I remember reading a quote from an Alan Moore interview once. I can’t remember where I saw it or exactly how he said it, but it went something like: “The Cold War was like the world holding a gun to its head. What we’re going through now is like living with the consequences of not pulling the trigger.” That’s how I remember it, anyway. I’m going to start with that quote as context for everything I’m about to write.
- The Justice League Unlimited adaptation was fine. That being said, I didn’t really like any of the changes it made. I get why they made them- It was a half hour cartoon episode made for kids. You’re not exactly going to have Jor El go on rants about immigrants in a kids show. That being said, even down to Batman calling Superman “Kent” instead of Kal, I was not a big fan of any of the changes made.
I think those changes blew past a big part of the story: What do you get for the man who has everything? A normal life because it’s the only thing he doesn’t and can’t have.
The original story in Superman #11 was written Pre- Crisis on Infinite Earths. Pre-Crisis, it was well established that Superman could not have a normal life.
Basically, because of his powers, Superman had a duty to be Superman. That duty made a normal life impossible for him because of his enemies or because it could possibly cause him to compromise his mission. He couldn’t allow anything like a family become more important than his never-ending battle.
Except… maybe he really wanted a normal life.
So how can the Black Mercy give that to him, Mongul?
“-It feeds them a logical simulation of the happy ending they desire.” So, the Black Mercy does give you your heart’s desire, but… the fantasy still needs to be logical.
How can Superman have a normal life? If he is powerless. What is the most logical reason for him to be powerless? He never left Krypton. If he never left Krypton, of course he would be a scientist. It’s only logical.
But, I really want to focus on the POWERLESS aspect because I think that’s critical. In his comic book fantasy, Kal El is powerless. He looks exhausted in the first few panels. He also comes off as really meek, timid. He stutters- hesitates when he speaks. He’s powerless and he knows it. However, he accepts it. He has his family, he has his life, and that’s good enough. He’s willing to be powerless on a rapidly changing Krypton so long as he has his hearts desire.
And why is Krypton rapidly changing and bleak? The consequences of not pulling the trigger (i.e. not exploding).
Jor El… not so much. He cannot handle the fact that he is powerless in a changing world, so he reacts in a way that is very similar to another Alan Moore character:
Jor El’s rant reminded me a lot of Captain Metropolis’ list of social ills from Watchmen. Both Jor and the good Captain feel powerless to stop the world changing around them and possibly leaving them behind, so they both retreat to:
They both hold on to an older view of the world that comforts them and they try to force these old ideas on the world so they can feel relevant and powerful.
This is to contrast how Kal El accepts the fact that he is powerless, but is still content with what he has. This reinforces the fact that he would need to give up being relevant and powerful to truly have a normal life.
The Justice League Unlimited version misses a lot of this depth. I mean, Kal El is powerless in it, but otherwise he pretty much still acts like Superman. Also, you don’t have the counter-point with Jor El. I think the JLU adaptation pretty much got the premise, but missed the subtler implications that make the comic kind of beautiful.
If I was in the Black Mercy, what dream world would I see? Well, I always wanted to be a superhero- have bullets bounce off my chest while I grin- fly through the marshmallow clouds… These days, though, I’d just like to be able to accept the fact that I’m powerless and irrelevant to the changing world. Maybe then I could finally have a normal life.
Why did Alan allow his name to be attached to it? Well… JLU was a good cartoon and it was pretty harmless so far as Moore adaptations go. Moore has spent a lot of time distancing himself from The Killing Joke, and there are ownership resentments that come with Watchmen. By comparison, a Superman Annual #11 adaptation by JLU doesn’t seem like something worth being stubborn about.
But… who knows… Alan is Alan.
- Well, he does have a wife and a son in continuity now, so… what can you get Superman at this point?.. A gift subscription to DC Universe…?
Ah, no, I got it! I’d get him a device that would split him into two Supermen so he can finally do all those things he never got around to doing… create that antidote to Kryptonite, restore Kandor to its actual size, marry Lois AND Lana…
- Superman Annual #11 is a 10 for me. I believe I even put it on a top ten Superman stories list I made a while back. The JLU adaptation is a solid 7.
Stay gold, everyone!