All-Star Superman: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

I’ve never had much interest in Superman. I’ve gone on record in several instances claiming that while he has the potential to be a wonderfully well-rounded character, too many of his handlers in the past have opted to make him nothing more than a super-man battling giant monkeys and avoiding fragments of rock.

Morrison does not make this mistake. Morrison addresses all those psychological aspects that make Superman super, none of which have anything to do with the ability to leap a tall building in a single bound.

However, Morrison also brings us those undeniably fun qualities of Superman that existed in the Silver Age and mixes them with a 2007 mentality, giving us a hybrid of quirkiness and depth that only a mad scientist like Morrison could achieve. His Lex Luthor, for example, is a combination of everything in the past that has worked well for the character, but he still manages to give us something fresh.

In other words, he’s giving us the best of two worlds (pun totally intended) with the Superman mythos. Furthermore, I love this collection because each issue basically can stand alone, yet they also blend together to form a unified whole as well.

Let’s talk about the art! Quitely is simply an artist in the truest sense of the word. Every single panel is a joy to behold. I love the way he took Superman’s costume and really made it otherworldly with the slightest of adjustments. By shortening the cape and elongated the trunks just a bit, I no longer see a big man wearing his underwear on the outside. It looks like some sort of space-man outfit, which, remember, is exactly what Superman is–a space man. Oh, and by the way, I don’t mean to sound weird or whatever, but Quitely draws the cutest Lois Lane I’ve ever seen. He manages to convey her strength and self-reliance while still making her attractive. For some reason in the past, artists have had trouble blending the two.

If you’re a die-hard Superman fan, you’ll love this collection. If you’re like me and you were more engrossed with the creative team than the character, you’ll still love it. And if you don’t even like comic books, you’ll still love this one. This is truly the super work of some all stars.

Superman Returns – A Movie Review

*minor spoiler warning*

Let’s get something straight: Superman is, by nature of his super powers, always in danger of being utterly boring.  Everyone likes Superman, but few people think he’s terribly interesting.  Let’s face it, how much suspense can a Superman story have when the guy can lift mountains and get shot in the eye with bullets and be fine?  So, if you’re going to jumpstart a Superman movie franchise, you’d better bring something different to the table.

And Bryan Singer, the director of Superman Returns, has done just that.

You all know the premise of the story for Superman Returns.  It takes place five years after the events of Superman I and II from the late seventies and early eighties (but pretend those movies only happened five years ago).  Superman III and IV have been erased from existence.  

Superman left Earth five years ago and has returned to a world that has moved on without him.  The love of his life, Lois Lane, is engaged and has a small child.  In fact, she has won a Pulitzer for writing an article about just how little Superman matters.  Of course, the heart of this story deals with Superman trying to adapt to the changes that have occurred with the woman he loves.  Does he respect her new life, or does he try to win her back?  This is truly a fight that Superman’s powers will not give him an advantage with.

Now, does that mean that Superman Returns is just a sappy love story?  Not at all.  There is action to spare in this film, and finally, finally, technology has caught up to what we all want to see from Superman.  You will believe a man can fly.  You will be cheering from your seat.

I thought our newest Superman, Brandon Routh, did just fine.  Yes, Singer is paying homage to Superman I and II, but I didn’t see Routh as simply imitating the iconic Christopher Reeve.  There were consistencies with the character of Clark Kent and Superman between the two actors, and I think that is done to satisfy the audience who enjoyed the previous films.  But let’s understand something: Superman is a big, dark-haired, blue-eyed, square-jawed guy.  Of course Routh and Reeve are going to look similar!  They both played Superman!  Their both big, dark-haired, square-jawed guys!

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was great.  He harnessed the comedic timing of Gene Hackman from Superman I and II, but he also brought some real danger to the character.  At times I laughed hysterically at Spacey, and at other times he gave me nervous chills, and I had no problem with that.

Kate Bosworth was not given a fair shake as Lois Lane.  With the small possibility of spoiling a small part of the film, Lois sucks as a mother.  Seriously, she’s got to be the worst mother of all time.  My wife and I both walked out of that film saying, “Wow, they really painted Lois Lane in a poor light, didn’t they?”  I think Bosworth is a decent enough actress, she just didn’t have a great depiction of character to work with. 

