I don't remember when it was, exactly, that I lost interest in Superman. there was a time, from Crisis on Infinite Earths until well into the 2Ks, that I had complete collections of every Superman title published (Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Man of Steel, etc.). I do know that I stopped buying Action Comics with #900, four issues before the title itself came to an end. There was a time, in 1986, when DC Comics wanted a new "Superman #1." But rather than cancelling the original series outright, they changed the title to Adventures of Superman with #424. Action Comics continued at that time with #584.

Then, in 2011, DC decided they wanted to revamp their entire line, including Action Comics. #904 was to be the last issue of the original run, but I decided to stop with an even 900. I say I "stopped," but actually I did continue to buy Action Comics and Superman for almost two years into the "New 52" era, but I was no longer interested in maintaining a set of sequentially numbered issues if DC itself wasn't. Except for those four issues of Action Comics, my "complete" run of Superman titles continued for some months to come. Action Comics continues, numbered in the 1000s today, but try finding issues #905-956. 

I know that I didn't bother buying Adventures of Superman when it returned (with a new #1) in 2013. I didn't buy an issue until #16, which featured multiple versions of Superman. I also happened to buy #17 because it featured a story by Jerry Ordway and Steve Rude, but that was it... for both me and the series as that was its final issue.

At that time, Captain comics was doing "Cancelled Comics Cavalcade," a post-mortem on all cancelled series. As much as fans complained about the redesign of Superman's costume (sans red trunks), Cap pointed out that the the then-recently-cancelled Adventures of Superman series featured the classic version and nobody bought it. I didn't even know it! and by that time it was too late. Last week, the Superman Red & Blue series, a favorite of mine, came to an end with its sixth issue. I really enjoyed those out-of-continuity tales, so now I'm contemplating buying Adventures of Superman (2013) #1-15 in hope of reading more of the same. 

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Yeah, I never saw the point of that change either.

ALAN MOORE - "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow"

Alan Moore has the distinction of being the man who wrote the last pre-Crisis "Superman of Earth 1" story. Julius Schwartz's first choice was Jerry Siegel but, when legal problems prevented that, Alan Moore lobbied for the job to write finis to the Silver Age Superman's career. I doubt anyone here is unfamiliar with the story, but if so, here's a brief rundown. The year is 1997 (august 16, to be precise), and a retired Lois Lane is being interviewed by a Daily Planet staffer for the occasion of Superman's disappearance ten years earlier.

She tells the story of Superman's foes massing against him in one final, all-out assault. the attack by the Prankster and the Toyman revealed his secret identity on national television. He gathers his closest friends to him and retreats to his Fortress of Solitude. Ultimately, the attacks are revealed to have been orchestrated by Mr. Mxyzptlk, the fifth dimensional imp, who, after 2000 years being mischievous, has decided to spent the next 2000 being evil. During the course of the story, Pete Ross, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen and Krypto are all killed. Superman retaliates by turning the Phantom Zone projector on Mxyzptlk at the exact moment he attempts to flee to the fifth dimension, intentionally killing him. After that, Superman exposes himself to Gold Kryptonite and presumably wandered out into the Arctic wastes to die in penance. 

"Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" is well-remembered as one of the best stories of the Earth 1/pre-Crisis/ Silver Age Superman and, IMO, rightfully so. But we have discussed this story in the past, and one of our members (okay, it was Commander Benson) had a different opinion. He felt that Superman made a mistake in removing his own powers because (please excuse me and correct me if I'm misrepresenting you) the next time a plane goes down of there is a natural disaster or an alien invasion, all of the resultant deaths, which he could have prevented had he not removed his powers, would be on him. 

That is a strong argument and convinced me for a long time that Superman was wrong. But I am a strong proponent of rereading favorite stories, novels as well as comic books, from time to time just to see if years of additional knowledge and experience have changed my initial perception in any way. (I think you see where I'm going with this.) Yesterday I read "Whatever Happened to the Man of tomorrow" for the first time in many years and my opinion of it changed.

First, let's review some pertinent story points. By 1987 (the year of the flashback sequences when most of the action takes place), "Mostly, Superman worked in space doing research for the government." Terra-Man and the Parasite had already destroyed each other and, by the end of the story, Bizarro, Lex Luthor and Brainiac were dead as well. 

Superman reveals to Perry White in one scene that Lois Lane is his one, true love, "but [he] can't tell her without hurting Lana, I'd never hurt Lana, so I just walk around with this secret, this weight in my heart, and I'll carry it with me to my grave, and neither of them will ever know... You see, I've messed up both their lives, haven't I? They've wasted their love on me, while I couldn't let myself love either of them the way they deserved. I wish I'd explained. I wish I hadn't been such a coward."

That was Superman's mindset going into his final battle. Also weighing on him was a recent visit from the Legion of Super-Heroes which Superman easily deduces as them paying their last respects. The Legion of Super Villains drives another nail in his coffin when the arrive to witness "the assured and predestined slaughter of Superman." They also reveal that, "According to legend, during these days, Superman met his greatest foe in battle and was no more." 

