Monday, December 16, 2013

For Tuesday: Millar, Superman: Red Son

For tomorrow's class, be sure to read as much of Superman: Red Son as possible, but try to read meaningfully (and slowly) rather than superficially (and fast).  Comic books may look like easy eye-candy, but they repay careful attention--consider how both words and images are telling the story.

Remember: be sure to post one of your 4 questions as a 'comment' to this post.  Thanks!

For those interested, here's a brief interview with Mark Millar, the Scottish writer of Superman: Red Son, who has also done work on The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, and most notably Kick-Ass, which was made into 2 films (which the interview partially addresses).  However, in the interview he discusses the genesis for his idea of Superman's 'Russian' origin, and why he could never adapt it into a movie.  As an interesting side note, Millar is an MBE, which stands for "Member (of the) British Empire."  Not bad for a comic book writer!

Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1zkY7VY1h8.


21 comments:

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  2. Personally, my favorite scene in the novel took place on pages 34 and 35. Earlier we had a glimpse of the traditional Superman when he chose to save the American citizens from the falling satellite—showing that some aspects of Superman are universal, such as his sense of justice. The scene on 34 and 35 seems to reiterate this point through the origins of Batman, implying that there is no universe in which a scene like this doesn’t happen in some way (even if Bruce Wayne is the one to die) and that Batman is a universal constant. I thought the art was particularly beautiful on these two pages, and the artist’s choice to draw Bruce very similar to the way he is depicted in Batman: Year One a brilliant way of emphasizing the duality of the two universes. To me it says that no matter the country or the universe, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are indispensable forces in the world, whether it be for good or ill.

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    2. I think you could take that and argue that good and ill are also universal, just like the superheroes and super villains in this book. Their is no one person or place that has only good or evil, we all have a bit of both, even the indispensable Clark Kent. (who ironically is suppose to be the American icon of perfection-originally-)

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  3. I believe that the story of Superman Red Son was told in a graphic novel format simply because it is the only way to tell Superman. The juxtaposition of words and art on pages 26 and 27 allows the reader to feel the many different perceptions of the Russian public on Superman at once. We see the Russian military in all of their might marching as a sea of red, the civilian crowd smiling and holding signage in celebration of Superman, and we see Stalin and Pytor watching in mixed emotions as Superman flies away from Superman Day to attend to yet another emergency. The graphic novel format allows the reader to experience all of these things at once, where a novel, or even a film, would not be able to present this vital scene in such a way.

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    1. I agree, but I think that if it was worked well it could be a film. I'm sure that a Russian Superman would be difficult for some people to grasp at first, but the action and twists in the story would still allow it to sell. Of course your talking a two or three volume film, there is no way to fit it all in one film. But you are right in that a graphic novel is the best way that this could have been made, because in no other way could you get the words and images to work together so beautifully.

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  4. 4. One of the most beautiful panels within the Red Son comic comes towards the end. Brainiac and Superman earlier had teamed up to fight Lex Luthor, but soon Superman realizes that Brainiac is so flawed that he is willing impose harsh punishments such as brain surgery to make people fit into his system for a perfect humanity. When Superman tells Brainiac to stop bullying humanity since they were not helping them, Brainiac scoffs off, “But you can’t stop now when you are on the brink of Utopia, Superman. Denying them perfection is more morally corrupt than enforcing it (137).” It takes the words along with the art to explain the stance that Brainiac is trying to take. If not for Brainiac being drawn above and taller than Superman, we would not realize that at that point he refuses to be subservient and sees himself as the clearly superior being. We also learn that the whole time that Brainiac has been pulling the strings to get Superman to do as he wished, meaning Superman was just a puppet the entire time.

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  5. The frame that stands out to me as important is near the end of the novel. The frame contains the characters Jor-L and his wife. They have reached a decision to send their offspring back in time to a more primitive time and place. The characters conclude that the baby will grow up in a time and place where he will be a much stronger and faster version of the people. Even though the frame is near the end of the novel it still gives a refreshing sense of rebirth and hope. The words express the parents’ hesitation when sending the child away, yet also uses a calming voice for the father as reassurance that they are doing something for the greater good.

