Graphic novel reviews

Superman: True Brit

Superman: True Brit

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Written by: Kim Howard Johnson, John Cleese
Art by: John Byrne, Mark Farmer
Publisher: DC Comics (US), Titan Books (UK)
First published: 2004

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Overall:





Superman: True Brit - SupermanWith John Cleese credited as co-writer of Superman: True Brit, you could be forgiven for expecting a comedy masterpiece, perhaps doing for Superman what Life of Brian did for Jesus. This is Cleese’s first credit on a comic and he’s jumped straight in at the deep end, contributing to this rewrite of the history of the Man of Steel, landing the baby Superman’s space craft in Weston-super-Mare instead of Smallville. Hilarity ensues. Or, at least, it should. But the life of Colin Clark is a mish-mash of weak Superman in-jokes and tired clichés about English conservatism.

Superman: True Brit - Colin ClarkAfter the inevitable alternative origin story, the writers turn on the British press, using Superman’s journalistic alter-ego as an ironic tool to comment on the tabloid newspaper industry’s habit of lifting celebrities to near god-like status for the sole purpose of tearing them down again. Superman’s dual identity as public figure and news reporter is an interesting dichotomy to be explored here, but it rapidly turns it into a bitter attack, pushing the caricatures too far and losing any sense of humour.

In fact, there’s barely more than a chuckle to be had in the book. The plot is weakly constructed around a concept that seems barely worth bothering with, since a British Superman probably isn’t all that much different to an American one. It’s this general lack of anything to say and a lot of pages to say it in that results in the inevitable descent into stiff upper lip and cricketing gags. Compared to an alternative-geography Superman like Mark Millar’s Soviet Red Son, this is just embarrassing.

With the artwork almost equally bland, True Brit is a patronising book that probably wouldn’t have made it past a publisher’s desk if it didn’t have Cleese’s name attached to it. And that is at least as big a travesty of our continued fascination with the cult of celebrity than the recent antics of the British press.

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By • Sep 18th, 2006

Tags: Rating • Art • 1 starsRating • Overall • 1 starsRating • Story • 1 starsFirst published • 2004Artist • Byrne, JohnWriter • Cleese, JohnPublisher • DC ComicsArtist • Farmer, MarkGenre • HumourWriter • Johnson, Kim HowardReviewGenre • SuperheroSeries • SupermanPublisher • Titan Books

2 Responses »

  1. I’m sorry that I never saw your review before now. Now it’s too late for me.

    I just read True Brit. I’d been putting it off for a while. I wish I had put it off for a while longer. This book is almost bad enough to completely turn me off from comics and Monty Python forever. The writers go to great lengths to craft what they feel is a funny story. It isn’t really that funny. What it is, however, is the single most depressing thing that I have ever read in any medium. As I read it, I kept thinking to myself, “there’s got to be some sort of redemption coming”. There wasn’t. The story is about the British tabloid press endeavoring to destroy their Superman. And guess what? They succeed!
    It’s a good thing that I’m not the Superman in this story, because I’d be sorely tempted to go on a murderous rampage. First, I’d put my fist through that smarmy grin on the face of Colin Clark’s sleazy editor. Then, I’d pull the Bat-Man’s bat out of his midsection and beat him to a bloody pulp with it. Next, I’d murder my own parents – who never cared for me, anyways. I’d follow that up by turning the duplicitous cousin of Lois Lane inside-out. Finally, I’d take my heat vision to all of the reporters in the entire British nation.
    This book not only makes me hate reporters, it makes me hate John Cleese, Britain, John Byrne, and the entire comics industry. I am so fucking pissed off right now, I don’t know how else to express it other than f************ck!!!!!!! Complete CRAP. No, it’s worse than CRAP. Heck, it’s even sub-ASS. This book should never have been written, let alone published. Why the f*ck didn’t anybody warn me? Who the f*ck thought this was a good idea? Godf*ckingdamnit.

  2. acespot – let me guess, you didn’t like the book? Several reviews seem to state that there is no difference between US and Britain [or US and Canada]; were they written by Americans by any chance?
    The obscene-laden inarticulate rant by acespot epitomizes the difference. Somehow I don’t think superheroes would be impressed by your self-obsessed rage. Those British cliches are accurate in the same way acespot’s represents the literary pinnacle of modern America.

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