DC's "mistake" (I have oft heard opined) is that they rebooted some series post-Crisis but not all. I disagree with that assertion (for a couple of reasons), not the least of which is I don't believe the way they handled it was a mistake. Before I start my examination of the post-Crisis Superman in particular, I'd like to briefly touch upon how the Crisis on Infinite Earths affected certain key titles, starting with...

SUPERMAN: John Byrne's Superman reboot was certainly the highest profile one, even making the cover of TIME magazine, but I think it was a "soft reboot" at best, at least that's how it was pitched, although it did become a hard reboot eventually.

(Incidentally, the "HE'S 50!" blurb was much more impressive to me in 1986 than it is today.)

Superman was given a new origin, but the modern DC universe had been "10 years old" pre-Crisis, and it was still 10 years old post-Crisis. The Man of Steel limited series covered that gap between Superman's first appearance in issue #1 and the new Superman #1 during which all of the previously told Superman stories were supposed to have occurred. Theoretically, a reader could go from the pre-Crisis Superman #422 to the post-Crisis Superman #1 (discounting Alan Moore's out-of-continuity "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow") without missing a beat, although eventually the pre-Crisis stories were rendered "out of continuity" by newer ones.

BATMAN: "Batman: Year One" (Batman #404-407) represents what I call a "fuzzy reboot" in that he, too, was given a new origin, but this one replaced earlier continuity more quickly. Crisis really had no effect on Batman continuity... until "Batman: Year One" (which was not only post-Crisis, but post-Legends). Immediately thereafter, Batman became Batman: The New Adventures (with #408), starting with a new origin for the Jason Todd Robin.

Gone was Jason Todd's circus origin, replaced with a new "street urchin" origin. Does this mean the pre-Crisis Jason Todd stories still "happened," mentally substituting one origin for the other? Or did the "New Adventures" origin wipe the previous (blond) Jason Todd stories completely from continuity? That's why I think of "The New Adventures" (more so than "Batman: Year One") as a "fuzzy" reboot. It soon became a moot point as the character was dead by #429. 

WONDER WOMAN: Wonder Woman is the only example of a "hard reboot," wiping from continuity as it does all previous 329 issues. What makes matters slightly more problematical is that Wonder woman's origin did not take place "ten years ago," but rather she made her first appearance in "man's world" circa the post-Crisis mini-series Legends.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: You'd think removing Wonder Woman as a charter member of the JLA would be problematical, but it wasn't, really (YMMV). All that was needed was to replace Wonder Woman with Black Canary (and if you think BC couldn't possibly replace WW, it's been too long since you read those early Silver Age JLA stories). All that's required is a slight "mental rewrite" as shown in Secret Origins #32.

But again, all this has been rendered moot by subsequent revisions which have alternately restored and removed Wonder Woman's status as a founding member. (I couldn't even tell you what it is now.) If anything, in a way Crisis strengthened the JLA's place in continuity. As individual pre-Crisis Superman and Batman stories were systematically carved out of DC continuity, the JLA stories in which Supes and Bats participated still "happened." 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: Here too, as with Wonder Woman's removal from the JLA, you might think that the removal of Superman's career as Superboy from continuity entirely might prove problematical, but again I assert that it was not (and again, YMMV). Honestly, the "pocket universe" explanation was and remains one of my favorite stories from the immediate post-Crisis era, and even helps to cement those Silver Age Adventure Comics stories that much more firmly in DC continuity. And (also "again"), the question has since been rendered moot by so many revisions that I no longer know what's "officially" considered to be in continuity and what is not.

NEXT: John Byrne's 1986 Man of Steel limited series.

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"The first Silver Age Superman Omnibus is available for order on Amazon. Huzzah!"

What the wha--!? I have been waiting for this for a long time! I picked up the new Previews and Marvel catalogs just yesterday, but the DC one didn't ship. (It often lags a week if it chips at all.) There's nothing in this first volume that hasn't already been reprinted in the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow archive series, but the publication of a Silver age Superman omnibus series might mean that the logjam in cleared and perhaps we'll see a volume of unreprinted material in 2024. (2025?)

