Gregg Easterbrook Totally Gets Comic Books Wrong

Superman in Action ComicsI hate when people accuse comic books of doing something they aren’t simply because they didn’t bother to check. Case in point, ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook in his most recent TMQ comic rails against comic book reboots, arguing that “there’s commercial incentive to reboot.”

He then goes on to make a specious argument, claiming that today’s heroes are “too powerful” and that turns off readers. His examples are simply untrue. Easterbrook claims, “Superman can travel at warp speed, go backward in time, push entire planets.”

Superman can’t do any of those things. He hasn’t been able to since the 1986 reboot of the character in John Byrne’s Man of Steel. That series was all about taking Superman’s powers down a few pegs after writers of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s had poured on power after power turning Superman into a demigod. If Easterbrook had made this critique in 1986, it might be valid, but it hasn’t been an accurate description for a quarter of a century.

And the upcoming reboot of Superman, from all indications, is going to be even less powered than the current incarnation.

His other assertion is even more dubious. Easterbrook says Batman “can fly using his cape” and can ” lift three times his body weight.” While I am not as much a Batman fan as Superman, Batman has never been able to fly — cape or not. Simply hasn’t happened. He has used it to glide from time to time, but he’s used his cape in that manner since the very first appearance of Batman.

Batman has always been depicted as the upper limit of human ability, trained to perfection. He’s never had powers for any serious amount of time, and especially in the last few decades he’s been rooted in more reality than most superheroes (that has been the theme of all the Christopher Nolan Batman movies).

The comic books Easterbrook complains about in this piece don’t exist anywhere but in his own mind.