I just finished reading the trade paper backs of the Superman Grounded story line. It follows the New Krypton story arc, written by J. Michael Straczynski and then finished off by Chris Roberson, with art from Eddy Barrows.
After being on New Krypton for so long (a year or so) Superman returns to Earth, he feels he’s lost touch with his adoptive planet, so in order to reconnect he literally walks across America. He goes to; Philadelphia, Detroit, Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, Des Moines, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Las Vegas, Oregon, Seattle. Along the way he meets the ordinary/everyday man on his journey he destroys a drug house, helps reinvigorate a town rundown by the closure of a factory, and finds a place in society for a stranded alien race. Superman also does feats that are more personal; he puts a stop to domestic violence, instills confidence to an inner city child, and rescues people from natural disasters. In the end his self doubt is dispelled and he inspires people to do good.
I get the idea behind this more “down to Earth” story, after spending most of the previous year on the planet of New Krypton it’s as if Superman has abandoned his adoptive home, Earth. But to carry this story for twelve issues? The point of the story is realized after the first two issues, the following issues felt like they were beating a dead horse.
Another problem with this story arc is the premise – Superman wants to connect with the common man – isn’t that what Clark Kent is for?? Think about it, Superman has the powers and flies above humans, Clark Kent has a day job, an apartment, and wife… Clark Kent “grounds” Superman. Clark Kent has been absent from the Superman titles for way too long, it’s been more than a year. After New Krypton Superman wants to reconnet with the people of Earth… so go back to your day job as Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet. This sentiment is echoed by the podcasters on From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast. Grounded feels like Superman’s attempt at the Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard Traveling Heroes run with Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams in the 70s. But Green Lantern and Green Arrow aren’t Superman, they rode around in a pick up truck, while Superman walks the Earth, like Caine from Kung-Fu, but seems more like Forrest Gump, Superman can fly… it’s one of his main appeals, let him fly, Clark Kent is the one that should be connecting to the common man.
For the Grounded story arc’s purposes people should look to back issues like Superman 59, or anything pre-Death in 1991 (as much as people shun the 90s in comics). But don’t get me wrong, there are nuggets of good things in Grounded. One of them are the references that they make to the now old continuity, Under A Yellow Sun for instance, they flat out refer to the novel that Clark Kent wrote, that’s awesome. The John Byrne mini-series, The Man of Steel, gets a nod too, they mention Magpie, something all the way from 1987. I love when comics do that, but sadly this era is gone and we are starting anew.
The small moments are what I really remember. Bringing Superman back to his roots, fighting for the underdog, is a great idea. Meeting the average joe on the streets or at their home, the subplot with domestic violence is great, Eddy Barrows draws a very angry Superman. Looking back, I didn’t care for the Superman Squad issue, we get it that Superman inspires others. I’m a fan of Stracyznski so I really wanted to like this, I may have set my standards too high, I got to talk to him about Superman: Earth One, which is the reason he left Grounded – to concentrate on Earth One, and he said the second volume of Earth One was a lot of fun to write. I sure hope so, cause to combine two things I like sounds like a good idea, but Grounded doesn’t do it for me.