Mark Waid: ‘Every superhero you love’ is a SJW

There was once a time when activist-writers tried to hide their attempts to hijack comic books and turn them into little more than social-justice propaganda. Writer Mark Waid has changed all that. This week he took to Twitter and told the world that “every superhero you love” marches (or flies or teleports) under a SJW banner.

Check out my latest YouTube video on Mr. Waid’s opinion that comic book writers should look to anti-free speech ideologues for inspiration.

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Batman v Superman: The truth — for DC Comics fans in denial

Batman v Superman desert

Last weekend this blog gave an honest review of Batman v Superman because your friendly neighborhood writer is always in search of truth, justice and the American way. I said it was a movie that had its good parts (e.g., Ben Affleck), its excellent parts (e.g., visuals), and parts that were just plain ugly (e.g., Jesse Eisenberg). I did that for the same reason I will readily admit that Iron Man 2 was a creative mess that was barely saved by Robert Downey Junior’s awesomeness — it’s the truth.

All this is relevant because something peculiar happened when box-office numbers came in on Sunday: Hardcore DC Comics fans and those with a vested interest in the movie’s success started framing its $420 million global gross over the weekend as proof that critics were all wrong.

CBR, for example, reported Monday:

Overcoming a torrent of negative reviews that triggered social-media backlash from die-hard fans, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” stormed theaters worldwide over the weekend, exceeding most box-office predictions and breaking records left and right.

It turns out that, after all the hand-wringing by fans and Warner Bros. executives alike, “Batman v Superman” really was review-proof.

My wife asked me what the numbers meant as they started rolling in and I said we wouldn’t really know until next weekend.

I will now let Forbes explain why:

Batman v Superman has set a new record for the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero movie release in modern North American box office history. In dropping 55% from its $82 million Friday debut to its $37 million gross on Sunday, it pummeled all prior records for weakness in theatrical staying power. It even beat the nearly universally reviled and now long-forgotten Fantastic Four reboot, which dropped a comparatively modest 48% across its opening weekend in the summer of 2015. …

Superhero movies that don’t hold up well over their first weekend tend not to sustain much energy at the box office over the longer course of their theatrical runs. …

The steep decline in the Batman v Superman numbers points to the unfortunate likelihood that, apart from DC Comics fans, North American audiences don’t like the movie very much.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to see things as they are instead of how we wish them to be. The optimist sees things through rose-colored glasses and the pessimist seems things as unrealistically grim. The mind has a funny way of making any “true believer” immune to cold, hard reality, which is why the truth about BvS should be spread far and wide.

I want Warner Bros. to succeed with its long-term plans, but that is not likely to happen if executives do not come to terms with the film’s flaws. Having websites out there calling the movie “review-proof” does no-one any favors.

Filming for Justice League is scheduled to start April 11, but Warner Bros. may want to consider stepping on the breaks for a month or two if that it possible. The script of BvS was disjointed and Bruce Wayne appeared to be the only character who was not underdeveloped. Given that the same creative team is working on Justice League, it would be wise to pause, analyze what didn’t work with BvS, and then fix any problems that inadvertently carried over into the current project.

This blog may favor Marvel fare, but I have no desire to see DC properties crash and burn. The superhero genre has plenty of people who are eager for its demise, which is why Warner Bros. needs to right its ship before its too late.

Zack Snyder’s ‘nightmare’ sneak: Scowling Superman terrifies

Superman nightmare

Zack Snyder has released a new “Batman v Superman – Exclusive Sneak” for the upcoming movie, and it is frightening. The “nightmare” clip begins with Batman trapped in a desert bunker manned by some sort of shock troops loyal to Superman. The Man of Steel arrives at the remote location and approaches his prisoner with a scowl normally seen by the Dark Knight.

Batman nightmare

Yes, it is possible to make Batman wet his pants. Bruce Wayne is righteously terrified (hence, the nightmare). Imagine a man with the power of a god — unaccountable to no one and restricted only by his own definition of right and wrong. Would the world hope and pray that this “superman’s” moral compass had a lifetime warranty, or would they not want to chance it and find a way to destroy him?

