Story and Art: Frank Miller, John Romita Jr.
Inks and Colors: Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair
DC Comics, 2019
TEARFULLY I TREAD the remains of two stellar careers. The oversize “prestige” format of SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE with the names of writer/artist team Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. stamped on top drew me like a magnet. The beauty of the book in its three softbound and single hardbound editions makes it easy to pet.
The version of Superman, though, not so much. Fortunately, I mistakenly started in Vol. 3 of the series, and though a little confusing, it looked like a reasonable first year for the boy wonder, or whoever, though the characterizations of both Batman and Superman when they meet are agonizingly stupid; and where did Wonder Woman come from suddenly? And supes is kissing and fondling her? Already? She just got here.
Then supes suddenly flies off to outer space to show off his interstellar capacities. OK. Let’s go. Year one.
Only, I had to restart in Vol. 1. No outer space adventure. Turn to a re-re-re-re-re-retelling of the Superman origin story as a baby, a creepy baby in this version; and a schoolboy, creepy again, a vainglorious guy who says he is going to find an answer to bullies at school, but then finds only force works, and gives it to ‘em; and he shows off playing football to make a star touchdown, gets raised on the shoulders of his team-mates, and kissed by his girl, Lana Lang, who later snuggles with him in the woods. Getting laid is right away the boy’s main vocation. At last, the jock playbook turns decidedly insulting when the super boy joins the US military. We see his excited face and fist jut out the bus window, with flags and uniforms in the background.
Following the soldier bit in Vol. 2, supes wanders away without leave to explore the ocean. He meets a mermaid girl underwater, leading to a battle with a sea god that might have been epic, but turns base, revolving on sex and dominance. Naturally, supes wins, and beds the princess, in a seabed. Strong and cute enough to gag. Love the art. Just don’t read any of it.
No part of this story clicks, even the Year One title. It’s not. Even the Superman title. He’s not.
Superman as a soldier and a stud fits propaganda currents these days trying to get our boys eager to fight for no good reason but the pride of power. Militarism rules. Do these old guys with their names at the top really believe this story? Looks more like it was cobbled together in a corporate boardroom, piling in parts to make the brand their own way.
Whose way? A former German reporter, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, revealed from his own experiences how propagandists tell writers what to write, in a 2014 book that became a long-time bestseller in Germany, under the title [Bought Journalists: How Politicians, Intelligence Agencies, and High Finance Control Germany’s Mass Media]. During the bloody Iraq-Iran war, 1980–1988, Ulfkotte worked in front-line offices infiltrated by agents of German, Israeli, and American intelligence agencies, not just to suppress and lie about the news, but also invent it, in a pro-NATO line, sometimes published without change under Ulfkotte’s byline, in favor of Saddam Hussein’s murderous Iraqi regime, armed to the teeth and funded to the gills by America and western allies to punish Iran and destabilize the region.
Agents did not tell you what to do, or bring in bags of cash. Any collusion could be denied. It was more a matter of helping doors open in one’s career, smoothing the way for a young, aspiring journalist, for example; and infiltrating leadership, publishers, editors; and maybe in our case, smoothing the creases on two stellar artists working in an environment that finally, entirely clothed them.
NB. Dr. Udo Ulfkotte’s book is translated into English as
—Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News (2017); and
—Presstitutes Embedded in the Pay of the CIA: A Confession from the Profession (2019)