Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let's look at the relaunched Superman and discuss him why don't we already?

Sorry about that headline. I've been watching a lot of Futurama lately so I'm in a Dr. Zoidberg frame of mind. The DC relaunch may wind up being a sales failure, but from one perspective it's already a success-- people are talking about DC comics. Everywhere I go people ask me, "You're an idiot. What do you think about DC's crazy new relaunch plans?" And I'm all too happy to tell them the random assemblage of observations that pass for my opinion about things.

Like Superman. Do you remember how in Pulp Fiction how Mia Wallace tells Vincent Vega about "Elvis people" and "Beatles people" then doesn't ask him which he prefers because he's "definitely an Elvis man?" No, you don't. It was a deleted scene. Are you a Pulp Fiction fan? Oh, then I'm sorry, you've seen it. Of course you remember it.

I'm a Beatles person. But there are also "Superman people" and "Batman people." I'm a Cassandra Cain person, but I'm also mostly a Superman person. Superman represents humanity at its finest, even if he's not-- strictly speaking-- a human being. Superman is symbolic of our optimism. Batman represents humanity having its worst day. He's the personification of our pessimism. I choose optimism over pessimism every time. Almost every time. To be honest, DC makes it very difficult sometimes. But just as Vincent Vega is trying to listen, I'm trying to see the upside to DC's relaunch.

They've already impressed me with the new Katana costume, enough so I'm going to sample Birds of Prey to see if her characterization matches it. Let's see if DC's biggest, brightest, most important character will have a similar effect. Here's my take on these initial images of the costume redesigns for Superman and his Super-Family. First up-- Rags Morales.

Morales will be illustrating Grant Morrison's scripts for the new Action Comics #1. DC's The Source blog says, "Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero."

And I can see why. This Superman looks like a brute, reminiscent of the more primal Superman from his earliest appearances in Action Comics when he seemed a little wild and dangerous. I'm not sure what to make of a hairy-armed Superman wearing an officially licensed crewneck Superman t-shirt and a towel for a cape a la Marvin of Superfriends fame. Something has happened to him and his distressed jeans from American Eagle and it's pissed him off enough he's going to totally destroy that giant rock.

Dramatic artwork. Don't you want to know why he's killing that rock and why it's angered him so much his eyes have turned a glowing heat-vision red? As much as I hate, hate, HATE Identity Crisis and think it's a poorly conceived and plotted piece of crap, it's still a gorgeously rendered piece of crap. But then I've always liked Rags Morales's art, going all the way back to his work on Black Condor and Turok. The cape is a silly touch here given Superman's hipster street clothes, but Morales has nailed the character's strength and powerful presence.

Let's see what legendary artist George Perez is up to. I admire Morales, but I love me some George Perez!

Oh. How unfortunate.

Perez will write Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Today #1, with art by Jesus Merino. Perez gives us a Superman in full-on "I hate my job at the Daily Planet" mode and sticks him in a super-lame costume. Maybe Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen mocked his new super-suit so hard, the Man of Steel finally snapped. The cybernetic lines in Superman's top make it look like clothing rather than the traditional man-with his-torso-and-legs-painted-blue look. That part is fine.

But the belt with square studs and those armored boots/greaves? Totally unnecessary and quite ugly. Perez's art is every bit as dynamic and cleanly detailed as ever-- he's one of those rare artists who's managed to maintain a peak well past all expectations, and he was pretty solid even early in his career-- but this revamped costume needs to be revamped already. Keep the shirt, rework the belt, loose those horrible, horrible boots that would've embarrassed even the beefcakey cast of an old Italian gladiator movie! Mr. Perez, with all due respect, if you're attempting to give Superman's footwear a high-tech look to match the rest of his leotards, go check out some athletic shoes or ski boots or something, anything; don't dig out one of your old jobs for Marvel back in the 70s. It looks like Superman stole them off some second-string Iron Man villain.

On second thought, there's such a mismatch between Superman's top and bottoms, maybe someone-- was it you, Dan Didio?-- used the old Mighty Men & Monster Maker toy to design this and forced it on Perez.

