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  1. #1
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    Default Is Superman a hard character to write?

    Is Superman a hard character to write? This video goes into whether Superman is hard to write or not:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnfuftfaAdg

    What do you think, is Superman hard to write for or not?

  2. #2
    Astonishing Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    My immediate thought is no if we're publishing him the way they did in the 40s. A monthly comic was available to everyone where the main purpose is to inspire or be cathartic. So I'll just take whatever current events happening and do a story involving Superman in it. The main attraction would be "What would Superman do in this situation"

    I'm still a very casual reader so my thinking is more casual

    Now if the goal is to satisfy LCS preorder crowd... I don't know where to begin on that, because hardcore fans already saw everything. I guess the easy part is the collectors will buy everything, so even if I write to the casuals they're still buying it anyway, but to get people actually enthusiastic, I have to ask first, which story recently that gets you hyped followed by when's the last time you get this hyped for a Superman story.

    I'm guessing the reason why Bendis goes almost immediately to status quo changes in his stories is because that's what he knows will generate interest. People want to know what will happen.

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Vordan's Avatar
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    Let me guess that video complains about him being “overpowered” and “too perfect”? Not going to bother watching it if so.

    Supes isn’t that hard to write given most of his “bad” stories aren’t “holy hell this is ****” but more so “this is dull and boring and I don’t care”. Despite being a more popular and successful character, I’d argue Spider-Man has had much longer stretches of just flat out AWFUL stories with a lot of the worst stories in comicdom coming from him. Supes doesn’t have anything near as bad as the Clone Saga, Sins Past, or One More Day. I can’t think of an entire decade where Supes was terrible, like how Spidey was during the 90s until JMS came on.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vordan View Post
    Let me guess that video complains about him being “overpowered” and “too perfect”? Not going to bother watching it if so.

    Supes isn’t that hard to write given most of his “bad” stories aren’t “holy hell this is ****” but more so “this is dull and boring and I don’t care”. Despite being a more popular and successful character, I’d argue Spider-Man has had much longer stretches of just flat out AWFUL stories with a lot of the worst stories in comicdom coming from him. Supes doesn’t have anything near as bad as the Clone Saga, Sins Past, or One More Day. I can’t think of an entire decade where Supes was terrible, like how Spidey was during the 90s until JMS came on.
    Why don't you watch the video, instead of making assumptions. The video discusses those points and debates as to whether they are real problems or not in regards to writing Superman well, it's not as cut and dry as you are assuming, its more of a discussion rather than a condemnation like you are assuming.

  5. #5
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    I like the way he spoke on it. So my thoughts:

    - unfortunately a massive issue is acknowledged early and often without a constructive solution: poorly oriented writers. Everyone has an idea, mostly the same as Logan, but those ideas for what can be good themselves are from a few pages to one year in length typically. Superman is a serial character. As much as I try to praise All Star, it probably seems like I'm just being contrary on it but it's had the worst effect. Everyone wants a big, warm commercial story with nice art for a best selling trade... but Superman would have died out years ago if that was really a representative of all the ideas a writer can usually muster. Even if a story is twice as popular and sells twice as well, that doesn't keep up with the likes of Spider-Man or Batman. How often does a 50 issue Batman guy come over for like... a Superman mini series or special issue? To name just one group. Bendis unfortunately is just all over the place with one shock after another, to get into a second group...

    - editorial. I would like to say 2004 was a particular drop off even if the likes of Busiek held it down with particularly good storytelling. Big, sometimes ostentatious and apparently desperate ideas to sell or relaunch or whatever never met with adequate follow through and popular writers just allowed to have their way. Bendis and Johns have considerable power and they don't even line up if you give it any thought. Rebirth, Reborn, Oz Effect, etc. Not to knock the actual efforts but for what DC would logically and clearly want would have required a Julie, a Carlin, or a Cavalieri. Someone who respects creativity but not to a degree exceptional by comparison. Someone who consistently says, "okay good, what happens next?" You can't let people put the rental car in a ditch, which they are pretty likely to do unintentionally if they can just go drive something else afterward. There were times in the past where writers had editorial experience themselves and I think that sort of thing is undervalued.

    - powers. Oh boy. I think most people miss what Byrne really did, and to point directly notice that Logan brings up vulnerability over not using a cop out plot device. Byrne's virtually unstoppable Superman in the first TWO issues gets his most memorable spankings in those years due to kryptonite. His other toughest challenges are magic or beings operating at pre crisis power levels. Superman was able to lose, but no more than before and no less than pretty much any Batman if we're not counting a bronze age knock on the head. Byrne's idea was that power wasn't a solution. His stories didn't really leave the superhero genre but he was able to sustain good stories because he didn't lay out so much of that stuff that he got stuck in the corner with plot breaking powers.

