Comics / Cult Favorite

"Our" Superman?


By Philip Schweier
Dec 15, 2005 - 11:25

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Superman debuted in June of 1938, over 67 years ago. Now, let's think about that in terms of how many children read a Superman comic or saw a Superman TV show or movie since then. The number is staggering.

Recently, an item in Comic Shop News #963 referred to the volatile meeting in Infinite Crisis between the Earth-2 Superman and our Superman. Our Superman? I imagine CSN was merely parroting DC's words, but just who is "our" Superman? Not that I'm denying ownership, but just about every fan has their own image as to what might be THE Superman.

I can only speak for myself, but I grew up on the Superman of the 1970s, when Clark was subjected to the nuisance of Steve Lombard, Toyman was skinny, and Lex Luthor had just donned the purple and green for the very first time.

At this point in my life, I'd discovered super-heroes, and embraced comic fandom with a fever that I'm pretty sure annoyed the heck out of my entire family. But one of my sisters was indulgent, and as a gift one Christmas she gave me Superman: From the '30s to the '70s. Books such as this and Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes are invaluable to any fan of super-hero comics, as they reveal the bare roots of super-heroes, from the 1940s onward.

It also helped that the 1970s gave us the much-sought-after 100-Page Super-Spectaculars. For a mere 60 cents, three-fifths of a dollar, we were presented almost 100 pages of comic book pleasure. I say almost 100, as the cover counted as page one, and the back cover as page 100. Still, it was a heckuva deal to a 10-year-old kid back then, as these extra pages often presented us with a small lesson in the history of the DCU by featuring stories from its Golden Age.

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So many of us had the opportunity to enjoy tales of the semi-original Superman. I say semi-original because even though DC would have you believe that that's the Earth-2 Superman is very earliest version, those of us who've read Superman: From the '30s to the '70s, know it aint necessarily so.

Take a look at this early picture, and you'll see the S emblem is nothing like that of the Earth-2 Superman's. The Earth-2 logo came from a painting by pulp artist H. J. Ward, which hanged in the DC offices for many years (far right).

Okay, so they laid "my" Superman to rest in the mid-80s, when John Byrne revised the character for a more modern audience. I'm sure there were plenty of nay-sayers at the time, but I wasn't one of them. I didn't embrace the new Man of Steel so readily, either. No denying Byrne draws an excellent Superman, but I missed Curt Swan, just as I missed George Reeves when Superman: The Movie came out.

For better or for worse, each subsequent artist and actor have put their own personal spin on the Last Son of Krypton. I won't point fingers, because I have no doubt sometimes it was at the behest of an editor or TV producer. After all, they usually sign the paychecks, so there was little choice in the matter.

As the Earth-2 Superman stated at the end of Infinite Crisis #1, maybe the wrong Earth was saved back during the earlier Crisis. Had things happened differently back then, who's to say we wouldn't have "my" 1970s Superman saying the same thing?

There's no telling where Superman will end up on the other side of the Crisis. Will the two Supermen merge, to become the best of both? Will the Earth-2 return the character to his former glory? We just don't know.

But come June, 2006, when Superman returns to the silver screen, there will be yet another variation of the famous S emblem. This isn't a bad thing, because in the years that follow, there will be super-fans for whom that will be their first exposure to the character, just as actor Chris Reeve was for some in the 1970s, and artist Wayne Boring was for others in the 1950s.

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Ultimately, there is no right or wrong Superman (okay, I take that back. Electric Blue Superman WAS wrong), or a "real" Superman. There's just Superman, with a number of common threads that have run through the character over the years. The cape flapping in the gentle breeze, the S on the chest, the wink in the eye to those of us in on the secret. It's all good... and it's going to get better. •

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? email me at philip@comicbookbin.com.


Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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