That's not the only purposefully ambiguous dialogue in this story. Previously, Brainiac 5 referred to "this date as a special time in your life," and, in 1997, Lois tells the Daily Planet reporter, "As far as I'm concerned, Superman died in the Arctic." (Of course, readers know that her husband, "Jordan Elliot", is actually a de-powered Superman.) Okay, that's enough synopsis to move forward.

I don't think Superman abdicated his responsibilities in any way. Let's take Mxyzptlk out of the equation (as a fifth dimensional imp, he could have just as easily decided to turn evil 100 years later) and extrapolate what would happen next. I'll tell you what would have happened: Superman would have gone on fighting the "never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way" with emphasis on the "never-ending." As tragic as the events of "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" were, he took advantage of the new status quo to retire

He exposes himself to Gold K immediately after intentionally luring Mxyzptlk to his death, but he never specifically says that that alone was the reason. Many of the reasons for Superman's continued existence were gone by the end of the story. His secret identity was revealed; many of those he sought to protect were dead; Lana's death, specifically, freed him to marry Lois; all of his highest profile foes were dead; and, even prior to these events, his main duties consisted of space research at that time. "Jordy Elliot" summed it up like this: "[Superman] was overrated, and too wrapped up in himself. He thought the world couldn't get along without him."

What it all comes down to is this: everyone deserves to retire after a lifetime of service, even Superman.

Especially Superman. 

Our good Captain Comics once wrote about Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord to free Superman from his control because while under the influence of her magic lasso, he told her that his death was the only way to do so. And she did it because she truly believed in the power of the lasso. In effect, she had no choice.

The same belief was why, to me, that Superman exposed himself to Gold Kryptonite. His code against killing was so ingrained into his value system from an early age that he was compelled to punish himself for that transgression. Also his code against killing was like a sacred bond between him and humanity. Could the world trust a Man of Steel who had killed once and therefore may kill again? More importantly, could he trust himself again?

Of course, I'm not saying that removing his powers weren't a relief to him especially after those cataclysmic events. He surely wanted a chance at true happiness. And there were enough super-heroes to take his place, including Captain Marvel who was seen in the story.

My only nitpick was the whole "I never want to hurt Lana" thing. He had told her several times that he loves Lois and Lana, deep down, knew this. That's why in the early 80s, they had her start a relationship with Vartox! 

I think you're missing my point. 

First of all, I understand Superman's "code against killing"; I don't agree with it, but I understand it.

Second, Alan Moore was tasked with writing a grand finale for Julius Schwartz's stewardship of Superman and Action Comics. That idea wasn't Moore's, it was Schwartz's. "I started to think, what am I going to put in my last two issues. And in the middle of the night it came to me: I would make believe that my last issue of Superman and Action Comics were actually going to be last issues," Schwartz recalled. Therefore it was incumbent on me to clear up, to explain all the things that had been going on in the previous years. For example, did Lois Lane ever find out that Clark was Superman? Did they ever get married? What happened to Jimmy Olsen, to Perry White, to all the villains? I had to clear it up."

With a clear story direction in mind, Alan Moore set out to craft a story which would tick off all these boxes. The final cherry on top was Superman being forced to take the life of Mr. Mxyzptlk. It was structured in such a way that as to be absolutely justifiable, the only option. The crux of the story lies upon the idea of  Mxyzptlk going "insane" (at least by human standards). My premise was to take  Mxyzptlk out of the picture, then extrapolate what happened next. My conclusion was that Superman would go on with the same status quo for another 50 years and more. 

Now let me try another tack. With  Mxyzptlk out of the picture, how would you (not just Philip but anyone) have like to have seen Julius Schwartz's story requirements fulfilled?  


As I'm sure everyone knows, like it or hate it, John Byrne revamped Superman in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I'm still holding out for that John Byrne Superman omnibus, but today's topic is Byrne's second tenure on The Man of Steel. It didn't last very long, only nine issues of Action Comics back in 2005, and he was only the "art 'bot" (as he puts it). He did the cover of only two of the issues.

The problem with this run, written by Gail Simone (mostly, with one issue by Abnett & Lanning), is that it suffered from tie-initis. There were a few good two-parters, but mostly plotlines flowed from Countdown, The Omac Project, Villains United and Day of Vengeance in the ramp-up to Infinite Crisis. Those series represented my first serious attempt at "tradewaiting." By the time those series (plus The Rann-Thanagar War, not represented here) were collected, I determined I wasn't all that interested and have not read them to this day.

I see the whole "infinite tie-ins" ploy as a direct result of the kind of continuity pioneered by Jim Shooter at Marvel in the 19890s (in which "Spider-Man would sneeze in his own title and the Human Torch would say 'gesundheit' over in Fantastic Four). I loved that kind of thing back then when I was immersed in day-to-day continuity, but decades later, when rereading those comics in anthologies, those panels are a waste of space. By the early 2Ks, it was even worse and this run is a prime example.

TRUE BRIT: While I'm discussing the more "recent" works of John Byrne, I thought I'd throw in this 2004 "Elseworlds" graphic novel, in which Kal-El's rocket landed in the U.K. rather than America. The entire creative team have ties to England, either having been born there or lived there. It was written by Kim "Howard" Johnson ("with some help from John Cleese"), drawn by Byrne and inked by Mark Farmer. I decided to give this one a pass when it was first released, but picked it up at a sale a couple of years ago. I still hadn't read it until today, but I figured if not now, when? 

