Monday, January 15, 2018


Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Guest Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Andrew Helfer

The Plot: Superman has tracked his missing rocket ship to an isolated lab occupied by only a corpse and a great deal of data on the Man of Steel. He removes the lab from Earth, storing it at the Lagrange Point in space for later study, then returns to Metropolis to change into Clark Kent for a jog with Lois Lane. But their run is interrupted by the villainous Metallo, robbing a bank to get Superman’s attention. Metallo introduces Superman to Kryptonite, but before he can finish off his enemy, he’s grabbed from above by a large black shape, leaving a confused Superman behind.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman notes that he’s been searching for the rocket since he discovered it missing three months earlier, meaning that much time has passed since THE MAN OF STEEL concluded.

Our hero also says that his search for the rocket has been interrupted by “various and sundry super-villains,” though none are named explicitly. While this doesn’t outright contradict anything in THE MAN OF STEEL, it does make the reader feel as if they missed something, since up to now the only super-powered creature we’ve seen our hero up against was Bizarro.

As he explores the lab, Superman also reflects on his alien heritage and notes that aliens are nothing new on Earth, citing Hawkman and Green Lantern’s power ring both as being of extraterrestrial origin. Again, while not going against THE MAN OF STEEL, this doesn’t fit the feel of that prior series’ narrative, which really seemed to imply that Batman was the only other hero Superman had met up to this point.

SUPERMAN #1 features Metallo’s post-CRISIS debut. The crippled survivor of an auto accident, he was rebuilt as a cyborg by a paranoid scientist who had been studying Superman for years and had discovered Kryptonite (and, as it turns out, the lab Superman investigates as the issue opens is where Metallo was created; the corpse he finds is that of the scientist who rebuilt him). This plotline was teased three times in THE MAN OF STEEL, first when a mysterious figure watched Jonathan Kent reveal the spaceship to Clark in issue 1, then when Superman was photographed outside Metropolis General Hospital in issue 4, and finally when the rocket went missing in issue 6.

(By the way, I’m gratified to have those clues explained after all these years! As noted previously, I’ve owned the trade paperback of THE MAN OF STEEL since I was about ten or so, and I’ve always wondered what those little bits were about.)

During their fight, Metallo blabs about Superman’s alien origins, his words picked up by local TV reporters. The broadcast also reveals the existence of Kryptonite to the world, prompting Lex Luthor to (presumably) kidnap Metallo.

My Thoughts: Okay, let’s quickly stop to wonder why SUPERMAN #1, the first ongoing issue in the retooled Man of Steel’s saga, has a “Guest Inker”. Not that I object to seeing Terry Austin ink John Byrne; far from it! The art in this issue is lovely. And from a publicity perspective, reuniting Byrne & Austin for this big launch probably makes sense. But still, you’d think DC would’ve wanted the full, permanent creative team in place for the series' first issue!

(The actual reason is that SUPERMAN’s real inker, Karl Kesel, is currently inking Byrne on the LEGENDS mini-series -- which we'll examine in a few weeks -- and will eventually jump over to SUPERMAN when it concludes — but still! Austin “guest” inks the first three issues of the series!)

With that nit out of the way, I really like SUPERMAN #1 overall. Byrne was brought over to DC to reinvigorate the Man of Steel, and it naturally follows that, having worked at Marvel for a decade by this point, he would bring some Marvel sensibilities along for the ride. I must confess that I know little of what Superman was like prior to this reboot, but something about Byrne’s approach just feels more “Marvel” to me than most of the pre-CRISIS DC stuff I actually have read, even including the pretty clearly Marvel-influenced NEW TEEN TITANS.

Though I should note that some of the sub-plotting comes off a bit odd in that we're five years into Superman's career and Clark has worked at the Daily Planet for pretty much that entire time. He's just now trying to get Lois to notice him, though -- which I suppose I can buy; it's possible for a person to pine for somebody for years before acting, though Byrne's self-assured Clark Kent feels less likely to be one of those people -- but more than that, Lois will barely give Clark the time of day, even still calling him "Kent" after all this time... because he beat her to the Planet's first exclusive story on Superman five years ago. That's a heck of a long time to carry a grudge and not warm up to somebody in the slightest. It almost reads as if... hmmm. as if Byrne had wanted to tell Superman's story from the beginning but was told he couldn't, so he put some of the sub-plots that should have belonged to Clark's early years on ice for half a decade of comic time before starting them back up at a point where, realistically, they probably should've been long since resolved!

In other news, this issue features the debut of Byrne’s theory that Superman possesses some sort of unconscious telekinetic power, explaining why he’s able to lift things that should crumble apart due to their own mass—basically he holds them together through force of will as he carries them:

Now, I get that at Marvel, this was the sort of thing editors like Jim Shooter and Mark Gruenwald felt had to be explained in order to maintain some semblance of “realism” (or at least verisimilitude) in the universe, but I find it hard to believe anyone was clamoring for a reason for this stuff, aside from Byrne. As a child, I didn’t care. As an adult, I still don’t care. Indeed, until I read people complaining about Byrne’s revision here some years back, it never occurred to me that this was an issue! I was probably in my twenties when angry comics fans on message boards made me realize that no, you can’t just pick up a building or a luxury liner or whatever else from underneath and have it not fall apart. I mean, obviously if I gave the subject any thought, common sense would have told me it wasn't possible, but the entire concept was just not anything I gave a whit of consideration to, and I find it odd that it’s something Byrne cares about.

