Why Superman needs to change with the DC September Re-launch
I want to start off by saying that Superman was the first comic I started reading and while he has been replaced by Batman as
my favorite character, he is secure at the number two spot. As much as I have loved Superman, his stories have never appealed to me as an adult (I am 29 as of the writing of this). I started reading Superman in the post-Crisis DC Universe. John Byrne’s Man of Steel miniseries which retold his origin and the major events of his early history will always be the definitive Superman origin for me. I loved the Death and Return of Superman story arcs and while they don’t hold up as some of the best Superman stories, the death of Superman in issue number 75 is a major milestone for the character and I think no single issue better exemplifies and portrays the character in over 75 years of comics. As an adult I stopped buying the Superman titles over 5 years ago and have only reluctantly picked up a few trades. I was bored with his stories. We say nothing new with the character. It was the same thing over and over. I just couldn’t understand how such a powerful character, the original superhero who defined the archetype for over 75 years, could become so boring. When I first heard about the DC comics re-launch, I was skeptical for all the characters and changes, except that of Superman. I thought, that is exactly what this character needs
There has been some speculation about some big changes coming to the Superman corner of the DC Universe with the September relaunch for some time. It looks like we got confirmation of some of those rumors today. Most of the speculation has centered on Superman and Lois Lane’s marriage not surviving the re-launch. Dan Didio fueled the fire by saying that their marriage would be re-examined. This led to some speculation that they would be getting divorced. Superman and Lois have not been spending a lot of time together. He first left for New Krypton and he is now walking across the United States to reconnect with the people he abandoned for New Krypton. The thinking was that Lois and Supes would break up because they weren’t spending time together. We have now found out that in the re-launched Universe, they were never married at all.
The new status quo in the Superman comics will be that Superman/Clark Kent will be a bachelor and that Lois will have a relationship with a colleague at the Daily Planet. I had previously talked with some people on Comicvine about how the Superman – Lois Lane dynamic was a very important part of the character. Not necessarily married, but a romantic attraction existing between the two being essential. It still remains to be seen whether that attraction/romance will exist, but I guess we will have to wait and see.
Before I get into some of the other tidbits that were revealed, let me remind you that Action Comics will take place at the dawn of Superheroes in the DCU and Superman is going to be the first one. Action Comics and Justice League of America will take place 5 years before the continuity of the other titles. For example, while we will see a fully developed Superman wearing the slightly redesigned iconic costume (no red briefs over the blue) in the Superman title, Action Comics will tell Superman’s story as he first breaks onto the scene and show us how he develops into the hero we all know.
So what are the other changes being made to Superman? In Action Comics, Superman will not have fully developed powers yet. He will still be discovering what the full extent of his powers are and what he is capable of. Namely, he won’t be able to fly. Similar to how he was when he first debuted in 1938. Action focuses on Superman’s early superhero career, depicts a “younger, more brooding” Man of Steel adjusting to his adopted home world. His powers are still in development at this point, as he “can leap tall buildings but can’t fly in space.” We can tell from the solicits for Superman, that he will eventually be able to fly. As many origin stories as we have seen for Superman in the last 10 years, it will be nice to see a slower progression and development of the character. Another example of this is his costume. He will not be wearing the iconic red cape and blue tights (sans red briefs now) right away. In the Action previews, he is wearing a t-shirt with the Superman shield on it, a cape, jeans and boots. When he does work his way to his standard costume, it will be because it is based on Kryptonian armor and he will be more embracing of his alien heritage earlier on. It sounds like we will see less farm boy and a more Kryptonian Superman. This is slightly supported by the rumor that both Ma and Pa Kent are already dead in the re-launch Universe, similar to Golden and Silver Age Superman.
Grant Morrison is the writer on Action Comics. When he left DC to work for Marvel in the early 2000’s, it was because he wanted to write Superman but wasn’t allowed to make the changes he wanted. He left because he did not get the free reign over the character that he wanted. It was always rumored that he wanted to make some drastic changes. A big part of the rumored changes he wanted to make was that Lois and Superman would not be married. It looks like he is finally getting the control he wants. Grant Morrison is a phenomenal story teller. He writes great story arcs and is considered by many, easier to read in trade formats than he is across individual issues. He has shown over the last few years what he can do when given complete control over one of DC’s big three characters with his work on Batman. I have loved his Batman run. Batman Inc. has been his weakest arc for the character and has been very up and down, but I like to think that is more because of the looming re-launch and that put a time limit on what he could do with that title (although it will be returning in 2012).
Superman is in good hands with Grant Morrison. He is a great character who has suffered a lot of mediocrity in the last 15 years. He has a fairly blah set of villains outside of 2 or 3 big ones. He is a character in desperate need of better stories and if it takes these changes to bring that, then I fully embrace what is coming. He is a BIG character, one of the biggest characters in comics in general, if not the biggest (It has to be either him or Batman). I think the negativity towards the re-launch version of Superman and the DCU re-launch overall has to do with a mostly older comic reading audience being scared of change. For example, people like to say that over 75 years of history is being tossed aside. NOT True. All of DC’s characters have gone through re-launches, reboots, revamps, retcons etc. There is no character that really has continuity going back before Crisis on Infinite Earth’s. Except with a few notable events (Killing Joke, Death in the Family, and Death of Superman), no characters continuity really extends beyond the last few years. We already know that major events like the ones I just mentioned are going to remain intact. A largely adult audience exists for comics these days, we don’t want to lose the things we have fond memories of, but a re-launch won’t change those stories and make them any less good than they are. Not everything needs to be connected or remain in one fluid history and continuity (that never existed anyway). If anything continuity has probably hurt the stories being told more than anything else. Writers won’t be burdened by it (as much) and will have more freedom to tell the stories they want to tell without fear of repeating anything or hurting continuity.