Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I hated All-Star Superman 1

Okay, I'll say it, since no one else will: I hated All-Star Superman.

Face it, Morrison's A-SS is full of crap. Oh, sure there are some outstanding "left elbow" moments... the one-page origin; the gooberness of Jimmy Olsen, Clark's entrance to the Planet. But overall it was a relentless spewing of Morrison's ideorrhea, with giant test-tube babies, yoctospheres, "fear genes", and some scientist who's apparently the love-child of Willie Wonka and the Rainbow Raider.

"But Morrison captures the joys of carefree silver age age blah blah blah."

No. He does not.

Yes, the Silver Age was characterized by a proliferation of wacky ideas, concepts, and characters. But the Silver Age was mercilessly rigid in following through on the ramifications of those ideas. Everything was explained (usually in long expository balloons), and if there were Superboy robots, then by all that is holy you had to explain it every time Superboy didn't use them: "Ordinarly, I'd use one of my robot replicas to fool Lana! But they're all off performing super-rescues or in repair at the moment! I need another elaborate and unlikely plan to protect my secret identity before Lana opens that door!"

In short, the Silver Age had the mentality of a child: endlessly inventive but very strict and hidebound about rules. Makes sense, of course, since that's when comic books were still written for children.

Morrison's writing, in contrast to the Silver Age, shows ZERO interest or concern for the logical ramifications of the concepts that litter his stories like mental fewmets. Wait, wait, you're trying to tell me some whacked out candy-coated scientist is farming all manner of freakish slave-like sentient organisms using Superman's DNA and -- and everyone's okay with that? That's the kind of person Superman used to capture, not save! Forget all about Superman and Luthor; who cares about them, when this Dr. Moreau thing is the REAL STORY?

Morrison dazzles you all by throwing verbal paint on canvas and quickly moving to the next one, while you gasp and stare at the multicolored Rorshach test, groping for meaning when there isn't any. If it's one thing I've learned from my professional careers, it's that great ideas are extremely easy; following through on them isn't.

That's why I'm no longer impressed by Grant Morrison.


Anonymous said...

But I agree, to a large extent. As I see it, there's Good Morrison, who has fun with the character and there's the "ideas keep flying out of my ass, aren't they cool" Morrison. The Good Morrison wrote WE3 and Seaguy, putting characters ahead of the ideas. The Bad Morrison wrote The Invisibles and The Filth, jamming so many ideas in, he neglected to give us characters.
He's wedged some ideas into ASS, but I hope the series will explore them more, in between the action and the character bits.

Anonymous said...

You may want to give the story a few issues before crusifying the whole thing. This is just Chapter One.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Scip, I agree with k26dp.

Yes, Willy Wonka or whatever the hell his name was intentionally creepy...I think that Morrison is going somewhere with that and we need to give him some time to develop it.

And I think that going back to a Silver Age inspiration in modern comics NECESSITATES that you subvert the original Silver Age 'hideboundedness to rules' and go exactly against that.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

But you have to admit, the silver age adherance to logic was a spotty thing.

Take the Superman Robots. For cryin' out loud, he had what, five or six robots that duplicated him and his powers totally. Why the hell didn't he use them all the time? In about nienty-nine percent of all silver age Superman stories, he could have used the robots to his advantage, but he didn't.

It reads to me that you're thinking more of in-story logic, where introducing outside elements would have been "cheating," and the stories dealt with every aspect of its elements. That rule was also violated from time to time in the silver age. ("I know! I'll introduce a new radioactive metal that turns Bizarro into water!")

But in Morrison's defense, the story isn't done yet. He could still very neatly tie everything into a bow.

Morrison is out to create some Big Wacky Crap in the manner of Elliot S! Maggin and Cary Bates using modern idioms and style, and that's groovy.

Take that weird bit of dialogue: "I forgot I'm a suicide bomb." Then skip ahead about six pages. Lex Luthor is telling the human bomb what to say. Thus, the weird corny dialogue was from the villain's mouth and, I think, in keeping with what Luthor would say through a catspaw-bomb. But Morrison doesn't draw your attention to the point.