Lastly, a quick comment on Metallo: what is he wearing?! He shows up in Metropolis in a pair of tight pants with a metal belt and boots, and some sort of weird vest/cape thing. I Googled the character and I can’t find that ever looked like this in the Silver Age, so apparently this is a pure Byrne design — and it. Is. Weird. Though, bizarre costume aside, this is totally the Metallo I know from SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, so that, at least, is pretty cool.

Next Week: Hey, we only covered one issue this week! But we'll make up for it next time, though, with the Teen Titans and Lex Luthor in ACTION COMICS #584 and SUPERMAN #2.


  1. I didn't get that vibe you got from MoS' narrative about Superman's strangerness to other heroes save Batman. I looked to that first encounter as part of the early years, as noted by Batman's insignia; Neil, Adams, Englehart and others established that any adventure of Batman sans the yellow oval was the past.
    From what I gathered, MoS#6 and this issue are in the NOW. That the DC history that survived Crisis- the JLA, the sidekicks, the Teen Titans, Jason Todd/Nightwing, Barry-Flash's death/Wally-Flash begins- had already happened by the time of SUPERMAN#1. So, it is implied that Superman is already well acquainted with GL, Hawkman, as well as Aquaman, Flash, Atom, etc. at this point (except for Wonder Woman...).
    On a different matter, I read the issue the other day and noted the advertisements: a cardboard postcard promoting winning a collected digest of the MoS series, as well as an ad for the KARATE KID action figures (Daniel, Mr. Miyagi, John Kreese, Johnny, Chozen, Sato, ninjas).

    1. Maybe it's just because I read THE MAN OF STEEL in a vacuum all these years (decades) -- but it has always seemed to me as if Superman operates alone, with minimal exposure to any other heroes, over the course of that series. I guess it's because, while the final issue of the mini-series brings us up to, as you say, NOW, there's nothing in that series to indicate he's met any heroes other than Batman. Yeah, several years pass between the issues, but encounters with no other heroes are mentioned (not that they need to be, but I think that's the reason for my confusion).

      It's always fun to look at the ads in old comics. I like that my collected editions omit them and print only the issues, but sometimes I miss seeing what was being hocked to kids at the time (and it's also interesting to watch ads' target demographics increase as the decades move along).

    2. I suppose one aspect of the Batman chapter was to show Supes associating with other heroes; if it had to be one hero, it was the Caped Crusader (his past pre-Crisis relationship, his light/dark chemistry with Superman) rather than GL or Flash (WW would have been another perfect candidate, but that's now out of the question). To me, the lack of mention of other heroes didn't mean he never met them. Superman HAD to be part of the JLA in the past; they couldn't retcon his association like WW.
      Now I really regret not commenting about the ads of the NEW TEEN TITANS (or the FF) issues during that past coverage.

  2. In other news, this issue features the debut of Byrne’s theory that Superman possesses some sort of unconscious telekinetic power, explaining why he’s able to lift things that should crumble apart due to their own mass—basically he holds them together through force of will as he carries them:

    Um. I once read this one guy's blog post about FANTASTIC FOUR #250, and whether it's 'debut' is debatable.


    1. Hey, just because Byrne came up with that idea for a totally unrelated and completely coincidentally similar character at another company, doesn't mean he intended it to apply to Superman, too!

  3. Coming up with the "super telekinesis" notion was, once again, Byrne fixing something that didn't really need to be fixed. Superheroes are already inherently impossible; trying to come up with internally consistent logic for how powers work winds up, eventually, colliding with the real world eventually, in jarring ways. Admittedly this happened more at Marvel, with things like Cyclops' eyes being portals to an inter-dimensional source of energy-once I saw someone identify it as the Punch Dimension, which is hilarious-or how Hank Pym became Giant Man by gaining extra-dimensional mass.

    Superman can fly and pick up really big things because he's Superman. Works for me.

    1. Me too!

      I've heard that term "punch dimension" before and I thought it was hilarious. I wonder who coined it...?

    2. I have to say that I like more than I should the Nathan Adler spin that it's the Crimson Dimension on Cyttorak where Cyclops' eye portals open to.

      Even if only for the mental image of Cyttorak's aggravation at Scott leaking the contents of his place all over.

  4. Just wanted to say 'Hi' and that I stumbled on this site a couple of months ago. I've really enjoyed the issue-by-issue reviews of Iron Man, FF and especially Miller's Daredevil. Also, Stern Spider-Man, the run of which I was the least knowledgeable.

    It's great that I can now follow along just as you begin on Byrne's Superman. This run was my "gateway drug" to DC, the first DC series I collected in real time, as I followed Byrne over from Marvel. It's not as close to my heart as Byrne's FF or Alpha Flight (or, of course, his X-Men run with Claremont), but I still enjoyed it, and it had the added benefit of introducing me to a whole new universe.

