Supes is a real jackass in this game.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/superman-is-a-total-dick-in-injustice-2-and-its-glorious
Supes is a real jackass in this game.
I love it! That’s exactly the kind of jackass I’ve always envisioned Supes would actually be in real life but only those close to him would know because he would make sure he is represented as a benevolent god to the populous.
I can’t believe it took a post about Superman to get me to sign up to the forums of a website I visit daily!
Anyway, I’m seeing a lot of people praise Evil!Superman from Injustice 2 (and I have to admit I still haven’t seen it), but I’m also seeing that a lot of these people are coming from the “Superman sucks” camp. I come from the “Superman is one of my favorite characters in fiction” camp, so more often than not, Evil!Superman just… breaks my heart.
What has made the character so interesting and so relatable to me is that the true ‘super’ part of Superman is the ‘man’ part. To me, what makes Clark so much of a superhero are the beliefs given to him by his mother and father, who taught him to respect all living things, to treat others with dignity, to always love your fellow man. Which also makes him such a breath of fresh air in a world of grim and ‘no moral boundaries’ comic book characters. He’s about standing tall and firmly holding onto your beliefs no matter how much the world yells at you to give up and cave in.
That’s why Evil!Superman never really works for me, because it breaks that down for a ‘yes, but what if dictator’ plotline that always seems to me like the writers going ‘aha, I told you, no one is incorruptible’ just for the sake of realism. Yeah, I know people with power tend to be pricks, but… maybe I want to see a character that, for once, shows people can have power and still be good at heart?
I think it might be worth reading the Injustice comic books if you haven’t already. I’m pretty value-neutral on Superman (it depends on the writer more than it does the character in my case), but I think what is interesting about this particular BadSuperman is that he is precisely the “man” that you’re praising. Or, rather, he is someone who is fallible not because he was corruptible, but because he has spent his entire life being the person that you’re praising and so he thinks he can do no wrong.
It is less about Superman being some pure being who falls down into being a common, corruptible person, and more about Superman doing exactly what you’re saying: he’s “standing tall and firmly holding onto [his] beliefs,” and in this case those beliefs are that everyone else is more fallible than he is. And in a world where Superman is a paragon of virtue, that’s literally true.
I haven’t played the sequel yet but I do know how he is in the previous comics. Also, I’m curious how the superman from the other dimension is doing now. Because that’s a thing I hope is clarified. Also, for anyone who hates Superman, watch the 90s Superman animated series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to see how great and important superman is, as well as see some great D.C. Shows well. Also, Malcolm McDowell is Metallica in it! also, sorry for going slightly off topic.
I’m really happy after writing most of the Injustice comic they let Tom Taylor contuine writing the story for the game. It really shows how good of a job he did from the basic story in Injustice 1.
My favorite thing in the Injustice book is Harley Quinn actually becoming good friends with Green Arrow and Black Canary
Cameron, thanks for replying. From what I remember of my defining Superman reads (Birthright being one of them), thinking that everyone else is more fallible and thinking he can do no wrong are not characteristics I would associate with Superman. It honestly sounds to me more like the kind of ideas one would attach to Superman after reading something like The Dark Knight Returns, which does such a disservice to the character. Sorry, I just don’t see ‘respect your fellow human beings’ turning into ‘everyone is more fallible than me’ without some dark reworking of the character origins or, like I said, the core of the character being sacrificed for the sake of a point the author wants to make.
I can’t pinpoint the exact book, but one of my favorite quotes from the character is when he and Batman are in a public park, and a guard stumbles onto them. He says the trouble’s gone but “at least everything’s better now that you two are here.” To which Superman replies “you mean us three, right?” Now that’s Superman! Even though he is a literal god on Earth, he doesn’t see anyone as more fallible than him. That’s more Batman’s territory, honestly.
