In this morning's New York Post, we get an image of the new Captain Marvel Shazam. Gritting his teeth. Looking mean. With a hood. Grrr.
Just like the old Captain Marvel. No different. Ahem.
It's amazing how what used to seem corny now seems utterly comforting--or just plain fun. Are any of DC's New 52 books fun? I don't mean good--there are good books, like Batman and Nightwing, Swamp Thing and Animal Man. I don't mean silly books, either--obviously Hoppy was silly. I mean books you could give a kid (say, under 10) who wants to read about good guys beating bad guys, without all the angst. (See this for a parent in a similar situation.)
This isn't about the amount of sex and violence in today's mainstream comics--this is much simpler than that. I love Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns as much as everybody, and I appreciate the more complex storylines that followed in their wake. But does every book have to look like them?
No, it doesn't, and Marvel knows that. Dan Slott's The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun book. Mark Waid's Daredevil is a fun book. Kieron Gillen's Journey into Mystery (aka Kid Loki and Friends) is a fun book (and a lot of it lately has been set, literally, in hell). At times light-hearted and at other times serious, but never depressing--never losing that sense of hope that things will work out in the end. Before the relaunch, DC had books like Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl and Gail Simone's Secret Six--the first a story of a young hero being trained by her predecessor, the second a band of psychopaths. No two books more different, but both fun.
Am I saying the Batman comic should be fun? No. But the Superman comic should be. Batman's a creature of psychology; Superman is a wonder. When we feel awe at what Batman does, it's because he does it with no special powers or abilities. But Superman can do almost anything--and we want to see that. We want to see flying and punching and heat-vision and speed and spitcurls. We want to see what goes through Batman's mind as he pursues his mission, because that's what makes him interesting. Superman's a fascinating character as well, and that should be explored, but not at the expense of seeing him do things only Superman can do.
That's the fun in Superman. The 10-year-old in me misses that--and the 40-year-old me who buys the books is listening.