Superman scowl nightmare

Nations around the world would only tolerate Superman’s existence as long as there were equal or greater threats out there that he could defend them from. Leaders would jockey to win his allegiance. Wars would be fought because of him, and in the end it is entirely plausible that he would finally succumb to the temptation to end the madness by declaring himself our global king.

Batman v Superman nightmare

Some fans are already bemoaning the movie and its depiction of “nightmare” Superman, even though it won’t even be in theaters for another four months.

Perhaps the most hilarious feedback came from Dan Slott — the guy who “killed” Peter Parker for over a year and then put Doctor Octopus behind the mask.

He said: “I’d rather have a Superman who inspires and gives people hope — and not a dark & gritty alien who inspires fear.”

Dan Slott Superman

The lack of self-awareness is astounding. Replace “Superman” with “Spider-Man” and “alien” with “Doctor Octopus” and then ask him how he has the gall to critique Snyder. But I digress.

Online critics who are oddly upset that Henry Cavill will not become a Christopher Reeve simulacrum are missing the point: Synder has elevated great characters to their well-deserved mythological status. He is exploring big ideas about larger-than-life characters. To do the movie justice (no pun intended), he can’t be beholden to some idealized version of Superman that simply would not work in the cinematic universe Warner Bros. has created.

Whether you’re on Team Snyder or a Team Slott, let me know what you think in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you think.

‘Superman: Action Comics’ more like ‘Activist Comics’ with police brutality story ‘Justice’

Action Comics 42 DCSometimes people ask me why I write on comic books. The reason is because culture matters, and these days comic book creators see themselves as activist-storytellers instead of simply storytellers. Superman: Action Comics #42 is the perfect example of how modern writers attempt to do their small part to inculcate the “correct” ideological bias into readers.

Superman Justice AC42Evil white cops: Check. Police phalanx marched into place with ominous close-up on black boots: Check. Angelic minority voices of peace and reason within the ranks of both law enforcement and the protesters: Check.

“We’re going to beat the hell out of you. And you’re going to crack. You’re going to fight back. And then we’re going to roll over every other moron on this street,” says Sergeant Binghamton to Superman. The whole issue left Business Insider’s Joshua Rivera “breathless.”

Superman Business InsiderMr. Rivera wrote:

It’s a moment that echoes similar events that have unfolded across the country recently in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, where law enforcement — primed to use excessive force — attempt to strong-arm peaceful citizens into submission. Like in those cities, the smallest miscalculation can lead to utter chaos.

When a Metropolis citizen then gets unruly, the commanding officer sees it as an opportunity to march on those gathered, with batons and shields at the ready — and then Superman, absolutely exhausted from his fight, places himself in between the crowd and the cops.

It’s a beautiful, arresting image by artist Aaron Kuder and colorist Tomeu Morey, a cathartic moment for anyone who saw the shocking imagery coming out of Ferguson and felt utterly powerless. But that’s not even the real gut punch.

The cops march anyway, raining tear gas on the citizens and even attacking an officer who objects to the proceedings— while Jimmy Olsen photographs the entire ugly affair. […] I still haven’t caught my breath.

Modern comic book writers embrace activism because left-leaning sites like Business Insider write op-eds about how said activists leave them “breathless.”

Accuracy and nuance are ignored because Business Insider writers are not left “breathless” when they read about Baltimore cops who are ordered to “give space” to looters and rioters.

Baltimore lootingMr. Rivera would probably not call it a “beautiful image” if Aaron Kuder drew his inspiration from the Ferguson, Missouri looters who ran off into the night with as much liquor and alcohol as they could carry.

Liquor Looter FergusonFox also covered the Superman story with straight-news reporting. Brian Henry interviewed Dimitrios Fragiskatos, the manager of Midtown Comics in New York City, and Patrick Colligan, president of the NJ State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, for his July 31 piece.

Mr. Henry never used words like “breathless,” so of course Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston wrote up something special to allow his readers to get out their Two Minutes Hate on Fox.

