Superman is defined immediately by his increase in capability. This is a more powerful Man of Steel, a Superman with a much keener intellect and curiosity. Suddenly there’s more to learn, more to do, further to travel and a greater responsibility than ever before. At the same time, one of the first effects of his increases in power is to make Superman a little more remote (but only as he takes time to understand the changes which have affected him). After the initial shock, Kal is more Superman than ever before, with a corresponding tight focus on the character and his incredible adventures. Now is the time to make Superman very definitely the star of his own book and to play down the sprawling soap opera subplots.
This notion of a MORE powerful Superman is in stark contrast to what John Byrne did to depower Superman in the 1980s. And that's the point, of course. This Superman for the 21st century is supposed to be everything the Byrne Superman was not--powerful, distant, incredible. Byrne focused on the SuperMAN, while Morrison and company proposed the SUPERman.
Superman’s character is one we all feel we know intimately. The scene with Superboy and the grasshopper in Miracle Monday nails it beautifully; this could be the world’s scariest living being, a detached, scientific observer with the ability to experiment upon us all. Instead, this brilliant Kryptonian brain was introduced to the noblest of human values and somehow those great powers were put to use in the service of an ethical code the Kryptonians would have been impressed and startled by.
I haven't yet read Elliot S! Maggin's Miracle Monday novel, but I've ordered a used copy (it's long out-of-print) and I've heard only good things about it. Has anyone here read it? I wonder if it informed All-Star Superman the way it seems to have informed Superman 2000. I'll get back to you on that one.
To that end, we’d like to balance out his battles with Brainiac and Luthor with stories which thoroughly explore those values, stories allowing him to return to his roots as a champion of the weak and oppressed. Even more so than for Batman, Green Lantern, Flash--all his peers and contemporaries--Superman’s job is to fight for and inspire those who cannot fight for themselves. His job is to make this world a better place and to help all men realize their potential as supermen.
Further to this, it’s important to keep in mind the Superman/Christ parallels WITHOUT being obvious and heavy-handed about them. Superman has to think differently from us, and when we see into his head, we should be shocked by the clarity and simplicity of his brilliance and compassion. This is a god sent to Earth not to suffer and die but to live and inspire and change the face of the galaxy by his deeds and reputation. This is the man who will take time out from stopping Mongul’s plan to crash Alpha Centauri into our sunsystem just to save a drowning dog or dry the tears of a child.
We also see Superman as the ultimate communicator--invulnerable to pain, he needs none of the physical defensive postures we take for granted and so would be incredibly relaxed and open--the big smile, the instant handshake, the conviction that everyone he meets is to be regarded as a friend until he proves otherwise. Superman should be indefatigable and trustworthy. No more "Bad Superman" or "Crazy Superman" stories for a while.
This is far more of the Silver Age notion of Superman's goodness than anything we saw in the Bronze or Modern Ages. But even in the Silver Age, Superman could be, well, a dick (there's a whole website about it, isn't there?), so this Superman 2000 concept of the character is more of a synthesis of all of the character's best qualities (not best as in "coolest" or most "commercial," but best as in BEST), than it is a return to basics. It's a return to what the character always aspired to be, but writers always wanted to give him flaws to keep the character relatable. Morrison and company wanted to make Superman ideal, so we could aspire to him, not so he could make us feel good about our own flaws.
His curiosity and kindness are childlike in their purity but he should also be frighteningly quick and clever. The combination of contradictory qualities adds to his slightly removed air. The eyes go vague when he looks at your electrical field for a second and gets the idea for an oscillating defensive forcefield based on the rhythms of your pulse rate. Sometimes he seems not all here, but it’s only because he’s much more here than we can sensibly hope to be.
This bit seems to nail the kind of Superman that we're currently seeing in All-Star Superman, doesn't it? That "frighteningly quick and clever" being who is more than we can ever hope to be. That's what makes him Superman. He is the paragon, not of humanity, but of the ideal of humanity.
More from Superman 2000 each week, until Chad and I run out of stuff to say.