In another L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog exclusive, we’ve managed to get our hands on J. Michael Straczynski’s pitch for his new Superman arc, Grounded. It is printed here in it’s entirety*.
The protagonist is freewheeling reporter Clark Kent, nicknamed “Superman.” The character’s name refers to Clark Gable and Kent Taylor.
Exiting a congressional hearing about the “Hundred Minute War,” he is confronted with the notion that he has grown disconnected from everyday Americans he has been committed to watching over, and doesn’t truly know what his adopted people are like anymore. Feeling a responsibility to his adopted homeland, he begins a long journey where he will walk across the United States to reconnect with the everyday people he is committed to protecting.
During his trip he meets and has a meal with a rancher, whom he admires for his simple, traditional farming lifestyle. Later, he meets a hitch-hiker who agrees to take him to his commune, where he stays for a day. Life in the commune appears to be hard, with hippies from the city finding it difficult to grow their own crops in a dry climate with poor soil. At one point, he witnesses a prayer for blessing of the new crop, as put by a communard: A chance “to make a stand,” and to plant “simple food, for our simple taste.” The commune is also host to a traveling theater group that “sings for its supper” (performs for food). The notion of “free love” appears to be practiced, with two women seemingly sharing the affections of the hitch-hiking communard, and who then turn their attention to Clark. As the reporter leaves, the hitch-hiker gives Clark some LSD for him to share with “the right people.”
While attempting to eat in a small rural Louisiana restaurant, the his appearance attracts the attention of locals. The girls in the restaurant want to meet him and travel with him, but the local men and police officer make mocking, racist, and homophobic remarks. One of the men menacingly states, “I don’t believe he’ll make the parish line.” Clark leaves without eating and makes camp outside of town. The events of the day cause him to comment: “This used to be a hell of a good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.” He observes that Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it.
In the middle of the night, the local men return and attempt to brutally beat Clark with baseball bats while he is sleeping. He sleeps through the attack.
Clark continues to New Orleans and finds a brothel. Taking prostitutes Karen and Mary with him, Clark decides to go outside and wander the parade-filled street of the Mardi Gras celebration. They end up in a cemetery, where all three ingest LSD. He does not experience a psychedelic bad trip.
Making camp afterward, Clark declares: “I blew it.” He realizes that his search for everyday people was a spiritual failure. The next morning, he continues his trip when two hillbillies in a pickup truck spot him and decide to “scare the hell out of him” with their shotgun. As they pull alongside Clark, one of the men lazily aims the shotgun at him and threatens and insults him by saying “Want me to blow your brains out?” and “Why don’t you get a haircut?” The hillbilly fires at Clark as he speeds by. The story ends with a shot of Clark standing, suit shot and ripped, with his Superman uniform underneath. A single tear rolls down his cheek. His journey has ended.