When I was in grade school, I firmly believed that if I read enough Star Trek novels in my downtime, I would transform into the android Mr. Data. Technically, Data had a lot of superpowers, but my secret favorite was that he couldn’t get his feelings hurt because he didn’t have any feelings. I figured this would be huge advantage on the playground. Naturally, the only time this fantasy could manifest itself was Halloween, and that feeling of security couldn’t really last me through the whole year. But what if a little kid could literally turn into a hero, complete with all those superpowers? In Mark Millar’s new meta-fictional comic series, Superior, that’s exactly what happens.
The story of Superior sounds simple enough at first, so much so that one might overlook it with the assumption that it’s been done before. Simon Pooni is a twelve-year old wheelchair-bound boy with multiple sclerosis who loves comic books. Specifically, he likes the old-school superhero called Superior. Superior is pretty much an analog for Superman and even possesses the majority of Kal-El’s powers. Simon’s only friend Chris thinks Superior is lame and in the opening pages of the first issue compares Superior to “a boy scout” and bemoans that they should have snuck into the “Statham movie” instead of seeing the latest film outing for this character; Superior 5. But clearly, Superior is the only hero for Simon. Mark Millar, the writer of the series clearly agrees with the sentiment of his main character as he told comicbookresources.com back in October:
I always liked both Batman andSuperman…but I liked Superman more. I just never seemed to identify with the guy who was more fucked up. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t really like that. I wasn’t a particularly dark character, even as a teenager. I was always in a pretty good mood, so I wasn’t drawn to those personalities.
By the end of the first issue Simon Pooni is visited by what can only be described as a space monkey who tells him he can grant him one magic wish. Simon naturally wishes to become his hero Superior, and in a flash, he literally is! This is where the series really starts to get good, because of course the first thing Simon/Superior does is fly over Chris’s house because he is like TOTALLY freaking out. Here, the juvenile dialog ala’ Millar’s Kick-Ass really shines. There’s something great about seeing a totally buff caped superhero sitting on the ledge of a kid’s window, looking at that kid and saying, “I think I’m in deep shit.”
The Superior series is pervasively good. Like a song by The Smiths, it has a catchy hook, but when you really start to listen to the words, you realize there’s a lot more going on than the flashy premise. Just the imagery of a disabled child being trapped inside the body of a literal superhero is probably enough to make those of us who don’t have hearts of pure evil get a little weepy. But this concept too has its roots in Superman stuff as apparently Millar was inspired by the heroic photographs of the late Christopher Reeve, via comicbookresources.com:
I looked at the covers of all the newspapers. It was very moving. They’d all say, ’Christopher Reeve Dead’ or ’Superman Actor Dead’ and have a photo of him in his wheelchair next to a photo of him as a very potent and healthy Superman. I thought how powerful an image that was, and it stuck with me.
So eventually, Simon gets a hold of his powers, and though he’s having a hard time dealing with the fact that he now looks like Tad Scott (the actor who plays Superior) he starts doing superhero stuff in issue three. My favorite scene here is when he drags a malfunctioning submarine onto shore, gasping for breath and saying, “Could somebody get me a Coke please?...Seriously man. I could really use that Coke…I’ve been dragging this thing for twenty minutes.”
This is where the meta-fictional magic of the series really shines. Simon is both Superior, and Superior’s secret indentify, which in this case is a 12-year old boy. The series is six issues long, with only the first three out now. What’s in store for Superior/Simon is at this point totally unclear. In fact, the end of issue 3 teases us that the space monkey might not have been a good guy after all.
With tips of the hat to great meta-fiction like Galaxy Quest and The Purple Rose of Cairo, while at the same time combining Millar’s ability to ground super-heroics in relatable human characters, this series is highly entertaining.
Now we have to just wait and see what happens next…
Ryan Britt’s writing has appeared here, onNerve.com, Clarkesworld Magazine, Opium Magazine and elsewhere. When in junior high in the 1990s, he wrote a piece of fan fiction in which it turned out Spock’s katra also was stored in the body of a kid in junior high.