New Superman Story Tries To Re-Write Man Of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

Superman: Earth One - Volume 3 is not a good comic-book story. But it's one that stands in direct opposition to the sorta OK Superman movie that came out in 2013. It pushes back at that thing that happened in the movie. You know, the thing that pissed off a lot of Superman fans.

(That was your spoiler warning, everyone.)

To put it more plainly, in this new, not-that-good Superman comic Clark Kent doesn't kill anyone in this adventure. He gets a chance to, but chooses not to.

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

Released last week, Earth One - Volume 3 is worth considering as part of the ongoing effort to make The Last Son of Krypton seem cool and relevant. Superman's been around more than 75 years. He is a character that your parents and grandparents could have grown up on, which might make Clark Kent seem less cool than, say, Tony Stark. As a result, Kal-El's caretakers are continuously trying to freshen the guy up for modern audiences. The Man of Steel movie from 2012 tried it one way and the most interesting thing about DC Comics' new high-profile graphic novel is that it can be read as a rebuttal to that film's most controversial scene.

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

This new story features the same main villain as Man of Steel, a would-be military despot named Zod who also hails from Superman's long-dead home planet of Krypton. Here, he's recast as Kal-El's uncle, and their fateful family reunion is deceptively happy at first. Then, after Zod tells the governments of the world that he will eliminate Superman for them, Superman learns the true evil nature of his father's brother. The last remaining Kryptonians come to blows in the heart of Metropolis.

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

Both Kryptonians are recovering from being de-powered by human super-science and are far less powerful. They slug it out but Superman never even comes close to snapping the neck of his parents' murderer. However, someone does kill Zod. It's just not just Superman. This whole sequence feels like a weird compromise. He doesn't pick up a gun and kill Zod himself, and Superman is presumably so weak that he can't save his evil uncle.

The comic isn't marketed as a rebuttal to anything, of course. They'd never be that bold and who knows how productions schedules for the movie and graphic novel synced up, if at all. Still, the whole Superman: Earth One affair has been presented as a refresh, a part of DC's effort to create some Superman fiction that is unhindered by what has come before.

Long-running superhero comics are often laden with the baggage of story continuity. In order to fully understand why a colourfully clad character wants to do what to whom, it's often best to be versed in all the intricate lore that's accrued around them over multiple decades. DC Comics has tried to reset its universe multiple times to make it easier to understand, but that practice has created its own problems. A few years ago, the publisher created the Earth One graphic novels to attract new readers by telling new stories about its most important characters, free of all that baggage.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski with art by Shane Davis, the Superman: Earth One hardcovers have previously introduced a Clark Kent with a changed origin story and sexual frustrations. The mainline Superman came from a planet that blew up either by accident or neglect, but this one's was destroyed by an alien race. Regular Superman doesn't chat with his mum about his unmet needs. This one does. The tweaks have felt like exercises in having change for change's sake, and didn't make anything about Superman feel fresher.

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

Volume 3 — drawn by new artist Ardian Syaf — has similar tweaks. Lois Lane cooks up a giant S-Shield beacon that shines a light in the sky so that she can talk to Superman. The Lex and Alexandra Luthor husband and wife team suffer a tragedy that makes the surviving Luthor hate Kal-El but — surprise! — this time the Luthor archenemy is a woman. But those smaller changes play before the most significant moment in Volume 3, which is where Superman could conceivably kill Zod.

The biggest problems with Vol. 3 are similar to what plagued the previous two volumes. It's entirely too self-conscious for its own good, wielding all the aggregate symbolism of Superman like a blunt cudgel to hammer its point-of-view home. And that point-of-view is a bland assemblage of latter-day tropes about Superman: he's the Best of Humanity but he's Not From Here, Governments Won't Trust Him, He Can't Let Himself Get Too Close to Anyone and blah, blah blah. Even the potentially intriguing decision to have him not kill someone who clearly deserves it returns him to the status quo he's had for decades.

