Kurt Busiek has said that "Superfolks" changed his way of looking at super-heroes and enabled him to write "Astro City," "Secret Identity," and a number of his other most noted works. Mayer himself finds Pixar's "The Incredibles" to be much too close in concept. And of course the book is famously the basis of Grant Morrison's accusations of plagiarism against Alan Moore. Well, that and his own work as well.
|Posted: 14 April 2019 at 12:21pm | IP Logged | 2
I read Superfolks back in the mid-80's when a co-worker at the comic book warehouse where I worked recommended it. I'm afraid I remember very little about it except that the tone, while deconstructionist, is supposed to be humorous, based on a loser version of Superman coming out of retirement to take one more swing at crime-fighting. I still have a copy of it somewhere in my storage unit, I'm sure.
But yes, given it's outlaw reputation among certain circles and publication back in 1977, making it one of the earliest attempts at strip-mining the genre, you'd think it'd be referenced more often than it is. It has come back into print a couple of times, I think, so it can't be that difficult to find. Checking Amazon, it is available there in paperback for about $15 and it's on Kindle for $8.
"Twilight of the Superheroes" is harder to come by. Fewer sites have copies of it up than used to, given DC's "cease and desist" letter to at least one of them. While audacious, and certainly a different take on super-heroes going dark, I wonder how it would have played out given that it was intended as a crossover and not a stand-alone piece like Watchmen or Kingdom Come.
I agree that DC did the Captain Marvel concept no favors by making it a straight-up "kiddie" book in the 70's, having the heroes fight ice-cream themed villains and the like, but there were a few stories in there that seemed to capture the original spirit as well. I have distinct memories of being horrified and fascinated by the Sivana Family-headed monsters dreamed up out of a mythology book that Uncle Dudley was reading. I found mythological monsters to be as captivating as dinosaurs after that and read as much as I could about them afterwards. And even then, while I was initially taken aback by Don Newton's artistic approach to the series, I saw a great deal to like about it as well and was won over in time. The art styles of the Fawcett era were more diverse than they initially appeared and Newton's work seemed an elaboration on Mac Raboy's.
Where DC really screwed up the the Marvels, unfortunately, was in incorporating them into it's larger continuity at all. Nearly all of the classic Golden Age characters were conceived independently of one another and designed to work in their own narrative milieus. While you could have them work together, ala' the Justice Society, even in those stories you can see that Dr. Fate's Lovecraftian adventures were an odd fit with even the Spectre's cosmic conflicts. And Wonder Woman was like nothing else entirely, as proven when Gardner Fox tried to write a chapter featuring the character, raising such objections from Marston that she never got another that he didn't write himself.*
Plastic Man's world is not the world of the other super-heroes. Neither is Captain Marvel's. And no, that does not mean that the two of them can work and play together either. Captain Marvel can not investigate drug rings that operate out of mortuaries and smuggle the goods out, not in the coffins, but inside the corpses. Plas can. And did. These characters weren't created as individuals to be thrown together, higgledy-piggledy, into any mix-and-match arrangement that suits the company. They were created with entire worlds and points of view around them. DC wisely kept Superman and Batman apart for a good long time as well, since even those two had elements that separated them creatively.**
DC initially teamed Superman and Captain Marvel only on the cover of the first issue. In story, Superman was obliged to meet a Marvel copy, since the tone of the two concept did not align. Later, once the whole Earth-S thing tumbled everyone together into a laundry whites-with-colors-with-delicates-with-whatever melange, a story was done showing just how out of place Luthor felt, finding himself one that parallel world with talking tigers and wicked worms.
Expunging everything that defined the character to bring him into Legends and the post-Crisis DC Universe proper made him just another super-joe among thousands, "necessitating" the childlike "hook" to separate him from the rabble. It was an element of the character that could survive the erasure of his entire context, the child becoming an adult super-hero, that, once badly mistranslated and distorted, could become it's own thing, and thus, define him to newer readers. Problem solved!
And a good story featuring the character hasn't been written since.***
* He and his team, that is. Later, DC would give the book to Robert Kanigher, who wrote it in a similar vein to Marston until the death of original artist H.G. Peter when the training wheels really came off and the book went from fantastic and fetishtic to absolutely bonkers.
** Yes, they appeared together in the JSA occasionally, but that was the JSA's bailiwick; to be the book where you could find everyone in the same story, regardless of their differences. It was not meant to imply that everyone crossed over into everyone's title whenever. It was only done there, in that one title. Yes, the readers can be forgiven for playing the "Implications Game" and expanding on the concept but the creators themselves, the professionals, knew not to go there with the characters, or to at least tread cautiously when doing so.
*** It's notable that "Kingdom Come," the one most would cite to disprove that statement was specifically written out-of-continuity originally and done no favors when whipped and beaten to conform even to the new, lax "Hypertime" definition of continuity of the time that DC adhered to for about eight weeks.
Edited by Brian Hague on 14 April 2019 at 12:34pm