Monday, June 25, 2012
What a super weekend!
The book has a nice Alex Ross cover featuring his version of Superman looking stern and appropriately heroic, spit curl, narrowed eyes, lantern jaw, big red and yellow emblem on his chest. The stories inside feature a wide array of writers and artists, but a more appropriate title is Superman: Some Pretty Good Stories. Alongside the origin story from Superman #1 (June 1939) and the John Byrne revamp "The Man of Steel" from The Man of Steel #1 (June 1986) there are some curiosities like the 1940 short story "What If Superman Ended the War?" written and drawn by Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster for Look Magazine and an otherworldly pin-up by none other than Moebius himself. It's amusing to see the rudimentary yet compelling storytelling of Simon and Shuster as they pit Superman against the real world menace of both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. All it takes is a quick trip to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and Superman deposits both dictators in Geneva, Switzerland where they're judged for crimes against humanity and the world enters a utopian age of peace and scientific progress...
The Maximortal-- and uses body language and actor's tricks to convince people he isn't his charismatic alter ego. Byrne's artwork looks like he's doing his best Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez impression-- very DC merchandising style, but with the characteristic Byrne cross-hatching and keen story sense. There's a poignant moment where Clark, having performed his first miracle, broods in the dark of his boyhood bedroom after finding the resultant media scrutiny terrifying. Byrne locates both the god and the man inside the superhero, but the story suffers from too much condensing. We'd like to linger a bit, but Byrne disposes of entire reams of Superman legend in just a few pages-- and a lot of this stuff would be ripped off later in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Superman Returns. Not too shabby, Mr. Byrne.
To be fair, I didn't read this story when it first came out in Action Comics #775 way back in 2001 and in the years since we've had rapes and murders, Identity Crisis making the regular rank-and-file of DC's caped marvels almost as nasty as the Elite are supposed to be and Wonder Dog devouring Wendy, so maybe I'm just jaded, so beaten down by the banality of all this caped decadence I can no longer feel Kelly's intended impact. You really want a Superman who's a beacon of restraint and decency, and Kelly attempts to give that to us while scoring points off guys like Warren Ellis-- who's actually a damn fine writer-- and even DC's own Vertigo line, but when you turn all your heroes morally ambiguous and then pat yourself on the back for it, ironically it turns out Superman won the battle but lost the war. This Superman doesn't even exist anymore.
Even at their best, none of these stories approach the magic of Superman the Movie, a relic of time when movie makers told stories. The Hot Toys Superman is every bit as fun as the movie itself. It doesn't scream "I'm from the 70s!" at you, though. They've accurately reproduced Christopher Reeve from the movie and managed to create a timeless image of the first and still greatest of all the super-people.
But it's a little scary, too. I showed it to my girlfriend via Skype and she freaked out over the eyes. Too intense, too real. The Reeve likeness is as close to perfect as you're likely to get, but it's got the same uncanny valley feel you'd expect to encounter in a Hollywood wax museum. The uniform is spot on, a tiny reproduction of what was already an iconic visual-- the classic blue suit with red cape, undies and yellow highlights. I paid a ridiculous amount of money for this figure but I had to have it. I've been looking for the best representation of Superman in toy form for the past few years. This is it. By Jor-El's shade, this is it! I also believe Reeve's performance as Superman to be the most perfect iteration of the character in any medium and this figure is a triumphant celebration of the role. Part of the proceeds go to Reeeve's charitable organization, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and the interior box lid features a poignant dedication to Reeve.