Hey, I don’t mind! Ultimately, you like what you like and you know the reasons why. You are totally within your boundaries to disagree with me.
I enjoyed the Johns and Busiek material from Post Crisis. I definitely think Johns had the last really solid run on a Superman title before New 52, and Camelot Falls by Busiek is a great story.
I’m also not anti-Ma and Pa Kent. But, there was a lot of emphasis on them in the late 80’s/90’s stories. When they’re that involved there tends to be a trumpeting of mid-western values that can get tiring at best/kinda off-putting at worst.
I summed up my issues with Post Crisis Superman really well in another discussion board on the Comicvine website a while back. I’ll summarize my comments here, but I’m editing them a bit to update and clarify:
To start, I see Silver Age, Golden Age, and N52 Supes (at least under Morrison) as being, at heart, the same guy. They all have their differences, sure. GA Supes is the smug strongman, SA Supes is the brilliantly weird alien, and N52 is a brash, bullish young man. Yet, they all share one thing in common: They seem to love being Superman. Being Superman makes them different than other people. They are exceptional outsiders who don’t quite and will never exactly fit in with everyone else on Earth, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. They enjoy the hell out of who they are and what they do and you can tell. They are exceptional outsiders who love themselves for who they are.
Post-Crisis Supes is different. He is totally at odds with the things that make him different and seems to have an obsessive need to make himself fit in. It’s not only that he feels like a regular human on the inside, he needs to prove it and everything that makes him unique or exceptional makes him feel guilty. I’m going to go back to his earliest stories to show you why I see him this way:
And, yeah, we’ll start with talking about John Byrne. Byrne made the decision to make Clark Kent Superman’s true identity. Byrne saw Superman as identifying as Clark on the inside, and Byrne’s Clark didn’t know that he was an alien until he was an adult. This Clark got to grow up a popular football player in Smallville whereas the other Clarks had to avoid sports and close connections with people. In other words, he didn’t grow up an outsider. He was a normal, high school jock. Byrne also made sure to establish the fact that he was uncomfortable with being an alien, with being different. Byrne’s Clark would downplay these differences every opportunity he got by making sure to tell the reader: “But inside, I’m just like everyone else.” In fact this phrase or one like it pops up so many times in Post-Crisis Superman comics that you could create a drinking game around it. He always needed to reassure everyone, and himself, that he was really just like them.
Byrne also made considerable changes to Krypton in his World of Krypton mini-series. This was the start of the whole “Kryptonians don’t mate they clone their children” thing that Snyder kind of aped in Man of Steel. SA Krypton was an advanced and benevolent culture. Byrne’s Krytpon was cold, emotionless and sort of sinister. Anytime something or someone else from Krypton popped up (be it The Eradicator, Zod, or anything else) it was evil and destructive towards humanity. For awhile, this made Post-Crisis Superman stories follow a pretty simple formula of alien=bad, human=good. Or, if you’re reading like I am, different=bad.
The inevitable effect of all of this is that Clark perpetually struggled with being Superman. In Adventures of Superman, Marv Wolfman had him forcibly disarm Quarac. He then went into fits worrying about whether it was the right thing to do for months after. He killed Zod and his fellow evil Kryptonians in the Pocket Universe, and then spent months beating himself up for it. This got so bad, in fact, that he suffered a mental break where he began moonlighting as a human vigilante known as Gangbuster because subconsciously he want to fight crime as a normal human would. To just drive that point home, when Jose Delgado took over the Gangbuster identity, Superman would continually praise Jose as being “the real hero” because he did what he did without powers. After the mental break, he decided he was too dangerous (too different) to be trusted on Earth anymore so he exiled himself into space abandoning his responsibilities to Earth. Basically, more often than not, if he did something as Superman then he either second guessed it or downright regretted it which made you wonder why he was even Superman in the first place.
His favorite thing to do when he was second guessing himself was to run back to Ma and Pa to get advice. It’s like he needed Ma and Pa to reassure him that he was still normal. To me, that’s what it really means when people say the Kents kept him “grounded.” He needed his parents to tell him that he was still being a good human, that he was still just like everyone else (when he really wasn’t).
Then there’s his relationship with Lois… Byrne had Clark pursue Lois from issue #1 on. Like before they had even known each other for that long, Clark was smitten. He also made sure to let you know that he had to win her as Clark and not as Superman (because, remember, Superman=different=bad). He was also the driving force behind their marriage. Lois had a lot of second thoughts, Clark never did. It was like he NEEDED to marry her because marriage is something normal people do and Clark is a normal guy… right? RIGHT???
The two personality traits I see clear as day in Clark from these early Post-Crisis stories is his continual need to fit in and his visceral discomfort about everything that made him different. This was probably not the intention. This was probably all just done to make Superman more “relatable” and they were just driving it home in really ham-fisted, comic book way. However, just based on what I’ve read, this is how I see him, and, ironically, this made him less relatable to me. As a generally weird outsider, I could never get behind Post-Crisis Superman growing up. He seemed too mainstream, too yuppie. It was only later when I was exposed to SA Superman and modernized versions of him (All-Star Superman, Alan Moore’s Supreme) that I really got it. Here was a guy who was different, weird, and celebrated it. In comparison, Post-Crisis Superman sort of hated himself for it.
Some of you might say to me, “This was in the past, though, Post-Crisis Superman has progressed since then.” To which I would say: not really. In Convergence and Rebirth, he picked up right where he left off. He has his wife and kid and tries to settle them down into a “normal family life.” Plus, the Post-Crisis Superman has been the standard for thirty years now, so the changes Byrne made in his personality just kind of stuck. Take Our Worlds at War where Superman touched cosmic level power but then went on to just be the same old Clark. In The World of New Krypton he was more concerned with human lives than the fact that Lex Luthor and General Lane went on to make sure Kryptonians were nearly extinct again. Even in the New 52, after I saw Morrison work so hard to change it, I got to read Fabian Nicieza pull out the old “I’m just like everyone else” catch phrase in Superman Annual #1. Whenever I read Post-Crisis Supes or a writer who obviously only knows Post-Crisis Supes, I can still see that same guy who desperately needs to fit in, who can’t rock the boat, who can’t be interesting or god forbid- different. Even Busiek does it a bit in Camelot Falls.
When it comes to Bendis, so far… he’s done an alright job of trying to find a middle ground between the two characterizations. He’s obviously still continuing the story of Post-Crisis Supes and you can still see PC Supes in their. Yet, he’s been a bit less brooding over being Superman and a tad less obsessed with fitting in.
I’m interested to see where the giving up his secret identity piece goes anyway… So… I think Bendis is trying to find the best of both worlds- the middle ground. Maybe the Metaverse will help him do that.
Sorry for the length… I always feel I need to fully explain this.