You probably noticed, but Superman, the last son of Krypton, celebrated his 80th birthday this past year. DC Comics commemorated the milestone in Action Comics #1000, which was a celebration of everything related to Kal-El and his many (many) adventures over the years.
With such an extraordinary character, however, is there truly ever enough celebration? We don't think so. And neither does DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, who held a panel at New York Comic Con 2018 to really fly this birthday home. Joining him onstage was the legendary Frank Miller, as well as current Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis.
Miller may have gotten the highlight applause of the panel when he likened Superman’s personal story to that of the average person who's made their way in the good old U.S. of A. “He is the ultimate immigrant, and therefore folks, the ultimate American,” he said, drawing a huge response from the crowd.
Still, Miller said fans shouldn't expect his approach to the upcoming Superman: Year One miniseries to be overtly political. Rather, Superman is a mythic character who best lets his actions take the place of sermonizing. “He’s not gonna tell you how to vote,” Miller pledged. “He’s going after much larger truths. The truths are going to be emotional and moral, not political.”
“Some writers get on a soapbox and have Superman lecture the audience,” said Bendis, who’s right in the middle of his own Superman storyline at DC. “Superman should teach you through his actions.”
For all the talk about how Miller must favor Batman over Superman — after all, he’s the writer behind Superman’s infamous beatdown at the Caped Crusader’s hands in The Dark Knight Returns — Miller said he’s a lifelong fan of the character. In fact, it was clear from the stage conversation between Miller and Bendis that each writer harbors a deep and even learned affection for the Man of Steel.
“All I can say is I love Superman,” said Miller, who later reflected on just what’s kept the last son of Krypton vital through the shifting cultural tides of his 80-year run. “It seems like, just when Superman needs a lift, history provides one,” he said, referencing the “quantum leap” the character took in the post-WWII years.
Unlike the brooding Batman (which kept arising as a tonal comparison with Miller’s treatment of Superman in Year One), Superman exudes a unique optimism among comic book heroes, Bendis said — and that’s a trait he continues to mine in his work.
“I need hope… training your brain to think, ‘Whats the best thing to happen right now?’ — and you can’t turn that off,” said Bendis. “I say, ‘Ma’am, can I help you with your groceries?’ a lot more now. I’m this close to going out in public with my hands on my hips.”
Both writers also reflected on how impoverished the Superman franchise would be without Lois Lane, whose nuanced balance of emotions in handling Clark Kent’s vulnerability alongside Superman’s near-limitless power showed off a different kind of power — one that the Man of Steel, for all his abilities, simply doesn’t have.
“We’re talking about Superman, when Lois Lane is the best character in comics,” said Bendis late in the proceedings, noting she always faces the same adversity Superman does — with “none of the power to back it up…but [she] just dives in anyway.”
Miller also highlighted just how pitch-perfect was Richard Donner’s casting of the late Margot Kidder in the original Superman films, saying Kidder “got" the character and was “fearless” in portraying her.
Though it’s been delayed a couple of times, DC is aiming for a November release for Miller’s Superman: Year One. Midway through the panel, Miller offered an intriguing tease, saying he’s been pushing for “a certain Amazon to get involved” in the Man of Steel’s love life.
Does that mean Wonder Woman might cross over into Miller’s standalone series? We don’t know, but Miller appeared almost echo something that Bendis had said earlier about his own work:“Sometimes I get on a book and I just blow it up,” he said — “like Avengers mansion.”
In case you're still hungry for more DC birthday cake, worry not: The Caped Crusader, aka the Dark Knight, aka the Man Who Falls, aka Batman will be celebrating his own 80th birthday next year with Detective Comics #1000. We're sure there will be plenty of pensive brooding to go around!
Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of NYCC 2018, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.