Bleeding Cool Action Comics 42The interesting thing is, all the people talking about “lies” and “propaganda” never point out the “lies” and “propaganda” in Mr. Henry’s reporting. Even his headline is politically neutral: “Superman fights the police in new comic paralleling Ferguson riots”.

Superman Action Comics 42 CopIn short, comic book writers in 2015 do not simply see their work as “just” a comic book. Writers like Dan Slott — who has been openly political in his Twitter feed — will trot out that sort of sentiment when they’re exposed by yours truly or writers like Hube at Colossus of Rhodey, but in general they see themselves as social justice foot soldiers.

Action Comics Superman JusticeMr. Colligan’s comment to Fox sums up how a lot of comic book readers feel these days:

“Comic books are taking on social issues lately and maybe they should get back to taking on superheroes and making people laugh.”

As long as writers continue shoehorning their personal politics into titles or saying nasty things on social media platforms — while also behaving like Mark “fuck off” Waid when they receive legitimate push back — the industry will continue to founder. It’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mark Waid F off tweet

‘Justice League: War’: DC delivers action that may leave some viewers with battle fatigue

Superman Justice League

Is it possible to have too many explosions in a superhero movie? DC’s latest, ‘Justice League: War’ is 79 minutes long, and almost the entire run time is filled with things going “boom.” In theory that sounds great, but there are only so many hordes of Parademons a guy can watch get sliced in half, bashed and vaporized before one asks: “Is this all there is to it?”

For those who are unfamiliar with the tale, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Shazam, Superman and Wonder Woman find themselves together for the very first time, fighting the forces of Darkseid in a battle that will determine the fate of the earth (of course). The movie was adapted from the 2011 reboot by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee (although the animated movie replaces Aquaman with Shazam).

In short, ‘Justice League: War’ is great if you like endless strings of carnage and destruction, but less so if you expect at least a few scenes with emotional depth. Only Cyborg gets dealt a decent hand in the characterization department, and even that is rushed though as quickly as possible to get back to the front lines. While the final battle with Darkseid is impressive, the ease with which Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest dispose of Darkseid’s minions becomes tiresome after 30 minutes.

Perhaps the worst aspect of ‘Justice League: War’ is writing that directly undercuts the heroes’ complains that they’re irrationally feared by the general population. For instance, Wonder Woman acts somewhat incredulous that a group of angry protesters outside the White House are wary of super-powered beings, and then later in the movie she forces a street vendor to feed her and a child ice cream, free of charge, at sword point.

Could it be, Wonder Woman (i.e., writers at DC), that people “fear” you because of your “might makes right” mentality? Just wondering. It’s hard to root for a hero when her idea of “justice” is whatever she decides from moment to moment.

Wonder Woman Justice League War

‘Justice League: War’ also is diminished by gratuitous use of foul language. What could have easily been an animated movie for adults and kids to enjoy was squandered by the random interjection of “shit,” “ass,” “whore” and a joke about cross-dressing that seemed to serve no other purpose than to push the rating to PG-13. Does anyone ever watch a DC movie packed with action and say, “I would have given it an ‘A’ but Green Lantern didn’t swear enough for my taste,”? Of course not. Watch some old episodes of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ to see how top notch DC entertainment is done.

Batman Justice League War

Speaking of Batman, ‘War’ actually does get an ‘A’ for its treatment of him this time around. True, I was disappointed that Kevin Conroy wasn’t voicing the Dark Knight, but Jason O’Mara did a decent job. DC nailed Batman’s interactions with Green Lantern — they were quite humorous — and there is a scene between Batman and Superman that captures the dynamic between the two of them almost flawlessly.

Superman Batman Justice League

How many mortal men can hold up their hand to Supes like a traffic cop and get him to come to comply? Not many, but Batman is one of them. DC deserves kudos for writing the scene so it all transpires believably.

