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Superman: Red Son

I’m FINALLY getting around to writing something for the blog that’s not about a road trip! It’s been so beautiful outside it’s hard to want to sit at a computer. But that’s all about to change – MWHAHAHA! (That’s my best evil laugh.)

I now possess a LAPTOP! Excuse me a minute while a do a little “happy dance”. All I need is to set up a wireless connection & tonight we take over the world! Whoops – I was channeling the Brain there for a minute. See what happens when you capriciously use the evil villain laugh?

I’m going to write about Superman today – which is just nuts because Superman does nothing for me. I get easily bored with stories that are nothing but “I’m very strong so I stopped a bad thing from happening.”

However there is one thing about Superman that I find endlessly interesting. Superman: Red Son is an entire book is devoted to the exploration of this certain idea, so it got all the synapses in my brain fired up. I just LOVE that! That’s still the best part of reading comics for me – when you find a story that makes you think.

So, what’s this notion to which I’ve alluded? I like stories when Superman struggles with the concept of being god, or even a Christ-like figure, if you prefer. In his heart he just wants to “save” people. The interesting part lies in the struggle to decide by what means you choose to achieve it.

You have all this strength & power, so do you help those you love more by a life of service? Or do you better protect them by using this power to control the best possible outcomes because you are clearly best suited for the task?

Red Son explores this idea in a “what if” tale. I know – don’t balk yet. I have also read some SUPREMELY sucky “what if” stories, but I really dug this one. Mark Millar provides us an interesting premise: What if Jor-L had launched his son at a slightly different time & the rocket crashed in Russia instead of the US-of-A?

So we take all that earnest desire to help mankind & bring it up in a Russian farming collective. Neat, huh?

This book juxtaposes our familiar heroes with real historical characters & events. It does a great job of showing how this change affects not only the fictional characters that populate the story, but also how it might have affected the world.

Everybody’s there too. Even though the characters take different paths – they are still true to the essence of the characters we’ve come to know.

Superman needs his foil – so a tragic loss in the life of a young boy in Russia leads to the creation of a Soviet version of Batman. Wonder Woman joins Superman for a while and then begins to wonder if the Batman was right to question his benevolent domination.

Metropolis still has its Daily Planet, but Jimmy Olson has moved on to other things. Lois is, OF COURSE, there (and so is the chemistry!), but this Lois is married to Lex Luthor. The Luthor in this world devotes his life to putting his not nearly so evil genius to work to find a way to bring down Superman.

However, this time it’s not so much for personal gain, power or vengeance but rather for the preservation of ideological principles. Lex & Superman serve as opposing answers to the question of “How do you go about saving the world”?

Jeff and I talked about this a little at lunch one day. He asked me what the big deal was. What difference could landing in Russia make? I think I had a moment of clarity on the matter so let’s see if I can recreate, eh?

Our American Superman is a product of a culture that prizes individuality. Any time Clark stops to consider the notion that maybe he should just take over – he remembers why he loves humanity so much. It’s in large part due to their free will & indomitable independence.

An American upbringing provides him with a context for understanding that if you kill free will you crush the thing you love. It’s worth preserving that even if you are forced to occasionally let others make bad choices.

Now take that same Boy Scout heartfelt desire to help, and then raise it in a society where control is the norm & collective thinking your daily bread.

The Man of Steele grew up in Stalin’s heyday in Red Son. He was reared in an environment where the government assured you they had everything under control & would take care of all the citizens.

It’s only natural that this cultivated feelings that the best way to protect the world was to “take care” of it. Unfortunately the cost of Superman’s Utopia is free will.

It’s this realization that allows Lex to finally defeat Superman in the end. The final standoff between this alternate reality pair and Lex’s delivery of the ultimate checkmate should not be missed.

I can only WISH that I was clever enough to come up with such an engaging tale. Thank God there are people out there providing thes great stories for us. Treat yourself to a copy of this book. Heck – you can borrow mine!

More half baked opinions coming soon…thanks for reading!!

Later!

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