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

Every big-deal Superman story that comes down the pike is accompanied by a burning question: what does it mean to write him in this moment? Does one explore and mutate his super-abilities to make him more powerful or vulnerable? Is there a way to meditate on his status as a piece of Americana without seeming jingoistic or sentimental? Is the Superman in question happy? Plagued by doubts? An autocrat driven by loss? The most frustrating thing about the Superman: Earth One books is that they don't deliver a definitive sense of the character. In the effort to make him seem relatable, he loses all distinction. Superman gives a speech to the UN after learning the nations of the Earth were trying to help kill him. It comes off as whiny and entitled, like someone who can't fly above humanity's foibles. It might be how real people act but doesn't feel super at all.

New Superman Story Tries to Re-Write Man of Steel Movie's Big Mistake

Both the Man of Steel movie and Superman: Earth One graphic novel trilogy are failed experiments to recombine the various component parts of Superman. One gave us a Clark Kent who killed a fellow Kryptonian and screamed with remorse. The other delivers a Superman who doesn't murder but petulantly lectures Earth's leaders. Neither one of them feel like the Superman readers need or want right now.


    Ok, first off I've never really been into comics (apart from the odd stand-alone graphic novel), so I'm probably not qualified to judge. But all this 'alternate universe, gender changing, new origin, cross-over' stuff that Marvel and DC seem to be into just seems like the dying gasp from an industry trying to milk the last few dollars out of their fans. Not to mention, it seems terribly confusing trying to keep all these wordlines and alternates stories straight in your head.

    This is not meant as a criticism of the actual fans and what they love, it just seems (to an outsider) to be a bit desperate.

      I'm not even sure how an "outsider" could think that realistically. How is it milking "the last few dollars out of their fans" when sales of comics have skyrocketed since the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and only continue to bring new fans to the medium since far more fans watch the films than read the comics. Your statements seem to be for something that is dwindling or relatively unsuccessful but their fiscal success and popularity cannot be denied.

        Fair enough, but I guess it's a matter of context. I don't see a lot of interesting material coming out of Hollywood these days, so anything 'spectacular' is going to attract viewers ( "I paid good money to see this film and I want to see those millions of dollars it cost to make on the screen!". I'm also talking more about comic books than the movies - although the whole Spider Man thing seems a bit ridiculous. That being said, I wasn't aware that comic sales had increased. Still seems horribly convoluted, but then I guess a lot of things seem complex to an outsider.

        Last edited 12/02/15 12:08 pm

      True, I think that they are looking for new audiences. For all (edit) intents and purposes, the New 52 seems more child friendly, and the cinematic universe seems to be for another audience. Neither are for the original audience.

      Silly when you think about it. Since the new 52 I have maybe bought 2 DC comics. They don't appeal to me, an original reader. Ironically, I also don't know of any kids that read the new 52. So who are they trying to win over?!

      Last edited 12/02/15 3:39 pm

        Sorry to be that guy but.... 'For all intents and purposes'

          Thanks. Just never thought about it, a common eggcorn I guess. My point still stands.

          Last edited 12/02/15 3:42 pm

    Man Of Steel was great and I really don't care if he killed the bad guy. People stuck in the past should stick with the old movies.

    Also a drug that turns off supermans power? in a movie where superman is only revealed to EXIST to the world near the end of the movie.. common.

    Last edited 12/02/15 10:56 am

      People aren't stuck in the past and very few people care that superman killed someone. They hate it because it's embarrassingly stupid in every way and offensive to the intelligence of an ignorami.

    Is it just me, or does it look like they're trying to turn Superman into Batman? :\

      Perhaps in the reboot, Batman gets the idea for the Bat Signal from Lois Lane?

    The Superman has too many powers. They should reduce them by about 3 or 4, I think... :P

      Just one. Make him really good at cooking omelettes.

    Man Of Steel was such a balls up of a superman movie. totally horrid.

      Puh-lease. Compare it to the previous one (Superman Returns), or the one before that (Quest for Peace), and it was a bona-fide masterpiece.

        Hell, compare it to IronMan 2, Thor 2... it's even better than a few of the Marvel movies. Not anywhere near as good as their best, but sits among their average ones easily.

        you guys are idiots. im right. you are wrong. INTERNET!

