What I Remember:
After Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC handed creative control of Superman to Marvel artist John Byrne, who was tasked with updating the character for the 1980’s. Byrne made a few creative changes, eliminating Superboy and making Clark the only survivor of Krypton; no Supergirl,no Powergirl, no Krypto: the Superdog. He also re-imagined Krypton as a cold, unfeeling place. Most importantly, Byrne made Clark more than a disguise, he made the secret identity,the man and the costume the disguise.
I’m going to split this series into segments with issue 1 being this week. I originally had the whole series and own the trade but of my originals only my dog-eared copies 1,2, and 6 remain. I re-collected the whole series to have it in good condition for a mere $20.
Man of Steel #1
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Letterer: John Costanza
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date:July 1986
Cover Price 75¢
Re-Collection Price: whole series for $20
Is It Any Good?
I love Superman’s origin story. I love this version:
and this version:
and I especially love the Man of Steel miniseries. I even love the cover for issue one! I think it’s one of the most iconic Superman images, so iconic that I have a print of it on the wall in my office. It’s a uniquely Superman image, it doesn’t work for other heroes. The whole idea that underneath the business suit of a normal man is someone extraordinary is essential to the Superman mythos. No other hero can pull off that pose.
Issue one of the series deals with Krypton and Clark’s childhood. It is important to talk about how Byrne adapts Superman for the 1980’s.
He revamps Krypton, turning it into a science-worshiping, emotionless, loveless planet. Kryptonians have lost their humanity over time
Prior portrayals of Krypton portray the planet as a more advanced planet, but not the cold, dystopia Byrne creates. (Some of which were borrowed from the film) Because all children on Krypton are born via test tubes, Kal-El is sent as a fetus to Earth and is only born when the rocket opens in Kansas.
Byrne confines Krypton to an 8-page prologue. The story proper begins with Clark in High School, scoring yet another touchdown for Smallville High. His father, Jonathan decides that it’s time to take Clark for a ride and tell him how he came to be with the Kents.
Silver Age versions of Superman have Clark knowing of his Kyrptonian origins throughout his life, even as Superboy he has a full knowledge of Krypton’s customs. In Byrne’s story, he isn’t even aware he’s adopted, he just thinks he’s a normal human kid, with rapidly growing gifts, a mutant perhaps? (This is Byrne after all.)
Even after seeing the rocket, they still have no idea where the ship came from. When recounting the story, Martha assumes that he’s a Cold War experiment, this would be the early 1960’s after all. This is possibly the most crucial change that Byrne makes, prior to this Superman had been a Kryptonian first, human second. He makes Clark a real person, not just a disguise. His character, his morality, everything that makes Superman great comes from his earth parents. Only the powers come from space. He doesn’t learn of his extraterrestrial origin until later in the series.
Clark goes out into the world after this revelation, finding himself and playing guardian angel to those that need help. This aspect of the story hadn’t existed prior to Byrne and not features in most tellings of the story from Mark Waid’s Birthright to the recent film Man of Steel.
Of course, Clark eventually outs himself as he saves the Space Plane from a demonstration gone horribly wrong and of course encounters Lois Lane, who was covering the launch and he decides he needs a way to separate Clark from his work and he sits down with his parents and creates the costume.
Absolutely, it’s Superman’s origin story. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the greatest comic book story ever told. I could read it a million ways, in a million different re-tellings. It doesn’t get old. I am a bit partial to Byrne’s version since Byrne’s Superman was the Superman of my childhood. I love the way he humanizes, Clark and how he feels like a human first. He’s a guy with extraordinary gifts who wants to help.
Next Issue: We dive into issues #2 and #3 of Man of Steel! Superman takes Metropolis by storm! Will Lois be able to land the first exclusive interview with Superman? Also, Superman meets the Batman to take on the most ‘80’s villain of all time, Magpie!