Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Man of Steel Trailer

Here's a link to an interesting piece on Robot 6. What's even more interesting is the discussion that follows it. It all kicks off with a quote from J. Michael Straczynski, followed by some commentary from the columnist Michael May, the trailer for Man of Steel. It's all about the idea of what sort of character Superman should be. The comments below it feature some interesting remarks by Straczynski and by Mark Waid. It's also got a link to another article that I'll probably bring up again some day.

The discussion goes in some interesting directions, particularly its focus on the comment in the trailer that Jonathan Kent makes about how 'maybe' Clark shouldn't have saved a bunch of kids from drowning, so he could protect his secret. It's interesting, but I think I'll wait until the movie comes out and I can see the whole scene before I comment on that.

What was especially interesting was the occasional criticism of Straczynski's Earth One stories. The specifics aren't important here. The important part is that Straczynski himself felt it necessary to chime in with a lengthy defense of his stories. My feelings about Earth One aside (it's utter tripe), I think the fact that the writer had to explain what he was trying to do says loads about how well he did it. Meaning he didn't get his point across very well in the story he told.

The discussion made me think of the types of stories being told today, in movies, television, and comic books. We live in an era where fandoms are becoming the dominant audiences courted by media storytellers and executives, in part because fans spend lots of money on things. So there needs to be lots of things for them to spend their money on. The result of this is that stories are told at great length, with the details fleshed out in sometimes excruciating detail. Star Wars is the perfect example of this. What was essentially one paragraph's worth of information in the original movie became more than six hours of film time (not to mention the animated series, novels, comic books, etc). Some people wanted that story told. Not me. Though I was excited to see them, I liked the spark in my imagination, lit by the hints in that one paragraph of information. The Clone Wars in my head are so much more interesting than what the movies revealed them to be.

Anyway, I think that Superman is most compelling as a fully formed hero, not as a hero-in-the-making. Siegel and Shuster got it right in the first place: limit the back story, get right to the adventures in Metropolis. I don't need to see how he came to the decision to be a hero. In fact, I'd say it diminishes him. It makes it contingent on events, tells us that if something had gone just a little bit different when he was 15, or 16, or 18, or 20, he would be a villain, or a different kind of hero. There are plenty of characters whose stories already do that. For Superman, I'd rather have a lot left to my imagination. But that's just me.

The thing is, I know that telling the story of how Superman made the choice to be a hero can be a valuable story. I have interviewed people for whom that story has made a difference in life, has led them to make their own choices, has given them inspiration: an "If Superman could make the right choice, could figure out the best way to live his life, then so can I" sort of thing. I just hope they don't look to Earth One for this inspiration.

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