5 Reasons why the 1987 John Byrne Superman kicked ass

Superman Week

Last year I talked about the 25th anniversary of the John Byrne mini-series Man of Steel.  That 1986 mini-series was a post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot of Superman which updated his origin and character and served to make him a little less powerful and thus, more interesting.

The reboot led to a revamp of Action Comics, a renaming of the old Superman book to The Adventures of Superman as well as the launch of a brand new Superman book.  The new Superman book as well as Action Comics would be written and drawn by John Byrne.  The Adventures of Superman would be written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Jerry Ordway.  And this month, the post Crisis Superman reboot celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Here is a DC in-house ad advertising the launch of the new Superman titles.

DC House Ad - Superman reboot

The three issues that started the reboot and featured in this ad are Superman #1, The Adventures of Superman #424 (previously titled Superman) and Action Comics #584.  This reboot was a pretty big event and DC advertised it to the hilt.

For the most part, I wasn’t a fan of the Marv Wolfman Adventure issues, but I was a HUGE fan of the Byrne Superman and Action Comics titles.  His art and action packed writing style made Superman fun to read.  I still have many of the original issues.

Anyway, in celebration of the 25th anniversary, here are 5 reasons why the John Byrne Superman titles kicked so much ass.

Superman vs Teen Titans Superman vs Superboy Superman vs Legion

Superman got into fights with EVERYONE – Under John Byrne, Action Comics essentially became a free-for-all.  It turned into a team up book starring Superman and another character (a la Brave & the Bold for Batman).  Within the majority of those issues, Superman wound up getting into a fight with his co-stars, usually over some misunderstanding.  But Byrne drew the fights with awesome jaw cracking detail.  The regular Superman title was the same way with Supes fighting the Legion, Metallo, Supergirl and a giant mutant ape.

Superman fights 1 Superman fights 2 Superman fights 8

Superman fights 6 Superman fights 7 Superman fights 5

Superman fights 9

Superman didn’t always win his fights (Bizarro, Metallo, Superboy, Rampage, Supergirl) – So, as I said,  Superman fought a lot.  And surprisingly, he actually got his ass kicked…a lot.  At least every other issue featured a panel of Superman getting either smacked in the face or being hit so hard he flies through the air.  Check out the myriad of comic panels above showing the Man of Steel on the receiving end of a Bronx haymaker.

CK belt buckle

Clark Kent wears a belt buckle with the initials CK – Click this image to see it full size and check out Clark’s belt buckle. It’s engraved with his initials.  HIS INITIALS.  Who does that?!  Apparently Clark Kent does.  It sort of falls in line with Byrne’s reimagining of Clark Kent as a former high school jock.  He’s a bit more of a douchey former football player in this series.  So that little character bit works.

Darkseid drinking brandy

Darkseid drinks brandy from a snifter glass – From Action Comics #593. Scott Free (aka Mr Miracle) walks into his house to Darkseid sitting in a chair drinking brandy. From a snifter.  How bad ass is that? And you have to imagine Darkseid slowly turning the chair around as Scott walks into the room. So awesome.  But also awesome is the fact that Mr mutha-f**kin Miracle lives in a house in suburban Metropolis and routinely comes and goes from said house in full costume.  I want to live in that neighborhood.

Action Comics 593

Action Comics #593 – So, we see above that Darkseid breaks into Mr Miracle’s house.  However he’s not there to just drink brandy and look awesome.  He’s there to show Scott (Mr Miracle) a video tape. First of all, Scott’s wife, Big Barda, has been missing for a while and Scott’s been trying to find her. Darkseid finds out where she is and shows up to give this piece of info to Scott. Mostly because the news will anguish Scott so much that Darkseid will get his enjoyment out of the suffering. Anyway, Darkseid has this video, and he pops it in the VCR and shows it to Scott. Here’s the reaction shot of Scott watching the video.

Supes Porno 1

What could possibly be on this tape? Well, Scott goes to investigate.

Supes Porno 3Supes Porno 4

Scott travels to the Metropolis ghetto called Suicide Slum.  And there he catches Superman and Big Barda about to film an amateur porn.  It’s not explicitly stated that it’s a porn, but read the panels.  It’s porn.  A super hero porn.  There’s actually mention of super hero porn earlier talking about strange niche videos that are sold in the slums of Metropolis.  Super hero porn is an interesting idea that was also mentioned in a 1999 Alan Moore comic called Top 10.

Anyway, Scott naturally goes Batman and bursts into the studio through a skylight and break things up before they go too far, well, any further than they’ve obviously already gone because Scott watched one of the videos in the beginning of this comic.

Supes Porno 2

So, Scott busts in, separates our two heroes and we next discover that a slimy little empath demon called Sludge (seen in the earlier panel above) is feeding off the misery and emotions of these super heroes and making them do things they normally wouldn’t.  Like awesome, awesome super hero porn.

So Superman, Big Barda and Scott clean house and set everything back to normal.  But they can never reverse the awkwardness of the fact that Superman and Big Barda did a porn.  Together.  And there’s video proof.  Of which I’m sure EVERYONE in Metropolis has a copy.  Because why wouldn’t you?

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5 Responses to “5 Reasons why the 1987 John Byrne Superman kicked ass”

  1. Wow. Just, wow. That is insane. And I thought the new 52 was weird!

  2. I laughed when I read #3. Though I have a belt buckle that reads “Tim,” and I wasn’t a jock. ‘Cuz you have to be “cool” (read: living in your own world), and an avowed narcissist. to rock one of those at work.

  3. Agreed. For the most part. I loved the John Byrne run of Superman. The forced team-ups in Action didn’t always float my boat, but some of them were real good. The big key here was bringing Superman down a bit in how powerful he was.

    A few other things I liked about Byrne’s run:

    • Lex Luthor was awesome. While some didn’t like the change from evil scientist to Kingpinesque villain, I thought it was great and gave Lex a chance to really show his evilness. Quite a departure from being the grown up version of the kid who lost all his hair in a freak accident.

    • Smallville was his “Fortress of Solitude,” not the weird Antarctic fortress. When it was time to reset, he returned to his roots of Smallville rather than a home he never knew. After Byrne left, the Antarctic Fortress came back, but I liked the opportunity to give Ma, Pa, and Lana stuff to do.

    • The relationships with other heroes were real. He and Batman didn’t get along and he was very infatuated with Wonder Woman. These relationships and interactions seemed real and not so Superfriendsy.

    • New villains. Rampage, Skyhook, The Host, and Silver Banshee were all new villains that could give Superman a struggle. This was a refreshing change of pace from guys like Toyman and the Prankster (who were around, too, of course).

    • You bring up several more valid reasons, CT. I too liked the re-imagining of Lex Luthor as ruthless billionaire.

      I never thought about it, but you are right about Smallville being his home away from Metropolis. I just totally accepted it and liked it but never really noticed that’s what happened.

      Definitely the Supes-Batman vibe was great. Both on the same side of the law but applying different methods and neither agreeing completely with the methods of the other. So good.

  4. fakeemail Says:

    the belt buckle stands for Calvin Klein

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