How Would You Write a Superman Story?

A reader who, unlike nearly everyone on the Internet, uses his real name (or has adopted the cunning disguise of calling himself after ancient prophets and modern firearms) named Nate Winchester, writes and asks:

Do comic book writers have something against marriage?

This is not in reference to the divorce that took place between Spiderman and Mary Jane at the behest of the demon Mephisto or Plotcontrivo or whatever his name is. As all we geekroids of comicbookland know, Superman is being relaunched with a new line of comics taking place in his bachelor days, back when Clark Kent was still in love with Lois and she would not give him the time of day.

The story is here:

I realize that to you, if you are a pol-geek interested in the ongoing autopsy which forms the core of modern politics, the concerns of fanboys about Superman’s love life may seem trivial. Let me just remind you that pol-geeks are talking about nothing but the debate over the debt ceiling, and have been for some weeks. This story will be dead as a doornail by the end of August, or after the next election, or after the collapse of the republic, whichever comes first, whereas Superman stories will continue to be told and retold as long as their are children able to tie a blanket or red bathroom towel around their necks and throw themselves down the front stairs. So there.

On to the question:

The answer is yes, Nathaniel, comic book writers DO have something against marriage, but it is not necessarily something sinister.

The writers of soap operas have the same ‘thing’ against happy marriages and living happily ever after. Drama is about adventure and conflict.

The love triangle between Lois, Clark, and Superman is the core of the Superman Mythos — if he is married to her, that love triangle is resolved. The appeal of the character is that he is all powerful, but still cannot get the girl. If the gets the girl, the character lacks appeal.

One could of course write stories about a husband and wife team of investigative reporters, and the husband has super powers which he hides from everyone but his wife — but that story is not the Superman story.

I think it is a perfectly fine decision.

Second question:

How would you write a Superman story?

My answer: either by sitting at a computer, or with a sketchpad and pencil in hand.

If given the task, I would be cowed by the knowledge that some really fine writers, more skilled in their craft than yours truly, Alan Moore (before his child p*rnography days) and Grant Morrison, have written classics in the funnybook field, not to mention the handling of Superman in other media by Alexander Salkind and Bruce Timm. But, since I am a writer and full of beans, I would then plunge ahead heedlessly nonetheless.

Is there anything that has not been done in the more then half century of Supermania? Ah, but I think there has. My idea is a cross between Zelazny’s NINE PRINCES IN AMBER, Marvel’s X-MEN, and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. Except with Apes.

I would have Clark Kent and Lois not only married, but have at least ten half-human, half-kryptonian children: John, Martha, Clark Jr, Conner, Jor-El, Edward, Zara, Jimmy, Perry, and Mon-El; not to mention their pets Comet, Streaky, Krypto, and Beppo.

Each child inherits some of the superpowers of his Kryptonian father. Thus, one child might have flight without having superstrength, or another child has superbreath powers of his supernose, and so on.

Mother of the Kent Clan

However, all the children inherit all of the spunk and curiosity and danger-magnet powers of their terrestrial mother. Unfortunately, they have also inherited the genetic defect which makes her unable to recognize the same face when it wears or removes eyeglasses.

All the children look very much like their mother.

Mother of John Kent

John Kent, the oldest, is an adult, and has fallen in love with Nasthalthia Luthor the niece of Lex, the sultry yet alluring president of the local bank, but he dares not reveal his secret identity nor his true feelings.

John runs a farm in Kansas, and uses his superpowers to make sure the crop comes in on time, to get out of debt from the bank, and to destroy pests and vermin. His Dad is always on his case to go out and save the world from the coming Ape Invasion, but John Kent says he has his hands full fending off space saucers making crop circles. Unbeknownst to him, those space aliens can be killed by any normal human armed with a glass of water and a baseball bat.

Mother of Kit Kent

Clark Kent Jr, known by his nickname ‘Kit’, has joined the Green Lantern Corps. He is often in trouble with his superiors, the Guardians of Oa, because of his reluctance to enter any star systems with a red sun. On the other hand, he is eager to carry out tasks in single or multiple star systems with a yellow sun, but in those solar systems his power ring will not operate, being negated by the color yellow.

He has fallen in love with the evil space princess Star Sapphire, who, unbeknownst to him (and to herself!), is actually his superior officer in the Lantern Corps, Jade Scott, daughter of Alan, having been space-hypnotized by the beautiful but evil ex-space-wives of Oa known as the Zamorans, who are unhappy about the space alimony.