    - coolness and the ability to relate: these things entirely depend on Superman and not how Superman compares. If you say Wolverine is cool, then use a different word for Superman because they aren't the same and should never be.

    - so is Superman hard to write? I think a writer has to really ask that of themselves. Why do they want to write Superman? Why would someone want to read Superman? I think all you can do is iron everything out for yourself going in, and to me that isn't hard. I'd write him for free if DC was into it, but they don't take randos and I have no desire to work on other comics.
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  6. #6
    Extraordinary Member Celgress's Avatar
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    The fundamental problem with a morally perfect character like Clark is that (as with Goku in Dragon Ball) after he comes to Metropolis and deals with the culture shock (growing accordingly as a character) his character arc becomes a flat one. Unlike characters such as Batman and Spider-Man who each have flaws, they can never completely overcome (Batman's obsession with justice and Spider-Man's burden of responsibility which come into conflict often with their civilian identities) Superman has no such shortcomings to constantly struggle against. A flat character arc is centered around a character who does not change much if at all (unlike a positive, negative or infinite struggle character arc) but rather his/her actions change those around him/her and/or the world, for better or worse (usually for the better). The biggest problem for a flat character arc in an action setting is said character must constantly face external obstacles to overcome. As the character becomes more skilled/stronger and thus more easily able to overcome such external obstacles the threat those obstacles represent must be scaled ever upward accordingly.
    Last edited by Celgress; 12-30-2019 at 01:28 PM.
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  7. #7
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    The fourth "bonus" problem listed is Expectation, and it has to be the most significant hurdle actually. You expect Superman to be perfect and so when he's not it doesn't really open him up to you. Half way through your first sentence, Celgress, you call him morally perfect. This reporter who made his own news in order to get the job and by the minimum stretch if Jon was ten, perpetuated these lies for maybe 15 years. And it's not a small plot detail, it's virtually the entire story. Outing himself well after doesn't even change that. You can't read Superman and believe he's morally perfect based on what you read, but if you believe he's morally perfect and then read, your expectation hinders the experience.
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  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Not bothering to watch the video. Sorry, I've seen this debate for over two decades and that video isnt gonna offer any insights I haven't already come across.

    Ultimately it boils down to the writer. Some writers can write some characters but not others. I could write Clark for the rest of my life and never run out of ideas or ways to challenge and explore his character and life.....but I don't think I could write Batman.

    And then there's the corporate/business stuff. Maybe someone could sit down in their home and write a fantastic story with Clark, but if they were hired by DC and had to contend with editors and edicts and whatever, that writer wouldn't be able to do it. Hell, I think Yang is one of those guys; Superman Smashes the Klan is utterly perfect, his New Super-Man was excellent. Yang's run on Superman however, was not good. And odds are it's because he had to deal with the corporate/business side of DC instead of just getting to tell his story in his own way.

    All the other stuff, like Clark's numerous abilities and his power levels.....that stuff isn't a hurdle. A writer lacking imagination (or rather, the right kind of imagination) is a hurdle, Clark's powers are not. Again, I could write Clark and I don't see his powers as a problem; they're an opportunity. But you know what is a hurdle for me? Batman's detective skills. I couldn't write those and make it look like I was doing anything other than Googling "how to detective."

    If you have the right imagination and can deal with DC, then Superman is not hard to write. If you don't have the imagination or couldn't deal with the business, he's hard to write. Simple as that.
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  9. #9
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    I used to think so, but I don't now. I'll give the video a look.

    Quote Originally Posted by Celgress View Post
    The fundamental problem with a morally perfect character like Clark is that (as with Goku in Dragon Ball) after he comes to Metropolis and deals with the culture shock (growing accordingly as a character) his character arc becomes a flat one. Unlike characters such as Batman and Spider-Man who each have flaws, they can never completely overcome (Batman's obsession with justice and Spider-Man's burden of responsibility which come into conflict often with their civilian identities) Superman has no such shortcomings to constantly struggle against. A flat character arc is centered around a character who does not change much if at all (unlike a positive, negative or infinite struggle character arc) but rather his/her actions change those around him/her and/or the world, for better or worse (usually for the better). The biggest problem for a flat character arc in an action setting is said character must constantly face external obstacles to overcome. As the character becomes more skilled/stronger and thus more easily able to overcome such external obstacles the threat those obstacles represent must be scaled ever upward accordingly.
    This is why the challenges have to become moral, or conceptual, or goal-oriented. Adjusting to humanity can't be continuously pulled out, but it can be manifested in different ways. Or he can be given/give himself a specific task and run into numerous side obstacles. Is the task possible or does it end up being unfeasible? Is the task truly noble or misguided? Is he going about the task the right way? Does the task have unintended consequences? What does he learn or remember by the end that he didn't at first? Those are the kind of mini-arcs you can have while his overall arc stays relatively flat.