Wonder Woman Justice League War Darkseid

While ‘Justice League: War’ does tend to drag on at times due to the never-ending stream of Darkseid’s minions populating the earth, the final battle is rather satisfying. It truly takes the team to take down Darkseid, and each hero has their moment to shine. Nobody’s power is underutilized and nobody is treated as if they don’t belong. While all of them essentially know deep down that Superman is in a “league” of his own, they also treat each other as equals on the battlefield. In fact, it is a collection of inferiority complexes — not pride — that often threatens to derail victory. It is only when the warriors begin to feel comfortable in their own skin — and trust the hero next to them — that victory is sealed.

Check out ‘Justice League: War’ if you get a chance, but don’t go in expecting some of the weightier issues tackled by, say, ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood.’ If you do that, you probably won’t go away disappointed.

Related: Superman vs. The Elite explores the big dilemma: Christ or Patton? To kill or not to kill?

Superman vs. The Elite explores the big dilemma: Christ or Patton? To kill or not to kill?

DC’s animated original movies have a strong track record, and in 2012 they added to an impressive library with Superman vs. The Elite. In short, the movie explores the modern superhero’s dilemma: To kill or not to kill? More specifically related to Superman, perhaps we can ask: Should he be more like Christ or Gen. George S. Patton?

Is it a moral failing for superheroes to repeatedly capture super-powered villains who exist completely outside the rule of law? How much blood, if any, does Superman have on his hands due to his refusal to kill evil incarnate?

At the start of Superman vs. The Elite, a monster known as Atomic Skull kills two people on the city streets of Metropolis — infusing his victims with radioactive energy that turns them into volcanic ash or Pompeii-like sculptures. Superman asks why. The answer: they serve as Superman bait. That’s it.

The Atomic Skull Superman The Elite

Atomic Skull exists to kill, and he kills to draw out Superman.

Superman The Elite Skull victimSuperman refuses to end the monster’s life, and after a battle tears up half the city Atomic Skull is sent to a holding facility. Will it restrain him for long? First comes an exchange between Superman and Professor Baxter ensues at the United Nations:

Professor Baxter: “So was this justice, Superman? Millions in property damage. Helpless bystanders killed by a repeat meta-human felon who is now enjoying three square meals a day as a guest of the state. You had the power to end Atomic Skull’s criminal career — permanently. Why didn’t you?”

Superman: “I’m not anyone’s judge and jury, professor Baxter — definitely not an executioner. My powers do not put me above the law.”

Professor Baxter: “A noble sentiment, but are you the Superman that the 21st century needs? Why not use your power to fix the world? Let me reiterate that I am playing devil’s advocate. I’m a huge fan [of yours].”

Superman: “First, I don’t believe the world is broken — because when we say ‘the world,’ we’re really talking about is people. It’s always been my belief that people, at their core, are good. The grace of mankind is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes. Humanity has a limitless potential for good. My purpose it to help people reach that potential.”

Indeed, we can talk about the nature of man all day. Are people at their core all good? It’s a tough question — it depends on how you define “good.” They certainly have the potential for either great good or great evil — but Superman dodges the initial question: “Was this justice?”

Perhaps the right answer is that in a world with Atomic Skulls roaming around, the death penalty would need to be applied much more liberally. If humanity in the DC Universe can’t get its justice system right, why should Superman have to be the one to play judge, jury and executioner? As it stands, Atomic Skull escapes soon after his apprehension and kills Professor Baxter in the middle of the street.

Superman The Elite Death
Superman is super grumpy right now, because a guy who he apprehended only days earlier has escaped — and killed — again. Should he be mad at the citizens of Metropolis for having such a rotten justice system or at himself for allowing such madness to continue?

Manchester Black steps in and does what Superman won’t — he blows Atomic Skull’s head into a million pieces. Superman predictably flips out, but the citizens of Metropolis do not. One “woman on the street” interview sums up the mood of the city:

Citizen: “I’ve lived in Metropolis all my life. Superman has always been there for us, but so have those criminals he’s put away so many times. Maybe his way doesn’t work.”

Manchester Black Superman The Elite
My name is Manchester Black, and I can blow up your skull just by pointing my finger at you. I’ve got an itchy trigger finger, so don’t get on my bad side.

