The Man of the day After Tomorrow, by John Ostrander
And every fair from fair sometime declines / By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d
Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
The Superman of today is not the Superman of the Thirties, nor of the Eighties, nor the Superman that will be. At some point the Man of Tomorrow becomes the Man of the Day After Tomorrow. He will evolve and change as he has since his creation. Everything changes, everything evolves. The alternative is death and extinction.
The principal problem (IMO) with the most recent Superman film, Superman Returns, is that director Brian Singer wanted to go back and make the Superman 3 film that he felt should have been made. However, that interpretation of Superman belonged to the era in which the original Christopher Reeve Superman was created. Say what you want about Smallville, it at least re-interpreted Superman as if he had come to Earth recently and was a young man today. Sure, at the start it was a little Superman 90210, but so what? It translated the mythos into something recognizable for our era. In fact, in this its supposedly last season, after losing two of the lead supporting cast members, I think the show has gotten better. It borrows heavily from the comic book mythos that spawned it but has consistently thrown a new spin on that mythos. Superman Returns didn’t.
It’s not just Superman; comics as a medium needs to re-invent itself, to adapt to changing times. I love, honor, and respect the comic book retailers but they are in hard times and its going to get harder. Comics are a niche market and the retailers are part of that niche. There’s x amount of fans buying the books and they have y amount of cash to spend on them. DC and Marvel play the same games from the Eighties with continuity heavy crossovers and attempts to crowd one another off the shelves. None of this grows the market.
One of the things I like about ComicMix and other sites like it is that we are where the eyeballs are, where the future of comics is going to lie – here on the Internet. This is where you can grow the market. It’s cheaper to produce stories on the Internet – no cost for printing or shipping, no distribution or retailer percentages – and you can still package the material for trade paperbacks which is where the real money is in comics anyway. Most of all, it has the potential to reach people who don’t go to comic book stores.
This is assuming that comics as a medium survives. Right now you may be looking at me strange. The biggest movies this summer were based on comic books. Batman is going to go away? Superman is going to go away? Iron Man, the Hulk, and even Hellboy did great business. And I seriously think this is going to go away?
I’m going to tell you an ugly secret: nothing last forever. The interest the movies have in comic-based movies are part of a cycle and will at some point die out. Given my luck, it’ll be right after we make a GrimJack movie deal. That’ll be a sure sign of the coming comic book apocalypse.
For a long time, the western was a dominant movie form. So was the musical. How many of those do you see these days? When either shows up, it’s an event. When they show up at the same time, it’s Oklahoma. At one time, pulp magazines sold huge. Popular ones like The Shadow sold more copies in a month, I think, than the entire comic book industry does nowadays. Other magazines like Life, Look, the Saturday Evening Post also all sold big numbers. If you told people in their heyday that they would vanish, people would have thought you were crazy. Today? Heck, the daily newspaper is finding it hard to make it go, let alone magazines.
It’s as Shakespeare states in the opening quote – everything that is fair, good, beautiful from that fair must sometime decline. Chance does it or nature taking it’s own course. Things age, wither, die, go extinct.
That includes nations. No country maintains its pre-eminent position among the nations of the world forever. Not one. Read history. One of the scariest things about this whole economic crisis that we’re enduring right now is that, deep down, we sense this is the beginning of our fall from the top. Flag waving yahoos like on Fox News may decry that as unpatriotic; I think not facing the reality is truly unpatriotic. Politicians will tell you that our best days are ahead of us but they have to tell you that. We won’t elect them if they tell us the straight skinny.
There are lots of reasons why this is happening and it can fall on both political parties although I also think these last eight years will prove to be the trigger. Fifty years from now when they write the history of this time, they will note how America’s fall from grace may have been inevitable but was exacerbated by the policies of the Bush Administration. The military was overstretched and involved in a costly quagmire, stock and financial markets were deregulated or unregulated, the gap between the very rich and the rest of us became a chasm, and America borrowed, pawning the future for a high life that benefited really only a few. It’s your children and your grandchildren who are going to reap this whirlwind when those loans come due. I hold the Bush Administration primarily, if not solely, responsible.
In the past years, greed has been more naked. There’s been a swap in principles at the base of it all that bothers me. The Preamble to the Constitution starts with “We, the People.” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address speaks of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” When exactly did we decide to make this a country “of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations”? When did the purpose of our country become to serve capitalism instead of the other way around? When did we become “We, the Corporations?” Because that’s when we lost our greatness. Like Esau with Jacob, we’ve traded our birthright for a bowl of stew.
Perhaps it was inevitable. The fact that something is here today does not mean it has to be here tomorrow. There used to be a big market for buggy whips. Not no more. Dinosaurs used to rule the Earth. They still do, but only in the form of their liquefied remains that we call oil. Your car runs on decomposed dinosaur, buddy.
Just because he’s been around for about seventy years doesn’t mean that the Man of Tomorrow will be here the day after tomorrow. Nor that the medium he helped create will be here, either. Nor that this country will continue or even that our species will.
Can we do anything about it? Well, there’s a presidential election coming up and we can vote. I think whoever wins may be a one-term president, though. Neither of the candidates is going to be able to turn things around as fast as we want and neither of them, I think, can stop our slide from our position of preeminence. I think one has a better shot at it than the other; we’ve tried dumb so this time I’d like to try smart just to see how that works.
Other than that – just love and cherish what you have while you have it. Time evaporates everything else.
Writer John Ostrander writes stuff like Star Wars: Legends and Doctor Who. He’s always got something up his sleeve.