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Daniel Gillotte
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 12:52am | IP Logged | 1  

I like the comics blogger Chris Sims a lot. He's funny and often on the money opinion-wise. In this week's Ask Chris section, he gives Mr. Byrne's Man of Steel origin it's proper adulation. (Yes, he overstates the awesomeness of Grant Morrison's All Star Superman origin, but he's right about Man of Steel!) Anyway, I thought some of you might find it interesting...
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Francesco Vanagolli
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 1:41am | IP Logged | 2  

When I read most of JB's comics for Marvel and DC (those he wrote), I always think that he has a sort of "scientific" approach to the characters. He's having fun, of course, loving superheroes, but he is working. So, he thinks. I remember his introduction to Chapter One, where he said that he always tried to "save" what could work even today... and that's what JB does. He recreates, adapts, underlining all of those things which make these characters popculture legends and working for an all agge audience.

This is one of the reasons I love MOS: that story is almost 25 years old, the first time I read it it was already ten years old... but it seemed NEW to me, appealing, exciting. That was "the Superman for 1986", who could work even for the following years. Characters' cloths and hairstyles can be those from the 1980s, but that's a look/graphic matter. The story itself still works pretty well. That's Superman, to me. MY Superman.

I recently read the Secret Origin miniseries and... that doesn't work, for me.
In 2010 I expected Geoff Johns wrote "the Superman for 2010", but it does seem a sort of patchwork... that's my father's Superman plus the first Reeve movie plus some violence to make it modern.
The story was born... already old. Sure, looking at what I've been reading in the other Superman titles in these 3/4 years, that's pure gold...

If I have to choose a modern origin, I prefer Birthright, with all of its bugs.
See for example the vegetarian Clark... shouldn't a farmer get the whole "circle of life" stuff better than anyone else?

Earth-One... no comment. Bad artwork. Ordinary story. But, well, a big guy from tv wrote it, and it nobilitates the poor comic book genre, ain't it?

Morrison's single page: a good recap for those who already know. Now I don't remember if the not given infos are told later in the story, though.
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Marcel Chenier
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 4:09am | IP Logged | 3  

An enjoyable read.  Thanks for sharing!

I wonder what JB's thoughts are on the author's interpretation of his portrayal of Krypton.  JB?


Edited by Marcel Chenier on 04 December 2010 at 4:10am
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Shawn Kane
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 6:26am | IP Logged | 4  

Man of Steel was my entry into the DC Universe and it's still my Superman origin Birthright and Secret Origin be damned.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 8:47am | IP Logged | 5  

…he overstates the awesomeness of Grant Morrison's All Star Superman origin…

••

Including more praise for that one page "synopsis", which, as I have pointed out before, works only if you already know the story. Somewhat typically, Morrison is writing here for those who are already in the club, not offering anything that would serve as an introduction for new members.

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Don Zomberg
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 8:52am | IP Logged | 6  

Fans love creators who don't waste their precious time with words/story/information.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 8:52am | IP Logged | 7  

I wonder what JB's thoughts are on the author's interpretation of his portrayal of Krypton.

••

He's more or less on the money. As a kid, I quickly grew tired of Superman moping after his lost life on Krypton. Sometimes it actually made me uncomfortable, the way he seemed to reject so much of what Jonathan and Martha would have given him.

I wanted to paint Superman as the ultimate immigrant, someone who (not unlike me!) achieved far more in his new world than he would have if he had stayed "home".

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Ted Pugliese
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 8:55am | IP Logged | 8  

...achieved far more in his new world than he would have if he had stayed "home".

I never thought of it that way.  I like that.
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David Kingsley Kingsley
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 10:53am | IP Logged | 9  

I think what I enjoy most about Man of Steel is how streamlined it is. I liked that JB removed conicidences which strained even comics' suspension of disbelief, like Luthor and Superboy both growing up in Smallville and then both travelling to Metrpolis, dozens and dozens of similarly surviving Kryptonians, and that it seemd like sometimes there was more Krypton on Earth than any other element. It's one of the most well-told origin stories in comics.

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Shawn Kane
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 2:50pm | IP Logged | 10  

The thing that Man of Steel did that made me enjoy it much more (and that DC has since gotten rid of) was the fact that Jonathan and Martha both lived and were there if Superman needed advice. I was glad that the Timm-verse continued that in the animated series. Grant Morrison was able to have Jonathan die in All-Star so I was hoping that Geoff Johns would have let him live in the DCU. I guess Richard Donner was that influential....
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Chad Carter
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Posted: 04 December 2010 at 6:24pm | IP Logged | 11  

I don't recall who did the above, but it does speak to anyone already familiar with the origin. It's succinct, but I can't imagine someone coming to superheroes cold having an understanding exactly of what it means.

Reading more DC Comics than ever in my life, especially from the 1970s, I was struck with what should be the most important aspect of the Writer in regards a comic book:

In the '70s and '80s, the splash page generally had a quick written summation of the character's origin. Nothing too specific, just a well-written and almost poetic summation. Marvel did the same, such as this one (perhaps my favorite):

How is this not more than sufficient for any new reader anywhere? What more do you need to know?

