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COMIC LEGEND: The Superman writers after John Byrne went in a drastically different direction to distance themselves from Byrne having Superman kill.
John Byrne’s last issue of Superman was remarkable in that it featured Superman flat-out killing three Phantom Zone villains who had just wiped out an entire pocket Earth (BILLIONS of people)….
In the issues to come, new writers Jerry Ordway and Roger Stern would have Superman suffer a nervous breakdown and a split personality over what he had done, adopting the Gangbuster identity…
And then Superman would exile himself into outer space…
At the time and in the years since (especially in articles written last year after Superman killed in Man of Steel), Stern and Ordway’s stories have been seen as an attempt for the new writers to distance themselves from Byrne as quickly as possible, to basically say “Byrne did THIS, but we are going to have Superman go away from that right away!”
However, as it turns out, they were NOT going away from Byrne’s original story. Before he left the book, Byrne had a general plan for what would happen after Superman killed the Phantom Zone villains. Note the last panel in Byrne’s last issue…
He clearly is saying that this is messing Superman up. So the nervous breakdown and the split personality was originally BYRNE’s idea. Ordway suggested that he use Gangbuster (as Byrne was going to introduce a new hero and have that hero revealed to be Superman) but the nervous breakdown was all Byrne.
Stern and Ordway (and editor Mike Carlin, I presume) then took that one step further with the Exile storyline, but the first few months after Byrne left Superman, Stern and Ordway were still working with Byrne’s basic plots. So while they got the benefit of APPEARING to distance themselves from Byrne’s dramatic plot development, they were actually following it (and then taking it their own direction, of course).
My pal Graeme pointed out to me that they explicitly point this out in Adventures of Superman #450, the issue where we explicitly learn that Superman has been posing as Gangbuster due to a split personality over his grief over killing the Pocket Universe villains…
Thanks to Jerry Ordway, who explained how it all went down in his Modern Masters. And thanks to Eric Nolen-Weathington, who I believe interviewed Ordway in that Modern Masters. And thanks to reader Jam for suggesting this one! And thanks to Graeme for suggesting the Adventures #450 page!
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