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Saturday With the Big Guy


Like everyone else who writes about comics, I’ve spent a big part of the last week thinking about Superman.

Yes, we saw Man of Steel, and yeah, we had mixed feelings about it. I’m not really interested in re-litigating the whole thing again, though, especially since so many other people have already written exhaustively about the film. (And I mean exhaustively– I got exhausted just reading all the endless arguments about the movie, so I’m really not looking to start a new one here.)

The bottom line for me was, that’s not my Superman. If it was yours, hey, great. Enjoy it.

But what tripped me up when I was trying to explain my reservations to my friends who really dug Man of Steel was… who is my Superman?

Everybody has their own, which is kind of the problem when you have a pop culture icon who’s been around for seventy-five years. That’s half again as long as James Bond and Star Trek have been around, and look how much people disagree about which iterations of those are the ‘real’ ones.

By the way, as far as Trek and Bond are concerned, these are mine. In case you were wondering. I’m really more of a book guy to be honest.

I mean, I know who my Superman’s not. He’s not the mopey emo guy who stalks his ex in Superman Returns, he’s not the tormented twentysomething that was on Smallville, he’s not really in the current comics DC’s putting out. He’s certainly not the guy that was completely unmanned by a civilian slap in Grounded. He’s not the chipper condescending guy George Reeves played in Adventures of Superman. He’s not really the guy Dean Cain played on Lois and Clark, either, though I liked that one. He’s not John Haymes Newton or Gerard Christopher on Superboy. He’s more like the guy Henry Cavill and Christopher Reeve played in their movies… but he has better writers. Kirk Alyn got pretty close too, but again, the story wasn’t quite there.

You see what I mean? For me it’s like everybody gets a piece of it, but nobody really nails the whole. And this problem gets horribly compounded when you add in the supporting cast and villains. For example, Christopher Reeve got pretty close to my idea of Superman but that sure wasn’t my Luthor that he went up against in three of his four movies. I didn’t care for the George Reeves Superman at all but Jack Larson as his Jimmy Olsen felt almost letter-perfect. The science-fiction, first-contact-with-an-alien approach that Man of Steel takes to the character really resonates with me, it very much echoes the old Edmond Hamilton SF take I loved so in the Weisinger-era comics, but I have serious problems with the characterizations of Jonathan Kent and of Superman himself.

And so on. This is why there’s always so much arguing among fans whenever there’s any kind of a relaunch… because each one of us tends to have a very specific idea about not just who Superman is, but also Lois and Perry and Jimmy and the Kents and Krypton and the Fortress and Luthor and Brainiac and… well, you get the idea. Hell, I saw people on the net last week in a spit-spraying rage over how Man of Steel portrayed Pete Ross. It’s impossible for anyone to get all of it right for every fan out there.

Just for the hell of it, I thought I’d look back and see if I could figure out when Superman crystallized for me; the moment when I said to myself, “That’s it. Nailed it.”

A lot of people assume it’s your first one, whichever that was. That’s not me, though. My first Superman was on television, the 1966 animated version from Filmation. The New Adventures of Superman.

I liked it a lot, don’t get me wrong. That show was probably one of the most faithful adaptations of comics-to-film that has ever been done– the transition from that cartoon to the Superman comics of the time was so seamless for me that I hardly noticed any differences.

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And I can pretty much recall which Superman comic was my first, too. I think it was this one. Superman #217, from sometime in early 1969. A 25-cent Giant, of course.

So those were my first encounters with Superman, and both of them imprinted pretty hard. The 80-Page Giant comic, especially, was a great introduction to the weird world Superman lived in, and it was much more about the galaxy-spanning science fiction than the prank-on-snoopy-Lois hijinks that today the internet generally refers to as “superdickery.” I probably had looked at other Superman comics before than, but this is the first one I remember really digging and rereading over and over. It was the one that got me interested.

It had the first Lori Lemaris story and the first Brainiac story– as well as what would be the first of many Superman stories I read dealing with villainous Kryptonians. I remember that I liked the Brainiac one, introducing Kandor, a lot, and also the one with Mala, the rogue Kryptonian.

But the one that grabbed me especially was the introduction of Metallo. He was just so evil, and his freaky Kryptonite heart that powered him was such a creepy gimmick. I loved it.

