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Man of steel, woman of retcon, kid of non-existence
September 23, 2008 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Superman rebooted! - The next Superman movie will be ignoring 2006’s Superman Returns, something that has been suggested by comic book writers when asked how to save the franchise. Mark Millar has his own idea of what Superman needs: Mark Millar.
posted by Artw (131 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Despite my staggering contempt for Millar, I have to concede that his work on Superman Adventures was pretty darn good.

That said, just adapt All Star Superman, morans.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:38 AM on September 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


Ugh, how many times can we watch the same familiar origin stories over and over again as studios keep trying to make lightning strike? This is the same shit they tried to do wit the Hulk, and in another five years, they'll scratch their heads and say, "Hmm, we STILL never got to have the Hulk franchise we wanted," and then start all over again.

Everyone is so impressed by how well the new "dark" Batman movies have done, so now they're hoping to do the same with Superman. They're counting on financial success five years from now by making films based on what's hot now. This is practically from the handbook on how to make huge, crappy blockbusters.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:39 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Red Son was pretty awesome too.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mark, this is idiotic. You're just meat and bone--like all the rest.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


The problem is Superman is a light-hearted hero who has enormous powers, and WB/DC seem to have difficulty grasping how to make a marketable film with a non-grim n' gritty character (although the last Superman movie didn't tank at the box office). The Batman movies did great -- but there's some sort of mind-set that the "dark" heroes are the only ones they can do well -- but Marvel's Iron-Man proved you can have a successful hero movie that's not depressing.

I think that's also why Wonder Woman has been languishing all these years -- they released Catwoman (dreck!), but have had Wondy in development hell for years.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:45 AM on September 23, 2008


Ugh, how many times can we watch the same familiar origin stories over and over again as studios keep trying to make lightning strike?

That said, just adapt All Star Superman, morans.

If nothing else, I think the best bet for a decent reboot at this point would be to take All-Star's approach of just starting with an established Superman status qup and telling some stories with it, rather than re-re-re-rehashing the goddamned origin again. To be honest, I hope they don't get any closer than that to adapting All-Star, because it's pretty perfect the way it is, and the combination of telescoping-for-cinema and the involvement of Mark Millar would probably poison everything that was good.

Not that I think Millar's universally horrible-- I also liked Red Son a bunch-- but his unsubtle, supersarcastic approach is about 90 degrees off of what made All-Star Superman so awesome.
posted by COBRA! at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2008


The "I'm a Marvel / I'm a DC" bits were really on point about saddling Superman with a kid.

I'd love to see a Superman movie where Supes actually gets to fight someone who can take one of his punches. Enough of Luthor-as-Guy-With-Wacky-Real-Estate-Schemes. Give me Metallo! Bizarro! Darkseid! Giant Turtle Boy!

Well, maybe not so much of that last one. Save it for the Jimmy Olsen Adventures spinoff on HBO.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Red Son was totally awesome. So was Superman: Birthright. I wish they had used that as the basis for the last movie instead of that stupid Golden Age crap.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2008


robocop is bleeding - Heh. Of course Darkseid made his first appearance in a Jimmy Olsen comic.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on September 23, 2008


Superman Returns was acceptable compared to some of the potential ideas floated for the screenplay. It had some weird bits (what was that piano scene doing in there?) that made me wonder who was minding the store. However, rebooting after a single movie that itself made Superman III and Superman IV not exist seems weird. Not that the retconning isn't nearly constant with Supes, but damn, people.

Here's how the save the franchise: stop over-milking it. Stop making it quite so ... franchisey. You know, "what's our ROI on the Superman flicks this year?" It should be undefined (zero divided by zero) for a decade, maybe two. Time will re-render III and IV as the follies of youth. We will grin and say, "The Eighties!" and forgive all.

More important, though, is the uncomfortably fresh death of the last Superman. It will take a while for us to forget that the man who bore the face of near-invulnerability itself died too soon; perhaps then could we watch another Superman installment without painful recollection. Only after our memories of Reeve turn golden like a yellow sun and fade will the sight of that cape make us think more of falling to earth than soaring in the sky.
posted by adipocere at 9:56 AM on September 23, 2008


Mark, this is idiotic. You're just meat and bone--like all the rest.

It would take a Kubrick to film DNR right. That movie might even save the Superman franchise. Sadly, we have no Kubrick.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 AM on September 23, 2008


Someone drank Kubricks milkshake.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on September 23, 2008


To understand Superman, Meltzer says, you have to know why Superman was created in the first place — because a young Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed in 1932 (a fact first uncovered by Gerard Jones in “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book”).

Nope. Mitchell Siegel died of a heart attack. I suppose it's possible that Siegel was inspired to create Superman in part because his father died during a robbery, but the idea that he created a bulletproof hero because his father was shot is pure bunkum.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:00 AM on September 23, 2008


I'd take a David Lynch go at DNR.
posted by cortex at 10:01 AM on September 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, if you like Superman and don't want to see the house where he was dreamt up crumble away, you can always donate to help save it.

I got me an overpriced CafePress shirt for the cause.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:06 AM on September 23, 2008


We want some action! Superman should be saving the entire world from destruction or enslavement for the next couple movies. Put Superman up against Braniac in this new movie and then Darkseid next. Braniac has a giant skull-shaped spaceship, and can build massive robots for Superman to fight. Darkseid has War World and boom tubes and can actually go mano y mano with Superman.

Lex Luthor could be involved in the Braniac movie in the same fashion Millar used him in Red Son. More of a super-genius who'd be busy ruling the planet and driving the species forward if Superman was not such a threat\boost to his ego. You'd have to cast someone other than Spacey to make sure it's clear this take is removed from the Superman Returns shit-fest with a moronic Lex Luthor.
posted by autodidact at 10:07 AM on September 23, 2008


Shit, Millar? Dude was OK doing Elseworlds but is a lot better designing movies for the testosterone-crazy young male set. The man who did Wanted should not be let anywhere near this movie.
posted by schroedinger at 10:09 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm The Goddamn Superman!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:10 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I kinda liked Superman as this depressed stalker, but relationship problems and fatherhood probably isnt the best course for a comic hero movie.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2008


Well, I haven't liked any of the Superman movies. Yes, not even the Christopher Reeve ones--I can accept the Superman premise, but flying around the world does not reverse time. I'm sorry.

Anyway, the sole compelling idea I've ever heard for a Superman movie was this one, setting it in the 1930's. No Cold War/World War/Al Quaida to ignore, Art Deco art styling, plenty of transistor-era robots to be smashed to bits, Tommy guns and mobsters. Jumping over a skyscraper *meant* something back when the skyscraper was new, damnit. And if they wanted to do the whole "darker" thing, the sequel could have Supes knocking kamikaze planes from the sky and throwing Nazis into space.
posted by Benjy at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the new superman movie will go something like this:

Superman: "I can do anything, and nothing can kill me!"
Villain: "Not even you can stop this, also I will kill you"
[Villain does something and tries to kill Superman]
...!
[Superman stops him and doesn't die against all odds]
Everyone: Hooray!

Good Christ, it's fucking Superman, who gives a shit.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2008 [22 favorites]


Someone needs to tell Hollywood that we don't fucking need origin stories any more. Everyone knows who Superman is. Everyone knows who most of these characters are.

Now that they've actually established a Batman/Spiderman, they have to do it for fucking villains! I don't need to know how every villain came to be. The reason Spiderman 3 sucked is because it spent half the movie devoted to building up the Sandman and Venom before Spiderman could fight them. QUIT WASTING OUR TIME.

