Monday, June 30, 2014

Against the Death Penalty

Social Crusader and Sci-Fi Adventurer

How do you make Superman relatable? 

If you answered one of the following below than you may have gotten a closer representation of the American icon after viewing last year’s Man of Steel than the one I believe in.

            Chris Cornell background music brooder

            Budweiser beer drinker

            Getting called “dick spaz” as an adolescent

            Letting Dances with Wolves become Dances with Twister

            Jesus (Gotta hit the audience on the head with that one multiple times. Subtlety is lost on Snyder)

            Smile only once in costume

            Snap the villain’s neck (A little at odds with the whole “He’s really Jesus” thing, no?

            Snap the villain’s neck
            Snap the villain’s neck
                   Neck. Snap.

Relatable… really? I’ve never had to kill anyone. I don’t think it’s very likely I’ll be in situation that requires me to decide between life and death. I have no interest in firing a gun, drone, or any other projectile weapon upon a member of the animal kingdom. Call me an East Coast liberal bleeding heart, but to borrow a phrase from one writer of word balloons, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

When it comes to power, Batman is Warner’s money maker. What makes him more relatable than Supes? I hate hearing “he’s got no superpowers!” Bruce Wayne is a rich guy who selflessly cares and protects the innocent. That’s a superpower!

I love my Batman. Sure, he’s just a man, but he will always require a greater suspension of disbelief than Superman. Batman is a wonderful adolescent power trip. Sleep all day, stay out all night chasing fetish babes on rooftops, having your father figure still make your bed and meals, being adored by your younger brother, and the car… “Chicks dig the car.”

“Clark Kent has a boss”—Grant Morrison

All Star Superman #1     Don't mess with Perry White

When I first read that in an interview while still in college I realized how much Superman is Everyman. Batman will never settle down. Superman can’t wait to marry Lois (again). Bruce Wayne’s teen years were spent becoming ninja James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. Clark had to work a part time job to have enough money for renting a tux so he could take Lana Lang to the prom.

I don’t want to see sad Superman, beer Superman, or killer Superman. If Hollywood really wanted a fresh take on the character they should have checked out Grant Morrison’s relaunch of Action Comics for the New 52. Of course he had me from the start when Morrison said he was going for a Bruce Springsteen Superman. “Tramps like us.” Jeans and a t-shirt. Visually, very different, and so was the guy behind the S. Young, brash, and cocky in the best way. He got to be reckless and cut loose. It’s been too long since the world got to see a tough and confident Superman. 


 Since 9/11 fiction has had it bad for the post traumatic or emo hero. Not only comics like Idenity Crisis and The Ultimates, and the rest of Mark Millar’s resume, but TV’s 24 and Lost had more posturing and indecisiveness than in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Heroes become less heroic and villains get more sympathetic. Think of all the Breaking Bad addicts I’m sure were sore Bryan Cranston won’t be the next Lex Luthor.

Action Comics #1
I have no issue with audiences relating to the villain. Magneto, a freaking holocaust survivor gets all the pity I can allow up to a point, but the cut off point is genocide, something Magneto (Not Ian Mckellen) is totally down with. Least we forget is the leader of the Brotherhood of EVIL Mutants! 

My frustration is with the writers, companies, and network/film execs tearing down society’s last examples of moral virtue. When a Wolverine movie has a lower body count than Man of Steel we know we’re really not in Kansas anymore. The real people that get paid to bully fictional characters under the belief that Iron Man, Green Arrow, and Supes need to kill because it’s more realistic is a self defeating battle. Superheroes aren’t real and aren’t bound by the rules and physics of reality.

Let’s look into the very first issue of Action Comics 1938. Superman saves an innocent person from being executed. What honestly separated the superhero from the pulp noir avengers and detectives was a code of not killing. Sure, there’s the badly drawn first year of Bob Kane Batman, and propaganda WWII when killing enemies of the state or nation was commonplace, but for the majority of their 75 year history killing is a no no for superheroes.
Back in the heyday of the great Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow they told the story of what would happen if a superhero caused someone to unintentionally die. The hero Green Arrow should have stuck with his trick arrows. Nevertheless, GA was so wrought with guilt he ended up shaving his head, but keeping the goat beard and joining a mountain monastery to atone for his sins. 

"The Killing of an Archer!" circa 1972

Since then a lot of bad writers have had Green Arrow ditch the boxing glove or handcuff arrow for a sure kill shot.

With that said, Season 2 of TV’s Arrow was a great turnaround from the boring watered down Batman clone of the first season. It started out with a new mission statement and promise of trick arrows and no killing. Sure, it stumbled a little (killing Veritgo, Laurel still being a damsel and the flattest character, Amanda Waller & Suicide Squad), but I can’t deny I didn’t look forward each week to seeing the show really become a well made superhero show by the end finale, cumulating in the hero not killing the villain, as well as a season packed with Black Canary love, Roy Harper becoming Red Arrow, Barry (I've seen the amazing Flash pilot) Allen, Summer Glau as Ravager, Dr. T.M. Morrow (Season 3 crossover with The Flash, please have the supers fight Amazo), and Deathstroke being big enough of a Big Bad to qualify as page to live action perfect!

A bit of a ramble, but I think it boils down to this…

Arrow S2 > Man of Steel

 and some Irish Punk Rock for good measure.

“I could be a soldier
Go out there and fight to save this land
Be a people's soldier
Paramilitary gun in hand
I won't be no soldier
I won't take no orders from no-one
Stuff their f*#%ing armies
Killing isn't my idea of fun”


  1. Hah! Perfect points here. If you're going to have a hero who doesn't kill, he CAN'T FREAKING KILL (on purpose). The Death of an Archer was a great example of when the paradigm itself fails, everything else comes when the writers fail the paradigm.

    I still haven't watched Season 2 -- I tend to wait for Netflix. But I'm itching to see what they've done and am actually surprised how much I'm enjoying a DC title about a character I nominally know little about...

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    As much as I dig Green Arrow, I can't think too many great stories that have him in a solo act. Since his 70s reinvention as an ex millionaire on a soapbox fighting it out with the more conservative Green Lantern, he really shines as a "Fat Cat" hating character when he's surrounding by the Justice League or the Republican National Convention, or in brief cameos ala TDKR. I give the makers of Arrow a lot of credit for being able to make Ollie the main focus, though they wisely create a "City of Heroes" in S2. That's all I'll say for spoilers

    1. I knew little about Green Arrow before Arrow. Only guest star appearances (and then, the biggest part I've actually read that included him was TDKR, so not a great example). I've followed up after the show -- still not interested in the character, but very happy with the show.

      I dislike archers in comics, for some reason, but over the past year have come to love the show Arrow and the current Hawkeye comic. Obviously there is talented writing and storytelling that's the big pull, but it does seem like a strange, pointy convergence for me.

      But still. A bow and arrow? Come on.

    2. Lol. Just a little suspension of disbelief is required. But then again, I grew up watching Kevin Costner a lot as Robin Hood on cassette, along with the Disney Fox version so I had a soft spot of archers long before I was introduced to Tolkien in school.

      I was able to check out the first volume of the recent Hawkeye run when I was home last. Amazing that all Matt Fraction and the artist had to do to make Hawkeye appealing to me for the first time was to get him out of that horrible purple suit and let the guy relax in sweatpants on his days off from the Avengers. Really smart stuff. I just had a little prob with Clint seemingly kill off a mobster with a playing card in the 1st or 2nd issue.