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  1. #1
    AT EASE, LOO-SUH! Superlad93's Avatar
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    Default Lets talk about Jon on Earth-3

    Jon's age up has been a point of contention since the got wind of the possibility what seems like so long ago. But perhaps a large source of controversy that I haven't really seen us as a community discuss in earnest is his time marooned on Earth-3.

    Thoughts

    Speaking for just myself: I was extremely unsure of the idea after I read issues 9 and 10 of Superman. I appreciated, if not outright loved, the concept of the trial by fire, I really dug the Ultraman dynamic, and I enjoyed the concept of him navigating a world diametrically opposed to everything he is......but 5 to 7 years of it gave me some serious pause. I had to really mull it over for a while to see where I really landed on it, and maybe get what Bendis' intention was with an idea this specific.

    I'll admit my apprehension was coming in part from what I assumed the trip was like for Jon. You hear the set up, and it conjures to mind Jon having to huff it through space going on tons of unseen adventures. Technically he did do that, but you sort of expect that was mainly what he did if not all he did. So I had to battle those assumptions. The other half of why this made me pull back a bit was the fact that it was kind of a bummer to think about this kid being stranded on this awful world--trapped no less.

    Then I thought "marooned", "stranded"; that how you'd describe someone being shipwrecked or, maybe more appropriately, thrown overboard and ending up on an island. Then you simply think "scale it up to Superman" and that's exactly what happened. That black hole was a spot of really bad "weather" because, like the sea, space is cruel and unpredictable mistress. Jon gets thrown overboard, and wakes up on a thrown through time on a new Earth as if it were an uncharted island. The analogy even extends to the crime syndicate scrapping over Jon like a pack of hungry dogs. These are you indigenous creatures. These are your predators.

    The idea seems to be that this was essentially a super powered equivalent of the 1987 young-adult novel The Hatchet, or even 2000's Cast Away. The Hatchet being more appropriate due to it's closer parallels and focus on the coming of age of a young boy protagonist. That said, the length of time Jon spends on his "island" is more akin to Chuck's 4 years in Cast Away. Once I started to look at Earth-3 as an "island", and Ultraman and Superwoman the the big predatory creatures that our stranded young protagonist has to learn the patterns of and use his surroundings to outmaneuver it all started to make far more sense to me. Jon taking his time to move from the volcano to the first town, then the next, and so on is similar to the protagonist of on of these stranded-on-an-island novels having to slowly move from one spot on the island to another to up their chances of rescue or just survival. Even Jor-El rescuing him at the end plays greatly into the conventions of a shipwrecked/stranded story.

    Even the concpet of having some sort of personal hand-up or issue before going on the trip and getting stranded is a trope of the stranded-on-and-island style story. Usually on the island the protagonist deals with manifestations or representations of their issues back in civilization, and they physically overcome the manifestation/representation and mentally overcome the actual issue. Jon pretty obviously does this with his issues of measuring up to his father and his legacy, and thinking he's destined for evil. I'm feeling pretty confident this was the intention.

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    Approaching the story from this angle really, really helped me engage with it and appreciate it on it's terms, and get what it was going for. Hopefully this post/thread helps someone else here do the same.

    I'd love to discuss.
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  2. #2
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    To be honest, I think you're reaching to try and justify the sloppiness of the story-telling during these issues. Jon wasn't trapped on an island. He was held prisoner in a ring of fire for five years. He was abused and tortured. What was done to him was purposeful and intentional, not a crazy twist of fate. So I don't feel like your comparison works. And if that a Hatchet-esque story was Bendis's intention, then he really missed the mark.

    Jon Kent isn't Brian Robeson. He's a happy go-lucky-kid who wants to do good. To give him an island like Oliver Queen or a traumatic moment to guide him forward like Bruce Wayne isn't necessary. Brian never really escapes him experience in the Canadian Wilderness. It scars him and he is never able to lead a normal life afterwards.

    This comparison puts places Jon in a problematic trend for experiencing trauma or even overcoming it to equate with growing up and becoming a man. It isn't. Stories like that line up with a weird romancing of old-school masculinity. "Killing makes you man" or "enduring pain makes up a man". "Suck it up. Push through it and it will make you stronger." Things like that don't make a person stronger. Jon Kent was already strong. He was already good. He was already more of a man than most adults and the evolution of a boy into a man is so much more complicated than one traumatic experience making you one.

