Welcome back (or for the first time)
to Superman 101. This month I'm reviewing only Superman #2, because 1)
I have some lengthy comments about the revamp from two of our readers,
and 2) I ran out of time!
Writer/Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
After studying all available news footage of Superman's
appearances, LexCorp employee Amanda McCoy has discovered that Lana Lang
was there almost every time, although she doesn't know who she is. Luthor
wants her found. He also has people investigating Clark Kent. He then
meets with Dr. Happersen, who is overseeing the "care" of their
newest "patient," Metallo. Ignoring the doctor's warnings of
the radiation levels, Lex painfully removes Metallo's Kryptonite heart,
apparently killing him. He wants it studied. Two of Luthor's men arrive
at the Kent farm and take care of Jonathan and Martha with tranquilizers.
They tear apart the house, only to find Clark's birth certificate and
Martha's scrapbook. As they are leaving, Lana approaches the house. Since
she can identify them, they knock her out and taker her with them. Lex
is pleased of course, but his doctors tell him that she has almost no
tolerance for drugs, so a truth serum would probably kill her.
After Superman evades one of Luthor's flying cameras,
Clark arrives at his apartment to find an injured Lana. She was tortured
for two days before waking up alone. She believes they may also have Clark's
parents. Superman finds the men who took Lana at the abandoned factory
she escaped from. Lex has been watching and has the building destroyed
at that moment. Thinking that the Kents are dead, Superman storms into
Luthor's office. He suddenly becomes weak when he approaches Lex, who
has had a piece of the Kryptonite set into his ring. Lex orders him to
go, letting him live to worry about the power he now has. When Superman
flies Lana back to Smallville, he is surprised by the definitely-not-dead
Kents. When he hears what was taken from their home, he worries what Luthor
is going to do with it. Using all the data his teams have collected, Luthor's
computer deduces that Clark Kent is Superman. Ms. McCoy says that it is
logical, but Lex doesn't believe it. He believes that anyone with Superman's
power wouldn't hide it under a human guise. He orders the information
and her to be removed.
This was the first Lex Luthor story I ever read many
years ago, and I knew he was evil immediately. This Luthor gets what he
wants. And when he gets what he wants, in this case Superman's greatest
secret, he dismisses it! His ego blinds him to the facts even when they
hit him on his fat, bald head! Another interesting thing about Lex is that
almost all his employees, at least his closest ones, are women, women who
all dress alike. I believe this issue is also the first appearances of doctors
Happersen and Kelley, both of which later played important roles in Luthor's
story, the former destroying Metropolis and the latter being Lex Luthor
II's "mother." This was just as much Luthor's issue as Superman's:
he appears on 14 pages, Superman on 11. And Lana! Man, did John Byrne not
like her or what? :) Actually, many people consider her to be a more interesting
character post-Crisis, despite or because of the hard times she's been through.
Just look at Millenium and World of Smallville for more examples
is also not the last we see of Amanda McCoy. As for the art: the cover is
the main thing that drew me to this issue, with a big digitized face of
Clark and Superman on Luthor's computer. The rest of the issue had the standard
Byrne art. Overall, a really good issue, one that did deserve to be in the
Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told.
First of all I like the idea of the Kents
being alive. Unlike the original Superman, Clark was raised to be a superior
moral man by Martha and Jonathan. Not as a result of his Kryptonian heritage.
The idea of having no Super powers when he was a boy had his ups and it's
down side. The up side is the belief that Clark is the Kent's natural
son, born at home while the Kents were snowed in during a bad winter.
This means he could get his shots, birth certificate and develop as a
human child, and know what it was like to be human. With all the problems,
pain and joy childhood offers. This allowed the young Kal-El to see himself
as Clark Kent. This means that he considers himself to be first and fore
most Clark Kent not Superman. The down side was no Superboy, no Krypto.