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  6. In my opinion, the most significant scene, is on page 55 when superman decides to lead soviet union. To help his country in a way none of his super powers can do. This is when the superman we all know and love makes the first decision that leads him to change to the “big brother” like dictator towards the end. Although through his point of view his intentions were good we wanted to end all war, stop famine, to create the perfect world. He begin taking away people’s free will to make decesions on their own. In the scene, you have a feeling of hope, that maybe superman can rescue them. Even when it turns out that when someone with so many powers (super strength, speed, heat vision, etc) is also given the power to rule over a country. Who could stop him?

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  7. Superman: Red Son is illustrated in a cartoon fashion with some characteristics of sketches. The characters have exaggerated features, the men have extremely broad shoulders, for example, and the lines on both sexes’ faces are deeply impressed so as to make emotions more obvious. The examples of sketch style are apparent in the back drop of many frames, where the backgrounds are not fully drawn in, just the impressions of them are apparent. This could be done for a number of reasons, but it seems likely that the frames with little detail in the background are drawn in that way to emphasize the importance of a character or object in the foreground.

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  8. I believe the Red Sun was written as a graphic novel because first of all the original Superman was a graphic novel and in any other form the media would have not done the story justice. The graphics show drama that I do not think I could have imagined. If this story was to be transformed in to a novel or short story it would not have the meaning stressed as much as the graphics did in the graphic novel. You would loss the creative art in the drawings, along with the emotion in the faces of the characters. The elements that need the juxtaposition are when the characters are thinking their face is faded in the background but just enough to see who it is while the setting is in the front. This shows that they are thinking and without it you would not be able to determine if they were thinking or talking.

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  9. 4. The scene or frame in the novel that stood out to me was in the third chapter and page 136 when superman was coming back to rescue the people and destroy Mr. Luther. Mrs. Luther handed him a letter basically saying might as well lock the whole world up in this little glass. The letter basically said you can’t save and protect the whole world, in this moment he realized that he was trying to help others but it wasn’t even his own country, so he had to let go of the US so they could make their own mistake and fix them not superman. I like this scene for the illustrations of his body language of his distress and the visual illustration of the letter with the sentence clearly written to make superman realize it’s not his fight to fight anymore.

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  10. I think the art work was very artistic and daring. When people read superman comics they expect a certain amount of familiarity. The illustrator could have done that but then it would have been out of place with the setting. In the back of the book Dave Johnson mentioned his friends giving him crap over Batman's hat, but I feel it was the perfect touch. (And I so know who Batman was way before the reveal). Johnson's illustrations are completely different from Crumb's. At no point did I feel the need to laugh from the was a scene was drawn, but oddly enough despite the huge difference between Johnson's and Cavey's style; they both produced similar feelings of sadness.

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  11. Lisa Edge 4. Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a single of frames, that you feel is particularly significant. Why is this moment so important? Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both? Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. Page 22- The scene illustrates the world on Superman’s shoulders (possibly borrowed from Mythology referencing him as the Titan Atlas) even if it’s just the globe from the top of the Daily Planet. Page 51-52-Oh Lois…Hubby’s on the phone. Lex literally tells her it is over on the telephone because Superman humiliated him at chess. It is over so he may devote all to the destruction of Superman, this arch enemy must be beaten his vanity must be regained through beating Superman at all cost. He is totally consumed by the rivalry between him and Superman nothing else matters. If others are lost or eliminated so be it.

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  12. One scene that stood out to me was on pages 92-97, when Batman takes Superman underground and shuts him up. It’s powerful to me, because he’s hopeless and he’s counting on Wonder Woman to help him out. Usually it’s always the women counting on the men in graphic novels. I feel like she’s still almost waiting on Superman, but he asks her to help him even it destroys her powers.On page 97 when he tells Superman that it was Pyotr who betrayed him. I guess also on page 98, the expression on Superman’s face shows the audience that he was really shocked from the information he just received and he doesn’t even seem concerned about what happened to Wonder Woman.

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  13. The most poignant scene for me was Batman's suicide. The yellow frame of explosion juxtaposed with Superman covered in his blood is extremely dynamic because that it not something I would expect from a "superhero," but it lends itself to the urgency and importance of the issues in the comic. It is in two frames incredibly dramatic and shaking to the reader, but somehow gives an element of reality to the story.

