“Making and Breaking the Superhero Quotidian by Frank Bramlett”

In the article, “Making and Breaking the Superhero Quotidian: How All-Star Superman Embodies and Revises the Everyday,” Frank Bramlett argues “How Morrison and Quitely use the extraordinary, the remarkable, and the unexpected to highlight yet ultimately overturn the story of Superman’s day-to-day practices and expectations” (1). Simply put, Bramlett is arguing that the comic All-Star Superman uses unconventional situations to highlight or differ from Superman’s standard quotidian (everyday day practices). This means that for comic readers there are certain characteristics that define Superman’s persona, which has been passing through comic history. Bramlett tries to differentiate and analyze Superman’s routine and new interactions in Morrison and Quitely’s work, and how these have a direct impact on the audience’s expectations of Superman. Also, I am inserting my two cents by saying that All-Star Superman, suppose a direct contradiction regarding Echo’s statement (Superman is encapsulated in cyclical time frame because of his powers). In this comic edition, Superman is confronted with his sudden mortality, he is dying because he absorbed too much solar radiation. The source of his power is killing him, thus makes him question the same trivial routines that Echo says are Superman’s defining factors of his superhero persona, excuse my digression.

Bramlett defines Superman quotidian as, “His day-to-day actions and behaviors involve helping others, to the point that he expects to be needed” (6). In other words, Superman’s quotidian is the standard expectations that the audience has. It is like his signature that is rooted in his superhero persona. Also, Bramlett reminds us that All-Star Superman maintain traditional elements of Superman’s origins to give a sense of comfort, so the reader can have a semblance of normalcy. In the comic, Superman saves a boy from getting hit by a bus, in doing so, he is running late to his meeting in the Daily Planet. While he transitions from his real identity (Superman) to his alter ego (Clark Kent) we see all the characteristics that define Clark Kent’s persona. He is a clumsy, amicable journalist, who is trying to get to work on time. Bramlett says, “That the use of these traditional elements that helps establish and maintain the Quotidian existence that Superman lives” (7).

Alongside, Richard Reynolds creates a list of seven motifs from the first ever superhero comic. Bramlett only focuses on two of those seven. According to Reynolds, “The extraordinary nature of the superhero will be contrasted with the ordinariness of his surroundings.” This means that superhero identity should have a “normal” background to maintain covert the persona and mission. Further, Bramlett uses Goffman’s definitions of performance and front to explain in depth Reynolds first motif. Goffman says, “the participants carry out their performances in the front.” This means front is the physical space where the performance occurs. The second motif of Reynolds says, “The extraordinary nature of the hero will be contrasted with the mundane nature of his alter-ego.” In other words, Clark Kent’s persona is the mask that protects Superman’s identity. Further, the difference between the two is the social expectations that each identity has, which makes a symbiotic relationship, because both are gaining something, (Superman maintains his identity secret and Clark Kent can have a normal, ordinary life without targeting his loved ones). Hence, the importance of having an alter-ego that blends well into the society (I am talking to you, Iron Man). I will ponder more on my presentation, but for now, I will leave you with this.

  • Coogan says, “that the superhero’s mission is prosocial and selfless.” Regarding Superman’s last tasks helping Kryptonians and humans to help them transition after his death, does that fit into Coogan’s statements? Or does it demonstrate that humans and Kryptonians are dependable, giving the idea that Superman’s actions/ motives are not selfless?
  • Bramlett defines Superman exposure to solar radiation as “life-changing trauma” (5). By following Bramlett’s logic, why do you think Superman maintains his standard quotidian the same except him telling Lois his connection with his alter-ego? If that is considered a trauma, why didn’t Superman tell Lois that he is dying?
  • Marc Singer says, “that Morrison’s Superman resists the ‘realistic’ Superman of earlier time periods” (3). However, at the end of the comic Superman is presented as a golden-godly figure that helps the machinery to keep the sun running. Do you consider that a proper realistic transition? Or do you think Morrison’s view of Superman transcends the superhero realm?
  • Ian Gordon says, “Superman’s immense power could readily defeat all challenges in the real world.” This argument seems to align with Echo’s regarding his inability to evolve as a character. Do you consider Morrison and Quitely’s version of Superman an evidence that it is possible for Superman to have character development? if so, please show textual evidence in the comic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

11 thoughts on ““Making and Breaking the Superhero Quotidian by Frank Bramlett”

  1. Ian Gordon says, “Superman’s immense power could readily defeat all challenges in the real world.” This argument seems to align with Echo’s regarding his inability to evolve as a character. Do you consider Morrison and Quitely’s version of Superman an evidence that it is possible for Superman to have character development? if so, please show textual evidence in the comic.