Or maybe Metropolis’ justice system doesn’t work?

The Elite, led by Manchester Black, are a shady group of anti-heroes whose tactics go too far. They wantonly kill anyone who doesn’t fit their definition of “good,” even going so far as to slaughter the entire political leadership of two warring countries. (Oddly enough, the media in the DC Universe give The Elite a pass on the execution, essentially saying: “Well, they did end the war…”.) Regardless, Black does have a point.

Manchester Black: “You probably won’t believe this, but I used to love superheroes. But masks are for hiding. Capes are for playing. You were the first. The best. But now you’re a cliche and you don’t fit in anymore. Mad scientists, idiots in underwear, bank robbers — knock yourself out with that lot. But the real work — fixing the world — is ours.

The rules of engagement in a war zone are different than the rules of engagement for a local cop, and the vast majority of villains in comics are walking war zones. They should be dealt with like an enemy on the battlefield, particularly since they’ve erased any lines between civilian and military targets.

In many respects Superman is his very own deus ex machina, but writers would weave better tales if they didn’t always have that escape hatch at the ready. That is, unless … we see Superman as a Christ-like figure. If the writers would openly admit to giving him that role, I would be willing to accept that.

The following exchange between Lois and Clark is telling:

Lois: “Why do you have to do this? Why can’t you call someone else? …

Clark: They have to be stopped.

Lois: “I think they can beat you. I’m sorry, but they’re willing to go places you won’t — and they are so damn strong.”

Clark: “I heard a child say that he wanted to be in the elite when he grows up because it would be fun to kill bad guys. Fun to kill? People have to know that there’s another way. They have to see that someone believes in humanity strongly enough to…

Lois: “…to die for them?”

Is Superman a Christ-like hero, or is he just one heck of a superhero? If he’s just an “elite” superhero, then I will now quote Patton:

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

Regardless of what you think, you should give DC’s creative teams for their original animated films a thumbs up. They’re doing great work. Now, if they could only get those movies in order…

Related: David Goyer is right: The ‘Superman doesn’t kill’ rule hurts the character

Related: Man of Steel Trailer: Harbinger of an epic film

Related: Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ hits audiences with big ideas, soars over small-minded critics

Related: Batman: Under the Red Hood, and Lessons for Dealing With Jihadist Jokers

Related: Spider-Man: War Zone liability thinks small in big situations

Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ hits audiences with big ideas, soars over small-minded critics

Man of Steel Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ aims for epic, and on almost every level it delivers. That is probably why it set a new best-ever opening weekend record for June. It has grossed $125.1 million by its first Sunday in theaters. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and yet the “professional” critics have been less kind. That is because ‘Man of Steel’ is about big ideas, and many critics have small minds.

A snapshot of some of the worse reviews indicate critics wanted something “fun,” which is probably a euphemism for “This isn’t anything like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.”

  • “Skimps on fun and romance.” (Newsday)
  • “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Richard Roeper
  • “Man of Steel (has) a cold heart that no amount of spectacle can compensate for.” (Art House Film Guide)
  • “Where’s the fun?” (Movieline)

Could Zack Snyder have made a plucky Superman film? Sure. But that’s not what he wanted to do. He wanted to explore what it would really be like if someone like Superman walked among us. How would it affect him? How would the world react? Would it be a blessing or a curse?

Here’s what I said upon the release of the first trailer:

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

That is exactly the movie Zack Synder has made. It’s a movie about finding out why were put on this earth and what our purpose is. It’s about first knowing the difference between right and wrong — and then choosing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. It’s about having faith and hope and trust in our fellow man, but acknowledging that we are all fallible. It’s about a hero who we call Superman, but it’s also about the hero inside each and every one of us. ‘Man of Steel’ honors the individual, but stresses the importance of selfless service and the commitment we have to our family and our community.

The critics who say this movie has no “joy” are the ones who sound like they’re from another planet. ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the most uplifting superhero movies I’ve seen in ages, and it’s made better by a cast of actors who all basically knock it out of the ballpark.

