The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'superman'
Star Wars Modern has another excellent post, this time about the history of cities and urbanism as seen through superhero comics, or more specifically, Superman and Batman.
That Depression Era mash of eugenics, nationalism, and progress/self-improvement, when introduced into the settings of the already popular crime pulps, gave birth to two enduring strains of superheroes: those that are inhumanly-super, like Superman; and those that are merely humanly-super, like Batman. Each has a place, an urban setting. More than childhood trauma or costume choices, it is these negative spaces that surround the heroes that make them what they are.While both embody the idea of the übermensch, leavened by Depression-era anxieties, they represent different outlooks in the 20th-century debate on the condition of living in cities; Superman embodies the modernist utopianism of slum clearances and gleaming high-rise tower blocs à la Le Corbusier (in one early story, he demolishes a slum teeming with criminality, forcing the authorities to hastily erect modern tower blocs). Batman, however, represents a more Hobbesian pessimistic world-view, of the urban condition as irredemably producing vice and evil, of urban dwellers as rats, their depravity justifying Batman's brutal methods. (Or, as John Powers writes, "In Batman's Gotham, human-nature makes the city a bad place. In Superman's Metropolis, exactly like More's Utopia, it is the city that makes people bad, and it needs to be physically reordered".) Both, however, were founded in the same prevalent assumption that the urban condition breeds vice, and that a more wholesome life is to be found in small towns, villages or the newly erected Levittown-style suburbs.
A lot of the anti-urbanist arguments cited a 1962 psychology paper titled Population Density and Social Pathology, by John B. Calhoun, in which the researchers cram increasing numbers of rats into a small space and notice that they start attacking and cannibalising one another, and then infer that rat psychology applies equally to humans, and city-like population densities trigger acts of depravity in human populations. To this day you hear the "rats in a cage" argument trotted out as folklore, because it's a vivid, lurid image. The problem is, the experiment doesn't hold; humans in a city aren't rats in a cage, and cities, even densely-packed slum-like ones, left to their own devices, evolve remarkable (if not always aesthetically pleasing) mechanisms of community and cooperation; in fact, the sprawling shanty-town is the ur-city:
Like Jacobs in 1961, who was opposed to Modernist slum clearance and saw density as a positive quality invisible to her contemporaries, Brand sees the high density of slums of contemporary South America, Asia and Africa as the model for future city life. While Jacobs pointed to so-called slums as healthy, but underserved neighborhoods in Boston and New York, and argued that they were positive examples to be emulated by planners, Brand points to vast squatter cities that house billions of people globally as feral urbanism that needs to be legitimized and fostered. The favelas and katchi abadi are thousands of times larger then the neighborhoods Jacobs wrote about, but Brand points out that San Francisco started out as a shanty town, and while he is quick to admit that "new squatter cities look like human cesspools and often smell like them," these are still neighborhoods, they are a legitimate form of urban development. These are not the "breeding ground for suffering and injustice" that Nolan has cast them as. In Brand's description squatter cities are vibrant:
The grim story of the next Superman film, which has remained in development hell for 10 years, while armies of hacks, egomaniacs and philistinic studio types battled over the details, is an eye-opening example of the horrible things that happen to a property once a Hollywood studio buys the rights to it. Read about the dozen or so different scripts, tacked-on merchandising opportunities, plot elements shamelessly lifted from the most recent blockbuster, the many forms of Lex Luthor (rogue CIA agent, mutated shoe salesman, member of the Illuminati), Tim Burton's darker, gothic Superman, and even the studio's plans to cast Justin Timberlake and Beyonce Knowles as Superman and Lois Lane. Read it, laugh uncomfortably, and then pray to whatever gods you have that the studios never get their hands on your favourite stories.
Peters then told Smith to have Brainiac fight polar bears at the Fortress of Solitude, demanding that the film be wall-to-wall action. Smith thought it was a stupid idea, so Peters said, "Then have Brainiac fight Supermans bodyguards!" Smith responded, "Why the hell would Superman need bodyguards?" Peters wouldnt let up, so Smith caved in and had Brainiac fight the polar bears. Then Peters demanded that Brainiac give Luthor a hostile space dog as a gift, arguing that the movie needed a cuddly Chewbacca character that could be turned into a toy. Then, after watching Chasing Amy, Peters liked the gay black character in the film so much that he ordered Smith to make Brainiacs robot servant L-Ron gay, asserting that the film needed a gay R2-D2 with attitude. Then Peters demanded that Superman fight a huge spider at the end of the film, which Smith refused to dohe used a "Thanagarian Snare Beast" instead. (However, Peters did manage to recycle his spider idea and use it in Wild Wild West.)
1. Krypton doesnt explode. Instead its a Naboo rip-off overrun by robot soldiers, walking war machines, and civil war (can you say, Star Wars: Episode I?). Jor-El is literally the king of Krypton and leader of the Kryptonian Senate (thus Superman is a prince), and he and Lara send Kal-El to Earth because he is "the One" whom a prophecy states will save Krypton from destruction (rip-off of The Matrix). The villains, Jor-El's evil brother and nephew Kata-Zor and Ty-Zor, take Jor-El prisoner and send probe pods out to find and kill the baby Kal-El. 14 years later, Lara and her shell-less turtle servant Taga (shades of Jar Jar Binks) are found by Ty-Zor, and Lara gets tortured to death.
5. An aerial kung-fu fight between Superman and Ty-Zor results in Superman being lured into a trap: Lois is drowning in a tank filled with kryptonite. (This begs the question of how there can be kryptonite when Krypton didnt even explode, but.) Superman is given a choice: save her and die from radiation poisoning in the act, or stand by and watch her drown. So he goes in, saves her, and dies. Jor-El magically senses Supermans death from across the galaxy, commits hara-kiri with a rock he sharpens in his prison cell, goes to Heaven, and talks Superman into coming back to life so he can fulfill the prophecy of saving Krypton from its civil war. So Supermans soul returns to his body, and he proceeds to trash Ty-Zor and his cronies. And at the end of the film, Superman flies off in a rocket to save Krypton (which is where the second film is planned to take place).