New Times / Commentary
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 18
Everything old is new againChildhood heroes can't stay the same forever
BY RYAN MILLER
So Clark Kent became a blogger.
Yes, Superman’s mild-mannered alter-ego left the Daily Planet in late October to hunch himself in front of a glowing screen and peck out stories for the Internet. When he’s not punching other aliens, of course.
As a print journalist, when I learned of the move made by the world’s most famous journalist—I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying that—I lamented the loss of even a fictional member of the corps. Kent did take up the online mantel on principle, believing the overall print industry to be drifting from its core values, which I have to grudgingly applaud.
In Superman issue 13—part of DC’s “New 52” reimagining of its classic heroes—Clark Kent spoke about the press standing up for, literally, truth, justice, and the American way as part of an impromptu speech made to his boss, who’s pushing him to research the flashy Superman instead of city code violations.
“Growing up in Smallville,” Kent says, “I believed that journalism was an ideal, as worthy and important as being a cop, a fireman—a teacher or a doctor.
“I was taught to believe you could use words to change the course of rivers—that even the darkest secrets would fall under the harsh light of the sun.
“But facts have been replaced by opinions.
“Information has been replaced by entertainment.
“Reporters have become stenographers.
“I can’t be the only one who is sick at the thought of what passes for the news today.”
His passionate words fizzle in a disinterested newsroom; instead of inspiring his fellow journalists to back him up, he earns an invitation to have security escort him from the building.
As much as my journalistic sensibilities were ruffled (because ethics are great and all, but a blogger?), I was perhaps more disheartened as a geek. A Superman who doesn’t work at the Daily Planet just isn’t Superman.
After my knee came back down from the jerk position, I thought a bit more. About all the geeky heroes and universes I enjoy, from casual interest (honestly, Superman) to outright dress-up-for-the-convention behavior (Star Trek).
Geekery is, on some level, driven by a feeling of ownership. Of personalization. I like X, Y, and Z (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Batman, if you must know) because I somehow connect with the characters, the narrative, the world. That’s my connection, but that’s also probably the biggest fiction of all.
I don’t expect my friends to remain static, to never grow or change. And they don’t. Sometimes the relationship adapts, and sometimes it starts to dissolve.
In the worst-case scenarios, there can be feelings of disappointment. Even betrayal. But it’s generally for the best. Because I’m not the same person I used to be, either. I don’t have all the same friends now as I did when I was first wearing Underoos. I’ve changed, and I would resent anyone who told me I had to stay the same, always.
Similarly, a franchise can’t survive on nostalgia alone. It’s inevitable that our childhood heroes will be rebooted and repackaged. Sure, sometimes that means Jar-Jar Binks lopes his gangly self onto the screen, but sometimes Heath Ledger paints his face up and terrorizes Gotham City.
And really, a fresh set of eyes on a beloved icon isn’t always a bad thing. Compare the more recent Doctor Whos (Doctors Who?) to the early days of Daleks exterminating their way across TV screens. Or the early-2000s launch of Battlestar Galactica.
We can’t hold too tightly to the past, because we’ll miss out on the possibilities the future promises. Maybe Clark Kent’s blogs will change the—nah, I can’t go that far. The geek in me may be willing to give Krypton’s wayward son some leeway, but the journalist in me isn’t ready to go that far yet.
Executive Editor Ryan Miller realizes he could be making new friends and enemies with this column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.