Wasted Geek

Why a killing Man of Steel can’t be Superman

by on Feb.07, 2015, under Geek Rant

Man of Steel has run its course , different people all had their critique of Man of Steel with the shocking ending where Superman snapped Zod’s neck and Warner Brothers are pretty much done filming Batman V Superman.  However this article is a new perspective with arguments that I haven’t seen used before. Let me give you a reason to read: this article explains all the reasons why the writer and director of Man of Steel either didn’t understand why Superman is Superman or they do not care about the holocaust. If you think this is ridiculous I invite you to examine my arguments. I do think that when updating a character from a previous age one should be aware of all the meaning when updating the character. If the updated character goes against the entire reason the previous incarnation existence, can he be the same character?

Interestingly, Superman was created by two Jewish men while Hitler was in power. Hitler used the Nietzschean superman to justify his acts against the Jews. Also unusual is how two Jewish friends created a character with so many traits in common with Jesus, something here doesn’t add up.

 The Meaning of Superman in the 1930’s

In the 1930’s Nietschze was famously Adolf Hitler’s favourite philosopher. The Nietzschean übermensch would now be translated as superhuman. Hitler then added the pairing concept of untermensch or subhuman.  Most philosophy students are encouraged to ignore the similarity in name between Superman and the Nietzschean superman. Hitler had two big buzzwords, übermensch and herrenvolk. Most often when translated to english both get translated as master race, which is inaccurate. The nazis were already the master race by being Aryan. As in the people capable and therefore entitled to rule over weaker peoples. But they were striving to become better, to become the übermensch/superman. While now we refer to the Nietzschean superman for the philosophical idea, before the character Superman usurped it’s meaning it was only referenced to as superman, as we can hear the Nazi soldiers sing in the Donald Duck cartoon.

Closest to my theory is Brian Overland. Adam Barkman also comes close in saying that Superman was a deliberate attempt to subvert the meaning of Übermensch, despite him still missing that Superman turned into a Christlike figure while being created by the Jewish friends. But where Brian Overland says that Superman and übermensch are near opposites, I claim Superman is the intentional and complete opposite. A small distinction but I do feel it needs to be expanded upon to explain why Man of Steel fails to portray Superman.

Americans did know a lot about the situation in Nazi Germany through several correspondents like Edgar Mowrer for the Chicago Daily News. Who tried hard to warn people about Hitler and took his threat quite seriously.

Three big signals of the oncoming horribleness in the 1930’s would be Hitler adding untermensch / subhuman alongside übermensch / superhuman. If they removed the subhumans then they created the ideal environment for the superman to evolve. But the final nail in the coffin of some really threatening foresight would be that Nietzsche (upon which Hitler greatly influenced himself) said that conventional morality was invented by weak people to hold strong people back,

“Jesus is the culmination of this inversion of values. The victory of Christianity is the ultimate revenge of the weak over the strong, the slave over the noble, the priestly over the warrior.”.

So there would be no moral reasons to hold back from eliminating subhumans. All these three facts come into play concerning the comic book character Superman, who is both the most moral and the strongest.

Why would two Jewish friends feature a heroic Superman?

In the very first version of Superman before he got published, he was not heroic at all but a threatening menace. If you take into consideration that Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shushter were Jewish and that Hitler was in power, that would compel them to warn the world about Hitler’s philosophy.

On the surface it would appear the comic character Superman would be a more literal version of Nazi’s attempt at creating the superman with Superman being strong, so the character Superman fits into the philosophical concept physically. With this, people who are aware of the philosophical concept will first assume it is the Nietzschean superman. Since Krypton met it’s demise due to it being old, with the old red sun and Superman being the last son of Krypton would suggest the pinnacle of evolution. Even calling Superman the Man of Tomorrow seems to indicate the same Nietzschean idea of a better human just around the corner through evolution.