    Aging up Jon and the way it was done doesn't work. Comparisons to survivalist fiction doesn't change that.
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  3. #3
    Legendary Member daBronzeBomma's Avatar
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    Hated it.

    Completely unnecessary.

    Another mistake that compounded an earlier mistake (aging up Jon in the first place).

    So young Jon spent YEARS in prison being tortured by a guy who looked exactly like his loving father, over and over again, and I'm supposed to be OK with this type of storytelling?

    Nope.

    This is what pushed me off the Bendis bandwagon. The "reorganization" of Lois & Clark's marriage (gee, Bendis, how many apologies DID you get after AC#1004? None? Bet you were surprised) backfired badly on him, but could be forgiven and forgotten.

    But this? Hell no.

    This gets retconned the moment Bendis is off the Superverse at the latest, if not earlier.

  4. #4
    Fantastic Member OpaqueGiraffe17's Avatar
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    I hate the way they went about aging up Jon way more than the actual idea of aging up kid (and I already hated that idea). Between making Lois and Clark the crappiest parents in the dcu. Weíre supposed to believe that a kid spent 6 or 7 years of his life getting tortured physically and emotionally alone in a volcano, is going to come out of that barely phased by the ordeal? And I donít mean turning evil, like Bendis loves to brag that he didnít do. I mean traumatized and stunted from growing up under those conditions.
    Last edited by OpaqueGiraffe17; 04-20-2019 at 08:58 AM.

  5. #5
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    I would have taken a book about Jon eating cereal for seven years rather than this backstory. It's unnecessarily angsty except it somehow lacks the appropriate angst. I would compare this to Franklin Richards and his endless kidnapping adventures, but even those writers gave him appropriate trauma.

    Still, I always hate the lack of creativity that went into this imprisonment plot.

  6. #6
    Ultimate Member Sacred Knight's Avatar
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    I just found the years thing trying too hard. I have no problem with the general idea, that he's captured by Ultraman and his prisoner for a while. But a while is a relative term when you go too far in one direction or another it doesn't really work right. If he's only held for a day, well, big deal. If he's held for years? This goes back to what I said in trying too hard, and what I mean by that is that in the zeal to show how Jon can endure and not have his morals or identity compromised, you go too far to the point that if you don't show some consequences it becomes Mary Stu-ish and thus lacking emotion. I can't buy he was a prisoner for years with virtually no effect. This needed a middle ground. What if he's a prisoner for a month? That's no walk in the park, and still would have shown his strength of character when he got out, without it being so long its not believable.
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  7. #7
    Mighty Member Yoda's Avatar
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    I see what you're getting at with the comparison, and I was totally on board for a Jon Kent: Lost in Space story arc. But what we actually got remains, after a few rereadings, a significant disappointment and missed opportunity to me. There are significant issues and misfires with each part of the arc that undermine various aspects of the story that maybe in isolation wouldn't have been that big of a deal, or could have worked had they been expanded on or if an editor had maybe stepped in and tweaked things just a smidge.

    It starts with Lois in the first part. I don't have a problem really with her ultimate decision, I think that she should have been far more comfortable in space than shown, but the royalty aspect contrasting with their attempts at normalcy with their Earth life are a good hook to hinge a shift in her perspective on her family. It's the speed at which she arrived at after what was portrayed as essentially an afternoon, that undermines it completely to the point where it pretty much doesn't work. That could have been corrected by keeping Lois with Jon and Jor El through the second part. Given how fuzzy the time jumps are, there's no reason that couldn't have happened. But that foreshadowed the problems with Jon's handling in the rest of the arc.

