I had an odd reaction, reading DC’s description of the new DCU Superman as “Timeless and modern, classic and contemporary, but younger, brasher and more brooding” earlier today. Something along the lines of “Superman isn’t brasher or brooding.” It’s a silly reaction to have, of course; Superman is a fictional character, so he’s whatever his creators decide he is at any particular moment, but he’s a character with such a long history – and, more importantly, such a consistent history, in terms of portrayal – that the idea of him being anything other than inherently good, stable and… well, vaguely paternal, in a strange way, seems “wrong” to me.
(The idea that Superman should be paternal is probably something that DC Comics would hate – It makes him harder to relate to, for younger readers, after all – but it’s also something that they’ve accidentally promoted for decades, by making Superman the role model and inspiration for so many of their other characters: By making a point of showing him as the figurative Daddy of the DCU, he immediately becomes a father figure to readers, too.)
This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Superman reimagined as younger and brasher, or broody: Think about Superman: Earth One, or Smallville. It seems that that’s what Superman does, when he escapes regular continuity – He gets younger and brasher and maybe a little broodier, as well (The only place that wasn’t true was All-Star Superman, giving me the strongest hope that the new DCU Superman will be more than the latest installment of The Man Of Steel Pouts Because No-One Understands How Hard It Is To Be All-Powerful And An Alien). It feels overly reductive, and insulting to the audience – A suggestion that, in order to be the kind of character that the readers can more easily empathize with, he has to be moody and mopey and angst-ridden. Why can’t we just have Superman being the Superman we all expect him to be, and just have great stories starring that guy?
(Also: How long can a character really be “younger, brasher and more brooding” before that goes beyond getting old and turns into being annoying? That’s the starting place for a character, somewhere for them to grow from, surely?)