This is a sort of “pilot” idea for something I may do nextyear. It is just an experiment; let me know how you like it.

I have spent lots of time talking about the things I lovedwhen I was a kid. Sitcoms, movies, etc. The one thing I have neglected is comicbooks. And I really loved comic books! Well, DC Comics anyway. I have alwaysput off discussing them for a couple reasons. One is that there are severalpeople who already do; at least with sitcoms I have my own little corner. Theother reason is I stopped reading comics a long time ago, and was afraid peoplewouldn’t be all that familiar with the stuff I liked.

However I have come to realize that may be misguided, and Iam also missing a chance to educate the younger folks on stories from the erawhen I loved comics (what age is the 80’s, Bronze?). I had a similar experiencewith the older 70’s books which I eventually discovered and even like. So todaywe are going to look at one of my favorite mini-series. Next summer everyone islooking forward to the new Man of Steel movie. However, The Man of Steel Iremember was a landmark mini-series back in 1986.

 

This was the John Byrne re-launch which recreated the concept of Superman, and created the character I learned to love. If you readthe pre crisis Superman stories he is a bit arrogant and was to powerful. Imean he hopped galaxies and broke the time barrier without any effort atall!  Byrne gave us a humanized anddepowered hero, and a much more likable character. He also gave us a living Maand Pa Kent, no more Superboy, a strong and independent Lois Lane, a Lex Luthorwhich was a rich billionaire not a mad scientist, a Batman who did not entirelyget along with Superman, a Clark who was not a massive wimp because he was thereal person and Superman the disguise, and a Superman who acknowledged hisKryptonian heritage but embraced his humanity first.
Now I need to come clean, I was a dumb kid and had no ideathis was going on. I do vividly remember seeing the comic and looking throughit. But it really wasn’t until I read Superman #2 that I was really on board. Iwent back to see what I missed..and wow!
Let’s talk a closer look at these six issues.

Issue #1


STORY-This is the first issue and right away we can seechanges. We get a sterilized Krypton where we find the planet is exploding dueto the way the inhabitants have kept it. Knowing of the peril, Jor-El launcheshis only son to Earth.  Another changehad Jor-El launch a gestation chamber not a newborn child, Kal El was not bornuntil it was open, on Earth. We flash forward to Clark, age 18, singe handedlywinning a football game. It’s here that his father decides to tell him thetruth. The story of how Superman was found in a rocket was pretty much thesame, of course leaving out the part where the Kent’s die. Having the parentsdie worked for Batman, but for Superman? Better to have them alive. Clarkdecides to strike out and use his powers for the benefit of others. However,his first public appearance where he saves a space plane which happens to havea certain reporter board does not go well. The public suddenly beg him forthings, and his appearance seems to have brought out the worst part of people.Pa comes up with the solution, a way for Clark to function in normal life andoperate as a hero. He will wear a disguise as Clark Kent, and when he is savingthe day he will wear the red and blue uniform…of Superman!

OPINION-Fantastic first issue! This is a solid origin, and Ican’t find any fault with it. It sets everything up and even leaves somecliffhangers for future issues. Aspects of this story, like the space plane,seem to always reappear in origin stories told after this which is a credit tothe writing here. Also, I don’t usually care much about art work. It would haveto be really bad to bother me, and really good to impress me. However, theartwork here is just beautiful!

ISSUE #2


STORY-Lois Lane is ordered to find out who the new mysteryman is flying over the city. While Superman starts to make his presence known,Lois is unable to catch him. So she lures him in for an interview. She gets thestory, but is shocked to discover someone else beat her to it! Who? A newreporter named Clark Kent.

OPINION-This is not a strong follow up to the first issue, Iadmit it. Partly because we already met Lois in issue #1. We also don’t learnvery much about her here aside from how aggressive she can be, she is more of apest than the strong woman she would be later on. The first half is Loischasing Superman through the city and except for some hints about Luthor itreally isn’t interesting. The Superman stuff is fun, it’s always nice to seehim battle dumb crooks that don’t stand a chance against him. The ending iscute but I never agreed with Byrne’s decision to make Lois and Clark adversaries.They are supposed to be in love, and I could understand them not being friendsat first but having Lois outright hate Clark was too much, and thankfully itdidn’t last very long. Not a bad intro to the new Lois I guess.

ISSUE #3


STORY-In Gotham City, Batman is in pursuit of a criminaluntil he is diverted by Superman. Convinced that Batman is a criminal, Supermanarrives to arrest him. However, Batman manages to convince Superman they are onthe same side, but Gotham is not Metropolis and requires a different approach.After helping Batman capture a villain named Magpie, Superman decides while hedoes not agree with Batman’s methods Gotham is a different kind of city and mayneed someone like Batman to defend it.

