As a kid in the mid-sixties, it was a big deal when there was going to be a new Superman show on TV. Batmania had taken hold, and there was a ravenous hunger for more superhero stories. I loved the Justice League comic of the day, which had one dominant message for young readers – if you like Batman, he has a bunch of friends and you should buy their adventures too!
Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman debuted on Saturday mornings, and it was a must-see. Never mind fellow-comic book alumni Casper on the opposite channel (although Secret Squirrel looked kinda cool). That was the show for me. Even though it was, in many ways, a retread of the old Superman radio show, we just knew these NEW adventures presented to best version of Superman ever!
Just four short years later, in the year 1970, comic ads promised a NEW version of Superman. This reboot (although we didn’t used that word then) would be best one ever, I had no doubt. And it was! Superman could eat Kryptonite as if it were a meatball, Jimmy Olsen enjoyed a Home Makeover courtesy of Jack Kirby and Clark Kent now had sideburns and orange suits. It was just wonderful.
Even as a kid I noticed the logo treatment on each comic cover announcing The New Amazing Adventures of Superman was suspiciously recycled from the Man of Steel’s last new adventures in animation. Where we was logo designer Todd Klein when you needed him? (Answer: probably in middle school, back then.)
Of course, there have been so many new Superman fits and starts over the years. Each one promised that “this time we’ll get it right”! Fans are always told that, finally, this new version will get rid of all the goofy stuff and that fans would love the new vision.
And because I am the type of guy who will fall for the same old trick every stinkin’ time, I dutifully tuned into the premier of the new Superman & Lois TV show on the CW last week. It was a lot of fun, and they got so many things right. In this version, they threw out all the goofy stuff, and now Superman is a struggling father of two teenagers. Gee, he’s just like me. Or like I was a few years ago.
Except….there’s one thing that bothers me. There’s one element from the last perfect reboot that really stuck, for me, and it impacts my enjoying this new show.
In the comics (that’s where the ‘true mythology’ resides for many comic fans), writer Brian Michael Bendis created the last great reboot. He got rid of all the silly stuff and kept all the cool stuff. It worked on so many levels.
One key element – one that a longtime fan like me was initially so resistant to – was that Superman, the ultimate truth teller, could no longer keep a secret identity. In this very recent version, Superman revealed his identity to the world. He told everyone that Clark Kent was really Superman.
The more that writer Bendis talked about this plot twist – in interviews, podcasts and through the characters themselves in the comics – the more it made sense. Superman’s family and friends were always in danger anyways. Superman’s own mission statement lists “truth” as the #1 thing. And wasn’t the whole “hiding behind a pair of glasses schtick” kinda silly anyways?
Bendis explained to fandom that this opened up so many new story ideas – and I believed him!
Today we expect and demand our public leaders to tell the truth. For example, as I write this, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is being run through the ringer for not telling the truth about two big issues.
And that’s just it. I don’t like being “in on the secret” when watching this new Superman TV show. I kind of cringe when Lois and Clark have to concoct so many lies – right on the spot – to confuse their friends and families.
Maybe I’ve just read too many comic books? (“No maybe about that”, says my wife, Kathe.) Maybe I’m just over the glee of sharing a sneaky secret? Maybe this show will get to the point where Superman reveals his identity to world?
I don’t know, but I’m surprised in thinking that maybe that last reboot, the Bendis one, was the best one ever.
Or at least until the recently-announced Ta-Nehisi Coates new movie Superman debuts. Now that one will be perfect!