Kit has been called back to Earth to deal with some super-powered villain who has taken over China, but our yellow sun robs his ring of its power, so he only has the lame-o powers of a Kryptonian to fall back on.

Spunky Martha Kent, Girl Reporter

Martha Kent is a spunky redhead girl reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper. She works for the Daily Sentinel under crusading editor Britt Reid, and she is devoted to hunting down the gangster known as the Green Hornet. Her fellow reporter Vic Sage and her photographer Peter Parker accompany her to crime scenes to get the story, but are always missing when the action starts.

(Vic Sage is some sort of conspiracy theory nut who believes that the ancient pyramids of Egypt were built by space aliens called Thanagarians; he insists there is a secret council of Illuminati run by an immortal man named Vandal Savage running the major governments and international corporations of the world. Ho ho, what a nutbag, and his preposterous obsession would be played for laughs. Any Questions?)

Conner's Mom, who is Smokin' Hot

Conner Kent is undergoing a case of terminal or interminable teenaged angst, and has conquered China. He is busy freeing dissidents from gulags, and protecting Tibetans, but the US government, under President Lex Luthor, is organizing a team to stop him.

Conner is in love with the shapechanging mind reader Miss Martian, who, unbeknownst to him, is his dog, Krypto, as well as being his sidekick, Skippy, and three other people. Unbeknownst to herself, all Green Martians, including her, are Skrulls.

Mother of Jor-El Kent

Jor-El Kent is having trouble in High School because he is a jock in love with a science geek, Lena Thorul, and they both have been put into the school play as Romeo and Juliet, and he has to kiss her in the final scene. Unbeknownst to him, she is the daughter of Lex Luthor, the President of the United States.

Mother of Edward Kent

Edward Kent is also in High School, and is an honorary member of the Justice Legion of the 31st Century, and is fighting zombie robot ape-men on the Moon, sent against him by his arch foe the Mastermind of the Moon.

I mean, someone in the superfamily has to have a normal life, right?

He is in love with Squirrel Girl. Unbeknownst to him, she was invented by Steve Freakin’ Dikto, so there.

Zara Kent, who takes after her Aunt Linda

Zara Kent is in Junior High, and tries to use her superpowers surreptitiously to help her overweight friend with ‘body image issues’ Etta Candy. For no reason anyone can elaborate, she also hangs out with a slightly offcenter group of cheerleaders known as ‘the holiday girls’ who like dressing up as fuzzy animals.

Zara has been granted special powers by the great goddess Vesta, goddess of hearth and home, and has been sent into the Man’s World, or, at least, Man’s Junior High School, to teach women to be happy homemakers with large families: but the Amazons of Paradise Island, sent by the Hera, goddess of Pushy Women, and Aphrodite, goddess of Whoopee, will stop at nothing to stop her.

Unbeknownst to her, Zara’s best friend Clytemnestra is a teen Amazon. They are both in love with the same boy, Martin Luthor King, who, unbeknownst to either of them, is a robot created by Luthor, who, unbeknownst to him, has rebelled against his Asimovian programming, and is trying to bring civil rights to all the robots in the Fortress of Solitude or hidden in hollow trees that look like Superman and Supergirl.

Mother of Jimmy Kent

Jimmy Kent is in a boy scout troop where the senior patrol leader, Mike Duffy, thinks he is a goldbricking layabout slacker and delights to torment him, but, unbeknownst to SPL Duffy, Jimmy saves the troop time and time again from vicious bears, foreign spies, or chow-eating raccoon-bots sent by a villain known as Wilderness Master, and through his quick thinking he allows his troop to win top honors at the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Mother of young Perry Kent

Young Perry Kent is an irrepressible prankster, always flying around doing high jinks like melting the polar ice caps with his heat vision.

Mother of Mon-El

Mon-El Kent, the youngest, has created his own planet by mashing together the asteroids in the asteroid belt, and peopling it with robots who look exactly like himself.

He refuses to go to school with other children, claiming he has learned everything he needs to know from a Thanagarian brain-transfer device. Unbeknownst to himself, he is actually the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian prince Khufu, and knows the secret of how to construct the mysterious ‘Ninth Metal’ which enables him to fly, uh, much more slowly than he can already fly with his Kryptonian powers.

Mom and her pal, Tommy. (Those Who Think Pulp Era Damsels were Frail, Think Twice.)

