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  1. #1
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    Default What do you see as the essential traits a Superman must have?

    If you were asked to consult on a definitive Superman project, what would you say are the main things we have to see.

    It could be "All-Star Superman" where we are getting an epic stand-alone story. It could be Morrison's New-52 run where we have 12 plus issues to set up a new continuity. It could be JMS' Earth-One or Man of Steel where we have a single stand-alone story to set up who Superman is. The main point is that at the end of this project you want the audience to know who Superman is and what his universe is like. You want to establish something that no matter what little twists are made the character in the story is Superman and not "generic hero A" or worse yet Hyperion/Shazam/Plutonian/Marvelman/....

    I'm not asking for how would you write Superman. Some of us might have ideas we'd love to see incorporated into our own "Ultimate Superman". But I'm trying to see what we as Superman fans think are the beats that if left out start to make the character something other than Superman. The stuff that you see in 90%+ of the Superman stories that you feel are "real" and really note the loss of in the 10% of stuff you feel "really weren't Superman". But do it in a positive way, not a "Earth One/Man of Steel lacked ...." but rather "A Superman story needs to have...."

    I'll give a rough example- hopefully some of your responses will either remind me of something I forgot or better yet make me aware of some aspect I never thought of.

    1)Superman wanting to be Superman: To me Superman isn't a tragic character. He can have tragedy in his life- losing friends/family, a sense of being different, etc. At the end of the day though Superman is happy with who is. He isn't pining to be an average Joe. He isn't reluctantly putting on the tights. He revels in using his powers. In a lot of the ways he is different he wants people to join him, not to change to join them. He wants you and me to be Super and join him in his adventures.

    2)Superman is a hero: Sure there are going to be people who fear a guy with that much power. And there are going to be people who think he is too good to be true. But Superman isn't about fear, he's about hope. He's a champion of the oppressed. He's the savior (not in any religious sense) who comes in when all seems lost. So at worse he is Robin Hood- popular support but officially a vigilante. The best use though is Superman as a guy who is respected by the majority of people from Presidents, to beat cops, to the average person on the street, to kids arguing over who gets to be Superman when they play.

    3)Clark Kent: He has to appear. And he has to appear different from Superman. I'm not saying the bumbling clown version is required, but he needs to be something more than Superman when no one is looking. "Clark Kent is who I am, Superman is what I can do" is a nice soundbite, but there needs to be more to both identities than whether he is wearing glasses or a shirt with a big "S" on it. There need to be scenes where Clark does things Superman might never do- whether it be actively pursue Lois, knuckle under to a bully rather than reveal his powers or go out dancing with Diana Prince.
    We need to see scenes where Superman is out of costume interacting with friends who have no idea about his powers. Scenes that are more than Jonathan and Martha lecturing a young super-child on morality. We need to see that his life doesn't revolve 24/7 around saving the world. That whether as a teen-ager or as an adult he has experiences the rest of us can relate to, be it waiting in line at the DMV, getting chewed out by his boss, or just hanging out on Friday or Saturday night at a diner or movie. These don't need to be long scenes. They can be worked into set ups for Clark being called away for super-duties, but it is crucial to establish that Superman has a life outside of bring Superman.

  2. #2
    Spadassin Extraordinaire Auguste Dupin's Avatar
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    Well, what you said is pretty good. I'd personnally add:

    -Determination: Superman never gives up. If he can't punch his way in, he will take a step back to rethink the situation and find another way to win, but he will never consider any situation hopeless. If you try to hurt someone,it will be over his dead body.

    -Compassion: Superman cares about people, and will always try to protect them as much as he can. No matter how big the problem, no matter how small, if he can help, he will. He should be friendly with people until given a reason to think otherwise, and outraged at the idea of someone being hurt by someone else.

    -Idealism: Not to be mistaken with naivety. But Superman isn't someone who believes in pragmatism or real politic or whatever. He has a strong idea of how the world should function, and he's willing to go the extra mile to see it happen. Be it as Superman or as Clark Kent, he fights for what he believes is right, and sees people trying to temper in this fashion as defeatists. He doesn't compromises. Wether he's Golden Age's "Man of the people", or the inspiration of mankind (or both),Superman is a man who believes there's a right and a wrong in the universe, and that the distinction isn't hard to make.
    Hold those chains, Clark Kent
    Bear the weight on your shoulders
    Stand firm. Take the pain.

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Dispenser Of Truth's Avatar
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    1. He's the strongest being on the planet. Whether just the strength of ten men, towing planets or god forbid the John Byrne levels, he has to be strong enough that no one could realistically stop him from doing whatever he wanted, which is what makes it so poignant that he only does good.
    2. He cares about everyone.
    3. He smiles.
    4. He's on some basic level alienated, even if he's not alone.
    5. He is "disguised as Clark Kent". Siegel's words, not mine.
    6. Krypton, whether he only knows a bit about it or has an entire digital encyclopedia in his Fortress, isn't just some passing aspect of his backstory to explain his powers. He doesn't need to be moping about it all the time, but it, and its absence, is a significant part of what makes him who he is.
    7. He does big, crazy stuff. What constitutes big and crazy obviously depends on whether you're doing something more straight-edged or over the top, but still.
    8. He takes time to handle little things too. No job is too small for Superman, as long as he's there and has the time.
    9. He believes his job as a reporter can be every bit as important as being Superman.
    10. He does not ever give up, give in or break.
    You can follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, if more of my opinions sounds like something you'd like.

