Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Cover date: February 2007
Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Artist: Tim Sale
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Tony Gallo sets up his dinner with Lois to help her in creating an article (so he thinks) positive about his Casino. She wins the bet from last issue, even getting the car ride.
She makes the date for tomorrow so she can be with Superman tonight (Or Clark? Note from reviewer: It's unclear to me if she's dating Clark or Superman, as I don't know what framework of continuity this is, and last issue she was with Superman only. Perhaps this might be a question better left to an editor. If only they'd respond to such questions...).
Regardless as to who she's meeting, Lois prepares as Superman has to cope with a raging volcano. Jimmy releases him after a long day, and he goes to fight the force of nature he watched previously last issue.
He fails to stop it with a giant rock, so he burrows in, almost drowning in lava. Eventually he succeeds, but at the cost of not being there for Lois, who reschedules to visit with Gallo.
Clark explains how he almost drowned, and filled his lungs with lava before bursting out and scaring people, with one woman so scared she jumped into the lava, and a dog that catches fire.
Pa pulls Clark aside and tells him that he did right, but not to tell Martha when he nearly dies, because Pa can be there for him and she likes to remain purposefully ignorant.
Superman meets Lois after her date with Gallo, seemingly distraught.
Story - 4: The story itself is pretty much flawless, so don't take the knock of a point to mean I blame Cooke for my beef, though perhaps in all honesty if any one writer pushed for an explanation or a definition of the terms of this continuity and then sat down to tell the fan community what it is, it might be alleviated.
This is a great story. It's a tale of Superman frustrated at his inability to save everyone early in his career, and of trying to juggle doing right with the things he desires, like staying alive or dating Lois or his job, or heck, even rest.
It's a great social criticism, when Lois mentions fair and balanced and then we realize she's trying to put a puff piece on a bad man in order to make him look good (as Gallo sees it) but then we see that coupled with the irony that because it's Lois she's using that hedonistic media style to undo the man. Great scene.
It shows Lois as a powerful, intelligent woman who's doing exactly what powerful, intelligent women do. Taking charge, doing what they believe is right, and using every power at her disposal to do the best job she can.
I love that.
It's a family story, and it's a tale of finding weakness.
This story, so far, is incredible.
And this WILL NOT GO AWAY,
BUT, this is still a story in the context of a continuity, and as such that continuity wears and rubs on this great story and pulls you out at times, which I find reprehensible to do to such a grand project.
Be it because the creators don't care about continuity, be it because the editors can't decide on a continuity, or be it because a continuity is there but we're not told which is definitive and "our" universe and what is Elseworlds and Morrison fun, it WEARS. This will not stop until a creator confronts it, and I know from fan response that this is not just me winding my gears.
For instance, there are indications that the rock is Brainiac, speaking from the fact that it's sentient and seeks information and has dormant programming. If so, what does this do to the Milton Fine thing?
But Neal, it's a different continuity?
Okay, so it is. Then why, if in this new continuity we now know Superman had powers from infancy, does he suddenly have the Byrne style limitation of not being able to hold his breath indefinitely?
But Neal, this is before he gained the ability to hold his breath indefinitely!
Yeah, but that happened before Brainiac turned into a sentient computer, and if he's a sentient computer now, this isn't Byrne continuity.
But Neal, he might have had powers from birth but still not been able to hold his breath indefinitely!
Okay. Maybe. But in all those lines of thought, somewhere the story is somewhat lost by editors who refuse to take responsibility for the history and make guidance of it, as is their duty.
There's also the impact, beyond the technicalities, of how it impacts character.
Lois, for instance, is either a cold-hearted shrew or a kind and understanding character based in continuity.
We see her date SUPERMAN, but not Clark. So that means she's either dating Superman not knowing it's Clark, or dating Superman knowing it's Clark.
We don't know, because there's no coherent framework of continuity and the writer doesn't tell us yet.
So as of this issue, you can see two different Lois', and not know how to react because of no coherent framework.
First, she's an opportunistic gold-digger who treats Superman like garbage, because she's using her sexuality to get a story, and then when Superman isn't there to entertain her at her whimsy she sacrifices him for a mobster and then lets him peck her on the cheek, knowing Superman is probably looking for her. That's if she's only dating Supes, in which case we're in the "Superman is courting Lois" stage, where Superman keeps trying to be there for her, but because Lois is stubborn and Superman has to be places, she's almost on the verge of breaking it off with him constantly.
Which begs the question, well, does that change if she knows Clark is Superman?
Yes, by quite a bit, because then the entirety of the above could be the fact that she knows that as Superman he has things he has to do, and so they have an unspoken code that if he disappears (per their marriage and subsequent resolution of this "Where WERE you?" debacle) she's to go on living her life and doing her job, in which case she simply went out with Gallo when Superman didn't show because she knew that Clark has a duality of life to attend to, etcetera.
This wears on the story, because you don't know whether to feel sympathetic to Lois or to hate her.
This would also not be present if we only knew what the hell was going on with continuity in any way.
And I'm frankly sick of having to account for that in these reviews. That's not my job, it's the job of DC to set out a narrative framework that's coherent. So yeah, I'm going to continue to yell about it until they do something about it.
Art - 5: Sale continues to create some beautiful work. I think this is my favorite Lois of all time, actually. She reminds me a lot of the Kerchl one I liked so much, where she looks like a real, honest woman you'd meet on the street, but still breathtakingly beautiful. This is about my perfect kind of woman as imagined through the comic medium.
Jimmy's a scrapper, Clark is very much definitive, and the setting is poetic and well-done. I'm loving the work put in here.
Cover Art - 5: Again with the great Lois, the symbolic background with great coloring, these covers are still blowing me away. Great work.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2007.