Give us a hero, mid-battle.
Give us a villain with some reason to attack the hero, or some plan the hero must thwart.
Battle ensues, hero victorious.
End film.
posted by graventy at 10:19 AM on September 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


IMO, Mark Millar's work is testosterone-poisoned, reality tv-quality nonsense. I haven't read all of his work but Wanted and Ultimates were for me, frat boy wet dream garbage. He stands little chance of writing a superman story that I will even give a chance.
posted by Fuka at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2008


Tangentially, I just reread Red Son, and I honestly didn't like it very much. To my way of thinking, any alternate-universe or what-if story needs a single linchpin moment that makes the whole plot happen while everything else remains exactly the same. In RS, the rocket landing in the USSR should have been it, but instead we also get Lois Lane marrying Lex Luthor (how likely is that, really?) and some random Russian dude taking on exactly the same motif we associate with Bruce Wayne. Why did he do that? In the end, of course, there's the epilogue, which frankly sounded like something Millar invented while stoned and decided to tack on to the end of whatever he happened to be working on at the time. It added absolutely nothing to the theme of the book, and left the whole story weaker.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2008


IIRC Grant Morrison invented it while stoned and Millar stole it.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm such a nerd, but: if Superman is not in Metropolis, who else is Lois Lane going to marry but Lex Luthor? She's a total status whore.
posted by autodidact at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


Can anybody explain why Superman II is the second-highest-rated film of all time on Metacritic?

I know it has relatively few scores, but the scores it does have seem abnormally high. I thought maybe it was a cult classic, but the mediocre user score seems to contradict that.

I haven't seen any of the earlier Superman movies, btw, so maybe I'm just missing out on a cinematic masterpiece.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2008


I thought Returns was the best thing on screen of any superhero effort, with X1 coming in first. I thought that the last Batman was terribly two dimensional and would have been a failure without the superb contributions of the villains. The last spiderman was not worth the price of the ticket.

So, we disagree alot. But who didn't like X1 or Ironman. Nobody. That's the formula. Whatever that is.
posted by ewkpates at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2008


I suppose it's too much to hope that they'd tie it into "Smallville"?
posted by RavinDave at 10:37 AM on September 23, 2008


Can anybody explain why Superman II is the second-highest-rated film of all time on Metacritic?

Because it is awesome.

I know it has relatively few scores, but the scores it does have seem abnormally high.

Well that would explain it too. And the reason it would have few rtaings is because it was released pre-internet, but got an edited re-release recently.

I thought maybe it was a cult classic, but the mediocre user score seems to contradict that.

This is easily explainable by the users rating it being a bunch of clueless dicks.

I haven't seen any of the earlier Superman movies, btw, so maybe I'm just missing out on a cinematic masterpiece.

What on earth are you watsing time here for? Go watch Supermans 1-3 now! (3 is basically a Richard Prior movie with Superman and a Scarey Robot, and so makes the grade despite not being a patch on 1 or 2. Beyond 3... nothing)
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


For those of us who haven't seen a Superman comic since the 80's, what's Superman DNR?
posted by substrate at 10:50 AM on September 23, 2008


Can anybody explain why Superman II is the second-highest-rated film of all time on Metacritic?

IT FEARS ZOD AS IT SHOULD.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm deeply tired of origin stories. How about actually telling the stories now? eg: Iron Man, while I liked it a lot, felt like a whole lotta preamble, and not a lot of there, there.

Seriously, I can take a one-scene setup: Man from other planet, has super powers. Got it. Rich dude, has metal suit, kicks ass. OK, go. Badass orphan, wears batsuit. Yep, boom. That's the world set up. Now tell the tales, fools.
posted by bonaldi at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


DNR DNR DNR = Batman
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's pretty amazing that people care about Superman this much. I'm trying to think of a story that's more contrived, less imaginative, and less interesting but I just can't. It's amazing what you can do with a ginormous budget.
posted by mullingitover at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2008


Can anybody explain why Superman II is the second-highest-rated film of all time on Metacritic?

You can read the long story here, but the basics are as follows:

Superman I and Superman II were filmed at the same time but Richard Donner, the director, focused on editing and polishing the first Superman movie before doing any additional work on Superman II. Then, after the release of the first Superman movie, Donner got into some very public arguments with the producers and was fired from the movie. For legal reasons, about half of the scenes were reshot by new director Richard Lester (most famous for directing A Hard Days Night and Help!).

Those Metacritic reviews are from the recently released Richard Donner cut of Superman II, which restored all of that original footage. That cut is by no means the pinnacle of American cinema, but it tightened up a flawed movie with never-before-seen footage of a young Christopher Reeve and in contrast to the Superman movie that was stinking up theaters at the time, it hit that sweet spot between breath of fresh air and rose-colored nostalgia.

So yeah, the scores are artificially inflated.
posted by turaho at 10:59 AM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can accept the Superman premise, but flying around the world does not reverse time. I'm sorry

Only the Man of Steel could split hairs that thin.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:02 AM on September 23, 2008


I love watching the same origin stories, again and again. That is like my favorite thing about superhero movies. I feel like it's the closest we get to the old wandering-bard way of telling stories of a mythic past; everyone knows the basic plot, but the way the story's told varies from teller to teller. The Ang Lee Hulk emphasizes daddy-issues, the TV series Hulk emphasizes impermanence, the Ed Norton Hulk emphasizes power, all with the same basic storyline of "Experiment goes wrong and guy turns turns green and mad!"

In my ideal world, the new Superman movie would be twelve different hour-long installments by different directors and writers, some aspects conflicting, some dovetailing, each director rehashing the origins as much as they felt like, paying little attention to the other eleven directors. They would come out one per month over the course of a year, and everyone would chatter excitedly about which one they liked best, and argue over which one comes the closest to what Superman "really" should be.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:03 AM on September 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


You forgot the detachable clingfilm chest emblem and the amnesia kiss!
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, it's sad. I have to say that watching this amazing Superman Returns teaser from back in 2005 or so, I'm reminded how much I was looking forward to seeing the resulting film. Released in a dark time, the trailer was about hope and its attendant dangers--about the myth of an Aaron Copeland Ubermensch. And Kevin Spacey, one might have hoped, would provide a convincing foil for a film that would convincingly explore questions of human aspiration and limitation.

When the film finally came out, I found that instead they went for plot about scary magic crystals, throwing in a super-baby for good measure. What a disappointment!

Let's leave Superman at rest in the pages of the comic books for a while before wheeling him out on the big screen yet again.
posted by washburn at 11:05 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, instead of an origin story, it'd be really, really nice if they did a movie with a story. Don't try to "out-do" the last one, just try to make a damned good one. There was no need to put three (!) villains in Spider-Man 3. Should've just stuck with him getting the black suit and facing against Sandman, hewing to an "every person has the potential for evil and good in them" theme, then put Venom in Spider-Man 4, for a "every action has repercussions, and it's our responsibility to deal with them", dovetailing nicely with the original "great power/great responsibility" theme. Then Spider-Man 5 could bring back Harry as the new Green Goblin for an "even good actions can have negative repercussions". A focussed baseline story that's good is all you need.

