It all Re-Started Here

The Man of Steel TPB
Writer and artist: John Byrne
Inker: Dick Giordano

April 18, 2005

By Avi Green

Back in 1986, DC hired John Byrne to help revamp Superman for the modern era, by updating his origins and backgrounds (planet Krypton, plus his biological parents Jor-El and Lara) ditto those of his supporting cast and adversaries (Ma and Pa Kent, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, et al), and to start things off, Byrne put several key parts to Superman’s life into 6 parts of a miniseries for starters, that being the Man of Steel, as it was published back then. And as such, it was a very successful update indeed, restarting his life after Crisis on Infinite Earths, showing how he was sent to earth via his parents when Krypton was about to explode, and landing in the Smallville area of Kansas where he was found by the Kents, who raised him as their own child, Clark Kent.

Although a lot of what Byrne wrote at the time for Superman’s homeworld was later undone by Jeph Loeb, Krypton, as Byrne revisioned it, was now a cold, sterile world where emotions were almost meaningless. Prominent scientist Jor-El, having discovered some time before the fate of the planet, built a spacecraft in which Kal-El, that being Superman’s Kryptonian name, would be rocketed to earth to save him from the impending disaster. And so, upon landing, he was found by Smallville farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who raised him as their own son, and better still, who could know that it didn’t actually turn out that way since a snowstorm holed them up at their farm for at least two months, so that then, when the weather had cleared up again, they were able to go public in town about having a child without anyone questioning the authenticity of Clark being their son.

It was only after a few years that they slowly began to realize the great gifts their adopted son had, when Pa Kent found out first, and Ma Kent next. And, as they argued with him later on in life, after having worked his way to becoming a football champ in college, it’d be a wise idea to put those gifts to use in helping other people less fortunate than himself. Realizing that it was quite sage advice, he left Smallville to move to Metropolis, where he studied to become a reporter for starters, and later on, when his personal identity became compromised, following his having to rescue a giant airship carrying even Lois Lane, in her early days at being a reporter herself, he and the Kents thought up the perfect costume and daytime guise for him to continue his crimefighting career in.

The miniseries covers several notable parts of the Man of Steel’s coming to be for the post-Crisis era, including how he first made his official presence known in Metropolis as its resident superhero (preceded only by Black Lightning, just like Batman today is preceded by the Golden Age Green Lantern and Black Canary), came to get a job at the Daily Planet, by submitting a story of what he knew of his own background as Superman at the time, much to the initial displeasure of Lois, who’d been working overtime to get it herself, even to the point of endangering her own life by driving her car off a pier (and Superman spotted that she’d stored an aqua-lung under the seat just in case!), first got to know Batman, at which time he’d initially disagreed with the Masked Manhunter’s vigilante approach, even though Gotham City was certainly a wholly different story from Metropolis, ended up finding Lex Luthor to be his leading adversary, and Luthor here is certainly depicted as being not only ruthless, but also quite off-the-edge in thinking himself all-powerful, how Bizarro first came to being, and while he may have been a menace, he still managed to help Lucy Lane, who’d been blinded by an attack on her by a terrorist in a plane she worked on as a stewardess, to regain her eyesight, and even how Superman had let Lana Lang in on his superpowers long ago, before he’d left Smallville. Lana felt for a long time that he’d just walked out on her unfairly, but later was able to forgive him, understanding that he meant well in his wishes to help out the world, as he’d told her he’d wanted to do.

The last part is a lead-in for the story as continued in the third ongoing Superman series, which replaced what is now Adventures of Superman as a sans-adjective title in what DC publishes. And that’s where Superman first achieves his first knowledge to his Kryptonian origins, by ways of a hologram of his father, Jor-El, and realizes just where he first came from, that his mother was named Lara, and how his late home planet made him into Superman, whereas the earth made him a human being.

It’s all very sincerely written as a post-Crisis premise for Superman and all his central cast members, and one of the best things Byrne wrote (and drew) at the time he was really devoted to the art of comics writing and drawing. And for anyone looking to check out how Superman started out in modern continuity, this is a good book well worth checking out. One minor flaw though, is where, when the Luthor cruise liner gets hijacked by south American terrorists, Lois is puzzled as to how Clark got in front of her so fast, even though he was actually quite close behind her when they confronted her for starters. But other than that, it’s well told, and I liked how they pointed out that Lois, having been an “army brat” when younger, learned to practice combat skills.

This is a good telling of the Man of Steel’s modern-day origins, as the last surviving son of Krypton, though not the only survivor: as was written in 2004, in the Superman/Batman series by Jeph Loeb, Kara Zor-El, that being Supergirl, who’d originally been erased from history in Crisis on Infinite Earths, now returned in post-Crisis continuity, making her the last surviving daughter of Krypton, and now returned to reclaim her mantle as Supergirl, following the retirement of Linda Danvers, who’d filled her place in the role during the 1990s.

I recommend this very much for both old and new Fans of Steel alike.

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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