Monday, June 28, 2010


So the beginning of the "Grounded" story by J. Michael Straczynski has gotten a lot of reaction. Here are a couple of the more interesting posts:

First, there's a Comics Alliance Review by a guy who doesn't usually like Superman. There's some good debate in the comments.

This one's more interesting, from Polite Dissent, a blog by a doctor.

This isn't a review, but a walking tour diary. It's just a bit of comedy.

And here's a collection of links to reviews.

Unrelated but still interesting:

Here's a woman's blog about showing Superman movies to her kids for the first time.

And here's a writer's thoughts about the death of superman way back when...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trust me, this one's important.

Here's an article. It may not seem relevant to Superman, but it is. It's called "Inside the Baby Mind." From the Boston Globe last year. And it's about how psychologists and neuroscientists are discovering the ways babies think, as opposed to the ways adults think.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Big Week

So evidently this is an exciting time to be a Superman fan. There's a lot of hype, anyway, from the comics world. DC's really pushing the fact that Straczynski is writing Superman. Action Comics #700 comes out today. So there's lots of stuff on the web about him right now.

Here's a lengthy and interesting post about his costume and origin.

And a sort of retrospective with lots of visuals.

Then there's The Many Tomorrows of Superman.

Here's a description of Absolute All Star Superman, with a lengthy comment by designer Chip Kidd.

That'll do for now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Superman on the moon

So recently someone asked me about the picture at the top of the blog. She had read this before meeting me, and the first thing she commented on was that there's a tiny picture of Superman at the top of this. There's a reason for that.

It's a picture from All Star Superman issue 6. Superman sees his dog Krypto for the first time in a while, and they're playing fetch and racing around in space to celebrate. They stop by the moon for a second, and we get this image.

Now, my degree is in folklore, and my specialization is mythology. I spend a lot of time considering the meaning of gods and what they do. I'm writing this book because the term myth is thrown around a lot when people talk and write about Superman, and I thought it would be a good idea to figure out exactly what people mean by that.

My graudate advisor was Greg Schrempp, who's written a lot about science and myth, greek philosophy, and maori cosmology. In his forthcoming book Scientists and Centaurs, he writes a passage about the first descriptions that astronauts gave of the earth as seen from space. he describes it as possessing virtually all the characteristics of a myth. It got me to thinking that maybe being a god is all about perspective.

Gods know things that people don't. When they tell us, we call it revelation and it's a very, very sacred thing. When people develop their own ways to find these things out, such as reading tea leaves to predict the future, we call it divination. We get little glimpses of the divine. One of the things that separate humanity from divinity is knowledge, which is why Adam and Eve eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil was a crime--god didn't want humanity to be divine.

Knowledge is gained in lots of ways, but one of the most effective ways is through experience. We learn by doing things and by going places. Gods are able to go anywhere and do anything. They can stand at the archimedean point and see the cosmos from the outside. They have a perspective we lack. That is, until the astronauts went into space and saw the earth. They had a perspective that until that moment was only theoretical. They had more than a glimpse of the divine.

Superman, of course, can get this perspective whenever he wants. All Star Superman, which will have the above picture on its collected version this fall, is a central story to one of my chapters on myth. It's a story that distills the mythical qualities of Superman into twelve issues. And it's really, really good.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm not the greatest photographer. I've come to learn that my greatest fault in that area is that I just don't take enough pictures. Either that's all I'm doing, or I completely forget about it. Nonetheless, I did get some photographic evidence of the Superman Celebration. Let's start with Thursday afternoon, June 10. This was pretty early, so there weren't many people out yet. Other than Captain Canadian, that is.

Let's jump ahead to Sunday, with the group picture of the Superfriends of Metropolis.

Among the Superfriends, you'll find Brian Morris, who was instrumental in my work this year. I met him last year, and we talked for a while. He agreed to let me follow him around a bit this year, and he introduced me to a bunch of people. He is heavily involved in the Celebration, and he writes or helps to write the dramatic components of the opening ceremonies. He's a bit fan, and my interview with him, his wife Cookie, and writer Sean Dulaney at the close of the ceremony was one of the most rewarding parts. Here he is, showing his shield tattoo on his wrist.

Another tattoo, this time on the wrist of Kristina Johnson. It's the kryptonian symbol for hope.

People come from far away for this thing. This year, Angie Shelton of the Metropolis Chamber of Commers had the idea of having people put pins in a map to show everybody just how far. Yep, people come from Europe.

Was that a pin in Iraq?
They also come from Asia.

And just about every state.

The Superman Celebration was very, very warm this year. But I attended most of the events and managed to conduct the sort of fieldwork that will, I hope, make the book worth reading. I cannot express enough thanks to everyone who worked with me.

One of the most common activities at the Celebration is taking pictures. This revolves around the costumers.

The costumers value the pictures more than those who aren't in costume. This is a picture of the process from backstage, so to speak. Batman on left. Wolverine on right. Note Poison Ivy taking pictures in the middle. They're all friends who costume together and attend events like this. They're also members of The Society of Secret Identities.

This is another example of that sort of thing. On the left are a man dressed as Clark Kent and a man dressed as Superman. They're posed to resemble the fight between the divided Kent and Sueprman in Superman III. On the right are a bunch of people. Sorry it's so dark. It was late at night, in a darkened room.

Below is a reading of an old episode of the Adventures of Superman radio show, by a bunch of fans. What I love about the Superman Celebration is the fan involvement. There's a Celebration Committee of local people who organize everything, but over the years the fans who come from miles and miles away have become part of the process. They work with the committee to organize events such as this reading, the costume dance, the opening (and, starting this year, closing) skits that are part of the ceremonies, and other events.

Speaking of the opening skit, this year featured the prisoners of the phantom zone released to once again confront Superman. This is a photo taken after the ceremony ended. I have video of the whole thing, but no photographs. Superman is the official Superman of the celebration, but the other Kryptonians are fans.

Here's the official Superman again.

That'll do for now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some links

Here's a little article from Comic Book Resources about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. I'm not really sure what the overall point of the article is, but it begins its conclusion:

So Superman becomes this bland, blank slate upon which a wide range of philosophies can be projected.

Then here's something from The Daily Caller. It tackles the accusation that Superman is an illegal immigrant.

There are some problems with the Supeheroes who pose for pictures with tourists in Hollywood.

Superman Celebration

From June 10-13, I was in Metropolis, Illinois for the Superman Celebration. Last year when I attended, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff going on. Festivals are like that if you're trying to study them. Consequently, I didn't get what I needed to write about the Celebration. But what I did get, more importantly, were contacts. I made some friends, such as Brian Morris, who really opened the door for this year to be more successful.

So, Brian, thank you. This year, I really got what I needed to get. Except for pictures. Didn't get enough of those.

I've just finished writing up my notes for the weekend. I learned more than I had intended, and see threads that I could possibly follow to new areas of this project, should the need arise. Mostly, this was a series of interviews. They're going to be invaluable for the completion of Superman in Myth and Folklore.

This year, I met a lot of people. That part was easier than last year. I found myself explaining the project more often and more thoroughly than I had expected. My teachers had always told me that you have to do this sort of thing, explain what folklore as a field of study is and whatnot, if you want people to have the kinds of conversations with you that the project requires. This is the first time I've had to do it. But it was worthwhile. People seemed interested and excited about the book. And once I got my points across, they showed me the right way to think about things and look at them.

I went to study a community, and that's exactly what I found. Once I told people this, they would show me things I hadn't noticed, things such as the way in which people help each other, even when they're competing against each other in, say, a costume competition. The point is that people are doing what they want to do in the best way possible, not so much in the winning.