A friend who just read my 1993 graphic novel Speeding Bullets asked me if I did any other Elseworlds stories. Answer: I tried. Soon after SB, I pitched DC a sequel, a kind of reverse version, where young Bruce Wayne was kidnapped by an alien probe, raised on Krypton by a cold and ruthless Jor-El, and became a revolutionary Superman who brought down the Kryptonian power structure. For reasons I never understood, DC passed on it.
Around the same time I pitched another one where baby Kal-El’s rocket was found by white supremacists and Clark Kent was raised to become, essentially, a Super Klansman. (The idea was to push the character as far from “truth, justice and the American way” as possible—and watch him fight his way back to his fundamental core of decency. By the end of the story Clark rejected hate, took down the supremacists, and became the Superman we know and love.) Another pass from DC—I think it was a little too hot for them to handle—and so ended my Elseworlds experience (until eight years later, when I did an odd, poetic, and obscure story called Supergirl: Wings). But I like to think that somewhere, in some parallel universe, both those rejected stories exist.
No matter how far along in your career, how successful you appear to be, rejection is part and parcel of the creative life. You have to have a hard head, a thick skin, and (like Hal Jordan) a fierce will coupled with a powerful imagination. You have to want that life with all your heart and soul.
Maybe the reason the Superman story wasn't picked up was because it didn't make sense that a White Supremacist would take in an immigrant from another world.ReplyDelete
I know he would still be white, but white supremacists aren't exactly known for thinking clearly. Or logically. Or correctly.
That's assuming they believed he was from another world. Depends on how they found him.Delete
Looking back, it may have been that the imagery was too incendiary. Imagine the cover of that story with Superman in a clan robe with an "S" on it. Then imagine that image being co-opted by actual white supremacists. The stomach turns.
It's conceivable that supremacists wouldn't concern themselves with Superman's Kryptonian origins but rather his perceived 'whiteness.' With that in mind, they might read Krypton's destruction as an example of 'white genocide.' Maybe even convince Kal-El that's why Krypton was destroyed.Delete
Wow! That is a brilliant, insight David! Not surprising, coming from you!Delete
Jewish and Slavic folk are white, and White Supremacists don't give those groups a pass. Or Arabs, who according to the census are classified as "white."Delete
Finding a kid in a spaceship is a way more foreign concept than Semitic or Slavic folk.
Not to mention, if you get into the psychology of hate in America it tends to be connected to class structure.
The reason why poor whites in the south fought for slavery was because they liked having a lower wrung on society than themselves.
Think about every immigrant wave. Irish, Italian, Jewish, German, Scandinavian, Russian, Polish, all white, and all were faced with prejudice. Not as bad as Black people at the time... but that was more a matter of degree.
To assume a being from the stars would be welcomed, just because he looks similar. Norwegians and Swedes have hated each other for centuries. English, Scottish, and Irish as well. Poles Russians, and Germans. All these groups have held onto contempt for negligible differences.
Hate rarely takes such exceptions.
But bringing it back to the class question, especially in America; that makes it even harder to square the circle. Whoever found the baby just realized there is a more powerful being s in the universe, and oh yeah they are also insanely powerful physically.
If you can hate a group for something as petty in minor as skin color, religion, or country of origin, finding that out would unleash a massive dose of fear in the person, and from that hate.
All good points, but it depends on how you write the story. If you're a white supremacist and a literal white superbaby drops out of the sky...you might just think this is a gift from God to you and it's your job to train him to think just like you do, unleash him on the world and spread your vision. Y'know, kinda like Red Son, but with sheets.ReplyDelete
The more we talk about this story, the happier I am that DC rejected it!
Thanks for the kind words, JMD. They're much appreciated.Delete
I think you're absolutely right about the dangers of the imagery being co-opted. Someone would have posted images online divorced from their context at some point, so it's probably for the best the story was never published.
I kind of wonder if the story's intentions could be tweaked to address institutional racism more than extremism. Something more along the lines of Savior 28's relationship to violence. The Superman figure would be as disgusted by open displays of racism as you are, but maybe he's so distracted by the more theatrical elements that his mild-mannered reporter side doesn't see dangers like polling station inequality. It's not that he thinks that would be okay, he just doesn't think it's a credible problem. Or in a more traditional context, he sees, but he can't convince anyone else.
Either way, it becomes more of a Clark Kent (or Clark Kent) type problem. As much as people cheer him on when he physically takes down villains, he can't convince them of the more subtle manifestations racism takes. Or can't be convinced of them, depending on where the story goes.
On another note, I would love to see a two-part episode or a film with the Timm-verse voice cast where SPEEDING BULLETS and your idea for Kryptonian Batman play out side by side for...reasons. Whatever the hook is, that would be awesome! I think they would complement each other nicely. And just imagine George Newbern or Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy bringing them to life!
I would be delighted—and that's an understatement—to see SPEEDING BULLETS as an animated movie, David. (I've mentioned it to the folks at WB several times.) And side-by-side with Kryptonian Bruce Wayne?Delete
Well, we can dream, can't we?
Stay safe and healthy!
You too, JMD!Delete
That is my intention! Thanks!Delete
Re-read SPEEDING BULLETS this weekend and I've got to say it's still one of my favorite projects you've ever done--though that's a rather long list. Sometimes my favorite DeMatteis work is whatever story of yours I'm reading at the moment.Delete
I love the framing device--"It could have only happened one way." I love the thoughtful exploration of Batman and Superman's idealism through a warped Elsewords lens. I love the art. It's pretty much a perfect story IMO.
Thank you, David! It seems that, in recent years, SPEEDING BULLETS has had a kind of resurgence. I've been hearing a more positive reactions to the story than I did when it came out. Of course there was no internet when it came out, so...Delete
Stay safe and healthy!
DC may have also considered that Superman was used as a pivotal character in warning the public about the Klan in real life, and they feared interfering with that core part of the legacy.ReplyDelete