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Krypton Blows Up Again

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The year was 1986 and John Byrne, along with contributions by several others, successfully condensed the origin story of Superman into a six issue mini-series simply titled "Man of Steel." While I had been reading comics for a year or so already, it with that mini and subsequent relaunch of the Superman titles that my comics passion was solidified. With much of the silliness of the previous twenty or so years cut, a clean start for Superman meant a great starting point for a relatively new comic reader.

In my opinion, the biggest improvements on Superman with the 1986 relaunch was 1) de-powering Superman, 2) keeping Superman unique, and 3) 'coolifying' Clark Kent. Superman had gotten too powerful over the previous decades. And then, every time you turned around, there was a new Kryptonian. And Clark had become this persona who almost didn't even need to exist. Now, Superman could get beat up, Supergirls and Superpets were gone, and Clark Kent was the person...Superman was just the mask.

Despite being at the start of this huge relaunch, even when I was 8 or 9, I knew a day would come when Superman would once again be rebooted and the origin story told once again. And now that day has come. It's 23 years later and Geoff Johns and Gary Frank are writing and illustrating a six-issue mini series retelling the origin of Superman. While this doesn't appear to be a total reboot, it does appear to be the new official origin that will be retconned into the current storylines.


And I think this is a missed opportunity. I'm guessing that there aren't a whole lot of 8 or 9-year-olds that will be reading this mini. Probably it will mostly be the same group of 30 to 50-year-olds who read Byrne's mini.

It seems to me that Warner Bros and DC largely don't know what to do with Superman at this point. His movie franchise appears to be entering limbo again and the most successful Superman media at this point is Smallville, a show that does its best to not be Superman. He just doesn't seem to appeal to today's audience in the way that Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine do. Maybe a bold new start written by Geoff Johns (a great comic book writer, by the way) is the first step in fixing that, but more needs to be done to keep Superman at the forefront of the comic medium. New stories need be told that focus on Superman as a character and don't shy away from those three things that Byrne reinfused into the character in 1986.

The origin is classic and a great tale that I think has room for hundreds of interpretations. But after 70 years, I'm concerned for where he's heading as a character. Rather than pave the way with new and exciting tales, maybe he'll continue to be stuck in a continuous origin story loop. And if so, that'll be too bad.

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