  10. #10
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    All characters and all stories are hard to write. Superman's not any harder to write than Donald Duck, Batman, Spider-Man, Darth Vader, and Monica from FRIENDS.

    The issue with Superman is that nobody wants to write Superman as a character. For a lot of people the idea is set that Superman is some saint, some religious icon, some folk hero and basically a character stuffed with symbolism and importance.But before Superman can be any of that, he has to be a character. The last time we saw that was in the Bruce Timm Superman the Animated Series and its Justice League continuation. That version of Superman was a dude you got to know. But nobody at DC seem to want to write Superman that way.

    Superman is a human being. On Krypton under the red sun he would be Kal-El who couldn't fly on his own. On Earth he's both Clark Kent and Superman. So there's a sense of identity crisis and confusion to him which many writers tapped into before, that Superman isn't really Kal-El, isn't Clark Kent, isn't Superman. Alan Moore especially in that Swamp Thing crossover, The Jungle Line tackled that. So there's a lot of inner tension and existential stuff you can tap into with Superman. Since Superman is human he can be flawed. We've seen some of that. He can be naive, too trusting, too driven by emotion. The strength and weakness with Superman and Clark, is that he's human for better and worse. Like any human he can stumble, and he's capable of failure or lapses, and because he has powers that can be dangerous. Like any human, he can rise higher and overcome that as well.

    I don't think Superman having so many powers is so difficult a hurdle. Anymore than Batman having so much money and tech makes it hard to sell any fight against any villain as any underdog story.

  11. #11
    Mighty Member Robanker's Avatar
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    I would argue that Clark's arc is paternal in nature by that measure because it's about how do I best inspire people to do the right thing even when they don't want to. As a parent, caretaker, boss or what have you, one of the most important lessons to learn is imparting the necessity for self-motivated action as opposed to instructed action.

    How do you get someone to be kind when they're angry without fear or manipulation as your influence? Parents wrestle with that all the time. How do I make sure I give my kid the tools to overcome obstacles in a healthy manner? I know they'll drink, but can I trust they won't get behind a wheel? Are they resistant to peer pressure enough to not compromise their safety? Are they good and honest people as the parent has come to understand those concepts? Clark wants us to be better versions of ourselves and while he can force it, he like most good figures of influence know that change is only real when it's voluntary, else it will snap back when he's no longer in play or will counter his example in rebellion. If he made us obey a la Injustice, we would do so out of fear but those beliefs would not change. Clark doesn't and never would want that. He wants us to change, to be better, and he can't force that. He can only lead by example and protect us until we get there.

    How does he show us how good he knows we can be and how does he get us to bring that version of us out. That's his real never ending battle. It's easy for him to say "but hope, though" and Johns is as guilty of that as any, but like any parent, boss or so on, it's really hard to get up every day and still be that positive influence when you know if all the awfulness around you. He's a person. He has likes, dislikes, things that really make him angry and things he wants to accomplish in his life that aren't just being the ultimate civil servant. He has to balance all those with his legacy and self-imposed responsibility and he fails sometimes. But he never lets us down. We know that when he falls short, he gave it everything he had. Same as Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker and so many more. But win, lose or draw, his story is one of taking expectations of yourself and weighing them against what you feel you can do for others and doing your absolute best, hoping others will do the same. Can't think of a better superhero, to be honest, and that's something anyone can aspire to. Anyone can do what they can to help, to be better. Sure, you can't come from Krypton but you likely aren't a billionaire from birth or bitten by a radioactive spider that didn't give you cancer. But you can always be better. You can always help a neighbor.

    I'm a caretaker myself and I've recently been promoted to a position where I'm in charge of other employees and I can promise you it's very hard to always be my best self because I have an example to lead by. Clark, being the best of us, struggles with that too sometimes. When he's written well he still struggles with that too, but ultimately will never let us down because that's his core narrative; the man who we need in our darkest hour.

    I hate when I hear Clark is flat because it sounds like someone who never had to be responsible for others, or at least doesn't consider the weight that places on the person in question. I can speak anecdotally when I say it's exceptionally difficult to accomplish, but I do believe Clark's core arc as it's developed is plenty interesting and relevant. There's a lot to work with there alone, but adding in his crusade for the truth through journalism in a time where the President has declared war on the free press, being an immigrant during a time where the same President is the champion of every group who demonizes them and himself has actively participated in the separation of their families, and Clark being an example of said immigrant coming here and embracing his new home while bringing his culture to enrich this country he loves... I don't see how his story is flat. He's dynamic. He's relevant. More than ever, Clark is the man of tomorrow.