It's a lot more difficult with Superman, because of his relative lack of weaknesses, but that doesn't make it impossible. He's uberpowerful but stays the outsider - why? Why not just pick on everyone else, and take over the world? Plus he's forever cut off from his own kind, the ultimate orphan. That leads to "there's always a bigger bully", "it's the duty of the strong to protect the weak", "those who have the power to act for good are required to do so", "if you can't be with the ones you love, love the ones you're with"... and throw in some monstrous battles on top for good measure.

Origins can be great stories (and I'm hoping "First Avenger" finally does right by Captain America - now there's a character with story potential, especially if they work in the black Captain America angle), but they're not the only ones to tell. For some characters they're probably required, either because of the role their origins play (you can't understand what drives Spider-Man without Uncle Ben, or Batman without seeing Bruce Wayne witness the random murder of his parents) or due to the relative obscurity of the character to the lay public (Iron Man, Flash). But that's not to say those are the only stories that can be told. Dr. Strange is a good example of a character that wasn't even introduced in the comics by his origin - they just went right to the good stuff (mind you, a good movie version could make a lot out of his origin story).

Far too many brain cells were exercised in composing this post.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


I thought there was some risk that DC would lose the rights to superman. What happened to that?
posted by delmoi at 11:15 AM on September 23, 2008


Greg Nog, let's you and I get incredibly wealthy and start a movie studio.
posted by cortex at 11:16 AM on September 23, 2008


I happen to think that this would make an awesome superman movie.

also, there's nothing wrong with rebooting the superman franchise. what would be wrong would be for them to only reboot it as far back as superman 2 again. I don't know why Singer wanted to keep Superman 1 in the continuity. It's silly. It would be as bad as Nolan deciding to make Batman Begins come after Tim Burton's Batman. (mind you, i love the burton batman movies, but you catch my drift) Just make a fresh superman movie, skip the origin story and make it fucking awesome. make superman do creative things with his powers to save the day without harming any innocents while some bad guy is trying very hard to hurt innocent people to get at superman. ta dah! dramatic tension! it's an old trope for supes, but if you're rebooting the franchise you can do it this once. it's certainly better than the original "superman loses his powers... again" idea.

here's a scene i'd like to see in any superman movie:

bad guy: alright superman, get ready for a-

superman: you have kryptonite.

bad guy: what? no I-

superman: yes you do, i have x ray vision. i see it in your hand. what is that a glove? did you stitch it into your glove or something? that's cute.

bad guy: laugh all you want, super-douche, but this glove is gonna fuck you up.

superman: oh shit. i guess i'm done for. no one has ever tried to fight me with my only weakness before. I surely won't have any way of dealing with it and I'm totally-

SUPERMAN HEAT VISIONS THE FUCK OUT OF THE KRYPTONITE GLOVE.

bad guy: ow! oh fuck! that fucking hurt!

SUPERMAN BLOWS THE DUDE OVER WITH HIS SUPER BREATH.

superman: dude, i defeated you by looking at you.


lastly, if they do make another movie, I sincerely hope that the first writer who writes an "it's a bird, it's a plane" joke gets fired and then pistol whipped.
posted by shmegegge at 11:18 AM on September 23, 2008 [15 favorites]


To understand Superman, Meltzer says, you have to know why Superman was created in the first place — because a young Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed in 1932 (a fact first uncovered by Gerard Jones in “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book”).

“Superman was created not because America is the greatest country on earth, not because Moses came to save us from Krypton, but because a little boy lost his father,” Meltzer said. “In his first appearances, he couldn’t fly. He didn’t have X-ray vision. He was only bulletproof. So Superman’s not a character built out of strength, but out of loss.”


Whoa. I had no idea about that with Siegel. That's fascinating, and Meltzer is right to head down that interesting road.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:21 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


@ Rhaomi: Yes, you ARE missing out on a masterpiece. Superman II is one of those rare sequels that beats the pants off the original. It got mainstream filmgoers to realize that you could make a serious movie out of comic book--and this was in the post-Adam West age, mind you. People went in expecting camp and got an intelligent, moving film that still had enough action and special effects to rock your world.


Go rent it. You won't be sorry.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:22 AM on September 23, 2008


Greg Nog, let's you and I get incredibly wealthy and start a movie studio.

Bully, old chap! I shall procure the cigars whilst you find us some monocles! The investors shall roll in by the truckloads, all clamoring to be a part of our grand designs!

Also, there will be moustache wax! Buckets and buckets of moustache wax!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meltzer is right to head down that interesting road

I'd be scared to know Meltzer's family history now.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:27 AM on September 23, 2008


You forgot the detachable clingfilm chest emblem and the amnesia kiss!

It's cause he stabbed her brain with his supertongue.
posted by inigo2 at 11:30 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know what else needs a reboot? Reboots
posted by poppo at 11:31 AM on September 23, 2008


You know what else needs a reboot? Reboots

Here you go.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2008


Superman II is also one of those films from the pinnacle of Hollywood's ability to, in the absence of other special effects, smash the crap out of real cars. Cars driving off convenient ramps and crashing, cars getting bodily hurled by steam catapult or similar, cars getting thrown into other cars, cars getting dropped off cranes, cars getting thrown off cliffs, parked cars getting lit on fire and exploded. Hollywood ate cars back then, and it was good.

I'm not down with the Superman Returns backlash, finding it perfectly acceptable, and even with a few really nice bits--modern effects made the flying look much more natural rather than hanging-by-wires-stiff, and it had that really nice shot of Supes flying into low orbit and floating there in semi-fetal position listening to the agony of the world. But it did not throw cars into each other, not in the same way.

I think any Superman reboot must be able to do both. This would also be an acceptable way to use the expected line:

Passerby cameo: Look! Up there in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...
PASSERBY IS CRUSHED BY A STEAM-CATAPULT-LAUNCHED CAR.

Any reboot writers can use the above in the script without attribution or compensation. I release it as open-source.
posted by Drastic at 11:36 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Making a new Superman movie that is both the greatest artistic and monetary success in film history is disturbingly simple. All they need to do, is adapt this. It would be the PERFECT MOVIE.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:38 AM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


We need to go back to the original Superman, you know, when he was a socialist who took down Big Business and fought on the side of the union man.

No, seriously, he was!
posted by schroedinger at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2008


Only the Man of Steel could split hairs that thin.

Superman is supposed to be a Super Man. That scene boiled down to "Lots of dramatic things just happened! Oh conflict and sacrifice etc! And now Superman hits control-z! And everything is happy! Hope you enjoyed that film that the ending revealed to be pointless, because nothing can ever happen that Superman doesn't allow to happen, because he is basically God."

It was the equivalent of "Oh, that was just a dream", or "Oh, a wizard did it". It didn't make sense in terms of what the character of Superman had been depicted as up to that point. Why would he care about any of this stuff if he could just turn back time? He could tell Lois he's Clark Kent every day, screw her silly, and then punch her in the face, and then make it all disappear (not that the amnesia kiss wouldn't let him do this too). By the end of the movie, nothing has consequence.

You know how people deride the old sci-fi movies by saying "the sets were Styrofoam"? So far, each Superman movie has had a Styrofoam plot--nothing has weight or mass, what appears to be a conflict is a conflict-veneer made from wood polish and food coloring, and if you handle any of it too roughly it falls apart.
posted by Benjy at 11:44 AM on September 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Here's how the save the franchise: stop over-milking it. Stop making it quite so ... franchisey. You know, "what's our ROI on the Superman flicks this year?"