I read some were that Byrne originally planed to have Laura in the rocket
and have her give birth to Kal-El in the Kent's home then die. It might
have worked better than the birthing matrix. In the end it was the Kent's
that made him the hero that he is, not his Kryptonian genes. As for powers,
yes and no. Superman was to powerful, I am glad to see the time travel,
planet juggling power level gone. Bad part, the need, for a breathing
apparatus in space, and making him to vulnerable. Good to see, Superman's
power levels being boosted in the recent Superman comics. Also changing
his best friend from a man, (Batman) to a woman, (Wonder Woman) seems
to work. Also the romantic triangle between, Lois, Clark and Diana is
proving to be very interesting, both in the present and the past and even
more so in the future. What I do agree with you (Comicbookman in last
issue) most was the way Superman was portrayed in Kingdom Come. Not as
powerful as he once was, but still more powerful then he is portrayed
now. It was just the right blend of the new and old.
Thanks for the comments David. Glad to see
a regular from alt.comics.superman reading my column!
After reading Comicbookman's letter
about the revised Superman I sat down and composed my thoughts on the
character and thought I'd share them with you. I am not John Byrne's biggest
fan, nor am I his biggest detractor. But this is more than just about
Byrne isn't it?
1. Actually, I thought that Superman had become,
well, boring just before his tenure under John Byrne (with the exception
of that excellent two-part "farewell" story by Alan Moore).
He was so powerful that there was absolutely no one in the known universe
that could defeat him. Hell, he could literally move planets (As depicted
by Neal Adams). We're talking defying known physics here, folks! Who
could write interesting stories about God on a regular basis? I say
that because, frankly, Superman had the power of God just before his
revamping. The changes made to him sparked ideas in other people's heads.
Because he wasn't really anymore powerful than The Martian Manhunter
or Captain Marvel, Superman had to use his head. He had to think and
he had to ask for help from others because he didn't have a superbrain
or know everything in there is to know. He was a man now. Albeit, a
man with powers far beyond those of mortal men, but a man and not a
All that said it's also true that someone of
Alan Moore's creative capability could write interesting stories about
the pre-Byrne Man of Steel. But the point is that there are very few
Alan Moore's out there and what John Byrne did was stimulate many other
writers with his changes to the character.
Lastly, if you are really a Superman buff, you
know that John simply brought the character that Joe & Jerry created
back to his roots. When they first created Superman he didn't fly, but
leapt around like the Hulk. He was capable of being hurt and he couldn't
go into outer-space.
2. I like having John and Martha Kent alive.
From my perspective this is part of what makes Superman a man. He demonstrates
his goodness and humanity by loving and respecting his parents. He seeks
their counsel when he is troubled and it gives him the hokey goodness
that we all admire. He really does believe in truth, justice and the
American way. All that comes from being a Kent. And from having the
family ties that reinforce those beliefs.
I remember reading the story of Clark at his
parents' death-bed. It was a touching story and heart-wrenching. But
it was not a parallel to Bruce Wayne's parent's death or the resultant
psychological impact it had on him. I don't really see how his being
alone made his mission in life "much more special." But that
may simply be a case of reader interpretation.
3. I suppose this is a part of the character
that is really open to interpretation by the reader. I never liked Clark
being a nerd or a coward. When I was a kid George Reeves was giving
us a Clark Kent on TV that was just as willing to face up to a criminal
as Superman was. In fact, you saw more of Clark than you did Superman.
I always liked this guy a lot more than the fool in the comics I was
reading. So it goes without saying that I happen to like the "new"
Clark Kent that is a normal guy.
Yes, the creative team that brought us Superman
was inept with women and were be-speckled 90-pound weaklings. But role
identification was directed towards the guy in tights, not the guy in
the suit & tie for my part. When I was a kid (and even today at 47½
years of age) I idolized Superman. What Byrne did was to take two separate
characters and make them one. Clark Kent is Superman now. He's really
the same guy when he's in a suit and tie as when he's in costume. When
Frank Miller did this with Matt Murdock & Daredevil collective fandom
flipped its lid with excitement. I don't understand the resentment when
this is done to Superman. I happen to think that Siegel and Shuster
intended Clark Kent to be the every-man that metamorphoses into Superman.
Their story telling capabilities were not as sophisticated as what we're
used to today, so Kent came off as mild-mannered and not the classic
every-man. Plus the comics were aimed at children, not college-educated
4. Who hasn't been the odd man out in a relationship
(and I don't care what gender you fancy)? Who hasn't pined after someone
who was simply not aware of his or her existence? It's part of life.
We all share a secret fear of being alone for the rest of our lives.
I think that is part of our human nature.
