Monday, April 16, 2007

Neoclassical or Post-Modern - Who cares, it's Superman!

I don’t know if the animated Superman is neoclassical or postmodern. I just know it’s not modernist because it didn’t invent it all entirely new from the ground up but was an amalgam of old, recent and entirely new. I’m hesitant to call it neo-classical because I don’t necessarily think there is a canon from which these stories are based. Which makes me think it’s postmodern with a lot of new additions and interpretations but without discounting the entire past of Superman. In fact quite the opposite, I think there is a reverence and love for the past of Superman that is referred to and explored via this new interpretation.

The first disk was fun and I liked it although I was a bit uncertain since I had such fond memories of the Batman series. This is a break from that because it is bright and larger than life and, to me, the art style was a perfect fit to the dark and intimate. To some degree this art style will always be rooted to the nuanced darkness of Batman: The Animated Series. Still, the creative team behind Superman: The Animated Series managed to approach the mythos from its own established core. This is a story of brightness, hope, and things need to be larger than life. And it all feels that way here.

What I really like though, is that the team continues to innovate on established ideas and adapts classic stories. There is a tonne of Silver Agey hijinx with Superman exploring space and acting as a test pilot for Star-Labs rocket ships – or at least their adaptations to the ship Superman arrived in. I mean, I’ve seen Superman in a spacesuit, wetsuit and anti-kryptonite suit in one season. When was the last time we saw Superman all trussed up in a different costume in the comics? Sure there’s probably an action figure sales basis to these suits, but it’s still just plain old fun. Then there’s an episode with one of Kirby’s Promethean giants crashing to Earth and the episode ends with Superman freezing it in Metropolis’s reservoir. There’s no clean up, no throwing the Promethean back into space, just freeze the city’s water supply and roll credits. I love the lack of explanation, comics-based media needs more of the show, don’t over explain to the detriment of your audience.

There are some new additions such as the obvious Live Wire who follows Harley Quinn’s move from animation to comic universe exceptionally easy. Plus establishing Brainiac as the central computer for Krypton and he’s instantly a legacy villain was a deft move that didn’t take too much re-engineering. I have to say I like it. And that’s pretty much how I feel about the whole series thus far – I really like it. I particularly like it because I’m not as versed in Superman’s history as I am in either Spider-man or Batman (and even those aren’t the most detailed of knowledge bases for me). All in all I’m loving having these cartoons to kill some time on the weekend mornings while my wife is sleeping in.

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