    The Earth 3 stuff is again a good idea undone by poor execution and some odd story choices. Imprisoning Jon in the volcano for what appears to be the bulk of his lost time, regardless of the "trial by fire" metaphor, kinda botched the whole thing and squandered a big opportunity. Given how Jon was terrified that he was destined to be an evil or killer version of himself, showing him navigating a world that is the literal embodiment of his greatest fears would have been a lot more impactful than having him sit in a volcano for years and essentially tune out a whining version of his dad. Again, I get what he was going for, but execution is both rushed and too much at the same time. You didn't need to have him imprisoned for years and could have had a much greater showcase for the same themes had it been stretched out over his time on Earth 3. That's what Castaway and Green Arrow, etc. really contrast with here. Jon's time is spent sitting alone for long stretches and getting lectured by his alt-dad. I get it's a mental trial, but as it's shown he really wasn't forced to question his morals or the lessons he was taught. Or at least we aren't shown it. Oliver has to learn to fend for himself and shed his entitled worldview. Depending on the version, he helps others in that context. It changes him at his core and he's faced with really significant trials. In contrast, Jon's trial is almost entirely mental as shown and even then the Ultraman parts are basically his realizing that this alt-version of his dad is a pathetic, blubbering bully. It's not that big of a stretch to ignore a person and he wasn't actively challenged by Ultraman. I think you would have gotten far more out of Ultraman taking Jon on as his "son" and putting him in situations on Earth 3 that would have forced him to make an active choice not to succumb to evil instincts. Really contrast the lessons Clark and Lois instilled with Ultraman and Superwoman.
    Last edited by Yoda; 04-20-2019 at 11:00 AM.

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Well, to a point I agree with Superlad. But I think Bendis may have missed the mark by having so much of Jon's time spent as a prisoner. Yes, you want an event like this to last for a good long while, to really soak up as much from the concept as you can. A year or two? Absolutely, that could work. That would sell just how resilient and tough this kid is, as well as give you ample time to explore the themes of "stranded prisoner." Five years? That's the vast majority of Jon's time away. And while the whole "stranded prisoner" thing has a lot of narrative meat to it that could be used to fantastic effect, I think five years limits what you can say happened in space and how meeting alien races and seeing grand cosmic sights impacted Jon's perceptions of the world. Or rather, this means that Jon got less "Space Prince" experiences than I expected (same as Superlad) and that's sad. Space Prince Jon was the main thing that got me behind the idea of aging him up in the first place.

    This also hurts the Jor-El subplot; Jon recognized that Jor was mentally ill and needed help......and then five years pass for both of them (if I remember right?), so we don't really have a good idea of where Jor-El's head is at now. We know he was panicked about losing Jon, we know he couldn't bring himself to return to earth and ask for help, we know Jor suffered incredible guilt about what happened....but we don't get a good idea of exactly *how* this has impacted him and how it's changed his mental state. Is he more easily agitated now? Has this added a new flavor of PTSD that he didn't have before? Did it provide enough focus to actually make him a little more stable or is he even crazier? We dont really see. Since a big part of this story was about how Jor was crazy and needed help I think having him spend five years off panel doesn't do the story any favors.

    Granted, time is meaningless in comics (add in the theory of relativity and.....) so Jon could have had enough space adventures to last twenty years in the real world. So saying Jon was trapped on earth-3 for five of his seven years is very much arbitrary, and largely meaningless.....except it cements the idea that he spent 3/4 of his time away in that one place.

    However, this is a minor quibble and I enjoyed what Bendis did here (though I did feel the execution of the issues wasn't *quite* up to par).
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  9. #9
    AT EASE, LOO-SUH! Superlad93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    What was done to him was purposeful and intentional, not a crazy twist of fate.
    No snark intended, but did you overlook the section of my post where I compare space to the sea? A random black hole is pretty obviously the same sort of twist of fate that a spot of really bad weather would be on the sea. The "island" Jon is stranded on is a whole other Earth adrift in time and space.

