Superman: Space Age (2023)
Reprints Superman: Space Age #1-3
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Mike Allred
In 2019, there was a lot of buzz around DC Comics’ next planned reboot. It would have been the fourth (Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint/New 52, Rebirth, and this one) during editor-in-chief Dan Didio’s tenure at the company and proved to be an idea that didn’t come to fruition. The comics website Bleeding Cool has a series on the plans we are aware of and how dramatically they would have shaken up the DC Universe. The concept was to make Wonder Woman the first official superhero in the timeline, inspiring the mystery men & women of the Golden Age. Superman would have come along during the Kennedy administration, as would Batman. Eventually, Warner Bros. was bought out, and leadership at DC was drastically altered, leaving DiDio without a job. 5G was scrapped though pieces of it have been used in small projects like Future State, Superman & the Authority, and this Black Label mini-series.
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Superman: The Exile and Other Stories Omnibus (2018)
Reprints Adventures of Superman #445-460, Superman v2 #23-37, Action Comics #643-646, and Action Comics Annual #2
Written by Jerry Ordway, George Pérez, Roger Stern, Dan Jurgens, Tom Peyer, and Keith Giffen
Art by Jerry Ordway, Mike Mignola, Kerry Gammill, Dan Jurgens, Paris Cullins, Curt Swan, George Pérez, Keith Giffen, Dennis Janke, P. Craig Russell, John Beatty, Brett Breeding, John Statema, Art Thibert, Klaus Janson, Tim Gula, and Andy Kubert
I have reached that age. You know it. The age where a guy with graying hair on his head and beard says things like, “I liked [insert] character here better when I was a kid.” I see this and acknowledge the silliness of it. A character like Superman has never been a static thing, but exists in a never-ending flow state where tweaks are happening to the narrative and mythos with every new issue that comes out. Superman couldn’t fly for his first few appearances, and things like Smallville were rectons. There is no ultimate version of Superman and the one you like is probably the one you first encountered. I was always a Christopher Reeve fan because that was my first Superman and when it came to comics the post-John Byrne era was when I joined in.
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Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4 (2022)
Reprints Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, Superman Annual #2
Written by John Byrne, Paul Kupperberg, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne, Ty Templeton, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, Ross Andru, Curt Swan, Mike Mignola, John Statema, Ron Frenz
So it seems this will be the last volume in The Man of Steel collections which makes sense. These issues mark John Byrne’s final contributions to the Post-Crisis Superman, and the series title comes from his mini-series that rebooted the origins and supporting cast of the character. Volume Four manages to reintroduce some more elements from Superman’s mythos, updated for the 1980s. On reflection, this does not seem like a radical reimagining as it may have when the issues were first published. It’s very evident that Byrne is a fan of the Silver Age Superman but also wants to modernize the icon per his directive from DC Comics. This is also the first volume of reprints where Marv Wolfman was gone from Adventures of Superman, and thus Byrne was writing all three Superman titles monthly, plus penciling two of them.
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Superman and Justice League America Volume 2 (2016)
Reprints Justice League America #69-77, Annual #6
Written by Dan Jurgens (with Dan Mishkin)
Art by Dan Jurgens (with Dave Cockrum)
For a collection with Superman in the title, he is gone from the book two issues in. This collection presents stories told just at and after the infamous Death of Superman storyline. We get a tie-in with the League attempting to fight and getting obliterated by Doomsday. That’s followed by a Funeral for a Friend crossover as the League, and other DC superheroes come together to mourn the passing of the great hero. From there, we have Wonder Woman coming onboard, and Dan Jurgens begins to wind down his relatively short-lived run on the book. Jurgens’s departure feels abrupt as he barely slides into home base to finish off the Bloodwyn arc, and then it’s over. There’s a strong sense of a lack of closure for characters that were personal additions like Maxima and Agent Liberty.
