Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Why did we need The Man of Steel?

I'm taking a brief respite from the reviews to take a look at how The Man of Steel came about. All of this information is available on the internet; I am not going to be revealing anything earth-shatteringly new.

Stop me if you've heard this before. The DC Universe was once a confusing place, comprising a multiverse of similar but different worlds, each of which had their own cadre of heroes and its own history. Different versions of the same characters could exist on multiple Earths, most notably the different versions of Superman on Earth-1 and Earth-2, and the different incarnations of The Flash. Characters from the different worlds could meet, and meetups between the JLA of Earth-1 and the JSA of Earth-2 were annual events, often heralded as 'Crisis on...'. As rich as the multiverse was, it became perceived that it was ultimately offputting to new readers, who could not readily enter this continuity and grasp the meaning and differences between the multiple earths.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was originally conceived as a massive crossover to celebrate the 50th anniversary of DC Comics. Marv Wolfman, the wrtier, and Len Wein, the editor, identified the series as a chance to clean up and simplify continuity. Over the course of the 12 issues, all drawn by George PĂ©rez, worlds and characters died, and in March 1986, the Anti-Monitor was defeated and the DC multiverse was finally distilled down to one Earth with one consistent history.

The end of Crisis on Infinite Earths provided DC comics with the opportunity to put into action a plan that had been discussed in the years running up to the Crisis - a revision of Superman's history. Various submissions had been made to the then-publisher and president Jenette Khan. Although these submissions were all individual and different, several consistent elements occured, including removing Superman's career as Superboy, revising Lex Luthor, and making Superman the only survivor of Krypton.

Nothing progressed further on this until John Byrne left Marvel Comics in 1985. Having made his name as the second penciller on Uncanny X-Men, before branching out into runs as writer and artist on the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, John Byrne was one of the biggest talents in comics at the time. The chance to reboot Superman was the carrot that lured Byrne into the DC fold, and with his name attached to the project, plans were finally laid down.

Byrne came up with what he now calls his 'List of 10 Unreasonable Demands', a list of things that he wanted to change about Superman, expecting most if not all of them to be rejected. To his surprise, DC allowed all of the changes through, with the exception of an idea that involved Lara travelling to Earth and giving birth to Kal-El on Earth, before dying to Kryptonite poisoning. However, Byrne liked the idea of Superman being born on Earth, and thus the birthing matrix was born.

In July 1986, the first issue of The Man of Steel was released. Two months later, in September of 1986, Alan Moore's story 'Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow' arrived, definitively wrapping up and bringing to a close all Superman stories published before The Man of Steel.

Superman was dead.

Long live Superman!

Next on World of Superman: Enough messing around, it's time to take a look at the birth of a new Superman - The Man of Steel #1!

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