The overarching story line is the trouble between the desire of the aging father to remain secret and help mankind, and the wishes of the younger generation, raised according to a ‘Me-First’ ethic, and believing in the coming catastrophe of Global Warming (which turns out to be a prank by Perry, see above) to use their powers quite openly to force mankind to be good, to rule them for their own sake, in order to avoid the coming catastrophe predicted by the time-traveling Legionnaires, where all Earth is taken over by Super-Apes from Gorilla City.

The increasing tension between the superchildren who just want to “do their own thing” and the strict old-fashioned Methodist upbringing of the older Superman will be the main focus of the story arc.

Will Supes be too overbearing and tyrannical a Dad? Or will he let the children each ‘do his own thing’ and treat the weakling earth slugs as pets, as we deserve, and as our glorious leader, General Zod, commands?

Evil Tyrant Dad!

And, of course, the children of Lex Luthor and the Insect Queen Lana Lang, namely Alexander, Joseph, Lori, Lena, and Brainia, not to mention the child of Lex and Ardora of planet Lexor, and the child of Lex and Contessa Erica Alexandra Del Portenza, Lemuel and Luciferina, have formed a ‘Superfamily Get Back Squad’ and a political party called the Earth Firsters, calling for the expulsion of all intelligent alien life forms from the planet Earth.

Deceived by the propaganda of the Earth Firsters, many legitimate superheroes and metahumans join the movement and become unwilling enemies of the Superfamily: the most devoted Earth Firsters include one-time friends, such as Hawkgirl, the Martian Manhunter, Scott Free & Big Barda, Beta Ray Bill, Captain Marvel (Mar-vell of the Kree, that is), Nova, Powergirl, Saturn Girl, and Starfire.

Santa Clause is also a member of the First Earthers, since his workshop at the North Pole, not far from the Fortress of Solitude, was destroyed by the polar ice cap melting, canceling Christmas for that year.

Drama, heartbreak, action and intrigue ensue! Shall the children of Superman be free to plot their own course in life, conquering China and melting polar ice caps as is the Kryptonian tradition? Or shall they follow in their father’s footsteps, maintaining secret identities and receiving no credit nor reward for their good deeds?

On the cover of every issue can be displayed the eerie hands of the Ape Clock, counting down the days and hours when the Earth will be taken over by Super-Apes from Ape City, a doom that no one and nothing can avoid, unless someone throws a giant squid at New York City or something.

I think it would be a great series, and it would address, or better yet, avoid, many of the pressing issues of our time, such as raising the debt ceiling, or legalizing human-ape marriage, whatever bothersome nonsense you other geeks are always on about.


ADDENDUM: A reader asks

“Kit has been called back to Earth to deal with some super-powered villain who has taken over China, but our yellow sun robs his ring of its power, so he only has the lame-o powers of a Kryptonian to fall back on.” But if this is so, then how could the previous Green Lanterns (be they John Stewart, or Hal Jordan, or Guy Gardner, or even Kyle Rayner) use their power rings on Earth? Resolve this conundrum for me, O wise one!”

Certainly. The living planet Mogo of the Green Lantern corps, and the evil living sun Solaris had a brief but torrid love affair. You see, Mogo was in his secret identity as the mild mannered planet Zenn-La, and Solaris did not realize with whom he was dallying. They had a child out of wedlock, known as a white dwarf star known as Irregulus, who was hidden in the Nebula of Shame.

In a famous sequence of comics by Alan Moore, when the Swamp Thing was attacked by Lex Luthor and his his aura frequency changed so that ST was no longer attuned to the vegetable life force of Earth, Swamp Thing was catapulted across the universe, first to one biosphere of one alien planet after another, trying desperately to alter his bio-frequency and attune himself once again to Earth.

I would retroactively establish that during this cosmic quest, Swamp Thing briefly was attuned to the solar electromagnetogravitic aura of Irregulus, and turned him into a Wooden Star. This haunted sun, now made of wood instead of fusing hydrogen, puts out splinters instead of sunbeams. He goes on a rampage of star crimes under the name ‘Woodenstar’.

Lawrence “Crusher” Crock, aka the Sportsmaster, the only man who ever defeated Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, learning of the Woodenstar through his contacts in Intergang, uses his, um, atomic sporting good equipment to exchange souls and bodies with Irregulus.

Now in his new form as a Star made of Wood, the sportsmaster, now known as ‘Star-Master’ seeks out Earth’s solar system, and with the shower of splinters radiating from his body at all times, not only kills all the vampires on Earth by mistake, but drives away the Green Lanterns, who are of course vulnerable to anything made of wood.

