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The Many Tomorrows of Superman

by Robert Greenberger

A new era is about to begin for the Man of Steel as J. Michael Straczynski is given the key to the Fortress of Solitude. With his arrival a door closes on the megafiction aspect, something that has been a part of the titles since the last new era began in 1986 with the arrival of John Byrne.

Superman has always been reflective of the times, beginning as the wish fulfillment fantasy of two Depression-era Cleveland teens. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were creating a character that would do what the federal, state, and local governments seemed incapable of doing. After all, look at those early stories (easily found these days in the various Archives and Chronicles collections) and you’ll see the caped hero fight corruption in the boxing ring, stop a wife beater, and physically force an arms dealer to become a part of the very war he was making possible.

The original Superman, as we know, was conceived as an example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. “Reign of the Superman” was a cautionary tale when written for the fanzines of the early 1930s but as Siegel became more and more enamored with his character, he began to rethink him in heroic terms. By then, he had been exposed to things like Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator and was regularly reading Street & Smith’s Doc Savage pulps.

Superman became a force for good and an outlet for the shy teen’s anger towards a world that had been somewhat cruel towards him, robbing him of his father during a robbery gone bad (and covered in Brad Meltzer’s most recent novel The Book of Lies). When he and Shuster were successful in selling the feature to National Comics, they got to have someone take on the crimes they were powerless to resolve.

As Superman became an international icon for America during World War II, his custodians at National steered him away from social justice. Instead, he took on saboteurs and spies and common criminals, rarely challenged. He was an entertainment vehicle for those back at home and for the troops defending our liberty. Siegel suddenly was sharing the writing with others, notably Don Cameron, and the character was less and less what he imagined.

When the war ended, Superman entered a period of stasis that lasted, pretty much, for the next thirteen years. He was increasingly placed in the role of super-cop, protecting his identity from Lois and overseeing an expansion of his franchise with the arrival of Superboy tales and eventual pairing with Batman when the page count dropped, allowing both heroes to be preserved in World’s Finest Comics.

As the Adventures of Superman, with its equally innocuous stories, ended its television run, editor Mort Weisinger ushered in a new era. Suddenly, things introduced in the titles were carried over from issue to issue and characters ho-scotched between the growing line which now included titles dedicated to Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. In many ways, this was Superman’s Golden Age (nestled in DC Comics’ Silver Age), as the elements we’ve come to know and love arrived with startling regularity (Bizarro, the Fortress, Phantom Zone, Argo City, Kandor, Supergirl, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Metallo, Brainiac, and so on).

Until Weisinger’s retirement in 1970, the Superman line was an unending source of entertaining stories as we learned more and more about his background, life on Krypton, and his extended family. Additionally, Weisinger conceived the Imaginary Story which allowed these elements to be explored in more inventive ways and provided some of the best character-driven stories from the company during those years.

The next fundamental shift was as Julie Schwartz was ordered to take the Action Ace and do something with him. Julie wanted to avoid taking Mort’s baby but did so with his usual professionalism. With writer Denny O’Neil, they tried to update and modernize the character with much media fanfare and little sales. While Superman was different, the Murray Boltinoff edited Action and World’s Finest still felt old school. Soon, regardless of editor, they retreated to the Mort era feel.

By 1985, that wasn’t cutting it commercially. Sales were down; Julie was readying to retire and had been effectively letting his writers do what they want for good or ill. As part of the company’s golden anniversary, it was wisely decided that the top three heroes needed refurbishing. Rather than employ a comprehensive approach to the new DC Universe, different creators were courted and given leeway with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman although clearly, John Byrne’s arrival from Marvel led the way.

He reimagined everything from the culture and geology of Krypton to the personality of Lois Lane. It was fresh and a clear break from the past. People noticed as sales rose and for the first time in years, the Metropolis Marvel was cool once more. But, within two years, Byrne was gone as was Wolfman, who followed his lead in Adventures of Superman. By then, Mike Carlin was editing the books and continued weaving storylines in a twice-weekly manner (Action by then was a weekly experiment in frustration but that’s another story) and the metafiction style was entrenched while slowly but surely, all of John’s innovative ideas were peeled away until a modern day version of the Weisinger era was the status quo.

A soft reboot of sorts occurred a decade back when Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness took over Superman and freshened the characters and plots but they didn’t introduce anything new and really offered updated Mort stories. The only radical change since then is the visuals suddenly resembling the Richard Donner films and personally, I have trouble accepting a bearded Jor-El. And here we are, having just wrapped up a year-plus when Superman was seen everywhere but the pages of his own title. The entire notion of 100,000 Kryptonians operating on or near Earth was at last something that hadn’t been tried and led to some diverting stories but we all knew they’d be dispatched sooner or later and when JMS became available, the answer became soon, in fact as soon as possible so the inevitable war was truncated into four frenetic weekly issues.

Straczynski has made his love for Superman and the ideals he represents well known over the last few years so the idea that he will show us what he can do is an intriguing one. That he is handed Wonder Woman at the same time will be interesting considering that gives him two-thirds of the crown jewels. But it is also telling that the hero will be limited to his own title (as Paul Cornell focuses on Luthor in Action) giving JMS a soap box all his own.

What sort of hero do we need today? Our world remains fractured by racial and religious strife as the global economy teeters beyond anyone’s control. Ecologically, we continue to do more harm than good despite all the warning klaxons being sounded. But we’re also a more tightly knit world, using all manner of technology to talk to one another, sharing ideas and points of view. When disaster strikes, we mobilize quickly and continue to look after one another.

Straczynski has the largest audience ever to address with his vision of Superman. There are nearly seven billion people on Earth, all wistfully looking up in the sky now and then, hoping for a savior. On DC’s Earth, their watchfulness will be rewarded with the sight of a red and blue blur, offering them hope.

Robert Greenberger is a former DC editor and executive with two Superman co-writing credits to his name. Currently a freelance writer, his most recent works include the novel Iron Man: Femme Fatales and the non-fiction Wonder Woman. Amazon. Hero. Icon., the Essential Batman Encyclopedia, and Batman Vault. In August, DelRey Books releases The Essential Superman Encyclopedia, cowritten with long-time Superman scribe Martin Pasko.

192 Comments

“With his arrival a door closes on the megafiction aspect, something that has been a part of the titles since the last new era began in 1986 with the arrival of John Byrne.”

What is megafiction?

Curmudgeonly Chap

June 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

This article reads like a kid’s book report.

What sort of hero will Strazinski’s Superman be? You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Uhm, Geoff John’s Secret Origin?

“Uhm, Geoff John’s Secret Origin?”

More updated Weisinger.

Birthright? Also, yes, what is “megafiction”?

Every few years I try a Superman comic, only to drop it in disgust. I don’t recognize these characters. Who is this new person calling herself Lois Lane? What happened to the real Lois Lane?

I’m fortunate to have about 130 longboxes of back issues, mostly Silver Age, so I can read the real thing. And thank goodness for DC Archives and Showcase Presents. Why has DC stripped Superman of the very things that made him charming and special, and turned him into just another Modern Age hero?

Poor Superman. Unable to die a natural death. Twisted and warped by every new editor. Often unrecognizable as the same character created by Siegel and Shuster. The only villain that Superman can’t defeat is the corporation that owns him.

“What sort of hero do we need today?”

And, to be even more precise, who does he need to be for the two different audiences JMS will be writing him for in two different continuities: the main Superman title, and the new “Earth One” version that is launching at the same time?

How does JMS distinguish between the two takes on Superman? Does he?
What makes “our” Superman different than Earth One’s, while still keeping both true at their core?

I just began re-reading my Byrne Superman collection and its a real blast. Fun, professionally crafted stories that always make me smile. JB was only on Superman for 2 years but in those two years, he created over 50 issues of Superman (counting his concurrent run on Action and his writing of Advs after Wolfman’s departure) but still, I wish he stayed longer.

People don’t realize it but when Byrne was doing Superman, he was at the height of his craft. The detail work in each panel (beautifully embellished by Karl Kesel), the magnificent transformation of Lois Lane into a character with depth, his signature depiction of a smiling Superman flying over a city upside down were all part of the package that made the book just cool as heck.

What’s funny is I’ve been reading comics since I was eight years old. As a kid, the only comic I never bought was Superman because I found him to be boring and pointless. The same stories were being told over and over; Clark and Lois would never get together, she would never find out his identity; no one in the cast was allowed to grow and evolve so I figured, why bother reading? Nothing will ever go anywhere.

That all changed when Byrne came on board. He always brought a sense of thrill to any book he worked on because you never knew what to expect. Characters changed logically; developed and evolved in his stories so I bought my first Superman comic because of him. And he set the stage for the great stories that followed by Ordway and Jurgens, who told some of the best stories in the characters history.

Wow, what a ride!

Sigh. Oh, Superman.

I’m only 31, but I prefer Silver Age Supes over the Superman of any other era… well, I really like the Golden Age stuff, too.

Any Superman post-1966 just isn’t worth reading.

PS. It also should be mentioned that when Byrne was doing Superman, at the height of his artistic powers, he wrote and drew two books — monthly and never, ever missed a deadline.

And never skimped on the quality.

That’s a feat considered inconceivable by today’s new standard of artists, who can’t muster up on one page (that probably takes 4 weeks to draw) 1/10th of the quality Byrne delivered on 44, all monthly.

I would love for a Superman closer to his roots -someone who actually fights power and corruption, even in the established structures and even in authority. instead, we’ve been stuck with the Superman so memoraby described by Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns” as a hero who “always say ‘yes’ to anyone with a badge.” (paraphrasing).

I have high hopes for JMS’s run.

I presume megafiction is a typo for metafiction

Watcher, I agree 100% !! I dropped Superman in the mid-90s for four reasons: 1. Lois Lane’s “character” 2. Superman’s “character” (the moment came when Clark Kent whined to Lois about her flirting with some guy. The issue was drawn by Stuart Immonen) 3. the frickin’ MARRIAGE.
But, most importantly, 4. This current ‘Superman’ isn’t Superman, and hasn’t been since 1970.

None of the writers in the past 40 years (yes 40) know who Superman is. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (and maybe Waid and Busiek), none of them understand (let alone are able to emulate) the spirit of Superman that was embodied in the Golden Age by Jerry Seigel, the Silver Age by Otto Binder and Ed Hamilton; and in the Adventures of Superman TV show & two initial Richard Donner films.

Superman is the ‘champion of the oppressed’ and the ‘man of tomorrow’. He is a hero that we should all look up to, not for his powers, but for his morality and character. He is also an adventurer, who faces danger like Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood–with a smile and a good quip.

But none of today’s writers understand this. Instead, they have spent years trying to make Superman more like Batman, more like a Marvel character, more ‘realistic’ more like every second rate character whom owe their very existence to Superman himself.

DC execs will argue that the ‘public’ (ie: the 90,000 fanboys that make up DC’s readership, as opposed to the 90 Million that they could aim for instead) wants ‘realism’ out of Superman, and a ‘dark’ character. If they checked their facts, they would see that the media is dominated by film and TV franchises that dwell in science fiction and fantasy.

Harry Potter, Twilight, Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, Lost, Fringe, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings. These properties have dominated the past decade of film and television. What decade is DC living in?

Superman is dead. Until DC wipes out the nightmare of the John Byrne/Mike Carlin mess and returns Superman to his Silver Age glory (in other words, make Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman the ONLY Superman), then the Man of Steel will only exist in our beloved back issues and reprints.

@Brett;

“People don’t realize it but when Byrne was doing Superman, he was at the height of his craft.”

Dude, you are out of your fu@#!n’ mind! Nothing Byrne ever did @ DC, could even be considered nominally close to the work he did prior @ Marvel. His runs on the X-Men, Avengers, Captain America, Iron Fist, Star-Lord, Fantastic Four, Epic, they ALL dwarf his efforts @ DC, and I LIKED his Superman! There is a reason why people don’t realize, it’s because it isn’t true!

I think he meant metafiction. And I find Geoff Johns Superman a boring version of Silver Age Superman and, as Bob Greenberger unconsciously ignored it, it was a continuation of Loeb’s vision.
My favorite take is still Byrne’s – it was true to the core, closer to Golden Age Superman in his “loneliness”, and much tighter in its adventures. But Greenberger should have mentioned Pacifist Superman from Joe Casey. That was the most original re-thinking of Superman and, amazingly, the closest to his origins as a fighter for the common good in the streets.

I loved John Byrne’s Superman as a kid, but which each re-read, it gave diminishing returns. While I did like some of his concepts, and some of the art, even Byrne admits he was ‘never happy on Superman’ (Comics Interview). He peaked midway through his Fantastic Four run. I think this fact is pretty much universally accepted.

In any case, if Byrne was at his peak, or his nadir, his Superman stuff was superficial, rushed, and blasphemous to the Superman legend. He has the honour of being the first writer to have Superman kill (Superman Vol. 2, No. 22) and also guilty of wiping out everything that made Superman unique among his imitators.

He eliminated the Fortress of Solitude, the Bottle City of Kandor, the real Brainiac, Krypto, the real Krypton, and replaced Lois Lane with a stock ‘b*tch’ character revealing his latent sexism (“Latinas with blonde hair all look like hookers”-JB).

Since 1970, there have been a small handful of decent Superman stories, and they’re all by Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Scott McLoud, Mark Millar, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek and Alan Moore again (Supreme). The rest are about a guy with a blue and red tights that is trying to live up to the ‘realistic’ ideal of X-men and Batman fans that don’t read anything but bad comic books.

To this day, John Byrne’s recreation of Superman and his cast remains a personal favorite. A shining example of how do comics in a creative, professional and timely manner.

Chris Schillig

June 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

“Megafiction,” I’d wager, means storylines continued over multiple titles starring the same character, since Greenberger later refers to those small Superman symbols in the corner of each cover that told readers the order in which to read the stories.

My favorite Superman stories are still the originals from the Golden Age, before Superman’s powers grew to such ridiculous levels that he was basically omnipotent.

My favourite Superman stories are:
1. Silver Age
2. Golden Age
3. “Supreme” by Alan Moore
4. Superman I & 2 movies
5. Adventures of Superman TV show
6. All-Star Superman

I never had a problem with his power levels, because the more inventive writers of the 50s-60s always managed to write clever stories around them! (ie: Superman pitching a baseball out of Metropolis that reaches a batter in China; the “The Man Who Sold Life Insurance To Superman” etc.)

Count me as another avid Superman fan, who is a reader primarily of the Archives and Showcase editions. I have dipped my toe back in to the monthly comics dozens of times and rarely find anything to keep me reading. The last truly satisfying Superman experience was ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, although I did like Gary Frank’s art while he was working with Geoff Johns.

Anyway …

I would like to mount a qualified defense of Byrne. He had a lot of genuinely inventive ideas and the early issues were easily on par with his work on FANTASTIC FOUR. As someone that followed Byrne from one to the next, I though MAN OF STEEL was vastly better than the last issues of FF that he churned out. Byrne lost a passion for Marvel’s first family at least a year before he stopped scripting them.

DC just got cold feet around the time Wolfman left. No one seemed to have though through the effect of pulling Superman out of the post-COIE continuity. The entire history of the LoSH was upended, but the title moved forward like nothing had happened. The back-story of New Teen Titans was eviscerated by the loss of the Silver Age stories. Power Girl needed an entirely new origin and no one seemed to have any idea what it might be. The list of problems went up and down the line.

Instead of moving boldly forward, everything was suddenly about back-filling and explaining. Add Byrne’s obsession the Fourth World characters (with their own complex continuity) and the energy got sucked out of the re-boot in Year 2. What remained was this odd demi-Superman that was a whimsical bolting of Weisinger elements onto Byrne’s vision. It has never worked for me.

I see a lot of people not only don’t know what megafiction means, they also don’t know what metafiction means.

Clegane, Sandor

June 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Mike-El said it perfectly:

“This current ‘Superman’ isn’t Superman, and hasn’t been since 1970.

None of the writers in the past 40 years (yes 40) know who Superman is. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (and maybe Waid and Busiek), none of them understand (let alone are able to emulate) the spirit of Superman that was embodied in the Golden Age by Jerry Seigel, the Silver Age by Otto Binder and Ed Hamilton; and in the Adventures of Superman TV show & two initial Richard Donner films.”

