Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about Superman's new costume, why more people don't buy comics, and the opportunity for a teen title.
If you need proof DC is doing the right thing by getting rid of Superman’s red trunks I would like to place into evidence a current TV ad for the PlayStation 3 game called Infamous 2. In it an actor in a red super suit with blue shorts identified as "Ultra Guy, Hero of New Metro City" interacts with an actor who is supposedly PlayStation's "Kevin Butler VP of Heroic Actions." Ultra Guy suggests that he should team up with Cole, the hero of the game, but Butler demurs stating "Cole is more of an underwear on the inside kind of hero." Ultra Guy in turn looks down, insulted then chagrined.
In case you missed it "underwear on the inside" was the punchline of the ad. Once again, personally I love Superman's costume; it is simple, elegant, iconic and distinctive. But it is also very, very dated; I'm well aware shorts-over-tights was the uniform of turn of the century (the last century) circus strongmen but I'm guessing the average owner of a PlayStation 3 isn't.
Shorts-over-tights has become shorthand for juvenile and lame, the kind of thing that the former frat boy wags at Maxim and Cracked love to chortle over, something that is (if you'll forgive the playground nomenclature) "for babies." It is decidedly not cool and since I can see no way to alter public opinion altering Superman's costume seems the safest bet, that is if we want to see the character survive the turn of the next century.
If DC is really serious about getting "people outside on board" (as Dan Didio said in a recent piece in USA Today) with their new digital date and date program one thing they might want to do is rethink the kind of stories they're telling. I know this is a topic I've repeatedly visited but recently I came across a piece on the Comic Book Resources website headlined "Ed Brubaker on Superheroes, Violence and the Villainy of Closure." It contains quotes from an interview Brubaker gave to Tom Spurgeon and the ones that follow make my case for me far better than I ever could.
"[I've] pretty much been given free rein on Captain America and Daredevil and all the stuff I've written for Marvel to do whatever I do because they like what I do. Still, I know what I'm doing. I know the superhero comic has to have a fight in it. I know there has to be a bad guy. I know that at the end of the day, the problem will not be solved by talking about it but will be solved by two people punching each other in the face. Although I have gotten away with letting the bad guys win a lot of the time, which is more true, I think."
"Sometimes when I'm writing a superhero story I wonder if they really have to punch each other in the face. Is that really going to solve anything? I feel the same way sometimes when I watch episodes of Law & Order. I'm like, "Yeah, right. You found the sex offender and now everything is fine." TV is big on closure, but I think closure is horse**** in real life."
Ed you're absolutely right; it's not realistic but then again neither are superheroes. And while letting the bad guy win might be more true to real life, it sure as hell isn’t entertainment. And as much as you might want to disparage Law & Order if you compare the circulation numbers of comics (see "No Titles over 100K Again") to its viewership you might get the impression that people actually like their silly old closure. I'm not saying that this is the reason more people don’t read comic books, but I think it's definitely a reason.
While it was nice seeing horror (Frankenstein, Agent of Shade, I, Vampire, Swamp Thing), western (All-Star Western) and war (Blackhawks, Sgt. Rock and the Men of War) titles represented in the DC relaunch I have to admit it would have been nice to have seen a teen title on the list. Not that I ever realistically ever expected to see one, not when a regular Jimmy Olson has been deemed "uncommercial." But then it occurred to me there was a way you could have both.
Hapless redheaded Jimmy is, essentially, the DC Universe version of Archie Andrews anyway so why not do a revival where he's a teen again? He could work part-time at The Daily Planet while attending a Metropolis High populated by new incarnations of Binky, Buzzy, Debbie and the rest of the DC teens. Keep all of the fantastic elements and they’ve got themselves the basis for a new CW young adult series that could replace Smallville.
Of course one thing that would definitely have to go is his signal watch. Ask anyone under twenty for the time and most likely they'll check their cell phone so, why not give Jimmy a super smart phone, one with an app for Superman (i.e. an ultra sonic ring tone) and a 'S' shield insignia skin on it. Plus, it's also has a camera; I'm guessing that will come in handy...
And, finally, Mike Boze was good enough to comment on last week's column, specifically on my comment about being happy to see the Barbara Gordon Batgirl back (see "Mike Boze of Hawghead Comics on DCâÂ€Â™s Relaunch"). I know that there’s an entire generation out there who only know Barbara as Oracle and I’ll even concede that Barbara is a much stronger character than the one I grew up with. But I honestly don’t see how putting her back in tights in any way diminishes The Killing Joke. But ultimately you can't argue with sentiment; my loyalty will always be with the Batgirl Yvonne Craig (*sigh*) portrayed on the 60's Batman TV series.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by ICv2 on June 14, 2011 @ 6:45 pm CT