Reign of the Supermen #428: Superman, K Hunter

Source: Superman/Batman #44-49 (2008)
Type: The real deal (since retconned)Why is it that ridiculous, convoluted, over-the-top stories in the Silver Age are fine and charming, but the same thing in modern comics is considered terrible? Length? (My money's on that one.) Tooth-grinding art? Either way, if there was a place where the Superman Silver Age story telling aesthetic was alive and well in the last decade, it was in Superman/Batman. You be the judge...

"K" is a 6-part "epic" in which Superman and Batman embark on a quest to find every last particle of kryptonite on Earth because - and this is somewhat surprising - there are literally TONS of the stuff around, in every conceivable color.
So Superman gets a lead-lined suit and goes to work with his best friend in tow. On the way, we'll see...
...kryptonite that mutates people and animals (it's written by Smallville script writer Michael Green if that answers any questions).
...Joker's teddy bear in Arkham has a kryptonite heart.
...Everybody from Aquaman Jr. to the U.S. government is actually against Superman ridding the world of the only substance that can take him down.
...Magic kryptonite that makes Superman high. (There's a strange mixed message at the end that seems to make Superman endorse casual drug use.)
...Batman refusing several times to believe in magic IN ZATANNA'S FACE!
...A gun nut in rural Kansas with an easily-affordable kryptonite-powered rifle.
...A version of Doomsday with bones made of kryptonite.
...Kid Toy-Man wins the day and is rewarded with a date with Power Girl instead of Justice League membership.
...Superman goes real dark and creepy on Lana because she betrayed him to LexCorp, and enjoys listening to a tear go down her face from afar.
...And at the end, there is NO MORE KRYPTONITE ON EARTH except for a stash Superman leaves Batman in case he goes rogue. So if you saw kryptonite after this, we know who leaked it.

So you tell me... Any of those things (or combination of those things) in an 8-page Silver Age story or 22-page full-length "novel" would be a camp classic today. So why does it read like something you immediately want to qualify as "non-canon" and forget you ever read it?


The story also features a World's Finest movie that features an off-model blond Batman (because Batman doesn't give interviews) whose production the real World's Finest spy on. The hardest thing to believe in all of "K" is that they went from filming to theatrical premiere in the space of 6 issues. So while it features a Batman who was beaten by his abusive mother with a BAT (Bruce Wayne is right to tell reporters he doesn't want origin nonsense in his superhero movies), Superman is more on point. He's even got a more textured suit.
I see Mr. Green was against the red shorts too. Well, maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. It's DC's litmus test for writers who want to work on the New52 Superman Family.


snell said...

I think the "Superman goers dark" is enough to take it out of the campy Silver Age. That's the problem...stories that try that stuff today are still trying so hard to be "realistic" and "gritty," and those two modes don't work together well (for most writers at least).

Contrast with Dial H--China Mieville is committing to the type of nutty hero creations in a "real world" context, but somehow he's pulling it off (so far).

snell said...

It's also should be noted how prescient that "anti-kryptonite" armor you show in that first panel is, as it's not terribly far off from Jim Lee's Flushpoint version...

Siskoid said...

I'm putting a big checkmark next to your comments. Completely true.

It takes a very special writer to sell Silver Age nuttiness in a realistic framework. Grant Morrison became famous for it, for example.

Part of the problem with those Superman/Batman stories (the first arc was just as dumb) is that I'm not sure the writers are actually trying to invoke the Silver Age.

LiamKav said...

By this point in his career, Batman not believing in magic is large large parts of the most developed nation on Earth not believing in evolution.

(can I get a zing? I think I can.)

Siskoid said...

Zing approved and given.

Anonymous said...

snell is right on; tone is the issue. Old dumb Silver Age stories weren't trying to be Shakespeare, they were just tales about Superman with some kind of interesting hook, and were also intended to be forgettable. By that I mean that they weren't intended to be important to the Superman canon, for the most part.

I've got nothing wrong with stories that try to be serious or to change the status quo, but I'm going to evaluate stories by the standards they aspire to.

Martin Gray said...

Good Lord, poor Lana - if the K-metal collecting was right out of the Silver Age, so was the Superdickery.

Matthew Turnage said...

Chiming in way late because I'm still catching up after two weeks of vacation with limited internet interaction but...

Part of the weirdness and nonsense of this story can be explained by DC's stated position at the time that Superman/Batman was not in continuity. At the end of the Johnson/Green run, didn't their last issue reveal their run to have been a computer simulation (shades of Dennis O'Neill's explanation of the Super-Sons story)? I don't think there ever was an attempt to relate that era of Superman / Batman to the rest of the DCU.

Siskoid said...

I guess what I'm struggling with is that despite the permission to go a little crazy in S/B, the stories still don't work as well as the Silver Age crazy stories that are, in many ways, more primitive/naive.


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