Again I feel what we're talking about is the
sophistication of the readers. When Superman was created and up until
the early 70's the publishers directed their products towards kids.
Consequently the characters were pretty simple in their concepts and
relationships. Good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black ones.
And the good guy always won the heart of the heroine. But something
happened in the mid-70's that impacted the publishers. The readers began
to grow up and start demanding more realistic interaction with characters.
Let's face it, after reading all those Dickens stories in English classes
in High School, you finally realized that there was more than one dimension
to personalities (and let's not even go into Stepenwolf or Kafka). We
started reading Spiderman because this was a guy that really did have
the same problems we did with school, girls, friends, work and family
(although I don't know anybody who didn't want Aunt May to die).
Yes, Clark pined away for Lois while she ran
around with her tongue hanging out for Superman. But I also recall that
Lois frequently pulled Lana Lang's hair in catfights and was as bad
as Lucy Ricardo in trying to figure out ways to con Superman. I don't
prescribe to political-correctness, but I don't want to see the sexist
approach that we had in Lois Lane comic's return either. I'm not eleven
years old anymore. I appreciate that the writers try to give us a realistic
approach to a relationship. I even like the idea that Clark and Lois
are married now and that they have problems in their relationship. I'm
much more interested in Clark Kent than I was in the one-dimensional
character in the blue suit and red tie that used to be the alter ego.
And, frankly, if you want stories unrequited love you need to read romance
novels, not comic books.
5. One of my favorite depictions of Krypton
was by Curt Swan where Jimmy Olsen met Kal-El's parents. It was like
Oz. It was beautiful and strange (red traffic lights meant go and green
ones meant stop). I do miss that about Krypton. But there was so much
of Krypton that was just well, silly. Even as a kid I found it
too goofy for it's own good. And then there were the survivors. My god
in heaven, it seemed as if about 2/3rds of the population of the planet
survived! Kandor, Phantom Zone, Survival Zone, stray rockets, Argo City.
Every time you turned around another Kryptonian was popping up (This
might make a great Elseworlds story if you took a MIB approach to it)
on earth! And not just humanoids, we had monkeys, dogs and all sorts
of weird beasts. Enough already!
Then the movie came along. Krypton looks like
a giant Styrofoam ball with glitter on it. Everybody wears white clothes
that are so bright you think the Ajax White Knight is part of the Science
Council. This place gives sterile a whole new meaning. I often wonder
if the General and his cohorts were sent to the Phantom Zone because
they broke the dress code!
John gives us a world that maybe only Fritz
Lang could love, but it certainly is a contrast to life in Middle America.
Sex is really nasty on this Krypton. So is being undressed. Hey, this
world looks like Catholic School! And that's what Krypton is - a parody.
That is part of what we're supposed to see in the story. Our hero came
from a sterile unfeeling world and became a role model because he emulates
the best of our world, not his birth world. That's the role of Krypton.
It isn't supposed to be Oz, it supposed to show us that Earth is the
better place for all the problems we have, it's the better of
the two worlds.
6. I always found the pre-Byrne Luthor to be,
well, silly. Here is a guy that devotes his life to destroying Superman
because he inadvertently caused his hair to fall out! And talk about
lack of taste in fashion, here is this supposed genius who never wears
anything but a gray prison uniform, until he opts for this really bizarre
green & purple zootsuit! Ouch!
Actually, the new Luthor is much more sinister.
He is a genius, although we haven't seen as much of it as we used to.
He hates Superman because of what he stands for. This makes him the
ultimate villain. He isn't mad, like the Joker, or egomaniacal like
Dr. Doom. He is ruthless, calculating and resourceful in his continual
conflict with the Man of Steel. Again a much more mature foil for our
7. My take on the character in Kingdom Come
was that this guy was the Byrne-Superman, so I can't agree that he is
somehow different. I don't see that the character was in any way shredded
and reconstituted. After all, Superman is really a fable as much as
a comic book character. He is what we perceive him to be.
Hey, really enjoyed Fanzing this time. Keep
up the good work.
Whew! Lots of comments, Glenn, but very interesting. I agree with most of
your assessments. But for the rest of you, don't think you have to agree
with me to send comments. Just look at last month's Superman 101.
I really want to hear your thoughts on these issues
(including my comments on them) and the revamp in general. What did you
like or dislike about it? Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.