Superman should never have been deconstructed in the 1970s, nor Marvel-ized in the 1980s.

As Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely recently provded so well, the Weisenger era bigger-than-life / Imaginationland format is really the *right* way to approach Superman. It’s the creme of the crop, and that’s why even younger fans not alive for it understand it’s the SOURCE.

Like a lot of readers I grew up with watered-down Superman in the 80s and 90s. Here’s hoping JMS picks up the ball and runs with it!

@ Mike-EL:

My favorites are:
1. The Fleisher Cartoons.
2. The B&W seasons of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV series.
3. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN
4. All the Silver Age stuff, but especially the introductions of the new elements (Supergirl, Krypto, etc.)
5. Alan Moore’s stuff both with Superman and “Supreme”.
6. The Siegel-Shuster originals.
7. The first 3-4 seasons of SMALLVILLE, which fell apart around Graduation just like every teen show ever.
8. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and the Donner cut of SUPERMAN II
9. SUPERMAN RETURNS for its elegiac tone and willingness to create a ersatz Trilogy out of the Donner-Reeve films.
10. Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL mini-series.

Mike L,

None of the elements you mention (Bottle of Kandor, original Brainiac, Krypto) were part of the original mythos; they were added on later by editorial and all the ‘favorites’ you mentioned were considered to be excess baggage that turned readers off when those editors passed the torch, at a time when Superman was selling very, very low.

Maybe Byrne’s Superman wasn’t to your liking because he eliminated the elements you were fond of and I understand completely how you feel. I don’t share the enthusiasm because as a young kid, those very elements you cite were the reasons I never bought the book because even as an eight year old, I thought they were silly.

As a non-reader, none of those elements were a) In the George Reeves Superman show which I watched nor were they in the two Donner films, which I was a fan of. So I never developed an affection for the things about Superman you enjoyed. To the people who were against him bringing back Ma and Pa Kent, they never showed Ma die in the Donner film so he took a liberty and changed mythos too, which as a non reader of Superman, never bothered me.

Still, obviously there were readers who didn’t like his take. I did, so much that I still read and enjoy them today. I’m currently up to issue 10. Others did too because John Byrne brought sales on Superman that the book hadn’t seen in decades.

As for Byrne being at the height of his popularity during Superman? To each his own. I’ve followed John Byrne’s career since Rog 2000 and feel Superman was among the best.

When Byrne came on, his book made me feel as though I was reading Superman with a Richard Donner feel (and Donner’s Superman was a primary influence for Byrne’s redo of Krypton, which you also cite as a turn off)

It’s a great article.

I remember reading the essays about the DC Universe that Greenberger wrote for the DC Heroes RPG and this is a man who clearly knows what he is talking about, specially re: Superman.

I in particularly recall an essay he wrote about the streets in Metropolis, and how prior to Crisis the writers and editors didn’t care about what the streets were called, but afterwards the post MoS editors and writers made an effort to flesh it out more realistically, keeping track of such things, making maps and such.

These were peole who paid attention to the smallest of details, not because it would pander to nostalgia and to the fanboys, but because they cared about the job they were doing.

I do wish that the article had cover more of the clusterfucks suffered under Berganza’s regime and how, in a single decade, Superman has gone from having one origin to having five different ones (Byrne’s Mos, Loeb’s Return to Krypton, Waid’s Birthright, Johns’ and Donner’s Action Comics Annual #10, and Johns’ Secret Oriign), not counting the different origins of Supergil in her own title and the different origins of Lex Luthor and his father, as seen in Birthright, Countdown, and Secret Origin.

And let’s not forget the sixth origin coming out later this year, Earth One, yet another reboot of the character.

The Superman comics need an editor who is willing to stop the rampant Silver Age nostalgia.

@Brett

Not only did Byrne bring sales to the title, but he also brought it back on track.

People forget the little things, like that prior to Byrne taking over Clark worked at a TV station as an anchorman. Byrne put him back behind the typewriter and back to work at the Daily Planet.

MichaelSacal,

I agree. But I do understand that many silver age readers didn’t like his take because he got rid of all the things they enjoyed, material considered excess baggage to others.

My thing is, as a kid I liked Superman. But I was only familiar with the Reeves tv show and the movies, none of which had the silver age elements in them. The silver age thought behind the character, along with all of the beloved elements readers of the time enjoyed were what turned me off as a kid and made me not buy the comic.

When DC hired John Byrne, they were trying to get new readers interested in Superman and the formula they used was the ‘back to basics’, strip the character down to his core (the Siegal/Shuster creation and the Donner movies, again, none of which included the silver age elements). And it worked in that they got a new reader in me.

I also agree with your assesment that Berganza turned Superman into a train-wreck and that’s when I stopped reading the book. Berganza was also the editor who turned Titans into a train wreck as well.

Brett, all excellent points. The argument can be made that the only ‘real’ Superman is the Seigel/Shuster version. But, I consider the Silver Age Superman (at the very least) a relevant version because he resonated with the public so deeply, for so long, and is usually the version that the public remembers, even TODAY as the ‘real’ Superman.

The Denny O’Neil/Jack Kirby version in the 1970s had its strengths, but (again) failed to connect with readers, so I consider it as much a failure as–well, any version that has come since.

There were some smart revisions done by Byrne: eliminating Superboy, returning him to his pre 70s status quo, making him the sole survivor of Krypton. But, not of these are ‘new’, just correcting previous mistakes.

As Marv Wolfman pointed out, the only thing in Byrne’s Superman that worked (or that has really lasted), is the new Luthor, which was created by Wolfman, not Byrne.

re: Dean
“What remained was this odd demi-Superman that was a whimsical bolting of Weisinger elements onto Byrne’s vision.”

Exactly! There is a skillful way to start fresh, without constantly referencing previous stories, or wiping them away completely. Moore did it on Swamp Thing, and Morrison did it on New X-men: you just move forward and don’t address things that aren’t important to the story.

I’m also tired of all the ‘explaining’. Reprint the first page of Action Comics #1 and be DONE with it. We KNOW his origin. Now give us something new.

@Brett

I once found a reproduction of an interview Byrne did at the time of the reboot posted at Superman Through the Ages in which he defines his take on Superman as a cross between the Fleisher toon with the Siegel/Shuster version brought into the (then) present.

Upon inspection of both materials, his definiton is spot on.

Byrne, Wolfman, Carlin… those guys set out to give us the kind of Superman that Donner did in the movie, one grounded in reality. Their work was driven by verisimilitude, just like Donner’s movie was.

That changed in the last decade, with each new writer who comes to the title being more concerned with pandering to the oudated 60s and rehashing some lame idea than in doing what is best for the character, which is how we ended up with multiple origins.

Just earlier today I read an issue of Action Comics published in 2008 that depicts the fat Lex Luthor from the Byrne/Wolfman era, this inspite of the multiple reboots that have taken place in the last decade.

The people in charge have no clue.

When I asked Idelson why Lionel Luthor’s origin changed from a Metropolis mogul in Countdown to a traveling salesman in Booster Gold to a drunk farmer in Secret Origin, he blamed it on Superboy Prime.

The first thing that these people need to do is take responsability for their incompetence and their hypocrasy.

How can Geoff Johns write in Booster Gold that there are no temporal anomalies centered around Superman, and then say that Lionel transforming from a traveling salesman to a drunk farmer doesn’t constitute as an anomaly?

How can he write a story arc in BG where the message is clearly that history cannot be changed, and then over in Superman spend the following two years rewriting history willy nilly?

Red and blue blur…what is this Smallville?!

Mike L,

I completely respect your affection with those silver age elements and agree that the silver age version is what resonates most with readers, even if they don’t with me.

Perhaps if they were reintroduced in a different fashion, I might have developed an affection for them. After all, I did keep reading Superman after Berganza’s regime reintroduced them. I just felt it was done so poorly, connecting to 17 different other versions Berganza also was doing, I couldn’t keep track because reading the book under his guidance just gave me a headache.

The Silver Age may resonate with readers, but far as the larger audiences are concerned it’s all about the movies and TV shows.

To this day people still connect Dean Cain to Superman.

I should say older readers.

MichaelSacal,

You are spot on. And the very reasons you cite is why I wouldn’t buy a Superman comic today, I don’t care if God was writing it. Because the current regime rules with an ego so out of control, they would probably edit God too.

If people think JMS is going to bring the Super back to Superman they better think again. Because no matter how good JMS is, he still has to answer to the Three Stooges who have stained and perverted everything with a DC label.

@Brett

I had to stop buying comics due to economic reasons last year, yet due to the low quality of what is being produced today, it didn’t bother me that much.

Just to choose an example related to Superman.

Over in Action Comics, Johns and Frank reintroduced Steve Lombard as a muscular guy with long hair and a beard who, like the original, likes to play pranks on Clark.

Well, I recently read an issue of Brave & The Bold by Waid in which Ordway penclled the Bronze Age version of Lombard, not the current one.

Keep in mind that, at the time, Waid was, according to him, acting as continuity editor at DC, making sure that character appearances were consistant from issue to issue.

This was a clear example of incompetence on the part of writer who is more concerned with pandering to nostalgia than in recreating the past in a modern context.

As I said before, post Crisis/MoS, the people behind the comics were more concerned with providing the audience with a credible, grounded, entertaining, and consistant story, while the current crop of fanboys-turned-writers is only interested in pandering to nostalgia and fanboys, and that has resulted in sub par work that needs to be revived over and over and over again.

*revised

Wolfman’s Luthor didn’t work, at all. Now, the Luthor we’ve ended up with, the one who is the ultra-brilliant scientist AND the corporate mogul, now that Luthor works far better than the sum of it’s parts. (And it’s no coincidence that that’s the Luthor that Alan Moore came up with, presumably based on a brief description of what Byrne/Wolfman were going for during the limboid time between the end of the crisis and the superman reboot.

Count me in the group who has no idea what is being meant, here, by the end of the ‘megafiction’. Unless JMS is to represent a complete reboot and/or the abandonment of even the idea of continuity in Superman’s book, I can’t make heads nor tails of it.

“Wolfman’s Luthor didn’t work, ”

And yet that’s the version that to this day continues to be used on TV and the version with the most consistancy.

That Luthor didn’t need to be rebooted five times to work. Once was all it took.

What, no love for the 1970s Superman? Elliot S. Maggin’s stories put Byrne to shame.

@Brett

Back to your earlier points, I’ve always considered Byrne’s work on Superman and F4 to be the best things he has ever done.

I do tend to forget that everything he did was done in such a short span of time, just two years.

I was never fond of Superman in any incarnation, but my brother collected it for the longest time…out if all the issues he had I liked the 2000 era, with a reimagined Braniac and president Luthor! other then that…no thanks…even to JB’s stories.

Superman has been so badly mishandled these past few years (with the notable exception of Donner and John’s run) that it is in desperate need for a reboot, and I think JMS is the man for the job.

I really hope we get a more grounded Superman. More character development and less galaxy-spanning adventures, because it DCE isn’t loosing Superman to their current lawsuit, they’ll loose him to irrelevance, as many once fans like myself, of the Man of Steel will begin to slowly walk away from him, for not getting worthy stories of the Last son of Krypton.

And now, with only one book going for him (since he hasn’t been seen in the pages of Action for quite a while and I doubt that’ll change) it’s time to get back to his roots, and give us readers what we love about him!

“If the first five reboots don’t work, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again…”

Nah, Superman doesn’t need another reboot. It needs competent writers and editors, not hypocrites and fanboys.

@ Luis Dantas:

I grew up on Maggin-Swan SUPERMAN. It is what I have the most actual nostalgia for, since (unlike the Gold and Silver Age stuff) I encountered it as a child. So, I can’t really judge it neutrally.

That said, the panel time devoted to minor supporting cast members was very high. It was the era of Steve Lombard, who was a one-joke character and even that one joke often was not funny. Moreover, the A-list members of the rogue’s gallery were not exactly showing up in every issue. There was a lot of Terra Man, Vartox and the like. That is enough to knock it down a wrung in my memory.

@ Jeff R.:

It is hard to think of long-tenured comic book character who has grown more in the last 20-25 years than Lex Luthor. Prior to Byrne, the guy was the platonic form of the cliched Mad Scientist. Post-Byrne, he has grown to the point that DC (correctly) feels like he can carry Action Comics on his own. Most of that growth may have happened outside of comics, but it did happen and it would have been impossible without MoS.

I’m not saying that the current version of Lex isn’t a great character. But the current version isn’t very much like the MoS luthor at all. That version dumped two extremely important, load-bearing elements of the character (that he is a brilliant scientist in his own right, and that he and Clark Kent used to be the best of friends), both of which had to be restored before we could reach this point.

Because there is nothing better for Luthor than being a rip off of Doctor Doom.

Come on, the Lex in Smallville gimmick hasn’t added anything of value to the character whatsoever.

They tried three times to put him back there and not once, outside the reboots, did it matter an iota that he spent time in Smallville.

Not one tiny little bit…

What no love for the Kingdom Come Superman? A version that had made DC money since 1996 and possibly one of the best versions ever.

Add me in with hating whinny arm-boy is all I am club and I think Lois Lane is the most over-hyped love interest I have even come across. In nearly most media this character is shallow as a puddle and technically a kind of cape chaser that does not deserve Clark.

Lex Luthor has got to be one of the most exhaustive and boring of villains. DC wake up. Superman needs a kick up the butt!!

@ MichaelSacal:

I am of two minds about Lex in Smallville. On the one hand, knowing Clark as a youth and not seeing through the disguise knocks him down a tier as an antagonist. The dude’s primary weapon is his mind after all. On the other hand, it helps motivate Superman’s eternal desire to redeem Luthor that is a pretty critical element.

@ John:

I think KINGDOM COME is a stone masterpiece, but it is not exactly a Superman story.

@Dean

Why should it be Superman’s desire to redeem Lex at all?

Wouldn’t that just turn him into a rip off of Reed Richards?

Characters – no matter who they are – work best when they are as unique as possible and not rip offs of other characters.

Lex as a smart businessman who believes that Superman’s presence overshadows human achivements is more than enough of a unique motivation for him to be an antagonist.

Lex as the whiny Superboy fanboy of the 60s or whatever version he is after undergoing four reboots (BR, AC 850, Countdown, and SO) don’t work.

If any of those five versions worked, they wouldn’t have needed to be rewritten five times.

There are certain things about the concept of Superman that are fundamental, like coming from Krypton, like working at the Planet, like being raised by the Kents in Smallville, the red cape, etc, and there are certain things that are inconsequential and therefore can be ignored, like Lex in Smallville, Krypto, Kryptonian survivors other than Kal-El, super pets, uber powers derivative of the plot, etc.

Take a long objective look at Superman in TV, movies, cartoons, etc, and you’ll see a pattern of shared elements.

That pattern if the spine of the concept, it is the things that it can’t do without.

Then there is the other things, the gimmicks like Lex in Smallville, the super pets, the Kryptonian survivors, etc…. those are things that the story doesn’t need and that are only brought back to pander to nostalgia for comics published 50 years ago.

@ MichaelSacal:

I doubt that one was a “rip off” of the other, but the Smallville origin of Luthor (’60) pre-dates the first appearance of Dr. Doom (’62) by a couple years. FANTASTIC FOUR and SUPERMAN are not exactly wildly different properties in a thematic sense. So, it is not wildly improbable that there would be echoes.

That’s relative.

If speaking solely of the Silver Age version in which Lex was indeed Superboy’s childhood friend, then sure, the parallel with Reed and Doom is clear, but one must never forget that the Silver Age is nothing more than the second iteration of the concept, and it that it will always follow the original version from the Golden Age (third iteration if one takes the above original, Reign, into account, which we usually don’t because of the vast differences between it and Action Comics #1).

In the Golden Age Lex was not Superman’s friend, he was an arms dealer, and Superman was never Superboy, so where is the thematic connection with Fantastic Four?

Were the Silver Age version the end all and be all of Superman, then, sure, the argument could be made that the relationship between Lex and Superboy is unique and original, but it’s not.

