them as the same character. DC would benefit by getting the characters in line. Let the plots, otherwise, go where they may.

    2) Perez -- as the writer on "Superman", he's got a huge role. If editorial doesn't enforce consistency, I hope that he shares Morrison's vision.

    3) Johns -- he is sure to have a major impact; in fact, he showed us the new Superman a week before Morrison did. So far, I like where the chracterization is going. I'd really like to see Superman easily win his round with Batman, unless Johns comes up with a truly brilliant tactic. I think Azzarello told it fair in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. Superman has too many moves he can use from long distance. No fight. Let's see how Johns tells it.

  29. Sorry for ranting in your blog, Rikdad, but this seems to be appropriate place since it's on topic.

    I just looked up who's writing Stormwatch: Paul Cornell. Yep, the same Cornell who gave us a year of Lex Luthor in Action Comics instead of Superman. Like I have a yen to see one of the biggest villains in the DCU glorified. I thought that might have been a one-off, if a year-long series could be considered a 'one-off', but he's the guy writing Stormwatch as the 'professionals', Superman and the Justice League as 'amateurs', and Apollo as able to beat up Superman. Call me crazy, but Cornell seems to have it in for the Man of Steel. Ironically, he seems to be able to write about Superman-clone Apollo, but goes out of his way to put down the original Real Steal Deal. So it's not like he doesn't have any real Superman-type stories in him, he just doesn't seem to want to apply that talent to the real Superman.

    Good assessment of the parties to Superman in New 52.

    1) It seems Editorial isn't providing an overall direction on how characters are handled, or more specifically, how Superman is handled. My understanding is creators of other books need to negotiate with the home team book to use characters from their books. For example, GL writers can't just decide to write Lois Lane into a story without checking with the Superbook creators. This is more an unspoken etiquette but has elements of MAD (Mutally Assured Destruction) built in. Someone once used a Batbook character without permission in a Superbook, so, tit-for-tat, they used a Supercharacter without permission in a Batstory. It looks like either Cornell is stealing from Superman's rep without permission from the home Superman creators, or he somehow has that permission. Either way, this isn't good.

    2) I reserve judgment on Perez until I've read Superman #1. I'm cautiously optimistic before that. While Matt Idelson might not have any say on non-Superbooks, he's the editor of them specifically so it's entirely his job to ensure our remaining two books have a consistent Superman portrayal, or at least any inconsistencies are due to different periods in Superman's life that will eventually be explained and disappear. Superman #1 is supposed to be somewhere in the future of Action Comics #1.

    3) Re: Geoff Johns oversight on Superman: Given Johns' history of depowering Superman, making him a guest star in his own books, and generally robbing him of his heroic standing, I have no faith in Johns doing anything positive for the Superbooks if he has anything to do with them. Maybe this is his chance to break his abyssmal trend with Superman. But going by his previous work with Superman, the outlook doesn't look good.

  30. very nice blog
    check mine :-)

  31. Why haven't you posted in seven months?

  32. A good question, TreehouseProm. I was wondering the same thing. I hope everything's all right...

  33. Hey all. Nothing wrong here. Working on entirely different things these past several months. Batman Inc publication slowed to a trickle. Very much enjoying Morrison's Action, but I haven't had so much to say each and every issue. I'm intrigued by the whole DCnU phenomenon as a whole, side by side with previous "universes." Overall, I'm not saying anything because there hasn't been any sort of timely event for me to say much about.

  34. What was a promising start to the New 52 for Superman degenerated into Rikdad's "Superman as a reputation bank".

    Geoff Johns scripted Aquaman(! ?) slugging Superman and the Man of Steel was out of commission for most of the rest of the book in Justice League. Not content with this, Johns has an interviewed bystander later comment about how badass Aquaman is for sluggint Superman like that. Honestly, Aquaman is seriously stronger under Johns' writing, but Earth-benching Superman-level. Arthur is bus/truck throwing level. He's nothing to mock, but not Kryptonian-calibre.

    I could go on, but Johns has shown his usual theme of making Superman bad to make others look good.

  35. For much of his 73 years, Superman has been the leading character of ...