Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A guest post from Chris Haley

I know this is going to seem silly to some of you and like too much information for others, so bear with me. I'm not trying to tell you what to do or how to think, I'm just telling you about myself.

To be honest, there are times when it seems that my entire life has just been a series of "going through some stuff" moments.
The details aren't really important, and the full extent of these "moments" are unknown to even those closest to me.
There have been times when these "moments", or what amounts to the "contents" of my life, have left me with a kind of sadness that I would not wish on anyone.

But..

I have always found my way out of those times, and I am very thankful for that.

More than anything else, there has been one constant in my life, that, in my expert opinion (as I am the world's foremost expert on myself), has instilled in me an unshakable belief that no matter how dark it is or how bad things seem, there is always a way.
That there is always hope.

For my 28 years, that constant has been Superman.

I've tried, ultimately in vain, for years and years to explain what it all means to me. Not just what the character or idea of Superman means, but what he represents to me.

It hasn't been until these last few months that I've really started to understand what I'd previously only felt.
This is due in large part to the work and words of the first person I've ever heard who I feel like understands exactly where I've been coming from all these years.

I've basically pulled the most personally important (to me) quotes from Grant Morrison's recent interviews with Newsarama and strung them together in the way that I feel my brain has retained and latched onto them. (All bold emphasis is mine, not necessarily Grant's.)
I hope you'll take the few minutes to read it.
Last time for a while, I promise..



I see Superman in this series as an Enlightenment figure, a Renaissance idea of the ideal man, perfect in mind, body and intention.

...if we live by imitation, does it not make sense that we might choose to imitate the angels, the gods, the very highest form of being that we can imagine ? Instead of indulging the most brutish, vicious, greedy and ignorant aspects of the human experience, we can, with a little applied effort, elevate the better part of our natures and work to express those elements through our behavior. To do so would probably make us all feel a whole lot better too. Doing good deeds and making other people happy makes you feel totally brilliant, let’s face it.

So we can choose to be the astronaut or the gangster. The superhero or the super villain. The angel or the devil. It’s entirely up to us, particularly in the privileged West, how we choose to imagine ourselves and conduct our lives.

My own work has been an ongoing attempt to repeat the magic word over and over until we all become the kind of superheroes we’d all like to be.



It’s a pretty high–level attempt by some smart people to do the Superman concept some justice, is all I can say. It’s intended to work as a set of sci–fi fables that can be read by children and adults alike. I’d like to think you can go to it if you’re feeling suicidal, if you miss your dad, if you’ve had to take care of a difficult, ailing relative, if you’ve ever lost control and needed a good friend to put you straight, if you love your pets, if you wish your partner could see the real you...All Star is about how Superman deals with all of that.

In today’s world, in today’s media climate designed to foster the fear our leaders like us to feel because it makes us easier to push around. In a world where limp, wimpy men are forced to talk tough and act ‘badass’ even though we all know they’re shitting it inside. In a world where the measure of our moral strength has come to lie in the extremity of the images we’re able to look at and stomach. In a world, I’m reliably told, that’s going to the dogs, the real mischief, the real punk rock rebellion, is a snarling, ‘fuck you’ positivity and optimism. Violent optimism in the face of all evidence to the contrary is the Alpha form of outrage these days.

I have a desire not to see my culture and my fellow human beings fall helplessly into step with a middle class media narrative that promises only planetary catastrophe, as engineered by an intrinsically evil and corrupt species which, in fact, deserves everything it gets.

Is this relentless, downbeat insistence that the future has been cancelled really the best we can come up with? Are we so fucked up we get off on terrifying our children? It’s not funny or ironic anymore and that’s why we wrote All Star Superman the way we did.

What I hope is that people take from it the unlikelihood that a piece of paper, with little ink drawings of figures, with little written words, can make you cry, can make your heart soar, can make you scared, sad, or thrilled.

That piece of paper is inert material, the corpse of some tree, pulped and poured, then given new meaning and new life when the real hours and real emotions that the writer and the artist, the colourist, the letter the editor translated onto the physical page, meet with the real hours and emotions of a reader, of all readers at once, across time, generations and distance.

And think about how that experience, the simple experience of interacting with a paper comic book, along with hundreds of thousands of others across time and space, is an actual doorway onto the beating heart of the imminent, timeless world of “Myth” as defined above. Not just a drawing of it but an actual doorway into timelessness and the immortal world where we are all one together.



My grief over the loss of my dad can be Superman’s grief, can trigger your own grief, for your own dad, for all our dads. The timeless grief that’s felt by Muslims and Christians and Agnostics alike. My personal moments of great and romantic love, untainted by the everyday, can become Superman’s and may resonate with your own experience of these simple human feelings.

In the one Mythic moment we’re all united, kissing our Lover for the First time, the Last time, the Only time, honouring our dear Dad under a blood red sky, against a darkening backdrop, with Mum telling us it’ll all be okay in the end.


