[Another thread in our Morrison Reading Project.]

 

The over-arching plot of All-Star Superman truly kicks off when Superman goes to the rescue of a spaceship on a mission to capture some of the Sun's molten substance and bring it back to Earth. Morrison names the ship the Ray Bradbury, in honour of the author of the classic Golden Age sci-fi story "The Golden Apples of the Sun" which describes a similar mission. This story is a key reference point for All-Star Superman and sheds some light on its mythic content. 

 

 

On the one hand Golden Apples of the Sun is typical of classic sci-fi in that it describes what such a futuristic mission might be like "in all reality" and the challenges which the physics of it would entail.  On the other, it is a beautifully poetic meditation on the Sun's place in our imagination and stories, its benevolence and its fierce power.  Bradbury is a fantastic writer, and it's a must-read. 

Here's a taster:

 

Their rocket was the Copa de Oro, also named the Prometheus and the Icarus, and their destination in all reality was the blazing noonday sun. In high good spirits they had packed along two thousand sour lemonades and a thousand white-capped beers for this journey to the wide Sahara. And now as the sun boiled up at them they remembered a score of verses and quotations:

"‘The gold apples of the sun’?"

"Yeats."

"‘Fear no more the heat of the sun’?"

"Shakespeare, of course!"

"‘Cup of Gold’? Steinbeck. ‘The Crock of Gold’? Stephens. And what about the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end? There’s a name for our trajectory, by God,. Rainbow!"

"Temperature?"

"One thousand degrees Fahrenheit!"

 

I originally posted this Bradbury connection because of a reading of Golden Apples on a digital radio station, but now that that's not available, hmmmm, let's just say, someone should inform the Bradbury estate that it's very easy to google the story these days...

 

(Incidently, the second Bradbury story on that program, The One Who Waits was adapted, knowingly or not, into a Youngblood story by Alan Moore.  Perhaps it was an homage rather than a steal?)

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Thanks for the tip! I'll try to give it a listen tonight or tomorrow!
Since I've gone and made Bradbury's Golden Apples of the Sun central to All-Star Superman, I might as well throw in a link to the Yeats poem the astronauts in the story refer to - The Song of Wandering Aengus. Its closing lines supply the title of Bradbury's story:

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.


Here's a wonderfully Romantic and evocative rendition of Yeats' poem set to music by yet another, slightly more modern Irish bard. (Donovan also did a version of the poem)

I like that 3 of the sun-quotes that Bradbury refers to in the lines above are Irish, but the Golden Apples of the Sun exist in stories all the way from Viking through Celtic Mythology down to Greek mythology and beyond. They're a potent symbol of the sun's blessings.

The Sun and its warm blessings are of course central to All-Star Superman, and our Kryptonian hero is constantly linked to it, making him the latest in a long line of benevolent Sun-Gods that we Earth people have looked to. The first image in the great 4-panel origin that kicks off the book is of the swollen, cooling red giant that shines on doomed Krypton. At first I thought Morrison might have changed the origin itself to an exploding sun rather than an exploding world, but that picture of the giant exhausted form of 'Great Rao' is enough.

Isn't it interesting that "Great Rao", Superman's frequently invoked protective diety, is a Sun-God? I know that Gaiman links the name Great Rao to Krypton's Red Sun, but I wonder how long this has been part of Superman canon? For that matter, how long has Rao been the name of Krypton's sun?

As well as beginning with the image of a sun, and fueling the central plot of Superman getting over-charged with the Sun's energy, the whole series ends with the image of Superman working away at the heart of our Sun, awaiting his time to descend amongst us again.

To aide Figsarello in his quest to read all things Grant Morrison, I just finished All-star Superman volume 1. Hope to start on volume 2 soon.

 

I don't plan to go into too much story detail, but I'll issue the standard spoiler warning...just in case.

 

Please, if you've read All-star Superman before or haven't feel free to comment.

 

First, I'll give my background on Supes. I like the character but never read many of his comics. The era I read most was during his death and return, when there were four "Supermen" running around. Ah, the 90s. I also watched a lot of the old show on Nick at Night when I was a kid. I only saw the Christopher Reeve movie once during childhood. I was much more interested in Batman, and truth be told, still am.

 

My experience with Morrison has always been hit and miss. I tend to like his more straightforward tales like Batman & Robin or New X-men. Final Crisis lost me. I had heard so many good things about All-star Superman, I wanted to try it.

 

So the verdict so far, I love All-star Superman.

 

I was honestly not aware how this was going to read. I knew it was a finite series and not set in regular DC continuity. I wasn't sure if it was going to start as an origin or continue, start in the middle of Supes's career, or just tell one-shot stories from various points in his career. I was surprised to find this is one huge Superman story, set at the end of his career!

 

I find it interesting that for the task of telling a contempary Superman story, sort of like Marvel's Ultimate Universe, Morisson decides to tell the story of Superman's end. I like this concept. It cuts to the core of the character. How will he act or what will he do, now that he knows he's going to die? As we read on we slowly find out.

 

During the cours of this heroes journey we see some new takes on familiar Superman concepts. I liked this take on his Fortress of Solitude. I always thought of Superman has just the strong man. Not dumb, mind you, just not super intelligent. However, that is thrown out. We see that he has invented many things such as robot assisstants. Forgive me is this has been done before. Like I said I'm not overly familiar with Superman's past.

