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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 363

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

Following up on yesterday’s different take on the Superman legend, today we take a look at John Byrne’s Superman/Batman: Generations, where Byrne details the story of what if Superman and Batman’s stories took place in “real time” (that is, they both debuted in 1938 and 1939, respectively)….

Enjoy!

Byrne sets the mini-series up thusly – four issues, each extra-sized issue (almost 50 pages per issue) telling two stories a decade apart. So issue #1 tells a story in 1939 and 1949, #2 tells a story in 1959 and 1969, etc. (with a little twist in issue #4).

However, Byrne also attempts to match the story of that decade in with the style of comic books that came out during that particular time period, which is really quite ingenious.

Here’s a quick glimpse of some samples from the first three issues…

1939…

1949…

(this one has a particularly clever “era-specific” conclusion)

1959…

1969…

1979…

1989…

Pretty cool stuff, huh?

Byrne continued the concept in a sequel mini-series and then a third maxi-series, and those were good, but I think this original series is still the best of the bunch.

13 Comments

I LOVE the Genrations books! Byrne REALLY seemed to be having fun on those series.
Also, the Captain America/Batman crossover one-shot fits nicely in the series timeline, which is really cool.

“However, Byrne also attempts to match the story of that decade in with the style of comic books that came out during that particular time period, which is really quite ingenious”.

Tied to this, the other neat thing (if I’m remembering this correctly) is that he only introduced concepts as and when they were introduced in the real world – so in the opening chapters set in the 1930s, there is no Superboy because he didn’t exist but when he gets to the 1950s and onwards, Superman remembers being Superboy because he exists as a concept in the real world (if you follow me…)

I believe you’re correct, Charles.

Wow, this looks great.

Tied to this, the other neat thing (if I’m remembering this correctly) is that he only introduced concepts as and when they were introduced in the real world – so in the opening chapters set in the 1930s, there is no Superboy because he didn’t exist but when he gets to the 1950s and onwards, Superman remembers being Superboy because he exists as a concept in the real world (if you follow me…)

This sounds like a book that includes a lot of smart easter eggs and nods to the past without veering into blatant fanwankery, which was my problem with other books like JLA/Avengers. I’d love to have seen what John Byrne could have done with a JLA/Avengers mini.

I remember reading the first two mini-series, but not the 12-issue maxi-series.

Byrne always did do a pretty good job with the trinity (SM, BM, and WW) when he wrote and drew them.

The first Generations is a great, fun series. Probably the last thing that Byrne did that I completely enjoyed.

I really liked the first two series, but didn’t like the third one (the 12-issue series) at all. I’m not sure I even kept it, and that’s saying a lot. I still have Countdown.

Pretty cool stuff indeed! I have only one slim volume of this series (1939/1949) and am always digging through comics at comic cons to find the rest. After reading this I want them more than ever!

I dunno. Superman has a son who has no powers and turns evil? Most of his family and friends get wiped out by the villain, in what seems like an uninspired riff on Moore’s _Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow_? “Dr. Holurt”?

Like a lot of later Byrne, you have a capital-H High Concept, and some lovely panels and linework, but writing? Plot? Ummm.

Pause for a moment to think what Grant Morrison could have done with this. Byrne killed off Dick Grayson because he couldn’t have anyone but Wayne descendants be Batman. Morrison took a more expansive, more generous and wise, and ultimately more /cool/ vision of the character. Morrison shows us that it’s not about the Wayne genes; it’s about turning tragedy into triumph, and the human spirit striving for perfection. The whole point of Morison’s run has been people trying to be Batman: trying and getting it wrong (Dr. Hurt, the Three Ghosts, Zombie Batman, Oberon Sexton, Red Hood) or trying and getting it right (Dick Grayson, the Club of Heroes, Batman Inc.). Making it about the Wayne family line is a narrow, limited and… well, fanboyish way to view the character.

Byrne is sort of the George Lucas of comics: the stuff he did in the 1970s and 80s transformed the way we look at the medium, and if he’d retired before 1990 we’d remember him with untarnished awe. But his later stuff, while still visually pretty, is self-indulgent and showcases his flaws.

Doug M.

Thanks for posting this – it reminds me how much I loved this series, and the second one. Now I feel like re-reading them. However, I agree with a few of the commenters above about the third series. It just shouldn’t have been done – I especially hated the ending, where everybody involved basically forgets what happened.

@ DanLarkin & Doug M.: I guess that means you’re not picking up/or reading the newly returned NEXT MEN series that picks up where # 30 left off?

I liked the original miniseries quite a bit but it got more and more convoluted as they went on. The Batman/Captain America once shot was amazing I thought.

I really enjoyed Generations. The sequel was just as good. The next step should have been a regular monthly exploring the series from the beginning, rather than the maxi, though. bringing in the Legion and New Gods was a little convoluted…

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