Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg with golden, flowing locks is like… well, it’s straight-up like a joke Robert and I would make – nay, made.
Today’s annotation is by Robert:
Superman is the Real Slim Shady.
How? Kal-El of Krypton is unfailingly polite, inherently noble, and punches evil in the face. Marshall Mathers AKA Eminem AKA Slim Shady is (well, was, given how ‘Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?’ came out over a decade ago) constistently irreverant, rude, and famous for rapping.
But let us consider Slim Shady and what he stands for. He tests the boundaries of what is culturally acceptible in order to point out the flaws in those boundaries. “We ain’t nothing but mammals – well, some of us, cannibals, who cut other people open like cantaloupes // But if we can hump dead animals and antelopes, then there’s no reason that a man and another man can’t elope”.
Back when casual homophobia was considerably greater, Slim Shady pointed out the hypocrisy of a culture thinking “it’s cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose” but not for two genuinely loving people to be together. He did the same in the same rap – indeed, in the same verse – about general sexual hangups. “Yeah, I got a couple’a screws in my head loose, but it’s no worse than what’s going on in your parents’ bedrooms…and that’s the message that we deliver to little kids // And expect them not to know what a woman’s clitoris is, of course they gonna know what intercourse is
By the time they hit fourth grade // They got the Discovery Channel, don’t they?” Slim Shady says exactly what he thinks, and exactly what a lot of people think. In Shady’s words, “I’m only giving you things you joke about with your friends inside your living room // The only difference is I got the balls to say it in front of y’all and I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoated at all…and every single person is a Slim Shady lurking”. His job, in a word, is to cut through the bullshit of ‘everything is always okay’.
So, what does that have to do with Superman? Well, bullshit flies both ways.
The world is frequently cynical, because that’s the easy path. If you tell yourself things won’t work out over and over again, you think it’ll ease the pain when things do go south. Hope is a genuinely difficult thing. Hope is a risk. And Superman is hope – the hope that an ordinary person with that much power all their life would use it to help everyone else. And I think a lot of people react against that, because accepting Superman means admitting that cynicism is throwing pieces of yourself away in the hope that you’ll present a smaller target. How many millions of claims that ‘Superman is boring’ have echoed throughout the world since his creation in 1938? How many times have writers used the ‘Superman turns evil’ schtick? How much praise did the creators of Man of Steel get for turning him into Alien Batman With Powers?
But Superman stands as an icon against the bullshit of ‘everything is, and always will be, awful’. And there’s a million others just like him (who indeed, just don’t give a fuck like him), and even more who joke about being greater than their self of least resistance, but don’t have the balls to go out and say it like Superman does. He is the Man of Tomorrow because – gendered element aside – he is the person all of us could be tomorrow. And we don’t even have to wait for tomorrow to come, because what he is is already here, within us.
So, will the real Superman please stand up?
This is a strip that’s been kicking around in our heads for a long, long time now. It’s not that it was difficult to pin down the joke or anything – this is the kind of self-aware pseudononsense that apparently just flows out of us – we actually typed out the script so long ago that we’ve had to update which strip the characters are referring to more than once. It’s just that we’ve consistently not needed to dip into the file of script-buffer, where we plonk any jokes that won’t visibly age for later use.
It was also a) weird and b) fun to draw me and Robert in a comic; that is, as opposed to Martin and Robert, the comic characters who happen to share our names.* I keep telling you they don’t even look like us any more! That we gave them our names and sometimes events from our lives is cause for the constant mistake, though, I guess. It’s still always the first thing anybody asks, though. I’ve resigned myself to it; worse things happen at sea.
I do actually have Martin’s triangle tattoo on my shoulder, but he didn’t get the tattoos that I’ve gone on to accumulate since then (though he has gained a few that I haven’t). Whether or not I’ve kept filling in more and more of my arm solely to distance myself visually from my namesake I leave as an exercise to the reader.
*We were lazy back in 2012. What can I say.