 

Back to Superman's eventual death. We get hints that he's had plenty of adventures and done a lot of things. We also learn in the opening chapter that Lex Luthor had the world fooled until his plan to sabatoge a mission to the sun in foiled. What this does is cut out going through an origin or rehashing a familiar tale. Morisson gives us a new story. Sure we see some old stuff from the past a lot if it feels fresh. Instead of another origin or hip retelling of the same old story we get Superman's death. He has a limited time to set things straight before he's gone. Everthing we see is now from the point of view that Superman won't be around forever. In return it provides a more gripping and moving story.

 

I'll fnish my thoughts for now. Feel free to chime in.

I like Morrison well enough, I just don't get my pom-poms out like Figs, and Jeff do for him. I think he has his hit and misses like everyone else. Now this series I absolutely loved. It was one of the series I pointed to my friends who got back into comics around this time. My only real problem with the book was its irregular shipping schedule. But hey it blew All-Star Batman out of the water as far as that is concerned. That was my only quibble with it. Outside of that, truly wonderful.

However, that is thrown out. We see that he has invented many things such as robot assisstants. Forgive me is this has been done before. Like I said I'm not overly familiar with Superman's past.

No worries, Jason. A lot of the stuff done here by Morrison is a retread of the Silver Age material. Including the Superman robots.

Isn't it interesting that "Great Rao", Superman's frequently invoked protective diety, is a Sun-God? I know that Gaiman links the name Great Rao to Krypton's Red Sun, but I wonder how long this has been part of Superman canon? For that matter, how long has Rao been the name of Krypton's sun?

I had some free time, so I did a little research. Rao started to become part of Superman's vocabulary during the '70s. Rao was named as a Kryptonian god in the Super Friends comic of all things, and then was adopted into the mainstream DC universe in the Phantom Zone mini. Although in the Krypton Chronicles which came out a year earlier than the Phantom Zone he was named "he who ignited the sun", by E. Nelson Bridwell, so I would give him the credit for planting that seed.

...My odd experience here is that I bought every issue , in comic-book form , for maybe 8 , 9 , 10?? issues...Then , lost track & missed the ending for a long while , finally getting only the very wrap-up , #12?? , belatedly .

  Pshheeesh:-( .

...Somehow , I seem to recall " Grat Rao !!!!!!!!! " being an ejaculation in the mainline Super-titles well before the PZ mini...I was out of comics , really , when that mini happened and I tend to think it was in the Supes comics by the mid-70s (I basically was out by the time of the Super Friends scomic book , too .) .

  Now , perhaps I'm wrong . I don't know .

Travis Herrick said:

I like Morrison well enough, I just don't get my pom-poms out like Figs, and Jeff do for him. I think he has his hit and misses like everyone else. Now this series I absolutely loved. It was one of the series I pointed to my friends who got back into comics around this time. My only real problem with the book was its irregular shipping schedule. But hey it blew All-Star Batman out of the water as far as that is concerned. That was my only quibble with it. Outside of that, truly wonderful.

However, that is thrown out. We see that he has invented many things such as robot assisstants. Forgive me is this has been done before. Like I said I'm not overly familiar with Superman's past.

No worries, Jason. A lot of the stuff done here by Morrison is a retread of the Silver Age material. Including the Superman robots.

Isn't it interesting that "Great Rao", Superman's frequently invoked protective diety, is a Sun-God? I know that Gaiman links the name Great Rao to Krypton's Red Sun, but I wonder how long this has been part of Superman canon? For that matter, how long has Rao been the name of Krypton's sun?

I had some free time, so I did a little research. Rao started to become part of Superman's vocabulary during the '70s. Rao was named as a Kryptonian god in the Super Friends comic of all things, and then was adopted into the mainstream DC universe in the Phantom Zone mini. Although in the Krypton Chronicles which came out a year earlier than the Phantom Zone he was named "he who ignited the sun", by E. Nelson Bridwell, so I would give him the credit for planting that seed.

Yeah that is what I was saying, Superman was saying "Great Rao!" in the '70s for their sun. The god aspect is what came around later.

I was actually a Superman fan for a long time, but had been away when this came out. Of course one of the great advantages of it is the fact that it is free standing (even though it's full of Silver Age references if you know them). I loved the first collection, but found the second one a bit unfocused. That's my memory at the time, anyway. The same irregularity that afflicted the monthly schedule also caused a considerable delay between the two collections, so that may be part of the problem.

I didn't read this until the entire series had been collected into trades. Based on the comments above, I'm glad I did. It seems that with Superman that there may be only one or two must-read stories every 10 years, but this is definitely one of them. I would highly recommend it for a non-comics fan. Not much holds it back. I found Grant Morrison's script to be a little too exposition-y in places, then not enough in others. But that's pretty typical for me with Morrison. And then there's Frank Quitely's art. Despite not being overly concerned about deadlines, it seemed like it took him a few issues to get his Superman on model. That surprised me, especially on a standalone story like this. Also, his ugly/beautiful (or is it beautiful/ugly) version of Lois did little for me. In Chapter 3, I couldn't buy into two historical strongmen competing for her with any seriousness.

Looking forward to this conversation ...

As I recall, there's an issue of Super Friends with Doctor Mist which has a bit where he talks about God being known by many names. The heroes use various names; Superman says "Rao". My recollection is when I saw the issue new I already knew Rao was a Kryptonian name for God. It might've earlier turned up in clearly religious contexts in the Untold Tales of Krypton series. We've discussed this before but I can't remember if we pinned it down.

Here is the conversation about great Rao and the sun imagery.

 

In a rush now, but just to give you all some points to think about regarding Morrison's finely honed craft in this series:

 

Rah, Rah, Rah!!

And here is Rao's first mention, given by yours truly!

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