John Byrne’s historic six issue mini series, The Man of Steel, just turned 25 years old. It was released during the Summer of 1986 to “clean up” the ever increasing super powers and ever more complicated back story of DC’s flagship super hero. For years, this series was the official origin of the post-Crisis Superman. What’s “post-Crisis”? Glad you asked.
Twenty six years ago (Apr 1985), DC released their multiverse changing event Crisis on Infinite Earths. I discussed the genesis of that historical mini-series over on Strange Kid’s Club in a very special installment of Forgotten Favorites. That megaseries changed the landscape of the DC Universe. It ushered in a time of change. Heroes died. Heroes lived. But after all was said and done, everyone had to pick up the pieces and move on.
DC was using the event to update and modernize their heroes. After the event was over, George Perez would relaunch the post-Crisis Wonder Woman. Batman’s origin would be expanded and revamped in Frank Miller’s famous Batman: Year One. And it also was time for DC to give Superman a new start. In the years leading up to Crisis, Superman had become entirely too powerful. I talked about some of his more ridiculous “super powers” earlier this week. The time of Superman igniting suns with his heat vision and juggling planets had come to an end. Crisis writer Marv Wolfman pitched DC on a Superman reboot that would eliminate the super pets, the surprisingly large number of Kryptonian survivors and power down the Man of Steel to more “normal” levels. Wolfman even wanted to eliminate Superman’s adventures as Superboy. Surprisingly, Wolfman made a similar pitch to DC back in the 70s but they rejected it. Now DC was all ears.
Wolfman decided to hire popular writer/artist John Byrne (who had just left Marvel) to help him flesh out the details of the story. Wolfman and Byrne sequestered themselves away and came up with a multi-year plan for the new Man of Steel. A month or so after the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne would kick off Superman’s triumphant return with a 6 issue mini-series (re)introducing the new post-Crisis Superman to comic readers. At the end of that series, Byrne would take over writing and drawing Action Comics and the new Superman title and Marv Wolfman would take over writing Adventures of Superman with Jerry Ordway drawing.
Each issue of Byrne’s 6 issue series would re-introduce aspects of the Superman mythos back into the DC Universe. I’ll take a quick look at the first 3 issues today, then I’ll look at the final three issues tomorrow. I haven’t read this series since the mid ’90s, so it’ll be interesting to see if it’s still any good or if it’s totally dated.
Let’s find out.
Issue 1′s prologue begins on Krypton and we learn that this new Krypton is very similar to the Richard Donner version from the movies. It’s very scientific, the landscape is antiseptic and the people are detached from each other. However, despite being highly evolved, their planet is dying. Jor-El is making preparations to rocket his son to Earth. He explains to Lara that he chose Earth because the yellow sun would super charge his Kryptonian cells, making him a “super” man and superior to humans so he can one day rule the planet. The rocket takes off, we see the planet explode and then the prologue ends. We pick up with Clark in high school. He’s a football star. A jock. And kind of a douche. And he’s unaware that he’s an alien. Pa Kent shows him the crash site and explains how he was found in the fields after crashing to Earth. Clark must come to terms with not being human and learning to deal with his burgeoning powers. In the epilogue we see Clark, with help from Ma and Pa Kent, create his super suit and the disguise for Clark Kent. The suit is normal fabric. We learn that Clark emits a force field around his body that protects things close to him, like his clothes. Things outside the field, like his cape, can be torn up or destroyed.
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