"Superman: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1 contains stories from Action Comics #241-265 and Superman #122-137."

For the record, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archive v3 left off with Action Comics #268 and Superman #139.

"...Luthor growing up (or at least spending some of his youth) in Smallville."

I liked the way Eliot Maggin handled it in Miracle Monday: Lex and Clark had grown up together in Smallville but had become so estranged due to the passage of time that, when they met as adults, they treated each other as strangers. 

I don't know this from my own experience, but I have heard that John Byrne has a somewhat contentious relationship with his fans. There is one anecdote I recall, related by Byrne himself about a condescending fan. I don't remember where I read it, but it may have been in a letter he wrote to CBG. More likely it's from one of his "A Flame About This High" columns. Anyway, it concerns the revelation that Lois Lane is an "Army brat." I thought I remembered that bit of dialogue from when Lois and Clark were jogging through the park, but that scene happened in Superman #1 and that wasn't it. I'm thinking now it might have been the scene from Man of Steel #4 I already mentioned. In it, Superman thinks, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised by her skill with that weapon. Being an Army brat, she was bound to have picked up some tips."

I don't know if this happened in person or via mail, but a fan once approached him and said, "Since when is Lois an Army brat? John, you must tell us these things!" I can understand why that would have frustrated John Byrne. That wss Byrne's way of telling him. How did the fan think he found out?

  • Adventures of Superman #425 - Professor Emil Hamilton's story. Hamilton was intended to be a one-off character, but became unexpectedly popular.
  • Action Comics #585 - This may have been my first Phantom Stanger story. This is not the first time Superman and the Phantom Stranger have met, so we may assume JLA #145-146 is still in continuity, having occurred during the 10-year "gap" represented by the Man of Steel limited series. Other pre-Crisis carry-over elements include Superman's vulnerability to magic and his code against killing. (I ask that you remember this last point because it's going to become germane to the discussion later on.)

Which brings us up to...

  • Superman #3 - "Legends" Chapter 17
  • Adventures of Superman #426 - "Legends" Chapter 18
  • Action Comics #586 - "Legends" Chapter 19

These three issues fall between issues #4 and #5 of the Legends mini-series, but it's not a great fit if you try to read them all together. At the end of Legends #4, Darkseid sends his Omega beams to abduct Superman to Apokolips. He spends what must be several weeks there, yet in Legends #5 Superman appears in Reagan's White House as if no (or little) time had passed. (I suppose time may pass differently on Apokolips than it does on Earth.) Jack Kirby's then-recent Hunger Dogs graphic novel is definitely in continuity. This is not the first time Superman and Darkseid have met, so we may assume that Forever People #1 and "Superman in Super-Town" (Jimmy Olsen #147) are still in continuity as well. (John Byrne would eventually tell his post-Crisis version of those stories in an issue-length "Tales of the New Gods" feature in Jack Kirby's Fourth World #20.) Lightray and Orion both know Superman as well, so we may also assume that some version of JLA #183-185 is still in continuity as well. 

One other thought about the Byrne-created character Amazing Grace (Glorious Godfrey's sister). Given that Cat Grant is based on photo reference of Jane Beatty, I suspect Grace is based on a real person, too. (She looks more like a real woman than a comic book character.) I wonder who...?

Getting ahead of the game, I know, but I can never see that Black Canary costume without thinking of its ultimate fate...

I, for one, thought that new costume wasn't that terrible, although it could have used some tweaking. I also thought this cover sent a terrible message. I once expressed that view on Facebook, and no less a personage than Mike Carlin told me he got a great cover from Brian Bolland so how could he resist?

The Baron said:

Getting ahead of the game, I know, but I can never see that Black Canary costume without thinking of its ultimate fate...

FWIW, Byrne gets on quite well with his fans - I reference his web blog "Byrne Robotics." (Byrnerobotics.com.) He's a strong willed man with his own viewpoints (ain't we all?) but he treats his fans just fine. Most "Byrne victims" are self-inflicted for the sake of a good story...