That's not silver age at all. But it's really dang cool. And ruthlessly logical.

I dig it.

And yeah, the idea-splosion comics are overrated. Dude, give me a stack of silver age comics, the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, and a doobie, and I could crank out bad Morrison "idea-splosion" knockoffs by the ream. Ideas are nothing; follow-through is everything. I think he's doing okay following through in Superman.

Chris said...

See, you're spot-on about what characterizes the Silver Age (which is a nice bit of crit, strong work), but (and here I speak blasphemy) that's what I don't like about the Silver Age. I'd rather read A.S.S. than a Superman Archive any day. They're both fun, but I definitely have a preference. Of course, I also wouldn't describe A.S.S. as Silver Age-y. I think people who do are just lazy, and they're obviously setting a reader like you, who's looking for something specific, up for disappointment.

Also, I definitely wouldn't say THE INVISIBLES is "bad Morrison," since it's my favorite comic ever, but then, see above.

Anonymous said...

"Morrison dazzles you all by throwing verbal paint on canvas and quickly moving to the next one, while you gasp and stare at the multicolored Rorshach test, groping for meaning when there isn't any."

I completely agree with you, Scip.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Scipio, though I'm willing to give it a few issues. But it seems to me that Morrison wants to be writing a Quintum Featuring Superman comic so far.

Shon Richards said...

"If it's one thing I've learned from my professional careers, it's that great ideas are extremely easy; following through on them isn't."

Scipio's accurate critique of Morrisonis going to make Baby Superman cry.

I still had fun with A.S.S.

Jeff R. said...

This isn't a silver age Superman story at all. It isn't even trying to be one. This is a bronze age Superman story, fitting thematically if not directly into any continuity somewhere between 'Kryptonite No More' and the Crisis.

You can tell it isn't Silver Age because there's a serious threat to Superman's life. Just that simple.

(I liked All-Star 1 myself, especially taking it on bronze age terms. I'm wary of the same things Scipio is, but I have a little more trust that issues 2-12 will have the follow-through we both want.)

Brian said...


Now I have to challenge you to a duel. And I shall destroy you.

I don't care what anyone says, Morrison included -- pigeonholing all-star superman into retro-silverage, or any of that crap, is just plain wrong. It's not trying to tell any particular type of story other than a great superman story. Big, brassy, crazy ideas, but the ideas IN ORBIT around something, rather than just bouncing off each other like billiard balls made out of nitroglycerin.

Morrison's telling a SUPERMAN story. What happens when the man of steel is dying. It's surrounded by all manner of craziness, but it's ONE ISSUE. 22 tiny little pages. When Iget the whole story, if it's an incoherent jumble like BadMorrison, then yes, I'll agree with you. But I have faith that this will point somewhere, if for no other reason than he's got the signposts of Superman, Clark, Lois, and Lex to guide him as he writes. It's when he's totally off by himself that things go irreparably nuts.

veriword: tcvahwz. Russian mobster.

Anonymous said...

It actually doesn't surprise me you didn't like ASS, Scipio, since I thought (as with quite a bit of Seven Soldiers) it felt like Morrison was mainly mining/attempting to allude to a lot of Kirby ideas and concepts. Which, I think we all know, isn't your cup of tea. ;-) I enjoyed ASS (partially for that reason), but I agree with you to a certain extent both about its and Morrison's limitations.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I loved it, but I think the 'silver age' thing is a bit of a red herring. Obviously Morrison has a great deal of love and affection for the US comics of his childhood, but what he's doing seems more connected to a UK 'silver age' of undiluted THRILL-POWER, as in:

Or even:

I'm not sure if Morrison has any love left for 2000AD as an institution, but that doesn't change the fact that All-Star Supes is totally zarjaz.

Scipio said...

Ha! You kill me, David, LOL!

And thanks, Al, that's an interesting insight, the 2000AD thing; hadn't occurred to me, but it makes much sense.

Ragnell said...