Diane Lane is fantastic as Martha Kent, and the scene it which she soothes a young Clark as he struggles to understand his powers is pitch perfect. The tenderness she shows reminds us all of our own mother’s best moments — all heroes in their own right.

Kevin Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is equally as impressive. He understands that work is a virtue. He has strong hands and a dirty shirt from his labor, but his heart is pure. He does his best to instill honesty and integrity in his boy in an imperfect world. And, even as he wrestles with moral conundrums, he gives his son a road map that will help him navigate life’s most difficult terrain.

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent. He is not Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent — nor should he have been. Director Zack Snyder knows that when you start asking questions like “Who is Superman?” that you are also asking “Who is Clark Kent?” and “Who is Kal-El?” And the answer is that at his core he is pure, he is strong and he is kind. He embodies courage and selfless service. He represents our highest ideals — the ones we know we can never fully attain, but die honorably trying to pursue. How Clark’s essence manifests itself on screen will very from actor to actor, but Henry Cavill’s Superman does the character proud.

‘Man of Steel’ has its flaws, but one of them is certainly not the absence of joy. Zack Snyder knew exactly what he wanted, and everyone from the actors on screen to the special effects guys gave it to him. Love it or hate it, ‘Man of Steel’ is the finished product born out of a very clear vision of what a modern Superman movie needed to be in order to succeed.

At a pivotal point in the film, Clark realizes that as impressive as his powers are, he has not even begun to tap the well of potential inside of him. It’s a powerful scene — one in which millions of viewers will likely reflect on their own efforts to harness the greatness within them. That is a joyous thing. That gives us reason to smile, and hope for the future of all mankind.

Don’t worry about the critics, Mr. Snyder. People around the world have now listened to the words of Jor-El and know that while he was speaking to the character Clark, he was also speaking to them: they too can “accomplish wonders.” And for that, we are thankful.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill

Man of Steel Trailer: Harbinger of an epic film

Man of Steel

The new Man of Steel trailer is amazing. It is flat out awesome. Every aspect of what has been teased over the last few months indicates that Zack Snyder has directed something that aims for epic and in all likelihood will succeed. Snyder proved that he could handle a cynical take on Superman (i.e., Dr. Manhattan in the underrated Watchman), and all the early indicators are that he will deliver with the real deal.

First, let’s look at Jonathan Kent:

Pa Kent: You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world.

Pa Kent (Teaser Trailer 2): You’re not just anyone. One day you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is — good character or bad — he’s going to change the world.

Bravo. Good and Evil exist — and not only do we have the power to choose the person we become, but we must choose. Moral clarity out of the gates is reassuring. The world is clearly a messy place (e.g., Should Clark have let children die to protect his secret?), but deep down we know what is right and just and what must be done.

Growing up, I was never a huge fan of Superman and I never could quite pinpoint why. He was just “boring.” I didn’t realize it for quite some time, but Jor El explains the situation clearly:

Jor El (Teaser Trailer 1): You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Superman is the ideal we all strive for, but will never attain. He sets the bar for all other superheroes. He has nearly-unlimited power, but he chooses to serve others. He is so much more than the humans he walks among, and yet he loves and protects and cares for them. And perhaps the truth is I didn’t dislike Superman because he is actually boring; I disliked him because he reminded me of just how flawed I was. And am. And always will be. Superman is that moment in time when after months of denying something you know to be true you look in the mirror and it’s there — there’s no escaping it — and the truth just stares you in the eye and forces you to confront the issue or fight that much harder to live in denial. Zack Snyder gets it, and he wisely made sure to include it in the script:

Clark Kent: My father believed that if the world found out who I realize was, they’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?

When I first saw an image of Superman in cuffs and flanked by U.S. servicemen my instinct was to become skeptical. Would Snyder go the route of so many other Hollywood directors and portray the U.S. government as the “bad” guy for a good portion of the flick? I thought about it, and decided not to write on the issue because everything I’ve seen from him suggests he’s smarter than that. There had to be a better angle. After having viewed the trailer, I’m glad I held off.

