Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Superman: Birthright


Ok, I read Superman: Birthright finally. I know there has been discussion of this for some time.

I liked it a lot. Although, I think reading the proposal Mark Waid wrote that's in the back first would actually have improved it.

Apparently, a number of rabid John Byrne fans, a group of which I am certainly not a member, take umbrage to the changes made to the Man of Steel origin. This is, of course, fanboy idiocy at it's most obvious. Byrne, largely successfully, updated nearly fifty years of Superman continuity and made one single continuity and some nice moderizations to fit in with what the '80s needed in their Superman.

Waid takes on the much smaller task of tweaking the edges of Byrne's origin to update it for a younger generation, much more like Byrne's less successful "Spider-Man Chapter One" series. Here Waid takes elements from the original Siegel/Shuster stories as well as their Superboy stories and focuses them through a kind Smallville-styled lense.

Now, let me explain something. I think the Silver Age Superman is the best. I'm a total dork and multi-colored forms of Kryptonite and cackling purple jump suit Lex Luthor fighting the Big Blue Boy Scout is what Superman comics ought to be in my mind.

I also, however, believe that the Golden Age Siegel/Shuster version was the best way to resonate with its generation and it morphed into the Silver Age which, in turn, was revamped for a new age by Byrne, so it's time to look at the mythology through the eyes of a new generation. Here Waid seems to have put a lot of thought into the matter. He's not only considered what a new generation needs in a Superman in quite reasonable terms, he's drawn elements from all the previous Superman incarnations and built it from there.

So, as a revamp, I think it's nearly perfect.

As a story... the choice to tell the story in and around the existing origin was a clever one, but one that ultimately works against this one telling a strong story of its own. It feels a bit meandering. This would be fine, I suppose, if I felt this revamp had weight. Without Waid writing the regular series, how much of this new style is a part of the current title? Honestly, I don't know. I haven't been reading it and this still doesn't put me in a mood to start.

I can't help thinking that some of the characters like Superman don't work as well in regular series anymore. The big things are what make him what he is and they fall flat when month after month he's experiencing another big thing. When the stories with the greatest resonance seem mostly to be retelling of old stories or Elseworlds then something is wrong that Mark Waid probably can't fix.

For another thing, for a book that wants to sell a new Superman to a new generation, who is out there selling this to them? It's on a shelf where only bitter 30-something who wish John Byrne would go back to writing the Fantastic Four can look it over and gripe, but how is it getting to "Smallville" viewers who haven't read a comic book in ten years?

I dunno. It seems like a really good start to something no one's ever going to finish. I guess we'll see what Bryan Singer ends up doing.

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