I took slight issue with a major component of the film that presents itself near the end, and I won’t spoil it, but it certainly rubbed me a bit wrong.  However, I understand this is a Superman for 2006 and they are desperately trying to make him a character in need of emotional resolution, so I’m not going to make a big stink of it.  I’d rather have a Superman with change I don’t care for than the same old stereotypical Superman that everyone would get tired of after a few movies. 

There were also many, many plot holes, but as my old Shakespeare professor use to say, “We must employ the suspension of disbelief.”  In other words, don’t think about things too hard, just enjoy the show!

I’ll tell you this, the music made the film magical.  The intro was just like the intro to Superman I and II, and that was a perfect touch.  I literally had goose bumps as that wonderful John Williams’ theme song started up with some updating by composer John Ottman.   

In other words, for me, this movie worked, despite some early concerns.  The special effects were magnificent, the costume and the small “s” shield were just fine, the acting was more than adequate, and the movie had real heart, especially because it embraced the Superman movies that came before it. 

It definitely lived up to my expectations and then some.

Goodbye Superman Returns

Over at Newsarama, they’re reporting that Warner Brothers has opted to reboot the Superman franchise, following the lead of dismissing Ang Lee’s Hulk with last summer’s The Incredible Hulk.  This means an all new, fresh start, also such as what they did with Batman Begins (which, I’m sure, had little influence on this unexpected decision).

Personally, I’m all for it.  Bryan Singer is a superb director, but I’m not sure he, nor the script, understood the essence of Superman.  Now, I want you to know, I’m no die-hard Superman fan, but even I have some basic needs that must be satisfied when dealing with the Man of Steel.

Superman needs to be courageous, noble, charismatic, and respectable.  Superman Returns gave us a Superman that was a stalker, an illegitimate father, and a deadbeat dad with an unhealthy messiah complex.  Furthermore, Superman Returns basically offered the same real-estate plot as the original Superman when it came to his foe, Lex Luthor.

I loved the Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner Superman – loved it! – and it will forever have a soft spot in my heart, but its time is over.  We still have it on DVD; let’s begin anew with our cinematic Superman mythos.

The Superman reboot should NOT rehash his origin – we all know it.  Let’s pound straight into the action.  Let’s have Superman with a worthy opponent such as Brainiac, Mongul, Metallo, or, what the heck, how about the daddy of all baddies: Darkseid.  Please, please, please don’t fall into the cliche of the “opposite hero” such as Bizarro and if Lex Luthor must be present, let it only be peripherally such as on advertisements and in headlines.  Save his actual appearance for a later movie; make him something we dread.  In other words, build him up as the ultimate villain and not a rabid real-estate developer.

Along with big action and giving something super for Superman to do, give us a love story where he and Lois Lane actually seem to like each other.  Half his appeal is the love of an equally super woman.  I don’t care if she knows Clark Kent is Superman or not (it seems kind of insulting in this day and age that an award-winning journalist couldn’t put that little ditty together), the dynamic could work either way.  Just have them actually be in love for this old romantic. 

Superman is the best of our fictional super heroes – he is the beacon of light in the sea of despair.  He is the one who never gives up on his morals, his belief system, who always strives to do the right thing.  Please don’t darken him and make him “grim and gritty.”  What works for Batman does not, and never has, worked for Superman.

Finally, sorry Brandon Routh, but in my opinion, you just don’t have the spark in your eyes necessary to play the Man of Tomorrow.  When we look at Superman, we should see confidence, strength, intelligence, and ironically enough, humanity.  I’m afraid Routh never looked comfortable in the role.  Reeve had those things.  Finding another actor to so perfectly fill those red boots will be difficult, to be sure.

I’m excited about the reboot.  I’m excited to see a fresh approach to Superman that isn’t tied down to past continuity.  Again, I loved the old Reeve movies, but it’s time to do something different.

Just remember, the “S” on the chest isn’t what makes Superman so super, it’s all those things he is that each of us admires and aspires to become.