    It is a bit difficult for me to identify what is unusual/outside the norm for Superman because I am only familiar with a very small number of his stories. That being said, after I read Gordon’s article, I was expecting to be very surprised with the Superman I was about to discover in All-Star Superman. Gordon states that Superman’s life “shift[s] because he knows the end of his life is coming” and that this “disruption” would be an “impetus for mobilization.” It’s true that Superman does make moves to prepare for his death; most notably, he tells Lois Lane the truth about his identity and does his best to prepare Earth for life without him. There are some very compelling moments (it was very touching to see him put Lois Lane to bed, and also very emotional when he questions the significance of his powers after the death of his father – this, for me, was reminiscent of when Phil Sheldon sees Gwen Stacy die) but by and large this read to me as another collection of Superhero-esque adventures set in the context of a Superhero who is allegedly going to die, even though we all know he won’t (of course the sun needs its heart fixed, or whatever. Of COURSE it does!). Fighting against a Supervillain? Check! Visiting other worlds? Check! Engaging in a dual identity? Check! Yes, he does, as Gordon points out, “adapt to his new reality by temporarily wearing a different costume,” but was he not still wearing a cape with a large letter S on it? Gordon also identifies as a shift that Superman “creates life” to “see what kind of world humans would live in if there were no Superman.” However, we see Superman problem-solving in the face of every challenge he’s been given, so this did not strike me as particularly unusual. I’m willing to accept that, because I know very little about Superman, I have less of a mental “bank” of expectations; it is harder to surprise me with Superman’s shifts away from the quotidian because my expectations of/for him are not as well established. However, after reading Gordon’s article I was expecting to be very surprised with the Superman I met in the pages of All-Star Superman, but really I found I was just meeting up with an old acquaintance.

  2. Bramlett defines Superman exposure to solar radiation as “life-changing trauma” (5). By following Bramlett’s logic, why do you think Superman maintains his standard quotidian the same except him telling Lois his connection with his alter-ego? If that is considered a trauma, why didn’t Superman tell Lois that he is dying?

    These are great questions, Monica, especially the latter. Facing the “life-changing trauma” of dying,why didn’t Superman share the information with Lois? I’d honestly contend pride and ego as being the answers.

    If you consider Yoshiko Matsumoto’s argument about a “psychologically intense experience,” highlighted by Bramlett’s No. 20, it would seemingly lead you to believe that Superman would confide in Lane:

    “In the context of death and dying, Yoshiko Matsumoto argues that people who engage in telling stories about a psychologically intense experience can soften the intensity by switching into a quotidian frame, ‘which includes and enhances those aspects of a scene that are reminiscent of everyday life and excludes aspects that signal heightened psychological intensity’ (596).”

    Yet, Superman didn’t do that. Instead, as Bramlett highlights in No. 26, Superman goes through the process alone — a very tough thing to do, but something that fits the frame of him shouldering the heaviest loads of pressure without burdening anyone else.

    “Although some characters know that he is dying (Leo Quintum, and later, Lois Lane), Superman labors to complete his last will and testament alone,” Bramlett highlights. “The work is so intensive that he begins to perspire, with drops of sweat pouring off his brow, and he gazes intently at his finger tips, watching thousands of cells die each second (227). (See figure 3.) He also perspires from exertion when he is trapped in Bizarro World (187). Of course the exertion in Bizarro world is physical, yet the work of writing his will is emotional, psychological.”

    His daily life is changing, his death imminent, but his superhero pride, dignity and strength is intact. Lane only finds out about Superman’s dying state much later. Despite his quotidian shifting, I think Superman not sharing the information about his death with Lane is consistent with who he is as a superhero. His super power makes him a 1-of-1 and his work was solo. I think it’s also done in a way to make readers relate to him more. When faced with death, there are people who carry out the process themselves, not even informing family or friends and this serves as a cold reminder of that.

    I’m looking forward to hearing others’ thoughts on this during class.

  3. I think Coogan statement “that the superhero mission is prosocial and selfless” in regards to Superman’s last task in helping kyrptonians and humans transition after his death does fit into his statement because in the conclusion it explains “Superman is a super man who represents the best achievements of humanity”. In this way both Kyrptonian and Humans alike should be able to defend themselves and their version of humanity. As a result, superman achieved his main goal which in a sense would be selfless because he has done what he can in keeping both sides safe in one way or another.

  4. Hi Monica! Good job summarizing the article for this week.

    With regard to your question about Superman’s “selflessness” as a Kryptonian and his desire to help mankind after his death, I would personally answer both “yes” and “no.”