Jeff of Earth-J said:

...I have heard that John Byrne has a somewhat contentious relationship with his fans.

"I can never see that Black Canary costume without thinking of its ultimate fate..."

That costume was very 1980s. Like CK, I thought it was fine but "could have used a little tweaking." The cover of Action Comics Weekly #609 makes a good bookend with Detective Comics #554.

"Most 'Byrne victims' are self-inflicted for the sake of a good story..."

Yeah, it was those "Byrne victims" I was thinking of when I made that statement. Speaking of "Byrne Robotics," I tried to join that site around the same time I joined this one but I was dissuaded by the requirement that one must have "an e-mail address that one must pay for" (or something to that effect). I have the same e-mail now I had then, and it is free.

Back to Superman, there is one point I forgot to make about the about the "Legends" crossover that was somewhat "contentious" at the time. This is probably not the first think Byrne did that put off some fans but, to my mind, it the the most egregious so far. While a victim of amnesia, Superman (as "Savior") was directly responsible for the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of Hunger Dogs and Dog Soldiers. By the end of the story, Mother Box had restored his memory... but not those of the deaths he caused. There was one group of fans who said the suppression of those memories was a cheat, and another group which said that that story element (the deaths) should never have been approved in the first place.

Moving on...

  • Superman #4 - This issue introduces Bloodsport, a mass murderer whose story resonates even more today than it dis then. He used assault-style weapons to shoot up a McDonalds Hembecks and a bowling ally, killing 40-50 people. It is also this story which introduces the conceit that Kryptonite causes him to lose his invulnerability so that he may be hurt by Kryptonite bullets. This is the first (and last?) post-Crisis appearance of Jimmy Olsen's signal watch. He has been dating Lucy Lane for two years, but I don't think we see much more of her, either. Finally, this issue introduces Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Major Crimes Unit, not quite yet revealed to be a lesbian. 
  • Adventures of Superman #427 - Superman invades Iraq Qurac and confronts Saddam Hussein President Hurrambi Marlo face-to-face. It also introduces the mutant group known as The Circle, which eventually takes mental control of his body, but the initial invasion to intervene was Superman's.
  • Adventures of Superman #428 - This issue introduces Jerry White, Jose Delgado, Bibbo Bibbowski and Inspector Henderson. Actually, Henderson is name-dropped only, and is a carry-over from the old Adventures of Superman TV series. (Also, the post-Crisis version of Clark Kent is modeled on George Reeves' portrayal.) Here's what Jerry Ordway had to say about Bibbo Bibbowski: "In his plot, Marv called for a 'big tough guy" in the bar scene, and I modeled this guy on a great old man I knew as a kid--a dockworker who was a regular at our family's tavern--a guy who looked every bit like a live-action Popeye to me as a kid. I called him Jo-Jo. Mike Carlin, who had just joined on as Andy's colleague but hadn't quite taken the reins yet, renamed him Bibbo after a bit character in an old Jackie Gleason The Honeymooners episode. As with Professor Emil Hamilton, we later took these bit players and developed them into regulars when I began co-plotting the series with Byrne."
  • Action Comics #587 - This may well have been my first exposure to Jack Kirby's Demon (depending on what the Matt Wagner mini-series was released; IIRC, they were released right around the same time). In either case, I soon bought all 16 of the Kirby originals as backissues (and the Golden/Ditko follow-ups as well). The story involves time travel (via a "tempus frangit" or "time breaker" spell) to A.D. 1162, complete with Monty Python paraphrase. (When the locals first see Superman, one of them speculates that he must be "a king, I'll warrant. Who else could walk abroad with robes untouched by filth!") 

I am really enjoying this mix of art and story styles as presented in the Man of Steel collection.

Ready for some more?