    Jon Kent isn't Brian Robeson.This comparison puts places Jon in a problematic trend for experiencing trauma or even overcoming it to equate with growing up and becoming a man. It isn't. Stories like that line up with a weird romancing of old-school masculinity. "Killing makes you man" or "enduring pain makes up a man". "Suck it up. Push through it and it will make you stronger." Things like that don't make a person stronger. Jon Kent was already strong. He was already good. He was already more of a man than most adults and the evolution of a boy into a man is so much more complicated than one traumatic experience making you one.
    I genuinely don't understand why this is even being brought up. You're right. Jon isn't Brian Robeson. There is also no mention made of Jon having to "kill to be a man." I didn't think I needed to say it, but this was never intended to be a 1 to 1 comparison. Both The Hatchet and Cast Away had wildly different themes and ideas that they wanted to touch on while using the stranded-far-from-home setting/idea as a stage. That setting/idea isn't really beholden to too many iron clad conventions outside of the protagonist being cut off in a physical sense. One concept that I do think is intrinsic and almost impossible to shake when using this idea is self-sufficiency. That's something that the The Hatchet, Cast Away, and Jon's time on Earth-3 have very much in common. When it comes to Jon's story specifically, his moment of triumph into manhood was when he used his ingenuity, courage, and grit to escape the first section of his "island." Nothing to do with killing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    The Earth 3 stuff is again a good idea undone by poor execution and some odd story choices. Imprisoning Jon in the volcano for what appears to be the bulk of his lost time, regardless of the "trial by fire" metaphor, kinda botched the whole thing and squandered a big opportunity. Given how Jon was terrified that he was destined to be an evil or killer version of himself, showing him navigating a world that is the literal embodiment of his greatest fears would have been a lot more impactful than having him sit in a volcano for years and essentially tune out a whining version of his dad. Again, I get what he was going for, but execution is both rushed and too much at the same time. You didn't need to have him imprisoned for years and could have had a much greater showcase for the same themes had it been stretched out over his time on Earth 3. That's what Castaway and Green Arrow, etc. really contrast with here. Jon's time is spent sitting alone for long stretches and getting lectured by his alt-dad. I get it's a mental trial, but as it's shown he really wasn't forced to question his morals or the lessons he was taught. Or at least we aren't shown it. Oliver has to learn to fend for himself and shed his entitled worldview. Depending on the version, he helps others in that context. It changes him at his core and he's faced with really significant trials. In contrast, Jon's trial is almost entirely mental as shown and even then the Ultraman parts are basically his realizing that this alt-version of his dad is a pathetic, blubbering bully. It's not that big of a stretch to ignore a person and he wasn't actively challenged by Ultraman. I think you would have gotten far more out of Ultraman taking Jon on as his "son" and putting him in situations on Earth 3 that would have forced him to make an active choice not to succumb to evil instincts. Really contrast the lessons Clark and Lois instilled with Ultraman and Superwoman.
    Honestly, I think the only real hang up I have left is the fact that no matter what Bendis decided to highlight in this past 4 issue, it would never be enough to really get everything across. It's why I think it's totally unacceptable to leave just these 4 issues as our main look into that time. I hold out hope for a 12 issue maxi under Wonder Comics to really fill in the informational and emotional blanks these 4 issues could never cover to satisfaction.

    I find myself far less worried about how long Jon spent in the volcano than most because Bendis literally never puts a number to it. All we know is that Jon was 11 when he got there, and it's most likely that he left during the full swing of puberty, so that could have been when he was anywhere between 13 and 17. That's a lot of room. The art is also vague enough that he's clearly hit puberty, but there'd be no way to tell specifically how old he was during his escape. And to top that off, Jon says "everywhere I went there was trouble, and everywhere I went someone needed help." and also specifically says in his "travels." That implies that he spent a good deal of time on Earth-3 outside of the volcano trying to figure stuff out, and helping people. That could've been years. I genuinely think he was in that volcano for (depending on when he turns 12) 1 to 2 years, and then spent the next 3 to 4 years on Earth-3.

    But due to it's particular vagueness I can't fully invest myself in Jon's journey back, thus it's unacceptable to leave as is.

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    Incidentally, have you (or anyone else reading) read Greg Rucka and Russell Dauterman's 2014 Cyclops book? Few fun facts: spins directly out of a Bendis status quo (young X-Men in the present), Bendis sets up the idea that young Scott elects to go out into space with his oh-yeah-I'm-not-dead estranged father, goes on swash buckling adventures on alien worlds, has to navigate a parental figure who may have a serious health issue, and, oh yeah, gets stranded on a planet with no rescue in sight.

    Hell, our young protagonist is even electing to do this in part because he's scared of becoming the bad future version of himself!! If I didn't know Bendis wasn't working at DC when Oz Effect and Sons of Tomorrow were being written I'd have thought he asked for both.And let me just, Rucka does pretty great work with Scott, the space stuff, and all of the emotional heavy lifting needed to make it all work.

