Friday, June 20, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: Some Anti-Supermen

[Another in my and Tim Callahan's look at the Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer "Superman 2000" pitch. New posts by Tim Wednesday-ish and by me on Fridays.]

In exploring Superman's villains, the Quartet (as I call them) wanted a healthy mix of old and new--of honouring the history of the character while also moving forward. For Metallo, they wrote:

The Man with the Red Kryptonite Heart. STAR Labs’s experiments on a fragment of Green K result in it emitting radiation at a lower, cooler frequency. It turns red, and its new wavelengths temporarily cause weird, resonant changes in Kryptonian molecular structure. No gorilla heads, no silly transformations into a 1956 Buick. Instead, painful mutations. Frightening intangibility. An eerie expansion or dampening of the senses. Disturbing chemical changes in the brain’s communication centers. When Luthor learns of this new Red K and realizes its potential, he steals it to revamp the largely ineffective, one-note Metallo, exploiting his terrifying potential as a dangerous John-Carpenter's-Halloween-type Super-stalker.

They stay true to the character, but also bring back an old Superman plot point with the red Kryptonite while updating it. As they say, the transformations caused this time will really mess Superman up instead of leading to "wacky adventures." It also makes Metallo a new sort of threat and plays on the concept of Kryptonite a little. By giving him the red variety, it allows for something different, especially if they plan on bringing back the Kryptonite Man...

An evil, cagey rock-like monster with a body reminiscent of The Thing's, a primal green-glowing personification of Superman's death, the Kryptonite Man is, in reality and unknown to Superman or even to himself, a supporting cast member (Ron Troupe?) who turns into Kryptonite Man against his will in a Wolfmanlike transformation. It’s a rare event; kryptonite will never be used as a writer’s crutch. What won’t be a rarity is the writing team’s continual watchdogging to make certain the familiar touchstones of the Superman Legend are used as opportunities for creativity, not ways around it.

The original Kryptonite Man was a normal looking man who glowed green pretty much, but this again adds a new dimension to the character, giving reason for him to be evil. I remember Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns created a new Kryptonite Man in their One Year Later arc and that version was alright.

Throughout the proposal, Ron Troupe is sort of the whipping boy for the Quartet, partly because he is the most notable supporting character from the previous era of the book. The four want to honour what came before, but seem critical of elements of the previous run... while trying not to. Of course, it's easy to criticise what just happened, especially if you didn't like it. Turning Ron Troupe, the key supporting character from that period, into one of Superman's opposites is both an insult and, well, a way to pay tribute, I suppose. He doesn't become evil, he becomes something he can't control.

The next two villains revolve around sunlight in their own way. If the previous related to Superman through his weakness, these two relate through his strength, in a way. First, Solaris:

The Tyrant Sun from DC One Million is back, fulfilling his destiny as one of Superman's most deadly and persistent foes. This will be his first appearance after One Million, returned from deep space, with a bad grudge, for his first-ever encounter with the Man of Steel.

Not much added here that we didn't already know, but I really do think Morrison's concept here is fantastic. If Superman gains strength from the sun, why not have him fight an enemy that can counter that? That can make sunlight deadly? For the new Toyman, it's more of a play on Superman's gaining strength from the sun:

The late Winslow Schott's spirit possesses a GI-Joe size figure which lies in a toybox all day and comes to life when the sun goes down. By day, he’s just another action figure in a kid's bedroom. By night, when the moon comes out and the kid is sleeping, Toyman wakes up and sneaks out of the house to run his criminal empire. Creepy, utterly ruthless, and in charge of an army of killer toys, Toyman's Achilles Heel is sunlight, which renders him motionless.

Note that where Superman is most powerful in sunlight, the Toyman is only powerful in darkness. A nice little twist on the concept, I think.

The new Prankster plays with Superman's beginnings:

He fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way in a manner diametrically opposed to Superman's. He's an anti-corporate prankster, like Michael Moore in TV NATION. He wants to show people the strings and wake them up from their blind acceptance of a S.T.A.R. Labs playing with DNA in the middle of a densely populated area, or a Watchtower on the moon monitoring our every movement, or a Lexcorp secretly taking tax breaks to build Bizarros. The Prankster stages elaborate, humiliating, destructive public hoaxes that mess with people's heads. As astute and perceptive as he is out of control, Prankster is the one earthman who actually worries Luthor.

Joe Casey played around with the Golden Age Superman in Adventures of Superman #612, but the Quartet does it here, too. When Superman began, he fought for the working class against corruption and those who would exploit them. Over the years, his mandate shifted towards the majestic and grand, from directly tackling problems to merely acting as an inspiration. This Prankster is built on the origins of Superman in our world, another tip of the hat to the character's past. The Prankster attacks Superman on an ideological level rather than a physical one.

Finally, Mr. Mxyzptlk who attacks Superman on a spiritual, psychological or emotional level:

A Loki-ish prankster who uses people's lives as his game pieces. Mxy employs his awesome, five-dimensional reality-warping powers to trap Superman in dangerous, unreal scenarios... a high-stakes upgrade of the Elseworlds concept. No longer content to make buildings sprout wings, Mxy warps the facts of Superman's life in a sustained effort to test and break the Man of Steel's spirit (because the imp's fifth-dimensional intellect rightly understands that Superman's pure soul is his true power). Sometimes aware that he's been thrust into warped histories and sometimes not, Superman can only win these games by rising above the Mxyworlds' temptations to be less virtuous, less positive, less dedicated, less effective than we know he can be. Superman's own inner strength is the key to making Mxy disappear.

I like how they reference Elseworlds and plan to integrate that idea here, perhaps building on the concept of Hypertime. But, it's also interesting that each villain attacks Superman through a different weakness that all get around his invulnerability and, many, get to the root of the character, what he believes, what he places his trust in. Clearly, each villain's role was thought-out.

You'll note that I left out two biggies: Lex Luthor and Brainiac, the two ultimate Anti-Supermen, each representing a different facet of the character. Well, Tim or I will get to them eventually, but since they're very important to the Major Plot, best to save them for that post.