Columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.
Inevitable, yeah, but the truth is, I’ve been putting this particular edition off. See, I’d never really read Superman till fairly recently, which isn’t really a problem, but … hoo boy. Look, this is kind of embarrassing to admit, so I’ll just come out and say it. I was one of those guys.
That’s right: I used to think Superman was boring.
But let’s be honest here: Chances are, plenty of you have been one of those guys too. “Superman’s too much of a boy scout. He’s not relevant in today’s world. He’s just sooooo dull!” I’ve heard ‘em all before because, at one point, I used to spew them all myself.
It was an easy thing to do when you were a kid in the 90s, a time when it was soooo cool to be angsty and we demanded that our characters had to be more “grim and gritty” (whatever the hell that means). And it didn’t help that everyone else I knew felt that way too. As filmmaker Max Landis put it in his short film The Death and Return of Superman, “Nobody gave a [redacted] about Superman.” I mean, yeah, we all looked back fondly on the Richard Donner films, but that was it.
But that all changed for me in 2009. I started to give a [redacted] – and indirectly, it was because of the Fantastic Four.
Writer of steel
Mark Waid is an incredible author of comics like Kingdom Come, as well as the scribed of widely popular runs on The Flash, Daredevil and Fantastic Four.
That last book, in particular, was why I attended his 2009 writers’ festival talk in Singapore. I was a huge fan of his take on Marvel’s first family (with the late, great artist Mike Wieringo) and I just wanted to meet the guy, shake his hand and thank him.
So, I sat in for his talk and that’s when I discovered he was a big Superman guy. No, wait. Scratch that. Mark Waid was the biggest Superman fan I’d ever met. Ever. I’d say a good 75% of his talk that day was about why Superman was the greatest superhero ever. And while I wasn’t a convert that day, my interest was certainly piqued.
The first Superman comic that I actually purchased was All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It was a colorful, sometimes hokey, but always fun book that first introduced me to what I’ve come to realize is one of the defining traits of the character. But I’ll get to that later.
Anyway, I still didn’t give big blue much thought again after All-Star Superman, not till last December
The reading list
I was making my annual list of resolutions that I was inevitably probably going to break and for some reason, I thought, what the heck. Let’s give Superman the proper shake he deserves. I mean, I wasn’t an angsty little kid any more and his message of hope kind of stuck with me. Ah, but where to start?
So, I turned to a couple of friends who’re pretty big Superman fans. (They’re no Mark Waids, but they’d do just fine.) They eagerly handed me a reading list of what they felt were good Superman comics for a novice like me and I was off.
“An ideal to strive towards.”
When I finally found some of those comics, I sat down and read them. And I reread them. And I went out and looked for more. And I read those too.
And truth be told, I’m mostly done with that reading list, but I’m already looking for even more. Because that defining trait I mentioned earlier? In the very best Superman stories out there, that trait shines like a beacon.
Books like Waid and Leinil Yu’s Superman: Birthright or Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Secret Identity – the one thing that they have in common is that they show you why Superman, the oldest superhero around, was the first of many.
Because when you’re an angsty kid, you don’t consider it. That there had to be a reason he endured all this time. And, finally, I figured it out. His greatest defining trait? It’s something that many of my favorite heroes have reflected in some form or another since the last son of Krypton crash landed on earth.
That trait is hope.
And, if you ask me now, there’s nothing boring about that.
Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection. He blogs about his upcoming book, storytelling and other things at http://waynereewrites.com.