I was eight years old, and that was just exactly the target age for those stories. And compared to the relatively simple Filmation cartoon shorts, this stuff was hard SF. (Although even at age eight, I didn’t quite get how melted Kryptonite wasn’t still lethal, or why Superman used his X-ray vision to melt it and not his heat vision.)

But those were mere nitpicks. From that point on, whenever I saw a Superman Giant, it got my quarter.

I was on board for the science-fiction Superman, especially as rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, and scripted by Edmond Hamilton.


The stories about the history of Krypton (especially the bottle city of Kandor) but also the saga of Brainiac and the Coluan computer tyrants, the tragic irony of Luthor and the planet Lexor… all of that stuff. I loved the scale of it. To a kid like me, the grand opera of it all, with Superman as a citizen of the galaxy that ranged across all space and time– that was the good stuff.

So that’s a big part of it for me, the idea that Superman isn’t necessarily earthbound. My Superman and his world– and most especially, his villains– should be science-fiction on a galactic scale. There was a time when Luthor thought nothing of hopping in a rocket ship and venturing to some far-off asteroid in the hope of recovering the perfect super-weapon, or traveling back in time to tamper with the history of Krypton. That’s a Superman-worthy villain.

But it wasn’t my perfect Superman, not THE version. The simplicity of the Weisinger-era version of Superman was pretty easy to grow out of. By the time the 1970s arrived, I was ready for… something more. As much as I had loved the Superman stories in the Giants, they seemed a little staid and schoolbooky compared to the dynamism I was seeing in stuff like the Neal Adams Batman or even the Fantastic Four reprints in Marvel’s Greatest Comics.

But– fortunately for me– that was right around the time Superman himself got a makeover.


In particular, I really got into the dynamic visuals Jack Kirby was bringing to the NEW Jimmy Olsen.


There was no idea too big for that book, and Kirby seemed like he was bursting with not just ideas but also new ways to present them. Nothing was off-limits.


It took me a while to get on board with the rest of Kirby’s Fourth World, but I was all over the revamped Olsen. I loved it all– the Newsboy Legion, Project Cadmus, Transilvane– everything. The weirder it got, the more I was loving it.


Hell, I was even digging the insanity that was Goody Rickels, the caped twin of Don Rickles.


But it wasn’t just Kirby tearing it up on Jimmy Olsen. I was also really into the saga of the parasitic Sandman over in Superman, by Denny O’Neil and Curt Swan. It was the dynamic covers that hooked me but the story kept me.

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It took most of a year to unspool and I haunted newsstands trying to keep up with it. And the payoff was big enough to feel like it was worth it.

(You don’t have to spend a year piecing it all together like I did; you lucky kids today can find it all between two covers, in the collection Kryptonite Nevermore. Pretty cheap, too.)

So there’s the next piece. I like my Superman to have really dynamic visuals. Big sprawling vistas. Big action. Just…. big.

But it still wasn’t quite right. There wasn’t much humanity to it all. The 1971 revamp of Superman had him acting like an arrogant jerk a lot of the time.

(Of course, in O’Neil’s Sandman saga, that was on purpose, setting up his ending– but at the time, I didn’t know it.) Naturally Superman was good at everything, he was Superman for God’s sake… but he didn’t have to brag about it all the time.

What’s more, the Clark Kent/secret identity stuff, which I’d always liked –even if I thought Lois was a bit of a bitch about the whole thing– wasn’t given very much play. I liked the contrast between the cosmic-scale Superman and the earthbound, nerdy Clark. When there was no Clark Kent in a Superman story– even just the standard scene of a lame excuse and a dash for the stockroom– I missed him.

But it didn’t matter, as it turned out. Even if I had loved 1971’s NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN! without reservation, they weren’t to last. Suddenly in both Superman and Action, it was back to the gimmick stories and the sedate art– although Nick Cardy kept the dynamic covers coming.

Despite my disappointment at the short-lived nature of the NEW! take on Superman, I’d often take a chance on a Superman book just based on those brilliant Cardy covers.

Even though the interior art never seemed to match up to the apocalyptic promise of the covers, suddenly the stories themselves seemed much more character-driven, and Clark Kent’s supporting cast had gotten a lot more interesting. Lois suddenly wasn’t an obsessive shrew any more. Despite no actual Jack Kirby being present, Jimmy Olsen was still a Kirby-esque adventurer. It was true that Clark’s new status as a TV reporter strained credulity, but nevertheless it worked for me because that added characters like Morgan Edge and Steve Lombard, and they were shaking things up in a good way. Best of all, as far as I was concerned, Clark was being played as a doofus again, but the writing was smarter.