The horrible actions of Nazi Germany were justified by the notion that conventional morality was “slave morality” designed to benefit weak people by holding strong people back. The new character Superman as both the most moral and strongest character is interesting. Superman has been both really strong, lifting planets and really conventionally moral, to the point of the more classic version of Superman not even lying.

Is the character really opposite of the Nietzschean ideal?

To contemplate that the character Superman is the intentional opposite of Hitler’s interpretation of the Nietzschean superman would make sense.

Part of the oncoming evolution of Nietzsche’s hypothesized superman was the rejection of religion. With Hitler saying that the conscience is a Jewish invention and that Christianity is the heaviest blow to humanity, calling it the invention of the Jew. I cannot imagine a more powerful rejection of morality the way the allied nations perceived morality.

The opposite of that premise would be full of religion perhaps. Superman was born on a distant planet ready to explode and sent away in a space ship to go to a safe location, much like Moses was put in a basket to let him escape certain death. Superman’s adopted parents on earth were a elderly couple who despite really wanting to have kids could not conceive, just like Abraham and Sarah were an elderly couple desperate but unable to conceive. Plus Superman looks human but isn’t, then is raised by humans until he becomes an adult and finally goes out into the world to inspire it to good. Much like Jesus. The Kryptonian name Kal-El even means Voice of God in hebrew.

Zack Snyder has gone on record where he acknowledges the religious metaphors. Yet he doesn’t mention why this character would have those religious metaphors or the significance of a übermensch containing these religious metaphors.

Since the classic version of the comic book hero and arch nemesis is that the villain is the opposite of the hero. Lex Luthor has been described on more then one occasion to be the Nietzschean Superman. The classic Superman/Lex Luthor battle of brain versus brawn as a simplified childeren’s version of the battle of traditional morality and coldly calculated Nazi methods seems plausible. The hero and villain being opposites has been a feature seen in most comic books, especially that of the golden age. One might assume it grew out of the original superhero being the opposite of a real injustice in the world the two creators were worried about.

Since Hitler added the untermensch/subhuman to Nietschze’s übermensch/Super(hu)man and that Superman was originally the champion of the oppressed, with him fighting corrupt politicians, slimy landlords and wifebeaters. Conventionally this is all interpreted as Superman being like the new deal, acting like Roosevelt who introduced many benefits to the lower class at the height of the depression. But all people who oppress the underclass are taken down a notch by the opposite of an argument for lesser people.

So what was more likely the original message behind Superman? That he was created by two Jewish friends, yet eerily similar to Hitler’s reason for exterminating the Jews while containing a lot of Christ metaphors.  Most people even think that the message behind Superman was that he was really masculine. Or was the original message from two Jewish friends who saw the holocaust coming that there are no lesser people? That there is no excuse for killing, that morality is not weak. I find it really hard to fathom that the original message could be anything else when we are aware of all historical context. Perhaps they inserted so much Christ symbolism because they needed to convince a population where the majority was Christian, the most poignant link would be Nietzsche specifically mentioning Jesus as the prime example of weak over the strong.

What is significant about this concerning the Man of Steel movie:  if two Jewish friends did create Superman because they saw the holocaust coming. Then it means they saw a mass killing coming in the future, which means they knew it was wrong before it happened. Especially since one of the big themes in Man of Steel was that a good death was its own reward without Superman proving them wrong. It makes it harder to assume that the creators of Man of Steel were aware of this.

I find this point important enough to emphasize. Superman is objectively the opposite of the reasons why Hitler deemed the holocaust to be necessary. He fights for the little guy, the supposed sub human. Is himself really strong, the strongest character and defies the notion that it is okay to exterminate the sub humans because morality isn’t real by being the most moral character. Proving that morality is not used by weak people to hold strong people back. Therefore it is not a large leap of logic to say that Superman is Superman because the two Jewish friends saw the holocaust coming. The point being that if the opposite of Hitler’s philosophy is great then Hitler must be wrong and it’s not okay to exterminate people.

What other historical connections does Superman have?