Of all the reboots that Superman has undergone since 86, the one that is still closest to the original remains Byrne’s Man of Steel, while all the others have become stuck in a repetitive loop of redoing the Silver Age, failing again, and again, and again, and again.

If the Silver Age is so great, why has it been this hard for these people to replicate it?

My greatest fear with JMS’s Earth One Superman is that he will try to ground it in real life and use 9/11 as an inspiration for young Clark Kent to try to change the world or something like that.

@jccalhoun

What’s wrong with that?

“Superman became a force for good and an outlet for the shy teen’s anger towards a world that had been somewhat cruel towards him, robbing him of his father during a robbery gone bad (and covered in Brad Meltzer’s most recent novel The Book of Lies). When he and Shuster were successful in selling the feature to National Comics, they got to have someone take on the crimes they were powerless to resolve.”

That sounds a like a very real, grounded source of inspiration.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with Superman being inspired by events in the real world.

So far this decade we’ve seen what happens when fanboy writers try to interpret a version of Superman inspired by fantasy and nostalgia, and it hasn’t worked once.

@ MichaelSacal:

I don’t think that a story going through a lot of drafts is a bad thing. Ideally, one of these days someone will piece together the best elements of the character the way Thomas Mallory did for the Arthurian legend. I think it is fun that we get to read all the different folk tales which may eventually add up to an enduring myth.

DC Comics editorial wouldn’t be my first choice for an author, but no one asked me.

To me, FF and Superman share a fundamental belief in the infinite potential of the human race. With Superman, the fulfillment of that potential is an obligation that is in tension with his romantic attachments.
With the FF, the conflict comes from the costs of reaching toward that potential and the capacity for familial love to mitigate those costs. I’d say those themes have been with both properties since Day 1.

On the Silver Age, I honestly do not think that people have changed that much in the last 50 years. Stuff that resonated then is pretty much the same as stuff that resonates now. It is just that we have become culturally immune to subtlety. The Silver Age elements are (for the most part) pretty nifty metaphors. They are largely Freudian, since Mort Weisinger was under-going Freudian analysis during the time he was editing Superman. That was also, I think, the source of the interest in dreams.

I think that Superman/Lex and Reed/Doom are two entirely different dynamics, actually. The differences are difficult to articulate, but they really feel fairly unparallel.

The Silver/Bronze age superman lasted 25 years and sold more funnybooks than today’s publishers can even imagine. The sterile Byrne version couple only be carried for less than half that time before degenerating into a spiral of pathetic gimmicks that only stopped when the elements that made the Silver/Bronze age character work began to be re-introduced.

@Dean

But the constant revisions to Superman’s origin are not being done to find the right draft, they are being done to pander to nostalgia and hatred that fanboys have toward Byrne’s work, which they view as “evil” for “destroying” their precious Silver Age.

It’s funny that you mention Mallory and the notion of bringing together all the best elements of the story into a single version, because I would make the argument that, following Crisis and the MoS reboot, that is exactly what writers like Jurgens, Byrne, Ordway, Wolfman, Kesel, Simonson, and others did with concepts like Krypto, Supergirl, multi-colored Kryptonite, Lena Luthor, Krypton, Bizarro, Lex Luthor’s green armor, Elastic Lad, and a myriad of other elements from the 60s and 70s which they reinterpreted within a modern context as filtered through the MoS reboot.

What we have now is not a modern take on those old concepts, it is a regurgitation of the same elements as they appeared in comics 50 years ago.

Krypto is back to being Kryptonian, as is Supergirl. Multi colored Kryptonite is back to having its wacky origins as opposed to the more credible and grounded versions that followed Crisis/MoS, Bizarro, for a time, went back to being the slapstick version with the rock with his name on it around his neck, and so on and so forth.

The difference between the reinterpretations of classic elements offered by the writers previously mentioned and the regurgitations offered by the writers from the last decade is that the reinterpretations worked on the first try, whil the regurgitations have gone through four different variations (or more) because these people can’t decide what to do with them.

Mike Loughlin

June 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Dean, I’d say Superman is either the main character in Kingdom Come or the co-lead with Norman McKay. Almost all of the action in the story centers around Superman and his decisions. Other than Batman, Wonder Woman, & Captain Marvel, the rest of the heroes are bit players.

Michael Sacal, you’re absolutely right that the character needs quality creators to work. I find average Superman comics boring whereas average Batman or X-Men comics usually don’t put me to sleep. Exceptional Superman comics are fantastic but rare. Most other major superheroes have a better batting average.

@Mike

Thanks

“Come on, the Lex in Smallville gimmick hasn’t added anything of value to the character whatsoever.

“They tried three times to put him back there and not once, outside the reboots, did it matter an iota that he spent time in Smallville.

“Not one tiny little bit…”

I have to wholeheartedly agree with this. The thing that writers who constantly want to work “Luthor in Smallville” back into continuity overlook is that Luthor being present in Smallville is IRRELEVANT to Luthor as a character. It’s not even an important component to the story of Superman. It’s only important to Superboy/Young Clark Kent, and that’s a very important distinction.

Go back to the ’60s, which established that Luthor and Superman knew each other as kids, which was a new addition to the canon. Until that point, they first met when adult Superman was already up and about. Why did they do this? Same reason they added the young Mxyptlk to the Superboy stories: Superboy needs villains, and working existing villains into the framework was the laziest way of doing this (this also extends to the increasingly detailed “first meetings” between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne as kids). If you’re not telling a Superboy story, there’s no reason to establish that Luthor and Superman grew up knowing each other, because there’s no reason for Luthor to be there in the first place. It doesn’t add anything to the conflict.

You know why Luthor was in ‘Smallville’? The show needed antagonists. Simple as that. That’s not a good reason to retcon him further back into Superman’s history in the concurrently published comics, because the comics and the show are telling two different types of stories.

Also, him swearing vengeance on Superboy because he went bald in a laboratory mishap is ridiculous, no matter how you try to rationalize it. You know why Luthor lost his hair as a teenager? So Luthor would look recognizable in Superboy stories. Any attempt to explain that away in-story is a means to an end, and shouldn’t be held as gospel. I mean, they got other twenty years of Luthor stories before the retcon out of the simple rationalization that he was just a big jerk who wants to conquer the world and it’s kind of Superman’s job to stop guys like that (incidentally, all of this is why the ’80s revamp of Luthor has been the best interpretation of the character: it gave the character a deep-seated reason to resent Superman that wasn’t as flimsy as a sheet of paper, in addition to tying him closer into the themes Superman represents).

“Go back to the ’60s, which established that Luthor and Superman knew each other as kids, which was a new addition to the canon. Until that point, they first met when adult Superman was already up and about. Why did they do this? Same reason they added the young Mxyptlk to the Superboy stories: Superboy needs villains, and working existing villains into the framework was the laziest way of doing this (this also extends to the increasingly detailed “first meetings” between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne as kids). If you’re not telling a Superboy story, there’s no reason to establish that Luthor and Superman grew up knowing each other, because there’s no reason for Luthor to be there in the first place. It doesn’t add anything to the conflict.”

Exactly, right on the nose.

“You know why Luthor was in ‘Smallville’? The show needed antagonists. Simple as that. That’s not a good reason to retcon him further back into Superman’s history in the concurrently published comics, because the comics and the show are telling two different types of stories.”

True as well.

I remember reading a description of the show that included Lois as part of the cast for the first season before they announced that they were going to use Chloe.

“Also, him swearing vengeance on Superboy because he went bald in a laboratory mishap is ridiculous, no matter how you try to rationalize it. You know why Luthor lost his hair as a teenager? So Luthor would look recognizable in Superboy stories. Any attempt to explain that away in-story is a means to an end, and shouldn’t be held as gospel. I mean, they got other twenty years of Luthor stories before the retcon out of the simple rationalization that he was just a big jerk who wants to conquer the world and it’s kind of Superman’s job to stop guys like that (incidentally, all of this is why the ’80s revamp of Luthor has been the best interpretation of the character: it gave the character a deep-seated reason to resent Superman that wasn’t as flimsy as a sheet of paper, in addition to tying him closer into the themes Superman represents).”

Exactly right.

@ Jeff R.:

That is a good point. The Donner-Reeve take was great, but ultimately only lasted one and half movies. Similarly, Byrne told some great stories, but he was running out of gas in his second year. There are plainly limits to where a modern, “realistic” take on Superman can really go.

@ MichaelSacal:

I have neither the interest, nor the ability, in defending the folks that followed Byrne. The Mike Carlin edited Super books were not my taste. I read very few superhero comics of any description during the early ’90s and those titles did not make the cut.

However, I will say that just because something was done badly does not indicate that it was unworthy of doing. Grant Morrison was able to update some of most badly dated fantasy elements to great effect in ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Ultimately, it comes down to the personal meaning the creators find in stuff.

@Dean

Re: Realistic Superman.

I’d be willing to bet that Nolan will shatter those limits with his take on the movie… and if we’re lucky the initial rumors will be true and it’ll be his and Goyer’s take on the MoS reboot.

In the Golden Age Lex was not Superman’s friend, he was an arms dealer, and Superman was never Superboy, so where is the thematic connection with Fantastic Four?

Very good point. Yet if we’re talking about the Luthor who was Superman’s childhood friend, I can sort of see the Doom/Reed Richards parallel. Thing is, Superman and Luthor are far greater contrasts; when you think about it, Doom and Reed are basically bad scientist and good scientist, respectfully. They’re different sides to the same concept. Meanwhile, Luthor and Superman are conceptual opposites; Luthor is a man of science, while Superman exists as almost a magical being, exempt from many of the laws of science Luthor holds dear.

Why should it be Superman’s desire to redeem Lex at all?

Wouldn’t that just turn him into a rip off of Reed Richards?

I think by the time the Fantastic Four reached the “Authoritative Action,” Reed was pretty much through trying to rehabilitate Doom. Besides, the idea of Superman trying to redeem Lex isn’t exactly new or outlandish: as he mentioned at the end of “Rock of Ages” in JLA, “There’s a good man in there somewhere.” Similarly, in All-Star Superman #10, he tries to bury the hatchet with Luthor, albeit in vain. I guess as far as Grant Morrison (who penned both stories) is concerned, Superman doesn’t fully give up on anyone.

As for the movie Goyer and Nolan are working on… honestly, I don’t care if they go with MoS, Birthright, or something brand new. I just want a great movie that does Superman justice. Now, perhaps more than ever, people need to see that Superman is just as relevant in the 21st century as he was in his heyday. In an age filled with trigger-happy power fantasies, Superman provides something different: a man who not only has immense power, but also has the wisdom to use it wisely.

Superman O Superman where are you?
I’m finding this article and the comments really engaging.
Being of my generation I find myself a little perplexed over who is the man of steel.
I admit back in the 80’s I found Superman boring and weighted down by all his continuity.
Occasionally there’d be an effort by writer’s and artist to work with all this history but few could make it work.
So the reboot was welcomed, but after Byrne left and the decade closed. I found buying and reading Superman unsatifactory.
Never cared for Dan Jurgens art or stories, didn’t even mind the reveal to Lois of his secret, or the wedding.
But on the whole without the Weisinger mythology the character floundered.
And the worst idea to date” the Death of Superman” showed the lack creativity at hand.
The world’s reaction to this story line was tantamount to his importance in it.
There were article’s writing about how Superman had been the moral compass for generations of youth.
And his now Neo-mythological status in this day and age.
So it’s no wondered that as I’ve aged and realized the mis-guided thinking of my youth.
That Grant’s Morrisons’ or Alan Moore’s take on the character was the correct one.
“For the man who has everything” and “All Star Superman”, point to the basic fact that’ it’s the level of talent that makes or breaks the success of the monthly comic.
Not constant revamps over and over again.
Sure periodical you’ll have to tweak him every 15 or so years.
But you don’t let yourselves lose sight of the character’s true nature. And the one thing that actually bothered me most about the 1986 reboot.
Was Superman saying to hell with it on his heritage.
That was a bit much at the time and it slowly grew from there “I’m Clark Kent not Superman.”
Trying to ground or make realistic Superman’s experience only starts to “kill” him.
From his original inception his been about the fantastic and otherworldly.
That’s how Jerry and Joe envisioned him, and Weisingers mythology served that purpose.
So while there have been moments of contemporary style being forced on the character you end up having to go back to the true essence of Kal-el.
So where is Superman?
He’s around somewhere, just look up in the sky.

Someone call me when Morrison and Quitely do another All-Star issue, eh?

re:MichaelSacal
“If the Silver Age is so great, why has it been this hard for these people to replicate it?”

I think its because they’re not as good writers as Otto Binder and Ed Hamilton!
Many people have tried and failed to imitate the Beatles, but that does not take away from the accomplishments of the Beatles.

I think one thing we can all agree on is that however DC wants to play it, they have absolutely got to get it together as to WHICH Superman they’re going to do. Inconsistency from month to month is killing their readership.

@MichaelSacal:
“But the constant revisions to Superman’s origin are not being done to find the right draft, they are being done to pander to nostalgia and hatred that fanboys have toward Byrne’s work, which they view as “evil” for “destroying” their precious Silver Age.”

Let’s not jump to conclusions here! The “precious” Silver Age you speak of IS or WAS Superman, so to wipe it away and start fresh is insulting. Imagine an X-men fan who followed the characters for 45 years suddenly finding their favourite comic starting from scratch, and all their old stories wiped from existence! To those fans, they would feel like the creators had lost all respect for the time they had devoted to the stories. That’s how Superman fans felt in 1986.

Myself, I didn’t get into Superman until 1988, but it only took a few years to realize (for me at least) that the Silver Age (and Golden Age) stories had more depth, creativity and talent behind them. No, they were not more realistic, but why should that matter?!

The writers of the 30-60s were usually people that dabbled in fiction, theatre and television writing. Most of the creators of the late 70s to 80s are actually what you would call “fanboys” turned pro: Roger Stern, Chris Claremont, Mark Gruenwald, Marv Wolfman and yes, John Byrne. They grew up on Lee/Kirby comics, and they turned out Lee/Kirby imitations.

The NEXT generation of creators was dominated by the British. They brought in a much broader palette of work influenced by literature, poetry, theatre and film. Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman (and later) Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis all have successful careers outside of comics.
Since Moore, Morrison and Gaiman ALL utilized Silver Age elements in their superhero stories (see Neil Gaiman’s Green Lantern/Superman story Legend of the Green Flame) I would put more weight behind THEIR decision to dabble in the Silver Age that the choice of Bronze Age creators to ignore it!

With all due respect, other than comic books, what can be said about the writing careers of people like Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Karl Kesel or John Byrne? Not much.

Mike Loughlin

June 23, 2010 at 3:59 am

One of the big problems with a “realistic” Superman is the fact that he used to be a children’s character. As such, any fantasy element could be piled onto his stories without the burden of suspension of disbelief. The Marvel characters aimed a little higher, age-wise, and their dominance in the late-’60s/’70s dragged all the DC characters in that direction. Batman got better, but Superman went stale. He was transformed so radically that the younger audience dwindled.

Byrne and his successors aimed for the older readers. Loeb & Co. tried to put those fantasy elements back into a Superman aimed at adult readers, which came out forced. Moore & Morrison could do it because they were better writers and told finite stories.

I disagree with the idea that using ‘fantasy’ (or sci-fi) elements makes something for children.

Here are the properties I listed earlier:
Harry Potter, Twilight, Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, Lost, Fringe, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings.

*spoiler*
Lost and Fringe are aimed squarely at adults, and utilize time travel, multiple dimensions and mysticism.

Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Avatar are aimed at a more general age range (Trek leans more towards adults) and these explore space travel, time travel, multiple dimension, omnipotent pranksters (Q), talking half-animals, elves, wizards, magic spells and mystical religion.

Harry Potter, Twlight and Dr. Who all initially were aimed at younger people, but all found adult audiences. Again: fantasy, magic, vampires, werewolves, time travel, space travel, aliens, magic, talking robot animals. etc. etc. etc.