This was largely due to the arrival of writers Elliott Maggin and Cary Bates. Maggin, especially, had a knack for finding ways to humanize the last son of Krypton and make him believable.

So my Superman should have a humanizing supporting cast and the contrast between Superman and Clark Kent should be a big part of things. There should be warmth and humor… but not slapstick, not Superdickery.


So that’s pretty much what I’m looking for in my Superman. Let’s recap:

Science fiction on a galactic scale, with really dynamic visuals, a humanizing supporting cast, that plays up the contrast between Superman and Clark Kent, and tells a story with warmth and humor.

That’s my Superman, the minimum requirement I carry in my head. Looking at it like that, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard.

And yet no one ever could hit all those marks. There had been stories I liked but somehow no one could put all the pieces together. A story with great Superman/Clark stuff would be saddled with a dumb gimmick or a lame villain. Or a brilliantly cosmic Superman epic would get the Clark and Lois stuff all wrong. There would always be some flaw. More than anything else, the thing that kept me from being a regular Superman reader was the uneven quality– there never seemed to be a consistent run of stories that I liked enough to stick around.

It was somewhere in the mid-70s that I pretty much gave up on Superman. I decided I was more of a Marvel guy. I liked Superman as a character, I liked spending time in his world, but it was an abstract thing… month-to-month, the comics rarely seemed to live up to the ideal version I wished for.

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Then it happened. I finally got my perfect Superman story.

Not in comics, or cartoons, or even a movie. No, it was a prose novel– Elliot Maggin’s Last Son of Krypton.


The funny thing is, it was a fluke– it happened because they needed a novel to tie in to the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, but they didn’t want to pay Mario Puzo additional book royalties, which he would have been owed on any book derived from his screenplay. They already had the Maggin manuscript sitting in a drawer, so they published it instead of an actual novelization of the movie. Though it was still disguised as a movie tie-in.

In fact, I bought it off the stands in 1978 thinking it was going to be the movie story, and for the first hour or so of reading I was overjoyed– this was going to be the greatest Superman movie ever! Then I got to the photo section in the middle and realized this amazing story I was reading couldn’t actually be the movie. But I still loved the book and it immediately became my favorite Superman story ever. The story had a galactic sweep with lots of spectacular super-feats, great character bits with Clark and Lois and Steve Lombard, background on the boyhood of both Superman and Luthor, and even cameos from Albert Einstein and the “old-timer” Guardian from Green Lantern/Green Arrow. It hit every single mark I specified above and then some. (The funny thing was, the big visuals were all in my head– conjured there by Maggin’s prose. But they were there.) It was brilliant. I didn’t think it could be topped…

…until the same thing happened a couple of years later, with Maggin’s Miracle Monday, the not-a-novelization tie-in book that accompanied the theatrical release of Superman II. Again the huge sweep, the terrific character stuff, and even higher stakes… and the best Clark and Lois scenes anyone’s ever written.


That was my Superman. That was the guy I’d hoped to see. Now I had a benchmark. I was totally okay with waiting for a new Superman movie to get the next Maggin novel if they were going to be that good. Boy, was I bitter when I found out they actually did a plain old novelization for Superman III, and Elliott Maggin was nowhere in sight.

Have there been any Superman stories I liked that much since then? Sure. My Superman, despite what some people reading this might conclude, is not confined to the 1970s. Gerber and Colan’s Phantom Zone miniseries is definitely a high-water mark for me. I was lukewarm to what John Byrne did, and his Superman was definitely not mine, but the folks that came afterward seemed determined to get guys like me back. During the years of the triangle-numbered, weekly-serial format Superman comics had in the 1990s, I thought the combo of Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway hit a real groove there for a while. And the Bruce Timm animated Superman strikes me as damn near perfect.

More recently, Grant Morrison hit most of my marks in All-Star Superman, as did Mark Waid in Birthright. I think Kurt Busiek’s Superman run is criminally underrated, especially considering how much juggling he had to do to keep his stories consistent with what other folks were doing; I especially like “Camelot Falls” and “The Third Kryptonian.”

