Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kaor, Kal-El!

So I'm in my local comics shoppe yesterday, and, as is my wont, I pick up the latest issue of this:

Yet, also released, on the very same day, is this:

OMG--two books, from two different companies, about the same character?!?

And yet, the world continued to spin on its axis. No riots at the comic shoppes, no mass hysteria, no cats and dogs living together.

So, as we ponder the post-lawsuit future of Superman, we should remember this: there's room for more than one interpretation.

And just to be clear, I'm not making any statement about the right or wrong of anyone's case, who owes whom what, the wisdom of our copyright system, or anything else like that. That's for wiser, more learned folks than I.

But comics fans tend to be small-c conservative (and I include myself in that description), and sometimes we react poorly to the prospect of a real change to the way things have always been. And when it is sometimes noted that one possible outcome of the lawsuit is that there might be two versions of Superman at different companies--one comprised of elements Siegel and Shuster own, the other still at DC comprised of elements they own--the possibility is greeted by a vague sense of panic. "They can't do that! There's always been one Superman, and he's always been at DC, and that's the way it should always be! It would be two confusing! It would destroy the character I love!" I know, because those same thoughts flit through my mind, t0o.

But we're more adaptable to change than we give ourselves credit for, and our imaginative capacity is far greater than we think it is. We can have two competing versions of John Carter Of Mars being published, and our brains don't implode. We can have Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes AND Steven Moffat's Sherlock Holmes being out there simultaneously, and we can handle it (and the concept of multiple Holmes is so acceptable, CBS is developing its own pilot of a modernized Sherlock Holmes). We can have competing visions of Alice In Wonderland, or Dracula, or Battlestar: Galactica, and the republic will continue to stand. We can have a Batman cartoon that's two reboots separated from the current "real" Batman, but still love both versions.

Heck, even Kal-El himself is already subject to multiple versions of himself at DC. Right now the 3 nu52 magazines he's appearing in take place at three different time periods in his life, and as far as I can tell they might as well be three different characters. And, as by good pal Siskoid has been pointing out for the last year, there have been hundreds of variations of Supes at DC over the years.

So, if the lawsuit results in a "splitting" of Superman's rights, we shouldn't panic. We can live with, and even love, multiple Supermen, and the concept can even thrive and grow under such an arrangement. We'll survive, and the Man Of Steel will survive, just as John Carter has.


Stephen said...

This is a great commentary. I will ignore for the moment the issue of the creators getting screwed or their heirs wanting a piece of the action or the rapacious evil of corporatocracy. After a fair measure of time -- fifty years? seventy? -- these stories and characters should pass into public domain. Kal-El, Logan, Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker must join Holmes an Carter for new imagination, new interpetations and even new profit. The were forged from the stories and myths of others, and they must lend themselves to be renewed. said...

Wait, isn't Dark Horse reprinting the old Marvel John Carters? Weird. Anyway, I just noticed the other day DC used to have John Carter too! I knew DC had Tarzan way back when, but didn't realize they had JC.