So, I can only conclude that there is nothing wrong with incorporating these SAME elements into Superman, and still making him appeal to an ‘adult’ audience. Obviously some of these things have to be updated for modern audiences (ie: Bizarro’s speech pattern, Superbaby), but that’s all in the execution.

As Gerard Jones pointed out years ago (in Amazing Heroes magazine), John Byrne trashed everything in Superman’s Silver Age ‘mythos’, but his biggest mistake was even worse: he didn’t replace it with anything.

@Gokitalo

Superman exists as almost a magical being, exempt from many of the laws of science Luthor holds dear.

How do you figure?

If you go over the original Golden Age books, you will see that Siegel made an effort to ground Superman’s abilities in real science (i.e. comparing his massive strength to that of an ant, and other examples he provided).

Same goes for Byrne and his work on Superman. There even is a book published in the 90s called the Science of Superman.

The Silver Age version (and those bound to it, like Waid’s, Loeb’s, Morrison’s, Busiek’s, and Johns’ versions) definitely fall within the category of magic, but the same is not accurate of the Siegel version and those based on it, like the Byrne version.

@Mike-El

Many people have tried and failed to imitate the Beatles, but that does not take away from the accomplishments of the Beatles.

I really like that comparison. These pseudo Silver Age writers are more like The Monkeyes than The Beatles.

@Mike-El

That’s how Superman fans felt in 1986.

Those fans had something that fans fo the MoS version never had, an end to the Silver Age version called “Whatevever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?”

They had a satisfying conclusion to the story that began with the first appearance of the Silver Age Superman.

Fans of MoS haven’t had an ending, all we’ve had is constant revisions of the Modern Age Superman that make him appear more and more like the Silver Age version.

That’s the thing that The Monkeys don’t understand. Their version of Superman ended, it is over, yet they keep going back to it out of nostalgia.

The constant revisions haven’t improved things one bit, they have made the situation much worse than it needed to be.

Is it any wonder that the JMS reboot will skew closer to MoS than the Silver Age? So far we know for a fact that it won’t have a Superboy in it, which brings it closer in line with the Siegel original and the Byrne reinterpretation than any of the rehashes of the last decade have come.

@Gokitalo

Superman exists as almost a magical being, exempt from many of the laws of science Luthor holds dear.

How do you figure?

If you go over the original Golden Age books, you will see that Siegel made an effort to ground Superman’s abilities in real science (i.e. comparing his massive strength to that of an ant, and other examples he provided).

Neil Gaiman’s Green Lantern/Superman story Legend of the Green Flame

What I particularly like about that book is the afterword by Mark Waid in which he says that Superman came out of Crisis with a much stronger foundation that what he had prior to it.

Same goes for Byrne and his work on Superman. There even is a book published in the 90s called the Science of Superman.

The Silver Age version (and those bound to it, like Waid’s, Loeb’s, Morrison’s, Busiek’s, and Johns’ versions) definitely fall within the category of magic, but the same is not accurate of the Siegel version and those based on it, like the Byrne version.

@Mike-El

Many people have tried and failed to imitate the Beatles, but that does not take away from the accomplishments of the Beatles.

I really like that comparison. These pseudo Silver Age writers are more like The Monkeyes than The Beatles.

@Mike-El

That’s how Superman fans felt in 1986.

Those fans had something that fans fo the MoS version never had, an end to the Silver Age version called “Whatevever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?”

They had a satisfying conclusion to the story that began with the first appearance of the Silver Age Superman.

Fans of MoS haven’t had an ending, all we’ve had is constant revisions of the Modern Age Superman that make him appear more and more like the Silver Age version.

That’s the thing that The Monkeys don’t understand. Their version of Superman ended, it is over, yet they keep going back to it out of nostalgia.

The constant revisions haven’t improved things one bit, they have made the situation much worse than it needed to be.

Is it any wonder that the JMS reboot will skew closer to MoS than the Silver Age? So far we know for a fact that it won’t have a Superboy in it, which brings it closer in line with the Siegel original and the Byrne reinterpretation than any of the rehashes of the last decade have come.

Neil Gaiman’s Green Lantern/Superman story Legend of the Green Flame

What I particularly like about that book is the afterword by Mark Waid in which he says that Superman came out of Crisis and the subsequent reboot with a much stronger foundation that what he had prior to it.

As Gerard Jones pointed out years ago (in Amazing Heroes magazine), John Byrne trashed everything in Superman’s Silver Age ‘mythos’, but his biggest mistake was even worse: he didn’t replace it with anything.

He replaced it with a viable version of the characters that raised sales and have been used (in conjunction with the Donner movie) as the foundation for many adaptations of the concept produced in the last 25 years.

Byrne removed the silliness from Superman and replaced it with credibility.

Re: Superman’s powers through science.

Whether the comparissons Siegel used for Superman were based on real science of pseudo science, that would still not make him magical as he (and those that followed him in the SA) would have used the same science or pseudo science to explain Lex Luthor’s contraptions.

Assuming that it was all pseudo science (i.e. stuff the writers made up to provide the illusion of reality), there is no difference between the pseudo science used to explain anything Lex Luthor has created and the pseudo science used to explain Superman’s powers.

I love the Silver Age, but I have no problem calling failed Silver Age revivalists the ‘Monkees’. lol

@Mike-El

It’s accurate on many levels.

Like monkeys do, these writers are only imitating what came before, not improving it.

Monkey see, monkey do.

@ Mike Loughlin:

I pretty much disagree with your contention entirely.

If go back and read the Golden Age versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, then it is pretty hard to make the case that they were intended strictly for kids. They are violent and often lurid. The nearest parallel would be something like video games today. Kids play them, but some of the content is pretty adult. That is what gave rise to Wertham. As late the first season of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, some of the stories are shockingly adult and dark. Watch “Night of Terror” sometime and see if you don’t agree.

The difference with Batman was the campy TV show. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams felt they had to save the character in the wake of the collapse of Batmania. They made a hard turn toward the character’s Golden Age roots. Revamps of Superman and Wonder Woman around the same era were forward looking and attempted to progress those characters into the ’70s. Superman became TV reporter. Wonder Woman ditched her costumed identity entirely. These were forward looking rejections of both the Gold and Silver Ages.

However, you are correct that the entire DC line was Marvelized over the course of the late-70s and early -80s. When I was a kid, Superman and Spider-Man could have been the same book in a lot of respects. I mean, Atomic Skull could have turned up in either title and no one would have blinked. You could swap S.T.A.R. labs for Empire State University in the origin of The Jackal.

@ MichaelSacal:

I think lumping everyone that is influenced by the Silver Age together as “Monkees” is unfair. There is a pretty sharp divide in quality between the best and worst Neo-Silver work. Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Mark Waid have done some amazing work in that vein. Kurt Busiek’s stuff is generally excellent and shows Silver Age influences. Geoff Johns is a full decade younger than most of those guys and has a completely different set of influences.

As I said upthread, the Superman work of post-Byrne folks (Jurgens, Kessel, Ordway, etc.) was not to my taste. However, the fact that they had Silver Age influences is not a slight against those influences in my mind.

All creators have influences. Pretty much by definition, those influences are in the past. One creator can draw on the same set of comics, movies, books and music as another, but the creative output can be vastly different. Just look at the nearly uniform admiration of Lee-Kirby by pretty much everyone involved in comics. One set of influences is not better, or worse, than any other. It is just a question of what gets done with them.

Superman has been around for a long, long time. A pretty robust consensus has sprung up as to what the high points of that long history have been. Where Byrne made a mistake was that he excised everything that was not present in every version on that short list. That left a very thin character without much dimension. Building a personality back up should have been a long, slow and deliberate process. Instead, Byrne bailed. The folks that followed him hauled back the S.A. elements with ironic, post-modern twists that seldom worked.

What was left behind was a property that had been weakened every bit as much as the post-Batmania Batman. Over the last 25 years, Superman has been hit by wave after wave of Big Ideas (Death! Marriage! Pacifism!) without the strength to really hold himself together as a character in the wake of those changes. I don’t think doubling down on the narrowest possible definition of Superman is going to fix that problem. However, I have been wrong before and I will certainly give whatever comes next a chance.

@Dean

There is a diference between being influenced by something and trying to regurgitate it just as it was, which is what the SA-influenced writers like Loeb, Waid, Morrison, Johns, Busiek, etc are doing.

Writers like Jurgens, Kesel, PAD, Ordway, Stern, Byrne, and others did not set out to replicate or revive the SA, they set out to modernize it, which is how we ended up with the Conner Kent version of Superboy, and the Linda Danvers version of Supergirl, the Cyborg Superman, and even the non-Kryptonian Krypto.

These were all reinterpretations that worked out on the first try and continued to work years after their introduction, unlike the regurgitations of the 60s and 70s introduced by the aforementioned SA-influenced writers.

It took Dan Jurgens ONE try to introduce an evil Kryptonian in the form of Hank Henshaw, and he didn’t have to reboot it every two years as has been the case with Zod to make him work as he reintroduced him within the context of the modern age Superman as defined by Byrne’s reboot seen in Man of Steel, World of Krypton, World of Smallville, and World of Metropolis.

It took Peter David ONE try to introduce Linda Danvers in the form of a teenager with whom the Matrix version of Supergirl merged with, and he didn’t have to reboot her once every year as has been the case with the current Supergirl to make her work as he reintroduced her within the context of the modern age Superman as defined by Byrne’s reboot seen in Man of Steel, World of Krypton, World of Smallville, and World of Metropolis.

It took Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet ONE try to introduce a version of Superboy in the form of a clone of Superman, and they didn’t have to reboot him every two two years as has been the case with the current Superboy to make him work as they reintroduced him within the context of the modern age Superman as defined by Byrne’s reboot as seen in Man of Steel, World of Krypton, World of Smallville, and World of Metropolis.

In the years that followed the Byrne reboot, a multitude of writers reintroduced modern interpretations of a number of different Silver Age characters in a context that served the character as opposed to proved detrimental to the core concept.

In the years that followed the Berganza take over, a multitude of writers have regurgitated a number of different Silver Age characters in a context that replicated their original incarnations, and each attempt has resulted in one failure after another.

The fact of the matter is that Silver Age revival has proven to be much more detrimental to Superman than beneficial, while the “Marvelization” of Superman, as some people call it, proved to be a boon as it provided the character with the strong foundation he lacked prior to the reboot (something even Mark Waid admits to), and which he has lacked over the last 10 years.

The last 10 years are not the Silver Age, they are a weak attempt by Silver Age fanboys to replicate a bygone era that has not been successful in the least.

Last month I was having a discussion about the problems with continuity on the Superman books with Barry Friedman of the Superman Homepage when, all of a sudden, Elliot S. Maggin joins in and posts that he misses E. Nelson Bridwell.

@MichaelSacal

How do you measure success?

“There is a diference between being influenced by something and trying to regurgitate it just as it was, which is what the SA-influenced writers like Loeb, Waid, Morrison, Johns, Busiek, etc are doing.”

Loeb and Geoff Johns are not successful, they are the Monkees. They don’t understand their influences.
Waid, Morrison and Busiek (and Alan Moore) have built their CAREERS on using the Silver Age, BECAUSE they don’t regurgitate. They use it as an influence.
How can a 70+ issue, popular run on the Flash be considered a failure? (Waid), not to mention Kingdom Come
40+ issues of JLA revitalized the real JLA, making it a top-selling book and the remains the version of the JLA we still have today. (Morrison)
50+ issues of Astro City: a critically acclaimed book that sees no end in sight (Busiek) not to mention Marvels.
Miracle Man, Watchmen, Superman, Supreme, the entire ABC Comics Line (Moore)

You’re calling these comics failures?

@Mike-El

We are not talking about their carreers as a whole, we are talking about their work on Superman in specific.

@MichaelSacal

“It took Dan Jurgens ONE try to introduce an evil Kryptonian in the form of Hank Henshaw”

I consider that a failure. No one outside of the Superman fans care about this character. There’s no lasting lasting impact there.

“It took Peter David ONE try to introduce Linda Danvers in the form of a teenager with whom the Matrix version of Supergirl merged with”

Failure. I love Peter David, but this ‘fix’ was only needed because Byrne screwed her up! We ALREADY HAD the real Supergirl pre-1985! Just bring her back! Again, this didn’t last.

“It took Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet ONE try to introduce a version of Superboy in the form of a clone of Superman…”

Failure. Who actually bought this comic other than the dwindling Superman fans in the 90s?

I loyally bought Superman from 1986-1993, but never ONCE did I enjoy it. The comics in the Mike Carlin era were boring and derivative, and they DID draw influence from the Silver Age, but they were horribly executed. The readers responded to these stories by keeping them at the bottom of the Top 50 sales charts (I kept track).

Only sales stunts like the marriage (it caused the cancellation of Lois and Clark), the Death, etc. etc. helped at all.

Superman was #1 in comics sales from the 1940s to 1970s (only Captain Marvel outsold him). Since the mid-70s, he’s been a mid-level seller at best. And he’s been under the power of Julius Schwartz, Mike Carlin, and a bunch of other dudes who’s names I don’t know, and NONE of them have understood the character, and so Superman’s sales continue their downward spiral.

Only one version of Superman has been a sales and critical smash, and that was All-Star Superman. The Silver Age Superman updated for the modern age. And fans responded accordingly. The real Superman was back :)

Okay, I still say their Superman work was stellar. The only Superman stuff I have enjoyed recently (minus Loeb).

@Mike-El

They brought Kara back three or four times this last decade, rebooting her character once every year to make her fit, until they gave up and simply regurgitated the SA origin, which is detrimental to Superman’s core conccept as the last Kryptonian.

The Cyborg, Matrix/Linda, and Superboy succeeded because they made the concepts relevant while ensuring that they didn’t step on Superman’s cape.

Trying to bring back the SA concepts in their original form has lead to multiple reboots in order to find a way to make them fit, which has been detrimental to the characters as a whole.

Has that resulted in bigger sales? No.

Has that resulted in better characters and stories? No

Has that resulted in a better impact outside comics? No.

Superman: Doomsday, the animated adaptation of the Death of Superman, featured an evil Superman that was a cross between Superboy, the Eradicator, and the Cyborg, three elements/characters from the MoS-era reboot… and it featured a giant spider like the one in Birthright, an SA-derivative comic, that Kevin Smith made fun of.

@Mike-El

How do you define stellar? By the need to continually revise it because within two years it stops working?

There will never be a version of Superman that makes every fan happy. For everyone who loves the stories from the fifties, there will be someone whose love of the character hinges on Byrne’s version. That’s the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” reality of the character. You see the same things when people discuss similar generation-crossing characters like James Bond.

I think the reason we’re seeing multiple reboots of Superman is DC has been in search of a modern era Superman and has yet to find him. While I’ve enjoyed Johns and Morrison’s runs, they are more a celebration of what Superman was instead of what he could be. We are in an era similar to the one Superman was originally created in and I think we need a version that speaks directly to us the same way he did then. I’m sorry to fans of previous eras of the character, but that may mean letting several things go you love.

A Superman series has a clear disadvantage in that you don’t have a free hand to do this because he has to fit into the continuity of the DC Universe. And even if Earth One knocks it out of the park, that won’t be the version you get in the monthly books. You can’t wipe everything clean and forget the history of the character, but I think we’re all looking backwards instead of forward. The question is: where are we at today and how does Superman fit in to that?

You don’t figure that out with an editorial meeting. You figure that out by finding someone or a team who have a clear, natural vision and let them run with it. I’m hoping that’s JMS, but the jury is out.

A new version that doesn’t hindge on the previous interpretations would be preferable to the continued clusterfuck of rebooting the character every two years.

It took Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet ONE try to introduce a version of Superboy in the form of a clone of Superman, and they didn’t have to reboot him every two two years as has been the case with the current Superboy to make him work as they reintroduced him within the context of the modern age Superman as defined by Byrne’s reboot as seen in Man of Steel, World of Krypton, World of Smallville, and World of Metropolis.

