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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE-- IT'S A NULL-MYTH?

I've just finished reading the first five issues of SUPERMAN CHRONICLES, which archive reprints all of the Superman stories in chronological order of publication.

As I commented in my "100 best serial comics" post, I'm ambivalent on the early Siegel-Schuster Superman tales. There are flashes of brilliance in the early stories, but even allowing for the fact that these stories weren't meant to be read more than a few per month, I have to admit that these stories don't come off as nearly as inventive as the earliest Batman or Wonder Woman tales, or even a lot of the second-raters, like Doctor Fate and Starman.

Many years ago in a review of one of the SUPERMAN movies for COMICS JOURNAL, animated cartoon-expert Mike Barrier described Superman as a "failed myth." I don't remember what terms he used to demonstrate that conclusion, and I suspect that I'd probably disagree with them. But I would agree that, no matter how "mythic" a given character may be *in potentia,* it's always possible for the execution to "fail" so as to produce what Ursula LeGuin called a "false myth," and what I call a "null-myth."

There's no question in my mind that the later SUPERMAN with which I grew up, the SUPERMAN of the 1960s, is a successful myth. In future posts I'll be addressing how well the original succeeds or fails from a myth-critical point of view.

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