After a summer of working and partying, I’ve finally had the last of my Mail Order come up to rainy North Wales (from Rainy South Wales). Currently, I’m collecting: Action Comics, Extraordinary X-men, Howard the Duck, Hyperion, Superman, and Weirdworld. Of all these titles – with brilliant talents like Jeff Lemire on X-Men and Chip Zdarsky on Howard – Superman has been my most enjoyable to binge-read. That isn’t to say that Howard, Action or any other title is bad, hell, they’re of very high standards on the whole. But Peter Tomasi’s Superman has been brilliant simply because I think it might hold the secret to the future of comics. A bold claim, you might believe. One series being the future, how? You ask. Well, sit tight true believers, because I’m about to give you all the low-down. But first: CONTEXT.
Superman from pre-New52 has turned out to be alive. Now that New 52 Superman is dead (that’s Superman continuity of 2011-16) he’s come out of hiding and donned his famous blue tights once again. But aside from just Superman, Lois Lane from the Pre-New52 world has joined him….and their son. Jonathan Kent, ‘Jon’ for short, is about 8-10 in series. It is chronicling the story of how he, as a Human-Kryptonian, is coping with his new developing powers. Just as they’re trying to find out why he carries on tuning in and out of his powers, the Eradicator – an Ancient Kryptonian robot – turns up. Basically, Eradicator wants to cleanse the humanity of Jon which as you can imagine, doesn’t go down too well with Lois and Clark.
That’s kinda all you need to know about the comic’s storyline. It’s a good enough one that it’s enjoyable, nicely paced and develops character hugely. At first, it was strange to see Superman was a son and wife. Now, it feels like it’s the natural progression. I know what you’re thinking; does this mean that all we need to do is give all our favourite characters’ babies and that’ll change the nature of comics forever? I mean, it would, but that is beside the point here. What is so interesting about introducing Jon is that, in many ways, it returns Superman to his roots. One of my favourite readings of the character is to think of him as a representative of ‘Diaspora’ – this is the Jewish concept of never belonging anywhere due to being driven out of the Promised Land.
For Kal-El, he left Krypton before ever getting to experience it only to land in its complete contrast, Smallville. After some 18/19 years there he then moves over to Metropolis (arguably situated in Delaware) and becomes a journalist in the Big City. At the time, there was a romanticising of moving to farmland away from the Great Depression of the City and beginning anew so Clark’s job at the Daily Planet is very interesting. He’s constantly alienated for being alien or being Midwestern, no matter what, Clark Kent is alone. The whole story is, in many ways, the ultimate ‘outsider story’. He is trying to integrate into our world. How does he do so? By becoming our defender, our guardian angel.
Jonathan Samuel Kent in Superman#2.
Trouble is, and I’m sure many readers thinks this, Superman then became the Every-Hero. He can do anything and on top of that, he’s just so freakin’ nice! He’s not like Batman or Spider-Man, driven by ego, he’s literally just being a good guy when he could conquer the world. For many, that’s a very boring narrative, a bit bland and outdated. I would dispute this claim and say that, despite all of Superman’s strength, he struggles with trying to be human like all of us do. And now, having travelled from one universe and integrating into another, he’s had another huge Diasporic transition.
And if Superman is the Outsider, his son is definitely the Modern Outsider. In this context, I’m referring to Geek culture in how it was once for the Outsider specifically (which is why it attracted so many Jewish writers). Nowadays we’re very aware that Geek Culture isn’t exactly cool but it is no longer situated at the ‘lame’ part of the scale. With ‘Cool Geeks’ out there, the superhero movie so popular and such, gone have the days of comics being COMPLETELY uncool. But here’s the trouble: if you’ve not been a fan for years, where do you begin? How do you fit into a culture much older than yourself? You exist in an in-between space.
This is exactly where Jon Kent: he’s in a whole new world trying to hide the most real part of him (like how arguably, there are creators trying to hide the more intensive Comicbook-heavy characters/stories etc) while also struggling to see where he fits in. As far as mainstream canon is concerned, Jon is the first half-human half-Kryptonian and so, struggles by trying to find his place, like his Father once did. Tomasi crafts a wonderful family story which is still thrilling and adventurous, as well as playing with Krypton’s mythology too. It creates a story that is the very essence of Superman comics whilst serving as something new and different. This is where I can see comics being, should the right writers break through.
Comics which are attempting progression when in reality, they’re marketing on popularised social movements which seems to be Marvel’s current business plan – will struggle. Eventually the ‘hype/gimmick’ will die down and the substance will be examined closely. It is here, in these finite moments, where good comics are found. If people took more of a leap out of the Superman Rebirth they would see that taking risks isn’t as bad as they think it would be and that there are still ways of preserving the ideas through making solid progressions.
Ulysses is the current Social Secretary for MADCAS from September onwards. He’s really excited to get started and meet all the Freshers as well as greet back regulars. He is also the self proclaimed “Most Handsome member” of committee.