We’re in the third year of the New 52 and the second Man of Steel movie is coming down the pike, so this contemporary incarnation of Superman probably isn’t going away any time soon. It’s even beginning to show up in the merchandise and marketing, fighting for shelf-space with the classic Superman look. It’s still Red Pants on fruit snacks and party supplies, but Tin-Plated Tights is making headway with the toys and vidya games. If this were comics, they’d call this a “Clash of Titans” …
I didn’t expect it to bother me, to be honest, my interest in modern mainstream comics is nil and I’m not skint on older material which I can happily revisit if needed. A few months back, though, Target had a Justice League banner on display featuring the new52 incarnations of the characters and Superman in his molybdenum onesie, the first time I saw the new costume “in the wild”. It made my heart ache.
There’s an inarticulate and histrionic type in fandom who scream “my childhood has been raped!” every time their pre-adolescent idols are changed in the slightest (even if only cosmetically) but while they grate on my nerves with their constant sense of outrage and surprise, I also sympathize with them. They’re confronting an unfortunate mortal reality, possibly for the first time, that one day they will have to leave the room and their exit may go unnoticed.
It’s a reality of growing older – the next generation will have their own popular music, their own movies and books, ethics and culture. They’ll pave over our favorite stuff, cherry-picking a few things from the previous generation but mostly starting from scratch. All the perfect versions of important ideas which we carry around in our heads will be overwritten by the next generation’s perfect visions of important ideas, just like we did to the generation before us, and somewhere in there you confront the idea “Will anyone even miss me when I’m dead?”
Of course, this generation AND ours are being served by corporations, the only entity we “allow” to create the official canon of what we arguably ought to consider folk tales. This makes the changes all the more distinct and oftentimes shocking, because it’s in a corporation’s best interests to revamp whole franchises in a single go, to sidestep and disallow the evolution of an idea. There’s not a lot of looking back and saying “and in this way, Transformers became the story it is today,” but rather you can pinpoint a date on a calendar and say “And this is when the reboot was launched.”
For Superman, the point of the reboot was apparently to make him “cool” (as determined by a passel of middle-aged, middle-class mostly white men, no small percentage of whom keep showing up to publicity events wearing baseball caps, for God’s sake). They had to jettison all the uncool stuff – the red pants, the glasses, the spitcurl. Make him lean, get some alien armor on him, make everything darker, give him a wolf, wolves are cool, I’ve seen ‘em on tee-shirts.
The thing about Superman is I’m not sure he’s supposed to be cool. For all of his power, he stands for the everyman, he represents the underdog; Clark Kent is a working slob, a nine-to-fiver with a crush on the office hottie and still wearing the same sorts of clothes he wore when he was a teenager. He wears glasses, he grew up on a farm. If you want cool, go see Batman, that guy’s in charge of things, he represents authority. Batman’s old money, landed gentry, he’s combing pussy out of his bat-beard, he’s got a sweet ride, even his dog is badass. Batman can afford to be cool. Superman’s dog is a mutt who chases hot dog-shaped promotional blimps, cool isn’t in the cards.
The contemporary incarnation of Superman is familiar to me, even intimate. I remember him, he was the version my friends and I made up when we were in college, staying up til four in the morning to talk nonsense about dumb shit, drunk or high or self-impressed with our own intelligence. We were nineteen years old and embarrassed to like Superman, so we took it upon ourselves to make Superman cool. We got rid of the underpants, darkened his costume, diminished the Clark Kent role, lost the glasses. We made him bleak, decided he would shun human company. We spent hours justifying his super-powers, his flight was telekinetic and sometimes debris would fly alongside him. We tossed out his morality – if he had to kill, well, he had to kill. Lord, we even declared that his costume was Kryptonian armor.
I can prove it, I still have the drawings, only we stopped short of transforming Superdog into a Kryptonian War Hound. Well, sort of – we decided that Comet the Super Horse was now a Kryptonian War Horse. He grazed in the pastures of the Phantom Zone. That was one of mine.
I don’t regret any of those ideas, I’m not even embarrassed by them, but I do recognize that we were missing the point of the character – Superman’s not a shiny new Lamborghini, he’s a Mustang with a squeaky CV joint and leopard print seat covers. It makes him better to let him be imperfect, a little goony, ridiculous, uncool, unfashionable, awkward – like people are, basically, to make him more like us, so we can better imagine what it’s like to be more like him.
All of which is off the table for the foreseeable future, I suppose, if not forever. Superman’s getting Batmanned right now, and you can’t really blame his legal owners for trying to capitalize on the latter character’s success. I can’t think of the last time we went a year without a Batman cartoon on TV or a Batman movie in theaters, or with no line of Batman toys on the racks. Superman’s not been as lucky or persistent in the marketplace over the last three decades – personally, I like to imagine that’s because he’s more successful as an idea than a possession, but I have a feeling that’s one of those perfect concepts I have about the character which will disappear with me down into the dirt someday.
