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Superman History 101
The Man Of Steel
by Benjamin Grose
As of this month, DCU 101 has become Superman 101. In this column, I'll be reviewing early post-Crisis Superman comics, starting with John Byrne's Man of Steel. I'll be limiting my summaries of the issues, and try to give more of my opinions of them. But I also want to hear your opinions of the issues and the revamp in general. Was keeping the Kents alive a good idea? Was Superman de-powered too much? I want to know what you think! Send any comments you have to kryptonkid@bigfoot.com, and I'll include them in future articles.

Before I get started, I thought I'd tell you a little about myself so you can see where I'll be coming from. I started collecting Superman in 1992 when I was 13. (And I'm proud of the fact that I started before Doomsday caused everyone to jump on the Superman bandwagon! :) ) I wasn't like a lot of the Superman fans I've talked to, in that Superman The Movie started them. I saw it when I was around 7, and it was cool, but I didn't put on a cape and pretend I was flying. Nope, it was several years later, when, for some reason I can't remember, I wanted to go to a comic book store. The first comics I personally bought were Man of Steel #1 (which I'll get to in a minute), and Superman #2 and 21 (which I plan to get to eventually).

So my first real introduction to Superman comics was the post-Crisis version, and that's the one I tend to favor. I like Clark being more confident, but still mild-mannered, and more of a real person (although Superman is most important, his name is on the covers). I also think that keeping the Kents alive was a great idea. But if you're a pre-Crisis Superman fan, that's okay with me. I want to hear your comments on these issues also. Here's the first half of Man of Steel.


MAN OF STEEL
Writer/Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Dick Giordano

Issue One

The first issue is basically Superman's origin, with the rest of the issues mostly being his interactions with other characters. We spend a short time on Krypton, with Jor-El explaining to Lara the coming destruction and showing her where he is sending their son. Kal-El's rocket leaves the planet just before it is destroyed. Then we skip ahead to when Clark Kent is 18, and winning single-handedly his high school football games. His father Jonathan realizes it is time to tell his son where he came from. He shows Clark the rocket he and Martha found him in and recalls the various incidents of his powers slowly manifesting. Clark is shocked, and soon realizes that he must go out into the world to help others with his powers in secret. Seven years later, he uses his powers in public to save an experimental space plane from crashing in Metropolis, of which reporter Lois Lane is a passenger. She names him "Superman" in a front page story in the Daily Planet. Knowing that people will now be expecting him, he asks his parents for help. Martha makes him a costume and Jonathan comes up with glasses and different mannerisms for his Clark Kent identity. And Superman is born!

As I said, this was one of the first Superman stories I read, so it probably wasn't as different to me as to some of the older Superman readers. But compared to the pre-Crisis version, this had many differences. The nearly desolate Krypton was a vast change from previous incarnations. Lara's shock at the news that their planet will soon be destroyed shows the arrogance of the post-Crisis Kryptonians. The Kents being young when they found Clark is a little more realistic. I mean, why would an apparently 60+ year old couple take in an infant? I also think getting rid of Kal-El's super-memory/intelligence was one of the best things about the revamp. Not remembering Krypton or being able to talk when he arrived (well, he wasn't really even born yet…) made Clark more human. I'm glad Byrne addressed the "Why does everyone know that Superman has a secret identity?" question, by rendering it non-existent. And lastly, the widening of the "S" shield, and of Superman himself, was a subtle, yet recognizable difference from the pre-Crisis Superman.

Issue Two

The newly costumed Superman arrives in Metropolis, and Lois Lane makes it her task to interview the hero she named. Superman is all over the city stopping various crimes, including armed robbery. Lois spends the next several days trying to talk to him, but she arrives too late at the scenes of all his activities. She decides that the only way to catch him is to be on the scene before he arrives. She drives her car off a pier, and her screams for help bring Superman as predicted. He takes her home, and she barely manages to stop him from leaving. He gives her the interview, but says he doesn't think it will help her much. Afterwards he heads to the Daily Planet for an appointment with Perry White. Lois storms into the planet with her "exclusive," and is furious when Perry says they already have the story. He introduces her to the writer: Clark Kent!

In this issue we get to see the "new" Superman use his various abilities. He is slightly more aggressive, which we can see when he gently knocks out the armed robbers. But he is also having fun with his powers, and we rarely see him not smiling. Lois is also more aggressive, in her pursuit of a story, that is. We see that she will do almost anything for a story as evidenced by her driving the car into the harbor. We also see the start of her feud with Clark. While pre-Crisis she would hardly acknowledge him, at least romantically, because he was sort of a nerd, now it will mostly be because he's her rival. This story is a simple and straightforward reintroduction of Lois Lane.

Issue Three

Superman goes to Gotham City to apprehend the mysterious vigilante Batman, and finds him in pursuit of a criminal. Before Superman can touch him, he warns that a force field around his body will detonate a bomb, killing someone in the city, if it detects "super-dense biological material." Batman then tells Superman of a series of crimes causing deaths and injuries in the city. In every instance, gems and antiques were replaced by deadly devices. He believes they were the work of a woman known as Magpie. Superman reluctantly agrees to help, and they soon find her hideout. She escapes after releasing a deadly gas that Superman must dispose of in space. He soon relocates the Batman, who has deduced that she has fled to a museum of history. When they capture her, she breaks down, muttering that they can't have her "pretty things." She became the curator of this museum to be around the things she enjoyed and began stealing other "pretty things" she believed belonged to her. While still disagreeing with his methods, Superman agrees that Gotham is different from Metropolis and may need someone like Batman. Batman reveals that the person his bomb would have killed was himself! Superman leaves, saying he'll be keeping an eye on him. Batman thinks that in another reality, he might have called him friend.

This was a nice story that showed the differences between the new Superman and Batman. They did not start out as friends as they did in their first pre-Crisis meeting in Superman #76. Their post-Crisis relationship has slowly developed over the years so that, while not quite as "chummy" as before, it is on much better terms than shown here. Batman's bomb and Superman's reaction to it were very in-character. Alot different in tone than the last two issues. Not much else to say about it, just a good story.


Again, I really want to hear your thoughts on these issues and the revamp in general. What did you like or dislike about it? Please send your comments to kryptonkid@bigfoot.com.


Next Month:
Man of Steel #4-6

All characters and scanned artwork are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Benjamin Grose.
All artwork is © 1999 by their respective artists.

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