In light of JT’s point that having Shel Silverstein write Superman would require reanimation of the dead (and my own convoluted follow-up), I’ve decided that we at the Salad should probably abstain from enumerating the virtues of Yesterday’s authors, lest another section of this site degenerate into an ode to Melville. And until such a time as Cool World is proved true, we should also refrain from espousing the virtues of literary creations as Superman authors. Actually, the real reason why we should refrain from having fictional characters write Superman is that there is only one choice, one literary creation whose knowledge of the Man of Steel is unparalleled, and who could devise new and exciting ways to put Superman in the depths of peril.

That’s right, Batman should write Superman.

As it stands, Batman already “wrote” one of the greatest Superman stories of all-time, when, in “Tower of Babel,” Batman’s plans for disabling the JLA were discovered and used by Ra’s al Ghul [Spoiler Alert: Laim Neeson]. His plan for Superman was particularly devious, and Superman (as always) barely escaped with his life intact. [My childhood seems much lonelier in retrospect…]

But does this really qualify Batman to write Superman comics? I propose that Batman, whose general world view is almost the opposite of Superman’s, would be an excellent Superman writer. His tortured background and untapped reservoir of emotional angst have the motivational force for dozens of powerful novels. Father issues have always proved to be wonderfully motivating for a writer (Roth’s Patrimony, The Facts, and Operation Shylock; anything by J. D. Salinger who, by the way, is Thomas Pynchon), and I suspect that Batman will be similarly inspired. Indeed, this type of perspective can shed new light on the loss of Superman’s biological parents, and add to the legend.

I don’t want to dwell on this too long, because this is simply supposed to be a fun bonus edition, but there are probably those of you at home who believe that Lois Lane would be a better Superman author than Batman, especially as she has already shown her writing bonafides as the Daily Planet’s ace reporter. While each are intimate with Superman in their own way, I ultimately believe that Batman’s familiarity with the DC Universe’s plethora of supervillains and minor figures give Batman the edge.

Up next: a return to plausible if incredibly unlikely Superman authors.

Word Question of the Day

March 12, 2007

For those of you wondering whether the Word of the Day (again, take “day” liberally) could get any more pedantic….have no fear! Today your dreams have been answered! Although that depends on your definition of “answer,” as nothing in fact will be answered today.

Allow me to explain. Normally the Word columns are based on the OED, probably the best English language dictionary, the AHD, the canonical dictionary of American English, Webster’s, the grandaddy of American, and urbandictionary, for want of a better slang dictionary. All of these dictionaries are descriptive; they define language as it is, not as it ought to be. The finest prescriptive dictionary is probably Fowler’s Modern English Usage (how unbelievably nefarious of the French to best us at our own language). Fowler’s is a great reference for suffixes and prefixes, something the OED is not. I’m always upset at the number of websites that give themselves a title using the -ist noun ending, and decided to investigate the options. Although -ist words have always been common, every non-Gawker media noun named blog seems to use -ist (gothamist, chicagoist, sartorialist, et. al). Whither “-er”?

Fowler claims that -ist nouns are most correctly derived from verbs ending in “ize” or sometimes “ise.” In fact, he goes on quite a tyrannical tirade about the word “pacifist.” “Pacifist” is derived from the adjective “pacific” and should therefore be styled pacificist. As Fowler notes, there is no noun form Pacify to render “pacifize” and thus pacifist. In his words, this common shift is “no better than to change deteriorate and authoritative, as is often done by the uneducated, to deteriate and authoritive, and to acquiesce in such corruptions at a time when general education is equal to realizing their nature is to introduce a principle of swift decay into the language.” Wow! Probably the harshest words ever uttered in a dictionary.

Anyway, Fowler also notes that the word  “analyst” is the result of confusing “analyse” for an -ize/-ise verb; we should expect “analyser.” But Fowler does not explain why advertise (-ise) gives advertiser and not advertisist, a noun for which the OED, surprisingly, records no mention.

Any guesses? I have a theory that I’d be glad to share, however I promised no answers. Please leave guesses in the comments and I’ll offer my theory later. Also, if no one comments, I’ll take this as further proof that the Word of the Day feature, a fixture of this relaunch, can probably be permanently retired. A shame if you ask me. Take this as a challenge.