I liked A-SS myself -- I enjoy roller-coaster stories.

But I dislike thinking.

Or is it I adore superficial daydreaming, but despise deep comtemplation?

Oh well, who wants to think about it...

When's the next panel of Hal Jordan getting hit in the head going up?

(And verbal paint is actually a pretty cool turn of phrase, which could be considered ironic if I bothered to think about it)

Anonymous said...

Reading Morrison is frequently like a ride in an amusement park. Don't think, enjoy the cheap thrill, move on to the next ride.

Anonymous said...

Scipio, you're easily impressed by Geoff Johns and have a visceral loathing of Jack Kirby. In other words, you're a generally boring person. Why would you like a book like All-Star Superman?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, screw ideas. Ideas suck!

Let's just go back to the inherently absurd philosophy that all superhero comics should be rational, rigid and predictable. It's worked so well these last 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Can we have some kind of moratorium on 'irony' now?

Anonymous said...

What I liked about All-Star Superman #1:

-It was the first Superman comic to give me a thrill in a long time.
-The Epilogue.
-Frank Quitely.
-The "verbal paint"- I don't find it astoundingly impressive, but I like a good idea-vomit (as I did during the better stories from Morrison's JLA run). Not all the time, not even every ime Morrison writes one, but I liked it in this issue.
-Lex Luthor was actually creepy.
-The goofy dialogue.

I agree that ideas are easy and follow-through hard, but I think it's too early to judge whether or not Morrison will be able to do more than skim the conceptual surfaces.

Scipio said...

" In other words, you're a generally boring person. "

Actually, that one made me laugh out loud... Ah! NOW I know why people don't like me!

And, Derek? Fear not; I'm having myself a coffee cup made that says "History's Greatest Monster"...let's see colleagues screw with me while I'm holding that!

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Dammit, I thought I was "History's Greatest Monster." -sigh- I'm gonna have to burn down an orphanage after work today or something to try to get the title back.

Though I can take comfort in the knowledge that I remain "History's Most Stylish Monster."

Anonymous said...

History's Greatest Monster?

Yes, I've heard that about him from every boy in Georgetown, told lovingly and with fond remembrance.

Tee hee!

thekelvingreen said...

Briefly, I thought it was a solid read, but both Morrison and Quitely have done far better work, and that Garth Ennis is still the writer of the best Superman story since Moore buggered off in a huff.

But the bit with the cloned slave race really bugged me too. That's exactly the kind of thing Superman would be against. If a scientist comes up to Superman and tells him that he's creating a race of living beings from Superman's DNA to act as bloody slaves, then Superman's going to tear that operation apart. Unless it's the pre-Civil War "American Way" he's fighting for...

So that bit really drags the book down for me. I have enough faith in Morrison's ability that he's got some get-out clause in mind (but he could also have got carried away with all the technogeekery and not noticed that he's got Superman advocating slavery), but for the moment, that bit stands out like a big stinky turd.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I may not agree with what you have to say but I'll defend for a couple of minutes during my lunchbreak your right to say it...

Zaratustra said...

I think whether a comic is Silver Age or not is determined by a single question:

Does Jimmy Olsen have superpowers?

If so, yes. If not, no.

MarkAndrew said...

"Yes, the Silver Age was characterized by a proliferation of wacky ideas, concepts, and characters."

Well, there's Silver Age and then there's Silver Age.

I generally agree with you that Morrison isn't particularly close in style to, say, the Weisneger era Superman.

However, and conversely: G.M. is about the only dude workin' in superhero comics today who's churning out conceptual based science fiction, which certainly allies him with the John Broome, Julie Schwartz, and (especially, especially, especially) Gardner Fox style combination of relatively clear eyed scientific (or, often in Morrison's case sociological/philisophical) principles and concepts combined with psychotic weirdness. One foot in science fictional almost pseudo-realism, one foot in crazy town.

Anonymous said...