In every long-term relationship, there tends to be one thing that sums up every petty grievance that you have with someone (or something) that you otherwise adore. It might seem minor to another person, but to you it is a source of tongue gnashing annoyance. For my relationship to DC Comics, it is five letters: Kon-El. The whole Young Justice generation drove me entirely away from the DC Universe for the better part of a decade. That coupled with the low-quality of the ’90s Marvel output and the replacement of the first generation of Indies (First, Comico, Eclipse) with Image just about took me out of comics entirely.

So, let’s just say that we have different opinions about Kessel & Grummett’s creation.

@ Mike-El:

Failure. I love Peter David, but this ‘fix’ was only needed because Byrne screwed her up! We ALREADY HAD the real Supergirl pre-1985! Just bring her back! Again, this didn’t last.

The PAD take on SUPERGIRL ran for 80 issues, which puts her solidly in the Top 5 of the longest-running, female starring titles. I have a hard time thinking of that as a failure. What I would rather describe it as is a case of taking lemons and turning them into lemonade.

The Matrix SG was a terrible idea. What PAD did with that idea was pretty interesting. However, it is worth noting that the finger prints of the Silver Age were all over some of the moves PAD made. I mean, Linda Danvers is not exactly a name devoid of pre-COIE history.

@Dean

Point One.

YJ is being turned into a cartoon with the Conner Superboy in it, so the concept of YJ was a success (and a kick-ass book)

Point Two.

Sure PAD used Pre-COIE names and notions, but he gave them a modern twist, like making Comet a lesbian.

Dean: I may have been unclear, but I was referring to the Silver Age Weisenger version as a children’s character. The Siegel/Shuster original is, as you pointed out, less of a children’s character.

What happened to Superman in 1986 shows how hard it is to update children’s characters for an older audience. Gone were all the flights of fancy. In was melodrama and heavy continuity. I haven’t read the Byrne issues, but ’90s Superman did not appeal to me in the slightest. Other super-heroes could be recast as characters for adolescents and adults. Whimsical fantasy-heavy super-heroes like Superman and Captain Marvel had a harder hill to climb than, say, Batman or Spider-Man. That the Superman comics sold so well in the ’90s shows that the modern approach could work, but, as I once read someone say, after you kill Superman, what’s left?

@Mike Loughlin

I would argue that the problem here is that Superman, a character initially rooted in the reality of the 1930s, became a fantasy rooted in whimsy for the sake of marketability, and that the challenge has been to bring him back to his real-world roots…. NOT becasue it’s impossible, but because fans of the Silver Age turn him back into the whimsy fantasy out of nostalgia.

The irony here is that the SA Superman was designed to make him more marketable, but the revival of the SA has not resulted in the same monetary outcome, while the grounding of Superman as seen in MoS managed just that, it turned him into a viable property.

Rumor says that JMS’ version will be more rooted in reality than the more fantastical versions seen in Birthright and Secret Origin, but that remains to be seen, as does the effect that has on sales.

@ Dan Trudeau:

There will never be a version of Superman that makes every fan happy. For everyone who loves the stories from the fifties, there will be someone whose love of the character hinges on Byrne’s version. That’s the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” reality of the character. You see the same things when people discuss similar generation-crossing characters like James Bond.

Excellent points.

Your comparison to James Bond is particularly apt. Like Bond, I tend to think of Superman as having adventures set in the past. I love the character, but I have really hard time imagining Clark Kent as someone who came of age after about 1950. SMALLVILLE was great in the early going, but it ran into real trouble trying to transition its modern teen into anything resembling the classic Man of Steel.

Superman is hardly alone in that. Most Big 2 superheroes feel at least a little period to me. Batman lives with a butler and a ward, after all. However, the recent history of major revisions sort of underlines the problem in his case. Maybe JMS has something brilliant up his sleeve for EARTH ONE.

@ MichaelSacal:

Point One.

YJ is being turned into a cartoon with the Conner Superboy in it, so the concept of YJ was a success (and a kick-ass book)

Point Two.

Sure PAD used Pre-COIE names and notions, but he gave them a modern twist, like making Comet a lesbian.

That is exactly what I find irritating.

If you want to introduce a lesbian character, then I am all for it. Just invent a new character that has that as intrinsic aspect of their personality. Design them from the ground up as being a positive example of female homosexuality in the very straight and very WASP-y DCU. Do that and I will think it is awesome. However, what you don’t do is dredge up Comet-the-damn-Super-Horse, slap the “gay” tag on it and call it “modern”. That isn’t a gay character. It is a disposable straight character in gay clothing.

And, of course, right in the middle of the YOUNG JUSTICE cartoon line-up is a black Aqualad. Is it really that difficult to come up with an all-new character who happens to be non-white? Are there no non-white animation writers available with their own concepts to bring to the table? If you are that lazy, then how about just floating Dwayne McDuffie a few extra bones for the use of Static and/or Rocket? Because roughly 15 minutes after YJ goes off the air, there is going to be a proposal on someone’s desk to bring Garth back. This is exactly how DC got into the “White Power Battery” mess that they currently find themselves in.

Like I said, Kon-El sits right in the middle of everything that bugs me about DC.

@Dean

There is nothing wrong with reimagining characters differently, be it by making them homosexual or African American, be it as a result of a crisis-level event or a passing of the torch.

Do you take issue with John Stewart, the black Green Lantern? The new Aqualad’s schtick is no different than his.

@ MichaelSacal:

I love John Stewart, but he was originally conceived as a black man that became a Green Lantern. That is totally different than just drawing Hal Jordan a different color. We will see what the new Aqualad is like, but DC has a much longer history of doing (essentially) the later than the former.

Kon-El is literally a Superman clone that wears modern clothes and has an “attitude”. It is like slapping a different coat of paint on an old car and calling it “new”.

@Dean

And the original Superboy was nothing more than Superman as a kid. At least the Kon–El version is far more unique.

He may be a clone but that doesn’t make him a carbon copy. It is his attitude that makes him different from Superman.

@ MichaelSacal:

I wouldn’t say that too close to a fan of the Legion …

@Dean

Heh.

Let’s be objective here. The Clark Superboy was more of a clone of Superman than Conner has ever been.

@ MichaelSacal:

Trust me, I have zero attachment to the classic formula Superboy. There is no point in the last 50 years that flying boy could show up anywhere in the U.S. and not become a media circus. So, Superboy means the Secret ID makes no sense, which in turn renders the classic Superman formula laughable. Ditching Clark’s Superboy career was one of the smartest things Byrne did and it is only undermined by the fact that no one had a plan to deal with the Legion at the same time. Had DC re-booted the Legion in the summer of ’86, I doubt that we would even be having this conversation.

That said …

Kon-El is the Kevin Bacon of bad DC comics. You can connect him everything that has gone wrong at DC in the past quarter century in, like, three moves. Seriously.

Superboy punch? That happened in INFINITE CRISIS, which featured the death of Kon-El.

Rape of Sue Dibny? That happened in IDENTITY CRISIS, which featured the death of Tim Drake’s dad. Tim Drake is the best friend of Kon-El.

You could play that game all day.

I’d like to point out that every single character DC publishes today was either created in the Silver Age or the Golden Age, OR is rebooted version of one (ie: Superboy/Kon-EL).

So, until DC gives us something new, I find it hard to criticize the very foundation that all these creators are building on.

@Dean

Lol

We agree on the issue of the Legion, which was eventually rebooted in 94 after ZH, and that worked until Mark Waid rebooted it again and ruined it.

Now the Legion is a mess again, not because of Byrne but because Johns has no clue about what he is doing.

According to Johns in Superman & The Legion of Super-Heroes Superman had not seen the Legion since Crisis, which is untrue.

Furthermore, the post ZH Legion is an actuality the merged pre ZH adult Legion and their teen clones from Legionnaries (the adult Legion being the one that went through Crisis with Superman), so when Superman crossed paths with them in Legion of Super-Heroes 85 and he recognized them while he didn’t and he made the comment that they must have been altered as a result of Zero Hour, he was in a matter of fact crossing paths with the Legion of SH he knew from Crisis.

FURTHERMORE still, Superman did in fact cross paths with the Legion after Crisis when he first traveled to the pocket universe where he met the alternate Superboy, so when Johns says that he didn’t see them again after Crisis, he is lying.

Even more so, it bears to note that during that encounter with the Legion Superman makes a reference to Superboy Prime, a memory that subsequently vanished from continuity until Infinite Crisis.

The events you alude to aren’t Kon-El’s fault, though. He was just a part of them just like a myriad other heroes.

@Mike-El

Not all of them.

Connor Hawke in GA/BC is neither a Golden Age, Silver Age, or rebooted character.

But he only exists because his father is Green Arrow. Not really an original character. Isn’t that Superhero nepotism ??

@Mike

Heh, come on.

You laid out a three-point critieria to define the characters currently published by DC, basing it on the premise that all the characters either originated in the Golden Age, the Silver Age, or are rebooted variations of characters that did so.

Connor clearly doesn’t fit that critieria… now, if you want to amend the critieria into a four-point critieria that includes variations that are not reboots of GA and SA characters, then he would fit, as would someone like Miss Martian, Power Boy, and Little Barda.

Scratch that, the fourth critieria should be defined as legacy characters. New heroes who follow on the footsteps of the old, which is what DC is built on as per the Silver Age.

It is a integral part of the DCU, far more so than multiverses and other stuff like that.

@ MichaelSacal:

It is still only three criteria:
1. Golden Agers
2. Silver Agers
3. Derivatives of the above

That is the entire DC publishing slate. I love #1 and #2, but #3 usually leaves me cold. I like my new stuff to be … well … new.

@Dean

Without #3 there would have been no Silver Age as there would have been no Hal Jordan or Barry Allen.

Food for thought.

Of course! The Golden Age started it all.

I would also point out that characters like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman are far more original than Conner Hawke. He shares only a name with the Wesley Dodds character.

@ Dean
With the exception of characters like Sandman, I agree wholeheartedly. I have no appetite for Kon-El, Matrix/Supergirl, Kyle Raymond/GL, Dr. Fate/Parallax, blah blah blah.

They do exist, and can only exist, because of the strange way that DC has tried to make their publishing company one continuous universe, like Marvel.

I only want to read about ‘lead’ characters. Characters that can stand on their own, and hold their own series. Each of these leads had supporting characters (Lois Lane, Jim Gordon etc.).

A derivative character could never support its own TV show or film. That’s not to say that Hollywood is the litmus test. It just shows that only a trivia obsessed comics fan could (or would want to) keep up with the nightmare continuity that ‘explains’ Powergirl, Hawkman, Sand, Kon-El, Matrix, Red Robin, and all the rest.

Since good drama focuses on story, and superhero comics focus on endlessly revising origins, and explanations, the audience for TV or film will always reject these continuity implants, and insist in the ‘real’ thing: the most simple ‘explanation’ for the most ‘pure’ character. It wins out every time.

The Flash TV show featured Barry Allen, The 90s Batman cartoon ignored every single lame DC storyline of the 90s: Bat-quake, Knighquest, blah blah blah. All those stories are about shocking us with (temporary) status quo changes.

Superman had almost the exact same status quo from 1938-1970 and outsold every comic published, AND outsold every comic published today by about a 10-to-1 ratio. James Bond is always James Bond. Sherlock Holmes is always Sherlock Holmes.

No one wants to see Robin Hood have his back broken and replaced by his son/partner/clone whatever. Keep it simple! We want stories, not trivial updates in status quo.

@ MichaelSacal:

There is a big, big difference between what I call the “full Julie Scwartz” (FJS) and 90% of the derivative characters that DC pumps out. The only time DC has really done FJS in the last couple decades was the Jamie Reyes take on Blue Beetle. It was also the most successful derivation on a legacy property by far.

I mean, what exactly is the point of all these characters with the same basic look, code names, power sets and the rest?

@Mike-El

The aforementioned Young Justice series will feature Superboy, Robin, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Artemis, and Aqualad.

Are you proclaiming it a faliure bvefore it airs solely because it has no connection to the Silver Age? (other than the legacy the characters share with characters from that era – Superboy/Superman, Robin III/Robin I, Miss Martian/Martian Manhunter, Artemis/Green Arrow, and Aqualad II/Aqualad I).

The Flash TV show owed as much to the post Crisis Wally series as it did the Silver Age original.

Did you once see Barry wear a bowtie and checkered jacket on the show? I didn’t. I did him consume mass quantities of food to make up for burned up calories, like Wally used to do.

@Dean

But Dean, they don’t all have the same look, code names, power sets, or rest.

Superboy is not the same code name as Superman.

Superboy had vastly different powers to Superman. Remember that he only had tactile telekenisis and no vision powers whatsoever? That didn’t change until Johns got his hands on the character and turned him into a literal clone of Superman, down to having him don glasses while out of costume like Clark does.

Who is really at fault for turning Kon-El into a literal clone of Superman?

Kesel and Grummet, who avoided any serious similarities between the two other than physicial? (they put him in Hawaii instead of the American heartland, they limited his powers to the aforementioned TK, and they abstained from giving him vision powers).

or Geoff Johns, who moved him in with the Kents in Smallville, has him raise Krypto as a family pet, and made him half-kryptonian in order to provide him with Kryptonian-like powers in a badly considered retcon of his origin?

My vote is for the latter.

Further, Superboy’s costume, other than when he was a member of the DnA Legion, was nowhere like Superman’s.

@ Mike-El:

I’d say that there are two big exceptions to what we are both saying here: Wally West as The Flash and Jack Knight as Starman.

Wally got a big bump from the Barry Allen led series reaching a real creative slump in the early-80s. Plus, Baron to Messner-Loebs to Waid was probably the best relay of runs by writers on one title, since … ummm … maybe ever.

Starman, by contrast, was as personal a project as a shared universe could allow. James Robinson just sort of did his thing with Opal City for years. I am not anyone could have ever taken that over from him, so it was smart that no one tried.

@ MichaelSacal:

You realize that by holding Kon-El up as a paragon of Johns-ian excess that you are simply reinforcing my point about him being the Kevin Bacon of DC mis-steps, don’t you?

@Dean

My point is to figure out who is responsible for turning Kon-El into the rip off you’re making him out to sound like, and that was not Kesel or Grummet, it was Johns.

The character is not at fault for being the “Kevin Bacon” of the DC U’s missteps, it is the writer who made him that.

You assigned blame for that to the writer and artist who created him, but they didn’t do it.

@ MichaelSacal:

I am not laying the blame on any creators. It is just that Kon-El is like Ted McGinley and Bobby Brady’s tiki rolled into one.

Who was one of the founding members of the 3rd volume of TEEN TITANS? Kon-El.

Who was one of the last members to join the well-regarded DnA Legion series before it was cancelled? Kon-El.

I am worried about Jeff Lemire’s career.

@Dean

But you made it sound like your distace with Kon-El began, appropiately enough, when he gained the name Kon-El, which was in the 90s.

The events you mention didn’t take place until about a decade afte he was first established as a character (other than Young Justice).

That’s not the fault of the premise of the character as a clone fo Superman, that is the responsability of the writer or writers who turned him into what you dislike.

*distaste

@ MichaelSacal:

No, I literally mean that I think the character might be cursed to bring bad comics wherever he goes. Maybe the Siegels put a curse on him in retaliation for DC not honoring their copyright. If it is a bad post-COIE DC comic, then Kon-El is certain to be nearby.

Look, I get that the character is popular. 100 issues is nothing to sneeze at. He enjoyed a leading role in popular team in YJ. I just wouldn’t keep Kon-El comics in my home or car. They might come in contact with something like WATCHMEN and ruin it.

@Dean

Lol.

If anything, the JMS-penned ‘Earth One’ OGN is what’s really closer to the spirt of the Byrne and Weisinger Supermans than anything else mentioned here, because, like those two, it’s about shaking the character up, reinventing him, and making him relevent for a MODERN audience. This is what ‘Birthright’ was (in my opinion, nobly) trying to do as well, but the established fanbase created such a hissyfit over it that DC quickly backpedalled. I’m paraphrasing, but I remember Jack Kirby once saying that the best way creators could honor him would not be by keeping his characters alive, but by creating their own, new characters, and thereby keeping the medium itself fresh and alive. If Weisinger were around now, he’d probably feel the same way about Superman; keep the character alive through constant reinvention and the continual infusion of the new, not by recycling what he (or anyone else) had done 20-50 years ago, and which is primarily only catering to the same aging, shrinking fanbase. The attitude of “version X of Superman from my childhood is the only true version, and only a return to X is what will save things” is what’s killing this character, and killing the monthly American comic, and it doesn’t matter whether your “version X” is Byrne, Weisinger, Bates, Jurgens, etc. They were of their time and right for their time. If we nostalgia addicts don’t let go and accept that it may be time for something else, and that we can’t expect our childhoods to be forever preserved (or maybe embalmed is a better word) in amber by the big two, time may be up.

@Brad

Re: BR, the fact of the matter is that no one at DC, not even Didio, the editor who commisioned in the first place, showed any kind of public support for it.

The only one who ever came out and proclaimed it the new origin was Waid, and he wrote it. Meanwhile, the only thing people could get out of Berganza was that “it would be explained”.

They tried explaining it three times or so, with Superman 200, Superboy Prime’s punches, and even Godfall, and every time they failed to provide a credible explanation.

The fact of the matter is that if DC had wanted to replace MoS with BR, they could have done it, and they didn’t need the support of the audience to do it, just like they didn’t need the support of the audience when they replaced the BA Superman with the Byrne Superman.

DC, over the years prior to Didio taking over, showed a determination to stick with changes to continuity regardless of fan out cry, yet BR is a prime example of a project with no support whatsoever. It was nothing more than a way to mend fences with Waid, not provide Superman with an origin.

When Waid left DC in 2000 he threw a hissy fit over not being allowed to write Superman, and while at Crossgen he met Didio, and when Didio took over at DC, he provided Waid with the one thing he knew he wanted as a way to mend fences, which was to tell Superman’s origin, an endevor that was doomed to fail from the start,.

As for the contents of the project, BR was the work of plagirism. It took all of its ideas from comics, TV shows, movies, and other sources without crediting them once, and it didn’t provide a single new idea that would justify its inclusion as Superman’s origin.

In the grand scheme of things, BR will be nothing more than a footnote on the next conmmemoraity issue about Superman that Wizard or someone else published. At best it may get half a page.

Everything you say about reinvention and nostalgia, etc, is why BR failed, because it was exactly the very things you say it shouldn’t have been.

I for one am intrigued about Earth One, but at the same time I wish that they would fix the mess they have made of Superman in the ongoing series.

In Birthright Supes had the new ability to see auras or souls as people died. And since I’m commenting, I forgot to mention the only Superman comic I did like in the 90’s was Man of Steel.
Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove did a refreshing take on Supes that had me check it out from time to time. But that’s also where a large rocky fist smashing a steel door appeared for the first time. Doomsday.
And that killed that book.

@ Dean

“To me, FF and Superman share a fundamental belief in the infinite potential of the human race. With Superman, the fulfillment of that potential is an obligation that is in tension with his romantic attachments.
With the FF, the conflict comes from the costs of reaching toward that potential and the capacity for familial love to mitigate those costs. I’d say those themes have been with both properties since Day 1.”

I just wanted to say that I don’t think that I’ve ever heard the FF described so succintly in the 25 years that I’ve followed them. It really gets right to the core of what makes the FF so appealing to me. I was struck by that line ealier today and didn’t have a chance to comment.

Thanks.

LouReedRichards

June 23, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Crap! That was me – it’s too late for commenting…going to bed now.

Byrne’s Superman was what got me into comics and I haven’t looked back. I remember seeing Superman #7 at a newstand and thought in my childish wonder “Superman #7? That makes no sense. He’s been around forever. How could he only be at #7? I must buy this.” And I did. It was then that I went to the comics store that I had only visited occasionally before and learned what was going on with Superman and the DCU as a whole at the time. I bought Superman month in and month out for the next 10 years and recently came back to it monthly once the OYL Adam Kubert lateness mess settled itself out and the books got back to a regular, if inconsistent in quality, schedule.

It’s too bad Birthright became a throwaway of sorts as it was a decent reimagining of Superman’s origins and I really should go back and give it another read. Secret Origins is okay…I like the consistency of a Geoff Johns story…I always know I’ll enjoy it though rarely be blown away anymore as “the geoff johns formula” tends to shine through clearly on any origin stories he writes. I’m looking forward to JMS’ take on the character both in the Superman monthly and Superman: Earth One. He tends to start his runs strong…and then either through lack of interest or (as he often sights) editorial mandate they end rather poorly. I’m hoping he keeps his enthusasm for the character up and knows how and when to structure his run for a satisfying conclusion.

@Will-Man

In Birthright Supes had the new ability to see auras or souls as people died.

Waid lifted that idea from a novel by Elliot S! Maggin published in the 70s. You can find an excerpt comparing the two at the Birthright page on the Superman Through The Ages website.

This is the very definition of plagirism. Waid took someone else’s idea and passed it off as his own, so people who don’t know about the original automatically assume that he came up with it.

@MichaelSacal

First thing, it’s hard to define plagirism when you’re reworking the origin of a character you didn’t create and using multiple elements created by other folks along the way. Also, Waid has trumpeted the influence of Maggin on Birthright multiple times when talking about the series. I even remember him talking about this concept coming from Maggin specifically. I think you’re a little eager to make Waid out as a hack.

@Dan

Can you show me where on the individual copies of BR Waid credits anyone with the ideas he used? I’ve read it a couple of times and there is nothing there.

Anyone who read the single issues could come to the wrong conclusion that Waid came up with all the ideas on the story, just like Will-Man did.

If one has to scour the internet or visit conventions to talk with Waid, or spend 20+ dollars on a hardcover to get the full story, then it’s no good.

The first issue of MoS has an intro by Byrne or Giordanio, I forget who wrote it, where they talk about their approach to the series and, I think but am not sure, the influences that played a part of it, like the Adventures of Superman.

It was printed on the inside covers.

I wish Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were still alive.

@ LouReedRichards:

That is a heck of a compliment. Thanks.

@MichaelSacal

I can find it in interviews, including one where he was sitting with Maggin, but not in the comics themselves. That doesn’t really change my point, though. I don’t understand why Waid is required to go out of his way to call that out as a Maggin idea in the middle of a book where he’s reassembling a ton of ideas from scores of other writers. If someone hadn’t picked up a Superman book in forty years they might also think Lex Luthor being a businessman was all his idea too. It’s great that The Man of Steel did that, but so what? It would be different if Waid was passing off someone else’s original creation as his own idea. But this is Superman. Almost NONE of it is his idea. It’s an amalgamation of other people’s ideas. He never claimed it was anything else, so I just don’t get where all the irritation comes from.

@Dan

but not in the comics themselves

That’s the only one that really counts.

I don’t understand why Waid is required to go out of his way to call that out as a Maggin idea in the middle of a book where he’s reassembling a ton of ideas from scores of other writers.

Maybe so readers don’t come to the wrong conclusion that he came up with those ideas himself.

If Byrne could go out of his way to credit Otto Binder on the first page of Man of Steel #5 for the use of the Bizarro plot, then surely Waid can do the same when he uses other people’s ideas.

That’s the main difference between an artist and a writer.

Artists have no problem crediting the source of the image the are reusing, be it George Perez’ cover to the death of Supergirl or the cover to the first Superman/Spider-Man crossover.

No matter what, artists 99.99% of the time always add the name of the original artist to their signature.

Writers seldom credit other writers with the ideas they use (with the notable exception of Grant Morrison, who was credited as the source of the ideas behind the Metal Men mini series and the Atom monthly series).

It wouldn’t have been that hard for Birthright to carry a general credit to the various creators whose work was used as source material, like Maggin, Siegel, and whoever else’s work Waid used.

If artists can do it, and the editors who worked on Metal Men and Atom could do it, there is no reason Waid couldn’t have done it, SPECIALLY since this was a work that brought together so many disparate ideas into a single plot. The people who came up with those ideas should have been credited for them. Anything short of that is the very definition of plagirism, to take someone else’s idea and passing it off as your own.

Grant Morriron did not create he Atom or the Metal Men, yet he was credited for the ideas used in those mini series, so why couldn’t the other writers who came up with the ideas Waid used be credited in Birthright?

The age of the character and that Waid did not create him doesn’t apply.

@MichaelSacal

I can see your point about how you’d like to see this as a general practice, but I still don’t see the fault from Waid. The simple fact is that a character like Superman, who has had countless creators add to his mythos, is not the same as the Metal Men. Siegel and Shuster are mentioned, but he’d also have to constantly shout out the people who created Jimmy Olsen, Kryptonite, Superman flying, Lex Luthor as a business man, Lex’s first name, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Clark Kent being who he was raised as (not a made up identity), and loads of other things that have been added to the mythos for years. Did The Dark Knight have to mention where they got every idea in the credits at the end of the movie?

The answer may be yes, but if it is, it’s also not on Waid. That’s the deal when you add something to a character like this. Superman as you know him is a combination of ideas numerous people have added over the years. The Atom and The Metal Men just aren’t in the same category. Their influences, and where they came from, are more practical to follow and easier to credit. And the Byrne example fits, as he took the concept of that one character back to its original source and that source was singular. Maybe it should be different but to chastise Waid as being somehow smug or unfair is not right, especially when he talked all about the creators he referenced in detail when talking about the project. Elliot S! Maggin doesn’t seem as upset as you about it.

@Dan

Did The Dark Knight have to mention where they got every idea in the credits at the end of the movie?

That’s relative.

I remember an episode of the Batman Animated Series that carried a credit at the end that mentioned the comic book issue that inspired the plot of the episode as well as the people who produced it (don’t ask me what episode it was, I don’t recall that, but I know it was done).

I haven’t gone through the credits of Batman Begins or Dark Knight (I seldom do), have you? Do you know for an absolute fact that the credits do not list a single comic book creator who worked on a Batman comic (besides Kane) that served as inspiration for the movies, like Miller for Year One, or any of the creator who worked on that issue of Secret Origin with Ducard, or whatever sources may have been used for DK?

I don’t know for a fact that they did or didn’t, but do you know either?

@MichaelSacal

If you’re going to accuse Waid of that, you’re going to have to do so for pretty much every other single creator who’s worked for DC. Byrne, to use an example, might have written that page in the first issue of Man of Steel, but in his Elseworld mini-series Generations, he gives no credit for the various Golden and Silver Age concepts he’s riffing, and that series drew much more heavily on the specific works of past creators than Birthright did.

And I think it’s disingenuous to say that Waid giving credit in the TPB doesn’t count, when in the long run the collected version’s going to be read by many more people than the single issues. The audience for the single issues is limited to pretty much only the people buying the series as it came out, while the trade or hardcover is the version pretty almost all future readers will experience.

@YLu

It’s been awhile since I read Generations so I can’t speak for the context of them, but didn’t each issue come with an essay that Byrne wrote on the last page? Or am I thinkng of the crossover with Batman that had the essay?

Batman = Captain America

Well, I just checked and the only issue of Generations with an essay (or intro, if you want to call it that) from Byrne was the first one.

While he doesn’t outright names the people who inspired the story, he does of, sort of, aknowledge them at the end when he asks the readers to enjoy Generations the same way they did the stories that inspired it.

@MichaelSacal

First, I’m not sure how that’s relative, but anyway, the specific instances you keep referring to are when creators are directly adapting a singular story. I believe the Batman episode you’re referring to is Mad Love, which was a direct adaptation of a story Bruce Timm and Paul Dini did as a one shot. The Bizarro story is a direct adaptation of a prior, single story. They’re not folding in concepts. Do you see the name of Clayface’s creator appear in a Clayface episode? I think you should, but you don’t, and it’s not the fault of the person who wrote the script.

As to the Batman films, I know they don’t give credit and you don’t have to sit long to find out. Writer/story credits appear, by contractual agreement, as a part of the key credits (Director, Writer, Producer, etc). DC did do the right thing, however, by actually paying creators like Denny O’Neill, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, etc for use of their ideas. They were under no legal obligation to do so, but did.

I do agree that giving credit where credit is due is the right thing to do, but that gets complicated with a character like Superman. Maybe practices should change, but the issue I take is you singled out Mark Waid as somehow doing Maggin wrong in his use of the concept. Maggin doesn’t think so and I’m not sure why you’re so hung up on it.

Before we go back and forth too much more, I completely understand the thinking that individual creators should get credit for their concepts. I’m just not following how this is somehow the fault of Mark Waid, who went out of his way when talking about the series to give credit to the folks he drew from.

I believe the Batman episode you’re referring to is Mad Love, which was a direct adaptation of a story Bruce Timm and Paul Dini did as a one shot.

Nope. I’m pretty certain that the episode I’m thinking of was from the original BTAS. Mad Love wasn’t adapted until The New Adventures of Batman.

As you can see here, TAS adapted a TON of comics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman:_The_Animated_Series#Adaptations

I believe, but am not sure, that the one I was thinking of was Laughing Fish. I’m pretty certain it was an O’Neill story.

Do you see the name of Clayface’s creator appear in a Clayface episode?

Not to the point. The point here is when plots are adapted, not when characters are employed.

In the case of soul vision, the idea was lifted from a Maggin novel almost verbatim. The same happens with another scene in which Clark overhears the Kents talking about him, which either originated in a Maggin story or For All Seasons, I forget which.

The use of characters and the use of plots are two different things.

As you say, what we don’t see is people credit individual creators any time they use their characters, but what you do tend to see, specially in adaptations like TAS, is when credits for comics when their plots are used.

Byrne credited OB for his plot because he recycled it, with some differences (replacing the sturdess (sp?) with Lucy, for instance).

How is that different from Waid using the text from Maggin’s novel and replacing s few words here and there? Or the aforementioned scene?

It’s not avbout doing Maggin wrong, it’s about giving people the wrong impression that he came up with the concepts he used on his own, which those who know better know he didn’t.

Going out of his way outside of the comic is irrelevant because it asks people to go out of their way to find those credits.

The credits belonged in the comics, no differently than when an artist puts the name of the original artist whose work he copies after his own, or the editors and writers who credited Grant Morrison for his ideas for Metal Men and Atom, or the producers of TAS who credit that laundry list of comics.

@MichaelSacal

“The aforementioned Young Justice series will feature Superboy, Robin, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Artemis, and Aqualad.”

I didn’t even know about this. Well, this is an exception then. For the most part, the media adaptations have rejected derivative characters.

I consider the characters from Superman you listed as failures because none of them have lasted in the state they were created in, or have been adapted in other media (with the exception of Superboy, I suppose). But again, HE was created as a CLONE of Superman, so that’s not saying much about how great a character he is.

“The Flash TV show owed as much to the post Crisis Wally series as it did the Silver Age original.Did you once see Barry wear a bowtie and checkered jacket on the show? I didn’t. I did him consume mass quantities of food to make up for burned up calories, like Wally used to do.”

No, no…no one expected Flash to be set IN the 1950s, but the spirit of the Silver Age stories would have come across much better than the dreary psuedo-Tim Burton mood they chose instead.

The mass quantities of food was a smart addition by Mike Baron (or was it Messner-Loebs?), but when it came time for his actual identity, they went with Barry Allen, because that’s who the public expected.

So, his suit, his origin, his powers, his identity, all came from the 1950s.

I think this post is getting off track here, because I can’t understand what it is you’re against. I’m guessing you think such concepts like the ‘Legion of Super-pets’ should be left in the past. But, don’t you think that the character that Byrne and Co. was building on was constructed of stories written between 1938-1985? Golden, Silver, Bronze, whatever.

If you throw out the Silver Age, are you also against the Bronze and Golden? What’s left?

@Mike-El

“So, his suit, his origin, his powers, his identity, all came from the 1950s. ”

There was no ring on the show.

Tina McGee came from the Wally West comics, not the Barry Allen comics.

The food thing was from the Baron series.

The Legion of Super-Pets SHOULD be left in the past. It’s a silly idea that belongs in the 60s, not the 21st Century.

I am against the SA mainy because it turns comics into silly nonesense.

I’m more of a Golden Age/Bronze Age/Modern Age fan.

Anything to do with the Silver Age is insulting to the readers and the concepts because it waters them down into silliness.