This is what I believe in.
I believe in Superman.
And because I believe in him..
I believe in myself.
I believe in hope.
I believe that we can be the people we've been waiting for.
I believe that if we're willing to, that every one of us can make a difference.





Chris Haley is SIB family.* If you're a regular reader you've seen me mention him a dozen times and know this already. See him conquer the impossible and make friends with him.



*I keep saying that like it's a compliment. I'm pretty sure all it really means is DC puts you on their enemies list right next to me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In case you've forgotten


At Earth's End is still the worst comic book ever.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So...

I finally feel SIB is back in full swing after a few false starts. I hope you guys are enjoying it. As I get the time, I'll be making some changes around here. Making the tags better, for one.

One thing, if you've tried to get in touch with me, the sayitbackwards@gmail account the blog used to use has long since been abandoned; after the auctions last year it just became unreadable with spam from having been passed around so much. If you want to get in touch with me, the site's new official email will be accident79@gmail.com. Please feel free to contact me with any thing you care to share.

Let's see, what else have we got... Hi to my regular commenters Richmond and Elliot. The rest of you should be more like them and comment more often.

I installed google analytics and now I'm obsessed with the numbers. Every time I'm reminded it's not people I've given the link to personally I'm a little wowed.

I'm doing well, personally, for those who have been asking. My family's still a little shaken up, but we're getting better. My job's okay, which was stressing me out something fierce before, but not so much these days.

I'll be bringing back the 'Free stuff!' thing I used to do. But in a different way. I'll post about that later.

That's about it. Usual shenanigans are afoot.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An open letter.


Dear Comic Book Industry Professional Artists,

If you draw your characters with creepy "I'm watching you sleep" bug eyes and grins copied directly from Satan's ventriloquist dummy, I'm going to to keep calling them creepy. Just ask the usually awesome Gary Frank.

Sincerely,
Thomas W. Denton, esq.



(Panels above from Infinite Crisis penciled by Phil Jimenez and inked by Jerry Ordway. Both usually very good, but man their styles do not mesh.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Guest Post Mondays - Youri Zoutman


I don't think I loved Superman before Tommy started SIB. I always liked him, as a kid I hated having blonde curly hair because I wanted to be like Clark Kent. Or maybe it was Bruce Wayne. But this is a Superman blog, so CK it is!

But yeah, until Tommy went all Yay Superman, I didn't quite realize how much I love him.

My favourite Superman books (so far) is probably a tie between Superman For All Seasons, Superman: Birthright and, of course, All Star Superman.

Superman For All Seasons is really Loeb at his best. Each season focuses on a different character, Spring for Jonathan , Summer for Lois Lane, Fall for Lex Luthor and Winter for Lana Lang. Just great stuff, with terrific art by Tim Sale.

Superman: Birthright is of course Mark Waid's turn to do the origin of Superman, incorporating some elements from (ugh) Smallville, but he manages to pull it off. It's a shame that DC doesn't let Waid write Superman full time. I think it could easily be a definitive run if he ever did.

All Star Superman you all know, Morrison and Quitely doing their thing. AWESOMELY.

Just a fantastic story, where Morrison cherry picks his favourite weird events from past Superman comics.

All three of these books focus on either the early days of Superman or the core of the character, the core heroics.



Youri Zoutman is one of the reasons SIB is here. He's SIB family. His enthusiasm and support early on was one of the things that's kept me writing this thing, and he is awesome. You can follow him and his adventures at his blog here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

God bless ebay

Five random Superman related things on ebay that no one should ever, ever buy, ever:



An action figure of Shaq with a jet pack



Brand new custom made women's Superman gstring with pretty white lace trim


Superman lunch kit with cape.


GAY HOMOSEXUAL SUPERMAN BATMAN COMIC BOOK WARREN ELLIS!


A naked Supergirl statue.
There is no picture here because sadly, I'm not kidding and that is a very not safe for work link.

(The Shaq figure? I secretly really do want it but can't make myself buy it. I'm so ashamed.)

Something wonky happened





And people couldn't see the blog last night. All fixed now.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who, disguised as Clark Kent...


I thought I'd give a quick response to Gabriel's excellent guest post. Part of what I love about having others write things up for SIB is that they present opinions and ideas totally different from my own.

Who is real, Clark Kent or Superman? John Byrne and the creators who followed say Clark. Mark Millar and the Fleischers say Superman. I say every one's missing the mark by limiting things and basing their arguments on one flawed notion; that there is only one Clark Kent.

As I see Superman, there is one guy. One personality. The guy he is in private, the guy he is around the Kents. Clark Kent. But as he begins his costumed adventuring, he begins to make the Clark Kent the public sees more mild mannered, letting his real personality come out as Superboy/man. But the Clark at home is the same old guy he ever was, and the same guy who now wears the cape. So as things progress, Superman becomes more who he really is. Not this is a change in who he is, it's just where he's allowed to be himself more frequently.

