How the New Superman is Like the Classic


When the New 52 launched about a year ago, there was definitely a lot of argument about how much some characters have changed. None was more controversial, perhaps, than Superman. Now as we look back, I’d like to offer why I think Grant Morrison’s depiction is closer to the original than we think. And by ‘original’ I am not referring to the one you probably grew up with, but the 1930s Superman of the first Action Comics.
In Grant Morrision’s book, “Supergods”, which I will have a review for later this month, he brakes down the assumption that he was always the defender of “truth, justice, and the American way”, instead, offering that Superman in the late 30s was characterized as the “champion of the oppressed”. The mantra we all know didn’t become a part of Superman until we were deep in World War 2, in which there is were a few issues that pitted Superman against armies of Axis Powers. This is why Lex was the perfect villain for him before the war. Nothing was more opposite the Man of Steel than a money-hungry profiteer. Superman, like The early Batman, was much more aggressive. As example: the controversial scene last year, where Superman is hanging a man off the side of a wall to get information. Grant Morrison recalls an exactly the same scenario in the early Action Comics. That apparently wasn’t “changing the classic” as much as copying it almost verbatim.
Another similarity is the recent (Action Comics #10) revelation that Superman is more concerned about the plight of humanity than the protection of the American dream. This was also a trait of the early Superman. He was often stopping to comment of fighting hunger and stopping social injustices. It seems like a more global Superman than we are used to, but that was a trait of his earliest persona. Just like as Batman moved forward from “line-crossing. vigilante” (who apparently carried a gun a few times) to a stand-up citizen, working with the police, and using bat-shark repellant; Superman moved from action-taking champion of the oppressed and enemy of the bureaucrat, to reminding kids to brush their teeth, and answering the president’s phone calls.
One last similarity that is the most well known, at least among DC fans, is his power set. Just like in the early days. He doesn’t “fly” exactly. He jumps through the air and runs. This you may recall from the early tag line: “Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” Notice that it doesn’t say, “able to fly over tall buildings”. It was later that people would look in the sky and confuse a flying man in a cape, for a bird and a plane. Also, like his legacy, the power to be completely invincible has yet to become reality. Small shell bullets don’t penetrate him, but large shells knock him out! The military used this against him in the 30s with tank rounds; And Lex did it in our generation with a train.
So, as you can see. Grant Morrison is the perfect writer for the new Action Comics, not because he likes to make huge changes for publicity; but because he has done so much prior research and truly understands the legacy that is “Action Comics”.


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