Flashback: Crisis With The Super Friends!

Superman seems pretty peeved about being turned into a toddler.

Superman seems pretty peeved about being turned into a toddler.

In the Real World, I’ve done a whole lot of talking about DC Comics’ “Rebirth” lately. Being a huge comics fan, it stands to reason that people would ask me for my opinion on it, and as a result, I’m finally talking about it here. If you don’t know what the @#$% I’m talking about…DC’s “Rebirth” is relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing monthly superhero comic books. Using the end of “The New 52” as its launching point, DC “Rebirth” is intended to restore the DC Universe to a form much like that prior to the “Flashpoint” storyline while still somehow incorporating numerous elements of “The New 52,” including New 52 continuity.

Honestly, I don’t see how they are going to achieve that.

Why do such a thing? The speculator boom on “new” DC titles stopped…stopped cold. As a result, sales plummeted for DC Comics, across the board, nationally. The Comics’ market share dropped, and they needed to do something. One of the key problems was twofold. In throwing continuity out the window so suddenly, long time readers were alienated…big time. A second, and related point is that DC Comics have a different feel to them, in terms of tone, than Marvel books. The New 52 was an overall “Marvelization” of DC Comics, and that made easy choices for someone like me. I can just read the books that Marvel does, and not feel frustrated by a publisher.

You see…superhero comics, as INVENTED by DC comics in 1938, are inherently positive, non cynical pieces of work. It’s about magical people who are good to the core, have a positive outlook, and defeat both the odds, and evil people, time after time, off of the strength of their own outlook. For five years, during the New 52, DC Comics has been doing the opposite of that, in fact, with a grimmer outlook than the necessarily more cynical Marvel books. The New 52 has been about distrust, violence, nihilism, and in some cases outright torture…and it made readers jaded, or disappointed. They now need to FIX that.

To hold onto the audience that has “come back in” to see what happens during “Rebirth,” they don’t need to make a continuity change, so much as they need to make us “buy in” to that positive setting again, and that they are committed to it. To buy the idea that when Superman shows up, it is Going To Be All Right.

That’s a tall order.

Superman itself is a bewildering story. Left over from “Convergence”, the pre 52 Superman has apparently been in the world, incognito, helping out the younger “New 52” Superman in secret. At the end of New 52, the New 52 Superman (who was a bit of a jerk actually) dies heroically, and the older continuity Superman takes over for him publicly. Since New 52 Superman was “outed” as Clark Kent, there still hasn’t been a return to the usual status quo, but that’s the confusing state of affairs.

Oh, and China figured out, with Science, how to just give Superman’s powers to a guy.

None of THAT stuff is drawing me back in.

So, what’s the art about? In a previous Super Friends driven post, it was suggested that the protagonist was a Junior Super Friend, or some kind of Intern. The Super friends, for all of its cheesiness and not so great animation, is very much at the heart of what makes DC Comics work, when they work. It’s a positive world view, where if Friends work together, with all of their magical stuff, then you can get great things done. It’s very much a counterpoint to the current idea set at DC Comics in terms of publishing and film.

It also had an early attempt at diversity, in bringing in characters like Black Vulcan (African American), El Dorado (Mexican), Apache Chief (Native American) and Samurai (Japanese, depicted above). Sure…some of these portrayals were a bit stereotypical, and almost none of them got pants. Very few shows at all in the seventies had non white characters on them, forget mainstream Saturday morning cartoons designed to market comics and toys. I have to give some respect for that…and it wasn’t all that hard to do, because the very perspective of DC Comics is positive. It’s a world where you should have friends that are diverse, because it fits with the vision of good people as an intrinsic quality of character.

Anyway, Superman seems pretty pissed at the protagonist and Samurai, although I’m pretty sure that they had nothing to do with turning him into a toddler. I also don’t really know what he expects them to do about it. I mean…Samurai is a history professor when he’s not a superhero, and our hero is maybe a high school student at the time? Neither of them have advanced degrees in Four Dimensional Time Mechanics, Biology, or Gerontology, so they really don’t have the skill set to fix that. Way to be a prima donna, Superman.

Drawing in the style of the old Superfriends series is not as easy as one imagines. The line work is simple, but distinctive. I didn’t do any of the fancy @#$% I’ve been doing lately with the background…I just DREW the background. Sometimes, simple is best.

It’s only the second time we have seen the protagonist dressed like she would have as a Junior Superfriend…and that preppy style is pretty much how I would have dressed at the time. Red v-neck sweater, white collared shirt with the cuff rolled outside the sweater, and ubiquitous jeans. Converse shoes. Despite being dated and boring, I still think that is a classier superhero outfit than Wendy and Marvin brought to the Superfriends’ table.

This was fun to draw…I may very well go back to the protagonist’s “Junior Superfriends” period of time, if only to recapture the magic that DC is trying to with “Rebirth.”

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One thought on “Flashback: Crisis With The Super Friends!

  1. I find your characterization of DC comics as less cynical than Marvel interesting, given that my two favorite DC titles were The Watchmen and the Alan Moore Swamp Thing issues. I haven’t collected comics since the 80s, so maybe things have changed.

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