Monday, February 9, 2015

SUPERMAN #79 - July 1993

Prove it.
Credits:  Dan Jurgens (story and art), Brett Breeding (finishes), John Costanza (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary:  Ronald Troupe challenges himself to take Clark Kent’s spot on the Daily Planet roster.  The story he’s chosen to prove himself is the mystery surrounding Cyborg Superman.  Ronald travels to Washington DC to interview the Justice League’s civilian liaison, Max Lord, who is meeting with the President.  Shortly after he arrives, terrorists from Qurac attack.  Cyborg Superman arrives and faces the terrorists.  Ronald bravely takes a genetic identifier from inside the White House into the battle in order to verify that this Superman is real.  After Cyborg Superman’s identity is confirmed, he accesses the White House’s computer system in order to learn more about the terrorists.  The President shakes Cyborg Superman’s hand, and receives a special communicator from him.  Soon, Ronald’s story is on the front page.

Irrelevant Continuity:  Accessing the White House’s computer network means that Cyborg Superman can now “tap into virtually every computer system in the world.”  Presumably, this will become important later.

I Love the ‘90s:  Ronald’s giant desktop computer has two slots for floppy discs.  He also has one of those plastic floppy disc containers that flipped open at the top.  And, of course, the president at this time is the newly elected Bill Clinton.

Total N00B:  My only familiarity with Ronald Troupe comes from the ‘90s Superman cartoon, which featured him as a background character.  I didn’t know the comics version was in his early twenties and about a hundred pounds lighter than his animated counterpart.

Review:  Jurgens shifts narrative techniques this issue, using Ronald Troupe’s article as the text for the vast majority of the story, eschewing word balloons in favor of typographic print and silent panels that illustrate the narrative.  The theme of the story is that anyone who claims to be the best has to prove it, illustrated with an opening narration that lumps Abraham Lincoln and MLK in with a baseball player probably more famous now for beating his wife than his accomplishments on the field.  Troupe is determined to prove he can replace the believed-dead Clark Kent, which is a potentially tasteless motivation for the story, but Jurgens is able to establish Ronald’s admiration for Clark in a convincing way.  Later, Cyborg Superman appears and, as Ronald makes clear to the audience, must be given a chance to prove himself too, when he’s targeted by the White House’s automated security forces.  The basic premise behind the issue is fine, and I do appreciate the break from the standard layout of a traditional superhero comic.  However, any time a writer presents his own writing as a marvelous piece of work that fictional characters in the story just have to swoon over…that’s dangerous.  Ronald Troupe’s prose in this story is not inspiring or provocative.  It’s occasionally clunky, has a few grammatical errors, and could stand at least one rewrite.  The article’s readable, and probably on the level of the average writing found in a newspaper, but it’s not breathtaking by any stretch of the imagination.  Another problem is the use of Cyborg Superman to make a point about giving everyone a chance to prove himself.  Cyborg Superman turns out to be a horrific supervillain.  He shouldn’t have been able to prove himself -- now he has access to every computer network on Earth!  He’s probably the worst replacement Superman you could pick to star in a story like this.  Why choose a character that’s just going to undermine the meaning of your story?


wwk5d said...

"Why choose a character that’s just going to undermine the meaning of your story?"

Because, plot twist!

yrzhe said...

Even as a kid, I thought it was hilariously stupid that we were expected to believe a front page news story featuring a firsthand account of a thwarted assassination attempt on the president would begin with paragraph after paragraph of the reporter blithering on about his own career and motivations.

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