  • Superman #5 - This issue begins with Superman having a wet dream about Wonder Woman, whom he just met in the Legends series (and I'm sure someone, somewhere was upset about that). He's running late because the dream caused him to oversleep, and he doesn't take time to shave before going to work (which will become a plot point later). A mysterious package arrives for Clark Kent c/o The Daily Planet, but he doesn't have time to open it. Perry white has lost contact with Lois Lane, on assignment in South America, and sends Clark to join her there. He flies under his own power (rather than take a plane to preserve his secret identity). Once he arrives and sees that Lois is in no immediate danger, he switches to Clark Kent and tells Lois that Superman brought him there (which is true enough, I suppose). Lois comments on his five o'clock shadow, which makes him reluctant to appear as Superman lest she put two and two together. In the ancient ruins, a large mummy-like creature is soon discovered. It can shoot beams from its eyes and flies via jets on the soles of its feet. The wrappings come off to reveal a robot underneath. (Doctor Who is still decades in my future at this point, but as soon as I saw "Pyramids of Mars" for the first time I know where Byrne got the idea for the visual.) 
  • Superman #6 - Just as #5 ends with a cliffhanger, #6 begins with one. Some time has passed and Superman awakens on a cot in a tent and sees Lois Lane examining his Superman costume. He soon realizes that Lois's body has been taken over by an ancient consciousness and his secret is safe. (Superman's pre-Crisis code against killing comes up again in this story.) After he defeats the ancient race, he finds time to shave before Lois sees him.
  • Adventures of Superman #428 - The Circle returns seeking revenge against Superman, whom they blame for their previous defeat. Clark accompanies Cat on a three-day ski weekend. When she sees footage of movie mogul Joseph Morgan on TV, she confides in Clark that Morgan is the father of her son, Adam. Morgan has sole custody, and Cat hasn't seen Adam in five years. Morgan is on trial for possible mob connections and drug charges. Superman intervenes, but when The Circle attacks, Morgan is injured and Adam ends up being deadly frightened of Superman. Morgan does eventually allow Cat to see their son, but Superman is left wondering why he chose to intervene in Cat's private life.
  • Action Comics #588 - This issue features a pre-Hawkworld appearance of Hawkman and Hawkwoman from their concurrent series. In 1989, DC Comics pulled "George Perez Wonder Woman" with Hawkman, giving him an all-new origin and, instead of making it an "ElseWorlds" or setting it in the past, it was set in current continuity. That meant that every Hawkman appearance from The Brave & the Bold #34 (1961) through Hawkworld (1989) munst be re-evaluated, but at this point in time, the Hawkman and Hawkwoman of this story are the Katar Hol and Shiera Thal of the Silver Age. The cliffhanger ending of this issue leads directly into...
  • Action Comics #589 - ...in which Superman teams up with the Green Lantern Corps. In a nice bit of continuity, the haunted graveyard Superman tossed out into space (with the help of the Phantom Stranger back in Action Comics #585) comes back to bite him in the arse. Luckily, the GLs were able to terraform that land into a habitat for a recently displaced species.

This is the version of the Hawks used in #588:

...this is the version of the GLC used in #589:

...and this is Hawkworld, which screwed up DC continuity for years to come:

When it was revealed that the modern-day Hawkman did not come to Earth until 1989, the JSA's Golden Age Hawkman was retconned into being the Silver Age Hawkman in all those JLA stories, but in doing so, DC created a "Captain America of the 1950s" situation by not accounting for the Hawkman who appeared in the DCU between the Last Days of the JSA Special (1986) and Hawkworld (1989), which would include the Hawkamn and Hawkwoman of Action Comics #589. It was later re-retconned (I think I may have just coined that word) that these Hawks were actually Thangarian spies put in place prior to the Invasion limited series/crossover event. Ain't continuity fun! (Seriously, I love this $#!t.)

Getting back to those early 2K "Man of Steel" tpbs for a second, one thing I did like about them were their interlocking covers... BUT those are also reproduced in the HC series.

