Back in 2010 I stopped collecting the Superman titles. I think it was around August or so. I’m sure if I scoured Facebook I could find the exact date, but it really doesn’t matter. I went from buying all of the various Superman titles to buying none of the various Superman titles.
The reason was simple; I wasn’t enjoying the books. I could go into the laundry list of reasons, but that would just bog this down even further, but I will mention the main reason, which was I just wasn’t enjoying the books like I used to. DC went in a direction that I didn’t like and I was tired of hating everything I read, so I felt it was better for everyone if I just walked away.
It wasn’t easy. I started buying the Superman books in 1987 and by 1996 I was getting everything associated with Superman on a monthly basis. It was part of my identity. To a certain extent it defined me. I even had a running gag to explain why I bought stuff that might have been of less than stellar quality; I would say that I had signed a contract to be a Superman fan.
Why did you buy all of those Elseworlds specials in the late nineties? It was in the contract.
Why are you still collecting the books when they aren’t as good as they used to be? It was in the contract.
Superboy just isn’t a good title anymore, but I “signed the contract”.
The truth was I bought them because I wanted to. There was a bit of feeling like I had to and when I did consider dropping the books it became a tug of war between stopping and keeping up with the collection. This is something a certain contingent of fans deals with from time to time. I have such a long run. Why break that now?
From a thousand foot view it seems silly. From the ground level, it feels very real.
When I walked away in 2010 it was hard. Ultimately it proved to be beneficial on an emotional level. I was spending all of my time being angry at this hobby that I supposedly loved and that wasn’t healthy. I realized in my time away that my real problem was DC had moved away from what I considered to be “my” Superman. I use quotes because the phrase “my Superman” or “my Batman” can be weaponized to justify terrible behavior. “That’s not ‘my Batman’, so I can call you names or worse because you disagree with me.” Still, there was an era of Superman that I felt at home in, that defined my views of the character, and that I was a part of and that era had ended. It was freeing in a way. I came to terms that things end and had a better appreciation for the generation before me that left when John Byrne’s Man of Steel hit the stands. Suddenly, I was in their shoes and understood where they were coming from.
Part of me wishes that I would have come to that conclusion earlier or through actual enlightenment. I kind of feel bad that I had to go through their struggle it to know what the other side went through, but there I was.
When DC started promoting the release of Action Comics #900, I started to have second thoughts. I kind of felt like Dallas towards the end of the movie The Outsiders (based on the S.E. Hinton novel, not the DC comic); there was no way they were going to have an anniversary issue of Action without me. Not as dramatic as Dallas and his rumbles, but the theory held. I was there for 600, 700, and 800, so it only felt right to be there for 900. So, I came back. I started getting the books I missed and catching up on Black Ring and Grounded and the Reign of the Doomsday stories. It was nice to once again be buying the books, but I told myself that the decision to come back was mine and that if I started to not like the books that I knew where the door was.
And then DC dropped The New 52 on us.
My timing with these things has always been spectacular.
The New 52 was a bad time for Superman. Despite the occasional bouts of good writing and/or art it seemed like DC just didn’t know what to do with Superman. Their idea to make him younger and edgier did not translate into better sales or a consistent audience and over a four year period they stripped more and more away from the character until finally they took away the Clark Kent identity and de-powered him for nearly a year. You would have thought that this was the moment that would have made me walk away but, for some reason, I didn’t.
I can’t explain why. I was thinking about it and there would be months where I wouldn’t read an issue I wasn’t reviewing for The Superman Homepage, but right around the time I was thinking of leaving the books DC announced Rebirth and that the dynamic of Superman and Lois being married again was coming back.
It was glorious.
Rebirth was the opposite of The New 52. Over the course of a year DC brought back everything I loved about the character. Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi were producing four amazing books a month between the two of them. It wasn’t exactly “my” Superman, but it was close enough that I was satisfied.
I was so satisfied that when it was announced that Brian Michael Bendis was going to take over the writing of both Superman and Action Comics I was legitimately excited. He was saying all the right things in the interviews. He was talking about how important Clark Kent was as a character. He was glowing in his praise of Lois. This seemed like a good fit.
