Superman Comic Books
WASHINGTON TIMESMay 21, 2004
Superman returns to defend communism?By David Eldridge
As a pop icon, he's as big as they get. So why is it so hard to find someone who'll just come right out and say they love Superman?
Batman fans don't hesitate to wear that wicked-cool bat logo on their T-shirts. Those "Star Wars" freaks come out of the woodwork every couple of years, inexplicably drawn to the latest Phantom-Clone-Jedi mess.
Beatles fans are everywhere. People still buy Marilyn Monroe and James Dean posters. The classic triumvirate of monsterdom - Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman - they're are all on top again, starring in the summer's first hit, Universal Pictures' "Van Helsing."
Other than Jerry Seinfeld, though, nobody seems to care much about Superman. Oh, he's still out there, saving the world in every other issue, flying across the odd lunchbox here and there.
In the primary-colored pages of Action Comics, Superman could squash Peter Parker like, well ... like a spider. But in the world of pop culture, Spidey is kicking Supes' red-underwear-clad rear. It's not even a fair fight, folks.
"Spider-Man 2"? Just this summer's half-billion-dollar blockbuster-in-waiting.
The Marvel Comics heroes have been enjoying a renaissance lately, ringing up huge box office, brought to big-screen life by reverential filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, a self-confessed lifelong Peter Parker fan, and Kevin Smith, with his note-for-note recreation of legendary comics writer and artist Frank Miller's classic Daredevil stories of the early 1980s.
Meanwhile, Superman, the biggest kid on the superhero block, seems completely earthbound, slogging through low-budget small-screen dreck such as ABC's "Lois and Clark" in the 1990s and the WB network's current "Smallville," a darn-near-unwatchable series featuring Clark as a joyless and insufferably boring teenager putting thousands of Nielsen families to sleep every week.
It's hard to feel sorry for Superman. He's still Superman, after all. Real strong. Can fly. Got that X-ray-vision thing, don't forget. But "Smallville" comes close to doing the trick.
Still, it's not the worst.
No, the worst has to be "Red Son," the DC Comics graphic novel released this month that asks, "What if Superman had grown up a communist?"
That's right. Superman, all in red, with a hammer and a sickle on his chest instead of that big, glorious "S."
The author of "Red Son," a Glasgow, Scotland comic-book writer by the name of Mark Millar, transforms the Superman story by having the infant refugee from planet Krypton crash-land not in the American Midwest but in the middle of the Soviet republic of Ukraine.
Instead of fighting for truth, justice and the American way, Superman grows up in Stalin's USSR, serving history's most prolific mass murderer (conveniently glossed over) in the battle against the global evils of capitalism - personified by American industrialist and longtime Superman arch-nemesis Lex Luthor.
Mr. Millar, who earned his name in the comics biz by introducing the world's first homosexual superheroes, said in an interview that he wanted to turn the whole Superman story upside down.
And while he was writing, he realized that what he really wanted to do was create an "Orwellian fable" about what a danger modern-day, single-superpower America poses to the rest of the world.
"How do you stop a man who declares a war on evil when he's backed up by more weapons than the rest of the world combined? Texans are invulnerable to Kryptonite, unfortunately," he wrote in an article that appeared in Scotland's Sunday Times.
At the end of the graphic novel, a Balkanized America is run by gangsters, and communist Superman commits suicide.
Wow. Kind of a downer ending. Hope "Spider-Man 2" doesn't go that route this summer. I sorta like my heroes a little more... uh ... heroic.
The Scot's got one thing right, though. It's a thankless job embodying America's most idealistic image of itself - strong and fair and indomitable.
Save the world a couple of times over, and what do you get? Batman's always sneering at your sense of duty. Wonder Woman won't give you the time of day. And then there's always some cynic like Mr. Millar who wants to be The One Who Destroyed Superman.
Like the America he represents, though, the guy in the cape keeps picking himself up, dusting himself off and going about the business of doing what needs to be done.
What's not to love?
My Email to Mr EldridgeDear Mr Eldridge,
I came across your article titled "Superman returns to defend communism?" from the May 21st edition of the Washington Times. And I must say you obviously didn't do much research for your article, if any at all.
I run a popular Superman website called The Superman Homepage located at www.SupermanHomepage.com. My site receives on average around 4,500 unique visitors a day!
Superman comics are currently ranked No. 1 in the industry. See this website for proof: http://www.digitalwebbing.com/cbem/topselling.html
"Smallville" the TV show is The WB's highest ranking TV series.
