Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials
It's a Bird [Vertigo] (Hardcover)Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 21, 2004
Cover date: June 2004
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artist: Teddy Kristiansen
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
The narrator recalls being young and experiencing his grandmother dying of Huntington's. He associates the S that is added to Huntington's with the Superman S, because his father offers the narrator a Superman comic to share with his brother, and he sees the S.
The narrator, now grown, recalls how he never really liked comic books after that, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because his mother and father gave them to him. He recalls with greater alacrity the books of his youth, with reference to My Side of the Mountain, among others.
He sits and draws a comic, confused as to how he ended up this way. The editor calls, and pulls the last two pages of a comic out of the narrator. Then the editor offers him a job. Writing Superman.
He points out that writers wait for two things. To hear someone say, "Can I have your autograph?" and "Do you want to write Superman?"
So the narrator turns it down, says he's not interested. The editor points out that Superman is the top comic property in the world. The narrator points out that Superman is not the top selling. The editor points out that Superman is iconic, that there are thirty other writers that would jump at the story. He tells the narrator to come in tomorrow to accept or not to come in, and refuse.
The narrator comes up with a story of a man who is forgotten in high school, hated, treated like garbage, and then he comes to school on Halloween dressed as Superman, and is actually treated like a normal kid. A few weeks later, he dressed as Superman again to recall the feeling, but instead is treated like a loser.
The narrator goes to visit his girlfriend of three years, Lisa, and they share a conversation and some food. The narrator's mother calls, about his father, and the narrator clams up with Lisa, embarrassed about the Huntington's. He tells her about Superman, and she says he should take it. He's an outsider like the narrator.
The narrator creates a poem exploring how Superman, being a suit and tie white guy, has it easier than the other, forgotten people in the building. It's a poem with pictures.
In a doctor's office, the narrator explains that he wrote comics about mutant genes, until he realized that mutant genes don't give power, they take it away. He sees visions of his dead grandmother.
The doctor calls him in, and does a physical. He explains that he may be writing Superman, and the doctor thinks that it's a great idea. The narrator asks about Huntington's Chorea, and the doctor says it's genetic and incurable. The doctor asks him to write him into Superman, because his kids would get a kick out of it.
The narrator laments that people are having kids in such a world, pointing out that accidental pregnancies make more sense, because people consciously bringing babies into the world is a bit iffy. And besides, he extrapolates, what if they turn out evil?
Visiting his mother, he finds out that his father has gone missing.
LEAVING KRYPTON (Life On Another World):
The narrator envisions how the Superman myth always ends up well, and laments that real life is not similar.
He goes to his editor and again rejects taking Superman. The editor rejects his rejection, gives him some Superman comic books, and tells him to look beyond the suit. The narrator flubs the catch phrase, calling Superman, "More powerful than a bullet, faster than a speeding locomotive", trying to say that his catch phrase is too simplistic.
INVULNERABLE: The narrator realizes that the problem with Superman is his invulnerability, even Achilles had his heel.
He is interrupted by Lisa who mentions "Pocket Full of Kyptonite."
KRYPTONITE: The narrator writes a sarcastic look at Kryptonite, poking fun at the writer for writing himself out of the invulnerability block by using a piece of implausible green rock.
STUPID! The narrator declares, throwing his notebook.
The narrator visits a mechanic friend, Rafa, and offers to trade a car and a driver for a place in a Superman book. Rafa asks the narrator who would win in Superhero fights, and then always asserts that Superman would win, because he's America. Red, white, and blue.
RED, YELLOW, BLUE:
The narrator muses about the Superman comics and the meaning of the colors contained within.
They arrive at the house his father might be at, and Rafa offers to get him in, suggesting that because he's Puerto Rican, he can break in. The narrator indicates that he thought Rafa Ecuadorian.
Clark Kent decides to walk to town instead of fly, in order to feel normal before heading off to the big city.
They fail to find his father, so they go to meet "Joe Allen", the departing writer of one of the Super titles, at the airport. The narrator and Allen begin to debate Superman, and over a minor slight, the narrator punches Allen. They leave.
