Sunday, October 24, 2010
The Superman Stories 2
By Mark Russell
Half size, 60 pages, $5.
Do you know that meme about how Superman is a total jackass? All those out of context panels and covers from ‘60s comics where Superman is feeding Lois Lane to wolves and saying “Haha Lois, I bet you wish you’d never found out my secret identity was Clark Kent.”* and similar? They're pretty hilarious, and the stories Russell has written seem to owe a lot to them, because the Superman that appears in his stories is frequently a total dick.
*I may have just made this up.
This isn’t to say that Russell doesn’t have a firm grasp of Superman’s character. If anything he’s thought through the idea of Superman more than a lot of the people that have written him in recent years. (Though that may say more about current Superman comics than anything else.) His portrayal of Superman as a kind of world-weary guy who’s just doing his job (saving the world) every day until he can retire (never) is pretty effective overall.
And Russell’s Superman does seem to spend most of his time flying around and rescuing people. He doesn’t fight many super villains, instead trying to stop them before they start. The only appearance by one of Superman's comic book enemies is when Lex Luthor goes to his high school graduation.
This book really drives home how many (fictional) people Superman does save. When Superman (he seems to have given up on Clark Kent) marries Lois Lane they go on their honeymoon, but only for three days because Superman has calculated that he saves twenty lives a day, and that by taking three days off he’s let sixty people die. Brutal.
Of course it’s not all Superman rescuing people, as one of the other main characters is Jesus (yes, that Jesus), and he spends time rescuing people too. God also shows up, and there are some angels and scenes that occur in Heaven, none of which I really cared for. I mean, the Jesus who appears is a pretty nice guy (he doesn’t judge people or anything, he just helps them) and the other scenes are written well enough (unlike this review), it’s just that I don’t care. I’ve experienced enough Judeo-Christian-Islamic centred stories for one lifetime and it doesn’t bother me if I never read another one.
Russell explains his inclusion of God and Jesus in his introduction, where he says that as a child he watched Superman cartoons on Saturday morning, and went to church on Sunday morning. Thus he viewed God as a superhero, and felt Superman had theological implications. Yeah, he’s probably right, but I’d rather have more stories about Superman fighting intelligent gorillas.
In addition to God and Jesus, Russell also makes up a bunch of new characters for no apparent reason. If you’re already writing the people that already exist incredibly far out of character what is the point of creating Superman’s grandmother and her obsession with finding a sack of gold (which Russell clearly found far more hilarious than I did)? Just make it his mom, she's already old. And all the other stories about old people! These clearly don’t belong in a book about Superman (insert smiley emoticon).
Despite these complaints this book is still pretty funny and worth reading. The brief portrayal of Aquaman as a guy who thinks democracy is stupid (royalty is awesome!), the introductory piece about how screwed up and boring Krypton was before it exploded (soup is awesome!), and the suggestions people give Superman on how to improve the world are some of my favourite bits. All it’s missing are what every Superman story needs, monsters and robots.