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Superman and Justice League America Volume 1 (2016)
Reprints Justice League Spectacular, Justice League America #61-68
Written by Dan Jurgens (with Gerard Jones)
Art by Dan Jurgens and Ron Randall
In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, one of the significant changes made to continuity was removing characters like Superman and Batman from the founding Justice League roster. Throughout the late 1980s, the JLA consisted of characters that weren’t considered headliners like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner. Once the creative team of Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis stepped down after a five-year run, and JLA was handed over to Dan Jurgens, a writer/artist who was doing some exciting things in the Superman books. So it seemed natural that he would bring Superman to the title as it was time for a new pared-down team to form. That would consist of stalwarts Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Ice, Fire, and two new additions, Maxima & Bloodwynd.
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Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 3 (2021)
Reprints Superman v2 #12-15, Superman v2 Annual #1, Action Comics #594-597, Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #436-438, Adventures of Superman Annual #1, Booster Gold #23, and Superman: The Earth Stealers
Written by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens, and Jim Starlin
Art by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Arthur Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens, and Curt Swan
The post-Crisis Superman is such an interesting bridge between the Silver Age Superman and the contemporary image of the character now. The writers and artists on this reboot period were tasked with reimagining the very stories they grew up with and revered. So it’s to be expected that some elements harken back to those classic tales while other aspects of Superman’s mythos are injected with new life. This collection opens with a trio of one-shot annuals and concludes with an original graphic novel drawn by the legendary Curt Swan. The result is the feel of a reboot wherein the creative forces weren’t exactly sure how willing they were to drift away from the original.
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Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 2 (2021)
Reprints Superman v2 #5-11, Action Comics #588-593, Adventures of Superman #429-435, and Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #37-38
Written by John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, & Paul Levitz
Art by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Erik Larsen, and Terry Austin
One of the things that were always a bit confusing during this era of Superman was how much the character remembered the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Crisis had been DC’s way of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the company and was used to condense the elements of the Multiverse into one cohesive reality. Part of that was John Byrne’s reboot of Superman, erasing certain sillier Silver Age elements from the characters and reducing his powers. A significant piece of Superman’s backstory that was axed was his early days in Smallville as Superboy. Under Byrne’s version, Clark Kent’s powers developed slowly, and only when he was an adult did he have them all. His costume wasn’t made until then, so Superboy never existed.
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Superman by Grant Morrison Omnibus (2021)
Reprints Action Comics v2 #0-18, Annual #1
Written by Grant Morrison (with Sholly Fisch)
Art by Rags Morales, Andy Kubert, Brent Anderson, Gene Ha, Brad Walker, Cully Hamner, Ben Oliver, Cafu, Ryan Sook, Bob McLeod, Travel Foreman, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, and more
It’s interesting to read these Grant Morrison stories alongside John Byrne’s Superman work. Byrne was tasked with rebooting Superman in the wake of the Crisis in 1986, reworking concepts and cutting away things considered to be too old-fashioned. Morrison was partially asked to do the same thing in 2011 when the New 52 initiative was rolled out. I don’t think Morrison was allowed as much leeway as Byrne because D.C. had become much more integrated alongside their parent company Warner Media. Like Byrne, Morrison is taken well-known concepts around Superman and trying to make them relevant for their time. However, they are a professed lover of the Silver Age, so Morrison isn’t entirely willing to make everything a modern parallel to our world. In true Morrison fashion, we get a tale of metaphors made reality, of meditations on fictional universes, and ultimately a vision of Superman that would be quickly discarded as editorial interference kept the New 52 from ever amounting to much.
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Superman/Batman: Generations Omnibus (2021)
Reprints Superman/Batman: Generations #1-4, Superman/Batman: Generations 2 #1-4, Superman/Batman: Generations 3 #1-12
Written & Illustrated by John Byrne
Superman debuted in the pages of Action Comics #1 in the summer of 1938, with Batman following closely behind in Detective Comics #27 in the winter of 1939. In 1999, comics legend John Byrne decided to write and draw an Elseworlds series that asked what would the DC Universe look like if these characters and their supporting casts aged in real-time? Immediately, this opens a lot of new ideas and story avenues, and the first volume is one of my personal favorites in the Elseworlds series. It’s not the most incredible story ever told in the DC Multiverse, but it’s a very fun one.
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