Banner Art by Jim Lee
Okay, I swear, I’ll let up on the New 52 soon. Sorta. Kinda. You’ll see what I mean.
I do like Superman. I’ve never been a big fan of Superman, but I haven’t disliked him. I respect Superman. How could I not? He was the first super hero. He is the character from which the term “super hero” comes. He was the iconic character from which thousands upon thousands of others were derived. On top of that, he’s thoroughly charismatic, likable, and that Man of Tomorrow that is worth aspiring to in some ways.
Then the New 52 happened. Oh boy, did the New 52 happen.
Let me clarify some things. I didn’t hate the New 52 at the beginning. Before it, the only DC Comics I was regularly reading were Green Lantern, Flash, Justice Society, and the odd issue of Birds of Prey. Oh, I also read the entirety of Reign of Doomsdays. I don’t recommend that.
When the New 52 relaunch happened, I was so excited. It got me into DC Comics more than I ever had been before. I was psyched for the new slate of titles like Savage Hawkman, Red Lanterns, Hawk and Dove, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Green Arrow, Justice League, and Mister Terrific. I quickly fell in love with books like Batman: Detective Comics, Deathstroke, Justice League International, Nightwing, and Omac. I even liked the much maligned redesigns on the costumes. I dug the plate armor look on most of the heroes. I particularly loved the new looks for Hawkman, Deathstroke, and Shazam.
Then it wore on for a bit. Many books, especially ones listed above, were cancelled, and it became apparent DC was turning very risk averse. The only comics that were surviving were either directly involved with the Justice League, was a Batman affiliate, or had their own television series.
The then-current incarnation of the Man of Steel was the epitome of this risk-averse method. Batman has been the most beloved character in DC Comics for quite some time. So, why not turn our most iconic hero into our most popular hero? Thus, New 52 Superman was born. He was moody, brooding, and completely without charm, just like Batman.
He was no fun at all. He wasn’t charismatic. He was nothing of the optimist he once was, and he was a bit more violent with how he dealt with people. He was also oddly vain. I’ll never forget someone explaining that early story in either Superman itself or Action Comics where he interviews himself as Clark Kent and pretty much does everything he can to make Superman look like the greatest guy ever. It made me feel gross inside. Kal-El of Kypton should not be that self-adulating
The fact that all of these attributes were being given to freaking Superman makes all of it a greater betrayal. None of those personality traits should be given to Superman. Yeah, you can say that he is overly-pure, and that makes him boring. However, it doesn’t have to, and you don’t need to make him a second Batman to make him more interesting. In fact, it makes him less interesting and more contemptable. You’re Superman, you should be above this. You’re invincible, you can fly, and you can bench-press a planet; what are you so freaking moody about?
Thankfully, Rebirth has brought us a more traditional Man of Tomorrow, with the Superman of another world replacing the Superman of the New 52. This Superman is also a father, which adds an interesting dynamic and puts Superman in a position he’s never been in before. I read a couple of issues of his book where they were paying homage to the late, great Darwyn Cooke. Again, I can’t remember if it was Superman or Action Comics. Either way, I really enjoyed the story, and I loved the way Superman was portrayed in it.
I will admit that the fact that they killed off the Superman of the New 52 does make me feel some pity for those who liked that iteration of the character. I do know that he had a sizeable fan base, and they just took that character away from them completely. The same goes for Lobo of the New 52, as much as I did rag on that abomination. I do feel bad for those who liked those characters. You’re talking to the guy who counts Agent Venom and Kaine the Scarlet Spider among his favorite heroes. It would be hypocritical and completely unself-aware of me to not feel some empathy towards those people.