Let's look away from this accident scene to Mahmud Asrar's pleasant surprise.

Way to go, DC! For too long the bare middrift has been the visual cliche signifying "this is a teenaged girl" character. Aybar's Supergirl drawing gives her an otherworldly, dignified appearance. What? No navel ring or lower back tattoo? The new Supergirl costume with its long sleeves, shawl/cape arrangement and stylish over-the-knee boots actually covers more girl than I'm used to in my DC comics. I can't get over a Supergirl wearing more clothing than an Olympic gymnast and not looking like Lindsay Lohan in the middle of a 2-week coke and booze binge.

I applaud the attempt at updating the Superman logo, but this design isn't working. It needs to be tweaked ever so slightly because it looks like someone stuck the shield-shape around some tiger-stripes. Resolve the "S" inside and you'll have it. And speaking of the shield, echoing it that closely in front in that yellow accent piece is overkill. That would work better as an oval reminiscent of her cousin's old belt buckle or even a rectangle. One of Supergirl's lesser known powers is making impossible boots work without the help of spray-on adhesive. The open knee look is an interesting but ultimately unwieldy and distracting attempt to build visual interest.

It may sound as though I just ripped it apart, but this is far more successful than the new Superman costume and it's a massive improvement over Supergirl's previous look. I might have some nits to pick with its detailing, but I love the overall concept.

I'm just not sure how Supergirl will be portrayed by writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson in their Supergirl #1, but DC promises, "Supergirl’s got the unpredictable behavior of a teenager, the same powers as Superman and none of his affection for the people of Earth." Well, many teenagers are cheerful and hard-working, DC, with a passion for learning and volunteering. But I suppose that kind of Supergirl won't appeal to today's edgy comic fan obsessed with all things Twilight, Gossip Girl, Hellcats and MTV's Skins. Come on, I'm just teasing.

Everyone knows all teenagers hate to be helpful and cheerful. It's angst or GTFO! All I ask is that the new writers refrain from using any variation of the phrase "trying to find her place in the world" when giving interviews. Thanking you in advance, sirs.

What's next? Oh yeah, this guy.

This is the first image from one of DC's more surprising experiments-- Superboy in the Shell: Fly Alone Complex by Japanese comics master Masamune Shirow. In this wild departure, Superboy is actually a bit of sentient code inside a computer matrix in some far-flung cyber-future where the traditional DC superheroes may or may not have existed. And there's nudity, lots and lots of it. Plus violence as Superboy passes between his virtual world and what may or may not be the real one to battle international terrorists and code-hackers. Shirow explores themes of technology gone amok and transhumanism, as well as more personal issues such as sexuality, identity, friendship, trust and what's for lunch.

This is the one Superman character I really couldn't care less about. Superboy? Is this the clone of Superman again? Bleeccccchhh. I have no idea who drew this, but Superboy #1 will be written by Scott Lobdell with art by R.B. Silva and Rob Lean with apparently some Shirow-ian influences. It's a cool image, and definitely a departure but this is one book I could only get interested in if it were actually by Shirow. Sorry, fellas. Hope plenty of fans feel differently!


Richard Bensam said...

I have less than zero interest in this reboot business -- I think what's really going on there is an assault by DC's corporate owners on creators and creative diversity, but that's another story.

But that rather nice Supergirl drawing did make me think how much fun it would be if the character went back to the practice of having a different outfit every story. As if the superhero gear were actual clothing. And then the thought occurs: why the hell shouldn't Superman have had the same option? Why should the one stock costume be all he ever wears? All the merchandising-based arguments against this fall apart when you actually think about them. The toy lines are always looking to release a half-dozen variants in different costumes when they do a line of Superman or Batman figures anyway. And Wonder Woman at this point has a greater number of interesting fan-created costumes than she's had good comics written about her. Why shouldn't that work in the actual stories?

Ah, just a crazy thought. Everyone at DC can go get stuffed for all I care, so it really doesn't matter to me whether they like the idea or not. Looking down at us Zoidbergs, what are they, from Nob Hill?

Joel Bryan said...

That's a great point! Why not give them different outfits and make with the fancy, maybe?