You might have a career in movies, but clearly not in the movie business.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:44 AM on September 23, 2008


by the way, is it just me, or did every single issue of superman until 1980 involve superman being a bad guy? i mean, i know i know, the Superman Is A Dick site explores this in detail, but I always wonder how much these covers relate to the old stories. Was the old story structure just always "Lois imagines Superman punching a baby, freaks out. Wakes up and it's all a dream?" Or were the covers just sheer sensationalism to draw people into a story that had nothing to do with the cover. Were there all these classic supes stories, full of drama and pathos, hidden behind a deceptive cover about Superman stopping Lois Lane from releasing a song with Pat Boone?
posted by shmegegge at 11:47 AM on September 23, 2008


I can accept the Superman premise, but flying around the world does not reverse time. I'm sorry

He didn't reverse time. He went back in time. Big difference! From the frame of reference of an observer following Superman back through time, the Earth would appear to move backwards.
posted by autodidact at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2008


You forgot the detachable clingfilm chest emblem and the amnesia kiss!

It's cause he stabbed her brain with his supertongue.


Hi. You're dumb. He sucked out the parts of her brain that were being used to store the memories he wanted to remove through her mouth. Open a book sometime.
posted by ND¢ at 11:53 AM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


For those of us who haven't seen a Superman comic since the 80's, what's Superman DNR?

I might be wrong, but I think DNR, rather, DKR, is in reference to Dark Knight Returns, which gave us the old badass of a Batman.
posted by graventy at 11:55 AM on September 23, 2008


Also the fortress-of-solitude trick where he appears and disappears, or appears multiple times.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on September 23, 2008


Making a new Superman movie that is both the greatest artistic and monetary success in film history is disturbingly simple. All they need to do, is adapt this. It would be the PERFECT MOVIE.

I dunno, the one where Superman makes Lois marry Titanman The Space Polygamist is pretty good.

Although, could you imagine the Nolan version of this, told all Memento style?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:58 AM on September 23, 2008


He didn't reverse time. He went back in time.

So ... now ... there's ... two ... Supermans? In the past?

My head hurts. Someone get these guys on the phone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:09 PM on September 23, 2008


I want Supes to have sex with Lois and blow her head off a la Niven's essay.
posted by GuyZero at 12:10 PM on September 23, 2008


I want Supes to have sex with Lois and blow her head off a la Niven's essay.

They actually brought that up in Smallville in an not unsubtle way. Clark tells Chloe he's afraid to get intimate with Lana because of what might happen. Chloe says, I don't understand -- you can shake my hand without crushing it. And Clark says, yeah, but if I lose control in the heat of passion...

So yeah. On TV. For teenagers. They're talking about Clark tearing Lana in half via the power of Kryptonian love.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:14 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:15 PM on September 23, 2008


robocop is bleeding: "I'd love to see a Superman movie where Supes actually gets to fight someone who can take one of his punches. Enough of Luthor-as-Guy-With-Wacky-Real-Estate-Schemes. Give me Metallo! Bizarro! Darkseid!"

Doomsday. There's your dark and gritty epic Superman franchise right fucking there.

1) The Death of Superman, where Lois sobbing over Supe's lifeless body as STAR shows up with that super defibrillator dovetails directly into the closing credits. Do it right and the lobby on opening night will be as emotional as the night The Empire Strikes Back was released.
2) The Reign of the Supermen, four flawed heirs, religious cult and political sub plots, the most expensive special effects sequence of all time (the destruction of Ocean City) and it's all done in a Superman movie where Kal-El doesn't appear until 130 minutes in.
3) Hunter/Prey, granted the weakest of the three, but you could totally play up the four-way Superman/Darkseid/Doomsday/Henshaw battle sequences. And you get to give the audience a plausibly terrified and heroically self-sacrificing Superman.
posted by Plutor at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2008


Film them simultaneously, all Lord of the Rings like, and release them on consecutive Memorial Days.
posted by Plutor at 12:22 PM on September 23, 2008


I'm not down with the Superman Returns backlash, finding it perfectly acceptable, and even with a few really nice bits--modern effects made the flying look much more natural rather than hanging-by-wires-stiff, and it had that really nice shot of Supes flying into low orbit and floating there in semi-fetal position listening to the agony of the world. But it did not throw cars into each other, not in the same way.

I am glad to know that I am not the only one on the internet who feels this way. I understand if you feel it was a let-down, It wasn't a great movie, it certainly wasn't part II, but Jesus, compared to the Richard Pryor installment and Nuclear Sun Guy, "Superman Returns" was practically Oscar-worthy.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:28 PM on September 23, 2008


The Reign of the Supermen, four flawed heirs, religious cult and political sub plots, the most expensive special effects sequence of all time (the destruction of Ocean City) and it's all done in a Superman movie where Kal-El doesn't appear until 130 minutes in.

for what it's worth, as a kid reading those books when they were coming out, i hated them. everyone i know hated them. i still haven't met anyone who liked them. at the time, they were considered to be exemplary of everything that was wrong with comics at the time. frankly, i still think of them that way. i'm inclined to think that particular storyline should be avoided at all costs. I'm with you on Doomsday, though.
posted by shmegegge at 12:43 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's even a cartoon of it i don't like!
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on September 23, 2008


The problem with Superman Returns is that its a very singular vision of the myth, which is probably why I loved it so. It's a love letter to the original films and also the symbolism of the comic strip, if it didn't quite deliver in terms of its action sequences it more than made up for that in atmosphere.

It is a shame that we'll not now see what happens next in that version of the story, at least not on screen. The status quo set up in there -- with Supes/Clarke disenfranchised from his son and Lois would have mileage in a comic book form, but these things are so expensive to make.

I also suspect that this decision to cancel is related to the whole Justice League farrago, trying to cook a franchise cake and force it down our throats. But like Doctor Who, many of these comic book heroes including many of those in the Marvel stable have become so iconic and mythic that they're the Robin Hoods and Camelots of the new era, ripe for reinterpretation and reinvention, the same characters if not necessarily in the same order.

Except of course whenever Doctor Who is reinvented, with the exception of parody and those 60s films, its still set in the same universe, with the same main character, but the premise is flexible enough to encompass that. It took six years from creation for us to find out which race the Doctor was from and even longer I think to hear about his home planet!

The last thing we need is another filmed origin story for Superman -- there can't be many people with an interest who aren't already aware of some version of the mythology. What we really need is an adventure in the style of the old 40s serials, were the status quo is already set up, he's already in Metropolis, and which looks for all the world like another sequel in which the last man of Krypton simply defends Earth from some menace or other, metahuman or alien.
posted by feelinglistless at 12:53 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


In my ideal world, the new Superman movie would be twelve different hour-long installments by different directors and writers, some aspects conflicting, some dovetailing, each director rehashing the origins as much as they felt like, paying little attention to the other eleven directors. They would come out one per month over the course of a year, and everyone would chatter excitedly about which one they liked best, and argue over which one comes the closest to what Superman "really" should be.

Thirty-Two Short Films about Clark Kent.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:57 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mark Millar Declares War On Science
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2008


“Everyone knows who Superman is.”
You’re right about origin stories. I don’t think everyone knows Superman tho’. Oh, everyone knows the story. Not a lot of people really get him though.

“Twenty million die by fire, if I am weak” - everything you need to know about Superman for good or ill - right there.

But yeah, entering mid-action, excellent idea.

