Friday, 21 September 2007

'He's Got The Whole World In His Hands', Spandex Remix

I love the cover for All Star Godman Jesusman Superman #10 (above), it's like the cover for issue #1 with the volume turned up. It could be such a cheesy or sinister image, but I think Frank Quitely's mastery of body language gives the picture a level of benevolence that is almost undeniable. Something about the slope of those shoulders gives that OTT muscleman body a friendly grace it probably shouldn't have, y'know?
This cover also brings to mind something that Brendan McCarthy said in this Dogmatika interview:
The problem with a character like Superman is that he could impose world peace in a day if he wanted to. So why doesn't he do it? That's why the (very beautiful) All Star Superman comic by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is essentially nostalgic.
Isn't this 'problem' neatly encapsulated in this one image? Superman is bigger than the world; he's protecting it, but his power would be frightening were it not for the fact that he exists in such a strangely nostalgic, childlike idiom. And in a way, isn't that what All Star Superman is about? Morrison and Quitely seem to be looking for a way show Superman growing up that doesn't involve Authority style ultra-violence or doomed interventionism a la Squadron Supreme. The closest predecessor to their approach would probably be Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, but Moore brought the day-glo funfair to an end in that story, forcing all of those silly story lines to resolve so that Superman could slip out of his life and re-invent himself as an adult.
Somehow I don't see Morrison and Quitely taking that route. They're making Superman confront his own mortality, true. But the threat of death seems to exist in this story in order to force Superman to change, to become something else, a new/better/more developed version of himself (still alive, still in technicolour). It's all about transformation again (and oh my god will I be coming back to that amazing Jog article sometime soon!), a theme that is very close to my heart at the moment.
Of course transformation for its own sake isn't worth a damned thing, and hey -- death is a pretty extreme form of metamorphosis, right? But Morrison's an optimist at heart, and he almost always builds towards a happy ending, so I can't wait to see where all of this is going.
My one complaint about this series so far is that Lois Lane has been unfairly sidelined, especially in issue #3. With any luck, the next issue (number #9) will see Lois get a bit more to do. When Morrison puts words in her mouth, I love his take on the character, so hopefully the cover is indicative of her actually getting involved in the story a bit more. After all, if Superman is going to grow up, surely one of the key things that need work is his slightly unhinged romantic life. The beginnings of this are already present in Morrison's run: let's hope that this particular thematic butterfly gets a chance to spread its wings.
Also: issue #9's cover? That's Frank Quitely at his comedy best -- it's total slapstick, from Superman's bashed nose to the disdainful sneer in the yellow-clad woman's eyes. Classic.
And... we're done. There'll be more on Morrison and co next week, plus, y'know, comics commentary that isn't so Morrison-centric.
(Cover image found on this Barbelith thread, which is full of all sorts of entertainingly OTT commentary and speculation.)

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