Monday, 4 October 2010

The Man Of Steel #5

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear,
Happy birthday to you.

Yes, believe it or not, it's been a year since the World of Superman snuck onto the blogging scene. In that time, we've covered the death of Krypton, affairs with Lex, the birth of the Heroic Age Silver Age, Superman joining - and leaving - the Justice League of America, some very bad comics, and most of all, the introduction of Superman to the DC Universe. We've also suffered some dramatic delays to posting, which I very much hope will be a thing of the past. Sadly, I missed my self-imposed target of completing The Man of Steel by the time the first anniversary came around, but that was as much down to me having my dates all wrong as anything else.

So, we're back with The Man of Steel, and we're going to finish it in the next few posts before moving onto the regular series. Well, apart from a couple of diversions. But it wouldn't be the World of Superman if we didn't detour along the way...

The Mirror, Crack'd...

Script and Pencils: John Byrne
Inking: Dick Giordano
Lettering: John Costanza
Coloring: Tom Ziuko
Editing: Andrew Helfer
With special acknowledgement to the work of Otto Binder
Cover Artist: John Byrne
Cover Date: December 1986
Release Date: 11/09/1986

Superman returns a LexCorp-built battle armour suit to Lex's penthouse. Luthor claims that the suit was registered as stolen, and that the pilot was fired from LexCorp weeks ago. Sadly, the pilot cannot corroborate Lex's story as prolonged exposure to the suit has left him brain-dead. As Superman flies away, Lex heads into his laboratory and talks to Doctor Teng, who tells him that his scans have revealed that Superman is not a mutated human, but an alien. Lex asks how this will affect the duplication process, and Teng replies that they will see. A chamber opens, and an exact replica of Superman steps out. After a few seconds, the replica collapses, its body crystallising. Luthor is disappointed and orders that the duplicate be destroyed.

In Metropolis, Lois Lane prepares to leave for work. She argues with her sister Lucy, who is bitter about her blindness. Outside, an ambulance gets stuck in traffic. Suddenly, it is lifted above the streets and dropped off at the hospital. The EMTs prepare to thank Superman, but are shocked to see that a monster has saved them. As 'Superman' flies away, he saves the life of Lucy Lane, who has thrown herself off of Lois' balcony. 'Superman' flies away, as Lucy wonders why he was so dusty.

At the Daily Planet, a disturbance in the lobby causes Clark to run out of the newsroom. He confronts the source of the disturbance, the distorted Superman who has partially disguised himself as Clark Kent. 'Clark Kent' wallops Superman, sending him flying out of the Daily Planet building. As the two fight, 'Superman' uses his heat vision on Superman, causing him intense pain. As they fight, Superman notices Lois watching, and uses his heat vision to destroy 'Clark Kent's clothing to protect his identity.

'Superman' grabs Lois Lane and flies away with her. In the air, he gives her a kiss, before taking her to her sister. As Superman arrives, Lucy explains that since 'Superman' saved her, she has been able to see shapes and shadows. The two Superman fight some more. Superman analyses the dust that falls off 'Superman', and discovers that his foe is not an organic creature. Deciding that he is not truly alive, Superman charges him with all of his might. The impact causes 'Superman' to explode, showering the neighbourhood with dust. Exposure to the dust restores Lucy's sight. Superman wonders if 'Superman' knew of the healing powers of his dust when he died.

For an issue of one of the most notable Superman mini-series ever published, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to say about it. Of all the issues, this is the most 'business-as-usual', with its notable first occurrences being rather understated.

I think the problem with this issue is how little has carried over into the continuity of the comics. Lucy Lane has her blindness cured and stops being suicidal in this issue, and her blind period is rarely referred to again. Of course, in terms of things about Lucy Lane that are never mentioned again, her blindness comes in a distant third to her marriage to Ron Troupe and her child. We also have the revelation to Lex Luthor that Superman is not human in any way, that he is an alien. Having Luthor in a position where he knows more about Superman's origins than Superman does is potentially an interesting status quo, but this doesn't last beyond the next issue.

Superman faces a being whose powers match his own for the first time here. Although he has fought aliens and encountered New Gods, this is the first time that he feels his own powers being used against him. He is concerned for his well-being, and feels pain, possibly for the first time, when 'Superman' unleashes his heat-vision on him. However, this encounter is soon forgotten. When Metallo attacks in Superman #1, he wonders when the last time he was hit so hard was.

