Crime Writing

Dafter than a Fattening Donut: The Dumbing Down of Superman

My guest blogger today is superhot crime novel phenom Jasmine Schwartz. Jasmine is the author of Farbissen: Melissa Morris and the Meaning of Money and Fakakt: Melissa Morris and the Meaning of Sex, which have been called “Bridget Jones with guns and dead bodies.” Today she brings her incisive wit to bear on the original Superman comics:

Yesterday was my future ex-husband’s birthday. Hooray for him. I say that with all the fake enthusiasm I can muster.

I tussled with a few Russian mistresses to get the last Tonino Lamborghini cigar lighter, but I admit that the best gift was given to him by his brother — an original Superman comic book. Have you read it lately? I almost cried. Everything that’s wrong with the world is exposed within its poorly illustrated pages. Screw Batman. This is the real deal.

They’d never publish this little gem today. A few details about the original you probably wished you didn’t know:

Lois Lane is an Unreconstructed, Superficial Bitch
Lois is unabashedly mean and insensitive. She avoids the gutless Clark Kent and calls him a “spineless, unbearable coward.” Hear, hear, sister. Kent can’t even get a sentence out without stuttering and has to beg his way into tabloid journalism. Modern versions of this story have Lois being nice to him, and turn Kent into a funny, sympathetic character. But Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster — the original writers — weren’t afraid to hate this powerless, simpering hack. Tell it like it is, Jewish boys. Tell it like it is.

Superman is a Misogynist and a Bully
Kidnapping and drugging an innocent football player, beating up the governor’s butler who’s only trying to do his job, leading a party of wealthy people down a mine shaft to be buried alive — there’s nothing this man of steel won’t do to prove a vague point. If there’s a simple way to achieve justice, Superman is sure to ignore it and hatch an ill-conceived and convoluted plan instead.

The Plot Makes No Sense
Does Superman teach the bad guy a lesson? He sure does. It only takes him about a year or so to force the corrupt Senator Barrows to name Emil Norvell, kidnap Norvell, force him to set sail on a steamer, save him from his own henchmen, force him to enlist in an army, join the same army himself, kidnap the opposing generals, and then allow Norvell to return home unscathed. Who needs bloated, bureaucratic government when Superman is around?

And so we come to the question: Why did we dumb down Superman? Why betray the original vision of this erratic prick and make him into a feeble, soft-minded moderate? Now he’s dafter than a fattening donut, more banal than a supermarket olive, and able to keep mall children in a red-cape jam.

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