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member Prime's Avatar
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    Superman IS a tragic character is just that he never let's that drive him down.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prime View Post
    Superman IS a tragic character is just that he never let's that drive him down.
    What elements make Superman a tragedy?

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Riv86672's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auguste Dupin View Post
    Well, what you said is pretty good. I'd personnally add:

    -Determination: Superman never gives up. If he can't punch his way in, he will take a step back to rethink the situation and find another way to win, but he will never consider any situation hopeless. If you try to hurt someone,it will be over his dead body.

    -Compassion: Superman cares about people, and will always try to protect them as much as he can. No matter how big the problem, no matter how small, if he can help, he will. He should be friendly with people until given a reason to think otherwise, and outraged at the idea of someone being hurt by someone else.

    -Idealism: Not to be mistaken with naivety. But Superman isn't someone who believes in pragmatism or real politic or whatever. He has a strong idea of how the world should function, and he's willing to go the extra mile to see it happen. Be it as Superman or as Clark Kent, he fights for what he believes is right, and sees people trying to temper in this fashion as defeatists. He doesn't compromises. Wether he's Golden Age's "Man of the people", or the inspiration of mankind (or both),Superman is a man who believes there's a right and a wrong in the universe, and that the distinction isn't hard to make.
    The above three are essential.
    I’d add: a sense of humor

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auguste Dupin View Post
    Well, what you said is pretty good. I'd personnally add:

    -Determination: Superman never gives up. If he can't punch his way in, he will take a step back to rethink the situation and find another way to win, but he will never consider any situation hopeless. If you try to hurt someone,it will be over his dead body.

    -Compassion: Superman cares about people, and will always try to protect them as much as he can. No matter how big the problem, no matter how small, if he can help, he will. He should be friendly with people until given a reason to think otherwise, and outraged at the idea of someone being hurt by someone else.

    -Idealism: Not to be mistaken with naivety. But Superman isn't someone who believes in pragmatism or real politic or whatever. He has a strong idea of how the world should function, and he's willing to go the extra mile to see it happen. Be it as Superman or as Clark Kent, he fights for what he believes is right, and sees people trying to temper in this fashion as defeatists. He doesn't compromises. Wether he's Golden Age's "Man of the people", or the inspiration of mankind (or both),Superman is a man who believes there's a right and a wrong in the universe, and that the distinction isn't hard to make.
    These three are the most ideal treats, I also believe Superman need to have.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Riv86672 View Post
    The above three are essential.
    I’d add: a sense of humor
    I agree.
    Superman/Clark Kent should have a sense of humor but he's not a guy who throws out quipy one-liners in every battle/situation like Spider-Man, he should to know when to be serious and when and how to lighten the situation up.

  9. #9
    The Man Who Cannot Die manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    He isn't weak.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by manwhohaseverything View Post
    He isn't weak.
    You're not wrong.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Johnny Thunders!'s Avatar
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    I think all of Superman's senses should be to the nth degree. Related to that, Super Intelligence.
    Super Feats should also be part of the recipe. I think Superman should always be topping himself and pushing the limits of possibility.

  12. #12
    Astonishing Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    6. Krypton, whether he only knows a bit about it or has an entire digital encyclopedia in his Fortress, isn't just some passing aspect of his backstory to explain his powers. He doesn't need to be moping about it all the time, but it, and its absence, is a significant part of what makes him who he is.
    I can't agree with that. That's exactly what it was when he was created and for the first decade of his existence, and I'm okay with that. I don't mind if it matters a bit more, but it shouldn't be hugely important to him to me.

    5. He is "disguised as Clark Kent". Siegel's words, not mine.
    And here's where I don't care about the originalist version and you do.

    9. He believes his job as a reporter can be every bit as important as being Superman.
    I like that, but it's not essential to me. Originally, it was just a means of getting information, and I'll accept that easily enough. For me, Lois is the must be a driven reporter, but it's optional for Clark, as being a superhero is his passion.

    1)Superman wanting to be Superman: To me Superman isn't a tragic character. He can have tragedy in his life- losing friends/family, a sense of being different, etc. At the end of the day though Superman is happy with who is. He isn't pining to be an average Joe. He isn't reluctantly putting on the tights. He revels in using his powers. In a lot of the ways he is different he wants people to join him, not to change to join them. He wants you and me to be Super and join him in his adventures.
    Definitely agree with this one. He is fulfilled by what he does. It is not a drag on his life. There may be difficulties and hard days, but they're worth it. And thusly, it should not prevent him having a personal life - career, friends, spouse, kids, etc.

    2)Superman is a hero
    Absolutely.

    Also, I don't like Clark thinking of himself as "other," as apart from humanity and unable to connect with the "normies". Certainly Superboy often felt that way in the silver age (no shocker I don't like that era), but he did not in the golden age or in the more recent times I most like.

  13. #13
    Astonishing Member Gaius's Avatar
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    A split curl.

  14. #14
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    Red Trunk with Red Cape

  15. #15
    The Man Who Cannot Die manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCN24454 View Post
    You're not wrong.
    It's toughest thing to convey with the character as a writer I feel.

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