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Superman once went back in time and beat up Hitler. I mean, who can compete with that?
July 22, 2009 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Man Not Superman based on a story by Jonathan Goldstein about a mortal man dealing with the pressures of dating Lois Lane. Found on Post-it Note Stories: Stories illustrated on little yellow Post-It Notes in beautiful black Sharpie. (via).
posted by ND¢ (61 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
This story also appeared in some form on This America Life
posted by orville sash at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember this story being read on The Moth. It's good.
posted by Windigo at 7:56 AM on July 22, 2009


Great story. And the illustration is making me think that that Clark guy and Superman might be like brothers or something.
posted by DU at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah the 'About' section of the Post-It notes site says there is a lot of overlap between it and TAL.

I think Clark Kent finding the mockery of Superman to be so funny was my favorite part of the story. It made me think of the Superman speech from Kill Bill:
Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone.

Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S” – that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us.

Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… He’s unsure of himself… He’s a coward.

Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.
I wonder if Superman, when he is being Superman, hates humanity, and Superman, when he is being Clark Kent, hates Superman. Or maybe Clark is always just a disguise and he is always just Superman.

I think Superman, in his heart of hearts, probably hates himself. I think this because it is my firm belief that everyone, in their heart of hearts, thinks as Batman does.
posted by ND¢ at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2009 [23 favorites]


Superman does not have a heart of hearts. If you opened him up, he'd be steel inside. Pure, flawless, cold steel.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think this because it is my firm belief that everyone, in their heart of hearts, thinks as Batman does.

Right this moment, I'm thinking there are 13 ways to take down the guy I can see across the road from my office. Three cripple him; four kill him outright.

Also I'm wondering what his son would look like in tights.
posted by permafrost at 8:10 AM on July 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Take Down Option #1: Car Battery.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:11 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Superman does not have a heart of hearts. If you opened him up, he'd be steel inside. Pure, flawless, cold steel.

Nah. I always think Superman's a pretty sad and lonely dude. Too feeble to really be a god, to save everyone; too different from the people around him to ever be anything but alone.

I love angsty Supe. I see the ending as a sad one--deep down, I bet he agrees with Stuart. Great little story.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:19 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


wow, that section where Clark Kent really encourages the guy to let loose and makes him feel better is weirdly touching. What a great story.

You know what, NDcent? a favorite for you.
posted by shmegegge at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2009


NDcent

OOOOOoooooooohhhhh!
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on July 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Clark guy and Superman might be like brothers or something

Clark gets that a lot, but I don't see it. For one thing, Superman is a lot taller.
posted by bonehead at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Take Down Option #2 #56: Fist to the face.
posted by permafrost at 8:46 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Superman's lonely, and angsty and sad, yes. And he doesn't really fit in, like PhoBWanKenobi said.

But he's also got some sort of weird loyalty to Earth. He's the adopted kid who doesn't really know from whence he came, and he has this obligation to the planet that took him in. Plus, he's got no where else to go. So he sits and broods in the Fortess of Solitude, and saves our bacon when we need it, and wishes he were somewhere else doing something else. But the place he wants to be doesn't really exist, and he doesn't know anything else.
posted by Shohn at 8:48 AM on July 22, 2009


We are all orphans of the planet Krypton. The worlds of our childhood no longer exist and all we can do is make the best of this strange place we've come to inhabit purely by chance.

I love emo Superman!
posted by ND¢ at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex
 
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:03 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


This was great, thanks!
posted by interrobang at 9:03 AM on July 22, 2009


i liked this
posted by molecicco at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2009


I see the ending as a sad one--deep down, I bet he agrees with Stuart.

The end is chilling. Clark Kent is so alienated from his super half that he doesn't know he isn't human.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2009


If you opened him up, he'd be steel inside. Pure, flawless, cold steel.

Regardless, he has some gross-looking boils on his back.

Superman's lonely, and angsty and sad, yes. And he doesn't really fit in ...

This reminds me of Superman's Fortress of Solitude by Rick Stoeckel.
Superman flies around the globe picking up excellent carpenters, sculptors, and architects, whom he contracts to design and build his Fortress of Solitude. Minh Hohn, lead architect of the project, approaches Superman two weeks into the process. He and Superman argue about the practicality of the fortress. "Are you sure you won't be having people over? I would love to create a guest bedroom, and maybe a game room."