I think the original stuff with The Elite would be perfect for a Superman movie (Action Comics #775).
There he’s very very powerful. But not absolutely unbeatable. And he can be hurt, badly. But he won’t kill and he won’t allow other very very powerful people to kill.
And his strength is not in his abilities, but in his absolute commitment to the dream. His willingness to die for it and to make the sacrifices to embody it. And therefore his victory is one of principles, not simply power.

Really, I can’t think of a better time to have that message that ‘grim and gritty’ is swell in fiction, but in reality it’s terrifying and appalling when anyone with real power does it and that it’s counterproductive and ultimately futile to adopt the tactics of your enemies.

Most writers can’t seem to see past the ability to fly and other things. Never been a real issue. The powers are just a conveyance for the story. It’s extremely simple. (Why I’m not being paid millions as a story consultant is beyond me)

I mean, sure, he’s the grand scale space opera hero with these huge forces involved - blah blah blah. But it’s only when he’s just the son of a farmer doing his damnedest to bear a god’s burden that he’s interesting.
Oh, he can fly. Yeah, great. Oh, he’s faster and better than everyone else, swell. Every story - Every. Story. - where he wins using his powers is more or less stupid or at best, lazy writing.
One version of Superman done well is Astro City’s Samaritan. I mean - you can hear screams in the middle of the night 1/2 way across the continent. You have to tune that out. right? Making those decisions, prioritizing, etc. etc. - wow. Taking the time to make love to your wife while someone dies in a fire, and you could save them?
Gah.
So there’s tons and tons of room for new Superman stories, different perspectives, etc.
No one wants to take them, apparently, because they think their entire audience is there for infantile gratification or juvenile power fantasies.
But it’s always in the execution. It’s never about the new this or that. Oh, he’s blue now and shoots lightning? Great. Any actual story type stuff to go with that or we just seeing him cope? Uh huh.
Superman without his powers is, basically, Atticus Finch. (Gosh, how could you write a story around a guy like that tho. No powers. How interesting could he be? How could he possibly have some kind of internal conflict, say, with violence and its use? Phbbb. Let’s make him red. Oh, and he can fly)

Faint of Butt - I agree with everything you said about Red Son. But, eh, I did like it.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:08 PM on September 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


Delmoi -

DC lost the rights to Superboy, as opposed to Superman. Man of Steel good, Boy of Steel right out. As I understand it, they can even have, say, a soap-y CW drama about Clark Kent's teenage years as long as they never ever use the SB word.
posted by ormondsacker at 1:25 PM on September 23, 2008


Can they work in lion-head Superman? Because that would be great.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Superman, really? Never did understand the appeal of him, always astonishingly bland and DNR probably cemented that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:47 PM on September 23, 2008


I'm surprised no one here has yet mentioned what I consider the finest Superman story ever told, For the Man Who Has Everything, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

It was made into an animated version. But I think this would be a kick-ass movie, with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman rolled into it, too. No need to spend time with the origin stories -- just jump right into it, because the origin stories are there in the piece, although in an altered, oblique state that makes them more interesting.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:51 PM on September 23, 2008


For me, Superman died with George Reeves.
posted by briank at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2008


The answer is simple; to a prequel to Superman Returns, when he is returning to Earth from the wreckage of his planet, he runs across something bad. And the whole movie is him fighting some demonic-alien-dimension-ripping bad-asses like Cthulhu; something capable of not being instantly destroyed by his strengths, while bringing a few mind flaying powers of their own. And now that they are aware, he has to stop them before they follow him back to Earth and enslave everything.

You could call it Superman in Space! or Superman: The Old Ones or something.
posted by quin at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ia ia Superman fhtagn!
posted by cortex at 2:20 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course a reboot saves me from ever actually having to watch Superman Returns....
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:26 PM on September 23, 2008


“And now that they are aware, he has to stop them before they follow him back to Earth and enslave everything.”

More of a Green Lantern story really. I mean - Supes is pretty vulnerable to magic (although only whenever convenient apparently e.g. Superman v. Thor) so he’d just go insane, the world would die horribly in fire and madness and dispair...y’know tho’, that wouldn’t be a bad film at all. Sort of a ‘In the Mouth of Madness’, but with comics.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:34 PM on September 23, 2008


Uh, can someone tell me what DNR is? Because, like, if you're talking about Dark Knight Returns, you are Doing It Wrong.

(If you mean Superman: Do Not Resuscitate, the scrapped sequel to Death of Superman, then carry on.)

Also: SHUT UP MARK MILLAR.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should make a movie out of the current Brainiac story arc in Action Comics, written by Geoff Johns. On the surface, it's a straightforward Superman-vs.-powerful alien story, but it's surrounded with some strong character moments, with Ma and Pa Kent in particular.

Johns really gets Superman, more so than Millar could ever dream he could. He does a nice job of highlighting Superman's split nature: he's the all-American farmboy who loves his parents and his adopted planet, but he's constantly reminded that he's the last son of a dead planet with the power to rule mercilessly over Earth if he so chose.

I think it's interesting to ask why he doesn't. Superman is the literal manifestation of Nietzsche's Ubermensch, but he constantly rejects the dark side of that role. Why keep his powers in check? Why doesn't might make right? What's the reward in not living up to your potential? Is a good Kansas upbringing all it takes to prevent someone from becoming a despot?

Make a movie that explores that in an intelligent way while still serving up some action and suspense and you'll have the Superman version of The Dark Knight.
posted by turaho at 2:40 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why not ask David Mamet to reboot the series? His essay on Superman (in Some Freaks) was the best treatment of the character I'd read since Larry Niven's tongue-in-cheek "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex". (He made the point about Superman as a fable of vulnerability one from a psychological standpoint before Brad Meltzer got hold of that one biographic detail.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:41 PM on September 23, 2008


HAH. I was right. Using the right acronym makes following conversations easier.

It's DKR you fuckers! Dark Knight Returns.
posted by graventy at 2:49 PM on September 23, 2008


I don't know enough about comics to know about Mark Millar, but a reboot of Superman is certainly welcome by me. Superman Returns was such a confused movie; the filmmakers didn't know exactly what they wanted--a reboot, a sequel, a remake--so they half-assed did all three. It's watchable, I suppose, and Singer has talent with visuals, but a lame script is a lame script.

I'm curious how Kevin Smith's Superman Lives script would've worked had it not been turned down by Tim Burton (who thankfully dropped out himself).
Smith tells the story of Superman Lives. Longish but very entertaining.
posted by zardoz at 2:53 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's BP's fault. I was just succumbing to morphological peer pressure.
posted by cortex at 2:57 PM on September 23, 2008


As a teenager when it came out, I thought The Death of Superman was okay at the time. Funeral For a Friend was like a big main-continuity Elseworlds.
posted by autodidact at 3:02 PM on September 23, 2008


I'm curious how Kevin Smith's Superman Lives script would've worked had it not been turned down by Tim Burton (who thankfully dropped out himself).

