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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 13

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Denny O’Neil “Sandman Saga” in Superman!


The “Sandman Saga” in Superman #233-235, 237-238, 240-242 was part of one of the most hyped comic book events of all-time (at the time). Between it and the hype over Jack Kirby coming to DC Comics, DC had a TON of hype in 1970, and the story began with one of the most famous comic covers of all-time…

After the Neal Adams cover, the first page of the comic (written by Denny O’Neil with art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson) described the storyline quite nicely…

Amazingly enough, just the first five story pages of Superman #233 had DRASTIC effects on the Superman mythos (this issue marked the beginning of Julie Schwartz’s tenure as the editor of the title, following Mort Weisinger’s 30 year run on the book as editor).

Check it out…

Pretty amazing, no?

No more kryptonite!!!

Clark Kent as a TV reporter!!!

All in the span of five pages!

Think of how shocking this is to read NOW, and just imagine how it read back in 1971!

And at the end of the issue, a mysterious figure rose from the sand where the experiment took place…

The gist of the story is that this “Sandman” drains Superman’s powers when the two come near each other.

We see this in effect in the next issue, when Superman is trying to help the workers of some jerk who won’t let his workers leave an island that might soon be overflowing with lava from a volcano on the island…

O’Neil takes this moment to express his take on how Superman views laws vs. morality…

Moral laws outweigh man-made ones.

In #235, Superman is actually saved by the Sandman!!

In #237 (#236 is not part of the storyline), Superman is stuck off-planet while he is stuck watching Lois near death – so Superman is forced to ask the Sandman for help…

Notice how the interaction with the Sandman alters Superman’s personality slightly (as seen by his reaction towards Lois).

Superman is now getting more and more drained by the Sandman.

O’Neil then brings in I-Ching, from the pages of Wonder Woman (which O’Neil also wrote), to help Superman regain his powers, but Superman seems to almost relish his new-found humanity…

You have to realize that this sort of take on Superman was DRAMATICALLY different from what was going on in the pages of Superman before O’Neil’s run.

O’Neil’s intent was to return Superman to his Golden Age roots, via a power reduction but also through emphasizing his humanity and his connection to humanity, rather than larger-than-life issues (granted, it was through an alien sapping his powers, but whatever).

However, when the Sandman Saga ended, so, too, did the “New Adventures of Superman,” as he was pretty much back to normal by next issue, and certainly completely back to normal in a year or so, except, of course, for the new “TV Newsman” aspect of the character.

There is a lot more at play during this story, including O’Neil’s increased pace of the book, his new approach to Metropolis and the very setting of Superman’s world (the rest of the city seemed to get a lot more sophisticated all of a sudden), the changes in fashion and, perhaps most importantly of the stuff I haven’t highlighted all ready, a change in how Clark Kent is perceived – no more “wimpy” Clark.

This is strong work, and it is a shame that it was pretty much ignored soon after it finished (heck, more kryptonite even came down to Earth pretty soon afterwards!).


This was a good story, told well. I wish DC made more comics this way.

Just out of curiosity, what were the circulation numbers like for Superman in 1971? One of those issues should have them printed within.

that story line proved dc at least was willing to freshen one of their big guns.as superman learned that as much fun as he had being human thanks to sand man there was a purpose to him being who he is . not to mention kryponite being gone for good.

Did you post this in response to Kelly’s posting on the Byrne reboot? Because her posting–and all the kiddies who said they grew up on Byrne’s Superman–got me thinking about this storyline.

In particular, note how O’Neil redefined Clark Kent as a confident, successful guy–no longer a dweeb or a wimp. Other writers had begun this transition a year or so earlier, but O’Neil brought it to fruition.

I’d say it demonstrates that Byrne’s remake of Clark as a high-school football hero wasn’t necessary. O’Neil’s revamp was arguably better because it flowed from the previous 30 years of stories.

The Curt Swan/Murphy Anderson art is still fantastic, but the coloring is brutal. It really is amazing how far comic coloring has come in the last 30 years. That and the exposition in the thought bubbles are the most dated aspects of stuff you posted.

It is pretty amazing that in the span of a couple years that Denny O’Neil managed to create the best post-Golden Age Batman bad guy, tell probably the second best Superman story of the Julie Schwartz era AND do one of the more memorable Wonder Woman runs. It was all very ’70s, but in a good way.

It is sad that the Bronze Age Superman got off to such a promising start and ultimately went in such a dull direction.

@ Rob Schmidt:

I’d say it demonstrates that Byrne’s remake of Clark as a high-school football hero wasn’t necessary. O’Neil’s revamp was arguably better because it flowed from the previous 30 years of stories.

I will never understand the hostility that Clark Kent playing High School football generates in people. It was, like, three panels and yet it comes up in every discussion of the Byrne revamp.

My comment wasn’t very hostile.

One could argue that the football bit was symptomatic of the changes Byrne made overall. Young Clark Kent went from a Peter Parker-style bookworm to a Big Man on Campus. As people in the Byrne thread said, mild-mannered Clark became Superman’s temporary identity rather than the other way around.

The last issue of the story was one of the first comic books I ever got, as evidenced by its current extremely ratty pages, missing cover and severely rolled spine. I loved it! I’m sad that you didn’t show any scenes from the last chapter, which was really mind-blowing to my 8-year-old self. I don’t have the earlier parts of the story, but they’re definitely going on my “must-have” list. Thanks!

