2011/05/15

Smallville

So, Smallville comes to an end after a solid decade on the air. I must admit that when the very attractive Kristin Kreuk, who played Superboy's Smallville girlfriend Lana Lang, was replaced by the dull-as-dishwater Erica Durance, who played Superman's Metropolis girlfriend Lois Lane, I lost a lot of interest in the series. The further loss of Michael Rosenbaum, who played Lex Luthor, pretty much sealed the deal, but I caught the last show anyway. In it, Clark finally learns to fly (Yup, he spent the whole of the last ten years ground-bound) and finally adopts the familiar red & blue outfit that everyone knows him by. I was distressed to hear Lois' initial reason for not getting together with him “Every minute that I spend with you is another minute you could be saving someone.” Well...yeah, but no one can be a hero 24/7. I mean, people have to have some downtime, some time to just be regular people. Fortunately, that hesitation doesn't last and the two of them make it to the altar.

I'm pleased to say I never purchased a single issue of the all-time best-selling Superman story arc, the 1992 Death of Superman. Ever since the death (1893) and resurrection (1903) of Sherlock Holmes, death for a character in popular serialized fiction has been more of a temporary inconvenience than any sort of true ending-point. There are a few examples of true, lasting deaths. The Ancient One was a mentor of Dr. Strange and he “became one with the Universe” in 1973. Ferro Lad of the Legion of Superheroes perished in 1967. We've seen the Legion's memorial room a few times and his statue is usually featured in it, along with a few other deceased Legion members. A more recent passing concerned the whole Jack Kirby “Fourth World” set of “four interlocked adventure series” that was integrated into the DC Comics universe in the early 1970s, but even though it played a role in the Smallville finale, it came to a definite conclusion in the comics in 2007.
But there have been a series of “not really” deaths in comics. There's the well-known example of Professor X of the X-Men perishing in 1968, “only to turn up alive and well” in 1970. Probably the most famous death and resurrection in comics has been that of the Doom Patrol. In 1968, all of the characters perished in a very noble and honorable manner. Just one of the characters, Cliff Steele, was revived in 1977. Niles Caulder and Larry Trainor followed in 1989 and Rita Farr was re-introduced, completing the re-assembling of the team, in 2004.
The 2011 death of Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four seems pretty permanent, but a review asked: “will he remain dead for long?”
So, yes, it's nice to read about characters who can do amazing things and who look better and are smarter than we all are and to see that, hey, even they've got to deal with all sorts of problems. But I think that by killing Superman, DC Comics just pushed the whole “suspension of disbelief” thing too far. It's hardly unusual to see characters in comics dying, but the idea that DC Comics would kill off their primary identifying character and, more to the point, that they would allow his to remain dead, was simply beyond any reasonable belief. It was never credible. Sure enough, it wasn't long before Superman was resurrected. I've mostly read Superman stories when he's been acting as a team member of either the Legion of Super-Heroes or the Justice League.

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