Now, I don’t want to be all negative and seem like I’m just poo-pooing on your article for ‘I don’t see the character the way you do’ sake. I think this kind of take on the character is just as valid… through the virtue of many things (time, capitalism, you name it), Superman has become a symbol, and symbols are fair game for exploring the way we humans relate to certain concepts (Injustice seems to be all about power, if my memory of the first game and first three years of the comic serve me well).
I guess my sticking point is around the stakes of what it means to make a claim about a character in a story. I’m a fan of narratives that give us some points of reality (say, “Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American way”) and then takes those claims seriously. I in no way think that your read of Superman is wrong, of course, but I think there is something valuable in taking something to its logical conclusion. I think it’s how we get to what things do when they get invoked, and it’s how we get out of dead-end arguments about what Superman (or Batman or whatever) means.
I can appreciate the Grant Morrison-esque completely flat takes on superheroes (a kind of objectivist X equals X in all cases thing), and I just finished rereading his Animal Man run where you can see a lot of core work that comes up again in the All-Star Superman comic more than a decade later. But I also think that I find those arguments, well, boring, because they don’t have any stakes to them. A comic book told me that Superman was good, and he was, and by golly he saved the cat in the end. I don’t often feel like there are any stakes to those stories other than a “the proof is in the pudding” kind of thing.
I think this probably explains my (very, very) strong attraction to Warren Ellis’s Planetary and his work on The Authority. Those are both comics that are about building a little machine and setting it spinning to watch where the core assumptions and claims end up.
I definitely don’t think you’re poo-pooing the thing! I definitely appreciate the comments, and I wouldn’t hop in here to talk about it if I didn’t think this conversation wasn’t generative and good and worth having. Thanks for the great thoughts on the topic!
I suppose it’s not that Superman as a villain, or Superman as an angry god, or Superman as a dick are invalid stories necessarily, but it is one that I for one am very very tired of. I feel like with the shining exception of All Star Superman all the great stories that have saturated culture are a decidedly bleaker take on the character whether it’s the brooding strongman of Snyder’s movies, the government toady form The Dark Knight Returns, or Injustice’s authoritarian it feels like it’s the only Superman DC will give us these days and it sacrifices the core of what I love about Superman, in a world of broken anti heroes it’s nice to have a character who is just fundamentally good and kind and honest. Superman could be that hero because I truly believe that so much of hate and anger and authoritarianism and evil is rooted in fear and insecurity and what does Superman have to be afraid of? when you’re faster than a speeding and stronger than a locomotive you can afford to take chances and assume the best in people and never give up that there is some good left in Lex Luthor.
Maybe it’s simplistic, and a bit childish, but so is Robin Hood, and Batman but I still think there is value in those stories of ideals and goodness. And because Batman wears black and is cool and “hardcore” we get to have those stories about the little boy who saw his parents killed and decided he was going to end crime, why don’t we ever get to have the stories about the man with incredible powers who who uses them to show the world a better way. I don’t think it’s because DC is real interested in deconstructing their characters, I think is more because they are terribly concerned with seeming “adult” and “mature” and “gritty” and what have you. Batman can work in that framework, but I don’t think Superman does. I wonder if part of the reason Supergirl has succeeded to the degree it has on TV as a brighter cheerier superhero show is because even in todays culture it is more socially acceptable for a woman to represent the principles of compassion, kindness, sensitivity, and trust that are so core to Superman’s character. certainly in the DC offices it seems to be.
But to me that just speaks to why we need a good, kind, and honest Superman to champion those ideals, now more than ever. because, as Silver age Superman once carved into the moon with his dying strength: “Do good to others and every man can be a Superman”
I think what’s interesting about the Injustice universe is that it isn’t a “world of broken antiheroes.” It’s a normal superhero world where the least powerful people have to band together and unite in strength against someone who is a classic “villain who believes they’re the hero of their own story.” That character does happen to be Superman, but what’s interesting to me is that outside of him most people maintain their “heroic” status (short of Hal Jordan who has had some real weirdness going on.)
I’m a long-lapsed month-to-month comic reader, and I was never really one for DC, so I’m genuinely curious about how often we get the Truly Good Superman. Was the “walks across America” Superman part of that? And what is he right now?