I have read it. It is unbelievably fucking awful. I don't know whether that was Smith's fault or the result of studio-mandated rewrites, but nevertheless. That Burton didn't want to make that script says more positive things about his instincts as a filmmaker than do one or two of his actual films.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:17 PM on September 23, 2008


Superman really needs to fight a giant spider and/or a pair of polar bears.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:34 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seriously? You all want to know why Superman is boring?
Because HE'S BORING. Superman, the actual CHARACTER is boring. I mean, he's got all of these skills, all of these powers, but would you want to be Superman? Do you think that guy has fun, getting up every morning and putting on his tights? Flying around, saving people, hearing the people he can't save scream? I mean, Superman has the same relationship to saving the world that an especially idealistic garbageman has with picking up garbage cans, except the garbageman gets off at 5 and can go home without fear that Oscar the Grouch might bust into his house and try to kill his wife.
When I watch a movie with Wolverine or with Batman, I get excited because hey, I'D like to be stabbing people with my fist-claws or breaking somebody's jaw while being a total badass. I don't want to go see a movie about Planet Earth's Dad, who spends all day flying around making sure everybody plays nice. That's BORING.
posted by 235w103 at 3:43 PM on September 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think it's interesting to ask why he doesn't. Superman is the literal manifestation of Nietzsche's Ubermensch, but he constantly rejects the dark side of that role. Why keep his powers in check? Why doesn't might make right? What's the reward in not living up to your potential? Is a good Kansas upbringing all it takes to prevent someone from becoming a despot?

That's Ultraman as shown in Morrison & Quitely's "Earth 2", which I'd love to see made as a JLA film. There is some awesome stuff in that book.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:00 PM on September 23, 2008


Flying around, saving people, hearing the people he can't save scream?
The two best Superman stories, IMO, aren't even in his books. Hitman #34, and the first and sixth issue of Astro City, which focus on the Superman-analogue Samaritan, and address exactly that point. He can't save everyone, so he prioritizes: least time, most people saved; and unlike DC's Superman, he has very, very little time for public appearances or a private life.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:12 PM on September 23, 2008


The Superman Reboot Project should be an unflinching dark, dark, super dark comedy. Written in three succeeding acts by Mike Judge, the Coen Brothers, and Quentin Tarantino. Directed by Terry Gilliam and David Cronenberg for a dash of WTF.

The missing angle is that while Superman may be, well, super in his tights... Clark Kent is legitimately a loser. It's not just a disguise. His interactions with other people are pathetic because he's socially myopic, his intellect is maybe not so super, either - and he's even rather clumsy at reigning in his powers. And he knows it. To the root of his core, he knows that being a hero is all he's got, and all he'll ever have. Superman with an inferiority complex could be interesting - and in that context, Lex Luther can become the true super villain he's meant to be. Suave. Confident. Smart. Smart enough to manipulate stronger super villains to take Superman on. Smart enough to hand out dime bags of Kryptonite on every corner in Metropolis so that every two-bit punk with a beef can shoot up their pit bulls and turn Supes into a flying Snausage. Smart enough to manufacture Kryptonite bullets and Kryptonite tattoos and dump Kryptonite in the water supply. And smart enough to cut the man of steel to ribbons with a laser insight and a razor tongue.

Then, when Superman inevitably snaps and starts taking his frustrations out on evil-doers and Clark begins to lose his thin veneer of calm, the public notices. Lois notices. Lawyers notice...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Superman is the literal manifestation of Nietzsche's Ubermensch, but he constantly rejects the dark side of that role. Why keep his powers in check? Why doesn't might make right? What's the reward in not living up to your potential?

Ohhhhhh, but is "living up to your potential" really the same thing as "kicking everybody's ass"? Let's look at it this way for a second: If you're Michael Jordan, living up to your potential could be being a really awesome basketball player. Go you! But ultimately, being a really awesome basketball player for its own sake is a pretty selfish goal, even leaving money completely outside of the equation...even leaving fame out of the equation. It's just you, being awesome, 'cause you can. What difference does that make? I mean, to anyone other than you. But on the other hand, if you make all this money, and you start a foundation and funnel the lion's share of said money into that...well, how you made the money (being awesome) is less important than what's being done with it, ultimately. So maybe "living up to your potential" was you not being a self-centered douchebag...the temptation toward which, I imagine, would be quite powerful. Overcoming that might well require an Ubermensch. Succumbing to it? Just a regular dude, with some powers and shit.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:29 PM on September 23, 2008


Superman has always sucked and always will, no matter how hard you try to make him seem interesting.
posted by ignignokt at 4:49 PM on September 23, 2008


I'm curious how Kevin Smith's Superman Lives script would've worked had it not been turned down by Tim Burton (who thankfully dropped out himself).

I have read it. It is unbelievably fucking awful.


Indeed. The Smith script floating around the Net (assuming it is really the one) is almost unreadable in its awfulness. I like all of Smith's stuff, but I can't for the life of me figure out what he was doing there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:53 PM on September 23, 2008


Superman was never meant to be complex brain food type entertainment. I would like to see a "Superman saves the Matrix Trilogy" type movie. Eddie Murphy could do voices for some doof robot. Yeah, and throw in a left over "Threes Company" female for good luck. Sounds like a great Hollywood scrambled egg mess, guaranteed to make lots of money; and disgust fans so much they can't wait for the next attempt to hit the screens.

An "A-Team", "Angel and the Badman", or "Open House" type idea would be great. I hope Superman comes back good, and not just as a rehashed Superman deals with his evil side ala Batman and Spiderman. I really want the next Superman to have the freakin' moral capability to be able to speak the entire "Truth, Justice, AND THE AMERICAN WAY" line.

Because if Superman can't be proud to be living here, they I want him to just move into the Tardis and be some wheezy butler/man servant for a Hero who is proud of where their story lines originate from.
posted by buzzman at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2008


Indeed. The Smith script floating around the Net (assuming it is really the one) is almost unreadable in its awfulness. I like all of Smith's stuff, but I can't for the life of me figure out what he was doing there.

I'm gonna go with "too busy having hot sex with his hot wife and then masturbating a lot to get any writing done" for the win, Trebek. At least judging from the parts of his autobiography I managed to get through. Good dear lord what a trainwreck that was. It's rash purchases during lengthy layovers such as these that made me rationalize affording a Kindle. THANKS, KEVIN SMITH.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:17 PM on September 23, 2008


turaho - I agree, those would be great questions to explore. It’s been done, but not in depth. Although I’d go with the Blake ‘road to excess/palace of wisdom’ theme. Hedonism, power, etc. it’s pretty much a dead end in terms of actual freedom and survival. But you’re right - how does he know that? Ma and Pa Kent read a lot of Dante, Aquinas, Augustine, Kant, etc., did they?

“Clark Kent is legitimately a loser.”

Well, he won a Pulitzer. I think he’s who Superman would have grown up to be without powers. Very forthright, square guy who is completely without irony or hypocrisy and is in complete earnest all the time and is willing to stand for what’s right no matter how overmatched.
So - yeah, he’d appear to be a loser, much like Atticus Finch.

He’s a great character. Oh, he’s been written pretty badly. And worse, in a mediocre way. (Here’s Superman. Here’s the bad guy. Bad guy tries to giddim, but Superman is SO powerful that he can’t. The end.)
There’s a LOT of room there to work with the character. He’s got tons of untapped complexity.
Nobody does much though. I suspect because what some dufus in a suit in some front office wants outweights what a writer might want.
I’m thinking of ‘Blood Meridian’ just now (other thread) and some comic honcho “No, No Cormac - these words -they’re too big. And the violence... Look, let’s just have the kid knock the Judge’s block off at the end. He’s got a pair of steam powered brass knuckles under his gloves -whaddya say?”

