Welcome to this installment of Breather Books. These are comic book stories that are commonly referred to as “done-in-one”. There are no 12 part “epics” that will change everything, for-real-this time, here. Instead these are single issues, and maybe graphic novels, that can be enjoyed, on their own, without any additional parts. If you are tired of event books and need a rest, these books are for you.
Since last week I talked about a book that was based on an animated DC dvd, I thought this week I could go over one that inspired a DC dvd animated feature. Action Comics #775 “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” by Joe Kelly with Doug Mahnke, Lee Bermejo, and a host of inkers. I believe that this is also the only Superman cover by Tim Bradstreet.
This story features the first appearance of the Elite, an Authority-like super team who play by their own rules and don’t care about “old man Superman.” The Elite deal with super-villains lethally, and go further than Superman ever would. In an eye-for-an-eye, ends justify the means way. Which they see as an appropriate response to today’s problems and one that has become prevalent in pop culture, even today.
Over the course of the story, public opinion starts to turn in favor of the Elite and their extreme tactics. Superman eventually starts to question if the world has moved on from his brand of morally-centered heroics. On a sidenote, this comic features Superman’s short-lived tesseract-space Fortress of Solitude. A sort of pocket dimension, bigger-on-the-inside version of his headquarters. I always thought this was one of the more interesting concepts during this time.
Eventually, Superman is forced into a confrontation with the Elite. Not to give away the ending, because it really is one of the highlights of this book, but the Elite then get to see what it’s like to go up against a Superman who fights the way they do, unhindered by mercy and morals. Without giving away the final twist, Superman manages to overcome the Elite, his way.
There is a real life, public perception that Superman is old-fashioned, and outdated. This tale reinforces how Superman’s mission statement is still relevant today. Even in a culture where heroes get more and more “extreme” and kill without hesitation, Superman persists. His morality and strength of character are just as important as his heat vision and super strength.
Superman Vs. The Elite was the animated dvd feature based on this tale. It adds to the story and helps flesh out the Elite a little more. Pragmatically, to no doubt fill out the movie’s runtime as this is a single issue story, but it does add to it. It acts as a good companion piece to the source material, without detracting from it. Most importantly, keeping the theme intact.
Reflecting on the depiction of Superman in current DC movies, it seems that they could do well by perusing this issue. Zack Snyder’s Superman seems to inch ever closer to the Elite than the 75 plus years version of the Man of Steel. A Superman that contemplates that he may be forced into killing Batman, is not a symbol of hope. This is way more in step with the methods of the Elite in this story. However, that does lead to this book being relevant today, just like Superman.