"No," Superman insists. "It's called the Fortress of Solitude. It's just going to be me."
And it goes on from there. I don't want to spoil it, so I'll leave it at that.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:09 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Across the chest, in small Courier font, was the word Stuart.

This slays me
posted by doobiedoo at 9:15 AM on July 22, 2009


Apparently, this is the Jonathan Goldstein from CBC Radio's WireTap, also broadcast on some NPR stations via PRI.
posted by mhum at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2009


That was super! Oh shit. I was supposed to use that word sparingly.
posted by digsrus at 9:31 AM on July 22, 2009


Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent.

That's been true in some versions of the Superman story, but for the last 20+ years in the comics, the baby from Krypton was raised as Clark Kent, a midwestern farm boy, has always thought of himself as Clark Kent, didn't even have powers until he was at least a teenager, and "Superman" is a role he plays, a uniform he wears when he's using his powers to help people.

He really should have made that comment about Batman:

When Batman wakes up in the morning, he’s Batman. His alter ego is Bruce Wayne...What Wayne wears – the expensive suit, the playboy bunnies on each arm – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Batman wears to blend in with us.

Bruce Wayne is Batman’s critique on the whole human race.

[/comicsnerd]
posted by straight at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


Just in case anyone still doesn't know it, the Kill Bill speech about Superman was shamelessly lifted from Jules Feiffer's "The Great Comic Book Heroes".
posted by interrobang at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


The end is chilling. Clark Kent is so alienated from his super half that he doesn't know he isn't human.

I'm not sure that's true. I think Clark Kent is laughing because the joke is on Stuart; he, as Clark Kent, is so good at being human that no one can even tell he's actually Superman, despite the flimsiness of his disguise.
posted by Caduceus at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


As interesting as this format could be, this particular story worked much better on TAL. Especially the part where he's popping boils on Superman's back with a nail and an atlas, which is pretty funny, as long as, you know, you don't actually have to see it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:12 AM on July 22, 2009


Nope, that comic totally didn't make me google 'fundies.' Not at all.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2009


Why can't DC Comics make original Superman stories like this?
posted by MegoSteve at 10:55 AM on July 22, 2009


Why can't DC Comics make original Superman stories like this?

You can't start with deconstruction. Someone's always got to be post-modernism's straight man.
posted by GuyZero at 11:24 AM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Caught this story on the radio last year. Loved it then, loved it now. The Post-It art was great.

But yeah, the "Superman" speech from Kill Bill was dead wrong, or, at best, Pre-Crisis. straight has it ... uhm ... straight - Bill was talking about Batman, if anyone.

With Superman, Clark's the real guy. He knows he's not human but he longs to be. He wants Lois to love Clark, not his tights-wearing alter ego. Anyone in here read the trainwreck that was Infinite Crisis? If you've blocked it out of your memories, I don't blame you, but can you recall how Superman lost his powers at the climax of that story?

Following Infinite Crisis, there was this run of "One Year Later" stories throughout the DCU. In the Superman books, Clark had gotten to spend a whole year without Kryptonian powers. It was one of the happiest years of his life - he just got to be normal for the first time since high school. He felt pain, he shaved with a razor, he got hot and cold and tired and hungry. But after a year in the yellow sun, he starts getting his powers back and it absolutely breaks his heart. Everyone he loves is human and he knew that he would never get to walk among them like this again.

Thanks for posting this, ND¢!
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite canonical Superman scenes takes place in Grant Morrison's Animal Man, early in the run. Animal Man, at this point a third-rate superhero (at best) with extremely questionable powers, is staking out a rooftop, when who should suddenly drop in but the Big Blue Boy Scout. He was flying around most of the planet, like he does every freaking day, and he just happens to be passing by.

Superman is a dick to Animal Man.

Oh, he's not rude or abusive, and he doesn't mean to be a dick, but he is. Animal Man is a little bit starstruck, and Supes gives him this utterly lame, generic "keep up the good work" pep talk, all the while towering over him and smiling with those big, perfect white teeth. The discomfort is palpable.