Admittedly, that’s the last time I really was enjoying Superman. I’m not crazy about the new 52 stuff so far, and I don’t care for the versions we saw in Superman Returns or Man of Steel, but that doesn’t mean I’m done with Superman forever. The one thing I’ve learned is that these things come in cycles. Maybe it’ll be comics, or a new animated series, or even a sequel movie with Henry Cavill. Maybe one of these straight-to-DVD cartoons they’re doing will hit with me. Whatever. Sooner or later, there’ll be one I can enjoy without reservation.

And in the meantime, there’s all the old stuff on the shelf. I can’t get all worked up and betrayed about a new movie when I already have so much Superman material I enjoy.

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And for that matter, you probably do too. Maybe you loved the new Henry Cavill movie, or you’re a big Smallville fan, or maybe you’re a Golden Age Siegel & Shuster purist. Whatever it might be, some version has hit you as hard as the Maggin novels did me, unless you have yet to come across it– but I’m certain your Superman is out there somewhere.

That’s why I can’t see the point of having a big internet brawl about it. When it’s a character that’s been around for seventy-five years in one form or another, there’s something for everyone.

Speaking of which, feel free to tell us about “your” Superman down in the comment section if you like. You know mine, but I know mine isn’t everyone’s, and I’m curious about which version resonates with other people.

See you next week.


They all are. I like seeing the different kinds of “Supermen,” how the reflect they era they were born in, how they continue the ongoing narrative of the character. It’s the same with nearly every licensed character, to me they’re equal.

It’s the same way I can love Adam West and Christian Bale and Michael Keaton; why I can love Batman: The Animated Series and adore Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

I grew up LOVING Christopher Reeve’s Superman, but Man of Steel was very much the version of the character I was dying to see. All Star Superman was the glorious return of the silver age and the novel “It’s Superman!” might be the perfect Golden Age/Fleischer Superman tale.

These characters live, they breathe, and the only way we can let them do that is to embrace every new iteration as important as the one that first made us fall in love with them.

Damn, now I got to get my hands on those Superman novels. So far “my superman” only exists in my head but we seem to have some similar tastes so I’ll give the books a try and see if they can match up.

I agree, the Maggin novels are perhaps the pinnacle of Superman storytelling. Also the best-ever portrayal of the pre-Crisis Lex Luthor.

Great post! I really like the stories about Superman while he was learning to be Superman. I really liked ” Smallville” and “It’s Superman (a novel by Tom DeHaven).” I also like the cosmic stuff, so I’m going to look for those novels you mentioned.

My Superman was born of John Byrne’s hand and died around the time For Tomorrow happened. The best non-comics version was the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini cartoon.

Those Maggin novels are without a doubt among the best Superman stories ever told. I prefer Miracle Monday to Last Son of Krypton, though. The climax of that story resonated with me this week when I was reading about the debates over the climax of Man of Steel.

The best recent attempt at Superman was in the recent Lego game.
“I can see you smirking. X-Ray Vision!”

My DC reading has always been lacking but I’ve always had a soft spot for Superman. I really think that has to do with the movies and the fantastic animated series from the 90s. I was just watching the Justice League cartoon today and seeing Superman grudge with Darkseid was oodles of fun.

I totally agree on Busiek’s run by the way. It coincided with my decision to pick up monthlies for a while and was a big reason why I did.

My original exposure to Superman was a VHS tape of “The Mad Scientist”, the first of the classic Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. It was the 1980s and as a kid, I couldn’t even tell it was an old cartoon. Probably because it was, and remains, absolutely gorgeous for any time. That was Superman for me for a long time: a stalwart, powerful, mad scientist-stopper. Maybe a little smug, a bit playful, but very heroic. Superman was the guy who punched laser beams and giant robots and dinosaurs. He wasn’t afraid of anything. And if he was, it wasn’t for long.

Comic book-wise, my attachment has mostly been to the Post-Crisis, Byrne-Simonson-Jurgens-Stern material, though my favorite Supes story didn’t come until 2001 under the auspices of Joe Kelly, who had written most of my favorite Deadpool stories (talk about two different characters!), “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” (Superman Vol 2 No 775).

Sometime after that I mostly lost touch with Superman comics until recently, when I’ve been playing catch up with more recent material, though the bits of Superman I’ve read in New 52 are pretty terrible (how can Morrison get Supes right in All Star but screw him up in Action?). I’m reluctantly reading Superman Unchained because I like Snyder and Lee.

Movie-wise, I didn’t see the Donner/Lester series until I was in my late teens, and I wasn’t impressed. I had watched Lois & Clark and STAS and preferred those shows. I didn’t watch much Smallville because I hated that they turned Superman into Dawson’s Creek and never liked the “Clark Kent meets everybody in Superman’s life BEFORE becoming Superman” thing.

I understand that Superman should be powerful AND inspirational, but the Donner movies just felt too schmaltzy and it was MoS that made Superman’s powers palpable, even if it needed a bit more heart.

Man, one of these days I’m going to have to track down and re-read those Maggin novels. I read them and rather liked them back when they came out, but honestly I don’t remember much except for amusing bits of dialogue here and there (by the way, I bought the first one after I had seen the movie, thinking, like you, it was just a novelization – I still remember thinking “hey, wait a minute…” after reading about the first dozen or so pages).
Otherwise, since I was/am much more of a Marvel boy, I can’t really say I’m that committed enough to the character to have “my own” version. Although I wasn’t reading it for very long, I’d actually say that the Byrne/Wolfman revamp is closest to “my” Superman. It seemed like they were attempting to bring the Reeve movie version to the comics, but with a Luthor who is actually diabolical and menacing, rather than just comic relief a la Gene Hackman.
And yes, as far as live action goes, for me nothing and nobody beats Christopher Reeve and his first two Supes movies (although both have flawed endings to me: the changing history bit in the first one, and the incredibly cruel slipping of what I assume is a Kryptonian roofie to Lois in the second one).
Otherwise, I just like a well-told Superman tale: I share your admiration for Gerber’s Phantom Zone mini, and I otherwise like Gerber’s take on the character: I loved those Elseworlds stories he did (Last Son of Earth/Last Stand on Krypton). In fact, of the more recent Superman stories I’ve read, I most enjoyed Elseworlds or similar material: Red Son, Secret Identity, Son of Superman, and yes, All Star Superman (one of the few things by Morrison that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed).

Tim Rifenburg

June 23, 2013 at 4:18 am

Great topic. The idea of the best interpretation of a character through the various mediums is an interesting one. For me it is usually the comics that define “my” version of the character. When tv, movies, books etc get it right it is usually because they echo the things I found enjoyable from the comics. When it comes to Superman there is no run of Superman that defines him for me. Certain writers and artists definitely made the character sing for me. I guess the time period of “69 – 79 would hold some of my favorite Superman stories. Partly because of my age and discovery of comics and partly because that period crystalized my idea of Superman. Like you and others I love Superman from other times and interpretations but the 70’s stuff just works for me as defining the ideas of the character. Sometimes it was the interpretations in Justice League and Worlds Finest that did it as well. The Giants and reprints of the 60s and 70’s helped me appreciate the older stuff and introduce me to the many characters and worlds Superman was part of.

My basic take is that superheroes should generally be about trying to imagine an ethical alternative to the ugliness of the real world. Otherwise, the extra effort of suspending disbelief so that You can Believe a Man Can Fly seems sort of pointless. Superman, as the archetypal superhero, needs to do this more purely and rigorously than many others.

There’s plenty of room in there for pointing out where and how the genre conventions get in the way of that goal, and for fairly specific meta-criticism. But ultimately, articulating a better world is the whole point of imagining the superman…and Superman.

I actually really liked the Lois & Clark version, at least for the first season or two. Probably because I like my superheroes a little more street level, and this was probably the least godlike Superman ever. I also liked Dean Cain’s interpretation of Clark Kent as just a regular guy who was pretty good at his job, not an embarrassing nerd who the other characters assumed just scraped by on luck.

I’m in the “Nobody did it better than Seigel and Schuster camp” but as long as we all agree that Silver Age Emo Krypto is the one true Krypto I have no beef with anyone else’s Superman.

