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Issue #74: Mending the Man of Steel: How to Fix Superman

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Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plan….no it’s Talking Comics! The once again Stephanie-less crew heads to the Fortress of Solitude to discuss Andy Diggle leaving Action Comics and where Superman should go from here.  Bob, Steve, and Bobby give their ideas for creative teams, outline a few possible story arcs and read what you listeners think DC should do.

Of course we have our Book of the Week segment which include such books as: Saga, Justice League, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel.

We also talk about Batman ’66, Joshua Hale Fialkov leaving the Green Lantern books, Phil LaMarr’s comments on John Stewart and Neil Gaiman bringing Angela to the Marvel Universe.  All that and the guys answer your listener questions!

Annnnnnnnnnd… we say it on the show, but just in case you missed it, the Talking Comics crew on Twitter are:

Bobby: @bobbyshortle
Steve: @dead_anchoress
Stephanie: @hellocookie
And Bob’s email is bobreyer@talkingcomicbooks.com

FYI: the crew have gone all superhero on the world, thanks to the wonderful Hanie Mohd. Like them? Make sure to follow her and let us know what you think of our new superhero pictures.

The Comic Book Podcast is brought to you by Talking Comics (www.talkingcomicbooks.com), a blog dedicated to covering the latest and greatest in comic book releases. The editorial staff is composed of Editor-in-Chief Bobby Shortle (Fanboy Remix, Doctor Whocast), Stephanie Cooke (Misfortune Cookie) and Steve Seigh (JoBlo.com contributor) who weekly dissect the releases and give you, the consumer, a simple Roman yay or nay regarding them. Our Twitter handle is @TalkingComics and you can email us at info@talkingcomicbooks.com.

11 Responses

  1. Christian

    Thanks a bunch for the several nods on the podcast. Just for your reference my last name sounds like this “st-owe-ah”. Keep it up.

  2. RepStones

    Great show as always guys. Pity Rob couldn’t make it. And you make a fair point Bobby about the fact that there’s more than just actors who are invested in the production of movies 🙂

    Great story outline Steve. I have no idea where you came up with the ‘Superman responsible for space debris which pisses off bad guys’ theme, but its pretty sweet.

    Ive never been a big fan of Supe but i was very interested in hearing how Bob described how he used to be portrayed. And the very early Superman where he’s putting manners on street level hoods and wife beaters sounds kinda awesome. A bit like taking a sledge hammer to a walnut but street level Superman would make my pull list.

    • Bob Reyer

      Patrick,

      The early Superman was not nearly the powerhouse he would grow to become. I’m massacring this blurb but he could “leap an eighth of an mile, and nothing less than a bursting shell can penetrate his skin”! So, fighting street thugs is not as much a fight out of his weight class as that bout would be today!

  3. thisjohnd

    Glad there was mention of Supergirl at the top of the show because sometimes I feel like only one left reading the book. After noticing that strange writer/artist swap from the cover to the inside of the book I immediately took to Google for an answer and barely any sites even acknowledged it. Even worse is that one of the few reviews I found for issue #18 still credited Mike Johnson throughout the write up as if he wrote the book. I can’t imagine what would have made him leave the book just before his proper exit. I mean H’el wasn’t that bad was he?

    On the Green Lantern front, I really don’t see why Jon Stewart’s race plays into any of this. DC wanted to kill off a character and the writer disagreed and left the book. I understand there aren’t a lot of minority superheroes in comics but should all minority heroes be immune to being killed off? Isn’t this just calling attention to the fact that Jon Stewart is an African American character when it should just be about DC wanting to kill off a Green Lantern? I think if we want better equality in comics we need to treat all our heroes similarly and make this a race issue for arguments sake.

    • Bob Reyer

      John,

      I obviously can’t speak to the internal conversations between Mr. Fialkov and DC, but for the sake of the discussion, is it possible that he left because DC was primed to sacrifice their most important African-American character solely for “the ratings”? I would imagine that if it was presented as part of a larger “organic” story-line, a talented writer such as Mr. Fialkov might have remained on board to craft a great finale; after all, there’s very little in drama better than a great death scene!

      Once again, pure speculation on my part, as they may have argued over bringing back the Tattooed Man!
      Bob

  4. Ethan

    Hi Guys,

    First, I want to wish Bob Reyer a happy belated birthday. Bob, may your pages never grow brittle and your backboards never bend.

    Second, awesome discussion on Superman. He is definitely a character that goes through different periods where writers know how to handle him and then others do not. Steve, your outline for a story is great!