We have discussed how the name Superman or even the Man of Tomorrow are references to the Nietschzean Übermensch, but what about the name Man of Steel? Superman’s original creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shushter worked on the character for almost a decade. They were still making Superman comics when they saw Nazi Germany fall. But there was still another menace at the time. Plus Stalin’s lack of care for human life was known at the time. With Superman turning into an all american hero during war time, so it might make sense to go after the next American enemy.

One might dismiss all arguments of Superman being a protest against Hitler as coincidences. Otherwise the original creators, could have been saying something about Stalin too. Since the popularity of Superman meant Nazi ideology at least in English lost the powerful name of Superman. Now we have to refer to the philosophical concept as the Nietzschean superman.

What connections could there be? Well Stalin’s original birthname is Jughashvili. With the Russian word Stalin meaning Man of Steel. How many people still think of communist might when they hear about the Man of Steel now? Also isn’t it too much of a coincidence that two of the big mass murderers of the day are being challenged by Superman, where Superman represents traditional morality. Given that there was a cold rationality to Stalin’s methods as were Hitlers.

Again to emphasize and confirm that Superman is linked to the holocaust. I need to point out that Superman with his names challenged both mass murders. Confirming that it is indeed about people philosophically dismissing morality when it came in the way of murder or might.

The first mention of Superman as the Man of Steel was early on, but subtle. It was in Action Comics #6 in November 1938. Although be it just a brief newspaper mention, the first notions of Stalin’s purges were slowly getting out.

What about the other times Superman has killed?

The most famous occasion where Superman has killed is of course Superman 2. Where Christopher Reeve killed Zod, with Zod even being powerless. There is a important history behind the filming of both Superman: The Motion Picture and Superman 2. Originally they were both shot at once, by Richard Donnor. Richard Donnor was spending too much money according to the producers. They ended up cutting the development short by one movie and just finished Superman one. But for the sequal they ended up getting a new director, they reshot a lot of footage to list the credit of the new director. Gene Hackman did not return for the reshoots.

Also actor Gene Hackman who played Lex Luthor was quite displeased with how they got rid of the old director and brought on Richard Lester. Hence Gene Hackman did not return to play Lex Luthor in Superman 3.

There is a famous scene on youtube where Zod, Ursa and Non are all escorted by artic police while Lex Luthor desperately tries to escape jail by becoming Superman’s business partner. Now this shows that in the original Donnor version, Superman did not kill Zod.

Generally it is considered that Richard Donnor understood Superman a lot better then Richard Lester. With Richard Lesters additions being mainly that suddenly Superman had new unexplained abilities in his final battle with Zod, most notably a throw away cellophane S suddenly appearing from his shield. Why shouldn’t we perceive Superman killing Zod as out of character as Superman suddenly throwing a cellophane S from his chest out of nowhere?

Could Superman do something different?

A big defense for the scene in which Superman killed Zod is of course, what else was he going to do? Superman was put into such a impossible situation! If we look at interviews with both David Goyer and Zack Snyder. We see that at first Superman was not going to kill anyone and all the Kryptonians would be sent to the phantom zone. There was no absolute need for Superman to kill but they changed it.

Instead David Goyer even specifically mentions Superman’s no killing rule as a crutch, missing the point of the character. I explained in this article that Superman exists because two Jewish friends saw a mass killing coming on and made a protest against it with Superman, usurping the meaning of the name Superman and Man of Steel in the process..

I would say that the entire point of Superman is because they saw the holocaust coming, a mass killing. They knew killing was wrong and wanted to show why it was wrong, before it all happened! This includes the next mass murderer of the period Stalin and taking his powerful name away as well.

So with writing Superman into a corner where he has no choice but to take a life, even if it is to give him a reason to hate killing goes against the entire reason of why Superman is who he is or even called Superman. Man of Steel is the first movie to set up the DC cinematic universe. But if the creators misunderstand Superman this badly there is a serious crack in the foundations.

