writing rengeek magpie mind

July 2014

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superhuman

i was lying there thinking about basketball

I really liked Man of Steel.

Mostly.

The non-spoilery version of the "mostly" involves fight scenes that went on 33% too long and two or three moments of Clark Would Never Do That and a certain amount of Plot Stupid.

The spoilery version follows.

I loved, lovedlovedlovedlovedloved the following things:

1) Zod had an actual motive, and it makes sense, and he's tragic and nuanced.
2) Women. Doing things. Being people. Making choices. Martha fucking Kent, along with May Reilly Parker, is the great argument for the centrality of foster-mother figures as the moral arbiters of superhero universes. (Get me drunk and started on Clark vs. Peter sometimes, and how they fill similar roles.)
3) Earth is full of chicks and brown people, almost like we live here or something*.
4) The superhuman fights look amazing. Kryptonian type people move faster than the eye can follow. Then they pause. Sometimes you track them by the explosions.
5) Henry Cavill is beautiful, and he perfectly channels Clark's serenity when the story lets him.

I had issues with some other stuff, though.

Yeah, the point of Clark is that he's everyman, only with superpowers. He's invincible, invulnerable, invisible. He comes and goes like the wind. The conflict of Superman arises from his ethical choices.

So why are we shown adolescent Clark making solid ethical choices, but adult Clark fails that for... a sight gag? I admit, it's a really nice sight gag, but that's not Superman.

Also not Superman:

*kissing your girlfriend while millions of Metropolians are burning to death or being crushed in collapsing buildings
*not attempting to move the Kryptonian fistfight to outer space, but instead blowing up gas stations and IHOPs as collateral damage
*only giving a shit about the people about to die in front of you (or Lois or Martha) and not the faceless hundreds of thousands dying as Metropolis and Nameless Indian Sea Island are taken apart by alien tech.

The body count in this movie makes Kid Miracle[Marvel]man look like an amateur, but it's weirdly elided. We see civilians mowed down like chaff... but there's no emotional resonance to it until the very end. I found this to be a major mistake, and I think Clark's eventual choice would have had more resonance as an act of war if that had been thought through and addressed.

Superman cares when people die. Even strangers. This is what makes him Superman, and a moral ideal.

Clark can hear everybody on the planet screaming as they die. It's the essential tragedy--the interesting conflict--of Superman**. He can save a hell of a lot of people. But he cannot save everyone.

Also, Jonathan Kent only dies because Clark is too stupid to live. You let your dad go after the dog? You n00b. (Also, under an overpass is a bad place to be in a tornado. Suction. Sorry. Lie flat in a field.)



*paraphrased from scott_lynch
**Other interesting thing: Superman is a mask Clark Kent wears. Bruce Wayne is a mask the Batman wears. Discuss.

Comments

Superman is a mask Clark Kent wears. Bruce Wayne is a mask the Batman wears. Discuss.

The other way around, I'd say. Superman is his natural self, in a world where his powers are unusual, so he wears a mask of this world. Wayne is Wayne's natural self, and Batman is someone he's constructed.
I'm going to take the opposite tack - Superman is essentially human and while he has powers, and he uses them for the betterment of mankind, he does so because he's Clark Kent. He would do it AS Clark if he could get away with it. On the other hand, Wayne is merely a facade to facilitate the Batman. The cape and cowl would be on 24/7 if Wayne could get away with it.
I'm with you on this--Batman is the persona of a very broken person who creates a "not broken", i.e., Wayne, facade for the public. But Batman is who he is.

Clark Kent is fundamentally Clark Kent--Superman is a way for him to fulfill his Clark Kent-ish-ness.
This. There's a line from Lois and Clark that I think still fits - or ought to...

"Superman is what I can do. Clark is who I am."

Nice!
Thank Jack Weinstein and Lee Hutson. They wrote "Tempus Fugitive".
I keep seeing this comparison in both forms for both Superman and Batman. The truth is that it depends on the story they're in and the author's leaning. Sometimes the author wants to tell a story about Superman's moral center, which comes from Clark. Sometimes the author wants to tell a story about the difficulties of pretending to be human when you're a god. Both characters can go either way.

It's a sign of a good comic book character when you can tell different -- even conflicting -- stories about them, and when every fan has their own preferred slant on the character.
Because the baby was a tabla rasa, and was made into Clark by the nice Smallville couple who raised him? What if the capsule had fallen on a desert island and the baby had been raised by wolves?

And this is where the "What Ifs" come in o_O

(Though in DC Comics they call them Elseworlds)...

What if Kal-El was raised by Thomas and Martha Wayne?

What if the little rocket landed in Soviet Russia?

And on and on...

Re: And this is where the "What Ifs" come in o_O

Heh. Check out the latest 'Dial H', by China Meiville. One character is from another dimension, where his parents were killed in a dark alley. When he got old enough he contemplated going to war against crime, and he stared out the open window of his mansion...

...but no bats flew in. So he became 'Open Window Man'. :)

Re: And this is where the "What Ifs" come in o_O

Mmmmyep. :)

John Arcudi's Major Bummer also comes to mind, though it's more of the "what if a slacker got superpowers?" and instead of working for the greater good and suchlike... he continues to slack. Sure, he can cobble together a power source out of triple A batteries and has super strength, but he just wants to stay out of trouble. But of course, trouble finds him. :)

Re: And this is where the "What Ifs" come in o_O

Then we get Speeding Bullets and Red Son, and other possibilities yet to follow.
If the baby had been raised by wolves, he would have become Superwolf--even more than Mowgli--protector of the pack.
Like.
I remember something Jules Feiffer wrote in a book about comic book heroes some years ago, about how Superman's "Clark Kent" persona is a reflection of what he sees as he walks among humanity... squinting at the world through his glasses (lenses made from the windowglass of the rocket that brought him to Earth?)... "Ah, this is what humans are like." Maybe oversimplifying it some (it was a while since I read that book... though this topic is touched upon near the end of Kill Bill Vol. 2 I think)...

Clark/Kal also has will. Take away will... and you have Doctor Manhattan. o_O