"Let's just say it's being reexamined, because it’s something that I think is something that is so valuable to the character’s story that you really want to explore all facets of it. Not just as it exists currently.” So quoth DC Comics' Co-Publisher Dan DiDio in reference to Clark Kent and Lois Lane's comic book marriage. In reaction to either sagging sales, the upcoming Zack Snyder movie reboot, yet another DCU reboot, or the impending potential loss of the Superman copyright by DC Comics, the major changes to Superman's character continue. This erasure of the marriage of the century though is sadly symptomatic of many deeper problems, and not just with Superman.
As everyone who reads my works here at The Bin know, I'm not afraid to speak my mind, engage in a little nerd rage sometimes, and, most of all, embarrass myself from time to time. Yes, the internet is "written in ink," so I know that one day I'll hopefully look back at all the negative press I've given this DCnU reboot and laugh at myself because my greatest fears haven't come true. Right now though, I totally feel like the Superman I've known and loved for half my life is blinking out of existence.
I've read many articles across the web at sites (most of the time not nearly as well written or insightful as the articles you see here at The Bin), and some of the reader comments, while overwhelmingly negative for the most part, do on occasion contain some interesting points worth considering. Some comic book fans, in general, state that Superman as a comic book title(s) and character just isn't well written. Some state that the marriage arc has run its course and is stagnant. Some state that we'll just get to be privy to the joyous occasion all over again. Some feel that Wonder Woman and Superman would make a better couple (these are obviously casual readers). I, of course, disagree with all of these assertions, even though the validity of each of these arguments are worth considering.
First: Has Superman been a character who has been poorly written recently? This assertion doesn't really seem to have much merit and its counterargument can be summed up with two words (well, a name really): Geoff Johns. All of the current Green Lantern goodness that thousand of Green Lantern fans are enjoying due to their favorite hero's big screen debut? Thank Geoff Johns. It is directly because of stories like Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps War that Hal Jordan is now forever immortalized in movie history. These two tales alone are two of the best comic book stories told in the past 10 years. The subsequent stories Blackest Night and Brightest Day, while not nearly as strong as their predecessors, were both solid and enjoyable reads as well. Superman Secret Origin, the now sorely lamented "definitive origin" of the The Man of Steel that is definitive no more, and which succeeded on so many levels in its attempt to "update" Superman's origin story, was also written by Geoff Johns. No, Geoff Johns is not perfect, see Flash: Rebirth, but he has written some incredible stories over the years that have been well received both critically and commercially. Some of these were Superman stories. The New Krypton saga was easily the best Superman story crafted in well over a decade, and was was also both critically and commercially well received. Geoff Johns had a hand in this tale as well. Still though, apparently the sales just weren't there. The answer? Anti-hero reboot.
Second: Has Lois and Clark's marriage become stagnant? Well, what marriage doesn't? (Okay, bad joke...). Seriously, the dynamic that between the two, which is based on a wonderfully poignant love story, is fascinating and still has room to be explored without being reset. Remember, Superman is potentially the most powerful being in the universe. He really could have any woman that he wants. He fell in love with a human woman who embodies the strongest and noblest of human characteristics. That's what he fell in love with, not how super hot she was. Lois and Clark's relationship is based on more than just physical attraction. She grounds him, and helps him remain tied to humanity by giving him a chance to live a normal life. Take away Lois and you might as well take away any and all ties to humanity that Clark has left as an adult. Perhaps the Lois and Clark love story will remain or reemerge at some point during the progression through this new status quo, but if ideas like Batman Inc. are remaining canon then why cannot the Lois and Clark marriage remain canon?
Herein lies the answer: Batman Inc, Tim Drake as Red Robin, and all the well selling anti-hero characters and stories do just that. They sell well. Superman, incarnated as he is, doesn't. Kids and many adults want to see their heroes be anti-heroes. Superman is the ultimate anti anti-hero though. He's the Big Blue Boy Scout. The fact that the world around him is changing doesn't mean that he has to change as fundamentally as it looks like he will be after this "re-launch." The recent storyline that was hinted at, and will most likely now never come to fruition, where Superman was going to renounce his American citizenship is the type of story that would "update" Superman instead of taking him back to the very early days of his incarnation as a working class, slum lord fighting, clandestine hero. When Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 (1938) he truly was a tight lipped, albeit snarky, man of working class action who broke into a governor's mansion late at night to save an innocent man's life by delivering proof of the man's innocence and thus a stay of execution, stopped a wife beating husband, and battled a corrupt Washington lobbyist. These are things that one might expect Batman to do. Over the course several decades though, Superman evolved as a character to become more, much more, than just another run-of-the-mill vigilante. He came to represent not just the working class, but working class values. Values such as the equal rights of man. In doing so Superman came out of the shadows and took on a much larger metaphoric role. He truly evolved over the years from a street thug fighter to a representation of all that is good in humanity and, more importantly, a character who was not afraid to stand up and declare that that this is what he has become through his public persona and appearance. Leave the shadows to Batman. As Bruce Wayne/Batman stated to Superman in Superman #710, "We need you in the light." Ironically, it is the incredibly dynamic changes that Superman as a character has undergone over the course of his near 80 year existence that are now being perceived as stagnation. Grant Morrison, the new post-reboot writer on Action Comics appears to be under the directive (either his own or the powers that be at Warner Brothers--DC Comics' parent company) to revert Superman to his 1938 status quo. Sadly, this move doesn't update him for the 21st Century. It takes him back to the beginning of the 20th Century, and puts him back in the shadows.
Do we really need a single, dark vigilante Superman? It appears that sale figures would demand so. Sadly, as we've seen with the recent corruption on Wall Street, the financial meltdown, and the threat of a "New Great Depression" (which has really turned out to be simply, and sadly, a new financial status quo) we will see a "new" Great Depression superhero. History repeats itself (again sadly), and it seems that Superman is now doomed to repeat himself as well. Clark Kent and Lois Lane have only been married for about 15 years (as of the time of the writing of this article) in real time publishing history. He was single for approximately 65 years (in publishing history) before that. The marriage, placed in context, is still a very new aspect of the character. While change may be good, repetition isn't. An unmarried, dark vigilante, and misunderstood Superman who battles slum lords isn't new...it's simply more of the same. A Superman who renounces his U.S. citizenship is new...however shocking it might be to some.