Meanwhile, Krona the Rogue Oan, now revealed to be the Anti-Monitor reborn, finds the Ultimate Nullifier, the Cosmic Cube, and the Infinity Gauntlet, and the hat of Mister Mxyzptlk, and traveling back in time to the moment of creation, introduces a fundamental weakness into the nature of the Power Rings of Oa, so that each one of them is weak to one or another fundamental physical force or object, such as the color yellow, or normal tapwater, and so on. Krona recreates the universe and takes upon himself the name of the Re-Creator.

UNFORTUNATELY, the interference of the Sportsmaster, master of Recreation, upsets the plans of Krona the Recreator.

Because of this, all of the Lantern rings no matter their color are vulnerable to sporting goods of one sort or another.

The Green Lantern rings, for example, are vulnerable to yellow baseball bats. The Black Lantern rings, in my story to be used only by the doofy aliens in the movie SIGNS, are vulnerable to tap water, but only when it is splashed on them by a guy using a baseball bat to knock glasses of water at them. The Yellow Lantern rings are vulnerable to Tennis Rackets; the Pink Lanterns to Hockey Sticks; the Mauve Lanterns to Golf Clubs, and of course the rather glum Blue Lantern Rings are vulnerable to being wacked over the head by a pool cue made of the dreaded yellow Kryptonite.

Since the Sportsmaster is the only one carting around all these stupid objects, he becomes the most powerful creature in the universe, and the enemy of the Lanterns of any hue. And he has got the Ultimate Nullifier, the Cosmic Cube, and the Infinity Gauntlet too, because why not?

And the Hawkman returns from the dead, and it is revealed that he has become one with a mysterious power known as the HAWK-FORCE. This is something like the Speed-force that gives the Flash his powers, except it, um, has something to do with hawks and hawkishness.

All the other superheroes of every world are defeated by Sportsmaster and Squirrel Girl. There is no hope left, and no one else to turn to but Carter Hall, reincarnate Egyptian flying guy.

Since the Hawkman has the superpower flight, and he also has the powers of, um, flying and gliding and flapping, he of course can attack the Sportsmaster with archaic weapons that he has absolutely no reason to use. And his wings are made of the mysterious Ninth Metal, but his mace is made of the MORE mysterious Tenth Metal, his kusarigama of the Eleventh Metal, his pandybat of the Twelfth Metal, and his Military Fork of the unlucky Thirteenth, and so on.

So the two combatants square off. Hawkman throws away his atomic powered Thanagarian death-ray pistol and his atomic hand grenade and Sportsmaster gets rids of his cosmic attack armada as unsportsmanlike, and the two have at it with mace against baseball bat, bow and arrow against curling iron, pole arm against pole vaulting pole.

The entire Milky Was Galaxy is reduced to ashes, or, at least, to boredom before the Olympics of Death are decided, and it is only Aquaman’s power to talk to fish which saves the day, by summoning up the self same giant space whale which bit off the arm of Lightning Lad of the Legionnaires.



And Hawkman turns out to be Alan Scott’s long lost daughter, Jade Chan, niece of Jackie, the sultry girlfriend of Race Bannon, accidentally turned into an Egyptian Thanagarian Hawk-niece because of an accidental time quake of hypertime, which influences all Thanagarians with something called ‘Hawk-time’ that messes up their cause and effect even more-so.

jade jonny_quest5

I mean this is Jade!


Or Maybe This Jade. Now I am confused.

I think that clears up any continuity errors.

Are there any additional continuity quirks to be resolved?

Supergirl is the cousin of Superman from now on, and the Planet Thanagar and the Planet Krypton were both eaten by Galactus.

Brainiac is a herald of Galactus, and Hawkman is retroactively now a reincarnated Egyptian Prince, not a space alien, as he was always meant to be, amen and Amon Ra!

John Stewart marries Hawkgirl and she gives birth to Warhawk. Vixen turns out never to have existed, except that she is the clone of a robot from a parallel dimension, and she is married to another man and cannot wed John Stewart.

Kyle Raynor’s ring is stolen by Frodo Baggins and Loki the trickster-god and thrown into a evil space-volcano and destroyed, so Kyle, now facing unemployment, becomes Batman’s sidekick, yet another new Robin, and the fans find him really annoying, and he is killed off by the Joker.

Clear enough?