          Sir, I could make a well thought out and reasonable retort to your eloquent argument, but since this is the internet....

          That's not what yo mama said last night!

    There were many controversial scenes in that film. Superman killing someone was the least of its worries.

      Exactly. I'm less concerned that he killed Zod and more troubled with his motivations. For instance: he seemed pretty happy to let millions of people die. It could just be that my 'version' of Superman isn't cool anymore, or doesn't rake in the $$$ the studios are looking for like the darker hero's do (probably why Arrow is really just green Batman these days), but that's where my issue lied with MoS. Superman was an arrogant prick, and not the humble, loving giant I knew and loved. His actions were out of whack, sure, but why/ the way he did them made him cold, brutal, inconsiderate, and not superman.

      Last edited 12/02/15 12:17 pm

        I agree, Superman is meant to be a dork. We already have Batman that does whatever a batman does; he has different motivations and no powers which make the dark broody thing work. Superman by his very nature should be primary-coloured classic goody goody hero stuff.

    Problem with Supes. Only credible threat to him is depower him or someone stronger. Depower has been done to death and is the same damn story everytime. Put something stronger in but demand Supes can't really defeat them leaves nothing but an anticlimactic and unsatisfying imprisonment.

    He's been written into a corner and comic nerds don't like established conventions being screwed with. There'll never be a truly great Superman film is my belief. Love to be proved wrong however.

      Agreed. This is why they should stop focusing on what he can/ can't do. Let that take the sideline and focus on WHY he does what he does. It's the only way I can see him being an interesting character.

      Instead of making a movie to showcase this extraordinary freak show he should just do what he is capable of and have the narrative not focus on punching, but why he punches and how his immense power (and caring) influence his decisions (not in the stupid cliche and stereotyped 'saves a kitten' way either. I'm talking about good writing lol.)

      Have cool fights, but add substance to the character in a meaningful way. Superman has few physical struggles/ difficulties, hence it stands to reason that he should endure a mental and emotional one, again, in a deep and meaningful way and not: THEY KIDNAPPED LOUISE SO IMA PUNCH THEEEEEMMM!'

      I would classify myself as a classic comic nerd, but I personally feel that retconning and generally messing up continuities/ changing past events is an 'established convention' of sorts in comics, which means anyone can really do whatever the hell they want. Some people will like it, others won't. This will happen no matter what they chose to do with the character or the story.

        Yes, and I do accept that. That doesn't mean I can't have a favourite version, or disagree with the new direction of the character. It's a subjective and personal preference really lol.

        Edit: I also realise that many a time the characters get rebooted, not because the author has a different take on the character, but because they need an EASY (again: subjective) way to make the character seem interesting again.

        Last edited 12/02/15 12:59 pm

          For the record, I completely agree with you and I don't really like much of what anyone has decided to do with Superman any time recently. And I think a lot of that is to do with people thinking that there's nothing appealing in this day and age about the 'classic' Superman, which I don't think is true. The writers don't need to make Superman more like Batman because Batman is so hot right now, they just have to be more clever about crafting good stories for him, without changing the core of his essence.

      Nah. The problem is like a lot of Superman writers you're thinking Superman has to be written as Godzilla. As if his powers are so amazing that they must be the only focal point of a story about him. Fights generally aren't the point of tension in a good Superman story. In Red Son, an absolutely brilliant Superman story, they amp it up even further. He defeats every enemy he has ever faced with ease. Yet over the course of the comic one minor change sees his life play out very differently but with him still being basically the same person. Not being raised by the Kents doesn't make him evil, even towards the end when he's furthest from the character we know he's still a good man with nothing but the best intentions, it just takes away part of his life that taught him how to be the superhero we know. Removing Clark Kent leaves only Superman and that's not enough, and exploring why makes for a brilliant comic.
      Great Superman stories are mostly about Superman not who he fights or how hard he punches. They're about a man who is free from physical limitations trying to reconcile his desire to be a guardian with a fear of being an oppressor. His struggle between his desire to just be another normal person and his desire to be strong enough to protect everyone. They sound like something the audience could never relate to but it all boils down to a man who wants to be a better man for everybody around him and I think stripping reality from it makes it in a way more relateable. Having only one thin, precise connection to the real world makes everything come through in this sort of raw way.
      (Of course there are things like Superman The Animated Series and Justice League where it's just entertaining, but people don't usually call them out for lacking tension).

