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DC Comics or Disinformation Central?

January 26, 2012

Hey Everyone!  It looks like Operation Save Clark Kent needs to fight for truth and justice for our hero within the halls of DC Comics. And that’s no lie.

On this blog and within OSCK magazine I have written about the absence of Clark Kent from the comics, most especially in the World of New Krypton and Grounded story arcs. These were year long arcs that really could have been told in four to six issues. It just didn’t seem like anyone at DC truly loved the story of Superman anymore. Within those stories, Superman no longer had a dual identity and therefore, DC didn’t have to deal with the Kent marriage. Also, Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El were taken out of both his books (Action, Superman) for at least two to three years depending on the book. Sales tanked and DC editorial decided not to blame it on bad stories or editorial decisions but they contended the character was just boring. He wasn’t relatable to a new generation audience. So in their infinite wisdom, DC Comics rebooted their entire universe, and the character they beaded their sites on was Superman.

At a writers’ retreat in October, 2010, the premise presented was how to put Superman into a love triangle. That’s right, the Man of Steel would be cheating on his wife or Lois Lane would be breaking her wedding vows. But no need to worry, as soon as they tossed out the ‘marital detail’ (Jim Lee direct quote), ideas just started flowing. Jim Lee said DC is not anti-marriage but the two co-publishers demolished two of the longest standing marriages, Barry and Iris Allen and Clark and Lois Lane Kent.

For those of you who don’t know, Superman has been married before to Lois, but not in continuity. In the late 70s, Earth 2 (Golden Age) Clark/Superman and Lois married. They had two ceremonies, one Kryptonian and one Earth oriented. Their marriage was deeply involved in Crisis of Infinite Earths (1986) and Infinite Crisis (2006).

Clark/Superman and Lois got married in comic continuity in 1996. DC didn’t want the marriage for their reboot of the ‘new 52’ but did they have to retcon REAL LIFE historical events?

Dan Didio & Jim Lee, Co-Publishers

On July 19, 2011 Newsarama, interviewed Dan Didio and Jim Lee regarding the reboot. It’s a hard reboot for Superman, not so much for Batman. Bruce Wayne gets to keep all his Robins except his female one.

DiDio: I doubt they [the movies] would ever start a series or anything where Superman was married at the beginning. You go back to when Superman got married, that was a stunt tied to a television show at that particular moment in time, and when that show ended, the marriage continued. But every other interpretation of Superman that followed did not have them married.
This was the first time fans had heard that DC considered the marriage a stunt as if it was initiated because of the television show, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Some fans tried to set the record straight thinking Didio was clouding history as a means to an end. But months later, fans realized that somewhere within the DCU offices a dangerous game of telephone was being played . . . or was it deliberate disinformation being distributed to creators to tow the company line for the reboot?

James Robinson

On January 20, 2012, James Robinson, writer of World of New Krypton, did an interview on ComicVine podcast where he was asked the following question:
What is it about superhero marriages that are just doomed to fail as a story element?

“The reason why these marriages … Spiderman, and now Superman and I guess now Barry Allen & Iris. … The thing with Lois is … Lois & Superman is that when you have . . she’s … when you have them married, it well yes, there have been many great stories told about them being married by many great writers. And there could be many more stories.  The potential for more drama and more interesting stuff with … By the way I’m saying the PERCEPTION, I’m not necessarily saying how I feel personally about the matter.

In the old days, she was in love with Superman, Clark Kent was in love with her. He wanted her to love him. He could easily just have revealed who he was, so he could get the girl. But chose to keep his secret identity. There was that weird love triangle where she was … Superman & Lois but a love triangle. Kept the book going for 40 years until they married them. And let’s remember they only married them … No one at DC wanted to marry them. Mike Carlin still says he was upset because they had to marry them. It was only because of Lois and Clark. They were going to marry them on the tv show and they would probably cancel it a few episodes later.“

Note: The short, true answer to the question is: Editorial hates superhero marriages.

Robinson goes on to say the Parker marriage was more organic because it developed over time. Apparently he’s not familiar with the Earth 2 marriage of Clark and Lois, Crisis on Infinite Earths, or Infinite Crisis – not to mention that Clark and Lois were viewed as a couple/lovers/soulmates for 58 years before they married. 1938 to 1996. You do the math.

Why is Robinson throwing Carlin under a bus? Blame Carlin cause he never wanted a marriage? It was never supposed to happen? Plus, why say 40 years, which would indicate when the Earth 2 marriage took place. Is disinformation categorizing both marriages as gimmicks or stunts? Not stories that creators thought needed to happen because of character development?

So I go to my trusty Doomsday Animation Special Features (2007) where the comic book team tell how Doomsday and the Death of Superman came to be. My friend, Maya, went to her Les Daniels’ book, Superman: The Life and Times of the Man of Steel. There are many great source materials for that period of Superman history. Don’t trust sound bytes, research!

Clark and Lois were engaged in 1990 (Superman v2 #50). Lois and Clark the New Adventures of Superman did not air until 1993. That’s all on the DVD as well. They chronologically go through the steps of how they were planning this HUGE wedding bringing in every artist and writer that could hold a pen – and then the tv show wanted a simultaneous wedding so that meant WAITING and POSTPONING the comic wedding. This meant re-creating a year’s worth of continuity stories.