Perhaps the biggest event in the issue which fails to carry over into the ongoing series that followed The Man of Steel is the bogus 'Superman', or as fans know him better, Bizarro. He is never named in this issue, and it's another eight years until the character returns. The character is also played down in a more muted fashion. Most of the bizarre elements associated with the character, from the reverse-speak to the literal Bizarro-world, are missing. Instead, this version of Bizarro is very much a Frankenstein's monster, misunderstood and unable to comprehend the results of its actions, except possibly in one moment of realisation and sacrifice. However, the encounter doesn't seem to phase Superman at all. Having deduced that 'Superman' is an artificial being, Superman shows no signs of following up his appearance. He seems to accept that such warped doppelgangers exist, and that having got rid of one, he has faith that there will be no more.

There is an interesting moral dilemma for Superman that occurs during his fight with 'Superman'. Realising that only one of them will walk away from the fight, Superman examines the dust that 'Superman' sheds wherever he goes and theorises that he is an artificial being, and thus, not being alive, can be killed. Once Superman has made this distinction, he is able to use levels of force that he would otherwise be unable to use against a living being, no matter how dangerous that being may be. In short, Superman is able to terminate 'Superman' for the greater good without any of the guilt that would follow the next time he decided to kill.

These issues aside, there are some strong moments in the issue. We get a good look at how Lois and Clark function in the Daily Planet newsroom, and we also get the first instance of Clark abandoning the newsroom to address a problem as Superman. Lucy's suicidal tendencies, whilst melodramatic, are a hint to a darker type of storytelling to that normally associated with Superman. The same goes for the implication that Luthor deliberately caused one of his henchmen to suffer brain damage in one of his schemes to better Superman. And whilst Superman's fears for his mortality in his fight with 'Superman' aren't as pronounced as the ones he felt whilst stranded in space in Action Comics Annual #7, the art and writing effectively communicates the feeling that Superman is out of his comfort zone.

The Geeky Bits: The Special Thanks credit for Otto Binder refers to the fact that this issue's plot owes a lot to the original appearance of Bizarro in Superboy #68 from October 1958. There, as here, Bizarro is very much cast in the Frankenstein's Monster role, and the subplot involving a blind girl is shared between the two stories. The more familiar version of Bizarro wouldn't appear until Action Comics #254 in July 1959.

This is the first of three post-Crisis version of Bizarro. 1994 saw the publication of the Bizarro's World story, in which Lex Luthor II recreates the duplication experiment, but with similar failure. The current version of Bizarro debuted in the Emperor Joker storyline from 2000, where he was a creation of The Joker, who had been infused with Mr Mxyzptlk's powers, and this incarnation has regularly appeared in the Superman books since then.

Next on World of Superman: A mere six months after reviewing The Man of Steel #1, we finally reach the conclusion veer off one more time to examine the first post-Crisis appearance of Superman.


  1. Happy Birthday, sir! Here's hoping to many more years of the World of Superman!

  2. There has actually been four* Bizarro Supermen post-Crisis. One created by Dabney Donovan, at the behest of The Contessa, appeared in SUPERMAN FOREVER #1. He only appeared in the one issue, though, thanks to an implanted self-destruct mechanism.

    But anyway, congratulations on the anniversary! Sailing should get smoother soon, as there will be less jumping about from mini-series to mini-series (in theory, anyway). But, still... birthday. Hooray!

    (*Five if you are one to consider SUPERMAN/BATMAN/WONDER WOMAN: TRINITY as in-continuity.)

  3. Hi to both the Michaels, and thanks for the kind words.

    I wasn't a Superman reader when Superman Forever first came out. I've got hold of a copy since then - it was high on my 'must-get' list, mainly because of the gorgeous Alex Ross cover - but I've only read it a couple of times since getting hold of it. I'd completely forgotten about the Bizarro appearance, although I like the idea of Dabney Donavan being involved, as it seems like he should have been involved with the first Bizarro given his penchant for warped genetic experiments.

    And, more importantly, I completely failed to do my full research (simply checking would have tipped me off to this). I shall be more vigilant in the future!

  4. Well-known fictional superhero Superman appearing since 1933; in American after launching superman character was sold to Detective Comics now Super emerge in Hollywood luminary as The Man Of Steel superhero fans now it’s time to get appears in real superhero fashion outfits surprisingly cost 40 off at Samishleather.