The Observatory

The Truth Shall Set You Laughing

Jeremiah Horrigan

Jeremiah Horrigan
New Paltz, New York, USA
February 04
Working Copy
Former Knight of the Altar, St. Martin's parish in South Buffalo, NY. Old enough to remember ducking-and-covering from the nukes that Sister Jeanne assured us were coming our way, defending Santa Claus until age 10, hating playing sports, wanting to fly, escaping to Westchester County for three years, re-escaping to Buffalo for most of high school, escaping to Fordham U long enough to drop out, escaping school, getting political, getting arrested, getting tried, convicted and released for crimes against the draft. Husband to Patty, father to Grady and Annie. Housepainter, cab driver, idiot, then newspaper reporter in Poughkeepsie, years of freelancing (Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Negligent Mother Magazine) and shameful indulgence, followed finally by 18 more years of reporting, column-writing, some awards, discoveries large and small along the way, including these: Sister Jeanne was full of beans, writing is good for the soul and I'm the luckiest man alive.


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SEPTEMBER 5, 2011 11:28PM

Superman: when being invulnerable just wasn't enough

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"Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts" -- Paul Simon

Superman has been given a complete makeover by DC Comics, in hopes he and all his partners in crime fighting will make it to the Top of the Pops again.

The guy formerly known as The Man of Steel is now being billed as Superman: Man of the Future. One site describes him as being "younger, brasher and more brooding." He's lost his leotards. He and Lois are no longer an item.

This isn't the first time Superman has undergone a generational re-do. A lack of sufficient relevance resulted in an earlier tune-up more in tune with the times. Here are the facts surrounding his previous reincarnation, as reported by The New York Times, circa 1986:

"Superman, who has appeared in comic book form since 1938, is about to be sent on a three-month vacation. When he returns, it will be in a revised form that DC Comics describes as “updated” and “more vulnerable.” Clark Kent will be “more open about his feelings” in his more genteel assignment as a columnist for The Daily Planet."

Next, Kent's first foray into gentility, his inaugural column as it appeared in The Daily Planet, years before the paper went the way of the planet Krypton:



by Clark Kent

Lifesyle Columnist

GREETINGS – Kent’s the name, column-writing’s my new game. Hope you’ll bear with me as I get used to my new home here in The Planet’s Lifestyle Section. After a lifetime of hard-news reporting for this once-great metropolitan newspaper, the column-writing racket takes some getting used to, believe me.

SALUTE TO A CHIEF – Some of you old-timers may remember PERRY WHITE, the dictator who used to run The Planet’s city desk. He never shouted when he could scream, and he was never happier than when he was doing both, stomping around, puffing on those rotten stogies that finally killed him last week.

The Chief, as he loved to be called, was the kind of editor you learned to appreciate, after about 20 years of trying. He could an edit an end-of-the-world story like there was no tomorrow. And he taught me everything I know about writing the all-but-forgotten art of the evil-genius story. I miss the old coot already. They don’t make editors like him any more, let me tell you. Hey, only kidding MISS LANE. I mean MS. LANE. I mean CHIEF.

WHICH REMINDS ME – Anybody out there remember evil geniuses? This town used to be crawling with them. Take BRAINIAC – please. (Hey, just kiddin’ Brain, if you’re reading this.). And how about my favorite egghead, LEX LUTHOR? Loyal Planet readers will be glad to know that Lex has changed his evil ways and started work as director of the new Metropolis Hair Club for Men. He credits Prozac and the lovely LANA LANG with showing him the error of his ways. The pair plan spring nuptials in their native Smallville next year. Metropolis’s loss is Smallville’s gain. Good luck, you two. Message to Lex: I guess the best man won.

A FINAL NOTE – A reporter (pardon me, a columnist) likes to think of himself as a know-it-all. He’s not. A reporter’s only as good as his sources, the tip-off artists whose names you never see in print. That’s why I want to end this inaugural column with a really big hello to my old pal and favorite source, the one and only SUPERMAN, aka THE MAN OF STEEL, or just plain SUPE to his many friends across the universe.

Supe’s been feeling down in the dumps lately. He's got some issues, as they say. Some kind of mid-life crisis.