Scipio, you will always be one of my favorites, Kirby-hatred, yoctosphere-indifference, boringness and all, if for no other reasons than these:

1. Your endearing, against-all-odds, iconoclastic love of Vibe
2. Your evangelistic spreading of the word of Golden Age Starman
3. The way you convinced me to buy the Jonah Hex Showcase, which was awesome
4. Doctor Domino Week

Truth be told, Doctor Domino Week would be enough to absolve you of all your sins all by itself.

Ragnell said...

You guys made me look up "moratorium" in the dictionary. You all suck for being smarter than me.

Anonymous said...

Eh, it's all right, but it's no "Paul O'Brien is fed up with X-Comics Fanboy Rampage Explosion" comments thread.

Chris Arndt said...

some issues and some comics Grant Morrison does this and it works.

But generally speaking.... yeah, I can see and understand and remember how it can be a pain in the arse.

I also get somewhat annoyed when Morrison takes an old superpower and gives it a new name, as if his new name for the old power is "smarter".

Now, what you say about rules is important. The Silver Age Superman remembered that well into the Bronze Age and into 1985 and 86. Then in Crisis #7 they made up one more rule upon Supes' apparently first canonical entrance in Qward.

There was a set list of things that could hurt Superman or stun Superman. Now if someone or something could match, hold back, make Supes reel, or downright hurt Superman without the use of magic or Kryptonite, that something was pretty damn powerful. That's partly why Metallo and Parasite and Neutron and even Master Jailer were wicked cool. They were damn powerful.

Parasite stole Superman's very life. He was the most frightening Superman villain of the seventies and sixties. The ending of the first story had to be anti-climatic or it would not have worked. Especially by its own rules. Parasite is mortal, Superman isn't human.

Brainiac had gadgets that could hold Superman against his will.

Metallo had strength to match Superman's when he wasn't poisoining him. Neutron was strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Superman if not powerful enough to really hurt him. Mongul could twist Supes' head off.

Either there was a contrivance to explain Superman being weak or we the reader is left to assume that the villain is "pretty damn powerful". Dial it forward to Post-Crisis era. Bloodsport I and II. Superman faces Spider-Man villains and it takes him almost an issue to beat them. Why? Because the writers are missing the crucial brain-piece neccessary to just have Superman run up and flick them in the forehead.

Anonymous said...

the whole point of the All Star line was to showcase comic superstars takes on different chracters, no?

that's why Miller crapped out another paycheck to be signed over to Jack Daniels, and that's why Grant went all Grant on Superman and did what he wanted to do with it. his style, his flavor.

i liked it. cause i like that style. i like what grant does, and am not ashamed to admit it.

but then, i don't think of myself as a boring person, and i don't kiss Geoff's ass.

but that's me.

Jim said...

I didn't like it either. I bought it at a friend's behest without too much objection since I normally enjoy Morrison's work, but this one just didn't do much for me. Apart from your complaints, I thought it was just one "retelling" too many for the S-man in recent years. I'd personally love to see someone tell an original Superman story that was good.

Anonymous said...

Yor compalint about the candy-coated scientist just feels off to me. As intelligent as the super-robots off they have to qualify as similar to the organisms you condemn.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, All Star Superman is magnificent. Both the writing and the art are beautiful, and it captures the essence of what Superman is all about.
Most of you seem either jealous of Morrison, or vaguely embarrassed to admit you like it.
Wise up.

Anonymous said...

Remember this post? Like you, I was bothered by Superman's easiness w/ Quintum. I couldn't tell at the time if this was a slow set up for a bad guy (GM had said that he wanted to expand the rogues gallery in interviews) or if he was just a device for Morrison's comic science weirdness. Either way, you'd think his experiments would offend Superman's moral sensibility.

Anyways, now that we're at no. 10, do you think Quintum might be a villain? - Alex

Anonymous said...

What's so good about Johns again?

Scipio said...

Since just today you read and commented on this post:

you already know my answer to this question, essentially.

Anonymous said...

Remind me to introduce you to someone who doesn't care much for either All-Stars or Dark Knight Returns related stuff. You two might get along like a house on fire.