Curated: 90s Superboy

Growing up as a young comic book collector in the mid 1990s, there were few people to talk to about comics. This was just as the internet was becoming public, but still quite a ways off before I would gain access to it in 1998. Out of a group of peers, there were three or four other known people who read comic books, but the majority opted for the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men and Spawn; arguably far more popular to a then pre-teen than this editorialists favourite, Superman. Superman, despite the sales spike caused by the “Death of Superman” storyline, was decidedly uncool, which in a way made the character all the more special. A close friend took to liking Superboy as an alternative to Superman, and started collecting that title. This was in late 1994 or early 1995, so the Post-Crisis Superboy was still only a couple years old at this point, one driven home by the fact he still had no other name than Superboy!

Co-creators Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett were the stewards of this new Superboy for the first three or so years, giving us a number of characters, concepts and storylines that continue to be favourites to this day. This curated list, honours that, and mostly focuses on the first Kesel/Grummett run from 1993-1996. Some decent concepts came after that, and some questionable characterizations, but for anyone wanting to see this character in his original interpretation, these stories do it:

Adventures of Superman (Volume 1) 501

The first appearance of the Post-Crisis Superboy. Clone of the recently deceased Superman, he is one of four mysterious pretenders that have appeared in Metropolis. This single issue within the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline from 1993 nearly acts as a backdoor pilot to what the Kid’s first series would be. The majority of the elements, from Tana Moon, Roxy and Rex Leech and even the introduction of a new Krypto, would be established in this funny, fast paced, yet still thoughtful single issue.

Superboy: Trouble in Paradise TPB

This collection from a couple years ago collects roughly the first year of Superboy’s solo series under Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett. The majority of characters Superboy would interact with throughout their run are introduced, including King Shark, for fans of that particular character. The majority of the collection is done by Tom Grummett, but the odd fill-in still manages to fit-in with the overall youthful tone of the book. This is Superboy just his first steps out as an independent being, and that’s eventually going to have ramifications on him and those around him.

Superboy/Robin: World’s Finest Three

This two issue prestigious format mini-series is one that slips under the radar of most comic book fans, yet should not be overlooked. Co-written between Karl Kesel and Chuck Dixon, this story features the first meeting and team-up between Superboy and the third Robin, Tim Drake. Comic book fans have for years, taken for granted the friendship that developed between the Boy of Steel and the Boy Wonder, but it was one that did not occur in either of their solo series.

Facing off against Metallo and Poison Ivy, it is your typical superhero crossover fair, but still enjoyable, and even if the story does not grab you, the Tom Grummett artwork will surely make up for it!

Superboy (Volume 4) Annual 2 (November 1995)

Superboy (Volume 4) 0 gave early glimpses into Superboy’s origin back in 1994 (and is collected in Superboy: Trouble in Paradise TPB), but it is this 1995 “Year One” branded annual that gives readers more detail into the first days of Superboy’s existence. Readers finally learn of the human donor to Superboy’s creation (only to later be retconned in an unforgivable way by another writer), Cadmus is revealed to be operating after being presumed destroyed, and this half origin/half birthday tale gives the reader some rather poignant moments of a teenager already unsure of his place in the world, facing new revelations about his identity.

While Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett would return to the title a second time a few years later, their wackier take during their follow-up was not embraced by the entire fandom, and they left shortly after; closing out a lot characters and arcs that they had first developed in the process. Subsequent writers would not do the character particular justice, and by the end of the 2000s the Superboy most of us had been introduced was mostly gone; a complicated set of retcons and mischaracterization ultimately resulted in the character really losing its shine. There is hope that this list might remind the reader of a time when the Metropolis Kid took on the legacy of Superboy, and made it something truly unique.

The Many Deaths Of Superman

Note: this isn’t a straight up review of the animated movie, but a more casual editorial that bridges between watching this movie, and my regular column for Superman: The Animated Series.

I have been struggling with wider comic book culture this past year. We have seen some pretty monumental and culturally significant adaptations hit various screens lately, whether it be a big movie blockbuster, small screen serial cartoon, or the comic books you likely read on your tablet or phone. This is amazing, because finally, validation, but I have also learned in the past year, that I have largely outgrown comic book adaptations. Now please, don’t get me wrong; I’m not being critical of the genres or the finished products, I’m being critical of myself as a fan.