And, for the most part, I liked what he was doing. He aged up Jon, which was a little weird but I actually was behind the change because, while I liked the character I also saw the pitfalls of keeping him young. Lois was kept away for awhile, but the explanation for why worked for me. It was all going so well.
Until it was announced that DC was once again getting rid of the Clark Kent as the secret identity for Superman.
At first I was annoyed, but decided to keep my cool until I read the New York Times article where Bendis went into why this was happening. “On some level, this is what DC brought me here for,” he is quoted as saying. After reading that I had several very strong and angry thoughts all at once.
Thought #1: I was lied to.
Thought #2: DC brought Bendis to undo just about everything that had been done during Rebirth.
Thought #3: I WAS LIED TO.
I’ll go into Thought #2 first since Thoughts 1 and 3 are the same. Looking back at Bendis’ run thus far, it suddenly feels like the best parts of Rebirth (the return of Clark Kent as Superman’s secret identity, Jonathan Kent as he and Lois’ son, and the marriage) were all being systematically undone.
Jon was aged and is now a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. That might be good for the Legion and the issues dealing with his aging were enjoyable, but it takes him off the table in the present. While Lois and Clark will probably miss him, he’s not going to be part of the ongoing continuity. All of the stories of Clark and Lois raising their super powered son are no longer a thing. At first I was onboard with the aging, but now that it was all a plot to get him to the future makes me feel like I was duped.
The marriage? It’s still there, but Lois was away for a few issues and when she came back Bendis had her living in her own place. They were still married, but it seems like Superman spent most of the Bendis issues away from Lois. Lois being one of the driving forces of Event: Leviathan was great, but she wasn’t much of a presence in Superman, so it suddenly felt like Bendis was trying to have his cake and eat it too. They were still married, but they didn’t seem to be as much of a team as they were in Superman: Lois and Clark and the Rebirth issues.
And now Clark Kent as the secret identity is being taken away.
“On some level, this is what DC brought me here for.”
I have no proof of this and I could be wrong, but it now seems like when the Powers That Be at DC knew Bendis wanted to write Superman that they used that as their chance to once again strip Superman of the Clark Kent identity and all of the lip service Bendis gave to the character was just a smoke screen.
Do the Powers That Be at DC have something against Superman? Maybe. It sure feels like it most of the time, but, again, I have no proof, so it remains a theory and nothing more.
Which leads me to Thoughts 1 and 3.
I was lied to.
At least, that’s how it feels. DC didn’t have the guts to undo Clark Kent again right away. Oh no. They let us think that it was still going to be a thing for a year and then hit us with this paradigm shift and because Bendis is behind it, we should be happy for it. It feels like I’m talking about some vast conspiracy. I’m probably wrong. But this feels like a huge slap in the face. I defended Bendis again and again. I told people he liked Clark Kent, so he wasn’t going to pull a Daredevil and out Superman to the world.
And yet…here we are.
So, I’m done. I’m dropping the titles. I’m doing what I told myself I would do if I didn’t like what was happening in the books. I know where the door is and I am going to use it. As of this moment I am no longer buying Superman or Action. If DC publishes a Superman book that has what I want, I’ll buy it. If they issue a trade or omnibus from an era I like, I’ll buy it, but until Clark Kent is back as the secret identity in a meaningful way, I’m out as far as the regular titles are concerned.
It’s been a great three plus years of reading Superman. It was a good run. I guess it had to end at some point. I hope that those that are enjoying the current run and don’t have the same feeling as I do continue to read and enjoy the comics. I am not calling for a boycott. I’m not asking anyone to join me. I’m not here to yuk someone else’s yum.
I’m also not quitting Superman. He remains my favorite character. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of stories that I haven’t read yet and I always have the books that I loved. They aren’t going anywhere. I’ll continue to podcast about the Man of Steel and his world. I just can’t support a regime that isn’t giving me what I want to read. I don’t owe them anything. It’s not in me anymore. I’m not so invested in the current DCU that I feel like I have to stay and I’m not going to support people that told me one thing and then, a year later, did the opposite.
This doesn’t make me less of a Superman fan. It just means I am a more discerning one.
I’m just done.
If you feel the same way, you can join me. If you don’t, then don’t. But this is what I’m doing.
And I feel pretty good about it.