So I was flipping through some of my trades the other day and I flipped through my copy of The Man of Steel. It’s an old copy that cost 7.50. Anyway it reminded me of how much John Byrne Superman worked. And only John Byrne could work it. It didn’t have the sustainability to last past him. Superman is soooooo era specific already though. Julius Schwartz Superman could only work with him. Only Mort Weisinger ,god bless that terrible bastard, could mix the right amount of ingenuity and hackery into the expansive wonderland of terrible morality and vivid imagination that was his Superman. After Byrne, Dan Jurgens turned all of Weisinger’s imaginary stories into real stories.
And John Byrne gave us Marvel Superman.
Because that was the thing to do. He was given a complete clean slate to work with but there was no way to not rub up against the last 50 years of stories. No way for him to play it straight. What would have been the point.
I listened to a podcast interview with Byrne a few months ago. In his telling of how he pitched Superman he sent a list of 20 things he wanted to change. 19 of them got approved. I don’t know the specifics of the list but I CAN venture to guess that it was a list of Superman tropes he wanted to flip. Don’t simulate, don’t ode, CONTRAST. Clark Kent the geek, becomes Clark Kent the ex-football star/competent reporter. Lex Luthor goes legit. The Kents are alive, an active sounding board. The world doesn’t think Superman has a secret identity. That one is my favorite. It’s never occurred to them. Why would he not be Superman all the time?
It wasn’t just reverse engineering the old Superman tropes though. Byrne had just spent nearly 15 years at Marvel. How could he not write Marvel. Continuing subplots, can you remember any of those in a Superman book before this really?
But it could only last so long though. Two years seem about right. The expansive wonderland is what made Superman so damn neat. It could only be a respite from that for a short while and again, it could only be Byrne.