“It's DKR you fuckers! Dark Knight Returns”
Ah. See I’m thinking it would take Kubrick to film the DNR properly because of the glorious outdoor tracking shots with rich film stock. Lynch, y’know, s’all about digital now. Wouldn’t look right when Batman drives the Bat-tank over Bambi.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:52 PM on September 23, 2008


Three words: Giant. Robotic. Spider.
posted by jquinby at 6:11 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, I think the best bet for a decent reboot at this point would be to take All-Star's approach of just starting with an established Superman status qup and telling some stories with it, rather than re-re-re-rehashing the goddamned origin again.

It would be very nice if the ninety-five year old cretins who run the studios would realize that just because you're making a 'first' superhero movie, doesn't mean you have to do an origin story.

They're not usually good stories, and in some cases nobody on our yellow-sunned earth needs to hear the origin again. For crying out loud, Superman? Who doesn't know that well enough by the age of eight? They should definitely try some in midea res treatments, at the very least. Which viewers, exactly, would be "confused" if confronted with a fully-grown and -powered Superman in the first scene?

Even if it's not a well-known origin, there's a lot of untrod road in the "where did THAT guy come from?" mystery department for almost every hero or villain. See the origin of the Joker in the most recent Batman, for example.

Back on Supes, the only decent Superman stories I've ever seen always involve the psychological aspects of his unquestioned supremacy and/or alienness. Living fifty or sixty years as a one-of-a-kind outsider who everyone knows is better than everyone else on the planet would, one thinks, do something to even a Kryptonian mind.

So I think that in order to be interesting, Superman needs to be a egotistical monster who's gotten so smug in his own power that he's dangerous, or at least problematic to the world at large. (Yeah, I realize this is getting close to Watchmen territory.)

Or he could just be a dick. He's fun when he's a dick. And if they did that, they might actually have a reasonable setup to a Batman/Superman crossover, since a Milleresque Batman could not only take the wind out of Dick Superman's sails, but the audience would love it.

But they won't do that, because Superman is an American Icon, which means he has to be perfect and bland. Sad.
posted by rokusan at 6:33 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because HE'S BORING.

Plus, don't forget, he probably can't have sex. Batman and Ironman sleep with every female on the planet.
posted by graventy at 6:45 PM on September 23, 2008


John Bryne did a perfectly acceptable 6-part reboot years ago. Make that in to a movie.

OR

Please, please, please make Crisis on Infinite Earths into a movie, and KILL EVERYONE.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:40 PM on September 23, 2008


What about that other Moore Superman story? It was a two-parter right before the Bryne reboot from the 80s.
posted by Bonzai at 10:17 PM on September 23, 2008


You imagined it.
posted by Artw at 10:21 PM on September 23, 2008


Batman and Ironman sleep with every female on the planet.

Yeah, but Batman's just sublimating/displacing.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:57 PM on September 23, 2008


How about a Quentin Tarantino Superman? Or a David Fincher Superman? Or a GASPAR NOE Superman?

I'll let you chew on that last one.
posted by deusdiabolus at 12:47 AM on September 24, 2008


First, we won't get an awesome Superman movie because this is Hollywood we're talking about, and an action movie, and a superhero movie too. It can't take chances, because it's more a multi-million-dollar investment than an artistic work.

Second, on Cthulhu. It's worth noting that there's an episode of the WB Superman Animanted Series where he goes up against that general flavor of monster, and his magic weakness comes into play. Yet, it didn't work. Cthulhu, after all, is an example of the vast, impersonal terror of the universe. But Superman's universe isn't impersonal. It's got the Monitor. It's got the New Gods. These things don't work in a Lovecraftian universe.

But if it did, then first off Superman's vulnerability to magic doesn't come into it, because Cthulhu isn't magic. He's not supernatural, he's extranatural. Superman would still lose, because even if he destroyed Cthulhu, he could never defeat what Cthulhu's existence means, that the Earth is a aberrant bubble drifting amidst a sea of gibbering insanity.

You can't punch cosmic horror, and it's resistant to heat vision.
posted by JHarris at 2:30 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno about that, JHarris. The DC Universe has gone up against Cthulhoid creatures before, such as in Cooke's The New Frontier, and done it pretty well. Heck, even the animated version they released a few months ago was pretty decent (No diamond-chiseled Super-chins).

--

One problem with Superman as a character is that it's really hard to let him live up to his true cosmic potential in an ongoing setting filled with other heroes. Superman has the power to defeat almost any threat instantly. The same cannot be said of any other DC hero*. If Superman is really dedicated to protecting the planet, then it stands to reason that he'll show up to fix things as they come up. Train crash in Metropolis? Supes is on it. Some nutjob trying to blow up London from a Warblimp? It's a Bird! Drought in Africa? Big Blue can divert a river or make clouds or whatever. I mean, this is a guy who moved an entire city five seconds out of joint in time so that his son could have a motorcycle adventure without the risk of messing stuff up too bad**.

So in order to write any other character in the DC setting, a writer at some point has to explain away why the hell the story doesn't end on page 4 with "And then Superman shows up." Usually, it's because he's in space defeating even more cosmic powers. and when Superman is part of a team, they usually need to take him out/tangle him up for awhile to give the other characters something to do. Otherwise, why bother to fuel up the Invisible Jet?

This is the same problem that the people behind a Superman movie have to face. They have to find some reason that Supes just doesn't end the movie after fifteen minutes***. They can stretch things out by having him save Lois and rescue falling planes and be a deadbeat dad and hell, let's throw in an origin retelling again, but in the end, the cool stuff that only Superman can do is only going to last so long.

And they can't just make a movie where Superman faced credible threat after credible threat. Either it will be a two hour long fight scene or it will involve characters/settings that the average movie-viewer would have no interest in watching (Sorry, War World). Don't get me wrong, I would love a two hour fight scene on War World, I'm just saying that I'm in the minority.

So while I can see where people are coming from with the whole Superman Is Boring thing, I don't agree. He's Complicated. His very nature, before you even get to the moral farmboy or bulletproof because my dad was shot stuff, is Complicated. Doing him well ("For The Man Who Has Everything") is pretty damn hard. As the first, and most powerful, superhero, he casts a very long, complex shadow over the comics world. Trying to figure out how this guy who can fix almost any problem, defeat almost any foe, fits into a world is, to me, really, really interesting.


* Except maybe Captain Marvel, but despite a good showing in Kingdom Come and Smith's series, he's a C-lister at best. Although, Cap's origin/background does a lot better job explaining away the problem with Superman I mention above. Captain Marvel doesn't patrol the world solving minor crisis's because Billy Batson is 12 and given the choice between punching Mister Mind in his bug head and handing out rations to flood victims, Mind is going to need the Advil every time.

** Saga of the Super Sons - Bob Haney is a hell of a drug.

*** One of the things that Superman Returns did right was have Superman come back from space after a long time away. That could have given the Bad Guys plenty of time to set up a powerbase and take over. The idea that Luthor wasted this time conning old women out of their money was, to me, the first sign that the movie would not be that great.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:18 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Superman has the power to defeat almost any threat instantly. The same cannot be said of any other DC hero*.

Nitpick time: Green Lantern and The Spectre. Both arguably at least as powerful.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:46 AM on September 24, 2008


As arguably powerful*, sure, but they're much more specialized than Superman. Spectre seems to focus on the supernatural while the Lantern Corps is aimed at extraterrestrial threats. Martian Manhunter is more of a generalist like Superman, but his weakness is so present in his stories that I think it bumps him down a weight class.

