Humanity, Heroism, and Action:

Grant Morrison’s Action Comics #7

After a two issue break, Superman is back to battle the Collector of Worlds and save Metropolis. Strapping an oxygen tank to his back, Superman is going to leap into space to reach the Collector of Worlds. General Lane has his doubts and mentions that Superman must “accelerate to 25,000 miles per hour” and that he has “never been recorded at more than 600 m.p.h.” to which Superman replies, “I never had to run faster until today.” Superman’s abilities are put to the test here and this conversation with General Lane shows that Superman can do anything with the proper motivation. He has never had to move faster than 600 m.p.h., but now that the occasion calls for it, then he can do it. In a sense, the only limitations that Superman has are the ones that he places upon himself. Once he changes his mindset, then he is able to achieve impossible abilities.

Dressed in a white Superman shirt, jeans, and work boots, Superman makes the impossible jump into space and then once in space, he takes another leap off of a satellite for Glen Glenmorgan’s company, Galaxy. The action continues as Superman breaks into the Collector’s ship, battles Terminauts, and races through the hallways of the ship like a beam of light. Finally, he discovers the collection of worlds and clothing from his home world of Krypton. If we are to consider Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, then Superman is crossing the threshold and becoming the hero he was meant to become. The white shirt gives Superman an angelic look as he crosses the heroic threshold from folk hero to all-out Supergod. He is leaping upward to the heavens to save the people of Metropolis by doing battle with a dark collector god.

The Collector establishes itself as an interstellar god as he explains some of his backstory to Superman.  “On Yod-Colu we began as C.O.M.P.U.T.O. On Noma they called us Pneumenoid. On Bryak: Mind 2. On Krypton – - where you were born – - we were Brainiac 1.0 On Earth – - we were internet.” In essence, the Collector of Worlds is information and preservation, but connecting the Superman villain Brainiac and Earth’s internet is an incredibly strong statement. Morrison has had his quarrels with the Internet in the past, the most memorable being Final Crisis.

In Final Crisis, Darkseid uses all media including the Internet to spread his brainwashing message of Anti-Life all over the world. The brainwashed become stormtroopers for Darkseid known as “Justifiers” who scream out “Anti-Life justifies my hate!” or we could interpret this as “the internet empowers my anonymous hatred.” The story effectively divided the internet and Morrison responds to this division in Supergods:

One outraged reader even confidently predicted that I would, someday soon, be brought to account for the “evil” I had done. For a comics fan scorned, it seemed, the measure of evil lay not in genocide or child abuse but in continuity details deliberately overlooked by self-important writers, of plot points insufficiently telegraphed, and themes made opaque or ambiguous.

If only one-tenth of the righteous, sputtering wrath of these anonymous zealots could be mustered against the horrors of bigotry or poverty, we might find ourselves overnight in a finer world.

This is a powerful statement about the bitter hatred that pervades internet fandom and now Morrison is giving internet hatred a face by connecting it with Brainiac and the Collector of Worlds. But the comparisons don’t stop there.

Brainiac collects civilizations in glass bottles to preserve them with Metropolis having been collected along with Lois, Jimmy, and Lex inside. Both Brainiac and the vocal, critical fans on the Internet are collectors who want to protect what they love for all eternity and neither is simply happy with progress. The fans who were critical of Action Comics before it was even released – the ones who call Ma and Pa Kent’s deaths “blasphemy,” the ones who thought that Lois and Clark absolutely HAVE to be together, the ones who were petty enough to make fun of the t-shirt and jeans look – these are the Collectors of our world. These are the villains that Superman is fighting against. The “fans” who want everything to stay small and perfect forever in their tiny glass bottles rather than allowing an idea grow, change, and evolve.

How appropriate that the villain who represents the group of people who think they could write Superman better is named “Brainiac.”

The Collector of Worlds gives Superman a choice between saving Metropolis or saving the Kryptonian bottle city, Kandor. Superman refuses to choose between nature and nurture and instead takes his rightful mantle as the protector of all life. In past issues, Superman had been portrayed as brash as he threw Glen Glenmorgan off of a building or threatened to break Luthor’s neck, but this the Superman readers are more accustomed to; the hero who refuses to compromise and swears to save all life.

However, the Collector does make a compelling argument that “the pinnacle of human technological acgievement was ‘Metal-Zero,’ a weapon they made to kill you.” The only things mankind seems to be able to successfully create are weapons and even those aren’t enough to beat Superman. Again, Morrison’s quote of “the Bomb was an Idea. Superman, however, was a Faster, Stronger, Better Idea” seems to apply here, but the Collector is arguing that because mankind can’t make a bomb better than Superman that they don’t deserve to live.

Going back to Campbell’s monomyth, Superman is being offered the chance to turn his back on being a hero, but he chooses his destiny and in the end, he is rewarded with his ultimate boon which is an indestructible Kryptonian costume to replace the clothing that was torn on journey to the Collector’s ship. Readers criticized Superman’s t-shirt and jeans look and still other criticized his armored look as well. It seems that in the New 52, fans couldn’t be pleased one way or the other with his costume. Instead, like the Collector, they wanted things to remain forever unchanged. Both versions of Superman’s new costume have significance, however.

The t-shirt and jeans costume instantly puts Superman into the more realistic folk hero idea that Morrison was going for at the start of his run. At the launch of the new Action Comics, it was essential for Superman to seem more relatable, and now that some time has passed and Morrison is ready to explore more bizarre and wild stories, Superman’s Kryptonian battle armor becomes more essential. The armor launches Superman into a new realm of super-hero rather than keeping him as a folk hero. And a the end of the issue, as Superman finally faces the bizarre and frightening Collector of Worlds, his alien armor makes him an interstellar knight errant sent to Earth to slay the strange alien dragon that had captured people from his home world.

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Cody Walker graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelors and a Masters of Science in Education. He is the author of the pop culture website and the co-creator of the crime comic . He currently teaches English in Springfield, Missouri.

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Also by Cody Walker:

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


The Anatomy of Zur-en-Arrh: Understanding Grant Morrison\'s Batman


Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide

editor, contributor

1 Comment

  1. I admit, I haven’t really been following this series at all. But what you wrote here is really interesting. When you describe how violent and irregular Superman is at first in some previous Action Comics issues, it hearkens back to when he was first developing as a character and, of course, those war comics that have been trending in various articles on Sequart.

    But you observation about the Collector–about the Collectors–is really fascinating. I wonder how Morrison would interpret those who take those tiny collections of information and take the actual time to combine them into different and new variations and permutations. Also, I just want to add that Superman being in a ripped T-shirt and jeans as his initial costume is no less “ridiculous” as him or his Mom creating tights and a cape for him to wear off the bat. I also notice he’s wearing an oxygen mask and, it occurs to me, right now–at least in this issue–he really doesn’t know how powerful he really is, or what he can become.

    So while I have not read this series, thank you for writing this article Cody.

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