    It's fun that you haven't read these issues before, I'm curious to see what you think. I haven't read them in years but one aspect I remember (without spoiling anything) is Byrne indulges his bloodlust quite a bit. He's never been shy about depicting ruthless villains, but he seems to kick it up a notch with this series. We've seen a bit of it in the Magpie issue so far, but later on a lot of nameless innocent bystanders start biting it pretty casually (at least in a few issues that pop to my mind) which always seemed odd for Superman, the ultimate "swoop-in-to-save-the-day" superhero.

    Enough of my yammering, looking forward to the reviews!

    -david p.

    1. Thanks for the comment, David! I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've read here.

      I'll watch out for Byrne offing bystanders as the series goes along (and I agree with you that stuff like that doesn't really fit Superman well at all). In general, with the exception of FANTASTIC FOUR, I feel like mid-eighties Byrne did a lot of that sort of thing. At least, I'm pretty sure I recall an issue of ALPHA FLIGHT where a mother and her baby were eaten by a sea monster -- and, while there weren't a lot of characters killed in it, Byrne's very brief INCREDIBLE HULK run felt somehow darker than most of his other work of the era.

      Maybe he was going through a rough personal patch or something!

    2. Yes, I was thinking of the Alpha Flight sea monster and that one pretty horrendous rampage from the Hulk run that killed hundreds of people.
      And you're right, Byrne did less of that in FF, besides that Skrull homeworld thing (maybe the children got out in time, Krypton-style?).
      -david p.

    3. Could it be a case of the post-DKR DC being in process of finding it's leg? The whole reboot was to do away with the accumulated baggage of the previous decades, so maybe it was felt that Supes clinically always managing to save everyone took away any actual suspension and that it needed some altering. A misstep obviously if so, for the reasons you mention.

      The Uncanny X-Men had been all the hoot lately at the time, and and in the build-up towards the Mutant Massacre innocent civilians had been killed by the villains quite unscrupulously, including Byrne himself being offed by Selene in #183. Everyone making it out alive with only scratches on SUPERMAN would perhaps have been too 1960's in comparison.

      Actually, to think about it, Proteus, Wendigo and the N'Garai demon all saw bystanders killed during Byrne's time on UNCANNY right before the FF gig, so maybe it's just taking it back a notch after the FF. No civilians having been in Baxter Building when Dr. Doom hijacked and exploded it in space had been stretching the believability a bit.

    4. Byrne achieves his collateral damage peak when he takes over Star Brand back at Marvel, where first he blows up a comics convention, and then he blew up Pittsburgh. Interestingly, Byrne wrote himself into the convention scene, where he was applying "realism" to superhero conventions, in particular the notion of the secret identity. Byrne was really big, at the time, on making superheroes work with some fidelity with the real world, like a lot of people in the wake of Moore and Miller, and to him, a lot of people would die in the cross fire of superhuman war.

      Which, you true. But not really want we want from Superman, and certainly not back in the 1980s.

  5. Look, I'm the kind of pedantic nerd who LOVES the Marvel Handbooks (and really, any kind of non-fiction presentation of facts from fictional universe, I mean, I literally have a bookcase that is just books that do that for Star Wars), and stuff like Giant-Man gaining/shedding mass via an alternate dimension, and even *I* think Byrne's "Superman has subconscious telekinesis that holds together big stuff when he lifts it" is unnecessary and an attempt to fix a problem that doesn't exist.

    I find it odd that it’s something Byrne cares about.

    Whereas for me, I find it possibly the most Byrne-iest thing ever. That man has some *really* strong and never-changing opinions about how some relatively mundane stuff is supposed to work/be presented in superhero comics, and "Superman's telekinesis" is kind of the apex of that tendency for me.

    1. Byrne's mania for that sort of thing was interesting, in that he sometimes, while thinking through the implications of super powers, completely overlooked the implications of his own work.

      I mean, he made Clark Kent a football player. Invulnerable, superhuman Clark Kent. Running as fast and hard as he can at normal humans. Did it not occur to him what the end result of that would be?

      Probably was too busy thinking he needed to solve how Clark Kent shaved.

  6. These panels here though doesn't do any 'holding together by telekinesis' like Gladiator very explicitly did in FF #249-250. Superman very clearly states that he hardened the bottom of his haul and that's the reason why it doesn't crumble. Does Byrne say it explicitly somewhere or is it a fan misread/faulty conflation from the earlier Gladiator bit?

    As for fly-lifting something heavy, I kind of see the point. If he is lifting the weight with his flight power, it's a physically complicated thing with the gravity constantly pulling the haul down and Superman having to find the correct point of balance. It may even be that the classical "Superman flies with heavy stuff" posture is so close to impossible as real physics go that it necessitates this explanation where the cargo is effected by his extended flying power like it's with Sam Guthrie.

    Yeah this is me now, defending post-Crisis DC and 90's Marvel.

  7. This version of Metallo certainly gives Superman a run for his money. I'm pretty glad I managed to read it. :)