Last week, I took a hard look at DC's recent Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years hardcover, and to say I found it lacking is putting it mildly. Despite reprinting some very, very good stories, the tone of the collection was overwhelmingly, oppressively grim at best, and felt like the publisher was embarrassed by the very character they were claiming to celebrate at worst. It was more than a little disheartening, because it didn't have to be that way. It's not an accurate look at Superman's past, and really, it's a narrative that you'd have to go out of your way to create.
But let it never be said that I complain about things without offering a viable solution -- even though I do that pretty much all the time. With the same amount of space and the same division of eras in Superman, you can create a sequence of stories with the same resonance and the same level of quality that shows Superman at his best, triumphing over evil and making the world a better place.
Whenever a publisher puts out a "Best Of" collection for a long-running character, it's always really interesting to see what kind of stories make the cut. They make a fascinating look at the character -- not just the past, in the stories being reprinted, but in how revealing they are about the attitudes about those stories when they're all collected. If you go back through books like The Best Batman Stories Ever Told or The Very Best of Spider-Man, they're just as much of a snapshot of how the companies saw those characters when the books came out as they are of the times when those stories were originally printed.
Last week, DC put out an especially interesting highlight reel for their flagship character, Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years, and the stories they lined up as the best Superman has to offer say an awful lot about how DC looks at the Man of Steel. They might call it a "celebration" on the cover, but when you actually go in and read it, it feels more like a funeral dirge.
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