Comics / Spotlight / Progressive Panels

Post-Crisis Superman Returns in Superman Rebirth #1


By Andy Frisk
June 5, 2016 - 19:35

"Superman books sell 20% more than they did before The New 52 launched! Not that that's the only thing that matters." exclaimed one of my local comic shop owners who never liked Superman because he "and pretty much everyone" just can't relate to him. "He's too powerful." "He's a god." "I can relate to Spider-Man. Not Superman." So, a middle aged comic shop owner (and by implication) millions of other adults with expendable income who buy comic books (who are also middle aged or at least post-college age and working with expendable income) can relate more to a teenager than a fellow middle aged (or at least approaching middle age) superhero with a full time job, a wife, and now a son? Hmm...I must be the odd one, because I don't relate to Spidey at all, at least not anymore.

The whole point of The New 52 Superman was to make him basically a kid only a few years older than a college aged Peter Parker, so that younger readers could relate to him more, thus the increasing sales. Sales must be slumping though as (SPOILER ALERT), The New 52 Superman is dead and gone and the Post-Crisis (or as I think of him" The Gen X Superman) has returned. I like to think that I've had a small hand in it. Sadly, though I think I had more of a hand in the creation of The New 52 Superman.

It's horribly egotistical of me to suggest that I was the one who, even incrementally, helped prod the bean counters at DC Comics to hard reboot Superman, but it's definitely possible that I contributed to the conversation with my heavy coverage of Superman titles about 8 or 9 years ago here at ComicBookBin. The articles were well read and well received, and when Geoff Johns soft rebooted Superman's origin story with Superman Secret Origin, I hailed it as the potential beginning of a new era in comics:

 "When Superman is the subject of a major reboot with a miniseries, a new age has descended upon us, no matter what the 'Comics Age' haters say. We have entered the Neo-Silver Age of comics, and the verdict on the first issue of the first big miniseries event of the new age is…"
-from my review of Superman: Secret Origin #1 (of 6)

Again, I don't even know if anyone at DC Comics even read my articles, but I suspect they did, even if Ian Sattler (then DC Comics story editor and participant at a Hero's Con panel in Charlotte NC some years ago) took my ComicBookBin business card and promised to pass it to James Robinson so he could read up on my Superman coverage, didn't actually pass my card along to James Robinson. Still, and once again, I'm in no way suggesting that DC Comics created The New 52 Superman to really "start a new era in comics" at my suggestion, but it's a tantalizing idea that I, and I'm sure many others found interesting, from a storytelling point of view as well as a sales one, as well as one that many individuals (including the powers that be at DC Comics) arrived at around the same time.

Whatever prompted DC Comics to dump the Post-Crisis/Gen X Superman and his legacy, whose early appearances in John Byrne's Man of Steel series cemented him in the minds of millions of Gen X kids as THE Superman, it ended up in failure. Perhaps DC Comics sees the now (for the most part) concluded story of The New 52 Superman the way that Sattler did years ago when I asked him why the cast of characters created to support Superman during the New Krypton saga were dumped? Superman is a static character who is only capable of appearing in dynamic stories when they provide Superman with a strong supporting cast to interact with. I stated this to Sattler. His response was, "The goal was to tell a good story. The fact that you miss those characters means we told a good story."

It appears that too many people missed the Post-Crisis/Gen X Superman character so much that in this case, both Sattler and myself were proven wrong. The New 52 Superman failed to gain traction because his story wiped away the legacy of the great stories that involved the Post-Crisis/Gen X Superman, AND because, as a character himself, The New 52 Superman just wasn't what readers (at least this reader) wanted out of their Superman and his stories. Story AND character (of the main hero himself) were equally unappealing. Now, The New 52 Superman is dead. Long live the Post-Post Crisis/Gen X Superman. It appears both story, supporting characters, and the character of the main man himself all three need to contribute to making a great Superman story.

"It's not Spider-Man I relate to. It's Peter Parker." elaborated my Superman despising LCS owner. I can't relate to Peter Parker. Maybe once upon a time I could. I can read and thoroughly enjoy a well told Peter Parker/Spider-Man story, but I can't relate to him. At this point in my life I can relate more to the Post-Crisis/Gen X Clark Kent/Superman, but overall, Superman really isn't a character that you are supposed to relate. He is SUPPOSED to be god-like, almost perfect, and morally stronger than the average man or woman. He is what we are supposed to strive to be like, not commiserate with. Commiseration is what Batman is for, and commiseration grows old fast. A man with the power of a god, something not very unlike the very condition of mankind itself-especially as his technology improves and his dominion over nature increases-who restrains from abusing that power, is a man that we all need to strive to be more like. This is why the Zach Snyder Superman stories almost, but don't quite, capture the imagination of the mass of long term Superman fans as well as the full essence of the character. Superman always finds a way, rarely falls victim to his passions, and sets the example that humanity desperately needs. Snyder's Superman is almost the on screen personification of the Post-Crisis/Gen X Superman. He almost fulfills the Man of Steel film's Jor-El's stated destiny to "...give the people an idea to strive towards. They will rise behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." Whether or not you agree that Snyder's Superman fits this bill, the Post-Crisis/Gen X Superman does, in ways that The New 52 Superman couldn't. That's why he is back.   

Last Updated: January 24, 2022 - 11:00

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