Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven is the superhuman pop culture equivalent of your father leading you into the woods to shoot your dog that’s gone rabid. He makes you do it yourself and doesn’t even buy you a sundae after you’ve pulled the trigger.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s AAAIIIEEERRRGGHHH!
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a superhero story that looks at the Superman mythos with a coldly realistic, scientific approach and in the basest (almost most vulgar) way possible. It asks the simple question: if Superman is the kind of man any woman couldn’t help but lust over, what’s keeping him from getting laid? And if he can, what’s stopping him?
Just close your eyes and think of dead kittens or something…
I consider myself to be a moderate superhero nerd and have found myself exposed to a number of ‘grim and gritty’ iterations to iconic superheroes, most of which are, in my opinion, tired and pedantic. From Garth Ennis’ The Boys to Alan Moore’s Watchmen (two excellent examples) to the entire Image Comics run of the 90’s (worst examples), superheroes have been presented as serial killers, mad god-kings, perverts and deviants.
Man of Steel is a story that is good-natured and wants to tell the tale of Superman’s coital problems. It’s well-written, well presented and terrifying where it needs to be. Even though I am, myself, a big Superman fan, I found this to be an enjoyable read that I highly recommend.
But is this a kind of story I would like to see repeated? No. Man of Steel is so blasphemous, dark and clever that it cannot be easily reproduced and does not need to. Like Batman and right-wing extremism, the superhero does not lend itself to exposure under the harsh light of scientific fact. If anything, this short story needs to remain contained within itself as is and not reproduced or imitated.
What I’m trying to say is that ‘grim and gritty’ Superman sucks and the new movie is going to suck, no matter what the trailers and media hype say.
This nightmare generator is brought to you in…
- With brain-visuals by scifi lengend Larry Niven!
- Available on Internets near you!
- WARNING: Larry Niven, Bestsciencefictionstories.com, Rusty, Rusty’s immediate family nor the writer of this review may be held responsible for having Superman ruined for you forever. If you experience fits of night terrors or the occasional panic attack at the sight of Superman’s symbol, the DC comics logo or J.J. Abrams, please consult your physician.
Konstantine Paradias is a Greek science fiction and fantasy writer. He has a blog, called Shapescapes (shapescapes). There, you can find comic book and movie reviews, a collection of his short stories as well as lots of other (slightly unrelated) articles to while away the time. He also likes making whoosh noises with his mouth when he thinks there’s nobody looking.
For comments or plain old contact, you can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org