I have officially read 70 trades on “the shelf”, and written a blog post (sometimes two) about each one.
This far into my endeavor, I’m not ashamed to admit it hasn’t always been easy. Given that I’ve tasked myself with writing about each and every trade I read, and that I’ve been pushing myself to average 1,000 word posts, there have been numerous occasions where I find myself struggling to figure out what exactly I should write.
Superman: The Man of Steel-Volume Three is a perfect example of this. I read the trade. I liked the trade. And yet I’m sitting at my computer a bit stumped as to what exactly I want to say about the trade.
Writers block is certainly not a new phenomenon, but my own OCD simply won’t allow me to not write about a trade at this point.
So, I persevere.
I hope the two whole people who actually read my blog appreciate the sacrifice I make on their behalf 🙂
Anyway, back to Superman, because after all, that’s what this blog is all about: the comics.
These Man of Steel collections help to fill in the blanks on what exactly Superman was up to after Crisis on Infinite Earths, primarily employing self-contained stories while occasionally branching out into a multi-issue story arc. At the end of the day, all is restored to normal and Superman saves the day, just like we all knew he would.
What struck me in this trade was not the hero (or rather, heroes, as Superman is joined by a handful of fellow superheroes within these pages) but the villains.
I’ve written previously about how refreshing it was to see the heroes portrayed as fallible, imperfect people, with their own desires and shortcomings.
The villains, however, were largely left out of that discussion. Our heroes could be conflicted and imperfect, but the villains often remained one-dimensional: they were evil, plain and simple.
In this Superman collection, we get to see a minor shift in that trademark characterization, albeit briefly.
After unleashing an uncontrollable adversary to destroy Superman, Lex Luthor realizes his mistake and orders the man stopped, lest any more innocent lives be destroyed:
Luthor may be a crazed man hell-bent on killing Superman, but even he has his limits. The deaths of civilians proves to be too much for him, and he demands an immediate end to this senseless killing.
Does this make him likable? Of course not. He still wants to destroy Superman.
What it does do though is prove that not all villains are mindless killing machines. Luthor is evil, but he also apparently has some semblance of a conscience.
And yes, to be fair, Superman points out on the following page that Luthor will be heralded as the good guy for ridding the city of this maniac (a maniac he let loose). As Superman says, “He’s doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.”
Still, he’s doing the right thing. There is so much more behind that small action than any of the cut and dry villainy usually seen.
If our heroes are shown with flaws or sometimes making the wrong choices, why can’t the bad guys be given the same inconsistencies?
I don’t expect it to be instantaneous, but I certainly hope this is a precursor of what’s to come, and that we start to see more humane villains making appearances. Not only would it make the stories more compelling and ultimately more believable, it would make the truly insane villains that much more intense and terrifying.
I guess it really is all about characterization for me. At least I know what I like.