Déjenme escribir a Superman

Un pájaro. Un avión. Un ser humano.

“As you know, l’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book, not particularly well-drawn, but the mythology. The mythology is not only great, it’s unique…”
— Kill Bill Vol. 2, 2004.

Aún y cuando este monólogo de Tarantino mete una tuerca en el engranaje con su opinión sobre la dualidad Clark/Superman, son ese tipo de detalles los que lo colocan en un pedestal aparte entre el panteón de los superhéroes más emblemáticos del mundo.

Nunca habrá un personaje más complicado de narrar que a Superman. Los comics de Superman son proverbiales campos minados, llenos de trampas y vicios en los que incontables autores caen año tras año. Lo más sencillo es meterlo en situaciones simples como detener a asaltabancos y meter en prisión a su galería de bribones mes a mes.

Pero es cuando los autores deciden meterse en el lodo y labrar historias sobre la condición humana y con Supes en medio de ellas, que tenemos a los auténticos clásicos e historias definitivas en su acervo literario.

Con su característica elocuencia y capacidad de análisis, Warren Ellis ofrece sus respuestas al acertijo llamado Superman. “¿Por qué nunca me dejarán escribir a Superman?” supone sumergir al también llamado Hombre de Acero en modelos narrativos retadores, dramáticos, reflexivos y fuera de las convenciones y “grandes hits” del superhero comic. Hacer esto nos llevará seguramente a una lista continua de historias memorables y no a contadísimos “garbanzos de a libra” que encontramos cada vez que repasamos lo mejor en cada década de vida de este personaje.

– – – – – – – – – –

Brief, Disconnected Notes on an American Mythology
© Warren Ellis.

I’m not a superhero fan.

I had to learn the subgenre when I began writing for the States. I’ve had to learn to read them. Now, I can appreciate some of them. Not many, it has to be said… but some.

The one I always wanted to like was Superman.

Superman is a uniquely American icon, and the first true myth of the electronic age.

One special facet to it is that it began as a myth told to children by children. Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster were youths when they created Superman, a far cry from today’s handful of twentysomethings and carloads of middle-aged men who give today’s children their superheroes.

(Perhaps this is why, to me, a strong adult story told with Superman would seem curiously inappropriate—and, conversely, the 20th Century social nightmare given inky form that is The Batman seems to me strangely inappropriate as figure of children’s tales.)

Superman for the Animals, 2000.

Superman, then, is the agent of modern fable—the most compelling fable the 20th Century gave us. Soap opera is unworthy of him, and, as has been proved many times, is not big enough to contain him and the central concepts of his story.

At the heart of myth and legend is Romance. That is not the same as the weak, whiny demands of soap opera that begin with “characterization” and crap on with demands for ever more levels of “conflict”, “jeopardy”, “ensemble writing”, “tight continuity” and all the rest of that bollocks.

Superman #247, 1972.

These things are unimportant. Many of them just completely get in the way of the job at hand. SUPERMAN requires only the sweep and invention and vision that myth demands, and the artistry and directness and clean hands that Romance requires.

SUPERMAN is about someone trying their best to save the world, one day at a time; and it’s about that person’s love for that one whose intellect and emotion and sheer bloody humanity completes him.

Action Comics #775, 2001.

It’s about Superman, and it’s about Lois and Clark. And that’s all there is. That’s the spine. That must be protected to the death, not lost in a cannonade succession of continuing stories.

That’s what, in the continuing rush to top the last plotline, I see getting lost.

I understand, accept and even to an extent agree with what’s going on; The SUPERMAN creators are trying to keep the books vital, keep them moving, keep those sales spikes coming. But they seem to me to be getting away from the sheer wonder of the Superman myth.

Superman Adventures #41, 2000.

The single title that does seem to be hewing to the line I’ve just scratched in the sand is Mark Millar’s charming and energetic SUPERMAN ADVENTURES.

What SUPERMAN must avoid is genericism. It must live up to its billing. The comics must crackle with invention and mythic power. They must always resolutely be of Now, be utterly modern—if not utterly of Tomorrow.

They must thrill and frighten and inspire and give us furiously to think.

All-Star Superman #10, 2006.

Crucially, they must not simply offer us a parade of costumes and odd single name/titles. There must be stories where something important is at stake. Something worth saving, be it the life of a human, the soul of a city, the fate of a world, or the future of a child.

Mike Carlin always characterises the ongoing thrust of the Superman titles as the “Never-Ending Battle”. Those battles must have stakes beyond those of smacking about this month’s new costume with an odd name.

Superman: Peace on Earth, 1998.

Superman tackles natural disaster and human crime. It’s his belief that nothing else falls within his purview. War and the politics of famine, he feels, are part of human government, and so not his place.

He will not interfere in the growth of the human race, as much as it sometimes breaks his heart.

He merely, obliviously, shows the human race, by example, how to be great.

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