Thursday, June 26, 2008

Episode #22: Superman vs. Superman!

June 10 marked the 22nd anniversary of the publication of Man of Steel #1, the six issue mini-series that relaunched Superman in 1986. It was written and drawn by John Byrne. Superman and Clark Kent were essentially the same, and the basics of the Superman story remained unchanged, but the new version differed greatly in the details.

The classic Superman could fly unhindered in outer space, forever if he wanted. In the new version his body could withstand the vacuum of space, but needed an air supply, which limited his range if he could not replenish it. Especially in the silver age, Superman could fly at unlimited speeds until he broke the time barrier and could travel through time. While we don't know how fast the "modern" Superman can fly, he certainly doesn't have the ability to travel through time with his own super powers. Classic Superman had a number of robots to take his place in Metropolis if he had to be away for some reason, or to protect Clark's secret identity. In an early story after the reboot, Prof. Hamilton invented a Superman robot, but it proved not entirely successful and was abandoned. In the classic origin, Kal-El had super powers from the moment his rocket landed on Earth. In the current origin, Clark developed his powers slowly, especially as he approached puberty, and so there never was a Superboy in Smallville. The classic Superman costume was made from indestructible Kryptonian fabrics that were in Kal-El's rocket. At the end of Man of Steel #1, Ma Kent sewed Clark's uniform so he could use his super powers and still have a private life. It wasn't torn because it was protected by an indestructable "aura" that surrounded Kal-El, being a tight fitting uniform. The cape wasn't so lucky. It was a good thing that Ma Kent always kept her son well supplied with them. Young Clark was orpaned again, before he became Superman in the classic story. In the current version, Ma and Pa Kent are still alive to support and advise their son. During the silver age, only Pete Ross ever discovered Clark Kent's secret identity. At the conclusion of the Man of Steel mini-series, we learned that after Ma and Pa Kent revealed to Clark the truth about how they found him, he confided his secret to his best friend, Lana Lang. Finally, in current continuity there is only one version of kryptonite, green. There was a story in the 1990's, The Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, which involved Mr. Myxlplk. Green kryptonite was introduced late in the golden age, and during the silver age a variety of colors developed for kryptonite, with various effects on Superman: green kryptonite, of course kills, red causes strange effects on Superman, no two alike, gold permanently removes a kryptonian's powers, blue harms only Bixarros, white harms only plant life on any world, and jewel allows anyone to metally control a kryptonian.

The last issues of Superman comic books under the original continuity were Superman #423 (originally on sale June 12, 1986) and Action Comics #583 (originally on sale June 26, 1986), both cover dated September 1986. These issues were parts one and two of the now classic story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Curt Swan. Superman #423 was inked by George Perez, and Action Comics #583 was inked by Murphy Anderson. On the cover, standing in front of the Daily Planet staff on the Planet's roof, are Julius Schwartz (waving), Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan and Jeanette Kahn.
The Man Of Steel six issue mini-series, which restarted Superman, was published from July 10, 1986 - September 25, 1986). Monthly Superman stories began with a new Superman #1 (cover dated January 1987, published on October 9, 1986), and written and drawn by John Byrne. Adventures of Superman continued the numbering of the original Superman with issue #424 (January 1987, published on October 16, 1986), drawn by Jerry Ordway. Action Comics continued its original numbering, also drawn by John Byrne.
Three four issue mini-series explored this new continuity and the background of Superman. The World of Krypton (December 1987 - March 1988), The World of Smallville (April 1988 - July 1988) and The World of Metropolis (August 1988 - Novenber 1988).
A new Man of Steel monthly began publication on May 14, 1991 (cover dated July 1991), written by Louise Simonson and drawn by Jon Bogdanov. And so a Superman comic book was now published every week, except on months with five weeks.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow took care of that extra week, published quarterly beginning with the Summer 1995 issue (published on May 30, 1995). It's last issue was #15, Fall 1999, (published on September 29, 1999).
The last issue of Man of Steel was #134, cover dated March 2003 (published January 2, 2003). Adventures of Superman ended with issue #649, cover dated April 2006 (published on February 15, 2006). Superman continued its original numbering with issue #650, cover dated May 2006 (published on March 15, 2006). That issue was the first part of the Up, Up and Away story, the beginning of DC's One Year Later in all of its titles, after its mini-series Infinite Crisis.

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