OPINION-This is a great story, and unlike the Lois and Clarkthing having Batman and Superman not be close friends doesn’t seem as odd. Ofcourse it didn’t last, but it was still a nice touch. They are very differentand it makes sense they would agree with each other’s methods. The end of thestory has Batman pondering how in another reality, he may have called Supermanfriend. Nice nod to previous continuity. The villain Magpie is also reallygood, she is given a strong backstory and you almost feel sorry for her in theend.

ISSUE #4

Story-After we establish how much Lois hates Clark 18 months after beating her out theSuperman exclusive, they are off to Luthor’s yacht. We finally meet Luthor, andseveral things are established. He is the most powerful man in Metropolis, andhe has eyes for Lois. The yacht his hijacked but Superman swoops in to save theday. All seems good until Luthor reveals he knew the hijacking could happen,and let it play out to see what Superman could really do…putting innocents atrisk in the process! The guests are shocked, including the mayor who ordersSuperman to arrest Luthor. Luthor insists that he can’t be arrested because heis the most powerful man in Metropolis. In response the mayor says Luthor isnot, not anymore.

Opinion-Awesome issue! I think the biggest and best changeByrne came up with was changing Luthor from being a mad scientist. As it’s beenpointed out by others, it never really made sense. Luthor would just show upevery week with a new invention to kill Superman, lose and end up in jail. Alsothe silver age motivation for Luthor hatred of Superman was lame. Here it makessense; Luthor can’t accept that Superman could have all that power and use itfor others rather than himself. He is determined to prove Superman is a fraudand destroy him. This leads right into the next issue.

Issue #5

Story-In yet another attempt to destroy Superman, Luthormanages to create a duplicate of Superman. However, his alien cell structuredoes not hold up and the duplicate fails immediately. Awhile later, theimperfect duplicate appears in Metropolis. While Superman contends with that,we are introduced to Lois’s sister Lucy who has been blinded by a carjacker.Lana and the imperfect Superman form a connection when they encounter eachother, and in the end when it is made known that dust from the creatureimproved Lucy’s eyesight,  the imperfectSuperman slams himself into Superman causing enough dust to form whichcompletely cures Lucy. Superman is left to wonder, did the imperfect double dothat intentionally?

Opinion-This is a solid story, though it kind of feels outof place in this mini-series. It is almost as if they needed a story to roundout the six issues so decided to do Bizarro (the name is never used in thestory, Lex almost utters it). That doesn’t take away from the story, which isreally good. The coolest thing in the issue is the first page. We see Supermanapparently clutching Luthor in his silver age war suit, but on the next page wesee it is someone else wearing the suit while Luthor sits calmly behind a deskdenying any knowledge of the attack on Superman. Just a great way to show thechange in this Luthor, he is not going to attack Superman directly but send outagents to do the work for him!

Issue #6

Story-Superman returns to Smallville where he is happy to bereunited with his Ma and Pa. While there two remarkable things happen. First,he encounters his old friend Lana Lang. Back in issue #1 it is teased thatClark needs to speak with someone before he leaves for Metropolis. That personwas Lana, who he revealed his identity to. He then few off, shattering her illusionthat they may marry one day. Lana was angry, but has accepted and even likesher role as Superman’s best friend. The other thing that happens is Clark comesinto contact with Jor-El via holographic image. The image communicates a ton ofdata to Clark at once, including the fact that Clark is not from Earth. A facthe never considered! He flies off and realizes while his heritage is alien, hisbirthright is humanity. As he stands on a mountaintop he realizes that whileKrypton made him Superman, it was Earth which made him human.

Opinion-They changed Lois and Lana so neither would spendtheir time chasing after Superman’s identity. For Lois, she never evensuspected there was a secret identity.  For Lana, it’s because Clark reveals hissecret to her. I never liked Lana pre-crisis, but I liked this version. What’swrong with Superman having a best friend from home? The only problem with theirwhole scene in this is that DC undid it later in the Millennium mini-series,but that is a loonnng story. As for the rest, we needed to see Superman finallybecome aware of his Kryptonian heritage, and it is done very effectively here.And for those who may be wondering, Kryptoinite is not established untilSuperman #1 which followed this mini-series which is another long story. Greatissue and very strong way to end this mini-series.

Final Thoughts-What else can I say? Not only was this miniseries extremely popular, but the origin stayed intact for almost twenty yearsafter. It was finally wiped out by more modern stories (and of course thatawful re-boot last year). But this is one of my favorite trade paperbacks and I will always cherish these stories.This is the Superman that I loved and nothing is going to take that away.

Well, that’s it for me. Like I said this was just anexperiment, let me know what you think and maybe next year I will do more ofthese.  Oh, and I am still not sure whatto call these so any suggestions on that would also be appreciated.

By richb

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