To just say thank you for the tickets to last night’s play could not convey my gratitude for the evening we had. I am not good with words or expressing myself but feel I need to let you know what your generosity in donating the tickets meant to my wife and me. When I received your email saying I had won them I had mixed emotions. I was happy to be able to give my wife a well-deserved night out, but never have attended a musical, I did not know if I really wanted to go. I knew my wife would probably enjoy it though so I agreed to come. We have been married for 27 years now and this was the second night we had out in the past twenty years. We just literally cannot afford nights like this. We do not dine out, go to movies, or do anything that requires extra money. We both work hard and have been at our jobs for years. It is just the past twenty years have brought such heartache and expense we have no disposable income. I have seen my wife lose three children through miscarriages and the pain and hurt caused, then we lost our home and all we own in a fire. We started over and in ’97 the flood came and the same month our youngest son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. So with the expenses of rebuilding, over and over, the expenses of his medications and hospital bills we just have nothing extra for ourselves. I tell you this to just let you know that an evening like last night was something I have been unable to give my wife but was one that now I know I have to no matter what.
As a working man, I did not know if I would fit in, but was made to feel welcome by all involved. I always had thought why see a play just watch it on TV or see the movie. Well what I experienced last night changed my life. I want to experience it again and again. But more importantly for me was the impact it had on my wife. From the smile and the glow she had as she watched the play, to joy she had expressed in discussing the play, I saw something I had not seen my wife have in years…pure joy. No thoughts of our son’s pain at the moment, no hurtful memories of the things we have lost but just pure joy at the evening we had experienced. Our drive home and the hours talking through the night were the most enjoyable we have had in years.
So to just say thank you for an evening like this is not enough. To some it is just a few free tickets. To us, it will change our lives forever because as my wife say and asked, “Could we ever do this again?” then answered, “Well of course we could never afford it.” Not as quickly as she asked. I realized that no matter what, Playhouse in The Park will be a part of live for years to come. I will sacrifice my lunch every day until we can attend again. We need these moments of joy.
I know I rambled. I know this probably does not make much sense to you but I somehow wanted you to know that the tickets for us were much more than just another of many nights out on the town. It gave us an experience we will never forget. You allowed me to give my wife a night I could not have done without your generosity. I can never repay you for what you have given me. I wish I had the funds to donate but do not. But I am a hardworking man. If you can ever use someone to sweep floors, pick up trash, clean toilets, etc. I would gladly volunteer to give back to show my gratitude for what you have given me. Thank you.
For those who wonder why we do what we do, I offer in evidence the following letter, written to the Cincinnati Playhouse by a man who won a promotional contest for John Doyle’s production of Merrily We Roll Along.
Paste it on your bathroom mirror to read whenever you lose heart.
Who says art is a luxury?
Some may read this and be awed at the power of theatre; it mainly raises my indignation at the price of theater tickets.
So I was perusing a certain social networking platform and came across the following popular aphorism in a profile:
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.
This quote can be attributed to one Norman Vincent Peale, a minister in the Reformed Church of America and most famous for writing The Power of Positive Thinking. Like other religious leaders of the mid century who wrote self-help books, Peale’s works were heavily criticized by mental health experts as faulty and unsubstantiated.
It is unknown as to whether the woman in the profile knew the origin of the quote. She had a bright smile and presumably a sunny disposition. The sad truth of the matter however is that the universe is largely a cold dark place, most of it empty. Sorry Norman, but “among the stars” may not be the most wondrous or uplifting place to be after a millenia or two
The Voyager 1 probe, for instance, was not aimed at the moon, but has long passed by the moon and several other objects in the solar system. It hasn’t landed anywhere, and chances are it won’t. Common wisdom says that the probe has finally exited the solar system, but technically it has only exited the sun’s heliosphere, escaped out from interplanetary medium, and entered interstellar space. So, while it can be said to still technically be in our solar system, it is certainly also “among the stars”
Right now it has plenty of potentially boring downtime on it’s hands. In 300 years it will reach the final perimeter of the solar system, the Oort cloud, where comets come from. Then, after another 30,000 years flying through, it will likely emerge and finally be out of the solar system. In about 40,000 years it’ll pass within 1.6 light years of another star, and then presumably fly around the galaxy, bored forever, unless it gets lucky enough to crash into something and explode or else get picked up and later found by some sexy bald lady robot doppelganger (i.e. voyager 6). The latter option might actually be more interesting than landing on the moon, but the likelihood of that happening is low enough that my criticism of Peale’s aphorism still stands.
The woman in the profile was attractive, so I probably swiped right.
Rabbits eat their poop. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecotrope
The tweet also share’s some assonance with a tag line in commercials for General Mills brand Trix Cereal:
"Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids!"
Sharon, Lois, and Bram are children’s musicians who had a program for children called The Elephant Show.
I find cutesy children’s music to be off putting and kind of creepy. Especially the skidamarinkydink song, which has the refrain “I looove you”
Not that all poly folks are creepy, but there’s that hippie folk creepiness, y’know?
So I was leaving a certain secret meeting (it certainly wasn’t anonymous, as alcohol was involved) and since I was hungry I stopped at a food truck to order a quesadilla.
Suddenly, behind me three very similar Dudes arrived. They all had very similar shaped heads. Also, they had very similar blond facial hair styled in not-exact but very similar close cropped beard patterns. They also had very similar styles of dress and similar speak inflection patterns where they disparaged slightly a guy who I’d heard speak earlier.
I was a little discomfited by their eerie similarities.
I also have a twin brother so I can’t be judged prejudiced against siblings who were born of the same pregnancy incident.
Also, all of us were privileged white guys so the idea of being “racist” against any of us is a little silly, which was part of the “joke.”