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Sunday, October 28, 2012 

Daily Beast insults Superman as a "hack" reporter

The Daily Beast's written a ridiculous article about Clark Kent's resignation from the Daily Planet, calling him a "hack" because they can't seem to appreciate fantasy storytelling. They say:
The Man of Steel is lucky he quit. He should have been canned.

To be fair, The Daily Planet has never been a stable news organization. It has survived everything from the apocalyptic monster Doomsday to publishing issues from Superman’s icy printing press in the Fortress of Solitude. Batman even owned the paper at one point. An Onion headline from this summer says it all: “Economically Healthy ‘Daily Planet’ Now Most Unrealistic Part of Superman Universe.’

Even so, it’s difficult to sympathize with Kent’s “Jerry Maguire” moment. This is the first time Superman has quit the paper in “The New 52” series—a universe that basically rebooted the Superman mythology from scratch in 2011—but it’s hardly Clark’s first break from print reporting. And despite some early potential, it’s not like he was ever in the running for a Pulitzer.

Let’s take a look at his not-so-super résumé.

When the hero was first launched in 1938’s Action Comics #1 he was a beat reporter at The Daily Star. In this “Golden Age” universe—or in other words, “the storyline that doesn’t really count”—Clark works his way up to be editor in chief.
I thought that was during the Bronze Age that the Earth 2 Superman had since become EIC of the Daily Star, the precursor to the Planet. And that's not so that the Planet was "never" a stable business. It was in past decades, when it was depicted as much more honest a news source than most real life news companies like the ones employing the hack reporter who wrote this dopey article.
...in 2012’s momentous issue, Clark— despite being “in the field” for five days —hasn’t filed a beat story on Superman all week. Instead, he waltzes into the office, inexplicably dressed in a red Smallville hoodie and blue jeans. (Journalists do tend to err on the casual side of fashion, but Superman is unprofessionally lax.) And with only five years of experience, Clark calls himself a “grizzled ink-stained wretch” and then lectures his editor about the definition of “news.” He’s that guy in the newsroom.

It gets worse. Superman does some in-office phone hacking on Lois Lane’s cellphone, only to discover she doesn’t have the hots for him. When the boss of Galaxy Broadcasting, which owns the paper, publicly scolds Clark for surfing the Internet for city housing-code violations instead of reporting on Superman, the Man of Steel loses it and mouths off that he’s “looking for the news, not making it.”

Clark, it’s incredibly hard to defend you. It’s not like you’re reporting on Kim Kardashian’s underwear. Your beat is Superman, the most powerful person in the history of the universe. The next panel of the comic literally shows the hero punching the lights out of a skyscraper-size Kryptonian creature ravaging Metropolis. A monster threatening to annihilate mankind? Yeah, that qualifies as front-page “news.”
If that's supposed to be a scoff or a dismissal, it's very stupid. In a fictional world filled with these kind of other worldly monsters, of course those alien menaces count as news, just like cases of terrorism, jihadism and communism should count as news in real life. And if there's any mistake the hack who wrote this article's made besides that, he also takes the easy way out by slamming Clark's antics here instead of criticizing Scott Lobdell for coming up with such an otherwise embarrassing story. If there's one thing this does at least manage to inform about, it's how Clark stoops to a felony by breaking into Lois' cellphone logs, all so the writers and editors can justify keeping them apart. Who knew that in all their alleged attempts to make the heroes "relevant" they'd even depict them doing some potentially criminal acts by violating laws on misuse of other people's property?
As comic-book heroes evolve, it’s becoming clear that crimefighters aren’t fit for journalism. Peter Parker was fired from The Daily Bugle for digitally altering one of his photographs to stop a bad guy. Ninja Turtles ally April O’Neil was booted from her job as a TV reporter for getting tangled up in sewer adventures. And investigative reporter Tintin is always gallivanting around the world, but rarely files a story. An editor’s going to notice that eventually.

So this modern and hip Superman’s fight isn’t really against the decline of journalism—it’s a classic conflict of interest. How do you objectively cover the ultimate reality and superhero star when you actually are that superhero? Maybe these questions are too deep for the panels of a 21-page comic book.
The hack reporter who penned this article is the one not qualified for journalism. Did it ever occur to him that superheroes make the news by fighting crime in costume? And for Spider-Man, he knows how to set up a camera to take pictures of himself in action. Better yet, did it ever occur to the reporter that what matters most is the innocent lives these heroes can save, the crooks they can catch and the stolen loot they can recover? What does it matter if the career is secondary to the adventure at hand? What we have here is clearly a fool who can't appreciate the main theme of superhero and adventure comics, which is to have fun reading all about how the heroes manage to defeat criminals and beat the odds against them.

In any case, if anyone's at fault for not conveying journalism well in the comics, it's the people who wrote them to begin with. Yet that doesn't even factor in here, as the reporter reduces everything to the predictably superficial tear-down of how fictional characters go about their business rather than to criticize the writers for not researching deeply enough.

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On a deeper level, the idea of a journalist being honest, heroic and insightful is clearly no longer in people's heads as something believable or interesting.

The Onion got it right.

Also as the Smallville hoodie detail shows, along with the sales of Smallville Season 11, the much more healthy and upbeat Smallville version of Superman has more to offer than the downright perverse "mainstream" comicbook version does.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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