    Is he hard to write? I don't honestly think he is. There's a ton to work with. His biggest obstacle is everyone has made their mind up on him, love or hate, and most just think of him as a power set and fantasy. Take even a peak under the hood and there's a rich character with a robust world to explore. Especially now. But some people believe he's just too perfect and should just go away or be a villain for a billionaire to virtue signal against. Or that he's boring, flat, what have you.

    And much as he would say himself, the only way to change minds is to do so by example. Instead of complaining how hard he is to write for, just look to his core elements and tell stories with those. It isn't like Batman, The Flash or Spider-Man don't have a ton of logical fallacies built into them. They're all immensely powerful. Bruce literally throws money at all his problems and Barry changes time to fix his mistakes. Give me a break.

    I know to some degree it sounds like I put him on some pedestal, but I don't. He's a character. He's allowed to make mistakes and be a damn bonehead sometimes, but I do believe Morrison was right in that he really is the man who won't let us down. He gets it right in the end or he goes down swinging, but even so he finds a way. As much as he believes in us and doesn't trust Luthor, he can eventually be won over with enough time because he really believes in us full-stop. He wants to be wrong about Lex so much sometimes he fools even himself. Does that make him an idiot at times? Yeah. It does. Everyone's dumb about something. Jor El is another example. It's important he's shown as someone with flaws and shortcomings, but his character is one that if called out, he would admit to it and try to grow as a person instead of explaining why Brother Eye was not a bad idea, just bad execution or something.

    His real super power is being a well-adjusted adult. Don't know why that's so complicated to write.
    Last edited by Robanker; 12-30-2019 at 02:32 PM.

  12. #12
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    Don't have much time to really get into it right now but the video made some decent points even if it did start to veer too close to the Clark Kent is real/ Superman is the mask thing. I will say he was right about the bit about letting the guy make mistakes. For all the strides for better or for worse to make Clark more human it's basically pointless if the guy can't make a mistakes or be wrong or have some selfish impulses (as long as they don't interfere with his heroic qualities).

    I might speak more on this later.
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  13. #13
    Incredible Member OpaqueGiraffe17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vordan View Post
    Let me guess that video complains about him being “overpowered” and “too perfect”? Not going to bother watching it if so.

    Supes isn’t that hard to write given most of his “bad” stories aren’t “holy hell this is ****” but more so “this is dull and boring and I don’t care”. Despite being a more popular and successful character, I’d argue Spider-Man has had much longer stretches of just flat out AWFUL stories with a lot of the worst stories in comicdom coming from him. Supes doesn’t have anything near as bad as the Clone Saga, Sins Past, or One More Day. I can’t think of an entire decade where Supes was terrible, like how Spidey was during the 90s until JMS came on.
    I SO agree with this. People use Spider-man, the flawed nonoverpowered hero, as an example of a character that is easier to write than Superman. But for my money, Clark has Pete beat in the comics department. Superman has higher highs while poor Spidey has lower lows.
    When people talk about Superman comics, most discussions go to his highlights. Fans talk about All Star, Red Son and Death/Reign of Superman. I feel like fans talk more about bad Spider-Man stories (Sins Past, One More Day) than the good ones.
    I like Spidey, he was my fave as a kid. But he has a lot of bad stories.

  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member Celgress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    All characters and all stories are hard to write. Superman's not any harder to write than Donald Duck, Batman, Spider-Man, Darth Vader, and Monica from FRIENDS.

    The issue with Superman is that nobody wants to write Superman as a character. For a lot of people the idea is set that Superman is some saint, some religious icon, some folk hero and basically a character stuffed with symbolism and importance....
    I couldn't agree with you more.

    Your comments bring up an interesting point I've often considered. I wonder how much control DC Editorial allows writers of Superman? It could be DC Editorial has certain rules that prevent Superman from being taken off his pedestal? Sups is a valuable IP after all, one they wouldn't want "damaged beyond repair" by a "risk-taking" writer.
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  15. #15
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celgress View Post
    I couldn't agree with you more.

    Your comments bring up an interesting point I've often considered. I wonder how much control DC Editorial allows writers of Superman? It could be DC Editorial has certain rules that prevent Superman from being taken off his pedestal? Sups is a valuable IP after all, one they wouldn't want "damaged beyond repair" by a "risk-taking" writer.
    Apparently quite a lot. Mark Waid in an interview said that he heard reports that DC tend to put more energy behind Batman compared to other characters.

    Historically, DC has been quite conservative with all its characters, but Superman more so than others. When Jack Kirby arrived in the '80s, he worked on the title Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen where Superman often guest-starred but Kirby wasn't allowed to draw Superman. Anytime Kirby did so, DC's art department would redraw his stuff and make Superman appear in their approved fashion. Things changed in the '80s and early 90s to some extent but then the doors closed again.

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