    I was really glad to see Bramlett return to Coogan’s ideas in this essay. It helps us, as students, to recognize the development of superheroism as a scholastic study, and it’s also cool to see how the ideas overlap and develop upon one another. In his definition of the “quotidian,” Bramlett references Coogan’s formula of “mission, powers, and identity” being integral to the superhero’s definition. He expounds upon this notion further with regard to Superman’s mission in paragraph 6. “In the case of Superman, his day-to-day actions and behaviors involve helping others, to the point that he expects to be needed.”

    For Superman, his identity and mission are conflated. I know Bramlett talks a lot about his ability to “escape” as Clark Kent, but “being helpful” is who he is. Therefore, it’s not surprising that he would spend his last moments on earth trying to prepare a way to continue helping mankind after he’s gone. The nature of his response is selfess; however, simultaneously, it’s congruent with who he is as a person and his mission as a superhero. Which begins to beg the question: why is he helping people? Is it to assuage his overzealous sense of purpose, or is it to genuinely help people? While I couldn’t really argue that Superman is ever “selfish,” as the act of helping others really contradicts the notion of “selfishness,” I think we can conjecture whether or not the act is “self-centered.”

    In episode six, Pa Kent makes the statement, “you’re destined for great things Clark,” and I think this concept helps us understand the “self-conceptualization” that goes into being Superman. He’s good, but it’s almost been ordained that he would be this servant of humanity. In many film adaptations, Jor-el sends Kal-el to earth with the hope that he will be a redemption for mankind. (He’s a messianic figure, and even though Morrison and Quitely’s adaptation of the character ISN’T Shuster and Siegel’s, he still maintains this role.) If we consider that his impetus for goodness is established from this concept of divine goodness, it provokes us to wonder if he would really be this benevolent and self-less if it wasn’t his appointed calling.

  5. Do you consider Morrison and Quitely’s version of Superman an evidence that it is possible for Superman to have character development? if so, please show textual evidence in the comic.
    I believe that Morrison and Quitely’s version of Superman, depicts Superman as an emotional individual compared to Shuster and Siegel’s original Superman. For instance, in the scene, where the girl wants to commit suicide, Superman hugs her and states that, “It’s never as bad as it seems” (236). He is comforting her which reveals his own mortality and closeness to the humans. Morrison and Quitely dedicated a whole page for this emotional scene. So, the audience can relate more to him in this version. Whereas, in the original Superman, a page would be illustrated to depict him in action. He was not portrayed as compassionate towards for example, Lois Lane.

  6. Great job, Monica!
    Bramlett defines Superman exposure to solar radiation as “life-changing trauma” (5). By following Bramlett’s logic, why do you think Superman maintains his standard quotidian the same except him telling Lois his connection with his alter-ego? If that is considered a trauma, why didn’t Superman tell Lois that he is dying?
    Based off of Bramlett’s reasoning, I think Superman maintains his standard quotidian although he faces a “life-changing trauma” by not telling anyone that he is dying. Death is a burden. Superman’s role can be broken down to lessening the burden on people in their daily lives – handling the villains so they can go about their business. If Superman were to tell the world he is dying, he would have had to help the world grieve before his death, rather than quietly plan for the fallout. Superman chose to go through this knowledge of his death alone, which in some ways is more of a trauma than death itself. He does this because he is a superhero, his job is not to worry the people he protects. As Mark suggested it very well could of been Superman’s ego and pride preventing him from speaking out because it would force him to face his own mortality, but I think he made his decision because he is a superhero.

  7. Well written piece Monica. I’m going to try to address the question you posed,

    “Bramlett defines Superman exposure to solar radiation as “life-changing trauma” (5). By following Bramlett’s logic, why do you think Superman maintains his standard quotidian the same except him telling Lois his connection with his alter-ego? If that is considered a trauma, why didn’t Superman tell Lois that he is dying”

    This is a very difficult question and that’s why I like it. While unable to reach a definitive rationale for Superman’s decision regarding not divulging his terminal condition, I have some assumptions.

    In my copy of All Star Superman, the sleeve reads “Not an origin story, modernization, or reinvention – but instead a timeless and iconic presentation..”. I see this as a reminder of the quotidian elements that a Superman story comprises of.
    On page 94 of part 2, Lois admits to knowing Superman is dying. They share a tender moment in which Lois wants reassurance from Superman he will find a solution. it follows with a juxtaposition of Superman explaining the negative physical implications of if they were to ever consummate their union, while listening with his super hearing, to the cries of distress coming from the streets of Metropolis. Bramlett says “In the case of Superman, his day-to-day actions and behaviors involve helping others, to the point that he expects to be needed” (6). Superman tells her, “I have to go Lois. Someone needs me”. He then stops a teenage girl from jumping off a building. It was a reminder of the Superman Chronicles in which his quotidian activities revolved around saving women from wife beaters and saving a wrongly convicted felon on death row. Superman’s handling of his trauma is perplexing as he tells Lois he is Clark Kent but won’t tell her he is dying, only to tell her when she knows the truth that they cannot procreate and that this is all they can ever have. It made me wonder..what if he were not dying? Then would he carry on his relationship with Lois this way? He is dealing with his trauma by himself and perhaps is ego driven to handle his death alone as well. Grant Morrison appears to want to keep the quotidian narrative of Superman as a person intact by having him deal with his problems by himself and not trouble or worry Lois with this news. As Bramlett rightly says, “It is the use of these traditional elements that helps establish and maintain the quotidian existence that Superman lives, and it is the introduction of new characters and novel situations that help readers see the revision of Superman’s quotidian”(7).

