Saturday, May 28, 2011

Smallville Finale review Part 2 - Fandom Clash

Perhaps the most interesting thing I've found about the Smallville finale is the reactions I've seen online, and the intersection and interactions between comics fandom and Smallville fandom.

Comics fandom, in general, was pretty dismissive of the finale, and Smallville in general. While neither the worst nor best of these types of fan reactions, I think the Smallvillains series by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri is a pretty typical benchmark for these types of things. And I have a couple things to say about what I saw both in the review and the comments.

First, a few commenters responded to reviews with "Well, you should review past seasons to get the whole context."

Where have we heard that before?

Congrats "Smallville" fans - you are now using a long-held fan-complaint normally used by science fiction, comic and fantasy fans.

And to Comics fans - do you see how poorly that argument works when you're the ones judging it? Think about that for a while.

And from comic fans, the complaint is some variation of "It's sad that Smallville is what people are going to think think of when they think of Superman in a modern context."

Do yourself a quick favor, do a google image search on "Crying Superman" see roughly what percentage of those image are from the era of 2001-2011.


The modern era of Superman comics (All-Star Superman notwithstanding) has been extremely uneven at best, and prone to many of the same problems comics fans complain about the show for.

So, currently, we've got Chris Roberson working incredibly hard to redeem J. Michael Stracyznski's "Grounded" story arc. He's doing a decent job, but he's also filling it to the brim with in-jokes and nods to a lot of heavy continuity to get that geek buzz going. Paul Cornell is fairing slightly better, if for no other reason he's mostly sticking to his own story, not filling in on someone else's notes. However, the accessibility problem is much the same, particularly if you don't care about who Vandal Savage and Secret Six and other "guest stars" are. But at least it's adaptable to other media.

Before this, there was "New Krypton", which will probably go down as the Superman equivalent of "the Clone Saga" in terms of creative failure. I found it funny at the time, because this was taking place at roughly the same time as Smallville Season 9 was also dealing with Kandorians on Earth. I feel confident in my opinion that Smallville did a better job.

Before that you had Johns on Action Comics, doing a bunch of "cinematic" story arcs, with Brainiac, the Legion of Superheroes, etc. These were entertaining comics, and probably some of the best (and most restrained) work Johns has ever done, but hardly world breaking. Pleasantly competent. And again, I have a hard time imagining most of Johns' work adapting to other media (Brainiac, perhaps, or the Legion as an animated DVD). On the other side, you had Kurt Busiek's aborted run. I'm actually not going to judge that too harshly, because you can tell that Kurt Busiek was gearing up for a multi-year long series of arcs, and we only ever really saw the first act of it. It might have even been great, but unfortunately, someone at DC Editorial felt otherwise. Busiek and Johns got things off to a really good start with the "One Year Later" story they did together - that was surprisingly competent and accessible.

Which they kind of had to do given the long brutal slog of terrible, godawful Superman comics that came out during the years leading up to "Infinite Crisis". Anyone remember Ruin? The Brian Azzarello/Jim Lee arc? Chuck Austen? Seagle's story arc in Superman? Outside of Gail Simone, it was a dark, dark time.

And before that, you had the era of Jeph Loeb; master of the dumb but occasionally fun story. His books didn't make a lot of sense, but they were popcorn when they wanted to be.

In conclusion, if comic fans want good Superman stories, maybe we should all focus on making sure there are good ones in the comics worth adapting? Just a thought.


mrjl said...

I really liked the New Krypton arc, at least till the end where they got rid of it. I don't quite see how or why it was a failure

MrCynical said...

Well, for me, I consider it a failure for these reasons, most of them having to do with the ending:

1) There were no other options other than shrinking Kandor back down again or genocide. There was no way the status quo wasn't going to get reset, and both of those options sucked.
2) Superman was powerless to stop the genocide of hiw own people. I really prefer options in my Superman stories that don't have him being ineffectual, as a rule.
3)Humanity's paranoia and xenophobia - the fact that they basically start reviling SUPERMAN smacks of the Marvel Universe mindset, not the mindset where Superman has saved the earth with regular frequency. It spoke of a lot of ham-handed allegory, which again, was terrible in the Marvel U's Civil War, and was a farce in the DCU.
4) Outside of the World of New Krypton mini, the Superman books themselves seemed almost in a holding pattern.

MrCynical said...

Oh, and one more thing.

5) There is no way I could see Lex Luthor surviving. Superman might not kill him, but Supergirl? Seeing her mother die before her very eyes? Instant high-speed Heat vision Lobotomy. The fact that Luthor was REWARDED and no one was shown as being punished for their culpability speaks volumes about the cynicism of this event

Phil Watts, Jr. said...

I was thinking of getting that Brian Azzarello/Jim Lee run, simply because I'm a Jim Lee fan (and that Lois/Superman love scene was pretty cute)...but I changed my mind considering how weak it was overall.