Contemporary Superheroics

Before I saw it, MAN OF STEEL was positioned in my head as an antidote to IRON MAN 3. IRON MAN 3, that annoying, mediocre, poorly-plotted superhero film that hated being a superhero film. You could really feel the change in behind-the-camera talent as they leaned hard on the charm of Robert Downey Jr.'s banter to the point of breaking. They constantly undercut themselves, defating suspense in order to shoehorn psueod-witty back-and-forth at every unnatural opportunity.

It reminded me of a class clown who uses humor as a defense mechanism to avoid being vulnerable or opening up. Like a school bully who had accidentally revealed something deeply personal and serious, and upon noticing this, slams it shut by immediately giving a kid a wedgie. Like, dude. You can take yourself seriously sometimes, it's cool. No one's going to judge you.

Instead, we have Tony Stark & James Rhodes forcing some Seinfeld-ian banter about ammunition or whatever before they storm the enemy base. Or, a defeated and worn Tony Stark must rely on the kindness of a kid he just ran into — except because that kind of sincerity is lame to someone, let's make them both sarcastic assholes because we think that's all people like about Iron Man. Flimsy facades of personality for everyone!

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Let's Put Superman In Jail, Y'all

This is the recently released movie poster for Man of Steel, the forever incoming Superman movie reboot directed by WATCHMEN and 300 guy, Zack Snyder. The image of Superman subordinated, especially in cuffs as a reversal of one of Superman's most iconic poses, is an attention-grabber, but also a gimmick. It's the kind of imagery that could only be done with this character to acheive this level of intrigue. It wouldn't imply the same things if it were Batman or The Punisher or even Captain America, certainly not on the same level. It takes advantage of Superman's cultural place as the father of all superheroes, and yet, it's not an instantly cool poster.

My initial reaction was skepticism. People seem to love a powerless Superman, from the beatdown scene in SUPERMAN RETURNS to the 1990s comics event THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN. While the premise of a powerless Superman can create good stories, the reason people love a weakened superman is silly: they think his power is boring, or they think he doesn't face enough adversity. In short, the fans who feel this way aren't Superman fans. They're Iron Man fans that want Superman to be Iron Man.

It might seem like they're doing it again here, trying to make the boyscout appealing to non-fans by taking away what's great about the character. Instead of showing people why optimism, morality and hope are actually cool, they instead infuse the character with grit and weakness. If any character in superhero comics should be about daylight and saviors, it's Superman, and they no one wants to seem to be into trying that out. At least, that's the first impression, probably spurred on by the muted colors and kind of faceless soullessness of everything so far in MAN OF STEEL.

But upon closer inspection: It's a flimsy pair of cuffs. It's not so much Superman subordinated as it is Superman going quietly and willingly, deferring to civilian authority. It's a different way to display strength and morality -- still a quick gimmick about shifting the power dynamic, sure, but true to the character's 80 year history. Maybe it's an alright poster and maybe Zack Snyder won't go for the quick dumb gratifications he did with WATCHMEN.

I guess the worst thing you can say about it thus far is that it brings to mind that ridiculous body builder arrest photo that was big on the internet a couple years ago.