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

Man of Steel 1

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

Superman Citizenship Controversy: Just The Tip of the Iceberg.

Did you ever imagine you'd read a Superman comic where U.S. servicemen were ordered to aim sniper rifles at The Man of Steel? Neither did I. But it's now a reality, thanks to the creative geniuses at DC.

The plan to have Superman renounce his U.S. citizenship appears to have been scuttled, thanks in part to comics fans who know character assassination when they see it. When I first reacted, I noted that a thorough review would have to wait until I read the story in its entirety. I can now safely say that I have done so, and zero retractions are necessary.

Upon reading The Incident (fitting title, indeed!), there aren’t too many new angles to cover. I suppose it’s interesting that David Goyer thought the Obama administration, upon its first disagreement with longtime-ally Superman, would react by ordering Kryptonite-armed U.S servicemen to put the big ‘S’ in their crosshairs. Instead of simply calling in Supes for a frank discussion (you would have thought he earned at least that much), the current administration flanks him with snipers. Superman says to the president’s national security advisor:

“Those Marine snipers you’ve got stationed up on that ridge about 200 yards to the North…their winter camo doesn’t do much to hide them, since I can see into the U.V. and infrared spectrums. That high velocity round in your primary sniper’s rifle is Kryptonite, right? You expect me to give you trouble?”

With friends like that (just as paranoid as your run-of-the-mill Iranian mullah nut), who needs enemies? How inept can this fictionalized U.S. government be if they think they can touch a guy who’s faster than a speeding bullet (much, much faster) with a high tech sniper rifle? And what kind of sick world would it be if a U.S. Marine ever had to be given a direct (lawful) order to kill Superman?

Regardless, there’s a moment in The Incident that sums up exactly why liberal writers often have such a hard time crafting stories for characters whose essence is America:

“I’m an alien, Mr. Wright. Born on another world. I can’t help but see the bigger picture. I’ve been thinking too small. I realize that now,” (Superman).

What Superman doesn’t get (and by that I mean “David Goyer”), is that America is one of the few countries that is about big ideas. Universal ideas. God-given rights instead of rights doled out by men with guns and power and money. In this instance, Superman is right—he is thinking incredibly small. The only problem? It’s caused by a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of The United States and its place in the world.

Within The Incident, Superman acknowledges that he’s fought dictators and despots from across the universe (some of them time-travelers). And yet, even then the superhero doesn’t make the connection that America is a unique and special place. The thugs in Iran who control people by fear and intimidation are no different than the galactic debris Superman encounters. America, because of the nature of its founding, is wholly different. A writer who understands the importance of natural rights would have recognized this, and adjusted Superman’s dialogue accordingly.

As I’ve said before, I don’t expect (or want) artists and writers to give me a Hannitized history of the United States. However, writers with an American icon in their care should at least have a basic understanding of American history. If they’re going to force-feed their worldview on others, they can at least do so with finesse. I haven’t seen that happen with Marvel Comics or the DC Universe. Superman may not end up renouncing his U.S. citizenship to the United Nations in Action Comics #901, but The Incident is just further evidence that the industry is out of touch with conservative fans. My disposable income will continue to trickle until changes are made.

Hint to David Goyer: A good start would be nixing the idea to have U.S. Marines aiming at Superman with Kryptonite rounds.

Superman: Earth One. A Comprehensive Conservative Review.

Conservatives should have opened the book and read it in its entirety before giving a review. I have. Below is my attempt at a comprehensive conservative review.

I recently said that I would withhold judgment on Superman: Earth One until it was given a comprehensive conservative review.  I gave it a few weeks, and since it drifted for the news cycle without that happening, here now is my attempt to fill the void:

Superman: Earth One, written by J. Michael Straczynski, is a solid retelling of Superman’s origin.  Part of this is because the story is so strong to begin with that any good-faith effort to preserve the most endearing elements of his origin can head off disaster.  The other is because of Straczynski: he’s a professional.  The reason why he’s had such a successful career is because even when he experiments with sacred cows (e.g., Spider-Man), he tries to be smart about it.  This time around, the politics that riled up conservative media outlets are there, but there are enough bones thrown to guys like me to assuage a lot of our anger.

