J. Michael Straczynski on SUPERMAN #700 and beyond
For me, Superman was, is and shall forever be America's hero. Yes, his mandate is to protect the people of the world, he doesn't take sides, he's not overtly political...but like jazz and comic books themselves, he is inexorably tied to our culture and way of life. He stands for all the things we like to believe we stand for, especially when standing is the most difficult, when it would be simpler and easier to turn away.
While there is always a place for vast, sprawling, interstellar stories about distant worlds and other civilizations, the farther Superman travels from America, from Earth, from us, the more he begins to lose focus. In issue 700, he is reminded -- starkly and plainly -- that his long absence from Earth has caused pain and distress, that he has not been here when we needed him, because he was out there somewhere.
So when DC's Dan DiDio approached me about re-invigorating Superman, my first thought was, take him back to his roots. Bring him back to the soil that nourished him, literally and figuratively. "Pin him to the Earth," I said. Let him set out on a journey across America, on foot, so that we can see ourselves in his eyes and he can see himself in ours, and gain a better understanding on both sides as to who we are, who he is, and where we're going. It's not so much that he has lost touch, it's that he needs to re-engage. From time to time, many married couples renew their vows. In some ways, this is a more important ceremony than the first one, because now time has passed, and all the flaws and failures and weaknesses on each sides have been revealed to the other, and there are no illusions about what the relationship might be. They know what is, and with that knowledge they create a new and deeper covenant that looks down the road to where they are going, and why, and what their hopes are for the day that they finally arrive, together.
In Superman, that road is made manifest as he travels through the streets and alleys, cities and towns of America. To further bring Superman into the heart of the country, we will invite fans and readers and average follks across the country to invite Superman to visit their towns and cities on his travels, visits that will be realized in the pages of Superman. (DC will have more information about this elsewhere.)
It should be mentioned that this journey is not intended as a blind paean: as he moves across rich areas and poor ones, though the midwest and the rust belt, through cities on the rise and those on the downward slide, we will be honest in what we show: there will be casual cruelties and drive-by selfishness, as well as problems and difficulties that even he can't solve. Powerful as he is, he cannot defeat poverty, or inequity, or our blind, headlong drive toward self-destruction. But alongside those faults we will feature the charity, the decency, the compassion and the stubborn, noble courage of the human race, and rediscover why he has come to represent the best of us while never shrinking from the worst of us.
When Siegel and Shuster first created Superman, he was the ally of those who had no allies, no recourse, no chance and no hope. In those early issues of Action Comics and Superman, he fought against arsonists, extortionists, saboteurs, spies, war criminals, the violent, the pathological, against anyo9ne who preyed upon those without the benefit of well-paid guardians or low friends in high places. He was the avenger of the average guy, and it is our intention in "Grounded" to re-engage with Superman on that level and return him to his roots.
Along the way, he will also encounter threats and menaces and dangers that are far from average -- one never knows who, or what, has taken residence in the shadowed corners of abandoned factories, foreclosed homes or towns that don't seem to appear on any map -- but we will not lose sight of our mandate: to re-engage, reconsider, and re-examine.
For twelve issues, he will walk the streets among us, sharing our joys, our failures, our rages and our hopes as seen from the ground up, not from the distant sky down. At the end of "Grounded," we hope that we will have helped to draft a newly-minted covenant between Superman and those he has sworn to protect.
And if you'd like to walk that long road beside us, we'd more than welcome the company....
J. Michael Straczynski