Meet the New ‘Dark’ and ‘Brooding’ Superman

By Pete Winn | October 28, 2010 | 8:02 PM EDT

Here is the new dark and brooding superman, debuting this week from DC Comics. (DC Comics/Associated Press)


A brand new 130-page graphic novel, released Wednesday to comic book shops by DC Comics, turns the famous Man of Steel comic book character into a darker, more menacing, angrier and more self-conscious "superhero" than any previous incarnation of Superman. 

“What would happen if the origin of The Man of Tomorrow were introduced today for the very first time? Return to Smallville and experience the journey of Earth's favorite adopted son as he grows from boy to Superman like you've never seen before,” said promotional material from DC Comics describing the book.

Gone is the Superman of yesteryear and “Truth, Justice and the American Way” – the motto for the seventy-plus-year-old franchise. This Superman has been “re-envisioned” as a scowling, 20-year-old alienated youth, dressed in a hoodie sweatshirt, with eyes ablaze.

The new dark artwork represents a conscious change, according to DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio.

(AP photo/DC Comics)

“(W)e needed to make him hip, moody and sexy in order to really appeal to who are really wanting to read novels with our characters,” DiDio told the Associated Press.

The story, which was written by noted sci-fi writer J. Michael Straczynski, still finds the young Clark Kent, newly graduated from Smallville Junior College, going to Metropolis, still going to work for the Daily Planet, and still fighting villains, but this Kent focuses more on asking existential questions like --“Where do I come from? What am I doing here? Who am I? What am I?”

The creators also portray the new Superman as politically correct -- refusing to become “an instrument of politics or policy” of the United States, saying things like: “I was raised in this country. I believe in this country. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Does it have its moments of greatness? Yes. Bottom line is, it's my home and I'll always carry those values around with me. But if I do what I can do just for the U.S., it's going to destabilize the whole world. It could even lead to war.”

Culture-watchers say the Superman re-design is disappointing, but comes as no real surprise.

“It looks like the new Superman should have great appeal to the Columbine crowd,” Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights told

“After all, he’s moody – not pensive, but moody – and he’s got that hood on him. I think people who want to shoot up innocents in high schools will look at him and say, ‘He is hip.’”

Donahue said there is clearly an attempt to portray the new Man of Steel as looking more like he leans towards evil than good.

“Which certainly goes to show how intellectually bankrupt these people are. They can’t create a new figure and make him appeal to the Columbine crowd,” he said. “What they have to do is to hijack and to crib off of an image which people all over the workld can identify with in a fairly happy way. But they don’t want to make him happy. They want to make him moody. So it obviously suggests that there’s something about our age that they think this might appeal. It doesn’t say anything positive about our culture to think that young people might be drawn to a character who looks like this.”

Adam R. Holtz, senior associate editor of the youth culture magazine Plugged In, told that the re-design was obviously spurred by the success of the movie “The Dark Knight,” which re-imagined Batman in a much darker way.

“We have to look at 'The Dark Knight' as sort of a template for what they’re trying to do with these superheroes,” Holtz told “Unfortunately, it seems like ‘dark’ and ‘brooding’ – and everything that goes with that – sells.”

Comic book characters both reflect and shape how we look at our time and culture, Holtz said. Disturbingly, the newly re-envisioned Superman is a good metaphor for this particular day and age in America, he said.

“Truth, Justice and the American Way are all under attack, pretty much however you would like to look at it,” Holtz said. “A lot of people don’t believe in Truth or Justice anymore, and the American Way used to be something that we would fight for, but now there are a lot of people who would say the American Way is inherently a problematic thing – and so it gets deconstructed in popular culture.” 

The new Superman graphic novel will be in bookstores nationwide on Tuesday. DC Comics did not return calls from

– It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s the new Superman: dark and brooding with glowering – and eerily glowing – eyes.