For example, Jonathan Kent, Clark’s father—the man who shaped his life—tells him:

You’re different from every other man, Clark.  You’re more powerful than any other man in history.  You’re unique in all the world.  Extraordinary.  Not just any man…and more than just a man…a Super Man.”

Americans have always viewed Super Man as a symbol of the country.  The above wisdom, spoken to Clark as he receives the costume sewn by his mother, can easily be interpreted as making the case for American Exceptionalism. Substitute “America” for “Clark” and “country” for “man” and conservative comic nerds (like me) are right on board.  As I’ve said before, The Rule of Law, Free Markets, Religious Liberty, Science, and an acknowledgement that our rights come from our Creator—not man or their man-made governments—fused in the United States to form the freest nation the world has ever known.  Whether it stays that way depends on us.

Superman: Earth One does drop the occasional liberal allusion (e.g., the self-serving businessman who only cares about profits while people suffer, scientists warning of possibly catastrophic changes to the planet’s temperature who are ignored).  However, more or less the comic avoids intentionally getting bogged down in politics.  It’s really in the afterward, an “article” by Clark Kent where he “interviews” Superman, that an interesting conversation takes place. For example:

Superman: Lincoln said that the proper role of government was to do that which individual people couldn’t do for themselves.  He added, ‘you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.'”

Clark Kent: Sounds like you are advocating trickle-down heroics.

Superman: Not at all.  I’m just saying that until that ship [an existential threat to all mankind] showed up over Metropolis, everything that came along in human history to that point could be handled by average men and women who could rise to the occasion.  But no amount of rising was going to stop this.

In this case I don’t want to waste time debating whether Straczynski’s analogy to supply side economics is correct or even appropriate.  What’s more interesting is that the newspaper article is a way for the reader to see the internal debate Clark is having in regards to who he is and the proper role for Superman on the world stage.  That is natural, and it’s a conversation that Americans have every day.  As Thomas Sowell (the living legend) writes, we have a Conflict of Visions vying for our allegiance, even though many citizens don’t even realize it.  The reader can ultimately decide if the following lines, tucked away in the interview, render Superman: Earth One unreadable:

I saw this documentary a few years ago about the British police force,” [Superman] says, speaking slowly and deliberately, making his point.  “They interviewed a London bobby who said—and I’m not taking sides, I’m just repeating what he said—that American police enforce the peace, while British police create the peace.  I like to think that’s why I’m here: to help create the peace by doing what’s right for people without trying to change them.  Maybe that sounds naive, or superficial, but it’s the truth.”

Anyone who’s seen the student protests in England over tuition hikes has seen that the British police have not really created peace, but they have done a very good job of picking up rubble in the wake of ignorant socialist-kiddie temper tantrums…  Regardless, I have an answer for Superman (i.e., J. Michael Straczynski), who says he’s not “taking sides” before doing just that: Yes, you are naive.

I would like to do right by the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and large swathes of the Middle East, while simultaneously enforcing the following:

  • Chopping off heads when you disagree with someone isn’t acceptable.  Attempting to down commercial flights in large metropolitan areas to make political statements will not be tolerated.
  • Civilized nations do not stone women to death.
  • Countries that make it “illegal” to be a Christian, convert to Christianity (i.e., allow religious freedom) are backwards, and they should be called out on it at every opportunity.
  • If your culture includes large numbers of individuals and community leaders who go ballistic over cartoons that offend them—and threaten to kill artists like J. Michael Straczynski over said offenses—it has problems and needs to be reformed.

With that said, Superman: Earth One also routinely returns to the idea that it’s important to have individuals who are willing to “stay and die for truth.” And that is a good thing.  I may disagree with Straczynski over what the definition of ‘truth’ is, but at least his writing leaves openings for those who think he’s wrong to make their case.  Buy Superman: Earth One for your kid, and then tell them why The United States is such a great nation.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  We have a lot to be thankful for.