  8. Bramlett defines Superman exposure to solar radiation as “life-changing trauma” (5). By following Bramlett’s logic, why do you think Superman maintains his standard quotidian the same except him telling Lois his connection with his alter-ego? If that is considered a trauma, why didn’t Superman tell Lois that he is dying?

    I think that the trauma of his impending death gives his quotidian more impact and in that way it has essentially changed. Superman is now not only doing his actions for the greater good, but also is putting a plan into place to make sure that humanity is taken care of after he is gone. I think that he didn’t tell Lois Lane that he is dying simply because she wouldn’t believe him. Considering how hard it is to believe that he is Clark Kent (which seriously? I honestly don’t get that…Superman must be a master class actor…or he surrounds himself with easily manipulated people which bring up a question of ethics) trying to tell her that he is dying would have a catastrophic effect on their relationship.

  9. Thanks Monica, great work!

    Ian Gordon says, “Superman’s immense power could readily defeat all challenges in the real world.” This argument seems to align with Echo’s regarding his inability to evolve as a character. Do you consider Morrison and Quitely’s version of Superman an evidence that it is possible for Superman to have character development? if so, please show textual evidence in the comic.

    Echo’s article was the first thing I thought about as I began reading All-Star Superman. Echo, as you said, stated that Superman never aged, never changed, and never passed time. I think All-Star definitely overturns that. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the last few pages involve so much work with time. Superman states, “I only have a few moments to save the world,”before flying off into the sun. This Superman, who openly acknowledges that time is controlling him, is extremely different than the original Superman. He keeps saying, “I love you, Lois Lane, until the end of time,” again acknowledging the actual word “time.” Jimmy says, “it’s been a whole year,” sealing the finality of time within the reader’s mind. Despite Lois Lane’s insistence that he will be back, the passage of time makes Superman seem truly gone, truly defeatable, and truly affected by time–something the last Superman was not.
    Then, of course, there’s the fact that Superman’s condition, his dying, is not quickly fixed between issues. Superman has to DEAL with these emotions from issue to issue, and make preparations for it. He goes through the stages of acceptance and he develops as a character.

  10. Marc Singer says, “that Morrison’s Superman resists the ‘realistic’ Superman of earlier time periods” (3). However, at the end of the comic Superman is presented as a golden-godly figure that helps the machinery to keep the sun running. Do you consider that a proper realistic transition? Or do you think Morrison’s view of Superman transcends the superhero realm?

    I think it fits in line with Singer’s comments. By the end he becomes a living God who’s strength is multiplied and is constantly aware of subatomic worlds. The fact that Lex himself is unable to cope with the reality of living like Superman, it’s inline with how Singer describes how “realism” to him is if Superman’s existence fits in the scheme of how we imagine he would exist in our world. Luthor is in awe of how Superman perceives the world and it’s somewhat beyond his understanding. The fact that All-Star Superman presents Superman as a living God in a slice of life format, his trials and his permanent existence, also means that he was presenting Superman as being somewhat timeless. So yes, beyond Superheroism as well.

  11. “Marc Singer says, “that Morrison’s Superman resists the ‘realistic’ Superman of earlier time periods” (3). However, at the end of the comic Superman is presented as a golden-godly figure that helps the machinery to keep the sun running. Do you consider that a proper realistic transition? Or do you think Morrison’s view of Superman transcends the superhero realm?”

    I think All-Star Superman is Morrison’s re-imagining the monomyth of all superheroes set in place by Superman as its prototype. The mythic references abound in the story. The contest with Samson and Atlas, the romance with a mortal, stealing fire from the sun and being punished for it-these are all tropes associated with classical mythology given new skeins. The parallels with Hercules are rampant-Superman is submitted to 12 impossible tasks that culminate in his seeming death only to have his mortality burned away as his true self ascends to the heavens where he holds them on his shoulders. Morrison is redacting the Superman legendarium to its barest elements to show how he is not just an archetypal superhero but a mythic figure who will stand the test of time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *