Thursday, October 2, 2008

Episode #42: "All-Star Superman": The Review

Note: Superman Fan Podcast episode #11 looked at the first ten issues of All-Star Superman.

All-Star Superman issue #12 was finally published on Wednesday, September 17, 2008. It's hard to believe that issue #1, cover dated January 2006, first appeared on November 16, 2005. So it took almost two years for twelve issues to be published. However, the quality of the stories offset any potential loss of interest in the title, at least as far as I'm concerned.
Issues 1-6 were collected in All-Star Superman, vol. I, released in January 2006. Volume II is scheduled for publication in February of 2009. Check with the web site for information.

The All-Star line was supposed to be almost DC Comic's version of Marvel's Ultimate line. They would take DC's top heroes and put them in continuity free stories crafted by the industry's best creators. So far the only other All-Star title DC has published has been Frank Miller's and Jim Lee's Batman & Robin, which was published first but has had even longer delays between issues.

DC had previously announced that Adam Hughes was supposed to create All-Star Wonder Woman, but no publication date has been set. Plus Adam is recuperating from a recent injury to his drawing hand.

All-Star Superman won the 2006 Eisner for Best New Series, and won the 2007 Eisner for Best Continuing Series.

According to, Chip Kidd created the All-Star Superman logo design.

Bob Schreck was the editor, with Brandon Montclaire serving as assistant editor. Grant Morrison wrote this series, which was pencilled by Frank Quitely. Jamie Grant did the digital inks and colors. Phil Balsman lettered issues 1-8, and Travis Lanham lettered issues 9-12.

