Technology trumps Superman

On a recent flight to Nashville, I finally got around to reading the much-hyped Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Stracznsky. It was an fresh take on Superman, catering to a crowd that knows Smallville more than Lois and Clark (or even Christopher Reeve … or George Reeves, for that matter).

The key to the book’s success relies on our knowledge of the Superman birth story, which allows the author to “play” within it: tryouts for professional football and baseball teams, for example; or Clark’s near-stint as a research scientist. These variations are only possible when we know that, in the end, he’s going to end up at the Daily Planet.

It was also neat to see how the iconic Superman pose from Action Comics #1 made its way into the new one:

However, it was the ending that stood out the most. Consider this sequence:

Here, after Superman overcomes the bad guys (spoiler alert), he goes back the ship that transported him to Earth in the first place. He sits down, and senses an “intelligence” from this machine, and implores it to “teach him.”

Now, I know that this panel fits within the overall story line, but, if we take a step back, we can see how this fits even more into a growing American mythos of technology as God. Technology teaches us. It shows us how to live. It shows us how to reach our full potential. Even our “super-est” of heroes must now submit themselves to a machine in order to become truly Super.

At this point, we should obviously nod to the patron saints of The Ramble: Neil Postman, whose book Technopoly should become required reading; and Marshall McLuhan, who not only gave us a Mechanical Bride, but also affirmed that how we say something is as important as what we say.

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