Increasingly I find myself critiquing television and movies from the point of storytelling and writing. Scripted television I barely watch, so when I do, it’s something exceptional, but it’s exceptional in how it tells the story, builds its universes and develops its characters.

To bring this idea back to comic books, this continual universe building and character development is what makes me love this genre as much as I do. It has more flexibility than movies or television in terms of what it can show us and how, but also in ways better than fiction prose; if you don’t get to it in this 22 page issue, you have the next one. Comic books are almost nearly unique in manner, in today’s media.

However, when you start tweaking what you’ve already done, I seem to have a problem with it. Yes, I’m a purist. I want a literal interpretation from print to screen, if you’re going to do it. And I know that automatically sets me up for failure, because I may or may not give the final product the artistic credit it deserves, because literal interpretations are… literally impossible to do on the large or small screen.

My editor and friend, Jim, convinced me last year that I really needed to watch the “new” Death and Return of Superman animated movie. I say “new”, because for those who like to forget that it exists, DC tried an adaptation back in 2007 with Superman: Doomsday.

Here’s the thing; I liked that original adaptation a lot. Still do. And this is why: it took the essence of the storyline and made something new out of it entirely. This I can respect, even if I don’t like the finished product. Did I want a direct adaptation of the mega storyline? Of course I did! It was 2007. I had zero hopes of ever seeing a live action slug-out between Superman and Doomsday. Ironically, the only thing I will ever credit Zack Snyder for doing. Okay, that and casting Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and finally giving Amy Adams a shot at Lois Lane (but then giving her nothing to do). Superman: Doomsday may not be a perfect comic book adaptation or even animated movie, but it tried.

The more recent Death and Return of Superman is something I have in fact watched! Jim successfully convinced me to watch it… well, got the idea in my head, with my procrastination levels, it took me another nine months to get around watching it. What are my thoughts about it? Superb! Voice acting is fantastic, the visuals are out of this world and from a storytelling point of view, clings a bit closer to the the source material. Do I have problems with it? Sure do! The member’s of the Justice League, the handling go the Lois/Clark “relationship”, and well… the entire ending (but in their defence… maybe that creative license was needed). Despite my gripes towards it, it is a solid adaptation, and one I do recommend watching. My favourite? Far from it. Better than Superman: Doomsday? No, but that is because I recognize them as two different entities, products of their time.

Watching this movie has helped me figure out how to come back for Superman: The Animated Series season two. It’s truly made me appreciate what the Timmverse is, from Batman: The Animated Series all the way to movies like Superman: Doomsday… because remember, Superman: Doomsday is a Bruce Timm produced film, while Death and Return of Superman is branded under the DC Animated Movie Universe (but there is known overlap between the two groups).

Stay tuned for a wrap-up of Superman: The Animated Series season one (finally!), before we get right into season two!

Tales From the Dark Multiverse – The Death Of Superman Review

Writer: Jeff Loveness
Penciler: Brad Walker
Inkers: Andrew Hennessy, Norm Rapmund
Colourist: John Kalisz

I love me some alternate reality stories and tales from the dark multiverse is exactly what I’m talking about, a run of 5 individual comics that have a overall connection but take well known stories and shows you what could’ve been. Spinning off from Dark Nights: Metal we now have a glimpse into this previously unknown universe, as these are stand alone stories you dont need to have read Dark Nights: Metal at all but it is helpful to know the source material.

I started with a story thats one of my favourites from Superman lore, the Death of Big Blue himself, but this comic takes what you already know and goes, yeah but what if this happened….and in this case it’s what if Lois was given Superman’s powers after he died instead of him getting them back and needless to say, it does not go well at all, well this is the dark multiverse after all!

I really enjoyed this book, it takes the beats of the Death of Superman/Return of Superman and puts them into a smaller more focused story all about Lois, but all the usual suspects from the original book are there, Batman, Justice League, Cyborg, Eradicator, Steel, Superboy and even Lex with his luscious flowing red hair, this is a great story with a great twist to it and reading it made me want to read all the other books in the series, so they’ll be coming up soon too!