There is a fine between silly and funny, and I think True Brit manages to stay on the "funny" side for the most past. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I'll ever read it again, and I'm glad I didn't pay full price ($18) for it. Still, it's not decompressed nor is it a quick read; there's a lot of bang(ers & mash) for your buck pound. the satire is very British, and I'd be curious to know what our Legionnaires from across the pond think of it.

GEORGE PEREZ: Superman (2011) #1-6:

In comparison to Grant Morrison's Action Comics, George Perez's contribution to the "New 52" universe is much more coherent. For one thing, although the events of Morrison's series are closely tied to Perez's, everything happened five years prior and is more smoothly integrated as flasbacks. For another, Superman is more the result of a single creative vision, rather than a messy (in the case of Action Comics) melange of writers and artists. 

I did notice (while perusing the shelves at my LCS last week), that just these six issues are collected in a single volume, but why one would prefer that to the comprehensive George Perez volume I can't imagine. Price maybe, but the post-Crisis stories are (in my estimation) better and more entertaining than the post-Flashpoint ones. 

Yesterday I re-sorted two "Superman" shortboxes and a longbox into a single longbox (a neat trick if you can do it); now I have a single "Superman" longbox that spans from "One Year Later" to "Flashpoint." Neat! I also reminded myself that I continued to buy the "New 52" Superman beyond the Perez run into the Dan Jurgen's run, so may may do a future installment of "Superman's Pal" dedicated to Jurgens. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:


TRUE BRIT: While I'm discussing the more "recent" works of John Byrne, I thought I'd throw in this 2004 "Elseworlds" graphic novel, in which Kal-El's rocket landed in the U.K. rather than America. The entire creative team have ties to England, either having been born there or lived there. It was written by Kim "Howard" Johnson ("with some help from John Cleese"), drawn by Byrne and inked by Mark Farmer. I decided to give this one a pass when it was first released, but picked it up at a sale a couple of years ago. I still hadn't read it until today, but I figured if not now, when? 

There is a fine between silly and funny, and I think True Brit manages to stay on the "funny" side for the most past. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I'll ever read it again, and I'm glad I didn't pay full price ($18) for it. Still, it's not decompressed nor is it a quick read; there's a lot of bang(ers & mash) for your buck pound. the satire is very British, and I'd be curious to know what our Legionnaires from across the pond think of it.

We discussed this over here, and the reaction was mixed. Some found it spot-on with droll British humour; others (like me) found it more "dumb" than "funny."

Thanks for the link, Kelvin. I had forgotten not only the thread, but that I had posted to it. 

Makes me long for the days when we used to have actual discussions on this board. 




I remember really looking forward to this one-shot when it was first announced back in 1988. It was made by what seems even today to be the Superman "dream team supreme": John Byrne (writer), Curt Swan (penciler) and Jerry Ordway (inker). Although I frequently flip through it to admire the artwork, until today I haven't read it since. I found the story to be too mind-boggling. That sounds like an odd criticism of a super-hero comic book story, doesn't it, that it's "too mind-boggling"? Perhaps "unbelievable" would be a better word. (You may take the title literally.) Now, after 33 years, I find it just mind-boggling enough.

ACTION COMICS WEEKLY: As I mentioned in a previous post, post-Byrne Action Comics became a weekly anthology from issue #601-642. the one common feature throughout all of those issues (save the last) was a faux newspaper Sunday strip written by Roger Stern, drawn by Curt Swan and inked by first John Beatty then Murphy Anderson. I thought it was a great idea, but the execution was a bit boring. I didn't even finish it until the whole thing was collected between two covers in 2015 (and even then it was a bit boring). Great art, though.

THE SINBAD CONTRACT: Curt's swan song (sorry, couldn't resist) was written by William Messner-Loebs and serialized across Action Comics #658, Superman #48 and The Adventures of Superman #471. 

A particular St. Louis comic book convention in 1996 featured Curt Swan as guest. I planned to go, but unfortunately he passed away just prior. 

NOTE: Curt Swan also drew some pre-Crisis Superman stories. 

"Some" as in "an enormous percentage of"...

Jeff of Earth-J said:

NOTE: Curt Swan also drew some pre-Crisis Superman stories. 

I remember hearing someone being interviewed on Word Balloon -- I think it was Jerry Ordway -- mentioning that Superman: The Earth Stealers was an adaptation of John Byrne's pitch/script for Superman IV.  Ordway (if that's who it was) said that he'd heard Byrne had gotten a clause in his contract that would allow him to pitch a story for the next Superman movie. It wasn't guaranteed to be accepted, but that it would go to the producers for consideration. Obviously, they went another way. But once it was rejected, he repurposed the idea to make The Earth Stealers. 

Oh, I didn't know that. Yeah, I could see that being a movie pitch. It's a bit different than Byrne's other Superman stories.

" 'Some' as in 'an enormous percentage of"..."

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