Superman's Pals

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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  • The only time I was regular reader of Superman was a year or two before he died, and then to around the Superman Red/Blue storyline. Outside of that I pick up an issue here or there, maybe an arc.

    I just think he is a hard character to write for at his power level. Then again maybe I should give his stories more of a chance?

  • To me, the Superman titles were Superman, Action Comics, World's Finest Comics, Superman Family (I got a complete run) and later DC Comics Presents (ditto). Superboy just may have been the first book I actively sought for, issue-to-issue but that was for the Legion, frankly. I didn't buy New Adventures of Superboy regularly though I do have a good chunk of them.

    Post-Crisis Superman was interesting as they essentially made it a weekly title, going so far to create Superman: Man of Tomorrow for those months with a fifth Wednesday!

  • "(Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Man of Steel, etc.)"

    "Superman: Man of Tomorrow for those months with a fifth Wednesday"

    That was the "etc."

  • Over the years the Superman titles have played a pivotal role in my comic book reading. When I first began reading comics in 1963 it was the Superman family of books that drew me in. A couple years later my interest in the Man of Steel had waned and I shifted to Batman, The Flash, Challengers of the Unknown and Marvel comics. I would still pick up an occasional issue of Superman but that was it.

    Nearly three decades later the brouhaha over the death of Superman got me reading comics once again after a ten- year hiatus. I really enjoyed some of the storylines that ran during the Nineties. The Reign of the Supermen, Superman Red and Blue and the wedding of Lois and Clark. By the early 2000’s I lost interest as the creative teams seemed to change way too often and I stopped reading new comics altogether shortly after.


    I have a complete collection of Superman titles (Action Comics, Superman, World;s Finest) from 1938 through 1948 (thanks to archives and omnibuses) and another healthy run from 1958 through 1960, but I'm spotty between '48 and '58 and from 1960 through 1985. It has been two years since the last Golden Age omnibus was released, and DC has never released a Silver or Bronze Age Superman omnibus. (It is the Silver Age material I am particularly interested in.) 

    Furthermore, where is the John Byrne Superman omnibus? One was solicited for July 2020 release, but that was cancelled due to COVID and has yet to be resolicited. Off the top of my head, I can think of ten omnibus editions, from both DC and Marvel, dedicated solely to John Byrne series. Why not his Superman? The Superman in Exile omnibus collects the material immediately after a Byrne volume. Why not Byrne?

    For that matter, why not Silver and Bronze Age Superman? He's DC's flagship character! The people who buy omnibuses would surely support such a project. 

  • I lost interest in Superman fairly gradually between 1986 and 2001.   Not because he was too powerful, but because he had become too mundane and unremarkable.

    A part of it is that the John Byrne reboot did not really suit my particular tastes.  It jettisonned nearly all of the Kryptonian aspects of Superman, rebuilt him as an often naive and hesitant character, and seemed to go out of its way to make him be defined by his relationships to Luthor and Batman.

    There is also DC itself.  The 1990s were not kind to DC's editorial directions.  DC weathered the insanity a bit better than most other comics publishers, but it still ended up making a lot of short-term, short-sighted decisions, many of which affected Superman directly. 

    It was at this time that the current trend of writing for the events fully asserted itself, and Superman increasingly came to feel like he was reacting passively to those events without much of a clue or significant, non-bureaucratic role on them.  It did not help that his role very often was to back up Batman and thereby reinforce the perception that Batman was the prime character of DC, while Superman was allowed to tag along because he might turn out to be useful at some point.  This was the height of popularity of the Frank Miller Dark Night take on Batman, which I found distractive and unappealling.

    By 2001 Superman was being drawn in a manga-inspired style that reminds me of the super deformed style.  When I saw him in a cover of Our Worlds At War I wasn't even sure if the comical effect was unintentional.  He seemed to be attempting to punch Imperiex at an odd angle and failing to aim the punch at all properly.  Imperiex himself, despite being the main concern of a wide ranging event, looked more than a bit comical himself, with an appearance worthy of Teen Titans Go, not a non-satirical issue of a core Superman book.

    Superman is a great character.  But not when he has to be constrained by editorial into assuring White Martians that Batman totally is more dangerous than himself and more generally being treated as an afterthought of the event of the day.  He is indeed too powerful to be interesting in the roles that are usual for street level characters such as Batman or Green Arrow.  He works best as a cosmic level character that also has a well developed human side and therefore keeps navigating back and forth between the two worlds.  For too long a time he was instead a prime example of the Worf Effect - a character that is supposed to be impressive and consequential, but in practice is knocked down early on to quickly establish that the opponents should be feared and leave the spotlight vacant for others to shine on.

  • DC COMICS CONTINUES TO LET ME DOWN, Pt. 2: Thanks largely to IDW (but also Kitchen Sink Press), I also have a complete collection of Superman comic strips from the beginning (1939) through 1949 (for the dailies) and 1966 (for the Sundays). Also thanks solely to IDW, I have a complete run of dailies between 1959-1966. It's funny to think that IDW has reprinted more Superman comics from the '50s and '60s than DC has, but none of the three IDW series has progressed since 2019. 

  • I wonder if the 1980s dailies have been collected.  They run from 1978 to 1985 and where generally called "The World's Greatest Superheroes", but soon enough began to feature almost exclusively Superman.

  • I remember reading those. There was at at least one collection (in pocketbook size) because I got it from Powerbook Pete. Tracy and I flew to Memphis one time to meet Tim and Peggy, and I took an empty suitcase to carry all the swag  I acquired. (The main part of the trade was Terry and the Pirates comic strips for Target Doctor Who paperbacks.) 

  • SUPERMAN '78 #1: Not my favorite version of Superman, but this first issue was entertaining enough. Introduces Brainiac.

    SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #2: I felt obligated to at least give this series a try as it was "my idea" (circa 1986). It'll never catch on as long as his pop's still around, and it'll never stick on its own. Doomed from the start.

    ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (2013) #1: I picked this up as a backissue to fill the Superman: Red & Blue-shaped hole in my reading schedule. So far, so good. Three stories of the classic (i.e., red-trunked) Superman, by Jeff Parker & Chris Samnee, Jeff Lemire, and Justin Jordan & Riley Rossmo. Moving from one series to the other is like movie from sepia-tone to Technicolor, but otherwise the story quality is what I had hoped for.

    THE ATOMIC AGE SUPERMAN: I picked up reading the collections of Superman Sunday strips right where I left off last time, with the fourth volume (of seven), 1953-1956. ("Atomic Age" is IDW's designation, not mine.) 

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