Why does it insult the readers? What specific examples are there? Again, we’re talking about a period when comics sold roughly ten times what they do today, and a time that writers like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman continue to draw their inspiration from.

Do you think All-Star Superman insulted the readers intelligence?

What about Dan Jurgen’s ‘Death of Superman’ comic? (#75). That was 64 pages of violent mayhem, using a villain with absolutely no personality or motivation. THAT particular comic contributed to me dropping Superman comics because I felt it insulted *my* intelligence.

A similar story done in the 1960s (The Death of Superman) was much, much better. Twists, turns, tears, Bottle City of Kandor, Supergirl, Luthor on trial. It was great. (All written by Jerry Seigel!)

BTW, I think the only Silver Age concept that should be left in the past is Bizarro’s speech pattern. It drives me bonkers. The Super-Pets? Ah, heck, why not. They’re fun.

@Mike-El

“a period when comics sold roughly ten times what they do today”

And had a cover price that was less than a dollar.

Do you really think that what is on the page is not as detrimental as the price stamped on the cover?

When DC did Batman The 10 Cent Adventure, did it not sell almost about a million copies?

Do you think that if comics had a cover price of 10 cents or a quarter, with the production values of the 21st Century, they would not sell closer to 10 times what they do now regardless of content?)

It has been proven beyond a doubt that cheaper cover prices result in an increase of the norm, be it the two 10-Cent Adventures one-shots or the 25 cent New Gods introductory issue John Byrne produced when he took over that title awhile back.

As someone who has been following Superman for 25 years in comics, TV shows, movies, and cartoons, Morrison’s ASS definitely insulted my intelligence.

Clark Kent falling on his ass so people wouldn’t assume he is Superman?

That may have worked 50 years ago, but today? No way.

What Morrison did in ASS worked for its fans for a variety of reasons, but do you for one moment believe that the concepts would have worked if used in the ongoing series/continuity?

Do you believe that fans of the modern age Superman would have been open to the idea of seeing the last 25 years of advancements and character growth thrown out for a permanent regression to the Silver Age ?

ASS’ biggest strength was that it was set outside continuity.

Let us not forget that one of the poinst of critiria to determine the success or failure of concepts and characters introduced during the 90s that was previously brought up was their impact outside comics.

As important as ASS may have been for comic book fans, its impact outside comics is nill, specially compared to the Superman/Clark, Lex, and Lois from MoS, and even Conner Kent, who will be making an appearance in animated form fairly soon.

Where is the ASS direct to DVD movie? Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Red Hood both have DVD movies, and their impact on comic books fans of the Silver Age was not as great as that of ASS, was it?

I seriously doubt that fans of the Silver Age were as receptive to Jason Todd as the Red Hood as they were to ASS.

Re: Jurgens.

Again, Death of Superman was not only a sucess in comics but also was adapted outside of them. Characters and events from it were adapted not only once but twice, first with Steel getting his own movie before appearing in Superman: TAS, followed by Doomsday in Justice League and again in Superman: Doomsday.

Where is the multimedia impact from ASS?

Did the impact that Morrison’s ASS made in comics (i just love how the acronym lends itself for puns like this one) equal or surpass the impact that the Death of Superman made?

Whether it was one or the other, shouldn’t elements from ASS, if it is as important as its fans make it out to sound, have already been felt on other media, be it DVD movies or even Smallville?

How receptive do you think Smallville fans would have been to seeing Jimmy Olsen with a rocket pack?

Whereas you dropped Superman because of issue 75, millions of others picked it up.

The thing with the Death of Superman is that, pretty much like Mos, the story didn’t end with it, it continued on with Funeral for A Friend and Reign of the Supermen, both of which were great stories with a massive impact.

Just earlier today I read an issue of Green Lantern Corps published in 2008 in which the story makes reference to the destruction of Coast City during Reign of the Supermen.

14 years later, the story’s impact is still being felt.

Will the same be said of Birthright or Morrison’s ASS? Will Morrison’s ASS continue to impact the DC universe a decade and a half from now (I love those puns…)

@Mike-El

“BTW, I think the only Silver Age concept that should be left in the past is Bizarro’s speech pattern. It drives me bonkers. The Super-Pets? Ah, heck, why not. They’re fun.”

Comics can be fun without being silly or stupid.

The comics of the Silver Age were both.

Sorry, 16 years, not 14.

The thing is this.

What Morrison did with ASS was for children, while what Byrne did with MoS was for grown ups.

Would people go watch a Superman movie in which Jimmy Olsen has a jet pack? No, they would lambast it as badly as they did Batman & Robin.

But would people buy a Direct To DVD animated movie in which Jimmy Olsen has a jet pack? Absolutely.

Would people go watch a Superman movie in which Lex Luthor is a businessman out to destroy Superman because he humiliated him, and in which Clark and Lois are involved in a romance? Of course.

Would people buy any of that in an animated movie? Of course not.

The accepted notion here is that cartoons are for kids, just like comics of the Silver Age were for kids.

ASS might make for an incredible animated movie, but it would make for a poor motion picture.

MoS might similarly work best as a motion picture and not be as commercial as an animated movie… after all, kids don’t want to see Superman and Lois kissing, that’s yucky, she’s a girl and that all that.

They’d be more interested in seeing Jimmy Olsen fly around in his jet pack.

@MichaelSacal

Again, we’re talking about a concept in a series that rehashes many ideas. The radio writers who developed Kryptonite aren’t credited either.

Listen, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Especially since I agree with your opinions on many other things. While I’m not as dismissive of the Silver Age, I think we both agree that the Superman comics have been way too clingy to that era’s interpretation of the character. As I mentioned before, I think Morrison’s and Johns’ Superman is a celebration of the past, not the way to the future.

@Dan

Cool

@MichaelSacal

“And had a cover price that was less than a dollar. Do you really think that what is on the page is not as detrimental as the price stamped on the cover?”

Uh, I think you’re forgetting inflation. Superman sold a million copies per issue because there were a million people buying it. There’s barely 100,000 people in the U.S. that buy comics today.

“What Morrison did with ASS was for children, while what Byrne did with MoS was for grown ups.”

Uh…

Sorry, I was speechless there for a second. Where do you get this idea? John Byrne’s work is (in his own words) aimed squarely at 12-year-olds. Morrison’s work is aimed (in his own words) at adults and kids at heart.

Now, regarding the work ITSELF.

According to Wikipedia, Time magazine’s Lev Grossman ranked the graphic novel third in Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007.

All Star Superman won the Eisner Award for “Best New Series” in 2006,[16] as well as “Best Continuing Series” in 2007[17] and 2009. It also won the Harvey Awards for “Best Artist” and “Best Single Issue” in 2008. In 2006 it won the Eagle Award for “Favourite New Comic book” and “Favourite Comics Cover” (for the first issue), as well as the 2007 “Favourite Colour Comicbook – American” Eagle.

I searched for Awards for the Man of Steel, but…well, there were none. I own many, many fanzines published in 1986, and the series was LAMBASTED by critics, professionals and fans alike. I understand that you enjoyed (like I once did), but to say that it was “for adults”, while All-Star is for ‘kids’, is baseless.

@Mike-El

I did not use the word adults, I said grown ups.

By grown ups I definitely meant 12 years and up, and by kids I definitely mean 11 and under, both of which fits with what Byrne and Morrison have said about their respective work.

If awards come into play as part of the criteria, I’ll take your wod about each comics’ merits and flaws, but the argument was impact outside of comics, not awards.

“Uh, I think you’re forgetting inflation. Superman sold a million copies per issue because there were a million people buying it. There’s barely 100,000 people in the U.S. that buy comics today. ”

And if comics had a 10 cent cover price they could buy 25 copies for $2.50 instead of one, giving it a sales number of 2.5 million copies.

Or the lower price could attract more readers, thus incrreasing the sales numbers.

Look, I enjoy All Star Superman and Man of Steel. I think they’ll both remain top Superman books for the long haul. I also really enjoy Birthright. In terms of which of these had the greatest effect on the character at large, though, Byrne wins hands down.

There are a few reasons for this:
1. The most significant changes he made to the status quo have stayed in place. This includes the Kents being alive into his adulthood, the focus on Lex as a corrupt businessman, Krypton not raining out of the sky, etc.
2. The biggest thing he did, though, was to put the focus back on Superman’s humanity. It made him a character people could relate to again.

The Superman-as-a-god take can be fun, but it’s not a good fit for the modern stories. Like I said before, as fun as ASS and Year One have been, they’re more about what Superman was instead of what he could be. Man of Steel might be an outdated take on the character, but even if it is it’s still a Superman that is more relatable. And not being relatable is the number one thing that keeps new fans away from the character.

Many of the folks on this have lamented the loss of their favorite version of the character. Well you’ll always have that one. Those stories aren’t going anywhere. Going into the future, though, we need a Superman that is more, well, human than the one they present. I think a lot of attempts to bring him down to Earth have been ham-fisted, and the new “walking across America” story could be another one, but we need a creator who understands the core of the character and a clear vision for how he should be for the modern audience. If they continue to pander to all the folks who want the modern Superman to be the character they grow up with, they will continue to marginalize his audience. Just ask Bryan Singer.

I meant Kryptonite raining out of the sky, but I guess that could be the same thing.

@Dan

“I meant Kryptonite raining out of the sky, but I guess that could be the same thing.”

Indeed, it applies to both Kryptonite and Kryptonians, both of which have been falling out of the sky in recent years, starting with Supergirl From Krypton in S/M.

Good post.

Yes, Kryptonite is raining out of the sky again. I just wish they could move forward instead of constantly pulling him back. I like what JMS has said about Earth One, but if someone goes from that to the comic, it’ll be retro Superman.

Superman has always been a vehicle for wish fulfillment and in the Silver Age, the stories were all about being superior. It was Superman screwing with Lois/Lana, showing off with his powers, and getting the type of super pets people dreamed of. This does not connect and attempts to bring back the trappings of the Silver Age and combining them with the Byrne-oriented humanity has been awkward. I mean, is Krypto really that important to the mythos?

By the way, Michael, I try not to pimp out my blog on these, but click through my name to it sometime as I’d love to hear your thoughts on other things.

MichaelSacal: Are you also MoTA, by any chance? You have the same knack for completely missing the point, failing to grasp the basics of any argument, and fixating on MoS as the “one true faith” before which all false gods must be cast asunder as MoTA.

It’s irrelevent whether BR took elements from the silver/bronze age; Byrne borrowed heavily from the silver age for his interpretation, as well. The point is that, at their root, they were both trying to do the same thing; making Superman of, and relevant, to the concerns and experiences of a young, contemporary audience.

How well BR (or MoS) succeeded in that is up to debate, but the intent is the same. Harping on the reuse of a few minor elements that you deem as “silver age” (and your use of that term as derogatory seems to apply only to apply to those elements that Byrne himself disparged, as opposed to those he used) is like arguing that The Dark Knight is a throwback version of Batman because the characters wear leather shoes and so did the actors in the 40s serial.

Whether BR did well what was intended or not is up to debate. But what it was primarily trying to do was the same as MoS: make Superman of and a part of the times we live in NOW. For MoS, that time was the mid-eighties. It was a great book, and it was the right Superman for that time. That time has passed. It isn’t coming back. Get over it and move on. It’s not healthy to obsess. Any version of Superman that truly does move the character into the future won’t make you any happier than the purely nostaligic versions you rail against, because it too will be very different from Byrne’s vision. Things change. That’s life.

And if I want to really p*** off some people here, I’ll add that there has been a version of Superman that did really connect with that aforementioned contemporary, young audience: It’s a tv show called Smallville. Like it or not, that show did something right, if what you’re looking for is something that got a new, fresh audience interested in the Superman concept. It would be more productive to ask why that is, rather than harping over what’s “silver age fanboy nostalgia” vs. “Byrne-approved”.

Just one question for those of you criticizing modern takes on Lois Lane. Lois in the 60’s was horribly written. What didn’t you like about her in the 90’s? Should Superman continue to treat her like a dick? See Superdickery.com

@Brad

Your impression of what BR tried to do couldn’t be any more wrong.

BR was not about bringing Superman into the then-present, it was about mending fences with a writer who left the publisher in a huff because he was told he couldn’t reboot Superman.

What a coincidence that the project that brought him back was the very thing he was told he couldn’t do, eh?

Second, at no time did BR have anything to do with bringing Superman to the present.

Unlike MoS, which did away with the past to create a new present (other than the Bizarro story and the Lori Lemaris story that came later, which I grant were throwbacks), BR was beholden to the past, particularly the Maggin era and aspects of the Weisenger era.

Whatever elements from the SA that Byrne kept were elements that benefited the character as opposed to be detrimental to it.

Over the last 10 years we have seen countless writers try to bring back the outdated elements that Byrne got rid off and fail again and again and again at trying to make them work within a modern context like he did with the elements he kept.

How many origins do the simplistic SA-style Krypton, Krypto, Zod, Supergirl, and Lex in Smallville need in order to work in a modern context?

To date, they’ve each been rebooted between four and five times in a single decade because the writers cannot make them work.

As I said before, the writers who followed Byrne (and Byrne as well) managed to find a way to make their reinterpretations and revivals of the old SA elements work the way they reimagining them the first time.

Let’s look at PAD’s Supergirl, for instance.

He managed to find a way to make the Danvers, the boyfriends whose name escapes me at the moment, Comet, and even Streaky work for 80+ issues without having to make Supergirl a Kryptonian or reboot the character every twelve months.

Further, he actually managed to write 80+ issues himself. The title had a consistancy of vision that is severely lacking in the curent version, which after undergoing countless internal reboots (from using Birthright to using the Krypton seen in Up, Up, & Away, to using the one from Secret Origin) has reverted to a replica of the Silver Age origin.

The writers were unable to modernize Supergirl and gave up, choosing to just replicate what came before because they were unable to reimagine the character in a modern context. The only way a Kryptonian Supergirl works is in an outdated context.

Re: Smallville.

I like Smallville, and find it funny that whereas the TV show managed to provide an audience with a modern reinterpretation of the concept (which uses elements from both the Silver Age and the modern age), the comics keep going backwards to the 60s and continualy fail to accomplish the same goal.

Smallville is without a doubt the most successful adaptation of Superman on TV.

And yes, I am MOTA.

@Dan.

Soon as I have a chance I’ll take a look, promise. Right now I have to finish a couple of scripts, heh.

@MichaelSacal

First off, good luck with the scripts. Didn’t realize you were a writer yourself (by the way, I was a reader of Shadowman at Valiant).

I do disagree with you on BR. While the reason you give is definitely the Editorial reason for Birthright being done, I think you’re giving Mark Waid short shrift. While this is not my favorite origin story (like you, I tilt towards MoS), I do think Waid’s attitude about Superman, his place in Metropolis/the world, and how he should not be a defender of the status quo are dead on. That’s the most important aspect to me and that’s why I like the series. I do think he hangs on to older concepts I don’t like as much, such as Luthor being from Smallville and Clark being a klutz, but I don’t dismiss the series outright. I also like Yu’s artwork, but I don’t know if he’s the right artist to “bring Superman into the modern age”.

Like you, I would like to see them do what they did when MoS came out, which is chuck it all and “start over”. That said, I don’t expect it to happen in the regular books. What I would like is to get the character out of Boy Scout mode and into being the protector of the “little guy” against a world aligned against him. That was the core of Superman’s original purpose and if they don’t return to that he’ll never connect with modern readers or movie-going audiences. That’s why Smallville has worked so well. It’s a vision of Clark that doesn’t hover above humanity like a god. The thing that Johns’ got especially wrong for me in Year One is when Superman said he’s for everyone. That’s not his mission. His mission is to use his power to aid the powerless. In the real world that would turn him into a god figure, but this isn’t the real world we’re talking about.

@Dan

Thanks for the well-wishes, I wish you luck with your writing as well.

I think that the problem many writers make is look at Superman as a superhero, that is what makes them loose touch with the core aspects of the concept.

What writers need to do is look beyond the costume and powers, not only for Superman but also for Batman, Wonder Woman, and others.