A generous conclusion to why the writer and director of Man of Steel did this would be they either don’t know why Superman is or is even called Superman (or Man of Steel for that matter), or they find the holocaust acceptable.

Written by Win Schutten.

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Sarah’s Strafkoppie!

by on Jun.24, 2010, under Uncategorized

Together with a great team we joined forces to deliver a great casual game for dutch fans of the world cup!

Click here for the game!

We made it, hurrying to get it done in time. You can test your football tennis playing it, go to it!

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My Entry into Comic Colouring!

by on May.20, 2010, under Portfolio Content

Me and two other people have been working on some comic drawing now. Ricardo Makosi did the pencils, ink and a large part of the overall page makeup, John Kana did the coloring along with me.

We were making a comic for the Benelux Beeldverhalen Prijs (BBP) , we didn’t end up winning it. But I really think we made a comic we could be proud of and we even ended up having our work shown! You can see our work at Scryption in Tilburg!

Finally, to not let you wait, here you can read out entry. Granted though that it is in dutch.

strip

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Panzer Dragoon Saga

by on Apr.22, 2010, under Game-Play Design, Geek Rant

pds1Panzer Dragoon Saga is a rpg made for the 32-bit Sega Saturn. The machine wasn’t so successful and the game was released just as the system was being taken out of rotation. So just 1600 games were physically made. But the game is a true master piece.

There were three Panzer Dragoon games made for the Sega Saturn, the first two were on rail shooters. Where your dragon was flying in a path and you had movement within that path, shooting at everything coming at you, dodging stuff and fighting bosses. The third game however they totally changed it up and made it into a epic, elaborate role playing game.

It is a mix between real time and turn based. Like in Final Fantasy you do a action and have to wait until the bar is full before you can do another action. But in between actions you can move around the enemy, getting into a good position. Much in the spirit of the rail shooter it was in the previous installment.

pds2

It is a rpg, but although it was published in 1998 it did something brilliant, it found a way to make grinding for experience fun! I like rpg’s a lot as do many people, but would we actually go through those repetitive battles if we didn’t get the experience points? Would we fight the same monster over and over if we didn’t get the reward of our character improving?

Some positions are not safe at all and have to get out of harms way fast and other position give you the ability to shoot at a enemy weak spot. Using different combinations of enemies each battle becomes a little puzzle. You could defeat them just by standing and just brute force (if you would be able too). But you get a rating on how well you fought. Which is brilliant because it makes grinding fun!

They used this mechanic along with a way that if you let it work would also solve another problem when you combine storytelling and game-play together. Most good stories contain a little arc with a little lesson which changed at least the main character. But when you make a video-game you cannot tell the player who they are, that ruins the connection between the game and player and pulls him out if he thinks “I wouldn’t do that.”.

What this game also does though is have little letters people wrote with philosophical ideas spread out through the entire game which give you little ideas and insights which help you as a player change your ideas on what is happening as the character does as well!!

Through these two ways this game really excels in making a RPG which more then has stood the test of time. With this knowledge though it is sad that after this game got made, the team which made it split apart and could not work together anymore. They began working at other studios but they couldn’t work together, so that makes this true piece of art even more special.

pds4

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Stop Staring!

by on Mar.31, 2010, under 3d Tutorial

This post is about a book which I feel should belong to every serious 3d animator. The book I’m talking about is Stop Staring! (with exclamation mark) by Jason Osipa. I feel like I should point out to this book because it is becoming harder to buy, but definitely will give life to a animation rig which uses this.

This book is so special because it gives the reader knowledge on how to animate a face and instructions on how to create a facial animation system specifically within Maya, using just blendshapes. With the technology that has existed since the beginning of 3d you can make a dynamic system which creates all facial expressions you might wish for. In rigging circles the method this book gives you of controlling your face is referred to as the oldschool Osipa-style!