SECRET IDENTITY: Superman fights wearing a mask, and when Lois speaks to him, she doesn't know he's really Superman.
Lisa talks with the narrator about children, and the narrator indicates that he doesn't want children, remembering how he behaved when he found out his grandmother was dead. Lisa suggests that she wants children, so it's important if he doesn't want them to tell her. He tells her he punched Joe Allen, and that he has no ideas.
His mother calls later as he searches for internet information on Huntington's. He finds out that involuntary motion is a sign, as he taps unconsciously. He reassures his mother, then heads to the subway, going over his ideas.
The narrator shows how power has been the determiner of who rules history.
He then tells his editor that he doesn't want Superman because Superman is a fascist. The editor takes him to blow off some steam at a gym.
A tailor measures Clark Kent's body, noting how perfect it is.
The editor and the narrator work out, sparring. Later, in the sauna, the narrator's hand twitches. The editor tells him to stop his intellectual posturing and put himself in Superman's shoes.
The narrator dreams of being naked in public, then of being dressed while everyone else is naked, realizing that the most scary dream is to have your inner self exposed.
The editor offers him two more days to come up with an outline.
The writer notes that procrastination is really a way to come up with more ideas.
The narrator goes to visit his old friend Marco, and they discuss what they're doing. Marco explains that he's written a play about Huntington's, and the two relate to the fear of having it. Marco gives the narrator the play and asks him to read it and watch the play with him.
Later, the narrator bumps into a man while reading a comic who says he likes Superheroes because they know right from wrong and pursue justice.
Superman battles with a villain who has threatened to tear the planet in two. Considering justice and how to deal it, Superman decides ultimately to make the villain watch as the planet explodes.
The man who pointed out that he liked Justice explains that kids should read more comics. The narrator explains that they cost too much.
He explains the naivety of the worker later, and Lisa slams him for believing himself better than a construction worker because he works with his hands.
The narrator muses on "the will to power" and how Superman embodies aspects of the Neitzchian ideal.
The narrator, saddened by the argument, arises in courage to speak with Lisa.
A man lacking courage sees a chance to save her from a bus, but Superman swoops in and does it for him.
The narrator tells Lisa that he's going to stay at his brother's. She tells him that he's behaving foolishly and packs her things and leaves instead. The narrator sits around and listens to messages from Lisa, seeing if he's okay, then the editor, telling him he's going to have to find someone else soon for Superman.
FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE:
An old man, seeking to find answers to metaphysical conundrum, locks himself away from everyone, then realizes that people are the key to conundrum. Trying to escape, he fails and dies.
The narrator's brother arrives, and he tells him about their father.
A woman, seeing the different ways of living there are in the world, realizes that the real supermen are not the people who can balance work and their own time, but the people who can see beyond their own perspectives to the lives of other people.
The brother and the narrator find a lead to their father at a hospital, and it turns out his father's been coming to see their aunt, who seems to have Huntington's. The narrator ponders the abilities of the letter S.
They are given a pass to see their aunt, but only one is allowed to go in. The narrator goes in, viewing and elaborating on the horrors of Hungtington's Chorea, and how it turns you into an alien in your own body.
THE ALIEN: A beat poem expresses the alien aspects of Superman's existence, and how he so easily gets away with being different while others suffer.
The narrator's father arrives, distraught, and takes shots at the narrator. The narrator finally remembers what his aunt and his mother fought about. The father said that if they'd known about the disease, they never would have had their sons.
The narrator and his father get in a fist fight.
ESCAPE: The narrator muses about death, and about how Superman's death was a tool to stretch the medium and get away from the past... as he is trying to do.
They stop fighting, and the narrator hugs his father.
The narrator recalls his first Superman issue. A man called The Hunter, who turned animals on Superman. He realized that as a kid he just went along with the story and enjoyed things, liking justice served.
He tells his father that it's not something to be ashamed of, having the narrator and his brother.
Later, at the Huntington's play, Lisa and the narrator watch together as the narrator points out that the only thing we have is our time together.
Later, the narrator reconsiders having kids as Lisa paints, and tells his editor he's got a great Superman idea. Outside, some kids look for Superman, and the narrator helps him find the hope.
