Pipeline: Pipeline, Superman Special

Tue, October 27th, 1998 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

WHY SUPERMAN SUCKS

There's an excellent web site out there that Jonah Weiland's been running for a while called "Comic Book Resources." As you might expect, its address is http://www.comicbookresources.com. There's a link available to it from the links page of the Pipeline site, also.

This week, its news section contains an interview with Dan Jurgens, defending the defenseless: the past few years worth of the Superman mess. And Jurgens, as much as I think he's a nice guy and does some good work, is completely clueless. Or, at the very least, he's in denial.

I'll jump straight to the single worst line of the interview, in which he tries to defend the state of the Superman titles:

"Long before the Death stories, no one complained about 'Panic in the Sky' or 'Dark Knight over Metropolis,' other connected stories.

He doesn't get it. Of course, nobody complained about those stories. They were well-done stories, yes. That helps. But more importantly, they weren't the sort of fabricated "Everything you know is wrong" type of stories intended to garner mainstream media attention that the Superman books have come to rely on every three months. Clark quits being Superman. Superman quits being Clark. Clark and Lois get married. Clark leaves the Daily Planet. (Again.) Clark Kent dies. Superman dies. Clark returns. Superman returns. Superman loses his powers. Superman becomes Electric Superman. Electric Superman becomes two different Supermen. Superman has long hair. Coincidentally, so does Clark. (What's next, Clark gets contact lenses?)

Take those stories and compare them to "Batman and Superman team up to solve a case" or "Braniac takes over Metropolis" or even "Superman has amnesia and is trapped on a deserted isle."

Can Dan Jurgens truly not see the difference here?

Maybe what the fans want to see are good stories that come naturally and organically from the cast of characters they see before them.

Maybe what they don't want to see is a different Superman every other month.

Maybe they thought the Superman character was fine to begin with. Maybe they thought he wasn't the issue.

Maybe they thought that good stories would sell books better than Stunts of the Month.

Maybe they thought DC had more respect for their readers than to have to change the status quo to regain their attention every quarter.

I was fine with four titles, loosely interconnected. It worked fine before the Death of Superman. There were some great stories in there with some fine characters that I grew to know and care about. Shortly after all the hoopla with the Death and Return of Superman -- all fine stories -- it seemed like DC saw cash registers go off in their head. "Hey, if they'll raise sales and get us international press coverage for that, maybe we can do it again and again and again."

All that does is alienate the fans.

Of course, in the interests of fair play, I should leave open the possibility that I'm taking this all personally. After all, Dan also had these words of wisdom:

"The 'net, where it's become trendy for every reader to become a critic, is contributing mightily to the decline and death of this industry."

Bull-[deleted for family audiences at the last minute], Dan. We're the last ones left in this industry. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you might be able to listen to your readers' suggestions and put the book back on track.

Of course, I already voted. With my dollars. I haven't bought the Superman books regularly since about Action #700. (That would have been around the time of the "Destruction of Metropolis" storyline, which got wiped out the next month by Zero Hour. Sheesh)

And if this is the current opinion of the Superman staff, then I suppose I'll stay away a lot longer. If the problem lies with telling bad ideas poorly instead of telling bad ideas well, then I'm lost forever. When the Superman crew realize that they're working from the wrong foundation, then maybe I'll come back.

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