How a Fan Artist Updated Superman Better Than DC Comics
The Artist shares the story behind the clever idea.
Superman might have been able to get away with using a pair of glasses and a lame haircut for a disguise for most of his career, but it’s the 21st century now and Facebook’s sophisticated face algorithm doesn’t mess around. Or at least that’s the idea behind Max Karpsten’s viral fan art featuring Lois Lane, the Man of Steel, and an innocent Facebook photo.
Karpsten, who goes by Brakken on his artist Tumblr, posted a fanart earlier this year that hit a bit too close to home for our modern times. A drawing of Lois Lane going through a Facebook photo of her and Superman, only for Facebook to correctly identify Superman as mild-mannered Clark Kent. Within hours, the post went viral, getting shares from some big names within the comic book industry.
Inverse reached out to Karpsten to get his comments on the idea behind the piece, and what the process of creating it was like.
Was there a real-life incident that spurred the idea of Facebook ruining Superman’s disguise?
The idea came about when I posted a photo on Facebook of myself pulling a rather goofy expression, and to my surprise Facebook’s recognition system still identified it as me.
Humored (and a little embarrassed), I remarked that surely with such accuracy, Facebook could also see right through Superman’s classic disguise. The comics and movies enjoy reimagining and updating elements of these characters to keep up with the contemporary world, but I hadn’t seen an instance where Clark has to deal with this side of social media. So I thought it would be fun to issue that challenge and let people ponder how he and his acquaintances might react and deal with that scenario!
How has the response been for this piece? It was shared pretty widely among comic creators and fans.
The response has been overwhelming, in so few words. I posted it late at night (in my backwards Australian timezone), and by the time I awoke the next day it had something like 10,000 shares on Facebook, and had no intention of slowing down for some time. I actually forgot to post it on my Twitter page, but the picture made its way there anyhow. It caught the attention of James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy) and Mark Millar (writer of the Kick-Ass, Civil War, and Kingsman comics) who shared it on their own pages.
I was in such shock, I don’t think I did anything on that first day but watch it hop around the internet. What was a fairly small drawing page with 600+ likes increased to 20k+ likes in a matter of hours, and currently sits at 60k+ shares and over 8 million views on Facebook alone. I really felt the impact of having so many eyes on my work in such a short amount of time. The sudden spotlight gave me a brief wave of anxiety, and I couldn’t draw anything for the rest of the week! But I am truly flattered that so many appreciated it to the extent they have, and am thankful for all the kind words I have received.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.