Story - 2: There are a lot of things to like about this story. It's a great story about coming to terms with Huntington's Chorea, a great story about a guy reaching some lows in life and overcoming them, and it's also a very critical examination of Superman, as a superhero.
For me, in many ways, it failed. Not because the writing wasn't good. The writing was great, in fact. There is some top notch stuff here, and even outside of my overall feelings, there were moments worthy of memory here.
What killed me about this story was a lacking of identity to the narrator, at all, in most of his endeavors. The only things I pitied were his difficulty in coming to terms with the genetic disease, and this is overshadowed by his necessity to destroy himself and criticize the good things he has.
All right. You want to write a story about AIDS. Do you write a character suffering you can empathize with, or someone outside of that suffering (at least, for the time being, and I hope Seagle doesn't get Huntington's, I really don't) but not coping well?
And really, though the story is about Huntington's, overall, it's really overshadowed by the constant and interminable whining about the writing process. This is okay, if it's resolved, and it is, but in maybe one, cheesy page.
In the meanwhile, for a hundred some odd pages, when not confronting Huntington's, we have Seagle's opus of whining about how horrible it is to get chosen to write Superman, how horrible it is to have a girlfriend who loves him and wants kids with him, how horrible it is to have an editor and a job as a freelancer, and what a stupid git Superman really is, generally (working back around in the last few pages, admittedly, to revise the opinion).
I can't relate to that. First off, the man's got a steady, good relationship. He balks at it. He doesn't want to get paid to write Superman, because it's hard.
Oh boo de fricking hoo.
He dodges his editor, but then, he HAS an editor, and he's ungrateful for it. Know what I would give for an editor? Anything. Anything plus a lack of whining.
It really colored the story for me.
Everyone likes Superman for a reason. People who hate him are jaded cynics. People who think he's hard to write need to give it a try. I have a blast writing Superman. Problem is, I can't for a living. This guy has it on a platter, when, as the editor says, a million people want the job, and he whines.
Boo de fricking hoo, I say again.
Of course Superman is unrealistic. That's why he's fun.
The man can afford a regular checkup with a doctor, as a WRITER, and he thinks he has anything to complain about in the jobs that he is given?
See, there's two sides of this story. The Huntington's disease, and the character of the narrator. I feel a great deal of pity for the person suffering through and the people surrounding the people suffering through the disease.
I feel no pity for a whining little putz who pushes everyone off and gives up writing opportunities because of the oh so post modern catharsis of writing something to an audience and with cultural significance, just because it involves a great responsibility.
Give me a break. Grow up. Many consolations for the Huntington's, but no pity at all for the writing woes. The man reading this (me) is a guy who's written 4 novels, 230 reviews, 1400 poems, a magazine, and about a billion other things without seeing dollar one, who would KILL for the "woe-is-me" catharsis Seagle spends most of this book proselytizing.
Kryptonite is a cheap, stupid device? No. See, as Seagle points out, Kryptonite is Superman's Achilles' Heel. He decries it as a simple device. But if the idea is such a simple device, then why do we read all about Achilles in school? Because ingenius devices stand the test of time. Like Kryptonite. Remember Bucky's secret weakness? Me neither, because it wasn't novel and curious, like Kryptonite. Bucky's dead, baby. Superman's an icon, and for a reason.
This story reinforces my belief that Seagle was never the right man to write Superman. It explains the quality of his run. He doesn't know the character. He knows cathartic, serious, self-involved comics. And this is a place for that, this issue, but even self-involved comics need a character you can relate to.
Punching a guy because he doesn't agree with you, because he liked Superman and finds him interesting? Well, THAT sure makes me identify. Bull.
And feeling superior to construction workers because you're a writer? Well, speaking as a writer who had to become a construction worker in order to support his writing (instead of a writer who had to beg off his pleading editor in the gym), Steve Seagle (the character of Steve Seagle, at least), I cordially invite you to find another audience, you self righteous brummagem! Like Lisa seems to think... we're all equal in the eyes of the world. But in terms of privilege and flaunting it, well, as George Orwell says, some are more equal than others.
And can I relate to a person like that? No. Not at all.
Art - 5: Teddy Kristiansen continues to amaze me with his versatility, his ability to expose in a comic format the rough hewn aspects of humanity. Be it Metropolis, the work before this one, or this book itself, which, though I'm not on a level with the story, is just an amazing utility of the man's work.
Teddy used multiple mediums, and the result is nothing short of one of the most eclectic and well-put graphic novels in terms of art. The man has my continued support.
Cover Art - 5: Interesting in the incorporation of the Nietzsche background with the panel from deep within the book, and a symbolic representation of the whole story in an attractive format. It's what sold the book to me.
Mild Mannered Reviews
2004Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.
- Action Comics #809
- Adventures of Superman #622
- Superman #199
- Superman/Batman #4
- Superman: Birthright #5
- Superman: Metropolis #10
- Superman: The Kansas Sighting #1
- JLA #90
- Justice League Adventures #25
- Superman/Batman: Generations III #11
- Superman/Thundercats #1
- Smallville #5
- Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity #3
- JLA/Avengers #3
- JLA-Z #3
- Action Comics #810
- Adventures of Superman #623
- Superman #200
- Superman/Batman #5
- Superman: Metropolis #11
- Superman: The Kansas Sighting #2
- JLA #91
- Justice League Adventures #26
- Superman/Batman: Generations III #12
- Action Comics #811
- Adventures of Superman #624
- Superman #201
- Superman/Batman #6
- Superman: Birthright #6
- Superman: Metropolis #12
- JLA #92
- Justice League Adventures #27
- Smallville #6
- Superman: Secret Identity #1
- Action Comics #812
- Adventures of Superman #625
- Superman #202
- Superman/Batman #7
- Superman: Birthright #7
- JLA #93
- Justice League Adventures #28
- Superman: Secret Identity #2
- Action Comics #813
- Adventures of Superman #626
- Superman #203
- Superman/Batman #8
- Superman: Birthright #8
- JLA #94
- JLA #95
- Justice League Adventures #29
- Smallville #7
- Superman: Secret Identity #3
- JLA/Avengers #4
- Action Comics #814
- Adventures of Superman #627
- Superman #204
- Superman/Batman #9
- Superman: Birthright #9
- JLA #96
- JLA #97
- Justice League Adventures #30
- Superman: Secret Identity #4
- It’s a Bird [Vertigo] (Hardcover)
- Action Comics #815
- Adventures of Superman #628
- Superman #205
- Superman/Batman #10
- Superman: Birthright #10
- JLA #98
- JLA #99
- Justice League Adventures #31
- Smallville #8
- Justice League of America: Another Nail #1
- Action Comics #816
- Adventures of Superman #629
- Superman #206
- Superman: Secret Files and Origins 2004
- Superman: Birthright #11
- JLA #100
- Identity Crisis #1
- Justice League Adventures #32
- Justice League of America: Another Nail #2
- Action Comics #817
- Adventures of Superman #630
- Superman #207
- Superman/Batman #11
- Superman: Birthright #12
- JLA #101
- JLA #102
- Justice League Elite #1
- Identity Crisis #2
- Justice League Adventures #33
- Smallville #9
- Justice League of America: Another Nail #3
- Action Comics #818
- Adventures of Superman #631
- Superman #208
- DC Comics Presents: Superman #1
- Majestic #1
- JLA #103
- JLA #104
- DC Comics Presents: Justice League of America #1
- Justice League Elite #2
- Identity Crisis #3
- Justice League Adventures #34
- Action Comics #819
- Adventures of Superman #632
- Superman #209
- Superman/Batman #12
- Majestic #2
- JLA #105
- JLA #106
- Justice League Elite #3
- JLA: Secret Files and Origins 2004
- Identity Crisis #4
- Justice League Unlimited #1
- Smallville #10
- Action Comics #820
- Adventures of Superman #633
- Superman #210
- Superman/Batman #13
- Majestic #3
- JLA #107
- Justice League Elite #4
- Identity Crisis #5
- Justice League Unlimited #2
- Superman: True Brit
Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.