Superman: Red Son. “The Great American Icon… Reimagined as a Soviet Hero”.
How Superman: Red Son is illustrated:
Superman: Red Son is drawn in a traditional, cartoony, comic book style. Some scenes in the graphic novel are brightly colored while other scenes are heavily shadowed and colored in darker tones. The colors of the scenes almost dictate the atmosphere and attitude of the settings. The early scenes from flashbacks to the Cold War are depicted as you’d imagine Cold War scenes would be, and as the story progresses through time the settings are drawn more and more futuristic.
Superman: Red Son as a Graphic Novel:
Superman: Red Son is a play on the traditional story of Superman. As if in an alternate universe, the premise of the book is that Superman crash landed as a baby on a collective farm in communist Russia and was raised by peasant farmers. The graphic novel is a great format to explore this alternate universe and allows the writers to re-imagine the story and characters. A fun and interesting example is how the writers explain where other superheroes fall into this parallel world. Batman, for example, is introduced as an anarchist opponent of Superman and as a “force of chaos” representing “the dark side of the Soviet Dream.” (p.68). Batman has a similar, traditional appearance, but because he is in Russia he has a fur tuft above the eyes on his mask for warmth. (CLICK BELOW FOR MORE...)
This graphic novel has Superman explaining points throughout his life in First Person narration. We don’t see the speaker, but the story is told through a series of flashbacks and the voice-over narration provides commentary to the scenes. The story begins in 1953 during the Cold War with America’s response and paranoia as Russia reveals their Soviet Superman to the world. The U.S. responds by turning to its prominent Super Scientist, Lex Luther, who quickly decides to create an American super-man, Bizarro. After the Soviet Superman defeats Lex Luther’s slow-witted, mutant Bizarro Superman, Lex Luther dedicates his life to defeating Superman, much to the dismay of his wife, Lois Lane. By the second chapter, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin has died and Superman has become the Soviet President.
The story is told in a series of chronological flashbacks, with chapter two beginning at 1978. Even as of yet we have not seen the narrator, but Superman’s commentary to the scenes provides insights to his attitude of his past and his growing disconnect from the human condition.
A specific Scene:
Specific scenes that illustrates important aspects of the story and of the novel are those with Batman. We first see Batman on page 66 as he’s hunted by the KGB (or Soviet Police) for igniting bombs at Moscow’s Superman Museum, which showcases the history of Lex Luther’s attempts to defeat Superman through a catalogued display of his creations and super villains. Batman escapes and later lays a trap for Superman on page 90. Here, Batman has captured Wonder Woman and tied her up using her Magic Lasso to draw Superman into his trap. With help from Lex Luther, Batman has rigged up lamps to simulate the Red Sun from superman’s home world which negate his powers. The dominant Red lights also contribute to the setting and mood of this scene through heavy red tones. Now tied up and helpless, Superman pleas with Wonder Woman to break her lasso and destroy the generator. This act forever changes Wonder Woman, and in a telling way granting the reader insight to the cold character Superman is becoming, we see him completely disregard her sacrifice. Batman then detonates himself, going out a martyr rather than submitting to Superman’s popular behavior correcting, mind control surgery.
As mentioned above, this parallel take on a traditional story grants the writers the liberty to re-imagine superheroes and their roles. The colors of the scenes contribute to the settings and the actions of heroes reveal their character and contribute to the story.