Black History Month: The Earth-2 Superman.
DC Comics created a whole lot of “buzz” with the introduction of a new Kryptonian character on “Earth 2.” The focus of many articles on Val-Zod seems to be his ethnicity, for him being a black Superman.
This excessive, for reasons that are pretty easy to lay out.
1. He not the first black Kryptonian. There used to be a whole nation on Krypton, called Vathlo Island.
2. He is also not the first black Superman, not even in the New 52 (see Action Comics No. 9). Are we forgetting Sunshine Superman from the Animal Man series, or President Superman, who I recently did a post about? Arguably, we are discounting Steel, from Reign of the Supermen. Sigh.
What he is, and what makes him one of the most interesting new characters in DC’s reboot, is a fully realized NEW CHARACTER. His ethnicity is part of that, to be sure. The fact that the Val-Zod Superman of Earth 2 shows the first real injection of new concepts, materials and motivation into the franchise that has been seen in years…that’s the real hook here.
By the way…his Kryptonian name is Val-Zod. I skipped over that in favor of analysis, but we will get to it. Like, right, now, when we figure out who this guy is.
He first appears in issue No. 19 of “Earth 2” (New 52) where he is found in the sub-basement beneath Arkham in an isolated apartment. He is discovered and released by Jimmy Olsen who believes him to be a Martian, only to be revealed through Kryptonite by Batman to be a Kryptonian. His first act is to smile and welcome these masked vigilantes and heroes with Chamomile tea.
He’s been locked in isolation since his arrival on Earth, this character who is quickly established as shy and agoraphobic. Also, having A-list Kryptonia super powers, he may be the key to winning the series’ ongoing war against Apokolips. This introduction evolves over the next few issues; he is a kind and caring pacifist who wishes no harm to anyone. You know…a character who has Superman’s powers, and embodies Dr. King’s teachings…a refreshing departure from many of the revenge and violence motivated characters that litter comics.
It is later revealed in Issue No. 22 that his parents were scientists who sent him to Earth 2 as “one of four”, along with Superman and Powergirl; but this still leaves one unaccounted Kryptonian for the series to reveal. His parents, who believed that “violence was the very stupidest way to overcome issues”, placed him inside a capsule and their voices were all Val heard on the long trip to Earth.
As we see the various horrors that a Darkseid controlled Superman clone can visit on the Earth during the unfolding series, Val becomes motivated to stand up to the forces of Apokolips. It is delivered over the course of several issues, and the Superman clone controlled by Darkseid is ruthless. It is that ruthlessness, wearing a version of the Superman logo (once again a family symbol from Krypton) that makes Val want to make his stand. To make the symbol stand for something good again.
So that’s him, not drawn by me, in full color.
Why am I making a big deal about this? Glad you asked.
For once, comics seem not to be engaging in tokenism here. Alan Scott, another character in the book, just happens to be gay. It’s an organic part of his character concept, not just something tacked on for diversity purposes. I would argue that Green Lantern being gay was initially for the purposes of driving sales, but was incorporated into the character in a way that made the book continue to work. I think the lessons learned there allowed DC to do the same thing, albeit less forced, here with Val-Zod.
Further, he’s a fully realized character. There’s no “waiting for the original Superman to come back.” The arrival of THIS character was the event, and a well executed one at that. Comics tend not to do that, especially with characters that might increase a comics appeal through diversity.
Overall, a pretty excellent new character, and one that injects new material into the very idea of Superman. Pony seems to not like Earth 2, however, I imagine that’s because the who universe seems kind of run down. Thanks, Darkseid.
Next Issue: No. ONE THOUSAND! Be There!