Clark Kent AND Superman are who he really is, but Clark's also the disguise. Two Clarks, one the same as Supes, one not.

Also, Tarantino couldn't have been more wrong witht hat Kill Bill diatribe. Superman would never make fun of us.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

If thirty years ago today...

You were to have purchased the most recent issue of every comic on the stands featuring Superman, you would see him:



Battle a space dragon that had taken the form of an ancient warrior from Krypton.



Contend with Mister Mxyzptlk after being turned into a lizard man.



Team with Batman to stop a Kryptonian werewolf



Fight an unstoppable monster with his teenage club of super heroes from the future.



Have a ridiculous secret revealed.



Have his body snatched.



Get smacked by some trees.


And challenge an evil ice alien with Wonder Woman.

And if you did buy all those comics on this day 30 years ago, you could have given them to an hours old me. So I could drool on them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Guest Post Mondays- Gabriel Mckee and Clark Kent





Superman disguises himself as Clark Kent. Right? It says it right
there in the opening of the George Reeves TV series. "Disguised as
Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan
newspaper." Kent is the mask, and Superman is the identity.

Or is he?

With Batman, this is certainly the case. Bruce Wayne is an elaborate
charade designed to disguise Batman-- the creature born out of a
child's anger over his dead parents. Grant Morrison, for one,
subscribes to this view, which is why his JLA run virtually never
shows Batman out of costume. "Costume" isn't even an appropriate term
in this case-- it's Wayne who is the costume; Batman is Batman 24
hours a day, regardless of what he's wearing.

Things aren't like that with Superman. He has incredible powers, but
at heart he's a Kansas farmboy. Lois Lane, who knows him best, still
calls him "Smallville." That's who he really is: a shy, nice guy-- you
could even say "mild-mannered"-- who still calls his mother on the
phone every night (when he's not flying back home to help her make
dinner). We see this most clearly in the relationship between Clark
and Lois in the first two Superman movies. Lois falls for Superman
instantly, but he doesn't immediately reciprocate, even though we know
he's interested. No, before he lets her into his heart she needs to
accept not Superman, but Clark. Superman is a tough facade protecting
the fragile kid from Kansas, a guy who's never been able to fit in.

In Superman's brief appearances in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, it's this
not-fitting-in that's emphasized. Superman is a lonely god, unable to
connect with the inhabitants of the planet he protects because he is
too far above them. He can count the atoms in our atmosphere-- we can
never understand a being that possesses that kind of power, and he can
never be one of us. It's an intriguing interpretation of the
character, and it's probably one of my favorite bits from his entire
run on Swamp Thing-- but it's wrong. Superman's abilities do set him
apart from humanity, but that hasn't made him into the distant alien
that Moore presents. Instead, Clark makes active attempts to make
himself more human, kind of like Data on Star Trek: The Next
Generation. And, like Data, it's the quest that completes his
humanity. Clark Kent is set apart from humanity, but that results not
in distance but emotional vulnerability-- which is his most human
characteristic.

I can't talk about Superman without talking about incarnational
theology-- that's just the kind of geek I am. Alan Moore's idea of
Superman is a gnostic one. In gnostic Christian writings, Jesus is all
God, and not human at all, to the extent that he doesn't even have a
physical body. He is so far above us that he is purely spiritual,
without any physical aspect. The strains of Christianity that became
dominant argued against these gnostic ideas by emphasizing that Jesus
was "wholly God and wholly man," that his divine aspect does not
eclipse his humanity. Jesus may have had amazing abilities, but at
heart he was just a kid from a small town who loved his mom. Just like
Clark Kent.




Thank you so much, Gabriel, for contributing. You can read more of Gabriel's thoughts at his genuinely fascinating blogs (which i've pouring over lately); Sci-Fi Gospel and Holy Heroes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Superman in the 90s


Remember Superman? He's back! In pog form.

I'm on a 90s Superman kick because I've made a lot of snap judgments about the era without having read much of it. So in the last month and half or so I've read about a dozen 90s Superman collections. Here are some quickie reviews, and to spice things up several images of Superman also from the 90s.


Exile - I hate the set up that get him into space, but it's pretty fun once he's there.

Panic in the Sky - Sucks. Imagine Our Worlds At War only shorter and worse.

They Saved Luthor's Brain! - This one's fun, and I love the title.


Death of Superman - Sucks, but I still contend Doomsday is a great monster/design.

World Without a Superman - The funeral issues. Boring.

Return of Superman - A lot of fun, actually.

The Wedding and Beyond - Boring.


The Death of Clark Kent - One of the worst Superman stories ever

Superman Vs the Revenge Squad - Also one of the worst ever

Trial of Superman - Another Superman in space story, and it works too. They really work when they do Superman BIG, shame they didn't more often.

Bizarro's World - Poor take on Superman, EXCELLENT take on Bizarro. Breaks your heart and makes you laugh, he does.

If you guys want a proper in depth review of any of these, just say the word and I'll put one together.

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