Episode 142: Superman’s Funeral Marred by Inconsistent Robins

I’m still with the funeral part of this epic Superman storyline and so much is left to go. But hey at least it sounds pretty smart so far so that’s something.

While Superman the character was gone, Superman the text would continue to be serialized. Titles like “Action Comics”, “The Adventures of Superman”, “Superman: The Man of Steel”, and the simply titled “Superman” continued to be published as they already had been to continue the story of the aftermath of the iconic hero’s death. DC published eight installments depicting Superman’s funeral between the four titles known as “Funeral for a Friend”. It is in this miniseries that one notices an artistic and stylistic mismatch between installments. You see, each of these titles have a different writer, artist, letterer, penciller, inker, and colorist with the only position in common between the four documents being the editor, Mike Carlin. “Superman: Man of Steel #20 aka Funeral for a Friend #3” has various DC heroes come to attend Superman’s funeral and burial, including an adult muscular Robin who helps save Jimmy Olsen from some Mafioso style extortionists. The next installment in the chronology of Superman’s narrative “Superman #76 aka Funeral for a Friend #4” now has a much younger and less imposing Robin with much shorter hair. Even with a possible haircut, the latter depiction of Batman’s sidekick is noticeably more timid as his brief appearance consists of him thinking “I liked him too, but I’m afraid that if I say anything I’ll sound like an idiot!” (256). It is in this contrast that textual fluidity becomes apparent. With the text of Superman being divided by four groups undergoing the same authorial performances, there are going to be minor differences in the way these are done even as the narrative progression is uniform and planned out. Close readings of minute details in the art and lettering reveal that the depictions of these characters and their language changes ever so slightly between the four titles but not in a way that is as readily apparent as the Robin example from above. In short, corporate authorship requires that different artists and writers be employed to uphold the authorial performances necessary for narrative production to continue. Serialization at a weekly rate of publication required that multiple documents, each with its own team but with common editors, be ready without necessarily having full knowledge of every detail of previous and future installments. In the case of Superman, especially within this storyline, finding an error is rare but when one exists it sticks out. While narrative production may be the labor of the writers and artists following the broad strokes of the executives’ creative direction, it is the editors that take on the authorial performance of ensuring that all the pieces between installments and documents flow and do not disrupt continuity.

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