Despite his own legendary status, British artist/writer John Byrne was all-too aware of the responsibility of revamping Superman’s origin story to the point where he likened the assignment to being handed the bible and told to ‘fix this‘.
In 1986, however, fixing was exactly what it needed. By the late 1980’s comic audiences had grown more sophisticated and though he’d entertained solidly for almost fifty years, Superman was starting to show his age. Once again it seems ironic that the Man of Tomorrow’s four-color regeneration would borrow so heavily from its cinematic adaptation first screened almost a decade before. Indeed, unnecessary appearance from Batman notwithstanding, structure-wise at least the six-part Man Of Steel series could easily pass for another draft of Superman:The Movie.
Far from denying the film’s influence, however, Byrne openly embraces it by rendering his hero in the likeness of the film’s leading man. Among these beautifully crafted pages there are re-tellings of both Krypton and Smallville segments at once touching and economical by omitting SuperBoy and allowing the Kents to survive as a continuing (and positive) influence.
These, among other narrative touches (like the feisty character of Lois Lane and the introduction of Lex Luthor as a corporate vulture) in turn clearly had an impact on the producers of Lois & Clark where they were retained as such for television. The movie sequels are acknowledged too with Byrne showing us in Part 5 what Superman III could/should have been in epic style.
Ultimately though, Man Of Steel remains a solid milestone in the continuing journey of Superman’s fight to stay contemporary. So well-crafted was Byrne’s re-imagining it survived as canon right up until last year, but that’s another story…
From the top, select examples of John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini-series paying clear tributes to the the Donnerverse, second in a series of recommended reading trade paperbacks for fans of the Movies.
For a comic collection heralded by Variety as ‘An invigorating, entertaining and modern take on the Man of Steel’ its ironic how many elements of the fantastic ‘Superman: Brainiac‘ story are a clear throwback to the Bronze Age of comics.
Indeed, writer Geoff Johns, fresh from a successful collaboration with director Richard Donner for ‘Superman, Last Son’ continued to evoke the style and spirit of the Superman movies by next teaming up with influential artist Gary Frank for a tale that could so easily be the basis for a fifth movie set in that continuity. Johns integrates tribute after homage to the first two Superman movies with similar verisimilitude and drama contrasted by tongue-in-cheek. With Frank’s pencils unashamedly bringing both Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder back to life on the page seemingly picking up where the films left off, the result is a satisfying tale and a rare treat in the current DC continuity.
SUPERMANIA presents the first graphic novel in a series of recommended reading tailored purely for fans of the movies with accompanying images. Comments welcome…!
Once DC comics sold the rights to adapt Superman for the Silver Screen to European producer Alexander Salkind, among the mess of litigation that took almost thirty years to unravel was the ownership of the story.
Mario Puzo was credited as the writer of both Superman: The Movie and Superman II yet little of his work beyond concept and structure made the final cut. This is one theory as to why there was never a comic-book adaptation of the first two Superman Movies, The other is nobody at DC had thought of it yet.
Over the next decade the situation was rectified and adaptations of Superman’s III and IV took their rightful place on newsstands along with every major DC property to follow. Fans have longed for the set to be complete for decades along with Puzo’s original colossal volume. During the wait some visionary DC Writers and artists have taken it upon themselves to envision an origin story using the theme and tone of the movies as a major influence. The best of these is John Byrne’s Man Of Steel mini-series from 1986 and the bang-up-to-date Superman: Secret Origin series by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
From the top; French Superman No: 136 (Circa 1979 – Although the perfect cover for an adaptation sadly houses nothing more than a reprint of two silver-age adventures) Superman III Movie Special, Superman III 7Up Promotion Cover variant and Superman IV; The Quest For Peace Movie Special…