Mike Carlin

Mike Carlin was Superman Group Editor from 1986 to 1996 then he became DC Executive Editor (1996 to 2002). His initial year included Crisis on Infinite Earths, the end of Superman v1 metamorphosing into the Adventures of Superman book and the beginning of Superman v2 . Byrne’s Man of Steel also occurred in 1986. Carlin was also group editor over another monthly book titled Superman: The Man of Steel beginning in 1991 and a quarterly book called Superman Man of Tomorrow (1995 to 1999). During this period there was not a week that went by that didn’t have a Superman comic available.

Jenette Kahn, portrait by Michael Netzer

About the period before Crisis on Infinite Earths and the change afterwards, Jenette Kahn (President & Editor in Chief at DC Comics at-the-time) said this, “The stories of that time were really plot driven and we reversed the terms of the equation and said ‘No, really, even superheroes are human, too. And let’s really start with the person and then have the stories unfold from the drive of the person’.” (Wish DC editorial would go back to that instead of event, event, event, and year long story arcs.)

Dan Jurgens

On the Doomsday DVD, Dan Jurgens (soon to be co-creating on the new 52 Superman book) explains about the revealing of the secret identity (Action v1 #662, 1991) “One of the reasons we did it, is that by virtue of having Clark keep his identity as Superman from Lois, it kind of made him the biggest liar in the world. We decided that was out of character. So as we started moving forward, the idea was to have him reveal his identity, propose to Lois and then we would eventually have them get married.”

Tom Grummett (penciller on Adventures of Superman) continues to say, “Essentially we were all brought together to plan a wedding. And the plan for the year was to marry Lois and Clark. They were finally going to get hitched after 50, 60 odd years of dating. The world’s longest relationship.”

Roger Stern (writer, Action Comics) adds. “They had a television series in the works. The television series became Lois and Clark the New Adventures of Superman. And we thought this was great cause it could, y’know, get more attention for the character. BUT what we didn’t realize was the Lois and Clark people loved the idea of Clark and Lois being engaged and getting married. They just didn’t want us to do it before they did. We could do it the SAME TIME they did, but that was probably two or three seasons away. So we came in with all these plans for the wedding and suddenly NO WEDDING. WE HAVE TO POSTPONE IT. So now there’s like a year’s worth of stories we have to come up with.”

Joe Bogdanove (artist for Superman Man of Steel) offers, “We were a little annoyed because we had to start from square one. It wasn’t just scrapping the marriage. It was scrapping the ENTIRE year’s worth of continuity we worked on to get there.”
Jenette adds, “For creative people, I’m speaking of the DC creative people, that’s hard. It’s hard to shelve your plans. So I asked them what else they could come up with that was of that kind of proportion that would be just as satisfying.”

And finally the Superman Group Editor, Mike Carlin, speaks, “There was some grumbling. The guys were …They were concerned that they would never get to do the story. What if it’s 10 years down the road? I’ll have to come back from the dead to write the story. And it really was a kind of tough nuggies meeting. And the guys sat with their arms folded. Mad. No real ideas coming. Until the famous last words from Jerry Ordway were, ‘Let’s just kill ‘im’, which Jerry said at every single meeting whenever somebody would get stuck. When we sat there with blank chart to fill, he would say, ‘let’s kill ‘im’.”

So in order to fill in the year’s worth of continuity from the postponement of the wedding/marriage, this very creative team decided to have a funeral. The Death of Superman.

This story not only had a 22 page slug fest but was poignant with Lois Lane losing her fiancée while he protected Metropolis and the world. The Kents were still alive and they were not able to attend the funeral for Superman. Their own small but very personal ceremony in the cornfield where his ship landed will always tear at my heart and bring tears to my eyes. I sincerely doubt that we’ll get anything that emotionally impactful from Superman in the new 52. He’s just not allowed to be ‘that guy’ according to current DC editorial.

It makes a Superman fan wonder what the hell did DC put in the Kool Aid at the writers’ retreat in October, 2010. Retconning history of the Kent marriage so it was considered a gimmick or a trick? It’s disturbing how the present DC editors can toss out such an important character development.

Clark and Lois did marry in comic continuity and not because of any television show. It was planned years before and had to be POSTPONED. Mike Carlin seemed to be a very innovative editor and allowed his creative teams to write and draw their asses off. When we read their stories, we knew they loved Clark and Lois and new these characters inside out. We laughed and cried while reading those books.

In the 2006, Look Up in the Sky documentary for Superman Returns, Paul Levitz, then President and Publisher of DC Comics, mentions that there were some disagreements about the Kent marriage within the office. What had changed? (Answer: personnel over the Superman books)

We have seen the exclusion of the dual identity for Superman (meaning Clark Kent) for over three years. If they don’t have Clark in the books then they didn’t have to deal with the marriage. No worries about divorce or making Superman look bad. The stories concentrated on the Kryptonian alien (not even Superman) which DC is hell bent on continuing to explore in the new 52. They apparently seem to think Clark/Superman/Kal-El’s human side is what makes him weak.

Superman was the first superhero — he even has powers to put the ‘super’ in superhero unlike other human heroes. Jenette Kahn had lightning in a bottle when she decided to have DC concentrate on the person and drive the stories from the character.

When and where did this Supermarriage disinformation begin? Was it at a writers retreat? Or was it in individual meetings, casual conversation? Is it harmless? Or is it deliberate? Considering the condition of Superman stories over the past five years, I think not. Tearing down Superman at all costs to make him second best in the DC lineup is inexcusable. He should keep his duality in tact. He should care about Lois Lane as he has from the very first panel Clark Kent and Lois were in together. What is DC Comics editorial’s game to spread disinformation about Superman?

And that will be in my next article about the DC Editorial, its history after the Kent marriage in continuity.

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