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Monday, May 6, 2013

Before you watch MAN OF STEEL: Superman's Origin retold

Man of Steel is Dc comics latest reintroduction of the Superman character into main stream blockbuster cinema. It is a retelling of superman's origin with elements from the Christopher reeves movies all set against a more realistic world not unlike our own.
The origin of the world's most iconic superhero has been retold countless times since its debut in "Action Comics" seen below
This classic origin story can be easily read through the "Superman Chronicles" trade paperback available at KINOKUNIYA BOOKSTORE

Now before going into this movie, here are my top 5 highly recommended readings which offer different reboots on the origins of the man of steel..

5) Superman (new 52) issue zero

Setting up the plot for Superman's place in DC's "New 52" comic universe, Superman #0 takes us back to his home planet of Krypton and the events that led to it's ultimate destruction. The main characters however are not Superman himself but his Kryptonian parents. It is an intriguing tale that is both familiar yet fresh: Jor-El discovers that the planet Krypton is doomed to destruction. Only this time, it's destruction seems to be artificially engineered. He and his wife Lara are roped into a conspiracy involving a doomsday cult that believe the destruction will benefit the greater good of the universe. What is cool about this is how much of Kal-El (Superman) we get to see in his biological parents; Jor-El's dedication to truth and sharp mind, Lara's warrior background and selfless heroism. A far cry indeed from the white haired sage made famous by Marlon Brando in the Christopher Reeves movie. Krypton itself is portrayed as a truly dangerous planet with unknown creatures lurking in its depths but with it's human-like inhabitants living in a teeming scifi technopolis no doubt inspired by Bruce Timm's "Superman The Animated Series".
With only 1 issue worth of 22 pages, the story is short and sweet and feels like the start of something greater. An awesome jumping-on point for those willing to get into the DC comic books.Not only that, the new MAN OF STEEL movie is directly inspired by the New 52 Superman as seen in the appearance of his costume.
4) Superman Man of Steel vol 1 by John Byrne

Written and illustrated by John Byrne; Cover by Jerry Ordway A stunning tale of heroics and history, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL VOL. 1 magnificently retells and reinvents the origin and early adventures of the Man of Steel. In this fastpaced, revelatory book, Superman begins his ascension to iconic hero as he leaves Smallville and becomes Metropolis's revered protector and guardian. Featuring the Man of Steel's legendary first encounters with Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Batman, this amazing book also includes a deadly battle with Bizarro, a fateful encounter with Lana Lang, and Superman's astonishing discovery of his Kryptonian heritage.
The planet Krypton is portrayed as a cold and emotionally sterile planet, an idea Byrne borrowed from the 1978 film Superman. Kal-El was not an infant sent from Krypton to Earth, rather, his fetus was placed in a "birthing matrix" equipped with a rocket engine and Jor-El's experimental warp drive, with Kal-El gestating during the trip to Earth. Once the rocket landed, Kal-El was fully "born" on Earth.
Other changes to familiar Superman mythology include the fact that Superman invincibility comes from an invisible "aura" generated by his body that surrounds him like the human bioelectric field. Objects held close to him, such as his costume, were protected from harm; his cape, meanwhile, could easily sustain damage in battle. The Superman S-shield is an original design by Clark and Jonathan and not a kryptonian symbol.
If you can get over the older style of colouring, the artwork is a real treat and the story proves itself why this version of superman's origin endured for years until........

3) Superman Birthright

Written by Mark Waid Art and cover by Leinil Yu & Gerry Alanguilan A new softcover edition collecting the 12-issue miniseries that features the entire modern-day retelling of Superman by writer Mark Waid and artists Leinil FrancisYu and Gerry Alanguilan. 
Essentially, this is Superman's comic book origin updated for the 21st century reader. He does not discover his budding powers as a kid in smallville but discovers them in the middle of an African warzone where he was stationed as a freelance reporter. After that he goes back to Smallville and confronts Jonathan and Martha Kent about his alien heritage. The "S" symbol here signifies "hope" in Kryptonian, something the Man of Steel movie seems to have adopted. This also strongly establishes the Superman/Lex Luthor rivalry as something truly personal. 
Here, Superman's powers are elaborated upon, his range of vision spans beyond the wave spectrum and he can seemingly see the bio-electric force in each creature. It is a beautiful story of one man balancing who is was raised to be and who he was born to be. The setting is still fully a comic book world with robot helicopters and science fiction technology, but the way the characters are written is no less grounded in reality.
Although the artwork is a little rough in places, once you get used to it, Superman Birthright is a true classic not to be missed

2) Superman Secret Origin
The superstar team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank redefine the origin of Superman for the 21st century incorporating as many elements from past storylines as possible. This explosive story spells out the definitive origin of Superman, chronicling Clark Kent’s journey from the cornfields of Smallville to the skyscrapers of Metropolis. Witness a whole new look at the beginnings of Lex Luthor, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Lois Lane, Metallo, Jimmy Olsen, The Parasite and more of your favorite characters from the Superman family. It’s a look at the mythic past of the Man of Steel with an eye toward the future.

The reason for this was to rectify numerous inconsistencies between modern stories and the convoluted ongoing storyline (superman had been in publication since 1940s). So basically, it is saying that everything that was ever published, did happen. The story embraces all the different eras of superman from the silver age onward.
For instance, Clark Kent not only discovers his budding powers as a kid in smallville, but goes on to have adventures as Superboy with the Legion of Superheroes. And yes, he did meet Lex Luthor as a kid. This is one unique thing about this story in that we are presented with parallel tales of how Clark Kent and Luthor grew up and the events in their lives that shaped who they turned out to be. Growing up with the main hero and the main villian lends a more personal touch to their relationship than the other origin stories. This personal touch also translate to Superman's relationships with those around him.
The feel of Superman: Secret Origin is 100% comic book fantasy. It does not try to be gritty or realistic. The art is beautifully rendered by Gary Frank who patterns his Superman after Christopher Reeves.

1) Superman Earth One
What if Kal-El crashed on our earth of today? What if he had to grow up in our world, our reality: a world that has weathered 9/11 and the threat of terrorism, a world of the cynical, a world where newspapers dedicated to truth are dying and being replaced by gossip tabloids. This is Superman, not just revamped for the modern reader, but revamped to take place in our own 21st century. From the get go, Superman Earth One sets up a journey of a boy coming to terms with his own identity and his path in life. It answers many questions that modern readers usually ask about Superman. For example, if Clark Kent were so smart, so strong etc, why not become a sports star? Why did he dedicate his life to journalism?
Well superman Earth One gives a marvellous answer to that.
Also unlike previous takes ont he origin which show Clark Kent becoming superman, here we have the journey of Superman becoming Clark Kent. What drives him to defend a planet that he was not even born on? Why pose as a loser like Clark Kent? Furthermore, we get to see a more realistic reaction from the world of the comic when it is revealed that there is alien life in the universe. The government steps in, scientists and men in suits step in.........
Confused? Curious? Revealing more about this most excellent graphic novel would reveal the best parts of the plot. What Superman Earth One works best is as a character drama revealing the intentions behind Superman's actions and the reason he is who is chooses to be.
These themes are definitely familiar as they are the main focus themes of MAN OF STEEL.

And there you have it. Five essential readings for one to familiarise with Superman.


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