The "Superman: Red Son" graphic novels did NOT end the way you portrayed it in your article. In reality, the ending of "Superman: Red Son" was quite heroic. Superman keeps the Earth from being destroyed by a Brainiac plot. And the "American" ideals actually won at the end. It's a good story. I recommend you actually read it.
Mark Millar is no cynic. He's a major Superman fan who has written many of the best Superman stories over the past few years. Your lack of research obviously didn't lead you to learn much about the "Elseworlds" series of comics published by DC Comics and their premise. Pity.
It's obvious you wrote your article to simply jump on the coattails of the TIME Magazine article recently published. If you'd done your own research you would have found that there are not only hundreds of Superman fan sites out there on the Internet, but that there is also an annual Superman Celebration about to take place in Metropolis Illinois, a city which has a 15 foot Superman statue in the middle of the town square, the Superman Museum, and is visited by tens of thousands of Superman fans from all over the globe during the 4 day festival. I myself travelled from Australia to Illinois last year to attend.
Next time you decide to write an article about Superman I'd strongly advise you actually attempt to contact a Superman fan. There not hard to find. Believe me!
Mr Eldridge's Response to my EmailMr. Younis,
"WASHINGTON TIMES DISSES SUPERMAN!" Are you completely nuts? Did you even bother to read the damn article? I am a lifelong comics fan and I happen to love Superman. I wrote the article because I was disgusted by some wise-acre European comics writer using Superman - MY SUPERMAN - to take a political swipe at George W. Bush. So I don't like "Smallville." So WHAT. I got about 50 e-mails from your web-page fans today and about half of those AGREED with me. The other half acted as though I had criticized Mother Mary. Look, fellow Superman fan: Read the last two paragraphs in the column. I CLEARLY extol the virtues Superman represents and lament the fact that, like America around the world today, he doesn't get enough credit for doing the right thing.
My Second Email to Mr EldridgeMr. Eldridge,
No, I'm completely sane.
Yes, I did read your "damn" article. Unlike you, I do my research.
You're a Superman fan?!? You sure have a strange way of showing it!!!
Your article contained more than simply the last 2 paragraphs. For example, you started with:
"As a pop icon, he's as big as they get. So why is it so hard to find someone who'll just come right out and say they love Superman?"
So in response I and (as you clearly indicate) others, emailed you to make ourselves known. We weren't that hard to find.
Then you said:
"Other than Jerry Seinfeld, though, nobody seems to care much about Superman. Oh, he's still out there, saving the world in every other issue, flying across the odd lunchbox here and there."
"Every other issue" indicates he's barely published. Superman actually appears in 1 or more comics each and every week! The fact that they're currently ranked at the top of the comic book sales charts somehow was left out of your article. Funny that... After all, you couldn't exactly state that and still stick with your opening comment could you?
"the odd lunchbox" indicates he's hardly a merchandisable character. In fact there are hundreds of Superman items available... I should know, I run an online Superman Store at www.SupermanSuperstore.com
"I wrote the article because I was disgusted by some wise-acre European comics writer using Superman - MY SUPERMAN - to take a political swipe at George W. Bush."
Uh, hello! If you did your research properly, you would have known that Mark Millar came up with the concept of this story MANY years ago, before George W. Bush was President. The premise of "Elseworlds" stories is (and I quote) "In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places--some that have existed, and others that can't, couldn't, or shouldn't exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow." Using the "Elseworlds" premise writers have written stories where Superman came to earth in Medieval times, where he was found by Bruce Wayne's parents and not the Kents, where Superman landed on Apokolips and was found by Darkseid, and many other different and alternate settings.
So you don't like "Smallville". Good for you. The fact that thousands of people do is obviously a testament to the character's continuing popularity... something your article seemed to want to quash. Again, you couldn't exactly state that "Smallville" is Warner Bros. highest rating TV show and still claim that it is "hard to find someone who'll just come right out and say they love Superman".
You end your article with:
"Like the America he represents, though, the guy in the cape keeps picking himself up, dusting himself off and going about the business of doing what needs to be done. What's not to love?"
You spend 99% of your article bashing the character, his fans, the TV shows, the lack of a current movie, the comic books, and then you ask "What's not to love?"??? Well gee Mr Eldridge, if I wasn't a Superman fan before your article you sure won me over now. Where would we be without wonderful Superman fans like yourself?
And you had the nerve to call me "nuts"...
Want to email David Eldridge with your own comments? Here's his email address: