Thursday, April 7, 2016


Can YOU find him? He's wearing a red-striped shirt and a knit cap.

2016 is an exciting year to be a Superman fan, and not only because the Man of Steel's parent company has invested so heavily in ... the character, should I say? ... for a series of high-profile yet low-visibility films apparently shot underground, to judge from the lighting. No, it's because -- providing we don't all mutually stress-stroke from the recurrence of the phrase "Visionary Director Zack Snyder" -- there's less than four years to go until we're living in the future of Superman 2020!

Thanks for clearing that up, Julie.
Running as a backup in assorted issues of Superman (vol.1, Nos. 354, 355, 357, 361, 364 and 368 if you care), Superman 2020 detailed the adventures of the third generation of the Superman clan in the far-flung future of basically right now. This was during a period where the main Superman title was trying a rotation of backup stories, including some tried-and-true asides like The Private Life of Clark Kent and The Fabulous World of Krypton, and some newly-trod ground like The In-Between Years and Bruce (Superman) Wayne which, you know, stick around for that article in the immediate future.

Anyway, speaking of the immediate future, let's get back to Superman 2020: Launched by Cary Bates and Curt Swan in some sort of faux-futuristic clusterfuck, the series predicated the expansion of Metropolis into an all-consuming urban sprawl called Megalopolis. Boston, Baltimore, Metropolis and Gotham were all integrated into the DC sort-of equivalent to Mega City One. Nonetheless, the city in question racked up three Supermen and no Batmen (2020 or otherwise) as far as we can tell, so take that Gotham. You snooze, you lose.

This is still more subtle than The Force Awakens.
Clark's direct descendant Kalel Kent (his father was Jorel Kent, because secret identities continued to be both paramount and poorly thought-out in the world of 2020) prepares to assume the role of Superman III (starring Richard Pryor) by intentionally crashing his car and dying. Of course, it's only the civilian identity of Kalel Kent who perishes, while the soon-to-be-christened Superman III (starring Robert Vaughn) announces to himself that he'll be assuming a new secret identity - a bunch of them, in fact!

Why he'd do that isn't sufficiently explained, and why he couldn't do that without killing his original identity is equally under-acknowledged, but then again CaryBates never explained Towbee the space-minstrel to my satisfaction either. By the time Bob Rozakis takes over the feature, Superman III (starring Unshaven Binge Drinking Superman) has adopted two identities: Tennis pro Lewis Parker (he can't lose!) and traffic controller Jon Hudson. Rozakis also introduces the slang term "Krazbit," which is how you know it's the future.

"...into continuity"
Much of the series deals with Superman III (starring a skeevy sexual liaison involving the Man of Steel which undoubtedly confused an entire audience of pre-adolescents) opposing a race of violent racists whose leader boasts a terrible haircut, which is much the same as America's voting public has to contend with in 2016.

A short run means that Superman 2020 didn't have much to offer in the way of intrigue or innovation, although it's worth mentioning that the inheritor of the Big Red "S" somehow regained his grandfather's long-discarded power of disguise to manipulate his facial features and that "Dad's pulsations are steady" will enter the lexicon to mean "yes."

The last episode of Superman 2020 ended with the promise of an upcoming Superman 2021 adventure, of which exactly one was had and mostly starred the fat and old version of Jimmy Olsen. This is probably fine since we'd otherwise be up to Superman 2056 by now and another three future Supermans would be gadding up the place. As it is, we can only hold out hope for the return of the inter-company crossover for an Iron Man 2020/Superman 2020 crossover, or we can spend more time with our families instead, whichever is better for the human spirit.

Oh, come on, it's not THAT far in the fucking future ...


James W. Fry 3.0 said...

I REALLY wanted to like SUPERMAN 2020. I'd enjoyed many of the seventy-bajillion stories DC had already published in which the mantle of some hero was a legacy to be passed on to his/her offspring---something addressed more than once in the history of this blog. And I was a YUGE fan of the not-so-far-flung-future fun of the SUPERMAN 2001 story that had appeared just a few years earlier---also, as I recall, referred to in these environs. With DNA from both of those donors,how could SUPERMAN 2020 go wrong? No, seriously, I'm asking you---how? HOW??? The fact that I found this feature so crushingly disappointing probably had little do with its lackluster execution, and everything to do with my own disproportionate expectations. And that's today's lesson, kids: Give up hope. You'll be happier if you do. BTW, Jon-o, I don't recognize the Gil Kane panel from the end of your post. Can you help me out with an issue number? Thanks!

Calamity Jon said...

Superman #372, I believe. And I know what you mean about the anticipation versus disappointment inre Superman 2020. Such potential that just never truly fired...

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