@Rob Schmidt: Your comments weren’t hostile, but the “football panels” have generated some staggering hostility from other fans. It is in fact often the most-discussed aspect of the revamp, even more than the radical alterations to Krypton and Byrne’s intentional obliteration of the parts of Superman’s backstory that made him a metaphoric immigrant.

Did you post this in response to Kelly’s posting on the Byrne reboot? Because her posting–and all the kiddies who said they grew up on Byrne’s Superman–got me thinking about this storyline.

It was a happy coincidence, actually, as I had this already in the queue (and that was Sonia, just for the record).

Did they ever collect this? Cause I totally want to buy it now.

Changing Clark Kent from a wimp to a BMOC is arguably as big a change as making Krypton a sterile place, keeping the Kents alive, and eliminating Superboy.

It’s highly debatable Clark was meant as a “BMOC” just because he played football. I also find it absurd to argue that’s as significant a change when I don’t think it was ever referenced again. The altered Krypton, lack of Superboy, and living Kents had more far-reaching effects that altered the way multiple books were written on a monthly basis.

In fact, I believe the only thing the Johns Secret Origin update of Superman’s Origin is doing is reinstating the original Krypton and Superboy, because these are such major issues. Superman’s status as a football player has not yet been addressed, probably because it just doesn’t matter.


Tom Fitzpatrick

January 15, 2010 at 6:15 am

Look at how much it costs back in 1971? 15 cents!!!! sob!! ;-(

You could buy 6 and 1/2 comics for a buck!!!!

Goddamn inflation!!!

@ Rob Schmidt:

A lot of people play sports in High School and are not BMOC. I would say that laying a varsity sport in High School, an intramural sport in college and/or that same sport with your friends and family is pretty darn average. The vast majority of the Superman appearances that I have seen depict Clark as than “normal” or “un-noteworthy” than overly wimpy. The major exception was the Donner-Reeves films that had Clark stumbling over his own feet. Siegel-Shuster had Clark working as a construction worker prior to the Daily Planet. As you mentioned earlier, the Clark Kent seen here is not exactly geeky. If you stop and think about it, then “average” is a much better way of disguising your identity than “dorky”. It draws less attention.

I get that you like geeky Clark. Geoff Johns is clearly on your side of the fence, so that is going to be the status quo for a while. However, a few panels of High School Football really is not that big a change in the grand scheme of things.

@ Lynxara:

The altered Krypton, lack of Superboy, and living Kents had more far-reaching effects that altered the way multiple books were written on a monthly basis.

The lack of Superboy essentially killed the Legion, which was a big seller for DC at the time. So, I would say that was kind of a big deal. It was a good change for the Superman franchise. (I mean … how big a coincidence was it that Superboy and Clark Kent came from the same small town and moved to the same big city at around the same time?) However, the connection to Superman is pretty well foundational for the Legion. It was a change that massively altered the DC Universe and the business side.

The Kents living into Clark’s adulthood was also a massive change. At least Jonathan Kent had died every prior telling of the origin. It was also one of the things that Byrne tried which did not work for me. It took some of the drama out of the origin story. It effected a huge percentage of the post-Byrne issues.

Did they ever collect this? Cause I totally want to buy it now.

It was recently collected as the first volume of DCs Classic Comics Library (or whatever it’s called-the series of hardcovers that also features the George Perez JLA collection, a collection of old Batman Annuals, the death of Ferro Lad, etc.).

That anonymous was me, sorry.

It hadn’t occurred to me that being a news anchor would logically be a major, ongoing problem for his secret identity… In retrospect, I find it hard to swallow, especially his casual dismissal of it – “I’ll think of something!”

WGBS seems like such a missed chance. I don’t see why Lois couldn’t be the anchor, with Clark doing the thankless but vital task of writing behind the scenes. That seems to fit both of their personalities better.

Two items of interest (to me) in regards to this outstanding Superman series from the 1970s. I remember being nine years old and literally frozen in my tracks when I saw the cover to #233 — I had to have it immediately. I was hooked from that point on. A few years ago I bought a page of original art from issue #233 — page 5 with the Daily Planet headline at the top. At about the same time I ran into Neal Adams at a comic book convention, and bought another copy of #233 to get him to sign, which he did graciously. He commented to me at that time, it was the best-selling single issue of Superman or any other DC comic book in the 1970s, that it was one of his favorite covers, and that he is pleased that the image on that cover became so very popular over the years. It’s amazing to look at the Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson art and realize how “revolutionary” that was in its approach to Superman — take a look at Superman #230 or #231 with the Plastino and Boring art — both great artists, both defined Superman, but belonged to an earlier time. Still love this comic after all these years!

The page where Superman actually ….ate(!) some kryptonite (!!!) blew my eight year old mind and stuck with me across several decades during whcih I no longer had a copy of the issue.

“Needs salt…”

Does the Superman Sandman Special by Walter Simonson garner any mention here?

I was 15 when Schwartz and O’Neil took over. At the time, I was beginning to look and feel a bit old for “funnybooks.” If I had any notion of dropping the habit, though, SUPERMAN #233 cured me, Heck, the cover alone was enough to do it. I’m pleased to see in the responses to this review the thrill this story can still give to young fans who’ve never seen it. I don’t buy new comics anymore. The thrill, I’m sorry to say, is gone. But I stayed with the Man of Steel for many years after Denny, Curt, and Murphy first had at him. Such was the power of their reboot.

Is there anything Denny O’Neil can’t do?

dont believe the hype.
rather weird (not in a good way) and dull.

As is all what i have seen from O’Neil so far.

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