Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thinking About Superman

Just a head's up before we get into things today that this post will completely spoil the events of Action Comics, issue 900, which came out last week. The book has been much talked about in the media, so I'm willing to bet that most of you have either already read the comic, or have had the book spoiled by, say, CNN.

Just in case, though, here's your last chance to jump ship before the post begins.








So, yeah, for those still with me.

Last week, in Action Comics, issue 900--the landmark issue 900, by the way--something pretty big happened, and it set off an interesting chain of reactions from people both in comics and out of comics.

In a short story entitled, "The Incident," written by Batman Begins and The Dark Knight screenwriter David Goyer, Superman decides it is time to renounce his American citizenship.

Here's the now-infamous panel from the issue:

Right. So, let's get something straight. I don't care about things like this. It's a comic book, and if Superman wants to renounce his citizenship, that's fine.

It's also fine when Captain America and Iron Man fight each other. Or when Wolverine's brain becomes infected and he kills all of the X-Men. Or when Batman dies. Or when Archie meets the Punisher.
They're fictitious stories about fictitious characters. So this story does not bother me. Not in the least. And to be honest, things like Superman renouncing his citizenship make for intriguing story possibilities down the road.

And I am all for intriguing story possibilities.

DC, of course, has blown my argument to bits today, as there are reports online that they've since backed down from the story, saying that it was an isolated occurrence, and the ongoing title will not reflect these developments.

And, as Superman doesn't actually take actions to change his citizenship in issue 900, I guess he won't be doing that any time soon. Well played, DC.

Instead of mixing things up a bit, instead of making Superman relevant, they've backed off, sold out of the first printing, and have announced a second print. And in doing so, they've added Action, 900, to the long list of comics that "shake things up" simply for a bump in sales.

Nothing wrong with that, either, as I'm just happy to see people A.) buying a physical copy of a comic book, and B.) buying a book with Superman in it. And if you think a second print is a bad idea, I can tell you that yesterday, in the comics shop, I overheard a couple of people asking when that would be out.

So there's certainly some interest in this book. Mission accomplished.

Now, to show just how much of a comics-crazed person I am, let's talk about the real problems with this issue. Let's face it--Big Blue has had a rough go of it the past year, and this book was a perfect opportunity to get new readers on board.

As a big, over sized milestone issue, many readers (including me) went in expecting an anthology of stories grouped around one main, "in-continuity" tale. And that's what we got. Except, that one in-continuity tale was actually the final part of a storyline that had run through Action for several months.

Not exactly the ideal jumping-on point that I was hoping for.

And, if DC had any inclination about the media uproar that "The Incident" would incite--and they absolutely should have, considering the insane amount of press books like "The Death of Captain America" and "Civil War" garnered--then they should have tailored this comic to NEW READERS.

People coming off the street to buy just this one comic, because they heard about it on the news.

Instead, when they opened the book up to that first story, what they got was an incoherent, continuity-laden tale of Superman and an all powerful Lex Luthor. Which, sure, it looked cool.

But to someone with absolutely no knowledge of what's going on...the issue read like an impenetrable fortress, the key to which was lost somewhere in many issues past. And that's one of the oldest knocks against comics.

It just...seems like a missed opportunity, is what I'm saying.

Yes, sales on this issue were tremendous. But how many times do we say it? Look past the current issue. If the book contained a new, interesting story, at a good jumping-on point, maybe--just maybe--some of those people off the street would wander back into a comics shop in a month to see what happens next.

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