I caught him on the fly the other day, at his place up north. It's not enough, he told me, not enough to be the most powerful man in the universe anymore, not to mention the most indecently underpaid superhero in history. Nope. It's not enough you saved this lousy city -- sometimes the entire planet! -- hundreds of times over. No. You work your super-butt off. But you're still an illegal alien in their eyes. They take you for granted. There's an asteroid headed this way? No sweat. Let the guy in the leotards take care of it.That's what he does.

You like to think you're just as good as they are, only – get this – only one day you realize you’re not like them. You finally see what they've seen from the beginning: You're different. You're invulnerable. That's not cool.

And that's what hurts.

If you’re going to make it in this world, tough as nails doesn’t cut it anymore. Machine gun bullets bouncing off your pecs like so much popcorn? Big deal. You want to make it on this planet, you've got to be sensitive. A softie.

Well -- and this is what I told Supe -- I say it stinks. But what do I know? I’m just an ink-stained wretch trying to make a living in an age that could care less about the important things in life, things like Truth, Justice and what we used to call The American Way.

So Supe, if you’re reading this, hang in there, buddy. Don’t let ‘em get you down. Give me a call when you get back. We’ll steal Luthor’s Prozac and have ourselves a time again.




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I am sure the idea of Superman was cutting-edge back when the characer was introduced, back in 1928. When I was a boy (say 1968) the whole Superman franchise seemed incredibly old and tired. Can't believe that 40+ years on they'e still beating that dead horse.
"Long ago I have a photograph"---Paul Simon.

Being invulnerable isn't enough? I was starting to suspect that. This confirms it.

The memories that flow from Superman through the ages are torrential. Blend them with names like George Reeves--I wonder how many people reading this will remember him? --and you've got a story that will last. Somehow. I hope. . . .

Or maybe Paul Simon IS Superman now?
This made me laugh! and of course, you are excellent at "reporter-ese" -- I was just thinking this morning of how I'm going to have to buy the grandsons some comics. (Favorite part: "he taught me everything I know about writing the all-but-forgotten art of the evil genius story." Okay...and also the "rotten stogies that finally killed him last week.") Clever fun!
Patrick: Speaking from the POV of my own childhood era (circa 1958) DC Comics were about the only game in town. And they were, looking back on them, old & tired, predictable and (with the exception of a few other characters) poorly drawn. It's why Marvel was able to capture what we'd now call market share in your era, with neurotic, haunted heroes (i.e., Spider Man) instead of those old reliable invulnerables.
The re-do I refer to here was a desperate attempt to make Supe hip. I think eventually, they even made Clark Kent a TV reporter. It was all, as you say, very lame, until Chris Reeve came along, followed by the advent of the graphic novel & the re-invention of not-so-super heroes (especially that twisted gym rat Batman) that DC finally caught up with Marvel.

Roger: He does seem indestructible, doesn't he? It seems we need someone like him; a more astute observer of pop culture than I could probably trace his roots back to the beginnings of history.

As for George Reeves, I still remember the day I heard about his death -- a suicide that some people still don't believe. It felt to me the way older kids felt when Buddy Holley went down. He wasn't much to look at, muscle-wise, and it was a cheap series, as everything was back then, but he got the job done for this former eight-year-old. They made a movie about the suspicions surrounding his death that I remember enjoying, though I've forgotten the title.
Suzie: I speak & write reporter-ese through long and faithful practice. Looking back on my last few posts, a goodly number have invoked the spirit of this odd (and for me, very attractive) "language." It's an aspect of being a reporter that I feel no one has quite succeeded in either hijacking, credibly criticizing or improving on. It's also sentimental as hell, and so am I. Hey, it's not for nothing that I sympathize with the house-broken Clark Kent of the '80s.
OMg not even Superman lasts forever. I cannot wait to see the new outfit. BYW where the heck is our superman now?
Algis: I'm told the new outfit features pants instead of tights. And, taking a page from "The Incredibles," I think the cape is also gone. No more Caped Crusader, which, given the times, is probably a good thing.

As for who our superman is, I think that's something best left to the funny papers. Hitler was able to, shall we say, re-brand Nietzsche's "ubermensh" to his own nefarious purposes.

OMg not even Superman lasts forever. I cannot wait to see the new outfit. BYW where the heck is our superman n
I'm laughing imagining Clark Kent as a Lifestyle Columnist. Spot on!

I too want to see the outfit. Pants you say? Bah!
Bell: After all these years of briefs, it appears Supe is going to give boxers a try. Let freedom swing!