  • Superman #7 - First appearance of Rampage (Kitty Faulkner); later appeared in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series. Also the first appearance of Daily Planet staffer Alice. She'll remain in the background in most scenes set at the Planet, then eventually she'll have a story of her own. Also, Jack Kirby's "Terrible" Dan Turpin makes his first post-Crisis appearance as a newly-recruited member of Maggie Sawyer's Special Crimes Unit. Subplot: Clark Kent tries (unsuccessfully) to get ahold of Wonder Woman.
  • Adventures of Superman #430 - This issue's villains are the latest configuration of Marv wolfman's own Fearsome Five. The theme of this issue is that Superman's duties are interfering with Clark Kent's life, culminating in him missing his parents' 49th anniversary celebration. He shows up late and Pa Kent sets him straight. This issue's story occurs out of linear continuity (I suppose to accommodate schedule conflicts with the upcoming LSH crossover), but a montage on page eight explains how everything fits together (even the stories which haven't been told yet).
  • Action Comics #590 - The Metal Men. Ugh. I hate the Metal Men. I have a policy regarding the Metal Men, and that is whenever they make a guest-star appearance in a title I read, I read it once, then skip it on subsequent rereads. Consequently, I haven't read Action Comics #590 in 36 years, but I made an exception for this discussion. (You see what I do for you?) Ugh. It's the Metal Men. If you've ever read any Metal Men story at all, you know pretty well what to expect. It can easily be skipped. YMMV

NEXT: "The Pocket Universe" and "The Death of Superboy"

For the record, I disliked the then-new Black Canary costume, and was pleased when she returned to her biker chick look. But then, my inner 12 year old rarely likes any costume change.

As to Metal Men, they were a throwaway concept whipped up as filler for Showcase, and have always seemed like filler to me. It has been painful to watch DC writers struggle over the years to make “responsometers” make sense, or come up with new origins to get rid of them.

Even more painful? Reading several Silver Age issues in a row. Sooooo repetitive.

I've never had much use for the Metal Men, either .but maybe they just haven't had the right writer yet.  Characters like Peacemaker and Detective Chimp keep turning up in present-day comics, so I assume the Metal Men will, too.

Let's deal with the cover right off the bat...

As Cap alluded to last week, the cover of Superman #8 is based on Byrne's own cover of Fantastic Four #249.

What's more, the powers of the Legionnaires depicted correspond directly to those of the Fantastic Four (which is only fair, because Gladiator and the Imperial Guard were originally Marvel's version of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes).

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #37
  • Superman #8
  • Action Comics #591
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #38

These four comics comprise both the story of "Pocket Universe" (from Superman's POV, two parts), and "The Death of Superboy" (the the LSH's POV, four parts). Although the Man of Steel collection does include all four parts, I'm going to be dealing only with Superman #8 and Action Comics #591 because this discussion is about Superman and the story makes perfect sense without the LSH chapters. (Maybe someday we'll look at the stories from the LSH's POV.) This is the first post-Crisis LSH story told from the perspective of the 20th century, yet it doesn't invalidate anything that has come before. the "Pocket Universe" theory postulates that the Time Trapper created his own dimension from a sliver of reality, and every time the 30th century Legionnaires thought they were traveling to their own past, they were actually traveling to the Pocket Universe. Confused? No more so than Superman himself. I've got to admit: I LOVE this stuff! Just as much as I love trying to figure out "Who is Donna Troy?" or whether or not Wonder Woman was a charter member of the JLA. YMMV.

And established continuity may vary as well. The villain of the piece is the Time Trapper, who, at different times has been a) Rok Krinn, b) Barbara Gordon, and c) the Superboy of Earth Prime. And speaking of the SB of EP, I had completely forgotten that the post-Crisis Superman remembers him, which means DC Comics Presents #87 is still considered to be in continuity at this point.

There have been many attempts over the years to justify changes in reality, from "the pounding of Superboy's fists" to the machinations of Dr. Manhattan. I think the latter is probably my favorite, but it is not nearly as memorable as the comic-booky "pounding of Superboy's fists" (and, if the SB of EP is the Time Trapper, that kind of makes sense, doesn't it?). I have my own idea of who the Time Trapper really is, but it applies only to Earth-J.

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