In an interview on the web site Comics Bulletin,, Grant Morrison talked about his preparation for All-Star Superman. He began his research by reading all of the Superman stories on his bookshelves, from the original Siegel/Shuster stories, through the '50's Weisinger era, the Schwartz/O'Neil depowered '70's, Byrne revamp, the Carlin/Jurgens '90's stories and recent stories. What impressed Morrison was not the differences between versions, but the similarities. He saw an archetypal soul of Superman which was a common thread through all of these diverse versions of the character.This core of Superman was what Morrison wanted to portray in the pages of All-Star Superman. He saw this story as a re-embergence of the pre-Crisis Superman, with 20 years of history that had not been seen before. Morrison began this story assuming most people were aware of Superman's origin and relationships with his supporting cast, so he jumped into the story.
Issue #1 began with a four panel, eight word summary of Superman's origin, and jumped into the story.
Issue #1: Faster: Superman saves a manned mission the the sun led by Dr. Quantum of the DNA Project. Luthor had previously converted a member of the crew into a walking bomb, set to detonate once the spaceship reached the sun. The close proximity to the sun overcharged Superman's cells with solar radiation and causing them to burst, meaning that Superman was dying. This was Luthor's ultimate goal in his attack on the sun mission. Superman ends the issue by beginning to tie up the loose ends of his life, first by revealing his secret identity to Lois Lane.
Issue #2: Superman's Forbidden Room: Superman treats Lois to a special birthday by taking her to dinner at his Fortress of Solitude. At the end of the issue he gives her his present for her, super powers for a day.
Issue #3: Sweet Dreams Superwoman: Lois spends a day with super powers, flying with Superman. They meet Samson and Atlas, who are a nuisance to Superman. He saves Lois' life by answering the unanswerable question, and then treats her to dinner at the undersea city Poseidonis, and then share a kiss on the Moon. At the end of the day Lois is still not convinced that Clark Kent is Superman.
Issue#4: The Superman / Olsen War: Jimmy spends a day as head of the DNA Project, where black kryptonite is discovered. It turns Superman evil. Jimmy uses the Doomsday serum to stop Superman.
Issue #5: The Gospel According To Lex Luthor: After Luthor is sentenced to the electric chair for his crimes, Clark Kent interviews Luthor in prison.
Issue #6: Funeral In Smallville: Pa Kent dies, witnessed by Superman from the future and some of his descendants.
Issue #7: Being Bizarro: Superman battles a carnivorous Bizarro World, where people are changed into Bizarro clones when a Bizarro touches them. Superman ends the issue on the Bizarro World.
Issue #8: Us Do Opposite: Superman escapes Bizarro World with help from Zibarro, the imperfect perfect Bizarro clone.
Issue #9: Curse of the Replacement Supermen: Superman meets two kryptonian astronauts who had been lost in space. They are not impressed by what Superman has done on Earth and begin changing Earth to a duplicate of Kryptonian civilization. They ridicule Superman and even defeat him in a fight. In spite of their treatment, Superman saves their lives when the minerals in their bodies begin converting to kryptonite, from exposure to a radioactive cloud in space. He beams them into the Phantom Zone, where they bring law and order to the Phantom Zone prisoners.
Issue #10: Neverending: Superman spends this issue tying up loose ends. He flies a bus load of perminally ill children around the world. Then he solves the problem of solving the problem of restoring the bottle city of Kandor, with help from Dr. Quantum. Superman creates a world without Superman in an infant universe, called Q Earth, in a special chamber of the Fortress of Solitude. He then prevents a subway train from derailment, defeats a senile villain driving a giant robot and saves a teen from committing suicide. Superman transports Kandor to their new home on Mars, uses his x-ray vision to catalog his kryptonian DNA, then gives human and kryptonian DNA to Dr. Quantum with instructions on how to combine the two strands lf DNA. Throughout the issue Superman intermittently writes his last will and testament in his giant diary, writing in kryptonian. At the end of the issue Superman takes the members of the Kandor Emergency Squad to the same hospital he visited at the beginning of the issue, to cure the children's terminal illnesses. The issue ends on Q-Earth, where two young friends create a new character, the Superman of Action Comics #1.
Issue #11: Red Sun Day: Luthor's execution does not go as planned, as he took a serum that gave him super powers before his execution. Superman gives final intructions to a Superman robot to serve as caretaker of the Fortress of Solitude. He wears a special space suit as he locks the Fortress behind him and takes the rest of his robots into space to battle the tyrant sun. One of the robots admits that Solaris hacked into its neural net to steal the super power formula, before it sacrifices itself in atonement. Superman succeeds in defeating the tyrant sun. Clark Kent then rushes into the Daily Planet offices, with the headline story of the century on his laptop, Superman Dead, before he collapses on the floor. The outer wall explodes as Juthor attacks the Planet offices.
Issue #12: Superman In Excelsis: The issue begins with a kryptonian skyline, as Jor-El hurries his son Kal-El into a flying car, during an earthquake. Jor-El says that he and all of Krypton is dead, and Kal has joined them. Jor-El presents Kal with a choice, remain dead or return to life to defeat evil "one last time". The scene changes to the Daily Planet offices, where Luthor lords it over the Planet staff. The scene shifts back to "Krypton" where Jor-El informs Kal that eventually he will not be alone because the people of Earth will "join him in the sun". Then Krypton seems to explode again. Clark revives, and shoots Luthor with a gravity gun. Jimmy Olsen realizes that Superman disguised himself as Clark, and brings him a spare Superman uniform. Superman engages Luthor in a street battle. Luthor sees the world through his super senses, realizes how Superman sees the world, and is overwhelmed by it, becoming a small man. Superman informs Luthor that the reason he hit Luthor with the gravity gun was to make Luthor's metabolism accelerate to compensate the increased gravity. And since gravity warps time, his powers are almost gone. "Brains always beats brawn", Superman mocks Luthor as he delivers the knock out blow. And in rebuttal to Luthor's claim that Superman sttod in Lex's way of saving the world, Superman informs the unconscious Luthor that he could have saved the world any time he wanted, if it really mattered to him. Streaks of light begin to break out on Superman's skin as his condition approaches the end. He kisses Lois and says "I love you Lois Lane, until the end of time", as he flies into the sun to save it by changing it back to yellow from the blue it had been changed to. In a Metropolis park a Superman statue is erected, where Lois informs Jimmy that Superman will return when his job is done. In a full page panel Superman is working in the heart of the sun, creating the machinery to keep the sun burning. At the DNA Project, Dr. Quantum answers his aide's question about a world without Superman that, now they know Superman's DNA, they'll think of something. He stands in front of a door that says Project 2, with the 2 inside a Superman shield.
All-Star Superman combined story elements from many silver age Superman stories. Writing in a giant Kryptonian diary came from the story The Key To Fort Superman. The twelve labors of Superman reminded me of his challenges in the classic story Superman Red / Superman Blue. A super powered Lois comes from various "imaginary stories" where Lois gains super powers through various means. Samson and Atlas remind me of the cover to Action Comics #279, shown in DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, where Lois and Lana are dating Samson and Hercules respectively. Superman facing death happened in stories such as The Death of Superman the imaginary story where Luthor fakes rehabilitation to lure Superman into a death trap; and The Last Days of Superman, where Superman thinks he is suffering from Virus X, a kryptonian disease, when he is actually suffering from kryptonite radiation by a bit of kryptonite lodged in Jimmy's camera. The descendants of Superman are reminiscent of The Superman of 2965, a quartet of stories from the mid 1960's.
The stories in All-Star Superman were timeless stories that could fit in any continuity, except for current continuity with a married Sueprman. Most of the issues are self contained stories that advance a larger story, except for issues 2 and 3 about Lois' birthday, 7 and 8 about Bizarro world, and 11 and 12 involving Superman's penultimate battle against Luthor.
This series had no low points, but there were several high points to me. Clark revealing his secret identity to Lois at the end of issue 1, and Lois' birthday celebration in the next two issues, the death of Pa Kent is issue #6, Superman trying to tie up loose ends, and the final battle in issues 11 and 12, stood out.
After recent comments by a Warner Bro's. film executive about creating "darker" super hero movies, All-Star Superman would make the perfect "dark" Superman movie, without darkening his classic bright blue and red uniform. Superman fighting for his life is not an easy plot point to figure out, and a truly evil Luthor would be a welcome change from the campy Luthor of Superman I & II, and the less campy Kevin Spacey portrayl.
On my list of favorite Superman stories, which I first discussed in episode #1, I would have to rank the entire series of All-Star Superman as number four on that list. As far as a rating, I would have to give it 6 * ( * * * * * * ).

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at Send e-mail to

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog where I review the comic books I read every week. E-mail about this blog can be sent to

Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

1 comment:

  1. Billy,
    Thanks for linking to my site! All-Star Superman is a great series and DC can make an Absolute of it fast enough.



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