* I don't think the Green Lantern is in the same class as Superman. Maybe the whole of the Corps is, but not a lone Lantern. Superman vs Hal in Red Son, for example.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2008


Well, then thats one of the real problems with superman. Hes just too powerful and too much of a boy scout. People cant relate to him, so the villains need to be pretty incredible. They need to be great actors, have a sense of humor, relate to the audience, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2008


Then, when Superman inevitably snaps and starts taking his frustrations out on evil-doers and Clark begins to lose his thin veneer of calm, the public notices. Lois notices. Lawyers notice...

This, and the idea of having an a-hole superhero, was the (general) premise behind that recent Hancock movie with Will Smith. It, uh, didn't work out too well.
posted by inigo2 at 8:52 AM on September 24, 2008


This, and the idea of having an a-hole superhero, was the (general) premise behind that recent Hancock movie with Will Smith. It, uh, didn't work out too well.

I’d argue that the half of the movie where that was the premise was way more successful than the half of the movie that was some other shit.

Neither got as far as “good” though.
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Superman has the power to defeat almost any threat instantly. The same cannot be said of any other DC hero*.

Swamp thing. Well, maybe not instantly, he'll have a good old think about it first, and then you have to wait for him to finish his sentences.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2008


Really, I can’t think of a better time to have that message that ‘grim and gritty’ is swell in fiction, but in reality it’s terrifying and appalling when anyone with real power does it and that it’s counterproductive and ultimately futile to adopt the tactics of your enemies.

Wasn't that really one of the main points of the most recent Batman movie? I think that every single time Batman (or any of the good guys) tried to use grim and gritty intimidation to get what he wanted, it failed. Usually because everyone was more afraid of the Joker.

Frankly, that movie broke the whole concept of Batman for me. I realized that, now that my country is torturing people in real life, I don't find it cool anymore to watch Batman hang a thug upside-down from a precipice until he squeals.

If you can't save the ferry without torturing someone for information, well, dammit, you can't save the ferry. But in fiction, from now on, a hero is someone who finds a way to save the ferry without torturing people.

Just like, to bring this back to Superman, in a real Superman movie (as opposed to whatever Superman Returns was) Superman finds a way to save the day without getting Luthor's henchmen killed as they scramble to escape the island before Superman throws it into space. Compared to that, stalking Lois with x-ray vision is a minor offense.
posted by straight at 11:30 AM on September 24, 2008


“Superman has the power to defeat almost any threat instantly. The same cannot be said of any other DC hero.”

Yeah, but folks don’t have to write him that ridcioulously powerful. I like the general - very strong, very tough, very fast, flies, has heat vision. That’s it. I mean - why *can’t* he lose? And I don’t mean being beaten up, I mean fail to achieve a goal.

And the one guy folks keep forgetting - and indeed because he is way way too powerful - is the Martian Manhunter.
Everything Superman has plus - one of the most powerful telepaths in the universe, invisible, intangible, shapeshifter.
Are you kidding me? He doesn’t even need to show up, he can just shut your brain off from a thousand miles away. Even if he does show up, there’s no way to know he’s there. Even if you do know he’s there you can’t touch him. Even at that - he could be anyone else in the room. Once you get past all that and just fight him straight up? It’s like fighting Superman.
No wonder they never use him. He’s a swiss-army power hero.

Which, really, is where many writers put Superman.
Actually, interesting vulnerability on the Manhunter - he’s sensitive. Which might explain why he doesn’t just bust up on folks.
And indeed - Superman to some degree. He’s more about control than power.
I remember a story where Batman asked him why he didn’t just x-ray Luthor’s files. He said “I don’t do that...anyway, they’re lead lined.”
Which is trite - but, he can balance on the head of a pin - he looked, but he didn’t *really* look. (Since, presumably, he could just as easily x-ray and heat vision the lead off.)
So that may be Superman’s restraint he’s not willing to go all the way. Indeed, he’s taken an oath to never kill.
Which struck me as odd - why he’d need to take an oath I mean - if you don’t need to eat - wouldn’t eating strike you as abominable? So deliberately killing - gah!
(Yeah, I know he ‘killed’ the three kryptonian villians - that’s just crap arbitrary writing really. And based on the stupid movie. It means that when placed on his own terms all those ideals mean nothing. I think he’d’ve found a way to stop them without killing them.)
If the Jains can live with lice crawling all over them, I think Superman can live with his ‘no killing’ thing.
So that’s the struggle. Keeping control. Maintaining that balance.
Doesn’t matter how powerful he is. In fact it’s more interesting the more powerful he is.
At this point he’s just on the edge of exile. He’s just in-bounds of where he can live with humans.

(And I’d point out - the Manhunter isn’t. He’s on the other side. Which makes him interesting too since he is much more ‘alien’ )
posted by Smedleyman at 12:43 PM on September 24, 2008


Nitpick time: Green Lantern and The Spectre. Both arguably at least as powerful.

I'll leave the Spectre aside since he really seems like he's in a different category, a weird remnant of the horror comic genre somehow shoehorned into the superhero adventure genre.

As for Green Lantern, the big difference is superspeed. Superman and GL are about equal in terms of who they could defeat or amazing acts of power they can perform, but Superman can do a thousand of them in the time it takes GL to do one. (Or can do one act in 1/1000th the time). Of course most writers forget all about this, having Superman change his clothes in a blink of an eye but then making him fight the bad guys in (for him) super-slow motion.

No bullet should ever bounce off Superman's chest, because he can take your gun, disassemble it, put the ammunition somewhere safely out of reach, and tie you up before you can point the weapon, much less pull the trigger. The fight in Superman 2 ought to have been an invisible blur to all the human bystanders, with buildings and cars exploding around them for no apparent reason.

Superspeed is really a broken concept. And, as Smedleyman points out, there are characters like Martian Manhunter that are even more broken in the sense that most writers can't use them without forgetting about 90% of their powers.
posted by straight at 11:20 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dude, he's not the Flash. There's some sort of superhero-union rule about encroaching other heroes' turf too much.
posted by GuyZero at 11:28 AM on September 25, 2008


as i recall, superman and the flash have had several races throughout the flash's various incarnations, and they've just about always ended up in a tie. which is kind of a big fuck you to the flash from the writers at DC.
posted by shmegegge at 11:31 AM on September 25, 2008


I'm just pointing out something that's obvious to (for instance) role-playing gamers that the comics always gloss over. Speed is everything. If you were being consistent (I won't say "realistic" for obvious reasons), the biggest divide between super-powered people would be between those with superhuman speed and those who don't.

Someone who's 10x faster (never mind Flash or Superman who are thousands of times faster) can almost always win a fight unless the opponent is just completely invulnerable.

Spider-man ought to win a straight-out fight with Batman or Captain America, not because he's so much stronger (which he is), but because he's so much faster.
posted by straight at 10:06 AM on September 26, 2008


Richard Donner: Give Geoff Johns the Superman Movie
posted by Artw at 12:11 PM on October 15, 2008


Big Grant Morrison interview on All Star Superman
posted by Artw at 8:48 AM on October 21, 2008


I wish I had a useful reminder system for checking up on series at websites I don't frequent, because I'd like to see all of that. ASS (heh) was really really really really really really good.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:52 PM on October 21, 2008


This posts time is nearly up, otherwise I'd post them here as they turn up.
posted by Artw at 9:00 PM on October 21, 2008


Part 2
posted by Artw at 9:30 PM on October 22, 2008


New Watchmen Footage Is Lovely And Tormented
posted by homunculus at 10:15 PM on October 22, 2008


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