If the Great Writer has one job, it's to relay this type of information as a kind of support for the images/action/drama/ect. The Writer should be a writer, as interchangeable (in the world of comics) as ball point pens.

Listen, I love good writing, and I love good comic books. I know writing has an impact, because Roger Stern and Steve Gerber and Steve Englehart can be said to have "their" comics. But never was there such a schism (as now) between the artist's contribution and the writer's contribution. The fact is, the artist IS the comic book, the very being of it, while the writer is the clothing, a couple of scars and a penny from 1941.

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Brad Hague
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 12:38am | IP Logged | 12  

Marvel from 1961 to the mid 1980's was the BOMB!  No one did it better.  Not likely to be repeated again.  Not that they're trying.  They are trying to make it "better" which means no where near as good.
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Jon Tremmeh
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 1:31am | IP Logged | 13  

Morrison's single page: a good recap for those who already know. Now I don't remember if the not given infos are told later in the story, though.

Issue six is about his relationship with the Kents, issue nine touches on aspects of Kryptonian culture through the astronauts ("Take your naked hands away from her!") and the ghost of Jor-El imparts some fatherly wisdom in issue 12.
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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 6:12am | IP Logged | 14  

I like those little descriptive recaps, Chad. Does anyone know exactly when
and why they stopped?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 6:21am | IP Logged | 15  

In the '70s and '80s, the splash page generally had a quick written summation of the character's origin. Nothing too specific, just a well-written and almost poetic summation. Marvel did the same, such as this one (perhaps my favorite):

••

Roger Stern used to grumble about that particular bit of top copy. As he pointed out, Bruce Banner was not caught in the HEART of a nuclear explosion. If that had been the case, he would have been vaporized, and the story would have been over!

Shooter got rid of the top copy, and it was one of his moves I fully endorsed. All that information, he maintained correctly, should be contained in the story itself. Putting it off to one side like that tended to make writers lazy and forgetful of the information they needed to be expressing every issue. And, of course, that kind of thinking led to the insane inside-front-cover pages of "recap" that became the vogue a while later.

When I was doing FANTASTIC FOUR, as a f'rinstance, I made it a point of retelling the origin at least once a year, and dropping little references the rest of the time. (Which led to some readers complaining that "every issue" began with the FF sneaking aboard their rocket! It was around that time that I began to realize there was a deep pathology in some corners of fandom, a tremendous resistance to being told "what we already know". Consideration of new readers was not an issue!)

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Thomas Moudry
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 16  

>>>(...I began to realize there was a deep pathology in some corners of
fandom, a tremendous resistance to being told "what we already know".
Consideration of new readers was not an issue!)<<<


Well, there is a fairly loud and obnoxious segment of comic book fans who
enjoy being "the keepers of the keys." To borrow a phrase from George
Costanza, they're "delicate geniuses" who wear their comic book knowledge
as a sort of badge--as if knowing all the minutia of, say, Justice League
history makes one superior to anyone.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 9:35am | IP Logged | 17  

Well, there is a fairly loud and obnoxious segment of comic book fans who enjoy being "the keepers of the keys." To borrow a phrase from George Costanza, they're "delicate geniuses" who wear their comic book knowledge as a sort of badge--as if knowing all the minutia of, say, Justice League history makes one superior to anyone.

••

This is precisely what lay behind a good portion of the objections to MAN OF STEEL. Quality of the work was not an issue. What galled these "fans" was that the series took away their "expert" status. Suddenly, literally overnight, they knew no more about the characters than any schlub who wandered into the local comic shop.

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Vinny Valenti
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 3:26pm | IP Logged | 18  

I have to admit, I was guilty of this to some extent, even when I was reading comics as a 12-year-old. I wasn't a Superman reader back then , nor a DC reader for that matter, but the whole idea of Crisis wiping away unknown pieces of continuity helped to keep me away from trying out DC at the time. I know I would have been livid if I found out that my then-3 years spent learning whatever I can about the X-Men would have been rendered null and void.

Mind you, I'm just trying to explain, not justify, that mentality.

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Peter Martin
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 4:05pm | IP Logged | 19  

Man of Steel really was wonderful. It made Superman accessible to me, when previously I'd been a Marvel kid who found DC's continuity an impenetrable obstacle.
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Chad Carter
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 10:15pm | IP Logged | 20  

 

When I was doing FANTASTIC FOUR, as a f'rinstance, I made it a point of retelling the origin at least once a year, and dropping little references the rest of the time.

Well, it was done rather well as I recall. And yes, the need to "recap" every issue might have stemmed from these bits of copy. At the same time, the words are there to add detail to the issue at hand, not to call into question its necessity.

If every issue is somebody's first, then every issue is also somebody's second. And if things were as they once were, that issue was somebody's trade or borrowed issue from a friend or parent or something. And the necessity for some copy comes in handy in that case.

