Welcome back to the list of things I will and won’t miss about Superman in the New 52. After last week’s looks at the various origins for Superman, this week, I’ll be focusing on two important parts of Superman’s extended family.
The Second Thing I’m Going To Miss About Superman In The New 52:
Ma and Pa Kent
I’ve never really understood why Superman needs to have lost one or both of his parents. My first introduction to Superman’s parents was through the series Lois and Clark (or The New Adventures of Superman, as it was titled in the UK). Whilst there was a large element of comic relief to their role in the series, they were a valuable part of Superman’s support network. They provided Clark with a refuge from Metropolis and being Superman.
When I first discovered that the Kents were not traditionally a huge part of Superman’s adult life, I couldn’t understand it. Having a place to go home to seemed so important, and having the Ma and Pa still alive gave Superman a reason to go home to Smallville regularly, allowing for greater variety in Superman’s life and his adventures.
They also added another emotional string to the books. In Superman #75, the page that tugs most on the heartstrings is the one showing Ma and Pa watching Superman in the final throes of his fight with Doomsday, unable to be with their son. It was a very small and human moment amongst the bombast and destruction.
In the back of the recent Action Comics #2, a reference was made to Superman being free from his parents as a reason for his hard-edged campaigns in Metropolis early on in his career. Whilst I’m sure this will lead to some interesting stories, I can only think of how this goes against everything we’ve read in the last 25 years, about a Superman whose loving parents helped him to learn to control his powers and to respect life above all else.
The Second Thing I’m Not Going To Miss About Superman In The New 52
(The Kara Zor-El incarnation.)
Supergirl was a mess. Introduced in a best-selling arc in Superman/Batman, the character’s solo title launched a few months before Infinite Crisis, and boy, it was not good. With Superman fans already upset at the cancellation of the Peter David-written Supergirl series to make way for a confusing and character-less plot device that bore almost no resemblance to anything that could have taken the name ‘Supergirl’ (Yes, Cir-El, I’m looking at you), DC then spectacularly dropped the ball by being unable to provide a purpose or direction for her across well over three years of books.
Was she an assassin sent from Krypton to kill Superman? A misguided super-powered teenager trying to cope with an entirely new society? What about being a hero-within-a-hero, protecting the bottle city of Kandor? No? OK, we can try Supergirl as a legend of the 21st century marooned in the 31st? (Actually, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes was pretty damn good, one of the best uses of the One Year Later device. It was so good that it was barely mentioned again in Supergirl’s core title). What exactly was Superman’s relationship with her? Protecting uncle, concerned elder, or just plain embarrassed by this inconsistent, rebellious teen that burst out from a ship contained in a lump of kryptonite? Constantly rotating creative teams, barely hanging around for an entire story arc didn’t help either.
It wasn’t until Sterling Gates arrived on the book that Supergirl actually had something approaching a status quo, a supporting cast and a character. Taking underused elements of Superman’s supporting cast and using them to create a cast for Supergirl was a great move (yes, even Cat Grant, as the explanation for her behaviour, when it came, worked well). Supergirl also had a consistent relationship with Superman and, even better, a relationship-of-sorts with Lois. Best of all, Gates laid to one side the ‘dark Supergirl’ plots and worked hard to bring Supergirl into direct continuity with the core Superman books, continuing in this vein after New Krypton had ended.
Of course, as soon as he was gone, this was all undone. We were back to the rotating creative teams, and in Justice League of America, the dark Supergirl was back.
Supergirl #1 was too much of a setup issue to see which way the new creative team will take the character. I know I never want to see Supergirl in a black costume again, and I don’t want to see a character who is as painfully naïve as she was when she decided she was going to cure cancer. I want to see a strong but flawed character who not only justifies her own existence beyond ‘hey, we need to have Supergirl around’ but also who affects Superman. If the relaunched title can deliver this, then I see no reason why Kara Zor-El can’t become as strong a character as Matrix/Linda was in her own title.
Next on World of Superman: A change to our next issue, thanks to an editorial snafu (read: I counted wrong). Instead of seeing Superman fight a giant mummy, we’ll be meeting Jerry White, Jose Garcia and Bibbo Bibbowski for the first time! Hurrah! And next week, we’ll be back for the third instalment in this series of articles. See you then!