    Rucka left the book after issue 5 (of 12), but I wonder if he had some more he wanted to explore/say. I wonder the odds of those Lost Years showing up under Rucka's pen? Long shot, yes, but you gotta admit the comparisons are unmistakable.
    Last edited by Superlad93; 04-20-2019 at 04:53 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    To be honest, I think you're reaching to try and justify the sloppiness of the story-telling during these issues. Jon wasn't trapped on an island. He was held prisoner in a ring of fire for five years. He was abused and tortured. What was done to him was purposeful and intentional, not a crazy twist of fate. So I don't feel like your comparison works. And if that a Hatchet-esque story was Bendis's intention, then he really missed the mark.

    Jon Kent isn't Brian Robeson. He's a happy go-lucky-kid who wants to do good. To give him an island like Oliver Queen or a traumatic moment to guide him forward like Bruce Wayne isn't necessary. Brian never really escapes him experience in the Canadian Wilderness. It scars him and he is never able to lead a normal life afterwards.

    This comparison puts places Jon in a problematic trend for experiencing trauma or even overcoming it to equate with growing up and becoming a man. It isn't. Stories like that line up with a weird romancing of old-school masculinity. "Killing makes you man" or "enduring pain makes up a man". "Suck it up. Push through it and it will make you stronger." Things like that don't make a person stronger. Jon Kent was already strong. He was already good. He was already more of a man than most adults and the evolution of a boy into a man is so much more complicated than one traumatic experience making you one.

    Aging up Jon and the way it was done doesn't work. Comparisons to survivalist fiction doesn't change that.
    Aye yai yai. IDK who it was that first tried to introduce "Happy go lucky" as an element of Superman but that person is a moron. This post is sort of microcosm of what's wrong with modern Superman. He and his universe just lack any of the elements that make the original Superman so electrifying and amazing.

    Superman was created in the mid to late 30's, rampant poverty, inequality, genocide, war, etc. Why in the world has modern Superman attempted at branding himself as naive or innocent when it has nothing to do with him or his franchise. The guy exposed corruption with his writing and was a ferocious combatant. He's not suppose to be innocent and anyone that's read the material of his origin knows that. Superman or at least the one that mattered was a man of perseverance and had taken his fair share of rigors through life and WAS stronger for it. He was a positive example of how the problems you encounter in life can push you into a positive direction.

    This modern cat though grew up basically sheltered and was a weak alternative to characters like Batman or the Punisher which is why that angle has popularized so much over the last couple decades or so. My dead parent, my dead wife/husband/principal/goldfish/whatever, life is unfair therefore I'm pissed off all the time. Superman USED to have his fair share of tragedy but the guy pushed through and WAS stronger for it but he was never the sort of "broken' schlub that's been popularized in the last couple decades as some kind of sexy tragic figure.

    If Jon and frankly his father ever want to the see the mountain top again they would do well to read into the characters own past and remember why the character was a success in the first place.

    tl;dr - If you want to solve the angry tragic male figure character you want to lean into Superman's old school masculinity traits now away from them.

  11. #11
    AT EASE, LOO-SUH! Superlad93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    , you want an event like this to last for a good long while, to really soak up as much from the concept as you can. A year or two? Absolutely, that could work.
    Luckily Bendis never once answers the question of how long Jon was in the volcano (even when Clark asks). Jon's only answer is that because there was no sun it was hard to tell how many days went by. I'm working off the assumption that it was a year or two myself. Jon shows up 11 going on 12. Hits puberty (thus the continued growth spurt (people forget that Jon started hitting a growth spurt in Man of Steel)) and gets out at 13 to 14. Then the lion's share of the time is being one of the lone heroes on Earth-3 helping people on sheer reflex, traveling, and trying to come up with plans to get himself off his planet sized "island." Then Jor-El show up when Jon is between 16 and 17.

