Reign of the Supermen #250: All-Star Superman

Source: All-Star Superman 1-12 (2006-2008)
Type: Off-canon seriesBack when I was first reading the series (in trade, I must admit), I was one to say DC could do worse than to make THIS the one true portrayal of the Man of Steel. Now that Grant Morrison is set to reinvent Superman in an all-new Action Comics #1, I'm going to go back on my words and say I hope he doesn't. Not that the All-Star Superman doesn't have a lot going for it:
-A crazy Silver Age sensibility dressed in today's "weird but epic" comics (à la JLA)
-All the iconic people and things that should surround Superman (Lois and the Daily Planet, the Fortress of Solitude, Lex Luthor as a proper villain, Smallville, Krypto)
-The sense that Jimmy Olsen could carry his own crazy series
-The sense that Superman is a legacy hero of the highest order, inspiring Supermen of all sorts until the end of time
-A willingness to take chances (restoring Kandor for good, for example)
-Oh yeah, and beautiful artwork by Frank Quitely

However, there are reasons why the series' approach wouldn't be the best for a relaunched franchise in the DCU proper:
-All-Star Superman is supremely, almost inhumanly, serene. There's a strange lack of emotion there that would keep him at a distance from the reader. He is a god among men (even creating his own universes), and though benevolent, he lacks a quality that makes us empathize with him.
-It's a shared universe and I don't think other writers would do him justice.
-Morrison was able to reinvent Batman a number of times (compare Arkham Asylum, Gothic, JLA, Batman RIP and Batman Inc.) and there's no reason why he can't do the same with Superman. In fact, it's something he SHOULD do, having explored the All-Star dimension of the character already.
-The 12-issue series is perfect as it is, and stands as a single, strong work. Revisiting it can only diminish that.

The way Morrison's new title is described, he'll be writing a much younger Superman, probably one without the full gamut of powers, friends and tools. And there's the idea of the People's Hero in there, which does hark back to the end of All-Star, with Superman as proletariat symbol working to fix the sun.
So who knows what elements of All-Star will creep into this new Superman mythos? What, if anything, would YOU like to see from All-Star adopted in the New DC?

Obviously, there are many iterations of Superman in All-Star in addition to the protagonist, so I think I'm going to do a few All-Star-related Reign posts through the end of the month. Hope you'll join me.


snell said...

"There's a strange lack of emotion there..."

In a modern Grant Morrison comic?? How shocking...

"...he lacks a quality that makes us empathize with him."

That sort of describes most of what he's written over the past 5 years...

Martin Gray said...

Excellent thinking, sir! The only thing I'd really require is the sense of scope and wonder. I'm done with piddling Superman stories as the norm, let's see some ambition.

The Mutt said...

I'd seen that cover at least a dozen times before I realized he was sitting on a cloud. That took it from "great cover" to "one of the greatest ever."

Anonymous said...

I think the strange lack of emotion is appropriate, though. Let's say you've been raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and you've discovered you're dying. Last thing you want to do is have everyone fussing over you, especially when there's work to be done. (Yet Superman DOES get angry and frustrated that Lex -- the one man with the smarts to save the world -- would rather die like a dog than make the world a better place.)

The one thing that sits ill with me is how Superman put so much faith in a scientist who creates artificial sentient life that he considers pretty much disposable. He even tweaked their free will a bit by removing their ability to feel fear. There may be an off-panel explanation for this that redeems Quintum somewhat, but I still don't see how he'd convince Superman that he's the very best candidate to use Kryptonian DNA responsibly (i.e., sparingly, with any resulting children raised with love and moral guidance).

Siskoid said...

Appropriate to the story, yes, and even appropriate to the premise of a Superman. I just don't think it would work as well outside the bounds of a self-contained universe. It boils down to: Do I want to read about this personality three times a month? Answers may differ.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's the old Superman conundrum, the difficulties in writing someone who is supposed to be nearly perfect in his morals and behavior. Back in the old days Superman would at least blow off steam by torturing Jimmy and Lois; but these days ... ?

Siskoid said...

I'm trying to think of another character who is forced to "be the example" to everyone else like this... I think Roberson has been fairly successful in doing the "first among us" story with the Grounded stuff he's been handed.

We'll really have 3 Supermen post-Flushpoint. Morrison's early years, Johns' early JLA and Perez' contemporary Superman. Three different takes?

Anonymous said...

Captain America is another paragon of virtue, but with Cap you at least have the choice to write him as an FDR Democrat or an Eisenhower Republican. And Cap's mortality means you can turn to physical limitations more readily in your storytelling.

Anonymous said...

I didn't feel the same disconnect. Superman saved the girl trying to commit suicide. He worked tirelessly to better the world, knowing all the time that he would die. He felt compassion for Zibarro, got annoyed at Atlas & Hercules, tried to share some of his world with Lois, casually saved people wherever he could, experienced the death of his father, and even tried to reach out to Lex. The effect he had on people (particularly Jimmy) was clear without anyone launching into an overwrought speech. I felt All-Star Superman had a strong but unobtrusive emotional undercurrent, which has been lacking in most of Morrison's recent work.

- Mike Loughlin

Siskoid said...

You're right and my words are ill-chosen. It had a quiet emotionality, a sort of resignation about things that are out of his control, possibly more due to the art than the writing.

I still think it's less relatable to than other depictions even if it may ultimately be more psychologically appropriate for a character like Superman.

LiamKav said...

I've just picked up the first part in trade (I know, I know. I've been meaning to for ages, but I've never gotten around to it).

For me, the thing that would stop this being the regular Superman is that the world is just a bit too different from ours. The story begins with a manned mission to the Sun about a ship populated by artificial life forms that have been genetically modified to promote and remove certain traits. That's not our world. That's not even our world tomorrow. That's our world years down the line.

This is the ongoing problem with comics (why doesn't Reed Richards cure cancer, why could Arsenal get a bionic arm but Barbara Gorden could never get artificial legs etc), but although you have to have some sort of suspension of disbelief, I think it's important for the mainstream Marvel and DC universes not to step too far from our own, and I think that ASS does.

Siskoid said...

I completely agree with you that they shouldn't. And have even written posts about it. And the reason I have is because THEY HAVE stepped away quite the distance in recent years.

Did you know we have a manned base on Mars in the DCU? Well we do. Or note the Science Police in 2010 Metropolis, what's THAT about? They're even more high-tech than the ones in the 30th century, flying around as they do. All-Star Metropolis is actually a little bit LOWER tech than the DCU's current standard.


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