“MY” Superman would definitely be closest to the Byrne Superman, thru the early to mid 90s… Although I have always loved the Chris Reeve portrayal and the Maggin books as well. I started there and worked backwards from either trades or not so nice copies of affordable silver age books. Funny how the new52 Superman really doesn’t work for me but I never had an issue reading all those older stories and enjoying them. Stuff today just doesn’t feel right… Superman Returns I refer to Bizarro Superman Returns… and then with MOS, I quite enjoyed everything up to the controversial part. In my head the whole scene just slowed down and it just pulled me out of the movie…. I think I even spoke out loud when it happened… most of the people around didn’t say a word. stunned silence.
for a new audience, fine… for me, I never cared for the storyline, Superman 22 when Supes killed the alternate Kryptonians… but the follow up stories were great!
New 52 Superman just doesn’t have enough likable things about him. fresh, new, been there, done that. and no marriage to Lois… less CK being CK… not enough so far done at the Daily Planet… no supporting characters…. the ones that have been seen seem a bit hollow…. in name they are there and thats all.
i miss the 90s… all the stories weren’t the best but the character development was there issue to issue.

Short answer: Superman, the Animated Series. That’s the Superman I want to see.

If I had to pick a comics version, it would be Byrne’s revamp (lots of which showed up in S:TAS). I don’t like omnipotent Superman. I like him to be the toughest guy around, but I hate him moving planets and zooming through space at FTL speeds and all that other stuff that mostly eliminates tension and drama (Morrison’s All-Star being the only exception I’ve ever seen). Byrne put a lot of thought into Superman’s abilities (and no, I don’t excuse all his behavior or worship at some kind of Byrne altar), and made them amazing but still slightly grounded in reality.

It made sense that he worked with other heroes that could do things he couldn’t. Villains could actually give him a fight. It made sense that he wasn’t out reshaping the world and solving hunger and war and all that stuff. If he’s omnipotent (and don’t split hairs — if he can juggle planets and move suns and fly faster than light, and see and hear across galaxies, he’s pretty much God), then he should be fixing EVERYTHING, not fighting Luthor (which is also ludicrous — no “science” could match those abilities). Letting people starve or die in wars isn’t letting them exercise free will — it’s Superman failing to take action and it’s wrong, if not necessarily criminal.

Mr Hatcher. Reading this post just amazed me: I could have written it (not half this good) as it perfectly depicts my views on Superman’s character and, mostly, on Elliot S! Maggin. Strangely enough, Superman happens to actually BE my favourite character!

Your experience with Maggin’s first book was, word by word, mine, unless I was, like, 9, and I read it in Italian, translated by a guy who clearly had no experience with DC universe whatsoever. Furthermore, Miracle Monday was never printed in Italy and almost everything Maggin wrote in comics somehow related to his “bookverse” (as The Einstein Connection) was left unpublished. But many of his classics had been printed in Italy shortly before that book (we were more than a year back from USA editions), and I loved them.

I’ve been reading Superman for almost 40 years now, and I experienced a lot of highs and lows, appreciating a lot of master writers (Moore, Byrne, Waid, Morrison…) good and forgettable ones, but I’ve come to the conclusion that ES!M *is* the ultimate Superman writer. And I strongly believe he should be scripting a… THE Superman movie. One can only hope for MOS sequel.

Great post, thanks.

Superman: The Movie; Miracle Monday; the John Byrne revamp (and the succeeding 10 years); The Denny O’Neil / Curt Swan stuff (Denny O’Neil’s dialogue was brilliant); the Siegel and Shuster version (til about 1942)l All Star Superman; the Fleischer cartoons; the black and white seasons of The Adventures of Superman; the first season of Lois and Clark. Anything reprinted in Crown publishing’s Superman: From the 30s to the 70s….

Yeah, my Superman is made up of a lot of different parts too.

I got Last Son of Krypton really cheap off Ebay and LOVED it. But is it my definitive Superman? Well, I don’t know…

I also have to include Busiek’s Superman, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s (criminally underrated), the Bruce Timm one, a little bit of Lois & Clark and Christopher Reeve, All-Star (of course) and the radio show/Fleischer cartoons in my personal Superman.

My Superman would be, initially, the Marv Wolfman/ Gil Kane/ Curt Swan Superman of the early eighties where he went up against the revamped Lex Luthor and Brainiac. I’d dabbled with the character before, in DC Comics Presents and World’s Finest, and the Superman Movie is still my all-time favourite film, but Wolfman and Co got me to pay attention to the comics. But once they were through I’d lose interest. Until Byrne and Ordway came along. They kept me interested for about two years, but once again I’d lose interest. Then Jurgens brought me back, then I left, then Jim Lee, then I left, then Scott McDaniel, then I left, then Johns and Frank, then I left. I came back for about 8 issues of each New 52 title and then left again. Superman can’t keep me interested long term as a comic, although I am really attracted to limited series and alternative takes on the character like The Nail, and Red Son.

