Stories I Never Told: The Return of Superman

So, now this is happening.

Superman is being replaced…by the Superman of another reality.

Well, damn! I was gonna do that years ago!

See, when John Byrne rebooted Superman in 1986’s famous Man of Steel mini-series, I wasn’t a happy camper. I enjoyed Byrne’s seminal work on Fantastic Four, but I was also a big fan of what he referred to as “barnacles” on the legend of Superman — stuff like Krypto, the Bottle  City of Kandor, etc. To be sure, Byrne (and, of course, DC Comics) had good reasons for the revamp, but to a kid who loved those barnacles something fierce, 1986 was the year Superman went away and was replaced by someone who looked a lot like him.

Years later, I had a notion that if I got the chance, I would tell a story in which Byrne’s Superman is killed by a villain…and the original, pre-Crisis Superman returns from…somewhere to take up the mantle. Pretty simple on the face of it, I suppose.

With the news that DC is doing something similar (though in their case, replacing the New52 version with the Byrne version!), I dug up some old notes on that story idea. Here’s a bit of what I wrote up:

Outside Lois Lane’s apartment building, Clark Kent stood in a phone booth. “Lois? Just call me when you get in, okay?”

He hung up. Leaving the booth, he stood out on the street for a moment. Dressed in a blue double-breasted suit with a blue and red striped tie and horn-rimmed glasses, he was the very picture of the disinterested and uninteresting bystander. With a frown, he gazed up at the floor on which Lois lived. He watched for a moment or two, then, with a deeper frown, shook his head and walked away. He caught a bus on the corner and took it all the way to 344 Clinton Street.

The doorman blinked twice as he held the door open for Clark.

“Something wrong, Frank?” Kent asked. “Uh, no, Mister Kent.” The doorman scratched his head. “You feelin’ okay?”

“As well as I can, under the circumstances.” Kent cocked his head. “Why?”

Frank shrugged. “If you don’t mind my saying so… You look a little peaked. Like you haven’t been eating well.”

“Oh?” Clark thought for a moment. “Well, I haven’t really eaten since Superman died. We grew up together, you know.”

“Really? I didn’t know that.”

Clark grimaced. “Well, okay. Thanks, Frank. I’ll try to look out for myself.”

“Sure thing, Mister Kent.” Frank waved as Clark headed into the lobby. “Oh, and I like your new glasses!” the doorman called.

Clark hesitated, considered turning back, but then kept going to the elevator. Self-consciously, he raised one hand to his glasses. New?

Once back in the apartment, he took the time to do what he had been unable to do before due to time constraints — he searched. He examined the entire flat carefully, pulling open drawers, drawing back curtains, probing in closets. What he found disturbed and baffled him. He reclined in an easy chair in the living room, absently fiddling with his glasses. When he realized what he was doing, he removed them and put them on the end table. Then, feet propped up on the ottoman, tie loosened, fingers steepled at his lips, he settled into a reflective disposition.

Where had the football trophies come from? Surely he hadn’t been a football star in high school—that was impossible. And the clothing was far too flashy, trendy, and noticeable for a mild-mannered reporter. Furthermore, the press credentials listed only the Daily Planet, with no mention of WGBS and the broadcaster’s anchor position.

Most frightening of all, though, was the personal address book, which listed a “Pete and Lana Ross” in Smallville and “Ma and Pa.”

Pete married to Lana? His parents alive?

What was going on here?

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Man, old Warren knew how to turn a phrase, didn’t he?

I’ve written about guns and gun control before, many more times than I remembered. When I did a search for “guns” on the BLog, I ended up with the six pieces linked in the previous sentence. I hadn’t realized I’d said so much.

Looking back over those pieces, I shake my head at my past self. I think they’re generally well-written,1 but often too conciliatory.

As I mention in at least one of them, I grew up in what it is now fashionable to call “gun culture.”2 Guns in the house, hunting on the weekends, whatever. So I get guns. I understand why people like them and want them and have them. As a result, I’ve always striven to be as even-handed as possible, balancing society’s need for safety with the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

But goddamnit, something broke inside me after Orlando.

