Monday, January 12, 2009

Cover up: Superman #416

Click to Fortress-size

I actually love the cover to Superman #416 because — at first glance — it's just so damn goofy. If you'll allow me to ooze out some fanboyishness here, that's the Superman I grew up on, and it's hard to get goofier than the chestnut of Old, Future Superman.

Just look at the guy! Apparently Old Superman still has time for crunches, but has decided to pass on the personal grooming. What's with long hair and beards being some sort of lazy visual shorthand for aging? The only thing I can think of is it being some sort of reference to Rip Van Winkle, but man, that's a stretch. Either that or elderly superheroes retire to become prospectors and cantankerous chuck wagon chefs called "Cooky."

In any case, my grandfather was in his 70s and he still shaved; c'mon, get it together, Clark.

In spite of the sheer gravitational pull of Superman's whiskers, though, this cover by Eduardo Barreto isn't bad. Visually it's fairly appealing and has depth that's conveyed with very simple points of reference. Superman is front and center, and in spite of his implied age he still cuts a very heroic, iconic figure. The folds and billows of his cape nicely cues the viewer to the icy, arctic winds blowing around the Fortress of Solitude, an idea bolstered by the dots of snow blurred across the scene.

The Fortress in the background helps give the image added that added depth I mentioned, with distance and scale suggested by the gigantic golden key that seems to dwarf Superman himself. (That key ... man, that's probably one of my favorite Superman icons. Ever.) It puts the rest of the scene in contrast, and really helps bring home the idea that — except for the bright spots of Superman and the products of his handiwork — things are getting cold and dark and lonely.

Which brings me to a final thought: It's a bit of a cliched metaphor, but I didn't get it until recently that this cover is really showing Superman in the winter of his life. After who knows how many years, things are wrapping up for the Man of Steel and ultimately this is a fairly meloncholy image. This cover is all about endings, from the chill of winter to the dark night sky, and, yes, Superman's long, gray hair and the passage of time it implies.

What do you think of this cover? Let me know in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I think of Zeus or even Saturn...

Or some Norse entity on the eve of Ragnarok...

Sea_of_Green said...

Upon first glance, I didn't think, "Old Superman" -- I thought, "HIPPIE Superman! Groovy!"

That's what I get for reading too many comic books about hippies. :-\

Maxo said...

Aw, man — now I want to see a Hippie Superman story!