Superman stops suddenly. "Did you hear that?" he asks. "No, of course you didn't. A bridge just collapsed in China. Gotta go!" And he flies off, leaving Animal Man alone on the roof.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Superman is one of my least favorite superheroes. I mean, he's invincible. No matter what challenge faces him, he's going to come out all right. Comic book writers have to contrive all of these stupid lame ways to take down Supes, but you always know he'll come out on top. The guy died. Then came back to life. Death! can't even beat him.

That makes for a dull comic. Instead of reading about the struggles of a do-good hero, you read about creative ways the storytellers try to make Superman's life hell. But you can't make an indestructible man's life hell, because he can fix everything. Bo-ring.

This is the only way Superman can be done. From the outsider's perspective. This is the only way that he is interesting: when he isn't the hero, but the obstacle. Man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. god. Man vs. man-god.

Don't tell my girlfriend. She loves Superman.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:32 PM on July 22, 2009


jabberjaw - then i think you'd dig the recent Lex Luthor: Man of Steel series, where we get Lex's perspective on what a creepy, destabilizing interloper this Kryptonian can be - Superman comes off as a steel-skinned, utterly alien being in this tale. It's bloody great.

Then you've got Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman which is just plain mathematically perfect.

Hell, even the regular books are pretty interesting right now. The bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor was restored on Earth, so now Kal-El's gotta cope with the sudden appearance of a large Kryptonian population, all of whom share his powers, none of whom have the benefit of being raised by the Kents. All of a sudden, the notion of Kryptonian invincibility is a huge, huge problem.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:39 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why can't DC Comics make original Superman stories like this?

It's a Bird, by Steven T. Seagle
posted by explosion at 12:50 PM on July 22, 2009


Apparently the Superman-is-flying-around-and-lands-and-talks-to-people genre is pretty popular.
posted by ND¢ at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


jabberjaw: "Superman is one of my least favorite superheroes. I mean, he's invincible. No matter what challenge faces him, he's going to come out all right. Comic book writers have to contrive all of these stupid lame ways to take down Supes, but you always know he'll come out on top. The guy died. Then came back to life. Death! can't even beat him.

That makes for a dull comic. Instead of reading about the struggles of a do-good hero, you read about creative ways the storytellers try to make Superman's life hell. But you can't make an indestructible man's life hell, because he can fix everything. Bo-ring.

This is the only way Superman can be done. From the outsider's perspective. This is the only way that he is interesting: when he isn't the hero, but the obstacle. Man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. god. Man vs. man-god.


I disagree, but to do the story as a traditional comics adventure tale you'd be right. Th way to write Superman, I'd think, is to focus on everything else about the character. Life is complicated enough that you can have one ability that's far off the charts and still be mediocre in thousands of others. Can Superman make a decent cup of coffee? How good is he at dancing? Does he know how to cook? Can he format a hard drive? Is he good at relating to people when asked to give interviews? Could he have broken Watergate to the world? Do jerks refuse to take him seriously? Student loans: does Kent have them? Even in those cases where Superman's powers make him immune or take the edge off of the story, his desperate longing to be human can still drive the story. To take the student loan example, he can crush coal into diamonds. But does he? Not only will the IRS get curious about where all that money came from, but would that feel like "cheating" to him?

Then, apply all this to his relations with human beings, who have the same problems. Does Superman use any super-powered "outs" from the situations like the coal business in helping his friends out of jams?

And, how does Superman construct an identity for himself? Does he go to the library and read up on Greek gods? They were all jerks; did Superman have a phase where he went through trying to be Zeus, or Hercules?

Don't tell my girlfriend. She loves Superman."

Thanks for the warning, I'll remember not to. zing!
posted by JHarris at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why can't DC Comics make original Superman stories like this?

I don't think making Superman an egotistical asshole and Batman a Pedophile is on the storyboard list at DC.

I agree with JHarris' take on Superman-like character storytelling. It has already been done with other characters, but people still seem to get hung up on what has been a very lazy way of telling the Superman story.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:28 PM on July 22, 2009


Clark gets that a lot, but I don't see it. For one thing, Superman is a lot taller.

