A Superman For All Of Us
writer: Mark Waid
artists: Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
issue of this unexpected rewrite of Superman's history, a
little facet of the mythos gets polished for a new, young
audience. Occasionally, it looks like an extension of Smallville
-- writer Mark Waid very carefully started this story at a
time later than the television series would cover, and the
art team certainly draws a Clark Kent that could be easily
played by Tom Welling.
not an explicit continuation, and yes, there are still differences.
Let's call it subtle and savvy marketing. Fans of Smallville
that don't read comics could easily roll into this one. But
this is also a comic book series with more real heart and
affection for Superman than television might allow.
older readers, this series has been a bucket of cold water
on the reworking by John Byrne almost twenty years ago. This
is not my father's Superman. Neither is it quite mine. Without
the fanfare that accompanied Byrne, Waid gets to create a
Superman for a new generation, taking the best elements of
the character and giving it his own spin.
the first three issues, we've seen Clark explore his powers,
occasionally reveling in them, and test the limits of his
responsibilities with them. He has seen justice and righteousness,
and learned where he wants to stand in relationship to them.
Moreover, Waid cleverly melded the Kryptonian heritage with
Earth's needs, making the role of Superman a tribute to both.
the young man ventures into Metropolis. Weeks before, he very
publicly saved the space shuttle, a detail inserted by Byrne
(changed, though understandably, to the rather lame "space
plane" concept in 1986 - we all knew what it was supposed
to be). Without costume, Superman made his debut, but now
he has to create the identity of Clark Kent.
guy must be going through some terrible identity crisis. Growing
up as Clark, that "real" person has become larger-than-life.
A whole new personality must fit in the shell left behind.
Waid, Yu, and Alanguilan make it clear that it's an awkward
we first see Clark in the back of a taxicab, he carries books
on acting. Later he wavers between his natural self and timidity,
still trying to find the right note to play. Yu does a beautiful
job of showing the emotional split, as Clark mentally kicks
himself for overplaying his new persona.
But it's not just Clark who gets real development. In a way
too rarely demonstrated before, we can see just why he fell
for Lois as hard as he did. Compare to Byrne's version in
the recently reprinted Man of Steel. There we have
to take it for granted that they're a fated match. While Clark
says he's never met anyone like her, so forceful, so vibrant,
Byrne pretty much portrayed her as nothing more than tough.
In fact, she was downright mean, a characterization that stuck
with her for far too long.
in Waid's version, it's much easier to see why Superman would
fall for this ordinary human. Lois is tough, but obviously
with a strong sense of justice and a lot of courage. In short,
she'll do the right thing even if it costs her. Now that's
a mate for Superman.
we've gotten that far yet.
still a lot to be revealed about the past, especially the
Clark/Lex relationship. The one element that smacks of Smallville
the strongest, Waid has managed to leave readers in the dark
as to what exactly happened. But a glimpse of his childhood
friend proves enough for Clark to lose his concentration in
the heat of battle. Something big is on the horizon there.
has also done something pretty daring and possibly easy to
miss with this book. Very clearly, this issue takes place
in the wake of 9/11. Take that a step further. If Superman
has been operating publicly for about ten years, that means
that current continuity is actually happening ten years in
our future. It will certainly keep things fresher for newer
readers (if any come along), recognizing that Superman's past
is one they themselves remember. It also gives a more comfortable
distance between writing realistically and the real world.
this is the writer who gave us Hypertime, and it remains to
be seen if Birthright will fit into continuity. Whether
it does or not, it's a series that should satisfy old fans
while bringing in new ones. Too humble a writer to shoot for
the definitive Superman, Waid may have hit upon it anyway.
He has stated that he wanted to use it to explain why he loves
the Man of Steel; he succeeds. Read this and understand why
you should love Superman, too.