Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Superman Secret Origin – A Commentary

As regular readers of this blog know my daughter Jamie is getting married this weekend and I’m rather busy. Still I managed to get to the comic store today and snuck in reading Superman Secret Origin #6. This was a great Superman story and unfortunately I believe shows the inherent flaws in the Superman walking tour.

In this issue we see Superman fighting Metallo, the army, Lex Luthor. We see fantastic battles, Superman fighting and trying to save the public, Superman flying into space, inspiring people, facing down Lex Luthor. We get moments with Clark Kent, some cute, yet hokey moments between Superman and Lois that just fit the character to a “T”. Superman is the boy scout.

I swear the art is bigger, but losing the borders often helped and of course Gary Frank and Jon Sibal delivered a stellar art job. If it wasn’t for All Star Superman this could easily be the top Superman story every.

Why this is a problem, is the current Superman book looks pedestrian (pun intended) next to it.
If I had more time I would go on and on, bottom line this book is Superman done right.


  1. I completely agree with you about JMS' Superman book, but I found this to be somewhat lacking.

    I'm not sure if its Gary Frank's artwork, which I'm not sure is suited to this kinda book, Johns' less than subtle writing, or the dripping nostalgia (check out Metallo's super hideous silver age style costume), but it didn't click for me. Your description sounds far more interesting than the book I read.

    Is this how you feel when I talk about Casanova?

  2. I haven't read Superman Secret Origin yet (I intend to do so), but I have read somewhere that Superman is a difficult character to write in an ongoing, and that most of the best Superman stories are about his origins or about his last days.

    I'm not sure I agree, but perhaps there's something to that.

  3. Greg - Yes, but I do understand about what you mean with Superman SO.

  4. It was fine until Johns had Superman give his "touchy feely" speech. The best moments were issues ago between Clark and Lois. Superman felt confused about his "direction" until he was attacked and asked everyone, "Why can't we all get along?"

    I think Morrison needs to leave the Batman books and take over the Superman monthly. Make it so.

  5. I'm more in agreement with Greg this time around. I need to reread the entire series again (maybe while I'm in line at Comic-Con) as I felt it was a little lacking too. Even if I like it more the second time around, there's no way I'd put it in contention with the "top Superman story ever" told. Of course, I still like John Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series.

    Like Shawn, I didn't care for the speech at the end either, especially the "you don't need a Savior" part. Since, well you guys know what I think about people needing a Savior. :)

    My daughter has gotten hooked on Lois and Clark this summer (all four seasons) and is now reading the post-Crisis Superman's. I bet she'll hate this version. She likes the Dean Cain Clark and not just because he's cute...

  6. I think Johns can be a good writer, but he has this annoying habit of working in the premise of a character into dialog in the most hamfisted way possible.

    Usually its only one panel and you roll your eyes and move on, but this book felt like the entire thing was written that way. The Lois and Clark conversations didn't feel believable in the slightest, because they were just regurgitating the tenets of the Lois and Clark relationship, not having an actual conversation

  7. Matthew, I agree with you about Man of Steel, but that's a bit of a strange case. I reread it a while ago. It feels super dated. The dialog is incredibly clunky and while the art still largely looks great, parts of it don't hold up (Magpie for instance).

    I'd say that Superman Secret Origin is probably a better comic, judged objectively. However, I vastly prefer the way Byrne portrays Superman and the world he lives in to Johns'. Some of this is probably that Man of Steel is my first exposure to Superman and thus my default setting, but it feels more organic (even with rough edges like Fat Luthor) than this nostalgia drenched "everything counts as long as the Silver Age is on top" take we're getting here.

  8. Greg,

    Magpie is a really awful character that's for sure!

    I had been exposed to Superman in the movies, Superfriends, the old George Reeves show, and a few issues pre-Crisis. But, Man of Steel was the first time I regularly collected Superman too and I kept with it for nearly seven years! I really really like the more "human" Clark than the Silver Age version.

    I think you may have hit the nail on the head with the "tenets" comment.

  9. Actually, a couple of issues ago (3?) Clark shows up and Lois is not her usually mean bitchy self. She sees him as a geek but RESPECTS him as an partner and potential journalistic adversary. That's new as of their first meeting. I liked it.

    Johns was trying to establish a new "Silver-Age/Modern Age" origin and I can tell you I don't like it as a definitive origin. (Oh joy, you've put in Levitz' boring OLD LoSH.)

    As far as origin revamps, I too enjoyed Byrne's Man of Steel mini. I also think Birthright, the origin from Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu is EXTREMELY underrated. (My personal favorite.)

    Johns, since taking on his new job, has seen a suffering in the quality of his writing. He's writing too much like a fanboy who finally gets to do what he wants and less like a professional writer. He was better before given red carpet treatment. Just my two cents.

    Birthright walks circles around this mini-series that had good ideas and (in other issues) good characterization. Ultimately the story is uneven, slow at start, and muddled at the end. I think I only liked issues #3&4 all the way through.

    Fans have wondered why Superman's past was different since One Year Later and this was not worth the wait. I think Jim liked it because it's the only Superman book with the character being Superman. Not great, just good compared to the options.

    I'm going back to re-read Birthright and Man of Steel instead.

  10. It was hokey, it had some cringe worthy moments, it was too much homage to Chris Reeves, it was all of those things. It was also a very cool battle and it was Superman being Superman.

    Maybe I'm over rating it because for the last few years we had Superman playing as Kal-El and now we have Superman hitching hiking across America.

    I have been dying to see Superman be Superman again. If Morrison wants to come and write the book again I'd be happy with that, heck as much as I'm not a fan of Millar, his big action flick epic comic writing style would be a nice change of pace.

    Superman was Superman again, we had a private life for Superman again and Frank pulled off some incredible pictures (and had some which seemed lame but I blame to need to make it the Chris Reeves). Thank god Lois was not made to look like Kidder!

  11. See, Superman being Superman again is why this didn't click for me. The fight with Parasite was the height of boredom and where I sort of checked out of this series. I thought it had something to do with Frank's art, but he did a great job with the epic scale of the LoSH arc, so I dunno.

    This book was definitely too indulgent. I've love to see a comic origin retelling that is a real story with a beginning, middle, and end, as opposed to rolling out the tropes of the character in their embryonic forms so all the readers can go "AHA! I see where that's going!"