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DID YOU READ

The Man of Steel or The Man of Spock?

The Man of Steel or The Man of Spock? (photo)

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Every couple of years, DC Comics refreshes their properties by updating and retelling their origins for modern audiences. In the 1980s, there was “The Man of Steel,” which re-envisioned Lex Luthor as a Gordon Gecko-ish corporate raider and Lois Lane as an independent woman with a tragic fashion sense. A few years ago, “The Man of Steel” was replaced by “Superman: Birthright,” which canonized elements of the “Smallville” television series. Just last year, “Birthright” was replaced by “Superman: Secret Origin,” a more timeless version with a distinctly old-fashioned feel. Its more timely and contemporary counterpart came out today in the form of a new graphic novel called “Superman: Earth One,” written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Shane Davis. Its major innovation? It seems to turn Superman into Mr. Spock from J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” To explain how, I’ll need to talk about the details of “Earth One”‘s plot, so please consider anything below the ad as potential spoiler territory.

One element that’s remained consistent through all the variations of Superman’s origin, from comics to radio to television to movies, is the destruction of his home planet Krypton by natural disaster. Essentially, Superman’s scientist father Jor-El is always like Al Gore: he predicts the disaster, but his warnings are met by skepticism. When he’s proven right, and the planet is destroyed, he saves his only son by sending him in a rocket ship to Earth.

Straczynski keeps most of the broad strokes, but adds one crucial distinction: in his telling, the planet doesn’t self-destruct, it’s destroyed by bitter aliens from Krypton’s sister planet Dheron. These Dheronians drill through Krypton’s surface and create an energy field in its core that destabilizes and then destroys the planet. The Dheronians had made a bargain with a shadowy figure to attain this technology; Superman’s escape from the planet as a baby broke that bargain. And so a group of Dheronians have scoured the galaxy for twenty years looking for him. “Earth One”‘s big climactic battle is between Superman and Tyrell, the evil leader of Dheronians, as the aliens launch their drills and try to destroy our planet the same way they destroyed Krypton. Superman boards a one man spaceship that he instinctively knows how to pilot and uses it to destroy the Dheronian mothership and deactivate their drills.

If you’ve seen Abrams’ “Star Trek,” the similarities should be obvious. Spock’s home planet, Vulcan, is destroyed by bitter aliens from the Vulcans’ sister race, the Romulans. These Romulans drill through Vulcan’s surface and create a black hole in its core that destabilizes and then destroys the planet. That act is the culmination of the Romulans’ lengthy hunt for Spock: they blame him for their planet’s earlier destruction, but he manages to elude them on a trip through time. And so a group of Romulans have scoured the galaxy for twenty years looking for him. “Star Trek”‘s big climactic battle is between Spock (and Captain Kirk) and Nero, the evil leader of the Romulans, as the aliens launch their drills and try to destroy our planet the same way they destroyed Vulcan. Spock boards a one man spaceship that he instinctively knows how to pilot and uses it to destroy the Romulan mothership and deactivate their drills.

“Superman: Year One” is a 125 page book. It must have taken months to write and draw. The project was announced on DC’s website in December of 2009 and who knows how long Straczynski was working on the story before then, probably long before “Star Trek”‘s release. So I’m going to give Straczynski the benefit of the doubt — as a prolific and successful writer of comics, film, and television, he’s certainly earned it — and chalk this up to an incredible coincidence. In any case, it’s far more interesting to consider what these two very similar reboots of two very different franchises say about how creators are updating decades old properities for modern audiences and tastes.

Both Superman and Mr. Spock are characters who are defined by their lack of outward definition, their blankness: Superman’s unflappable goodness and Spock’s cool, emotionless logic. These new interpretations give them both strong motivations for justice (or revenge, depending on how you see it), and reimagines them as far more aggressive, hot-tempered personalities. Apparently it’s not enough anymore for Superman or Spock to have been raised by kind, loving, and intelligent parents. In order to becomes heroes, they have to have been wronged in a significant way.

Are current audiences incapable of relating to heroes who are good simply for the sake of being good? Maybe. We live in cynical times, when we distrust our government and our leaders as a matter of course. Perhaps it’s only fitting that we would be skeptical of anyone whose motivations to do something are pure and selfless. To fight for truth, justice, and the American way, or to boldly go where no one’s gone before, you might need a little bit of a push.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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