Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Social Justice Superman

I've already gone on record as feeling pretty "meh" towards DC Comics big "New 52" reboot initiative, but then I've also gone on record as saying that I'm pretty clearly not the audience this thing is aimed at. Of course, as you'd expect, the one character I'm understandably curious about is Superman, and while I'm not crazy about the costume redesign by Jim Lee, I'm still very interested in how they plan to rewrite his origin (which has itself been re-written a few times in the recent past).

The sole reason for this interest (notwithstanding my love of the character) is because it's being implemented by writer Grant Morrison (whose Rolling Stone interview -- wherein he concurs that this reboot is akin to a "death spiral" -- I linked to here). With the first issue of Morrison's Action Comics run re-envisioning the original superhero as a social justice crusader in T-shirt, jeans, and work boots due to hit stores tomorrow, the author chatted at length with Newsarama, and spelled out how he aims to make the Man of Steel relevant in a postmodern, post-9/11 world.

Here's one exchange that stuck out:
Superman stands for justice, not necessarily for the law. And I think that's what makes this guy different. But as you know, I'm only taking that aspect of it from the original 1938 version, which was the original Superman. He was very much... you know, those stories were set in a pretty convincing real life world, and Superman was dealing with corruption and the law and the cops and then Congress, as much as he was dealing with just street crime and day-to-day violence. 
So he always had that social justice, and we're just taking it back. I think right now, we're all feeling that way. Nobody has much faith in their elected leaders in the same way that they did. We all have a lot more cynicism and a lot more doubt about the people who are running our lives than we did when Superman was a 'Boy Scout.' So we're taking him back to the '30s, when people did have that doubt, and a lot of people were losing their jobs and losing their livelihood, and a lot of people were realizing there was corruption in high places.  
I think we're at that time again, a very cynical, very doubting time. Superman's more the hero for that than he was for, say, the patriotic hero that he was in the '40s, or the domestic dad hero that he was in the '50s.  
But you said Superman is still about justice, so is his attitude less cynical and anti-establishment than it is focused on changing that establishment for the better?  
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. Superman is just a guy who is very young at this point, and he has big ideas about what is right and wrong. And he has the power to implement those ideas. Certainly, he stands up for the common man and for poor people and the dispossessed and the downtrodden. That's really what it's all about. If anyone in the world's been bullied, then Superman exists to take out the bully, no matter how big or smart or armed that bully might be.
Have to admit, this has my curiosity very much piqued. From his previous turns writing Superman, Morrison has proven that he understands not only what makes him work within the fictional realm of the DC Universe, but also why he remains so iconic in ours. If anyone can make him relevant in a way that stretches beyond the ever-shrinking core four-color constituency, it's Morrison. There's much more at the link, including why Clark Kent & Lois Lane's fifteen-year marriage is being dissolved, and what this revamp owes to the recently-concluded TV series Smallville.


MooseNinja said...

Rather than forcing myself to care about the new direction comics are heading, I have resigned to relive the glory years of the 90's when my comic collecting was at its most obsessive.

Back when the X-Men had a blue team and gold team. Back when Wally West was in his prime Flash run. Back when I would save my allowance to buy packs of Marvel Universe (Series 2) and Jim Lee X-Men trading cards.

Back when life was good ...er... gooder.

I thank the mighty comic lords for trades, I do.

Zaki said...

Wally West? Who's that?