    Now, the question is, why is Superman so difficult for writers to handle and keep interesting? Bobby mentioned that it can’t be his power because Thor is equally powerful but has not had the same problems with story quality. I think the crux of it is not just the power, but also what Bob mentioned, which is traditionally, he always does the right thing. Essentially, now what we have is a combination of Thor and Captain America, and a faintly theological dilemma. If Superman is all-powerful, and Superman always does the right thing, then how can we have evil in his comic-books? Well, since these are comic-books, we need evil, or some sort of conflict, or they become boring. So, how do we manage this?

    From the stories I’ve read from the late seventies and early eighties, it seems that they managed it by reducing the threat posed by evil. So, Superman was almost always able to deal quickly and easily with whatever his foes threw at him. To use Steve’s story as an example, it turns out the Magi are wusses and Superman deals with them in the course of an issue. Of course, this ends up being pretty dull and breaks the story.

    Another way to do it is to weaken Superman’s power. This was first done with the introduction of kryptonite. The problem there was that it became something of a crutch to keep the stories moving. John Byrne did it in a more natural way when he reduced some of Superman’s powers in his re-booting of the franchise in the mid-eighties. The most extreme example of this that I know of was in the Justice League cartoon, where in the first season Superman was continually getting his ass handed to him. So, again, to take Steve’s story as an example, since Superman is already vulnerable to magic, this works very naturally as he will have to come up with something other than brute force to defeat the magi.

    The third way is to stop having Superman always do the right thing or at least have the right thing be a struggle for him. This can lead to interesting stories if done right. If done wrong, it could lead to an excessively dark Superman or lots and lots of navel-gazing. In the context, once again, of Steve’s story, suppose Superman knew something about the existence of these Kryptonian Magi, but choose not to do anything about them because he thought he could control them, change them, get something positive from them, etc. Moreover, suppose he kept their existence secret from Supergirl, not to mention the other Earth-based heroes, maybe to keep his relations with these imprisoned magi easier to manage?

    So, anyway, that, it seems to me is the crux of the problem. Now, the question is, who is best to solve it? Well, for art, there is only one choice for me – Neal Adams. He defined the DC style in the seventies, and to see what he could do with a modern Superman comic would be awesome. As for story, I keep thinking Geoff Johns mainly because I love almost everything he has done with Green Lantern, but I just found out he already did some writing for Superman on the “New Krypton” story-arc. So, I have to go with… Steve Seigh! That story outline rocks!

    Last comment regarding Superman – It sounds like Bob did not like the “Reign of the Supermen” story-arc from the early-nineties, and I disagree completely. That was one of two times I avidly read and was interested in Superman (the other was the aforementioned John Byrne reboot). It was, in my opinion, the best multi-title story-arc until “Blackest Night”. It also set the stage for “Emerald Twilight”, which as a Green Lantern fan, I have to mention. So, all I can say is – read it for yourselves. I have seen it in trade format, and the individual issues are usually to be found in the dollar bins these days.

    Thanks again for a great podcast and discussion.

    Regards,
    Ethan

    • Bob Reyer

      Ethan,

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, but I fear that I’ve already grown awfully brittle. sorry to say!

      As to Reign of the Supermen, although I applauded the idea of showing “A World Without a Superman”, I felt using four replacement “Superman” characters in as many books too gimmicky, and that it distracted one’s attention from what should have been the true focus; how did the rest of the DC universe of characters respond to this tragedy, and through them, allowing readers to see exactly how deeply in debt the comics world is to its first super-hero, and how to re-capture that grandeur for a new era!

      Once again Ethan, thanks for the good wishes!
      Bob
      ps) Neal Adams would be “super”, by the way!! rrr

      • Ethan

        I would argue, however, that they did give that reaction in the “Funeral for a Friend” story-arc. Also, in a sense, the fact that they killed him off and then brought him back seems in retrospect “gimmicky”. Certainly when Marvel did the same thing with Captain America it felt that way to me. This, however, was the first time it was done, and the different “Supermen” gave voice in some ways to different aspects of Superman, or even to some of the fears that other people in the DCU have about Superman.

    • Steve Seigh

      Wow! I promise you that when I’m not half awake I am totally going to read your entire comment and give you a fitting response. Thanks so much for believing in my idea.

  5. AboveAverageJoe

    The way to fix is not to take any of these storylines. While I too like to write fan fiction and hell, I sent one to you. Yet, Superman trying to change the heroes won’t work, because other writers will ignore it. Coil is a great story, but won’t bring in new readers. Superman is already written by as a symbol and that hasn’t changed sales. Even Super-Teams of writers and artists hasn’t done anything. This title should read what Superman stories we like to tell not how we are going to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

    There is no fixing Superman, its fixing the problem with the internet and comic book fans who think dark is good. The real problem for Superman is bad writing like Grant Morrison. I like Snyder, but going darker just doesn’t work for Superman. Just let Superman be Superman. Use the incredible supporting cast and history he has.

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