Friday, July 5, 2013

Pleasant Surprises (4/6)

Never underestimate your enemy, or your potential entertainment source.  

Sometimes disappointment will win out, but other times you may find a pleasant surprise lurking where you least expect it.  Here are six works I found waiting just around that proverbial corner.

Ranking of these is not by quality, but rather how unexpected it was that I liked them.

3.  Look there, up in the sky! It’s broken!  It’s overpowered!  It’s Superman!
I think my feelings for Supes were just about summed up.  How on Earth can there be any nail-biting battle or drama for a guy who is perfect?  To hurt him you need to be obscenely powerful or holding a specific sort of green rock.  He has superpowers up the wazoo and no visible weaknesses.

Gaaah... where’s Spidey? Give me Spidey.

Ah, there he is.  Standing over with the rest of the boy scouts... alongside Supes.  Hrmh.

If you couldn’t tell by the previous entries of this list when I’ve discussed a character, I tend to favor those who will do the right thing.  Those who have a standard that they set themselves towards, that they won’t break.  Kind of like Clark Kent.

That was the argument my parents always made about Superman when I derided his blatant boringness.  Superman/Clark Kent is a gentleman.  He’s honest, hard-working, and virtuous.  Of course, some might say that makes him even more boring.  I, despite being the fan of goody-two-shoed heroes, might have agreed.  I’m fairly sure I did agree.  Until a webcomic proved me wrong.  
I don’t remember how I came across JL8, but I’m glad I did.  It’s blinkin’ adorable.  And I mean adorable.  It’s the Justice League as eight-year-olds.  

Image from JL8 Comic Facebook Page. JL8 #53

Image from JL8 Comic Facebook Page. JL8 #5
Image from JL8 Comic Facebook Page.  JL8 #127
It is also hilarious

Creator Yale Stewart has put a lot of time into developing the cast, including of course Clark.  Almost immediately, I was struck by how much I liked him.  Naive like a child, he can’t work out how to approach the girl he likes.  Wiser than most, he pulls back from a fight that won’t solve anything.  Kind-hearted, he believes in the best of others.


Hooked on this comic I began to think: if this is how a fan sees Superman, what am I missing out on?  So I began “researching.”  A few episodes of Justice League here, a collection of All Star Superman there, a peek at Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and all the JL8.  Not all were perfect.  Not all were good.  But I even with this cursory look I found something I did not expect.

The drama behind Clark Kent comes from his overpowered abilities.  He can do anything in the world, physically.  Barely anything can hurt him, physically.  He can save everyone, physically.  Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, he is just as powerless as the rest of us.  And while I was certainly enjoying his moral uprightness from the start of my “research,” it wasn’t until an issue of All Star Superman that this hit me right between the eyes.

“The Gospel According to Lex Luthor:” this man is on death row, and wants to tell his side of the story to a reporter of the Daily Planet.  Who else would he ask for but Clark Kent, a man Luthor likes because the bumbling reporter is everything “he’s” not: human.  And through the two’s interaction in the prison, be it in the middle of the interview, a riot, or fleeing a hungry monster, there is something about Clark that just screams regret.  

Luthor rants and raves about Superman constantly cutting him down.  Clark quietly asks why Superman and Luthor could not have worked together, and gets another rant.  In a later issue, Clark will return as Superman to try to make peace with Luthor before the end, and is spit at for his trouble.  Luthor is morally dying, and Superman cannot do a single thing about it.  For me, that bloody hurts.

Have you ever been unable to save or simply help someone?  Have you ever been simply stuck on the sidelines, frozen not from fear but from sheer inability.  It’s horrid.  Now consider if in every other case, you are fully capable of saving anyone, everyone.  Would not the one case you cannot aid be all the more painful?

And for all that, Superman still tries.  And tries.  And tries again.  In fact it’s when Superman stops trying that he becomes terrifying.  In the Justice League episodes “A Better World Part 1 & 2,” we see what he becomes when he gives up on those morally dying.  It makes me grateful for “our” Supes.

And you know what? I’d say our Supes is dangerously similar to Spidey.  I think I'll take ‘em both.

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