    Or rather, this means that Jon got less "Space Prince" experiences than I expected (same as Superlad) and that's sad. Space Prince Jon was the main thing that got me behind the idea of aging him up in the first place.
    I wouldn't count out space prince Jon yet. Even after years on Earth-3 he's apparently still using alien slang (issues 7 and 8), and he mentions that while Jor-El left him to his own devices he did a lot of reading and general learning about the galactic state of affairs. Then there's also apparently the fact that Jor-El and Jon basically went from mission to mission with little down time, so he's covered his ground, but there's still obvious room for a lot more to be added to him in this respect. Doesn't change that he spent most of his time on Earth-3, but I'm confident the space prince still lives.
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  12. #12
    Fantastic Member OpaqueGiraffe17's Avatar
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    I think fans put too much on this space prince thing. My understanding is that alien said the els were practically royalty like one time and you guys just headcanoned the hell out of it. When in reality there was never anything to it. I’m not even dissing Bendis here, I think you guys set yourselves up for that one.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by OpaqueGiraffe17 View Post
    I think fans put too much on this space prince thing. My understanding is that alien said the els were practically royalty like one time and you guys just headcanoned the hell out of it. When in reality there was never anything to it. I’m not even dissing Bendis here, I think you guys set yourselves up for that one.
    If by "fans" you're talking about specifically Ascended and myself--because, and I could be wrong, we're the only ones I've seen to even mention that in any meaningful way--then ok lol

    But, and I don't really wanna speak for Ascended, "space prince" is more so just short hand for Young Well Traveled Space Adventurer, and that's not really headcanon at all. Jon makes mention of doing a lot of space adventuring with Jor-El. It's in the text. The degree is up for debate, but as I've mentioned before, the alien slang Jon uses in issues 8 and 9 seem to indicate he's made his way about a fair bit of space for it to have rubbed off on him.

    In terms of the space royalty aspect that Jor-El brings up? Yeah, it's only once that the specific term "royalty" is used, but Man of Steel issue 6 has Clark acknowledge that his symbol means something to people in the galaxy. Issue 8 of Superman has Jon trying to look of what the galaxy thinks of Earth, and he finds nothing but the exploits of his dad. Issue 2 of Man of Steel has a bartender that Zaar (and later Kara) speaks to showing off a house of El crest in honor of "The Superman of Earth."

    I'd say it's fair to say that even if the exact term "royalty" has only been used once, the concept of the Superman, his crest, and his family being famous and over all a big deal in space seems to have not be a one-off by any means.
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  14. #14
    Mighty Member Yoda's Avatar
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    The concept of Superman's and the House of El's role and improtance to the Galaxy at large is the central theme of this storyarc. Whether it lands is up for debate, but it's definitely part of the story.

    I mean on top of what Superlad just pointed out, we've had two visions where the characters essentially came to pay repects to the House of El and the House of Zod as you would royal courts. That coupled with Lois' encounter, Jon basically saying Superman should ask to be the king of Earth puts this all well within the text.

  15. #15
    Fantastic Member OpaqueGiraffe17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Superlad93 View Post
    If by "fans" you're talking about specifically Ascended and myself--because, and I could be wrong, we're the only ones I've seen to even mention that in any meaningful way--then ok lol

    But, and I don't really wanna speak for Ascended, "space prince" is more so just short hand for Young Well Traveled Space Adventurer, and that's not really headcanon at all. Jon makes mention of doing a lot of space adventuring with Jor-El. It's in the text. The degree is up for debate, but as I've mentioned before, the alien slang Jon uses in issues 8 and 9 seem to indicate he's made his way about a fair bit of space for it to have rubbed off on him.

    In terms of the space royalty aspect that Jor-El brings up? Yeah, it's only once that the specific term "royalty" is used, but Man of Steel issue 6 has Clark acknowledge that his symbol means something to people in the galaxy. Issue 8 of Superman has Jon trying to look of what the galaxy thinks of Earth, and he finds nothing but the exploits of his dad. Issue 2 of Man of Steel has a bartender that Zaar (and later Kara) speaks to showing off a house of El crest in honor of "The Superman of Earth."

    I'd say it's fair to say that even if the exact term "royalty" has only been used once, the concept of the Superman, his crest, and his family being famous and over all a big deal in space seems to have not be a one-off by any means.
    If that’s what you meant by “space prince” then perhaps you should just read the current super sons mini if that’s what you were looking for. I doubt Jon and Oz’s offpage Rick and Mortying will be fleshed out much more than it aleady was. You seem disagree but to me, it doesn’t seem to me that there’s all that much to flesh out anyway. They got in a scrap or two, Jon fell in a black hole, sat in a volcano for 6 years and went straight home.

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