Facial expressions used to be animated using different shapes every time a character changed emotion in a scene. With this book you can create a dynamic system which will save you a ton of work. There are still a lot of shapes to be made, but it’s not easy to create all the dynamic muscle movement in the face convincingly, this is by far the easiest and best method for creating facial animation.

I will talk about concepts from the book and give examples from the pages of the book itself!

This book gives instructions on how to construct the face and head so that it deforms into the blendshapes properly, so that when a diagonal line has to form, there is a diagonal line in the face geometry. The exact instructions on how to build it might not be too useful, but it does give you a guide on how to build the geometry for all features.

Stop Staring Page 1

It also goes in-depth on how to make bump maps just when a certain blendshape is used at the same intensity of that blendshape. Not all the detail you see with facial expressions are done using geometry unless you begin to add a insane amount of detail, which will be impossible to mold into all needed different shapes. That way you can make your creases in all places where we form them to make our expression convincing.

Aside from teaching you how to animate a face for facial expressions, this book also talks about how to lip sync. How to have your animated head speak dialogue and have it appear naturally to the voice clip.

This really gives your character life because now he can talk to the audience or other characters.  By dividing the phonetic parts of a word up into wide, narrow and other shapes. It teaches you to Here is an example of that.

All put together, this book gives you a very good understanding to put together a very convincing rig for facial animation and the animation skills you need to go with it! There are gnomon or digital-tutors dvd’s, or even other books on this. But I haven’t found anything which gives you such a good understanding, giving you this many facial expressions to make all the while keeping it light and easy to follow. In comparison they scratch the surface.

This book is now getting harder to order, so get yours before it is too late! Get your copy at amazon.com.

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A Logo In 3D

by on Mar.11, 2010, under Portfolio Content

I have done a logo in 3d for a company now and I can finally reveal it to you guys!

logo

It is a logo for Cube ID. With this logo the client wanted very specific shading on the cube. Where the indirect lighting looks like detail in itself. Check out their website!

http://www.cube-id.nl/

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Concept Art Into 3d

by on Feb.12, 2010, under 3d Tutorial, Portfolio Content

With our award winning game of Qubicle Countdown we worked with concept art by Ricardo Makosi and Wilko Wanschers which we then needed to turn into 3d renders. I just wanted to talk how me and my 3d colleagues  (Chris ter Veen and Boyo Frederix) went about to turn these concept arts into usable 2d renders for our video game environment.

The First Level

img01

This was the concept art given to me and the other 3d people. The three levels made represented three different stages of success. The first stage was with a rundown office and clearly the place a unsuccessful place. We didn’t have a lot of 3d experience when we got it three years ago but I think we did a nice job to capture this in 3d. But we ended up with this.

img013d

The 3d scene had to be animatable so we didn’t make it to be exactly like the concept. But we did try to capture the spirit of it. We did that by having Loyd be clearly working hard, Jamal is relaxing and Karen is a good pr lady with her smile.

The Second Level

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This is the concept art for the second level, while the first level is meant to look rundown and not successful this is supposed to look hip and trendy.

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We had the color blue well represented in this level, together with the sky and technology as a uplifting color. Everyone now has cute office equipment. That together with the office design really gives people the impression that you are now becoming succesfull!

The Third Level

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This is the concept art of the third and final level. We’re beyond typical success of gadgets and a nice office. We are at peace. One thing we had trouble with when first receiving this illustration was that everyone was wearing something different now. Due to a deadline we weren’t able to finish the new wardrobe for people, though we did finish parts of it but that doesn’t show.

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One thing which stands out from this and that my colleague Chris ter Veen did a wonderful job on the palm trees. They really make the background green and cheerful. Everyone how has very elaborate equipment that seem to destress our employees.

One thing we did our best on was to include much of the vibe of the concept art. While we did just start out with this it is clear what the importance good design brings to a work of 3d.

