Tag Archives: Superman

Graphic Content – Superman

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
67/501Title: Superman
Creator: Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Year: 1939 onwards
Country: USA

After reading the three specific Superman stories as referenced in the book, it’s high time that I cross off the main event itself. For the purposes of this I have read, in addition to Death of Superman, Superman For All Seasons and All-Star Supermancomics from the 1930s to the 1960s. I figured that this would be enough to call it a day for now.

Like with Captain America it was interesting to see how the earlier editions of Superman didn’t have serialization. In fact, despite being alien, he pretty much fights for the values of the USA – with some of the comics I read from the 1940s making thinly veiled references to the axis powers. Some familiar villains and concepts (like Lex Luthor and kryptonite) slowly started to creep in until a lot of the lore was properly established in the 1950s.

That’s what made reading Death of Superman so interesting after reading mostly early issues. By then, most of the key mythos (like Bizarro, the bottled city of Kandor and supporting characters such as Krypto and Supergirl) were all suddenly there… which meant I had to go back and read some of the introductions.

What’s also been really interesting about seeing so many eras of Superman is just how much the characters have changed over time – especially Lois Lane. In the early editions she’s a horrible cut-throat (likely due to some misogyny on the part of the writers) and she eventually becomes a more nuanced character with equal parts heart and ambition.

The character of Superman himself also starts to become more and more human, with the 1990s and 2000s editions giving him such depth that I really changed my mind on him as a character. Prior to reading all these issues, I had always figured him to be a bit dull because of his invulnerability, but now I have to say that I really rate him and the surrounding mythology that has been generated.

Time to move away from the superheroes for the time being and go for something a bit more sinister for the next comic on the list. It’s been a long time since I read something in the crime family, so I think it’s going to be a little bit of Victorian murder.

Graphic Content – All-Star Superman

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
66/501Title: All-Star Superman
Creator: Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Year: 2005-2008
Country: USA

When you have a series as long running as Superman you are going to have your fair share of reboots and re-imaginings. With All-Star Superman they managed to come up with something slick and modern whilst staying true to what the characters had become. It’s hard to imagine how we got to this point from the 1930s, but I guess that’s just how comic books evolved and matured over the years.

In this twelve part mini-series, we start with the Man of Steel saving a manned mission to the Sun from disaster which sets off a timer for his demise thanks to over-exposure to solar radiation. What follows are a number of stories that see him trying to tie up the loose ends of his life, try to find a cure and ultimately find a way to keep Earth safe after he is gone. It takes someone who is God-like and has him come face-to-face with his own mortality.

The resultant stories are able to match a nuanced look at the human experience with complex superhero storytelling and a roll call of a large number of Superman references. The Superman in this series is thoughtful and quite philosophical in his outlook when compared to what I first saw in the early issues. He has also gained frailty and a degree of fear, whilst remaining the hero that we know him to be.

If there was a story that could explain to people why Superman is a franchise worth exploring, it would be this one. I was always turned off by him being basically invincible (therefore, what’s the point), but that’s not the case with All-Star Superman. Also, this must be the best that I have seen the Superman comics look out of the different decades I have seen them – it’s going to be a bit of a whiplash to go back to the old issues.

I’ll be reading a bit more Superman before I consider this huge franchise well and truly crossed off. It’s going to be near impossible to do justice to a character that has had more resurrections than Doctor Who, but I’m going to do my best.

Note: This is going to be my last regular post of 2019. Being the end of the year, I will be doing my customary countdown of my top albums of the year. However, since it’s the end of the decade, I am also going to do a countdown of albums and films of the 2010s.

Graphic Content – Superman For All Seasons

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
65/501Title: Superman For All Seasons
Creator: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Year: 1998
Country: USA

Continuing with the run of Superman comics, we are jumping 37 years from Death of Superman to the 4-part miniseries Superman For All Seasons. Going from the Superman of the early 1960s to the late 1990s is a massive leap in terms of art style and a more modern take on the characters. Then again, that’s one of the benefits of having a miniseries that is able to start the story from the beginning.

Each of the issues for Superman For All Seasons corresponds to a different season and tells a different part of Superman’s story with a different narrator. The seasons are perfectly matched to the story they want to tell. Spring is matched to the origins of Superman and the discovery of his powers, Summer is his initial rush of being a superhero, Autumn has the benefit of the double meaning of Fall where Lex Luthor is planning the fall of Superman and then finally there’s Winter which deals with Superman’s depression when he has to come to terms with not being to save someone for the first time.

The differing perspectives in the different chapters makes this a much more meditative take on Superman than what I have become used to with the older and more sensationalist issues from the 1930s, 40s and 60s. Having an entire chapter from the point of view of Lex Luthor, with all the entitlement and resentment that he feels in light of Superman becoming so beloved by the citizens of Metropolis, was such an inspired choice and really helped set the scene for the emotional payoff of Winter.

It’ll be a smaller jump of 7 years for the third and final specific collection from the Superman franchise – the twelve issue All Star Superman. It’s going to be cool to be able to close this out with something really modern, but I am also looking forward to getting back to some of the older issues in order to really see just how everything has changed.

Graphic Content – Death of Superman

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
64/501Title: Death of Superman
Creator: Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Year: 1961
Country: USA

One interesting quirk about the 1001 Comics list is that you have certain franchises that appear as both the overarching comic and then as specific stories. You get this for a number of major comics such as Batman,  X-Men and Superman. In a way, taking one of these on is a bit of an easy win, so why not make a start with one of the most beloved and portrayed comic book character of all time: Superman.

I’ll make an overall post about Superman eventually, but for now let’s focus on specified 1961 story: Death of Superman (not to be confused with the series of issues with the same name in the early 1990s). Death of Superman is notable as it was the first time that a long-running comic book superhero is killed off… albeit in a ‘what if’ scenario under the subtitle ‘an imaginary novel’.

The death or the critical incapacitation of a superhero is a trick that has been done a number of times by now (Bane breaking Batman’s back being one of the more obvious examples that comes to mind). Know what’s to come in the future of comic book storytelling actually makes it all the cooler to see it done for the first time.

This issue also illustrates how deep the surrounding mythos was by 1961. By this point we have Supergirl, Krypto, the Fortress of Solitude and the bottled city of Kandor – which are a lot of additions compared to the 1940s issues I’d been reading before. In terms of the actual story line, Death of Superman isn’t overly different from other issues at the time… other than his death by kryptonite poisoning.

Since you can see the identity of the killer and his method on the cover of the issue, it makes the lead up to the ‘event’ all the more interesting. The fact that Superman was almost willingly captured by a Luthor who he thought had reformed, but was actually playing a long con, makes this an interesting parable on trust. Also, thanks to Supergirl, you see how they could have set up a continuation of the comic with her taking the helm as Metropolis’ top crime fighter.

I’ve been enjoying myself in the world of Superman, so for now I’ll be continuing with the individual Superman entries in the immediate future before finishing off with the overall comic