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  14. Illustration
    Flipping through this graphic novel the illustrations are extremely reminiscent of the classic Superman comics. However the depictions of Superman are very different, which includes Soviet Russia’s influence on his attire. The style of the artwork is extremely polished, well thought out, and presents itself as a complete piece of work. Each page is finished and represents a piece of art in its own regard. I noticed that the color red was a huge part of the entire series, and was really important to represent Superman and his connection with the Russians. As his connection with the Russian’s degrade, the red tone of his suit actually is toned down a shade. Another interesting find about the color red in this novel, is that blood is usually depicted as the darkest shade of red in a graphic novel, where in this novel the color of blood represents the “temperature of the kill.” For example when Lex Luthor kills his assistance the color of the blood is very faint and almost cold, whereas when Superman or the young Batman bleeds, it is a very crimson vibrant red.

    -Cody Soden

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  15. A very significant scene in Superman: Red Son is the final scene on page 148 and 151. This particular scene gives us closure to the story, but also gives us a whole new beginning. It ends the story by taking us back to the beginning. It’s also important because it gives the ending a twist that was hinted at, but never expected. The twist ending is perfect for the story, and opens up a whole new line of action that we could not see before that. I love this scene from the novel not only for the words but for the images as well. I love the way half the scene is given to us in words and the second half all in images. In the first half we see his parents discussing sending him back to the past and placing him in a rocket. The second half is the rocket crash landing in Ukraine Russia in 1938, all portrayed through images. Ending the scene, and the story, with pure images allows for the reader to make the connection of the twist ending on their own without the interruption of words. It simply allows for the reader to take in the images and finish the story with their own words. This scene is not only significant in the way that it is portrayed, in the way it ends the story, and in the way it ends in images, but also because of the way it creates this circle. Among the many amazing revelations that are shown through this final scene, one of the major ones is that Superman is no alien, and that the biggest accomplishment of Lex Luthor was killing his own grandson, who he thought was an alien.

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  16. A significant scene from Superman Red Son: I think one of the most significant scenes in the entire graphic novel is when Wonder Woman and Superman have just saved a group of men from an exploding barge. Wonder Woman, who has embraced Communism and pledged to help Superman stamp out Capitalism, says that she doesn't understand why Kennedy hasn't given up on Capitalism when it is destroying their country. Superman tells her that this is because of pride. They fly the people to safety and one of them shouts that the tank is going to explode and Superman says “Take it easy, comrade. . .not while there's a breath left in my body!” which is hilarious because he is the very example of pride. Wonder Woman even points this out by calling him out and telling him what a show-off he is. I think that is definitely important because we can see how misguided and hypocritical Superman is being even though he doesn't realize it.

    - Mello

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  17. Question 4
    I feel that the last two pages, 150-151, are the most important to this story. It is these two pages that show us where Superman came from, and really change the pace of the entire story. When you discover that superman is not some alien from another planet, but rather a human from another time, many of the ideas about superman are changed. For example, it is first believed that superman is this all-powerful alien who wants to be the good man he was raised to be, but unfortunately uses his power to create a society that is more robotic than human. However, Superman is human. Due to this major detail, the story becomes more about a human who falls into human error than an alien who is trying to help. It’s no longer an outside force destroying society, but someone who is from earth. What I believe is far more interesting is the possible notion, though depressing, is that humans cannot handle the power of superman because they will fall to human nature and destroy society in spite of their good intentions. Notice, that eventually society always takes a turn for the worse. It seems like Lex “saves the world” after superman’s supposed death, but notice that eventually society still comes to a point where it will still be destroyed because of human error (in that particular case the human error of pride that kept people from believing in Jor-L). Maybe, that is why the superman that is more widely known seems to be able to, though with much dismay at times, actually find that line between helping society better itself and making society better itself, because he is not human. I think these two pages create a story that becomes devoid of hope because the power is given to a human, and humans are very fallible creature who will eventually fall into the traps of human nature.

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  18. 4. I found the scene with Superman and Wonderwoman saving the tanker very significant. It is important because it gives a hint to Wonderwoman’s feeling for Superman and the relationship, or lack thereof, between the two. This helps explain why later when she sacrifices her power and strength for him she begins to hate and resent him and even later joins Luther against him. I admire this scene more for the words, Wonderwoman’s attempt at flirting and then reassurances to Superman, meanwhile he seems to be oblivious to her, obsessed only with himself and his problems. The arts does help the scene especially the close up of Wonderwoman’s face in the last frame.

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