      Man of Steel almost got it right but they screwed up a few things in the execution. The Kent's role in the movie comes off as telling him to hide his powers away forever which is ridiculous, but it's a really interesting line of thinking they just didn't explain every well. They all know Clark is going to be the most important thing this world has ever seen but they know that even Clark doesn't know himself well enough to live up to that the impossibly important destiny he has. He's not saying 'don't be Superman' he's saying 'wait until you've figured out who you are before you introduce yourself to the world, because whoever you are it's going to change the world'. They outright say that Pa Kent knew exactly the sort of man Clark would grow up to be, which is why he was so dedicated to Clark discovering himself first, but the way they do it makes it sound like a sappy eulogy.
      It sounds like Volume 3 here was too blunt about it, I had that problem with parts of the other two volumes and generally think Earth One Superman is a bit thick, but in Man of Steel they needed something like this to get across that Zod was dramatically weaker than Superman. Superman fought him knowing that he couldn't change his mind but also being aware that Zod would eventually grow as strong as he is. He knew the second Zod wasn't sucked back into the Phantom Zone that it would end that way but it still crushes him emotionally when he finally accepts that not only can he not save Zod but he has to be the one to kill him.
      They also wanted giant fight scenes and lots of destruction which hurt it.

      One other thing to consider when making that critism of Superman, have you ever stopped to think 'oh, Batman is in real danger this time'? At no point in cinematic history have they ever convinced the audience Batman was done for. Dark Knight Rises tries but ultimately they just confused the audience for five minutes before finally telling us what we already knew - Batman survived without so much as a scratch. Even when Bane is beating the crap out of him you turn around and go 'ok, Bane might win the fight, but Batman will come back and take him down'.
      In a lot of ways he's the most powerful character in the DC Universe. Aquaman gets hit by Superman and it's a bad day to be King of Atlantis but he gets back up. Darksied throws Superman through the moon and it's a less than perfect afternoon as the Man of Steel. Batman doesn't get hit by Superman. Period. 90% of DC characters are so powerful that there's no room between flicking Batman and turning him into a red stain. For all intents and purposes he is untouchable. Couple that with the fact that he's a favourite of both fans and writers so he's almost never shown as being flawed, leaving him near omnipotent, and you've got yourself a truly over powered character. Yet it all plays out well in the end because the writers know what to do with him.

    Why is Superman speaking with his mouth closed in that last pic?

    I don't know... him telling off all of UN is a pretty cathartic thing IMHO.

    Honestly how many times have we seen governments do the "stupid" and not wanted to stand there in front of them and give them a collective metaphorical bitch slap xD

    With all his powers Superman should be ruling the earth with an iron fist, destroy any nation that dares to go to war, instead he becomes a hero to the world and rises up against threats to the planet, in a more realistic world that is set down in Man of Steel, he could not possibly save every person at risk by the actions of Zod and the ultimate answer to save the planet was to kill Zod.

    He chose to kill Zod over seeing more people die, if Superman didn't care he would have let Zod incinerate that family and keep fighting him until he beat him into submission but alive.

    If he had let Zod live, what would be the solution to imprison him? The vessel to send him to the phantom zone is gone.

    Never really been a superman fan, but I probably would've liked him better if his powers were more limited like they were originally. Super speed, super strength, limited invulnerability the ability to "leap tall buildings in a single bound". Still a bit overpowered, but no flight, super senses or weird heat vision / cold breath. The "high gravity on Krypton" explanation would have been great, had it stuck around.

    Can we turn Superman into a villain already? He is so powerful that he makes a really awesome villain. Injustice the comics handled this really well. Has there been a Justice League vs Superman arc yet?? Like a proper huge event and not just a " oh no, I got mind controlled, woe is me" type arc...

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now