Q: Why is it that Robin has endured as Batman's teen sidekick, but Jimmy Olsen hasn't as Superman's? -- @doubting_tom
A: I don't know why, but for some reason, I got a lot of questions this week about sidekicks in general and Robin in particular, but this one stuck out for a pretty obvious reason, which is that I really, really like to talk about Jimmy Olsen. It's weird, though, Tom, because you're absolutely right: As much as I might love the guy, he's often ignored in and minimized in superhero stories, something that doesn't happen a lot to someone who was once a fixture of the cast who was popular enough to hold down a solo title for 150 issues. Meanwhile, we're up to our pointy bat ears in Robins, ex-Robins, dead Robins, potential Robins and Future Robins. It seems a little imbalanced.
But at the same time, there's definitely a logic to it, and there are a lot of reasons that those two characters have ended up how they did. It has to do with when they showed up, the role they fill in the story, how they've changed over the years, and the idea that maybe Jimmy Olsen isn't really a sidekick at all.
Q: Can Santa Claus beat Superman in a fight? Can he beat Batman? --@byharryconnolly
A: You, Harry, have been affected by the cynicism of a cynical age. Any schoolchild could tell you that Santa Claus would never fight Superman or Batman, because they are all on the same side. Then again, I suppose that's why you didn't ask a schoolchild and instead went straight to someone who specializes in providing needlessly elaborate answers to yes-or-no questions about fictional vigilantes.
So today, on this wintry Christmas Week Eve, I'm going to take up the spirit of the holiday and give you the answer you asked for. The short version? Yes. Santa Claus could beat those dudes like government reindeer. It wouldn't even be close.
When it comes to the holiday gift-giving season, comic book readers are notoriously difficult to shop for. I mean, most of us are down at the shop buying our favorite stuff every single week, so when the time comes for people who like us to get us something we want, well, a lot of times we already have it. That’s why we’re stepping in with a public service, bringing you comics-related items sure to make the season brighter, whether you’re browsing for a gift or just looking for something to drop hints about so that you don’t get stuck with a random assortment of back issues again.
Since you're reading ComicsAlliance, it's pretty safe to assume that you like reading about comics as well as reading the comics themselves. If that's the case, then this Christmas is a good time to sit down with Glen Weldon's Superman: The Unauthorized Biography!
Every year DC Comics asks an artist to create a holiday card spotlighting one or more of their characters in the yuletide spirit. This year's edition features a Dave Johnson Superman (who, unless I'm crazy, kind of has a Jon Hamm look going on) and a very creative snowflake.
There are very few things I love in this world more than a story where a superhero teams up with Santa Claus to save Christmas. I mean, I love Christmas comics in general, but the ones where the Jolly Old Saint himself shows up are always just a little bit more special, especially when the hero in question is Superman. If I was in charge, you'd see Santa Claus literally every time there was a comic set at the Fortress of Solitude, because really, the North Pole has exactly three residents, and who else are they going to hang out with? But I digress.
My point is, Superman/Santa Claus team-ups are great, even when they're weird -- and folks, they do get weird. Take, for example, one of Superman's earliest team-ups with St. Nicholas, wherein they have to battle against the evil machinations of a dude who hates Christmas so much that he makes Santa Claus even fatter than he already was, and Superman has to help him lose weight.
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.
Q: You mentioned "The Problem" in last week's column. So, what is "The Problem?" --@green2814
A: Last week, I dug in a little into the idea that even though they share prominent creators and have influenced each other back and forth over the course of the last 50 years, the DC and Marvel Universes have some fundamental differences in the way they're structured. One of the things I really wanted to get across in that column was that neither one is really fundamentally better than the other, they're just incompatible in a lot of ways, and I touched on how that results in something I call The Problem. Since that's still pretty fresh in everybody's mind, and since you were nice enough to set the ball right on the tee and hand me the bat, I might as well elaborate on that now. It's actually pretty simple.
To put it bluntly, The Problem is that DC wants to be Marvel, and they have for the past 50 years.
Ever since it was announced at Comic-Con this past summer, quite a few people have been referring to the upcoming Zack-Snyder directed film featuring Henry Cavill and Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman as "Batman Vs. Superman."
But the movie is still going to be a direct sequel to Man of Steel (Lex Luthor will be appearing, Snyder has confirmed) and judging from a list of domains recently registered by MarkMonitor, the company Warner Bros uses for its warnerbros.com domain and the registrar for the SupermanvsBatman.com domain, it could keep that title.
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