I agree with the idea that every issue should contain everything a new reader needs. I'm all for storylines running a couple of issues with subplots stretching out over months. That's the classic way to tell a long form story, I gather.

But I don't agree with Jim Shooter about removing the copy. Just as I don't agree the thought balloon needed to be done away with. But whose toes is the copy stepping on? I mean, not everybody is John Byrne and has a grasp on how to make exposition interesting!

 

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Chad Carter
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Posted: 05 December 2010 at 11:00pm | IP Logged | 21  

 

You'll have to excuse me, but I'm going to rant for a minute.

We need more John Byrne superhero comic books in this world. I'm willing have a recap page on a JB Fantastic Four comic book because frankly, it isn't going to hurt the story. Who cares? Adult fans won't need to read it and new fans won't need to read it on a JB comic, but it'll still be there as an "extra" like those stupid interviews on DVDs that we all pay "Special Edition" prices for.

This is the question I want to ask, John: if the reading public needs your FF to remind them of what was good/great about superheroes when they were young, and that's the best chance of new young readers ever being exposed to the superheroes as they were meant to be, is it your right to deny them?

There's a whole line of Marvel Adventures mags. The editors of those books cannot possibly enable as gigantic a douche environment as would be found on the core titles. I may lack understanding of the environment, but sometimes, as now, I'm incredulous that the avenues to the work you should be doing as a veritable historian of the comic book are shuttered against your earnest polemics and layered with editorial forked-tongue dogma.

That work "you should be doing?" You're a man of character who has always been drawn to character. And the greatest characters, no matter what anybody at Marvel in particular says or does, are still there in one form or another in a "lesser" line of Marvel Adventures type comics which, I peripherally understand, operate between the borders of some kind of professional pride and craftsmanship.

Do I know it for a fact? No. Do I believe that the situation is untenable? No. Do I know what I'm talking about? Sh*t no! That doesn't mean I haven't wearied of watching John Byrne love the superheroes and be denied them, like a fluffy-sleeved Victorian poet tragically withering on a wave-crashed rocky precipice.

All I know is that a man who doesn't wrestle with all that moronic darkness out there in the publishing lines bred from the shadows of you and some other incredible talents in the 1980s is not right. Doesn't matter if you've done it for thirty-plus years. I wish to god I had the passion to battle for something for 30 years. Even in failure I'd feel vindicated and I'd probably keep doing it just to piss everyone off.

If no one wants to read an FF comic by John Byrne, then recreate the characters again and again. Do it just to do it. Follow Ditko's example and support your views with the very work the publishers say will not sell. Keep enraging editors and hacks from Hollywood by blatantly skewering their ideologies and defying their desires.

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Petter Myhr Ness
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Posted: 06 December 2010 at 3:05am | IP Logged | 22  

Always nice to see MAN OF STEEL getting some praise. I think the recent flood of Superman origin stories (at least 3 within the last 5 years) helps to show how good that story really is.

What I enjoy most about the story, even so many years later, is how plain LIKEABLE Superman is. Not perfect, but he's a good, inspiring guy who does good things because he CAN. Certain writers today simply don't get that, so they go out of their way to create some external issue to explain this "strange behaviour". Which means they don't get Superman.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 December 2010 at 5:39am | IP Logged | 23  

What I enjoy most about the story, even so many years later, is how plain LIKEABLE Superman is. Not perfect, but he's a good, inspiring guy who does good things because he CAN. Certain writers today simply don't get that, so they go out of their way to create some external issue to explain this "strange behaviour". Which means they don't get Superman.

••

As I have mentioned before, Roger Stern used to say of one particular writer that he had trouble writing superheroes because he could not believe anybody could be more noble than he was -- which was not very!

Somewhere along the way this particular mindset has seeped out into a lot of comics. Writers have, in so many instances, forgotten that these characters are supposed to be BETTER than us. It's that, in fact, which serves in large part to make them superheroes, not that they can leap tall buildings, etc.

Roger also used to say that if he had Superman's powers he would go on TV and make a speech that would begin "As your king. . . " He also understood what so many writers seem not to anymore -- that that is something that Superman WOULDN'T do.

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Michael Hogan
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Posted: 06 December 2010 at 8:00am | IP Logged | 24  

I echo many of the sentiments presented here, but wanted to add that one of my favorite aspects of JB's "interpretation" of the Superman mythos was that it was SIMPLE.

-  He was the sole survivor of Krypton...SIMPLE.
-  The insignia on his chest stood for "Superman," not coincidentally a Kryptonian family crest.  SIMPLE.
-  He was a Kansas farmboy with alien DNA.  He didn't spout "Great Rao" all the time.  SIMPLE.

Et cetera.  Thanks again, JB.

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Antonio Rocha
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Posted: 06 December 2010 at 8:15am | IP Logged | 25  

I loved everthing about MOS. One thing in particular, the big panels, was a joy to behold, specially for someone who had to read it in a A5 format. I remember not liking George Perez because of the small panels.
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