Thursday, July 29, 2010

World Without A Superman, Part III

Just so we're clear on the extent to which DC is marginalizing Superman...

According to DC's October solicitations (not counting reprints, trades, or children's titles):

There will be 13 Batman titles published.

There will be 2 Superman titles published.

Yes, I know October is a big Bat-event month, so we've got an awfully large number of one-shot/specials celebrating Bruce Wayne's unnecessary absence and ridiculously swift return.

But to offset that, there is no regular issue of Batman, Batman & Robin, or Batman: Streets Of Gotham that month. And no, I'm not counting Dick Grayson/Batman's likely appearance in JLA that month, nor other guest appearances by either character.

Meanwhile, the Man of Steel? Well, he's in Superman. And not even on the cover. And he's in the final issue of Cary Bates' Elseworlds mini-series (do they still call it Elseworlds??) Superman: The Last Family of Krypton. So an imaginary story.

Of course, he's not in Action. And he's not even in Superman/Batman this month, as that story features Supergirl and Damien.

If you want, I suppose, you could count Adventure Comics, which is doing "Superboy and The Legion: The Early Years." I don't count that as a Superman story, but you can if you want. That makes the count 13-3. But only one of those three is a contemporary, in-continuity story with an adult version of Kal-El. (And fine, to be fair we can knock out continuity/time frame questionable titles Batman: Odyssey and Batman Confidential, making it 11-1). Whatever you might think of JMS' Superman, well, that's all you're gonna get, folks.

This is one of your big intellectual properties? This is how you build and maintain a brand? By having Superman appear in 1/11th as many comics as Batman? Fewer comics than Supergirl?? You have him appear in fewer books than Booster Gold?!?! Geez Louise, this is SUPERMAN, and he's in only 1/6th as many books as Deadpool, for heaven's sake?? (Yes, I know...but it is an indication how much more Marvel is dedicated to a popular albeit fringe character than DC is to one of the most iconic characters ever)

How can we conclude anything besides that DC is deliberately making the character who freaking invented comic books as we know them invisible, an afterthought?? I've said it before, I'll say it again: DC is trying to wean us off of Superman, because they think they're going to lose him in 2013. What else makes sense?

Farewell, Kal-El...


Mark Engblom said...

"What else makes sense?"

Well, your does make the most sense...but adding to the problem is another idea I've been toying with.

I've sensed that the very idea of a character like Superman (in his classic sense) seems to be losing ground with modern audiences and creators. Originally, Superman was the embodiment of brash confidence and an unapologetic, almost joyful display of power. Certainty, leadership, decisiveness, moral clarity and, yes, unbelievable power were the hallmarks of the character for decades...and generations of people loved him and recognized him for that.

Not so much now. I've noticed a distinct discomfort toward characters that are both ultra-powerful and morally uncompromised...from comic fans and creators alike. Instead of celebrating their power, we try to humble them...instead of aspiring to their moral example, we question it and degrade it as "unrealistic" and passe'. We seem to want troubled, compromised the point of making once-Olympian figures like Superman, Wonder Woman, the Spectre, or Captain America into troubled, marginalized, insecure characters (i.e. JMS's "Grounded" storyline).

So, yeah....DC's very real legal challenges may be the primary reason Superman is being sidelined, but (in my opinion) there's also not much of an appetite for a true, classic presentation of the character (despite a brief, exciting run by Kurt Busiek a few years back that seemed to "get it").

PS: GREAT selection of the World's Finest cover! It fits the situation perfectly!

Lazarus Lupin said...

Ok I have a question. If DC loses superman then do they also lose super girl, krypto, and all the other parts of the DC universe that came about because of the man of steel?

Lazarus lupin
art and review

notintheface said...

That could explain why DC whacked all those New Kryptonians in "War of the Supermen".

I, Warren said...

I just read Chris Sim's review of "Batman: The Widening Gyre" #6.

The arguement could be made that DC is giving up on Batman, too......

snell said...

Mark--I don't know, Grant Morrison seemed to grok Superman pretty well, and while I didn't agree with everything Johns did, he clearly had an appreciation for the character--and both sold pretty well.

Besides, Superman *should* be a cash cow, he's one of the most recognizable fictional characters ever. Even if no one can figure out what to do with him, they should still be publishing lots more Superman stories just so they can sell more comics and trades (i.e. like they do with Batman--see Warren's link for DC publishing crap that shouldn't even be published--just because they can). Hell, most writers don't know what to do with Wolverine or Deadpool, but that doesn't stop Marvel from exploiting the hell out of those franchises.

snell said...

Lazarus--it's quite the legal mess, and the court is sorting that out now. A partial summary thus far:

This means the Siegels now control depictions of Superman’s origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-L and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-L, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.

After a court order reverted rights to the Siegels in 2008, they owned the basis of the Superman character, including his costume, his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent, the feisty reporter Lois Lane, their jobs at the Daily Planet newspaper working for a gruff editor, and the love triangle among Clark/Superman and Lois.

But that didn’t give them the full Superman copyright because DC owns other important elements like Superman’s ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White characters, Superman’s vision powers and expanded origins.

As best as my limited legal knowledge understands it, the judge is going to have to go character by character, element by element, and decide which ones are more or less directly based on materials the estates own (Action #1 & the early weekly comic strip) and which ones aren't. As the example above shows, it's a messy non-intuitive process.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

You know, I'm starting to think DC losing the license wouldn't be a bad thing. Maybe they can give it to someone who will know what to DO with Superman. (See also the Marvel family, aka "Shazam!".) I think there is still a market for the classic superhero, even if it's a smaller market, or just kids (heaven forbid we make and promote a decent kids title--what will adults read?*) and those who remember the character with fondness for who he is.

(*Here's a hint: the same comics the kids do. That means extra money in your pockets and more readers for your title if you do it write and forget the "no-fun" people who just want gore and boobs.)