The other night, my wife said to me, “Really? Not after Newtown?” And I laid awake for hours, trying to figure out what was so wrong with my soul that I hadn’t been radicalized by the deaths of fucking children.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that I’ve ever been gung-ho about owning guns. As I said above — I’ve just always tried to be even-handed. This country is riven with discord and egged on by zealots of all stripes, and I guess I always thought someone should stand in the middle.

Fuck it, though. Just fuck it. I’m so sick and tired of this. I’m sick and tired of being fair to both sides, especially when one side just absolutely does not give a flying fuck.

I’m sick and tired of saying, “Hey, guys, can we just talk about some sensible, minor gun control?” and being hit with the equivalent of a two-by-four by the gun lobby.

I’m sick and tired of a gun lobby that witnesses the wholesale slaughter of American citizens and never once thinks, “Hey, we could give maybe just an inch on this. Just a single inch.”

I’m sick and tired of lawyers, guns, and money seeing to it that innocent people in this country can be mowed down anywhere, any time, for any reason, with precisely nothing to be done about it.

So fuck it. Take away the guns. Take them all. Is it unconstitutional? I truly believe it is and I just don’t fucking care any more. And it’s not because the left has gotten to me and radicalized me. It’s because the obdurate assholes on the right refuse to even come to the table in anything remotely resembling good faith. Because they refuse to admit that there’s a problem that they could help mitigate. Because at this point in our history, if you are not at least interested in the mere act of discussing gun control, you are absolutely, 100-percent objectively pro-death.

I’m sick and tired of trying to be rational with people who have zero interest in rational discussion.

The gun lobby likes to protest that tragedies like Orlando are a mental health issue. And they’re right. The issue is that someone with that kind of mental health should not be able to get a gun so fucking easily!

Someone interviewed twice by the FBI should not be able to get a gun so fucking easily!

Someone with a history of beating the shit out his wife should not be able to get a gun so fucking easily!

The problem isn’t crazy people. It’s crazy people in a system that is just as crazy. And if the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby won’t concede, “Well, yeah, that’s a problem. Let’s take some common sense steps to resolve it,” then fuck them. They don’t get anything, then. If you can’t compromise with someone holding a gun on you, then you just take the gun away.

To my friends who love their guns, rest assured I still love you. But I just can’t take this any more. When you’re ready to shrug off the NRA orthodoxy, great. Maybe then there’s room for reasonable discussion and negotiation. Until then, don’t even try to talk to me about it.

Let’s do this.

  1. As well-written as I allow myself to imagine my own work to be — I easily loathe my writing.
  2. Which just sounds ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it does.

WiRL: “Geek lasagna”

Episode 66: The One Right Before They Move

The Orlando shooting, bad conference experiences, home improvement woes, and a baby that won’t sleep. Also: Barry and Morgan each start working on new projects!

WiRL: “As if life matters”

Episode 65: The One with Melissa

Special guest Melissa Walker (Unbreak My Heart, Let’s Pretend We Never Met) fills in for Morgan! We discuss different ways of getting published, writing with more than one kid, and how writing a book doesn’t prepare you for the next one. Plus: On spec vs. proposal, and the horror of ranking.

Booklist on The Secret Sea

The Secret Sea cover

The first review of The Secret Sea is in, from the folks at Booklist! Check it out (emphasis mine):

Even though he’s grown up in New York City, 12-year-old Zak has lived a fairly sheltered life. He has a heart condition that has caused his parents, now in the middle of a contentious divorce, to keep tight tabs on him—and they would only be tighter if Zak’s parents knew he was hearing voices. But when Zak has a premonition of the subway filling with water and the mysterious voice he thinks of as his guardian angel warns him to run, Zak listens, only to find himself trapped in an alternate-universe New York with his two best friends, Moira and Khalid. Facing dangers from both this new world, which isn’t kind to women, and the increasingly untrustworthy voices in Zak’s head, the three struggle to find a way home that won’t have cataclysmic consequences. Lyga (After the Red Rain, 2015) returns to middle grade with a darkly compelling, if occasionally complicated, look at family, morality, and the long-term effects even seemingly small choices can have. A thoughtful—and thought-provoking—piece of science fiction.

“Occasionally complicated?” I was going for “always complicated.” 😉 Ah, well.