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Balance of Skill

by on Dec.18, 2009, under Game-Play Design

Modern Warfare

mw2

I am currently playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. While I love the story, production values, the weapons and the whole military feel. But I never actually feel like a hero. It is very hard to walk the wrong way, there is always someone to follow. Or when you walk the environment looks very realistic, but you never walk the wrong way as long as you try to walk right.

The point I am making here is that the game makes it easy for you to know what to do and that you can start playing without a serious tutorial (the game only shows you hot to shoot for less then a minute at the start). While it makes the game easy to play, you never feel that you are a hero. You are just walking by the hand of the level designer.

GoldenEye

g64

Let’s compare this to another classic shooter, it might be a bit old but it perfectly illustrates my point. GoldenEye’s level design did something you wouldn’t expect. When they first made the 3d levels for their game, they did actually not think about game-play at all. They just made a cool base in 3d without thinking of the player. That sounds counter-productive and for some games it isn’t something you’d want to do at all. But it did accomplish something great.

The player felt like a actual hero. The game wasn’t unfair, but it also did not hand out the solution and path to the player. Thus the player had to find his way, while some paths just led to a bathroom or a office. That made the game-play fun and made the player feel heroic. That made the game-play fun despite the technical restrictions of the N64 where there were basically only corridors.

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Pixel Art

by on Dec.09, 2009, under Portfolio Content

Pixel art is the concept of making 2d graphics with a limited amount of pixels and colors to make them. They mostly used this back in the old 16-bit and 8-bit computer days. Computers weren’t yet capable of  high resolution graphics with loads of colors, but you were able to portray things graphically. Nowadays though they are mostly used for style or mobile games, where you have to keep filesize down. Even for browser flash games they are a wonderful way to keep cpu cheap pixels whilst also keeping file size down (in that sense smaller pixel images are better then full size bitmap images and vector graphics).

I did do quite well in pixel art before I went and learned 3d graphics, here are some examples of mine.

mockup

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sprite002

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It is still is a lot of fun to do, just set up some gaming music and try to make a tile of 16 by 16 pixels look like wood with 3 or 4 colors. Especially a relieve after a tough 3d project where the shadows become grainy because they don’t have enough shadow rays, or the ik handles twist in the wrong direction because of the angle they were applied at. It’s definitely a relieve to just have a few pixels. a few colors and try giving your object volume.

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Qubicle Countdown Gameplay

by on Nov.30, 2009, under Portfolio Content

The Game

In my previous post I showed you the with which me and my team won the 2007 dutch Microsoft XNA competition. But now I’d like to talk about the game play!

While I said it was based on Pipe Mania, but I’d like to go through the specifics of Qubicle Countdown.

The Game-Play

You have three workers in place. The thing is to improve communications and get the messages, whether they be e-mails, msn messages or phone calls, to one of the three workers. The connections you can make can be done with files, each having either a horizontal pipe, a vertical pipe or one of four bending pipes.

You do that by making connections. When you get that message across, that worker begins to earn you more points. Their workload is visible by the gauge below them. However when they run out of work and their gauge is at zero, they will cost you points.

A connection you made will not last forever, depending on how much it is used some will glow hot from use, if you use them again after they glow then they will either break or become narrowed. If a pipe breaks then a message going through will be lost but a narrowed pipe will just make them go slower through it. So you will be constantly busy recreating the connections

A player begins with three lives, each time a message is lost because the pipe didn’t connect a life is lost.

In the story mode the player must obtain a certain amount of points before being able to continue to the next level. But in the arcade mode here it is just to keep playing until you lose with a high score.

The Experience

Personally I really loved this way of game play, you’re constant forced to make connections in much the same way our mind works while we think. First you use just the vertical and horizontal pipes because they are easier to see, but soon you find out that when the pipes begin to break you won’t have enough replacement tiles. So you start making connections with the bending pipes.

The difficulty curve is also one which just takes me back to some old-school games. Combine that with colorful 3d animations and it is definitely a game worth making.

Now you know how the game should be played, see how it looks in action!

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