This whole post is a bit on the ramble side, but: have you read Ellis’ Moon Knight? That was tight, fantastic one and done run.
I think there are narrative stakes in the more ‘simplistic’ Superman style… to me, the act of resisting and upholding your core values in a world that is pushing you to ignore them is an interesting stake. And I don’t mind the occasional “Superman faces a terrifying choice” story, it’s just that most people jump to “and then he snaps someone’s neck”, which to me is just really defeatist. You’ve been taught all your life to never give up and yet… you give up? Such a flat ending.
I think I’ve missed the point a little here, but I suppose we can conclude by using something from the Brave and the Bold cartoon: “Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it’s certainly no less valid and true to the character’s roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy.” Just sub in Batman for Superman and tortured avenger for man of steel.
Also, read New Super Man! That is all.
I’ve always been more of a pick through the trades guy so I can’t pretend to be up on the current status quo of Superman. I think the first half or so of Grounded where he walks across america wasn’t super well received and had kind of a preachy after school special vibe about it, eventually the writer abandoned it and Chris Roberson took over and I think really turned it around. the most recently I’ve read since then was Grant Morrison’s New 52 run which was sort of a Superman reboot that brought him back to his golden age roots made him a bit less powerful and faced him off against a corrupt establishment a bit more that was pretty good too. by and large though I feel like Superman has been hit pretty hard by the perpetual revival of 90s edge that DC seems mostly stuck in, I think he can be an easy character to get wrong.
and again, it’s not that I don’t think there’s merit to what they’re doing with Superman in Injustice, if I liked fighting games I could see myself getting into it. I just kind of wish they weren’t doing it with Superman, it feels like he has been deconstructed more than not these days and at some point that just becomes the new status quo and it kind of breaks my heart to see because at his best I think Superman is the only comic book character who can really get me choked up when he’s protecting a kid from their crummy dad or being there for somebody who’s ready to jump off a building, or just being super in love with Lois Lane. and I’d just kind of hate to lose that for a Superman who’s always doing the scary red laser eyes thing or serving as an examination of how Superman could go wrong. heck, let Batman go wrong for a change, he’s literally a billionaire, we hate those guys right now.
Only the billionaires can protect us!
(this is sarcasm, btw)
I think the best versions of Supes that I have read are:
And it’s telling that two of them deal with a pretty mean-ass Superman. Kingdom Come still remains my favourite, and that’s partly because I just cannot detatch it from the artwork. As defining as Shuster’s Supes is, and as wonderfully human as Quitely managed him, there is nothing so marvellously perfect than Alex Ross’s incredible rendering of him, he was surely the person born to illustrate the guy:
I’d be interested in seeing the story, but I’ve got little desire in me to actually play the game itself. I’m a strong proponent of Superman as a vehicle for great stories, exactly because of his simplicity, and how it calls into question how simple we believe ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to often be. Plus I am a sucker for the boldness of his design.
Okay, so I beat Injustice 2’s story mode. That includes both endings and I am okay with Superman doing the things he is doing because (except for one line he sayss). I am just glad it is not Superman being gloom and doom and being thirsty for Ayn Rand like Zack Snyder always makes him out to be.
Spoiling to protect the innocent and the guilty alike:
Wait, what? You’re okay with Superman literally enslaving his enemies to create a one-world order for the “good” of everyone?
OH, I am not okay with that at all. But as something as of a palate cleanser from the recent depiction of Superman, I feel as if this was…the right amount of comic book evilness. Again, *maneuvers hands like Nixon" Superman is a crook. But, I don’t know how to best describe. This not the Superman I loved in the 90’s/early 2000’s with the animated series, but…I don’t know. I can’t accurately describe my feelings. Sorry.
Late with this, but I forgot to mention this: Superman in this has the same actor who portrayed him in the Justice League and Unlimited animated series. Same thing with Batman and Wonder Woman. John Stewart/Green Lantern as well. So there’s another example of why my thoughts are how they are.