That is what made the post Crisis reboots work. The writers looked at the characters as they were not only after they put the spandex on but also after.

Byrne explored Clark’s upbringing in Smallville and presented him to us as he was before he put the costume on (something that Donner did himself on the movie), while Miller presented us Bruce before he put on the cowl, Perez presented us Wonder Woman before she left Paradise Island, and Owsley presented us Hal Jordan before he put on the ring.

That’s the one thing that all the first issues of those reboots had in common, they introduced us to the character as they were prior to donning their respective costumes.

While SO and BR did something similar, they missed the mark.

For instance,

A few years ago, when BR came out, I was talking with someone from the Superman Homepage who had never read MoS about what made one story different from the other, particularly yhe events that led up to Clark donning the costume.

To make a story short, she liked the version from MoS with the Constitution better than the version from BR with the costume, mostly because Byrne took the time to explore the emotional aspects of Clark’s choices in the scene that followed the rescue of the space plane, which is something that was lacking in BR.

BR has the same problem as ASS, in which it went for the action over the human aspect, while MoS presented a more grounded interpretation of the character.

To go back to the earlier points of my post, when I say that writers need to look at the core of the characters beyond the powers and costume what I mean is that they have to look at Superman and ask themselves if they are telling the story of the costume or the story of the man inside it.

If the latter, then they are telling the story of the last survivor of a doomed planet who was raised as a human and grew up to discover he possessed abilities far beyond those of mortal men which he chooses to use to protect people in the guise of a super hero.

If the former, then none of that is relevant, the stories can be just about Superman punching people or flying around or using his super strength without the need for an emotional aspect.

For instance, in the old Silver Age comics it wouldn’t have been rare to see Superman leisurely floating across space with his arms behind his head killing time between fights, whereas in the modern age comics you would be more likely to see him do something more human, like go to the movies with Lois.

It all hinges on whose story you are telling, Clark’s or Superman;s.

@Dan

Have you visited the VALIANT Entertainment website and seen the Book of Geomancers encylopedia? I wrote the issue summaries and most of the character entries for them.

@MichaelSacal

I only just saw the website because I looked up your name. I’ll check it out further. Shadowman and The Eternal Warrior were the two Valiant characters that really connected with me.

You and I 100% agree on the Clark versus Superman thing. While, like you, I enjoy MoS the most I didn’t find BR lacking in this area as much as you did. I love the “They all wanted a piece of me” scene in MoS in particular too. It resonated with me when I read it as a kid and it still does.

This reminds me very much of the hubub around the movie Casino Royale. By that point, James Bond movies were about all the trappings around the character, not the character himself. There were some human touches with Brosnan, but they were overwhelmed by the action and need to turn up the Bond formula to 11. And while Die Another Day was a great example of how to do a Bond movie wrong, people were not willing to let this version of the character go. What happened, though, is Eon Productions took a risk by taking Bond back to his literary roots and chucking the trappings. The end result was a Bond that resonated with a modern audience in a way he hadn’t in a very long time. And yet, if you go to any Bond fan page they’re still full of fans howling about how they’re “ruined” 007.

They need to do the same thing with Superman. Nothing ham-fisted like him walking across America. Get down to what drives him as a person and set him up in a world where he’s fighting for the common man again, not floating above him. That’s the key.

Michael- While I find your mad-on against Waid to be puzzling and often irrational, I will admit that your arguments have become sharper, better reasoned, and more perceptive since I last encountered you some years ago. I’m surprised that we both agree on Smallville, which shows that I was wrong, and you do have a more open, progressive attitude than I had assumed. We’ll have to agree to disagree on certain points. Still though, doesn’t this crusade you’re on exhaust you? And I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner, so don’t take it that way. You obviously passionately care about the subject, but sometimes you have to admit that the battle is lost, for your own sanity, if nothing else. Life is too short (I don’t read Spider-man anymore, for example…)

@Brad

The battle may be over but the war has barely begun? :P JK

@Dan

Keep your eyes open for new VALIANT comics. I’m not sure when they’ll be coming out but I know that VEI is working on them.

I even contributed my own reimagining of a concept from the second Bloodshot series that Acclaim published in the mid 90s (the one by Len Kaminski and Sal Velluto). As work for hire for VEI I reimagined a group of mercenaries called Chainsaw, which in the original (not to disparage Velluto in any way, btw) were your typical Liefeld-esque guys with guns and pouches. I completely reimagined that into something more modern… whether VEI opts to use it or not, remains their option, but I’m hopeful that they will.

@Brad

In all seriousness (well, sort of), isn’t the msg one should take from Superman that it’s acceptable to fight for what you believe in as long as what you believe in is good?

They don’t call it the neverending battle for nothing… Superman wouldn’t give up, would he?

@Dan

Agreed.

I for one am tired of the constant reboots, and for me there are only two options:

Either admit that mistakes were made and reinstitude the continuity that was done away with BR and the subsequent reboots to bring back the MoS continutiy (something akin to what was done with Power Girl), or start from scratch with a new version (like it is being done with Earth One, but set it in continuity).

If the latter, at least have the decency to provide fans of the MoS version with a proper ending to the story as was done with fans of the SA with Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.

@ Michael Sacal:

And if comics had a 10 cent cover price they could buy 25 copies for $2.50 instead of one, giving it a sales number of 2.5 million copies.

Or the lower price could attract more readers, thus incrreasing the sales numbers.

Adjusted for inflation, the same type of comic that was produced for 10 cents would cost about $1.50 today. However, fans do not want the same type of comic that was produced back then. The paper is slicker and the color is better. There is an expectation that the credited artist actually drew everything. Writers and Artists get paid much more fairly. Comics are sold through specialty retailers who maintain back-stock, so that readers can keep up with modern continuity. There are conventions that need to get attended, so there need to be booths, hotel rooms, plane tickets and the rest.

All the trappings of fandom cost money. That is the difference between $1.50 and the current average price of $3.50.

@Dean

Okay.

@Dean

My question would be, are artists and writers being paid the same today as they were in the 90s when comics were selling a quarter of a million copies at $1.50-$1.75, or are they getting paid more now that comics sell a quarter of a hundred thousand at $2.99-$3.50?

To Michael (or any interested party):

I know this thread is getting stale, but have you or anyone else tried starting a petition calling for something like a one-shot or mini-series that, while technically “out-of-continuity” would provide an ending and sense of closure to the story of the post-Crisis, pre-Birthright era Superman? A one-shot would be easily doable, and if DC sees that there’s enough fan demand, it seems like it should be possible. After all, fan opinion forced DC to publish a story that redeemed the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, and that’s a far smaller audience than the one that existed for the Byrne/Jurgens Superman.

It would also be a channel for your passion that would be more likely to yield a result (even if it’s just building a community of like-minded fans) than discussions on random, disconnected message boards.

@Brad

An out of continutiy one shot or mini series (a la Spider-Man: Clone Saga that Marvel recently published) wouldn’t do it and it wouldn’t be really fair to fans of MoS.

If DC is adamant to end that era and replace it with a rehash of the 60s, then they should provide a proper ending within continuity.

The problem here is that DC provided fans of the SA and BA with a proper ending to their favorite version, newscaster Clark Kent who was uber-God Superman, in the form of Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow, but that wasn’t enough for them and they’ve spent the last 25 years demanding the return of that version.

At this point, neither fans of the SA/BA nor fans of the MA are winning because the only thing that DC is giving us is a basterized version of all three combined.

If DC is so keen on pandering to fans of the 60s and 70s, then the least they could do is end the Modern Age version with a proper ending akin to WHttMoT so that, at the very least, fans of the modern age Superman can walk away satisfied.

But there in lies the rub, DC doesn’t want fans to walk away. They want them to keep buying comics.

I’m certain that that is one of the reasons that they will never publish a proper ending to the MoS era, because they are worried that if they do then readers will drop the titles en masse and not look back.

Over the years I have seen a lot of people on msg boards and placed like Superman Through the Ages post open letters to the DC editors informing them that they are dropping the Superman comics because they are tired of the outdated stories in them.

DC would be foolish in trying to get rid of the fans that have picked up the comics in the last 25 years to catter to fans who read the comics in the 60s.

The reality here is that fans of the 60s are much older than those of the 80s and 90s, and once those fans are no more, if DC gets rid of the fans it picked up in the 80s and 90s, there will be no one left to replace them.

Close for the Bryne/Jurgens era would be nice, but its audience would be similar to the one for X-men: Forever: tiny.

There aren’t that many of them. I was the only person in my town that religiously bought Supes in the late 80s/early 90s, and that was because all my comic buying friends thought the stories were boring.

I have met tons and tons of comics fans with fond memories of the X-men, Spider-man, Jim Starlin-Batman, Teen Titans, G.I.Joe, Daredevil, etc. etc. Maybe that’s just my area (Windsor-Detroit), but I have never, ever met someone that looks back in fondness to the Byrne-Jurgens Superman.

My non-comics friends will read Watchmen, Ultimates, Sandman, DMZ, Fables, and yes, All-Star Superman (not to mention New X-men by Morrison), but the few that I’ve tried to give the Byrne Man of Steel Superman series too rejected it out of hand. I don’t think it has an audience outside of the superhero cult of the 80s. I’ve just never seen the evidence.

@Mike-El

I would argue that a reason why such a project might not sell is because fans of MoS and the Jurgens era have stopped buying Superman comics after getting fed up with Berganza’s shananigans.

I think that Earth One will skew closer to MoS than Birthright and Secret Origin have.

@ MichaelSacal

My question would be, are artists and writers being paid the same today as they were in the 90s when comics were selling a quarter of a million copies at $1.50-$1.75, or are they getting paid more now that comics sell a quarter of a hundred thousand at $2.99-$3.50?

You would have a much better sense of that than I would, but I assuming that upfront monies are down substantially from the peak. However, there are back-end royalty deals that just did not exist for Gold, Silver or really even Bronze Age creators. That is certainly fair and equitable, but it is also an added cost to the publisher.

The bottom line is that the product (not just the comic itself, but involved in its production) that we are consuming is very different than what was produced when comics were half the (inflation adjusted) price.

@ Brad Rzanka

I know this thread is getting stale, but have you or anyone else tried starting a petition calling for something like a one-shot or mini-series that, while technically “out-of-continuity” would provide an ending and sense of closure to the story of the post-Crisis, pre-Birthright era Superman?

I’d love to see it, but how often do those things really satisfy their intended audience?

If someone really and truly believes that nostalgia for the ’80s is different in some meaningful way than nostalgia for the ’60s, then are they ever going to be happy with anything except the return of the Byrne/Jurgens Superman? Maybe I am wrong, but the Superman titles (with the exception of the tenure of the always divisive Geoff Johns) hovered around 50k in sales from the Wedding until very recently. There is not currently a huge audience for either version of Superman in the direct market.

@ Michael Sacal:

If DC is so keen on pandering to fans of the 60s and 70s, then the least they could do is end the Modern Age version with a proper ending akin to WHttMoT so that, at the very least, fans of the modern age Superman can walk away satisfied.

I think that you are mis-reading things a bit.

In the last 15 years, DC has done big numbers with Superman twice. Morrison and Quietley sold a bunch of copies of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank sold a bunch of copies of their run on ACTION. Both had a retro flavor (albeit very different types of retro), but more importantly they featured star creators with a lot of creative freedom. Hence, JMS scripting the one Superman starring title.

@Mike-El

Well, I’m another Detroit area guy who is a fan of the Byrne era. I think one of the main goals of Earth One is to get people who wouldn’t be able to follow what we’re talking about as they haven’t been reading Superman comics in a very long time or forever. I’m not sure how successful they’ll be, but that’s the goal. One of the problems, though, is if it turns out to be the first truly successful modern Superman, someone who goes from it to the regular series would only find retro-Superman.

@Dean

Johns/Frank and Morrison/Quitely had big numbers compared to what?

To Didio/Palmiotti on Superboy?

To Cir-El in Action Comics?

Do their big numbers compare to the Death/Funeral/Reign? To MoS? To the wedding?

ASS and Johns’s AC may have been a glass of water in the desert to many compared to what came before.

@Dan.

One of the problems, though, is if it turns out to be the first truly successful modern Superman, someone who goes from it to the regular series would only find retro-Superman.

Indeed.

It’s too bad that there are so many disparate elements going into Earth One, like page count and cover price, maybe even outlet, that will make it hard to guage how it will compare to the retro projects in other areas besides quality, which would be a good way to measure what readers are interested in, a realistic Superman or a retro Superman.

Earth One, btw, has been said to be what Didio wanted Birthright to be in the first place (without anyone actually making the comparison).

Readers have compared it to Ultimate Marvel, which is something that Waid compared BR to, and have also said that it is meant to bring Superman into the present, which is something people have also said about BR.

“I’m certain that that is one of the reasons that they will never publish a proper ending to the MoS era, because they are worried that if they do then readers will drop the titles en masse and not look back.”

I’m sure that anyone who feels that strongly has long since left already, or at least they should have. Anyone who keeps buying/reading something that they consistantly dislike, and know isn’t likely to change to their tastes, is either a masochist or has rocks in their head. They’re also not going to get much sympathy from me; if you don’t like it, don’t keep buying it (or if you do, don’t complain about it to me.)

Anyway, I just threw the petition idea out there both as something you could do that would actually be positive, proactive, and possibly productive. Light a candle rather than curse the darkness? I’m getting the impression that you’d rather continue to wallow in anger and negativity, as you’re so hasty to swat aside anything that might counter that position. Given how much time and energy you’ve devoted to it, it’s both obsessive and sad. And it’s not what Superman would do, either. You are a true fan and a truly passionate person; why not prove your naysayers and detractors wrong, and channel it into a truly positive direction?

@Brad

I spent my mornings writing. At present I’m busy developing a gn and adapting a novel into a screenplay as a freelance job.

Trust me, my energy is channeled in positive ways, and there is no time in my day to spend it writing letters that will fall on deaf ears anyway.

One of the problems, though, is if it turns out to be the first truly successful modern Superman, someone who goes from it to the regular series would only find retro-Superman.

I doubt that matters very much.

The EARTH-ONE stuff seems to be premised on the idea that the DC book-store customers are a completely different group of people than their comic shop customers. That seems right, since WATCHMEN sold huge numbers in excess of the total estimated comic shop market in the year the film was released. DC just wants to get some evergreen product featuring their biggest stars for those folks.

Johns/Frank and Morrison/Quitely had big numbers compared to what?

Compared to everything in the last 15 years. 100k is new the new blockbuster standard for comics. It is a shame that sales have fallen to that point, but it is what it is. Excluding those two examples, Superman has not come close to 100k in a long, long time.

Do their big numbers compare to the Death/Funeral/Reign? To MoS? To the wedding?

I do not know of a source for the sales figures from 1970 through about 1995. All I know is that in 1969, Superman had fallen from a peak of a million units to about 500 thousand. Twenty-five years later, Superman was selling 10% of that.

Superman #75 was a huge hit, but it was also ultimately a trick. The folks that it brought in did not stay around for the aftermath.

One of them. Don’t like it?

@Dean

It’s not that, I was just curious.

I’ve used it myself plenty of times.

Superman-specific sales figures, to the mid-1980s, appear here:

http://www.comichron.com/titlespotlights/superman.html

I am somewhat confused by your page, John.

The last issue of Superman prior to its renaming as Adventures of Superman was #423, yet your page has listings for issues 427 and 439.

Are those numbers for issues of Superman printed in issues of Adventures of Superman, or are those numbers for units printed of Adventures of Superman?

Assuming the former (that 307,033 units is the number for part two of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow), that means that, as per this link (http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2010/2010-04.html), Superman today sells little over a 10th of what it sold before Byrne’s reboot (Superman 699 33,183 ).

This is what it sold before Loeb took over

http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/1999/1999-09.html

59 Superman Collectors Ed 150 40,458

Or if you want to be technical, this is what the title with the numbering sold.

72 Adventures Of Superman 572 37,578

Not much difference in a decade, other than sales have been going down and not up.

You’d think that DC would wise up and realize that they are doing something wrong if instead of increasing sales all they are doing is losing them.

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