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Hollywood is all about comic book movies right now, and the Origin Story is always the way to start a new franchise. With comics constantly updating or retconning their characters it’s no wonder after the success of X-men and Spiderman films, Marvel created the Ultimate Universe, a place where everything is new, and nothing should be taken for granted. DC has started a similar project with their Earth One line of graphic novels. Taking classic iconic characters and reintroducing them to the world in the 21st Century is a daunting task, but the teams on both Superman: Earth One and Batman: Earth One perform admirably.
Written by J. Michael Strazynski of “Babylon 5” and Thor (comics) fame and drawn by Shane Davis, “Superman Earth One” is a decent retelling of Superman’s origin that concentrates more on the Man than the Super. Focusing on the humanity that a very outcast and alien feeling Clark wishes to find and embrace, he believes in all the ideals his parents instilled in him, but he just wants to fit in after years of not knowing how. This is an aspect I loved about the book. Real world issues like the news going digital, and the decline of newspapers make the whole Daily Planet seem fresh and real. And characters that seemed silly like Jimmy, I’m sorry Jim Olsen are made to be taken seriously, here he’s a true to life news photographer now, willing to risk life and limb for the shot. But all this is secondary to Superman, and he is handled here very well.
What I like is what finally spurs him to action. He’s constantly trying to figure out what he’s supposed to do, and there’s a heartwarming scene with Clark at his father’s grave where he explains his reasoning, but when fate steps in, it’s him seeing someone effectively living what his parents taught him that get Clark to finally step up to his true calling. There are some changes to the history of the character but all set up future stories and I can’t wait to see where they go. Volume 2 is being released later this year.
Written by Geoff Johns, current Shepherd of the DCU and drawn by Gary Frank, “Batman Earth One” has a lot to stand up to. Not only Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli’s amazing work on “Batman: Year One”, but also Nolan’s “Batman Begins.” Stiff competition, but it is in good company. As a new take on Batman’s origin there are quite a few changes to separate it from those two. First off Alfred is not a butler, or at least he wasn’t supposed to be, and Thomas Wayne was running for Mayor when he and his wife Martha, the last of the Arkhams, are killed. Gotham is as much a character in this story as the people. There’s a lot of history within this city with two families, the Waynes and the Arkhams at its center. Still a corrupt entity Gotham’s decay was almost halted by the rise of Thomas Wayne before he was murdered, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Bruce as he’s grown up under Alfred.
It’s the relationships that make this book sing. Bruce and Alfred’s relationship, Jim Gordon’s relationship with the new hotshot cop Harvey Bullock, and the current Mayor Cobblepot’s relationship with the city. What I really like about this is that we get a more human Bruce than ever before. In the past his parents’ death has always created a need to try and keep something similar from happening to others, an admirable trait, however most people would probably be fueled by anger at the lack of anything being done about it, and revenge. And that’s what we get, a heartbroken Bruce who wants nothing more than to make his parents’ killers pay and bring them to justice. He isn’t out to save the city; he just wants justice, for himself! As the book goes on we slowly end up at the beginnings of the relationships we’ve seen.
Both these books are very much the beginnings of these respective heroes’ careers, as well as the beginnings of major changes to their lives and the world around them. We don’t end Batman with the Bat-signal or the city safe under a watchful Batman, we end with him finally realizing what he is really supposed to do now, and getting to it. Superman ends with Kal-El finally beginning to learn about his heritage, one that he knew nothing about and finally embracing the destiny that’s before him. These stories get to the heart of who these characters would really be. Whereas with Superman it was about him wanting to live a normal life after feeling like an outcast and finally coming to grips with his destiny, Batman is about a more human Bruce Wayne and the pain and helplessness he feels at the loss of his parents and how he deals with it.
These aren’t your step-right-up-to-the-plate heroes, and I think that’s what I really liked about the books, because in reality it’d take someone some time to make such a life altering decision. As “Watchmen” explores what it’s like to be a hero but not mentally, or emotionally cut out for it, these show what it would take for real people to get to the path of the heroic icons they become. It’s great for past versions to show that it was just one galvanizing thing that made them who they were, but that’s not always how it works. I look forward to seeing how they continue these stories, and what they do with other characters. Bring on Green Lantern Earth One!!