You just think that because Superman is hypnotizing you. I love the comparison pictures of Clark Kent and Superman in that one panel.
posted by painquale at 1:41 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I disagree, but to do the story as a traditional comics adventure tale you'd be right. Th way to write Superman, I'd think, is to focus on everything else about the character. Life is complicated enough that you can have one ability that's far off the charts and still be mediocre in thousands of others. Can Superman make a decent cup of coffee? How good is he at dancing? Does he know how to cook? Can he format a hard drive? Is he good at relating to people when asked to give interviews?

Lois: What were you just thinking?
Superman: In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the FoS, analyzing the collected works of Charles Dickens, calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips, considering a new food supplement for Spot...

Yeah, that’s not dead material at all.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2009


The problem, JHarris, is when you talk about everything else about Superman, it's extra boring. I mean, a comic book about a super dude who can't cook and has to pay off student loanszzzzzzzz....
posted by jabberjaw at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2009


I would absolutely read JHarris's Super-student loan comic!
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:59 PM on July 22, 2009


Superman is one of my least favorite superheroes. I mean, he's invincible. No matter what challenge faces him, he's going to come out all right.

Well sure, if the only exciting story you can think of is, "Protagonist's Life Is In Jeopardy."

On the other hand, even with his godlike powers, there are lots of things Superman can't do that can create the right conflict for good stories...

1. Use his powers in contradictory ways -- by helping one person he hurts another.

2. Ethical restraints on his powers -- how can I do this without killing someone / violating innocent people's privacy / breaking the law? How would he react to anti-vigilante laws? What if China forbids him to enter their airspace, but there's a huge disaster threatening millions of lives? How would he react to a political development in the USA that he thought was morally wrong (Lex Luthor elected as president was a promising idea, mostly squandered)?

3. Social constraints on his actions -- if he saves too many burning buildings will governments stop funding fire departments? Surely there are groups of people who worship him, who are deathly afraid of him, who hate him, who can't stand the fact that he is de facto ruler of the world even if he is mostly benign and laissez-faire? Does Superman just ignore these people? Try to win them over?

4. Physical limitations - although some writers have traditionally used his powers in nonsensical ways, enforcing a few limits -- he's fast, but he can't literally be in two places at once, an ocean liner would break in half if you tried to lift it at one spot with super-strong hands -- can be used to create interesting challenges.
posted by straight at 2:24 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


^ Those comic books sound fascinating! May they have been written by Alan Moore or Brian K. Vaughan? I'll admint that I'm thoroughly out of touch with Superman's storylines because of the aforementioned reasons, so perhaps Superman has recently become more interesting.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:31 PM on July 22, 2009


Let's look at other examples then.

I know he's not god-like but Spiderman was created with those types of stories in mind.

There is the Superman-like character in Astro City (Samaritan) who when introduced to the reader is shown to actually dream what it would be like to enjoy his life rather than be worn down and weary from saving everybody all the time. He actually counts the seconds between landings.

You have Invincible which is a cross between a Superman character and Spiderman storytelling.

The Tick's namesake is the title of the comic, and is nigh-invincible, but is mostly about his sidekick trying to deal with him.

Alan Moore's run on Supreme was awesome. Moore's Dr. Manhattan was just short of god and I recall Watchmen being pretty good.

I can think of at least a few others. There are plenty of comics where the storytelling of over-powerful characters has been done right.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:42 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Always struck me as strange that he doesn’t need to eat, but he does. And meat even. And yet he’s vowed to ‘never take another life.’ So... by proxy is ok? How far down in evolution or sentience does he go? Apparently he wouldn’t kill an “Alien” in Superman Vs. Aliens. Which is weird. I mean, if there’s one class of creature that you absolutely need to drop the gloves with…
So, a lethal virus, he wouldn’t kill that? Just goofyness.
“All of a sudden, the notion of Kryptonian invincibility is a huge, huge problem.”
Which, again, seemed to me like lazy writing predicated on poor science. Jor-El is this brilliant scientist, so brilliant that instead of merely rewriting his kids genetic code to survive on a distant planet and controlling what he can control, he searches for a planet that just so happens to give his species incredible powers and leaves it to fate that there aren’t any funky variables (of which there could well be legion) like that extra radiation causing some form of Kryptonian cancer or some such. Hmn.
And what were the odds that the planet he finds like that, oh, humans just happen to look exactly like kryptonians. Nutty.
I think the big stories are where he has to live up to himself. Indeed, this one is an inversion of those. It would be tough going day to day having to control oneself to that degree. You’re not only that powerful, you’re that visible, and that much of a role model.
And really, those are his constraints. That’s what limits his power. He can’t just chuck a bus at the bank robbers and call it a day. He’s got to catch the bullets they fire so they don’t hit someone in the crowd, he’s got to make sure no hostages are taken, he’s got to capture – without harming them – the bank robbers, etc. etc. So it’s not the powers, it’s the coordination of them and the fact that he has to do it a certain way. (on preview - as straight sez)

But in that regard he’s so upright and squared away that student loans, all that, would be easy as pie. He is super intelligent after all. So working the system is easy. Hell, Kent won a Pulitzer. As nerdy as he appears, he is effective and successful. Plus, very very very sure of the right thing to do. As a reporter that’s got to be a hell of a boon. Everyone and his brother would trust Clark Kent whether they thought he was uber-square or not (what’s that line from Green Arrow when Superman points out Atom’s wife was hung with a common boy scout knot? I love him and hate him at the same time).

Unlike, say, Peter Parker who can’t seem to catch a break because he *is * some dufus kid. I mean, he did go for using his powers selfishly at first. Took his uncle getting killed for him to take responsibility.

But Superman’s dual identity makes complete sense to me. Who’s Michael Jordan – really? Nonsensical question. If you saw some guy downtown driving a cab who was a dead ringer for Jordan you wouldn’t think Michael Jordan was secretly a cab driver. And really – his face was everywhere, etc. But have you ever actually seen Michael Jordan? Been in his presence? Hell, I grow a beard people I’ve known for years don’t recognize me. Identity is situational. It’s like when you’re a kid seeing one of your school teachers at the grocery store or smoking. It’s completely surreal. Your mind can’t really grasp it. Same deal. If Kent is Superman what the hell is he doing in the office? So that’s not a big thing.

But what is weird about that is, if he’s being Clark Kent and he’s hearing someone hundreds of miles away in Gotham or somewhere being murdered and he’s just standing there doing his interview or filing his story or whatever.

“AHHH! Oh God help me!” *stabstabstab*
Kent: *klikityklikity*“METROPOLIS: Vandalism. Dave Gills, 20, of 4428 W. Congress Parkway, Suicide Slum, was charged with spray painting a city traffic signal…”
“DIE you bastard! Die!” *stabstabstab * “AHHH!!!”
Kent: *kikity*“…at 1:10 am, July 22, at 110th avenue and Main.“
“Gasp!” “Yeah, take that you sonova…!” *stabchokestab*
Kent: *gotta file this police blotter*“His court date is on July 30.” *klikity*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:43 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The thing that stopped me being bugged about Superman is how he can find time to have a secret identity. He's this startlingly moral creature, apparently, but he has decided to spend ~30 hours a week pretending to be Clark Kent (or as some of you are arguing, actually being Clark Kent) and hearing the screams of agony of people he could be saving every moment of those hours. There's someone at any given moment in mortal peril within earshot of him who he could help, because his earshot is so huge.

Superman was invented by some guys thinking 'Gee Whiz, wouldn't it be ace to have a hero with these attributes!' without thinking through any of the tremendously complex problems that decades of nerd fandom would highlight. He can't be an internally consistent character. The features imbued in him at his creation preclude that. It's a different manifestation of the classic Epicurean Paradox;

1. Superman has made it his mission to protect the innocent from avoidable harm
2. Superman is aware of all suffering for vast distances
3. Superman manages to maintain a full-time, partially desk-bound job
4. There is continuous avoidable harm happening to innocents within Superman's awareness range.

Basically, there is no way to square Superman's character. You can write good stories about him by avoiding the tough questions and distracting readers with a compelling plot. Fundamentally, though, Superman simply doesn't work. He's either not a selfless hero (and if not, how does he decide which crises to intervene in? Has there ever been a story about that, where he hears an apartment block on fire 200 miles away and thought, 'Kent's got a deadline, no deal!' (and if so there ought to be some pretty weighty comics where he decides how many human lives his Kent alter-ego is worth)) or he's not that powerful.

And that is why comparatively he is weak character. There've been lots of interesting ideas upthread about good stories for Superman, but the problem is that you can't write too good a story for him that opens up all those thorny issues about superpowers not necessarily being the fix-all in every situation, without risking revealing to the reader that Superman FUNDAMENTALLY DOES NOT WORK AS A FICTIONAL CONSTRUCT. He's got the same things that beloved movie that's full of plot holes has; the ought-to-be-parsable but somehow nonsensical lyrics to Billy Jean; the endlessly self-contradictory but-somehow-consistent-enough-for-a-million-people Holy Bible.

Makes about as much sense to argue about, too.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 4:15 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Actually...

But I don't think it matters how many examples are given. People seem to have more fun with nerdrants.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:43 PM on July 22, 2009


jabberjaw: "The problem, JHarris, is when you talk about everything else about Superman, it's extra boring. I mean, a comic book about a super dude who can't cook and has to pay off student loanszzzzzzzz...."

I gave that as an example. To give one that addresses your concerns: Clark Kent works in a newspaper office. Newspaper offices are intrinsically interesting places whether you have super powers or not. How about a single Superman issue in which the big red 'S' isn't seen at all, and the word "Superman" and all references to powers are absent, and Clark Kent merely does his job like any good reporter, except maybe just a smidgen more fearless in his investigations? How would that change the story for us, with our outside knowledge that he does have powers?

I hear there are Gotham City police procedural comics. Why not a Daily Planet reporting procedural version?

Ultimately, however, Cantdosleepy is right. Superman is not logically consistent as-written unless he spends every waking moment either maintaining the secret identity or saving people, and even then there are lots of people he can't save. To be truly selfless with his abilities, he'd have to basically be a robot, no time for personal pursuits at all. (Actually, a version of Superman that played up that aspect might be interesting, but it wouldn't be Superman.)

But you could sort of excuse Superman for all this by virtue of his being an alien. What about Batman? How did he find the time to learn all that stuff, AND build his martial arts skills, AND keep them both honed? Doesn't all that sleep deprivation start to wear down on him after a while? Batman's real superpower may actually be time management.
posted by JHarris at 4:50 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Actually, a version of Superman that played up that aspect might be interesting, but it wouldn't be Superman.)

Yeah, like Samaritan?

Is this thing on...?
posted by P.o.B. at 4:57 PM on July 22, 2009


Let's look at other examples then...

Spider-man doesn't make a very good comparison because he doesn't deal with situations with a scope as large as those that Superman faces (at least not alone, or in his ongoing book). I haven't read much of Kirkman's Invincible so I'm not sure if the protagonists powerset is anywhere close to Superman's, though I agree about the similarities to Spidey.

As for the rest of the list (aside from being Superman analogues), they don't have the lumbering spectre of over 70 years of continuity to deal with and the attendant fan-base which decries any deviation from a very specific set of pre-conceived ideas of what a "REAL" Superman comic is.

This is largely why self-contained, (relatively) continuity free series like All-Star Superman, or Superman Birthright are so successful.
posted by lilnemo at 6:29 PM on July 22, 2009


The Superman story is a love triangle.
Clark Kent loves Lois Lane. Lois Lane loves Superman. Superman loves Clark Kent.
Superman loves getting to play-act a silly, utterly unnecessary little life as a regular human. In that life, he loves Lois Lane, but the real Superman doesn't give a fuck. Superman playing Clark Kent is like Marie Antoinette playing at shepherd girl. It's a great game, but you're not going to catch the real Marie Antoinette in her court gown fucking a goatherd.
posted by agentofselection at 6:45 PM on July 22, 2009


As for the rest of the list (aside from being Superman analogues), they don't have the lumbering spectre of over 70 years of continuity to deal with and the attendant fan-base which decries any deviation from a very specific set of pre-conceived ideas of what a "REAL" Superman comic is.

I only brought up Spiderman because, if you at a lot of the old storylines, it was about Peter Parker trying to balance out his life with his superhero life. Which was by and large what JHarris had brought up as story ideas. I was only saying it could be done when other people thought it wasn't a good idea.
Beyond that, if you don't like Superman and want to make an argument based on that character and how he's developed and all that, then yeah that's understandable. But people usually extend this argument out into the idea of the character himself by stating he's to strong and blah blah blah. If I'm not mistaken some people were making the same argument here. My refutation is that there are ridiculously over-powered characters, and there always has been throughout the existence of telling stories, with storylines that are compelling in spite of earth destroying abilities.
Personally, I've never really been that big a fan of Superman. But I think most of what has been argued as faults of the character is more about lazy or talentless writing than anything else.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:04 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


*Spiderman because, if you at have read a lot of the old storylines, it was*
posted by P.o.B. at 7:06 PM on July 22, 2009


Personally, I've never really been that big a fan of Superman. But I think most of what has been argued as faults of the character is more about lazy or talentless writing than anything else.

I'm not a huge fan of Superman, but I believe that he can be the engine for some really great stories. My sticking point is more with the notion of "lazy or talentless writing". I have no doubts that there have been a great deal of writers who come to comics for little more than a paycheck, but I hesitate to call it hackery, its work-for-hire, you're going to get some "serviceable" stories that have little to no effect to the status quo. But some of it can be quite good.

If you read interviews with most superhero writers, almost all of them have a pitch for a great Superman story, or a great Superman ongoing. The trouble is, like I said before, a lot of fans have "a very specific set of pre-conceived ideas of what a 'REAL' Superman comic is." And since the comics marketplace is smaller than most other forms of entertainment, comics companies try not to upset the great silent majority. Which gets pretty problematic. Thats when you get you're deaths, resurrections, marriages, divorces, divorces-by-Satanic-proxies, resets, reboots, soft reboots, hard reboots, threeboots, etc.

And as for the whole Clark/Superman issue that Feiffer raised; its a false dichotomy. There is only one identity: Clark Kent. Writers Morrison and Rucka have both espoused the idea that in a universe full of superhumans it is not Superman's powers that set him above and apart, but his strength of character. His empathy and values are his true superpowers, and they all stem from his upbringing. So while his powers allow him to act, it is his human nature that allows him to overcome.
posted by lilnemo at 7:40 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now that I'm thinking about it here are a couple more Superman analogue containing books

The Boys with The Homelander

Hero Squared
with Captain Valor

I thought Marvel/MAX Supreme Power with Hyperion is pretty good. Which is DC characters redone and updated.

Rising Stars

The End League
posted by P.o.B. at 7:52 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


My sticking point is more with the notion of "lazy or talentless writing".

I should've been more specific about that. I don't mean to make blanket assertions for all the writers, but there has been some horrendous writing included in the Superman series. Which is where I think a lot of the chief complaints come from.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:56 PM on July 22, 2009


Actually, Marvel's Sentry character is essentially Superman played according to all of the constraints. He is a schizophrenic, haunted Superman who spends every possible moment rushing around the world, saving people- that is, when he isn't stuck in his apartment with agoraphobia.
It is...somewhat interesting.
posted by 235w103 at 8:08 PM on July 22, 2009


The love triangle idea is interesting; in a different formulation it might explain the apparent moral failings of pretending to be a powerless doofus while people need his help. If Lois loved Clark (but feared or hated Superman), then it might be, if not morally consistent, perhaps palatable from a human-failings (or uber-alien failings) point of view to feel compelled to dress up in this (reporter) costume and go to work every day.

In that light, actually, the Clark Kent role begins to look like a kind of fetish...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:03 AM on July 23, 2009


Speaking of WireTap, has anybody found a new unofficial WireTap podcast yet? It looks like the supernintendochalmers one finally petered out after a glorious, WireTappy year.
posted by shadytrees at 11:12 AM on July 23, 2009


You can stream Wiretap off the CBC web site, but there's no podcast.
posted by GuyZero at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2009


Did someone say "emo superman?" *choke*
posted by chairface at 4:19 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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