What if all this has just been shouting in the wind? What if all our complaints about Man of Steel are flat out meaningless? What if we’re the ones in the wrong.
Every so often, DC comics likes to shake things up with their universe. This started with Crisis on Infinite Earths where they rebooted the universe and started over with nearly every character such that their adventures in the past 30, 40, or 50 years just didn’t matter to the current crop of stories being told.
One of the characters that needed to have this done was Superman. You see, he’d gotten too powerful over the years to the point that they were inventing new Kryptonite colors in an effort to keep telling new stories. I mean, what do you do to a character that can move planets? But with the reboot, they had an opportunity to scale back on those powers and make him someone who might be able to get hurt once in a while.
FYI – Batman really didn’t get this treatment. Yeah, some stories were kind of glossed over (the more science fiction ones of the 50s) and whether Joe Chill was the one who killed his parents. Overall, they didn’t mess with him too much. He was getting darker due to the stories being told about him.
Years later they would reboot again with the New 52. And again it’s Superman who gets a complete reboot. De-aged, no longer married, lower power level… while Batman… well, his history is pretty much intact.
Batman Begins is really the natural evolution of where we had been with the Batman character and where he is in the process of going. And while the Nolan movies are uber-realistic (and dark), they were merely following in the footsteps of Batman 66 to Batman 89.
You see, Batman doesn’t require reboots in the comics because he is adaptable.
Superman requires reboots because he is not.
Superman is the boy scout. Big blue. He’s going to save us. But change who he is? Have him question something and everyone loses their minds. You see there are rules to Superman. Fundamental things that you cannot change. He is supposed to bring hope to those he saves. To those who watch or read his exploits.
Only, what if he doesn’t have to be in this particular box we’ve set up for him? What if he could be angry at the world for not taking care of itself? What if he was tired of the constant struggle? What if you could present Superman in a way that had never been seen before? Would it be alright to do that?
Is that even Superman at that point?
Man of Steel – That’s the attempt. There’s no humor in that movie. There’s no joy. It is dark and depressing until he finally ends things the only way he knows he can – by killing the bad guy.
Then comes the complaints, many by people who have actually written Superman stories.
Superman wouldn’t do that.
Superman would have found a way around it.
Superman doesn’t kill.
Yet, here was Superman who did just that. And this Superman, this version, has been seen by more people than probably have ever read an issue of the comic.
Superman used to not be able to fly… he leaps over buildings in a single bound… he jumped, no flying involved.
Kryptonite was introduced on the radio show… but no one would try to argue that wasn’t a great thing to introduce.
Things can change, right?
Why can’t he kill? I’m not talking like the Punisher, but when there is no other way out. When the threat is too great. When it will save hundreds of thousands of lives. When is it OK? Can it ever be OK for Superman to take a life?
Maybe we’re wrong. We’ve railed against Man of Steel and the darkness for 4 years now. All of us convinced that this version of Superman is not the right one to portray.
Superman V Batman made $166 million in its opening weekend. Maybe this is the version we get now. Maybe this character resonates with the non-comic book guys and gals more than big blue. Maybe it’s OK that this is happening. It may not be your Superman, but which version of the character was yours to begin with?
The goofy Silver Age version?
The original version from the 30s?
The Smallville TV show version?
The Christopher Reeves version?
The one that wears his red trunks?
The one that can move the sun?
The one that kills, but only when there is no other option?
Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong. Just dinosaurs, seeing the comet about to crash into the Earth, and paying it no mind?
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!
And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.