If I really think about it I think “my” Superman has always been the movie or TV versions. I have a soft spot for George Reeve, and really enjoyed the Lois and Clark series, dabbled in Smallville (I’m too old to be that interested in teenage antics) and am a fanatical Christopher Reeve fan – I even enjoy 3 and 4. Superman Returns was a good film as well but had it’s faults. I’m from Australia and have just come back from seeing Man of Steel at the theatre. I absolutely adored this film, even the controversial ending. Is Cavill my definitive Superman? No, certainly not because even he doesn’t know what type of Superman he’s going to be – he’s only been Superman for about a week. He’s not a seasoned veteran who’s been battling super-villains for 75 years. In fact he’s never needed to throw a punch until Zod arrived. So I’m really interested to see what type of Superman he’s going to be, especially in light of how his fight with Zod will affect his stance on life/ taking a life/ being an inspiration to others. He’s not my definitive Superman, but he might be one I could put against Christopher Reeves if the second and third film explore the character a lot more. Fingers crossed, but based on what I’ve seen I’m optimistic.

[…] a link to Waid’s piece, and here’s a link to a very interesting piece by Greg Hatcher on the process of identifying what is ‘your’ […]

Based on this column, I bought a used copy of Miracle Monday from Amazon. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far, it is superb. Thanks for the excellent recommendation!

Thanks for the excellent recommendation!

They’re great books. I’d much rather talk about stuff I like then crab about stuff I don’t, and MIRACLE MONDAY is like a diagram of how to work with the Superman/Clark/Lois triangle and make it plausible; I recommend it to anyone who complains about it being old-fashioned or silly. It’s still a fun idea if you get the right person writing it. Anyway, I’m glad the book works for you.

I’ve been reading through your old columns and really enjoyed this one. I’m a little bit younger; but your recollections are right in my wheelhouse. My first exposure to Superman was probably the Filmation cartoons; I know it was for Batman. For the comics, I got to see him sporadically; but, a friend lent me one of the Sand Creature era Superman’s and I was really intrigued at the idea that he had lost a chunk of power and struggled and failed to keep a building from collapsing. I was equally intrigued by the World of Krypton back-up story, which in that particular issue featured some groovy artwork from Mike Kaluta. When I was collecting in earnest, after college, I hunted down that entire run and World of Krypton ran through several of them and all were great stories. Maggin and Bates were my Superman writers and Curt Swan was my artist, especially if Murphy Anderson was inking. For me, the Christopher Reeve film captured everything I liked about the character, though I agree that Luthor didn’t quite make it. That is why i, too, loved Maggin’s novel. He really got into Luthor’s head and personality and create the best version, for my money. His Lex is a product of a troubled youth; a genius who is beyond understanding by everyone except Clark Kent, and who lacks the moral examples that Jonathan Kent gave Clark. He idolizes Albert Einstein. He has a sense of humor. He sleeps in a sarcophagus, on Snoopy sheets! He also uses dozens of cover identities and runs an entire criminal empire; but, at the same time, he does a lot of good in the world, via these identities. You get a real sense that he could be one of the greatest benefactors mankind ever had, if only he could drop his obsession with destroying Superman and stop seeking attention through crime. To me, that has always been the most rounded portrayal of Luthor; not the evil billionaire or even the amalgam of billionaire and mad scientist of the animated series (though that was a better take than Byrne’s or Hackman’s). His take on Luthor’s “origin,” was rilliant; not that Superboy caused him to lose his hair; but that he unwittingly “killed” the lifeform that Lex created. Luthor will neevr give him the satisfaction of knowing what the real issue is; because, deppe down, he knows that Superman would try to atone for what he did and Lex would have to forgive him. In so doing, he would have to look at all the decisions of his life and he can’t bring himself to do it.

I lucked into those books the same way, thinking they were novelizations; but happier that they weren’t, and wishing Maggin had done more. However, he did write the excellent Kingdom Come novel and I content myself with that.

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